Category Archives: teaching and altruism

9/11- Feeling safe in the classroom…

Vector - Skyline US NewYork by DragonArtI was with first grade students on 9/11, that tragic morning the Twin Towers went down. Within what seemed like minutes parents were rushing to school to sign their children out early. There sat twenty curious children wondering why everyone was leaving class so early in the day.  I decided to speak with the children about what was happening before they left me. Knowing the time constraints on most parents, I wanted to ease as many fears as I could. I briefly explained the situation. I ended the discussion by telling my students that their parents might be upset. I told them if they were calm and well-behaved it would help their parents. I reassured them they would all be fine and we’d all be back together in the morning. The next day began with further discussion. Most of the children had seen the news and needed to talk more. We did. I felt they all handled the information very well and then one of my students raised her hand. “Yes Jenny?” I asked.

“Ms. Ellington, why do I feel safer here in the classroom than I do at home?”  Other children nodded. This question has played over and over in my mind since, while the world has become increasingly unsafe. For many students – the classroom is their only safe place.

How can teachers make children feel safe in an unsafe world? Communication is key. Being honest with children instills trust. Withholding information creates mistrust. Encourage classroom discussion on current events – tempering topics discussed with age appropriateness. This is easily accomplished by providing social studies curriculum as part of an integrated classroom experience.

There are many other ways to make sure that your classroom is a safe place for students. What strategies do you use in your classroom?

Tending Gardens and Call for Teaching Memories

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

It doesn’t matter how long we have taught – there will always be moments that stay with us forever. Below is one of the moments that has stayed with me.


1990's 23

I wanted to scream! They were tugging at me all day. “Ms. Ellington, Ms. Ellington!” is all I could hear them say. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t mind the tugging although it could be tedious at times. I just wished at some point some of the children would learn to raise their hand to get my attention. I know, I know… it’s hard for five-year olds to remember, especially when they need something. Besides, kindergarten children are like a “garden of flowers” and we all know flowers need tending.

Young children live in a world of ego. On this particular day, ego had overtaken our classroom and was increasingly trying. Riley soiled his pants. Jenny fell and scraped her knee. Kevin’s mom and dad argued while driving him to school – leaving him crying for home all morning. So many things to tend to and I still had to teach at some point.

To make matters worse, the art activity I planned for the children was harder than I thought. So there I was, running from child to child trying to help each complete their project. There they were, twenty little budding flowers all in need of nurturing at the same time.

As I frantically tried to attend to everyone, my thoughts flashed back to a Swedish friend named Heli who worked at a restaurant I sang at in my “singing” days. Heli was always smiling and pleasing everyone. One night patrons and coworkers were running her ragged. She looked at me and in her stealthy Swedish accent said, “If I hear my name one more time, I’m going to hit the ceiling!”

My thoughts of Heli were broken when Katey and Brittany at once yanked at my sleeve. “Ms. Ellington, Ms. Ellington!” they shouted. Hmm… Again I thought of Heli and looked at their faces. With hands on hips and one raised eyebrow I said, “If I hear Ms. Ellington one more time I’m going to hit the ceiling!”

The room fell silent and I could see some of my little ones, mouths open in awe, slump in their chairs like wilted flowers in need of a drink. It was an awkward moment, eyes meeting eyes and nothing to say. For that moment, the weight of my day subsided and I was able to catch my breath though regrettably, it now seemed hard for the children to catch theirs.

Then, as if in slow motion from the back of the room, Joanna tip-toed quietly to me. She approached, face aglow. In front of me, she deliberately placed her hands on her hips, raised one eyebrow, and with a missing front toothed grin said, “Oh, Ms. Ellington!”

We all burst into laughter and the moment of peace I thought I experienced gave way to a renewed sense of enthusiasm at being with these lively children.

These days, when I am caught up in classroom stress, I still see Joanna standing before me with that missing front toothed grin.


This is a good time to reflect on positive teaching memories.  I look forward to hearing about yours!  Thanks in advance for leaving a reply and sharing!

 

Why teachers leave

Teachers enter teaching full of enthusiasm – knowing they have an opportunity to affect the lives of many over their time in the classroom.

Time and circumstance often wreak havoc on these idealistic goals.  The teacher in the following YouTube video (Ellie Rubenstein) eloquently expresses what teachers across the nation are feeling these days.  Her passion for teaching can’t be denied.  Ellie’s video has gone viral – she is enthusiastically supported by hundreds of thousands across the nation.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the state of public education today?  Do you share or not share Ellie’s views?  Why or why not?

Why teachers teach

!cid_3172757604_646320   I recently read an article written by a college student who is reconsidering her decision to become a teacher.  While her heart seems to be in teaching, those around her are persuading her to pursue a more prestigious, higher salaried career.  In other words – a “real profession” that is worthy of the cost of a college degree.

The question then arises – why do teachers teach?  It certainly can’t be for the salary.  Teachers are underpaid and overworked.  It can’t be for respect.  Teachers are often falsely charged as being the “problem” with education.  It can’t be for the prestigious working conditions.  Many teachers work in anything but.  Why then do we see teachers endure these conditions year after year not closing the door on education to pursue a more self-satisfying, lucrative career?  The answer must lie in the altruistic nature of teaching and the strong sense of duty most teachers cite as the reason for choosing a teaching career.

According to the National Education Association the average 2011-2012 starting teacher salary in the United States was $35,672.  Factoring into this salary the state of the economy, the increasing cost of shelter, utilities, food, insurance, and yes – taxes, this amount of money doesn’t support a lavish lifestyle or even a modest lifestyle.

Do teachers deserve more respect?  While teachers bear the brunt of accusations on what’s wrong with education, few outside of education stop to question why most teachers teach a specific way.  With the terms and conditions of No Child Left Behind came a landslide of do’s and don’ts over the years eliminating any autonomy a teacher may have in the classroom.

Working conditions?  Consider a career which pays on average for 37.5 hours of work, but commands on average 50-60 hours plus each week to get the job done.   Add to that career – purchasing books and materials out-of-pocket for students unable to afford them, classroom maintenance, professional development, teacher disrespect, constantly changing expectations, added demands, student behavioral concerns, etc., and answer this – would you teach?

While you may say “no” there are many teachers who would still say “yes.”  When I ask my college students why they chose education, the same answer is given every time – “I want to make a difference.”  Indeed, there are many teachers who have done just that.  This altruistic sense of service to others is best expressed with the story of David Menasche who does not consider his declining health but instead asks “Did I make a difference?”

David Menasche: Did I make a difference?

http://www.nea.org/home/2011-2012-average-starting-teacher-salary.html