Summer School Round Up: Week 1

I can't believe the whirlwind of the first week of summer school is over. There always seems like there are two camps in education: Those that can see why people work summer school and those that think we are crazy. The former camp has been refreshing to return to after working writing camps at the university for the past few summers. And really, teaching is teaching. Isn't it? That depends on who you are talking to. I wonder sometimes if why we all often get into teaching is something we feel renewed with on a day-to-day basis. Do I have to remind myself, what is my why for teaching? Yes. And often. 

Using Visual Thinking Strategies for Writing Workshop

Coming off of the 2017-2018 school year, one of the areas that I know I need to read more on, reflect on more, and gain strategies on is working with my English Language Learner students. I attended a SIOP or Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol training last week and took away a few strategies. I was also left with wanting more areas of ESL instructional strategies to be taught more directly to teachers; this will be more to come in another blog post. One strategy that I immediately took away from the training was the use of Visual Thinking Strategies. 

5 Ways to Respond When You Are Asked to Censor Classroom Material

Imagine the plate spinner at a circus performance. So many intricacies of hand-eye coordination, focus, and practice have gone into making sure that the plates don't fall to their demise and break into thousands of pieces. Censorship in the classroom is best described as the plate spinner. There is an intricate balance that goes into contemporary content, current events and issues, parent and family input, school curriculum, administrative support, and more. Sometimes, you will find teachers not wanting to put themselves in that fight. All of these factors lend to the dizzying effect of plate spinning, but the question is what breaks when we don't present this content to students? Controversial content comes with major risks and rewards. The American Library Association has put together a pretty cohesive timeline of banning content in the past 30 years. Words like "censorship" and "banning" are used with intention in this purpose because often we are asked as educators to keep information from our students. 

10 Criteria for Choosing Diverse Texts for Your Classroom

Can you hear me clapping? Can you hear me screaming in happiness? If you can't, imagine one excited English teacher from Kalamazoo, MI that is proud and excited her district is approving thousands of dollars in research to help infuse the curriculums and classrooms in it with diverse literature in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade. Currently, I am working on a team of teachers to read, research, and review hundreds of diverse texts. 

How to Do an Essay Workshop for Struggling Writers

I would like to take a second to pause out of all of the hustle and bustle of testing and the end of the month of May to realize that it is really, the end of the month of May. I have spent 9 months with my students. Thinking back about accomplishments, it is easy to see how far they have come. Then, I do what all teachers do, and I focus on what they don't know. My missteps, my come-up-shorts, my "yes, you tried, but you didn't quite make it" mentality. This is the ugly stepsister of make-up or catch-up growth: Realizing you still have a long way to go.

Paper Grading the Pomodoro Way

I woke up last Saturday morning and said to myself, "I have a plan today." As I typed those words I chuckled because the best-laid plans are often disastrous. And by disastrous, I mean bargaining with myself to put off chunks of grading so I can take in or on other aspects of my life.  My plot involved getting through 94 argumentative essay drafts in one day. These were the final writing assignment given to my Advanced students before the writing post-tests. This was also the last step I had to take before going through test preparation and state testing

How to Rock a Focused Writing Warm-Up

I am not sure what I did before warm-ups. I think what I did before warm-ups when I was first starting out was make a warm-up activity that was catered to each and every lesson. As a new teacher, this was exhausting. After doing some research a couple of summers ago, I moved to canned warm-ups, and I have loved every minute of them. What I mean by canned warm-ups is that each day has a theme and each week uses a specific form. In other terms, there is a plan. 

What's In My Writing Teacher Bag?

I have to admit that I love the "What's in your bag?" posts on different blogs and on YouTube. It is interesting to see what people can and cannot live without when they are taking on the workweek. Also, QVC purse reviews are my jam. I will also admit that a good handbag is one of my weaknesses, kryptonite if you will, that can block my focus throughout the day. We all have these vices. Some like skincare or beauty products, some like technology, some really like chocolate or treats. Indulgences are what can keep a teacher sane. Mine just so happens to be my bag. I also really enjoy the memes about teacher bags being a carry-all for all of life.

5 Ways to Avoid Teacher Stress Eating

I originally started this post back in January, and it has been sitting in my draft bin for some time. Something about telling teachers not to have the donut in the teacher lounge didn't sit right with me. I felt like a traitor. Teachers work ridiculously long hours each day and on the weekend, why can't they indulge? The answer is that they should. They should eat the donut, go on the vacation, get the tattoo, or try out the new spicy pho dish. However, they should also be able to put some constraints on their life that force them to realize that limits are actually giving us freedom. 

Weekly Blog Roundup: Teacher Bullet Journaling

I stumbled upon bullet journaling one day on Pinterest when I was looking for a new planner. As a middle school teacher, I, like many others, am addicted to office supplies. I know what pens I like, I know what size sticky notes I prefer, and I know that the idea of a fresh new notebook makes me almost giddy. I even started making my own notebooks with my dad as a hobby because I love notebooks so much.

How to Make a Research Unit Plan in Three Hours

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. 

The Teaching Ikigai: Passion, Mission, Vocation, and Profession

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:

Is teaching my purpose in life?

How I Am Adding Exercise Into My Teaching Schedule

I hate working out. I rather grade 100 rough drafts on a Saturday night without rubric codes than complete a workout at times. Not that I don't want to move my body, but the feeling of sweat, the time, the showers, and the allocation of energy just isn't there on any given day that I am teaching. Considering that the 21 days to form a habit idea is a myth, I am going to give it the 70 days needed to form a concrete habit. I am halfway through. This post is my halfway update.  I would like to say in advance, my goals do not involve becoming a marathon athlete or a bodybuilder (yet both are great goals), my goals simply involve moving my body more to build an immune system. 

Weekly Blog Round Up: Growth Mindset

...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

How Hop-Checks Keep the Writing Teacher Sane

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.