educators


Everything I Needed to Know I Learned on the School Bus
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz

It was a very cold morning. Bitter cold. And I didn’t have to go to work. Smug and delighted, I closed my eyes and enjoyed one of the greatest benefits of retirement: time. And with this time I began to make connections on what I had become and why and how. The quilted bed cover couldn’t hide the underlining commonality of my choices. Yes, after seven decades of life the unifying theme, the force that created my life style, paid for my childrens’ education, home, and way of living was the yellow school bus.

From kindergarten through junior college the stodgy, sometimes packed school bus carried me to my destination without fail. And, as a teacher of 40 years plus years, I watched my students use the same style school buses. All told, after 70 years of life, the one constant was the school bus. Remarkable, in that time they essentially have not changed. The seats are the same, the ride the same, and the doors are the same. Sometimes I even wonder if bus drivers are not cloned with the same personality and demeanor.

The bus is above all steadfast. You were always eager to see it come and eager to see it leave. So the first thing the school bus taught me was to be consistent and on-time. So lesson number one, in life, as at the bus stop, don’t be tardy or, to coin a phrase, you are going to miss the bus. Many a homework assignment that was not eaten by the family dog has been forgotten in the rush for the bus.

I believe of all the institutions we honor the school bus is the most under appreciated. Put it in the public service category. It is expected to be there and it is, rain or shine. But what is most appealing about the yellow school bus is that it is also the most respected of all vehicles. Police cars and ambulances and fire trucks need blaring sirens and bright lights to get respect. The school bus just has yellow paint and it works. So lesson number two is that what you wear is important to others regardless of your thoughts on the subject. Indeed, it does not matter what you really are, it is the perception that counts. You don’t have to call attention to yourself what you really need is to be yourself. If you are successful at this people will see you for what you are and that is how respect is earned.

The bus teaches us lessons, but so do its riders. Jerking open, the school bus door opens to expose to the riders even more important lessons. Those huge entry bus steps are an entry to a stage. For a few brief moments you are the center of center of attention. Before you spreads mankind and it can be intimidating. You can accept the honor and quietly look for an empty seat or a friend, or you can call attention to yourself with some wit or action. Regardless, you will blend into the masses and your journey begins. Consider your entry a job interview. Prepare yourself for acceptance as well as rejection. So lesson number three is to be accepting of others as some days they may return that favor.

The school bus neutralizes any individuality with a set of strict rules. The bus driver is the enforcer and dictates the rules. The driver is the fascist government using the mirrors to watch you at all times and the operator even has the authority to stop traffic. Anything considered anti-social is considered cause for alarm. If the bus driver gets up and walks through the masses something needs correction. The Constitution is on longer in effect. So lesson three is that the driver represents society and is there to interpret norms. A prank, well placed blow, hair pull, or even an “accidental” trip are felonies on the bus.
This obedience to a dictator is also reflected on what school is designed to do: follow the rules. Indeed, by the third grade the damage has been done. Line up, sit down, be quiet, play nice at recess, and don’t offend. In other words bow to authority. Since a substitute teacher has not really earned that authority all bets are off and anarchy can rule for a while.

When you enter a school bus your initial concerns are where to sit, who is going to sit next to you, and what happens if you are sitting next to someone of the other sex. Unless you are a late arrival, you usual have a choice. On a good day a friend is waving to you. On an average day you take an empty seat and make yourself look at big as you can so there isn’t room for anyone else. On a so-so day you have to sit beside another of the same sex. On an almost horrible day you have to sit beside someone of the other sex and that person is just as unhappy as you are. On a really terrible day you are the third person on that seat and brace yourself with your foot in the aisle. As in life, you are not always able to control who you work for or your neighbors. The school bus seating is thus lesson number three: always be thankful you are on the bus and make it a learning opportunity.

The bus ride can be anywhere from a half-hour to several hours and just sitting there is a lost opportunity. Sharing and learning from others adds spice to your life. An old friend can be trusted to help you. Trying to hog the whole seat is a missed opportunity, even if it is more comfortable for some people to be by themselves. Sitting next to someone of either sex is a chance to share and learn. If that person happens to be attracted to you or vice versa the opportunities to practice small talk are precursors to finding a significant other. In fact, sitting on the bus is unique in that that person is essentially trapped by you. You have their attention for long periods of time and there is little they can do to avoid it. For example, let’s say you aren’t the most beautiful creature to walk the Earth and don’t have much confidence. The bus seat is the perfect place to prove that looks aren’t everything. Your charm, humor, intelligence, and general ah-shucks effectiveness can all be practiced. And unlike airline seats, where the person can get up to go to the bathroom and disappear for most of the trip, the school bus is as close as you are ever going to get to a captive audience. So lesson number four is the bus is the perfect place to learn how to deal with different people.

