Monday, May 20, 2019

An Apology to My Former Students

Image result for teacher speaking to child
Teach, don't punish

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My Turn-a-Card System


The saying goes, "as we know better, we do better".  I have certainly learned a lot through my journey as an educator, and some of my earlier practices would not be found in my classroom today (if I had a classroom).

While I don't necessarily agree with all of the decisions and instructional practices that "past Maureen" supported, only one actually haunts me. OK, haunt is being dramatic, but I do feel strongly that if I could only go back and change one thing, this would be it.

Confession time...I had a public behavior chart in my classroom. 

Yes, it pains me to say it, but I had one. It was the "turn a card" system, where each student had a pocket in a chart with a green, yellow, and red card. Each child started the day on green, and if a behavior infraction occurred, the child would be directed to change their card to yellow. Further infractions would result in a red card and a call home. A card with the student's name on it sat in the front of the pocket. If no infractions occurred during the day, a small sticker would be placed on the card. At the end of each week, the card would go home for parent signature.

Ugh! How did I ever think that this public display of humiliation was good for my students and my classroom?  Whenever I instructed a child to turn a card, I was stopping instruction to publicly draw attention to the behavior while embarrassing the child. Tears were usually part of this process.

Not only did I bring attention to a child's behavior in front of their peers, but I also knew that daily behavior reports (AKA who turned a card that day) were often the subject of family dinners in the homes of my students.


Don't get me wrong. I understood developmental appropriateness and the importance of student engagement, collaboration, and interaction. My classroom was never a quiet classroom, and I didn't expect that of my 6, 7 , and 8 year olds. I was not a "yeller" (usually) and I could handle (and adored) active and excited children who were still learning self-regulation. I was not "crazy-card-turning-teacher" and my students most often went home each Friday with five stickers on their name card.

But I did do it...

now I know better.

I now have a better understanding of the importance of supporting children on the path to self-regulation and impulse control. A misstep in behavior should be an opportunity to teach, not punish.
If a child is being punished for a behavior, they are not learning alternatives that help them grow and make appropriate decisions in the future.

I have learned many lessons about social-emotional learning and positive discipline from my friend Elizabeth Merce (  @emercedlearning  #DitchTheClips). Elizabeth always stresses the importance of teaching social-emotional learning skills as you would any other subject.

For example, if a student is struggling with a concept in math, we don't call this out to the rest of the class or embarrass the student for their struggles. We use data to determine where the child is struggling, and then we provide scaffolding to support their learning. We must treat SEL this same way.  

So I would like to offer this apology to any child I ever publicly shamed or embarrassed through my behavior management system.

                                                    Image result for i'm sorry

The research and the case against public behavior charts is growing. Here are just a few to check out. If you are still using a chart in your classroom, please read the research and do what is best for kids.


Podcast: Leader of Learning Podcast: Social Emotional Learning: Rethinking Student Discipline with Elizabeth Merce

Blog: Ditch the Clips: Create a Behavior Management System That Works (Elizabeth Merce) 

ASCD Article: Tear Down Your Behavior Chart (Lee Ann Jung & Dominique Smith) 

Article: 6 Reasons to Question Using Behavior Charts (Tony Kline, Ph.D) 

Article: Why I Will NEVER Use a Behavior Chart Again

Saturday, April 6, 2019

My Day As a 7th Grader...

This year our superintendent challenged all district administrators to shadow a student for a day. After thinking about the grade level I'd like to experience for a day, I requested to shadow a 7th grader. As a K-6 curriculum supervisor, I wanted to see where our students go after leaving the elementary world. 

I was assigned a 7th grade girl to shadow for the day. Now, I need to share that my own middle school experience was not full of warm memories. Peer pressure and the social hierarchy, and don't get me started with puberty. Not a fun time in my life!

Excited and a little nervous about returning to middle school, I prepared for my day as a 7th grader. Due to a previous appointment, I missed first period (Spanish) and was introduced to my student for the day in period 2...gym class. Yikes!  Volleyball! I broke my hand playing volleyball in middle school and I'm also a terrible athlete....well, really just overall uncoordinated, but I joined in and had fun. Our team went 2-1 on the day, and all of my serves made it over the net. Whew!

Next, I joined my student in band class and then it was off to math class. My student was busy working with a partner on a volume/surface area project. They explained the project to me and I was able to give input as they worked and also join them as they circulated the classroom to offer compliments and feedback to other student projects.
Math Project Time!


After math class we headed to the cafeteria for lunch. I had planned to purchase lunch there, and my student informed me that today our table would be called last to get in the lunch line. Yikes! What if I didn't have enough time to eat my lunch? 


