When Teacher Work-Life Balance seems like a Joke

One of the earliest pieces of advice I remember getting as a teacher (repeatedly) was, “learn how to say no.” I would nod and laugh it off, and the teacher giving me the advice would look deep into my eyes so I would recognize that in this situation, they were Yoda, and I had no idea what I was getting into. 

A little bleak? Yeah. 

I wasn’t super excited about this advice. I was there for the magic. To make my classroom a creative wonderland and connect with the amazing, thoughtful, misunderstood generation of teens just waiting for me to become the mentor they needed. 

I’m not being sarcastic. I wanted to be an amazing teacher, like the English teachers I had loved in school and the teachers I marveled at in the movies. Saying “no” didn’t seem like the best route to get there. 

And so came the first year. Either you’re there now or you’ve been there, so you’ll understand what I mean when I say that it was very hard. 


Students Won't Read? Don't Care? One Year to CHANGE That

So your students won't read. Won't do assignments. Don't care, won't care.

It's frustrating. Exhausting. What can you do? Read every book to them? Threaten them with reading quizzes? Failure? Letters home?

This is not what you signed up for.

I don't have all the answers, but I have been giving this problem a lot of thought. Many teachers in my Facebook group, Creative High School English, are saying the same thing. Students won't read class novels anymore. Students are willing to fail to avoid the work.

So I've been obsessively thinking about what I would do with a classroom full of students staring at me through a dense divide. How would I reach them? This blog post is my manifesto. The general one year plan I would put into place. I hope it can help you find inspiration if you are staring down the barrel of total disengagement and wondering what on earth to do.

Throughout the plan, you'll find links to blog posts that I've created that go deeper into each subject, so if you're not familiar with an idea (like Harkness discussions, genius hour, or one-pagers) you can link out to read more. At the end of the post, I will also link to related curriculum sets I've designed, so you can get help with your planning if you need it.


Maybe Teaching doesn't have to be so Lonely

As a teacher, you're constantly surrounded by people. But you never have much of a chance to talk about what's on your mind. Instead, you share everything you think will help the minds of the students before you. All day long. Every day.

Sure, there are faculty meetings. Department meetings. Intervention meetings. Grade level team meetings.

But do you ever really get a chance to just talk to your peers about what's going on in your classroom? To share what's working and what isn't? To ask for help?

Not really. And maybe you wouldn't even want to, since there's a good chance you don't know most of them very well.

Though I think we can all agree teachers carry a huge weight of emotional concerns for their students and a constant need for new ideas and information, there are very few chances to dispel that weight and feed that need through conversation with colleagues.

So, my friend, here are ten ideas for how you might collaborate in a more joyful way with those around you. Whether you're a first year teacher, a veteran, a department chair, or a curriculum coach, perhaps you can get some conversations going and help lead the way in this direction at your school.


What to Buy with your Teacher Budget or Grant

So you've got some money to spend on your class, or you're planning to apply for some using Donors Choose. But what will help make your classroom a better place for you and your students?

I see this question a lot inside my Facebook group, Creative High School English. It can be overwhelming to have a block of money you're supposed to spend all at once, and not know what will help your students the MOST.

So here are some ideas. Browse through and consider what would help you to engage, inspire, and motivate your students toward greater heights of creative learning. Every classroom is different, but I've got a good feeling that some of these things will feel right to you.

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