The bus is where you can gauge your popularity. If you take a quick look around and there isn’t anyone signaling to you to share a seat the odds are you really haven’t tried to make friend. After all, this is the same bus you have been taking all year. Okay, for the first couple of week’s maybe strangers, but after that you should have found your pack. Most people accept their fate and sit silently with a stranger. Mistake. The bus has given you the opportunity to learn about new people. So lesson number five is that the ride is a chance to turn a stranger into a friend, and, with luck, someone who will welcome you aboard in the future. So the next lesson is to consider each bus trip your chance to see what it is like to be the president. You don’t have to be yourself, but you better be significant even if that requires a few Fox News like “facts” to enhance your street cred.

Sitting with your friends brings about another aspect of your growth, the ability to bullshit and see if it sticks. Any rumor with sex is especially  ripe for repeating. Teacher rumors, who is going with whom, and funny stories are all part of bus conversation. So lesson number six is to practice your ability to develop a rapport with facts that suit you and prefect your small talk.

The last ones on a crowded bus are the beggars. With all the seats taken they had to look for the least likely to hate you for being the third one on the seat. If you were fat you knew immediately that everyone on the bus feared you would choice their seat. With luck there were two skinny girls and you could at least get one cheek on the seat and brace yourself with your aisle leg. The beggars taught you three things that could help you in the future all wrapped up in one lesson. First, look at people in the eyes. If they divert their attention they are yours. If they stare back they are up to your challenge. Secondly, don’t trust friends to move over for you. They may be your friend, but that doesn’t have to mean that they want to share with you. Thirdly, being in the aisle, being uncomfortable, isn’t always a disadvantage. When the bus stops you are the first out. You are now in control. You can slow up a busload of students as they cue up behind you looking longingly for a way to pass. So turning negatives to positives is something that can prove valuable in life and is lesson number nine.

A bus full of students can be a torture zone if just one of them has a hygiene or a gas problem. Telling someone they smell can be considered bullying. Being clean is not everyone priority and some resort to chemical weapons; cheap after shave or perfume to mask the odor. You have three choices. First, if there is room you can move to a vacant seat. Secondly, you can let your eyes water and bear it. Finally, you can tell the person about their problem. The latter requires a sophisticate approach best left to the diplomats or self-assured girls. So lesson number ten is the fact that the bus teaches you problem solving and people skills.

Lesson number eleven is that regardless of how confident you are getting on the bus you may be defeated by the caste system. This system is based on an unwritten rule that those of your caste sit in certain parts of the bus. The most dangerous is the backseat caste based on the fact that distance from the bus driver builds boldness and a breakdown in discipline. Being forced to sit in a different caste area is as close to death as you can come unless your mom visits your classroom. So the lesson to be learned here is to be flexible and hopefully, learn to be tolerant of others.

Lesson twelve is two-fold. First, making friends with the bus driver is time well spent. The person in charge can give you confidence and even allow you to adjust the windows. That is power. So the lessons to be learned here are to try and control the situation, give kudos to those that can help make your day, and the importance of taking the responsibility of making friends with the leader.

The emergency door and practicing emergency procedures is lesson thirteen. Basically, the bus is offering you the knowledge that having an emergency plan is vital in life. You want to be prepared.

Perhaps the most important lesson the bus ride can teach you is how to deal with rejection. You are among the first on the bus get a primo seat and make yourself as big as possible. Suddenly the doors swing open and there is the person you have a crush on. You make eye contact, you slide over, and nothing. You know the person saw you, and yet there was clear rejection to your offering. Within the confines of the bus ride there was nothing that you could do. You have but one choice, except defeat and move on to another prospect. So lesson number fourteen is that the bus is teaching you is that love may be fleeting, but there is always another bus ride. And always remember that Rosa Parks turned a bus ride into a national movement.

Finally, the bus teaches you to plan ahead. You must stay alert, know where you are, and realize that if you miss your bus stop it might take you longer to get where you want to go.

A Business Model for Students and Teachers: A Paradigm Shift
By National Hall of Fame Educator, Alan Haskvitz
http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Ringleaders/al.html

Want to improve student achievement the easy way? Teach them about business. Here is an easy to follow plan that can be done in advisement periods.

There is little doubt that successful business leaders would like to take charge of education. There is also little doubt that none of them have spent time teaching students in a realistic atmosphere. However, that does not mean the students cannot benefit from ideas that business fosters such as a business model. What I am proposing is that each student be taught the basics of a business model and use that information to turn themselves into that business, essentially improving their output.

The business plan for the student is essentially creating a marketing plan for themselves as a person and as a potential employee. As they create this plan they are going to find weaknesses that need to be improved by taking action and they are also going to find areas of strength and learn how they can turn these attributes into strengths that can attract others to their viewpoints. Regardless, the business plan is just that, a plan. It can be changed as needed and the objective can also be altered as age and experiences sway viewpoints. However, it is essentially that the plan be reviewed and maintained so that the goals are fresh and assessable. For example, a student might want to select an occupation that they perceive as high paying and seek to direct their objective in that direction only to find that they do not have that same goal when the amount of time and education required is factored into the equation.
Not be disregarded is the importance of items such as developing communication skills in a variety of ways. Speech classes may have gone the same way as shop classes, and so it is vital that such excuses s being shy or afraid are soothed over by opportunities in school. Students may want to run for school office, but are reluctant to speak before a large group. A good business plan must include these opportunities and, win or lose, builds the basis for a better future.
Teaching business in the lower grades is seldom seen for a variety of reasons of which the most vivid is probably that it isn’t on the state’s standardized test. But, creating a business plan and giving students the opportunity to explore, modify, and grow with it can be incorporated in most core subject areas. For example, in math classes problems that require the student to compare various occupations based on income are simple to use, but what can be added to that problem is the cost of reaching that goal in terms of education expenses. Language arts classes offer the opportunity to create essays that allow each student to express their viewpoint and have it critiqued builds character and communication expertise. Having students present work in every class builds speaking skills that are necessary through life. (add more specifics)
A while back a found a museum that offered an interesting lesson that included the Who Am I poem. I modified that to include that Who Am I and added Who Do I Want to Become. I next added the requirement that the student develop a list of how they would meet this change from present to future and to develop a business plan to reach it. The results were called Investing in Yourself and, based on the letters from students I have received years after my class, were life changing. And isn’t that what a good business plan should be, a plan to improve. As the Japanese call it, Kaizen, continuous improvement.
A Step-by-Step Guide
The first step would be to have each student make a list of their attributes. These could include the obvious such as a grade point average, but also organizations they belong to, sports, activities outside of school, hobbies, and even items such as knowing how to juggle.

They need to list these so they can see if any of these attributes can be applied to what the customer, the teacher, wants in terms of performance.

Next, they need to make a graph of what they spend their time on during the course of the day. This should not be taken lightly and having a parent or guardian sign it would be of value. This is their allocation of resources. They also need to add any resources they feel that they may need such as paper, pens, thesaurus, or technology.

The last step of the preliminary stage is to look at their progress reports for the past few years and set a realistic objective for their business. If a student has a C average setting a goal of a B- would be realistic.

So they have now taken an inventory of skills, available time, and an objective for their business.
The next step is to meet with consultants with their plan. They need to meet with their parents and at least two other students in the class to compare their available time and objectives. Each consultant must sign-off on the plan indicating that the objective is possible.

The second phase is difficult because it requires the student to think about and write about the changes that will be necessary for the plan to be effective and the objectives meet. What is the students willing to give up to have enough time to study and reach that goal? What skills do they need to refine and improve upon?

Again, once this has been done the student needs to meet with the consultants and modify the plan as needed.

The next phase is for the student to make a visual of the plan. They can create a PowerPoint or a story board or even a video. In that way they have a record of what their business hopes to accomplish.

Finally, the plan needs to be implemented. This can be done slowly or all at once depending on the plan. Regardless, at the end of each day the student must make an inventory of what was accomplished in reaching the goal. They also need time to weekly check with the consultants and make any modifications to the plan that are necessary. The student must also take this end of week report to the president of the company (i.e. teacher) so that he or she can mark on the class chart if the target was reached. The teacher should have a graph for each student, made by the student, on which the progress marks are made.

Since students have a variety of classes or products, it is best to implement the business plan for one class at a time. Students should also keep a diary of their thoughts during this process to give to the teacher at the end of the unit so that the ideas can be reviewed from the student’s aspect.

Conclusion: In the end the student shall have a much better understanding of four important elements that successful people share. First, they will learn how to budget time. Secondly, they will gain a better perspective on their strengths and weaknesses. Third, they will be able to modify and change plans and direction as objectives are changed. Finally, they will learn to work with others to improve their product, which is their future.

Free Classroom Resources for Women’s History Month

This site is excellent and contains free resources, lessons and ideas to help motivate students at all grade levels and subject areas.

https://mycalcas.com/2016/03/classroom-resources-for-womens-history-month/

Discipline Help Ideas and Resources
by Alan Haskvitz
http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Ringleaders/al.html

Discipline is probably the most difficult of all areas to deal with as it encompasses issues that may be related to a vast array of difficulties that can try the expertise of the most experienced parent and educator. Contributing factors may include personal problems, improve medication, self-esteem issues, and peer pressure.

Indeed, in my 45 years of teaching at every grade level and nearly every subject I have had my fair share of problems all of which were unique in some regard, but needed to be dealt with in a manner that resolved the issues for all involved. With this in mind I put together a variety of free resources that may be of value in being proactive and help to prevent a discipline problem. If you have additional sites that you would like to share please email me at calcascares@gmail.com

Be Proactive
Essentially there are three main ways to deal with these issues starting with being proactive. First, let the students know behavior expectations early. From the start of the year be positive. Always look for ways to reinforce good behavior. Developing rapport with students is also essential. I used an information card that included the usual contact numbers and such items as favorite games, people, family pets, and other information that would enable me to get to know the students better. If students feel you are approachable it helps eliminate problems and also encourages them to confide in you of concerns that would otherwise be kept secret.

Consequences
Consequences are important, but they need to be appropriate and consistent, but always leave yourself room for accommodations depending on the circumstances. The ideal combination is to be firm and fair and calm.

Communicate
Perhaps the most important way to prevent behavior issues is to establish good communications with the student, parent, and administration. Keeping them informed of issues can help prevent an escalation that can take the joy out of teaching. I try to contact parents the first week of school and have a handout for Back to School Night that explains classroom expectations. As well, I document what I have done to keep the parties involved aware of the situation.

Expect the Unexpected/Teachable Moments
One day some students in my classes jumped out of their seats and ran to the back of the room. Some were screaming. Now this could have been a planned event to challenge me, but from experience I knew I had to remain calm. I walked over and saw a large spider had entered the room and caused the students’ reaction. I quickly handled the situation, but the students were unsettled. And so I turned it into a teachable moment by asking them to describe what they had seen and their actions. Some indicated a fear of spiders and were swept up in the reaction of the crowd. The appearance of the spider provided a teachable moment that even extended outside of the classroom. Most importantly it turned what could have been a behavior problem turned into a learning opportunity.

Here are a variety of sites that can provide ideas and resources to help you with discipline related problems. They run the gamut from simple to complex, but each of them does provide insights from teachers, students, parents, and theorists.

This site provides insights an overview of common problems and ways to handle them and includes administrator actions as well.
http://teaching.about.com/od/classroommanagement/

Importance of protecting yourself California Casualty Umbrella Policy
https://www.calcas.com/personal-umbrella

For more a more complete list of free material and ideas on student discipline go to https://mycalcas.com/2016/02/discipline-help-ideas-and-resources-for-teachers/

By Alan Haskvitz
http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Ringleaders/al.html

Autism continues to be a concern for all parties. Perhaps the best way to help with this concern is to communicate ideas and resources. Towards that goal, I have put together some of the most valuable I could find.

First, autism is a brain disorder that impairs the ability to communicate, socialize, and maintain what are considered normal relationships with others. Students with autism may have varied levels of skills, capacities and behaviors. Even the cause of autism is not understood at this time, although medications are prescribed to relieve symptoms. So, you need to treat every autistic-diagnosed student as a distinct individual and take time to read their reports and be aware of any medications and their possible side effects.
The major problem when teaching several students with autism, besides the uneven development in learning, are issues of classroom management, behavior, differentiated instruction, and even how best to use teaching aides.

Finally, you must be attuned to the type of medication our student may be using. A carefully developed Individualized Learning Plan is essential and meeting with the parents necessary to make consistent progress.

Unfortunately, due to its nature, autism success stories are not easily duplicated. Just because one method works in a certain instance does not make it transferable. I recommend you read widely from the resources below and glean ideas that might help your students.

National Autism Center
Offers a great many resources for teachers and parents, including an online library.
http://www.nationalautismcenter.org/

The Autism Society 
A great organization for families looking for resources and research. They designated April as Autism Awareness Month.
http://www.autism-society.org/

Cindy’s Autistic Support is a link site that provides all sorts of tips and advice for parents and teachers.
http://www.cindysautisticsupport.com/

PositivelyAutism
An autism blog with how-to articles and more.
http://www.positivelyautism.com/

Autism on SlideShare
This site provides a list of sideshows that offer insights on autism. This is an exceptional site, but it takes time to navigate the many entries.
http://www.slideshare.net/search/slideshow?searchfrom=header&q=autism

Autism and Asperger Syndrome
This site offers the basics, plus classroom ideas. It’s a good primer on these two conditions and resources for helping those impacted.
http://www.mugsy.org/connor1.htm

Structured Teaching Classroom Ideas (Autism, ASD)
This Pinterest page offers visuals for primary and elementary.

22 Tips for Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders,
Handy and essay to follow ideas for educators and parents.
http://teaching.monster.com/benefits/articles/8761-22-tips-for-teaching-students-with-autism-spectrum-disorders

Autism Fact Sheet
From the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This site
presents lots of ideas and explanations that can provide insights.
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm

Read The Autism Teacher
A blog full of good teaching ideas.
http://theautismteacher.blogspot.com/

Autism Resources for Teachers.from the NEA
http://www.nea.org/home/15151.htm

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