Tag Archives: #backtoschool

Everything I Need to Know I Learned on Sabbatical

You may have heard the phrase… “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.”  It was true… until my sabbatical.  What is a sabbatical you may be asking?  It is a time to reflect, a time to renew, a time to reenergize, and a time to start fresh…
Some spend time during sabbatical researching, writing books, focusing on different work, and/or relaxing on location.  It provides an opportunity to try something new and to stretch professionally in ways that have been imagined during stressful days…or unimagined.  My imagination originally directed me toward writing a book and relaxing. At least that was what I imagined when my sabbatical seemed far off.   As my sabbatical began approaching my imagination had a new image in mind, which would require an intense amount of time, energy, and emotion. You see my sabbatical experience took on a life of its own in a PK-2 school teaching English learners full-time.  Yes, that’s right – full-time.  I became a teacher, a caretaker, an advocate, …  full-time.  There were days that I laughed so much my cheeks hurt.  There were days that I cried so much my eyes hurt.  I became 100% invested in my opportunity to change lives.  I thank my colleagues for allowing me to step away from my position on campus to walk in the shoes of an EL teacher.

What did I learn from my experience?  Well, some of you have been reading updates of my adventures throughout the past few months and want to know – so here goes:

Teaching strategies…sure
Implementing best practices…you bet
Assessments and data mining…check

But there really is so much more…

*Life is bigger than any one person or job.

*Giving to others fills up the soul with joy and sparkles and feelings of nice.

*Learning English can be fun!

*Go on a letter hunt instead of a bear hunt!

*Be kind.  Everyone has struggles.  Don’t judge theirs…it’s not your job or mine.

*Work hard, play hard.  Enjoy life and work.

*Be with family no matter what you are doing.


*Not to clean the house sometimes when it is important and to clean it when it is important and to know the difference.  If that doesn’t make sense, it may someday.

*Rest does not necessarily happen on the couch or with a nap.  Energize the soul to feel rested.

*Incremental rehearsal works.

*Take risks – appropriately of course.

*SIOP is for all teachers and learners.

*Don’t be late to the teachers’ lounge on sunshine treat days… you will never get it back.
This is a lesson learned long ago but needed to be revisited.

*Candy is still a tactful way to bribe learners to do their best – whether youth or adults.

*Keep learning, trying, and growing. Stay curious.


*Field trips are exciting at any age.

*Learn another language – and keep using it.

*Observations do not have to be scary when you are in it to grow and be better than you were before.

*Teaching is more than what the written curriculum is and what the lesson plans say… it is about caring and sometimes saving.

*Forget the small stuff – even though it may feel big sometimes. Learn to let go.

*If I have the necessities and the greatest gift, love, I have all things.

*Professional Development should be lifelong.  Never stop learning.


*Snow days are nature’s way of giving us a break from the pressure. Still love them at my age!


*Sometimes kids need a hug.  Sometimes kids need clothes.  Sometimes kids need food.

*Do not be an island.

*Learn about someone else.  Take a sincere interest to learn about him or her – culture, religion, language, …favorite color.


*Culturally responsive teaching makes a difference.

*Brain breaks and a little dancing can do us all some good. Just move it!


*Missing addends are important to know but learning manners trumps that. Please and thank you can make all the difference.

*Food on the table each day for each student is not always a true statement.

*Hugs and smiles can fix tons and keep the world going around.

*Be flexible…things may change and that is a constant.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect to be great as long as “I do my best” in the words of a certain kindergarten teacher at Park Side. 🙂

*Be humble and kind.

*Be passionate and positive, not stressed and negative. Change will happen either way.

*Just like the saying, “Students will never care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

I was truly humbled by my sabbatical experience.  I taught children. They are smart. They are bright. They are kind. They want to learn and grow. They happen to be learning English as an additional language to their native tongue. They taught me just as much as I taught them – if not more.

Some of these children had food.  Some of these children did not.  Some of these children had a fresh change of clothing.  Some of these children did not. Some of these children received hugs at home. Some of these children did not. Each day I gave what I could to these children – from the alphabet and numbers to a bag of food and clothes.  I consider all of these children “my kids.”  My own children at home have learned as much as I have during this sabbatical experience about giving to others and resigning from judgment of others.  All of these children have a special place in my heart for the lessons they have taught me.

