After writing Sunday’s post about designing anchor charts in secondary, I began to think about which anchor charts are most important for secondary ELA. I narrowed my list down to my top four.
No-Excuse Grammar. I am not the only person to do No-Excuse Grammar, and that’s because this anchor chart works. This is one of the first charts we make at the beginning of the year, and we reference it all year long. As my students’ English skills develop, we add more to the chart. While the chart varies from class to class, the basics remain. At the bottom of this chart, you can also see how we sign our anchor charts to demonstrate our commitment to upholding these rules.
RIP Words. After the first or second writing from my students, we have a discussion about dead words. Drawing this anchor chart and filling it with dead words helps students conceptualize language. This is another chart we reference all year long.
Rhetorical triangle. Right before my sophomores read Julius Caesar, we review Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle. This is an example of an anchor chart that’s useful for a time. After Act III, my students take a rhetoric test, and that’s when the chart comes down. However, for the week or so that it’s up, my students reference this chart all the time. The triangle image really helps students visualize rhetoric.
Play Casts. When reading plays with my students, I always “cast” the play. Oftentimes plays have lots of characters, and my students struggle to conceptualize the relationships between these characters. For this reason, any time we read a play in class, we begin by drawing a family tree. Once we “cast” the play, I write the name of the student playing the role under the character’s name. This helps students visualize characters by connecting a classmate to each character. I leave this anchor chart up for the duration of the play and all the way through the test: in a testing situation, I’m not interested in whether my students remember the names of the characters but whether my students can analyze the relationships between characters, including their motivations and growth.
What anchor charts are must-haves in your ELA classroom? Let us know in the comments.
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Like many other teachers, I love everything about anchor charts: the big pages, the colorful markers, and the fun fonts. But making anchor charts in secondary is not quite the same as making anchor charts for primary.
Make every anchor chart together. Sometimes in elementary school, we make an adorable anchor chart, laminate it, and use it every year. You could do that in secondary, but students take greater ownership of the material if you all make the anchor chart together. Depending on the topic, students can take notes as you build the chart, or they can just participate through discussion. If you teach multiple sections of the same subject, you may end up with several versions of the same anchor chart–and that’s okay! Each chart will be unique just as every section is unique.
Hang charts prominently. Anchor charts are only useful if they are visible, so even if you have multiple versions of the same anchor chart, keep each one visible. When a chart loses its utility, take it down. You can always roll it away and pull it back out if you need it later.
Utility trumps beauty. While it is fun to make beautiful anchor charts, an anchor chart should be useful above all else. This means using clear, vivid handwriting. The best anchor charts also feature some kind of text feature like a numbered list, a graphic organizer, or an acronym.
Strategically choose when to make your chart. Sometimes it makes perfect sense to create your anchor chart at the beginning of a unit, but sometimes the concepts are better discussed part way through the unit. If you build the chart too early, students forget the material or the material does not seem relevant. But if you build the chart too late, students don’t have enough time to internalize the material. As with all good planning, make sure to intentionally plan when you will build the anchor chart.
Make an immediate reference. Once you build the anchor chart, start referencing it immediately. Model referencing the chart and give students an opportunity to reference the chart. For example, when my students build their rhetoric anchor chart, we immediately analyze rhetoric in a series of commercials. The next day, students reference the chart as they write their own commercials. On the third day, students reference the chart as they watch and analyze their classmates’ commercials.
Sign your charts. After my students build an anchor chart, they sign their work. This may seem like a waste of time, but this little action helps students take ownership of the content. Further, this helps you hold students accountable for the material on the chart.
What are you tips and tricks for building successful secondary anchor charts? Let us know in the comments.
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Academic dishonesty is an unfortunate reality. Students have countless reasons for committing academic dishonesty, which includes plagiarism and cheating. In the ELA world, students “borrowing” papers from friends, buying them online, and/or recycling their own work all pose significant problems. How can teachers combat this challenge? And how can we make students our partners in this pursuit?
