Sunday, March 5, 2017

Making some Changes

I've decided to give the Wordpress platform a try for this blog. Everything from this blog has been transferred. So, if you're new to the blog please click here:

www.rachelclaireunworthy.com

Friday, March 3, 2017

So, I Decided to Try Bullet Journaling...

Since I am a blogger, I spend a significant amount of time reading other blogs. I follow blogs on Bloglovin' and Pinterest. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to writing. Recently, there has been a lot of hype out there in the blogging/writing community about bullet journals. (The most avid bullet journal advocates shorten this term to "bujo." I refuse to do this on principal because the word "bujo" just sounds ridiculous.)

I like writing, I like doodling, and this seemed like it could be fun, so I decided to give it a try. This January, I created two different bullet journals: one for my writing, and one for everything else. Most blogs I read about bullet journaling praise it for being so wonderful and helpful in keeping things organized. For me, it has been most helpful in organizing my to-do list. While I'm not sure I'm 100% on board yet, I will say that so far I've found the process helpful.

Here is a link to a website created by the guy who came up with this whole strategy called "bullet journaling." This breaks down the process for you. Basically, it categorizes everything you need into lists that are easy to find and keep up with. You can make it as plain or as pretty as you want. I've had the most success with this in using it for my job. Here are some examples of how I've been using my bullet journal.


This is the Key that I keep in the front page of the journal. 


This is the index. The index is one of the main aspects of the bullet journal system. Yes, you are supposed to number all of your pages, which is a little tedious, but it does help you go back and find information more quickly. This has already helped me more times than I can count.


Next is the monthly log. This helps me with things I know I need to get done (like scheduling a video observation with my principal) but it doesn't matter when in the month I get it done.


Here is another layout I've used for a monthly log.


Then, we have the weekly log. This is where I've found that the bullet journal is the most helpful. This helps me keep up with what I need to do each week and even each day - if I have more specific deadlines for things. 


In my personal bullet journal, I track certain things. I started running regularly a couple of months ago and I've been tracking my progress with this calendar. I write down my distance and times. (I'm slow...don't make fun.)


I also use a layout called a "habit tracker" in my personal bullet journal. This allows me to keep up with how often I do the things that I want to do, as well as things that I may not necessarily want to do, but that I need to do.



There are tons of ways to use a bullet journal to stay organized, and I've only barely scratched the surface myself. It's taken some time to play with the process and determine what aspects of the journal I need and which ones I don't. For work, the weekly log is the most helpful because it allows me to keep my to-do list for each week in one place. However, I don't have much use for that in my personal journal. I also have pages in my work journal for things I need to keep records of, things that I used to just write down in a notebook and then could never find the right page again (this is where the index has been handy). I have a parent contact log page, a "Grade Watch" page where I keep a log of students whose grades I need to keep an eye on, a page for my team meetings, a page for Student Council meetings, etc. In my personal journal, I have pages with blog post ideas, a budgeting page, and a section of pages where I keep up with books I've read along with a few sentences reflecting on them after I've finished. And whenever I run out of room on a page, I just flip to the next blank page, start anew, and add those page numbers to my index. 

Those who praise bullet journaling talk about how wonderful it is for helping them stay organized. It does help with that. Just realize that in spite of all the praise and fancy lettering and pretty layouts, it's basically just a book of lists that you keep track of in various ways. You number the pages and keep an index so you can find what you're looking for easily. 

I had to give myself a few weeks to get used to the process and find what works for me. There are a lot of resources out there about all the different kinds of bullet journal layouts you can use. It takes a little while to figure out what you'll actually use and what you won't. So far, I like it. If you aren't someone who needs to write down a to-do list, then this probably isn't something that you'll enjoy. However, there are systems for bullet journaling using documents saved on your computer if that's more your style. 

I'm not advocating that everyone try it. I recognize that this probably isn't for everyone. But I figure enough of my blog followers are also into writing/doodling/blogging themselves and for people like us, it's fun and helpful. 

Click here to follow me on Pinterest (RachelClaire Cockrell). I have a lot of bullet journaling, blogging, and writing resources pinned on several different boards. 

If you give this a try and have any new page or layout ideas, comment with a picture. Or just let me know what you think about the whole process. 





So, I Decided to Try Bullet Journaling...

Since I am a blogger, I spend a significant amount of time reading other blogs. I follow blogs on Bloglovin' and Pinterest. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to writing. Recently, there has been a lot of hype out there in the blogging/writing community about bullet journals. (The most avid bullet journal advocates shorten this term to "bujo." I refuse to do this on principal because the word "bujo" just sounds ridiculous.)

I like writing, I like doodling, and this seemed like it could be fun, so I decided to give it a try. This January, I created two different bullet journals: one for my writing, and one for everything else. Most blogs I read about bullet journaling praise it for being so wonderful and helpful in keeping things organized. For me, it has been most helpful in organizing my to-do list. While I'm not sure I'm 100% on board yet, I will say that so far I've found the process helpful.

Here is a link to a website created by the guy who came up with this whole strategy called "bullet journaling." This breaks down the process for you. Basically, it categorizes everything you need into lists that are easy to find and keep up with. You can make it as plain or as pretty as you want. I've had the most success with this in using it for my job. Here are some examples of how I've been using my bullet journal.


This is the Key that I keep in the front page of the journal. 


This is the index. The index is one of the main aspects of the bullet journal system. Yes, you are supposed to number all of your pages, which is a little tedious, but it does help you go back and find information more quickly. This has already helped me more times than I can count.


Next is the monthly log. This helps me with things I know I need to get done (like scheduling a video observation with my principal) but it doesn't matter when in the month I get it done.


Here is another layout I've used for a monthly log.


Then, we have the weekly log. This is where I've found that the bullet journal is the most helpful. This helps me keep up with what I need to do each week and even each day - if I have more specific deadlines for things. 


In my personal bullet journal, I track certain things. I started running regularly a couple of months ago and I've been tracking my progress with this calendar. I write down my distance and times. (I'm slow...don't make fun.)


I also use a layout called a "habit tracker" in my personal bullet journal. This allows me to keep up with how often I do the things that I want to do, as well as things that I may not necessarily want to do, but that I need to do.



There are tons of ways to use a bullet journal to stay organized, and I've only barely scratched the surface myself. It's taken some time to play with the process and determine what aspects of the journal I need and which ones I don't. For work, the weekly log is the most helpful because it allows me to keep my to-do list for each week in one place. However, I don't have much use for that in my personal journal. I also have pages in my work journal for things I need to keep records of, things that I used to just write down in a notebook and then could never find the right page again (this is where the index has been handy). I have a parent contact log page, a "Grade Watch" page where I keep a log of students whose grades I need to keep an eye on, a page for my team meetings, a page for Student Council meetings, etc. In my personal journal, I have pages with blog post ideas, a budgeting page, and a section of pages where I keep up with books I've read along with a few sentences reflecting on them after I've finished. And whenever I run out of room on a page, I just flip to the next blank page, start anew, and add those page numbers to my index. 

Those who praise bullet journaling talk about how wonderful it is for helping them stay organized. It does help with that. Just realize that in spite of all the praise and fancy lettering and pretty layouts, it's basically just a book of lists that you keep track of in various ways. You number the pages and keep an index so you can find what you're looking for easily. 

I had to give myself a few weeks to get used to the process and find what works for me. There are a lot of resources out there about all the different kinds of bullet journal layouts you can use. It takes a little while to figure out what you'll actually use and what you won't. So far, I like it. If you aren't someone who needs to write down a to-do list, then this probably isn't something that you'll enjoy. However, there are systems for bullet journaling using documents saved on your computer if that's more your style. 

