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Ah... The End of the Semester

It's the END of the semester! Time for in-depth reviews, developed discussions on the content of the semester, thoroughly researched and well-written papers to be turned in, and those long, comprehensive, final exams. Isn't it great to see such PROGRESS AND SUCCESS that comes from your hard work and dedication throughout the semester?

Ha! Do you really see this? I do remember those days... but, my days at the end of the semester are quite different now.

I see:




  • Students skipping school on the final days because: "They can't pass the class anyway, so why does it matter?"


  • Students coming in all hours of the school day asking for bonus or extra credit.


  • Students asking when I will be "fixing" their grades in the computer so it shows they are now passing.


  • Students rejoicing that they just passed their Algebra exam because the teacher made it so easy; otherwise everyone would fail the course and she would be in trouble. "The questions were like, 'What is 1+1?' I totally passed it with like a 100!"


  • Emails from parents asking, "What can we do to get my child's grade to passing?"


  • Emails from parenst asking what I have done to help their child pass my class this semester.


  • No replies from parents to whom I respond that I offered before and after school assistance, study sessions before tests, a writing session before and after school, bonus assignments posted online for each unit, and weekly email reminders to parents and students about upcoming assignments, tests, and other due dates.


In the early years of my teaching career, I remember hearing the words "high expectations" so often, I wanted to vomit each time it was uttered. I was teaching with high expectations. I was pushing my students. I was preparing them for college. I was seeing success. But now I long to hear those words come from an administrator. I think I would grab them and hug them with great vigor if they told me to hold my classroom expectations high and



DO NOT LOWER MY STANDARDS



just to make everyone feel good and appear as though they are earning the credit. And then, I would probably pass out from all of the excitement.



But as testing accountability became more oppressing, I no longer heard the words "high expectations." It was a thing of the past. The new words were "closing the gap" and "passing rates" and "no retention" and "accept all work, late or not" and so many more. These can all be combined into one simple phrase in my book: Dumb down the education.



We are no longer called to the principal's office because little Sally's mommy is concerned that she will not be college ready. We don't hear that Johnny needs to work more on developing his research paper so his college essays will be well-written. We aren't told that we need to step up our standards to compete with the other local high schools in our academics. Instead, we are asked questions like: Why are so many of your students failing? What can you do to improve your students' grades? What can you do to fix the grades problem for your classes? What can you change so that more of your students are successful in passing the course?



What can I do? NO! It's what SHOULD my STUDENTS DO? I can answer that question.



It is no longer a question about meeting the standards. It is no longer a conversation about creating college-ready students that will make us proud in their futures. It is no longer about producing students who know our content and can retain what they have learned in their high school classes as they move on into adulthood. It is no longer preparing students with good work habits and strong ethics. Those ideals are becoming novelties of the past.



So, as this semester comes to an end, I have a decision to make. Do I conform or do I teach?



The lesson that I teach in these years may not be about history or geography. It may not be about the mistakes of the past or the heros who have changed our world. Instead, it may be that if you do not work, you fail. If you do not study, your GPA will not be good enough to get you into college. If you do not write your own papers, you will receive a zero for your work and learn about a little thing called plagairism. And the biggest lesson of all: If you do not put forth the effort in high school to do your best, you will live a more challenged life in adulthood. Life does not come easy to those who ONLY wait.



But then again, that is in my ideal world. The truth is that other questions around this whole situation come to my mind now. Do I want to keep my job? Do I want to constantly be harassed by the adminstration? Do I want to be identified as the ONE who will not pass her students? Should I just dumb it down like the rest?



Is there anyone else out there that wants to keep their high expectations?



Where have all the TEACHERS gone?



Is there HOPE?

The Gap Kids

When I first started teaching, I attended a series of trainings by Ruby Payne and her associates. At first, I thought it would be just another training, but almost immediately, I realized these people actually knew what they were talking about, and more importantly, they were saying something I liked!


Many of the students we teach today have struggles they deal with on a daily basis. The news media (and educational specialists, etc.) like to say that this is a new problem, and that the growing level of poverty is changing the playing field for our students. I don't agree. Oh, I admit that there are quite a few kids out there that experience some level of poverty (nothing compared to the rest of the world), and I will accept the idea that this interferes with their content learning; however, I will not agree that this is a new problem. It is as old as time. The difference... now we simply hear about it more.


And, poverty is not the only problem our students face. Some are abused, some are neglected. Some must care for siblings or parents. Some must deal with other hardships that are beyond my ability to imagine. BUT, and this is a big BUT: These problems cannot be excuses.


Here is where some of you reading will begin to turn away from the screen, cursing me for being so harsh and uncaring. But, in the real world, our students must be prepared. And I know very few employers who will care if the electric was turned off or if they only had scraps as a meal the night before. In our nation, the workforce does not accept excuses. So, if we DO in the classroom, we are setting our students up for failure.


There were moments in my life as a child where I had to struggle to survive. I remember standing in line with my mother for a cheese block. I remember going to assistance organizations to have our heat turned back on. I dealt with the extremes of parental neglect and abuse, and never knew which to expect when I got home from school. But, I NEVER told my teachers that I struggled. And I NEVER wanted to be made an exception or allowed any excuses that wouldn't fly for my friends. And, more than anything else, I wanted to feel successful. I wanted to know that I could do something for myself, and that I could do it right. I wanted that approval.


In our schools, we are told every day about the poverty of our children. We are reminded that they struggle overnight and in the mornings and when they get home. We are warned that they do not have supplies, parental assistance, or positive role models to guide them in their learning. And we are often encouraged to give these kids "breaks" to help them "pass" through the system. If that is what we do, it is the same as stabbing that child in the chest and watching them bleed.


Children need adversity to learn to deal with life. They need to struggle to learn the skills of survival. And, while it may be a tough lesson to learn, it will only make them stronger. If we, as teachers, only support them by accepting excuses ("I couldn't do my homework because our power was off."), we are instead teaching them that they do not have to do anything, that life will just go on without them, and that truly they do not matter.


In my classroom, it may seem like a tough love lesson every day, but my students know what I expect. They know that I demand extreme structure, that my due dates are due dates, and that I do not "care" if they have an excuse for their lack of preparation or participation. However, they also know that I want the best for them, I want to see them gain success for themselves, and I "care" enough to put the hard stuff back on them.


