Teacher Feature: Maria from KinderCraze

Name: Maria Manore
School: St Mary School in Mt. Clemens, MI
Grade Taught: Kindergarten
Blog Link: www.kindercrazeblog.com

1) Tell us a little about how you began your teaching career.
From a very young age, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. My mother teaches second grade and I spent nearly every afternoon in her classroom after dismissal. She made copies and prepared for the next day's instruction, while I played school and pretended her classroom was my own. Eventually, I graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in elementary education. I now teach for the same school that I attended as a student and spent so many hours pretending to be a teacher. I began my career as a first grade teacher. After 3 years, I moved down to full-day kindergarten. I currently teach in half-day kindergarten.

2) What has been the key to your success in the classroom?
My recipe for classroom success consists of three ingredients: passion, reflection, and creativity. Like so many teachers, I am very passionate about my work in the classroom. I invest a lot of time into my goal of helping each student make social and educational gains. It often requires me to stretch my creativity as I experiment with something new in the hopes of helping students rise to the next level of achievement. Throughout each day, I examine my students' strengths and weaknesses. I also examine what is (and is not) working for me as their teacher. Reflecting on these items is critical to improving anything in a classroom setting. Once I have a better sense of how to maximize each of our strengths (and which ideas to give up on), I try again the next day. Over time, this mix of passion, reflection, and creativity helps everyone to grow and succeed in my classroom.

3) What challenges do you face in 2013 (2014) and how have you overcome them?
My single greatest challenge is time. All teachers struggle with time limitations on many different levels. Since I teach half day kindergarten, the challenge of time is compounded. I have to meet every standard and teach every skill in half the time. To say that I have overcome this challenge is not accurate. Rather, I run a classroom that is as time-efficient as possible. I successfully lobbied to have my students "specials" classes shortened so I could have additional instructional time with them each day. I also count down all the time. Young students love the challenge of completing a task before time is up and counting down from 10 helps my kinders hurry. Sand timers are also a great, inexpensive way to remind children that there is little time to waste. On a more personal level, I don't spend a lot of time on idle conversation and I often eat lunch in my classroom so that I can eat and work at the same time. Most importantly, I try not to let time defeat me. Each day I make peace with the fact that there will never be enough time. I do the best I can with the time I've given, then I try again the next day.

4) Are there any education trends that you are looking out for in 2014? If so, what are they?
I am very curious to see how the use of iPads in the classroom will increase in 2014, particularly in regard to "flipped classrooms." I recently attended a presentation by Erin Klein (of Kleinspiration). As a second grade teacher, Erin is unable to flip her classroom in the traditional sense (of students learning new academic content at home via teacher-created video), but she does incorporate the concept with her young students during in-class centers time. Students watch Erin's teacher-created videos for spelling lessons and complete related assignments independently. It was a brilliant way to bring an educational trend in technology down to the younger grades. I will be on the lookout for additional ideas and strategies for implementing this trend in my own classroom during the coming year.

5) What is one teaching resource you can’t live without?
I would be completely lost without access to the internet. Whether I am scouring my favorite teaching blogs for content ideas, looking up a the correct spelling of "Boba Fett" name for a class list of words that start with B (since every kindergarten boy seems to love Star Wars), downloading a new Harry Kindergarten video on YouTube to help my students learn a new math concept, the ideas and resources I find online truly help me take classroom instruction to the next level. I know that I do not have all of the answers (or the time to figure out a solution to every problem myself). Thankfully, the internet helps me manage a content-rich and energetic kindergarten classroom without missing a beat.

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