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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

10 Ways for Teachers to get ready to go back to school after Winter break

As a teacher I will start back to school for the second semester of the 2014-15 school year in January. The first day will be a planning day to reconnect with peers, colleagues, and get ready for the students.  Will I be ready? Will stress play a part on that first day when the students come back? 

As a former Sr. Software Project Manager my primary focus was mitigation of stress in the management of change. Change is a part of our daily lives and how we management it either helps us through the change or causes us to be stressful through the change. Here are my ten things to do as I prepare to go back to teaching and working on managing a stress free learning environment to start the rest of the school year. 

10 - Move my mindset to one of learning and growth. When I am in restoration mode I sometimes want to stay there. Over the break I've read great books, visited with family and friends, watched movies, enjoyed good foods, as well as found some new ideas to use in the classroom. I need to return to the proactive growth mindset. I want to be surprised at what my students have retained over the break. I don't want to show disappointment on any regression. I want to set everyone up for success an adjust plans to reteach if necessary. I may need to rekindle the students minds to remembering what we work so hard to learn before the break. If I am positive, they will be too.

9-Let the student's help return the classroom to a different theme. If I do all of the work on my planning day to take down the decorations, put away the holiday materials, then the students miss an opportunity of ownership in creating the next theme. As we put away the holiday decorations we also realize things come to an end and new beginnings take place. It's helpful to allow the students to be helpful and to participate in the space they occupy. They will have more respect for something they helped to create. Don't forget to update the classroom job list, too. Don't have one? Check out TeachHub's suggestions for creating classroom jobs.

8-You are not alone. If you haven't been to the classroom during the break, you may be overwhelmed at what is to be done. Take a break and help one of your colleagues, make it a time to work together on helping one another to clean, straighten up the room, or reorganize materials, keeping in mind that you are not alone and have great colleagues wanting to help with fresh new eyes and ideas. (Leave some for the students to do, see #9.)

7-Positive notes or emails home. I'm going to take time out the first week back to write positive notes and emails back to the parents to set the tone for the rest of the school year. We are so busy doing the teaching process we sometimes forget to include the parents in the exciting elements which happen in class. I have made a personalized version of a "positively note worthy" note pad made from 1/4 page cut outs. I can keep them on a small clipboard and write a quick note home while I'm working directly with the student in circle time, in one-on-one, or during my "walk-abouts." Parents enjoy getting communications on how well their child is doing in class and if they start getting them regularly it will change the relationship when the time comes for a more serious meeting or phone call.

6-Practice positive teacher language. After being with adult size friends and family members over the holidays we may relapse back to saying "good job" or "great work" rather than being specific in our language to students. Responsive Classroom has some great tips on reminding, reinforcing, and redirecting language to use a refresher before the students return to class. @responsiveclass and #RCChat are great Twitter resources and RC Facebook page is also helpful to bring us back to using positive teacher language.

5-The second half of the school is a great time to re-visit hopes and dreams, goals, and expectations with students, colleagues, data teams as well as parents. Be positive when working with students in setting or revisiting goals. Remember that failure is a part of learning - staying "in the failure" should not be an option. I was reminded during the football bowl games that we don't score every time the quarterback touches the ball. We must face set-backs, determine what is needed to move forward and keep trying until we get it done - one down at a time if needed.  As a special education teacher I see success measured by the minute, the hour, the day, the week, the month, etc. Encouraging students to keep trying and to continue to learn beyond their goal is integral in life's journey.

4. Remind and reinforce classroom rules and procedures. It has been a long time in the minds of some students since they were lining up, sharpening a pencil, raising their hands, waiting their re-visit the school rules, classroom rules, logical consequences and procedures to put everyone back on the same level. If you think you don't have the time to do this, remember that every time one of these routines are missed and a classroom management issue arises you are reducing the time of engagement. Taking the time to get it right is always less expensive than taking the time to do it over (and over and over).

