I once had a supervisor I disagreed with.

I’m sure you can relate.

During a performance review, my supervisor told me that my teaching style,  a fusion of storytelling and instruction, was not practical and measurable on state exams.

“You’re job is to teach reading and writing skills not to tell bedtime stories.”

At the time of our meeting, I’d been teaching for 13 years and felt I was finally forging a classroom identity.

Though I didn’t agree, like a good employee, I did what I was told.

I didn’t tell stories. I didn’t openly reflect on writing, literature, and life with my students.

To the detriment of both my professional integrity and student instruction, I tried to be someone else.

I grew lost and frustrated. I began to resent teaching. I updated my resume, created a monster.com account and begin exploring other career options.

Then, one day in a meeting with my supervisor, I snapped.

“If I don’t teach your way…what are you going to do?…Are you going to fire me?”

There was a long, trailing silence.

“I can’t compromise who I am anymore. I’m drawling a line. Feel free to cross it and fire me.”

Proudly, I’m still a teacher and though I was not fired, the meeting sprouted permanent tension between the supervisor and I.

There are many moments, especially as an employee, when you must follow orders.

However, when you’re asked to compromise your identity you must take a stand, draw a line or risk losing your integrity–which will always be more important than any job you’re paid to do.

Be well,

Jay

“Travel is the best teacher.” The Educator Spotlight is on Spanish Teacher Michele Hill

Write on Fight on’s Educator Spotlight features insights, reflections and best practices from passionate classroom teachers and school administrators.

Meet Michele Hill. Michele is an high school Spanish teacher from New Jersey.  An active educational blogger, Michele believes engagement is the key to inspiring students. She recently took a group of students to Costa Rica to further teach them a lesson in altruism.

Check out my interview with Michele, visit her blog and enjoy!

I believe that an empowered student is one who is in charge of his/her learning and wants to pursue it with or without a teacher.- Michele Hill


Besides being an educator Michele Hill is….

a mother, wife and a grandmother, and a world traveler and a kind humanitarian.

What school and what subject do you currently teach?

I work at Delsea Regional High School. I teach Spanish and a special program called SWAG that works with our most at-risk students.

What is the one book ever educator should read? Why?

    There are so many to choose from. I think all teachers should read Todd Whitaker’s “What Great Teacher’s Do Differently”. It’s easy to understand and full of great advice that will help all teachers be successful with their students. It is sage advice on how to connect and manage all of the challenges that teachers face.

On your blog spiritededucator.blogspot.com you shared how you recently took a group of students to Costa Rica. Why are new experiences, such as your trip, so vital for student development?

I love taking students to new places to experience the world around them.  I think that it is so important for our students to be globally minded in the world that we live in today. I also believe that the greatest learning occurs when students are engaged…and new experiences keep them engaged! Travel is the best teacher of all… reading about the Colosseum is one thing, standing in it is another!

What has been your biggest roadblock as an educator? And how did you overcome it? Or what are you doing now to overcome it?

My biggest roadblock is being so passionate about education that others find it annoying. My family certainly gets tired of hearing about school and my students. Fortunately, I have developed great relationships through my PLN,  they have affirmed my desire to make education better and welcome my enthusiasm.

 What is an empowered student?

I believe that an empowered student is one who is in charge of his/her learning and wants to pursue it with or without a teacher. They are on a quest for knowledge and experiences!

 If, for one day, you were in charge of your school what would you do?

Make everyone feel welcomed! Celebrate staff and students and let them know that they all matter. Make school a place where everyone wants to be!

 Movie or book– what is your favorite work of fiction?

    Freedom Writers– Love that Ms. Gruell found a way to build meaningful relationships with ALL of her students!

Who inspires you?

Wow! This is a BIG question! I am inspired everyday by the teachers who care for their students, love them unconditionally and make them stretch and grow. Teachers are altruistic by nature. What they do day in and day out is inspirational for everyone!

What is your favorite non-teaching quote?

No matter how talented, educated, rich, or cool you think you are, ultimately how you treat people tells all!

Connect with Michele…

Twitter:@HillMrispo

Website: spiritededucator.blogspot.com


Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others?

If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight Series. You can contact me at writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay

The Importance of Goal Setting: The Educator Spotlight is on Teacher and Writer Mari Venturino

Write on Fight on’s Educator Spotlight features insights, reflections and best practices from classroom teachers and administrators.

 Meet Mari Venturino. Mari is an elementary school teacher from San Diego, California.  An active blogger and editor of the book Fueled by Love and Coffee: Real Stories by Real Teachers, Mari is a reflective force.

Check out her interview, visit her blog and you will certainly learn new reflective strategies to help improve your own practices. Enjoy!

Without goals, I just go aimlessly through the school year. I’m always working to be a better teacher, and I don’t want to settle for good enough.


Besides being a teacher Mari Venturino is…

…an avid reader who loves YA and nonfiction. I also enjoy spending time with my boyfriend and dog.

Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long?

I teach 7th grade science and 8th grade AVID at Mar Vista Academy in San Diego, CA. The 2017-2018 school year is my 6th year of teaching.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?

I love our lessons and units on health and nutrition. These topics are so applicable to students’ lives, and line up with my science passions. We weave in nutrition within our chemistry and properties of matter units, and students are especially engaged as we’re analyzing nutrients and food groups.

If, for one day, you were in charge of your school what would you do?

We would have a fundatory (you’re required to have fun, and you’ll like it!) spirit day with school-wide activities and games. When we laugh and play together, our school community is happier!

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible.” -Aubrey Hepburn

On your website blog.mariventurino.com,  you write about teaching strategies and best practices. How has writing helped you has a teacher?

Writing helps me reflect on what works best for my students and my school, and figure out what areas I need to work on. I write to share just as much as I write as a personal reflection tool. I love the conversations that spark up from blog posts, and I find myself constantly improving my teaching.


In a recent post, “2017-2018 School Year Goals”, you discuss your classroom goals for the upcoming school year. Why is goal setting so important for a teacher?

Without goals, I just go aimlessly through the school year. I’m always working to be a better teacher, and I don’t want to settle for good enough. One of my favorite twitter hashtag’s comes from Lisa Thuman’s keynote, #onenewthing. Instead of trying all the things at one time, just focus on trying #onenewthing.

One of your goals for the 2017-2018 school year was to build relationships with your students first. Why is building relationships so vital for teaching and learning?

In our classrooms, the most important thing is to build relationships with our students. When we form trust and mutual respect, we build empathy and work better together. Our collaboration and cooperation improves, and all of us are willing to take more risks. Just as I need to get to know each of my students, they need opportunities to get to know me.

You recently published your first book, Fueled by Love and Coffee: Real Stories Written by Real Teachers. All proceeds of the book will be donated to classrooms and teachers ( which is totally awesome!). Why is it so important for teachers to share their stories?

I’ve seen too many teachers say “I’m just a teacher” when I ask them to share something they’ve done in their classroom, whether on social media or in person. My goal is to elevate the ordinary teachers to share the incredible things they’re doing. It’s an honor to take the lead on this project, and work to get more teachers’ voices heard. You can read more about the project here, and buy your copy of the book on Amazon.


My classroom superpower is… because…
My classroom superpower is bionic eyes because I can see what you’re doing, even with my back turned.


Mari can be found at…  
Twitter & Instagram: @MsVenturino

Blog: blog.mariventurino.com

Email: mari.venturino@gmail.com


Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others?

If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight Series. You can contact me at writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay

Bringing Stories to Light: WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight is on Julie Boulton

Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight features awesome educators who are dedicated to teaching and inspiring young people everyday.

In the first edition of the 2017-2018 school year, WoFo features history teacher and blogger Julie Boulton. I would like to thank Julie for her interview and dedication to the teaching profession.

I love to bring stories to light that might have been forgotten otherwise.”


Besides being a teacher Julie Boulton is….

Wife, mother, sister, hiker, music lover, obsessive coffee drinker, history addict, blogger, traveler and nature lover.
.
Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long?

I currently teach in Vaughan Ontario. I teach History and Social Science courses, including Law and Politics. I have been teaching for 10 years.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?

To be honest, I don’t know if I have one lesson.  I love simulations and mock trials. This year I ran my Congress of Vienna Simulation in October, and students were still debating the outcomes with me in May. I love that! I love any activity or lesson that makes the students passionate.

