Hike Back to School: 10 Lessons from the Trail

About the time I was posting final grades last spring, and going through the stored papers and projects that marked the school year, I felt tired. Not just that normal end-of-the-year tired, but really tired. Like “I hadn’t taken a deep breath in too many years” kind of tired. And honestly, it scared me. I wondered if this is what the singed corners of burnout felt like.

Kind people often remind me to “take care of yourself.” But it’s tough in this profession, where in the giving of oneself seems to be the premise of commitment and dedication. I worried that if I paused, I might not regain my pace. Remembering those singed edges, I realized it would be far worse to succumb to a flame.

Eight weeks later, I found myself in the Rocky Mountains on a solo hiking trip. I was ready to think about how I’d spent the last months trying to recalibrate a balanced life, and more importantly, how I would live one as the craziness of a new school year approaches. Perhaps the lessons I learned from the trail will resonate with you as you walk towards your next year, too.

Hiking Back to School

Use your map, follow the trail, but remember all the detours. We aren’t short of maps in this profession. Those algorithmic barometers of where we’re headed with standards, curriculums, and assessments. While there’s no doubt that having a map is important, I’ve learned that that’s not what sustains us; rather, it’s the detours that energize and enthuse, and mark our willingness to explore, our ability to find joy in unexpected places of learning.

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Countdown to Your First Year: What Are Students Supposed to Learn?

New Teacher Survival Guide

I know it’s both exciting and terrifying to think about being in charge of an entire group of children soon. On top of that, you’re also responsible for their learning! But the best way to combat the anxiety is to get prepared. Start by figuring out exactly what your students will learn next year. Don’t worry about long-term planning quite yet, just look at this as an exploration into the content of your grade level. Act as an observer before figuring out exactly what you’ll teach.

To get started, follow these 5 tips:

1. Review Curricular Materials: Browse all the curricular materials provided by your school or district. Don’t get stressed thinking that you’ll have to do everything that’s covered in them. Just browse and soak in the kinds of things that students in your grade level or subject might be working on.

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25 Alternatives to Using the Word “Great”

Ubiquitous at best. Overused and cliché at worst. Nevertheless, I was hooked. I started to notice it everywhere. I’d say “great” when a student offered a response; “great” when she really dug in and started working; “great” on the margins of papers.

All over the margins of papers. But because I was using it to describe everything, I wasn’t saying anything. Our feedback, our praise, our gentle nudging is most effective when we are deliberate with our words and precise in our communication. And once again, I learned a valuable lesson from paying attention to the kind of classroom data that helps me change my practice: student work. Upon reviewing my feedback on student work, I noticed I needed alternatives to my “go to” praise if I wanted it to matter.

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Video Playlist: Collaborating to Plan Common Core Lessons for ELLs

Planning and Collaboration

We’ve partnered with the National Education Association (NEA) on a new series aiming to show some of the “invisible work” that goes into successful teaching. In this series, called Practice, Planning & Collaboration Around the Common Core State Standards, we get to see the end-result classroom lessons and the planning that went into crafting them.

In the first of five video packages, we see two second grade teachers collaborate to plan and teach a Common Core-aligned lesson about soil. At Amanecer Primary Center in Los Angeles, Tita Ugalde and Maricela (Mari) Rodriguez teach primarily English Language Learners in classes differentiated by English Language Development (ELD) levels. Mari teaches students at ELD Level 3, while Tita teaches students who have been classified as “English Only.”

The lessons are inspiring, but most notable is Tita and Mari’s relationship. The way they inspire and respect each other sets the groundwork for their powerful collaboration, generating great results for their students.

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The Power of Teacher Collaboration

Teacher Planning and Collaboration

Teaching is simultaneously one of the hardest and one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. We often say that students make it worth it, but there’s something else that can make or break your happiness as a teacher: your colleagues.

In this article, “Research Shows Teacher Collaboration Helps Raise Student Achievement,” researcher Carrie Leana writes about the missing link in school reform: teacher collaboration. In her study of over 1,000 4th and 5th grade teachers in New York City, Leana found that, “students showed higher gains in math achievement when their teachers reported frequent conversations with their peers that centered on math, and when there was a feeling of trust or closeness among teachers.”

Collaboration begins with finding time to connect with colleagues, to share thoughts, and provide support. Here are 3 tips for successful collaboration:

1. Build Relationships: Teaching is emotionally draining, and the best colleagues can be there for you in all types of situations. A student erupted in anger? Go next door at lunch time and get a hug. A student said a wildly funny thing in the middle of class? Pop your head into a colleague’s classroom and let your laughter loose.

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#WordCrimes: Which Ones Drive You Crazy?

“Weird Al” Yankovic is at it again, this time spoofing grammar and word usage in his most recent hilarious takedown of popular music. I wish I could take off my editing hat at least some of the time; to take a break from being continuously offended by the misuse of the English language. But I just can’t. I once took out my red pen and aimed my sights at our local Sunday paper, just to see what it would look like.

Which brings us to a more lighthearted topic for today: What are your most hated word crimes?

I’ll start us off: misuse of moot and mute. Your turn!

Sherri Devine is Managing Editor at Teaching Channel and was part of the original launch team of the site. She is dedicated to supporting teachers in their craft and is grateful for finally getting a chance to link two of her great loves: Language and Teaching Channel.

What Does Science Literacy Mean in the Age of NGSS?


Science teachers have a passion for science — the intrigue, the connection to everyday life, and its reliance on evidence. The love of the content drives science teachers to share the beauty of science with students, and not many are willing to forgo content in place of reading for reading’s sake. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which promote discipline-specific literacy, are prompting some questions from the science-teacher community: “Why teach literacy in the science classroom?” “Won’t that take time away from science content?”

However, the beauty of discipline-specific literacy is that science teachers do not have to sacrifice scientific practices; in fact, science and literacy blend together beautifully and in ways that support scientific practices. In the age of the NGSS as well as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), discipline-specific literacy is not just suggested, it’s required if a teacher is to meet the demands of current standards.

Here are 3 ways the NGSS support scientific thinking:

Science isn’t science without reporting results. Scientists as well as engineers rely on the results of previous studies to drive their research or planning. A big component of NGSS is implementing scientific and engineering practices. Literacy is a part of those practices. Think about a career scientist — not the stereotypical wild-haired, serious character who dons a white lab coat and glasses, holding fizzy test tubes. Think about a real scientist — a scholarly individual who actually spends a great deal of his or her time reading the works of other scientists and writing about their own in order to add to the knowledge base. Real-life scientists spend a lot of time reading and writing, and their writing has specific formats and purposes.

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Resources for Summer Learning

Summer of Learning

Don’t let summer pass you by! Try something new with Teaching Channel’s summer offerings.

Grow Your Professional Learning Community (PLC)

pencil iconTeaching Channel’s First Book Club: This summer we’re reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink. Then, participate in our #TchLIVE Twitter discussion on July 31st.

question icon

Help a Teacher Out: Check into our Q&A forum where teachers are asking their most pressing questions.

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Teaching Channel’s Video Playlist Bonanza

what to watch this summer

Welcome to Tch‘s playlist headquarters! Get your fill of classroom management strategies, innovative approaches to learning, and more. Press play on one (or more) of these teacher-curated lists — we can learn something new together!

New Approaches to Try

series icon - playlistEducating Digital Citizens: Here’s a playlist showing how teachers are educating students on a number of different technology-related issues, including security, research, and etiquette.

series icon - playlistReasoning and Constructing Arguments: Teaching Channel created this series of videos to show how two of the Common Core Math Practice Standards progress throughout the grades.

series icon - playlistFour Steps to Get You Reading Like a Historian: In this series, students explore different perspectives of historical events and develop opinions based on their readings.

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Join Teaching Channel’s Book Club

We had such a great response to Sarah Brown Wessling’s Ideal Teacher Bookshelf that we decided to start our first ever Teaching Channel Book Club! We had an equally amazing turnout in the voting process to pick this month’s book. After hundreds of the votes, the winner with 40% of the vote is:

Drive book coverDrive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink: In systems that are often driven by sticks and carrots, Daniel Pink offers other ways to think about punishments, rewards, and how to truly motivate people.

On July 31st, 7pm EST, join us in a Twitter chat with Sarah Brown Wessling. All Teaching Channel bookworms are encouraged to join, using the hashtag #TchLIVE. See you there!

Julia Chope is Teaching Channel’s Social Media and Content Producer. Follow her on Twitter, @JuliaChope.