Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Twitter Chat for Secondary Teachers!

I just wanted to let you all know that I will be chatting with other secondary ELA teachers on Twitter tonight at 8pm!  We're discussing parent communication.  Come along and check it out.  Just type #2ndaryELA into the search box and see all the tweets.  Feel free to join in and respond to people or answer the questions yourself!

I look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

It's Sale Time!

I know many many schools went back this week and even more will be back next week.  If you're anything like me these first few weeks are hectic and you're realizing you still need SO MUCH STUFF.  Well, have no fear... the TPT one day BOOST sale is here!

Just in case you missed the big sale a couple of weeks ago here's another chance to grab Teachers Pay Teachers resources for up to 28% off!  Most stores, mine included, are marked down 20% and if you use the code: MORE15 at checkout for another 10% off!  This makes some of my bundles a 40% + savings from their individual prices!

Here's a pro tip:  If you've bought from TPT before, including the last sale, and you haven't gone and given feedback yet go and do it!  You earn credits for doing so and you can use them, if you have 20 or more, on your next purchase!  They really add up.

Thanks for reading! 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Day I Truly Failed My Students

Schools are going back and I often become reflective at this point in the year.  I am a good teacher, great even at times.  I pride myself in fighting for my students. But, there are times where I've stumbled, fallen even.  There is one moment that will forever make my stomach churn, one moment where I failed to look out for my students and instead stood passively by.

It was the first day of school for the students at a new placement for me.  I was going to be teaching ELA to classes of 7th and 8th graders that were ability grouped according to their math scores.  My homeroom had the lowest math scores- in the 3rd/4th grade range.  The other two classes in my teach were also considered below grade level or non proficient.  There was another set of three classes that were at or above (some even at 11th grade) grade level for math.

Right after homeroom where our students were assigned lockers, ate breakfast, and found their seats the entire 7th and 8th grade was called out into the hallway by one of the principals and the grade level dean.  They had told us they were going to go over expectations for the middle schoolers as this was a K-8 school.

Perhaps the administrators did discuss hallway behavior and the like, but what I remember, and what I wouldn't be surprised if our students all remember is what happened next. Our principal began yelling, partially to be heard, but partially, it seemed, by her tone, out of anger at our students.  She stood in the middle of the hall and pointed to my end and said things like, "You are non-proficient.  You are not performing at grade level!  You need to work hard so that you can get your scores up so you can move up there!" She pointed to the "proficient" end.  Then, she turned her attention to the proficient end and yelled at them, "If you're not careful your scores will drop and you will end up down there with the non-proficient classes!  Do you want that?!" And on and on.

I have never been so uncomfortable.  My students were so uncomfortable.  They looked sad, they looked scared, they looked angry.  The excitement of the new school year was gone.  Instantly.  I was pissed. I was pissed because the administrators weren't telling the whole truth.  They were tearing down my kids without telling them that the truth of the matter was that while they struggled in math MANY of them were far above grade level in Reading.  I had students who had already scored as college level readers yet they were being told they weren't good enough.  And, those kids who were great at math and practically ready for calculus?  Some of them were reading at 3rd, 4th, 5th grade reading levels.

Instead of focusing on the fact that every single one of the students had some sort of gift these administrators decided to focus on the negative first.  They chose to create a hierarchy, an us v them attitude.  And, I chose not to speak up to them.  I never told them how I felt about it.  I didn't interrupt to spread the truth.

Now, when we got back into my classroom, and throughout the year I tried to do damage control.  I explained to my students that yes, many of them needed to work on their math skills but that many of them were great at other things.  I told them that the other end of the hall had things to work on too.

I believe in honesty with students.  I'm not going to tell someone they've got something mastered if they don't.  But I also believe in being compassionate.  I believe in giving them a chance to discuss it one on one.  The feeling of inferiority my students had for the entire year was a battle I had to fight. It created more apathy than drive.

I should have been their voice. I should have let them see someone fight for them.  I don't stand by anymore.  What happened that day was wrong.  I won't make the same mistake again.

Now, as I teach college I get some of those kids.  The ones who have been told they aren't college material, they aren't good enough etc.  Some of them truly struggle.  But I give them all of my support.  I help rewrite the inner dialogue.  The words we speak to these students when they're young carry with them for a long time.  I know I remember the few times teachers truly hurt me (luckily it was only a few times) and my encounters were not nearly as intense as this one was.  We have to be honest with our students but above all we have to be kind.  Then, and only then, will we see a higher rate of success and start closing that achievement gap.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tech in the Classroom: Pinterest

I fell in love with Pinterest the first time I used it.  I'm a visual person so it clicks with me. It's a great place to find all sorts of inspiration.  It should come as no surprise that it has become a great tool for educators.

I love looking through Pinterest for lesson ideas, bulletin boards, organization tips, teacher fashion ideas and so much more.  It's also a great place to find infographics, videos, and other extras to spice up your lessons.  I try to keep my boards organized by topic so that I can find what I need easily.  A lot of what I pin is free, but I also pin products that I may want to buy later or that I think would be worth a different teacher buying.

This post is part of the Pin it in the Classroom blog hop hosted by: The ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures.

Here are my top 2 boards that I like to follow:

Here is my favorite board of mine:

Find out how other teachers use Pinterest by checking out these links:

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Recent Reads: Summer Edition

I don't read enough.  As an English teacher I read a lot in the course of my day so when I want to unwind I typically end up watching TV!  Then, I find a good book and I remember why I love reading and became an English teacher in the first place!

Early this summer I read The Postmortal by Drew Magary.  I will be using this book in my classes this fall and I'm very excited about it.  I won't say this is the next great American novel, but I really enjoyed it.
This book is a pre-apocalyptic look at the near future.  A cure for aging has been found and therefore people will live significantly longer.  What I love about this book for my writing classes is that there are countless topics to discuss and research and write about.  There is one scene that is a bit adult but it is not overly explicit and I think I'd feel find using this book with juniors and seniors in high school.

Most recently I read The Secret Life of Bees.  My friend had a great idea- she assigned each of us (my core group of girlfriends that I've had since 6th grade) another person and told us to go to their Goodreads account and choose a book and a back up book from their "to-read" list for them to, you guessed it, read.  My partner chose this book for me and since I've had it on my kindle for a year now I figured this was the push I needed.
I ended up reading it in two days.  It's not a mystery but there is a bit of a mystery in it and that kept me wanting to read more just to find out the answers.  I love it as a coming of age story, a historical fiction book, and as a unique look at extended metaphors in traditional fiction.

I immediately thought this would be a great classroom read for high schoolers and wouldn't you know it lots of teachers already teach it!  I don't know where I've been as this book gained popularity.  I've heard great things about the movie as well so I'll check that out soon.

Hopefully I can update this post before the end of August with at least one more book! (I'm all geared up for Go Set a Watchman!)

I'm linking this post up with The Literary Maven's On My Bookshelf monthly link up.  If you need great book recommendations check out all the other posts by clicking the image below!

Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Goals for the 2015-2016 School Year

Next Monday I have a full day of PD and then starting on the 17th I have a week of back to campus activities before starting fall semester the following Monday!  My first year of full time college teaching is upon me.

I love the start of a new semester, new year, new month, heck even a new week because everything seems so shiny and new and clean.  I haven't messed anything up yet, I haven't gotten burdened or stressed.  It's a chance to do better.

I always have a list of goals for myself as the school year starts.  Here are my top 3 for this year!

Thanks for reading!