The Taming of My Inner Troll

I will admit I did the most scary and freeing thing professionally in a long time.  Here’s what I did-I shared my inner troll with my principal.  What is a troll, Seth Godin described it very similar to an internet troll.  


My troll has been getting pretty big.  On the day of my successful EdCamp, my troll rattled my cage so much that I wasn’t focusing on the success.  I had evidence of the success, but my troll wanted to me to focus on some insignificant details.

So what did I admit?  I said aloud that I do not have the skills in behavior that another on our staff had.  Monroe has blessed with a brilliant behavior interventionist.  She knows what to say and do to have students become successful.  I was struggling with my role in the system.

What my principal did next is what made it ok.  First he did not dismiss my issue, but he didn’t agree with it either.  He asked some probing questions for me to assess what I needed.  So then we came up with goals for me.  He knows me well enough to know that I am goal-oriented so we wrote a plan on the board.  Throughout this discussion, he shared some of my strengths.  Below is the goals I am working on behaviorally.


Then we went on a home visit with one of our most at-risk families.  Mom, TJ and I developed a plan to help her and her children.  I left last night feeling accomplished and the troll became mighty tiny that night.

Through this experience, my principal knows my troll and will continue to provide me with professional development I need to continue to be successful.  Also, today I approached my colleague with respect, but completely aware of my role and her role in the school.

I continue to watch and learn how my principal handles issues.  So: the big take-aways

  • A principal creates culture that allows teachers to quiet their trolls.
  • Saying aloud my insecurities makes them seem trivial.
  • Not trivializing another person’s insecurity shows that you value the person.
  • Knowledge makes me feel more powerful.


EdCamp Monroe-The Results

Wow!  Words can’t express how amazing Monday was.  I knew I worked with an amazing staff, but Monday  was a huge reminder of how great they are.

On Monday, EdCamp came to Monroe.  I was so excited that I felt like a kid at Christmas.  Teachers came nervous and excited.  As people arrived, they grabbed some breakfast and a Chromebook.  The most teachers have never used a Chromebook so this was already new learning.  I let the teachers work together to log on and figure out what to do.  I did this to create an atmosphere of teamwork and shift how PD is usually given.  During this time we created our agenda on Drive.  This also was new learning for our teachers.

Below is the agenda we created:


Time IMC Location #2 Location #3 Location #4
8-8:20AM Discussion Leader Sign-up/Chromebook use Everyone
8:20-8:35AM Session Groundrules / Q & A Everyone
8:35-9:10AM Session #1 Planned teaching-TJ Google Drive

Rm 22


Tier II

Rm 36


SmartBoard 101 Rm11 Wild
9:15-9:40AM Session # 2 Planned teaching-TJ SmartBoard Advanced-

Rm 3 Reller

Reading Mastery

Rm 2 Lampe

Math Small groups  Rm 24 Foley


Session # 3 Planned teaching-TJ Excel/Google Sheets-

Rm 3 Reller

Positive and Negative

consequences Rm 36


Time management-for independent reading/Data notebooks

Rm 27 Holliday

10:25-11:00AM Take aways & Ah-has! Everyone

During the sessions, notes were taken by various people.  I know that I encouraged people that can be quiet to take notes so I could see there thinking.

One of my favorite things, I heard was my principal share his go to for de-escalating a student using Boys Town:

3 Things that work me-

  • Empathy-I can see that you are upset
  • Coupling Statements-You are standing and you need to sit down.
  • Cool Down– I will give you a minute

When we re-entered the library after the mini-sessions, conversations continued and expanded.  Teachers were inspired by each other and were planning next steps.

We had some organized shout-outs about what was learned and kudos to facilitators.  We completed the surveys and left.

Here are some of the selected results from the survey:

What did you like about it?

  • like the shared notes that we can see. Also, if I have a question I can send it out to the school and everyone could be able to help me.
  • A lot of good ideas from co-workers!
  • I liked the choice. Good options. There never seems to be enough time to collaborate with peers. It was nice to have that.
  • I loved all the choices and that we were able to choose our classes according to our needs. I would LOVE to spend another PD like this.


What are your next steps:

  • I am going to review planned teaching.  I am going to make sure to review corrective teaching to ensure I am doing it correctly. I am going to implement new positive consequences for different groups and ensure that I am not using cost response because taking away has negative effects on some students.
  • Collecting more data on my Reading Mastery students and continuing to improve the way I use Boystown.
  • using Google docs more – uploading documents that I already have created and putting them in Google docs so I can easily access them from home

This experience reminded me of a conversation that I had with my principal. He said that sometimes we can hold a classroom hostage.  A teacher stands a lectures and does not release the knowledge to the student.  I think we often do this in PD.  We hold a group of teachers hostage and do not let them work with the knowledge.  EdCamp empowered our teachers to be in charge of their learning.  Our upcoming Wednesday PD will use a similar format and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Thanks to everyone who has done this before and shared their experiences.

Random Acts of Kindness Week

Last week was Random Acts of Kindness Week. Read about it here. My school counselor and I both took on this week without consulting with each, and it proved to be amazing. Here are the things I know the school counselor did:

  • She gave every teacher a pet rock on Monday because we rock.  I saw them sitting on so many desks this week.
  • She gave every student a piece of candy first thing in the morning on Wednesday. She told each one that she is glad they are here.  It was so much fun to watch the look of surprise on the students’ faces.
  • She and group of girls made nice notes to stick on lockers to encourage students throughout the school.
  • She placed these tearsheets in bathrooms, the parents’ room, and the teacher’s lounge.

4763920680_c5bed67d0a_b You can get your own here. I saw so much joy in her as well as the students and teachers throughout the building.  I can’t wait to see what she thinks up next year.

