First Week Of School! Set the tone for a fun-filled year!

There is nothing like the first week of school. It is filled with excitement, the unknown and so much anticipation from students, parents and teachers. You can never ever make the first day of school and subsequently the first week of school too fun and memorable. Go all out and let your students know that they matter and that you want them to have the best environment possible for learning, inquiring and asking questions, lots of questions!

Top 10 simple things you can do for your students on the first day! (They do not require much prep!)
10. Engage students in conversation all day
9. Call them by their first name
8. Found out what they like and they don’t like
7. Let them know more about you
6. Meet them at the front of the door (daily)
5. Play games
4. Give them time to talk to each other
3. Laugh
2. Smile often (’til it hurts)
1. Love them, they are special people and you will be with them for 180 days!

There will be time all week to let the students know about your grading policies, where the bathrooms are and rules and regulations of your classroom, but the list above is the secret to your success, the bridge to engagement and best of all you will have set in motion an environment that is unique to you and your students and for this you will be rewarded with 180 days of magic!


Some resources for the first week of school activities:

Leave some great ideas with a link to a resource that you are going to use this year or that you have used in the past! Seriously, have a super-duper, awesome year!!!

Your teaching journey is like a plant: You Have Nourish It To Grow!

Deciding to become a teacher is one of the most noble and gratifying decisions a person can make in their lifetime. With this decision comes great responsibility and opportunity. When you get your first classroom, you are entrusted with a group of young minds that look to you for guidance in their learning. There will be good days and bad days but the net result is always positive, it has to be. In order to have a successful teaching journey, you must continue to nourish yourself to grow. Successful plant growth requires water, nutrients, air, soil, light, temperature, space and time. Some things that may not be so obvious, but are a huge part of your teaching journey.

Water and Nutrients

Teaching is a physically and more so, a psychologically demanding career. In order to keep your mind and body right, you have to take care of it so you are at your finest, everyday, for your students. Exercise, proper diet and hydration is key to having successful days in the classroom. Drinking water circulates nutrients and keeps you balanced and provides a positive function with many of your organs, such as the kidneys and brain. If your water intake does not equal output, you will be unbalanced and begin dehydrating. Water supports circulation, maintains or lowers caloric intake and energizes muscles. Tips to increase your water intake:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Have a water bottle handy: in car, desk or bag
  • Drink beverages that you like, however, alcohol tends to dehydrate

Air and Soil

Teaching requires a growth mindset. It is particularly hard to grow as a teacher if your environment and ecosystem is filled with toxins which limits your ability to develop talents in students, instead you only document their ability. Plants require clean air and rich soil to take in carbon dioxide and create food. Teachers should continuously challenge themselves, reflect and take risks in order to grow. Additionally, place effort before talent, emphasize growth, value the process and stop seeking approval.

Light and Temperature

Light is used as energy for plants to make food, without it, the plant suffers. If the plant is too hot or cold it burns or freezes which stunts or eliminates growth. Teachers should not let others cloud their judgement and follow along with practices that do not move students and teachers forward. Teachers must create their own nutrients by researching best practices in teaching and learning through professional learning communities and increasing their network of resources and support, so their reflection is clear and the path for positive student outcomes is consistent. Gathering ideas is one thing, but you must implement, try and experiment. Much like a plant being to cold or hot, a teacher must have equal portions of research and action in order to grow.

Space and Time

In order to let your roots grow you need space and time. Finding time to educate yourself, take advantage of professional learning opportunities or talk to other educational practitioners that have a growth mindset, can prove to be a win for teachers and students. Teaching is not a race, nor should years of service be rewarded with flat line lessons and activities that do not support students as inquirers, reflectors and doers. Teaching is a consistent, long term career that should be rich in improvement, sharing and caring. You can improve yearly by reflecting on all your lessons and interactions with students and colleagues, seek help and support, and remember that you do not have to do it all at once, you just have to intentionally begin.

