21 Vocabulary Words that Only Teachers Understand

Friday, March 23, 2018 / Leave a Comment

21 Vocabulary Words that Only Teachers Understand


Guys, I had so much fun writing this piece for WeAreTeachers, you really need to go check it out! Come back and tell me which new word is your favorite!




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Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 / 1 comment
Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos


Hi Betsy,

I know that this really hasn't been your week...weeks...year??? 

Anyway, I know that you've been struggling to convince educators that you are truly invested in education for every child, that you trust the skilled and experienced teachers working in our nation's public schools, and (let's not pull punches here) that you actually understand pretty much anything that happens during an average day in a public school classroom in the United States of America. 

It must be rough to tweet something or say something in an interview that you think makes perfect sense and conveys all those ideas only to be pilloried by people on social media who "simply misunderstood" what you were trying to say. 

With this in mind, I thought I would write you this quick note. In it, I want to discuss your most recent Twitter tempest:
Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweets: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos
Yes, all teachers today stand in the front of classrooms full of just white children who all desperately want to politely participate in whatever that teacher is talking about...



You have actually been IN a public school since you accepted this position, right Betsy?
I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt (a big challenge, because the tweet is really, really bad, Betsy) and assuming that you were attempting to convey that schools today need to be continually striving for innovation. We must do this to meet the needs of our changing student population and the changing world they will be entering after they leave our schools.

Did it surprise you that teachers were upset by this tweet? 

I'm asking honestly because I am struggling here. Your job is to advise the President of the United States about the programs and activities related to education in the United States. How can you meet those responsibilities but still think that this stock photo is an accurate depiction of what teachers and students experience each day? How is that possible, Betsy? 

I mean, I'm sure some intern in your office picked it out for you...but surely you have some oversight on what goes out with your name on it. So you must have looked at that tweet and thought..."Yup, looks good. Send."

This tweet even had its own counter hashtag movement: #myrealclassroom

Just a quick tip, if they create an entire hashtag to debunk/disagree with your tweet...you're doing it wrong.

Here are just a few photos from #myrealclassroom, Betsy. I teach 9th grade and 12th grade English in an actual classroom in this country. 

This is what was happening in my English classes the day you tweeted about what you believe most of our classes look like in 2018.

Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVosBetsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos

Let me begin by apologizing for the low lighting. Many of my students dislike the harsh fluorescent lights and find lamps more inviting. Some are students with disabilities that find the sound the regular lights make distracting or even painful. Mostly, it's because it makes my classroom feel more like a home. And that's what it becomes for many of my students...a second home. A safe space. A place they want to spend time in. 

Did the teacher in your stock photo spend hundreds of dollars to make that classroom feel like a home for her students? Because most of the teachers in this country do, Betsy.

I won't lie, though, the ugly "old school" desks are still there. The intern in your office got that part right. They aren't in rows, however, because that isn't the way we teach anymore and...most of us hate rows. They aren't conducive to the kind of collaborative, integrated teaching we're doing. (And if we have rows, its often because we have so many students in our classrooms, Betsy, there's just no other way to arrange them...but we'll save class sizes for another day)

But, you know...things like buying more modern, innovative classroom furniture cost money, don't they Betsy? 

And the students? Like the students in the stock photo, my students are also engaged and participating. But again, my classroom (and the classrooms of so, SO many other teachers) diverges from the ones in your tweet because my students aren't engaged in answering MY question, Betsy. They're engaged in the discussion they're having with each other. They've taken the instruction I've given them and are putting it to use in a collaborative discussion.

I wish you could have heard their conversations. I wish you could have seen the looks of frustration, determination, humor, and interest in their faces. They don't always have the right answer. But in our classrooms, Betsy, they work together with their teacher and with each other to find it.

That is what your tweet ignored. That is what your tweet belittled. That is what made your tweet a lie.

Your teachers, Betsy (and we are yours whether we like it or not because you are our Secretary of Education), are struggling to believe you care about our students, our schools, and us because you put out messages like this one. And it isn't ok. And you can't make it right by following tweets like this with a bunch of corny, little inspirational ones about "being bold," or "rethinking education."

Come into our classrooms, Betsy (even if we grumble and protest about you being there). Come see what we're doing, how hard we work every day to meet the needs of our students in this ever-changing world. See how much our country's educators do with so very little and while facing so very many challenges, roadblocks, and obstacles.

You are welcome in my classroom at any time, Secretary DeVos.

But if you can't or won't truly educate yourself on what is going on in the public schools in this country...please do just one thing:

#deleteyouraccount


Most Sincerely,

Meghan Mathis


Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos


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Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!

Thursday, March 8, 2018 / Leave a Comment
Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!


Teaching is a profession with lots of serious challenges and many, many wonderful rewards. But today, I don't want to talk about any of those. Instead, I want to focus on five of the little annoyances teachers deal with that make us want to tear our hair out!