3. Extend sharing time for the first few days. If you have a Morning Meeting where a limited number of students share each day, you may wish to extend the time allotted, or create other opportunities to share (at the end of the day during Closing Meeting) or remind the students that lunch and recess are great times to share with their friends about what they did, the gifts they received, and their holiday experiences. Everyone's story is important and each  of us want a time to share about our experiences with our friends (even we teachers like to share exciting things!).

2. Make a list and check it twice. A few days before you go back to your teacher's desk try to remember your passwords, key codes, etc. If you haven't used them in 10-14 days you may have difficulty getting into your computer, the secure areas of the school or even the teacher's lounge. Revisit the class schedule, the class roster, and other items just to bring them into your working memory. It will be easier to transition just in case there are new schedules, additional events or even just making sure things go smoothly when the students return on the first day.

1. Rest. As we get closer to going back to school our brains start to think about things we need to do. Our brains will tell us and remind us what we need to do or what we may have thought about doing - put those on the list - (see #2) but trying not to stress about those items will usually generate more stress pulling us into a vicious cycle. Staying up late and worrying doesn't resolve anything n any positive manner. My wife's normal school schedule is a 4:30 a.m. wake up call and arrival at school by 5:45 a.m. (it's her preference as the principal to get to school early to get her work done so she can be available to her staff throughout the day - 23 years an educator she has her work schedule down to where she can be the most successful.) I'm not as much of a morning person as her, but I realize that a good night's rest and leaving enough time to get to the classroom to handle any unforeseen issues allows me to control the stress and not allow the daily stress to control me. A good night's rest helps us think better, manage better and just "be" better.

My best wished for the rest of the 2014-14 school year and a personal Happy New Year to each and every educator. Education is a second career choice for me, but it is a passion where I cannot wait to get back into the learning "groove."  As I told one parent I met shopping during the holiday, "I can't wait to get back to school." She looked at me and said, "Me either!"

10 Things for parents to consider before children go back to school after Winter break

Going back to school after Winter break can add stress to a child, parent, and the daily routine, especially after the holidays. Family time, relatives, special celebrations are all fun and everyone gets excited, however the anticipation of going back to school offer stressful times if we wait until the night before school starts to get ready.  Here are my top ten actions to consider as a parent before your child goes back to school in January.

10 - Stay informed. Check the school's district, school, and classroom websites, calendar, Facebook or Twitter accounts for any last minute changes to schedules, routines, new initiatives, or other considerations which may begin during the start of the second semester of school. Some teachers will post items two or three days before school resumes to remind parents of any changes in schedule or events the first week back.

9- Prepare notes to send to the teacher. If there have been changes in the student's health or any event which will help the teacher to know about a life-changing or other "life-event" (birth of sibling, death of close relative, etc.) send a note to the teacher. Email can be overwhelming for teachers the first day or two back so a brief note to look at email or to call home would get the attention of the student's teacher right away.

8- Talk about returning to school. Be positive. Remember that unless the child is old enough to understand sarcasm, they will take adult comments about "having to" return to school as truth and feel differently about school. Let them tell you about the fun things they did before school ended. This will help to bring back the fondness and generate positive anticipation in returning to school in January.

7-Update the school on any changes in phone numbers (get a new phone for Christmas?), emergency contact information, address, or any other changes to be sure the second semester contact and inclement weather considerations are in place at the beginning of the January term.

6-Talk to your child about school attire. Remind the fashion conscious the cute outfit from grandma may not work for standard school attire where the rules are more restrictive and consistent which wouldn't allow some of the styles to be worn at school. Also, take the time to discuss and talk about what we see on the outside is should not to be used to judge what is on the inside. A good idea is to talk about and prepare for what your child is going to wear when they go back to school for the first few days and even get them to help you select specific clothes so they are not hiding in the laundry basket on the first morning back.

5- Talk with your child that it may be difficult. The first few days back to school are an adjustment to working on math, language arts, rather than other holiday activities. Also, remember homework may be on the schedule when school starts back in January. Early discussions can ease the surprise element of change and help us as parents and our children to set expectations before we get overwhelmed. Understanding and preparing for change helps to mitigate the challenges which come with change.

4-Our children love to share what happened over the holidays, but some things just shouldn't be shared. Some classes will have time to share about what happened on their winter holiday or about their most exciting gift. As parents, if we take the time to ask questions about the holiday we can get an idea of what our children remember and can give guidance on perhaps not discussing the relative who stumbled or mumbled - even though the family may have seen it as funny at the time, discussed in a school setting may not have the same hilarity.

3-Help your child remember things about school. Ask them to tell you about what they think their first day will be like: "What will be the first thing you do?" "When will you go to lunch?" "Will you have Art, Music or PE?" Ask them to revisit their hopes and dreams or goals they set at the beginning of the school year. Not too much emphasis, but a good discussion or a few probing questions will get the brain working and ready them when they walk in on the first day back. (For help on revisiting hopes and dreams in the new year.)

2-Cut back on the holiday treats. By the time the holidays are over with all of the unique family traditions the cafeteria breakfast and lunch programs are going to leave our taste buds calling out for spices, seasonings, and craving, shall I say it, "sweets." After the New Year's day food traditions, start going back to the same foods and schedules the students were eating during their regular school day. Having meals at regular times or with foods on regular days (My daughter still asks for macaroni & cheese Wednesdays and she has a child or her own now.) it will help each of us get back into our comfort routines.

1-Get to bed early. Video games for gifts, late nights with relatives, are all great to have when you can sleep in or nap the next day. But when the demands for school start back, ease back into getting the proper amount of rest. But don't wait until the night before to change the bedtime for children. For my kids we would start on January 1st to ease back the non-holiday bedtime by fifteen minutes or so earlier each night until we were back to the normal school bedtime. We would also make sure to use the same wake-up method that we used during school days. If you use an alarm start setting it now, not the night before.  (Wondering what to do if you wake up early and school isn't back in session? How about spending the time reading. Select a book to read or visit an online reading site.)

Helping your child to ease back into the school day routine will reduce the family stress, personal stress and provide comfort and routine to the child. If you are like my family, we enjoy the changes the holidays bring, but are so happy when we can get back into the comfort of the familiar. We just seem to relax after everything returns to "normal."


Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Tennessee Association for Assistive Technology (AT) has a great listing of resources for use of assistive technology for student with special needs.  AT websites and devices may help students to participate in classroom settings, communicate with teachers, parents and peers. Not all AT services and devices are created equally, so please investigate their uses and abilities as well as what the purpose should be in adding AT to a students tools by reading this article from Autism Society of Greater Tucson. 


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Beginning of School - New "nick name"

Friday was our first full day of school for 2014-15 school year. All of the students were apprehensive, excited, overly stimulated as well as cautious. There were new teachers, teachers in different classrooms, new schedules, just new stuff all around. Mr. Don's Scholars was no exception to the angst beginning to fill the room. We are a group of special needs students, so any extra anxiety is sometimes difficult for my students. 

As is customary, we have an activity where I use a mirror and we call it "Get To Know Me, Get To Know You". It involves observations about others and yourself, then thinking, talking, writing and finally drawing - each other. 

It was going well - the students would look at each other and write down the color of their buddy's shirt, the color of their eyes, the color of their hair, short or long; pants, skirt, or shorts; then they would write a sentence about their buddy. Next they would look in the mirror and do the same exercise about themselves. Finally we would compare and contrast our findings.

As the time progressed, I was helping one of my students with autism who has difficulty making eye contact. So we were practicing. She would look at my hair (short); she would look at my shirt (red); she would say "pants" - when I asked about the color of my eyes she looked directly into them. I was so pleased that she held the gaze as long as she did so I must have put a big smile on my face. Slowly her hand moved toward my face and she lightly touched my cheek, then proceeded to shout in a loud, cackling voice, "Chubby cheeks! Chubby Cheeks!" -- to which I laughed out loud, which in turn made her laugh and then say it even louder and more frequently.  Then all of the students were repeating the phrase and we were all laughing and enjoying the moment of bonding as a class. 

After returning from lunch, she looked at me directly again, then said very softly, "Chubby Cheeks." To which I replied in the same soft tone, "Yes. Chubby Cheeks with blue eyes." She pressed in a little closer and said ever so gently - "Ooo, bal-lu-u eyes. I have bar-row-n eyes." I nodded, we knuckled bumped and proceeded to write the word "blue" in the space for her buddy's eye color. 

"Chubby Cheeks" is ready for the year. It is going the be the best year ever!!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Organization is Key!

Each year I find myself struggling organize my students' schedules and to make reminders of who will be transitioning when. With eight full time students of different grade levels and four additional push-in students need differentiation, knowing who will be coming and going and where has been difficult to remember - especially when we are so engaged that we loose track of time and suddenly it's time to go to music and we still need everyone to go to the bathroom before we escort them to an outside classroom...Not this year!

This year I created a Google Account with calendar reminders to send text message reminders to me and my assistant. We then changed our notifications to be a different sound when those messages arrive.

With 5 minute warnings of what schedule is coming due, we can be more organized. We can also change the warning time to send the reminder as we move through this first few weeks so that we will have our students in the right place at the right time.

With the unlimited text packages for our mobile phones this seems to be a great way for us to use a reminder. Each week or each day we can delete those messages from our phones since they are coming from one specific account and not the other reminder messages I get from "Remind 101" or "Remember the Milk" (my wife sends me messages on RTM all the time!).

The additional benefit? Now I can set up the classroom calendar to be shared with parents, attached documents to share with parents, and even create a simple website (even with the student's helping me) to display work product, important images and other non-student specific items.

If organization is the key to my sanity, then I'm unlocked and ready for the 2014-15 school year!!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Perseverance Pays Off... When Will We Learn

How long will you try something? How long will you struggle before you give up? What about your students? Will they try and give up or will they as the students from this article indicates other countries persevere, work together, help one another then when they achieve, celebrate the achievement?

This article and post was talked about this summer in one of my professional development classes and it has caused me to think that we need to teach "progressive struggle." That ability to work on something until we can get it, rather than just giving up thinking it's not worth the struggle to persevere.

Thanks to Amy for sharing this in our PD. Now, let's continue to share this with other educators and parents as the first day of school rapidly approaches.

P.S. Remember to read the comments. They are just as encouraging!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Don't let math go down the drain this summer!

This list of Math apps can help to keep the math skills sharpened during the Summer. Don't let them go down the drain or be filtered out with the pool water!   I use Slate Math in the classroom and my 2nd graders loved it!  Check out the list: TEN MATH APPS from


Friday, April 18, 2014

Counting Down or Counting Out?

There are less than 30 school days remaining in our 2013-14 school year. We are half-way through the last nine week reporting period. High stakes testing will begin in just over a week. What is happening to our learners? To our educators?

As the weather has improved and the days have become longer it seems there is a correlation to the memories getting shorter and the focus getting more and more cloudy.  As teachers there is a tendency to push and push, shoving more and more facts, figures, learning into an already saturated and sometimes exhausted mind of a young learner.  As I was talking to an educator (not at my school, thankfully), she stated that she was "counting down the days." Then she smiled and gave me that "I-can't-wait-until-Summer-break" facial look. Had she given up? Was she counting out her students? Had she thrown in the towel?

In preparation for our state's annual standardize testing, I am tutoring a group of seven third graders in math. They weren't ready for what we did. Using techniques from Dave Burgess's Teach Like A Pirate (@burgessdave #TLAP) along with ideas from Richard Byrne's websites and these third graders began to experience math in an entirely different way.

The first day my seven learners (all third grade girls) were waiting at the assigned point in the school with the other learners that were participating for nine hours of interventions over three weeks in preparation for the standardized tests.

