Why I Teach.

Man at Work

Man at Work

“Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.Andy Rooney 

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” John Steinbeck 

I taught in Maryland, Singapore, and Japan. I now teach 4th grade students in Hong Kong. In 1985, I enrolled as an elementary education major at Bridgewater State College of Bridgewater, Massachusetts. I have continued to earn a paycheck as a teacher from August 1990, to the present. Until now, I have never seriously considered doing anything else, but teach.

Initially, I merely wanted to help struggling kids find success in the classroom. As a senior in high school, I was an intern for a classroom of learning-disabled, elementary-aged children. I knew I had found my calling within the first week of my internship. I have lived a life of learning and teaching ever since.

So many inspired educators, inside and outside the classroom have affected the way I practice my craft. As a public school student, I learned to value all teachers, regardless of their ability. As a teacher, I teach my students to value themselves and acquire habits of life long learners.

To be an effective teacher, one must model kindness, compassion, organization, intelligence, flexibility, collaboration, an understanding of educational technology, a belief in one’s ability, trust in your teammates, and perseverance. I expect school leaders to offer and house a brain-researched, structured, engaging, differentiated curriculum.

My first day as a teacher was nothing short of a disaster; my Mid-Atlantic based students had little idea what their New England teacher was saying. Still, I talked way too much. My lesson plans were highly organized. Alas, I was painfully unsuccessful as a manager of time. My Boston accent was very thick. My students giggled a nervous laugh every time I tried to communicate. I had little idea how mentally exhausting the job would be.

Today, I am much more relaxed and confident. I seek the advice of administrators and specialists less. Rather, I independently investigate how the human brain actually acquires knowledge. For professional development, I greatly rely on Twitter and my professional learning network. I make the time to read professional trade books more than ever.

My best advice for new teachers is to live conservatively, so that you liberally develop your craft. Demand more from you than anyone else could ever demand. Work hard. Inspire others to believe in themselves through learning.

Teachers, all over the world, why do you STILL teach? How has your teaching practice evolved? What factors are competing with you from doing your best work? Best of luck as you continue your journey.

Do well.

 Reference:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_teacher.html#uq72kxGKtOewvemU.99

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Roger Ebert: Teacher

Roger Ebert, american film critic.

Roger Ebert, american film critic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Work is love made visible. And if you can’t work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy”

― Kahlil Gibran

Roger Ebert, one of my heroes, passed away this week. The following is a body of thought on the life of the late film critic and how he has helped guide me to be the person I am today.

Passion: Roger Ebert lived life well. He loved the written word. He loved filmmaking. He loved his wife. Unfortunately, You cannot fake passion for long. If you lack passion in your life, change. If you lack the fire to teach children well, move on.

As a teacher, treat your work as “love, made visible.” 

Communication: Ebert revolutionized newspaper, magazine, and blog writing. His tweets were a gift. His television work was monumental. He never strayed from his core beliefs in any medium.

As a teacher, find many paths to communicate your talents to as many people as possible. Reflect often and be open to change.

Love: The outpouring of grieving due to Ebert’s death signifies the love he must have shown to the people in his life. I regret never having written to him to express my gratitude for his work. Read his wife Chaz’s statement here.

As a teacher, show those in your keep and those around you how much you care for them.

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (Photo credit: Articulate MediaWorks)

Productivity: Ebert was tenacious in producing consistently excellent work. He organized his life in a way that was incredibly proficient. He was never afraid to share his thoughts.

As a teacher, create a body of work that is untouchable, and then share it with the world.

Intelligence: As a child, I remember being mesmerized by his intellect.  Ebert served as a model for how one should crave more knowledge. Roger Ebert was perhaps best, when he disagreed with someone. This made for inspired television viewing. Roger Ebert taught me to ardently defend my beliefs.

As a teacher, read constantly, learn your craft, tinker incessantly and trust your abilities. Think deeply about what learning means to you.

Courage: Rarely, do people die as well as Roger Ebert. He, along with my father and uncle, taught me how to keep dignity. I feel blessed to have been able to learn from these men. If you haven’t yet seen Ebert’s Tedtalk, please do so.

English: Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz Hammel-...

English: Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz Hammel-Smith give the thumbs-ups to Nancy Kwan at the Hawaii International Film Festival on October 20, 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a teacher, have the courage to live a life of integrity, regardless of your circumstances. Accept that people judge harshly, regardless.

