Friday, March 30, 2012

Year 2: Week 28 – Collaborative Learning

During a presentation about technology in education, I heard this fantastic quote about how to approach the integration of technology into curriculum: “Technology is not about presentation, it’s about allowing students new ways to experience learning collaboratively.” After hearing this quote, I decided to try to infuse as much collaborative learning into my classroom as possible.

The idea of collaborative learning is having students and teachers work in a way that they are helping each other learn. This is opposed to the idea of a teacher standing in front of a class and students learning simply by whatever the teacher is presenting.

While there were some things I tried that did not go perfectly well, my focus on this type of learning was a lot of fun.

In my 3rd grade class I had students play a game on the recorder. One person would play a five note melody using only the notes we had learned and the other student would try to mimic the melody in response. The idea was to see how many times it would take for the student to figure out his or her partner’s melody. What I discovered was that student spent a good amount of time not only playing and imitating but also helping each other out. By explaining a fingering a student is teaching the other student and reinforcing his or her own learning. Yes, it got loud and it may have seemed chaotic on the surface but the students had a lot of fun and worked really hard.

Another lesson focused on collaboration was with my 8th grade band class. During this lesson I divided up the band into three bands with equal instrumentation. I told them to choose part of the piece that we were working on and then told them to rehearse that section by themselves and be ready to perform for the whole group at the end of class.  I floated between the different groups and answered questions but overall I let the student figure out how to rehearse the music.

At first none of the groups were focused at all but then some students took leadership roles and started rehearsing the group. People were asking for help while having positive discussions about how to improve their playing.  By the end of the class I had three solid performances that demonstrated musical improvement.

With both of these lessons, I didn’t really have to do very much teaching while they were working but I did have to set up very specific expectations and a clear structure for the students to work within. Also, I was very deliberate in the partners the I assigned for my 3rd graders and the groups for my 8th graders.  These are also classes that understand behavior expectations very clearly after months of reinforcement.  I would not do these kinds of lessons with students who I did not know well.        

While there was a lot of good learning that happened, some students didn’t engage well and didn’t improve very much.  However there are always students who don’t engage in a larger teacher-centric lesson either. If you try a lesson focused on collaborative student learning you have to understand that a lot of what they are learning has less to do with the subject material and more to do with their experience as a learners.

The greatest part of these lessons was the fact that the students took ownership of the activities.  They wanted to make it work and they took pride in what they were doing.  It was like handing over the keys to the car.  Placing the learning in students hands gives them a feeling of self-determination.  This type of learning doesn't work for all students, but challenging students with this level of collaboration can have amazing results.

Yes, there is satisfaction in learning, but what makes it meaningful and exciting is when we share our learning with other people.  So, give this a try.  Let the kids have the keys to the car and see where they go.  They may end up in a completely different place then you wanted them to go but that may not be such a bad thing especially if they enjoyed the journey.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Next 30 Years by Phil Vassar

There's many amazing things about Diana's maternal Grandmother.  One of them is the fact that she can find a printed card for almost any occasion.  It's not just that she sends these cards that are special, but she always finds the perfect card.  Since I married Diana, I've started receiving these cards.  I'm not joking when I say that I've numerous cards directed at "my grandson-in-law"  in the printed message.  I didn't even know they made these cards until I started receiving them from her. 

Earlier this week I got musical greeting card featuring this song: 

Though I don't really have any scores to settle and no, I'm not going to start eating salads, I love the spirit of this song.  While I don't really expect to have anything else figured out after my next 30 years, I do think I'll feel better about that fact.   Vassar's optimism and outlook on the "rest of life," is exactly the message I expect from Grandma.

Wait a second, isn't this the guy who did that "Carlene" song? I love that song!

Not quite a stadium rocker Phil, but what a nice sense of nostalgia.

Monday, March 26, 2012

American Land by Bruce Springsteen

I am proud to be a son of immigrants.

My parents came from Taiwan to American in 1978, worked hard, and made a life for themselves. Through their perseverance and determination they created for opportunities for themselves and my brother and I. I believe that the mixture of cultures that created my identity makes me American. This land that my parents came to was a place that dreams came true for them, which gives me hope every day. If my parents could make it in this place coming from Taiwan, there’s nothing I can’t do here.

I think about those dreams my parents had coming to America. They didn’t have a bad life in Taiwan, but they wanted to have a different one. The illusions of what America was were plentiful, but there was something more, as Bruce Springsteen puts it “a fire down below” in “American Land.”

