Nan Austin

Top 10 teacher blogs, ranked without rubric or state standards

A compilation billed as the best teacher blogs in the world caught my eye and got me Googling for others, such as Scholastic’s Top 14 list of teacher blogs. There are lots more to choose from, and it turns out that even teachers’ work gets graded.

Here is my edited, annotated and utterly unscientific top 10 list:

10. Why Teaching Kindness in Schools is Essential to Reduce Bullying, by Lisa Currie, Edutopia. This blog ticks off a lengthy list of benefits to teaching kindness, including happier, healthier children with a greater sense of belonging. It quotes researchers as finding that today’s adolescents victimize one another far more than past generations. The blog ends with a list of resources.

9. Why I’m Resigning After 11 Years as a Teacher, by Pauline Hawkins, posted at 2 in the morning by a now former Colorado Springs, Colo., teacher. Her railings against No Child Left Behind test prep created a stir as she publicly resigned in April. Read the blog and you will feel a guilty pang of sad relief that such a depressed person, even one so dedicated, has left the classroom. But as Congress considers getting back in gear, possibly tackling federal education policy, it is worth noting her complaints.

8. I’m Not a Linguist, by Just a Substitute Teacher. Practical advice that gives a window into an undercelebrated, but large, group in the teaching profession. This ongoing blog gives tricks of the trade, such as the Magic Trash game, or, unfortunately, catching a thief.

7. Using Twitter in a Primary Classroom, by Karen Lirenman, Learning and Sharing with Ms. Lirenman. Lirenman, a Canadian teacher, popped up on the world’s radar when she had her kindergarten class tweet: What does it look like outside your window today? Her class has tweeted math story problems and voices of “Little Red Riding Hood” characters. She shares her philosophy and practical points including connecting with other classes using such hashtags as #1stchat for a starter round.

6. Letter from America, Part 1, by Tom Bennett, TES Connect. A philosophy teacher from Glasgow, Scotland, takes readers on a droll stroll through a school in the Bronx. “It’s a blender permanently switched on, and you’re the penny. Just crossing the avenues feels like Indiana Jones grabbing his hat,” is his first impression. Great read.

5. Enough Panic. Just Stop It., by Michael Smith, Principals Page. There are a lot of good reads in this string of illustrated blogs that are formatted more like freestyle poems. There is one about being spotted by students at a store, in Levi’s no less, and a tirade against the overuse of the word “bullying.” But the panic one holds a special space for being dead on.

4. Is it Real or Is It Photoshopped? by Tammy Brecht Dunbar, Teacher Geek is Chic. Brecht Dunbar, a Manteca teacher helping lead that district through its transition to digital writes short and to-the-point blogs. The video is well worth sharing. “Use your brain,” she narrates over a picture of herself in front of a fireball. “Would Mrs. Dunbar really look this calm if there were explosions behind her?”

3. 12 Choices to Help You Step Back from Burnout, by Vicki Davis, Edutopia. Posted under a photo of a coffee mug that proclaims, “It is what it is,” Davis declares, “A tired teacher is a powder keg waiting for a match.” She offers links to her Pinterest boards of happy triggers and things that make me laugh, and advises smiling often and unplugging at least weekly. Smartphones, she says, have “tethered us to a hamster wheel.” Choose what to overlook, the battles worth fighting and what to stop doing. Wise words.

2. 30 Techniques to Quiet a Noisy Class, by Todd Finley, Edutopia. It starts with this: “One day, in front of 36 riotous sophomores, I clutched my chest and dropped to my knees like Sergeant Elias at the end of ‘Platoon.’ Instantly, dead silence and open mouths replaced classroom Armageddon. ... I never used that stunt again. After all, should a real emergency occur, it would be better if students call 911 rather than post my motionless body on YouTube.” Finley goes on to give genuine advice, including a table of “teacher says ... students respond” ideas, including: Teacher: “I’m incredible.” Students: “Like the Hulk. Grrrr (with flexing).”

1. This will be my Last Year Teaching in the Hospital, by Joe Bower, who shares heartfelt truths from a children’s psychiatric assessment unit as he leaves for teaching at a middle school. Among them is “The children who are the hardest to like need us the most.”

Best in the world? Who knows, but definitely the best in the world I read today.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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