Monthly Archives: August 2016

Teaching 101

So after 18 years in education, I attended “new teacher” workshops to start off my 19th year. You see I am on sabbatical this fall to rejuvenate, relearn, and renew. I am headed back to the classroom after almost seven years away to restock my teacher toolkit and soul. I will be an EL – English Learner teacher for the Marshall Public School district. I am so pumped up for this as I join this classy group of “new” teachers pictured here.

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So what is new or what is important to renew in the teacher toolkit? LOTS! You may find blog posts this fall to read somewhat like a journal entry in the life of a new teacher. 😉

First impressions are important. They can be lasting. If it bombs, however, it can be changed… but it is no longer a first impression of course. 😉 This summer I had the privilege of attending a session with Justin Patton. Incredible experience! If you ever have an opportunity to hear Justin speak or be coached by him, you will not regret it! Some takeaways to consider… We are all just people so we live and learn and sometimes change. We need to do our best to respect others and forgive them for messing up as we hope the favor is returned in kind. No matter if the first impression is stellar or not, communicate honestly and build authentic relationships with people as we are all on this adventure together. Make your presence count. One of my favorite quotes from Justin and now one of my own mantra phrases – “Take responsiblilty for the energy you show up with!” Okay – I am pretty fired up about Leading with Head & Heart so look for more on this in upcoming posts. I hope to share this with my students and fellow staff-mates. Now – back to school, folks…

The cycle of morale exists somewhat for all levels of experience in education and possibly other career fields, too. In the new teacher workshops, the Director of Teaching & Learning shared a great visual about the phases of the school year in the life of a teacher.

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When searching for the image, I stumbled across this one as well. Made me laugh out loud, which is good for the soul and morale.

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There are highs and lows in school and in life. Be there to support others and know that “this too shall pass” is a phrase to live by. Laughter is inexpensive medicine to cure the “common cold” in education, too.

Knowing the cycle – continue to learn and grow – and not because you are told to do so, but instead learn and grow because you know it makes you whole. Here is just one example… For any teachers out there who make it to MEA break, join this Pirate crew if you can!

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It’s critical to remember that we teach kids not content. As much as I love me some good content, it’s the kids who matter and will remember. I received two fabulous reminders of who great teachers are and what they do because they care.

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Thanks to Principal Darci Love for sharing “Great Teachers….” with me this week.

Thanks also goes to Director Amanda Granger, who shared about standards-based grading this week and reminded me it’s up to all of us to repair the broken…

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I could really jump on the soapbox here with grades, but I will hold off for another time to “fix” that. My teacher candidates have heard some ranting and raving about this before. I am passionate about kids and not grades, I guess. (I know there are some of you out there who cringe at the word “kids” so insert your own words; I like it.) Another saying that I really like was tweeted out by our very own Dr. Wendy this week. It is so, so true.

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So to recap because I lost track… kindness and communication matter, continuing to learn and grow matter, and having hope and spirit matter. So what else have I learned?
Take care… and take a nap. We should really be learning from our kids’ habits. They nap and are like the Energizer Bunny. Wherever, whenever (it is legal) – take a nap. There is no warrior badge for the teacher who goes without a nap, a message, leisure reading, … The list goes on and on. Teachers don’t keep up like the Energizer Bunny if they skip over enjoying some of that list. That list is actually called life. Teaching can consume the teacher, and what’s left isn’t a pretty picture. Love yourself so you can love others.

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This could go on and on but frankly, I’m exhausted from the week and all the adrenaline in this anticipation phase. My no-longer-21-year-old self can’t keep up quite the same as when I started almost two decades ago. But that’s okay because I love what I do, I love the people I serve… and I love a rare nap much more than I ever thought I could when I was forced to take them as a toddler.

Education related tag cloud illustration
Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Culturally Responsive Teaching & Living


Created with Wordle

As we get ready to go back to school this fall, we are energized from the summer. The fall-like air the last few days is just the right timing to make it official.  Love the summer, but love the fall so much too!  My boys may not be as excited as I am for school supply shopping, but I am! It goes with the territory of being a teacher regardless how much I love summer.

Watching the Olympics this past two weeks has taught us a number of things – including:

*Help each other up.  We are all humans (well – all of us except those of us impersonating humans) and just need a hand once in a while. You may have fallen, but you don’t need to stay there.

*We are different, and that is wonderful.  As the Olympic athletes pour out their blood, sweat, and tears, they are the same in that way, representing their countries and their dreams.

*Be humble and kind.  Winning isn’t everything, but when you do, share the glory.  No one is an island – at least not forever.  Eventually you need a ship for supplies or other life to keep living.

Work Hard – Play Hard!  Repeat!
*Work hard, play hard.  One of my favorites…  and so true.  Both lose their purpose without the other.  Live each day this way. It is a simple recipe for success.

Thinking about these Olympic stories – remember the takeaways as you head to school this fall.  Whether welcoming a student at the door or sending your own student out the door on his or her way to kindergarten, middle school, high school, or beyond – be responsive.

