I Can Do It If I Try!

Positive affirmations are such a great tool for kids and adults alike. I’ve been doing them with my daughter recently. At three years old she commonly found situations where she was stuck and not able to complete what she was hoping to do. Such as climb a ladder or go down a scary slide. 

I taught her to say “I can do it!” in hard situations and it seemed to help give her the confidence, but it also felt like something was missing. The affirmation was there, but the work behind it was absent.

I needed her to learn that yes, she can do it, but she needs to put in the work to get there. So I adapted her affirmation. 

“I can do it if I try.” 

We can get so caught up constantly telling our students, “You can do it! You know you can do it! I know you can do it!” But maybe what we are missing is reminding them of the work they must put into it in order to accomplish the goal. 

“You can do it if you try.” 

“You can do it if you practice.” because not everything comes right away. 

Try it out and tell me if you think it makes a difference. 

What positive affirmations do you practice with your students and children? How have they helped you as well?

Photos by Kayla Wright

New Blog Schedule: A Peek Into What I Will Be Writing About

I’m coming up on one year of writing for this blog, I cannot believe it has been that long! I’ve loved the experience it has given me, the research opportunities, and the new relationships I’ve been able to make. When I began writing, I created a blog schedule. My original blog schedule ended up changing and adapting over time and eventually became non-existent. I was writing what was relevant and important to me at the time, and it truly worked so well! I loved the adaptability of it. 

However, I’m ready to get back into a blogging schedule. I like the consistency and dependability of a blog schedule and it’s what I need in my life right now. Here is what I have settled on. 

Monday: Past Teachers Still Teaching Me Today

I’ve written about past teachers and professors on my blog before and came to realize that they are continuing to teach me as I take these lessons from them and apply them to my education world today. I want to write out each of these stories and gather them together as one big resource. You can read the ones I’ve already written in these links. 

Mrs. Scoresby 

Mr. Meyer

Max Longhurst

Wednesday: How Each Enneagram Type Learns

I wrote about each Myers-Briggs personality type and how to adapt your teaching to each type. For the next ten or so weeks I’ll be breaking down the nine Enneagram types and diving into more depth on what Enneagram is and how to understand it. 

Friday: Feature Friday 

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know Feature Friday has been a consistent Friday post since April! Originally I planned to do this for 2-3 months, but it has been such a hit and so fun to do, I decided to continue. If you are an educator in any shape or form, please reach out to me to be featured. 

What posts are you most excited to see? 

Feature Friday: Jake Downs

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Jake Downs. Jake teaches 4th grade in a rural community in Cache Valley, Utah. He also runs a podcast regarding teaching called The Teaching Literacy Podcast. He gives us great insight on the podcast and how it has helped his teaching below. 

What is the Teaching Literacy Podcast and why did you start it?

“The Teaching Literacy Podcast grew out of my experience in my Ph.D. program at Utah State University.  I found there was so much compelling research out there that could really benefit teachers, but it can often be like finding a needle in a haystack.  I also had a few classes where we discussed that there’s not really great channels to allow teachers access to high-quality literacy research.  That really bothered me- there’s this wealth of knowledge out there that could help improve instruction, but it remains largely aloof from teachers.  The current model really follows a trickle-down diffusion approach, which takes time and loses certain nuances.”

“I started the podcast to help address that.  I take quality research, interview the researcher, and talk about their findings and how it would apply to classroom management.  I’ve seen enthusiastic responses from researchers and educators alike. The researchers I’ve talked with are not the stereotypical ivory tower professors, nearly all of them are former teachers who care greatly about supporting our nation’s teachers and readers. Teachers have appreciated listening to research straight from the researcher’s mouth, with ideas of how it could help their instruction.  It’s been a great experience so far, and one I look forward to continuing.”

What is your favorite thing about teaching this age/subject?

“4th grade is a perfect age!  Old enough to be more independent and capable of impressive critical thought, but they still have the magic of childhood that seems to evaporate soon after.  This age group has great content to teach in reading and math as well.” 

“Reading-wise, the third and fourth grades pivot away from a steady diet of phonics and fluency practice, and towards more of a comprehension focus.  Fluency is still an important aspect of my instruction, but I’ve found great satisfaction in teaching reading comprehension, and supporting students to develop proficiency in silent reading efficiency.”

“Math for fourth graders slides toward complexity and abstraction.  For example, in third grade, it’s fairly easy to draw three groups of 6 to model 3×6.  In fourth grade, however, modeling 36×22 becomes more abstract.  We still do it, but we begin to use area models rather than direct representations.  That’s just one example, but I feel that something shifts between third and fourth grades with how the math is approached.”

How have you integrated the arts into your core curriculum?

“One way I’ve integrated art on and off throughout the years is through using ‘One-Pagers’ to integrate reading.  They’re pretty popular right now, just Google the term if you’re unfamiliar, but the gist of it is fusing an artistic representation of a scene from a specific text with summaries and/or direct quotes from the text. One thing good readers do is sift and separate important information from trivial details.  When done right, One-Pagers allow this to be practiced in the classroom in a way that students generally find very engaging.”

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why? 

“Every year I read ‘City of Ember’ to my students.  It’s a great book about two kids in a dying city that get caught up in an adventure much bigger than themselves- or the city itself.  There are lots of twists and turns, with a jaw-dropping ending.  It’s always a highlight of my year and provides lots of great little teaching moments about comprehension throughout.  A careful reading will show that the ending was there all around, just the bread crumbs were so subtle that it really takes careful reading to put it all together.”

What are your best tips for avoiding burnout? 

“I’ve experienced burnout as an educator, something I think everyone who teaches young minds experiences at one time or another.  There’s a lot of ebb and flow to teaching, but burnout should be avoided at all costs.  It’s like your teeth, if you’re brushing and flossing then getting a cavity filled will be few and far between.  Even if you go to the dentist right when the tooth starts hurting, getting the cavity filled won’t be too bad.  However, if you neglect brushing and flossing, neglect going to the dentist when the tooth starts hurting then pain, infection, and the inevitable root canal is headed your way.”

Something in our culture has made us almost fanatically preventative with our oral health, yet tending to our mental health is much more reactive.  Find what ‘brushing and flossing’ means for you, and do it as much as you need to avoid burnout root canals.  For me, it’s reading good books, thinking deep thoughts, feeling in the driver’s seat with how my classroom is running.  When those things aren’t happening, burnout can creep in for me.  

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching?  

“There was this perception among my peers in my teaching program that much of what we were learning was relatively useless because things would be different ‘in a real classroom.’  I feel that perception is unfortunate and even dangerous.  True, there is some degree of disconnect between the teaching program and actual classrooms.  But isn’t that true of nearly all non-apprenticeship programs?  Do CPA’s complain about the disconnect between business college and real-life accounting?  What about nurses?” 

“Using a metaphor of learning to fly might be a more productive view towards teacher preparation. Teacher preparation programs are like learning how to fly in a wind tunnel or a flight simulator, assuming many variables to focus on the principles of learning.  The goal isn’t to take a Cessna to the next state over, the goal is to learn the principles of lift, drag, and aero dynamism.  Learning those principles, and the tradeoffs between them are critical to being a successful pilot once you climb into the cockpit.  Yes, piloting an actual plane will have its own learning curve, but the knowledge gained from that crucial pre-flight training will make the difference between a pilot on ‘auto-pilot’ and one who truly understands flying.”

“Good teacher ed programs provide invaluable assistance in ‘flight simulators,’ which means they are not invaluable.  As a first-year teacher, don’t readily discard everything you learned in your prep program.  Find ways to bridge what you’ve learned into your everyday experience.”

How has running your podcast helped you in your teaching?

“Teaching fourth grade, working towards a Ph.D. in literacy, and starting a literacy podcast has been a very fortunate experience.  It’s given me a bit of a ‘workshop’ where what I read and learn from interviews I can tinker within my classroom, and then what I learn from that tinkering informs what I look into next.  It’s certainly been a unique experience- one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

If you could give teachers one piece of advice about teaching literacy, what would it be?

“Learn the pedagogy and research of literacy.  Teaching Literacy Podcast is one way I’m trying to make that research more readily digestible for educators, but there are many out there.  Once I really started to learn the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ of fluency and reading comprehension my instruction shifted dramatically.  Rather than relying on the curriculum to do the teaching, my curriculum became a tool to leverage my thinking.  I think many of the reading curricula out there are well done and do the things they do for a reason, but they are not a replacement for teacher pedagogical knowledge.  Teachers teach, that’s the bottom line, so learning how reading works will greatly improve any teacher’s instruction.”


Thank you Jake for sharing your insight with us! If you are interested in listening to the Teaching Literacy podcast, you can find it on Apple, Google, or Stitcher. The majority of podcast apps have it available. You can also listen at Teachingliteracypodcast.com. 

There’s A Lot Going On In The World. But We Can Do This.

I apologize for being somewhat distant from this blog for a few days. I try to post as regularly as I can, usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week. People like consistency!

Lately I’ve been processing so many different situations and emotions.

How I personally can change my home and my community to support Black lives matter. Here are a few books we added to our home that was a small step in the right direction.

My feelings on opening schools this fall considering the COVID-19 pandemic, and worrying about my kids’ colds they’ve been fighting. Something that didn’t cross my mind as worrisome until a pandemic brought added anxiety into everything.

Keeping all of my teacher and administrator friends in mind as new rules, regulations, processes, information, etc., come out regarding the next school year, and finding ways I can support them.

Considering whether or not it’s a good idea for me to go back to substitute teaching considering the risks.

How well positive reinforcement is working for my daughter’s behavior right now, and how much my own attitude, anxiety, and feelings rub off on my kids. An important thing to remember during such a roller coaster of a year.

Processing the information being shared on child trafficking and deciding how and where I have the ability to help.

It’s not secret that in the education world and our children’s lives are surrounded with uncertainty and scary situations. Teacher’s across the nation and the globe are up at night thinking, planning, worrying, and more. Parents are doing the same.

But deep breaths everyone, WE CAN DO THIS!

Where are your thoughts and feelings in all of this? What are your feelings on going back to work and sending your kids back to school? What are you doing to cope with the uncertain times?

A Few Of My Favorite Teacher Memes

With so much going on in the world right now, let’s take a little break to laugh at some of my favorite teacher memes! Then share with your friends so they can laugh as well!

Because memes are so widespread and easily shared, it was nearly impossible for me to give credit where needed. However, many of the memes are made by Bored Teachers, you can see their logo on most of the pictures. I apologize for not giving proper credit to the rest of the memes.

You know this has been you too!
They didn’t prepare me for seating charts in my college classes!
It’s always good to look for the positive!
I want this hung in my classroom someday!

There truly is no happiness compared to the feeling of your students understanding the topics you’ve worked so tirelessly to teach them. Teaching comes with pros and cons galore, but we all know we do it for the children.

I hope this roll of memes helped you relax and laugh a little during such a stressful and crazy 2020 we are having. Stay safe and keep washing your hands!

Feature Friday: Nadine Ball

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Nadine Ball, a second-grade teacher at Ucon Elementary in Ucon, Idaho, which is where I went to elementary school! She has been teaching there for 30 years now. Nadine is mom to Rachel Hassman, our feature Friday interview from last week. Rachel mentioned what an influence her mom has been in choosing a teaching career, so I only found it fitting to interview the legend herself! 

 Mrs. Ball loves second graders for their sense of humor and ability to accept other peers without judgment. She also loves what an innocent view they have of the world. Here’s what Nadine has for us today. 

How do you integrate the arts into your classroom? 

“I admit I was better at this when our district did not hire music teachers. Now we have them and it is awesome. When I was without music teachers, I recruited parent volunteers to come into the classroom and teach music. As far as art itself, I have always encouraged creativity and taught some sort of art lesson weekly. I still do this and it definitely varies each week and is often related to holidays. I rely on what I learned in my art methods class years ago to teach such things as grid, painting, etc.”

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be? 

“Wow, to recommend just one childrenś book…I cannot do it!
Maybe to recommend just one author:  Here are three.”

Suzy Kline (Horrible Harry series)
Tomie dePaola
Chris Van Allsburg

What are your best tips to avoid burnout? 

“a. take summer off and relax!
b. hang out and chat often with colleagues; share fears and frustrations
c. try to always appreciate kids and their unique qualities”

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year of teaching? 

“To just chill out and enjoy each day! Recognize the fact that every day will not be a great one and you always have tomorrow. Kids are resilient and forgiving.”

How has education changed in the years you’ve taught? 

“Education has changed every single year. I would say Math and Reading instruction has seen the most changes, mostly in theories and what works best for kids. When federal money is flowing, math and reading curriculum is updated often and each time something new is adopted, it is slightly different. HOW to teach math and reading is always tweaked, depending on what book on the subjects is popular at the time.”

How do you use student voice in your classroom? 

“Second graders do pretty much what I want them to and I call the shots mostly. I feel that I welcome all types of opinions and allow kids to express themselves freely. We do quite a bit of journal writing, creative writing and research and I think this allows kids to use their own interests. None of my kids participate in student council, where their voice could change the school. But we do have that and as kids get older, their voice maybe means more. I always listen to kids and their ideas!”

What are your favorite units to teach? 

“–solar system
–early US history and native Americans
–careers
–Idaho and state symbols
–rocks/minerals”


It was so fun to be able to interview two generations of second-grade teachers and see the insight they had for us. Enjoy that new grandbaby, Nadine and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today! 

Tips On Choosing Your College Major

Hey seniors! College is coming, and one of the many decisions you are about to make is what your major will be. It’s daunting to choose a path that can determine the rest of your life. Here’s hoping that after reading this, the decision will be slightly easier for you. Here are some of my favorite tips from myself and other trusted sources on how to choose a college major. 

  1. Know your personality type. I am a big advocate for Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and how it can help you be successful in your life. Knowing this can help you with the direction in your college path and eventually where your career will end up. You can read about it here or take the test to find your personality here. You can even read about your personality type in the workplace and common careers among that MBTI in the description of each type. 
  2. Decide what degree of education you want to obtain. You can stop at an associate’s degree, or continue on to a doctorate. How far you take your education can help you decide which major to choose. 
  3. Don’t stress over choosing one right away. Some people know what they want their major to be by 8th grade. Others it takes until their Sophomore or Junior year of college before they know. It’s all in your own timing. Take a variety of classes if you don’t know right away. Most importantly, remember that this is the time in your life where not having a direct plan or having an opportunity to explore is okay and even encouraged. Take advantage of that! 
  4. Truly consider your school choice when choosing a college major. Schools are known for and will put more funding into certain majors that they are known well for. 
  5. Know that it’s okay to change your mind. On average, the majority of college students will change their major at least once before graduation. 

What helped you choose your major in college?