Into My Classroom

Fourth Year Biology Teacher Sharing My Musings With The World

Archive for August 2011

Book Review: Never Work Harder Than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching (Part I)

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Never Work Harder Than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching by Robin R. Jackson is the book that has been assigned to our faculty to read.  Normally, I would look at the books with disdain as there really does not seem to be enough hours in the day, but the title of this one has me hooked.

Last year, I felt as if I worked harder than ever before and my students performed at the lowest levels I’ve seen since my teaching career.  I feel like this book may possess the secret to solve all my problems!

One thing I like about this book is that it is interactive.  By that I mean that there was a quiz in the introduction to determine what type of teacher you are and the chapters have sections titled “Try This” where you stop and reflect on what you just read.

Chapter One – Start Where Your Students Are

This chapter is focused on getting to know your students.  Not only in the sense of favorites or family life, but getting to know what their values are and what particular traits they have.  Jackson writes about teaching your students how to take a trait that may be negative and teach them how to use it in a good way.  I’ve seen this first hand, as students that may be very disruptive do a complete 180 once they have a specific role in the class.

Another takeaway from this chapter is the “Activity Bag”.  Students bring in 5 items that represent themselves and place it in a bag.  Throughout the month, randomly select a bag, go through its contents and see if the students can guess who it is.  Then the student comes up and explains why they chose the 5 items.  I feel this is a good way to help instill community in the classroom.

Chapter Two – Know Where Your Students Are Going

This chapter emphasizes focusing on the standards, similar to unwrapping the standards as mentioned in the book by Larry Ainsworth.  Last year I was very overwhelmed by unpacking the first nine weeks and never finished the year.  Reading this chapter has encouraged me to unpack one unit at a time.  That way, the task won’t seem as daunting. One interesting mention in this chapter is to lower your standards for students.  This struck me as odd initially because we want our students to reach for high expectations.  By setting the performance standards lower, students actually have a chance to reach above and beyond what is expected.  Of course, in order for students to excel beyond the given standard, they must KNOW what the standard is.

Chapter Three – Expect to Get Your Students There

This chapter has very little to do with teacher expectations of students and instead focuses on teacher expectations of ourselves.  Do we really believe that we can teach students and move them to proficiency despite their shortcomings.  Are we honest enough to realize the difficulties and weaknesses of our students.  This chapter reminded me of how I felt when my AP Environmental Science Students did not do so well on their test.  I actually wrote about it here.  I mentioned that I felt they should have excelled and that their background should not have influenced their performance based on how they did in my class.  An excerpt from the chapter that really spoke out to me…

Many teachers suffer from the same misplaced optimism.  The same false hope that comes from believing that they and their students will be successful without also confronting the brutal facts of their current reality.  We cannot hold onto high expectations for students without also considering the reality of who they are and what they are able to do.

Another important part of this chapter is the mention of not accepting failure in the classroom.  This reminded me of the NMS (not meeting standards) grading policy of our district.  There were many teachers in an uproar regarding the policy, but I favored slightly because it prompted discussion among teachers, students, and parents.  Parents and students were now concerned and asking about grades where before they would receive an F and accept it as if it was the normal grade to receive.


Written by Ashley Erin

August 15, 2011 at 5:00 am

Clearing Desktop Clutter

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As the new school year approaches, I want to start fresh…have a clean slate….um….not add to my current state of chaos…

My personal laptop. My computer at work is much, much worse. 😦

Tired of all the clutter, I spent an afternoon cleaning up my space.

Since this is my personal laptop, I designated a folder called “Work” on my desktop for easy access.

There are several categories in this folder:

  • AP Biology
  • AP Environmental Science
  • Biology
  • Curriculum and Standards
  • Grad School – Union
  • Grants/PD
  • MEA
  • MET Project
  • Reference
In the folders for each class, the categories are:
  • Assessments
  • Assignments
  • Lesson Plans
  • Media
  • Reports
  • Resources
Now my desktop is a lot cleaner with my files much easier to find.
This project is far from finished though.
My 8GB Flash Drive is filling up fast with 1.2 GB remaining and I would like to clean it up.  It is also very messy and unorganized.
Then there is my work computer, that I’m sure will take more than one afternoon to fill up.
I am also experimenting with backing up my data online, using a PB Wiki.  With the educator account from PB Wiki, I am able to upload some of my files for easy access.
What are some methods you use to keep your computer files organized?

Written by Ashley Erin

August 4, 2011 at 5:00 am

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THEC Workshop Documentary

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I know I’m a little late with this, but I wanted to share the documentary I created at the THEC Non-Fiction Workshop.  I learned so much at that workshop and am excited because now my ThinkShow project is done – in my head anyways.


Written by Ashley Erin

August 3, 2011 at 5:00 am

Accessing You Tube in the Classroom (Memphis City Schools)

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If you teach in Memphis City Schools, I’m sure that you are all too familiar with You Tube being blocked in the classroom and seeing this web page.

Not all items on You Tube are bad, but the reality is that there are many items on the site that are not conducive to a positive school climate.  Few people are aware that there is a resource provided by the district where teachers and access and show You Tube videos without consequence, and that resource is Gaggle.

Yes…Gaggle…the email and student learning portal that you may have heard about, but never really took or had the time to see what it is.  To access this resource, all you really need is the website to login and the name of your You Tube video.  Let’s walk through this with a few screenshots.

To log into Gaggle, you will need to enter into the web address bar.  The following screen will appear.

Your login information is the same as your teacher workstation.  You do not have to register or create a new account.  

Once you login, you should see this screen. (Note: Before this screen, another one may appear asking you for an alternative email address in case you forget your password or you may have to approve the “Terms of Use” for the site.)

There are some really cool features listed and I highly encourage you play around to see what is available for you to use in the classroom.  For now, we’ll stick to You Tube.

Under “Applications” scroll down until you find Gaggletube (filtered You Tube) and click on the icon.

I like to type in the specific name of the video along with the You Tube author name for quick results.

All related videos appear and now all you have to do is click and play!  Quite simple isn’t it!  You can even add them to “My Videos” for quick future access.

I love using Gaggletube because it is safe and reliable.  You will never have to worry about it being blocked one day because it is provided  by the district and only teachers can access Gaggletube.

Give it a try and please let me know how it works for you!

Written by Ashley Erin

August 1, 2011 at 5:00 am