Tag Archives: reflection

Just Say No?

As teachers we are often expected to go above and beyond. Sometimes it is schools that place these objectives on us requiring more paperwork or lengthier lesson plans. Sometimes parents expect it: asking teachers to call home every time a homework assignment is missed or wanting 24/7 contact to discuss every detail of the child’s schooling.

But sometimes it’s us. We expect a lot of ourselves in this profession. Raise your hand if you’ve ever worked passed the close of the work day? How about more than two hours after work? Taken work home? Bought school supplies? Paid for a field trip? Shoot…right now, you’re probably reading this on your own time hoping that there’s something here that might help you tomorrow. And if you’re reading my small blog, you’re probably reading a lot of other blogs, too. Are you on the EC Ning? Twitter? Are you a fan of educational sites on Facebook? Is most of your personal reading really designed for young adults?

It’s a lot of work. So the question is…when is it OK to say no?

I used to wholeheartedly belive in the teacher-as-martyr philosophy, but with kids of my own, I just don’t want to spend tons of time on school work. I blog mainly because it is a good way to get my thoughts in order (and receive occasional advice through comments in return). But I’m coming to believe that it’s OK to not be a part of everything. To not spend hours on in-depth assessment for every paper. To not be connected to other teacher every single day. To not have every lesson be innovative and chock full of meaning (meaning lots of planning time). That if I were meant to work a ten-hour day, I would be paid for a ten-hour day. So I’m asking again…

When is it OK to say no?



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John Wesley and Me

In VBS the week, we are using a quote by John Wesley as a theme:

  • Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can.

In writing a piece of for the church, however, I can across a quote I didn’t know:

  • Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.

This, of course, begs the question, “When I am teaching, am I on fire or only smoldering?”


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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I banned myself from doing schoolwork for the month of June. (For the seven faithful readers of my blog, this is why there have been no updates in a while).

I have an obsessive personality. This is not good for a teacher on summer break since I tend to think about school a good portion of the time. About two weeks after school was out, I was in a meeting when an issue came up from the past school year. I could feel the same emotions rising in me as did when the issue first came up. I was transported from the relaxing days of summer straight back to the high stress days in the middle of the year.

The lesson…RELAX!. So I entered into the non-school phase. I did no reading about teaching -not even blogs unless I thought they were interesting beyond education. I did no writing about education. And unless the district paid for it, I did no thinking about teaching.

OK…I thought about it, but beyond making an entry into Evernote, I let it go at that. A thought without action.

But it is now July, and it’s time to ease into the PD mode of summer. On my list of things to get done…

  • Read “Understanding By Design.”
  • Research Essential Questions
  • Research possible newspaper and lit magazine options
  • Continue reading as many books as possible for school (reading isn’t work, so I’ve been doing LOTS of that.)

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Context Matters…Even to Good Readers

An excerpt from Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Bells” has been in quite a few of the anthologies I have used over the years…and I have hated it every time I read it. Enough with the bells, already I would think as I flipped the page to the next poem. In case you’ve never read it:

               How it swells!
               How it dwells
           On the Future! how it tells
           Of the rapture that impels
         To the swinging and the ringing
           Of the bells, bells, bells,
    Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
               Bells, bells, bells–
  To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

Can’t stand the poem.

That is until this past weekend. My daughters and I spent an afternoon creating a container herb garden. My oldest was so proud of herself that later that evening, she decided to name her plants.  When she called one Poe, the English teacher in me came out and we headed to the computer to hunt down some of the older Poe’s work.

My daughter, however, is only four. While I’m a proud mommy and think my lovely girl to be smarter than the average gardener, I wasn’t so sure dead girlfriends, spooky ravens or dead yet beating hearts were really appropriate. The only poem I could think of was…”The Bells.” Dang.

When I searched for the poem, I found this: a five section epic describing all different types of bells, giving each of them their own characteristics and emotions. I had never read the entire poem before, or even known you could write such a lengthy poem on bells, but here it was before me. Suddenly, the stupid little poem from my anthology was part of a carillon masterpiece. The vocabulary and the way Poe  created an entire poem that mimics the sound of bells was amazing. It still isn’t my favorite poem, but to see the tiny (and poorly chosen) excerpt back in its original place made a lot more sense to me.

Context matters – even to good readers. That was my lesson for my students today.

They still think it’s a little too much with the bells, though.

Links I used in today’s lesson:

  • Poets.org – great site for finding American Poets, some even have recordings of readings.
  • Librivox – readings of famous literary words. Thanks @wmchamberlain. “The Bells” is really hard to read over and over again.

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Still in Transition

In addition to failing in my goal to integrate poetry into my daily lessons, I am also failing on my goal in integrate grammar into my daily lessons. That means we are in the midst of grammar boot camp for the two weeks before Spring Break. Sigh…

I hear you, I hear you…grammar taught out of context is useless (mostly) and skill and drill is proven to be ineffective. Well, I don’t teach completely out of context (it always goes back to being a better writer), and I never do skill and drill. In fact, I had a student yesterday tell me the Post-it note lesson on subject and predicate was fun, and since we’re moving swiftly enough through the unit, most students aren’t bored. Really, they’re not.

My concern is that I am making it a separate thing, just like I am making poetry a separate thing. I am treating Language Arts like a series of parts instead of a whole. Reading, writing, grammar, listing, speaking…they are are important and all connected. I should to reflect that in my teaching. No, I need to reflect that in my teaching.

But that’s why I named my blog “Teacher in Transition.” I know that units tied around a skill are old school….effective in the short-term, but forgotten in the long-term. But I am busy with work and kids. I am stressed over how well my students did on the test.  But mostly it is two weeks to Spring Break and I am tired. Really, really tired. When overworked, stressed and tired, we revert to what we are used to.

So I’ve gone backwards.  But that’s Ok; I’m still in transition, and tomorrow (or at least the tomorrow after Spring Break) will be better.

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What’s Wrong with Poetry?

I’m starting a poetry unit tomorrow. I’m angry about it, too. Angry not at the poetry (who could be angry at poetry???), but because I swore that I wasn’t going to teach a poetry unit again.

This year I was going to do a poem a day, or at least a few a week. I was going to incorporate poetry into everyday lessons. Make poetry a regular feature in class not a special unit.

Yup…you guessed it..didn’t work out. Why is it so easy to abandon poetry? Everything about poetry ties into good reading skills and to great writing skills? Of all things that I wanted to do this year, this seemed the easiest, so why couldn’t I do it? I love poetry, yet even I seem to think it isn’t important. Why?

Next year, I’m thinking about refocusing my class under a series of key life questions. Maybe that would be easier?

So much to rethink before next year. Meanwhile, I have to plan a poetry unit. Sigh…

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The Big Plan

I’ve been working on a plan for next year. I hate saying next year since I’m still working on a plan for the last quarter of this year, but I the new plan is a big plan and most of the last quarter of school it taken up by a required unit anyway.

I’ve been thinking about Essential Questions. I’ve been thinking of Project Based Learning and Inquiry Based Learning. I’ve been thinking of students’ passions and outside learning. I’ve been thinking about edtech. I’ve been thinking of real world writing and reading. But mostly I’ve been thinking of how to do it all…at the same time.

I think what I’m going to do next year is have one question per quarter. Then we will read to see how others have answered the question and write about what we have read. Then each quarter each student will have to complete a project answering the question for themselves.

My Questions:

  1. What is your story?
  2. What is your passion?
  3. How do you succeed?
  4. What does it matter? (not sure about this one)

We will focus on key skills each quarter. 1. Biography, genre, character and plot, memoir writing, digital footprint. 2. Expository/Persuasive writing, conflict and resolution, research skills. Still working on 3 and 4.

I’ve been loving Evernote, since whenever I see or hear something that works for a given question, I’ve been recording it. I have a file for each of these units as well as a general “For next year” note.

Anyhoo…that’s as far as I’ve gotten. Any thoughts?

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