Becoming a REAL Teacher

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“It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept."  -The Velveteen Rabbit

When my teaching career began, my brain was full of idealism, brimming with dreams about how effective I would be, how I would influence kids and their families and MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE!!! Well, not unlike the Velveteen Rabbit, my journey was a bit precarious, but the journey was worth it. Let me explain.

It was the fall of 1987, and I was about to embark upon my first teaching assignment. The first day I stood in front of a classroom of 22 fourth graders and introduced myself as “Mr. Lutz, their fourth grade teacher,” little did I realize at that moment how unprepared I was. Sure, I had pored through all my teacher editions and written copious lesson plans in anticipation that my eager young scholars would be begging me to offer them daily golden nuggets of knowledge. The first important step, as I had been told repeatedly in college, was to get the kids writing. So, I did. After the usual first-day-of-school-getting-to-know-you stuff was out of the way, I instructed every student to pull out their journals and write their first entry. I pulled out my journal, too, because MODELING is so important. I was taught that if you write with your kids, they will feel less inhibited. They will value writing more because they can tell that I value it. I discussed a little bit about what I thought I would write about to model HOW to think about journal writing. I was on a roll! The kids seemed receptive with their smiling facings nodding how well they understood and how they just couldn’t wait to put pen to paper and reveal their innermost joys from the previous summer.

I had directed my attention to my own journal after feeling exhilaratingly satisfied with how well I had introduced our journal activity. I suppose I am glad that I didn’t notice immediately that only two or three of my fourth graders had actually started to write something in their journals. After a couple of minutes, I did the teachery thing by asking how things were going.

Crickets…

That’s when it hit me like an intercontinental ballistic missile to my gut... these kids had absolutely no idea what they were doing (and neither did I)!

I hate to admit it, but I floundered for years, trying to find the best way to teach kids reading and writing, knowing in my heart that all of the other subjects I was teaching them were dependent on these two core areas. I was failing, and I knew it, and I hated it. I changed schools and grade levels twice during those first hard years. I kept going to lower and lower grade level assignments in search of answers—answers for why my students couldn’t write a complete sentence off the cuff, why they didn’t seem to notice shifts in tense or issues with subject-verb agreement. And creative writing??? Really??? I finally ended up in a combined classroom of first and second graders. That was where I started to understand that kids were coming to school with little to no background knowledge or schema about the world of school. Many of them had never had a parent read to them past the age of three. Most of them had learned poor language habits by the time they hit Kindergarten. Writing experiences had been limited to learning how to form the letters of the alphabet. They had almost no awareness of words or the sounds that composed them. The list went on and on and on.

And then one day, I stumbled upon Shurley English, quite by accident. It was like waking up first thing in the morning after a soul-refreshing night’s sleep. In literally less than four weeks, I had first and second graders who could read a sentence aloud, tell me the subject and verb of the sentence, tell me the adverbs that were modifying the verb, tell me the adjectives that were modifying the nouns, and tell me if the sentence was a statement or a question. As the program unfolded and I followed the teaching script as if it were my bible, my little learners were identifying prepositional phrases in sentences. When I was a student in school, I didn’t learn how to do that until about the sixth grade!

When I began teaching my primary kids about the various tenets of the language, such as singular and plural nouns and verbs, subject-verb agreement, and punctuation rules in the systematic, methodical, rhythmic way Shurley prescribes, every day became a joy to me because I had literally found the proverbial key to the Secret Garden. I was finally able to teach kids how to understand language the way I understood it. Not only was teaching becoming an even deeper passion of mine, I could tell that my students were loving it, too! Those days in the classroom were glorious days for me. Let’s see…how to describe it—have you ever studied magnets? If you have ever taught fourth grade, I know you have! I remember a fourth grade science experiment I did with my very first class back in the day. We sprinkled iron filings on white paper and observed how randomly the filings were arranged on the paper. There was no order, no pattern, nothing about their position on the page was organized. Then, we gently picked up the sheet and laid it on top of a polar magnet—one that has a north and south pole. Like magic, as we centered the random pile of the spilled filings on the page over the magnet, they immediately moved into a beautiful, almost artistic pattern of curves and arcs that with a bit of gentle vibrating of the page turned into what appeared to be almost a figure eight. We were all astounded!

What does this have to do with teaching Shurley English? Well, for me, having the privilege of teaching this curriculum was just as polarizing for my teaching as that magnet was for the iron filings! What was once chaotic, unpredictable, and just plain frustrating about teaching had transformed into a logical, systematic method of helping students become excellent writers and speakers. With the help of a curriculum that contained both the content my students needed and the methodology I needed, I was finally on the right road to becoming a real teacher.

