Financial Aid Options for Teachers

Paying for schooling can be hard for aspiring teachers and teachers who are trying to continue their education. However, there are many different forms of aid available to help cover education costs. Here are some of the most commonly used financial aid options for teachers.

Student Loans

There are two fundamental types of student loans: those sponsored by the federal government and loans taken out through a private lending institution. There is a third alternative, peer-to-peer lending, which is becoming more popular each year. Before you decide on the type of loan that will work best for you it’s essential that you research the benefits and potential downside of each.

Federal Government Loans

Student loans taken out through the U.S. government are called Stafford loans or Perkins loans. The money comes directly from the United States Department of Education. If you qualify for a government loan, the money will come to you through a participating school. However, you must meet certain criteria before you’re considered eligible for a federal loan. The first thing that you need to do to qualify is to be enrolled in an accredited college or university. You can also qualify by enrolling in a trade, career, or technical school. As a general rule, Stafford loans don’t have to be paid back until after you graduate from college. However, if you leave school without earning a degree, it’s possibly that you could be required to start paying the loan back immediately. You will have to fill out an FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and go through a review process before being accepted. Another federal loan program, the Perkins loan program, is need-based, and carries a fixed 5% interest rate throughout the length of the loan term, which normally runs for 10 years.

TEACH, a Federal Program

TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) is aimed at those who would like to teach at a public or private school for low-income families. It is a grant program designed to help defray the cost of receiving your teaching degree. To qualify, you must be willing to teach four full academic years out of the next eight at a school that encourages enrollment by low-income family members. This money is in the form of a grant, so it won’t have to be paid back unless you don’t meet their criteria. If you back out of the agreement, that money will become an unsubsidized student loan and the funds will need to be paid back, with interest. Part of the criteria for TEACH is that you must be willing to instruct low-income children in high demand subjects such as mathematics, foreign languages, reading, science, and special education. To be considered eligible for a TEACH Grant, you have to fill out the FAFSA. However, there is no need to prove that you have a financial need in order to be eligible.

Private Loans

A private loan is the type of loan you would get from a private financial institution, such as a bank or credit union. Money from a private loan need not be designated specifically for your college education, it is merely money loaned to you with the expectation that it will be repaid, with interest, at agreed upon terms. While the terms of a federal loan are pretty standard, the terms of a loan through a private lender can vary quite a bit. A private loan is almost always determined based upon your credit rating. If you have a good credit score, your interest rates can be fairly low. If you don’t have good credit, your rates could be very high–you may even be asked to provide a cosigner. The terms for a private student loan are left entirely up to the financial institution you’re dealing with–you either take it or leave it.

Peer-to-Peer Lending

Peer-to-peer lending is fast becoming a popular method of securing a student loan. Essentially it is a financial agreement between two parties–a financial lending institution is not normally involved–whereby one person borrows money from another. Once the terms are agreed to, the borrower is expected to repay the loan within a predetermined time frame–with interest. A peer-to-peer loan is a formal agreement, usually requiring the borrower to sign a contract laying out the terms of repayment. Most people that take out a peer-to-peer loan instead of borrowing from a bank or the government have a poor credit rating or low grades that aren’t high enough to qualify for a government loan.

Guest post from Karen Schweitzer. Karen writes about online schools for BestOnlineColleges.com.

How a School Climate Can Change

There’s a lot of talk of global climate change but what about teacher attitudes. I’ve seen them change big time and it’s causing bad stuff to happen you might compare to global warming or acid rain.

I remember in my early days of teaching there was a camaraderie that existed in the air. At the mailboxes, people would smile and greet each other. Sometimes people would talk and find themselves tarrying past the bell (God forbid!) In my eyes that was always more valuable than getting to class on time. Getting to know other teachers and feeling cared for was like medicine for that staff. Things aren’t the same now, maybe it’s just how life is and I need to grow up?

Now, it seems everyone on staff is into their own things. They are stressing in their face and their voices. Some days I feel the only people I can let my hair down with (figure of speech, I’m bald) are the classifieds and grounds staff. I hate when everyone is rushed. With public school being attacked from all fronts, everyone is crossing t’s and i’s and all that stuff. Everyone is locked and loaded to point the finger to save their job. It’s a real shame I say. Kids keep growing up, they want to be cool (thank you Mr. Neil Young for reminding me of that) and they want to play!

Teacher drama only hinders learning. Can we be better teachers when we’re stressed and hurried? Some must think so because it’s the order of the day. I say NO WAY. Relax and develop your passions as a teacher. Then, share that with your students. Most people aren’t made happy by their work but rather their passions. The happiest people have seen that modeled and know how to get it in touch with it. Now, for teachers who want to foster the humanity of their school climate, the question comes, how much are you willing to do to make things better?

