Why I Almost Quit

In my seventh year of teaching, when I was really hitting my stride as a classroom instructor, I was ready to quit. I didn’t want to. I loved teaching. The best way to put it is that I had hit a crisis. In plainest terms, people experience crisis when their behavior and choice patterns no longer work work for them, requiring some kind of change. Another way to put it is, “What has “worked” up until this point WILL NOT work from here on out.” That was me. I felt stuck in an endless loop that was wearing me down more and more each day.

My crisis centered around guilt. And this was no ordinary guilt, where I found myself going between two sides. This guilt loop had three elements, one for each of my main roles at the time: teacher, spouse, and parent. I had responsibilities for each role, and I wasn’t handling any of them well. Maybe I had people fooled, or maybe they were just being kind to me, but inside I was all tangled up in knots. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next for any of those roles, and felt like I was frantically running from one to the next. That caused a lot of stress, and I was exhausting. I was at quit point. Continue reading “Why I Almost Quit”

Want Better Student Presentations in Your Classroom? Take Away PowerPoint.

When I first started assigning presentations in my classroom, that was all I did: Assign presentations. The students were given guidelines, but they were essentially left on their own to figure out how to plan and perform their presentations. And for most of my students that meant creating a PowerPoint that had every word they were going to say scripted on each slide because their plan was to read it to the class while facing the screen.

I welcomed the break from having to be the one up front, but those presentations were so painful. And I wasn’t the only one suffering. The students were too. The speakers and the audience.

Since those days, I have learned how to actually teach public speaking–as opposed to just assigning it. But even when I started teaching public speaking, I wasn’t seeing growth in all my students right away. When I was puzzling over this, one day I had an epiphany! Take Away PowerPoint. My students were relying on their visuals too much. They were hiding behind their slide deck. What they needed was to learn how to be the most interesting thing in the room. Continue reading “Want Better Student Presentations in Your Classroom? Take Away PowerPoint.”

Teacher Hack: Copy in Smaller Batches

As a secondary teacher, you know the routine. You head to the copy room to make a class set of handouts for the courses you teach–three sections of this, two sections of that. On your way, you wonder how long the line will be, how many copiers will be jammed, and whether or not you’ll have enough time to visit the bathroom before you can head back to your classroom.

The copy room is a big stressor for me. And when I get there, the part that I used to dread was the counting. My Struggle? Doing simple math under duress. I over count, making too many copies. Or worse, I under count, and don’t copy enough, which can bring my lesson to a halt. There were a few occasions when I tallied up my count correctly, but in a rush, I failed to notice that the copier had run out of paper with 85-90 percent of my copy job finished, then me sauntering off thinking I had everything I needed.

Maybe this isn’t your struggle, but for this English Language Arts teacher, getting the right count is a problem. But this one trick has solved that for me. Continue reading “Teacher Hack: Copy in Smaller Batches”

Lost in the Push for Literacy? 6 Reasons to Read THESE 6 THINGS

I recently finished reading an incredible book by Michigan teacher, Dave Stuart Jr. It was one of those reads that felt like a mixture between a vacation and conference. There were refreshing and affirming words of encouragement, but there were also mighty challenges put forth.

The title of the book is These 6 Things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most. I have read books that boast they have the most important ideas for teaching, and usually they meant that the reader would have to buy into some sort of system that would be a complete overhaul and redesign of his or her classroom. No thanks, and this is not what These 6 Things is about. At. All.

Come along and I will show you six reasons why every secondary teacher, regardless of what content area he or she teaches, should read this book.
Continue reading “Lost in the Push for Literacy? 6 Reasons to Read THESE 6 THINGS”

Presentations: How 2 Sources Transformed Public Speaking in My Classroom

How has your experience been with assigning presentations in your classroom? Inspiring? Fun? Or does it sound more like how mine use to? Before I made significant changes, my students would make PowerPointⓇ presentations with busy slide decks. They would stand up in front of the class, face the projected image, and talk to the board instead of the class. When it was all over, we would all clap.

If your classroom presentations look like that, then it’s time for you to say “Enough!” I am still in the middle of learning how to teach my students to be better oral communicators, so you won’t see anything magical in my classroom, but you will see confident students, facing the class, note cards in hand, transitioning from topic to topic, with relevant visuals (and almost no text) on their slides. They have impressed me in ways I never thought possible with me as their teacher. I used to think that it was the job of another more competent teacher to get students ready for public speaking. But I have found that anyone can do it.  Continue reading “Presentations: How 2 Sources Transformed Public Speaking in My Classroom”

Teacher Blogger Tips: Create Content through Blending Your Development, Practice, and Reflection

Teachers are busy. They are always planning, always tinkering with their instruction, and there are the ever-growing stacks of assignments to grade. Just like one of those romantic comedy movies where the main character tries go one a date with two people at once, this is how a teacher deals with planning, instruction, and grading. As the main character switches identities to share time with one partner, this is like the teacher choosing to do one of those activities, like grading. Eventually, the pressure builds to switch to one of the other activities! And it goes on and on like this.

Not only do teacher bloggers participate in this same dance with planning, instruction and grading, they also spend several hours a week cranking out a couple of posts. Throw in the teacher podcast they are listening to on their drive home from work, the three twitter chats they participated in last week, and the teacher book that is their constant walking companion, and you’ll think that teacher bloggers have gone mad.

Well, we have! And we love it! But it doesn’t have to consume our lives. With a few simple tips, we can make it all blend together, while leading fulfilling lives and deepening our connections with our loved ones outside of work. Continue reading “Teacher Blogger Tips: Create Content through Blending Your Development, Practice, and Reflection”

Blending Argument into Classroom Culture

In my most recent post, I made the case against finding balance in life, but instead working to bring the ingredients of life together through blending. At the same time as the writing of that post, I found myself in chapter four of Dave Stuart Jr’s These 6 Things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most.

As I was reading the book a little here, and writing that post a little there, a realization dawned on me: These 6 Things is a blessed picture of blending in the classroom. I think it was a mix of the timing of my post, all my prior experience with argument, but mostly that Dave Stuart Jr. just makes so much stinking sense (seriously, you should get the book), but I will now be using These 6 Things as a lens for how to make it all blend in my classroom. Continue reading “Blending Argument into Classroom Culture”

Blending Versus Balancing

“How can I get everything done that I want to get done? I just need to find balance.”

Have you ever thought that before? I do all the time. I used to stress out about it. I would look at all the things that I had to do, I look at all the time I had available, then try to block out time on a calendar to get it all done. It was a dance of scheduling all kinds of activities.

Certain activities got priority over others, especially the ones that involved work and family. As my kids have gotten older, they have been participating in more activities, and that has added a layer of complexity to each week. When I have tried to take it all in, thinking through my schedule, there were times when it was quite dizzying. Continue reading “Blending Versus Balancing”