Getting Better Together: Collaborating Around Instructional Priorities

Getting Better Together

It’s nearly impossible to put into words what educators feel when the bell rings on the final day of school. The sheer joy of entering into weeks of bell-free, kid-free, and paper-free days alone is almost worth entering into the profession. In June, the new school year seems so far away. But, August does come. And we find ourselves at the beginning of the cycle all over again. Even more, we find ourselves hitting pause each January to reflect and adjust our course.

The school year begins to come into perspective for me after the baseball all-star game and before the start of NFL training camps (can you tell that I’m a sports fan?). After July 15th, August comes into sharp focus for educators across the country. However, if you waited until July to actually begin preparations for the new year, you might’ve been feeling a little pressure.

And now in January, it might feel like you’re starting all over again, as you revisit and reflect on the progress you’ve made so far and forge onward with your new and improved plans for the second half of the year. But no matter where you are in your planning and preparation, collaboration is a very important part of starting — and finishing — strong.

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Mid-Year Check-in: Assessing Your Year So Far

mid-year check-in

Congratulations: You made it to January!

For many experienced educators, January can feel like an exciting time to reboot. For new teachers, January can bring back feelings of disillusionment that may have started around November (be sure to read this post on staying energized if you’re in the latter category).

Whether you’re feeling dismayed or excited for the rest of the year, taking just a few minutes to reflect and plan can often make you feel a little bit better.

At the beginning of the school year, Teaching Channel launched our Back to School Starter Packs, a set of checklists and resources organized by grade band to help you start the year off on the right track. Now that we’ve reached the midyear point, we’re offering you a simple review sheet to see how well you’ve done with all of your plans.

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Calling All Bloggers: Submit Your Teacher Retention Ideas

Share your voice. Blog with Tch. Teacher retention

When did you first realize that you were called to be an educator?

As a child, I can recall teaching “classes” full of stuffed animals, dolls, a few live puppies, and even a captive audience of neighborhood children. But it wasn’t until high school that I really knew I wanted to be a teacher. It was an ordinary day during my sophomore year in high school, in the middle of a world history lecture, that I remember thinking to myself — Yes, I want to be a high school history teacher.

I was watching my history teacher, Mr. Sterling, at the time, and I could sense his ease with the content, his passion, and his excitement. When he wasn’t captivating me with his ponderings on the state of Abu Dhabi, he was likely teasing me after catching me waving out the door to my boyfriend for the 100th time that semester, or encouraging me to keep going after I missed that one point I needed to meet the goal I’d set for myself in the class.

I knew he was doing exactly what he was called to do in this world — and I knew I wanted to do that, too.

I loved teaching. And that’s why I know that making the decision to leave the classroom is one of the most difficult decisions an educator will ever make.

Yet, for more than a decade, we’ve been having an ongoing conversation about teacher shortages and the difficulties we now face recruiting and retaining teachers. Notably, the data suggests that retention is no longer an issue that only impacts teachers in their first five years, but that teachers are leaving their classrooms in increasing numbers throughout the trajectory of their careers. This is a problem we must address, and we believe that you can help!

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Tch Plus: Reinvigorate Learning and Teacher Growth!

Teaching Channel Plus web banner

If you love Teaching Channel, you now have more to love with Teaching Channel Plus (Tch Plus). Tch Plus is a private, subscription-based, online professional learning platform for teachers, instructional coaches, mentors, administrators, pre-service teachers, and other educational organizations.

Tch Plus not only serves up videos of classroom practice for educators to unpack nuances of instruction and student learning, it also provides a space for teachers to upload their own videos and practice instructional moves through job-embedded inquiry.

Tch Plus makes professional learning actionable, evidence-based, and localized as teachers explore new strategies, approaches, techniques, or tools. Take a peek!

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Building the System: Organizing Your Resources and Materials

Getting Better Together

My internet browser always has extra tabs open. As I’m writing this blog post, I’m composing in one of approximately nine open tabs on my Google Chrome web browser. Nine may sound excessive, but it’s actually fewer open windows than my usual mode of operation. And I’m only talking about one application.

Usually, when I plan a lesson or conduct an observation, I’ll have ten or more tabs open, as well as a word processing program and YouTube or Amazon for background music. I admit this is probably not all that healthy when it comes to sustained focus, but there is a method to my madness.

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Be Your Own Mentor

New Teacher Survival Guide

I began my teaching career in January, after a December graduation.

That first day, I took a deep breath and started to tell my first period class of eighth graders about my expectations.

A boy I’ll call Ben bounced out of his seat and turned away from me.

“Sit down,” I said.

“No,” he said. “We have to say the pledge.”

Just then, the speaker crackled to life and a voice from above asked the students to stand.

Ben was a challenge throughout the semester. But the first day Pledge of Allegiance was just the first of many things that could’ve gone better — if only I’d had someone to tell me the simple things about the school’s routines, and was there to help me improve my classroom management. By the end of the semester I decided to give teaching one more year, promising myself that if it didn’t get better, I’d look for a different career. The next fall I had a new job in a different district, where I was happy to stay.

Over time, I’ve benefited from the help of many of my more experienced colleagues. And I’ve mentored numerous student teachers and first-year educators, both formally and informally, and learned from them as well. Unfortunately, many districts still expect beginning teachers to “go it alone.”

What can you do if you find yourself in this situation?

Your only choice is to be your own mentor.

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So You Wish It Had Been Different: Three First-Year Struggles

New Teacher Survival Guide

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series by Tch Laureate Emeritus Sarah Brown Wessling for new teachers wrapping up the school year.

“Every fear hides a wish.” — David Mamet

My first year of teaching was equal parts fear and wishing. In fact, they each pulled me from opposite directions, sometimes so tautly, everything seemed to bounce right off me, into the distance, uncatchable. That was my first year of teaching: lots of wishing for magical teaching moments and lots of hiding from my fears. I wished the kids would like me, but my fear meant I had some classroom management issues early on. I wished my colleagues would think I was doing a good job, but my fear meant I wouldn’t reach out to them with my own insecurities. I wished my lessons would all be inspired, but my fear meant that too often I would think about a “cool lesson” instead of a scope of learning.

My first year taught me that the rest of my years would be about shrinking the fictions of wishing and fear in order to opt for the beautiful and real mess of a teaching life. In case you’re finding yourself, at the end of this first year, needing a little less fiction and a little more beautiful mess, here are some common end-of-first-year struggles and how to use them to launch yourself into an even stronger year two. Read more

Video Self-Reflection: What We Don’t Know

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

I felt the blood rushing to my face. I was standing in front of a group of teachers presenting on a topic I was very familiar with and all of the sudden, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I was saying. The teachers were very gracious, but I was cringing. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have the strategies to make my next move. I sure could’ve used some coaching in that moment.

I often have the opportunity to work with teachers as a professional learning provider or coach around the implementation and assessment of the three-dimensional learning expected from the Next Generation Science Standards. In this work, I’m expected to be the “expert” and the collaborator, but sometimes I need coaching too.

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