What Students Remember Most About Teachers

This is something I definitely needed to read right now. An essential reminder to all teachers who “care too much” (and I mean that in the best way possible).

Pursuit of a Joyful Life

Dear Young Teacher Down the Hall,

I saw you as you rushed passed me in the lunch room. Urgent. In a hurry to catch a bite before the final bell would ring calling all the students back inside. I noticed that your eyes showed tension. There were faint creases in your forehead. And I asked you how your day was going and you sighed.

“Oh, fine,” you replied.

But I knew it was anything but fine. I noticed that the stress was getting to you. I could tell that the pressure was rising. And I looked at you and made an intentional decision to stop you right then and there. To ask you how things were really going. Was it that I saw in you a glimpse of myself that made me take the moment?

You told me how busy you were, how much there was to do

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Will You Be My Valentine?

To: My readers and followers,

First of all, you’ll have to excuse me while I do a little dance because I just came home from my first five-day week of student teaching! Finally! It was by no means an easy week.

I fell victim to all the germs circulating the school and caught a cold. The worst part was that I lost my voice! For Monday and Tuesday, I saved all my projection for guided reading and math enrichment, both times when I had my own group. It sucked for the obvious reasons, but especially because I was supposed to take over the entire literacy block this week. I still sort of did, but my cooperating teacher had to do those first days.

A get-well note from a student. Allow me to translate: "I hope your throat gets better."

A get-well note from a student. Allow me to translate: “I hope your throat gets better.”

Then I was observed again by my university professor. While my evaluation itself went well, I was nevertheless in tears by the end. It was a combination of personal issues and the frustrations at school, and it was only a matter of time. It was both a breaking point and a chance to switch gears, re-evaluate what I’m doing, blink.  Sometimes you just need to break down so you can put yourself back together with only the pieces you need to go on, sacrificing the rest in the name of growing, evolving. In the words of my cooperating teacher, “I’m over it.”

And, also, did you know it was Valentine’s Day? It was pretty much Valentine’s Day week in our room, with the students bringing in valentines each day. We had a small party this afternoon and did valentine-themed math workstations. It was sweet. 😉

Valentine's Day swag from my students. Lots of hand soap, for whatever reason.

Valentine’s Day swag from my students. Lots of hand soap, for whatever reason.

Naturally, I made my students valentines as well...

Naturally, I made my students valentines as well…

We also read tons of Valentine’s Day books, of course! Here’s a few highlights (with links to reviews on Goodreads):

Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink  Falling For Rapunzel

Love, Splat (Splat the Cat)   Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime (Junie B. Jones, #14)

Thursday, not today, was by far my favorite day this week, because my cooperating teacher was gone until late in the afternoon, and that meant I got to hold down the fort along with a sub (Seriously, this guy is the best sub I’ve ever worked with, and not just because he lets me do everything.) Anyway, being the one who the students turned to and relied on to get them through the day was a responsibility I love having.  It’s one reason I know I’m going into the right profession. This week, for its ups and downs, reminded me of that–and confirmed it, in a way. To quote an unintentionally wise fish, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”



Classroom Humor

Ever since beginning my teacher education training, teacher funnies have made me chuckle. Now that I’m in a classroom eight hours a day, they have reached the realm of sad-but-true. I wish I could share some of the funny things that come out of my students’ mouths, but honestly, I can’t remember half of them by the end of the day! Here are some general humorous anecdotes for classrooms everywhere.


I actually have one of these…perfect attendance, much to our chagrin.

More often I get “Mrs.” instead of “Miss,” but every once in awhile, kids slip and call you the M word

Too true.

25 minutes, tops. Last Friday, my cooperating teacher and I skipped lunch altogether.

Try 7:20 to 4:00

Worse is when you start to discipline people like they are first graders… “Are you making a smart choice right now?”

What Time Is It?

Telling time is one of those skills that kiddos either get completely or really struggle to grasp. My small group for math is working on telling time to the hour and half-hour (with a few students who like to get fancy with 15 minute intervals). We’ve worked with clocks and watched a BrainPop Jr. video on the parts of a clock. But, I wanted to do an activity that was super engaging AND productive.

So, naturally, I hit up Pinterest last night and was inspired by this post on Chalk & Slate. I stole borrowed her great idea for a wristwatch activity. I’m glad I devoted the entire session to the project because it took the whole time! Here’s how I did it!

–blank clock faces (I copy/pasted them onto a sheet @ 1.6″ each)
–strips of construction paper cut to roughly 2″
–recording sheet with students’ names
–scissors, glue sticks, and pencils for each student

1. Before the start of school, I got everything run off and ready.

2. I had the students cut the clock faces out, glue them onto the strips of construction paper, and write whatever time they wanted onto the clock.

