Love first, teach second: A teacher’s message

I am pleased to welcome my friend, Kristen Hunter, with a guest post today. I loved hearing about her career as a teacher and how she brings energy and originality (and love) to the classroom. She also shares about a few of the items she uses to create a positive learning environment, some of which she still needs before school starts in August.

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message

My name is Kristen Hunter, and I have aspired to be a teacher since I was a little girl. In August, I will be starting my third year of teaching next month, at a Title I school in Tallahassee, Fla. I love teaching because of the “lightbulb” moments students have when you see it in their eyes that they understand the material.

I have bachelor’s degrees in Elementary Education and Exceptional Student Education, as well as certifications in reading and English as a second language. In the spring of 2021, I will graduate with a master’s degree in educational leadership.

Another reason I love teaching is that no two days are the same. When students come into our classroom, they unpack their materials and start their morning work while watching our school’s morning news. I teach reading and math in the morning before lunch. After lunch we have an intervention block, special area, and our science/social studies time. While we stick to a daily routine, the activities change depending on the lesson.

I created an Amazon Wishlist of items that would be beneficial for my students. Some of the items on my list might sound odd, but they have a unique purpose. Some of these items include battery-operated light switches, a baby car mirror, whisper phones, game show buzzers, and a wireless doorbell.

Why a baby car mirror for first-graders in a classroom?

The baby car mirror will be hung above the whiteboard so I can still see what the students are doing even with my back to them.

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message
Credit: Amazon product illustration

What is a whisper phone and how does it help students learn to read?

I like to use whisper phones in my classroom because first graders are still practicing reading fluency. With these whisper phones, the student puts one end on their ear and the other end by their mouth. Students can whisper read to themselves. Some students need to read out loud to better comprehend and become more fluent while reading.

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message
Credit: Amazon product illustration

What’s the buzz?

I like to create engaging review games for my students before assessments or if they are struggling to grasp a concept. One of the games I use often is classroom jeopardy, so having the buzzers will allow me to more accurately tell which ring in first.

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message
Credit: Amazon product illustration

Ring that bell

I have a wireless doorbell in my classroom that I use to gain the attention of my students. When I ring the bell, my students know to stop what they are doing and give me their attention. This is much more effective than raising my voice to get their attention.

Why a battery-operated light switch?

Our only bathrooms are in the hallway — one for boys and one for girls. Therefore, the children have to go out of the classroom to use the restroom. I only allow one boy and one girl to go to the bathroom at a time, so when a student needs to use the restroom they will either turn on the boy or girl switch so I know if there is someone already in the restroom.

Here are a few pictures Kristen shared of her classroom:

Love first, teach second: A teacher's message

Love first, teach second

As an educator, I believe that we are all lifelong learners. I feel that it’s important for my students to understand that I don’t have the answer to every question and that it is okay. When my students ask me a question and I do not know the answer, I am honest and let them know I will find the answer and let them know.

Another lesson that my students continue to teach me is compassion for others. Young children forgive their peers at a much quicker rate than most adults, and they are truly concerned when a friend is sad or hurt. My students love to help, or ask for help, when a friend is hurt. These students do such a wonderful job of consoling their peers and being there for them when they are sad. It is a reminder to slow down and be there for my family, friends, and students.

I am a firm believer in love first, teach second. Students are more likely to learn from a teacher that they have built a relationship with first. At the beginning of the school year, I spend a lot of time getting to know my students and sharing facts about myself with my class. It is important that my students understand that in the classroom we are a family that supports and loves each other. We have morning meetings where we talk about different topics as a class so we can learn about similarities and differences and why that is okay! During some of these morning meetings, we choose to share things we did over the weekend or holiday breaks.

I would like to say thank you to the countless people who have shown their support by donating to my classroom.

A note from Paula

I took the above graphic from Kristen’s Facebook page, because it seems a fitting way to end this post. I appreciate her commitment to first graders. I’ll never be able to repay my children’s teachers, or the teachers who taught me to love language as well as learning in general. The best teachers do more than teach subjects; they help teach “life.” Thank you, Kristen, for being one of those teachers. If you can help Kristen out by purchasing something on her wish list, here’s the link again.

Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015

When I choose to support a cause, I try to understand it as much as possible. That is why, when I read about the Summer Food Challenge which benefits America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend on Facebook, I immediately knew I had to do the “go without food for an entire day” option in addition to the “donate” option.

