Thursday, February 27, 2014

Running it Out

This week I got to run with two of my classes as they did the mile challenge in P.E. I love every minute...getting to encourage my kiddos, getting in a workout at planning time, and the sweats to work part it's bad either!!

Sweet students were so excited that I ran with them that they started a standing ovation when I walked in!

So proud of them!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to Tell Your Students You're Engaged :)

Hey followers, I am so excited to share some news with you!  I am engaged!

Brian is a wonderful man who encourages, supports, and loves me well.  And on my birthday he proposed before our run!

We have spent the days since getting to tell our news to loved in ones in lots of fun ways.  I was especially excited to tell my students!  I even looked on Pinterest for fun ideas, but wasn't having any luck.  So after I few ideas including having one of my ATP's call me Mrs. Whitling in front of the students, giving out Ring Pops, and bringing Brian in for "Show and Tell," I thought of the idea of having HIM write a letter to tell my students.  (Of course, Brian 'loved' getting his first writing assignment from me!  Ha!).  Letter writing is big not only with Brian and I, but also goes so well with my love of writing that I also try to foster in students.

He did an awesome job and it was SO fun to read to my students and see their reactions.  So here it is for you to read!

Dear Team Character:

You might not know me, but I have heard a lot about all of you.  My name is Brian. I work in finance and grew up in St. Mary’s, Ohio, just like Mrs. Gasson.  I came to Cincinnati and graduated from the University of Cincinnati.  One summer I worked at Kings Island at the Vortex.  Some of my favorite things are running, Chipotle, macaroni & cheese, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. And while there are many things that I love, most especially, I love Ms. Sheets. 
I met Ms. Sheets through Mrs. Kanzeg and fell in love with her.  She has a delightful smile & personality.  She is a fellow marathon runner & has a lot of the same interests as me.  She enjoys a good book, the company of friends, and cooking.  She can be quite the poet and has some sweet dance moves.
And I wanted to tell you that if you see her in the hall next year after her birthday, you will have to call her Mrs. Whitling.  That’s because I proposed to her on her birthday and she said yes!  Thanks for letting me introduce myself and for being a part of this fun time.

Have a wonderful day,
Brian Whitling

**Update:  I just HAD to add one sweet student's email back to me.  Talk about a bucket filler!

HI! I wanted to congratulate you on your engagement.  I am very happy for you. 

You are a great teacher and you always make school fun. I hope you had a great birthday[what a great surprise].  Always remember what a great teacher you are and that you bring a smile to everyone.

Thank you for teaching me. I cant wait for the rest of the year but dont ever want to leave your class.  Keep on running  its so much fun!

Don't forget you have the best dance moves, you are very pretty, you have a bauetifal ring and I have the best teacher.<3

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Revision Review

The revision glasses are out again!  Check out my post here for the original idea.  It's a wonder, I tell ya!  Makes them even 'like' the revision checklist I give them because it means a chance to dress up!

Double glasses!
Almost done with our argument essays!  Phew!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Double Stuffed Paragraphs

My sweet teaching friend Amanda is an all-around rock star. (You may remember her post this summer on our Careers Unit.) I am big time blessed to work with her and steal borrow her ideas often.  One of my recent favs was the idea of "Double Stuffed" Paragraphs for our argument essays.  Check it out here (and sign up to follow her blog, My Shoe String Life, while you're at it!)

My Shoe String Life

Any time you can have Oreo cookies and call it 'writing class' is a good time, right?!  This simple acronym made a BIG impact on my students' work. Thanks, Amanda!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Share This With All the Schools

A dear teacher friend of mine sent me an article last week.  I keep thinking about it, so I thought it would be valuable to share here.  It is from mom blogger Glennon Doyle Melton of


Let me know what you think and how you might be using similar strategies in your classroom.  It definitely makes me want to use something like it, even if less formal.  And if nothing else, it inspires me to remember how important the job of teaching really is.

A few weeks ago, I went into Chase's [her son] class for tutoring.
I’d emailed Chase’s teacher one evening and said, “Chase keeps telling me that this stuff you’re sending home is math – but I’m not sure I believe him. Help, please.” She emailed right back and said, “No problem! I can tutor Chase after school anytime.” And I said, “No, not him. Me. He gets it. Help me.” And that’s how I ended up standing at a chalkboard in an empty fifth grade classroom staring at rows of shapes that Chase’s teacher kept referring to as “numbers.”
I stood a little shakily at the chalkboard while Chase’s teacher sat behind me, perched on her desk, using a soothing voice to try to help me understand the “new way we teach long division.”  Luckily for me, I didn’t have to unlearn much because I never really understood the “old way we taught long division.” It took me a solid hour to complete one problem, but l could tell that Chase’s teacher liked me anyway. She used to work with NASA, so obviously we have a whole lot in common.
Afterwards, we sat for a few minutes and talked about teaching children and what a sacred trust and responsibility it is. We agreed that subjects like math and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom. We talked about shaping little hearts to become contributors to a larger  community – and we discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of individuals who are Kind and Brave above all.
And then she told me this.
Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.
And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, Chase’s teacher takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her and studies them. She looks for patterns.
Who is not getting requested by anyone else?
Who doesn’t even know who to request?
Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?
Who had a million friends last week and none this week?
You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down- right away- who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.
As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children – I think that this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students. It is like mining for gold – the gold being those little ones who need a little help – who need adults to step in and TEACH them how to make friends, how to ask others to play, how to join a group, or how to share their gifts with others. And it’s a bully deterrent because every teacher knows that bullying usually happens outside of her eyeshot –  and that often kids being bullied are too intimidated to share. But as she said – the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets of paper.
As Chase’s teacher explained this simple, ingenious idea – I stared at her with my mouth hanging open. “How long have you been using this system?” I said.
Ever since Columbine, she said.  Every single Friday afternoon since Columbine.
Good Lord.
This brilliant woman watched Columbine knowing that ALL VIOLENCE BEGINS WITH DISCONNECTION. All outward violence begins as inner loneliness. She watched that tragedy KNOWING that children who aren’t being noticed will eventually resort to being noticed by any means necessary.
And so she decided to start fighting violence early and often, and with the world within her reach. What Chase’s teacher is doing when she sits in her empty classroom studying those lists written with shaky 11 year old hands  - is SAVING LIVES. I am convinced of it. She is saving lives.
And what this mathematician has learned while using this system is something she really already knew: that everything – even love, even belonging – has a pattern to it. And she finds those patterns through those lists – she breaks the codes of disconnection. And then she gets lonely kids the help they need. It’s math to her. It’s MATH.
All is love- even math.  Amazing.
Chase’s teacher retires this year –  after decades of saving lives. What a way to spend a life: looking for patterns of love and loneliness. Stepping in, every single day-  and altering the trajectory of our world.
TEACH ON, WARRIORS. You are the first responders, the front line, the disconnection detectives, and the best and ONLY hope we’ve got for a better world. What you do in those classrooms when no one  is watching-  it’s our best hope.
Teachers- you’ve got a million parents behind you whispering together: “We don’t care about the damn standardized tests. We only care that you teach our children to be Brave and Kind. And we thank you. We thank you for saving lives.”
Love – All of Us

Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR