Sunday, December 30, 2018

Happy New Year! Suggestions for a Successful School Year!

Have a Wonderful 2019!

I share these ideas twice a year. At the beginning of the school year, and the beginning of the year. I've made some changes to my list.

Some suggestions for the new year:

  1. treat all students fairly, regardless of race, gender, age, behavior, a parent's nasty attitude, the comments from last year's teachers, or a seemingly lack of interest in learning 
  2. to realize that all children can learn, but not always at the same pace.
  3. stop using sarcasm as a disciplinary tool, no matter how effective it may seem. 
  4. speak in a quiet, even,tone, even when yelling seems to be the only option. (It never is!)
  5. "sticks and stones...but words"... Words can hurt worse than "sticks and stones." Please be careful of the words you use with a child.
  6.  realize that you might be the only good thing that happens in a student's day 
  7. try to meet all deadlines(With all the burdens placed on teachers these days, this one is VERY difficult)
  8. stop gossiping about other teachers, parents, students, administration...! (Difficult at times, I know)
  9. if you don't know, say you don't know (But find out or teach others how to find out)
  10. make mistakes, it's OK. But admit to them and then learn from them.
  11. challenge your students! Challenge yourself!
  12. share with colleagues, we are not in competition with each other. 
  13. use technology as a tool to excite, engage, and empower students. Technology is not a subject!
  14. be involved in fighting what is happening in, and to, the public education system! (Standardized testing, education "reform", merit pay)
  15. be a lifelong learner 
  16. continue to be passionate about the job, it really is about the kids!
  17. realize our biases impact the way we treat your students.
  18. Building relationships is key!

photo credit: One Way Stock via photopin cc

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Postcard Exchange:Authentic Learning Through Projects!

I don´t remember if I saw it in an email or on Twitter, but the Postcard Exchange project caught my eye. It was sponsored by @techTOSAGina. This was her first one, as a matter of fact. Each teacher would be responsible for sending out 50 postcards to all the other classes on the list.

Sounded like an interesting way to teach Geography.

I decided we would create a postcard via Vistaprint, and yes the cost was out of pocket, but fortunately,Vistaprint is always having sales. And like a teacher, I  could not  just get the postcards, I added in return labels with our school name and mascot on it.
As a class, we decided what information would be included on our information sheet.

The postcards started trickling, then pouring, in. Meanwhile, I had my kids glue on the information sheets and stick on the return labels. I decided to address our postcards myself because I just felt it would be quicker. Unfortunately, it was not. I am a procrastinator, and ended up addressing them a while after they were due.:( But, I did send them.

As I collected the postcards, I kept trying to think of a way this could be more than a bunch of postcards we glue on the wall. And wouldn´t you know? A teacher shared her idea. She created a Google Slide presentation, and the kids added the info they got from their postcards. If they didn´t get enough info, they did the research and supplied it themselves. Another teacher created a Google Tour
using the addresses of the schools.

My kids are still working on their Google Slide presentation, and they are really enjoying it! They talk about the facts they learned about their states with their peers and I. When they were done, they asked for more cards to fill out another slide. They enjoyed finding out how many miles away they were by car, walking bike, etc...

 I´ve never used Google Tours, but I am going to give it a try.Really doesn´t matter, once I give it to the kids... For example, I told them to add a picture, they found a much more creative way to add images to the slides.
Looking forward to doing this again next year!

Interested in creating your own Postcard Exchange? Here´s some ideas!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sometimes the Technology Doesn't Work!

Yesterday was our first Mystery Skype of the year.
My class was hyped!
Earlier, I tested my webcam, and everything was in order.
It did cross my mind to contact the teacher and do a practice run, but that thought went out of my head as quickly as it went in. (Note to self:Always do a practice run!)

The Skype was scheduled for 2 p.m.
So much talking, movement, excitement!
The video call begins.(I laugh when I think about how excited they got!)
We say hello, and the teacher says, "We can't hear you."

All I can think of as we try this,that, and the other, is how disappointed my kids will be if we don't get this to work.
Press things, hang up,call back, nothing is working.

We messaged each other back and forth and decided to do it anyway.
Both of our classes were first timers, the teacher was also a first timer, but we did it.
We could see and hear them.
They could see us.
I typed.
My kids used signals.
One finger for "Yes."
Two fingers for "No."

It worked.
We guessed each other's state, had fun, learned geography, and we will hook up again with a working microphone.

Sometimes the technology doesn't work. And that's ok.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

"Cause I Ain't Got No Pencil" - Why We Shouldn't Sweat the Little Things!

I read the background story of Mr.Dickerson, the author of this poem, and it made me want to cry. The teacher made the student give her his shoe as collateral for a pencil. He had on dirty socks and all the kids started laughing at him.

I've done it, not the shoe part. Never collateral. But I have shaken my head and said things like, "Why don't you ever have a pencil?" I don't even pay for my pencils, my district does. So why did I feel the need to address it? I should have just given the kid the pencil.
After I read this poem a few years ago, I became more aware of my attitude towards my students regarding circumstances like these.

It's similar to the wake-up call I got years and years ago when I used to fuss, roll my eyes, or make comments regarding the late ELEMENTARY student. They don't drive! How are they going to control what time they get to school or IF they get to school? Now I just smile and say, "I am glad you are here." with absolutely no sarcasm. It makes a difference.

Do you know that educator that picks and picks and picks? Yeah, you know who I'm talking about. They have to make a case about every little thing.

Don't be that educator.

I remember I used to fuss at a little girl who never had her HW done.(That's when HW used to be an issue for me.) I found out at the end of the year that the little girl was homeless and staying in a shelter. I don't think HW was high on her list of priorities.

In the article, Mr.Dickerson wants us to pay attention to what happened before this student came to school with no pencil. Pay attention to what the student did in order to come to school! That is what is important, how this child overcame their morning hardships and made it to school WITH their baby sister.

And here we are, worrying about a pencil. Give the kid the pencil! Stop sweating the little things.

Friday, July 27, 2018

"Wellll...You Chose this Profession..."

One of my best friends and I were sitting around talking and the conversation turned to IEPs. Let me put this in perspective. My friend is a Spec.Ed supervisor and I am a 5th grade teacher. I was discussing how overwhelming IEPs are and the work Spec Ed teachers have, not only writing them, but following through on them, etc...

Well, let's just say we had differing points of view on various details and  just as the conversation was about to end, before it became violent(jk), she said, "Well just keep in mind, you chose this profession..." She said it more than once!

No, I did not start screaming and my head did not spin around three times, I just ended the conversation.You see, this is something I have heard from my husband on various occasions when I guess he feels I am over-venting. This is something I see in the Comments section on Facebook from non-educators. This is not something I expected to hear from my friend.

But, here's what many people don't understand, once you leave the classroom your perspective changes. You forget the day to day grind of giving your heart and soul to and for these kids, that feeling fades.

And I know there are admin who still try to place themselves in the shoes of classroom teachers and those who still work directly with our children, but it's difficult. They have so much going on, and so many other people they have to answer to, sometimes they forget, or could care less, what is required of us as educators.

But the words, "You chose this profession..." make me angry. Those four words imply that, because we choose to teach,we are supposed to put up with everything and anything that is placed before us, whether we like it or not.

Because we chose this profession we should write IEPS for half our class at school, at home, and anywhere else we can find time to write them and not ask for more time. Then still bust our butts finding a way to meet the needs of our students with IEPs in the classroom.

Because we chose this profession we should be happy when we have a class size of 25 and over, even though research has proven that class size matters. Yeah, because good teachers can handle 30 or more kids.

Because we chose this profession  we should be delighted that instead of letting us teach using the skills we have honed, we are required to follow every "new thing" or new book, that is thrown at us once,twice, or three times a year.

Because we chose this profession  we should forget that we are professionals and should have control over our Professional Development. No, better we waste countless hours at PD that is forced upon us.

Because we chose this profession we should have no problem taking money out of our own pockets and buying supplies, books, and all the other things educators pay for to make sure their students have what they need.

I chose this profession because I wanted to make a difference in a child's life.

But let's not get it twisted, just because we chose this profession, doesn't mean we shouldn't be treated with anything other than the respect we deserve. It doesn't mean that we should be seen and not heard. It doesn't mean that someone gets to say that we should put up with things that stand in the way of making us the type of educator that is doing the best for our kids. 

What should be said is, "I thank you for choosing this profession and I will do whatever I can to help you work in an environment where you will thrive, along with your students."

"You chose this profession..." Sheesh! smh 🤦

Watch the video below and tell me if these Oklahoma educators deserve what happened to them because "they chose this profession."

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Value of Veteran Educators... There is No Expiration Date.

When did years of experience become a negative?

Category:Things that expire...

One of the concerns brought up at the NEA RA, ( National Education Association Representative Assembly), this year, was the reprehensible treatment of veteran educators. All over the United States, it seems veteran educators are under attack.

The Modus Operandi does not differ from state to state. An effective teacher, of a certain age, suddenly becomes "ineffective." Admin picks, picks, and picks until said teacher cannot take it anymore and resigns. Or, said teacher is moved from grade to grade to grade, with the same result, they quit. Once the teacher has resigned, admin is now able to hire one or two new teachers at a lower salary, who they are then able to mold.

If a veteran educator is doing their job effectively, why you ask, would they be harassed until they quit? Their high salary, they won't put up with too much nonsense, they do not follow blindly, they speak their mind, and they can't be fired on a whim. 

I know a number of excellent educators who would still be teaching now if they weren't hounded out of the classroom. It's amusing that you can be an admin of any age, but educators seem to have an expiration date.

Here are a number of reasons veteran educators should be valued:

  • They have been teaching a long time. That's not a bad thing, especially if they have taught in the same school. That educator knows the parents, and the kids of their former students who end up sending their kids there. They are a valued member of that community.

  • They have been teaching a long time. Yes, I know I repeated myself:) Veteran educators have been through every "new thing" that has come out and and gone back in again. They know what works and what doesn't. They have found a way to teach using the old and the new.

  • They are life-long learners. Many of the conferences I attend, especially edtech, are populated by veteran educators. They will be the ones voluntarily sitting in after school or Saturday workshops. They are ready and willing to add whatever strategies they can to reach our ever changing student population. They realize you can't teach these students the way they used to.

  • They can be a mentor, especially to the younger teachers. Every veteran educator is not the stereotypical old lady or man spewing poison in the Teacher's Lounge. A lot can be learned from them.
Too many times veteran educators are dismissed for the simple fact that they have reached the age of 50 and beyond. As long as a veteran teacher can do their job effectively, take advantage of what they offer. Brand new is not always better than tried and true!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

#8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge- Week 3-More Student Voice!

This post is week 3 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.” 
What is the biggest change you are considering making for your learners in the coming school year? 

Image result for student voice

I was slacking. I have no excuse, I just know I need to do something about it. I am a proponent of student voice, always have been. 

My kids have always participated in Skypes, used Classdojo to tell their stories, tweeted from our class account, (Classrooms only),connected during Global Read Aloud with other classes, participated in projects, etc...

But during the school year that just ended, I felt like I did not do enough to get their voices heard beyond our classroom. There weren't many connections made. 

Was it me? Was it this group of kids? I am not sure. I just know I need to get back on track. We did a Mystery Skype, once. We read the book for Global Read Aloud and only made one connection. We rarely tweeted...:(. I could go on.

So next year, I am going to make sure we go back to having our voices heard outside of our classroom. It is important to me that my students not only share their voice, but make connections with others,and hear their voices too. I want them to know that their voice matters, and that our classroom is not the world.I am even thinking about letting them create a weekly podcast. Really excited about this! (

I am, no we are, going to connect again, so that their learning is not just taking place in Room 5! This upcoming school year, I will make sure they are given multiple opportunities to connect and share with the world!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Impactful Professional Learning? Twitter/Twitter Chats!

Impactful Professional Learning

Share the most important/impactful professional learning in which you have participated, so far.
How did it impact your practice moving forward? 

