Today’s post comes from a recent email (used with permission) from a fellow English teacher. For privacy, I changed her name.

Hi Laura,
First, thank you, as always, for your thoughtful, realistic approach to education. I am deeply grateful! Next, a few questions for you. It sounds like you are free to create and use your own curriculum. Is that the case? Are you and the other English teachers expected to cover the same content? To have the same number/type of assessments?

Also, my department chair insists on following up every single chunk of reading with what he calls “focus” questions, the bulk of which involve reading comprehension questions, all of which are approached in the exact same way – context, lead-in, quote, sometimes analysis. Thus, let’s say for The Catcher in the Rye, he expects kids to answer 10-15 focus questions after every chapter. Am I right in despising this approach to curriculum and thinking he is out of touch with how to approach curriculum in a meaningful way? I know I’m asking you to weigh in on something here that has no remedy; I’m just wondering if I’m the one who’s out of touch!
Thanks,
Carly
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This one’s for Nikki, Rose, Marc, and all of the other teachers out there who have agreed to take on the (hopefully rewarding) task of mentoring a student teacher. Continue reading

The calendar isn’t lying to us; it really is time to update the syllabus and get into that back-to-school frame of mind. You might be curious how I run the show, so here’s a copy of my course outline along with an episode from my classroom management series discussing the eight words that comprise my classroom rules. Continue reading

Confession time: I’m Facebook dumb. I’ve never really understood social media. All that liking and tagging and following leaves me as confused as my grandpa at Starbucks.

All I want is a black cup of coffee. I mean, all I want is share cool ideas and resources with my English teacher friends. Continue reading

I’m not even a minute into my right-after-lunch sophomore class when it starts – the quiet tee-hee of laughter among a handful of students, clearly the cool kids enjoying an inside joke.

“Okay, okay, let’s go,” I say, directing attention back to my vocab warm-up on the whiteboard.

Soft snickering continues. Undaunted, I launch my introduction of the word “tenuous.”

“Tenuous, an adjective, means really thin or insubstantial. If something’s tenuous, it’s definitely in need of strengthening.” Like my hold on this class, I think. Continue reading

You may recall that last week was pretty lousy around here. Needing to end the week on an up-note, I added a last-minute modification to my Friday lesson plan, a move guided purely by self-interest. As it turned out, the plan worked – my funk is officially over. Continue reading

Before students arrive on Tuesday (our first day), I want them to already be excited about my class and ready to rip into the content. One easy way to help set the right tone is to send an introductory email. Luckily, my school district’s tech gurus established Gmail accounts that students use from grades 6 […]