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.

What You Need to Know about Current Teacher Salaries

September 19th, 2021 | Comments Off on What You Need to Know about Current Teacher Salaries | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

While a teacher shortage is “old news,” and teacher salaries are slowly increasing every year, one thing is looking up for some potential educators, depending on where you plan to teach.

Although the pandemic has created an economic decline, most public education teachers are getting paid more. According to the NEA (National Education Association), the average teacher salary in the United States for the past 2020-2021 school year was about $65,000, which increased by one and a half percent over the previous year.

However, planned educator raises in some communities were put on hold after the pandemic started because of an economic domino effect that spiraled quickly, and it’s difficult to gauge where issues will stand going forward, as the COVID-19 fallout continues to be highly unstable.

If you hope to be an educator in New York, Massachusetts, and California, the salaries in these locations are the highest in the U.S., on average ranging from $85,000 to $87,000 annually. According to the same study, pay for teachers in Florida, South Dakota, and Mississippi is the lowest, averaging $47,000 to $49,000 per year.

Of course, these figures do not include the different costs of living in various areas of the country. Typically, living in midwest and southern states is less expensive than in the north and west, and these are many of the states where teacher salaries are lowest.

Starting salaries are considerably lower in over 6,000 school districts across the country – often less than $40,000, which can be detrimental to teacher hiring and retention. Urban and rural communities often have a more challenging time attracting and keeping teachers because of each type of district’s unique issues. More educators prefer suburban schools and are more prevalent.

What does all this mean for educators today? Whether you plan to teach in your hometown, will relocate to a large city, or want to experience country life and teach in a rural school, knowing the differences in salary should be part of your overall decision-making process. If you are thinking about teaching, you can prepare for teacher certification exams with PrepForward’s licensure prep

What Makes a “Good” Teacher?

July 26th, 2021 | Comments Off on What Makes a “Good” Teacher? | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

While you may not campaign for Teacher of the Year, being a good educator is essential. After all, entering this profession assumes a desire to help students learn more about themselves and the world. Those just entering the teaching profession may wonder what characteristics aid in being the best teacher, whether you work with preschoolers or college students.

Here are just a few (of many) factors that contribute to being a quality educator no matter what grade level you teach.

  • Open and willing to accept change. Education constantly evolves, from year to year, and sometimes minute by minute (think – fire drill in the middle of a test). The ability to expect things to change and adapt quickly can save your sanity and create a learning environment where students can succeed no matter what the circumstances.
  • A good listener. When we hear what students are saying, we can better understand their needs as individuals and adjust accordingly. Sometimes the teacher is the only person a child feels comfortable talking to about school or personal issues.
  • Flexible communication skills. Most educators can easily talk to students, but communication also involves effectively dealing with parents in positive and negative situations and presenting lessons in varied formats to reach all learners. Teachers should be able to use various media, from whiteboards and tablets to personal notes and pats on the back to reach the classroom and school community. 
  • Commitment to self-improvement. Virtually all teachers not only value learning but enjoy it. Professional development is crucial, whether you want to brush up on your mathematics or reading skills or attend a summer in-service on computer games that increase collaborative learning.
  • Enjoy your job. No job is fun 100% of the time, but educators who love teaching reflect that in their attitude. Students are more engaged with teachers who are excited to impart a new concept or project.
  • Maintain a sense of humor. Sometimes things that go wrong make you want to cry, but it’s always better to laugh. Keeping a positive attitude and taking problems in stride benefits your mental health and creates a better classroom environment.

 

Whether you are a first-year teacher or it’s your 30th, you still can make a favorable impression on your students and positively impact their lives.

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!

