English Education, Classroom Management, and Self-Care
Established in 2017, Writing Mindset is a blog that is dedicated to curating resources for teachers. The risk of burnout has never been higher for the approximately 3.6 million teachers in the United States. Self-care is not an option; it is mandatory conversation. So, here at the blog, the question I ask every day is, "What do teachers need?"
Whether you have one of those moments where you decide to change your whole game plan up, or if you have something (like I did) that caused you to go into an unexpected mad scramble, sometimes it is helpful to know how someone else tackled a difficult task in a short amount of time. Research is the mother of all daunting tasks that may be the hardest thing to accomplish imaginably...in a small amount of time.
I love and hate the self-help book section. It is packed full of gems like Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, and many others that make the wheels in my teacher-entrepreneur brain go crazy. However, I also have visions of myself as the teacher that is seen staring at the self-help book section in a bookstore with a crazed look in her eye, teacher bag thrown over their shoulder, dark bags under each eye, that just seems in need of...help. How many of us can relate to this image as we struggle with the teaching profession as a whole and the day-ins and day-outs of being a teacher? Enter in why I picked up this cute little blue book by Penquin press. I was tired, and it seemingly seemed to address a question I ask myself all the time:
...Her concepts of the growth mindset and fixed mindset were not new, but the way they were phrased was profound and interesting to the English educator giving feedback. I initially keyed in on the type of feedback I was giving students. I wanted to make sure I said more than "good job." I was also saying things like, "I love the way you added detail" and "great job revising your paper" to give specific feedback. This idea of rewards and feedback was just one single aspect of growth mindset studies; it does not capture the entire picture. The best way to describe growth mindset is how you build new pathways to learning...without giving up. I have adopted this mantra with the teaching of writing. I mean...my blog is called writing MINDSET after all. How we think about teaching, writing, and learning. This is what matters. It would be negligent to not discuss growth mindset in my practice as it has directly impacted how I think about teaching outside of the classroom in meaningful and significant ways
I first starting calling these things labeled "hop-checks" as a joke. I was talking with my teaching buddy on our plan time, and she was telling me about her "class list" system that she uses during class. "So, you just hop around with a pen and pencil and check off what they are doing?" I asked. Her response was "Absolutely, I do." Little did I know that hop-checks would become not only common practice- but exemplary practice- in my writing classroom.
For the first every weekly blog round-up, I wanted to start with one of the hardest and most controversial topics to teach when it comes to English Language Arts and writing instruction: grammar. Understanding grammar is essential to understanding how to put thought on paper, and yet it often falls off to the side of any planbook because we get stuck on ideas, content, voice, and organization. Even with my new rubric coding following the six traits of writing, I grade voice, organization, and ideas first, and only then do I go back in and help students edit and revise in terms of conventions, grammar, word choice, and sentence fluency.
I waited tables at a restaurant during college as many of my pre-education partners-in-crime did. I hated whenever I had to order something OTF or On The Fly. Why? Because immediacy demanded attention out of me, the cook line, and everyone else around me. I would dare say that the entire field of education operates under OTF standards. Every thing is an emergency in education, yet there is no fear like the fear that sets in when sub plans have to be made. In my 105 Ways to Make the Most of Winter Break post, I remind everyone to schedule those sick days...even if you aren't sick. However, the ultimate fear of scheduling sick/sub days-planned or not planned-is making sub plans. These lessons take hours, are a giant hassle, and sometimes will get printed or setup correctly, and then sometimes not. This post strives to give 25 different sub plan ideas for the writing teacher. These could be used for any teacher, but they are particularly helpful if you are an English teacher that focuses on writing.
Last year at New Years, my friends and I dubbed 2017 the #yearofselfish. What this meant was engage in more awareness when it came to self-care, workout, invest in personal opportunity, meditate, seek out a work to life balance, and try new things. I definitely tried new things. Writing Mindset was a leap out of nowhere that constantly challenged me on one end because I thought of it as a personal business move, but I also saw it as a way to reflect on teaching. Writing Mindset simply was a way to connect to my teaching and share my teaching with others. I set up my LLC, invested in a website hosting platform that I thought was aesthetically pleasing, and then tried to write a lot. Then, I realized that writing and working full-time were more difficult than I ever imagined.
Granted this upcoming weekend is a "winter break weekend," but it still counts as a weekend. Now is the time to practice amazing and nurturing habits for the back-to-the-grind that is about a week away. I have rested this past week between the Christmas holiday and New Years with the full intention of getting to my pile of papers next week after the last holiday (casually looks at all the teacher memes that say we aren't touching it even with the best intentions). I need to get into that stack. I have three preps worth of essays that I think I can get through using my rubric coding system with the six traits. I feel good about being updated with grades and lesson plans by the time we get back, yet, I know that it will be all too easy to get wrapped up in the Monday-Sunday, when we open our eyes to when we close our eyes, day-to-day that is teaching. The re-takeover of our time starts with the weekend. It was always meant to be ours anyway.
The final bell rang yesterday after our all-school assembly to start Winter Break! Congratulations fellow educators, we made it to break. This is the time of year when teachers get to rest and rejuvenate. How will you spend your winter break? Here are 105 different ideas on how you could incorporate some self-care into your Winter Break broken down by mental tips, physical tips, practical tips, social tips, writing teacher specific tips, and general teaching self-care tips.
My #goals are constantly around trying to get unburied from a stack of paper. This week, I got through 64 argumentative essay rough drafts. I spent three hours total. Insert dramatic pause for reflection, thought, and awe. For any English or writing teacher, this may be making your brain go all fuzzy or blurry because before rubric coding I was spending 5-6 minutes per paper. That would have been 6.4 hours. How did I cut this time in half you ask? The power of rubric codes.
It is the time of year when you see all the memes of skeletons crawling and you know teachers are just trying to make it to Winter Break...alive. I listen year after year and hear teachers say, "we have four weeks to break this year." I laugh it off until I then realize that four weeks is longer than any professional development session, any mandated testing session, and any back-to-school training that is out there. This four weeks is real. As I am getting over my second round of being sick due to stress and being buried under papers, I came across a great post about a "self-care kit" on the Dani Dearest blog. She even has a great checklist for making a kit. I simply adapted it to my teacher needs.
Observation #1: This writing every day thing is more difficult than imagined. Even if it is a quick write.
Observation #2: I am to the part of the school year where I am evaluating on a macro level what strategies and routines are working...and which ones are not.
One of the changes I made this year was to routine paragraph warm-ups. I was sitting in a professional development in August, and the facilitator asked the question, "who uses warm-ups to start class?" I had decided to change, but the overwhelming majority of people do use warm-ups. My question, as a person who never used warm-ups and had anticipatory sets for all lessons for each day, I was curious as to what was working and what was not. Many people use Daily 5, etc. However, I was interested in having all students write a paragraph-no ifs, ands, buts, about it. 5-7 sentences is the expectation for the daily warm-up, and all students, I repeat, all students are hitting this benchmark at this point in the school year. Routine paragraphs are expected routines on a given thematic concept for each day. They involve note-taking, opinion, or critical-thinking.
Hello, nice to meet you!
I'm Stephanie. I am Middle School English teacher that gets excited about solving problems in the classroom.