Monthly Archives: November 2016

Adventures in Student Teaching … with Dr. V

A wise teacher once said at parent-teacher conferences, “I will only believe half the stories I hear at school if you do the same at home.”  Was that me? I may have used that line a time or two. 🙂  There is usually some truth to each story, however.  With that in mind…

This week we have a guest blogger, Ms. Alyssa Prior, teacher candidate from Southwest Minnesota State University.  She happens to be student teaching with me while I am on sabbatical assignment teaching English learners, and Alyssa is collecting many stories to share… Without further ado and in her own words (mostly) uncensored, Ms. Alyssa Prior:


Student Teaching at Park Side Elementary School only has one rule – What happens at Park Side Elementary with Dr. V, stays at Park Side Elementary. Luckily, I will disclose just a few exciting excerpts from this week’s adventures! Unfortunately I do not yet know all of Dr. V’s deep dark secrets, but I will share two small secrets of teaching.

Secret #1- Teaching ESL is NEVER just teaching.

Unlike most teachers, we do not have a classroom inside the building. We are located in the mobile learning lab, just out front of the school. Since we are not located inside the school, we normally find a corner to work with our small groups of 3-6 students.
On our way back to the mobile learning lab from one of our classes inside the school, we came across a student standing in the hallway. This student was dripping wet. He was just standing there, dripping from the waist down. As many of you can guess, this student was not just wet from the rain and snow. This was pee, running down his legs all over the floor in front of his locker. Of course, being the super teacher she is, Dr. V took this student directly to the bathroom as I tried to find some extra clothes. This was just our first adventure Tuesday, our next adventure was magic.

On top of teaching, we had our EL Family night this week. On Tuesday, we invited all ESL families in the Marshall School District as well as a few surrounding schools. We had Jett Skrien, a Marshall High School student perform a magic show for the families. This event was the talk of the week with our students, and it had a great turn out! One of our second grade students even went on stage with Jett! Dr. V so kindly volunteered us to ride the bus to and from the show, to ensure that all families got on and off at the correct stops. During this time, I was directing traffic as the bus waited for families, and I  visited with families on the bus! I felt like a superhero as I told the cars sitting in line waiting for the bus to move that they could simply drive around the bus.

FUN FACT- If a bus does not have their stop sign out and does not have the red flashing lights on, you may pass it!


On Wednesday our kindergarten students had a Thanksgiving feast. This was a very exciting event for staff and students! We saw some turkeys trotting down the hall- to their feast. Dr. V and I agreed that these were some lucky turkeys! They were attending the feast and not part of the feast. During this time we walked around visiting with our students. After the feast was over, Dr. V also became a custodian! Being a teacher is not just teaching, you become well diverse in many jobs!

Secret #2- Hosting a student teacher involves more than being just his or her mentor, you also become a chauffeur.

This week I have had some unfortunate car troubles. After our wonderful snow day on the previous Friday, I was cleaning the snow and ice off of my vehicle, and I smelled something funny! I opened the car door with a giant cloud of smoke streaming out of the vehicle. Since I was unable to drive a flaming vehicle to and from school, Dr. V kindly drove me home from school a few days and offered to pick me up if I ever needed a ride! Luckily, my roommates were able to drive me to school every day, but Dr. V took on the job of bringing me home after school! Since EL family night was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, my roommates were out-of-town and unable to bring me there. Dr. V so kindly offered to pick me up, knowing my car was still not in tip-top shape. At 5:05pm, Dr. V pulled up at my house. We were scheduled to meet the bus that we would be riding at 5:20pm. We were riding peacefully to Southwest coaches when all the sudden Dr. V hears a weird sound.

“Is that my tire? Do I have a flat tire?!” Dr. V anxiously said as she pulled over. “Alyssa, get out and see if that’s my tire”.

As it is still raining, I jumped out and see it’s a flat tire. JUST OUR LUCK!

As I was ready to change a tire, Dr. V calls for backup.

