Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dreams Work … Go the Distance

Remember that film – Field of Dreams?  “If you build it, they will come.”  I loved that movie when I was younger.  My optimistic, idealistic self still believes it to be true. “Go the distance.” I think it can happen.  I ask why not? Even after days that I feel beaten down with negative situations, negative responses, and negative people, I get up the next day, and am ready to change the world.  One would think I would eventually learn my lesson, right? I do love to learn, but maybe I don’t want to learn that lesson – to believe the negative and be a pessimistic person. I’m not alone, am I?  Most certainly not… it takes all kinds of people to make the world go round, and it takes surrounding ourselves with people who help make our mindsets positive to keep moving forward. We need each other to motivate and be motivated. We are a team!  Lately, I’ve been thinking about a motivational speaker who I heard speak earlier this semester.  With the world spinning faster than usual lately – or so it seems, I am feeling the need for some positive motivation to help build that field of dreams and to continue to go the distance.

With motiviation on our minds, I have a question to pose to you…
Will you work harder for something required or inspired? 
This simple question caused me to ponder momentarily.  I knew the answer without a doubt, but also knew all too often how “being required” is a way of life for many. Perhaps it is the only way for some things, which we will not debate today, but it tends to provide a veil for a lack of trust and should we dare – deceit.  For example – you are required to take/pass this standardized test because you are not competent without it. Okay – maybe that is not a perfect analogy, but I have standardized testing on the brain.  How about this one? You are required to complete 125 hours of continuing education because you won’t want to grow as a teacher without being required to do so.  Before I continue on my soap box, let’s get back to the simple question to start. Will you work harder for something required or inspired? This phrase was shared by Rob Bell at a conference session entitled, “Teamwork Makes Dreams Work.”

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This upbeat and motivational presentation made my nerdy notetaking self jot down some highlights to share with all of you as well as some of my reflections.

So what’s really important in the work place or school environment – or anywhere really?

  1. Appreciation.
  2. Feeling of being “in on” things – inclusivity breeds buy-in.
  3. Sympathetic help with person problems – life is not always about work.

Provide constructive yet kind feedback – SIP – Specific. Immediate. Personal. Warm fuzzies are wonderful, but they need to be paired with comments for growth.  Even perfect can be better.

The way to motivate is to validate. And be authentic when validating and in all of life really. Who is better at being you than you?  Consider the important characteristics identified in being authentic and real with colleagues and friends in aims to lift each other up:

– Sense of Humor -Reliable  -Optimistic  -Timely -Thoughtful  -Honest –Happy –ABCD: above the call of duty -Empathy

Remember the power of conditioning and that actions speak louder than words.  We are what we think and what we say. I’m alive. I’m awake. I feel great! We have to start with ourselves and then reach out to others. You know the phrase – “I don’t care what you say I care what you do.” It tells a story as does body language. If your words are not consistent with the language you choose, people will believe was they see. How do we grow in our language? Consider keeping a gratitude notebook and listening – silent listening…be in the moment. Refrain from the word “but” when responding.  Let’s Plan a vacation. Yes but… yes but… But shuts down opportunity.  Another phrase often used is “It’s against our policy.” Instead try this: “Let me tell you what I can do.”

More than not – use this simple phrase:  “Thank you.” It will amazingingly change your world and mine.

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In closing –

Enjoy the moment.

Change is uncomfortable. It is inevitable. Growth is optional.

What is a wow today is standard next year. Keep growing.

Plant seeds not weeds. Apple seeds…or your favorite seeds…make your world great.

It’s a lot more fun to be excellent than mediocre.

Let’s make them say wow!

Build that field of dreams! Go the distance and make us go with you!

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

When Your Professional GPS Recalculates your Route from Principal to Professor

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While attending professional development conferences with elementary principals, we are frequently asked by these principal pals what they would need to do to get to where we are. Well – not geographically necessarily… but rather, professionally.  You see, we are elementary principals turned professors of education.

Together, we have 49 years of experience as educators.  Twenty-seven of those years were in the K – 12 school setting. During our K – 12 years we impacted approximately 1675¾ children. After some teaching experience, both of us pursued our Master’s programs, and with our why not attitudes we just kept going.

We met while attending classes for our doctoral degree. We were out for a walk to break away from our statistics class study group. From there, we just kept walking together in all aspects of life. Now we are together teaching in higher education and thus far we have impacted close to 3500 students.

When we took that step of faith to journey away from K – 12 education, we were fearful that we would lose touch with the reason we originally started this career – the kids.  With a little reflection we soon understood the impact of “leaving” – and changed the meaning of leaving to “reaching”…reaching learners in many more ways than we thought possible.  What we have learned from our teaching and administrative days in K – 12, we have learned two-fold from our career path of changes.

From Principal to Professor

Our sincere advice to principals who would like to take that same leap of faith and become a professor of education…JUST DO IT!! The time may not be right, but it rarely ever is when change happens.  Here are some steps to take for our aspiring professor pals:

Take lots of classes and when you think you are finished, keep going. Go for your doctorate. Why? Because we said so. If we can make it through the rigor (aka torture), you can too. 🙂 You can teach at the university level with your Master’s Degree, however, in order to be tenured and promoted in higher education, you must have your terminal degree. What? Terminal? No worries, this would be an Ed.D. or a Ph.D. and not a disease.

While taking classes, observe your professors closely. It’s just like a teacher candidate observing the classroom mentor, the principal observing the mentor principal. You will get good ideas or not so good ideas from this observation of professors. For instance, do the profs show up for class? Are they prepared? Do they just lecture the whole time? Are they on topic or off topic?  Do they seem to genuinely care about students?  This last one may seem trivial, but it makes all the difference in the world to a learner.

On-line learning is here to stay. Become acquainted with this style of teaching and learning regardless of your personal preference and philosophy. Blended learning is our personal preference. Both on-line and face-to-face add great depth to the teaching and learning experience.

Take that leap of faith. As a principal, you know your role. Becoming a professor will be something new again. You are out of your comfort zone, and the learning curve is straight up, however that climb is reachable. If you have the opportunity to become an adjunct professor, go for it. Try it out to see if it fits you. When we made the decision to leave the K – 12 system, we took a leap of faith. We believed God would put us where we needed to be.

Perks of the Professorship

Flexibility and freedom are perks of being a professor. The rigid principal schedule no longer controls you. You do not need to send out an email to your staff when you are going to use the restroom just in case they need to find you in an emergency.

If there is a major snow storm and you are unable to make it to campus, you have the flexibility to throw your class on-line. Sounds easy, right?  Actually – on-line preparations are more in depth and take some time; however, being safe in your home is a bonus.

Professional development and scholarship become more of a priority in higher education. We are encouraged to belong to professional organizations such as NAESP.  These memberships allow for conference attendance, and being able to network with professionals.  What’s even better?  Attendance at conferences is not only physical but mental. We actually get to “BE THERE.” We don’t need to answer emails via the iPad or answer emergency phone calls from the office administrative assistance or the superintendent while at the same time trying to listen to the keynote speaker. From these memberships in professional organizations, we continue to hone skills from practicing practitioners and share this valuable knowledge with our teacher candidates.

We are not sure if this would be considered a perk or a drawback, however, we get to stay involved with legislation at the state level. The Minnesota Board of Teaching and the MN Department of Education are two stakeholders at the state level that play a key role in what we do in our education program. Sometimes the decisions made by these two organizations drive our education department to have to make some drastic changes. Some good, some not so good.

Hand sanitizer does not need to be your best friend; however, we still encourage hand washing. Students at the college level are usually pretty good about covering their coughs – especially those in teacher education programs.

Drawback of the Professorship

Initially, the pay is not close to what a principal earns. In fact, while in the doctoral program, one advisor highly recommended seeking K – 12 Educational Administration because “there is more money in the principalship.”  True at times – especially at the beginning. Like all professions, experience and years will help this issue.

Similarities Between the Principalship and Professorship

Making connections and networking with ALL educators is a huge bonus of being a professor.  We stay in contact with teachers, principals, superintendents, and sometimes even school boards. We work side by side with the Southwest Central Service Cooperative. In addition to all these networks, we stay connected with the best of the best educators through Twitter, Voxer, and other Social Media platforms.

