Entries Tagged 'For Teachers, By Teachers' ↓

It’s about more than winning

Guest blog by Derrick Calloway

Social Studies Teacher, Avery County HS, NC

I am the head wrestling coach at ACHS. This season one of my wrestlers is ranked number one in the state. At one of our recent meets the opposing coach told me that a boy with autism would be up against our number-one-ranked wrestler.

Before my wrestler took the mat that evening, I told him about his opponent, but I didn’t coach him in any other way. I just told him what the other coach told me. Upon taking the mat, my wrestler looked focused and ready to wrestle.

None of us (the crowd, the teams and coaches) knew that we were in for an amazing demonstration of humility and generosity. My wrestler, who could have pinned his opponent in the first thirty seconds, made the match last the entire bout. He made some offensive moves, but he also made it look like his opponent was making good offensive moves, too. At one point, he even let the opponent begin to pin him. Being humble in his athletic ability and being generous with his “mistakes,” my wrestler ended up winning by a single point.

The smile on the happy yet exhausted autistic opponent was priceless. My wrestler hugged his opponent after the match. Everyone was clapping and cheering.

Later, when I asked my wrestler why he chose to wrestle that way, he said, “Sometimes we all need some encouraging. I win a lot and it feels good. I wanted him to know what it feels like to have your hard work pay off.” I smiled and patted him on the back.

This High school student looked past just competing to win. He helped another human being, and he inspired all who were in attendance. This was a beautiful display of understanding, imagination, humility and generosity.

No nickels or dimes, just pennies

Guest Blog by Brent Lance

Science and math teacher, Hiawassee GA

It’s easy to “catch” students being generous this time of year (close to Thanksgiving and Christmas). But I am witnessing something that demonstrates this virtue beyond what I expected.

Our high school created a class competition called “Pennies for Presents.” Each grade level has a 5-gallon water jug, placed on the stage in the cafeteria during lunch periods.

Each team gets 1 point per penny in its jug, and it loses points for any coins that are not pennies. This is how the penalty works — if a freshman places a quarter in the seniors’ jug, the seniors lose 25 points. In the end, the team with the most points will receive a pizza party and helps wrap presents for needy children, purchased with the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

It has been exciting to see kids competing this way. Most of the jugs were filled by Thanksgiving break. Students were excited to compete against the other classes in a way that helped needy children.

Many told me they were hoping to win so they could wrap the presents. They said they had never wrapped presents for other kids, and it would help them experience the “giving” side of the holiday.

Our principal enhanced the excitement by offering to donate $500 worth of pennies to the winning team.

The overall winner will be announced a week before we get out for Christmas break. I estimate that this fundraiser has had over 75% student participation between October and the first week in December. The students showed tremendous generosity as did our principal. We have experienced how this kind of generosity and teamwork make the world a better place for everyone.

A feat of engineering — and more

Guest Blog by Andrew VunCannon

East Mecklenburg High School, NC

My school has an academy of engineering. Each year the engineering classes complete a project to better the school or to improve the quality of life for the students.

A couple years ago the engineering class decided to invent something to help Brian one of our special needs students, who is beloved throughout the school. Brian was born with a condition known as arthrogryposis or amyloplasia. This condition prevents him from being able to properly use his shoulders or bend his elbows. Therefore, it is impossible for him to perform many everyday functions that we take for granted.

The engineering class project focused on inventing a spoon that Brian could use to feed himself. Each group submitted a design and sketches for a spoon that would allow someone who could not use their arms to lift food from the plate to their mouth. After every group submitted their plan, the class chose the most feasible design and built a prototype of Brian’s spoon.

With the help of community members, the spoon was manufactured in aluminum. An attorney alumnus has now submitted the plans for patent.

Entrepreneurial imagination

Guest blog by Melvin Digh

Special Education Teacher, R-S Central High School, Rutherford County, NC

This school year started like every other, except for one thing. I made my traditional beginning-of-the-year trip to the school supply closet to grab some supplies, knowing that some of my students lack basic school supplies. Unlike previous years, however, I was shocked to find bare shelves. There were no notebooks or pencils, and copy paper was scarce. Disappointed, I shrugged and planned a trip to Staples.

