Archive | November, 2013

Teacher Stress: My Management Techniques

23 Nov

stressRecently, a speaker during one of my school’s professional development days stated that 95% of the stress we feel is self-inflicted. That feels right.

I am a lucky. I rarely feel much stress about anything outside of the classroom. But, I am also unlucky; I regularly wink awake in the middle of the night, mind racing with “work stuff.”

Luckily, I have made some progress with nurturing a healthy, relaxed state of mind. Of course, my success is relative. Depending on the week (or even the day) my stress level fluctuates. Honestly, the week in which I’ve written this post has been particularly jam-packed, and I felt more stress than usual.

Regardless of my daily state-of-mind, however, some things consistently help me navigate the ebb and flow of stress that comes with being a classroom teacher:

Continue reading

Happy to Share this Magical World with Maggie Smith, Maya Angelou, and You

16 Nov

Maya Angelou GraffittiLike you, I wish Hogwarts was real. Magic should be a part of this world. If it were, I know in the deepest marrow of my bones, I would get sorted into Gryffindor, make the Quidditch team, and somehow—through some combination of my compassionate heart, ignitable passion, and deft mastery of transfiguration—earn a wry, approving smile from Professor Minerva McGonagall. Of course, this probably won’t ever happen. Probably.

Luckily, we do experience other forms of magic in our everyday lives, and I am thankful for the glimpses behind the veil I receive, those bright flashes of magic of a different ilk.

When I was first asked to teach grade 6, I was terrified. I had never dealt with a student under the age of 15, and I was worried that I wouldn’t know what to do with an 11 year-old. I needn’t have worried. Younger students can be quite hilarious, and they do just about anything you ask them to do. They have not yet forgotten how to play, and that mindset can lead to some very authentic, effective learning. I really love teaching this age group (and I am also happy that some of my classes are with older students, too).

As one of the opening activities in the grade 6 poetry unit, I started class by handing out textbooks-the-size-of-tombstones and saying, “OK, kiddos. You have ten minutes. Thumb through these books and find a poem that interests you.” After a brief lesson on how to use the Table of Contents to find poems quickly, the students dove in. Continue reading

Quizlet: Crowdsourcing Vocabulary

7 Nov

quizletI am jealous of my computer; it never feels stress. I do…way too often. And, way too often my stress is related to my inefficiency at providing timely, specific feedback to my students. Don’t get me wrong, I know I give meaningful feedback, but I wish it was all I ever did.

I am excited, then, when technology can help me out. When teachers outsource instantaneous feedback to a computer, the effect can be powerful, especially in areas like vocabulary acquisition. Language teachers understand that vocabulary expansion can be a grand equalizer, helping students rapidly improve other skills. Wide-ranging, free choice reading is my favorite way to help students acquire new vocabulary, but I also use some excellent web tools.

I am currently enamored with Membean (an online vocabulary system.) This post, however, is about an older love: Quizlet.

Both systems are effective ways to let technology offer timely and plentiful feedback. Each system also allows for students to engage in individualized and constructivist learning while freeing the teacher to offer differentiated, data-driven support. Continue reading

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