Teacher Talk Tuesday

Short one today because this teacher is overwhelmed. It took me a while to realize this, but kids are really motivated by stickers as a reward for their work. You can purchase a pretty cheap pack on Amazon that the kids really love. And yes, non-teachers, we really do spend a lot of our own money on supplies, even if we live in a reasonable wealthy town.

Teaching Tuesday – The Outsiders

How does the book The Outsiders, published in the 1960’s, still work for students all these years later? 

I think teen culture is essentially the same. Listening to music, hanging out with friends, dealing with the stresses of family and school are similar experiences today.  

Even more, it is a story about fitting in and rebelling. I remember the tension I felt as a teen, wanting to fit in on one level, but then feeling rejected by mainstream society. My rebellion, admittedly, was based as a response to my sense of being an outsider. But it became part of my young identity, and the attitudes of being an “outcast” still are with me today, for the good or the bad. 

But being honest, I think it’s the violence that puts it over the top. The crisis faced by Ponyboy and Johnny, the gang rivalry, even the sibling infighting all contribute to the drama of this story. 

As a teacher, I’m just happy it still works. And it’s fun to hear stories about kids who tell their parents about what they’re reading, and the response is “I read that when I was your age!”  

Teacher Talk Tuesday

One of the pitfalls of being a teacher or any kind of educator is forgetting that the humans we’re teaching are still kids.  

There are so many reasons that happens. All the pressure that is brought on teachers and administrators to demand more of our students, to push them, and often pull them, to improvement and success. The danger of looking of students as a data point that must be moved up levels. The emphasis on test scores. 

Then there’s just running a classroom. When you have 24 kids in front of you, it’s not easy to judge on the fly what is just a minor behavior and what is something that needs to be addressed as a discipline issue. But not every issue has equal weight or needs the same level of response.  

Continue reading

Teacher Talk Tuesday


My aim for Teacher Talk Tuesday is to share some knowledge from my three decades of experience. This is for everyone, though! If you’re a teacher, I hope it helps, and if you’re not a teacher, you certainly had some! 

My first message: It’s OK to let students know when there is something difficult going on in your life that’s appropriate to share, or when you are exceptionally cranky or stressed. Obviously, these would be older kids, those that can handle seeing an important adult be honest about their feelings. 

This is mainly advice for those who usually feel good in the classroom. For me, outside stress disappears when I’m teaching: I’m too into what I’m doing. But sometimes I just have to admit that I’m bringing some burdens with me that nothing will diminish. And in these times, I know that it will be harder to deal with typical daily stresses. I know I might not be myself in front of them. Maybe I’ll be sharp with them when they’re used to me being kind. 

The real point is that it protects them from my bad day. It’s good for them to know my reactions may be different. They need to know that I’m under a lot of pressure. I’m not afraid to ask them to step up, to have their best day, because I’m struggling to have a good one. 

Like I said, once in a while. If you are always stressed, by no means should you follow this advice. Keep up your veneer of confidence and don’t overshare! 

Losing Control

From my book Tao of Thoreau. Order it from the sidebar!

This is good advice for me at the beginning of the school year. Staying calm and remembering that all of these stresses are indeed transient is difficult right now. I am trying to remember that obstacles are also opportunities and frustrations are lessons. I can let them bog me down or believe these challenges will make me grow.