How Erika Does…Teaching

Or should I say, “DID TEACHING”??  🙂

A couple months ago I asked you guys to answer a poll where I asked questions about favorite blog posts and least favorite.  I also asked for some topic ideas and YOU GUYS DELIVERED!  I got this recommendation A LOT! 

I’m by NO means an expert in this subject, but I definitely think I did some things right (and some things wrong) while teaching that I’m happy to share.

I graduated in December of 2005 (Tab and I were married in July and I joined him in Arlington, Texas, where I did my student teaching through Texas Wesleyan AND Arkansas State University), and went to work as a substitute teacher (it was the middle of the year-no one was hiring).  I began subbing the FIRST day school was back in January and hit the ground running.  After a couple weeks, two schools asked me to help out with tutoring to prepare for the state tests.  

I got a job the following year teaching third grade in Allen, Texas.  I taught at the same school for three years until Ebby Lee was born.  Then we decided staying at home was best for our family.  Again, I realize teaching three years does NOT make me an expert by any means, but I’d love to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.  🙂  

The Ugly:  (I want to end on a good note.)
I graduated from a university in Arkansas.  We discussed state testing-just a bit in college, but it was definitely not a major topic of discussion.  When I hit the classroom as a teacher, my third grade team didn’t really talk about it much either.  I was not worried or thinking about that test AT ALL to be honest.  

In the fall (my very first year), we gave the kids a “Benchmark” test to see what they’d already mastered and what we needed to really work on.  I’ll never forget getting the scores back and hearing that over HALF of my class had FAILED!!!  WHAT?!!  (All the other third grade classes had the majority passing.)

I remember the principal calling me in to discuss.  Her first question was, “What strategies did you teach your kids for taking this test”?  

My response…”Um…none”.

And then her look of complete shock.  ha!

I quickly was filled in on some strategies for this BIG TEST, incorporated them into my classroom, and had my class pass this BIG TEST in the spring with flying colors.

Those kiddos and I worked HARD to end on such a high note but-it started off UGLY!  

Trust me-I’m sure I had lots more “ugly”, but that’s the one that stuck with me the most!

I’m pretty sure I said that during my teaching days.  🙂

And this…

And this…hahahahaha!!!  Teachers, you know that one.  Right?  🙂

The Good:
*I’ll never forget sitting in those beginning teacher meetings as a complete newbie and hearing my principal say that you’ll never get into the mind of a child without first getting into his/her heart.  I quickly learned how true that statement was, so I did my best to let each child know how much I cared.  I told every student to bring in his/her baseball schedule, soccer schedule, or chess tournament schedule…and whatever it was, I did my best (if they invited me or let me know) to attend one of each kiddos’ special thing.  I went to soccer games (which were great because I could usually hit up more than one kiddos game at the fields), volleyball games, baseball games, and more.  

One of Tab’s cousins was a kindergarten teacher who recently retired, but every year she’d make a date to read a bedtime story (in her pajamas and hair rollers) to each child in her classroom one night during the year.  Trust me…I’m SURE those kiddos knew she cared.  🙂

*Another thing I did well was bragging on the positive things.  I tried to weekly send a certain number of good/bragging e-mails to parents.  I can’t remember how many I sent, but maybe five or six a week, so that every parent heard something great during the course of a month.  I also called parents at least once or twice a year bragging on good things their son/daughter had done in class.

On the flip side now as a parent, I absolutely LOVE those bragging e-mails or phone calls.  They MAKE my day!

*During writing time, we always did “Writer’s Workshop”, which meant we had something we’d work on everyday-like including punctuation in our story.  I’d start the lesson by writing a quick story at the carpet and I’d think/write aloud.  I always wrote about real things from my life-instead of making up some random story.  My kiddos got INVESTED in my life and they loved learning more about me and my family.  
A funny from my teaching days…
*I had a student who came from a large family.  One day she was wearing a shirt that said something about a tennis club, so I asked her if she played tennis.  Her response, “No, it’s just a handy-down”.  Bless her heart!  I will never forget her sweet face.

As the new school year draws closer, teachers…I thought this was too funny!!

Teacher friends, I’d LOVE for you to share your good, your bad, or your ugly with us!!  

