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December 24, 2009

Why I Became a Teacher

By Victoria Jasztal

    It is nearly Christmas Eve, and tonight I want to share a personal reflection with you. This December has been one of the best months I have had in my six years of teaching. There have been two experiences in my classroom this month that helped me reflect on why I entered the teaching profession.

    Third-grade teacher Beth Newingham posted in her weblog, Teaching Matters, about her students making hope chests for children who are in the hospital during the holiday season. For two years, I considered the idea, and finally this year, I decided to implement it. Last Monday, I impulsively sent out a letter requesting shoe boxes and small toys for children who are at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. The response was overwhelming. My students also took a personal interest in the project because a former student from our school was diagnosed with leukemia in September and we wrote out cards for her around Thanksgiving. This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to see her and present the cards as well as one of the hope chests. After that, I headed to the chapel and saw several photos that absolutely broke my heart. Parents had written out very emotional letters to their children about how strong and amazing they were.

    IMG_5059 
    IMG_5060
    IMG_5044

    A current student and her mother had come with me to deliver the hope chests and cards. She was extremely emotional about the entire experience. Her heart was touched when she saw the girl. It was then that I realized there is much more to teaching than academics. Of course I desire to instill strong reading habits, make my students dynamic writers, have them perform in plays about the history of our state, and provide hands-on math and science opportunities, yet teaching them about the importance of giving is something that cannot ever be overlooked.

    I signed up my class for Kids Care Clubs that evening, thinking about service projects we can do in the second half of this year. What do you think we can do to reach out to our community?

    The second opportunity I created for my students was writing out cards for their former teachers. Teaching the advanced fourth grade class also gave us the opportunity to make something for the advanced third grade teacher. This morning, we presented her with a special collage highlighting some of our greatest fourth grade memories we have made so far. It was then I realized that teachers are creators of Hallmark moments. Seeing the look on these teachers' faces and watching them hug their former students was far more important than making another craft for the holiday season.

    Here are a few more photos I want to share:

    IMG_5132 

    IMG_5139 

    IMG_5112

    I will be writing a few more entries before the new year approaches, yet I want to highlight some of the ideas I have for posts in the near future:

    • Bringing What is in a Textbook to Life
    • At a Crossroads: Defining Data-Driven Instruction
    • Ms. Jasztal's Essential Reading Skills Series (Comparing and Contrasting, Author's Purpose, QAR, Making Inferences and Predictions, Main Idea and Supporting Details, Questioning)
    • The Budding Sesquipedalian: Strengthening Your Students' Vocabularies 
    • Historical Fiction: Times Long Ago Come to Life Before Your Students' Eyes
    • Unlocking Scholastic's Resources
    • Incorporating Writing Manipulatives in the Upper Elementary Classroom
    • Every Lesson Must Have a Purpose: Ensuring the Goals of Every Lesson are Measurable and Observable
    • More than Current Events: Utilizing Newspapers in Education
    • Your Students are Reading Detectives: Searching Through Texts to Locate Important Information
    • Plentiful Uses for Index Cards in the Classroom


    Please tell me which topics appeal to you, and let me know where you need the most advice to be your very best for the second half of this school year.

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday. As I sit here thinking about trading my cell phone that has probably dropped 1,000 calls for the new myTouch Android phone, delightful New Hampshire maple syrup my aunt Christine sent my family this morning, making buttermilk pancakes Christmas morning (an excuse to have the syrup, of course), watching my parents opening their presents and surprising my best friend with incredible gifts this coming weekend, I smile that the first half of this school year has been very successful.

    Best,
    Victoria

    It is nearly Christmas Eve, and tonight I want to share a personal reflection with you. This December has been one of the best months I have had in my six years of teaching. There have been two experiences in my classroom this month that helped me reflect on why I entered the teaching profession.

    Third-grade teacher Beth Newingham posted in her weblog, Teaching Matters, about her students making hope chests for children who are in the hospital during the holiday season. For two years, I considered the idea, and finally this year, I decided to implement it. Last Monday, I impulsively sent out a letter requesting shoe boxes and small toys for children who are at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. The response was overwhelming. My students also took a personal interest in the project because a former student from our school was diagnosed with leukemia in September and we wrote out cards for her around Thanksgiving. This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to see her and present the cards as well as one of the hope chests. After that, I headed to the chapel and saw several photos that absolutely broke my heart. Parents had written out very emotional letters to their children about how strong and amazing they were.

    IMG_5059 
    IMG_5060
    IMG_5044

    A current student and her mother had come with me to deliver the hope chests and cards. She was extremely emotional about the entire experience. Her heart was touched when she saw the girl. It was then that I realized there is much more to teaching than academics. Of course I desire to instill strong reading habits, make my students dynamic writers, have them perform in plays about the history of our state, and provide hands-on math and science opportunities, yet teaching them about the importance of giving is something that cannot ever be overlooked.

    I signed up my class for Kids Care Clubs that evening, thinking about service projects we can do in the second half of this year. What do you think we can do to reach out to our community?

    The second opportunity I created for my students was writing out cards for their former teachers. Teaching the advanced fourth grade class also gave us the opportunity to make something for the advanced third grade teacher. This morning, we presented her with a special collage highlighting some of our greatest fourth grade memories we have made so far. It was then I realized that teachers are creators of Hallmark moments. Seeing the look on these teachers' faces and watching them hug their former students was far more important than making another craft for the holiday season.

    Here are a few more photos I want to share:

    IMG_5132 

    IMG_5139 

    IMG_5112

    I will be writing a few more entries before the new year approaches, yet I want to highlight some of the ideas I have for posts in the near future:

    • Bringing What is in a Textbook to Life
    • At a Crossroads: Defining Data-Driven Instruction
    • Ms. Jasztal's Essential Reading Skills Series (Comparing and Contrasting, Author's Purpose, QAR, Making Inferences and Predictions, Main Idea and Supporting Details, Questioning)
    • The Budding Sesquipedalian: Strengthening Your Students' Vocabularies 
    • Historical Fiction: Times Long Ago Come to Life Before Your Students' Eyes
    • Unlocking Scholastic's Resources
    • Incorporating Writing Manipulatives in the Upper Elementary Classroom
    • Every Lesson Must Have a Purpose: Ensuring the Goals of Every Lesson are Measurable and Observable
    • More than Current Events: Utilizing Newspapers in Education
    • Your Students are Reading Detectives: Searching Through Texts to Locate Important Information
    • Plentiful Uses for Index Cards in the Classroom


    Please tell me which topics appeal to you, and let me know where you need the most advice to be your very best for the second half of this school year.

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday. As I sit here thinking about trading my cell phone that has probably dropped 1,000 calls for the new myTouch Android phone, delightful New Hampshire maple syrup my aunt Christine sent my family this morning, making buttermilk pancakes Christmas morning (an excuse to have the syrup, of course), watching my parents opening their presents and surprising my best friend with incredible gifts this coming weekend, I smile that the first half of this school year has been very successful.

    Best,
    Victoria

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I wanted to take a few moments to take the time to thank you for visiting the Classroom Solutions weblog at Scholastic this past year. Being the grades 3-5 teacher advisor was a "dream come true" for me, as I have loved Scholastic since I indulged in The Baby-Sitters Club series as a child. Posting the weekly topics was an intriguing opportunity. Read more to read about this whirlwind of a year, from the time I found out I was going to be an advisor to the bittersweet departure yesterday.

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1,400 minutes... How do you measure a year?

Yesterday was the day of our end-of-the-year fourth grade awards ceremony, and I was thinking to myself, How do you measure a year? There are challenges we all face, whether they are academic challenges or we must handle difficult situations with our students. Then of course, there are times where we encounter great joy. There are times where we do not feel as if we have planned enough, while on the other hand, there are times in which we plan too much. Then obviously, of course, there are the field trips, and this year, we had our fair share of them, from our local one to the environmental center in Weeki Wachee to the "major ones" such as the Renaissance Festival, Gainesville, and St. Augustine.

Though I have not officially said "Goodbye" to my students as fourth graders, it was still difficult as they watched the 45-minute slideshow, I presented the classroom awards, and I went on stage to present the academic achievement awards such as Superintendent's List (Never below an A for the year), Principal's List ("A" average in all subjects for the year, though B's can be on the report card), and Honor Roll (A's and B's for the year). I felt a phenomenal sense of pride for my students as I presented the eight Superintendent's List awards, the two for Principal's List, and another eight for Honor Roll. My students have achieved a lot, and they should feel a great sense of honor. Read on to hear more about how this special day progressed.

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Reflecting on the School Year

At the end of the school year, most teachers reflect about what their students' have learned and what they can change to improve instruction the next time around. Every year, I sit down for a while and think about what I want to do differently in the coming year.

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In just three weeks, the 2009-2010 school year will be coming to an end, and prior to then, I plan on doing a few things to ensure it is a memorable time. This week, I invite for you to read about my plans, some of which you can incorporate on your own. Some you will be able to incorporate this year; others you can try for next year!

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In my parting weeks as your grades 3-5 teacher advisor, I want to advise something important to all teachers: DON’T EVER BE AFRAID TO TAKE RISKS. Last year, I envisioned having a day of camping with my fourth grade students on our school’s nature trail. Today, it became a reality as my students participated in the first outdoor camping event I ever hosted. I am grateful I took the risk. Read on to see the ideas I came up with for this year's event.

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Embrace Creative Technology With These Websites

Do you want to encourage a greater use of technology in your classroom? Whether you want your students to create their own comics, use digital cameras, type information in graphic organizers online, edit photos, or make an online slide show, the links that follow can be particularly useful!

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Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
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