The directions from the conference presenter were simple, “Stand up from your chair. Go to another table next to you, one with people you don’t know, and say ‘Hi’ to them as if they are your long lost best friend from childhood.” The energy in the room skyrocketed as everyone said exuberant hellos, high-fived, and gave hugs. The presenter then asked us to return to our seats and reflect on the feeling. Most people felt positive and happy from this small activity. However, a table at the front had been asked to remain seated during the activity. Other people could have approached and greeted these people, but not a single person did. The group of people at the front felt left out and uneasy. The speaker, Mawi Asgedom, used this activity to remind us of what happens in our schools.
Three minutes left until the end of class. You’ve taught a great lesson, cleaned up your materials, and assigned the homework. You look at the clock and realize that you have three minutes left—not enough time to jump into a new topic, but too long to ask students to just sit quietly. What can you do to use this time well and ensure your classroom doesn’t descend into chaos?
In teaching, as in the rest of life, there are best practices. And then there is real life. We all know that we should eat fruits and vegetables for an after school snack when we have low energy from teaching all day. Yet, that candy bar looks so much more appealing than that apple at four in the afternoon.
New teachers are often given the advice, “Avoid the teachers’ lounge.” The rationale behind this advice is that it can be a place filled with complaints and negativity. I followed this advice for many years, eating lunch alone in my classroom. I really didn’t mind this situation because I had other times in the day to connect with adults. However, things changed when I had my baby. There were no longer any spare moments at school to chat with colleagues and my evenings were filled with taking care of the baby and then collapsing out of exhaustion. In an effort to get some conversation with adults during the day, I started to eat lunch in the teachers’ lounge with my colleagues.
It is that time of year again when teachers all over the country are preparing for final exams. Although many teachers have their testing strategy down to a science, I know many others (myself included) that have mixed feelings when it comes to balancing the forces involved in finals. Personally, I am at a crossroads with this summative test. For the last decade, I have administered exam books with literally hundreds of multiple choice questions covering all the major strands of my class. I've almost always incorporated an essay section a few weeks before the end of the term, which counted toward the test score, but on the actual test day, I have watched bubble after bubble after bubble. It has always felt like a strange ritual that served many purposes, but did not really incapsulate exactly what I really wanted students to learn or honor the best practices that I try to use consistently all semester. In the big picture of the semester, regardless of grade level, I most value critical reading and articulate, argumentative analysis of literature. Given my values, I think it is time for me (and maybe you?) to rethink the traditional final exam. Below is the process I am going through. I'd love to hear your questions, comments, or suggestions in the comment section below! I've learned and grown so much as a teacher through the comments here on the blog as well as on our social media and I'm willing to bet others have read your comments with some of the same enthusiasm for new ideas!
I can relate to students who find it difficult to avoid the distractions that are ever present with their peers, their devices, and the all the other competing interests in their lives. These distractions are part of the world today and are not going away anytime soon, so I think it behooves teachers and students alike to regularly revisit strategies for improved concentration on important tasks and projects.
We have all been there: swamped by to do lists and feeling like we are simply putting out fires all day instead of proactively getting anything done. As teachers, we have to balance creating curriculum, grading papers, continuing professional development, communicating with parents, and about a 187 other things that tug at our priorities all day. Oh yeah, and we can't spend all day checking off our list because we have to actually teach most of the day! So what is a teacher supposed to do? Today we are sharing some to do list best practices that can help us all get more done in the limited time we have: