Haiku Pandemic Poetry

This is a special guest blog post by SMSU Adjunct Instructor, Ms. Deb Ahmann, who co-teaches ED 251 Child Growth and Development with Dr. Wendy. Ms. Ahmann’s teaching career has included a variety of locations (Buffalo Lake, Marshall, and Brainerd, Minnesota; Tempe and Florence, Arizona), a variety of ages (5th grade, junior high, senior high, college), a variety of adjunct positions (SMSU, SMU, and ASU), and a variety of disciplines (elementary ed, literature, language arts, AP, public speaking, education, and literacy). Oh – and don’t forget her direct impact specifically on Dr. V. as Ms. Ahmann was her Honors Research & Writing teacher in high school. 🙂

“Because I try to model a variety of class discussion techniques for the ED 251 students, we have utilized methods including small-group presentations, partnerships, debates, Q/A drawings, and poetic summaries. The haiku was used to summarize three chapters (five-syllable summary for the first chapter, seven for the next chapter, five for the final chapter). The students were then asked to write a haiku that reflected their feelings about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on education. Our ED 251 teacher candidates did a fabulous job on these Haiku Pandemic Poetry creations.” ~Ms. Deb Ahmann


Expect hard times to come

Be prepared to work for this

Good times are ahead

Kobe L.                                                                                


Distance learning now

Unsure of tomorrow’s fate

Still giving our best.

Rebecca H.


Distance can be bad,

Learning in new ways is fun,

Be very resilient.

Timothy R.


Madness all around

I don’t know how to do this

Hope it’s over soon

Danielle H.


The schools are empty.

Teachers nervous, kids confused

What is yet to come?

Taitum T.


This is a hard time

We are all learning together

We will get through this.

Morgan K.


Praise student effort

Encourage student learning

Show love with learning

Allison C.


Learning from afar

Social distancing the norm

In this together

Rachel K.


Students learn from home

Teachers must be flexible

We must do our part.

Mimi K.


Educate Online

Learning in the unknown world

You are not alone

MacKenzie D.


Read sad news daily

Taking long walks to kitchen

Missing family

Katie M.


At home and alone,

Students and teachers will work

To connect and learn.

Kendra J.


Difficult to learn.

Learning new things can be hard.

Use your time wisely.

Noah P.


Learning from afar

The future is yet unknown

We will get through this

Alyssa W.


Corona virus

Pandemic, please don’t panic

The end is in sight

Kayla B.


Sitting at home with

School work to do and nowhere

To go but at home

Erika B.


Essential working

Stuck at home with my kittens

Containing homework

Brianna D.


I really don’t like

Working from home all alone

COVID needs to go.

Allyson J. 


Teach yourself at home

Not sure when all this will end

We need to be strong

Carla R.

A huge appreciation shout out to our SMSU teacher candidates for sharing their hearts. Thank you! ❤ Stay healthy, everyone.

Stay Calm and Write a Poem!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.


Everyone Needs A “Shop”

My hubby is a skilled woodworker. He has built some gorgeous projects over the years. Ping Pong Tables, Cribs, Murphy Beds, TV Entertainment Centers. Amazing (startling impressive) stuff. Check out his chalkboard murphy bunk bed! 👇 Our grandkids LOVE it.

But…woodworking is not his profession. He actually works as a computer ‘architect’ or as we laypeople know it…a computer programmer/engineer.

Sometimes…this work fries his brain.

Think about it…we have issues with our computers and we go totally bonkers. We send in a loud, panicked SOS to our Tech department for help (thank you SMSU Tech folks for putting up with us ❤). My hubby is like the Tech department…kind of.

He writes programs using Java Language (and, no, he told me that does not mean coffee🤷‍☕). Then when there is a ‘bug’ in the program, he is called upon to figure it out and get rid of those bugs. He strains his brain. He stretches his debugging skills trying to figure out the problem until those skills almost snap.  🧨

Now and again, this debugging can take days, yes DAYS, to solve the issue. Nasty bugs!! 🕷 So…needless to say, when he comes home (well, now when he comes out of the home office since we are all working remotely 🙄) he is a tad bit stressed out. A tad bit mentally exhausted at the end of his work day.

His release??

He goes to his shop. That is where he builds things.  And that is where he ‘de-stresses.’

COVID 19 has a lot of folks stressing, including us. I’d say we are getting a little irritable around here. So how do we find balance in all this? How do we de-stress? My advice is…we all need our own “shop.” What is YOUR “shop?” What is it that you love to do? What is something that will help you let go of stress?

Some like to run, ride bike, or go for a walk (🙋 That’s me). Some may want to write a story, read a book, or listen to a podcast. Others may enjoy singing or dancing or just listening to their favorite tunes. Some might choose to draw, play games, watch a movie, or play an instrument like a guitar or piano. Maybe some want to learn a new skill like playing the ukulele. 🎻

Maybe someone needs to blow off steam by pounding the piano keys like Mr. Rogers did when he was frustrated, or maybe someone needs to go outside and whack a tennis ball against the garage door over and over (🙋 that used to be me when I was a kid).  

Minnesota was given a Stay Home Executive Order yesterday. Now more than ever…I ask you, what is YOUR “shop?” Find your “shop” and de-stress. ❤

Please share with us in the comments how you are de-stressing during this trying time.

Stay Calm and Find Your “Shop!”
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Virtual teaching SOS! – Part II 

Hello? Hello? Are you out there? Oh – now we can see you! Zoom. Just like that. We shared our part I of Virtual teaching SOS!  

Before going any further, take a breath and know that you can do this! Then, watch this Youtube video:  I Will Survive, Coronavirus version for teachers going online

 What to do now that you have taken a much needed deep breath? We want to share some incredible ideas with you as you charter these educational waters virtually. Tossing some lifesavers your way to help you and your learners navigate the virtual waters of learning. We asked our teacher educator colleagues from the SMSU School of Education and across campus to contribute resources to share out with you.  A quick shoutout to our talented SMSU colleagues for responding to our request: Drs. Rhonda Bonnstetter, Sarah Huseby, Kandy Noles Stevens, Frankie Albitz, Kris Cleveland, Debbie VanOverbeke … thank you for your efforts to support our teacher candidates and educators everywhere! 

Before checking out the list of resources, we want to share our support and thank all the healthcare and emergency workers on the front lines and all essential workers who cannot stay home with their families in order to care for the greater good. Thank you and our continued prayers go out for your safety!

What awesome ideas do you have to share? Please let us know! We need each other and our creative ideas now more than ever. Take care! 

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

Art Work:

No photo description available.

free online art lessons

Literacy & Teaching English as a Second Language:

This site is great for elementary teachers and reads books in English & 43 different languages!
This site, much like Rosetta Stone, teaches students new languages – set the language to English and our English learners can continue their language learning.
Great for a variety of subjects – and for our English learners with a primary language in Spanish, Kahn Academy in Spanish!
Great for a variety of subjects!  For English learners, use the English Language Arts tab.
A site that allows you to create quizzes – both for individual practice and for a game-like atmosphere. 

Variety of Ideas and Websites:

No photo description available.

Online Learning At Home

Image may contain: possible text that says 'HELP HAS ARRIVED makeameme.org'

Image may contain: people sitting and text

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Films and Videos:

Virtual Field Trips: 

National Parks

Movement and Phy Ed: 

Making Videos & Web Conferencing Tools: 

No photo description available.

Emotional Learning:


Additional links to even more resources… 

Universal Design for Learning:

UDL: http://udlguidelines.cast.org/?utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=none&utm_source=cast-about-udl

UDL Strategies: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/treatments-approaches/educational-strategies/5-examples-of-universal-design-for-learning-in-the-classroom

CAST UDL Resources: 


Tom Foley, SMSU Alumnus – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1UAvlVkmRvL5LllSw1XIpLRX2ubxAk2CIN1h2MWLuiik/edit#gid=623973979

Kandy Noles Stevens, ABD – Online Resources.docx

Need more? Check out this amazing list of educational resources… http://www.amazingeducationalresources.com/

Need even more resources? Additional resources are available at the bottom of the MN Learning Commons page: https://ccaps.umn.edu/minnesota-learning-commons/educator-resources as well as at Minnesota State: https://careerwise.minnstate.edu/education/onlineresources.html

Detailed Google doc, written by Jenae Cohn and Beth Seltzer:https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ccsudB2vwZ_GJYoKlFzGbtnmftGcXwCIwxzf-jkkoCU/preview

Going Online in a Hurry: What to Do and Where to Start: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Going-Online-in-a-Hurry-What/248207

Please do a bad job of putting your courses online: https://anygoodthing.com/2020/03/12/please-do-a-bad-job-of-putting-your-courses-online/?fbclid=IwAR1KYrnmEX2-Hk-NR9jIJH_ygG5lA_tJFgUCt0M18VJtpj_ltHEqRD_cS9E

Project-Based Learning: https://www.pblworks.org/what-is-pbl

Differentiated Instruction: https://www.slideshare.net/edutopia/teacher-tested-strategies-for-differentiated-instruction

Center on Online Learning and Students with disabilities: 

AMTE Webinars

Virtual Teaching SOS!

Blog sos life saver

Virtual teaching SOS! What to do? Educators, are you wondering what to do in these unprecedented times? We are too so we want to share some ideas with you as you charter these educational waters virtually. Tossing some lifesavers your way to help you and your learners navigate. We asked our teacher educator colleagues to contribute some resources to share out with you. Stay tuned for these fabulous ideas that will be posted later this week! For now, here are a few ideas and our own stories of this experience to share with you.

Legos®…who doesn’t enjoy playing with Legos®? Wendy’s grandson was given these Lego® ideas from his teacher. Look at what he created. Future engineer. 👏🏼  He sent it to his teacher using SeeSaw and she commented on it. So awesome.  Alright Vierstraete boys…challenge is on. Can you create something bigger and better than what my 8-year-old grandson did??? 😃

Meanwhile on the shores of Chez Vierstraete, we are continuing to focus on social distancing and doing our part… and apparently the only and meanest parents on Earth doing this. Attempting to structure the day while we wait for virtual school to resume on March 30th. Day 1 – We are focusing on the small stuff. Be active, take care of Stella (the family St. Bernard), and read with hopes of taking a virtual field trip later today if we survive our time isolated together. We might work up to the Legos® challenge tomorrow? 😉

Blog Stella 1

In all seriousness, this is needed, and we do support and thank all the healthcare workers on the front lines and all workers who cannot stay home with their families in order to care for the greater good. Thank you and our prayers go out for you.

So…educators (which is really all of us)- what awesome ideas do you have to share? Please let us know in the comments! We need each other and our creative ideas now more than ever. Take care!

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

The Power of Feedback

Blog Feed back matters

As spring break rolls around, many of our methods teacher candidates will embark on their pre-student teaching experience – 10 days in a classroom writing lessons, teaching them, and assessing student learning, all under the lead of a classroom mentor teacher and a university supervisor. They will receive feedback on their performance in the classroom…and sometimes it can be hard to hear! Licensed teachers also have classroom observations completed by their administrators, and possibly their peers, and will receive feedback from them on ways to improve their teaching. No matter how long you’ve taught, we all have areas where we can improve! So how can we learn to take the ‘sting’ out of feedback and use it to grow as a reflective practitioner? Here are some ideas from Chapter 6 in Powerful Teaching:

Uh-oh, it’s time for ‘feedback’. Here’s how to listen to constructive criticism-and use it to your advantage.  The following ideas have been adapted from “Uh-Oh, Your Boss Has “Feedback” in Glamour magazine, March 2014, p. 240, by Anna Maltby.

Having ‘the talk’ with your mentor teacher may send shivers down your spine, but here’s a secret: Research shows that people who are open to feedback adapt faster to changing roles and have more job satisfaction. “Someone who asks what they could be doing better appears more self-assured and open”, says Sheila Horn. “They seem committed to doing good work, which is good for anyone’s reputation.”

Of course, sometimes the feedback isn’t what you want to hear. Here are tips for dealing with feedback in a positive way.

1.) Know what kind of feedback, you’re getting. There are three types:

  1. Appreciation ( I noticed what you do in the classroom and I value your work);
  2. Coaching (here’s what you could be doing better in your teaching);
  3. Evaluation (here’s where you stand).

Most day-to-day feedback falls in the coaching category, but many people interpret those comments as a bigger-picture evaluation (your mentor teacher says ‘this part of your lesson plan needs work’ and you think it means ‘I am never going to pass this lab’), leaving you with the feeling that one mistake will be a career ender. Note to self: It’s not!

2.) Press ‘pause’ on your reaction.  Negative feedback can sting, so your first instinct may be to look for ways that the feedback from your mentor teacher is wrong. Instead, take a deep breath and try to understand what your mentor is saying. One place to start – ask for clarification of generalizations. “You’re unprofessional” may be about how you are dressed or about how long you are taking for lunch. Rather than moving directly to panic-mode, get specifics.

3.) Make sure you understand the next step. To use feedback to your advantage, think to yourself, “Do I know what to do in order to follow my mentor’s advice?”  In other words, ask what you have been doing that hasn’t been working and what you should do differently in the future. Find out exactly what the mentor is looking for and if possible, whether there is an example of this that is done very well. You’ll want next steps with positive feedback as well, so if at your next review your mentor says you’ve been doing a great job, ask about additional responsibilities you could take on in the classroom that would help you grow.

4.) Don’t supersize it.  If someone says something negative about us, we take it to mean that they think everything about us is bad. The feedback you’re getting is probably about a specific action or a specific time, it doesn’t mean that your mentor thinks you’re a terrible teacher. Take a breath and listen carefully.

Maltby, A. (March 2014). Uh-oh, your boss has “feedback”. Glamour, 240.

Stay Calm and Know Feedback Matters!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

(This is an excerpt from Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter’s POWERFUL F Chapter in our book POWERFUL Teaching co-authored by Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester, Dr. Sonya Vierstraete, Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, and Dr. Mary Risacher. The book is available at Kendall-Hunt Publishing: https://he.kendallhunt.com/product/powerful-teaching).

Blog Powerful Teaching book

🚉 Railroad to Heaven 🚉

Blog Pic Railroad to Heaven

This is a true story taken from the 1894 edition of “Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer.” As you’ll see, this wonderful story seems to speak to adults as well as to children. It’s easy to see why Jesus urged the disciples to “Permit the little children to come to Me… (Luke 18:16)

The story has been altered in honor of Wendy’s cousin, Greg Sherve, Engineer for BNSF Railroad, who died unexpectedly a few days ago from a massive heart attack, massive stroke, and torn aorta at the young age of 60. 

This story will be given to Greg’s grandson, Marcus. The link to the full, unaltered story is below:

The train was going west, and it was evening. At a station, a little boy  who was young in age came aboard, carrying a little pillow under his arm. He came into the car and quickly took a seat. He then began to study each face, but all were strange to him. He appeared weary, and using his pillow, he laid down on the seat to try to get a little sleep.

Soon the conductor came along collecting tickets and fare. Observing him, the little boy asked if he could lie there. The gentle conductor replied that he could, and then kindly asked for his ticket. The little boy informed him that he didn’t have one, and the following conversation took place:

“Where are you going?” asked the conductor.

“I’m going to heaven,” the little boy answered.

“Who’s paying your fare?” the conductor questioned.

He said, “Mister, does this railroad lead to heaven, and does Jesus travel on it?”

“I don’t think so,” the conductor answered. “Why did you think that?”

“Why, sir, before my Grandpa died, he used to sing to me about a heavenly railroad, and you looked so nice and kind that I thought this was that railroad. My Grandpa used to sing about Jesus on the heavenly railroad, and that Jesus paid the fare for everybody, and that the train stopped at every station to take people on board. My Grandpa don’t sing to me anymore. Nobody sings to me now, and I thought I’d take the train and go see my Grandpa. Mister, do you sing to your little girl about the railroad that goes to heaven? You have a little girl, don’t you?”

With tears in his eyes, the conductor replied, “No, dear child, I have no little girl now. I had one once, but she died some time ago and went to heaven.”

“Did she get there on this railroad, and are you going to see her now?” the little boy inquired.

Addressing himself once more to the conductor, he asked him, “Do you love Jesus? I do, and if you love Him, He will let you ride to heaven on His railroad. I’m going there, and I wish you would go with me. I know Jesus will let me into heaven when I get there, and He will let you in too and everybody that will ride on His railroad – yes, all these people. Wouldn’t you like to see heaven, and Jesus, and your little girl?”

These words, so innocently uttered, brought a great gush of tears from all who were on that train, but most profusely from the eyes of the conductor.

The little boy now asked the conductor, “Mister, may I lie here until we get to heaven?”

“Yes, little one, yes,” he answered.

“Will you wake me up when we get there so that I can see my Grandpa, and your little girl, and Jesus?” he asked. “I so much want to see them all.”

The conductor’s answer came in broken phrases, but in words very tenderly spoken, “Yes, little angel, yes. God bless you.”

Turning his eyes once more upon the conductor, he questioned him again, “What should I tell your little girl when I see her? Should I tell her that I saw her daddy on Jesus’ railroad? Should I?”

This brought a fresh flood of tears from all present, and the conductor knelt by the little boy’s side and, embracing him, wept the reply he could not utter. At this point the brakeman called out the name of another station… (To read the ‘unaltered’ story Click here).

While so many hearts are sad because my cousin Greg is gone, I believe he was a brave engineer and took that Railroad to Heaven. Now that Greg is there…

🎶 he has met the superintendent, God the Father, God the Son. And with a hearty joyous greeting, Jesus said, weary pilgrim, welcome home. 🎶

Life is like a mountain railway with an engineer that’s brave. We must make the run successful from the cradle to the grave.

Watch for curves and hills and valleys. Never falter, never fail. Keep your hand upon the throttle and your eye upon the rail.

Stay Calm and Love Your Cousins!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.



Our Favorite Things

Blog favorite things

Grrr…I forgot to do my online discussion post.

That math quiz was so hard!

I’m still not feeling well so I can’t get to class.

How do I upload my edTPA video?

When will you have that assignment corrected?

I’m snowed in and can’t make the drive to campus.

How many lesson plans do we have to write?

Where do I put this on Live Text?

 I’m just not sure I can do this!

What do you do when frustration and worry, stress and unhappiness slam against your heart and soul? Do you pull the blankets up over your head and try to hide from the loud thunder?

Some days can feel like a blustery storm, can’t they?  Sometimes the turbulence of day-to-day challenges just makes us want to have a good cry.

Maria, the main character played by Julie Andrews in the movie, The Sound of Music, has some sound advice for us on those turbulent days. She advises…

“When anything bothers me and I’m feeling unhappy, I just try to think of nice things.”

Ahh…nice things. Favorite things. Think about such things. Maria sings about some of her favorite things like raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Girls in white dresses and blue satin sashes, snowflakes that stay on her nose and eye lashes.

I asked our teacher candidates to share a few of their favorite things with me. Below are their answers along with mine. Let’s sing it together… 🎶

Maddy:                Softball and family, spaghetti and puppies

Tiahna:                 Family and friends, dogs and good movies

Wendy:                Hugs from the grandkids, the joy that this brings

                                These are a few of our favorite things.

Mary:                    Chocolate, alfalfa sprouts, gyros and red wine

Wendy:                 Hugs from the grandkids and morning devotions time

Wendy:                Geese in formation, the porch swing in spring

                                These are a few of our favorite things

All:                         When the work bites, when edTPA stings

                                When we’re feeling sad

                                We simply remember our favorite things

                                And then we don’t feel so bad.

When the lightening in life says something to our thunderous life challenges, and the thunder answers back and it makes us scared and sad…simply remember our favorite things, and we won’t feel so bad. 😊🤗

Stay Calm and Think of Your Favorite Things!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.


“I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we’re all teachers – if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door.” ~ Marla Gibbs

Blog everyone

Everyone.  It takes a village, right?  You bet it does. It takes everyone. Every single one of us. Everybody.

In Everybody Always, author Bob Goff shares that we cannot love the people who we do not know.  We need to get to know each other. As educators, our job is to get to know the learners counting on us.  “When joy is a habit, love is the reflex” (p.21). I used to tell my students that they did not need to love everyone, but that they needed to respect and be friendly to everyone.  Maybe it is more than that? Maybe we do need to believe and model for our students to get to know and love everyone.  Can you imagine what this world would be like if we did more than attempt to respect others?  What if we lived in a world where we respected and loved everyone? Everybody.

When we watch a team compete, we see successful teams count on everyone.  Each team member has a role to play no matter how big or small.  Coaches guide team members to work together.  Likewise is true for teachers in the classroom.  We are preparing students for a social world.  We integrate collaborative learning in many lessons, and guide our students to learn the art of collaboration and being part of a team, something bigger than ourselves.  As Babe Ruth once expressed, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

Blog Everyeone TEAM

We need to understand and truly believe how we are all important members of a team, our team. As John Maxwell states, “We behave in light of our beliefs. If you don’t like people or don’t believe in them, you won’t be able to fake it…If you desire to add value to people, then you need to value them first” (2004, p.104). We need to be authentic in our relationships with everyone: students who are in general education or students who are in special education, students who are English proficient or students who are English learners, students who are big or students who are small… “Students thrive when they learn together and construct their learning  in an inclusive classroom where everyone’s thoughts are heard, valued, and respected” (Dennis, Holmes, & Smith, 2015, p. 204). We need to add value to people.

Each day… show up… add value to those around us and to the work that we do together. As Thomas Jefferson shared, “A candle loses nothing when it lights another candle.” This is true for us in education.  Be the candle to help light up the world for everyone. Help light the path. Listen and learn about others and their stories.

As humans we are natural storytellers. We weave narrative into nearly every relationship  we build and value. …Regardless of age or status, if you’re not satisfied with the path you’re on, it’s time to rewrite your future. Your life should be a story you are excited to tell. …It requires strength of imagination. It relies on that ability we each possess to suspend belief in the restraints of today to enable the possibilities of tomorrow. Most of all…each morning that we make a choice to bring positivity or negativity into the world, and that with every single person there lies an extraordinary story waiting to unfold. Braun, 2014, p.250-251)

We write our story together.  Are we listening to what we all have to say? How can we start to share our stories and to really listen to one another?

Blog everyone Story

“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” ~Mattie Stepanek

Blog everyone Unity

Stay Calm and Love Everyone!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

(This is an excerpt from the POWERFUL E Chapter in our book POWERFUL Teaching co-authored by Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester, Dr. Sonya Vierstraete, Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, and Dr. Mary Risacher. The book is available at Kendall-Hunt Publishing: https://he.kendallhunt.com/product/powerful-teaching).

The Storm Only Lasts For A While So Smile

Blog Mental Health storms

It’s no secret that our SMSU teacher candidates work their tails off during their junior methods year. In addition to their outside jobs and lives and losses, they are juggling at least three methods courses per semester plus trying to fulfill 45 + hours of field experience each semester.

Just typing that made me want to crawl back into bed and slumber for a little bit longer.

Last Tuesday during my Social Studies Methods class, the teacher candidates seemed lethargic. I asked if they were tired and the majority of the class shook their heads yes or quietly verbalized they were. Please understand, this group of candidates does not complain so I knew it was sincere exhaustion they were feeling. Unfortunately, last week was only week two of our spring semester. Goodness gracious.

I was thankful I had planned a Mental Health Check activity for my two sections that morning so I could demonstrate for the teacher candidates how they might check in on THEIR future students’ mental health. Clearly, my teacher candidates needed checking in on too!! (I tweaked this from an idea I found on Pinterest. Click on the picture below to read more about it).

Blog Mental Health

I gave each teacher candidate a sticky note and had them write their name on the backside so their name would be hidden when stuck on the chalkboard (yes, chalkboards still exist). The columns I placed on the chalkboard looked a little like this:

I’m Great!     I’m Okay!     I’m So-So!     I’m Struggling!     Help Me!

After all sticky notes were on the chalkboard under one of those labels, I had five (5) sticky notes in the “I’m Struggling” column and one (1) in the “Help Me” column. When class was over, I headed to my office computer and sent out an email to each of those individuals to ask how I could help. Below is a picture of the email I sent along with a picture of a response email from one of my struggling teacher candidates.

Blog Mental Health Email2

Blog mental Health email

While walking this morning, I heard this song by Sidewalk Prophets on the radio and it made me think of you, teacher candidates. ❤🙌  The lyrics are spot on and meant for you…

Lost your way, lost your cool
Then you straight up lost your mind
Tried so hard to stay ahead
But you keep falling behind

Life is gonna pull you down
Make it hard to see
But a little change in your point of view
Could be just what you need

There’s always a reason
To always choose joy
There’s something deeper
That the world can’t destroy

Smile, when you think you can’t
Smile, get up and dance
Smile, there’s a bigger plan
The storm only lasts for a while

So smile

As you go forward in your teacher preparation training remember the storm of your assignments, clinical, driving time, field experience hours, research papers, edTPA, presentations, class attendance, meetings and so on…. only lasts for a while. So SMILE.

Once you have your program completed, that isn’t a guarantee the skies will always be blue and all storms will fade away. Your student teaching experience and then teaching in your own classroom will not be stormless. Storms or hardships will always be brewing on the horizon.

You’ll be okay, though. Storms produce perseverance; perseverance produces character; character produces hope. So…when those teaching storms hit…

Smile, get up and dance
Smile, there’s a bigger plan
The storm only lasts for a while

So smile (and never give up hope)

Stay Calm and SMILE!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.


Blog laughter Lucy

One of our teacher candidates was teaching in an elementary classroom for one of his field experiences and shared this story with me.  Visualize with me this 6 foot 6 inches tall, 295 pound young SMSU college football player working with pintsize first graders.  Those tiny children had to tilt their heads all the way back to look up at him. While standing by the desk of a first grade girl, Mr. Brown was assisting her with her work.  She needed to ask for his help so she cranked her head way back and looked straight up at him.

She paused. She became a tad bit distracted by what she saw so instead of asking her question, in all seriousness, she whispered, “Mr. Brownie, you have boogers in your nose.”

Out of the mouths of babes…children say hilarious things that make us want to laugh out loud. So, please, by all means…go ahead. Laugh. Giggle. Snort if you must. Laugh. Laugh a lot every single day.

Blog laughter emoji snort

As educators, we are interacting with others all day long. We are with our colleagues, but most importantly, we are with our students. Be joyful! Be quick to share your enjoyment of life. Try hard to be thankful in all circumstances. By doing so, you will enhance the joy and laughter of those young people in your schools. What a powerful way to make this world a better place.

A retired teacher told a story about a day he had been in the hallway supervising students before they came into his room. He stopped to grab a drink at the water fountain on the way in. A student had put a piece of gum over the water spout, sending the spray directly onto the front of his pants. Yikes!

He had a choice to make about how to handle that. He dried himself off as best he could with paper towels in the restroom nearby, and then went into class. Rather than try to hide behind a desk/podium and ignore it, he immediately pointed it out to the class, noting “Some dirty bird put gum on the water fountain! And it got me good!” Laughter echoed throughout the classroom.

