Norman Elementary's *STAR* Teacher is....
How many years have you been teaching?
In all, I have been in the profession for 28 years. I taught in Toledo, Ohio at Sherman Elementary for three years, at Father Gabriel Richard High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan for five years, and now I am completing my 20th year in Reed City.
What is your best memory?
Among my favorites is when we questioned a 5th grade student with a mature crawl stroke about where he learned to swim and who taught him and he answered proudly,
“You guys did.”
What is the funniest memory?
Over the years, a number of humorous incidents have happened to me including splitting my pants from seam to belt while attempting to show the kids a low slide position last year. Fortunately I was able to keep my front side to the students until Mrs. Emington who was subbing for the next class of the day could run home and get me another pair of slacks.
I thank God for a position working with the youngest students. As Art Linkletter used to say: “Kids say the darndest things!” After hearing me use the expression “Oh, my Word!” a number of times, one student finally asked me
“What is your word Mr. Emington?”
When I first started teaching, my Kindergarteners at Sherman Elementary used to think my name was Jim. The students would come in to my class greeting me with a big smile and saying, “Hi, Jim.” After a while, I figured it out. Their teachers would say to them, “We’re going to gym now,” so they assumed that was my first name.
Just this year on the way back to a class, we stopped at the drinking fountain for water. One of Mrs. Kailing’s kids informed the group with a glimmer in her eye that our water comes from Paris. I wondered about where she got that idea until I saw her pointing to the button on the side of the fountain marked “Press” and realized she was sounding it out.
Can you share a P.E. best practice.
One teaching practice that seems to work is instilling the importance of never giving up. In every endeavor from learning to tie shoes, to riding a two wheeler without training wheels, to learning to play a musical instrument, from success in the classroom to success on the athletic field, a Try, Try, Try attitude is Key. When a student perseveres to experience success where they had once failed, the lesson learned will have a lasting effect on their attitude and confidence. We make a big deal of this in gym, and I feel so blessed to be one of the agents whereby kids learn this secret of success.
Can you share another best practice.
Another important lesson I have learned through my training is that there needs to be something for a student who “gets it” right away as well as for the student who needs extra help. In my graduate work, we learned about extending tasks. These can be tasks that simplify or restate the work for the struggling student, or tasks that add challenge for those who immediately excel at the task. For example, an extending task for catching fly balls may be to bounce it to a student to make it easier to track, but for those who are good at it, we extend the task by tossing a smaller ball or making them run to catch.
I feel that many times we teach to the middle and try to help those who are challenged, but neglect those who we could challenge further.
I also have found that each student, depending on the task, may find themselves in the gifted or challenged category. Some excel in rhythmic activities but struggle in sports skills, a kid who is gifted in gymnastics may struggle in overhand throw for example. This is good in that it teaches them to be humble in accepting help when they struggle and helping others when they are excelling.
Our challenge is to keep all students on task and ever reaching to become their personal best.
What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?
My best advice to new teachers would be to learn and spend quality time on classroom management techniques. Time spent on rules and procedures is never wasted. I also suggest that you borrow techniques from experienced teachers. In time you will discover what works best for you. Get to know your students. As the axiom says: “They need to know that you care before they will care what you know.” I personally take the time to learn the names of and pray for the 250+ students that I see each day.
Anything else you would like to add?
I want my colleagues and administrators to know how blessed I feel to work at G.T. Norman. Our Physical Education team is proud to serve our kids and community and is grateful for the support and flexibility of our staff. The people at G.T. Norman make a great Team!
I've had the pleasure of knowing Doug for many years---our Sons (now 25!) went to elementary school together. This was an awesome interview---I love your stories, I love your advice, and I love that you pray for all of your students.
Thank you for being part of the great Team at Norman!