Congratulations to all teachers and educators who have for one reason or another, joined the ranks of education. It is your duty to grow and nourish yourself as an educator to grow and have a successful teaching journey.

Learn more about Growth Mindset, Creativity and being a better teacher:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Sir Ken Robinson
The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

Where do you get your inspiration?


Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. Inspiration emotionally keeps me interested, grounded, it is my super power. Inspiration is so important because it is rooted in humanity which means people providing power and energy to other people. It comes in the the form of books, movies, speeches, interviews, observations, conversations and so much more. In education, if we do not continue to seek inspiration, we slowly stop feeling and die creatively. I visited a school recently during Global School Play Day, where every last student was smiling, having fun and actively engaged in their chosen activities. I was lucky enough to play card games, checkers, watch students drawing and even got into a game of flag football. Watching kids play is extremely inspiring and continues to remind me that I have an obligation as an educator to create opportunities for teachers to find their inspirations so they can provide students around the world with engaging, rich environments of learning.

I have spent the last sixteen years trying to make kids smile, get to know them, allow them to know me and lately, open myself up to educators so that together we can create a whole new world of learners. Learning is so much more than digesting information and if we can place a high priority on engaging students, making them smile and placing them in positions to fail so they can succeed, we will have an army of sophisticated, empathetic communities.

You Must Do The Things You Think You Cannot Do

                                                -Eleanor Roosevelt

Below are a list of books, movies, speeches and so on that have inspired me. What inspires you? Leave comments below.

Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson
Drive by Daniel Pink
Crush It by Gray Vaynerchuk

Coach Carter
Lone Survivor
Stand and Deliver

I Have A Dream
The Gettysburg Address

Quick Classroom Activity: Photography & Poetry


2015-06-14 23.20.46

Here is an activity that can be a class starter or center or a stand alone assignment that allows students and teachers to incorporate technology and writing.

Have the students go out with their iPad or mobile device and capture two images that they they believe compliment each other. Next, using a photo blending app such as the iOS app Photoblend, edit the images to their liking and have them use the image as inspiration to create a poem. Students can save their edited image to their camera roll and them import into a writing or presentation app that allows them to combine their image with their writing that they can then share with the teacher and the world!

Here is my example poem:

On The Tracks
When I’m on the tracks I can go where I want
I dream Arizona, Boston or even Vermont
When I’m on the tracks I feel the movement of the train
With every forward bump and sway there is excitement to gain
When I’m on the tracks it reminds me of my past
As kid putting pennies on the track to get smashed
Most of all it just peaceful with lives moving about
At the end of their journeys with with families no doubt

Road to Teaching Conference: Using the iPad/iPod in Education

It was a pleasure to speak to all of the young, pre-service teachers today at Santa Ana College’s Road to Teaching Conference. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have. I am very willing to help aspiring teachers. If you decide for this to become your profession, you are joining ranks of the selfless and the very giving.

Road to Teaching Conference: Using the iPad/iPod in Education on Prezi

Cue 2012 Review – Day One

Hundreds of educational tech enthusiasts flocked to the annual CUE (computer using educators) conference this past weekend (March 15-17, 2012) in Palm Springs, California. A lot was learned over the 3 days at the conference and here are some of the highlights:

  • Day 1
    Chris Fitzgerald Walsh spoke about creativity in the classroom. Some myth’s of creativity were explored:
    -Must happen in isolation
    -Happens during random aha moments
    -It’s what artist do
    -It’s innate
    It makes sense that creativity can happen to and by anyone. You don’t have to be alone with your thoughts for something magical to happen, in fact, creating in a group setting is healthy and the people that you are working with can provide a stimulus to your thought process. Sure artists can be creative but anyone has the ability to create and and is not just reserved for those artistically inclined.

    Some conditions for creativity:
    -Playfulness (having FUN!)
    -You need time
    Having fun and just being playful can become a catalyst for students trying to create. We as educators need to give students the time to explore and allow them to FAIL! We also should not place judgements on intermediary work during the exploration process. The students should feel secure in their ability to explore without the hinderance of evaluation, which can provide students with walls to overcome or roadblocks to think about instead of moving forward and allowing creativity and maturation to take place.

