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”

This Tiny Change Had a Big Impact

When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, I never win. Well, except for the last New Year’s Resolution I ever made, which was “Resolved: I will NEVER make another New Year’s Resolution for the rest of my life.” So far, I have been holding to that one flawlessly!

But why am I talking about the New Year? For us teachers, it might as well be the new year. And it is the time when many of us take our reflections from the previous school year, the wins and loses, and decide what we want to tweak, add, throw out, or change (or, as I teach my students how to revise their writing: Replace, Add, Delete, and Reorder).

Last year I made one tiny change to my day-to-day, and was able to do it all year long. Every. Day. It pushed me and challenged me. It has shown me that I really can set goals for self-improvement and make real changes, really! The thing is, the goal I set is kind of stupid. I’m almost embarrassed enough to not talk about it at all. I thought it was so silly when I decided to do it, I did NOT share it with anyone. I kept it to myself. But it was such a success, I think I want to share it. Just promise not to judge me. Continue reading “This Tiny Change Had a Big Impact”

4 Signs Your Development as a Teacher May Be Delayed

Yep. That’s me. Coming from behind. The Professional Development (PD) that I have been offered over the course of my career has been marked by a few hits and many misses. I would like to blame the principal, the site, the district, lawmakers, or anyone but me. In fact, I used to blame them. A lot.

Overtime I began to see that the my lack of development wasn’t my school’s or district’s problem, it was something that I needed to take ownership for. I was an adult who knew how to do learning on his own. But there’s good news! Things are better, and I’m getting caught up. And there has never been a better time for a teacher like me to get answers to the burning questions they have.

Continue reading “4 Signs Your Development as a Teacher May Be Delayed”

How We Love Our Students

I would like to think that I am one of the good ones. I think that I understand my students.

In the first few days of my course, I tell students that they . . .

  • can come to me if they need an extension on an assignment, ask, and I will grant it,
  • can make up a quiz or an assignment as many times as they need to get the score they want,
  • can request time to make up a quiz or a test if they missed it, and I’ll be there.

I often talk about how certain times of the year create more pressure points for students who are committed to several activities.

I think that I am such a good person, a great and empathetic teacher!

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I Don’t Have a Clue

It turns out, I was way off. I’ll admit, I didn’t have much empathy for my students. Sometimes, yes. But most of the time, no. Continue reading “How We Love Our Students”

English Teacher Math

Here’s a pic showing how I convert a 6×6 rubric:

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It makes sense if you don’t think about it.

To me, grading is maddening. Trying to take Language Arts, turn it into a number, and then that number turns into a letter. That letter, to certain degree, presents which opportunities are available to my students and which ones aren’t.

How do you handle grades?

Tired in My Bones

Yesterday was the first day of school. I was ready. It went very well. My students had a good time. Even though it was good, I’m tired. So tired.

I even had quite a bit of coffee. It didn’t matter. I’m. Just. Tired.

I wanted to have something more profound to say. Something insightful. Something inspiring.

All that comes to mind is, “I’m tired in my bones.”

How about you? How did the first day of school in Fall 2017 go? Share in the comment section below.

Let’s Do This!

It’s time to start. Today is the first day I report back to the school site for the 2017-2018 school year. And I am pumped!

At the same time, I am a bit of a mess. I am writing this post with no where to sit because my wife and I decided that the first day I report back to work was a great time to get the flooring done for the entire downstairs of our house. Okay, I decided. She said, “Are you sure,” many times. My response was, “It’s already going to be chaotic starting back up, we might as well add another layer.”

I don’t know if that bring-it-on kind of thinking is healthy, but I do know that it causes me to look at circumstances differently. I know that I will have students this year that live inside of chaos. They have true hardships that go way beyond my circumstances, and so me adding a pinch of the chaotic to my week is a reminder of that.

Also, I find that when the pressure is dialed up a little bit more, I get a little better. I get more focused. In my head, I have to cut out anything that is less than essential. This helps me keep my eyes on what matters most. And at the start of the school year, that’s what I need.

It’s also a drill for when things get really tough. I don’t know what surprises lie in wait for me, but I want to be ready. I want to be in shape. This brings to mind one of my favorite films from the 90s, Crimson Tide. The movie takes place on a nuclear powered submarine and is a battle of the wills between the captain, played by Gene Hackman, and the first officer, played by Denzel Washington. Early on in the film, a kitchen fire erupts, which you could imagine is pretty frightening when your stuck inside a traveling underwater tube that recirculates all its air, even the smoky kind. As soon as the report of the fire reaches the bridge, Hackman’s character decides that it’s the time to take his crew through an Emergency Action Message drill.

Eventually, the crew makes it through the drill and gets the fire out, but it was hectic and costly. Washington’s character was befuddled: why would you run a drill when there was fire!? Hackman explains that it better simulates the conditions of war, and that’s what they’re training for. Drills by themselves can be carried out without requiring a lot of focus or energy because they aren’t real. But add in a little chaos and it will cause you to choose, to focus.

Rather than lament friction and a little chaos, I try to embrace it, learn from it. There is opportunity in it. I want to practice, right now, how to find my strength in the midst uncertain circumstances. I want to be able to plod on when things are tough. I need to take every opportunity to prepare for hard times because there is no guarantee I will avoid them. But most importantly, I want to be strong enough to find the joy amidst the chaos because good things are happening. Even when its confusing and painful, good things can come out the other side.

In that spirit, let the school year begin! Bring on the hard work begin. I am looking forward to it.

Let’s do this!