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On the Shoulders of Giants

Ariel Sacks

September 16, 2013

Did It Sink In Right Away?

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Recently, I listened to some professional musicians talking at a barbeque about their favorite music teachers.  There was a bit of a boasting session going on, each musician offering up the story of the best musician/teacher they’d had the opportunity to study with, even if it was just one or two lessons.  One of the musicians, a bass player, caught my attention when he said,

“Whenever I’ve studied with someone really good, it doesn’t sink in right away.  It takes many years for me to really get everything they were trying to show me.” 

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Ariel Sacks

August 16, 2013

Five Pesky Classroom Behaviors I Don't Allow

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Here are five pesky behaviors I’ve decided aren’t allowed in my eighth grade classroom.  They are not “rules” I post on the walls.  I deal with most of these behaviors as they come up. However, I make sure to explain to students why they aren’t appropriate for the classroom environment, so I don’t seem arbitrary or overly controlling.  Because I've arrived at my position based on experience, I am very confident in my authority on these small matters. A calm, authoritative tone (that shows the matter is not personal) is key to shutting these behaviors down before they become issues.  

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Ariel Sacks

August 9, 2013

Sharing Our Tools is Just the Beginning

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Recently, I shared a tool I created to help make visible the thought process I use when selecting texts for my students.  I hoped it would be helpful for other teachers and I also wanted to hear what people thought.  Before I shared, I had two vaguely opposing thoughts: (1) This tool is cool! I'm on to something here! and (2) What if this tool actually stinks and no one likes it?  Now that I've shared and gotten feedback, I'm way beyond both of these (ego-centric) perceptions.

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Ariel Sacks

August 5, 2013

Text Selection Tool for Your Summer Planning!

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Hello teachers of English!  It's summer, and I imagine that, like me, you're considering various new and old book titles to bring to your students this year.  There's a lot to consider with each choice, including a push from new Common Core assessments to increase the complexity of the texts we use.  I want to share a tool I've just created for weighing the merits of a particular text, taking into account our specific groups of students and overall curriculum frameworks.

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Ariel Sacks

July 31, 2013

Experience Is a Teacher--Let Us Learn

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In a recent post, I portray experience as an unequivocally good thing, representing adeptness, strength and style. And why wouldn’t it be?  Meanwhile, in many of today’s narratives about education, a premium seems to be placed on younger teachers with “fresh ideas.”  This is a bit of a cliché that is often used to gently conjure up an opposing stereotype: the experienced, older, out-of-touch and burnt out teacher (Beulleranyone?). While there have always been teachers who live up to each of these stereotypes, I think the binary opposition they represent is fading these days.

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Ariel Sacks

July 11, 2013

Are You Experienced?

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I've been reflecting on the concept of *being experienced* at something--be it teaching, event planning, blogging, singing, reading, or doing the dishes.  There is a big difference between having done something once or twice, and being experienced or skilled at the same activity, but this can be easy to forget from far away.  I've actually caught myself thinking that I *know how to do* something I have never actually done--just because I know I could do it if I wanted to, and maybe even imagine how I'd do it!  With so much information and efficiency at our fingertips all t

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Ariel Sacks

July 3, 2013

Learning When to Hold Our Ground

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I was energized after reading Lori Nazareno’s wonderful story in this past month’s Teaching Ahead Roundtable about a group of teachers in Denver who held the line on creating a teacher evaluation system.  They did not take the easiest road—of doing what they were told and parroting back a system that had already been created for them--but they made the choice that would be best for schools.  Thank you for sharing this experience, Lori!  Her story made me think about how often teachers, and particularly teacher leaders, are faced with situations in an imperfect school system that ask us to c

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