Sample MTEL65 Middle School Math Open Response

May 14th, 2021 | Comments Off on Sample MTEL65 Middle School Math Open Response | Certification Prep, Math Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

MA DESE is updating many MTEL exams over the coming year.  As of the end of May, the MTEL 47 Middle School Math exam will be replaced by the MTEL 65 Middle School Math exam.  This is a welcome change for many as many of the more difficult concepts, including calculus and discrete math, were removed for this new exam.  There will still be two open response questions on this MTEL exam and one is quite different than the previous exam. Here is a quick sample problem with a response.  For more information on preparing for this exam, please check out our full-length, MTEL prep comprehensive course with unlimited expert instructor support. (www.prepforward.com/mtel-massachusetts)

The following is a sample problem for Objective 14 on the new MTEL 65 exam. 

Standard: The Massachusetts Mathematics Curriculum Framework for grade 7 provides the following content standard:
Expressions and Equations (7.EE)
1. Apply properties of operations to add, subtract, factor, and expand linear expressions with rational coefficients.

Problems

1. Solve for x:  3x – 7 = 2/3
2. Factor  x2 + 4x + 4
3. Simplify  6(-x + 0.5) 

Assignment
Analyze standard 7.EE.1.  Identify related prerequisite concepts and skills.  Critique whether the problems listed above are aligned with the content standard. Provide your own problem with different representations to teach the standard. Explain your reasoning.

 

Here is a sample response for the above problem. 

The 7th grade standard under Expressions and Equations involves an application of the properties of operations to add, subtract, factor, and expand linear expressions with rational coefficients. Therefore, a student must understand associative, commutative, and distributive properties as a prerequisite. Furthermore, as the coefficients are rational, a student must be comfortable with all the operations with rational numbers, including negatives, fractions, and decimals. Finally, students must understand how to identify if two expressions are equivalent. 

Given Problems:

1. Solve for x:  3x – 7 = 2/3
2. Factor  x2 + 4x + 4
3. Simplify  6(-x + 0.5) 

There were three sample problems given for teaching this standard. Unfortunately, the first sample problem does not fit under this standard as the problem asks the student to solve an equation, which is a concept that is taught later as this standard only deals with expressions. The second sample problem also does not fit under this standard as it is not a linear expression, but a quadratic expression. The third sample problem is an appropriate question to ask students under this standard. 

In addition to problems similar to the third sample problem, one part of this standard is teaching students to use the distributive property to find equivalent expressions.  An area model will help students visualize this.  A sample is included below.

In this problem, a student would be asked to simplify 3(2x + 5).  Using the area model, they would be asked to find the area of each rectangle and then add them together to find the total area of both rectangles. 

 

 

Using Social Media in the Classroom

April 15th, 2021 | Comments Off on Using Social Media in the Classroom | Inclusive Teaching, Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

If you teach young people ages ten and up (and often younger), it is a given that they are attached to their phones at every opportunity. Why not take advantage of social media in and out of the classroom to engage your students in a different and exciting way?

Many educators view social media as a nightmare to be tolerated, but it can be useful – and promote learning – in the proper context. Try one or more of these recommendations to tickle the interest of your students in a new way. It is an excellent opportunity for students to interact who may not feel comfortable speaking up in class.

Create a Class Blog
For a twist on traditional writing assignments, have students share their writing online in a class blog. Writing online where everyone in the class sees it can foster classroom community and teaches online communication basics in a blog format. Require classmates to comment on posts.

Write Twitter Summaries
With a limit of 280 characters in 2021, it can be challenging to get your point across via Twitter. Sharpen your students’ writing skills by having them “tweet” a summary of a poem or chapter, answer a question, or write a really short story within the character constraints.

Classroom Facebook Page
Although Facebook is no longer the “in” social media platform for most youngsters, use it to create a class forum by posting homework assignments, school activities, and contact information. Include parents, too.

Social Media Profile
Make history come alive by having students create social media profiles for historical figures, whether they are handwritten or posted to Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Classmates can post comments and ask the person questions, requiring the poster to have extensive knowledge of the historical figure.

 

As with all online communication, it is essential to ensure that everyone follows the school’s rules for acceptable use policies. It may also be prudent to download monitoring software to notify you of at-risk behavior and protect students from cyberbullying.

Since students are online so much anyway, why not incorporate it in the classroom? It is easier than you think, and your class may surprise you with their creativity.