This Teacher Is Now Accepting Applications

Does your district match the qualifications specified below? Then I would like to work for you.

Wanted: An educational organization committed to renegotiating the learning journey to benefit the students 100% of the time.

If your organization is:

  • attentive to and supportive of the students — not just in terms of academics and/or athletics, but with respect to the whole child throughout their career and beyond;
  • led by an administration and board with exemplary qualifications and experience in education;
  • managed by extraordinary educators who understand we serve the students and families of the community;
  • guided and needed by teachers and staff considered valuable professionals to advise on, contribute to, and execute well-planned curriculum, instruction, and assessment;
  • committed to long-term planning, using the principles of project management, and employing professionals to manage the projects;
  • conscious of funding concerns, but puts the needs of the students before everything else when making spending decisions, and works tirelessly to discover funding opportunities wherever they may be for the needs of the learning community;
  • focused on the well-being of its learning community and on the development of the students into well-adjusted and well-educated adults;
  • and attentive to and supportive of the students — not just in terms of academics and/or athletics, but with respect to the whole child throughout their career and beyond ← No, that wasn’t a mistake.

I want to hear from you. I want to take 30 minutes of your time to interview you. I want to tour your campus. I want to research your district. Most likely, I will be keen to work for you and your community.

I am a hard worker, a reflective teacher who is constantly trying to reinvigorate and reimagine her practice. I am flexible. I am a team player, most inclined to contribute to the success of the stakeholders, rather than try to capture glory for myself. I love all my “kids,” and want what is best for them, on their terms. I invest in technology and resources to best support my students.

I love literature, especially poetry. I love grammar, sentence structure, and exploring perspectives through essays. I love teaching literary analysis. I love working with writers. I love working with young people, and enjoy the challenge I encounter each year to make English class relevant. I love teaching and creating a team of learners in my classroom.

And I haven’t been able to post much to Medium this school year, because I have been so dismayed and disappointed by the developments in public education across the country. I tried many times to write positive posts, but the words did not come out right.

Tonight, I think I might have broken out of my writer’s block, if only for a moment. I hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you for reading this post.

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Reimagining Creative Writing

How can I help students tell the stories they want to read?

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“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” — Toni Morrison (1931–2019)

Among other equally encouraging quotes, this one has probably launched several careers. This creative writing teacher should probably make a floor-to-ceiling poster of the quote to hang in the classroom. Perhaps it would inspire some students.

The plan for creative writing class this year was to engage in several craft talks paired with mentor texts to generate discussion and encourage students to create their own pieces. Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked.

For one thing, the apathy some students feel during this pandemic is palpable, and we aren’t the only school district to experience the phenomenon.

I take full responsibility for the failure of Creative Writing I this semester, and want to go into next semester reinvigorated and readjusted. With the addition of Creative Writing II, it’s going to be difficult, but our first semester ends January 24, so there is still time to reinvigorate and readjust.

Meanwhile, we could return from break with a new perspective! Let’s be hopeful!

Looking Back, Looking Forward

What happened this semester? We all returned from summer vacation burned out. Personally, being in the middle of a divorce after 16 years of marriage, and dealing with all the ramifications of that did not help at all. I only mention that because it profoundly affected my practice.

There are other factors that affected the course.

  • Students hadn’t signed up for the class. Rather, they had been assigned to it. They weren’t interested in the content at all. Apparently, this happens often, but it is still my job to engage the students somehow. I struggled to do that. This time around, I will do better.
  • I should have helped them activate their prior knowledge more than I did. As I did with other classes, I should have been more keen on “meeting students where they are.” Isn’t that my motto? This time around, I will do better with that. We will review the elements of texts, for example, and spend time on theme and characterization. I know they worked on that in elementary and middle school. Now, I need to help them remember and apply it to their own writing.
  • I should have been more encouraging. I gave up too easily. Looking out at the group, I could see varying levels of interest and desire. It was overwhelmingly depressing. I need to be more persistent, confident, and hopeful.

Perhaps Journaling Will Help

Looking at what I just wrote, it seems there are two main issues: interest and prior knowledge. A structured journal for each student might be the answer.

  • The first prompt would include Morrison’s quote and a simple question: “What kind of story would you like to read? Has it been written yet? If it has, write about the existing text and how you would tell the story if you were to write something similar. If it has not, free-write about how you would tell the story.”
  • Subsequent prompts would focus on activating that prior knowledge. A short lecture, followed by time journaling about the topic, could help dislodge that understanding from the archive. Topics would include characterization, plot/structure, conflict, narration, figurative language and symbolism, etc. Yes, I taught all those things this semester, but need to do more to help students own their understanding.
  • The prompts to follow would then combine their interest with that prior knowledge. Who are their characters? What’s the conflict, and how does that drive the plot/structure? Who is the narrator, and is the narrator reliable or not? What symbols will you use and why? What figurative language works best?
  • Then, and only then, comes the story. Again, I tried this semester to take a structured approach, but I need to work harder to help them own their story and understanding. I need to model the enthusiasm I am trying to generate.
  • After story writing, I can tackle poetry. Poetry is always difficult, but the longer I teach it, the more I love it. I need to model that enthusiasm too.

With structure — day-to-day prompts just waiting for them — could come confidence and interest. What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Modeling the Enthusiasm

This could be another factor in the success of Creative Writing I and II. This time around, I need to write with them more often. After the short lecture, I need to project my writing and demonstrate how committed I am to writing by completing my journal alongside them.

When we return from break, this semester’s class will receive a journal, and I will write alongside them.

What Do You Think?

Thank you for reading this post. Please leave a comment if you like. Here’s to a great 2022 and beyond!

Photo by Dhimas Arya on Unsplash

2022: The Year of Readjustment

Will 2022 be the year we establish new, sustainable routines during this period of continuous uncertainty?

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Perhaps we should embrace the uncertainty. Show our fortitude and resilience. Prepare. Review lessons learned.

And yet, time has been compressed, and making it through the day is still more important than planning for tomorrow.

Looking Back

At the end of 2020–2021, we were all spent. It was like we were on a boat, bailing water over the side, instead of trying to fix the leak, because we didn’t have time for that.

The boat made its way to shore somehow, and we disembarked. We crawled to our cars one last time and headed home for a much-needed break.

What Should Have Happened in the Summer of 2021?

Many of us put our minds to the heady task of rebounding from what was decidedly a dreadful school year, once we emerged from that much-needed break. Still tired, feeling not a little beaten, we did what teachers do: reflect, strategize, plan, and plan some more. We brought to school our ideas for helping students ease back into in-person schooling.

On the one hand, it would have been helpful if all that had been more coordinated. On the other hand, I’m not sure how many people would have been keen on sitting through yet another online conference.

What do you think? I’d love to read your thoughts.

What Happened in Your School?

News articles and blog posts warned all of us that all stakeholders in the learning community were still exhausted, even after the summer break. There was evidence of it in schools throughout the country: teachers and staff resigned, the substitute list shrank. We still are. I wonder how many of us will resign or retire at the end of this year? How many students will choose other methods of schooling?

Personally, the apathy shocked me. I thought most of us would be thrilled to return to in-person learning. I was prepared to see some reticence, but not as much as I actually witnessed. By the way, I was also not prepared to feel that way myself. If you read other posts on my profile, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I was going to return to school refreshed and invigorated.

There were several reasons why many of us went into a depression. If you experienced something similar, please comment. The only way to rebound is within a supportive community dedicated to rebounding.

Where Are We Now?

Throughout the learning community, the struggle to acclimate to an in-person learning environment is still evident. Those who had been online for 18 months still struggle with in-person socialization and schooling.

That struggle is most evident in my school among the ninth and tenth grade students. Not only were they returning to in-person learning, but also entering an unfamiliar school for the first time. Some acted out in ways we did not expect.

They are still struggling. Some students are addicted to the phones they had easy access to during online schooling. They are tired, and their sleep schedules are still not what they were before we all went home. Some have forgotten the rules. Some have lost their filters and speak their mind, often to the detriment of others. How do we combat all that when time is still compressed, and making it through the day is still more important than planning for tomorrow?

How do we deal with the negative outside forces that have pushed into our classrooms? Delta, school boards out of control, politics, inexplicable anger, mental-health crises, bullying, Omicron, mask-mandates, the substitute shortage, TikTok challenges, physical insecurity… All these and more serve as a reminder that school and community are inextricably linked in good and bad ways.

How do we readjust? How do we still teach to standards and address social-emotional issues and trauma? How do we reengage ourselves and our students?

This is how it feels: we made it to shore, left the boats where they are, crawled back to our cars, took a break, prepared for a new year, and returned to the same boats this school year without enough sealant to plug the leaks before we embarked on another school year. Now, we are back to bailing out.

I think we need a cruise ship to pull up alongside us and rescue us.

Looking Forward

What is going on outside school ultimately affects what happens inside. We are still in a pandemic, but pandemic fatigue is real. Many want to return to normal; they are fed up. I get that, but if we embrace the uncertainty — as we must — we cannot expect to return to normal operations, normal day-to-day.

Instead, we need to stay in the moment. What is happening right now that we can fix? Stop for a moment — all of us — and identify the leaks. Time needs to decompress again. In my opinion, we need to stop thinking several things.

  • We can help students “catch up.” Catch up to what? How about we address the needs of the students where they are, instead of where we think they need to be? There is too much pressure on these kids to achieve artificial goals, meet artificial standards. If we launch from students’ prior knowledge, what they know and learned during the pandemic, instead of what we think they should know, I think we will be amazed.
  • We don’t have time to explicitly address SEL and trauma-related issues. I think it is time to add classes to the schedule taught by counselors and teachers. We need the expertise of psychologists. We should take time to provide that instruction. Teachers, students, and staff would benefit greatly.
  • We can’t change scheduling patterns and graduation requirements. Let’s look at the big elephant in the room. Do students really need all these credits, or should we lengthen the core classes to help students engage the curriculum (and take the SEL/Trauma classes). What can we drop? What courses should have longer class times?
  • PE and health classes should be one-semester classes. Kids need a physical and emotional outlet, and PE and health classes could prove beneficial. I think both classes should be year-long. Let’s focus on the whole child, many of whom still feel the effects of being cooped up for so long. Let them move around, practice hand-eye coordination and motor skills, and have some fun. Encourage them to recharge.

Again, your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let’s start a conversation!

Positivity Needed

Since the last time I posted anything, I have started several drafts. In each one, I complained about something going on in the education space today. That’s why I did not publish them.

Staying positive has been a challenge this school year, and no wonder. To stay positive, however, I will segue into more optimistic topics. Keep me to my word, dear reader.

Supportive Groups Are Starting to Speak Up

After many months of listening to some weird and dangerous ideas promulgated by those who don’t want to wear masks or get vaccinated, some are starting to speak more forcefully about both controversies-that-should-not-be-controversies.

While authority starts from the top down, assertiveness rises from the bottom up. That is true within groups and within the individual.

Individuals and groups are forming to counter those who think they are asserting their rights to be unhealthy around other people. They are refuting misinformation and disinformation. They are mobilizing.

It’s not just teachers’ unions. Medical professionals are joining the cause. The Department of Justice is joining the cause after members of learning communities were threatened. Parents are getting involved. School boards are protecting themselves. Courts are responding to governors who think they have the right to jeopardize public health.

Local newspapers are starting to speak out too. One recent editorial, for example, discussed a school board’s reckless actions regarding quarantine protocols. School boards around the country are starting to cave to the wrong side. Within the school board membership itself, there are arguments. We cannot let that happen.

We need more local papers to voice reason and hold those in authority to account. We need to be more assertive, and many are now understanding that.

This Is an Opportunity to Reignite Local Journalism

Perhaps more editorials will help revitalize the news deserts that now exist in smaller communities losing their local papers by drawing readers. That’s another important story. With the lack of local news, misinformation and disinformation proliferate on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. We all need to know what is happening in our communities, and we need journalists to help us find out.

When I was a kid, our local newspaper was thick, chock full of news from the neighborhoods it reached. Now, my mother showed me a recent edition of the paper, and it’s about 10 pages. It’s not that things stopped happening, but that local papers are dying. Let’s reignite local journalism!

Let’s Protect Each Other

Negative, and sometimes violent, stakeholders in education have bombarded school boards, administrations, teachers, and staff recently, as many of us already know. Mask mandates and vaccine protocols have dominated the discussion.

The news reports tell us horrifying things happening at school board meetings, for example. Now, supportive groups are raising their voices in protest — including the Department of Justice in the United States.

There’s only so much misinformation and disinformation that can “leak” into the ether and “seep” into social media before the conflict becomes one in which the two sides need to confront each other. Thus far, those of us on the side of public health have tried to be civil. We should remain civil and become more assertive simultaneously.