This post is week 2 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.” 

Whenever I am asked the question about the "best" professional learning format, I think for a minute, but then my response is always the same, Twitter.
Not Twitter, where I tell people what I had for breakfast or where I went on vacation.

I mean, "Educator Twitter", where I have met, online or face to face, so many dedicated people who are all about education in any form.

I can't narrow it down to one experience because there have been so many. Whether it is making connections, learning about resources, connecting my students with a global audience, participating in projects, having experts talk to my kids, sharing my ideas and having others expand on them, and/or just chatting with like-minded people. Not to mention, how Twitter has led me to connect via other modes of social media, like FB groups, Voxer, and Instagram.

The great part about Twitter is it is truly a personalized professional learning experience. You follow who you wish. Block those you don't want to hear from. You can get on at 12 am, 3 am, or 8 pm, it's up to you. You can lurk or insert your voice in every conversation.

The impact of Twitter on my practice has been amazing! Every year I add something new to my teaching repertoire due to the connections I have made on Twitter. Teaching is never a dull experience for me because I embrace the new ideas and apply them to my classroom, which can only enhance learning for my students, my ultimate goal!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

BINGO Math:"Education + Fun" Time for Everyone!

My sorors and I celebrated Founder's Day and when a bunch of educators get together, there are always games!

My soror created a BINGO game based on the history of our sorority, NSPDK, Inc., and it got me thinking. This would be great for my kiddos, especially since they were testing this week. I still wanted their minds in school mode, but I also wanted them to relax.

So, we had some "Educational fun" with these BINGO cards. The site I used is a BINGO card generator, so you are not limited to numbers, they offer a variety of ways to create cards.

Don't forget to provide something for them to mark their cards.I used cubes. Cut up the cards and draw them out randomly.

  • You might also think about letting one of the students call out the equations. (Or whatever your card depicts.). 
  • Give them ownership, let them create their own equations or expressions.

These are the equations I created to go along with my numbers, but let your imagination, or your students', go wild!:)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

If Teachers Were Treated Like Celebrities...Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Can you imagine what it would be like if teachers were treated like actors, athletes, singers, or even "reality tv "stars?

 Mrs.Smith, Celebrity Teacher

"Mrs.Smith, Mrs.Smith, can I get your autograph?" She turned and smiled brightly at the young woman running towards her.
 "Mrs.Smith", the young woman gasped, "I have been following your career for years!  I'm about to start teaching myself, and I would be honored if you signed my copy of your book."
 "Are you ready to teach, young lady?' she asked as she scribbled her signature, "This is a difficult job."
 "I know it is, but I've been reading your books,watching your videos, and  listening to your podcasts, I know I'm ready!"
 "Good luck", she says as she handed her the book. "Take care, you have quite a journey ahead of you."

Mrs.Smith and her husband  entered the Four Seasons and were immediately seated at the best table. The maitre d' smiled, and thanked Mrs.Smith, again, for teaching his son when she taught at Tower Hill. "Anything you need Mr. and Mrs.Smith, just ask."

After dinner, Mr. and Mrs.Smith hopped into their  Mercedes and drove home to their ten bedroom house up in the hills.  They entered  their  home, and stopped to pick  up one of the cameras left by the crew from MTV Cribs-Teachers. "Time to mark some papers honey, I'll be upstairs in a bit." She sat down, stared out at the ocean, and began grading.  The phone rang, and her assistant teacher, Marjorie spoke excitedly.

 " Mrs. Smith,  Oprah wants another  interview, she's doing another special on teachers, it's called "Teachers are Tenacious!" She's going to give away prizes to every school where the teachers in the audience work!"

 "Oh, that Oprah, she is something else! Set it up please, Marjorie." She hung up and the phone rung again.

"Oh, my gosh, Mrs.Smith, you've  been nominated for a Thackeray!" (Named after Sidney Poitier's character in , "To Sir, With Love") "A Thackeray?! Are you kidding? Oh my gosh, I've always dreamed...!  What category?" " Best Lesson Taught During an Unannounced Observation."

