How 1 Substitute Teacher Can Make You a Better Instructor

In my experience, making a small shift in thinking can make a big difference. For example, I assign outside reading to my students. They choose a novel, they read it, then they do a brief write up. The goal of the assignment is to get students to try reading different new books and see that maybe they could enjoy this wonderful pastime.. Alas, many of my students are lazy and wait until the last minute, which means they cheat. I have found that if I take them to the school library every two weeks and make them publicly sign up for their book title four weeks in advance of the due date, they do a lot more reading on their own. There. Two small changes made a big difference.

As an English teacher, there are many practices I have in the classroom that are efficiency and productivity killers. I have caught myself committing a fair share of these over the years, but I know there are many more that I have missed. I wish there was a way to catch them, like a having a fellow teacher observe me. Not an administrator, not a site coach, but a peer whom I trust. The problem is that person would most likely be teaching at the same time I would be. Can this dilemma be solved?  Continue reading “How 1 Substitute Teacher Can Make You a Better Instructor”

7 Reasons to Build a Tribe of Peer Coaches

In Monday’s post I suggested that one of best paths to professional growth is through partnering with another teacher. This has been true for me. I have partnered with many great teachers over the years. Some collaborations centered on a brief project. Other helping mutual helping relationships have been ongoing for a decade or more. All of these interactions have been peer-to-peer, and each one of us has coached the other at one point.

If you haven’t thought recently about how you might increase your tribe of peer coaches, here are 7 reasons I have found to make this a top priority toward professional growth.  Continue reading “7 Reasons to Build a Tribe of Peer Coaches”

Professional Development: Are You Waiting on Your District?

When I first entered the teaching, I was awash in professional development. It seemed like there was no shortage of money to request training either. Then the housing market crashed, the cash flow slowed to a trickle, and professional development was scaled far, far back. My state’s governor at the time lifted the professional development hours requirement in order to maintain keep one’s credential cleared. And poof, it was pretty much gone.

If I was going to sit and wait for my district to bring the learning to me, then I was going to do quite a bit of waiting. That wasn’t going to be good for me. It definitely wouldn’t be good for my students. What’s a teacher to do?  Continue reading “Professional Development: Are You Waiting on Your District?”

Whatever It Takes – Give Me A Break!

If you have been reading through the week, we have been exploring a quote I read in a book for educators. It goes, “Whatever it takes–that’s the job of the teacher.” At the start of the week, we accepted that challenge. But now that we’re at the end of the week, I have to say that these kind of statements just make me mad.

I challenged the students with this on Thursday. Now I have a challenge for those educators who have moved on from the classroom because in my experience, they are the ones delivering these calls to action.

I know your intentions are good, and you are there for student success. I just want you to know that it has the potential to come across as critical and sometimes undeserved. All I really want to say is that it is very difficult to sit in a seminar, or a faculty meeting, and hear a former classroom teacher challenge all those who are still in the classroom with, “Are you doing whatever it takes?”  Continue reading “Whatever It Takes – Give Me A Break!”

The End of Entrance Exams?

Last night, I posted an article I read about the alleged end of the California State University’s Entrance Exam. It started some interesting discussion on my Facebook wall. I thought I would leave it here and ask you to join in!

Responsibility of the Learner

We need to make them take ownership of their learning

This week our conversation has centered on the phrase, “Whatever it takes–that’s the job of the teacher.” Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we read “with the grain,” accepting the text for what it said, challenging ourselves with how we can add one more thing in our pursuit to do “whatever it takes.”

Today, we read “against the grain” and challenge the idea. And I will bring into the conversation a book I have picked up for summer readingVisible Learning for Literacy.

When I first read that phrase, “Whatever it takes,” I’ll admit, I was angry. Here’s why. When I step back and look at all my commitments–full-time teaching, marriage, three kids, involvement at church, active in the community where I live–I do a lot of juggling, blending, and balancing to do get it all done. And when someone comes along and says “whatever it takes” to me, in the midst of all I do, it comes across as holier-than-thou moralizing while wagging your finger at me.

If you read the earlier posts, clearly, I got over that initial anger. But, even then, I noticed something else was bothering me. And here it is:

What about the student? Are the students doing “whatever it takes?”

I have been part of meetings where student results come back below what we were expecting, and questions were asked about what interventions we can add to help the students succeed. What else could be done? That’s a good question to ask, but how many interventions are too many? Where is the line where we can look at what the teacher did, what the student did, and say, “Yep, that teacher did everything she could and the student did not respond.”  Continue reading “Responsibility of the Learner”