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 In my view, these are all symptoms of the intense pressures that our outdated education system places on students, teachers, and families—especially as this system struggles to return to its status quo following the Covid pandemic.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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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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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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Year after Year: A Love Note to Teaching

By Suzanne Caines 

I’m at that age where people are starting to ask me, mostly in a nice way, if I’m starting to think about retirement. You’ve been teaching forever, they say, their tone an odd mix of bemusement and incredulity. Translation: aren’t you excited to stop working? 

Surprising to those who ask, but not to those who know me well, the answer to that question is a hard no. I am not excited to stop working. In fact, I am excited to keep working. I just finished my 34th year of teaching high school English and I can honestly say that I still love it. Yes, love it. Without exception, every single September of my career, I feel true excitement when I walk into a class full of teenagers, mostly strangers, knowing that over the course of the school year, I will have the opportunity to really get to know them.

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My Journey from Teacher to Researcher, And Why You Should Join Me

by Thomas Courtney

Though I’ve taught fifth grade for twenty years, I’ve only recently made what may be the most important discovery of my career: that my own research can be a part of my practice. My experience with conducting research on K-12 education practices began several months ago when I joined a cohort of teacher-leaders and prepared a research proposal about student note taking. The concept of research intrigued me because, for much of my career, bettering my instruction has been an exercise in listening and applying, as opposed to trying and sharing.  

Over my two decades of classroom teaching, I had never considered myself or my colleagues as researchers—but I was wrong. Research is, and always has been, a natural part of our teaching practice, whether we realize it or not. Here’s how I learned to embrace and actively pursue my role as a teacher-researcher, and why you should join me. 

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