Why do I teach?

Installment #4:

I teach because it is honorable.

It sounds self-righteous, even sanctimonious, but I’m doing good work. I’m in a time-honored profession. I mold lives. I’m a positive force for the present, and the future.

I feel good because I’m contributing to the future and our collective well-being. I don’t think it’s terrible to say, or point out, that teaching is noble. It is the only profession that paves the way for every other profession.

I enjoying teaching and I take pride in being a teacher–it is truly an admirable career choice.

Monthly Advice–February

Don’t eat too much candy.

February is a short month, but it has two massive candy-inducing possibilities: Valentine’s Day and the 100th Day of School.

So, just a reminder: take it easy on the candy.

I know the level of stress right now, I know some of that candy is delicious, and I know that the days are long. However, cold & flu season is coming to end, New Year’s resolutions are hopefully still at play, and eating well is paramount to your health.

Therefore, I urge you to put some candy aside for friends, family, or the teachers’ lounge. It’s okay to have some, just don’t have it all–trust me, a few makes for a sugar rush, but too many makes for a stomach ache–a stomach ache at work? Nobody wants that.

So take all that candy, and pick out a few, and giveaway the rest, you’ll be happy in the end, I promise . . .

A word on teacher strikes . . .

In the past year, we have seen a number of districts and teacher organizations demand better working conditions through marches and strikes.

The most impressive one was West Virginia in February 2018; this strike essentially shut down the entire state of education as schools in all 55 counties were involved. Recently, the 2nd largest school district in the US, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), had their first strike in 30 years; they were offered a generous salary increase, retroactive, but declined that initial offer in order to hold out for more, more that was needed for their schools and their students. This felt very impressive to me as well, it demonstrated the true teacher spirit, which is centered on service and kids.

LAUSD, its name, its size, its demands, allowed for an extreme spotlight on the state of education, and there were plenty of nervous watchers around the country. As an educator, what do I have to say about all of this?

It’s about time.

I believe that a living wage is a human right.

I believe quality education is a human right.

I believe that striking is a human right.

I do not necessarily agree with every tactic employed, or every demand, but I fully support the pursuit of better schools, and better working conditions for teachers, and kids.

Teachers deserve to be compensated for their work, and students deserve the very best school environments, schools enriched with trained staff, rigorous learning material, and a focus on their whole person (social, emotional, mental, and academic needs).

The victories over the past year are only the beginning of a long-standing battle for better education for every student, and every education professional. I only hope that we continue to discuss our collective needs and hopes for the future, and bring them into fruition — every child, and every educator, deserves the very best learning environment each and every day, we can make that our priority, and we can make that a reality.

 

Things I never knew . . .

Installment #5:

Five things I never knew . . . until I became a teacher:

  • The 100th Day of School is a mutual celebration for students and teachers–truly
  • The 100th Day of School is secretly fun and educational . . . if you plan it right
  • The 100th Day of School is terribly messy
  • The 100th Day of School is a uniquely elementary experience, and even within this world a much more primary experience
  • The 100th Day of School can cause a ton of disagreement (a discussion on *when* it actually is, can turn into a hilarious as well as infuriating debate)

Why do I teach?

Installment #3:

In what other profession can you come to work . . .

  • in your pajamas (spirit day)
  • with crazy hair (spirit day)
  • in costume (Halloween, spirit day)
  • in sweats or athletic gear (coaches, PE teachers, game days, field trips)
  • with that ridiculous hat you bought at Disneyland (spirit day)

There are plenty of fun days in teaching–fun days that encourage everyone to let their silly side come out, or their comfy side show.

There’s plenty of reasons to smile in teaching–the fact that sometimes you get to go to work in comfy clothing, or get to be a little ridiculous, that is definitely a big perk. 😊

Teacher Tip #5

Beautiful classrooms can be expensive. I’m here to tell you:

Quit breaking the bank.

Don’t spend money on making things pretty.

There’s definitely pressure in the elementary world to have cute, imaginative, vibrant classrooms. I understand it. Kids are cute, so we want their learning environment to mirror their cuteness. Nevertheless, I’m here to let you know, there’s no pressure to spend money on making things cute, or pretty, or fancy.

Why?

Well, let me remind you that a beautiful classroom does not equate to rigorous teaching, or an abundance of learning. Teachers are great because of how they teach, not how they decorate their classrooms. Secondly, as students get older the decorations get more and more minimalist, if present at all. If secondary teachers feel no need, or receive no push, to decorate their classrooms neither should elementary teachers. Finally, you earned your money, spend it on you. If you want, and can spend hundreds, or thousands, of dollars on a new theme with bulletin boards, posters, bins, and chairs to match, go for it, but most people I know have tighter budgets–and that’s okay.

In fact, here are some tips and ideas for creating a great learning environment without going over budget:

  • Paint. If you can get permission, and if you plan to stay in your room for awhile, invest in paint. Hire a student for a mural, or simply sponge paint the walls. Choose colors carefully (think calming colors). If you paint your room, it looks happier, brighter, and more spacious–and you only have to spend money once.
  • Make your own posters. Fancy posters are great and durable, but they can add up quickly. Handmade posters are not only cheaper, but they can also be transformed into living documents that promote student participation and an ownership of learning–added bonus!
  • Skip the teacher store. Teacher stores are magnificent; however, even with a discount, they’re pricey. Instead, try the Target dollar section, Dollar Tree, the 99 cent store, or a craft store for items that add color, or provide other sources of classroom decor. You’re spending money, but it’s a lot less money.
  • End of the year swap. Instead of throwing things out, exchange items with other teachers at your school. You get new items, you get to clean out your closet, and you don’t have to spend anything!
  • Craigslist. My first year of teaching I wrote a post letting people know that I was starting my teaching career and needed supplies. You would not believe the response! A couple of places I had to drive a fair amount of time (60-90 minutes) but I received so much in return. I even found a retiring teacher who gave me a ton of primary supplies. Only one person asked for money–$20 for a mountain of books and stuffed animals. People are generous, especially to teachers, seek them out, especially at the end of the school year (think retirement).
  • DonorsChoose: a platform for teachers to write grants to receive much needed supplies, or supplies for augmented and/or special learning. Over the course of 5 years I received over $5,000 worth of items through DonorsChoose. I received markers, colored pencils, 10 sets of primary books, a bookcase, playground equipment, math journals–you name it! It’s a little bit of work–you have to write a proposal, thank the donors, and send pictures, but it’s more than worth it. I mean people are donating to you, you should send them a thank you note and a picture, right?

This is just a sampling of great ways to save money and still manage to have a little pizzazz in the classroom, or a great way to get some basic supplies without breaking the bank.

Teaching is an incredible profession. It is rewarding, dynamic, and always an adventure. However, it’s incredibly difficult work too. Therefore, I advocate finding creative ways to bolster the learning environment while still keeping that hard-earned cash. 💵💵

 

 

**On secondary classrooms: I want to note that I have seen some insanely beautiful secondary classrooms; however, the bulk of what I have seen, and the driving experience that has been shared by every secondary person I know, is that classroom decor is not nearly as rich and the pressure to have thoroughly decorated classrooms is non-existent in comparison to elementary folks. I want to make sure my earlier comment doesn’t offend; my lens is overwhelmingly elementary and I can speak to my experience that the pressure or the push feels grander than what I have heard or noticed in the secondary world.