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Meet the Teacher

Page history last edited by Keith Schoch 7 months ago


Who is this person to whom I am entrusting my child for the next ten months? Although never asked aloud, this is certainly a question which must enter every parent's mind as they face the new school year. Let me therefore introduce myself.


First of all, my name: it's pronounced shoke, rhyming with joke or Coke. I am married and reside with my wife Lisa and daughters Casey and Mackenzie in Hillsborough. Lisa and I dated on and off for fourteen years before finally giving in to the inevitable. (I was a tough, street-wise dance instructor working summers at a Catskills resort; she was an idealistic but naive daddy's girl from an upper class family). Casey is a recent graduate of the film program at Ithaca College and is now living in Los Angeles. Her sister Mackenzie is a tenth grader who plays soccer year 'round.
Although new to sixth grade ten years ago, I was certainly not new to teaching. I previously taught fourth grade for thirteen years after teaching third grade for nine years, the first two at a small private school in Jersey City. I completed a Masters Degree in Instruction and Curriculum at Kean College, and have since done postgraduate work in specialty areas such as cooperative learning, motivation, and math and science. I have also completed extensive coursework in a second Masters program in Educational Administration, but realize that I am probably NOT cut out to be an administrator! I enjoy the classroom too much.
You should know that I never intended to enter the teaching profession. From my earliest experiences I disliked school. In my young mind, school was designed to make you appreciate your summers all the more. That belief only changed years later after meeting some very committed and competent teachers in high school and college. Prior to teaching I was involved in youth camping, church youth work, and volunteer tutoring. I began my search for a teaching position with no real teaching experience. I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful woman named Suzanne Chopp who ran a small private school in Jersey City. She saw some potential in me and took a chance. From Suzanne I learned to be "real" with children, to take chances, and to laugh at, and learn from, my mistakes.
Since that long ago time when I was first hired, I have expended vast amounts of time and energy improving myself as a teacher. Besides the "trial and error" education of the classroom itself, I continue to learn from independent study, professional journals, and workshops year round. I also lead professional development workshops in the areas of classroom management, technology, assessment, test readiness, active engagement, and language arts and reading. (In past school years I presented workshops for the New Jersey Education Association; the New Jersey Association for Supervision, Curriculum, and Development; the New York State Reading Association; and the New England League of Middle Schools).
Encouraged by the participants of my workshops, I started two blogs for teachers. First came Teach with Picture Books, which has a focus on using picture books with the upper elementary and middle school crowd. Later I started How to Teach a Novel, a collection of articles, sites, and other resources that many teachers have found useful. I also served as a reviewer for Stenhouse Publishing and as a Teacher Ambassador with Jossey-Bass, a leading publisher of teachers' resources.


The main part of my summer is spent at Lakeview Day Camp in East Brunswick where I am in charge of over one hundred campers in the Tee n Travel Program. I stumbled upon this camp while searching for a program for my own daughters. I had spent twenty summers working at other camps (including three summers as a site certification inspector for the American Camping Association), and never had I come across a camp with such a clear vision for its campers. The facilities were beautiful, the program was varied and rich, and the director was extremely hands-on and committed. I was instantly sold. I signed on as a division leader and ever since continue to be impressed by the attention paid to individual campers and their needs. Many schools could learn a lesson from how this camp is run!
I immensely enjoy the time I spend at school teaching and learning from children. I truly believe that a teacher can become a child’s friend without compromising his/her position as the authority in the classroom. It is my hope that each child will leave my class knowing that "Mr. Schoch cares about me as a person, and that doesn’t end on the day I leave his classroom." More importantly, however, each child should leave my class knowing that "I can achieve what I set out to achieve; I can be what I strive to be."


