Dear Teacher: Thank You For Your Service

Dear Teacher, 

How are you? No, really. Take a minute to close your eyes and really think. How are you doing? 

This school year is unlike any other. Instead of walking into your classroom, putting up creative borders and posters around your classroom, and setting up for students, you sat at your computer waiting for emails, calls, or anything that would indicate how you would be teaching this year. 

Virtual? 

Hybrid? 

In-person? 

Masks? No masks? How much plexiglass would be installed in your classroom? 

It’s natural and okay to feel overwhelmed by the state of this school year. So many of you were told one thing, only to be changed last minute. Those expecting to be all online had to curate a socially distant classroom experience in a matter of hours because districts and higher-ups changed the protocol in the 11th hour. Some who spent all summer working on their socially distant classrooms were changed to all online and had to revamp their whole curriculum overnight. 

You’re expected to teach our “lost generation”, those who won’t have the opportunity at the same education as others have. It can put a certain level of guilt on you as their main source of education! 

But you’re a good teacher. 

You’re trying your best. 

The students are the center of your work. 

How do I know? Because it takes a special heart to be an educator, especially in today’s political world. And I know you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t care about your students as much as you do. 

Think back to one year ago, did you know the term “socially distant”? Would you have ever imagined teaching with a mask on all day? Did you ever see yourself on Zoom teaching concepts that really need to be taught in a personal setting? Like…. How to write….? 

No. No one saw this coming, no one could have prepared us for today. 

Your students are the same way, they were blindsided one day in March when nearly every school shut down with very little notice for an undisclosed amount of time. 

Doctors and nurses on the front lines treating COVID are heroes and need recognition. But maybe our teachers are being somewhat forgotten about. Here you are, putting in as much time and effort as these doctors. You’re working long shifts and giving your whole heart and soul to bring the education back to your communities, putting your life and your family’s lives at risk while you do it. 

Instead of nursing COVID patients back to health, you’re nursing our lost generation back to education. You’re providing our society as a whole a brighter future through your efforts. 

You are seen. You are of immeasurable value. You are the heroes we need right now. 

Thank you for your service. 

Let’s Get Behind This #ClearTheList Movement

If you’re an educator out there, please tell me you’ve heard of the #clearthelist campaign. If you haven’t please look into it! If you have, please make a wishlist!! Some background to the #clearthelist idea: one teacher in Texas named Courtney Jones used her social media as a powerful, powerful tool to share her Amazon wishlist with friends and family of different items she would need in her classroom. Which then spread to her sharing the idea as far and wide as she could. 

Teachers spend so much money out of pocket on supplies that are so beneficial to their students. And on top of that, there are so many generous donors out there willing to help how they can. Courtney’s goal was to connect the two, and she has very, very successfully! 

This campaign has gone so viral, even celebrities are posting about it. 

Sometimes, big companies choose one #clearthelist to actually…. Clear the list! Like how T-Mobile decided to help this teacher out. What warms my heart the most is that she turned around and tried to pay it forward to as many teachers as she could. 

What an amazing project started by this teacher! We love innovative thinkers who can use social media for good (for example, have you seen our yearly scholarship?)

Look how excited teachers get over these donations! 

For the past two school years, I have dedicated a small amount of money to donate to other’s #clearthelist Amazon wishlists. I typically donate to friends and family first, and then I choose a stranger from social media to donate to. 

Finding Amazon wishlists to donate to can be so easy for you as well! 

-Ask your friends and family that are educators if they have an Amazon wishlist they can share with you. 

– Do a quick social media search (on basically any social media site) with the hashtag #clearthelist. Read through other teacher’s stories and why they need the materials they do. Then choose one to donate to! 

There are Amazon lists with $3 items, and some with $500+ items. Even just sparing $3 for an educator can make the biggest difference in their classroom! 

Do you have any success stories with #clearthelist you want to share? Leave it in the comments! We would love to hear! 

Graphic by Kelsie Housley

Amidst The Negative, You’re Doing A Good Job

One month before my first-grade year started, I received a letter from my teacher welcoming me to class. To start off my full career as a student, this was a great way to begin. I beamed with pride reading the words my soon-to-be teacher left for me in my mailbox. I knew this year would be extraordinary. 

Our first library trip as a first-grade class was overwhelming for me. I loved reading and I loved books, but I had a hard time choosing with all of the options in front of me. When library time was over and I was about to leave the room empty-handed of something I loved so much, tears overcame my little 6-year-old body. My teacher ran to my aid and led me straight to the shelf I never knew I needed. Books by Ann M. Martin. The Babysitters Club. She told me I would really enjoy them and that it was perfect based on my reading level. This simple act gave me the confidence in her that I could trust her judgment and that she would always be in my corner when I needed her. 

