FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: My Final Blog
Here it is... my final blog as a first year teacher. The year went really quick. It really seems like yesterday I was writing my first blog. My first year has taught me an awful lot. The biggest lesson I learned was the importance of major and minor points of the curriculum. Certain things need to be covered in more depth than others. As I write this I am sitting in my classroom. No students, desks piled in the corner, not a sign that this classroom of mine was a Social Studies classroom. Next year it becomes a Language Arts classroom.
These blogs have provided me the forum to express my feelings, views and experiences as a first year teacher. I am very upbeat and positive as a teacher and a person. I guess you can say I look at the glass half full. This is truly the best job you can ever have. Its been only two days but I really miss my students already. Seeing a group of young men and women grow and mature over 10 months has been very rewarding.
If you haven't experienced your first year of teaching yet, here's some advice. You will hear how tough it is. It's not. Put every bit of yourself into your job. It's only tough if you make it. There is nothing like seeing a student's reaction when they see you at a school dance, play or music performance.
It has been my pleasure writing this blog. I hope anybody who has read it has enjoyed it. Although this is summer coming up I would like to give any advice to anybody who wants it. You can e-mail me at email@example.com. I would be happy to answer any questions or give any advice you may have.
Good luck to all. Thank-you to the faculty, staff and students of LaSalle Middle School as well to all members of the greatest school district in the world for a super year. Have a great summer!!!!
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Recap of the Finals
My finals are over. A years' worth of materials has been covered and assessed. I am happy to say my students did exceptional. They are such a great group of kids and I will miss them over the summer. I taught them a few study tricks, I hope they remember them in the future.
The test itself was not too bad. It tested material from George Washington all the way to the Civil War. They should remember this until next year because it will be tested on the 8th grade state assessment.
My next blog is my last one, be sure to read it.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: End of the Year Duties
One thing many of you may not know is how much goes into closing the school for the summer. There is a lot involved after the kids leave Tuesday and tecahers leave next Friday. Attendance cards must be turned in and notarized. All excuse slips have to be turned in. Textbooks need to be accounted for. Locks must be counted. All technological equiptment must be turned in. And of course your room packed up if you are changing rooms or schools. This is the first time I have gone through this. After a few years I'm sure you have it down to a science, but now its all new.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: The Final Days
The year is two weeks from being over. There is only two teaching days left. So the question is, how to spend them? The final is Thursday and Friday. I have decided to spend the days reviewing material based on testing I have done. I have tested the kids over the last week or two on the material that will be on the test. The questions they missed the most, my activities for the day will based on them.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: City Softball Game
Yesterday at Sal Maglie Stadium, there was a charity softball game. The first matchup was between LaSalle Middle and Gaskill aka Murderers Row. The second game was Niagara Falls High School vs. The Fire Department. Gaskill and the Fire Department won and Gaskill won in the championship game.
The game was a lot of fun. It was a real warm day. It was pretty cool playing on a minor league field. Bryan Dean, Kris Green, Joe D'Angelo and Dave Zona led their team on offense with Frank Coney pitching a great game for Gaskill.
Our team was led by a good pitching performance from Frank Rotundo. Our team played well overall. It was a great experience and a great time. It was also very nice to see some students in the stands cheering for their school.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Finals Time
It is that time of year. Finals are here. I remember how nervous I used to be but at the same time, how excited I was summer was coming. I have been giving the kids practice questions on the topics that will be assessed on the final. I'm looking for themes and concepts that are missed or misunderstood the most. Therefore, I can review the more difficult ones.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Memorial Day
Monday is a very important day. It is essential to take a little bit of class time and stress the sacrifice our soldiers make on a daily basis. Kids like Christmas, Easter and Halloween the best. All for good reasons but most of them just see Memorial Day as a day off of school, without realizing how important it is. Soldiers leave their families for sometimes a year or so at a time and go half way around the world.
Since we lose a day of instruction with Memorial Day, I feel students should hear stories about soldiers past and present. At home educate your young about this day. If you have a flag, proudly wave it. Happy Memorial Day!!!!
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Teaching Academic Vocabulary
One part of teaching that is often neglected is teaching academic vocabulary. What I mean is termonology that is used on tests that may or may not be part of the curriculum vocabulary. For example, questions that concern farming use the term agrarian. Voting is woreded as popular sovereignty or suffrage.
These words must be taught and stressed to students. Take a word such as suffrage. You can break down the word witht he kids so they see suffer out of it. Then apply that to African-Americans and women struggling to vote and the amendments that achieved that goal (15th and 19th). Teaching goes beyond an outline that we call a curriculum. Just as students are responsible for homework, teachers are responsible to do their homework concerning academic vocabulary.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Final Review
I have concluded the curriculum for the year. The final is fast approaching. It will cover from George Washington to the end of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The concepts are a little easier than the first half of the year but more review
time is needed. The weather is getting nice and the more time you spend on topics in class is mor evaluable because they have other classes to study for.
Always remember to put yourself in your students' shoes. When the weather was nice and you had to review for a test, wasn't it always easier when a teacher spent a little bit of time at the end of the year reviewing? It helps clear up any unclear subjects.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: The Final Topic
As I have said before, this year has flown by. This week I am teaaching Reconstruction. That is the final topic of the 7th grade curriculum. The rest of the time this year, I will be reviewing for the final which is in the second week of June. Reconstruction was the period of reuniting and rebuilding the country after the Civil War.
In terms of the curriculum and testing it is not a very important topic. My website www.nylearns.org/mhamner has links to the curriculum I taught this year. There you can see what topics are tested the most. I don't believe in teaching to a test. However, this allows you to see what topics to go into more depth with.
FIRST-YEAR TECAHER BLOG: Literary Connections
Being able to make literary connections is an essential tool in teaching social studies. Language Arts and social studies are very closely related. Pink and Say is a book that talks about friendship between Union soldiers during hte Civil War. The book allows students to get into the story and war and see what the conditions were like. You can describe the conditions of battle, being away from family and the fear that they all faced.
The more your differentiate your instruction, the more it stays fresh to you and your students.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: When to Move on to Next Concept
One question asked of me by college students wanting to be teachers is, "When do you to move to the next concept?" That's a tricky question. The answer is not simple every day. But as I teach a lesson, I assess what students get and what they do not get. The next day I open class when a journal entry on the board that incorporates a concept I feel they may be unclear about. After a few minutes of writing in their journals, we review it.
What this does is goes back and reinforces that concept. Some days you do not need to do this. On these days you may go back a few days a review a key concept. Practice makes perfect. The more exposure a student has to a theme or concept, the more likely they will be to understand it. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: An Interesting Connection
This past week, the kids were taught about Abraham Lincoln. Most students recognized he was assassinated. Students like to here stories. I printed off line the similarities between his death and the death of Kennedy. The students loved it!!! Visis this website to see them: www.school-for-champions.com/history/lincolnjfk.htm. I proposed was it a coincidence or was it scary. Most gets found the similarities fascinating and scary. I am not a superstitious person, but you have to admit it is a little alarming.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Lincoln v Douglas
Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas' debates are among the most popular of all time. They debated over the issue of slavery among others leading up to the 1860 election. To give the kids an idea how important they were, I am having them design ticket stubs for the event. The ticket shows what they are fighting for and the program outlines the issues at hand. When finished they will write a journal entry incorporating all of the outlined information.
After writing this blog, I was offered a suggestion. I would like to point out that the debates were more involved with their 1858 race for the Illinois Senate. Douglas favored popular sovergnity on slavery and Lincoln favored containing it where it existed and not allowing it to spread. In the 7th grade curriculum, you teach this debate in a way where it put both candidates on the map as presidential candidates. Their exposure from these debates and their views on slavery from these debates were a big part of the 1860 election. In that election Lincoln, a republican won the race for President in 1860. Douglas, Breckinridge and Bell were the other candidates. Breckinridge, a southern democrat and Douglas a northern democrat split the democrat vote. Lincoln look less than 40% of the popular vote and won the election. Breckinridge and Douglas combined for 47%. If one of the two didn't run, who knows what the outcome may of been. Thank-you for the feedback.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Working on Curriculums
One thing I've been doing the past several weeks, is working on the curriculum for summer school and revising the middle school curriculum for next school year. One advantage to that is you are able to break down the key concepts and themes and see how they apply to the subject matter. You do this anyways when you plan but looking in depth is something that is essential.
