Category Archives: Motivation

District Twitter Chats

A couple of weeks ago some of the librarians in our district sent out an idea for a district Twitter chat for our students.  They included a great form that we could use for the students to fill out. I had just participated in a professional chat a few days before, hosted by Todd Nesloney, about creating a positive school culture.  In fact, Todd’s recent #EduLS challenge was to celebrate someone. So, the third prompt on the Twitter sheet appealed to me, “Give a Shout Out to a Teacher!”

As the GT teacher, I have students from all grade levels, so I thought this would be a great opportunity for my classes to perform a random act of kindness for potentially every staff member in the school.

My younger students dictated their Tweets to me, while older students wrote their own and then tweeted them from our class account once I approved them.

Knowing that not many teachers follow our class account, I’ve been collecting the Tweets in Storify each day, and mailing the link to the teachers included in that day’s accolades.  All of the students were allowed to choose who got the shout outs, and most of them chose to recognize two or three staff members each.

Twitter Shoutout

I am trying to encourage the students to name something specific they remember about the person, rather than just saying, “You’re nice.”  It’s been gratifying to see that they are happy to include all staff members – not just classroom teachers.

I want to thank Irene Kistler(@IreneKistler) and Sara Romine (@laffinglibrary) for spreading this idea.  I believe Irene is the author of Twitter Paper.  When I asked her if I could share the idea, she pointed me to a very cool website that inspired her.  It is called KidsEdChatNZ, and has fabulous prompts for their New Zealand student participants each week.

It appears that the New Zealand chat happens at a weekly scheduled time.  However, I think that doing this as a “slow chat” was great so that we could get more participants.

If you are interested, you might also want to check out the “S.C.A.M.P.E.R.” Twitter Chat with students that we did in February.


I’m Not a Very Good Public Speaker – Yet

I don’t usually write posts on the weekend, but I know people tend to read this blog to find resources for their classrooms, so I don’t want anyone to feel cheated by me sticking a reflective piece in the midst of my weekday posts.  I’ll be back on Monday with more ideas to engage your students!

Poll my family and my close friends for my biggest weaknesses, and I can tell you exactly what will top the list – cooking.  I have never been and never will be a genius in the kitchen.

But that isn’t because I wasn’t born with some kind of Iron Chef gene.  It’s mostly because I really don’t want to learn to be a good cook.  Cooking doesn’t interest me.  And, if I didn’t have a family, I’d be fine with eating cereal for dinner every night.  Since my husband seems to enjoy the process of making a meal almost as much as he enjoys disassembling the kitchen three times a day, I’m more than happy to leave the whole thing to him.

Now, I’m not saying that I could rival Julia Child if I just put my mind to it, but I certainly think I could get better than I am right now – if I wanted to.

It’s all about that Growth Mindset that I’ve been preaching to my students.  Not everything will come easily to you, but if you have the motivation to work hard at getting better at something, you will.  It’s easy to say, “I’m just no good at math,” and accept that it’s just the way you were born and it will never change.  But it’s the lazy way out.

I don’t aspire to be a great cook, but I do really want to become a better public speaker.  Like many teachers, I have no problem speaking to a large group of students, but I get paralyzed in a room of my peers.  I hate that about myself, and I refuse to accept it.  The logical part of my brain tells me that this fear is ridiculous, yet the rest of my body apparently takes issue with that.

The other day I had the opportunity to speak in front of a pretty large group of people.  It’s a bit of a blur, but I am pretty confident that I did not put my best foot forward.  Afterward, I assured myself that public speaking is definitely not my calling – and I need to just accept that and stop putting myself in positions that require it.  In fact, I was thinking the best option would be to just lock myself in my house and never show my face in public again.  Just thinking about that possibility gave me a sense of calm and amazing optimism.

But then I felt like a hypocrite.  Because I’m always telling my students to step outside their comfort zones.  And here I am sneaking my way back into mine – and making a plan to build a brick wall around it.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 1.19.35 PM

Yep.  The casket sounds a lot better than the podium to me.  I could be wrong, but that’s not really the attitude that I’ve been preaching to my students.

So, I’m not ready to accept defeat.  I’m going to keep trying.  I have some messages to share about education, and I would like to be able to deliver those messages without dissolving into a sweaty puddle of paranoia.

