T-minus 20 days until the new school year begins (537)

As I embark my 13th year of teaching I have been thinking about my goals for this year. A good friend of mine passed me a book called, “The Happy Teacher Habits – 11 Habits of the Happiest, Most Effective Teachers on Earth ” by Michael Linsin. This short book available on Amazon for just over $11 is an easy but thought provoking read. I think I am going to focus on the first two tips. I paraphrased them into this:


  • Narrow – focus on the 20% that makes you happiest and works best with your teaching 
  • Decline – say no!  Prioritize that 20%!

So what’s the 20% – I would say working with kids!  I like preparing lessons and seeing how they work in class. The paperwork is necessary but what about the other things I need to do. Linsin suggests focusing on what you need to do – not the other things. Cut out the gossip, focus on what you need to do and only that! I am hoping this works! I posted about being overwhelmed a few weeks ago and perhaps this is the key.

I need to focus on working efficiently during the school day. I intend to use my planning time wisely and focus on that 20%. I have my fingers crossed that this will make a difference.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon.



Music in the Classroom! (537)

I love music – I can’t carry a tune in a bucket (is that the saying?) I love to play music while my students are working in groups or writing. I even play Pandora’s music for studying while the students are taking tests. I love to sing along with the radio and I find that in the classroom it is a great way to get to know students better. There are certain songs that my students like that are off limits in the classroom but I find that there are some artists, songs, and genres that we have in common.  My students and I like John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, Disney songs and show tunes from the latest musical on Broadway. In class, we take turns playing DJ and it builds a community. When our family is in the car we do the same thing. Everyone takes a turn, youngest to oldest, it’s cute to hear our eight-year-old belt out Adele.

I think it builds rapport and helps with bonding because you let your hair down and relax. I am the same person 24X7X365. My persona does not change based on who I am with. I am always smiling and singing along in my head.

Try music in your classroom – you may just love it like I do!


Politics in school – yes or no? (537)

I am curious to hear how other folks in schools across the country handle the idea of discussing politics in the classroom/

I look forward to your responses.



West Wing Assignment (537)


I teach a current events class that I teach with blended learning. I have themes that cover either one or two weeks of instruction. The topics range from gun control, climate change, bullying, the US and the World and World Health. My favorite unit to teach is based on an episode of one of my all-time favorite shows, The West Wing. The project centers around a job offer presented to the outgoing White House Chief of Staff, CJ Cregg played by Allison Janey. In the episode, Cregg is offered $10 billion from an entrepreneur to invest in a global problem. Here is the episode: West Wing Clip

I start the unit by showing the brief clip to the class and then set up the scenario that they will engage in over the week. I play the role of the billionaire and ask the students to create a plan to spend the $10 billion. The projects are engaging and fun to watch. I don’t put any real parameters on the location or scope of the plan. Students focus on literacy in the US, clean water, vaccinations, drug addiction, AIDS and more.

If you want information on the project please feel free to email me – christine.monahanca1794@gmail.com


Miranda’s Hamilton & AP Government (537)

In April of this year, I had the afternoon of a lifetime. I saw Hamilton on Broadway. As a teacher of American History and Government, I was so GEEKED out! My colleague and I took thirteen high school students to New York for a Broadway Teachers Workshop for students. I was the chaperone that was able to go to Hamilton. Ham

In my AP Government class, I utilized my love of Hamilton to teach about George Washington’s cabinet. Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson had very different ideas about the new nation. The challenges they faced led to the start of political parties in the US because Jefferson believed in small government and Hamilton the opposite. One particular song from the musical encapsulates this perfectly. My students loved the idea of listening to rap to learn about the government. To all of you teachers out there – give Hamilton a listen!

Cabinet Battle #1 Youtube

Cabinet Battle 1 Lyrics

Happy Listening!


PBL – Reflecting in Education(542)


This PBL project was a true work of heart. Now that I have nearly completed it I already have a few take aways. I think I gave myself a huge challenging with trying to create a project that would work with the International Baccalaureate. I should have chosen content from one of the electives I teach BUT I also think that my students will love this task.

I plan to show this project to the teacher that worked with the group students I am working with during the past school year. She knows this group well and will be able to let me know what I need to modify in order to meet their needs. It is important to measure the rigor of the work because I created a tight timeline. I also need to review a calendar to count the number of school days due to days off or special schedules. I should also work on a plan to slow down the pace of needed.

Reflection is not a one-time event. Assessing the assignment is ongoing. This assignment like all others will be ever evolving and different from year to year. To be honest I rarely use the exact same assessments and other teaching tools from year to year. I modify or adapt everything for the group I am teaching based on the needs of the students. For example, my AP Government and Politics class last year took place during an election year. This year is certainly not an election year but there is plenty going on to include in the course. I even teach World War II differently from year to year.

I am eager to implement this project in October.

Universal Studios – Harry Potter brought to life (537)

Our eldest son decided to be Harry Potter for Halloween in kindergarten after reading JK Rowling’s first book. I smiled proudly and told him that when he was taller than me I would take him to Universal Studios to see the Harry Potter area. I ate my words this spring when at age 11 he announced that he was sure he would be taller by summer. So we jumped at the chance to attend a conference in Orlando this summer so that I could fulfill my promise. IMG_0509

The Harry Potter ares in both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure were nothing short of amazing. The prose in Rowling’s books was truly brought to life and everything was authentic. This includes the wandmakers, butter beer, Weasley’s Joke Shop and the Hogwart’s Castle. It was an unbelievable experience that all of us will not forget. I hope that this inspires a love of reading and writing in every person that goes to this park. I highly recommend the trip for the Harry Potter loves in your life.


