Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Teach Math Like Its Never Been Taught Before

March 15, 2018


When you begin teaching your 5th or 6th Grade Math class, you often start with a high dose of ego.

You tell yourself that you can easily set any struggling student right by carefully and clearly explaining the skills and processes involved.

And then reality sinks in. It’s clearly not as easy as that.

There is a reason why your struggling students have continued to struggle throughout their first 5 or so years of schooling. It’s not the strength of the teachers they’ve encountered, because chances are, there have been some extremely adept teachers who have used tried and true methods for helping those student bridge the ever widening gaps.

Many teachers have expressed a reluctance of teaching 5th sand 6th Grade Math due to the introduction of concepts and skills which many Primary teachers find difficult. In truth, the major test of a 5th or 6th Grade teacher is not the skills itself, but rather the challenge of helping students learn skills they haven’t been able to grasp from their talented and competent previous teachers.

In order to cut through, teachers are therefore required to change things up. To employ slightly different ways of teaching the same skill. The following are some adjustments that work for me.

  1. Integrate the Skill in a Game – Kids love winning and try to avoid losing at all cost. Game play provides an incentive for children to learn skills that they may have ordinarily have claimed was too difficult. Dice games are the best because it provides a randomness that allows weaker students to often prevail over stronger students. I am constantly blown away by how effective game play is to break through to kids who usually struggle with Math.
  2. Change the wording – The wording of Math is so scientific and technical. Does it have to be? Absolutely not. So change it up. Instead of numerator and denominator, I use top bunk and bottom bunk. It helps. It doesn’t mean I will never teach them the right terminology, it just means I am more focused on the skill that the wording which can often intimidate.
  3. Reinforce the Objectives of Math – There is a reason why Math was invented and kids need to know that to be able to relate to it. I tell my students Math was invented for 2 main purposes. Firstly, to save us time. So instead of having to add 7 +7 a total of 8 times, I can just apply the sum 7×8, which is much quicker and easier. And secondly, for fairness. When I am dividing a birthday cake, everyone wants an equal sized piece. It turns out that children deeply value fairness and relate to the idea of resorting to shortcuts. Why not then explain how the skill of the day fits into one or both of the above categories?
  4. Bite Sized Pieces – I can’t tell you how many students I have confronted in the upper years who weren’t able to read time from an analogue clock. The big mistake, as I eluded to earlier, is to think that a careful and patient demonstration of what the big and little hands tell us will work. Again, you can bet that plenty of highly competent teachers have tried without success. My strategy is to break up the skill into small, bite-sized pieces. I tell them to ignore the hour hand. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Just focus on the minute hand. The next step is to show them the function of the minute hand and not move on until they get it. Only then do I introduce the hour hand. The problem that I have found is that reading an analogue clock involves a level of multitasking which kids (boys especially) find very intimidating. Take it slowly. One skill at a time. They respond better to that.
  5. Use What They Know – Students tend to do much better with currency than decimals. This is quite ironic, as decimals and currency are essentially the same thing. I tell all my students who struggle with decimals to pretend that 0.75 for example, is 75 cents. It helps! Math professors would be irate if they found out I was doing this. They would remind me that students will become unstuck when they encounter a decimal like 0.751, which doesn’t work with the currency technique. So what! Once I have taught them through currency their confidence levels are so high, I have found they are quite receptive to learning the differences that exist between decimals and money.

By the time your students have reached 5th Grade, they already have a sense for whether they like a subject and whether they are proficient at it. It’s so hard to turn the unconfident and unenthusiastic learners around.

But don’t give up. Just do it differently.


Click on the link to read A Maths Quiz That Manages to be Racist and Sexist

Click on the link to read Introducing the 5-Year-Old Math Genius (Video)

Click on the link to read Parents Struggle with Modern Day Math Questions

Click on the link to read Teachers Deserve Blame for Maths Disaster


Good Teachers Are Prepared to Stuff Up

March 6, 2018


So a science teacher causes a fire in the name of a fairly interesting looking scientific demonstration.

