Stop Reading the Comments: How to Overcome Negativity

I was named 2024 Senior Teacher of the Year at Hammond High School. With the honor came the opportunity to address graduates at the May 22 awards ceremony. Here's the speech. STACEY CARTER-LANE:      Good morning, class of 2024! I am excited, grateful and incredibly humbled to be standing here addressing you today. You have had four years of amazing, dedicated and caring teachers – and you voted me as your Teacher of the Year. Thank you. I have wanted to be Teacher of the Year for years. I think the biggest attraction was the validation. (And I mistakenly thought the distinction came with a parking spot, which would’ve been cool, too.)  But with all of the awesome choices you have here at Hammond High School, I decided a while back to just let it go. And then, this year – of all years – you chose me. And when I say “of all years,” I mean … I have been through a lot in the past year or two. And I know many of you have, also. I want to tell you about one of the struggles I had this y

A Poem for Weary Teachers

A Poem for Weary Teachers by STACEY CARTER-LANE Tonight I will sleep. I will forget about school, papers to grade, lessons to plan. I will not wake up thinking of a plan  to save those students -- that young woman, that young man. I will close my eyes and drift away  from the event I forgot to pencil in,  the chores I omitted from the to-do list, the calls I missed. I will fall asleep before my prayer is through. Tonight I will …

Teacher Health Matters: Tackling the Bathroom Issue Head-On

It was a Saturday morning. I was doing small chores around the house, and I had to go to the bathroom. But I kept holding it. I was home alone, so there was no need to wait for a family member to get out of the bathroom. And I wasn't expecting anyone to knock on the door. I just kept delaying. I threw in a load of laundry. I put some shoes in their boxes in the closest. I even vacuumed a room. I knew I had to go, but I figured I'd get a few things done and then go. Why was I holding it? What sense did that make? I realized that I have conditioned myself to not use the bathroom when I need to. I have had years of practicing this awful habit. And I am not alone. I suspect that the majority of the more than 4 million American school teachers are used to holding it, too. We teachers simply don’t tinkle whenever we need to. Our jobs and workdays are not designed to accommodate it. Some of us hold it for hours. And going number two ... who has time for that? We complain about it to e

5 Tips to Prepare Your Teen for the SAT

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is tomorrow. Is your child taking the exam? Are you wondering how you can help? Keep reading for tips! I have worked as a proctor for the SAT for many years, and I view the exam with an unusual, threefold perspective. As the mother of test-takers with very different learning styles, my two children have taken the test a total of six times. As a teacher, I am interested in seeing students perform well and preparing them for success. And, as a proctor, I aim to provide a comfortable testing environment for nervous teenagers who are often stressed out about the test. Getting your high schooler ready for the SAT can feel overwhelming. Many of us haven’t solved for "x" in ages. For some of us, the letters "S-A-T" are triggering. In addition, as this NerdyTeacherMom can attest, being knowledgeable about grammar, test-taking and academics does not guarantee that your teen will listen to your advice. I’m here to tell you that you are NOT

High Schoolers' Top Picks: Word Games to Spice Up Your Day

I recently started playing Wordle . I'm hooked! It took me a while to get into it, though. When I would see my friends post colored squares on Facebook and comment about the difficulty of the day's word, I figured I would try it one day. But I was in no rush. Then, I started to notice that my first period class was so engaged in Wordle each morning that I had trouble getting their attention to start lessons. I couldn't beat 'em, so I decided to join them.  My students walked me through the process of trying to guess the word of the day. Start by placing a random, five-letter word in the squares. If a letter turns green, it is in the proper position. If it turns yellow, it's a correct letter in the wrong position. And if the letter turns gray, it is not part of the word. I enjoy word games and got the hang of it quickly. Today, a rock-star student started a list on the classroom whiteboard of games that are similar to Wordle. As the day progressed, a few students add

Why I Still Wear a Mask to Teach at High School

It's been a week since the mask mandate was lifted at the high school where I work and where my teenage daughter attends. On the first mask-optional day, I announced to my students that I would be wearing a mask but that I was totally fine with whatever they decided to do. I would neither judge or make assumptions. I meant it.  Here are the three main reasons why I'm still wearing a mask to school. 1. I have not had a cold in more than two years. And I'm one of those people who typically catches a cold at least twice a year. I'm convinced that the mask (along with my other heightened sanitary practices) has protected me from the common cold. 2. I'm uncomfortable with the attitude that COVID-19 is no longer a threat. I have no idea how the latest variant could affect my body, and I don't want to find out. 3. Several of my coworkers, and some of the students, have expressed a great deal of anxiety. Being around mask-less people in a crowded, school environment mak

Logging community service hours can be a struggle -- especially during a pandemic

My eleventh grader needs to earn some community service hours. She needs them to stay active in several honor societies. Plus, she needs them to be competitive among her peers this fall when she begins applying to colleges and for scholarships. In a 2018  Forbes  article , writer Derek Newton reported on a survey of college admissions officers and the value they place on community service.  "Fortunately, a new survey of college admissions officers and staff shows that t argeted community service may be a shortcut to scoring college admission or serve as a powerful tie-breaker among competitive applicants," Newton wrote. Of late, I have been questioning the equity of service hour requirements and expectations. Are they fair? I've also been beating myself up a bit for failing to be a better example when it comes to serving in the community. Perhaps if I did more community service, and did it more consistently, then my daughter would see it as a natural part of our family