Teach Like A …..

Teach Like A


When asked by a new teacher about how to teach, the first thing that comes to mind are the teaching similes: Teach like a …Pirate, Champion, Boss etc. They are catchy and have been used by authors to hook people into reading their books. These books are good reads full of reminders of what great teachers do. Each author takes a different angle highlighting what they found to be meaningful to them as a teacher. I have enjoyed reading many of these books learning many new ideas. These similes help catch the essence of teaching, but what happened to teaching like a TEACHER? (maybe it doesn’t sell books)

Sure the quick comparisons are great but lets really think about them:

Pirates sail around to their own tune with no loyalties, robbing others for their own good. Teachers have to be loyal to their students and districts.

Champions are the best, better than the rest. Accomplished for self/team winning metals by defeating others. Teachers have to work as a part of a large team and collaborate with those on all other teams for the good of all students not just theirs.

Bosses are in charge of every aspect of their company ordering employees to  do their will. Teachers know that many aspects of their job is out of their control and work hard to guide students to where they want to go in their learning.

I could go on to all the other “Teach like a” smiles I have found as book or blog titles. (Even teach like a cat?) Teaching is a very diverse and complex job. Teachers need to explore the many ways/ styles of teaching, finding what works for THEM and their STUDENTS. While books are full of incredible ideas it is important to find methods that work for you.

In my experience I have just kept evolving. As I watch and talk to more teachers, I pick up tips and tricks of the trades. Occasionally I am reminded of methods I used to use but moved away from due to my students population but might work for the new students in my class this year. Educators have to remember that judging others from what we hear or passively observe in their teaching style is dangerous. I have observed many teachers instructing in ways I would not teach but it was working for them. I wouldn’t expect teachers to copy my methods. Good teachers have their own unique style.

Teach like a teacher owning your methods. 

#Clearthelist – equity comes to question

I noticed a conversation today on twitter around #Clearthelist.  Apparently Courtney Jones started a movement about a month ago on social media to help support teachers called Support A Teacher , where teachers can share their Amazon (or other) wish lists in hopes of having them filled by generous donors. Sounds cool!! Until you really think about it. Why do teachers need to post wish lists? Don’t taxes fund schools? Yes taxes fund schools but right not it is hard for schools to keep up with the ever growing needs of their student bodies. With the costs of salaries, building maintenance, transportation and curriculum needs, classroom supplies often get short changed. Teachers often dig into their own pockets to make sure classes have all the supplies needed. On average teachers spend over $500 out of their own salary to equip their classrooms.  Teachers that want to try more hands or engaging activities often spend more or end up asking their students for supplies.

Crowd funding for classrooms is nothing new, Donors Choose has been around for awhile. Crowd funding seems to be popular thing in the internet era. From medical costs to new product development to films crowd funding is happening. Now it is building steam in education. For me it brings to question Equity! Teachers that are more connected to resources will ultimately have more donors. Think about it, a teacher in a poorer community will not have parents who can afford to reach into their pockets for more, since they are struggling just to get by. Teachers in wealthier districts will have parents that are eager to donate, many of them already are via class supply lists. Social media will help equalize a bit allowing teachers to reach out of their local community but is this really equitable? How many items are needs vs wants or wishes? Then I worry about teachers who create list but nothing is purchased, how will they feel? Is this just luck of the draw?

I want to thank everyone for wanting to help teachers. Here is my wish list. The basic needs are on my listed, I added a few reach desires as I plan on teaching coding with drones  and could always use more tools to reach more students. But after helping a teacher by sending supplies, it is time to help schools get funding for these supplies by voting.

Teachers shouldn’t have to beg for pencils, folders, or books for their students. It is time to fund school adequately.



Drones in the classroom?

Today I was lucky enough to attend a training at Macomb Intermediate School District sponsored by REMC, called “Coding and Drones”. I had no idea what I was getting into but I had always been interested in drones and have taught coding in one of my classes. When the flyer hit my in box back in June I remembered about meeting up with a twitter friend, Brian Cook, at AMLE conference in Philadelphia where he shared how he had a drone club at his school. Why not give up one day in summer to check it out? Today was worth it! I am just imagining the possibilities of using drones for learning.

