The title of this post is my spirit animal. My advisor in college used to tell me, “JACOBS [my maiden name], your ideas are creative and fabulous. Now KNOCK IT OFF. You’re working too hard. You don’t have to be creative and fabulous all the darn time. Somebody else has probably thought of your exact idea and it’s just sitting out there somewhere on the internet–waiting for you to find it!” And like a good little bright-eyed, green, shiny new teacher, I completely ignored him. It wasn’t until about five years into my career that I finally understood what he’d been trying to tell me all along: the best teachers don’t constantly create their own original content.
Good teaching is equal parts outright theft and allowing your own good ideas to be burglarized.
Where do my teaching resources come from these days?
The best I can do is give the “right now” answer. My sources are ever evolving because education is ever evolving. Teaching from the textbook simply doesn’t–and shouldn’t–cut it these days. I use the resources most teachers use like PDE SAS, ReadWriteThink, and Teachers Pay Teachers. But I also like a little spice in my professional life. Here are my top spots I plug into for great content for my students and inspiration for myself.
- noredink – This is my go to for most of my students’ grammar and writing needs. There is a premium/pay version of the site, but I’ve found the free version to be so robust, the thought of paying for the premium service has never crossed my mind.
- Collins Writing Program – My school pays for a Collins Writing consultant to come work with us a few times a year which is great, but even if your school doesn’t have that luxury, the Collins Ed website has volumes of common sense, user friendly graphic organizers and tips to help students improve their writing in all subject areas.
- Crash Course Literature – As an ELA teacher in a school that has adopted a blended learning model, I’m a HUGE fan of Crash Course (and the Vlog Brothers–but I’ll get to them in a bit). Crash Course saves me from constantly having to generate my own content for flipped lessons. The videos are attractive, engaging and high quality. I love starting my school year with John Green’s Why and How We Read.
Finding the support I need
I learned a long time ago that no one was going to scoop me under their wing and ask if I needed help. Good teachers advocate for themselves and seek feedback. At my school our 8th grade ELA teachers have a collaborative group on the platform Schoology. Here, we post resources, materials and provide each other with much needed support. We even swear we’re funny sometimes:
I also look to Twitter for new research and ideas. Twitter isn’t just a place for angry old men to yell at the world–it’s actually a pretty hip place for educators. There is lots of sound educational research posted daily just waiting for us to find it and use it. If you’re new to, and perhaps a little intimidated by, the “Twitterverse” here are some of my favorite people and pages to follow: Michael Soskil (@msoskil), George Couros (@gcouros), Carl Hooker (@mrhooker), and Genius Hour (@geniushour). These are great pages to get you started. Heck, you could even follow me in my own little corner of the world, @TheDaubert.
Oh, and let us not forget the blogs!
I don’t follow many blogs but there are a few I couldn’t live without.
- Jon Acuff – This is not a blog for teachers; it’s a blog for people everywhere who want to develop, grow, and get better at what they do no matter the profession. Acuff gives common sense tips and tricks for getting yourself organized, managing your time, and overcoming obstacles. He is also a spectacular author with several print books to peruse as well.
- A.J. Juliani – This man is a project based learning and Genius Hour powerhouse. I’m on his mailing list and I subscribe to his blog. If you are down with PBL, Mr. Juliani has got some killer resources for you!
- The Vlog Brothers – Yes, yes, I realize this is a vlog, not a blog, but it’s worth a look. Hank and John Green (yes, YA author John Green) produce fun, inspirational, and thought provoking content that motivates me as a human.
OK, Mrs. Daubert, this stuff is great, but don’t you teach in an urban public middle school?!
Yeah, so? Of course, my situation comes with its own unique challenges. Our 8th grade is 1:1 with iPads–cool, right? Sure, it would be if the kids had internet access at home–most of them don’t. That means that most of the content I provide for my students either needs to be accessed during the school day or available offline.
In this situation, PDFs are my friend! If I can pop a few PDFs of necessary material on my course Schoology page, students can download it before they leave the building for the day and still have offline access on their devices at home.
I also find it necessary to frontload my teaching with tons of how-tos and tutorials on using electronics, whether they be the school issued devices or the students’ own devices, effectively. Most of the adults my students go home to aren’t tech savvy. If I don’t teach them how to do the required work on their devices, it’s not going to get done.
With creative planning and lots of patience, we rise to the challenge. I’m always learning and growing and I expect nothing less of the students in my classes.
In my world, stealing is a good thing, but so is sharing–and grabbing a little bit of everything off the buffet. In my world, risks are a good thing. I take them every time I try a new app or resource. And I expect my students to take risks too. Most importantly, in my world, not every thing works all the time. Sometimes, new ideas totally stink. But it’s all good. Failure is a part of the process too!