Why Next Time Teaching?

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a staff meeting or a professional development session, hoping for something we can use next time. Monday. Tomorrow. Next period.  

It’s happened to me, although I’m insatiably curious and really passionate about how teachers learn and grow. I think a lot about the teaching life (because let’s be real, it’s not a job). But even so, I’ve sat in pd sessions when I knew I didn’t have lesson plans for the next day and I knew I had stacks of papers to grade, and thought “that’s all well and good, and I would love to talk more about it later, but I need something for next time.”    

At its most frustrating, teaching can feel like an endless string of “next times” with never enough time to prepare or research or grade or think (let alone rest!) in between. And yet somehow we Continue reading

15 Poems to Teach with Homer’s Odyssey

Greek shipOne of the frustrating things about teaching English is how much time we spend looking for what to teach–the timely article, the thought-provoking poem, the text that will make an idea come to life for our students.  But finding them takes time.  And the more time we spend looking for what to teach, the less time we have to think about how to teach. Continue reading

Embrace the Messiness of Teaching

I know very little about music.  A lot of what I do know about music, I’ve learned from students who knew way more than me.  Isn’t it nice when that happens?  But one thing I am really interested in and have thought a lot about is metaphors for teaching and how other careers relate to teaching.  I think we’ve all had the experience of feeling like a stand-up comedian on a really bad night.  (Tap, tap. . . is this thing on?)  Zookeeper comes to mind at times, too.  But I’ve been thinking that conductor might be one of the best metaphors.  Which is funny, because I’m still not sure I understand what a conductor does.  But that’s the point:  good conductors apparently do something (a lot of things) that naive people like me don’t recognize, but which allows the musicians to play their best music.  And I think teaching is a lot like that.  Good teachers are doing an enormous number of subtle things that even they may not realize they’re doing that allow their students to shine and learn.

So what does music have to do with messiness?  Well, the other day I was listening to this episode of the Hidden Brain podcast and they started talking about jazz music and, sure enough, that sounded like teaching to me, too.  Because the topic was messiness and teaching is messy. Continue reading

How to Not Freak Out on the First Day of School

finding focus on the first dayAugust may be a wonderful month.  I’ve heard that in many European countries it means relaxing in a lake cabin with friends.  But as a teacher, August has always meant one thing: freaking out about the start of school.  Freaking out that you haven’t finished all of the summer to-do’s, freaking out that you haven’t thought through all of the connections in the curriculum, and freaking out about the first day itself.  Let’s talk about how not to freak out on the first day. Continue reading

Everything that Could Go Wrong with Your Fishbowl Discussions

And why you should do them anyway

One of the reasons I started Next Time Teaching was to share what I’ve learned–both about what works and what doesn’t–from 19 years of teaching and to try to help other teachers not have to reinvent wheels.  Believe me, I’ve made thousands of mistakes.  Every day, in every lesson.  If I can save you from making any of the same mistakes, I’m happy.  So let’s focus today on problems with fishbowl discussions.  Whether you’ve never heard of them, want to try one, or have done them a bunch of times, hopefully thinking through some of the potential things that can go wrong ahead of time will help your next fishbowls go more smoothly. Continue reading

To-Done Lists for Teachers

To-Done Lists for TeachersI am the queen of the to-do list.  Seriously.  I have at least half a dozen going at all times, from projects for the next ten years to what to get done while my little one naps.  And the list of teacher to-do’s is endless.  But we’ve been talking about making the classroom more positive for students and for us, so I want to talk about transitioning the to-do list to a to-done list.

You’ve probably heard of to-done lists, and there’s more info about them here, here, here, and here. Most productivity people seem to agree that they’re less anxiety-provoking and more accurate than to-do lists.  I want to talk about how they’re especially important for teachers. Continue reading

Positive Self-talk for Teachers

Earlier on the blog, we were talking about the goal of kids hearing 3 positive statements for every negative one.  But let’s be honest here.  If there’s anyone whose negative to positive ratio is off, it’s us.  Teachers.

There’s a considerable list of people we may hear negative comments from. Teenagers (who aren’t exactly known for cheerful enthusiasm), those parents (you know the ones),  administrators, politicians who have no experience with education and even newspapers that seem hell-bent on trashing teachers every chance they get (Hello, Chicago Tribune). Continue reading

How–and Why–I Teach Silently

how I teach silently

image credit: Jason Taellious

“Holy crap!”
“Is she not talking?”
“Can we talk?”
“Whoa, this is going to be really cool!”

These were the reactions of my sophomores when they realized I was participating in the Day of Silence today. Yes, that means I taught for an entire day without speaking. No, I didn’t show any movies.  And it’s not a game of charades. I’ve done this about 6-8 times before, so I know a lot of people are curious about it. Continue reading

How to Create a More Positive Classroom

. . . Even If You’re Not a Cheerleader

not a cheerleader

image credit: Sanderlin

If you’re always super positive and love teaching your kids to shine their halos and kiss their brains, you don’t need this post.  You can share your ideas for class cheers here.

But some of us–myself included–just aren’t natural cheerleaders.  It’s not that I mean to be critical, because I do enjoy being a teacher and a mom and I do like listening to kids.  It’s more that I’m insanely detail-oriented and there are just so many things that need to be corrected. With a 3 year-old, those things include “don’t ride the cat like a pony,” “don’t use the waffle as a stethoscope” and “please take your finger out of my ear.”  Those are non-negotiable, right? Continue reading

Everything that Could Go Wrong with the Appointment Clock Strategy

And Why You Should Do It Anyway

Another strategy that I presented at the recent conference was appointment clock buddies.  I really like this strategy and I think it can work for almost any subject and a lot of grade levels.  If you do it right.  There are also a lot of potential pitfalls, and I’d like to share those so that you can think through how to approach the appointment clock and feel good about it before you use it (now would be the time to grab a beverage).

What is the appointment clock strategy? Continue reading

Simple Reflective Reading Journal for Use with Any Text

simple reflective reading journal for use with any textToday on Next Time Teaching, I want to share one of the strategies from my recent presentation.  The focus of my presentation was low prep activities that increase critical thinking, close reading and engagement and can be done with any text.  Many of the activities can be repeated multiple times throughout a year, saving prep time while allowing you to see your students’ growth over time.  This reading journal certainly fits the bill! Continue reading