Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Learning VS Grading by: Sarah Lehner

Is measuring learning versus grading the wave of the future?  With student stress level at an all-time high due to tests, quizzes, and project grades, the aim for perfectionism and competition among students may be drowning out creativity, learning and collaboration among students.  Add after-school activities and competitive sports into the mix, and students can become completely overwhelmed.

What do the students have to say about the current grading system?  “I personally am not a fan of my schools A-F grading system. It makes it extremely easy to fail. I really like the 4-3-2-1 system better.” Says Zailee Truex, a 9th grade student. may benefit high achievers and kids who are already self-motivated, but there are many kids who may or may not have supportive and encouraging parents who will give up when the first couple of C’s, D’s and F’s occur.  It can be overwhelming to try to “come back” from rigid test grades, and some kids probably just give up. Kids need to have self-interest in making and maintaining good grades. Many kids simply memorize the subject matter for the test and then forget it once the test is over.  Is that really what we want from our students? Our society needs students to be prepared to be good, thoughtful citizens and employees. We need to place value on learning, not memorizing for the “A”.

Teachers should not have to teach to a test.  Most states have some kind of standardized test that is given at the end of the year, and teachers must prepare their students to do well on this test.
 Maybe a teacher would like to tell an interesting story or show an interesting movie to their students. They really cannot if this material will not be helpful in passing the standardized test.  This is what one teacher had to say about her teaching: “traditional” — teacher talks and then students are active for a while. Then I’d check in with them before leaving class. It’s hard when we have 8 forty-minute periods a day.” Says Jennifer Snaidecki, A librarian, “High stakes testing in Indiana makes school life a chore. Unless you’re in honors classes, there’s not much you can do. As a teacher of reading/writing, I read aloud and had independent reading alternating every other day. That worked out for our short periods of time.


Traditional testing will spark a larger debate about the future of education. The few schools that have tried it have found the transition more difficult than they expected. Changing from grades to assessments, or whatever route a school decides to take, is a huge commitment.  Students, parents,
and teachers have to be open to new ways of grading, and the students have to be on board by being open minded. Some of the higher achieving students may struggle at first, especially if students in other school districts are still working on a traditional grading system.  Kids who have found themselves not working hard anymore because they don’t feel that they can “come back” from poor grades may feel an extra push to work harder.


Students be able to write well, communicate effectively and work together. Samantha Duncan, who is currently enrolled in a university to receive her bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and English sums it up well: students to take control of their own education, which is why I believe in student-centered education. I feel like this style is extremely effective. When
students feel in control of their education they are willing and ready to dive deeper into conversations. With student-centered learning they are in charge of the way the conversation unfolds, and the teacher becomes more of a participant rather than the main acting force.”    


In the end, I believe that assessing students’ learning versus rigid grading will lead to more empathy among students, more self discipline, higher academic achievement, and stronger
collaborative skills.  If the idea is that we want to produce students who are ready to live and work together in society, why wouldn’t we start early on? Schools want to produce students who will cure cancer, create world peace, etc.

Speak, Students! by: Leila Mohajer


Student advocacy is a major topic that all students should become familiar with. Without it, teachers can’t understand what their students are thinking or what they want. Student voices need to be heard and it is entirely in their hands to make it happen.

            In 8th grade Civics class, we had a whole unit that covered student advocacy. Our teacher had us choose from a list of current conflicts in our school, come up with a solution for the conflict, and then present it to the class. Somewhere in the mix, we would be advocating for these issues. I’m going to share with you a real life example of student advocacy that should inspire students to do the same for themselves and others around them.

My cousin Victoria Sander, a 6th grader from North Carolina, had a major conflict with the work she was given and the amount of time she had to do it. In her English class, she was given three writing assignments and only one week to complete them. She said, “I didn’t know what to do. I had no time to do all three because of dance and my homework from other classes.” She decided to take matters into her own hands and contacted her teacher.

            She explained to her teacher in a respectful manner that she, along with her other classmates, felt that they didn’t have enough time to complete their assignments. She asked, on behalf of the whole class, if the deadline for one the longer assignments could be pushed back. Her teacher was very interested in this request. She made a bargain. If all of the students received a passing grade on the first two assignments, then the third assignment’s deadline would be pushed back. If any of the students didn’t receive a passing grade, then the third assignment (which would take about three days to complete) would be due the next class as it was from the beginning. The students thought that this was fair and after a class vote, agreed to the incentive.

            The next class came and the two assignments were completed by the whole class. The teacher had announced that all of the students had received a passing grade so the longer assignment was not due until the end of the next week. Victoria mentioned that all of her friends were thankful for her actions and appreciated her desire to help out the class. Victoria used her voice to advocate not only for herself but her entire class and it was a great success for everyone.  

Students should never be afraid to advocate for themselves or speak up if they feel that something being done can be improved. It is a very important skill to have now, and will continue to be as you grow older.

Salutary School Subjects by: Madison Whitbeck


Recently, I did some research, used my own opinions, and talked to some relatives about what classes the deemed useful in their everyday life. Most agreed that English was a key factor on their success. The most useful skill, I concluded from answers and research, was writing. Being able to write a good memoir, business letter, professional email, and so on is a very useful skill to have in every job. I also focused on some things that former students wished they learned in school. A lot of the answers included public speaking, interview skills, paying taxes and bills, managing money, and applying for a job. Many of my relatives said they wished classes were created a class to teach them basic life skills and how to get by.

My older cousin is currently majoring in at JMU in hopes of becoming a national security or counter terrorism intelligence analyst. He concluded that his knowledge in history and civics would obviously aid him in his success, but that is one out of millions of jobs out there. My other cousin, who is currently a student at Mary Washington, majoring in psychology and early education, told me that English and literature was her most useful class because she wants to be an early education teacher, but also in the sense that it taught her many useful writing skills to use in the examples I have listed above.

In conclusion, we should all show English teachers more respect. They are teaching a very useful skill that many of us students don’t realize we will need later in life. But maybe schools should be teaching more life skills than teaching subjects that will only apply to students who choose a job or major that uses that subject. Save that for college.

Sports and Student Success by: Chrysa Krivak


The education of a student relies on much more than what happens during school hours. Many kids and teens are participating in multiple extracurricular activities that often make an impact on their academics. For this specific blog, I reached out to three different athletes and asked about their experiences playing sports in high school.

My first interviewee, who would like to remain undisclosed, lives in upstate New York. She has played lacrosse since 6th grade, and is now playing for Siena College. When I asked about her team’s relationship, she said that both the teammates and coaches were very close. My final question for her was the impact that she thinks playing this sport had on her academics, and she said that playing a sport helped her distress, allowing her to gain more focus on education.

I then interviewed my cousin, a former New York resident, who played hockey since she was 3 years old. She stopped competing at 18, but says that she hopes to be a part the club team at Ohio Northern University this year. The relationships she had with her coaches and teammates, she said, were based off their experiences as a team, some of her favorites entailed traveling for tournaments and staying in a hotel with her teammates. When I asked about what impact this had on her education, she told me that planning time for schoolwork around practices and games taught her how to better manage her time.

Third, I interviewed an anonymous friend of mine, who has always played many sports. She has played softball, volleyball, and has run cross-country. This friend has played softball since 3rd grade, volleyball since 5th grade, and just started running the summer of 2018. She describes the relationship between her teammates as very close, and her coaches as friendly. She told me that playing sports gave her confidence, which is crucial to success in the American education system.

Speaking to these three students helped me understand what they value in their education and their lives. All three of them gave a positive response on the rapport formed with their coaches and teammates, and believed playing a sport as an extracurricular to be beneficial to education. Though sports may not be for everyone, I think encouraging students to do more physical activity, or become part of some type of team would greatly improve their academic success.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Dear Substitutes, Every Moment Counts by: Gabi David

A lot of times students walk into a class with a substitute teacher and see an opportunity to play on their phones and chat with their friends. Students take advantage of this free period and tell their temporary teachers they “haven’t learned this yet”, or “It’ll just take five minutes”. Teachers have the whole year to get to know their students and create bonds with them, while substitutes see them for such a short period of time. Substitute teachers can take five to ten minutes at the beginning of the class to get to know their students and introduce themselves. Even keeping a smile the whole class can help students have the motivation to complete their objective for the day!

                Diane Van Dyke, a substitute teacher in Loudoun County likes spending her classes having individual, and graded assignments due at the end of the class. “With a sub, group projects and open-ended activities with no grade or due date can be very hard for less motivated students to complete. This also leads to more disruption by those less motivated students.” She also finds that smiling and finding something positive to say about the student’s work is very effective in helping students to be respectful and productive. A positive attitude at the beginning of class can create a full block of cooperativeness.

                This year, I had the sweetest substitute teacher and she was able to help each individual student with their assignment. She spent the full class answering questions and constantly checking in on their students to make sure they had all the resources they needed in order to receive full credit on their work. During the last twenty minutes or so of the block, she went over to each individual student and asked them how they felt about their work and asked if they were satisfied or if they needed to meet with the teacher for full understanding. If a student was hesitant about the content, she wrote a note to our teacher telling them who needed extra help. Substitutes like these, make it easier for us to ask for help, and be satisfied with material even if our teacher isn’t up teaching the lesson.

                Substitutes with a smile on their faces and willingness to help their students succeed are the ones that leave their students with the satisfaction of feeling sure of themselves at the end of the day. Every minute counts!Dear Substitutes, every minute counts!

Teacher Traits by: Sophia Coulopolous

A lot of the time, student’s aren't very motivated to learn. It generally feels like we come to school get our classes done, and leave. We count down the minutes until the bell rings. Then we go to our sports or clubs, or go home. With all the work, the clubs, the activities, life can become overwhelming. The teachers who realize we feel this way try to make the hour and a half with them fun and enjoyable. Students love these teachers. Those wonderful teachers don’t only teach for their job, but they teach for their kids. They try to make class fun, give their students a break from their probably hectic day.


I talked one trait that students love in teachers in my first blog. I want to go more into depth, because it needs to become clear what kinds of teachers students love, so school can become a more enjoyable place for teachers and students. Everyone knows the feeling of happiness and satisfaction when someone appreciates them. Students generally get that feeling from teachers, and now it’s about time for teachers to get that feeling from students. There are a couple types of teachers I’ve noticed and loved over the years.


The first is the loving teacher. She takes the time to get to know each student. She knows that her student is busy and has a life, and is understanding when they don’t always get work done. She makes sure all her students understand the material, and helps each one individually. Because of all that, every single one of her students adores her.


The second is the comedic teacher. They always crack jokes and make the class feel like a calm and stress free environment. They feel more like a friend than a teacher. They connect with every student. They create nicknames and inside jokes in each class. Among all that, their students still learn everything in efficient and fun ways. Students learn to respect this teacher. They know when to and not to talk. They know the teachers expectations.


The third is the natural teacher. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows how to demand respect in a kind way, he knows how to teach in effective techniques all students will like, and he earns respect from his students for being good at what he does. Students learn efficiently in his class, but it’s not overwhelming. He makes sure all students can handle what he’s assigning. He knows all the tips and tricks in being a teacher. Teaching comes naturally to him.


