If you missed this report on 60 Minutes, take a moment to read the transcript here. It will make your day! When I see excellent teaching and extraordinary methods being used for great success, I get so excited I could jump out of my shoes. Freeman Hrabowski is one of my heroes, a Teacher Spectacular. Reading about what is going on at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, makes me want to go there in person to witness how lives are being changed in such amazing ways. If you don’t do another thing today, READ THIS TRANSCRIPT!
The Scoop: Teachers
Last year, I made an amazing discovery on a teaching trip to San Antonio. I was invited to present two days of workshops at Briscoe Elementary and found some of the most outstanding writing from fourth graders I have seen. The samples were posted on one of the bulletin boards in the main hallway. I tracked down the teacher and found María Elena Arellano, a caring, nurturing DREAM of a teacher. Her passionate, motivating style of teaching is legendary at Briscoe. Another teacher told me her daughter had been in Mrs. Arellano’s class and is still talking about what a great teacher she is. Back at Briscoe this year, I asked María Elena her secret. “I simply LOVE teaching writing. I aspire to create a positive, fun-filled, non-threatening writing environment for my students. Once this is established, they feel free to become risktakers. This is where the magic begins.” Now I wish I could transform myself into a fourth grader and spend a year with this incredible teacher. María Elena, the magic comes from YOU.
Primary teacher Alma Valle-Beghtol, who teaches at Briscoe Elementary School in San Antonio, teaches her students ”You can paint a picture with your words.” She uses a picture of an artist’s pallette and where the blobs of paint are, she writes: similes, idioms, taste, touch, interjections, etc. Kids use this visual aid to add beauty and depth to their writing. Alma, you are a Teacher Spectacular, for sure.
Dana Scippo, fourth-grade teacher from Littleton Elementary in North Ft. Myers, FL, was trying to explain the meaning of the word miscellaneous to her students. One boy piped in, "I have a book that explains it, Mrs. Scippo. I'll bring it in." The next day he brought in Debra Frasier's book, Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster, and Dana read it aloud. Ta-da! From this, a beloved idea was born! Her students decided to put on a Vocabulary Parade for the entire school.
Soon, word spread and the entire fourth grade got involved. Students selected a sizzling, juicy vocabulary word they thought would be fun to explain by wearing a costume that illustrated the meaning in a thoughtful, creative way. Oh, what fun! The next thing they knew, the entire school was abuzz with excitement. Abuzz. Yes, I used that word. I'll use it again: abuzz.
The parade around the school and presentations on stage to a live assembly was so successful they are planning to do it again this year, using idioms, as well. Dana writes, "We are a Title I school and find that outside-the-box, creative lessons work best with our kids. We try to make it fun and engaging with the hopes of creating happiness and a love of learning."
Oh, girl, you have done us proud! This is terrific teaching if I ever saw it.
You’ll love this darling story from Kathy Davis, a teacher from Dr. Phillips Elementary School in Orlando, who recently attended one of my writing workshops. We were discussing the importance of involving family members in the writing process and writing topics, and I asked teachers to share how they were already applying this in their classrooms.
Kathy shared, “I have a Dads and Doughnuts event every year in May where the children are able to host their fathers and share their writing. Of course, everyone also enjoys the selection of delicious doughnuts. All the dads were able to attend except one, who was stationed in Germany. We used Skype to reach this father, and during the event, Connor held up the computer screen and introduced him, saying, ‘Dad, this is my class. Class, this is my dad.’ Conner radiated pride that his dad was not left out. It was thrilling to see the two of them united by Skype and both of them able to verbalize and participate. Before he signed off, the father said, ‘The only thing that would have made this better is if I could have Skyped the taste of the doughnut!’ Maybe in the future that might be possible.”
Kathy’s class also hosts a Mothers’ Tea each year during which children share their writing projects with their mothers. This teacher knows one of the best-kept secrets every classroom teacher should know: get parents involved. Kathy, you are a Teacher Spectacular for sure.
Shirley Gehalo, who has been a teacher for 43 years, eases her students’ fears of spelling while they are creatively writing. She has them write SDM at a top corner of their papers. This reminds them that for now, SPELLING DOESN'T MATTER. This way, they can get their thoughts down without worrying about perfect spelling. Later, Shirley helps them find correct spelling as needed. Way to go, Shirley. During the creative process, it is far more important to write creatively, with original thoughts, with passion and depth of feeling, than it is to have perfect spelling.
Fourth-grade teacher Dana L. Scippo, from Littleton Elementary in North Fort Myers, FL came up with a great SCHOOLWIDE idea called “Sparkle Words.” A team of teachers creates a list of sizzling, picturesque “sparkle words” and prints them in large typeface on beautiful sparkle paper, which you can buy at a craftstore or a scrapbooking store. These are displayed all around the school. Each day (or each week, if you prefer), classroom teachers appoint a Sparkle Spotter from their classes to look for and choose one sparkle word to bring back to the classroom. Teachers add these words to their word walls, writing lessons, vocabulary displays, etc. What an awesome way to involve the whole school! Send us photos of how you implement this idea at your school so we can post them here!
Teachers amaze me. They’re brilliant. They’re fierce. And they’re weird. I mean, who willingly becomes a teacher In the first place, and who stays in the classroom in this day and age? Weird, that’s what it is. Wonderfully, magnificently weird.
Millions of teachers recently started a new school year. Do you have any clue how much stress they’re under? Can you imagine the amount of gossip they have to catch up on in the teachers’ lounge? The volume of wood shavings they have to dig out of the pencil sharpener? The sturdy shoes they’ll have to pull out of the backs of their closets? The Lean Cuisines they’ll have to microwave for lunch? Do you know what it’s like to hold a quivering kindergartner who sees Mommy heading out the door? Do you have any idea what fifth graders smell like after P.E.? Why, the stacks of papers teachers will grade this year alone could reach to the moon and back. Believe me, Captain America has nothing on a teacher.
Lest you be tempted to believe what you read in the papers, what you hear on the radio, or see on television, that teachers are solely responsible for low test scores and students who fail to achieve, think of this: Teachers work countless hours they aren’t paid for, arrive early, stay late, take home work, clean up vomit, break up fights, dry tears, hold hands, calm fears, and prepare millions and millions of lesson plans. They plan field trips, science fairs, musicals, gardens, birthday parties, bulletin boards, and story time. They willingly spend their days teaching America’s children in spite of classroom interruptions, personal loss, illness, miscommunications, cruel and rude remarks, low salaries, unappreciative parents, and a lack of honor and respect for their profession.
I told you: they’re weird. Why do they do it? Why? You might not believe it, but it’s true. They love your children. Love them. Adore them. Ache for them. Believe in them. Cry for them. Celebrate their successes. Champion their accomplishments.
Amazing. Absolutely amazing.