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Our new school year began last Thursday.

As any veteran teacher knows, the first week is often not an accurate predictor of how the rest of the year will go.

Nevertheless, here are three important lessons that I believe/hope have some staying power:

Cell Phones

All teachers made a school-wide commitment to enforcing a new rule about student cellphones – they must stay in student backpacks when in the classroom (they can use it when out in the halls, between classes, before – and – after – school, and during lunch.  They can also use it with permission from teachers – for example, when we play an online game at the end of class).

God, what a difference!

So far, at least, students seem to have generally been respectful of the new rule.  Obviously, some have tried testing the limits, but gentle reminders have done the trick (so far).  I’ve also had students work in small groups outside while reminding them of the rule, and they have continued to respect it.

If this keeps up, it will be difficult for me to imagine why every school doesn’t implement this rule.  It seems so much better than alternatives, including locking them up.



I’ve always kept graham crackers for students who were really hungry.  Lara Hoekstra, my exceptionally talented colleague and friend, had a different idea and last year began bringing fruit to put in a basket on her desk last year for any student to take, and as a place where students could put unused food from school breakfasts and lunches for others to enjoy.

I decided that was a great idea and began doing it the first day of school with apples and bananas, with an invitation for students to take anything they want from it at anytime.

It’s been a success on a number of levels.

One, probably an average of six students each day have taken a piece of fruit, some which had been contributed by other students.

Two, it’s clear that students in general like the idea of the fruit basket – it communicates a sense of care.

And, three, it’s a lot easier for me than having to dig into my cabinet for crackers when students are hungry.

Yes, it costs me a few bucks, but the benefits seem to outweigh those costs.


ELL Peer Tutor “Pods”

I’ve written a lot about how we use peer tutors in my ELL Newcomers classes (and in other ELL classes).

This year, I’ve stepped it up to a different level.

As regular readers know, I have a “suite” of two rooms.  This year, I set up one room to only teach my two-period Newcomer class, and the other room for my IB Theory of Knowledge classes.

The Newcomer room is arranged in fourteen “pods” of two (or three) desks each, and they are facing one other desk.  That one desk is for a peer tutor.

Each Newcomer has an assigned “pod,” and keep all their materials in baskets on their desks.  The peer tutors also have baskets for their materials.  This eliminates using any time for materials distribution.

Both periods are comprised of various short lessons by me, followed by reinforcement activities with the peer tutors.

Each period ends with a quick reinforcing Quizizz or Blooket game (which also functions as a formative assessment).  Our new and exceptional bilingual aide handles that, while I do a quick de-brief with the peer tutors in my other room.


I’m hoping all this good stuff continues – knock on wood!