Monday, August 8, 2011


As I unpack boxes and put things on the walls, I think about the new students that I will have sitting in my room. For them they are all in a new school, 7th grade is new for all of them.

They have to learn how to unlock a locker quickly so as not be late to class.

They have to learn the rules of 7 different teachers, instead of just one.

They go from being the top of the pack to the lowest on the totem pole.

The expectations are raised for them.

But they are still just kids, and this a new year, full of new dreams and worries. They will still worry about who likes them, what they look like, and if they are accepted.

I don't know about you, but with a new school year there is this sense of hope that surrounds those first days. The hope that everything will be different this year, that something will change and your life will finally start. There is this hope that this is the year that starts it all.

I still have hope, I have hope for them that this year will change them, alter them forever, that they will fall in love with learning and reading. A hope that they will figure out another piece of the puzzle in their life, a hope that the picture might become clearer.

This hope excites me for those first days, and the ones beyond too.

What do you hope for your students?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Influencing Eternity

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell, where his influence stops.”
— Henry Brooks Adams(American writer, 1838-1918)

This quote speaks a lot about my philosophy of teaching and life. As the school year winds down and students leave my classroom. Some I will see again in other capacities and some I won't ever have a conversation with again. However, I have to believe that I was able to be a part of a moment in their life and that something I did or something that we learned in class effected their eternity.

That's why I try to tell them that I care about them everyday. That's why I try to only speak positive words and don't allow name calling, put downs or negative words in my classroom. (I try, don't always succeed, but try.) That's why I stand on my soapbox some days to give them words of wisdom and passionately tell them why good decisions are future making decisions. That's why I share examples from my own life and others' lives.

That's why I am a teacher, because I never know how influence or shape their eternity or your eternity or anyone that interacts with a former student of mine. I know that what I do matters, and I won't always be able to see it, nor hear about it, or know about it. BUT I know it matters and in some way I have influenced and changed these students' futures.

I am only in my 2nd year of teaching, but I am excited to see what my students do in the future, because every little bit I can see hints of greatness in them, showing me that they are capable of it and if they so choose they can be great, they just have to believe it.

So think about it, how do you want to affect eternity? Why do you teach?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What if we did this all year?

The last couple of weeks of school I believe are the hardest of the year. The students are ready to be finished which makes it harder for the teachers. The teachers are ready for summer, which makes it hard for the teachers. We still have things to teach, but the students cannot sit still and don't have the patience for long lessons or big assignments. So what do we do?

What I did this year, which will probably come back to haunt me over these last 9 days of school, is give them a hands on project to work on. We are spending at least 5 class days working on a end of unit project. It involves drawing, writing, creativity, and most of all a different pace during class.

This last week, I watched a lot of them get excited about what they were doing, they loved being able to be hands on and show what they know in a different way other than on a worksheet. Of course, there were some of them that just wanted to finish as quickly as possible and make my life miserable over the next couple of days because they believe that their small effort was going to be worthy of an A. (I stipulated that if it didn't contain some sort of color, I would be putting an A on it.) But you know what, sometimes I have to think about the students that this means the world to because they have put up with me all year, making them write and read without the least bit of a chance to do a project such as this.

Something I realize as I watch this students complete this assignment is that, I need to do a better job of having more assignments like this. They love being hands on, and unfortunately in Language Arts, we spend a lot of time reading, writing or talking, not a lot of time creating. I am challenging myself to come up with more ways to have them create things next year.

(Over the summer, I will write a post of all the challenges I make to myself for next year.)

What sort of hands on projects do you have your students do?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A New Day

This week was....well.....sucky for a lack of a better word. There is probably a better word, but I don't want to type it. This week was hard. I have reached a point in the year where I am mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. I am pretty sure the kids thought we wouldn't do anything after assessments. They were wrong, and I think they are upset about the fact they were wrong. It's beautiful outside and they have to sit in a stuffy classroom, listening to me and reading a book and writing. The squirmy kids are really "loving" it!

I write this mostly to encourage myself. Hopefully you can benefit as well!!

I had some not so good moments with the kids. Mostly because I have gotten frustrated with their attitudes and behaviors. I forget that I can't expect them to age overnight. They are middle schoolers and they are going to have their moments.

BUT something I love about them is the fact that one day they can hate you and decide that you have the worst class ever. They can be convinced that you hate them and want to make their life miserable. THEN the next day, they love you and don't want to leave your classroom. They want to give you hugs and draw you pictures.

Every day is a new day. Everyday I get to start over with them. Just as they have forgotten about the homework that you assigned yesterday, they have forgotten how mad you made them or the detention you gave them. They quickly forget that you made their life miserable. And all of a sudden, they are eager to participate in the conversation and are concerned about their grade.

And now it is the weekend, and next week is a whole new week, full of possibility and free of mistakes, blank and ready to be lived and taught.

So note to self: Just remember that last weeks' mistakes are last weeks mistakes, don't let them hang over your head. Just as the kids don't let it bother them, learn from them and move on.

So readers, got any great words of wisdom along this line of thought?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Smile on their face!

I experienced two of my favorite moments this last week in my career so far. These two moments were with students that I didn't have that high hopes for at the beginning of the year.

#1- This young man came into my classroom quiet, slouching in his seat. He didn't participate, in fact I barely knew what his voice sounded like. He did most of his work, and seem to gather most information that we talked about in class. He however didn't collect his missing work or seem to worry about his grade in class. He seemed like someone who didn't know his own potential. Perhaps the reason I didn't have hopes for him, was because I didn't look hard enough. However, recently when we were checking through his grades for all his classes, he seemed surprised at the lack of low grades. He said, "Really?" I nodded and a huge grin spread across his face. I also asked him about his reading assessment score and he said that he got a higher score this year.

I told him I was proud of him and as he walked away, I could see that he walked a little taller. I won't forget that grin though.

#2- He was bouncing off the walls when he first entered my classroom. He had a question for everything. To get him to sit down was like torture for him. He spent half the class walking around the classroom for something. He didn't have the patience for reading anything longer that a sentence. (Perhaps I am exaggerating, but it was pretty tough to have him in class.) Slowly, we got used to each other. I love this kid because he is a good natured and happy kid. He always has a smile on his face and is very honest about the fact that he can't stand reading, he likes picture books the best. We took the state assessments and it was a long 3 days for him. He took 2 days just to take 1 part. He took another 2 days to take the others.

However, when I told him his score, he told me that he had jumped 20 points and met standard this time! I was ecstatic. I told him that I have never been prouder. Not only for meeting standard for doing something that was hard, and working at it. To see the look on his face was so encouraging. I have notice a change in him since sharing his score with him. Confidence makes a difference!

Those are the moments that I teach for. When kids start believing in themselves and seeing success as possible. I have plenty more, but i share these two because I don't want to forget them either.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


This week, we had our state reading assessment. It was long exhausting week. I don't know why watching them take tests is so exhausting but it is. I worked hard to make sure they went into the test with full confidence and encouragement. However, at the end of the week, I was still restless over scores and over a feeling of failure that I just hadn't done enough.

As we finished up the week, one of the office staff that I developed a good relationship, shared with me some positive words that someone had said about me. She took me aside and related the conversation to me.

I don't know why she felt compelled to do that, but on a Friday afternoon after a long week of testing, those words meant so much to me, I nearly broke down in tears. You know when positive things are said about you to someone else, it means so much more. It was words that weren't asked for it, it was not a solicited compliment or feedback.

It wasn't expected, so it means a lot and I can take it to heart and let prompt me to continue on with what I am doing. I can remember that encouragement when I feel like I am teaching to brick walls, or when it is like pulling teeth to get the students to participate or to buy into what I am doing. I can remember that encouragement when they just won't be quiet or everyone insists that they can't wait to use the restroom.

It's the little things sometimes that make me love what I do.

What are the little things for you?

Monday, March 28, 2011

What I can and can't control's the buzz word of the day.

We have our state assessments coming up, luckily we moved them back after having Snowmaggedon 2011, so we had more time to prepare. In a lot of ways, I feel like they are ready. And I am excited to see how they do. I know for a fact that my students know those root words, prefixes and suffixes backwards and forwards.

However that doesn't prevent me from being slightly nervous. I feel the pressure of my students doing well on assessments so much that I am losing sleep and just plain exhausted all day long. In talking with my students the other day about the tests coming up, I wanted to make sure that I communicated the importance of them, but not to stress too much.

Perhaps, I am need to hear that as well! But this is what happened during that conversation.

"Will you be mad at us if we fail?" -Student
"No, I won't be mad at you, I might be frustrated with myself that I didn't teach you want you needed to know to pass." -me
"Why would you be frustrated at yourself, it's not your fault if we fail. We probably just didn't pay attention in class, or do our homework, like you wanted us to." -other student (the rest of the class pretty much agreed with this statement)

They are right about one thing, there are lots of things that go on with my students that aren't my fault. There are a lot of factors that go into these state assessments that I have no control over. Once they begin these tests, it is out of my hands. I can't control whether a student is distracted by what is going on at home, what just happened in the hallway, the bad grade the received in another class, the fight their parents had the night before, or the cute girl/guy that is sitting next to them.

But up until that point when they start the test, I can work as hard as I can, plan as much as I can, and teach as well as I can so they can be prepared to do their best! I can control what I do for them on a daily basis to prepared them, and as well teach them that life isn't just about an assessment but about learning how to work hard and learning as much as they can everyday so as to prepare them for whatever they want to do in the future.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


"What do we get if we do this?" "Can we just play games instead?" "Can I earn claw cash or candy if I do this?""How many points is this worth?""Does this count for a grade?"

I am always trying to find how to make learning fun, I am pretty sure all teachers try to do this. This is just one of those ideas that I have tried out recently. Every week I will post something I have tried recently.

I can't take all the credit for this idea, one of the other teachers used to this idea as well but in a different way. We had an extra day before we started our 10 Days of review before assessments so we needed something that was review but fun as well. Fun is pretty necessary for the first day after spring break!

Reviewing Root Words, Prefixes with BINGO.

I used this website to create my own Bingo cards, using the definitions on the cards allows me to call out the Words. The students have to know the definitions to be able to cover the squares. There are plenty of other ways that you could do it or use Bingo in the classroom, but I thought this website was great for helping create it.

I borrowed some counting chips from a math teacher and we played for most of the hour.

It was a success, the students loved being able to play a game, and I loved the fact that it got them using the root words. My students this year can be so competitive but I am trying to teach them how to be gracious losers and be accepting of the fact that isn't necessarily about winning but about learning something too...pretty unrealistic, but maybe some of it will stick.

What other topic or content could be reviewed with Bingo?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Feeling Inadequate

As a second year teacher, in many ways I feel like I am just getting my feet on the ground. However, right now I am feeling pressures from all around me to start thinking about the future, not my students' futures, but my future as a teacher. I feel the pressure to start grad school soon, to get additional certification and to start thinking about my next steps. However, the more and more I think about it, I really want to enjoy my time in the classroom right now. I want to be present in the moment not thinking about the future.

After a lot of talks with friends and with mentors, it is very evident that I have a lot of fear about making a commitment to teaching long term. I am not naturally a fearful person, but perhaps it scares me to think that getting my masters is going to trap me into a profession that I am not sure of right now. Perhaps, I am fearful of the financial commitment of a masters.

Being a perfectionist doesn't help my decision making process at all. I want to make sure I am making the absolute best decision on this. I feel like in the past I have made rushed decisions based desire to please others and be comfortable. Now, I want to spend time looking into programs, comparing the benefits, looking to the future of what different licensure and degrees could result in later on.

Even after looking into programs, I still have lots of questions. These are some of the things I will be thinking about in the next couple of weeks.
1. Do I want to remain in the classroom forever, or can I see myself taking on formal leadership roles?
2. Of the people I work with, who can I talk to about different degrees and what sort of paths those lead down?
3. What areas do I feel like I need to gain more knowledge in or be challenged in?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Before a Break

What do you when the weather is changing or it's raining or snowing or doing something outside, or when you have a break of school coming up and all the kids are acting bananas? All this plus, you are expected to keep to a curriculum, prepare them for a state test and keep them entertained as well?

Do you throw up your arms and bury your head in your stacks of papers to grade? Do you pop in a movie and hope it keeps them quiet? Hand them a worksheet and read out of the book for two days straight? Or in my case try to fit it all in, plus an end of a quarter test?

I think we have all encountered those days when all the kids can talk about is the upcoming break, where you couldn't get them to concentrate if their life depended on it. Perhaps we are in the midst of those days now. Something I have to keep in mind during these times, especially with middle schoolers, is that these days are not indicative of all your days with these students. Just as I am antsy to get started with my Spring break, they are too, I am just able to disguise it better.

So a couple of ideas to tide us over.
1. Keep your lessons short and homework limited.
---- Use this time as a chance to have short reviews of concepts you have already talked about in the quarter. Choose a couple to do each day. Keep it short, like their attention spans at this time.
---- Short movie clips for discussion are great or to review concepts.

2. Give them an opportunity to get up and move around.
---- Even if you are just putting them in groups....use playing cards to match them up or use homogeneous grouping (same month of birthdays, same number of family members).
---- Some kind of physical activity will help them get the wiggles out.
---- Post big sheets of butcher block paper with terms or concepts on them around them room and have students rotate in groups writing everything they know about the concept.

3. Ketchup day
---- They will spend the first five minutes trying to figure out if you are going to give them fries.
---- As you are trying to make sure you have all the makeup work in, this will give those that have been gone ketchup. But make sure to plan a semi-entertaining activity for those that are finished with everything. Let them go to the library, or silently read.

4. Get creative.
---- Stick figure cartoons. Have each student draw a cartoon with no words they have them pass the papers to their neighbors and have the neighbors add the captions. You can give them a certain subject or topic to center around.

These are only a few of my ideas. What are yours?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Necessity of a weekend

Considering this is a blog I am starting towards the end of the year, I will mostly talk about what's going on in my classroom and the strategies that I am trying and revamping. I am a second year teacher in an urban middle school, teaching 7th grade English. I survived my 1st year with budget cuts and transition and am loving what I am doing. I find that a lot of my favorite resources and ideas come from other teachers that are working hard just like me. I am always looking for encouragement and motivation to love my students and work hard for them. I am starting this blog because I want to be able to do that for other young teachers starting out. I don't claim to know everything there is to know about teaching or education, but I am learning so much everyday and want to be able to share what I am learning and perhaps learn from others through this as well.

However, today is a Friday, and actually my birthday, so it was an interesting day. With all the snow days we have had this year I am pretty sure this is only the 3rd 5 day week we have had all semester. So.....I am exhausted.

As a teacher, we put in long hours at school and at home, grading papers, planning, meeting with teachers, administrators, and parents. We worry, we think about and talk about school for most of our week. However, as a 2nd year teacher I have found that my weekends are sacred, especially after long stressful or eventful weeks I am not likely to give up my Saturdays for anything. I probably am close to be a hermit sometimes because I want to rest and refresh. However, I find it is important to plan to spend time with friends on the weekends because during the week, I don't have time in the evenings to see them. Grading and planning for the next day usually take precedent during the week.

Here are some ideas of how to use your weekend to your advantage and help Mondays not hurt so bad!
- Don't do anything work related after you leave the school on Friday!
- Do something creative!
- Get physical...exercise get help you be energized for the next week!
- Be outside! When the weather is nice the fresh air can do so much for your attitude and mood.
- Eat a really good meal! Fix it at home and enjoy left overs or go out to your favorite restaurant.
- Library time! Read for fun and it's free!
- Take a nap! Use a free afternoon to rest and catch up from a busy week!
- Dance around a little! Nothing helps my mood more than my favorite song and a little craziness!

Hey teachers, What other things do love to do on your weekends?