My Teaching Philosophy

I don’t have a well-defined "philosophy of teaching," but I do share several beliefs with other educators. I believe:
1. All students can learn. A mistake in the past has been the expectation that they would all learn in the same way. We now know, from researchers such as Howard Gardner, that there are multiple intelligences; that is, children are smart in different ways. This means that they will learn in different ways, and in their own time. Not every flower in the garden blooms on the same day, and if they did, what surprises would that bring?
2. Children learn best through a variety of structures: cooperative, competitive, and individualistic. In our classroom you can witness a variety of these three types of learning structures. Any classroom which attempts to function according to one of these structures alone would become seriously unbalanced. Spencer Kagan, a researcher and educator who is a proponent of Cooperative Learning (working through groups), states, "I would like students to become flexible, so they cooperate, compete, or go it on their own depending on the situation. I would be pleased if we provided for our students as wide a range of learning experiences as possible, so that they are better prepared to adapt to and modify their social and physical environment." In our class you can observe cooperation, competition, and individualism.
3. Learning is incremental. By incremental, I mean that learning happens step by step. First the child learns sounds, then words, then the letters which compose those words and sounds, and so on. If I asked a child to write a business letter, and he or she was still at the stage of learning individual sounds, the task would be impossible. I therefore analyze each task which children will be assigned and ask myself, "Do the students presently possess the necessary skills needed to complete this task? What more do they need to know?" Task analysis ensures that students can be successful. This belief that learning is incremental also explains why homework, punctuality, and regular attendance are so crucial. If your child misses a single component of new learning, he or she will struggle with subsequent concepts which are introduced.
4. Children live up to expectations. In a landmark experiment, two groups of teachers were assigned random students. One group, however, was told that they had the "bright" kids. The other group was given no such information. You can predict what happened. The teachers who expected more from their students got it: by year's end, these students scored significantly higher on standard achievement tests. I therefore set the highest expectations for all students in my classroom. However, I teach them and I lead them, step by step, so that they can be successful, and live up to those high expectations.
5. Children need encouragement and praise. From the first day of class I articulate a confident and realistic expectation that students will learn. Recognition is given for real effort, and learning from our mistakes is emphasized. A huge buzz phrase in education is "self esteem," or how children feel about themselves. I guarantee you: if your child stands in front of the mirror and repeats "I am special, I am good," it will have no effect upon their self esteem. But if they are given acceptable and appropriate challenges, and are supported in their struggles to meet those challenges, they will leave this class feeling competent and confident.
6. Change is a process. Anyone who has ever tried to lose five pounds knows that it cannot be done overnight. Why then do we expect radical changes in our children? Changes, whether academic, emotional, or social, must take place over time. There may often be regressions and setbacks, but those are a part of the process. In some cases, the habits we are attempting to change (procrastination, sloppiness, impulsiveness) have been present for years! We must be patient in our expectations for immediate success (and please remind me during parent conferences that I said this!).
7. Risk and failure often precede success. As infants we learned to walk by trying and falling, and then trying again. We learned to talk by trying and babbling, and trying again. Children must be allowed to make mistakes! That is how they learn. An oft heard expression in my class is, "That was a great mistake!" or "I love that mistake, because that’s what a lot of people do. Let’s talk about that..." Something can always be learned from an error.
8. Attitude is more important than aptitude. Many truly successful people will happily confess that they did poorly in school. Why then are they successful? Perhaps because, in the long run, will is more important than skill. If children are excited about learning, their natural enthusiasm can player a larger role than aptitude in their success. What good is a brilliant child who doesn’t care about learning? I believe that this excitement needs to be expressed by the teacher, also.
9. Children want, and need to be, challenged. "Easy success may not only fail to motivate students, but may have precisely the opposite effect" (Clifford 1990). Finding the correct level of difficulty ensures that students will maintain an interest in learning. If you are a proficient skier and you were forced to ski the beginner slopes all day, you would become bored. However, if you were a beginner and were forced to try trails that were far too difficult, and you failed over and over again with no hope of ever achieving success, you would become discouraged and give up. In the same way, children need acceptable challenges.
10. Children must feel safe in their learning environment. Children must feel physically and emotionally secure. I therefore carefully design the classroom environment, activities, and interactions to ensure this. I also request that parents notify me immediately if a problem arises which somehow threatens the physical or emotional security of a child in my classroom. Any information shared with the teacher will be kept in strictest confidence.
11. The teacher, like the student, must continue to grow. Theory, research, and practice continually provide clues to better teaching, and the excellent teacher will seek out those clues and put them to work.
12. Parents and teachers must be partners in the learning process. Students who receive support at home will do better in school. Period. This simple fact has been proven time and again through research, and I have certainly witnessed it firsthand. Too often a child's poor opinion of his abilities or a child's failure to complete assignments can be directly traced to a "disconnect" between home and school. As a parent, I've been guilty of this myself. I will offer you suggestions, on this site and elsewhere, which will aid you in helping your child. Please remember that we are on the same team. Let's communicate as often and as frankly as possible.

I looking forward to a great year!


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