Tag Archives: Education

Do the Write Thing (DTWT) Essay Contest–Detroit Teachers Meeting

By Zemen Marrugi

The Do the Write Thing (DTWT) program is an initiative of the National Campaign to Stop Violence (NCSV).  The Do the Write Thing Challenge gives middle school students an opportunity to examine the impact of youth violence on their lives in classroom discussions and in written form by communicating what they think should be done to change our culture of violence.  “By encouraging students to make personal commitments to do something about the problem, the DTWT program ultimately seeks to empower them to break the cycles of violence in their homes, schools and neighborhoods.” DTWT

2013 winners

Each year, two student essays are selected to represent the City of Detroit in Washington, D.C. The two students are identified as the DTWT National Ambassadors and their winning essays are added to the State of Michigan Library in Lansing, Michigan and the National Library of Congress archives in Washington, D.C.

A teacher meeting will take place at Detroit Enterprise Academy on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 for all English Language Arts teachers in the Metro-Detroit area that are interested in learning more information about the Do the Write Thing (DTWT) essay contest. All teachers that are interested in attending the meeting can contact the DTWT Detroit City Chair Zemen Marrugi at info@zemenmarrugi.com.  The teachers meeting will include the 2016 DTWT student applications, essay requirements, and school participation details.  The meeting will also include information about the 2016 Student Recognition ceremonies in Lansing, Michigan and Washington, D.C.

DoTheWrite (Straightened)

Download the DTWT Teachers Meeting Flyer and share with all of your teaching friends.

DTWT Teachers Meeting Flyer

 

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10 Tips for New Teachers

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.

Being a successful classroom teacher is more than just being textbook ready.  Unlike other professions, graduating top of your class will not necessarily prepare you for a great career in the field of education. Here are ten tips I have prepared for anyone that is starting their first year as a classroom teachers.

Tip #1: Be open to constructive criticism

It is easy for us to say that we are open to feedback, but do we actually take it when it is given to us? My advice to you is to be open to criticism, regardless of how you may feel about the messenger and how prideful you may be. Feedback can help you grow because there is always room for improvement, no matter how talented you think you are as a teacher.   Remember that the only way you will grow as an educator is if you allow yourself to learn from those that are successful in the field and if you are willing to acknowledge your areas of needed improvement.

Tip #2: Be prepared!

Do not assume that you can just come to class, wing it and expect your students to have record breaking results by the end of the year. Whether you have a self-contained classroom where you teach all of the core subjects or a one subject classroom, you still have to begin each day well prepared. Take the TE home and study the subject on a daily basis. Do the assignments at home and look up related information so that you are prepared for the questions the students may ask you.   Also, you will have to commit the same amount of “learning phase” if you are moving to another grade level or another subject. I taught fourth grade for five years and then moved to teaching sixth grade last year. The curriculum, as you can imagine, was different than what I was used to so I had to commit a lot of time to learning the new content. Just because I was a veteran teacher did not mean that I was going to succeed in the new grade level so I had to commit time to learning the new material.

Tip #3: Behavior Management!  Behavior Management!  Behavior Management!

In real estate, it is all about location, location, location. Well, in the field of education, we know that in order to have a successful classroom, it is all about the behavior management.  From day one, new teachers need to understand on how big of a role their behavior management skills will play in their students’ academic success.  If you find yourself struggling, I strongly recommend you observe a teacher in the building that has good behavior management in their classroom. Also, ask an administrator to model some techniques on how to redirect students that are off tasks.  I will share some behavior management techniques on a later blog.

zemen marrugi teacher tips

Tip #4: Get Creative

Do not be afraid to get creative when delivering the material to the students. Get in costume! Use props! Bring out all the stops and make learning fun. I am a big advocate for teachers that step out of the box and bring the curriculum to life, which is why I love to use music, costumes and lots of creativity in my teaching. How are the students expected to get excited about the material if we sound bored with what we are teaching? Our enthusiasm rubs off on them, which is why we need to teach with all of our heart. Great way to get creative would be to plan your day in advance, which is why Tip #2 is so important.

