From the Trenches

Aiming for the middle ground.

Read the Printed Word!

quotes Hillary likes

"A room without books is like a body without a soul."— Marcus Tullius Cicero

Recent Tweets @ClassScribbles
Posts tagged "teaching"

1. Random collections on Fridays, return the next Friday. My department head does this, where Friday is an organization day.  She tells the kids that everything they do is subject to being collected and she won’t tell them what until Friday.  The random element (she says) makes them do most of the work, and since it’s several assignments, it’s very difficult for them to just complete that day.

2. Signing for absent students.  When students return from an absence, the assignments are in a binder, easily accessed, written by day.  The student must sign that they received their assignment, and also sign when they turn it in.  A little different from my original “pink slips”, but I think I like it better.  

3. I need an actual drama curriculum.  That will be this summer.

4. Better planning needed for plays. I need to make sure my stage manager is on top of things, and keep it smaller to save all of our sanity. 

More later…


Kathy Cassidy has her six year olds building digital portfolios and shows why and how. If my child was enrolling in school today, I’d ask to see some sample portfolios or where I could access them online. This is a hidden, little requested artifact that can probably tell you more about the progressiveness of a school than anything else!

I keep trying to find ways to implement technology within my classroom, but the lack of available computers and the super-strong web filtre always keeps me from doing it.  I might try to find a way around these problems this summer. 



What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali

A friend posted this to my Facebook wall. It’s awesome. (s-NSFW)

“Definitely beautiful”

I’ve had many extended conversations about this very video - I must take an unpopular opinion here and say that I actually take some offense to this being considered representative of a defense for my profession. I don’t know if I would be considered particularly pacifistic for this, but I think a much-less militant approach is so much better when making an argument for the view of teachers. Just because no other profession is questioned as thoroughly as teaching doesn’t mean that lashing out will fix anything - if anything else, it could give the ammunition to say that we are unable to even handle our aggression. Ultimately, the message behind the video is one that I agree and support wholeheartedly, it’s just the delivery with which I take opposition.

Tyler, baby. I’m with you. It’s not my style either. 

Actually, I think a lashing out is exactly what’s needed…we are too damn nice about it.  Love this, regardless of the fact that it’s NSFW. 

(via ohmuffins-deactivated20130716)

One teacher’s decision to leave public schools because of the “Russian roulette” of VAM scoring.  I fight this internal battle every day. 

My more professional, full-length blog that I have only recently begun updating again.

This is amazing.  I have been thinking about talking to my ow principal about starting a writing seminar for those kids who need it.  I think this teacher has done an awesome thing, and I’m taking note. 


I’ve been teaching a Saturday enrichment class for the last four weeks with two colleagues of mine. It’s a four hour block for 10th graders. They do reading for two hours and writing for two hours. It’s voluntary.

We run two classes of 35-40 students each. There were 80 students on the waiting…

Anyone know who to credit on this?  Too true.

 1. Permissive “dances” look like this: student (S) disrupts, teacher (T) asks politely and feels annoyed, S disruption continues, T repeats and reminds, S disruption continues, T Gives warnings & 2nd chance, S disruption continues, T reasons/lectures and feels angry, S disruption continues, T yells/threatens, S disruption continues, T sends kid outside, S disruption stops.   The only teacher ACTION is in bold - all the rest are VERBAL steps. (p. 84)

2. “‘I thought I was giving them every chance to cooperate, but I can see I was giving them opportunities not to cooperate.’” (p. 85)

3. Punitive very similar but T verbals look like this: shames & feels angry, writes name on the board, argues/blames/complains & feels very angry, writes name on board/gives final warning, threatens/challenges, argues, sends kid to office, makes kid write sentences. (p. 92)

4. Mixed “dances” leave the kids really not knowing what the signals are.  

5. “The best way to stop a classroom dance is not to start one.  Teachers can avoid dances altogether by starting off with a clear verbal signal and by supporting their words with effective action.” So skip the verbal steps (except the first, where you clearly tell them to stop and explain the consequence THAT WILL STOP THE BEHAVIOR. If the disruption continues, follow through with the consequence.) (p.101)

6. For me, this requires planning. I need to know exactly what I can do for consequences, because so many options are removed due to legal issues (can’t send a kid outside, but sending them to another class is supposedly forbidden, as well).  So if I sit down with an administrator, I think I could reason out what I can do to stop misbehavior.

Schools are so afraid of students misusing technology that, in my district, we’ve banned it almost altogether.  I’ve signed up just so I can see what the chapters say!  But wouldn’t it be cool if we could use the tools the kids already have and show them all they things they are capable of doing instead of what people did 50 years ago? I mean, we’re all computerized testing now, but we’re still showing kids reading strategies on paper.  Highlighting is great, but how do you apply that to a computerized reading test when the first time the kids see it on the computer is when they’re taking the exam?

Same thing here.  Someone showing the principles of photography on a tool that people actually use.  I mean, sure, the SLR and DSLRs are amazing (I love them, myself - I still have my 35mm Minolta from when I was an undergrad), but this is the tool in everyone’s pocket.  

Yay, for creative education!!!


College Launches Course Devoted to iPhone Photography

This is exact­ly the right idea - a col­lege course devot­ed to iPhone pho­tog­ra­phy. This type of pro­gram should be offered in high schools.

Teach­ing kids how to use tools like an iPhone (or other smart phones) to cre­ate art and express…

This is an excellent idea. I love the thought of teaching K-12 students to use mobile technology such as smartphones to express themselves through art and photography. Great read!

I have been contemplating ending my teaching career because of all of the crazy in the last 3 years. Between evaluations that are so skewed that I’m not sure the evaluators are even seeing the same class I am, the recent salary cuts, the garbage we have to go through for passing state exams, and the fact that many of my students just simply don’t want to be in school (early onset senioritis), I’m having trouble justifying it all when I compare it to the technical writing job I had before teaching.

But emails like this help stave it off.  This student came in as a senior, mid-year, speaking very little English, newly in-country from Iran.  She had already graduated from high school in Iran, but wanted to have the adjustment period before going to college, since she was only 17.  A math-whiz, she couldn’t decide between engineering (what she really wanted) or pharmacy (what her dad wanted).  However, because her English skills were so limited, she couldn’t pass the state reading exam, so she couldn’t graduate.  I was working with her, getting her extra study materials and helping her over email when she wasn’t in my class any longer.  She was planning on retaking the exam this fall and applying to colleges for Spring semester, but since I changed schools, I had lost contact with her for a few months.

So it’s been awhile since I heard from her, but this is what I woke up to this morning.  It’s lovely to know that she thinks of me, and took the time to tell me she was doing well.  And after all the crap we’ve all dealt with as teachers in recent years, it’s nice to know that it’s still worth something.  

My aunt - who was a high school English teacher for almost 30 years - got me this Great Courses DVD set on the best practices of teaching.  Thought I’d sit down with it and type out my notes here, because I’m such a professional student that I can’t remember much unless I write it down.  It’s not so much that I’ll go back and read it, but more that the physical act of writing cements the information into my brain.  

And I figured maybe some of you could get something from it, too.  So I’ll set my notes down as I watch, and see if anything cool comes out of it.  

From The Art of Teaching: Best Practices from a Master Educator from The Great Courses (Professor Patrick N. Allitt from Emory University)

  • Yay, a professor who understands that students are not all ready, willing, empty brains waiting to be filled!  
  • Concerned at this point that this will be directed more toward higher education rather than secondary.
  • Dealing with material in lectures, powerpoint, student participation in seminars, getting students to do the assignments, evaluation, proper training, teaching ability, equality v. inequality (theoretically), quality of discussion classes, etc.
  • Yes, talking more about college teaching, but perhaps this is good for high school as well, especially since I’ve got 11th graders who are mostly college bound.
  • He believes that the classroom should be a bit uncomfortable, but is happy to be contradicted…I may agree with him a bit. I’ll have to explore that a bit.
  • Teaching benefits from experience, and you should try to keep getting better at it.
  • Society benefits from passing on the great mass of knowledge it has generated.
  • Aiming at “universal literacy” is new to education
  • Need to create “life-long learners” because the information will change and the students need to be able to adapt and acclimate.
  • "If you can overcome the temptation to procrastinate…it’s all going to work out."
  • What was it about the great teachers you had and what is it about them you try to emulate?
  • The possibility that what students hate might be “lovable” in a sense.
  • Teachers must be willing to be self-aware and “self-critical”. 
  • Try having yourself filmed while you’re teaching. What is too distracting and what encourages learning.
  • "What do I want my students to remember from this course five years from now?"
  • "Teachers’ high" - like a "runners’ high" - I’ve had this!!!!

Ok, this is a little boring, but it’s only 1/2 hour lectures - 23 more - and I think this guy might have some really great things to share, so I guess I’ll stick with it for a bit. 


1. “…children’s beliefs are largely determined by what they experience with their senses.  What they see, hear, touch, and feel determines how they think things are….only our actions are concrete.  Actions, not words, define our rules.” p. 63

2. “Compliant children don’t do a lot of testing….Their underlying desire is to be compliant….To strong-willed children the word stop is a theory waiting to be tested.” p.66

3. Although strong-willed children constitute less than 15 percent of the school population, they are a powerful minority because they’re responsible for nearly 90 percent of classroom discipline problems.” p. 66

4. Explaining why the rule is in place seems to do nothing.  The child already knows that information.  What the seem to want to know is what you will do. What they hear when you explain only what you want them to do, then explain your feelings about what they’re doing (“I’m uncomfortable with you doing that because you may get hurt.”), is only that you are uncomfortable.  That doesn’t affect them. “‘You can put that away in your backpack…or I can keep it in my desk for the rest of the semester”” works much better…the student has all the information they need now to make a decision. p. 78

5. Students don’t take anything away when we explain the rules.  Then they only learn that there are 2 sets - the ones we say and the ones that we follow through on.  p. 79.

5. “‘You can put that away in your backpack…or I can keep it in my desk for the rest of the semester.’”


Detachment Movie Trailer - This I want to see.

Ch 2: How Teachers Teach Their Rules

  • Teachers, like parents, have four approaches in creating rules and enforcing them: permissive (respectful but not firm), punitive (firm but not respectful), mixed (neither firm nor respectful), or democratic (both firm and respectful).
  • MacKenzie describes various scenarios he has seen with teachers and students, which he terms “dances”, visualized as vertical timelines with teacher behavior on the left and child behavior on the right.  Teacher behavior is often characterized as cajoling and giving students the opportunity to follow the rules, which MacKenzie says gives the students opportunities to NOT follow the rules if they don’t want to…the teacher is only going to talk and not act.
  • I was hoping I was simply permissive, but it looks like I might be mixed.  I generally am permissive in the beginning of a “dance”, but move quickly to punitive when I get frustrated that the behavior isn’t stopping.  

Click on the link to read the rest.  This blogger has some fantastic insights and like I always tell my own students: “Smart gets you there.  Only hard work keeps you there.”


Why Smart Students Don’t Succeed

An outstanding collection of insight from reddit user lnri137. Here’s an excerpt:

You got A’s because you studied or because the classes were easy. You got a B probably because you were so used to understanding things that you didn’t know how to deal with something that didn’t come so easily. I’m guessing that early on you built the cognitive and intellectual tools to rapidly acquire and process new information, but that you’ve relied on those tools so much you never really developed a good set of tools for what to do when those failed. This is what happened to me, but I didn’t figure it out until after I got crushed by my first semester of college. I need to ask you, has anyone ever taken the time to teach you how to study? And separately, have you learned how to study on your own in the absence of a teacher or curriculum? These are the most valuable tools you can acquire because they are the tools you will use to develop more powerful and more insightful tools. It only snowballs from there…

(via world-shaker-deactivated2013092)