I'm not advocating that everyone try it. I recognize that this probably isn't for everyone. But I figure enough of my blog followers are also into writing/doodling/blogging themselves and for people like us, it's fun and helpful. 

Click here to follow me on Pinterest (RachelClaire Cockrell). I have a lot of bullet journaling, blogging, and writing resources pinned on several different boards. 

If you give this a try and have any new page or layout ideas, comment with a picture. Or just let me know what you think about the whole process. 





Sunday, January 15, 2017

My Top 10 Favorite Podcasts

Image result for podcast app

I love podcasts. I listen to them on my way to and from work, on a road trip, when I'm cleaning my house, doing laundry, on a walk, or just have time to kill. Podcasts are growing in popularity and if you aren't on board the podcast train, then it's time for you to catch up. I follow over 20 podcasts right now. That sounds like I a lot, I know, but they are on different season schedules (think TV shows - thankfully Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead don't come on at the same time or I would never get anything done). I wanted to share with you my 10 favorite Podcasts. Whether you are a podcast newbie or a seasoned veteran, these 10 should be in your podcast list for sure.

10. Nerdist
Image result for nerdist logo
Nerdist is a podcast hosted by Chris Hardwick that is basically just a platform for him to shoot the sh*t with various celebrities. This is one that I don't listen to religiously. Instead, I pick and choose who to listen to. For example, I chose to listen when he had Jake Gyllenhaal, Anna Kendrick, and Daniel Radcliffe on, but I skipped out on Metallica and Neil Finn. This podcast is a great way to "get to know" some of your favorite celebrities. Chris Hardwick doesn't have a list of interview questions for his guests, they just sit there and chat about everything from recent projects to religion and politics. These podcasts are long; usually about an hour each. I listen to them in batches. Also, the episodes are only as entertaining as the guests are, because the guests determine the level and direction of the conversation, that's why it's important to only listen to the ones where he hosts people you're interested in. If you're interested in the lives of celebrities, this one is a good one.

9. Hidden Brain
Image result for hidden brain podcast logo
Hidden Brain is a podcast is an NPR podcast hosted by Shankar Vedantam. This one averages about 25 minutes per episode. It's tagline says that it "helps curious people understand the world - and themselves." Hidden Brain mixes science and storytelling to create a podcast that dives into the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior. I learn something new every time I listen to this podcast. Shankar talks to experts in just about every field to determine how people think and what drives their actions. He explores everything from biases and how they affect our choices, to triggers that we don't even recognize that determine the course of our decisions and relationships. The last episode I listened to was about slang, and how language is continually changing and evolving. As an English teacher, this one was especially interesting to me. This podcast is great for people who enjoy learning about what motivates us. 

8. Freakonomics Radio
Image result for freakonomics podcast logo
It took some convincing from my husband before I finally gave in and started listening to this podcast, but now I love it. This is another one that teaches me something new every time I listen to it. It explores everything from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. The host, Stephen Dubner, has conversations with various experts in various fields about various topics. These episodes average around 30 to 40 minutes. The last one I listened to was an interview with Trevor Noah, the host of the daily show. There have also been episodes about "How to Become Great at Just About Anything," "How to Be More Productive," and about the success of societies where people inherently trust each other. These podcasts always have an interesting and new perspective that's worth hearing.

7. Radiolab
Image result for radiolab podcast logo
If you haven't noticed already, I like listening to podcast that either teach me something I didn't already know, or that give me a perspective I haven't heard before. Radiolab is "an investigation told through sounds and stories, and centered around one big idea." This podcast covers new discoveries in the science world and the political process. They've done a story on a girl from Texas who - according to legal documentation - didn't exist, a town in Nebraska that almost stopped being a town because of a silly dispute, and an Olympic badminton match where both teams were intentionally trying to lose. There's something new every week. I love podcasts that tell stories about individuals as well as podcasts that teach me something about the way the world works. This podcast does both.

