The TCL Blog

Classroom Calendar Connections – November 2020

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The Presidential Election, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving

It has been quite a year, and November is another eventful month. November 3 is the big day – the 2020 presidential election. Chances are, talk about the election and the candidates has spilled into your classroom. Below are some resources to help provide structure and guidance with engaging your students in electi...


The Complexities of Teaching in the Information Age

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What is knowledge and how is it changing?

In school I perceived knowledge as a growing but finite volume. Standards had been set for each subject and a list of skills was assigned to be honed to at least a minimum competency. Literacy, history, math, science and art branched into more specialized subsets as I progressed upward through grade levels. As a college g...


Student Perspectives on Remote Education

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I get tired of having conversations about masks. I got a cool one with the Chicago Cubs emblem that fills me with pride, I wear it everywhere and I feel responsible about it. But the discussion is stale. It's as riveting as a weather review in mid-August or late February. I want to talk about something interesting. My suspicion is that all you teachers are exhausted planning and thinki...


Engaging Online Learners through Gamification

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Ok folks, here we are. I haven't taken the time to verify every state and district, but for the most part you can expect to begin the 2020-2021 school year teaching partially or fully online. Let's have a round of grumbles and then get down to planning. To be fair there probably is a faction that prefers this delivery model, and there is likely another faction that's more astute tea...


What is mindfulness for you?

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Can you remember the last time we patted ourselves on the back as a country? Not something like "Hooray, an American won the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest" (he ate 75 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes last Saturday, ugghh), but when was the last time media, mainstream or social, reported that most Americans are happy and collectively pleased with our status, or the same data for t...


Teacher Appreciation Year

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My brother has four kids, they are all between nine and thirteen, and I think he's going crazy having them home every day. He loves them of course, and gratitude for all the extra time together is given often, but he and his wife both manage businesses and balance home life. Staying on top of four pre-teens and their remote learning isn't something they expected. There are six...


Classroom Calendar Connections - July 2020

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Happy 244th Birthday, America! Provided below are several resources and activities that can be shared with students throughout the month to celebrate our nation and to learn more about the significance of the Fourth of July.

Independence, Illinois; Independence, Wisconsin; Point Independence, Massachusetts; West Independence, Ohio…In the United States, there are at least 30 cit...


Facilitation of Successful Online Learning Experiences: Pointers, Tips & Tricks

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We are all dealing with difficult times in our day-to-day teaching. We’re working harder than before to bring meaningful lessons to life and making sure students are staying engaged and progressing through this unprecedented situation. But let's face it - now that we have done this and as we enter the final weeks of the year many of us recognize the value in incorporating virtual teac...


Co-Teaching with Mother Nature

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“I hear a woodpecker.” “There’s another birch tree, Mommy.” “Look! I found a turkey feather, it’s soft.” These are a few examples of the many daily observations of my 5-year old son, Abe, that fill me with happiness and pride.

It’s been over two months since Abe’s beloved preschool physically closed and since then we'...


Thank You, Educators!

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Although educators like you deserve to be honored and celebrated every single day of the year, the first week of May is designated as Teacher Appreciation Week. Here at TCL, we recognize and appreciate the many roles you play in the lives of students and want to express our gratitude. 

The 2019/20 school year is one we will never forget. So much has changed in our world over the...


Teaching and Learning During COVID-19

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As we begin another week at home adjusting to life with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s heartening to witness the commitment, compassion, and creativity of educators across our nation. 

Within my own community, meals were provided by the school district on day one of the school closures. Educators worked hard to connect with families to check-in and answer questions based on th...


How one Crisis will Change Education Forever

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How will you take advantage?

When educators across the country started back to school in August and September having outlined classroom plans, prepared curriculum maps, planned field trips, auditioned students for plays, musicals, band, and sports they wouldn’t have imagined that in the blink of an eye they would all be out the window. I sure didn’t. ...


Notes from Captain Optimism

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I was looking out my window and watching all these neighborhood folks walking, biking, playing with dogs, shooting hoops, throwing frisbees and smiling and I began considering the benefits of stay-at-home orders.

Typically we post blog articles on Monday mornings but I was grasping for an appropriate theme and utterly flailing. We can't pretend life is business-as-u...


Optimization of Unexpected Time Off

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For some enigmatic cosmic reason I've had four lengthy paid breaks from work since 2016. Being in my late thirties I did my best to embrace the recuperative value at an age when many Americans have to grind through life barreling toward some sort of mid-life crisis.&n...


Multiculturalism in Education

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At fifteen I accepted an exchange program for the duration of my sophomore high school year to a city outside Osaka, Japan. It was tough going but I still feel the positive effects of such a radical perspective change. Least importantly I felt tall, which hadn’t happened before and hasn’t since. I had light skin and blonde hair in a sea of Asian pigments which gave me marginal...


Teacher Recommended: ADHD Classroom Strategies and Resources

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Teacher Recommended: ADHD Classroom Strategies and Resources

From graphic organizers for math to literacy-based yoga exercises, teachers work endlessly to determine ways to help students learn and succeed. Outlined below are valuable resources and strategies to support students with ADHD in the classroom shared by educators in our online course

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  • Book report: Why We Sleep

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    Does anyone else think it odd that squirrels sleep an average of 15.9 hours per day? I guess because they're so hoppy and acutely aware it seems they're awake all the time. It's really a bias to think that animals which are alert must be more often awake and co...


    Classroom Calendar Connections – February 2020

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    100th Day of School – The Actual Date Varies by School Calendars

    Congratulations on making it to the 100th day of school (give or take a few days)! Students of all ages enjoy celebrating this special milestone. (Google “100th day of school activities” and you’ll get nearly 9 million hits!) My former elementary and middle school students seemed...


    PLU now offering Graduate Level Course Credit

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    Faithful patrons,

    We’ve just forged an auspicious partnership with Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) out of Tacoma, WA. PLU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in Education since 1890, and has agreed to offer graduate-level continuing education credits for...


    How ACEs Impact Students in School

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    Julie lived in a small trailer home with her mother, her older brother, and her mother’s boyfriend. (Her father was incarcerated for repeated drug charges.)  I was Julie’s special education case manager and teacher for most of her elementary school years. She and her brother often got themselves up and ready for school every day while their mother (who reportedly suffered from...


    Classroom Calendar Connections – January 2020

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    Martin Luther King Jr. Day

    Martin Luther King Jr. graduated from high school when he was only 15 years old. He earned his Ph.D. when he was 25 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign against racial discrimination at the age of 35. Although his life tragically ended at the young age of 39, his legendary service and teachings continue to influe...


    Featured Teacher of the month Sheri Finklea

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    These articles are meant to spotlight excellent teachers with whom I've had the good fortune to discuss education and their unique perspectives, and yet I so often commit the sin of talking about myself. So here we go again...

    On the path to career piloting many spend time as an FAA Certified Flight Instructor. To earn that certificate you have to learn to teach after having learn...


    The names on our stockings - HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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    Hello teachers,

    Despite having lived 38 years I still have some immaturities to work through. There are a handful of things that I just can't seem to get over, like reality television. In a similar vein I find it pretty odd that we send birthday and ho...


    3 Ways to Prevent Regression for Students During Winter Break

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    When I think about the upcoming winter break, the words rest, relax, and regression come to mind. Regression, in terms of education, is the loss of learned skills or knowledge during lapses of instruction (such as during school breaks). The key is to prevent regression from happening by equipping students with resources and engaging tasks to do outside of school. Outlined belo...


    Classroom Calendar Connections – December 2019

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    December is filled with significant events to be incorporated into the classroom curriculum beyond the traditional holidays that one might typically think of. This article features National Handwashing Awareness Week, National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, and the Winter Solstice.


    National Handwashing Awareness Week - December 1-7
    Computer keyboa...


    American Education Week

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    The history of American Education Week (AEW) dates back to the World War I era when it was discovered that 25% of the draftees were illiterate. Alarmed by this staggering statistic, representatives from the National Education Association (NEA) and the American...


    Classroom Calendar Connections: November 2019 - Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving

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    “In November, some birds move away, and some birds stay.
    The air is full of good-byes and well-wishes.” – Cynthia Rylant

    Happy November, Educators! I have a well-worn/loved copy of In November by Cynthia Rylant sitting on my bookshelf ready for its favorite month. If you don’t have your own copy, you and your students can listen and wat...


    Tips for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences - Before, During and After

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    Parent-teacher conferences can be a great opportunity for meaningful conversations about how students can reach their full potential in school. To help ensure meetings are positive and productive for everyone involved, below are a few tips to consider before, after, and during conferences.


    Before the Conferences

    When scheduling conferences, try to of...


    Classroom Calendar Connections – October 2019

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    National Bullying Prevention Awareness, Fire Prevention Week, ADHD Awareness, Dyslexia Awareness, and so much more! October is a busy month, full of valuable learning opportunities for students and educators. Provided below are some note-worthy resources and activities to recognize a few of the many events this month.

    National Bullying Prevention Awareness
    The first Monday of e...


    Classroom Calendar Connections – September 2019

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    For many educators and students, September is the first full month of the new school year. It’s a busy month as we transition from summer to fall and get acquainted with a new group of students. Provided below are some ideas to bring a few of the significant events of September into the classroom.

    National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

    Septem...


    Tried and True First Day of School Activities in the Classroom

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    Google the words ‘first day of school activities in the classroom’ and you will discover nearly two BILLION results. Thanks, but no thanks, Google - we don’t have time to weed through all that! Provided below are some tried and true activities your fellow educators have shared for all grade levels.
     

    Play Games

    Paul, a high scho...


    5 Back-to-School Reminders for Educators

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    Although August has a sneaky way of suddenly showing up, I’m sure you don’t need any reminders that it’s almost time to go back to school. However, hopefully these five friendly reminders will help you start 2019/20 on a positive note.
     

    Reminder #1: “You can do anything, but not everything.” -David Allen

    Last fall I...


    Featured Teacher Meghan Lanouette - August 2019

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    In each conversation I’m noticing a similar pattern, which is somewhat attributable to the line of questioning:

    Why did you become a teacher?

    I've known for a long time that I wanted to work with kids.

    Why did you become the kind of teacher you are?

    Well I just sort of arrived there.

    How did that happen?

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  • Weaving Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) into Your Teaching Practices

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    My grandmother, a former teacher, recently passed away (July 11, 2019) - living a full and active life of 105 years. She was my inspiration for becoming a teacher, and we had a countless number of conversations about teaching and how things have changed from then to now. (She taught in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Wisconsin in the 1930s and 194...


    Journaling this Summer and Beyond

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    Mindfulness, emotional intelligence, achieving goals, communication, healing, creativity, the list goes on and on. There is a plethora of surprising benefits associated with journaling for people of all ages.

    Perhaps you’re looking for a healthy way to manage stress associated with the demands of your job. Maybe you’d like to devote some time this summer for reflecting on...


    Featured Teacher Karlee Hunt - July 2019

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    Karlee Hunt has taught the third graders at Little Elementary in the Denver suburb of Arvada, CO for four years. The school is named for John R. Little, who neither of us know much about, but it’s also actually somewhat little and even shrunk a bit last year. The district opted to move sixth grade students and teachers into middle school. Change is stressful but necessary for evoluti...


    Developing and Maintaining a Growth Mindset

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    Almost 2 years ago, my family and I moved from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota to a rural part of western Wisconsin. After some training, practice, and several mistakes, I learned how to use a snowblower and a lawn tractor (allowing me to do my part of maintaining the acres of land we now owned). Before then, I never thought about learning how to operate those machines - I didn’t think I...


    Featured Teacher Tammy Johnson - June 2019

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    Tammy originally wanted to teach history, but there were no vacancies. In preparation for the open position in Special Education, she completed two post-secondary courses and dove into an unexpected passion. She didn’t rate it out loud to me, as such, but she is so obviously into teaching, and improving at teaching, and succeeding at teaching, and candidly offering her affinity for teachi...


    Activities to Commemorate Memorial Day in the Classroom

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    Memorial Day presents unique learning opportunities for students at all grade levels. Officially enacted by Congress in 1971, Memorial Day is a somber national holiday held on the last Monday of May every year. (This year Memorial Day is on May 27, 2019.) It is a holiday intended to honor and remember fallen veterans of the United States.

    Below are several ways you and your students c...


    Thank you, Educators – We Appreciate You!

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    For opening your classroom doors every day and unlocking students’ potential – we thank you.

    For sharing your wisdom with students while they share their germs with you - we thank you.

    From teaching students how to compute complex math equations to showing them that they count – we thank you.

    For awakening hearts and inspiring minds – we tha...


    Maintaining Student Engagement in the Spring

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    The birds are chirping as I type, the grass is turning green, the sunsets are even more spectacular than usual - spring is here! It’s a wonderful time of the year but maintaining students’ attention can be extra challenging for teachers when competing with sunny blue skies, complete with temperatures in the low 70s. We have a few ideas to help you celebrate springtime with students...


    Teaching and Gardening: Providing Conditions for Growth

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    According to the calendar hanging on my refrigerator, spring has begun! (Although snow and ice still cover the ground here in Wisconsin, I have faith that I will be able to gather my gardening tools and start planting my favorite fruits, vegetables, and flowers soon.)

    Just like teaching, gardening requires patience, problem-solving, and perseverance. Gardeners nurture their crops...


    Trust, Safety, Challenge, and Joy: Fostering a Classroom Culture Ideal for Collaboration

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    As teachers we’re encouraged to work together and share expertise, energy, and inspiration with the common goal of increasing student engagement and success in our schools. Research supports benefits associated with teacher collaboration including more creative and meaningful lesson plans, shared responsibility for student achievement, improved staff morale/career satisfaction, and an inc...


    Brain-Based Learning in the Classroom

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    Your brain is 73% water. Even mild dehydration can affect attention, memory and other cognitive skills. (Drink plenty of water!)

    The human brain doesn’t reach full maturity until around the age of 25 years. (That explains a lot.)

    It is estimated that the brain’s memory capacity is one quadrillion bytes - which is about the equivalent of the storage space of the e...


    March is National Women’s History Month: 5 Activities to Celebrate in the Classroom

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    Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks - the history of the United States is comprised of inspiring and intriguing women. March is National Women’s History month. We’ve put together five activities to help you and your students honor and learn more about the notable women of our past and present.

    100 Years of Incredible Women
    The first female...


    Heart Mapping: A Prewriting Activity for Valentine’s Day and Beyond

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    My trip to Southern Germany with my husband, the smell of homemade cinnamon rolls baking in the oven at my Grandma’s house, taking my dog to the beach in San Diego, my two little boys, reading good books – I love writing about the people, places, things, and memories closest to my heart. With Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s a great time to give students the opportunity to...


    Social and Emotional Learning Part 4 of 5: 5 Strategies to Improve Relationship Skills in the Classroom

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    Maintaining friendships, asking for help, working cooperatively, etc. - interpersonal skills are a critical component of the development of children. When students demonstrate strong relationship skills, instructional time increases while conflicts, arguing, and fighting decreases. Class cohesion increases self-confidence among students as they help one another and interact positively with adul...


    Social and Emotional Learning- Part 1 of 5: Self-Management Strategies in the Classroom

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    Happy 2019! Are you staying on track with your New Year’s resolutions? As I type, I have a large glass of water next to my mouse, and I am resisting the strong temptation of the remaining Christmas cookies and other holiday goodies in my pantry. After all, this blog post is about self-management, so I’m trying to practice what I preach.

    As defined by the Collaborative for...


    5 Priceless Gifts for Students

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    Billions of dollars were spent by shoppers in the United States over the Thanksgiving weekend. The packages that arrived on my front porch - practically before the pumpkin pie was served - was evidence that I was one of the millions of online consumers wrapped up in the Black Friday/Cyber Monday frenzy.

    Upon reflection, I soon realized all the toys and other gifts that I so badly ...


    Building Lifelong Readers with Independent Reading Strategies

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    Happy wintertime! What better way to spend the cold, dark days than cozied up with a book, complete with a blanket and a kitty on your lap? The warmth a good book brings to the soul is significant, and there are numerous additional benefits of reading – mental stimulation, increased concentration, stronger writing skills, improved analytical skills, knowledge, entertainment…the lis...


    Making a Difference for Students Living in Poverty

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    Here in the United States, 41% of children under of the age of 18 years are part of low-income or poor families. According to the 2016 federal poverty threshold statistics, a family of four (2 parents and 2 children) with a household income of $48,678 or less is considered low-income, while a family of four earning $24,339 or less is considered poor.

    Childhood poverty can impact stude...


    Putting Students at the Center of their Learning

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    Sixth grader, Tanner, runs a business with his classmates called LDInk. Inspired by patterns found on common, everyday objects such as manhole covers, they creatively design and sell t-shirts and tote bags. LDInk is complete with a budgeting department, a marketing team, and a communication department. Students work together to determine profits a...


    Bullying or Conflict?

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    Several years ago, I found myself (a special education teacher) in a meeting involving the principal, the director of special education, the school psychologist, a second-grade teacher, two concerned parents, and even the district superintendent.

    A second-grade student on my special education caseload reported to his parents that he was “bullied” by another student in his...


    RTI 101: Think Progress

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    So often I would groan when the topic of Response to Intervention (RTI) was mentioned - mainly because I didn’t fully understand the process. It turns out it’s not so complicated when you think of RTI as working toward and measuring the progress of students.

    The RTI Action Network best ex...


    Creating a Chromebook Classroom: Chromebook Expectations

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    As I begin to share my journey with you regarding the implementation of Chromebooks into my classroom, I will start with the basics because that is where we always start when it comes to introducing anything new in an elementary classroom. I set clear expectations for how my students use the Chromebooks just like I set clear expectations for my students and how they conduct themselves in my cla...


    1st Steps in Creating a Chromebook Classroom

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               What teacher wouldn’t love a class set of laptops? Engaging students with online content, differentiating instruction, and saving time by not having to make copies are just a few of the things that more technology in the classroom allows a teacher. I have the great privilege of being a part of a pilot program within my school district that has...


    Activities to Celebrate Fall in Your Classroom

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    Your local farmer’s market is bustling, pumpkin spice is featured on every menu, mums greet us at doorsteps…fall is here, and it’s time to celebrate with students!

    As an elementary teacher, I usually got the party started with picking up a few small pumpkins in mid-September for my students to hold and admire, which sparked interest and excitement for this special t...


    Functional Behavior Assessment: The Plan for Positive Behavior

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    Sarah punched a student on the bus this morning. What’s the plan? Luke is disrupting the whole class. What’s the plan? Raul is refusing to take his algebra test. What’s the plan? As a special education teacher, it seemed every student on my caseload with behavioral concerns had a plan in place. Sometimes the plan was as simple as a phone call home. S...


    Functional Behavior Assessment: The Whys of Problem Behaviors

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    When my son became mobile, we installed a baby gate in our living room at the top of the staircase leading to the basement. Late that same night, our cat – Little Miss – woke my husband and me up with loud, persistent meowing in our faces. (Those were the blurry-eyed days of our baby still not sleeping through the night, making every minute of sleep vital.) I love Little Miss, but m...


    Promoting Positive Behaviors: There’s a Children’s Book for That

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    When working with students on kindness, empathy, friendship, and other positive behaviors, sometimes the characters from children’s stories say it best:

    “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” -The Lion and the Mouse

    “If you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew.” -Pocahontas

    &ldq...


    Addressing Back-to-School Anxiety: An Interview with a Veteran School Psychologist

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    As a teacher with summers “off”, August has always felt like a long Sunday. June is the excitement of a Friday with the whole weekend ahead. July is a Saturday with plenty of time to relax, reconnect with old friends, explore new places, and maybe catch up on DIY projects at home. As the calendar flips to August, however, the realization of - and the anxiety associated with - return...


    Have you Read any Good Books Lately?

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    Summer Reading Recommendations from Teachers

    Whether on the beach or at a coffee shop, for many teachers, summer is an ideal time to catch up on reading for pleasure. There are an infinite number of great titles out there, sometimes it’s hard to choose. To narrow down all the choices, I asked my teacher friends from around the U.S. (including Wisconsin, Minnesot...


    Integrating STEAM into your Curriculum

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    If you have been a teacher for any length of time, you have more than likely heard of STEM in regards to instructional methodology. Like any other new or trendy learning system or instructional method, teachers can be intimidated by the STEM acronym because they simply don’t know enough about it. The Connecting Link offers a course titled Integrating STEAM into your Curriculum. N...


    3 Creative Ways for Learning Students’ Names This Fall

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    “Sorry, I’m terrible with names,” is an apology you might often hear (or say).  Since I started teaching, I’ve gotten better with remembering names by simply being more mindful when introductions are made and repeating names aloud or inside my head a couple of times. I’m still far from perfect, though.

    This fall many of you will be facing a whole new...


    3 Teaching Practices of the 1930s Reimagined: Using Technology in the Classroom

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    My grandma, Florence, was born in 1914 – years before the spiral notebook was invented, decades before the ballpoint pen began exploding in our pockets, and nearly a century before the Apple iPad hit store shelves. Remarkably, today-at the age of 104 years old-Grandma Florence has been using her own iPad for emailing, Facetiming, and Googling for the past four years.

    Grandma Flo...


    Four Methods for Rethinking Discipline

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    “That’s incorrect, Johnny. T-h-e-i-r is a possessive pronoun; T-h-e-r-e refers to a place; and T-h-e-y-’-r-e is a contraction. This is your final warning – if you get it wrong again, you’re going to the principal’s office.”

    Okay…now that I have your attention – of course we wouldn’t punish a studen...


    Gold Medal Methods to Manage ADHD Symptoms

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    Hyper-active, never stops talking, has a ton of energy, inability to sit still, talks excessively, nudging other kids…these were words used to describe Michael Phelps’ behavior, an Olympic gold-medalist swimmer, during his preschool and elementary school years. Perhaps he was bored in school? Maybe he was just an immature boy?

    At the age of nine, when his symptoms continu...


    The Connecting Link Announces Partnership with Seattle Pacific University

    Seattle Pacific University’s Center for Professional Education announces today that they have entered a partnership arrangement with a nationally recognized professional development provider, The Connecting Link. Both entities share similar values and goals including a commitment to enhancing lifelong learning.

    The Connecting Link was founded in 1981 with the mission of offering...


    Create an Enrichment Experience in your own Classroom: Part 1

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    Gain a deeper understanding of forecasting the weather. Go on a trek through the Arctic Tundra. Learn about STEM careers in the United States Navy on board the USS Nimitz. All of these things are possible without even leaving the classroom through the use of Virtual Field Trips (VFTs)!

    Teachers are often faced with figuring out just how to engage their students throughout the 180-day...


    Preparing to Handle LGBTQ Issues in Your Classroom

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    As an educator, do I have a personal agenda in addressing the LGBTQ issues in our classrooms and lives?

    Yes.

    Let me share the “why” of my answer.

    I have two brothers. We three siblings grew up in the same Judeo-Christian family. Today one brother lives with his wife and has raised his kids. The other brother lives with his partner and has raised his kid...


    Mindfulness: From Ancient Wisdom to Modern Classroom

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    Imagine coming to your neighborhood middle school one morning to find three dead bodies dumped in the schoolyard. This is exactly what students experienced one morning when coming to Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco.

    As shocking as this might sound, the children at Visitacion were used to murder. Barry O’Driscoll, the school’s head of physical education (PE...