Saturday, November 26, 2016

More of My Discoveries about Teaching and Learning

More of my reflections on teaching and learning on NNSTOY and Edweek Teacher-Leader Voices:

Flying Solo: The Need for Greater Support
Every Brain Deserves a Break
No App Can Replace Mastery for Students and Teachers
The Difficult (and Satisfying) Run of Teaching Defiant Students
Creating Moments our Students will Remember
Take After-School Programs off the Political Chopping Block
Teaching, Like Golf, is "No Easy Game"
Stop Making Teaching Harder than it has to Be!

Find them at:

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Beyond Test Scores: Why I #LoveTeaching

When I reflect on what I love most about teaching, several things come to mind. The "Ah ha!" moments, appreciative hugs, smiles, cute drawings, all the expected joys that come with the territory. But my favorite aspect of teaching is actually less tangible than those examples. What I love most about teaching is the collective team my 5th graders and I become by the middle of the year.

I can't believe how different it is in August. You see, I hate the first few weeks of school. We don't know each other. We are essentially strangers on our trial behavior. It's kind of like a blind date that lasts a month or more. There are weeks of learning procedures and being challenged to see if I will really follow through consistently. We must all learn each other's personalities, cultural backgrounds, bad habits, and the really important things like favorite super heroes, sports teams, books, and holidays. All of it. It's not my favorite time of year, because I just don't know them yet. Not well enough. Not yet.

But by January, no matter how large my class is, no matter how diverse my students' needs are, no  matter how much resistance I receive from my most emotionally challenged students...  in spite of all of that, I am so attached to these kids - each one of them! Now I really know who they are, and I truly like each one.  As much as I appreciate each unique individual, however, I am even more impressed with the collective group they have become. They are able to work as a team wherever I seat them, and they have each other's backs on the playground. I love the compassion they show for each other, and I can see the confidence they have developed working together. The new family we have become is more important to me than the test scores each student will achieve this spring.

Building a team each year is one of the things I love most about teaching!

But yes, I have to admit, I do love the Valentines... Who doesn't want to be told that "Yoda Best!"?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Most Compelling Voices

Governor Gary Herbert speaks to the Education Excellence Commission.

Each month I leave the Governor's Education Excellence Commission with a nugget of gold that makes the time I spent making sub plans well worth it. This month it was just a comment, and it came from none other than the Governor himself. When he welcomed us to the commission meeting, he spoke of his recently released 2016 budget:

"You may like the budget, you may not. But tell your legislators how you feel!"

My first thought was, how many people actually do that? For me, I have no problem speaking with policy makers about the education bills and proposed budget each year. But for many teachers, this kind of conversation is intimidating. Inexperienced with the legislative process, most teachers don't feel that their opinions will make a difference. And given the demands placed on teachers, it's not surprising most do not engage in conversations with their representatives during the session.

My response is... I get it. I understand. And yet that, my friends, is a dangerous mind set to own.

Buck up.  Talk to your legislators!


Most policy makers have little to no experience in the classroom. How could they possibly appreciate the challenges that teachers and students face each day? It is imperative that teachers offer legislators a detailed illustration of their daily classroom journeys. This authentic voice is best spoken by teachers themselves!  Write a brief email, take photos, or even record a short video that emphasizes the needs at your school. Connect quickly through Twitter, Facebook, or other social mediums. #talktoyourlegislator!

Utah Congressman Chris Stewart visits the 5th grade at Foxboro Elementary.


There is no greater time spent for a legislator than in an actual classroom filled with students. What could be more powerful than a legislator seeing the 30+ desks in your room? What could leave more of an impression that having a legislator watch a certified teacher balance the needs of students with varying ability levels, language development, and social-emotional skills? Policy makers must consider education legislation with a realistic understanding of Utah's classrooms. YOU can provide that for them!


This is the hardest one, and I understand how much time is involved in making sub plans. For a teacher, however, talking with legislators on their turf during the session is a powerful experience! The Utah Education Association hosts educators every Friday during the session, which includes a briefing on the education bills and useful talking points. Walk the talk you give your students... be involved as a citizen and own your right to influence policy! 

As teachers, we have the most compelling voices and the greatest potential to influence policy but only if we use our voices collectively!

Buck up.  Talk to your Legislators!