Sometimes, I’m Not A Good Teacher

I walked into my classroom one day just feeling… off. That’s the best way I can describe it. I was tired and already annoyed before my students had even walked into the classroom. I didn’t greet them at the door like I typically did, and found myself bothered by the fact that they all walked into the classroom talking with one another. 

The morning was dragging on, it felt hard to get through our morning meeting, 15 minute phonics lesson, and reading groups. FINALLY, it was time for recess! But then I remembered something awful….. I had recess duty! It was the perfect way to make my day even worse. By the time 28 sweaty kids, plus myself, walked back into our classroom, a classroom with NO air conditioning, mind you, I was just done. My kids asked if they could do some free drawing during our read aloud time and I snapped at them. During our math lesson I was not tolerating any funny business, whatsoever. 

I was not a good teacher that day, and worse off, I was down on myself for not being a good teacher. Finally, the day ended and all 29 of us went our separate ways. On my drive home I recounted my day and regretted being so short and unhappy with my class. Did they deserve to be the ones taking the brunt end of my bad day? No! They talked a little extra and were a little extra loud in the hallway, so what? They are first graders. They deserve some grace! 

I ended my drive trying to figure out how to make it up to them the next day in class. Plenty of ideas flew through my mind. Ice cream party? No. Extra long recess? Not good enough. Then, finally it came to my mind. 

The next morning I greeted each one of my students at the door with a smile and directed them to the rug to start our morning meeting a little earlier than normal. I had them all seated in front of me and told them I had something important to tell them, and with eager eyes they looked up at me waiting to hear what I had to say. 

Then, I sat in front of all of my kids and apologized. I opened up my heart and was vulnerable in front of these 6 and 7 year olds. I admitted my mistake and let them know that it wasn’t their fault that I had an off day. I told them they are really great kids and that I was extremely lucky to be their teacher, and I meant it! And I told them we would have a better day. 

And we did! 

Here’s what I learned from that day. First, it sucks to have bad days! It’s hard to walk away from a day feeling defeated and regret your decisions. But it’s also okay to have those days. A bad day of teaching does not make you a bad teacher. 

But here is the part that is the most important to remember: 

It’s okay to have those bad days if you take the time to reflect on them and troubleshoot the day (or situation), so that next time you’re in that situation you can handle it a little better. It absolutely will not be perfect, but it’ll be a stair step process as you troubleshoot the next bad day and try to improve each time after. This is what leads you to the tools you need to cope with the bad teaching days. Troubleshooting and trying again. It’s what we teach our students to do anyway, isn’t it?! 

You’re not a bad teacher- it’s just a bad day. You’ve got this. 

Setting Kids Up For Success

I’ve written a few blog posts giving tips and advice and often say “set your kids up for success.” I give a quick little excerpt of what that means, but I really want to dive deep into this topic and define what it means to set your kids up for success. 

In a parent or teacher role, we set expectations for our kids. 

“Ask before using the restroom.”

“Keep the paint on the paper and reasonably clean.” 

“Do well this spelling test.” 

We can give our kids these expectations, but it’s a two-part system: We have to set them up for success to carry out these expectations before we can expect them. 

What does that look like? If we expect them to ask before using the restroom, we must make ourselves approachable and give them the resources needed to ask to go. Such as a hand signal or allowing them to raise their hands. 

If we want them to do well on a spelling test, we have the responsibility as the adult to provide them with the spelling words to practice before they head into the test. We don’t give them a spelling test of worlds they’ve never seen and expect them to do well! It’s unfair. 

If we expect them to keep the paint clean during their craft time, we have to be responsible for giving them the proper space, table covers, and rags to clean up any accidents. 

If we are going to expect things from them, we need to set them up for success before we can realistically keep these expectations. So during activities when I say, “set your kids up for success with a rice bin” I mean, lay down that blanket so the rice doesn’t go rolling under the fridge. We want them to keep the rice in the bin, but we all know that won’t 100% happen. When they are playing with oobleck or slime, set a wet rag next to them to wash dirty hands so they don’t track the material all over the house when they become overwhelmed with the mess. They won’t be able to navigate the road without giving them the map first.

When a spelling test is coming up, handing out the spelling words before the test is the minimum. Practicing the words is the next step. Giving them ideas on how they can practice at home is great too! 

What does this accomplish for us by taking the extra time and effort to do these things for them? Less frustration for us! Less time spent

It is so important for us to set our kids up for success! Give them the means to accomplish what they need in order to find success. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for letting our kids struggle a little to learn, but we still have a job as the adult to set them up with the tools they need. If you want to read more on that, check out my post on lighthouse parenting. 

What other things do you do to set your kids up for success?  

Final Thoughts On Feature Friday

For a good part of this year, I did a segment called Feature Friday where I interviewed different educators from all different backgrounds. I interviewed teachers from elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college professors. There was a vast array of subjects these teachers cover and a diversity of students, communities, and backgrounds. 

I had one teacher focus on COVID shutdowns in her interview. 

I interviewed a mother and daughter duo that both teach second grade in different parts of Idaho. 

One of my favorite professors from my undergrad.

And even our very own Mary Wade, the one and only that built this blog from the ground up! 

You can see all of my interviews here.

Feature Friday naturally came to a close when school began and teachers were overwhelmed with navigating teaching online and in-person and hybrid and all of the above. Adding in an additional email to their ever-growing list of to-dos wasn’t helping anyone. It felt like a good time to retire Feature Friday and keep it in my back pocket for a rainy day. 

I learned a lot from all of these teachers. What I found interesting is that oftentimes I asked the same question to multiple teachers and received a different response from each one. Different book recommendations, ways to use technology in the classroom, how they’ve seen the education system change, etc. We all have different ideas and views on teaching and it was fun to compile these into interviews. 

There were also teachers that believed in fun, exciting classrooms, and teachers that believed in no posters on the walls and just connecting on a personal level with students. Teachers that value technology and those that don’t particularly find it necessary in the classroom. 

But when it came down to it, all of them had one thing in common- They were there for the students. Not the pay, not the summers off, not anything other than their love of teaching students. 

Feature Friday: Isiah Wright

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 Isiah Wright, a teacher in California specializing in arts and creativity. 

Tell me more about the arts and creativity initiative? What does it entail?

“Every year the department of education gives out grants for arts in education. These grants are meant to supply teachers with the knowledge and supplies necessary to integrate art into classrooms. I don’t mean like a single subject teacher that teaches art either. I mean multiple subjects K-8 and getting creativity to stay with our children and even fostering it. In the grant program that I’m a part of they have taught us many things but one of the first things is about increasing engagement and asking the right questions. We go through training employing VTS or visual thinking strategy, which turned my classroom from 5 or 6 of the same kids answering everything to building the confidence of every single child in the room so that they might try to answer also. Seriously since I started using this strategy, I can get in the ’90s for student participation and engagement. That’s %, it truly is a thing to behold. They teach us great skills in hands-on art as well. Something that I had never used was oil pastels, they taught me the proper way to use and teach their use. We went through training on collaboration in school. Believe it or not, most students don’t know how to work together. Teaching them to look past their short-sighted need to get what they want every time is difficult but essential to making well-rounded adults and it is one of my favorite things to teach them. My class in general is centered around this overarching statement: Contradictory elements can and should co-exist.”

Why do you feel like arts are so important to the education of our students?

“Teaching art appreciation does more than just look at pretty pictures. Observational skills, thinking critically, attention to detail, and respectful discussion are all elements of appreciating art. Guess what? Those are all also the key elements to Common Core. I am drawing a blank on who said it but at one of my training, someone was quoted saying “If you’re not teaching art you’re not teaching the whole kid ” I think this statement is dead-on, and the age I teach it makes teaching them easier if I integrate art into every lesson I can. I have even taken up sketchnoting science and social studies because of this training. Sketch noting is an amazing way for students to remember what they are being taught. Some studies I have seen put students being able to remember 6x more information when they are just writing traditional notes instead of blending words with pictures”

How do you incorporate art into your core curriculum?

“Art is everywhere and in every subject. If you think of how an NGSS (next generation science standards) lesson starts with an anchoring phenomenon, I teach every lesson I can with that basic format but usually using art in its place. We hold class talks, starting with art but eventually branching out to math, ELA, science, social studies, and everything else. Let me tell you how a lesson I just finished looks.”

“We look at a few pieces of art from a book, this book I’m talking about is called Blockhead, which is the life of Fibonacci. as we look at some of the pages of art we hold an art talk on 5 or so pictures from all over the book. This helps because everyone wants to participate in the art talk. This will also help when I go back and read the book because students will be looking for the pages they spoke on earlier. As I stop to discuss the reading periodically students remain engaged because they bought in at the beginning. We move into a fun patterns lesson using some kids ciphers that I loved as a child. Which could go on for multiple lessons and I love to end patterns with art from nature. That is a wonderful lesson where students create art from anything and everything, depending on what lesson I employ this, kids can make a paintbrush from random things, or collect and place colorful rocks or leaves. Art from nature truly is a universal assignment that I can end many units with. My goal is always increasing student engagement and understanding of core content through arts integration and I feel like I get that every time I integrate art into my lessons”

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

“It really depends on the age. My kids in the upper elementary school range The Blue Witch by Alane Adams never disappoints. She is such an amazing advocate of literacy and does tons for kids in need. Most important though is it is a book that students actually want to read. I read the introduction of Odin riding Slipnir to collect a young witching and they are instantly hooked and relate to the female lead or her brainy male sidekick.  If we are talking about my personal children’s age, say 5 and under The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith. I have read it well over 200 times to thousands of kids. I have it down to a science you could say, refining my abilities over the last 8 years or so.”

How has Twitter helped and influenced you as a teacher?

“Teacher twitter is beyond the most helpful thing ever. Thousands of teachers on standby to help at a moment’s notice. Even if that help is just as simple as liking a “rough day” post. I have taken some of the best ideas in my classroom from a Twitter teacher’s bragging posts. You know what? My classroom is better because of Twitter.”

How do you use student voice in your classroom and what outcomes have you seen come from it?

“I’m an elected official so student’s voices and civics are very often at the forefront of my class. My kids’ collective wisdom is greater than my own and I recognize that. It is my belief that students have tons to teach us. I may be the most educated person in the room but their collective years of individual experience are powerful. I use that to my advantage as often as I possibly can. Every now and then we way in on current political problems and generate multiple answers to questions that adults can’t seem to figure out. Last year we had our writing prompt about solving the homeless issue in our community put in the newspaper. The kids were so excited and loved seeing their words published for all to see.”


Thanks, Isiah for your insight! He had some great thoughts on creativity and using art in the classroom. 

Feature Friday: Krystal Plott

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 Krystal Plott, a K-6 technology specialist in Utah. She gives great insight on technology and how it can be used for student voice! Read what she has to say below. 

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

“one of my favorite children’s books that I used in my classroom every year was “Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. This is such a simple and sweet (literally) book about cookies, but it’s a great way to teach vocabulary, kindness, sharing, and other essential social skills that elementary students need. The lesson always ends with cookies, of course, and serves as a great lesson and message that all students can take to heart.”

Tell me a little about your job, “school technology specialist”. What does it entail?

“As a school technology specialist, my job always keeps me on my toes. My primary role is to help coach teachers in the effective use of technology in the classroom, and I recently completed an endorsement in instructional coaching to help me be more effective in my role. I support teachers as they learn new skills, co-teach technology-infused lessons, and design educational technology curriculum and professional development. I love that I am still able to push into classrooms and work with students, while also reaching more students and teachers beyond a single classroom. In addition to teaching and coaching, I also provide basic tech support and troubleshooting at the school level.”

What is one of your favorite ways to use technology in classrooms? 

“One of my favorite ways to use technology in the classroom is taking a “good” lesson, infusing it with technology, and making it GREAT! Getting students excited about learning in new ways and connecting with others as they learn. I love discovering new tools and teaching in ways that didn’t seem possible just a few years ago. One of my favorite tools to use across all grade levels is flipgrid – students are able to make short videos and respond to others and are communicating with their teachers and peers in a different way. I have seen students come out of their shell and share their voice for the first time because it is a safe space for them to share. I love seeing the “ah-ha” moments with students as they learn something new and share that learning with others through technology.”

How do you use student voice in your classroom and what outcomes have you seen from it? 

“Student voice in the classroom is huge! They have so much to say and share but we have to give them the time and space to do so. I like to give students time to share how their weekend was or respond to current events. Sometimes students are reluctant to share their voice in a classroom setting, but if you give them tools and choices, they just might surprise you. One teacher I work with had a selective mute in her class a few years ago. She wouldn’t talk to her teacher, and only had a few friends she felt comfortable enough to speak to. One day, this teacher introduced Flipgrid to her class and they were all asked to record a video to respond to a question. Not only did this student respond (which was huge in and of itself), but then she went up to the teacher and pointed to the computer because she wanted the teacher to see her response. After nearly 4 months of school, the teacher heard her student’s voice for the first time!”

What advice do you have for teachers who are nervous about using technology in their classrooms?

“For teachers who are nervous, I say just jump in! Don’t expect perfection, and definitely be patient and flexible. Most schools have a technology specialist or digital learning coach who is eager and willing to help out, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you aren’t sure where to start, UEN is a great resource with lots of lessons and ideas to help you get started.”

What is your favorite part of teaching in an elementary setting? 

“Elementary kids are just the cutest! I love their curiosity and seeing them learn and grow. There is a fun curriculum at every grade level, and kids are just so eager to learn. There is an excitement in elementary that I don’t think you find anywhere else. I spent many years teaching second and third grade, and I love that age so much. They are starting to develop a sense of humor and can be so funny at times, but they are still just so sweet and love being in school. I feel lucky to get to work with kids in such a fun setting in a job that I love!”


Thanks for the words of advice Krystal! Come back next week for the next Feature Friday. If you would like to be featured on our blog, please reach out via email or comment on a blog post. We would love to have you! 

Feature Friday: Westley Young

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 Westley Young, a Grade 3 teacher in Rome, Italy. Westley is our first international teacher on Feature Friday and we were excited to learn from him! Here’s what Westley has for us today.

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

“I thought long and hard about this question because I have discovered so many great children’s books every year since I became a teacher, but instead, I chose one which I loved as a child and which my own children are currently enjoying: ‘The Jolly Postman (or Other People’s Letters) by Janet & Allan Ahlberg. My 6-year-old daughter especially loves reading each of the letters/cards delivered to each of the fairy-tale characters.

Also, ‘The Refugee’ by Alan Gratz, which I read with my Grade 5 class a few years ago. It’s incredibly moving and a must-read, too. Sorry, I couldn’t just pick one in the end!”

What is your favorite part of teaching this age group?

“I have taught all elementary grade levels as an art teacher and grades 2-5 as a homeroom teacher. I enjoy all ages and don’t have a preference for any one group.”

Who influenced you most to choose a career in education? 

“I have to admit that my passion for teaching only began once I started in the profession. I needed a job when I first moved to Italy and used my art experience to begin working with children at a summer camp. This success led to a role as an art teacher at the same school and it snowballed from there. Since then, through extensive reading, help from colleagues, the sharing of resources and expertise on social media, and of course watching and learning with children, my interest in the way children learn has continually grown.”

What are some educational tactics used in Rome that you feel are especially important to teaching, or the education of your own children? 

“I don’t think there are any ‘tactics’ used especially in Rome that are different to others elsewhere, but throughout my own teaching experience and my children’s education, the Reggio Emilia approach, the Montessori method, and the IB PYP have all helped me consider how to respect children’s agency and use the whole community/environment to expose children to new experiences and support their learning. I have definitely picked up some pointers from these programmes when considering how to educate my own children.”

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

“To go with the kids and not to worry if things didn’t go as planned. When I first began teaching, I needed to know exactly what I’d do throughout the lessons, especially if the activity had finished earlier than planned or hadn’t ‘worked’. It took me a while to realize being in complete control was completely counter-productive to the learning experience that I wanted to offer.

 (Oh yeah, I wish someone had told me about Twitter, too!)”