Serving as the instructional leader was one of our favorite parts of our principalship. As a professor, we still get to be involved with this. Professors get to teach and model instructional best practices. We also evaluate our teacher candidates. It is imperative to stay abreast of what is currently being used by principals in these areas.

Searching for, hiring, and retaining top notch teachers is just one very important responsibility of the principal. Professors are still very much a part of this process at the university level. We are expected to be on search committees to find new professors or new presidents, or new office administration. Reviewing resumes, making phone calls to references, and bringing candidates on campus are all part of our duties.

Student growth is of great significance at both levels. Academic achievement is always our goal as it is for the principal. Finding ways to help our students succeed is mandatory. Whether principal or professor, our goals are to help others reach their goals.  Finding joy by helping others is part of both worlds.

School and community involvement is also a priority for both principals and professors. It is expected for both parties to be visible and connected.  Both principals and professors support positive growth in the school and greater community.

Difference between Principalship and Professorship

As a professor we see more classrooms and more schools. We are impacting more schools by training future teachers. Principals impact one school while a professor impacts many schools locally and nationally. We also impact more students. Principals may have 300 – 1500 students in their buildings. We teach about 50 – 75 teacher candidates in a year, which then these candidates go out and teach 25 students each.

Whether a principal or a professor, our goals remain unchanged – to serve and support others and help them grow to become good people – better people than they were yesterday – great people.  Together we can accomplish so much more.

We encourage all our principal pals who are interested in becoming a professor to JUST DO IT. It is rewarding, flexible, and keeps you in contact with many different stakeholders in education. The professorship is truly a profession we both love.

Stay Calm & Take the Leap of Faith!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Dare to Soar, Teacher Candidates

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An eagle sighting is a rare occurrence around here, but when it happens, people tend to get a little excited. Did you know the wingspan of an adult bald eagle can range from five to seven feet?  That is incredible.

You know what else is incredible? You have graduated from SMSU, teacher candidates!!! 🙂 At graduation time we like to tell our SMSU students that it is time to ‘spread your wings and fly.’

You were like eagles during your teacher preparation program, teacher candidates. Now, as you spread your wings and fly towards your first teaching position, continue to be eagle leaders. Continue to be:

Tenacious:  Like an eagle soars against the storm, you saw past the intensity of the expectations of the program. You were persistent and stayed the course.

Confident: Like an eagle stays to itself, you knew to stay true to yourself to do your ultimate best no matter what others were saying or doing. You assured yourself that you COULD accomplish your goals…and you did.

Vision: Like an eagle that can spot its target miles away, you kept your eyes on the prize. You kept your education degree in sight with your vision on your future classroom.

Courageous: Like an eagle stands up to risk, you faced all the requirements with bravery. Although some assignments seemed to be daunting (edTPA), you attacked them with boldness.

Vitality: Like an eagle never gives up on life, you never lost your passion while you were completing all necessary class projects. You kept your sparkle.

Nurturer: Like an eagle trains its young, you will be teaching students who will be under your care and depend on you. Remember…students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Congratulations, 2017 graduates. Go out and change the world…one student and one classroom at a time. Dare to soar, teacher candidates. Spread your wings and fly!

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

This is NOT a Cat Lesson

You can’t always be certain.  Sometimes what it appears to be just isn’t so.  Sometimes it is something entirely different.  Sometimes it is what it is.  Most times this is the truth.
It either is or isn’t – a cat.  Right?

Recently, Minnesota author/illustrator Mike Wohnoutka addressed the Southwest Minnesota Reading Council hosted on the Martin Luther College campus in New Ulm, Minnesota.  I was privileged to attend with a former student-teacher gone teacher and two teacher candidates.  It was an evening filled with learning, laughter, reading, reflecting, doodling, and discussion.  What does a cat got to do with it, you ask?  Let me tell you….

Growing up with three older brothers, Mike Wohnoutka loved to draw, and he was determined to do well. From early on he would go to his room to read to get away from a little of the noise. He displayed talent early on, and his Headstart teacher noticed right away.  She wrote a note on his report card indicating that he was an artist and that he should continue to draw. Later on in life his high school teacher suggested that he go to the library to learn about and study others’ works.  He then went on to enter a contest in high school with a portrait of his dad, which drew him on the path to an art school in Savannah, Georgia with a 4-year scholarship.

Fast forward to today, and you will find that Mike had multiple opportunities to try out his talents – sometimes noticed and sometimes unnoticed.  His talent is obvious and telling. He drew a cartoon masterpiece within seconds right before our eyes. It was incredible.

Throughout his time as a write and illustrator, Wohnoutka has had opportunities to work with a plethora of talented folks.  He shared about his life as an author/illustrator and how each day starts with sitting in his study and thinking. It usually involves some coffee; sometimes there is music, sometimes there isn’t.  “Think about who. Think about what.”  That is telling lesson right there, and one we agree with as a principle.  Dr. Wendy & I tell our teacher candidates that we teach learners, not subjects. We teach who, not what.  When writing This is Not a Cat, Wohnoutka started with character development. That makes sense and is where we all should start – with the who, with us.

He talked about one particular work that we loved to hear about, to read about, and now to share with our students.  This is Not a Cat. It reminded us that what we see is not always what we should believe.  It also made me think about not being too overly confident with a decision; there is room for error in that suit.  The mice in this picture book are pretty scared when they see a cat, which turns out to be a rat in a cat suit.  Later, a real cat hunts that rat.  This made me think of the phrase “what goes around, comes around.” Karma.

So many lessons in that simple but awesome book.  Maybe I am grasping at straws but so be it. I saw the talent first hand. I am no literary award granter, but I like a book that can hook a reader and share a lesson or two.  If it can cause a little suspense and some laughter, even better.

Southwest MN Reading Council Executive Board Members with Author/Illustrator Mike Wohnoutka

In closing… recently our SMSU colleague family has experienced deaths that have caused us to reflect on what is important.  What is important to you? Find out and stay the course… Life is too important and too short not to know.  Know what is a cat and what is not.

Stay Calm & Draw or Write On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.




Mirror Mirror on the Wall

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Hello there! That’s me…sitting on my porch swing, taking a selfie with the ‘pretty filter’ on Snapchat. Observe carefully, please. What do you see? I’ll give you a minute to form your opinions…

Are you ready for this? Care if I expose myself? That picture is me, trying so hard to put on my happy face for those of you who know me and believe I am happy ALL.THE.TIME. Truth be told…some days I’m just not. Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about.

ME: Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

THE DEVIL IN MY HEAD: Not you, you loser! You are old. You are wrinkled. Your teeth are icky. What is up with those stupid sagging eyelids? Bag…baggy eyes, old woman. Stop frowning, moron. You can’t do anything right. You are so dumb for saying that. Suck it up, loser.

That is the ugly, scary monster I hear in my head sometimes. And, frankly…I am sick and tired of it. Just when I believe I’m deep in a pit that will imprison me forever, along comes a song that tells me I’m priceless…irreplaceable, unmistakably, incomparably beautiful. Thank you, for King and Country for throwing me a rope and rescuing me from that pit of lies!

Mistakes. I mess up a lot. Failure. I fail at meeting everyone’s expectations. Can you relate?

It seems I am always saying sorry to someone for something. Sorry, I didn’t mean to leave you out of the email. Sorry, I didn’t mean to give him the mint. Sorry, I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to encourage student voice. Sorry, I didn’t think I was talking out of both sides of my mouth. Sorry, I forgot to invite you. Sorry, I am not happy all the time. Sorry, I didn’t mean to forget to call you back. Sorry, sorry, SORRY!!!

Mistake after mistake and failure after failure makes me ponder what my purpose really is? Thank you, Mandisa, for reminding me. It’s because I’m not perfect, but God loves me anyway. God is still working on making me a masterpiece. I’m going to celebrate the truth! His work in me isn’t through. I’m just unfinished.

Guilt. Such a dreadful word. It seems to consume me. When life hands me unfortunate situations, I feel guilty when I am sad because my circumstances aren’t anything compared to what others have gone through.

