Wednesday, January 10, 2018

When Teachers Compete

One day I found myself saying, "I'm just going to pack my toys and go home. I'm not sharing any more of my ideas with ANYONE. Then we will all see at the end of the day who is the best!"

Just typing it makes me cringe.  I mean, I said those words out loud. In a group of people. People that I have to work with on a daily basis.

So what got me to the point that I sounded like a four year old?

Let's rewind.

We had a new principal and AP who were very hands on. So much so that they are both involved in our weekly PLC meetings. During one of our first PLCs with them, they laid the entire ELA department's end of year test scores on the table. There was no sugar coating....our names were listed right next to how much growth we made (or did not make) last year. Now, maybe it's just me, but it was instant competition time. I wanted to see where I ranked with the other teachers. Was I at the top? Could I bask in a moment of self congratulatory righteousness? What could I do to stay there? Did I just smirk at my teammates tears?    My ego had come out to play. Big time.

And then the Walk Throughs started. You know, the thing where the principal and AP visit your room for 10 minutes, and then send you an email with what they saw and suggestions.  As of last week, in a school of 34 classroom teachers, our administration has done almost 500 walk throughs. I have received 8. I started saying things like, "Why aren't they visiting me? Do they do not like me? Look at all the good stuff I'm doing!" Translation: Why aren't they telling me how awesome I am, so I can pat myself on the back a little more?? Me. Me. Me.


Through out all of this, the shift was gradual. They would sometimes see stuff my teammate was doing, praise it, and I would sit there and shout in my head, "THAT WAS ALL MY IDEA!!" Why is she the one getting accolades?!? Well...she won't get any of my ideas anymore if that's how it's going to be.

Gradually we stopped sitting in the same room during planning. Our communication dwindled. My self-inflicted animosity grew. Then one day after a staff meeting, I found myself in a circle of negativity saying, "I'm just going to pack my toys and go home. I'm not sharing any more of my ideas with ANYONE. Then we will all see at the end of the day who is the best!"

Not my best moment.

So, who wins when teachers are compared?

Who wins when teachers compete against each other for the highest test scores?

From experience, not the teachers. We end up in a swirl of negativity and secrecy.

Not the students.  They have teachers who are negative and more concerned about their performance over their student's needs.

Maybe it is idealistic of me, but I truly believe A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats. We expect it in our classroom. We want students to work together, brainstorm, build off ideas others bring forth. Isn't our classroom environment better when the students do this? We will be too.

Share your ideas. Work together to make your ideas better. Talk it through. Build and create amazing lessons together.

Love and cooperation always win.

Happy Teaching,

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Attitude of Gratitude in the Classroom

Right before Christmas break I found myself with the worst attitude.

Every little thing my students were doing were getting on my nerves.

And even though there was some positive stuff going on, I was only focused on the negative.

And with only being focused on the negative, I was filled with so much dread about going to work.

Real talk: I was so annoyed with my last class, I didn't even talk to them for THREE days before Christmas break. I put their assignments on the board and gave them a packet.

That is just not how I roll.

After a couple of days of sleep, being lazy, and reading what I want to read, I was able to think about some changes that needed to take place.

First, I accepted this was not my student's fault. Yes, their behavior has been less than stellar and their motivation was almost nonexistent. But, you get what you expect. I walked into my class expecting them to not care and to act impulsively, and they did just that.

I had to change the energy of my classroom and shift the focus.

I knew if we started our day off with what we are grateful for, we would begin with a positive mindset. It is so simple, but has made the biggest difference!

For the first five minutes of class I play yoga music while I'm checking agendas and homework, the students get a post it, write what they are thankful for, and get started on their bellringer. The whole process takes less than 2 minutes and has totally changed the climate and energy of the classroom {and me}

This post it note says it all! 

If you want to implement this quickly, you can pop over to my TpT store and get the whole set up for only $2.00! It comes with the printable letters {I printed mine on colored patterned paper}, a Google Slides presentation that explains what gratitude is, three question prompts to get the students started, and the music I play while they are writing!

Happy Teaching!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Increase Engagement: Table Mascots

While I was cleaning  my garage over Christmas break, I came across a grey plastic grocery bag knotted at the top.  As I picked it up to toss it into the trashcan, I noticed the odd shapes and movement it was making. I untied the top, and peaked inside to find a random collection of solar power dancing toys.

Now, I have no idea where these toys came from.  None.

But who am I to throw away an opportunity like that? Literally.

I carried them back to school in the little gray bag they came in where they sat in my cabinet for about 3.5 weeks. Then came the day when we were doing a POP Challenge and I had NOTHING for prizes. I scrounged through my cabinets looking for anything and everything (I've been known to give away broken crayons and dust bunnies) and my eyes skirted across the gray bag.  With a huge smile, happy dance, and sigh of relief, I knew what I was going to do!

For each class, I set the solar power dancing toy on the Smartboard and told them the Pop Challenge prize would be naming rights and the opportunity to house the homeless toy on their group's table until our next Pop Challenge.

And it worked.

Every day the winning table gets their mascot and proudly sets it on their table.  They name it, and even make little clothes and accessories for it.

Everyday I get asked if we are going to do a new Pop Challenge for the chance to win the toy for their table.

It's a highly coveted honor to house the dancing flower on your table for the week.

So much so that they worked together, used their notes, and thought critically to sort sentences without any guidance from me!   THEY WERE EXCITED TO DO GRAMMAR! Whhhhaaaaat....

Money Spent = $0
Student Engagement = 100%
That's a total win in my book!

Happy Teaching,

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Instagram Novel Project

I love Instagram.

It's just telling your story in pictures.

I also love stories.

So I started thinking about how I could combine the two....and the Instagram Novel Project was born!

During the reading process, I'm super big on visualizing while we read. So many of my students struggle with this concept!

The idea of the Instagram project is to get them thinking about what the story looks and fees like as we read. 

How it works...
1. I put them into groups of 3 or 4 for the duration of the novel.

2. As we read a chapter or selection, the students are jotting down the BIG THINGS that happen (central idea!)

3. The group picks one important scene from the chapter to recreate and take a picture of. I let them bring their own devices.  It just made it easier.  If this is not an option, you can always use the school iPads.

4. They then create hashtags, comments from other characters (inferring), and captions.

That's it!

It's super easy, fun, and engaging!

If you would like the project outline, rubric, and student planning sheets, they are available on my TpT store!  Just click the picture below!

Happy Teaching,

Monday, January 30, 2017

Why I Read Aloud to my Middle Schoolers

So I have this theory that is not at all, to my knowledge, backed up by formal research. 

Just observations I have made over my 13 years teaching.

My students don't understand the patterns of dialogue, character voices and tones, and nuances found in a novel because they have not been read aloud to consistently.

I know elementary teachers do read alouds, but a lot of times the teachers are the only ones that have the books.  Students listen, but they are not seeing how it is written, so they can not replicate when reading independently.

Students need to read the words in their head as it is read aloud.  They need to see how the dialogue is written in order to understand quotation marks. They need to recognize that a new paragraph in dialogue in a different character speaking. 

This is something that, and I'm not exaggerating here, 85 out of my 110 students do not understand at the beginning of the year.
I still remember the first book read aloud to me that I got my own copy to follow along with.  It was in third grade and my teacher, Mrs. Roth, read Island of the Blue Dolphins.  It was magical! I was so engaged with the characters and their challenges that didn't want her to stop. When she had to, I couldn't wait to read again the next day.  I felt the characters were apart of me. It was in that moment a reader was born.

This is the moment I try to give to my 7th graders. 

So when you walk by by classroom, you will hear me reading aloud. I take on Katniss' persona, I try to capture the angst of Four, and the ego of John Wilkes Booth. After a couple of weeks of them hearing me, I assign reading parts.  {Check out this post for a more detailed explanation of this process}.

And then, at the end of the book, you will hear my students clapping, sighing, and excitedly asking if we will read the sequel {not in class, but they do it on their own!}

If you have any questions about how I do read alouds, please email or comment below! I will be happy to share!!

Happy Teaching,

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Five Things I'm Thankful for This Week

1. Dry Shampoo

My world has been forever changed!  I have tons of hair that takes me tons of time to wash, dry, straighten, and curl.  I was doing this on a every other day basis. Now, with my recent purchase of awesomeness in a bottle, I'm doing this every 4-5 days!!  Even with working out!  The extra time in the mornings have been amazing. Somehow I'm still rolling into school just barely on time....I need a driver in my life. #lifegoals

2. Lunches I Can Shake

I'm not very creative in the food department, nor do I make the time to prepare meals to bring to school. I'm also not brave enough to eat the school food (they warm food up in the individualized plastics bags they come in...that really can't be safe). So now, I just bring my super amazing protein powder and shake, shake, shake during lunch.  Instant nutrition and extra time to work while the kids eat! (If you would like to know the type of shakes I use, email me at I would love to share!!)

3. $2 Ulta Nail Polish

THE. BEST. NAIL. POLISH. EVER. It's $2, it doesn't flake or chip, and lasts all week.  The best I have ever used!

4. Found Notes From Students

This note was found as rules for a new club some lovely students were forming. Personally, I think they are great life rules.  In fact, I might paint them on a pallet and hang it over my stove.  We have already established them as our 7th grade team rules from this point forward.  Haha!
5. Netflix

I don't watch a lot of TV.  Like, ever.  My free time is spent reading {sometimes school related YA novels.  Most of the time, though, it's junk food for the brain} BUT....Gilmore Girls, y'all! I can watch ALL episodes back to back! It is the best!  Whoever came up with this idea needs a unicorn!

Happy Teaching,

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fitness Friday: Change Your Mindset

When you take the stress and chore out of working out, then your mindset and energy surrounding exercise starts to shift.

Think about it...what WANTS to do chores (soooo not the bathroom is not my favorite in the world)

When you don't want to do something, you put it off until the vary last minute, or it just doesn't get done at all.

This is why we always say we will start going to the gym TOMORROW. Because the chore of going today is too much (especially after grading, analyzing data, PLCs, dealing with THAT ONE student, etc.).

We need to restructure how we THINK about exercise. It doesn't have to involve you going to a gym if you don't want to.  Just think of happy and fun ways to get your body MOVING.

Instead of using exercise to lose weight (because that is more about diet me at if you want to know how I plan my meals) use it as a way to relieve stress, gain mental clarity, and experience happiness.

Find a friend at school and make a commitment to walk the halls together for thirty minutes at the end of the day. 

If you're like me, this is the amount of time I usually spend in a teammate's classroom talking about the day.  If we talk while we walk, then we relieve stress and we are happier when we are done. The "optional" assessment the district just added on top of the assessment we JUST GAVE doesn't seem as bad anymore. It is just another opportunity for our students to show how much they are learning this year!

And, after all, Healthy Teachers are Happy Teachers!

Happy Teaching,

On Instagram

© It's Always Sunny in Room 3. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.