Do you feel like the educational world on Twitter or other social media sites has helped you as a teacher? And how? 

“Twitter has been my most helpful tool as a teacher. There are so many inspirational and supportive teachers and parents, who have helped me think deeply about my practice, offer better learning experiences to my students, and find resources and books to help me continue to learn and question what I’m doing, always searching for better.”


Thank you for your insight today Westley!

Feature Friday: Matthew Winters

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 Matthew Winters. Matthew is a Jr. High English/creative writing/yearbook teacher, and technology instructional coach. Talk about the jack of all trades in the education world! Here’s what Matthew has for us today!

What is your favorite part of teaching Jr. High? 

“It is the energy the students bring to the classroom. Most students are starting to figure out who they are as a person and what they like to learn about and it is a genuinely great time to teach students.  They are inquisitive and engaged in a way that encourages great discussions.  A lot of people have misconceptions about teaching junior high school, they have too much energy or they are frustrating, but nothing could be farther from the truth.”

What is one of your favorite units you’ve taught? 

“Every year I do a unit on Romeo and Juliet and I use Michael Ford’s ‘Hip Hop Architecture’ to teach students about rhyme scheme and poetry.  We break out the legos, build little cities out of lines from Shakespeare and famous songs, and end up making a 3D city of their own poetry. It gives them another perspective on poetry and how it looks and feels. During that same unit, we take an old sword fighting of Shakespeare’s book that I found and actually choreograph the fights in Romeo and Juliet using markers/pens as swords. It gives another perspective on a play that students often come into school thinking is a romance.  It helps them to visualize the performance rather that just seeing it on the page or screen.”

If you could recommend one book to read, what would it be and why? 

“A few years ago I met Dan Ryder (Twitter: @WickedDecent) at a conference, read his book with Amy Burvall (@Amyburvall) Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom. Since then I have used his thoughts on creatively accessing student growth, adding choice in a project, adding media in a variety of ways into our classroom, and looking out for more than just the academic portion of a student’s life in my class, looking for social emotional learning and creativity throughout the curriculum. That would be my recommendation, but better yet go follow both Amy and Dan on Twitter and learn with them.”

How have you seen education change in the years you’ve taught?

“Technology has probably had the largest impact. Over the last year, before COVID, I built up grant money to buy a classroom set of Oculus Quests. This gives students the opportunity to experience cutting edge technology in the classroom and it is just becoming more and more accessible to schools. However, personally I have felt a shift in how we are accessing students and realizing that students are more than just academic profiles. The shift towards discussions and plans on social/emotional learning, portfolios instead of tests, and student choice has refreshed a lot of teachers in engaging ways.”

How do you use student voice in your classroom and what outcomes have you seen from it?

“Student voice is a key part of my classroom. I try not only to encourage asking questions of the course and its curricula, but also how we do assignments, due dates, and how students present their materials. This has led to some really engaging moments discussing novels, but also discussing the purpose of English Language Arts classrooms and the ways that students are assessed. As a teacher, I have to let go of the classroom reins to some degree, but it has helped a lot of my students find the purpose in the classroom and some have reengaged with the course materials in interesting ways.”

What is your favorite way to use technology in the classroom?

“First off, technology for technology’s sake is not a way to run a classroom. Make sure that there is a purpose to using the technology and that it is appropriately engaging students. With that said, I love making videos with students. I started by doing a silent film festival with my students during my first year and now we do projects with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to show how to change the world. As an English teacher, making videos hits so many of the standards I need to have students learn in one project it was just simply a great choice, but also it is just so much fun to make videos with my students.”

What advice do you have for teachers who are worried about using tech in their classrooms?

“Take a bit of time every day. Learn a new skill and add to it the next day. By the end of the year, you will be so far from where you were that you forget what it was like to teach without technology. When I started 3D printing with students I had no background in the process. I learned each day by trial and error and now five years later I can do things that I had no idea I could do like prototyping frisbees for PE or printing models for set design or making branded items for my school.”


I love walking away from an interview with new people on Twitter to follow! Thanks again, Matthew for the great interview. I hope we can all take these insights on technology and apply them to our classrooms.