Posted in Teaching Diary/Blog

Teaching in the 21st Century

I am amazed by the sheer power students hold in their hands today with the devices and connections available to them. I am even more amazed at how little they do with that power.

I entered into the teaching profession as a “digital immigrant,” not born into the world of technology that my students take for granted. Let’s put it this way: We got a dial up connection my freshman year of high school and I didn’t have a cell phone until I graduated from college. I’m comfortable online, but I don’t live my life here. I went to meet the so-called iGen, a generation “born with an iphone already in their hands.” It followed, I thought, that they would be hyper-advanced at using their tech devices.

Not so. After 3 years in the classroom, I can report that most students do little more than 1) make phone calls, 2) check instagram, and 3) play video games. Wait — that’s what I do! In fact, I do more: I blog, I can design websites, I videoconference… and, and, and. What gives?

I think the answer is, they’re still kids, and they don’t know any better than we do what they are supposed to do with all of this new “stuff.” But it’s such a shame to waste it!

Last semester, I gave my advisory students a fun homework assignment: Over the weekend, learn how to do one new thing on your phone. They looked at me like I was not a “serious” teacher and on Monday, no one wanted to report back. Apparently, they did not believe this was a “real” education. Phones are bad; books are good. But as a culture, we need to fully accept that phones are books — they are libraries, in fact.

If the COVID-19 crisis has made anything in my life palpable, it has been the need to transition to a high-tech lifestyle. The time is now. We have all the tools, and we have the ability. Even children have the tools and the ability. As a society we are ready.

A 21st Century education MUST include instruction on:

1) How to write an email without typing the entire message in the subject line.
2) How to create a personal website (with a blog.)
3) Digital citizenship and what it means to participate with integrity, even though you may feel invisible/invincible when online
4) How to manage your digital footprint: Students need to understand that anything they post can and will follow them, forever.
5) Coding.

These are just the basics, and I believe they are things every student has a right to know. Schools that don’t incorporate these skills will leave their students without essential knowledge they need for college, career, and life. I don’t think we can afford to be late to getting on board with this.

Posted in Teaching Diary/Blog

Updated Class Library and #ProjectLit

I still owe my wonderful family and friends a big public thanks for helping me raise funds for an updated class library last fall!

Room 202 got a new bookshelf from Amazon, and that’s not the best part! We were able to buy the entire collection of #ProjectLit 2019-20 Middle Grades Book Selections!!

I knew my students would be excited, but actually, they were thrilled. Everyone wanted to take a book home and I had to beg them to bring the books back so others could enjoy them.

I will definitely stick with #ProjectLit in the future as these titles offer high-interest, culturally relevant reading for secondary students. I was excited to read many of the books myself!

Posted in Teaching Diary/Blog

Closing with a Smile: Class Superlatives

This school year is ending in such a strange way, with very little closure for any of us. I want to make sure my students know they are missed and and thought about, so I decided to create this customizable postcard using a found image and mail it to every single one of them at the beginning of June!

I made a list of superlaties for every period in Google Sheets. It took about two days to receive the postcards from the manufacturer, and two days after that I am halfway through “naming” them. Basically, I have the rest of the month to write 65 addresses by hand!

I had a special message printed on the back that will be the same for every student. I tried to be encouraging and show my support. I also wanted them to know that the work they put in from August through March was not for nothing! Since my classes got discontinued during distance learning, it was very anticlimactic for everyone.

I hope these bring a smile to each of their faces so they can close the year with warm memories.

Posted in Teaching Diary/Blog

Ali Standish: Middle School Virtual Author Visit!

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I downloaded four YA books at the beginning of the year. I read two of the four YA books I downloaded. They were amazing. One of them, “The Ethan I was Before,” I actually checked out of the LA Library App as an audiobook and played for my reading intervention classes as a cool down on crazy days or as a reward. Now that we are distance learning, I had the thought that perhaps the  book’s author, Ali Standish, would pay a visit to our virtual classroom. So, I found her website, emailed her, and she was happy to comply! This week Ms. Standish send me a 30 minute “Video Visit” just for my reading intervention classes, in which she lead an imagination exercise, gave us some writing tips, spent 20 minutes answering every single student question (I had the students fill out a google form in preparation for this) and she even read to us from her newest book, called “How to Disappear Completely.” We are so, so lucky! Thank you Ali Standish!!

Posted in Teaching Diary/Blog

Lucky to Do What I Do

Boy, do I feel lucky to have a job these days! I ALWAYS feel lucky to be a teacher. But to be one of the few people working in a time of 20 percent unemployment, with people all around me having to stay home in uncertainty, I feel doubly grateful. Maybe even more than that, because I feel less alone with all my staff meetings and wonderful co-workers who I connect with weekly, and the amazing students who are so glad to say “hi miss!” and “hope you are doing well” and “I miss you!” every now and again. My reading intervention classes are not in session during distance learning, because the method of instruction is too difficult to perform on an online platform. My school also wanted to cut the students schedule down to four classes to make the transition to online learning easier. Hopefully they will find their work more manageable this way. My role now is support for ELA. I hold office hours four times per week to answer questions and guide students in doing their English Language Arts assignments. I also participate, along  with the other two seventh grade English teachers, in a weekly discussion group for all seventh graders. Mainly I am so happy to see everybody and I find that no matter how slow I am moving at home, the moment those faces pop onto my screen I switch right into teacher mode and get to work! Having meaningful work to do during the quarantine is absolutely saving me from many, many pitfalls that so many people are experiencing. It is enabling me to be a strong support for my family and friends. It is a lifeline, as I know I am a lifeline for those students. We sink or swim together. 

