Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summers off? Yeah, right!

Here, at Teachers on Reserve, we know that teaching is a year-round job and one of the most important jobs out there. Upworthy gets that too! Next time you hear someone talking about teaching being an easy job with 3 months off, show them this!

How a year of teaching REALLY breaks down...

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Teachers On Reserve “Teachers Guide to an Awesome Summer"  

Congratulations! Getting to the last day of school is a great achievement.  Any teacher knows that the last few weeks of school are generally pretty crazy.   The minds of lots of kids are already on summer vacation, so keeping them focused on the work at hand is challenging at best.  Throw in a little summer heat, and classroom management becomes an even greater task.

Summer for teachers usually offers some much needed R & R, and an opportunity to rejuvenate both mind and body.  It’s a great time to fit in the activities you love but just don’t have time (or energy) for during the school year, or to take a workshop or class in something brand new and fun.

After you have restored your own spirit, how about turning to someone else?  Travel and volunteering are great options for summer, and there are some wonderful opportunities to accomplish both, like Cross-Cultural Solutions. There are lots of places to volunteer locally, as well, if you would rather stay close to home.

For some of you, a part time job just for the summer is a necessary option.  Tutoring and summer school are the two most obvious choices.  There are several sites which have summer postings including, craigslist and simply hired.  At Teachers On Reserve, we serve mostly preschools and special education schools through the summer.

For others, summer is a time to work on your teaching skills.  There are lots of workshops available for professional development.  Some possibilities:

And if you are a Teachers On Reserve teacher, you can revisit the STEDI program. or sign up if you've never taken it. Also, check out their Premium or Ultimate training courses.

The bottom line is the long daylight hours of summer make everything feel more leisurely and comfortable. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy, and come back to the classroom refreshed.

We'll see you in the fall.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week. But did you know that, in conjunction, the first week of May is also Substitute Teacher Appreciation Week?

On May, 7 2012, U.S. Representative Rob Bishop - who taught for 28 years, including some time spent as a sub - made it official, speaking on the House floor to recognize the impact and contributions of our nation’s Substitute Teachers.

Click to watch the historic moment.

We at Teachers On Reserve want to be among the first to say “Thank You!” to all of our teachers. We know how demanding the job is. Substitute Teachers are called into action early in the morning, taking over lesson plans (if you are lucky) with little notice, watching over the safety of students they do not know and making sure that the quality of education is maintained seamlessly in our classrooms.  Substitutes are an educational lifeline when regular classroom teachers are absent.

For all of your "artful" moments, we appreciate and respect all that you do.

The office staff at Teachers On Reserve

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Not just another day in May...

Every year on May 5th, people in the United States (and to a lesser extent, some parts of Mexico) observe Cinco de Mayo – a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. In Western states like California, where there is a higher concentration of people of Mexican heritage, observance of the day is often marked by elaborate festivals, parties and parades.

As a teacher, it can be tricky to know how to handle cultural events like this one in the classroom. On the one hand, you want to be knowledgeable about the holiday, in case your students have questions.

But, while it’s tempting to want to base activities and games around days like Cinco de Mayo, even the most well-meaning attempts can cross the line into what is known as “tourist multiculturalism.” This happens when a class only “visits” a culture on special occasions, usually tied to a holiday or time of year – for example, making Native American headdresses around Thanksgiving, or studying prominent African Americans only during Black History Month. While these activities are intended to highlight these cultures, they can often backfire by trivializing the subjects, reducing them to gimmicky, stereotypical dress, food and dances, and failing to provide a true and complete look at the lives of the people being studied.  True multicultural curriculum is about “in-depth, constant, fully-integrated” cultural discussion, activities and references.

So what do you do? Failing to acknowledge the day could be seen as dismissive or just plain ignorant. The best, most respectful way to address the day is to teach it the way you would any other subject.

Contrary to popular misconception, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day; that event is celebrated on September 16. Rather, the date commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces (that far outnumbered them, and were better-equipped) at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The celebration of Cinco de Mayo originated in Mexican-American communities in the American West as a way to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the early part of the Civil War,and today the date is observed as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.

Understanding why we celebrate the day - and why it is important – is the first step to handling cultural events respectfully and responsibly.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wheels that don’t squeak.

Anyone who’s taught knows that sometimes unresponsive, unruly or disruptive students can present a real classroom management challenge – as the saying, goes, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." But when you devote more of your energy toward the misbehavers than to the students who are meeting your expectations, you are inadvertently reinforcing the bad behavior. This “rewarding through punishment” may subconsciously motivate students to act out so that they can get the attention they crave.

Problems in the classroom definitely need to be addressed, but it is important to remember that well-behaved students deserve our attention, too. You can make an example of a student exhibiting positive behaviors just as easily as you can a misbehaving student. This is known as social reinforcement.  Taking the time to comment on a student’s good behavior (“Good job,” “I can tell you’re working hard,” etc.) communicates to the rest of the class that acting up isn’t the only way to get on your radar.

Unfortunately, some teachers still implement the disciplinary tactic of writing the names of misbehaving students on the board. An alternate, and much more successful, method could be to write the names of the students who are demonstrating positive behaviors on the board. This works as a motivator – rather than have students behave out of fear of having their name added to the “naughty” list, they want to be included. (Of course, as a guest teacher, consult with the school’s policy regarding this kind of activity before taking it upon yourself.)

In some situations, it may be appropriate to offer productive students a reward – a sticker, free time at the end of the period, etc. (Again, check with the school to see what is acceptable.)

“But isn’t that bribery?” you might be asking. A reward is not the same as a bribe. Bribes are given to someone who is not doing what you want to try and incentivize them to change their behavior. A reward is something which is given only once the desired behavior has been successfully demonstrated.

It is important to be consistent when administering positive reinforcement. It should also be unambiguous. Students should be able to detect a clear pattern of cause-and-effect. It might be tempting to praise a student for whom you feel sorry, or to heap praise upon a select few. But the class as a whole will not be able to connect the dots, and the effectiveness of your positive reinforcement strategy will suffer.

When a misbehaving student catches on and starts to get with the program, resist the urge to say something counterproductive or sarcastic. Don’t hold grudges. “It’s about time,” or other similar comments will feel like punishment to the newly behaving student. No matter how difficult a student has been behaving previously, once they begin to demonstrate appropriate behavior, they should receive all the same positive reinforcement anyone else is getting. Behaving should feel better to the student than misbehaving.

You’ll find there’s more than enough grease to go around, and to keep things running smoothly.

Feel free to share other positive reinforcement examples you've used successfully in the comments below.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Games that Promote Learning

Who doesn’t love playing games?  And as a substitute teacher they are an invaluable learning tool when you are left sans lesson plans or there is extra time after the lessons have been completed. They have the potential to be a great addition to any lesson, lecture or test review.  Classic games like hangman, bingo and jeopardy are always a crowd favorite.  These are great because they can be modified for any subject.  Puzzles can also be a great way to learn.  You can find a great puzzle maker for crossword puzzles, printable Sudoku, and many more activities for every grade level and subject online   

You can also make use of new technology like SMARTboards. Games like Jeopardy, Hollywood Squares, Wheel of Fortune and Who Wants to be a Millionaire are great options.  Students have the ability to be interactive while using the SMARTboard.

Your goal as a substitute teacher is to keep the class engaged and learning. Playing educational games allows them to do this but also have fun and interact with their fellow classmates. Just make sure that before playing games in the classroom, the lesson plans that were left have been completed and you are clear about the school’s policy regarding games.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

I, Carly

Carly Fleishmann is a teenage girl who was diagnosed at age 2 with severe autism and cognitive delay, as well as a disorder called oral motor apraxia, which left her unable to speak

Then, one day, when she was 11, something remarkable happened 

Her story was chronicled on ABC's 20/20:

Carly, once considered beyond help, ended up attending a mainstream high school (and enrolled in their gifted program), is active on social media, and even co-wrote a book with her father, Arthur, about her experiences. 

There would seem to be a lot to learn here for each of us.

Friday, March 14, 2014

In the Education Olympics, the United States doesn’t earn a medal…

We blogged back in September that the U.S. had the number 17th ranked education system in the world. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently released an analysis of their 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) - a survey done every three years to evaluate knowledge and skills of 15-year-old students. 510,000 fifteen-year-olds participated, representing twenty-eight million students in 65 countries. The 2012 survey focused on math.

For the U.S., the news isn’t good.

It turns out the United States is ranked 36th in the world in math, according to the survey. Now I'm no math expert, but I think that means there are thirty-five other countries ahead of us. This, despite our relative wealth (only Australia, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland spend more per student), and the fact that our parent population is the sixth most-educated in the world.

U.S. students, the survey shows, demonstrated problems with overall math literacy. While they understand basic mathematical concepts - such as reading data directly from tables or charts, or simple operations like plugging numbers into a formula and performing basic computations - they had difficulty with more advanced concepts (like π), or applying and interpreting mathematical aspects of real-life situations.

It’s not just what you know, but what you can do with what you know.

Socio-economic disadvantage plays a profound role in student performance in the United States. 15% of the gap in student performance is explained by students’ socio-economic status. Across most countries and economies, socio-economically disadvantaged students not only score lower in mathematics, they also reported lower levels of engagement, drive, motivation and self-beliefs.

A related contributing factor is our immigrant population. The United States has the 6th largest proportion of students with an immigrant background in the world. This contributes another 4% of the performance variation between countries.

The survey also found that girls, in the United States as well as abroad, were more likely than boys to report anxiety or feelings of helplessness when doing math. PISA results also show that even when girls perform as well as boys in mathematics, they tend to report less perseverance, less openness to problem solving, less intrinsic and instrumental motivation to learn mathematics and less self-belief in their ability to learn mathematics; girls are also more likely to attribute shortcomings in mathematics to themselves rather than to external factors.

What can be done? What can a teacher hope to do to offset such things as intrinsic motivation, economic disadvantage and immigrant status? The answer could lie in an emerging phenomenon in the U.S.: 5% of students are considered “resilient,” meaning that they are among the 25% most socio-economically disadvantaged students, but perform much better than would be predicted by their socio-economic status. They buck the trend, achieving at high levels, and share many of the characteristics of advantaged high-achievers. How do we explain this?

One contributing factor appears to be the learning environment itself. Particularly, Schools in the U.S. with better-than-average performance tend to have more positive student/teacher relationships, even after accounting for variables like the socio-economic status and demographic background. Conversely, schools where teachers' behavior negatively impacts learning also tend to be those who report low teacher morale. This relationship is particularly strong in the United States.

The tone set in the classroom can have a real impact on the performance of students. This could be a key first step to changing course and getting the U.S. back in contention globally.

Click HERE to read the key findings of the survey, or read the entire analysis HERE.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Get to Know your Neighbor

Substitute teachers face a variety of challenges each day.  Each job is a new and challenging environment:  Different personnel, students, physical plant, educational philosophy, discipline policy, lesson plans, safety procedures, driving directions…..Whether you are the new substitute teacher or the receiving school it is important to make connections straight away.

New subs need to make a point of introducing themselves to administration and staff right away, especially making connections with adjoining classroom teachers.  Wearing identification is reassuring to everyone on campus that this new face belongs.  Introducing yourself makes it clear that you are engaged and ready to receive relevant information as well as teach kids.  And don’t forget to smile.

The optimum situation is when school personnel are able to provide a new substitute with relevant safety/emergency plans and lesson plans.  That combination goes a long way in making a substitute feel welcome and prepared to confidently execute a successful and safe teaching day.   Establishing open lines of communication allows everyone a degree of confidence and comfort.

And whether at home or in school, in case an emergency response is needed, it is very important to know your neighbors, allies in the field, so get out there and make some friends! 

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day

Ah, Valentines Day: the holiday of sugary treats and construction paper hearts. In the classroom, this holiday is ripe with options for topical crafts and activities. So stocking up your “Teaching Toolbox” with colorful paper, ink pads, stickers and activities is the way to go, should you need to fill time.

For substitute teachers, valentines Day can be especially tricky.  They can't assume all schools handle this holiday the same way and they must be mindful that some school do not acknowledge it at all.

Unfortunately, it is also a day that some children can end up feeling left out or excluded and so on this holiday of love, it is important to make sure everyone is treated equally and made to feel special and loved. 

Schools may have very specific rules about what types of snacks can be distributed in the classrooms and it is very important to find out if any of the students have specific food allergies. 

If your school does celebrate Valentines Day here are a couple of activities you can try:

With younger students make an easy card using colorful construction paper or car stock, markers and an ink pad.  Even the littlest ones can ink their fingers and press their fingers in a "v" shape to make a heart!

Older students might be interested in learning about the history and different versions behind Valentine's Day.  Check out the plethora of Valentine ideas, suggestions and legend history online. 

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Report: Charter Schools produce higher percentages of college-ready graduates than traditional district schools.      

According to a report published January 29, 2014 by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), not only do Los Angeles public charter schools have higher graduation rates than traditional district schools, but students at public charter schools complete the college preparatory A-G curriculum at a rate nearly four times that of their traditional district school counterparts.

More interestingly, these findings hold true for student populations who have historically been left behind by the system – socioeconomically disadvantaged students, African-American and Latino students, and those who speak English as a second language.

Click HERE to visit the CCSA website and check out the key findings, or read the report in its entirety.

Friday, January 17, 2014


On Monday, January 20th, most schools will be closed to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In honor of him, we have posted a link to the full text of his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech that can be printed and shared with your students. And here are some other inspirational and famous quotes from the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We realize that our client schools have and celebrate different holidays in different ways.  Our substitute teacher are required to be sensitive to each school's needs and wishes.  They do their very best to make sure each day, including holidays, are successful productive days. 

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