Unusual Suspects

by Robert Pondiscio
July 24th, 2008

I’m as much of a creature of habit as anyone, and my daily blog reading features a number of de riguer stops: Joanne Jacobs, Eduwonk, Eduwonkette, Fordham’s Flypaper, This Week in Education, Bridging Differences, and D-Ed Reckoning. I read each faithfully and refer to them often in this space. There are, however, many more bloggers to whom I pay attention that have done great stuff recently that merited praise and eyeballs. Better late than never:

History is Elementary, a terrific site by an anonymous Georgia history teacher, who went off earlier this month on her state’s social promotion, er, retention policy.

Over the last few years I’ve watched children progress to the next grade who rarely turned in assignments, children who rarely opened a book, children with a majority of Fs on their report card, children whose parents have been literally begged to come in and work with us on creating a plan for their student’s success (always a no show), or children who only succeeded during the school day by disrupting every lesson in some form or fashion.

Catching Sparrows is the blog of a high school English teacher who goes by Redkudu. She graces the Core Knowledge blog with her thoughtful comments from time to time. She’s also brave enough to refer her readers to things like hilarious and utterly inappropriate high school commencement speeches by minor celebrities.

I had not read Gary Rubenstein’s TFA blog until reader Brian Rude commented on it recently. If you know a first year teacher, do them a favor and tell them about this blog today. He’s been handing out pearls for the last month on lesson planning, classroom management, and common teacher mistakes. He advises new teachers what to say if asked, “Are you a new teacher?

Some kid is definitely going to ask you so what are you going to say? What most new TFA teachers incorrectly think is the best way to answer this is to exaggerate the seventeen days (or hours!?!) of practice teaching during the institute. To me, this is like bragging about your girlfriend in Canada.

“It’s not the right thing to say because when you eventually make a mistake that reveals that you must be a new teacher,” Rubenstein writes. “Then you’ll be not only a new teacher, but a liar.”

Speaking of which, here’s the piece of advice I wish I’d received in my first year: At some point, probably very late on a Sunday night, you’re going to face a choice: should I stay up and do more lesson planning? Or should I go to sleep. Choose sleep. The best plans on God’s green earth will come to no good end if you’re fried and can’t think on your feet. I always had a better day — so did my students — when I was well rested. I was at my least effective on short rest, no matter how much time I put into planning.

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