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On the Shoulders of Giants

Ariel Sacks

May 22, 2015

Suggestions for Better Testing

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"I'm vehemently against these standardized tests and all that they are used for," a veteran humanities teacher tells me. "But I'm willing to meet them half way if the test is at least reasonable." A lot of teachers I know feel this way. We know standardized tests don't measure the scope of our teaching or our students' learning in a meaningful way. We see them being used to scare, label and punish children and educators, and we oppose these practices on principle and for the sake of our students and profession.  However, we are not totally against giving a reasonable yearly standardized test in reading and writing. There are a few key changes that might make the tests themselves a bit more reasonable.

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Ariel Sacks

May 3, 2015

Four Lessons From Motherhood

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If you asked me what time I woke up today, I couldn’t give you a straight answer.  And if you asked how my spring break was, or how state testing went this year, I’d raise my eyebrow. That’s because this teacher is a new mom! My baby girl was born February 24th and it’s been a whirlwind of intense love, intense learning, intense feeding—and short bursts of sleep—ever since.

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Ariel Sacks

March 9, 2015

What Do We Know About The Teaching Brain? An Interview With Author Vanessa Rodriguez

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I’m so excited to share this interview with Vanessa Rodriguez, a veteran NYC middle school teacher, Harvard researcher, instructor and author of the just-released book, The Teaching Brain. This is a fascinating and accessible book that introduces new, and, I’d say, ground-breaking thinking on what the act of teaching really entails.

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Ariel Sacks

February 19, 2015

When—And At What Cost—Do Students Receive Reading Intervention Classes?

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Is anyone else noticing that students—especially in middle school—often receive reading intervention class at the expense of foreign language or arts? There are very real scheduling constraints that explain this common reality, but putting that aside, I’m wondering if this practice makes sense for kids. 

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Ariel Sacks

December 8, 2014

Kevin Spacey, the Binge-Watching Phenomenon, and Teaching Whole Novels

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I think Lost was my first binge-watching experience eight summers ago. I felt how different it was to watch a long series at my own pace, but I didn't think much about it. I was too fixated on what the heck was up with that island!  But as I binged more recently on House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and other favorite "television" shows available through Netflix and my cable TV's On Demand feature, I made the connection. Binge-watching an entire season of a series is much like plowing through a compelling novel. You pick it up and put it down as you please.

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Ariel Sacks

December 1, 2014

9 Ways I Appreciate My New School #ThankfulTeacher

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I know many teachers who love to teach, but how many teachers honestly say they love the schools in which they teach?  Inside scoop? Not enough. Schools, especially urban schools, are so often plagued with various levels of frustration. Usually, there is no one character at fault, and no one simple solution. Education is a complex and flawed system—the problems are interconnected.  And yet, despite deep flaws in our system and society, there are schools that find ways to move in a forward direction, creating conditions for teaching and learning to be a joyous and sustainable process. 

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Ariel Sacks

October 1, 2014

Why Professional Development Sessions Must Include Real Experiences

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This year, nearly every teacher in America will experience hours and hours of prepared, often mandatory professional development sessions.  The range will be huge—from useful to not very, from inspiring to practical, to grating or sleep inducing.  Many teacher leaders are moving into roles that require them to lead professional development workshops for teachers.  There is so much potential to spread expertise around our profession, but how do you create a great PD session? 

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