Monday, September 29, 2014

The Power of Positive Emails

I am not a fan of Mondays.

I am in at work even earlier than normal in order to combat the frazzled feeling I will get coming back from the weekend and not feeling prepared.

Even when I get into work early, I still end up feeling a little frazzled somehow. Today was no different with my students being just as frazzled as I was.

Normally, at the end of Mondays, I just sit at my desk for a few minutes and go on Imgur, Facebook, something mindless.

Today I decided to do something different. I decided to make a student and parent's Monday.

There is a sophomore that I had last year as a freshmen. Bright kid just very forgetful and unorganized. They would constantly have missing assignments or work turned in late which frustrated their parents to no end.

I have them again this year and it is a complete turn around. There are no missing or late assignments and it is obvious tests and quizzes have been studied for. The student is currently earning an "A-"

I decided to email their parents, while cc'ing the student, informing them that I am very proud of their child. The repsonse back was immediate and happy:

Thank you so much!  It is wonderful to hear!

You made our Monday!

Yes, my school has live grading so yes, my parents can easily log in to see how their child is doing. I could have easily assumed that the parents are doing this. For all I know, they are and are fully aware of their child's grade. However, just this little email validated what they see. It made what otherwise is a crappy day by default into something to smile about.

Now, with 120 students, there is no way I can constantly do this. The time it would take me to compose a "happy" email for each student a week would be insane. However, I'm totally for this when a teacher sees something extraordinary. It reminds me of the Taylor Mali poem "What Teachers Make"* and the line where he says:

"I make parents see their children for who they are/
And who they can be"

I knew what this child could be. I've known since last year. Yeah, a grade can tell the parents what their child could be but by sending that one, small, little email, I am able to make them see who their child is not just a number in the gradebook.

It is why I teach. It is why I love my job even on Mondays and even when I complain.

I wouldn't trade it for the world.

*If you have never heard this poem, below is a drawing of it done by Zen Pencils and also a video of the poem performed by Taylor Mali himself

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Letter to My First Year Self

Dear First Year Self

Time for the big leagues. You made it through student teaching in two completely different atmospheres and you feel like you can handle anything.
You're wrong.

You thought you were tired before; you have no idea what tired means. You will pull an all nighter grading assignments not due to your procrastination but due to a mixture of not knowing how to stagger your assignments and not knowing how to grade quickly and effectively at the same time.

You will have parents that drive you crazy and make you doubt your ability to do your job. Don't let them get you down. Don't be afraid to ask your fellow teachers how to handle the situations in the future and if the parent is right. Sometimes they are but are just jerks about it. It doesn't mean you're a bad teacher. It means you have to learn and grow just like your students.

You'll have moments that you just want to give up. You'll have these moments more than you'll like to admit.

That's okay.

Just make sure you don't keep it locked inside. That's when you'll start believing it. Chances are, your fellow teachers feel the same way or have and can help you get out of your funk. Reach out. I know you like to be alone but you have to reach out. It's the only way you'll survive.

The biggest thing you got wrong about the entire teaching jig has nothing to do with parents or burnout.

The biggest thing you got wrong was this:

You'll care more, have more patience, keep a level head, and be inspired more than you ever thought possible.

The kids will say stupid things and drive you up a wall nearly every day but also nearly every day, they will do something that will make you want to brag to your friends about your proud teacher moments.

Even though you'll want to scream, you'll shock yourself at how you're able to take a deep breath, calm yourself down, and react in a rational manner. You'll be blown away how you don't let the teenage challenges get under your skin. You'll then be blown away at how much respect the students give you because you don't blow up on them like their parents.

You have some challenging moments ahead. Moments where you have to be strong for your students because you're the one they came to because they trust you. Moments where all you want to do is scream at how cruel people can be and scream because life isn't fair.

It is in these moments that you'll be shocked at how well you're able to handle the situations. More importantly, you'll be shocked at how well your students handle them when they are too young to be dealing with situations. It is in those moments that you'll know this is the job for you.

Stick it out first year self. The moments of doubt will become fewer and the moments of inspiration and happiness will become greater.

Your 4th year self

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Resources for Romeo and Juliet

Three things have led me to posting resources

1) My football team is sucking

2) Grading summer reading assignments is making my brain hurt

3) WebEnglishTeacher put my resources for The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Oedipus the King on her website which is super exciting (!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

So I have decided to post some resources for Romeo and Juliet  that I have used over the past four years of teaching it. These are the "tried and true" assignments for me that I will fall back on if I'm lacking my usual creative spirit (which sadly happens especially since Shakespeare is the last unit my freshmen study).

You can find my resources for Romeo and Juliet here. If you want to see the other resources I have, you can either visit the links up top or go to this page.


Thursday, September 11, 2014


The school year has started which means it is time to start blogging again*

Here is why I never ask my students what they did over the summer because this would be my response:

I taught summer school. When I wasn't teaching summer school I was reading a book and drinking wine.

Not that exciting.

But now we are into the school year and specifically that time of year known as DEVOLSON** which stands for The Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November which is to explain that early burnt out, tired feeling you get during this time of year because you have yet to settled into the routine of school and the transition into that routine usually takes the the first three months of school. This feeling tends to lead you to slightly lose your mind.

Although I did not invent this title, I am here to say this is real.

For example, this was an actual Facebook status I posted:

How To Start Your Thursday Morning:
1) Wake up from a dream where the secretary responsible for sub plans was yelling at you for not submitting sub plans and missing school.
2) Look at your clock and realize that was your subconscious telling you that you had over slept your alarms and that it is 6:20 and you have to be at work by 7:30
3) See a text from your roommate asking for you to wake them up so they could move their car
4) Throw markers at your roommate to wake them up
5) Struggle to find your ID and eventually find it right where you left it the night before
6) Rush out the door all ready to call the office saying you're going to be late only to realize that since you rushed through getting ready and were able to hit all the lights at green, it is actually 6:50 in the morning.
7) You go in and get a cup of coffee and breathe
This guide is brought to you by a full time teacher in graduate school

That was my actual morning. Besides reading the list Love, Teach gives to survive this, I present you with my method.

Four Ways to Survive DEVOLSON According to Dailyish Teacher

  1. Limit your wine drinking to only one glass. Seriously. You'll want to drink a lot. Don't go overboard. It will make it worse
  2. Create a "Happy File." Since I limit my wine drinking, I need another way to feel happy. I do this with my "Happy File" which is a collection of student sticky notes, sayings from my daily calendar that I have saved, emails from parents I have printed out, and even the drawings students give me (Yes....high school students still draw their teachers pictures especially when they get bored during a test)
  3. Keep pictures of someone you don't hate on your desk at work. Boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband/best friend etc. Pick the person you tend to complain to because they make you feel sane again. Just looking at their picture will make you feel better
  4. Laugh. Laugh a lot. This is the most important one. This is the one that helps the most. This is why I keep my desktop background rotating between images I find amusing.I also post some of my favorites on my bulletin board next to my desk so I can just turn my head and laugh when I need it. 
Since I can't really help you with 1 - 3, I figured I would give you a jump start on 4 with some things to laugh about.

This is students in a nutshell

*If you notice I only blog when I want to avoid grading. This is the best type of blogging. It allows me to feel productive while

** I did not create this term. The lovely Love, Teach did. She is hilarious. You should read her blog. She is much better/experienced then me at this. She even writes for WeTeachers and has a bingo game you can play