Of course, each teacher is unique, and has their own combination of traits. Those three types of teacher I listed are based of teachers I’ve had and loved, and other kids loved them too. No teacher has to become those teachers. Each teacher bring their own experiences and styles to the table, but what I’ve noticed is that students are ready to learn with those general traits.


I’ve recently had survey with responses kids from other school districts/counties and states. The common responses of appreciated traits in teachers were being interested in a student’s life, being kind and accepting, being a natural teacher, and having a sense of humor. Those together make a fun and stress free class environment, help students to feel comfortable and inspired, and makes students feel loved and appreciated. When students feel like that, we are then ready to learn.

Help with Homework by: Sabrina Rice

What is homework to begin with?  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “an assignment given to a student to be completed outside the regular class period.”  This is a very generic definition however, and homework means different things to different people.  To some it’s “really too keep it fresh in your mind and let you practice at home and it just gives you a little extra practice to help you get this subject or a concept down” or  “the purpose of homework is  to practice and retain information that you learned during class that day.”  This shows that homework means different things to different people, which is why there should be more homework options that work better for different people.

The most common types of homework for most people are worksheets, which are very good but they can be repetitive.  I interviewed many different people in different grade levels in different states, and almost every person said that they got worksheet the most.  This doesn’t have to be the case though, because there are hundreds of different ways to deliver content. Some positive examples are reading a passage, watching a video, making a podcast, writing an essay, or maybe working with a study group outside of class.  I recently had to work on a project for science class, and my teacher gave us many different options to deliver our content. I made a video, while other students made a poster. Some made PowerPoints. This was very effective as it gave us the choice to present in the way that best showed our data.

Many students also felt like there was a greater amount of homework in class, especially in advanced classes.  This makes sense, as students who have more strength in a certain subject should have to work harder for a better grade.  This also brings in the question of are the students really learning. As one student said, “I would say less quantity more quality so don't like do, for example do one problem in that topic and discuss it rather than each 10 questions in each topic.  You can better understand the project instead of just doing a lot of work and not understanding it.” This would definitely help students learn, because isn’t the whole point of learning something to understand it, rather than do a lot of work, assume the answer and not gather the reasoning behind it?  

There is also the point of “fun homework”, which is homework that is more like a game.  This will make students want to work harder and understand it more, because they will think of it as a fun activity.  A good example of fun studying is Kahoot or Quizziz, as this makes kids work hard and pay attention. One student said about his view on homework “My teachers could make it more like a game so I get joy of it.”  This shows how students actually care about the work they are doing.  They want to find the game of it all, and teachers can help them achieve that by making schoolwork and homework like a game.

In conclusion,  most students do not actually hate homework, they just want exciting ways of doing it.  There should also be a way to go over the work in class, because then the students can know how to solve a problem they had a question on at home, rather than just using a key.  Homework should also have many different formats. Each student is different, and that should be shown in the options of work given. Students should be given some of homework, but they should be able to decide on what kind of work they do, so each student can cater to their individual needs.

Bullying in the Classroom by: Elizabeth Grace

Bullying in the classroom is an ever growing problem in classrooms around the world, many cases going untouched and unnoticed. It is an issue that many students see every day, and an issue that many think you can not get rid of. Bullying in a classroom is a form of bullying that is unlike any other form, because it is more concealed and is harder to spot. For this reason, many victims think they can not get it to stop. But I believe you can.



Bullying starts very simply: one kid picks on another kid. But it grows into something more complex. Over time, students can start to feel worthless and that alone affects schoolwork.
But bullying in the classroom is more concealed and harder to find. Because it can only take place in one class, it may not have as extreme effects as other forms of bullying. But it can still make a mark on students.Some ways to spot bullying in the classroom are-

- reduced effort in one class. Maybe an all A student has a B in this class, or a very good student does not turn in homework as soon as they do in other classes.
- a hate of the class. If a student that normally likes science says “oh i hate science this year” that can be an indication of in classroom bullying.
-loss of friends in that class. If on the first day of school a student walks in with another, laughing, then in a few weeks walks in alone, this could be a sign as well.
So how can a teacher help prevent classroom bullying? I asked my twitter and instagram followers that question. Within a few hours, I got a flood of responses. Here are the three i heard the most:
- Creating a survey students could take every week or so, just to tell the teacher how they are doing. In the long run this could be very useful for a student who is dealing with in classroom bullying in that class. This could also be a safe place to turn to report bullying in general. The survey would also build a relationship with students, making them feel safer in the classroom as well. Some questions you could put in the survey could be simple questions, like “how was your week at school?” or “have you ever seen bullying at this school?”.
-having a place they could report bullying. This is up to you, but having a specific way to report bullying would make it more likely for students to report it.
-if you use assigned seats, having a way to request a seat change. This would create a way for students to say “If you could change my seat, that would be great” other than “can you pleaseeeeee change my seat!”. We all know that kid that whines whenever there is a seat change in class, and this would eliminate that and create a more positive classroom setting.  Lets say a student is being bullied by his/her table mate. Having a way to request a seat change would give the student a chance to eliminate the bullying without causing a scene.

In conclusion, there are many ways to stop in classroom bullying without getting into fight. Utilizing these ideas could give many victims of bullying a tool to fight back without the situation escalating. So, if you see a student who is struggling with in classroom bullying, help them fight it.

Mentor Texts and g2great Work by: Jason Augustowski

Happy Monday!  I have decided to revisit my theme of discussing awesome teacher texts I have recently read and thought this fall should be no exception.  Below I have brief explorations of Writing with Mentors by: Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O'Dell and g2great Teaching by: Mary Howard.