The fire department was called and it would have been an utterly humiliating experience for teacher and school alike (not to mention a costly one).

I hope his boss does something very counter intuitive and  congratulates him on his lesson. It’s so easy to conduct a boring, safe and incident free science lesson. Many science teachers go for that option only to find out that their class has lost interest and turned to their mobile phones to pass the time.

All teachers make mistakes, but the good ones are prepared to make them in order to teach in an engaging and enlightening way.

I hope he tried the very same experiment all over again the very next day!


Click on the link to read Teacher Installs Bike Peddles at Student Desks

Click on the link to read How to Begin a Successful Lesson

Click on the link to read Why are So Many Teaching PD’s Dull?

Click on the link to read Teacher Praised after Stripping in Front of Her Students

Trump’s Fake News Awards and Its Implications in the Classroom

January 18, 2018

The Trump fake news award sideshow has come and gone, and depending what camp you’re in it was either fabulous or a further indication of the man’s deep psychological issues.

Teachers are now more than ever encouraged to teach analysis of news in the classroom. Teachers are given the job of helping their students to identify fake news and find bias where it exists.

But this is a very problematic area for teachers.

Teachers are not allowed to promote or even subtly convey their own political allegiances. This presents a difficulty. Usually the fine line between fact and fakery is in the eye of the beholder. Someone of the right will not see the bias in a right leaning news story and vice versa.

I believe that whilst it is very important that our students have the tools to identify bias and fake news, we should refrain from pointing out concrete examples.

Give them the skills, but resist at all costs in taking on our own personal political beliefs.


Click on the link to read The Teacher Golden Globes

Click on the link to read Lawmakers Are Trying to Make School an Awful Experience for Kids

Click on the link to read Classroom Toilet Rules Turns Schools Into Prisons

Click on the link to read Hands Up if You Don’t Like Putting Your Hands Up

Explaining Hawaii to Young Children

January 14, 2018


Twitter is awash with jokes about Hawaii and the missile false alarm.

One can understand why. When a person tries to regroup from a near trauma, they go to comedy to help them manage the shock.

But there is one section of the population that wont want to make light of this episode – young children. The kind that I teach in Primary school.

They wont get the humor and will be perplexed (and often wounded) by the story if it isn’t explained in a discrete and careful manner. The worst thing in the world a parent could do is make light of it or laugh it off. That wont work for children.

The best way to deal with it is to explain that sometimes adults believe things that make no sense. That a missile is never going to hit Hawaii and adults were so surprised by the message that they lost all common sense.

But isn’t that lying?

I feel that this white lie is imperative. Children must have it reinforced that their homes are not going to be pelted with missiles. Not now. Not ever.

Jokes will enable adults to move on.

I worry about the children.


Click on the link to read The Death of a Student

Click on the link to read Explaining the Paris Tragedy to Young Children

Click on the link to read Some Kids Are So Brave! (Video)

Click on the link to read Guess What This Map Represents

The Teacher Golden Globes

January 8, 2018

The nominations are in for the following awards:


Most Discrete Check of Facebook During a Lesson

Most Overdone Hanging Classroom Display

Best Aide in a Slightly More than Supportive Role

The Chiropractic Award for Longest Mat Session

Best Sledge Against a Photocopier with a Paper Jam

Most Food Ingested in a 2-Minute Lunch Break

Best Job of Living Just Above the Poverty Line

Acting award for the Teacher who Best Pretends to be Awake During a Professional Development Session

Most Coffee Consumed During a School Day

Biggest Purchase of Stationery by a Teacher Using Their Own Money

Most Repetition of a Basic Instruction

Most Creative Use of the 1-Metre Ruler



Click on the link to read Lawmakers Are Trying to Make School an Awful Experience for Kids

Click on the link to read Classroom Toilet Rules Turns Schools Into Prisons

Click on the link to read Hands Up if You Don’t Like Putting Your Hands Up

Click on the link to read Every Good Teacher Should be Allowed to Make a Mistake

Lawmakers Are Trying to Make School an Awful Experience for Kids

January 7, 2018

I cannot believe how stupid some policy makers are. Banning students from having best friends? Really?

