My Thoughts on an Ever-Changing World

Recently I had an interesting conversation with my grandma. She told me how in her day, back in the ’70s and ’80s when she was raising her kids, she used to keep her baby lying in the front seat of her car while she drove for convenience of nursing and pacifying them. She uses this in an argument when car seats are not present and justifies letting older kids go without seat belts. “My kids survived it, so yours will be fine.” 

But will they? 

The world she raised her kids in is a different world than the world I am raising my kids in. Cars were not even capable of going the speeds they are today. Freeway speeds limits were not 80 mph. Cellphones did not exist to distract drivers. 

Will my kids be okay if she just sits them in the backseat without the proper safety restraints while only going down the block? Probably. But at the same time, I think we need to ask ourselves the morbid question – How many kids had to die in order for the laws in a car to become what they are today? Just because my grandmother’s kids survived and were fortunate enough to never be in a car accident, doesn’t mean everyone was. 

We truly cannot compare the world our parents and grandparents grew up in, to our world today. There are worlds of differences, even in just 50 years. However, just because driving conditions have changed, does not mean cars are less safe. We know our cars can handle higher speeds and diverse conditions because they are safer and well made now. Seat belt and car seat laws exist to compensate for this change. How incredible is it to live in such an adaptable world. 

I also want to point out that our world has changed in incredibly positive ways as well. This article actually tells us what a safer world we are in today. Maybe we feel it is so unsafe and scary because of our ready access to news and media that was non-existent not too long ago. In my grandma’s younger years, ignorance was bliss. 

War rates have plummeted. Malaria cases have gone down. Homicide rates almost look non-existent compared to what they used to be.   

Our world is ever-changing, ever-growing, and ever-adapting. I’m interested to see what I will say to my grandkids someday that “my kids survived it, so yours will be fine.”

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How To Effectively Use Roxaboxen In The Classroom

The first time I heard the story Roxaboxen, I was well into my college years. This saddens me, considering the book was written in 1991, a few years before I was even born! It shows what a timeless classic it has become since it’s still used in schools and read to children today. 

I fell in love with this book right away because it drew me back to my childhood when my neighborhood friends and I would spend hours a day in our driveways drawing sidewalk chalk “houses” furnished with lavish furniture and multiple rooms. We would ride our bikes from driveway to driveway to visit each other’s homes. When the rain would wash the houses away we grabbed our sidewalk chalk again and started over. This cycle lasted for years and years. 

Roxaboxen is a story about friends in Arizona who use rocks and boxes to build homes, buildings, and businesses. They have cops so cars don’t go over the speed limit, and a jail for those that do. These children create more and more every year, even making a cemetery for a lizard with an unfortunate ending. 

How can this book be used in the classroom? It teaches about community and working together. This book is an excellent vehicle for a discussion of the topics, whatever the age group. It can give a brief introduction into the life cycle, watching the creation and expansion of the town, then later on how it was deserted once the children grew up. Also, not to mention- the lizard. 

Think of the beautiful creations children can create of their own communities, possibly even with pebbles and sugar cubes, their own rocks and boxes. The amount of possibilities this creates are endless. 

A few years back I took an Art in Education seminar. A dance teacher used Roxaboxen as our main focus of the lesson. We were split into different teams, each given a few cardboard boxes and balls for our rocks and boxes. We collaborated as a team to define our community values then created a dance with our boxes and balls to reflect these values we had chosen. It was beautiful. 

Roxaboxen can lead to many powerful conversations and lessons down the road, but ultimately, I believe it is the perfect book to spark the imagination as a child. I can see my friends and me now, hearing that story in our early elementary days and running with it. We would have run out to recess with ideas swirling in our minds of the communities we were about to create. It’s unfortunate that I never had the exposure to this picture book to place those imaginative ideas in my mind. 

Please, do your students a favor, regardless of their age, and tell them the great story of Roxaboxen

Have you read your students Roxaboxen? What discussions or activities did you use? Most importantly- How has Roxaboxen influenced you as a person and a teacher? 

Why I Believe MBTI Can Make You a More Effective Teacher

I mentioned in my post about my blogging schedule that I had the hope for my plan to be fluid, changing where and when needed. Three weeks in and I am already changing what I want to write about. I started writing about educational research, which I find incredibly interesting and worth looking into. 

However, while creating these posts, I found I was losing myself as a writer. What I was putting on the page was not personal enough for me, it felt as though I was writing a research paper for my English 1010 class, a class I passed years ago and do not feel inclined to repeat. I knew something needed to change, not many readers are inclined to enjoy blog posts that mimic research papers. I spent a few days reflecting on topics I am passionate about that could also be easy to write about, and finally came to a solid conclusion. 

I have always found Myers Briggs personality types intriguing and helpful information to understand those you come in contact with every day. In my teaching experience, I found it especially helpful to know how the student learns and interacts with others by knowing their Myers Briggs type indicator (MBTI). 

This is all information I want to share with you because I believe you will see the benefits as much and I have. Later in a different post, I will discuss how to identify someone’s MBTI, then I will break down all 16 personality types, highlighting their various aspects and how to connect with these students to teach on their level, or even just to know them on a more personal level. 

In my own experience, knowing someone’s MBTI can be so powerful in understanding their actions. I had a roommate in college who was very energetic, curious, and social. She had such a fun, bubbly personality, but at the same time was constantly stressed and anxious over small situations. She had a hard time focusing on certain tasks and let emotions run her life. While I enjoyed my friendship with her, these aspects of her personality I struggled with knowing how to handle. 

Once I figured out her MBTI and researched it a little more, everything started making more sense. Understanding this newly-found information on her did not change the fact that she was emotional or anxious at times, but it did help me understand it was who she was, and I needed to accept this. Also researching her personality type helped me see more of the positive aspects she brought to this world. 

She had a special talent to communicate with more reserved people, letting them open up to her and share about their personal lives. She was also very open-minded and accepting of every human she came in contact with. These were both qualities I admired in her but did not really see in her until I read more about her MBTI. 

Having this tool for each and every student in your classroom can be so powerful to see their strengths and weaknesses, finding others they can connect so well with, and those they may clash with. Once you find out more about their personality types, I am willing to bet you will learn information about them that may surprise you.

“When teachers and students understand the differences in their teaching and learning styles, communication, and therefore learning, is enhanced. A student’s interests and ways of learning directly affect how he or she takes in information. This calls on educators to consider different teaching approaches, based on the needs of students.”

The Myers & Briggs Foundation

Stay tuned for my upcoming posts on how to identify MBTIs, as well as how to analyze and use them. Buckle up, it’s going to be exciting! 

If you would like to take the MBTI test or research further into the 16 different personality types, you can do that here.

What is your MBTI? Have you found understanding someone’s personality type can help you understand them? What is your best tool for identifying someone’s MBTI? 

Let’s Talk Time Management: My Tips To You

Over the years my role has changed. I went from a high school student to a college student, to a teacher, to a parent. As I transitioned to each new phase in my life, I found that I struggled with learning time management again. This is something I have always prided myself on being exceptional at, and to struggle with it was tough. I eventually compiled a list of tips on managing time to help myself during these transitions, and now I want to share them with you. 

  1. Time management is fluid. We are constantly moving from one phase of our lives to the next, so we cannot expect what we were using during college to work as a mom. Embrace the change.
  2. It looks different for every person. Just like it changes with different phases of life, it also changes from person to person. You cannot manage your time the same way someone else does and expect it to work. You are you, they are them.
  3. It takes a plan. It’s not something you necessarily need to write down every step unless that’s your style. But it is something that takes conscious awareness and practice.
  4. Dedication and effort are crucial. It’s easy to make a plan, but to follow through and stick to your plan will be the deciding factor of success.

Very few people have one or two parts of their lives they need to manage. The majority of us are juggling work, school, families, social lives, religion, and more. It can be a hard balancing act, but here are the tools that have helped me. 