They knew who I was. Evidently I have a reputation. (Thanks, PIRATE DAVE!) I announced in my strong teacher voice, "Mr Don's Math Scholars! Please, form a triangle."

Quickly they struggled to awaken from their after school coma as they tried to comprehend. "What? Form a triangle? Huh?"  One girl even stated, "Mr. Don, I'm not a math scholar, sir. I'm not really that good at math." To which I looked at her and whispering, corrected her, "I'm not good at math, YET!"

Breaking into a typical drill sergeant cadence. We marched from the meeting spot (as a triangle) to my room chanting,
"I may not know, but I believe, 
mathematics is for me! 
We will study, we will learn,
not just facts but skills we earn.
Math is everywhere we see
I can do it, You will see
Math is great and math's for me!"

As we marched down the hallway I ask questions about triangles, vertices, obtuse, acute, etc. They were answering quietly. I smiled and said, "I can't hear you!"  Then I smiled and at that they realized this was not going to be a typical math session.

We chanted down the hallway, now we were looking for triangles and identifying the types of triangles we could find all around us. We then continued the learning inside the room with activities, tech tools (iPads, Elmo, Projection systems) not by themselves, but as teams, as collaborators. We did this until we returned an hour later with a new chant exiting back to where parents were waiting to pick up their young mathematicians. No pencils. No paper. Math skills being enhanced by using our brains, powers of observation and using the tools we carry with us every day (yes, some had to user their fingers, but that's is a good purpose for them!)

We are now half-way through the intervention time. We continue to form geometric shapes as we cadence to the room. Yet, now, they are leading the cadence, calling out the geometric forms, identifying lengths/widths, and giving me formulas for finding area, circumferences, putting fractions into ascending and descending order all as we constantly move for the entire hour. No sitting (if at all possible) and continuously checking in with each other for understanding. We are noisy. We are learning. We are having fun, too!

The benefit to me has been enormous. I am just as rejuvenated at the end of the session as they are. We are making the time count not just counting the time.

We realize we have testing strategies as well as math skills to work on improving.

How do I know that learners should not be counted out as we approach the end of the school year? That young mathematician who "wasn't very good at math" celebrated yesterday with her team as she was able to solve a complex logic problem. Everyone in the room could hear her brain "click" and then see the light turn on as she "got it!" We all celebrated.

Let's keep counting down for events and stop counting out. Let's keep providing that hope of "Yet!" and not leaving learners in the ring thinking that they have been counted out and their match was lost, returning to their corner without hope.

"Yes, I know and I believe, all learners are extraordinary!"  (Their favorite chant as we end!)


Tuesday, March 18, 2014


E! for Explore is a great curated website of ideas and resource for teachers and parents. They have selected unique learning activities, and searched the internet to compile ideas from other sources around the internet.

Their index helps you find what you may be looking for in activities in math, science, even Language Arts. They provide easy links to those websites. All E is for Explore activities conform to state common core curriculum standards.


Monday, March 17, 2014

English Is For Everyone website!! reading comprehension site is filled with great passages for teacher resources in reading.  One of my favorites is for Reading Comprehension. The passages are leveld for the beginner through the advanced. The passages have the number questions, the number of words already for you and the material is age appropriate and interesting to the reader.

I like the resources listed on the site and will use them for additional material for enrichment as well as for interventions.


Responsive Classroom Resource...

My school and the district have been implementing Responsive Classroom for this school year. I needed a place to remind me of the concepts and basics of the RC approach and strategies. This site from the Albert Bridge School in Brownsville, VT has provided a great reminder for me in kid-friendly terms that I can look up and remind myself and my students about being a responsive classroom.   Thanks to the third-grade class who put these items together and a shout out for all of the school implementing Responsive Classrooms in their schools and districts!!


Saturday, March 15, 2014

My 5 New Math Sites!

Here are Math Sites I've heard about, stumbled across, and been using in my class. I wanted to post a selection here for my parents and others that are wishing to allow students to get some interventions while on Spring Break!!

1. A+ Click
A+ Click helps students become problem solvers. No fees, no ads, no calculators, and no sign in. The website features a graduated set of over 4000 challenging problems.The questions are based on the Common Core Standards in Math and go beyond with emphasis on thinking and not just wrote number sentences.

2. IXL Math ( is a subscriber fee based math site (plus other curricula) and to me is worth the fee. It offers standards based material and makes math fun and not boring (how many number sentences can a student really do to show mastery?)

3. A set of Mathematics Resources for Elementary students. The sites are interactive and provide engaging learning experiences. I use this for interventions and supplemental work outside of the classroom.

4. Cool Math 4 Kids ( Visually stimulating, engaging sites, and great intuitive lessons. That's just for the kids. Parents there is also a link for you that will help guide through the maze of helping with math homework, getting ready for kindergarten, and a set of resources. This is one of my favorites for the parent guides as well as the student interactivity.

5. Kids Numbers ( A collection of games, worksheets, and interactivity to assist the early learner in having fun with math.


If you have your favorite FREE math website please post in the comments. Parents and teachers are always looking for ways to help students get a positive learning experience in math that will last a life time!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

CLOSE Reading - What Does It Really Mean? (Special Education Use?)

Thanks to Grant Wiggins at I have found great material on really helping me to understand what Close Reading really is and how to implement it in my Special Education classroom.  (See complete article here.)

The main take away for me is that Close Reading should and can become as natural as reading itself. Unless you have some difficulty in reading or processing. Yet, that's where I found my epiphany. In finally understanding all the steps and process in Close Reading through the writing of the article posted,  I can see where I wasn't spending the right amount of time discovering the layers of meaning hidden within the text.

Once I began to break down the reading selection into "chunks" digestible for my students (i.e., get to know your students capabilities and then stretch them) - we were able, together, to navigate the depths of the text.

"Going down deeper!" I would say, as we would re-read, re-think, and try to see if we could find something that we hadn't see before. The discovery was the "fun" part. The analysis not so much. So we, keeping with the metaphor, we focused on the treasure - looking at what we  found, how did it relate to us, where was it found? What does it look like on the bottom? On the top? On the side?, etc. Yes, we had to take the time to teach the analysis steps in ways the students would come to find as an extension of the discovery. Then folding in the comparing and contrasting from what we had found earlier, we were well on our way through the analysis portion of the Close process.

Now we can discuss what we found, what we have concluded and predict or think ahead on what we will find as we continue to move through the text. It has been exciting to do this and to watch this unfold for each of the students in their own specific manner and pace.

Pacing was my Nemesis. I wanted to move through the book much faster than they did. Just as life, for us typically-abled we zoom through things and more often than not, miss things. But as my individually-abled students keep teaching me, when we go at our own pace, somethings become more important at the time than other things. The focus on the color of the dress the princess is wearing is just as important as the focus on the type of sword the prince may use to slay the dragon. While those may not be the main points, they are to those students. It is my job, to help them see the details as well as the main topic of the text. When we have all finished our analysis, then we can summarize to reach the main topic(s) and move forward. This takes several iterations. But, oh my, how joyful the journey.

I'm convinced that more we practice the more we will increase our speed of the process. I'm even more convinced that not practicing at all is a disservice to each person. What important lesson we are teaching by excluding the rich details as we summarize the main points and thus complete the comprehension of the story? After all, I may not remember all of the details of what I read, and sometimes the main idea that I've reached is different than a colleague based upon my prior-knowledge and attention to (or lack thereof to) such details. That is the fun and joy of reading - discussion and learning by interaction within a safe relationship.

Thanks again to the great staff of writers at TeachThought-com as I go back to see if we can determine the type of dragon - you know, even if not fully stated it is important to those who focus and know a lot about dragons.

I teach K-3 special education students in an urban school district in Middle Tennessee.

Showing Respect and Calm when a student "Acts Out"

The site has a blog entry by Janice O'Leary titled, "5 More Quick Tips to Deal with Inappropriate Acting Out Behaviour" which I found was a great help to me with some of the students in my classroom.

While I don't believe in "talking-over" students that are intent on interrupting while you are trying to communicate with sentences that start with "I see that...," "I noticed....," etc., I like to create calm in the room by playing with a toy - even just a marker and rolling it on the table to gain or re-direct their interest from the behavior being displayed by acting out. Sometimes the simple act of sitting close by and rolling a marker on a table and not talking will generate a new interest and/or curiosity.

After gaining their attention I really like items four and five from Ms. O'Leary's blog entry:

"4. Do, not say. Children pay more attention and learn from what adults do than from what they say. If you want your child to be polite, then you must be polite. You cannot expect your child to be non-aggressive when you are fighting with your neighbor.

Yelling “Calm down” at your child will not work, you have to show the child how to behave. Being disrespectful to a child solves nothing, you only teach them that this behavior is acceptable in your family. You must be composed. “I do not like it when you call me names like this.” Then calmly walk away.

Model the behavior you want to see in your child. Show them how to handle frustrations. “I am very upset with the way you spoke to me”, then walk away. Don’t just say “you need to be polite.” Show them in your everyday life how to be polite.

5. Accept bad moods and bad days. Everyone has bad days. This coupled with your child’s difficulty with problem solving and communicating can lead to major arguments. Sometimes people are just not morning people. If you recognize this, you can avoid fights by having an established routine with less communication. Breakfast, get dressed, off to school.

You can accept a bad mood by saying, “It looks like you are having a bad day, lets chat in ten minutes.” Bad moods are okay, you can accept them and say “I know your team lost and you are upset, just take it easy tonight.” But if the bad mood leads to your child to taking out their anger on you and it escalates into disrespectful, rude or obnoxious behavior, that is not okay.

You say “I am sorry you are having a bad day, but don’t take it out on me.” Then walk away. Remember to disconnect."

Please read the entire blog post here:

And a special thanks to all of the great writers at for providing great information and strategies for all of our students.


Reading Dimension Recommendations from Anthony Smith

Reading Dimensions from Anthony Smith's blog entry published at has been a great help for me to get my perspective and solidify my approach for teaching pre-reading skills into a working strategy for readers at various levels. Other links embedded and referenced in Mr. Smith's article have also helped me to go deeper into the "why" of the reasoning behind his approach.

Check out the blog and hopefully you, too, will find something you can use immediately in your classroom.


Motivate Children to Do Better in School (great 10 ways from Debbie Pincus)

10 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Do Better in School by Debbie Pincus MS LMHC

Read the entire blog post here:

In reading the above blog link I was struck by the simple, yet effective methods, Ms. Pincus discusses in her listing of the ten ways to motivate children to improve in school. The article is great for parents as well as teachers.

My favorites as both a parent and educator are:

Number 1. Keep a relationship with your kids that is open, respectful and positive. This is a great foundation to build upon all of the other ways. Without respect and positive relationship no one is attentive to listening to a parent or teacher.

Number 4: Ask the teacher. As an educator it is important to have your son or daughter know that you have a positive relationships with their teacher. To work together as a team (parent-child-teacher) to help the child understand there are no "enemies" here, but all want him/her to succeed.

And, Number 10, "Don't Futurize" -- We have no way of knowing what will happen in the future, nor do we have any control on events that may happen as a result of others making choices that affect us. What we do have control over is the way we look at and process events which help us to make decisions and choices. Anxiety can lead to paralysis at worst, and can cause us to miss seeing or hearing important information as we process situations in order to make good choices. What they will doing or where they be living in 20 years is not as important to a child trying to work through the anxiety of math one evening at home - it is important for him or her to be successful in front of their peers.

Pincus provides even more ways to help our children to reduce the anxiety of life in school and all that brings, with making sure the responsible adults in their lives assist them in navigating through their journey as them become responsible adults to hopefully repeat the cycle for their own children.

Read more: