Tag Archives: teaching

Advice for #NewTeachers

In my latest article for Fusion, I give some advice to new teachers – fully aware that I still feel like a rookie after 25 years in the profession.  If you don’t have time to read it all, at least check out the last paragraph where I reveal my favorite teaching/parenting secret that has never once failed me in a quarter of a century 😉

photo from Flickr
photo from Flickr

What You Might Have Missed This Summer

Summer break is over – at least for many of the public school teachers in Texas who return to work today.  Of course, many of us never really stopped working over the last couple of months, fitting in workshops and lesson planning in between trips to the beach and afternoon naps.

I’ve been saving educational articles of interest to Pocket all summer, and I thought I would share some of the news that I curated that might have some impact on your planning for the new school year.  I would love for you to share any other summer education news that I’ve missed in the comments below!

What You Missed

  • Osmo put out two new games this summer, Coding (near the beginning of the summer) and most recently Monster (described as “The Creative Set”).  My summer camp students loved the Coding game, and I’ve just ordered Monster.
  • Speaking of tangible coding, Google has announced “Project Bloks,” which looks pretty intriguing.  The Bloks aren’t available to the public yet, but you can sign up on their interest page to get updates on the program.
  • In other Google news, the Expeditions VR app is now available on Android with expectations to release it on other platforms later this year.  Also, there is a free Cast for Education app that I am really interested in that supposedly allows students to project their work without the need for other hardware/software like Chromecast, Apple TV, or Reflector.  Richard Byrne has a blog post on a new add-on for Google Docs called The Lesson Plan Tool.  By the way, if you want to keep updated on new Google Classroom features, here is a good page to bookmark.
  • When it comes to lesson planning, Amazon Inspire might be your go-to site as soon as it becomes available, with free access to educational resources.  Sign up for early access now.
  • Think about allowing your students to show off what they’ve learned during those great lessons with Class Dojo’s new feature: Student Stories.
  • You may have somehow escaped the Pokemon Go craze, but your students probably haven’t.  Here are some ways to use it educationally.
  • Words with Friends now has an Edu version that is free and can be played on the web or on mobile devices.  I haven’t tried it, but it looks like it even has materials aligned to Common Core.
  • Breakout Edu has Back to School games.
  • Canva now has an iPhone app.
  • YouCubed released Week of Inspirational Math 2 last week.  This is a great way to start your students off with a growth mindset in math.

Do you have some education news that we might have missed this summer?  Be sure to add it in the comments below!


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:


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.

Are You a 21st Century Teacher?

My most recent post on the Fusion Yearbooks blog is called, “10 Signs You Really Are a 21st Century Teacher (And Might Not Know It.”  As I researched for the article, one of the main differences I identified between teaching now and early in my career is how collaborative this profession has become – not only with colleagues, but with other professionals as well as the community, parents, and students.

Here are some of my other articles that I’ve written for Fusion:

from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/samsungtomorrow/8028460174/
from: Samsung Tomorrow

Tell Your Students to Get Lost

I was driving between appointments yesterday, and considered taking a potential shortcut.  After a quick internal debate, I decided to stick to the route I knew even though I would barely arrive on time.  Why didn’t I take the shortcut?

Because I had a guess it would be quicker, but I wasn’t absolutely sure where it would take me.  If it worked, I would get there earlier and be able to use it many times in the future.  But, if I got lost…

So, even though I’ve often thought about using that shortcut, and it would be awesome if it worked because I could forever use it, I haven’t.  I never have time when I think about it that I’m willing to give up if I get lost.

This is what we often do to our students.  We show them the way to do something that we want them to achieve, and we never give them time to discover their own route to the destination.  There is no time for them to stray from the path we prescribe.  If they start wandering, we quickly re-direct them.  Or, we sometimes tell them they obviously can’t read this map so they should just give up and move on to the next destination. It doesn’t matter that they might have found a more efficient way, or even a more scenic route, if given time.

As my students meander their way through their Spy School Missions in our Undercover Robots camp this week, I chuckle at their circuitous routes and congratulate them on discoveries that don’t necessarily relate to the mission.  I wonder what schools would be like if more learning could happen this way, if we told our students frequently, “Get lost.  And be sure to tell me all about it.”

Flickr image from Ian Wilson
Flickr image from Ian Wilson


Thanks for Helping Me to Smell the Flowers

Looking back at some old notebooks from my younger days, I came across an entry that simply stated, “She said, ‘Smell my flower,’ to me today.” With those three words, I instantly found myself back in 6th grade and recalled the exact moment that seemed important enough to commemorate in my diary.

In 6th grade, I lived in Lexington, Kentucky with my mother and step-father.  We had moved there from New Jersey when I was near the end of 5th grade.  Under the guise that we were “taking a vacation” to visit our friends in Kentucky, our mother had checked my younger and sister out in the middle of a school day. After a week in Kentucky, we were told my mother and father were getting a divorce – and that we would never return to our school, our friends, our home, or our pets.

By 6th grade, a few months had gone by since the abrupt departure from New Jersey, but I remained miserable.  I was still unsettled by the whole situation in every since of the word.  But I was a good student who never caused trouble, so no one at school suspected the turmoil that was tearing me apart inside.

Mrs. Haney didn’t know my situation.  But that didn’t matter.  Mrs. Haney had no favorites in her class – everyone received special treatment.  We all adored her because she adored each and every one of us.  It was Mrs. Haney who asked me to smell the flower she was holding, warranting the entry I wrote that afternoon.  Every interaction with her made me feel noticed and valued, and it had been a very long time since I felt that way.

In Mrs. Haney’s class, there was no distinction between the “cool kids” and “nerds.”  We were Mrs. Haney’s class, and that made us all cool together.  The same respect Mrs. Haney gave us, we gave each other – and her.

At the end of the school year, one of the parents hosted a pool party for our class.  We invited Mrs. Haney.  We weren’t sure she would attend, and the party started slowly as everyone waited for her arrival.  She didn’t let us down.  When she entered the yard, we all cheered and swarmed her.   We knew that we were Mrs. Haney’s family; she would even spend time with us after school was over – and on a weekend! At a time in my life when I felt that my own family had been shattered, I had become part of another family that was supportive and whole.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation week, I would like to thank Mrs. Haney and all of the teachers out there who work so hard to make every child feel like a member of their family. Sometimes you do know that your students may be going through hard times, but often you don’t.  The great teachers are the ones who help every child to smell the flowers so they can appreciate a world of promise, beauty, and love.

Creative Commons image from http://flickr.com/photo/95632040@N00/3356909594
Creative Commons image from http://flickr.com/photo/95632040@N00/3356909594

Why Not?

Dr. Brad Gustafson (@GustafsonBrad) is one of my favorite social network connections, and he is at the top of my list of educators I want to meet in person some day. His most recent blog post showed up in my Twitter feed yesterday, and I was intrigued by the title, “Press Conference: Hiring Announcement Video.”  You may have seen Key & Peele’s “Teacher Center,” which is hilarious, but hits close to home for teachers who would like to feel as valued as sports stars.  Brad’s version isn’t a spoof, though.  He is a principal looking for teachers to work at his school, and this video, I guarantee, will make you want to work with him.  Wouldn’t it be great if this could be the way all teachers are hired?  Ready to make the move to Minnesota?  Then you should consider working for this man.

image from Dr. Brad Gustafson's teacher recruitment video
image from Dr. Brad Gustafson’s teacher recruitment video