    In order to be creative you must have a passion, an attitude towards what really matters and thus will provide the spark! It is important for anyone who wants to create to internalize a sense of permission to create. More often than not, we stop our selves from following through on an idea or thought instead of permitting ourselves to succeed and move forward.

    Discipline and commitment are necessary to be creative and it is this type of attitude that cultivates the wonderful ideas that are created on a daily a model model promotes creativity and asks students to stay in the moment and commit to an idea. Design thinking is a mesh of many disciplines, such as math and science and allows students to broaden the mind.

    Technology needs to be at the forefront of an education so that problems can be solved now and in the future. The ability to allow students to apply what they are learning at an early age, exposes them to a glimpse into their future.

  • Tom Van Ark – The Pivot to Personal Digital Learning
    In this session we discussed the value of blended learning, which is a combination of face-to-face instruction, along with computer mediated activities. According to Web Learning @ Penn State website, we should blend learning to allow advanced learning, interactively in the classroom and outside of it, there is access to quality multi-media content anytime of the day. Conversations are still happening about this topic and they need to continue. There are many school in America and abroad that have adopted this and similar models and have reported positive to amazing results. However, there are skeptics out there, that say any and all data can be skewed to present any school in a positive light.

    No matter what you think of these systems, we can always learn and take the best of what people are trying to do to make education a better place for students and gives them and advantage when they leave school.

    Here is an example of a school that is using the blended model approach:
    About Carpe Diem Schools

  • Frank Guttler – Lights, Camera, Learn
    10 lessons for better video in the classroom
    A call sheet is the order of business for any production day.
    For any movie there is pre-production, production and post-production.
    Celtx is a free pre-production software download that allows a film maker to create story boards, scripts and much more.
    What is the difference between a shot and a scene? A shot is part of a film between two shots, where a scene is a series of shots to tell a story.
    The evolution of a movie goes something like this: Shot, Scene, Sequence, Movie
    When shooting a movie, think point of view of a shot. For example shooting from high or above, from down low or find different angles.
    Here is an example of a quick exercise you can do with your class: Show a segment of a movie and count shots by clapping every time there is a new shot. Claps will increase in frequency as the action increases.
    Lighting Basics: 3 Point Lighting (Key Light, Fill Light and Back light – Lighting Basics at Media College
    Below I have a video example of how you can introduce your students to the process of film making by learning through experience, story boarding and reflection.
    Check the video out and begin your film making experience.

    Other ideas to teach students film making:
    Have students study the elements of genre (classical, western, etc).
    Complete a scene study (check out the Ikea Lamp commercial)
    Use pictures to tell a story. Here is a link to Frank Guttler’s Thousand Words project.

    A great resource is the Library of Congress website. Check out the American Memory Photo Archive for images that can be used to build a photo video/movie.

  • Response to an Article: Schools, technology, test scores and the New York Times

    This is a copied response to an article dated Sept 7, 2011 on To see the full article with comments:

