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!
Editor’s Note: Hear more about this program from Executive Director Basma Rayess in our #anewkindofPD podcast episode found on iTunes and Stitcher.
Michael had suffered for years as the result of his mother’s alcoholism. A teacher encouraged Michael to participate in a program where students could write about their experiences with violence. Michael wrote a powerful poem describing the disappointment, anger, and fear he felt with the situation, but he had no intention of having his mother read it. However, he needed a parental signature so he showed it to his mother with great trepidation. When she read it, she was silent, but something tremendous happened. The poem helped his mother make a commitment to get sober and she has been so ever since.
I came to writing books for kids through a very peculiar path. My journey began when my son discovered Minecraft.
According to Common Sense Media, “Minecraft is an open-ended, exploration- and creation-focused environment. Players can create items and buildings from scratch using materials they harvest from the world around them.” My son was very eager to be a part of this new phenomenon. In fact, if you asked him, he’d tell you he had to have it or he was going to die!
My wife and I put up a good fight, but our son was relentless. We ultimately caved and bought him the game. We were surprised and quite pleased with what he did with this new digital power. He built incredible structures, created cities and castles of glass, and floating giants. We’d never seen him so creative or engaged. It was fantastic.
It’s not (just) the sleeping in, the family getaways, and the long, unhurried meals with friends that make me love summer. It’s that I get the time to think.
Folks who work outside classrooms underestimate the immediacy and urgency of teaching. The daily press to prepare and adjust lessons, the ongoing grind of grading and giving feedback. The weeds are tall and thick when one is in the midst of the school year.
Then comes summer. I can step back and rethink my practice. I can consider, with sufficient bandwidth, what I really want students to get out of the next 180 days, during which I get to support and lead them.
As a sixth grade reading teacher, I’m always trying to think of ways to keep my students motivated. As a veteran teacher, I’m always trying to think of ways to stay current in my practice. This year, as a Teaching Channel Laureate, I decided that I’d experiment with blogging myself, then give my students the opportunity to become bloggers.
Earlier this year, I worked with my students to ask questions using Blooms Taxonomy in order to have deep discussions about text. My next goal was to have my students get those deep discussions into written form, without feeling as though they had to write a “paper.” Blogging seemed to be one possibility. Blogs represented a venue for my students’ writing, a way to solicit responses, and a move into a modern form of communication.
First, though, I had to learn more about blogging. Once I did, I brought my new-found knowledge into the classroom.
Recently, I asked one of my students if I could use his reading notebook so that another student could copy some missing notes. The student with the reading notebook writes in cursive. I didn’t think this was an issue because I knew his notes were very neatly written and easily copied.
Not so. Why? Because the student who needed the notes could not read cursive. Oh my, I thought. When did this shift happen?
On October 20th, as part of the National Day on Writing, educators and students across the country will share their motivations for, and beliefs about, writing through the #whyiwrite hashtag. Teaching Channel is partnering with The National Writing Project, The National Council of Teachers of English, and The New York Times Learning Network to promote this campaign. Please add your voice!
“You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness” –Brene Brown
“Good writing is clear thinking made visible.” –Bill Wheeler
In early July of 2008, I meandered through the maze of a college campus then foreign to me. Eventually, I arrived to a typically institutional classroom cluttered with blocky furniture, stain-camouflaging carpet, and nervous strangers. Over the next month that space would become a life-giving, community-building, trusted hub for personal and professional growth.
Participating in the Maryland Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute made me a writer. And it made me understand the importance of not leading that noun, “writer,” with an adjective. It didn’t make me a “better” writer or a “good” writer. It made me see the value of writing for the act itself, for ourselves, apart from judgment or qualification. It also, almost paradoxically, helped me see the value of writing as a gift for others -— to build community, to bring understanding, to provide voice for others.
Editor’s Note: Teaching Channel has partnered with Student Achievement Partners on a blog series about digital literacy tools and their effective use by educators.
The Common Core English Language Arts Standards for Writing focus on building college and career readiness by having students demonstrate the ability to write in a variety of formats. As educators, we need to facilitate authentic experiences for students to practice and take risks during the writing process.
With that in mind, we’re going to discuss several valuable digital tools to help teachers create a more engaging and dynamic writing classroom for students to meet the rigorous demands of the Common Core.
I’ve always been an English-Language Arts kinda guy. Math was never my forte. When I learned that my new job would involve helping schools make the transition to the Common Core Standards for Math as well as English, I was nervous. How would I get up to speed on the math standards?
As I learned about the math standards, I saw connections to what I loved about the ELA standards and my anxiety diminished. The CCSS for math contain both grade level content standards that explain “the what” – what students should know and be able to do – and Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMPs) that explain “the how” – how students should learn and engage with one another in math class.
The SMPs apply to every grade level and are grounded in “important ‘processes and proficiencies’ that are highly valued in the field of math.” Many of the things that I love about the ELA standards, such as the priority placed on evidence-based reasoning and the importance of explaining one’s thinking, are present in the SMPs as well.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on May 30, 2017
It’s that time of year when teachers start thinking about how to keep students reading and writing over the summer. To assign or not assign the summer reading or writing project? That is certainly the question.
As a middle school English teacher, I always struggled with how to encourage summer reading and writing without making it a chore. I remembered all too well the time my own English teacher assigned our class to read and reflect on 100 poems over the summer. With the first ten poems, I appreciated the fact that she had helped me go beyond my usual genres. But by the time I got to the 99th poem, I was done with poetry!
So, how do we encourage our students to continue their literacy skills without squashing their passions? I tossed this question out to the Teaching Channel community and got some great ideas.