The students at my lunch table were very friendly and welcoming, and made sure I got into line quickly once our section was called. I am a slow eater, so while my student and some others from my table went off to play volleyball for the later part of lunch, I stayed to finish eating. I barely made it to language arts class! 

Now it was time for language arts, my favorite class! The class was studying science fiction, which happens to be my least favorite genre, but I was still quickly engaged in reading and discussions around Fahrenheit 451. 
In science the students were busy completing a video project that was due at the end of the period. My student was working on the voice-overs for her project on cloning, and I even got to contribute my voice to the project!

Science Research

We finished out the day in social studies, where there was a substitute teacher. We read about the "shot heard around the world" and answered questions.

I had several takeaways from my day, and I had the opportunity to share them with my student as the final dismissal bell was sounding. 

In some ways, middle school has changed a lot since my days as a twelve year old, and in other ways things remain relatively unchanged. 

The good changes come in the instruction and student engagement. Except for my last class, where the teacher was absent, every class was interactive and engaging for students. My student was continually collaborating, using inquiry to ask questions and guide research, self-assessing, providing feedback to others, engaging in higher-order thinking and questioning, and continually moving around the classroom. There was no "sit and get" or body parts falling asleep from sitting too long. Technology was purposefully integrated, and student voice and choice was also a common theme. My middle school experience, oh so long ago, was closer to the worksheet I completed with the substitute than my experience today. 

What things remain the same? The social structure and behaviors haven't changed. It was interesting to look around the cafeteria to see the social groups that were sitting together and how students interacted. It was actually nice to see the socializing that occurred, free from cell phone distractions in the school setting. Students actually talked to each other! 

As a student, I was encouraged to see all of the student-centered learning taking place for these middle-schoolers. I just finished reading What School Could Be (Ted Dintersmith) and am now about halfway through The One-World Schoolhouse (Salman Kahn), and much of my thinking about education is being both challenged and affirmed. 

Shadowing a student was a positive experience for me, and I'd like to think it was for my student as well. I had fun interacting with students throughout the day, and everyone was very kind and welcoming. It's definitely a day well spent for any educator. I am grateful for the experience and my take-aways, and I'm happy to say I once again  survived my time in middle school!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Your Classroom Library and 20%

I was at Sunday morning #CoffeeEduNJ this weekend when my friend Denise (@smilingteach) shared the following quote:

"If you're not losing 20% of your classroom library each year, you don't  have the right books."

Do you ever just hear something that resonates with you? Something of an "aha moment" that makes you think you've been doing it wrong all these years? Well, that quote did just that for me.

It sounds trivial, but really struck a cord with me. I have not been able to find the original person who said this, so for now I will credit Denise Weintraut.

Each year, I talk with classroom teachers who worry about students taking books home to read, worry about books leaving their classroom, all over the fear of a book not finding its way back to it's home in the classroom library.

So this quote got me thinking.

Aside from the books that get lost in student desks and lockers, where else do these books go when they leave the classroom?

If we truly want to get books into the hands of all students and develop a passion for reading, does it matter if some them stay forever in the hands of a student who went on a journey with it, learned from it, or connected to it in some way we will never know?

OK, I understand that ever-shrinking district budgets and lack of funding for classroom libraries plays into this worry and somewhat possessiveness over the books in our libraries. Teachers work...and build up their libraries and don't want to risk a never-ending battle to continually replace lost books while still adding the latest authors and series.

It comes to down to looking at it another way.
If books are missing from classroom libraries, it is because a student has it. A student. And isn't that the goal in the first place?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Why Mentors Are Important...and Paying it Forward

Who are your mentors?

Who has had the most influence in guiding and supporting your educational journey?

I've been reflecting on this lately, and the importance mentors have on who you become as an educator.

I feel very fortunate for those who I have had the pleasure to know and learn from over the years; mentors who supported and guided me during my first years of teaching and even today.

When I began my first year of teaching, I was fortunate enough to be placed on a 1st grade team with five other amazing teachers who were all at various stages in their careers. They each took me under their wing, supporting, engaging and inspiring me through my first and ever-important year of teaching. To this day I remain grateful to Jean, Brenda, Lorraine and Jan. I still have regular contact with Jean and Brenda, even though they are now enjoying the life of retirement. Their passion for children and learning has never waned.

During my initial years as a primary teacher, I also had the privilege of working under an inspiring literacy leader in my language arts supervisor, Dr. Joanne Monroe. When I expressed an interest in getting my M.Ed., she encouraged me to pursue my studies in reading and become a reading specialist. After earning my M.Ed. in Developmental Reading, she introduced me to the local chapter of the International Literacy Association, and before I knew it I was president of our local chapter. Those few steps have truly impacted the road I have taken. 

I have had many mentors and influences over my 25 years in education, but I would have to say that it was those early in my career who truly helped to guide my path. 

