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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 2, Issue 16

August 2006


Welcome back to School!

We at StarTeaching wish you all an excellent, prosperous, and fulfilling school year.  Remember, teachers touch lives.  We are charged with the care and development of our world's most prized possessions - our children.  

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Change Lives! Be a Mentor

by Jill Gurr
Create Now!

Jill Gurr is founder of the non-profit organization Create Now! She has mentored more than 50 high-risk children and youth and has trained hundreds of people to mentor thousands of kids. Learn more at www.createnow.org    or email Jill at:  info@createnow.org


Half of the U.S. youth population (17.6 million kids to be exact) is considered to be “at-risk” of getting into trouble with the law, or “high-risk” and already in trouble. This isn’t a problem only in the United States. Street gangs, drug addiction, child prostitution, abuse and neglect are major concerns around the world.

Our children need help!

It’s easy to turn your back and ignore the problem, but what will you do when some kids jack your car? Or rape your daughter? Or spend their entire lives on welfare or in the prison system, on your tax dollars?


One solution that has been proven to work is mentoring. A mentor is a loyal advisor, a teacher or coach, sponsor, guide, confidante and role model. He or she is a special friend who serves as an advocate for the needs of someone else and makes an effort to bring out their best qualities.

I learned this first-hand in 1993 when I mentored a group of teenage boys who were incarcerated at a Los Angeles detention center for a variety of crimes. As a produced screenwriter, I wanted to share my love of writing with troubled kids in hope of inspiring them to change their lives.

I had a great idea for a story about two rival gang leaders from different ethnic backgrounds (Latino vs. African-American) ending up at the same detention camp where they had to resolve their differences.

During the next few months as I worked on our script with the boys, my Screenwriting Workshop went through all kinds of changes. In the end, the boys completed writing the script with me and it was optioned by producers. The best part though was that a number of the kids who were illiterate learned how to read and write through my program. I witnessed other remarkable changes as well -- a tough Chicano gang leader had tattoos removed from his body, and several of the boys wanted to go to college.

Thrilled with the results of this experience, I quickly came up with another idea for a screenplay and started a new Screenwriting Workshop, this time at a co-ed detention center. Again, these girls and boys were transformed through their experience of contributing to a screenplay, but especially from my interactions with them every week as their mentor. They opened up their hearts, shared their problems, and flourished under my guidance.

Inspired by these successes, I founded a non-profit organization in 1996. Create Now! matches writers, artists, musicians and other creative individuals in Los Angeles with high-risk kids who live in court-mandated institutions, such as homes for abused and neglected children, runaways, homeless kids and those in trouble with the law.

Through Create Now! I’ve personally mentored more than 50 of these kids and I’ve trained dozens of other mentors to work with high-risk youth. Create Now! has reached thousands of the most troubled children in Southern California.


You may wonder exactly what is mentoring. It’s not tutoring, which involves the teaching of a skill or discipline. Mentoring depends on the nurturing of a close, personal relationship. While helping with schoolwork can be a part of it, that’s just one aspect. Mentors inspire us to try harder and give us the confidence to reach for more ambitious goals. They teach us how to make good choices and open doors to new opportunities that normally wouldn’t be available.

A mentee, or protégé, is a novice, student or learner. At-risk and high-risk kids can be of any race and religion. They generally come from disadvantaged homes in poor communities. All children need the support of a positive adult, but these particular kids especially need help.

Research has shown that kids who are mentored have improved school attendance and better academic performance, a good appearance and attitude, less hostility, more self-esteem and many other improved qualities that are too numerous to name.


Tasha is another perfect example that proves mentoring makes a difference. She came from a poor community in South Central, Los Angeles. A bright girl with many talents, she didn’t get along with her family. When she was thirteen years old, Tasha began running away from home. She hung out with boys who got in trouble with the law. She was sent to detention camps and different institutions over the next few years.

I met Tasha at a detention facility when she was almost sixteen. She eagerly signed up for a Create Now! TV Writing Workshop with a professional sit-com writer who prefers to remain anonymous. When Tasha returned to her home in South Central, her mentor continued to visit her weekly. They formed a strong bond.

Her mentor moved to another state, so Create Now! provided Tasha with two additional mentors who helped her periodically. Her original mentor stayed in touch via phone and email. When Tasha graduated from high school, her mentors helped her apply to USC Film School and arranged for a scholarship. She was one of only fifty people in the world to be accepted into their film program.

Tasha graduated from college in December 2004. She got a job teaching disadvantaged middle-school children how to make their own videos. One of her mentors helped her get employed as a production assistant on a TV show and she’s now on the way to a lucrative career in the entertainment industry. We’re all very proud of Tasha.


Mentors benefit greatly from their experience. It’s a powerful feeling to know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. Most mentors grow on a personal and professional level through this process.

Many people who mentor develop leadership abilities and have a more profound understanding of children. Their own family bonds strengthen, plus they receive admiration and respect from their own peers.

There are different kinds of mentoring. Here are a few:

This is traditional mentoring, sometimes referred to as a “Special Friend” or a “Big/Little” relationship. You’re paired up with one child and the relationship tends to be close. Don’t take this involvement lightly and make sure you maintain your commitment.

With group mentoring programs, one adult volunteer builds relationships with a number of young people. Meetings can take place with a focus on a particular project or an ongoing activity.

A group of two or more adults work together as a team to mentor a group of youths. This system focuses on team building, leadership development, and community service, but it can be used for any type of program.

Low-income families face enormous pressure getting food and shelter. The stress can severely disrupt family life and lead to homelessness. These families can be matched with mentors (possibly your entire family) who work with them over an extended period of time. By connecting disadvantaged family members with useful community resources, helping them to develop life skills, and strengthening their foundation, you help the family to overcome challenges.

By using email and chat rooms on the Internet, mentors can reach children all over the world. Many forms of computer-assisted learning are becoming popular, as students have access to computers at school, libraries, and their homes.

Think carefully about what your needs are and how you can best serve at-risk and high-risk youth before you decide which type of mentoring program is right for you.


There are a lot of things that you can do with your mentees. Many of these kids have never been out of their own neighborhoods. You could take them on a trip to the beach, a hike in the mountains, a movie, a meal, or a visit to a museum. Expose them to cultural events like the theater or the circus, or just hang out and talk.

Most importantly, LISTEN! All kids need to communicate and vent. It’s important to hear what they say and be as open-minded as possible. Most kids need reliable adults with whom they can talk about their fears, dreams, and concerns. Mentors serve as sounding boards, and when asked, someone who can give trustworthy advice.

At-risk youth may not have any adults in their lives with the time, interest, or ability to listen to them. High-risk youth who live in residential institutions will rarely confide in staff members, administrators, or even psychologists for fear of punishment. Yet they might confide in you because of the trust that you’ve developed. It usually takes time, but when they know that they can count on you, they’ll start to open up.


Mentoring requires commitment and responsibility. You must keep your word and be dependable to have a positive effect. If you break your word, you’ll do more damage than good.

These children have been let down by adults most of their lives. Imagine if you come along, full of hope and excitement, and reach out to lend them a hand. They take it and off you go, spending time together and bonding. They slowly open up and start to trust you.

But then something changes in your life; perhaps you get a different job in another part of town, or you’ve got a new boyfriend who takes up all of your free time. Abandonment can be devastating to any child, especially these kids.

It’s okay if you only have sporadic time available to mentor, since even a short amount of time devoted to an at-risk youth is better than nothing. But it’s essential that you communicate this clearly to your mentee. The most important thing is not to set their expectations high only to let them down later.

These children represent our future. Through your support as a mentor, you can introduce them to a larger world where they’re a contributor instead of just another statistic.


No matter where you live or what you do for a living, you can impact a child’s life. To learn about mentoring opportunities in your community, visit the National Mentoring Partnership at http://www.mentoring.org

If you live in Southern California and have a creative skill that you’d like to share with at-risk or high-risk youth, please contact me at (213) 484-8500 or through email at info@createnow.org

You’ll make a big difference in your community, and the world!

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Back to School Safety Tips

By Karen Peralta

As we pack our K-12 kids up and get them ready for another school year, we need to be constantly thinking about their safety. This applies both to their travel to and from school and their safety while on school grounds.

Parent drivers must remain watchful. Children dart unexpectedly into traffic, often from between parked cars. And young pedestrians face a variety of dangers while walking to and from school. Here are a few basic safety tips to follow:

• Mind all traffic signals and the crossing guard.
• Walk your bike through intersections.
• Walk with a buddy.
• Wear reflective material. It makes you more visible to street traffic.

The US Dep't. of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests the following safe bicycling practices:

• Always wear a helmet.
• Always ride on the right side of the road. Never ride against traffic.
• Ride single file. When passing other bikers or pedestrians, let them know your position by shouting out something like, "On your left!"
• Always check behind you before changing lanes.
• Watch out for dangerous things in the roadway. Litter, potholes, gravel and storm drains all can cause you to lose control.
• Stop at all stop signs and at all traffic lights. Be extra careful at crossroads.
• Always signal before making a left or right turn.
• Maintain control of your bike. Don't swerve or make sudden turns.
• Use caution when riding next to parked cars to avoid injury from someone suddenly opening a car door in front of you.
• Listen for cars approaching from the side or behind you.
• Don't follow a car too closely. You may be in the blind spot, where the driver cannot see you, and you may be unable to stop if the car comes to a sudden halt.
• Know your road signs and obey them.
• Always be prepared to stop.
• Wear brightly colored clothing.
• Don't wear headphones, loose clothing or inappropriate shoes.

Remember these safety tips for entering and exiting the school bus:

• Have a safe place to wait for your bus, away from traffic and the street.
• Stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop.
• When being dropped off, exit the bus and walk ten steps away from the bus. Also, remember that the bus driver can see you best when you are away from the bus.
• Use the handrail to enter and exit the bus.
• Be aware of street traffic. Drivers are required to follow the rules of the road concerning school buses, but not all do. Protect yourself and watch out.

You may think that riding in a car is completely safe. But there are still rules you must follow to avoid accidents when riding in a car:

• Don't forget that most traffic crashes occur close to home.
• Safety belts are the best form of protection in the event of a crash. Everyone needs to be buckled up properly: older kids in seat belts, younger kids in booster seats and toddlers in child safety seats.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has a "Back to School Safety Checklist" with tips on making schools, child care facilities and playgrounds safer. Hidden hazards from the checklist include the following:

Playgrounds -- Check the surfaces around equipment. There should be a 12-inch depth of wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel, or there should be mats made of safety-tested rubber or fiber material to prevent head injury when a child falls.

Drawstrings on jackets and sweatshirts -- Remove them from around the neck. They can cause strangulation by catching on things. Cut drawstrings at the waist or bottom of jackets to three inches.

Window blind cords -- If the windows in your home, childcare centers or schools have blinds, cut the loop and attach separate tassels to prevent entanglement.

Recalled Products -- You can get up-to-date recall and product safety information by checking out CPSC's web site on your home or school computer. Sign up to get free recall notices by fax, e-mail or regular mailing by calling CPSC's hotline or writing to CPSC, Washington, D.C. 20207.

The information in this article was compiled from the National Safety Council website at http://www.nsc.org , CPSC's website at http://www.cpsc.gov, and an article on Back to School Safety on the AT&T website at http://www.att.com.

Karen Cole-Peralta is the Executive Director of Rainbow Writing, Inc., a corporation specializing in freelance and contracted writing, copyediting, ghostwriting, graphics and CAD, Internet marketing, publishing help, search engine optimization, links exchange, free pro services & supercheap dedicated web hosting and site development. http://www.rainbowriting.com/

Article Source: http://www.Free-Articles-Zone.com


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Book of the Month Club:

Linking Teaching Evaluation and Student Learning
Pamela Tucker 
& James H. Stronge

Our August BOOK OF THE MONTH award is presented to Linking Teaching Evaluation and Student Learning.  This book explains the importance of evaluations that reflect how a teacher is teaching and how much a student is learning.    