  1. Set a day to plan. Every Sunday afternoon I sit down with my husband, pull out our calendars, and discuss what our week will look like, who needs to be where, and how we will work together to accomplish it. This is not a big planning meeting for us, it’s usually casually done sitting on the couch while a TV show plays. The weeks this doesn’t happen, it usually turns to madness.
  2. Prioritize your week. I walk through everything I need to do for the week and make a decision on the importance level. Either I absolutely have to be there, it’s flexible when it happens, or it’s not a need. The work commitment I made for midweek? That’s an absolute. My son’s doctor’s appointment in the afternoon? It can possibly be flexible if needed, those can be rescheduled. Going to the waterpark with friends on Friday? Not a need, but definitely a want.
    When I take the time to categorize these events, it helps me in those moments of feeling overwhelmed with my load for the week. As my Friday fills up with other work commitments or obligations to my church I made last minute and I start to wonder how to make it all work, I remember that going to the waterpark is not an absolute, it can and will be dropped if needed. That leads me to my next point.
  3. It’s okay to say no. If adding more to your plate is causing problems or making it harder to keep those non-negotiable commitments, start by cutting out the events in your life that are not needed.
  4. Delegation is your best friend. No, I did not say “making everyone else take care of your problems” is your best friend. But giving others opportunities to help themselves and you can have a high payoff. For example, while I was teaching first grade, I offered to stay after school to help a student read. With everything on my plate, did I have time to help this student? Absolutely not. But did I anyway? Absolutely.
    A few weeks in, my principal caught word of what I was doing, and while he admired it, he helped me find an alternative solution. He told me there was a free after school club that the student could attend where someone could sit with him every day, one-on-one to read. I passed the torch to the after school club and it was so freeing to know that the student was still being helped, and I had an extra half hour every day. Delegation at its finest.
  5. Be organized. Organization is placing something in structure or giving it order. This means for some people, like me, a neat planner with straight lines and color-coded highlights for each event is “organized”. For others, that may mean a messy notebook with everything written sporadically throughout. Find your definition of order and go with it. Trying to manage your life the same way as someone else will not make you organized, it will make them organized.

For me, these are tried and true tips that have guided me through every different stage of life. I’ve been prioritizing events for years now, they have just changed from college classes and social events with friends on the weekends, to my kid’s activities and park play dates with neighbors.

My last tip, which I find the most important to remember, is that you can start today. If you need better time management in your life, there is no need to wait for a new year, just start with a new day! Tomorrow, prioritize your events. The following day, delegate a few to-dos. On any given day of the week, sit down and plan out the next 5-7 days. Don’t wait for some big moment to organize your life, it can happen any time!

What methods do you use for time management? How has it changed over time for you?                

My Students Gifted Me “The Darkest Dark” And It Brought Me To Tears

The first time I came across the book The Darkest Dark by astronaut Chris Hadfield was a gift from my second grade students during my student teaching in college. Reading the book to these students on my last day in their classroom made me emotional because discovering space was a topic I felt deeply about and spent a good chunk of time teaching them. 

The Darkest Dark is about young Chris, who is scared of the dark in his room at night. He tries hard to overcome his fear with his parents’ help. Finally, after watching the moon landing on TV, he realizes there is a darker dark to exist in space. He later becomes an astronaut himself, discovering more of space. 

This book hit so close to home for me because I grew up learning about space while my dad worked on the New Horizons space project. He and ten other people worked on the battery portion to power the rocket that would fly by Pluto, then continue further into the Kuiper Belt.

As a little girl, it was hard to understand why my dad had to work long hours and miss big events like dance recitals and sports that we participated in. He would leave early in the morning before we were even awake, only to come home late at night after we were in bed. In our house, we were constantly talking about planets, rockets, plutonium, and especially Pluto, because our dad’s life revolved around it, so ours did too. If you want to read more about my experience, I wrote about it on my personal blog a few years back. 

When I was ten years old, the rocket finally launched. The plutonium battery that my dad had spent so many hours building, shot into space to discover new territory. It would take ten years for the rocket to reach Pluto and send back the data and pictures it would eventually find. 

Fast forward to eleven years later after New Horizons had successfully flown by Pluto. I am sitting in a second-grade classroom during my student teaching doing a unit on space. Quickly, the students caught on that I was very passionate about this topic, making them just as excited as I. For weeks we slowly discussed more and more about the sun, the moon, the stars, and the planets. It didn’t take very long before one of the students asked, “What is Pluto like?” 

I wish someone had been recording me because the way my face lit up after that question was asked would have been priceless to see. I quickly jumped up to grab a computer and google the words “Pictures of Pluto” for my students to see. In my mind, I still couldn’t believe that this day had come, that I was watching history unfold before me.

I showed them the incredible images New Horizons had taken just a year before, giving them facts about Pluto that many people did not know about until very recently. I was slightly emotional telling these students about my personal connection with this project, how my dad worked on the exact battery that powered the vessel through space over a long period of time.

When it was time for me to graduate and leave, the kids knew exactly what parting gift they needed to give me. They brainstormed with their teacher to find the perfect space book to send me on my way. They each signed their names on the inside cover, to remind me about the time I was able to share with them a large portion of my personal life for their education. 

The Darkest Dark is an incredible book. It can be used to teach overcoming fears. It can be a resource for historically accurate information in a picture book. We can read it to make connections about achieving our dreams, even if it’s scary. It is a perfect book to connect with a real-life astronaut. However, for me, this book will forever have a deeper, personal connection. 