Paying it forward...

Although I continue to learn and grow as an educator, I will never "know it all". I feel it is part of my currently responsibility to make sure I am serving as a mentor to others. It is my goal to encourage and support young or new educators as they begin their own path towards affecting the lives of our children. 

Dr. Crystal Edwards hired me into my role as an administrator, and she once shared that one of our goals as leaders in education is to be continually growing the "next me". I would take that one step further and say not just the next me, but a better me; someone to grow beyond what I will accomplish during my time. For it is through this, that education and educators can continue to challenge the status quo and impact the lives of generations. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Good-bye to "Intentional" and Looking Ahead to "Challenge" #OneWord2019

Happy 2019! With each new year comes the time to reflect on what has passed and also time to begin to set goals for the future. 

I began selecting a word for the #OneWordChallenge in 2017 with "inspire". Inspire set the tone for my year and helped to push and reinvigorate myself as an educator.

2018 brought me to "intentional", and once again gave me a focus and goals for the new year. I worked to be very intentional in the decisions I made to best support students and also be intentional in the conversations I had with teachers, administrators, students, and the community. It was a year where I completed my 25th year in education and met and became part of a PLN that has forever changed my path as an educator. They are the friends I have come to rely on daily to push my thinking, challenge my beliefs, and above all support me both professionally and personally. I spoke more about my 2018 accomplishments in a previous blog.

My biggest disappointment in 2018 came from not being accepted into a doctoral program at a local university. Earning my EdD has long been a goal of mine, and when the opportunity presented itself in a local university's new program, I jumped at the chance and was beyond excited to dive into my dissertation research. The "why" I didn't get in after getting through the screening and interview process still evades me, but I decided to take this time I would now have available and pursue other opportunities. This included participating in book studies through #2menandabook, starting this blog, contributing a chapter and a vignette to books being published in spring 2019, and working on an article for an educational journal which will also be published this spring. I chose to believe in the quote from the Bible: "When God closes a door, he opens a window". I had to believe in something better waiting for me.

Now moving ahead to 26th year in education and the year I will turn 50. The word that encompasses all that I am feeling heading into the year is CHALLENGE. 

The CHALLENGE comes both personally and professionally. 

Personally, I want to challenge myself to turn 50 healthy and strong. This requires me to get back to regular exercise, something has been missing due to injuries over the past few years. No excuses. The words to Tim McGraw's song "My Next 30 Years" seems to sum up my thinking:

I think I'll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now it's time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years

Oh my next thirty years, I'm gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers
Maybe I'll remember my next thirty years

My CHALLENGE also comes professionally, as I want to expand upon my accomplishments of 2018 by continuing to be an active part of my PLN (#4OCFpln), continuing to read, write and publish, presenting professional development both in and out of district, continually challenging myself in my leadership position as I work to serve the students and staff in my district, and being open to accepting new challenges as they present themselves. I can already see some of these challenges on the horizon. 

I am looking forward to having CHALLENGE guide my year and provide focus for me both personally and professionally. Thanks to the #4OCFpln, I have become more open to embracing challenges and even seeking them out to not only help me continually grow, but to always focus on and  work for the best interests of the students in my district. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Letting Them Speak...A Conversation With Students About Curriculum

Last spring, I participated in a book study with #2menandabook on Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter's book, Let Them Speak. I am a strong advocate for student voice and choice in the classroom, and the book sparked me to carry this conversation with students beyond the walls of the classroom to the curriculum level.
Inspired by the book and the conversations in the book study, I set out to interview the students in my district about my curriculum...the elementary language arts curriculum.

I kept the interviews short and sweet, just five questions:
1. What is your favorite subject in school?
2. What do you like best about reading in school?
3. What do you like best about writing in school?
4. If you were in charge of reading and writing in your classroom, what would you do different from your teacher?
5. Aside from lunch and recess, what do you wish you had more time for during the school day?

Next I spent a few weeks visiting every 1st through 6th grade classroom in my district, interviewing two random students (a boy and a girl) in each classroom. I opted not to interview Kindergarten students at this time due to the developmental appropriateness of the questions. In all 161 students were interviewed.

So what did I learn from this process? What were my takeaways?

First and foremost was the affirmation of the importance of student voice and choice in their learning.

The answers to the first question broke my heart as the language arts supervisor. 46.6% of the students I interviewed, 75 total, shared that math is their favorite subject. Reading was the second highest subject selected at 17.4% followed by writing at 9.9%. This is one I'm going to need to take a closer look at and find why students enjoy math so much. Since this process had a focus on our ELA curriculum, I pushed forward.

Next it was time to sort and analyze the rest of the data. The data was full of answers that connected to student voice and choice. 59 out of the 161 students interviewed (37%), stated in some form that their favorite part of reading is independent reading. This is the time each day when students self-select books from their classroom or school library and time is provided by the teacher for quiet reading time. 

More revealing was the answer to students' favorite part about writing. 90 students (56%) stated that they liked writing stories or when they get to make up their own stories or guide their own ideas for writing. Students definitely like having choice in their writing. 

Nowhere in student responses did anyone talk about tests, worksheets, or packets, and very few answers spoke to teacher-led learning.

This student interview process provided me with a lot of data to sort through, analyze, share with staff, and use to reflect on my role as a curriculum supervisor. Some of the more poignant moments came in the heartfelt answers from students. When asked what she wished there was more time for in school each day, one sixth grade girl responded, "Fun. School used to be fun." Wow! Several other students commented on their wish for more choice time, free time, centers, technology and even independent reading. One of the more humorous answers to this question came from a second grader who wished there was more time for lockdown drills because they are fun. 

This is actually the second year I have interviewed students about school, and I thoroughly enjoy the process. Not only do I enjoy the conversations with kids, but they speak the truth...I can learn a lot from listening to them. Students continually affirm my belief in the importance of voice and choice in guiding their own learning.

This goes beyond the interviews. It's what I do with this information and how I will let it guide me as a curriculum supervisor that will make the difference for our students. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

#4OCFPLN- We Are Thankful For All The Things

We Are Thankful For All The Things
A Collaborative Blog From the #4OCFPLN

As we enter the month of gratitude, my PLN/PLF took time to reflect on the things we are all thankful for this year. Enjoy the series of thankfulness below.

Maureen Hayes, K-6 Humanities Supervisor in Lawrence Township, NJ

As we enter the month of reflection and gratitude, I am thankful for those who encourage and push me every day to be my best as an educator….teachers & staff, administrators, students & my PLN.
The teachers and staff members I have the privilege to work with each day continually expect
my best as an instructional leader. My job is to support them as they plan for instruction and
work to meet the needs of all students in our district. They hold me accountable for being a
researcher and reader, and sharing the my knowledge with them.
I am fortunate to be a part of a district administrative them that is continually pushing the limits
and asking “why not” when it comes to serving our students. Each of the building principals on
our team are true PIRATE Principals, and my fellow instructional supervisor team is a
supportive group of instructional rock stars, especially my elementary counterpart Kristin
Burke (kburke4242) who is the peanut butter to my jelly, the carrots to my peas, the macaroni
to my cheese…
I am continually reminded of my purpose as an educator, and that is the students I serve.
Every decision I make needs to be in the best interest of the students in my district.

Finally, my PLN/PLF, the #4OCFpln has by far been the greatest influence on me as an
educator and leader, thanks to the daily talks, monthly book studies, and ongoing push-back
and support they provide me. Each day spent in conversation with them is the best PD I have
ever had.
Of course no reflection of thanks would be complete with thanking my husband of 25 years,
Brian, and our two children, Jordan and Sam. They are my rock and support, and provide me
with unconditional love. I would be nowhere without them.

Amy Storer, Instructional Coach, Montgomery, TX
“I am thankful for every moment.” Al Green
Every single moment that has occured in my life so far has led me to where I am today. Some of those
moments were filled with love and laughter and some were blanketed in sadness and fear. But each
turn taken and road followed has helped to mold me into the person that I have become today and who
I will be in the future.  I am thankful for a mother that fought for her daughters to have everything that
the world could give them and more. She sacrificed so much for us, and everything we do as educators
today is because of her and for her. I am thankful for a dad, who found his way back to us. We are so
glad that you did. I am thankful for grandparents and their love and endless amounts of cookies and
candy! I am thankful for a sister who is truly my best friend. Thank you for giving me one of my greatest
gifts, Nancy and Finn. They crawled right into my heart and filled in the hole that momma left when she
passed away. I am so incredibly thankful for them. I am thankful for the love of my love, Tony. Thank
you picking up the phone when I bravely called you in the fall of 1997. Thank you for being my biggest
supporter and for loving me for over 20 years. Thank you to my campus family for loving and
supporting me in everything that I do. I am so lucky to get to work alongside each of you! Thank to all
of my former students. You truly schooled me on school. I learned all I needed to know from each of
you, and I am a better educator and human being because of you.

Louie Soper, 5th Grade Teacher, Philadelphia, PA

I am so thankful for the opportunity to teach in the city of Philadelphia this school year.  Albeit some
challenges, each day is an opportunity to learn and grow. Learning blocks can be challenging.  Days
can be challenging. Weeks can be tough, but I am so so thankful for the relationships I have been
able to build with many of my students.  From Fortnite dances to slime, the fun doesn’t end. I am so
grateful for this group of students I have this year.  We are all walking side by side daily in our journeys together in becoming the best versions of ourselves we can be.  Lastly, I am so thankful for the regular reminders from the #4ocfpln for pointing out these daily opportunities for growth.

Kristi Daws, @kristi_daws, Technology Integration Specialist, Region 9 ESC
I am thankful for my journey. So thankful for the support of Bob Johnson who offered me an amazing opportunity to practice my love of music. I left for college a music major switching to math after two wonderful years thanks to Dr. Linda Fausnaugh. She awakened a Math Teacher inside me I did not know existed. After twenty, YES 20!!!, amazing years loving my career I stepped into the unknown and became a Digital Coach under the leadership of Brett Thomas. I was so fortunate to work alongside a leader who pushed, encouraged, challenged, and supported me daily. I followed this leader into my current position as the Region 9 ESC Technology Integration Specialist. I have learned so much in my first few months at R9 and I could not be happier. I don’t know where my journey will take me next, but I have faith that it will be an adventure. #Thankful

Rachelle Dene Poth, Spanish and STEAM Teacher, Pittsburgh, PA @Rdene915

I am thankful for all of the opportunities that each new day brings. Time to continue to build relationships,
to connect with students and educators from around the world. For so many years, I was teaching in
isolation and did not truly understand the value of being a connected educator and the importance of
relationships. A tremendous mentor in law school helped me to see what it truly means to be an
educator and the need to focus on the relationships first. His guidance has made such a difference in
my personal life as well as my professional life and I will always be thankful for his ongoing support.
There are often challenges that come each day, and sometimes it is the challenges we face as
educators or it is something that our students are struggling with. We need to connect. As much as our
students rely on us to care for and support them, we count on them to lift us up at times as well.
Knowing that together we are creating a welcoming and supportive classroom, where students are
comfortable asking for help and where they are willing to reach out and help others, is something that I
am thankful for each day.

KathiSue Summers, Educational Mentor for 1st and 2nd year Teachers, Medford, OR
Do You Believe Relationships Are Important?

When I started teaching in 1986 in public education, I was a Lone Ranger. I was the only female teacher out of seven teachers in the small high school where I taught Business and Computers. I didn't think that being alone in the classroom  was uncommon in my educational career. Before coming to public education, I taught for several years in the private sector; there you were on an island.

What I learned quickly was that relationships with other educators and students was very important to me as a person; as well as a professional.  It was easy for me to develop relationships with students, but it was difficult when I was the only female on the high school staff. It was hard for me to relate to the male teachers on staff.

I made it a point to become part of the community my first year. I  developed many positive relationships and eventually, dear friendships that I still cherish after thirty-three years. There have been many times that a message, a visit or call have made my day. I am thankful that these individuals are in my life.

As years have passed, I have developed different relationships. I have relationships with professional people I never thought would be in my circle. I think about my Voxer group (#4OCFPLN), my Twitter #PLN and my local face-to-face PLN. These people have helped me to grow professionally.

Do I think relationships are important? Yes, Yes, Yes! And, I am thankful for all the relationships I have made along my journal.

Heather Young, Kindergarten teacher, Seattle, WA

I’m thankful for my students, who come to school with wide eyes every day, willing to dive into
whatever we are going to learn.

I’m thankful for the families, who trust everyday to grow their children as learners and humans.

I’m thankful for my in-building colleagues, always willing to give perspective when my thoughts might
be off track.

Lastly, I’m so thankful for my PLN, a crew of professionals from across the US.  In close to a year, they
have pushed my practice to new heights I never imagined reaching.

This list is full of people who believe in me, they are the foundation, the motivation and the joy in my life.  I am so incredibly lucky.

Sarah Fromhold
Digital Learning Coach
McKinney, TX

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  ~African proverb

This quote sums up both my journey and my struggle, and I am grateful for both!  My personality is one that I prefer to work alone most of the time. Going through school, I preferred finishing projects on my own rather than working in a group.  Because of this, I usually turned in assignments early and had plenty of free time. However, looking back, I realize I was doing the bare minimum to satisfy the requirements of the assignment.  There was no motivation to dig deeper into a topic. I was good to simply get it done. It was hard for me to find people I trusted to work with because I honestly thought it was better for me to do it alone.

My family, friends, coworkers, and the #4OCFpln have changed my view on the importance of relying on others.  With two young daughters, a husband with odd work hours, and everything I aspire to do personally and professionally, I recognize I cannot do everything by myself (and that’s perfectly fine!).  My coworkers and my PLN are constantly available for my questions and to bounce ideas around. Without my tribe, I would still be moving along in life, but with them, I’m learning, growing, changing, and truly living my best life.