Needless to say, I do not have good luck with cars. However, we did make it to our EL family night and had a great turn out! Multiple test drives later, shopping for the perfect fit, and five days after a small car fire, I have a new car. Hopefully one that won’t start on fire or get a flat tire anytime soon.


My adventures with Dr. V have been crazy and fun, but they have also been very eye-opening. I have known Dr. V for three years now as my advisor and professor, but I have never in these three years seen her smile or laugh as much as I have at Park Side Elementary School. If I have learned one thing from this experience so far, it has been to always do what you love and laugh a little along the way, even if you have a flat tire. ~A.P.

Well said, Ms. Prior, well said.

Stay Calm & Enjoy the Adventure!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Make Your Teaching Matter

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Photo credit: MN Rural Education Association

This past week, colleagues Dr. Mary Risacher, Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, and I had the privilege of traveling to the Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA) Annual Conference held each year at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake in Brainerd, MN. The conference theme was “Making Teaching Matter.” All three of us were accepted to be session presenters, and all three of us were looking forward to learning from the keynotes and other session presentations. Of course, being on a beautiful lake in this beautiful weather during the supersize moon was pretty sweet too. 🙂

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We began the conference by learning how to reclaim the value of teaching with keynote speaker Sarah Brown Wessling, who was named the 2010 National Teacher of the Year and whose face is a familiar one on The Teaching Channel.

A few highlights from Sarah’s presentation were:

  • We have the responsibility to transcend the ‘game’ of school.
  • Do not confuse telling and teaching. Our best teaching doesn’t happen in front of the room.
  • It’s fine to collect strategies, but we need to be strategic.
  • #letstakeaselfie activity. We make adjustments when taking a selfie; what adjustments do we need to make in our lessons? (Stealing this idea) 🙂


  • Task versus purpose—what will students be doing versus what will students be learning.
  • We get better when we change the narrative and embrace our imperfections.
  • When planning lessons, try hard NOT to compromise the needs of the students.
  • The bridge to success is gentle failure.

Fail—that scary word. Newsflash…lessons will fail. It’s okay. We need to reflect on those lessons that go wrong and correct them and move on. Sarah shared her Teaching Channel lesson that did just that. BUT…it also shows how she became a reflective practitioner (Standard of Effective Practice number 9 for you teacher candidates 😮 ) and she fixes the blooper in five minutes before the next group of students arrive. (Yes, we will be using this video in our education courses this spring…thank you, Sarah! 🙂 ). Click on the link below to check it out (you may have to try a few times):

There were more than 30 breakout sessions to choose from. Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter presented on our Southwest Minnesota State University Innovative Para-to-SPED Teaching Initiative.

Dr. Mary Risacher and I presented on how to combat stress. After swimming through the research, seven stress busters floated to the top. Curious as to what they are? Check out the Power Point pdf from our session, along with Dr. Bonnstetter’s pdf and several other session pdf’s by clicking here:


Have you heard of the children’s book “Fortunately” written by Remy Charlip? (Yes indeed, I am showing my age with this one 😮 ). Keep that book format in mind as you read on.

Fortunately, our Stress Busters presentation went very well. Had a ton of fun.

Unfortunately, I was bitten by the flu bug while at the MREA Conference.

Fortunately, it bit me 2 hours AFTER we presented (thank you, Lord!).

Unfortunately, I missed the delicious meal served Monday evening.

Fortunately, I had two colleagues who took good care of me…from a distance. 🙂

Unfortunately, this flu caused us to leave early Tuesday morning missing the closing keynote speaker, Kayla Delzer, TEDx presenter and writer for Edutopia.

Fortunately, I was able to follow her keynote by following the hashtag #mreacon16 on Twitter.

Some key ideas from Kayla’s Reimagining Education presentation were:

  • Relationships matter. Get to know your kids. It’s the best classroom management tool you’ll have.
  • It costs zero dollars to show kindness. Spreading kindness is one of the best investments a school can make.
  • If it’s right for kids, it’s right.
  • We are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Surround yourself with only those who will help you grow.
  • It takes just as much energy to be negative as it does to be happy and positive. Choose wisely.
  • If it’s boring on paper, it’s still boring on an iPad.
  • Instead of blocking and banning, let’s educate students on how to use social media.
  • Be prepared to embrace failure and grow from it. Below is the video Kayla shared about embracing failure. You can’t help but smile when you watch this kid… 😀


Two thumbs up, MREA, and thank you for a dynamic conference and for rejuvenating all of us on why we teach…because it does matter. I look forward to hearing about the theme you will choose for next year. (And thank you, Dr. Risacher and Dr. Bonnstetter for your nursing skills). 🙂

On a side note, Happy Thanksgiving. May your travels be safe, your tummies be full, and your thankfulness be plentiful.

Make your teaching matter, everyone.


Stay Calm & Make Teaching Matter!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.


Fairy “tail” Fall

“Today was a fairytale. …Time slows down whenever you’re around… can you feel the magic in the air…”  ~Taylor Swift

This fall is like a fairytail.  Warm temps and sunshine.  It can’t possibly be November in Minnesota, you say?!  Well, it is indeed!  Usually the most overcast month of the year, this November has been sunshine with little rain.  It is hard to believe that the magic of the holiday season is approaching with these unseasonable temps!  Winter is right around the corner – er, maybe the corner after that, but still, you get the idea.  It’s no tall tale.  Old Man Winter is on his way!  With it, we say good-bye to fall and hello to winter …and soon a new year.


This has been an autumn of firsts and celebrations and living life…even as the leaves fall and flowers die; there is so much living to be done.


We are thankful that the harvest season has drawn to a close for most – or almost finished for some.  That means it must be hunting seasons for others.  This is a time when they tell a tale of a tail or two.  My husband and sons have discovered that they enjoy the hunting experience together.  I secretly know it is because they enjoy napping in the wilderness (the fairy”tail” part of the story) and sporting blaze orange fashion.  Actually some of it isn’t even that bad… 😉


Quarter one has wrapped up and quarter two is underway.  Conferences have taken place, and new goals have been set.  We are ready for more learning and discovery…hooray!  With the start of this second term, a teacher candidate began her student teaching experience with me.  It has been a joy to see her grow in the profession as I had the privilege of teaching her during her time on campus and mentor her now in the classroom while I am on sabbatical.


Discovery can be magical!  My middle son discovered his fondness for goats as he played the biggest billy goat gruff in the school play of Rapunzel.  What a fun experience!


It’s not always just fun and games, however!  My youngest son earned five stitches from a serious game of lightning at recess.  His knee is still quite tender, but he will be just fine – and now has another story to tell about the “good ol’ days” in the future.


After several successful football seasons thinking about the glory days, the Marshall Tiger Football team is advancing to the semi-finals at the state football tournament for the first time in school history.  Go Tigers!


Sounds like a busy fall right?  Absolutely! There is so much life out there to be living.


Oh – and how about those Cubs?  … And the supermoon?!  😉


Great excuses all around us to live life…and wait until spring to wash the house windows.

Stay Calm & Live Life!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Teaching is like Harvesting Because…


Photo credit goes to the hubby

Professionally, my hubby is a geek…a computer nerd. Yes, he is our family’s own personal Geek Squad. His official title is Software Solutions Architect. I know…pretty fancy, right? BUT…when fall arrives, in addition to the computer programming stuff, my man returns to his roots…farming.

For three weeks each fall, I become a harvest widow. My hubby joyfully tells his brother-in-law that he is willing and ready to help out with the harvest. So, after a full day of working with technology, off he goes to jump into a grain truck or a tractor, and he loves every minute of it.

As I contemplated what to write about this week, I thought, hmmm…what do teaching and harvesting have in common? What’s a simile for these two jobs? Who better to ask than my teacher friends. Facebook is perfect for posting a question and getting some great answers.  

