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Back to my roots


Senior Member
My teaching has changed so much over the years. I'm sad to say I've become so much more traditional over the years and I sure don't like it. I'd like to blame it on the standardized testing that invaded NY State 10 years ago (starting with fourth grade). It's not due to laziness because I'm spending just as much time doing school things as I have always done.

I started teaching during the Whole Language movement in the mid/late 1980's. My first five years or so I just spent learning about kids, classroom management... I then started a pretty cool multiage program with another teacher in my single-aged traditional school. It was very successful, and lots of fun to teach. (Trying to get parents on-board was a challenge, but once our program began we had many requests). It was very rewarding! Sadly, my fellow teachers were incredibly threatened by it, and I lost some "friends" along the way, but I learned a lot about people through it. We ended the program about 6-7 years ago because of the NY State testing. We didn't see how it could work. Now I'm in a single age, fourth grade. I miss having a team teacher to bounce ideas off. I miss having an adult in the room whom I respect, admire and who we can share laughter and tears.

Anyway (where is this going?), yesterday I did an activity which I did years ago. It was very simple, and the kids had a blast. The activity isn't really noteworthy, but it was fun. We are studying the Five Nations of the Iroquois Indians. I assigned each team in my class the name of a nation. They created a Nation flag, emblem and a list of "rules/mottos" to live by. I also read Tomie DePaola's "The Legend of the Bluebonnets." One of the character's names is "She-who-is-alone." I had the kids give names to themselves. Some were a riot: "He-who-loves-video-games," and "She-who-sleeps-with-bears." I am "She-who-loves-pasta." So we put our new name tags on our desk.

My point is that I miss this kind of activity. It was fun to watch the kids create together. It was fun to watch them problem solve. I loved how most of them were able to acknowledge each other's strengths by saying things like, "You have neat handwriting, so you do the lettering," or "That's a great idea!" When I call them to line up I call them by their Nation's name. Fun! They will NEVER forget the nations now.

Now the flags are hanging and the nametags are covering their real names. This will be a reminder that I need to get back to my roots and my original philosophy. My philosophy is not: Read chapter 3 and answer the questions!!!!

Oh, one more thing. I use to have the kids self-evaluate all of the time. They would either do this as a group, or individually. I can't remember the last time I did such a worthwhile activity. I also would invite the students to facilitate the parent/teacher conference. I think I will try that in the spring!

Thanks for listening if you made it this far. I have some other not-school things to add, but I have to get rolling. I may be back. (warning).


Senior Member

Isn't it amazing how something so simple can be a lot of fun for the kids and they learn a lot out of it?? Your nations idea sounds like a big hit and a lot of fun for the kids...good for you!



Full Member
You are not alone

I began teaching in the mid 90's where whole language was still in use and not viewed as a bad thing. We were taught how to teach a skill within the context to make things more meaningful. We differentiated in all areas and worksheets were frowned upon. This year I have a wonderful class, but they are very young, needy and their levels are all over the place. I've had to differentiate almost everything to assure each child is getting what they need. It has reminded me that you can't simply take a program and teach it and expect success. While I know that no program is a one size fits all, we tend to get so wrapped up in going with the program because that is what the school uses.

I have trained my assistant to use Making Words (Pat Cunningham) and she loves it. Not only is she using it with our third graders in small groups she is using it when tutoring first and second graders in the afternoon. My philosophy has never been to cover/teach the curriculum, but rather the kids. Unfortunately, due to testing and overall state and local expectations it feels like we are plowing through curriculum at times and just hope everyone gets it the first time through. However the varying levels of my students this year has forced me to see each group individually and I cannot teach whole group all day and expect all to grow. While it take a lot of time to plan each week, the fact that I am giving each child what they need makes up for it. I know that each child is feeling success and being challenged. I find I am going back to strategies and techniques I haven't used in several years. Then only frustration I feel is that the new third grade teacher across the hall teaches completely whole group and says her students are very smart and doing great. That makes me questions what I am doing at times, but I know in my heart I am doing the right thing. If only we all could get back to our roots. The kids would learn that not all work is a quick fill in the blank or multiple choice answer. While initially it would be a challenge (lord know it has been for me) it would teach our children how to think and learn. We can't be as "fun and animated" as video games, but I do think my kids love school and learning. If only "the powers that be" could see the value in each child getting what they need (regardless of level) and see the value in learning and thinking outside the box. Sorry my thought are so jumbled I am on day two of being stuck in bed with the latest crud. I am to stiff and exhausted to do much, yet my mind knows I have an entire house to clean and at least a weeks worth of laundry to do. I need an "Alice" for Christmas. If Mrs. Brady got one and she didnt even work surely a full time teacher of 24 students and mom can get one.