It wasn’t until later in the school year that I thought about this inconvenience. One of my students came into my room during my planning period, and asked if I would come down to the art room. Unsure of what I would find, I agreed and followed her down the hall.

When I got there, I was surprised to see wooden school desks painted with precision and detail. My student, beaming, said she did the one displaying the Tinker Bell design. I was surprised at how nice the desks looked, especially since I knew they had been in storage for a long time. I asked the art teacher what her plans were, and I was surprised by the answer.

Art students had been hit hard by the supply cuts, so they were unable to do some of the projects they wanted to do. I thought back to that day in the supply closet. I never thought about how the bare supply closet would affect an art class.

So students took orders for custom desk designs, and they sold them to buy their art supplies for the year. Inspired by their imagination and creativity, I placed an order for a custom-made desk for my daughter.

Our local newspaper learned of the students’ idea, too. A local reporter wrote an article, which resulted in so many orders that the students had to work after school to fill them.

When all the work was finished, the art class sold every desk and raised enough money to buy materials for their other projects. I’m proud to be a part of a group that used imagination and creativity to take themselves where they want to be.

New student welcomed by others

Guest Blog by Mary Prevatte

K-4 Special Education Teacher, Robeson County, NC

Several months ago my school admitted a new first-grade student who rocked our world. I will refer to him as Manny. He is a deaf boy with behavior problems. When he arrived we could not communicate with him because neither he nor we knew American Sign Language.

But students and staff showed a great deal of understanding and generosity toward Manny. The staff joined together to provide him with personal necessities like a comb, tooth brush, tooth paste, and clothing. The students showed understanding by accepting Manny and overlooking some of his behaviors. They are also learning sign language so they can communicate with him.

Furthermore, Manny’s teacher volunteered to move to 2nd grade to be his teacher next year, since she knows some sign language.

Accepting a challenge, getting help

Guest blog by Natasha Berry
Middle School Math & Science Teacher
Cabarrus County, NC

With the start of the 2012-2013 school year, our district started assigning students in the Program for Academic and Career Exploration (PACE) to regular classroom settings for science and social studies. While I am usually open to changes that benefit students, I was skeptical about this one. I wondered if I had the ability to properly educate students with intellectual deficits and learning disabilities.

Despite my hesitations, I accepted the challenge when the principal asked me if I would host five young men who needed to be in a regular science class. At first, I didn’t know how far I could push the boys without going too far. Their abilities were far different from what I was used to.

After struggling for a few weeks, I sought advice from the PACE coordinator. I needed to find ways to tailor my lessons to the needs of these boys. She helped me understand some of the techniques I could use to help them learn what we were studying in class. With a little imagination, my teacher assistant and I modified lessons and materials. It seemed that we were starting to provide more opportunities for these five to learn what we were studying.

I had been presented a challenge I could not tackle on my own. I was humbled by all the assistance others were willing to provide. I also observed a transformation in the other students, too. It was remarkable to see how these five opened up to their classmates. And it was gratifying to see the other students helping them whenever they could. Their generosity rekindled a fire within me to strive to be a better person.

An opportunity to serve

Guest Blog By Bryn McSwain

Special Education Teacher, Eugene Ashley HS, Wilmington, NC

Each year our school hosts a Relay for Life event that raises awareness and money for cancer research. It’s an all night walk-a-thon, featuring people who have earned sponsorship money for every lap they walk. This event has successfully raised awareness and money, but it has benefits for my students that others rarely see.

Relay for Life has become quite an event for our students. Clubs and teams engage in a friendly competition to see who can raise the most funds. The Exceptional Children’s Department has made it an opportunity for student growth through service to others. Each year, without fail, the young men in my Intensive Behavioral Support (IBS) class have put forth a beautiful display of volunteering.

I sometimes struggle to get my IBS students to realize the world is full of opportunities that are not apparent. They just have to imagine and go for them. Volunteering for Relay for Life is a hands-on example.

The limited mobility EC students make colorful signage promoting the event. These get posted throughout the school and community. They also make some of the “illuminata,” that light the track after the sun goes down. Even though my IBS kids struggle in the traditional school setting, they flourish when their efforts are focused on something more tangible than English or Algebra. Over the years I have watched my students do whatever needs to be done.