WRITING with MENTORS

1.  Love the idea of structuring a class: quick write, mini-lesson that investigates a particular writing craft within a mentor text, and then allowing students a chance to write and practice in that voice.  Will certainly help with "synthesis of voice" essays in APLang.
2.  It is important to keep the mentor texts relevant (especially when using nonfiction).  Kids nowadays don't want to read political articles from the 1990s nor may they want to read the "classics" when investigating literature.  I am not convinced if they will ever NEED to be able to write like Agatha Christie - BUT the voices of current YAL may be the precise sound of their generation.
3.  Class can be spontaneous and immensely differentiated based upon what individual students need.  If everyone is rocking "hooks" - ditch the week long lessons on "how to write hooks" and perhaps focus on character development or Rogerian argument strategies.  Talk openly with your students about what THEY want to get out of your writing class.
4.   Look at texts from both a reader's and a writer's lens.  Discuss critical lens theory and allow students to "get into the minds" of others when reading.  Then, once they get comfortable reading in this style, they can begin dabbling in writing from another lens during their quick write time.
5.  Bring in multiple texts: nonfiction, fiction, cartoons, graphs, charts, etc.  Help students read and write in the modalities that challenge them and that they feel like they will utilize in their real lives.

My takeaways:  Instruction is audience, tone, bias, slant, and style are married to the APLang curriculum.  Utilizing mentor texts is an extremely easy fit in a composition class.  However, stepping away from precise curriculum, this book is also awesome because it discusses how to take students through the publication process and how to make this level of critical reading commonplace in their everyday lives.  Using authentic audiences (actually sending student work to publishers) always engages students as writers.

g2great Teaching

1.  I love how Mary situates our thinking immediately in this text.  She clearly and thoroughly defines the ideas of bad, good, and great teaching and allows us to begin recognizing the impacts of each in our own classrooms.  She is able to categorize numerous practices under these headings in a manner that makes her readers want to improve "bad" teaching to "good" and "good" teaching to "great."  None of the tone is punitive but rather endearing and sometimes comical in nature.  I felt as the reader like it was okay (rather imperative) to admit my own flaws or shortcomings as a teacher and look for methods through which I could improve.
2.  Understanding that these practices exist on a continuum is important and that any specific tool could be elevated to great teaching or slide to bad teaching with relative ease.  The idea of charting our own methods and labeling under each category gives an immediate visual to any singular class meeting.  This can be extremely eye-opening when planning future lessons and units.  Bringing in student voice and reflection adds an additional layer to this introspection.
3.  Targeting differentiation to tailor learning for each individual student is a major takeaway from the text.  We should always make sure our practices are inclusive and allow each student (regardless of where they enter the curriculum) to achieve and master content at a high and efficient level by the time the exit at the end of the year.  Targeted differentiation also hinges on the assumption that students are engaged in the content.  It is not about filling students' time (busy work) but ensuring that everything they accomplish can be linked back to real world knowledge and skill acquisition.
4.  Frequent formative assessment is key in knowing exactly where students are on their journey to mastery.  These formative assessments should of course inform purposeful and skill-based summative assessments.  It doesn't help to quiz kids on what a character is wearing in chapter four of the novel - but assessing their ability to read critically and synthesize information IS a real world skill.

My takeaways:  I will discussing the ideas of bad, good, and great teaching with the students in my tenth and APLanguage classes.  Once they have the definitions as set forth by Mary Howard, I will allow them (at the midterm and end of each quarter) to enter the reflection and help me best assess how to meet their individual needs.  It can sometimes be hard to open ourselves to student feedback and criticism, but I find it necessary if we really want to improve our craft.  After all, we have no problem offering students constant feedback and criticism - it only levels the playing field if they are permitted to do they same.  We grade them.  I think it is important that they give us a grade too.  (And just as we are expected to be impartial and professional and separate our feelings about a student from the work produced, so should we teach them how to evaluate our instruction, assessments, and grading strategies without taking into account whether or not they like us or think we are cool.


That's it for now!  Next up will be a pre-NCTE conference reflection!  Can't wait to see you all in Houston!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Spreading the good news! Star stories from the beginning of the year! By: #thehairbowgirls

Change of Plans by: Lauren Chi

One of my favorite experiences as a student is when my teachers change their lesson plans to let their students teach themselves. In one of my English classes, my teacher had originally planned for us to do a Socratic Seminar on a one-page story. We had twelve prompts to discuss and we took turns going into the middle circle to discuss the prompt. There was four people in the middle circle for each prompt and everyone else was on the outside circle writing down notes based on the conversation on the inside of the circle. The middle circle had eight minutes to discuss the prompt before the topic opened up to the outside circle. Once the conversation was open to the outside circle, we continued the discussion until we couldn’t come up with an idea or comment on the topic. My class got really deep into the conversation that we didn’t even notice the time. It started as an eight to ten-minute discussion to a whole class period, which is an hour and twenty minutes. My favorite part about this class was that my teacher let us continue the great discussion though the whole class and didn’t stop a great class discussion to continue the Socratic Seminar because we were running out of time.

My teacher even added information or questions to think about in our conversations. That’s how our discussion went on for the whole class. One of the best things for education, in my opinion, is when a teacher goes the extra mile for their students. My teacher wants every single student to understand our curriculum thoroughly. If I don’t pick up one of the topics at first, my teacher will slow down and explain to me. That’s one of my favorite things about this class. The classroom is open to any questions, comments, or concerns.

