Secondary Solutions

Ideas, tips, and tools for the middle and high school English Language Arts teacher. Visit our store at www.4secondarysolutions.com!

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Keeping Your Teacher Cool When You’re Falling Apart:

Falling Apart

Back to school teacher meetings for my school start at the end of this week and the first day of class is next Wednesday. Usually, this is a stressful, but fun blur of a week filled with post-it notes, to-do lists, meetings, and classroom decorating. This year is different. A few days ago I received the devastating news that my little brother passed away. In that instant all of the lesson plans and school supplies fell to the absolute bottom of my priority list. While writing this blog post is a somewhat cathartic experience for me, I think it can also be a help to others in a variety of difficult situations. In my ten years teaching, I’ve witnessed countless teachers navigate the classroom while battling loss, divorce, miscarriage, home fire, bankruptcy, legal troubles, depression, and many other emotionally intense situations. Although I do not think there is only one way to balance personal trauma and classroom teaching, I want to share my tips in this area and I invite you to leave comments, questions, and advice in the comment section below.

  1. Communicate proactively: If you are going through something that will impact your attendance or performance as a teacher, I think that it is better to communicate proactively. Many times administrators and colleagues will jump in to support you if they know what is going on. Chances are you will also have a better substitute situation if you let your administrator know that the days off may be coming. Even if you are not sure which days you will need a simple heads up will likely lead to easier coverage.
  2. Communicate professionally: Know your administrator and share details only as appropriate. I tend to keep the details close to the vest unless the situation necessitates more sharing. You may consider writing an email instead of a call or face-to-face meeting. I’m a crier and my boss would likely not understand what I’m saying after the first sentence or two. It’s also usually best to avoid people seeing you leaving the principal’s office with tears streaking down your cheeks. That is a quick way to start the high school rumor mill and you have enough on your plate as it is.
  3. Allow others to help: Most teachers I know are control freaks to some degree. I usually feel like I must leave foolproof step by step instructions for every minute of sub time, but sometimes that just can’t happen. A few years ago I had to leave the classroom for a few weeks while I battled post-partum depression. When I came back, a found a small miracle. The classroom had not fallen apart. The curriculum had not suffered. My department members had rallied together and taken care of everything. If you have a co-worker, department chair, assistant principal, or other person on campus who offers to help, swallow your pride and take them up on it.
  4. Decide what to share in the classroom: It is very important to decide exactly what you will say when you return (if you take time off) or when you have an emotional moment (if you work through the pain). Off the cuff, you may over share or lose control of your emotions. While I don’t think it is wrong in every circumstance to share your grief with teens, it must be productive or quick if mentioned at all. You know your school and can make the decision with care. For example, at my school, it would be frowned upon for a teacher to discuss a boyfriend/girlfriend break up or financial problem, but other traumas can be instructive. When I teach Tennyson’s “In Memoriam AHH”, I mention briefly the impact of the untimely loss of a good friend and fellow teacher. When I teach Emily Dickinson’s “Certain Slant of Light” I mention the very real struggle with depression that many face, including myself. A word of caution: Be mindful that students may have experienced relatable pain. While it can be healing to see that they are not alone, it can also be an incredibly destructive force if done without care. Read your audience and plan your words carefully.
  5. Don’t rush yourself: Good teachers want to get back to the classroom as soon as possible. It may be cathartic to keep busy. The mounting sick day total may be causing stress. Evaluate all of the factors before going back into the classroom. Remember good teachers must also take care of themselves in order to be effective to their students.

 

We’d love to hear your comments, questions, or suggestions below. If you found this post while going through your own pain, please know my heart is with you. Teachers have to stick together.

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Where to Spend $5 to Get Tough Tasks Off Your Teacher To Do List

It seems like everywhere I turn these days I see a new resource to help students take short cuts around the valuable work we do in our classrooms.  When I was working on a side project recently, I came across fiverr.com, which is a global marketplace offering a variety of services, or gigs, starting at $5 each.  I was disheartened to see sellers offering to do homework or analyze a book, but it did get me thinking about how I could switch the dynamic around to give teachers some much needed shortcuts.  Here are the $5 gigs I found that can take tough tasks off of our teacher to do lists, so we can focus on other important classroom priorities:

1. Custom Songs: Many fiverr sellers will take your lyrics and make them into a song with your choice of genre (reggae, rap, country, pop, etc).  I have these little chants I do to help MLA rules stick and I always hear my students singing little ditties to remember long math formulas.  We could take that idea to the next level with a custom song for our classroom!

2. Custom Voice Overs:  This gig could bring interest factor to a prezi, flipped classroom video, or other in class project.  Sellers will do a range of professional and cartoon/impression voices.

3. Convert Powerpoint to HD Video: This is a great gig for  teachers who are flipping their classrooms and running out of time. It could be combined with the custom voice-overs in a pinch.

4. Website installation or help: There is a lot of pressure on teachers today to incorporate edtech into our classrooms including classroom blogs and wikis.  If we can’t afford a full service website technician, there are hundreds of fiverr gigs ranging from installing word press to trouble shooting that widget you are trying to install and everything in between.  Personally, $5 is worth my sanity in the IT department, especially when it can be done quickly and efficiently by someone else while I am grading that last stack of papers!

5. Custom Social Media Art: Most teachers I know are starting or maintaining a classroom Facebook/twitter/instagram/google+/edmodo/schoology/etc.  For $5 you can have someone create cute or creative custom cover art to give your classroom social media that polished look without a lot of effort on your part.

6. Design materials: If you have a great idea for a poster or infographic for your classroom wall, a custom stamp or any other simple graphic design project, there are designers waiting to make it happen for only $5.

 

Like other online marketplaces, there is a feedback and communication system so that you can make sure that your job is done correctly, but we should still exercise caution when purchasing gigs.  What do you think? Would you take advantage of fiverr to get one of those tasks off your to do list? Let us know in the comment section below.

Fiverr

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What Your Kid’s English Teacher Really Wants: 10 Great Gift Ideas Straight From The Source

Let’s just get one thing out of the way: teachers do not sign up for this gig for the gifts! That being said, we really appreciate any act of generosity from parents and students and judging by my Pinterest feed, parents are inspired to treat teachers to a little something here and there.  I decided to write this blog post because my Pinterest feed has been chock full of the most adorable back to school teacher gifts interspersed with this popular ecard:

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I do not want to come off as ungrateful, but I think we can find a happy medium here. We would love the crayon wreath, but if crafting is not your thing, below are 10 gift suggestions humbly suggested by this high school English teacher:

1. Support: This is a cheat gift, but very cheap and incredibly valuable to teachers.  Having our back is the best gift a parent can give when the time comes to battle the homework, deadlines, book choices, classroom management, etc.

2. These Amazing Mugs: Click here for a link to buy the mugs from amazon.  Trust me, this will be an instant favorite with every English teacher!

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<——–First Lines Literature Mug $12.95

 

                 Shakespearean Insult Mug $12.95  ——–>

 

 

3. Target Gift Cards: Chances are, we are going to put the money back into our classroom, so help us offset our school expenses with a gift card of any size.  Every little bit counts and we totally understand that you may be buying small gifts for several teachers.

4. Coffee Gift Cards: I cannot count the number of late nights I’ve spent slaving over student essays/research papers with the comfort of a good cup of joe.  I love my job and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but this English teacher still needs her caffeine and I suspect the same is true for most of us!

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5. Secondary Solutions Gift Certificates: The best way to help a teacher save time is to help buy quality products.  This one also goes directly to a quality education for your student, so it is a win-win.

6. The Really Cool Office Supplies: There are some supplies that we just can’t justify on our back to school shopping list, but we would love them.  Get us the good stuff.  Here’s my list:

  • Pretty Post-Its: We can usually get our hands on the square ones, but I think we all secretly love (and can’t afford) the ones shaped like arrows, apples, stars, etc.
  • Washi Tape: There are entire Pinterest boards dedicated to beautiful washi tape classroom ideas. Click here for an example if you are not familiar with this little beauty.
  • Sharpies: I drool every time I pass by the giant sharpie packs at Costco, but with a cart full of other school essentials, I can’t always justify $20 on permanent markers…even if they are amazing! I especially like the fine tip ones, which are perfect for poetry annotation.
  • The cute baskets and organizers: With 100-175 students filling in and out of our rooms, organization is a survival strategy.

7. iTunes Gift Cards: There are so many amazing edtech apps and iTunes books out there; I am sure this one would be a hit with almost any teacher!

8. A Stapler: Maybe this is a personal problem, but my classes run through staplers like they are going out of style. I’ve spent hours trying to fix them and yet inevitably on essay due dates I’m down to one erratic stapler and a chaotic collection process.  As crazy as it sounds, I could really use 1 new, quality stapler each year so that I consistently have a couple working staplers and an efficient classroom.

9. Awesome Stamps: With all of the feedback that we give student papers, stamps can be a fun way to save time.  Click on each image below to see the etsy store it comes from:

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10. Teacher Gadgets: We love cool gadgets.  I mean who doesn’t want these? Click on each for more info.

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Teachers and parents, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

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