Five questions for parent conversations

For teachers, parent nights and parent phone calls are often a deep source of stress. It’s never fun to be the bearer of bad news — and there will be some difficult conversations when students are struggling. We want to communicate with our students’ parents, but we don’t want to say the wrong thing, and…

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How could we care about students and not want better opportunities for them?

“You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.”   Donald Trump, Jr.   It’s hard not to be upset by the fact that one of our president’s sons — also a member of his inner circle — referred to our profession as “loser…

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Let’s show teens we value sleep

This year, my school district pushed back the high school start time from 7:25 a.m. to 8:35 a.m. in response to community pressure and research showing positive results from later starts — such as fewer tardies/truancies, higher grades, fewer car accidents and better mental health. The underlying goal, of course, was to get teenage students…

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Let’s be honest about the struggle — with our colleagues and with our students

Last week, I was talking with a friend who started a new teaching job this year. I was reminiscing on my first few years in the classroom — mostly the frustrations, tears, and rough days — and she seemed surprised. She said, “It seemed like you’ve always known what you were doing.” Nope. Our conversation…

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Second chances do have a downside

I saw a graphic on Twitter earlier this week that said something like: “There is no downside to giving a student a second chance. Zero, zilch, nada.” I scoffed and passed over it, but it kept nagging at me. I went back to find it later, and of course I couldn’t. So you’ll just have…

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Got a teacher on your list? Try a time-turner

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, you might remember, Hermione had a time-turner that basically let her be two places at once — so she could take even more classes. That would be so convenient, especially during passing time in a public high school. What are teachers expected to do during this frantic…

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What is a 3, anyway?

In the world of standards-based grading, a 3 means proficient. Does that means it’s kind of like a C? Or more like a B? Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter. It does. It has to go in the gradebook. In late August, I wrote this post about my first foray into the world of proficiency-based…

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‘I don’t know this word’… Why student knowledge and context matter

My friend Mary, a bookseller in Chicago, told me I need to read Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover. Westover was was raised by American survivalists, and her story explains how she broke with her family’s extremist ideology and left home to seek her education, culminating in a Ph.D. from Cambridge. The part that stuck…

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Grit offers good – but not great – insights

I just finished reading Grit, and I have to say I’m disappointed. I know Angela Duckworth’s argument that passion and perseverance can overcome obstacles and lead to success has met with mixed reviews — especially from those who believe the focus on grit discounts the impact of poverty — and I have to say I…

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Relationships: Necessary but NOT sufficient for student learning

“They don’t care what you know until they know you care.” “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” “Great teachers focus not on compliance but on connections and relationships.” “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” It’s that time of year when the teacher-web is heating up with inspirational reminders that we have…

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