Leave a Comment


  1. 8.1.16
    Mix and Match Mama said:

    I love hearing about your teaching! I remember back in the day when you were Mrs. Slaughter. I know the kids loved you! And PS: I laughed out loud at several of those funny quotes!

    • 8.1.16
      Erika Slaughter said:

      I did too!!! 🙂

  2. 8.1.16
    LW said:

    The Bad:
    The parent doesn't believe that their hold is EVER in the wrong, why he's really the ONLY problem in your class?! Or what about those parents that you call for a behavior issue and it's always another kid's our your own fault. "What did you say to make him throw a chair?" But, maybe Allen was a little better than my low income school in Grand Prairie.

    The Ugly:
    All those Christmas mugs, usually filled with some sort of half opened Mexican candy I can't pronounce.

    The Good:
    Their sweet faces and hugs.

    • 8.1.16
      Erika Slaughter said:

      The Christmas mug part made me LOL!!!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  3. 8.1.16
    Sarah Shaneyfelt said:

    Haha so funny! I teach 7th grade English and I feel like half the time I'm teaching elementary school children and the other half I'm teaching kids who think they are adults ha! I've had lots of funny things happen in class but I always struggle to keep in a laugh when I notice a 7th grade boy on the back row checking his armpits for hair….apparently that's important for them haha!
    Sarah at MeetTheShaneyfelts

    • 8.1.16
      Erika Slaughter said:

      Sarah-it's a good thing I taught third grade because I would NOT know what to do if I saw that. Hahahaha!!

  4. 8.1.16
    Unknown said:

    Loved this post! Perfect for me to read as I prepare for my first year of teaching!! Thank you!

    • 8.1.16
      Erika Slaughter said:

      Good luck to you, Jodi! I'm sure you'll rock that first year. 🙂

  5. 8.1.16
    Anonymous said:

    Aw!! I love all of the ideas that you shared about making the kids and parents feel special! So sweet!!

    • 8.1.16
      Erika Slaughter said:

      Thank you!! I'm pretty sure a college professor encouraged that. 🙂

  6. 8.1.16
    Sheaffer {Pinterest Told Me To} said:

    Awwww! I love the things you did to connect with your students on a more personal level! As a parent, those e-mails are awesome!!!! And it's very sweet that you tried to go to one of their activities. Such a great idea!

  7. 8.1.16
    Erika Slaughter said:

    Yes, don't you wanna frame those emails? Haha! Or is it just me?

  8. 8.1.16
    A Gal Named Al said:

    I agree about the positive notes- I teach middle school, so parents of tweens hear less and less from the school. I keep a list by my desk and try to get an email or call home to each kid in each class that first semester and then start over in 2nd semester.

  9. 8.1.16
    Rachel Embery said:

    The Good: Sering that light bulb go on, spending the first few weeks on building a team atmosphere, and taking my time to pick up a student at the hotel she lived in to be a part of our robotics team….the bad(or hilarious) just occurred last week as I was teaching a summer science camp at my school. The kids had to bring in "take apart items". Items they could take apart and then use in an "invention". Well while browsing through a boys box(he's currently in foster care and a sweet heart but can't read at the age of 9) I noticed a hot pink tube thing with a battery compartment in it. Then I read the name on the side, Slumber Parties. The three of us teachers immediately googled it and sure enough it was a device from an "adult toy" at home party thing! Yikes. We immediately trashed it, then laughed about it secretly the rest of the week. So my advice from a teacher to parents, always check the bags before they head to school:-)

  10. 8.1.16
    Megan said:

    Oh yay!!! My teacher heart loves this post!!! I love the story of Tab's cousin. That is just the sweetest!!! I completely agree about getting out and watching your kids do activities outside of school. I loved going to watch my high schoolers. They even thought it was halfway cool when their nerdy teacher showed up!! I also love running into old students. One of my sweet former students/babysitters just spent the weekend with us!!!

  11. 8.1.16
    Deena @Shoes to Shiraz said:

    Love hearing the perspectives of teachers from different areas…..the memes could work for me too- I teach high school and was pretty sure I was done with teaching a couple years ago. Instead I took a year doing cyber teaching and wow, has that ever renewed my joy! Great post.

