I feel like I just wrote my “school’s out” post, and it’s already time for the “back to school post”! I have been loving the flurry of first day pictures posted by friends and relatives on Instagram.
The way the world is set up nowadays, our children spend a very large chunk of their day in school. Like it or not, they are going to be influenced by and receive formative messages from virtual strangers. In order to be in on it a little, I volunteer in my daughter’s school, and I recently also applied to substitute teach there. (Eeek, stay tuned for updates on that!)
I spent a couple of hours last week in her school’s library, shelf reading. That is, making sure each book is in it’s proper spot on the library shelf. Ideally, it should be done before the classes start checking out books next month. It’s a tedious, not overly difficult task. Fortunately for me, I was able to observe a couple of very well taught classes while I was sorting out messy shelves. Just what I needed at this moment.
My experience with teaching as a volunteer Bible teacher is done primarily one-on-one with a student. So I have been stressing a bit about how I will keep twenty-some gradeschoolers on task and engaged. And all of this without yelling or losing my temper. I do NOT want to be THAT teacher.
My daughter’s class had a few different substitutes last year. Watching the class and teachers struggle through that made me start remembering my school years. Yup, we were not nice to the substitute, and don’t tell me your elementary school class was the exception to that. Am I right? I didn’t want to do that to myself!
And then, as usually happens in my life, a random conversation (this time with a complete stranger, a mom I met at a park) reignited that spark of an idea. The second time around, I decided to go with it. The thought of making a little money while not detracting from the time and energy I give the girls was already in my head. I am in the school volunteering anyways, so why not get paid to be there? And my random mom friend gave me the boost of confidence I needed. She is a teacher by profession, and she said, “You could totally be a substitute teacher!”
To calm my nerves about this new adventure, I have been doing a lot of reading. This is what I always do. In fact perusing Pinterest for parenting blogs is what got me started blogging in the first place.
Here are 4 tips for effective teaching that I hope to remember and use:
- Use positive motivation like compassion and praise.
- Don’t talk louder than a speaking voice.
- Let them feel success by starting with an assignment you know they can complete.
- Keep order by using routines. Keep the number of rules to a minimum. Rules require punishment for breaking them, routines give structure without putting you in the position of enforcer.
I love all of those ideas. I also felt reassured to read that even experienced teachers get nervous on the first day of school.
HowEVER . . . Every day is the first day for a substitute! I won’t know the routines already set in motion by the regular teacher. I won’t know anyone’s name. I won’t know which kids not to pair up for group assignments because they will get too rowdy. Once again I say eeeek!
My observations at school today left me feeling greatly encouraged. I found everything I had just read being modeled before my eyes. The teachers didn’t raise their voices. They allowed for interaction and feedback, but they were able to quickly regain the group’s attention using techniques like counting backwards from five, or clapping a pattern and waiting for the reply clapping. I heard a teacher start the class period by praising his students for how well they had done in that subject last week. The lesson included being read to, doing a treasure hunt, and a worksheet. Very engaging! And when a student’s attention wandered, the teacher simply asked, “Would you like to participate in this activity?” Not a threat, just a simple question. I felt grateful to be able to observe and learn such solid teaching practices. And even more at ease with putting my daughter’s education in these strangers’ hands.
Realistically, no classroom is going to have the perfect environment 100% of the time. I know from experience that patience at times runs out when you’re dealing with kids. But I also know that when the adults in the room react calmly and dignify the children by treating them like real people, tensions tend to evaporate. Motivation to work hard at anything comes from excitement, joy, interest. If a teacher has the skills to tap into that, the student will gladly cooperate.
My fear is that being in a classroom will probably tip the balance of my precarious truce within myself on the question of homeschooling. I may just end up saying, “this does not work, why are we doing this to our kids”?! If that happens, I will be facing an even greater challenge than motivating a classroom full of kiddos; motivating my own kids!
So, please keep rooting for me. I’m a newbie, and I need all the help I can get. If any of you have experience in a classroom, please share your nuggets of wisdom! You can comment here, on Instagram @standupandlivelife, on Twitter @standuplivelife, or on my Facebook page.