Life is a tough lesson. And no, it is not fair. And, yes, my views on this are very harsh. But, I know the truth about growing up in the gap. If you don't learn to fight your way out, you will always be there.



Read more about this topic, and many others in my book, A Lesson Plan for Teachers, New and Old!

The Sunshine Award



Over the past few weeks I have struggled in my own classroom. This is new for me, and I took my frustrations to my blog. Before I knew it, Scipi had made multiple comments, including a link to a wonderful article that made me feel so much better. I, at least, knew that I wasn't alone in my struggles.


And then, I received another gift from Scipi. She nominated me for the Sunshine Award. And boy, did I need some sunshine just at that moment. So, THANK YOU! Thank you so much for understanding. Thank you for not judging. And, thank you for knowing that all I really needed was to refocus and to know that I could make it through. Most importantly, thank you for passing me the torch! I feel so honored among so many wonderful Tpt sellers and blog writers.


Now, I must complete the tasks required to accept this award. Here we go:


  1. A favorite color is very important. It tells so much about a person. Someone who loves yellow may well deserve this award for their brightness and glowing personality. Someone who like white may be pure and good in all they do, including keeping up their blog and Tpt site with concise and clear products. So, what is my favorite color? Ok, well, it is blue. I know. I am not exactly bright or bold or pure, but I do love the color of the sky for all it has to offer. It is hope and harmony and th eoptomism we all need to keep going each day!

  2. Having a favorite animal is such a wonderful experience. Mine was my sweet Snowball. She was an Alaskan Spitz, and she was with me for 14 years. She was always there when I came home, ready to love me, even when I felt tired and defeated. She was not just a favorite, she was my perfect best friend.

  3. I used to play the lottery when I was too young to legally play. I was a "goody" kid thinking I was being bad! Ha Ha. My favorite number - always 17. It has the number 1, which being 1st is always a good thing, and it has the lucky 7. What could be a better set of numbers? P.S. I don't play the lottery now. I need every penny I earn these days.

  4. Next is choosing between Facebook and Twitter. I have to say Facebook for now. I am just getting into Twitter, and I just don't know how to work it well enough to like it yet. Give me time, maybe a summer, and I will have a better answer!

  5. My passion has always been teaching. First of all, I love being the center of attention. And to be able to earn and keep that attention from an interested audience is the most amazing feeling. I also love to talk! What a better combination for a teacher. Now, though, I have learned that I have to share the classroom time, so I do my best to practice what I preach - I allow my students the opportunity to be the experts, and it makes all the difference.

  6. I am an avid giver. I actually hate to wrap presents, but I like to be sneaking in my giving. I love to watch others open gifts, and to me it is even better when they don't know where it is coming from or why. I have even had my students participate in Pay it Forward projects that were so incredibly rewarding for us all. And they were also fun!

  7. My favorite day each year is the final task. This is hard. I love so many things that I do each year, that it is hard to make a choice. First and foremost, I have to say that any day I get to see my new grandbaby girl is a wonderful day. Seeing her smile or hearing her laugh is just the most amazing thing. And then, if I get to see my baby girl with my grandbaby girl, it is even more incredible. However, I have to say that the last day of school is always a bittersweet, but wonderful day for me. I always do exit slips with my students, and I encourage a community sharing on the final days where they can tell me what they really think about my classes. This is usually very rewarding for me and leads me into my summer vacation with a new sense of purpose (planning for the next school year!).

Now I get to pass on this great award! This was a challenge considering the many super teachers and blog writers I have had the opportinity to get to know this past year through Tpt. I have to admit that there are so many who are so much more creative than I, and they are incredible inspirations to the rest of us. There are also the ones who are super organized, and they tend to lead the way in the marketing and masterminding for Tpt. But my choice is an inspiration to me for a few other reasons.


Lisa Michalek has been on Tpt for a long while. I remember seeing her name in the top lists and always wishing I could catch her. I am still trying! But now, I see her as a very dedicated seller and a great contributor for teachers everywhere. Her "The Lesson Guide" blog is always offering free products for science teachers, and she is always sharing great advice with her products. I can just imagine how helpful she has been to new teachers who have ventured into the science classroom while keeping up with her blog and Tpt products. More importantly, she does not only offer her products on her website or her facebook page, but she offers her blog followers a wealth of information and links to great resources and opportunities from all over the Internet. All this while balancing a family and career! I am impressed!


With that said, I wish everyone a bright and sunshiny day!


And Scipi, thank you again! You are awesome! :)


Michele Luck




It is time!



My sale has already started at Tpt! Shop now and avoid the crowds! :)


Or, shop tomorrow and increase your savings with the added discout code from Tpt.



A Failing Teacher





I haven't posted on my blog for quite a while. I could say its due to stress or that I have been just so busy, but the truth is much more important. For the past few weeks, I have felt like a failing teacher.





For those of you who know me, or those who have read my book, you know that I am a fairly confident, and sometimes an arrogant person. More importantly, I have always been uber confident in my own classroom. I have no fear as I step into my domain, and I know my content and my instructional methods like the back of my hand. And then...




My district rolled out the laptops for all students in grades 5-12. They are beautiful 2 lb. Apple Airs and they are absolutely amazing. A bit too amazing, actually. The students have become overwhelmed with the new opportunities they have in the classroom.


What are those new opportunities? Well, for me, a technology strong teacher, I thought this would open the door for incredible research, real-time current events investigations, and websites and software that would enhance my teaching in every way possible. While these opportunities are there, there are greater ones that my students have found.

By the end of the first day after the laptop roll out, most of my students had activated their skype, facebook, and twitter accounts. After the first weekend, they had downloaded thousands of songs and "shared" them through the bluetooth with all of their friends. By the end of the first week, they had downloaded their favorite games, movies, and music videos. My nightmare began.


My enthusiasm and excitement for the new laptops waned quickly. They became a classroom management concern instead of an incredible tool for learning. The students who were already falling through the cracks took a nose-dive into their escapes and even the "focused" students became focused on all the new tools and games they could play with from the Facetime (where the girls could check their hair and make-up with a click) to the access to the world at their fingertips that had previously been limited during school hours.


What had happened to my classroom? Despite my innovative lessons which utilized the new tool, my students stopped completing assignments and their attention span in class reduced to nil. Grades started to drop, and students became unconcerned about the objectives of my class. They had all they thought they could ever want. And to make matters worse, students fully understood that teachers were NOT allowed to take their laptops for disciplinary action. We were to consider the laptops as textbooks, and the students were to have them at all times. They had a free ride. Even in attempting to control the management disaster through the calling of parents, I was often told that "they couldn't get them to do anything at home anymore either" now that the students had the laptops. At that point, I just wanted to scream... "Just PARENT!"


So, here I am. After teaching for 13 years... After being a "favorite" teacher for many students due to my innovative and "out-of the box" teaching, I am now a nuisance in my own classroom. After years of super success for my students, I am only in the way of my students being able to entertain themselves 24/7.


What do I do?

I do what I do. I teach. And, I teach. And, I teach. I continue to do what I know is best for my students, and I know that eventually, this year will end as they all have in my teaching career. My students will be better students, better citizens, and better humans before I let them disappear into their summer vacations. They will know something about history, and they will know a lot about meeting the high expectations of a teacher who truly cares about their success. I will not give up, and I will keep pushing them until they see the light. Not the one shining from their laptop screen, but the one that shines from the futures ahead of them that I will show them during the rest of this year.


Now, I don't expect this to be an easy task. I am redoing all of my lesson plans. I am incorporating MORE technology into my classes. And most importantly, I am putting MORE responsibility on my students. While this may be a very scary life lesson for many of them, it will be one that impacts the rest of their lives. These laptops will not be a tool for apathy and laziness; instead I will make it the tool through which they will learn responsibility and accountability, one way or another.

Sale! Sale! Sale!



It is almost Cyber Monday and time for a sale! Visit TpT for 30% off with the coupon code in addition to the 10% off sale I will be having this coming Friday through Cyber Monday! Enjoy your turkey and your shopping, too.






Do you accept LATE WORK?

Do you accept late work?

I have had so many students that do not pay attention to deadlines. More importantly, they are not even concerned about being responsible or passing their classes with acceptable grades. They are more than willing to accept zeros, and many live under the assumption that they will have a chance at the end of the quarter to "make it all up" before the grades are official. Yet, I need them to complete the assignments NOW to help them learn and practice the content and skills I am teaching NOW. I need them to do the work NOW so they are prepared for the test we will take NOW. What good is the later?

My policy has always been (15+ years of teaching) to NOT accept late work, and I strongly believe that students learn irresponsibility through teachers bending rules and policies to adapt to irresponsibility. Also, having worked in the "civilian" world before teaching, I learned quickly that employers do not have late policies. If you are late with your work, you are fired. If you are late to work, you are fired. Why should it be different for students who need to learn these valuable lessons before the penalty is more than an assignment grade?

But now there are many trends in late policies, and even some districts have mandated the acceptance of late work for their schools.  There is even research supporting varying sides of the dilemma.   And there are valid arguments, some suggesting that it's better to have students turn in the work late than not at all.  Still, I question the lesson.

So, back to my question.  
Do you accept late work? Why or why not?

Happy Teaching!

How Is Your Year So Far?

How is your year so far? Are your lessons successful and your classes learning at the pace you planned? Do you feel like you are reaching all of your students? Do you have any questions or concerns?

Share your thoughts, questions, and concerns!

Do not think that your failures are yours alone!

Do not think you are the only one out there with problems in the classroom!

Teaching is a tough job. It is not something we all do seemlessly, without any hesitations or regrets. We each go into our classrooms and try our best, but sometimes we see failure as well as success.

And despite what some seem to think about a teacher's role, it is not your burden to bear alone. Teaching students, and bringing success for that child, is a collaboration. It REQUIRES the help of the parents, the core teachers, the elective teachers, the bus drivers, the cafeteria workers, and so many others. It is true that "It takes a village."

So, when you find yourself questioning your place in the classroom, or just your latest lesson, look for input and advice from others who walk in your shoes!

Follow my blog and my facebook for a variety of topics that help you feel real in the classroom! You are not a robot. You think, you feel, you question. That is what makes you a good teacher! Just don't give up! There will always be another day.

Link to my Facebook page for tips and great resource links: My Facebook Page

Check out other great blogs for advice and support. At The Lesson Plan Diva, there is currently a linky party introducing a variety of blogs for each and every grade level and subject area.

Visit My Tpt Store for great resources for Social Studies, English, and Organizing the Classroom!

And, check back often for new topics and pieces of wisdom from my battled brain! :)

Time to Read!!!!



Today is International Literacy Day and I want to celebrate with Dr. Seuss! Wouldn't we all want to celebrate with the great literacy leader?

Across the nation, student literacy levels is a great concern. We test and test and test their reading skills, but in our literacy-dependent world, our students are not improving. Why is this? It's simple... Our kids no longer learn to LOVE reading.

Before the Internet and the advancement of our technology savvy world, we loved to read. Reading took us places we could never imagine on our own. The books swept us away to the past, soured us into the future, and encouraged us for our futures. In our favorite characters, we saw ourselves and we planned our lives based on their adventures. Whether we were a Hardy Boy or a Nancy Drew, we were engaged in our books, and reading fueled our curiosity and our desire to read and learn more.

Times have changed. So, how do we get kids to love books again? I have a few ideas...

Start Young. Teach students to LOVE reading as soon as we get them in the schools. Bring them books and read to them until they have the skills to read for themselves.

Read with Excitement. Make every book and every page an amazing event. Read with enthusiasm and enjoyment. Yell when the characters yell and cry when the characters cry. Make it the great adventure you know it should be.

Share Your Love. Tell your students how much you LOVE to read. Encourage them to read for enjoyment, not just as an assignment. Set an example by talking about your favorite books or your current reading list.

Allow Time for FUN Reading. Provide students choices in their reading and encourage reading for fun. Even high school students love to have fun with reading and will jump from their seats when you announce it's "Carpet Time!"

Make It An Adventure. Travel through time or into space with the reading you do in class. Read to the most climactic point, and STOP for the day, creating anticipation and curiosity. Role play the scenes from the book to make it real for your students.

Encourage Encouragement! Organize service-learning projects to allow older children to encourage younger children to read. There is no greater influence than that of a peer or an older student, and one that loves reading can encourage a classroom of others to take on that love of reading for themselves.

Think about it. Do you remember your favorite childhood book? Or maybe it was a series? I remember mine. I read them still! :)

To get a jump start on your literacy lessons in your classes, try this Service Learning Unit with Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat and The Lorax. This unit could be used with any upper-elementary, or even middle school aged, students who have the opportunity to work with younger grades or lower reading level students. And don't think that Dr. Seuss books are too "low" to read to the upper grades. The lesson is not on the CONTENT this time... The lesson is the LOVE OF READING!


And as for my favorites...
Charlotte's Web (still makes me cry)
Nancy Drew
Encyclopedia Brown
Little House Series
The Pigman (once I was older)
Anything Dr. Seuss

And, of course, my own series, Souper Sales, written as a 4th grader for the kindergartners in my school. Where are my royalties for those books?


What were your favorites?

The Technology Initiative

Back in the spring, the teachers of my district were notified that our district planned to roll out a technology initiative that would be one of few in the United States. As part of that program, all teachers were provided new Macbooks and trained in technology use for our classrooms.

Being a teacher who has used technology in my classroom for over a decade, I was so excited at the great move toward modernizing our district and preparing our students for the real world. I was so excited that our students would each be receiving macbooks (all students grades 5-12), and that we would have all the access we needed to make our lessons 21st Century. I was so excited that my district would take the lead in incorporating technology, and that we would be ahead of the race against all other districts across the United States. I was so excited!

As the school year started, and the rollout began, I maintained my excitement. I have created lessons for the technology to be utilized in my classroom, and I have researched the latest and greatest in student technology products for my Social Studies classes. And as our students began getting their computers, I have been pumping up the enthusiasm for this incredible learning tool.

So, what is the lesson of this blog entry? Where is the punchline?
There isn't one!

The lessons from this great technology is ahead of us. What we will learn from this rollout is yet to be seen, but I am completely optimistic that great things will come from this great leap of faith taken by my district and our superintendent.

We have taken a great step forward in preparing our students for the world they will be facing in the next few years. With these macbooks, our students will learn to navigate the internet and will adapt to the ways of communication in our modern world. And more importantly, from this great experiment, our students will learn another valuable lesson. They will learn that we entrusted them with a wonderful gift, and we have placed the greatest tool for learning in our modern world in their hands. With our guidance and support, the rest will be up to them.

Another great step for man, and a giant leap for mankind! :)

See my newest unit with technology lessons for the high school classroom here!

Am I Doing This Right?



At the start of the school year, we were all so filled with excitement. We were anxious to meet our new students, enthusiastic about the new lessons we had prepared, and hopeful that we would do it all "right." Now that we are a few weeks in, we start to question ourselves about that great success we anticipated. Am I doing this right? Are they getting it?


I started my year with a super fun-filled unit on the basics of Geography. Most of this unit should have been review from the 6th grade, but some of the activities included current articles and modern issues to be considered by my new-to-high-school 9th graders. My unit included vocabulary practice, investigative skills, competitive games, and plenty of map skills practice. Each of the days brought fun and laughter, inquiry and investigation, and many light bulbs glowing bright!

Throughout the unit, I assessed my students through daily exit slips, "POP-ORAL QUIZZES" and simple questioning as my students worked on activities or completed tasks. I often found myself impressed with the answers my students were providing, and even in the questions they were asking me about the topics of study. This unit was a hit!

And then came the test. The summative assessment. The big finale! And how did it go? Well, I'll just say: It did not go as I expected. Some of my students performed incredibly, while others seemed to sink in the testing quicksand. How could this be? Did I fail? What do I do now?

How could this be? Simple. Students are different. Some studied. Some did not. Some took their time on the test, some finished before I had them all passed out. Some cared about their performance, some are trying to test the high school waters.

Did I fail? While I always take my students' failures as personal failures, I always try to remind myself that this is never the end. This is just the first test in the first quarter or the first year of high school. There will be time to change the early failures to great successes. I just have to work to find the correct strategies to make a difference.

What do I do now? I teach. I go in tomorrow and I begin the next unit. Of course, I have now adapted this coming unit to include the concepts that were not "absorbed" in the last unit, and I plan to stress the importance of the process in my future lessons - the entire process from start to finish.

Teaching, just like learning, is NOT about the test. The test is just one more tool we use in the classroom to see where are students need us more. The test is never the end; it is just a new beginning.

So, you ask, how are my classes going? Tomorrow we start a new unit, and I am so excited! We will be learning about new things, reviewing some old, and investigating what it means to be a student in this world. What could be more fun?!

"...Our lessons come from the journey, not the destination."
-Don Williams Jr.

Freebie Day!

Did you hear? There are freebies galore TODAY at The Lesson Cloud!

Observation Time!



It doesn't matter what career you are in, or how good you are at what you do, when you are told it is time for your annual observation/evaluation, you become just a bit unnerved!

Those of us who are somewhat cocky (tenured and over-confident) may scoff that it's no big deal, or that "anyone can step in my classroom anytime they want!" Well, while that is true, and I personally do welcome everyone into my classroom, it is still unsettling to know someone will be entering with a clipboard in hand and an assortment of category boxes waiting to be checked off in my affirmation.

Even the most confident teacher will feel some anxiety as the observation approaches. We are in a career where we want to do our best. We want to impress. We want to engage everyone - and often we want to entertain. It's what we do. And that slight fear that we will be the comedian on the stage with the dead-silent audience (cricket, cricket) sets in our minds and weighs us down like a lump in the throat.

So, what do you do? You do your best! Oh, those words... Do your best! But they are true! You do your best, and let the administrator observing you do the rest. They are in their position to be your leader, your guide, and your mentor. They are your administrator because they were once in your shoes and they worked their way to the front office by being the ones who did well on their own observations and evaluations! They are there to help you become your best, and they can be your greatest cheerleader. Trust in them to do their jobs well!

Now, I give all this advice as I sit with my own judgment day coming quickly. In just two weeks, two little weeks, I will be shaking in my shoes! But that's okay! Because I know I will do what I do everyday. I will do my best and be my best. I will make them laugh, make them cry, and make them cheer with joy at my lesson. I'm a teacher. It's what I do!

So, for real... Need some tips for your own observation/evaluation? See my blog at The Lesson Cloud for the good stuff!





Do You Remember When?


I remember when...


