Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lessons Learned

So if decide to do this again next summer (or teach) I can remind myself of important things:

  • Start out strict. The transition from strict to lenient is smooth, but harder to go the other way. How?
  1. Add 30 seconds to 'silent time' when they are talking while you're talking.
  2. Write their names on the board when they misbehave in class. If they get to 3, they leave the group for the rest of the day.
  3. If they curse, they write a short essay about why cursing is inappropriate and uncreative.
  4. Have them brainstorm a list of agreements in the first few days.
  • Bring in special guests as much as possible. Find friends who specialize in something or have an interesting hobby. New faces with new ideas keep the kids engaged and interested.
  1. Kevin Young, AKA Greatest Dad ever, did two workshops. One running and one mountain climbing. Both awesome. He brought a mountaineering backpack with 3 tents, brought in books with big pictures, and told his climbing stories. Then we went on an expedition around the school - Agustin even went up the climing wall with the backpack!
  2. Julia , my amazing artist friend attending Cal Arts for animation, brought in her sculptures for inspiration and then helped the kids make their own. We painted them the next day.
  3. Jeni , hula extraordinaire, did a hula lesson and Hawaiian history lesson.
  4. Chi and Zac came and let a talk about the environment and then we did a little flag project. Even if they don't have something planned, the new energy works.
  • Engage the community. Reaching out to businesses yields educational field trips and usually free food. Don't ask for the free food up front, they will usually offer if you polite.
  1. Blenders, free small smoothies and talk. Get dropped off near Dolphin Fountain and walk up.
  2. Dominoes, 3 large pizzas. Learn how to make pizza, hands on.
  3. McConnells Ice cream. It helps to have family connections.
  4. Orange Picking at the Backyard Bounty program for the Food Bank. Free fresh oranges, yum!
  • Get a class set of books before the camp starts so we can do reading together.
  • Don't make assumptions about kids before you really get to know them. The 'hardcore' ones have soft sides, and vica versa.
  • Try to outlaw complaining from the beginning.
  • Realize that they are just kids and not going to be grateful for everything you plan. Cherish every small 'thank you'
  • Be patient and have fun.
  • Realize that not every day is going to be great, but relish the great ones and remind yourself that there are more to come.
  • Realize that you are not perfect and you will make mistakes, but your successes outweigh your mistakes tenfold. Don't dwell on your mistakes. Instead celebrate your successes.
  • Find a balance between friend, older sister, and teacher. This is so difficult. I am good at being the fun counselor, playing games, interacting, laughing and singing, but the classroom orderliness does not come as naturally to me.
  • Use positive reward systems:
  1. I have strips of paper with the different character counts pillars (responsibility, respect, trustworthiness, caring, citizenship, and fairness) that I pass out when I notice them do something good. Ex: "Thanks for picking up the paper that I dropped, that was so caring of you." Then you give him the piece of paper and have him tape it on a class chain.
  2. Give out awards at the end of the week to kids who did something outstanding.
To be continued...


  1. I think you also learned to like solving the puzzles that each kid contains - and something about the power of your attention. Congratulations on all of that. All of this is wonderful background if you do decide you want to be a teacher.

  2. Hello Amber!

    I read your blog. It's really good. I think it meets the length requirement, so you can go jump in the pool.

    You are so right about starting strict, and then easing up a bit, when appropriate. When I was on an assignment in the Marines, I hung out with a bunch of them. Then the higher-ups gave me a promotion and put me in charge of my buddies. That's when I learned what you learned in another context.

    I agree with Joyce that you have all the qualities of a good teacher. Since you are good at a lot of other things too, you can eventually choose the one that is the most fun.

    The Ricardo anecdote was interesting. Teaching kids self respect as well as respect for others is a worthy endeavor. So is teaching them to do their work and also to settle their conflicts with words, not fights or recriminations. Exposing kids to new places, new concepts and new experiences, these are all good.

    And so are you.

    Love from Grandad