Tag Archives: #SMSU

SMSU First Day Jitters

We are extremely proud to say we are teachers. I don’t know about you, Dr. V., but every year since I have been a teacher, I have had the same dream, or should I say nightmare, right before school officially begins….I am not prepared for the first day of school. Kids are out of control. I slump in failure.

This syndrome is called “first day jitters.”

On Friday, August 20, 2021 at SMSU, we welcomed several brand new freshmen, who are dreaming of becoming teachers. Some Physical Education, some Special Education, some Secondary Education, some TESL Education, some Early Childhood Education, and some Elementary Education. All are entering their first year of college with dreams and aspirations of doing their best to become the best. All beginning with the same syndrome – that dreaded “first day jitters.”

We know these young adults come with excess anxiety and doubt and wonder and questions. The pandemic has caused extra stress for our new freshmen. It is our duty as their professors to help them overcome this fear and help them see the opportunities that await them.

Just like the brand new teacher candidates, most professors have a little “first day jitters” syndrome happening too. Each new school year brings its own worries and doubts and fears…

“Are we doing enough for our teacher candidates? Are we noticing if they need more than just content thrown their way? Are we getting to know them deeply? Are we listening to their stories? Are we training them to succeed in their future classrooms? Are we advising them correctly?” 

We have big hopes and big dreams to help each and every one of our new teacher candidates to succeed and become the best teachers they can be.

So, brand new freshmen teacher candidates, please know we have the same SMSU first day jitters as you. We get it. We are on your side. We are in this together. We are here for YOU.

We extend a BIG welcome to our freshmen teacher candidates. We can’t wait to see what your future holds for you. Be a bright and shining star for children. Start strong, remain strong, and finish strong. No pressure – but the world is counting on you, and you CAN do this!

Bring on the new school year…jitters and all. 🙌😊🤎💛🐴

Stay Calm & Welcome to SMSU!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.   

Mental Health Monday

May is Mental Health Awareness month. I know a handful of my students were struggling spring semester and still are even though school is out for the summer. In fact, just today I visited with one who is having a hard time dealing with life. She talked, she cried, I listened. She said she is getting professional help and is getting better (so thankful for that).

Dr. V. and I had the privilege of watching and listening to Gerry Brooks, well-known Kentucky elementary principal, give an hour online ASCD Mental Health Summit presentation on how he has uses object lessons to encourage his staff and build up their mental wellness.  

When googling the definition of object lessons, you are given several choices. The Oxford Language website defines it as a “striking practical example of some principle or ideal.”  Dictionary.com explains it as “a practical or concrete illustration of a principle.” My favorite definition is the one found on Wikipedia (I know, I know…not the most trustworthy, but hey, it’s my favorite!)… “An object lesson is a teaching method that consists of using a physical object of visual aid as a discussion piece for a lesson. Object lesson teaching assumes that material things have the potential to convey information.” (Carter, 2010).

Below are a few of the mental health object lesson ideas I found extremely beneficial:

Light Switch: Principal Brooks gave his staff a light switch. This object is a reminder to his school family to switch off their professional lives and turn on their personal lives when they leave the school building and go home. His professional switch goes off Friday and switches back on Sunday afternoon. His advice to his teachers is you are no good to anyone if you are stressed out so it is okay to turn off your professional switch! Many of his teachers liked this idea so much they went out and bought all their students a light switch. Teachers will ask their students to pull out their light switches and turn off their math brains and turn on their science brains…a simple but yet powerful tool for all to destress!  

M & M’s: Gerry likes to gift his staff with tasty treats. He especially appreciates M & M’s because of all the different flavors (for his diverse staff). If we were to give our colleagues these same treats would we know which kind to give to others? If we know one of our colleagues has a peanut allergy, we certainly would not give them a bag of Peanut M & M’s. We are told to know our colleagues on a personal basis. They can be a support system. Gerry encourages us to send a friendly text to five people a day and just imagine the joy you would have if YOU received such a text:

                                3 friends

                                1 acquaintance

                                1 whoever you need to track down his/her number

Reading Glasses: Principal Brooks gives all his teachers a pair of reading glasses whether they need them or not. He wants us to try our best to look through other people’s lenses so we can be the best we can be in our profession. By doing so teaches us empathy, sympathy, and understanding. Imagine you are teaching your math lesson. It is a very important concept your students MUST know for the test. You are interrupted by the school counselor asking to have one of your students come with her/him. You may be thinking…absolutely not! This child cannot miss this important lesson. What you don’t realize is this counselor has two sets of very angry parents in the office and the only child who can help resolve this issue is the one she needs to take with her. We must try our best to see situations through the lenses of others.

Peanut Butter and Jelly: This object lesson was eyebrow raising for me. I’ve known about it all 34 years of my teaching career, however, this was the first time to ever hear someone point it out and say it out loud. P in peanut butter helps Gerry remember professional, and the J in jelly reminds him of jealousy. OUCH. Truth right there. Honest to goodness truth. Professional jealousy is real!! He admitted he experiences this when he compares his school’s test scores to others. Or a teacher is asked to present at the staff meeting about something wonderful he/she is doing in the classroom and the colleagues become jealous.  A little jealousy rears its ugly head when we start to compare ourselves to others. We may begin to have a little conversation in our head that goes something like this… “what did they do to earn that score? Why did that teacher to get to talk at the staff meeting? I’ve done amazing things too.” I know I’ve made these same types of comparisons, and I’m confident you have too! We must stop this!! We cannot grow if we start to allow professional jealousy.

Valentine Heart Candy: Jerry picked out Valentine’s Day heart candy because they are seasonal. He also shared he has a freezer full of Girl Scout Cookies because once the season for those cookies is done, he cannot get them until the next year. BUT…the good news is, those cookies and those Valentine’s Day candy hearts will be back. The season without them will come to an end. We all have been in a crazy season. Our pandemic the past 14 months has taken a toll on many.  It is seasonal and let’s remember the good news is “this too shall pass!”  It WILL end.

Thank you, Gerry Brooks, for sharing your education wisdom with us. Your presentation is one I will always remember.

The last object lesson I’d like to share is a pillow. The craziest school year in history is coming to an end (thank goodness). To all of you, my fellow educator rock star colleagues…may you be blessed with sweet rest this summer. Lay your head on your soft pillow and smile when you close your eyes.  You did extraordinary things for your students this year and for that we applaud you.

Even though this blog is written from an educator’s perspective, it truly applies to all!!! Turn off your professional switch when you are done working for the day; get to know your colleagues on a personal level; be respectful of others’ perspectives and try to understand the situation by looking at it through a different set of lenses; keep professional jealousy out of your heart and mind and workplace; and when you are experiencing tough times, know it’s only for a season…this too shall pass!

Take care of your mental health, everyone! Your mind matters!!

Stay Calm & Be Well!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.   

Carter, S.A. (2010). An object lesson, or don’t eat the evidence. The Journal of History and Childhood and Youth. (V. 3, Number 1). John Hopkins University. Retrieved May 23, 2021 from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/370309

It’s Gonna Be Okay

Photo credit: https://slideplayer.com/slide/7367403/

Yesterday in my Classroom Management course, teacher candidates were discussing the Three Dimensions of Discipline found in the book Discipline with Dignity: New Challenges, New Solutions by Curwin, Mendler, and Mendler (2008). The first dimension, The Prevention Dimension, has 7 key points. One key point mentions how to handle conflict with students.

Together, we brainstormed how they see themselves handling conflict with their future elementary students. They tapped into all the information gleaned from this course and gave excellent examples. It was a proud moment for me. 😊 Then, the discussion landed us on a chat about the teacher’s lounge. You can about imagine where that conversation took us. Yikes…

I mentioned to them I believe THEY are experiencing conflict in their lives right now. This turned the focus of the discussion onto them, so I asked these teacher candidates how THEY are handling their life conflicts. How are they dealing with their stresses?

One stressor they are coping with this semester is worrying about getting their field experience hours completed. COVID is playing havoc on their field experiences with schools closing down for weeks at a time.

“What are we going to do if we can’t complete our hours?” they question with sincere concern in their voices.

Another stressor they are dealing with is they are in their methods year, which can be quite intense with several assignments from each methods class…sometimes all due on the same day. They have lessons plans to write and lessons to teach and research papers to write and presentations to give and articles to critique and edTPA commentary to review. They begin to doubt their abilities.

Dog pile on top of all that, the majority of my teacher candidates work an outside job to help pay tuition. That’s a lot. That’s a lot for any of us.

So…back to my question directed at my teacher candidates. How are they handling all this personal conflict? The number one answer from all of them in this class was…

They vent! They vent to each other (and sometimes to their mom).

They talk it out and when they realize they aren’t alone and know others are going through the same thing, it surprisingly helps them calm down. They have become family. I told them it was okay to vent.

One of the teacher candidates shared with the class she cries a lot. I told her it was okay to cry. And then I said to them: “It is going to be okay.” This same teacher candidate who said she has been crying a lot, asked if she could get that recorded for proof. I smiled and told her of course she could. She pulled out her phone, and I said it again only this time with a little more power…

IT’S GONNA BE OKAY! (Maybe I made it on Tik Tok??). 😉

Tasha Layton’s song came into my thoughts after I spoke those words out loud, so I started to sing these lyrics to my teacher candidates…

It’s gonna be okay

It’s gonna be okay

You’re gonna be okay!  

You got this, teacher candidates. 💪💪 Air hugs for all of you! 🤗 It’s gonna be okay. 🤎💛

Stay Calm & Go Ahead & Vent & Cry!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

SMSU Mustangs Come Together – Homecoming 2020

SMSU Homecoming 2020 was modified this year due to COVID, however, it was still a great time.

Each year a door/office decorating contest is held and this year was no different. Colleague and friend, Dr. LeAnne Syring and I get a little competitive during this contest. Okay…confession. We get A LOT competitive. 😜 Even though we have put much effort into our past door decorating contests, we seem to fall just short of winning…until this year!! Wahoo!!

The Homecoming theme for 2020 was Mustangs Come Together — 6 Feet Apart. So, together, Dr. LeAnne and I brainstormed to come up with our door decorating plan. I love the Beatles and their song Come Together kept playing in my mind. From this tune, our theme of Come Together, Mustangs…6 Shoes Apart was born.

LeAnne had the idea of taking our picture and cutting it out to make it look like we were riding a mustang horse. We found the picture of the SMSU horse in front of our university (created by artist John Sterner) so we used that mustang. The School of Education professors who were on campus a few days before the door would be judged, complied with our crazy wishes to let us take their pictures.

We had great helpers, wouldn’t you agree, Dr. LeAnne? Mariah S. and Amanda M. helped cut out horses and stencils and music notes. Thanks, ladies. We couldn’t have done it without you.

LeAnne also had the idea of rewriting the lyrics to the Beatles 60’s hit Come Together. I gave it a try and came up blank. LeAnne gave it a try and came up with a fabulous tune that was the epitome of SMSU spirit. Dr. LeAnne, Dr. Sonya, our office admin, Jen S. and myself sang the song to a karaoke tune. Give it a listen… 🐴🤎💛😀

🎵 Come Together, Mustangs, 6 Shoes Apart 🎵

We finished our door and song just in time for judging.  You could say we were a tad bit excited when we received the first place trophy. 😍🐴🎉

Saturday was the SMSU Homecoming Parade. The SMSU Education MN Aspiring Educators (EMAE) happily participates in the parade each year. Even though we weren’t able to throw candy to the children, we all had a great time! Kudos to all our EMAE officers for showing up and walking the 1.5 miles of parade route. Y’all are rock stars! 🌟

Thank you to all those SMSU peeps who plan the SMSU Homecoming festivities. We enjoyed all that was offered and look forward to next year’s theme. Just know…Dr. LeAnne and I will be back competing for two wins in a row! 💪💪😉

Stay Calm & Come Together, Mustangs!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

“Love Has a Name” Book Talk

Love Has a Name by Adam Weber

I am an educator.

An effective educator has many traits, and one of them is learning their students’ names as soon as possible.

Before school even started, I knew most of my students’ names. I wrote them on the name tags for their desks, on the name tags for their lockers, on the name tags for their mailboxes, on the squirrels for the bulletin board that said “We are NUTS about School.” 😊🐿

My goal was to know all 30 of my students’ names by the end of the first day (yes, I had 30 third graders my first year of teaching). For the most part, I succeeded.

When I was an elementary principal, I would go to the lunch room every day and say the names of the students who were sitting in their grade levels at their assigned lunch table. The students enjoyed this because they liked testing me. This took a lot longer than one day to learn all the names of the students, but I would generally succeed.

Now as a college professor, I still know it is vital to learn the names of all my students. I find it more difficult when I only see my students once or twice a week. I give it my best effort and yet still make mistakes (sorry Rebecca for calling you Rachel 😏).

Names…they are so important.

Did you know that God knows YOUR name? Isaiah 43:1 tells us it is true “…I have redeemed you; I have called you by name…”

Did you know that God loves you? Jeremiah 31:1 says it perfectly “…I have loved you with an everlasting love…”

I don’t know about you, but I find comfort in these verses. God knows my name and He loves me. My name…Wendy…is important to Him. Your name, ______, is important to him. Wow! Let that sink in for a bit.   

In the book Love Has a Name, author Adam Weber, founder and lead pastor of Embrace Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, shares stories about people who have loved him and who he has learned to love.

Pastor Adam begins by retelling the story of Zacchaeus. Remember him? 🎵 Zacchaeus was a wee little man; a wee little man was he.🎵 Jesus knew his name, and loved Zacchaeus before He even met him.

