# 28 Facilities


I do not know of many jobs that restrict the use of the bathroom, but teaching is definitely one of them. Years ago we had a principal who said we could not leave our students alone for even a moment, including  going to the bathroom. We were responsible for the class’s safety at all times.  When asked what we should do, we were told to call the office, and someone would come to stay with our class when we used the bathroom. That would have worked well except for one thing, the school had no one designated to watch a class. During the next faculty meeting the principal questioned us, asking if we actually thought there was someone walking around the school  without an assigned task? She said when we called the office, who did we think was there that could watch our class? When reminded that she told us to call the office, she said she was obviously kidding.

I tried very hard not to use the restroom. Goodbye morning coffee. Goodbye water bottle. Use restroom immediately before school. Hold everything until you had a break, which was sometimes three hours. If all else failed, walk the class down the hall towards the teacher’s restroom and have the class sit on the floor, boys on one side and girls on the other. We would play The Quiet Game. If I (Quickly) used the bathroom and didn’t hear any noise, the class would get five additional minutes of recess. Most of the time this worked out nicely, especially if there were  teachers or paraprofessionals who were kind enough to stand in their doorway, watching their students and keeping an eye on noisy students sitting in the hall.

I can not tell you the best way to handle your class when you need to use the restroom. I have very few suggestions. Ask your coworkers what the school policy is, (There won’t be one). You can ask other teachers how this is handled in your school.

I do have a suggestion on how to handle students and the restroom. Near the door, have a boy’s and girl’s lavatory pass. When a student has to go, they take the pass and put it on their desk. Then they use the lav, taking the pass from the top of their desk and hanging it back on it’s hook when they return. You may have to set a limit of two times during the school day for students who obviously want an extended break, or go to fool around. For fourth and fifth grade classes, I have put A Destination Sheet near the door. There is room for the date, time out, destination, and time in.  A pen attached to a string is nearby. This is helpful if student’s misuse the bathroom, and the office wants to know who was out of the room during a certain time.

There must be teachers who have different ideas. Please email them to me at janstanford58@gmail.com.


photo credit: N00/7391237914″>Aseo y flecha artesana via photopin (license)



# 27 Recess!

5169685193_34307e5954Recess is more than an opportunity for your students to let off steam. It is just as important as a regular subject. Most students say recess is their favorite subject. I believe students should have half an hour of recess in the morning and at least ten minutes in the afternoon. There is nothing wrong with letting the students run around for five minutes. However, certainly at the beginning of the year outdoor breaks should be in a controlled environment. Every day, tell the class what the objective (Outcome) will be. Some ideas are: be a friend to someone so they don’t play alone, share equipment, be kind, smile, include everyone, say yes if someone wants to play with you, people’s feelings are more important than winning, exercise to stay healthy, etc.

When you go outside with your class, have them run around the play area while you time them for five minutes. After five minutes, students can continue to run or go off to play a game. Gradually increase this to ten minutes. The teacher should circulate and smile so students know you care about them. Some people have been making jokes because traditional recess has changed over time. There is no more wall ball, dodge ball, or target games. These games are not helpful. It is wrong to think everyone must get a trophy or no one can ever be out. Let’s take the game Dodge Ball. Everyone is in a circle. (Remember everyone has a number). The teacher calls out several numbers to go inside the circle. The aggressive kids around the circle run where ever the ball is and forcefully throw the ball to the least athletic student, getting them out quickly. Then the students that are out stand along the circle bored for the rest of the game. Where is the fun?

Our playground had a straight track with about 6 lines. We would play a game called Endless Run. Put the class three or four in a line behind the track. When the class is ready, the teacher blows the whistle. This game is not a race, it is a movement game. The first student in each line begins and travels down the line. The rules are eyes have to be open, and no one can move backward. Students are free to hop, skip, run, leap, walk, gallop, etc. When they get to the end of the line they turn around continue with their movement until they get back to the end of the line. The next student in line now has a turn. After five or six minutes blow whistle and call out free time. Be aware some students will complain they are too tired. Remind students they can walk if they get tired.

What do you do with chronic students who do not pass in their homework? Do not take away recess without warning them first. I would suggest not having them miss more than ten minutes of recess, unless they refuse to work on their homework while outside. Then all bets are off. Before students go outside, have them take either their missed homework or  alternative work you pass out. If all the students have the same paper, they are more likely to finish if you allow them to work in pairs. When complete, they put  homework attached to their clipboard in a pile, and then go play. What do you do for recess?


photo credit: N08/5169685193″>12 november 005 via photopin (license)



# 26 Lesson Plans


In the good old days, lesson plans were a list of various subjects with snack, lunch, specialists, and other scheduled times. Then teachers would run off copies of subjects that were already covered. It was frowned upon to instruct new materials.  All Substitute plans were supposed to have been subjects that had already been covered.  This way, all students should know what to do, as this was a review day. Over time this structure would change somewhat.

