new teacher

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.

By Alan Haskvitz

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.

The Autism Society 
A great organization for families looking for resources and research. They designated April as Autism Awareness Month.

Cindy’s Autistic Support is a link site that provides all sorts of tips and advice for parents and teachers.

An autism blog with how-to articles and more.

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.

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.

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.

Autism Fact Sheet
From the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This site
presents lots of ideas and explanations that can provide insights.

Read The Autism Teacher
A blog full of good teaching ideas.

Autism Resources for Teachers.from the NEA

Teaching or Business: The Million Dollar Question
By Alan Haskvitz

For me, it was an easy choice. The lure of a career in business with its tax advantages, lucrative starting salary, and advancement based on my skills were enough to off-set the “touch the future” altruism of teaching. In economics terms, teaching was an opportunity cost and the benefits of a career in business were overwhelming.

It isn’t that I didn’t feel that teaching was a noble profession and I clearly benefited from having some exemplary teachers, but it didn’t take for me long to figure out that I wanted my own office more than my own classroom.

Choosing a degree in business especially made sense; dollars and cents wise. The classes were always interesting and I could apply almost everything I learned to the real world. Courses in economics, law, and sales promotion all had real life applications. My teaching preparation friends were taking education philosophy and education history classes taught by professors who, by and large, hadn’t been in a classroom in years, if at all. Even their methods classes were usually taught by instructors who had no record of achievement in the classroom leaving my friends having to look back to their days in public school for ideas on how to teach.

Anyway, I digress as the real reason I selected a career in business was money. There was the excitement of closing a deal and almost everything, every day was related to the acquisition of money. Since my parents were hard working, but still quite poor, I wanted to make them proud. Indeed, when I graduated I had five goals for my life. Two were personal, and three were based on money. Even the personal ones ended up being related to my business career. I was proud of my choices. It only took me two years in business to find myself driving a real Shelby Cobra to work, living in a great bachelor apartment, and being able to take two hour lunches. My company was paying my expenses to earn my MBA and I could even work at home at times. I had my office, my secretary, my parking spot, and access to the executive lunch room. Life was good.

cobra copy

Starting Salary

So, what would have happened if I would have become a teacher? First, the starting salary. I would be making $20,000 to $30,000 less per year. Yes, teachers are alleged to only work ten months, but they are not paid for the other two months. Worse, I knew that teachers have to constantly return to university to upgrade their skills and meet credential requirements. They were rewarded with slight income increases as they moved columns, but they had to face other realities. First, they had to pay for those courses and secondly, the columns topped out. In other words, even if they were the best teacher in the world they could only make a salary that was designed to be fair for all. Try that in business. Imagine the best salesperson getting the same as the worst or not being able to negotiate one’s own salary based on your accomplishments. The National Teachers Hall of Fame has over 100 inductees all of whom make the same as every other teacher in their district with similar experience and education. Do you think that the inductees in the National Football Hall of Fame make the same as their teammates in similar positions? Business is based on performance. I wanted to be paid for my performance.

As an aside, teachers’ pay money out of their pocket, sometimes in excess of $500, for classroom supplies. Those in the business world would be surprised at that and would ask why your employer didn’t buy what you needed. I found no answer.

So, on average, after 30 years without any significant changes becoming a teacher would cost me well over a half a million dollars and probably much more. But it could be nastier. There is also the uncertainty of teacher retirement plans as some states may not make their complete actuarial payment every year. And, as Time reported, there is almost a $500 billion shortfall for funding teacher pensions and that gap is growing. Of course I didn’t know that when I made my decision to stick with business, but I am not surprised. I wanted to have a more secure retirement based on my own investments and backed by a company I could count on as opposed to elected officials who could be manipulated by the whims of those reluctant to pay increased taxes. Yes, some industries have pension plans that have failed, but I still had the ability to put money into my own retirement plans and manage them myself. I also discovered that in California, as well as several other states, if I was a public school teacher over 66 percent of what I earned working at jobs that paid Social Security would be cut. It is called the Windfall Provision and is totally unfair, but apparently teachers didn’t have the clout to remove this financial punishment. So if I worked at jobs paying Social Security and was scheduled to make $1000 a month at retirement, the government would cut that to $300. If I was married and my spouse had Social Security benefits I would not be entitled to them as well.

I also knew that to be a teacher in California required at least four years of college plus a year of teacher preparation. By sticking to my business goals that amount of money and time could have given me a master’s of business administration and the difference in salary is startling. According to a NACE study, I would be making an averaging starting salary of $70,000 while those students in education averaged a little over $48,600. The master’s degree is worth nearly $12,000 a year more for an MBA and the college costs in time and money are the same. It just wasn’t adding up to select a teaching career especially when it could very possibly cost me a million dollars in lost wages.

Women Leaders Missing
Of course, I knew I would be working longer hours and not have the benefit of a union to protect me. But I also knew that I was confident in what I could do and the possibility of one day being my own boss. This leadership dream is something that is missing in education, especially among women. In an AASA study of the 13,728 superintendents only 1,984 were women even though 72 percent of all teachers are women. Add to that the fact that 75 percent of superintendents did not teach at the elementary level and only 130 were former elementary school teachers. Finally, as most experienced teachers know, coaching provides an excellent step up to administration positions with a sizable majority of superintendents indicating they had a coaching assignment while working as a teacher or building administrator. This was looked at as having leadership experience by those doing the hiring. Having students who excelled in the classroom apparently doesen’t count as much. This results in a quandary as few elementary teachers have opportunities for head coaching assignments. On the other hand, women in business also face an uphill battle with only 14.2% of the top five leadership positions at the companies in the S&P 500 are held by females, according to CNNMoney. It may be of interest to note that by contrast 36 percent of business leaders in the burgeoning marijuana industry are women. Just saying.

Teacher Benefits
An early report indicated that since 1996 teachers’ salaries have risen one percent and business majors 12 percent, according to a study by Sylvia A. Allegretto and Sean P. Corcoran (1). In terms of comparing wages for those with similar education, the authors found that since 1979 teacher wages relative to those of other similar workers have dropped 13.1%. And, when comparing those with comparable skill requirements such as accountants, reporters, registered nurses and inspectors, teachers earned 14.1% less when comparing hours worked.

The cost of teacher benefits is also a concern. Since 1994, the disadvantage in wages has not been offset by improved benefits, according to the Allegretto and Corcoran study. For example, teachers in 2002 received 19.3% of their total compensation in benefits, which was more than the 17.9% benefit share of compensation of professionals.

As a teacher I would have to work about 190 days a year. That would leave me significant time to get another job, travel, or upgrade my skills as a teacher. That was a potentially awesome benefit, but I knew there was more involved. This was proven in a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that shows that American elementary school teachers spend more hours actually teaching students than peers in any other surveyed country and the fact that teachers frequently have to spend their vacation time taking classes to maintain their certification. SchoolsMatter reports that 62 percent of teachers have other jobs. The New York Times repeats this figure.

Administrators Can Have it All

There is a bright side for teachers. If you become an administrator you are richly rewarded. Even at an average sized middle school, the principal can earn more than a nursing administrator running a large hospital who is responsible for supervising more staff, clients who are sick, dying, or worse, and also evaluating personnel. The rewards for administrators are even better if they reach the superintendent level. In fact, being a school superintendent is truly a gift from the benefit gods when it comes to income. In one California school district with very few problems the salary and benefit package was over $250,000, which could provide a lifetime retirement of over $130,000 per year after 30 years in education and Fox Business reports that superintendents in 12 states make more than the governors.Sweet. Of course that is the exception. However, in the business world I knew that if I did well I would be rewarded accordingly or I could find better opportunities elsewhere. A teacher has to deal with step and column.

As for stressful jobs, ranked teaching as the 10th most stressful occupation. So those vacation days apparently are both coveted and needed by educators. I mean to be in the same category for stress as military personnel, fire and police, and surgeons does shed some light on the importance of teaching and its demands.

The average turnover for all teachers is 17 percent, and in urban school districts specifically, the number jumps to 20 percent. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future estimates that one-third of all new teachers leave after three years, and 46 percent are gone within five years.

There is a different type of pressure in business. Essentially, it is to stay viable. Usually that means solvent. Either you are trying to stay in business or helping someone stay in business by doing more business. The pressure is difficult to assess as some companies treasure their employees and others try to squeeze them dry. Long hours and pressure from above are not unusual in the business. However, if you are good at your job the financial rewards usually come or you can start your own business or take a chance on moving. Teachers may find themselves literally stuck in a job if they find that their years of experience don’t count at another district when they try to leave.

Another concern when making a career choice is what you face on a daily basis. In the business world that could mean facing customers, designing plans, making changes, checking spreadsheets and more, but it does not mean facing 20 to 200 or more students and their parents on a daily basis. Customer complaints are usually dealt with an apology, a return of funds, or a force of denial. Legal action can be brought as well. A teacher has to answer to something that was said or done from the standpoint of an eight-year-old. Conferences with a parent, child, teacher and administrator are legendary. In many cases the story told by the child is denied by the teacher with an explanation. Whether it is accepted or not is based on the way the administrator backs up the teacher or parent. It could go either way with the administrator trying to stop the allegations from going to his or her superiors and the parent seeking redress or removal of the child from that teacher’s classroom or even the district. In the business world decisions are usually made on a dollars and cents basis. In education such objective evidence is seldom seen.

Education that may not pay off
A teacher who wants to become an administrator must go through an administrator education program. These take time and require financial obligations. The result may not even result in their selection as an administrator. The MBA may take additional courses, but they make the individual a more attractive candidate for future jobs. In education a candidate with “too much” education could be considered too expensive for a school district. Filling a job with the least experience, qualified teacher is an interesting corundum for a school district. Given a choice, would a district hire the most experienced and educated candidate or the least expensive?

Sadly, an individual who had an administrator credential, two bachelor degrees, and a master’s degree went to a California beach community and applied for the job. His background was impressive and filled with accomplishments. Every month he returned to check on his application as he knew the district was hiring. Knowing he was driving a long distance to make these visits, a secretary took pity and told him that he was never going to get hired because he was too expensive for the district. They were looking for new teachers that cost less. The word on the street is get the job first and afterwords go back for your advanced degree.
Schools of education are staffed by well-meaning professors who are usually far removed from the classroom and may be involved in the “publish or perish” syndrome in some cases. A successful classroom teacher is seldom chosen to teach at these institutions even though it was recommended by the national accreditation program. The result is classes are that are more theory with application of methods and curriculum classes awaiting student teaching assignments. The student teacher mentor who assist these future educators may not be the best for them. What are the requirements for these teachers of teachers? Do student teachers evaluate mentor teachers? Are student teachers left in the classroom to fend for themselves as the master teacher takes the time to float around the campus after a couple of weeks of observation?

Interestingly, the leading causes of teachers leaving the classroom is a lack of respect and support. How to deal with these is never mentioned in any teaching preparation program I have found. In the business world if negative data such as this was provided there would be an immediate reaction to stem the loss. When W. Edward Deming went to Japan to help that country’s manufacturing industry he came up with a multiple point plan. This plan was implemented and enabled great improvements to be made. How many of these do you think school administrators would be willing to make to improve education and teacher retention?

Create a constant purpose toward improvement.
Adopt the new philosophy. Be prepared for a major change in the way business is done. It’s about leading, not simply managing.
Stop depending on inspections.
Improve constantly and forever. Emphasize training and education so everyone can do their jobs better. Encourage staff to learn from one another
Provide a culture and environment for effective teamwork.
Implement leadership
Don’t simply supervise – provide support and resources so that each staff member can do his or her best.
Be a coach instead of a policeman
Figure out what each person actually needs to do his or her best. Emphasize the importance of participative management and transformational leadership.
Eliminate fear
Make workers feel valued, and encourage them to look for better ways to do things. Ensure that your leaders are approachable and that they work with teams to act in the company’s best interests.
Eliminate management by objectives.
Provide support and resources so that production levels and quality are high and achievable. Measure the process rather than the people behind the process.

Reading through that list it is apparent that education could learn a great deal from business. When I was visiting Baylor University I saw such an education leadership class using a business textbook. It was refreshing and certainly shows that the two fields don’t have to be mutually exclusive.


Knowing the financial deficits in teaching and the stress it is no wonder that the teaching occupation is stuck with George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman quote, “Those who can do, those who can’t teach” label. Is that true, hardly. But it is used consistently when people brow beat teachers with such half truths as you don’t have to work holidays, you get great benefits, you have a guaranteed job.

Again, more negativity toward teachers. In fact, outside of lawyer jokes those about teachers are the most vindictive. Why is that? Perhaps it is because teachers deal with millions of students every day and it only takes one remark or action to taint the whole bunch. Or perhaps it is because business people are trained to protect themselves. They can take classes in business law, public relations, sales promotion, and offer incentives to the public to praise their work. When a firm donates something it is usually in the newspaper and on social media. When an educator donates their time it is seldom mentioned. Teachers don’t trumpet their successes, business leaders do.

So the decision to choose teaching over business can be boiled down to one main question: Is it job security over financial gain? Once a teacher has tenure they may be set in that job for life providing the educator follows the rules. In business there is no such security blanket.
Stress, chances for leadership, a desire to serve society, working less days, and the difference between a gold watch and a crayon written thank you note can’t be measured in terms of dollars.

And, yes, I choose education after a brief fling in business. I still have the crayon note and I treasure it more than the million dollars. Did I just say that out-loud?

About the Author: National Hall of Fame teacher has accumulated over 30 state, national and international awards based on the success of his program. His work have been featured in books, periodicals, and on electronic media. He also worked in business. He is retired and does inservices.

(1) Sylvia A. Allegretto. Sean P. Corcoran American Economic Review and the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Online Educational Games
by National Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz

Games are an interesting way to teach concepts and provide rigor. They also enable early finishers to challenge themselves. Here are a few of the better sites.

146 Educational Games

English and Mathematics
You need to registr

Alpahabet Related Lessons

Games and Puzzles by Subject Matter

Primary Level Games
Very popular site with a lot of content

Mixed Subject Matter

Quiz Hub
K-12 online games revolving around subject areas

Math and English Games

Huge link site using apps

Educational Web Adventures

Science related links by topic, grade level

Science and wildlife oriented.

Math and English remedial work lists
Good for review
Math related games

Sophisticated science games — mainly physics
“This site contains interactive plasma physics topics, ranging from electricity, magnetism, energy, and fusion. Please visit the “Virtual Tokamak” and our “Virtual Magnetic Stability Module” to learn about Plasma and Fusion Containment. “

NLVM for Interactive Mathematics
Terrific interactive math site with great learning activities — this is a must visit.

The Most Difficult Student to Teach
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz

He was young, bright, and failing school.

A year after finishing the eighth grade he failed high school and was sent to a continuation school. There, I noticed his writing talent, gave him an old computer, and worked to get him into a small, high school program where he could get the attention he needed. I went to the principal of his school and told her of my plans. She was thrilled and brought him in to discuss the possibilities. The only thing he had to do was continue not be a discipline problem. The next day he got into a fight over a pencil. End of story.

He won. He liked his life. No expectations, no school related stress, and no fear of failure. This is the most difficult child to teach. The reasons are simple and complex. Unlike students who have been diagnosed with a learning concern, these students don’t have any measurable problems that can be ascertained by testing. They simply win by losing. They see a test not as a measurement of what they know, how to improve, and to guide future methods to help them, but as a waste of time that can only end badly if they try. They know they have the power to fail and it they do, it was of there own choosing. Some may call it passive aggressive, but it reality it all aggressive. They are in charge and let the devil take the hindmost. Within minutes they are done with the test and sit idly by trying not to draw attention. Bubble tests offer them the ability to make designs with the answer sheets. Essay tests enable them to write about issues that are not related to the subject, but make it look like they are working. Going to the bathroom requests are frequent and finding ways to hide and use cell phones provide the only challenge that a quiet room provides.

The results are no surprise to the parent, teacher, or student. Indeed, most schools advocate simplifying the requirements, giving the student extra help, and even after school detention. It is the latter that provides the most joy to the hardcore. For there they meet others who could care less. Not all the students, but he or she only needs one to rationalize their efforts and maximize the benefits of failing by providing socialization possibilities. By the end of high school, if they make it, the system has provided them with hundreds of hours of special help, thousands of dollars worth of remedial books and media, and has pushed them out into life. They have won even if they are not allowed to graduate because they have beaten the system. They remain in charge.

These students have made the legendary, “not working to potential” comment a staple on report cards and parent meetings. To the student this means they have ability and confirms what they have known all along. The amount of ability, the ability to show it, the ability to use it in a useful manner are all the teacher’s responsibility to measure and maximize.

