New School Year? Seeking “Islands of Stability” Amid the Changes

Which set of keys is the right one for this year? Naomi’s Photos

“Are you sure Teacher T.  didn’t have a baby? I don’t know what to write for someone who moved to a new apartment”, asked one of my 10th-grade students near the end of the previous school year.

“Just write HAPPY BIRTHDAY! – that works for everything” advised another.

As I launched into my “greetings/best wishes lesson”,  I hoped to recreate the lesson we had several years ago when the aforementioned Teacher T. actually did have a baby: “Students Writing for an Authentic Audience Affords a Peek into their Hearts”.

The students back in 2018 were motivated to write, we practiced vocabulary, grammar, and syntax in context. In addition, we focused on  PRAGMATICS, which is something my Deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students certainly need to work on.


It wasn’t a repeat performance.

I hear you!
Naomi’s Photos

For starters,  moving to a new apartment clearly doesn’t tug at students’ heartstrings the same way that having a new baby does.

I understood that but nonetheless, I handed out whiteboard markers, wrote a suitable title on the board, and attempted to inspire the students by acting out how pleased the teacher would be when she arrived at class and found all these good wishes on the board.

One student actually started off on the right track – he wanted to write: HAVE A GOOD MOOD APARTMENT! So that led to the kind of educational discussion I was hoping to have.

But then a student literally stood with her hands on her hips, gave me a sort of “Are you kidding me” look, and said very emphatically:

“She knows Hebrew.

I know Hebrew.

And YOU want ME to write to her in ENGLISH?!”

She proceeded to shake her head sorrowfully…

The big drop… Naomi’s Photos

The OLD teacher in me immediately began thinking:

“Which of our old “Writing for an Authentic Audience” projects was worth revisiting? Or should I look into new options?  Perhaps we could…”

These thoughts were drowned out by the NEW teacher in me shouting:


This past year was really difficult, despite being back in class. It was a struggle to have a sense of continuity when we actually never had the allotted number of lessons a week. Even those students who didn’t feel the need to skip at least one day of school a week were often absent due to class excursions, lectures, exams in other subjects / getting tutoring hours for upcoming exams in other subjects.

And of course, some students were also absent due to illness. I was too, as a matter of fact. The pandemic hasn’t disappeared yet…

Turbulence… Naomi’s Photos

The NEW teacher in me says “focus on building “islands of stability before thinking about anything else. ”

It doesn’t matter that my summer tradition has always been to find/learn some new tweak, practice, routine, or different take to start a new school year with.

I need to figure out how to bring back what actually worked well before the pandemic hit and was lost or dramatically downsized.

Look back, not forward, before this school year begins.

How’s that for being open to change?

There are tunnels on the road ahead… Naomi’s Photos

Since I teach in a multi-level, mixed-grade learning center, some examples of what I would like to see  once again in class:

… students coming to class, actually remembering what they are working on and independently pulling out the material they need.

… students practicing their vocabulary on Quizlet without asking what the icon for Quizlet looks like …

… getting the WORD STATION up and running again and ensuring the students use it regularly without asking me what to do …

You can read about that “work station” here:        

… reviving the lessons involving the “look up and read” method adapted from John Fanselow’s book “Small Changes in Teaching, Big Results in Learning”.

You can read about that here:


of course…

… seeing students continue to use the one thing that actually was an island of stability for both the students and I throughout the years of teaching alongside a pandemic (including the distance learning part!) , the tool that enabled each student to log on and only see his/her personal assignments, called…


All gone… Naomi’s Photos

The wonderful off-the-school-grid Learning Management System I rely on, Edmodo, is shutting down.

For good.

It was just announced – in Mid August!

School begins Sept. 1st.

I’ve been using it for at least 10 years and have a vast amount of material organized into small units, for different groups, levels and individual students. I even have a small pedagogical library there!

The one thing that was not harmed by the pandemic (on the contrary!) is disappearing.

Writing for an authentic audience?

That will have to wait.

I’m going back to basics first.