Hi, I’m Lance. And my wife is a teacher.
As the school year begins for most teachers around the continent my school year begins as well because I’m married to a teacher, and a STAR Discovery Educator at that. Now, I started my career as a teacher and still consider myself a teacher, but when push comes to shove I am a former middle school teacher who teaches vicariously through his wife. And my wife has already been back in school for several weeks. For those of you who are spouses of teachers you know what that means. For me it means…
1. My role as sixth grade tech support has resumed. I do enjoy it at times, especially when the kids call on behalf of their teacher who somehow knows she has exceeded her tech support allocation for the day.
3. I feel like I am one of the less featured cast members of a tween soap/reality show. What I mean by this is that every night I hear about all the crazy drama, politics, etc. happening in the class and school (mostly the latter to be honest) and my role is to listen, provide support and occasionally offer some advice.
I actually like this role because I feel like I do help once in a while because my perspective as the outsider tends to be a bit more rational and less emotional. Or not.
Through these conversations with my wife we do tend to come up with solutions, strategies, guiding principles, tidbits of advice that continually shape both of our philosophies about education and pedagogy. And sometimes it’s really useful.
So I thought I’d share some of the highlights from the first two weeks of discussion topics we’ve had in the 2012-2013 school year. Consider it synthesized advice for new teachers, veterans, spouses of teachers, principals, etc. from a teacher of 20+ years and a husband just trying to make it to May when production of this reality show goes back on hiatus for a couple months.
Be your school’s own keynote
There are many educational consultants who truly do inspire a crowd, but why not feature the amazing things you and others did last year to rally the staff and save some money. And if you can’t convince the principal that you and your colleagues should kick things off, at least offer this advice - “when a keynote speaker uses 79 PowerPoint effects including the typewriter sound or knows way too much about presentation zen and includes several planned dramatic pauses you’re paying too much.”
Learning plans, not lesson plans
I get it. I completely get it. You have a ton of pressure to turn things in on time and more paperwork than the IRS. But remember that your lesson plans are not for you or the principal, they are for your students. And your students’ needs probably don’t fit in a 4 x3 inch box. And your colleagues’ plans should look different. They have different students, right?
Liberate the technology in your building
If after a week of school you see equipment sitting around and not being used, take it, make use of it. It’s probably polite to ask first, but don’t let someone make you feel like they are doing you a favor by giving you more computers or whatever high or low tech supplies you need. Use all the tools at your disposal and be unapologetic in getting what you need for your kids.
Lesson Plans for Weeks 1-2: Get to know your students
The most important thing about every day of school, especially the first ones, is getting to know your students. Diving into content in the name of “rigor” is rigordiculous. Learn who those 30 faces are and what makes them tick. Here’s a project that my wife uses to get to know each student. And I’m pretty sure I can articulate how it supports the Common Core just as much as I can tell you how awesome it is in telling her about those kids.
Be a marketer of your ideas
I bet that the vast majority of adults in your school want to do good work, help kids and have fun along the way. But there are always pressures that after time can cloud our vision. So, if someone is resistent to your idea, sell them on it We have to be our own best marketers. When trying to liberate the technology in your building, make the case to your colleagues, administrators and parents. Get everyone on board (i.e., apply multiple pressure points)and the marketing message to each will be slightly different. Ultimately though, drive your message back to why it matters to kids. And then market the good results of your work in any way possible – hang stuff in the halls, post to the school website, send an email home to parents, and so on.
So those are five ideas/topics that have come up in the first two weeks for us. I would love to hear what you have to add to the list. What conversations have come up already that others would benefit from hearing your insight?
Also, spouses of STARs are welcome as well. Let the DEN be your support group. All you have to do is raise your hand and share.