Love Your Teachers by: Sophia Coulopoulos

I’ve never hated a teacher. I’ve always been one to believe that hate is a harsh word. Yes, I have disliked some teachers, but generally I like all my teachers. There have been a few who I loved, and they all seem to have some things in common.  

These teachers have been my 6th grade social studies teacher, my 8th grade civics teacher, and my french teacher this year. They are all kind, they respect their students (although they still expected respect from us), genuinely wanted to create a bond with their students, and have a great balance of responsibility and efficient learning and having a chill, fun experience in their class. With all the stress from my other classes, it’s always nice to have a place where I can take a breath and have some chill fun, but still learn efficiently.  

I’m sure any student can relate to this. We love it when teachers find that perfect balance of learning and a chill environment, and that’s one of the main things that make teachers lovable. 

My favorite moment of this school year so far has been my french teacher making her class a stress free environment. She does an amazing job at making sure we’re learning, but not stressing us out, and students appreciate that. When you can walk into a classroom and just relax, you feel like you want to learn.  

It impresses me even more because it’s a foreign language class. It’s not like English or Math, which we’ve been learning our entire lives, it’s filled with completely new concepts. The fact that she chooses to balance efficient learning with a chill environment shows she wants her students to actually learn and enjoy her class. 

Thrilled about Theatre by: Gabi David

The beginning of high school was quite a scare for me, as well as many of my friends. It was my first day of freshman year, and I was on my way to theater class! I was excited to see what was in store for this year and when I arrived to the classroom, the chairs were organized in a circle with free choice seating.

The teacher began class by introducing herself and then we went around introducing ourselves and our dream role! She then began going over rules, and I was eager to get up and start working on something theater related! Later, we were told to stack our chairs out of the way, and form two lines facing each other. Once we were in our organized lines, she explained that we were playing a game called “Honey I love you, can you give me a smile?”. This was a game where one person says to the person across from them, “Honey I love you can you give me a smile?”, and the person across from them must respond without smiling or laughing, “Honey I love you, but I just can’t smile”. We went down the line one by one, and then the winners competed against each other! This game was fun for us, and you could tell everyone enjoyed it!

So many laughs were shared and new memories were made that we can laugh about later! It was so funny to watch each person use their unique and quirky talents to make the other person laugh. The atmosphere our teacher created was a place where people weren’t afraid to jump out of their comfort zone. I enjoyed this activity and I thought it was a great way to meet new people and bond together. Our teacher explained to us that in order to put on a good show, we need to be well acquainted with our cast mates! This game was popular for our class and I think all teachers should try new games to have the class get to know eachother!

Happy Birthday Homeroom by: Elizabeth Grace

I think my best memory from September is on the 14th, (my birthday is the 15th) my homeroom teacher got the whole class to sing happy birthday to me. This really showed me that my homeroom teacher was invested in me and cared about me.

I feel like if  more teachers built up relationships with students, I think more students would care. They would put more work into the class because they know the teacher on a personal level.
Now, I have had many very good teachers in my middle school, but when I am disconnected to them I do not care. But when a teacher puts in effort to make me have a good day, or say happy birthday to me, it really makes me feel like they care.

I think that if more teachers had personal relationships and really invested in their students, students would not just care more about the teacher, they would care more about the class. That way, the teacher would know that each student is really trying their best. Even doing something small, like asking how the students day was, or asking if they need help studying for a quiz or test. By doing a small thing, my homeroom teacher made me really happy.

That was my best moment in September. My homeroom class singing happy birthday to me. That just goes to show that even the smallest things can make a student very happy. And you want to know the funny thing? I have not been late to homeroom because I feel like she would be disappointed. That just goes to show that because I feel like she cares about me, that I put a little more effort into being early to her class. That alone shows that by putting effort into students, teachers will get effort back from students.

Just by doing something small, you can make a students day, and make them feel more invested in a class.

DRAMAAA by:  Sarah Lehner

I find it very important to get the students more involved by doing activities together as a class.  Coming from a growing young adult, getting involved is very important to me.  I attend Belmont Ridge middle school and I take 8th grade Exploratory Dramatics.    


Drama is a way for students to be themselves and express their feelings in Art.  It isn’t just about learning about the history of plays or writing scripts, but it’s a way to connect with your peers.  On the first day of Dramatics, I was really nervous and didn’t know what was in store.  I sat down next to some friends I knew, and then, I never wanted to leave again.  I thought that Dramatics was all about learning about history and writing stories.  It was much more than all that.  On the first day, my Dramatics teacher got my class to form a big circle around some desks.  She handed out small cue cards, which really confused me at first, but I just ignored it.  They were all numbered 1-18 and everyone had a different number on it.  We had to work together to be able to put on a scene and use our common senses as a team effort.  

We learned how to work as a team and to be able to do something together that was very difficult for us young students to do.  My class was full of seventh and eighth graders so we had to learn how to get used to people besides our grades.  It was something that really impacted my life because I was forced to use my knowledge in a different perspective that I had never seen before.  Even though, I’ve worked with multiple grades in after school activities, I was able to learn more about the real world and its difficulties.   

Even though not everyone enjoys the theater, it is always a good idea to have a good perspective of learning on how to form a team and to be able to rely on your peers to get through tough times.  You’ll not just learn how to get along with other people, but you’ll be able to through things using a different perspective.   

