Every teacher in the history of ever has heard at least ONE of these. Personally, I have heard them ALL. I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “But I don’t have a pencil.” Really? You thought it was a good idea to come to school without a pencil. That you will need the entire day. In ALL of your classes. I have to say my personal favorite of these typical teenage responses is the “did you grade my paper I JUST turned in yet? Because I really need my grade to come up.” You mean the paper that you turned in THREE weeks late? THAT paper? Yeah, I’ll get back to you on that one.To help you push through until Friday here are a few “If teachers acted like students”
As a parent to older children (a 20 year old son and a 17 year old daughter) I never really thought about things from the teachers point of view. Parent/Teacher conferences were just something that were necessary and I didn’t put a lot of thought into the teacher’s thoughts or feelings. I wasn’t a rude parent. I knew perfectly well that my kids were no angels. Indeed, I was the first to say that I was fully aware that my son could literally talk to a wall if you set him beside it. I was also well informed that my daughter has a “bossy” personality that could rival a drill sergeant.
Now that I am a parent AND a teacher, I get it. I really do. And I wanted to share with you my thoughts from BOTH sides of the spectrum.
Parent: This teacher doesn’t truly understand my child. They don’t know that my child has a tendency to shut down if they feel like the lesson is beyond their capability and this is why they are failing the class.
Teacher: This parent doesn’t understand that I am fully aware of their child’s tendency to shut down if they feel like the class activity might encourage them to put forth past the menial effort they typically tend to give each day. They don’t see the resistance their child persistently throws at me or that my response to that resistance is to “push” them to do more. They don’t know that I intend to continue to with my “pushiness” because I KNOW they can do more.
Parent: This teacher can’t understand that my child struggles on a daily basis to stay on task and needs to try to be more understanding of that fact.
Teacher: This parent can’t understand my frustration that I am more than confident that their child is 100% completely capable of exceeding my expectations from this exercise because I know just how smart their child really is and would never assign an activity that exceeds their capabilities. I am diligent in my perusal of their submitted work and have deduced what their child is and is not capable of.
Parent: This teacher doesn’t understand that my child has not been dealing with my divorce/job loss/move very well and as a result they are acting out. This teacher is clearly not trying to “get along” with my child because every day my child comes home to tell me how much said teacher “rides their back” all class period. My child is a “good kid” and this teacher clearly can’t see that.
Teacher: This parent doesn’t understand that I have given their child MANY opportunities and second chances to correct their behavior in my classroom because I am AWARE of their home life situation. They don’t know that there were many times that I COULD have written their child an administrative referral but chose not to because I didn’t want that referral on their transcripts as I know colleges do look at that and it can hurt their chances at success. I KNOW that their child is a “good kid” and not a “difficult student” (for the most part) and thus would rather try to correct the issue in my classroom rather than involve administration. They don’t know that I “ride their child’s back” because I am driven to see them succeed!
Parent: This teacher doesn’t know my child like I do. They don’t understand their quirks and flaws. They don’t love my child the way I do.
Teacher: This parent doesn’t know that I may not know their child they way they do BUT…I know them enough to have learned their quirks and flaws and love them all the more for them. This parent doesn’t understand that I would willing take a bullet for their child without a second thought. They don’t know that while their child is in my classroom they are also MY child and as such I go above and beyond to ensure they know they are loved…that they are important…that they matter.
Whether your child or my student is “good” or “bad” is not the issue. It’s time we all accept that we each have a perspective that should be respected and overcome the stigma of “my child” and “my student”. After all….they are both one and the same. The object of this “lesson” is to ensure that parents and teachers alike understand one thing. We ALL have a common goal….their child’s success!
As you may have already deduced I have been emphatically encouraging reading in my classroom. I’ve implemented 10 minutes of silent reading to every single class. There was resistance at first, I won’t lie. They balked at being “forced” to read. Indeed, they would much rather “read” their phones than actual print on paper. I scoured the internet for ideas to encourage them to read and found a few great ideas. I’ve shared my “Quote Wall” or “The Graffiti Wall” as some call it and it has been a big hit. The kids LOVE the idea of getting to put their mark on Mrs. Burkett’s classroom wall.
My next idea came in the form of “secret treats”. I found the “Golden Ticket” concept on Pinterest and immediately, I set to work!
I printed out my “Golden Tickets” on yellow construction paper and cut them out. I then randomly stuck them into books in my classroom library.
The Golden Ticket Rules:
- The first rule of the golden ticket it there is no golden ticket.
- The second rule of the golden ticket is there is NO golden ticket.
- In other words, don’t tell people about the golden ticket!
- Just take your golden ticket to Mrs. Burkett and claim your prize!
- Great job choosing a book that hasn’t been read in a while! 😉
I have a few prizes to choose from but I usually randomly pick one just before class lets out.
Candy bars are a BIG hit. I created a wrapper that reminds the students not to share about the golden tickets. I have to say, I’m quite proud of how well they have maintained that rule thus far.
A Homework Pass is also a great prize!
I’ve been doing the “Golden Ticket” in my classroom for about a month and every time one of my students finds a ticket they slink up to my desk and slide the ticket to me as if it contained state secrets!
What are a few ideas that YOU have to encourage your teens (or tweens) to read?
As a first year teacher I really WANTED to focus on my classroom. I did. But I also had to focus on my lesson plans and get my act together with my curriculum. So I did what I could to make my classroom welcoming and presentable and focused all of my attention on my lessons.
I don’t have a lot of before pics (other than what you see in a previous posts on The Devil and Tom Walker Activity) but we’ll just leave it at “the world’s most okayest classroom” and go from there. The walls were all but bare (save a few posters that were contributed to the new English teacher who had NOTHING from a few fantastic co-workers). There wasn’t a lot of color…at all. I did my best to make it work with what I had but by mid-year (January to be exact) I was over the dull and dismal classroom I was HOPING to engage my students in. I looked around and asked myself, “is this a room you would want to learn in? Could you have been interested in all things English in this classroom when YOU were a teenager?” The answer was a flat-out NO.
*Note: you will see pictures that “change” as I have been updating the room as I go and I take new pictures from each new addition.
You’ve seen my Quote Wall and how amazing that looked right? I added a few touches of yellow to that to add a little pop to it.
I then added a few brightly colored (yellow and gray) pieces of material (on loan from a fellow awesome co-worker) to spice up my bulletin boards on each side of my white board.
I don’t know WHY I had never thought to put material up there instead of standard bulletin board paper. I am an avid crafter…this should have occurred to me.
I added yellow die cut letters (found at the Dollar TREE) that spell out the “10 Min of Silent Reading” because this is an activity we do every single day. And the yellow “Post It” board is for their reflections from what ever they were reading that day. I collect them and keep them in a folder for later review.
I also added some bright yellow pom poms (also found at the Dollar TREE) to each group setting.
I painted an old shelf that was donated to my classroom a bright yellow and it instantly draws your eye in my classroom. (Okay….HUBBY painted and I supervised but it was a team effort!) I planned it to be bright and eye catching for a reason. It holds my classroom library!
The fantastic book page repurpose was done for me by one of my students in her art class and it’s one of my FAVORITE decorations in my classroom.
Now, ordinarily I wouldn’t advocate for the destruction of books. In fact….no….just NO. BUT…these books were already falling apart and they were cheap dime store romance novels…ehhhh….nobody will miss them!
I updated my Student Center and the kids LOVE it. It’s MUCH more organized and easy to maneuver through!
The yellow “bulletin board” is actually an old canvas picture that I covered and stapled in yellow material until the bulletin board I requested comes in (I will update the pictures when I have it up and going) Hanging on the make shift “bulletin board” are my “Remind 101” codes for each of my classes and two inspirational quotes for my students to see each day.
*If you don’t have Remind 101 (a safe method to “text” parents and teachers without giving your personal phone number out) I HIGHLY recommend it. I keep my students and parents informed on the important goings on in my class with Remind and I am SO glad I did.
The pencil and pen cans are actually Christmas Kleenex tubes that I re-purposed and covered to match.
Also: I covered to classroom table with contact paper I scored at the Dollar Store for cheap to match!
