What to do with small class sizes?

I’m sure this is going to bizzare, but I have a problem with small class sizes.

Not small like 20 students. I mean small like 8 students.

I teach at a VERY small school. There are about 115 students in 6 grades (7-12). Core classes are at a good size (generally 20-30) but options classes are quite small. A CTS class has about 6 students, my band class has 7 students and an extra History class has 2 students.

Now perhaps it’s great to have 2 students in a class, but for my band class it is a huge disadvantage. I can barely play any legitimate high school band music. I feel like my students are at a huge loss because they won’t have the experience of playing in a large ensemble. Also if even one of them is sick or away we lose a major part of anything we are rehearsing.

Now on the other side of this discussion is that many, MANY other schools in my board are suffering from the opposite issue. They have upwards of of 40-50 students in their core classes and up to 70 in their elective classes. Couldn’t they just lend me some students?

What’s a teacher to do?

Apps for Autism

A few of you may have some students who are on the autism spectrum. I’m always curious as to how these students operate in a classroom as I’ve never had the opportunity to work with these students). I thought that this little website gave me a bit of a better handle on how to help these students if I ever come across it in my classroom.

Apps for Kids with Autism

Example:

TapToTalk

TapToTalk

The TapToTalk iPhone app gives your nonverbal child a voice, making it a great fit for many autistic children. Using the app, children can explicitly tell parents, siblings and teachers what they’re thinking about and need. TapToTalk is changing lives because it is portable and customizable if you purchase TapToTalk Designer.

Price: Free

 

Learning List

You know you’re really on to something when:

  1. the activity connects with the world of the learner; it is engaging because they can relate to it.
  2. the activity comes from the learner’s own input; it is engaging because they helped to design it
  3. the activity is based on the freedom to choose; it is engaging because they selected it
  4. the activity is meaningful; it is engaging because they feel that they are contributing something to their school, their community or the world
  5.  the activity is challenging; it is engaging because there is a real problem to be solved
  6. the activity draws the outside world in; it is engaging because it is rooted in the non-school world
  7. the activity is awe-inspiring; it is engaging because it encourages learners to look at their world in a different way
  8. the activity is interesting; it is engaging because it forces the learner to say “huh!”
  9. the activity is interdisciplinary; it is engaging because it involves ideas from a variety of traditionally separate curriculum areas
  10. the activity is expansive; it is engaging because it offers the opportunity for further investigation and learning.

Found on CEA. Written by Stephen Hurley

Merit Pay – Canada Edition

In case you don’t know merit pay is kind of a tough topic to deal with. According to wikipedia, “Merit pay is a term describing performance-related pay, most frequently in the context of educational reform. It provides bonuses for workers who perform their jobs effectively, according to measurable criteria. In the United States, policy makers are divided on whether merit pay should be offered to public school teachers, as is commonly the case in the United Kingdom.”

There has been many talks among many school boards about merit pay. Mostly in the States but it has started to become a discussion in Canada. Many of you know that I am based out of Canada but I like to know about all of North America specifically.

When I came across this article, it kinda got my wheels turning about this topic. Sure it would be cool to get a little extra money for doing what I do best (or so I think), but do I want to be judged consistently throughout my career? Not really…

Also how is the whole system going to work? Teachers who have more “difficult”classes get more just because their students are coded/special needs or those who have the top students in the board get more? How would we be judged? I don’t think there is any one way that this could be decided. There are so many factors involved in teaching. New teachers would barely have a chance of making anything and they’re are the ones that need it (Come on, 6 years of school!).

And what about the students?

Would having a financial incentive really prompt me to do my job any better? Right now, I would do my job and not get paid. I love my job. I love my students and I only ever want them to be as successful as they can be. Giving me more money isn’t going to change that.

For merit pay to work, I honestly think it would take a really long time to sort out all the kinks.

Do you want merit pay? Would it make a difference on the students?

Curriculum

So, the ‘new’ music curriculum framework that the Alberta government put out a few years ago was mostly scrapped after negative feedback from educators, and as a result, is not scheduled to come out until 2017 (? don’t quote me on that exactly). Which even if it is a little ridiculous (music educators in Alberta haven’t had a new curriculum since about 1985), at least it’s a target.

Of course, the thought that came to my head was ‘How on earth do you design that?’ If you have another six years to put into creating a curriculum and then just beginning to implement it after that, how can you possibly be sure about what students will need to be learning then?

This isn’t really a gripe, just more of a reminder that as teachers we are not only expected to be magic fixers of all ignorance in the world today, we also need to be psychics with accurate visions of all possible future needs of our students.

What would you put in a curriculum for any subject that was going to be put into place 10 years from now?

My personal list of very general skills/knowledge:

– website design and online networking skills

– music performance across multiple genres, incorporating technology aids

– social issue discussion, with particular emphasis on human rights, the role of government, and implications of technology

– how to be a nicer person

Ever Called a Student Stupid? Neither Have I

Here’s a little story about what happens when a teacher calls a student stupid.

I can’t even begin to tell you what went through my mind when I read this. Most of all it was shock. Shock that anything like that would come out of a teacher’s mouth.

I highly suggest you read this and re-evaluate how you word things to students. I know that one of my new goals is to try and say everything is a positive way. For example saying “Walk to the door” instead of “Don’t run!”. It’s a small step but I think it’s a good place to start.

What are you going to do?

Student Suspended for 180 Days for Accidentally Touching a Teacher

This makes me SICK.

A quick overview for those who don’t have time to read the whole article. A 7th grade student got suspended for 180 days because she leaned back and accidentally touched a teacher. The female student didn’t know the teacher was behind her when she leaned back and accidentally touched the female teacher’s leg.

Suspended? Really?! 180 DAYS?!?

I can understand that some schools have very strict rules about teacher/student touching but I think this may be a little extreme. Just to add to this another student was suspended for a day because he HUGGED a female friend. When I was in Grade 7 I was constantly giving my friends hugs and usually it was out of support (Being a teen is tough). Granted a few times it was cause I liked a guy and wanted to get to know him better but the only way I knew how was to THROW myself at him. No teacher ever told me that was wrong and a certainly didn’t get suspended for it.

I think my main problem with this whole situation is that students are supposed to trust their teachers. To many kids being able to hug your teacher is a way of showing trust. I sure know that there are many students in my class that some day I just want to ring their little necks, but when they are on the way out of my class I get a big hug and they tell me they had a good class. That instantly dissolves any negative feelings I have for them (in fact it makes me work harder next class). How else are these students going to tell me that they trust me?

I also understand that teachers need to protect themselves from any sort of lawsuits, etc. that can happen from ignorance. Maybe I have too much trust in the world, but I think this is a little too much…

Any other opinions out there?