Archive for Education

Shoe Size – Age Math Trick

You’ve likely seen this type of math riddle before. Take some number, do some arithmetic, and you get some other number. This variation begins with your shoe size and ends with your age. Can your shoe size really determine your age? Of course not. The explanation is below the fold.


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The Auburn Creed as a classroom management tool

Students in my classroom will learn the Auburn Creed (at the very least the first six lines) because I feel they are a very elegant way of stating otherwise common classroom rules. If a student doesn’t tell the truth, he will be reminded that without honesty, it is impossible to earn the respect of his classmates. If a student turns in sloppy or careless work, she will be reminded that only hard, diligent work will result in reward.

I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.

I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.

I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.

I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.

I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all.

I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.

I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God.”

And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.

-George Petrie (1945)

Dropbox is the best file sync tool

dropbox_logoDropbox should be every teacher’s best friend. How many times have you needed to print a file only to realize that you forgot your USB drive at home? Tired of having to email files back and forth to yourself from school and home? Read more

The Substitute Survival Series

Having started my career in public education as a substitute teacher, I know firsthand the many challenges that can present themselves. Regardless of the grade level, the articles below will provide valuable information and resources to make your substitute teaching engagements enjoyable and educational.

Whether you are considering becoming a substitute teacher or have already begun and would like a little extra guidance, the information in the articles below will guide you in the right direction. Please feel free to comment on any of the articles with your personal experiences including successes or failures in the classroom.

  1. Getting Started
  2. When Will I Be Called?
  3. Your First Call!
  4. Face to Face With the Students
  5. The End of Your First Day

The End of Your First Day [Substitute Survival]

exhausted-300x225[This post is part of a series on Substitute Survival]

So you’ve made it through the day. The students were fed. No fires were started. Time to head home, right? Not quite.

One of the most important things to do before leaving the school is to leave a note for the regular teacher. You don’t have to detail every second of your day, but a brief summary of where you put completed papers, any work there was not time for (teachers often overplan for substitutes), and notes on any severe behavior problems should suffice. Please try to keep the tone of the note positive, and make sure to note the positive accomplishments of students as well.

A great thing to attach to the note is one of your business cards (you do have business cards, right?), that way if the teacher was satisfied, they may request to have you as their sub again in the future.

Before you leave the building, make sure to sign out, return any name tags or identification badges you may have, and personally thank the staff member who made the call. It is this same person who holds the keys to your continued work as a sub at their school.

[This post is part of a series on Substitute Survival]

Face to Face With the Students [Substitute Survival]

face-to-face-300x225[This post is part of a series on Substitute Survival]

You know where you are. You have a general idea how the day’s schedule is to progress. You’ve just picked up your children from their designated morning wrangling area. Now what?

Of course you already know to introduce yourself and let the students know that you’ll be filling in for their regular teacher while they attend to whatever they are attending to. But beyond that, what do you need to establish with the students before beginning your day?

One thing that you need to know (and it’s an almost universal truth): students will behave differently for a substitute teacher than they will for their regular teacher, especially if you are a new substitute teacher. This is not to say that every student will be climbing up the walls and screaming profanity, but there will invariably be some subtleties to their daily routines which will be ignored. Students may chit chat during what would normally be silent work time. Students may line up differently than they normally do. If a routine is very important, the teacher will note that in the materials they have left for you. Try not to get too lost in the minutiae of their daily routine. However…

To curtail potential rule breaking and to assert your authority (albeit temporary) in the classroom, it does not hurt to let the students know that you intend to see all work left for them completed and that any behavior that distracts from this goal will be met with consequences. For younger grades (K-3), loss of playtime or other privileges may be the most appropriate punishment. For middle grades (4-6), writing sentences may be appropriate. For upper grades and secondary (7-12), an office referral or after-school detention may be the best choice. Neighboring teachers will be able to give you the best insight into which punishments are most commonly used or which ones tend to be most effective.

I prefer to avoid punishments if at all possible and instead offer a small reward to encourage proper behavior. This can be something small like a piece of candy or a little extra time at recess. I only resort to punishments when recognition of proper behavior and incentives fail to work.

The most important thing to remember is to always maintain your composure, even if the students are testing your limits. Do your best to keep the class on task and on schedule, and do not hesitate to call on neighboring teachers to assist in any situation you find challenging.

[This post is part of a series on Substitute Survival]

Your First Call [Substitute Survival]

ringing-phone[This post is part of a series on Substitute Survival]

It’s 6 a.m. You have one eye half-opened. You finally find your ringing phone with one flailing arm. “Hello?” you croak.

You’ve just received your first call. What do you do? What do you need to know now, and what can wait until you arrive at the school? The most important thing is to wake yourself up immediately and find something to write with. You may be given a lot of information, especially if this will be your first subbing engagement, and you don’t want to have to call the secretary back.

Here’s a quick list of things you need to know before your first subbing engagement at a new school:

  • The dress code for teachers
  • The appropriate parking area for substitutes
  • The time you need to report to the office
  • What grade level you will be working with
  • Whether or not the teacher has left lesson plans for you

If you received an early morning call, you will likely have enough time to arrive a little early. I highly recommend arriving at least 30 minutes early to a new school so that you will have some time to locate the materials you will need for the day and familiarize yourself with the layout of the school. This is a great time to locate the emergency exit plans as well. Most schools perform at least two fire drills each month, so there is a 9-10% chance that one will occur on the day that you are there.

Take some time to read over any notes or plans that the teacher has left for you, scan the list of names on the attendance roster, look over any seating charts, and generally get comfortable with the layout of the room. Also take a moment to introduce yourself to your neighbor teachers. They are often a great resource for information on specific routines or procedures that the students follow.

Students are incredibly perceptive, and the more at ease you are, the more professional you will appear to them.

[This post is part of a series on Substitute Survival]

When Will I Be Called? [Substitute Survival]

impatience-300x183[This post is part of a series on Substitute Survival]

So you’ve made your way onto the rotation lists for substitute teachers at the various schools in your district. Now what? Wait for your first call. The amount of time you wait depends on how many substitute teachers there are in your district and how willing the support staff are to call you (based on how comfortable they are with you — first impressions are key!). Your wait time can also depend on how large your district is, i.e. smaller schools with smaller staffs generally have fewer sick days taken and therefore host fewer opportunities to sub.

Whenever I experienced a lull in calls or had sporadic unscheduled days, I took it upon myself to call the secretaries at my selected schools to see if they needed any subs. I very rarely made a call that didn’t result in either an immediate scheduling or one the following day. They may not have something the moment you call, but if a time-off request hits their desk the following morning, guess who is fresh on their mind? A little proactivity can go a long way.

While you may hope that you will be able to schedule your subbing dates ahead of time, the reality is that many are scheduled at 6:30 am of the day you are needed. Whether you are subbing for the extra income or to get a foot in the door to become a teacher, it is best to make yourself as available as possible. Knowing that you can be counted on to answer your phone in the wee hours of the morning is a big feather in your cap with the support staff who make the calls.

With that in mind, make sure that your phone ringer is turned up on all school nights! If you are a bit of a deep sleeper like myself and your phone has the capability, you should consider creating a contact group in which you will save all of the school phone numbers (and secretaries’ home/cell numbers as you learn them). Assign this group (or each individual contact if you’re not into the whole ‘brevity’ thing) a special [read: loud!] ringtone.

A loud ringtone, a proactive attitude, and a little perseverance will have you in a classroom before you know it!

[This post is part of a series on Substitute Survival]

Getting Started [Substitute Survival]

classroom-300x200[This post is part of a series on Substitute Survival]

So you want to start substitute teaching? The first thing you will need to do is contact your local board of education. Contact information for your local school board may be found through your county or city government’s website. Alternatively, if you know someone already employed for the school system in which you wish to substitute, you could ask him or her for a referral to the appropriate contact person. Policies on hiring substitute teachers vary greatly from state to state and district to district. Please use the below information as a guideline only. The following may be prerequisites to becoming a substitute teacher:

  • Possession of a high school diploma or equivalent certificate
  • Attendance at a substitute teaching orientation class
  • Passing a content knowledge or school policies test
  • Completion of a pre-employment physical and/or drug screening

After you complete all necessary steps to become certified as a substitute teacher in your district, it would be wise to contact each school individually to let them know you are available to substitute for them. If possible, try to introduce yourself in person at each school. It is always nice to meet the principal, but the principal is rarely the person who schedules substitute teachers. This task is usually delegated to a secretary, bookkeeper, or other administrative assistant. These folks are the gatekeepers to your subbing opportunities, so making a good impression with them can mean the difference between frequent calls or no calls. Have something professional to leave behind with your name, contact phone number, and email address so they can have it handy when they need it. A resume is a bit too formal, and a scrap of paper is a bit too informal. A business card is just right. You can print some at home, at your local office supply store, or order some very inexpensive professional cards from VistaPrint.

[This post is part of a series on Substitute Survival]

My Literacy Philosophy

This was written for my CUED 6340 class at Tech.

The ability to fluently speak, read, write, and comprehend language is without question, the most important skill for academic success. Literacy undergirds not only every academic subject but most aspects of daily life, and one cannot be expected to fully succeed without the ability to interpret the information with which they are presented.

Literacy can be shaped from the moment a child is aware of their surroundings. It is crucial then that children are exposed to visual and audio stimuli frequently. Unfortunately, what was once the reading of a book to a child has devolved into the playback of television programs. Actively-involved family members are a crucial fragment in the development of life’s most important skill. Read more