Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Job Hunt

I'm sure many of my faithful readers are currently on the job hunt for a teaching position for the following school year.

If you are one of those people I want to tell you not to give up.

I know it isn't the sam for everyone but I substitute taught for most of May 2008 - June 2013.  It wasn't always easy and at one point I did (kind of) give up and took a few months off to travel the country and do some ministry work.  Thankfully by taking the break I was able to be excited about substitute teaching again once I came back (and provide you with many hilarious stories about these substitute teaching days).

I also know that it isn't easy to find a job.  I can really only speak of jobs in Canada (I've been told that it is pretty much the same story across the country and even into the USA).  It really sucks that we have to put ourselves through 5 years of university (which is what you are required to do here) and not even get full time employment when you are done.

Thankfully Ontario has started to recognize that there is a surplus of teachers out there (and a surplus of teachers without jobs) and has put a cap on its enrollment for teachers college.

Where I live they have started to put caps on class sizes which is opening up new classrooms.  Not only is this a benefit for anyone looking for a job but it is a benefit to teachers across the province - smaller class sizes (the cap is at 20 students)!

I found an article by Macleans that pretty much says all of this (and I think the comments with the article do a good job at telling what the situation is like across Canada.  You can find the article here

Do you need a place to vent because of your lack of a job?  What's the situation like where you are?  Do you choose to substitute teach or are you doing it while you wait for your own classroom?

A reader recently emailed me asking to write about my experiences as a substitute teacher as a way to teach her students about what we [the substitute teacher] go through every day.  It was a few pages long (I've had a lot of experiences as a substitute teacher) but you can look forward to reading it in a short series this summer.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Almost There

These photos have been making the rounds on Facebook (and maybe other social networking sites as well)

I'm definitely feeling a little (okay, a lot) worn out lately (so the purple minion and the 2nd owl).  
I'm losing sleep
I'm worried about assessments
I'm feeling like no matter how much thought I put into a lesson it won't be enough
 (it never is when you teach grade 8)

But today when venting to some friends I told them that I didn't want to think of this last month as "I just have to survive" but would rather enjoy it.  

Hopefully I can find a way to enjoy these last few weeks with my grade 8's 
... and in case you are worried that I'm not finding a way to enjoy my time with my grade 4's... don't be worried.. I often enjoy my time with them.  They are actually wonderful (substitutes tell me they are) and as a bonus I'll get to teach some of them again next year!

Anywho, I'm the praying kind (and as are many of my friends) so my request?  
Prayers for patience

So, what are your tricks to making the most of the last few weeks of school (we aren't finished school until the end of June here so I've got time)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Olympic Graphs

This is post is incredibly late!

During the Olympic Games we kept track of 5 countries and the medals they received (we chose to keep track of Canada, USA, Germany, Russia, and China).  We kept track of them by making bar graphs (keeping track of each countries gold, silver, and bronze medals) and then in the hallway we kept track of each countries total medal count with a pictograph.  

Why bar and pictographs?

Those are the only 2 graphs my grade 4's need to know this year.

After the olympics were over I brought them to the computer lab to learn about Microsoft Excel and we put the information from our bar graphs into there and printed out a graph.

Then we glued that graph onto a piece of construction paper and wrote a question that could be answered by looking at the graph.  Some students did some really complicated questions... some students did some pretty simple ones... I just let them come up with a question that they were capable of answering.

They wrote their question on a piece of white paper, folded it in half and wrote the answer the question on the inside (so that someone walking by could flip up the piece of paper to see the answer)

Here are some of my students graphs, questions, and answers
(we've since been working on showing our work)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Certification Map

It's that time of year (again).

Everyone and their mom (it seems) is trying to land one of those allusive teaching positions for the next school year.  

I'm lucky.  
For once I only had to go on one interview (and I think I only applied for about 6 jobs total) before getting offered a position.

For those of us still on the hunt (and maybe considering a move to another state) I came across a website called Certification Map

Here you will find a pretty thorough breakdown (in this Canadian's opinion) on what certification requirements you must meet for whatever state you want to teach in.

On their How to Become a Substitute Teacher page (because, let's be honest... you can move, apply, and still not get that job you are hoping for) you will find what kind of salary you can expect to earn in that state, prerequisite coursework that you will need to do, how to prepare, and tests you may have to take to teach there.

