By Staff Reports
Friday, May 01, 2009
5/01/09 at 5:50 PM
Clyde Boyd Middle School, Sand Springs
Sixth-grade science, pre-AP science, and Think Tank (a gifted/talented elective)
1. What do you like best about teaching and why?
My favorite part of teaching is that sound that a kid makes after we’ve looked at something 18 different ways, but on the 19th try, they finally understand. A light bulb goes on behind their eyes and they go “OooooOOOOoooooh.” That is a pure moment that isn’t on the standardized test, but in which I know with absolute certainty that I have done my job.
2. What do you like least about teaching and why?
Sometimes a child will come into my classroom, and you know they probably haven’t eaten since they had lunch at school the day before, and they are wearing the same clothes that they wore yesterday, and by looking into their sad little eyes you know that their life is completely lacking in soft words and kind touches. Then they act out and disrupt my classroom and stop the learning process. What do I do? I can’t fix their problems, yet I can’t allow them to affect the education of the other children. All I can do is love them and pray for them and hope they make it. It keeps me up nights.
3. Do you have any particularly humorous or fond memories of a particular student you could share?
Four years ago, I had a student named Tommy in my sixth-grade science class. He was a brilliant kid, but he sure loved to disrupt my class. It was my third year of teaching, so I was still struggling with the whole “classroom management” issue. One day I was at the front of the room beginning my lesson, when up Tommy’s hand went. “Yes, Tommy?”
“I need to talk to you in the hall.” Tommy said with a grin.
Thinking it was just another attempt to stall the lesson, I brushed him off with “We’ll talk after class,” and tried to continue the lesson. Tommy’s hand went up again.
“I really need to talk to you now.”
By now, my dander was up so I snapped, “Fine, let’s go.” And Tommy followed me sheepishly into the hall. As I spun around to give him a proper chewing out, I looked down and instantly realized what Tommy had wanted to tell me in the privacy of the hallway.
“Look at that … my pants are unzipped.” Yep. I said it out loud. In the hallway. In front of a whole row of open classroom doors.
Tommy fell to the floor laughing, and I really couldn’t blame him. It took the other teachers in that hallway 15 minutes to get their classes back under control. But it was worth it, because Tommy became one of my best students after that. I suppose he figured he couldn’t humiliate me anymore that I could do myself.
4. If money were no object, what would be your dream project to do with your class(es)?
I would issue each one of my 110 students a laptop computer and hook them all together with a wireless network. They could use these computers to make databases to trend data in experiments, and draw up meaningful graphs for the work they do. They would have access to all the information in the world at their fingertips, so as we work through different units, they could be responsible for their own research to customize the information for their own particular interests. And they could use the computers to publish their work to Web sites for the entire world to see. My classroom would be completely paperless, from the assessment to the practice work. We could set up video logs of our class to share with classes from other countries. The highest level of learning is when you are able to take knowledge and synthesize it into something that has an application in your world.
5. So often we hear examples of parents who are under-involved, or the so-called “helicopter parents,” who are over-involved in their children’s lives. Ideally, what should parents do to help one of your students?
The best thing a parent can do to help a middle school student is get to know their friends. Invite them into your home and make them a part of your family. If your child won’t invite their friends home, that is a warning sign that something is going on that they don’t want you to know about. I promise you the child that you drop off at the front doors in the morning is not the same child that we see in the classroom. Especially in middle school, peer pressure can be just as strong an influence as parental support. But your child is much less likely to be led astray if you have an ongoing relationship with his or her friends.
6. What’s the worst thing a student has ever done under your watch?
Over the years, I’ve had my share of students who physically threatened me, and parents who were going to sue me, but that rolls off my back. The worst thing that ever happened was when an honor student dropped a microscope on his foot and broke his toe. I had to call his Mom and tell her that her kid got hurt on my watch. Steal money from my purse if you really must, but please do not hurt yourself in my classroom.
7. If you were in charge of how your school district spends its funds from the federal economic stimulus package, how would you spend the money?
I would build more classrooms, hire more staff and bring the number of students in each classroom from K through 12 down to where it should be. Sand Springs has some of the best teachers it has ever been my privilege to work with; however no amount of National Board Certifications or fancy technology in the classroom is going to allow a teacher to differentiate learning for each child if there are 32 children in the classroom.
8. What would you say is your most effective classroom or behavior management technique?
Experience. There comes a point in your teaching career that you have almost a “spidey-sense” (comic book geeks will understand). You can have your back to the class while writing on the board and yet still know when a note is passed or a piece of gum is popped into a mouth. Then you deal with it swiftly and consistently, and move on. In my first year of teaching, I went into the classroom convinced that I was going to be the cool teacher and that everyone would do what I asked just because they loved me. Those kids ate me alive.
9. If you had to choose another profession, what would it be?
I’m realistic enough to know that I can’t teach middle school forever. As I get older, I know that I’ll slow down. When that happens, I’ll probably choose another profession that’s not as physically demanding, such as race car driver or professional bullfighter. Honestly, my husband and I plan to retire to Florida eventually, at which time I would love to work for Disney as a liaison to the educational community.