Others have it worse. I’ve never lost a spouse or a child, or suffered from cancer or any other severe disease of any kind. Yet, I have sad moments. Moments that crush my heart and make me sob uncontrollably. Then the guilt smothers me like dense fog because others have it worse and I have no right to be feeling this way.

A viscous cycle!

Well, it’s time to let go of the guilt and step into the light of God’s grace. It’s time to let go of the guilt, say goodbye to where I’ve been, and tell this heart of mine to beat again…minus the guilt. A new journey is just beginning. Thanks Danny Gokey for giving me permission to let my heart beat again.

Loneliness, sadness, weariness, rejection, insecurity, defeat, betrayal, guilt…feelings we don’t want to admit we experience. These feelings don’t have to control us though. Let’s choose to defeat them and rise above them. Let’s shut the door on yesterday and let’s rise!

Everyone has struggles. Music is the ministry to help me right now. I hope these tunes help you too. Tomorrow’s a new day. Hang in there with me, okay?

Stay Calm & Press On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

The Joy of Action Research

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Action Research are two words that add a bit of trepidation to our SMSU Teacher Candidate’s hearts and minds during their Junior Methods year. They hear the stories…but then, when they actually get to class and hear it and see it for themselves, they realize it has significance in their future teaching (well, that’s what I hope anyway 😉 ).

What exactly is action research (pay close attention to this, upcoming teacher candidates)? According to Richard Sagor (2000), author of Guiding School Improvement with Action Research, action research…

…is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by and for those taking the action.  The primary reason for engaging in action research is to ‘assist’ the actor in improving and/or refining his or her actions (para. 2, chapter 1).

Or, to paraphrase in my own definition that I tell my teacher candidates…action research is finding issues that elementary students may be having with their learning; researching teaching methods or instructional strategies to help the struggling students overcome these issues; putting these research-based strategies into action; and finally, analyzing the data while hoping for a desired outcome.

Simply put, action research is making learning the best it can be for the students we teach so we can watch them grow academically.  All educators want this for their students. It brings us great joy to see our students succeed.

Yes, teacher candidates, I am joyful! I had the pleasure of seeing you succeed when presenting your action research findings at the 2nd Annual Education Action Research Conference held Friday, April 7 at the Schwan’s Regional Event Center on the SMSU Campus.

I’ve heard countless accolades about your professionalism during your presentations. I guess all of those IGNITE challenges paid off, didn’t they. 🙂 You certainly have grown professionally as well as personally over the course of the past 9 months in Action Research, and I applaud you for that!

To our colleague and friend, Professor LeAnne Syring, thank you for walking through that door of opportunity and kicking off our conference with your outstanding keynote. No lemonade for you, friend…just lemon meringue pie! 🙂

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One gentleman who attended our Action Research Conference wrote these kind, encouraging words in an email:

“…I wanted to let you know that it was a fantastic conference and tremendous success. I attended six different presentations on varying topics.  All were wonderfully presented and the research was applicable to everyone in the audience. Again, it was a wonderful morning and I am extremely glad that I attended!! I look forward to next year!”

Continue to grow and learn, teacher candidates, by using action research to assist you with any challenges you may face in your future classrooms. It will benefit your students, and it will make you top-notch teachers. And the bonus from here on out…you won’t have to write the 30+ page paper to go along with it. 😀

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(For more pictures, please check out our SMSU School of Education’s Facebook page)

Stay Calm & Research On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Twas The Night Before Clinical

This is a guest blog post by Dr. Mary Risacher who is an Assistant Professor of Education for Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota. Her background includes teaching Early Childhood, Kindergarten and serving as the Director of an Early Childhood At-Risk Program with an emphasis on pairing young children and families to needed resources. She currently teaches introductory educational and Early Childhood licensure courses for the School of Education at SMSU, as well as serving as Director of the Early Childhood Extended Learning 2+2 Program. You can find her on Twitter @MaryRisacher.

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It is spring – one of my most favorite seasons. We have come out of the dark, dreary days. The birds are back…the sun is with us in the evening…the worst is behind us. Well, at least that is my perception.

I know a group of students who might be wishing this week away. It is clinical time when my online students travel from across the state to show off the skills they have gained while completing their year-long method courses.

I teach the online section of ED 423 Classroom Management. The culminating event is a clinical where students take over a classroom for two days. For my online students, this is most often their first trip to campus and first time meeting instructors. That alone can be nerve wracking, but couple that with having to teach in a new setting, and you have a very nervous group.

I remind them at the start of the course this is a moment in a life time, make the most of it. Life is made up of moments some good, some bad, but it really is just a string of moments that when faced with one you don’t think you can survive – take it for what it is worth for another moment will be right around the corner. In a short time, this will be a memory and you will be facing all new moments – challenging or rewarding take what you can from them and continue forward.

I am writing this prior to meeting my online students for Clinical. Here is a bit of prose…I am not a poet and I do know it… so as you read this please know that writing poetry is not one of my gifts 🙂  I will follow up and share how the Clinical experience went for my students – until then….

It was the night before Clinical and all through the school the pre-service teachers were calm, collected, and cool.

Lesson plans had been prepared, schedules were by the door in hopes that supervisors would give a high score.

The countdown had begun, in just a few hours the kiddos would arrive…would the SMSU students survive?

Then down the hallway there arose such a clatter Dr. Risacher went to see what was the matter.

There before her stood 20 pre-service teachers and a copier up to no good!

It had been churning out copies without a hitch, then suddenly there was a glitch.

“Have no fear!” said Mary. “I know what to do when a copier is contrary.”

Then as quick as a wink and before the students could blink the copier was fixed without another hitch.

Back to their classrooms the students did fly to finish all last-minute details before the kiddos arrive.

Rooms at the ready and binders complete, it time to begin this great feat!

The kiddos arrive not knowing the thrills that await them. The days fly by with little abatement. (not sure if this is correct usage – but it rhymes 🙂 )

Adjustments were made here and there, and lessons were done with little time to spare.

At the end of day two the students wondered, “With no planning to complete what will we do?”

“For now,” Dr. Risacher said, “get off your feet and go to bed. It’s time to rest that weary head!”

Tomorrow you will find these moments in time are a treasure and only just one measure.

Clinical is over and the course nearly through—be proud of all you’ve accomplished at SMSU!

The results are in, it was a huge WIN! ~Mary

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

Persevere to Find Your Way

Stay the course.  Don’t be fooled into thinking it is going to be easy to do.  Sometimes it can be intercepted and not go as planned.  We must remain focused on the goal.

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Recently, I was privileged to hear Coach Jerry Kill speak.  As he addressed the audience, he left an impression that will not be easily forgotten.  He had an eight-count message for students or any team members, and per my notes it went something like this … set, hut.

  1. Be accountable – everyone has to do their job… be on time and don’t waste time; you only have 24 hours in a day.
  1. Go to class (or work).
  1. Acting right…be a good person; you have the choice.  You can be positive or negative.
  1. Play hard.  It takes no talent to play hard. Everyone has a different position – not everyone can be the boss or be the ultimate best; just be your best.
  1. Everyone has to do their part. It shouldn’t be an “I” culture; it needs to be a “we” culture to win.  We need to care more about the person next to us than ourselves to win.
  1. Communication – in person with people – to get the team going in the same direction.  There is  nothing more valuable than personal touch or a gesture.  Don’t judge people by their looks, and instead – get to know them.  Find out what makes them tick and treat them fairly but not the same – build relationships.
  1. Know the company/team/_______ (you fill in the blank)_______ inside out. Wash dishes. Pay dues and experience failure. Constantly learn to stay on top of your game. People are chasing you to the top.
  1. Mental toughness.  You aren’t going to win everyday. Game day – everyday. Great preparation. Perseverance. It won’t always work out the way you planned. How do I handle adversity? You can judge people when their backs are against the wall – when you see their true colors… and they can judge you.

And of course… Eat well. Sleep well. Exercise. Give back. Repeat. Persevere.

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For more highlights on Coach Kill, visit

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

Practicing UNusual Teaching: SMSU Elementary Clinical Style

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Our SMSU teacher candidates have oodles and oodles of field experience hours during their teacher preparation program.

It begins with their freshman year in Introduction to Education where they are expected to complete 15 hours in a classroom of their desired grade level. Fast forward to their junior methods year and they find themselves completing 90+ hours in the classroom.

