Trees of Transition

Planting seeds of hope throughout our world through sharing photography and thoughts on teaching, cooking, and life transitions.


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Compliments from Students?! Wow!!

“Your teaching is 3000 times better than our literature teacher last year!” One of my students said this to me this afternoon, and he explained that my way of teaching writing helped him feel confident for our ACT Aspire test that we did this week. His words made my heart happy!


Yesterday all of our students took a writing test that I had been working with them toward all year. I taught them brainstorming techniques, about thesis statements, and tips on time writing test, and yesterday was the day where they put it all together.
I saw six of my seventh graders using their brainstorming techniques, and I heard from a lot of the other teachers that my students used their brainstorming skills on the writing test! Several six grade girls let me knows that knowing how to write a thesis statement really helped them on this test. One of them started blushing, but I’m really glad she let me know.
To top it all off, the eighth graders, who have challenged me all year, admitted that what they had been learning really did help them on the test. One young man said, “what you taught us really helped me on the test! I brainstorm for about five minutes and then I took the rest of the time to write my essay.”

My response was, “Hearing this made my year!!!”
I had been hired with the goal in mind to help our students improve their writing, and hearing this feedback from the students helps me know that I have accomplished at least some of my goal. I am so thankful for my students and that they are learning!
-Mary Hope 
Copyright 2017


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Thinking About Being a Teaching Assistant? There Are Perks…Among the Humbleness

I earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching degree to become an assistant? An aide?? A substitute???Well, yes, for a season. For the last three years I have been an aide, then a substitute, and finally a teaching assistant. I called myself a teacher, partly to keep up face and it is true, I am a certified teacher. But I was the assistant. It was like another round of student teaching, but this time with elementary students, which meant lots of parenting:

“No, you do not run in here!”

“You need to say that again without whining and then I’ll hear you.”

“Let’s play the quiet game!!”

I’m thankful to be learning how to parent with other peoples’ children; you can only become better, right?

Some things challenged me. Students knew where the power was…Maybe I had more power than I realized because for some reason I let the assistant title get to me. The students knew the difference — that I was the assistant and when I stepped in to be the full teacher a couple of times, they acted just like they do for a substitute. I felt bound to follow the guidelines, ask permission, and not just be free to teach. I learned how to follow a leader and work under someone. I enjoyed doing more team teaching and that happened occasionally. Being an assistant is humbling, but there ARE perks.

 

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If you’re a newly graduated teacher or if you have taught and are looking for a new job, here are some advantages to being an assistant:

This is a double-edged blade: You are not the one in charge. That means you might hear about some of the challenges, but you don’t have to fix them. This job showed me more of my control issues; I like to be the one in charge. I had to submit to Jesus, then to those over me. You get to follow and serve.

I learned on a deeper level how to have fun with learning. Students learn better when they are interested and having fun while learning important principles. The teacher I worked with was great at making learning enjoyable. For example, we learned about the rain forest by making a bulletin board collage of the layers of the rain forest; we also planted seeds to learn about how plants grow.

I learned different methods and ways of handling kids from seeing the teacher I worked with and the specials teachers work with our students. The art teacher ruled the class with an iron-hand, but the students created colorful, intricate art projects that impressed us all. She laughed at me when she saw I was reading a teaching book that another teacher had recommended, but I just laughed back. Because the kids were busy most of the time, I could read a few lines of the book, then when a kid needed me I could go right then and put into practice what I had just been learning about classroom management. My “teaching style” grew, got challenged, and grew some more.

It has helped me see more of my teaching gaps. I’ve been too sensitive at times, and made mountains out of mole-hills; my skin is getting tougher. I had this weird feeling of not being sure of what I should be doing at times; sometimes it was because I didn’t ask and I needed to talk with the teacher I worked with, and sometimes I just feel weird when I’m not in charge. Following well is harder than it looks. I’m also a slower processor when there’s lots of activity around, so it’s much easier for me to think when it is quiet. Now that I know those things about me, I can work with those traits in me so that they won’t hold me back.

It was a perk to just leave work at work!

Remembering that Jesus, the greatest example of how to live life, served those around him helped me. Being an assistant is a serving job, which is humbling, but you learn so much. And you never know what opportunities will open up because you have been faithfully serving. Take it from me…good things blossom. I received an offer to teach Bible and College Writing–a combination of my gifts I never would have even thought to ask for! Humility and faithfulness pay off. Go for it: assist, help, serve.

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A Cranky Teacher: Seeing Myself Through My Students’ Eyes

Substitute teaching is harder than it looks.

“Miss Campbell, are you married?” The junior higher asked. “No,” I said as they continued. “Are you engaged?” “No,” I responded.

Then a junior high boy made a comment that I didn’t fully hear: “Maybe that’s why…” I looked sternly in his direction and didn’t hear the rest. I had had enough battles for that day of substitute teaching.

My imagination added the rest: “Maybe that’s why she’s cranky and unreasonable sometimes.”

Or “Maybe that’s why she’s quiet and doesn’t laugh much.”

Taking the time to consider myself from my students’ perspective is helpful, sobering, and a little funny (I shouldn’t take myself so seriously!)

Cranky teacher

Did I really need to let one student get under my skin so that she started shouting when I asked her to leave the room?
How could have I made it more fun to transition instead of just repeating the same instructions several times?

The life of a substitute teacher flows with newness and lots of challenging students. Students go on their worst behavior when a substitute comes; why is that?
It’s human nature, so I guess they just have to test the limits.
I’ve done okay, but I’m not an amazing sub. However, I’ve learned a lot from subbing:

I’m a grouch sometimes. Period. And a little chocolate helps.