I only have one student computer but that’s all the kids need to check their grades on their “FOCUS” (our school district uses this platform for our grade book and parents as well as students have the option to stay updated on what assignments or tests they are missing or what their current grade is for a particular class.)
I re-purposed an old filing cabinet to match my room with yellow spray paint and left over contact paper.
I have since added a few additions to the filing cabinet. The watermelon basket was a gift from our culinary teacher and I normally keep a fruit of some kind in there for those students that just can’t make it to lunch because they are, to quote a teen, “starving”!
The picture I printed from a free printable site (sorry can’t remember where) but my kids know….Mrs. Burkett NEEDS her coffee to be human! LOL
The lemons were an after thought at the dollar store because…yellow!
This a shelf that the last teacher graciously left for me that I DO plan on jazzing up a little bit but just haven’t figured out WHAT yet. I am open to ideas 😉
Those AWESOME file boxes… I scored at the Dollar TREE and I LOVE them. I keep my classes submitted assignments turned in for the semester there so that I can quickly find them if I need to.
I covered four squares of cork board with bright yellow and gray material (fat quarters for .97 at Walmart) and use it to pin up important or not important things that I run across to remember. They are now currently covered in tidbits of important (and not important) notes and dates.
I know that this orange and blue color scheme does NOT go with my lovely yellow and gray but those are our school colors and I am fiercely proud of our teams so I proudly display this on my classroom wall! A friend made it for me for decent $45 (it’s rather large)
Also: I am a HUGE Doctor Who fan. As you can see here…
This shelving is built to the wall of the classroom and I haven’t quite figured out WHAT I could do with it. It holds our class set of dictionaries and a few classic novels and non-fictional books. The bottom shelves are gone but I think I could really do something with that space so I’ll update when I get to it. 🙂
On the left side of my room is a row of hideously ugly metal shelves that house my students literature books and class sets. It’s so rediculously ugly that I refuse to show you what it looks like until I can do SOMETHING with it. It’s bolted to the wall (it is HUGE and HEAVY) so I can’t spray paint it but I think I will add some bright yellow and gray Washi tape or SOMETHING to pretty it up.
All in all….this is my new and improved classroom. I have to say I have seen a distinct improvement in moral in my classroom since the new additions started showing up. They are teenagers so they are VERY opinionated on how it looks, with the majority of the comments being. “Mrs. Burkett….your classroom is bright and it feels like HOME!” Have they all miraculously started turning all their assignments and acing all of their tests? Nope. LOL BUT….there is a marked improvement in the participation that is reflected in my grade book. It was ALL worth it for that alone.
I’ve had people as me why I would do something so drastic and different halfway through the school year. My answer varies but the most emphatic reply I have is that I wanted to! If “I” need to see a change then I was convinced my kids did too! And I was right! They LOVE the changes and now eagerly show up each day to see what new little (or big) addition Mrs. Burkett has made!
Dear Difficult Student,
I see you over there sitting sullenly in your desk. You’re contemplating throwing your worksheet on the floor. You’ve thumped your pencil on the desk, twisted and turned in your seat and all but clocked out for the period before the first ten minutes are even up. I see that you’re having a bad day and you just DON’T want to be here. I know that you are going to spend the majority of your class time with me doing everything in your power to avoid doing anything that remotely resembles classwork. You have insisted time and again that you don’t NEED to understand or learn English. You explain that you aren’t going to college and therefore you’d just like to skip past all this “English stuff” if you could.
We repeat this conversation often and I can almost recite your response to almost ANYTHING I assign verbatim. I’m still going to reply back to you repeatedly that, yes, you will need to know how to properly read and write after high school. I am still going to walk by you to encourage you to at least attempt to do your assignment each day.
Why? You ask me why I keep “pushing you” and so, dear student, I’ve decided to tell you.
You matter. You matter to me. Your future matters to me. I want to see you succeed in your life. No matter what you choose to do with it. I don’t care if you think I am the most horrible (pushiest) English teacher on the planet. If that’s what it takes to see you walk across that stage and proudly claim your high school diploma…then that’s what it takes and I’ve accepted that.