Helpful History Homework by: Leila Mohajer

In a typical class you have a teacher, students, and a lesson. The teacher gives a lesson and the students listen to and take notes on whatever subject is being discussed. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this method of teaching but can it be improved?  My Pre-AP World History teacher seems to think so.
            As homework every night, each student must outline a certain chapter from our history textbook. The text within the chapter gives information on something we haven’t actually learned yet which makes it all the more interesting. This means that we write down only the information that we feel is most important. However, this does not mean that we can write down two sentences and be done with our history homework for the night. The first thing we do when we come into the class is take a formative quiz on the material that was written in the chapter. The only notes we can use while taking the quiz are the ones that we wrote down for homework. This means we must read through the chapter thoroughly and take very detailed notes.
 When I took my first quiz on the homework section it didn’t go so well because I didn’t take enough notes. But as time went by, I got more and more used to reading comprehension and it really improved my skills as a reader. Not only did this affect me in a positive way as a reader, it greatly improved my writing skills which are used in other classes apart from history. I noticed a drastic change when writing my essays in English and started to get compliments on my homework papers from my teacher.
I, along with many of my classmates, believe that this is one of the best ways to teach us the material as reading something and writing about it is one of the best ways to obtain information. After doing this for a few nights, the information started to actually stick with me because in a way, I was teaching myself the lesson by reading about it. The history teachers at my school most likely took into consideration that this subject can sometimes be boring for students to learn for an hour straight. They then decided to come up with this way of having us teach it to ourselves.
It is a wonderful thing to see when teachers try to make learning as easy and fun as possible for their students. When my teacher explained this method to us along with saying that she felt it would help us learn the best, I truly felt rejoiced and knew that I was lucky to have her as my teacher. I hope to see more and more teachers like these come to our schools so that students can learn the way that they want in an easy, simple manner.

Games and Thrones by: Sabrina Rice

This school year is pretty good so far.  My favorite teaching moment of September has been playing interactive games.  Trying to remember quotes in order to get a prize really makes you think about the things you are learning.  When there is something to gain involved, the students will learn better because they are focused on getting the prize.  If they have to know the curriculum, they will spend more time learning and less time talking.  

Also, if a teacher does more enjoyable teaching methods for the kids, the students will respect the teacher more because they don't want the fun to stop.  I have experienced this first hand, as the teachers who do interactive learning get more attention and focus from the students.  My teacher is very interesting and connects things from the past to things of today, which makes us understand the ideas better, as we can see what it would be like in our own lives.

Engaged in English by: Chrysa S.

As the month of September comes to a close, I can say that a star moment for me came from my English class. My English teacher this year is a very eccentric, energetic, and enthusiastic person. She is the foundation for my star moment because her class exhibits a very close and caring environment. In class we discuss the book we are currently reading: The Glass Castle. When we do these discussions, she finds a way to include everyone’s thoughts and ideas, and even the shyest kids in class have their hands shooting in the air, with hopes to share their opinions. That gives me a lot of admiration for our teacher and hope for the future of our education. 

Success in Civics by: Madison Whitbeck

As a girl raised by a lawyer and politician, I have grown a love for history and civics. When I first walked into my civics classroom, I was a little skeptical. My teacher, Mr. Buttrick, was very down to earth and fun. He explained to us that he would hardly give out homework as long as we did the homework he assigned and let us leave class whenever we feel like we needed a break, but only for 5 minutes. This intrigued me. Mr. Buttrick swore to us that we would not only enjoy this class, but learn from it. I thought, there’s no way that this middle aged man could possibly know how to keep 13 year olds entertained for an hour and a half while teaching us history. He told us he understood that sometimes, class isn’t fun, but he tried his best to make it fun for every student.

About once a week, Mr. Buttrick changes our lesson to a fun competition and rewards kids with small things as simple as jolly ranchers. In his competitions, to receive the prize, you had to be not only quick, but accurate and in turn, students want to actually try. I thought that this was very clever. I find that it is much more motivating when you have something to work for, whether it be an actual prize, or just the satisfaction of winning, and I think my classmates agree.

I got to talking with my older cousin who also had Mr. Buttrick as a teacher when she was my age and she said that even now, at 22, she remembers him. She told me that she very much enjoyed his class and how much effort he put into entertaining his students in a way that will help them learn. She finished off the conversation about Mr. Buttrick by saying that I will learn a lot in civics and a lot from my teacher.

I look forward to civics class every day to see what the lesson is going to be about, and how Mr. Buttrick can put a modern and entertaining twist on it. I can confidently say that almost any student who has him as a teacher, enjoys him and his class.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hellos from the #hairbowgirls !


Lauren Chi (Freshmen) @lauren_nc22 (2018-Present)

I am a 9th grader at Riverside High School. I play travel softball and I also enjoy participating in my high school’s theatre program. As a student and a member of #hairbowgirls, I like to see changes in my school. Some things I enjoy seeing is when teachers not only teach the curriculum, but get students involved in their learning.

I believe that school should not only be educational but also enjoyable for all students. Children around the world sit in classrooms for about nine months a year for eight hours a day, five days a week. I believe that if you spend so much time in a place for that long, you should be able to enjoy it. I feel that if we make classrooms an enjoyable space, then the room will appear to have more excitement and an urge to learn. Some students learn differently than others do. So are visual learners, and others have to be hands-on. My goal as a #hairbowgirl is to change education to help students want to be in school and enjoy themselves.

Sophia Coulopolous (Freshmen) @sophia_irini (2018-Present)

Hello! I am a 9th grader going to Riverside High School. I’m a choir and theatre kid, and love it with all my heart. I’m trying to do as much as possible freshman year. Auditioning for the musical, the improv troupe, going to a cappella club meetings, staying after school on so many days… It has been relentless so far. Generally, teachers don’t really understand that most students have busy lives. We try to get our work done, but even for perfectionist students like me, sometimes we can’t do it all.  

