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.

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.

A Shout-Out to My Teachers Who Are Also Parents

(Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim)

(Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim)

I’m back from a week-long family vacation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (gorgeous, by the way, for those of you in the Mid-Atlantic United States!). Anyway, as the mom of two little people, who’s married to a teacher-husband, I spent some time on vacation thinking about how teachers—those who give their time to other children—juggle the tension between their teacher lives and their parent lives. In many cases, I hear teachers, particularly moms, lament that they simply cannot make it work. I want to believe it can be different, so I went in search of some teacher-parents who are pulling it off and feeling happy about it!

I recently spoke to Laura and Lauren—both teacher-mothers in the DC area—about how they make it work. Laura and Lauren have two kids each.

Here are some tips I gathered from my conversations with them:

  1. Find a workplace that fits your needs. Laura mentioned that during her interview process, she noticed small signals that the middle school would match her needs as a working parent. For example, the principal (also a mom) acknowledged there would be days when people’s kids got sick and they had to stay home. I know many schools, particularly charter schools, with very strict attendance policies for teachers. As the mom of a 4-year old with a broken arm and a million orthopedist appointments to juggle, I think a zero absence policy is unrealistic. Figure out your school’s policies—both spoken and unspoken.

Institute Tips: Get SOM Love!

(Photo credit:

(Photo credit:

The blessing and the curse of Institute is the sheer number of human beings whose job it is to help you in some way, shape, or form. It’s like acronym city and everyone has something to offer!

That being said, you’ve been around for a few weeks (which, in Institute time, is a few months) and it’s high time you get friendly with an awesome person: your SOM (School Operations Manager). (Note: If you’re not at a National/Centralized Institute, your SOM may have a variety of creative and unique terms, but this person essentially helps run operations at one or more school sites.)

Your SOM. Words cannot describe how awesome he or she is. I don’t say this because I was a SOM last summer, of course.

Making Grading Faster: Homework Oopsies

I’m not trying to get you to race through giving your students high-quality feedback, but I hear over and over that you are drowning in grading. I’ve written about Jeff V.’s homework set-up to allow for easier grading and given some other tips on grading efficiency over here and here.

But this latest idea from a middle school teacher at DC Prep may take the cake! This Key of Homework Oopsies points out commonly made errors to students, who then must self-correct. It also saves teacher time. Win-win! Check it out below!

Key of Homework Oopsies

How many times have you written out “no heading” or “incomplete sentence”? Or just corrected the error yourself? Well, no more! High standards and efficiency! Love it.

Institute Tips: Lesson-Planning Breakdown

(Photo credit: Hugh Gallagher)

They say he’s in the details. (Photo credit: Hugh Gallagher)

So, you’re lesson-planning. Maybe you feel like you’re about to have a breakdown. Your Corps Member Advisor is there to help, of course, but if you want another way to have it explained or just need some sass in your life, read on!

First, some perspective on who the heck I am:

Hi, I’m Blair! I’m a Corps Member Advisor at the Tulsa Institute (woot!), and I finished up TFA in the Twin Cities region about a week ago (yup, I’m a newly minted alum… yikes!).

Now, let’s break down lesson-planning in three quick-and-dirty concepts:

1) Start your lesson plan by thinking about WHAT kiddos can DO and HOW they will explain your objective after you’ve taught them. If you’re teaching multiplication, what will it look like for your kiddos to DO the math, show their work, and explain their answer? This is why your exemplar response is so important. Side note: If YOU don’t know the skill, you’ll have the darndest time teaching it. Make sure you can explain the skill backwards and forwards. Try explaining it to your beau, your mom, or a friend via phone—if you can do it there, you can teach it!

5 Places to Score Free Books for Your Kids

(Photo credit: MissMayoi)

(Photo credit: MissMayoi)

Working in an under-resourced school for the past two years has forced me to become more thrifty and creative when finding materials to aid my students’ learning. As a high-school English teacher, I spent a considerable amount of time leveraging any and all opportunities for my students to read (and often keep) engaging texts. To date, I have earned more than $2,000 in free books for my students, and I’m excited to share my top five resources with you so you can get them, too!

1) First Book

What it is: First Book is a national organization that aims to get new and interesting books directly into the hands of students. They offer an extensive array of texts to choose from, ranging from preschool through high-school reading levels. Books are deeply discounted (I’m talking 80%), and there are often book-grant and book-bank opportunities listed for TFA corps members.

How it works: Create a profile at Be sure to check the box that indicates your affiliation with TFA, because there are exclusive free book opportunities for corps members! Book grants are offered every few months, and can award up to $250 a pop! With books as cheap as $1.50, one book grant can go a long way in transforming a classroom library. Book-grant applications are non-intensive (a survey and a paragraph explaining why you need books), and automatically make you eligible for future book grant opportunities without having to reapply.

How I’ve used it:  This year alone, I scored $750 in free books from just this organization. I used the grants to purchase six class sets of contemporary novels, and a mixed selection of approximately fifty more novels for the class library. The kids love opening packages of new books, and have become more curious about reading by sifting through the deliveries. I plan to give away 80% of the novels to my current students at the end of the year, and save the remainder to teach again next year before donating those as well. 

7 Ways Social Media Can Help Your Job Search


You know your future employer may see your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and they’ll probably type your name into Google. In fact, a 2012 survey found that 37% of hiring managers used social media to investigate potential employees and 34% had decided not to hire someone based on what they found in social media. It’s not just unfortunate photos from college parties that cost people jobs, employers also found poor communication and posts that exposed lies in candidate qualifications. Still, social media isn’t all bad; 29% of hiring managers found positive information about candidates on social media. (Read more about the survey here.)

In education, principals, charter school human resource managers, or other teachers may all try to find you online. In your job search, make these seven social media savvy moves to put your profiles to work for you.

Take Down Anything You Wouldn’t Want a 3rd Grader to See

It’s a fact that your profile may be viewed by tech-savvy students who are just learning appropriate boundaries, and their parents. Now is the time to take down or secure any images that would cast you in a negative light, or any images that you wouldn’t want to explain to a student, parent, or principal.