Tuesday, September 17, 2013


In my subject area, I don't think there is a great need for traditional textbooks. Diagramming sentences and the study of grammar has been proven to have no impact on improving writing ability.

A literature book with short stories and poems is a helpful resource, but I never see myself using it from start to finish. Of course, I think novels for students are the most appropriate "textbooks" to actually check out to students.

This has been a wrestle with my department last year and this year. The long-timers in the department insist that all students should have a literature and language book checked out to them all year and to require students to bring them to class daily. I fail to see the educational value in this practice, so I didn't check books out to my students. And it didn't go over well.

There are so many resources and more current texts out there, I hate to be tied to the regiment of a dated textbook.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Resistance is Futile

When I worked at a charter school, we didn't have department heads. We had "pods," groups of teachers that taught students of a similar age. I had to collaborate extensively with these teachers, blending disciplines, coming up with themes and projects, coordinating field trips, etc. While we didn't always see eye to eye and had huge disagreements, in the end, we respected each other as human beings, as fellow teachers.

The whole idea of a department head was new to me when I started at a regular public school a year ago. My first experience with a department head has not been positive. In fact, my experience with this English department has been a disappointment.

If you've ever watched Star Trek, you'll be familiar with the Borg. Ever seen the Stepford Wives? Then you get the idea.

My principal pointed out to me that he is my boss, not my department head. Good distinction to know.

So, I've chosen to take a stand and preserve my individuality but it has not been without its cost. My only salvation is that another English teacher started with me last year. So at least we have each other.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Back to School

It's September and I've headed back to school for my sixth year of teaching. I'm teaching seventh and eight grade English and creative writing.

It's always rough, heading back to school after a long enjoyable summer. The daily, grinding of the academic machine is demanding.

I try to show my students some mercy by easing them into it. I also like to spend a little time building a classroom culture. I think it's important for students to know each others names. It's so easy for them to get lost in these huge schools with hundreds of kids dashing around the halls.

I forget how young and wide-eyed the seventh graders are at the beginning of the year. I forget how many procedures I need to teach them before we can really gear up and get going.

It's a lesson in patience.