Teacher education

Four questions new teachers should ask

Lots of May graduates are looking for jobs right now. School job fairs and district openings are full with pre-service teachers looking for their first teaching job. While these soon-to-be college graduates are busy worrying about what the interviewer might ask them, I've always encouraged prospective new teachers to ask a few questions of their own. I told my UVA students to realize that they are interviewing the school and principal just as much as the school is interviewing them (although they told me it didn't feel that way!)

What does good teaching look like?

It's funny the way things work sometimes. Over the weekend, my husband told me all about the making of an Old Spice commercial. Apparently the commercial was all filmed in one shot, which will surprise you if you watch it!

Teachers take the summer off, right? Ha!

I don't know a single teacher who stops thinking and learning over the summer. Whether we're teaching summer school, doing curriculum development, taking summer classes or observing flowers and insects at the pool, there's a small piece of a teacher's brain associated with sharing information with kids that doesn't shut off (OK, there are no fMRI's to support that statement, just a bunch of anecdotal evidence).

Desk cleaning, first-year teacher style

Stories from a time when we had "more enthusiasm than commonsense" enable us to share a laugh. As Brenda Powers, editor at Choice Literacy wrote, the most memorable stories often begin with a failure — the bigger the better.

How running a reading program is like running a campaign

As I write this blog on Wednesday morning after our historic presidential election, I'm struck by an article I read on Howard Fineman summarized what he saw as Obama's seven-prong approach to his campaign that served him well.

It was easy for me to see how well these same seven prongs could serve schools and districts well as they consider how they teach reading.

Below are the seven prongs as described by Fineman, with each prong's relationship to reading summarized. See what you think!

Mindful of Words

I recently reviewed Mindful of Words, Spelling and Vocabulary Explorations 4-8 by Kathy Ganske.

The book is a great resource for teachers and tutors who work with upper-level spellers. Based in developmental spelling research and vocabulary learning, the book helps teachers understand how to assess students' word knowledge and how to teach in a way that encourages a love of words.

I have a boy! As a teacher! And he’s tall!

Those were the first sentences out of Anna's mouth when she read her teacher assignment for this year. Out of 20 classroom teachers at our school, there's exactly one male teacher. He teaches first grade, and Anna got him!

She's thrilled, of course. All the kids know Mr. B. All the parents love him. "Gentle giant," they say. "A real calm presence." Sounds good to me. I'll let you know as the year goes along.


Continuing this month's Reading Rockets theme of reading and writing in the digital world, I thought I'd highlight TeacherTube. If you haven't seen it yet, it's YouTube for teachers. There are thousands of videos there, created by and for teachers. It also includes student projects and videos teachers could use for teaching. Viewers can see what's being viewed right now, comment on videos and vote for ones you think should be featured.

Pleasurable professional reading

One the perks of working at Reading Rockets is that I get to review books and curriculum materials that we are considering adding to the Learning Store. I've reviewed several recently that made for very pleasurable professional reading. I thought I'd share two of them with you in case you're looking for something to read this summer.

Teaching This Teacher

My first year of teaching (sigh, moan, groan) included a single-wide trailer behind a "high-needs school," one ream of paper for my copies (that was replenished in December), and one truly fabulous colleague.

Alison had been teaching for six years when I started, and was a truly gifted teacher. Her classroom (a double-wide trailer) was everything I wanted mine to be – inviting, stimulating, and organized. Her classroom management was subtle, but effective. She held incredibly high expectations for her students, and they worked even harder to meet her goals.


"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges