Why I Hated Meredith's First Grade Teacher: An Open Letter to America's Teachers


Don’t worry - the title is misleading.  :)

Love this. Here’s a snippet that spoke to me:

"But I promise, underneath that bravado of the seventh grader or swagger of the tenth grader you will find that small first grader who wonders, “Will my teacher like me?” And when that child – that teen – knows that you believe he or she matters, then that student will do most anything for you."

I met one of my students today; he was wandering campus with a friend looking for their classrooms.

And he was so small and so friendly with a big smile, and that smile reminded me that the students are the best part of this job.

And while I am not prepared and while my to-do list is long, I realized that I actually am ready to welcome my new batch of students with a friendly smile and high expectations (on Thursday, yikes).

Because I’ll get prepared eventually, and I’ll cross things off the list.

And I now remember that the reason I do all of this is them. And that I’m ready.


When students in your class don’t seem to be making a real effort to learn, try to shift your point of view. Consider that students are continually making choices. Every day they ask themselves, “Is participation a good idea? Is this activity worth my effort? Should I bother?” Contrary to popular belief, students don’t owe their teachers a thing. Most are in school because the law requires them to be there, and their friends are there.

But you, as a teacher, chose your job. As a teacher, you receive monetary compensation and some degree of emotional or vocational fulfillment in exchange for making your best effort to transform students’ lives. Remember, to lay the foundation for sustained motivation and effort in your classroom, you have to build relationships, demonstrate passion, and get buy-in.


Eric Jensen, Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind

So you’re a new teacher…


I’m getting ready to go into my second year of teaching, and I’ve been reflecting on what I learned last year. I thought writing it out might be helpful. Here it is, in a top ten tips. #Educhums, please add to this!

  1. Don’t worry, you’ve got this. I know, I know! Your final internship was ages ago, you’ve just been through all kinds of orientation, you sort of know where things are (including your supplies), and now there are students in your classroom. Terrifying! HOWEVER. Remember that fake confidence you used in student teaching until you felt real confidence? You still have it. Remember the lesson plan you made for today? It’s there for you to follow. Take your time and teach the routines and procedures first. That’s what you do first. See? Not so terrifying. 
  2. HR is your friend. Your district may automatically put part of your salary in a retirement fund. You have a right to decide how that money will be invested. You district  may pay you more if you have advanced degrees. You have to ask for the extra money. Your district may offer you an option to spread your paycheck out over the year, instead of only receiving a paycheck during the school year. You have to request this. Have you heard of a 401k? The ones for teachers is a 403b and you should start saving now. HR will help you with all of this, but you have to ask. 
  3. Don’t forget to eat. Try to pack your lunch the night before. Make dinners you really like and bring in the leftovers. Model healthy eating for the students by snacking on fruits and veggies during the day. 
  4. Don’t forget to hydrate. You will be able to get used to your bathroom schedule, I promise. So keep drinking whatever you enjoy - I bring in a big thermos of tea - throughout the day. And once the students have gone and you’re prepping for the next day, chug-a-lug (water). 
  5. Don’t forget to keep yourself tidy. If you can, when you can, set your clothes out the night before. Get make up wipes. I know, they’re wasteful, they’re not as good as washing your face. Yup. But some nights you may be very, very tired and a make up wipe is almost effortless and better than nothing. They are also great for a quick under-arm clean up when you’ve not got the time to shower and need fresh deodorant. 
  6. You have health insurance. Use it. There are a lot of things I could put here, like researching what you can spend your FSA money on and putting some money in that. But what I really want you to know is that health insurance covers therapy and you should not be afraid to use it. Teaching is challenging work! And perhaps the biggest challenge is how you are in charge of so much of what happens in the classroom. That student who is making you crazy is not going to change, but you can change your attitude. As a new teacher, you may just need a safe place to voice your insecurities and frustrations. I think cognitive behavioral therapy is best for improving your attitude in the classroom, but don’t be afraid to look around until you find a good fit. 
  7. Your district has resources for new teachers. Use them. Maybe you’ll get a mentor teacher, maybe not. But there should be workshops for new teachers, at the very least. Go to them. Meet other new teachers. You’re not alone!
  8. Ask questions. All those colleagues you have? They were in your shoes once. Your grade level chair? That person is there to help everyone in the grade. So ask the questions you have! And if the person you ask can’t or won’t help you, ask to see who can. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask. Isn’t that what you tell your students? 
  9. Be confident and put yourself out there. So it’s your first year. Don’t let that stop you from taking on extra projects! School garden? Organizing a field trip? Teaching an after-school zumba class? I’m not saying take on everything. Getting the teaching-life balance right is an ongoing act, and sometimes you will take on too much. But what’s the worst thing that will happen? The garden  could be neglected. The field trip might not materialize. You can only do the zumba for one quarter. These are not consequences of devastation. 
  10. Keep learning. Join your local reading / math / science / social studies / music / art council. Read new books. Follow #education on tumblr. Sign up for professional development. Help to keep alive within yourself the reasons why you chose this profession. 

tl;dr: First year teachers, you’ve got this. Fake it till you make it, take care of yourself and your money, and ask, ask, ask questions. 

This advice is amazing. Yes to everything.

Dear first (and second, and third?) year teachers,
This is the best advice ever. And it is far more eloquent than what I repeat to my new colleagues each year, which is “You can only do the best you can do right now.”
Print this out. Put it by your desk. And give yourself a break.

Dear first (and second, and third?) year teachers,

This is the best advice ever. And it is far more eloquent than what I repeat to my new colleagues each year, which is “You can only do the best you can do right now.”

Print this out. Put it by your desk. And give yourself a break.

(Source: theyuniversity, via pilarsclassroom)

New Teachers: Try EVERYTHING

I’m preparing to meet with some new teachers in my department, and I just came across this amazing resource from @itsssnix, which I highly recommend and will be utilizing myself, but that’s another post for another day.

Her post and my upcoming meeting prompted me to think about what I should say to my colleagues tomorrow. One is a first-year teacher, and two are second-year teachers. I’m not that much more experienced than them, but I feel like year three, which I just completed, is where a teacher really finds the roots of their style. Where things really start to solidify and stick and grow.

My first semester as a teacher was just survival. My second was experimental. I tried all kinds of strategies and procedures and techniques.

My first semester as a second-year teacher was better, but I didn’t think I needed to be as strict about procedures and rules as Past Me and told Future Me to be. And I was wrong. 

But last year. Last year I finally got it. I was firm, but friendly. I had high expectations and welcomed all my students to reach them. It wasn’t a perfect year by any stretch, but the experience helped with the day-to-day management, and collaboration helped refine the teaching practices. And I still experimented with stuff, because that’s what teachers do.

So tomorrow, when I meet with these teachers, my main advice will be two-fold: follow through and try everything.

Follow through with all instructions for behavior and expectations. And don’t say anything you will not actually follow.

Try every kind of vocabulary activity, reading strategy, writing process you can find. Just see what works for you and for your students.

You’re going to have a very long mental list of all the things you are doing wrong (according to you) and all the things you want to start doing. And since that list will be so long, you will have to prioritize. And you’ll check things off this year, and then a few more things off next year, and so on. Don’t burn yourself out trying to get everything perfect this year. No year is ever perfect.

Teaching can be all-consuming during those first two years, and that is when anxiety can start (for me it had never been a problem until that first year) or peak (for others already battling anxiety, it can get worse), and self-care is essential. You actually will have 15 minutes before bed to read. Make that time. Drink your tea. Or wine. I love wine. And beer. Mmmm beer. 

Sorry, got distracted there.

Watch your favorite show. Hang out with your dog. Or that person you share a home with who may have forgotten your name since they never see you.

Make time for you. Don’t be a martyr. No one is still here because they go into their room with the Freedom Writers mentality. We’re here because we go in with realistic expectations of ourselves and we know that it’ll all get done eventually, or that June will come and even if it’s not done, it’s over. And if it wasn’t done by June, it probably wasn’t that important to begin with, and should probably be cut out next year.

You’ll make it. And so will your students. 

Just follow through, and try everything.

My EduPD video is up! Finally! 

I decided to focus on sharing strategies to use to engage students of all ability levels in the rigorous Common Core Standards.

It’s far longer than I intended, but I hope it’s helpful nonetheless. Eventually, I will put documents in the Google Drive folder.

Also, this is my first appearance on youtube. It’s slightly terrifying. Though I did say doobly-doo in reference to the description. DFTBA!

Summer on campus

I never spent time on my university campus in the summer. I didn’t take summer classes, and I worked a lot instead.

Now that I spend an hour a day hanging outside eating lunch on my favorite shady bench, I see what happens on campus during the summer: tours. Lots of tours for incoming students.

Right now I’m watching a large, diverse group of students crowd around the statue of Tommie Smith and John Carlos for a picture, some raising their fists in solidarity. Or maybe in gratitude? Definitely with hope for their future.

I hope they’re not too overwhelmed by the opportunities before them, as students of color about to embark on an educational journey. But maybe a bit in awe.

They look so happy to be here.

The students in the classes I’m teaching are also transitioning to college. They have worked so hard to get here, only to be placed in remedial classes. So they will work even harder.

I admire them so much. They have the grit we all want in students. They persevere. They possess growth mindsets and thrive on feedback to improve.

And now I see what goes on here in the summer.

Summer on campus is full of hope.


I just watched the first 5 minutes of hithertokt's video and girlwithalessonplan's video (love them), and I'm both excited and slightly terrified to post my own edupd video. Excited because I hope people benefit from spending time watching a video I made, as I benefit from them (and I'm sure others when I'm not in bed buzzed on gin and tonics), and slightly terrified because their videos are so professional-looking!

This is legit pd. I realize that was the goal, but I think we all wondered if we’d get there. I think we’re there.

And another huge thank you to the teachers who organized our first edupd. I think you’ve started something special. :)

Welcome to the first ever tumblr #education professional development!


This blog will have all of the info that you may need as you participate in this awesome opportunity!

Thanks to everyone who responded on the survey, we were able to get a sense of what topics members of #education are interested in learning (or teaching) about. And don’t worry if you didn’t reply to the survey—you can still participate!

Presenter letters have just gone out, so if you volunteered to present, you should find a letter from one of us in your inbox. Please make sure you acquaint yourself with the expectations contained within that letter and ask us ASAP if you have any questions or concerns. If you expressed interest in presenting during the survey and have not yet received a link to information, please let us know so we can guide you in the right direction.

Now for a couple of points:

  • This week, presenters will be busy starting to get their materials together. If you are just participating as a learner in this professional development there is nothing you need to be doing right now.

  • On July 7th, we will be posting a link to our google drive folders into which your presenters will have put their materials. This is when the learning begins!

  • Your presenters will also be making a video which will be posted to our YouTube channel.

  • After you have had time to view the video, your presenter will be hosting a Q&A session via google hangouts. These sessions are completely optional, but are a great opportunity for you to interact and learn directly from your presenters.

There will be more information to follow in this coming week, so make sure you follow us and stay tuned! If you have any questions, please send them to us as we will be putting together a FAQ shortly.

Happy Learning!

-Your EduPD2014 team


A huge thank you to the ladies who are organizing this! I’m so excited to present!