I’m Welcoming the End of Summer

Tch Laureate Team

Editor’s Note: This post was originally featured on Geneviève DeBose’s blog, Back To The Point, on September 6, 2016.

Today was technically the first day of my 13th year as a middle school teacher. I use the word technically because no students were at school today, but our hallways and classrooms were filled with colleagues buzzing about getting ready for the arrival of our scholar activists. It felt really good to be back.

Usually I end the summer reluctantly. Of course I’m happy to return to school, but who doesn’t want just one more week of summer? Strangely, this year feels different. I was ready to come back. Looking forward to it, actually. I can’t pinpoint exactly why. Regardless, it feels good to want to return to school, to want to see my colleagues, to want to meet my kiddos.

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“Welcome Back Classroom Hack” Challenge

There’s just something about teachers — I don’t know if it’s nature, nurture, or some combination of the two, but teachers are clever. If you need a problem solved in a way that is practical, economical, innovative, and immediate, your best bet is to find a teacher and present your problem as a challenge.

Welcome Back Classroom Hack Challenge

Teachers also know the value of iteration. They understand that we learn from our first attempts that fail, and they’re cool with it. Add to this mix a willingness to learn from the iterations of others and a strong bias against reinventing the wheel, and you can see why teachers are among the most resourceful, ingenious, and inspired individuals. Teachers are hackers, no doubt!

Though we may be problem solvers at heart, the classroom is unpredictable and perfection is a pipe dream. We march forward with good intent, but there always seems to be that one thing that didn’t work out quite like we planned. The more complex the puzzle, the harder we work to devise a solution.
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What Do You Believe About Teaching And Learning?

Setting Up Your Classroom Deep Dive Blog Header

I’ve always been one of those people who has a tough time really wrapping my head around the new school year until the physical space of our classroom is ready. That may be the residue of years of Augusts in my mom’s 4th grade classroom, watching her think and craft and organize in the most enthusiastic ways. It could be a little of my penchant for tidy spaces. But, most likely, it’s because I know the actual work of teaching is so unpredictable, so kinetic, so messy, that having our classroom space ready gives me a sense of calm.

Space is important. It’s not everything. It doesn’t have to define us (I know so many of you teach in spaces that are difficult to work with), but the way we use the space we have can reflect what we believe about teaching and learning. In fact, it does reflect what we believe. It’s the first message anyone gets about what learning will look like in this classroom. And I know this matters to you. In a recent “Ask Sarah” column, I answered a reader’s question about what an ideal classroom can look like.

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Reimagine Your Learning Space: Starbucks Your Classroom!


It’s been awhile since we’ve seen each other. I know we don’t talk that often these days, so I thought I’d drop you a line and see what’s been happening with you.

How are you? How’s your summer? Hot? Are you chillin’ like a villain? Doing some grillin’? I wish I was… But I’m not. I’m kinda’ blah right now. I’m bored. And I’m boring, too. I’ve looked the same for centuries, and that’s a long time. Trust me.

Look, I’m not saying it’s your fault. And, I’m not saying you don’t care. I’m just saying that I’m in need of an update in the worst way… I’m Outdated. Constricting. Confining. Compromising. I’m Obsolete! You know what I’m saying? I want a change. I need a change. I must change!

No more rows, columns, grey, and gloom. No more control — it’s an illusion.

Collaboration is where it’s at. Communication, creativity, and critical thinking are what I want to emulate, stimulate, cultivate, and propagate.

What you say mate?

How about some couches, armchairs, coffee tables, high tables with stools, restaurant style tables, standing tables, a rug, and maybe even a yoga mat? How about you make me look like Starbucks, but cooler? Can you do this for me?

I promise you won’t be disappointed and the kids will love it.

Stay cool.

Yours truly,

Your Classroom

Boring Classroom

What Does Your Classroom Communicate?

As teachers, we spend a great deal of time in our classrooms. Sometimes it may even feel like we’ve moved in. I imagine our students feel the same. If we’re going to spend most of our time in our rooms, the space should feel good. It should feel comfortable. A classroom should inspire creativity and productivity, but that’s not always our reality. When something is off in your classroom — when your design lags behind your teaching style — you can feel it. It’s almost as if your classroom is trying to tell you something needs to change.

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At the Intersection of Hope and Guilt

Though it’s been a number of years since students filled my classroom, as a 30-year practitioner I’m never far from my fall teacher feelings. Sunday night, after a bit of weekend respite and plenty of grading and planning, I would fall asleep full of hope and excitement about my lessons and their imagined impact. I’d think about each of my new 150+ students and what I was beginning to unfold about each of them. On Sundays, I lived squarely on Hope Street.

By Tuesday, my carefully planned and polished lessons would begin to reveal their rough edges, and my system for keeping organized with so many students, preps, and classroom changes began to unravel. And after the Wednesday afternoon staff meeting, I’d ride the train home to San Francisco fighting sleepiness while frantically reprioritizing my nightly list, fueled by an internal battle between my Sunday night hopes and my creeping Wednesday night guilt.

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Resources And Strategies You Say? I’ll Take Them!

To jump-start the beginning of the school year, the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) has released seven back-to-school mini-task collections that give teachers instructional items they can add to their arsenal of worthwhile resources.

For those of you unfamiliar with LDC, it’s a community of educators who are using a teacher-designed framework to create literacy-rich assignments. The collections in this new release include the works of contributors from across the nation who thrive on creating worthy learning experiences for students. So what’s in this back-to-school set of collections, you ask? Let’s dive in.

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Four Tips for a New and Improved Back-To-School Night

Now that most schools are back in session, you’re probably getting ready for Back-to-School Night (or you recently survived it). It’s a great time for connecting with families, sharing what they should expect from the year, and putting families at ease by showing them you are a lovable human who is here to guide their child through an amazing year of learning.

Back-to-School Night is exciting, but it can also be nerve-racking. As a first year teacher, I had no idea what I was supposed to do! Most teachers never get a chance to observe another teacher’s Back-to-School Night. It wasn’t until I was a parent that I got to experience the many different ways teachers approach the event. In light of this, I thought it might be helpful to share my own story, as well as some of the ways others in our Tch community approach Back-to-School Night.

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