Going negative, or becoming violent in response to those who have chosen to be violent, will not help. There are solutions, assertive solutions, to be had.

Perhaps the best argument I have heard is simple: “You do not have the right to endanger others’ health.” If you don’t want to wear a mask and you don’t want your child to wear one, well, try cyber school or homeschool. You don’t have the right to endanger another person, full stop.

Our legal system can attest to that. It should, and it has in certain cases. We need to continue in that vein. It stops the argument among those of us who want to be good citizens. Those who don’t will still try, but I think that percentages will change as a result of making that argument.

Thank you for reading this post.

No, I Will Not Post Copyrighted Materials

Did you know that PA teachers may have to post their curriculum, syllabus, instructional materials, etc., online for all the world to see? This post questions what “instructional materials” we are supposed to post.

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

There is a bill that passed the PA House of Representatives this past week, which requires educators to post everything online for all the world to see starting in the 2022–23 school year. There are several complaints about this bill, all of which are legitimate. My main concern centers on “instructional materials.”

Are we supposed to violate copyright laws to comply with this law?

I’ll tell you this: I won’t.

I have too many colleagues who create materials and share them, stipulating that they are to be used for educational purposes, i.e., in the classroom. I also use materials that are not supposed to show up on the web because of copyright restrictions. Either way, someone worked extremely hard to develop these educational artifacts and deserves to be compensated when individuals use them.

As I write this, the definition of “instructional materials” is still unclear. If they are referring to page numbers in a text book, that’s legitimate. However, my gut tells me they’ll want more.

Why? Because this is a fishing expedition, that’s why. Those who support this bill are looking for something to confirm their conspiracy theories about what the kids are learning. The Critical Race Theory nothing-burger comes to mind. This notion of bringing “patriotic education” to schools comes next.

I don’t want to focus on that, though. I want to return to the idea of being told to violate one law to comply with another.

I would also like to ask a Medium user, namely Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, what they think of this development? How would the company feel if teachers were forced to publish documents based on your textbooks for anyone to download, screenshot, or copy in some way? I would love to read your thoughts.

I’d also like to ask the College Board how they would feel about AP teachers being forced to publish AP Classroom materials. PA Legislators: We aren’t allowed to share those materials!

And what about those who create materials for Teachers Pay Teachers and other such sites? How will they feel? Many of these teacher-creators are developing materials to supplement their paltry income, or to raise money to buy things for their classroom, because, you know, that’s what teachers do. We teacher-curators are so grateful to have these wonderful ideas. We use them respectfully by not violating their sharing rules.

There are so many things wrong with this, but this concern is top of mind right now, so I thought I would share it with you. Thank you for reading this hastily crafted post.

Yesterday, I Took Steps to Take My Classroom Back

It was frightening, yet empowering simultaneously. Let me tell you what I did.

Photo by Vicky Sim on Unsplash

I said to a friend, “I just did something and it feels so good. Today, I made an announcement: mobile phones are banned in my room.” That earned me a huge smile and a “Good for you!”

“I have an announcement to make,” I said after the second bell.

“Due to recent developments in social media abuse and cyberbullying, which have (unfortunately) happened in our school, I am banning mobile phones in this classroom. The TikTok challenges, the Snapchat snaps in class, the selfies and videos I’ve witnessed… all these must stop.

In one class, there were snickers and knowing smiles. It was as if they were saying, “Yeah, whatever. It’s funny, get over it.”

“So, this is what is going to happen. Starting Tuesday, after your four-day weekend, you will find a mobile-phone organizer and storage bags upon your arrival. Take a bag, put your mobile device inside, and put it in the organizer.

The snickers stopped. The smiles disappeared.

“Now, if you feel you can control yourself, you can keep it on your person. However, if I see it, I have the right to confiscate it. I’m not going to touch it, though. Instead, I’m going to hand you a slip of paper that states you are taking your phone to the office to turn in because you were using your phone in class. Then, I will call the office to let them know you are coming.”

That stopped the thoughts of refusing to give up their phones to me. I really do not want to touch anyone’s phone.

“Why am I doing this?”

“Well, it’s simple. This might make me sound weak, and I don’t care. I have been bullied all my life, from the way I look to my last name.

Please, take a moment to consider my last name. Go ahead and giggle. Everyone does.

“I can’t take it anymore.

“This room is my safe space, and I want to make it a safe space for you too. I want to stop the bullying, physical or cyber. I’m tired of it.”

“Any questions?”

As you can imagine, there were no questions.

Six Times, I Made the Same Speech

Each time, I felt stronger. In the last two classes of the day, the students reacted with several questions that made me smile.

  • “Ms. E, who’s bullying you? I want their names.” No, I did not give any names.
  • “Why would someone make fun of your last name? That’s just dumb.” Indeed, but it’s been happening my whole married life, in business settings and school settings.
  • “Why do people think this stuff is funny?” Exactly. I really don’t know. However, if you read a recent article by Dr. Deborah M. Vereen-Family Engagement Influencer, you may confirm some of your suspicions, as I did.

I am so grateful for those students and their support. I am so grateful for the 95% of my roster who doesn’t do terrible things with technology. To those students, I promised to do my best to make class so interesting that the time will fly and they will not miss their devices. Eek, please help me fulfill that promise!

Thank you for reading this post. I look forward to your thoughts.

Is It Time to Go Low Tech Again?

Yesterday, I thought it was. Today, I just want my classroom back on my terms.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I wrote a draft yesterday in which I lamented the current state of things in schools. The TikTok challenges, the fictitious letters, the rampant use of mobile devices for social media and bullying have all made me anxious.

Student handbooks nationwide probably state that using mobile devices, except in certain instances, is prohibited, and bullying anytime is prohibited. Ours does. I know because I checked to refresh my memory.

On pages 9, 15, and 18, the administration makes it clear: mobile devices and cyberbullying are clearly prohibited, and there are consequences for violations. Mobile devices may be used at lunch, but at no other time.

Yesterday, I considered going back to pen and paper, to avoid any use of technology. Well, today I feel differently. Why? Several reasons.

I Must Enforce the Policy to Get My Classroom Back

Telling people to put the phones away, or asking them not to produce them in class, isn’t working. Students who violate the rules simply cannot help themselves. Therefore, enforcing the policy is the only way to stop the violations.

I need my classroom, my safe space, back. I will take it back.

Students also need a safe space. I will give them one.

To facilitate that, I purchased a mobile phone desktop organizer into which students will put their phones when they come to class. If they won’t, and I see it, then I have the right to confiscate it, according to page 18 of the handbook.

Seriously, it’s either this or quit. I don’t want to quit, and if I don’t try something, then quitting is all my fault.

I’m Not Interested in Killing Trees

I like referring to paper as much as anyone. However, the thought of standing at the copier, watching paper spit from it, which will be used once and then shoved into a locker or the “circular file,” makes me cringe.

While I plan to use more paper this year than last (students have told me they prefer paper), pretending the computers don’t exist seems downright silly. We are a 1:1 school also; it’s a waste of funding to not use them.

And since my family calls me “gadget girl,” shouldn’t I teach the way I feel most comfortable?

Again, I need to get my classroom back, on my terms. Sacrificing teaching strategies for the sake of locking down technology is counterproductive.

Students learn best when teachers are at their best, using the tools they use best to help students learn. I will help my students learn.

Online Resources Keep Us All Organized

We all need to stay organized, and having online resources is one way to do that. With too much paper floating around, I can see our work quickly sliding into chaos.

I can’t stand chaos.

This year, I took papers home to grade for the first time in years. I checked and double checked to make sure I had them all. It was terrible. I told the kids I wasn’t going to do that anymore. Many understood why I felt that way.

The only inboxes I want are online inboxes. The physical ones are too risky.

Bottom Line

I need my safe space back. Students also need a safe space. I will give us one.

Thank you for reading this post. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

TikTok Challenges, Fictitious Letters, and Elfin Ears

The honeymoon at my school is decidedly over. How about yours?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It’s 5:40 A.M. on a Sunday. My stomach hurts. My head hurts. For the first time this school year, I’m actually allowing myself to not want to go to school tomorrow.

Why? This week alone, we were alerted to monthly TikTok challenges, some of which are absolutely disgusting and actually illegal.

October is “smack a staff member” month, for example. Well, as my colleague said, “If anyone smacks me, they will be in a world of legal hurt.” Amen. The challenges only get worse from there.

In addition to that horror, we also received notice that a letter is going around to parents using our letterhead, advising parents there will be a “Mandatory Genital Inspection” in the gym this week. That’s disgusting too. Whoever did it could face legal consequences.

Apparently, the TikTok challenges and that letter are examples of school pranks going national. It’s not just our school. It could be yours too.

