Good teachers read.
If you do not read, then you are not being the best teacher you could be.
Good teachers read.
If you do not read, then you are not being the best teacher you could be.
Oh, my dearly beloved snow day,
How you bring about such glee.
While the children run amuck and play,
You give me a day off that is completely guilt-free.
These are some of the most important lessons I learned over my first year as a teacher. I know, I know. A second year teacher giving first year teachers advice is ironic, to say the least. But I think I can give you some insight into the swirling black hole of feelings, lessons, students, and parents you’re about to delve into.
When the school day ends, I have a million things to do. I need to run by the bank, feed the dogs, pick up groceries, make dinner, hit the gym, grade papers, add finishing touches to the next day’s lessons, clean my house, do a load of laundry, and more. These tasks are critical to my sanity and overall well-being. I can not ignore them or put them off for too long. And there are even some nights when my to-do list consists solely of finding a soft blanket, making hot cocoa, putting on some Game of Thrones, and zoning out for a little while.
I grew up in the library. When I was a kid, my mom would constantly take me to our public library. We would always exit with colorful children’s books spilling out of our arms. As a teen, my mother worked across the street from the library, so I would spend my summer vacations basking in books. I found the quietest spots for reading, the public computers that were almost never taken, and knew the names of the nicest librarians. My first date was at a library hosted chess tournament, my high school friends and I would regularly gather in the library’s cafe, and I began volunteering for the library’s used bookstore at the age of sixteen. The library has always held a special place in my heart. It was my second home.
When my curriculum director asked an auditorium of teachers if anyone was interested in becoming a blended learning teacher, I did not raise my hand. When my coteachers emailed me with the blended learning application link, and expressed interest in our PLC taking the plunge together, I was not excited for the idea. When, at the urging of these same coteachers, I submitted my application to be a blended learning teacher, I was still not convinced of its value.
On Monday December 5th, 2016, I posted this fateful blog entitled “Gamification in the Classroom: Twister, Trashketball, and D&D.” The most memorable marker of this post was the following paraphrased story:
This year my school is collectively reading the book The Growth Mindset Coach by Annie Brock and Heather Hudley for professional development. Many of the ideas presented in this blog post are inspired by this text, which has proven to be a quick and helpful read. A growth mindset is an ideology of learning that explains all people have the ability to get better at anything. With the right attitude, hard work, and persistence, any person can improve a skill.
I love this poem.
I know, I know, I’m an English teacher, I am supposed to love all poems--and yeah, okay, poetry is usually really cool. But this? This is amazing. This is first sip of a Route 44 diet coke, a lesson plan going perfectly with your toughest class, peeling off the plastic cover on your new phone screen amazing.
One of the most important philosophies my high school tries to instill in students is that they need to leave their educational journeys prepared. Students need to have some sort of qualifications or experiences that allow them to proceed into the next facet of their life after high school, wherever they may go. Vocational or trade schools, universities, careers--it really doesn’t matter. After graduation day, students need to be ready and able to dip their toe into whichever field that they choose in order to have the most likelihood of success.
It was a Wednesday afternoon when it happened. The sun was shining brightly, naively unaware of the travesty I was about to witness. I was driving to my mother’s house for a family dinner, a normal occurrence, when it I saw it. It was a sign, rising high above it’s counterparts, decorated with both a bagel and a pizza, bearing the following words: “Pizagel’s Pizza and Bakery.”
My students work hard. They have seven classes that are each chock full of assignments, projects, and essays. They juggle time consuming extracurriculars like band, dance, Scholar’s Bowl, soccer, basketball, and many others on top of doing their darnedest to get what they need to done for school. So, when I assign my kids work to do, I know it needs to be worthwhile. They don’t have time for crosswords or word searches, worksheets that I won’t read, or tests that aren’t accurate to their learning. They’re time is more valuable than that. And frankly--so is mine.
Dear Beginning-of-the-School-Year Ms. Marshbank,
First and foremost, chill out.
When you Google your full name, there is no small element of fear, especially with as easily recognizable name as ‘Marshbank.’ According to a questionably reputable name finder website, it is likely that I am the one and only Andrea Marshbank in the entire United States and, with simple deduction of common American names, we can assume, the world. I am an endangered species, an elusively rare breed, the South China Tiger of unique last names, and due to my singularity Google has no mercy on past internet follies.
Constructive criticism is one of the most difficult parts of self-improvement. While it can be uncomfortable to listen to your coworkers or supervisors evaluate your performance and offer suggestions, it is excruciating (for me at least) to take feedback from students. Even the best intentioned remark can appear uninformed or rude by students who don’t seem to understand the amount of work you dedicate to your career. And yet, we ask students to deal with this phenomena each day in multiplicity. Every passed back assignment, graded essay, or final score an exam is a review of their progress. Grading is, at its very core, the ultimate constructive criticism.
The teacher hiring season is now upon us. Soon-to-be education graduates everywhere are pulling on their black slacks and blazers, putting together a nice folder of card stock printed resumes, and filling out innumerable online applications for their dream teaching position. Interviewing can be a time of excitement. Job fairs are hyped up with a unique brand of college propaganda-magic, and checking your email or voicemail for interested schools is an exciting and highly rewarding gamble. As a first year teacher, I remember this time well. It was exactly at this time last year that I received confirmation of my first teaching job where I currently am.
Writing is work. Pouring your thoughts onto a piece of paper (or a laptop screen) can oftentimes be an excruciating process. Words don’t seem to quite fit, ideas take longer than planned, and semicolons just don’t behave. It’s no secret that writing can oftentimes be hard.
Sometimes, it’s important to remind ourselves that writing can also be fun.
In November, Stanford University published their findings on research conducted on more than 7,000 students of varying ages that strongly suggests adolescents (especially younger ones) struggle to identify credible news sources. Following the wake of a massively heated election, in which fake news sources may have had a significant influence on people’s opinions according to the Washington Post, these Stanford results leave a bad taste in every educator’s mouth--and rightly so. In the new millennia, teenagers are bombarded with social media, television, and headlines everywhere. Now more than ever, it is critical that students learn the skills to be technologically savvy about the information they accept as fact.
This past week, I have come to an astounding revelation that will seem in no way surprising to you, but knocked me clear on my backside: Finals week is stressful. What happened this past week? I’m only now waking from that foggy and nightmarish sleepwalk of frustration and stress. It is an understatement to say I was unprepared for the emotional onslaught of finals week. Despite having graded previous assignments, handing out study guides out with ample time, and administering a Kahoot that was eerily similar to the final, I was not ready for the emotional turmoil of my students. Doing all the teacher-y things I was supposed to did not barricade me from my students’ concerns. During my first ever finals week, I found myself overwhelmed with negative feelings, leading me to grump at my students, loved ones, and (I am horrifically ashamed to admit) my dogs.
Every few years or so, educators around the country find themselves up in arms about an issue that is said to hinder thousands of English classrooms every day: the five-paragraph essay. On these occasions, this writing curriculum staple goes under attack with scathing blog posts and national news articles. Educators of all kinds come out of the woodwork to claim their stance, for or against the demonized essay. We should make t-shirts next time. #Team5ParagraphEssay!