End-of-Summer Nightmares


My schedule has been changed and I’ve been given a completely new course for which no one will give me any guidelines. The guidelines exist, of course, and I will be expected to adhere to them, but I don’t know what they are. 

I arrive at school only to find that the teachers’ parking area has been changed. I’m not sure where I’m supposed to park and if I spend much more time driving around I’m going to be late and my students will be unsupervised. 

One of my students is distraught and is trying to explain to me why she’s so upset. I want to listen to her and give her my attention, but it’s during the middle of class and has interrupted instruction and it’s not fair to neglect the other students to focus on her.

We have a fire drill. I take roll and a student who should be present is not.

I was supposed to cover classes for a colleague, and I forgot. Everyone else has to pitch in because I didn’t follow through on what I said I would do. 

I ask students to take out their books, and they tell me that I was supposed to pass the books out but I never did, and I realize that they are right and that we can’t study the essay I have in my lesson plans because I did not bring the books and it is all my fault.

Continue reading

Designing a Visual Syllabus

A syllabus is a challenging document to create. It’s hard to distill all the procedural information that students need and organize it into something that’s easy to understand. It seems like everything is important! But when I was given an English I class after teaching English II for awhile, I decided to try something different!

private honors eng ii syllabus 2018 screen shot 2019-01-03 at 7.08.47 pm


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