  12. 8.1.16
    angie said:

    I loved hearing about your teaching experiences. For myself, next week I'll be starting year 32! Yikes! I started out teaching 5th grade and have gradually worked my way down. This is my 5th year of teaching gifted preschool. So the kids are 4 years old but have a high IQ. I have my fair share of laughs and my day is NEVER boring. This is the first time for "real school" for the parents as well and I've spent more than a few minutes talking parents off the ledge at the beginning of the year but by spring, all is rainbows and unicorns! The best part is seeing my students out and about. After they get over the shock of seeing their teacher at Target, it's followed by a squeal and hug!

  13. 8.1.16
    Unknown said:

    "Handy downs"! HA! You just made my Monday morning a little brighter with that story! 🙂 have a great day! gg

  14. 8.1.16
    Unknown said:

    This post was so refreshing as I head back to school on Wednesday. I have the privilege of teaching at the Christian school I grew up going to which has been amazing.
    The Good is when I watch kids make biblical connections to real world situations. One of my favorite stories is when I was teaching them about the Tennessee flag and I asked them what the three stars represented. I was hoping they would say West, Middle, and East Tennessee. Instead they all shouted God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. It was really cute and I was thankful they were making that connection because usually I feel they are just sleeping through some of those harder concepts to grasp. I'm thankful I have the privilege to share the gospel openly in my classroom. I'm thankful for the many teachers out there who may not be able to speak it orally but I know they are sharing Christ's love through their actions to these kids who need to understand the love of Jesus more than math and reading.
    The Ugly is the anxiety that is already starting at a young age from the pressure of having to be the best in all areas that comes from home. I know parents just want what is best for their children, but sometimes you want to say to them, "Just let them be kids! They will get it when their brain is ready for it."
    The Funny is always a good one when you teach 1st graders. I have a whole quote book I keep to remember all the cute things they say. My favorite funny comes from my first year of teaching when I would teach a computer class in the morning and 1st grade in the afternoon. I would teach Math, Science, and History while a teacher who had been teaching many years was slowly trying to retire and did part time 1st grade Reading and Language Arts in the morning. One of my girls came up to me one afternoon and said, "You know what I love about first grade… I get a grandma teacher in the morning and a teenager teacher in the afternoon." We got a good laugh at that one!
    It is a joy to be a teacher especially when you get to watch your students grow in all areas of life. I love watching their faces light up when they see me outside of school, and watching them crying the first week because they don't want to come and then crying on the last day because they don't want to leave. We have a big job that can be tiring and stressful, but it is the most rewarding job where I have learned more from the kids than they learn from me.

  15. 8.1.16
    Olivia at Joyfully Prudent said:

    Oh yes to all of that, especially the skeleton pic. One year I had my entire class over to my house for popcorn, hot chocolate, cookie decorating, and a movie during Christmas time. Such a great memory and the kids still remember that when I talk to them or their parents now.

    For TAKS/STAAR prep we had Boot Camp…it was about 6 weeks long and prepared the kids for the test (especially since it was their first standardized test ever)…it was so much fun and the kids wrote that down as one of their favorite memories. Each week was 2-3 different concepts for each subject. That seems like forever ago. Wish I had blogged back then as that would have been awesome to share.

  16. 8.1.16
    Unknown said:

    Today was my first day of school and it's my first year teaching! I will have many funny stories to come!

  17. 8.2.16
    Candidly Clark said:

    After three years of teaching, I am now staying home too. Oh how I miss it! I loved teaching! I also coached, so I felt like I had a really neat relationship with my students. I definitely miss the adult conversation and the relationships I created with my kiddos, but I remind myself all the time that I will never get these days back with my little one, and I wouldn't trade them for the world.

  18. 8.3.16
    Happylife40 said:

    Hahahaha, that mountain goat quote and the picture cracked me up!!!! I'm not a teacher, so that's probably why I had never seen it before but that is hilarious and I could totally see that scenario happening. So funny, Erika!!! Happy birthday!!

  19. 8.3.16
    Melanie Smith said:

    oHHH…..I was struggling to come up with a topic today and now I have the perfect one. An "ugly" teaching story that I will never ever forget!

    Drop by the blog later to see it.

  20. 8.7.16
    Brandi said:

    We totally taught together in Allen! I remember the first time I saw your blog, I kept thinking how do I know her?…then I realized we were at the same school. I was only there a year and taught down the hall in 1st grade. We then moved, and I started teaching elsewhere. I stay at home now with my kids. Just thought I'd share. Small world! 🙂