I remember when we used to hang our heads upside-down to spray our hair with enough hairspray to deplete an o-zone layer.

I remember when we all understood the meaning of "I carried a watermelon" or "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

I remember when our telephones were connected to the wall.

And, I remember when my teachers planned during their planning periods and left all the "work" behind them just after the bell rang. Or did they?

I remember when things were so much simpler than they seem to be now. Or is that just my here and now perception? Yet in preparing my lessons each day, week, month... I feel that there are so many steps I must now take to check all the boxes in my "meeting the standards." This is not necessarily a bad thing, but how can you juggle it to make it work best for you and your students?

Having worked on a few curricular design teams that "mapped" and "aligned" and "created" curriculum to work with the updated standards and state requirements, I have some ideas to help all the rest of you in what seems like the never ending task!

1. Use what you have. Start with what you know is right. Check it against the standards to see what needs to be deleted, updated, or added.

2. Turn your standards into a checklist. Check off the standards as you feel your students have mastered them. Highlight standards that must be taught throughout the school year, and be sure to recheck the standards you feel may have been forgotten.

3. Add your standards into your units where they BEST fit. Do not attempt to push standards in where they simply do not belong. If you plan well ahead, this will be a much easier task.

4. Create lessons to address the standards you do not already have in your units. This will serve two purposes. It will help you to address the standard, and it will bring a fresh, new activity into your classroom.

5. Don't overdo! Make sure to align your standards with the other grade levels and curriculum areas. Overlap is great, but overkill is a waste of time.

6. Don't stress! Despite the high-stakes world we live in, and the fact that in many states, teachers are living based on their "scores," the world will not come to an end if you fail to reach a standard in any given lesson or unit or even year! Just work from where you left off and see where you can go.

I remember when my teachers talked about the things they did in their personal time... those things never included aligning the curriculum, double-checking that their plans met the standards, or working every waking hour to prepare lessons and reviews that would teach to the test. And you know what? We all turned out just fine!


Visit TpT for lessons that will save you time and energy in meeting those state and national standards!

Visit my TpT store for free items to help in your unit and lesson creation or for a wide assortment of fairly priced, content-strong, multiple-intelligence-based activities and lessons to keep your Social Studies or English classes engaged and learning!

Keep Changing Things Up!

In the History Department, it is a given that our lessons must be modified and adapted year after year to include the new events and developments that occur each year. Still, in every department (including History), you will find teachers that are still using the same lessons they started with 10+ years ago. Some argue that the content is still the same or that the lesson has been effective in the past, but does that mean it will be effective for the future? Our students change, and so should our lessons.

So, how do you do this?

First of all, go back over your old materials each year as you prepare your lessons. Update! Add new information, change the templates in your powerpoints, add images or other graphics.

Next, change the types of activities you do. It is very true that the students we have today are NOT the ones we had 10 years ago. Despite their being the video game generation, if you require that they stay seated for hours on end listening to lectures or watching powerpoints, they will become apathetic, and some will attempt to snore in your classrooms! To remedy this, keep them up! Create activities where your students must move around the room. Centers work well at the high school level, and games are always a big hit.

Finally, a last simple change is in your attitude! Yes, a teacher's attitude can make all of the difference in the classroom. Feel young again yourself by playing YOUR favorite music while you work. Sing and dance to teach your lessons. Jump on desks to act out your content. Just be engaged! This is supposed to be what you LOVE to do. Show it! When you love what you do, your students will love what you do!

For a simple game idea, take a look at my new, FREE Canada Scavenger Hunt Activity for Human Geography. Students are up and moving while learning new content. What could be better!

The Sale Continues

A super sale is in progress at TeachersPayTeachers.com this
week. If you haven't visited this site, this is the week
to take a look. Use the coupon code B1T1S for an
additional 10% off of the sale prices. Many items also
listed for FREE!

My TpT Store

Who Do You Know?!

Years ago, new teachers could walk into a school building and begin teaching on the first day of school without any assistance or introduction. All that has changed!

With the ever changing requirements for teaching and the increasing demands for teachers to include a variety of teaching styles and methods, you now need to know your school and your co-workers before that first day. It is, therefore, vital for you new teachers to get there NOW and begin networking.

So, who do you need to know?
1. Find your MEDIA/TECHNOLOGY COORDINATOR. This person will be your best friend if you have incorporated technology into your lessons (YES- There should be technology in your lessons!). The building tech person will have your gradebook access information, your access to the projectors, dvd players, mobile labs, etc. They will also be the one you call for HELP when you are in the middle of a lesson and the whole system goes down. It happens!

2. Meet your SECRETARY/BOOKKEEPER/RECEPTIONIST. You may have the idea that this person is not important in your life, but that is a very bad assumption. They are your lifeline to resources, classroom materials, club schedules, and parents! Your office staff will help you when no one else is available and they will always be there with a kind smile to help you get through the toughest of days.

3. Beg for time with your ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS or CURRICULUM FACILITATORS. These roles are sometimes new in the buildings these days, but they are vital and often overwhelming (my husband is an assistant principal and is always running!). In the old days, the principal took care of everything between the Central Office and the classroom teachers. Now, the principals pass those obligations down to their assistants. So for curriculum or discipline questions, these are your "go to" people. Make them your friends and allies!

4. Know and love your CUSTODIANS. If you've ever watched The Breakfast Club, you know that the custodians are the eyes and ears of the building. They know everything. More importantly, they take care of your classroom. I very much appreciate my custodians and the work they do. It is an incredible job, and I try to do all I can to make sure they are not stressed with extra messes and mishaps. One simple practice - make sure your last class picks up anything from the floor and deposits it in the trash can on the way out the door. Simple, but significant!

5. Collaborate with your COUNTERPARTS. Find the other teachers in the building that teach the same students. Work together to create interdisciplinary lessons and talk with one another to share effective strategies in classroom management for your "challenging" students. More importantly, these teachers will know and understand your specific stresses like no other in the building. Be each others' sounding board for ideas, and share each others' stresses to make your year go by without a serious catch!

Finally, find other NEW TEACHERS. If your school does not have a new teacher co-hort or mentoring program, create your own. You need to work with one another and share the stress of being a newbie! But don't be the downer in the group. Just remember - your first year is temporary. Next year, it will be your second, and by then, you will be an old pro!

