Thursday, October 16, 2014


It's hard to believe that it is already mid-Oct, and for those in Minnesota, that means it is MEA weekend. The Education Minnesota conference is going on today and tomorrow, and it provides teachers a chance to connect, learn, get some freebies, and have lunch for longer than 18 minutes with friends and colleagues. For others, this weekend is a chance to get away - one last fall weekend to the cabin. The chance to play with your children, read a book, knit, work on the yard or house projects that desperately need finishing before the winter. Whatever you do this weekend, take some time for yourself. Take a few minutes to do something YOU love to help you handle the stress of being a teacher. It is HARD WORK being a teacher, and you are pulled in many directions all at once. Sometimes we need a break.

While you're at it, perhaps you can develop some ways to handle the stress of teaching during the week too. Some teachers I talked to recently said they started to walk around the block at lunch. They ate their apples and yogurt on the go while chatting and getting some exercise. Since we all know how long the winters get, being able to get outside, even for 10 minutes, can boost our spirits and make us happier and more patient in the classroom. Maybe you could start noticing things your colleagues are doing well and write them a post-it note to leave in their mailbox. It might start a trend of positive feedback throughout your building. Maybe you want to learn about meditation and think a few minutes a day might help. Of course, there's an app for that. Or maybe, just maybe, you can ask for help. Think about what really stresses you out the most and ask for help.

Check out other posts about taking care of yourself here.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

what new teachers want

I was out at a school last week and ran into a new teacher. She said that of all the things she needed support on, she was currently struggling the most with grading. She wasn't sure about her expectations for student work and how to evaluate it. Was she on the same page as the other teachers at her grade level? This conversation reminded me of an article in Educational Leadership from a couple of years ago. The article, What New Teachers Want From Colleagues written by Deborah Bieler, shared themes from conversations with new teachers about what their experience colleagues could do to help support new teachers.

Bieler, in her conversations with new teachers, found that above all else, new teachers are looking for help with teaching ideas, curriculum questions, classroom management, and someone to observe and reflect with them. And, the idea that connected to my conversation, help with grading. Grading is something that many teachers get less practice with throughout their preparation, while they get lots of practice writing lessons and teaching lessons, but collecting assignments, evaluating them, and using them to plan future instruction is something many new teachers feel less confident about. Grading an assignment given by the new teacher or a common grade-level assignment together with an experienced colleague could help enlighten the goals of the school/grade/department and help the new teacher feel more confident in their grading.

So what does this all mean? Well, maybe you have a faculty mentor and you can ask them for some support in these areas. OR, you can request that some of your grade-level or department meetings be devoted to curriculum, management, and grading. If you don't feel confident yet having this conversation with the whole group, perhaps bringing it up with one colleague and asking them if this could be a focus for common planning time would be a good place to start.