Sometimes in the muck and mire of teenage life, negative self-talk takes over and it is hard to focus on academics, building positive relationships, and accomplishing goals. As English teachers, we ignite a love of our favorite authors, cultivate solid argument writers, and extol the virtues of effective communication, but occasionally we have to break through some tough barriers of negativity to impart our knowledge and help students think critically. When we are up in front of the class lecturing, teens may be thinking about things like:
Move over Von Trapps, it's time for the sound of school:
New sharpened pencils and fresh ink in pens
Bright stadium lights and warm woolen letterman's
Brown paper lunch bags tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite back to school things
With all of the stress, busyness, and seemingly endless meetings that greet teachers at the beginning of each school year, I thought that today would be a good day to reflect on some of my favorite parts of the back to school season. Feel free to share yours in the comment section below!
July is almost gone and so it is officially time to start (or continue) thinking about going back to school. For a long time, the first day of school was one of my most dreaded days. It isn't just the students who have the nightmares about forgetting their pants and their locker combos! I worried and stressed about making a perfect impression, coming up with the perfect activity and forgetting to cover all the procedures that would set us up for a perfect school year. I also felt some pressure from the administration over the years to enforce and reinforce school rules on the first day. Luckily, over the years the first day has gotten easier and I have learned what doesn't work for me. I am sharing my list below and I'd love to hear what you will or will not be doing on the first day of school! Leave a comment in the comment section below. ;)
Warning: I will not claim to solve any of the problems listed below! That being said, I think it is important for us to acknowledge the issues that we face so that we can work together to find some solutions. I'd love to hear your struggles, thoughts, and solutions in the comment section below!
During this time of year, students across the country feel anxiety levels begin to creep up due to the onslaught of high stakes testing. Some take it all in stride, while others reach panic mode before the first bubble is even filled in. Whether they are taking the SAT, ACT, State Proficiency Test, Common Core Assessment, Advanced Placement Test, finals, or any other high stakes test, the pressure on students can be very real. For some, test results will go a long way toward high school graduation or college acceptance. So how do we help them deal with the anxiety associated with these tests? I'm sharing some ideas below, and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section following this post.
My school is in an accreditation year, so we have been preparing in many ways for formal observations within our school community and from the accreditation team. (I'm on the west coast, so we are governed by WASC.) I normally really enjoy informal observations by department members and colleagues because I find that they are a great feedback tool for my own reflection and professional growth. During informal observations, I like to try out new methodologies or focus on meeting the needs of a particular group of students. Then, I like to debrief with my observer and brainstorm ideas for future tweaks. However, formal observations can have a very different plan and purpose. These are the types of observations you know will occur in advance and typically are not followed by collaborative feedback. These are the observations that you want to knock out of the park with a home run. Below are 7 tips for acing a formal evaluation. I'd love to hear your comments or concerns in the comment section below.
As teachers, we all know that we tend to be so much more than curriculum delivery people. We are nurses, counselors, food distributors, cheerleaders, disciplinarians, parental figures, and so much more. As a collective, we know that effective teaching and learning can only happen when the classroom is a safe and healthy environment. Today, let's talk about ways to help our students stay healthy. Of course, we will not irradiate the common cold before our next Chaucer lecture, but we can take some steps toward healthier students without taking too much time out of our already packed agendas. Below are a few tips that I've put together. Feel free to add your tips in the comment section!
Recently, I have been feeling the frustration that bubbles up every once in a while when I find students trying to subvert their own education through trickery. Sure, teachers will always battle the homework copiers, cheat sheet creators, plagiarizers, and last minute project workers, but the students that really get to me are the ones who spend so much time finding ways to trick the system when they could spend the same amount of time studying and legitimately learn! I try really, really hard to inspire students to care about their own education over and above a pursuit of the almighty grade. Sometimes I fail miserably. Here are a couple of struggles I've faced lately and what I am trying to do about them. I'd love to hear how you handle students when they try to game your systems.
One of my teacher resolutions this year is to help students grapple with complexity. I want them to read both fiction and informational texts with an eye to layers of meaning and multiple perspectives. Discussion is one tool to accomplish this goal and I've told you how much I love Socratic Seminar and Literature Circles, but today I want to talk about using debate in the classroom. DISCLAIMER: I am not trained in the classical form of debate, which has very particular goals, rules, and regulations. While I respect my colleagues who lead debate teams, I find that many English teachers I know do not know the traditional debate rules and many English students I know do not have the same kind of enthusiasm for every class period that many debate team members have for every debate. So instead of adhering to the structure, I am just going to offer some advice for preparing a simple classroom debate.
It always astounds me how much this job does NOT get any easier! 10 years in and I still find myself hopelessly in the weeds on a monthly, if not weekly basis. My grades, emails, lesson plans, meetings, and everything else seem to pile up when I am busy teaching and then all of the sudden the panic sets in. Today I want to share a couple of tips that I have picked up along the way from my own experience or from wise teachers I've worked with. Please share your tips in the comment section below!