    I am all in when it comes to providing students with multimedia projects in which they immerse themselves in the language of the particular technology, collaborate with their peers and create a product worthy to display and communicate the results. Saying that utilizing new technologies is playtime may be accurate. Do you have to hate what you are doing or be miserable during an assignment for it to be validation of learning? I think not! I will certainly agree that the educators that are using technology in the classroom need to be supported and accountable, but there is always a learning curve and to get educators up to speed, there are going to be some bumps in the road. Not every lesson, technology or otherwise is always a hit. If we stopped using technology because our lesson failed and did not satisfy the outcome we were looking for, that would be akin to giving up on a student because they “just don’t get it.” Technology is expensive and as stated above, those in who are utilizing it should be accountable for the use of it and become teacher leaders in there respective schools. There is a great network of teachers all around the world who eat, drink and sleep technology for the sake of students. These folks banter around ideas and learn from each on how to better utilize technology and attend conferences in which they further along ideas and practices that benefit students. To say there is not any research to the fact that students benefit from technology is ludicrous. Dr. Robert Marzano completed a study on the use of interactive whiteboards and responders (an overview of the outcomes can be found here: and the research concluded that using interactive whiteboards increased student achievements by 16% and utilizing voting devices had a positive impact of 26%. These results did not come without parameters. It is not as simple as plugging in the interactive whiteboard and seeing the magic happen, it still requires hard work, preparation and follow through. For example, educators need to utilize visuals, follow up on any missed answers, while discussing correct answers and opinions and should not focus on to many of the bells and whistles, such as crowd applause for a correct answer. Educators, keep using the technology your school provides for you and know that you have to work hard to make it work, but in the end the results will be long lasting and prepare our students for the present and the future.

    Copyright: Do not Speed!

    I recently visited our local mountains with my 6th grade class for outdoor science school and decided that I wanted to communicate some of the activities to our parents and families. So, I decided to produce a nightly, video enhanced podcast/movie that parents could view from my school website. Myself and another teacher shared the task of capturing still images and video throughout the day and I would create the podcast so it would be available to the parents. I really enjoyed producing the files and we had great interaction and feedback from the parents. About midweek I received and e-mail from my school district that asked if I knew what “copyright” was and that I needed to change or remove the music that I had used in conjunction with my images and video. Of course I knew what copyright was and is! I would like to think I am above the curve in techie-ness. I would agree in a heartbeat that I cannot recite verbatim the music copyright and fair use laws. My main focus was to create an experience that the parents could enjoy and obtain a glimpse into their kid’s lives at science school. I did not think I was supposed to be following a rubric and that my product was somehow, some grand assault on the music industry and that I was going to cause a major lawsuit against our district!

    But in the end folks, I was speeding and I was wrong. Have you ever been driving along and did not notice that you were speeding? You were breaking the law, but you slowly apply the breaks and continue about your day. You knew that you were not supposed to be driving faster than the posted speed limit, you know the law, so you self-corrected and all was well. I too, knew that there was a copyright law but I was distracted and did not focus on this aspect. I just wanted to get a video out and to our parents, so they might enjoy part of the experience. Again, this is not an excuse, I was speeding and I was wrong. I learned a valuable lesson and I will utilize this as a teachable moment. So, when the students walk into my classroom on Monday morning, I will explain to them how I had made a mistake and utilized popular music that was copyrighted in my project. Note, not a single student of mine has ever utilized copyrighted music in their projects but somehow that law did not pertain to me at outdoor science school. It is obvious that I need to teach by example and I believe I am. Here are is an example of a website that offers Royalty Free Music (Creative Commons Music).I was going to bore you with copyright music law, but instead I want to share this amusing video:

    Changing how we teach and how students think in Math!

    I recently watched a TED Talk video, titled “Math class needs a makeover,” by Dan Meyer. It inspired me to re-think the way I teach my students in 6th grade. You see, we have had one formula for teaching kids, for as long as I can remember, the math T.E. (teacher’s edition). I use it everyday, whether it be to plan my lessons or to go over the homework problems. Somewhere deep inside me, I know that I am better than this. I am the planner and the person in charge to decide how my class is going to learn content for the day and synthesize it for it for a lifetime. Now, no one expects students to remember every last breath that a teacher makes in an effort to explain content, however, the process and the journey should very much be a appreciated and highlighted to the fullest extent. I could go on and on, but you have to buy in and work that much harder to get the results that you wish for. Simply wishing is actually not enough, so put your hard hat on and work to improve your craft so that students become the thinkers that we long for them to be. I am along with you for this journey, for I am a teacher who is constantly looking for avenues to improve my skill set and more importantly, the skill set of my students! Watch the video and let me know if you think that you need to make a change in your instruction?