Don Sturm
Technology Integration Specialist
Morton, IL

Thankfulness is something that is easy to take for granted. I am guilty of looking at situations and only
focusing on those annoyances that get under my skin. This blog post idea came at a perfect time for
me because I was getting stuck in the rut of not looking at the positives as much as I should. Honestly,
I am thankful for those who are willing to make changes. I have learned that many teachers have a
genuine fear of change and trying new things. It takes real bravery for some individuals to step out of
their comfort zone and, as Tara Martin says, “Cannonball in!” My goal is to be more outwardly thankful
to those who decide to throw caution to the wind and try something new for the sake of their students.
These teachers and administrators need to realize that their willingness to conquer their fears sends a
message to their students and staff that risk-taking is ok and necessary. Think about the domino effect
of this risk taking. Relationships will be built, growth mindset thinking will become the norm, and an
overall positive culture will emerge. All of this is needed for schools to be places of learning and inquiry.

Laura Steinbrink, HS English, Tech Integration, District Communications Director/Webmaster, Plato, MO @SteinbrinkLaura

My life is busy. It seems like my family and I are always on the go, sometimes in separate directions,
for at least two of the three sporting seasons during the school year. Yes, you read that correctly. I said
sporting seasons because that is how my school year is divided in my mind. Besides the titles of my
job that I listed above, I am also the assistant coach for our volleyball and softball teams, and this year
my husband, the tech director for our district, became the head cross country coach. So for the
beginning of the school year through this first weekend of November, we have juggled schedules for
my volleyball practices and games, my husband’s cross country practices and meets, and our son’s
junior high basketball practices and games. This alone is enough to overwhelm a family, but me? I’m
thankful. I spent a lot of time with my volleyball team, making connections with those students,
watching them struggle, succeed, persevere, break down, and get back up again. Did I miss my son’s
games because my coaching duties? Just one. My district honored my desire to be a mom first and a
coach second. Did my husband regret his choice to coach this year? He developed close relationships
with his team as they struggled and pushed themselves to get up and down the hills around our school
and in their personal lives. At our son’s games, we connected with families and students too. His
teammates will be in my classroom in a few years, and when they walk through the door and become
officially mine, I will already have a solid foundation for a relationship with them.
Did we still attend other school events during our whirlwind fall season? Yes. We supported as many
students and staff as we possibly could. Did we make it to everything? No. But I am thankful for all the
things we were able to do, relationships we forged or broadened, the impact we may have had on
students, and the impact those same students most definitely have had on us. We may not always be
able to do all of the things we want to do, but I am very grateful for all of the things we can do.

John Martinez, elementary school principal, Rowland Hts, CA @jmartinez727

In 1963, my father Eduardo left his homeland to make a new life in America. At 31 years of age he
arrived in New York leaving behind his wife Maria, four children, and all the people he knew.  When he
arrived in New York he began the journey of finding work and earning enough to bring his family
together. He didn’t speak English and did not have a trade. So he took whichever job he could find:
work in kitchens, factories, and more. He worked two to three jobs at a time and left one job for another
if it meant he could earn more or learn a marketable skill. In the meantime, my mom was caring for her
children not knowing how the venture would unfold. In six months my dad had earned enough to bring
the family from Colombia to the United States. Seemingly overnight, my family’s fortunes had changed.
Opportunities and life trajectories for my siblings, for my parents, and for myself were transformed. My
dad’s journey continued - finding different jobs, taking classes at night to learn English, and connecting
with other immigrants for support. Then he did it all again. He packed his bags and traveled across the
country to Los Angeles because he believed there were more opportunities out west. My mom continued
to be the rock of our family in the way she supported my dad and nurtured her children. My dad found
more jobs, continued learning English, and made new connections with others. Not long after, my mom
and siblings made the cross country trip by railroad and began their new lives in Los Angeles. All of
this happened before I came along in 1968. By then, the the tireless of efforts of my mom and dad had
set the foundation for my family’s success. For the next twenty years, they continued building on that
foundation. My dad worked as many jobs as needed. My mom got jobs as us kids grew a bit older and
more comfortable in our surroundings. Throughout my childhood I saw countless examples of my
parents’ dedication to their family. The way they faced and overcame adversity taught me to persevere.
The way they modeled the the values of family, faith, and country taught me to be loyal and sustain my
beliefs. I learned about teamwork, integrity, and courage from my parents.

I am thankful to my parents for emigrating to the USA. Who I am, where I am, what I am, and why I am
would not be had my parents not had their their vision and their courage. I am thankful to America, the
fertile soil where my family could boom.

Matthew Larson, PE teacher, Trenton, NJ, @mlarson_nj

I am thankful for one, all-encompassing support network. This network includes personal,
professional, and pseudo-family supporters.