3. Then, they brought their wristwatch to me and I attached them by cutting off the extra paper and taping the band around their wrist to size.

4. I passed out the recording sheet that had all the student’s names, and then the students were tasked to ask their peers, “What time is it?”  They had to read each other’s wristwatches and record the time.

5. When the kiddos were done, we checked that everyone had gotten the same time and they were done!

The finished product!

The finished product!

This was a great activity! It worked so well to keep the students engaged (the whole time!), which meant I had no behavior issues! It also tapped into their fine motor skills, their ability to follow directions, and their communication skills. It was a social activity that didn’t get out of hand. I also made sure I was taking them step-by-step through it, to keep them moving, and they were on task the whole time. Plus, I did it with them, so they thought it was super funny to come ask me the time, too. The best part, though, was that I think it reinforced the main idea of reading time from an analog clock.

In other news, I had my first observation by a professor from my education department. It went well. There were no glaring mistakes made by me and the feedback I received was mostly positive. But, it also reinforced the dichotomy between teaching in theory and in practice. I had to take some of the suggestions with a grain of salt, because the reality is that only so much is doable each day. Sometimes, it’s just about getting through and making it as productive and beneficial to the students as possible. That’s all us teachers can strive to accomplish every day.

Have a good weekend! ~T

The Power of a Post-It

In my teacher training, we are constantly prompted to consider who are our students. Their demographics, their socioeconomic status, their prior knowledge, how best they learn, and on and on. To teach effectively, to meet learning needs, they tell us, we must have these data points on the students in our classroom.

To an extent, this is true. I have done enough reading assessments and case studies to know that data informs teaching, both for instructional strategies and content material. We are doing M-Class testing right now in first grade and the results are fascinating, especially as I prepare to write a literacy unit to implement with these particular learners. I have also collected statistics on the ELLs and the students in my classroom that have special education designations so I can facilitate their learning as well.

But students are not strictly percentages, labels, and the level of their reading group. It takes time to get to know your students as real people with their own unique experiences.

Just last week, I was working with a student who became entranced with a small orange Post-It on which I had written notes.

“It’s sticky!” the student declared, as if they had never seen one before. And perhaps, I realized, they hadn’t.

The student asked to keep the used “sticky paper,” but I gave them a fresh one from my stash (see photographic evidence) with a personalized message from their student teacher.


I think I have enough sticky notes, tabs, and pages to last awhile…

We take for granted that our students will come with certain common knowledge and familiarity with items inside and outside of the classroom, but we shouldn’t. If this student was oblivious to Post-Its, what else might they not have encountered in their life and education so far?  That dictates my teaching just as much as assessment results.

Sometimes, it’s what you can’t quantify that tells you the most.

Penguins, Penguins, Penguins!

It’s officially been a week of student teaching!  It’s hard to get a feel of a regular week, due to so many days off, such as Records Day on Friday. I have to say, though, teachers’ job would be so much easier if they had a planning day built into their week.  We got so much accomplished without the students there!

The extra time out of the classroom has certainly allowed me to work on assignments for my seminars, as well. Unit plans don’t write themselves.

But I thought I’d take a break to read some penguin books, because who doesn’t love penguins? Not my first graders! We’re doing the penguins unit in Bridges right now, so everything has something to do with them. We even watched the Planet Earth episode on the Arctic, which the students loved!

Here are a few selections that we either read to the class this week, are planning to read in the next week, or that I’ve encountered in other classes or classrooms.

Click on the books below to read brief reviews on my Goodreads page!

Penguins! by Anne Schreiber  And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson  Penguin Who Wanted To Fly by Catherine Vase

Penguin's Big Surprise by Susie Jenkin-Pearce   Snowmen at Night

Here are a few more (without reviews)!

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester     The Penguin Who Wanted To Be Different: A Christmas Wish  Baby Penguins Everywhere!

One Cool Friend Penguins, Penguins, Everywhere!  Lost and Found

And so many more that I can’t possibly list them all here! Happy penguin reading!

You’re Not a Teacher Until…

…you are willing to step into a puddle of snow/freezing water up to your ankle for a student. Which is exactly what Mrs. D did today.

After all that snow, it has warmed up enough for rain. We kept the students in for afternoon recess because, to be honest, we didn’t feel like going out in the slush to supervise them. Then we had to battle the weather during dismissal. The puddles were deep at the curb, and the kids were leaping over them to get onto the buses. A second grader was wearing gym shoes and would have been soaked if she’d stepped in the puddle.

So, Mrs. D stepped in it for the student, lifted her over, and the bus driver pulled her inside. As Mrs. D sloshed back into the school, I told her that she was dedicated and I meant it.

Even though I haven’t been in the school/classroom for a full week, I already feel at home, and I attribute a lot of that to her easy-going, flexible, open nature. I also think it’s because I’m used to a placement being two days a week for a few hours. Obviously, it’s a different ballgame when you’re there before the kids arrive and until you–literally, sometimes–put them on the bus at the end of the school day.

Additionally, I feel more “in the loop” than usual. And not just because I can go in the teacher lounge now. For instance, we had behavior issues with a student today, and I was included on her discipline, which consisted of us talking to her. But still. I need to learn how to deal with this stuff.

I know everything is about to get more hectic. It would be one thing if this experience was strictly the time in the elementary classroom. Of course, there is so much to do on my end, like make a unit plan to teach, etc. For some reason, I’m not stressing. Maybe it just hasn’t hit me yet. Or I’m in denial. Or already too tired. (Did you know the sun isn’t even up at 6 a.m.? I DO.)

And yet, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

T :-)))


Books read today:

 for morning read-aloud, and 

Yo! Yes?   as part of Daily 5.

If you’re interested in how we used them, my brief reviews are on my Goodreads page here and here!

Sneak Peek

On the third day of cancelled school, my cooperating teacher gave to me…a sneak peek of the next four months! 

I finally got to go into my elementary school this morning–only without the kids! Last night, Mrs. D called and invited me to join her and the other first grade teacher (a maternity leave sub who is starting two weeks earlier than planned) to have an informal meeting.

I got a run-down of the students in both classes: the trouble-makers, the sweethearts, the ones with parents to avoid. I took lots of notes. We talked about upcoming assessments. I met the SPED teacher. We ranted about the lack of behavior/classroom management training from our education departments. I also got most (not all, of course) of my shutterbug tendencies out of my system. See: new header photo. 

Then I got to explore the classroom. It’s not too big, but I know from my earlier visit that with 27 students packed inside, it gets cozy. And, because she felt bad that I wouldn’t have my own “space” in the classroom, Mrs. D gave me four little cubbies all my own! Much appreciated 🙂


Tomorrow is officially Day #1. Wish me luck!

Snow Day

Remember when all you wished for was a snow day from school? I have mixed feelings about the one that’s already been called for tomorrow, because it means that the start of student teaching is pushed back until Tuesday. Granted, it is very snowy.

Exhibit A:


And the predicted high for tomorrow is -15…and we’re supposed to get anywhere from 8 to 12 inches of accumulation. But this is Northwest Indiana! We expect snow!

See, I got out and shoveled:


On the plus side, I have another day to prepare, which will include going through the clothes I’ve recently gotten for teaching…

Student Teaching ClothesWhich is quite a bit. Whoops!

Ready or Not: 3 Days to Go!

Student teaching has long been on the horizon.

At first, it’s a distant finishing line that your Introduction to Teaching professor swear comes up faster than you think. In the meantime, theory is pumped into you so fast and constant, they might as well start an IV. You’re placed in other classrooms with tiered goals for your participation with the students: strictly observe, teach a small group, take on the whole class. You learn to plan and implement and differentiate and be flexible. You’re assessed and critiqued by professors and your cooperating teacher (if you’re lucky). You jump and jump through the hoops of qualifications, and you pay up–in loss of sleep you’ll never recoup and money you don’t have.

You grow.

Then, suddenly, it’s time. The finish line is a stone’s throw. One last hoop. And, if you’re like me, you wonder if you’re ready.

I’m anxious. I’m excited. I’m a little terrified.

Lucky for me, I have already been to the elementary school where I’ll be student teaching. During a visit in October, I spent half the day with all 28 first-grade students with whom I’ll be working every day. I did not have a placement in a classroom last semester, so it took, you know, about 30 seconds for me fall back into the swing of things. Plus, my cooperating teacher, Mrs. D, has been wonderful so far. She is very supportive and has already proved tolerant of my emails full of questions.

Jumping into a classroom in the middle of the year, though, is never easy. It’s not my classroom, but it’s going to be my early mornings, my first thought, my biggest commitment for the next four months. Doubts are expected to accompany such an big undertaking, right?

Will I be the visitor who eventually overstays her welcome? Will my teaching style clash with the style my cooperating teacher has  already implemented with the class? Have I done enough to prepare?

Only time will tell. The most I can do now is trust my training, lengthen my stride, and step out onto the final stretch.

Ready, set…go.