Tip # 5: Analyze the Data

Familiarize yourself with the school’s data, especially that of your incoming students. You need to be aware of where they are, academically, and where they need to be by the end of the year. If you are not familiar on how to translate the data, seek assistance from your administrative team. Also, read articles on the different assessments that your students will be taking throughout the year. Check out my later blog on different test taking strategies to use with your students.

Tip #6: Don’t burn yourself out

Do not join ten different committees to show how dedicated you are to your job. It is all about quality, not quantity that will make you stand out. There are so many teachers that burn themselves out by working harder, not smarter. These teachers eventually leave the profession within the first five years because they did not use their time wisely. Remember to get some rest on a daily basis and to dedicate time to your personal life.  However, I still strongly believe that you need to put a hundred percent effort into your job. You will eventually get what you put in so although I am telling you not to burn yourself out, I still want you to understand that you will work very hard the first few years to build a strong career.

Tip #7: Become a lifelong learner

Understand that you will continue to learn new ideas, new curriculum and new techniques on a regular basis to improve your craft as an educator.  As a lifelong learner, your education will not stop with a Bachelors degree. Most teachers pursue a higher degree and receive additional endorsements, certifications and eventually get a Masters degree. Always keep in mind that the additional education is meant to improve your skills as an educator. Over the years, you will narrow down exactly what part of education you are mostly interested in, from curriculum to educational leadership to administration.

Tip #8: Be flexible

If there is one thing I have learned about the field of education is that change is inevitable.  The more flexible you are with these constant changes; the better teacher you will be because new studies are always made available to teachers about assessment, curriculum and how to successfully reach out to our students. Always keep in mind Tip #1 about accepting constructive criticism. A big part of being flexible is about responding well to feedback when given to you.  If you just keep in mind the overall goal of educating children, then you will be much more accepting of these changes because they are meant to help you grow and improve your skills as an educator.

Tip #9: Build your resources

As a first year teacher, I spent a lot of time hopping from one yard sale to another, collecting different items from children’s books, baskets, kids’ movies for recess and random household furniture like side tables for my listening station and yard furniture for my reading garden. I also purchased a lot of books shelves and organizing bins from businesses that were closing shop. One man’s trash is another teacher’s treasure because I was able to make use of all of these items.  Also, teachers these days have Pinterest, a phenomenal resource that is full of DIY projects.

Tip #10: Parental Partnership

A vital part in any child’s life is the role his or her parents plays in their everyday life.  Regardless of what district or city you teach in, a one hundred percent parental participation can be reached if you put in the work it will take to get the parents involved in the classroom. I have been teaching in inner city Detroit for the past seven years and I always aim at getting all of the parents in my classroom involved. Keep in mind that not every parent will get involve the same way.  Some parents are able to donate items from your classroom’s wish list, while others are able to volunteer a couple hours a month in the class. Use a variety of methods to update the families with information regarding what is happening in the classroom and encourage all parents to play a role in the classroom. Check out my later blog on creative parental partnership ideas.

I have shared these tips with you because I know that it takes more than just one skill, one technique and one secret to become a strong teacher. A successful classroom is not made of just one method and you cannot rely on one tip to help you make it through your career as an educator. Just like our students’ diverse learning abilities, you will need to utilize a variety of different teaching styles in your classroom.  To have a productive teaching career, you will need to take it all in from constructive criticism to being well prepared before every class. You will need to constantly work on improving your behavior management skills so that you have a controlled classroom, full of rigorous and differentiated instruction that creatively challenges each child. You also need to constantly be aware of the data and know where your students are performing and allow the data to drive your instruction.  Do not get overwhelmed or intimidated by the amount of work it takes to run a successful classroom.  Keep your enthusiasm about the field of education alive by keeping up with new research and staying flexible with the changes that will come about.  Just like any other career, your commitment and dedication will determine your success. Good luck and welcome to the profession that makes all of the other professions possible.

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The Heart of a Teacher

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.

That moment will forever hold a special place in my heart because it had made me proud of reaching my goal and having my name outside my first classroom made it all surreal. I had finally made it! I was now Ms. Marrugi, Homeroom Teacher.

Since that August morning in 2007, the enthusiasm about preparing my classroom has continued to grow and I still find joy in decorating themed bulletin boards every month and making positive phone calls home, reminding parents of the special potential that exists within their child.

Over the years, I have been blessed with countless amounts of homemade cards, teacher paraphernalia, and gifts, big and small, from my students, their parents and family members. They have surprised me with delicious red apples on my desk, a slice of cake from their siblings’ birthday parties from the weekend before and have gone out of their way to collect the most random purple items for me since they know it is my favorite color.

A precious letter and apple I received from my students a few months ago.

A precious letter and apple I received from my students a few months ago.

I stayed after hours, preparing the perfect lesson and came up with the most imaginative way to introduce a topic that most people would describe as dry and tiresome. From fractions to Ancient Rome, economics and learning how to make inferences-all lessons were important and I treated them as such. To this day, my students do not know if I have a least favorite subject because when I present a topic, regardless of my personal feelings towards the subject or how intimidated I might feel about teaching the material, I always present the curriculum with excitement. I use colorful and weird props because I know that the students will find them amusing.

Over time, some of my peers have shared my passion about the floor decorating contest and the reading month festivities and they, too, joined me in wearing silly costumes and made a fool of themselves-all in the name of teaching. Others were not be as encouraging as comments about me being an “over-achiever” tried to discourage my sense of joy about my job as a teacher.

When I decided to begin teaching Middle School, I heard various comments about the pre-teens not being as interested in the “creative stuff,” but that could not be any further from the truth. My sixth graders enjoyed glitter just as much as my fourth graders did. Beginning the lesson with a silly anticipatory set or using incentives like having lunch with the teacher and greeting them with a smile and a handshake every morning were not just things appreciated by elementary students. Moving to sixth grade also reminded me that every student, regardless of age and grade level, may still be in need of drastic academic intervention.

The life of a teacher is a daily rollercoaster filled with the good, the bad and the ugly memories. During the summer, I wait with anticipation, imaging how the year would play out by the following June. I welcomed new students in September and by November, I knew so much about each student’s family and academic history that you would think I had been in their lives for years. I have laughed my heart out as they shared funny stories about family members and cried my eyes out when I heard of tragedies connected to one of the angels in my class that had mistakenly called me mom on numerous occasions.

One of the hardest moments of my life was when I was reminded of how cruel life can be and no amount of tissue or comfort could ease the pain in my heart as I saw one of my precious angels lying peacefully in a casket. When I started my teaching career, I knew I wanted to make a difference in the lives of the students in my classroom, but I did not realize on how much they were truly going to impact my life. The compassion that my students have demonstrated have restored my faith in humanity and when I think of all the baggage they carry as they face another school day, the definition of perseverance becomes a little more clear to me.

Thoughts of how to improve a lesson for next year’s students are always on my mind as I add new concepts to my personal collection of perfect lesson plans. Whether on vacation or surfing Pinterest, I save, pin, like and share random ideas that I know my students can benefit from in my classroom. Snapshots of decorated doors, workshop stations and class agendas fill my phone’s storage capacity because I know that in spite of how successful this year’s students were, my next class will need just as much care, if not even more.

To my fellow educators, I encourage you to keep the following three things in mind every morning as you walk into your classroom:

1) All students have the ability to learn and with proper academic assistance, differentiated instruction and rigorous assessment, each and every one of them will achieve academic success. Stop blaming it on the lack of parental participation, stop blaming it on the lack of supplies and resources and stop blaming it on the politicians that have no idea what you go through on a daily basis. You decided to become a teacher because you knew they needed you and although the decision did not come with a warning label, you still need to be your students’ biggest supporter and the driving force that will make the difference in their lives.

2) Every lesson can be interesting if the teacher takes the time to make it so. Sometimes, all it takes is a hat or a silly change of accent to get the students engaged in a lesson. Get creative! Get creative! Get creative! Most importantly, you have to let students think that you enjoy teaching every subject, every lesson, and every topic that is on the lesson plan, even if that is not the case because your sense of respect and enthusiasm towards the curriculum will rub off on them.

3) Learning is fundament, even for teacher! From first year teachers that are fresh out of college to the veteran professionals that have been in the field for decades, learning is always going to take place in the classroom for the students and their instructor. The more accepting you are of construction criticism, the better the teacher you will become for your students. Put all pride aside and know that even the most skilled craftsmen are always ready to improve their techniques.

For my parting words of wisdom, I just want every reader to remember that these words are not just my own, but they lay keep in every teacher’s heart. We selected this profession because we want to play a small, yet vital role in reshaping the future. From coast to coast, in classrooms of five to five hundred, from pre-kindergarten to college level courses, we commit our lives to being a positive reminder to students of all ages that regardless of where they come from and what they may have experienced in their lives, all things are possible if they just work a little harder at excelling academically.

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10 Fun Snow Day Ideas for Parents

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.

ZemenMarrugiSnowDayIdeas

Everyone loves an unexpected Snow Day every now and then. However, it is easy to run out of ideas on how to keep your children busy throughout the cold day, while at the same time keeping the content educational. Here are some fun activities to do with your children on the next unexpected Snow Day.

Crafts Corner
Take some construction paper, glue and markers and get creative with your child. If you are short on supplies, recycle old newspapers and make a papier-mâché project. Another inexpensive project would be to make a snowflake banner out of copy paper. Have a conversation on why it is important to recycle.

Couch Potato Movie
Get a couple of blankets and enjoy a movie of their choice. If you have more than one child, have them each add a movie title in a cup and randomly pick one for the whole family to enjoy. Use this moment to review their elapsed time skills. If we start the movie at 3:00PM and it will last an hour and a half, then when will the movie finish? Also, if we only have three hours before dinner, then how many movies can we watch?

Baker’s Delight
Nothing says snow day like the smell of freshly baked cookies. Have your child help you make breakfast, lunch or prepare the table for dinner. Utilize this time to review their measuring skills by using related vocabulary throughout the whole process like cups, quarts, gallons, etc. Do fun things like encouraging them to figure out how many cups are in a quart by pouring liquids from one into the other.

Write a Letter
Help your child write a friendly letter to their grandparents or a friend that moved away. This will help them practice what a friendly letter includes and also give them a great opportunity to keep in touch with a loved one. FYI-A friendly letter includes the date, heading, greeting, body, closing and signature.

Virtual Museums Tours
Some museums have virtual tours on their websites. Take a tour and learn something new with your child. Parents should also monitor local museums for any special exhibits coming to town regarding their child’s area of interest and grade level content.

Spelling Word Games
Keep a folder of your child’s spelling words for the whole year and review them throughout the school year. On days like this, take out the words and make a game out of them. For every word spelled correctly, they can earn a minute towards an incentive of their choice like playing their video games. Also, you can also place each word on an index card and have them practice putting them all in alphabetical order.

Make a Snow Man
Bundle up and let Frosty greet all of your neighbors with his corncob pipe and button nose. Have fun making a snow man and snow angels with your children and remember to take lots of picture because these are the moments they will cherish for many years to come.

Snow Candy
Growing up, my siblings and I loved eating the snow. Drizzle some syrup on the white snow and have fun comparing old fashion candy with today’s traditions. This can be a great lesson on discussing how modern technology has changed the way candy is made today. You can also take this time to add a quick Science lesson by analyzing the tiny snowflakes. Get a magnify glass and have your children critique different snowflakes and before you know it, they will realize that no two snowflakes are alike.