Fast forward to the winter. I was out playing in the snow with friends, too far from the school to hear the recess bell. I walked into the classroom 20 minutes late (it felt like over an hour to me). I felt bad for not following protocol and not paying closer attention to the bell, I knew I would be in trouble. However, it got worse when the blue board came into play… 

The blue board was a public shame. It was a big board with two columns and everyone’s name running down the left, white side. When an individual did something wrong (like come in from recess 20 minutes late), their name was moved to the other side of the board, the blue side. No one wanted to be on the blue board. But walking into my own fate, my name was moved for the first, and only time that year, and my soul was CRUSHED. I felt like my whole relationship and trust with my beloved teacher had shattered in seconds because of one mistake I made. 

Slowly throughout the year, the trust was rebuilt and I truly loved my teacher and the relationship I had with her, but I always held the blue board moment in the back of my mind. I held it so close that at the end of the school year I said to myself, “Someday, I’m going to be a teacher, and I will never use a blue board. That’ll show her!” 

Fast forward even further to my experience as a pre-service teacher. Many college classes spoke of clip charts or “shame boards” and it solidified in me that what my teacher did in first-grade was wrong. I had a small run-in with a clip chart in a different classroom, you can read about the experience here.  During this very brief time of using a clip chart, I still held my resentment for my teacher’s use of the blue board in my heart. I knew how much it affected me, and I truly did not want that for any other student I taught. 

A few years later after I had graduated with my teaching degree and did my long term sub job in a first-grade classroom, I unexpectedly ran into my past teacher while on vacation. I sat and spoke with her for an hour and told her about my experience subbing the same age of kids that she taught for years and years. I asked her advice on certain situations, how she would have handled some of the harder kids I had to teach, and ultimately thanked her for being such an influence on my life, especially for helping me keep my love of reading. I never mentioned the blue board, because even though it was still something that I thought about often, I held no resentment 20 years later. 

But in the conversation, she said something that really stuck out to me. She said:  

“I didn’t teach in a time of educational blogs and information readily at our fingertips, learning new teaching methods took a lot of searching and dedication. I made a lot of mistakes and I worry that I negatively affected the kids that I taught. But then I hear from you the successes you’ve had and it makes me feel better, so thank you for sharing.” 

I found this so interesting that she spoke these words to me since I had not brought up the negative interaction I had with her. I held these words close and silently forgave her for putting my name on the blue board years and years ago. It also made me think about my own interactions with children. 

How have I negatively affected students? 

What positive interactions have I had? 

Also, how many more of my past teachers and professors out there are beating themselves up because they weren’t the perfect teacher every day, and could use an encouraging message from past students? 

Teachers invest their whole heart and soul into educating human beings and often focus on the bad days and interactions. Let’s all take a minute to remember that even if you made a mistake, you’re still a great teacher, and your students still love you. 

You’re doing a good job. 

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?

It’s Summer, Take A Break Teachers!

Whew. 

Who is ready for a good, long summer break after that school year? Is anyone else filled with worries about your students after such a rough spring? Maybe miss them because you weren’t able to say your goodbye’s before you left? Scenarios of next year play out in your head about your past students and how they will do advancing to the next grade, as well as your future students and how you will handle the lapse in the curriculum. 

*deep breath* 

I know it’s worrisome, but we did it. We all made it through. Now, it’s time to relax. I know, it can be hard, but here’s some ideas of how you can (somewhat) take your mind off of school for a time and enjoy your summer break. 

Read a book! No, not your math curriculum book. A book of your choosing that is fun. If you want an easy, fast read with some juicy drama, try The Selection Series by Kiera Cass. It’ll give you a few days of distraction because you’ll be so sucked in it’ll be all you can think about! 

Visit the beach, the lake, the pool, and get in the water! Swim with your kids, your nieces, and nephews, your grandkids, whomever it may be! 

Go hiking, or go for walks around your neighborhood. 

Check-in on other teacher friends. Laugh about the fun times you had with your students, both in the classroom and on Zoom! 

Pick up some new (or old) hobbies like sewing, crafting, biking, sailing, or building. 

Start or work on your Twitter or Instagram, or any other social media! 

Read teacher memes to keep you laughing. 

Take a stroll on a local scooter or bike share, but bring the Clorox wipes!! 

Summer can make or break teachers. We can think and plan, never giving ourselves a break, hoping to make next year less stressful, but it can also do the opposite by not giving us the time we need to check out. This summer especially, given the current circumstances. 

Take a breather. Take some time. Enjoy your summer! Stay safe and wash your hands! 

The Power of Asking: Creating Classroom Resources

Being a teacher means one absolute- paying for your own supplies. It is no secret that there are teachers across the nation paying out of pocket for staplers, books, and more. But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if there was a way we as teachers could find our own resources, but not pay out of pocket? What if I told you there is ONE simple way you could have access to copious amounts of supplies without spending a dime? Because there is a way, and it really can be simple. Here it is.

Ask. 

Asking for donations and supplies can be scary, scary enough that many don’t go this route. The way I like to look at it is, what is the worst that could happen? They tell you no? But let’s break it down- who do you ask, and how do you ask? 

Who- This comes with endless possibilities. Ask your principal, see what the school can offer you. Maybe they have staples and sticky notes and really cool classroom sets of books lying around that never get used because no one ever asked! 

Parents- Some parents may not want to contribute their time, money, or resources to your classroom, and that is fine! Others may not have the means do to so. That’s okay too. But there are also parents out there who can and will support you how you need, you may just need to ask. 

Friends and family- It might surprise you how willing people are to chip in a few dollars here or there to your classroom. Amazon Wishlists and DonorsChoose.org are great resources for sharing what your wants and needs are in a classroom, giving others the option to help fund and support those wants and needs. My dear friend Danielle Macias has been a great example of asking friends and family for support of her classrooms by sharing a donors choose platform when she has a need. She said,
   

“I’ve learned that social media, especially Twitter, can be a great platform to share any projects I may need help with. There are also many donors who are willing to help if you know whom to ask. I would advise teachers to familiarize themselves with Twitter hashtags like #clearthelist and join Donors Choose FB group. (Teachers need to make sure that it’s okay with their district.) I would also advise that teachers promote their donors to choose projects when there’s a promotion to increase their chances of getting funded.” 

Danielle was able to raise money to fund a classroom set of books and headphones. The options and possibilities can be endless if we do one simple thing- ask. 

How have you obtained classroom resources on a budget? 

Teacher Resources During COVID-19 School Shutdowns

Dear teachers, 

I know you’re stressed, we’re all walking in uncharted territory right now. Schools shutting down left and right, or if your school is still open, very few students showing up each day. How do we help our kids? How do we help them not regress during this stressful time? How do we calm their nerves as well as our own? 

It’s hard to be in the situation we are all in. It’s hard not to see your student’s faces every day, and have to worry about if they have enough food or if their behavior will regress (again) once they are back. So many variables for so many different situations. 

Luckily, we’re all going through this together and there are resources out there for us! Our community is banding together and helping where we can. Here is a quick list of the fun things you can send home to your parents for your students to do during their time away from school. 

Mo Willems is doing lunch doodles every day with kids. His first episode was 22 minutes long, his most recent episode was 27 minutes long. They are at 1 pm Eastern Time every day on YouTube, or they can watch them whenever they like later. 

On Instagram, @macbarnett is doing a live read-aloud of his books every day at noon PST. 

Cincinnati Zoo is doing a live video on their Facebook page each weekday at 3 pm Eastern Time. They will be highlighting their favorite animals and sending kids off to do an activity from home. 

Welcome back for our second Home Safari! Today we will be learning more about Rico the Brazilian porcupine! After the video check out this page on our website for a fun activity to work on at home – http://cincinnatizoo.org/home-safari-resources/ Join us each day at 3pm EDT as we highlight different animals that call the Cincinnati Zoo home.

Posted by Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden on Tuesday, March 17, 2020

At nps.gov kids can download special interest books. 

Our local library here in Utah is live-streaming their storytime on Instagram live every weekday at 11 am MST and a boredom buster for kids at 4 pm. You can follow them at @provolibrary 

Utah’s Hogle Zoo is doing a Facebook and Instagram live every day at 11:30 am MST featuring their fun animals and educating them on each one. 

Search around on every social media platform and you are certain to find a variety of posts and live videos geared towards educating kids because everyone can see the need right now. Also, a simple post to help parents make it through as well.

Other resources you most likely know as a teacher, but maybe haven’t mentioned to parents yet: 

GoNoodle, Khan Academy, Newsela, National Geographic Kids, PBS kids, Starfall ABC app and Starfall.com, VOOKS, Virtual Field Trips,  and Lucid Charts. Also, remind students they can still collaborate with peers via Google Drive. 


Guys, we can do this. It’s going to be hard and uncomfortable for most, but we can band together amidst the chaos and confusion. 

What other tips and resources do you have for parents and teachers? Let’s start a list together, we can go further with collaboration!