Thursday, August 16, 2018

Summer Assignments by: Jack Michael

As a student, summer assignments are gifted to you in all their glory at some point in your educational career. There are many silent and non-silent objections towards these assignments made by students. These objections mostly stem from the stress over losing the assignment, the amount of time completion will take, and student’s understanding of the topic on the assignment.  Summer Assignments receive little to no love from the student body. Although if a summer assignment is formatted correctly I believe it can provide much needed reinforcement for every type of student, but how do you format a summer assignment correctly?  
 
First start off with providing a “Backup” for students to use. This will entail having extras of the assignment being on hand or accessible to the student in some way. This way as a student moves along their summer if the assignment is lost they have the ability to attain another copy. Doing this allows an immense amount of pressure to be relieved from student’s shoulders by providing the reassurance that losing their packet is not the “end all, be all.”
 
The second recommendation I would give would be to make the assignment small. Students stress constantly over the amount of time the assignment will take. If the assignment is long, students will be deterred from even attempting the material. They also move to find answers elsewhere because the assignment needs to be turned in for a grade. As a student, when I receive a smaller assignment I am always more inclined to complete it because it feels like I have gotten a large quantity of work done during the summer. By shortening the assignment; students will not only be more inclined to finish it and they will be able to fit the packet into their busy summer schedules.
 
My final recommendation to create a summer assignment would be to make sure there are resources available for students who don’t understand the topic that is on the assignment. It is one of the worst feelings to look and an assignment and not understand what is on it. To relieve that area of stress make sure to provide ways for students that don’t understand material to either refresh their memories or to be re-taught what is being asked on the assignment. This can be done with YouTube videos, step by step tutorials or just checking your school email over the summer if a student might have a question.
 
As a student when a summer assignment is handed to me, my initial reaction might not be a positive one. Although if a assignment is formatted the way I have just described. My reaction at the beginning of the following year will be of gratitude and not of stress.

People Always Leave by: Dawson Unger

It’s that time of the year. When people go to college and start a new chapter of their life. I always want to be upset when I think about all of my friends leaving, but in the end I look at it as a good thing; a new chance to start over and to build stronger relationships with new people. When you settle, you stick to what you are comfortable with, but sometimes that is what holds you back from a better version of you.


Building new relationships is never an easy task, whether it’s with a friend, teacher, or a romantic relationship. It is always a new challenge since nobody is the same. With some people you will connect immediately, others it can take months to grow a connection, but in the end it is always worth it.


So when your friend, child, student, or significant other leaves for their next chapter in life. Remember that it will always be for the better and don’t give up, because it is better to heal a wound then to leave it open, even if it hurts a little more at first, in the end it will feel better.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Summer by: Rishi Singh

10 days left of summer and I did nothing. I just laid in bed and watched movies. At first, I was kind of hype for summer. Then I found out I wasn’t going anywhere but home. My hope for having a fun summer was destroyed. I barely hung out with any of my friends and never had the time to do anything. The only place I went was to my tutors. When I come back home, I just go back into my room and lay in bed. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad, but once you repeat doing the same thing every day, nothing is fun. I keep seeing stories on SnapChat about how amazing people’s summers have been. I look at those stories and don’t seem to care.

I can’t wait till summer is over though. This is one of the first times I’m excited for school. I can finally hang out with all my friends and I can get out of the house. The new school year may be terrible for me. Junior year is probably the hardest year overall. I have to take the SAT which is going to kill me, and I have to make my college resume. I’m very afraid of my junior year because I don’t know how I will do. On the other hand, I could get my license. I can’t wait to get out of the passenger seat and drive.

Nothing really happened to me this summer and I’m alright with it

Woofers & Rufers by: Sam Fremin

This summer a lot of my time has been dedicated towards taking part in musicals. Throughout July, I took on the role of Glen Guglia, a disgustingly materialistic Wall Street type in The Wedding Singer. After that show closed, I was right back into it with a production of Thirteen as the lighting designer. The former was a cast full of high schoolers and the latter was a cast full of middle schoolers. Almost every aspect of the two shows were different from each other (the plots, the age of participants, the style of music, the roles I would play, etc.), however one thing remained constant throughout: a sense of community.


Theatrical shows are full of collaboration. Everyone is onstage, attempting to bring the same text to life for an audience’s entertainment. Without successful teamwork, the final product would be a mess. If an environment hasn’t been created where kids feel comfortable with one another, they are far more likely to take a more self-serving route to success, leaving the team on different pages. Conversely, when castmates are comfortable with their peers, they are more likely to solve problems together and lift each other up.


Much the same way, seamlessly functioning classrooms take place in environments where students feel safe and comfortable to branch out among the community. It is practically cliche at this point, but the ice needs to be broken early on. Although students can get to know one another through ‘icebreaker’ topics such as favorite ice cream flavor and favorite vacation spot, by a certain point every student has gone through that array of questions. It becomes tedious to have to answer the same ‘get to know you’ questions every year and no real bond or memory is created out of that experience. Through the musicals, I tried a different form of breaking the ice.


During one of the days of Thirteen’s production, I was tasked with getting all of the energetic middle schoolers hyped up. While it would be important to get them excited, it was also important that whatever I had them do was engaging and helped build the community between those involved. I had a strange idea. There was a line in the show that had gained cult popularity among the cast where one of the lead characters barked like a dog. Every time it was delivered, it received a laugh, so I wanted to use that pre-established inside joke as a building block for my activity. Then, I thought about my target audience. As I’ve said before, they were an energetic bunch. Rather than try to avoid that energy for controlling purposes, I figured it would be easier (and more fun for them) to tap into their excitement. The final step was coming up with a plan for how I would respond if the kids veered too far away from a healthily exciting environment and devolved into chaos.


On the day my quick activity was scheduled, everything had been planned out. I had the room split into two groups, by walking through the middle of everyone and designating who was ‘group one’ and who was ‘group two.’ I then had them all get to know their groups, but to their surprise, I disallowed them from communicating with human language. They had to become dogs. The kids had to crawl around and bark and shake paws to get to know their teams. Once they were well acquainted, they were pitted against one another in a barking match. One team was full of “woofers” and the other side was full of “ruffers,” to ensure we could declare a winner. After the competition, we all joined together to howl at the singular light in the room that refused to turn off.


Of course, this example of an icebreaker is a little bit out there. The absurdity of it all may be a bit too much, but the end result was arguably a success. Although the activity was ridiculous, that’s what made the kids bond. If nothing else, every kid walked away with a memory or a story from that experience, an instantaneous conversation starter. I would even go as far as saying a good portion of the kids enjoyed it and connected with others who felt the same. When everybody in a room is simultaneously making a fool of themselves, there isn’t any space for people’s guards to be up. While rounding up students and asking them to combatively bark at each other might not necessarily be a successful icebreaker, I would recommend using similar elements when planning your beginning of the year activities. Find ways to immediately push students not just to step out of their comfort zone, but leap out of it. It’s kind of funny how it works. On the first day, when kids are pushed to interact in a healthily uncomfortable environment, they will be set up for a more secure classroom experience in the long run.

Advisory by: Spencer Hill

From 1:00 to 4:00 today I was in my county’s advisory planning meeting. Advisory is just my county’s version of homeroom, where the school passes out forms and performs any other administrative roles. However, in the free time, it’s designed to be a rapport-building tool. In my school, an extracurricular exists where students create activities for the classrooms that are designed to build rapport within an advisory classroom (which consists of about 25 students). The students meet up every couple of months to choose key topics to make activities about. When discussing the optimization of these magical twenty-five minutes of morning with other students and teachers, the conclusion of our discussion was that the most challenging aspect of this rapport-building mini-period was the lack of engagement from the teacher and the students.


These two issues go hand in hand and were by far the most concerning issue to anyone I had talked to. Teachers were unenthusiastic due to disengaged students and students weren’t looking forward to it because the teachers didn’t care. It was an endless cycle that I had seen firsthand. Although my advisory teacher was usually very good at keeping the classroom motivated, sometimes, the students weren’t interested in the topic at hand. Throughout the course of that 25 minutes, my fellow students got more wired up and harder to control until my teacher decided that they weren’t going to deal with us on that day. It was sad to me, on the advisory team, to see an activity that someone had worked hard on, go to waste. Students definitely can be hard to work with at times, but there are ways to end this cycle. Teachers often have to take the first step towards ending the cycle though. Although it seems like it should be a student’s responsibility to take it upon themselves and learn, ultimately, a teacher’s job is to break the ice and provide students with an environment they’re comfortable participating in.

In the group that I broke into during the meeting, we discussed various methods that we could use early in the school year to break the ice and make more engaging activities. What we came up with was to use the highest caliber activities during the first week to set expectations, use simple games and competitions like Kahoot (a custom quizzing website), and to let students decide what activity topics they’d like to see in the future.


Although front stacking lessons might sound like cheating, it can be an effective tactic. The first week of a class is a massive sway in how a student will act in a class for the foreseeable future. Having very strong, well-thought-out lessons that exemplify the values of what you want to teach can set a student up for success throughout the rest of the year. Online quizzes are extremely effective, especially during the first week, at getting students hyped up during class or an activity. The students that at know love trivia and have a flair for competition, so a simple online quiz can be a fantastic and versatile way to get students involved in any subject. The last method is more helpful with a situation like advisory, which is short and can be about many subjects. Allowing students to deem which content is good for them to learn can help them build confidence coming into the new year.

The first of school is intimidating for both teachers and students but focusing on icebreakers and making sure everyone is comfortable first can ease the transition from summer into the school year.

Thespian by: Nihar Kandarpa

I’m a thespian, so it’s not all that surprising that I took part in two musicals this summer. The Wedding Singer, and 13: The Musical. Both were very fun but very different experiences. Also, I took a week trip to California, and visited different places like L.A., and San Diego. I definitely thought that this summer was an interesting experience, and it also shows that students can have very different experiences, and teachers have to treat them differently. This all goes back to rapport, though. The more experiences a teacher has with a student, the more the teacher will know about the student. Knowing students’ experiences and their hardships creates empathy, but also allows the teacher to treat that student in their own way.


A great example of students being treated differently happened within my drama camps. During The Wedding Singer, only High School students were allowed to participate, with involved a more in depth and mature experience for both the teachers and the students. With 13, however, Middle School Students were the ones who participated, setting the thing at a smaller, yet still positive standard.

Although differences like this in students can be very evident, some differences are hard to notice, at least from a teacher standpoint. Students can be putting on a positive cover, but actually be in a rather unhappy mood. If a teacher and a student have good rapport, then the teacher should easily be able to sit down with the student and talk about what the problem at hand is.


Teachers have to make sure that while students should be given equal care, they should be treated differently based on different experiences. Children can be going through a rough time, and being treated the right way is almost always exactly what they need.

Freshmen Year by: Jason Nguyen

My first year of high school is rapidly approaching and I am excited for all the new opportunities. The high schoolers of our county came together and talked about advisory classes for students. Different students from different backgrounds came together to make their school a better place. We discussed how those first days of school really set the tone for the rest of the year. The first day should be about building the relationship and type of classroom. Help students get to know each other by conducting icebreakers and games. Discuss with students about their other interest. This helps connect to you and the students. Get kids to interact with the activity and peers. When connecting to a teacher students are more inclined to listen more and fully engage themselves. This leads to a productive time in class.

At the end of the class try to get feedback to understand more of what the students want in class. The rest of the week should be more relationship bonding and receiving feedback. Getting this information can help you incorporate their interests into the lesson. Thus, encouraging students to pursue their goals and making class about what students want. Telling stories and talking with them as an equal helps kids open up more. All of this leads to teacher and student engagement, learning about something interesting, and thoroughly enjoying class. That is how I want my first days of high school to be.

Senior Year by: Kellen Pluntke

School is back in 10 days and for the first time since the third grade, I am genuinely excited. Last year was riddled with various complications that I was able to fight through thanks to the relationships that I was able to create with my friends and teachers. Now that I can walk into the first day of school with these great relationships already established, I can finally focus on my academics with a lot less stress than I had before. I’ve been waiting for the days to come when I can look back on my education and see all the progress I’ve made and feel pride and accomplishment, instead of resentment for the next years’ work that I know I will need to accomplish. I have finally reached that point. This next year I get to really work for my future. I cant wait to learn all the real life skills that I will need to take with me into whatever my next stage of life is.


This being said, I know there are many upcoming freshmen that are coming into high school that are likely very anxious about their future in high school. There are lots of things that I know now that I wish I knew walking into my first year. The most useful of these pieces of knowledge that I found way too late is how you set up appointments to meet with your councilor, and how to use your councilor to advise you for the future. I encourage any teacher of a freshman class to share with the students that they are able to go to their councilor to discuss how their education is going, or to get advice on anything they need. I often found myself confused about picking classes for the next year with little to no information provided, and I would have been able to pick classes that are a good fit for me with much less stress if I knew that I could ask my councilor, those decisions wouldn’t have been so difficult.

Another tip that I didn’t know about until my junior year is that you can go to other teachers for help even if you don’t have them in class. My freshmen year, I had a hard time in one of my math classes so I decided to come in early one day to make sure I understood the content before I took the test later that day. I felt like I was really showing my initiative by doing this and was happy about my choice to come in until I walked down the hallway, and saw that her class was full of students asking the same kinds of questions I came to ask. I ended up just sitting in the room waiting for her to have a gap in teaching other kids so I could ask my questions, but the moment never came. This happened often until my junior year, when I decided I was just going to try and ask another math teacher for help.

DIVE INTO INQUIRY & SPIDER WEB DISCUSSIONS by: Jason Augustowski

Happy Tuesday!  As promised yesterday, below is the conclusion to my three part summer piece regarding the six texts I read in preparation for my new classes.  Today I will share my takeaways from Dive Into Inquiry by: Trevor Mackenzie and published by EdTechTeam Press and The Greatest Class You Never Taught by: Alexis Wiggins and published by ASCD.  Let's DIVE IN.  Get it?

INQUIRY

1.  Have students help in creating course syllabus.  Discuss how they like to learn, be assessed, and graded.  Have them list traits of positive and negative experiences from the past (without names).  Introduce then evaluate the pros and cons of inquiry style learning.
2.  There are four types of inquiry: structured, controlled, guided, and free so that teachers are able to scaffold students into full on autonomous inquiry.
3.  The four pillars of inquiry are: passion, goals, curiosity, and new learning.  Once students reach free inquiry they can develop their own essential questions.
4.  Students should pitch their free inquiry projects to their teachers and once approved let the exploring begin!
5.  Reflection is built in with journals, conferences, and feedback from authentic audiences.