Flash Cards
Flashcards are easy and inexpensive to make and can be used for review of alphabets, vocabulary, colors, and shapes. Regardless of your child’s age, flash cards are a great way to review grade level content material. Place a vocabulary word on one side and the definition on the other side.

Educational Websites
Most schools are purchasing online subscriptions for their students to websites like studyisland.com, Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Math, etc. These websites provide personalized assignments to students based on grade level. A personal record is kept of each student’s completed assignments so parents can monitor growth and give their child an opportunity to complete additional work for much rigorous instruction.

Snow Days can be unexpected, but if you prepare some of these projects in advance, then it can also be a great opportunity to teach your child something new.  I recommend you complete some of these items in advance and store them in small plastic bags. These activities can also be fun during the weekends. Remember, above all things, keep it fun, keep it educational and keep taking those pictures because these are priceless childhood memories that they will love to look back on when they get older.

About Zemen Marrugi

Zemen Marrugi is the Founder/President of Those Who Can, Teach! and an experienced teacher and national presenter.  Marrugi has worked as a classroom teacher and has presented workshops on topics like differentiated instruction and the writing process.  In addition to working with elementary/middle school teachers, Marrugi has also presented workshops for college activities personnel at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Association for Student Advancement and the National Association for Campus Activities.  Click here for more information on Zemen Marrugi.

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The Faberge of Today’s Educational System

Faberge Egg

Faberge Egg

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.

As an art enthusiast, going to the Faberge exhibit at the Detroit Institution of the Arts was a no- brainer. Walking through the sections, taking in all of the detail on the precious objects that have mesmerized millions over the past century was exciting. From the Easter egg inspired containers to the delicate crystal vase miniature floral pieces, each item was creatively handcrafted and continues to be admired today. However, it was not until midway through the exhibit that I realized the similarity between the House of Faberge and what should be today’s educational system.

What amazed me most about the House of Faberge was the emphasis on teamwork. Due to their delicate and excessive amount of work, no Faberge item was ever created by one person from start to finish. The company stood strong because each master craftsman had his specific role in contributing to the “masterpieces,” treasures that attracted the attention of the Russian aristocracy.

Just like the Faberge master craftsmen, teachers today need to work together because a success educational career does not happen by just having an accomplished fourth grade teacher. If the overall goal is to have a successful school, then the same amount of commitment to excellence needs to be emphasized by every classroom in a school building.

As a teacher, I know that every individual in a school plays a significant role in developing a student into becoming a respectful, responsible and educated young person. Everyone! From the classroom teacher to the lunch lady, office staff and administration team-every adult in a school system plays a vital role in “crafting” a successful learning environment. More importantly, all of these different entities must have a common ground for expectation in regards to behavior, homework, classroom, instruction, rigor, participation and parental involvement.

The idea of teachers closing their classroom doors and taking care of their own students is a thing of the past because our educational system is not measured by individual classroom performance but a school as whole. Just like the craftsmen as the House of Faberge shared the secrets to their craft with their fellow craftsmen, teachers need to do the same when it comes to sharing best practices with their fellow educators. After all, teaching is an art of its own and there are a lot of great educators out there so let us stop reinventing the wheel and begin leaning on each other for advice, feedback, and resources. The day teachers actually begin seeing the importance of team effort in a school’s overall performance is the day the entire school will succeed in educating every child in the building.

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Self-Efficacy

By Zemen Marrug, M.Ed.

After last week’s Presidential Debate, there were a lot of people that got offended at the thought of anyone criticizing President Barack Obama’s debating skills.  However, the truth is that President Obama did not bring his A-Game to the platform and I am so glad to hear him poke fun at his own debating skills because it shows that he, too, has high expectation on himself and is prepared to grow as a leader.

