The Myth of Laziness

“Bryan’s got plenty of ability; he’s just lazy.” “There’s no reason Susan can’t get her homework done; she’s just lazy.” “I should have studied more for that test. I guess I was just being lazy.”

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard remarks like these about students – from their parents, from other teachers, and sometimes, even from themselves. The problem is, it’s a load of nonsense. And I’m not putting up with it anymore.

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Read-Aloud Rules

Many of my students HATE reading out loud. They are often self-conscious about their pronunciation abilities. For those who are good readers, reading aloud forces them to slow down, and they can easily get impatient.

However, reading aloud makes us interact with the text in a different way. Research suggests that it can improve retention. It forces us to focus on the text, and invites us to engage with it more deeply. I find that setting a few ground rules for reading aloud makes students more willing to at least attempt this seemingly unconquerable mountain of a task. Continue reading

Student Prompt – Week 2

“Respect” – The syllabus talks about respect. What does showing respect to someone look like? Should you always show respect to other people? Why or why not?

The idea behind this prompt is that I want to get students to think about being clear and precise in their word choices. In the syllabus, “respect” is used as a synonym for courtesy. “Showing respect” therefore means doing things such as listening to what others have to say, thinking before you speak, considering others’ attitudes and desires, sharing, waiting your turn, that sort of thing.

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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

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.

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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.

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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