Our department uses the relay as a way to spark changes in our students’ behavior and attitudes. Service to others gives them an opportunity to grow in a positive direction. Classroom lessons often touch on generosity and humility, but it is volunteering for Relay for Life event, that enables my “at risk” students get to serve the larger circle of humanity.

Humility improves results

Guest blog by Rob Jutras

Education Consultant

This book’s presentation of the 6 Virtues has opened new levels of understanding for me. When I think about my interactions with teachers and their interactions with students and their content, I now look through a new set of lenses. The biggest differences are in my new views on understanding and humility.

In my work I am regarded as an expert on matters of instruction and education. When I exercise my humility (with my new understanding), I feel a difference in how I am perceived by my teacher-clients.  Many days I have been humbled by the care I witness, and by the preparation teachers put into the lessons we do in my training sessions. I am now coaching teachers in a different way.

Take for example, Franklin High School in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). This is a tough school with dedicated teachers. I enter as a complete stranger with a set of credentials that nobody really cares about. All they know is they work really hard, which is rarely recognized by “the experts” that are hired to support teaching and learning. I started working with them in January and have been back to their school 11 times.

In January, I was re-reading TSVOTEP and I kept getting drawn to humility. I decided to purposefully use the words “humility” and “humbled” when I addressed them in regards to their work.

I have been coaching teachers for almost 11 years in some form or another, but this particular school responds differently. I have received dozens of thank you notes, invitations to family dinners while I am in LA, and even a few gifts. Why are they responding differently? Is it a unique skill set, or is it approaching them with a newly discovered understanding of humility? I truly am humbled by their hard work, I am not sure that I was when I started.

A little bit of happiness

Guest Blog by Vicki Davis

NC Assistant Principal

There is a young lady at our middle school who is terminally ill with Cystic Fibrosis.   Last year, she was enrolled as a sixth grader and was excited to be in school. She is a bright student who has many friends. About October of last year, she became too weak to attend school. Her failing health (and the fact that schools are germ factories) led to her receiving home bound services.

Many of her classmates missed her and wanted to do something special for her. Because the parents and the girl have spent many years battling this disease, their financial resources were stretched thin. As the holidays approached, her friends knew this could be her last Christmas, and they wanted to make it special.

They went to the administration with the idea of holding a 5K Run-Walk in the student’s honor. With help from teachers, they worked out a $5 entry fee and a sponsorship system for local businesses. They mapped out a course for those who wanted to run and a different course for those who wanted to walk. On the day of the race, the students were dressed in pink (the student’s favorite color) and the energy in the building was high.

When the race was over and the money was counted, the student-organizers went to a local business and purchased a life-sized play house to be delivered to their classmate on Christmas morning. They delivered a $2,500 check to the family, to help cover medical expenses, and they delivered a handmade card from every student and teacher.

This is an example of how a student body came together to make a bad situation better. This act of generosity helped our students come to grips with the fact that they could not cure the medical issues of their classmate, but they could bring a little bit of happiness into her life.

Students support each other

Guest blog by Erica Sawyer

High School Math Teacher
Robbinsville High School, NC

Our school has a student organization called Friends of the Athletes, where students partner with Special Olympics athletes. It is one of the largest organizations in school. Students complete an application and interview in August. If accepted, they work diligently on service projects and fundraisers to prepare for Special Olympics events in spring.

At the beginning of this year, we held Black Knight Pride Day. Students watched videos showing the end of the past year activities. Then we had an ice cream party.  One of the videos showed last year’s Special Olympics.

Prior to watching the video, Friends of the Athletes performed a skit to illustrate the importance of their organization. They modeled what it looks like for young people to accept and support each other. It required imagination and courage for these students to stand up for a cause and to act out examples.

Following the skit, students watched a video from last year’s NC Special Olympics. It was also produced by students. While watching the video, I glanced around the auditorium to see the students’ expressions and reactions.  All were watching intently.

Afterwards, while socializing at the ice cream celebration, several students approached the Special Olympics athletes and congratulated them on doing well in their events.

Since Black Knight Pride Day, I have noticed more generosity among students. One example is our wrestling team, which includes a student with autism. After his first match, the entire gym gave him a standing ovation. For days following the match, students congratulated him on what a good job he did because our students support each other.