sharing ideas and collegial conversations

Open House

Open house is Monday– are you ready?


almost am.


When my son was in fifth grade, I attended the most exhausting open house of my life. It was so exhausting that we skipped seventh period (gym) and went home early. All of that walking when I wasn’t sure where to go, the crowded hallways, and the very fast talking and .ppt in every single class… it was too much!


So, I resolved to dial back the intensity of my open house presentation, and I’ve been so glad. I have had time to actually meet people and say hi, to take questions, and to give an impression of who I am (which is not someone who stands by a SmartBoard and speaks very quickly).


Instead of saying everything, I made a 1/2 page cheat sheet of the things I would have said. It’s here: open house cheat sheet if you’d like to see it.


My presentation is one slide– welcome to _________ (insert name of class).


So… how do you open house?


Let the dogfooding begin

Hello colleagues,

I mentioned at the end of the year last year that I planned to “dogfood” my English III AP class this year.

To review, “dogfooding” is the practice of completing the work you’ve given your students. To me, it is important to do all of the work so I can accurately gauge whether I’m being realistic when I imagine how long it will take my students to do this work. Of course I have two advantages on them– I 100% understand the assignment, and I have no GPA at stake. However, this means, to me, that it is even more important that I give everything a shot. If it takes me a long time when I have those advantages, what is happening to my kids who don’t have them?

So, I’ve started my prewriting for my reflective essay; I’m ready to begin drafting at this point. I still need to complete my fill-in-the-blank syllabus; I’m hoping to get that done today during advocate. I am ready for the syllabus quiz, and I’ve got my summer reading done.


My hope is that some of you will join me on this challenge. Even if it’s just for a six weeks, a unit, or a single assignment, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’ve realized through the experience.

I’m sharing with my students today that I’m doing this so they’ll understand why I am furiously completing a timed writing at the same time as them. I hope they’ll feel good about knowing that I’m doing what I’m asking them to do. I am concerned about getting all of this done along with my grading; however, I’m going to do my best since I’m asking them to do this along with six other classes!

Thoughts? Questions? I still have some Sonic / Chick Fil A gift cards to share with my commenters : )


Make it a happy new year!

Short version:

Check out these ideas on classroom management, from a guy whose number one goal for the first day has no doubt been in your Facebook feed recently!


Long version:

It’s the Saturday before school starts. I should be doing many things, but instead I was on Pinterest. I don’t know how that happened. I guess it was just open from some other day when I didn’t have so many things to do and…


Well, point being, I think a lot of us saw this graphic being shared on Facebook in the last few weeks:



I love it!

Little did I know, until today, when I actually clicked through on a Pinterest link to read about Michael Linsin, that this quote is from a podcast on Smart Classroom Management.

Wait, what? Right?

Look, I’m not going to lie. I do not think that classroom management is my strong point. I always feel like such a downer when it is time for consequences, even though I have made those consequences clear. In writing. All over my room. And on my podium. I want students to feel GREAT about my class, and for some reason it is hard to remember that classroom management is part of making my classroom a great place, not a detractor from its greatness.

The fact that the above quote comes from a guy who encourages you to “enforce like a robot” and “treat infractions quickly and with no emotion” may on its face seem contradictory… As I thought about it, though, it made total sense. If I get emotional about a kid having a phone out or whatever, I’m adding a complication that doesn’t need to be there, doesn’t help the situation, and probably exacerbates it. And makes me spend emotion on something I really am not emotional about. And if I’m emotional and inconsistent about reacting to infractions, then I guess I would deserve it if students felt I was emotional and inconsistent about reacting to infractions.

So, my new year’s resolution is to remember to be robot-like and consistent when it comes to infractions, but to, more importantly, manage my classroom in such a way that students are excited to be there, even after they have messed up a bit.



One with lots of pictures

I was just reminded of this illustrated story on NPR about the impact an art teacher understands that he has on his students:

The teacher discusses the impact we have on students so effectively. I think about things from school all the time– my seventh grade art teacher who wanted to call me “Teri,” my kindergarten teacher who put me on top of a bookcase as a hiding spot but then left me up there while reading a book to class because I was so quiet that she forgot I was there, my second grade teacher who took us outside by mistake during a tornado (the fire and tornado drills sounded alike). Then of course there are all of the things I learned that I was supposed to be learning.

