How Do You Know You Have an Impact?

I think that I speak for every educator when I say that we did not become teachers for money or prestige. Many teachers serve their 30 years and never receive a single award. Sometimes it leaves you to question whether or not you are doing enough. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love teaching. I spend hours coming up with well thought out lesson plans. I do all my duties as required and I try to collaborate with teachers. I know that I am doing enough this way. 

I also know that the students are learning in my class because I check to make sure. I make sure they understand the directions. I make sure that they can do the activities that are required. I also make sure that they actually complete tasks correctly. 

My teaching is not what I question. It is my impact. Am I really helping these kids? Do they see me as an adult who cares about them? After all, this is why I entered the teaching profession. I wanted to become a teacher to change lives. So I ask myself those two questions everyday.

Then I remember. I remember all the hugs I get everyday. I remember how I was able to redirect a student who was having a bad day. I remember how students seek me out just to say hello or just to chat. I remember when teachers tell me that “my students love Mrs. Ralph.”

So if you love your students and you actually build a relationship with them. Then your reward is the impact you make on each student. Even if you are not teacher of the year or your principals favorite person the students will remember. They will remember you as the teacher who believed in them and loved them. 

So on those days when you feel beat down or disrespected. Days where you feel over looked and mistreated. Remember that you are great and you make an impact everyday on your students. 


A Shout Out to a Library Great!

I wanted to do a quick post to give a Happy Birthday shoutout to Mr. Schu. 
I first heard about Mr. Schu from my sister Sara. She told me he was really great. Then before I went to Nerd Camp my mother said “you are going to love Mr. Schu.” With all the praise I had high expectations for Mr. Schu. 

He did not disappoint me. I entered his packed session at nerd camp and sat down at a table full of books. I learned how to smell and undress books. I laughed and I cried. I also developed a huge lists of books that I wanted. Then I got a free book. It was one of the best scheduled PD sessions I have been to. I followed Mr. Schu on Twitter when we returned to our hotel because I wanted to see what else he had to say. 

Even though I have only met Mr. Schu once I feel like I know him because of everything he shares with us on Twitter. So I have a few things I would like to say to Mr. Schu on his birthday:

Mr Schu on your birthday I would like to say thank you. Thank you for being an advocate for writers, illustrators, and librarians. Thank you for sharing amazing titles with us that we want to buy. Thank you for donating so many books to your Twitter followers and the Little Free Libraries you visit. Thank you for all the happy Saturday videos and blog posts you share that feature books and authors. Thank you for being the Ambassador for School Libraries. Thank you for providing lists of wordless picture books when asked by other school librarians. 

On your birthday I hope that you know all your nerd friends appreciate you. #mrschuisawesome 


The Impact of Motivation and Participation 

I have been an educator for 7 years and every year before this year I have decided the rules and had them posted when the students came in the classroom. I have also hidden parts of my past from my students because I did not feel like it was important for them to know. I decided to change that this year. 

I started my classes today by giving my students the basics about my life and then I gave them a motivational speech. I told my students that I expected them to bring their best to every class we had together. I told them all that I believed in them and that I knew they could be their best. Then I  told them the story of how I had ADHD when I was a kid. How all my teachers hated me and didn’t want me in their classrooms but, I was where I was today because I made the decision to educate myself and better myself. The kids looked at me in awe. I think the fact that I opened myself up to them let them know that I respected them enough to tell them such a personal story. I also feel like students need to know that you care about them and have faith in their abilities to build a relationship with them. 

After my motivational speech I did something that I have never done as an educator. I let the kids help me create the agreements for the media center. All the students agreed to follow the agreements they made. Behavior was ten times better because the students made up the rules. If they broke one all I had to say was this is not the agreement you made. 

Building relationships with students and allowing them to take some ownership of how things should run seems to have created a more peaceful environment in the library. 

Took: A Book Review

Do you like a good ghost story as much as I do? If you love ghost stories then you should pick up Took on September 15, 2015. 

Mary Downing Hahn does not disappoint. She starts the book by introducing a creepy old woman who is determined to prey on a family that will soon be coming to live in a farm house in Woodville, West Virginia. The main character of the story is a boy named Daniel who moves into the farm house with his mother, father, and little sister Erica. 

When the family arrives Daniel and Erica feel unease about the house. They are both afraid of the house and the woods surrounding it. Their fear is compounded by whispers from the woods and tales of an old lady who uses a vicious pet to steal children. 

Creepy events continue throughout the story until Erica goes missing and Daniel’s family almost falls apart. Children who read this book  might relate to the real life problems featured in the story including: financial problems, bullies at school, and discord between parents. A page turner from the beginning to the end, this book is for anyone who enjoys ghost stories. 

My top ten picture books

I decided to participate in #pb10for10 for the first time. Here is my list of picture books I just can’t live without. They all have a common theme that is pretty easy to guess if you have read them. 


2. One of my old school favorites   






8. Another old school book. 




Racism and the Fight for Change

I just read @pernilleripp’s blog post about racism and wanted to write a post. I do not claim to be an expert on racism because I am white but I do think that it is something we need to address as teachers. 

Let’s face facts this is a difficult topic to  discuss with students especially if you are a white teacher. It is difficult because you can’t say you can really relate to the situation of the students who feel racism. You can try to change the students perspective of racism. I do this in three ways. 

First, I know my own views on racism. I feel everyone should have equal rights and no one should be treated unfairly based on race, sexual orientation, religion, or size.  I am proud to say that my mother raised me right. She grew up during the Civil Rights movement and was mistreated for being friends with people of different races and ethnicities. As a result she always told us not to judge a book by it’s cover. She taught us to get to know a person before we made a judgement about them.  I have carried this over into my teaching career.  I make sure that I treat all my students as individuals and get to know them. My former principal was always complementing me because I gave awards to what some people considered to be our worst students. I gave the students those awards because I believed in them and I wanted to encourage them to do well. I also wanted them to know that I saw them trying their best and showing improvements.  This goes back to loving and encouraging all students. To love all students you really need to know how you feel about racism. If you are racist in some way you have to own that and be willing to change your views.

Secondly, I require my students to be respectful of others. If respect is not part of your classroom rules it should be. So much falls under this word including racism. Treating someone else badly because they are a different race from you is not respectful. To make it more real I always have my students define it for me. During our first week (this would be first day for classroom teachers) I ask them to explain what respect means and then we agree on the terms. This helps students to establish what respecting others looks like. School maybe the only place where they learn the importance of respecting others. Sadly some of our students are exposed to disrespectful and derogatory statements about people of other races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and sizes. I think it is our job to erase the hate by requiring mutual respect. 

Third, I teach them about the history of racism in our country and about other cultures. In our state there is a great amount of focus on reading and math so history gets lost. It is barely covered so kids at the elementary level  get a glossed over history. They learn about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. Don’t get me wrong they need to know about these two great people but they also need to know that all races have fought for equality. I like to tell my students the story of the Greensboro four and the start of the sit-in movement. I tell them the basic story and then I make sure that I tell them about the White female students who attended UNCG (which was a all girls school at the time). I explain to them that the girls went to Woolworth’s too and helped force the integration of the lunch counter there. I tell this story mainly for my white students. One so they understand where racism comes from and two so they know that there were white people who fought against racial segregation in the South. I tell the story to give them some perspective and make them think about their own views as far as race. I also feel it is important for our students to learn all they can about other cultures. I think part of racism stems from ignorance about other races. If students know about other races and cultures then maybe they can also learn to be more tolerant of them and end racism in our country. 

Sadly, we have a long way to go to end social injustice in our country. As teachers we can help by fostering positive relationships with all students,  teaching mutual respect, and teaching about other races and cultures. 

Focusing on the Positive 

I think every educator can agree with me that sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to as part of our jobs. It is a part of being an educator and you have to suck it up. You can’t refuse to complete assigned duties or go to required PD. The only thing you can control is the way you react to those requirements. I am trying to control my views by focusing on the postive. 

I faced my first test of this new focus on  Monday. I started my job in the district in January but I missed the required new teacher training. I was informed via email that I was required to attend the training this year. At first I went back to thinking in my normal pessimistic fashion. I was thinking, ” this is stupid what can I possibly learn.” I thought that the training was going to be a complete waste of time where I already knew everything. I was wrong and my pessimistic attitude was making me more upset than I should have been. 

 The last two days have been pretty great. I arrived at the high school and bumped into my first new teacher to the district. Once I started talking to her I realized that I could use the first day as an opportunity to help others. I helped her locate the training. Then I met all the new teachers coming to my school and started to develop relationships with them. I also helped some teachers from other schools navigate our new email system. My willingness to help was noticed by people at the district level and my principal.  Our director of technology even acknowledged me as an individual who can assist people in my school and in the district. 

Today was even better because I was determined to learn something new. We had an excellent PD that focused on the 3 keys to Classroom Leadership: Relationships, Expectations, and Discipline. The main thing I learned today was that I should let the students help me create the rules so they become agreements between me and the students.  Our two agreements will be “Be Respective” and “Be Engaged”. The students will help me define what goes into those agreements the first week of school. This will help me develop a relationship with my students and make them feel like they have some control of the learning environment. I plan to continue this positive outlook throughout the year and you should too.

When you are required to do lunch duty, parking lot duty, or breakfast duty look at it as a way to form relationships with your students. If you have to attend a meeting look at it as a way to spend time with your colleagues. If you have a PD attend it with a determination to learn something new. Focusing on the positive will make your day brighter.