Top 10 Teaching Resources

Let’s face it: there are way too many English, writing, and literature resources out there! (Of which, this may be one– humor, yo!). I’ve made a list here of resources that I use for English news, writing hints, and literature tips.

These are the best resources.

1


Purdue OWL

English is a living language– that means it changes. Purdue OWL is the best website for citation style help (both MLA and APA). There is other information as well, but the citation guide is strongest.

2


Crash Course

This video series on YouTube has the best basic information on a variety of topics. I use the literature guides as an additional resource for my students when reading novels.

3


UNC Chapel Hill

The strength of the UNC Chapel Hill website is its in-depth grammar and English usage guide. The website explains the nitty-gritty of the English language– the how and when of English usage.

4


Inside HigherEd

It is vital to keep up-to-date of the latest news, laws, and movements. Inside HigherEd not only has current reporting, but also has interesting perspectives in the OpEd section.

Other Cool Resources

  • Quality Matters- offers certification and training in online teaching
  • Thug Notes- funny YouTube analysis of popular novels and stories
  • Creative Commons- usable resources like photos, audio, etc.. with no or little copyright restrictions
  • CommonLit- texts and questions grouped by theme, grade, or Lexile Level
  • OER Commons- whole courses or textbooks with no or little copyright restrictions
  • Canva- website for the creation of memes, classroom posters, anything..
Image made using Canva resources

Bonus! Resources to avoid:

  • Scholarly journals- journal articles are often too nuanced and time-consuming for busy teachers to read regularly. I suggest reading journals when you have free time or are especially interested in the topic

15 Phrases to Use One Day.

There are many cool phrases that I see on the internet or hear from my students. I want to one day use these in some of my creative writing. Here are 15 of my current favorite phrases/prompts:

  1. “You’re not going to survive this war.” “If I was worried about that, I’d have brought it up months ago.”
  2. “I’m going to bring you in on this conversation.” “Do you have to?”
  3. “Ignoring everyone in the room is my favorite part of this tradition”
  4. “Please, don’t, I have a kid!” “Why should I care if you’ve reproduced?”
  5. “You’re changing.” “So is the rest of the world.”
  6. “It runs in the family.” “Well, this is where it runs out.”
  7. “Mother.” “Disgrace.”
  8. “I am the Queen.” “And yet, you’re still not enough.”
  9. When I imagined her coming down the aisle, I didn’t imagine her in a casket.
  10. No one cared who I was until I put on the mask.
  11. I panicked and told them I was proficient in blood magic, not expecting to get the job.
  12. The ladies of the house were versed in all the fine arts: music, dance, flower arranging, and necromancy.
  13. The official story is we’ve got a rat problem, okay?
  14. Fight me, you ceramic bitch
  15. Holy mother of rectangles

How to make an OER.

Are you interested in using or writing an Open Educational Resource? Do you even know what an Open Educational Resource (OER) is? Why are teachers and schools switching to OER? I believe in OER and want to help you on your journey of OER usage.

Open Educational Resources, or OER, can be a variety of things which makes it hard to know exactly what you are looking for. OER can be whole course, with things like syllabus, assignments, daily lesson plans, and suggested texts or readings. OER can also be an individualized textbook written by faculty at a specific college or university and shared publicly. The wide range of OER makes it difficult to know where to start.

Why use OER? Money. Open Educational Resources are free to use. (See below about book publishers charging for fake OER). Students save money by not buying expense textbooks, workbooks, and other. Within a semester for 5 courses (including the various course sections), we had saved students upwards of $150,000 by switching to OER.

It is possible for OER to cost the students money. This occurs when a resource needs to be printed– i.e. the cost of printing and shipping. The main feature of OER is the creator(s) and publishers are not receiving compensation or royalties for their work.

So how do you use OER? When deciding to use OER, you must first assess your individual needs. Is this a new (or new to you) course where you need a lot of support? Or do you know what you want to cover and need to find a textbook that covers that content in a concise, yet coherent manner? The table below has a listing of popular OER websites and the best method of usage. This is NOT an exhaustive list.

Resource Good For (course curriculum or textbook)
Merlotcourse curriculum guides
OERCommonstextbook
OpenStaxtextbook
Project Gutenbergindividual texts (novels)
A listing of the best usage of common OER resources

If the available OER resources aren’t what you need for your course, you could modify an existing OER (check the copyright license first) or create your own from scratch. Over two semesters, I created my own Early American Literature OER to save students money (the cheapest text in this category is around $65). From my experience, there are some considerations when creating your own OER:

  • Who will be writing/creating the OER? Do they have the necessary skills and knowledge? Do they have the proper resources (time, internet, etc…) and institutional support?
  • What is missing or lacking in your current text? Is this content supplementary or vital to student learning?
  • How will this OER be accessible to diverse populations? Is it available printed (if a text)? Can students download the resource for use with their own assistive technology? Is there alternative text included for graphics?
  • How will the OER be distributed or hosted? Who can access the OER (the specific courses’ students, the students of the school, the entire internet)? Is there a cost associated with hosting the OER on a particular web space?
  • Who has access permissions to modify the OER? Does this permission have to change if they leave the institution?
  • Do any parts of the OER violate copyright laws?

Fake OER?

Open Educational Resources save students money. But this savings occurs at the expense of textbook publishers. To combat the loss of their industry, many textbook publishers have begun creating “open resources” that cost money– whether a one time fee or a subscription for a set amount of time. While resources are excellent in quality, they are not OER. The whole point of OER is to have no cost to the student.

Why use these non-OER resources? These cost resources are often chosen by instructors due to their ease of use (for instructors) and additional features (like adaptive quizzes or multimedia components). The student content of these cost resources is often similar to the quality and design of available OER resources.

Overall

Creating an OER resource takes time and effort, but the individualized content ensures you are able to meet the needs of your student population. Great OER exists– if you don’t want to create from scratch. Adopting or creating OER can seem daunting, but it is possible.

This is what high school is actually like.

Why All The Stress? The current state of education for individual students: Part III

In speaking with parents, one thing that astounds me is the lack of understanding of their child’s daily experiences. I frequently question the apparent lack of communication occurring at home. Are parents not asking? Are children not speaking? Who is listening? Parents (and other adults, too) forget the daily grind that is high school.

If you’ve been out of high school for a while, I’m here to tell you-school is NOT fun. Disney lied. There are no cool sing-alongs and choreographed dance sequences. Zac Efron is not going to jump out in full basketball regalia and belt one out. There are absolutely no mashed potato food fights. Snow days only occur in locales that actually get snow (thanks for nothing, Florida!). Instead, school is a stressful, hyper-controlled environment.


IN FLORIDA (in a school of around 2200 students), this is the day-to-day high school student experience or concerns, but the experience is similar for other states as well:

School starts at 7:20 A.M. But students are expected to be in the building or classroom at 7:00 A.M. School ends at 2:20 P.M. That is 7 hours of class. Lunch break is 30 minutes long. A common misconception: there are no study hall periods (a period where you sit quietly and work or sleep). For roughly 7 hours, students are expected to be mentally awake and alert. Some students stay even later for extra curriculars or tutoring (which ends at 4:45 P.M.).

Students are mentally exhausted after (or during) all of their classes. Their working memory is shot. I frequently get asked, “Homework, we had homework?” Students don’t have an agenda or use it. Additionally, they lack strategies or skills to work around their memory lapses.

Additionally, high expectations lead to increased stress for students. A lot of students have severe anxiety, depression, or suicidal ideation. This stress is added to by common school features like fire drills (every month), shooter drills (every quarter), over 190 security cameras on campus, bullying, and excessive testing. Within a three week period, students had 3 major multi-hour tests. I hold multiple high-level degrees, if I was tested like my students are, I would have quit. The students take: Florida Standards Assessment, Practice ACT, NWEA (3 times per year), District-created test (3 times per year), and End-of-course exams (multiple courses). This is excluding any mock exams or exams being field tested by any other organizations.