Define the problem. Before teachers can make students partners in the pursuit against academic dishonesty, we have to be explicit about the problem. Clearly define the scope of “academic dishonesty”, and clearly communicate that definition to students, parents, and other stakeholders. The easiest way to do this is through your syllabus. In addition, include this definition on assignment sheets. I include a blurb about academic dishonesty and its consequences on the assignment sheet for all major projects, papers, and presentations.
Work together. One or two educators cannot fight academic dishonesty alone, so enlist your team, department, and administration in this endeavor. Last year, my department developed a specific department policy, which was in line with building and district policy. This proved to be helpful because now that we share a definition and language, we have universal consequences, and we have the support of our administrators. If everyone approaches the issue in the same, consistent manner, students will recognize that there’s nowhere to hide.
Create a culture of integrity. With a clearly defined problem and a collaborative approach to tackling the issue, educators can begin to build a team, department, and building culture that only accepts and actively promotes integrity. We’ve all seen the cheesy character-promoting programs that come into buildings and hang a few signs, but that’s not enough. We have to live integrity and model it for our students everyday.
Do this by admitting when you have made a mistake so students have a model of how to admit and fix mistakes.
In addition, every time I reference or quote someone else’s work (whether in a Google Slides, on a handout, or verbally), I include an attribution. We’ve all heard that “good teachers are good thieves”, and, well, while it’s true that we do exchange ideas and resources, part of the integrity culture gives credit where credit is due. I’m not saying not to exchange ideas and resources, but model attributionfor your students.
Further, the ELA classroom is the perfect place to consistently point to examples of integrity (Atticus Finch) and examples of action without integrity (Cassius).
Finally, reward and celebrate integrity. When your students make a choice that exemplifies high character, point it out and celebrate. There doesn’t have to be a tangible reward like a gold sticker, but a smile or a fist bump is great positive reinforcement.
If all of these sound like small ideas–they are. Culture doesn’t come from one large action: culture is the culmination of countless small actions.
Empower Students. Make students partners in the pursuit of academic honesty by making sure they have the right tools.
Make sure students know where to locate key citation information. The librarians at my school do a great job sharing the library databases with students, including helping students find the citations that the database already provides.
Give students tools to check their work before they submit. This might be a quick checklist, the rubric, or a Critical Friends opportunity.
Regardless of which tools you use, it’s important that students have easy access to these tools, know how to use them, and have time to employ and experiment with them. How do you respond to academic dishonesty? Let us know your best suggestions in the comments.
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This has been a week focused on #backtoschool: setting goals, designing my syllabus, and planning first-day of school activities. For me, school starts in about two weeks, so I have started planning my first few weeks of instruction. I put a lot of emphasis on the first few weeks of the school year because this is when your students get to know the expectations of your classroom and your curriculum. During this time, be as consistent and intentional as possible. Be careful not to create false expectations. Here are my tips for the first few weeks:
Design your syllabus and decide how you are going to communicate your syllabus. My school requires teachers to communicate the syllabus on the first day and has specific requirements for each syllabus, so make sure you meet your building’s expectations. Further, while the content of the syllabus is important, make sure you also know how you are going to share your syllabus. There’s nothing more painful than having a teacher read the syllabus to a room of teenagers. For the past few years, I’ve been using first-day stations, and one of my stations has been a Syllabus Scavenger Hunt. If that’s not your style, you could design a Syllabus Escape Room or a Syllabus BINGO board, but make sure to find some way to make presenting the syllabus meaningful.
Decide what personal information you’re willing to share. The first weeks are a critical part of building relationships, so decide what parts of your life you want to share with students. Consider the age and maturity of your students as well as the community in which you teach. Share information that makes you relatable but doesn’t undercut your authority. Try to communicate your passion for teaching and learning! I often mention my dogs, the books I’m reading, baseball, and the graduate classes I’m taking, but I never mention romantic relationships, my age, or social media accounts. Further, if students ask you questions you are not comfortable with, you are not obligated to answer.
Greet students at the door and let them see you making an effort to learn their names. For the last several years, my district has emphasized the importance of greeting students at the door, and that little step makes a huge difference in how you get to know students. When you are at the door, you communicate to students that you are ready and excited to work with them. This sets an important tone that is welcoming but serious. This is a habit worth maintaing for the entire year.
Pick your procedures. Before the first day of school, choose the procedures that you are going to emphasize in the first few weeks. Choose procedures that are essential to classroom function and that empower students to address their own needs. Avoid procedures with limited utility. For example, I make sure my students practice the turn-in procedure several times the first day and week, but I don’t teach our research and library procedures until much later.
Make seating charts. Seating charts are classroom management tools. Like procedures, seating charts allow you to create an environment that invites learning. Learning requires vulnerability and risk, so creating a classroom that feels safe is important. Part of safety is predictability, and seating charts (like procedures) can provide that sense of safety that empowers students to take academic risks like raising their hand, sharing their writing, or challenging a text.
Plan sponge activities. For the first several weeks, I over plan every lesson because I’m still getting to know my students and their strengths and weaknesses. Some classes race through our parts of speech review, but others take an extra week. For this reason, I put together several sponge activities at the beginning of the year. These are activities that require little prep but that we can use at the end of class if we have too much time to pack up but not enough time to start new material. My favorite sponge activity is board races! What’s yours?
Start Ahead of Time. The first few weeks of school are essential to establishing and communicating classroom expectations, so make sure you start planning ahead of time. I spend more time planning my first day of school than I do most any other. Give yourself plenty of time to become acquainted with your rosters, to create a pre-test, and to copy your weekly work.
Start planning now to start the year on the right foot!
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Around the third week of the school year, I will hear from teachers struggling with classroom management. During the third week, students will probably begin to test your classroom management, so it is important to maintain consistent expectations. The classroom belongs to the students, but teachers make sure the classroom environment invites learning.
When teachers approach me with classroom management concerns, I almost always ask about their seating chart. From these conversations, I have put together a list of 5 seating chart mistakes.
Not using a seating chart. A seating chart makes it easier to learn student names; more importantly, using a seating chart from the first day lets students know that you are serious about creating an environment the emphasizes learning. A lot of the first day of school focuses on establishing classroom management and mutual respect, and greeting students at the door with a smile and a seating chart goes a long way toward achieving these goals.
Not adapting the seating chart as needed. My first-day seating chart rarely makes it out of the first week. By the end of the first week, I have a better idea of which students are struggling academically, which ones are chatty, and which ones are independent. Move students around as needed. Often times, you can adapt a seating chart by shifting one or two students. If the seating chart is working for 90% of students, then there’s no need to move everyone. Instead, quietly catch the one or two students you need to move at the beginning or end of class and explain that you are changing their assigned seat. If I am moving a student for behavior reasons, I often ask them why they think I’m moving them, and then we can have a reflective conversation about classroom behavior.
Not making the seating arrangement manageable. When you set up your classroom, make sure the desk configuration fits your classroom needs. For example, my first room was very small, so desk pods did not work: there wasn’t enough room! In the same vein, make sure your desk configuration fits your management needs. A lot of my classroom procedures are designed to empower students, but if the seating chart prevents them for reaching the turn-in tray or the pencil sharpener, then the seating chart is causing more problems than it’s solving. Finally, the seating chart should serve curricular needs. For example, rigid rows do not fit a collaborative curriculum, such as yearbook or civic leadership.
Not listening to students. While using a seating chart is partially about classroom management, your students will tell you when something doesn’t work. If a student asks to be moved, at least listen to their reasons for wanting to be moved. Most of the time, I only move students for academic reasons, but simply listening to students’ reasons for wanting to be moved can go a long way in building relationships with students. After listening to a student, I can usually help them figure out how to solve their own problem (almost always by simply talking to their desk buddy about a concern).
Not thinking through the seating chart. A lot of teachers just use alphabetical order for the seating chart, and while that may be helpful for learning names, it is not the best choice in terms of classroom management. For one thing, your students know the people that sit near them alphabetically, so you are inviting them to chat or make social (rather than academic) decisions. Furthermore, the best seating charts are thoughtful. Here are my suggestions for creating a thoughtful seating chart.
Begin with IEPs and 504s. Make sure you are honoring any calls for preferential seating, including open bathroom passes. Seat students so as to maximize their abilities.
Next, check out students’ standardized test scores. While you cannot know everything about a student from a set of scores, you may be able to make some inferences about which students will have the highest need in your content area. For this reason, I sit students with the lowest scores in reading and English on the inside edges of the room where I can most easily see their work and monitor and adjust.
Pay special attention to the least-accessible parts of the classroom. Who you place in the back corners is important. If at all possible, seat your independent students in these locations. Keep in mind that the most independent students are not always the ones with the highest test scores.
Consider gender. This is old school, but try not to clump all my students who identify as female or male in one section of the room.
With the school year approaching (or already beginning for some of us), I hope this list helps you create a more manageable classroom that better facilitates student learning. I know I would be lost without seating charts. With this list, everyone should be able to make it through that third week of school! What seating chart tips do you have? How do you handle seating in your secondary classroom? Let us know in the comments.
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At the beginning of each semester, I ask students to set goals related to reading and writing. Then, over the course of the next 18 weeks, we revisit those goals.
While my students set academic goals, I also set classroom goals. Plenty of research suggests that writing down goals is important. Such research suggests that writing down goals is important for two main reasons:
1. Science. Neuroscience suggests that “people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals.” Furthermore, writing down your goals is part of whole-brain thinking, so now every aspect of your conscious mind is working toward helping you achieve your goals.
2. Accountability. After a challenging lesson or class, we often think, “Well, next time I’ll…”. While these are important internal dialogues and an essential part of professional growth, these dialogues are also easy to dismiss or forget (if you’re not going to teach that lesson again until next semester, it is easy to forget!). However, writing down goals promotes accountability and follow through. Suddenly, your internal dialogue is made solid and significant. It has weight and shape. Your dreams have become goals, and that can be scary but critical for making meaningful growth. Writing down your goals forces you to own them.
In addition to writing down professional goals, it is also important to share those goals. Being honest with yourself about your classroom strengths and struggles is important, but it is just as important to share and communicate with others. When you share your goals with co-workers, peers, or teacher friends, these benefits arise:
1. Strength. Sharing your goals is not a sign of weakness but a profession of strength. By letting your peers know that you are aware of your own professional struggles, you signal a willingness to learn and grow. Further, you are modeling the kind of cognitive vulnerability that focuses meaningful professional growth and development, signaling to your peers that they can share similar #teachertruths without fear of judgement. This kind of sharing is a foundation of leadership.
2. Feedback. Now that you have shared your goals with your peers, they can help you achieve them. Instead of having one mind working toward your goals, you have multiple minds working toward a common goal. Your co-workers, peers, and teacher friends have valuable experiences and insights into teaching, learning, and growth, so drawing on their collective wisdom is key. They can provide creative solutions from an objective perspective you can’t access alone.
In the interest of learning from my peers, I want to share my 2018-2019 teacher goals.
1. Increasing Positive Parent Phone Calls.
My school requires teachers to contact parents when students begin to fail a course. Since we usually send home progress reports in the third week of school, this is when I begin making parent contacts for grades, and, at that point in the year, I usually have a pretty good idea which students are independent readers and writers, which are struggling, and which are apathetic. Making contact with parents can be essential to helping struggling or apathetic students make progress in class; however, this year, my goal is to make positive parent contact early and often. If grade reports go home the third week of school, my goal is to have made a positive parent contact for each of my potentially struggling or apathetic students–even if it’s as small as an email. My goal is to build a positive foundation with parents early! I recently designed this editable, free Google Form to help with the process.
2. Teaching Annotating Text Features.
Missouri (where I teach) is no longer a Common Core state, so our ELA standards don’t always match CCSS perfectly. However, both Common Core ELA standards and the Missouri Learning Standards mention reading, comprehending, and analyzing text features. Over the years, I have noticed my students struggling with text features–sometimes because they just ignore a caption, other times because they do not know how to read a graph, and sometimes because they do not know how to make an inference about a text based on a text feature. For these reasons, since my school is already doing a close reading and literacy push this year, I am going to put extra emphasis on helping students annotate and draw inferences from text features. Do you have a tried and true method or strategy for helping students work with text features? If so, leave a comment below!
What are your resolutions going to be for the new school year? Share them below! I’d love to hear what you’re going to focus on in the next school year! Pick up my FREE student goal sheet HERE!
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As the start of a new semester draws near, I’m updating my syllabus. While writing your syllabus can be a chore, I’d encourage you to approach your syllabus from a design mindset. Consider all the important information you want to convey to parents and students, and then set out to design the most compelling packaging. Here are some tips for designing a compelling syllabus.
1. Make a good first impression. While students will have a personal impression based on their first day experience, often times the syllabus is the first time parents get to know the teacher. For this reason, make sure your syllabus is professional: keep it clean, tidy, and readable. After years of making my syllabus in Piktochart, I’m switching to Canva this year because the program is easier to use and the graphics are cleaner. If you’re using a design program to create your syllabus, pay attention to color: colors look great on screen, but if you aren’t able to print in color at school, any paper copies are going to be degraded. It should also go without saying, but proofread your syllabus and make sure to include contact information and the times when you are most accessible. Finally, try to keep your syllabus to one page front and back: a lot of readers will check out by the end of the first page, so keep it concise and precise.
2. Meet your building’s expectations. My building has a specific list of syllabus expectations, so make sure you ask about requirements and make revisions as needed. Think of your building or department’s syllabus expectations as design guidelines. Your job is to design a syllabus that checks all the boxes but still reflects your professional beliefs and values.
3. Summarize the course. At the high-school level, parents do not need an exhaustive description of every unit and lesson. Keep the course description concise, but make sure to mention key literature and summative assessments. This gives parents fair warning if they are going to object to a text. I actually use the course description that’s in my school’s course selection handbook.
4. Detail grading procedures. Make clear how student work will be assessed, how often you will update the grade book, and how parents can access student grades. In addition, include a point break down, including which categories have the most weight. This is especially important in case parents contest your grade book later on in the course. This is also where I point students when they ask how their work will be assessed.
5. Define grading policies. In addition to letting students and parents know how work will be assessed, also let students and parents know what happens if students are absent, turn in work late, or cheat on an assignment. Spell out these policies, their implementation, and their consequences so when students ask questions later, you can return to these documents. In particular, I use the harshest language in describing each of these so that when/if I choose to exercise leniency later, students understand that I am giving grace. As with classroom management, it’s much easier to start firmly and then become more lenient later, but it’s nearly impossible to start with lax policies and bare down later.
6. Get a signature. Asking students and parents to sign your syllabus formalizes the document as a “contract” of sorts. This is a tool that you can reference later in terms of classroom management, grading, and assessment. You’re not asking for signatures as a “gotcha” but as a means of accountability. This lets students and parents know that you take learning seriously, and they should too. Additionally, keep all the signatures. During difficult conversations with students, I sometimes pull out their signed syllabus and ask them to reflect on its meaning. This can be a powerful tool for helping students reconsider their behavior.
7. Be creative in your design. Instead of thinking of writing your syllabus as a chore, try to enjoy the design process. Use some engaging images, add lists or graphs, include a brief self introduction. Try to make this a document you enjoy creating so that when it’s time to use the syllabus, you feel comfortable defending it.
If you’re interested, my 2018-19 syllabus can be found here. Feel free to copy and remix the style and content to meet your needs. Designing in Canva proved to me a great choice, and I ended up with a brochure-style syllabus rather than an infographic or one-pager.
