Not for the Timid

Teaching and Learning, Together

Teachers Write


Safe and boring are words that I try to banish from my vocabulary. Teaching is not safe or boring, or at least it shouldn’t be. I have discovered that if I ever start to feel safe, I am leaning toward boring! So I try to always push myself… at least a little.

The second teachers forget how it feels to be a student; always pushed to uncomfortable, always trying to grasp something a little beyond our reach, becomes the second we stop being relatable. Or stop relating. There is a bit of a thrill trying to figure out if I am enough. Good enough.

While I might have a few too many irons in the fire next week, and the next couple of weeks, I know I will learn so much if I write, and really just write for myself. So I am joining several challenges. The first is Teachers Write. The second is a training challenge for my abs. Top it all off with a new boss, morning walks, motivating my own children to do summer school work… you get the picture.

The writing challenge has many components, the first being a reflective question. I LOVE reflective questions. Today’s is “Why are you writing?” Why? Well, I think I answered that question. Why am I doing it here, publicly? Not sure. Accountability? Hoping maybe, somewhere I might get some feedback? Or for me? Only time will tell.

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Patience and Perseverance


Whew- What a school year! It is amazing how it feels like it started out a little frantic, slowed down to a nice cruising speed, and then went into hyper-drive. I am starting to see the end of the school year is near, but my to-do list is outrageous!

Which is simply the reason that I haven’t blogged, but there are so many topics that I pondered this school year. One of them is touched on in the post below by Daniel Willingham. How do we teach our students to “hang in there” or persevere?

Our school has struggled with this in multiple ways. When students experience the slightest down time, they are off exploring on their computers. Or watching videos. Or playing games. How do we teach them to put the work first? Some faculty want to just ban the computer. I don’t think that is a good option. That just tells them that they have to break the rules, rather than learn to censor themselves.

The other side of this is when we have standardized testing. Students have admitted in the past that if they didn’t know an answer IMMEDIATELY, they skip it, guess, and move on. How do we teach students that if they look a bit longer, think differently, they can do it!?!?

Two of our teachers took matters into their own hands and completed an unscientific test. They worked with the students daily on brain teasers. And, they told the students that they knew they could do it. They didn’t take, “I don’t know,” as an answer.

Did it work? Well, our students initially appear to have scored better than they have. Is it worth exploring some more? You bet!

I am open to other thoughts and opinions. Please share!

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New Year


There are several things that I want to explore with my team.  We are an amazing team, with a huge number of experiences and a wealth of knowledge.  In our first team meeting, I know we need to go over rules, essential agreements, and the other day to day minutia.  But I really want to inspire… to get us to discuss… to have an argument on the first day… because we all want the best for our students.

So, we will watch this…

And then we will discuss this



And lastly, I hope we start to argue about how we can blow away our students and parents.


Because I don’t like to do anything half-way!

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Class Blog!


The class blog has been created, and is going to be in full swing in less than a month.  This “old school” view with books and paper, shall be completely banished from my classroom…. FOREVER!!


Visit it at Living, and Loving, Science.  I am hoping it will be everything I wanted… and then some!!  Prepared to be blown away with the amazing minds of children!!!  Lol!

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Thing 17- Podcasts


Auditory learning has never been for me, but I completely respect that it is the method of choice for some.  With podcasts, I have used  with “flipping” lessons and have gathered podcasts/ videocasts and have used them in a data base as references for the students.  Most of the students enjoy the videocasts.  I have also created my own videocasting lessons- much shorter than is usually found in podcasts- using ShowMe.  These have been well received as the students like being able to rewind, or do the “work” and then have me check it on the video.  There is no stigma in watching something over and over when you are at home.  Much different than asking a teacher to repeat themselves.

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Thing 16


While I would like to sugar coat it, I just can’t.  Classroom 2.0 is a bomb for me.  The THE bomb, but a bomb.  As in, YUCK!  I have been a member for more than a year.  Possibly two or more.  The reality is that I never use it, and when I do, there isn’t anything useful for me.  I get much, much more from Twitter and even from pins on Pinterest.  I know the idea of a social network is to interact with people, but there is so little action on Classroom 2.0, that I can’t find reason to interact.

Call me a blogger or even just a blog reader.  This is one site that is a big fail for me! 🙁

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Thing 15- Diigo


LiveBinder or Diigo?  I can’t say that I am sold on any one way of saving articles or blog posts to read later.  I can see that this would be a way for me to help my students save their sights for referring back to later as we do more research for project based learning.  I know enough about Diigo, and like the education function of being able to keep track of my students “sites”, and would highly encourage them to use the sticky notes on the pages to keep track of the significance of each link/site.  I suppose that has answered my questions about IF I will use Diigo, and how I will use it.

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New Teacher Tips


I have been researching tips for new teachers, in particular to start out the school year.  This year, our team is blessed to add five teachers to our team, and all five of them have been teaching for less than five years.  For three of them, this is their first year to set up a classroom.  It is a good exercise for me to reflect on what we need to do in those first days leading up to the beginning of school, and the first days of school, as I have been teaching for 20 years.

My first job was not a traditional job at all, so it was really my second year that I had a “real” first year experience.  I was lucky enough to have an amazing mentor teacher.  I was hired two days before school began and had NO idea where to begin.  As I was teaching 2nd grade, atmosphere was important.  My mentor teacher came in on evening after I had gone home and completed all of my bulletin boards.  It is a little thing, but it had me in tears.  Today, I feel like I can finally pay her back by helping another teacher.

Beyond my personal story, I wanted to summarize some of the advice that I have gathered, from research and personal experience.

1.  Know your curriculum.  Read it over, look at your school calendar, and read over your curriculum again.  Then, figure out your middle point, and decide what goes in which semester.  Plot on a calendar what needs to have more time dedicated to it, and rough out the dates for your chapters/units/projects.  Now, sit down with your team, and collaborate.  Find the curriculum expert, team leader, or mentor and brainstorm together.  Our school is filled with people who want to help so trying to do it on your own is just silly.  Every good teacher changes things from day to day, month to month, and year to year.  Reality says that if you don’t plan, you will fail.

2. Find two, three or four “go-to” web sites in your content area.  There are lots of general education sites, but I get my best ideas from those sites that are for my content area.  They might say they are for grade lower, or for our school, go with things a grade higher.  Most of the times these sites give you ideas, and then you can adjust.  If you need discussion ideas, look at worksheet essay questions.  Go for active activities, not a passive lesson.  There is no reason to re-invent the wheel in your first year, but always work on adding your personal “Bling” to it.

3. This idea completely was stolen… look at last year’s yearbook.  This will give you an idea of what is valued, and what events might be coming up.  It also helps you put name and faces together.  It will give you something to ask kids during the first couple of weeks during an advisee meeting when you are tired and need a topic.  Everyone likes talking about themselves.

4.  Walk in your classroom as a visitor, and then as a student.  What does it say?  Does it tell everyone that YOU are the king of your space, or does it let everyone know that you are all here to work together?  Rows, circles, tables?  How you run your class helps decide how students sit, but also, think about if students will be using laptop computers.  Do you walk and teach?  Do you have a path to do so?  Now look at the walls.  Kids wants to learn about you, and your classroom conveys your attitude.  If you are not great at bulletin boards, check out web sites for ideas.  I use a piece of fabric of my background paper and it stays up all year.  Ask the art teacher if she has any extra art, or see if any more experienced teachers have unused posters.

5. Decide some basic procedures.  Bathroom trips, posting homework, where students sit, can kids go to lockers for missing assignments or books?  What will you do when your lesson is over with five or ten minutes left in class?  Do you want kids to call you on your cell phone or just use email?  There are a million little things to think about.  Some of these answers will depend on school policy.  If something comes up unexpectedly, breathe.  You can handle this!

6. Plan out your first day.  Mostly, plan an activity to get to know and to listen to kids.  Smile, be yourself, and remember that YOU are a professional.  Most students at our school will respect you, especially if you don’t try to FORCE respect.  At the same time, don’t look the other way.  Kids will test you.  Bullying, smart alec comments, and rudeness go against the atmosphere of caring.  Call kids on their misbehavior, but do it one-on-one and respectfully.

7. Every person that works at our school has made a choice to be here.  Every teacher has been the new teacher.  We remember and would love to help, but most of us will wait for you to ask.  We don’t want to crowd you, but tell us what you need and we will do anything for you.  We are all in this together… that includes the secretary, cleaning staff, and lunch ladies.  Smile at them.  Thank them.  Get to know them.  Value them!

8. Relax.  This is the best job ever!  You will work, you will be exhausted, there will be times that you don’t know how to get it all done.  You will.  Join me this year in my goal… When I feel like I can’t go on, I am going to send a positive note home for a student.  Or compliment another teacher on something they do well.  Make OUR school a place of joy.  I promise, it will help make your job a place to share your passion, not a place to work!

Teaching Secrets: 10 To-Dos for New Teachers

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Would YOU Get RE-hired


Lately, I have been sitting in on several job interviews.  There are some things your can tell, like personality, pretty easily.  A candidate can share their ability to coach a variety of sports, ask the correct questions about content, and wax poetically, (or not so) about testing and what to do with the results.


But, what do we REALLY know about their tech skills?  I have experienced colleagues that say they are tech-savvy, and then they can barely return emails without flooding the system with “reply-alls” or can make and print a word doc with questions, but have no idea what an RSS feed is…  I do believe we need to SHOW our ability, just as our school asks our candidates to actually TEACH a lesson (gasp)!

This post by Scott A. Ziegler caught my attention.  I read the post, was caught nodding my head, and then realized that I might not get a job from Scott!!  Wait!  I AM tech savvy!  I am supposed to be a leader.  Big breath  I have more work to do.

Always learning.  Never done.

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DOT day


Through following Angela Maeirs, I saw a reference to International DOT day (??!!) and decided to explore.

Check it out! I love the idea of taking a day and being creative. If I can do this with my teachers/students, I am going to jump on it! If I can’t, and only have a personal impact on it, I am still going to be involved. I value the creative side of people, and believe that we all need to explore it, use it, or sadly, it will shrivel and die.

Oh, so many things to explore!!!

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