First off WHY!

At the start of the presentation the why was answered quickly. Drones are used in so many industries for so many tasks. From the Military (the obvious news making use) to Television to airlines to energy industry to agriculture drones are used regularly. Drones go where humans struggle to go. Usually inspecting with video relays and often performing repair tasks. First thought in my head is that Spiderman Far from home drone use aren’t fiction for much longer. Our students will most likely encounter drones in their careers. Of course we can’t really know because most of our students will embark in careers that aren’t around yet. Drones were fiction when I was in middle school.  Using drones will engage our students in applied technology. Students will see the value of accurate measurements, coding with a purpose and understanding of the thinking by design process.

Now the How…

It will take some time to figure out just exactly how to incorporate drones into the classroom but today opened the door to many ideas. As we worked to learn how the drone worked each table group talked about how to use them in their classrooms. I was lucky to be working with two other middle school teachers. We quickly focused on the tasks that students could complete; flying an obstacle course or completing tasks. We were introduced to a program called DroneBlocks a quick block based coding program. DroneBlocks has tutorials and has some tasks for students to complete with the Tello Drones. I feel that the coding with drones will fit in with as an extension station to my current teaching. I can’t wait to watch what the students learning with drones.

My only concern is that I have only one drone. I will have to seek grants and share my successes in hopes of getting more. Maybe Amazon would want to sponsor school drone programs in the future due to their ambitious plans to deliver packages via drones!

Follow my twitter and Instagram feeds to see what we are doing with drones in the classroom this year.

All I can say is if you get the opportunity to learn about using drones in the classroom don’t pass it up!

Find Your Educational Niche


Education is not a competitive sport! Educators should not look at others for comparison’s sake. 


Education is a collaborative practice. Educators look to others for ideas and inspiration.   


A Cautionary Tale: 


My first year of teaching felt like a competition. My principal’s observations noted comparisons to other teachers. I was asked to observe others and “be more like” a few veteran teachers. Pressures forced my teaching style not to be genuine, I was attempting to mimic teachers who were viewed as highly effective. Every lesson attempted to use a best practice listed in the school improvement plan. I desired to be the best, thinking it meant being better than others. I was competing with my colleagues as if I was attempting to make a sports team. 


My mindset was a product of my education and the leadership in the school. In school, I always competed with my peers academically. I rushed to be the first done, have the best grade and get into the best college. In college this remained, competing to achieve. I compared teaching to sports; there is a best way to run a play. There must be a best way to teach. My first principal made me feel inferior to others. Constantly pushing me away from my natural teaching instincts towards being the same as the more seasoned teachers in the building. Test scores and a variety of teaching methods consumed my quest to be the teacher others followed. 


The harder I tried, the more I struggled. Trying to be just like other teachers, focusing on outcomes was not making my classroom better. Each day was more frustrating than the last. Why didn’t my students behave the way the other classes did when I observed? Best practices filled my day but learning was still a struggle. I had fallen victim to the super-teacher myth. Best practices and copying successful teachers had ruined my first year teaching. I tried too much. I lost focus. 


Fresh Start: 


Lucky for me the summer gave a break, switch to a new building, a fresh start. Walking in for the first teacher day, I received the best advice: “Don’t copy the other science teacher, do it your way!” I slowly changed my focus to my students. Finding practices that fit their needs, not just deemed best by school improvement specialists. My principal encouraged purposeful teaching methods. Teaming was a focus in this new position. We discussed our lessons and helped each other hone our craft. I stopped comparing myself to the teachers around me and focused on making myself better each day.


As the years have passed, I observe other teachers to find practices that might blend well with my style of teaching. No longer looking to copy, but seeing if I can add to my tool box as a teacher. As a science teacher, I focus on creating students that question WHY things happen in the world around them. Engaging them in the process of understanding processes that cause changes in their lives. I use formative assessment practices to monitor my students learning. No longer looking at summative assessment results for validation of my teaching. My students let me know daily how successful I have been. 


