Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Holiday Break Assignment for Teachers

This week America wept.  We watched as the aftermath unfolded following one of the greatest tragedies of our era.  Our hearts go out to the victims and survivors of Newtown, Connecticut.  Once again our reflective lens is in sharp focus.  We have all viewed our problems as feeble in comparison to their loss and pain.  No words can express the sorrow which is born from unfathomable acts.
Reflection is a practice which I attempt to use regularly.  This week, as I discovered how pathetic my simple problems were, I also rediscovered some of the wonderful factors which were at work in my life.  First, I am proud of my children and who they are developing into.  I’m not always happy with their decisions, but that’s part of growing up.  I can honestly say that I like my kids.  Second, I am proud of my work family and who we are all developing into.  We are a community of life-long learners and few of us are ever happy with the status quo.  What more could I ask for but a group of teachers who are continuously working to improve?  AAK is a great place to work.  Third, I am proud of the students at AAK.  Once again I find that I’m not always proud of their decisions, but I do believe our student body is healthy.  A principal cannot ask for a better group of kids.  Fourth, I am proud of our North Country community.  Supportive is the word which comes to mind as I reflect on their involvement with their children, budgetary issues, safety, etc.  Our community cares about their children and about our school.
As demands press upon us from all directions; as SED continues to provide half of what we need and all of what we don’t need; as stress builds; as tempers flare, it’s important, especially in light of recent tragedies, to take stock in what we do have.  So, I wish you all well for the Holiday Season.  Rest and relax – you’ve earned it.  But, please take time to reflect on what positive factors are working in your life.  This is your assignment. 
                                                                                                                Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 13, 2012

“Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.” Garrison Keillor

In looking at teaching across many grade levels – pre-Kindergarten through college, I often think that one area or level would be easier to teach than another because students at some ages appear to want to please the teacher more than others.  Students, especially in the middle-level, give off an appearance of insouciance in terms of the teachers regard for them.  Certainly, one could surmise that first graders would need a teacher more than young adolescents.  Folks, as you already know, nothing could be further from the truth.  The more time I spend with our middle grade students, the more obvious it is to me that these young adults crave my attention, my guidance, and my approval.

Our students at AAK feel the same about you. They need you. They rely on you for instruction, compassion, and consistency. Although it may not always be readily apparent, your students like it when you take control. Your students know that good teachers control their classrooms, and they understand and appreciate the boundaries you set. Middle school students thrive in an atmosphere where the teacher stresses self-discipline and communicates with parents regarding progress in this critical area. They respect teachers who discipline students in a firm yet respectful and compassionate manner that does not sacrifice a student’s dignity. Effective teachers establish a set of clear, though limited, expectations with consequences that are consistently and fairly meted out. Teachers who are well organized tend to have the most disciplined classes. The structure of the classroom prevents a lot of off-task behavior, and students know what to expect from day to day.

Being fair and consistent requires courage on the part of teachers, but students will admire those teachers who stand up for what is right and speak out when they observe unfairness. The curriculum you must cover in your various subject areas is vast and even daunting. However, the values you teach your students are even more important. Students expect you to have beliefs and opinions not only about your subject matter but also about what is right and what is wrong. Sadly, much of what our students learn from textbooks at this age may be forgotten over time. The life lessons you teach them, however, will last a lifetime! Thanks for expertly imparting unto our students what I consider to be an exceptional and comprehensive curriculum. Thank you also for teaching them relevant lessons about life. You are their role model; you may doubt this at times, but even during these moments of doubt, remember this truth. Our kids are watching us and learning from us within the walls of our classrooms and beyond. Therefore, be firm, be fair, be consistent, and use good judgment. Teach your students what you know, but also who you are. Everywhere I go, I find myself extolling the many virtues of the A. A. Kingston Middle School teaching force; thank you all for making this such an easy and sincere act in which to engage!

Have a great weekend.