Teaching stress – not teaching it, dealing with it

March 28th, 2009 | Filed under: personal, teaching

I’m under plenty of stress with school and work. It’s my first time filing business taxes, so I’m busy gathering receipts and documents all so I can know how much to shell out to the government this quarter.

But I found this great article from SmartTeaching.org – thanks to a tweet by @msstewart – listing 101 ways to deal with teaching stress. Check it out!

101 Ways to Cope with Teaching Stress

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A teacher’s health

March 19th, 2009 | Filed under: personal, teaching

I’ve been swamped with school work. It’s mid-semester and exams and projects often loom around this time, but I’ve been trying to make my health a priority. I’m already vegan, but when I’m cramming for classes and trying to meet writing deadlines, “vegan” doesn’t necessarily translate to “healthy.” You know, most salt and vinegar chips and soda pop are vegan.

However, working out has always fallen by the wayside when I get busy. I’ve been told by friends that you have to make fitness a priority – like eating, sleeping, etc. But that’s been a hard change for me to make since I feel like I could be getting work done when I’m at the gym. However, the past two weeks I’ve been following a regimen of hitting the gym at least three times a week. I’m hoping that doing so will give me more energy in the long run to complete the tasks I need to get done.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the health and wellness of teachers. I’ve known a lot of teachers to gain weight when they start teaching, because they spend so much time planning, eating when they can (and usually not healthful foods), and never having time for things like the gym. I have a friend whose mom, a special education teacher, hits the gym at 5 a.m. every morning before heading to her school by 6:45 a.m. My head spins just thinking about it.

I’m wondering how other teachers make time for their health and family while being in such a demanding career? I think of Erin Gruwell in the “Freedom Writers” movie, spending every hour involved in her teaching or fund raising for her class. So I guess this is more than just a question about fitting in time for working out, but for yourself in general. How do you do it?

I’ve been warned of teacher burnout – that most new teachers leave the profession after five years or less. I think figuring out a positive teaching / life balance will be important, but I’ve never been one to be good at balancing anything, especially when it comes to my time.

So, teachers, how do you do it? How do you make time for working out, eating healthfully, taking care of kids, having a life, etc.?

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Testing for teachers

March 13th, 2009 | Filed under: preservice

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately since I’m swimming in standardized tests for my teaching license.

I took the VCLA reading and writing test this morning, which was fairly easy and straightforward, but long! And I’m set to take the Praxis II English (0041) tomorrow morning. I’m actually nervous about that one since it tests content knowledge, which is why I’m blogging (ahem, procrastinating) instead of studying. I took a Cliffs practice test yesterday and my score took my breath away. Needless to say I need to study poetry meters tonight.

Not the best planning on my part to schedule two tests in two days, especially over spring break, but I’m hoping this will be the only time I have to take these tests (fingers crossed!).

Taking these two tests was enough, but to think if I had to take the Praxis I! I’m lucky my SAT scores were high enough to exclude me from having to take the Praxis I, because I don’t know how much more of this testing I can take, let alone how much more my wallet can take. With registration fees and testing fees, I spent nearly $300 on the two tests.

What are your experiences with these tests? How did you study? What are your opinions on these sorts of tests?

I’m thinking if I were actually teaching the content day-to-day I would be more confident with the material, but since I’m not I feel grossly unprepared for the Praxis II tomorrow. I’ve been told not to worry, but I’m a terrible test taker.

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I switched to Diigo

March 11th, 2009 | Filed under: personal, technology

So, I’ve been using del.icio.us for quite a while now to track my bookmarks. If you’re unfamiliar with social bookmarking, here’s a good explanation by Common Craft. But basically it’s a Web-based way to track you bookmarks and share them with others if you want (you have the option to keep them private as well).

Del.icio.us has worked really well for me so far. You can tag each bookmark, make notes and search within the bookmarks. Most of mine deal with crafts, vegan cooking and education stuff. You can check out my bookmarks here.

But…something better came along.

Diigo is just like del.icio.us, but with some awesome extras, my favorite being the ability to highlight parts of a Web page and make annotations within it. This solves my need for an online notebooking service. Google is doing away with its Notebook, which I loved, and I’ve been searching for a good one ever since. I’ve been testing Zotero, but haven’t enjoyed it as much. With Diigo I can highlight the parts of the page I like or plan on using in a paper, for example, and make notes of where I want to use it.

And there’s a social part of all this, of course. You can add friends on Diigo, see their bookmarks and see the annotations of every other Diigo user that has made their bookmarks public. So, for example, if I make a note on a page, you can check out the same page and tell Diigo to show you my notes. And you can make your own notes – or even respond to mine!

Another feature I like is the ability to mark a page or article as “read later.” Often, with del.icio.us, I would tag an article and plan to go back later, but I’d never get around to it. Out of sight, out of mind. With the Diigo toolbar, I’m reminded of the articles I need to check out. It’s a small thing, but I like it.

The biggest thing that sold me on Diigo was that I didn’t have to leave del.icio.us. I uploaded my del.icio.us bookmarks to Diigo and can request Diigo to post my bookmarks and tags to del.icio.us concurrently using the “save elsewhere” feature. Seriously!

There has been a lot of discussion on Twitter and forums about moving to Diigo and I decided to go for it. I’m loving it so far and I’m sure there are great features I haven’t used yet. This article really sold me on the reasons to switch.

Here I am on Diigo – let’s be friends!

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“But SOLs are over!”

March 6th, 2009 | Filed under: preservice, teaching

Friday was the first day for some of the 8th grade students to have English class after completing their writing SOL on Tuesday and Wednesday. They were surprised to find a writing assignment on the agenda – a book review for a contest.

The first question out of the students: “Why are we writing? The writing SOL is over.”

I think this warrants a sigh.


The last two weeks I’ve been with these students, the writing SOL has been the focus of every class. What the students are learning (types of essays and their parts, writing introductions/conclusions, test strategies, etc.) is applicable beyond the SOL – we know that. How do we show students that the SOLs are very important, but that learning in general is the goal? I’m sure this is an old struggle for most public school teachers, but this was my first experience with the SOL.

I took a few SOLs in high school, but graduated before they became a prerequisite for graduation, so the pressure wasn’t nearly as great. I’m wondering how I will get the point across to my students that the SOL is important (not necessarily my opinion – just a fact), but that we need to strive toward improving our writing skills even beyond these major tests. That needs to be the overall goal – learning something new everyday and pushing ourselves to try more. It’s unfortunate the SOL, a minimum standards assessment, is often the goal.

In other, less depressing news, I taught almost an entire block on my own! We discussed the parts of a book review, what we might include in a review, favorite quotes that we might include, etc. The students are able to choose from two of the books they’ve read – “Gathering Blue” by Lois Lowry or “Night” by Elie Weisel. Then we ate popsicles!

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A lesson about Twitter

March 2nd, 2009 | Filed under: personal, technology

No sooner did I post about how much I want to utilize online networks, such as Twitter, to communicate with my future students did I make a huge, embarrassing mistake via tweet.

Imagine sending a personal e-mail, full of that dirty language you need to get in check before you start teaching, to everyone in your address book. I did that today, but with Twitter. It could have been a lot worse considering the friend to whom I was trying to send the text message, but still very embarrassing.

To explain, I have Twitter set up through my cell phone and can send text messages to it from wherever. I should have been more vigilant about checking my to: field when I responded to my friend’s message. Luckily I could delete the tweet from my page, but it doesn’t change the fact that I exposed (hopefully only) a few of my Twitter followers to my nasty sailor mouth! No offense to sailors with clean mouths out there.

I have to thank @msstewart for letting me know that if I plan to communicate via Twitter with my future students, I can’t send tweets out like that one. I would have never known had she not said anything. I definitely agree that swearing and sharing personal info with students is not a good idea, especially via Twitter, which is why I plan to have a separate Twitter account for students/parents if I decide to go through with it.

I hope everyone learns from my lesson here – even when a friend sends you a shocking text that gets you cursing, don’t respond via tweet. Check your to: field constantly!

And in an attempt to laugh about this, which I’m trying to do, check out the Twitter Hall of Shame. A few of these are NSFW – aren’t you glad I warned you this time?

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