Category Archives: Motivation

Choose Kind

Today I want to give a shout-out to a teacher.  I’m not going to give his name because I don’t want to inadvertently embarrass the student involved.

Yesterday, my daughter told me about a girl in one of her classes who realized, too late, that she studied for the wrong quiz. Apparently, the teacher alternates Type A quiz and Type B quiz, and she had studied valiantly for Type B on a Type A day.

When the student realized her mistake, she was genuinely horrified and upset.

Before my daughter told me the outcome of the story, I thought about how I would have handled the situation as this student’s teacher.

I’m sorry to say that, as a 5th grade teacher many years ago, I probably would have told the student that she should have checked her agenda and I hope she learned from her mistake.

Inwardly I hoped that my daughter’s teacher was better than the rookie teacher I was 20 years ago.

My daughter told me that the teacher didn’t say anything.  However, as the teacher passed out the quizzes to the students, a Type A to each, he silently gave that one girl a Type B quiz instead.  

What an awesome teacher.  He realized what took me too long to realize – that you never discourage a child’s effort to learn!

Plus, way to be organized and have the other quiz ahead of time😉

 

choose-kind

 

Classroom Design

My latest post for Fusion, “The 7 E’s of Classroom Design,” has just been posted.  I was really inspired while I researched that particular article, and knew I needed to step it up in my own classroom. I’m still working on it, but I thought I would show you a few changes I’ve made this year.

Right now I’m working on 2 of the E’s, “Equable and Empathetic Classroom Design.”  With the trend toward flexible seating options for students, I started hunting for some alternatives to the hard plastic chairs in my classroom.  I also aimed for a 3rd E, “Economical,” because, well, I’m a teacher…

I found a $19 rug at Walmart, as well as some $10 end tables and a $20 coffee table.  The coffee table and rug serve as a sit-on-the-floor area for the kids.

Some of my favorite scores were storage ottomans.  Big Lots had some ottoman benches for $30 that I purchased, and I found a set of 3 cube ottomans on Wayfair for $50.

I visited Goodwill 3 times, and have been scouring Craigslist every night for some other wish list items (like a faux leather futon).  So far, that hasn’t been successful, but I’m not giving up.

I went way out of budget (okay, I’m lying – I didn’t really give myself a budget) with the bar stools, but the pair was on sale for $120.  I tried to make up for that splurge by making my  own “bistro” table.  I used a tall set of plastic storage drawers and a piece of drywall we used last year for Sphero painting.  I taped duct tape on the drywall to class it up (maybe that’s not your definition of classy, but it looks better than the drywall ), and then taped a laminated mandala on the top for the kids to decorate.  To make the front look more “table-y” I velcroed two of my $10 end tables together.  We can still access the drawers on the back when needed, but I put stuff-we-don’t-use-too-often in there.

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In the corner, I put the huge executive desk I inherited when I first moved into the classroom, which has a pretty handy glass overlay that was perfect for the new world map I placed underneath.

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Since I teach pull-out gifted and talented classes, most of my groups are not very large.  But I was teaching a 5th grade enrichment class last week to a full crowd, and let them test out the new seating area after we went over some expectations (such as, “don’t twirl around in the bar stools even though that’s a very fun thing to do and we all know that it’s extremely tempting).

5th graders using our new seating area

The students did great.  No one fought over seating and they immediately got to work on their projects.  It was pretty amazing to watch.

As I mentioned, the makeover is not finished.  I still have a few more E’s to cover.  The students will be helping me with some of those, so I’ll post those pics as we complete more of the project.

Don’t Try this With a Car

Thanks to my friend, Suzanne, for sharing this awesome video with me!

In this video from Smarter Every Day, the host, Destin, demonstrates what really happens when you actually try to change your mind.  I don’t mean when you switch to pizza instead of a hamburger.  I mean when you try to change something your mind has done the same way for decades, like riding a bike.  You will see the neuroplasticity of the brain in action, and realize that it takes a lot more work when you’re an adult than a child to create new paths in the brain.

Of course, you will immediately want to take the challenge of riding a backwards bike as soon as you watch the video.  If you are so inclined, you can buy your own for $500 at the Smarter Every Day shop.  There is a disclaimer, of course, that you will basically be paying a lot of money for a bike you won’t be able to ride…

Brain Bike Disclaimer from Smarter Every Day
Brain Bike Disclaimer from Smarter Every Day

I’m adding this video to my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board, and I’m going to use my left hand to click on the mouse. Baby steps…

Word Dream

Word Dream is one of those apps that I downloaded because someone mentioned it on Twitter –  and then I forgot to try it.  It is free for iOS, but there is also a paid Pro Version and there are in-app purchases to unlock all of the “goodies.”  I actually did fine with the free version, but had a gift card balance left on iTunes and decided to splurge for everything.  Now I can give my text a 3d appearance or add a fish-eye bulge to it, among other things.

I started playing with Word Dream because I read A.J. Juliani’s post about the “7 Mantras” he is displaying for the year and wanted to make some of my own.  I have a Pinterest board full of favorite quotations, but sometimes I discover an inspiring piece of text that hasn’t been graphically designed by a clever person yet.  Therefore, I wanted to try my hand at making a few of my own.

Word Dream allows you to choose a background from Pixabay or one of your own images.  Then you can add your text using numerous different options for the layout, color, and effect.  It’s not a unique idea, but I found Word Dream very easy to use with plenty of choices for design without too many to overwhelm me.  If Word Dream isn’t quite what you want, here is a list of 20 Alternatives – many that I’ve tried but deleted for one reason or another.

Here are a couple of samples I made while learning the app.  I’m not sure if I’m going to include them in my set of mantras, yet!  The black dog, by the way, is my daughter’s puppy.  (She was a bit more cooperative than my bulldog when I asked her to look adoringly at me.)

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betheperson

bethepersonsilly

Welcome, Mr. Reed!

I want to welcome a new teacher to the profession.  I don’t know him.  I don’t even know where he teaches.  But I know he teaches 4th grade, and I’m pretty sure his students are going to have an awesome year.

Mr. Reed Welcomes His New 4th Graders
Mr. Reed Welcomes His New 4th Graders

Mr. Reed made a special music video to welcome his students to 4th grade, and watching it made me wish I could be in his class.  I love that he found a way to combine two of his obvious passions – music and teaching.  I also think it’s great that you can download the music track for free here.

You’re incredible, Mr. Reed.  To you, and all of the other new teachers beginning their careers this year, I welcome your energy, enthusiasm, and elation. I wish I could make you feel as special as your students must feel.  Thank you for committing to this profession and, more importantly, to the students.  I don’t have a music video to communicate how great it is to have you join our ranks, but here is a link to my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Video for Teachers to help you out on those days when you start wondering if you made the right decision.  (Trust me, you did, Mr. Reed!)

Back to School Games from Breakout Edu

In this Education Week article, “10 Non-Standard Ideas About Going Back to School,” by Nancy Flanagan, she gives the following advice:

“Don’t make Day One “rules” day. Your classroom procedures are very important, a hinge for functioning productively, establishing the relationships and trust necessary for individual engagement and group discussions. Introduce these strategies and systems on days when it’s likely your students will remember them and get a chance to practice them. This is especially important for secondary teachers, whose students will likely experience a mind-numbing, forgettable parade of Teacher Rules on Day One.”

It’s often considered good practice to establish rules and procedures at the beginning of a new school year, but I can definitely attest that my daughter came home from each first week during her middle school years feeling bored and defeated.  Not only did the teacher of each subject spend the entire period going over rules, but many of them showed the same not-so-exciting videos, which repetitively appeared in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. (Fortunately, each year improved dramatically after the first weeks, as her fabulous teachers definitely challenged and engaged her.)

As a teacher of 25 years, I’ve gone through many first days, and I can tell you that I am just as enthusiastic as the students when my staff development weeks begin with rules, procedures, and awkward team-building activities.

Nancy Flanagan goes on in her article to suggest doing engaging activities the first day that will also help the students to learn something.  If you are looking for ideas, Breakout Edu offers some Back to School games that might be just the ticket to ramp up excitement so your students go home the first day and tell their parents what they learned and that they had fun doing it!  There is one game each for elementary, upper elementary, and secondary. There is even one for Staff Development! (Note: You will need to register for free with Breakout Edu in order to get the password to access the games.)

Consider embedding rules and procedures into exciting learning activities, rather than making them the starring topic for introducing the year.  Your students – and their parents – will thank you!

from Breakout Edu Back to School Games
from Breakout Edu Back to School Games

Teachers as Learners and Students as Leaders

Teacher Katy Delzer spoke at TEDxFargo last year, and eloquently stated a philosophy of teaching that I hope is embodied in my classroom.  Her final sentence summarizes it all:

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You can view “Reimagining Classrooms: Teachers as Learners and Students as Teachers,” here or in the embedded version below.  You may also want to watch some other inspiring videos to get you ready for the school year.  I’ve pinned quite a few on “Inspirational Videos for Teachers,” here.