During these numerous hours, the teacher candidates are asked to do the usual tasks…observe, keep a journal, teach one lesson, interview a student, interview their mentor teacher, and assist the teacher in any way possible.

And then along comes the elementary clinical in the spring of their junior year. Dare I say there is nothing usual about this field experience. Our SMSU teacher candidates are in total control of a classroom for two full days, team teaching every lesson and every subject based on one chosen theme. When our teacher candidates have successfully completed their two days of clinical, a gratifying exhaustion sets in…

Well, our 2017 two-day elementary clinical concluded last week and is now written in the book of success. It is an experience that our teacher candidates will always remember (I still remember mine and that was 32 years ago). Read on for a few of their clinical perspectives:

Alli: This was an experience that will never be forgotten. Organizing the lesson plans and all of the classroom theme decorations was a good insight into what it will be like having my own classroom. This is truly the only college experience that allows an education student to be fully immersed and in control of an entire classroom for TWO whole days! Definitely a great experience and one that helped me build upon my teaching skills.

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Mady: Clinical was a very fun, hectic, scary, most worthwhile experience I’ve done for teaching. A memorable activity we used was a life-size whale that students got to climb inside of and explore around.

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Taylor: I thoroughly enjoyed making all the decorations and planning for our theme. The first day was a whirlwind. We had a girl projectile vomit in the classroom and a boy hit his head in PE. Clinical was stressful, but what made it all worth it was when we had a little girl come up to us and say, “This is the most fun I have ever had in school.”

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Madison: During partner work time, one student looked at me and said, “I need a break.” I followed him out, talked to him for a bit, and after a few seconds of silence he rejoined the class. Sometimes everybody needs a little hallway thinking time.

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Janaye: At the end of the second day, a student I had been working with gave me a high five and said bye to me. This was only the third time I heard him talk in the two days so it meant a lot to me that he wanted to say bye.

Niki: Students absolutely loved the pirate theme classroom. Shout out to Dave Burgess and Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester. “Teach like a Pirate.”

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Mariah: Clinical was a blast and it was a glimpse into our futures as teachers because we did everything from planning to reflecting.

Laura: We ate lunch with our class and they LOVED it. They were begging us to eat with them again on Friday. One girl told me my hair looked like a tiger with stripes and that I should be their school mascot.

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Morgan: My group and I worked really hard. I kept thinking to myself, “I have three partners. How in the world does a teacher do all of this by him/herself?” There was no sitting or down time. We were always on the move.

Sarah: Our group worked really well together. When one person was getting stuck on explaining something we jumped in to help. Make sure you know where you are supposed to be and what time you’re supposed to be there. Whoops.

Blog clinical Sarah1

Taylor: At the end of the second day, a young girl came up to me and said “I just want you to know this is the first time I’ve ever had fun in school. I mean, I’ve had fun on field trips, but not in actual school.” Made all of the work/hours/time SO worth it.

Annie: As a Special Education major, I found a lot of value having this experience. It helped me understand the supports the students are receiving in the classroom. I worked closely with a student who was struggling with attention. I thought he would be ready to get back to his usual routine. When I asked him Friday, “Can you believe we’re done?” His response was, “I wish we weren’t.”

Blog clinical Annie

Congrats, teacher candidates! You all certainly practiced UN-usual teaching…clinical style! 🙂

As Shelley and Dave Burgess say in their book P is for PIRATE, “U is for UN. We need a lot more of this kind of “UN” in education.”

Teacher candidates…to quote the Burgesses, you were “unwavering in your commitment, unleashed in your creativity, uncommon in your methods, unbroken in your spirit, unmatched in your effort, uninhibited in your passion, unabashed in your enthusiasm, and uncompromising in your pursuit of excellence (Burgess, 2014).

Continue to excel!

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

March Madness Teaching Fun

Blog March STEM Madness

Photo Credit:

Q: What did the march say to all the madness?

A: What’s all that bracket? Ba-dum-bum-CHING 😀

March brings on the college basketball playoff madness. This grandma even filled out a bracket for the first time (which is doing horrible because I have a soft heart and went with most of the underdogs 😮 ).