I looked into what I would need to do if I wanted to teach just north of the boarder from me and boy are there a lot of licenses!  I feel like the one I MIGHT meet is the "regular 2 or 5 year teaching license" after that there are only about 6 more that I would need to look into!  So glad to be teaching where I went to post secondary school!

I also checked out Hawaii (because that seems like a lovely place to have to substitute teach) and their process seemed a little less difficult.  Interview, a substiute teacher course (that can be taken online AND I actually think a substitute teaching course would be a good idea - for anywhere), and then just your application (which includes a TB test - is this a problem in Hawaii?)

Hopefully, all my substitute teacher friends south of the boarder are finding some success' this hiring season!


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Classroom Decor

... I think I know what I want my classroom to look like next year

Check out School Girl Style (she has been revealing a bunch of different classroom decor ideas recently)

The above will take you right to my dream theme.  

Why is it my dream theme?

I think it reminds me of how I painted my bedroom

I would also do a peacock theme (but peacocks are maybe not for everyone)

AND... I think since I will be spending the majority of my time in the classroom next year (I did this year too but it was a super last minute job AND I shared one of my classrooms) that I should really like what it looks like.  Plus, I know a lot of my students that I will be teaching next year already and I'm pretty positive they won't destroy it.

AND... it isn't super kiddish (since it reminds me of my bedroom I would actually argue that it isn't kiddish at all)

AND... it isn't super feminine (or masculine)

Now to get a bunch of my super creative friends together to see what beautiful things we can create (or they can tell me to buy) so that my classroom looks a at least a little like the one in the above link.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Flamingo Art

To create these flamingo’s it took us about 2 one hour classes. 

Class 1

It was a long and dreary winter and we were all tired of the snow so I introduced this lesson by us having a class discussion about what we were most looking forward to once it gets nice.

I told the class that we were going to warm up the hallway outside of our classroom a bit and make some summer scenes that would involve us drawing flamingos.

I found examples of this art lesson online and I showed my students these other students work. We talked about things that we really liked about each painting and things that we thought we could improve on. One thing that I pointed out to them was the size of the flamingos. I told them that if they drew little itty bitty flamingos they would have a very difficult time cutting them out to encourage them to fill the space with the flamingo.

Flamingos aren’t something that most students have drawn before, nor did I expect them to know how to draw a flamingo. BUT, despite this I had high expectations that we could draw some fairly accurate looking flamingos this first class.

I provided each student with two handouts of “how to draw flamingos” and they each got out a piece of paper and we went through it step by step (I would model what the step required on the board and then they would do it on a piece of scrap paper). Everyone practiced drawing 2 different flamingos.

Then they picked the flamingo that they preferred to draw (or liked better) and drew it again, this time on a piece of thicker paper to use as their good copy. Once they had it drawn out in pencil we painted over it with pink paint. It didn’t matter if they went out of the lines because we would be cutting them out next class.

Class 2

We started this class by going over our pencil lines on our flamingos with a black Sharpie. Once they had outlined their flamingos they cut them out very carefully.

Then we talked about background. Since we were going to be warming up our hallway I told them that we would be painting our flamingos on a beach so we discussed what kinds of colours they would need to make a beach scene and what their backgrounds could look like. I told them that it didn’t matter if their scene was during the day or when the sun was setting and that they could make their paintings landscape or portrait.

Once their backgrounds were painted we talked about background and foreground. If their background was their beach scene what did they think their foreground was? (the flamingo)

To fill in some time while their backgrounds dried we have a bunch of “extra art pages” - they are designs that the kids can colour on paper. They enjoy doing them to fill in extra time throughout the day (such as if they finish their math early). During this time I also called up table groups to come pick an eye and feather for their flamingos (if they wanted to add these). Students were also required to clean up their paint, paint brushes, and water containers.

We used the last 5-10 minutes of class to glue their flamingos onto their background and add on their accessories.

this student was giving me a hard time about not being able to draw a flamingo so we found one online and he traced it from the projector.

it's hard to tell in most of the photos but we used blue sparkly paint... they loved it!

I also updated my post on my classes Degas art with more photos

Thursday, May 15, 2014

In Other News...

The video pretty much speaks for itself...

If you wrote a letter to yourself on your first day of teaching what would it say?

I think I might do this over the summer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day

You can see what my grade 4's made for their mom's here

I saw this video this weekend and so I decided to show it to some of my students on Monday 
(by some I mean the ones who get there earlier than the others because they are on the first bus)

Their reaction?

As my grade 4's slowly trickled into the room it was completely silent and they watched the entire thing.  
But they didn't have much to say afterwards.
I think they were just super confused as to what was going on.

Then in the afternoon I showed it to my grade 8's
They got it
They thought it was hilarious

Respectful Classrooms

A while ago I showed you these photos

Together as a class we brainstormed some ideas of what we thought a respectful classroom would look like, sound like, and feel like (we came up with maybe a couple for each category together to get their wheels turning).

Then I had my students come up with more ideas on their own for each category.

Next they shared what they had written for each category with their group and wrote down anything more that they liked that someone in their group may have shared.

Some of my favourites that they came up with all on their own were:
- a respectful classroom feels like home
- a respectful classroom sounds like compliments (such as good job)
- a respectful classroom looks like no garbage in the sinks (I'm never in my grade 4 classroom after lunch but I guess this is an issue?)

Then I used tagxedo to make the shapes with all the words in them that the kids had written down (I left out all their silly ones like is would look like napping).  
Tagxedo is basically Wordle only the computers at school can't run Wordle (they probably just require an update of something).  The only problem I found with Tagxedo is that when you put spaces between words it considered it a new word and didn't put the 2 words together.  So for example is someone wrote down "no shouting" it would put the word "no" somewhere and "shouting" somewhere else.  Since I didn't want my students signing off that it was okay for them to shout I just got creative with capital letters.

Then we came up with a way to measure their success'.  We decided that they would fill up a jar with pennies.  Originally they were earning a penny a class but it got a little iffy because they would be mostly good but maybe not at the end which ruin their chance at a penny.  So eventually we changed it to 5 pennies in the morning and 5 pennies in the afternoon.  I usually ask them how many they feel like they earned together as a class and some of them are pretty honest (the other week I gave them just 2 for the morning because it was what they thought they deserved).

After we decided how we would measure their success' I had everyone sign off on it by writing their name on the poster.  I made sure to tell them that they did not have to sign the poster BUT that if they didn't sign it they would be hanging out in the office during our celebration since they would not be part of the earning of the celebration.

Once the jar is full we will get to celebrate their success' somehow.  

My grade 8's are doing this as well (only they are earning marbles in a cup).  One of my classes got their cup filled so I took them to play some beach volleyball and to the park to play. Then we read and did some poetry outside.  They had a great time and we still got some work done.

My grade 4 class should be getting their jar filled by the end of this week so we will have to decide on something to do.  I know they want to have a party (to celebrate my birthday and the filling of their jar but I think we will do something that won't take so long - plus my birthday isn't until July and I've told them countless times to bring my presents on the last day of school).

Has it been successful?
My grade 4 class for the most part is pretty well behaved.  But I have noticed more hands being raised and they occasionally will refer back to our poster (I think I put the poster in a not so smart spot - the back of the door - but the door is usually open so no one sees it).  

Since I will be teaching many of the same students next year I might try it again next year.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

This Week At School

I know, I know... I didn't post this last week (so forgive me if I talk about 2 weeks in this post... you'll never know anyways).

-  We started fractions in MATH and we've been playing with different manipulatives to help with learning them (and I must say we are doing pretty good with fractions so far).
-  We started Rocks and Minerals in SCIENCE.  Lesson one involves them mining a cookie.  They used a toothpick to do this and if they broke their toothpick and wanted a new one they had to buy a new one off of me with something that they mined out of their cookie.  I'm not sure if anyone broke their toothpick... no one bought a new one from me though.  We also talked about destroying their cookie and how that represented the land around the mine.  Would the people that lived there be happy if you blew it up into pieces?  Let me tell you... some of the pretend people living around those cookies would not be happy with them.
-  I took a personal day and it was wonderful.
-  In French we are moving on to learning about school supplies and other objects in the classroom.  I feel like I maybe should have done this first.  Ah well.
-  In Health the kids are making comics about stressful situations and positive ways to make the character feel better.  Most of their comics are about salads and bananas beating other fruits and vegetables up.
-  We had our last student share for "Star of the Cycle". I can't believe it nearly took us all year to get through everyone!  We decided that we would turn that time into show and tell for 3 people and then afterwards we would go for a walk outside (we also went for a "rock walk" for science and I had them run a lap after finding their rocks... this may have been where they got the idea).
-  One of my grade 8 classes earned a celebration for filling up a cup with marbles.  They chose to play some beach volleyball/play in the playground.  Then we sat outside and read for a bit and worked on some poetry.  It was a really great class and I'm impressed with how well behaved (and able to listen and follow instructions) most of them were!