“Being in the dark can feel scary… but it’s also an amazing place. The dark is where we see the stars and galaxies of our universe. The dark is where we find the Northern Lights shimmering and get to wish on shooting stars. And it was quietly in the dark where I first decided who I was going to be and imagined all the things I could do. The dark is for dreams- and morning is for making them come true.”  

– Chris Hadfield

I’m certain everyone working on the New Horizons mission had their own dark to be scared of. Working on such a big job is scary, time-consuming, and can take away from personal lives. The smallest mistakes from them could have led to detrimental consequences. I hope everyone can see what a sacrifice these scientists make to the furthering of our knowledge, whether it be Chris Hadfield, my dad, or any other astronaut or scientist.

Photo Credit: goodreads and Kelly Williams

The Smaller Class Size Debate- What’s the Deal With The Numbers?

Research shows that “smaller classes are an apparently foolproof prescription for improving student performance: Fewer students means more individual attention from the teacher, calmer classrooms, and consequently, higher test scores.” 

But is it really this easy? Will removing a few students from the classroom hold up to these standards that research has shown? Let’s dive deeper into the study. 

There truly are benefits to smaller class sizes, however, to yield long-term, lasting results, it must be a more thought out process than simply pulling a few students out of the classroom. In a setting with 28 students, reducing the class size to 25 students showed no significant difference. Even moving the student count to 20 (which may be considered a small class in some schools and grades), still did not show a big enough impact. Class sizes need to be 13-17 students in order to be considered small enough to yield impactful advances. 

The cost is a factor in this study because the expense of these class sizes may not be worth the small growth. The fewer students per classroom, the more classrooms and teachers needed, which creates higher costs to the school in salary as well as resources for each room. It is suggested that placing a more capable teacher in a bigger class can be just as effective as a less capable teacher in a smaller class. 

Obviously, in a class with fewer students, the teacher can place more time and attention on the students that need extra help. It can also cut down on disruptive behavior, noise levels, and student or teacher stress. These are all factors that last short term, and truly are beneficial for the school year, but can be costly to the school. 

The best way to create a successful system with smaller class sizes, the research suggests following the guidelines of starting the students early in kindergarten or first grade. It also suggests that a “small class size” is a range of 13-17 students. If every student cannot be reached based on funds and resources, at-risk students should be placed in smaller classes first. The small-sized class also needs to be consistent for the students, letting them experience it every day, all day. They also need to be consistent over the years, placing them in the smaller classes for at least two years, if not more. 

With all of these factors, we truly do need to step back and think, is the smaller class size worth it in the long-term sense? Will the funds, time, and resources spent on these smaller class sizes benefit the growth of the students enough to use them? 

It is so easy to place a better education system in the hands of small class sizes, and it can be true, given the correct circumstances. However, better alternatives may be out there. 

What are the benefits you have found in a classroom with fewer students? Do you think shrinking numbers can fix a broken school system? 

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We Need to Define Play-Based Learning

In my post about a blog schedule, I mentioned I wanted to write about where my realm of teaching is currently in my life- Working with my children through their own process, which is play. Children, especially young children, make the most connections and advances when given the opportunity to play and learn in their own way. However, I feel this idea has been skewed over the years, and play-based learning needs to be defined. 

Lexico defines play as to: “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.” Play is for enjoyment and recreation

Play is not a task given to the child. 

Play is child-led. 

Play does not have a definitive ending. 

Play does end when the child decides. 

We are so quick to structure the day for kids, placing them in classes and providing them with educational activities, calling it play-based learning because they are active and having fun. However, this makes learning a task and not over when the child is done, but when the adult says it is. Do not get me wrong- There is a time and a place for structured learning with agendas and goals, but this should never be categorized as “play-based learning”, regardless of how “fun” it may seem. 

Play is a child using their imagination to build, create, and move. 

Play is not a child going through structured stations in the classroom. 

Play is how children grow and learn. Sara said it best in her post over at, “be mindful of your agenda. Children should feel free to play and use what is available however they like, with no expectations. Maybe Johnny paints a picture of a flower with the paints you left out for him. Maybe he experiments with mixing colours. Or maybe he just wants to squirt the paint in his belly button. It doesn’t matter, because it’s his choice. He is learning through play, and that is always surprising and beautiful to watch.” 

It’s surprising and beautiful to watch because children will not make the same decisions in situations as we would make because they are aware of what they need and how they want to accomplish it. Watching the discovery happen in children can be magical if they are given the opportunity.

Let’s let the children be kids a little longer, using their imaginations a little more. Let’s let them play.    

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