By making a joke out of it and addressing it right away, it cleared the air, and class went on as usual. Had he tried to hide it, it would likely have been a distraction for the entire class time.

The moral of that story…we get to choose our response to life’s experiences – yell, cry, or laugh. Find gratitude in your situations. Choose laughter…it is the best medicine.

Shawn was a brand new teacher hired a few months into the year because of a large 4th grade class. She held class in the library until a classroom was cleared out for her. Students were packed into the library like sardines, and their coats and backpacks had to hang on the back of their chairs while they waited for lockers. This did not deter Shawn’s ability to ‘bring it’ during her lessons.

The principal scheduled Shawn’s first observation with her and while he watched her do her magic, Shawn’s foot got caught on one of the student’s backpacks causing her to fall, face first, to the floor. Her students looked on in shock. When she stood up, she calmly commented, “Good thing I didn’t wear a dress today,” and went about teaching. Her students laughed, her principal laughed, and life went on.

I guarantee that you will have those embarrassing moments during your careers as educators. It is a-okay! It’s okay to laugh at ourselves in spite of ourselves. And, it’s okay to laugh with your students as often as you can. Laughter is contagious.

I remember one year, I had a student who made me laugh so hard I had a difficult time regaining my composure the rest of the day. Hopefully, you’ll find this funny. Maybe it’s one of those stories where ‘you had to be there.’

Here it goes:  The class was discussing foods that were traditional in their families around the holiday season.  The students would tell me about the food and where it originally came from.  For example, one student asked if any of us had ever had lefsa. Several had and others had not.  He told us he was Norwegian so I asked him where lefsa came from. He said Norway. Nice work.

A different student shared that her family makes ‘ole ballin’ which is a Dutch treat similar to a donut hole. I asked her where that came from and she said the Netherlands. Excellent!

Another fifth grader shared that his family makes baklava, which I had never heard of. I learned from this student that this is a sweet treat, and when I asked where it came from, he replied Lebanon. Wonderful!

Wade, who was sitting in the fifth row and the last desk, was bouncing up and down off of his chair, frantically waving his hand for a turn. I called on him to see what food was traditional in his family.  He excitedly said, “Anise candy.” Because I love this candy, I was excited to learn where it came from. So I inquired,

“Oh yum…I love anise candy, Wade. Where does that come from?”

In all his fifth grade seriousness, he replied, “The bakery.” BAHAHAHA. 😂

I lost it. I busted out into laughter, tears and all, which caused the whole class to chuckle.  Throughout the day, I would get the giggles because of that one little innocent comment, and when I did, those fifth graders laughed right along with me.

This last story comes from a preschool teacher whose name is Cat, who was a teacher candidate in many of my university courses. A few years ago, she was doing her student teaching in a 6th grade classroom. She had a habit of winking at people. It was one way for her to show others and her students she cared about them. Well, she found out that 6th graders have a different perspective of winking.

One day while she and her students were having a discussion, she smiled and winked at one of her 6th grade boys. Without missing a beat, this 6th grade boy blurted out in front of the whole class, “You want me, don’t you?” Cat did what we all should do…she snickered at his joke, then clearly stated that she wanted him to keep working hard.

When you begin your career in the best profession on earth, you will have many humorous moments with your students and those you work with. May I suggest you write these moments down then put them in a book? I’ll be the first to buy it because I love a hilarious, rib-tickling school story.

Children do say the silliest things so laugh a lot with each other. Enjoy their innocent sense of humor. Life is just so much better when you are filled with laughter and joy.

Blog Laughter Tyus

Stay Calm and Laugh Lots!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

(This is an excerpt from the book POWERFUL Teaching co-authored by Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester, Dr. Sonya Vierstraete, Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, and Dr. Mary Risacher. The book is available for purchase at Kendall-Hunt Publishing, https://he.kendallhunt.com/product/powerful-teaching).