Sage Advice: Fresh Start for Fall

What's your resolution for the new school year?

What's your resolution for the new school year?

Continue to be an example of kindness and fairness. Allow children to believe in themselves and their unique contributions to their individual lives and the bigger world around them. It is imperative that we are cognizant of how we affect the lives of children.

Christine Termini Passarella

Teacher, the Holliswood School
Jamaica Estates, New York

Every day, call each student by name.

Bob Herring

Nativity School
Cincinnati, Ohio

Get as many students in my district teaching technology to as many of the teachers in my district as I can. The students learn by teaching, and the teachers learn by listening.

Kern Kelley

Technology integrator
Maine School Administrative District 48
Newport, Maine

Stop the increasing use of rhetoric plaguing education communications.

Donald Whittinghill

Louisiana School Boards Association
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Be more visible as an administrator. It makes such a difference to staff and students, but it takes real effort to make it a priority over email, discipline, and returning phone calls.

Tana Larsen

Associate principal
Sage Valley Junior High School
Gillette, Wyoming

Make my classroom more Earth friendly. My goal is to use daily waste to create a compost pile and let the students use the compost in creating a garden for our school. Children need to know that the Earth's resources aren't unlimited, and that we must give back as much as possible.

Fourth-grade teacher

J.D. Lever Elementary School
Aiken, South Carolina

Sit at my desk less and circulate around the room to help my students more. It is so easy to review yesterday's work, do the instruction, provide guided practice, give the assignment, and then just sit and expect the students to do it without help. Effective teachers search out the students who need help and offer assistance. Ineffective classroom supervisors sit and wait for the problems to come to them.

Julia C. Polak

Science teacher
Exeter-Milligan Schools
Milligan, Nebraska

Be much more proactive in educating our legislative body regarding the needs of twenty-first-century students, which include skills such as technology literacy and critical thinking, requisite skills for successful twenty-first-century citizens. It becomes increasingly difficult to get elected officials to consider future needs when their frame of reference is their individual educational experiences.

John R. Morton

Superintendent, Newton Public Schools
Newton, Kansas

Apply all the tips, information, and knowledge I learned by attending instructional workshops.

Nelly Mobbs

Spanish teacher
St. Pius X School
El Paso, Texas

Be the loudest advocate that I can possibly be for school 2.0. At NECC this year, I was inspired by all the teacher/learners and the importance of closing the digital divide to make sure all students can access the read/write Web. Students, teachers, and administrators need to be taught about the ethical and educational uses for the technology that surrounds them every day.

Marcie Hull

Technology coordinator
Science Leadership Academy Center City
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Do not bite off more than you can chew! We are always volunteering for projects and committees. Choose one or two in which you can make a meaningful contribution and politely decline any other offers. You will enjoy the school year more if you are not overburdened.

Sue Hutchinson

Instructional-technology specialist
Patrick Henry High School
Stockbridge, Georgia

Walk into school with the same excitement and enthusiasm I had thirty-two years ago (my first year as a teacher). I can still remember that feeling, and I want to recapture and relish that memory in the last few years of my career, the golden years.

Jesse McClain

Language arts teacher
Boardman Center Middle School
Boardman, Ohio

I resolve to spark my students' imaginations more by allowing them time to construct their own ideas and images before imposing my own. Creativity is not a bad word in education -- no matter what the standardized-testing-program camps may say.

Ge-Anne Bowdoin

Technology teacher
Naomi Elementary School
LaFayette, Georgia

I resolve that every elected official with budget responsibility will fill in for a day for any teacher in any classroom in their district. The teacher gets to have the day off, just like the legislators do on Mondays and Fridays.

David J. Jaroch

Math and business teacher
Ubly Community Schools
Ubly, Michigan

Make learning relevant and connected to the students' world outside of school. If students see connections between school and real life, they are more likely to be engaged in the classroom.

Todd Feltman

Mentor teacher, Region 10
New York City Department of Education
New York, New York

Take my time. There is no curriculum plan, no department lesson map, no traditional "We always do it this way" that is more important than doing a good job of teaching. My focus for next year is to take time to do a good job teaching kids and not a good job of meeting planned deadlines.