However, I also really enjoy teaching students history that they may not have learned. For example, I never learned about the Nanking Massacre. I was fortunate enough to apply and be selected as an educator for a study trip in China. I visited with government officials, survivors and various historic sites in four different provinces in China for about 3 weeks. I couldn’t believe that the Nanking Massacre had been left out of a lot of World War Two history. Now, I think it has become more well known, and I think it is because it is being discussed more in the classrooms and the media. I love to bring stories to light that might have been forgotten otherwise. I also love to do this as an ongoing lesson in all of my courses. I challenge my students to find ‘what stories are missing’ from our textbooks. We also discuss why certain stories are emphasized whereas others are ignored or forgotten.

Basically, if it is a lesson where my students are thinking, conversing, researching and asking questions than I am a happy teacher!

If, for one day, you were in charge of your school what would you do?

I would devote a day to staff and student wellness/community building. I find the mental health and personal struggles in our schools overwhelming and often overlooked. Our students have so much on their plates that we may or may not be aware of. I really think that our first job as educators is to build relationships with our students and support them. Similarly, I have witnessed teacher burn out, and have definitely felt on the brink myself at times. We can’t expect staff and students to thrive if they are not mentally well and provided with adequate supports.

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?

A good life is one where at the end of your life you can say that you have given more than you have taken – Ross Plunkett (My Dad)

On your website julieboulton.com , you write about teaching strategies and best practices. How has writing helped you has a teacher?

My blog is very reflective and honest. I strive to outline my experiences and ideas for teaching in the classroom. I also like to point out educators I admire and resources that I find helpful. I am not a perfect teacher, and my blog talks about my successes and my failures. It is very personal, reflective and I spend a lot of time thinking about what I would like to hear as a teacher. I am personally against professional development that begins by negatively talking about teachers and education. I know how hard this job is and how hard most teachers work, so my goal is really to celebrate educators and empower them with tools and resources that have worked for me.

What advice would you give to all new teachers?

Loving your students and trying hard is enough – you’re enough. I had an incredible Mentor tell me one year that if you try one or two new things each year, then you were doing really well. That message stuck with me. Professional development and ministry initiatives can be overwhelming, and sometimes out of touch with the realities of the classroom. I think that it is important for teachers to trust themselves and know that if they are working in the best interest of their students that is enough. If you love your kids and fight for them, than you are 80% there (maybe 90%).

If the best thing about teaching is the students, what’s the second  best thing?  
Being creative. I love creating a lesson or assignment. I enjoy the creative process, brainstorming, executing it and learning what worked and what didn’t. When you achieve that state of flow in your classroom, it is almost like a runner’s high – you feel so elated as a teacher. I love that feeling!

                                      Who inspires you?                                      

My Aunt Brenda. Unfortunately she passed away in a car crash a couple of years ago, but she was an incredible woman. Google Brenda Zimmerman and you can see what I am talking about. She achieved tremendous professional success, and used it to help others. On top of that, she somehow always managed to make time for and support the people she loved, and she loved to love. She believed in working hard, playing harder and giving back. She rarely criticized others and focused on helping others achieve their dreams. She was one of those rare people who loved to celebrate the success of others.  If I could be like anyone, it would be her. Also, my husband, Jeff, he is truly the kindest, most intelligent man that I have ever met.  I am so truly thankful for him.

My classroom superpower is… because…

Caring, because I have a reputation for supporting my students and my colleagues. I really believe in relationships first above all else, and I focus on building that before worrying about any content or curriculum expectations.

 Connect with Julie on Twitter @JulieBoulton12   

And checkout her awesome blog julieboulton.com


If you liked Julie’s interview check out “8  Simple Ways To Be A More Interesting Teacher This School Year”

 


Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others?

If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight Series. You can contact me at writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay 

8 Simple Ways To Be A More Interesting Teacher This School Year

As a teacher, I want to be interesting. I want my students to want to be in my class.

In fact, my philosophy of education has always been rooted in a line from Billy Joel’s Piano Man:

Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been coming to see                         To forget about life for a while.

But a student’s perpetual compliant about school is that it’s “so boring.” (Heck, it was my complaint when I was slugging my way through high school 20 years ago.)

But now a teacher myself, I know the job of a teacher is never boring. Teachers are never just teachers. They are therapists, philosophers, referees, doctors, mechanics, meteorologists, secretaries and rodeo clowns.

Teaching requires you to switch professions on a dime. It also requires you to develop new skills, ask deep questions and be a curious and relentless learner.

In short, to be a successful teacher you need to be interesting.

When you’re interesting, students want to be in your class. And when you create such interest, students more willingly immerse themselves in the wonders of the learning process and “forget about life for awhile.”

1.Tell Stories

An administrator once told me that I had to stop telling stories in the classroom. I reacted to the edict by returning to my classroom, opening up my personal anthology and telling even more stories then ever before.

Stories are my bread and butter. If I can’t tell stories, I don’t want to be a teacher anymore.

Stories are how I communicate complex concepts and ideas to my students.

When used properly (not just to waste time or glorify how awesome you are) stories are a fantastic way to hook students into your classroom narrative. A narrative centered on your subject, communicated by you.

2.Teach Life Lessons

You’re older than your students. You’ve been around the block.

Your experience with things like failure and regret and joy and love harbor a wealth of teaching material. By tying your content into the human condition allows students to see how the content relates to things beyond the cinder blocks of school.

3.Inside Jokes

I wear khaki pants and canvas Adidas sneakers to school everyday. My             “uniform” serves as good fodder for classroom jokes. Jokes that weave into the fabric of the classroom.

Everyone, especially students, love to be a part of an inside joke. Inside jokes are shared experiences that create connections, deepen relationships and show your students that you have a sense of humor.

4.Listen more and ask more questions

Sometimes, you just need to step back and let your students have the floor.

You don’t need to be the center of attention to be an interesting teacher.  By really listening to your students and asking them questions about their interests and integrating their interests into your lessons you will establish yourself as a teacher (and an adult) who really listens.

5. Flaunt Your Funk

If you teach middle-school or high school, most of your students think your weird.

It’s hard for students to imagine their teacher having interests that reach beyond the subject matter they teach. But bringing your other interests, your funk into the classroom is a great way to tell more of your story.

Interesting teachers have the audacity to be themselves. They flaunt their funk. It’s what makes them interesting and inspires students to embrace and flaunt there own funkiness.

6. Listen to Podcasts

Listening to podcasts is a great way to be mentally productive outside of the classroom.

The right podcast ( I like TED Radio Hour and The Tim Ferriss Show) can teach you interesting facts and share compelling stories that you can relay to your students.

7. Connect Your Content to Current Events

Teachers often get so wrapped up in daily demands of teaching that we forget that there is a world outside our school walls.

A world that both you and your students are experiencing.

Connecting content to the current world offers students perspective on a current and common subject.  These connections help to captivate students while allowing them to see that school content is relatable to the happenings of the world.

8. Be Positive

By nature, adolescents are an angsty bunch. And looking past the negativity in their lives is difficult.

As a teacher, you have the power to establish the mood in your classroom. By being positive, by leaving your own baggage at home, you offer students a fresh perspective and attitude that they will gravitate toward because they want to be positive but when your 15, being miserable is the cool thing to do.

Being an interesting teacher goes a long way in your classroom and in the lives of your students.  You have the unique power to be a positive, interesting force in lives of your students that will shape important attitudes they have about school and learning.

Teaching Children Character Building Concepts: An Interview with Author Gretchen Burman

Who is Gretchen Burman?

My name is Gretchen Burman, mother of two amazing girls and wife to a fabulous and supportive husband.  When I was pregnant ten years ago, I was freaking out thinking how I would raise capably, caring and happy children.  What did I need to proactively and reactively teach them so they could be their best self?

I created a list of guiding principles called, The 12 Cs, to be my parenting checklist and provide my family with a common language to help us navigate life’s ups and downs.  Through the years, I expanded The 12 Cs to include positive self-talk and mindset skills.  Science supports the benefits of this powerful life skill and I use the characters Green Glory and Red Rant from my book, The Adventures of Ooga and Zeeta, to help children understand the power of their inner voice so they can be mentally strong and self-compassionate.  

After years of witnessing the positive effects and extensive research, I am now sharing my passion and learnings with other adults and children through my book, assemblies and workshops. 

What inspired you to write The Adventures of Ooga and Zeeta?