A friend was telling me that all her family members fill out a bracket and she keeps track of the points earned. At the end of the March Madness, she buys a small gift for the winner. A gift such as a Subway Gift Certificate. She also shared that since she is the keeper of the brackets, she adds a little trash texting when she can. 🙂 Thank you, Judy, for the family fun idea. I have nothing to trash, which is making me down in the dumps.

My family decided to steal this idea and most members filled out their hopeful winning brackets. After Round 2 the grandchildren are in first place (Grandpa filled out a ‘chalk’ bracket for them), the daughter is in second, Grandpa is in third place, the son is in fourth, and I am dead last and fading fast.

I’ve learned a little math because of all this bracket business. I had no idea how to keep the points. The math hubby shared the Fibonacci Sequence and summed it up for me. Wow, who knew? Evidently, not me. If you aren’t sure what that is, click here to check it out, and consider it part of your new knowledge gleaned today. Math is fun.

My daughter shared that one year her bracket did terrible.  When I asked her why, her answer made me chuckle: “because I picked the teams based on their mascots. Whichever mascot would win in a fight against the other, then that was the team I picked. It was bad” (as she expected it to be). 😀  Well, fear not. There’s a classroom activity for that (click on the picture for more details)…March Mascot Madness.

Blog march mascot madness

Like the example above, teachers have an enjoyable time with March Madness. If you walk the hallways of schools you will likely see bulletin boards that have competitions going on for many subjects—picture book competitions, song competitions, physical education competitions, and even Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) competitions. You will see classrooms everywhere that are celebrating the basketball frenzy with their specific educational twists.

Even principals do innovative activities with this March Madness craze. Dr. Brad Gustafson, elementary principal in Wayzata, Minnesota, used the March Madness theme for his podcast last year. Check out one of his ‘edu-awesome’ March Madness podcasts below:

While perusing Pinterest, several fun March Teaching Madness ideas bounced out. Below are just a few of these activities. Click on all the pictures for the links to take you to a more detailed explanation of the idea.

March Door-Decorating Madness will create an inviting, welcoming atmosphere. Decorated doors help instill excitement into the learning.

Blog March Madness Door

March Reading Madness book tournaments are wonderful for any age. Use picture books for younger students or use classics for older students. A genre tournament would also be great in a Language Arts class or a Children’s Literature class. A tournament of books can be implemented in any classroom.

Blog March Reading Madness Championship

March Library Madness is another way to have a book tournament. Librarians like to add a little thrill when the students come visit the library, and kudos to these folks for scoring big with library time.

Blog March Library Madness

Mapping skills would be a great March Social Studies Madness activity. Many of the university locations are unknown to me so I’ve had to look them up. I discovered that Butler is in Indiana, and that Gonzaga is in Washington. In addition to math, I’ve learned a little social studies.

Blog March Social Studies Madness

March Science Madness could be something simple like an experiment that demonstrates potential energy (stored) and kinetic energy (moving) with discussion on momentum, speed, and mass. Energizing…

Blog March Science Madness

March STEM Madness brings on many activity choices. Science experiments, fractions in math, or engineering innovation, this link will fill the March STEM Madness gaps.

Blog march madness stem shoot

How do engineers play basketball? Check out the video below to find out. 😀

March Physical Education Madness will challenge the stamina of students and staff. I’ll be giving these exercises a try during the 3rd round. I hope it will work out.

Blog March PE Madness1

March Music Madness can include songs that are familiar to the students and they vote on their favorites. Or, if there is a genre that is being taught, have those songs on the bracket. Please note that the possibilities are endless.

Blog March Music Madness Spanish class

My bracket has Villanova winning the whole tournament. They lost on Saturday which busted my bracket to smithereens! 😮 If it weren’t for those Fibonacci points…I’d have no points at all. And that, dear friends, would be pointless.

Blog March Madness Loss

If you have any ‘edu-awesome’ March Madness ideas that you have used in your classroom or have seen in a school, PLEASE share in the comments so our teacher candidates can beg, borrow, and steal (tweak). 🙂 Bracketology…give it a shot (pardon all the puns 😀 ).

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