Alisa Ulman teaches English/Reading, Math, Foreign Language, Science and History/Social Studies. She has over 30 years experience — and she’s one of the Teachers We Love in 2021. You can learn more about her in the interview below, and at The Teacher Marketplace.
Why did you become a teacher?
In college I chose Education and Early Childhood for my majors because I enjoy working with children, and helping them to expand those lovely, growing minds. Teachers have the ability to inspire, motivate, direct, encourage, and even change lives.
Teaching is rewarding because I can actually see I am making a difference in a child’s life. Being a teacher isn’t just a job. It’s a way of life. It’s who and what I am.
What is the funniest moment you’ve experienced a teacher?
When I taught second grade I was continually amused by the honesty and sweetness and silly and surprising answers sometimes given, and therefore laughed a lot!
One afternoon, we were playing a guessing game, and an extremely bright boy in the class gave a response that was well beyond his years and it was so funny, I absolutely cracked up. I was laughing so hard, I had tears in my eyes and practically gasping for breath. Of course, my reaction made the kids laugh and the chain reaction pretty much had all of us laughing hysterically.
How has the last year affected your students and your teaching approach?
Currently, I am a substitute teacher and schools have been closed quite a bit so I’ve not been teaching as much. However, I think the most obvious observation of the students is that they don’t like wearing masks.
The number one challenge for me as a teacher, created by the mask-wearing, is being able to hear and understand a child when they are speaking. Having to repeat answers and questions slows down lessons and spontaneity, which makes keeping lessons fun and interesting a lot more challenging. Also, social distancing makes it difficult for children to work with a partner or in small groups. I normally like to alternate between direct instruction and independent work alone or with one or more other children. The social distancing practice does present a challenge to offer that type of learning.
What’s a creative solution you use to keep kids engaged or motivated during COVID?
- Obey the 20-minute attention span rule and stick to it.
- In the classroom, don’t make any lesson or activity longer than 20 minutes. Then move on to a new area of focus.
- For remote learners, use shorter activities to keep their minds moving and interested.
- Incorporate as much hands-on learning and manipulatives as much as possible.
- Alternate teacher-directed lessons with videos and other teaching resources found online.
- Invite guest speakers to come into the classroom for a change of pace.
- Incorporate music, art and movement into lessons when appropriate.
- Choose age/level appropriate activities that the child can be fully engaged in.
And use plenty of praise and encouragement. Always be kind. We all appreciate that.
What resources do you like to use in the classroom or in teaching remotely?
I like to use as much variety in my classroom or remotely as possible. These include manipulatives, storybooks, workbooks, puzzles and games, flashcards, posters, Go Noodle, teacher blogs, sharing ideas and collaborating with other teachers in the building.
In the classroom, I like to utilize as much hands-on learning as is possible for the lesson. For remote learning, I like to use traditional learning methods such as using worksheets, flashcards, playing games and using manipulatives either using an Elmo or just holding them up to the camera.
What is your experience with bullying in the classroom?
Bullying is not acceptable and will not be tolerated in my classroom. If I see or hear bullying I will immediately intervene.
Creating a happy, positive, inviting atmosphere and classroom is the first step. If the teacher is happy and positive, the children mostly follow suit. I like to have morning meetings where we begin the day with greetings or fun games that involve all of the children and gives each child a chance to speak, say something positive, greet others, tell a happy testimony, etc. This also encourages friendship and empathy between the members of the class.
Rules have to be clearly given at the beginning of the year or each day. Negative consequences must also be stated and understood for bullying. I have to be consistently enforcing consequences to send the message to students that bullying isn’t acceptable and won’t be tolerated.
How do you gauge if your students are succeeding?
Well the ah-ha! moment and look in their eyes and expression is sure a great way to see if something has clicked.
I find if the kids are engaged and happy, smiling, playfully being bossing or happily arguing while completing an assignment together, running up to me to show me their progress, proud and happy to display their work, there’s a good chance they’ve got it.
I am always very present with my students in my classroom. A good teacher has to always be watching and available to her students. Teaching and learning is a very personal experience so I make it appropriately as personal as I can so all of my students can taste that sweet taste of success and feel the joy it brings!
What’s a fun thing students don’t know about you?
Actually, my students do know a lot about me because kids love to hear stories, and stories make learning more fun! I tell lots of stories that relate to whatever it is we are doing. If kids are starting to drift, a personal story pulls a child right back and wakes them up instantly! Sharing with children lets them know you like them and trust them enough that you want to share personal things about yourself.
What’s the one book you wish all students would read?
I have boxes and boxes of children’s books. In addition to being a public school teacher, I also homeschooled my sons for a total of 15 years. I think the one book I wish ALL children would read, would be the Bible, so we could experience the most abundant lives here and now, and eternal life forever and ever. Amen!
What is your primary educational goal, and what are you most proud of as a teacher?
My goal as an educator is to foster a positive and supportive learning environment where creativity, critical thinking, and interaction are the daily norm so children will be enthusiastically engaged in relevant and rigorous learning. My role as a teacher is to nurture a climate conducive to learning for all students. By incorporating differentiated approaches to address multi-levels and learning styles, students in my care will be inspired to be innovators and problem solvers. Each of my students will be prepared and eager to meet new challenges when they move forward to the next grade level. These methods also help to ensure that children are motivated in their learning environment so every student can actively engage in their own learning experience and have the opportunity to reach their academic and personal goals.
Meet More Teachers We Love in 2021
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