Moving Forward: 


From Project Based Learning to Service Learning from Flipped Classroom to Gamification, there are too many practices and teaching styles in education for any teacher to keep up. Teachers need to find their niche, focus on students, and be genuine. Observing other teachers to gain ideas is very helpful. Just be careful to not compare your teaching to others. Many new teachers get caught up in comparing themselves to veterans. This practice can lead to devastating results. 


After over fifteen years of teaching and hundreds of classroom observations, I have learned, no two teachers are identical. Each develops their own style. What works for one, won’t for all. Education has many paths for success. Our students learn in many different ways. This diversity in the classroom is a necessity for ALL to succeed. Find your niche as a teacher, then get better every day!

Be the Advocate For Your Students


I never took a class in college that told me a large part of teaching was advocacy. Most teachers spend their time focused on lesson planning and relationships with students, we feel politics should be left to others. I have found politics have impacted education and it is time to make sure our students’ voices are heard. Over the years I have witnessed the lost of elective classes, funding for supplies, class sizes increase and no longer having a media specialist to support my students reading need. All of this has been a result of policies enacted by state and federal legislators.

While education is a much talked about issue during campaigns very few politicians follow through on promises to educators. The tide seems to be turning slightly in Michigan where our new governor, has been steadfast in holding education as a high priority in the budget, while also creating a educational advisory panel of teachers from around the state. These big steps can only be maintained by persistent educational advocacy from teachers.

Teachers know what is going on in the classrooms. Teachers are trained in assessing and meeting our students’ needs. Teachers are busy with all that they do, but advocacy matters, when we show up our voices are heard. Today I wrote my senators and representative in support of Success in the Middle Act of 2019  to ensure that all students in the middle grades are taught an academically rigorous curriculum with effective supports. I urge other educators to do the same.

For the same reason many educators in Michigan have and will march in #RedForEd Rallies in Lansing. The next march is Tuesday June 25. Teachers have to keep the pressure on legislative bodies to fund their priorities in education.

Keep speaking out and sharing your voice on behalf of our students!


My previous advocacy post: Be A Lorax for Education 

Summer Perception of Educators

Teachers be like

It is the first week of summer break for most Michigan teachers. While on twitter a well meaning teacher friend posted the message above, signaling to all teaching friends to enjoy the well deserved summer break. Teachers have to be careful of sharing this type of message on social media. It gives the misperception that teachers don’t work the same amount of time that “other” employed adults work.

Teachers need breaks to rejuvenate and grow professionally. The same educator who posted this message spent yesterday in Lansing lobbying for adequate funding for schools, which could not be done during normal school hours. (#RedforEd Rally) The really message educators need to share is that it is summer and NOW teachers can finally act like all other employed adults.  We can go to the doctor or dentists without taking the day off. We can get to the markets before all the fresh produce is picked over, during the day. We can go out to eat and do so taking our time, instead of normal rushed thirty minute lunch while multi-tasking.

The thing is teacher spend most of their day working. Not just the 8-3 time that students are in the classrooms. Teachers have to plan the lessons, grade papers, attend meeting and stay current.


Constantly looking to improve teachers work hard like all other professionals. In fact best estimates are that teachers work 2,200 hours per year . So to put that in perspective if an employee works 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year it comes to 2,000 hours per year. Nobody calls Doctors, Dentists or Lawyers part timers but most of them have office hours less than 40 hours per week. Actors and professional athletes spend far less time on their stage than educators again they aren’t part of the narrative of being part time or working less than a year. So why does society hang this narrative on educators?

It might be because we impact those around us. Parents are impacted when schools are out for breaks, now they have to figure out their children’s schedule and who will watch them during their working hours. This impact and teachers public “joy” of a break (which is valid and needed), gives rise to the “part-time” teacher position.

It is time for society to recognize that teachers put in MORE than enough time for their pay! As an educator I am going to share ALL the work I do during my summer “off” to give evidence that my district is getting every penny worth of my salary!

I previously wrote: 7 hour workday and summers off.. 4 years ago with similar sentiments.