Great Minds Don’t Think Alike (Book Reviews)

This fantastic new book provides the insight to differentiate instruction effectively. The best theorists are covered by Diane Payne and Sondra VanSant in this must have book for teachers. As some have said, it is also a must have for anyone working with children for long periods of time. Knowing the learning style of a child will aid you immensely in their education. I am happy to recommend it to my readers.

Besides amazing points being made right and left and a systematic way to make lesson plans, this book includes a CD-Rom rich with materials to assist in psychological learning assessments. The meaning of the title is obvious but what lies inside is not. Teachers of this new millennium will benefit from this book. It enables identification of individual learning styles. I have already used it in my lesson planning. It helps me be more effective because my lessons are not “universal” or “catch-all” with regard to the classroom. As students needs become greater in our schools and teacher expectancies become more rigorous, we must consider the individual. We must make plans that consider an array of learning styles as much as possible. This book is great for reference on a teacher’s desk or to go through in detail at home searching for solutions in the arena of your classroom.

Inspiration for New Teachers: The Tortoise, the Hare, and Personal Bests

On your teaching journey, don’t compare yourself with others. Just do your best and you will find much success.

This post is dedicated to the new teaching degree students who are feeling the sting of our times in education. Don’t give up! Teachers, especially new ones, are under a lot of pressure sometimes to create the best walls, the best lesson plans, and the best APPEARANCE to the teaching “pack” around them. I remember when I was starting out back in the late nineties when I sometimes felt like all the veterans around me were like the “hare” and I felt like the slow moving tortoise. You know it’s an old fable but it stands up true today in our fast paced teaching career more than ever.  If you do the right things, consistently, and keep at it, you will finish the race strong. Those doing the work for education degrees shall have their “day in the sun.” Best of all, you will make a difference in the lives of children.

It seems sometimes that the fast running hares of the world are enjoying their developed speed all around us, but you can’t let that sway you from the road in front of you, however small. They were once like you and if you keep your resolve, you will be successful as they are at teaching. You may even be better at it. Like my high school track coach Mr. White used to say: “Don’t worry about Jamie Oman, you run your own race Riley and get a personal best!” Jamie Oman was a CIF champion runner, I was simply a point man for the team. Every time I “took a man” I felt pride and I carry that with me today.

Times are tough now in education. Stay strong, we need the best teachers to stay in the profession while thousands are quitting. On your teaching journey, don’t compare yourself with others. Just do your best, stay focused on your own teacher evaluations and you will find much success.

Backward Map Review – A Great Way to do Test Prep

If you want your kids to feel comfortable with all the material, you need to get them familiar with it now. Using the past test to go over and review with the kids is like gold.

With about 20 days left to the California Standards Test (CST), it is challenging how to spend your teaching tie. Of course, the free mind of a teacher can analyze similar tests and divine what to reteach. This is only a little useful. The best way to do test prep is to analyze the data of your assessments and then “backward map” reteaching the questions that 50% or less missed. This is when an item analysis report comes in handy.

I have my data and it’s magneted up on my white board. Every day for the past week and now into the next days before the standards test I have been teaching test prep and reteaching the concepts where it appears only less than 50% understood. When direct lessons are happening it feels like the best way to teach. Of course you can’s always teach this way. You need to apply yourself to solid, direct instruction and doing backward mapping will help your teaching be more relevant and of more value on the CST. If you want your kids to feel comfortable with all the material, you need to get them familiar with it now. Using the past test to go over and review with the kids is like gold. (It works!)

A Snapshot of How I Make Lesson Plans

Every weekend, after the laundry and wrestling with the chores, I am faced once again with the same professional challenge: making a weekly lesson plan schedule. The obvious reason for this is to have a backbone for the activities and learning that go on in my classroom all week. The other reason is to ensure to myself and others that I am not just “winging it” without a plan. Good teachers make weekly plans. I have been at this for 16+ years and I won’t say I am a “good teacher” I will let others say that if they wish. I have found that making weekly plans yields smiles and growth returns from my students. Finding the weaknesses of my students’ scores as well as the way I have taught up to this point is the goal of my weekend planning time. Here’s a very broad presentation of how I sometimes do it.

NOTE: In this field, while I seek only to help teachers from a peer-to-peer perspective, there are an abundance of snooty types who seek to criticize and devour ideas different from their own. I would like it known that this is a very personal sharing post and is certainly not meant to be perfect nor the “only” way one can prepare for a powerful week of teaching. For you to get something out of it, you may have to do a bit of “reading between the lines.” having said that, I would not be as excited to share this with you were I not extremely excited about what I do and they way I do it in this particular situation. Thank you for having an open mind as you continue. Incidentally, why are so many teachers the “snooty” type? Hmmm. I’ll let you address that in the comments. Now for: “How to Make a Weekly Lesson Plan Schedule.”