Culturally Responsive Teaching is not a new concept by any means.  It is common sense and incredibly valuable; it just needs revisiting from time to time.  We need to be reminded what we know and what we know is right and just.

What is culturally responsive teaching?  “A pedagogy that crosses disciplines and cultures to engage learners while respecting their cultural integrity.  It accommodates the dynamic mix of race, ethnicity, class, gender, region, religion, and family that contributes to every student’s cultural identity.  The foundation for this approach lies in theories of intrinsic motivation” (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 1995).

Resources to consider and share when preparing for a culturally responsive classroom or workplace – aka respectful zone where everyone is valued for who they are and what they bring to the space.  We can all learn more and grow more from each other starting today.
Strategies & tools:

Have you seen the Ron Clark story yet?  Watch the film – great motivation to be the best teacher possible starting today.


English Language Learners: Culture, Equity, and Language NEA Priority Schools Campaign 2012



SIOP Model overview



SIOP Model for Teaching English Learners



SIOP Model & WIDA Standards


Check out The SIOP Model resource library


Want more? This is the tip of the iceberg folks.  It starts here.  There is so much more out there.  So for today, be more.

Stay Calm & Be Responsive!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.



Go for the Gold!

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So you didn’t take our advice last week?  How about this week?  Or maybe you are wondering what our advice was?  (Don’t worry – I had to think about it too.)  Our blog was about Pokemon Go and to get going to connect.  So did you try it or maybe even consider it?  Well either way – if you are anything like my family this week, we are holed up with bugged out eyes and quite sleep deprived.  We just can’t seem to look away from the TV.  It is like a bad train wreck – in a good way that is. What is it?  It is reality TV at its finest, and it’s actually real.  It is two weeks of “America’s Got Talent” all day long and into late primetime.  It is the Olympics!

It is more than the sports and competition.  It is seeing ordinary people do extraordinary things.  Athletes who train more than anything else or anyone else.  They are dedicated to their sport, and what they can do amazes the rest of us “average joes.”  They make it look effortless – all of it, even the pain.  What makes it so incredible to watch is that they have family and friends who support them endlessly behind the scenes.  They are “average joes” in some ways too.

For me, the best part of the Olympics is the family-time it has created for us.  We have avoided going out for dinner, golfing, movies with friends, and more just to stay home and watch the Olympics together.  Being home together is a feat in itself as the kids continue to become more involved in activities and their own lives. We are volunteering at the county fair food stand for our church tonight; we are praying that there is a TV somewhere near by – or that the customers will watch the races with us on our phones?  It’s not rude if we invite them instead of ignore them, right? 🙂

We have had some great conversations around the Olympics about competition, compassion, dedication, perseverance, and life.  Jonah, the middle son, likes to stop us mid-talk and say, “Is this going to be one of your inspirational talks?”  (Yes – my glass is usually half-full. 🙂  The time, the talks, and shared common goal – Go USA – have brought us closer together.  Sounds cliché but true.

It is a time to learn about different sports and about one another.  We were watching rowing, and I made a comment about my college crew team.  My son’s eyes got big, and he said, “You did this in college, mom?  This? Really?  Wait – did you go to the Olympics?  Did you win gold?”  My initial response was to just to stare at him because I am 100% sure that I had talked about this plenty in the past.  He needed something to connect it to – or no one is listening when I talk?!

It happened again last night.  As we were watching the floor exercise, our oldest son, Jackson, asked about the music, and if there are guidelines as to what they could have.  My response was probably long-winded and included that Huey Lewis & the News’ Power of Love was my favorite floor routine music. He interjected, “Wait, you were in gymnastics?”  “Yes, son, for ten years when I was younger.” (Um, I mean not now of course.  And really – does no one listen to me reminisce ever?)

My youngest son, JR, has dug out the swim cap and goggles and begs to go to the pool each day to practice flip turns.  This is great since I have tried to get them to be on the swim team again for a number of years.  Thanks, Olympics, I owe you one!

We are addicted to watching the athletes compete and win… and learning more about them.  Check out this NBC site to learn more.  The reporters do a nice job of making them seem “normal” by telling their stories.  It isn’t always an easy flowers and roses story either.  What we don’t see and really know is all the hours of blood, sweat, and tears that goes into their lives and workouts each and every day.

Some of their incredible stories:

Michael Phelps broke a 2,168 year old Olympic record.  I was waiting to post this blog as long as I could but my self-control has finally crumbled.  Phelps has a final swim yet tonight. Will Phelps win the gold in the 100 Butterfly? Only time will tell… pardon the pun 🙂

Simone Manuel became the first African-American swimmer to win Olympic gold as she tied for first in the women’s 100 meter freestyle.  Sweet swim!