Here are some of the things that I did:

When covering a class for a teacher, I taught a mini-lesson about kindness.  We talked about how we feel when someone is kind to us and how it feels to be kind to other.  Each student made a plan for kindness during the week.  They recorded it like this: kindness I encouraged students to keep me informed of how their plan was working out.  It was amazing to hear how they were kind this week.

I also created opportunities for my highest needs kids to spend time doing something kind for the school.  The teachers loved the notes that they wrote and the kind things they did. It was so much fun to watch students reach out to teachers in a kind way.

My favorite thing I did was create opportunities for teachers and staff to celebrate kindness.  Here is the note that I sent out:

This week is Random Acts of Kindness week.  To celebrate this week, I have made hearts with the phrase “A random act of kindness was done in your name.”  These are in a bowl in the lounge.  When you perform an act of kindness this week, grab a heart and give to another staff member to know that kindness happens.  If you want to jot what you did on the back, feel free or leave it blank.  When you receive a heart, post it so others know that kindness is occurring throughout the school.

You should have seen the pink hearts that filled the school.  To me, it seemed that more students and staff were smiling.  That week seemed full of hope even though winter is in full swing.

EdCamp comes to Monroe Monday!


I have been so inspired by the EdCamp movement so…I convinced my principal that we should use the morning for EdCamp Monroe.  Actually, I asked and he said “Yes!”  Have I mentioned that my principal is awesome because he allows me to try new things?

I jumped in with both feet reading amazing blog posts about how to in school.  I modeled our EdCamp after Joe Mazza and Christopher Wooleyhand.  Here is Joe’s post and here is Christopher’s post.

With my principal, we developed the 3 areas of focus: Boys Town Well-Managed Classroom, Academics; and Technology.  So I sent an Google Form to the faculty asking about what they wanted to learn more about.  On Friday, I shared our agenda via Google Docs.  Here it is below:

Time IMC Location #2 Location #3 Location #4
8-8:20AM Discussion Leader Sign-up/Chromebook use Everyone
8:20-8:35AM Session Groundrules / Q & A Everyone
8:35-9:10AM Session #1 Planned teaching-TJ
9:15-9:40AM Session # 2 Planned teaching-TJ
9:45-10:20AM Session # 3 Planned teaching-TJ
10:25-11:00AM Take aways & Ah-has! Everyone

Everyone will attend one of TJ’s session.  This is a replacement for Wednesday’s meeting.  The other choices are yours.  If you might want to help with discussions, begin thinking about what you have to offer on these topics.

Other Possible Topics:

  • Smartboards 101
  • Smartboards Advanced
  • Tier II plans
  • Excel/Google Sheets
  • Reading Mastery
  • Math Facts
  • Math Small groups
  • Collaborative Structures in math and reading
  • Independent work
  • Time management-for independent reading/Data notebooks
  • Treasures
  • Positive and negative consequences

As teachers eat some amazing breakfast pizza, they will log on to Chromebooks and sign-up to be discussion leaders.  We already have a folder on Drive to add notes and to backchannel communicate.

At the end, I will send out a survey with these key questions:

  1. What did you like about our EdCamp?
  2. What are your next steps based on what you learned?
  3. What are suggestions for a future EdCamp?

The morning will be full of new learning for all of us.  I can’t wait to share what I learned from the brilliant people that work with me.  Hopefully, I will be able to sleep tonight!

Struggle, it is always a good thing?

I am going to let you in on a little secret.  I love my Sunday mornings.  I get up at 6ish, climb downstairs, make coffee and do the paperwork required by my job.  As I work, I listen to Public Radio. Last Sunday morning was perfect. The snow was falling, my house pretty much quiet and I am in the zone of paperwork.  Then this line hit me like a ton of bricks:


Brene Brown went on to say:

“And I don’t think our job as parents is to make everything right and perfect and beautiful and true. I think our job is, during struggle, to look at our kids and say, yeah, this is hard and this is tough and you’re hurt.”

I have spent the last week thinking about this.  I can handle this idea as a parent.  The next day, I watched as my son struggled to climb a huge snow pile.  The small struggles my kids face are training grounds for the bigger struggles that life will hold.  As hard as it is not to step in, I know I am being a good parent not to fix everything.

In my professional life, this idea of letting others struggle is hard.  In my job, I see students figuring out how to tell time, new teachers finding their voice, students figuring out how to pay attention while hurting inside and parents struggling to help their kids to be successful even though they have a lot to worry about.  I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two types of struggles that occur at my school: Learning Struggles and Struggles that need interventions

Learning struggles are important for the development of character and help cement the learning.  I feel that when students are learning something new they need to try to figure it out with proper support.  I also feel that as teachers, we need to try new things and model how we approach struggle with our students.  If we do this, then students will have skill they need to be successful.

The other group of struggles are harder.  These struggles are directly related to poverty.  In US schools, poor children are the majority.  The student who struggles with the lack of clean underwear.  Does she sneak to the nurse without permission so can steal clean underwear or stay in the class and focus on reading with dirty underwear?  The student who has been dropped off at a relative and the parent never calls or explains why.  The student who arrives at school with moldy clothes.  Parents spend their energy to find food and shelter for their family so other things fall away.

When I see these struggles, I do not stand back and let them struggle.  I step in and provide students what they need.  My school does that.  More underwear is bought and the student knows that she can ask the nurse for some.  Clean clothes and shoes are always available.  Teachers keep healthy snacks in their classroom.  We have a food pantry and a weekend food program.  We rely on volunteers to mentor children.  The PE teacher runs a little league program for our students.  I have watched my principal create a safe space for our students to struggle with learning and life, just like my two sweet kids.  I hope that every school addresses the poverty issue because it stops kids from being kids.