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Time-tested advice and captivating stories for the teacher in all of us
The hope of inspiring another generation, the need to give something back, the desire to share one's passion—these are some of the reasons people become teachers. They influence us in obvious ways—the kind grade-school teacher who helped you memorize your times tables or the demanding coach who pushed you to be the best you could be. They influence our lives in subtle ways, too—challenging us to discover ...
Time-tested advice and captivating stories for the teacher in all of us
The hope of inspiring another generation, the need to give something back, the desire to share one's passion—these are some of the reasons people become teachers. They influence us in obvious ways—the kind grade-school teacher who helped you memorize your times tables or the demanding coach who pushed you to be the best you could be. They influence our lives in subtle ways, too—challenging us to discover hidden talents, helping to mold us into productive members of society, and motivating us to view the world through different lenses.
You'll get a glimpse into the lives of dedicated teachers and share their struggles, triumphs, and passion for teaching. You'll delight in the recollections of students who celebrate and commemorate educators who not only inspired them, but ultimately changed their lives. And you're sure to pick up a new idea from the experts who share their proven techniques for conducting successful parent-teacher conferences, making a substitute teacher an invaluable member of your team, helping a struggling reader, and many other subjects that affect teachers in the trenches.
Celebrate the difference a teacher can make—celebrate The Ultimate Teacher.
The Soul of a Poet Award
By Donna Watson
Every year I bestow a unique award. I never plan to give it; I never know which student will earn it. I call it the Soul of a Poet Award. This award's inception began almost two decades ago, during student teaching.
As a student teacher, I found it difficult to reach struggling students, especially in the critical subject areas of reading and writing. Understandably, they feared taking risks or making mistakes in front of their more capable, and sometimes quick to taunt, classmates. Jake was one of my first challenging students. An underachiever who had been plunked inappropriately into a 'Gifted and Talented' fourth-grade class, Jake struggled daily to keep up with his precocious classmates. In a room overflowing with overanxious hand-raisers, Jake remained sullen and silent, until the day we picked up our pencils to pen a bit of poetry.
As I wrote the topic on the board, I remember thinking that this assignment might be a tough sell. 'Today we will write a single sentence using a metaphor to describe love.'
Not surprisingly, half of the class responded with a collective groan. They were, after all, nine- and ten-year-olds. Their ears perked up a bit upon learning that their responses and accompanying artwork would be submitted for possible publication in the local newspaper for Valentine's Day.
As I wandered around the room monitoring their work and commenting with a perfunctory 'Good job!' or 'Nice work!' I happened to glance down at Jake's paper.
'Love is peanut butter and jelly and all that makes me feel sticky and gooey inside.'
He cautiously glanced up at me. The words, penned in crayon, sprang out of a giant red heart. I stifled my first reaction. I had specifically stated that the words must be written in pencil. Jake, once again, neglected to follow directions. But I resisted the urge to admonish him for writing in crayon, especially on an assignment headed for the newspaper.
We shared a tentative smile. I had no idea that my next response would resound for years to come: 'Why Jake, I think you have the soul of a poet!'
Apparently the newspaper editors agreed, for when I opened the Valentine's Day issue, Jake's declaration of love burst right off the front page of the 'Features' section.
I finished student teaching not long afterward to begin my solo teaching journey, packing away more than just books and papers as I left.
I have found that through poetry writing and personal essays, students face fears, examine prejudices, and overcome personal obstacles. Annually, my students write poems about Martin Luther King, Jr., Ruby Bridges, Johnny Appleseed, favorite book characters, their families, and themselves. Children respond with gut-wrenching honesty and heartfelt integrity through writing. Even the shiest students scamper to the circle to share their individual thoughts.
Year after year, my Soul of a Poet Award is bestowed upon a most unlikely candidate. This past September, Mark rocketed into my second-grade classroom. Angry, defiant, torn from his father's home, his friends, and the only school he had ever attended, Mark opposed any form of structure. My numerous and previously effective behavior-management tricks folded as he systematically played his hand. Parent phone calls, trips to the principal's office, recess detention—nothing fazed Mark.
Bright but underachieving, Mark challenged authority at every turn. In my two decades of teaching, he held the dubious distinction as my most frustrating student. Slowly, very slowly, we established a tenuous bond. As the year progressed, Mark continued to press every nerve while simultaneously stealing my heart. Daily, he filled me with frustration and pride.
Writing seemed to allow Mark to release some of his anger and frustration in a healthier outlet. Over time, I noticed a gradual, positive shift in his behavior. When asked to write what was bothering him, Mark first just scratched the surface, but as the year went on, he placed his problems on paper rather than trying to solve them with inappropriate words or physical contact. Although I have witnessed this kind of constructive conversion with other difficult students, Mark's transformation encouraged and amazed me.