I Start with a rolling cart. I put a minimum of books and TE’s I need into the rolling cart so I have the access I need at home on the weekend. You may not be sure what to bring. In that case, let me give you my choices as an example: a math TE, the district pacing guide, ELA curriculum (Mine is a PDF so is always at home with me), a Google Calendar printout from the week below (read about how I make the Google calendar printouts here), the state standards blueprint, the state standards released test questions, and finally a printout of my students’ most recent assessment scores. (Photos are not the most recent Common Core standards that I use in accordance with district standards.)

I start with their assessment scores. 1) I identify the lowest standards and write them daily into the lessons. This is often called “backward mapping,” whatever they tested low in, teach again. 2) Then I find matching curriculum and write that into the Google Calendar lesson plan. The former is pretty simply since I have access to Oars.net. This is a great online program that aggregates assessment data for teachers. I can see in an instant what standards are high and need only be spiraled and I can also see the low stuff needing intervention. The way I go through my day teaching these lessons in in almost constant evolution. Having said that, watch for a post in the next week or two where I will share how the weekly lesson plan looks in a given teaching day. What do you think about my art of planning a teaching week? Have you anything to add? That would be great. I comment and link back!

Teacher Tips for Relieving Anxiety

Teachers sometimes experience high levels of stress. Of course, all professionals do to some degree. Usually it doesn’t last long but when it does, it should be addressed. It can be a small deal or something that prevents you from relaxing at work or at home. Everyone has some measure of anxiety. When you are anxious, it is difficult to relax and when you can’t relax it can produce ill side effects. Mental health treatment centers are best avoided since you have to be at work each morning teaching your students! I am a big proponent of “mental hygiene” to keep one mellow.  For me that includes a fairly regular habit of relaxation. I try to get in 10-20 minutes a day in addition to exercise. Here are some healthy tips my doctor gave me for coping with everyday anxiety. If you are not able to relax, talk to your doctor:

Control your worry. Make a time to worry each day for 30 minutes. Try not to dwell on what “might” happen but rather focus on what is happening. Then let go of the worry and go on with your day.

Learn ways to relax. These may include yoga or deep breathing.

Use muscle relaxation.

Exercise.

Get plenty of sleep.

Avoid alcohol and drug abuse.

Limit caffeine to 1-2 cups of coffee a day.

Steps to deep breathing: 1) Lie down on a flat surface. 2) Place one hand on your stomach, just above your navel. Place the other hand on your chest. 3) Breathe in slowly and try to make your stomach rise a little.

Meditation and relaxation has medical healing benefits just like exercise. These are some tips for coping with anxiety.

dynamitelessonplan Blog Back Online!

12506845744_0120be8609My blog is officially moved in at a new more powerful host! Thank you for all the help Bluehost! A new post is scheduled for tomorrow. Thanks for hanging in there and being patient through the migration dust! The foundation is more secure than ever! See you all tomorrow with my first teaching post in a long time. I am looking forward to it. I have learned a lot lately.

Seriously Considering Growing a Beard as Motivation for the Standards Test

20130316-124049.jpgCall me the David Blaine of education. I’m thinking of growing a beard to get my students excited about the Standards test. We are in the midst of pretty rigorous test prep and Perhaps my facial hair endurance test will get them on board.

In the past I have written a song as motivation, done a countdown every morning, and other things. I’m usually self conscious about beards and growing my male-pattern-baldness hair out. All the more reason for them to realize the importance of the test and of paying attention. What do think? Good motivator?

Parent Conferences Tip – Listen to Parents About Their Child

Here are a few ways to encourage parents to talk about their child. Once they start talking, be sure and take note and/or just listen.


Every year about Thanksgiving time, the parent conference occurs. I’ve been scheduling and hosting them for 14 years. These can be fluid and helpful to both parent and teacher but without this tip, they can be useless. You can offer positive parenting tips You may think you know the student very well because you have seen them every day in class since August.

Face the reality however that the parent knows them much better than you. In most cases, they were there with the child at birth. If you have kids of your own, you know the significance of the parent/child relationship. Even if you don’t have kids you can recall your relationship with your own parents. Should a teacher assume to know as much about one of their 25-35 students? I say no. It can be tempting to want to give educational tips for parents but remember a balance. Continue reading “Parent Conferences Tip – Listen to Parents About Their Child”