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A New Year Begins

This school year will bring about a change from the normal routine for me. I have taught at the sixth grade level for 8 years, teaching pretty much all the core curriculum, although the classes have switched and so I've team-taught for most of that time.

I will be teaching in a self-contained 5th/6th grade classroom this year. At last count there will be 14 sixth graders and 12 fifth graders. This will be one of four split-level classrooms in my school this year. It is a move to cut costs, although many feel that it is unnecessary. I guess I agree with that, but I need to provide students with the opportunity to succeed.

With the new grade level content expectations I've decided it would be best to teach Math and Social Studies separately, and so I'm working on a schedule that will allow this. I will do the rest of the core subjects together. We have statewide testing about a month after school starts, in which they will be tested on material they learned last year. I'll review some of that prior to the statewide testing period.

I am expecting my students to be able to work independently for 15-20 minute spurts while I instruct and monitor other students. I will also use peer tutoring and teaching as an asset.

If you have any suggestions or thoughts on how I could make this year even more successful, please feel free to drop me a comment, or e-mail me at I'm always open to suggestions, as long as it is positive.

True, I would much rather be teaching a straight sixth, or even fifth grade classroom, but I will make this work, and it will be successful.



The Night Before School

Twas the night before school started,
When all through the town.
The parents were cheering,
It was a riotous sound.

By eight the kids were washed,
And tucked into bed.
When memories of homework,
Filled them with dread.

New pencils, new folders,
New notebooks, too.
New teachers, new friends,
Their anxiety grew.

The parents just giggled,
When they learned of this fright.
And shouted, "Upstairs!


Math Game - Last One Standing

This is a game that I use in class that most of the students like. It's called "Last One Standing" and I actually created the game before the show "Last Comic Standing" came out.

Basically it follows the same premise... be the last one standing at the board and you win.

I pick 6 students randomly to go up to the board (you could have more or less) I give a problem to solve (usually one of the four basic operations). If any of the six get it wrong, they are out. If all six get it right, the last one to get it right is out. I fill the spots and continue until there is only one left standing, and they receive a prize of some sort.

Sometimes I need to make things move quicker so I say that if everyone gets it right, the slowest two are out.

I use this game to review for a test. Students that are knocked out work on assignments, watch, solve the problems to try to beat those up at the board, or find something else to do.


Lessons Learned

I did my student teaching in a middle school. Grades 5-8 attended school there. This was done in the mid 90's. My initial student teaching assignment had to be scrapped because of changes made in the schedule of the teacher who was going to supervise me. Kind of at the last minute Patti decided to give me a chance. It was a chance of a lifetime for me.

The school that I did my intern at was accredited. They have a nice building, great staff, and it just feels good to be there. I wish I had been able to work there from day one, but I'm happy where I'm at now. Anyway, Patti was what I would call a seasoned pro. She had taught for over 20 years, and had a lot to offer me.

She welcomed me fully into her room. The first thing she did was found someone to get me a desk too. She put my desk up in the front of the room also. Wow! Did that make me feel great. I had an area to work. She got me my own grade book, and whatever supplies I needed.

Patti's plan was that we were going to teach as a team from day one. Of course I got a chance to teach on my own, but she wanted us to be a team, so that the students knew they could go to either of us for help.

Patti was a strict disciplinarian. If something occurred in class, she handled it immediately. She'd make the student call home if necessary, and explain what they did, and then she'd talk to them afterwards. I thought this was a noble idea. That was the first bit of wisdom. Don't hesitate, if need be, handle things right away...AND be consistent.

Patti and I would talk for the last 10-15 minutes of our prep time every day. We wouldn't necessarily talk about school every time. We'd talk about life, family, and things going on outside. I enjoyed this time with her. We really developed a bond during the semester I was there. I could just feel the connection, and I absorbed what I could.

Another bit of wisdom that Patti instilled in me was "don't procrastinate." If you have something to do, get it done. Don't put it off, because you'll never get your best work out of you if you have a good idea and then let it sit on the back burner stewing. Since then, at least in regard to work, I've done things right away. It has made a difference.

The weeks flew by during my student teaching. I was involved in all areas of her classroom. I was put in charge of teaching her math class early into the year. What a valuable learning experience for me. It enabled me to learn myself what it took to teach.

I was inspired by Patti. She boosted me up every day, and let me know how I was doing. If I needed correction, she'd do it, and explain why, and how to fix it. She also gave me some more crucial advice. Try not to take anything home with you. What she meant was, mentally, enjoy my evenings, and try not to let little things from school sit in my mind. Enjoy, experience, and life will open up doorways.

The semester was drawing to an end. Patti kind of talked me into accepting the invitation to speak at the teaching department's banquet. I eventually did, and still have the notes from the speech. I can see now that she helped me out in saying what I said that day, by what she showed me over those few months. I probably wouldn't have accepted the invite without her coaxing, but I'm glad I did it.

Patti organized a big party on my last day. She had all the students make cards, arranged for a cake, flowers, and a lot of well-wishing. She told me that she was skeptical about having another student teacher, but that I made it well worth it. She told me that I was far and beyond the best she's had, or seen. That made me burst with pride. It was a great day. I was excited to be getting my degree, and now I could at least substitute teach and begin my career.

Seven months later I interviewed for a job where I currently am teaching and got the job. I called home and told my parents the good news. The next person I called was Patti. She was very happy for me, and was surprised I called. I told her that she was the second person I called, and this touched her. I thanked her again for everything.

- - - - - - -

That fall Patti's cancer came back strong, and she wasn't able to teach. The following spring of 1998 Patti passed away.

I miss her very much, but part of her is still with me, every day when I walk into the classroom. I can still picture her smile, "masked" from the students. I remember her saying before school began that fall... "You've got to ride the broomstick for the first marking period" "They'll like you anyway, but you need to set the tone first"

I agree... it works better that way.

I also remember those bits of advice she gave me during our prep when we'd sit down and chat.
"Be consistent"
"Don't procrastinate"
"Don't take your work home with you."

I'll always remember those things, among the other wonderful lessons I learned during my student teaching from Patti DeVold. Thank you- so much!


A Funny School Story

I found this story online and wanted to share it with you:

Our district recently hired a female custodian for our elementary school. The day before she started work in our building, she had accidentally broken her glasses and had to wear her perscription sunglasses to work.

As the day began, she was involved in some repair work in the boys restroom just as the bell rang to let the children into the building. She thought she would have time to complete her work before the little boys needed to use the restroom.

Much to her surprise, the little boys entered the restroom and began using the facilities as though she was not even there. One little boy finally noticed her and exclaimed," Hey, there's a lady in here!" The little boy standing next to her calmly replied," It's ok, she's blind."