Category Archives: Teaching

End-of-Break Teacher Nightmares

End-of-Break Teacher Nightmares (Iceland, Dec 2016)

The Christmas lights are stored away, the vacation photos tagged and uploaded, the last Netflix DVD watched, the last novel completed, and it’s two days until I walk again into the classroom.  Already, the teacher nightmares are tormenting and taunting me, like the grade school boys at the bus stop when I was eight-years-old.

Nightmare #1

It’s the first day back to school and I forget to set my alarm.

Nightmare #2

Not only do I forget to set my alarm, I mistakenly believe it’s a PD day and slowly get ready, but my dress is not teacher appropriate.

Nightmare #3

I’m late, dressed in last decade’s jeans, and find out I forgot to complete an important IEP and the parents are waiting in the conference room when I arrive.

Nightmare #4

After the uncomfortable IEP meeting, I walk into 4th period class and realize I have no lesson plans.

Nightmare #5

Due to my lack of preparedness and awful attire, the class erupts into chaos and students are standing on tables, throwing things and slow-mo Judo fighting during the class.

Nightmare #6

During this moment of uncontrollable youth rioting, the Executive Director and my immediate supervisor decide to pop-in for an impromptu observation.

It’s usually at this time that I awaken, sweating profusely, trying to figure out what day it is and where I’m supposed to be.  I stumble-walk to the kitchen to prepare cupcakes and chai and turn on NPR One to connect with the world.

Nightmare #7

The reporter informs me that Trump is going with Betsy Devos for Secretary of Education.

The nightmares are normal.  I’m used to them by now.  I sometimes just have to remind myself that the only things I can control are how I react to each new situation.  As a teacher, life in a somewhat state-of-flux is ordinary. Each year I have similar dreams, but when I get in the classroom and see the kids, there’s no place on earth I’d rather be at that moment.

What nightmares do you have before returning to work?

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Organizing New Units with Google Sheets

Organizing New Units with Google Sheets

It’s December 31st and raining in Los Angeles!  I’m currently making bread, cookies, and vegan burritos to freeze.  Stopping now and then to play with the kitties, wondering if I should practice guitar, but now seems like the best time to blog about organization!  This year I transitioned to teaching SDC 11th and 12th grade English from previously teaching 9th and 10th and I get the exciting task of starting fresh.  In fact, the curriculum advisor for 11th grade English even said I should take this year to try whatever I want in my classes.  Love!!

Since I have this opportunity, I want to create units that will be useful and accessible in the future.  This very statement indicates that my units in previous years have been a disaster.  While that is not entirely true, as I’ve had some fantastic units, the materials are scattered all over the place. Even though it’s the middle of the year, the new semester is an opportunity to try something new. Thanks to a Twitter post, I may finally have an answer to my organizational nightmare.

Continue reading Organizing New Units with Google Sheets

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A Sketchy New Year: An Experiment for Spring Semester

A Sketchy New Year

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Every time I have a long enough break to reflect on my teaching, I suddenly want to revamp EVERYTHING.  I want to try EVERYTHING. First, I go to Pinterest and pin hundreds of ideas.  Next, I start at least 10 massive projects to transform my classroom.  It’s pathetic!  Sometimes I start so many projects at once, when I go back to one, I completely forget my original intentions.  Well, not this year.  You will be proud of me to know that I am only planning two transformations.  Today, I want to share my thoughts on classroom note taking.

Continue reading A Sketchy New Year: An Experiment for Spring Semester

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Reflection on Close Reading Projects for Hamlet

April Peebler as Hamlet, Ambre Lee as Polonius, photo by Deborah Gascon

The readiness is all-Hamlet.

While I’ve always loved that line, I’ve never had a chance to use it in my own writing (until now).  During the summer of 2015, I was extremely fortunate to participate in the Folger Summer Academy -an intense study of Hamlet.  At that time, I taught 9th/10th–but all of the teaching strategies transfer nicely to Romeo and Juliet and Othello.  Due to fate or providence, this year my teaching schedule changed to 11th/12th–which was obviously a mandate to share Hamlet with my new classes.

We did many of the activities I learned at the Folger Institute: two or three students act out a scene, while other students direct the actors, students formed groups and prepared a scene for the class.  We did a “To be or not to be” face off where the lines were divided into two characters and 1/2 the class read one character, and 1/2 the class read the other character.

While the Folger philosophy is one that is a practice of students facing the language head-on and experiencing the plays directly, as an SDC teacher, I feel I need to apply further techniques to ensure close readings and understanding of the text.  I will share four activities I did with different classes. Continue reading Reflection on Close Reading Projects for Hamlet

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