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What's Growin'?

I'm teaming up with my favorite bloggers in the Secondary Smorgasbord group to talk about What's Growin' in our classrooms this spring. Just the word spring makes me smile.
At home every spring, I eagerly await days that are warm and sunny. I shop around for those gorgeous seed packets that say heirloom. Because if it's an heirloom it's got to be special right? Like Grandma's doilies.

In my fervor, I collect egg shells, banana peels, and salad remnants, so I can make compost for my garden. Black gold.

Heirloom seeds and black gold. I might just go pro with this, I think. Maybe there's even a greenhouse in my future.

Three weeks pass. The heirlooms are still in their pretty packets. And I'm shopping the gardening center for established plants in 3 gallon pots. My black gold? Fool's gold.

I try to do a better job tending to my classroom garden. Even though this week and next, dealing with state testing is akin to managing a plague of locusts.

We'll be getting ready for Poem in Your Pocket Day, and that will take away the sting of the locusts.  (I don't think locusts really sting, but I like that metaphor. If you are a horticulturist or an entomologist, please don't leave me comments trying to set me straight. It's no use.)

We have so much fun "planting" poems in unexpected places, and finding poems worthy of sharing.

All I can say is that no banana is safe.

Even if the peels never do turn to gold.

If you'd like some ideas for Poem in Your Pocket Day, click on the images for a freebie. Enjoy!

Learning from our Failures Matters Most

Our state tests begin this week. The only thing less important is discussing whether some celebrity has had plastic surgery.

My students have better things to learn than how to be right the first time they fill in a bubble.

So I will leave it at that. Hmph.

I’d like to say that we build a culture of success in my classroom. That sounds like something that would look good when some administrator checks off little boxes about me.  I'd like to say that. But the truth is...we pay much regard to failure in my class.

In fact, we build a culture of failure in my classroom... Hmmm...Maybe not.

What I mean is that from the beginning of the year, I ensure that each of my students feels comfortable sharing their successes AND their failures. I show them this

And I tell them this

Most of all, I show them how to fail like a champ and be okay with it. I do that by failing. A lot. In public.

I might write something on the board and turn to the class wrinkling up my nose. Does this sound okay? Do you understand these instructions? I’ll ask.

Some kids will nod and say yes because the teacher is always right. Others won’t say anything because they think what I wrote is demented, but they are too polite to say I'm demented.

I can usually count on at least one kid to admit that no, it doesn't sound okay. It's terribly unclear. It's asinine. My champion.

Help me out here, I’ll plead, wringing my hands. How can I write this so you’ll understand?

And so we revise.

Thank you sooooo much, I’ll say. I don’t know why my brain refused to work. Sometimes that happens to me. But you are my heroes. 

If I do this a few times, it becomes okay to fail. In public.

Other times I’ll flip the classroom. This version of flipping involves asking for someone who thinks they did something poorly to share their crummy work. At first the kids look at me like I’m crazy.

This last part actually happens frequently.

I say that the people who volunteer information when they think it is wrong are the bravest in the world. I call them my heroes. For they are the people who help us all learn a better way of doing things. We only learn to stand after falling down. A lot. In public, even.

Heroes, please help us improve, I’ll plead, as I wave my arms with a flourish.

Kids are comfortable being heroes in my room.We build a culture in which failure doesn't make us failures.

We fail. We learn. We fail better next time.

Thank you to Jackie from Room 213, for hosting this blog hop on What Matters Most.

Mission Nearly Impossible

This is a top secret mission. 

I'm not permitted to say too much. 

Agent Venus has been issued a gag order from Agent Mars. 

Martian thinks I work too hard. Play too little. Too being the operative word. 

Too many papers to grade. 

Too many weekends writing teaching resources. 

Too many fundraising responsibilities. 

Too many animals to save. 

So I'm on a forced hiatus. I bargained my sentence down to five days. 

Too much sand between my toes. 

Too blue skies. 

Too many margaritas. 
Oh no. A local teacher is in danger. Her classroom is in desperate need of a library...

This blog-post is scheduled to self-destr

An Open Letter to Longfellow

        Who doesn't love the coming of April? Ignore tax day and consider that April is National Poetry Month. April also brings the showers that promise May flowers. 

     Some of you are wondering why I've just reminded you of tax day and rain. 

     I didn't mean to make you sad. I promise this is going somewhere better.

     April 18th is also the anniversary of the event commemorated in one of my favorite poems to teach, Paul Revere's Ride
    I'd like to honor Revere, Longfellow, and suburban middle schoolers everywhere, by resurrecting one of my readers' favorite posts. Enjoy!

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I did you a favor. 

    Just like you did Paul Revere a favor, by making him the hero of your narrative poem, instead of poor neglected William Dawes or Samuel Prescott (both of whom also rode on that fateful night, but were sadly overlooked).
     Before I go into the specifics of the favor, let me preface this post by assuring you that I do not condone the "watering down" of texts. I encourage students to read so-called banned books and then ask them to decide for themselves. When Tom Sawyer was altered to remove the racial slurs that were part of the vernacular of the time, (Yes, Longfellow, that did happen. And no, I can't believe it either.) I was as appalled as every other English teacher. Anybody who messes with Twain has some explaining to do, in my book. 

     So, Longfellow, call me a hypocrite, but before I read Paul Revere's Ride, I eliminated a word.  


    Well...I read the poem aloud. 

    And... Longfellow, you used an old fashioned word for rooster. 

    And ...I teach 7th grade. Seventh grade suburban kids.

    So I did the unthinkable. I censored you, Longfellow. 
     There were only good intentions behind my decision. The kids love to hear the poem read aloud. They enjoy the suspense and drama. If I had left the word in, well, that would have been the end of our exciting glimpse into that fateful ride on the evening of April 18th, 1775. I would have completely lost the entire class. You see, that word is not really a nice word to say in 2013. 

     I know I shouldn't feel guilty. After all, Longfellow, you also employed poetic license by changing history to suit your narrative. You would understand that art is fluid, alive, and (I suppose) subject to change.

     Longfellow, I like to think that you would not make that particular word choice if you were writing the poem today. In my mind, I imagine you are thankful that your poem is a source of joy and inspiration, instead of ridicule. 

    So, Longfellow, if you are reading my blog from the Pearly Gates, I altered your famous poem for the good of your own reputation as a poet. Your poem, written all the way back in 1861, ended up being a big hit with the 7th graders of 2015. They thought it was cool (which means "powerful good" in our day). 

     They did have one suggestion though, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. They think we should do something about your name.

Teachers Helping Teachers

What happens when hundreds of wonderful TpT sellers decide that a fellow teacher is in need?
A MASSIVE fundraiser happens! That's what!
We call it Teachers Helping Teachers, and it came about after TpT teacher-authors heard the story of Diana Salmon, a New York teacher who lost a leg in a tragic hit and run accident.
Diana is an inspiration to all who know her, sending a message of strength and resilience by returning to the classroom just months after the accident.
Unfortunately, the extensive injuries Diana sustained require an expensive bionic knee for her to be at her dynamic best. This is where Teachers Helping Teachers comes in.
Diana's fundraising store, Bionic Teacher, is now the home of TEN limited edition resource bundles promising HUGE savings to all who purchase one. There is a bundle for everyone, and they all contain the most amazing products from top sellers! Best yet, 100% of the profits go to Diana's fund!
Visit Bionic Teacherdownload the freebie for Diana's Story, and take a look at the bundles. You will be happy you did! 

If you would like more information about Diana, go to

They're ALL Incredible...

Okay, so maybe I should say, ALMOST all of them are incredible.

The kids who work their hardest, do their homework, pay attention, study, and participate, are incredible. They are the future of our workforce, and when they are conscientious, I feel hopeful for the future.

Incredible kids.

The kids who keep at it, despite their limitations and disabilities, are incredible. Like the class of kids I had who decided on their own, that they would take on the mission of writing a class newspaper, and selling it for 25 cents to raise money for a local animal shelter. Was it the highest quality paper? Well, it included fake classified ads, lovingly written by one of my most challenged students. Need I say more about the quality?

But that was beside the point. Every single quarter they collected was earned through hard work, and MANY rewrites. I was never more proud.

Incredible kids.

The class that helped do their little part in trying to change our state's bullying laws was incredible. They were so moved by Ryan's Story, a presentation by Mr. John Halligan about the suicide of his son Ryan, that they wrote letters to legislators about the inadequate "laws" that were in place at the time. One senator took notice, and complimented the argumentative letters, thinking they were written by high school students! ( Boy did those kids work HARD on revising!) Soon afterward, the laws were improved.

Incredible kids.

The kids in my advisory, who work hard every day, making trinkets to sell so they can raise money for a local children's charity, are incredible. They could be spending their time chatting, but they want to make a difference for other kids.

Incredible kids.

The kids who are kind and encouraging to shy, introverted kids, or the ones others just label "odd," are incredible. Almost every time I see my "ambassadors" making an effort to be welcoming to those who are tough nuts to crack, I want to weep with pride.

Incredible kids.

The kids who are upstanders are incredible. Those who have the moral fortitude to stand up for anyone who is being attacked for being different in some way- any way- amaze me. I wish I had been as bold and courageous when I was in middle school.

Incredible kids.

Watch carefully. Look for something special about each child. Even if you have to dig deeper than you thought possible. Every child is someone's whole world. So every parent has instilled and nurtured at least one beautiful quality in their child.

Be that teacher who sees it. Be that teacher who waters that seed of potential.

If you do, you will see that they are all... incredible kids.

Did Somebody Say Sale?

I'm not much of a brick and mortar shopper anymore. Kids cure you of that. Crowds cause whining. Lines cause whining. Dehydration from dry mall air causes whining. 

And that's just me. The kids are another story. 

But online shopping? That I can do like a champ. And you can bet I will take advantage of TpT's next sale on February 25th. Up to 28% off, and no whining required. 

Take a look at the amazing sellers who've teamed together for this! The gorgeous graphic is by the amazingly talented Danielle Knight.

Danielle Knight (Study All Knight) 
The Classroom Sparrow
Michele Luck's Social Studies 
Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy

Mad Science Lessons 
Juggling ELA
Krystal Mills - Lessons From The Middle 
Teaching High School Math 
To the square inch- Kate Bing Coners 
Charlene Tess 
Pamela Kranz
The Creative Classroom

Kristin Lee
Mrs. Brosseau's Binder 
James Whitaker's SophistThoughts

Darlene Anne
ELA Everyday
Lessons With Coffee
Teaching FSL
Room 213
Lindsay Perro 
Liz's Lessons 
21st Century Math Projects

The SuperHERO Teacher
Science Stuff 
Kate's Classroom Cafe 
A Space to Create

Addie Williams 
Created by MrHughes

Leah Cleary
Secondary Solutions
All Things Algebra
Tracee Orman
Live Love Math

Ruth S.

2 Peas and a Dog
FisherReyna Education
Rachel Friedrich
Linda Jennifer
For the Love of Teaching Math
The Career Ready Teacher 

Mrs S's Health and PE Resources