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Dec 2017
Vol 14 No 4
BACK ISSUES


Author Archive

Child’s Play: What A High School Teacher Learned From Elementary School Teachers

By Sharon Thomas • Mar 1st, 2016
Elementary school teachers teach me a great deal. Some of my normal classroom routines come directly from those lesson presentations in those courses, and they all have their roots in elementary school classrooms.


The H.S. Teacher’s Preppie Handbook

By Sharon Thomas • Jan 1st, 2015
A “prep” is each separate course that a teacher teaches in a day. For example, last year, during first semester, I taught one English 11 class, one Honors English 11 class, and one English 10 class in a day, thus yielding three preps and a planning block. The second semester of that year, I taught three English 11 classes, thus yielding me that Holy Grail of High School, one prep and a planning block...


Silver Linings Textbook

By Sharon Thomas • Aug 1st, 2014
People ask me some version of this question all the time: “How come you like your job so much?” It is perhaps a sad state of affairs that I sometimes feel as fanciful as a unicorn in loving what I do for a living, but I have found (especially as I get older) that truly enjoying one’s job is a rare and precious thing. I know the reason why I love my job and why I have been able to maintain that affection for so many years. I have written about it in other forums (like this one), and I have even been interviewed about it by researchers (happiness research exists—how cool is that?). Interestingly, others bring up the topic to me all the time.


Film School: Why “We watched a movie” Is A-OK

By Sharon Thomas • Jul 1st, 2014
One topic that is often a hard-and-fast rule in schools is a maxim that constitutes one of my greatest pet peeves: No Showing Films in Class. Film is literature. Film is art. Film is culture. Film is, yes, fun, and we need to stop holding that against it. For all of these reasons, film should play a significant role in literacy instruction. Rules about not using film in class typically originate (as do most rules) from the bad behavior of the slackers.


Warts and All – Turning Instructional Messes Into Growth Opportunities

By Sharon Thomas • Jun 1st, 2014
Teachers, on the whole, resist transparency. Regardless of whether someone observes us for an actual evaluation or for something completely innocuous and non-threatening, most teachers express a high level of anxiety when anyone watches us do our jobs. We want to give the impression that our classroom “house” is clean (No instructional messes here!), that our classroom “offspring” are tidy and well behaved (No profanity-spouting house-arrest anklet-wearers here!), and that our work “husbands” adore us (My bosses think I’m great!). I’ve been there. And it’s a load of crap. We teach human beings, and neither they nor learning are clean. I see now that the better I teach, the messier it is (literally and figuratively), and the more transparency I have with others—and especially with myself—the better job I do and the less anxious I am


Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

By Sharon Thomas • Mar 1st, 2014
Teacher-leadership has become central to my philosophy about what separates strong schools from weak schools, and it is a banner I wave in as many professional situations as possible. A funny thing happened on my way to teacher-leadership, though; I discovered that, the more power I give over to others, the more power we all have and the more we move education where it needs to go.


It’s Time to Knock off the Education Conspiracy Theories

By Sharon Thomas • Jan 1st, 2014
Conspiracy theories are sexy. They are mysterious, complex, and brooding. They make film (and books and television and family reunions) fun. As with Oliver Stone and JFK, however, they rarely hold up in the light of day. In schools (surrounded by the smell of overcooked leafy greens, the faces of America’s youth, and the mysteries of large-scale HVAC), we are quick to believe conspiracy theories, too, and it is time we knock it off.


How a Good Girl Faces the Real World of Teaching

By Sharon Thomas • Aug 1st, 2013
I have always been a Good Girl. I play by the rules. I meet expectations. I am punctual. I like pleasing my superiors. I excel at following directions. Being a Good Girl helps me to be a good teacher, a good employee, a good person. My principals tend to think I’m wonderful. My students often look up to me as a role model. My colleagues respect me. I have gone far in my little universe because I am a Good Girl. Teachers usually are Good Girls and Boys. Typically, we were good students; we knew how to follow orders and bell-tones. Most importantly, we are people who want to do the right thing. But there’s a problem: The world doesn’t make sense to Good Girls and Boys. The contrast between the way we think the world should work and the way the world actually is can break our hearts. That dichotomy makes us feel as if we are alone in upholding standards. It makes us feel as if no one appreciates how hard we work. It makes us feel as if we are fighting a losing battle—day after day, after day. The stress we feel as a result of those dashed expectations is what leads to bitterness and burnout. To stay positive and focused in a job that can continually involve bashing one’s head up against the proverbial wall, I have found that the secret to staving off burnout is to change my expectations, to change my view of the world, to change my definition of “Good.”


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