Have You Thanked a Kidventor Today?


I have been given both the honor and privilege of reading and providing my honest review of Patrice McLaurin’s book, Have You Thanked a Kidventor Today? as a part of the 2022 #ReadYourWorld celebration.

This book made my teacher heart burst & sing. There are so many possibilities for use in the classroom. Once my mind starts to bubble with thoughts of lessons and activities, I just become giddy. This book is a wonderful addition to our lessons. But first, let’s talk about why children would enjoy it.

Children are infatuated with the world around them. They have a strong desire to be involved and they want to help. McLaurin shows them examples of real children – yes, children who did just that. They created new or improved items to make life in their little piece of the world better. This is a powerful message for our children today.

In addition, children love to see other children being successful and trying new things. It captures their imagination, sparks interest, and instills a sense of wonder. It is relatable to students to read about children trying to solve a problem or finding a solution to a situation. They willingly offer ideas and support.

As an educator, we tell children that they have the ability to change the world. This book provides the stories behind the children who made those impacts. The language used in the stories is kid friendly. Yet- it also contains rich content vocabulary. Dian Wang’s vivid illustrations are the perfect addition to bring everything together nicely for readers.

I see myself using this title in upcoming STEM lesson, passion projects, lesson launch ideas and so much more. Have You Thanked a Kidventor would be a wonderful addition to any classroom library. I am looking forward to sharing this one with my students. I will be adding it to my lesson plans in the future.

Check out Patrice Mclaurin’s website for more informations about this book as well as her other works. https://patricemclaurin.com


Lump Lump and the Blanket of Dreams


I have been given the privilege of reading and then giving my review of the picture book, Lump Lump and the Blanket of Dreams by Gwen Jackson as a part of the #ReadYourWord celebration.

Gwen Jackson does a wonderful job of creating Lump Lump’s world using rich vivid descriptions. Lissa Calvert’s illustrations splendidly compliment the story capturing the beauty of the Southwest. This is a Friesen Press publication.

Lump Lump is a young black bear who is not looking forward to sleeping through the winter. He would much rather listen to Blue Bird’s stories, run through the forest and eat honeycomb. Blue Bird shares a story about the blanket of dreams. Lump Lump decides that he wants a blanket of dreams. If he had such a blanket, he could sleep through the winter.

Blue Bird and Mama Bear set the plan in motion fully realizing that they will not be able to do it on their own. There is a theme of teamwork and collaboration. Mother Bear encourages other animals to use their strengths to assist in finding the necessary items. For example: She tells Robin he is a good flyer. She informs Hawk that he is a good hunter. Mama Bear states to Fox that he is clever.

A grateful, Lump Lump gives gifts to those who help.

As a teacher, I foresee rich discussion surrounding the use of strengths as well as helping others see and then utilize their strength. The theme of kindness and gratitude shines through the actions of the characters. There are multiple examples which are easily relatable to our children.

This is a wonderful story for a classroom read aloud or a bedtime story.

Teachers, librarians and families can find more information as well as activities by visiting www.gwenjacksonstories.com

Diggin’ Deep

This year marks my 24th year in the classroom. I would be lying if I told you that I was ecstatic about school starting tomorrow. The hard truth is – I am having a really hard time with our “new normal” in the life of school & my classroom.

I will not be seeing a group of 20 children. I will not be greeting former students with their parents in the hallway. The just does not “feel” right. I will be posting assignments online and having virtual meetings. It is not the same. In three weeks, I will see half of my students at a time in our classroom. We will be following some new procedures. It will take some adjusting.

First of all, I completely understand & I fully support all that we are doing to keep our students and staff safe. But, I desperately need an outlet for my thoughts & feelings. So, please let me share.

Let’s begin with class environment. Educators have been spending the past several years building a classroom culture based on community & collaboration. Our physical setup of our classrooms have embraced that as we have brought in flexible seating and design to ease collaborative teamwork. The new social distance & CDC guidelines make these practices rather challenging. It is suggested students be 6 feet apart and that they all face the same direction.

Our instructional practices have shifted over the year to encourage more of the following: problem solving, collaboration, differentiation, small group, discussion. Our students are in the habit of collaborating on some projects digitally, but they are in the habit of working side by side-not 6 feet apart. Our children are also in the habit of sharing materials. Oh, they do such a nice job of sharing materials. Now, this is a huge problem especially in elementary schools. We have saved money for year by purchasing the bare minimum of books or math manipulatives because children can share. Now, under the pandemic circumstances we are unable to share because items need to be sanitized between uses.

As I am sitting here, I am digging deep. I am sure I’m not the only one. This is going to be a year of innovation. As a teacher, I am going to need to reach my students in ways that I haven’t before. I am also going to be asking them to engage with others. I will be asking them to take risks in ways that we haven’t even dreamed possible yet. We have an opportunity. None of us asked for this opportunity. It is what we make of it. Education may be altered forever…

It is time to give it a go and do what we can with what we have for our students.

When God Made the World #Readyourworld

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Book Review

I have been given the privilege of reading and then giving my review of the picture book, When God made the World by Matthew Paul Turner as a part of the #ReadYourWord celebration.

The story is told from the perspective of a young boy as he and his friends as they embark on a fantastic journey that resembles a dream.

This book does a a nice job of capturing a child’s sense of wonder in regards to our world’s creation. There is a comforting tone of cadence in the rhythm of the words on the pages as Turner describes how God designed the universe, the earth and the life upon it. The reader it taken along a journey as the process of creation is explained in child friendly and beautifully vivid terms.

The story is enhanced by fantastic illustrations by Gillian Gamble. She captures the innocent wonder, nature’s beauty, and the magical essence of the dream-like world. The reader is truly transported into the story through the combination of the images and the words.

This would made a wonderful addition to any child’s reading collection. It inspires young ones to see the importance of our world & the pieces that comprise it.

Kicking Off the Year with Some Resolutions

My Resolutions for 2019

There is no better time to make an official statement of how I intend to better myself than the new year when I can join the multitudes in our society by making New Year’s Resolutions.

So, I have been thinking about writing for quite a while now. I was having a difficult time finding the motivation. I can give a gazillion and one reasons why I should continue to put it off, but what good would that do? I read several professional books this past summer including Sparks in the Dark. The authors stated that teachers who want students to write should be doing that themselves. It’s time I own up and begin working on the skill I want my students to practice. My first official resolution for this year is to begin writing my blog on a more regular basis. It will assist me in reflecting on my practice and gain some feedback from some friends as well.

My second resolution this year has to do with one of my first loves, reading. As a child, I read every moment I could. Unfortunately as I grew into my teaching career, I found less and less time to do this thing that I loved. Sure I spend a lot of time reading emails, articles and professional books. I craved reading a novel, to read something that was not required or had a task or a deadline assigned to it. I just wanted to read a story. I needed to carve time into my day or evening to indulge in something that was of interest to me. So, I am going to read more for pleasure whether it be – adult lit, YA, MG, kid lit- whatever I desire. I have set a challenge to read at least 30 books (which are non-professional texts) this year.

My third and final resolution for this year is on the topic of “me-time.” I have this nasty habit of working- all.the.time. It can’t be healthy. I know that I can become overwhelmed with due dates, reports, assessments, and other requirements that districts and the state place on us as teachers. I am currently working on a mindset where I am trying to consciously make time for myself. I need to create a healthy balance of school, work at home, selfcare and socializing with others. To be honest, this may be my most challenging resolution to accomplish this year.

There it is. My official New Year’s Resolutions made as a public statement. I trust that my friends will be checking in from time to time to see the progress in which I am making towards my goals.

I pray the rest of you have a blessed and wonderful year!

A Lesson in Relationships

It’s all about the relationships that we build while we have the children in our classroom. Build relationships, that is the key to their success. I do not disagree with the “relationship movement” one bit. In fact many of us have been stressing the importance of relationships for years. This was one of the first things we were told to do, day 1.

I began teaching 21 years ago.  A lot has changed in education over that course of time. I started out as a 9th grade special education teacher in IN. My students were placed in a “levels” classroom. Basically, they required the most consistent & structured behavioral support classroom in which a mainstream school could service them.  Wow, I sure did learn a great deal that year!  The first lesson and the most valuable lesson that I learned was from our Assistant Director of Special Education, for Richmond Community Schools Pam Hilligoss. She taught me that the very first thing I needed to do with my students was to build a rapport & establish a genuine relationship. Granted, this was not always the easiest thing to do, especially when a child was having a rough day, but that relationship meant the difference between making it through the next hour or that child being sent home…yet again. Hence, burning another bridge in their history of bridges with adults & school personnel.

Later that first year, I transferred to our district’s Day Treatment Program. Here, I felt I could have a more direct impact on the children in our community. In other words, I could “make a difference”. I would have a little more flexibility there than I did at the high school. I would have children from all grade levels & Pam Hilligoss would be my immediate supervisor.

Our program grew in the 8 yrs that I taught there. I so enjoyed watching students coming in our doors & helping them overcome many academic, emotional & behavioral challenges. Our team worked to transition them back to their home-schools.  I would be lying if I said that we did not have some stumbling blocks & some children returned to us. That is ok, we would pick-up where they child left off & move forward.

I decided to make a career move 13 years ago. I left special education and went into a regular ed classroom in an elementary school in NC. My experience, along with the stress on the importance of rapport building as well as relationships with students & their families followed me.  Like I stated earlier, this is one of the most valuable lesson I have learned. It makes a world of difference inside & outside the classroom.

I keep in contact with Pam, several of my colleagues from IN and I have former students from IN who are finding me on social media. They are wanting to “check-in” and let me know their successes. Got to love that!

I was informed last evening that one of my former students was shot & killed yesterday. I wept. I still saw him as a young boy of 9. He was so excited when we took our 1st trip to the zoo. You see, he had never been. We had gotten special permission to go as a school & they had found funding for us. It was a lifetime experience for him. We live for these moments as teachers.

It broke my heart when I heard this information. The minute details do not matter.  What mattered to me was a young man was no longer with us. Whatever the circumstances, choices, etc. leading up to that exact moment… He was/is one of “my” kids.

As teachers, we have no control over our students’ lives outside of school.  We can only control their experiences while they are with us.  A prayer that I continue to pray year after year & day after day is that: We, teachers can make a difference to someone, somewhere.Pam's Quote

Pam, my former administrator,  and I texted for a while that evening. He was one of her kids too. She shared, “As an educator you never know when your student realizes or benefits from their interaction with us. If nothing else, our students believed that they were cared for regardless of their behavior.”

So yes, when I learned that the rapport and relationship that you established and built with a student was vital to their academic, emotional and behavioral growth, that was one of the most valuable lessons that I obtained in my educational career.

That is why some 13 years later, I am shedding tears for my former student and the experiences that he is not going to be able to have.  That is why I am praying for his family & friends.  That is why we continue to work to make differences and build relationships with those we come in contact with in the future.

Relationships, what an essential ingredient to students’ success.

Our Passion Project Journey


It had been a goal of mine to bring student passion projects into our classroom, but I was having a struggle trying to figure out what was the best way to do it. So, I began to do my research. I am one of “those”. I like to find out what I can about new practices, ideas, etc. before attempting.

I watched a colleague, @meaganhparrish do a project with her students; she was a great sounding board as well as a resource. I spent the summer reading Empower & Launch by @spencerideas & @ajjuliani, Shift This by @JoyKirr, & watched an interview with @paulsolarz. The most reinforcing thing that I found from all of these resources & authors was that I could take “baby-steps” during this process.

How we started:

I chose to team up with one of our enhancement teachers, @tprince423. She was interested in joining this journey with me. We selected one day a week that would be protected, no matter what for our passion projects. Next, we found a time that worked with both teacher’s schedules. Passion Tuesdays emerged! We agreed to meet every Tuesday for 45-50 minutes. My class would travel to Mrs. Prince’s classroom to work on our projects. Her classroom is housed in the media center & she has access to some additional Chromebooks, so it just seemed logical.

Our next step was to sell passion projects to our students. We started by asking the class, “How would school be different if you could learn whatever you wanted to learn?” This was followed by small group discussions & whole class share-out. Then students created a brainstorm list of things they enjoy or that they are interested in. This list will assist in future passion project ideas. Each student has a notebook that is solely used for passion projects. (Due to the fact that we are working with third grade students, these beginning steps were modeled.)

After igniting interest in the children, I sent home a letter to our parents. This letter shared information about the passion projects & upcoming PBL projects. I also asked them to please complete a survey if they would like to be a part of this endeavor. The purpose for this is to keep communication lines open as to begin building a network of an expert pool for students. The survey is a google form which is embedded on our class webpage.

Developing Essential Questions

To be quite honest, I have found this to be one of the most challenging things to be doing with the children. I googled and I googled, but I could not really find anything that assisted in showing or explaining essential questions to my students. Maybe my take on passion projects is different that others, but I believe that there must be an essential question to drive the project. Otherwise, it is nothing more than a plain old research project. If a student can google the answer to his question, then it needs to be revised.

Our class drafted some essential question starters to assist in the development of their questions. We put these starters on a wall in our classroom, that way we are able to utilize them for other projects as well.

–I wonder…                                            —Why…
–What if….                                              —How…

Students record all ideas in their passion notebooks. They have a page for their first selected project. Their essential question is recorded here. I have a vast range of interests as well as talents in my class.

Some of questions are quite intriguing for 3rd grade students:

–How has the gymnastics vault table changed?

–How do rainbows work?

–I wonder if different liquids affect plant growth?

Project Proposals

Students used their essential question to complete their project proposal. Here, students determined materials needed, supports required from Mrs. Prince & myself, ending product and how they planned to share what was learned. Proposals were to be submitted prior to beginning projects. We wanted the children to have a goal or plan in mind.

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Students working on projects

Actual Projects

We spent several weeks supporting students while they researched and created, developed, or constructed their projects. A date was set for them to begin presenting. Some upperclassmen had agreed to be our audience. Excitement filled the air the day we began our presentations. It took us three days to finish because we presented about 30 minutes each day.

Reflection & Feedback

Immediately after each presentation we share two things students do well and something to try differently next time. Students who presented a passion project as well as those who were an audience member gave feedback or reflected using @Flipgrid.

The children love Passion Tuesday! They are always thinking of a new project. Learning and a passion for learning is alive and well! I am so glad that we began this journey, baby-steps and all.

“Shifting” Into The School Year

Wow! I really can’t believe that we have been in school whole semester already. It truly has been a whirlwind. Now, I know that I can’t be the only teacher who feels this way.

New grade level

new curriculum

school life in general

Google coming to visit

new “shifts”

Where did the time go? I have been busy trying new things with my students. Some things have worked well and some could use continued “tweaking”.

I’ll share the shifts that I have been implementing in upcoming posts. The first one that I would like to announce is that I have been brave enough to do aBreakout EDU with my students. I had been wanting to do one with my class, but I was apprehensive. Placing the clues as well as setting the locks correctly was a bit frightening. I found a teammate who was ready to step out and embark on the Breakout EDU adventure as well, so we worked together to arrange our breakout room. Another teacher, Meagan Parrish who is experienced with the breakout boxes was more than willing to assist us with the locks as well as answering any questions that we had.

Our first Breakout was for Dot Day on September 15, 2017. Our students loved the experience! I discovered that I needed to set some perimeters for teams. This was their first experience, they were excited. Hence, team member could be a little over eager and take over another team’s area when they were analyzing a clue. The next time we do this we will need to wait waiting until  another teams was done in the area before move in.  We also need to continue team building skills.


Our second Breakout EDU was done to kickoff out Global Read Aloud novel The Wild Robot on September 29, 2017. This one went more smoothly than the first. Students gave teams more space at clues, but their eagersness to get to figure them out got the best of a few children.

We are looking forward to our next Breakout EDU adventure. My students continue to grow each time we work through one together.





Be the Helper in the Light

Our school year is starting in two weeks.  Turn on the television, open social media, pick up the newspaper and we are reminded that our world is in unrest.  Neighbor is lashing out at neighbor,  others are ridiculing our iniquities and differences with malice and hatred instead of celebrating or embracing them with with love and compassion. Children turn to the adults in their lives to help them make sense of this world.  As an educators in today’s society, we definitely have our hands full.

A childhood influence of mine, in addition to my teachers, was Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  He reminds us that in the dark times, there will always be light. We need to look for the helpers.  


Well my fellow colleagues, we are the helpers. We are the ones on the sidelines.  Like it or not, teachers ARE involved. We do it by doing what we do best.  Educating, guiding, advocating, and most of all  loving our students.  Our students know that we are going to be there each and everyday. We are that constant in their lives.  We are that loving adult in their lives.  We are the ones who stand up for those who do not have a voice of their own.

Our students know that we will try our best to answer what questions they may have. We will create the safest environment that we possibly can for them.  We will care for them as if they are our very own children.