Finally, we have kids cosplaying in the school, wearing all sorts of stuff — like the elfin ears I mentioned in the title. If it were only that, I would shrug it off, but in some cases, it’s like ComicCon is happening in the building.

Since we decided to ditch the uniform dress code this year, this is the thanks we get, I suppose.

Students and Staff Want This to Stop

Teachers and staff aren’t the only ones upset by what is happening. Many students are upset.

They believe these pranks go too far. They want their bathrooms back (the September challenge was to destroy school bathrooms). They don’t want staff hurt or even touched.

They think kids are taking the relaxed dress code to extremes. “This is why we can’t have nice things,” they say. Indeed.

They also want to know what happened to their classmates after 18 months of being shut up in their bedrooms, attempting (or not) to learn through a screen. I do too.

There’s only so much grace we can extend. Last year, we had to accept that several students would do absolutely nothing while attending school online. We had to accept that several students set an alarm, took a nap, and woke up in time to join the next conference. We also had to worry if our likeness was going to show up in a meme somewhere. That was nothing compared to this.

Can you understand why I don’t want to go to school?

Don’t We All Have Enough to Contend With?

Mobile Phones

I mean, it’s hard enough to deal with the mobile phones, which demand the students’ attention more than I do (apparently). When I told a class to put the phones away, I heard, “And what if we don’t?”

I responded, “There are twenty-four students in this room and one of me. I will not stand for nonsense. Review your student handbook and find the consequences for noncompliance.”

Would you have said that to a teacher? I mean, EVER? I wouldn’t. I may have gotten in trouble for that in school, but at home, it would have been so much worse.


To add to that, we have to deal with mask issues. People, wearing/not wearing a mask is not a political statement. It’s a health issue. Wear it and keep it on.

The problem is that community members have made it an issue. Just down the road, where I used to live, Steve Lynch forced the school district to bring in more security because he was going to bring “twenty strong men” to the next board meeting to remove school board members who approved masks in the schools.

This guy is running for county executive. If he wins, heaven help Northampton County.

What are we teaching our kids when adults advocate violence? What are we teaching our kids, period? This is preposterous.

All the Other Usual You-Know-What

These serious issues make all the other typical discipline issues look like child’s play in comparison. Ah, to return to the good old days.

Can you understand why I don’t want to go to school?

Final Thoughts

They’re just pranks, some may say. No big deal.

No, they aren’t.

September’s challenge involves damage to and theft of school property. October’s challenge is assault. Kids have already been arrested for doing stupid things, like stealing soap dispensers. Who will be arrested for assault?

TikTok has said it will remove references to these challenges, etc., etc., etc. Right, OK. I’ll believe that when I see it.

It won’t be soon enough, though. News travels so fast, faster than an algorithm can identify the videos and remove them. How many people will see them before TikTok identifies them? Oh, and we’ll need that video to make an arrest, so keep it in an archive, TikTok.

Adults within the learning community need to do something. We can’t take our schools back without all adult stakeholders involved. A few students are making school life impossible for the rest of us.

How many other teachers and staff members don’t want to go to school tomorrow?

Thank you for reading this post. I look forward to your comments.

High School Students Don’t Have Time for Homework

Work, extra-curricular activities, and athletics take so much of a student’s time after school that they either don’t have time to do homework, or they don’t have time to sleep.

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“Hey, can you help me?”

At 7:45 in the morning, my homeroom students start to file into class, bleary-eyed and distracted. The first order of business: finishing the homework put aside the night before. Three weeks into the school year, they already have a support group, in which students who share classes tutor each other on the confusing stuff and help each other get through the assignment.

Since it’s usually math or science, I observe. Asking me for help would be counterproductive. 😄

Almost all these students have something to do after school: work, extracurricular activities, or athletics. These activities are not optional. Some students have to work; their parents need them to handle certain personal expenses (phone, car insurance, and even car payments, for example). Extracurricular activities look good on transcripts, and these students want to go to college. Some are gifted athletes, and their performance could earn them a full scholarship.

In other words, they can’t give up those activities.

“I am determined to avoid giving homework as much as possible.”

That is what I have been telling my students this year. I also have an absence policy that states that if you need to be in class to complete an assignment and are absent that day, you are excused. My courses are skills-based; students will experience lessons based on the same skills many more times during the semester.

The students have been warned. Since I don’t want to assign homework, we work hard in class. No dilly-dallying in Ms. E’s class.

This year, we also take class notes. One student is chosen each day to be the “scribe.” They are responsible for noting each thing we are doing in a Google Doc, formatted in Cornell Notes style. Before class, I add the table to the document and often add keywords and questions to the left side to help students add important notes. Students can refer to these notes for any reason, but they can be especially helpful after an absence. They are encouraged to review the notes.

I have assigned long-term independent reading projects. Students learn to manage their time by completing these projects, which involve reading longer works and responding to the text.

I still get questions, but I am training the students each time they ask, “What did I miss in class?” Hopefully, by the end of quarter one, they will know how the process works.

Your Thoughts Are Important

I would love to read your thoughts on homework.

  • What are the benefits of doing homework?
  • What kind of homework should be assigned?
  • Should homework be assigned?
  • How long should a homework assignment take?
  • How important is it to consider the students’ workload when assigning homework?
  • Should students receive a grade for homework?
  • If a popular topic among adults today is “work-life balance,” shouldn’t we consider the issue for students?
  • What other questions could we ask?

Thank you for reading this post. I look forward to your feedback.

Communicating with Students and Families

Add a newsletter to the weekly routine. If only one parent or guardian responds, it’s worth it.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Addressing the Concerns of Parents Using Online Tools

After a disastrous school year (20–21), many families are concerned about their student’s progress. Some feel lost. They aren’t sure how to get information about what their student is doing in school. They ask the child, but kids are notorious for shrugging their shoulders, or saying, “Oh, just a bunch of assignments.”

Many schools have an app that displays a student’s assignments in any given class, as well as grades. However, as a parent, I often did not fully appreciate how my son would complete that assignment. The descriptions were cryptic or missing. That was pre-pandemic.

Improved Communication through the LMS

Now, teachers have come to rely on learning management systems (LMS) to manage assignments. If anything good can come of this pandemic, it could be that we have become accustomed to transferring what used to be on paper to the LMS. Barring any Internet issues that could inhibit access, we now have a repository of material online that will not get lost in the chaos that it is a student’s locker or a teacher’s desk, for example.

By the way, I brought home several handwritten papers this week. It is the first time in over 18 months that I will score on actual paper. Please, say a prayer that I don’t lose any of them. 😃

Families have more access to the daily work of the classroom due to this transfer of paper to the LMS. Our LMS allows for “parent accounts” that are view-only, so families can review each class and see all the assignments their student has. In other words, a “bunch of assignments” now has meaning.

Opening Avenues to Communication

Real conversations about a student’s workload can now take place. These conversations can be helpful to the student. Families can help students become organized, more capable of addressing all their priorities.

Something I have noticed is that if students become overwhelmed with the number of assignments they have, they start to shut down. They tend to forget what they have to do. They procrastinate. In the past, families were alerted to the problem when zeroes started showing up in the grade book. By opening avenues to communication, we can avoid that. Families can take a proactive approach, not a reactive one.

One More Avenue to Communication

In addition to encouraging families to gain access to the LMS, I have added family emails to regular communications for each class. I used to only email students; this year I am expanding my reach.

I also added a “Weekly Update” newsletter to my approach. Each course has a section that explains what we will work on the following week, as well as important reminders about project due dates. I encourage other teachers to do the same. If only one parent responds to the newsletter, it’s worth the time it takes to write it.

This week, I received a nice email from a parent in response to my newsletter.

I appreciate the email. I hope this continues for the entire year. I can keep track of what assignments my daughter has in your class and what you will be working on with the students.

I responded that I intend to continue the weekly updates throughout the school year, and thanked him for the encouragement and feedback. Now, I am motivated to not disappoint him.

The Newsletter Does Not Have to Be Fancy

In fact, the newsletter could simply be an email you send with a heading for each class and a blurb about what is happening along with important due dates.

There are resources you can use if you want to send a fancy newsletter. Here are some to consider.

  • Smore
  • Sway
  • Canva
  • MailChimp
  • Adobe Spark
  • Search Google for “Newsletter Templates” you can edit in Word, Google Docs, etc.
  • Word and Google Docs offer templates, I believe.
  • If you are a Mac user, I believe Pages offers templates too.


What are your thoughts about communication with families and students? Perhaps you have other ideas. I would love to read them. Thank you for reading this post.