Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Teacher Tuesday - FAQ edition

Today I'm answering some of my most frequently asked "teacher questions"...

Did you always want to be a teacher?

No! I actually always thought I'd be a pediatrician... that was my intent and plan when I went to college and then I felt REALLY STRONGLY that that wasn't what I was supposed to be doing so I finished my business degree and started my MBA.  

Throughout college I had worked in the marketing department at a bank (I helped with the design process for ads, collateral pieces and promotional material and assisted the Marketing Director with other tasks) as well as tutored middle and high school students for Math and when I graduated with my undergrad degree in the spring of 2005 (I finished about a year early.... I was on a full academic scholarship and determined to get my undergrad and Master's in the time that my scholarship covered) I started working full-time at the bank.  

My plan was to figure out what I wanted to do long term while I continued working in marketing and as much I enjoyed aspects of my job and the people I worked with, at the end of the day I just didn't feel a whole lot of fulfillment from what I had spent my day doing.  Dave and I got married in December of 2005 (yes, we were babies!) and we settled into married life and in April of 2006 I was offered a teaching position by the principal at the school where I had been tutoring kids for the past several years.  I had no classroom experience, but he saw something in me and for some crazy reason I agreed and the rest is total history.  It was "love at first class" and that Fall I started my teacher certification program and was officially a licensed teacher by the next school year.  

How long have you been teaching?  Have you always taught at Private school?

I'm currently in my 12th year in the classroom (I think I may have thought I was in my 13th year - hahaha - but I just counted an it's 12!) and yes, I've always taught private.

What classes/grades do you teach?

I teach 7th and 8th grades and that includes two periods of Math 7, two periods of 8th grade PreAlgebra and two periods of Honors 7th grade PreAlgebra.  

How do you handle classroom management?

I wish there was a quick and easy answer to this question, but I typically handle things that may come up on a case-by-case basis.  I definitely have certain rules and consequences that are the same across the board no matter what and these are mostly all-school rules regarding things like tardies, food in the classroom, etc., but a lot of things depend on the context, history, etc.

I tend to classroom manage a lot like I was parented growing up - I trust kids completely until they show me I can't.  I give them little freedoms (working on homework with a partner, sitting at the picnic tables outside of my room while they work, picking their seat, etc.) as long as they can handle them.  And you'd be shocked at how far giving them those little privileges go.

For example, if a student is being repeatedly disruptive during a lecture I'll ask that student to stop - but depending on the kid that could be out loud in front of everyone, it could be me walking over to their desk and putting my hand on it or sometimes it's just giving them "The look" from the front of the room.  ;)  If the student STILL cant' get themselves under control I'll explain that I can't allow them to rob their peers of the ability to learn (ouch) and nicely ask them to excuse themselves to the tables outside of my room.  In general, the prospect of missing out on notes while outside and possibly losing some of the privileges mentioned above is enough to keep everyone pretty much in line.  

One little trick that I've figured out over the years is spelling out my classroom rules and expectations clearly and explicitly at the beginning of the year.  Understanding that kids come from homes with lots of different expectations regarding behavior I spell mine out so we're all on the same page and typically kids appreciate the directness and respect my expectations.  For example, I HAAAATE the words "shut up".  I know that a lot of people say it in their homes but I can't stand it so I make that clear from the beginning that my room is a "no shut up zone" :)  

In my room I don't tolerate ANY sort of "razzing" while kids are answering questions, working up front at the board, etc. and that's an automatic email home and warning/detention depending on the severity.  Math can be SUCH a hurdle for some kids and so much of it depends on confidence so this is something I hold to hard.

Next is DOCUMENTATION!!!  We have a program that we use for our grade book, student records, attendance, etc.  This is also where we log student behavior issues and I try my best to note these in there so that if I have continual problems with a kid I can recall the information correctly to the parents and/or an administrator.  It gives validity to your concerns over a pattern of behavior and I've never had "too much" documentation.

In most cases, I've found that a quick parent email can solve most classroom issues.  Will it sometimes be awkward to let a parent know the weird or inappropriate thing that their kid said/did in class?  100%.  But in general, I've found that most parents appreciate knowing so they can address those things at home with their kids (and no... I don't email about EVERY little thing... but repeated or otherwise noteworthy things I'll send an email home).

Do you have a store on Teachers Pay Teachers? 

I don't!  I buy resources from there often, but don't really have time to manage another "thing".  I do enjoy creating special notes, games and activities for my classes and maybe one day I'll set that up :) 

Do you have a lot of grading that you have to do at home?

Since I teach math, homework is VITAL.  It shows that kids can independently perform the skills that they're learning in class and is important not only to me as a gauge of individual understanding but to students as well since the best/only way to learn math is to DO math.  Since there is so much value in their independent work, I do grade every single assignment every single day.  That comes out to 80+ papers a day if they only have a homework assignment - but there can be quizzes, in class extensions, etc. as well. 

Some weeks I'm able to stay on top of things daily (YES!!!), but other weeks my planning periods (I have 2) are taken up with student government responsibilities (I'm the sponsor), parent conferences, lesson prepping, popping into my own kids classrooms to volunteer, etc.  I do end up taking papers home and grading them at night because otherwise the grading can pile up quickly and I can end up with 400+ papers to grade.  

What's one of your most embarrassing or funniest moments in the classroom?

I blogged  HERE about some of the funny "middle school moments" that I've experienced over the years but probably my most embarrassing classroom moment would be when I was sitting in a chair like this one at a podium...

... and I was giving some serious talk about test grades or effort or something like that and the classroom was DEAD silent.  I ended my lecture and went to get off the chair and the heel of my pump got caught in that lower metal ring part and I totally bit it right there in front of an entire class of students.  Y'all.  I didn't see it coming at all and didn't even have a chance to try and catch myself.  Then I just kind of laid there in stunned silence while the kids stared all wide-eyed not sure what to even do with themselves.  I ended up bursting out into laughter which gave the kids permission to laugh (because their teacher had just ATE IT in front of all of them) and I'm pretty sure it's several student's favorite memory from middle school.

I've also puked in front of a class of high schoolers (repeatedly) and drawn a thermometer on the board that inadvertently looked A LOT like male anatomy (YES. I. DID).  Another time I tripped in the courtyard and fell so hard that I ripped holes in the knees of my pants and had blood gushing out of my knees and palms IN FRONT OF THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE and then there was every staff vs. student volleyball game I've participated in :)

What advice would you give to new teachers?

- Give clear expectations, but also give grace.

- Communicate, communicate and then communicate a little bit more with parents :)

- Get to know your students!  They can be so much fun and I can't even tell you how many times I've gotten to know a student and later said, "ohhhh... well that explains x, y or z".  

- You don't have to reinvent the wheel... glean ideas from other teachers, ask a colleague for help, or google!!! 

I feel like I just wrote a novel!  I've had several other questions including topics such as incorporating and involving different learning styles, private vs. public school, how I lesson plan, organization, etc. but I'll address those and a few others in a post at a later time :)  If you have other questions I'd love for you to shoot me an email with them so I can add them to my list!

If you want to read a little bit more on how/why I run my classroom the way I do you can check out  THIS POST and if you want to see other posts I've written about my experience in the classroom you can click on the "teacher stuff" label at the end of this post.

Happy TUESDAY, friends!!!


  1. Q and A posts are always some of my favorites!!

  2. This was such a fun post to read! Managing a classroom is HARD! I always saw kids in small groups and individually as a speech therapist, but when I volunteered to teach an after school class on sign language, man did I get a WAKE UP CALL! SO MUCH RESPECT for teachers!

  3. This was so great, thanks for sharing. Happy Teacher Appreciation day. I can tell (from reading your blog for years) that you LOVE your job, and that the kids LOVE you. Great job. I bet you are an effective but really fun teacher. I love your creativity in your classroom.

  4. I have a homework question if you don’t mind. I have 2 kids in a TX public middle school- one in 6th grade preAP math and 1 in 8th grade math. What if the child takes a benchmark test in school before the lesson and clearly know the material about the be taught. And then goes through the lesson with the teacher and is assigned lots of homework on those topics for many nights. The homework is such busy work since the child already knew how to do all this before. My feeling is if the child can prove they have already mastered the material, then why is the homework necessary? We run into this problem often with my daughter. The homework feels like such a waste of time.

  5. You are such an amazing teacher!

  6. I'm graduating in a few weeks and am going to be teaching 5th and 6th grade math at a private school, so i looooove reading these posts! Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love Teacher Tuesdays! What a blessing you are to your students and school!

  8. I LOVE your blog....lol...I seriously feel like friends because you are so sweet to let us in on your life. You are a blessing!!

  9. Thank you for sharing this! It all definitely holds true. I wish I knew about this far in advance, haha (I'm a grad student who was thrown into complete control of a full Microbiology lab of Junior/Senior-level undergrads and was only given a 10 minute Biosafety training... what an experience to say the least.). I honestly don't know how y'all teachers do it, teachers sincerely and genuinely amaze me!


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