“American Land,” by Bruce Springsteen is the only song I’ve ever heard that the captures pride I have in a being a son of an immigrant. On the surface it seems like a simple “America is the land where everything is perfect,” not unlike, “There Are No Cat In American,” from American Tail.

Bruce is careful to imbed lines about opportunity with realities of immigrant life. Yes, there are “diamonds in the sidewalks,” but the “treasure” is only for “hardworking men.” The song starts as a celebration of hope but the second verse dips deep into the immigrant experience working and sweating through the day. The music keeps on celebrating through this work, because there is pride in the work. Yes, there were crazy dreams that got us to America, but what’s even better is sweating to make a life and feeling that it can become something.

In the third verse, Bruce lays out all the contributions to America immigrants brought, connecting the song to modern times. 
They died building the railroads, they worked to bones and skin
They died in the fields and factories, names scattered in the wind
They died to get here a hundred years ago, they're still dying now
Their hands that built the country we're always trying to keep down.
It’s a powerful statement reminding us that we have been trying to keep immigrants down from the moment America became a country and this has never stopped. The reason why Bruce melds Irish folk music with rock music is to remind us that these things that happened in the past are still happening right now.

Bruce doesn’t make excuses for the immigrants. He doesn’t say that they deserve hand-outs. He portrays immigrants through their hard work they did regardless of how badly they were often treated. This is something to celebrate and should be a source of pride because we are all immigrants.  

I'm reminded that I'm the son of an immigrant every time someone asks me where I'm from or whenever something come up about Asian culture and everyone in the room looks to me.  Sometimes it's a little weird, but every time a little smile emerges as I respond to whatever has been said. 

Being reminded that I'm the son of immigrants is a reminder of how proud I am of my parents, how proud I am of my heritage and that dreams can come true through hard work in this beautiful American Land.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Year 2: Week 27 – Stop Talking

One of the most challenging parts of classroom management is to get kids to quiet down. It’s something I struggle with every day and an issue that is present even with experienced master teachers.

Part of dealing with this students talking in class is understanding that developing minds before and after puberty do not have full control over their impulses. I expect that students will talk out of turn in my class to some degree. I call them out on how they are rude, but I still expect it to happen because they are kids and they are learning how control themselves.

One thing you have to think about is your priorities. Getting a class to be completely silent isn’t really that hard. You let them get out their cell phones or ipods and tell them be quiet or they will be punished. Chances are you may have to quiet some kids down but kids will happily sit in silence if they are entertained. In this situation none of the kids are actually engaged in learning anything, so what’s the point?

A teacher who can keep a classroom absolutely quiet is nothing to admire. It’s doesn’t take any real skill to scream at kids into submission or threaten them with punishments when they talk to keep them quiet. But I don’t think classes should be out of control either.

I like a classroom with energy. I love it when a teacher asks a question and a kid is so excited to offer and idea they blurt out. Yes, they need to learn how not to do that, but it’s a sign that the student feel like they are in a safe learning environment. While I enjoy this, this can easily get out of control so how do you strike that balance between energy and submission?

Here’s a couple ideas that I keep in mind:
  • Don’t quiet a class down unless you have something significant and important to say to your class. While your class is chatting, get your thoughts together and then quiet them down and then speak. If what you say actually means something to them, the next time you quiet down they will simmer down faster. However, if you don’t have anything for them, they really need to hear, it’s going to be a constant struggle to keep their attention.
  • Be consistent: I often see teachers be very inconsistent with their standards. The most common example I see is when a teacher insists everyone does not interrupt or speak out but provides positive feedback when certain students provide good answers but without waiting to be called on. This is not cool. Your need to have a student respond to your questions does not supersede basics of their behavior. A student interrupting with the right answer is being rude just like a student interrupting with a non sequitur.
  • Model: If you don’t want your kids to interrupt you, don’t interrupt them. You may think that you don’t but you may. Video tape yourself teaching and see if you are responding to your student when they speak the way that you want them to respond to you. This is important, students can smell hypocrisy a mile away.
  • Most importantly, figure out why you're students are talking.  Really think about it.  Student talk in class because they are distracted, confused, dealing with emotional problems, feel discouraged because the class is too hard, feel bored because the work is too easy and a multitude of other reasons.  Most of these reasons can be dealt with through creative teacher and better planning.  
I'm not a master teacher, but I've found that by keeping those four points in mind, I've been able to keep my kids with me enough to enjoy teaching and working with my students.  There's no silver bullet to getting kids to stop talking but by treating your students as individuals and figuring out the why behind their misplaced words, you're halfway there.    

