Teacher Tips

Career educator Fariña offers advice from her days in the classroom

Chancellor Carmen Fariña speaks to teachers at a training held by Scholastic.
PHOTO: Jessica Glazer
Chancellor Carmen Fariña speaks to teachers at a training held by Scholastic.

A couple weeks away from the start of the school year, Chancellor Carmen Fariña is working the teacher-advice circuit.

On Tuesday, she told pre-K teachers at a training institute in Brooklyn to follow each students’ pace and to take naps after work. Today, at the close of a series of workshops for teachers at Scholastic headquarters in Manhattan, she provided words of wisdom from her own days inside the classroom.

“The reality is if you’re not nervous, in my opinion, you’re not a good teacher,” Fariña told them. “Good teachers do get nervous and excited.”

Fariña’s advice ranged from how to collaborate with other teachers, to how to foster a social life for young students. All of it was specific, reflecting her desire to present herself as a lifelong educator with a firm grasp on what goes on inside schools, especially in the younger grades.

“You see? I’m not making this up,” Fariña said after teachers murmured in agreement when she mentioned the divide between younger and senior teachers. “I didn’t lose my connection to schools.”

Some of her advice:

  1. New teachers should avoid the teacher’s lunchroom during the first few weeks. It’s where “the whiners” go to gripe, she said.
  2. Collaborate with your peers through one-on-one lunches or by swapping classrooms once a week. An educator skilled in teaching literacy could switch classrooms with another who excels in teaching math, for example.
  3. Celebrate students’ birthdays with something more productive than a cupcake or balloons. When she was a teacher, Fariña said she wouldn’t give students homework on his or her birthday. If the child had few friends, she’d let him or her pick two friends who would also have no homework, to help “bring them into the fold.”
  4. Don’t ask teachers in the grade below you for names of the “bad” kids. Instead, ask for the parents who they had trouble reaching.
  5. Send home “wow letters” in the first week to kids who are more of a challenge. You’ll give the student something to celebrate, and it also helps to “have those parents in your pocket when you have to tell the harder truths.”

Extra Credit: Do you have advice to add to the chancellor’s? Leave it in the comments or tweet @ChalkbeatNY.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.