Sunday, July 9, 2017

Summer...a time of reflection

One can use any search engine and find multiple funny pictures about teachers and their summer break.  Most of them center around the idea that without summer vacation teachers would lose their mind.  I read one the other day that said, "It's Friday!!  Oh wait, I'm a teacher and its summer time.  I have "Friday" everyday until mid August.  The rest of you enjoy going back to work on Monday though...."

While all teachers laugh and agree with this I challenge all educators to not laugh or lessen themselves to a joke.  As educators we have the toughest job, not only do we have rigorous material and common core standards to assist students in mastering but we also have to mold students into responsible and respectful young adults.  So how do we do this?  How is this accomplished? Summer vacation.

Teacher utilize their summer vacation to reflect on their previous year and decide what was working and what needs to be revamped.  We use this time to plan for the little minds that will enter our classroom excited for learning and the few that will challenge us to continue to grow. 

So while the world is correct that teachers enjoy their summer break....please don't get it wrong.  I have spent my time off this summer not only spending it with the children that I brought into this world, but planning for the ones who are the reason I was brought into this wonderful world of teaching. 

Happy Summer Educators

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"The future of the world is in MY classroom today." - Ivan Welton Fitzwater

It is so easy to get caught up in counting down days until Spring Break.  It is easy to allow a student who is being disrespectful to control your mood.  It is even easier to feel that you aren't doing anything right.  However, the truth of the matter is WE have the future of the world in our classroom everyday. 

Our job is hard, not just a little hard but seriously the hardest job on earth; or so I think!  When you think about all the students who have walked through your classroom the numbers are shocking.  We have the ability to create our own destiny.  The way we treat our students, the unconditional love we show them is how they will grow up treating each other.  The respectful tone that we use when speaking to them is the same way they will speak to each other.  The forgiveness and acceptance that we demonstrate in our classroom through not only our words, but our actions is how they will learn how to respect themselves and others. 

    Educators are the only people who lose sleep over other people's children. 

Every time you are faced with a child who challenges you remember that you have the power to mold him/her.  You can show that student unconditional love and at the same teach them.  We have the hardest job but it is also the most rewarding.  Let us not forget the students who make our job the joy that it is.  Let us not forget the true reason we chose this profession.  There will always be rocks in the road ahead of us.  They can be stumbling blocks or stepping stones, it all depends on how we use them. 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Don't be afraid to step out of your box

This morning as I was driving to work I was listening to the radio and the DJ's were talking about a banana.  I know what you are thinking; what does a banana have to do with teaching?  Trust me! So they were talking about bananas and how they grow in the wild.  Little did I know that the stem that the bananas grow from get stronger the heavier the banana gets.  It isn't until they get their adult size that they have enough weight to actually fall from the tree or the farmer cuts them down.  The DJ's went on to talk about how people peel a banana and that a lot of people have trouble peeling it.  The reason for this trouble is we are doing it all wrong.  The stem is the strongest part you see and that is the why it causes problems.

In the wild monkeys peel from the bottom, not only because it is easier but because the stem is where spiders lay their eggs and who wants to eat a spider egg?  Not me!  You see eating a banana is a lot like teaching.  We all do it the same because it is what we are use to and what we see others doing, but is it the BEST way?  We were taught multiplication facts by drill and kill but what if song and motion were a better way?  We learned geometry by memorizing vocabulary with flash cards, but what if a "headbands" game was a better way?  Reading doesn't have to be from curriculum, there is an abundance of great literature at our fingertips; use it!

Someone you may view as a monkey might have an easier way.  So don't be afraid to try something new!  Don't be quick to judge and don't be fearful of stepping out of your box!

Friday, March 10, 2017

What makes a good teacher, GREAT?

Think back to the first day you were a student.  What was your teachers name?  Did he/she greet you at the door?  Did he/she make you feel special, inspired and important?  I will never forget my first teacher.  Her name was Sr. Louis and to put it plainly I do not have many good memories from that school year.  I spent most of my recess time twiddling my thumbs.  I was spanked, taped to my desk, I remember always feeling stupid and I knew I wasn't her favorite!

My first grade experience put a very sour taste in my mouth but luckily for me it didn't last long.  My second and third grade teachers were loving, made me feel smart and challenged me in a way that was appropriate for my learning style.  I could go through all my school years but I'm sure it was very similar to most people.  It was filled with field trips, experiences, love notes passed at recess and moments that you wish you could repeat over and over.  I wonder though now, as a teacher, did my teachers reflect on their relationships with me? 

In my classroom I am constantly reflecting.  Reflecting on how I taught a lesson, what I need to do differently, or how I handled a classroom issue.  My goal is to always create a lasting relationship with my students, but how can I know if my goal was met? 

Some of the ways I create those lasting relationships are laughing with my students, being "human", inspiring them, having a passion in my lesson and empathizing with them.  Students sometimes put their teachers on a pedestal.  You think I'm wrong; bump into a student at the grocery store, the look on their face is as if they just saw BIG FOOT!  They need to see you laugh, and laugh with them often.  Show your "human" side.  What do I mean by that? Don't be afraid to show them at your most vulnerable state. 