My goals were so grand in my sabbatical plan…
but I learned so much more than any plan I could create.

Some One must have had this plan for me…
Live – Laugh – Love – repeat… and to share this wise advice with others.

Helping children in need doesn’t have to happen across the globe.
It can happen right here, right now.

During my sabbatical experience, I was often smiling at all the possibilities there were to help others.  I hope to take this – along with all the lessons learned – to campus with me as I return to teach and guide the next generation of teachers.  No pressure but the world is counting on them.


A special thank you goes out to Ms. Prior for creating the video and teaching me a thing or two while I mentored her during student teaching. Good luck in your new position as an EL teacher. Take care of “our” kids.

Stay Calm & Live Life, Laugh Often, Love Much!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.



Teaching 101

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

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 d
So what is new or what is important to renew in the teacher toolkit? LOTS! You may find blog posts this fall to read somewhat like a journal entry in the life of a new teacher. 😉

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

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

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 a

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

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101

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

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

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 P

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

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 G
Thanks to Principal Darci Love for sharing “Great Teachers….” with me this week.

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

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 F

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

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 S

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

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 c

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

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

From Summer Daze to School Days

So it’s true! We are head-over-tail in love with school! Literally! As a new school year gets underway, we are ready to learn – and to play! Meet this furry student, Stella. She is the newest member of class. The boys are her BFFs – also heading into another year of learning!

Meet Stella
                            Meet Stella
BLOG boys to school
                           Stella’s BFFs

Transitioning from summer to school can be tough. Even with the excitement of a new year, it can leave us out of sorts as we start a “regular” schedule and get back into the routine of school.

Here are some helpful tips to get us on the right track! This is for students, parents, furry friends, and maybe even professors as we head back to school. 🙂
Stella and her pals – human and furry – are sharing advice for school success.

First the basics…

*Be sure to think about looking your best. It can help you act your best. First impressions are important in this world of ours – so aim to make your first impression your best.

Bathe regularly :)
         Bathe regularly 🙂

*Drink lots of water. It is important for our brains to stay hydrated as we try to learn and understand new concepts.

BLOG dogs in the pool   BLOG dogs water    BLOG kids in the pool

*Get enough exercise. We need to be physically active to help our brains.

Walk & Talk - check!
                           Walk & Talk – check!

*Get some rest! The change in routine can wear on us so we need to establish an earlier bedtime and be consistent with it.


Once you have that down-pat, move on down the list to more advanced advice…

*Be comfortable with who you are. Don’t try to be anyone else but yourself. You are the best at being you. So Relax – you’ve got this!

Just chillin'
                   Just chillin’                     Stella gets “being herself” confused with her nap time it seems.

*Find a friend to talk to and share about your day. It’s important to be brave, but it’s also important to just “get it out of your system” with a friend.

This is how the story goes...
              This is how the story goes…

*Find something that you like and stick with it. The world will push and pull you in many directions; as it aims to shape you, stick with your favorites even with pressure to change. It may not make sense to other, but if it works for you, stay the course.

I wonder if they will notice if I take this gem for a cruise...????
I wonder if they will notice if I take this gem for a cruise…????  They keep telling me no, but I won’t give up trying…

*Play nicely with others. Enough said.

If Garfield and Ode can do it, why can't we?
If Garfield and Ode can be friends, why can’t we?

*Don’t forget to read – for learning and for enjoyment.

BLOG Jackson reading to Stella         BLOG Jonah reading to Stella          BLOG JR reading to Stella

*Take on a new challenge. Go for it. We dare you. If you aren’t learning and growing and stumbling along the way, the journey just isn’t the same. Make it worth it!

College life!
Katie at college! No puppies allowed though so we are sending out love the distance to her!

*Get your priorities set – include time to work and time to play. We aren’t mental health professionals, but we do know that all work and no play can leave us exhausted and without purpose.

BLOG JR swing       BLOG girls fun      BLOG doggie friend

*When you go out in the world, find a buddy. Life isn’t as scary with a buddy by your side to take on the challenges that lie ahead.

BLOG doggies
                             I’ve got you!
Woof! Woof!
              Woof! Woof!

Sounds like common sense, right? Even if it doesn’t, we are firm believers that even old dogs can be taught new tricks! Stella is excited to formally start doggie school next week… stay tuned for an update on her formal schooling experience. Wondering if they will be using 21st century teaching and learning strategies and integrate technology….hmmm….?

Enjoy the school year! Bark on! 🙂

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

Cheers to Launching a Great School Year


 blog balloonblog balloon2 

We observed our first hot air balloon launch last weekend, and one word that best describes it is…spectacular. Balloons clumsily bumping into each other as they first took flight and then soaring into serenity…lovely. It was a hectic launch that led to a peaceful flight.

This scenario reminds us of when we taught elementary school age children, and we would have our Christmas program practices. These practices always seemed chaotic, unruly, and left us with the feeling that the kids would not be ready when it was the real deal. When the evening of the program arrived, we were always apprehensive about whether or not it would go on without a hitch. It always did! The students made us so proud. Like the balloon launch, the Christmas program was a hectic launch that led to a peaceful flight. Kind of like the beginning of the school year, wouldn’t you agree?

The balloon launch and all the steps the pilots were required to take were similar to steps educators have to take to start their year (or start a Christmas program 🙂 ). Below are our ideas for you to have a peaceful flight this year. And as the last step suggests…cheers to launching a great school year! 🙂

Preflight Preparation: The pilots must stay informed about wind and weather conditions prior to flying. Helium-filled balloons were being sent into the air every few minutes to check wind direction. Educators need to make sure the conditions are just right in their buildings before the students get there. (So make sure the A/C is cranked…or fans are on for those poor souls without A/C.)

Lead Balloonist: (By the way…be sure to read that heading correctly or the balloon won’t fly.) This balloonist was marking the target for all the rest. Once his burner was lit, then all other balloonists could begin to inflate their balloons with air. Educators are the leaders and set the tone for the rest of the year by being passionate, positive, and enthusiastic. Once these traits are accomplished, all others will begin their year on the same note.

Take Off: When those hot air balloons took off, we were a bit skeptical. Some bumped into each other. Others took a little longer, and we thought the burners would burn the material of other balloonists. Not so. Even though the takeoff was a bit hectic, once those balloons all rose into the air, it was a spectacular view. The school year may take off a little chaotic, however, remember that once you get going and get those around you fired up to be there, the view will be remarkable.

Chase Crew: Once those balloons were up in the air, vehicles were leaving the launch site left and right. These folks in the vans and pickups and trucks were the chase crew. They stay in contact with the pilot of the air balloon and followed the path of the balloon. They make sure that the landing area is okay, and then once the balloon has landed, the chase crew helps the pilot with all chores. The pilot may get the glory, but without the chase crew there would most likely be no flight. The leaders of the school may get all the glory of what’s happening, but without the students, teachers, and support staff, there is no school.

Landing: Hot air balloon pilots land their balloons in a safe place with little wind and few obstacles. Sometimes the basket may tip over when landing. Once the school year is over and the educators have landed another year, sometimes there may be a few rough spots along the way, however, generally, the landing ends up with all stakeholders moving forward with a sense of accomplishment.

Toasting: After safely landing the hot air balloon, it is a tradition for balloon pilots to recite the Balloonist’s Blessing with a champagne toast. At the end of your first day, first week, or first year, start a new tradition in your building and make a toast to a great school year – the people, the places, and the possibilities. Thanks President Gores for those words! 🙂

Whether your school year starts out hectic and bumpy or calm and smooth, we wish for you a peaceful flight this year!

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



Rev Up Your Year – Full Throttle Ahead

Google Images
Google Images

An indication that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is coming to a close is when you see packs of motorcycles heading east on Interstate 90 in South Dakota. I actually just witnessed that scenario the other day while driving the car to Sioux Falls. I thought to myself “huh, they are all going the wrong way…must be over.”

Sturgis, South Dakota, with a measly population of 6,600, grows exponentially usually the first week in August, sometimes topping 500,000 people. Individuals from all walks of life ride their bikes out to Sturgis to check out the festivities. (Some people haul their bikes out on trailers then ride when they get there…does that count?). 😉  I know a family from the Sturgis area that rents their home out to a doctor from New York during the week of the bike rally and this family gets an astronomical amount of money for that week. Wow…things that make you go ‘hmmm.’ 🙂

Have you ever been to Sturgis? I have. Just passed through so I can say I’ve been there. That brief time was enough for me, though. Maybe you are one who stays for the whole week. If you are that person, then you know you are ‘revved’ up to get to Sturgis and you go ‘full throttle ahead’ to get there.

Doesn’t that paint a picture of what the beginning of the school year is like? Whether you are a teacher or a principal, aren’t you ‘revved up’ to get started and you go “full throttle ahead’ to get ready for the school year? I know I do. Every year is that way for me. A new beginning is always exciting and I actually enjoy the preparation.

Below are some ways that will rev you up to get your new school year going full throttle ahead:

  • Personal Space – Just like your motorcycle is your personal space, how will you arrange and organize your personal space at school? How will you polish and shine what is yours to make it stand out above all others? Where would you like your desk? Where would you like your materials? Others’ materials? What do you want on your walls? How about your space on the computer? Email all ready to go? How about your class/school webpage? Are you a blogger? Would you like to start? Go to wordpress.com to learn more.
  • Surroundings Awareness – Becoming familiar with the best route to take when traveling to Sturgis was a must. Same goes for school. Get familiar with your building. Where is the copy machine? Do you have a code for it? Where are materials located such as construction paper? Become best friends with the school office administrator, the custodians, the cooks. Does the maintenance crew want your chairs up when they sweep your classroom? How do you ask for help when a repair is needed? Will the cooks allow you to use any of the kitchen equipment for a special project? Do they expect you to help in the lunch room?
  • Leadership Plan – Did you travel to Sturgis with a group? Were you in charge of the trip? Transfer that thought over to school. How will you manage your time? How will you prioritize? Do you know what to do in case of a crisis such as a tornado drill or a sudden death? Is your plan ready to go? Continue to add to your plan as the year progresses. There’s a good chance you will be initiated by fire.
  • First Day Jitters – Once you arrived in Sturgis, did you know what you planned to do that first day? What will you do on the first day at school? Will you be nervous? Probably a little. Get a good nights’ sleep if possible. Drink a glass of tart cherry juice before bedtime. Tart cherry juice has melatonin in it to help aid sleep. Eat a good breakfast the first day. A Green Monster Smoothie is delicious and nutritious. See the recipe below. Leave home with a positive attitude. Build relationships. Greet people at the door. Wear a smile. Actively listen to others. Use icebreakers. Check out the link for many many icebreaker ideas. Read First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. Green Monster Smoothie Recipe: 1 cup spinach, 1 cup frozen kale, 1 cup unsweetened Coconut Milk, 1 scoop of Strawberry Slim Fast Powder, ½ frozen banana sliced, 1 kiwi fruit peeled and diced, a handful of frozen cranberries, 1 tbsp flaxseed meal. Put all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. Pour over ice and sip through a straw. Enjoy.
  • Expectations – Were there certain expectations that you had before, during, and after being at Sturgis? Now that you are home from your bike rally trip, did you visit with others on how the trip went? At school, what expectations do you have of yourself? Of others? How will you behave? How do you expect others to behave? How will you dress? How do you expect others to dress? Are you a good role model? Do you depict best practices? Become a reflective practitioner. At the end of each day, reflect on what went well, and what needs improvement. What do students expect of YOU, their leader? Watch and listen to find out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K96c-TGnSf4
  • Make Connections – From the picture above, it’s easy to see that there were hundreds of thousands of bikes and folks at Sturgis. Connections are easy to make when you surround yourself with that many people. Do the same at school. Connect with the students, the staff, the parents, and anyone else you know who are associated with your school. How can you connect? Get to know people on a personal basis. Remember “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Appreciate others, respect others, show others they matter. Connect with others via Twitter. Join a PLN. Actively participate in live Twitter chats. A few we recommend are #tlap and #nbtchat. Once connections are made, all else will fall into place.

This list is by no means complete. There are many more creative ways to get revved up for the school year. Please add to this list by commenting below. Whether you proudly ride a Harley or lead on a Honda (…or ride a Trek or Schwinn 🙂 ), go full throttle ahead with these ideas. It will make for a great year exponentially. When you are all revved up and ready to go for this school year, please, just keep your hands on the handlebars at ALL times! 🙂 Stay in control…

Have a fun year and enjoy the ride. Let that bike roar.


Julie Carrow
Photo Credit: Julie Carrow


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