Don’t Stop Believin’

girl thinking

I always joke that if it weren’t for those darn kids at school, I’d get a heck of a lot done. I arrived back in town on August 9 and have been working non-stop to get ready for today. I made cute posters and hung wooden signs. I rearranged my room and cleaned my cabinets. I photocopied and dusted and lesson planned and developed resources and, quite literally, put in twelve-hour days, paid or not, to prepare for today.

And today, the students arrived. I was a mix of nervousness and excitement.

I am not the kind of teacher who goes over the syllabus on the first day of class (go figure). We had a modified schedule and only spent 25 or so minutes with each class, but I don’t believe in doing what everyone else is doing…and everyone else was going over the syllabus, or rules, or some variety thereof.*  Instead, I taught my first lesson in a way that I’m sure surprised the crap out of some kids (I could see it on their faces). One girl’s eyes kept darting back and forth around the room like she expected John Quiñones or Allen Funt to jump out of the closet. Continue reading

We’re Not Gonna Take It

Angry Businesspeople in Meeting --- Image by © Morgan David de Lossy/Corbis

Imagine–it’s the first day back at school.  You and your friends and colleagues are chatting it up in the library before the faculty meeting starts.  You’re excited.  You’re rejuvenated.  You are drinking flavored coffee and eating a yummy pastry with fruit filling.

The new principal introduces herself.  You love her energy!  She is an inspiration!  You can’t wait to see her lead the school to amazing amazement!  You will do whatever she says! Then, as the sugar is dancing on your tongue and the coffee is making you giddy, she walks around and hands everyone this letter:

Continue reading

You Can Do Magic

girl with books

For my final reading class exam this past year, I wanted to do something valuable, not just another show-me-what-I-know-that-you-already-know exam to fill a column in the grade book. I wanted to learn something from the students about how they saw themselves as readers, how they had grown as readers, and how important reading was to them. Each student chose an influential person in our district and wrote a letter to him or her about the importance of every student reading every day at school. I gave them the prompt and the choices of recipients, but the students composed their own letters from their experiences, research, and personal feelings. Continue reading

Nothin’ at All

angry-reader

Listen to the wisdom of William J. Broz, as referenced in Penny Kittle’s super-awesome-amazing-fantastic book called Book Love:

“If students do not read the assigned texts, nothing important is happening in your literature classroom–nothing very important to develop your students’ reading and interpretive abilities is happening, no matter how many lectures you deliver, vocabulary words students ‘learn,’ elements of fiction students define, quizzes students take, essay test answers students write, or films you show.” (from “Not Reading: The 800-Pound Mockingbird in the Classroom”) Continue reading

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

runaway

My best friend once said, “The more principles you have, the more principals you’ll have.”  I think about that phrase often, and, if you have read my Walk of Life page, you’ll understand why.  I have worked in five schools, three in Wisconsin and two in Texas.  I am not of the generation that will have 7-15 jobs in a lifetime, or whatever that statistic is.  I want to find a school where I fit and that I can take pride in. My expectations are reasonable, I think.  But you tell me.  Here’s what I expect from the school where I work: Continue reading

Let’s Hear It for the Boy

angry boy

In 2002, Tyler, an eighth grader, changed my teaching life and improved the education of more than a thousand students who came after him.

When I started teaching, I used what I found in the file cabinet: novel units with easy-to-copy study guides, quizzes, and tests.  There were textbooks in the room, so I used them, too, with similar resources that came neatly organized in a shiny box (with a handle!).  Continue reading

Hard Habit to Break

crazy-school-teacher

My driving question of the summer is this: “Why do you teach the way you teach?”  About a month ago, I quickly (and in my head), tried to count up the number of teachers I’ve had in my life.  I included elementary, junior high, high school, college, grad school, numerous extra grad classes, and all of the conferences and workshops I’ve attended during my twenty years in education.  Roughly, I’ve observed the teaching of 200 instructors.  None used differentiation. Few used authentic assessment.  Almost all used lecture. Continue reading