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Big Man

Sometimes we don't realize how important people are until they are gone.  Clarence Clemons died June 18th, last year.  When I watched footage of him performing with the E Street Band, he didn't really seem like anything special.  In this live performance of "10th Avenue Freeze Out," he had a great presence on stage but for some reason I didn't think much of it.

Recently Bruce Springsteen performed this song at the Apollo and when he sang about the "Big Man" joining the band, something remarkable happened.

He stopped the band where Clarence usually played a saxophone fill and there was a gaping musical hole.  The reason why I overlooked Clarence for so long was because he fit so seamlessly into Bruce's voice.  He wasn't merely a response to what Bruce sang about he was an extension of it.

Visually they seemed like such a mismatched pair but like Bruce talked about in his recent Rolling Stone interview, they were best friends, family and brothers.  The symbolism of them leaning on each other on the cover of Born To Run not only displayed a musical partnership but harmony between  races. 

Now I finally understand why Bruce opened his Superbowl Halftime show leaning up against Clarence. To replicate that image is to communicate what we need from each other and the power of friendship.

So who does Bruce lean against now? Who do we all lean against when the people we love leave us?  I don't know, but somewhere in Bruce standing tall encouraging his fans to fill the silence Clarence left behind, we may find some answers.   

Monday, March 19, 2012

Go Ahead And Rain by JD Souther

JD Souther could have been a member one of the most successful bands in pop music history, The Eagles. He was instrumental in the creation of the band encouraging Glen Frey to play with a group of musicians behind his then-girlfriend Linda Ronstadt. Souther co-wrote some of the Eagles most popular songs, played with the band but refused to join.

As the Eagles developed as a band, members of The Eagles including Don Henley continued to sing his praises and work with him. Even when the Eagles were the hottest ticket around in the 1970s, Souther stayed out of the limelight focusing on his songwriting over fame.

I first became of aware of Souther when Don Henley talked about him in an introduction to “The Heart Of The Matter.”

I praised this song in an earlier post for capturing the nuance and emotional complexity of love.

I wasn’t really sure how much Souther contributed to the song so when I started to listen to JD Souther’s most recent solo album Natural History, I didn’t really know what to expect. The first track on the album is “Go Ahead And Rain.”  After about thirty seconds in, I was absolutely speechless.

Everything about this song is what I love about The Eagles. To say this song is beautiful doesn’t begin to acknowledge the depth of the songwriting. The melody and the chords feel organic and natural but twist and wind around each other in a fresh and interesting way.

The lyrics are easy to understand on a literal level. Like Hemingway, Souther manages to use simple language to express the complexity of the human experience. The basic idea of this song is that he asking a girl to love him which he describes as “let it rain down on me.” There’s a beauty in being surrounded by love as you would be with rain but also a mystery and darkness as rain often represents sorrow. Lines like “you know this old world would keep spinning around without a lucky guy like me,” adds a layer of self-doubt which Souther mixes with hope as he asks this woman to love him.

He doesn’t know how this woman goes on with his sorrows, but that doesn’t stop his dream. It’s like  he doesn’t understand this woman, but she’s part of him all of the same. At the song, Souther mournfully sings “because maybe things will never be the same again.”

Every encounter, no matter how seemingly insignificant changes . Sometimes we don’t sense it but sometimes we can. It is the moments that change us that we can’t deny that open up ourselves to take action to make our dreams reality.

JD Souther is an interesting figure in popular music and though it may be hard to understand why he passed up being part of one of the most successful bands ever that he helped create, I'm glad that he understands the depth of the human heart to articulate to us the parts of ourselves that only music can express.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Year 2: Week 26 – Calling Them Out

Teachers calling students out is something we have all experienced or have witnessed at some point in out lives. When I say, “call out,” I’m talking about a teacher correcting, reprimanding or being overtly negative towards students in front of the whole class. This public display happens all of the time at most levels of education. Do all teachers do this? Of course not, I know one 3rd grade teacher who never calls kids, but rather uses more subtle signs to the students to get them to change behavior.

I’m probably like most teachers.  I call kids out almost every day. I don’t like doing it, but I feel it’s a necessary part of classroom management. Lately I’ve been thinking more specifically about when it is appropriate to call a student out and when it’s not okay.

This is what I’ve figured out. It’s only okay to call a kid out when they are behaving in a disruptive and rude manner. That’s it. Here’s my reasoning: when does public humiliation actually help change behavior? Does pointing out to a whole classroom that one student didn’t do her homework motivate that student to do her homework? Does reprimanding a student for providing an incorrect answer make them more likely to give you a correct answer? Basically what it comes down to is: when does negative reinforcement actually work?

Being a teacher is kind of like training a dog. There are so many ways to run a class and the key is finding a system that works for you and your students. I’ve seen many teachers be successful teaching in ways that I do not feel comfortable. In the three schools I’ve taught in I’ve found that different things are required of me to be a successful teacher.

The one constant in my teaching (and my dog training) is that I’m not successful in dolling out negative reinforcement. I do better and my students do better if I spend more time capitalizing on the positives. Part of this thinking is really reflecting what you are trying to accomplish as a teacher.

When I ask a class a question, I’m not always looking for the right answer. More than anything I want my students to engage in the material, so I welcome wrong answers and try to point out what was good in what they shared with the class. It’s all about the exchange and when you call kids out, you aren’t welcoming a dialogue and even with problems with students’ behavior, I feel they have the right to express their perspective.

So why do I still call kids out? I think some things deserve being called out. If a student is being rude to another students, getting reprimanded by a teacher and embarrassed provides a little bite that sometimes kids need.  Moreover providing public feedback on students’ behavior both good and bad helps the entire class understand where the boundaries are and sometimes students have to try to cross that invisible fence and to get shocked.

I’m not sure about this issue. I hate calling kids out but I feel like some of them give me no choice when they act a certain way. When a student does something that is inappropriate you have to let them know know immediately. The softest way to do this, asking them to leave the room is pretty public as well, so I do think calling kids out is a necessary evil.

What I worry about are kids who feel bullied by teachers and whom a level of public humiliation that does nothing to correct behavior, simply hurts feelings. I don’t mind if a kid feels bad for not doing their homework or cries because I reprimanded him for misbehaving. What I don’t want to happen is for a student to think that I don’t like them and that I don’t care about them.

I'm really concerned about this. So I’m setting a rule for myself that I think we all need to think about. If you are going to call a kid out for whatever reason, you must follow that up with a talk with that student after class to explain why it was necessary for you to cause public embarrassment. Maybe it’s because they were being rude, distracting other people or not living up to their potential.

Whatever it is, that kid deserves one minute from you to be reassured that you acted not out of meanness but for out of respect for their potential as a human being. We can never remind our students enough that the only reason we get frustrated with them and feel a need to call them out is because we care.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

634-5789 Vs. 867-5309

Best songs featuring a phone #?

Wilson Picket's "634-5789"

or Tommy Tutone's "867-5309"?

Wow, this one is tough.   Picket is one of the greatest soul singers ever, but Tommy Tutone's name using alteration.  I'll leave this one for the ages.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Against All Odds by Phil Collins

“Against All Odds” is one of those songs that continues to be omnipresent in our culture. I heard it last week at a J. Crew store and just the week before it was featured on Up All Night.  We often overlook music we hear all the time as being musically insignificant. For years, “Against All Odds” was one of those songs for me.

On the surface “Against All Odds,” is a cheesy 1980s ballad. The instrumentation immediately dates this song and while many people like Phil Collins’ voice, it’s doesn’t hold a universal appeal.  The way I began to really understand the subtlety and depth of this song was listening to Mariah Carey’s version.

It’s not that Carey’s version is all that different. The studio recording of her cover is exactly the same length as Phil Collins'. I would not argue the Carey does a better performance. That simply isn’t a fair comparison as these are two singers who sing in completely different styles. What Mariah Carey allowed for me is to hear this song fresh after years of hearing it as background music.

Break-up songs cover a wide complexity of emotions and Collins manages to encapsulates so much of them in this song. The first line of the verses starts with anguish that immediately melts in sentimentality. This juxtaposition of emotions immediately draws us in as pain and joy come crashing together.

The plea of the chorus is “take a look at me now” which contrasts “the memory of your face.” He hope that if the other person looks at his face she will be drawn back into the relationship.  However, it's against odds.

As the song journey’s forward there is another plea to just turn around but it’s to no avail. As the second chorus enters, the song becomes more desperate. Heartbreak sinks in, as all she can do is “wait.”  He can’t make her turn around. At the end song not against the odds that they will get back together, it’s against all odds. It’s not going to happen. Where there once was a slim chance of this working out there is nothing.

There are no lines in this song like in many songs about relationships that talk about love directly. Instead Phil Collins goes deeper into what it means to be loved and what that feels like. The one-line that expresses the love between them is “you’re the only one who ever knew me at all.”

Think about the people in your life that you truly love. They know you in ways that other people don’t and allow you to not have to “be” anything but yourself.  Being able to be that open and free with another person is liberating and beautiful. If you’ve got this you can’t let it go without a fight. Even if it’s against all odds.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Year 2: Week 25 - The Problem With Business Cards

Around the age of third grade I thought business cards were really cool. I collected them from places I went and people I met. So last year when I a box of business cards arrived in my mailbox of school I was ecstatic.

In my previous two jobs we didn’t have business cards so these were my first. If you ask other teachers around my school most would say that they don’t really use their business cards but I decided to. I’m proud of where I work and it’s nice to have something to gives someone you meet who may have a reason to contact you later.

Naturally when one of my third graders made a business card and gave it to me I gave him one of mine. He was really surprised with this exchange. I explained how business card exchanges work when you are an adult and he thought it was really cool.

Over the next couple weeks, this student’s classmates started making business cards to trade for my own.  These things were made on scraps of paper with their name and made up jobs. My favorite is a business card for a chair company that is shaped like a chair.

The teacher of these third graders asked to talk to me about this business card exchange. At first, I thought that she objected to this activity for some reason, which seemed like a pretty ridiculous thing. In my mind this seemed completely harmless. When I went to talk to her, I explained the first exchange and how, in order to be fair, I needed to make exchanges with other students. She looked at me and instead of being upset, simply laughed.

She understood that I had to follow through in this way, but she did have a concern. Third grade students like most ages contain a variety of skills and abilities. In order to get a business card from me the student would have to make a business card with no directions, be confident enough to come up to me outside of a classroom context and interact with me independently. These are not skills that every student at this age possesses.  Because a student may lack the comfort level of talking to me outside of class they were not able to connect to me in through the exchange of a business card.

It’s great to make personal connections with students and have them see you as more than a teacher. What you need to remember and what I forgot, is these opportunities must be equally accessible for every student in the class. For students who were not as comfortable approaching me outside of class, this business card exchange was not as accessible.

Does this mean I can’t share parts of myself with my class? Of course not. One of the things I do is show students videos and pictures of Buffy, my dog. My students love viewing these things and hearing stories about her. This is a personal connection that I present to the whole class that they can all share with me.

Where these connections are most meaningful are through the curriculum. When I teach a class the techniques to write a song on an instrument and then they write their own song, I’m giving them the tools to interact with me in a personal way through the lesson and my response to their song.

What was the solution to the business cards? How did I make the other students who didn’t make a business card feel involved and connected with me as a teacher? Their teacher gave me the answer: give everyone a business card. Now everyone has something special and personal from me as a teacher. What was amazing was the fact that I saw the same excitement in the half of the class who hadn’t gotten the card as the first students who traded me his own card weeks earlier.  It didn’t matter that everyone was getting one, it just felt good to get something special from me as their teacher.  Of course, I ended up giving my card to the rest of my third graders. 

As much fun as it was to do the individual exchanges, it felt a lot better knowing that I had made all of my third graders, not just some, feel special through the simple act of giving them my business card.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wrecking Ball is Here!

Bruce Springsteen's latest album "Wrecking Ball" came out yesterday.  For the past week I've been looking all over for the best articles about this album.  The Rolling Stone Review is without a doubt the best review I read.  It's not because they gave it a favorable review but because it looks at this album and analyzes it for what it is, not what it's not.  It's a beautifully written work of music journalism that Wrecking Ball deserves.

One of the things that the review mentions is the connection to political issues.  Politico has a fascinating article that address Springsteen's politics in his music from a Republican viewpoint.  Bruce Springsteen's lyrics give GOPers reason to believe is a great article that discusses the power of his music and why people shouldn't be turned off of it just because Bruce has left-leaning views.  One of my closest friends who is a Republican and a huge Springsteen fan said it best, "Springsteen doesn't sing about politics, he sings about reality."

There's no better example of this than "Jack Of All Trades," which Bruce performed on the Jimmy Fallon show.  This achingly beautiful ballad is one of Bruce's finest and one of the many highlights from "Wrecking Ball."  

If you have any interest in Wrecking Ball, buy it.  Don't just download a song or two off of it, buy the whole album.  This is not just a collection of songs, it's an expression of the soul of America.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Buffy & Diana

There’s a lot of things I love about Buffy but one of the most endearing things about my puppy is what she does for my wife Diana.

