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.


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