illuminated gratitude quote on board
3-12, Creative Thinking, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Writing

Gratitude Zines

Since this is the month of American Thanksgiving, November classroom activities often revolve around gratitude in the States. Austin Kleon, a Texan author famous for his Blackout Poetry among other things, has the perfect free download for you. He is a proponent of all things creative, and “zines” are excellent gateways to encourage imaginative writing and illustrations. If you have not run into “zines” before, here is a quick introduction from the University of Illinois, who basically describes a “zine” as “a small-scale, self-published publication, similar to a magazine, which can focus on a variety of topics.” Kleon has a page of examples and free downloads here.

I learned about Kleon’s Gratitude Zine on Twitter from Maria Galanis (@mariagalanis), when she shared a video tutorial of how to make the printed page into the tiny book.

You can get the free download by going to Kleon’s newsletter. (I highly recommend subscribing when the popup displays, but you don’t have to.)

Click here to go to the free download on Austin Kleon’s newsletter.

I’ll be adding this idea to my November collection of resources. If you are looking for some more creative and critical thinking activities related to the season, here is another post of free ideas.

6-12, Videos

An Experiment in Gratitude

This video is old (2013), but I think it’s a good time to revisit it. It is the first in a series of videos produced by Soul Pancake (the same people who brought us Kid President) on The Science of Happiness. In “An Experiment in Gratitude,” the host shares the results of a study devised to determine how much gratitude affects happiness. The adults who are featured each take a survey to get a base line score for their happiness levels, and are then asked to write a letter to thank someone who has made a positive difference in their life. To their surprise, they are asked to call the person they wrote to and read the letter out loud.

I won’t divulge the results of the experiment, but I think you can predict that expressing gratitude does boost levels of happiness. If you want to get more into the science, here is an article that explains how the two emotions are related. And, if you are not feeling particularly grateful lately (because, you know, pandemic), here is another article on how you can make a conscious effort to change that.

This video is only about 7 minutes long, so it’s a good one for older students. However, be aware that there is some “language” between 5:20-5:27 that may not be considered appropriate by some. If you are looking for some ideas on how to encourage your students to think about gratitude, be sure to check out my Thankful Wakelet, which has many links for all ages. And for more Inspirational Videos, try my Pinterest Board.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

How I Learned to Fly

999This was the message WordPress gave me when I published yesterday’s post.  I almost missed it.

Now, I’m not always the best mathematician in the room, but I think that means this is my 1000th blog post.

I feel like I should do something special to commemorate this occasion, but then I also feel like it’s just a number that happens to have a lot of zeros and a 1 in it.

I Googled, “how to celebrate your 1000th blog post,” and there was, surprisingly, a lot of advice on this.

I didn’t really like any of it.

But then I Googled, “1000,” just to see what I would get.

I found this video of 1000 musicians in Italy performing the song, “Learn to Fly” by the Foo Fighters.*  The musicians were hoping to “woo the Foo” to perform there.


Playing  and singing one song.

Very well.

That seems like a pretty big feat and a somewhat larger accomplishment than 1000 blog posts.

I’ve heard the original song a million times, but never really thought about what it meant.  When I looked at the lyrics, I still wasn’t sure.  So I Googled, “what does foo fighters learn to fly mean?”

Apparently, Dave Grohl, the lead singer once said, “It’s about the search for some sort of inspiration, the search for signs of life that will make you feel alive.”  (He also said it was one of his least favorite songs on the record, but let’s not dwell on that.)

I started this blog because when I was searching for inspiration and found it, I wanted to share it with others.  As an unintended consequence, I have found so much “life” out there – so many people who feel the same passion for teaching that I do.  You make me feel alive.

And the video?  That is a true metaphor for what I have learned through blogging, Twitter, and my colleagues near and far – that collaboration can make some amazingly beautiful music.

Thanks for all of your ideas, advice, comments, and connections. You are the ones who have taught me to fly.

Here’s to another 1000 posts!

Avatar Created with the Bitmoji app
Avatar Created with the Bitmoji app


* Be forewarned that there is an inappropriate word spoken when the song is over and the musician begins speaking.




Education, K-12, Motivation, Videos

To the Moon

I absolutely love this video posted by Google in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week:

Here is Google’s message on the YouTube page: “Thank you to the millions of passionate teachers who inspire curiosity in their classrooms…lesson after lesson, unit after unit, year after year. We’re fortunate to have had many of you in our lives, and we can’t wait to see what the future will bring because of the work you’re doing today.”

If you are looking for a few more videos to honor the teachers in your lives here is a small sampling from my Inspirational Videos for Teachers Pinterest Board:

Because I Knew You via CoolCatTeacher

A Tiny Poem to the World from Kid President

Teaching Is…

If I Knew Then: A Letter to Me on My First Day Teaching from Edutopia and Soul Pancake

What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali

Teacher Appreciation Week YouTube Playlist  from The Principal Blog

And, please, as we spend this week appreciating our teachers, consider how fortunate we are to have the educational system we have in the United States and many of the other countries around the world. In yesterday’s post, I asked for help in righting an injustice which is rampant in several regions where students, particularly girls, risk their lives to receive an education.  I would be grateful if you would spread the word about this post, and what steps can be taken to right this wrong. #BringBackOurGirls

Education, K-12, Math, Motivation

Thank You for Believing in Me More Than I Believed in Myself

image credit: @Heather Ciccone
image credit: @Heather Ciccone

The summer before I started high school, our family moved to Louisiana from Kentucky.  My first year of high school was miserable.  Not only was I a shy girl who didn’t know a soul, but the Louisiana humidity and classrooms without air-conditioning just about did me in.  My Biology teacher spent the majority of each class preaching against pre-marital sex, and the three years I had just spent in Kentucky trying to learn how to dribble and throw a basketball did not impress my new P.E. teacher.

My one saving grace was my Algebra I class.  For years, I had struggled in math; I remember many nights in 1st-8th grades arguing with my mother about the right way to do a problem and producing homework papers full of tear stains and erasure holes to my teacher each morning.  But, unbeknownst to my new school, I had already had two years of Algebra in 7th and 8th grade.  My transcript only showed it as a math class, and so, I was put in Algebra for the 3rd year in a row when I started high school.

By then, I knew all about this x and y stuff.  Algebra was, by far, my easiest class that year, and the tears I cried in 9th grade were never over math.

At the end of the year, however, I realized I had made a huge mistake.

My Algebra teacher, Mrs. O’Brien, called me into  her office.  “I’m recommending you for Honors Geometry next year,” she told me.  I was blind-sided.  Honors Geometry was for gifted math students.  I was not a gifted math student.  Had never been, would never be.  Where in the world did she get such a crazy idea? Then, I realized the problem.

“Oh, you think I’m good at math because I got good grades this year,” I said.  I knew I had to confess.  “I only did well because I’ve had Algebra before.  I’m not good at math.  Really.  Especially anything to do with shapes.  I would not do well in Honors Geometry, trust me.”

I felt a panic rising in me at this realization that this year of pretending to be what I was not was going to completely backfire on me.

Mrs. O’Brien looked at me.  “You are good in math.  And you will do well in Honors Geometry.  Trust me.”  And that was that.  With a flick of her wrist, she signed off on the form that would doom me to a Sophomore year littered with math anxiety.

I spent the entire summer before 10th grade consumed in regret at my short-sightedness.  I should have done worse in Algebra, pretended I was floundering, gone in for tutoring, kept myself from raising my hand so darn often.  Now I would be in for it.  But even then, even as I obsessed about this horrible year ahead, I felt a bit proud – it was nice to know that Mrs. O’Brien believed that I could be good in math.

Honors Geometry was taught by Ms. Michele.  Ms. Michele was beautiful.  Ms. Michele was smart.  And Ms. Michele was no-nonsense.  She was everything in a teacher that intimidated me.

Except she didn’t intimidate me.  When she taught, she used a method that I had never seen before in math.  Instead of just telling us what to do, she told us why to do it.  For everything there was a logical reason, and when I didn’t understand the reason and timidly raised my hand, she patiently explained it.

In fact, it got to the point where I didn’t have to raise my hand anymore.  Ms. Michele would scan the classroom, and pause on my face.  “Theresa, I can tell you have a question,” she would say.  (I was “Theresa” back then, not “Terri.”) And, instead of despairing at my consistent puzzlement, she would patiently back up and explain the concept a different way.

At the end of the year, I won the award for Honors Geometry.  I went on to Honors Algebra II, and then Calculus.  I will never pretend that I understood one thing I learned in Calculus, but I did fine, even so. For a girl who “just wasn’t any good at math,” I didn’t do too badly.

Back before there was such a buzz phrase as “Growth Mindset,” I had teachers who believed in me when I did not.  They helped me work through mistakes and figure out how to correct them.  I had similar experiences in Chemistry and Choir.  Even in English, which had always been my strength, I had many moments of doubt and self-hatred.  But kind teachers were always there to help me through.

So, during this week of Teacher Appreciation, I would like to thank those women and men at Archbishop Blenk High School who helped me to believe in myself.  Ms. Michele and Mrs. O’Brien are two of them.  Ms. Collins, Dr. Antoine, and Mrs. McGee also made a difference, along with many others who, I’m sorry to say, I cannot remember all of these years later.  Thank you to all of you who devoted your time and effort to the education of the girls at Archbishop Blenk High School.  I’m sure I expressed my gratitude when I graduated, but I want you to know that, even now, I am so thankful for the part you played in my life.

Education, Motivation

My Edublog Award Nominations

Click here to make your own nominations (due by 12/1/13)
Click here to make your own nominations (due by 12/1/13)

I want to take this day that we Americans have set aside for giving thanks to extend my gratitude to all of the people who inspire and motivate me each day.  By listing my Edublog Award Nominations, I am only able to honor a very small percentage of those who make me feel that teaching is the best job in the world.  This made the task a very daunting one.  There were several categories for which I could have listed pages of people, and many people who enrich my life but do not fit into a single category.  So, I am going to stick to a few categories that seemed to have some clear stand-outs in my world this year.

Best Teacher Blog: Not Just Child’s Play – I am probably going to nominate this blog every year for the rest of my life.  Ms. Trayers is so creative, and guides her students into creating the most amazing work.  I read every blog post with fascination, and usually find some way to integrate her ideas into my own classroom.  It is obvious that she loves her job and loves her students.

Best Podcast: The 2 Guys Show – Drew Minock and Brad Waid create such a wonderful, playful show every Tuesday at 8 PM CST.  It is chock full of information, their guests are always fascinating, and the camaraderie between these co-workers makes them fun to watch, or listen to, weekly.

Best Administrator Blog: Adjusting Course by Brad Gustafson – Brad was recently on The 2 Guys Show (where he played the best Augmented Reality practical joke ever), and was one of the leaders involved in yesterday’s featured video.  His energy and love for his students comes through in every thing that he does.

Best Student Blog: Social Media Education by Paige Woodard – Don Wettrick (also a recent guest on The 2 Guys Show) tweeted about one of Paige’s blog posts, recently, and I read it with fascination.  She is a senior in high school with astounding eloquence and voice.  Whatever this young woman does in the future, I hope that it involves writing, as she does it very well.

Best Librarian BlogThe Van Meter Library Voice – Shannon McClintock Miller rocks.  And, yes, she was interviewed on The 2 Guys Show, too!

Best TweeterMargaret Powers (@mpowers3) – This tech coordinator from Pennsylvania always shares fabulous resources with her tweets.  I love seeing her in my stream because I know I’m about to learn something new.  She hasn’t been on The 2 Guys Show – but she should be!

Most Influential Blog Post – “I am Me, and I Can’t Be You” by Todd Nesloney – Todd was chosen as one of the White House Champions of Change and has a resume about a mile long.  This particular post, though, reminded me how important it is to find your own voice in your teaching.  Trying to do all of the great things you might read that other people are doing will be a disservice to your students if you are not passionate about them.  And, oh, yes, Todd has been on The 2 Guys Show, as well!