Making Curriculum Pop

Hi all!

I have loved reading the ideas and issues posed on this Ning. Thank you for being so dedicated to making education exciting! On Friday, I just accepted my first position as a high school English teacher. I was so excited...and now I am just overwhelmed! I have a question for you professional educators out there....what do you wish you knew as a first year high school English teacher?

Thanks! Best,


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Replies to This Discussion

Best of luck in your new position. You are embarking on a truly incredible and very special journey. Your question is a good one --and one I could probably write on for months! However, if I had to pick just one thing, I would say that it was that I wish I knew then how powerful and empowering it can be to give students choices in and about their learning. When I think of how many books I decided they should read, when I decided what they should write, etc. etc..well, needless to say, that is all different now.

Enjoy the adventure. All the best luck. Edie
Structure, choice, consistency, real-world issues and mature conversations/ discussions. Make it feel like a comfortable, predictable environment with lots of high-interest issues and problems being discussed. How fun. I wish that I could go back and start all over again--I loved my first year!
Make friends with the other English teachers. They have great ideas for all the units as well as survival for that time when the unexpected or unexceptional happens. The most fun I had as an early teacher (which I think I still am...) is taking lessons and adding my own style to them.
Also, collaboration. You don't have to tackle everything on your own. Most things have been done before or are in the process of being done. Outside of the school (I always go to fellow teachers first) is of course this ning and all the other educational sharing sources out there!
Congratulations. You'll have so much fun.

Some practical things that will help you.

First, learn your students' names, even if you have to get badges for every day. You can also create a seating plan, that will help them and you know one another.

Second, this is a very helpful strategey for getting engagement going. Whenever you give instructions to the class, have someone repeat those instrutions. Get the direction of the class moving within them, and away from you. I can send you more on this later.

Third, read Daniel Willingham's book Why Students Don't Like School, and pay attention especially to the chapter at the end on helping you. He's got great advice including having yourself filmed.
My students and I were just talking about what makes them do the work for one teacher and not another. One student said, "Well, I think when you feel respected by the teacher, and YOU respect the teacher, you WANT to do the work for them because you don't want to disappoint that person." I don't think all students work this way, but I can tell you that to earn the respect of your students, you should be: FIRM - FAIR - CONSISTENT. I know that's really broad, but it's true. Someone else mentioned mature conversations and expectations and I totally agree. GIVE them the responsibility - EXPECT them to rise to the occasion and not only WILL they, but they will enjoy your class and the work they have to do for you.


p.s. don't get stuck in the traditional teacher rut. If you're on this ning, you're probably headed in the right direction :)
I am going into my 4th year. When I started, I had a class of 11th graders who were mostly repeats from the previous semester. I came in with a PBL attitude, projects, projects projects. They did NOT go for that. They only wanted to read, worksheet, test. Completely NOT how I am. So, I realized right away that I can't always do what I want. I have to go with the flow of the class sometimes. Also, be consistent. Always. Don't do for one student what you wouldn't do for another, especially in discipline. I also realized that I have to be myself. I am a cynical sarcastic individual. I can't pretend to be someone I'm not. I am also honest (for the most part) with my students. But I do lie sometimes (especially if I say something will be graded although I know I won't grade it because of time). They never figure it out nor care to it seems. Try new things. I have yet to do anything the same. I change my stuff every year. Even if others look at you crazy, be crazy. It's more fun that way. Oh, and it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission!



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