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.
I've had department chair on the brain lately because it was recently announced that my current department chair has stepped down for next year. He is smart and he will be missed in that role, but I think there are multiple good options in my current English department to fill his shoes. In my career so far, I've had the opportunity to be a department chair and to work with department chairs that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Some inspired me, some frightened me, and some gave me all the rope I needed either to soar or hang myself. Although it sometimes works out despite the process, in my experience, department chairs are chosen for silly reasons like seniority, admin favorites, or by default because no one else wants it. If done well, department chairs can positively impact fellow teachers, which in turn raises the bar for students, parents, and administrators, so here are some thoughts about what teachers really want in order to be supported in the classroom.
Recently, Fusion Yearbooks reached out to us with some awesome tips for creating a classroom culture of laughter. We loved them so much that we wanted to share some of those tips with you today! By the way, if you haven't heard of Fusion Yearbooks, check them out and pass on the info to that lovely person on faculty that is looking a little exhausted and frazzled about this time of year trying to meet the yearbook deadline!
As the school calendar grows short, the weather turns warm, and the testing bubbles are completely filled in, teachers all over the country embark on the epic task of keeping students engaged. To help you in this battle, we have rounded up tips and tricks for the end of the school year from some of our favorite veteran teachers:
At the end of the school year, most teachers are focusing on keeping students engaged, writing report cards, communicating with parents, figuring out new placements, and packing up the classroom. With all the hustle and bustle of the final months of school, it is hard to even wrap our brains around preparing for for next year. That is what the last week of July is for right?!? Today we have rounded up fellow teachers who know the spring struggle, but also have some easy and effective tips for creating a smooth back to school season by doing a little preparation now. We think you will thank them come August!
Somewhere along the line, a lot of teachers, students, parents, and administrators got the idea that good teachers don't allow their students to struggle. For many, the ideal classroom looks like a teacher giving perfectly clear instructions followed by students dutifully practicing skills with confidence and some level of uniformity. While there is benefit to this methodology in some circumstances, overall I believe that:
Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding are native concepts to teenagers today. They use the waze app to crowdsource information about how late they are likely to be to first period. They create their own flavor of Lays potato chips without batting an eye. They back the next Kickstarter idea and share Go Fund Me pages for causes they believe in.
I love to share my favorite tech tools for teachers or tips for back to school night, but today I want to share something that I don't love. I don't love standing in front of a full class when absolutely NO ONE is ready to think about gerunds or character development. I don't love to be the adult they are looking at when their heart is breaking. Unfortunately, as teachers we are likely to be put in this position at least once in our careers. I'm talking about teaching the first classes after tragedy. My school has experienced this twice in the recent past and in both circumstances I was completely unprepared. A few years ago, one of my school's most beloved teachers passed away suddenly and then last week, a popular and outgoing student from my school committed suicide. These losses hit us like a ton of bricks. I wish that I could say that they are part of rare, tragic occurrences for teens in school, but here are some staggering statistics to the contrary:
When my daughter missed the kindergarten cutoff by three weeks, I made an appointment with her teacher and principal of her school. She had attended private preschool since she was 3 years old, after I realized that she was too active and curious for me to entertain her all day at home with just the two of us. (She would sit and do 48-piece puzzles on her own at age 3) At 4, she entered California’s new ‘Transitional Kindergarten” program, reinforcing what she had already learned at her excellent private preschool, and learning even more. By the time she turned 5, although she was not reading, she knew all her letters, numbers, could write them, her name, and could slowly sound out many words, and add and subtract basic numbers. When I met with her teacher and the principal, frustrated that she would have to spend yet another year “learning” her letters and numbers, I was concerned that she would be bored and lose interest in school – be a lost sheep forever, setting the tone for her entire school career. Her teacher was open to the idea of moving her into first grade after doing some testing, but the principal flat-out refused. I was sent a rejection letter a day after the meeting, with no explanation other than advancing her would not be “what is best for her.” I was an advocate for my child, who had no voice. I saw my child’s “best interests” and knew that their brief assessment (where she missed two items) was not an accurate assessment of her needs. Was I being a helicopter parent? Or was I advocating for my child? Today, the lines seem more blurred, and can often become overwhelming for teachers and administrators.
Although it is often underestimated and overlooked, parent and teacher collaboration is vitally important to student success. Some parents have time to be very involved and others have significantly less time and/or resources to dedicate to schooling. Either way, parents ought to be a respected part of the education equation and positive communication with them should be toward the top of teachers' priorities. Here are a few tips for keeping parent communication positive: