January 2010


I can’t say that I’ve had a whole bunch of surprises as a first-year teacher, at least not other than what might be expected in the first year on your own in the classroom. I’ve been fortunate in that I experienced some interesting dynamics during my student teaching that prepared me somewhat for what would come this year.

But I can say honestly that I was surprised to find that there is something vital – and clearly outside the curriculum – that I need to teach some of my students.

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It’s been a while since I last wrote here, faithful readers (I know some of you are looking around, even if you’re new to the blog). Much has happened since school started up again – so much, in fact, that I’ve been buried in other work.

But I’m ignoring all of those other things for the moment to focus on a small victory.

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School resumes today for a half-day + teacher inservice. I’ll only see about half of my students today (our half-days alternate between the first and last four periods of the day), most of whom should be turning in book projects that I gave an extended deadline on (they were originally due back in December, and I had mercy). The rest will be turning their projects in when I see them tomorrow, which means a lot of grading this week to be ready to post grades by next week, since our semester ends this week.

I’m hopeful, though, that I can get somewhat of a fresh start. I intend on backing up and trying to do some things differently that I should have done at the beginning of the year. One such thing is to rethink my process for discipline, from giving students input into what should be expected of them to how I handle repeated behaviors (and now I’m thinking more in terms of disciplinary contracts). I am also going to try and be more organized, including with my class webpages that I set up at the beginning of the year (none of which are even close to being up-to-date).

I have goals, and that’s a good first step. Let’s hope the next several days show evidence of doing something to meet them.

Teachers, how do you approach a new semester or the second half of the year (after break)? Any ideas that have worked for you?

Over a month ago, blog friend Clix stopped by to point out a great resource for English teachers. I said I would look into it, having heard about it a little, but I admit that I was remiss in doing my duty to pass on this resource to my own readers (some of whom are English professionals).

The resource is the English Companion Ning, which (if you’re not familiar with Nings) is a social network that is dedicated to questions of English pedagogy. There are a great deal of very capable English professionals on the site, and there are groups and forums devoted to virtually any broad genres or disciplines within English language arts where you can start discussions and find resources for teaching – from teaching writing to teaching texts to teaching research papers, as well as discussions on The Crucible and transcendentalism (you can bet I’ll be referring back there soon) and To Kill a Mockingbird and teaching writing to lower level and unmotivated students (I’ll be revisiting that one soon – I have plenty of both!) and even MLA research papers. There’s honestly too many discussions to link.

And it’s a huge network – over 10,000 members as of this posting – that has even won this year’s Edublog Award for Best Educational Use of a Social Network Service.

If you are an English educator and haven’t checked out this site, don’t wait a month like I did – do it now. I promise, you won’t regret it.