I’m well aware that you leave my class each day with an “eye roll” and a disgruntled attitude because I have dared to “push” you to to do more. To try harder. To BE more.
Because you ARE more.
I also know that you don’t think I understand…that I don’t “get it”. But I do. I know that you struggle in reading and so you’d rather take the zero than exercise your mind each day. I’m still going to push you. I know that you don’t feel “smart” enough because you tested at a 6th grade reading level. I’m still going to ask you to read with the class…every. single. time. I know you struggle with writing and none of the essay formatting makes any sense to you. I’m still going to sit with you, at your desk, and explain it to you….every. single. time.
I know that you don’t get much sleep because you work after school to help your parents with the bills. I know that your home life is not the greatest and as a result your push EVERYONE away from you. I know that you are embarrassed because you aren’t able to wear the latest trends. I know that you WANT to do more, but you think it’s impossible and so you’ve given up.
My dear Difficult Student, I’m not giving up on you. You may get angry at me. You may do everything in your power to push me to my limits. You may think that I simply don’t like you. But you’re wrong. You don’t know this but….even after all of your pushing back at me…after all of your determination to try to ensure that I don’t like you….you have failed. You have failed because after all of this…your teacher still loves you!
And tomorrow…tomorrow I will do this all over again. Because you matter. Because I care.
UPDATE: I have found two ELA teachers to work with on this project! I will keep you guys updated!
Through one of my massive Pinning sessions I stumbled on this FANTASTIC IDEA to connect ELA students across the United States via Google Hangout! I consider myself a tech nerd so this idea literally sang through my head as I was reading it. I’m a first year teacher so the idea just had not occurred to me (YET) to connect with other classes in other states to engage my students. Once I began reading Jenna’s post on how amazing it went with her classes…well….let’s just say I didn’t get much sleep last night because my brain was on GO at this idea!
A little background information: I teach in a very small town in North Florida. This very tight knit town is a farming community and so many of my students as preparing to take over the family farm. Which is wonderful! We need our farmers! But I’d like to introduce my students to the diversity of other cultures and communities that are out there! Hence the title, Broaden Your Horizons!
This is how I imagine the project in my head (only there will be much more discussion of literature! LOL)
First thing this morning I contacted my tech teacher friend at my high school and she jumped on board with both feet!
However, there are a few particulars I have to iron out. I have to find one or two ELA teachers out of my state. I teach 10th and 11th grade English and I want both of my classes to be able to participate. We will then have to collaborate on a lesson plan and choose a story to discuss. Then I have to come up with the questions and topics to discuss as well as activities for the other students not chatting in the session that relate to the story we are reading. I am VERY eager to get this going!
So here’s where I need YOUR help. Are you a high school ELA teacher? Do you teach 10th or 11th grade? Or do you know a teacher that may be interested in the “Broaden Your Horizons” project? PLEASE let me know if this is something you would be interested in doing with me!
NOTE: Keep in mind that this is in the very early stages of planning and that there will be a lot of wrinkles to smooth through!
In the first semester of this first year of teaching I realized something. Not everyone was as excited by Literature (or anything school related for that matter) as I was. We read several amazing pieces of literature (Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, and Irving’s The Devil and Tom Walker) and the lack luster interest prodded me to do something to liven my students up.
The Summary: Tom Walker lives a poor life, and is also in a horrible marriage. One day Tom comes across the devil and eventually strikes a bargain with him in order to become rich. Tom Walker tries to cheat the devil by becoming a church man but the devil gets him in the end.
I scoured the internet for something to bring an interest to my students concerning reading from their literature book and after many countless hours (and SEVERAL pretty cool Pinterest pins later) I stumbled across this activity. There was not a website or Blog explaining how to actually go about the activity (only a PDF with vague instructions) so I thought I would share more elaborate details with you guys!
Here’s the tricky part: I didn’t tell my students that this was an activity related to the story! I simply told them we were going to do a fun activity to take a break from reading. 🙂
First you must read the story BEFORE doing the activity. I chose to have my students read aloud and really elaborated on each portion of the story as we progressed through it.
Second you will need about 20 index cards (or paper cut into squares) for each student. They will each have the following “things of importance” listed on them (with the exception of 4 blanks to add their OWN things of importance)
I placed a set for each student in an envelope and handed them out. I then explained that they were to place the cards on their desk by order of importance to THEM. For instance, if their most important thing was family it would go at the top, if the second most important thing was happiness if went under the family card and so on.
Once they had all of their cards listed from most important to least important they were to switch to a different group. They really enjoyed this part because they got to get up and move around the class. This is where it gets fun! They display their cards again in order of most to least importance and the other students in the group do this as well. Once they all have their cards laid out they look over the other classmates’ cards and “trade” THEIR least important things for the most important things that another student may not have listed as important. (Kind of like trading baseball cards) The object of the activity is to gather as many of the most important things on their list.
The students spent about 5-10 minutes in each group and were quite excited to trade back and forth!
After they all made their rounds in the groups they sat back down to their original group. I wrote the “important things” list on my white board and asked for a show of hands for those that had more than one per word. I wrote the name of the student with the most of that particular “important thing” along side the word. There were several students that had their name on the board more than once. The PDF instructions explains, “Like Tom Walker, they (the students) desired to accumulate as much as they could-they wanted more than any other classmate. Even though they didn’t yet know it, they had already made a connection with their soon-to-be neighbor, Tom Walker.”
After I passed out the candy (because you simply can’t have a fun activity without candy!) I began explaining how they each had traded something that may not have been important to THEM but could have been at the very top of someone else’s list. I had one student jokingly trade his “family” card for “car or truck of choice”. The other students were appropriately outraged on his family’s behalf! 🙂
I explained that Tom Walker traded his very SOUL for wealth and that he had to live with his choice as a result. They immediately began chattering about “Oh my God, I’m Tom Walker!”It was really amazing to watch them make the connection and ENJOY literature!
Note: I should mention that this activity actively forced a few of my students out of their comfort zones. Every class has those few introvert students and the “Trading Spaces” activity requires social interaction among peers. At first those “shy” ones were quiet but by the end of the activity they were right in the mix of those moving from group to group with enthusiasm!
Feel free to use this fantastic activity and be sure to tell me how YOUR students reacted when they realized they were all a little like Tom Walker!
Today was Friday. In teenage speak this means “Freeday”. In other words, they don’t want to do ANYTHING. The groans of, “But Mrs. Burkett it’s FRIDAY” surround the room as I explain today’s assignment. The sulky frowns pop up as they shuffle to the Student Center to gather their activity directions. Their hearts are clearly not in it, no matter how much I try to convince them that this is a FUN activity. Because….Friday.
Half of the year is gone and I’ve come to expect the tone that Friday carries with it. A sense of “Can’t we just lay around and talk to our friends” permeates throughout my classroom but I push through. I can’t fault them for their thinking…I would love to just “chill” and do nothing too! But Mrs. Burkett is here to teach. I showed up and participated….so do you!
“C’mon guys, this is stuff you will need to know once you get into college”, I insist. They eye rolls appear instantaneously. I’m used to that too. I remember being a teen and thinking the same thing they are. WHY? But, it’s Friday. Friday’s are for FUN. WHY do we still have to do the “English” on a Friday?
True story, they’ve actually asked me that question. Why do they have to do things on Friday? I’ve explained again and again the week goes from Monday through FRIDAY, not Monday through THURSDAY. Participate people, it will go much easier if you just participate.
So I made a deal. If you do your assignment the first half of the period, I’ll give you the second half to “chill” (as long as your at least PRETENDING TO READ!) They resign themselves to the fact that I am NOT going to let them dally all period long and PUSH THROUGH. SUCCESS!
If I’ve learned nothing else vital to teaching in my first year, the most important thing I can think to pass on to a new teacher is that COMPROMISE will get you a LOT further than cracking the whip or snapping the ruler. They all dove in, got the work done and spent the last half of the period playing “hacky sack” and taking fabulous pictures with my “Quote Wall” as the backdrop! 🙂
I’m pretty sure that you guys are aware just how new to the “Teacher Blogger” thing I am but…I was up late creating a few things for my classroom via Picmonkey (my absolute FAVORITE online graphic and photo editing program) and I just had to share with you!