I thought schools were supposed to prepare children for the real world.

Imagine if schools banned teachers from mixing with their favourite colleagues! Because don’t think for a second that teachers don’t operate in cliques just like their students do. Our students see double standards from a mile away, and any rule which prevents them from doing normal, everyday things that their teachers do, irks them no end.

The way to look after isolated and lonely students is not to save them by draconian laws that reduce the school experience for others. It is to invest as teachers in building their self-esteem and promoting them to the rest of the school community. You don’t need to impose bans to help these students. You just need to care enough about them to help them find their place in the school.


This idea sucks:

Members of the royal family aren’t often told what they can and can’t do. But just a few days into his first year of school, 4-year-old Prince George already faces a mandate: No best friends allowed.

Thomas’s Battersea, the school George attends, bans kids from having best friends, Marie Claire reports. Instead, teachers encourage all students to form bonds with one another to avoid creating feelings of exclusions among those without best friends.

Jane Moore, a parent whose child attends the school, explained the idea on a recent episode of the British talk show “Loose Women.” “There’s a policy,” she said, “that if your child is having a party — unless every child is invited — you don’t give out the invites in class.”

The trend of banning best friends has been growing for several years, and it’s spread beyond European borders to American schools as well.


Click on the link to read Classroom Toilet Rules Turns Schools Into Prisons

Click on the link to read Hands Up if You Don’t Like Putting Your Hands Up

Click on the link to read Every Good Teacher Should be Allowed to Make a Mistake

Click on the link to read Girls Banned From Running at Sporting Events

Why Teaching High School is a Career Mistake

January 3, 2018


If you are considering a career in teaching, and you’re weighing up between Primary and High School, I strongly urge you to choose Primary school.

The following are my reasons why:


1. Debunking the Myth – Most High School teachers say they chose the upper years because they felt the older kids would provide them with a greater level of sophistication, and the communication would therefore be more interesting and thoughtful. The implication with this theory is that the younger kids are babies and their teachers have to dumb everything down. This is patently false. I am constantly blown away by my students. They have great ideas, engage in wonderfully rich conversations and don’t require that condescending sing-song “baby talk” rubbish that a lot of teachers unsuccessfully employ.

2. Primary Teachers are Not Dumb – “You only chose Primary Teaching because your literacy and numeracy levels don’t extend past 6th Grade.” High School teachers seem to proffer this view, and sometimes they are right. But for the most part, Primary teachers chose to teach younger children after careful consideration.

3. Consistency –   One grade, all day for the entire year. That is the formula for success. Whilst a high school teacher tends to have multiple classes on their books, a Primary Teacher usually has one class that they can nurture and concentrate on. This makes progress much easier and gives the teacher enormous prominence in a student’s life.

4. They Can Change – The trick with teaching is to influence your students to make good decisions before the bad habits have been set in concrete. The problem with High School teachers is that it is often too late to change their students’ skill levels and attitude issues. They are already too far behind or too resistant to change.  Primary school students are far more malleable. You can turn them around and be the catalyst for improved results educationally, socially and behaviourally.

5. More Variety – High School teachers are forced to select one or two subjects only. That’s it for them. This can be get quite dry and after a few years, can become extremely repetitious. Primary School teachers teach everything. In a given day I can be teaching Maths, English, Science, Geography, History and Art. All with the same students! This variety is a wonderful thing for teachers who care more about helping children than what subject they are most attached to.