My professional support comes from my place of work. I am entering my fourth year teaching in an
urban charter school and it has been quite the growing experience since day one. Since beginning
there I have started and finished a degree in Ed Leadership and been on the hunt to move into
administration to pursue and accomplish my vision of education. My colleagues and supervisors know
of my search and aspirations and have been in my corner supporting my attempts every step of the
way from writing references to covering my class when I have to miss time at school in order to
interview. For them I am thankful!

My pseudo-family of support comes from my PLF, professional learning family. This group came
together as strangers around a book study in January of 2018 and has since stayed together, met in
real life, presented at conferences together, and truly become a support network both personally and
professionally. Everyday we continuously push each other to explain and rationalize thinking, challenge
long-held beliefs, and grow beyond what we thought we could accomplish. They have truly helped my
journey through the daily conversations as I have to constantly verbalize my beliefs, values, and
transformations regarding education, children, and working with adults. I can honestly attribute the
nearness to my professional goals to this collective group. They are the individuals writing this blog
collectively. For them I am thankful!

My personal family is a group I am indebted to and thankful for beyond words. I have twin 11-month old
girls, a four year old son, my partner Jackie, two dogs, and three cats. Four years ago I left North
Carolina to be with Jackie and Hayden as they moved back to New Jersey to be nearer Jackie’s family.
Since then Jackie’s family and friends have been the safety net for us young parents as we tried to
build careers and roots of our own in The Garden State. Without Jackie’s family and friends neither of
us could being doing what we are doing. Without Jackie I could not do what I do. Every day I am out of
the house by 6am and don’t return until 6pm. During that time she is either at home with 2-3 kids by
herself or she has childcare taken care--something she personally puts together because I have no
connections within 400 miles to help with our children. Jackie knows and understands my professional
goals and supports me through every interview and through every let-down. For her I am thankful.

I am also thankful for you, the reader, for taking time to read our collective work of #thankful thoughts.

Jennifer Ledford, 6th grade ELA teacher, Hammond IN

My one word focus for 2018 has been “SHINE” and when I chose that word, I could never imagine the
journey that this year would take me on. I learned through these last 11 months what it truly takes for
me to shine. There are some days that my light is easy to find and I simply project it at others and I am
good to go. Yet there are other days that my light is underneath a thick layer of grime and muck, which
is caused by stress and negativity. This is not the dirt you can simply wipe away but the kind that takes
back breaking scrubbing.
This year has had its share of muck that has attempted to cloud the light I have to shine, yet I am so
thankful that in January, I met an incredible group of people that continually help me clean the grime
away. They do this by helping me find the courage within myself to combat all the dirt and muck that
may come against me in life.
Many who know me know that I am a HUGE Wizard of Oz fan and the way that the 4OCFPLN has
helped me through this year can compare to that of the Lion. The Lion lacked the courage to do much
of anything and was even losing sleep because of his irrational fears. He then meets a group that soon
become his friends and along their journey, he is given opportunities to show the strength and courage
inside of him. When they finally reach the Wizard, the Lion realizes he does not need the courage from
the Wizard, for his friends have helped him find it in himself.
While I may have not been afraid of everything, I would simply stand back and let some things go even
if I knew in my heart they were not what was best. I would let negative words seep in and not do
anything to redirect them.  I was managing yet not thriving until I found my group, my tribe, my
edu-family. They helped me discover the power within me to roar at the negative words (in the politest
way possible) and to stand up for what I know is best.
As we enter this month of thanks and the last 2 months of 2018, I am very thankful for my 4OCFPLN
and for all my additional support on Twitter and Voxer. These people have truly shaped me in the last
year and helped me become a better educator and a better person. I am also very thankful for this new
found courage. It allows me to do what I know should be done in all aspects of my life. While it is not
accepted 100% of the time, others have said they have noticed a change for the better in me. As I look
forward to 2019, I am excited for the opportunities that this courage can open for me.
I also want to encourage all of you to find your group. Find those people that will allow you to uncover
things within that you never knew were possible. If you are open, these changes can impact your life in
the most amazing way.

Kimberly Isham, K-5 Reading Specialist, Greenville TX   @Isham_Literacy

This past spring, my mother spent 2 weeks in a Critical Care unit about an hour away from my home.  I am so grateful that we did not lose her. My parents have been some of my strongest supporters and most important critics.  They have modeled hospitality and generosity throughout their lives. Their example and encouragement has been a big part of making me the person I am today.
My husband is my biggest supporter, whether it be acting as my cheerleader when I take on a project I am not sure about, or letting me vent when I am frustrated with something at school.  He makes me laugh and lets me know in a million ways how much he loves me and our boys.
My children (biological and school) have challenged my thinking as I strive to give them the best of myself in helping them to be the best version of themselves.  
My co-workers have caused me to question what I know as I work within the box we know as the public school system.
My #4OCFpln has been a serendipitous group that not only gets me, but also pushes me to do more, learn more, and be more.
I am thankful that God has brought all these forces into my life to help me continue on this path of growth to be the person He created me to be.

Cathy Hink, Kindergarten Teacher & Technology Resource Teacher
Washington @mshinksclass   Website:

I am thankful for relationships with…

the Trinity that gives all of life deep meaning and purpose empowers me with a strong faith, sense of hope and teaches me everyday what it means to love and be loved.

a daughter who has taught me the meaning of true love, courage and joy beyond measure.

Boo my loyal fur baby,  who provides soft cuddles, smiles and giggles everyday.

family that has nurtured and shaped my character.  For a mom that taught me unconditional love. For a father who taught me to work hard and be a problem solver.  For siblings that have taught me acceptance and taught me the fine art of negotiation and compromise. ; )

friends who have added  laughter, compassion, support as they accept me as I am and encourage, support and hold me accountable to be the best me I can be.

young students who remind me of the power and wisdom found in wonder and play and who daily model what it means to be resilient and trusting.

My #40CFPLN (a.k.a. My Tribe) who live out the honorable task of educating, loving and advocating for the children of this great nation.  Their courage, intelligence, dedication, and passion consistently inspire, strengthen and motivate me.

Elizabeth Merce- Kindergarten Teacher Virginia Beach, VA @EMercedLearning

As I reflect on all the things I am thankful for I keep coming back to the people.  Each person I meet has changed me in some way, they have left a part of themselves with me.
I am thankful for my amazing husband and daughter who have given me the strength to try all the things.  The unconditional love they give me allows me to dream big dreams and chase them. I have been blessed with an amazing support at home.
I am thankful for all the educators that have touched my life as a child and as an adult.  I have learned so much from them. Sometimes it was just as an example of what not to do, but more often than not it was what teaching can be.
This year I also get to be thankful for my #4OCFpln.  I have found my people in this group. I have had more support and growth in the past year than in any time period in my life.  There are no words to adequately describe how this group of strangers have become my second family, my teaching home.

Mike Messner -- High School Teacher, Los Altos, CA

This year, my thanks goes out in many, many directions…

To my wife Nancy, who sustains and accompanies me on my life journey and my teaching journey, and who always reminds me what those journeys are really all about.
To my son Stephen, who calls me to reflect on the job I do as an educator, and who has unflagging faith in his old man.  Breakfast at Black Bear Diner this weekend, bucko.
To Snoopy, who is the single most loving creature with more than two legs that I have ever met or am ever likely to.  
To my closest companions at Los Altos High School, Seth Donnelly, Chris Phipps, and Katherine Orozco, who have seen me at my most distraught and exhausted, and still take the time to fellowship and collaborate with me.
To the teachers who touched me most deeply and influenced my practice most profoundly: Dave Squellati, Mark Shaull, Wynne Satterwhite, and Jerry Messner (save me a seat in heaven next to you, Dad).
To my students at Los Altos and at Skyline College for allowing me to try out new ways of teaching and who forgive me when they go awry -- and especially the members of Future Business Leaders of America for letting me take a fun and exciting ride as your adviser!
To the members of #4OCFPLN for their support, their exhortations, and their relentless drive to make our education system better; I cannot imagine where I would be as a teacher without this group of voices, and I can’t wait to see you all in person.
And to my Father in Heaven: Thank You for allowing me to shed burdens that might have destroyed me, for giving me a future that I think I understand, and the promise of an eternity in Your presence.
God bless us, every one.  Happy Turkey.

Debbie Holman, Science 8, AVID, Wellington, CO.

I have so much to be thankful for.   I truly feel as if I am blessed by all those who support,  encourage me and help me learn.

I'm thankful for my family including my awesome sister my amazing parents my nieces and nephew and all of my extended family, that support me day in and day out and make sure that I am at my best.  I would not be who I am without these people who have supported throughout my life.

I'm thankful for my husband who deals with the frustrations that come with being the husband of an educator. He constantly supports all of my Endeavors and all of the things that I use our hard-earned money for to bring things into my classroom to support the Science Education of all my students.

I'm thankful for my colleagues who understand the way I work and work with me as I am always challenging myself to try new things to make the instruction in my classroom new and better.  

I'm also thankful for my tribe, my professional learning network, or my professional learning family, The #4OCFPLN They encourage, inspire, and challenge my thinking on a daily basis. I am so thankful to be part of such an amazing, brilliant group of educators.  

I'm also thankful for my two fluffy amazing Great Pyrenees dogs, Bear and Taos. No matter the day I have, they always listen and are available for a good snuggle if necessary!