We are thrilled to have Marla Muntner guest blog for us today. Marla has spent most of her professional life supporting teaching and learning—inside and outside of the classroom. She’s worked for newspapers, nonprofits, public schools, and education companies. As the former Marketing and Communications Manager for Teachstone, she thrived on creative work through designing instructional programs, managing complex projects, leading creative teams, and designing engaging communications materials.
The best teacher I ever had made me extremely uncomfortable: he pushed me to do things I didn’t feel ready to do. He noticed when I was upset or preoccupied—usually well before I was even aware that something was amiss. And he trusted my judgment and recognized my abilities well before I did.
Sure, he ran our high school newspaper class like a tight ship, keeping us on schedule, bringing in professional mentors, and arranging for printing and delivery of the Paw Print newspaper. But, truthfully, I barely remember that stuff.
What I do remember is his calm insistence that I could handle interviewing our principal after we had uncovered a misappropriation of funds under his watch—a daunting task for this awkward 16-year-old. And I remember him helping me feel okay about not having a date to the prom. And, most important, I remember him quietly handing me a blank book and encouraging me to write and create—a simple gesture that helped shape the rest of my life.
Like so many events in the years since I was his student, reading this Huffington Post article, “What Students Remember Most about Teachers” made me think of him and filled me with gratitude. It also made me wonder about all the things I’d said to my former students over the years.
There’s no way to know in advance how our interactions with students will shape their futures. But it’s clear that being fully present, fully human, and intentional in our day-to-day interactions provides a powerful opportunity we shouldn’t miss.
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There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
It's not uncommon for teachers in early education to need to strike a balance between following children's leads and sticking to the classroom schedule. We know that intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery, and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to grow. However, many times, as teachers begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
Teacher and coach, Colleen Schmit, will share how teachers can strike the balance between following the lesson plans and giving children freedom of choice and flexibility in the classroom.
We’re more than a month into the school year, and many educators and school leaders are feeling tired or burnt out already. That’s normal in any school year, as the newness of back-to-school wanes and the reality of a long year ahead kicks in. But, this year, that tiredness may feel like it has never felt before. Chalkbeat has reported that teacher vacancies are up in 18 of 20 large school districts, and it’s not surprising. Many are exhausted after a difficult year and a half (to put it mildly!). Many are also leaving the profession in droves to find work in competitive environments that provide a substantially larger salary.
As an educator, you’re busy. Your time is being split by competing priorities, from managing students’ needs, meeting your program’s goals, and communicating with parents. While you’re juggling your work, it can be difficult to keep learning about important ways to improve your daily teaching practice. Teachstone is here to help!