For example, in the summer school curriculum wemade a few changes. We put Islamic Civilization and the Crusades together. You jump around anyways during the year, butfor summer school in a limited lime it is vital to pick and choose what to teach and how to incorporate it. This is great training to become a better teacher who can pick and choose as well as differentiate with the curriculum.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Hitting the Home Stretch
It is the middle of April and the year is quickly ending. In about a month, I will start to review witht he students for the final. Coming off break, there are ten weeks remaining. Therefore, students and teachers will be refreshed and give it their all the rest of the year.
This is the 40-Week marking period. The topics covered is solely the Civil War and Reconstruction. Students seem to really like this topic. There are many creative ways to get the point across. I will mention them in upcoming blogs.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Happy Easter
It is that time again for a school break. This time it is spring break. Happy to Easter to all and look for my new entry on Monday April16th.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Trying Something New
This marking period, there is a lot of vocabulary words for students to know that areassociate with the Civil War. Usually with vocabulary I cover it as I cover the topic. This time, I'm having the students do a vocabulary day and then recovering each word as I teach it. Some words are vital to their success this marking period. Such as Reconstruction, fugitive slave laws, etc. Thos words will be broken down into simple terms so they understand the concept of it. This will ensure success this marking period and on the final exam in June. These words will appear in the question. If they don't know the meaning of the word, they won't be able to properly answer the question.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: End of the 30 Weeks
Friday marks the end of the 30 week marking period. It was only an eight week marking period. It went REAL quick. The last marking period begins in a week and covers basically the whole Civil War. This marking period I gave a lot of homework and in class assigned classwork. I usually like to give a project per marking period but there was not enough time for this marking period.
Next marking period is a little longer where I can do at least one project. It is also review for the final. I'm planning on having a week or two of review before the final. Year is ending quickly.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Students are Thoughtful
This past week I turned 25. There is a group of students who eat lunch in my room every day. They found out it was my birthday. They made me this really nice Maple Leafs birthday card and they all signed it. They had the assistance of my learn and serve student from Niagara in doing so. It was so thoughtful and unexpected. It made my birthday the most memorable one that I ever had.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: State Tests
This week, the students will take their New York State math tests. It is a two day test and the students are under a lot of pressure while taking it. While planning for those days, it is important to remember how you felt after you took a major test. By no means do the students get a free day, but plan a lighter day on them. You do not really need to assign homework those nights. Always remember to teach the kids you need to think like them.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Constant Learning
One assumption I hope people don't have is once a teacher gets their job, there is nothing more to learn. Since they are out out of school there must be nothing left to learn. That couldn't be further form the truth. There is always new research and information available. Often school districts offer training for teachers to explore this new research. It allows a teacher to get together with colleagues and run ideas by each other to implement this new research.
Yesterday the training I went to dealt with enhancing vocabulary to build backround knowledge. There are certain words test makers use such as agrarianin lieu of farming when asking a question. Students must know that vocabulary word in order to be able to answer the question. Here is where the constant learning takes place.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Looking into the Future
Everyday you teach your group of students and wonder what their future holds. Will there be a future professional athlete, U.S. President, big business person and whatever else they may do. I would like to hear from the 7th grade Social Studies teachers of people like LeBron James, George Bush, Donald Trump.. And listen to see if they thought these people would be the success they are today.
No matter what job someone has, at some point in their lives they were taught by a teacher. To think a teacher taught Bill Gates and today he is the richest person alive. That is the most rewarding part of the job. To know what is out there for them and do everything you can to influence them to achieve whatever they want.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Outside Interests
The group of kids this year are really big Sabres fans. In the mornings it is all the conversation is in the halls. They know my favorite team as well. I get picked on every time they lose, especially when they lose to the Sabres like this week. It gets the kids and you interested in the same things. You are then able to have conversations with them that are not related to school.
The other part is payback. The Sabres play my team again Saturday (Leafs). If the Leafs win, on Monday's test i will put a one point bonus question, who won? If they lose, it is another day of them having laughs at my expense.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Last Ski Trip
As I mentioned before, I was an advisor with the ski club this year. Today is the final trip. It was so much fun. Overall the ski conditions were excellent. The kids and other teachers that went were an excellent group. I am sad to see it end, but there is a positive with it. That is always a sign of spring for me, when the ski wquiptment goes away. I like skiing, but I like the warmer weather better. Within a few weeks the snow will be gone and the temperatures will be warmer. I have noticed in my brief teaching career that everyone feels re-energized once the weather warms up. This will allow everyone to be fresh for the home stretch.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: It Goes Fast
It is amazing to think it is already the end of February. This year is going by so fast. Soon it will be Spring Break an dthen the last two and a half months of school. It seems like the first day of school was just yesterday. Being a teacher it was been great to see how the kids have grown up as students and person over the last six months. One thing future teachers should know is how attached the kids can become to you and you to the students. Being young it is easy to relate to the kids. You have the same interests. That allows for a strong bond to form between teacher and student. You worry about how these kids will fare in the future and do your best to make sure that they achieve their goals.
I had a student come up to me this week and say they like reading these blogs. If you are reading this, "Hi."
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Importance of Maps
Recently in class we did a map on the Erie Canal. Being in New York, I felt it was important that the students be able to map the route on a map. Besides that, I felt it was important that they saw the cities it connected and the fact it linked the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean which empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
I picked the cities of Buffalo, Lockport, Rochester, Syracuse, Rome, Utica and Albany. I taught the kids to use the map index to plot the cities. They traced in blur marker the canal. This was a valuable way to teach them to use amap and at the same time learn about the Erie Canal.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: 3rd Snow Day
Yesterday was the third snow day of the year. I cannot ever remember as a student having that many. The weather has been strange this winter. It started off mild and rainy and turned cold and snowy real quick. The saying about Western New York is true. If you don't like the weather wait five minutes.
One question I have received has been, "What do you do when there is a snow day?" The first two, I moved the lesson to the next day and it worked out fine. Today was a half day so the lesson started today was going to be finished for homework. So the snow day does not hurt me too much.
As I write this one thought comes to mind. Five weeks until spring. :)
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: 2nd Parent Teacher Conferences
During the year, there are many firsts. The first day of school, first test, first grades closing, etc... There gets to be a point when the lasts start happening. Wednesday is the last parent teacher conferences of the year. Parents or guardians may meet with teachers any them they wish, but this is the last organized one of the year.
I have said in earlier blogs how valuable this is. It helps maintain or improve a student's average. Parents or guardians send their kids off to school on a daily basis and often do not meet the adults that work with them for that time. If anyhting is the chance to meet their child's teacher.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Teaching Students How to Take a Test
Face it, tests are difficult and stressful. You will most likely never score a 100 on every test. Questions may confuse you and that may become frustrating. When taking a multiple choice test, it is a good idea to spend some time teaching students the proper way to eliminate answer choices that do not make sense. Have them dra wa line through those answers so that they do not choose them.
Make sure they read all the answer choices!! If they can eliminate two, they have a fofty percent chance of getting the answer right if they do not know it.
This is a valuable tool for your class and benefits them in the future.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: 2nd Snow Day
Yesterday we had our second snow day of the year. I spent the day getting ahead. When I had heard that school was cancelled I decided to use the day to pla well into next week. I was able to come up with lessons for the War of 1812, Monroe Doctrine, Era of Good Feelings and the Erie Canal.
It was a very cold day. I can never remember a day that cold in a long time. Although it was a cancelled day, it was very productive because I was able to get a lot of work done. Seizing any spare time you have as a first year teacher is valuable. You never know what is going to come up and utilizing any free moment you have is very important.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Planning Ahead
One of the most important things a teacher can do is plan ahead. The curriculum spells out what needs to be taught and when. If you take marking period by marking period and plan it out, you will be sure to cover all the material by a deadline.
It is not a definite plan, but it is a blueprint that is good to go by. As you look closer, you will see topics of less importance that can be condensed so you have time for projects and other activities.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Planbook Set Up
One of the toughest decisions a teacher has to make is how to set up their planbook. Principals will give you certain things they want to see and some things are left for you. My planbook is set up in the following.
1. The topic-it gives a general title for today.
2. The objectives. Here you say by the end of the day what students should be able to do.
3. A list of activities planned for the period.
4. The procedure in which you will conduct your lesson.
5. The standards mandated by New York State that the lesson covers.
In the far right of the book, is another column. In it lists the materials used this week, skills used this week and graded assignments. This is my set up. Most are similar but slightly different.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Reflecting on the Mid - Terms
Finally the mid - terms are over!!! The students are starting a well deserved three days off to rest and relax before starting the second half of the year. As mentioned before my mid - terms were Monday and Tuesday,
I cannot release test scores or percentages in a blog. However, the results exceeded my expectations. Before the test I had a goal of percentage passing and average score. Both numbers were higher. It showed how well the students studied. second half of the year I will use my results as my benchmark and hope students will achieve it again. Any student reading this or any parent or guardian, Congratulations!!!
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Previewing the 2nd Half of the Year
My first semester of teaching is almost done. After my mid-term tomorrow, all of my focus will be on getting ready to teach the second half of the year. The second half of the year is about more specific events in American history. Topics such as George Washington's cabinet, states being admitted to the union, War of 1812 and the Civil War will be covered.
I have experience teaching those topics. As a student teacher and as a long-term sub, I have taught the second half of the year before. The students seem to like those topics better than topics covered in the first half of the year.
Their next major exam is the final, which will take place in June. All the material covered in the second half of the year will be on it, nothing from the first half. They will need to remember it though. At the end of eighth grade, they will take a state wide test on all of the material from the last two years.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: 1st Ski Trip
As mentioned before, I am am participating in LaSalle Middle's ski club this year. I have skiied my whole life and was a member of the ski club at LaSalle Senior High School. I always wanted to be in it as a teacher. The group goes to Kissing Bridge in Colden, NY. The 45 minute trip includes almost 50 students, faculty and members of the LaSalle and Niagara Middle Schools.
The weather has not been the best this year for ski lovers. It has been to warm and too rainy. However, recently the weather has become colder and snowier. This allows for natural and man made snow to occur.
The group will make 7 more trips this year. It is a great group of students and faculty involved. It is always great to share an interest of yours with students. It allows them to see a different side to you besides being a teacher.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Snow Day
Today was a snow day for the students in Niagara Falls. As a student, it was the greatest news you heard in the morning that school was cancelled. But as a teacher it is a little different. Next week is the mid-term exams. Losing today meant there was one less day to review with the students.
It is a little different as a teacher. As a students I did not realize what a teacher was required to do. Now as a teacher I know.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: How the Review is Going
It is a week and a half before the mid-term. It is time to review the first half of the school year. It soundss challenging but it really is not. I have taught summer school for two years. There you have to condense a whole year's curriculum into a short time, so I know how to condense. You pick out the main ideas and review them. Minor details you do not cover as much.
The students so far have done really well. They are making flash cards to better help them study. Some students have been coming after school for additional help. These are all great signs. The exam is a week from Monday and Tuesday. They have worked real hard. They all should do well.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Room Set Up
One topic I have yet to touch on is the set up of my room. In my classroom I have the desks set up in six groups of four. Students mostly do group work as a daily lesson. It provides the opportunity for the students to learn from each other. The teachers' job is easier because there are six groups to monitor as opposed to twenty individuals.
Students keep their materials in bins against one of the walls. These are standards as outlined by the program America's Choice, which LaSalle operates under. Throughout the room is large poster paper that the class has done. This shows topics such as the Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, 1st Continental Congress, etc...
Of course there are the typical classrules, maps and student work displayed throughout the room as well.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: The Curriculum
Today we finally finished the curriculum for the mid-term. Back in September you feel it is a lot of information to cover. Having my mentor Tom Fisher there to reassure me that we were on pace was comforting. Take a look at the curriculum. You can see it at www.nylearns.org/mhamner. Click on the curriculum link. The 10 and 20 week curriculums appear on the mid-term.
To put that in years, it is about from the ice age to the end of the Revolutionary War when the Constitution was adopted. That is a lot of history. The second half of the year is less in terms of years to cover but equally important in terms of content. It covers from Washington's first cabinet through an Industrial Revolution, through the Civil War and Reconstruction.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: A Week In History
Today we are returning from our week and a half break for the holidays. As a Social Studies teacher, it is important to discuss briefly in your class current events when they occur. Over the break there were two big ones.
First was the passing of our 38th President Gerald Ford. It is important to discuss brefly how he took over for Nixon when Nixon resigned. You may also want to discuss how he was the only unelected President to hold office. Nixon's original Vice-President resigned and Ford was appointed to the position.
Second was the execution of Saddam Hussein. This one you do not want to get into much detail about. The students will know about it. You would wan tto generate a discussion on how the students feel this will impact the Iraqi situation.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Merry Christmas
I wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, especially the readers of the Niagara Gazette here in the great city of Niagara Falls. The first four months have flown by. Look for my new column on Tuesday January 2nd.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: The Week Before Christmas
It is the week before Christmas. The students are excited to see what Santa will bring them. However, there is still a week of school they must attend and participate in. When planning for this week, I recalled my experiences as a student during this time. I did not want to show Christmas movies all week. The mid - term is shortly after the break. What I decided to do is give them a test Monday and an in - class project the rest of the week. The project is related to the government unit that we are currently studying.
The project teaches how government is structured. I did not forget the holiday season though. For those who wanted extra credit I gave the opportunity to put a few Christmas decorations on the project.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Grading
One of the toughest decisions a first year teacher and a teacher in general must make is how to grade the kids. Some say tests, homework, classwork and projects make up a certain percentage. Others say everything counts as 100 points. The one that I decided on was to give tests a weight of 100 points ( major ones count double). Homework 10 points and projects either 50 or 100 points depending on the amount of work required in the project.
My grading places a heavier emphasis on tests, but there is enough projects where the two grades balance out. It may look like homework is not weighted heavily. However, miss enough and that could make the differenve between passing and failing. At the end of the marking period, each students' grade is determined by dividing points earned by points possible.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Drama Club
One activity I did not particiapte in as a student was drama club. I was involved with a lot of other activities and did not have the time for it. Now I really wish I did have the time.
Over the weekend, I saw the performance of "Old Folks Home," performed by students at LaSalle Middle School. You could tell the cast had a great time putting on this show. Everybody involved did a fantastic job. Veronoca Murray, an Art teacher at the school was in charge of the play. Knowing most of the students on a personal level, many of them were cast in roles that were perfect for them. I really enjoyed seeing many of my students in the play. As a student I always remember how nice it was to see my teachers at school functions.
Encourage your students to participate in the arts. Encourage them to participate in sports. All of this will make them a well - rounded student and person.
FIRST - YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Field Trips
Recently I was asked to go on a field trip with some students. It is this upcoming Friday and it is to Buffalo State. I remember field trips were always a great time when I was a student. As a teacher there will be a lot of responsibility. Keeping track of the kids and keeping them on task is part of the roll. I am gaining so much experience in these first three and a half months.
Anything I can do is for my benefit. You have to experience what you can, when you can. It is essential as a first-year teacher you take any opportunity you can get.
FIRST - YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Assessing Students' Understanding
The most important thing when it comes to teaching is how well students understand the material you teach them. If you wait until a test to assess their skill, you may leave a few students out to dry. Every day I put review qustions on the board based on the previous day's activity. Here I can see what students understood amd did not understand.
If there seems to be a topic most don't understand, I can go back and re - teach it in the first few minutes of class to clarify any misunderstandings. When it comes time for a test, these review questions are a great way to study.
FIRST - YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Mid - Terms
It is almost that time of year most students dread, mid - terms. All four core subjects (Social Studies, Math, Science and Language Arts), have them. It is incredibly stressful for the students. Studying for four tests in a short period of time is a daunting task.
In class, we review for about a week and a half to two weeks. We go over everything that was taught from the beginning of the year to now. For seventh grade Social Studies, the test will cover from Mesoamerican Civilizations (Aztecs, Mayas and Incas), to the set - up of the 1st government. That is a lot of history.
The purpose of review is to refresh the kids memory. Constant review throughout the semester will make those last few days before the test easier as the information will be easier recalled.
FIRST - YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Making Learning Fun
There are times during the year when you can take a topic teach it well and make it fun for the students. An example is with the Declaration of Independence. You cannot teach the document word for word. It is too much and the wording is a little difficult. You need to teach the big ideas. It declared independence and stated grievances versus the king of England.
For the students, they had to write their own Declaration of Independence. This time from their teachers. It had to state their independence and grievances they had against teachers like too much homework.
This is an activity I would have liked as a student. Remember if you find it boring, they probably do too.
