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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In this first week of the new year, it’s wise to pause and look back at the previous year as we figure out what we want to accomplish next. Around here, January means prep for 20Time, a passion project that’ll carry us through the spring semester. (More about 20Time2019 will be posted later this month. Working on some plans, y’all…)

Today, I’m sharing a handy organizer created by a bunch of humanity-loving Hungarians that could help us – and possibly our students – accomplish significant goals. Continue reading

You ready? Day 1 starts soon, so let’s talk about some lesson plan ideas for the first five days of school:

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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

Today’s topic comes from an email exchange (used with permission) with one of our colleagues in the art department:

Hi Laura,
I was just watching your video on troublemakers and how to handle them. I really appreciate the refresher. I used that technique at the beginning of my teaching career but in recent years got caught up in students’ non-stop bad behaviors and basically gave up out of exhaustion. I’m an art teacher and will be starting at a new school in a couple of weeks. It’s a dream job. My strength is content knowledge not discipline. But I want this year to be the beginning of a new era for me, so I’ve been doing my own form of professional development this summer. Continue reading

Ready to dig into some nuts-and-bolts of essay writing? Let’s talk about how to help our middle school and high school students write strong intro. paragraphs. Note: This format works great when teaching literary analysis, argument, and research essays, but narratives are a whole different story. (Heh…see what I did there?) Continue reading

Last week, fellow teacher and blogger Sara got me thinking about all of the professional development I’ve attended over the past two decades. I’ve unironically been shown Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk about how schools kill creativity right before being asked to dig into state testing data, I’ve made a pinewood derby-type car out of […]