1. Pencil sharpeners 

Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!

For being such a vital part of a classroom for so many years, you'd think someone would have come up with a design for one that isn't obnoxiously loud, or completely ineffective. The old-fashioned ones kill your knuckles, the new ones work beautifully for two hours before only sharpening on one side or dying completely because a student used it to sharpen colored pencils. We can send human beings to the moon and are actively working on getting them to Mars...could we maybe figure out how to create a pencil sharpener that can handle regular AND colored pencils for less than $500 in the mean time???

2. 1-Ply Toilet Paper

Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!
"Teacher Bladder" is real. Having trained ourselves to only go to the bathroom once every 6 hours or so means that when we DO have time to visit the facilities we really need to go. Additionally, we're usually trying to fit in a visit to the restroom in the middle of a To-Do list a mile long, giving us about 2-3 minutes tops to do our business. With that in mind, there's not much that is more infuriating than having to fight with a massive roll of 1-ply toilet paper in order to get the amount of tp needed for the job. Every time I search for the end of the roll, pull and feel the paper give way after only 1 or 2 squares the white hot rage that fills my body could power a small town for weeks.

3. No-Show Snow Days

Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy! 

While there are many times we'd rather not have a snow day, nothing is more annoying than waking up to the news that the storm you were sure was going to at least warrant a 2-hour delay fizzled out and you have to be at school on-time. Going to sleep all excited about what you're going to get done on your snow day ("Maybe I'll even find the floor of the laundry room!") and then having those plans ripped away by the storm moving too far to the east makes you grumpy, your students are grumpy, and the day feels longer than any normal school day. Come on, weather! Get it together!

4. Technical Difficulties

Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!

Teachers aren't nervous about standing up in front of students. In fact, most of us are completely comfortable making total fools out of ourselves if it helps our students learn whatever we're trying to teach them. That being said, not much raises my blood pressure faster than standing with my back to my classroom fiddling with cables, cords, speakers, blocked websites, or poor internet connections when I've planned a lesson that requires technology that is refusing to work. The students' chatter grows louder and louder and I feel embarrassed and exposed as I try to figure why the hell the video that played perfectly this morning is now refusing to load up. It's enough to make me nostalgic for the days of the gigantic TV/VCR cart.

5. Fluctuating Room Temperatures

Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!
Most teachers go to great lengths to make their classrooms feel comfortable and engaging. We put up colorful decorations, amusing posters, engaging bulletin boards, and even bring in cozy furniture or make cute reading nooks. Our classrooms become our mini-home away from home (after all, we do practically live there). So not much is worse than having your comfy classroom feel like the Arctic tundra or the Amazonian rain forest because the thermostat can't decide if it wants to make your room a freezer or a sauna. Even more annoying are the classrooms that can't make up their minds - leaving you sweating one day and shivering the next.


So there you go, the five little annoyances that occasionally make me feel like throwing things during the school day. What did I forget? What are the little bothers that make you crazy? Let me know in the comments below!



Five Little Things That Make Every Teacher Crazy!



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Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 / Leave a Comment
Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days

You may not call them Truck Driver Days...but if you're a teacher, I'm willing to bet $10 you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. The kind of day that makes you wonder if a late-night talk show host has planted hidden cameras in your room and is sending in kids to make you crazy so people can laugh at you before they head to bed.

Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days
        Let's watch, as the third student asks her if they're going to do anything fun today!


A student you've been offerring to help before school finally shows up.

Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days
It's the one day this month you've come in late. He's mad at you for it.


One strolls in five minutes late to class.

Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days
No pass, no excuse...just decided to mosey around for a bit before coming to class.


You send another to the office...she's back ten minutes later.

Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days
I sent her to the office after weeks of addressing the behavior in class...
but sure, lets give her another chance, why not!


After getting his phone taken away, a student refuses to work for the rest of class.

Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days
So wait...you were texting in class instead of working, and now to
show me that I made a mistake you're not...going...to...work? Huh?


Another discovers a way to cheat on the engaging online activity you designed.

Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days

No, no, I only spent hours creating a meaningful learning experience. You  go ahead
and show the rest of the class how to render it absolutely useless in a matter of minutes.


You ask for volunteers for a lesson that really could be a lot of fun.

Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days
Crickets...


Immediately after giving up on that activity, a student asks you why they never do anything fun.

Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days
No, seriously...where are the cameras. I'm being punked right now...right?


You're excited about your quiet lunch, until three others show up wanting to talk.

Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days
Nope, I wasn't going anywhere...come on in, I totally want to hear all about
the drama at last week's basketball game and the guy you kinda-sorta like.



At the start of class, the one who was absent for a week asks you for all his missed work...now.

Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days
Yeah...you need to go sit down. Now.

A different student tells you she won't be in class for the rest of the week, she wants her work...now.

Excuse Me What GIF
Only Oprah's WTF face will suffice.

Days when multiple things like this happen are Truck Driver Days. Days that make me daydream about leaving my classroom behind and becoming...a truck driver. Cruising along, all by myself, quiet, making my own schedule, just me and the road...quiet. 

Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days
See how happy she looks?
The monkey's not part of my daydream...that'd just be weird.


Today was a Truck Driver Day. (Full disclosure: I don't really want to be a truck driver, but sometimes...its nice to daydream.)

Things Only Teachers Understand #6: Truck Driver Days
Maybe I'll listen to the radio. Or maybe...I'll just enjoy the silence.

What do you call your Truck Driver Days? Let me know in the comments!



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Teacher-Tested Tips for Kids in Need of an Extra Challenge

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 / Leave a Comment
Teacher-Tested Tips for Kids in Need of an Extra Challenge


There are more tools available to teachers than ever before to help underachieving students. Gifted students, on the other hand, are often overlooked. They become bored in the classroom, which can create both academic and behavioral challenges. Here are some great teacher-tested tips for helping kids who need an extra challenge.


Teacher-Tested Tips for Kids in Need of an Extra Challenge


Advanced Reading


Reading is an activity that students of all grade levels can do independently. It is therefore a great way to challenge them. Provide gifted students with more advanced reading materials and more challenging comprehension questions. This will help prevent them from feeling too "different." They will be doing the same tasks as the other students but will be pushed to grow just as much.


Introduce Technology


Educational technology offers a wide variety options for gifted students. There are educational games available that increase in difficulty as students improve individually. This means that the whole class can participate, and gifted students will not max out. ABC Mouse is a favorite among many teachers, because it allows students the element of choice. Attending an online K-12 schools is another great way to challenge gifted students, because the curriculum is often tailored to each student's ability.


Crafts and Games


It is important to remember that gifted kids are still kids. They still enjoy crafts and games! "Make Your Own Monopoly" is a great activity for gifted students. Work with them to draw a blank Monopoly board on a large poster board. Then have them choose the names of the properties, create their own money, and write their own Community Chest and Chance questions. It is a great way to teach them about community roles and money, while allowing them to be creative, artistic, and silly. 


Group Students Strategically


In dramatic play, simple games, and art, group students randomly. Academic achievement matters less than personality here, and it is good for students to learn to interact socially with a lot of different people. When it comes to core subjects and group projects, gifted students should work together exclusively. They can challenge each other. They can plan and execute work on the same level. Otherwise, gifted students become bored and other types of students become overwhelmed.



Using these four simple strategies, students of all levels can coexist. Kids in need of an extra challenge will have an opportunity to grow without other kids being left behind. They are all teacher-tested but parent- and babysitter-friendly!


What do you do to differentiate for kids who need a challenge? Let me know in the comments!


Teacher-Tested Tips for Kids in Need of an Extra Challenge








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Does an Online Degree Help Prepare You to Teach in a Classroom?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 / Leave a Comment

Does an Online Degree Really Prepare You to Teach in the Classroom?


If you had asked someone over a decade ago if an online degree in teaching (or anything, really) was worth the hassle, many would have given you blank stares and dubious answers -- often suggesting that an online degree held obvious social disadvantages for gaining necessary experience in the educational workforce. But as technology becomes an ever-increasing part of our lives, many people are reconsidering these opinions.

Online Degrees are Fine...but for Teaching???

Public opinion regarding online degrees is changing, but is it changing in the field of education? This seems to be more of a grey area. How can an online program prepare us for the intricacies of dealing with children in the classroom? Sure, any online degree will fill our knowledge pool with a level of expertise in any given subject, but can online courses aid us in our ability to reach out to other human beings and assess their level of understanding so that we can educate them better in person?

A Growth Spurt of Online Learning

Whether you think online programs are a good idea or not, the trend toward online educational options seems to be here to stay. In today's modern colleges - and even in many middle and high schools - the curriculum has become a sort of hybrid between traditional classroom instructional methods and online management systems (think Google Classroom). The ability to communicate with students outside of normal class times, as well as the ability to post information for students to refer back to when needed has made online platforms like Google Classroom an increasingly integral part of many educators curriculum and lesson planning.


Does an Online Degree Help Prepare You to Teach in a Classroom?

Oh, Google Classroom...how I love thee.


But Google doesn't have a monopoly on making online learning feasible and attractive to educators. Online educational programs can now reach out to students through different technologies such as Skype, Blackboard, or even iTunes to store lesson plans. If a student needs assistance in the virtual classroom, a live video conference can be issued, which can give nearly the same instructional value as it would in a live class.