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A few years ago, our district-wide book study was The Classroom Management Book by Harry T. and Rosemary Wong. It’s an excellent guide to beginning the school year and managing your classroom. Part of my district’s book study was to have each teacher create a presentation of classroom procedures. It was a meaningful exercise, but some people ended up with 50 classroom procedures and spent the first day of class “teaching” all 50 procedures! That’s too much for kiddos on day one, so I narrowed it down to the 5 Procedures Every Teacher Needs.
1. Bathroom and Hall Passes. Different schools have different expectations for bathroom and hall passes, so begin to develop your system within your building’s expectations. Regardless of your building’s expectations, I have three suggestions.
First, unless a student is bleeding, has open bathroom privileges, or is otherwise in serious danger, when they ask to leave the room, say “no.” That may sound cold, but I guarantee that after the first two or three students ask, fewer students will ask. When a student asks a second time, I usually know their need is real.
Second, when high school students want the bathroom pass, I require them to leave their cell phone in the room. This has cut down on my students’ social bathroom trips.
Finally, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer next to the bathroom pass.
2. Turning in Work. Develop a system for turning in work, and stick to it. I use turn-in trays and have one for each class. When students try to hand me work, I tell them to put it in the tray. It’s helpful to have something for students to “practice” turning in on the first day: I have students turn in their get-to-know-you activity as practice. In the same vein, when I have students pass their papers in, I use the same procedure every time. Consistency is key in developing classroom procedures.
3. Do you have a….? (Getting supplies). Regardless of what grade you teach, you need a procedure to address the constant “Do you have a pencil? A tissue? A stapler? An extra pair of socks?”
For younger students, you may need procedures to handle each of these questions: a designated time in the morning for sharpening pencils, a set of finger signals for getting a tissue, a table basket for extra supplies.
But at the high-school level, I just have a May I Borrow…shelf, and it is a game changer. On the shelf, I keep spare pens, pencils, markers, crayons, staplers, scissors, glue, tissues, band aids, paper. I keep everything on that shelf, and any time students ask, I direct them to the shelf. If it’s not on the shelf, they know I don’t have it, and they ask a neighbor. Like any other procedures, this only works if you are consistent.
4. Managing Absent Work. My first year of teaching, I walked in without an absent-work system. I didn’t have a way for students to get absent work or a way for them to turn it in. That was a mistake. So the next year, I overcorrected and developed an absent-work system that was too complicated. So for the past two years, I’ve used this Absent Slip from Free to Discover. I copy these slips on colored paper, and when a student is absent, their desk buddy fills out the slip, staples any new work or work I handed back to the slip, and sets in in the Absent Tray. When students are absent, I point them to the tray. Until they’ve checked the tray and the Google Classroom, they can’t ask me what they missed. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably seeing a trend: design classroom procedures that empower students and promote accountability.
5. Entering and Exiting the Classroom. Make sure students know how to enter and exit your classroom. The beginning of class sets the tone for the entire day, so make sure when students come in they have something to do, know what to do, and know how to begin. For my students, we do daily grammar, vocabulary, and test practice. It’s on the board when they enter the room, and students know where to go to get started on the work. When students know that they have something to work on as soon as they enter, they waste less class time. Similarly, when students know the expectations for leaving the room, they are less likely to waste time or get in trouble.
Bottom line: Classroom procedures are the oil that keeps learning on the tracks. They’re so important I’ve talked about them twicebefore, and I’m sure I’ll talk about them again. Which classroom procedures are most important for your classroom? Share your best ideas with us in the comments.
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For my first five years of teaching, I was also a coach, which meant we traveled constantly. As a result, I missed a lot of instructional time and spent a lot of time writing sub plans. Over time, I found myself writing the same items every time (take attendance to the office, lunch is at 11:54, my second block is in a different classroom).
First, I thought of the items I wished I could tell every single substitute.
The bell schedule
How to handle attendance and absent students
How to handle technology issues
My contact information
Putting up chairs at the end of the day
How to treat the AC and windows
Which students are leaders and which are…not
Which co-workers to ask for help
Our technology policy
Then, I typed up all this information in detail while also trying to limit myself to one page.
