Andrew Maurin: My name is Andrew T. Maurin and I teach 3rd grade at Elm Grove Elementary in Independence, Missouri. I’ve been teaching here for 3 years, but 10 years total.
AM: The biggest reason I got into education was to help mold the future generation. You can really “get” to them when they are at such a young age; you can either make them or break them. I really want my future to be successful, and I want their future to be successful, so I wanted to get to them as soon as I could to mold them into being great leaders.
AM: My classroom is a family, and I really play to that. I don’t make decisions without consulting my class. We have a meeting every single morning so we can talk about our day, how everybody’s doing, and what things we may need to work on from the day before. My students know they are a family; if one of the my students falls behind on something, the other students work together to bring them back up to pace. I look at these kids as my own kids; I see them 35 hours a week, at least. Because of my school’s location, a lot of them don’t have great family lives, and for many of the kids, they see me more than they see their actual parents. They need that positive, encourage adult relationship, and I make sure they get that.
AM: I just push them hard. I push them to their limits. I show them where they are at; both their successes and their failures. When they are behind, I show them how to catch back up and do better. I show them that, no matter what, they are capable of doing this. It doesn’t matter what your parents are like or where you come from–you can be a success, if you truly try hard.
AM: When you’re teacher, there are a lot of demands. Curriculum demands so much, districts demand so much, the media demands so much. You can’t make everybody happy. There is a lot expected of you, but you can only do so much to try and meet everybody’s needs. I’ve found that, no matter what, I just have to focus on where the kids need the most help. Regardless of what the curriculum guide says or what my superiors say, I need to make sure my kids are in a good place. If my kids are having trouble with paragraph writing, then I’m going to focus on paragraph writing because it lays a foundation for everything else. That has really been the biggest challenge in the past few years, especially with the implementation of Common Core. We are trying to get that into the classroom, and we are changing curriculum around. We are trying to find what fits and what works and what doesn’t work. We are changing gears too often to really take the time to make something work. One year isn’t enough time to decide if something really works. With all the changes going on in the education world, it’s hard to focus on one thing and get really good at it.
AM: A big online resource for me is ClassDojo. With ClassDoJo, I’m able to give students points for doing a good job or participating, or I can take points away if necessary. It’s a great way to keep the children motivated, because they love earning points, and there are incentives for getting a certain amount of points. All the students in my class also have their own classroom ChromeBook. We received a grant from Google that allows all of our kids to have their own in the classroom. I use those as much as possible. We use the Reading and Writing Workshop models on the ChromeBooks to help kids with their typing and reading skills. The students use GoogleDocs for all of their writing projects throughout the entire year, so now instead of a file filled with all of their reports, they have everything stored on the Cloud. They can access it any time from school or at home. We also use an online math series called GoMath which is great because it is self-paced, so the kids can go at their own comfort level. We really use tons of other great online resources; too many to list off. I love looking for and finding new resources to introduce to my classroom.
AM: You’re going to fail. It happens. You have that kid who just doesn’t care. Or those parents who just don’t care. I’ve had parents come into conferences intoxicated; I was surprised they even showed up! You just can’t take it personally. My first year of teaching, I took everything personally. I was always trying to figure out what I did wrong. I’m not saying it’s always the kids fault or the parents fault, but you will never be perfect and you will fail. It’s not about how you fail though; it’s about how you pick yourself back up. Reflect upon what you did, modify your ways, and never stop trying. Go out of your way, spend extra time, figure out what makes these kids tick. You’ll get through to them, and when that happens, they build trust in you. When the kids trust you, you can teach them anything. Do your best to find out something special about every single kid that you can connect to. If you can do that, then they’re yours! That’s what I’ve done this year, and this year has been the best year I’ve ever had. Just remember that you will fail, but it isn’t about that; it’s about how you pick yourself back up.