At the beginning of the year, teachers are given a copy of all their scheduled times for the year. The Math, Reading, lunch, and Specialist block. Using those times as a template, we attempt to fit in all of the remaining times with the required amount of minutes. A copy of this is sent to the office. As much as possible, subjects are planned at the same time each day. The template is enlarged and placed within a binder. The pages are numbered and dated. It is very difficult to make lesson plans a week in advance. Let me clarify that. It is difficult to follow plans that are made a week in advance. What happens if a subject runs over? What will you do if a math concept needs two or maybe three days? If you have only planned for one day, your timing will be off. Many teachers write the lessons for the day they are working on, which is not difficult if you are following a format. Or, teachers write a week in advance and work as close to the original plan as possible.

Say a school starts at 9:00 AM. The teachers who are at the front door, meeting the custodian at 7:00 AM, are the ones who are very sick and want to spend time making plans for that day. Many teachers go to work sick, as the time to write the plans isn’t worth it.  Also, Substitutes do not correct any papers. The fabulous ones do, but the majority leave it for you to do.  Add another hour to your work day the next day.

I know I spoke about you not buying anything for your classroom. There can be exceptions. There is a book called Mad Minutes which you can get on Half.com. You can run off copies and keep the book. Make 5 envelope folders. Put the day of the week on each one. Put a copy of your weekly schedule in each folder. As best you can, try to align the subjects with already printed activities. I like math quizzes, analogies, Science Fun, and other cool papers.  As papers are used, put a copy in another folder to be used again the next year. If you are fortunate enough to work with cooperative teachers, you may be able to get copies that are clever and can be reused. As lessons are used, be sure to replenish them on the same subject. May all your days be awesome.


photo credit: N08/5499935841″>Frank Hebbert and session board via photopin (license)


# 25 If Teacher’s Could Talk


Parent: My child says he didn’t say/do what you’re accusing him of doing. And my child never lies. There are two sides to every story. I want my child here so he could tell us what you did.

Teacher: I am not telling you “A Story.” I am telling you, “The Facts.” If you think I am going to defend myself in front of your little twerp, you are going to have to subpoena me first.

Parent: Of course my daughter screamed in your face. You left her no other options. She couldn’t take it anymore.

Teacher: Asking her to get in line for gym results in her screaming at me, and it’s my fault?

Parent: My child does not want to write down his homework assignments. Therefore, I want you to do it for him.

Teacher: eh, no.

Parent: We are going on vacation and I need all of the schoolwork in advance. My child will also need enough work for six hours on the plane, as his older sister will be getting this and I want you to plan for his time as well.

Teacher: eh, no.

Parent: This is how I think you should teach math and reading.

Teacher: Do you also tell your brain surgeon how to operate?

Parent: My child is misbehaving because he is bored. You are not challenging him.

Teacher: Please explain why he doesn’t do his own work at school or his homework.

Parent: My child does not like you and says you give too much work.

Teacher: My assignments are appropriate for this grade level. Your child spends her time talking and disturbing the class.


 photo credit: N04/8211911124″>Cornelia Helfferich via photopin (license)

# 24 Educating Foster Children


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Over twenty years ago when it became apparent endometriosis had taken its toll on my body, my husband and I thought about the other ways of dealing with infertility. I remember being at Barnes and Noble, checking out our options when a giggling couple, one very pregnant, came and stood right next to me, because that was where the baby books were stored. I could barely contain my tears as I sought out my husband and told him we needed to leave. Now.

Shortly thereafter, a non-denominational meeting, with the goal of exploring adoption, was held in the next city.  A stern looking woman collected the $25.00 fee from each couple, before she began. As if she were reading a list, she went down the countries where children were available, the cost, and conditions. For instance: Russia, $24,000.00 approximately 9 years old, Money Gifts were accepted everywhere. And, as in real life, there would be no health guarantees. This woman knew of an attorney who could get us an infant for $20,000.00. And she went on and on for 45 minutes, asking if there were any questions to a room of eight stunned adults. Giving no time for anyone to ask a question, she thanked us for coming and then got up and left.

In the parking lot, on the way to our car, my husband said he was adamant we would never buy a child. We would look into adopting locally, because there must be children who needed homes. Several weeks later, we found ourselves with a large group of adults, in the Department of Children and Families. We were told prior that the waiting list for adoption was ten years. We also knew that foster parents have the right of first refusal once a child had been in their home for 365 days. This was one reason the adoption wait list was so long.

We decided to become Foster Parents, God willing, and pray God would give us the children he had planned for us to have, in his perfect timing. Over the course of several years, we adopted our daughter, Taylor, and our son, Hunter. At this time, DCF was not always forthright in giving out information, and some children we were unable to keep in our home.

I think the biggest message for educators was brilliantly stated by my daughter, Taylor.  “My best advice to foster kids is as long as you’ve got foster parents that love you, you’re ahead of a lot of other people in this world.” For the most part, foster students are very much like average children, although they may have had some neglect in their past. If you want to teach them, you need to love them first.



#23 How to Talk to Children

Flora Mackenzie of World Shine Foundation talking to the pupils of Laxdale Primary School, Isle of Lewis during Assembly.   Photos © Colin J. Campbell www.colinjcampbell.com/blog

Teacher’s impact more than student’s intellectual growth, they also affect their emotional growth. There are several ways teachers can do this. One way is standing at the door and greeting each child by name as they walk in the door. After all children have entered close the door and, with a big smile, tell the students how happy you are to see them, and the great day you have in store for them today. Give the vocabulary word of the day and definition. Ask several students to define some previous words. Give previous definitions and ask for the vocabulary words. Pass out a daily template to one student and have them write two vocabulary words and their definitions. Pass the same template around to various students throughout the day, with the goal being student’s writing the different activities done throughout the day. You are unlikely to have access to a copy machine at the end of the day but you can copy the template for the next morning. Students should bring home the daily template for students to show parents. You could have starter sentences like, “One funny thing that happened today was… Don’t forget listing homework. Since students will be getting this paper two days late, give them at least two days to have their homework assignments completed.

Homework can be collected in the morning if you want to stay after school to correct it. Otherwise, have two students correct in the back of the room using the answer sheet you provide. Or, you can have the class exchange papers while you read out the answers. Enter all grades in Power School if your school system uses it. Circulate throughout the room, asking students various questions during the day. Listen to their answers and comment on them. Ask them silly questions such as, “What would you do if you saw…..” See who can come up with the silliest answer. Try to be as positive as you can. Strive for ignoring minor annoyances and giving remarkable credit to every positive behavior, clever response, and good try student’s come up with. Stare at their beautiful eyes when you talk to them. Make every day their best day ever!



Photo Credit: Flora Mackenzie of World Shine Foundation talking to the pupils of Laxdale Primary School, Isle of Lewis during Assembly.
Photos © Colin J. Campbell

#22 New Teachers


Your First Job!

Congratulations on your new teaching job. You must be so excited! All of those interviews, practice lessons, and advanced degree have finally paid off. As you look around stores your heart skips a beat and you want to dance at all those back to school signs. All of a sudden your eyes are drawn to Colored Markers! Yes those big lovely colored markers that make those beautiful easels; what could be better than that? If your classroom has a chalkboard, you will be drawn to colored chalk as well. Then you start to wonder, what will the students need on the first day of school?

I always sent home a welcome letter to the parents, What would you like me to know about your child? What are your child’s strengths and weaknesses?,etc. Another letter was enclosed for the students. What is your most favorite, least favorite subject? What do you like to play at recess? What is your favorite movie, T.V. show? Along with this letter is a list of suggested school supplies.

Oh, about school supplies. Students are entitled to a FREE public education. Expecting parents to purchase school supplies is not listed as a requirement. Many school systems allow grade partners to get together and develop a list of needed supplies, and that order is given to the office. When the supplies come in, teachers sometimes place these on student’s desks, getting ready for school. Once in my back to school letter I wrote all needed supplies will be waiting for your child at their desk on the first day of school. I wanted to avoid the overabundance of supplies from parents of means, and the very basic inventory of other parents. Instead, students brought in boxes of 64 crayons, rulers, and enough stuff to fill their desks, leaving no room for books. I collected all the extra materials, not the student’s personal property.

Other teachers sent home a list of SUGGESTED supplies, which is allowed, as long as the child is not deprived of supplies. Do not ever buy your students those weird smelling expensive dry erase markers. Even after you explain students have to be gentle or else the felt tips will retract into the marker, the students will still press too hard. Also, those markers have a top that is deliberately too hard to get off and almost impossible to click on. The companies like this because it only takes a few hours for the markers to dry out. They want you to go to Costco and get a new package. Don’t do it! Remember, get a black sharpie and Post-it Notes and write supplies on each one, such as, 5 containers of Play Dough, 40 pencils, and whatever else you need. Have the class write the parents thank you notes. You can do this at parent teacher conferences, just put the easel in the hall. Enjoy your class. Some students will radiate love, while others need to be loved.








Grade 11 teacher Annette teaches English to her students at Norsup Secondary School. AusAID supports education projects on Malekula Island. by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade  CC BY 2.0

# 21 Why Blog?

14045819341_6651d70343_z#21 Why Blog?

Blogging gives me the chance to organize thought patterns and stay on one topic to decipher the subject. I spent over 30 years teaching, and my out of the box thinking helped to come up with creative ideas to reach students. I like putting ideas under distinctive topics so that I can find them, and add onto these ideas as I think of new ones. I carry a small notebook with me and, after I have decided on a topic, I add thoughts, comments, and any information that adds to my subject. I also write new ideas and thoughts about those. I remember lessons from the past, and write about what worked well. Also, not everything worked out great. Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. Blogging is like a memoir, it’s a huge freezer filled with – trays, every cube a memory to be saved and shared.

I use Howtobuildyourownblog.net by Matt Loomis. Not only is he a computer genius, he is a blogger, web site designer, and copywriter. He also gets back to people by quickly responding to emails if you have a question. His site is easy to understand, and you can make all the changes you like. I am constantly changing background colors and formats. This week I am going to be adding pictures to my posts. He also tells you about a site called Flickr where you can get free photos on any topic, just by looking under search. I am constantly learning new things about Blogging. Perhaps one day you will give it a try?


BLOG by Christian Schnettelker  CC BY 2.0



#20 Report Card Comments



Report card comments

Did you ever notice not a word was said about report cards during your years of teacher training at University? The following are suggestions from me, please do what feels comfortable for you.

If you were supposed to write November Conferences’ on your first quarter comments, it would have come preprinted on the card. Write a comment. I use the “Good comment,” “We are working on,” and “Good comment.” Comments on report cards should not be a time to spring new information on parents.

My children went to a different school system for four years. There was not one comment on report cards, ever. I called the principal and got nowhere, so I called the superintendent. He said he had no idea, and that this was an unacceptable practice he was going to correct immediately. The next report card time I opened my son’s report card and it said, “Hunter is good in art.” I cried. This teacher didn’t even teach my son art. Her comment was gravely in-adequate.

My son was adopted as an infant. His biological mother was a drug addict. and Hunter was born with seven different types of illegal drugs in his system. The hospital said this was one of the worst withdrawal cases they had seen. He spent six weeks detoxing at the hospital and another five weeks at our home. I just held and rocked him as he cried.

I am so sorry that his teacher didn’t love, or even like my son. The only good thing she could find to say about him is that he was good in art. Shame on her. He deserved better.

The following positive comments, except the last, were actual statements made on report cards by Australian teachers. They were made instead of the negative comment, which is also included. Some of these comments are funny. Keep in mind these children go home to a family that loves them very much. If you need ideas for report cards, take out a couple of high, medium, and low student records from your own students in the office. You can look at their previous report cards and make a template to fill in for this year. Of course you will want to make some changes. There should be three positive comments for each, “We are continuing to work on….” Comment.

Student sometimes needs scaffolding and guidance to help her deal appropriately with disappointment……Sometimes she needs to be reminded that tantrums are not appropriate. Contributes well to class discussions…….She never ever shuts up. Needs extra encouragement to focus on the activity at hand……He has the attention span of a goldfish. She likes drama and wants to be a teacher…..Runs away from school screaming at teacher. His need for perfection has improved…..Starts all over again from scratch whenever he makes a tiny error. He is learning to get closer to the person he is speaking to and modulate his voice in conversation…..He is learning not to shout across the room at people…..Has intense interest in other people. Gossips Constantly……Enjoys guiding and instructing her friends on what to do…Bossy! Have a nice summer!…..Glad this year is over! It has been a pleasure having your child in my class this year. Means exactly what it says. We are working on improving behavior…..Messed up beyond belief. (FUBB)


Graffiti Report Card: San Francisco closeup by Brandon Baunach  CC BY 2.0






# 19 How Does a School Run Smoothly?


If you are lucky enough to work in a school with a fabulous secretary , the school will run like a well oiled machine. The secretary has a certain amount of magic that tells her where everything is, where it should be, and where it will be. Your mail gets magically delivered every day, just like Lucky Charms. You get phone messages, (Of course you tell your doctor to text as not to tie up the phone.) This marvelous secretary single-handedly improves moral by having Chocolate, you heard that right, Chocolate, on her counter. (contributions accepted). She invents contests and makes games out of mandatory tasks to make them enjoyable and fun. For instance, you’ll get a prize if you’re the first one to hand in certain paperwork. You have to be there to appreciate how hysterical this is.

Obviously, I am talking about our dear Mrs. Mullen. She keeps secrets. I don’t know what these secrets are because I’ve never heard her tell any. She keeps track of who hands in what, which in and of itself, falls into the miracle category. Having the neatest and best organized desk in the school puts us all to shame. Mrs. Mullen, the one and only. She is a single-handed stress reducer which benefits everyone.

It is with great pleasure we celebrate Mrs. Mullen with accolades for being the world’s best secretary. We hope you have a brilliant year with much happiness always!