The BIG SALE

The BIG SALE is on! Visit TpT this week for super sale events throughout the site. Use the coupon code B1T1S for your additional 10%.

Tour the Teacher2Teacher Blog for the linky party! All teachers linked are holding sales in their own Tpt store, offering you added savings.

Here is the link to my store for all of your Social Studies needs. Make sure you check out the first of the year units for Geography and World History. They are a great deal, especially with the added discounts.

Happy shopping!

Back to School SALE!

It is finally here! The Back to School Sale on TpT!

For those of you who have not checked out Tpt, this is the time to jump over to see the great teacher-made resources available to you at very reasonable prices! And many items are FREE.

Beginning tomorrow, the storewide 10% discount is available using the code B1T1S. Just enter the code at checkout for your savings.

In addition to the 10% coupon code, you can save at my store! My entire store is 10% off August 1st-4th. Shop, save, and stock up for the school year!

How exciting!

Oh my! Just days away...

It is almost time! Just days away! Can you believe it... SCHOOL SHOPPING TIME!

Now, this season is a dread for most parents, but for teachers... oh, this is so fun! The catch is that you must find the best deals to stock up your classroom.

Here are some of my favorite tips:
1. This week is the Teacher Appreciation Week at most Office Depots. This means you will get 20% most of your purchases and on Saturday morning you can go to a free breakfast and pick up your teacher goodie bag!

2. Penny Perks! Staples Stores offers items each week for just 1 cent. The ad will limit the items to 2 or 3 for regular shoppers, but teachers may purchase up to 20 (or 25 in some locations) of the item at the 1 cent deal! Stock up!

3. Kmart is accepting double coupons this week. Use all those bic pen and kleenex coupons now to stock up your classroom on the basics.

4. Coupon Mom and Krazy Coupon Lady online will provide you some of those coupons for your needed school supplies. Print the coupons and go shopping!

5. For those big projects you have coming up... Go to Walmart, Lowes, Target, Home Depot, etc and ask to talk to a manager about a store donation. You will need to do this in advance, and you usually need to provide a detailed letter requesting your supplies, but they will DONATE your items. FOR FREE! Lowes supports my Trench Warfare activity (it's a big deal with a ton of farming plastic!), saving me over $150 a year.

6. And finally... Saving the BEST for last...
TpT is having the Back to School Sale next week! Start looking for your TpT Newsletter for the 10% off coupon code and check out the homepage for stores that are offering additional sales and discounts for the big event! My entire store will be on sale from August 1st-5th! Wow!

One last piece of advice about back to school supplies: Just ask! You will be surprised with the offers stores will make to support your classroom. In return, make sure that you show them the love with your shopping and by spreading the word to your friends and co-workers!

Once a teacher, always a teacher

Summer vacation begins tomorrow. We will pull out of the driveway and... Head west, young man. Head west! Where to? We will tent camp across the U.S from Kentucky to Nevada and back through Texas and Florida. And I am so looking forward to this much needed vacation.

Yet, what is my husband reminding me more than anything else as we prepare to leave? "You are not a teacher on this trip!" It seems that he does not like it when I only talk about teaching as we travel on our vacations. But, you see, I can't help it! I am a teacher. I love my job. I love my students. I love planning, and creating, and implementaing my lessons! I am a teacher, and it's just what I do.

I guess he has a point that in the jacuzzi on the back of the Carnival cruise ship is not the place for a lengthy discussion on the state of education in the world today, but that other couple was really interested in all I had to say. And I am a Social Studies teacher; I teach about current events!

Now this year, as we camp, I am sure we will encounter many other travelers. And I am sure they will make comments or ask questions that will prompt me into a "teacher" discussion. But, I will try. I will try to refrain from the in-depth lesson on the state of the world and the need for more parental involvement in the schools. I will hold back on my lesson about the need of a better educated population to take care of us as we age. I will resist the urge to talk about my latest prodigy or my greatest success in the past school year.

How will I do this great task? I have decided I will take on whole new persona... I am Michele, a journalist from New York City. I write a column on special interests as assigned by my editor each week. It's a very exciting job. I meet important people, challenge wrongs, and set the record straight. I fight evil with my words, and I love what I do.

So, if you run into a journalist from NYC tent camping across America this summer, be sure to share your thoughts on the state of education. I'm sure it would make my husband very happy! :) And it would finally give me the chance to talk about what I love! Once a teacher, always a teacher...

A MEGA Contest!

A MEGA Contest has begun for great products from TpT! Go to http://tchr2tchr.blogspot.com/2011/06/teacher-2-teacher-mega-contest.html for details and to enter. Don't let this one pass you by!

It is just what we do...

As you all know, I participated in the Tpt Secondary Teachers Contest this past weekend. It was very exciting as we all planned and prepared, following the forum each day as the contest idea developed into the contest itself (Thanks Spanishplans!). And after watching all of the elementary teachers gain so many followers and buyers through their contest, we all had high hopes that our $100,000 checks would be coming soon (Deanna inspired!). But, we are secondary, and it just doesn't work that way.

So, here are my thoughts on the whole Tpt for secondary teachers situation...

We are teachers. We create specialized curriculum for our classrooms, and more importantly, for our students. It is just what we do. We do not sit in our studies and think, "Hmmm, will this sell on Tpt?" No, we plan, and create, and design for our kids. What will work in MY classes. And then, we think as an afterfact..."Oh, I bet other teachers and students will love this, too!"

Maybe that is the wrong attitude to have toward my Tpt participation, but it is the truth for me. My kids come first, and my classroom is my domain!

Now does that mean I don't care about Tpt? Absolutely NOT! TpT is incredible. It is the most wonderful resource that has popped up online since I started my teaching career 12 years ago. And I wish it had been around when I was a student teacher and a new teacher. The resources available on this site are amazing, tested and proven resources that could help any teacher make their classroom shine - and more importantly, help their students grow! What could be better?

So, secondary teachers - don't get discouraged! It's not about a contest or even about the sales. It's just what we do... Keep it up!

The BIG Contest!

The BIG Contest for Middle and High School teachers is now open! Blog and visit to win $100+ in TpT products! Visit my TpT Store to begin planning your BIG WIN WISH LIST! Visit the SpanishPlans blog for more details and entry information.