Accept that you will make many mistakes, then move on.

Educational Technology: What We Use Today

When Free Technology for Teachers founder, Richard Byrne, sent a shout out for guest bloggers, I needed to reply. Byrne is an amazing resource in my 4th grade classroom and I’ve sent more than a few colleagues his way.

For me, Educational Technology has changed everything. I am constantly striving to improve a bit each day. Ed Tech helps me go forward in my career. I’m pretty convinced that education rituals will continue to radically change in the next five years or so. Specifically, online or distance learning will grow exponentially, I believe. Master teacher-leaders will be compensated well, I imagine.

Hopefully, this will shift schools’ leadership arrangement. Perhaps, excellent teachers will bypass the political firestorms and create online versions of “schools” on their own. That said, most teachers are still confined to brick and mortar institutions.

The following is a body of thought upon my current practices with educational technology. Everything that I  highlight  is used now in my classroom. I want to share what I am using to exemplify that Ed Tech is constantly evolving and the fact that today’s master teacher needs to constantly evolve, as well.

TodaysMeet.com is used for my reflections of learning. I use a visualizer to so that students can see their thoughts published on a giant screen. This tool really helps with developing a community of learners and gives hesitant speakers a voice.
Garageband: Garageband is used primarily for my podcast interviews. Soon my children will be creating book trailers.
Instagram: Used to promote exemplar thinking in my classroom. I instantly send photos of student work to teacher friends around the planet.
Twitter: Simply, the best professional development for educators.
WordPress: An amazing tool. Its software actually improves my writing by highlighting my many passive verbs and complex expressions.
Brainpop: The kids love the animated videos. I love that each is habitually excellent and end with a touch of humor.
Evernote: Great cloud device for saving URLs of note. Very user-friendly.
Confer: I am hoping to use this soon along with Dragon Dictation to save conversation notes with my student readers and writers.
iPhone: Incredible for documenting evidence of learning.
Keynote and Keynote Remote: Stylish, easy to make presentations. I embed exemplar writings and student thinking. I routinely embed excellence using iPhone videos.
Skype: Great for connecting with experts. I have used them also for connecting with students that have moved overseas.
Stickies: I have over thirty “virtual stickies” reminding me of things to do.
Bamboo Web Tablet: Used for creating online tutorials in mathematics. Helps to increase the math conversations outside of the classroom.
Smartboard Notebook: Simplifies my day-to-day math lessons. Smartboard took me a very long time to master. I had given up on Smartboard a numerous amount of times.
Excel: Used to organize my blizzard of Everyday Math Assessment data.
Google search (safety mode) Teach the kids to use advanced search only and to search smartly.
Pages: Not as easy to use as WordDocuments but it helps me create a more stylish document.
Google Drive: My students love that they can collaborate online using GD. I hope to use this as my primary teaching tool for Writers’ Workshop. Sadly, no more anchor charts will be posted in my classroom. Student and teacher thinking will be documented and posted primarily on-line thanks to the good people of Google.
Screencastomatic: Super easy, free tool that helps me create online tutorials.
WolframAlpha: An unbelievable resource that is perhaps, over my students’ heads. Still, I try to promote this site when possible.
Citationmachine: Helps my kids learn the habit of citing research at a very early age. I am hearing Easybib is a pretty good resource as well.
Google Alerts: Great for staying updated on trends in education. I now receive news from around the world about start-up online education companies.
Poetryfoundation.org: I use this site for they have a children’s poem of the day. I hyperlink a poem each day and my students analyze a new poem each day after daily devotions.
Google Sites: Easy access to homework announcements and storing PDFs for students to have access to HW. No more excuses need for forgotten homework, although I normally do not care if students choose to avoid homework worksheets.
Polleverywhere: Teacher friendly site that makes for a quick resource bank of student thoughts.
Google forms: Outstanding data gathering tool for the classroom.
Gmail: I send useful hyperlinks easily using my student Gmail addresses.
Google presentations: Does not work as well as Keynote but is great for the kids can collaborate outside of the classroom. Students love its usefulness.
YouTube and Vimeo: I regularly show relevant Bill Nye the Science Guy on Friday afternoons before holidays.
ted.com: Inspirational and thoughtful talks that keep me hopeful.

I welcome your comments, thoughts and help in allowing me to grow as a fourth grade teacher. Feel free to contact me @ merninbar@gmail.com

Take care, have fun and good luck!