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An Apple a Day

The teaching of children should not be sacrificed in favor of paperwork - ever!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Balancing Act of Lent

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday! Many spent the day celebrating - celebrating life in an indulgent sort of way. A last hurrah before the sobering Lenten season that begins today on Ash Wednesday.

We value frivolity and mirth making. There's nothing wrong with a great party, but I wonder if we avoid and even sacrifice contemplation and self-reflection as a result. You won't see much coverage of Ash Wednesday or Lent on popular media. But without them there'd be no reason for Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras.

As an educator I feel the tug of spring in the air at my school, especially after such a mild winter this year. Students are having trouble focusing on what they need to do in favor of succumbing to the promises of spring break. They will carouse and carry on for a week before returning to complete the heaviest load of their school year.

We always appreciate more what we have when we lose it. A well deserved break doesn't mean anything without the pressures of work. Balance is only achieved when opposites exist together. We can welcome both in our lives and experience both fully and intentionally. So the students can enjoy their spring break and then come back to focus on their studies; you can party until dawn on Fat Tuesday and then get ashes on your forehead and focus on the next six weeks of Lent.

Both are important for a well balanced life and spirit. King Solomon said it best - "A time for weeping and a time for laughing; a time for sorrow and a time for dancing" (Ecclesiastes 3:4). You can't have one without the other.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster: Where Was I?

On the 30th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, I remember exactly where I was on that day in 1986. I was a first year teacher and chronicled that day in my book Apples & Chalkdust.

Hundreds of squinting eyes focused upward on a cloudless Florida morning. Teachers gathered and waited along with their students for the show to begin. It's always great to bring the classroom outdoors. It adds a real-life quality to the lesson.

Finally, waving hands began to point toward the eastern sky. Applause and cheers built to a roaring crescendo. It was a proud day for teachers and students alike.

"Go, Christa, go!" they cheered.

The space shuttle, disappearing into the atmosphere, suddenly exploded, and its expanding cloud of debris streamed to the waiting ground below. The applause turned to questioning gasps and disbelieving screams. Teachers hurried their students back into their classrooms like mother hens gathering their chicks. The questions were many. The answers were nowhere to be found. Although crisis teams descended on every school, children continued to look to their trusted teachers for stability and comfort. Teachers became mothers, sisters, friends, and counselors.

Doing what they do best - they taught.

They re-established routine, and they prayed.

Whether it's war, scandal, or tragedy, you cannot shut the world out of your classroom. Every once in a while, the world's classroom crashes into your own. Handled well, even tragedy can teach the most valuable lessons.

Teaching to the situation allows the situation to teach to you.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

"How May I Help You?" Get the Classroom Volunteers You Want When You Need Them

At the beginning of each school year teachers are often overwhelmed with the logistics of a new crop of students - setting up the classroom, organizing materials, designing lessons, identifying the needs of each child in their care, and for me, remembering their names! (took me several weeks to get them all).

Inevitably during this same crazy time volunteer requests come from several directions. The PTA sends out a needs request to teachers, the administration also asks what we need volunteers for, and then parents face us during Open House (often within the first week or so of school) asking us when they can volunteer. Sometimes they even "tell" us where and when they want to volunteer.

I don't even remember my students' names by week 2, let alone have any idea of what my volunteer needs are for the school year!

In the spirit of crowd sourcing, there's a new way to get the classroom volunteers you want when you need them.

Volunteer Spot is a free online app that teachers can use to take control of calls for volunteers, invitations to conferences, open house, and other school-related events.

You can streamline your volunteer scheduling by first having parents give you their email addresses and then when you have a need, you can let them know using Volunteer Spot and the app takes care of the rest. And since parent involvement and collaboration is often part of how teachers are evaluated, you can maintain a database of all volunteer opportunities using this app as evidence for your evaluation.

You can also include the link to Volunteer Spot on your teacher website or as a QR code on your paper and electronic correspondence. Take control of volunteers in your classroom this year!

Happy teaching.