6 Ways To Build a Love for Writing in your Classroom

Writing. This one word can evoke extreme emotions among students and adults. People, unfortunately, can sometimes see writing as they do math; They think they are either a natural or they are not.

As a child, we gain these insights based on our experiences. Some believe they do not have anything that they view as important enough to share, some have not found their voice yet, some are nervous to share their thoughts, while some only associate writing with academics. As children grow older, some will still see themselves as “non-writers,” even into adulthood.

I think writing is more than putting a pencil to paper or typing words on a screen. Writing is one of the most solid approaches to practice and fully engage in critical thinking. As you write, you are constantly trying to find the best words, anecdotes, and analogies to bring your thoughts to life in the way you see them in your brain. For example, on one blog post, I may spend several hours at night creating a graphic, organizing my thoughts, revising, deleting, and re-reading; While on other occasions, I have words that ignite my brain like a spark and I am unstoppable for 30 minutes.

Moreover, by sharing my work with others, I can get feedback to see what resonated with people, who relates to my ideas, or who sees things differently and why. All of these facets of the writing process helps myself and other writers out there become better at their practice while becoming all-around better thinkers.

Through my own process, I have developed a passion for helping students see writing differently, too. Here are some tips I have used in the classroom that have worked well with students from elementary, middle school, and beyond: 

1. Be a writing role model: Write on a blog, website, or another forum

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” – Gustave Flaubert

In my opinion, this is non-negotiable. In my experience, this has also been one of the most influential factors in building writing credibility and importance in my classroom.

When we think about reading teachers, for example, many rightfully assume that reading teachers love reading, read for fun, and are knowledgeable readers. But, when we think of writing teachers, often the focus is, “Can the teacher teach writing well?” I believe that in order to coach other writers, you must be a writer yourself. This does not mean you need to be a published author or to have written a book. However, I do encourage teachers to begin writing on a blog, website, or another forum. Once you start writing regularly yourself, you will understand how difficult and scary the process can be at first. We expect kids to be able to write without fear, yet we forget how deeply personal and frightening it can be. Through this experience, your newfound awareness will help you relate to your students.

Additionally, I loved sharing my website with my students and the growth I made as a writer. I shared with them true stories about my writing life. Here are some of the stories I share:

  • I always loved to write as a kid in my journal, but I was terrified to share my thoughts with anyone, yet alone the world
  • I thought to be a true writer, you had to be an author of a book
  • I created my first Xanga blog in 5th grade, but I never shared my name because I was scared people would not like what I had to say
  • I met my first published author in college; She was the first person I shared a personal piece of writing with and was the person who, without knowing, gave me the inspiration to write publicly
  • It was not until I was a teacher that I discovered my niche; I would write a blog for other educators and share my journey.
  • I constantly evolve and change as a writer. My voice as a writer has changed even in the last two years. With each blog post, I gain more comfort and confidence

2. Have thoughtful conversations about writing to break down barriers and inspire

 “The desire to write grows through writing.” – Desiderius Erasmus

Through opening myself and my writing to my students, I then see my students do the same for me. Due to this, I cannot tell you how many personal writing pieces students have sent me. Students will send me digital copies of their work with comments such as, “Ms. Welty, will you look at my piece and give me some suggestions?” 

Relationships with students have grown stronger and writing becomes more than just an assigned task – It is simply what we do!

Over time, you will see that students will be more real with you with their writing. This allows you to break down barriers on writing, their potential fears, and to give you a chance to inspire. You will find that while trying to inspire them, that their writing and authenticity will inspire you even more.

Tip: My middle school students and I would write quotes on the board each day to frame our thoughts and we would talk about them. Here are some quotes I love:


“But when people say, did you always want to be a writer? I have to say no, I was always a writer.” – Ursula Le Guin

“You may not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” – Jodi Picoult

“Writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Isaac Asimov

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” – Ernest Hemingway

“You can make anything by writing.” – C.S. Lewis

“Writing was not a childhood dream of mine. I do not recall longing to write as a student. I wasn’t sure how to start.” – John Grisham


3. Give writing opportunities outside of academics

A couple of years back, I specifically remember discussing the power of passion writing projects and writing for fun with my students. After class, a few of my students walked up to me and shared that they were already doing this. One student shared that she wrote fiction regularly on an anonymous blog forum (she had thousands of readers, by the way), while another student shared with me that she carried around a writing journal with her everywhere to log ideas, inspirations, and sketches.

I realized in that moment that we often lecture kids about how important these matters are but somehow manage to forget to ask if some are already jumping into it.

Soon after, I asked these students if they could become our writing leaders and coaches for the class. They were delighted to accept. Not only did I learn a significant lesson from them, but through this connection, we were able to gain ideas of how to embed these non-academic writing opportunities into the classroom as well.

4. Ask students what books, blogs, YouTube channels or websites that matter to them

“Prompts require kids to write. Ideas inspire them to write.” – John Spencer

I regularly ask students what they are reading and watching on various platforms to give me an idea of what they are interested in and what excites them. I am always so intrigued to hear what they say. Writing and media formats have changed drastically over the last ten years and they will continue to develop with each passing year. No matter how young or old we are as an educator, we have to remember that our students are growing up in a different world than we did.

This is not a bad thing. We just have to be aware that as relevant and “hip” as we try to be as adults, we can never fully relate to what it is like to be a student today. But, that will not stop us from trying. So, ASK students what matters to them and who influences them. Whether it is a book they love, or who they are following on Instagram, Snapchat, or YouTube- These things matter. If we can better understand the voices that matter to students, we can help students share their voice, too.

5. Find ways to differentiate writing

In the last couple of years alone we have seen huge innovations to technology and assistive technology that can make a huge impact for your students. Google Docs has embedded text-to-speech features that allow you to talk into your device while you see the words appear. Some of my students who had difficulties with fine motor skills, or found it tricky to process their thoughts while thinking about what to type, LOVED this text-to-speech feature. Although the technology still has room for advancement and speech variations can make it harder for accuracy, it is still astounding.

To use the feature, go to docs.google.com, and then click the menu option Tools (at the top) and then scroll a little down and click on Voice Typing. 

Also, check out this article on other assistive technology ideas by Reading Rockets to give you, even more, ideas you can embed in your classroom.

Important note: Meeting with students about their writing, whether it is individually or in small groups, is a beneficial way to connect with your students and to give them a chance to talk out their work with you. There are many great ways to type comments and give feedback digitally as well, but never lose sight of the power of dialogue in person. In the digital age we live in, make a conscious effort to create personal connections with your students as much as possible.

6. Give students opportunities to share their work with an audience of their choice

With Google Apps for Education, KidBlog.org, and various other digital blogging platforms, children have more opportunities than EVER to share their writing by sharing with classmates, students across the world, families, and educators.  I advise you to research and find out which platform would be best for your students. Hashtags like #GAFE and #KidBlog on Twitter are great starting points.

Further, ask your students who they want to share their writing with- We often forget this piece and do not give students a choice. Not all writing pieces need to be shared and some students may not want to post personal pieces. On the other hand, some students can get creative and will want to share their work in varying ways that you did not even think of. Listen to your students.

With all of this considered, when students have an audience, their love for writing grows, along with the meaning behind it. The power of clicking the publish and send buttons are transformational. As soon as they click publish, they begin to see that they do have a voice. Through this, students gain ownership and what they do begins to matter.

Soon after that, students can be a part of the thought provoking conversations and ideas that emerge through sharing with an audience…and that is where the real magic happens.

 

How do you build a love for writing in your classroom?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Continue Reading

Twitter Tips for Educators

Two years ago, I did not even know that educators used Twitter to better themselves or to help students; This was not on my radar. Teachers at my school were not using it either, so as far I knew, it was not a resource geared for teachers. When I envisioned Twitter, I assumed it was for celebrities and their millions of fans.

I will never forget when I attended a conference led by the lovely Julie Smith.  She said, “Educators are the fastest growing group on Twitter.” I was absolutely shocked by this. Furthermore, I did not want to miss out any longer, so in that moment I decided to join Twitter. This monumental decision I made was the single best thing I have ever done for my students learning and my own personal growth.

Whether you already have a highly collaborative team at your school, or you feel like a silo, Twitter can help you become deeply networked and supported while you gain new perspectives that you never knew you needed.

While you continue reading this post, remember this: You do not have to jump in and do every single tip I mention right off the gate. Just like any other learning adventure you decide to board, do so at your own pace in your own timing. As long as you are learning, you cannot go wrong.

Twitter Tips for Educators:

1. Keep your Twitter handle simple.

A twitter handle is how people identify you. You can use your first and last name, just your last name, your title: Mr./Mrs./Ms. with your last name, or something creative if you feel compelled. Nevertheless, do not over complicate it. Besides, you can always change it later if you want, so do not feel “locked in” to whatever you choose.

2.  Add a professional photo of you as soon as possible

Change the default and gray Twitter picture so people can see you are a real person.

You do not have to hire a photographer- My Twitter photo was actually taken with an iPhone. Yet, when I say “professional”, I am referring to choosing an appropriate and positive picture that displays you as the respected professional that you are. A headshot photo with a smile is always friendly and inviting. Feel free to add your own burst of personality as well.

3. Add a bio that lets others know who you are

A bio solidifies who you are and helps others in similar positions with common interests connect with you. Include your job title, passions, and interests.

4. Tweet and Retweet (RT) thoughtfully

When you send an idea or tweet out, it will show your profile picture and Twitter handle next to the tweet

When you RT, it will repost someone else’s tweet to your profile. RT ideas, blog posts, photos, and videos that resonate with you. Be respectful and always remain professional; Recognize that your followers and the global community can view and find anything that you post or RT to your profile.

Replies also give you the opportunity to respond back to ignite a conversation with others.

5. Follow other educators and leaders and follow back those who follow you

I love this well-written graphic created by @sylviaduckworth
You cannot grow a meaningful network or Professional Learning Network (PLN) if you do not follow other people. Plus, following others shows that you want to grow as well. When educators and leaders follow you, follow back those who you know you can learn and connect with. But, be sure to check out their profiles and tweets

When educators and leaders follow you, follow back those who you know you can learn and connect with. But, be sure to check out their profiles and tweets BEFORE you follow back. Stay far away and never follow back spam accounts who post inappropriate content and be careful of people who pose as educators, but are not.

Important Note: Do not worry about the number of followers you have. Just be you and authentic- That is what counts.

6. Report and block spam accounts

When you see an inappropriate account, report them. You can also block accounts when necessary going to Settings > Block Accounts.

Keep in mind: When you follow an educator and they follow you back, or vice versa, then both individuals can direct message one another. This is another reason why it is so important to check profiles and tweets before following others. You can also always unfollow people as well to eliminate their ability to direct message you, if necessary.

7. Check with your school district about social media policies for teachers and students

Through meeting other educators across the nation, some educators say that their districts require all school Twitter accounts to be public, while some say that they are required it to keep the accounts private. Additionally, some educators say that their district does not have social media policies for Twitter and/or other social media outlets.

Not every district is the sameMake sure that before you begin a professional Twitter or classroom Twitter, that you always verify with your school district to gain the proper information on policies.

For the past couple of years, I have collaborated with my school district on developing clear social media policies and presenting those policies to our staff and families across the district to keep them in-the-know and to propel connected education. Once you gain the proper information and approval, share that information with others, too.

Lastly, do not follow students or communicate with students via the private direct messenger. But, some districts allow teachers and students to publicly tweet one another, where everyone can see, with school related questions. With this said, do not assume your district policies. Read them and then double check with your building principal; Student safety is always paramount.