6. TED Radio Hour
Image result for ted radio hour
This is a podcast where the people who give TED talks go more in depth on their discussions and ideas. You get to hear pieces of their TED talks, and the host interviews them to pick their brains in more detail about their topics. These episodes average about an hour in length. If you like TED talks, you'll love this podcast. And even if you don't, it's worth giving it a listen. There's something for everyone.

5. My Favorite Murder
Image result for my favorite murder podcast
Here is where I break up the monotony of educational podcasts. My Favorite Murder mixes two of my favorite things, true crime and comedy. Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff have a great rapport and they are obsessed with true crime stories. They cover real murders from all over the world and they do it with finesse. I will warn you, these ladies are not shy with using explicit language and they don't skimp out on any of the gruesome details of the stories they cover. This is not a podcast for young children. They average about an hour and a half per episode, but the first 15-20 minutes is just Karen and Georgia goofing off back and forth before they ever start talking about actual murders, so I just skip to about minute 17 and go from there. I've never felt like I was missing out on anything doing that and it lets me get straight to the good part. If you like TV shows like Law & Order, Criminal Minds, and NCIS, then this is a good podcast for you.

4. Lore
Image result for lore podcast logo
I love scary stories and scary movies and hearing about the superstitions and beliefs that started them. Lore is a podcast for people who are interested in learning about mysterious events and circumstances that can't always be explained, and even those that can. Aaron Mahnke hosts this podcast that is soon to become a TV show and it is great for those of us who are interested in all the things that go bump in the night. The episodes average around 30 minutes and I always try to listen to this one all in one sitting simply because once I start it I don't want to pause it. 

3. Revisionist History
Image result for revisionist history podcast logo
This is a podcast hosted by the one and only Malcolm Gladwell, the author of bestselling books such as Outliers and The Tipping Point. The episodes average about 35 minutes. In this podcast, Malcolm Gladwell goes back and reinterprets something from the past, whether it is an event, person, or idea. The things he focuses on are things that we tend to overlook or misunderstand. This is the best podcast for gaining a new perspective on just about anything. I love listening to Malcolm Gladwell and hearing how his mind works. He has such a unique way of looking at things. This is a podcast for everyone.

2. Serial
Image result for serial podcast logo
Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life (see #1) and hosted by Sarah Koenig. Every other podcast on this list, the episodes can be listened to in whatever order you want. Serial is different. This podcast works like a TV show, you have to start back at the beginning and work your way to the most recent. Right now, only 2 seasons have released. In the first season, Sarah Koenig followed the story of Adnan Syed, a teenage boy who was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend. He maintains his innocence to this day. Sarah investigates the murder, and the podcasts has even been posting updates as Adnan has been working on an appeal. The second season focuses on the story of Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban and held for 5 years. There is a lot of controversy involved in both storys and Sarah does a great job of covering all sides. This is a great podcast that will keep you hanging on the edge of your seat from episode 1 until the very end. 

1. This American Life
Image result for this american life podcast logo
This is my all time favorite podcast. Ira Glass hosts and covers every topic under the sun. Ira and his team search out stories of individual people in the midst of worldwide events. For example, one of my favorite episodes was one where they covered Syrian refugee camps in Greece. It was so real and unfiltered. I don't cry...like...ever...and I cried listening to that episode. They aren't all that heart-wrenching. Some of the stories are funny or touching. This is another one of those podcasts that is for everyone and I can't recommend it enough.

I hope I've given you enough to give you an idea of where to start with your podcast journey. I'd love to hear from you on some of your favorite podcasts. I'm always up for trying new ones. Leave a comment below!