 The Thackerays Award Ceremony
A s teachers walked down the red carpet, former students and teachers screamed their names. Reporters rushed up to interview each teacher as they strode down the carpet. "Mrs.Smith, what are you wearing?" She  waved, "This is not about me, it's about all those kids I've helped!" And the Winner Is... And the winner of the "Best Lesson Taught During an Unannounced Observation" is... Mrs.Smith!"

 She ran on the stage, "First, I'd like to thank God." Next I want to thank all those students who gave me the opportunity to teach. I'd also like to thank my mentor teacher, Mr.Wilson. He made me the teacher I am today! And most of all, my Mom and Dad, who gave me the chance to go to college and become what I am today, a teacher!" The applause filled the room, and everyone stood, chanting "Teachers, teachers, teachers!"

   I know we all don't need a Mercedes, a ten-bedroom home, to be filmed by MTV, or have an overrated awards show.  But wouldn't it be great if teachers were  respected as much as actors, athletes, singers, and yes, even "reality" television stars?

Friday, April 6, 2018

Sorry,I am No Longer Accepting New Students! #ClassSizeMatters

Posted on Twitter by Krissy Brynn Jackson @KBJblog 
Ron Clark posted the following tweet.
To which I responded:

I think we can do both. If we can suddenly find money to arm teachers, I think we can raise teacher salaries AND reduce class sizes. I would also like to know where that $30 billion is being spent.

Define "bad teacher." Is it a teacher having a hard time with classroom management with 30 kids? "Great" teachers can "handle" 30 students. But what "great" teacher wants to? What "great" teacher wouldn't want a smaller class size? One year I had 20 kids and I felt like I was in Teacher heaven!

Classroom teachers see things so much differently. I mean actual teachers who work with children in a classroom.

Here are some reasons why class size matter:

  • Physical space: You know those classrooms you see in magazines? They are huge and have corners, spaces, nooks, and lots and lots of room. My classroom is a rectangular box with 27 5th grade bodies. Someone came in my room one day and said it was an obstacle course. I can't imagine what it is like for middle and high school teachers.
  • Behavior Problems: Those kids who should never,ever, be in the same class under any circumstances? Well, guess what? They are in the same class because there are 30 kids in them, and there is nowhere else to put them.
  • Differentiated Instruction: Our students learn at different paces and places. You have advanced, average, and struggling. As an educator, I try to meet all their needs so that they feel successful. Which class size would make it more viable for me to meet them? 20 or 30? 10 less students that I would have to give my attention to.
  • Personalized Learning: This kind of goes along with differentiated instruction. I do not believe personalized learning is sitting a student in front of a computer with an adaptive program all day. Therefore, it is my job to personalize learning for my students. Again, would I rather do this with 20 students or 30?
  • An educator's time: This applies to any and everything I have to do in my classroom that involves my students. Have you ever tried to have productive Writing Conferences with 30 students? Set up Student-led conferences for 30 students? Report cards for 30 students? Should I go on? Grade papers for 30 students?
  • Parents: If a parent were able to choose where their child could attend school, which school do you think they would choose? The school where the student:teacher ratio is 15:1 or 30:1? Now think about why they made that choice. Unfortunately, the majority of public school parents aren't given that option.
Fortunately, I am an educator who can educate 20, 27, or 30 students. And maybe that's the problem. It can be done, and therefore it is. And if you can't, you are labeled.

Class size matters. The problem is that, sadly, it matters most to the educator in the classroom.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"The Power of a Caring Educator" : My TEDxWilmingtonED Talk (Video):An Idea Worth Spreading!

Ever since I saw Rita Pierson's TED talk, I have wanted to do a TED talk.
So, when I received an email saying that TEDxWilmington was looking for speakers, I jumped at it.
I have to be honest, I started filling out the app, and got discouraged. It was due the next day, and I had to submit a video, arrrgh!
But I persevered, met deadlines, revised my speech a million times, practiced, practiced, and practiced, and before I knew it, it was February 9!
I am sharing the results and I truly hope my idea is one worth spreading! Please feel free to share!:)

Monday, February 26, 2018

The "Good" Kid Is In Jail.

I have to be honest.
For a number of years I was that teacher. The one who prophesied the negative places kids would end up.
"Yeah, he'll be in jail in about two years."
"She'll be pregnant in middle school."
Sometimes my prophecy would come true, and fortunately, sometimes it wouldn't.

And even though I avoid saying those words out loud, I sometimes think them. The good part is, I work hard on trying not to make it a reality. I talk to those students I harbor those fears for instead of waiting to see if my fears play out. You see, as I grew as a teacher, my prophesies became fears. I feared that the student would go to jail. Feared that that student would be a teenage mom. And while I am no miracle worker, I hoped my actions, while they were in my class, would somehow help to change my perceived outcome for that child.

All that is to say,there are children you fear this might happen to. So, I was totally unprepared when this particular child's mug shot stared back at me from my screen. I cried.Hard.

And it's not that he was better than any of the others. But my perception of him made me think he was not one I had to worry about. As a 5th grader he was polite, respectful, and so bright. I envisioned a great future for him. His mom was so supportive. I remember when they moved she sent me pictures and a letter thanking me. I still have it.

As a matter of fact, I saw him as a young man, working diligently in BJ's. It's always a great experience when you run into former students, grown. He told me how he was doing, his plans for school, etc... We would see each other often because the store was near the school. I hadn't seen him in the last few months, so I assumed he had changed shifts.

In December, I ran into him at the city courthouse. We had taken the students to see the reenactment of "Miracle on 34th St." As we stood in the lobby, I noticed this young man at the same time he noticed me. His head went down. He had to walk past me. Couldn't avoid me. Felt the need to explain it was a traffic violation, and it wouldn't happen again. I hugged him, told him it was ok, and sent him off with a motherly, "Just don't let me see you back in here!"

And now. A mug shot. Charges. Way more than a traffic violation. Jail. The "good" kid.

What happened between 5th grade and 26 years old? What choices led to this?I keep asking myself these questions and I can't answer them.

This is my wake up call. The "good" kid is in jail. I will no longer harbor preconceived notions, I will pray for the best for all of my students.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

I Am a Teacher And You Want to Arm Me?

I will NEVER carry a weapon, concealed or otherwise, in my classroom.
I will NEVER keep it locked in a safe.
I say this with the utmost certainty.

There is a huge debate going on about whether teachers should be armed in order to protect their students. We would even get bonuses!
As usual, teachers' voices are muted by the roar of non-educators who believe they know better.

There are teachers who say they would quit or retire.
I wouldn't.
I wouldn't give up my passion because someone says I must do something I am vehemently opposed to. I would fight. I hope enough of us would do the same.

Everyone knows a teacher would give their life for a student.It happened again in Florida. But arming me? Having to be trained to use a weapon? Not going to happen. There are way too many things that could go wrong with this scenario.

I will continue to fight for my students as long as I am teaching. But a gun will not be my weapon of choice. I will not be armed.

Monday, January 15, 2018

My Students, Dr.King, and the Civil Rights Movement.

They don't understand.

When they discuss Rosa and the bus boycott, see the photographs, and videos, their voices echo, "But that's not fair!"

 As we study Dr.King, they question, "Why?"

I explain to them that it was the law. Segregation and Jim Crow laws. I explain to them that not everyone was like that. That people of different races came together to defeat this awful thing that made one group think they were better than another.

It is so hard for them to wrap their minds around it.

I am fortunate enough to work with a diverse group of kids. In all the years I have taught, very rarely have I had to deal with racist attitudes from my 4th and 5th graders.

I believe hate is learned.

Which is why, right now, my students have such a hard time understanding why people would do that to one another, treat each other that way.

I hope when they grow up.

Grow up?

I hope when they get to middle school, they still find it hard to fathom why this happened. I hope that as they are bombarded with opinions  from the media, the Internet, family, and friends, they are able to make up their own minds.I hope that they remain friends, despite their differences. I hope that they fight against the ignorance, always.

I hope that the only thing that separates them is distance and time, and never race. And most of all, I hope that they never stop asking, "Why?"