My first teaching assignment was in a West Louisville Elementary School in a neighborhood that was plagued by violence.  I remember worrying about my students on a daily basis. One day in the classroom two of the boys got in a fight and I can remember after the fight had ended that I started to cry.  My tears really confused them because I think they were shocked to see this reaction.  I told the students that I was crying because there is so much violence in their neighborhood and I worry that one day I will read about their life ending too early.  My tears didn't end the problem but the kids knew I valued them, and this was the beginning of a lasting relationship.  You see I looped those students the next year.  As the 2016-2017 school year comes to an end that group of students are preparing for High School graduation.  It just so happens that several of them have stayed in contact with me.  This evening I noticed one of the students had posted his Senior picture and had a caption that said, "For all the Haters who thought I couldn't do it."  Well you know I had to comment.  And my comment was this, "You will forever be that little boy with dimples who talked too much in class but always made your teacher smile.  I never doubted your ability and I'm so proud of you."  To which he replied, "Thanks Mom!"  If you are in education you know that your students call you mom by mistake all the time but to have a High School Senior still refer to their third and fourth grade teacher as "MOM," that's when you stop reflecting about building relationships because now you know you are doing it right. 

To all the students I have taught and all the students who haven't walked through my door yet know this, once you have been a student of mine you will always be "my kid" and I will always be your....cheerleader, voice, support and MOM!

Thursday, March 9, 2017


We all have those days when we feel like we let our students or ourselves down.  We question ourselves and our teaching.  Did I teach that lesson to the best of my abilities?  Did I engage all my students?  Did I make sure that I reached all students and their learning styles? 

New teachers and friends who are not in education always ask me what is the hardest part about being in the classroom.  My answer is always the same; the hardest part of teaching is when you think you did everything right and then after an assessment you look at the data and realize you didn't move all the students.  Some may think that moving ALL students is a pretty lofty goal, but it is my reality.  I truly believe that every SINGLE student has the ability to improve.  Students will work hard for a teacher who believes in them, loves them and treats them as their equal. 

I create a classroom climate built on trust, respect and love.  I love all of my students, especially the tough ones because those are the ones who need it the most.  When we show them love without conditions they feel safe enough to fail.  I have a saying in my room, "You are NEVER wrong, you are either RIGHT or you LEARN!"  I heard a coach say something similar to a team before they went on a court and I thought, wow that is really powerful.  The athletes knew as they broke out of the huddle that no matter what the outcome their coach was proud of them for giving their best effort. 

Today, my 5th grade students took a Math Proficiency.  My goals for the students were pretty high and they didn't quite make them.  As many students asked about their scores they could tell I was disappointed.  One student looked at me and said, "Ms. Wilson, I am sorry we let you down." I was broken by this response and I felt horrible that I had put so much pressure on them.  For the rest of the day I decided to not look at what they didn't do, but to focus on what they did do!  For example, many students came out of Novice and moved to Apprentice.  Some of my ECE, ELL and at-risk kids made improvements. 

Good things come to those who Believe, Better things come to those who are Patient and the best things come to those who don't give up.  I told all my students today that I was proud of their hard work.  I was proud of them not giving up.  I also reminded them with patience we would all reach our goals. 

Always believe in your students, always help them achieve their goals, always push them to be the best form of their self.   But whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Who will you lift up today?

"At the end of the day it's not about what you have or even what you've's about who you've lifted up, who you've made better.  It's about what you've given back." - Denzel Washington

The best part about my job is my ability to impact a student.  Since I attended ECET2Lou I have had this overwhelming desire to lift my students to new heights.  Not just academically but I sincerely want to offer my students abilities to give back to their community and become "good" people.  So many times I get caught up in my personal life and I forget that my students need me too.  They need more than just a person to teach them the things they need to know to pass a class.  They need a person who can teach them how to pass LIFE!

One of the things that I have started at school is a Chorus Club.  Kids love to sing and I'm here to tell ya that my students sound like a group of angels.  If by giving 1 hour of my personal time can create joy in my students life I have done my job. 

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill

Next year I plan to start a RAK (Random acts of Kindness) Club.  This club will meet weekly and plan an activity for each month.  Some of the ideas I have are bringing Red Hot candies to the Fire Station and making Hero Posters for them, bringing flower arrangements to a retirement home and picking up the local park of trash and litter. 

My goal is that by demonstrating how good it feels to give to others the students will continue with these types of actions as they grow into adults. 

I challenge you to find a way to LIFT your students to new heights!

If you can't figure out your purpose, figure out your passion.  For your passion will lead you directly to your purpose.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

How do you motivate your students?

As the teachers in the classroom we can plan the best lesson and administer it in a fashion that looks like a teacher commercial but if we fail to motivate our students they won't learn a thing.  In a world that is so concerned with test scores, bridging gaps and not leaving a child behind we sometimes miss the opportunities to make the most impact. 

"They may forget what you said but they will not forget how you made them feel." - Carl Buechner

At some point we have to stop worrying about the standards and concentrate on the relationships.  Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.  What have you done today to show how much you care for your students? 

We all know those teachers who are contract teachers.  Now don't get all defensive on me; I use to be guilty of being a contract teacher too.  Contract teachers are great educators.  They plan, grade, engage and are probably even some of the best leaders in your building.  However, outside of their "expected duties" what more do they do?  Do they sponsor a club to keep gets off the street?  Do they organize a food drive to promote how important it is to help others?  Do they come in early and tutor a student who is falling behind? 

One of the things I do in my classroom to help motivate my students and make sure they know I care is called "The Wall of Champions".  Every time a student masters a standard we have a congratulatory ceremony where we clap it out, the student writes their name on a post-it with the standard and either a P for proficient or a D for distinguished.  Just this simple, low cost activity motivates my students to work hard.  As well as acknowledges their hard work.

Don't be afraid to try something new, don't be afraid to think out of the box.  You never know what might be the deciding factor for a child to work harder. 

But above all, remember that you might be the first smile your students see each morning, or their first hug they've had since Friday! We have the most important job of all!