Pop Links 7.22.14: Girl Scout Barbie; Creative ESL Teacher; Southwest Airlines Soccer Balls; Free NatGeo Courses for Teachers

  • A new Girl Scout is stirring controversy even before her first pledge. The product of a partnership between Mattel and Girl Scouts, Girl Scout Barbie will soon debut to the chagrin of many protesters who complain that Barbie represents the antithesis of Girl Scouts.
  • An ESL teacher has gained Internet fame for his creative way of teaching the countless irregular English verbs.
  • Southwest Airlines is making recycling fun for Kenyan orphans! Find out why the airline is turning its leather seats into soccer balls.
  • This fall, National Geographic is offering free courses to help teachers teach students about one of the most critical compounds on Earth: water! Find out how you can join the online course.
  • TFANet Resource: Word Problems

The Power of Real Apologies in a Fake-Apology World

You might not need to go to these lengths to apologize. (Photo credit: butupa)

You might not need to go to these lengths to apologize. (Photo credit: butupa)

Apologies require the highest level of human capacity: mindful self-reflection and the ability to acknowledge another person’s experience. If that isn’t hard enough, it often requires putting ourselves in a position of vulnerability—often to the person to whom we are apologizing.

That’s why no one has ever woken up in the morning excited because they have to apologize to someone. Of course, it feels better in the long run, and yes, it’s the “right” thing to do, but usually we dread these moments. It’s why we so often come up with reasons not to apologize, like refusing to believe we’re wrong, excusing our behavior, blaming the other person, or thinking nothing we say will make a difference.

Adults often have the best of intentions; however, the way we teach children to apologize is often counterproductive. We often force them to apologize when they don’t mean it or we don’t understand what’s really going on. We demand they apologize, get angry with them when they refuse, and then don’t think to revisit what happened later when they’ve been given a chance to self-reflect. Or, we make them apologize but don’t realize or know what to do when they only apologize to get themselves out of trouble.

But there is a lot on the line: how you as a teacher model and teach giving and accepting apologies matters. If you handle these moments well, you are giving young people a foundation for their ethical development. If you don’t, you miss a critical opportunity to demonstrate your values in action and it decreases your credibility as an ethical authority figure.

Motivation Monday: Respect


A New Corps Member’s First Impressions: Tough Days

(Photo credit: Gaetan Ducatteeuw)

(Photo credit: Gaetan Ducatteeuw)

My first two weeks of teaching went smoothly. I heard stories of students misbehaving, and I saw teachers come out of their classrooms looking shaken. Until Monday, none of that happened in our classroom. But Monday was rough. Instead of leaving the classroom energized and enthused, I felt drained. Tuesday was even worse. Throughout the two-hour class, I looked at the clock every few minutes and wondered why time had slowed down. The students complained about free-reading time and most of our questions were met with dead silence. I found myself doubting my energy and ability.

Our whole collab knew we had to do something to turn the momentum around, but we weren’t sure what that was. We meant to have a better day on Tuesday. We never intended to have a bad day on Monday. Just wanting class to be better wasn’t enough. My collab partner and I brainstormed things that afternoon that we could do to make class more active and fun, but I lacked conviction that these things would work.

Pop Links 7.17.14: Sweden’s School-Choice Results; HBCUs’ Changing Student Bodies; Teen Selfie with Buffett and Beatle

Meeting New Coworkers During the Summer


(Photo credit: Matt Anderson)

(Photo credit: Matt Anderson)

In teaching, as in any job, workplace friendships can make the workday fly by, while a lack of connection at work can make the year drag on. Starting at a new school, you’ll be bombarded with new names and faces during staff orientation, but you don’t have to wait until August to start making friends. Here are four questions you can ask during your interview or after you’ve been hired that will help connect you with your new team.

Can I have your email? 
If any teachers are on your interview panel, ask for their emails on-site. Then, reach out with an email thanking them for their time, asking any lingering questions, and (if you’re offered the position) suggesting a meet-up for coffee.

Who can I connect with before the school year begins? 
Once you’ve been hired, reach out to your principal and ask which teachers are best to reach out to. These may be department heads, grade-level team leaders, or simply teachers who are good ambassadors for the school. Either way, you’ll get connected with people who check their email during summer and are eager to meet the incoming staff.

Shina’s Notebook


(Photo credit: Hey Paul)

Shina handed me the notebook on her last day.

“Do you want this, Ms. Freeman?”

I nodded yes. It was a composition notebook, filled with her bubbly writing in multicolored pens. Shina was my first favorite student, and she was gone months before the year ended.

The notebook never made it out of my car, and even now, when I go to clean it, I make no move to take it out. It sits, covered in dust above the back windshield, and I remember Shina.


She was in my second block class with a thick long weave braided into her hair. She was nine at the beginning of the year, but she seemed to be the oldest child in the fifth grade.

We got to know each other because I did not have duty-free lunch. So every day at 12:20, I would sit down at the head of the third long table. Shina would place her tray right beside me and glare at anyone who tried to take her spot.

It was Shina who made the disgusting meal of the day, mixing all of her unwanted food together into her own creative dish. I would watch as she squeezed ketchup onto the bread she never ate, piling it high with the mustard greens that resembled sludge.

It was Shina who told me that I needed to get on Christian Mingle and find a man.

It was Shina who worked the hardest. Got angry the quickest. Made the rudest comments. Overtook my classroom when I lost control.

Pop Links 7.15.14: Educating Parents; Teenagers in The New York Times; Fun Presentations; World Cup Video Summary

  • The struggle to educate our nation’s children has naturally focused on young students. However, research suggests that for students to reach educational milestones, more time and money should be invested in educating parents.
  • Introduce your students to The New York Times’ immense wealth of knowledge through an avenue that may interest them: learning about teenagers! Each month, the Times‘ education-blog editors compile a list of all the stories written about teens in the previous month.
  • Give your students presentations they will remember! Learn how you can use prezi.com to create lively and dynamic presentations!
  • ESPN has captured the excitement and frustration that made for a fun four weeks of World Cup soccer in a four-minute video.
  • TFANet Resource: Symbolism