FIRST - YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Be Involved with Your School
In my two and a half months on the job, I have seen the value to getting involved with activities with the school. One thing I did was assist the Harvest Dance a few weeks ago. Students like to see their teachers taking an interest in something they like. It was amazing how many students come up to you and talk to you. It shows a personal side to you. All they generally see is the teacher that teaches. At the dance they want to make small talk. Questions like, "Are you a good dancer?" Of course my answer is no.
In January I will be helping the ski club. On Mondays we will be going down to Kissing Bridge to ski. I have skiied my whole life. It will give me an opportunity to participate in an extra curricular activity that I really enjoy. I will be able to help the kids ski if they need it. Any future teacher out there, I highly encourage you to help out your school. Whether they need it or not. It is a lot of fun for you and your students.
FIRST - YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Visual Learners
One thing that has become very apparent to me in teaching is the amount of visual learners that our students are. More kids learn by seeing pictures than words. It is shown when you review with the kids and they recall a picture from their texts rather than the words from their texts.
However, your teaching cannot be limited to that. There are many different learning styles that students have. Mixing it up makes it applicable to the student and keeps the class new, interesting and informative.
FIRST-YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Technology huge for teachers
In an ever-increasing world reliant on technology, implementing it into your classroom becomes very important. There is a project upcoming, where all the information and the project itself is done on line. My webpage is www.nylearns.org/mhamner. Students will access this webpage and find all the information that they need for my project. The project is a brochure on the colonies. They are trying to persuade perspective settlers to settle either in the New England, Middle or Southern colonies.
When finished, they will view other brochures and write a journal entry on what is it about that brochure that would persuade them to live there. Students love technology. This is an educational project that satisfies the New York State curriculum and the students' love of technology.
FIRST-YEAR TEACHER BLOG: What it's like to be a substitute teacher
DATE: OCT. 22
Last year I was a substitute teacher in the city of Niagara Falls. I substitute taught at most of the schools in the district and all of the subjects at one time or another. This week, I will have a substitute teacher in my classroom for the first time. I am being sent to a technology-training course in West Seneca.
I remember my experiences as a substitute teacher. Most days went smoothly with no problems. However, there were those days where everything didn't go right. I am purposely planning an activity I know the students will like and will not be too hard for a substitute teacher to conduct. The substitute and the students will take turns reading a story on Christopher Columbus. As the reading is taking place, the students will underline any information that they feel is important. At the end there will be five questions related to the reading. The students will answer these questions. At the end of class, the students will turn the work in. I will check and grade them on completion of the assignment and accuracy.
This assignment will take the whole period and make life easy for the substitute. The students will also review what they know about Columbus. Substitute teaching is a valuable tool. I encourage any teacher to substitute teach for a year. It will teach you classroom management and give you ideas on how to run your class.
FIRST-YEAR TEACHER BLOG: How I Use a Word Wall
DATE: OCT. 16
Vocabulary is as important as the curriculum when you are teaching. At LaSalle, we follow the America's Choice program. One of the aspects of the program is having a Word Wall in a classroom. What that is, is a list of words that will be covered for each marking period. The district provides you with a list. You make your Word Wall off of the list. For example, this marking period you cover topics such as Social Sciences, Iroquois, Explorers and the American Revolution. My Word Wall would consist of terms such as Archaeology, Culture, Iroquois Confederacy, Columbian Exchange and The Battle of Saratoga among many others.
I have students copy these words down into their notebook and define them. Throughout the marking period when we cover a specific word from the wall, I put a post-it on the term to let them know it has been covered. When I am teaching, I go back often as possible to review the words already covered. Through quizzes and tests, the students will be tested. This will show accountability on their part. With the group of students I have, I am confident they will do great.
FIRST-YEAR TEACHER BLOG: The best part of teaching
DATE: SEPT. OCT. 7
It is a month into my teaching career. It has been great so far and I know it will continue to be great. One of the toughest parts of teaching is getting access to teaching materials. I have been lucky where other teachers have shared maps and worksheets with me so far. These materials are hard to come by. I also had the luxury to follow in the footsteps of a great teacher - Anthony Vilardo. He left some books and other worksheets for me. You gather from these different sources and come up with ideas that fit your teaching style and your students' learning style.
