Least Favorite Words

My 5 Least Favorite Words in Education...

are "I'm not good at _".  And no, I'm not talking about students saying it.  

The "Middle School Model" 

When I first learned about the middle school model, I was amazed because it made so much sense.  Of course we should talk about our students multiple times of week! Of course we should integrate the subject areas together so students can see real-world application of how science, math, social studies, and ELA fit together in real life. However, after beginning teaching I soon realized that the biggest obstacle to creating integrated units wasn't the time or effort required, but the (unintentional) attitudes that teachers hold about the other subjects students learn in school.

When Students Hear...

teachers say things like, "I'm not good at _", what they see is a successful person in their life who has seemingly little need for the subject they are (supposedly) not good at. For example, many students hear from their parents and teachers that they are not good at math.  What the adults in this situation are communicating is that not only is math not that important in their adult life, but not being knowledgeable about math is something that can be explained away by simply saying they're not a "math person".  Whether or not the teacher or parent meant to come off this way, students are listening, and they are going to internalize what they think we mean. 

Our Next Steps

Stop saying we're not good at science, math, social studies, or ELA.  We are functioning adults, so of course we can do and understand these things.
Help the students understand that while it's perfectly fine for some subjects to be more difficult for us than others, we need to keep working to get better.

Work to incorporate other subjects into our lessons. Scientists read, write, do math, and put things in historical context every day. 

Show our struggle. Whether we we are searching for the right words to write about a science concept or struggling to remember the formula for finding the diameter of a circle, demonstrate how we work through the problem to find a solution.

Closing Thoughts

The only way for students to stop compartmentalizing their learning is for adults to stop. Last week in excel, the math, science, social studies, and ELA teachers on my team worked with their excel on their math.  It was powerful because the students saw that their teachers enjoyed and valued the subject.  They also heard (at least in my class) a teacher say "I don't know, but let me ask".

If we continue to work together to build other subjects up, then the students will learn to value collaboration and integration over favoritism and separation.  And in my opinion, that's a win for all middle school students.

Posted by Lauren Slanker on 11/17/2015 1:00 pm
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Embracing Change

"Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple, really.  Double your rate of failure" 
- Thomas J. Watson


Back to School

On the Sunday before school started 3 things happened:

I was given Paul Solarz name as a person who has successfully implemented Passion Time in his classroom, an idea our team is trying to start in our homeroom classes. 
I followed Paul Solarz on Twitter and discovered he had written a book called "Learn Like a PIRATE". 
I borrowed the book for free on my Kindle and by the time I was 25% in to it, I fell in love with the method. 

After finishing the book the following day, I decided to fully implement his ideas into my classroom this year.  Now, this 'jump in before you know what you're doing' is a pretty standard way of doing things for me, and I really enjoy trying new things in the classroom (and outside of it).  However, sometimes this method gets me in trouble when I don't fully understand the method, and can cause frustrations for my students and myself. 


Posted by Lauren Slanker on 08/30/2015 10:40 am
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Words of Encouragement

My Journey as a Teacher

Since elementary school, I have always wanted to be a teacher. I remember thinking, "wait a minute, you mean I can stay in school forever" without the slightest hint of sarcasm while my friends rolled their eyes at me. After all, I was good at school, and since I was quickly realizing that my dream of becoming a professional reader of Harry Potter books was unrealistic, becoming a teacher seemed like the next best thing.


Posted by Lauren Slanker on 08/30/2015 10:06 am
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About Me

Lauren Slanker

I am an 8th grade science teacher and team leader at Freedom Middle School in Berwyn, IL. I love reading, traveling, and being curious! I live in Chicago with my husband Tikhon and our pets - Louie and Miles. This blog is my place to learn and reflect on my teaching so that I can continue to grow into the best teacher that I can possibly be!


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