Tag Archives: teaching

10 Reasons Why

18th February 2016

10 reasons why

I was at the park the other day watching Q play with some other preschooler-aged kids when another mom started talking to me. She asked me what I did for a living and I said proudly, “I teach high school English.” She gasped (like most do) and said, “Ugh, how do you teach them? They are so rude and annoying.” I always find this response rude and annoying because I love my students. Granted they can frustrate me at times, but most of the time they are just like adults: just trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world.

So here are 10 reasons I like teaching high school kids:

  1. When they have runny noses, they find a tissue, and figure it out.

  2. They challenge me to justify my lessons and units, every.single.day which makes me a better teacher.

  3. They like my stories about my three-year-old’s antics.

  4. They are freaking funny sometimes, almost to point where I am laughing so hard I am crying.

  5. If I plan a lesson right, I can physically see their brain’s working hard and them growing as a learner and critical thinker. It makes my heart happy when I can see the light-bulb turn on.

  6. They aren’t as jaded about life, unlike most adults I know (and even myself sometimes).

  7. They live in a world filled with technology, but when I show them how to share a document using Google Docs with their partner for an essay it is like I have shown them Snapchat for the first time.

  8. They teach me “cool” lingo and remind me what I should NOT be wearing anymore. There really should be a Forever 31 though…

  9. They take constructive criticism without making it a big deal.

  10. If I place the bar high and hold them accountable, they will rise up (sometimes kicking and screaming).

Students need teachers who want them to be better for their own sake and the sake of society. I love the TED Talk by Rita Pierson that conveys that every student needs a champion – someone in their corner who will push them and make sure they succeed. I try to remember this every day, and even though I don’t always succeed or have my off or bad days, I hope my students know that I truly want them rise up and surpass any bar I give them so when they meet challenges after high school they are ready.

So, to the nice mom at the playground: Everyone is rude and annoying at some point in the day, week, month, or year and high school kids are no different. Actually, they are creative and unique individuals and one day your preschooler will be one too!


How Desk Towers Saved My Sanity

11th August 2015

I am currently in my 8th year teaching high school English and, like usual, I am loving it. It is extremely tiring and somehow over the summer I forgot the stamina needed to sustain such energy to engage 155 students, 6 hours a day (and no, I’m not exaggerating that number) but it is very rewarding and so far so good.

Over the summer I scavenged Pinterest and my favorite teaching blogs to find new and exciting ideas to add to my classroom. Here are two of my loves (more to come soon):

1. Desk Towers

While pricey, these Walmart Storage Towers have been AWESOME, AMAZING, and MIRACULOUS. My students are loving them as well and they are so convenient it makes me a very happy teacher. And happy teacher, happy learners.

desk towers

Here is the run down:

  • Top drawer – Cell Phones
    • My policy: Each day I notify the class if it is a “cell phone on desk” or “cell phone in drawer” day but putting it on my into class slide. If it is a “cell phone on desk” day, the students may keep their cell phones face down on their desks and may check them or use them for school purposes. If it is a “cell phone in drawer” day, students will put their cell phone in their table’s drawer and may not get it out unless instructed. If students choose not to put their cell phone in the drawer, that is fine, but they must not take it out of their bag/backpack that day otherwise I will confiscate it and place it in my drawer until the end of the period.
  • Second drawer – Team whiteboard (from Dollar Tree) and Expo Marker
  • Third drawer – Supplies (markers, crayons, rules, glue sticks, scissors, etc.)
  • Fourth drawer – Kleenex box
  • Fifth drawer – File folders to make stand up tents for testing in groups

There are so many options for these towers and you could modify to fit the needs of your students.

2. Evernote App for Iphone and Android

This has been around for years; but, I just recently found out about and have decided to use it to help my students with their note-taking this year. I have never really been into having student keep a “composition notebook” or “binder” for my class.

I have tried different ways but found that giving my students information seems to happen by handouts or Google Drive and I never know how to have them “save” or takes notes on the information that isn’t in a PowerPoint. I do a lot of “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” writing instruction when I am re-teaching concepts or talking them through a writing prompt and I want them to be able to save this information from the whiteboard when they need to.

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Here are my highlights:

  • Students can create a separate digital notebook for each class.
  • Students can create notes in that notebook for that class.
  • Students can take pictures of teacher’s board, PPT slides, or textbook pages and save to that note page (as well as take notes in between the images using their phones/tablets).
  • Students can share their notes from Evernote member to Evernote member.
  • If a student doesn’t have a phone, they have been taking notes traditionally in their English notebook.

It is only week 4 of the school year and I have used this app with my students in class several times. I did have to teach my students how to use it briefly but once they learned it they were asking their other teachers if they could use it in their classes (not sure how those teachers felt about it but at least they are using their phones for good). #win

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Hope everyone’s year is off to an energetic start,


Good Vibes Only

11th May 2015

Just had to do a shout out to Mulberry Press Co for making the best t-shirts! I have three of their shirts, “Good Vibes Only,” “Huslin’ Mama,” and “Give Thanks” and I wear at least one every weekend. They are super soft and stylish and I love that they are little longer in the torso!

I had to go to an eight hour long district training this past Saturday and wanted to have “good vibes” about it so I put on this shirt. Everyone at my training table smiled and said “yep!” and it just put me and everyone else in a good mood. If you haven’t looked at their site you are missing out!

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XO. Brit

Map of Fairyland

6th May 2015

After reading chapter 6 and 7 of Ender’s Game, I decided to have my students create a map of Fairyland as the Giant’s Drink mind game has been confusing for many of my students to comprehend and imagine as they read the novel. We also just needed a break from standardized testing, reading, and writing – we needed to color.

Here are the items I had them draw on the map. They are out of order on purpose as I had the students look back to pages 69-74 to remember in what order Ender’s encountered each of the items in the Mind Game.

  • Giant
  • The Well
  • Playground
  • River of Acid
  • Serpent
  • Cavern
  • Cloud
  • Wolves
  • Castle
  • Cliff overlooking the terrain

Once their map was completed, I had them relate each item on the map to what it symbolized in Ender’s life. At first I thought it would be an easy task but it was really difficult for them and it lead to great team discussions. Before they wrote their final symbolism answers, we went over their guesses as a class and it helped review the entire novel up until this point.

Here are my winning posters from my two classes. I told them the winning poster gets a clothespin. They worked hard and was able to get the entire thing done in one 55 minute class period (it was all hands on deck).

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XO. Brit

Team Throw Downs

9th March 2015

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You know when you give an essay prompt to your students and you can just tell they are struggling to come with an original thesis statement or maybe a hook for their introduction? They are sitting there, staring at the paper and the paper is winning the contest. Or, when all of a sudden the lesson is flopping and you need a quick activity or competition to get them excited about the lesson or the content again?

I am sure I am not the only teacher who has these moments where they need to “wake up” their students and get their blood pumping. I want them to be successful but I don’t want to give them all the ideas either and sometimes it is a fine line with engagement as well. So, I modified this idea from Catlin Tucker who is just simply AMAZING and if you haven’t visited her site, you are REALLY missing out.

Basically, I anytime I need a quick small group competition, I call it “Time for a Throw down.” As soon as I start to play “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor through my classroom speakers the students know they are about to enter some type of throw down competition between groups.

Here is one example:

  1. I gave my students a handout with ideas for hooks to start their essays. I then assigned a hook type to each table. The students had 5 minutes (as a group) to come up the best hook (or attention getter) using their assignment hook type for their synthesis essay prompt.
  2. Then they typed it up using a padlet.com wall address that I set up and provided to them. Padlet walls are easily set up once you do it once or twice and can be created in less than one minute if you see your lesson failing and need to quickly save it.
  3. Once each table’s hook was posted on the Padlet Wall, I showed them on my projector screen and went through and discussed their overall effectiveness and tie in with the prompt. In front of the whole class, I critiqued their work and picked the best one and it was INTENSE in there.
  4. The winner got candy (2 pieces) and a clothespin to their team shield (see Motivation Clothespins) and the losers got a Dum Dum sucker (which could be a little mean spirited but they all thought it was funny – Air Heads would work too).
  5. It took about 15-20 minutes total and I was able to get some good results. I think the students felt more comfortable about using the new hook ideas in their essays as well. I also told them they were not allowed to use any of the hooks made in class so that also gave them another challenge.

***Below is how they turned out – the prompt was about using cell phones while driving.




XO. Brit

7 Rules

4th March 2015

WARNING: This post is my mind trying to put words to my soul – and it is messy.

I have always categorized my life. I am sure it is that string of OCD within me that I have to label, organize, and categorize everything (and when something doesn’t have a category it frustrates me and then I have a “Monica moment” where I shove “it” in a closet and try to forget that “it” exists but in then end I can’t). I know that is probably an odd way to think about your life but it has worked for me so far.

Until this year.

For a while it was home and school, then it was work, home, and school, then it was home, work, school, and coaching, and finally it was again just work and home again. And I was very happy and content with my categories. I typically try to not let one category bleed into another though it naturally will happen at times; work into home or home into work.

This year, however, my work bled all over my home life. To say transitioning into this new job was rough is a severe understatement. I have never felt more defeated and even though I tried to stay positive I just couldn’t – I got swept away in my own mourning. I mourned for my old colleagues, students, and administration. It was a series of ups and downs, highs and lows and it really started to take a toll on my family life. I felt like I was in a haze and it was swallowing me up. My time with Chase and Q was great; but, I had this tension in my body and my mind I couldn’t shake.

It all went something like this:

  • Build a reputation, again
  • Earn your colleagues respect, again
  • Follow new rules, that you disagree with
  • No one trusts me
  • Be true to your teaching philosophy, even when it isn’t accepted
  • Be willing and open to new ideas as they are good too
  • Remember you are new
  • Staple your own copies
  • Copy your own copies
  • Learn new systems, again
  • Be positive, stay positive
  • Smile
  • See things from their perspective
  • Write a new curriculum
  • Justify said curriculum, over and over
  • What the heck is a learning scale?
  • Where are the working computers!?!?!?
  • What have I done?

And then one day, it stopped. It just stopped. I finally was able to let go of my old school because I knew I just had to. I was being ridiculous. It was verging on self-pity and let’s just face it a good amount of arrogance, and I needed to just stop and find my place again, figure out my role, make a decision and stick with it, stop floating around in uncertainty (which by the way is not categorize-able).

These last three weeks, I have been able to breathe again. I feel at peace with my new school and my new colleagues. I have found my role and my place (I think) and I am really looking forward to next year. My home and work have resumed their peaceful balance and I am sure Chase and Q are pretty happy to see me happy.

Corny as it sounds, and yes, I got this off Pinterest in a moment of need, but I have these 7 rules printed out by my computer in my classroom (and I am working on number 6 the most).


Onward to a two-week Spring Break!