Planning, Planning, Planning

Here it is the end of the school year, and everyone is already talking about planning! Planning? Now? What about that great summer vacation that teachers get? Don't they just sit home watching Oprah all day long? Well, Oprah is gone, so we might as well plan!

And actually, for those who may read this blog that are not teachers or are new to our profession, let me preach just a bit about that teacher summer break... it doesn't exist. Summer is simply the time we have to plan, plan, and plan some more. That whole planning period is a falacy, and we must use our summers to prepare for the little ones that will walk into our classrooms in just a blink of the eye.

Summer is the chance we have to work without interruption. It's the opportunity we have to sit in a comfortable chair, research and relate our standards and objectives, and create. Now, some may not be as creative or imaginative as others, so there are options for them, too (TeachersPayTeachers), but most of us will begin the process of gathering and preparing materials for our upcoming school year.

This can be an overwhelming task. You look at the new standards and see a glob of words on the pages that seems impossible to control and contain into tangible lesson plans. But, it's not that hard. Don't let it overwhelm you!

Start with a plan for the plan!
1. Create a curriculum map for the school year. This can be a simple outline of topics with dates, or it could include your standards, objectives, and core content. I always count the days in the school year, determine the number or days each topic or unit will demand, and work my way through the scheduling process.
2. Develop unit plans that outline your unit objectives, essential questions, and daily plans. This is your working plan that can guide you through the unit and through the content. If they are planned out well, with appropriate timing, your unit tests will follow for assessment.
3. Evaluate your needs for each unit. Determine what materials or resources will be needed for the unit. Gather the items and organize the materials for daily use. Research your content to develop any needed curriculum guides or to develop the instructional materials. Prepare powerpoints or prezis for direct instruction and develop creative activities to engage your students. Or shop on TpT!
4. Before each unit begins, prepare all of your materials, make your copies, and organize your resources and handouts into daily sets.

Take a look at the FREE templates for the curriculum map and unit lesson plan template at my TpT store. And then, just do it! Before you know it, your units will be planned and your students will be entering the door of your well planned and well organized classroom! It will make all of the difference in your teaching year.

Oh, and be sure to hit the pool a few times before the "summer break" is over! Without some structured rest to go with your well-developed plans, you may not enjoy your new classes as much as deserved!

It's all over! Isn't it?

School's out! School's out! Teachers let the monkies out! One went east, one went west...

I remember singing that as a kid. Shows my age, I know. And now, I hear it every year from my peers as we finish up the school year and pack down our classrooms for the summer break. But, is it really over for teachers? Do we really close up shop? Is there ever a true "break" from being a good teacher?

For me, the simple answer is NO! I even drive my husband crazy on vacation as I sit in the hot tub on the cruise ships talking about my classroom ideas or the new lesson plan that is swirling in my head. We even started one vacation with the promise that we would "lie" about what we did if asked by anyone on our vacation. I decided I would be an investigative reporter from NYC and my husband (an assistant principal) chose to be a recruiter for a major league baseball team. It didn't work. The first time someone made a comment about a child, there I went..."In my classroom..."

So, just deal with it. It's a reality that good teachers are good teachers year round. It is in our blood and we cannot resist the urge to plan and create and CARE about our kids (even the ones we haven't met yet). And for many, especially all of my friends and teacher family on TpT, the summer is our most creative and busy time for producing and organizing our products for the coming school year.

It is who we are! And I am so happy about that. I couldn't imagine being anything else!

Now, as I rant and rave about my love of teaching and my summer break, I think about the new teachers just graduating from their college programs. You are using this summer to plan, prepare, and panic! Don't worry. It will all come together, I promise.

My advice for you, and all teachers, is simple. Do not acknowledge that your school year begins on August 11th or whatever day it is scheduled by your district. Instead, begin your work days (8-3:30 or whatever your hours will be) 2 weeks before. Go to school if you have access. Sit in your desk, and work! Plan, create, organize, prepare. It will be the most beneficial 2 weeks you have of your first year!

And one other piece of advice as we begin our summer for rest and relaxation between our teaching years... Read! Pick a good book and read. Need a suggestion? Try my book! (I had to get a plug in here somewhere, right! :)

A Lesson Plan for Teachers, New and Old! A Guide for Student Teachers, New Teachers, and the Experienced Ones!

Have a great summer everyone!

Quick tips for the end of the year

Oh, I remember how I knew nothing about ending the school year. At the end of my first year, I thought I just pulled the door behind me and I would return the next school year to start off on day 1. Ha Ha Ha Ha! Nope, it doesn't work that way!

Let me explain with a few mistakes that I made.

1. Never leave all of your small stuff out. I left all of my knick-knacks and school supplies out on my shelves and in my organizers I had arranged to make my classroom super functioning! When I returned at the end of the summer, I realized that the custodians had moved EVERYTHING out into the halls to wax the floors. Well, the summer school students had taken full advantage of my supplies. I guess it's good they were well used!

2. Pack up your desk. I know this sounds silly, but clean out your desk and put everything away in a box. I didn't do this my first year, and when the custodians moved my desk out into the hallway to wax my floors, they turned it on the side. It dumped out all of my little containers and paperclips jammed into the drawer slides! It took me forever to clean it out and put everything back into its place.

3. Mark your items. One thing you will find is that most teachers are scavengers. It's almost funny that when someone retires or is let go, their "stuff" (Desks, chairs, podiums, shelves, cabinets, etc.) becomes free for all. It is attacked on closing day like a yard sale at first opening. Now, if your materials happen to be in the hall for cleaning, other teachers may assume it is for the taking, as well. Be careful with this. It is even more awkward to do a walk-thru in the next school year to see your globe rotating on another teacher's desk. Hmmmm...

4. Clean out. I thought it was smart to keep everything from year to year, but now I know better. Clean out and make room. This is true of markers (they dry out), student work samples (pull the best of the best and clean out the rest), and even resource materials. One thing to consider in our technology age - if it can be done digitally, why take up space. Now, I fight this one some, because I still think it is important for students to have things to touch and manipulate to learn. Still, clean and toss what you do not need so it is easier on you to unpack and organize at the beginning of the next year.

5. Update. You want your students to learn, and many of them learn by looking. Update the things in your classroom that decorate your walls or ceilings. Take down the old and bring in new, or use student work to suggest what your new students will be able to do in the coming year.

