Gratitude for a Full Year

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is one of the longest words in the dictionary. Ironically, it means “a fear of long words.” Did you know that? I didn’t. Until today, when one of my 7th graders plopped a piece of paper ripped from a notebook with THAT word written on it on my desk. Then, they grinned.

Ya’ll, THIS. This is why we teach.

Untitled design (1)

Those moments of silliness amidst the chaos of students trying to navigate this world. Those moments you can make eye contact with a child who has gone out of their way to find an ironic and quite ridiculous word… just to share a joke with you. These are the moments that make me fall in love with this career over and over again. These are the students that make me look forward to going to work.

I have never touched on why I decided to become a teacher, long ago. Partially due to an obsession with fantasy novels and creative writing, I voiced my desire to become an author in front of my grandfather. He nodded politely, as most people of his generation were horrified by anyone getting a degree in “English”. Yet, I’ll never forget what he said to me when I told him, “I’d love to teach English.”

He said, “Don’t you ever give up on the bad kid. The kid that acts tough. The kid that doesn’t care. The kid that wants to drop out. Don’t ever give up on them. My teachers gave up on me – they thought I didn’t care about my future. But if any one of them had stopped me, showed that they actually cared, I might have stayed in school.”

Untitled design (2).jpg

To this day, those words still ring in my ears. Some days are tougher than others, and some students are tougher still. Yet, I stay true to what my grandfather asked – no matter what happens in my classroom, the next day they get a fresh slate. You messed up, kid. Try again. Going to act out again today? Take your leave, I’ll see you tomorrow. Maybe we’ll get it right then. And you better believe I let them all know, they’re loved. Sometimes that looks like tough love, but my students need a mentor more than they’ll ever need a cheerleader. Do you know that many of my students who I was “tough” on came back to thank me later? Food for thought.

I’ve been teaching for a little under a decade, and it’s been a little over a year since I began this teaching blog. It was always my hope to reach educators like you who wanted to try teaching content in a way that could reach all students. Over the last year, I’ve learned so many neat ways to create resources that snag these kids, suck them right in and get them LEARNING without them even realizing it. That’s the magic of teaching.

I am so very grateful to all of you for taking this journey with me. To those of you who have purchased my resources and share your experiences with me – thank you. You have no idea how much those photos and comments make me smile! There is nothing more worthwhile to a teacher than to know their hard work and dedication is being appreciated and loved.

To those of you who tag along for the blog posts that I send out haphazardly – thank you. It’s nice to know that somewhere out there, someone may be reading these words and using them to bolster their courage to face another day in this amazingly complex career.

I hope you all stick around for another year with me. Cheers – here’s to showing up as the best version of ourselves for all of 2020. 


The Supplement That Knocks Out Symptoms

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because I have personally tried them and am impressed with their quality.

Last January, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism – and I had let it go for so long that I was in ROUGH shape. It took me over six months and switching a few doctors to bounce my levels back to where they needed to be to even function at all. Yet, I still felt the lack of energy, the headaches, and all of the other symptoms that come with things not being just right.

I happened upon a research article that discussed ways to bring down the antibody levels in the body. I already was taking supplements, yet this article mentioned something new – Black Cumin seed. It acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, and gets rid of one of the causes of hypothyroidism – H. pylori in the intestines. Looking into the Black Cumin seed further, it seemed to be something that truly helped those with autoimmune disorders. I decided to give it a try, as I wanted to feel more like myself again.

I personally chose Amazing Herbs Black Cumin Seeds, a brand that uses Vegetarian capsules and is gluten- and dairy-free. I took four capsules each morning with my coffee and breakfast. The capsules are regular-sized, and tasted kind of like pizza herbs after digesting (who doesn’t love pizza?).

Within One Month of Black Cumin Seeds Daily:

– My throat only felt slightly “full” after eating

– My foggy head started to clear

– I could fall asleep a little easier

– I only woke up once or twice in the night

– I was feeling happier each day

Within Three Months of Black Cumin Seeds Daily:

-My throat no longer felt “full” after I ate

– My thinking became very clear – multitasking became easy again

– I had very little joint aches, even after heavy lifting at the gym

– My energy levels skyrocketed – I was able to do so much more during my workday

– I lost any and all bloat in my tummy

– My face acne that had flared up after being diagnosed completely disappeared

– Waking up was easy – no more grogginess

– Falling asleep was easy

– I could sleep through the night

– I was genuinely in a great mood every day, and my moods were stable


Before I tried Black Cumin seed, I was already taking other supplements to try to naturally improve my gut health and bring my condition around. Read my earlier post to learn what I do for that. However, if you have already tried nearly EVERYTHING like I did, I suggest giving the Amazing Herbs Black Cumin a try. It is recommended that you continue to take them, even after you feel better, or else you may notice your symptoms returning.

Keep fighting the good fight, fellow thyroid warriors!


