Julie’s Classroom Assistance

June 2021

It’s amazing to think it’s been nearly a year since I wrote the posts below, anticipating a crazy year. In reality, it turned out to be just fine, thankfully, for me and most people I know. I know many people struggled with so much and I know the repercussions of this year will be felt for many to come–especially for our students who missed out on so much learning both in and out of classrooms.

At the time I began the posts in my “Making Lemonade” series, I planned to continue writing throughout the school year, blogging about the challenges we faced and the solutions we found. My last post happened a week before the students came back to school. I was already exhausted, and it just got busier and more stressful as those first months of school rolled by. But slowly, we got comfortable with teaching at a distance–in person and via Zoom–but it wasn’t until April that I started to feel less exhausted. Then testing began and May was over before I knew it started. Not a single blog post written despite so much learning and teaching!

I do think I met my goal–I was a better teacher last year than the year before, probably because of the challenges. Have you seen that video where the rabbi talks about the lobster? Hopefully all of us cast off our old shells and grew new ones this year.

So, as I kick off summer, I want to take some time to reflect on the things I learned and the things I taught this year–for two reasons. I know that by writing about my experiences I am better able to understand them and remember them–which is necessary if I want to continue to grow as a teacher. I also learn so much from reading what other teachers write. I hope that my experiences may be able to help someone else make their classroom better. Please join me for some summer refreshment as we prepare to tackle the challenges still to come.

Links to the Individual Posts in this Series:

July 2020

I’ve been waiting for some clarity and direction since May; neither is within sight, even though I’m scheduled to report back to school in two weeks. I’ve watched the School Board meetings and read the articles from districts across the country, all struggling with questions that no one can really answer. I change my mind daily (hourly?) about how I feel, but with weeks to go, it’s time to quit arm-chair quarterbacking and get back in the game.

As I often do in times of uncertainty, I return to the lessons I learned (as an adult) from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. I think about my Circle of Influence. What my state, district, and even my school, does in a few weeks is definitely in my Circle of Concern, but largely outside of my Circle of Influence. I can only control things within my Circle of Influence, so that’s where I’m going to focus my energy. I can control how I prepare for the new school year, in whatever context I face.

And when I stop to think about my school year, my biggest concern is still the same as it always is–how can I be a better teacher this year than last? Some years, that meant revamping my vocabulary instruction; others it meant reading more contemporary YA lit. This year, I’m going back to the basics: Classroom Management–building relationships, organizing time and materials, and establishing effective procedures. Although these are the foundations of good teaching, they all look a little different this year.

I’ve spent the last two months reading, writing, and thinking about what school will look like and how we can make it better for kids. Over the next couple of weeks (at least), I’m going to use my blog to share some of the insights, ideas, and inspiration that I plan to take back to school with me, hoping other teachers are similarly inspired–here’s the first one: a FREE PowerPoint activity you can use to build community in the classroom.

By focusing on what we can control, rather than the frustration caused by forces outside, we will make this better for ourselves and our students.

Links to the individual posts in this series:

How this all started…

One cold February morning, I walked out and found my car had a flat tire. After a few minutes of panic, and then a few more minutes of shuffling stuff from car to car, we came up with a plan to get all of us where we needed to be with one car; we’d deal with the flat tire later.

That afternoon, after struggling to get the jack and other tools out of the trunk (we had to watch a YouTube video), referring to owner’s manuals, and jumping up and down on the wrench to get the lug nuts off (unsuccessfully), I remembered we had AAA. Fifteen minutes later, the mechanic was kicking our tools out of the way, and using his power tools and expertise to remove the nail and fix the tire, saving us hours of dirty, physical labor and even more emotional frustration.

What does that have to do with this blog? My job as the literacy coach at my high school is to help teachers, just like AAA helps motorists. Most teachers have the skills and strategies we need to get us from here to there, but sometimes we need a little help to fine-tune a lesson, a map from our essential question to our assessment, or a little inspiration to recharge our batteries. Through this blog, I want to provide teachers with their own version of AAA Roadside Assistance. My goal is to provide short, informative posts to inspire and assist teachers of all secondary school classes, with an emphasis on reading and writing.  I’ll hope you’ll join me for ride!

lick Here for Some Great Ideas

And a little about me…

Over the last 22 years, I have taught 7th grade through junior college English and reading and I am currently working as the literacy coach in a high school.  In this position, I focus on helping the teachers at my school incorporate more reading, writing, and higher-order thinking into their lesson plans.

Outside of school, I enjoy spending time with my husband and our eleven-year-old daughter. We love to be outside with friends at the soccer field, pool, or beach. My husband has shared his love of Disney World and baseball with us and these are now two of our favorite annual vacations. Some day, we hope to be able to say we’ve stayed in every Disney resort and have seen a baseball game in every major league stadium!

A Note about TeachersPayTeachers:

I’ve been a seller on TeachersPayTeachers since the summer of 2006.  I posted my lessons there sporadically as a way to share things that went well in my classroom with other teachers, never really expecting to make much money.  Over the last few years, I started to notice more and more teachers were making good money from the site when TpT was posting $20,000 and $75,000 milestones on Facebook.  I decided it was time to start to pay a little more attention to my fledgling “store.”  Since 2013, I have been making a conscientious effort to improve the looks of my store and the quality of my products.  This blog, along with my Pinterest site are both part of my effort to build my store into something more meaningful.  However, I’ve always been an aspiring writer, and as “they” say, “write what you know.”  I do know teaching and I love to write about it, so I’m grateful that TpT has pushed me to share my writing in a more public format.  By design, my blog, Pinterest, and TpT will overlap, but this is not an advertisement for my TpT store–you’ll get a lot more out of this blog than I could ever offer in my store.