Don’t lose the spark.

Where are all my teachers at, prepping for next year?!  I know you’re out there, because the Target dollar spot was picked over on day three of cutesy school stuff!  It’s only July, but here we are, excited for next school year! I think it may be similar to planting a garden (I wouldn’t know, exactly, but my husband does a great job of it!):  A gardener decides which veggies to plant for that year, where the garden should go, which plants to put where, how to prep the seeds to start off right for the best chance of new growth, excited to spend time in this beginning season…  Do you still get excited? What do you need to get that back? What do you need to let go? Let. It. Go.

Set goals.

Make plans.  

Plant the seeds.

Grow.

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Encourage collaboration.

It’s a beautiful thing, the excitement of learning alongside a peer. The trust and community that develops by believing in one another.  True for adults and children, staff and students.

Shared learning experiences build community and relationships.  The beginning of Regie Routman’s Literacy Essentials focuses on developing trust, “Get to know students, and help them get to know each other” (p. 14).  Without prioritizing the establishment of trusting relationships, teaching efforts are likely to fail. Not only on the first day of school, or when welcoming a new student into the room- throughout the year, trust matters.  By creating opportunities for students to work collaboratively together, they will support one another as learners, help one another as friends, and respect one another in the community. There are many names for the topic of this post: Peer learning, collaborative learning, cooperative groups, shared learning, buddies, partner work.  Whatever you call it, I hope it fosters joy, trust, and engagement in your classroom.  Read More

Just read.

I used to play school in my bedroom every day.  One of my dad’s favorite pictures of me is around age 6, standing hand-over-heart in front of a self-created Pledge of Allegiance poster, almost entirely misspelled.  I reenacted school days for baby dolls, stuffed animals, and sometimes my younger brother got to play along. I loved reading books, poems, even a treasured hymnal. It brought me joy to read these beautiful texts and stories out loud!  Fast-forward 20 years, and reading aloud to my second and third grade students was the best part of teaching- watching their faces light up, laughing together, sometimes crying, rereading our favorite authors, savoring poetry, soaking up every word.  

Does your real-life teaching bring you joy?  Do your students enjoy each day learning in your classroom?

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Never Give Up.

“Never give up- on yourself, or on students with disabilities, or on those who struggle,”

said one of my senior students with autism, as she was preparing for an anxiety-inducing presentation to students, teachers, and community members throughout our state. Cue my soppy, trying-hard-to-not-let-her-see-me-cry face! (I cannot possibly be the only one who has those crying-teacher moments, right?) This girl is going places, and I am beyond proud!

I am now the Director of Special Education in my small, rural district, but I first really learned about teaching students with disabilities in year 6. Lord knows there aren’t enough experiences in undergrad work (another topic, another day). Yes, I had students with IEPs in previous years, read a lot about differentiation, gave real efforts at inclusion, but I didn’t really learn any monumental instructional strategies worth replicating until I struggled right along with Gary (name changed for this post to the world).

Gary was one of a handful that came into my third grade classroom reading well below grade level, but unlike the others who made progress through my multiple times a day read-alouds, shared reading studies of beautiful poetry, a plethora of choice books, guided reading, books on cd, home-school literacy connections, buddy reading, independent reading, I could go on and on… Gary was my mystery who just wasn’t making progress.

By October, I was already in a panic. I knew he was gaining more minutes of higher-level reading instruction with me than by leaving for his IEP time, so we quickly adjusted that. I knew he had already read through every level A-G reader we had in the school, so I took him with me to our amazing school library to pull his favorites from the shelf and added in a couple new because he trusted my recommendations. But, I knew he did not like to read and was practically sleeping with his eyes open- or sometimes actually sleeping- during independent reading time. I knew he felt embarrassed doing running records and reading aloud to me. Does all of this sound like a non-reader you know?! Read More

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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During my 10 years in education, I have taught numerous children in a variety of settings: in three different districts as teacher, assistant principal, and now special education director; in multiple classrooms- from the beautiful room with high, leaky ceilings; to the room with unwanted mice that especially loved to come out during independent reading time because large shrieking humans didn’t scare them in the least; to my middle school office used as a classroom for a suspended student or two with much to learn; of all ages and grades; from multiple countries and cultures; with so many unique stories and situations I could fill a book. All of these children, and all of the literal blood, sweat, and tears put into teaching, have taught me that there are so many lessons to learn each and every day from the kids, their families, and the experiences we share in learning together.