School needs to be the place where bias and racism are nonexistent. In order for that to occur there will need to be some awareness lessons in personal biases, compassion & empathy training, and community & team building.

Celebrate Differences

There are a multitude of ways that we, the helpers, the chosen ones who are with the “future of our nation” can be the necessary “beacon of light.”  A light that shines dimly or brightly through the hate that seems to be casting an encompassing shadow upon our society at this time.

Teachers have been actively working to build strong communities in their classrooms. Many classrooms in my district use morning meetings. These meeting help start each day with a positive message as well as to build a connected structural format where students can share socially and academically. Children’s picture books are a fabulous avenue to address any and almost all social issues.  They can be used independently, in small group or as a whole class read aloud. Students tend to openly discuss opinions more easily when they are are talking about a character in a story as compared to someone who resides next door.  Once rapport, comfort level and trust is built, students have been known to feel less intimidated when discussing real-life issues or current events.

Accept learn diference

It takes more than just talking, discussing and sharing.  Students need to build trusting relationships with one another.  They need to become a unified team. Team Building exercises, games and activities allow opportunities to spotlight various strengths in members. The planning of these activities can be worked into students’ pre-existing curriculum or teachers can be innovative and set aside a small block of time weekly to continue strengthening the classes’ community.

In the mass chaos, civil unrest and foreboding shadow of hate that is being shown, our children are preparing to come to school.  Some will be eager and ready to learn; others will be wishing for more vacation time. Regardless, educators are the endless beams of light flickering in the darkness. Our students look to us for guidance as we direct them towards a path of hope filled with acceptance, compassion, and love.

Morning Meeting:  https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/what-is-morning-meeting

Picture Book Ideas:

Older Students Book Ideas:

Team Building Activities:

The Value of Awareness

Build relationships.
Relationships are essential.
Establish rapport.
Home connections are key.

Open up Twitter, Facebook, and almost any educational text and you will read something regarding the importance of building and maintaining relationships; relationships with students, colleagues, parents, community members etc.  Relationships are the lifeline to a school. Please don’t get me wrong, but I think there are many times where we as the adults take charge. We, myself included, may need to step back and re-educate ourselves on the communities with which we are working.  Then we may be able to build even stronger and more productive relationships- ones where the children will benefit much more than they do today.

Let me explain.

Last week I visited my hometown in western Pennsylvania. While I was there, I read JD Vance’s, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. This novel hit home for several reasons.  I grew up and then later taught in areas similar to ones the author depicted in his memoir.  He was sharing the story of my classmates and students.  It was eye opening. He shared what he knew because he lived it.  Then at the same time….I knew these children, oh my gosh.  JD Vance was completely describing them to a”T”. Individuals who have never experienced this area, these conditions, or have limited understanding of  the accepted “norms” would be appalled.

How is this important? What does this mean to me as an educator?

Teachers need to be aware of the “norms” of socio-economic classes. It is estimated that approximately 43% of our children in the USA live in low income homes. This will enable us to be able to emphasize and in turn, truly build bonds with the families with whom we work. I believe that we really do a nice job of being conscientious of ethnic, racial and religious differences.  We celebrate these in our classrooms.  We bring lessons of diversity, compassion and empathy regarding these cultural differences into our classes. Teachers have a knowledge of what is deemed appropriate and not appropriate in regards to interaction with the various groups they come in contact.  Yet, when it comes to working with families that are of a different socio-economic class educators may not be aware of the cultural norms accepted by that group.

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When we think of our students who may come from the lower end of the socio-economic scale, we immediately begin gathering physical resources & supplies.  Unfortunately, we seem to miss the real connection with them as a group- what their values are, what they really need, what is truly wanted.  Misunderstandings, miscommunications, misconceptions, and lack of trust can be created.  As an educator, I know this is not, nor is it ever our intention. Which is why I strongly feel that we all should be aware of the differences in the socio-economic culture. Yes, there are differences.  Many of these values are just understood.  As a teacher, I need to continually step back and remind myself to look at others’ perspective.  

There are several who have written articles, books and offer workshops to share information about poverty. I have been fortunate enough to have had workshops offered through the districts in which I have worked, such as Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty. I know everyone has not had that opportunity.  I do urge you to build your awareness of the socio-economic difference.  I do believe it will make an impact, a positive one on your future relationships within your schools and communities


Poverty Resources