Teachers Can Leverage Their Value to Transform Schooling

By Patricia A. Jennings

Our school systems are completely outmoded and becoming so dysfunctional that students and school staff are being stretched to the breaking point. Teacher dissatisfaction is at an all-time high, discipline problems are rampant, and school staff are being subject to more aggressive and even violent outbursts from both students and parents. In my view, these are all symptoms of the intense pressures that our outdated education system places on students, teachers, and families—especially as this system struggles to return to its status quo following the Covid pandemic. Meanwhile, teachers are burned out and quitting in droves as the teacher shortage crisis deepens. How can we turn this around? First, we need to examine our education system itself.

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The Power of Students Teaching Students

He outlined his lesson plan, which called for a discussion of the short story he’d assigned for homework. With a smile, I assured him that he was more than ready to teach. He sat silently for a few seconds and then asked in a quavering voice, “What if they don’t do my homework? Then what will we talk about?” As a veteran educator and administrator, I’ve mentored many rookie teachers. The young man worrying about homework compliance was as rookie as it gets: a seventeen-year-old about to make his first presentation to my independent study seminar.

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Four Gateway Books for Reluctant Readers

By Thomas Courtney

Are your students out of the habit of reading “real” books? I have noticed that although many of my own students are flat-out thrilled to be back in the classroom, some have been dragging their heels when it comes to good, old-fashioned, printed-page literature. It makes sense; after a year and a half (or more) of working on laptops with the newest apps and educational games, it can be a jarring transition back to books, pencils, and paper. While there’s always an element of the reluctant reader syndrome in our classrooms, I and many of my colleagues are finding it particularly difficult this school year to guide our reluctant readers back into a great book.

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A Reflection on the 2021-2022 School Year, So Far

By Kevin Scott

Last year I wrote about my return to the classroom in a wild year and discussed many of the challenges I faced as a 7th grade U.S. history teacher after more than a decade away from teaching. While some facets of teaching—and attending—middle school have returned to ‘normal,’ so many things have not. For example, while all my students are back in the school building they don’t have lockers because our locker pods would pack them too closely together. So they carry everything with them everywhere they go throughout the day. This doesn’t sound too bad until I think about what it would have been like in my former office life, if I had not had a cubicle—if I had had to carry my lunch, my laptop, and any notes or notebooks to every meeting I attended every day, with no place to call my own. My students are now twelve-year-old nomads who are really, really good at leaving stuff behind.

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Diversifying Your ELA Curriculum in 2022

By Sharon Kunde

In addition to resting and recharging, the weeks leading up to the New Year are a perfect time for reflecting on our practices as educators. This year, I encourage ELA teachers to consider the diversity of the authors and works represented in their syllabi. Teachers who seek greater diversity when planning an English Language Arts syllabus may face a number of hurdles, including lack of time in an already jam-packed curriculum, difficulty in choosing between an abundance of options, or a lack of knowledge of what options there may be. Below, I explore a list of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth century poems by African American authors that can easily be included in existing secondary classroom syllabi, or that could form the backbone of a more involved unit-long or semester-long course of study.

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Schools survived the worst of the pandemic, but will they survive the aftermath?

By David Nurenberg

Across the nation, students and teachers are back in classrooms for the 2021-22 school year. Remote instruction is largely a thing of the past, and the pandemic, while hardly over, has become a familiar, normative part of daily life. With teachers and all but the youngest of students eligible for vaccination, COVID-19 has, for many schools, become more of an inconvenience than an object of dread. But teachers are reporting higher rates of burnout, experiencing less job satisfaction, and resigning in greater numbers now than during the worst times of last year. Studies by the Rand Corporation, the National Education Association, the Brookings Institute and others show record teacher shortages that are only predicted to rise. The Rand report concludes that teachers are “more likely to report experiencing frequent job-related stress and symptoms of depression than the general population.” Why, when things are looking up, are somewhere between a quarter to a third of all teachers looking to leave?

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Online Opportunities: The Continuing Benefits of Remote Instruction

By Stephanie L. Moore

This week, K-12Talk presents an excerpt from Stephanie L. Moore’s new book, SEL at Distance: Supporting Students Online.

A note from the author:

In SEL at a Distance, one idea I share for how we can frame thinking about how to use learning technologies to support SEL is “affordances.” When making decisions about technologies and designing online learning environments, it is important to think about what learning opportunities different technologies afford (or do not afford). The following excerpt provides several examples around common questions I hear, reframing the question of which technologies are “better” into instructional considerations in online learning. One of the paramount considerations at this uncertain time, as most teachers and students have returned to school buildings even as new variants of COVID emerge, is how to leverage the tools teachers have at hand to center their pedagogy around students’ needs.

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Shifting from Instructor-Centered to Student-Centered Pedagogies:

Online (and blended) learning afford you the ability to shift your pedagogical practices so that you spend less of your live or in-person time with your learners as the content delivery vehicle and more time focused on feedback, support, and interaction. We often rely on ourselves to be the primary information delivery channel, by way of lectures. Unfortunately, in the rush to move online during the spring of 2020, many schools tried to replicate live lectures, not realizing this took the least advantage of the online learning environment. Lectures are something you can readily record and let learners watch on their own time. This could be a lecture you provide or an available video you find online and want your students to watch. Rather than taking up precious together-time with learners for this, have them watch it on their own then show up ready to engage in active learning with you. This makes much better use of anytime, anywhere content delivery that the internet is good for and reserves live time (whether in a class or online) with your students for meaningful interactions.

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Celebrating Our 2021 NCTE Virtual Convention Authors

Today on K-12Talk, we’re celebrating our authors who presented sessions at NCTE 2021! We invite you to take advantage of the generous Convention discount on professional resources for English teachers—by these authors and others—from Norton Books in Education.  You can access these discounts atWWNorton.com/NCTE2021

Featured authors:

  • Renee Hobbs, author of Mind Over Media
  • Antero Garcia, author of Everyday Advocacy
  • Alex Venet, author of Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education
  • Troy Hicks, co-author of Creating Confident Writers
  • Andy Schoenborn, co-author of Creating Confident Writers

Wishing you all a restful holiday break, filled with feasting on both food and books.  

How to Partner With Your Local Library

By Jonna Kuskey

Our high school, like many across the nation, has eliminated its library. To fill this void, our English department has worked intensely over the past several years to obtain books for our classroom libraries by applying for grants, writing numerous Donors Choose projects, asking teachers and friends to donate books, and scouring the bookshelves of secondhand stores. Still, we have a fraction of the books that our old school library housed, so we put our heads together to brainstorm solutions to this problem. We realized we were ignoring the most obvious solution, one that was free, easy, and right under our noses: our local public library.

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