August 17, 2018

We are almost back to school! And I have a few back to school related reads for you this week, but first. What is your favorite brand of pencil? Mine are Ticonderogas – just the softest lil graphite and a very well-meaning eraser!

  1. Making Students Care About Writing, The Atlantic. “Analyzing the work of middle-achieving students—rather than just failing or thriving ones—can significantly improve teachers’ effectiveness with underachieving students, McKamey argues. When teachers focus on the work of the lowest-achieving students, McKamey has observed that such conversations often turn into a space to blame the students, their parents, or other teachers, or they veer off into emotionally invasive discussions of a student’s private life. Focusing on middle-achieving students who showed recent improvement helps teachers dispel unrecognized stereotypes—and learn how to notice and build on their strengths.”
  2. An Underappreciated Key to College Success: Sleep, NYT. This is so important! “Dr. Prichard, a professor of psychology and neuroscience and scientific director of the university’s Center for College Sleep, said the sleep habits of college students represent “a major public health crisis” that institutions of higher learning pay little attention to. Of 26 risks to well-being that colleges consider important to inform students about, sleep ranks second to last, just above internet addiction, she said.”
  3. Basic Needs, Security, and the Syllabus. This is such a thoughtful idea, to make a statement of needs on your syllabi. “Is this the right thing to do? Will it also help accomplish another goal – communicating to my students that a classroom of learners is, in my mind, a sort of family? Is this language exactly right? Will they respond to it as intended? I don’t know. But I’m glad I put it there.”

    This is the statement she is considering for her syllabi this year, and I really appreciate this line of thinking: “Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the Dean of Students for support. Furthermore, please notify the professor if you are comfortable in doing so. This will enable her to provide any resources that she may possess.”

  4. Alternative to Thinking All the Time. I’ve read this before – maybe even linked to it before? But it’s gold. If you are approaching this fall as someone connected to education (teachers, librarians, students, parents of students, or simply people who love bouquets of newly-sharpened pencils), I invite you to remember that you don’t have to think so hard all the time. “Over time, this intention to come back to the present, to see how it tastes, becomes natural. More and more, rich experiences of ordinary things just happen. Without trying, you just start feeling the experience fully, when you’re starting your car, when you’re settling into a lawn chair, when your friend’s voice comes on through the phone. The richness in any ordinary experience, when you’re there for it, can be unbelievable. And it happens more and more.
    The whole time, just in the background, accessible in any moment you feel safe to drop the mental busywork of reactive planning and worrying, is a steady stream of sweet, interesting and complex flavors, fresh ones arising in every moment. That might sound like more pretense, but it’s the opposite: it’s the only thing that’s real.”
  5. Agency, Not Use, ACRLog. “I am not a resource; I am a person. I am a woman with agency, skill, experience, and talent. I do my work for myself and for my community. I am a teacher who facilitates learning. I do not go to work to be used. I go to work to educate, empower, and learn.” I value this perspective as I approach this semester. I’m eager to be helpful, embedded, trusted, and yes – useful. But it’s good to be thoughtful about the words we use for what we do and the implications of them.

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