Friday Five: Teacher To-Do List for the Summer

So now that you’re done with school, the time to decompress and recharge has arrived. Whether you’re at year 3 or year 30, teachers need the summer to relax and build up that energy reservoir for the next year. Summer professional development is important and useful, and I know many of you will do training, meet with teachers, attend conferences, and read professional books (I will, too). But here’s a summer to-do list for teachers that will help you really relax and recharge so you can return to school ready for students.

1. Binge watch that one show all you students were talking about. Especially if you wouldn’t normally watch it. Even if you just watch 3 episodes in a row, you’ll at least know the characters and the basics when you see your students next. (Pro tip: ask students via social media like twitter which show to binge watch). My high school students recommended, among other shows, both Orange is the New Black and 13 Reasons Why.

2. Stay in your pajamas all day and do not cook one meal. Pretend you’re back in college and do not be productive for one entire day. If you have kids, they probably won’t mind pjs and cereal all day. Allow yourself one full day with no responsibilities. This can be hard for us, since we’re so used to getting things done, and the summer is time to get things done you can’t do during the school year.  However, you need to take a full 24 hours off from doing things. Order in, or just eat from your cupboards. Ask your significant other or kids to make food. If you’re not sure how to *not* do things all day, try #1.

3. Leave your computer and phone and go outside all day. We’re so connected, even during the summer. Whether you’re checking the news, finding summer PD, or trying to work on curriculum, give yourself a day without any screens. No TV, no computer, no phone. Go enjoy the natural world. This will allow you, as Thoreau says, to “maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.” Recharge your nature batteries, whether it is at the beach, on a hike, or in your backyard. Just don’t forget the sunblock.

4. Call a non-teacher friend and go out to lunch. You should go out with teacher buddies, too, but this one is important. If you go out to lunch with a non-teacher, it means you will probably not talk about school, lessons, administration, students, parents, or curriculum.  It means you’ll have conversations about family, the news, movies, or the food you’re eating.  Enjoy a full conversation and meal without being a teacher, you’ll just be a friend.

5. Freewrite about what you never have time for and then do it. OK, so this is kind of an assignment. Take out a piece of paper and a pen. Freewrite for five minutes without stopping on this prompt: What do you feel you never have time to do, but really want to do? I did this and was surprised. I thought I would discover I wanted to write more. You know what? Deep down, I want to cook more elaborate meals, and in the summer, I have time to do that: time to chop veggies, simmer, prepare complex dishes that normally would not happen when I come home from school. Freewrite until you figure out what you actually wish you were doing. Then take some time this summer to do it!  In the meantime, I’m headed to the grocery store to buy ingredients and start cooking.

Happy Summer!

Posted by Kate, Blog Editor and Book Reviewer for PCTELA

Friday Five: Teacher To-Do List for the Summer

Friday Five: Articles & Links for Black History Month

Friday Five: Articles For Black History Month to Share with Students

  1. “Star Ballerina” this Time for kids article profiles “Misty Copeland, the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre.”
  2. 12 Poems to Read for Black History Month “asked twelve contemporary black poets from across the country to choose one poem that should be read this month and to tell us a bit about why.”
  3. “Unpublished Black History” every day the New York Times will publish “Revealing moments in black history, with unpublished photos from The New York Times’s archives.”
  4. “Frederick Douglass” information on the History Channel
  5. An interesting article on Black History Month from the Independent, in the UK.

Image of Lena Horne from New York Timesubh-lena-horne-jumbo-v4

Posted by Kate, Blog Editor and Book Reviewer for PCTELA

Friday Five: Articles & Links for Black History Month

Friday Five: Our Best Posts from 2016

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 7.39.43 PMThis Friday, we’re celebrating a year of professional development, a year of teaching, a year of reading, a year of writing, a year of poetry. The list below contains five of our most popular blog posts this year.

  1. “Where’s That Diploma? Claiming Respect as Teachers” written by PCTELA’s own Bob Dandoy
  2. “Let’s Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable” by Danielle Ambrosia
  3. “Book Review: Up Late with Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian” by Kate Walker
  4. “Friday Five: Reasons to Watch Stranger Things Before Going Back to School” by Brian Smith
  5. “A Poem: “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith” (check out Maggie Smith on twitter)

And if you’re making a New Year’s Resolution to write more, or to put yourself out there professionally, you’re always welcome to share a post with us and we’ll publish it. Just contact Kate (kap 17 @ scasd . org). We accept book reviews, opinion pieces, lesson ideas, and many other types of writing.

Posted by Kate, Blog Editor, PCTELA

Friday Five: Our Best Posts from 2016

Friday Five: My Top Five Moments of NCTE16

So this is totally my personal list of my Top Five Moments (although it was hard to only choose five), but feel free to add your own in the comments section. We all know conferences are about conversations, and there have been so many conversations today that made my day better–whether they were conversations in line for food or books, or conversations at or between sessions–each conversation enriched my experience. I feel privileged to call myself a teacher today in the company of these remarkable people.

In no particular order:

1. Listening to the opening General Session titled Authors as Advocates–what a conversation. Sharon Draper, Jason Reynolds, Ibtisam Barakat, e.E Charlton-Trujillo, Meg Medina, and G. Neri were phenomenal together.

2. Attending a session by sj Miller, titled “Teaching, Affirming, and Recognizing Trans* and Gender Creative Youth: A Queer Literacy Framework.” This session was small, but important, and I was reminded in this session this work matters so much–but why doesn’t it matter more?

3. Informal conversations as we passed in the halls with PCTELA people: Amy Nyholt, our President; Jennie Brown, past president; Bob Dandoy, our treasurer (and past Executive Director); and Glenda Daulerio, the VP of Middle Level.

Jennie Brown and Jennifer Novotney sign books

4. Talking to the exhibitors who really know their books. The Penguin Book and the HarperCollins booths were particularly helpful, and I walked away with a copy of Jacqueline Woodson’s  Another Brooklyn and a copy of The Red Bandana by Tom Rinaldi.  I’m looking forward to reading these and hopefully adding them to my curriculum.  The conversations at the booths with publishers are always enlightening.

5. Conversations with the authors themselves.  After talking to Sharon Draper at PCTELA about books, and then seeing her this morning, I found a copy of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and dropped it off for her while she was signing. Her face lit up–nothing like giving a book to a famous author to make you feel good. Then, I chatted with e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and had her book Fat Angie signed and we talked about gender-neutral salutations (Mx) and she signed my book like that!

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-7-36-27-pmSo I admit it, I’m biased: I’m all about peace, love, and books. I’m all about conversations with people to create connections, and the NCTE conference is a phenomenal venue for that. So here’s to a great first day at the conference, and there are still two more left!

Kate Walker maintains the PCTELA blog. She’s a National Board Certified Teacher in State College, PA and a former board member of PCTELA.

Friday Five: My Top Five Moments of NCTE16

Friday Five: Reasons to Attend PCTELA

Our annual conference is only two weeks away!

Congruent Worlds, Convergent Practice: Re-Storying Self, School, and Society
The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, State College, PA
October 14th & 15th 2016

Here are some reasons to attend:
1. Listen to and meet our amazing speakers, like award-winning author Sharon Draper.
2. Attend concurrent sessions by amazing professionals who want to share exciting classroom ideas.
3. Visit our exhibitors and find new materials for your classroom (and come to our gently-used, free book table and go home with new books).
4. Network with colleagues old and new while eating delicious food at the Penn Stater Conference Center.
5. Because you’ll have fun!


Cynthia Lord and H.Bernard Hall at last year’s conference.

Friday Five: Reasons to Attend PCTELA

Friday Five: Reasons to Watch Stranger Things Before Going Back to School

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 7.39.43 PM

Chances are you have heard of Stranger Things, the Netflix television show created by the Duffer Brothers that was released this past July. There is a chance that you may have already watched it, because I know for me, I didn’t need much convincing. Stranger Things crossed my path three times before I knew that I had to see it. The first was via an interview with the creators in which they discuss how they have always wanted to see a show with characters as compelling as those from “Freaks and Geeks,” but with some supernatural and scary elements to it. The second time the show came into my consciousness was through a magazine advertisement. It was a full page, hand painted poster that evokes the style of Drew Struzan, the artist who painted the posters for nearly every awesome 80’s movie. The third meeting between Stranger Things and myself was reading that two of my favorite fiction-makers, Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro, emphatically endorsed the show. That was all I needed. Perhaps Stranger Things has crossed your path this past month since its release, but you still haven’t been convinced that you need to visit the midwest in the early 1980’s. Or maybe you are averse to jumping on the pop-culture bandwagon when everyone tells you that you NEED to see this movie, listen to this album, or watch this show. Whatever the reasons that you haven’t watched Stranger Things yet, I am here to convince you that you should, and here are five reasons why:

  1. Because Stranger Things does not simply rely on nostalgia for viewership. Those of us of a certain age that can remember being an adolescent in the 1980’s will adore it. A television show has not encapsulated the 80’s this well since the short lived series, Freaks and Geeks. Although Stranger Things may be steeped in nostalgia, it is so much more than a Wayback Machine. I have talked with some millennials who do not remember phones with cords on them, ham radios, or walkie-talkies, and they still love the show…and so will you.
  2. Because everyone is referencing it! If you were to pass by my favorite pizza shop in NYC, and they had this special board outside, or this one, or this one, or this one, you wouldn’t understand the references having not seen the show. Watch the show, get a good chuckle, and get a slice of the Demogorgonzola! From a small pizza shop in Brooklyn, to the venerable New York Times calling Stranger Things the show of the summer and an eerie nostalgia fix, it seems as if everyone is watching, so shouldn’t you.
  3. Because the music is just as beautiful as the camera shots. I haven’t been this enamored with a soundtrack since Twin Peaks. The first installment of the soundtrack was released last Friday with the second volume to be released today. The official soundtrack(s) contain all of the gorgeous original synth music created by the band S U R V I V E, but for those wishing to explore the popular 80’s music featured in the show there are some mixes out there. One Youtube user has created a playlist showcasing some of the music, and a DJ from the UK, has mashed up the music and the dialogue of the show into a whimsical mix. When your students walk into your classroom in the morning while you are listening to the Stranger Things’ soundtrack, you will receive some major cool points, and I’m not sure that you want to earn those points by bonding over Pokémon Go.
  4. Because you don’t have the time to rewatch all the films that it is indebted to. The Goonies, Stand By Me, Poltergeist, Alien, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Stephen King’s It would be great to rewatch before school starts, but between last minute planning, and squeezing out every last drop of summer, you might not have a spare 14.5 hours to devote to rewatching all of those films. BUT…for a paltry 6.5 hours, you can watch a television show that embraces all that is good within those films, and uses those elements to create something just as unique and beautiful as the original source material.
  5. Because even the font of the title sequence is totally awesome! When was the last time people were so engrossed in the font of a television show’s title sequence? That’s right…even the font is being discussed, and rightly so. The title sequence is great overall, but there is something about the font that gently took my hand and brought me back to my childhood. I later found out that the reason for the font’s familiarity is because it has been in my hands countless times as a youth and an adult via the covers of Stephen King and Choose Your Own Adventure books! ITC Benguiat is the font’s name, and its creator is pleased with the way it is used in Stranger Things. There is even a web tool that will allow you to “strangify” text of your own!

Brian teaches Social Studies to 10th and 11th graders at State College Area High School. He is the father of two boys, married to an artist, and a history, film, music, and art enthusiast.

Friday Five: Reasons to Watch Stranger Things Before Going Back to School

Top 5 Toddler Book Picks

While I appreciate Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and even more so, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, most of my after school reading falls into the category of Chika Chika Boom Boom. My son is almost 2; he loves to be read to, and he loves to point out things in children’s books. Like most children, he has his one or two favorite books that he makes me read over and over and over again. And he says, “Again… Please!” like he knows how mind-numbingly painful some of them are for me.

Below are my Top 5 books to read to the tiny people in your life. These books will (hopefully) not be so mind-numbingly painful.

1. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Shameless bias here: this was my favorite book when I was little. If you’re unfamiliar, there are vibrant colors, and all the lowercase letters climb up a coconut tree. A reader can choose to read this with regular inflection, or sing it. You can even switch it up and speak with a soft tone, and then switch to a booming bellow when the letters fall– kids love that.

2. If Animals Kissed Goodnight

This is the ultimate right-before-bed book. It rhymes, and the plot follows a young girl who asks her mom how animals kiss goodnight. I like it because the animals are ones that children recognize and can attempt to repeat.

3. Corduroy

This book is even older than I am, and most children still love it. There’s something about an adorable bear who is looked over because of his tattered wardrobe that screams “snuggle in and read me!” The illustrations are beautiful and children can select several things to point out on each page to practice naming objects.

4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

There are several reasons I like this book. The physical pages are different lengths, which causes interest. The food illustrations are easy for children to name. And the story of a caterpillar who eats too much and gets a stomach ache is the perfect anecdote for me to remind my son of when we’re 1 grape away from having his stomach pumped: “Remember the Hungry Caterpillar story? What could happen to our belly if we eat too many sweets?” The ending will also provide the most shocked face from a toddler who does not yet know about butterfly transformation.

5. Little Blue Truck

We love trucks; by “we”, I mean my son. He knows more types of trucks than numbers (think: apple truck, box truck, cargo truck, dump truck… also see Alphabet Trucks for reference). However, his most favorite truck book is Little Blue Truck. There are a few Little Blue Truck books, there is even one about Little Blue visiting the city (hilarious for adults who have tried to drive in the city). The original Little Blue Truck though is an awesome read for any toddler. It’s about being polite, and remembering that working together helps everyone. There’s also many parts where kids can chime in with “beep!” or “HONK!” This one will leave you smiling.


Bio: Danielle teaches English to 9th graders at State College Area High School. She enjoys cooking, organizing, and spending time with her family.

Top 5 Toddler Book Picks