The first name story in this book to resonate with me was about Brett. Brett is one who taught Pastor Weber that love heals through unlikely people. Brett’s story gave me such joy because I am a professor at SMSU and he graduated from there (which I discovered because I read ALL footnotes in the back of the book while I was reading the book. It’s a must. You will be happy you did). We are Mustangs for Life, right Brett? 🐴

Chapter 10 is titled Becky|Love Washes Feet which if you remember, Jesus washed the feet of all His disciples…even the one who betrayed him. And the most amazing thing about that is Jesus knew this disciple would betray him. That takes some serious love to do that.

When I thought about washing feet, Sara came to my mind. She is the one who gives me my pedicure. She pampers me by washing and massaging my feet then painting my toes. All I can say is THANK YOU, Sara!!! Not sure I could do that for others. Could any of you? Pastor Weber will give suggestions on how you CAN do this for others. Read the book.

The stories of those names Pastor Weber has learned to love were astounding. Tony, Mark, Captain, F-Man (yup, that F stands for what you are thinking it stands for), A.C. Kidd (read this story to find out what those initials stand for), and Jillian, the Angel Wings lady (thank you for the beautiful artwork). All are remarkable stories. 

The story that hit my heart the most in this section was the story about Mark. Mark…the know it all. Mark…the one who thinks he’s right about everything. Mark…the one who starts false rumors about us. Mark…the two-faced brat. Mark…the one who makes us angry and frustrated and confused. And, as Pastor Adam says in his book, Mark…the one who we want to body slam!

What do we do about all those people in our lives named “Mark?” (Nothing personal if your name is Mark). Well, Pastor Weber has some great thoughts on this issue. Sorry…my lips are zipped. You will have to read the book if you want to know what his great thoughts are. 🤐

I do have to give away one part though. In Chapter 20, Pastor Adam shares about the mural that was created in the alley by his house. Jillian is an artist who painted angel wings on this backdrop. This beautiful artwork made the news and now people come from near and far to take their picture by the wings.

Because I live within 50 minutes of Sioux Falls, SD, I decided to take my daughter and her family on an angel wing hunt last week, and guess what? We found some. What a treasure. The pictures speak for themselves. Thank you, Jillian. 👼

Each story in this book is beautiful. And so is yours! And so is mine! We need to tell our stories. Who knows who we may help. Love has a name and it is all of ours. YOU, me, ALL of us. Jesus loves us and knows our name. That is a real treasure. So is this book. I highly recommend you read Love Has a Name by Adam Weber.

Angel Wing Hunt

Stay Calm & Share YOUR Story!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Everything I Need to Know I Learned on Sabbatical

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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!

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*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.

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*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.

blog-1-12-17-sabbatical-reflection-curious-george

*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.

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

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*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.

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*Culturally responsive teaching makes a difference.

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

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*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.

 

 

Tweet Like a PIRATE Day

BLOG pirate twitter 1

“AHHHH” (scream). “He just followed me!!!”

“WHAT??? He hasn’t followed me yet! Green monster over here…a little envious. Oh, wait…AHHHHHH (scream) he just followed me, too!!!”

Those were the screams echoing on campus during the first ever ED Social Studies Methods #SMSUtlap live twitter chat held last Thursday at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.  As their professor, I couldn’t help but laugh and then laugh some more. 🙂

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Who is he you ask?? THE one and only pirate of course…Dave Burgess. He jumped in on the #SMSUtlap chat, and the teacher candidates were very excited about that! Dave is the author of the book “Teach like a PIRATE” which is a required read in my class. He joined in on the conversation, and he started following the candidates. That is one of his strong points…Dave believes in building his PLN with “connected educators and meeting the new wave of life-changers!”

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The teacher candidates had never participated in a live Twitter chat before this class. Many of their friends on Twitter were sending them text messages during the chat asking “what are you doing???” One teacher candidate even apologized on her Twitter page for all the ‘random’ tweets she was sending out. Certainly a new concept to these young future teachers.

Fast forward to week #2 of our second-ever #SMSUtlap live chat… And, of course, the teacher candidates became very excited again to see Dave pop in on the chat for a little bit. Thanks for joining us, Captain. You made their day!

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#SMSUtlap teacher candidates were a lot quicker this week with posting their questions that were on creative posters using postermywall.com. YES…they are tweeting like pirates. They even did a little dancing to YMCA. Multitaskers in the making—tweeting AND dancing! They have left their comfort zone! 🙂

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Next week will be our last live chat, and believe it or not, the teacher candidates are bummed about that. Join us if you can! Proud of all of you upcoming teachers!!! Keep tweeting like a pirate.

Below are a few of the posters made by these tweeters…enjoy!

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