Teacher’s Lounge Blog

Learn more about teacher preparation, test tips, online learning, professional development, and a variety of other valuable teacher topics.

Avoiding Teacher Burnout in the New School Year

August 3rd, 2022 | Comments Off on Avoiding Teacher Burnout in the New School Year | Teacher's Lounge Blog

Some polls suggest that over 50% of American school teachers feel extremely overwhelmed due to teacher burnout. The stresses and challenges of teaching are very real, as those who have taught understand very well. What I don’t want to do is tell you how important your job is and implore you to press on for the benefit of your students, as you’ve heard all of this before. Instead, the goal of this post is to provide you with 4 actionable, tangible steps that you can take to avoid teacher burnout in the 2022-2023 school year. These are strategies that have worked for myself and many of my colleagues, and I hope that they can be helpful to you as well.

  • Leave it at school. This statement could refer to a lot of things, but I’m going to use it to talk about grading papers. I understand that teachers occasionally need to take home papers to grade. As a former teacher, I’ve done my fair share of grading at the dining room table. However, I want to encourage you to leave those papers at school. It doesn’t have to be every day; I understand that wouldn’t be a tangible goal for most teachers. But- when you can, leave the papers at school. You might be shocked to find that they’ll still be waiting for you the next day.
  • When everything is going poorly, focus on what isn’t. When I would teach a lesson where everything felt as if it was going poorly, I would remind myself to focus on the things that were going well. I found that, for every student who was acting out, there were always two or three others who were engaged in the activity. For every student who appeared mentally checked out, there were always one or two others asking questions about the lesson. Although you may try, you cannot control how your students behave or whether or not they bring a desire to learn into your classroom on any given day. You can only control yourself and your own reactions. It sounds simple, but remember to look for what is good when everything feels as though it’s going badly.
  • Do things for yourself. On your way to work, grab an overpriced latte from the coffee shop nearest to your school. Enjoy a glass of wine on a Saturday evening. Go to dinner with that friend group you haven’t seen much since you started teaching. Get rest. Exercise. Read a book. You do so much for your students. Make it a priority to take care of yourself.
  • Take a mental health day, if you need one. I’ve known people in both my personal life and my career life who were against taking mental health days for one reason or another. Maybe it’s because taking a day off makes them feel weak or helpless, or perhaps they feel a sense of pride, or even moral obligation, to show up for work in spite of any struggles they might be dealing with. While I admire these folks in some ways, I also feel sorry for them- because they will never know what it feels like to sleep until 11am on a school day, waking up just in time for The Price is Right. When you need one, take a mental health day, and do not apologize for it.

Developing Phonemic Awareness – Rhyming

July 9th, 2021 | Comments Off on Developing Phonemic Awareness – Rhyming | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

Children enter the early childhood classroom from various backgrounds, from those who were read to starting from the womb and others having little to no exposure to the written word. Fostering an environment that helps youngsters develop these skills no matter their experience is beneficial for all.

Rhyming involves the repetition of ending word sounds. Hearing, identifying, and creating rhymes allows students to understand how words and language work. It helps them anticipate and predict, which are valuable reading skills.

Rhyming games and songs are an excellent tool to aid children in identifying beginning sounds and rhyming words. These types of activities allow students to hear and repeat sounds, manipulate words, and rhyme. Understanding these concepts prepares them for more complex skills later.

A combination of implicit and explicit rhyming instruction can be useful. Implicit training involves rhyming skills in context, like chanting a nursery rhyme together. Teaching about rhymes, modeling the concept, and allowing students to complete the activity is an example of explicit instruction.

How to Teach Rhymes

  • Rhyming Songs – “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “B-I-N-G-O”
  • Nursery Rhymes – “Little Boy Blue” and “Open Them, Shut Them”
  • Rhyming Books – Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
  • Word Comparisons – Students determine whether provided spoken words rhyme or not. 
  • Matching Games – Games like Memory or Concentration with picture cards.
  • Additional Activities – Show students three pictures, two of which rhyme and one that does not. Children must identify the picture that does not belong.

Repetition of favorite songs and books emphasizes the concept. Find a few that your class enjoys and use them often throughout the year. After you develop a classroom rhyme repertoire, allow students to choose their favorites to read/recite during a specific day or week.

This is just one important topic that is covered on the Foundations of Reading certification exam that is required for many licenses, including the elementary teaching license.

Reading Comprehension and Evaluation – Objective vs Biased Writing

June 1st, 2021 | Comments Off on Reading Comprehension and Evaluation – Objective vs Biased Writing | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

All teacher candidates wonder how to score their best on certification exams, whether they are taking the MTEL, FTCE, Praxis, or another state test. Each certification exam includes a reading comprehension section. Even the best readers often shudder when approaching this subject matter. What if your interpretation is different than what the text means? Can you even prepare for the reading comprehension portion of the exam?

Yes, you can. After reading the presented passage, one of the first things to do is determine whether the text is objective or biased. This will help you understand what you will be asked in the question portion of the exercise. 

Evaluating the intent behind a written passage is beneficial not only on your certification exam but also when reading an article in a magazine, the newspaper, or online content. 

Here are just a few facts to look for when reading a passage to decide whether factual or opinion-based writing.

Objective Writing 

  • The language in the text is neutral, and the writer does not “take sides” on an issue.
  • Both pros and cons are presented, or “all sides” of the topic.
  • Multiple sources for and against the subject are offered.
  • The writer’s opinion includes supporting facts, and all relevant information is included.

 

Biased Writing

  • The writing is often emotional and leans toward the opinions of only one side of an argument or issue.
  • The writer’s claims or statements are usually unsupported with facts.
  • The only sources used are those that support the writer’s opinion.
  • Facts and information from the opposing side are missing.

 

When you determine the difference between the two types of passages in an exam or other setting, it is easier to draw the appropriate conclusions in the writing and answer related questions in the manner that the examiners have pre-determined.

Check out our teacher certification exam prep courses to learn additional ways to improve your scores on your teacher licensure exam. It can be done!

Professional Development for Teachers – COVID Edition

March 29th, 2021 | Comments Off on Professional Development for Teachers – COVID Edition | Certification Prep, Inclusive Teaching, Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Not only has the pandemic affected instructors, students, and families around the world profoundly and unexpectedly over these last 12 months, it has created a multitude of other educational concerns. From computer access and proficiency to lack of socialization to innovations in teaching safely in-person, online, and in a hybrid setting, many issues must necessarily be addressed sooner rather than later.

One problem directly involving teachers is continuing education or professional development credits. Opportunities for district and state workshops, conferences, seminars, and retreats have been limited or altogether canceled over the last year, which may cause challenges for many teachers who do not have enough credits for their upcoming recertification.

The specific number of professional development hours required by state varies but may range from 50 to 120 credit hours over a five-year period. If you are one of the teachers who tends to wait until the last minute, you may be worried about how you will get in the hours you need before your time is up.

Fortunately, there are continuing education options online. Subjects are diverse and include core subjects like reading, writing, and mathematics, and working with students with disabilities in an inclusive classroom, as well as a myriad of other topics. You will find these options through many universities or companies such as PrepForward (www.prepforward.com).

With uncertainty still looming for the rest of this school year and, indeed, for 2021-2022, now is the perfect time to explore professional development options. Take a few minutes to browse online to find subjects that interest you and that will help you be a better educator.

Sign up for a course or two now or plan for the summer to ensure you have the time you need to register and complete a class and gain the hours necessary to maintain your certification status.

Praxis Test I and II Today

February 4th, 2021 | Comments Off on Praxis Test I and II Today | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Becoming an educator is not for the faint-hearted. Not only must you complete your college courses with acceptable scores, but you are also subjected to one or more licensing exams that you must score well on before you receive your teaching certificate. 

If your state requires Praxis exams for teacher licensure, it can help to understand what type of tests are needed and what you will be evaluated on. Initially, the Praxis consisted of the Praxis I and Praxis II exams.

The Praxis I or PPST (Pre-Professional Skills Test) consisted of three different tests covering mathematics, writing, and reading. A passing score for each exam was required. The Praxis I was offered through the fall of 2014.

The Praxis II also had three separate components that included Teaching Foundation, PLT or Principles of Learning and Teaching, and Subject Assessments in various subject areas.

Today, the Core or Core Academic Skills for Educators is administered in place of the Praxis I but still covers math, writing, and reading basics. This exam is only offered via computer and incorporates multiple-choice questions as well as two essays.

Testing for Subject Assessments remains the same. The Educational Testing Service offers practice tests in each subject area for a fee.

Testing fees vary for each exam and are not cheap. If you must re-take an exam, you must pay the testing fee again, so it is best to be well-prepared the first time. Take an online refresher course if needed. PrepForward has several options that include all major subject areas.

While most states in the U.S. require the Praxis, some have other requirements. For example, Massachusetts requires the MTEL, and Florida utilizes the FTCE.

No matter what exams you must take to finalize the licensing mandates in your state, it pays to be prepared. Learn which tests are required for the state(s) in which you will be teaching and when they are offered and start studying well in advance. You will be in your own classroom before you know it!

Yes, there are Advantages to Online Classrooms

November 12th, 2020 | Comments Off on Yes, there are Advantages to Online Classrooms | Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

After about six months’ worth of online, in-person, or hybrid classes, what do you think about virtual learning? Has teaching gone the way you had hoped and planned? Your answer is probably no. However, there are advantages to the online learning platform, whether you are teaching in that format or are taking professional development or advanced degree classes yourself. 

Since the spring of 2020, millions of students and teachers worldwide have experienced at least one course by computer, whether it was by choice or not. Many classrooms were forced into a virtual platform because of COVID-19. Neither students nor instructors were prepared for the adjustments required, from lesson preparation to assessments to technical difficulties. 

It is time for a little evaluation of teaching and learning virtually. There are quite a few benefits inherent in online education. 

  • The classroom setting can be anywhere. Choose to teach (or learn) at the kitchen table, your bedroom, on the front porch, a home office, or any other place. There is no commuting time or worries about traffic, high heels are optional, and (usually) only your head and shoulders are seen in class. It is smart, though, to utilize a relatively undisturbed area for class time.
  • Virtual learning has few limits. Classes are available on any subject from anywhere in the world. If you teach second grade but are interested in art found at the Louvre, you can do it or sign up for an online class in math or reading to brush up on those skills for your own virtual classroom. 
  • Online education does not cost as much as in-person classes. Expenses rise each year to attend school, from private preschools to public middle and high schools to prominent universities. While some classes may be better in traditional classroom settings, like a biology lab or a communication class, most programs work quite well online. Instead of paying sometimes exorbitant fees to sit in a classroom, many courses online are free or as low as $50, in some cases, depending on the institution and program. Financial aid is available, too.
  • Classes may be self-paced instead of requiring due dates. Complete assignments when you are ready. If you have a full-time day job, study at night. This type of schedule can be more challenging with a traditional school setting.
  • Add to your resume. Whether you take online classes yourself or are now teaching them, there are related skills that you can add to your portfolio. 

Obtaining an online degree or teaching courses virtually can be a convenient and less expensive means of imparting or receiving knowledge. Educators are always learning new things. Embrace the changes and add a few more skills to your already extensive educational repertoire.