With this said, do not assume your district policies. Read them and then double check with your building principal; Student safety is always paramount.

8. Hashtags are used to join communities, conversations, or to solidify a point

You can use a hashtag day-to-day to connect with a community or to add the hashtag onto your tweet where it is applicable.

Many educators use Twitter Chats to conversate with other educators and leaders in subjects or topics that are important to them. Some join the chats just to read and gain content information, while others join in and send tweets back and forth. Do what you feel comfortable with and ease your way into the chats over time.

There is a Twitter chat for almost every topic and interest, while new Twitter Chats are always popping up. Twitter chats are usually once a week at the same time that lasts between 30 minutes to an hour. But different chat variations are also out there like “slow chats.” During slow chats, usually, one question is posted throughout the week for people to respond to at their own pace.

You can also start your own hashtag for your school or classroom to unite your school community AND to share awesome learning with families and staff! I have done this and seen such astounding results! Search other hashtags on Twitter before you start your own hashtag to assure others are not already using it.

My top 3 favorite hashtags that I love to look at are #TLAP (Teach Like a Pirate), #tcrwp (Teachers College Reading and Writing Project), and #InnovatorsMindset.

  • The Official Twitter Chat List is HERE, too. Search for keywords on the website by clicking “Ctrl+F” (PC) or “Command+F” (MAC) to quickly decipher chats that would interest you.
  • Check-out the full educational Twitter Chat Schedule HERE to find what day and time the chats occur. Don’t forget to choose your time zone on the left-hand side once you are at the website.
  • Use Tweetdeck or HootSuite to organize your chats and hashtags (I prefer Tweetdeck).

9. Build lasting connections that will last a lifetime

My favorite part about Twitter is not the “tweeting” itself, but the lasting friendships that I have built over these past two years with other educators and leaders. It takes time to build kinships, but it is the most valuable piece. Get to know other educators and leaders that can help push you to new levels and see things differently.

Nothing can substitute a good role model, and with Twitter your role model can live anywhere in the world! Having others that you can build bonds with and ask questions back and forth, at any time of the day, is priceless.

10. See every contact as a way to help students

A Google Hangout on Climate and Weather with our Missouri students and a classroom in California
Every person I have “met” on Twitter has made me a better educator for the colleagues and students I serve. Having the opportunity to help connect students and staff on a GLOBAL scale is always my goal. When other educators share what they are doing, it ultimately helps my students. ALL the students in the world are OUR students. What helps one, may help all.

Moreover, Twitter is often the springboard for other ventures. Just this year alone, we helped connect our students in our school to other children’s authors, teachers, students, classrooms across the world, and field experts in areas like STEM through outlets like Google Hangouts and KidBlog. Some experts have even traveled in person to our school!


I often present about being a connected educator, and due to the phenomenal powers of Twitter, I am able to see the growth these educators make over time as they become connected. It is compelling beyond words. One educator even told me that,“Being connected saved her career.” I have found that Twitter is less about the tool and MORE about the power it has to change our lives and the lives of our students.

I wish you the best of luck while you continue to venture into Twitter. Whether you are new or a veteran to Twitter; We are all in this together.

Continue Reading

Understanding the Challenges of Others

Image Credit: abettermedaybyday.com

Each day when we interact with people, we are encountering diverse individuals like us who have a multitude of blessings and struggles they are trying to overcome in their lives.

Despite the exact situation, one thing is clear- Every single person has a story. We know and remember this when trauma arises; But, with the complexities of daily life, having the opportunities to pause and reconsider this fact may feel few and far between.

Discover Others

Nevertheless, one of my favorite discoveries in life is taking the time to DISCOVER other people. Human beings are fascinating- Each person is a book with a novel story that is unmatched by anyone else.

Except, have you ever noticed how often we book our schedules with unnecessary items, but we still constantly feel this urge to be busy? What if we “booked” more time to get to know one another more as human beings and less as students or colleagues?  
I believe that we can build powerful ties that will strengthen us as individuals and teammates if we spend more time being present in each moment.

Inspiration

During the last few days of school, students Kindergarten through 5th grade placed letters in my mailbox. As I was reading through the notes and drying my watering eyes, one card especially hit me like a ton of bricks:

“Dear Ms. Welty, Thank you for understanding the challenges of others and wanting to do something about it.”

This student described me and my demeanor better in one sentence than I ever could have. It is a profound reminder of how closely students look up to us.

Having said that, this student was correct- If we want to build stronger teams, we must understand the challenges others face and DO something about it.

Try This!

It’s the little things over time that become the compilation of the BIG things that matter. Try adding these little actions into your daily routine:

  • Add More Deep Conversations into your Day 

Instead of always asking questions like, “How are you?” or “How is your day?,” Ask more probing questions that show you are sincere and you want to get to know that person better. Remember this: Authentic questions deliver authentic answers.

  • Take the Time to Listen

It sounds obvious, but it is the most vital skill to learn. Sometimes we ask people exceptional questions, but then through our body language, we show we do not care about their response. Do this: Take the time to let others express themselves without thinking about your personal distractions, like tasks you need to complete. We may think we are great at multitasking, but people can usually tell when we are truly listening or not.

  • Follow-up 

Once a colleague or student has shared something going on in their lives, follow-up with them about it and ask about it again. It always is refreshing to be around others that think of you and take the time to check-in.

  • Take Initiative 

In every school, there are staff members, families, and students who are facing severe family illnesses and other crises. Whether you can help with an act of service or simply be the listening ear, take an active approach to be there for others. Many we encounter each day will never ask for our help but need support. When we take the initiative to offer comfort, we show we are a faithful crew.

  • Do Not Let Stress Take your Best

With all of this said, we too encounter our own personal hurdles that we face outside of school as well. Everyone has bad days and we each deal with stressors differently. Yet, be mindful to ensure that over time your stress does not take the best out of you and others.

Sense of Caring

In closing, this quote by Anthony J D’Angelo is everything, “Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.” I have found that nothing is more valuable than time spent loving one another and understanding each other; It is the heart of what we do as educators. When we care about each other like family, we build community.

There are no shortcuts, just love.

Continue Reading

Be Their Diehard Fan

A fan is someone who is enthusiastically devoted to their sports team, musical artist, author, or an entertainer. The best trait about a diehard fan is that no matter what happens, even during the weak points, in the end, that fan always give their team their full support, with the knowledge that it will all eventually fall into place. Some of us call this unwavering faith.

I believe that the best educators and leaders apply these same foundations to their classrooms. Great teachers are not fair-weather fans, and they are DIEHARD fans for their students. Great educators also believe that student behaviors, academic levels, or backgrounds will NEVER stop them from loving or fighting for their students just as hard. After all, when our students show signs of distress is usually the moment they need our cheers in the fan section the most.

While working alongside students and showing that I will never give up on them, students taught me more about life, resilience, strength, and love than I could have ever imagined. I am better because of their strength.


Isn’t it a beautiful thing that while we dedicate ourselves to become their fans, that they become our number one supporters, too?


Whether students have positive or negative behavior stats or have winning or losing records in school- Be their diehard fan. Even our most supported students need us in their fan section more than ever. You will have no greater of a fan than your students if you become their diehard fan FIRST.

A thoughtful card I received from a student.

Continue Reading

How to Strengthen Relationships with Students

Building relationships with our students and colleagues are THE most important work that we do as educators and leaders.  Taking the time and energy to strengthen relationships with kids will help them grow to be better individuals and learners. Moreover, human connection is THE essential piece in LIFE, not just the field of education.

But, my caveat is this: Do not try to “manage” kids, but instead INVEST in them. When you invest in students and their interests, talents, and skill sets, your return on the investment will always be greater and more rewarding. Whether you are a kid or an adult, everyone wants to feel genuinely cared about.  Therefore, you can never go wrong by devoting your spirit to those you serve.

Throughout the years of working with kids, here are some of the most meaningful pieces that I believe are crucial to enhancing the relationships that you create:

  • Be present

  • Greet and welcome every single student

  • Listen and value their different perspectives

  • Get to know more about their family, hobbies, and passions

  • Look at every student interaction with a non-judgemental lens

  • Let students start over with a fresh slate when mistakes happen

  • Never, ever give up on them

  • Show that you want to learn from them, too

  • Bring the strengths of every single student to the forefront

  • Empower students to lead and make a difference

  • Be true to you; It inspires kids to be true to themselves

  • Be fun; Never take yourself too seriously

Image result for rita pierson quotes
Image Credit: TED/PBS

Significant mention: When thinking of strengthening relationships with students, the above quote from the beloved Rita Pierson is the beacon of what we should all strive for. Even if you have already seen the TED Talk 1,000,000 times like me, share it with someone else to ignite the spark within them as well (Or watch it below!)

Whether you are reading this during your last few weeks of school, or next October, or in August of 2049- Relationships will always be paramount. Everything changes in life, but relationships are our constant. The year, the month, the season does not matter. What matters is that we never give up on our students and always find time to strengthen the connections we already have to help them become who they were destined to be.

Continue Reading

Podcast Featuring Students-Why EVERY Student Should Have Makerspace Learning Opportunities

A group of 5th graders and I have been working closely on diving into Makerspace type learning and thinking. Students have explored the concept of thinking differently in a variety of ways.

Background

But, before we jump into how we learned and our podcast, it is important to discuss the meaning behind our reasoning. Although the new and shiny Makerspace gadgets are pretty cool, what is more important is the thinking behind it. You can have all the robots and gadgets that Amazon has to offer, but if the focus is misguided and focused solely on the tool, we can hinder the growth of our students. But, when done with intention, Makerspace type learning allows for students to be curious inventors and creators, rather than being static and rote problem solvers.

In the blog, Curiosity Commons, there is a fantastic post that highlights the benefits of Makerspaces called, “Makerspaces: The Benefits.”  One of my favorite quotes within this post is:


“Maker education fosters curiosity, tinkering, and iterative learning, which in turn leads to better thinking through better questioning.  I believe firmly that this learning environment fosters enthusiasm for learning, student confidence, and natural collaboration. Ultimately the outcome of maker education and educational makerspaces leads to determination, independent and creative problem solving, and an authentic preparation for real world by simulating real-world challenges.”


Needless to say, Makerspace learning is incredible, and our kids agree!

The Podcast

While working with the 5th-grade students, we glanced over at our new Snowball Ice Microphone and we thought to ourselves, “Wouldn’t it be neat if we shared our learning of Makerspaces with the world?” After we had this initial thought, students started saying things like, “Every student should get a chance to learn like this. Let’s create a podcast about Makerspaces and send it out to as many teachers and students as we can” and “I hope our podcast can make another kids life better!”

Here is our Snowball Ice Microphone- The quality is pretty sharp for $49.

Remarkably enough, within a couple of minutes, we plugged the microphone in and started recording the podcast on the spot. Students asked if I could host and they could give the insight! So, here is our organic podcast that we created in 10 minutes with zero editing, just pure excitement for learning and sharing; Click the orange “play” button below to listen.

Highlights from the Podcast

Students discussed the power of Makerspaces and how it helps with:

  • problem-solving “real” problems that can change the world

  • creating new things

  • the “important kind” of teamwork

Our 5th graders also discussed the power of using YouTube to foster learning, so I challenge you to ask this question in your classroom:

I was in awe by the way our students eloquently stated their thoughts with such a candid and authentic approach. I love seeking out opportunities to hear their perspectives to help me learn and grow. As one of our students said during the recording:


“When we work in groups we are just solving problems, like math problems. Whoever solves it then solves it, and that’s it! It’s over. But, with Makerspace learning you just can’t do everything on your own, you have to work together.” 


Beautifully stated and powerful. Give Makerspace learning a try and even share this podcast with your students or teachers. If you are looking for Makerspace resources, give this website MakerEd a try.

Also, our students would LOVE some positive feedback or questions about the podcast. Please comment below!

Here is the Chibi Lights LED Circuitboard our students created and referenced during the podcast

Continue Reading

Are We Fostering or Suppressing Lifelong Learning?

Lifelong learning is a crucial process that is unarguably paramount for any human being to survive and thrive. Each day, we learn new things about the world around us.

Yet, lifelong learning is more than acquiring new information over your lifetime. The important piece of the puzzle is having the desire to actively seek out new ideas while being able to transfer and apply these concepts to a variety of contexts and dimensions.

When we think of lifelong learning, we need to do everything in our power to ensure we avoid:

  • Trying to forcefully manufacture lifelong learners
  • Over structuring learning in a way that makes it unrewarding for kids
  • Spoon feeding every learning experience students have

Although we have good intentions with the learning for our students, we sometimes get stuck in a pattern of doing things the same way we have always done it; Therefore, we can inadvertently suppress the passion for learning.

Nevertheless, we can rewire our thinking to give lifelong learning the definition it deserves so we can foster and inspire environments to be the spark for new ideas, new passions, new interests, and new discoveries. But, these discoveries are not made to be information banks. Imagine the problems that can be solved, the ideas that could be created, and the connections that could be built if students saw first-hand the beauty of learning and the power it has on changing the world.

Discovering new learning has power. Just imagine the problems that can be solved, the ideas that could be created, and the connections that could be built if students saw first-hand the beauty of learning and the capability it has on changing the world.

Lifelong learning in its true form is:


ongoing

voluntary

self-motivated


Now, let us embed students as THE focal point and take a moment to visualize your school day tomorrow. Ask yourself:

  • Are learning opportunities ongoing for students?

In other words, do the learning opportunities expand in breadth and depth over time while giving students multiple opportunities to apply and connect learning?

  • Are students voluntary members in how they learn?

In other words, do students have a choice in their learning? and Do they want to be apart of the process?

  • Are students self-motivated and empowered to learn? 

In other words, are students trusted partners and included in their learning conversations, while given the power to help guide how they learn each day?

Based on the answers to these questions, make small tweaks to your approach day-by-day to include these elements and watch the progress that occurs. While you organize and create your content and curriculum, keep these questions at the center of what you and your school does.

Remember this:

We can develop the best curriculum, but if we undervalue the inquisitiveness of our kids, we miss the mark.

Continue Reading

Unleashing Your Limitless Potential

Image Credit- Tamara McCleary

What are some of your OUT of this WORLD dreams and aspirations? Which dream is so big and crazy that you even doubt its possibilities?

Name that goal: _______________________.

We are often told to dream big and to reach for the stars, but on the same token we are later advised to be “realistic.” Being logical is important in many instances, but what is actually needed more in this world are people who are OBSESSED with their dreams and passions. People who have dreams that seem unfeasible to the average person. People who can visualize their goal to see the picture of success within their minds. Then, ultimately people who do whatever it takes to make their dreams a reality each and every day.

We need people who are not trying to be realistic. We need people who are trying to change the WORLD for the better; And when you are trying to change the world, you do not do ordinary things. Instead you commit to…


Reach for aspirations that are limitless.

Welcome failure.

Never stop soaking in knowledge.

Continually adjust and adapt.


Do not welcome or invite the crab-in-a-bucket mentality into your thought process. If you have not heard of this theory, let me explain: Sailors notice that while traveling across the blue seas and capturing crabs, that one crab in a bucket can claw his way out of the bucket successfully with determination. But, once the sailors start adding more crabs into the bucket, the other crabs start fighting and clawing relentlessly to ensure that one crab does not escape.

As the Chinese proverb says in the image above, “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”

When we minimize the potential of others, we diminish the leaders and possibilities that “could be.” But, the worst case of all is when we also crush the potential within ourselves. It starts with us. When we shut down our possibilities and start believing that it “can’t be done,” we belittle our true GREATNESS.

Now, remember the goal you named earlier in this post. Unleash that dream and limitless potential within; These dreams are your calling. Be unstoppable and welcome dreams that are illogical, for this is the only way we can change the world.

Then, through your motivation, modeling, encouragement, you can help give that same gift to others which is the greatest gift of all.

Continue Reading

Bring Excitement into Testing Season!

MAP testing time is upon us.

This testing window can be a stressful time for students and teachers alike. But, the worries can compile for students who are taking the test for the first time. Going into MAP testing, it is essential that we continue to keep our students front and center.

Adults tend to worry about the logistics and scheduling of testing, while kids want to know questions like, “When can I get a drink of water or when can we take a restroom break during the test?” These questions are incredibly valid. Students basic needs are always important, throughout the year and during MAP testing.

If we take the time to ask students what they want to know, while answering their inquiries in an enjoyable way, we can find a recipe for success where the knowledge can be communicated and understood.

Recently, staff members asked if I could create a MAP Test Q & A where students could ask and answer questions about the MAP in hopes of giving more information about the MAP, especially for our 3rd-grade students who have not yet had practice or experience with the MAP.

I wanted us to embed fun elements, music, a green screen background, and most importantly kids leading the way with production; By empowering our kids in this venture, we show that their opinions and expertise matter. For example, our students came up with the idea of adding bloopers and dance moves to the end of this video to add more personality and excitement; I believe this thought really added some fun and joy to the video. We even asked high schoolers from our district their thoughts about the MAP to gain further insight.

Students who were featured in the video are already creating buzz about how awesome they think it is. Students keep asking, “When is everyone else going to see the video?” We cannot wait for our student population to view the video this month!

During testing periods and beyond, let us bring the same enthusiasm and energy that we bring to our schools throughout the school year!

Click on video below to watch:

Continue Reading

My Hopes as an Assistant Principal

This upcoming school year I will begin my journey as an Assistant Principal. I am filled with feelings of gratitude and enthusiasm; I am honored to have the opportunity to serve and to learn from such a remarkable administrative team and staff.

Throughout my experience as a leader, while taking on various leadership roles within the school community, I have grown and developed my vision and beliefs. I know that without a doubt, I will continue to do as I learn even more within my new role. I look forward to what my insights will be and how I will evolve.

But for years, I have written down my goals, dreams, and questions to keep in mind when I continue to help make decisions for kids, staff, families, and the school.

This past week, while visiting my new school, I saw that our Head Principal had this amazing question posted on her door- “This principal will ask what is best for kids?”

Her question inspired me and sparked an idea. I decided today to put my goals, dreams, and questions into an acronym that will display some of the internal and external questions I will ask myself and others; Since we are a Leader in Me School, I felt that the word “leader” was a good fit.


Here is my draft copy that I will continue to revise and post on my office door. I want to live by these questions each day. I do not plan on simply asking others these questions because these prompts are for myself just as much. By posting these questions, I hope to make them more visible and real, while holding myself accountable.

  • L – Are we LOOKING towards the future?
  • E – Are we doing what is best for EACH child?
  • A – How can I be ATTENTIVE and help?
  • D – Are we focusing on the DISCOVERY and joy of learning?
  • E – How can we EMPOWER our students, staff, and families to lead?
  • R – What are we doing RIGHT, yet how can we improve?

Closing thought: Thank you to everyone who has lifted me up, inspired me, believed in me, and given me the opportunities of leadership that have helped prepare me for this moment. I am eternally grateful.

Continue Reading