Posted in Teaching Diary/Blog

Looking Back on Year 20-21

The year flew by and I’m back here to catch up anyone who is interested in the so many fabulous things that have happened! One of the first things I couldn’t wait to do was set up a GoFundMe page for my classroom. I raised about $600 in two weeks in the fall and spruced up the room with a brand new library, including a stylish bookshelf and the complete set of YA and Middle Grades recommendations from Project Lit’s 2019 collection! My students were so excited about the books, they took them all home and within two weeks the library was back to the same dusty old books that were there before. I realized I should have not trusted them to bring the books back, and had a check-out system in place for accountability. Still, part of me feels good to have given these kids the gift of books they will love, treasure, and use to start a collection perhaps. 

I also spent an inordinate amount of time decorating my classroom. It ended up being a very colorful, cheerful room that made people happy. It was full of systems and routines for everything, like finding a half-sheet of paper for the Do Now and Exit Tickets to sharpening a pencil, etc. I turned out to be a very organized teacher!

I also set up a multi-modal positive reward system: 1) We had a marble jar which worked across periods. It was a round, plastic fishbowl which I added marbles to as a reward for various positive behaviors in all of my classes. I promised the students that when the bowl was full, all classes would get a mega-reward. Of all the reward systems, the students were MOST excited about the marble jar. They were dreaming about their reward all year — then coronavirus hit, school ended, and they never got their reward! But not to fear: I send out a Google form this week asking for suggestions on how we should celebrate the filled marble jar virtually! So far I have one response: “I really don’t know.” 🙂

2) I passed out yellow raffle tickets quietly to students who were on-task, working hard, or came up with an especially great question or answer to a question. Students could collect tickets for as long as they wanted. Every Friday, they could trade their tickets for prizes. It got a little crazy on Fridays and I was working to manage the controlled chaos the prized created, but it was worth it to see how excited the students got about what they had earned, or how motivating it was for students who had not earned tickets that week. Again, there were students who had saved up something like 20 tickets and never got a prize! I am still thinking about how to address this.

3) The students got really excited about the “Secret Agent.” I meant to do the secret agent every day, but on many days I would forget. Still, it worked well. At the beginning of the period, I would whisper to a student that they were the secret agent privately. They were responsible for noticing the classes behavior for the whole period. Right before the bell rung at the end, I would ask the secret agent to reveal themselves. Everyone was excited to see who it was. Then I would ask them three questions: 1) Were you able to hear the whole lesson? 2) Where you able to speak without interruption? 3) Were you socially distracted or bullied? If they gave positive responses to all three questions, the whole class got candy or a ticket. It was fun to see how PROUD the class was of themselves when they passed the secret agent test!

The most wonderful thing was I felt I got to know every single student in all my classes, and that was truly a gift. I only wish I got to have more time with them, my first classes!

Posted in Teaching Diary/Blog

Day One…Coming up!

I got my official start date, and it is September 9th! I also was officially introduced to one of my 7th grade classes (who couldn’t have been sweeter.) I am planning away, catching up on last year’s curriculum, and spending every free moment on Pinterest (who knew Pinterest was soo good for teachers?!) I’m having a ton of fun but am also trying to ignore my persistent nerves about the first week. Will everything go as planned? What will my flubs be about? Will I trip and fall on my face (as I did while subbing for 3rd graders once)? Nobody can say! I’m walking in with a good, hearty sense of humor about myself and lots of enthusiasm. Lord knows I have received enough motivation between my teacher’s classes and the kind support shown by admin and staff.

First impressions: I’m working at a small charter school with pretty well-behaved students! They wear uniforms and follow procedures to get things done. The school is in a lower – income community in LA. It feels like a very special place. For one, it’s clear everyone feels totally at ease when they are there. It is their home away from home. And isn’t that exactly what a school should be?

Since everyone feels so comfortable, it’s not hard for me to jump on the bandwagon and feel great about things! Ready… set… school year!!!


Posted in Teaching Diary/Blog

All You Read is Love

The books I read and loved as a middle schooler — A Wrinkle in Time, Where the Red Fern Grows, anything by Judy Blume — are still widely circulated today. As I prepare to begin the school year, I am thinking about middle grades reading. Particularly, I am thinking about the books I haven’t yet read. The other day, I feverishly downloaded four new titles to my kindle:

Tuck Everlasting

The Giver

Esperanza Rising

The Ethan I Was Before

I am really excited about all of them, but Tuck Everlasting is most enticing and I started reading it right away. Next, I think I’ll go for The Ethan I Was Before. I’m curious about it since I haven’t heard as much about the story. The Giver is a modern classic which everyone seems to love and cherish, and Esperanza Rising keeps turning up on everyone’s lists. So, why not? I’m looking forward to some good reading!


Posted in Teaching Diary/Blog

Ms. Goldstein’s Most Wanted: Supplies

These are the goodies I’ve got my eye on as the 2019-20 school year begins… (revised 8/31/19)

  • 1 Small bookshelf
  • El Deaf-O by Cece Bell
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • Cardboard by Doug TenNapel
  • Into the Volcano by Don Wood
  • …Or other hi-lo books for middle grade students
  • 1-2 Strings twinkle lights
  • 1 Bluetooth speaker or other portable speaker to plug into computer
  • Gift card in any amt. to Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc.