Monthly Advice–December

Sometimes less is more.

Sometimes inquiring about something unknown leads to a great discovery.


As you know, in the United States, the Christmas market is overwhelming.

Before you plan and execute two to three weeks worth of Christmas festivities, insert Christmas-themed worksheets, and read a Christmas-inspired novel each day, consider the following:

  • Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Although considered a Christian holiday, even some Christians do not celebrate Christmas.
  • Christmas celebrations vary wildly. Ethnicity, race, income, religion, are just a few meaningful and highly influential factors that determine any holiday celebration.
    • Is what you do, or include, reflective of your worldview, or many worldviews?
  • There are holidays all year long–why emphasize this one over all others?
    • If the same amount of time is not spent on other celebrations, what exactly gives this holiday added merit in the curriculum?
  • Is spending one lesson on Hanukkah and ten on Christmas really inclusive and meaningful, or does it merely provide a way to assuage guilt?
    • Someone once told me that they knew Christmas well, so that’s why there’s more of it in their classroom. If that’s your rationale, is there anyone to help you? Is there anyone to teach you, and your kids, about other traditions?

This is an ongoing discussion I have had for 11 years in my classroom, and with my coworkers.

I have always taught in public schools, which requires the separation of church and state. I understand that private schools and other forms of schooling may not need to consider religious-based questions in the same way I do.

However, the reflection aspect, thinking about why we do certain things in our classroom, even with the best intentions, is always beneficial.

This month, before you plan anything, I encourage to think critically and plan mindfully. More happens in December than we realize . . .

Monthly Advice–November

November is a short month.

In the United States, in November, we have Veterans’ Day, which sometimes turns into a 4-5 weekend. Then, we have the Thanksgiving Day holiday, which is increasingly turning into a whole week vacation. In addition to these days, there are staff development days, maybe furlough days, or perhaps you already have a 4-day work/school week.

So, in November, while we have 30 days in the month, we have very few actual instructional days. Therefore, my greatest advice is review. Before the semester ends, this is probably the best time for review and extension. Instead of trying to cram a new concept, especially a complex standard or new set of standards, insert review lessons and extensions.

As we know things are forgotten over a weekend, let alone a long weekend or a week-long vacation. So it makes sense, in a month filled with multiple gaps, to insert lots of review (and a little less new).


  • Bring back a center–their favorite one.
  • Bring back a center–one that was “too hard,” and give it another chance.
  • Add another layer to learning–modify a previously completed experiment, add another component to an existing center, etc.
  • Create a make-up hour/day for students that have missed assignments or want to redo assignments.
  • Have students re-imagine, or reapply, an existing assignment to another text.
    • example: if a student was required to research the time period of a text that you assigned, this month have the student pick a different text/time period to practice those same research skills

This month: review and extend. Your students will benefit, and you will be providing them a much deserved opportunity for added success.


Monthly Advice–October

In September, hopefully, some time was taken to document and catalog initial impressions.

In October, it’s time for an added focus on grading and assessment data.

  • Go over your gradebook and make sure every child has grades in every subject.
  • Make sure your pile of grading is low, if not complete. If necessary, start making daily goals for grading.
  • Go over your roster and make sure every child has taken every diagnostic.

This may sound ridiculous but it’s a good reminder.

School has been in session for nearly two months, but the first couple of weeks are hectic. Then, some kids start late, some have already left, some have switched classes, and some have been absent. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Not to mention piles of grading grow–faster than anything else.

So in October, make it a point to go through each subject and each student’s profile.

  • Create a schedule and stick to it.
  • Take notes on what’s missing.
  • Get to that pile of grading.
  • Start writing some report card comments.
  • Send home progress reports.
  • Revamp small groups based on assessment data.

The gradebook is a databook. The gradebook is the book for kids, families, and supervisors.

Assessment data is worthless if it’s not used. Use it. Grading needs to get done. Get it done.

This month, take the time to look over grades and data, make sure it’s neat, ordered, and caught up because November and December are filled with events, breaks, and vacations. Do more now so you’re not rushed or stressed later.

In October: focus as much energy as possible on grades and data.

Monthly advice–September

We are in full-swing to a new school year. Some of you started in August, some of you started in September. Some of you are ready for a break already! 😂

As we start a new school year, here a few suggestions for the month:

  • Take a few pictures, take a few pieces of work–put them aside. At the end of the year, take them out and really appreciate how much you and your students have accomplished.
  • Focus on behavior management. At every turn, model and remind students of the rules. This is the time. There is nothing more important than setting down the foundation for a happy and productive school year than strong classroom management.
  • Tell a family member a specific thing you like about their child. Start the year off right with a positive note and interaction. Make sure to take note so that every child is given a compliment.
    • For upper grades and secondary, this is still possible, it will just take longer.
  • Make sure to have a few items copied, a few plans made, and/or a whole activity ready as an emergency. Technology can be fickle. Plans will change. Sick days happen. Be prepared with something ready-made now.

It’s a new year and it’s good to keep a record, take a few notes, and set aside something for the future. The best investments and preparation happen early, happen now.