With a target date of June 18, I thought through which day would be best for my day without food. My thoughts included “make it a day when your workout schedule is light,” “make it a day when you can stay calm and limit your activity,” “make it a beneficial One Day Water Fast day,” and “make it a day free of food temptations.”

But …

Who am I kidding? My life doesn’t work that way!

I was kidding myself to think I could find a low-key, “calm” day! In addition, my day without food was time-limited. I knew I could pick right back up on my nutrition the next day (or, technically, at midnight). It was a novelty. For one out of every five Leon County residents (56,000 of our neighbors, 11,000 of whom are children), who are food insecure, hunger is no novelty. Nor is an abstract term like “food insecure” while accurate, a novelty. It is an imperfect term describing what they really are: hungry. Summer months are especially difficult, since children do not have access to breakfast or lunch programs at school.

I experienced a tiny fraction of how these people must feel:

When I ran four miles with nothing to eat before and no plan to have anything to eat afterwards.

Imagine you are a kid, showing up for school, and it’s time for p.e. or free play. 

Imagine not having the energy to run, climb, be active.

When I took my son through a drive through and smelled the tantalizing aromas of his food, knowing I could not partake.

Imagine you are a kid, seeing your peers filling their tummies, sometimes with “treats” like fries but other times with fresh produce, protein-filled foods, and plenty of hydration.

When I had to deal with the (usually) minor stresses of getting my elderly father-in-law up, fed, dressed, and driven to his physician’s office for an appointment, communicating clearly and calmly while complying with other people’s deadlines.

Imagine you are a kid, navigating through a society with all kinds of people, some nice, some mean, some who want something from you, some who want to be left alone.

Imagine needing a clear head to read cues and a stable blood sugar level to cope with the world around you.

Speaking of needing a “clear head,” when I decided to prepare and deliver a Toastmasters speech on the topic of the Summer Food Challenge that night … when I had to compose and deliver a ten-minute speech to a table full of people munching on chips, salsa, and Mexican food, convincing them to spend money (or time) on food for others instead of tacos for themselves.

Imagine you are a kid, expected to organize yourself and your schoolwork, to submit projects on time, to participate in class energetically, to stave off distraction in order to concentrate on your education.

After My Day Without Food:

I came away from my day without food empathizing more fully with the children (and adults) in our community who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. I came away from my day without food imagining a community where children can play, learn, and live free of food insecurity, free of HUNGER.

Here’s How You Can Help:

If you are on Facebook, go to this link and click “going.”

If you want to feel what the food insecure members of our community experience, join me, Tallahassee Democrat Publisher Skip Foster, Tallahassee Police Department Chief Michael DeLeo, and State Representative Alan Williams in accepting the challenge of going a day without food (without endangering your own health, of course).  Pop in on the Summer Food Challenge Facebook page and let us know how it went.

Download a flier and post it at your work, church, or civic organization.

CONTRIBUTE FOOD OR FUNDS! This choice would have the most impact! Details:

  • Drop off food, cash, or checks made out to ASHBB (note “Fill a Truck”) to the Tallahassee Democrat at 277 N Magnolia Dr between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday – Thursday of this week (6/15/15-6/18/15).
  • Donate online via this link.
  • Drop food off to Target Copy at 635 W. Tennessee Street, and they will match your donation!
  • Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015If you drop off to the Democrat on Thursday, 6/18, between noon and 7 p.m., you can participate in the community weigh-in at the on-site scale. (Let’s hope to exceed last year’s three ton mark!).
  • These are the most useful items: peanut butter, jelly, canned beans, canned tuna/chicken, rice, canned vegetables, pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese, soups, fruit juice, cookies, crackers, baby food/formula, condiments, and salad dressing.

One action you can take that helps people with food insecurity year-round is to run, walk, or cycle using the Charity Miles app and select Feeding America as your designated charity. For every mile you run or walk, Charity Miles will “sponsor” you, meaning they will donate a quarter for every mile run or walked, and a dime for every mile cycled. It’s that easy! For my four miles on Monday, I earned $1 for Feeding America, for something I would have been doing anyway (and, yeah, I posed after my run with a can of tuna on my head for added effect!).

Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015

Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015

Please thank AMWAT Moving Warehousing Storage and the other sponsors who are working together to make a difference:

Tallahassee Police Department

Tallahassee Democrat

WTXL Channel 27

The POD Advertising

Red Hills Broadcasting

Lamar Advertising Company

Target Copy Tallahassee

America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend

Impact Visual Media

Gandy Printers

FINALLY ……LET’S FILL THAT TRUCK!!!!

Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015