Little Schoolhouse on the Prairie

The Pedagogy of a Rural Educator


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The Class of 2014

I don’t plan to do too many sentimental or really personal posts on this blog, but this year’s class was a pretty special one. I started my career in teaching with this class as my Freshmen. In a rural district, you tend to teach the same students over many years, because you are the only English, Science, Math, or History teacher. This class has been with me from the start, and many of them took 3 or 4 classes from me. (One student took all six of my classes!) They are the first class I have taught throughout their high school career, and I have to say they have been my “favorites” from the start.

It can be very challenging and rewarding to teach the same students for 4 years. Here are some of the top ways that this can be challenging & enjoying:

Challenges:

  1. Letting things go. This is a challenge for all teachers. You have a kid that really made you upset the day before, and now they are walking into your room again. Every good teacher knows that you can’t hold onto grudges with students, because you never know why they acted that way (home issues, etc.). Usually, it was just a bad day and the next day you move on. Students need to know that they have a fresh start everyday with you. Sometimes, students will have a bad quarter, semester, or year! This can be very hard to let go of when they are walking in your classroom again and again, for 4 years. However, you really get to work on being able to forgive!
  2. Switching things up. After reading Teach Like A Pirate last summer, I decided to try some new things in my classroom. This might sound like a great idea, but once the students you’ve had for 3 years have figured out your “routine”, they aren’t very happy when you try to change it on them!
  3. Remember that not all classes are the same. Although you have a class for many years in a row, the new group of freshmen may be very different from the graduating seniors. It can be easy to get in a “groove” with a class, and then have to completely re-think your way of teaching for the next one. For teachers who have a new group of students each year, this is normal! I sometimes have to remind myself that this year’s freshmen might need a different type of instruction to get the most from my classroom!

Rewards:

  1. You know the kids, they know you. After the students have been in your class for so long, they know what you expect in the classroom. You don’t have to do much re-teaching of standards of behavior, or classroom procedures. Also, I have the chance to really learn how a class learns. This helps me in my teaching, because I can alter my lessons to fit their personalities.
  2. Building report. I have to admit, I love nothing more than hearing an older student tell a younger one, “be nice to Mrs. Koehler, she’s my favorite teacher.” Now, I know its probably a bunch of bologna and sucking-up, but I’m OK with that! There may be a few students that are honestly saying it, but even the ones that aren’t so sincere, at least I know that they appreciate me enough to lie to an underclassman!
  3. Trust. Yes, students can sometimes be untrustworthy, even ones that you’ve known for a very long time. However, I feel like after I know the kids for so long, we build a trust between each other that is hard to break. There are times that I am more of a counselor than a teacher to “my kids”. By talking to them, listening to their problems, and trying to help them through teenage issues, I hope to build up that trust so that they will come to me with questions, whether they relate to the classroom or not. I always strive to be an adult they will approach with issues so that I can hopefully lead them to the right person or give them the best advice I can!

Honestly, the halls of our high school will always be filled with my memories of the class of 2014. I’m not sure how I will feel when I walk in the door next year and don’t see their faces. However, I can only hope that I will have many more classes of students that I consider “my kids”.

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Track & Golf Season – How to Keep Teaching When Your Class is Missing

In a small school, the 4th quarter can be very frustrating as an educator. I’ve heard some teachers say that they plan to get whatever the need to get done by the beginning of April, otherwise, it will never get taught! Many students are involved in track, golf, and other activities that force them to be out of school quite a bit. This makes it extremely hard as an educator to teach these kids! As we all know, having a kid in that seat is the first challenge in the task of teaching.

To combat this – I have worked for the past few years on some activities my classes can do even if they are not in the classroom. Many people have done this by creating a flipped classroom. With my school not being 1-to-1, I didn’t think this was the best option. Additionally, while at a track meet, some kids might not have wi-fi to connect to! However, they can all bring a single sheet of paper (I hope!). The idea of creating these single sheets of paper was not my original creation. I saw something very similar in my student teaching experience from my cooperating teacher. As educators, we are always trying to meet many different standards, while using best practices to do so. Some of those practices include: differentiating instruction, student-lead learning, and teaching life skills. I believe these lessons do all three.

For a few of my spring-time units, I created what I call task-boards. These boards are divided into 9 sections, and have 8 category headings (I think you might recognize some of these):

  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal
  • Linguistic
  • Mathematical
  • Natural
  • Kinesthetic
  • Artistic
  • Musical

You might have noticed that these are also categories used when talking about learning styles or multiple intelligences. If you are interested in reading more about that, click here for some information. I was hoping to include these in order to try to hit that first practice – differentiating instruction. The students are able to select a pre-determined number of the categories to complete a task in. I created a task in each category that would help to learn the information from this unit. I also add the center square that is a student choice – just in case the kids have better ideas than I did (which happens more than I like to admit!). I have put pictures of and links to two examples of my task boards here.

Respiratory Task Board

Respiratory Unit Picture

 

 Sound & light board

sound and light board

I usually give the kids about a day per task I expect them to complete. They work independently, and as they complete tasks, they turn them in and I sign their task board. This way, they have a record of what they have done, and know how many tasks they have left. This allows them to use those time-management skills, and plan ahead for the rest of their allotted time!

I have used this for a few years now, and LOVE IT! The students also appreciate knowing what they have for make-up work long before they must miss class. I hope that you can use these ideas to help teach your class when they are not there!

Do you have any great ideas for dealing with multiple absences in the springtime? Please share!!