My takeaways:  I will be using this method with my freshmen next year as we engage in the different types per quarter (beginning with structured, moving to controlled, next to guided, and ending in a fourth quarter of free inquiry.  I will be mixing this idea with the genius hour presented in Empower.  I also really like this idea for how to begin the year with syllabus and a reflection of the past/look towards the future.

SPIDER WEB DISCUSSIONS

1.  Spider web discussions must be an unweighted group grade and the teacher must sit back to collect the data and make the "web."  The SPIDER is an acronym for what the students are expected to do.
2.  Teachers can code the discussions while mapping to indicate who made great points, who interrupted, who built upon previous concepts, anything.
3.  The book explained how to quiet some superstars and extract some quiet kids so that everyone in the discussion shares an equal amount.  Some ways to help can be to assign students specific "roles" within discussions.
4.  Be empathetic towards all kinds of children throughout the process and assess the class based on clear rubrics and debriefing sessions that follow the general principles of what comprises a spider web discussion.
5.  Spider web discussions allow us to teach our content while vastly improving our students' social skills - thus preparing them for the real world.

My takeaways:  I will be using Spider Web discussion in my APLang classes next year to ensure that all students are able to openly discuss the nonfiction articles we read and they will use these discussions to help them better understand and debrief their argument, rhetorical analysis, and synthesis writings.  We will also weave in and employ the high level of literary vocabulary into these discussions that students will need in order to be successful on the AP exam at the end of the year.


That's it for now!  I will write back in September to discuss the past three posts in action and let everyone know how my lines are going and how my students are doing.  Enjoy your end of summer!

Teacher's Attitude by: TQ Williamson

The start of the school year can be a stressful time for some, and the best part of the year for others. Personally, I try to always go into it being optimistic and hopeful for what's to come. The first day of the school year is an important time for me and many students. No matter what attitude students bring with them to the classroom on the first day of school, the teachers attitude is what will effect the rapport and environment of the classroom for a large chunk of the beginning of the school year. People always say how important first impressions are and it's true. Students will most likely enter the class with an idea of the type of teacher they have based off of what past students have told them.
This means that before a student even hears a teachers voice, they already have thoughts about the teacher. Negative or not, these ideas about who their teacher is can be swayed with a simple introduction. If I walk into a class and the teacher starts talking about getting to work right away and how much homework we are going to have throughout the year, I am immediately discouraged. On the other hand, if my teacher starts class with a smile and gives off a positive vibe than i am excited for what's to come.
A great way to start off the year is icebreakers. Lots and lots of ice breakers, and the craziest ones you can find. Going around in a circle and saying names and favorite color is far better than nothing at all, but multiple games that involve throwing my shoes across the room and pterodactyl screeching in front of a peer I've never met before, make the class much more interesting to me. The goal of icebreakers is not only to share your name and learn others, but to “break” the “ice” and even embarrass yourself a bit. The teachers can also involve themselves in the ice breakers to possibly increase their rapport with their students.
The teacher’s attitude is what sets the mood for the rest of the year. Not only on the first day, but every single day after it. My mood will change no matter what type of day I'm having based on my teachers mood, or their mood in past classes. A positive teacher leads to positive, ready to learn students.

Friendships by: Aaron Eichenlaub

As the school year starts, setting up new friendships is very important. Most of the friendships that form at the beginning of the school year last until summer, or longer. Unfortunately, some kids are very shy and don’t like getting out there. For me, personally I find it easier to connect with new people when there is an activity or challenge for us to complete. If the teacher just talks the whole time, there’s no chance for the students to connect.


On the first day of school, the class should mainly be about the students, and making new friendships. Have the students split into groups of 4 to 5 with people they don’t know. Then bring in some board games they can play. This can be just what the students need to have fun and make new friends. During these games good conversations can start, and students can actually get to know each other.

Whereas, when everyone stands up and states their name we don’t know anything about each other.

It is also important to establish the classroom as a fun place at the start of the year. This can really affect the student’s views of this specific class. First impressions are important, and a student doesn’t want to start off the year in a dry and boring class. The start of the school year is very important in building bonds that could last throughout the whole year.

Relationships by: Connor Grady

Another year.  Some of us are readily awaiting it.  Others are dreading it. Despite having been at my school for a whole year now, there are still plenty of students in my grade with whom I’ve never so much as exchanged a glance.  As for teachers, each new class is almost certain to introduce new people to act as my mentors for the rest of the year. This is likely the same for many other students across America this August.  Our relationship with these people, whether we like it or not, is going to shape our educational experience throughout the course of the 2018-19 school year.
It can be difficult, and admittedly daunting, to go out and seek relationships with people you don’t know.  Especially in high school. To start of this year, capitalizing on my retrospect of last year’s successes and shortcomings, I want to revise my previous suggestions regarding the first days of school.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that students naturally expect teachers to be distant.  Commonly, this distance comes in the form of a lack of interest (or ability) to get to know all of their students personally.  However, the lesser known twin of this distance, overzealousness, can be just as damaging to a teacher’s rapport with their students.  I’m sure that many of the teachers reading this post are genuinely interested in making their classroom environment the best place to learn.  If this is the case, the question must be asked; why are ice-breakers the standard for building relationships? Ice-breakers are the epitome of this distant/overzealous disconnect between students and staff.  If the activity clearly displays that the teacher’s objective is to gain the compliance of their students in class, then the ice-breaker fails. Similarly, if the teacher seems too excited (or even falsely so) then the activity can feel invasive and ingenuine.  To make the best use of your class time, the genuine interest of the teacher must be to better know their students. They want to feel that the teacher respects them as individual and intelligent people, rather than opinionless vessels of learning.

These first days of school, and the relationships founded in them, are the most important days of the year.  Teachers must initiate the respect that they hope to gain from their students throughout the academic year.

Life Skills by: Christian Sporre

Once again summer has flown by and it is time to go back to school. Summer has always been a blink and you miss it event, but this one seemed like it was over before I blinked. I did a ton of running this summer. Summer training for cross country is one of my favorite things. I don’t have to worry about anything else, just running. I spent six days in the rolling hills and mountains of West Virginia, running and learning how to become a better athlete. I also did another camp, which was twice a week until cross country season starts. I am super excited to see where my team and I go during this season. 

As much as I love summer, I am not incredibly sad to see it go. I am actually kind of excited to start the new school year, despite all the comments I have heard about junior year being the most difficult. I know colleges primarily look at your performance in junior year, and that is why I am determined to be on top of my work. In order to do that, I need to learn new time management and study skills. I think these two things should be introduced and taught on the first day of school.

If these are introduced early on in the school year, students can build on these skills as time goes on. I have built solid skills in these two areas, but nothing is ever perfect. Cross Country and track has forced me to explore new ways to manage my time, and study more effectively. For example, last year I did the majority of my homework in the morning, at school. This was combining both time management, and study skills. I decided to do my work in the morning because after practice I was never focused on my work, which means I could not study effectively. I solved this problem by managing my time, making sure I had enough to get my work done in the morning. I could of completed my homework at my house, but I find it hard to concentrate there.

When I am at school I know it is time to work, so I like to get as much as my work done there as possible. I consider where you chose to study to be a study skill, it always has a big impact on concentration. I am taking AP courses for the first time this year. I am trying to prepare myself for the workload these classes will bring. Social skills should also be focused on along with time management and study skills during the beginning of the year. These are other skills that provide a good base students can build upon.

You can introduce social skills with an ice breaker. This will get your students to talk and connect with one another. After this, students can collaborate and share ideas. Students are never ready for school after a 3 month break, that's why it is important to ease them back into the schooling environment. Going over these skills is a great way to get students back into the flow of things. These are just a few tips to help students in the long run and help them get acclimated to school life again. I am excited to tackle this challenging year and see what I can do

Summer by: Joseph O'Such

Ah summer, the pinnacle of student laziness and binge watching the entire Office series twice in a week. Summer is a time of relaxation and stress free. As some people know, the original purpose of an extensive summer break was for the children to head back to their homes and help the summer harvest. This was clearly when most people did indeed farm, something that has changed a lot to this day.

Although summer does clearly hold this calm lazy mindset, by the time high school rolls around, I felt that path of thought increasingly harder to belief. Not only are high school students sometimes bombarded with summer assignments, but also often feel obliged to prepare for college, whether it be via working a job to save up some money, vying to win scholarships, PSAT/SAT prep, summer classes to cram in the ever growing number of AP and other college level classes, the list goes on and on.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of time to do other wants (for myself at least). Even then, the peskiest thing about summer duties isn’t the working a job, scholarships or even the PSAT/SAT prep classes. It is the summer assignments that proves most annoying. Although in many of my classes, I received no or applicable summer assignments. In my science classes, the past few years we have had to read a singular book, about different topics. One book was about globally impacting substances that changed the world forever, tying together history through a more scientific lens, and was truly an enjoyable and interesting book. 

This was in my mind an example of a good summer assignment. But then were the packets, and whenever you thought you were done, it just kept on going. And the fact that these packets that were supposed to “refresh” our knowledge just inclined us to continuously google until the answer was found, and this would all be done likely the night before that dreaded first day, if it was done at all. That’s not to mention that fact that many students particularly in high school already participate in a variety of different academic activities, which in my mind actually refreshes my memories far better compared to any summer packet.

The point is that the best way to preserve learning throughout the summer is to give minimal enjoyable work and encourage different summer camps and jobs/internships, offering some personal examples, because getting some real world experience and prep early can greatly benefit students later on in college, so that they can pull money and skill learned from those jobs and camps. I’m not sure how many people can feel even a remotely similar thing from camps.

Monday, August 13, 2018

UNCOMMON LEARNING & GROWTH MINDSET by: Jason Augustowski

Hello again!  Since my last blog, our incredible students at Belmont Ridge Middle School successfully put on 13, The Musical.  A hilarious coming of age piece about growing pains in middle school (originally starring Ariana Grande on the West End). We were also able to attend a musical awards night hosted by the incomparable NYA (National Youth Arts) and Rob Hopper to graciously accept our awards for last year's shows: Grease, Crybaby, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  The students who won offered eloquent and thoughtful acceptance speeches and the pride in the eye of the kids and their parents encompassed exactly why we as educators do what they do.  They have found their people and are doing what they love.  What could be better?

Continuing on with my takeaways from summer reading, today I will share with you my thoughts on the professional texts: UNCOMMON LEARNING by: Eric C. Sheninger (and published by Corwin) and THE GROWTH MINDSET COACH by: Annie Brock & Heather Hundley (and published by Ulysses Press).  I have no idea why I just introduced these books in this order because I am going to speak about them in reverse.  Summer brain!  Here we go!

THE GROWTH MINDSET COACH

1.  Defines and encourages a growth mindset.  Also defines a fixed mindset and discusses how easy it is to fall into this line of thinking and why it can be so counterproductive.
2.  Discusses the importance of sharing the idea of growth mindset with your students' parents so they can help perpetuate that mindset at home as well.
3.  Encouraged brain breaks in class to re-energize students' neurons.  Use these breaks to continue developing rapport with students.
4.  Suggested being transparent with kids about your pedagogy and teaching them metacognition so that they can think about their own line of thinking and share that with others.
5.  Used the image of three kids looking over a fence at a baseball game to explain the difference between equality and equity.  Look it up - it is such a classic.
6.  Advocates that ALL students can learn and grow.  We as teachers should hold high expectations, nurture our students at all levels, differentiate, and praise kids for HARD WORK (not for intelligence).  This also improves equity.  Everyone can work hard and hard work is a life skill that makes one successful later in life.  This also allows students to move away from trying to maintain an aura of "smartness."
7.  We should teach students GRIT.  They need to know how to bounce back from setbacks.  They will not always win.  Students should create a routine for when they fail: highlight the positives, analyze how to fix, and how to engage others in problem-solving.
8.  They offer a comparative between video games and teaching and how students find video games fun and engaging because they are so well scaffolded and they increase in rigor as a student develops their skills.  This is exactly what the English classroom should look like too. (Including players "leveling up" or earning badges for acquired skills (mastery).
9.  Grades should not be about FAILING.  They should be about growth mindset so students can get valuable data and continually improve.
10.  Finally, practice what you preach: if you expect students to have a growth mindset, you better have one too.  (Including areas where you are the student: faculty meetings, professional developments, etc).

My takeaways:  I plan on using this mindset in my Creative Writing and Public Speaking electives this year.  These classes are typically areas where students believe themselves to be fundamentally weak.  Very few students identify as a powerhouse writer or speaker and they often speak with fixed mindsets.  I believe teaching them how to think in and utilize a growth mindset (including all of the aspects mentioned above) will set them up for great success and exponential rewards (in writing, speaking, and life).

UNCOMMON LEARNING

1.  Create environments that foster student autonomy and choice.  The classroom is for students not for teachers.
2.  Model any new initiative.  Don't boss impersonally from afar.  If you integrate technology - work with it yourself and show the students your thinking and where you struggle.
3.  Social media follows a lot of the same narrative as an English classroom.  Utilize this and support it with time-tested and sound pedagogy (like teaching rhetorical devices in APLang) to engage kids.
4.  Create maker-spaces in your classroom and encourage genius hours and student designed/led inquiry projects.
5.  Get on Twitter and establish a PLN!  :-)  (Follow me @misteramistera)

My takeaways:  I plan on using much of these themes in my sophomore English classes this year (paired with leadership activities that worked last year) to not only improve my students' skills in their social interactions and oral presentations but also to engage them in their reading and writing of British literature.

Stop back tomorrow as I review my final two for the summer!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

SUMMER UPDATES, EMPOWER & DITCH THAT HOMEWORK by: Jason Augustowski

It may have been a few months since my last blog post, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been thinking: school...school...school!!  The summer months have been busy so far and a lot of what I have been up to has involved planning for my awesome upcoming teaching line for the '18-'19 school year.  I am changing everything up (instruction/assessment-wise) in some really big ways and a couple big ideas have been inspired by the two texts mentioned in the title.  In this entry, I will get you caught up on summer fun and discuss at length both of the texts and why I find them important.

SUMMER FUN!

Since school let out on Wednesday 6/13 and our seniors graduated on Friday 6/15 I have been going nonstop.  The summer began with a bang down at Carowinds and Busch Gardens to ride some awesome rollercoasters with friends and proceeded directly into my CollegeBoard APLang training. 

