5 Teacher Tips I Learned in 2015

Looking for teacher tips to help get you through the school year? I'm sharing the five best lessons I learned in 2015 for you to adapt for yourself! These include things like outsourcing dinner, not over-committing, and more. Click through to read all of my tips!

Ready for some insider secrets from other secondary teachers?

Learn from us (so you don't have to!), and get ideas that you can use in your teaching in 2016.

If you can tell from some of my other posts, blog hops, and the Secondary Speaks post series, I'm a big believer in the power of sharing ideas between teachers. There's no reason for anyone in this field to feel unsupported or alone, and if someone has a great idea, why keep it in the vacuum of his or her own classroom?

Plus, the end of a calendar year (and the beginning of a new semester) gives us a cool opportunity to reflect on what we've learned and brainstorm how to make the next year better. 

SO, whether you're recharging during winter break, building resolutions for 2016, or just looking for new ideas, feel free to read my post below AND browse through the hyperlinked posts from other middle and high school teachers in linkup!

1. The biggest PERSONAL LIFE lesson I learned was...

Looking for teacher tips to help get you through the school year? I'm sharing the five best lessons I learned in 2015 for you to adapt for yourself! These include things like outsourcing dinner, not over-committing, and more. Click through to read all of my tips!
A HelloFresh meal: turkey sausage, a cabbage salad, veggie puree.
...Getting help with dinner. Seriously. My husband and I started using HelloFresh and Home Chef to get meal boxes delivered weekly, and we are ridiculously happy with them. The meals are better-tasting than most restaurant food, it's SAVING us money (since we now eat out less), and the best part is, my husband prefers to be the one to cook them (!)...

Though we both ENJOY cooking, we don't always have the energy/desire to plan out meals, do the needed shopping, and even make the decision of what TO make (which we find overwhelming). So using a meal service has been worth every. single. penny. in reduced stress!

BOTTOM LINE: "Own" whatever thing in your personal life is causing you daily stress, and fix it! You'll be happier when you do!

2. The best CHANGE I made was...

Flipping my rubrics from portrait to landscape, and the subsequent formatting changes that I made that have since sped up my grading.

For example, on most of my rubrics, I had just one designated space to write an overall teacher comment. There were both pros and cons to this:
Looking for teacher tips to help get you through the school year? I'm sharing the five best lessons I learned in 2015 for you to adapt for yourself! These include things like outsourcing dinner, not over-committing, and more. Click through to read all of my tips!

Now, with "Teacher Comments" by each separate rubric row, there's room to write a specific comment about just that criterion, such as giving a more specific compliment or explaining a grade:
Looking for teacher tips to help get you through the school year? I'm sharing the five best lessons I learned in 2015 for you to adapt for yourself! These include things like outsourcing dinner, not over-committing, and more. Click through to read all of my tips!

In addition, though I used to think my expectations were clear for what to do AFTER an assignment, I broke down and added a "Next Steps" box to my rubrics, both for a long rubric for a project or a one-row rubric for a small lesson/assignment:
Looking for teacher tips to help get you through the school year? I'm sharing the five best lessons I learned in 2015 for you to adapt for yourself! These include things like outsourcing dinner, not over-committing, and more. Click through to read all of my tips!

I find that the more targeted comments and clearer expectations are speeding up the feedback cycle and making it easier for me to say what is needed!

3. The best (new) LESSON I taught was...


Looking for teacher tips to help get you through the school year? I'm sharing the five best lessons I learned in 2015 for you to adapt for yourself! These include things like outsourcing dinner, not over-committing, and more. Click through to read all of my tips!
Probably my entire teaching sequence for analysis (the flipbooks and the quiz, etc. that go with them). These lessons created huge, visible changes in student writing; it's probably the most dramatic "before" and "after" I've seen happen in the shortest amount of time.

I let students use these booklets to help them with literary analysis writing, and they're also using the booklets for their midterm exams.

You can read my previous blog post about it and also read ratings from other teachers.

4. Good RESOURCES that I used (or discovered) were...

  • IXL for Grammar/ELA: Though I have some DEFINITE mixed criticism for the program, I'm using it as one small piece of my grammar instruction, and I love having standards-based grammar practice that is self-grading
  • Canva! Though I still make most of my artwork in PowerPoint, I made a few cool images with it and learned some general lessons about design. Some teachers in my building are also using Canva with students for projects. 
  • Tailwind - Though I still do a good amount of Pinterest pinning myself, I have also happily used Tailwind to post scheduled pins for me. (Though I sometimes feel like scheduling pins takes just as much time as just doing it...)

5. Lessons I learned about teaching (in general) were...

  • Mentoring student teachers: I had a pre-service teacher in my classroom as a "student observer" for the first time ever. It was a good experience really forced me to 1) articulate to an outsider what was being done in our classroom and why, 2) have both patience and humility, and 3) work on my "filter" to be sufficiently honest and encouraging about the field of teaching at the same time. 
  • Having limits: In the first half of this year, I over-committed. Hard. And once I came out of denial about it, I had to scale back the overall amount of tutoring I did, the way I did work outside of school, and what being a "good" teacher looked like, because I was on an early track to burnout. Though I'm far from done with improving in this area, some good changes have happened that have made things better in the work/life balance department. 

The new thing I will try in 2016 is... 
How TED Talks Are Transforming My English Class
My entire TED speech unit, which you can read more about in this blog post.

I've already started some steps of this year-long project with students (like our non-fiction book study, pre-assessments, preliminary speeches, and discussing what TED talks even are), but the biggest steps of writing and performing our TED talks are yet to come in second semester. 

I'm excited to see how this project combats students "checking out" from the curriculum in the spring (instead of just obsessing over summer), among other things!


Thank you for reading! Please browse through the ideas from other teachers below...


4 comments

  1. I think your rubric modification is genius! I will certainly direct some teacher friends here so they can benefit from your explanation.

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  2. I love the idea of modifying the rubric to landscape. I started doing a lot of my worksheets that way too.

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  3. "Own whatever thing in your personal life is causing you daily stress...and fix it!" What simple but wise words! I also love your plug for Canva. I haven't tried that yet, but it looks promising! Thanks!

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  4. Oh man Sara, everything you said in this post totally resonated with me! I can't wait to check out your analysis activity - that just might be my holy grail!! Year after year it is the hardest part of writing to teach!!

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