Teacher’s Lounge Blog

Learn more about teacher preparation, test tips, online learning, professional development, and a variety of other valuable teacher topics.

Financial Responsibilities are Sometimes Prohibitive for Prospective Teachers

October 16th, 2019 | Comments Off on Financial Responsibilities are Sometimes Prohibitive for Prospective Teachers | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Not only does it take a lot of time to become a teacher, but it can also be quite expensive. College itself is a costly enterprise for most individuals, but when adding in expenses for student teaching, buying classroom supplies, as well as certification and teacher proficiency tests, many prospective educators must make major sacrifices.

There has been a debate for years, which will likely continue for many more, about teacher compensation, but that usually does not include the costs to start a teaching career. It costs more to go to college today, but according to the NEA, the average salary for teachers has decreased by more than 4% in the last ten years. In 2018, the average national teacher salary was $39,249. During the same period, the College Board stated that in-state students across the country spent almost $21,000 on tuition, room, and board.

A prospective teacher’s second year in college is often when the decision is made to stick with the program or not. When learning about the money they must spend to achieve their reality; sometimes, students opt not to continue with the teaching program. The cost can be prohibitive for many individuals.

Expenses for teacher candidates include background checks before entering the classroom for observations and student teaching, insurance, entrance assessments, and certification, and content mastery exams. Also, because of the demands of the classroom during student teaching, most people are unable to maintain another job to help pay for these fees.

While tuition and related costs to become a teacher are still rising, there are programs available in some locations to assist future educators in meeting financial demands. It may be possible to apply for TEACH or Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, which have requirements for taking particular classes and jobs to meet grant specifications. In Georgia, some programs have grants and guarantees for jobs within certain districts to ease worries about getting a job after graduation.

These types of programs can not only ease anxiety about meeting financial obligations to become a teacher but also provides welcome support for those who will teach the children who are our future.

What New (and Not-So-New) Teachers Need to Know Before Entering the Classroom this Year

August 26th, 2019 | Comments Off on What New (and Not-So-New) Teachers Need to Know Before Entering the Classroom this Year | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

It’s not only brand-new educators who have the jitters before the opening of school each year. Veteran teachers often feel the same way. Everyone wants to make sure they have everything they need in the classroom, as well as being as prepared as possible to make the school year start on a positive note.

Many studies have asked returning teachers what their recommendations are for the newest educators entering their classes for the first time. Here are just a few of the responses:

  • While academics are certainly important, it is also essential to build a sense of community within the classroom. Get to know each of your students on a personal basis.
  • Classroom management is critical. Outlining your expectations and that of the school right at the beginning allows for a more conducive environment for learning.
  • If you are not already, learn to be flexible. There is always something to interrupt lessons, whether it is a fire drill, administrative paperwork, or an assembly. Plan for the unexpected and life will flow more smoothly for you and the students.
  • Just like there is no manual when you become a parent, there is not one for when you start teaching either. You will be educated every day on the most surprising subjects, from a student’s home life to the best way to teach a complex math concept.
  • Find a mentor at your school if one is not assigned to you. This person will be your best source of information about teaching and school policies.
  • Connecting with your students is more important than standards and objectives.
  • There is probably a good reason (most of the time) why some of your students come unprepared to class, why they fall asleep in the middle of a lesson, or never seem to have money for lunch. Realizing the difficulties some children face before ever entering the classroom can change how you treat them and your own attitude toward them.
  • While you may have planned and hoped to teach middle school science, you might end up teaching middle school English. Being prepared to teach any subject can relieve a lot of stress.
  • Teaching your first year (and sometimes others) can be a real challenge. Look at it as a learning experience and move on.

Keeping these ideas in mind will help you have a better year. Buckle up – and enjoy!

Evaluate, Emphasize, & Establish Better Behavior Management This Year

August 1st, 2019 | Comments Off on Evaluate, Emphasize, & Establish Better Behavior Management This Year | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

It’s at that point in the summer when teachers are checking out sales on school and classroom supplies and finishing professional development sessions in preparation for the new year. Whether you’ve taught for decades in the same grade or classroom or you have moved to a different school or subject area, it can be overwhelming to think about 2019-2020.

Here are three simple ways to make a substantial difference in your classroom climate, maintain your sanity, and ensure student success. Focusing on behavior at the outset of the school year leads to a more productive year for everyone – you, the administration, the students, and their parents.