Their phone is their life. Students will choose to go to the Dean and receive an In-School Suspension before giving their phone up, even for just a single class period. School and class policies don’t matter. Whether a school/teacher allows cell phone usage or not, students are constantly on their phones. They often don’t complete work because they’re on their phones. My #1 piece of advice would actually be to NOT give your child a phone. They can’t handle it.

Public education costs money. Students, often, cannot pay the costs of their schooling as every little thing now costs money. Want a locker? Pay to rent one. Want to park on campus? Pay for a parking pass. Want to take a fun elective class like Art or Wood shop? Pay. In Florida, students also have to pay for school and gym specific uniforms. These expenses are in addition to food. Most students have to buy a school lunch as no microwaves are provided for student use.

With students today, most curriculum is designed (by state standards) with the assumption that they want to go to college. Getting into college is difficult. Notoriously, celebrities have been involved in admissions scandals. It makes sense- going to the “best” college can significantly impact the trajectory of your life. Colleges, up until Covid-19, could be very selective. It will be difficult again. It is no longer enough to have a good GPA; students must also have excellent and multiple extracurriculars (which takes considerable time and money).

Recently, there was a story on Fox News Baltimore about a student being passed to a higher grade even though he had failed that grade level. People were outraged, but this is the new standard procedure. Students are kept with grade level peers and are expected to make up the class credits in summer school. It is the student/parent’s responsibility to sign up for summer school. Summer school sign-ups are not automatic.

There is a common perception that special education students get easier work or are taking advantage of “the system”. No. Special education accommodations (the services they receive like more time to complete work or paper copies of notes) are selected by a committee of professionals (including teachers, doctors, parents, lawyers). Sadly, special education students often cannot fully utilize accommodations due to strict school bell schedules or other students’ perceptions. Many students do not want to draw attention to their (dis)ability and would prefer to fail an assignment. Special education is a vital service.


For teachers, school has its own set of difficulties:

The main difficulty with teaching is the lack of resources. There are too many students and not enough funds. I have 32 students, but 30 desks. I’ve written previously about teacher funded classroom materials. No physical assets- no agenda or computer given. One of our classroom computers has been trying to log a student in since November (it’s April).. They are still waiting.

Schools are spread thin. There are 5 guidance counselors for 2200 students. To fill the gap, teachers are expected to act as mental health counselors with little or no training. Students have panic attacks. Students have severe depression. Students are suicidal. Teachers also have to deal with the mental health concerns of everyday life – teachers have died, parents are hospitalized, teachers are ill. Teachers are expected to teach social or emotional skills in addition to content. There is not enough time or training to do this, but refusing is not an option.

Child is on a new medication and can’t stay awake during class? Kid has no friends? Child was moved to a different seat in another teacher’s classroom? As a teacher, all of these are YOUR fault. In fact, everything is your fault. Teachers need to be prepared for nasty notes, emails, and calls from home. The school administration will be carbon-copied on everything, too.

Many parent-teacher meetings have to be scheduled after the school day. We are often mandated to stay late, without extra pay. Most things we do are without pay. There is a popular phrase for counting the number of years a teacher has been teaching: “years of service”. I hate this phrase as it normalizes uneven power dynamics and illegal behavior. What other profession requires employees to “volunteer” their hours or risk being fired for unprofessional behavior? You literally cannot say no.

For all the negatives, and there are a lot, teaching is a mentally/emotionally rewarding career. Seeing students succeed is a joy. Seeing students smile or happy makes us happy. I teach for my students. They are everything.

Have I missed anything? Let me know!

You can also check out Part 1 about the overall state of education

Or Part 2 about student success

What is education like now? Part II

Adult Figure Involvement: Mentality is key

Unsurprisingly, a big factor in student attitude/attainment to education is parental figure involvement (1). Parents tend to be very active in lower years (Kindergarten through grade 5), but not involved as actively as the child progresses (2). Factors that affect parental involvement include parent educational attainment, ethnicity, and perception of school climate (3). Generally, people who value education have higher degree attainment amongst their children (3). Parents who don’t value education will not participate as actively as those who do value education (3).

