Monthly Archives: July 2008

The Teaching Mom

Now that I am currently around 9 weeks pregnant, the topic of motherhood and working in the field of education has crossed my mind more than once. This manifests itself in two different ways: 1. I find myself wondering how women find the time to be teachers, mothers and wives all at the same time. 2. I find myself growing excited about the prospect of being able to be the first and (in my opinion) most important educator in my child’s life.

Firstly, my belly is growing, and the nausea is definitely up and running. Not only am I concerned about getting through my hectic full-time teaching schedule without throwing up during the day, but I worry about how much I will be able to keep up with these special projects that I have given myself to do this year. (AKA take on a new English Honors class for the first time.) But I think that the fear goes beyond that. I know that as a single woman I found it difficult to balance my time between work and my husband. Household chores piled up, paperwork piled up, and some days I was just very tired from the stress of juggling it all. Keeping up with grading and lesson planning takes work, and even after 5 years of teaching and finding different shortcuts, it is still a daunting task. Will I be able to be a full-time teacher and a mother at the same time? On this level, I admire women who not only have the choice to stay at home with their kids, but also homeschool and therefore more efficiently combine both motherhood and education into their lives. As for those of you who are full-time teachers and new moms at the same time, feel free to give me tips on how to survive this! 🙂

2. My husband laughed at me and said, “Our kid already has a library, and he/she hasn’t even been born yet!” It’s totally true. I was 2 months pregnant when we went to the bookstore and started searching for the best kid’s books of all time. I bought magnetic letters and numbers, and a friend gave me some Baby Einstein CDs… I recently read and commented on a website that discussed the necessity of preschool, and I guess it just depends on how much energy I can give to my baby to make sure that he/she reads as soon as possible. (I’m an English teacher, so the reading thing is important–can’t you tell?)  Again, readers, feel free to give me tips on the best books/tools of all time to help your baby get the best headstart possible!

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Introducing Motivos Magazine!

I would like to use this opportunity to present to you Motivos magazine, a publication designed to inspire hispanic and Latin American students to achieve their dreams using the tools of education. The founder/publisher happens to be a personal friend of mine, Jenee Chizick, and I know for a fact that she has made many personal sacrifices in order to create this particular magazine. Motivos is based in Philadelphia, PA and offers personal stories, tips, letters, features and “speak outs” that allow hispanic students to share their thoughts about stereotypes and allow successful hispanics to reach out to others.

The website for her magazine is www.motivosmag.com. I highly recommend a subscription to this magazine for any school, church, library, college or youth-serving organization. As you know, the highest-growing population in the U.S. right now is the hispanic population, and many of them are finding it difficult to achieve their dreams and goals due to lack of inspiration, an urban background and failing school systems. Motivos Magazine is a step in the right direction. The magazine comes with a student advisory board, and they are also looking for new student writers. For those teaching English, it provides a safe, multicultural read to open the eyes of your students. Check it out sometime!

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Decorating Your Classroom for the New School Year

After a one month hiatus, I am finally back! Thank you for your patience as I was in the U.S. visiting my family.

Now that the new school year is approaching–for me, it begins at the very end of July–I wanted to write a few words on decorating classrooms. For me, this is a very important step to the new year. Why? Because kids literally judge you by the way your classroom looks when they walk in the door. New students look around and ask themselves: What will this teacher be like? Will he/she be mean? Will he/she be fun? Will he/she give me something new to learn?

First year teachers at my school are usually so busy getting themselves organized with their lesson planning that they end up neglecting classroom decorations. Finally, at the tail end, they throw up a poster with the class rules and perhaps a small bulletin board with some construction paper quotes. Leaving your classroom bare or under-decorated tells the students either that you are too busy for them, that you are lazy or that you are boring. Sounds harsh? Well, remember how you felt as a young child, looking back. Whether you acknowledged the decorations explicitly or implicitly, chances are you gained an impression of the teacher from the layout of the classroom.

Other teachers, usually the bitter ones, seem to pick out their posters based upon the already-anticipated flaws that they imagine their students will have. They have fun, colorful posters that blare loud messages such as “No Homework, No Life!” or “You are Responsible for You!” Granted, it is important to have at least one or two reminders concerning appropriate behavior in the classroom. Since I go over the rules on the first day, I leave the rules up on my white board in decorative fashion for the first month, along with a poster encouraging students to make right choices. However, don’t be afraid to have a few posters that are simply there for fun, beauty and enjoyment! When students walk into your classroom and every poster is behavior-related, the students then also get a negative impression of you. They think to themselves, “This teacher is really uptight about the rules. He/she doesn’t really care about me as a person unless I can keep up with all of their procedures.” (And, I’m sorry to say that they’re usually right, aren’t they?)

The best types of decorations combine inspirational (not dictatorial) messages alongside fun, interesting content posters. Also keep in mind that students enjoy interacting with decorations. Try making a bulletin board where students have to respond by writing on it. Students enjoy keeping track of time and events, so make one bulletin board a special announcement bulletin board, where you place a fun calendar, post flyers, and hang cool news articles that will be of interest to them. The key is also color. In a high school classroom, decorations do not need to be wall-to-wall the way you see in an elementary classroom. However, the space should be well-used, with some strategic placements in order to keep the classroom from looking like it contains blank walls. Use the decorations to reinforce rules, introduce lesson plans, give further information about lesson plan topics or to inspire kids to achieve more. Once your classes get started, allow kids to contribute to your decorating process, displaying their work and their posters that they create.

When you decorate your classroom well, students should get the impression that you care about them as people, that you have interesting things to teach them, that you will be fun, yet organized and disciplined. I have heard so many teachers along the years say, “I’m not their friend, I’m their teacher.” I agree that you are their teacher and agree that you are not their peer. However, that should not stop you from building positive relationships with your students and getting to know them as people. Show this attitude in your decorating process, and try to reflect it in your teaching style.

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