Knowing vs. Doing - Can You Teach the Art of Being a Teacher

From the increased number of options for online degrees (see below for links to just a few), and the increased comfort we all feel with the digital world and online learning, it feels pretty obvious that increasing numbers of people will be getting their teaching degrees online. And, with the flexibility of scheduling and course options provided, it's highly likely that many current educators will be choosing an online option for additional degrees and certificates of their own.

But can the online option match the more traditional methods of earning a teaching certificate in terms of that intangible ability a teacher must have to connect with young people in person? Even though online schools do require "in class" time there is still that lingering feeling that it might not be up to the same standards as the traditional approach...but is that the case? Do traditional educational programs prepare new teachers for the challenging interpersonal elements of our occupation?

A quick look at statistics reveals that those traditional methods might not be significantly better in teaching these skills! As The Atlantic reported, various studies have new teachers leaving education sometime during their first five years as educators between 17 and 46 percent!

Does an Online Degree Really Prepare You to Teach in the Classroom?
That's a whole lot of teachers searching the classifieds during their lunch breaks!


While coursework (in person or online) can provide the pedagogical information necessary to form lessons, the strategies a teacher might use in a variety of situations, it seems like it doesn't matter nearly as much as what happens in those first few years of real-life experience in a classroom.

Ending Thoughts - Is it worth it?

While there are still many stereotypes regarding online degrees, their popularity continues to increase. The flexibility, lower cost, and the ability to learn anything you want at the click of a button is becoming a reliable option for those wishing to pursue a teaching career.

While it may feel strange to move into this brave, new world of educating our future teachers - it seems clear that we should be far more interested in how we better prepare teachers for the realities of the classroom, and less concerned about whether we prepare them in person or in a video chat.

Does an Online Degree Really Prepare You to Teach in the Classroom?

Looking for some more info about online degrees in education?



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The New Year's Resolutions Teachers Actually Need

Saturday, December 30, 2017 / 2 comments

New Year's Resolutions Teachers Actually Need

Go ahead, fess up...what cliched New Year's resolution will you be making soon? Are you starting a diet? Stopping a bad habit? Vowing to be more present in your daily life? 

New Year's Resolutions Teachers Actually Need
#jackblackismyspiritanimal

Hey, no judgment! All three of those are on my list this year. But in addition to these more common resolutions, I'd like to offer these suggestions for teacher resolutions we really need


1. I resolve to only hit the snooze button two...ok, three times before getting out of bed in the morning.

waking up hangover GIF
I've read all the articles about how hitting snooze isn't good for you...but it's going to be really hard to stop this one.

2. I resolve to wear my hair in a bun because I woke up too late to worry about it once a week.

morning GIF
Anna's morning hair may have actually been modeled after my own...I've sent a letter to Disney.

3. I resolve to do a better job greeting my students when they come into my room each day.

GIF by Giphy QA
Not this kind of "better job;" this is crazy. But as the school year progresses it can become easy to slip into the bad habit of not making sure to smile and say "hi," to each student. Make sure they know you see them each day.

4. I resolve not to read into every email my administrators send me or my department.

sad ucla GIF
Rather than stewing in my room trying to decipher the secret meaning in the way my administrator typed, "Let me know when you're available," this year I might try something new and actually ask my administrator for more information! I know! Revolutionary!

5. I resolve to spend more time laughing with my teacher-besties (and less time complaining)!

right lacey chabert GIF by TV Land
I work with such awesome people. It would be doubly awesome to talk to them about things that actually make us happy rather than all the things that are driving us nuts!

6. I resolve to collect less to grade but give more feedback on what I do collect.

care paperwork GIF
I will not let my grading pile grow into a mountain where this is my only option for grading if I ever want to get through it all.

7. I resolve to bring home my coffee cups each night instead of letting them pile up on my desk until I inevitably grab an old one and take a swig mid-teaching.

gross vomit GIF
Yeah... it's just as disgusting as it sounds.

8. I resolve to get backup plans ready for when the stupid copy machine breaks or the network goes down and we can't use the Chromebooks.

sad vincent vega GIF
Resolution 8 1/2: I resolve not to think snarky thoughts about how teachers are encouraged to utilize technology and incorporate 21st Century Skills into our lessons...but our network goes down several times a week.

9. I resolve to give a "clean slate" to all of my students...even the ones who made me most excited about winter break.

will ferrell fresh start GIF
January, February, and March can be long, dark months. Bring a bit of brightness to your classroom by encouraging your students to look at the second semester as a second chance.

10. I resolve to end each school day by reminding myself about one good thing that happened that day that never would have happened if I wasn't a teacher.

love actually smile GIF
Because let's face it...if we don't write it down - there's no way the non-teachers out there would believe half the crazy stuff we experience each day!

Happy New Year, fellow teachers!

What are your other teacher resolutions? Let us know in the comments!







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