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On the Shoulders of Giants

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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Ariel Sacks

September 15, 2014

The Writing Wall: 3 Lessons About Not Giving Up!

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I still had many ideas for posts. I collected them in a list on my phone.  I composed pieces of them in my head while doing other things. The problem was that I utterly lacked the will to do the work of writing them. What was going on?! More generally, how should we respond to “the writing wall” when it presents itself? And what can we learn from these situations?   

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Ariel Sacks

September 3, 2014

Some Innovative Teachers Who Leave Come Back: An Interview With Geneviève DeBose

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Recently, I've been thinking about all of the great teachers who've already made the choice to leave the classroom and become administrators, work in district positions, or join organizations that work on education research and policies. Often, they mention to me how they miss teaching; some say they still identify as teachers at core. Why don't we also advocate for some of these folks to return to the classroom, whether on a full or part time basis? I spoke with Geneviève on the phone about her experiences away from teaching and what led her back. She is definitely one of my edu-heroes right now; in my opinion, we need many more to follow her example.

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Ariel Sacks

August 24, 2014

Are Middle School and High School Students Really That Different? Observations and Advice From MS/HS Teachers

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I’m excited to be making a big move this school year, from being a middle school teacher to a middle school AND high school teacher.  Yep, I’ve taken a new position as the 8th and 9th grade English teacher at a small K-12 school in my neighborhood.  And while 9th grade is not far from 8th, I know that one year makes a big difference in the life of an adolescent.

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Ariel Sacks

August 8, 2014

My Best Posts for Beginning Teachers

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As I browsed the back-to-school posts in my various feeds, I was inspired to do a round-up of my own posts that I think would be most useful to beginning teachers. I’ve focused on practical tips, organization and classroom management ideas, because I think these represent some of the most immediate hurdles and stressors for new teachers, but I also included a few big-idea posts at the end too.

 

Practical/Classroom Management

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Ariel Sacks

July 6, 2014

My Thoughts on the NEA Empowered Educators Conference

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I'm writing from the hills of Northern California, finally allowing myself to relax after a long year.  It is with that spirit that I reflect on the education experience most fresh in my mind: The NEA Empowered Educators Conference, called "Raise Your Hand." It was a day-long convening on July 3rd, preceding the annual meeting of delegates. NEA invited and footed the bill for teacher leaders all over the country to join in discussing and celebrating educator empowerment.

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Ariel Sacks

June 29, 2014

Teaching Poetry, Whole-Novels Style: Creating An Immersion Experience For Students

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CONCEPT: Just like in whole novel studies, experience is of primary importance in the study of poetry. Too often, students receive the message in their English classes that poetry exists to be analyzed.  They learn terms, strategies and complicated acronyms to remember them--all in the service of solving a “poem-problem” with, what they understand is supposed to be a clear answer.  As a reader, scholar and writer of poetry, I can say with confidence that poems are not built for a formulated analysis and rarely come with clear answers!  I think the vast majority of English teachers would agree with me on this; yet sometimes, in effort to reach standards and keep kids on track, common classroom methods still push students into the understanding that we read poetry to analyze and arrive at a specific outcome.    

If not analysis or a specific outcome, then what characterizes the experience of poetry?

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Ariel Sacks

June 2, 2014

2014 Bammy Awards and What It Means to Be Recognized

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Yesterday, CTQ colleague Renee Moore tweeted a congratulations message to the 2014 Bammy Award Finalists, and tagged me in it, along with several of my favorite teacher-writers, Jose Vilson, Larry Ferlazzo, and Stephen Lazar... and that's when I saw that I, in fact, have been selected as a finalist for a Bammy Award for Middle School Educator of the year! My first response is WHOA! My second response is, what does it mean?

First, I want to unpack the "WHOA" feeling. 

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