Back to school, Back to school: An Update from Your Favorite 7th grade Teacher

Today was the first day of school in our ever-growing district, and I couldn’t be happier with my new set of kiddos. I’m so excited to be back to school. It is going to be a year of learning for all parties involved. Wait, did I just say I was learning too? YES! Absolutely! Things are changing in my little world, and I’m along for the ride in a great school year.
The first big announcement that I’d like to make is that I’ve been blessed with the task of teaching inclusion this year. Yes, this is absolutely a blessing. I feel like God has called me to work with all 80 children I have this year, and I can’t be more excited than I currently am to tackle this classroom with them. I am nervous, though, about reaching each and every one of them to the best of my ability. Please pray for guidance and insight into this and share your best differentiating/inclusion practices with me! It takes a village!
Secondly, I’m co-sponsering Drama Club this year! How much fun is this going to be? It is like an English teacher’s dream. I get to work with several of my sweet students from last year AND help create something beautiful out of the written word. Classic.

Lastly, I want to make sure all my readers (you are out there, right) know that I WILL be continuing the series‘ I started this summer. Unfortunately, the sun, sand, and professional development got the best of me. I have lots to share about what I learned, and you can be on the lookout for those continued series soon!

First Common Myth: Common Core and the Uniformed Burden It Carries (Part 2)

As promised, I’m starting my series about the misunderstandings that Common Core carries around with it, and I’d like to start with one aspect of negativity about the core that I feel really strongly about.

Myth: We don’t need the Common Core State Standards, our standards were fine as they were. Now, this post doesn’t necessarily apply to many other states, but Mississippi surely could benefit from the new standards, and here is my evidence:

Source: Rethink Mississippi

Source: Rethink Mississippi

Just in one Facebook status, “Stop Common Core in Mississippi” could have improved their writing by following at least 7 standards. This speaks for itself. Also, if you look at the standards listed here, I can’t find any evil in them.

Not For Your Beach Bag: 5 Summer Reading Books for Professional Development

Source: smh.com

Source: smh.com

During the summer, a lot of us teachers really want to enjoy the beach, our children, do some gardening and other activities that are absolutely fun and necessary. However, I find it equally important to continue my professional journey during my free-time. I like to use my summer to have a lot of fun, but also to grow myself professionally. And I don’t find this notion of continuing to work during the summer ridiculous for teachers, after all, we are pretty much kicked out of the school, but we’re still getting paid.

This summer, I may have gone a bit overboard, as I just finished the South Mississippi Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute, and I’m signed up for several other professional development workshops. Regardless, I’ve compiled a list of professional reading for myself, and I’m sharing them with you in case you’re looking for a small way to stay connected to your classroom over the long and lonely months of summer.

1. Inside Out: Strategies for Teaching Writing

I actually just finished reading Inside Out for the second time in my professional career. It was the textbook in my composition for teachers class at the University of Southern Mississippi when I was still working toward my degree. I re-read it recently as one of the books for study at the South Mississippi Writing Project’s Invitational Summer Institute, both times I truly enjoyed the book.

What I love the most about Inside Out is that it is not a list of lessons to implement in your classroom. It is a guide to creating effective strategies in your classroom. Don’t get me wrong, the authors produce tons of ideas that you can borrow and implement in your classroom, but there is a lot of room left for your strategic thought about what your classroom needs. I would recommend this book for anyone in any subject or grade band, but it is a staple for a Language Arts teacher.

I’ll be posting an in-depth review of this book soon, so if you are interested in learning more about it, stay tuned.

2. Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator

I started reading this book last week for a book study that is being offered in my district. So far, I’m enjoying the content, and the book is a super easy read. I particularly recommend this book for summer reading because the book is all about increasing student engagement and grasping their attention from the start.

Again, this book isn’t about handing out pre-made materials to implement in your classroom. Rather, it is a motivational book written by a successful educator, and it will definitely make you think critically about your classroom strategies.

I will also be posting a full in-depth review of this book later this summer, stay tuned!

3. The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher

It is really hard to be an educator without having heard about Harry Wong‘s best selling book The First Days of School. Especially if you are a new teacher, or a teacher looking to improve classroom management strategies, or just a teacher who hasn’t read the book; then The First Days of School is a must read.

Harry Wong is incredibly inspiring and effective in laying out specific musts for gaining control of your classroom from day one. His insights are accurate and effective and best of all, they are based off of actual experience. All of us should reflect on our experience as a teacher, even veterans. Harry Wong’s book is a powerful tool to push that reflection in the right direction.

4. Understanding by Design Guide to Creating High Quality Units

If you are interested in developing your strategies for lesson plans, unit plans, and overall student learning then this book is definitely one to consider. Most undergraduate programs teach backward design, but reading it from these authors offers a whole new, in-depth, and focused understanding of the concept. It is also a great book to read during the summer because you can implement the ideas before you’ve begun to develop your units for the next school year.

5. The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child

If you’ve never heard of Ron Clark, then I invite you to do a little youtube search and listen to him talk for just a moment. He is an incredibly inspiring educator who has absolutely earned his right in the field. If you haven’t ever heard of Ron Clark, then you might just be thinking that 55 rules is ridiculously excessive, but give him a shot.

I had the pleasure of hearing Ron Clark speak last August just before school started, and his words truly changed the attitude of our school for the better. Later in the school year, many of our teacher traveled to visit Ron Clark’s academy, and their testimonies show that his rules truly work to make his students more successful. My colleagues described students who actively engage in intellectual conversations, looking you straight in the eye, and remembering your name later in the day. It might seem excessive, but his rules are certainly worth giving a read.