Data Talk the Right Way

Picture this scenario…

As you sit in your hard school chair, you can hear your heart pounding against your chest, and your hands are sweating from the nerves that are racing from the anxiety your teacher’s heels are creating on the floor as she passes out yesterday’s assessment.  She calls your name at the same moment she lays the test face down onto your desk.  With a nervous heart, you place your trembling hands on the test.  You peek through your fingers to notice the long list of questions you missed.  Your heart sinks deep into your stomach as you swallow hard.  This is not good.  You tried so hard, and still was not successful!?!?

Unfortunately, this is the moment most students believe defines them.  This is the moment that most students stop trying and allow this one test to claim them for the rest of the year.

As teachers, it is our job to use these short cycle assessments, benchmark assessments and district tests in a different way- The Right Way, the meaningful way.  Here are Six steps to make these tests about what students and TEACHERS did right and how we can fix what went wrong without allowing these tests to define the2016-10-19-14-11-02m.

  1. Notice what questions you/students answered correctly.  I heard a teacher just today announce, “Celebrate what questions you answered right because that is just as important as what we did not answer correctly.”



2. Use the assessment to collect data on many different areas BUT most importantly

Vocabulary – This is one of the highest areas of struggle for students in all content areas, in all grade levels, and in all backgrounds.  2016-10-19-14-12-15

Question Stems – This is where most students struggle.  The test questions are different than the objective, and the tests are asking the students the same kind of question multiple different ways.



3. Allow students to measure their own effort and their strategy use.  Ask them how much effort they put forth on this test.  Without a growth mindset and the belief that staying focused and attentive during a test, students will not be successful. This is a very difficult thing for teachers to teach.  Teachers need the buy in from our students on the importance of effort, there is very little we can do about the actual data. Ask them what strategies they used on the test.  Have them show you evidence of those strategies.  Allow them to express what strategies you have taught that helped them, and what strategies need to be practiced or implemented to support their success.



4.  Notice the trends with your class, rotations, campus, and district.  What questions did most students struggle with, what questions did most students do well on, and what objectives did we improve on?  The school I am currently working on uses a lot of consensograms to collect this type of data.  The visual allows students to be reflective and goal oriented. If rotations differ, figure out why?  If teachers’ data is different, ask why? In this reflection, teachers can find opportunities to grow from each other and learn new ideas.

5.  Set goals and change classroom instruction based on this assessment. If teachers don’t use the data to drive instruction forward, there is absolutely no point in taking the assessment.  Our (RX) prescriptions for change give students so much control in the classroom.  This collaborative opportunity allows each student to express his/her concerns and ideas to the teacher.  When a teacher actually listens and makes the tweaks during this reflection/prescriptions, the students are more apt to be engaged in the learning process.  Give students the chance to sit with you, one on one, to discuss the data.  During this conference set goals with the students; specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, timed goals. SMART goals.


6.  Learn from your mistakes BUT celebrate the successes!!!!  If it is always about what went wrong, the test will define the student.  If the teacher can see the light and express her/his pride for the student effort, mindset or successes, the test will be just a piece of the learning process.  Next assessment, set a goal and find some kind of incentive (extra recess, a pie in the face, a game of knock out, dance party etc…) to intrigue all your students to do their best, to show what they know.


Help students understand that this is a jumping off point. This assessment is being used to collect data and information on what we (teachers) need to be providing for them to be able to be independent learners.  Students can be helped all day with differentiations in place to help them be successful.  But what do students need to be successful on a test that measures all students on the same objectives? What strategies can we implement to help students become good test takers?  Until we can find another way to hold everyone accountable, tests are the reality, and they are not going away any time soon.  Let’s make the best of it, and make tests work in our advantage.

3 Must Haves to a Perfect Class Closure

I was honored to observe a new teacher at our school and our district today.  Her closure was a Process of Beauty.  I had to share.  In this closure she included three  essential parts that make a Closure reflective and comprehensible.  Walking out of her class today, made me feel a sense of pride for her and for her students. They are very lucky to have such a new teacher truly understand what the Learning Cycle is all about.