Lilly Brooks

Teacher, English II and reading
Taylor County High School
Perry, Florida

My goal is to maintain the enthusiasm and spark that I have in September throughout the entire year. A teacher's demeanor speaks volumes of his or her attitude toward teaching, while demonstrating the effective aspects of learning. Rather than dwelling too much on the problems of the past or the responsibilities of the future, I want my students and myself to enjoy the pleasures of today!

Sherri Friedrich

Third-grade classroom/fourth-grade reading teacher
St. Josaphat School
Cheektowaga, New York

A workshop presenter challenged, "Instead of filling your classroom with learning centers, make your entire classroom a center for learning." So my resolution is to change the way I look at the setup and organization of my classroom so that the purpose of everything in the room -- every display, poster, work area, and activity -- is to invite the students to make connections, ask and answer questions, and take charge of their learning. I want them to be stimulated and excited by the possibilities in every area of the room and to incorporate reading and writing -- by and to each other -- into all the subject areas.

Molly Holiday

Kings Beach Elementary School
Kings Beach, California

I hope to smile and laugh more. Don't put off grading. Take time to enjoy the students and the "cool" moments that happen in and out of the classroom.

Tracey Ward

English teacher
Olentangy Liberty High School
Powell, Ohio

I want to break routine and take my students by surprise more often. When this strategy works, everybody learns and everybody has fun -- especially me!

Steve Ward

Instructor and adviser
Department of Teaching, Learning & Technology, University of Central Arkansas
Conway, Arkansas

As a resource specialist, my resolution is to introduce my students to Google's Docs & Spreadsheets program as a tool in which to do all their writing assignments. What better way to assist students who struggle with organization (losing their work as they move from class to class and then home)? With their work safely tucked away on the Internet, they can access it at any location. Those who struggle with writing can invite me and their teachers to collaborate, so we can assist them in developing their writing skills.

Joy Lancaster

Resource specialist
Miller Creek Middle School
San Rafael, California

I want to become more proficient with technology and become better equipped to teach my students how to use it to express themselves.

Rhonda Browning

Severe/profound teacher
217A East Josephine Street
Gonzales, Louisiana

Continue to integrate technology into my reading class. Most of my junior high school students do not want to read. We have to strive to look for ways to get them reading. In 2007, it is all about technology, from videoconferencing to podcasting. Students love technology; pair that with a reason to read, and you have success.

Gina Robinson

Fairfield Independent School District
Fairfield, Texas

1. I hereby resolve to learn the new Microsoft Office 2007 programs during this summer vacation. I need to learn the programs to teach them well. This resolution includes installing new programs on donated computers before school starts.
2. I hereby resolve to write lesson plans for my K-8 classes for the new software programs. Student learning cannot be left to the same old methods.
3. I hereby resolve that my lessons will include student input. I will involve students in helping plan activities and apply their learning.

Betty Foster

K-8 technology teacher
St. Thomas More School
Omaha, Nebraska

I hope to increase hands-on discovery learning by 50 percent. Last year, we built balsa-wood bridges and tested their weight-bearing capacity. We tested math skills, Newton's laws of gravity, and Bernoulli's principle by building and flying tetrahedral kites.

Michelle McMaster

English-language-learner teacher
Valley Oak High School
Napa, California

Be creative in providing students with the extra help they need to strengthen areas of weakness.

Maria Vergez

Chestnut Ridge Middle School
Chestnut Ridge, New York

Use an enhanced video iPod and mobile communications to experiment with the new iPhone! I am making lesson plans that utilize this enhanced iPod to complement our creative arts program. I call it Cape Podcast.

Peg Verdi

Computer graphics/Web-design teacher
Falmouth High School
Falmouth, Massachusetts

I resolve to give my students the best of me for the seven hours a day we share. I resolve to live the life I would wish for them by reading every day, limiting my screen time, eating healthfully, exercising daily, treating others the way I wish to be treated, and remaining positive and curious about the world around me. Last, I resolve to forgive my students and myself when we fail to live up to my expectations.

Janet Nordfors

Fourth-grade teacher
State Street School
Brewer, Maine

Sharpen our school focus and create laserlike attention on students' individual needs. I want to increase input from staff, students, and families about our goals for helping students make healthy choices for successful lives in and out of the classroom.

Anne Roundy-Harter

De Anza Middle School
Ventura, California

As a principal of an independent K-8 school, I am resolved to join the students in being active in the community outside the school.

John Finch

Chandler School
Pasadena, California

Demonstrate leadership and set an example by rolling up my sleeves and integrating technology in all that I do.

Mary Lou Baldwin

Technology facilitator
Glen Grove Elementary School
Glenview, Illinois

Positively touch as many students' lives as I can in the thirty-six weeks I have them. In today's busy world, my undivided attention to each student will be a personal goal, as I continue my mission of instilling a love of reading. As the library media specialist, my media center is the nucleus of the building and I create a warm, inviting environment for all students. I've been working on my upcoming school year's theme, which is "Camp Out in the Library This Year!" I have a tent, tree stumps, firewood, bears, and fishing poles. I will use this as the focal point to lure the kids into reading!

Anna Grady

Library media specialist
Jefferson Elementary School
Shawnee, Oklahoma

My resolution for this year is to be consistent in our studies and to work regularly in order for my students to have a coherent, effortless, and comprehensive understanding of the material we are studying.

Alaa Mencke

Home educator
Jonesville, Kentucky

As the library media specialist in an urban K-5 school, I'd like to begin the school year collaborating with teachers I'm not accustomed to working with. For several years, our multidimensional, cross-curricular, essential-questions-based units have flowed because I jump in with teachers I've worked with before. It may be time to take a deep breath and extend myself as a resource to some novice teachers.

Beverly Kehoe

Media specialist
Public School 36
Bronx, New York

Get more students and teachers involved in multimedia projects involving such things as wikis, blogs, and podcasts. As technology resource teacher for an elementary school, it is my job to work with classroom teachers to develop lessons that enhance and enrich the curriculum through the use of technology.

Karen Hurd

Technology resource teacher
Collegiate School
Richmond, Virginia

My resolution is to take my education staff off site on some "radical sabbaticals." These will be field trips where we visit a variety of fun, educational, or enlightening cultural institutions or attractions. Stepping outside of our own world and looking at how others do things will inspire us and encourage us to think about what we do in new, different, and creative ways. It will also provide time and space for us to brainstorm and have conversations with each other in ways that would not be possible during the busy workday.

Jane Lavino

Sugden Family curator of education
National Museum of Wildilfe Art
Jackson, Wyoming

My resolution is to be consciously aware that it is what the students are doing and thinking that is of utmost importance. What I do is of importance only when it helps the students learn. It doesn't matter if I know all the answers or make foolish mistakes. Do my actions help them learn?

Rich Morrow

Mathematics coordinator
Challenge School
Denver, Colorado

I will work harder to make each student feel appreciated for his or her talents.

Eileen Browning

Team 4 RLA
Shiloh Middle School
Hampstead, Maryland

As an instructional-technology resource teacher, I have made a resolution to learn new things this summer by taking online classes through PBS and then bring what I have learned to my teachers. I want them to bring technology into their lessons whenever and wherever possible.

Dawn Lynn Eibel

Instructional-technology resource teacher
Northside Middle School
Norfolk, Virginia

Record 500 additional narrated video tutorials this summer. I'm at 181 at present (bringing the total to 2,223 and counting).

Mike Skocko

Media-arts instructor
Valhalla High School
El Cajon, California

My resolution for next school year consists of two parts: My first resolution is simply to be a better teacher this year than I was last; the second resolution comes from teacher/writer Jeffrey Wilhelm, who writes that if a pro baseball team won even just three-fifths of its games, it could still be a World Series contender. If he can feel positive about how three out of five lessons went, or if he can feel he's reached three out of five of his students, he can forgive himself the days when things don't work as he'd want them to. No one, including pro baseball players, can win them all; but he reminds me I don't have to. I can strive for three-fifths (with hope for the rest) and still feel OK.

Mindy Berry Hanson

English teacher
Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County
Newark, Ohio

My resolution for the new school year is to personalize the high school more. As educators, we should know something about our students; their accomplishments should be celebrated and recognized. Did he just become an Eagle Scout? Did she donate hair to Locks of Love? Did they rescue a neighbor's pet? We should know students and call them by name even if they are not in our own classes. When we recognize students in this way, they feel validated and valued!

Linda A. Kellner

Assistant principal
Baldwin Senior High School
Baldwin, New York

I will be vocally opposed to judging students and schools based on standardized test scores. The research is clear that the practice is hurtful and inaccurate. Regardless of federal mandates, I will support my teachers in teaching children -- not tests.

Kenny D. Bridges

Cheraw School District, No. 31
Cheraw, South Carolina

This year, I promise to add six new things to my practice. The first and biggest will be learning how to use my new Smart Board and projector. I'm very excited about moving in this new direction with my students.

Ruth Manna

Second-grade teacher
Conway Grammar School
Conway, Massachusetts

More celebration and recognition of the hard work that occurs each day in our schools! It is too easy to be consumed by the pressures and weight of our work. Let's keep a sharp eye open for those small or large victories, those lightbulb moments, those breakthrough events when we are reminded of the power of learning.

Anna Pilloton

Executive director, Marin Teaching Network
Kentfield School District Trustees
Kentfield, California

My resolution for the new school year is to use less paper and more computer files. I would like to keep computer files on each student, including discipline issues, parent contacts, and administrative involvement. My only challenge is having enough room on the school's server to keep these files. I hope this system will help me get more organized as well as present a method to easily communicate issues with parents by emailing them copies of the files.

Vivian Watts

Foreign-language teacher
King William High School
King William, Virginia

I hope to help every teacher at my school integrate a video project aligned with the curriculum each teaches.

Elaine Farrar

Technology resource teacher
The Douglass School
Leesburg, Virginia

My goal is to continue to find ways to broaden young children's understanding of our global responsibility to help others. Our daily actions impact our planet, and kids need to grow up plugged into this reality. Last year, our 500-student elementary school raised $18,000 for global poverty by holding a garage sale. Kids can make a difference!

Cynthia Kalogeropoulos

Grove Avenue School
Barrington, Illinois

Get challenged, be confronted, feel uncomfortable, and open my heart to the diverse and loving crowd at my school.

Bobbi Macdonald

Founder and president
City Neighbors Charter School
Baltimore, Maryland

I resolve to not let high-stakes testing get in the way of true learning and love of knowledge in children. I resolve to let my inherent passion for students be a guide for my leadership in the classroom. I further resolve to do my best to instill a sense of intrinsic motivation in students rather than prod them with external gimmicks and prizes. In short, I resolve to teach!

Kimberly Fandiño

Lebanon High School
Lebanon, Oregon

I have three areas that direct my focus for improvement: myself, the facility, and the students. My focus this coming year is National Board Certification, which will require involvement of all three areas. After teaching twenty years, I have learned to pick one major focus to work on. If another teacher will mentor you, use him or her. Discover what resources are available and keep the goal high but obtainable. If you are a new teacher, work to establish relationships with good teachers in your building. Stay focused on your selected task; this will improve your chances of succeeding in your resolution.

Tom Toalson

Department chair, technology education
Lafayette High School
St. Joseph, Missouri

To get to know each student and his or her family and to understand their needs. Also, I am going to give each student a clear-cut set of expectations on how to succeed in the classroom and how to help others to do the same.

Donna Pence

Elementary school teacher
Loneman School
Oglala, South Dakota (Pine Ridge Reservation)

My resolution for the new school year is to get organized. Easier said than done, but I am going to try! Organization is the key to any kind of classroom (or library) management.

Kimberly Vasquez

School librarian
Morgan City, Louisiana

Enhance technology in my classroom. Over the summer break, I have created a new virtual lesson-plan book with hyperlinks to lessons that incorporate the Smart Board with hands-on activities and visual aids.

Kathy Hotop-Raines

Second-grade teacher
St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School
Cape Girardeau, Missouri

This is my first year teaching sixth grade. I want to make the year an adventure for the students, making each day a continuation of the previous day. I want to incorporate math, science, social studies, reading, and writing so that each subject continues on the current theme and builds on the lessons of the others. I want to have running themes that will encourage students to look for additional information and solutions on their own.

Michael Shaw

AFT, Chicago Public Schools
Chicago, Illinois

I resolve that I will be out of the office, roaming the campus and in the middle of life at school for at least two hours every day.

George J.W. Lawrence Jr.

Westminster Christian School
Westminster, Florida

I am resolved to decrease the stress in my fourth-grade classroom and increase depth of learning. I will not let inappropriate demands on me (such as redundant documentation that does not enhance performance in the classroom) or my students (developmentally inappropriate objectives, state demands to pass multiple-choice tests over teaching thinking skills and a love of learning) interfere with what I know to be good teaching. I will stand up for what I know is right.

Kelley Curtis

Rabun County Elementary School
Tiger, Georgia

After ten years in the inner city, for the first time in my life, I am burned out. My resolution for the next school year is to balance the stress and pressure placed on me by administrators who continuously place with me students who have ADHD, are gifted and talented, or are underachievers, or any student, for that matter, who may seem like a challenge to his or her assigned educator.

Maggie Williams

Second-grade teacher
Irvington, New Jersey

I hope to implement more project-based learning using Understanding by Design.

Ed Gibbs

Three Oaks Elementary School
Virginia Beach, Virginia

I will never expect anything but the best from my students. I will never underestimate them. I believe that the students will always rise to the level of my expectation of them. The same goes for my expectations of myself as a teacher. I promise them at the beginning of the year to expect good things from class. I must meet that challenge daily.

Joanne Teasdale

Kindergarten teacher
Blessed Sacrament School
Staten Island, New York

Stay even more connected on academic progress. I will work to send weekly email updates with grade reports, test days, project/rubric details, conference reminders, and so on. I will make more phone calls to parents (positive and negative), and request that more students stop in at the end of the day. These few communicative steps will aid all parties.

Daryl Boeckers

Spanish teacher
Buffalo High School
Buffalo, Minnesota

In memory of a student who was killed in a fatal shooting this past weekend, I will not only teach English, I will also strive to impart life lessons to my freshmen. The life lessons will include how to be both socially conscious and socially responsible, the larger picture of life (the world does not revolve around me), respect (for myself, for others, for our world, and ways to show it, such as manners and common courtesies), empathy (walking in someone else's shoes), and, last, your future (seeing, planning, and working toward your goals.)

Susan Garcia

Language arts teacher
James Logan High School
Union City, California

Help my staff make personal connections with our students. As in most schools, we have students that fail to achieve. There are many variables that can cause students to fail. One of the main variables is a lack of connection. My hope is that this connection will help us gain student success for all of our students.

Ray Murray

Nevada High School
Nevada, Iowa

My resolution is to be ready for next school year by preparing as much as I can in advance. I am going to spend time this summer preparing my student orientations and creating Pathfinders using TrackStar on topics that relate to the California state standards. In this way, I hope to be able to help teachers and students quickly with their requests for resources.

Melinda Buterbaugh

Library media teacher
Harrison Elementary School
Los Angeles, California

Every school year, I set goals for myself as a teacher. My goals always include the following: Know each and every one of my students, aim high with my curriculum and my expectations, and engage my students in the process of learning. This coming school year, I also resolve to incorporate more character education into my classroom.

Erin Gardner

Navigator Pointe Academy
West Jordan, Utah

At the end of June, I am retiring after thirty-plus years in higher education and a few years in high school. I do so with mixed feelings, and so I've resolved to stay involved in education. Being retired means having the time to do what I like and to ignore what I don't. I resolve to spend time with students—former, current, future—encouraging and helping them succeed in whatever way I can. Learners are all around me. The fun starts now.

Christine S. Doerfler

Assistant academic dean/registrar
Washington Bible College
Lanham, Maryland

As a vice principal, my resolution is to search deeper into the heart of each student in order to better help him or her achieve personal growth and maturity. Our job as administrators and educators is much more than simply feeding students information and slapping them on the hand when they break the rules. It is about understanding to the best of our ability where each individual student is coming from socially, emotionally, and intellectually, and helping all of them see how they can use their gifts and talents to cultivate a rich school experience.

Catherine Dobbs

Horizon Elementary School
San Diego, California

My resolution for the new school year is the same as it is for every year: Help others find success, whether it be teaching, parenting, or learning. For each new school year, I get rejuvenated and passionate about making it a better year for my staff, my students, and my parents. I take what worked well the past year, add some new and exciting ideas to freshen it up, update it (especially the technology), add a dash of enthusiasm, and greet the new faces with the intention of getting to know them better and making a connection for a successful year.

Lorri L.M. McAlpine

Flora List Elementary School
Jackson, Michigan

Remember that angry parents and students are often expressing their fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, or some other fear that is not apparent. My job is to help them understand that they are not alone as they work through that fear to achieve their educational goal.

Lee Harsy

Director of guidance
Andrew High School
Tinley Park, Illinois

Spend more one-on-one time with each individual student. One of my students was killed last spring in a car accident, and the thing that haunts me is that I didn't know her well enough. I didn't sit and check in with her, talk with her, know what was going on in her life. It would have taken only a few minutes of class time. I found out so much sitting in a pew at the memorial that I should have already known. That will never happen again.

Bernadette Gilman

Sonoma Valley Unified School District
Sonoma, California

We are so test driven that it is killing our spirit -- adults and children alike! This school year, I am going back to my responsive classroom roots and doing what is right, appropriate, fun, and safe for my students. Test scores would rise if we worked and learned in a caring environment and if we did less more thoroughly, instead of more in a hurried and careless way.

Vicki Lubkeman

Fourth-grade teacher
Cleveland Elementary School
Washington, DC

For next year, I resolve to assist teachers in using the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme's areas of interaction to balance the overwhelming focus on student achievement based on narrow sets of subject-area curriculum standards. So, my resolution is to get back to the roots of contemporary public education: the development of our next generation of thinkers, doers, and leaders.

Greg Proffit

Ecker Hill International Middle School
Park City, Utah

I have two resolutions for the next school year. One of those resolutions involves participation in instructional change by observing the classroom using an observational instrument. Discussions with the teachers will follow. The second resolution involves peer coaching by teachers: I want to establish teams of teachers that can help each other provide instruction to students more effectively.

Walter Dubbeld

East Leroy Elementary School
East Leroy, Michigan

I resolve to not participate in the martyrdom of being a teacher. I resolve to be present in each day by bringing my best self into the classroom. I resolve to be more clear and transparent in my expectations of my students' learning and of myself as their facilitator. I resolve to make our classroom about real learning, not about hoop jumping. I resolve to challenge those outside to be just as present, engaging, authentic, and clear when they interact with me professionally.

Jenifer Smith

English teacher
Monona Grove High School
Monona, Wisconsin

My resolution for the 2007-08 school year is to become better organized. I've emptied out my files. Any reports, records, or activities that have not been used in the last three years were shredded. I've passed along books and room decorations to new colleagues. My theme for this school year is "minimize."

D. Joiner

Second-grade teacher
Harry S Truman Elementary School
St. Louis, Missouri

I resolve to explore new and exciting ways to collaborate and communicate online with teachers, instead of fearfully backing away from technologies I don't understand. I resolve to ask the young people in my life to teach me about their new tools and ways of learning. I resolve to resist the notion that more information means more wisdom, and to follow Bernie Dodge's advice on deepening my wisdom. And I resolve to laugh more.

JoAnn Wood

Elementary school social studies supervisor
Cobb County School District
Marietta, Georgia

Not teach the step-by-step math process to the students. Instead, I will teach them how it all works together and show them how problem solving within mathematics translates into the real world. The thinking process used in math is used every day in every job.

Brett Wubbena

Logan-Rogersville High School
Rogersville, Missouri
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Sep 2007: What's Next
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Sage Advice