Through direct messages, I asked several educators this question, “Write the first thought that comes to your mind. Ready, go: Teaching is like harvesting because…” Now I ask you to do the same thing. Before you read on, answer that question please! Got your answer? If you are willing, please share it in the comments.

From novice teachers (some of my former teacher candidates who are now teaching and who I friend on Facebook AFTER they have graduated), to veteran teachers (some of my former colleagues from when I taught elementary students and who are married to farmers), to music teachers who have been teaching for 12 years and I had her in my first year of teaching…oh man, am I feeling old! :o, to elementary principals, to retired teachers, and to teachers who are no longer teaching but are in different professions…all were asked that same question.

Below are the responses I received back (thanks to all who took the time to send me a direct Facebook message with your answer). A few replies are similar, and a few made me giggle out loud when I read them. 🙂 Compare your answer to theirs, but more importantly, enjoy!

Teaching is like harvesting because…

Dena: We are helping our children’s minds and hearts grow and develop just like those crops in the field. Nature can be impossible to control (like outside family and relationship factors) but we must take these children and tend to them so that they can develop and become a productive member of society.

Bree: Whatever you put into it you get out of it. If you work hard and tend to your crops, you will be successful. Same with teaching.

Mary: It is a huge undertaking that you tackle it one field at a time. Before you know it you’ve harvested down each corn and bean stalk and are left with bins full of golden corn and beans.

Kandy: We are able to glean the seeds of love, creativity, passion and joy for learning that hard work and committed effort sowed.

Aly: You are constantly helping shape a child to help them grow.

Kayla: The main thing I think is just like harvest season, teaching is BUSY BUSY.

Lana: It takes a lot of patience and sack lunches to get through it! HA!


Photo credit goes to Lana…

Julie: You start with something small and end up with something that will benefit the world.

Wilson: You get to gather children’s minds and make something wonderful.

Abbey: Preparation, hard work, and love is put into the crop as they blossom you send them off to the next grade to be harvested once again.

Alex: Teaching is like harvesting because, as the teacher, we plant the seeds in the students’ brains, then after months of fertilizing the seeds, a beautiful crop of knowledge is grown in the student.

Jamie: You dig everything up and revamp (fertilize) before anything new can come out (students’ brains).

LeAnne: We have nurtured the crop and now it is time to send them on their way hoping that they are the best that we have helped them to be. Just as we nurture our students to become the best that they can be and send them onto the next step in their life whether it be a new grade level or onto college or work. We reap what we sow and hopefully we have sown the best seed that we can.

Dani: There aren’t enough hours in the day!

Liz: Even though the season is ending there is always a new beginning for next year.

Sonya: Reap what you sow…Get out of it what you put in…If we don’t work hard in the spring and summer, the fall won’t be as plentiful and winter will be challenging. Teaching to pass the time just won’t cut it.

Jason: The crop is plentiful!


Photo credit goes to the hubby

Toni: You nurture, tend to, and care for young ‘sprouts’ in hopes that they will, someday, be fruitful adults.

Connie: We reap the rewards with every child we teach!

Brianna: Teaching is like harvesting because you help your students “grow” and then you “cut” them loose into the world. Also, teaching is like harvesting because it can be crazy stressful! Crazy stressful but rewarding!

Mel: A teacher plants (seeds) of knowledge within students and nurturers them until they are mastered and ready to harvest.

Jesmine: You water the kids with knowledge and skills to prepare them for success. Over time you watch them grow into beautiful children using the hard work you put in and you enjoy the fruits of your labor! To make it even better, you get to do it all again next harvest with better tools, plans and lessons!

Shawn: First you have to sow the seeds (beginning of school year). Then you watch it (students) grow (the school year) and then it’s harvest (end of school year).

Roberta: You reap what you sow.

Thank you, everyone, for responding to the question. I couldn’t agree more with all of you. The love and hard work and passion and time and patience and faith that goes with harvesting and teaching is unending. Thanks to ALL farmers for your dedication and love of the land; and thanks to ALL educators for your dedication and love of the kids.


Photo credit goes to the hubby

Stay Calm & Harvest On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.