Pandemic Reflections: Sealing the Cracks 

by Kyleen Gray

I have heard many people speak of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic. I understand that humans have a wonderful tendency to try to see the good in terrible experiences, but in reflecting on the pandemic I just can’t seem to find much good to mull over. What does come to mind are the cracks in our educational systems that the pandemic uncovered, revealing how fragile our carefully constructed systems really are. We must identify these cracks, acknowledge that they could reopen, and attempt to patch them before another crisis occurs. 

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In Defense of Teaching Troubled Texts in Troubling Times

by Deborah Appleman

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
—James Baldwin

As the summer wanes, we teachers slowly turn our focus to the beginning of school. For teachers of literature, that often means a trip to the dusty bookroom to decide what texts teachers and students should read together throughout the year. This is, or should be, a complicated decision, a thoughtful calibration of text and context, of who our students are and what kind of reading would serve them best as we encourage their personal and intellectual development.  After the obligatory quick count of paperback and perma-bound copies of literary texts, we consider factors of readability, literary merit, and relevance. We re-read state standards and confer with our fellow teachers about our school’s curriculum. This fall, however, there are even more factors to consider as we attempt to make our best pedagogical decisions about what to teach and why.

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Advice from Veterans for New Teachers

by Christine Boatman

New teachers everywhere: welcome to the education profession! I and all your colleagues are so glad you are here to be a part of our team raising the next generation of students. We see your enthusiasm and excitement. Your passion and zeal bring joy to our schools and rejuvenates all of us. We are excited to hear your new ideas.

While there is so much anticipation and excitement with being a new teacher, it can be hard! Just remember that all veteran teachers were once first year teachers; with that in mind, I have gathered below some advice for your first year in the classroom, both from my own experience and from the advice that was given to me by my colleagues when I was a new teacher.

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Grateful to Be Teaching In Person

By Ariel Sacks

Some people thought the pandemic would propel us into a new era of online learning, replacing many teachers with computer programs. But for me, it’s pretty clear that my students need community and connection, and virtual learning simply did not facilitate these two needs. I continue to believe that being together in the same space with their teachers and classmates positively impacts all aspects of students’ learning and socialization. I am so happy to be back with my students in person every day—after a year and a half of teaching middle school ELA remotely—and my students are thrilled, too.

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Turning on Your Teacher Brain

By Catherine Rauchenberger Conley

At the beginning of this school year, I responded to a colleague’s “how are you?” with “I’m still waiting for my teacher brain to kick in.” “I know!” she replied. It turns out that I was not alone in feeling out of sorts at the beginning of the year. I know my curriculum and content, and I am beyond thrilled to have ALL my students in the classroom with me. I know what books I need and how to set up my Google Classroom and all the other apps that have invaded our teaching lives over the past nineteen months. I also know with confidence which apps I can ditch or use less frequently in order to bring the students back to a sense of working in partnership with other people rather than apps. Yet somehow, there’s something missing, something intangible.

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Building Community in the New School Year

By Suzanne Caines

Like every teacher I know, I was really looking forward to business as usual this fall. I was excited to hug my colleagues hello after a long summer break and to chat casually with students in the hall; to greet them with a smile as they walked through my door and to celebrate a classroom in which every single desk was filled.

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End of Summer Break

With the new school year approaching, K-12Talk will be taking a break until after Labor Day. Until then, you can check out our most recent back-to-school posts below.

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Back to School: Learning about Students

I love the beginning of school.  August and September hold new possibilities full of hope and promise, a chance to start fresh, to learn from last year’s failures as well as successes, and to build something even better than the year before.

I didn’t always look so excitedly toward the beginning of another school year. When I was new to the field, I taught the prescribed curriculum that was handed to me.  Although I was “teaching by the book,” my students were struggling. I came to realize they were struggling precisely because I was teaching the prescribed curriculum.

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Back to School: Finding Stillness

The beginning of the school year can be stressful for students and teachers alike. What better time to introduce a calming break within the school day? By structuring a quiet minute at the start of class, after lunch, or when transitioning between activities, we offer students and faculty a chance to catch their breath, literally. By offering our students the gift of quiet, even for a moment or two, we can transform our classrooms into a zone of peace. I hope this post, composed of excerpts from my book, Classroom Yoga Breaks (2016), will inspire you to create some moments of stillness in your days at school.

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Back to School: Promoting English Learners’ Assets

The proportion of English learners (ELs) in the United States public school system has reached nearly ten percent of all students, and is on a nationwide growth trajectory1.  Along with this growth in numbers, ELs tend to experience an opportunity gap, which generally refers to the impact that factors such as students’ English proficiency, socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity have on their achievement. For example, 79% of English fluent eighth graders scored at the basic or above reading level in 2017, while only 32% of ELs scored at those levels during that same year.2  In addition, ELs have one of the lowest graduation rates among all students on a national level, approximately 63% as compared to 82% of all students3.Gaps such as these have helped lead far too many educators to see ELs as one-dimensional, defined primarily as being lacking in areas such as English proficiency, achievement in content areas, and/or ability to graduate. Recent research4 on teachers’ perceptions of ELs in kindergarten through second grade suggests that classifying students as ELs has a “direct and negative effect on teachers’ perceptions of students’ academic skills.”

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