This syndrome, if you will, is not just for low or average achievers, it is also for some of those labeled gifted. It is this latter group where this winning by losing is most evidence because some schools heap more work on those identified as high achievers. There is a dramatic difference between high achievers and those identified as gifted in some cases. The achiever loves the game and loves to win. The gifted student may just want to blend in or face the competition and simply does poorly. These students come in all shapes and flavors, but the one thing low achieving, highly gifted students have in common is the belief that in the end everything will be okay.

Many teachers have seen the same scenario, especially when students take tests. They know if they do well they are going to be challenged and, if the scores are high enough, even lose friends. Students know the game and play it well. I have seen them complete a two hour state test in 15 minutes with no regrets. When the results come in they shrug it off and return to the lifestyle they have learned to enjoy. No stress, no expectations, and best of all no need to change. Change is frightening and these students have found a way to avoid it and thus new challenges. They like their comfort and responsibilities aren’t a concern now that they have proven that they aren’t any good at meeting society’s expectations for them.

Smart? You better believer it. They have the system mastered. While other students are working away trying to prove they are the best, these students cliche together and enjoy themselves without the worries school usually provides. They have realized that if you do well you only court disappointment and they also fear losing control. Ironically, the only control they have over their future is to fail and using that method that don’t lose control. They can control their expectations and gain approval from their peers. Best of all they can shrug off that bright label and its expectations.

It is important to note that failure is not the student’s term, but one society places on them by grading them on things they don’t value. Not working to potential is an overworked term to imply that the individual in question has the same potential as others regardless of that individual’s self-imposed value.

Some students don’t fear success as much as they fear it’s ramifications. Doing well puts the onus on them to continue to do well, even improve. It also can cut into their social life and may even create a classic Catch 22. If I do well I shall have to do better and better. If I don’t do well I don’t have to stress.
High expectations aren’t for everyone. Some students just want to remain uncalled upon. “I don’t know” is their code word for don’t ask me anymore because I don’t want the attention good or bad. The goal is to hide among the masses.

The good news for students who fail to succeed is that they can capitalize on apathy and make it their stock and trade. When the test comes the student simply does not care. I am not good at math is an explanation they have learned works. Failing because one simply does not care is better then facing a challenge where the results of studying might be failure. It is better not to care and not be surprised. These students aren’t lazy, they work at not doing well. They have all the answers to avoiding it. “I forgot”, “I don’t understand”, and other rationalizations have worked for them. They simply do not have the courage to change. It isn’t self-esteem, it is a lack of understanding, foresight if you will, of the value of success to society. It has been said all students want to learn, but the reality is that they may not want to learn what you are offering. They want to count, but without a clear appreciation of what is at stake failure becomes acceptable. Let’s face it, a good grade means little these days. The difference between a B and a D isn’t worth staying up late and losing friends. To these students a D isn’t a disappointment, it is a victory. They didn’t fail and who really wants to be on the honor role anyway.

A common trait of these students is usually the fact that they are street smart, but have limited math and language art skills. As the school years went by they found themselves falling behind more and may have reached the conclusion that it really didn’t make any difference how well they did because they wouldn’t measure up. In many cases parents are also feed-up having tried several types of motivation without success. Parent-teacher conferences were tedious and repetitious with educators noting the lack of achievement and offering up a few suggestions all of which the parent had heard frequently.

Smart students don’t care if they pass or fail or fall somewhere in between. Threats of repeating the year hold little value to them. Worse, if they do fail next year’s teachers are probably going to have a student in their class who could be disruptive to the others and a behavior problem. Is the system going to fail them two years in a row? They know this won’t happen and so their goal just might be to get kicked out putting more pressure on the parent and a loss of income for the school.

Schools are caught in a quandary with these students. If they follow Piaget’s theory that they will learn when they are ready to learn and promote all students failure is not an option and threatening a student just makes them more hardened to such talk.

To overcome this consistent failure to buckle down to society’s standards requires a paradigm shift in education. Schools must learn to accept failure from some students and be willing to use it as a starting point. Failure is the leading cause of progress. To error is not failure, but a starting point. The only true failure in school is expecting that all students are the same. Hence standards based testing is essentially useless to these students. They don’t care. The problems that the system must solve are how to motivate them, how to measure this success, and how to justify this to the public.

To overcome the “I don’t give a damn” attitude requires some decisive action that may be out of the mainstream and thus expensive, time consuming, and frequently frustrating. If you follow the idea of multiple intelligences you cannot help but being struck by the fact that most people are better at some things. The problem is finding what they are better at and developing a plan to exploit this weakness in the bright child’s armor.
The student needs to be taught about themselves. Why? Because they may think that they are unique and their problems are different. The reality is that their problems might not be common place, but they are seldom unique. That does not mean they should be ignored, but they can benefit from learning about problems others have overcome. For example, Abraham Lincoln’s many failures. (

Ways to Help Reach Them

I recommend that following plan when dealing with deliberate non-achievers. First, involve them in the decision making. Tomorrow we are going to read a story about people who burn books to keep others ignorant. Here is brief outline of Fahrenheit 451. Do you think the students would like to guess at what the title means before reading it or after? Engagement is crucial in motivation. Asking students to develop questions about the material and showing them how to create these questions is a plus. Giving the questions to other students to answer is also engaging.

Relate assignments to real life when possible. Books are being banned. Here is a list of them. How do you see the relationship between those who burn books and those who ban them? Is banning the book the same as having parental guidance on records? Write an essay on why such warnings are needed or not and when we are done we can write to a record industry official and see what they say.

This type of lesson can result in discussions of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and helps feed the skeptical nature that some students have because they don’t feel empowered. Having lessons that can attempt to change society are very motivational to these students.

Learning from errors is what schools should be for. Remember, failure is the first step on the road to success. However, humor is also important. Bright non-achievers usually have an aversion to making errors and so they don’t try. Thus they feel they control the situation. It is the same tactic that students use when they reply that they don’t know to a question even if they do because they don’t want to get involved. This is why I recommend not using red markers and giving students a variety of ways to show they know the material. Some students might be motivated to improve by having their marks read out loud and some may be chagrined. The toughest students to teach don’t care and if they do well frequently say, “I didn’t even study” to assure their position at the bottom on the class.

These students have another universal code word and that is “boring.” Unfortunately, it is true. Most lessons taught are boring. There is very little that can be used to motivate a student outside of parent pressure, love of the subject matter, or desire to please someone, even the teacher. The latter is vital and the reason that good teachers are often subject to undue pressure brought about by students telling others whatever it takes to get them out of the class. Administrators essentially have a choice of believing the child and/or parent and the teacher. It is easier to move the student. The transfer seldom results in improved grades, but alleviates pressure and that is why the tough to teach student uses it. As for why a subject or lesson is boring is almost always because of two reasons. First, they see no need to know the material. Secondly, it requires too much effort. Students used to memorizing answers, asking friends what was on the test, and spending hours figuring out ways to cheat are seldom happy when confronted with something that is out of their control. Asking why that is the right answer or wrong answer is tough. Especially for those why rely on the “I don’t know” evasive reply.

In an attempt to avoid this the teacher might consider giving students a choice of lessons that teach the same subject matter. Sites such as Awesome Stories ( are prefect for this. The stories are high interest, plentiful, and provide a variety of ways to reach a goal. Proof of learning can also be expanded to include the traditional essay, writing online stories, Khan Academy website ( type tutorials where they teach others, songs, poetry, and more that transcend boring. Here are some examples based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (’s+Taxonomy) In my classroom I have students create museums, newspapers, miniature golf courses, tattooed arms, and musicals to allow students to show mastery of the subject.

Critical thinking is an interesting term in that the person has to have the knowledge to think critically before they can apply it. For example, a mechanic must find out why the engine does not work. Without a working knowledge of the engine their can be no critical thinking. That is why the hard to reach student must learn the value of being skeptical. When you add this to their usual positive response to the absurd you can develop students who start to look for the disconnects in lessons and society. I make fun of fairy tales, for example, and that usually gets them to start rethinking what has been accepted by them in the past. This contrarian point of view also works in math class as well. Giving students the answer a question and having them write the question results in their striving to apply their learning in ways that they have not experienced before.

Conclusion: I would suggest that winning by losing attitude is the prerogative of the student and to overcome this learned behavior requires changes in methodology and require a teacher to have patience and the ability to try different approaches. Time consuming, yes, but once mastered the lessons flow and the results are dramatic. Start slowly with these students by empowering them and inviting them to take part in the process. After that tilt the lesson so that it requires a fresh outlook with no wrong answers. The little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dike to save the community is a grand example of getting these students involved.

After reading this to them ask them why this was a stupid thing to do? Ask them what they would have done instead? Next read them this
“True! Of course it is! […] I have given you the story just as Mother told it to me, years ago. Why, there is not a child in Holland who does not know it. And […] you may not think so, but that little boy represents the spirit of the whole country. Not a leak can show itself anywhere either in its politics, honor, or public safety, that a million fingers are not ready to stop it, at any cost. “

Now the teacher can relate this to a number of readings and even tie in math, geography, and political science. There is the potential to consider whether the quote was a primary source and why it wasn’t. The point is that the lesson isn’t boring and the learning potential is vast. The non-productive student can be called on to design a medal, create a poem or song, write an editorial, or even design an outfit the Dutch boy might have worn as well as writing an opinion of why it was good or bad.

Bottom line: Empower the students, keep the lessons unique, and be prepared to challenge yourself. Finally, share your outcomes with others to gain feedback and solicit changes. Remember that they may be the most difficult students to teach, but they can be the most rewarding.

Clever Boys Dumb Down

What the Worst Teachers Can Teach Us

Al Haskvitz – National Hall of Fame Teacher


I was blessed as a teacher by having some of the worst teachers as role models, and that includes public school and college. Each one of these enabled me to learn what not to do as a teacher and can provide others with ideas on how to improve their teaching.

This article isn’t about sour grapes, it is about turning negatives to positives and that is what we can learn from bad teachers. I am sure all of us sat through courses where the instructor lacked the basic skills to teach. It was boring and frustrating and sometimes we paid with low grades. The point is that we can learn from these weaknesses to make ourselves better teachers. Call it turning negatives into positives.

In high school I had the worst geometry teacher imaginable. He had his favorites, and I wasn’t one of them. In the end he won because I failed the class. I took the class in summer school and received two A marks for the same material. The difference was that one teacher wasn’t a teacher and the other took the time to teach. I took a summer school class in literature from a teacher from the Claremont Colleges while I attended Cal State. He assigned each of us a book of his choosing. At the end of the class we wrote a review. He gave me a C, a failing grade for a graduate student. The day I got the paper back I went to talk with him. He had left on vacation. Oh, the reason was for the low mark was that he thought my work was copied. It wasn’t, but he didn’t care to ask me. Thus the first lesson learned is that teaching is to care about your profession. You are a professional.

The best way to learn is from good role models. If you find them in your teaching preparation program, you are in luck. If you have a choice, try to enroll in those classes taught by practicing teachers who have been successful in the classroom and are familiar with current state testing and standards. The worst teachers had one thing in common and that was they had no idea what good teaching was and didn’t bother looking, because they felt they were doing a fine job.

