Thursday, November 9, 2017

Open Your Teacher Heart

For the past seven years, I have had the honor of being an educator.

Yes, it is an honor. It is a privilege, and it is a true blessing.

Teaching is fun. It is rewarding. And, it is also hard, humbling, draining, exciting, and every other emotion in-between.

My students have broken my heart. They have stomped on it, beat it up, played the drums on the poor thing, and left me so raw and open that I felt like I didn't know what to feel next. And, in that very next moment, my students-the very ones who just tore me open to my core-have filled my heart and soul back up more full than it ever has been before. They have taught me some of my most important lessons in life, and they have made me a better person. 

You see, teaching is funny like that. For many of us, teaching is our life. It consumes almost every fiber of our being. And, that can be challenging because many of us have families at home that need those pieces of us, too. I have long said that balance is impossible when you are a teacher.  Some days(most days), my school kiddos get the best of me that I have to offer which leaves the husband and my family getting the scraps. But, I am fortunate that I have family who understands and is there to keep me in check and reel me in when needed. They understand my "why" and they support my path in this amazing profession. For that, I am forever grateful.

Over the past seven years in the classroom, I have learned a lot. I have made mistakes, I have grown, and I acknowledge that I still have so much more learning and growing to do by the time I turn out the lights and close the door on the teaching profession.

However, there is one lesson that I hope always remains on the forefront of my teacher heart--LOVE them first and LOVE them hard.

Every year, my number one goal is to build relationships with the students that I am privileged to teach. There is an occupational hazard when you make this your number one focus, and that occupational hazard is the broken and rebuilt heart that I mentioned above. Our students go through so much trauma, turmoil, and transition within their K-12 educations. I don't care what type of demographics or socio-ecomomic status your schools have; the students all need the same thing.... LOVE. Sure, the way in which you love kiddos will be different depending on what they need, but every single one of our students need something from us. They need to know we care about them. They need to know that WE believe in them, that we SEE them, that we believe that they MATTER, and that we are there for them no-- matter --what.

I had an amazing conversation with a colleague of mine this week after I shared this article on Facebook. She had just attended a conference where the focus was relationships, bullying prevention, etc. and we spent some time talking about different ways that staff members in our building could continue to strengthen our relationships with our students and "check in" with ourselves to make sure that we, as teachers, were really taking the time to know EVERY single one of our kiddos. She shared an idea that challenged me, and I wanted to share it with you here.

Take your class list, and write down a non-academic fact about each student in your class. Can you do it? Were there some that were harder to write down than others? Were some of your facts way more detailed that others? If so, spend time learning more about the students that you don't know well enough. Make the time to learn something new about them. It is never too late to start this activity. Do it now! It is eye-opening! 

Sure, it takes time. Sure, its not always easy, but it--is--WORTH--it. Our students are worth it. They deserve to have educators who KNOW them.

So, the purpose of this blog post tonight is simple. If you are stressed about assessments, worried about scheduling, over writing lessons plans, getting exhausted with grading papers, just pulled a 15 PLUS hour day because you had morning bus duty then after school parent teacher conferences;just remember that while all of that is important, what is truly important is that EVERY single one of our students know that we care. They know that we love them, and they know that we SEE their hearts, their struggles, and we are going to be there for them no matter what.

Open up your hearts to them. Give them the control. Let your students change your life. All they ask in return is that you care.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

GoNoOdle Plus Launch Week

I am so honored to be teaming up GoNoOdle to help them promote their new features on GoNoOdle Plus. I have been a self-proclaimed "GoNoOdle Groupie" since 2014, and I am so honored to continue to use GoNoOdle with my 5th graders daily. 

Yes, GoNoOdle is awesome sauce, but did you know that GoNoOdle PLUS has a lot of amazing features that make classroom learning so much fun!

Check out this video to learn more!

GoNoodle Plus is the most academically comprehensive version of GoNoodle. It offers 100s of ways to
deepen student learning with additional curricular videos, learning games, and printable activities!

With GoNoodle Plus, you will have access to the follow exclusive GoNoodle Plus features:
• Suite of Interactive Learning Games: Move and play while practicing math, ELA, science,
social studies and more!

