Teacher Tip #4

December is filled with gifts.

It’s the end of the semester, most likely. It’s the end of the calendar year. We are inching towards a long break.

With all of this in mind:

Figure out what to say and do about gifts–NOW.

Ideas for the classroom:

  • Create a center for card-making, picture-making, etc. Extol the merits of a handmade gift, after all there is nothing else in the world quite like it.
  • Be creative. We live in a materialistic world, and it can get extra materialistic around this time of year.
    • Gifts I “gave”: homework passes, extra recesses, no shoe hour, bring a stuffed animal to school day
    • Favorite responses when asked what I wanted:
      • in kindergarten: “Greatest gift in the world is knowing all your sight words.”
      • “I have everything I need.”
      • “A clean desk.”
      • “Tissues.” (or some other school supply for the classroom)

Advice for the rest of the school environment:

  • No one says you have to attend the party
  • No one says you have to contribute to a potluck, a gift card for administration, etc.
  • If you can afford it great, but if you can’t then do not feel you have to buy anything (treats, clothing for spirit days, decorations, etc.)

Gifts are beautiful. However, they are not expected–not from you, and not from your students. Just make a plan–figure out what you can say and do to be kind, gracious, and generous in your own way.

 

 

Monthly Advice–December

Sometimes less is more.

Sometimes inquiring about something unknown leads to a great discovery.

***

As you know, in the United States, the Christmas market is overwhelming.

Before you plan and execute two to three weeks worth of Christmas festivities, insert Christmas-themed worksheets, and read a Christmas-inspired novel each day, consider the following:

  • Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Although considered a Christian holiday, even some Christians do not celebrate Christmas.
  • Christmas celebrations vary wildly. Ethnicity, race, income, religion, are just a few meaningful and highly influential factors that determine any holiday celebration.
    • Is what you do, or include, reflective of your worldview, or many worldviews?
  • There are holidays all year long–why emphasize this one over all others?
    • If the same amount of time is not spent on other celebrations, what exactly gives this holiday added merit in the curriculum?
  • Is spending one lesson on Hanukkah and ten on Christmas really inclusive and meaningful, or does it merely provide a way to assuage guilt?
    • Someone once told me that they knew Christmas well, so that’s why there’s more of it in their classroom. If that’s your rationale, is there anyone to help you? Is there anyone to teach you, and your kids, about other traditions?

This is an ongoing discussion I have had for 11 years in my classroom, and with my coworkers.

I have always taught in public schools, which requires the separation of church and state. I understand that private schools and other forms of schooling may not need to consider religious-based questions in the same way I do.

However, the reflection aspect, thinking about why we do certain things in our classroom, even with the best intentions, is always beneficial.

This month, before you plan anything, I encourage to think critically and plan mindfully. More happens in December than we realize . . .

Mathematical Discussion Topics

Last week I discussed the importance of math-centered literature.. I realize my list of books is small. Since I’m still building my math library, I make it a point to “speak math.”

The opportunity to “speak math” is unlimited; therefore, in addition to books, when can I ask mathematical questions? When can I practice mathematics?

I plan purposefully for mathematical discourse. My questions, my plans, apply learning and make real-world connections.

I have made plans and written suggestions for my classroom and for my students’ families. I have even used some of my ideas with close family and friends. It can be fun and learning-filled, I promise!

The following are questions and ideas I have shared and used:

  • Cooking: thought process and calculations
    • How many cups?
    • How long will it bake?
    • What’s the temperature?
  • Shopping: price estimations and sales reductions
    • The price is $20.99, if it’s 50% off it’ll be about $11.
  • Driving: signs
    • The sign says 45 MPH, that means 45 miles per hour. How long, approximately, will it take to drive 20 miles?
  • Zoos, museums, and parks: number specifications
    • How much does the animal weigh? How much does the animal eat?
    • When was this painting made? How long ago was that?
    • The park costs $10 to enter, I gave them $20, how much change do I get back?

Math is everywhere. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. If we can remind ourselves, and show our kids, how often we apply math in our everyday life they will not only see its value but they will also see themselves as mathematicians–which is a most positive and beautiful way to see themselves.