Give Them Permission to be Good

Kids were coming in the door as I was up front this morning. I was talking to another teacher and greeting all the kids as they walked in and past us. Some stopped. Some kept walking. Some spoke back and some didn’t. She made a comment about all the relationships I had made and the way I was talking to the kids.

I made the comment to her that some of our students just need permission to show how good and great they can be.

I believe that all the kids have the potential, some just don’t show it every day. Why? They don’t know they have the right, the permission to do so. I may not know all the reasons why, but I’d guess that a lot of them don’t have the inner-voice telling them that they can or should be.

A hope I have is that I not only give them them that permission daily, but that I also urge and beg them to share it with others. A simple invitation can go a long way…

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Strong is the New Pretty – a Birthday Review


Happy Birthday M! This book was a special find and one that I knew she needed as she gets older and continues to grow into an amazing young lady.

For any parents and teachers alike, this book is a must for your home and classroom. It completely redefines "pretty" and shows just how wonderfully unique we all are. The authors chose such a rich diversity of young ladies from a wide range of ages and cultures. Your girls will be able to find girls "who look like them" which is drastically missing from so much literature.

As I write this, I see one of my sons reading this book with my M. He is engrossed in it, just like her. On second thought, this gives another reason this belongs in your classroom. Our young men can see what makes our young lady special and worthy of their respect and admiration. It's message they both need to see.

What’s Your Superpower?

"Barry's real superpower isn't speed, it's hope. The kid's got an endless reservoir. Thinks it's all gonna work out!" ~ HR

I have a confession, I am a superhero junkie. I love watching superhero tv shows, movies, and even the cartoons with my kids. I love the idea of good vs. evil. I love the idea of a hero.

With all this in mind, this quote totally grabbed my attention the other night as we were watching The Flash on Netflix. HR, one of the characters, said that the Flash's superpower wasn't speed, but rather was hope. He said that Flash always thinks that things are going to work out. It struck me because his "superpower" wasn't something make believe. It was something we all can have.

This got me thinking about teachers. We all have this enormous amount of hope. We hope for our schools. We hope for our communities. We hope for our students and their families. (and some of us hope for tenure, let's be real!)

The idea of hope has weighed heavy on me these past couple of years. There are so many things I've hoped and wished for that haven't happened and there are some things that did. I wont pretend like the things that didn't weren't disappointing, they were. BUT, I try to maintain a hope that things will work out, that there is a bigger and better plan for me.

This year, as its start gets closer and closer, I want to remind us all to maintain our hope. Dream and hope for bigger and better things for yourselves, your families, your students, your school and your community. Instead of saying that being a teacher is your superpower, let's make it hope. I honestly think that this superpower is one we can pass on to those around us.

Flash image from http://media.comicbook.com/2016/07/the-flash-192898.jpg

You Are Enough, Eat The Waffle Fries

“You are enough, Eat The Waffle Fries”

I’m coining this quote as my own, but the inspiration came from somewhere else. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about podcasting and possibly starting my own podcast. My brother and his wife told me about The Popcast With Knox and Jamie, https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-popcast-with-knox-and-jamie/id712316884?mt=2 because they had met Jamie over the summer. (and they had lots of nice things to say about her!)

After their endorsement, I immediately subscribed to their podcast and downloaded one of their first podcasts from 2013. They talked pop culture, actors and actresses, movies, and tv, but what inspired me was their conversation about social media. They referenced an article that talked about how depressing these sites and apps can be. Somehow during that conversation, Jamie referenced both waffle fries and the phrase “You are worthy.”

This got me thinking about a conversation I’ve seen multiple times. Teachers, and non-teachers, stop comparing yourself to others in negative ways. Notice I said “in negative ways.” This was on purpose because I don’t think comparison is always bad. For example, you make brownies from scratch, twice, and you notice that your second batch is better. Comparison as a form of reflection isn’t always bad. We can use it to set goals for ourselves and our students. 

Comparison in negative ways is never good. You see a picture on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, wherever and you think you’ll never measure up or that you’ll never be that pretty/strong/organized/together. This thought process is never ok. 

So, with all this in mind. Aim high. Try to be better. Reflect and move forward. Aim even higher. Do your best and then do better. You are good enough. You are accepted. You are loved. You are great today and you will be even greater tomorrow. It doesn’t mean you won’t mess up. Don’t let you mess-ups and mistakes define you. 

“You are enough, Eat The Waffle Fries”

Among the Rocks, They Still Can Bloom

Flowers fascinate me sometimes. Yes, they are beautiful to look at, but I’m actually talking about their resilience. 

One of my kids and I took a short hike the other day at Ruffner Mountain and we ran across this flower. What struck me wasn’t its color or beauty, but rather its location. In the picture you can see that it’s growing among a lot of rocks. 


We all know from our childhood Sunday School lesson that a seed doesn’t grow among the rocks, but this one did, and it wasn’t the only one. There were several that made its way out. 

All of this got me thinking about education. Our kids, we don’t always know what rocks may be holding them down. According to “data” some of them have quite a few rocks to work through. Here in Alabama a recent (public) conversation has begun regarding the discrepancy is test scores based on race and poverty. We also know, because we are teachers, that home life, hunger, depression, and language can also be rocks in the way. 

One of the things we get to do as teachers is help remove these rocks. This can be done in several ways. 
One, we can help empower and strengthen our students so that they can move them themselves. We can also try and move them for them. For a child that is hungry, some packs of crackers for the evening or weekend can be quite helpful. Another way is to move them with them. Together. We can form a TEAM. Together Everyone Achieves More, you’ve heard it before, and you know it’s true. We can form a team with our students, their families, the school, and/or the community. 

While I would advocate for all those things, we know that any of them are beneficial. We know the results of our students moving the rocks. They grow. They show their strength to the world as they don’t let “the rocks” stand in the way. They bloom. They face the world and show themselves to be a thing of beauty, and they all have that beauty inside of them. 

Thoughts on the Fourth of July 


The Fourth of July, Independence Day. We celebrate the founding of a country. Perhaps the best known quote from it is…

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” — Declaration of Independence

When I think of this statement, I think of the rich diversity of this country. People from all over the world come and join this country as citizens to start a new life here. It’s their “pursuit of happiness.” As they do this, they bring the richness of their culture, all the best of it, and combine it with the greatness here. I have to believe that this process is what makes us great today. We aren’t just one, we are many, all different, yet all together. This works best when we recognize that “all men are created equal.” 

“For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” — Declaration of Independence

I can’t help but think, today, of my family at home and my family at school. We are culturally different but we are together. They bring their best and their differences, and I hope we do the same and we all grow together. 

“We must be unanimous; there must be no pulling different ways; we must hang together.” — John Hancock

I think it’s important, as a teacher and parent, to recognize and celebrate our differences. I think it’s important to learn from each other. I think we are a better people, a better community, and a better country when we do this. We can also contribute and be part of a better world too. 

The Unifying Force of Literature


We are having a great summer camp at school this year. The mornings have an academic focus working on reading, writing, and math. The afternoons have a wide range of activities from coding to farming and a lot in between. 
This week I had the opportunity to spend a little time in my daughters class and was able to see how powerful children’s literature can be. My kids do not go to the school where I teach, but I am able to bring them to our summer program. Bringing them to a new place can bring some nervousness though. How will my kids do? Will they be accepted? Will they have fun? Will they make new friends?

I was able to answer all those questions with this one short visit. 

One of the things I love about my school is their acceptance of new friends. Taking my kids to summer camp is a privilege because I love where I work and the kids that go there. I trust that my kids will be taken care of by the adults there and will be befriended by its students. 

Seeing my M with her new friends there today was a complete blessing and it reminded me of how books can bring people together. These two laughed together, took turns reading aloud, talked about the pictures, and talked about the book together. 


Isn’t is great that we have such wonderful books and stories to bring us together! 

Anchor Charts

I’m always a little funny about anchor charts. I find that many of them become “art work” and aren’t necessarily utilized by students. I think anchor charts should be a reflection of what is happening and needed in class and should be referenced by students throughout the day/week to answer questions about they need to be successful, stay on task, and productive. Some might say, they aid the students. 