This is a great example of self-efficacy because having high expectation on ourselves is more vital than any hope anyone else has for us.  To truly succeed, we must always be open to constructive feedback- no matter how good we think we are at our craft. We need to always aim high, but at the same time, be willing to look at our abilities and honestly answer the question, “How can I improve my own skills?” After all, having a goal set will lead to many disappointments if we are not willing to accept the idea of growth from every experience.

Self-efficacy is what drives a frontrunner to lead million through journeys unimaginable by others. So, whether you are an average Joe, an elementary school teacher or the President of the United States of America; everyone should be willing to self-evaluate his or her own skills and always be willing to grow and soar to new heights.

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Civil War Lesson Plans

By Zemen Marrugi, M.Ed.

I wrote these lesson plans a couple of years ago for the History Channel’s Civil War Preservation Trust. Please feel free to duplicate this material for your classrooms.

Approximate Length of Time: 50-70 minutes

Goal:

Students will be able to understand the important roles animals pets had in the Civil War by gaining the affection of the soldiers on the battlefields and reminding them of their lives back home.

Objectives:

1. Students will be able to compare and contrast the benefits and disadvantages of having different animal pets.

2. Students will be able to identify how having a pet would have made the soldiers feel more at home on the battlefield.

Materials:

Anticipatory Set/Hook:

Who has a pet? What makes a pet so special? Have there been times when your pet made you feel better about a situation or made you forgot about something that wasn’t so pleasant? Why do pets make people feel good?

Procedures:

1. Ask students the importance of having a pet to some people. Ask them why some people chose to have a pet in their lives.

Possible Answers: Pets make people feel good and they give people unconditional support from an affectionate being. People and pets gain each other’s loyalty and affection.

2. As a class create a list of pets students have at home.

If time permits, you can have students create bar/line graphs with the animals and numbers they provided.

3. Watch the Civil War video on the History.com. The Civil War part of ‘America: the Story of Us’will give the student a good perception of the war and its impact on the nation. After watching the video, ask the students about how they think the soldiers felt being part of the war. Have them give examples of what would have made the soldiers feel a little better about the situations they were in during the war.

Possible Answers: Soldiers wrote letters to their family members. Soldiers had pets with them at the camp.

4. Have a discussion with the students about why a soldier would have enjoyed the company of a pet during a war. Have the students complete the KWL of animal mascots and evaluate their previous knowledge on the content. Use the provided KWL Handout. The KWL handout can remain with the students because they will need to complete the L section at the end of the entire unit to demonstrate what they have learned about animal mascots.

5. Students Read: http://www.reillysbattery.org/Newsletter/Jul00/deborah_grace.htm The Horse In the Civil War by Deborah Grace

6. After students read the selection, they can then compare the benefits of having either a dog or horse in the war. Give students write specific examples on what benefits or disadvantages came with having either animal.

7. Have a discussion about how much loyalty the animals would have built towards the general and soldiers and discuss what would have happened had one of the animals come up missing. Have students complete the ‘Mad as a Wet Hen’ handout.

8. Discuss the illustrations by Frank Leslie and how animals would have reacted towards wounded soldiers using the Handout and Transparency.

Closure:

Why were animal mascots important to the soldiers during the civil war? How did having an animal around the company make the soldiers feel? What animals were most common to appear to be part of the different regiments?

Assessment:

Teacher can assess the students with the Mascot assessment and the Tri-fold Board Rubric.

Kinesthetic Leader: This lesson can be enhanced by having the students participate in a real life Civil War reenactment. Students can be divided into two separate groups. The reenactment can be of one of the battles, topped off with one student dressed as Abraham Lincoln and making the Gettysburg Address.

Rigorous Assessment: Students that demonstrate a higher understanding of the Civil War can be challenged with a more rigorous assignment of creating a bulletin board that demonstrates what the two sides were fighting for during the war. See Rigorous Assessment Rubric for more detail on grading and assignment expectation.

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