Lighten Up and Laugh

Last night I participated in a Twitter chat. I still do not fully understand how it all works, but I comment and retweet. The chat was an educational one, go figure, and the entire set of questions were about engaging students and getting them to love literary as much as teachers do. The discussion focused on the connection between enjoying reading and the desire to want to write; yes, the dreaded writing issue.

There were many great ideas but as I added my 2 cents worth I realized it all comes down to this. It depends on how the teacher is able to motivate, inspire, connect, and build relationships with their students. (We may have blogged on this before, like 68 times).

I currently go with my gut instinct. This approach works much better for me. I never make a reluctant reader read aloud unless he/she volunteers, I never make a student read their writing in front of the class unless he/she wants to, (unless we are grading on a speaking and presenting standard and they are well aware ahead of time).  I do not compare a struggling student to a high performing student because these things hurt and demoralize, not motivate.

Now, most of my current students love to read and want to write. There are a few that really need me to get them started and stay close during the process. They are still independent but they get stuck. They need some reassurance and I give it to them. These are usually the students who cause class disruptions and fight me on everything, but they come around with patience and those small academic wins. This is not that difficult to do. I just do it, it is not rocket science, as my friend Vicki Petrella likes to say.

My former students, who were not native English speakers, struggled with writing. It was so confusing and frustrating to them. Every time they thought they had the grammar or spelling correct the rule changed. We ended up with some great pieces of writing from these amazing students. They put in the effort because they knew we were all learning together. It was safe to try.

Lori and I always wonder if we are doing enough, if we are in the right place, if we are making a difference; I think all of us in education tend to reflect this way, or should. I feel pretty good when I start to reflect. I get Facebook messages from students I taught years ago. Some actually tell me about how school is going. Lori and  I also get emails and the occasional comment on this webpage from students. They think it is a hoot that we have a webpage and always want us to write about them. Ironically, we always write about them. They are all we think about.

So, if you are an educator who is struggling with burnout or lack of enthusiasm, change it up, do what feels right inside, laugh every single day with your students, don’t be a curmudgeon.  They will read, they will write, they will attempt those difficult math problems, if you enjoy teaching and authentically develop those relationships. Kids are hysterical, how fun to be surrounded by kids all day, what a great job we have! 

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Graduation Blues

I have worked with a variety of amazing students from three years to 8th grade. Some of these students got great grades, some struggled, some were defiant, some talked way too much, some had a fabulous sense of humor, and some had the biggest heart and bravest soul you ever saw. All of these children were brilliant, in their own special way. 

As a teacher, I have encouraged, motivated, pushed, and helped my students learn. Sometimes they got frustrated and sometimes I got frustrated. My job was to get right back up and try again and teach them to do the same. I have tried to instill the virtue of perseverance to all of my students. There are days when they are mad at me and days when they laughed at my uniquely ridiculous teaching strategies. It’s my job and it is my passion.

Tonight, my son needed me to be that nurturing teacher. I had to tell him that sometimes in life you do everything right, work hard, be responsible, and still someone else gets the recognition. It may not be your moment to shine, maybe it is that other student’s moment. Life does not stop at high school graduation. Life is not defined by your high school accomplishments. Life is so much more.

One day at a time, one challenge at a time, one victory at a time, it will all happen. Patience is a virtue, it is just not an easy one to understand sometimes. The teacher in me says, hang in there, you can be anything you want to be, the mom in me wants to hold him close and tell him everything will be alright. Life is a journey that you must make your own way through, but tonight I wish I could make that way a little easier for one special high school graduate, my brilliant son, Isaac.

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My class has just finished a huge biography project that produced some amazing essays, speeches, and posters. I was pleasantly surprised at how hard they worked, how much they learned about each other’s person, and how they kept making sure their information was accurate. It was a long, messy, and time consuming process; but well worth the effort. Many of the characters came to life, for example Betsy Ross, Rosa Parks, Bill Gates, and Jacqueline Kennedy to name a few. I am very proud of my students.

Being a teacher who likes project based learning, and might be slightly crazy, I thought it would be a great idea to introduce all of the components of graphic novels. So, for these two weeks before our spring break we are learning all about what it takes to create a great graphic novel. We are discovering the terminology, layouts, illustration techniques, and finally all of the elements of a novel.

We are now to the point where the students are creating their own. Wow, what a fabulous job they are doing. I was once again flabbergasted at their work. (Yes, I stuck that word in because they think it sounds funny).

I can’t wait to see the finished novels, I will post them on our TwoTeachersontheEdge Facebook page. This is what makes my job so much fun, the kids and watching their creativity come to life!

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We try to stay positive and upbeat. We take risks and put ourselves out there, so we expect challenges and some negative feedback occasionally. We are not tough as nails, but we are mature enough to know everyone has an opinion and sometimes things don’t work out as planned.

We have preached to our students to be persistent and to keep moving forward in tough times. We now find ourselves trying to follow our own advice. We are saddened to learn that things are not working out as well as we had hoped with our publisher. We are now in the middle of trying to get our books finished and are actively looking for a new publisher for our new books.

We still have our first ten books in the series for sale, just contact us at if interested.

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Some Happy News

I have not felt compelled to write. I am not sure why. But today I got some good news about my former students who will be attending high school next year that I just had to write about.

See, every February I would spend the entire month trying to help my 8th grade students fix their applications, practice for interviews, pick out appropriate clothing, google directions, and edit essays. We would find out together who was accepted to the local Catholic high schools and who was turned down. We would then put the backup plan in place once we got the news we didn’t want to hear. February was full of emotions, sometimes happy, sometimes disappointing, and always nerve-wracking.

Well, today I heard almost every single student in my former class was accepted! I celebrate them and all of their hard work! I am not there with them, and it makes me sad. I would love to run up to them and jump up and down with them. I am so proud of them. I hope they know how truly proud I am of them and how much I love them.

Today, was a good day, it was a success. Thank you Lord.

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Last night it was cold, snow flurrying, and I was non-motivated. The OSU game was over so I rented a movie. I chose “Bad Moms” because I wanted to laugh. Okay, I did. There were some very inappropriate scenes and bad language but the overall point was spot on to how I have been feeling lately.

Parents these days are torn at every angle. Work has become 24/7 with technology and the demands to always be available. Even teachers get emails at 10:00 pm on a weeknight with a question or concern from a parent and we often answer them by 10:02 pm. It is tough to turn off our brains and relax.

The movie shows a mother doing her best at keeping up with all of the demands of work and a family; but she isn’t quite succeeding. She is often late for work, soccer practice, PTA meetings, and picking up her kids after school. She tries desperately to keep up, but life just gets in her way. Her husband is no help either.

She makes up her mind and quits trying to be “perfect”. She decides it is better to not be involved in all the (gluten free, GMO free, sugar free) bake sales, soccer mom extras, PTA politics, and pressuring of her children to make high grades all the time. She decides she wants to lessen the pressure on herself, and her children, so they are not so stressed all the time. She wants to enjoy life and she wants her 12 year old daughter to quit worrying about building her resume for college and be a kid.

Anyone else feeling this way? I know I get overwhelmed when I keep working harder and trying harder and I never really seem to get caught up. Somewhere I feel I am failing. My husband is upset with me over something I have done or not done, my kids complain about dinner, or me being 2 minutes late to pick them up, or some random piece of paperwork was due yesterday at work so my principal is annoyed, or my students want their graded tests back by the end of the day. Fail, fail, fail, but I am doing my best.

Although I laughed my head off at the ridiculously exaggerated scenes, although maybe not that exaggerated, I felt like it was the “perfect” movie for me to watch on a cold Saturday night. We are all trying and the point that she kept bringing up is that we should QUIT JUDGING each other so harshly!

Everyone has something they are battling and no one is perfect. Quit the comments about weight, or food choices, or life styles. Quit the comments about test scores, or college choices, or cars and houses. Quit the constant comparisons and criticizing opinions.

This behavior is all we see every day everywhere. On television and social media everyone has an opinion. Maybe we should try to be kinder and less judgmental. Maybe our children will learn to be better citizens and have more tolerance for others if we model compassion instead of judgment.

So, if I am a bad mom so what? I am not perfect, and by the way, either are you! We should build each other up instead of tearing each other down! Let’s all try, okay?

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