Student Writing – Week 1

Reflection 01 – English I: Based on your previous experiences in English classes, what do you think English I will be like? What would “being successful” in this class look like for you? Do you think you will be successful? What will you do to work toward success?

I’ve been teaching English II almost exclusively for several years. For the past two years, I’ve had English II Honors. So returning to working with freshmen is going to be interesting. I’m familiar with the course material, and I have some new ideas that I’m really excited about trying out. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Power of Parents

At the beginning of each semester, I make an effort to contact a parent or guardian for each student by phone. I try to do this during the second week of class. Usually by that point, all class changes are final, and my roster will be somewhat settled.

I say I “try” to do it during week 2, because if I’m honest, I’m lucky to get it done that quickly. Since we’re on semester blocks, I only have half of my class load at a time, which does make it easier than if I had all of my students for the full year. But it’s still a chore and a hassle. Many of the telephone numbers that we have in our records have been changed or are out of service. It doesn’t help that some of the telephone numbers in our district require ten-digit dialing WITH a one, and some require ten-digit dialing WITHOUT a one, or that there’s now only one telephone on each hall to be shared by all teachers who use that work room.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Continue reading

Classroom Anarchy

“You can’t make me!”

One of the defining moments of my youth was when I told my mother I wasn’t going to try out for track again my sophomore year. I’d run cross country and track as a freshman, and cross country in the fall of my sophomore year. And I hadn’t liked any of it. So I hadn’t planned on signing up again.

She pushed a bit, urging me to change my mind. Now, she was very reasonable about it, pointing out that I didn’t have physical education as a class and that physical activity is an important element to maintaining optimum health. Both very good points.

Didn’t matter. I didn’t want to do it. And maybe this is imagination painting details into memory, but I distinctly remember using the phrase, “and you can’t make me.” Continue reading

‘Friending’ Students

Social media is a very nearly unavoidable part of life for many of us. I keep in touch with family and friends via Facebook, and I’ve recently started using Twitter to connect with other teachers. Many teachers avoid connecting with students because they are worried about violating expectations for ethical professional behavior. However, the reasons to refuse students’ “friend” requests on social media are incredibly exaggerated. Involvement on social media should not be a concern for teachers who are otherwise capable of interacting with students in a professional manner.

Continue reading

Presentations – Do they have to be torture?

A question raised on Quora was “What do you do when a student refuses to present due to anxiety?”

Public speaking is the most common phobia among modern Americans. At Psychology Today, Dr. Glenn Croston surmises that this is because humans are social creatures, and performing in front of others carries with it not only the possibility of failure, but more importantly, of being rejected and ostracized.

As a result, teachers need to do what they can to provide an environment that encourages students to take risks and applaud each others’ attempts, regardless of success. This helps students see failure as an opportunity to learn, and lets them know that they will not be rejected for it.

Continue reading

Lasting Impressions

At the start of the school year, it’s easy to get caught up in setting up the class and starting the curriculum. Then, once you and your students have learned a little about each other and are working hard each day, you kind of get into a pattern – a hopefully-comfortable sort of rhythm to what you’re working on together. But there’s another learning partner that it’s important not to forget: the parents!

Establishing contact with parents and guardians at the start of any new term is absolutely vital.  Continue reading

Starting Strong

Even now, after almost a decade and a half of teaching, the first day of school is still exciting and more than a little nerve-wracking. But I’ve come up with some activities that help me set a tone that supports taking risks and working hard, which I feel are the core values needed for effective learning.

Students’ first assignment is a set of six questions that are on the dry erase board as they enter the room. There is a stack of scrap paper on the cart in front of the room. When I have one-sided photocopies that I ran incorrectly, I cut them into quarters and use them for passes and assignments like this one. This helps students realize that I’m looking for brief responses.

Continue reading

On Cheating

One of the writing prompts that I give my students asks, “Is cheating on homework the same as cheating on a test? Why or why not? Explain.” I always enjoy reading their reflections in general, but this prompt tends to get some particularly well-thought-out responses. Here’s mine:

Continue reading