The kids made fraction flip books with the substitute.  Later we will add in decimals for the fractions as well.

They also made Mother's Day candles with the substitute

Dutch Tulip Fields

we've been writing a bunch of poems in grade 8.  I find that if  we write at least part of one together they understand what I'm looking for... so every day weird poems end up on my board.

Remember this.... I feel like this deserves a post of its own... I mean look at my eyes!

Friday, May 09, 2014

What I Wore

The staff at my school were getting appreciated this week so on Tuesday we were all instructed to dress "Hawaiian"  
"but I've never been to Hawaii" I complained 

I opted for brighter colours and taking out my sandals for the first time this year (it has been frigid up here!)

I searched and searched for a fake flower to wear in my hair (I used to have one attached to a bobby pin for such emergencies as "Hawaiian Day" but alas, I did not find it)

On this day I also put my hair in braids the night before so my hair was wavy when I took them out in the morning.
"Miss Penner I LOVE you hair.  It goes well with your shirt" 
one student told me

.... good to know that hair can "go with" a shirt (I feel like I've been doing it all wrong up to this point then).

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Getting Their Attention

Confession:  I'm no longer a substitute but still get many an email about what I did in different circumstances whilst substitute teaching (I try really hard to respond to each and every email I get - but please keep in mind that I do have full time employment that I often bring home with me so if I happen to forget or put something off for a week or two... a thousand apologies).


My most recent email question was about getting student attention.
My recommendation for substitute teaching would be to never go in and try to change up what the students regular teacher has been doing with them already.  If the teacher doesn't tell you in the plan what he/she does to get students to quiet down then (from my experience at least) a student is often willing to offer up that information.  If your head is pounding because of a too noisy class I'm willing to bet that another person in the room is suffering right along with you.  So don't be afraid to ask.

In my substitute teaching experience I've seen everything from turning out the lights, humming, chanting, bells, singing, whistling, chanting and wind chimes. 

While I was traveling and working with middle school girls I learned something called "silent llama".  I didn't think this silent llama existed in my province but then low and behold the other week I heard one of my students talking about it.  Where they learnt it I don't know (it wasn't from me).  Why am I telling you about the silent llama?  Because I think it is something that you could implement even if you are only there for a morning. 

It's that simple.

At the beginning of the day when you are introducing yourself you could tell the students what you are going to do to get their attention and when they see (or hear) you do the silent llama you expect them to respond with the same symbol. 

HOPEFULLY they will be happy to learn a cool new hand sign.
and without further ado here is the hand symbol
Please excuse the blurry photo and the nail polish that needs to come off.

You could say the words "silent llama" and then do the hand sign and wait for them  to all do it back to you.  Then continue on with your lovely little lesson.

In my grade 4 class I do "sh sh shshsh".. okay, it's really hard to type what I do but I basically shush them.  They are to repeat the same pattern that I shush them in back to me and I would say 85% of the time it works.  It is actually amazing how well it works. 

Of course sometimes the class is just too loud and no one would hear my shush them (or hear the one person repeat it back that did hear me) and so then I will turn off the lights until it gets quiet and then turn them back on.  Luckily, I don't have any windows in my grade 4 classroom that get natural light through them so the classroom gets quite dark.

Other things that I've used?

-  I've dropped a heavy textbook on the floor (on purpose) once to demonstrate gravity at the beginning of my lesson when the class was still chatty.  They all got quiet right away.
-  I've told them all to hold their breath.  No one has passed out yet.  I don't actually love this but it was recommended to me by another teacher so I've tried it a few times.
-  I've flicked the lights.  Another one I don't love but my faculty advisor wanted me to do this so I did.
-  With my grade 8's I call them out by their name - I'll be in the middle of saying something and just say their name... I obviously do not shush them.

Was there anything I missed?  
What else have you seen done or do you do to get student attention?
Are you going to try the "silent llama"?
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