Let’s Not Lose Time to Standardized Testing

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Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

As a teacher, my motto has always been this: I want school to be better for them than it was for me. And so as I strove to design learning in my classroom, starting with determining which skills are absolutely necessary for students to master in a given school year, I created learning experiences that had value — every activity, every reading, every discussion, every test or quiz — had a purpose.

Here we are in February of 2021, and the annual season of state standardized testing is looming. These tests, designed, it would seem, to gauge if our instruction…


Let’s stop wasting our precious money and time with students on standardized testing

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Photo by Eder Pozo Pérez on Unsplash

It’s that time of year again in my children’s school district when parents must make their choice as to which schools to attend. I am a strong advocate for neighborhood public schools, and yet, this year my thoughts have strayed somewhat, musing on other options for my kids.

Why, you might ask? It’s not because of the teachers or the administration. It’s hardly because of ugly debate that continues to rage between in-person, hybrid, and remote options. …


By Cindy Shapiro

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Photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash

Building leadership is the single-most important factor in a school’s success. It is also what makes the difference between teachers opening their doors and participating in a true learning community or closing their doors and shutting out the noise. The principal creates the atmosphere, sets the vision for professional learning, and is the key ingredient in the culture of a school.

I knew she would give me the space to be creative and innovative in the classroom, and that she would respect me, as a professional.

Throughout my teaching career, I’ve been fortunate to have a small handful of good…


Education can be better — and here’s one way we can do it

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Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Now is the time to consider how we want things to grow in education — that’s right, grow — when the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Going back to “normal” would be a damned shame. “Normal” is too much sit-and-get. “Normal” is a lot of seat time, but that doesn’t mean that our students are there mentally. It means worksheets and textbooks, and a lot of call-and-response rather than open dialogue. “Normal” just means students are there in body, and not necessarily in mind.

Many schools and districts attempted to incorporate a hybrid model this year, to keep class sizes small. The…


It’s okay to feel sad

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Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

I was sad this morning.

Nothing in particular had happened, and there wasn’t anything wrong, really. At least, not on the surface. But I just felt off.

As I looked out my window at the snow flying sideways, the sky a continuous sheet of gray, I thought, But why?

Rather than sit around and mope about it or go back to bed in defeat, I decided to take action. Here is what I did:

I exercised. Knowing that I was already in a low mood, and not wanting to give myself a reason to continue beating up on myself, I…


It’s my daughter

By Cindy Shapiro

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Author’s own image

In mid-October, my daughter and I Zoomed with her teacher for our parent-teacher conference. It was nice to see another adult, and my daughter adored having her teacher’s undivided attention. When her teacher asked, “How’s remote learning going?” Sadie and I both turned and looked at each other. We were dumbstruck. What should we say? Should we be totally honest?

“We’re fighting a lot,” I said. “It’s a struggle.”

Sadie nodded.

The teacher said, “Let me rephrase the question. What’s going well with remote learning?”

Again, we looked at each other. What was going well? …


Or at least, don’t buy a new set for your classroom

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Photo by Romina BM on Unsplash

Textbooks are relics of the past, and yet you’ll find them in nearly every Social Studies classroom around the country. They take up cabinet space, litter countertops, and hang out in the metal cages underneath students’ desks.

They are a waste of space. And they are limiting your students’ ability to think critically.

Too often in classrooms, to this day, teachers depend on two things: a textbook with questions in the back and chapter checkpoints, and sit-and-get lectures.

Many times, this is all that students get in Social Studies classes, particularly at the high school level.

And it’s part of…


And neither should you

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Photo by Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash

Words have power, as much as we might like to say otherwise. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a ridiculous lie. Of course words hurt. And if we read words like the n-word in class, we are complicit, giving our students permission to use these words against each other.

Let’s get something out of the way because I think it needs to be said: I’m white. My kids are white. My husband is white and Jewish. I took his name, so I have a Jewish surname. Something I had never realized before…


What happened today at the Capitol in D.C. cannot, and should not, be avoided by teachers

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Photo by Dustin Humes on Unsplash

This evening, a teacher friend of mine texted me about the situation that exploded in Washington, D.C. today. She said, “Really struggling to think through how to talk with students about what happened in D.C. today. How does one even begin to talk about such a thing?”

I used to be an Early U.S. History teacher for 8th graders at a middle school just down the street from my home. I took a leave of absence this year and saw many of the questions…


This is not a pep talk, I promise

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Photo by Константин Маманович on Unsplash

Dear Teacher,

I can’t claim to empathize with you — not this year. I stepped away. You are still in it. Despite that, I’ve been thinking about you since the start of the new year. Yes, it’s 2021. Does that mean all of your problems and challenges from 2020 will fade away? Hardly. You’ve had a week or two off, but now you’re headed straight back into the fire.

I am not a person who believes in false, toxic positivity. I believe in being real. And no, that doesn’t mean being pessimistic. I am actually a hopeful person. It is…

Cindy Shapiro

Cindy Shapiro is a Colorado teacher on a leave of absence from her school district this year. Her two children are engaging in remote learning.

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