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Teacher War Stories

These stories are more anecdotal than tips. We have our teachers share odd school situations and how they were handled to provide you with some ideas.

Teaching Idea

"Work Mats"
Meenal Parikh: Elementary ESL Teacher

"Since I work with students in a pull-out setting, I only have them for a half-hour a day. They struggle with spelling even basic words and were constantly asking me to spell things out for them. The word wall wasn't working as nobody bothered to look up there. So instead, I took a large sheet of construction paper. I had them draw a self portrait in the middle, and around it I printed out lists of basic words they would need quick access to. For example, I had a list of color words, number words, days and months of the year, punctuation marks, along with right vs. left for my primary students. On the back, I printed out an alphabetical list of commonly misspelled words. I left space for them to add more if needed. And, I included a sample of the alphabet (print or cursive depending on grade). Finally, I laminated these and gave them to them at the end of the year to keep. These were great because they were portable and could be used in any setting. You could customize them for math if you'd like. Or have your students could pick and choose what they want to include on these."

Teaching Idea

Working With ADHD
Diane, Inclusion Teacher: Rochester, NY

"As school was about to begin, I was informed that I would be working with a child who had ADHD, was highly intelligent, did very little work in the classroom last year, wandered around the classroom because he was extremely nervous, was on medication to control his behavior, had parents who were about to get a divorce, was seeing a psychologist, and was attached to his mother to a point of screaming each morning when she brought him to school. This “war story” began long before I met this child. My first strategy was to meet the parents. They were desperate and wanted to be as cooperative as possible. He was entering the first grade and they knew the curriculum was extensive. I wanted to meet the child before school started to afford the child some comfort level in knowing where he was going and who I was. He was a fragile child, dark circles under his eyes and unable to sit when we spoke. Our first weeks of school were very rough . He needed to know where I was at all times and transferred his dependency from mom to me. I had 23 other students in the room. There were times when he needed to hold on to my skirt or my sleeve as I taught. He needed security and I just continued teaching as he held on. I did not neglect the other students. Each one had their needs too. Somehow they believed that I cared for each of them. I did. As weeks turned into months, this child began to break from me and began to do his work. He received good grades. This had a high price. . . constant reassurance that he could do the work, a parent to help him, a child to remind him about his work. Everyone played a part. There were good days and bad days, but there wasn’t a day that he didn’t feel that he was loved. Just when progress was being made, the doctor changed his medication and we were back at square one. He could not adjust and he became unruly. I would find him under a table because he couldn’t sit in a chair. The one bright spot was that he now trusted me and listened when I spoke to him. We worked through this for at least a month. He began to adjust again. He did a good job with his work. His mother began to ask how I got him to work. I set goals. I set parameters. He had choices. He learned to make good choices. There were consequences. I learned a lot that year. It was a year that taught me never to give up on a child."

Teaching Idea

Mandated Reporting
Caroline, Special Education Teacher: Newark, New Jersey

"For valid reasons, I reported one of my students" families to Child Protective Services (CPS), The family was known to lie, prone to violence and was known to have guns and knives at home. After the child was removed, the family burst into my school building yelling "Where's Caroline? We're gonna kill her!" My principal dialed 911 and all was okay. What I would do differently is make sure that the prinicipal and the superintendent and all relevant personnel were aware of the situation before hand that safety precautions were in place."

Teaching Idea

The System Can Help
Jackie, Special Education Teacher: Brooklyn, NY

"One of my families had given birth to a completely normal child to see him severely neurologically damaged as a result of a car accident at the age of 7 months old. The mom brought him to special education pre-school and took off gung-ho with the program. She became pregnant again. Toward the end of the pregnancy, she appeared in my room saying "We just came from Dr. X and he said that Thomas will be a vegetable for the rest of his life. So my question if this: What's my life going to be like?" With this, she dissolved into the grief she had so stoically denied for so long. If I look back at this in retrospect, I would have insisted on counseling for all parents coming into the system from day one."

Teaching Idea

"Actions That Take Courage"
Kathryn Toro: 4th Grade Teacher

"I had a sexual harassment incident in my class this week. Instead of just reprimanding the students involved, I decided to teach about choices and actions that take courage. I explained to them how choices are truly a gift and we can make positive and negative choices. Then, using a book called "Lists to Live By," we discussed the varying choices that could have been made. By the end of the lesson, I had the entire story unfolded, because they fed directly into the story line and uncovered themselves!"

Next 5 Teacher War Stories

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