6. Laughter – The best classrooms are filled with laughter. High School classrooms with laughter often owes its amusement to a negative trigger such as sarcasm or teasing. Students are more likely to laugh at a teacher that with her at High School level. At Primary School level, good, clean, innocent humor is a must! The students always seem up for it and it can do wonders for both class and teacher.


So, my advice to all prospective High School teachers is to quickly make the switch before it’s too late.


Click on the link to read Funny Things Students Do and Say

Click on the link to read Dumb Politicians Shouldn’t be Calling Teachers “Dumb”

Click on the link to read The Courageous Valedictorian

Click on the link to read Meet the School They Call “Stinky School”

Teachers Want to be Liked

August 24, 2017


In the quest to gain control of their class and appear impenetrable teachers can seem cold and somewhat removed.

In reality, this is far from who they really are.

Teachers are vulnerable, caring and want nothing more than to help their students achieve in every aspect of their lives.

Deep down we desperately want our students to like us.



Click on the link to read What are We Doing to Protect Our Teachers?

Click on the link to read The Gift of Teaching and the Other Gifts that Come With It

Click on the link to read Add Years to Prison Sentences for Hitting a Teacher

Click on the link to read Teachers Want to Be Liked (Video)

Click on the link to read The Epidemic that is Teacher Bullying

Teacher Does Lesson Plans While Giving Birth

May 3, 2017

I dislike lesson plans immensely. I understand the value of it, yet it remains one of my least favourite aspects of the job. This teacher wins the medal for completing hers at a time when most would have it as the last thing on their mind:


Any woman who gives birth deserves a medal, all the chocolate in the world and a whole heap of praise, but a mother from Texas has truly proved that she’s superwoman – by doing her lesson planning while in labor.

Jennifer Pope, who gave birth to a baby girl last month, is the internet’s new favourite person after a picture of her working hard in the hospital ward was uploaded to social media. Photographer Andrea McDonald caught the candid picture of Pope working from her bed, which she then uploaded to Facebook. She captioned the snap:

“No, she is not doing her taxes. Those papers would be her lesson plans her husband is about to go drop off with her sub in the parking lot.

“Also, next week is Teacher Appreciation Week here in Texas. Spoil them rotten because even in labor, they care. No lie, she gave birth less than an hour later.

“This post is about showing the dedication of a teacher (I was one myself for many years). Seriously, be kind or scroll down.”

Pope, who has worked as a teacher for over 10 years and has three older children, told Huffington Post that she wants her picture to inspire other women to know that they can be parents and have careers.

“Being a working mom is hard ― like really hard,” said Pope. “But, it’s also so rewarding and fulfilling. I can’t imagine myself in any other profession.”

She added that she hopes the picture will help illustrate teachers’ dedication to their job and their students: “To many ― perhaps all ― of us, this is so much more than a job. It’s an all-encompassing passion.”


Click on the link to read The Letter that Brought a Teacher to Tears

Click on the link to read Students Care About Caring Teachers

Click on the link to read The Inspiring Things Teachers Often Do for Their Students

Click on the link to read Teacher Pens Moving Letter to Autistic Student

Click on the link to read Music Teacher Makes History at the Superbowl

The Letter that Brought a Teacher to Tears

April 27, 2017

It’s moments like these that gives us perspective for the hard times:


Markus left the incredibly heartwarming note on his teacher, Mr. KJ’s desk, with the proud mentor then deciding to share it on Facebook group ‘Love What Matters’.

Mr. J was obviously taken aback by the compliments in the letter and shared it with the world.

“So I walked in the classroom and found this letter on the desk that one of my kids wrote me and…I tried so hard not to tear up,” he wrote online.


Click on the link to read Students Care About Caring Teachers

Click on the link to read The Inspiring Things Teachers Often Do for Their Students

Click on the link to read Teacher Pens Moving Letter to Autistic Student

Click on the link to read Music Teacher Makes History at the Superbowl

Click on the link to read A Profession that Truly Cares

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