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Jul 20, 2010

Avoid Teacher Burnout

Teaching can be one of the most rewarding jobs you can have -- and the most exhausting. The demands that teachers face increase every school year. Teachers think of their families and students first, themselves last. This can quickly lead to "teacher burnout."

This next school year, try to set  some goals to help yourself avoid burnout:
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Try to do something kind for yourself everyday, no matter how small
  • Learn to say no. Here is a list of ways to say no - print it out and carry it with you!
  • Stay away from negative people.
  • Set time boundaries. Do not take work home every night. Remember, when you are
    75, you are not going to say "why didn't I take more work home,"  you will say, "why didn't I spend more time with my family/doing things for myself."
  • Spend some time listening to the music of your teenage years. Crank it up in your class, in your car, and even at home.
  • Stop worrying so much about what other people think... know that you are doing your best and do not try to please everyone
Visit these other great resources on avoiding teacher burnout for more ideas:

Jul 18, 2010

No Child Left Behind

In January of 2002, President George Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act. This act reauthorizes and amends federal education programs established under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). 

NCLB  requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in a certain grade if they are to receive federal funding for their schools.Achievement standards are set by each state, not by national standards. NCLB is based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education.

A few requirements of the NCLB act: 
     1.  Poor or minority children  are to have the same access to effective teachers at
          the same or 
     higher rate as other children. This document states that children in
          low-income and 
    disadvantaged areas should have access to the same
    of "highly qualified teachers" as those in the middle and
          upper income area schools.

    2.  Teachers that teach in "core subject areas" must be "highly qualified."

    3.  NCLB focuses on teaching methods that have be proven by scientific research.

    4.  If a school is performing poorly, a parent/guardian may request that their child
         be transferred 
     to a school that has better performance data.

    5. Schools may be required to offer free tutoring services to low-performing students.

    6. Schools are required to figure out ways to get parents more involved in the school.

    Further information on the specifics of the NCLB act can be found at the US Department of Education.

    Here is the No Child Left Behind Proposal Document

    Jul 17, 2010

    Race to the Top

    Race to the Top (R2T, RTT, RTT) is a 4.35 billion incentive program designed by the United States Department of Education that was put into place by President Barack Obama in 2009. It is funded by the ED Recovery Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

    The resources that are to be provided by the Race to the top funding can be found at the following link:

    Through Race to the Top, the State Department of Education is asking states to advance reforms around four specific areas:
    • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
    • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
    • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
    • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.
    • Specific criteria for funding can be found here
    Here is the Race to the Top information provided by the TDOE:    Tennessee and R2T

    To view different viewpoints regarding Race to the Top, see the following articles (please note that the opinions are of the writers of the articles and the accuracy of the facts of the article have not been checked out by this website) :

    Jul 16, 2010

    Tips for Parent Conferences

    Parent teacher conferences can be one of the most stressful occasions for teachers. There are too many unknown variables (i.e. parent demeanor, parent's thoughts on how the year's going, struggles the family may be going through, etc).Even the most innocent, well-intended suggestion by the teacher can be viewed as a personal attack to the parent. Delivery and wording is key during parent-teacher conference. Here are a few tips that might just make the night go a little smoother:
    • Meet with a veteran team member before scheduling conferences. Get some pointers on the best way to schedule the times, parent personalities, etc. Many teachers send home a conference form with pre-printed times and ask the parents to choose their "1, 2, and 3" top times that are convenient to them and then create a schedule and send back a confirmation time.
    • Make the environment as comfortable as possible (i.e. set out a few waiting chairs, student work examples, refreshments in the hallways for parents who are waiting)
    • Check last names of parents/guardians. Try to make sure you are addressing the parent by the correct last name. The parents may not be married anymore and it can start the conference on a sour note if it wasn't a amicable situation if you call a parent the wrong name.
    • If parents are divorced, it might be a good idea to contact one of the parents and see if it is a good idea to have separate conferences if both parents are planning on attending. Many conferences have been spent hashing out personal issues and placing blame on the other parent during conferences instead of focusing on the child.
    • Approach the parent as an ally - a team member you are working with to achieve a goal.
    • If the child has been difficult, try to see his/her endearing side and positive side (especially the day of the conference). Make a note of their strengths that day and how they have positively influenced situations that have happened that school year. Sometimes it is a difficult thing to do when you have a personality conflict with the child, but it will make the conference - and school year go a lot smoother if you can reflect on positive aspects of the child's personality.
    • Discuss the child's strengths first.... then move to "things we need to work on".... then end with strengths. Make sure to come across as wanting to work as a team to make the child as successful as he/she can be.
    • Have documentation to back up examples. If a child's writing needs to be improved, have a sample form his/her writing and also a sample of what is expected (if you are using another child's paper as a sample, cover name as not to show it).
    • Have a packet of classroom information available to parents (i.e. class schedule, how child will be evaluated, rules/consequences, how you accommodate learning differences, etc).
    • If you feel the conference could be adversarial, contact your school administration. Many times it is better to have another person in the room for support.
    • Set a timer (preferably one that has a pleasing "alarm" sound). Explain to the parent that you can get easily get off schedule if you do not set out a reminder for yourself and you want to be respectful of everyone's busy schedule. Set it for a minute or two before the conference end so you can "wrap up" the last minute.
    • If the conference time is over and you have issues that still need to be resolved, schedule a follow-up conference.
    • Try not to be too judgemental of the parent/parenting style. Everyone's situation is different. You do not know the challenges the parent's face daily. They might be in "survival mode" and are doing the best they can.
    Check out these other great tips:

    Jul 15, 2010

    Types of Assessments

    Formative Assessments:
    Teachers use formative assessments to improve instructional strategies. Formative assessments are on-going assessments that happen throughout the school year. Students and teachers are able to review the results of the formatives and set learning goals and expectations for a time period. Formative assessment results are not normally kept in gradebooks, but in a student portfolio. A few examples of formative assessments are:
    • Anecdotal records/observations
    • Lab Reports
    • Quizzes and essays
    • Diagnostic Tests 

    Summative Assessments:
    These assessments are given with the intent of gaining knowledge of student learning in relation to the curriculum at a certain point in time. Summative assessments capture student knowledge "after the fact" meaning that the test data is recorded formally and the teacher/school/school district is accountable for the results.
    • State assessments
    • District benchmark or interim assessments
    • End-of-unit or chapter tests
    • End-of-term or semester exams
    • Scores that are used for accountability for schools (AYP) and students (report card grades).

    How many assessments/what type of assessments you will be giving to your students will be determined by your school and school district. If you are a new teacher, you will want to find out the testing procedures as soon as possible so you will be able to plan accordingly. Also, it is a good idea to find out how the school records the results of these assessments (i.e.  shared spreadsheets, turn in paper form to office, etc.)

    For more detailed information on types of  assessments, please visit the following sites:

    Jul 13, 2010

    What is TSIPP

    TSIPP is the Tennessee School Improvement Plan.

    Tennessee schools have been involved in school improvement planning through the Tennessee School Improvement Planning Process (TSIPP) since 1995. The goal of the school improvement plan is to assist educators in using data to target areas of strengths and weaknesses in order to improve student performance.

    The TSIPP serves as the accountability document for measuring adequate yearly progress (AYP) for No Child Left Behind.

    Your county should have a county-wide performance improvement plan available for public review. Your school should also have a school-wide performance plan available for public view. Many times, your county and school plans are available on your county and school websites. If not, check with your county board of education office or your school library. They usually have a paper copy of the performance plans. 

    The TSIPP states how teachers, administrators, school staff, and community members are going to be accountable for raising student achievement.

    Many times individual teacher names or grade levels are listed in the document with specific action plans. Make sure you check it out to see what the expectations your school has for you and your grade level -- you never know if this will show up in your evaluation or tenure review!

    How to look up your teacher license information?

    You are running around like crazy trying to set up your room before the students arrive. You have been in team meetings, faculty meetings, and inservices all day. You have to put together assessment portfolios for the administrators and organize your own paperwork.Then, all of a sudden you hear "Teachers, please turn in a copy of your teaching licensure information to the office by the end of the day." What do you do?

    Thankfully, you can pull up a copy of your teaching licensure information at anytime from the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) website. Click here to access the database.

    ***Please note, your administrator will probably also ask for a copy of your actual license, so keep a copy handy in your classroom.

    This information is also provided to the general public so you can look up this information for any teacher in the state of Tennessee.
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