NOTE TO READERS: My site/blog is doing a complete re-boot to a WordPress platform. Please excuse the temporary mess.
Me at ease behind my desk with my samurai yardstick. My son took this picture while he was with me on a Saturday morning working in the classroom. Otherwise, you would not be seeing me here chilled out. I rarely sat down during the school day. I was on my feet , either at the board, roaming the room or monitoring the hallway. Effective classroom management requires a vigorous physical presence – especially in the middle school. IMHO, teachers who operate behind their desk make their job tougher.
I started teaching middle school math after 20 years in the Marine Corps and fresh out of graduate school and the Troops to Teacher program. I spent 15 years in the classrooms of two middle schools and a community college. Mostly I taught math and computers, but at various times I also taught social studies, general education, study skills, reading and even substituted for Spanish classes a couple of times. I had good run and a big part of me is still in the classroom, but 15 years were enough.
Teaching in the middle school was the hardest I ever worked. At times it was more stressful than combat. I had a lot of success in the classroom and was nominated for the Who’s Who of American Teachers three times. Teaching is first and foremost a leadership challenge. Running a classroom is a lot like commanding a military unit or coaching a team. You have to lead by example, establish routines, make your standards known and enforce them firmly but fairly. You also have to have a plan for everything and be adept at “winging it” when it blows up.
When a classroom is firing on all cylinders, there’s nothing quite like it. I found it to be very rewarding and satisfying.
I recently got around to doing something I’ve been thinking about for several years. Like most teachers, I was a pack rat and never threw anything away. I left with years of accumulated ideas, opinions, forms, sheets, letters, exercises and evaluations that had been gathering dust on my hard drive and taking up space in my closets. I decided to give it a new lease on life and put it on the Internet for others to use, hence this blog. If it gives one idea to one teacher, it will have been worth it. I’ll keep adding things until I run out.
That’s me doing a static line parachute jump when I was in recon. One of the hurdles I had to overcome in getting hired as a teacher was this notion that a Marine Corps paratrooper would be a lunatic in the classroom. I don’t know where they ever got that idea. In the end, the Marine Mafia came through. At my first school, one of the teachers on the interview team was the nephew of a Colonel I had worked with years before. Neither one of us knew that until we were making small talk after the interview. My second posting came through because the assistant principal’s son was an Annapolis graduate and Marine officer. So it works both ways. Ex-military do very well in the classroom and schools love having them – once they get over the fear factor.
You’ll find some opinions and reflections on this blog which you may or may not agree with. There are several issues – such as homework and grading – that I wrestled with for years. In some of the posts, I simply free write about anything that comes to mind. I hope you find something of interest or value somewhere on the site.
In my other blogs and websites, I like to use lots of pictures along with informative captions to tell the story another way. You won’t see any pictures of me teaching in the classroom because there aren’t that many and the ones that are around clearly show the faces of students. When you publish pictures of people who can be recognized in a photo, it can become a legal minefield. To insulate yourself from legal troubles, you have to get releases from everyone involved or their parents if they are minors. I’m not about to publish pictures of minors in any way, shape or form in this litigious wired 24×7 society. Protecting yourself legally is something I will talk about in other posts. It’s a deadly serious business and teachers always need to have their guard up. That may sound paranoid, but that’s the reality in today’s classroom and it’s gotten worse since I left.
Instead you’ll find pictures of me or things I’ve used or places I’ve been. My guest lecturers Sgt. Blogger, Count Calcula and others will make occasional appearances to emphasize important points or just to liven things up a bit.
One last thought – You’ll see me frequently refer to myself as Mister L. That’s what my middle school students called me. In the middle school environment, this kind of shorthand is used quite a bit and almost always with male teachers. It’s kind of a mark that you’ve been accepted and the students think you’re OK and they trust you. That makes the job a lot easier and lot more fun.
In addition to Mister L, I was also known to students in the primary grades (on the first floor) as “the mean guy on the second floor”. More on that in another post. 😮
Dan aka Mister L aka The Mean Guy