The bio-poem the students publish for open house at the end of the year remains my favorite. The format allows the students to expose their innermost thoughts and feelings. Every year I'm awestruck by the maturity some second-graders possess and project in their final poem about themselves. As Mark and the other students wrote, they asked me to spell words for their student dictionary. Mark asked for several words, each one more thought-provoking than the last. I told him I was anxious to hear his poem, knowing he had selected several 'hundred-dollar' adjectives.
We gathered in our circle to share our prized poems. Mark waved his poem in my face like a checkered flag at a NASCAR race. It seemed to torture him to wait his turn, but once he began to read, I understood his sense of urgency to share.
Mark's masterpiece was worth the wait:
By Mark, age 8
I touch God's heavenly hands.
I dream of thousands of books scattered everywhere.
I want my father and mother to be with me always.
I am Mark.
I hear the sun up in the sky.
I wonder if my dad will be with me always.
I live on planet Earth.
I am Mark, the pleasant young man I was born to be.
I see the moon light the sky.
I like when we get to go to school.
I fear my Nana's cat.
I am Mark, the generous young man I was created to be.
I pretend to be in the army.
I cry when somebody goes away.
I love my whole family.
I am Mark, the generous, adventurous American Boy I was created to be.
Mark's chestnut brown eyes sparkled as he savored my response: 'Mark, you have the soul of a poet!'
©2009. Donna Watson, Mark. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Ultimate Teacher by Todd Whitaker. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.
Teachers Who Inspire
The Soul of a Poet Award Donna Watson 2
A Gym-Dandy Coach Woody Woodburn 7
He Meant the World to Me Charmi Schroeder 11
The Unwise Monkey Joyce Stark 15
Math: It's Not Just About the Numbers Carrie Pepper 19
The Odyssey Christa Allan 23
Miss Burns Susan Merson 27
The Hat Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow 31
The Power of One Abha Iyengar 35
That Downright Mean Coach Louis A. Hill, Jr. 39
Old Crow Mary Cook 42
Uncommon Teachers, Unexpected Lessons
Heaven Times Heaven Cristy Trandahl 46
Ten Things I Have Learned from Kids Linda Kaullen Perkins 50
His Joy Became My Joy Ellie Braun-Haley 52
Cooperative Learning Rosemary McKinley 58
The Power of a Leaf Diane Payne 61
On Turkish Shores Elizabeth Phillips-Hershey 63
My Sons, My Ultimate Teachers Colleen Ferris Holz 69
Stop Poist Chris Bancells 74
Teaching the World Kathryn Lay 79
Paying Dividends Michelle Mach 83
Raindrops Tickle My Tongue John J. Lesjack 87
Kenneth Samantha Ducloux Waltz 92
The Rookie Todd Outcalt 98
Spelling Lesson Susan Stephenson 101
Beginning Ideas Becky Kelley 104
The Promise Nancy Julien Kopp 112
The Substitute Diane Stark 116
The Measure of a Teacher Scott T. Gill 121
A Teacher of Human Beings Val Muller 125
Teaching by Example
Picture-Perfect D. B. Zane 130
Tomaida's Treasure Jill Sunshine 135
In Training Cynthia M. Hamond 141
Smiles Are Upside-down Frowns Lois Green Stone 144
Learning from the Rookie Diane Gonzales Bertrand 150
A Sea of White Donna Amato 155
Lessons from Mr. Cain N. Engler 159
Student of the Month Terri Elders 163
Living Life Unretouched Lois Greene Stone 168
Watching forthe Rebound Terri Elders 173
The Hat That Looked Like a Rug Delores Liesner 178
A Teacher's Caring Heart
The Little Things Mimi Greenwood Knight 184
Buck Tyler's Example Taught Best Mickey Burris 188
We Will Always Be Friends Miriam Hill 193
To Touch a Child Nancy Julien Kopp 195
Bonnie's Song Pam Bostwick 199
Camp Ozanam John J. Lesjack 203
Normal Day in Second Grade Linda Kaullen Perkins 207
A Real Somebody Donna Hedger 210
She Taught Me So Much More than Math Michael Segal 213
A Greater Kind of Love Linda Mehus-Barber 216
The CORE of Teaching Dr. Jeffrey Zoul 222
Responding to a Crisis Lisa Bundrick 228
Writing Letters of Recommendation Jennie Withers 231
Tips for Struggling Readers Liana Heitin 236
Getting the Most from Your Substitute Teacher D.C. Hall 241
Strategies for Helping Hyperactive Students Liana Heitin 245
Teaching the Gifted and Talented Amy Figueroa 250
Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences Dr. Jeffrey Zoul 254
Teacher: Friend or Foe? Michael Hornsby 259
Planning for Effective Classroom Management Michael Lubelfeld 262
The Writers 267
The Must-Know Experts 273
About The Author 275
Copyright Credits (continued) 277
Posted March 6, 2012