• Question Sets: Personalize learning games with your own custom question sets to meet specific
curriculum requirements and student needs. Or, pick from hundreds of questions sets created and curated by education experts and teachers.

• Learning Extensions: Printables turn your favorite GoNoodle videos into engaging learning tools with
GoNoodle worksheets and activities.

• More Movement and Mindfulness Videos: 2x the amount of new videos, with an emphasis on academic content.

Want to give GoNoOdle PLUS a try? Click here and enter code: 
TryPlus17 for an EXTENDED 60 day free trial. I promise it will be worth it!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Diverse Books for a Diverse World

Two years ago, I had a teacher friend make a post on social media challenging teachers to take an honest look/walk-through their classroom library and look for books that offered diversity among the characters, discussed difficult topics, or highlighted individuals who represented specific races and cultures. I took on the challenge and quickly realized that the books in our classroom library were severely lacking any sense of diversity, and I took action. 
I began researching about books that would help our students navigate hard topics, talk about diverse issues, inspire great thinking and writing, spark creativity, and create a reading community in the classroom.

As teachers, I believe that it is feverishly important that we acknowledge and reflect on the important role that picture books, chapter books, and nonfictional resources can and will play in our students' lives. I feel passionate about helping students ignite a desire for reading and foster a love for the stories and information found within the pages of books. Our students deserve the opportunity the learn in an environment that supports and encourages reading as well as uses stories to help them make sense of the world. ALL of our students also deserve to see themselves represented in the pages of the books in our libraries. 

"Reading can help all of us write a different story."--Donalyn Miller
Books can help students make connections with others who are experiencing the same life obstacles that they are. Books let our students know they are not alone. Stories make them smile, laugh, hope, and dream.

 Our students deserve access to books and texts that are culturally relevant, diverse, and provide opportunity for understanding.
Here is a list of  books that I recently received through a Donors Choose project centered around diversity as well as others I have recently added to our classroom collection. These books can be used to help share ideas, learn about life lessons, discuss complex and difficult topics, dig into diverse issues, help our students relate to characters whose lives and events may mirror their own, and better understand the world around them. 
This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links.  I use the commission to buy more books for our classroom. 

*I have a growing selection now, so the small list above are some recent additions. If you are interested in finding resources that highlight other diverse books, please check out the links below! They will give you an excellent starting place. 

This post contains affiliate links for Amazon. By purchasing an item on the Amazon site using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Accountable Talk

Accountable Talk is "talk that is meaningful, respectful, and mutually beneficial to both speaker and listener. It stimulates higher-order thinking which, in turn, helps students to learn, reflect on their learning and communicate their knowledge and understanding."- Education Bureau of Hong Kong

A few years ago, the district that I teach in really started to focus on the importance of student-led conversation and the power that reflecting on and communicating one's individual learning can actually have on individual and peer learning experiences. When accountable talk was first introduced to me, I immediately fell in love with what it represented-student ownership.

Teachers are really good at talking. Talking means we are the ones in control. However, when students take over the conversation, they are the ones in control of their learning experiences, and that is something that I have been so proud to support and watch unfold in our classroom over the past few years.

I like to use visuals to help introduce accountable talk each year and to use as a reference for us throughout the year. Talking about what we are thinking does not always come naturally so we often use the visuals of sentence stems to help get our conversations going or support them when they are stalling.

These are by no means the only sentence stems out there, but they are a good starting place. Feel free to use this resource that I created for our classroom! Some ways that you could use it in your classroom is to print, laminate and cut in the smallest size and attach to a binder ring so that can be passed out to students during group talks or post on the wall for easy reference. I updated it to match the popular "cactus" theme that seems to be floating around the education social media sphere this year. Hope you can use this, and happy talking!


If you want to learn more about Accountable Talk, this website has some great information!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

2017 Spring Teacher Blogger Retreat-Daytime Recap!

When was the last time someone rolled out the RED CARPET for you as a teacher? 

If you attended the 2017 Spring Teacher Blogger Retreat, your answer is a week and a half ago! 

We love to celebrate teachers and all school staff for the celebrities they are, and that is exactly the purpose of this event. This year was no different, and we want to share with you all of the fun and celebration that happened AND give you a chance to win some awesome teacher prizes!

The weekend began as it does every year for those of us on the planning team - with lots of prep! 

We had a huge increase in attendance this year, so this year that meant filling 560 of these awesome bags from Scholastic Reading Club with all kinds of goodies from our fabulous sponsors! 

We were able to take a quick break for dinner under the dome at the amazing West Baden Springs hotel before getting back to work setting everything up for the retreat! 

On Saturday morning, we were back at it early for attendee check-in. 

We also had some awesome sponsors greeting attendees and treating them to some of their products! 

Before we knew it, it was time to start the day! 

As soon as attendees entered the ballroom, they could put their raffle tickets in the items they hoped to win. We were lucky enough to have some AMAZING sponsors provide some fabulous prizes for our retreat! 

We began with a welcome message from Holly Ehle from Kindergarten Connections, our incredibly talented director of this event, who explained the history of this retreat and how her mission is to celebrate teachers for all of the work we do for kids all year. She is amazing! 

Next up was everyone's favorite principal, Mr. Gerry (pronounced with a hard G) Brooks. He gave a fantastic keynote about setting goals for ourselves and our students and families that left everyone laughing and feeling inspired. 

Tiffany, Brittany, and Marissa had fun trying to figure out Principal Gerry's "21 game." 

We also had to get a group picture with Principal Gerry! :)

After the keynote, we all went to our designated buffet lines for a yummy lunch. 

Then we had fun playing the "Left, Right" game describing the history of the Spring Teacher Blogger Retreat with the Teacher Tool Swap. 

Our tool swap was a huge hit! Check out this tool swap gift--an amazing Scentos holder from Kate Mense (her husband MADE IT)!!

To kick off the professional development portion of the day, Hope and Wade King from the Ron Clark Academy and Elementary Shenanigans gave a phenomenal presentation on the power of student engagement. They demonstrated ways we can "set the stage to engage" our kids every day to increase their achievement and help them WANT to come to school instead of just showing up because they HAVE to. 

Every person in the room was completely engaged and inspired! Hope and Wade King are beyond amazing! 

From there, we split up to attend three rounds of mini-sessions. We had some of the best teachers and presenters in the country hosting these sessions! 

 Tiffany Copple and I helped kick off the professional development sessions! We are so grateful for all of our presenters!

 DeeDee Wills from Mrs. Wills Kindergarten presented on writing in the classroom. 

 Tiffani Mugurussa from Time 4 Kindergarten shared tips on how to get started with selling on Teachers Pay Teachers

 Katie Mense from Little Kinder Warriors taught attendees how to use PowerPoint to create classroom resources. 

 Christina Decarbo from Miss DeCarbo lead a session on making comprehension more concrete for students. 

Haley O'Connor from Teaching With Haley shared strategies for helping students improve their self-control. 

 Amanda Pauley from Mrs. Pauley's Kindergarten gave attendees some strategies for classroom management.

 Marissa Zimmer from First Grade Stars shared quick and easy ways to integrate STEM into teachers' daily curriculum.

Heidi Neels from Flipping For First showed attendees everything SeeSaw has to offer them.  

 Maja Austin from Kooky Kinders taught attendees about the power of Donor's Choose to fund their classroom needs.

 Brittany Banister from Mrs. Banister's Kindergarten Kids explained how ESGI Software can save teachers time when assessing.

 Chris Pombonyo from Live in the Classroom lead a huge session on effective digital tools to use in the classroom. 

Crystal Oswald from The Balanced Teacher  showed attendees how she creates engaging songs for her classes. 

We wrapped up the PD portion of the day with a quick panel session with Principal Gerry, Hope and Wade King, Dee Dee Wills, and Chris Pombonyo. This allowed attendees to ask these experts anything! 

Finally, we ended the daytime event with the PRIZES from our fabulous sponsors! Check out all of these happy teacher faces!! 

A huge THANK YOU to all of these amazing sponsors:

Did you miss out on the fun this year? No worries! You can enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win some teacher swag, too!!

Check back soon for a recap of the epic red carpet evening event sponsored by ESGI, GoNoodle, and Oriental Trading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway