Friday, August 30, 2013

The Magic of Blogging

Exhausted--Yes! Exhilarated--Yes!

Last week, I got really down about the progress I was making with the students. The momentum and the spark for learning was lacking.

I decided to begin the Achievement Unit earlier than I planned. But that's ok by me. The classroom took at total 180, and now my students are reading, writing, and eagerly discussing all of it in the classroom.

Today, the students blogged for the first time using KidBlog, which can be found at It's user friendly and quick to set up. Also, I loved that the students found it easy too, and were able to begin writing right away. In all of my classes, the students did not want to stop working. If they had completed their writing assignment, then they read other blog posts and commented on them, which they loved. Once again, as was with my students last year, they were totally engrossed. I didn't exist anymore. This engagement was not due to my teaching, but the interest of technology as a tool for writing. It was like magic.

And because blogging is the only way I can seem to communicate with the dearest educator I know--my mother-- I will add this clip in for her-- The magic of blogging for my writers reminded me of your favorite movie. This one's for you, mom. :-)


Thursday, August 29, 2013

No Opt Out: Creating Writers

Yes! The spark is coming! I'm starting to see intense initiative from my students in regards to their reading and writing. The achievement study has served as a wake up call to provide a "No Opt Out" approach for my students.

I first learned about this technique from the book, Teach Like A Champion. It eliminates the, "I don't know answer." The achievement unit has helped too, because I can restate the need to be proactive versus reactive. Proactive students are ready and willing to at least try, without worrying if they are correct or not. Furthermore, proactive students are willing to take risks and put themselves out there. I remind them of this as we discuss and learn.

This week, all three classes have written three different essays on achievement. I won't say they are all perfect compositions by any means. But, they are writing.

Tomorrow, my students will choose one writing from the week to revise, edit, and publish via our classroom blog. The students are thrilled about the blog, and can't wait to get started.

I can't wait, either!

Resources from Teach Like A Champion- No Opt Out Technique:


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teaching Success: The 5 Essential Questions

"Why do you do it? Why do you work so hard?" I heard a voice say quietly at the back of the class. I glanced up from my paper, and stared ahead across the empty classroom a bit dazed. I thought, "I'm the student teacher, and my mentor teacher is asking me why I work so hard?" All I could think to tell him was my simple truth, so I looked at him and said point blank, "Because I love it."

As a teacher seeking excellence, I believe there are certain building blocks that all successful teachers need.  The following are 5 essential questions that every student teacher should meditate on before committing to the field.

1. Do you love it?:  Education is a labor of love and takes serious man hours inside and outside of the classroom. My mother told me that she knew during her student teaching that the general classroom was not for her. She did not like managing discipline. However, she decided to become a Speech Language Pathologist, and went on to have a wonderful, enriching career. Make sure you're in the right fit for your strengths. 

2. Do you want to be a teacher for the right reasons?: Before becoming a teacher, I asked myself a lot of tough questions. I did not choose middle grades because of the convenience of when I would graduate. I chose middle grades, because I firmly believe these children need strong guidance, and need teachers that care during those difficult adolescent years. I knew it would be hard work. If you choose education for summer vacations or because your "other career" just didn't work out and somehow this is your back up plan, then please try something else. There are other career choices that offer flexibility.

3. Do you love to learn and expand your skills?: Teaching requires constant learning, but this shouldn't be a drag or bum a teacher out, it should be fun! Teachers should be learners. I don't know of anything more disappointing than if I offer a book to another educator due to a conversation, and then months later he/she hands it back saying, "Sorry, I just didn't have time to read it." I say, "Ok, thanks for bringing it back." Then, I look down and wipe the dust off the book, and give it a little squeeze to bring it back to life. Great educators know that they didn't become great from what they know, but because of constant learning and growing. The desire to expand and learn is what makes teaching great! If that willingness is not there, then education may not be the best career option.

4. Are you willing to be a teacher and not a friend?: There is a big difference. Once I heard a young teen state that his teacher was so great because more than a teacher, he was a great friend. Although endearing to some, I found it a bit concerning. I do believe in mentoring young people and setting a good example, but students should be friends with other students, not their teachers. Teachers set the example of professionalism. As such, teachers don't need to worry so much about hurting students' feelings. Students need a leader, not a friend.

5. When the going gets tough, will you keep smiling?: Teaching is tough! It is the toughest thing outside of parenting that I have ever done. There are days when I am exhausted and just want to cry. However, new teachers must find ways to stay inspired. Read. Write. Reflect. That is one key to reaching higher, and feeling stronger.


Students: Be Proactive NOT Reactive

Tomorrow, my students will continue through the Believe It and Achieve It Unit of study. This year I am taking the unit further than just learning about famous achievers and dreamers. Students will learn how to be achievers themselves by studying and applying Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. They will read the article, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens @
We will also discuss the difference between being a proactive person versus a reactive person.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
                                               Habit 1 : Be Proactive

Your life doesn't just "happen." Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.

 Habit 1: Be Proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. You can't keep blaming everything on your parents or grandparents. Proactive people recognize that they are "response-able." They don't blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. They know they choose their behavior. Reactive people, on the other hand, are often affected by their physical environment. They find external sources to blame for their behavior. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn't, it affects their attitude and performance, and they blame the weather. All of these external forces act as stimuli that we respond to. Between the stimulus and the response is your greatest power--you have the freedom to choose your response. One of the most important things you choose is what you say. Your language is a good indicator of how you see yourself. A proactive person uses proactive language--I can, I will, I prefer, etc. A reactive person uses reactive language--I can't, I have to, if only. Reactive people believe they are not responsible for what they say and do--they have no choice.

 Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control. The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas--Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.

Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about: health, friendships, or problems at school. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern--things over which they have little or no control: the amount of homework they get, their friends’ choices, the weather. Gaining an awareness of the areas in which we expend our energies in is a giant step in becoming proactive. 

What About Bob?
We will watch a few clips about how your life looks as a reactive person-- when you live as if you have no control over your own life.
What baby step are you going to take today?
Students will finish the lesson by choosing a variety of options to write about concerning making proactive decisions this school year during class. Students will be required to cite textual evidence from the articles.
Prompts include:
Respond to the following:
If you're planning on dropping out of high school, prepare yourself for the future by repeating aloud each day: "I'm looking forward to low-paying jobs for the rest of my life."
How could you go out of your way to develop a good relationship with one of your teachers this year?
How can you develop your own homework routine and make it a priority? How can you make a schedule and stick with it? How is that being proactive?
How might you avoid blaming others for your faults? How is that reactive? What would the opposite be?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our Students Serve as Our Greatest Teachers

"The most inspirational teachers I know are some of my former students.
They have given me a vision of what a great student looks like." ~ Quote by Rafe Esquith
As I begin a new week, I want to feel inspiration burst from within me, and say, "Good morning, class!" with a bright smile on my face!
After spending the weekend reading the passions and aspirations of my current students, I realize that my students are truly my inspiration for being a great teacher.
I want to share some of the quotes that inspired me, and I hope that these quotes inspire all teachers who want to make a difference in the classroom.
 Inspirational Quotes from my 6th grade students:

"I want to be a vet. And if anything gets in my way, I'm not going to shut down. I'm going to kick it down."
" I have dreams to follow and I expect to be able to be myself, persevere through life's challenges and I have three things on my side: passion, planning, and perseverance."
"My passion is to be a better person! I would do anything I can to do to accomplish my passion! If anyone tells me I can't I'll prove I can. I will achieve!"

"This year I want to be able to win a Cross Country Race! I want to get noticed and for people to say, "Hey, that's the girl that won the race!"

"When someone tells you that you won't get that dream you can so don't listen to them cause you can."

"When I grow up, I want to be a marine biologist. When somebody says you'll never be a marine biologist, I'm gonna say, "Yes, I can. Watch me!"

"In all ways, think smart: think smart, do my best, and achieve."

"Even when I'm at my worst, that doesn't stop me from becoming what I want to be."

"I want to be the best that I can be."

"I'm a dancer, a believer, a lover, never a hater."


Friday, August 23, 2013

Help!: The Importance of a Dream for Teens


Why is it important for teens to visualize their dreams? Why would a 6th grade English teacher worry about this? As a teacher of adolescent aged students, I know that they are going through many changes and challenges. It is difficult for them to process those changes, while also concentrating on school. Therefore, that's why I love the achievement unit. Studying great thinkers and doers intensely creates an awakening and a focus that middle school students need. It also helps to develop better relationships within the classroom, which hopefully creates a stronger school as a whole.
The following is a list of articles that support the need for this achievement unit.
  Creating a dream board.


Monday-- My students will create a dream board, and they will begin to write about their goals and dreams. The clips above may be used for the lesson. I will hang their dream boards up in my classroom, and they can use them as inspiration for their writings.

My desire is that my students are healthy and happy, so that they can achieve greatness this school year.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bringing Back The Three P's: Passion, Planning, Perseverance

Today, I made a decision. The Dreaming and Achieving Unit starts today! My students need to find their passions. They need to plan. They need to persevere. Over the last several days, I've gotten a little depressed, because all I see in my classrooms is blank stares and answers like, "I dunno." What is a passionate teacher to do?!?

Well, the only thing I can think of is to pass the fundamentals and get to the heart. Middle grades students love themselves. They love, usually, to write and discuss about their hopes and dreams. If they don't then, in my class, they are about to. It's time to wake up, boys and girls!

Today, they took a quick quiz on prefixes, they read their novels, but then I decided to bring out my Rudy Ruettigar/Homer Hickam lesson. I always find that my lower leveled readers find a spark in this unit. They wrote two paragraphs telling me their passions and how they're going to achieve them. I will read them all tonight--I must-- and respond to their dreams. They must see that I care about each of them. They must understand how reading and writing is important, but none of that will happen if I don't reach their hearts.

This matters to me. The spark of learning and imagination matters to me. Dreams and achievements matter to me. I didn't become a teacher to settle. I must be me! This begins tonight!

Tomorrow, we will study Patricia Polloco and Avi. I will get to the Coweta library with my children and check out as many books as I can by these authors tonight.

My students will know that reading and writing well is not some magical gift, but a craft that can be learned and done well despite disabilities.

That is my soapbox/revelation today. But, sometimes we need to slap ourselves to remember where we are going.

Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Teachers: What Happens When The Honeymoon Ends

Well, it's bound to happen. With all great loves there is a time when the initial honeymoon phase ends, and reality sets in. That excited fluttery feeling somehow disappears, and no matter how you try, it's just not going to come back. So, what now? The following is a list of steps that I believe can help all new teachers recover and regain their strength for what should be a long and healthy relationship with their career as a teacher.

1. Cry-- Yes, the first step is to cry.  Cry and grieve for the loss of the honeymoon phase. It's an ending, and it's healthy to recognize it as such. We shouldn't beat ourselves up, and try endlessly to bring the honeymoon back. Just grieve and get it out.

2. Pump Up the Music-- Once the grieving is over. It's time to pep back up. Listen to music that makes you happy. Dance around the room. Get silly and make a fool of yourself. Who cares? Just let it all go!

3. Remember the Main Objective-- Remember that you are there to teach. That's it. As a dreamer--which I am--my mind can drift everywhere. I want to help and make a difference in so many ways it can almost drive me crazy. I like looking at the big picture, but sometimes the picture gets too big. I must work to remember the main objective-- my classroom, my students and their learning. Keep it focused!

4. Bring Something New to Your Teaching-- Do something different. Maybe try a new technology. See how you can create a buzz around your classroom. Keep the students guessing. Of course, we can't do this all the time. But, innovation is fun. Experiment.

5. Create Your Own Dangling Carrot-- Yes, there are not too many extrinsic motivators in the field of teaching. You are not going to walk in to work one morning and your boss exclaims, "I'll give you a $5,000 bonus if you produce a great result from this project." However, applying for grants can provide a dangling carrot of sorts. Although difficult, it's motivating if I know that I can use what I'm doing in the classroom to apply for grants or other funding that may enhance my students' experiences. It provides a bit of an extrinsic motivator when most all teaching is based on intrinsic motivation.

6. Pray-- Prayer is always needed. Take a deep breathe and know that God is in control. Meditate on the serenity prayer. Pray for your teaching, your classroom, and your students. Pray for patience and wisdom. Pray for acceptance. Pray for understanding. Pray. Pray. Pray.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Students: Setting an Example for Others

As a Christian, one of my favorite books in the Bible is Timothy. Timothy was a young pastor who faced many challenges while helping to grow and establish the early church. Paul, served as his mentor and invested a great deal of time working with Timothy and encouraging him. Although Timothy was young, Paul, a devoted evangelist for Christ's message, offered him advice often. He told him, "Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, and in purity."

As a teacher, I feel that I serve as an example and mentor to my students. Like Paul, I serve as the experienced guide, offering wisdom and reassurance to my students. Paul invested in Timothy because he knew that Timothy would continue the message of Jesus Christ after he was gone. Paul stated in 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith." Paul knew his time on earth was ending. As teachers, we must realize that we are passing on knowledge and wisdom to future generations. It is not about us. It is about them. We are here to equip our students with knowledge and wisdom so that our society will continue to be strong after we are gone. Knowledge is not enough though. We also serve as examples in how we live and all that we do.

In that way, we as teachers seeking excellence, can demonstrate leadership. We can help students understand what it means to be a leader, a believer, an example for others. As a result, hopefully our students will not fall into certain negative traps, but instead, stand strong and be an example for others to follow despite circumstances, despite age, despite social pressures.

My prayer now and always is for my students to know that everyday their decisions count, that they are individuals, that they can make a difference now. They can be the example for others in speech, life, love, and purity.

Isaiah 40:31
Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

Sources that I read today on the importance of mentoring from the Bible.


Paul encouraged Timothy to focus on three spiritual priorities of the ministry, including nourishment from God’s Word, training in godliness, and a mission-minded approach to ministry.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Making a Plan--Keeping It Simple

Last year, I excitedly reflected every week, thrilled to spill my guts onto the page about all the discoveries I'd made in the classroom. So far, this year, my enthusiasm for reflecting is waning. But, what tugs at my conscious is that I believe firmly that all great teachers must reflect often if they are to remain great. So-- let's see....

Organization. Details. That is what comes to my mind. My decision this year is to send home a newsletter every Friday with all graded papers attached.  I will also keep a daily updated classroom website. THIS IS HUGE! However, I am happy with this plan. It can be easy for teachers to get overwhelmed with finding ways to get the word out to parents. Social media allows many avenues. However, social media can become just all too much with the threat of becoming a total time kill, which can impede on family time. That is why this year I am sticking to the hard copy newsletter, teacher website, and parent phone calls. Teachers must make these decisions to create boundaries for the sake of their own sanity and life balance.

So far, doing the weekly newsletter has kept the students on their toes. They know what is to come, including homework, tests, etc. for the upcoming week. They can get a head start if they want, which I hope will be beneficial to them.

Now-- I must maintain consistency. I must stay true to this goal every week and never waiver. I believe I can do this if I make the decision to keep it simple. I will take on nothing else this year in concerns to communication. Newsletter--website--phone calls. That is my plan.

Teachers-- we must make sure that we work smarter--not harder. Keeping it simple can help.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

For The Love of Poetry

My students are currently studying the different genres of writing. One of my favorites is poetry. That wasn't always the case. As an undergraduate in college I felt intimidated by it. My professors questioned the class for that perfect answer that only a special few seemed to ever state. It was never me. 

However, as I've gotten older my thoughts on poetry have changed. I realize that everyone can enjoy poetry and there is no perfect interpretation. It is there for us in whatever way we need it to be. 

Hymns are a type of poetry. I love hymns, and I play them almost as a prayer. One of my favorite hymns growing up was, "Let Us Break Bread Together". My favorite line as a child was, "When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, oh Lord, have mercy on me." As I sung that hymn as a little girl I could almost feel the warmth of the sun on my body, and the awe of God's love and mercy. How small we are in comparison to his greatness- but that he loves us despite our imperfections. 

I want my students to know and feel the power of poetry. To know the power of a song, a hymn, or a sonnet. Poetry can shape who we are as people and enrich our lives. I hope  to bring that understanding of poetry to my students this year. So that they will not only know elements of poetry, but more importantly, how it makes us stronger people. 

1. Let us break bread together on our knees, (on our knees) 
 let us break bread together on our knees. (on our knees) 
 When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, 
 O Lord, have mercy on me. (on me) 

2. Let us drink wine together on our knees, (on our knees) 
 let us drink wine together on our knees. (on our knees) 
 When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, 
 O Lord, have mercy on me. (on me) 

[3]. Let us praise God together on our knees, (on our knees) 
 let us praise God together on our knees. (on our knees) 
 When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, 
 O Lord, have mercy on me. (on me) 

4. Let us praise God together on our knees, (on our knees) 
 let us praise God together on our knees. (on our knees) 
 When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, 
 O Lord, have mercy if you please. (if you please)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Awesomeness of Being a Teacher

This week I began my first days of a new school year. It was unique because it was the first time as a new teacher that I began from the very beginning of the school year. I worked daily this past summer to read work by other educators, write, and reflect. I spent days creating my pacing guide, and developed my first teacher website. Well, I am happy to say that I believe all of that work paid off, because I feel confident and ready. I have a plan, and that plan allows me to bring more to the classroom.

I have so much respect for educators. Teaching is not an easy job! It requires so many talents if you want to be successful. That is why I believe that teaching is a calling, and those who see it that way understand that it is not just a job. You do not clock in or clock out. It is a lifestyle. But, that is ok with me.


1. IT NEVER GETS BORING: I don't know of any other job that takes more creativity and passion than teaching. It takes total engagement on the part of the instructor. That is exciting to me!

2. IT ALWAYS CHANGES: In many traditional jobs you know your place. You come in and you have a job to do and you do it. Although, creativity is needed and bringing new ideas are required, some things don't change as quickly like the staff. Well, teachers get new staff members every day--their students! I am so happy that I have the chance to learn from an entirely new "staff" this school year.

3. CREATIVITY NEEDED: I love that teaching is like a blank canvas. I can paint whatever picture I want. Yes, creativity is created within the boundaries of the standards, but I can create and bring to it as much or as little as I desire. Creative lessons can be tough, but it's fun and exciting too.

4. STRENGTHENS YOUR WEAK SPOTS: Teaching has helped me to be a better person. If you want to succeed you must be on top of your game. Organization is a big component. If a teacher is unorganized he/she will struggle on all fronts. Classroom management, lessons, and overall success in teaching depends heavily on organization.

5. LIFE LONG LEARNING: There are few jobs or careers that I know of that requires constant learning and adapting. I love that I can explore my love of language, reading, and communications, and get paid to do it! What other careers provide that opportunity? Not many.

Yes, teaching is hard. It is not for everyone. To be successful and make a difference, it requires dedication and heart. But, for me, it doesn't get any better than teaching.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Teacher Excellence: Setting Priorities

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.
~Stephen Covey

I read recently that teachers are like tennis players. Hopefully, we all share a unified vision as a school, but ultimately a lot of what we do is individual. Therefore, our main opponent is often ourselves. 

As a leader of my classroom, I must make sure that I put first things first. What is the most important objective today? What will make the most impact today? 

The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities
~Stephen Covey

Today, I will use the trusty Eisenhower/Covey method. So much has to be done in teacher planning that it's easy to get overwhelmed. This works every time.

Many times, I will use this with just a 3x5 card. I write the tasks that need to be completed on one side, and then fold the card into the four quadrants and write items in the appropriate boxes.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Time to Bring It!

My desire: to teach like a champion and practice excellence everyday in every way.

There are no short cuts. - Rafe Esquith

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.