Sunday, January 31, 2010


Who knew there was another F-word? All you have to do is walk into the teacher's lounge at school, and people are talking about the furlough days. It gets people people upset, almost as if someone dropped an F-bomb.

On the positive side, lots of people say that we should be happy that we still have a job because there are some places where teachers are being laid off. On the negative side, there are people who say that taking money away from educators is a cardinal sin when many barely make enough to make ends meet in the first place.

I like to be a positive person. So, I am happy to still have a job. I am choosing to be happy to have some extra time with my sons, even if I am losing some of my pay. I will use those days to teach them a new thing: Spending quality time with family does not cost us much, but we will gain some memories that money can't buy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Maternity Leave?

I'm three weeks into my maternity "leave," but I hesitate to call it a "leave." Does it make sense to call it maternity stay? Since I left, I have stayed next to my laptop checking me email at least twice a day just to keep up with what is going on a school. I occasionally get email from my students with questions, and even some parents have sent me emails.

My family and friends keep warning me that I will be sorry that I have allowed people to maintain such access to me, but I can't seem to help myself. I feel responsible for what is going on in my classroom even while I'm gone. I don't want my students to feel like I have abandoned them.

Still, I'm sure things will change once the baby comes. Right now, I'm just waiting. When he gets here, I guess that's when the real maternity leave will begin.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Benefit of Experience

Three days into the school year and it already feels like old times again. If I didn't have a calendar in front of me, I'd think it was late September already. Last week, I felt really rushed to get things together, but today I'm back in my grove. Don't get me wrong, it's not that my day is still not ripe with the usual mishaps and unexpected inconveniences. I am just much better at handling them than I have been in past years.

When I began teaching, many "veterans" told me that my third year would be the "golden one," when everything would come together for me. Well, it didn't. Maybe I'm just a late-bloomer, which is entirely possible given all the evidence from other areas of my life. This is my sixth year, and now I feel like I have the hang of everything.

My husband, who is in his first year of teaching high school, said that he feels awkward because most of the kids know more about the school and the people at the school than he does. That's when the light-bulb went off in my head about why entering my sixth year has made such a difference for me. I also teach at a high school, and it's my fifth year at that school. My first year was at a different location. So, essentially, I spent my last four years learning the ropes as a freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior -- yet from a teacher's perspective, of course.

The students who marched across the stage last May were freshmen when I was in my first year at the school. So, when they graduated, they were the last group of students who knew as much about the school as I did. I guess I sort of "graduated" with them into a new era of my teaching career. This year is a commencement for me. Though I hesitate to say I am beginning my "veteran" years of teaching, at least I am no longer a novice. I'm looking forward to seeing what a difference the benefit of experience makes this year and in the years to come.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Never Stop Learning

Wow! I still can't believe that it's almost time to start the school year. I had a busy summer. My husband is getting ready to start his first year teaching this year. He's been attending classes and doing a lot of preparation work. I've been helping him, but he has been very good about wanting to learn how to do things on his own. What I've been surprised about is how much his classes have helped me. When he would come home and discuss what happened in his classes, it would often cause me to re-think some things about my teaching practice.

His insight as a beginning teacher is so refreshing for me. I didn't realize how many of my thoughts about teaching were sort of "knee-jerk." For example, he said in his syllabus, he was going to allow students to re-do assignments as many times as they wanted to get a higher grade if they were willing to come in after school on his designated "re-do days." He said it really didn't matter to him if it took a student, say, three times to "get" something, as long as they got it before the end of the grading period. He said that sometimes the light bulb doesn't come on for some students until half-way through or almost the whole-way through a unit. What a revelation! How did I miss that? I know it won't apply to every assignment or situation, but what a basic way to offer "differentiated instruction."

Although this summer has been exhausting, I am thrilled about what I learned. Even more so, I am excited about what I might learn as the year progresses and my husband and I share our teaching experiences over the dinner table. Collaboration and idea-sharing are so key to becoming a better teacher. I feel so blessed to be able to do that at home now too.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Great website builder

If you are looking for a way to build a website for your class, you may want to consider using I have spent probably the equivalent of 2 days (over several weeks) putting together my website, and it has been virtually effortless. Weebly has drag and drop features that make building the website easy.

One of the great features on Weebly is its built-in blog pages. I plan to use these blogs for daily updates on what was covered in class. Therefore, when a student is absent, he/she can go to the website to learn what was done even before they come back to class. I will also use a blog page with my advanced class so that we can have a discussion board.

If you are interested in looking at my website, please go to It is still a work in progress, but I am pretty proud of what I have so far.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lesson Planning

I guess I am starting to get bored at home, or maybe, I just want to get a head start on next year. I have started making extensive plans for my classes next year. Two of the classes I teach have new GPS standards. So, it was necessary to make revisions. I didn't want to allow myself to get overwhelmed when the school year is underway.

I have spoken to some peers of mine, and they have said that school is not among their thoughts lately. I must admit that I kind of envy their ability to put it out of their minds. I just can't seem to do it. I feel like I will kick myself later if I get really busy and recall that I could have taken some of the hours out of my "lazy days of summer" to get prepared for next year.

I'm pretty excited about the templates I've created for my unit-level plans and daily lesson plans. I think that I will have much less stress on a daily basis.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

School's Out...Professional Development Time

Although I have enjoyed the first few days of summer vacation, I realize that I can't allow the whole summer to go by without pursuing some type of professional development. So far, I have signed up for a 4-day workshop next week to develop lessons for Atlas Rubicon. I'm also going to a one-day workshop the following week to help me prepare for a brand new class I'll be teaching next year.

I love my summer vacation, and I think it's necessary to re-charge from a busy school year. Still, I know professional development will help me get ready for next year too. So, I encourage all teachers to seek out ways to improve their practice. Not only are there workshops, but there are online classes, books, and other sources.