My Top 10 Favorite Podcasts

Image result for podcast app

I love podcasts. I listen to them on my way to and from work, on a road trip, when I'm cleaning my house, doing laundry, on a walk, or just have time to kill. Podcasts are growing in popularity and if you aren't on board the podcast train, then it's time for you to catch up. I follow over 20 podcasts right now. That sounds like I a lot, I know, but they are on different season schedules (think TV shows - thankfully Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead don't come on at the same time or I would never get anything done). I wanted to share with you my 10 favorite Podcasts. Whether you are a podcast newbie or a seasoned veteran, these 10 should be in your podcast list for sure.

10. Nerdist
Image result for nerdist logo
Nerdist is a podcast hosted by Chris Hardwick that is basically just a platform for him to shoot the sh*t with various celebrities. This is one that I don't listen to religiously. Instead, I pick and choose who to listen to. For example, I chose to listen when he had Jake Gyllenhaal, Anna Kendrick, and Daniel Radcliffe on, but I skipped out on Metallica and Neil Finn. This podcast is a great way to "get to know" some of your favorite celebrities. Chris Hardwick doesn't have a list of interview questions for his guests, they just sit there and chat about everything from recent projects to religion and politics. These podcasts are long; usually about an hour each. I listen to them in batches. Also, the episodes are only as entertaining as the guests are, because the guests determine the level and direction of the conversation, that's why it's important to only listen to the ones where he hosts people you're interested in. If you're interested in the lives of celebrities, this one is a good one.

9. Hidden Brain
Image result for hidden brain podcast logo
Hidden Brain is a podcast is an NPR podcast hosted by Shankar Vedantam. This one averages about 25 minutes per episode. It's tagline says that it "helps curious people understand the world - and themselves." Hidden Brain mixes science and storytelling to create a podcast that dives into the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior. I learn something new every time I listen to this podcast. Shankar talks to experts in just about every field to determine how people think and what drives their actions. He explores everything from biases and how they affect our choices, to triggers that we don't even recognize that determine the course of our decisions and relationships. The last episode I listened to was about slang, and how language is continually changing and evolving. As an English teacher, this one was especially interesting to me. This podcast is great for people who enjoy learning about what motivates us. 

8. Freakonomics Radio
Image result for freakonomics podcast logo
It took some convincing from my husband before I finally gave in and started listening to this podcast, but now I love it. This is another one that teaches me something new every time I listen to it. It explores everything from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. The host, Stephen Dubner, has conversations with various experts in various fields about various topics. These episodes average around 30 to 40 minutes. The last one I listened to was an interview with Trevor Noah, the host of the daily show. There have also been episodes about "How to Become Great at Just About Anything," "How to Be More Productive," and about the success of societies where people inherently trust each other. These podcasts always have an interesting and new perspective that's worth hearing.

7. Radiolab
Image result for radiolab podcast logo
If you haven't noticed already, I like listening to podcast that either teach me something I didn't already know, or that give me a perspective I haven't heard before. Radiolab is "an investigation told through sounds and stories, and centered around one big idea." This podcast covers new discoveries in the science world and the political process. They've done a story on a girl from Texas who - according to legal documentation - didn't exist, a town in Nebraska that almost stopped being a town because of a silly dispute, and an Olympic badminton match where both teams were intentionally trying to lose. There's something new every week. I love podcasts that tell stories about individuals as well as podcasts that teach me something about the way the world works. This podcast does both.

6. TED Radio Hour
Image result for ted radio hour
This is a podcast where the people who give TED talks go more in depth on their discussions and ideas. You get to hear pieces of their TED talks, and the host interviews them to pick their brains in more detail about their topics. These episodes average about an hour in length. If you like TED talks, you'll love this podcast. And even if you don't, it's worth giving it a listen. There's something for everyone.

5. My Favorite Murder
Image result for my favorite murder podcast
Here is where I break up the monotony of educational podcasts. My Favorite Murder mixes two of my favorite things, true crime and comedy. Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff have a great rapport and they are obsessed with true crime stories. They cover real murders from all over the world and they do it with finesse. I will warn you, these ladies are not shy with using explicit language and they don't skimp out on any of the gruesome details of the stories they cover. This is not a podcast for young children. They average about an hour and a half per episode, but the first 15-20 minutes is just Karen and Georgia goofing off back and forth before they ever start talking about actual murders, so I just skip to about minute 17 and go from there. I've never felt like I was missing out on anything doing that and it lets me get straight to the good part. If you like TV shows like Law & Order, Criminal Minds, and NCIS, then this is a good podcast for you.

4. Lore
Image result for lore podcast logo
I love scary stories and scary movies and hearing about the superstitions and beliefs that started them. Lore is a podcast for people who are interested in learning about mysterious events and circumstances that can't always be explained, and even those that can. Aaron Mahnke hosts this podcast that is soon to become a TV show and it is great for those of us who are interested in all the things that go bump in the night. The episodes average around 30 minutes and I always try to listen to this one all in one sitting simply because once I start it I don't want to pause it. 

3. Revisionist History
Image result for revisionist history podcast logo
This is a podcast hosted by the one and only Malcolm Gladwell, the author of bestselling books such as Outliers and The Tipping Point. The episodes average about 35 minutes. In this podcast, Malcolm Gladwell goes back and reinterprets something from the past, whether it is an event, person, or idea. The things he focuses on are things that we tend to overlook or misunderstand. This is the best podcast for gaining a new perspective on just about anything. I love listening to Malcolm Gladwell and hearing how his mind works. He has such a unique way of looking at things. This is a podcast for everyone.

2. Serial
Image result for serial podcast logo
Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life (see #1) and hosted by Sarah Koenig. Every other podcast on this list, the episodes can be listened to in whatever order you want. Serial is different. This podcast works like a TV show, you have to start back at the beginning and work your way to the most recent. Right now, only 2 seasons have released. In the first season, Sarah Koenig followed the story of Adnan Syed, a teenage boy who was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend. He maintains his innocence to this day. Sarah investigates the murder, and the podcasts has even been posting updates as Adnan has been working on an appeal. The second season focuses on the story of Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban and held for 5 years. There is a lot of controversy involved in both storys and Sarah does a great job of covering all sides. This is a great podcast that will keep you hanging on the edge of your seat from episode 1 until the very end. 

1. This American Life
Image result for this american life podcast logo
This is my all time favorite podcast. Ira Glass hosts and covers every topic under the sun. Ira and his team search out stories of individual people in the midst of worldwide events. For example, one of my favorite episodes was one where they covered Syrian refugee camps in Greece. It was so real and unfiltered. I don't cry...like...ever...and I cried listening to that episode. They aren't all that heart-wrenching. Some of the stories are funny or touching. This is another one of those podcasts that is for everyone and I can't recommend it enough.

I hope I've given you enough to give you an idea of where to start with your podcast journey. I'd love to hear from you on some of your favorite podcasts. I'm always up for trying new ones. Leave a comment below!


Thursday, November 17, 2016

I Wish the Parents of My Students Understood...

Image result for teacher memes + do your work

We are getting close to the end of the semester. For me, that means kicking a lot of kids butts and contacting a lot of parents to warn them that their kids are failing a class that is required to graduate. It is one of my least favorite parts of this job. 

I set up my class so that students always have time in class to work on any assignments I give. I tell them at the beginning of the year that if they use the time in class I give them, they should never have homework. Most of the students take advantage of that.
I also tell them at the beginning of the year that as long as they complete their assignments and turn them in on time, then they will pass. If it's poorly done they aren't going to get an A, but they won't fail the class. You'd be surprised at how many kids don't grasp that concept. Just do the work during the time I give you in class and turn it in on time and you won't fail. Easy, right?