This week, my reading groups forced me to make some anchor charts… and I loved it. It reminded me of the true purpose of them. My students wanted to be reminded of what tasks we were doing without me having to go over the directions each time. Once I had these up, my small groups were more efficient and productive. Anchor charts can be wonderful tools, but if they aren’t being created because of, by, or with the students, they may best be left on Pinterest. 

¡Mi casa es grande!

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I have been rereading A Quick Guide to Boosting English Acquisition in Choice Time the past day or so, and I was reminded of something I had seen in class a few weeks ago while observing some students during choice time.

While they were working, I heard a group working in one of my building centers with some Brackitz. One of the boys had just finished building a home with the planks and he announced to his group, “¡Mi casa es grande!”

It caught my attention because it was said in Spanish and he, and his group, had been speaking rather excitedly about all they had been building in English. While it was said in a language that was foreign and not understandable to most of his group, they didn’t miss a beat. They all got it. They all understood. And I thought that was one of the coolest things I had seen all day.

One of the things I’ve started allowing the past couple of years, is opportunities for my English Language Learners to speak in their native tongue. While I may not understand, if they are in the midst of play, does it really matter? I teach kindergarten. At this age children, regardless of what language they speak, are still developing and growing in their vocabulary. It’s my understanding that a lack of schema, which is “relevant background knowledge, prior knowledge, or just plain experience,” can hinder comprehension in reading. I think it also applies to language development. If we deny our English Language Learners the opportunities to develop language in their native tongue, it will have an adverse effect on their learning of English.

I think the English will come naturally for my students. Most of my population speaks English. I conduct the majority of my day in English. When in choice time, it’s a good chance that they will be playing and talking with native English speakers. They will get it. A coworker of mine was telling me recently that it takes 3-5 years for English Language Learners to develop social language and 4-7 years to develop academic language. This shows, quite plainly, that it takes time. I am working with kindergarteners. This is not going to be “their year” to master it. My native English speakers are probably not going to master it either! What they need to be given is the opportunities to grow and develop their schema.

Now, back to the book. Why is imperative that we give all of our students ample amounts of choice time? Why is it so important? According to the book, choice time is powerful for many reasons. Some of the ones they listed are:

  • “It is safe.”
  • “It is visual and hands-on.”
  • “It occurs within a sea of language.”
  • “It is accessible to everyone.”
  • “It connects to other parts of the day.”

Choice time is a vital part of my day. It is my belief that some version of choice time should be happening in every classroom from PK all the way through elementary/primary/intermediate school. It’s important for all of our students and their language development.

Worthy


“Then he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on each of them, and blessed them.”‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:16‬ ‭GNB‬‬

I know this isn’t a normal start for a post of mine, but I read this the other morning and something about this verse struck me, and, whether you are a person of faith or not, I ask you to please stick with me. 

“He placed his hands on each of them..”

Let me give some backstory as to why. This was a story of Jesus. It was the end of the day. He and his disciples had been traveling and teaching all day, and, at the end of the day, up walk a group of parents who wanted to bring their kids to see and meet Jesus. The story goes on to tell of the frustration of the disciples, but not Jesus. He took time for each and every one of them. 

What struck me from this was the importance of each and every child. As a teacher, it’s so important for us to see the value of each and every student, child, person we come into contact with. 

Someone told me once that each child we get in our class is the very best version of what we are being given. What does this mean? I think it means that each student we get is the very best version of themselves at the moment they come to us. So many times we, as teachers, can look at our class as “that class” or maybe a student as “that student” and we shouldn’t…. as tempting as that may be sometimes. 

In the verse and story, each child was seen as worthy of His time. Each child was seen worthy of His touch. Each child was seen as worthy of His words. 

We need to always remember just how vitally special and unique each and every student we every come into contact with is. They are all worth our time and words. No matter how tired or how frustrated we may be. They are all worth our very best and we are so fortunate and lucky to be able to call them our students, and, sometimes, our kids.