My now 10-year-old daughter, Payton, inspired me to write the book about 5 years ago.  Her imaginary friends are Ooga and Zeeta and I thought it would be so special to bring them to life through stories for each of The 12 Cs.  She is my muse.  For each story, Ooga or Zeeta start by thinking with their Red Rant inner voice.  Then they decide to change their self-talk/mindset to think with their Green Glory inner voice.  It shows children how they, too can navigate through real life situations, think for themselves and be prepared to handle whatever life throws at them.  

The book is a teaching tool designed to be read by children and adults together, offering a communication tool to open up dialogue and foster conversations.

What book made you realize you wanted to be a writer?

It wasn’t a specific book that made me realize I wanted to be a writer.  It was more that I wanted to share the consistent vocabulary of The 12 Cs, Green Glory and Red Rant with other children and families who were looking for a kid-friendly way to teach these character concepts and positive self-talk/mindset skills.

Do you have any quirky writing rituals or odd sources of writing inspiration?

The source for my stories are from my daughters.  I write down situations where we use The 12 Cs, Green Glory and Red Rant to help us navigate through obstacles.  I keep a notebook handy for these opportunities and then I type them in the computer so they are secure for when I write my blogs and next book.

What is the most famous book you’ve never read?

Harry Potter

How is the writer’s life you’re living different than the one you imagined?

I never imagined I would be a writer.  Writing was never a strength of mine so it didn’t occurred to me to write a book until a teacher friend of mine loved The 12 Cs and thought it would be great to share the concepts with other adults.  

After publishing the book, I wanted to get the book to as many kids and adults as possible.  I now go around to schools and teach thousands of kids about The 12 Cs, Green Glory and Red Rant through assemblies and workshops.  It has been incredibly rewarding to do something that I am so passionate about.  I truly believe in what I’m teaching and think children will benefit today and in their future.  It’s also super cool when you meet someone who has read your book and shares success stories of how the book has positively impacted them and their family.  When readers give you examples of how their kids changed from Red Rant to Green Glory.  So empowering and meaningful that my characters are helping others.

If you could build a super-author consisting of three, living or deceased, authors who would you pick and why?

Carol Dweck – her research has opened the door for new thinking and giving people power over their own lives.

Dan Brown – I love his stories and can never put his books down.  

James S. Hirsch – Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter – I love the strength of the characters and how they brought out so many emotions for me.  I love how a few amazing people helped and positively changed a man’s life with their actions.

Of your invented characters, who would you like to meet for lunch? Why?

Definitely Green Glory!  I would love to hear how it pushes away Red Rant when it’s bullying it.  What works and what doesn’t work to keep Red Rant quiet.

What are you currently working on that’s got you excited?

I am presenting at elementary school assemblies introducing The 12 Cs, Green Glory and Red Rant to students and faculty.  The assembly uses role plays to act out the characters in my book, Green Glory and Red Rant via The 12 Cs.  The goal is for students to leave empowered with new communication tools to help them successfully navigate life’s ups and downs.

Where can we find your books?

The Adventures of Ooga and Zeeta is available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and many other on-line distributors.

Connect with Gretchen on the following social media links:

I would like to thank Gretchen for sharing her thoughts and time with Write on Fight on.


Thanks for reading and since you’re here…

… I have two small favors to ask…

  1. Please check out the author’s social media accounts and help promote the their work.
  2. If you know a published author, I would love to promote their work and feature them on Write on Fight on. Please be awesome and share this post with them. If interested, I can be reached at…writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay

Another Successful College Essay Writing Camp!

 

During the week of July 17th, I facilitated the Write on Fight on College Essay Camp for a great group of rising 12th grade students.

Throughout the week we learned:

  • Why writers should brainstorm like Vin Diesel… Fast &Furious
  • Why, as writers, should always create more content then we actually need
  • How to destroy writer’s block
  • Why writers should always consider the reader’s feelings
  • How to write a scene of conflict
  • How to be a self-aware writer
  • How to captivate your reader with effective verbs
  • How to properly and effectively break the rules of grammar
  • How to become a ruthless editor of your own work
  • How to effectively organize our writing
  • How to write like a storyteller

The next camp is August 7-11. Limited spaces are available.

If you live in or around the central New Jersey area and would like help crafting an effective college essay as well as learning important writing and editing strategies before another school year begins…contact me at writeonfighton@gmail.com