I don’t have any delusions that I will become a great speaker.  Some people really do have that gift, and I am not one of them.  I also don’t have any delusions that I will lose the fear.  I listened to a great TED talk recently about a singer, Joe Kowan, with stage fright.  To conquer his problem, he did the logical thing and made himself perform even more.

It didn’t work.

But Joe didn’t give up.  Instead, he wrote a song about stage fright., and continues to perform despite his fear.  He actually uses all of the awkwardness of his problem to his advantage in the song.  Here’s an excerpt:

“♫ I’m not joking, you know, ♫ ♫ this stage fright is real. ♫ ♫ And if I’m up here trembling and singing, ♫♫ well, you’ll know how I feel. ♫ ♫ And the mistake I’d be making, ♫ ♫ the tremolo caused by my whole body shaking. ♫ ♫ As you sit there feeling embarrassed for me, ♫ ♫ well, you don’t have to be. ♫ ♫ Well, maybe just a little bit. ♫ (Laughter) ♫ And maybe I’ll try to imagine you all without clothes. ♫ ♫ But singing in front of all naked strangers scares me more than anyone knows. ♫ ♫ Not to discuss this at length, ♫ ♫ but my body image was never my strength. ♫ ♫ So frankly, I wish that you all would get dressed, ♫ ♫ I mean, you’re not even really naked. ♫ ♫ And I’m the one with the problem.”

I’ve got a few other ideas to try before I employ Joe’s method to deal with my problem.  If there is anything that I can imagine to be more intimidating than speaking in front of a large ballroom full of people, singing to them would top that list.

But I’d rather do either one of those than cook.


Foster a Love for Reading with ConnectED Bingo

Dr. Brad Gustafson is one of the Engaging Educators that I have had the good fortune to connect with through Twitter and blogging.  This man is a social networking powerhouse who regularly dreams up unique ways to empower students and prepare them as global citizens comfortable with using 21st century tools to create and problem-solve.

image from Adjusting Course Blog by Dr. Brad Gustafson
image from Adjusting Course Blog by Dr. Brad Gustafson

His latest project was posted on his blog yesterday – just in time for February, which is “I Love to Read Month.”  Always the master networker, Brad asked a few of the members of his PLN to contribute activities to this “ConnectED Bingo” card, and the suggestions range anywhere from reaching out to authors on Twitter (suggested by @pernilleripp) to writing a poem based on the Daily Wonder at Wonderopolis (suggested by @JoEllenMcCarthy). If you look carefully, you might see a couple of other familiar names on the card;)

Head on over to Brad’s blog to download your own copy of ConnectED Bingo.  While you’re there, you might also want to check out his World Book Talk project, which ambitiously invites contributors to make 60 minute videos that Brad uploads to Aurasma so anyone can view the videos when they point the app at the book cover.

365 Days of Wonder

I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes.  Like many people, I have a Pinterest Board of Favorite Quotations.  But I particularly revel in printed collections of quotations.  In July I shared a book of hand-lettered quotes that I purchased called, Whatever You Are Be a Good One.  I love the art of each page, and I am still debating whether or not to pull out some of them to frame.

365 Days of Wonder is in no danger of being torn apart.  Most of the pages are printed in simple fonts that belie the wisdom of the sentences.  However, it is a book that I treasure because of a few other aspects that make it unique.


The book might be called a “spin-off.”  The quotes were collected by R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder.  Its foreword and subsequent introductions before each month of inspirational sayings are “written” by one of the admirable characters in Wonder, Mr. Browne. In Wonder, Mr. Browne’s precepts play an important role in guiding the characters.  365 Days of Wonder offers more advice that he has collected during his fictional career – including precepts submitted by children. All of the contributors are acknowledged in the back of the book.

An original precept submitted by Shreya, age 10, in 365 Days of Wonder
An original precept submitted by Shreya, age 10, in 365 Days of Wonder

I could be partial to this book because of Mr. Browne.  I am currently re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and he reminds me somewhat of the noble Atticus Finch.   It’s hard to remember, sometimes, that the words I’m reading come from an author and not the seasoned educator portrayed in the book. For example, these words herald the beginning of the February group of quotations: “The truth of the matter is this: there’s so much nobility lurking inside your souls.  Our job as parents, and educators, and teachers, is to nurture it, to bring it out, and to let it shine.”

R.J. Palacio is responsible for quite a few original precepts of her own.

Not Yet

The only thing more intimidating than coming up with an idea for your last blog post of the year is coming up with a topic for your first post of the year.

I looked up my first post of 2014.  It was about changing mindsets from Fixed to Growth, based on the research of Carol Dweck.  I am happy to say that I worked hard during the year to live up to the goal of establishing a classroom with a Growth Mindset.  In fact, I might have worked too hard on it.

“What are you doing?” I asked some students one day.  They were playing a logic game that has challenge cards that are sequenced from easiest to hardest.  The game had started 5 minutes earlier, and the next time I passed their group I saw they were already on the last (most difficult) card.  “You just started this.  You can’t already be on the last card.”

“But the first one was too easy – and you’re always telling us we should look for challenges for our brain.  When we say something is hard, you say, ‘Good!’ ”

I stopped, speechless.

“Uh, yes, but…”

See, the problem is that I see students do this all of the time.  All too often they jump from the easiest card to the most complex.  Then they get frustrated by the incredibly difficult last challenge and give up on the game completely – not realizing that if they had gone through the carefully scaffolded puzzles in between they would have learned some of the skills needed for the last challenge.

But how could I explain that without recanting all of my speeches about a “Growth Mindset” and refusing to stay in your comfort zone where everything is easy?

I didn’t.  I walked away, but listened carefully to the conversation that went from determination to slow surrender and frustration.

“We can’t do this. Let’s just look at the answer,” someone finally said.

“Yes, you can,” I said.  “But not yet.  Start from the beginning and you will find out what you need to do to solve that last card.”

You can’t just jump to the top of a mountain from the base.  It might be easy to hike through those foothills, but it’s not a waste of time, and it’s necessary to get some experience before you try to reach the peak.

It’s not failure to slow down and put in some practice. In fact, I think most “experts” would agree that it’s critical to success.

So, in this new year, my goal is to help my students understand that “starting with easy” is okay – just as long as you keep improving.

You can see what Carol Dweck recently said in her TEDx Talk about the Power of Yet, shared by Larry Ferlazzo on his blog.

I also have more resources on Growth Mindset on this Pinterest Board.

Not Yet

Telegenic Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break

I can’t believe this crazy week is almost over! I appreciate everyone’s patience as I recycle some posts from last year this week. I’ve added a few updates to keep things “fresh!” (According to Merriam-Webster, “telegenic” means “well-suited to the medium of television; especially :  having an appearance and manner that are markedly attractive to television viewers.”)

screen shot from The Snowman
screen shot from The Snowman

So, let’s face it.  Despite our best efforts to keep our energy up, we need a bit of down time every once in awhile.  Here is a collection of short videos to help you catch your breath.

Kid President – If you haven’t seen this young man’s collection of videos, you are in a for a real treat.  Be prepared to do a little dance and to stretch your smile muscles.  These are some that are great for this time of year:

Winter-themed Animations – I have featured some of these on the blog this season, but they bear repeating (no pun intended – okay, it’s only intended if it makes sense).

Videos about Being Kind to Others (You can find more inspirational videos for students on my Pinterest Board.)

We’re in the home stretch now!  I hope some of these links help you make the distance :)

Just in case you missed my other “survival” posts this week, here they are:  Creative Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break, Logical Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break, and Physical Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break.

Physical Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break

This week I am revisiting some of last year’s posts that have a lot of helpful December links.  This one is about getting everybody moving! Whether it’s between assignments or for indoor recess (those of you who actually have weather that makes that necessary sometimes!), these links are sure to wake everyone up and get out some of those December  wiggles:)


One of the things that is really important any time of the year is to get the students up out of their seats.  But it’s particularly vital this time of year.  Attention spans are shorter and less time is spent out of doors in many places.  Here are some ideas for keeping active during the school day:

Want more from this series?  Check out Creative Ways to Survive the Week Before Winter Break and Logical Ways to Survive the Week Before Winter Break!