August 09, 2007

Teacher meme

Another day, another meme, but this time I was tagged and some time ago, too. Literacy Teacher at Mentor Texts & More tagged me for a teacher's meme, and I very much appreciate the fact that a NYC public school teacher thought of me for this one, which I find both nifty and generous. (Do I mention here that I grew up down the street from P.S. 75 in Manhattan?)

And since I've spent the past couple of days ordering books and curriculum -- more books and other fun stuff (list to come in a future post) than curriculum (a few Explode the Code workbooks for the boys and the next level of Singapore Math for everyone) -- I am getting more in a teaching mode if not mood.

1. I am a good teacher because... I try to incorporate each of the kids' interests and passions in our studies. Because I try not to answer Davy's questions -- "How fast do clouds move?" [variation: "How fast do the blades in the blender turn?"], "What weighs more, the bull or the truck?" -- with "Ask your father." And because learning and reading are among my own greatest passions, which makes it easier than not to pass both along to my children.

2. If I weren't a teacher, I would... still buy as many books and other goodies for the kids. But it's nice to have an official excuse, er, reason. As for a different profession, after the kids are up and out, the weekly newspaper always seems to need reporters, not to mention editors with a good supply of sharp red pencils.

3. My teaching style is... more guiding than teaching. And following the Yeats quote beloved by so many, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Oh, and an offshoot from my mothering: the ever-trusty method of reverse psychology. "Do you really think you could possibly read a Nancy Drew book in one short day?" said with a very worried, doubting expression on motherly face. (And guess what? Laura is now reading her way through Nancy Drew books -- is there a better way to spend the last few weeks of summer vacation? -- at the rate of one a day.)

4. My classroom is... everywhere from the kitchen table, where the kids do their seatwork (math, writing, penmanship, grammar, and so on); to the boys' bedroom, where I sit cross-legged on the floor and read aloud while all three play with Lego or Tinker Toys, or draw; to the stage at the local college theater for drama; to our corrals and fields for nature study and animal husbandry; the little village down the road, where the kids have art lessons; and everywhere in between and beyond.

5. My lesson plans... are minimal, in part because the kids will be in second, third, and fifth grades. Some of our programs and texts -- math (Singapore), spelling (Avko Sequential Spelling), grammar (Growing with Grammar), composition (Write with the Best) -- incorporate lessons, minimizing the planning for me. Other subjects, such as history, where we mostly read books and discuss them; and science, which this year will be more experimenting and observing and (gasp!) less reading and writing, are very light on the lesson plans.

I've also found -- surprise, surprise -- that the more I plan, the more life gets in the way. Such as the all-planned-out October several years ago, when we suddenly and delightedly found ourselves in NYC with my parents for several weeks. No plan, but great fun and tremendous amounts of learning.

6. One of my teaching goals is... for the kids to learn to think for themselves and to work more independently each year.

7. The toughest part of teaching is... not passing on my own biases and prejudices to the kids, especially when it comes to math and science, which were my least favorite, and least successful, subjects from about fifth grade. Mostly, it was the way the subjects were taught, from the philosophy and structure (New Math, anyone? Even my parents didn't understand my homework) to the methods, such as textbooks and dry delivery for the most part.

The revelation of home schooling has been that science and math taught properly can be engaging and exciting, for the kids and for me. I revel in this lucky second chance to learn more about both subjects, in many cases to understand a good number of concepts properly for the first time.

8. The thing I love most about teaching is... watching my kids make connections, and come up with ideas, thoughts, and questions I've never considered (how fast are those blades in the blender turning?).

9. A common misconception about teaching is... that Tom and I aren't teaching when school is officially out for the summer. Instead, it's when we enter one of our unschooling, low tide phases of the year. Again, not so much planning, but an awful lot of learning.

10. The most important thing I've learned since I started teaching... is never to underestimate a child's abilities and interests.

This is a busy time of year for teachers of all stripes, so I'll leave the tag open for anyone who wants to play. Leave me a note in the comments if you do. And thanks again to Literacy Teacher, with all best wishes for the upcoming school year.

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Just a quick reminder that Literacy Teacher hosted the very first Picture Book Carnival earlier this month. If, as I did, you missed it, you have another chance -- the second Picture Book Carnival will be up no later than Saturday, September 1; deadline for submissions is Wednesday, August 29, and the suggested theme is picture books good for readalouds.

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