For most of my kids, it is easy. Most of them grasp the concept. But for the few who don't, this is one of the times during the year that makes me want to tear my hair out, because this is when I have to deal with those kids' parents. I dread it. Talking to parents makes me nervous. I try to communicate through email or phone calls when I can. I am young, and I look even younger than I am, so parents have a tendency to write me off before I even open my mouth. I often get comments along the lines of "Excuse me young lady, do you know where Mrs. Cockrell is? Oh! You're Mrs. Cockrell? I'm sorry, you look like a student!" or "Are you sure you're old enough to be a teacher? HaHa!"

It gets old.

Last week, I had a conversation with a parent about her child's failing grade. I've met this parent in person before, but this conversation was over email. We went back and forth a few times and talked about some of the things her child could do to help her grade - basically she just needed to turn in her missing work. After I had explained this to the mom, she responded by thanking me. She thanked me for letting her know, for being willing to help, and for everything I do for my kids. And I was shocked; floored, even. I was touched that this mom would say such nice things, especially after I had broken the news that her child was failing. It was one of the nicest things a parent has ever sent me. 

It was such a simple thing for her to say: "thank you." She understood that I wasn't out to get her child. She understood that I wanted her child to succeed in my class just as much as she did. She understood that my grading was fair, and that I couldn't just raise her child's grade - that it depended on her child turning in the work. That was so refreshing, and I realized how crazy it is that I would be so shocked by this; that this is something that is so rare

When I was training to become a teacher (yes, I have a degree, a teaching license, and everything - I am a professional who is qualified to do what I do), I was taught that parents and teachers are partners; that we should work together to ensure the education of the child. I naively thought that this was true and that my students' parents and I would support each other in trying to help the students understand and complete the work required. Unfortunately, that is all too often not how the parent-teacher relationship works. In fact, more often that not, teachers are put on the chopping block by parents. We are immediately distrusted. It's sad how such a kind and thoughtful email from a parent was so unusual for me. It's sad that this isn't the norm. 

I  wish the parents of my students understood, the way this one parent did, that I truly do want their child to succeed. I wish they understood how difficult it is to keep up with 150 teenagers; how they're all doing, what assignments they're missing, what their grades are, and how I can help each of them individually. And that doesn't even cover the personal stuff. I wish the parents of my students understood that I am not - nor will I ever be "out to get" their child...ever. 

I wish the parents of my students understood that I do not "give" students their grades. Students earn them. If their child is not happy with the grade they have in my class, then that isn't something I can just magically fix. I can help them understand concepts they are struggling with and I can allow them to turn in missing or late work for partial credit, but I can't just raise their grade for nothing. Not only is that unethical, what kind of message does it send our students? You might read this and think that it's crazy and that no one would ask a teacher to do that...you'd be wrong. 

I wish the parents of my students understood that I find absolutely no joy in their child's failures. Quite the opposite, actually.

A simple "thank you" from this parent went such a long way. It shouldn't be this shocking and it shouldn't be this rare, although that did make me appreciate it all the more. 

Please try to remember that your children's teachers are overworked and underpaid for a job that takes so much out of them. We wouldn't do what we did if we didn't genuinely care about your kids. When they have a failing grade, try to be open minded about the way you handle that discussion. Don't assign us a guilty verdict before understanding the circumstances around the grade - especially if the guilt lies heavily on your child for not completing required work. We want to work with you.

Let's make parent-teacher conferences a pleasant experience for all involved. It really is one of the best ways to help ensure that students succeed. 

That parent who sent me the nice email thanking me - her child has now completed enough of her missing work to bring her grade to well above passing.

Crazy how that works out...huh?

I Wish the Parents of My Students Understood...

Image result for teacher memes + do your work

We are getting close to the end of the semester. For me, that means kicking a lot of kids butts and contacting a lot of parents to warn them that their kids are failing a class that is required to graduate. It is one of my least favorite parts of this job. 

I set up my class so that students always have time in class to work on any assignments I give. I tell them at the beginning of the year that if they use the time in class I give them, they should never have homework. Most of the students take advantage of that.
I also tell them at the beginning of the year that as long as they complete their assignments and turn them in on time, then they will pass. If it's poorly done they aren't going to get an A, but they won't fail the class. You'd be surprised at how many kids don't grasp that concept. Just do the work during the time I give you in class and turn it in on time and you won't fail. Easy, right?

For most of my kids, it is easy. Most of them grasp the concept. But for the few who don't, this is one of the times during the year that makes me want to tear my hair out, because this is when I have to deal with those kids' parents. I dread it. Talking to parents makes me nervous. I try to communicate through email or phone calls when I can. I am young, and I look even younger than I am, so parents have a tendency to write me off before I even open my mouth. I often get comments along the lines of "Excuse me young lady, do you know where Mrs. Cockrell is? Oh! You're Mrs. Cockrell? I'm sorry, you look like a student!" or "Are you sure you're old enough to be a teacher? HaHa!"

It gets old.

Last week, I had a conversation with a parent about her child's failing grade. I've met this parent in person before, but this conversation was over email. We went back and forth a few times and talked about some of the things her child could do to help her grade - basically she just needed to turn in her missing work. After I had explained this to the mom, she responded by thanking me. She thanked me for letting her know, for being willing to help, and for everything I do for my kids. And I was shocked; floored, even. I was touched that this mom would say such nice things, especially after I had broken the news that her child was failing. It was one of the nicest things a parent has ever sent me. 

It was such a simple thing for her to say: "thank you." She understood that I wasn't out to get her child. She understood that I wanted her child to succeed in my class just as much as she did. She understood that my grading was fair, and that I couldn't just raise her child's grade - that it depended on her child turning in the work. That was so refreshing, and I realized how crazy it is that I would be so shocked by this; that this is something that is so rare

When I was training to become a teacher (yes, I have a degree, a teaching license, and everything - I am a professional who is qualified to do what I do), I was taught that parents and teachers are partners; that we should work together to ensure the education of the child. I naively thought that this was true and that my students' parents and I would support each other in trying to help the students understand and complete the work required. Unfortunately, that is all too often not how the parent-teacher relationship works. In fact, more often that not, teachers are put on the chopping block by parents. We are immediately distrusted. It's sad how such a kind and thoughtful email from a parent was so unusual for me. It's sad that this isn't the norm. 

I  wish the parents of my students understood, the way this one parent did, that I truly do want their child to succeed. I wish they understood how difficult it is to keep up with 150 teenagers; how they're all doing, what assignments they're missing, what their grades are, and how I can help each of them individually. And that doesn't even cover the personal stuff. I wish the parents of my students understood that I am not - nor will I ever be "out to get" their child...ever. 

I wish the parents of my students understood that I do not "give" students their grades. Students earn them. If their child is not happy with the grade they have in my class, then that isn't something I can just magically fix. I can help them understand concepts they are struggling with and I can allow them to turn in missing or late work for partial credit, but I can't just raise their grade for nothing. Not only is that unethical, what kind of message does it send our students? You might read this and think that it's crazy and that no one would ask a teacher to do that...you'd be wrong. 

I wish the parents of my students understood that I find absolutely no joy in their child's failures. Quite the opposite, actually.

A simple "thank you" from this parent went such a long way. It shouldn't be this shocking and it shouldn't be this rare, although that did make me appreciate it all the more. 

Please try to remember that your children's teachers are overworked and underpaid for a job that takes so much out of them. We wouldn't do what we did if we didn't genuinely care about your kids. When they have a failing grade, try to be open minded about the way you handle that discussion. Don't assign us a guilty verdict before understanding the circumstances around the grade - especially if the guilt lies heavily on your child for not completing required work. We want to work with you.

Let's make parent-teacher conferences a pleasant experience for all involved. It really is one of the best ways to help ensure that students succeed. 

That parent who sent me the nice email thanking me - her child has now completed enough of her missing work to bring her grade to well above passing.

Crazy how that works out...huh?