I was recently asked to participate on a teacher panel. This opportunity included providing input on the panel topic. Instead of providing topics I could, and would gladly, discuss, I decided to provide a list of topics I am over.
Topics to retire, if only for the next conversation:
- Failing Grade(s) Epidemic
- Learning Loss (thanks to distance learning)
- Motivation (or the lack thereof)
- Online Learning Games
- Technology in the Classroom
- Zoom: Pitfalls or Tips
It’s not that I don’t have first-hand experience, opinions, or things to share about these topics; rather, I feel that given a global pandemic, given the past year, I need space.
I know students are failing, and there is definitely academic loss, but we’re trying to survive a global pandemic that has upended nearly every sector of life. So, if we’re distracted or unmotivated or unable to put forth our regular best, it’s understandable.
I’m happy we’ve had the option and opportunity to have distance learning. It’s not perfect, it was implemented in haste, and even in the best circumstances it may not be suitable for all learners. I have heard and presented, ad nauseam, about online games, technology tools, and all the workings of Zoom. I need time to process, to practice more, to simply keep what I like and forgo anything new for awhile. It’s not that these things aren’t important, it’s just that (I feel) we’ve talked about them enough for now–what do you think?
Conferences are right around the corner–are you ready?
- Have you contacted each parent, at least once, before conferences? Establishing a relationship is critical to conference attendance.
- Do you have a conference schedule? Have you planned some make-up time–before and after your designated conference schedule?
- Do you have snacks? Conferences can make the days long, snacks and water make the day manageable.
- Do you have work samples? Work samples are excellent, critical, tools to demonstrate success and concern.
- Do you have an up-to-date progress report? It can get lost in backpacks. Have one handy for families to review.
- Do you have talking points? Having a concrete set of items to discuss, for all conferences or for particular students, helps guide the conversation and keep it focused.
Conferences are time-consuming endeavors. Staying organized keeps you organized and limits the amount of time wasted. Conferences are incredible moments of opportunity too. Being prepared, having clear talking points and examples, allows you to maximize this opportunity to further your partnership with families and to continue working towards a year of optimal learning and growth—for your students and your practice.
Today . . . do you know if your students . . .
- have eaten breakfast?
- brushed their teeth?
- heard some praise?
- managed to stay warm?
- listened to a story?
- solved a problem?
- eaten lunch?
- felt heard?
- had a chance to be creative?
- felt valued?
- slept well last night?
- will be able to sleep well tonight?
It’s not an exhaustive list. It’s not just a classroom list. It’s a list I am working on–it is my list to encourage academic compassion.
There are only 180 days of learning, for most of us. As teachers we feel this sense of urgency, there’s never enough time and there’s so much to do. As we plan and monitor the academic pace, the academic merit of our efforts, it can be easy to forget that our students are children. They are whole people with whole stories.
Some of our students are coming to an urgent learning environment tired, hungry, lonely, and/or distracted. And sometimes they’re just having a bad day.
Learning does not begin, or end, within the walls of our classrooms.
I’m here to say: encourage your students, encourage your child, to find an extracurricular activity whenever possible.
Extracurricular activities provide:
- new learning experiences
- added motivation
- a chance to meet new people, and make new friends
- added time and opportunity to process classroom learning
- enrichment and extension
- homework help
- added exercise
- more time outside, more play
- an outlet for the imagination
- a safe place and space for kids to do something productive until someone can pick them up from school
There is so much to gain, so much to learn, outside of the classroom. Find the right one to share with your students. Create new ones. Advertise the best ones. A classroom, a school building, is not the only place for learning–or fun.
Need a reminder for what to get ready?
Looking for added suggestions on how to be ready for the new year?
Well, here it is:
- student files – a designated space, and folders ready with names on them
- plenty of pencils, and sharpened
- a few pencil sharpeners — one is never enough
- an empty bulletin board (ready for students to fill)
- new student folders (just have a few on-hand with copies of the items you handed out the first week, and maybe a few diagnostics)
- snacks — everyone needs a snack drawer
- medicine — have some ibuprofen for those headache days, and whatever you take when you feel that tickle in your throat (Cold-eeze, Emergen-C, etc.)
- an extra pair of shoes — just in case the day’s shoe choice is a bust, or you decide to take a walk before/after school
- pens — lots of them, preferably in a few colors
- emergency folder — that first fire drill comes earlier and earlier each year, have evacuation materials ready
- a schedule posted — you’ll be happy that first month for this, trust me
- blank cards — to write a few nice notes or a few thank yous whenever inspired
- a sub folder — for the last minute and unfortunate sick day (have a student roster and a few master copies of basic items on-hand for anyone to use)
It’s not a complete list, and it’s not a list focused on just you, just the learning, or just the classroom. It’s a list of those odds and ends that come up every year, the things I routinely remember later, or the things I realized I should probably commit to getting ready next time.