Generational differences – fact or fiction? (537)

This week in my blogging class we are exploring generational differences in technology. Prior to completing the readings I would say that the students I work with are certainly on a spectrum regarding digital literacy and skills. I have some students that run circles around me and others who need help with even the most basic assignments. I think that their “upbringing” in technology is not what we think it is and my students come from schools all over the world therefore that difference is magnified. In some schools I have worked in there has been a robust technology skills curriculum to support integration of technology in the classroom.

The readings this week highlight the range of technology intergration. In Prensky’s work on digital immigrants and digital natives I chuckled a little thinking of some of my colleagues and the range of this technological skills. I struggle with the generational argument because I think that it is too oversimplified and places people in categories that I have not viewed in my career. I agree more with an article written back in 2007 by Jamie McKenzie that is highly critical of the oversimplified generational argument presented by Prensky. McKenzie contends that Krensky’s argument ignores a big piece of the negatives of too much technology on the natives. Thomas Reeves addressed the true crux of the question at hand – Should different generations be taught differently? Reeves’ answer is yes when it comes to “differences with respect to attitudes, work habits, and motivators” (20). As teachers whom are more than likely are members of differing generations when compared to our students this research is relevant when considering classroom management, tech integration and an overall teaching plan.

I beleive in using the best tool for the job of teaching . This may be pen to paper or a digital tool. This usage is dictated by a wide range of factors gauged by a skilled teacher. These readings do a good job framing thoughts on technology.


Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
McKenzie, J. (2007). Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation. From Now On, 17(2).

Reeves, T.C. (2008, January 22-25). Do generational differences matter in instructional design? Online discussion presentation to Instructional Technology Forum.

Implementing PBL – how will I be different? (542)

teacherAs a teacher, I tend to do okay with acting as a facilitator with students. I use the word okay because at times I am great at working the room, overseeing the students’ working and keeping them on tasks. However, I find myself doing the mundane paperwork of teaching instead or chatting with a group on an off task topic. I wish I could pinpoint the cause of my own actions but as I write this I wonder is it the group of students? The task? The time of day? The students’ interest in the task? Is it me?

I just know one thing for sure I need a concrete plan to combat this. Here are a few tips I plan to implement.

– Do not EVER look at this time as a chance to update my attendance, grade book or an opportunity to check email.

– Create a check in sheet for each group. For example, determine if the group is focused, accomplishing the objective and working together. Find a way to work the results into the rubric.

– Work the room the entire time – remember this time is not “teacher time”

– Take anecdotal notes for the next class or the next year.

Perhaps self-awareness of these behaviors will help me or perhaps writing these concerns down will propel me to be more successful next year in this regard.

One element I believe I excel at is rapport. In most of my classes, I am able to create a calm and friendly environment where the students genuinely support each other.

teamworkFor some aspects of my PBL project, my students will be expected to work together.  I am fairly certain that this part will go well.  I spend time during the beginning of the school year creating a true community of learners. At an independent boarding school, my students and I see each other in many ways outside of the classroom. I frequently have students for dinner at our home, watch them on the sports field or work with them in the arts. In this way I find building relationships and connections to be somewhat easier.

Implementing PBL in my classroom will not be easy but I am ready for the challenge.

Using Technology to Explore Global Theatre Traditions

This is my class.

This is my teacher .

This is a performance.

This year, I am teaching IB Theatre for the first time, and it is exciting as well as somewhat daunting. A big part of the course requires exposing students to theatre traditions from around the world. I don’t necessarily have to teach every tradition myself; in fact, students are supposed to research them independently and present to the class, and I need to only model one tradition for them as an example. However, there is a big difference between reading about theater and actually doing it.

This summer, I went to an IB workshop and took a master class in Kathakali, a traditional Indian dance and storytelling technique. The instructor first showed us a piece she had worked on: she explained what she was doing and the connections between the various movements and the story, then she performed it, then she discussed other aspects of what we saw, then she performed it again and discussed it again. In the next session, we learned some of the standard dance moves and hand gestures and facial expressions, and then we had to perform them as well. It just scratched the surface of this practice as a whole but was a solid introduction to the technique that I could not have gotten from simply watching a performance or reading about it. So how do I transfer that type of experience to my classroom? It is not feasible to bring in master teachers for all of the traditions students can choose, nor are many available or affordable. Here’s where technology bridges a crucial gap — I hope.

ISTA (the group which sponsored the IB training) has a partnership with Digital Theatre and Digital Theatre + (for schools) where they post recordings of master classes and performances, interviews with theatre practitioners, and more. It’s a great resource, but when I priced it out, it came to about $2000.00 for a year’s subscription. Now, my theatre program has a healthy budget, but that’s a lot of money to spend on a resource that I am not sure how I would use yet and not sure I would have the time to utilize to its fullest potential. (And my theatre kids like us to buy them ice cream! I do need to think about what the best use of my budget will be.)

Another option would be to take the time to create an online collection of videos, readings, links, etc. A few other theatre teachers have already done this for their classes, including the leader of the online IB workshop I took this spring — her webpage is a great starting point for me. Although creating my own content is also time consuming, I am leaning in this direction. I am thinking that if I put in the time this summer, then I will always have the materials — the subscription doesn’t run out. Then, after this first year, if it’s not adequate, I can rethink my options.

In short, I think technology, especially online media, will be an invaluable resource for me, and I cannot imagine teaching the IB Theatre course without it. However, I wish there were more free options equivalent to the excellent (and expensive) ones out there. I want the best content for my students, but I am just not yet ready to give away the ice cream.