Teaching is hard and sometimes downright impossible. There are countless viral stories from teachers about why they quit. I’m not too proud to say that I can relate to the struggles that push so many teachers out of the profession, but since it is thanksgiving week, I want to take a minute to remember the things I am thankful for as a teacher.
1. I’m thankful for a job that is never boring. With changing educational technology, changing student culture, changing standards, and all of the other things that pop up on a daily basis, teaching is anything but boring. I’ll take my dynamic and bustling classroom over my husband’s quiet office any day!
2. I’m thankful for ah-ha moments. It doesn’t matter if it is a struggling reader or an advanced placement student finally understanding rhetorical analysis, the moment when a student masters a skill or makes an epiphany is pure teacher magic.
3. I’m thankful that I get to spend the days with my favorite authors. I really don’t know what I would do if I had a job that didn’t support my habit of Twain, Salinger, Fitzgerald, and Shelley. What’s better is that I get to share these gifts with some pretty cool teenagers.
4. I’m thankful for colleagues that support me. We all face challenges in working with administrators and other teachers, but you can’t beat finding a small group that you can count on to support you in this crazy, wonderful job. I have a pretty amazing village that continue to raise me as a teacher.
5. I’m thankful that I have a voice to the future generation. Parents, social media, and friends will have a huge impact on the teens that come through my room, but I also have a voice to help inspire them to a life of critical thinking and pursuit of justice. I’ve had so many students come back years after high school and tell me that they finally understand the life lessons I tried to instill. Now THAT is an amazing feeling.
What are you thankful for this year?
Last year around this time of year, I wrote a post about a project that I do with my classes that I find academically stimulating for students while simultaneously helping me to avoid teacher burnout. This year, I’ve tweaked the project just a little, and I’m really enjoying the student presentations. I’m also learning great new strategies that students bring in from best practices of other teachers or from their own creativity. Below is a very brief breakdown of the project followed by a great review game that students taught me this year, which can be used for a variety of subjects and levels!
1. Divide a novel into equal, manageable sections and give students a reading schedule. I use 12 sections of Huckleberry Finn that are each about 20 pages.
2. Assign small groups to each section. My class sizes and time restraints dictate that I work with groups of 3. (I do the first presentation as a model by myself).
4. Each day according to the reading schedule, give students a short reading quiz to keep everyone accountable. Then, the assigned group for the day presents a 15-20 minute lecture (with PPT or Prezi) and a 15-20 minute activity based on their chapters. Organization, creativity, and connection to text are key for the activity. I encourage students to use best practices they’ve picked up from any of their classes to include a variety of ideas like jeopardy, video clips, and socratic seminar just to name a few.
From this project, I’ve learned a whole host of fun activities that I can use at other times of the year. This week, I learned a game that was just simple enough to fit almost any subject at a moment’s notice, but also just engaging enough to keep students’ attention. All you need is a tennis ball and a list of review questions. Here’s the set up:
1. Prepare a list of review questions or key terms (from literature, vocabulary, etc). If you are working with a novel, check out reading guides from Secondary Solutions for ready to use questions/answers.
2. Have students create one large circle with their desks. Students should then sit on top of the desk (or stand in front of it if safety or preference dictates).
3. The first student will silently point at another student and throw the tennis ball. The student that catches the ball will do the same. If at any point a student drops the ball, makes a bad throw, or speaks out loud, they must answer a review question. Right answers stay in the game, wrong answers mean the student has to sit down in his/her chair and is out. Play continues until there is a winner. If it seems too easy or you need the game to move along, you can require one handed throws/catches or non-dominant hand throws/catches.
When the student first explained this game to me, I was skeptical, but in practice it was actually fun and under control the whole time. It is definitely something I will keep in my tool box for times when a quick review of something is necessary. What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments, questions, and suggestions below!