Be warned, student teachers, that this is your best chance to see some noteworthy role models. Don’t take the easy way for your observations and visit convenient schools or friends in the profession. Search out the best to be the best. So lesson number two is take the opportunity to look at what quality teachers are doing. At conferences attend those sessions where classroom teachers are presenting. When you are given a professional development day, see if you can visit other schools. If this fails, I highly recommend something I have learned a great deal from. I give the students a letter at the end of the year and ask them to send it me after they complete their next year of study and tell me what I could have done better to prepare them. They don’t have to sign their name, either. Although the return rate is only about ten percent, the results are valuable. Yes, you get thank you letters, but more importantly I learned that my grade structure was too complicated (I was giving points), so I changed all of these to become a better teacher.

Remember sometimes there is a difference between the best teacher you ever had and your favorite. Analyze why you feel that way. I was doing a television interview in Canada and one question I was asked is what is the difference between the two. I explained that they needn’t be mutually exclusive, but in the main the best teachers taught you lessons you could apply long after you left their classroom and the favorite teacher had a class that was fun. I frequently read statements from students writing about a teacher’s class that was “so much fun.” When I ask them why, it was usually because it was easy. A middle school expert once told our staff that he could tell the best teacher on any campus because that is the one the students complained about the most. And the complaint? Too much work. Being easy isn’t always being good for the student. So to be a better teacher, make a list of the traits of your best teachers and try to emulate those as best you can. The lesson here is to separate your favorite from the best.

Another negative experience I benefited from was having teachers who isolated themselves in their subject. I don’t mean they kept the door locked, but they didn’t make their subject applicable to life and other subjects. It was simply a matter of memorization. In junior college I had a teacher whose final was to put 100 historical events in order. That teacher could have been replaced by a computer program and the learning would have been the same. So the next lesson is don’t isolate your subject from life.

Next lesson is not to isolate yourself in the classroom. Sharing questions, ideas, and asking for help won’t reflect negatively on you. Making friends with the classified staff is a must. They know what is going on and can provide valuable assistance in how things are done. Poor teachers don’t make themselves available. They hide in the staffroom. One of my teachers was never available for help. He told the class that his job was to teach during school hours. After school he went out to coach the football team. If you weren’t on the team you were out of luck. In the years since his attitude became a topic of conversation at every reunion. His ears must be burning, but more importantly he lost an opportunity to help, which is what good teaching is all about.

There was no shortage of teachers who had favorites and sometimes that created a problem for the student. To avoid this be fair to all your students, but remember that they are not your buddies. Understanding them and having compassion for their situation is to be encouraged, but be aware that such “friendships” may be taken differently by the student. I don’t allow late work unless there are circumstances that the students cannot control. If they wish to turn in late work, that is fine because it is a learning experience. However, they receive no credit because this is also a learning experience.

Every day might have both negative and positive events. Celebrate the positive and learn from the negatives. If a parent’s comments leave you down, consider what you can do in the future to alleviate that feeling. Use the word challenge instead of problem. It helps eliminate negative feelings. Good teaching isn’t easy and that is why it is important to have a mentor at the school to discuss these matters with. Above all, stay away from those who consistently are negative.

All too frequently I had teachers who were interested in their subjects, but didn’t have the versatility to relate the subject matter. They were knowledgeable, but transferring that ingredient to the students was lacking and so the motivation dipped. To avoid this I recommend you continue your education, taking courses in a variety of areas – based on what you can afford – can be worthwhile. Skip the basket weaving, but the one on world cultures might be of interest, and how about business law? Education is a lifelong quest and being intellectually curious can help you “reach” students better by helping them make connections.

While in college, I had a professor who could not find my term paper. I not only handed it in, I gave a presentation with it. The point is that being disorganized isn’t the problem, the problem is not having a system in which student work is documented. If you teach nearly 200 students, as I do, this is no easy task. But I have developed a system that works well and includes recording the date the assignment was handed in and a note if it wasn’t completed correctly. It takes time, but it also enables you to see trends and to gain insights into the personalities of your students. Thus lesson number 9 is: be organized.

There was a German teacher who thought he was good at teaching, but poor at discipline. He would rather tell a joke and be the students’ friend. As a result, those students who struggled weren’t given the extra help as he entertained the class. It is essential that you have a good sense of humor, but it is also essential that you know when it is time to be serious. This teacher hadn’t mastered that vital trait after decades in the classroom. So, the lesson here is from the first day of school make sure that the students know how the class is run, the grading and homework requirements, and when you are available to help them outside of class.

Make your procedures clear and be consistent. I write homework assignments a week in advance on the board and have them write it in their calendars. I post instructions on the board and leave them there for a few days. When students come into the room they get out their notebooks and get ready to work. They are told to use pens, how to format their papers, how to take notes using the Cornell method I have modified, and what the attendance and tardy rules are and the consequences. I post them and the discipline rules on the bulletin board.

Next, have the students fill out an information card with their interests, parent contact numbers, and any other data that you
may need. Keep them in a file. Finally, during the first week of school contact every parent by email or phone. During the Back to School event have a handout with the rules for the parents to keep. Also list what the state requirements are for the class and how to contact you.

Lesson 12 is to show interest in the student. I remember in elementary school, students would bring in things that interested them, including a fair amount of insects, snakes, and other creepy crawlers. The teacher showed great disdain for these and lost an opportunity to reach the student. After a while the students didn’t even bother showing them to the teacher, but found the custodian who would tell them about their care, what they were, and whether the “find” should be kept or released.

A book written about teaching in a tough New York school showed how a teacher used rodents to provoke student interest. In my class a bullied student brought in a caterpillar in a container. I let him keep it in the room and other students found it and asked him questions. He soon became the expert and the bullying stopped. Showing interest is that powerful.
There was one teacher who was quite likeable and he loved the theater. His class was enjoyable, but there wasn’t anything of substance offered. He would come dressed up in period costumes and give a performance that provided insights into that character’s thoughts. The problem was that the lessons were like a primary resource. They were interesting, but unless you had the background the value was quite limited. The idea certainly has merit, what was needed was a proper setting and more pre- and post lessons to put the presentation into focus. So the next lesson is to put yourself in the student’s position. What are they going to learn from your lesson and how will you know whether they did learn?

Next up: communicate who is in charge. Move around the room as the lesson permits. Some teachers never leave their desk, but somehow know what is happening in the classroom. Take your pick. Which ever method you choose be alert. Some teachers know when the bell is about the ring as the students put books away in anticipation of their escape. These teachers are allowing the students to dictate the use of time in the classroom. Poor teachers let the students run the class whether it is to allow one student to dominate or to allow the students to leave when the lesson needs a conclusion. Make it clear from day one that you are the decision maker and their friend, but not their buddy.

Lesson number 14 is not to hold a grudge and always give the student a choice. In high school my friends were going to Las Vegas to play a game. I wasn’t good enough to make the team, but I wanted to go anyway. So I ditched school and went. I was prepared for the consequences. There were none. The counselor heard my story and wrote on the unexcused absence form “not truant.” I took it to every class and teacher and they simply accepted it, except one. He asked where I was and I told him. He called the counselor and the coach and expressed his outrage. At the end of the year he gave me the lowest citizenship grade possible. How dare I miss his class. I never understood why, but it was clear that this one incident had alienated him and he wasn’t going to let me forget. If I student does something wrong give him an opportunity to make it right, but make sure he or she knows the consequence. And, don’t take comments students say about you personally. If that means letting the moment pass so be it.

Finally, poor teachers probably got that way because no one bothered to show them how to improve. You should always be willing to listen to ideas and never quit going extending your education.

About the author
National Hall of Fame teacher Alan Haskvitz has been selected one of the nation’s most outstanding teachers six times and has been featured in books and in the media. He gives inservices and speaks at conferences nationwide. Read more about Al Haskvitz,

List of Awards

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Discipline: training that perfects the mental faculties

Ten Skills Every Student Needs and You Probably Don’t Have Time to Teach
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz

After 40 years of teaching there comes a time when you want to just yell at the curriculum designers and textbook publishers that they have the cart before the horse. Teachers need to be allowed to spend more time teaching students how to learn and less on preparing for a test which measures nothing applicable in the real world.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I feel that every teacher would love to really teach students how to get ready for the challenges ahead of them and use the curriculum as a stepping stone to that goal. Over the years my students always were at the top in the State in terms of standardized testing. Indeed, some of them had perfect scores. The problem was I was teaching them how to take the test. Fortunately, I as able to shorten the material required for the course by removing those elements I though were essentially chaff so that I could teach them essential skills. Essentially, I started by teaching them how to discipline themselves. This worked so well that I still get letters from students, some decades after they were in my class, thanking me for teaching them for life. I have never gotten a letter thanking me for teaching them the Monroe Doctrine.

Here is the list and it far from complete, which are skills that need to be taught. Feel free to comment and add your own.

Learning how to Learn

Developing a love for learning is essential for any educator. It is the most important lesson a teacher can impart to a student and it is also the most difficult. A teacher may have to face a variety of hindrances from lack of parental care, nutritional and emotional problems, and even severe mental concerns. Regardless, there needs to be an effort and the best way is to become a facilitator by prodding, motivating, and providing a diverse array of learning materials to challenge the student to learn for themselves. Most often the textbook, frequently filled with data with little relevance to the student, is the main focus of instruction. And, perhaps, that is the way it must be if the goal is a test that measures improvement in the acquisition of this data. The teacher can feel confident as he or she has covered the material by sticking to the textbook. Motivational, hardly, but that is how teachers are frequently judged. There is another way to do this, but it is time consuming and requires a multitude of rubrics. Providing a variety of materials and having the students learn from them is an arduous task. However, once it is done a teacher can spend the rest of years modifying, adding, and individualizing lessons to meet the needs of the students. ReachEveryChild (cited below) provides a variety of sources for this free material and is an excellent place to start individualization.

The second part of learning how to learn based on whether the student is an auditory, visual or kinetic learner and how to use these to their advantage. It is impossible for a teacher to use all of these methods when presenting lessons, but a student can create their own lessons to help them acquire the knowledge. In my classes I have students create poems, songs, graphic organizers and the Cornell note taking system. In this way there is a variety of methods for them to learn. I insist they use my linking and three transfer method of learning as well. The linking method makes them link what they are learning to other things they have learned and create a “learning tree” of it that they add to throughout the year. The three transfer method is to have students read the material, take notes on it, and transfer that material to another mode such as notecards. I also recommend presenting the answer to a question and have them supply the question. This is an excellent test of finding out what they know. It can be used in all subjects.

What is Valid

If you have time, giving the student a variety of short articles to read and asking them to figure out what would be the best way to judge this material is very worthwhile. This process should also include a study of the various types of propaganda, how to evaluate a website for bias, and stereotyping. That is a lot to swallow and so it is best as part of a school-year long program. If you are teaching social studies an ideal unit could be the differences of opinion between the South and the North about slavery. Learning how to learn is not just about the acquisition of skills, but for the student to acquire the ability to judge the material. One of the best tools to get students to read is Sherlock Holmes and the Sign of Four. As the students read the article they keep track of the characters and reach various conclusions as the teacher hands them the next page. The lesson makes them detectives, but more importantly allows them to learn for life. Seldom are we giving all the answers, but we must make decisions by what we know and judge what is valid.

Speed Reading, not just reading.

It isn’t any secret that the first basic skill is reading. But not just reading, but speed reading. Close reading will follow much more quickly if students can learn how to read rapidly. Reading for facts and reading for pleasure can both be more enjoyable if a student acquires the ability to focus on several words at one time. I taught second graders how to read over a 1000 words per minute at their grade level. The usual improvement was always 200 to 400 words per minute more and this was for language arts and social studies materials. Interestingly the comprehension improves as the speed level doubles as the student concentrates on the material. It is a win-win, but it most be reinforced until it becomes a habit and it takes at least 30 days for it to become a habit. Be warned that some students are resistant to it and so online speed reading sites can help them challenge themselves at their own rate.

Write at Grade Level +

The first thing on teaching a student to write is to explain the types of writing based on the purpose. Taking notes while on the phone or writing a compare and contrast essay may be different in length, but the ingredients are the same. However, for longer works you need to teach the student to write at grade level. I have the students write a one page paper on their favorite vacation either real or imagined. Next, I have them underline all the one syllable words. After that they circle any word that they have not known since primary school. The Fry Formula is applied and the students record their writing scores. They is always silence as the students realize that they are writing at several grades below grade level. Now, that isn’t necessarily bad, but it does force them to expand their vocabulary and that is good. I always have a few Thesaurus books on hand and show them how to use them. The results are immediate and the students not only improve their writing, but improve their thinking and organizational skills as well as they strive to improve. My article (citation below) provides an in-depth look at this successful practice that has enabled my students to win numerous writing competitions.

Teach Them to be Journalist

This vital profession is based on training that every student needs. The ability to communicate, to judge facts, and to influence others with their work. There is no other profession that is so vital for students to learn from because it is essentially what they are going to do nearly every day of their life. A good journalist seeks out evidence and judges it. They write using the who, what, when, where, why, and how approach. They use the inverted triangle that helps them organize facts. Finally, it teaches them to be curious and ask questions and, very importantly, take good notes.

Teach Them to be Lawyers

Perhaps, oversimplifying, but lawyers earn them living by researching and providing evidence that their cause is correct. This requires an examination of evidence and organization. This is another valuable trait that can help students of all ages. For example, was George Washington was a good president? Can you prove it? Can you provide evidence that he was not so good? Some may call this critical thinking, but that type of thinking can not really be utilized until a student is able to have a variety of experiences that enable them to make a critical decision. Thus using the basic skills of an attorney in proving a point and providing evidence to that end are skills they are going to need to write essays persuasive and expository essays and in life.

Be Accountable

At the beginning of the school year I ask the students to look around the room and, without naming names, tell me how many other students they would hire to work for them based on the knowledge that they wanted good workers. After that I ask them to write that number down, fold the paper, and place it in a basket. I take out the numbers and place them on the board to come out with an average. In almost every case it is ten percent of the students or less. That means that the others already have a reputation of not being good workers. The reason for this is that many students simply do not hold themselves accountable. Immediate gratification, poor parenting, the need for quick teacher assessment with little assessment of the assessment, all help feed a “who cares” mentality. This results in large scale cheating with little fear of consequence. Research has overwhelming shown that rewards must be intrinsic to be a lasting value. If students are to be held accountable there must be a reward system that works and entices parent buy-in.
People Skills

We aren’t talking about cooperative learning, we are talking about the ability to get along with others regardless of differences. We are talking about good manners, social skills, negotiating skills, and the ability to work together to create a common goal. Skills as basic as how to talk to people on the phone, how to ask permission, or even showing remorse or concern are missing and yet vital for life.

Handling Emergencies
Handling emergencies is also seldom taught at school. Yes, fire drills are held, but what value are they to the student when a fire really occurs elsewhere? My students wrote and had published in the American Fire Journal the problems with school fire drills in the hopes of enlightening others. School administrators essentially ignored it because it wasn’t an area to be tested. Sad, because the issues the students brought up were important. For example, why does the fire extinguisher stay in the room during a fire drill? Why do the students stand up in rows when an explosion could knock them over? Who knows where the dangerous chemicals are? What do the various colored helmets that firemen wear mean? Needless to say, handling emergencies is a vital skill. Why doesn’t every student know CPR? How to stop bleeding? Or to identify a person having a “fit” and knowing how to act? Taking this a step further, how to teach students not to panic and to learn how to identify people should be taught. But, who has the time?

Skills for life

Setting realistic goals, identifying propaganda and bias, budgeting time, operating a computer and touch typing, triage work assignments, handling money and investments, observation skills, where to find information and measure its accuracy, and learning how to listen can all be incorporated in the curriculum. Each of these carry lifelong importance and all can and have been taught within the curriculum if there is time. There are free units of study on almost all of these areas available. The teacher needs to be given the time and flexibility to personalize them for their class.

Before I get off my high horse I must add one more thing and that is for the student to learn how to be happy. My friend Larry Martz, an editor with Newsweek, wrote in his book Making Schools Better, about the small bite principle. This is a simple plan where small strides can result in large gains. An educator who just takes one of these ideas to heart could make a huge difference knowing well that it is at least as significant as anything on a standardized test.

Why Students Cheat

Making Schools Better

Car Rating Site

Government fuel economy site

How to Improve Student Writing

Student speed reading lessons
There are others

Using the Inverted Triangle

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