In fact, one of the most consistent predictors of children’s level of educational attainment is their parents’ level of educational attainment.

C. Spera, K. Wentzel, & H. Matto (2008)

And, hey, I get it. When it seems like teachers “teach to the test” and consider your child just another number, why put in effort in supporting that environment? But that’s exactly when you should increase your involvement. Make sure the teacher remembers you and your child (preferably favorably). Ask how to help your child at home or what skills they should be working on. Interest beats apathy every time.

But parents aren’t in this alone. As public schools are funded by the community, society opinions on education have a direct effect on a student’s education. Many schools struggle to pass levies due to the perception of education in general or the quality of the specific school. Funding for classroom supplies, printer paper, student activities often falls to teachers and students themselves– two populations who cannot afford to fund these expenses.

Children often start the year with new supplies, but they lose them. The burden for replacement falls on the teacher as students need the item right now in class to learn. I make $46,000 (this is including the five-years grandfathered from my previous institution). Teachers can make 750 copies (individual pieces of paper; double-sided counts as two) per month. I have 180 students. Things that I have to supply for my classroom: pens ($14), pencils ($12), lined writing paper ($10), folders ($14), notebooks ($10), tissues ($25), hand sanitizer ($12), expo markers ($24), colored pencils or markers ($20), and highlighters ($9). These items are often one use items as the students take them to other classes and then lose them. This is not including other common costs like: classroom decorations, sanitary napkins, and snacks. I’m willing to pay these costs– I just don’t know for how long I’ll be able to do so and fear what it means for my students when I can’t any longer.

Read Part I here.

Sources:

  1. Thomas, Sue, Keogh, Jayne, and Hay, Steve. “Discourses of the good parent in attributing school success.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 36, no. 4 (2015): 452-463
  2. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2020/2020076full.pdf
  3. Spera, Christopher, Wentzel, Kathryn, and Matto, Holly. “Parental Aspirations for Their Children’s Educational Attainment: Relations to Ethnicity, Parental Education, Children’s Academic Performance, and Parental Perceptions of School Climate.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 38 (2009): 1140-1152

What is education like now? Part I

Do you remember the day-to-day minutiae of your high school days? Do you remember all of the work you had to do? Or just the fun parts like relaxing with your friends and playing sports? Could you survive attending high school today? 

Kids these days still have fun in school (or at least they do in non-Covid times), but they have a lot of workload expectations heaped on them. In large numbers, students are failing or suffering from mental illness due to the high levels of expectation. It needs to stop. Kids (yes, even high schoolers) need to be kids. 

Why all the Stress? The current state of education as a nation

Some teachers and schools recognize the amount of stress placed on students by heavy workloads and are taking steps to correct it. Recently, some schools or school districts have stopped assigning homework. This is more common in the lower grades (Kindergarten through grade 8) and usually stops by high school. The thinking is that by high school, students need to start preparing for work/“the real world”. But in high school, they are experiencing new, real world scenarios and may still need to be sheltered. A student experiencing parental job loss and food insecurity is not likely to complete homework no matter the incentive or disincentive. But they are now facing two large, long-lasting negative scenarios–loss of grades/GPA and the insecurity. 

The importance placed on their GPA is mentally damaging. Colleges and whole college systems are no longer requiring standardized test scores as admissions components (1). But the colleges still need some criteria to weed out students less likely to succeed (2). Colleges want to maintain their image of exclusivity and elite status as it comes at a hefty price tag. According to a recent OpEd in The Street (3), colleges are giving more consideration to teacher recommendations and “signs of intellectual curiosity”. Intellectual curiosity? The problem with those measures is they are biased and vague at best. So, what do colleges use instead? High school GPA. In an era where 4.0 is no longer the highest GPA possible due to the Advanced Placement 5.0 scale (4), one failing or mediocre course grade can tank dreams of college admission. Though with Covid course grade changes (many classes went to a pass/fail grading system), GPA may not be accurate either. Even with the uncertainty, GPA rules in multiple-measure admissions.

Colleges, even nonselective ones, need to identify those individuals whose success is most likely, because that guarantees institutions a consistent revenue stream and increases retention rates, seen by some as an important measure of institutional quality.

-Meredith Frey. “What we know, are still getting wrong, and have yet to Learn about the relationships among the SAT, intelligence and achievement” (5)

Grades are not just important to individual students. Higher grades tend to be associated with higher standardized scores (5). In K-12 education, standardized tests are king. State and federal laws, like No Child Left Behind or Every Student Succeeds Act, make collection of student data (including test scores and graduation rates) mandatory (6). State funding is often tied to student success on data collection instruments (state-wide standardized tests) (7). Teachers have been fired or non-renewed for poor student performance on these tests (8). So while teachers and administrators want to be conscientious of student needs, they can’t when the risk is too greatly tied to their own livelihood. After all, why abandon a teaching strategy that works for most of the students (assigning heavy workloads) for a new, untested strategy (assigning no homework)?

This is part one of a three-part series on the current state of education. Stay tuned for more!

Sources
  1. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2021/03/23/standardized-testing-poor-students-sat-benefit-identify-column/4800781001/
  2. Pascarella E.T., Cruce T., Umbach P.D., Wolniak G.C., Kuh G.D., Carini R.M., Hayek J.C., Gonyea R.M., Zhao C. Institutional selectivity and good practices in undergraduate education: How strong is the link? J. High. Educ. 2006;77:251–285. doi: 10.1353/jhe.2006.0016
  3. https://www.thestreet.com/mishtalk/economics/colleges-dump-the-sat-the-new-admission-standard-is-intellectual-curiosity
  4. https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/about-ap-scores
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6963451/
  6. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/education/2021/02/25/standardized-tests-virtual-students-school-funding/4553471001/
  7. https://www.theedadvocate.org/understanding-federal-funding-part-ii-knowing-consequences-federal-funding/
  8. https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-02-08/does-using-high-stakes-tests-to-fire-teachers-improve-student-outcomes

3/25/21 UPDATE: After June 2021, College Board will officially stop offering SAT subject tests and the Essay.

Things Your High Schooler Said

High schoolers are funny.

But parents don’t often get to see their child’s humor. I get it– you’re tired (mentally, emotionally, physically). Every day, I get to see how high schoolers think and feel about their life. I want you to enjoy these interactions, too. Here are some funny things your child may have said:

01


On cloning

I’m going to clone you. I might already have your DNA. 

02


On prefixes

If something’s ridiculous for the first time, is it just “diculous”?

03


On being broke

I’m broke. I could give you monopoly money.

04


On old age

Twenty is so old. (said by a high school freshman)

Other hilarious student sayings:

Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly, Fourthly..

Hey, mom.

He’s like an off brand Ed Sheeran.

I remember a cheer we used to do: Porkchop, porkchop. Greasy, greasy. We’re gonna beat you. Easy, easy.

My pants are sticking to my legs. Why is life so hard?

(speaking about another teacher assigning seats to students) He needed to break up the iron curtain back there.

There’s a video on facebook like how do I get my armpit to tan? 

I didn’t know they [geese] were pregnant with eggs.

(After teacher getting a pixie haircut) Where’d all your hair go? 

My aunt looks like a potato when she tries to dress like a girl.

(9th grade Honors students after receiving a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, but no homework) But Miss, this is so much work.

Death swamp. Everything happens in a swamp (said by a student living in Florida)

That means Ms. XX was teaching you while she was in her mom’s stomach (guessing a substitute’s age)

My mom painted her eyebrows and I called her Frida (Kahlo). My dad showed her a picture and laughed with me.

I’d rather get shot than my heart broken. At least then I know the wound would heal.

(Speaking about Romeo). He is a simp.

Insult her! (speaking of throwing Shakespearean insults at the teacher)