Wednesday, April 26, 2017



Things change.
Change is tough.

This is the time of year we are just hanging on. We haven’t seen our 4th period in a week, due to funky testing schedules. There are some huge tests going on or coming up. We have a handful of dances, banquets, awards assemblies, field trips and graduations to organize.

And we’re starting to wrap our heads around our summer plans, both professional and personal.

Our summers are definitely the time for relaxing and recharging our “teaching batteries”.

But for many of us, summer is when we get to slow down and occasionally think about our work, while we’re removed from the day-to-day craziness.

I’d like to suggest that you find a way to do PD and refine your craft at some point, in some way. We, of course do AWESOME professional development during the summer. There are some great TED talks and books and podcasts and MOOCs out there. I promise to curate a list and get that out to you all before the end of the year.

Really, you need and deserve some wonderful vacations, whether you are travelling the world or vegging on your couch.

But when you get some R&R out of your system, don’t forget to learn more about your content, pedagogy, management, tech, or just something that will help you out next year.

It’s common for teachers to be frustrated about  “one more thing” and “this, too, shall pass” and “why do they keep changing everything?”..

medical-meme.jpgBut honestly, we are all trying to get better and update our practice to the latest body of knowledge in our fields.

And that field of knowledge is always changing, just like the medical field is always changing. Remember a few years ago when eating eggs was bad for you? Well, now it’s good for you. Not because “those people” are idiots, but because our understanding of effective practices changes.

Think about how you plan to improve and refine your professional practice over the summer. This is not the PD you do because your evaluation or your Deliberate Practice says you have to. This is the PD you do because you WANT to.

Do it on your time, in your style, with your interests.  

Just do it. Grow your self and your practice.

I promise -- if you choose it because you want to learn it, you will get way more out if it!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

While You Have Time

I always dreaded Testing Season. All the crazy scheduling. All the top secret, CIA-style agreements to secrecy.  All that extra time when some kids are testing and the bells have been held and the kids YOU have aren’t testing. All the uneven scheduling when you see your third period seven times in a week but you haven’t seen fifth period in 6 days.

All that weird silence. (Schools aren’t normally silent. It’s weird when they are.)

All that down time when you’re proctoring and not allowed to be on your computer, or grading papers, or on your phone, or having conversations, or looking at student work.

When do teachers ever have weird down time like that?

While you’re proctoring a million tests this week/month and you’re stuck with the down time where you can’t do anything but get your steps in while you circle the room for the hundredth time ...  

It’s actually a good time for reflection.

You’re stuck in a room with nothing else to do, maybe you can reflect on your year.

You can just ponder on your own, or maybe you can pull off a note to yourself on a sticky note or something during down time.

Here are some questions to reflect on during your down time. Pick one or two or all of them. Hey. I don’t judge!

Please DON’T turn in your answers, although feel free to discuss them with me/your colleague/your significant other/your AP/your neighbor/your pet.

14 Reflection Questions For Teachers

  1. What are some things you accomplished this year that you are proud of?
  2. What is something you tried in your classroom this year for the first time? How did it go?
  3. What is something you found particularly frustrating this year?
  4. Which student in your class do you think showed the most improvement? Why do you think this student did so well?
  5. What is something you would change about this year if you could?
  6. What is one way that you grew professionally this year?
  7. Who amongst your colleagues was the most helpful to you?
  8. What has caused you the most stress this year?
  9. When was a time this year that you felt joyful and/or inspired about the work that you do?
  10. What do you hope your students remember most about you as a teacher?
  11. In what ways were you helpful to your colleagues this year?
  12. What was the biggest mistake you made this year? How can you avoid making the same mistake in the future?
  13. What is something you did this year that went better than you thought it would?
  14. In what ways did you change the lives of your students this year?
Just ponder. And maybe jot down a note or two to yourself when you get a sec.
It’s been a heck of a year. Let’s think about it while we still have time, before we’re all at the beach.
How has your year gone? As always, I love to hear from you! Email me at

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Your Own Oxygen

Are you going crazy?

I feel like this is the downhill slide toward summer, with a HUGE jump over the testing seasons.

This is the time of year when teachers start taking “mental health” days and kids are mentally checking out and test hype rises to extreme levels of silliness and we all feel stressed.

Checklist time!
  • Are you mentally spending more time planning your summer than planning for tomorrow’s class?
  • Are you wondering if you’re taking too many mental health days?
  • Are your students mentally “checking out”?
  • Has your school’s test hype risen to unprecedented levels of silliness?
  • Is your stack of notebooks and or papers to grade so large you have considered taking a day off to grade them?
  • Have you written more referrals in the past week than you wrote all of first semester?
  • Are you keeping a countdown to summer on your board already?

Hello. And welcome to the Fourth Quarter.

I joke about some of the above, but really, I’m completely serious.

This is the time of year when teachers need to examine their own mental well being.

I read recently that “it is impossible to support the social and emotional health of young people if we as teachers do not attend to our own emotional health.” (Nick Haisman-Smith).

Just like flight attendants advise flyers to secure their own oxygen masks before securing the oxygen masks on their children, I would like you to recognize and secure  the  mental health at this time of year so you can help support the mental health of your children (or teenagers) in your classes.

I know that you have enormous workloads, increased accountability, challenging student behavior, ongoing policy changes and sometimes unhealthy school or departmental cultures.

Teachers report poor physical and mental health as a result of their work -- and this impacts their students. Research has shown that teacher wellbeing not only affects student test scores but has an effect on student social and emotional well-being. This can really hurt the learning environment and the relationship between teachers and students (Haisman-Smith)

This problem is bigger than individual teachers. It is certainly bigger than social studies and it is bigger than your school.

Please know that I am not an expert. I do too much and stress myself out, too. I have honestly taken the aforementioned “day off” to catch up on grading myself (and more than once).

But I can make a few small suggestions.
  1. EAP: If you think you can use it, please call the EAP (Employee Assistance Program). They are really helpful. I can personally attest to that!
  2. Effect on Students: Teachers, please be aware of the impact of your mental and emotional health on the well-being of your students. It’s hard to see that connection sometimes, but is definitely there. Look around your school, at the way students talk about you and your colleagues and you can begin to see this.
  3. Your own oxygen: Do what you need to do to relieve stress (preferably in a healthy way). Don’t grade every piece of paper. Go for a walk or a run. Practice mindfulness. Go to your religious organization. Veg out. Don’t neglect yourself!  
  4. Each other: Take care of each other. A school works best when the teachers work together and have each other’s backs. If you can cover for a colleague so he or she can get themselves together, then that colleague can return the favor. If you can just listen to a colleague, you can do wonders! And everyone feels a little less lonely, less isolated, and more supported.

I know this is a crazy time of year that makes us all feel more stressed. Be intentional and don’t feel guilty for taking time for yourself.

Seriously. Attend to your own oxygen mask before you secure the mask of another.

Seriously. Attend to your mental and emotional health so you can support the mental and emotional health of your students.

Seriously. Take care of yourself. Summer is coming.

Thoughts, ideas, comments? As always, email me at