As you’ve seen here, my classroom is decorated in grays and yellows.:
I am vamping up my Student Center (pics to come later!) and I created an alphabet PDF printable that you can use in your own classroom. I can already smell that burnt laminator smell! Isn’t it glorious!
Be sure to grab your free Gray and Yellow PDF Printable HERE!
Just teach. That seems simple enough doesn’t it? Just fill out your lesson plans and jump in with both feet. 50 years ago that might have been true. Sadly, today’s educational system is geared towards accountability…on the teacher’s part…AND the student and it’s easy to lose yourself in the “what if’s”. What if….my students fail. What if….the parents blame me? What if EVERYONE blames me?
As an ELA teacher I am required to prepare my high school students for their standardized test in my field (English) This test will also determine if they graduate high school or not. Not kidding. Every state as one and Florida has FSA (Florida Standard Assessment). If you are a Florida ELA teacher you are likely trying to find the best way to go about ensuring your kids pass. Thus far the actual site doesn’t offer much as far as resources but I can say that CPALMS has been a huge help as far as building lesson plans go.
Last week we did progress monitoring. This is something that most of my students see as a cross to bear and frivolous (aka, it’s not a grade so we don’t need it) and so they rarely actually TRY when it comes time to see if they are growing in their learning of reading comprehension and writing. As a teacher it is extremely frustrating. How am I to help them advance in their education if I can’t guide them from the CORRECT results of their monitoring? As a parent and a “once upon a time” student, I get it. The kids feel tested out before we even make it to Christmas and hence they give it the menial effort.
No matter how much you explain to your students that progress monitoring is exactly what it sounds like, monitoring their progress, they don’t want to hear it. In fact, there is usually a collective groan throughout the classroom as I announce with an excited voice that we are testing next week.
Inevitably the question always arises, “Mrs. Burkett, is this THE test or the test to take the test?” Keep in mind these kids are very aware just how important FSA is. It’s ingrained on their mother board by this point, no passing score on FSA….no high school diploma. So when they ask this question there is a sense of mild panic in their tone. As SOON as the words, “No, this is to see how far we’ve come in our learning” comes out of my mouth the “whews” reverberate around my walls and a sense of “whatever” comes over their faces.
I’ve learned that I have to make it clear to them that there will be consequences if they don’t take it serious. Something along the lines of, “No, it’s NOT a grade but…if I look at your scores and it’s obvious that you’ve “Christmas tree’d” your way right through it, you guys will be writing essays until your hands fall off” works reasonably well.
The week before we did our monitoring I spent all five days going over the process of writing an Argument Essay. Every single day we spent the ENTIRE 50 minutes going over each individual portion of an argumentative essay properly formatted. By the end of that week that had a rough draft of their essay built. They were, I dare to say, somewhat excited to see if they could properly apply their fine honed skills when it came time to show them off (Progress Monitoring).
In this process of step by step explaining I realized something. My students were eager to learn HOW to write an essay properly. I could see them soaking up everything we were going over. I tried to make it as fun as I could by implementing more modern and up to date prompts (this one was on which form of protest was more effective, live protest or social media protest). The kids reacted well because we were talking about social media and they were allowed to find “hashtags” that they could use in their essays. I mentioned “social media” and I swear every single head in the room swiveled in my direction with complete attention. They didn’t mind the essay writing….once it was clear on how easy it could be if they only PAID ATTENTION.
No, they don’t mind the preparation of it in CLASS. It’s the testing and then more testing that pushes them to catatonia. Because of the tremendous amount of pressure they feel about FSA they were more apt to stick their heads in the sand and THAT, my friends, is why I’ve decided to just….teach.
I carry out my lesson plans. Well….mostly. There are times when I toss those to the side and say, “lets just have a free day and BREATHE” because I can see that my students need that. Can I afford to do that? As a new teacher, probably not. But I’m still swimming happily in the sea of “I’m the best teacher ever” and my students are learning, to me that’s all that matters. So here I am, just…..teaching.