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Virginia Journal of Education

Your Classroom


Teacher Working Conditions:
What They Could Look Like

In the lives of teachers, working conditions often play at least as large a role in job satisfaction as salary does. Research about the conditions under which teachers do their jobs shows a couple of things very clearly: that teacher working conditions are student learning conditions, and that those working conditions significantly affect teacher retention.

Knowing this, what are some of the working conditions that are best for teachers, and thus for students? The North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards Commission (NCPTSC) tackled that question several years ago and ended up creating a set of working conditions standards for schools to aim for. Here are excerpts from the NCPTSC list, broken down into five categories:

Use of Time
. Teachers have student loads that allow them to meet the educational needs of all students.
. Teachers are not assigned duties that interfere with their primary job of educating students.
. There is scheduled time in the day for teachers to focus on development of successful curriculum, classroom management, strategies, and techniques to individualize instruction for student success.
. New teachers are provided effective mentors. There is time for the new teachers and the mentors to work together during the day, both within and outside the classroom.

Facilities and Resources
. There is space for each teacher to work with students and with colleagues; there is also space for the teachers to work quietly and individually.
. Teachers have necessary office and instructional supplies and access to funds for purchasing supplies.
. Teachers have access to current technology that allows them to prepare students to be successful.
. Teachers have assistance for the clerical aspects of their jobs.
. The school environment is safe. The health of teachers, staff members and students is a top priority. The school is a secure place for the entire learning community.

. The principal is a strong and supportive leader with a clear vision of the central mission of the school. The principal utilizes the leadership potential of the teachers.
. All stakeholders, including teachers, participate in the decision-making process.
. School leaders at all levels shield educators from disruptive distractions in order to ensure that teachers can focus on what's best for their students.
. Teachers are the recognized leaders of their classrooms and are supported in their classroom-based decisions and initiatives.

. There are many avenues available for educators to express their concerns and propose solutions.
. Reasoned educational risk-taking is encouraged and supported.
. Within the educational community there is an atmosphere of mutual respect, where each professional is empowered to do his or her work.

Professional Development
. Sufficient resources are available to allow teachers to take advantage of important professional development opportunities.
. Professional growth of teachers is valued as the basis for improving student achievement.
. A variety of types of learning opportunities are recognized as valuable, including study groups and teacher research.

Check Out NEA's
Academy, Library

If you're a teacher or education support professional on the lookout for high-quality professional development (and who isn't?), the NEA has a new resource for you. It's called the NEA Academy, and although it's still a work in progress, it offers a wide range of online training opportunities.

Here's some of what you'll find at

. A four-hour, online version of I Can Do It, the classroom management program designed by association members for both teachers and paraprofessionals (the workshop version of I Can Do It is still available through the VEA's Division of Instruction and Professional Development).

. A research-based, classroom-focused course called Effective Teaching in Diverse Classrooms.

. Sections entitled Online Courses; Advice & Mentoring; Teacher Tools; Learning Community; and Dean's Office.

. A subscription opportunity for the NEA Academy newsletter to help you stay current with additions to the site.

. The new home of AOL@School educator pages, featuring all of the links and updates many are accustomed to accessing at AOL@School .

Another NEA resource not to be overlooked is the Professional Library. You can browse the "stacks" in just minutes and see plenty of titles that can help make your education career run more smoothly.

Among the topics you'll find there are student testing, accountability, student achievement, bullying, classroom management and assessment, all available at discounted prices for association members.

Visit and click on the "Bookstore" link at the top of the homepage.

Awards to Recognize
Exemplary Programs

The International Reading Association is seeking nominations for an annual award that honors an elementary, middle or high school that has enhanced student literacy learning through improved instruction and programs.

Past winners of the Exemplary Reading Award have been recognized for designing and implementing initiatives such as comprehensive and balanced literacy model; a K-2 assessment-driven guided reading program; curriculum mapping, strategic planning and implementation; unification of professional development, assessment-based instruction and community input; and support and professional development for middle school content teachers in literacy skills.

Applications for the award must be postmarked by November 15. For more information, visit , go to Awards and Grants, then Exemplary Reading Award.

Young Scientists
Challenged to Look
Into Future

New treatments for diabetes and kidney disease, a possible solution to the worldwide scarcity of drinking water, and a potentially lifesaving fire extinguishing system: Those were among the top entries in last year's Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Awards Program, which is now accepting entries for the 2008 competition.

ExploraVision challenges students, in teams of two to four, to research current technologies and science and design an innovative technology that could exist in 20 years. Up to $240,000 in savings bonds will be awarded to members of the winning teams, and eight first- and second-place teams will receive a free trip to Washington, D.C. for an awards weekend in June 2008.

Entries are due January 29, 2008. For more information and an application, visit .

Contest Seeks Civil War
Lesson Plans

The History Channel and the Civil War Preservation Trust are looking for challenging, relevant Civil War lesson plans-got one? If you do, and you think it's particularly effective, you might want to enter the Best Civil War Lesson Plan Contest, where you could take home both some cash and some recognition.

To be considered, your plan must contain a brief description of the lesson's goals and concepts; a list of materials needed, including copies of teacher handouts; the time and methods involved; how you make use of at least one primary source; and a list of applicable state or national standards the lesson plan meets.

Lesson plans must be submitted by December 1, 2007 and winners will be notified in January. Cast prizes of $1,000, $750 and $500 will be awarded.

For more information, visit .

Classroom Discipline:
Keep it Positive

Some tips on positive discipline, from the VEA website (
. Act appropriately and sincerely.
. Admit your mistakes; apologize if necessary.
. Encourage good behavior; remain calm, and try to avoid becoming angry.
. Discuss problems to help students understand and solve them.
. Exhaust your own list of disciplinary measures before referring students.
. Keep your adult reserve and never try to be one of the students.
. Involve the students; they like to help.
. Have students help determine and enforce rules and standards.
. Help students develop pride in self, class and room.
. Be active, alert, self-confident and prepared.
. Avoid situations which force students to have to save face.
. Be consistent, just and fair.
. Let each student start each day with a clean slate.


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