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An Apple a Day

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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3, Testing!

With the advent of Spring comes annual standardized testing in our schools. At the end of this time everything else seems to come to a halt! Teachers and students alike have no more energy or motivation to move forward with any enthusiasm into the last 6 weeks of school.

This is what I call TESTING FATIGUE which is not unlike Battle Fatigue.

Battle Fatigue is a military term used to categorize a range of behaviors resulting from the stress of battle which decrease the combatant's fighting efficiency. The most common symptoms are fatigue, slower reaction times, indecision, disconnection from one's surroundings, and inability to prioritize

All we have to do is substitute a few words and we have Testing Fatigue. . .

Testing Fatigue is an education term used to categorize a range of behaviors resulting from the stress of testing which decreases the student's learning efficiency. The most common symptoms are fatigue, slower reaction times, indecision, disengagement from learning environment, and inability to prioritize and complete assignments.

Hmm. . .

Sound familiar? The problem is that BOTH students and teachers experience Testing Fatigue! 

This is why a lot of movies are shown during the last weeks of school.

How do we treat Testing Fatigue? Let's look at how Battle Fatigue is treated.

"In the military, therapy starts with prevention by training and providing good morale and support. Simple procedures like providing adequate rest, food and shelter are important. Relaxation exercises have a role as does critical event debriefing.
Once a service member has deteriorated beyond this they are usually relieved of duty and given support, dry clothes, food and rest. When appropriate they are given supportive counseling aimed at their speedy recovery. Some are prescribed psychotropic medications and simply discharged."

Okay. How much of this can we apply to Testing Fatigue? I just hope we don't have to resort to psychotropic drugs!

Monday, March 02, 2015

Teaching with Compassion

For more years than I’d like to recall, I lived with chronic pain. It was difficult to hide from anyone at my school, but I did my best to make sure it didn’t get in the way of my teaching. I would pace the back of the room during faculty meetings because I couldn’t sit for more than 15 minutes at a time. I would lie on the torn hunter green vinyl couch in the teacher’s lounge when no one was around even for five minutes just to take the pressure off. I didn’t want pity, and I didn’t want anyone to feel obligated to make concessions for me. But in my quest to appear strong I never received compassion either. No one understood why I couldn’t do bus duty or hall duty. They couldn’t see the source of my pain and it wasn’t an easy thing to explain. It’s hard enough dealing with our own afflictions. How can we then nurture those students whose special needs baffle or even disturb us?
            Students with learning, physical or developmental difficulties battle daily for a chance to learn. Some disabilities are easy to see when they wheel down the hallway or open their mouth to speak. Others are less visible, and some are even hidden from our view. Some students will go to great lengths to go unnoticed, while others have no way to control their explosion onto the scene. They don’t want your pity, but they desperately need your compassion.
            How do you respond to a child in need, especially a child whose needs you don’t readily understand nor relate to? Discomfort might sometimes slow us, but it should never stop us from answering the call God has placed on us – to reach and teach His children.
            Another’s infirmity is your chance to bestow an act of mercy or compassion. But we’re all disabled in some way. In your own feeble state you, too, can do whatever it takes to strengthen yourself even in your weakness, so that only holiness will be center stage and not your disability.
            Each child placed in your care this year is by divine assignment. If you catch yourself cringing when you realize the extra paperwork, additional conferences, and accommodations and modifications you’ll have to make for particular children, take a breath and remember it’s not a mistake. Your class roster is filled with children hand-picked just for you. When their many needs threaten to overwhelm you, be encouraged that God always equips those He calls.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Hebrews 12:12-15).

            If a child’s affliction feels like a thorn in the side to you, be mindful of it for what it truly is – a way to keep you humble, a reminder to be more compassionate, and an opportunity to pour grace by the buckets full on anyone within reach. Their afflictions should never be a burden to us. God will give you the grace new every morning so that you in turn can give grace to those who need you the most. I know it’s hard, but remember, you’re practicing your acts of mercy.

Vicki Caruana is an assistant professor of education at Mount Saint Mary College in New York as well as the author of a number of books to encourage teachers including Apples & Chalkdust, Kisses of Sunshine for Teachers, and Recess for Teachers. Visit her website for more encouragement at

Monday, February 23, 2015

Here's to You, Mrs. Robinson!

It's Teacher Appreciation week and I encourage you to take some time to appreciate the teachers you had THEN and NOW.

As I searched images to show you something that depicted the power of a teacher as a role model, I realized I already had one that was perfect from my own personal images. 1969, first grade, me and Mrs. Robinson!

That was the year I decided I wanted to be a teacher too.

What was it about Mrs. Robinson that caused me to look up to her in such awe? I was happy. Can you tell? But what I remember and what this picture shows is that SHE saw ME! I wasn't just one more student in her class. I wasn't a head to be filled with knowledge. When she looked at me, I knew she really saw me.

Being known and loved anyway - precious.

As teachers we are role models. But it's the power in our ability to build authentic relationships with our students that makes the difference. Six year old, little redheaded girls, don't look up to statuesque, confident teachers because of their hairdo's or because of their smarts. We're in awe of their heart-warming ability to see through the failed math test, the not so perfect handwriting, and the stumbling over three syllable words during reading and into the people we are.

So, here's to you, Mrs. Robinson. You loved me more than I will ever know. Thank you for being the model I follow!

Need ideas for great gifts for teachers? Check here.