Finally, I put the Substitute Cover Sheet to work, and, as a result, when I am absent, I usually return to a tidy room, get better and more detailed notes from subs, and frequently have subs ask to visit my room again.
Last thing: Two years ago, our administration gave every teacher a ten-cent purple pocket folder with brads and asked that every teacher leave their sub plans and rosters in this folder. That way the building could train subs to look for the purple folder. This has been an awesome success! When someone in my department is absent, all I have to do is walk into the room and find the purple folder and place it on the desk. Such an easy and common sense suggestion has been great.
Want to try it in your classroom? Here’s a FREE template and example of how to use this tool! What other recommendations do you have for making your classroom a sub-friendly place? What information is missing from the cover sheet? Let me know your tips and tricks below.
With the start of the school year fast approaching, new articles appear every day with suggestions for new teachers. Even after several years of teaching, I still love reading these posts. There’s something inspirational about new teachers: the energy, the excitement, the fresh ideas! But as I read each article, I wonder if every teacher (new or experienced) really needs string lights, washi tape, and fancy fonts. I love Flair pens, Mr. Sketch, and the smell of fresh crayons as much as anyone, but if truth be told, it’s not the accessories that make for a good teacher.
3 Things You Don’t Need
1. A social media presence or color-coordinated classroom. I’m new to Instagram and blogging, but I’ve already seen how much pressure can come from these platforms. I look at other teachers’ classrooms and wonder how mine stacks up–and then I realize how silly that is. The online teacher world is one of community and collaboration, not competition and comparison. You do not need an Insta-worthy classroom to be a great teacher. Your social media presence will not change your students’ lives, but your actual classroom presence absolutely can and will.
2. Debt. #Backtoschool is a great time of the year, and I enjoy shopping for office supplies. I love a good sale on stickers, and I always wind up with new chart markers every year. However, teaching is not about commerce, so please do not feel like you have to make crazy Amazon hauls or buy dozens of books for your classroom library. Know your limits, your budget, your beliefs, and know that you are enough. Your smile, your kindness, and your patience are worth more to your students than any material item.
3. Drama. As a high school teacher, I see and hear a lot of drama from my students, but I hear just as much from other teachers. It can be very tempting to participate in work room gossip or shared space sass. I have given into gossip before, and the result is never satisfying. The strongest teachers invest in collaboration, community, and compassion.
5 Things Every Teacher Needs
5. Thank You Cards. Keep a pack of blank cards in your desk, and use them often! A quick note can make someone’s day or act as an expression of gratitude. Every time I’m in the @targetdollarspot, I pick up another pack of cards. At the end of every year, I’m shocked at how few cards I have left. Student gives you a gift? Write a thank you card. Co-worker covers your class so you can make an appointment? Send a thank you card! The secretary gets you a master key? Send a thank you note!
4. An empty shelf. Over the year, students will give you pictures and trinkets that you will want to display. By the end of the year, you’ll have a shelf full of stories, so even if you don’t have picturesque knick knacks to display, you’ll have something way better.
3. Procedures. Don’t wait until the first day of school to brainstorm classroom procedures. Choose the most important procedures and plan them out. When will you use them? How will you teach them? How will you practice them? Keep your procedures as straightforward as possible, and make them manageable. Learning involves creativity, but procedures provide the structure and safety in which creativity blossoms.
2. A support system. No great teacher toils in isolation, so find your support system. This can be family members, friends, co-workers, yoga buddies, or beloved pets. Find people that will listen without judgement when you’ve had a rough day and who will celebrate every success (even and especially the small ones). Keep them close, and let them help you throughout the year. There’s no badge for going it alone.
1. Passion. Love what you do. Love the students. Love the subjects. Love learning. My students often say things like “Well, if I don’t get the job I want after college, I can always become a teacher.” When that happens, I gently point out that teaching requires passion. Simply knowing the material is not enough: you also have to want to share that material with students and have to believe that who and what you’re teaching is going to make the world a better place.