Why We're Relaunching

Why We're Relaunching

Mike and I are excited to announce the relaunch of unpackedu.  You should already see some of the aesthetic changes as we have redesigned the website to make our content easier to access, easier to search, and more reflective of our vision.  Some of the other changes will roll out over the course of this summer, but we wanted to thank everyone who has taken the time to visit this website over the past 18 months. 

Read More

Being the Good

Being the Good

“Hi! My name is Mike Stein, and I’m running for county commissioner. If I could have just a few minutes of your time, I’d like to tell you more about how I plan to improve our county.” I said this phrase dozens of times while walking around my neighborhood knocking on complete strangers’ doors asking for their vote. I never imagined that I would run for county commissioner, or any public office for that matter.

I ran for public office in a community in which I’m not a native and against someone twenty years my elder who had lived here his whole life. On top of that, he had been elected to the county commission and to the school board some time ago when he was closer to my age. Even more daunting is the fact that I had never run a political campaign before and I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know that I had to set up a separate bank account for my campaign (though it makes complete sense).

Read More

My 3 New Year's Resolutions

My 3 New Year's Resolutions

Last year in my New Year’s post, I reflected on some areas in which I needed to improve as a teacher. Just to review, I mentioned I “need to do a better job of providing my students with clear learning targets so they have an increased understanding of where they’re going before they get there. This should result in my students’ reflections being more authentic which, in turn, should increase their retention of the material.”

Read More

5 Wishes for Teachers and Students in 2018

5 Wishes for Teachers and Students in 2018

2017 is almost in the books, and it has been a whirlwind in the state of Tennessee.  Students are continuing to show growth, so much so that the eyes of the country are fixed on the Volunteer State.  In districts from Memphis to Maryville, phrases such as “bridge to postsecondary”, “personalized learning”, and “all means all” are contributing to vertically aligned learning communities committed to providing a relevant and demanding education for all students.

Read More

Going Gradeless: My Semester 1 Reflection

Going Gradeless: My Semester 1 Reflection

Now that the first semester is over, I am pleased with the results. More students have turned in revised work than at any time in my teaching career, which means that they are learning from their mistakes and getting better.  Looking ahead to next semester, I feel more confident that I have ingrained my expectations well enough to increase my students’ autonomy. Most of them plan on going to a community college or a university, and they need another shot at having more freedom. I personally need to continue to work at getting more efficient with providing feedback. By the end of Q3, I will have covered almost all of the English 3 standards, which will leave me about a month to go back and concentrate on areas where my students need the most help before they have to take TNReady, the state’s achievement test.

Read More

Don't Tread on Me

Don't Tread on Me

The bleak reality is that there’s little we can do right now to defend public education against the federal government. I kept thinking of a yellow flag with a snake coiled in the middle and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” printed in all caps at the top. How ironic that many of the same people who proudly boast that motto are the very ones who voted for President Trump, who then appointed DeVos to her post. As a public school teacher and as a parent of two girls in public schools, I am sick and tired of being tread on. I’m exasperated, and “fighting the good fight” takes time and energy that I often don’t have after a mentally and physically exhausting day at work.

Read More

When Neutrality Isn't Neutral

When Neutrality Isn't Neutral

Instead of running away from controversial issues in the classroom, I now embrace them. School provides a unique environment in which I can press my students to rise above the political banter and provide evidence for their assertions. Through class discussion, they also have the opportunity to practice the lost art of listening. Believe me, this is a struggle for so many of them; they are often times so eager to get their own point across that they don’t listen to what others are saying. I remember a time when politicians disagreed with, but still listened to, each other and settled upon compromises. Today’s politicians are merely a reflection of their electorates, which need to learn how to genuinely listen to each other.

Read More

Earbuds in the Classroom: Blessing or Burden?

Earbuds in the Classroom: Blessing or Burden?

If music does significantly help students (and that is a big if), what is the solution?  Why doesn’t Pandora or Spotify create a school-specific platform for high school students?  How hard could it be to come up with a solution and partner with schools to offer a fun resource that has limited customization to distract students?

Read More

Stop Adding Value and Save the Teaching Profession

Stop Adding Value and Save the Teaching Profession

My Level 1 rating is insulting and infuriating, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. I know other teachers who have expressed to me their exasperation with their low ratings--to the point of wanting to leave the profession. Clearly, something needs to be done. TDOE’s issues with TNReady is part of the problem, and I hope that they will remedy those soon. The other part of this problem is how teacher’s evaluation scores are determined. It’s beyond time for this state to stop using the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS).

Read More

4 Ways to Make Quarter 2 a Success

4 Ways to Make Quarter 2 a Success

I have two more quarters left (due to the state test coming at the beginning of the fourth quarter) to help my students grow as much as possible. Normally, I don’t make very big shifts to how my classroom operates until the end of the semester. I like to sit back and truly evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and one nine weeks is barely enough time to make this determination. However, I also feel a sense of urgency to do as much as I can to help my students with what time I have left with them. Based on my own reflections and my students’ comments during the first quarter, here are the four shifts I plan to make entering the second quarter of the school year:

Read More