Yes, I am teaching APLang next year - two sections - and I cannot wait!  The class was jam-packed with amazing ideas and resources.  It was wonderful getting to work with passionate educators and collaborate regarding the best ways to engage students in the content and give them voice and choice in the process.  My APLang ideas will be discussed at length in my September post (yes I have all my blogs planned through to the end of the year).  But like I said, the training was fantastic!

Moving right along, I got to spend a weekend visiting with my Grandmother - we went to the mall, movies, dinner, church, and spent a lot of time catching up.  And once I returned from that... the first of my two summer stock musicals began.  We rehearsed Act 1 of The Wedding Singer with 39 amazing high school students who helped me and my vocal director start our very own production company.  The kids couldn't have been more incredible as they completely embraced and exceeded expectations on our mission.  Our goal was to bring quality full-length community theatre to high school students where ALL behind-the-scenes production work was run by the students.  Aside from the finances and direction, the kids were in charge: costumes, props, sets, advertising, graphic design, hair, make-up, was all accomplished masterfully by these gifted students.  We could not be more thrilled (nor can we be for next summer: license pending: Sweeney Todd)!

From there I was off to New Jersey and Charleston South Carolina (the longest drive of my life) to visit my brother and his fiance (the last time I will see them before I attend their Wedding in October).  We took a ghost tour, enjoyed the beach, ate crabs, went to the movies, played nostalgic video games of our childhood, and did a lot of catching up.  From there it was up to Virginia Beach for more paintball (but our D4 tournament team has not been doing too hot this season)...

Then it was back to Wedding Singer (Act 2 rehearsals) and a week of dress rehearsals and shows - all super well received by our incredible audiences.  We really were blessed with such a successful first production.  I couldn't be more thankful.  And just as we closed one, we opened the next.  13: The Musical began last week with my middle schoolers and we have since completed Act 1.  Can't wait to begin Act 2 with all of them tomorrow.  They are so talented and always put their heart and soul into the performances.  The adult direction and production teams are extremely proud of their progress!

And now we have arrived in the present.  Intermixed with all of that daytime fun, the #bowtieboys have been busy.  We have completed our manuscript to "The Bowtie Book" a textbook researched and written from the student perspective to discuss what kids are looking for in their middle and high school English (and beyond) instruction.  We are looking forward to sharing it with some close teaching friends in the upcoming weeks.  Stay tuned for future updates!  And aside from all of that fun, I have been reading, reading, reading.  In August I have back to back mid-month posts coming regarding the other texts, but for today let's focus on the first two I read back in June.  These offered the perfect mindset for me to begin my summer of learning.  Hope I can adequately capture the highlights for you!

EMPOWER by: John Spencer & A.J. Juliani (MPress)

Here are some nuggets that I loved:

1.  Students need to be given room to engage in the learning process and experience authentic successes and failures.
2.  How to offer choice and empower students:
 - allow students to decide the destination
 - allow students to ask the questions (whether individually or in groups)
 - allow students to set the pace (they submit work when complete)
 - allow students to select the materials: the books they read, the media they use, etc.
 - allow students to select their learning targets (whether state standards or not).
(We need innovators and self-starters in this world)!
3.  What the teacher must do and what the student must do...
TEACHER:  inspire, give time, give tools, encourage risk-taking, model the thinking process, affirm students, help kids find a community of their "people."
STUDENT:  set goals and chart progress, break down tasks and set guidelines, problem solve and think flexibly, choose strategies that work to accomplish goals.
4.  Assessment must also empower students and it must mirror real life.  (Kids are natural consumers and once they have consumed they should be inspired and empowered to create.  Aka: assessment).  Some examples are:  self-reflections, student surveys, student generated rubrics, timeline checklists, and peer assessments.
5.  Peer to peer feedback is also important.  Some ideas are:  10 minute feedback (SharkTank), sentence starters, 3-2-1 structure, one on one conferencing with a specific look at: advice, reflection, and mastery.

My takeaways:  I cannot wait to have "genius hours" and "wonder weeks" with my freshmen and sophomores this year.  I am also excited for them to create their own "nerd-out blogs" reflecting their individual passions.  Kids' reading and reading purpose will impact their writing and writing purpose which will in turn impact their presenting and presenting style (and purpose).  ELA is all about skills!

DITCH THAT HOMEWORK by: Matt Miller and Alice Keeler (Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.)

And more love to share:

1.  Homework stresses kids out.  We spend so much time policing it too (knowing full well that students copy off their friends in lunch and study hall - but we still spend half of our class periods determining who did and who did not do the work and then going over the correct answers).  We can only control what happens in our classrooms.
2.  Textbooks are just a tool (and there are many OTHER tools).
3.  Lecture is passive learning.  Students need to be actively engaged above and beyond taking notes to regurgitate on later assessments.  Let's get on up Bloom's Taxonomy!  Kids need to be up and doing!
4.  Building rapport (with students and parents) is paramount - it will solve all your classroom management issues (THANK YOU!  PREACH)!
5.  When marking student work be sure to focus only on what you are specifically teaching (the skills you want students to master).  A page full of red ink can be extremely overwhelming and make students feel like failures.  Failing is fine - that builds resilience and stamina - it is temporary.  Failure sounds like it is forever.  Permanent.  The End.

My takeaways:  I have long ago ditched textbooks as the only tool, lecture, and red pens.  I build strong rapport with kids and their parents.  But I still assign a decent amount of homework (albeit long-term projects) - this year, those are gone.  We're getting our learning accomplished in class!

That's all for now!  Hope these pinpoints and takeaways are helpful to you and you think about your own classes for the upcoming year.  And beyond that, I hope you have been having the awesome, action-packed, fun-filled summer I have had as well.  So great to do what you love and recharge the batteries!  See you all in August!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Relationships by: Jason Nguyen

The first day of school is so important. It establishes the feeling of what your teacher and classmates are like. My first day this year was beyond boring until my third block.  My teacher immediately told us we could have free seating.  She also seemed light-hearted and fun and greeted us in a meaningful way.  Then she let us socialize and make bonds with each other.  She also didn’t just tell us the course syllabus and required materials.  She would tell jokes in between and stories of her life.

This year we had such respect and trust with our teacher.  She would put students together who would never usually hang out.  I made new friends and learned more about them.  She also sometimes let us pick our partners.  She also made learning fun, creative, and memorable.  She told us why people in the real world would do these things.  It wasn’t memorize and regurgitate. She showed us real life application.  She didn’t just follow the curriculum but rather let us choose topics that we were interested in and wove in the curriculum with the projects we were doing.  With all of this she still tried to be a person whom we could talk to.  The “troublemakers” in this class would be more respectful in this class and have better grades than in any of their other classes.  This proved to me that building relationships with peers and teachers can be so meaningful and worthwhile.  I implore all teachers to take the first step from the very first day of school.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

End of the Year Assessments by: Christian Sporre


As the school year winds down, the usual bombardment of end of the year projects and test slam all students across the nation. I now have a lot of time on my hands to get all of these things done since my track season has just ended. It is a huge change to go from working out for two hours and getting home late, to not having anything to do but school work. I find that even with the extra amount of time I have, it is even harder to get things done. When I come home now I have several hours to get all of my work done, so naturally I will procrastinate. This is leading to a big problem given the fact that I have twice as many things to work on. My stress levels are through the roof because of the insane amount of things that are due in the next two weeks. In fact, after I am done with this bowtieboys meeting, I will have to go home and study for my history SOL, which is tomorrow. On that same day I will have a spanish quiz, and I will have to turn in my results paragraph for my biology project which I am doing alone. The next day I will have my biology SOL so I will have to find time to study for that as well. The thought of just walking out of school on the last day has single handedly drove me to work my hardest. Junior year will definitely be the hardest year of all from what I have heard. I have no doubt about that. I have not taken an AP course yet but I will be taking two next year. On top of that, The rest of my classes will be at honors level with the exception of one elective. I think it is really important for me and all students to prepare for the next year during the summer so we are ready to be hit with tons of work at the beginning of the school year. I have been thinking of a good and effective way of doing this. I need to keep my brain academically active, while still not throwing away my summer. I spend most of my summer with my friends, so I think that is a good way to prepare for the next school year, while still having fun and chilling out. One of my friends has offered to help me prepare for my AP US history class with small review sessions with other friends. It will not be the most fun during these sessions but I know that it will make my transition from summer to school ten times easier. When I think back to the beginning of the school year, I remember my transition being anything but smooth. On the first day I was already given material to study, due dates, upcoming projects. I think teacher should  try their best to do what they can to ease their students transitions. Instead of grades right off the bat, it would be good to do some light review mixed in with fun activities. As the days go on, keep increasing the amount of things you are learning until eventually you are in a traditional class. This would help students slowly gain their school work mindset back, leading to good work in the classroom. It is a good idea to suggest the summer review with friends to your class. I can guarantee that it will help all students who try it out. I am nervous yet excited for this upcoming year. It may be my hardest year, but I will be prepared and ready to take on the new challenges I am faced with.

Thoroughly Structured Class by: Spencer Hill


Looking at my schedule at the beginning of the year scared me. I made a lot of decisions that I wasn’t sure about and was anxious coming into my sophomore year. In the end, I managed to adapt to my classes and do well, but some were a rough transition for me. Some of the classes I thought would be the hardest going in turned out to be very manageable thanks to very strong teaching and structure, while others made it very hard for me to learn. Subjects like science and math, which have been challenging for me throughout my education, turned out to be some of my favorite classes.
            I’ve spoken on the topic of my chemistry class before, but it really has been a wonderful class for me. Although the content was probably the most challenging I’ve ever had to learn, it was packaged in a way that made it very reasonable for me to understand. The first quarter was very challenging for me, as I missed multiple tests and all around didn’t understand the content. When I realized that this wasn’t going to come to me naturally and buckled down to focus, I saw how supportive the class was. Not just the teacher, but my classmates as well. The teacher created a casual environment where students felt comfortable sharing and helping each other out. The teacher was also very helpful, walking around the room, explaining whatever they could. They achieved this by going above and beyond to create a fostering environment from day one. When we all walked in, the teacher was gushing enthusiasm and was self-confident. They joked around and talked about their interests. This helped us see them as an actual person rather than a robotic teacher whose sole purpose was for us to pass some test. The other major component to a friendly environment was the desks. On the first day, the desks were arranged in one big cluster for a large group dynamic. This started a very close-knit class that is comfortable with one another. We have a class group chat that we talk in for fun.
            Since 7th grade, Spanish has been a strong class of mine. The way it was taught over the three years I took it was very strict. It worked very well for me. Spanish is a very literal class, so it felt right that it was taught without too much freedom. When you can’t use the language or resources, having the freedom to explore wouldn’t be that helpful. My sophomore year of Spanish was the opposite. The teacher believed that we had mastered all of the basics at that point and thrust us into reading articles and current events that we weren’t ready for. It didn’t help that some of the class was immature and not ready to work on their own with English. It ended up as chaotic environment where our teacher just reviewed the previous year’s content. We had too much freedom and we often came short on assignments.
            I discovered that the best method of teaching for me is a thoroughly structured class with lots of time for face to face learning. I also value strong communication and group work. With this knowledge, I can make sense of my schedule next year and set my priorities.

Stress and Breaks by: Joe O'Such


April and May seemed to fly this year, and before I knew it, I’m sitting here with only 12 days remaining. Although these 12 days are filled with end of year festivities, there are regardless a multitude of stressors. Although mainly academic, spring sports also are a source of stress, sometimes directly other times indirectly. Sports can directly cause stress, as the preparation to the post season event are important and athletes have to do well to see their team succeed. There are practices that the athlete must attend, and even these are incredibly important and stressful. But all this takes time away from academics, which indirectly causes stress. Student athletes have less time to do work, which is a major stressor. Oddly enough for me, this stress often plays to my advantage. When I have to get work done, and I have just enough time, my work ethic skyrockets. In a sense, I will do better with a task when I have just one day, compared to a week to do it, if it can physically be done. A similar phenomenon is during shortages of food. People for the most part tend to share more when resources run low. The same will happen with my time. Some students can’t do this, and for them, the more time the better, but that time is taken away from sports.

This isn’t near the end though. This lack of time from sports is amplified by the fact that the end of year brings standardized test (In Virginia they are SOLs), finals, and AP tests. Of these, SOLs barely stress be out and demand little time while AP tests are major stressors and take a lot of time. Finals fall somewhere in the middle for me. SOLs are relatively easy, and most kids in my school pass with ease. I have not in fact studied for an SOL for two years, and I am one of many who feel this way. None the less, the fear of failing an SOL is in the back of everyone’s brain, which does stress me out sometimes. Finals are the next step up, but even finals vary significantly to me. They often require understanding of the subject on a much higher plane, but they also aren’t entirely composed of the multiple choice and technology enhanced questions of the SOL, which are easy. These finals may have short answer questions, essays, long multistep problems with multiply attack angles, and difficult multiple choice. Although it seems odd that multiple choice could be hard, AP World History this year showed me just how bad it could be. Several AP World multiple choice questions are set up where all the answers are correct, it just asks for the one that is most applicable in the situation, or which one is the most correct. This is sometimes chaotic. It’s not like how in math a number can be represented multiple different ways and there is a clear “simplest form”. It is rigorous to judge the magnitude of a historical happening. Although these sorts of questions do appear on AP tests, our history class answered these styled questions throughout the year, including the final. But the released AP test questions are worse. Forget the fact that the questions are hard, but doing it in a timed setting in a test that determines if that class counts toward college credit is awful. Now due to the College Board rules, I am not at liberty to discuss the entirety of this year’s test, but I can tell you this; Writing 5 essays and answering 55 multiple choice questions in under four hours is hard, yet somehow manageable. These tests require so much preparation in part due to the essays. An essay could ask about the Anglo-Dutch wars, and you could not even know which countries even fought in that war (by the way, it was the English and the Dutch).  This year I only took AP World, which has the history of the entire world as its curriculum, starting from the big bang, all the way up to whenever the College Board sat down and wrote the curriculum.

All these stressors are why students need breaks. Classes shouldn’t be teaching things last minute, but should be preparing for the incoming doom of all the tests. But after all the pain and suffering, there is summer, which in a mere 16 days, I will enthrall myself into.


Huntington, West Virginia by: Sam Fremin


Over the last year, I have been participating in my theatre department’s coffeehouses (basically open mics). After spending the earlier part of the year performing Shakespeare parody raps and short adapted scenes, one of my best friends and I found our coffeehouse niche a couple months ago. With no explanation, we signed up for the January performance under the ambiguous title, “Huntington, West Virginia.” The MC confusedly introduced us and my friend and I took the stage. Our audience wasn’t sure what to expect. While setting up our minimal (but necessary) set pieces, I heard rumbling predictions of an improvised scene, a spoken word poem, another rap, and all sorts of other wrong guesses. The lights dimmed and the crowd was introduced to our cast of characters.
Chester, Dr. Fancy, Monster, and Pinky (pictured respectively), the sock puppet quartet, made their coffeehouse debut in a ten minute reenactment of a story about the consequences of stealing.

Unsurprisingly, this unexpected concept was met with mixed reactions from the department. Some thought it was funny and enjoyed the performance, while others were not as impressed. Regardless of whether it was positive or negative, me, my friend, and our sock puppets received feedback from everyone in the audience when the coffeehouse ended. Everyone had thoughts about our performance and we were more than happy to hear both sides.

By the time the February coffeehouse came around, my friend and I knew we couldn’t just forget about “Huntington, West Virginia.” We enjoyed it too much to throw the idea away this early. Besides, some people had fun watching, even if that was not a universal opinion. My co-puppeteer and I held a planning meeting to discuss how we would proceed. Should we continue on the path we had set ourselves on in January? Or should we completely revamp our formula to try to satisfy the other part of the crowd? The decision seemed fairly obvious.

When the MC took the stage in February and introduced “Huntington, West Virginia,” we could not control the grins on our faces. We were so excited to continue. Our short story this time was only five minutes (half the run time of the initial episode) and circled around Chester’s search for a dog. At the end of the show we were met with more positivity than we had at the end of our January performance. Instead of caving in and scrapping our idea, my friend and I pressed forward with “Huntington, West Virginia.” Of course, we had to make some concessions so our puppets didn’t get booed offstage or something, so we made attempts to address the feedback. Some had said ten minutes was way too long to be forced to sit through a squeaky voiced puppet show, so we cut out any lines we found unnecessary. Some said our plot was too random, so we made the story more focused. Some said our humor only circled one style, so we diversified the jokes we were telling. Now, “Huntington, West Virginia” has had new life breathed into it and in a couple of weeks we will be wrapping up the series at the final coffeehouse of the year.

Although this whole experience dealt with a puppet show, it was a demonstration of the importance of the editing process. The open dialogue my friend and I had with our audience informally after every show helped us fix what wasn’t working in our product. Keeping similar open dialogues available in classrooms are super important for classroom growth.

If the only time a student is getting feedback on their work is after it is turned in, valuable learning opportunities are lost. Often times when I receive essays back from my teachers, I will see quick one word reactions to my work. I can interpret those criticisms to mean what I think they mean, but the responsibility seems to fall on me. I’m not the only one who feels this way too. Nondescript feedback on student work isn’t always helpful. It would be much more beneficial to discuss criticism verbally. That way, there is no reason for someone to be confused. Teachers can lay out exactly what they mean and students can ask for clarification on whatever they need. It is also important to allow students to preserve the voice of their writing. Even though there are inevitably criticisms student writers need to take into account, the overarching idea of their piece should remain intact. It provides a more authentic end product and it’s honestly just more enjoyable for the writer involved. Again, that’s why it is important to talk through the editing process face to face. Not everything is correctly conveyed through writing, from the student and teacher perspective. Students can talk through what they meant by their writing, giving teachers more understanding of how to help and teachers can talk through their edits, giving students more understanding of how they can grow.

Final Projects by: Jack Michael


At the end of every school year there is always an insane amount of projects that are handed to students at the same time. In almost every class a student is handed an end of the year project or an extremely large test to tackle. At the end of the year students are not usually in the mood for completing anything let alone five to ten projects. In this blog I would like to address the problems of final projects or tests and how you can relieve stress of students while having them complete the work you would like them to get done.

The first reason students find final projects to be stressful are their ability to significantly lower or raise your grade.  Most of the time these projects will count for 50-200 points. If these assignments are failed, they can significantly lower student’s grade. This coupled with the fact that most of these assignments are given at the end of the year, means that their final grade could be severely affected. They stress and slave over these projects making them their very best work. Often working into the late hours of the night.  A partial reason for student’s late hours at the end of the year is that other projects or assessments of the same caliber are due near the same date.

The second reason student find end of the year projects and assessments helpful is that they are assigned a multitude of these in the same period of time.  Students will receive one or two projects from each class they are enrolled into. The multitude of projects requires students to prioritize their classes into which grade needs the most bump. Most students will not procrastinate on any of their projects, they will be working on so many other project that they will just finish one right on top of the due date. Causing them to lose valuable points on these assignments and on their grade. 

            For teachers the way to reduce stress is to spread out these projects throughout the quarter or semester. This way student can have ample time to finalize the assignment and raise their grade if the assignment is done poorly. This also allows students to eliminate prioritizing; they can finish your assignment without having to worry about completing four others that night. Giving students piece of mind that they are able to complete their assignments without worrying about their grade tanking. This allows them to relax at the end of the year and enjoy their final moments at any grade. 

End of Junior Year by: Kellen Pluntke


My junior year is over.  I don’t know how it happened, exactly what happened, or how I got through it, but apparently I did.  With all the issues I have run into in, but especially off school grounds.  It has been a very rough year for me personally, as well as for some of my friends.  I have talked about how some of my friends ended up in mental hospitals in the fall, and how I kind of fell into a dark hole and stopped trying in school.  This, and some issues with the law and school because of being with the wrong people at the wrong time diverted all my attention away from my books.  I had a C average for the first semester, which didn’t even bother me at the time because of everything else, but I am normally an A- kind of kid.  I was lucky enough to have a great connection with some of my teachers and administrators, so I got through that period of this year.   These teachers were able to help me because through me telling them, they knew what “kind of kid” I was, and they were able to help me out accordingly.
           
            However, I did not tell all my teachers what was going on in classes that my grade didn’t drop in.  I did this as sort of a mini experiment to see what they would think when at the end of the year, I was planning on sitting down with a few of them and telling them and asking if they knew this information earlier, how would it effect how they treated me in class.  Before I could even start these conversations I was planning to have, one of my teachers who I love, but had not told yet asked our class “What group do you fit into in this school?” and set up a discussion.  So, I really told them.  I told her how I’m not part of the group of star students, but quite the opposite.  My teacher was pretty shocked, and asked to speak with me after class.  This teacher told me that if she knew that I was one of those kids that had all this stuff going on, she wouldn’t have pushed me as hard.  So this is the message I give to teachers.  Please do not look over the kids in the back of the class who are the “troubled students” because none of that means anything.  Every student should be held to the same standard and treated like every other student in the class no matter how they appear to look, or talk or anything like that.  All kids have the ability to succeed in class, and should be encouraged to participate.  Keep students backgrounds and personal information they tell you in mind when helping out with their work and such, but don’t let it lower your standards for them.

Attention by: Rishi Singh


Attention is key when teaching students. There will be times when the teacher has no control over the students. To gather the student’s attention, you have to be loud and confident about the topic. You have to be the leader in the classroom. Gathering the attention of the students is a very difficult thing to do. You need to create a safer environment for the student in order for them to learn better. Try to have the students physically active when teaching. Taking notes as you talk. Take a break from fill in notes and try have the students write everything you say down. This will also get them ready for their future. In college, there are no fill in notes. The student has to create his own from what he has learned in the class. This requires the student to actively listen to the teacher but also taking notes at the same time.
            I had a class where the teacher had nothing but simple posters to make the class better. This class was my last block of the day, I am usually never tired at the end of the day, but this class just gave me the feeling of falling asleep right where I was sitting. I found this as a huge problem when I actually fell asleep in class and forgot to fill in my notes. Later I asked my mom if she had a way to pay attention. She had a very simple way to stay awake in class, which really helped me later on in that class. Her solution was to scribble random things on your paper to keep your mind and blood flowing.
            Attention in the classroom is a hard thing to control in the classroom. Teachers need to master the ability of gathering the student’s attention in order to be successful in the classroom.
           

In School Restriction by: Dawson Unger


I am not a perfect kid, and I know that.  Everybody breaks the rules sometimes; it just depends on whether or not you get caught.  Recently I broke school rule and I was baffled by the way our school handled it and how all of the administrators have different feelings towards punishment (in school) and how it is handled.  Some admin vouched I was the best kid they had ever seen in ISR (in school restriction) while others shunned and yelled at me even when I was as compliant as possible. 

So as soon as I got in trouble, I was met by a screaming PE teacher, and he didn’t leave my side without yelling his heart out for about 45 minutes.  So at that point I was less upset with myself and just angry at him, because I told him everything and gave him respect but he still felt the need to treat me like trash and that anything I say is a lie.  That was the very first thing that really ticked me off and just made me want to really start something with him, but I was able to convince myself to calm down even with him yelling in my face because I said “bless you” after someone sneezed.  It amazes me that a teacher is even allowed to treat students that way and still have a job.  He made me feel like I shouldn’t be in a school but a dog pound.  After this whole time with him screaming at me, I have lost all respect for him, and I don’t respect many.  But he really just wanted to feel on top and in power, and I guess that is how he best expresses it in his mind, with ringing ears and by wasting his own breath.  That pretty much concluded my whole time after I got in trouble, and it only got better.

The next day I came in and talked to the admin for a bit, and all of them were being very friendly and were genuinely curious on what I did after claiming I was too nice to be in ISR.  The admin really just kept me happy during my little 2 days of ISR but the respect they talked to me with and enthusiasm made me so much happier.  The actual ISR “teacher” was the nicest and most caring woman ever, she agreed with me that ISR doesn’t help anyone and how school discipline and punishment is broken.  All it does is get people behind on work and insures everyone drops at least 5% in each of their core classes. 

I just think everyone should be much more like the admin versus the pe teacher.  I’m not going to learn a lesson by somebody screaming in my face, but if someone can connect with me and really get on my level then I am much more likely to learn my lesson.  I now think of some of those admin with such high levels of respect, whereas that teacher has none at this point.  Other than a few people, I had a delightful time in ISR as I just sat in a room on a computer and talked to the teacher the whole time. 

End of the Year Musings by: Connor Grady


Well, it’s almost over.  SOL week has done its worst.  The culmination of all the learning done in school is near complete.  Since I will be finishing my SOLs in a few days, I have finished studying for all of my classes.  However, I’ve noticed that some of the content on the study guides exceeds the information I remember learning.  In fact, there are a few classes in which it seems I have to learn a whole topic on my own before taking the test.  I want to give teachers some recommendations for solving timetabling issues that will help them to avoid problems like this in their own classroom.
           
            The first big tip is this: if homework is eating into your class time, consider whether or not it is actually necessary.  If the homework is simply a formative box-checker, then chances are it’s only doing more harm than good. This problem has put my class behind many times over, which has usually led to a spillover of classwork that gets assigned on top of homework.  If homework is hindering your actual class time, where all of the actual learning is done, then teachers are only hurting themselves trying to fit more subject matter into less time.

            The second big tip is this: leave a little wiggle room for issues.  Too many times I have sat through classes where a class rescheduling or teacher health issue have caused drastic delays.  To avoid being thrown off of their teaching plans too much, I recommend that teachers leave about fifteen minutes of extra time at the beginning of each class.  If necessary, the time can be spent covering what was missed. If it is not needed, then the plan for the day can be stretched to fit it. I think this will make catching up to the original plan much quicker.  It should also allow teachers to cover the material more smoothly rather than playing a constant catch up game. Problems will arise in class, but they shouldn’t have the power to cut topics from the curriculum.

            With summer knocking on the door, I encourage everyone to enjoy the warm weather and cool pool water.  Everyone get well rested and relaxed for the next academic year. I’m excited, as I’m sure you are, to see some cool new teaching ideas in the classroom.

Clearing Any Doubts by: Nihar Kandarpa


Analogies are something that has been used in schools for countless years, but many teachers do not know how exactly to use them. Unlike rapport and individualized practices, analogies are very common and recognizable among many people.

Many teachers assume that analogies are only useful when students in class are physically confused, and also ask questions about their confusion. This effectively decreases the amount of analogies used in the classroom, because, although students are confused about a subject, a lot of students are afraid to ask questions. There are students that are naturally shy, and I don’t think that a teacher can do a whole lot to change that aspect of a student. However, if a teacher uses analogies countlessly, even when no students appear confused, then even those shy students’ doubts will be cleared.

This is something that many of my own friends and I have experienced. If we raise our hands and have questions, a lot of times, good teachers will have already answered our questions for us, at which point our hands usually start to weakly descend.

This is because great teachers use analogies. And not only when students are confused. If a teacher feels a topic is hard, then they should make an analogy out of it, even if none of their students appear to be confused.

Of course, many teachers are at a loss for how to make analogies that relate to the students themselves. Analogies are really just simple similes, comparing the topic at hand to an aspect of the outside world. As long as a teacher is knowledgeable to a certain extent, they can make analogies to the outside world, because as soon as a teacher recognizes a similarity between what he/she is teaching and something outside the classroom, they should immediately say it aloud.

Analogies don’t have to be a similarity, either. They can be a difference, as well. Teachers can also relate opposites to each other, providing insight for the students on a whole different level. In this case, opposites are attracting the students. Instead of relating a topic to something similar to it, teachers could relate a topic to something opposite of it in meaning, so that students can grasp an idea of the topic at hand.

Teachers can also get personal with analogies, but this is only when certain students are confused. When the number of students not grasping the topic in a classroom starts to increase, a teacher needs to make their analogies common instead of personal. However, when only a few students are confused, teachers can definitely make personal analogies with the students using previously developed rapport. Of course, rapport needs to be present for these analogies to come across as helpful. How are these types of analogies achieved? Well, for starters, the teacher needs to know what student or students they are talking to. Then, the teacher can make an analogy that he/she knows that the specific student will understand.
For example, my Civics teacher makes analogies constantly. But when only a certain amount of his students is confused, he makes an analogy with them that he knows that they will understand. There was one instance where I was confused as to why Political Parties were always split. He responded by making an analogy to Star Wars. He referred to the Jedi and Sith, the two opposing sides of the franchise. I immediately understood, because he made an analogy that both him and I understood. By using rapport and analogies, he cleared my doubts.

I hope that with this, I have cleared your doubts.