The best part of teaching to me is passing back grades for a project or test. Recently I did that. I enjoy seeing students excited when they see their grade. When I see them say “yes” and turn to their friend and tell them their grade I know they put a lot of hard work into the assignment. Their reaction to the grade is like them getting a good grade. It lets me know I did my job for that topic. Just like the grade lets them know their hard work paid off. This week is their first unit test. Big tests like that count double. Questions on the test come from old state tests that they will take at the end of 8th grade. The questions are on the more difficult side. However by the end of 8th grade, they would have had two years of seeing these questions when they take their state exam. I will let readers know the students fared in a future blog.
On a personal note, I would like to wish my Uncle Tony a Happy Birthday!
FIRST-YEAR TEACHER BLOG: What it was like to be a 7th grader
DATE: SEPT. OCT. 2
September 7th was the first day of school. It had been eleven years since I had been a seventh grader. Seeing the kids for the first time brought many memories about being their age. Most importantly what is was like to be a student. As a teacher now, I recalled my experiences as a student as I put together my first few lessons.
As a student I always remembered facts by making up acronyms. For example this week the subject of the Iroquois was covered. One of the topics mentioned was what is called the three sisters - corn, beans and squash. After the students completed an activity one day I gave them an acronym to remember the three sisters. I told them look at corn, bean and squash. Take the first letter of each word (cbs). Students associated cbs with the television station, which I wanted them to do. I told them that three sisters named Connie, Beth and Sue watched a program on CBS on the Iroquois and how they farmed the three sisters corn, beans and squash. The next day I put the question on the board, “List the Three Sisters.” The results were amazing. Most students listed them. When I asked them how they remembered it, they told me because of Connie Beth and Sue.
This shows how if you relate your own experiences as a student to teaching, it will help you in being effective. Not everything that worked for you will work for them. Even though your job title says “teacher,” you are still a student. You learn from them as much as they learn from you.
FIRST-YEAR TEACHER BLOG: Why I wanted to be a teacher
DATE: SEPT. 28
A few weeks ago, I was approached to write a blog on my experiences as a first year teacher. I jumped at the opportunity. I love teaching and working with kids. This is a great way for me to express my passion for teaching. Also for future teachers, this will be a nice way for you to see what awaits you as a first year teacher.
I wanted to be a Social Studies teacher for two reasons. One is that I have always liked Social Studies. Reading about the past, studying other cultures and finding places on a map has always interested me. Secondly as a student at LaSalle Middle I had a teacher make a big impact on me. He was a 6th grade Social Studies teacher named John May. I always remember how much he enjoyed what he was doing.
One piece of advice to future first year teachers is to establish your rules and enforce them early and often. This was advice given to me early on and I followed it. The students have followed them since they have been implemented early and reinforced often. This has made my life easier and it will make yours too. It helps the students by making them know what is expected of them. Building a rapport with students is equally as important. Students need to trust the adult with the red pen. This will help to make you an effective teacher.
In future blogs, I will get into more detailed experiences. But with this one, I would like to thank a few people in the educational field. Without these people I would not be where I am today. The person I would like to thank most Is Bryan Dean. He was my first cooperating teacher as a student teacher. He has become a friend to whom I can go to advice for and get help whenever needed. I would like to thank Carmen Granto for hiring me. I would like to thank Rick Carella the principal at LaSalle for providing me the opportunity to showcase my abilities as a teacher. I would like to also extend a thank-you to Patrick Kuciewski, Vince Lia, Mike Corsaro, Mike Tambroni, Tom Fisher, Tina Gregory, Joe Colburn and Italo Baldasarre.
Michael Hamner is in his first year teaching social studies at LaSalle Middle School. The following is his blog on his teaching experience.
FIRST YEAR TEACHER BLOG: My Final Blog
UPDATE: Lockport man charged with attempted murder of 7-year-old
A 28-year-old Lockport man has now been charged with the attempted murder of a 7-year-old girl.
A woman called 911 just after 2 p.m. New Year's Eve to report a man was attacking her child. Police say the woman said, "79 Monroe, he is killing my baby" before the line was disconnected, according to Channel 4 News.
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- FIRST-YEAR TEACHER BLOG: My Final Blog Michael Hamner is in his first year teaching social studies at LaSalle Middle School. The following is his blog on his teaching experience.
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