Studies have shown that children placed in classrooms with teachers that have a higher teaching ability make a big difference in the children's growth each year.  So we can imply that the quality of a teacher's ability to teach is extremely important to a child's growth in education.  When a child is re-placed with a teacher with higher ability, the child can grow and catch up with learning.   

"The purpose of teaching is learning, and the purpose of schooling is to ensure that each new generation of students accumulates the knowledge and skills needed to meet the social, political, and economic demands of adulthood."  (Linking Teaching Evaluation and Student Learning, chapter 2)

Four teacher assessment models are discussed in the book.  These are: 1. The Oregon Teacher Work Sample Methodology;  2.  The Thompson, Colorado School District Standards-based Assessment System;  3.  The Alexandria, Virginia School District Goal-setting System;  and 4. The Tennessee Value-added Assessment System.  Many educators believe that learning takes place when teachers and students take responsibility within themselves while working together.  These four teacher evaluation approaches emphasize using pre- and post- measures of student learning to determine improvement or gains.

 This book review was submitted to us by Lori Ziel, a student in Grand Valley State University's Educational Leadership program.  We welcome articles and book reviews from our readers.  Do you have a great educational book to share with our readers?  Write up a summary, along with the pertinent book information, and email it to us at  editor@starteaching.com. Please type in BOOK CLUB SUMMARY in the subject line.  Book reviews will be proofread and may be edited for content or space.

You can order a copy of Linking Teaching Evaluation and Student Learning by clicking the link to our affiliate, Amazon.com 

Have you read Linking Teaching Evaluation and Student Learning?  Do you have comments you’d like to share with our readers about this book? Email your responses to editor@starteaching.com. Please type in BOOK CLUB READER RESPONSE in the subject line. Responses will be posted on our website with the StarTeaching Book of the Month Club.  All responses will be proofread, and may be edited for content and space before publication





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"The Difference Between 
Reputation and Character"
by: William Hersey Davis

Themes on Life

Which of these two do you value more?

Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next. 
The circumstances amid which you live determine your reputation; 
the truth you believe determines your character.

Reputation is what you are supposed to be;
Character is what you are.

Reputation is the photograph;
Character is the face.

Reputation comes over one from without;
Character grows up from within.

Reputation is what you have when you come to a new community;
Character is what you have when you go away.

Reputation is made in a moment;
Character is built in a lifetime.

Your reputation is learned in an hour;
Your character doesn't come to light for a year.

Reputation grows like a mushroom;
Character grows like the oak.

A single newspaper report gives you your reputation;
A life of toil gives you your character.

Reputation makes you rich or makes you poor;
Character makes you happy or makes you miserable.

Reputation is what men say about you on your tombstone;
Character is what angels say about you before the throne of God. 



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Change Lives!  Be A Mentor

Back to School Safety Tips

Book of the Month

Themes on Life:  
"The Difference Between 
Reputation and Character"

10 Days of Writing Prompts

Summer Book Sale for Teachers

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What is the best thing about going back to school?  What is the worst thing?


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Describe TWO stories you are going to tell a friend about your summer experiences.


Brainstorm a list of 10 items you'll need for your school classes. 


Write out a short paragraph which describes something you've learned about yourself this summer. 


Describe your favorite class.  Why is it your favorite?  What makes it great?


Describe your least favorite class.  What makes it so dismal?  


Brainstorm a list of 8 different goals you could have for yourself this school year.


Who is your favorite teacher?  Why?  What are the qualities of a good teacher?


Write up a brief synopsis (summary) of what you've learned in one class this first week of school.


10 days of writing prompts


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Coming Soon:

Designing and Running a Medieval Fair

Technology & Teaching: Setting up for Handhelds

Discipline Procedures in School

Writing Ideas for your Classroom


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