Students can’t read my mind, so I need to give them clear directions and then if they choose not to follow then they get a consequence.

I forget to smile and am nit-picky.

My processing speed in new situations is slow at times when I’m stressed out, and I need space to figure out what to do next.

I need to know my high expectations for my students, have fun getting there, and not let them get away with being sloppy.

My teaching voice needs work (maybe voice lessons?).

Assume I’m right and don’t argue with students!

Be confident; I am the teacher, even if I’m grouchy sometimes, and students must have an okay attitude or if there’s a bad attitude, work through it with me.

Apologies help with everyone.
Be confident enough to admit I was wrong and humbly apologize when needed.

Be observant. Students are sneaky!

Students want the sub to be strong and not let other students push him or her around.

Don’t nit-pick; save the correction for important times, but you can be establishing your standards in a fun way. I’ve been unsure of correction, so I’m nice until I need to confront someone, then I come down hard to show who is boss, then students take offense because I didn’t have a connection with them and emotional capital to use. Students are not machines!

I saw a friend over-do correction recently and then it clicked in my head why I had been offending some students. There is a relational balance, and I had been over-doing it. They had just been talking when they should have been studying, but I came on full-force; adjust to the situation.
I’m learning to build rapport and trust with my students.

Teaching is worth the hassle! Do it.

Be yourself and teach well.

To all the substitute teachers out there: My hat is off to you. Continue teaching and serving those students! You have a hard, but rewarding job.

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Children Testing the Limits: Thoughts on Watching Students Adjust to a New Teacher and the Importance of “No!”

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Watching the children handle change is fascinating. This week our school welcomed a new Spanish teacher! The old teacher had introduced the new teacher to the kids last week, but now the new Spanish teacher took over. Watching how a change in leadership influences kids intrigued me.

Here’s some of what happened: I tried to prepare the students to do well in the first class with the new teacher by reminding them how to act, but once we were in the classroom, I was the supporting teacher, and she’s the main teacher.

The period started out well with the students practicing what they had learned in the last class: saying “Buenas tarde!” when they entered the room. They sat down at their tables, then the new Senora played them some music and started teaching them different Spanish words that were in this song about a wooden doll. At first the students followed along, but then there was more talking and subtle goofing off (the new teacher may not have noticed it, but I did and was not happy!)

About half the class was engaged, while half of the class (the more active, less able to transition well half) was testing the new teacher. Some students were being extra silly, while others were apathetic. I tried to keep them engaged, but I couldn’t make them completely focus because I wasn’t leading the class.

This makes me think back to when I took over four English classes mid-year at a private school in Costa Rica a few years back. The first six weeks it seemed like it was going so smoothly, then problems started popping up. I had wanted to be sensitive and supportive as we all went through the change of teachers, but I’m seeing that I should have been lovingly tough from the start. Now I have learned that knowing how you want the students to act, clearly stating it, giving consequences if they choose to not follow directions, and then plow ahead into learning is a great way to function in a classroom. When a student even does something a little different than how you want it done, quickly correct them and then get back to work. The students want you to keep your word and create a safe place to learn.

In Costa Rica I didn’t clearly know how I wanted them to act, and then I didn’t confront things quickly, so they got away with disrespect and things they shouldn’t have done. I shouldn’t have let them. Once this got away from me, it got harder to manage the students, and then it was even harder to get the classes back on track. I was able to bring a couple of the classes around, and one finally came around on the last day when I finally said a clear “No!” to one junior high boy who had been getting away with murder. I made it through that season of teaching, but now I see how important it is to be able to say “No!” to kids.

Now back to yesterday’s Spanish class. After we got back to our class, I started talking with the kids about it, but I wasn’t sure how firm to be or what exactly to say, so my fellow teacher jumped in and helped me clearly tell the kids, “That is NOT how you act in Spanish class!” They got a consequence they didn’t like, and tomorrow they will have another chance to do well in Spanish. Children need guidance and support through a transition of leadership, and I’m interested to see how the kids will act tomorrow.

Kids want you to stand up to them. They want to know you will protect them and guide them through learning. Saying “No” to children is sometimes the best way to love them.


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Adjusting to Expectations: Why some people seem to “have it” and can managing kids well…and others are still developing that skill!

School has been in session for over a week, and it’s amazing to behold how fast children learn. Students are learning subjects, such as the continents in social studies, but they are also learning how they should act in the classroom.

Recently I was reading a Boundaries book by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend, and I can sum up one section of what they were talking about through saying, “You get what you tolerate.” In this context they were talking about dating, but I’ve been thinking about it in regards to the classroom.

I’m noticing that students need affirmation and want to please adults who give them authentic praise, and we do get what we tolerate! If we let students be disrespectful, they well be.

My fellow teachers and I expect the students to listen to us the first time, we praise them when they do it, and if they choose not to listen, we don’t let them get away with it (through either correcting them or giving them a consequence for their actions). No one likes getting threatened or shouted at, and those actions do not foster lasting change. Lasting change comes from relationship.

I had thought it was just some people had more charisma and authority than others and could manage students better, but everyone can learn the skills of having high expectations, keeping people accountable for their actions, and giving positive reinforcement! It just takes having the courage to be consistent with your standards, confront negative behavior quickly, and knowing when to reward and encourage.

Yesterday a student that has had trouble keeping control of his body showed me how he was changing: Another student had forgot to bring a spoon in order to eat the meal her parents had sent. The boy offered the other student one of the spoons he had brought for himself. Seeing this action showed that this student was living up to higher expectations!

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