I used to teach third grade. Right by the door I had a box. The “Turn It In Box.”
Everyone has one of these, right?
Students complete work, and then, instead of handing it to the teacher, they walk over and turn it in.
At the end of each day, I would walk over to that Turn It In Box and empty out a ream of cursive worksheets, friendly letters, and math problems. With a sigh, I would lug them back to my desk to begin the task of making sure everything looked “okay enough” and then in the corner quickly scribble a star, or put a rubber stamp of a dinosaur holding a wooden sign that said “Good work” in green or purple or bright pink ink. Some papers would receive a checkmark, or if, upon my fleeting glance, if it seemed to be rather good work, the paper would adorned with a “checkmark plus.”
The dinosaur with his sign, the checkmark-plus, they would never make it into my grade book.
These symbols would be hurriedly placed on the work, proof that I had looked at the assignment, and then the papers would be placed back into individual cubbies to be taken home at week’s end.
Things obviously get busy as a classroom teacher. The reality of the situation is that two or three days would go by and I wouldn’t empty that Turn It In Box. As the busy days would pass, the Turn It In Box would transform into a Turn It In Pile, and then grow into a Turn It In Mountain.
Students would come up to me and, looking at the floor as they spoke as though to avoid the embarrassment in my eyes, let me know that, “Umm… the Turn It In Box is full again and the papers are beginning to fall off the sides.”
The Turn It In Mountain had yet again become the Turn It In Volcano spewing ungraded work from its peak.
The taller the volcano of papers, the more guilt I would feel each time I walked past it. All that work, denied my stamps and stars and scribbles.
Now comes for my confession. I have never publicly admitted this before. I need to get this off my chest.
Bonus Points! presents inspiring educators with a list of 10 questions on varying educational topics and lets them choose which they want to respond to. Through this process, we uncover and demystify some of the hidden realities that happen in all classrooms and gain some wisdom from some really amazing and inspiring educators.
Amber Webb is a preschool teacher in Michigan who loves to inspire kindness and joy in everyone she works with and meets. She has a deep love for literacy and works hard to create a student-centered learning environment. Amber's students are young, but the powerful outcomes she strives for in her classroom are applicable for all classrooms and grade levels.
You can follow Amber Webb and her journey as an educator on Twitter at @Teacher_AWebb.
What is a book that every teacher should have in their read aloud library?
It is really important to me that every child feels like they have a place and that they belong when they walk into the room each morning. I want them to feel valued for who they are no matter who that is. I make sure that we read Happy Dreamer by Peter Reynolds every year near the beginning of school so that each child knows I understand them, wherever they may be. In a world where children are told to sit still, be quiet and follow all the rules, Happy Dreamer celebrates the moments when we get to feel most like ourselves. The kids love picking out what kind of dreamer they are and take time to tell me why. It invites conversation, laughter and understanding of individuality. I love it!
I also have a passion for reading middle grade novels (even though I’m a preschool teacher) and there have been some exceptional reads in the last year. Last summer I was fortunate enough to join a group called #bookexcursion with ten other educators who read and review books coming out in the near future. We have been blessed with hundreds of books to read and review and it really fills my reading life! But the one that really stands out to me is Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. Wishtree is the story on an old oak tree named Red. He is always watching. He might not be able to talk, but he can help solve neighborhood problems. The relationship between the community members, the children, the tree, the animals, it is all incredibly profound. This is a book that is simple enough to “just read” but important enough to have discussions around and really THINK about.
A Story About a Bird is a short story by the amazing Brad Montague (@thebradmontague). It is about a bird named Rodney who doesn't tweet or chirp like his other bird peers. Instead, he is really into hip hop and making rhymes over sick beats. Needless to say, this video will bring joy to you and your classroom in the three minutes that it takes to watch it. We all have a voice worth using.
Also, did you know that Montague Workshop now makes lesson plans and choice boards to help students reflect on he stories and videos? Use this link to access all the related teaching materials.
Not familiar with Brad Montague? He is the creator behind all of the Kid President (@iamkidpresident) videos that you have undoubtably seen over the course of the last few years. For more from Brad Montague and Montague Workshop, check out his website: www.montagueworkshop.com
Google Arts and Culture, in collaboration with the British Library, has created an free, online exhibit about the history of magic and how it pertains to the iconic JK Rowling universe. If you have students who adore the Harry Potter series, this is a must-explore resource.
If you are reading this right now, chances are you have a social media account that you use for your work as an educator. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram... it doesn’t matter which platform you use. That social media account is an often underutilized tool that can give your students access to an authentic, global audience. We should be leveraging these accounts everyday to show students that their ideas and stories are not completed to fill their teacher’s grade book, but to actually have an impact on people they will never meet and even potentially change the world.
Before social media ever existed, when I was in 8th grade, I signed up for my school’s journalism class. Every month or so, we would put out Paw Prints, a school newspaper that covered school issues and popular culture. In order to get our stories published, we would pitch article ideas to our classmates and, when eventually approved by our teacher, we would work on writing them.
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