This article and my thoughts got me thinking about what I think my students will remember from my class. Which teacher from the article am I? What will my students see and then think of my class? (I just saw an article on The Atlantic about “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which was published there 53 years ago. Did any of my former students see it and think of my class?)

If you didn’t see it coming by now, that’s my question for you. What impression do you want students to have? What do you think would make them think of your class? What goals do you have in these regards?*


* An answer to all three is not required : )

Linking objectives to achievement

I just read this article:


and the author does a great job of breaking down how she brings her chemistry students in on the objective-formative assessment-summative assessment-reteaching-retesting loop.


I think we all know  that with seven different teachers a day, our students already have to be pretty flexible and make a lot of adjustments through the day. Reading this article inspired me to add a line to the top of my in-class activities to point out to students how the formative assessments and activities we are doing tie into the summative assessment that is to come. For example, when we analyze imagery in passages from The Great Gatsby, I’ll add a note to the top of the paper that says “Use these passages as a model when you revise to add vivid imagery to your autobiographical fiction.”


I am proud when I remember my keys AND sunglasses when I leave the building, so I’m always looking for ways to help my kids make connections and remember things. How do you or how can you help students understand the connection between your objectives, formative assessment, and/or summative assessment (especially when it comes to re-teach/re-test)?


p.s. bonus points if you include “closure” in your answer. (disclaimer: I am not actually authorized to offer bonus points)

Great article on reaching out…

I read this article recently and thought it had some excellent tips. What do you see that you like, or what would you add?


I liked how this article differentiated between the different aspects that can lead us to feel concerned about how students are responding to our classes. Of course, I like that it references one of my favorite books ever (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking).

In the spirit…

… of StuCo’s be-YOU-tiful week, and to help us have positive thoughts about the colleagues we are nominating for teacher and paraprofessional of the year, let’s boost one another’s spirits by either:

1. Offering a compliment to a colleague or colleagues


2. Sharing an encouraging note overall with one another.


I’ll get us started:


This morning, after first period started, I looked at the copies I had for my second, third, and sixth period classes and realized that I had messed up on my VIPS copy order and had not asked for enough copies of something my students needed to read for homework tonight. However, aside from being irritated with myself, I wasn’t super stressed because I had a feeling that if I sent an email to my department, some wonderful person with 1st or 2nd off would save my bacon. Sure enough, Lauren Rund answered my plea almost immediately, and I had the copies I needed before first period was over. It can be tough to keep all of our balls in the air (or plates spinning, or ducks in a row, or whatever metaphor you like), but as busy as we all are, it’s so great to know that when we need help we are there for each other. Thanks, Lauren, and thanks to all of my colleagues who are there to help, even with little/no notice, and even when you have your own full plate (or whatever metaphor you like). I think we are truly lucky in our colleagues here at CSHS : )

Are you a magician?

I just read this awesome article from The Atlantic— did you know that Teller (of Penn and Teller) was a Latin teacher before joining Penn to be a magician? And that he made his own textbook for his students?


It’s a really fascinating read, and it struck some chords with me (obv.!!). So this week’s question comes from something he said:


“The first job of a teacher is to make the student fall in love with the subject. That doesn’t have to be done by waving your arms and prancing around the classroom; there’s all sorts of ways to go at it, but no matter what, you are a symbol of the subject in the students’ minds.”


So… how do you get your students to fall in love with your subject? I don’t know if we can all make our own textbooks, but what do we do? I am thinking the 3 C’s and 3 R’s might tie in here : ) Remember to include your team name and your name in your post.


Here’s the full article, in case you’re intrigued:

Concept Attainment Strategy

Welcome back! And welcome in the first place to our new teachers! We are SO happy to have you here and hope you will not hesitate to let us know how we can be of assistance.


So, before the break, I saw this strategy on a blog I like and thought it could work for many different lessons and subjects. It’s called “Concept Attainment.” One way I think it could really work is teaching procedures and routines.


So, if you have a sec, check it out, and share how you think you could use this strategy… OR share another go-to strategy you have that you think could work across subjects! Be sure to include your name AND your team name when you post.


How to Use the Concept Attainment Strategy

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