So…how ‘bout it? Interested in becoming a REAL teacher? Remember, it doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time, but with a curriculum like Shurley English, you will be able to stay the course—and it is so worth it.

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David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.

 

He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.

Shurley English Best Practices: Self-Reflection and Evaluation

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As you wrap up the semester and give your students their final grades, I invite you to reflect on your own progress and growth as a Shurley English Teacher.  At the beginning of the school year, I always encourage Shurley English teachers to review these tips on how to become the "perfect" Shurley teacher.  Here's a quick recap:

1.  STICK TO THE SCRIPT as closely as possible.

2.  Create an atmosphere in your classroom where YOU & YOUR STUDENTS are willing to TAKE RISKS.

3.  GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO MAKE MISTAKES.

4. HAVE FUN & JUST BE YOU!

Now, I want you to take a few moments to reflect on how well you were able to implement these tips.

Consider these questions to help you get started:

*How well were you able to stick to the teaching script?  What was challenging about it? How was the teaching script helpful?

*Recall a time when you saw a student taking a risk during your lesson.  Also, recall a time when you realized YOU were taking a risk in the classroom!  What might you do differently in your classroom next year to help you and your students feel safe enough to take more academic risks?

*Jot down 10 mistakes you think you made throughout the school year.  (If you didn’t make that many mistakes, maybe consider taking a few more risks.)  ;)  After you jot them down, LAUGH and let them go!

*Describe a moment in your classroom when you felt like you were having honest fun by being your authentic self.  Remember that feeling and repeat again next school year!

 

Self-reflection is an important part to becoming the best teacher you can be. Take what you have learned and set goals. Do another self-reflection and set new goals. Remember...

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” -Einstein

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Kimberly Crady

Kimberly Crady is an adventurous woman with an immense love for life, learning, and teaching. After teaching in upper elementary classrooms for nearly 10 years, she joined the Shurley Team in 2005.  Kimberly has had the unique experience of teaching Shurley English lessons in all levels, Kindergarten-8th grade and training teachers across the United States.  Kimberly is a National Consultant and SEDA Teacher for Shurley Instructional Materials.

 

Kimberly’s passion for helping people and living a healthy lifestyle has led her to continue her education in the area of Health and Wellness.  She enjoys numerous outdoor activities from hiking and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains to paddle boarding in the ocean; although, these days you can find her practicing hot yoga in a Bikram Yoga studio. She also enjoys traveling abroad, live music, reading, and spending time with her favorite mutt, Lu.  Kimberly’s experience as a Certified Health & Wellness Coach and Teen Life Coach helps support her firm belief in teaching the whole person, especially in the classroom.

 

Writing Toolbox: The Correlative Conjunction

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Having the right tools in your writing toolbox can make all the difference when it comes time to revise a composition.  Do your students need a creative way to link ideas and show association? Then look no further than the correlative conjunction! First, let's look at this simple definition:

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Today, we will focus on connecting two nouns for the purpose of simplification. Remember, the reason for the correlation determines which pair of correlative conjunctions to use. Here are three examples to model for your students that will show them how to associate two ideas in a logical manner.

Either – or  can show choices.

The dog made a mess in the kitchen. The cat made a mess in the kitchen.

Either the dog or the cat made a mess in the kitchen.

 

Neither – nor  can show the absence of choices.

Maria cannot go to the game tonight. Tammy cannot go to the game tonight.

Neither Maria nor Tammy can go to the game tonight.

 

Both – and  can show a link between two words or phrases.

Henry will be here soon.  His big brother will be here soon.

Both Henry and his big brother will be here soon.

 

Don't forget to mention to your students that both sides of their sentence should be parallel in structure when using correlative conjunctions. Any pronouns or verbs used at the end of the sentence should agree with whatever is mentioned last.

 

As your students grow in their abilities to use correlative conjunctions effectively, they will show an increased level of maturity in their writing. This is a skill that they can take with them into their future college and career adventures!

 

EXTEND THE LESSON: Why not make this a group activity?!? Here's an idea to get you started.

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Cindy Goeden

Cindy Goeden has enjoyed being involved with Shurley English for the last sixteen of her twenty-six years in the field of education.  Working with various levels of students in elementary, junior, and high schools, in both the private and public arenas, Cindy surely is thankful for the providential day that she was introduced to Shurley English, which changed forever her approach to Language Arts instruction. That has led to her current job of having the joy of sharing about Shurley with other educators.  Her love of learning has prodded her to earn over two hundred and twenty hours, which includes two bachelor degrees in education.

 

Cindy currently lives with her husband, Donald, in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she enjoys puttering in her flowers, changing up her décor with the seasons, and occasionally getting out and traveling with Donald to either explore a new beach or view historic sights and gardens.