Being as busy as I am and trying to get all the work done, it leads to staying up until 3 in the morning almost every night, which logically is very bad for my health. That results in me almost falling asleep in class, and not learning what I need to learn. This happens with too many kids. A lot of the problems in the American education system like that one are fairly easily solvable, and it starts with teachers wanting to not only help us learn, but wanting to help us live the best life we can. 

I’ve had some amazing teachers in the past, and the common theme between them is they genuinely care about us as people, and not just their students. Creating that bond automatically makes students love their teachers so much. They’ve also realize us students have busy lives outside of actual school. Little things like assigning less homework, or trying to get to know us as people, they go the extra mile and help us have an enjoyable school experience. With those teachers, I don’t stay up to 3 in the morning doing homework, and I genuinely enjoy their class, and them as a person. I, and many other students, love it when the person teaching us is less of a teacher, and more of a friend. My goal is to help inform teachers what students love in a teacher, and to help students feel happy at least a little bit each day at school.

Gabi David (Freshmen) @gabriellainsley (2018-Present)

Hi! My name is Gabi David and I am extremely passionate about the arts. You can almost always find me on the stage singing, or backstage directing. I have won a National Youth Art Award for ‘Outstanding Direction’ and a nomination for ‘Supporting Actress’. I spent most of middle school being in musicals. It was there I learned, what a passionate teacher was. My director has dedicated his life to teaching and directing kids. He has influenced me to not only be a better actress/director, but a person. So many kids have been changed because of these experiences. He puts in time, effort, and love into what he does. He teaches and directs with an ambition and that is what I look for in a teacher. I am looking for a teacher that loves what they do and takes the time out of their life to help me understand the curriculum and learning objectives.

No student should leave a classroom with an unclear understanding of the content. They should feel safe enough to talk to the teacher with no fear. The relationship the teacher makes with the students starts on day one. One of my most memorable teachers started their day off with a quote each day. The first was, “You only get one chance to make a first impression”. It’s when the teacher takes the time and effort to decorate the room, set up fun games to play, or get to know you verbally that the student has developed a good relationship with their teacher. Students always remember the first day of school. Your first impression often determines how you are perceived. I still remember walking into one of my 6th grade teacher’s classroom covered in quotes thinking, “I already like this teacher”. Students come to school seeking to be inspired, and should leave the school as a better person.

Elizabeth Grace (8th grade) @eliza_bethgrace (2018-Present)

My name is Elizabeth Grace. I am in the 8th Grade at Belmont Ridge Middle School, and I am 13 years old. I do Musical Theatre and I love to sing and act. My favorite thing to do in my free time is read and write. As a member of the Hair Bow Girls, I hope to change the education system so it works for EVERYBODY.

Sense I was in the second grade, I have always had a harder time learning than everyone else. I started noticing that I had to work harder than the other kids when I was about 7. We were learning about subtraction and I never got the right answer. I am so glad I told my teacher about it. As it turns out, I have ADHD. Because of that, I learned how I work the best.

I am now in the 8th grade, and I have learned so much sense I was diagnosed. I have learned that I am a hands on learner, and I can not stand still. I have had the best teachers, and they have really helped me learn the way I can learn the best in a modern day classroom. It was hard at first, but with the help of many great teachers I found my way.

In the beginning when I did not really tell anybody about my issues. I struggled, until I told my teacher. She knew that I was struggling, and was actually the one to tell my parents I should be tested. I was always a socially awkward kid, and once I was tested for ADHD and ADD, they recommended a social skills class. This class changed my life. I learned how to communicate in a classroom environment and I was happier because I learned how to communicate my feelings to my teachers and peers. I still needed my teachers help sometimes, but I could mainly function on my own.


I do not know where I would be today if my teacher didn't tell my parents to be tested. I don't think I would be doing the things I love, like singing, or my school musical. That just goes to show how much a teacher could change somebody's life. I am so thankful for my second grade teacher, because without her, I think I would be functioning at a second grade level.


Sarah Lehner (8th Grade) @SarahAnne080 (2018-Present) 

My name is Sarah Lehner and I am 13 years old.  I attend 8th grade at Belmont Ridge Middle school.  I love to perform at my schools' musicals. I’ve done Dracula, Mary Poppins, Crybaby, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and 13.  I’ve also done local musicals for ICE Collaborative Arts. I spend a lot of time online watching different genres of television/and or showscoming up with new story ideas, and especially great deal of time on social media.  I have a passion for movie screenplays and writing stories.  Writing is a free way to express yourself as an individual and no one can tell you how to write your stories because you make the story come to life.  As a #hairbowgirl, my goal is so that young learners can write their own stories and have the voice to openly speak on their behalf of their educations. 

Most students struggle in school if they can’t understand the content they are being taught.  And most students may learn in many different ways, so it is hard for teachers to figure out how to get every student to learn in the right way.  School is a place for students to build themselves up and be able to explore opportunities to learn.  It can be hard for the students to do that while being overwhelmed with piles and piles of schoolwork brought upon them.  I plan on helping those that struggle learning the lessons they are taught in school, and not have to stress about the work.

Courtney Maynard (Sophomore) @_courtmaynard (2018 - present)

Hey! My name is Courtney and I am a sophomore at Riverside High School. I’m passionate about reading, writing, school, music, and running, among other things. Ever since I was little, I have felt a connection with books and literature, and I love to express myself through short stories, poems, and other writing pieces. I enjoy being in school, but sometimes the added pressures of extracurriculars and striving to keep your grades up can take a toll physically and mentally on a student, causing stress. I have been running for the majority of my life, but I really started to love it as I grew older and realized that it is a great way for me to relieve stress because I feel free and unburdened.

In today’s world, school and grades are so competitive. Students are striving to be better than their peers, therefore bypassing the actual learning that is supposed to be the main focus of school. In addition, students feel that they need to be perfect and always succeed in school. When students have added pressure to “be the best”, they find themselves staying up late and overworking, and end up neglecting other aspects of life such as health and personal relationships. As a #hairbowgirl, I aim to create an environment in which students don’t feel pressured to constantly be perfect. Instead, students can focus more on what they can get out of what is being taught in schools, both life lessons and educational lessons.

One event that has shaped my education is moving; this summer I moved from Georgia to Virginia. School and the education system is very different between the two states, differing in the way information is taught, class scheduling, grading system, and difficulty of the classes in general. I feel that I can provide a unique perspective on the way education is presented in different places, and how this impacts a student’s success. Overall, I am immensely excited to be a HairBow Girl and I can’t wait to see what’s in store!

Leila Mohajer (Freshmen) @LeilaMohajer (2018-Present)

My name is Leila Mohajer and I am a 9th grader at Riverside High school. I typically enjoy school and getting involved in school activities-when made fun to do so. I have been playing volleyball for the past four years at the Northern Virginia Volleyball Association and within those years have played on two select teams. Volleyball is an extraordinary sport that I take great pride in and plan to continue playing. I also enjoy the Fine Arts. Whether it comes to watching or actually taking part in a production, the theater is my happy place where I can escape and watch the people around me shift into a whole new world.

Last year, I was a part of the Young Entrepreneurship Academy where I learned a lot about the business world. YEA is for students from 6th-12th grade and it gave us the opportunity to actually start our own business and pitch our product or service in front of a panel of investors. It was an amazing experience and I was truly honored to take part in it. This year, I am a proud member of Humanity First, a community service club that is a part of my school. The main goal of the club is do aid human development by assisting communities that have been afflicted by war, poverty, or natural disasters. 
My main goal as a Hair Bow Girl is to help build and grow our education system so that every student can experience learning in a way that they see is best fit for them.

Sabrina Rice (8th Grade) @_SabrinaRice (2018-Present)

I'm an 8th grader at Belmont Ridge Middle School.  I enjoy participating in theatre and making a difference through charity work.  I also play guitar and trumpet.  I love hanging out with my friends and family.

My goal is to make school a place that people can look forward to.  School can be a place that nurtures to everyone's individual needs, instead of just focusing on one standardized way to teach.  I hope to make a difference in the school system and try to help progress the way teachers teach and the environment in which they do it in.  School should be a fun place, as we spend most of our young life inside of it.

I'm very excited to be able to do something with the ideas that are in all students heads to make learning a enjoyable activity, just as much as a sport or an art.  The effort needs to be given by not only the teacher, but the student, and with the new ideas that are being made, that can be possible.  School should be focusing on all aspects of learning, which will make students learn and feel like they matter, instead of making them feel like they aren't good enough.

Chrysa S (Freshman) @chrysa_sk705 (2018-Present)

As a student, I’m constantly trying to exercise ambition and diligence while juggling classes, homework, tests, extracurriculars, and a social life. I know many kids who feel the same, as they work their way through the education system, and I believe giving them a voice in their own education can really alter their outlook on schooling.

On the topic of classes, homework, and tests, I get to experience all of these challenges from two different schools. On “A days” I attend a typical high school; it gives off an atmosphere of timelessness that I find most high schools do, and there’s something really special about that to me. On “B days” I take a bus that sends me to a separate school, or magnet academy, that offers a variety of high level classes. The academy has a completely different feel than my home school, especially considering there are greenhouses where a football field should be. The academy focuses on many innovative concepts that would be atypical at a normal high school, and the building itself feels very new and crisp.

When referring to my extracurricular and social life, I suppose you could call it varied. I’m on the cross-country team, I play the french horn in my home school band, I golf with my family, and I participate in many musicals. Though it’s a lot of work to participate in all these activities, it’s work that I enjoy.

When I was asked to join #hairbowgirls, I wasn’t exactly sure what that would entail. I knew of the male counterpart, #bowtieboys, but not much more than that. Once I knew what our mission was, I was ecstatic! I cannot wait to become a part of something that will so vastly affect the lives of both students and teachers alike. My personal mission is to do as much as I can to help students find the motivation to succeed, and for hardworking teachers to be able to have a learning environment that serves all.

Madison K. Whitbeck (8th Grader) @MadisonKate22

I am a girl who firmly believes in fair education for every student. Not just sitting in a classroom, blindly filling out notes, and then the kids who do not fully grasp the lesson, fail. I believe no matter how you learn or what your strengths are, you deserve a fair chance to not just pass the class or test, but excel with flying colors. That is my ultimate goal out of the Hair Bow Girls because I have experienced low grades when I did not grasp the lesson and in turn, feeling worthless in that subject and ready to give up. I don’t want that feeling for any student of any age.

School is supposed to be a place where students learn valuable information that will help them in their future with teachers who they can look up to and will help them grow and learn. Not a “One Size Fits All” system. I believe students will truly enjoy school and put in the effort to learn from their teachers if teachers put in the effort to learn from their students and what’s the best way to teach each student. Every human has a different brain which means every student has a different learning style that works for them. I propose a more specialized learning system using technology as well.

Other than advocating with Hair Bow Girls, I partake in many musical theatre productions with my school (RiverHawk Productions) and in a separate production company (Imagine, Create, Explore Collaborative Arts).  I have also been recognized by the National Youth Arts in 3 nominations and 1 award. In my future, I hope to go to college in New York and major in the performing arts and pursue musical theatre for as long as I can in whatever form it may be.