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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!