Before the video, this is the conversation that led to the step I was able to capture on video.

*Names were changed

Mrs. N – “Who wants to share what strategy they used today to help solve their independent work?”
Bobby- ” I used CRAZY HEAD MATH!” (I am assuming this is math done in your head).
Mrs. N- ” Okay, great! Raise your hand if you also used Bobby’s strategy today during independent time?”
(most of the hands go up)
Mrs. N- ” Who used a different strategy?”
Michelle- “I multiplied the tens by the decimal, the ones by the decimal, added them and then moved the decimal.”
Mrs. N- “Wow! Raise your hand if this was your strategy.”
(the rest of the hands go up)
Mrs. N- “Okay, let’s get our Plickers cards out and see who took away the learning objective today.”

This simple but affective check in with the students allowed Mrs. N to see what strategy students used today. This adds to their toolkit, gives the students choice, and allows them to experience a little control in their learning.

Please observe the following video.

As you observe, simply notice the three steps she takes to help her students grow and have a growth mindset.

In the video, Mrs. N uses a technology tool to assess her students in her learning. This tool is Plickers.  As a classroom teacher, this was one of my favorite formative assessment tools.  It did not require a lot of time to set up, not any other device than your phone or Ipad, and it gives automatic feedback.  Plus- if you heard the cheering- it is a lot of fun for the students.

Her final step was to ask a student to explain how she got the answer.  This is a Number Talk.  If a student can explain how she/he got the answer, then they will most likely learn in faster, help another student understand the process, and by talking it out- the teacher gets to clarify misunderstandings and vocabulary.

To sum up…

A Must have Closure  must include…

  1. reflective check in with the students.
    1. strategies that they used during the independent practice, How do you feel about the learning today? or What was your take away?
  2. Formative Assessment of some kind
    1. Exit ticket, Plickers question, assignment question reviewed from independent work
  3. A chance for students to  Explain their thought process.
    1. Number Talk, Turn and Talk, share out, written response, journal writing


Norms vs Rules


Creating norms in the classroom is the first step to establishing a collaborative student-led classroom.

Above is a video created by a staff member on my campus that articulates the Norms of the art room.

It is important for all students to have a voice and to understand what types of ‘normal’ classroom behaviors will need to occur to be successful.  The first question you ask students is …

“What do you need from your peers to be successful this school year?”

These answers create your NORMS.  These are behavior expectations that will need to occur every single day to make sure ALL students are successful.

The most important thing to remember when establishing norms is that THEY ARE NOT FOLLOWED UP WITH CONSEQUENCES! If a student does not reach these norms, they are not given a consequence.  This is the time to sit with a student and remind them about NORMS and how they are just expected behaviors that the students in the class decided would help all students succeed.


These are the nonnegotiable expectations set forth by the teacher, campus or district.  These are posted in the classroom before students even show up on the first day.

The most important difference is that Rules = consequences. 



4 Steps to Continuous Improvement in the Classroom

I am excited to share with you this Cooperate idea that has swept the school nation!  Continuous Improvement is a systematic approach to reflection and getting know what strategies help our students learn best.  023

Plan– What is the plan for the unit?  What do students need to know how to do? When will they be tested over this information?  What will the test look like?  How do students know they are successful on the assessment?

The unit starts with these questions being answered.  As an adult, if I knew I was going to take a test ; drivers test, GRE, ACT or certification tests of any kind, I would want to know the answers to these questions.  I am also given the opportunity to know what is coming, so why not give our students the same courtesy?

img_0068Do–  These are the Strategies that are being used throughout the unit to help our students reach our PLAN.  These should include both Engagement and Instructional strategies.  Our goal, as a teacher, is to give students the tools in which they can pull from when struggling in math, reading, science etc…

The instructional strategies are those tools that give our students the opportunity to become advocates for their own learning and independence in their learning.  The engagement strategies allow the teacher to make sure that their time is being used efficiently and productively.  In previous blogs, I have written about Rich Allen, Marcia Tate and Marzano.  These innovators have given teachers wonderful tools to use to check for understanding in an engaging way and keep their attention during the learning cycle.

Here are some strategies that engage and check for understanding placed in the learning cycle processes. – You can find this at Jule-Huck TPT account as well.

Process 1

Pre Assessment

Process 2

Partner/group work

Process 3

Post assessment

Graffiti Wall

Place the topic word or phrase on the board. Allow students to draw or write what they know or think of as they enter the room.


Using a sentence frame or a graphic organizer, have students summarize the instruction, expectations for activity or new concept.

Rate it

On their way out, have students rate their understanding of the assignment, new concept.


Ink Think

Place a topic word or phrase on a piece of paper on the students table. Allow students to draw or write what they know or think about the topic.


Divide the reading into sections. Have each student take a section and when they understand the information, teach it to their team.

Corner call

Have corners of the class labeled (A, B, C, D) ask a question and allow students to walk to the corner that answers the question.

Double Entry Journal

Topic/ Think about topic


A note taking strategy for students to use while listening to explicit instruction.


Ask a question, allow students to ‘think’ about their answer, pair up (back to back) and share their answers.

I care Why?

After the instruction and independent work, have students explain why this objective was important to them.

Graphic Organizer


Students are completing a graphic organizer while explicit instruction is occurring.

Inside-Outside Circle

Create two circles, one inside facing out, one outside facing in.   Ask a question and allow students to answer – rotate the outside circle for new partners.

Sketch to Stretch

Students will draw a sketch of the main idea of the day.   Then write a paragraph explaining their drawing and how it connects to the objective.


Draw a line, place the topic in the center of the line and the two opposing ideas on opposite ends of the line. Have students write on a post it not their opinion and why.

Gallery Walk

After group work is complete, allow students to silently walk around the room to view the work and add comments, suggestions, and celebrations to the group assignments.


With a frame, students will answer a question about the objective and explain their reasoning.

I’m the Teacher

After the explicit instruction, allow students to reteach the concept to someone.

4 C’s

With a partner/group, have students write down their Connections, Challenges, Concepts, Changes about the instruction and new concept.


Split the class up into two sides. Like tug-o-war, have students take a side and explain their position.


After the explicit instruction, allow students to reteach the concept while the students mirror their partner.

Whip Around

Students quickly and verbally share 1 thing they learned in class, after the assigned work.

Response Cards/Plickers

Also referred to as an Exit Ticket. Ask a question and allow students to answer- This is not a grade but an informative way of knowing who understood the lesson.

Study– How did the students do?  What were the results of the assessment?

This is, hopefully, when the growth of our students can be visible with a graph of some kind or consensogram of what strategy the students used during the assessment.

The visibility of this is very important for our learners.  They should be able to compare themselves to the average grade in the class, compare rotations to rotations,  compare campus to campus and most of all, compare their previous assessment results with each other.  This data gives our teachers and students strategic feedback that allows us all to explicitly understand whether or not we understood the content of the PLAN.  It allows us to see if we are growing as learners.  It allows us to have a mindset towards growth and reflection.

ACT– In my mind, this IS the most important part of the continuous improvement model.  What strategies helped us learn the content?  What strategies did not help us learn?  How can we change or tweak these strategies to help us in the future?

This is when relationships are built in the classroom.  This reflective questioning gives our students voice in the classroom.  I don’t remember EVER being asked what I liked about the class, and I know that my opinion did not matter to my teachers growing up.  It was a teacher facilitated classroom- that was the way.  We are now giving our students so many opportunities to become advocates for their learning and teaching them to ‘Fish’ for themselves.  This is the part of teaching that I love so very much.

The following is a youtube link to a teacher on my campus that is reflecting with her students on the PDSA Continuous Improvement cycle.  Pay attention to how involved the students are in her reflection, listen to the questions she asks them, and watch how she models positive reinforcement to help encourage all students to give feedback.





9 Personalities You’ll Find in a Classroom and How to Help Them

I have come across a plethora of student personalities and have found that most students fall into at least 1 of the following 9 categories. During my time with these students, I have used a few tricks that have helped my classroom and my relationship with them that has allowed for their personality to help the classroom experience in a positive way.

Accomplished– These are the Advanced Placement students or Gifted students.  Their IQs are possibly above the average classroom student.  You can recognize these students by their ability to excel in your class and understand new tasks quickly. But, They also are the students who tend to give up when effort is required.

Try: Setting parameters for your expectations; rubrics, page limits, and/or time limits.  Teach the Growth Mindset to these students.  Congratulate them when effort is put forth, when the project is done neatly, pair them up with the ‘Motivated’ student to help them try their best.  Encourage them to take their time and NOT be the first ones finished.

Comedian–  This student really likes attention; positive or negative.  And they will get it laughing%20emoticonanyway they possibly can; dancing, singing, telling jokes, answering questions with a sly remark.  These behaviors usually gets these students sent to the office.

Try: First and foremost, Ignore the behavior (if it is not harming themselves or others), setting up a behavior plan with the student that is only known between you and the student (no attention brought to the child), a behavior contract- if the student can refrain from entertaining the class during the productive times in class, then he is allowed to tell 1 joke at the end.

Motivated– Every classroom has at least one of these students and thank goodness for these students.  They are motivated to do well in class, stress out when they don’t reach their idea of success, but they try even when it is difficult.  Some would call this student the ‘Teacher’s Pet”.

Try:  Congratulate these students on their effort, reward and celebrate the small successes during class, use these students as examples of good behavior and effort in your class.

Natural Leader– These students are the ones everyone looks up to. They are typically enthusiastic about school, well liked, and well-rounded.  The natural leader may be a bit demanding during group work or projects, but they will be the presenter during these presentations.

Try: During group work/projects, give this leader a To Do list and make sure the group members have job titles and tasks or the Leader will take complete charge over the project.  Allow these leaders to present first during presentations- their confidence and their unique ability to ‘command’ a classroom will set the standard for the presentations.

american-income-life-roger-smith-ceo-keep-calm-get-organized-blueOrganized– These are far and few between, but thank goodness there are a few of these students.  Most likely, these students are female (can be male), have a clean backpack, organized binder, a color coded pen system during note taking and LOVE to organize your classroom library. Some would call this student the ‘Teacher’s Pet”

Try: Give these students the jobs in the classroom that require an organizer; librarian, absent work collector.  Notice their organizational skills, make comments on them because this small gesture will go a long way.

Sensationalist– This is your drama queen.  I personally know a lot about this one because thk3d2a1hjthis was me in school.  Everything is a big deal!!! They are master manipulators, story tellers, but are also the victim in every situation.

Try: Don’t make classroom redirections a big deal, try not to bring too much attention to this student, but you should use them when reenacting classroom stories or storytelling.  When dealing with behaviors, talk through the situation and scenario with them.  Allow them to tell their entire side of the story first, then show them and express to them how they should’ve reacted.  They need to hear the other side of the story- how their behavior made another person feel.

Unresponsive– Unfortunately, there is one of these in most classes.  This is the student that will sit in class without participating in discussion, class work or even respond to direct questioning.

the14v1hiwTry: Build a relationship with this student outside of class time; have lunch together, watch how they interact with others at recess, P.E. or fine arts classes.  Get to know this student.  Try a participation contract- if they raise their hand and participate in small group discussion at least 5 times in class, then ______________.   Try and get their parents on board to encourage them to participate in class.

Respectful– What a joy it is to have this student in class.  “Yes ma’am”,” no ma’am,” “please”, “thank you”, “Have a nice day”, “you look nice today, Mrs. ___”.

Try: Don’t bring too much attention to this child for their respectful behavior, but do acknowledge with a note home or a call home.  Parents really appreciate hearing that they have  raised a respectful child.  Try pairing this student with the Comedian or the Sensationalist during partner/group work.

Unorganized/Unprepared– This is the student that comes to class without their homework, pencil, or even backpack.  They may even show up to school late on most days.  Their backpacks, lockers and desks are a disaster.

Try: Teaching them a few organizational skills.  Meet with their parents to try and set up a homework reward system and teach them a few organizational skills.  Most of the time, this is a learned behavior.  Do not punish the student if they don’t have a pencil or come to school tardy. Instead, have a special pencil ready for that child and celebrate the fact that they showed up to school – even if it is late.

These are the personalities that I have found in my classrooms every year.  Students can have a mix of these personalities, but one of these is most dominant.  Use their dominant personality to your advantage in the classroom.  Find the personality that gets under your skin the most and build the strongest bond with that student as soon as possible.  I guarantee that will be the student you will never forget, and the personality will no longer be what you see – you will start seeing the student!


How to Build a Positive Relationship with your Students

What teacher do you remember the most?   What was it about him/her that makes them memorable?

I have a list of teachers that connected and built a respectful relationship with me that inspired me to be better than myself.  Thank you…

Mrs. Durham

Mrs. Dowd

Mrs. Green

Ms. Wasinger

Mr. Graham

Mr. Fox

Mrs. Comstock

Coach Carroll (both of you)

Each one of these teachers connected with me, pushed me to be better, held me at high standards, called me out when I made the wrong choice, and they took the time to get to know me.

Build– verb. Construct by putting parts together over a period of time

Positive– adj. – Characterized by the presence of features    noun- a good, affirmative, or constructive quality

Relationship – noun- the way in which 2 or more people are connected

Here are 5 ways that can help you create a positive relationship with your students.

  1. Interviews, Surveys, Questionnaires-  At the beginning of the school year, I had my students fill out a reading interview.  The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller has a thqqf01nav-copywonderful reading interview that asks the questions that get the answers.  Surveying your students on strategies that you used, books that you chose during the guided lesson and even surveying them on how they feel (5,4,3,2,1, Check ins) make the students feel as if you are asking because you are listening.

2.  Allow students to share their experiences– At the beginning of every class, I show the students a short video clip, commercial, read them an excerpt from a book, listen to a song, or show them advertisements.  Then I follow up with questions..

  • What did you see or hear during the clip?
  • What did it make you think about ?
  • Can you make a connection? (connect to self, text, media, world)
  • What does this have to do with us? What is the relevance?

This all occurs as my hook for learning, but it also builds a ‘We are a family’ mindset.  Both Dr. Eric Jensen who wrote “Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind” and Doug Lemov who wrote “Teach like a Champion” believe in these two strong teaching tactics.  The hook grabs the students’ attention and the ‘family’ mindset allows for discussion, collaboration and an environment to fail without embarrassment or shame. thz78lr9c0-copy

3.  Class Discussion– Again, allowing for collaboration and discussion gives all students a voice.  There is no way a relationship can be built on a Teacher-Led classroom.  If the teacher is the only person doing the talking, then the teacher is the only person doing the learning.  The continuous Improvement model allows for reflection and allows for students to give feedback over the strategies taught and attempted throughout the week.  This feedback and discussion time is vital for learning to occur and for learning to become an ever changing, ever growing concept.

th2obk8c7n-copy4. Teach the Growth Mindset and Grit– Paul Tough wrote the books “How Children Succeed’ and “Helping Children Succeed”.  Both of these books encourage the Carol Dweck mindset of grit.  This is a noncognitive skill that is NOT taught but is a direct reflection of the environment that students are in.  We can teach students about how the brain works; how it is a muscle and can change and grow depending on how often and how much of it is used and how much practice is going on.

Growth Mindset– the effort/ perseverance and NOT the IQ determine a students ability

Gritverb-never giving up even when it is easier to quite

Grit must be the mindset of the teacher.  It must be encouraged, preached and celebrated!!!!  Students need to know that you are in the trenches with them. That this is not a battle between teacher and student.  You are on their team, you are coaching them through these times of perseverance and hardship.

This is the construction the BUILDING occurs.

See how this mindset changed my classroom in my previous posts

.Growth Mindset And what it did for me  and A New Year

5. Have fun and be Positive – Share your life with them with storytelling, integrate games into the learning process

4 Corners


Would you Rather…


 and add music into the classroom during transitions, writing time, or independent working time.

Celebrate the smallest things.  CHAMPS – the positive and proactive approach to classroom management by Randy Sprick researched that students should be hearing 4 positives to 1 negative.  Doug Lemov of “Teach like a Champion’ calls this positive framing turning a redirection into a positive reinforcement.

‘Don’t sit like that’ to “Remember we are SLANTING’

“Stop looking behind you” to “Lets all face forward”

Allow plausible anonymity– allow students to strive to reach your expectations by correcting them without using their names.

Assume positive intent- Until you know that the behavior is being done intentionally, your public redirection should stay positive.

Send home positive notes, call home to say how well someone did today, email parents about the student’s growth and effort in class.  * As a parent, I know this works.

In the last 8 years that I have taught, I have grown as a teacher.  But, the years I took the time to build positive relationships with my students were the years that I knew my students grew the most.  These were also the years that my students performed the best on the state standardized test- Coincidence?  I think NOT.


10 Book Quotes that Explain Teachers

imageThe beginning of the school year brings  a rollercoaster of emotions for teachers.  There is excitement about what the new year will bring, stress over the new expectations, worry that you won’t impact enough of your students within the time frame, and joy for the relationships that are built inside the classroom. There is a reason we go through this every year, there is a reason we put ourselves through the stress, the worry and the excitement, there is a reason this is not just a job but a calling.

I have found 10 quotes that explain teachers in a way that no teacher could articulate.

#1 “You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.” – The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Teachers have an innate ability to reflect and to continuously improve. This growth mindset allows us to motivate our students in daily improvements, encouraging them to never give up, and to believe in the power of trying.

Unfortunately, teachers are also known for their ability to multitask; control behaviors, teach high level thinking and engaging all students in the lesson at the same time.  This leads to forgetting where you place things; coffee mugs, papers, and even the post it that was supposed to remind you where you placed your graded papers.

#2 ” We can experience nothing but the present moment, live in no other second of time, and to understand this is as close as we can get to eternal life.” The Children of Men– P.D. James 

This became my goal two years ago.  Before this mindfulness type of thinking, I was always worried about tomorrow, the next lesson, the to do list.  I made this goal with my students, and it changed the outcome of my day to day life.  Teaching in the moment, being in the moment allowed me to really teach and be aware of the struggles and accomplishments made in the classroom.  It also led to some wonderful discoveries with my students and even myself.

#3 “We need never be ashamed of our tears.”- Great Expectations By Charles Dickens

In our tears we find clarity in how students are feeling.  In our tears we discover how passionate we are about the path we chose and the students we inspire.

#4. “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Every year that I have taught there has been a change; a grade level change, an expectation change, or even a testing change. Some teachers have experienced change in such a cynical way, but it is in the change that we discover our true ability and worth.

#5 “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.”- The Witches by Roald Dahl

Teachers believe this with their whole hearts.  Character is truly what matters.  Teachers don’t just teach the state expectations, we are teaching the whole child because we believe it matters.

#6 “Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.” – Breakfast at Tiffany’s- Truman Capote

This is our mission- to give students the confidence to grow, to try, and to conquer the world.

#7 ” I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.” – Moby Dick by Herman Melville

We never know what is coming on a day to day basis, or what the students are going to ‘bring’ from home.  Laughter truly is the best medicine.

#8 “When today fails to offer the justification for hope, tomorrow becomes the only grail worth pursuing.”- Death of a Salesman- Arthur Miller

If the lesson doesn’t work today, tomorrow is another day.  Teachers continuously want to improve, and when a lesson doesn’t work, if a day does not go as planned- yell ‘Plot change’ and make some changes.

#9 ” Kid, you’ll move mountains!” Dr. Seuss Oh The Places You Will Go

This children’s author knew how to push each and every one of us to new heights and new adventures.  Some times it feels like mountains- giant mountains but it is within this attitude that allows us to believe that we actually can.

#10 When you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.” – Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is what we do every day.  Every one of our students are roses, but it is the effort and the relationships that we build with our students that make the difference.  This is why we became teachers.  We knew that we had a calling in making a difference in these kids and it is in that effort and time building relationships that we take away the ‘thistles’ and groom them to becoming wonderful human beings.


There are many reasons teachers follow this path.  I became a teacher because of a bad experience in school, I have a lot of friends that knew it was their calling from a very young age, and some became teachers became teachers because of great influences in their lives.  It doesn’t matter why we became teachers, what matters is what we do with it while we are in it. I am proud  be a teacher. I am proud of the successes that my students’ have had, and I am proud of the difference that we make every day.




7 Things every Teacher Needs to Hear (This article inspired today’s post.) If you are a teacher, You should take a moment and read it as well. )

As a teacher, I always wanted to know that what I was doing was on target, worthy of recognition, or out in left field. The days and years that I didn’t get feedback were days I felt unaccomplished, unappreciated, and moot. These were the days that I didn’t feel like I was in the right career. So, I as a new instructional specialist, on a new campus with a new administration team, we have made it our mission to make sure all our teachers hear these 7 phrases as frequently as possible.

Here are 7 things that every teacher needs to hear, regardless of their years as a teacher.

1. You are doing a great job with _____________.

It is very important that teachers hear that they are doing a great job.  Not just a simple, ‘good job,’ but specifically what they are doing that is a great job.  This can be done with a simple post it note, a card, or even verbally letting them know.  This small gesture lets teachers know they are making the school a better place and helping the school and students more successful.

2. I really like seeing _______________ happening in your classroom.

I have been an instructional specialist/coach for a very short time, but in this time I have been able to step into all classrooms.  It has been a privilege to step into classrooms where students are more eager to answer questions, students collaborating and following all expectations and procedures because of their excited and positive teachers.  This is just the first week of school!  I want this energy to keep flowing.

3. Thank you for your _____.

In all my years, as a teacher, I hardly ever heard this from administration.  I am a very 1intrinsically motivated person, but if I weren’t, I think this phrase would have motivated me to keep giving to my peers and student, sharing ideas and materials, helping in other areas besides my classroom and participating in duties I wasn’t being paid for.

4. I’m sorry.

2Admitting a mistake or sympathizing with teachers goes a long way.  Letting them know that you understand and that you are sorry for the mistake, miscommunication or change in plans is a very smart thing.  Apologizing for these humanly errors is a very strong way to get everyone on the same playing field.  It is not You vs. them, it is not Administration vs. teachers- we are all in the trenches together, and we have all made mistakes.  We should all be humble enough to understand that we are not perfect and nobody should be held at that standard.

5. You’ve got this.

It is important for teachers to know that you believe in their abilities.  They have been trained, I know they continue to study new pedagogy and management techniques.  It is important that they know you believe in them or they will not believe in themselves.  Some times allowing teachers to fail on their own and discover their strengths/weaknesses places the power within the teacher. This power, this belief in them will take their class further than they ever thought. 3

6. This is the expectation.

Clear and straight forward- ‘This is the expectation. This is what we expect to see when entering your classroom.’ Giving teachers exact expectations, check lists, due dates, and directions allow them to reach those expectations.  This clear communication puts every teacher on the same page.

7. I am here to help and support you and your students.

There was a time that I was ready to throw in the towel.  A colleague said this to me, and it changed everything.  I don’t remember if I even used their help, but just knowing that the support and help was there made me feel like I wasn’t alone.  It made me feel like if I fell, there would be someone there to help me.

I hope these have been phrases you have heard.  I hope these phrases are ones that help your campus move towards your goals.  I believe teachers have a very difficult task at hand, and it is important we give them as much feedback as possible.


The 3 Biggest Mistakes I Made as a New Teacher


As I begin my ninth year as an educator in a new role as instructional coach, I am able to reflect over the successes that I have had due to the many failures I encountered.

Unfortunately, I have also had so many errors.  I can now admit I am grateful for what these mistakes have taught me because I know I would NOT be the educator I am today without learning from these three Big mistakes.

My Way or The Highway Mentality3

As a new teacher, I believed that being the ‘tough’ teacher meant the classroom was all mine.  This brought out the worst in many of my students; defiance and a dislike for English language arts.  I had chairs thrown at me, students hide under their tables, and very upset parents.  I didn’t know that what I was doing was causing these behaviors.  I didn’t know that I had to earn the respect of my students or the buy-in from my students. I didn’t know that to have a class of students that would do just about anything for me, I needed to FIRST, and foremost, share the classroom with them.

Lesson Learned- So now…

I had to first learn that it was not the students that were causing this, it was me.   I now build my class as if we were a family.  Choices, Voice, and mutual respect are high on my To Do list at the beginning of every school year. The classroom Mission is written with my students, in my students’ language and vocabulary.  Classroom Norms are written by my students.  The Two Sisters who wrote The Daily Five taught me the importance of student choice.  Eric Jensen taught me how to create a positive class climate with ‘we are a family’ mindset.

These students are now my family.  I know I am not the only teacher out there that claims her/his students has ‘their kids’ because they are.  Every year, teachers, including myself, put our hearts and souls into making sure OUR KIDS become the best that they can become. My first group of students are now Seniors in High School, and I enjoy watching their successes in sports and honor roll on Facebook.  It makes me proud to know that I was allowed to be apart of their world, even before I knew what I was doing.

Teaching my Butt off EVERY DAY!!!!

This was a mistake I did not learn until my fifth year as a teacher. I would take work home, grade papers on the weekends, and stay at school preparing lesson ideas until eleven at night.  I was working harder than the students. I wanted it more than my students, and I know that at the end of the day, I was exhausted!

Lesson Learned- Now

In my fifth year of teaching I had to find a balance between work and home. I had just had my first son, and my time at school had to be productive and focused. I had this amazing Instructional Coach that gave me permission to not work as hard.  That didn’t mean I had to stop innovating new lessons, fun experiences in the class. What that meant was, I had to find a way to get my students to work harder than me.

  • reflective over data
  • student-centered learning opportunities
  • Focused on research based pedagogy

I started to become more reflective as a teacher.  My guided lessons in whole group became more intentional with research based pedagogy.  Marzano, Rich Allen and Marcia Tate allowed me to focus on engagement and instructional strategies.  These strategies moved my data and my students toward higher achieving levels.  After reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, I learned that I needed to give students time in class to work independently to discover and problem solve.  Giving students time to read, try new strategies and work through comprehension breakdowns became the center of our classroom learning.  My Close Reading protocols allowed my students to read, problem solve and reflect to become stronger, successful, more independent readers. These are research based answers to student success.

My classroom stopped being Teacher centered and became a Learner -Centered classroom.  The students started working harder, and I started going home to play with my own children.  I was happier and the balance in my life allowed my classroom to be more purposeful, fun, and an exciting place to be.

Not Seeking Help/Advice 4

At first, I thought I was supposed to be a Lone Ranger.  Why?  I have no idea.  I didn’t take advice from veteran teachers, I didn’t even seek advice from colleagues.  I guess I thought I needed to fail by myself instead of succeed with others.  What was I thinking?

Lesson Learned

After failing miserably for about two years, I started to seek help.  I began my partnership with mentors through the Barnes N Noble teacher aisle, and then found myself asking for help, clarification and feedback from my instructional coach.  Just sitting across from her and bouncing ideas back and forth made me feel not so alone, not so dumb, and not so crazy.  I found family in my peers.  I found strength in my colleagues.  I found knowledge in administration.  2

If you are a new teacher or a thirty year veteran, teaching pedagogy and our students are ever changing. Without reflection and the ability to admit your mistakes we will never acquire the  knowledge that will allow our students to become the successful people we want them to be.