About the Book

Teaching stratgies, teacher memoir, Catherine Iaccarino

It’s here!!

Memoirs of TEACHING; THE GOOD,THE BAD AND THE INAPPROPRIATE with strategies for teaching to children not to tests

From the halls of Congress to dinner tables across the country, our educational system and how to improve it has long been the subject of debate. Catherine Iaccarino, a veteran teacher of both young students and instructors, shares various strategies for departing from the text. Instead, she focuses on methods for teaching children not only what to learn, but also how to learn in a way that best suits their individual learning styles.

In this entertaining and informative book, readers will see what makes Noah Webster spin in his grave, short vowels so sad, and how Shakespeare’s wild and crazy “Henry V” and “Hamlet” inspire and motivate fifth grade students. Through the kinesthetic approach readers observe how fingers can compute the sounds of letters into words. Forget about the box, and learn to think in a circle

This book is divided into two parts. It humorously highlights teaching situations with outcomes that span from the good, to the bad and the incredibly inappropriate. Readers may feel free to snicker at the faux pas, cringe at the irony of laws and orders, or relate to an experience that warmed their heart to a teacher. The book then moves on to provide successful instructional methods to bring the joy back to learning and teaching. Often, the lessons learned are much more valuable than the intention of the lesson planned. Recognizing these teachable moments is when true learning takes place.

Iaccarino’s insightful teaching experiences are wittily narrated, appealing to teachers, parents, and those interested in the learning process The strategies portion of the book has focal points that run through each academic skill section. Each promotes teaching through the senses – the sense of humor, wonder, accomplishment, and, of course, common sense. The strategies used are tailored to be incorporated into the classroom or at home. With modalities and association methods, the author crafts learning techniques that are easy to understand, implement, and adapt to students’ grades and ages without any additional cost, paperwork, or requirements. They also provide a loose structure where teachers are free to alter, enhance, or omit according to their teaching situation or style.

You can’t win the war against ignorance with an army of students who don’t care about the battles and a regiment of teachers who don’t know what they’re fighting for. Our educational system has drifted toward teaching for the test content and higher scores, which in turn has left many students undereducated with their individual needs and learning styles not addressed. The most common complaint from teachers is that the joy of teaching is gone. They are often left frustrated with compromised time and energy. The reporting, regulations, mandates, and constantly changing requirements hinder educators from reaching their students and instilling in them the love of learning.

Rediscover that it is possible to reach and teach the student and bring joy back to the learning process for both the student and the teacher. Teaching; The Good, The Bad and the Inappropriate by Iaccarino is an entertaining read filled with valuable insights and techniques to enhance learning in any of us.

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 A preview to Chapter 1

So many times we need a Zen moment in teaching


 By the way.

This yoga frog sits on my patio. I bought him at Cape Cod for the simple reason that he made me smile.  Simple maybe, but so under appreciated.  I name him Tenzin Kundalini.  I think every classroom should have one.

                          Here’s a chapter in the book where I learned to use a bit of yoga breathing techniques to relieve stress for the students.  I added some music and not only did it work, but the students showed me not only could they relax; but they could teach me a lesson.

            (apart from the humor in the story, please try it.  I know other teachers who have used it and they love it.  It’s not only great for the kids, but it helps give us a little break in the stress test of the day.)

 Halloween Music

A stress test is where you hop on a treadmill all hooked up to monitors and run, sweat, breathe heavy, and pray that your heart is all right. Then there is test stress, where you sit slumped and frozen in a chair, sweating, breathing heavy, and praying your answers are all right. A word of advice: never take a stress test after test stress— unless you have some serious masochistic tendencies. Then go for it.

It is painful to watch a child with test stress …the pen or pencil so tightly gripped in the hand that the child’s knuckles are white. Other symptoms that may occur are lip biting, squinting, crinkling of the brow, and leg swinging. I think test stress is a major cause of children getting lower scores than they should. It just isn’t fair, really. They studied, they learned, they did what was required, but the test is that one-eyed monster that lies across the desk and makes things go bump in their brains. And fear obstructs the retrieval of knowledge.

I tried to think of how to lower student stress levels and began by examining what I would use. I thought of obsessively playing solitaire on the computer. On further thought, I realized it was rather mind-numbing and required expensive equipment, not to mention that it promoted carpal tunnel. Maybe that was not the way to go. Next I came up with yoga, which I love. All that stretching is great. Of course, I wasn’t about to engage the students in downward-facing dog or warrior poses. It would have been too difficult for them and embarrassing for me. I could, however, do my favorite parts beginning and ending with closed eyes, deep breaths, and a namaste.

I waited for our next test stress experience to introduce what I referred to as a “Zen moment.” We all closed our eyes and raised our arms toward the heavens, bending them at the elbow with index finger and thumb touching. A few deep breaths and an “Om” sound and we all felt much better and ready to take on the task at hand. This was great, but I wanted to take it further. I wanted something that would keep the calmness going throughout the duration of the test.

I came up with the Gregorian chant. It wasn’t a kind of music that everyone had heard (let alone heard of at all). For anyone in the above category: the Gregorian chant is Christian music going back to the sixth century, used at Mass to celebrate various religious occasions. I assume it was started by a pope named Gregory. For me, it was second only to yoga in ability to give stress relief. I remember sitting in church with my list of daydreams, squirming on the hard, wooden pew. The Mass was in Latin then, and the priest’s back was all I could see—that is, if I could see over the back of the person sitting in front of me. Why do people with dandruff wear black? Do they have any idea how distracting that is when it’s all someone else has to look at? Anyway, I remembered when the Gregorian chants started I would slowly find a sense of peace, a feeling of calm. I’d stop the daydreams. I’d stop counting the little white specks that decorated the jacket from shoulder to shoulder of the soul seated ahead of me. It was perfect. It was composure. It was the universal “Om” extended and put to music. Its simple melody, its repetition of a small gamut of notes sung in a language I couldn’t understand brought on the feeling. It was worth a try.

Of course, there was the division of church and state issue to consider. This was just at the time when prayer was beginning to go the way of the dodo and Christmas carols and the utterance of the word “God” were under heavy surveillance in schools. We were already dabbling with Eastern Zen and now I was really pushing the envelope. I decided the best road to peace and tranquility on all fronts was to skip over the chant’s religious connotation. I explained to the students that this music, when played in the background, could possibly help them focus and be more relaxed when taking a test. I kept the description fairly vague, not wanting to wade into murky religious waters. I was careful with my words and the inflection in my voice and delicately skipped over the original purpose of the music. I wasn’t surprised when I played the students a chant, they hated it. I told them they didn’t have to like it; they just had to see if it helped them when they were being tested.

They humored me as always and tried out the music on their first few tests. There were no further comments about it until one day when we were doing silent reading. On their own, the students preceded opening their books with a “Zen moment” and then asked if I would put on that Halloween music while they read.

“What Halloween music?” I asked.

“The Halloween music you play when we take a test. It does help like you said.”

I didn’t know if I should laugh, make a quick sign of the cross, or say a silent namaste.

“Halloween music” was a perfect name for the chants, so Halloween music it became. For the kids, the chants didn’t remove the stress, it helped them conquer it. It reminded them of the holiday when you could giggle in the face of fear, laugh at your worst nightmare— when the horrific is greeted with pleasantries and treats. I ignored the fact of its origins as a pagan holiday that was later adopted by the Christians. I took a leap of faith and decided that some things just had to be overlooked for the greater good. After all, why make so much ado about nothing? Isn’t that really what causes so much of our stress?

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