6. Plan to be back. I never pack things up to the point that I will not be able to access them over the summer. I am a teacher all year, and I get some of my best planning and development done in the summer months (after vacation, of course!). Keep things where you will be able to get to them for that moment of inspiration!

Now, I know that these things may seem simplistic to the seasoned teachers, but I know that I learn something new every year when it comes to packing down for the summer!

LAST TIP: Write yourself a note on the board. (You may also need to write your custodians a note to not erase it!) Remind yourself what you learned in this year that you never want to forget. List the things you want to change. Write yourself the encouragement that you may need to hear as you take on your new darlings in the fall. And finally, write down a new goal for yourself. In the end, it is what we reach for that keeps us moving forward!

Happy end of the school year to all!

It's Personal

My Masters program included my student teaching, and we would end each instructional day with a co-hort meeting to debrief and diffuse. I often remember my professor telling us to not take it personally after we shared our moments of frustration and the things students told us about our teaching abilities (usually during our instruction!). While I loved my co-hort professor, I now believe she was 100% WRONG! 

We should take it personally!
As each school year winds to a close, our students are more comfortable saying things that we should and NEED to hear. They tell us the good things we have done and the areas in which we need to improve. They tell us, simply, what they liked about us, and what they didn't.

Take it personally!

But why wait until the end of the school year to hear this vital feedback?  Honest feedback is one of the greatest tools for learning.  We should be asking the right questions to get the right answers every unit (if not every day!).

Take it personally!

It can be a simple unit assessment addition.  My student surveys can help.  First evaluate students and request feedback at the end of each unit with a student study survey.  Teach students early on that feedback is good and it helps them grow! 

Teach them to take it personally!

My end of the year survey is a two-part survey where they answer questions about their own setbacks and successes, and they have the opportunity to honestly tell me what they think. I also include a writing assignment where they are to write themselves, discussing where they will go from here and questioning themselves on what they will need (to do) to get there. But, the parts I focus on the most are the ones that tell me what I did wrong... and what I did right!

I take it personally!

The "professional" explanation for this is simple. I can apply their advice to my teaching and work toward making myself a better teacher with their words of inspiration. However, I find the "in your face" explanation much more relevant. I need to know if I have made a difference in their lives. I want to know if they have learned anything in my classes each unit and each year. And most importantly, while I am not concerned about their "liking" me, I do care whether or not I have earned their respect.

I take it very personally!

Happy Teaching!

Oh, the places they'll go...

I've taught grades 6-12, and it is the same for me each year about this time. For you new teachers, you may not "get it" yet, but I'm sure the experienced ones will be nodding their heads as they read.

I start the cleaning and organizing process as the school year winds to a close. I think about what I will need first next school year, what I can pass on to other teachers, and what I need to "find" over the summer break. And then it happens. I begin the "throw away" stage. I look at my materials and try to decide if it is out of date or simply no longer of use. Some things may be torn or aged, and just need to move on. Now, this is where things take a turn for me, because as I start throwing away "things," my mind wanders to the students that will also be leaving me. And yes, they are leaving ME! It is a personal thing. And I cry.

When you have your own children, you watch them grow and you do all you can to prepare them for their futures. You know, by the time they reach that high school graduation stage, that they will be okay. You also know you will still talk to them every day. It's a momma requirement! But your school kids (and yes, they are YOUR kids)... they go away. And many do not return, except on a trip back during Spring Break or on a trip in for copies of their transcripts. While it is a wonderfully happy occasion, you just know you will think about them and miss them. You will miss whatever contribution they made to your classroom climate. You will miss the stubbornness they taught you to understand. You will miss the smile or the nod that told you they "got it" when you taught that difficult lesson. And most importantly, you will miss them as a whole. Another group that is moving off into the next stage, where they will brighten someone else's world for a while.

Still, my protective nature makes me want to make one final attempt to take care of them: I want to write little notes to the ones they are going to, telling them how lucky they are to have the same opportunity I have had. Like those notes we attach to our kid's shirts in kindergarten, I want to label these "adults" as they move on, telling the rest of the world to love them just as much as I have.

And then I sit back, tears streaming down my face (you should see the sobbing mess at Graduation!), and think about the new ones that will come in next year. What will they be like? What will they bring to challenge me? And the big one: What will they teach ME?

My advice for teachers

After I survived my first few years of teaching, I started working with new teachers and student teachers to mentor them through their challenging adventure. At the end of each year, the newbies would tell me I should write it all down and share it with all new teachers around the world. One teacher (Leslie, you will remain anonymous!) asked me to, at least, write it all down for her. So I did! She got the first copy, a MS Word document, of my book, A Lesson Plan for Teachers, New and Old: A Guide for Student Teachers, New Teachers, and the Experienced Ones!

It has been a great success so far, and the feedback from teachers has been so wonderful. I hope it will continue to help new teachers (and the experienced ones) as they tackle each new school year with the same confidence and enthusiasm that I do!

My book is available for download at TeachersPayTeachers.com or at Lulu.com in print version.

My First Post

Starting my own blog is somewhat like stepping into my own classroom for the first time. I didn't know what to expect, and I had no idea where to start...

I remember that I planned and planned until I had enough lessons to last a lifetime (or the first week) - or so I thought! Despite my professor's warning to all of us recent graduates, "Always plan to go beyond the bell. You'd rather have too much than too little," I knew I had it all planned out perfectly for my 50 minute class. I was a "meant to be" teacher, wasn't I? So my well organized, thorough lesson plans (right down to the materials needed) were laid out on my desk that first day, and as the students entered, I met them with a smile and a boatload of confidence. That lasted, oh, 20 minutes. What I realized later, was that I talked far faster than normal when I am nervous. My planned 50 minute introduction and discussion of classroom expectations turned into a 20 minute recitation. Thank goodness for that good ole History Alive "Meet & Greet" activity from the back of the book. "Find someone who..."

I did survive those first days of teaching, and now I am considered a "Master" or "Highly Qualified" teacher, working with the newbies and trying to help them not make the same mistakes. In designing activities, I think about the new teachers and hope the activity will build their confidence as it helps them to teach a solid lesson to their students. I also try to create activities that will engage the students and help them to see that learning can be fun (and interesting, too!). In the end, I want everyone to love going to school like I do - the teachers and the students!