Lessons Learned

This year I decided to have my senior class participate in the student blogging challenge.  This was a new class that has never been taught before.  It isn’t dual credit, so the majority of the students are not college bound.  I really had no idea what I was doing with the classroom blogging challenge.  All I knew for sure was that I wanted them to blog daily even though we only meet every other day.  I also knew that I needed to develop some sort of blog so that the students could somehow connect their blog. Needless to say, since I didn’t know what I was doing this project was a major flop. I do want to do it again next year, but at least next time I will have a better idea of what I am doing.

Lessons Learned

  1. Start the unit about 1 1/2-2 weeks before the challenge starts
  2. Have students set up their blogs, create a theme and pick their avatar before the unit starts.
  3. Give students topics for the first several blog posts
  4. Spend some time discussing what makes a good comment verse just commenting on the blog
  5. Have students comment on each other’s blogs
  6. Have students find other blogs that they comment on
  7. Don’t get sick at the beginning of the month
  8. Have students find other student blogs that they then follow.

Those of you that have done the classroom challenge, what else should I add or do during this unit to make it more successful?



It’s too hard

I have been hearing this quite a bit lately.  It seems like any more people are more content to just stay with the easier way of doing something rather than grow and learn new material.  I am currently teaching research/informative papers and the students want to just use a URL for their citation, they don’t want to do the in-text citation, or a couple of students have informed me that they have already written their papers, but they still haven’t done the research.  One of the learning targets is to learn to use an academic database.  One student today informed me that was too hard.  They were just going to write the paper off of what they found when they googled it (I am only allowing 2 cites to be from Google and requiring 5 from the academic database provided by the AEA).  Excuse me, but how can you write the paper without doing the research?  The student’s comment was that is too hard.

Sadly, I am seeing this more and more and not just in the classroom.  That desire to learn and grow seems to be fading.  That desire to try something new is no longer. We seem to be content to just be.  We are missing out on so many things because we no longer try to push ourselves to become better.

What is it going to take to get people to care about becoming their best, how do we get people to stretch themselves and not be satisfied with the status quo?


B stands for Bullying


Today’s word of the day is Bullying.  As a high school teacher and a mother of two girls, this is something that I see the way too often.  I am really tired of seeing people think it is okay to bully others.  For some reason, people seem to think that they must demand their own way instead of learning to share or cooperate with others.  People seem to think that it is okay to make fun of others, call people names, or otherwise make someone’s life miserable. I have seen people in power, demand that someone do something way outside of their job description just because that person in power doesn’t like the other person.  I have seen college roommates lock their roommate out of the dorm room just because the other person attended church and they don’t agree with it.  I have seen college roommates take up all the shelves in the refrigerator and leave the other two roommates the door and vegetable drawers just because they thought that they needed more room for their food and meals than the other two combined. I have seen boys asking girls to a school dance and then not following through with it, I have seen boys standing girls up just because someone dared them to do it.  I have seen girls calling other girls names, just because the one girl said hi to a boy that the other girl liked.  I have seen girls harass each other for so many stupid reasons.  I have seen high school kids and some younger kill themselves because they couldn’t take the bullying anymore. When I complain about the bullying and say that something needs to be done, I have a person look at me and say, but it has been going on since my dad was a kid.

When I complain about the bullying and say that something needs to be done, I have a person look at me and say, but it has been going on since my dad was a kid.  Yes, it has, but just because it has been happening since the beginning of time doesn’t mean we have to sit back and watch it happen.  Since when is it okay to allow children to make other children feel bad?  When did we stop carrying about others? Sadly, our kids are watching us and some of them are discovering that it is okay to bully just because they see adults doing treating others badly.  We need to start standing up for people, we need to demand that people treat others the way they want to be treated.

While I realize that we will never totally eradicate bullying, we can reduce it and make sure that at least our kids do not contribute to the problem.  Let’s make sure that our kids join together to find the solution.  I for one will do my part, because I am tired of watching my daughters or my students struggle with the effect of someone bullying them.  Will you join me in this fight?


To read or Not to read


For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed reading.  I remember being so excited to finally go to first grade.  This was the year that I would finally learn to read.  And yes, we learned to read with Dick and Jane and of course all of the rest of their family and friends.  I was so thrilled when I finally learned to read.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  Towards the end of first grade or the beginning of second grade, I discovered Little House on the Praire.  My grandmother had the book sitting around and I picked it up to read it.  I remember being told that the book was too hard for me and I wouldn’t be able to read it.  Of course, that was just the motivation that I needed to read the book.  The librarian from our small town library would often tell me that I couldn’t get books from a certain area because I wasn’t old enough to read the book yet.  Once again, I had to show that yes I can indeed read and understand these books.  From then on, I think I always had a book.  Fast forward to 8th grade when my English teacher once again told me that the book was too hard for me.  There is no way that you will be able to understand Animal Farm by George Orwell he told me.  I did read that book and while I didn’t understand all of the concepts that the book touched on, I do remember understanding it enough to get my English teacher to admit that yes, I was able to read the harder books.

I wish we could motivate students to want to try and read the harder books now.  My high school freshman and sophomores are more than willing to settle for what they consider “easy books”  Magic School bus, Magic Tree House, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, etc.  I will admit that it is fun to read these books, but I would really like to see my students push themselves to read books that are a bit more challenging, that will take them out of their comfort zone, etc.  (Don’t get me wrong, I have many strong readers, but would love to see all of my students pushing themselves to be better). Guess in some cases I should be thrilled that they even open a book as I do have other students that work really hard at NOT reading. So frustrating.  So many don’t see the need or benefit of being able to read in their adult lives.

Something needs to change.  We need to find a way to get all kids to want to read and to read to the best of their ability not settling for mediocre.




Every time we get within 2 weeks of a grading period (quarter or semester) I start getting really frustrated.  Several years ago, the district implemented a silent reading policy for the high school in response to low reading scores on the Iowa Assessments.  Since this policy began we have continued to see an increase in our reading scores for 9th -11th-grade students. Sadly many of the students will attempt to fake read during this time period.  To help with this, I set a goal of 1000 pages a quarter or 2000 pages for the semester, since we are reading for 30 minutes a class period, this should not be a problem.  I remind the students many times throughout the quarter/semester that they need to complete a short book talk with me.  These usually last around 3-4 minutes and as long as I am convinced that they have actually read the book, they get the points. I remind them time and time again that they need to complete these book talks when they are finished, that they need the book, and that they will only be allowed to do one book talk during a class period, and finally that I do the book talks on Thursday and Friday’s during class.  This semester, I have started requiring them to also record their books on Goodreads.  Even with all of this knowledge, and the constant reminders, the students tend to wait until the last week before the grading period ends, they beg to report on more than one book at a time, they insist that I should break my rules about only on Thursday or Fridays and yes, they show up without the book and then try and convince me that the book was around 700-900 pages in length.

How I dream of a day when all of this is not necessary when all students will willing pick up a book and read, just for the pleasure, or to learn something that they are interested in, not because they are forced to read. Yes, I have read such books as Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisper and Reading in the Wild and Penny Kittle’s Book Love.   No matter what I try to do at the high school level, so many students are already turned off to reading and will do everything that they can to resist reading.  I am not going to give up, I am going to keep talking about reading, keep encouraging my students to read and remember that even if I just get one more student hooked on reading, that progress has been made.

Simple Sentence or not

I know I have lamented on this before, but really we need to bring back grammar instruction.  I usually have the students write their answers in complete sentences for assignments and tests.  They usually complain and of course, a few of them forget to write a complete sentence.  Or at least in the past, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and assumed that they were forgetting. Now, however, I am not so sure. The other day one of my students tried to argue with me. This student kept insisting that all that was necessary to make a group of words a sentence was if there was a capital letter and a period.  (Notice that they didn’t say punctuation, just that it needed a period).  Now today the same thing happened with a few more of my students. At this point, I am seriously considering starting next year with a back to basics unit.  Taking a couple of weeks to review a sentence, parts of speech, how to write a paragraph, and whatever else I decide that they still don’t know how to do even though it was taught at a much younger age.

So how about you?  Do your students have problems with carry over and remembering how to do the basics?

The End is near

The end of the school year is so near I can almost reach out and touch it.  Just one more day after today with students and then one day to work in our rooms and attend meetings.  Even without looking at the calendars one could tell that it is the end of the year.  So many students coming in, wanting to know what they can get done, is there any extra credit that they can do to get a passing grade or a better grade?  Even better, the laptops are getting turned in so some of the  students do not have the ability to get partial assignments and complete them.

I look forward to the year that students all turn their work in on time and care about their grades the entire year instead of the last two days.