The fastest way to earn someone’s respect is through the people that they love. When John Lennon was looking for a record company to produce his solo albums, the company that won him over was the one that talked to his wife, Yoko Ono during the initial meetings.

I feel very much the same way with my wife Diana. Buffy’s continued care and affection for Diana is one of the reasons I love my puppy so much.

Diana and Buffy’s relationship has evolved into something very special over the past three years. When we first got Buffy, Diana quickly fell in love with the little fuzz ball.

Her cuteness overwhelmed Diana and her puppy charm was simply irresistible. As Buffy grew older the connection started coming the other way as she would excitedly greet Diana as she got home from work.

Now of course Buffy can’t do things for the way that Diana can for her, but Buffy tries in her own way to take care of Diana. There’s the little things like how Buffy curls up next to the bathroom door whenever Diana is in there.  If Diana lets Buffy in the bathroom when she is showering, Buffy will try her best to dry her off afterwards licking at her shins. Buffy almost always watches Diana in the house to make sure she is okay and tries to accompany Diana wherever she goes.

Buffy’s does what she can for Diana and while most her actions for Diana and small she tries.  And it’s the effort that makes expressing care mean so much.

In the crazy moments when Diana and Buffy are running around outside together they make each other so happy. Then there’s the quiet moments when Buffy brings such a center, a feeling of peace to Diana. Buffy is able to do so much for my wife by simply being there, really being there for and with Diana.

I've learned that it's not my job to make Diana happy and I don't think that Buffy see's this as her sole purpose.  But when someone is part of your life, their happiness, their mood and their well-being is tied into not only how you feel but who you are.  We feel so strongly for Buffy and there are moments when I look into her brown eyes and know that she feels this for us.  It truly is an amazing thing to feel someone looking at you with such a strong connection but seeing Buffy connect with Diana in such a profound way feels like . . . hope.

If I didn’t have a relationship with Buffy and all I knew of her was through her relationship with Diana, I would do anything for that puppy.  There's a pureness, a devotion and faith between them.  I feel it every morning when I gently pick up Buffy from her dog bed and place her next to Diana as she sleeps and I see them curl up together before I leave for work.  No matter what else in going in my head, I can't help but smile feeling the love between them.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Year 2: Week 24 – The Assistants

I didn’t even know his name.

This teaching assistant came into my band class every day with one of my students and sat in the back with him. This student had special needs and this teaching assistant worked with him during class. Once in a while this teaching assistant would nervously ask me a question but beyond that we didn’t really interact. I didn’t value him as part of my professional community and never got to know him.

Two years later I was an associate teacher, which was basically the same thing as a teaching assistant. I followed kids around as a one to one aide, did lunch and recess duty and other clerical work. The person who I was working with saw my abilities as a teacher a quickly had me doing some teaching.

Here I was with two years of teaching experience and a Master’s degree in music education doing lunch room and recess duty. I never thought that this was where my teaching career would end up. At first it was a little disheartening to be doing the work of an “assistant.” However, I quickly got over that as I realized how much I had to learn from my fellow associate teachers.

Being an associate teacher was kind of like being part of a club. They knew things about the school that other teachers and administrators didn’t because they worked with different teachers and had been around longer than other faculty members. It was through them that I learned how the school worked.

Even though I was had the highest educational degree of all of the associates, they knew so much more about what it really meant to teach. One associate in particular didn’t have a teaching degree but understood elementary school students in a way that I never considered. She knew when to give them hugs, how important it was to decorate the room with their work and while I understood how to teach them, she knew how to know them and show that she cared. Out of all of the people who have taught me to teach, this associate ranks as one the most important influences in my life as a teacher.

As I entered my second year as an associate, I was really proud of my job. Other people when I told them about my job would question my pride, but I simply explained how important what we did was to the school and how much I was learning by being an associate.

Now, I’m a teacher again. I no longer have recess or lunch duty. I don’t follow kids around as a aide and I don’t make photocopies for other teachers. While I don’t have an assistant myself, I work with an amazing staff of assistants who help the homeroom teachers and grades as a whole who I teach.  It’s not just about enabling teachers to do their jobs and give them prep time. These assistants teach, observe and create relationships with students and faculty that are critical and fundamental to the vitality of the school community.

I respect the assistant teachers on the same level that I do my principals and other teachers.  I am proud of the work of these assistant teachers, I'm proud to call a couple of these assistants friends and I know every single one of their names.