Enjoy a tour of my new classroom: High School Chemistry!
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New School, New Classroom!

Last year, I decided to leave my middle school of 6 years and try my hand at high school. I got a couple of different job offers and decided to go with the one with which I had more of a connection. Actually, it’s more than a connection… I will be teaching Chemistry in the very classroom I took it in when I was in High School! Yes, I am returning “home” to give back to the very community in which I grew up! I must admit that it was strange walking into that classroom again, but this time as the teacher. I have so many wonderful science memories from my high school years and I am so excited to create fun memories for my new students on which to look back. Now, onto the tour of my new classroom!

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STEM Car Crash Project www.theardentteacher.com
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STEM Car Crash Project

This year, I was lucky enough to be sent to the NSTA conference in Nashville, Tennessee. While there, I attended various workshops on Physics, Chemistry and Astronomy. I was most intrigued in the Physics-based car crash project and decided to implement it. Below is my account of how things went with my students and this project:

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Easy Student Reminder!

Does this sound familiar? “Hey (insert student name here), could you come by after school so we can discuss your grade/behavior/missing work etc?” Three o’clock comes around, 3:05 then 3:15 and eventually 3:30 and you are still all alone. You see that same student the next day and ask them what happened and they respond: “Oh! I totally forgot, sorry!” This is the (short) story of how I fixed the problem.

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6 tips for a successful back to school night. www.theardentteacher.com
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6 Tips for a Successful Back to School Night

I don’t know about you, but I could not wait to get back to work. I missed my classroom. I missed my coworkers. I missed being around my students. Most importantly, I missed teaching in general. To me, nothing signifies the start of a new school year like back to school night. The teachers are bright-eyed and excited for the upcoming year, the parents are excited to gain a little of their freedom back, your classroom still looks shiny and organized—it’s great! Although this can be the perfect time to get to know your new group of parents and to show them who you are and what to expect, it can also be a little nerve-wracking. Below are the ways in which I like to prepare myself and my classroom for back to school night and calm those pesky nerves.

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Dealing with reluctant student participation? Sprinkle them with "smarkles" after they answer a question!
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Incentives for More Student Participation 

Sometimes, it can be difficult to get students to participate in class. Being a middle school teacher, I see it year after year and day after day: students feeling self conscious and apprehensive when asked to participate in class discussions or answer questions. Students participate for one of two reasons: they are either intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated. For the students who are intrinsically motivated to participate in class (motivated by internal factors such as wanting to do well or participating merely because they enjoy the experience), there is little you need to get their hands raised–their intrinsic motivation is enough on its own. The students who struggle are the ones who need extrinsic motivation–motivation by external factors, such as rewards etc. Below are some fun ways I boost participation in my classroom by taking advantage of extrinsic motivators.

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Dealing With Student Absences

I have already talked about how to lessen the amount of prep work you have to do when absent (check out that post here), but what about when your students are gone? I used to think it was much more work dealing with students being absent than when I took a day off (whether it be a sick day or professional development); that was before I came up with these ways to avoid the frustration. Here are some tips and tricks for making your classroom more self sufficient for absent students as well as making your life easier.

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A great idea for keeping kids from walking out of your classroom with your pencils! Photo Credit: The Ardent Teacher
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Stop Taking my Pencils!

I don’t know about you, but no matter what I have tried in the past, my pencils always seem to disappear! I have a special holder on my desk for ‘student pencils.’ I have previously asked them to leave a shoe in exchange for a pencil. I thought that if my students would hobble around my classroom with only one shoe, they would surely remember to give me my pencil back. But, sure enough, my pencils would slowly disappear! So, I recently came up with a new idea for keeping my pencils from getting “kidnapped” (napped by kids) and thought I would share it with you!

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Tips on Building Community in the Classroom

Much like with parenting, teachers are often the caring and supportive adult in students’ lives. However, we are also the judge, jury and executioner! It can be a tough role to juggle. In order to help strike that balanced chord of showing that you are there to support your students, building community should be your first step. Here are some approaches that I use in my classroom to help build community.
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Great and helpful tips on how to integrate technology into the classroom!
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Tips For Incorporating Technology Into Your Classroom

I don’t know about you, but I have strong mixed feelings about using technology. On the one hand, technology is something that my students have a deep connection to–it’s how they understand life. On the other hand, I sometimes feel that for all the good it brings, I secretly fear that it is going to ruin our society. Technology is such an integral part of our world today, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if it were to disappear suddenly. Districts across the nation are touting their integration of “21st century learning” (whatever that means), and teachers are being pushed into bringing as much technology into their classroom as possible. Sure, technology can be great; however, when you are relying on it and it suddenly stops working, it can be crippling and very frustrating in a classroom setting (especially when 68 eyes are on you… waiting for you to ‘fix’ the unforeseen problem). Is it unbelievably frustrating when the technology you are using suddenly stops working? Yes. Does it have to be? No. Here are some ways that I have learned to help make the integration of technology into my classroom easier, fun and a bit more seamless.

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Great suggestions on how to get involved in your school community!
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Getting Involved in Your School Community

Sometimes when you are spending 12-14 hours a day in your classroom, the last thing you want to do is volunteer for something else that will keep you at school more. However, I honestly believe that the more you get involved in your school community, the more you will enjoy being there. I mean, hey, if you are going to spend every waking hour at work, you might as well include some extras that you will have fun doing (that is, besides grading papers…). Here are some ways that I get involved in my school community:

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