POC Faculty Publications

Dr. Susan Bernheimer, a professor of Human Development at Pacific Oaks College recently published her book New Possibilities for Early Childhood Education: Stories From Our Nontraditional Students. She draws upon on her own experiences in working with nontraditional students, discussing her keen insight into the challenges they face, as well as the unique gifts they bring to the classroom.


What Makes a Great Teacher?

Do you ever find yourself wondering what makes a great teacher? Or how can you be a great teacher? Here are some insights:

They believe teaching is their calling. “…despite my struggles to be the different one in the family…I felt it was my calling. It was put on my heart.”

They take responsibility for their students’ success. “I can’t put the burden of that child’s success on someone else when I know that it’s me all day long. So I carry the burden on my shoulder proudly. I want to know that I have done right by that child. They deserve that from me. That’s my job.”

They’re lifelong learners. “You have to learn new ways [of teaching] through mentoring and teacher induction programs and college of education and field experiences.”

They go the extra mile, and then some. “He was coming to school late every day and missing breakfast. Well, I started keeping snacks and things in my cabinet to give him. Every morning, he would come in late. And I’d let him go to his private little area and eat a granola bar for breakfast.”

They know each student personally. “We have open strong relationships…I think my students feel very comfortable in my classroom. They know that my room is a safe place; they can come in when they need to.”

They value collaboration. “We have collaboration once a month at faculty meetings where someone’s showcasing what they’re doing in their classroom…and teachers figure out ways to adapt that to their subject area. It’s huge.”

They are exuberant, positive, and undaunted. “Anything you can do to capture their excitement and get them to know that you can have fun while you learn and listen.” They know that reading at home is key. “I feel that early on, the best thing a parent can do is read every single night to their children…I know teachers say it all the time, but if you read to them, you’re your child’s best teacher.”

They believe that every child can learn. “If you asked me my teaching philosophy–I know it’s cliché–but it’s that all children can succeed…that’s a daunting task for us educators.”

They know the need for community support. “…I always say it takes a community to teach our students. It’s not just one teacher. Community is key. The community is what we need to help us in the classroom.”

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First Year Teachers

Advice for surviving your first year of teaching:

Be genuine. From the first day, resolve yourself to respectfully estabish your credability and authority. Showcare relevance. Connect teaching material to your students’ lives and something they can relate to.

Over plan. Make sure you have enough material for the class period, plus extra material should there be extra time.

Create clear-cut classroom routines. Try to do this as soon as possible so they can be implemented and learned right away.

Keep your sense of humor. Having a sense of humor in the classroom can help create a more relaxed and inviting environment. Kids respond well to a good sense of humor.

Use positive reinforcements. Praise students for their efforts and responses, but make sure to spread it around to everyone to avoid feeling disconnected of undervalued.

Find a mentor. A mentor will help you learn the ropes and is a good person not only to bounce ideas off of, but take ideas from, too.

Make a connection with stakeholders. Cultivate meaningful connections with parents by communicating and working with them. Creating relationships with your academic team is just as important. Working together to find solutions for a problem child or just bouncing ideas off of will be helpful.

Have a relationship with administration. Many of the school’s key players are part of the adminstration, and they will be able to help you out in times of need.

Ways to Increase a Student’s Attention Span

In need of some strategies to increase your (kindergarten – elementary) students’ attention spans? Continue reading for some suggestions!

1. Get physical. Keeping the attention of a young student can be difficult, but if they’re struggling, some kind of physical activity can change that. And, starting with a few minutes of active play can before a challenging task can help a child stay more engaged. Suggestions: jumping jacks, outdoor play, and stretching.

2. Attention breaks. Show students what paying attention looks like and what it means. “Practice attentive behavior in non-threatening, non-crucial times during the school day. Then, at periodic intervals, have practice attention breaks. Using a timer or an app on the phone, have a signal go off during the work period, and have the child mark whether he/she was paying attention.”

3. Remove visual distractions. Clutter surrounded a student can make it impossible for a student to focus. Removing those distractions will allow the student to focus better.

4. Break tasks into pieces. If a task is too hard and challenging for a student, break it up. With enough focus, the first part of the task can be completed, they can take a break, and then return to the next part of the task. Children with attention struggles may actually perform the requested task faster with this strategy than if they simply tried to finish it all in one sitting.