5 Key Traits of Thriving High School Teachers

Monday, September 17, 2018 / 2 comments

The most important resource we have in a society is education. Good teachers should
be lauded as heroes as they usher the next generation along from grade school to college
and beyond. To be good at this vital job, teachers need to have the right temperament
and the right traits. Here are five of the key characteristics that make a teacher successful.

#1. Student Interaction and Involvement

Student interaction is a critical part of high school success. A teacher that can engage
his classroom is one that makes learning more than just memorization. He makes it into
a memory. The more that the students are involved in the learning process, the more
likely they are to retain information. If a teacher can ask a question and get several additional
questions in return, he is stirring imaginations and getting the thinking processes going.

#2. A Sense of Humor

If a teacher can take a boring assignment and make it humorous, it is more likely to get
the attention of her students. Being able to laugh and still learn is a huge bonus.

#3. A Willingness to Learn

The best teachers know that they have to be continually learning different techniques and
new ways to reach their students. Any teacher who is not willing to continue to evolve will
become stagnant and is unlikely to be considered among the best teachers in the school.

#4. Approachable With Problems

Whether the student is struggling with the classwork or is having problems in their private
life, the teacher who is a willing ear and a guiding hand will be the teacher who is most
appreciated by the students. One day the teacher may help someone get better grades
and the next day they may save a life. These are the teachers we need more of in all of our

#5. A Fair and Even Disciplinarian

Believe it or not, most students like to have discipline as long as it is fairly and evenly
applied. A teacher who can treat everyone equally without favorites sets the example of how
rules are supposed to work in real life. Knowing what is expected of them and the
consequences if they fail to meet those expectations takes some of the tension out of the
classroom for the students.
A teacher who is all of these things is someone that should be revered by society as a
whole. Teachers are heroes with invisible capes and should be treated as such.

Read more »

Why Field Trips and Reading Go Hand in Hand

Friday, August 31, 2018 / 4 comments

Field trips are such a fun way to introduce kids to new topics and experience that broaden their interests. For some kids, reading a story sparks new interests, and parents can find field trips to encourage that interest. This is especially important if your child is struggling for any reason. Helping them find a new interest and passion for something may be what they need to feel confident in themselves. A field trip shouldn’t stop after you leave the location! Continue that fascination by introducing books that allow your child to learn even more.

Visit a Local Museum to Spark Interests 

Image credit: Dinosaur Land

It is evident that reading and field trips go hand in hand when you check out a local museum. Your family might visit a dinosaur museum or an art museum. There are thousands of museums, and some have very specific topics. Use field trips to different locations as a jumping point to find out more about different topics or time period. 

While you visit the museum, see what exhibits interest your child the most. It could be that huge T-Rex skeleton, or your child might think the showcase of different butterflies is fascinating. Check out the museum gift store because many offer books that cover topics in the museum. You can look online and at the local library. 

Brings Books to Life

Taking a field trip and completing activities related to a book that your child read will bring the book to life. If your child read a book about life in a submarine, you might find a museum with a submarine you can tour. Then, your child might draw a picture of the submarine and watch a documentary about submarines. It is a great way to bring books to life.

Encourages a Love of Reading 

Image credit: United Way

Every parent wants their child to be a lover of reading. Showing your child how they can use books to learn more about topics that interest them encourages that love. Provide your child with a plethora of books that match potential and former field trips. Make sure their personal library offers a variety of topics, including plenty of non-fiction, science, and historical books. 

One of the best reasons to combine reading and field trips is that it teaches children how to seek the knowledge they want to understand. We want our kids to be able to have and know the tools to search out information. Teaching and showing our children how to figure out their interests and how to answer the questions they have is an important skill for everyone to have.

Read more »


Saturday, August 25, 2018 / 2 comments

Blog Title and Pic of Gold Silver Bronze Trophies TOP TEN TEACHER AWARDS THAT SHOULD TOTALLY BE REAL

Ok, it's time. I can confess... deep breath... I watch award shows. 

