I Will…

I Will

Listen more than I speak.
Love more than I judge.
Learn more than I know.
Smile more than I worry.
Laugh more than I cry.
Hope more than I doubt.
Appreciate more than I complain.
Try more than I succeed.
Encourage more than I discourage.
Dream more than I realize.
Prepare more than I procrastinate.
Advocate more than I critique.
Balance more than I manage.
Acknowledge more than I ignore.
Collaborate more than I isolate.
Prioritize more than I preference.
Breathe more than I stress.
Reflect more than I deflect.
Accept more than I reject.
Trust more than I fear.
Create more than I emulate.


The Power of a Positive Post-it

Positive Post-its

As many of you know, I teach fifth grade in a building that houses grades four to eight.  Fortunately, this means that when my students move to sixth, seventh and eighth grade, I still get to see them in the hallways. I am always looking for ways to stay connected to my former students.

Last year, over the summer, I decided I wanted to spread a message of kindness beyond the four walls of my classroom.  Shortly after, I saw a story about a group of high school students who spread a beautiful message of kindness after a classmate’s suicide and I was inspired to do just what they did.

I bought a pack of multi-colored, bright Post-it notes and took to the internet to find short, positive messages that expressed the “You Matter” message.  I focused on the sixth graders since it would be their first year having a locker.  My goal was to surprise them with a message of kindness on the first day of school.  Here are the messages I chose…

  • You are loved.
  • You make us smile.
  • Our world is better with you in it.
  • You are creative.
  • Your ideas are worthwhile.
  • You make a difference.
  • You are kind.
  • You are a good friend.
  • We believe in you.
  • We value you.
  • You matter to us.
  • We are so proud of you.
  • You are an inspiration to everyone.
  • You have a beautiful smile.
  • We are grateful for you.
  • You are important.
  • We admire you.
  • Seeing you happy makes us happy.
  • Thank you for being you.
  • We appreciate you.
  • You are beautiful inside and out.
  • The world is lucky to have you.
  • You are spectacular.
  • You are remarkable.
  • You brighten our day.
  • You have a beautiful imagination.
  • We respect you.
  • You are a creative thinker.
  • You are amazing.
  • You have phenomenal ideas.
  • Your opinions matter to us.

After writing one message per Post-it, I found out the locker numbers that were being used.  Then, I placed one note on each locker.  That’s it!

Positive Post-its Lockers

I saw many Post-it notes still hanging in students’ lockers at the end of the school year.  One parent shared that the notes moved her to tears.  It is definitely a project that I will do again this summer and my hope is to extend it to include all grades.

Positive Post-its Hallway



I finally had the time to watch Todd Nesloney’s Ted Talk.  It has been on my to-do list since it was released and I decided to watch the video while I waited for my car to be repaired today.  A fifteen minute talk quickly became a thirty minute viewing session due to my constant pause button pressing to prevent myself from blubbering in the waiting room of the car dealership.

First and foremost, Todd is incredible.  I’ve read his book but I have never met him in person.  Seeing him speak made me feel the passion behind his words.  It’s not something that surprised me at all.  He has a big heart.  He doesn’t let fear hold him back from being vulnerable.  He admits when his ideas don’t go as planned and then shares how he perseveres.  It’s this honesty that makes him so genuine and draws countless educators towards his mission.

Hearing Todd tell the Dinner with a Gentleman story and hearing how the adults in the apartment complex near his school always ask why they are being served food really got me thinking.  We talk so much about how #KidsDeserveIt and they do.  But what Todd said also got me thinking how #FamiliesDeserveIt too.  Are schools there to serve kids? No doubt.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am, and always will be, a child advocate first.  But let’s think about the families in our districts too.  How many of them experienced success in school?  How many of them fear stepping foot on a school campus because of their own experiences?  Isn’t it time we let them know that they are deserving people too?

There are so many reasons why adults don’t show up at school events.  I’m a firm believer that all families have good intentions.  They’d be there in a heartbeat if they could but life gets in the way sometimes.  The families we work with, in many ways, are older versions of the children we work with.  They are confident and they doubt themselves.  They are bold and shy.  They feel loved and hated.  They are supportive and frustrated.  They wonder and they know.  They laugh and they cry.  They are people.

Just like it takes us more time to get to know certain students, some families might be more cautious to let us in too.  That doesn’t mean we should stop trying.  The families who challenge us the most sometimes have been challenged the most by school.  Maybe they work three jobs, misunderstand a former teacher’s actions, had a bad experience with the school, don’t feel heard, don’t feel safe, feel unsure of their own abilities, are struggling with addiction, aren’t sure how they can help or better yet, feel like they are helping.  And sometimes, they’re just busy.  They definitely have good intentions.

What if we spent as much time getting to know families and telling them they’re appreciated as we do our students?  They are people and they deserve it.  Let’s make a commitment to not just engage families but to also make them feel appreciated.

Here are some things I have done or plan to do to show my appreciation for families…

  • Listen. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen when families feel like they aren’t being heard.
  • Classroom Open House. Held over the summer so the families can come in, we can meet and they can see our classroom.  Then they’ll know where their children are going when they hop on the bus the first day of school.
  • Million Words or Less. The basic premise is families have a chance to tell about their children in a million words or less.  The note goes home with the summer supply letter and gives families a chance to share the stories of their children.
  • Together We Make a Family Board.  Families send in family photos and they are displayed all year on a large bulletin board in our room.
  • Take Your Family to School Days. We’ll host them often, rotate the days and invite families in so they can be with their fifth graders while they are at school.
  • Positive Letters and Phone Calls Home… to Families! I’ll let them know how much I appreciate what they do to support their children.
  • Family Feedback Forms. Families get the chance to give me feedback on my teaching so their voices are heard.
  • Thank You Notes. If a family offers to help, gives a gift, donates supplies or volunteers, they receive a thank you note.
  • Follow Through. If families request something, get back to them in a timely manner.  It’s one less thing they have to worry about.
  • Get to Know Them. What are they passionate about?
  • Invite Them to Classroom Celebrations. They come in and get to hang out with their kids.  It’s as simple as that.  A class favorite is when we make gingerbread houses together as one big family.
  • Tell Them They’re Appreciated…Often!

Collateral Beauty

There’s collateral beauty in even the darkest situations if you choose to see it.  Just because you acknowledge the beauty doesn’t mean you need to minimize the pain and the sadness.  Collateral means side by side.  Beauty and pain can present themselves simultaneously.  I saw it.  I wept when I noticed the collateral beauty.  The bursts of colors in the flowers.  The joy in the photos of a life cut way too short, yet truly and fully lived.  The intricate woodwork on the casket.  The new friend who showed up unexpectedly because, “That’s what friends do.”  The courage people had to stand and speak in the face of weakness and despair.  The cherished memories that were shared, one by one, and put together like the pieces of a puzzle called Life.  The countless individuals who were touched by one special person.  Some are family by birth, some are family by circumstance and some are family by choice.  But the best people are family because they’re all three.

Collateral Beauty (2)

Cherish It

Cherish It

If ever you need proof that creating engaging experiences is worth it, just listen to your kids.  Today my class started the day with the daily discussion question, “What have you loved most about fifth grade?”  The kids answer the question, give evidence for their answers and then conclude with a, “So what?” inference which addresses the bigger picture.

One student stood proudly on her chair as she expressed how much she loved the, “special types of lessons we do.”  She gave two examples of hard concepts that she felt she learned because of the game and the song, respectively, that went along with each lesson.  Then came her, “So what?” inference.

“So, if you get the chance to have special lessons, cherish it!

In one sentence, goosebumps covered my arms and every late night of planning, every trip to the dollar store, every summer brainstorming session with my Teach like a Pirate hook chart and every alien look I ever received was instantly worth it.

We, as educators, have the chance to positively impact the lives of children.  We have been given the opportunity to create experiences our students will never forget.  Cherish it!

I Appreciate You

As I connect to an increasing number of educators around the country and world, I can’t help but realize how many amazing people work in our profession.  I mean, truly, I am in awe.  The things you see on social media are nothing short of incredible.  People pour their hearts out for kids moment after moment, day after day and it is a beautiful thing.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I’d like to recognize five educators who inspire me.  It’s easy for leaders to rise to the top of the field and stick exclusively to other leading educators.  The people that I respect the most make everyone around them feel noticed and appreciated, no matter what kind of status those people have.  All five of my 2017 Education Heroes stand out because they notice all people.


RYAN MCLANE (@McLane_Ryan)

When I first started out on Twitter, many of my tweets fell on deaf ears.  But I always noticed one thing.  Ryan McLane was listening. He’d retweet, like and respond to my thoughts when no one else did.  Then, about a year ago, I decided to start this blog.  I wanted to become a connected blogger but didn’t really know where to start.  I threw something out there on Twitter and Ryan connected me to the Compelled Tribe.  His response opened countless doors for me.  What I love most about Ryan is that even though we have never met, he has never seen me teach and he has no reason to support me, he does.  Thank you for hearing my voice, Ryan.  I appreciate you.

PAUL SOLARZ (@PaulSolarz)

I love that Paul is a phenomenal teacher and he hasn’t left the classroom for the world of administration.  It gives me hope that I might be brave enough to do the same.  He is a true expert when it comes to turning things over to the kids and giving them ownership.  Although we’ve never met, I have always felt like his classroom is a “brother” classroom to mine because of our similar teaching styles.  He pushes me to turn as much as I can over to my students.  His knowledge of best practices is immeasurable and it is obvious that he is passionate about sharing his ideas.  Paul doesn’t brag or boast and is always available to answer a question or share a resource.  Thank you for pushing me to dig deeper, Paul.  I appreciate you.

ADAM WELCOME (@awelcome)

Adam Welcome and I.JPG

Adam is an innovator.  He’s honest and shares what our profession needs to hear.  He’s a fearless leader who dares to ask the question, “Why not?”  More than anything, Adam is a good person.  He’s active on our KDI Voxer group.  And get this!  Earlier this week he flew from California to a speaking engagement in New York, where I live.  Most people would have gone straight to the speaking engagement and then flown home.  Not Adam!  Instead of stopping at his hotel to rest after taking the red eye to New York, he found out where I teach and drove an hour each way to hang out.  It was a visit I’ll never forget.  Thank you for making me feel seen, Adam.  I appreciate you.

DAN TRICARICO (@thezenteacher)

Dan shares an important message in his book.  You can be an educator and live a balanced life.  Do you feel like you just read that sentence wrong?  Well, you didn’t.  It’s true!  Dan reminds us that we are better for our students when we take care of ourselves first.  If I had to give only one book to every educator, The Zen Teacher would be it.  When I first started teaching, I noticed that everyone I admired in the field of education worked 24/7 which left me wondering if that was the only recipe for success.  I’ve since learned that you can pour your heart into what you do, get kids to thrive in the classroom and, wait for it… have a life!  Thank you for giving educators permission to take care of themselves, Dan.  I appreciate you.

DAVE BURGESS (@burgessdave)

Dave and I New.jpg

That’s right!  Only a pirate can make this list two years in a row.  But honestly, after reflecting on the last year, Dave had to stay on the list.  Look at the previous four people who have inspired me… all DBC writers.  Dave gives a voice to seemingly ordinary people and shines a spotlight on all of the extraordinary things they do.  Have a question? He’ll respond.  Share an idea?  He’ll retweet it.  Hosting a chat?  He’ll be there to participate in it.  He doesn’t have to but these things are, hands down, what separate him from the rest of the pack.  As I learn more and more about leaders in education, I am more and more impressed by Dave.  Few go out of their way to remember the “small educators” once they’ve found their own success.  Not only does Dave remember the small people but he makes them feel big.  Thank you for steering the education ship, Dave.  I appreciate you.

You're Amazing!.png

Capping Off the Year with Compliments

Soon enough all of our staff will be lined up on the sidewalk of our school.  It will be a steamy day in late June.   We’ll be watching the buses drive off one last time.  The smell of diesel will fill the air.  Bus drivers will be blaring their horns.  Kids will be waving from the bus windows, some with summer smiles adorning their faces, others with tears streaming down their faces.  I’ll be choking back tears as memories of a school year that has, once again, disappeared all too soon flood my mind.  It’s a tear-jerking, beautiful tradition that marks the end of our school year.

In the days leading up to this moment, my students won’t be signing yearbooks.  In fact, it is rare for anyone in my class to purchase one.  Instead, in years past, the kids would grab a piece of paper and have all of their classmates sign it.  They wanted something to hold onto, some sort of physical reminder of their classmates, as they left for summer vacation.  Knowing this paper would quickly become lost, I wanted to send my students home with something to treasure but I struggled to find something meaningful.  Fortunately, thanks to social media, I came across an idea that my students really enjoy.

Compliment Cap Supplies

In the last few days of school, we take time to reflect on the strengths of each member of our classroom family.  The students brainstorm independently and then write out their compliments.  They make sure the compliments are very specific and unique to each recipient.  I purchase blank hats and fabric markers.  Every student gets a hat.  Then, the students write one compliment for each child on his/her hat.  In the end, the kids have colorful hats full of compliments from their classmates.  It’s a phenomenal way for students to cap off the end of the year!

Compliment Caps

*The photo of the hats has been blurred to protect the confidentiality of students.  The hats are usually much brighter.*