  1. Evaluate your expectations for behavior management and adjust, as necessary, for the grade level. Let your students (and parents) know exactly what behaviors are appropriate and which ones are not with a clear set of guidelines that you can discuss with them. This allows each family to be invested in the process, and explicitly defines right and wrong and what happens when rules are broken.
  2. Emphasize relationships with your students. This is one of the best behavior management tools you can utilize. When students realize that you really care about them, they are more eager to learn and cooperate. Get to know your students on a personal level, what interests them, and their past school experiences. On the flip side, let students and parents know more about you, too. In addition, start building a favorable relationship with parents from the first day of school so that you have a connection before problems have a chance to develop.
  3. Establish classroom procedures that support your efforts for behavior management and prevent off-task behavior before it begins. Determine exact routines for everything from entering the room to homework to end-of-day actions. Teach the routines to students and emphasize them heavily during the first few weeks of school.

While it does take extra time and effort to launch a composed, positive classroom, you will have a more successful, enjoyable, and productive year.

Effective Teachers Organize

September 17th, 2018 | Comments Off on Effective Teachers Organize | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Article from the Series: Essentials for Effective New Teachers

Any healthy list of “Factors that Overwhelm New Teachers” is incomplete without a mention of “the stuff.” The combined accumulation of what you bring to the classroom and what you inherit from your predecessor may have you spiraling. You’ll need to get organized for the sake of your own efficiency, but most of all for the sake of your students.

If you find yourself standing in the middle of your classroom asking, “Does this stuff exist so that I can organize it or so that my students can use it to learn,” it’s time to make a change. Let me assure you—there’s a better way. It is not a sin to throw deadweight educational resources away. You may not want to purge too much your first year, but no one wins a prize for the storage closet with the most stuff.

Let’s look at the why and how of organization.

  1. Believe in the value of organization. If all new teachers really bought in to how vital classroom organization is to student learning and behavior, you would have no problem investing the time to get meticulously organized. Think back on the annoying issues you dealt with in student teaching. Not the giant issues such as fights—but the daily problems that wore you down and ate away at your effectiveness. How many of those could you trace back to poor organization? Were you able to solve any problems by rearranging desks or systematizing a transition?

For many students, breakdowns come in transitions. When transitions feel less like transitions and more like routines or habits, students feel safe in knowing the next step. The room stays calm and peaceful and is less likely to erupt in chaos.

  1. Create obvious spaces. At least half of your students, and more like three quarters, will not have a natural bent toward organization. For many students, a file is a file, a tub is a tub. Organizing books by reading level or matching scissor bin #1 with table #1 is not intuitive. You’ll do everyone a favor by making your organizational system simple and eye-catching. Think through traffic patterns. At first glance, it may seem obvious that you would keep all the scissors together on one bookshelf. However, if you observe that your “supply helpers” tend to congregate and get into mischief when sent on their mission to secure scissors for their tables, you may want to re-organized. Keeping all supplies for each work station strategically place in opposite corners of the room may turn out to be a better strategy. Avoid clutter. Students lack the ability to discriminate between one heap of clutter and the next. Avoid clutter.
  1. Walk through your day. Think through all your normal procedures; for example, passing in homework. If you say, “Pass in your homework,” you can expect to see papers flying through the air, kids bonking the student in front of them on the head, kids up out of their seats taking a stroll. You’ll wonder if you said, “Please mutiny,” by mistake. Instead, think how to minimize confusion and get the job done—Homework on the front desk before class begins? Wait for the homework behind you and pass the stack up together? Choose a strategy that works for you. Model it. Enforce it until it becomes routine.
  1. Find an organizer. If you’re not by nature an organizer, borrow the skills of someone who is. Remember the dad, Mr. Gilbreth, in the old classic book Cheaper by the Dozen. He was obsessed with efficiency—to the point of having all twelve children’s tonsils removed at the same time. You don’t have to go to that extreme with your students, but it may be worth talking to a seasoned teacher or your mom or…

At the beginning of the year, keep things simple. As students (and you!) master the simple, add more complexity. A commitment to organization, efficiency, and peace will make a measurable difference in your and your students’ days and year.

Effective Teachers Evaluate

July 17th, 2018 | Comments Off on Effective Teachers Evaluate | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Elementary Teacher

Article from the Series: Essentials for Effective New Teachers

Is it fair to say that every on-the-job minute of a teacher’s life is spent evaluating? Never a moment passes that a teacher is not called upon to evaluate student learning, classroom atmosphere, lesson delivery, behavior, and more. Based on these evaluations, teachers are expected to use their quick wits and their long term planning strategies to optimize student learning in the moment and over time.

Let’s consider a teacher’s responsibility to evaluate.

Assessment of Student Learning

In both traditional and modern settings, a high priority has been placed on determining how well students have learned their lessons. In recent years, this process of evaluating student learning has fallen under the broad heading of “assessment.”

Teachers are responsible to assess individual students. Teachers assess before and after teaching. Teachers are deemed to be more effective when they use a variety of assessment tools from informal self-assessment to peer evaluations to highly-structured standardized testing.

High stakes educational testing has increased the pressure to ensure that students can demonstrate their learning on state tests. Results of large-scale assessments typically get back to teachers after instruction for that year has ended. The tendency then becomes to look at the group results and wonder what went right or what went wrong. The answer lies in the individual results. Class results can only be improved as individual students achieve. Take a minute to look at the results of the individual, and then consider what led select students to soar under your care.

For a new teacher, authentic assessment can be a greater challenge that state testing. It calls upon the teacher to have a clear picture of proficient work. For example, a second-grade teacher may know that students need to have a command of language. Does that mean they need to use plural possessives ending in s correctly in writing? How many supporting details in a descriptive paragraph should be expected of a second grader? In order to accurately evaluate, a teacher must have a clear picture of proficiency at the grade level.

Evaluation of Teaching Strategies

Teachers are wise to reflect on each lesson, that is, to analyze the effectiveness of communication in taking students from the known to the unknown. To teach effectively, you need to take a close look at formative assessment results. Discover the students’ prior knowledge and get busy structuring a lesson that will convey the student to the new content.

You may have the privilege of teaching the same content to several different classes. If you find that one class embraces your teaching and one struggles, you could draw the conclusion that your teaching is fine and the problem lies with the students. A more mature (though exhausting) outlook is that now you must specialize your lessons so that all classes can learn. You may have to design different activities, enrichment, or additional practice for your classes. While your primary responsibility during a class period may be instruction, evaluation is your constant companion.

Reflect and Modify

The most important piece of evaluation is what you do with what you’ve learned. Whether your powers of discernment are geared to students, classroom environment, your delivery, or some other aspect of education, your next step is to process your findings and decide what (or who) needs change and what will flourish with more of the same.

Have a Great Summer!

May 29th, 2018 | Comments Off on Have a Great Summer! | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Teacher summer Break

“Have a great summer!” I love those words. They hold the promise of quiet, travel, and a break from the daily monotony of scheduled everything. But, can I tell you a secret? I also love teaching.

Despite feared transitions in the U.S. Department of Education, the staggering emphasis on testing, and teacher walkouts in multiple states, university students still flock to education majors. Why? Because surreptitiously behind closed doors, so many of us know that teaching is the profession where we belong—the profession where we find happiness.

Since teaching is in my heart and soul, here’s what I’ll find myself doing this summer….

I’ll pin classroom ideas. When I’m on Pinterest, looking for travel journal ideas, I’ll inevitably stray to education boards and start pinning ideas for my classroom in the fall. I’ll remember Dee Dee and how she struggled. I’ll come across another teacher’s strategy for empowering young readers, and I’ll pin her ideas.

I’ll shop for supplies. I’ll remember May when only my red dry erase marker still worked, when not one student had a pencil longer than his finger, and when coloring a world map was a group activity because each student had only 2-3 broken crayons. I’ll have a little stash of supplies so that when next May rolls around I can awe my students with a new box of crayons.

I’ll talk shop with my teacher friends. Some of my closest friends are my colleagues. We understand each other. We have the same interests that drove us to the same career. Now, we’re bound together as survivors; so, when we get together, we’ll share our passion.

I’ll rejuvenate. I won’t deny that teaching is exhausting—physically, but more so, emotionally. I’m so very responsible for the students. It takes a toll on my family, as I work long hours and short change family dinner. This summer, we’ll grill and picnic, and I’ll look long into their eyes, and I’ll find new energy.

Don’t get me wrong, I laugh at and connect with all the teacher summer vacation memes. I’m guilty of everything that is mocked. But, let’s own it. We have a great life. To my teacher friends everywhere, “Have a great summer!”