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”

I Teach Revision on Day 2

When I was setting up my classroom for the 2018-2019 school year, I tweeted a picture of the only decoration I had up at the moment (see the featured image above). Moments later, Melissa-Ann Pero (@bshsmspero) thanks me for posting it, and says she’s going to make herself one.

A bit later on, she tweeted her creation, giving credit to Kelly Gallagher (@KellyGToGo) for RADaR and mentioning me in the process. And in my small Twitter world, the tweet caught fire. At the time of this writing, the post has been liked 305 times and retweeted 118 times!

See here:

Continue reading “I Teach Revision on Day 2”

2 Small Things Completely Changed How I View My Students

I just had THE BEST first day of school of my entire career, and it had nothing to do with my circumstances. And I don’t just mean that the quality of my first day of school notched up slightly above other starts. I mean this was off the charts amazing! Like Takeru Kobayashi smashing the world record for eating 50 hot dogs in 10 minutes, when the previous record was 25, kind of amazing!

Okay, I’ll get on with it.

But before I jump in, I need to make something clear upfront: not much has changed about my circumstances from last year to this year. Last year, I was teaching . . .

  • 3 sections of English IV ERWC (with a per class student count of 36, 37, 36) and
  • 2 sections English II Honors (with a per class student count of 27, 27)

This year I am teaching . . .

  • 4 sections of English IV ERWC (with a per class student count of 36, 36, 36, 36) and
  • 1 section of English II Honors (with a per class student count of 36)

Never mind the high numbers in my classes, I want you to notice the similarities. Same courses, with just a few more students. The caliber of students under my care isn’t significantly different. So what made this start so much better? Continue reading “2 Small Things Completely Changed How I View My Students”

So You Want to Start a Teacher Blog?

It’s the start of another school year. And for those highly engaged teachers who are out there connecting on social media, building your PLNs, some of you are thinking that it’s time to start (maybe restart) a teacher blog. If that’s you, or someone you know, great! I’m all for it! (Feel free to send me a link to your blog post too).

You have a head full of thoughts and a heart full of teacher gold, and you’re ready to conquer the blogosphere! But before you do, I have a few things I want you to consider, because I have read some–to put it generously–less-than-stellar posts. Some were so bad, I decided that I would never return (….but then I felt bad about thinking that, because we all need to start somewhere, so I opted to take a long break instead). Continue reading “So You Want to Start a Teacher Blog?”

Get Your Students to Write OVER 20,000 Words This Year!

This year, I’m going to get my students to write over 20,000 words! And I’m not even counting the essays they are going to type.

At the start of the year, my students will begin building a Writer’s Notebook. This is a place the will house low-stakes, pressure-free writing, lessons on sentence craft, and a place where they will practice thinking through revision.

Here’s the English teacher math that came up with 20,000+ words:

  • 150 words per page
  • 5 pages of writing a week
  • 15 weeks of writing per semester

Continue reading “Get Your Students to Write OVER 20,000 Words This Year!”

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”

What is the Goal of Teaching?

To get students college and career ready?

To help students achieve their highest earning potential?

To get an A?

It might sound a little strange, but I like to think that my goal as a teacher is to work myself out of the job. When I say this, I am picturing the tradition of an apprentice learning from a master in his or her craft. Eventually the apprentice learns enough to take the show on the road alone and no longer needs the instruction of the master. This is how I I would like to view my relationship with my students.

If that’s really the goal of my teaching, then my students need to be ready to do everything that I am teaching them without me. They should not have to constantly run to me for validation, “What do you think? Am I doing this right? How good/bad is this?” Let’s think back to those pre-teaching years of our adult lives, when we first entered the world of work. In our time as employees, imagine if we did what I’m describing with our bosses. Imagine that we constantly knocked on their door to run everything by them. How frustrated would the boss be? And, as bosses, how effective would they be at their job if they had to stop and assess every little task their employees were performing? I imagine that company would go under pretty quick.

But how is grading every little assignment the students turn in any different? Grading each discrete task submitted makes us micro-managers. No wonder we’re frustrated in those seasons when grades are due! Continue reading “What is the Goal of Teaching?”