Kerri Walsh Jennings is going for gold in beach volleyball in her fourth Olympic games.  This mother of three played hurt this past year to qualify for the games in Rio.  She learned to hit left-handed and served underhanded to make it a go.  Interestingly, she met her husband when trying out to be a teammate to her former partner, Misty May-Treanor.  She obviously got the role and the husband.  Will she will gold again with her new volleyball partner, April Ross?

Did you know that professional volleyball players will have about a week off and then go play for their franchise teams across the globe until next May when they will get about another week off and then play on their national teams?  Amazing and grueling.

There are so many cool stories like…
-Swimmer Dirado’s perfect SAT score and how it’s a family tradition to attend Stanford,
-the swimmer from Hungary who is married to her cheered on by and coached by her husband,
-the Phelps family and baby Boomer.
The list continues on and on…

I don’t know about you, but we have become phenomenal swimmers, volleyball players, gymnasts, rowers, fencers, … ourselves.  You name it.  We have been watching it, and we are now good at it, too.  It’s got to be like some kind of visual training. If we see it enough, we can do it, too.

The incredible thing about the Olympics make us want to be better.  Better athletes, better people, more dedicated, more drive.  Check out a few of the inspirational promos to get geared up to win a gold of your own.

DICK’S Sporting Goods 2016 TEAM USA Commercial “Gold in US” shows athletes everywhere that “we all have gold inside of us…but only some have the strength to dig it out.” #GoldInUS

Under Armour #RuleYourself #IWill

“If your goals really mean something to you, then you’ll never give up on them. That’s how it has to be—and that’s exactly what Michael Phelps is doing.” #EARNYOURARMOUR

Now how can we keep the spirit of the Olympics alive each day in our lives at home, at school, at work?  Gold or not – set goals and be better.  Good luck!


Stay Calm & Go USA!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.



Ready, Set, … Pokémon Go!

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Where did July go?  I just blinked and POOF!…It’s gone!  My computer and I parted ways for much of July.  It was a great time to reboot while I started my sabbatical.  I had lots of conversations with like real spoken words and everything.  It was fabulous!  Well – not like I didn’t use oral language before, but it gave me a chance to GO talk to people – family, friends, and even strangers in the produce aisle.  It was a strange time for me as I actually do like my computer.  It has a hot pink cover with chevron-covered keys.  It is actually a great conversation piece when I am in public or working with others.  My line is “If it looks like fun, it can’t be work.”  Now, you and I both know that isn’t true, but I continue to be an optimist to a fault.

So I missed my computer actually…and I missed all of you.  Dr. Wendy did a fantastic job blogging her way through the month and is now on her on self-imposed sabbatical in August.  She is rebooting before the semester starts up, and that is so important as she connects super well with our teacher candidates so we need her jazzed up and ready to run.  Go Mustangs & Dr. Wendy!

Speaking of connecting with students, I started this blog entry in my head a few weeks ago when Pokémon Go first exploded onto the streets of the USA.  Talk about a cultural Pokémon, er, I mean phenomenon.  My family was riding in the car one Sunday after church on our way to GO to brunch when my middle son yelled, “Dad, turn around, we just missed ________.”  (You can fill in the blank with any Pokémon character of your choice.)  Well – supposedly this was a rare one that my son needed.  My patient husband actually turned the car around to retrieve the lost Pokémon.  I paused in disbelief, and thought to myself, “WHAT JUST HAPPENED?  Self, you are so going to write about this.” You may be thinking, “who let the kid play video games after church anyway?”  That is a great question – not me clearly!  What my takeaway from this experience was that we actually listened to our kids and participated in this crazy activity together because they were so excited about it.

I attended a National Night Out event in my sister’s neighborhood and even the sergeant shared Pokémon jargon in his talk with us – while an adolescent hoverboarded by us in search of Pokémons.  It is simply everywhere, and you just can’t Go anywhere without hearing or seeing or playing.  As of the KARE 11 news report last night at 6PM, there have been over 100 million downloads – wow.  According to the Star Tribune today (8.3.16) and confirmed by my kids, there are certain locations that are better than others to play Pokémon Go.  So I guess we can go anywhere to know about it, but go to urban areas to really get your game on.

So what is so fascinating about Pokémon Go?  I remember raising a similar question when the first Harry Potter book was published, and I was a brand-spanking-new teacher.  I was not about to skip the read while my students were devouring it.  I had to find out what the fuss was about – at least so I could be cool with the lingo.  By the way – have you read the latest HP book just released this week?  I haven’t but I intend to at some point just so I can HP-speak with the kidz.  But back to P-Go…  How can we make this excitement happen in life?  With real life that is?  With school? We need to get excited too!  We need to stand up and get moving.  We need to Go connect.

Want more information on Pokémon Go? I opened up my email after a little vacation and found an email from Dave Burgess, Pirate-Master, who recently blogged about Pokémon, and it fit almost perfectly with what I am sharing.  Check it out – Go to :

Well, I can’t give you all of the answers – Love or hate it – just let GO.  Just Pokémon Go!

Stay Calm & Go!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.