Oddballs: The Fight for Lunch Line Equality

An unexpected Hashimoto’s diagnosis in January led to the eventual realization that my body could no longer tolerate gluten or dairy. For months, I learned how to transition away from my favorite foods (No pasta? I’m Italian! No smothering everything in cheese? Woe is me!). There is a ton of science behind why wheat created today is destroying Americans’ gut health – a factor to leads to nearly EVERY autoimmune disease in the books. There was a huge learning curve, not only in figuring out what foods I could eat but in realizing that even my closest friends and family didn’t – read couldn’t – understand.

Untitled design.pngMost people made comments like, “Oh, you’re one of those health nuts now?” or “Good grief, not you too! Gluten isn’t the enemy, you know!” They would laugh, and everyone else would laugh, and I would feel crummy. You get to a point where you stop explaining your allergy to people to avoid these interactions. You either say, “No thanks, I’m not hungry,” or you just eat the food and feel super sick later.

This last option is one I quit choosing long ago – however, it is VERY real in the mind of a middle schooler who doesn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.

Fast-forward to this year – I have several students who are at least partially (or completely) intolerant of gluten or dairy. When I found out they were going through this, I made a point of mentioning my own intolerance to them privately. Every single time, their faces relaxed and they listened. I knew they must have been thinking, “Oh good, it isn’t just me.”

However, one adult making them feel “normal” wasn’t enough. I also oversee their lunch period every other day. On one occasion, I walked into the cafeteria to see a gluten-intolerant student eating breaded chicken nuggets. I walked over to her, looked at her plate, and then looked back up at her. She shrugged and said, “They didn’t have anything else to eat. I am really hungry. I’ll just deal with it later.”

Untitled design (1).png

My heart broke. I KNEW that feeling – the one where you DON’T want to be the oddball who has to ask for something different in front your friends. The feeling of shame that for whatever reason, you lost the genetic lottery and your body can’t handle the same food as your peers. The feeling of not belonging.

If you are an educator of middle school students, then you will fully understand how important belonging is to this age group. They are already odd ducks trying to navigate their way through their peer groups, find their identity and avoid ANY situation that makes them a target for ridicule. Can you imagine also having to deal with this?

That very same day, I drafted a professional email to the head of our school district – our Superintendent – inquiring into how we, as a school, are addressing the needs of these students.Untitled design (2).png

For a few weeks, my email went unanswered. Eventually, I was invited to a meeting where the woman who oversaw the cafeteria was present, as well as the Superintendent. We met, discussed what was currently in place, what population we needed to serve, and possible solutions.

Less than an hour later, the meeting adjoined with the decision to provide gluten-free and dairy-free options for these students. The most important part, however, was that these options would be directly on the line with the other food, clearly labeled “Gluten-Free” or “Dairy-Free”, so that students would NOT need to ask for it, but simply grab what they needed and continue on. No more “oddball” status for them! To say I left that meeting feeling elated is an understatement.

These children are not going to speak up for themselves – they already feel like they stand out from everyone else. It is our job as adults to be their activists. A simple email and a short meeting were all that it took for my district to put this in to play.

What is your district currently doing to serve your student population with allergies?


Idea Expansion: Helping Their Ideas Explode

I stumbled upon a lesson this week that had my entire class erupting in giggles, awed at their classmates’ similes, and patting each other on the back for their ingenuity. For a group of middle school students who struggle with English, this was a huge win. If your students are writing narratives with sentences like, “He is tall,” instead of “He towered over the others, casting a shadow across the room,” then this post is for you!

Narrative Peer Revision Assessment (2)

Every October, my school district hosts an Annual Horror Story Contest in grades 7-12. Every student attempts to write a 3-5 page story rich with suspense, mood and, of course, horror. I teach four sections of middle school – if you have experience reading the work of this age group, you know that reading these can be both extremely entertaining.

These students are exploring new ideas that often explode into stories of non-stop action. Yet, most middle school students fail to grasp the concept of pacing (everybody dies all at once) or conventions (“Then they ran to the barn and hid in the hay and tried not to sneeze and heard footsteps approaching and they started shaking and…”).

I worked hard with my middle school students to discuss pacing, to offer guidance in the early stages of writing to avoid pacing issues. Students created rough drafts and we went through a round of peer revisions using my Narrative Peer Revision Assessment and the students were SO helpful to each other!

However, as I scanned the stories, I kept seeing really short descriptive sentences like the one mentioned in the opening of this blog post. I knew I had to find a way to widen their thinking.

So, the next class, the students came in and on the whiteboard, I had written the following: 

IDEA: “I am so tired.”

EXPANDED: “My eyelids drooped as I fought off sleep. My legs felt like lead balloons as I dragged myself across the room.”

I asked my students to write everything down in their notes. Then, we got into a lively discussion of how relateable drooping eyelids were when you’re really tired – everyone in the room had felt that at least once in their life! Then, we talked about lead. So many of the students nodded vigorously when I asked them if they had ever done so much running that their legs were heavy enough to feel like lead! BOOM! I had their attention.

I decided to get them involved more in the lesson. On the board, I crossed off the word “tired”, and asked them for other adjectives that would make sense. Soon we had the words “tall”, “beautiful”, “anxious”, and “angry” on the board.

Counting off by fours, I broke the students into small groups (I only have 12 students in this class, so this worked. If you have more students, come up with a fifth or sixth adjective and break them up like that. Any more than two or three students per group may allow one student to sit back and let the others do the work! I assigned one of the sentences they had come up with to each group and asked them to expand that sentence in their notebooks.

For example, Group One had the sentence, “I was so tall.” Group Two had the sentence, “I was so beautiful.” Etc. The rules were, they couldn’t use the original adjective, and they should aim for one or two sentences as their Idea Expansion. I gave them a five-minute timer to keep them on track.

Can I tell you something, educators? I never expected to have so much fun with such a simple concept. These kiddos got right to work, trying their hardest to come up with an Idea Expansion that was truly great (and some tried really hard to come up with similes to make everyone laugh).

Once the timer went off, every group would share out. I asked the groups who were not sharing out to write down the Idea Expansion – I typed every Idea Expansion up on the SmartBoard as the group told us their ideas so anyone who couldn’t keep up could get everything written. Everyone was giggling, handing out compliments for similes done well, and it was probably the most joyous lesson I have ever experienced.

After all of the groups shared, I had the students take out their narratives and, with a highlighter, they were to comb through their stories and find at least three (3) instances where there was an idea that could be expanded on.

Their reaction? “Ms. C. can I highlight more than three?” 

Me: “You sure can.” 

I repeated this lesson three more times that day. Every single class went just as well. I even caught my one group of 8th graders that can be tough cookies when it comes to engagement giggling over some of the idea expansions.

Sometimes the best lessons are discovered by accident. I hope this joy spreads to your own classroom, and you find yourself having just as much fun as we did. Happy Teaching!

 


Begin This Year With a New Story

This summer I took a much-needed hiatus from writing and creating and thinking about writing and creating. The past year was an emotionally- and physically taxing year for me, and as much as my workaholic personality didn’t like the idea, a break from working was EXACTLY what I needed to start this school year refreshed and truly able to invest myself in my students.

Over the summer, after spending countless nights with friends enjoying hikes and night swimming after a day on the boat, I realized how truly happy I was – I couldn’t stop from smiling most days. Who wouldn’t be happy with sunshine in their hair and a furry puppy happily running around your feet every day? Yet, this realization that I was happy – truly happy – made me realize how unhappy I had become during the school year. So, I made a conscious decision to start this school year by doing a total clean-out – of my home, my classroom, and my poor attitude.

Begin

The new school year is the perfect time for a fresh start for our students, but it is also the perfect time for us to ditch the negative stories we’ve been telling ourselves about teaching and create new, fascinating and inspiring ones! We, as educators, have this really cool opportunity to affect the lives of upwards of 100 children a day. We are the first face they see in the morning, the ones that help them recognize that they are valued, they are loved, and they are going to go out into the world and do things we couldn’t even dream of doing! So, this year, let’s start off by tossing out the negative messages we see online.

Make a new story this year – a story that doesn’t include bashing your principal,  complaining about your co-worker’s shortcomings or groaning about that student. It is so easy to fall into the grumbling, complaining, negative-nancy mindset (I know, I fell into it last year). Take a moment to write out a list of the things that you absolutely love about your district, administration, colleagues, and students. This is the best way to begin changing the story you are telling yourself about teaching. My first list is below:

  1. I love the big personalities of my middle school students.
  2. I am so grateful for how close-knit my middle school colleagues have become.
  3. I love that my district listens to its teachers and adjusts whenever possible to accommodate emergencies, family issues, class issues, etc.
  4. I am so grateful that my district is willing to take risks with new material, technology, and ideas – they are willing to grow and offer opportunities for the students!
  5. I am so grateful for my colleagues that check up on me and offer a friendly ear. The ones who listen to help, and can be trusted with personal information.

Write yourself a list, and really dig in deep to the things that you love about your kick-ass school, colleagues and students – maybe even your significant other and family as well!

After writing my little list, I put it down and did what I automatically do – checked social media (anyone else a habitual social media checker? Such a bad habit, I know!). Nearly immediately, one of the teacher pages I follow popped up with a funny meme that was joking about how difficult parents can be in teaching. I chuckled. Then, I realized that even though it was meant in good humor, I was really only feeding into the same negative mindset I had developed the previous year.

In an effort to get myself on course, I decided to unfollow that page for the time being. You don’t need to go unfollow all the funny teacher pages you have on your social media – just make sure that you recognize the potential those funny memes have to drag you back into a mindset that may make you slightly, well… miserable.

Go out there and root out the story you’ve been telling yourself about teaching, your district, your students or the community. Toss those grumblings to the side, and sketch out a new story. One filled with optimism and hope, inspiration and possibility. One of happiness.

Because Teach… kids learn from educators who are happy. Make yourself one of them.