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Every teacher wants to decorate their classroom. After all, it’s the space where they spend the majority of their day. Fun décor engages students and makes them excited to be in school and learn. It also gives teachers a break from the often monotone cinderblock white walls, gray carpet, and bland drop ceiling.

A quick search on Google Images or Pinterest reveals plenty of classroom décor ideas…for elementary school teachers. For middle and high school classrooms, the results are sparse.

Many secondary teachers feel they must choose between decorations that are juvenile or boring. But there is a third option! We’ve scoured the internet for creative classroom décor that is appropriate for grades 6 -12. Below are our 8 favorite ideas for secondary classroom décor.

1. Don’t watch the clock, solve it!


Perfect for math classrooms, students will have to solve equations to get the time.

 2. Sleek science posters


Etsy is a great resource for affordable classroom décor that’s mature and school appropriate. These posters could easily be found in the apartment of an adult chemist or in a high school biology class.

3. Memes


Memes are incredibly popular among middle and high school students. Take it one step further by using memes that relate to your subject matter. Historical memes, scientific memes, math memes, and even classroom rules memes will give your students (and fellow teachers) a good laugh.

4. Oh Captain! My Captain!


Hang this poster on the wall and your students will pick up some advanced vocab words when their focus wonders.

5. What’s old is new again


Take inspiration from the teachers of Biloxi Junior High in Mississippi. They spent their summer painting old, unused lockers, transforming them into the spines of classic books. Don’t have lockers at your disposal? You can do something similar with a cabinet, dresser, or on a bulletin board.

6. Stick it to them!


Thanks to Etsy, custom stickers and decals are relatively inexpensive. Have a decal made with your classroom rules, formulas, or quotes related to your subject area. They’ll hold up better than bulletin boards and can be stuck anywhere.

7. Take it to the ceiling


Have a drop ceiling in your classroom? Decorate ceiling tiles or give your students an assignment requiring them to decorate ceiling tiles. Inspirational quotes, the periodic table,  book covers, and constellations are a few ways to add color to your class in an unexpected way.

8. Get social


Middle and high school students communicate with each other daily through Tweets, posts, Snaps, and pins. Give your classroom a social media theme, incorporating famous quotes and historical events in a “social” format.

For more ideas, visit our Classroom Décor board on Pinterest.

For the past 10 years, tech geeks have loved listening to podcasts due to their convenience, niche content, and lack of advertising. But with the release of Serial last fall, podcasts have now gone mainstream and are more popular than ever! With so many podcasts to choose from (iTunes currently has over 250,000 available to download) it can be hard to choose the cream of the crop, especially educational podcasts.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! We’ve done our research, read reviews, and listened to educational podcasts across the web. The result? 10 amazing podcasts that will educate both teachers and students. Play an episode in the classroom, assign listening for homework, or listen on your own to spark an idea for your next lesson!

The Top 10

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1. Stuff You Missed in History Class

Hosts Tracy Wilson and Holly Frey examine people, places, and events you may have heard of, but don’t remember studying in history class. Our favorite episodes chronical the life of Ethan Allen (hint: he has nothing to do with furniture) and dive into the Night Witches of WWII.

Download in iTunes | Website for Stuff You Missed in History Class

2. StarTalk Radio

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson explores the solar system through interviews with astronauts, celebrities, and science geeks. A nice audio-companion for Tyson’s COSMOS television series, Tyson and his guests make space interesting for all ages. Cosmos and Queries with Bill Nye is a great introductory episode for 6-12 students.

Download in iTunes | Website for StarTalk Radio

3. Quirks and Quarks

This weekly show is a recap of the week’s top science news. Host Bob McDonald not only gives the backstory of each piece of scientific news, but also interviews the scientist(s) behind the findings. While each episode is worth listening to, we were particularly enthralled with CSI Paleo: Murder Most Ancient.

Download in iTunes | Website for Quirks and Quarks

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4. Stuff to Blow Your Mind

From the same people that brought you Stuff You Missed in History Class comes Stuff to Blow Your Mind, a scientific podcast that explores phenomenons that seem too good to be true. From the modern-day detective story to the science of coincidence, hosts Robert Lamb and Christian Sager will truly blow your mind.

Download in iTunes | Website for Stuff to Blow Your Mind

5. A History of the World in 100 Objects

The BBC brings us this oddly specific and yet completely fascinating podcast. Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, dedicates 1 episode per object and in doing so, is able to retell human history. Objects range from a credit card to the Rosetta Stone.

Download in iTunes | Website for A History of the World in 100 Objects

6. #NerdyCast

Nicholas Provenzano hosts this unexpectedly funny podcast about modern-day education. He focuses on the effect technology and pop culture have on K-12 education.

Download in iTunes | Website for #NerdyCast

7. Math Mutation

There are so many mathematical concepts for students to learn during their time in school, the most complicated and obscure concepts aren’t covered in the classroom. Host Erik Seligman explores math topics ranging from Psychochronometry to the lottery. The show is intended for listeners of all ages, making this podcast easy listening for teachers and students alike!

Download in iTunes | Website for Math Mutation

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8. Smart People Podcast

Ever meet a smart, successful person and want to ask them, “How do you do it?” This podcast does exactly that. Hosts Chris Stemp and Jon Rojas talk to experts in all fields of work, from MDs to athletes, and asks them how they succeed and what their advice is for those that want to follow a similar path. Don’t miss guest Till Roenneberg discuss the science of sleeping patterns in episode 195.

Download in iTunes | Website for Smart People Podcast

9. Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing 

Do you teach English Language Arts? Do you expect your students to use proper grammar? Then brush up on your skills with Grammar Girl. Each week, host Mignon Fogarty explores a common question about grammar. The episodes are short and helpful, great for teachers with limited time between class and grading papers.

Download in iTunes | Website for Grammar Girl

10. Practical Money Matters

Your students will soon be adults responsible for bills, mortgages, and paying taxes. Why not instill some practical money management skills into their lives with host Jason Alderman? Teachers might also want to refresh their financial knowledge by listening too.

Download in iTunes | Website for Practical Money Matters

Did we miss your favorite educational podcast? Let us know in the comments below!

How familiar are you with the history of education in the United States? Did you know the first schools focused on religious studies, not math or reading? Or that public schools as we know them didn’t come into vogue until the 1930s?

We’ve compiled 11 facts about education in America, from the founding of the country to present day. Read below to learn more.

The History of Education in the US

1. The first schools in the 13 colonies opened in the 17th century. Boston Latin was the first public school opened in the United States, in 1635. To this day, it remains the nation’s oldest public school.

2. Early public schools in the United States did not focus on academics like math or reading. Instead they taught the virtues of family, religion, and community.

3. Girls were usually taught how to read but not how to write in early America.

4. By the mid-19th century, academics became the sole responsibility of public schools.

5. In the South, public schools were not common during the 1600s and the early 1700s. Affluent families paid private tutors to educate their children.

6. Public Schooling in the South was not widespread until the Reconstruction Era after the American Civil War.

7. Common Schools emerged in the 18th century. These schools educated students of all ages in one room with one teacher. Students did not attend these schools for free. Parents paid tuition, provided housing for the school teacher, or contributed other commodities in exchange to allow their children to attend the school.

8. By 1900, 31 states had compulsory attendance for students from ages 8-14. By 1918, very state required students to complete elementary school.

9. The idea of a progressive education, educating the child to reach his full potential and actively promoting and participating in a democratic society, began in the late 1800s and became widespread by the 1930s. John Dewey was the founder of this movement.

10. Through the 1960s, the United States had a racially segregated system of schools. This was despite the 1954 Brown vs. Board Supreme Court ruling. By the late 1970s segregated schooling in the United States was eliminated.

11. In 2001, the United States entered its current era of education accountability/reform with the institution of the No Child Left Behind law.

Surprised by any of these facts? Let us know why in the comments below!

Technology in the classroom is nothing new. From overhead projectors to Smart Boards, teachers have always incorporated technology into their lesson plans. And since the invention of the iPhone (and subsequently the iPad and Android phone series), educators have developed apps to improve the educational experience for both teachers and students. Below is our list of the best apps for the classroom.

1. Noise Down

Noise Down

Noise Down is an app that automatically sounds an alarm when the noise level in the classroom reaches a certain decibel. This is an easy way for students, especially in elementary school, to learn how to use their inside voices. It also saves the teacher from having to scream at students to keep it down. Download Noise Down here.

2. Pocket

Pocket App

Have you ever been on a website on your phone and seen an article you would like to read later? Perhaps you’ve seen an intriguing headline while browsing the web during your lunch hour that you’d like to explore further after hours. Pocket helps you save these articles to be accessed later. Save a webpage on Pocket using a built-in bookmark on your browser or the Pocket app on your phone and access it on any computer or phone using your unique Pocket log-in. This is great for teachers to save long articles about education to read later at home. Sign-up for Pocket here.

3. Tales2Go

Like Netflix for audiobooks, Tales2Go makes reading fun for students of all ages. This app stores thousands of audiobook files, from The Diary of a Wimpy Kid to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, to be played in the classroom. Perfect for K-8 students, the app can be purchased by an individual teacher on a subscription basis or by a school on an annual basis. See the Tales2Go website for a full catalog list and more information about subscriptions.

4. MyCongress


Help your students “meet” their Congressmen through this handy app. Search by your zip code to find your elected officials and read their profiles. The app also links to articles, videos, social media sites, and the contact information of each official. Download here.

5. Socrative


Give quick quizzes, conduct surveys, and track your students’ responses in real-time using Socrative. Great for use on the iPad, Socrative is an easy way for your students to ask anonymous questions too. Learn more by visiting the Socrative website.

6. ClassDojo

ClassDojo is an app and website that helps teachers reinforce positive behavior in their students, aiding in smooth classroom management. Students earn points for teamwork, participation, correct answers, and other actions the instructor chooses to reward. Teachers can text parents with their children’s ClassDojo report and include notes. Learn more on the ClassDojo website here.

7. Common Core Standards


Perfect for math and English Language Arts teachers in states with Common Core, this app puts all of the Common Core standards for your state in the palm of your hand. There is a specific app available for each state that offers Common Core. Click here to download the app for your state.

Teachers, did we forget your favorite app? Let us know in the comments below!

With all that principals have to do in the complex and fast-paced environment of today’s PK – 12 schools, teacher/instructional observation can often get lost as another item on the “to do” list. This is especially true in many current models of formal teacher observation where multiple extended observations of each staff member are often requirements that are built into the modules. While this reality exists, to be effective, principals must resist the tendency to relegate teacher observation to the “to do” list meeting only the minimum requirements to get them done.

As the instructional leader in the building, the principal must always focus on moving the school forward, which requires the constant maintenance and improvement of a high level of instructional practice throughout the building. Further, the instructional practice in a building must adhere to a standard/framework. This allows teachers and administrators to establish a culture based on an expectation of exemplary practice while sharing a common language on instruction and readily identifying practices that fit and do not fit within this framework.

The instructional observation is an essential key in the process of maintaining and improving a high level of instructional practice in the school building. The reason is that thorough and targeted observation connects principals to the classroom by providing insight into prevailing practices in the building and student engagement. The instructional observation also provides the opportunity for the principal to establish an ongoing dialogue with teachers about their practice based on what is observed. It is this dialogue and constant refinement of practice that provides the potential for improved student achievement. The absence of this dialogue also represents lost opportunity; this absence is also the focus of a 5/11/15 Education Week Article by Peter Dewitt Three Reasons Why Your Observations May Be a Waste of Time.    

In his article, Dewitt argues that the three main threats to teacher observation are: no new learning, too much talk, and surface level. In response to Dewitt’s threats, I argue that each is actually an opportunity for ongoing dialogue, improved practice, and teacher growth. Regarding no new learning, this only occurs in situations where principals do not give teachers low inference feedback on their practice and where principals are not listening to teacher’s expressed needs for growth and helping to make sure that those are met. As for Dewitt’s claim of too much or [not enough balanced talk] this is where principals must be sure to give teachers balanced feedback, acknowledging their exemplary practices while identifying areas for growth and providing the support needed to achieve it. Finally, in the area of surface level, principals must be sure that they are observing teachers at regular intervals at different times of the instructional day over time so that they can provide accurate appraisals of their practice that provide deep reflection on the work that has been done.

To close, while it can fall into the routine of the mundane, principals must not forget that instructional observation is one of the most important functions of the job. Observation is the lifeline that plugs principals into the practice that is occurring in their buildings; it forms the basis for ongoing conversation with staff about effective instructional practice. Because of its significant role in ensuring a sound instructional program, instructional observation must be given the appropriate focus and used as the tool that it is, for continuous improvement that results in increased student achievement.

Teaching is not for the faint of heart; it’s tough. This is especially true if you are a PK -12 teacher in a public school system. The reason is that public schools generally have no control over what students they are required to teach. Public school educators in the United States teach whoever shows up in their attendance zones or whoever is assigned to their schools. Public school teachers use their designated state standards and pacing guides as road maps and they are expected to deliver all of their students to at least the same minimum destination of proficiency. Further, the work of public schools takes place amidst the backdrop of ever daunting state accountability standards.

The problem with the current context of the profession, especially for new teachers, is that universally they [new teachers] are not being given the time to develop to a level of professional capacity that allows all of them the opportunity to effectively serve all of their students. Stated differently, teaching is a complex blend of art and science and no matter what preparation a teacher has had prior to beginning in his or her own classroom, it takes time on the job to perfect the craft.

A provocative 4/16/15 Education Week article by Gary Wiener titled Why Teachers Need Time to Succeed places the same argument made here in the context of the circumstances surrounding a recent New York law that denies tenure to teachers in the first four years of their practice. The new teachers in New York are denied tenure if they receive two consecutive ineffective ratings/annual evaluations during the first four years of their practice. The ratings that are used to inform these determinations are based in part on student achievement on standardized tests that have not been proven reliable or valid. Also, according to Wiener’s article, one of the most stinging elements of this system is that a new teacher cannot earn a satisfactory rating even if their classroom observations are good if the teacher’s student achievement data does not meet the required standards!

Uniformed accountability advocates and skeptics of public schools may say “All other professionals are expected to do their jobs at least proficiently at the time that they enter independent practice. Why shouldn’t teachers be expected to do the same?” The short answer is generally speaking, new teachers are proficient; they just are not experienced, yet. Remember my point about art and science; well this is where it comes into play. The situation is analogous to a newly minted airplane pilot, yes you completed flight training BUT you are not deeply experienced flying in every situation. You still need assistance before you are really ready to fly solo at any time in any conditions. The same is true in teaching; while most students have similar needs, every student presents different challenges, and at times these challenges are different than any you have seen previously. Because of this fact all school districts need strong induction and mentoring programs for all new teachers.

Strong induction and mentoring programs provide the support and knowledge of practice that new teachers need to make it successfully through the first three or four years in the classroom. Also, it should be understood that all new teachers will not have stellar performance across the board in their first years, but with the right support they can serve their students appropriately. As for New York’s law that will deny new teachers the right to tenure, it may potentially create an even larger rotating door of new teacher recruits, IF they are able to find them. I say if because the profession will certainly become less attractive to new teacher candidates in that state if they know the peril that faces the investment they have made in preparing for a career once they enter the workforce.

To close, we live in an era of accountability in PK – 12 education in the United States like none other before it. Tough laws and policies that hold educators accountable are a part of this environment. While the spirit of these laws might be well intended, their implementation in the real world must be given careful consideration. We certainly want all educators to give their very best to our students, they deserve it. However, we do not want to do this under the auspice of unreasonable practices that will damage the profession’s ability to attract quality candidates and to nurture those who may struggle initially, for indeed just as caterpillars transform into beautiful butterflies, given time and the right support a floundering new teacher of today may very well become the strong experienced teacher of tomorrow. We must acknowledge the obligate and awesome job responsibilities of the classroom teacher while providing the opportunity for newcomers to the profession to experience the growth they need.

Mass production and availability of computer technology since the year 1980 has forever changed the fabric of society throughout the world. As computer technology has become more and more pervasive, the cost of owning a personal computer has become more and more affordable. The emergence and subsequent prolific public use of the internet since 1990 has further amplified the impact of computers on our lives. Through the internet we now have access to an almost infinite worldwide network of information. Given this context, it is no surprise that computer technology and the internet have the potential to impact PK – 12 classrooms in ways that were unimaginable just 20 years ago.

A 3/30/15 article in the Atlantic titled The Deconstruction of the K – 12 Teacher explores the potential future impact of computer technology on PK – 12 education.  The article’s author, Michael Godsey, proposes that in as little as 5 – 10 years we may have classrooms that feature:

Fantastic computer screens at the front, streaming one of the nation’s most engaging, informative lessons available on a particular topic. The ‘virtual class’ will be introduced, guided, and curated by one of the country’s best teachers and it will feature professionally produced footage . . . Ted Talks, interactive games . . . and a formal assessment that the computer will immediately score and record.

This is very interesting to say the least. Godsey also goes on to assert that the shift from the teacher’s role as the knowledge disseminator to the facilitator of instruction is an initial signal of more significant changes to come. Godsey cites at least one teacher who laments this change in role. Godsey also explores the idea of how many of the new online platforms that allow educators to post and share lessons and all the needed related content are really the building blocks of a school in the cloud that bureaucrats will one day use to replace the current classroom teacher structure with a video monitor and a “tech” person to ensure that the technology is working and that students do not misbehave.

Godsey’s article is entertaining, and it certainly raises some interesting questions while also pressing the envelope on some concepts that are currently in practice, like virtual school in the PK – 12 arena, however, it is a bit far-fetched. I believe that computer technology and the coterminous use of the internet will never wholly replace classroom teachers in the PK – 12 setting. I base my assertion on three groups of necessary factors that are inextricably linked to the current structure of PK – 12 schools in the United States. These factors are the extracurricular programs offered by schools and their socialization of students, the necessary human assessment factor provided by teachers, and the serendipity of authentic learning.

Regarding extracurricular programs and socialization, these are two of the most important services/functions of schools in the United States. The extracurricular programs allow students to explore and develop their gifts in athletics, the arts, and in the academics. These experiences sharpen students’ real world problem solving ability while teaching skills like teamwork, leadership, and the ability to respond to adversity. These are things that cannot be learned on the internet.

In addition to the skills taught through extracurricular programs that teachers in schools lead, schools also serve as the socializing agent for the future adults in our society. School is the place where students learn to relate to and coexist with their peers. School is the great mixer where our children are exposed to the diverse perspectives and backgrounds of their teachers and peers. This experience is what sustains the social fabric of our nation as students learn that while they do not have to agree with others empathy, tolerance, and the need for a broad view of issues are needed in a society that justly meets the needs of its citizens.

Teachers also provide human assessment of students’ progress and development of skills. This takes place in real time in the classroom and throughout the course of the school day and year. An internet based course, no matter how thorough in design, does not provide the opportunity for real-time low inference feedback, which is what students need to continue to develop. Also, the absence of an assigned teacher within physical proximity does not allow the student the authentic ability to follow up on questions as they arise, outside of the assigned class time.

Finally, there is the serendipity of learning; embarking on one journey and discovering something totally unintended along the way. This experience is what helps to broaden and expand our knowledge. Teachers are crucial to this process as they help guide students when teachable moments arise and provide new information or reference points to explore as students develop questions that point inquiry in new directions. Limited access to an instructor in an online format does not provide the opportunity for this.

To close, technology is a wonderful tool. Advances in computer technology since the 1980s and the emergence of the internet since the early 1990s, have literally put the collective recorded knowledge of human civilization at our fingertips. In addition, the development of the online learning environment and databases for teacher lesson plans provide options for teaching and learning that have not been previously available. While all these advances certainly position the PK – 12 environment to better serve students through a variety of paths, with enhanced access to information, they certainly do not serve as an appropriate substitute for the current classroom teacher based model for schools. The extracurricular programs offered by schools and schools’ socialization of students, the necessary human assessment factor provided by teachers, and the serendipity of authentic learning are human factors that the online environment simply will not be able to replace.

teachers in a meeting room

As PK-12 education has evolved in the United States during the past 20 years, there has been an emphasis on creating career ladders for classroom educators. This is in response to two needs. First, as adult learners, expert or master teachers have a natural need to expand their practice beyond their classrooms in order to continue their own growth and to remain fulfilled in the profession. Also, in traditional school hierarchies there were only two basic instructional positions at the building level, teacher and principal. With all of the measured requirements for achievement and supports that students require in modern schools, the development of support positions, like instructional coaches, was an essential and necessary outcome.

Now that instructional coaching has emerged, the question is “What should coaches do?” Existing in a world between teachers and school administrators have a unique function and fill an important role. By definition, as coaches, the provide feedback instructive feedback to their partners, in this case classroom teachers, about their practice. However, almost unequivocally, coaches do not hold formal evaluative authority over teachers. This creates the need for skillful practice in providing feedback that will be used without have directive authority to command compliance. Coaches rely on relationships, the power of knowledge, and mutual respect to achieve their coaching goals. Because of the nature of their positions and their closeness with the instructional staff, coaches have the power to significantly impact instruction in a building, if they are properly supported.

A February 2015 article in the Journal of Staff Development titled Principals Boost Coaching’s Impact highlights the importance of the role of instructional coaches in school buildings and the conditions that must be present in order for them to flourish. Immediately, the author, Les Foltos, notes that coaching can only be effective in a school with the correct culture. Foltos identifies the optimal school culture as one that embraces collaboration, has strong teacher leadership, has two way communication for improvement, and one that supports innovation and risk taking. Foltos is right, in the type culture that he described, and ones that are striving to achieve these practices, instructional coaches exist as a natural part of a school culture that is focused on continuous improvement to support increased student achievement.

Once the culture is primed, principals and coaches must clearly define what the coach will “do” on a day-to-day basis. Foltos defines this as establishing a practice of collaboration, co-planning, modeling and team teaching, peer observation, and reflection. From my school experience, I can attest that this normally takes place in the form of routine meetings that are held by grade levels or content areas, depending on the organization of the school. These meetings are typically termed small learning community or professional learning community meetings. The function of these meetings is to bring teachers together to collaborate on instruction. Examination of student work samples, instructional planning, and development of common assessments are the meat of the work in these sessions. Team norms support the expectations which promote effective practice while embedding the normalcy of routine. When adhered to with fidelity, this format will improve instructional practice in the building and improve student achievement. Some of the strongest schools in districts that I have led had strong instructional coaching as a pillar of their instructional practices.

In closing, collaboration is the heart of effective practice in schools today. The dynamic relationships between school administrators/principals, instructional coaches, and teaching staff are directly impacted by the quality of collaborative practice in a school building. School principals must set the environment/culture for collaborative practice to take place. In setting this culture, school principals must collaborate with instructional coaches to clearly define their work and communicate this to staff so that all stakeholders understand the expectations and share in the responsibility for the work as it moves forward. With well-planned structures in place, and the support of principals, and trust of instructional staff, instructional coaches are positioned to have significant impact on student achievement in the schools they serve.

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to hear back from one of our past students! Jalana Robinson completed the ABCTE program in 7 months and is now teaching at Genesis Promise Academy in Kansas City, Missouri. Here’s what Jalana had to say:

Where are you originally from?

Carrollton, MO

Tell us about your professional background and experience (etc. previous profession, job experience, alma maters, major/minor)?

My background includes over seven years in higher education where I did academic, career and immigration advising. I also was an adjunct instructor for Learning Strategies (a study skills course for academic at-risk students) and Health Sciences Seminar (a professional development course for Health Sciences majors).

I have a Master’s in Education from the University of Missouri, and a Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences from the University of Glamorgan in Wales, United Kingdom.

Why did you choose the teaching profession?

I always wanted to teach. Even when I was a little kid I would line my stuffed animals up in a row, pretend they were students and proceed to teach them out of a teacher’s manual my mom had. My mom graded papers for a local elementary teacher, so we always had teacher’s manuals around the house. In college, I was persuaded to take a different route with my major. After college, I substitute taught as I was job hunting, and the very first class I subbed in made me want to be a teacher. I continued to sub off and on for several years and explored getting my teacher certification. However, all avenues required between two to three years of college coursework along with observation and student teaching hours that would not allow me to work full-time as I needed. I longed to be a teacher and kept researching alternative options until I came across the American Board program which allowed me to pursue my yearning to teach.

How have you merged your real-life experiences with teaching?

Before working with K-12 students, I had the unique opportunity to work as an academic advisor that helped teach college students how to prepare for college. Every day, I try to instill in my students what it takes now to prepare for college.

I also traveled and worked with individuals from a lot of different cultures. These are experiences I like to share where I can in the classroom.

How did you hear about the American Board program?

I was at a college info session for a teacher certification program when they mentioned the American Board program. I immediately went home and researched it and attended an info session by Kim Polk the next week.

Why did you decide to have American Board help certify you out of all the available programs?

The American Board program was the most realistic option for me to complete while working full-time, and the most cost effective.

How long did it take you to complete the program?

About 7 months

What did you enjoy about the program?

That it was all online and at my pace.

What have been your most positive teaching experiences?

The most positive teaching experiences have been finding ways for struggling students to understand concepts, and then watching them catch on and seeing their self-confidence build!

What challenges have you encountered as a teacher?

Working in an inner-city charter school has been very challenging because of the behavioral and emotional issues the students bring to the classroom.

What is your advice to those who are considering becoming a teacher?

I would recommend that others considering the profession talk with current teachers to learn about the work teachers put in behind the scenes: e.g.  lesson planning, communicating with parents and using assessment data to develop differentiated learning groups.

What are a few misconceptions that people have about teachers?

People don’t realize how much teachers are working during their weekends and time off.

Do you have any tips for landing a job as a teacher?

Be willing to look for teaching jobs outside of your ideal area and comfort zone.

What books or resources would you recommend to other teachers?

The First Days of School by Henry Wong is an excellent resource and a fast read!

Name two apps that keep your life on track. (wonderful classroom mgt resource for giving/taking daily points for good/bad behavior, plus parents can login and track their student)

Favorite quote:

What principles do you use to motivate students?

I use a rewards-based system, especially with inner city students. For example, if they earn a certain amount of weekly DoJo points for good behavior then they earn a prize. I also have found that telling students that I’m looking for their best work to publish on the bulletin board for the school to see helps motivate them.

Are there any hot debates in education you are currently tracking?

The transition to the new Smarter Balanced standardized test has generated a lot of discussion in how we teach students.

What is your philosophy of education?

I believe education should be tied to real world examples and experiences whenever possible.

Like Jalana, you too can become certified to teach in 7 months or less. Enroll now to positively impact your community!

A 2/11/15 Education Week article titled 5 Questions Educators Must Ask Themselves Daily, speaks to the heart of the challenge that many experienced teachers in classrooms across the United States face during their careers. How do you keep the passion going; especially when faced with the enhanced rigor of modern day teaching requirements that many feel work counter to the core purpose of the profession? This is tough to be sure. The article’s author, Starr Sackstein, frames it within 5 questions, with a focus on affect. I will expand on Sackstein’s theses while adding the element of best practice. My analysis follows:

•Am I excited about going to school today? Sackstein examines this question with the savvy of a teacher who knows that every day is not a good day. That said, her focus rests more on the preponderance of days in a school year. Were they mostly good or bad? This argument really speaks to an educator’s commitment to the profession. Indeed, there may be times, tough times, when the bad days outnumber the good. In these times, savvy educators have to determine if they are still making a positive impact in the lives of students despite present circumstances. In these times educators must also determine root causes of present circumstance, their ability to influence these, and what are the possible long term outcomes. Tough times will not last; tough educators will. The excitement will wax and wane but commitment to the profession keeps the best educators in the profession over the long haul.

•Do I still believe that I can learn new stuff about my content? Sackstein approaches this question from the perspective of student perspectives and spontaneity to provide new context for and approaches to the content. In addition, this question also speaks to the need for purposeful professional development for staff, including veteran teachers. By providing teachers with structured training on instructional methodology in general and as it applies specifically to their content areas, we refresh them with new ideas for delivery and equip them with pedagogical tools needed to provide effective instruction.

•Are my students at the front of everything I do? Again Sackstein focuses on affect here, which is important but does not account for the whole matter. In this area, Sackstein refers to student voice/feedback, efficacy, and decision making about their learning. These are certainly important factors, and they become more powerful when blended with a purposeful, data driven approach to student learning. Choices about learning activities should be based on a menu of options that appeal to the learning needs of students with different strengths. In addition, students must also be focused on their achievement data. This helps guide discussions about goal setting. This provides purposeful work for students as they move forward in their students. In this way students remain at the front of the work that is done each day.

•How do I implement student voice and choice in my decision making for learning? In this area, Sackstein advocates staying out of the way and being a great facilitator of student learning, while keeping the students’ ideas at the forefront of the teaching process. The ideas that Sackstein lists include writing on blogs, using social media, collaboration and reflecting on projects. To add current vocabulary to Sackstein’s recommendations, what is really being called for is differentiated instruction. This is certainly in line with what we know to be best practice. The key is to be sure that efforts in this area are focused based on students’ learning needs and readiness. Instruction can then be addressed through differentiation of content, process, or product.

•What risks can I take today that model the growth mindset? In this area Sackstein advocates teaching students to take risks for growth by modeling the process. This is an effective methodology and encourages students to press the envelope in their learning and to maintain an experimental mindset. All qualities that are needed for success in their continued education and in the workplace as innovators in their chosen fields of work.

To close, more than ever before, PK – 12 educators in the United States have a challenging job. However, this challenge does not have to run counter to the passions that fuel our professional engines. The key to keeping your heart in the profession is to compliment the affective elements that are needed with the best instructional practices that we know result in student learning. With this potent combination in place, educators are positioned to move their students to new heights.