Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Whatever It Takes

A new school year brings new students, procedures, initiatives, and pressures. Sometimes it also brings a new school, classroom, and curriculum. All of that can seem really daunting. Thankfully, the new year also brings fresh ideas and unlimited possibilities. Many times it's difficult balancing all of our required tasks along with our creative and innovative ideas. This year my source of inspiration for getting it all done, and still providing magical experiences for my students, comes from the Kids Deserve It movement. At the end of the day, it comes down to doing what's best for the kids despite all the challenges we face. 

Kids Deserve It is a movement found on social media created by two principals, Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney, who share the same ideas about education. Kids Deserve It is a place for educators to share their ideas and challenge the status quo. It's a place where educators are inspired to do whatever it takes for the kids. #KidsDeserveIt has personally been a source of inspiration for me on Twitter.  Every time I look at my feed, I'm challenged and reminded of what is really important. Adam and Todd also wrote a book about this. 

As teachers, we all have full schedules, endless responsibilities, and a to-do list to get done. However, we must not forget to stop and reflect on instruction. Does this really benefit the children? Are they happy in my classroom? Do they want to be there? Are we happy? If the answer is no, it's time for a change. Sometimes we need to shake things up a little bit. We're the professionals. We spend hours with our students everyday. We know what our students need and deserve. They deserve exciting experiences that are meaningful and challenging. They deserve choice and to be heard. They deserve a teacher who is happy. They deserve a teacher who is willing to take risks. We may not be able to make every moment a magical one, but we can try. They deserve it. 

Monday, January 4, 2016


It's taken me awhile to settle on my One Word for the year. If you've not heard of this, I suggest checking out One Word That Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, or search #oneword on Twitter. Instead of lofty New Year's Resolutions, One Word helps you narrow your focus to one single word for the year. 

My word for 2016 is Limitless! I decided to wait on deciding my One Word until after my Pastor unveiled our church's vision for the new year. Similar to One Word, our church has a new focus or direction for each new year. This year we are "Going Beyond" our highest prayers, thoughts, and dreams because we believe that with God there are no limits (Ephesians 3:20). 

President Ronald Reagan also had something to say about this. "There are no such limits to growth, because there are no limits to human capacity for intelligence, imagination, and wonder." I also believe there are no limits on the impact, or the influence, you can have on people, institutions, and practices that are in place. This year, I want to strengthen my influence by continuing to grow as a Christian, daughter, teacher, colleague, mentor, and friend. Our growth, my growth, is only stunted by the limits we put upon ourselves, or by limits we let someone else put on us. 

This year I am Going Beyond because I am Limitless.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Looping: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

There's no ugly, actually. Or bad, for that matter. Not in my experience anyway.  Looping with my first graders to second grade this year has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I had the privilege of being with them as they became more independent and learned how to put themselves in the driver's seat of their own learning. You just begin to see this happen in first grade, but having this group for an additional year revealed an amazing transformation. They've matured, experienced academic success, and learned empathy. That's not to say there are no cons to this practice. There are things to consider when keeping the same students and teacher together for more than a single school year.

Looping definitely made the beginning of the school year easier. Relationships and a level of trust had already been built when we started second grade together, so we didn't need to waste time figuring each other out. They were willing to take risks, which made it easier for me as a teacher to try new ideas. We became a family who celebrated one another's strengths. Working so closely for so long, each one knew when they had to be the leader and when to follow. I also knew where my students were academically, what they needed to grow, and how to get them there. They knew my expectations and, more importantly, they knew to bring me Cokes instead of apples! With my name on it, no less.

I saw tremendous growth in each student this year. One student in particular, who hardly said a word and had little to no confidence in first grade, blossomed this year. Now she's a girl who willingly participates in class, collaborates with other students, and doesn't hesitate to try any new challenge I throw her way. Her reading level also improved greatly this year. Looping helps teachers give their struggling students the extra time they need to grow. This is definitely true for my student. I'm so proud of her! 

I understand a con of looping is that students may have a hard time adjusting to new teaching styles later on. Thankfully, we compact for Reading and Math on my grade level. By grouping our students based on their ability and achievement, many of my students were exposed to different teachers who have different styles, ideas, and strategies they use in their classrooms. I know for some it's still going to be a little difficult adjusting to a new teacher and a new learning environment. I also know that children are resilient. I'm confident they'll adapt, and they'll impress their new teachers as much as they've impressed me for the past two years. 

I'm really lucky to work in a school with not only wonderful administrators and teachers, but an exceptional student body. I've had several, very special groups of students over the years. The class I had to say goodbye to last week is extra special to me. We grew together in many ways and I'm happy to have shared this experience with them and their families. We truly became one big family, and you never forget your family.