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Starr Sackstein | @MsSackstein

Starr Sackstein | @MsSackstein

Starr Sackstein currently works at World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing, N.Y., as a high-school English and journalism teacher. She is the author of Teaching Mythology Exposed: Helping Teachers Create Visionary Classroom Perspective, Blogging for Educators, Teaching Students to Self-Assess, Hacking Assessment, The Power of Questioning and Simply May . She blogs for Education Week Teacher on “Work in Progress” in addition to her personal blog StarrSackstein.com where she discusses all aspects of being a teacher. Sackstein co-moderates #sunchat and contributes to #NYedChat. In speaking engagements, Sackstein speaks about blogging, journalism education, throwing out grades and BYOD, helping people see technology doesn’t have to be feared. Follow her @MsSackstein on Twitter.

Posted by on in School Culture


Can you remember being the new person at your school? Whether it was the beginning of your career and you were completely green or you switched schools and were learning the ropes of how this little community functions, each of us has been there. Hopefully, you were greeted by at least one person with a little more time than you, who just wanted to help.

Teaching is an incredibly complicated job. It is physically and emotionally taxing at times requiring us to be on our game as much as possible. When we work in a collegial environment, it is one that is nurturing and supportive.

There are 4 predictable stages of community that I learned about early on during summer training at my current school. (As a College Board school, we were required to meet over the summer for several weeks to team build and learn about a new way of teaching.) They are: pseudo-community, choas, emptiness and true community. Fluid phases that can often move quickly, until achieving true community, but it takes work. The definitions below are adapted from M. Scott Peck.

First in pseudo-community, we all pretend to get along, avoiding conflict wherever possible. We are kind because we want to be liked. When we first enter a school, we are eager to find out how the community works and so we, watch and agree to a lot of things. This never lasts because a lot of personalities in one place can't stand the facade.

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Posted by on in Student Engagement


It just struck me. Presumably, the way it might strike a student seeming disengaged in an ocean of thought, we, as teachers can enact powerful change in the lives of very important people: the kids we teach, the colleagues we connect with, the administrators who believe in us.

I'm overwhelmed today with the kind words of educators who have never even met me; how truly powerful a kind word can be in the middle, of... well... anything. Think about how simple it is to say something nice. (pause) Consider why not enough people do... Then...

Be the change you want to create. Start small. As soon as your recognize something meaningful (anything meaningful), say something, don't just think it. Start a positive chain of do-gooder-ness. Make someone's day (advice passed on to me by the H.L. Hall, teacher and colleague).

Too often, we drudge through life, incapable of seeing the beauty in small moments that can potentially turn into big ones. A former student, now student-teacher comes to observe my class. She tells me about what she's learning and what she wants to do. I have a choice. I choose to help and it feels good, for both of us.

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Posted by on in Differentiated Instruction


Do we all define rigor the same way?

With rigor being one of the biggest buzz words in education right now, teachers and administrators have to make sure we are all on the same page regarding what we believe it means.  Like many concepts in education, rigor is a word, heard often, but never really explained. It's an expectation, an outcome, a belief - one never normed or calibrated, just expected and understood.

Like with many concepts where meaning is assumed, there seems to be a miscommunication that few are willing to address; we just "assume" we are all talking about the same thing and go about our own definitions in our own spaces, sadly in isolation.

When we use big terms like "rigor" or "learning" or "mastery", seldom do we talk about what it actually looks like and how we can achieve it. "Engagement" seems to come up often when discussing any of the above as one of the measureable factors to ensure they are happening, but that too is extremely subjective.

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Tagged in: Learning Rigor Twitter

Posted by on in Teens and Tweens
A chilling tale of dealing with abuse, struggling to stay alive.

With a title like Living Dead Girl, I had no idea what to expect, but when a student hands me a book and says, "I loved this, you should read it;" I make sure I do.

So I dove into the first pages of the novel, horrified by what I read. At first confused and then disgusted and then saddened and the pages turned. Cover to cover in one day.

Short chapters, hasten the pace and maintain interest as the reader waits and hopes for "Alice" to get free. We wonder, but not for long, how it happened and continue to languish with protagonist listening to her abuses own tales of how he was treated. We read with anger as he threatens and instills fear.

Living Dead Girl is not for the faint of heart. Reading through the car wreck, I made it to the end and wasn't sure what to make of it. The narrative voice reminded me of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak in how a character is able to set herself free.

More extreme than Speak, Living Dead Girl will have any reader riveted, page turning and nauseated.

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Posted by on in School Culture


High school classrooms offer learning targets and reminders. The room littered with informational facts that inspire and create connections throughout the year. A word wall with prior, current and future learning keeps an eye on where we start and where we are going. How many people have seen a college classroom or job cubicle look like this?
High school classrooms offer learning targets and reminders. The room littered with informational facts that inspire and create connections throughout the year. A word wall with prior, current and future learning keeps an eye on where we start and where we are going. How many people have seen a college classroom or job cubicle look like this?

Rereading this older post from sometime in 2013, I'm reminded of how I got to the current belief system I have. What a great reminder of each step. Check this out and try to see the steps of what got me here. The below post originally ran on April 4, 2013. 

Let the transformation begin.

Last night I diligently lurked on a chat about grading practices. Although I agreed and practice many of the theories espoused, inside an irksome voice lingered.

One brave soul, a person I correspond with on Twitter frequently asked, "where do we draw the line?" Referring to how many opportunities we should give without some kind of negative consequence. I tentatively began to type a response only to be beaten to it by a barrage of aggressive comments about learning and how giving grade reductions or zeros give students the right to not do the work.

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