I really just watch them because I love seeing what all the celebrities are wearing, but inevitably I find myself wishing that once a year teachers would all get together and celebrate the awesomeness that exists within the world of education.

Imagine it! Swag bags full of flair pens! Gift certificates for online clip art and Target! An excuse to wear something other than maxi skirts and cardigans!

wantering GIF
Hah! Just kidding! You can have my cardigan when you take it off my cold, lifeless body!

With that in mind, here are the top ten awards I feel teachers definitely deserve to be nominated for each year. See if you agree, and then read on to see how one organization is doing what it can to recognize our amazing profession by offering innovative and inspirational teachers a chance to win $50,000!

Best Performance in Teaching While Desperately Needing to Use the Restroom

Now how many teachers will fess up to having to pee desperately...but accidentally spending
the time you should have been going to the bathroom watching cute pet videos?

Truthfully, this one would be almost impossible to award to just one teacher. We all deserve this one.

Best Performance in Not Maiming Misbehaving Students During a Formal Observation

So many students have no idea how close they've come to serious injury...

The amount of restraint shown by teachers all over this nation is nothing short of inspirational.

Best Supporting Teacher Award

We all need a wingman sometimes...

This one goes to the teacher you know you can always turn to. They have the headache meds, the emergency chocolate, they'll step in and watch your class for a minute so you can go to the bathroom because you were watching funny pet videos during your free period...

Best Random Act of Kindness by an Administrator

Jacqueline and Aaron say thank you too!

This, unfortunately, might be one of the more obscure awards (kind of like all those science and technology Oscars that get awarded at their own separate event), this one's important because when it happens...it's like a tiny miracle. Your principal surprises everyone with a bonus dress down day! The superintendent stops in your room and pays you an unexpected compliment. The little moments that just make your day brighter.

Best Performance of Teaching With Outside Interference

I don't care what science says, the Post Trick-or-Treat Sugar Rush is real.

Full moons, classroom parties, the first snowfall of the year...its rough out there for a teacher. Those who display grace under that pressure deserve an award.

Best Display of Seating Chart Strategy

There's always that one student...who will talk no matter where you put them.

Separating the talkers, but still giving students a friend so they'll have good discussions...using the quiet students as buffers between the loud students...keeping track of who isn't getting along with who...Napoleon couldn't out-strategize a teacher making a seating chart!

Best Performance During a Confrontation

I'm totally going to cry about this confrontation tonight...
but right now, I'm gonna pretend like it ain't no thang...

Acting like you're totally fine sending the kid to the office for having his cell phone out for the fifth time even when he tells you your class is boring? Politely responding to that angry email from a parent? You deserve an award. A big one.

Best Show of Restraint by Not Adopting Every Needy Child You Work With

You know the ones...the ones that keep you up at night...

What teachers do to help students in their classrooms is staggering. From providing extra meals and snacks, clothing, hygiene items, love and support...the desire to "just take them all home," is strong. An award for the teachers who do all that they can...and who still go home at night worrying about "their kids" is definitely in order.

Best Performance Keeping Cool When Another New Student is Added to Your Roster

Class, I am so excited to welcome another student into our learning community!

We all know this means renumbering all the cubbies, redoing the roster, rearranging the seating chart, changing up the reading groups, and teaching the new student all the procedures and expectations of the class. So for the teacher that manages to do it over and over again with enthusiasm...you deserve an award.

Best Performance in Making an Honest Difference in the Lives of Your Students

She's the Man...a modern classic...

This is another one it would be difficult to award. So many teachers out there are making a difference each day in the lives of their students. You may never know the impact you've had...but trust me, you are inspiring and improving the lives of your students every day.

Know an inspiring, innovative teacher who deserves all these awards and more? Consider nominating them for the Sanford Teacher Award!

Learn all about this amazing award for public, private, and/or charter school teachers in grades PK-12 at the link above. Offered through National University and with a generous grant from philanthropist, T. Denny Sanford, you can nominate a fellow teacher for a chance to be selected as the grand prize winner (receiving a $50,000 prize) or one of 50 $10,000 award recipients. 

This amazing award will be given to a teacher who displays an enthusiasm for teaching, empathy, and warmth toward all students, fosters positive relationships with all students, creates a positive learning environment, and recognizes student strengths.

Thinking about nominating someone? GO FOR IT! The deadline for nominations is October 8th, 2018!


Read more »

How to Use Gaming to Inspire a Love of Learning

Friday, August 24, 2018 / 21 comments

Welcome to the Gaming Age

Trust me, and you’re not the only teacher in the world with students
who are obsessed with gaming. Minecraft, at one point, had 1.4 million people play
at the same time. In fact, Minecraft has nearly 75 million players a month - which,
let’s be honest, probably includes your students. Though it may seem counterintuitive
to allow your child to continue playing games, gaming isn’t all that bad: games can
actually inspire a level of learning and creative thinking that will put your child on a path
to success in the realm of STEM and coding, steps ahead of their peers and ready to
face whatever comes their way.

Good Game, Good STEM

Games exist with a set of rules and laws a player must follow to play. This exposure
to limitations and hard rules can develop incredible rational thinking skills in children.
Which can be very helpful for grammar and other writing skills as long as they’re able
to be guided to that connection. Some games can even help prepare your child for the
pressures and realities of working in a STEM-related field. Games can teach kids how
to utilize their logical thinking, solve challenging problems within a set of laws, and even -
depending on the game - teach your child how to work with teams remotely. These kinds
of skills are assets in STEM fields, especially in a time of constant movement and trending
remote work.

Writing and Critical Thinking Learning Through Games

With encouragement, and limits, the thinking your student uses to find that new rare ore in
Minecraft, solve a logic puzzle to get to the next level, or push through a hard enemy
encounter can be used to inspire learning and problem-solving outside of the world of pixels.
Children and teens right now are some of the most literate in generations because they have
to read, and take in information constantly. So use that to your advantage!

Just like in literature and art where there isn’t only one answer, it’s the same with games. Try to guide
your students to use those same critical thinking skills that they use for games and use
them for art and literature. Ask them hard questions, push their boundaries, and show that
it’s possible to improve. You’ll notice that if it’s a question they can’t answer, they will seek
out the information they need to solve it. A learning moment that will stay with them forever.

You could also potentially alter some of your curriculum to allow students to write essays
on a game of their choosing. It may seem a bit difficult to imagine, but so long as they’re
exercising those same critical thinking skills, it could be a great opportunity for the students
to use something they are passionate about and connect it to what they are learning.

A Bright Future

As they learn more about the skills and tools for critical thinking and applying the lessons
they’ve already learned to education, you’ll see an explosion of passion for subjects that
perhaps that student hadn’t even thought of as interesting. Not only that, but they’ll be
developing a skill that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives.

If you’re looking for some more creative ideas for teaching, please make sure to
check our home page! We’re always putting up new content that we know you will be
able to use in your classrooms or homes!


Read more »

40 Weird Questions to Ask Your Students to Help You Get to Know them Better

Monday, August 13, 2018 / 5 comments

40 Weird Questions to Ask Your Students to Help You Get to Know them Better

The first few weeks of school are all about getting to know our students. We have them fill out worksheets telling us about their favorite foods or songs, we ask them if they have access to the Internet at home, and sometimes we have them tell us about their summer vacations. But... is it enough?

you dont even know robin williams GIF by SundanceTV  40 Weird Questions to Ask Your Students to Help You Get to Know them Better
You filled out my Get-to-Know-You Sheet, but I still have no 
clue why you're trying to eat all the pencil-tip erasers right now...

Sometimes, we need to dig a bit deeper to learn who are students really are. With that in mind, here are 40 amazing (and kinda-sorta weird) questions that you could use as bell-ringers, journal prompts, or even in a hysterical "Get-to-Know-You Socratic Seminar!":

  • What would peanut butter be called if it wasn't called peanut butter?

  • If you became invisible for 10 minutes RIGHT NOW, what (school appropriate!) things would you do?

  • What is a saying or expression that you probably say too much? 

  • What actor/actress would you want to play you if they ever made a movie about your life?

  • Do you put your cereal in the bowl before the milk or the milk in before the cereal?

  • If you could have one song play every time you entered a room what would it be, and why?
elsa frozen grand entrance GIF 40 Weird Questions to Ask Your Students to Help You Get to Know them Better
Sorry, Elsa...but I'm leaning toward DJ Khaled's All I do is Win

  • You discover a beautiful island where you decide to build a new society. What is the first rule you put in place?

  • Would you rather win $10,000 or let your best friend win $100,000?

  • What one invention would you uninvent and why?

  • You accidentally ate some radioactive pizza. The good news is it tasted great! The even better news is that its given you one superpower of your choice. What do you choose?

  • What five things would you take with you during the zombie apocalypse and why?

  • What is your favorite smell?
lizzy caplan smell GIF  40 Weird Questions to Ask Your Students to Help You Get to Know them Better
It's new book smell, Janis...and it's heaven.

  • Your English teacher is actually a witch! One day, she gets tired of you not paying attention and zaps you into a novel. Which novel would you hope she zapped you into and why?

  • Would you rather never be able to explain yourself correctly or always have to tell the exact truth?

  • Are pets better than humans?

  • What thoughts instantly make you feel more relaxed?

  • What is your favorite combination of colors?

  • Would you rather give up breakfast, lunch, or dinner...forever?

  • Which day do you consider to be the true start of the week, Sunday or Monday?

  • You're asked to cook dinner for your family and are sent to the store with $20. On the way, however, you stop for at Starbucks and meet a friend you owe $10 dollars to and she wants her money now. By the time you get to the store, you have $6 and 10 minutes to shop. What's for dinner?
exhausted grocery store GIF by Catastrophe 40 Weird Questions to Ask Your Students to Help You Get to Know them Better
Oh, come on...some Ramen, some chicken...we can make it work!

  • If humans started colonizing Mars, would you volunteer to move there? Why or why not?

  • Is there an app you hate, but you still use it anyway?

  • What is something about yourself you could totally brag about, but usually don't?

  • Would you rather have a photographic memory or be amazing at one thing, but only so-so at everything else?

  • If you had to work when you graduated high school but you didn't need the money, what would you choose to do?

  • Where do you not mind waiting?
waiting gif GIF by hero0fwar 40 Weird Questions to Ask Your Students to Help You Get to Know them Better
This is a toughie...I'm genuinely struggling to come up with something.

  • Is cereal soup?

  • You can either leave your hometown forever or never leave your hometown. Which do you choose?

  • When scrolling through Instagram, do you prefer celebrity posts or ones from your friends?

  • Would you rather be a master at every musical instrument or fluent in every language in the world?

  • What's the stupidest thing you've ever done because someone dared you?

  • Would you rather live forever in a roller coaster park or a zoo?

  • You are given the option of keeping your name or choosing a new one. What do you choose?

  • If animals could talk, which would be the rudest?
no thank you diva GIF by Demic 40 Weird Questions to Ask Your Students to Help You Get to Know them Better
Apparently, llamas give cold shoulder like a BOSS!

  • What is an unwritten rule in school that everyone knows anyway?

  • If our state was represented by just one food, what would it be?

  • If life were a video game, what two cheat codes would you want?

  • What ridiculous and untrue, yet slightly believable, theories can you come up with for common ailments like headaches, cavities, or sunburn?

  • What is something you really dislike but have no good reason for disliking?
the office dislike GIF 40 Weird Questions to Ask Your Students to Help You Get to Know them Better
Banana-flavored anything...yuck. Actual bananas? Delicious. But
a banana milkshake, banana candy? #nottodaysatan

  • Is a hot dog a sandwich? (Careful with this one, the debate will get heated...no joke!)

Trust me, after asking your students some of these questions and listening to them discuss them together - you will know way more about them than you would if you asked them about their favorite subject!

Looking for a print-and-go activity that will show you exactly what your students are made of? Check out one of my team-building activities:

Team Building Activities: Survival and Group Communication (Space)Team Building Activities: Survival and Group Communication (Desert)

Have a great Back-to-School season, everyone!

40 Weird Questions to Ask Your Students to Help You Get to Know them Better

Read more »

6 Things to Remind Parents to Teach at Home

Wednesday, August 8, 2018 / 1 comment

Many educators believe there are certain things that kids need to learn at home from their parents. Although teachers are usually willing to help remind or motivate students about parent-taught behaviors, the education system depends on family training to prepare kids for academic success and social adjustment at school with these simple habits. 

1. Brushing Your Teeth 

All children should be taught from an early age to brush their teeth. Dentists recommend establishing a "dental home" for your child by the time they are 1 year old. Daily dental hygiene will protect their teeth and prevent cavities and other problems that can lead to unsightly tooth gaps or losses. 

Furthermore, kids who do not brush their teeth or practice good hygiene may be teased for yellow teeth or bad breath, which can chip at their self-confidence and perhaps lead to bullying. 

2. Washing Your Hands

For children, the time they have during the day is meant for fun and play. However, they tend to forget that throughout the day, they pick up germs for the playground equipment or from other children. Teaching your child how to properly wash their hands will help prevent illness and germs from spreading. 

3. Picking Up After Yourself 

By the time children enter school and start progressing through the academic system, they should be fully responsible for themselves. This includes basic tasks like hanging up their jackets in cold weather and putting away classroom resources when finished. 

They should also be able to clean accidental messes and keep their part of the learning center clean and usable for others. Failure to do so may lead to being branded lazy or sloppy by the other children, and possibly being bullied. 

4. Respecting Others 

Respecting others begins with self-respect. Parents should teach children how to take care of their bodies and minds as well as how to do the same for other people. 

Being a good listener, treating others politely even when you don't agree with everything they say or do, and compliance with authority, whether teachers, parents, or police officers, are important aspects of respect, which is the core building block for successful personal or professional relationships. 

5. Working Effectively 

Being productive with assigned work is important at all stages of life. Completing tasks to a high standard in a reasonable amount of time should be an important goal that kids learn as they grow up. If they can manage school work efficiently, they will be prepared to handle college and career workloads. 

6. Self-Control 

A personal quality that impacts many others is self-control. The ability to control strong emotions and disruptive thoughts as well as to resist temptation or the easy way out of a problem are examples of how self-control can help students to perform better academically and prepare them for adult life. 

Parents who train their children in these foundational principles will help them to be better students and eventual citizens.

Check out these supplies to help parents teach these principles at home.


Read more »

Building Classroom Community with Secondary Students (Freebie Included!)

Monday, August 6, 2018 / 1 comment
Building Classroom Community with Secondary Students (Freebie Included!)

Have you seen this video? Go ahead, take a look. It's adorbs. 

These third graders are waiting...sort of patiently...for their turn to complete a complicated and choreographed high-five routine with their teacher. It's great. 

Here's what MY 9th, 10th, and 12th graders would look like if I even dared to suggest such a thing:
parishilton GIF
  I actually had a student who looked JUST LIKE THIS when I
suggested she could improve her grade by, you know...studying.
                      *eye roll* I know, SO LAME.

Having a class song, talking about our classroom "family," and secret classroom handshakes are awesome - but secondary teachers need a different set of tools to build a classroom community of tweens and teens.

Here are a few things that have worked in my classroom with even the most "too cool for you" students:

Believe in the power of music

teacher cuts headphone wires of student gif Building Classroom Community with Secondary Students
Don't do this. You may be tempted...but just don't.

It sometimes feels like my students' earbuds are super-glued in their ears. THEY ALWAYS HAVE THEM IN! But in their defense, music is really important to students during this time in their lives. Take advantage of that by playing music in your classroom. Have upbeat disco playing when they enter (they'll "hate it," but in a good way), play instrumental movie soundtracks while they work in groups, make music a part of your room and your students will enjoy being there. 

It's cool to be...not cool

Woman trying to be fashionable walks into window gif Building Classroom Community with Secondary Students
She's such a try-hard. (I only know what that means because
a 15-year-old explained it to me.)

Teenagers know cool. And you...even if you're a first-year teacher fresh out of college, aren't. And we shouldn't want to be that kind of cool. Our students are surrounded by peers who are listening to the same music, obsessing over the same drama, and using the same weird slang. They don't need us to be like them...they need us to be examples of grownups who are caring, trustworthy, and yes...fun! But fun like a grownup - don't be afraid to ask them what some new slang word means! They'll love teaching it to you (especially if its vaguely inappropriate) and they'll love it even more when you "try to use it" and fail. By embracing your uncoolness you will, in fact...become the cool teacher they like talking to.

Care more about them then your subject

celine dion listening GIF Building Classroom Community with Secondary Students
No one can listen like Celine...but we can try.

I have to go out on a limb here and say that, in my opinion, most teens don't want to know all that much about you. They want to hear some funny stories about your life, maybe some mildly dangerous things you did when you were young and possibly cool...but overall, stories about the day-to-day life of "an old person" (that's anyone over the age of 23, by the way) isn't really their thing. You know what they DO want to talk about though? THEMSELVES. Give teens a listening ear and some actual, genuine interest and they will share their innermost thoughts and feelings with you. AND, they will love you for it. Again, teens don't need "cool, adult friends." They need adults who they trust and feel safe with who they can talk to about the things that are going on with their lives. Provide that, and your classroom community will be strong.

Play games...but, you know...cool ones

excited game show GIF by Nickelodeon Building Classroom Community with Secondary Students
Ok, maybe not games like this but come on,
Double Dare was AWESOME! #childofthe80s

We might not get to have a class song, play the "take as much toilet paper as you want and then tell us one thing about you for each square," or have a class high-five, but secondary teachers still have tons of creative game options when it comes to building classroom community. 
  • Starting the year with a Classroom Escape Room that reviews where key items are in the room and goes over important rules and expectations is a great way to review the syllabus in a fresh, new way.
  • Allowing students to choose a class identity (like a famous author or novel) and create a class charter of norms you all agree to follow can act as a more "grown-up" version of the more elementary "Make the Class Rules Together" activity.
  • Challenging the students to learn the name of all of their classmates by the end of the first week for extra credit is one of my favorite ways to ensure that each student knows the name of every other student in the class.

Here's a link to an awesome, FREE resource. It's a silly personality test, but trust me, it will get your secondary students talking about themselves in no time - even if its just to tell you that the test is wrong!
Back to School Activities - Fun, Fast Personality Test

Want to prepare them for all the great discussions and group work you're going to have them do throughout the year? Check out these two awesome resources that are perfect for getting students talking, debating, and strategizing.

Team Building Activities: Survival and Group Communication (Space)Team Building Activities: Survival and Group Communication (Desert)

Finally, looking for a way to address creating a culture of mutual respect in the classroom without sounding like someone just lamely listing off rules? Check out this fun resource that teaches students about what gestures are rude in other countries that aren't rude here as a way to get them thinking about behaviors that might be inappropriate in class!

Back to School Activities - Respectful or Rude?

Secondary teachers might not get quite as many high-fives...but with the right classroom community, we can (and do!) build some amazing relationships with our students. Here's to your strong classroom community, secondary teachers! You're making a difference EVERY DAY!

What do YOU do to build a sense of community in your secondary classroom? Let me know in the comments below!

Building Classroom Community with Secondary Students (Freebie Included!)

Read more »
Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top