If you’ve ever listened to a fellow teacher deliver a presentation about their favorite project or unit, you know how creativity and passion runs in the blood of people tasked with inspiring children to learn. Teachers combine ideas in unusual ways to make sure kids have fun and learn something new at the same time. Play cards, switch seats, perform a skit, draw a picture, make a collage, video, story, interview, whatever. It doesn’t matter. We do anything to make time fly while they are busy learning how to improve the world.
I have always drawn inspiration from good conversations with my colleagues about projects and assignments, but we don’t need to limit these conversations to the few people we are friendly with at school. Now, thanks to the internet, we can hear what’s going on in classrooms all over the country.
In high school, my family had dial up modem, and when I went to college, I brought a computer with nineteen gigabytes and a few Word documents to my dorm room that had fiber optic cables. It’s now so easy to share videos generated from my computer screen and instantly show exactly what’s going on in my classroom. In The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, the protagonist’s grandfather describes reading as traveling “without moving an inch”. Now our screens allow us to travel into each other’s classrooms without trains, planes, or cars.
Since the boom, thousands of teachers have gone online to share their ideas with the world and collaborate in a virtual space where we can download handouts and even entire units, visit webpages, watch videos, and see amazing student work like projects and presentations. Stories from the classroom will always inspire us to improve on the important work we do. Teachers prefer to describe rather than prescribe: here’s what I did, what can you do?
Sometimes we look to research or administrators to find best practices, but let’s be honest, teachers do research every single day through trial and error. That’s why we love hearing stories about what works and what doesn’t, straight from the classroom. I’ve heard brilliant ideas from brand new teachers and I also draw inspiration from teachers who have the experience to know the difference between a fad and a good idea.
New teachers freak out at the blank canvas of their first year. And it’s so easy, if you’re a veteran teacher, to fall into a predictable rhythm. It can be a struggle to come up with new ideas, but it’s so necessary to keep a fresh enthusiasm for what we do because our students can smell it on us. They can smell stale, parched, and withered teaching from a mile away.
Whether we like it or not, we are their role models, so we need to be the people we want them to become: excited and curious about the process of learning. The more we encounter and try new techniques, literature, and technology, the more we’ll put that pep back in our step.
The good thing is there’s no shortage of inspiring educators willing to share their ideas and resources with the world.
Here is my list of the best secondary English language arts blogs and podcasts created by high school ELA teachers:
and let’s not forget…
NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English)
English language arts teacher
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers