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A Classroom with a View

"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all" –Aristotle

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The Human Faces of High Stakes Testing

I spent the weekend with my baby sister, and during the course of our girl’s weekend, we discussed her 14 year old daughter who was struggling in school. Because I am an educator, my sister is able to discuss with me the kinds of modifications and accommodations her daughter is receiving in school, knowing I would not only understand all the coded language of education but also that I would be able to provide her with advice. Unfortunately, the area she lamented the most was the dreaded STAAR tests, Texas’ measure of learning and “college readiness.” The absurdity of that particular statement is neither here nor there and is a subject for many past and future posts, but suffice to say, her 8th grade daughter must take an ELA Reading test, along with a Math, Science, and Social Studies test later this school year. This is, of course, on top of all the eleven other standardized tests she has taken since 3rd grade, and doesn’t include the 5 standardized tests she must pass in high school in order to graduate.

While my sister doesn’t necessarily disapprove of the tests altogether, she does have issue with the immense pressure and anxiety these tests place on students as a result of the test-intensive environment of Texas public education. My sister was overjoyed by the possibility that she could opt her daughter out of state-mandated testing, which would help alleviate the anxiety and illness that these exams cause my niece. I had to break her heart: no such thing exists in Texas.

To understand the human face of high-stakes testing, you must first see the human, something the state has forgotten. You see, Masie is a beautiful, funny, witty young girl. She has the deadliest blue eyes, an infectious smile and laugh, and skin models would kill Continue reading “The Human Faces of High Stakes Testing”

Movie Day?

I’ve lived a life of utter gluttony and hedonism this past week. I’ve eaten just about everything in sight–you know, as long as it had high fat and sugar content. I’ve napped every day, a couple of times twice a day. I didn’t go Black Friday shopping with my sister and nieces, opting instead to stay home in my pajamas while my husband headed to the deer lease for his boy’s weekend. I’ve read four books, none of which I intend to teach at all. I’ve stayed up late watching recently released movies (including a few Pixar movies because we all know those movies aren’t actually for children anyway).

Ahhh. Thanksgiving break.

Continue reading “Movie Day?”

Building a Culture of Reading through Choice


Getting students to read can sometimes be a monumental task. With so many other engaging multimedia entertainment options for children to choose, assigning chapters to be read for class often results in students arriving in class without having completed the required reading. I can’t say I blame them. In my own education, I’ve been assigned some texts that were real snooze-fests. And if we are being totally honest, I am much more unlikely to read a novel that is assigned–perhaps there’s a bit of passive-aggressive behavior in that. I don’t like being told to read something because it has “literary merit” and is part of the canon. Continue reading “Building a Culture of Reading through Choice”

A Pinch of Peace, A Dash of Joy

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a pretty busy woman. Between teaching 150-something students, leading an English department, coaching 6-12th grade ELA teachers, directing our district’s AP programs, advocating on behalf of students and teachers at the state and national level, completing a dissertation, blogging, consulting, scoring, mentoring, and enjoying my precious little downtime with my (very patient) husband, people are always surprised when I say that I cook dinner. Every night. And that I enjoy cooking. They’re even more surprised when I say I have it ready and on the table when my husband gets home from work. Strange looks are cast my direction, women have visions of placing a plastic bag over my face, people tilt their heads as if asking, “Are you for real, lady?” Even my students are astonished: “Bailey, you cook?! Real food??” Continue reading “A Pinch of Peace, A Dash of Joy”

Renovating Teaching Strategies


I have had occasion in the recent present to think a lot about renovating. In fact, I’m hiding upstairs in a small nook I’ve cleared of construction dust and grime while the flooring guys are laying wood floors downstairs. I don’t know if it’s the heady perfume of new carpet, freshly painted walls, or floor glue, but the complete renovation–upstairs and downstairs–of our 20 year old house has me waxing philosophical about many things.

Firstly, you never really fully appreciate how much stuff you collect in 20 years of marriage until you have to move every. single. bit. from room to room in the inevitable Construction Shuffle. Nothing is left untouched. Questions like “When did we get this?”, “Have we ever used this?” and “What the hell is this?” get asked often, usually by me. My rule of thumb: throw it out if it hasn’t been used or worn in a year or if the technology is obsolete. My husband, however, is a hoarder. The only people I know who Continue reading “Renovating Teaching Strategies”

12 Ways Teachers Know They Need Winter Break

stress relaxFor teachers, November can be a busy, difficult time. All our projects are finally launched, everyone is buried under 3 feet of paperwork, showers appear to be optional on weekends, and no one wants to make eye contact with administration because we all know that means we will be asked to do something else. It seems the only way to maintain sanity is to find the humor in what often seems humorless.

So, for all my colleagues, friends, family, and all the educators in the world, here’s to salvaging your sanity–

12 ways you know you need winter break:

12. You know there are exactly 112 days of school left.

11. Living in the mountains with no cell reception or internet begins to sound like a solid early retirement plan.

10. You stare at your living room wall for 20 minutes and your only thought is, “When did we paint it that color?!?” Continue reading “12 Ways Teachers Know They Need Winter Break”

The Most Effective PLCs

Eveline Bailey long hallway

The Professional Learning Community (PLC) has gained traction in recent years, even though its initial introduction to the education circuit began in earnest in the early 1990s when researchers documented the efficacy of the PLC to bring sustained school improvement and student achievement gains, to say nothing of the increase in teacher morale, improved professional development, and promotion of best practices. These benefits can be directly linked to teachers collaborating to study student formative and summative assessment data, write lesson plans, discuss the best teaching strategies and interventions, reflect, and support one another in a shared goal and purpose. Continue reading “The Most Effective PLCs”

Taking student anxiety out of writing

essay writingDuring the first week of school, I give my seniors a questionnaire that, among other things, asks them to reflect on their writing strengths and challenges. One particular question asks students to discuss how they feel when they are given an in-class essay to write, and each time I ask, the overwhelming response is always “anxious” followed closely by dread. Worse, many of them describe their physical reactions to writing assignments with symptoms that are tantamount to anxiety attacks: an inability to breathe, clammy hands, headaches, racing heart beats, scattered or blank thoughts, blurred or tunnel vision, difficulty sitting still, nausea. When I ask students to consider why they feel this way when given a writing task, many of them cite failure and judgment as the chief reasons for their anxiety.

As every writer knows, there’s an element of exposure and vulnerability when writing for an audience that can be intimidating even for the most seasoned of us, but which for novice writers can easily become debilitating. Their struggle is real and rather than risk failure or a blow to their self-confidence, some students simply will choose not to write anything, feeling Continue reading “Taking student anxiety out of writing”

What Students Wish Their Teachers Knew

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Earlier last week, my students were working in small groups discussing their summer reading novel. As I moved around the classroom listening to and facilitating discussions, one thing I heard over and over again was how much the students really liked this year’s summer reading and that it was the only summer book they ever really read. The reason for that is the subject of another post entirely, but it is enough to say that as I listened, I also heard some other disturbing trends. One group of students complained that they had 4 tests the next day, which clearly was some Communist plot by teachers to ensure students didn’t have a life and/or failed their classes. Another group overheard and chimed in, criticizing their teachers’ handling of the material, specifically that some teachers didn’t seem to know the curriculum well enough to give correct information to students so they could study. A different group grumbled about band and sports practices after school that would keep them at school until long after dinner and they had hours’ worth of homework to do when they arrived home. I questioned them about their preferences or what they thought could be done to correct it, and before I knew it and could stop them, they were unloading years of bitterness about specific teachers and classes (they’re brutally honest!). Continue reading “What Students Wish Their Teachers Knew”

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