10 Nontraditional Gift Ideas for Teachers

sel + wellness Feb 09, 2021

Teachers need a little love.

I think we all know that. Whether they are trying to get kindergarteners to unmute themselves on a virtual learning call or spending their weekends learning the newest trend in education, teachers are working hard to make sure our kids are safe, loved, and learning.

If you are anything like me, sometimes words just don’t seem like enough. 

We all know the old saying that 'actions speak louder than words,' and for a teacher, a well-timed gift is unexpected, greatly appreciated, and sometimes (if I'm being totally honest) even tear-inducing!

If you want to show your teachers extra appreciation by getting them a little something-something, you can definitely stick with the go-tos and get a gift card for coffee, but if you made it this far, maybe you are considering going with a nontraditional route. 

10 Nontraditional Gift Ideas for Teachers

1| Custom ‘Word’ Jewelry from Myintent.org

Usually, you would buy one of these bracelets,...

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Secondary Teacher's Checklist for Planning in Unprecedented Times: 12 questions to ask as you prepare for a new year

foundational pedagogy Jul 09, 2020

Use this teacher's checklist to make sure you (and your instructional units!) are prepared for this unprecedented school year.

This is going to sting a bit when I say it: we talk a lot in education, but rarely do we keep pace with our walk.

Classrooms are quick to claim 'student-centered', but with the mounting pressures of standardized assessment, our dreams of student-voice and choice get deferred by compliance-based systems.

Schools wear 1:1 tech capabilities like a badge of honor, but when COVID-19 struck, teachers were positively paralyzed in a digital sea of 'what to do?'.

And while plenty of campus mission statements ooze with 'college and career' -ready promises, the truth is, most students are groomed exclusively for a college-bound path, leaving practical skills and application to sit on the sidelines of our curriculum.

In short, instruction in today’s schools is far from optimized.

But there's hope yet, friends.

Many have said that 2020 would be the Year of...

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Your 2020 Classroom Library: creating equity and belonging in your classroom and on your bookshelves

A classroom library is a special place, and each book on its shelves should be chosen carefully with intent and purpose.

Not long ago, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) began an initiative to both encourage professional growth + development and build classroom libraries. Hence, 'Build Your Stack' was born.

Lucky for our learners, it also happens to be an excellent opportunity to build *diversity* in our bookshelves as well.

(For any given student, when they view our text selections, these should call to them: 'Yes, you can sit here.' And while this has *always* been a need, it needs to become a priority.)

Every summer, I skip my happy self to Barnes & Noble and get lost on the shelves. I arrive back home with a gang of new books to fill my summer, color my year, and build my classroom library. A longstanding ritual, and my own version of Build Your Stack, I suppose.

So the next logical step?

It's time to SHARE my stack, of course!

This year,...

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8 Ted Talks for Teachers to Watch (Before You Start Lesson Planning)

This post contains 8 of the best Ted Talks all teachers should watch for motivation, inspiration, and ideas to develop student passions for and interests in learning.

I could watch it again and again.

Granted, Sir Ken Robinson's TED Talk is *the* most-watched global speech of all time, but he never fails to blow my mind.

So let's start with why that is (and I'll keep it simple):

The guy is a creativity *ninja*.

(Right now the 16-year-old, know-it-all version of me is wondering where that career was on my college majors list, but I digress). 

As a Creativity Expert, Sir Ken has made it his mission in life to challenge the way we educate kids.

That is a mission I can get behind.

Now, if you don’t know Sir Ken Robinson, then you have yet watch *the* most watched TED Talks of all time, and a brilliant one for teachers, indeed: “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” 

Amidst his wit and humor, Sir Ken lays it all out there: 

“All kids...

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Rethinking Routine in the Secondary Classroom

What kind of habits or routines do you traditionally establish in your classrooms? How linked are these with the big picture success you envision for your learners?

In this session, we'll talk about creating daily classroom routines that translate into the kind of lifelong habits our students need to achieve any goal they set.

Like anyone else, our students' success depends on the habits they build over time. But there's no such class in the school curriculum called The Art of Habit-Building or Habitual Literacy 101.

And while it might feel like teaching them good habits is their parents' job, or that of a life coach, a therapist (or a unicorn, for that matter), it actually IS our job, and here's why..

  1. Habits make goals happen.
  2. Habits define our character.


We are both in the business of helping our students achieve their goals AND responsible for shaping their character while they're in our care.

So what can we do to legitimately build strong habits with our...

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5 Lessons Teachers Can Learn from Teaching through a Global Pandemic

pedagogy sel + wellness May 04, 2020

In the thick of a global pandemic, where much of our instruction has migrated online, there are plenty of days where you've likely felt like this whole online teaching gig is simply *not* part of your calling.

And just when that feeling is at its height and breaking point: school gets cancelled for the rest of the year.

Like any Charles Dickens reader, I prefer the best of times.  So today’s post is your full glass of water in these worst of times we face...

So here’s the deal:

You may not see it from the thick of the trees in Failure Forest, but what we're doing *right now* to keep our classrooms afloat while learning from a distance is *actually* the penultimate example of what it means to be a student in the real world.

What you’re doing as you toggle new platforms and test out hyperlinks, track assignments online and--heck, figure out the ‘mute all’ button: this fumbling-and-figuring models exactly what it means to take risks, be...

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Standards-based Grading Implementation: shifting from grades to growth

Standards-based grading implementation has never been as important as it is when teaching digitally. The research and suggestions in this post will help you set a course of action to making your students' grades mean something real.

As you likely know from experience, teaching right now is more about establishing normalcy, continuity and community more than anything else.  So the question naturally arises: 'how do you grade this?'

We're trying to figure out, what to grade, if anything, in fact.

Meanwhile, with standardized exams being canceled for the year, we have even less to go on when it comes to measuring student growth over time. 

But it may just be the mindset we need because it’s forcing us to put our grade books into perspective. It's about the time we should start asking ourselves these questions, head-on:

  • what do the grades we typically give actually mean?
  • are our current methods for reporting progress the best way to communicate...
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Peer Editing Tips: 3 reasons peer review isn’t working (+ how to fix it)

foundational pedagogy Apr 07, 2020

Peer editing, like every classroom practice, must be taught. The peer editing tips in this post will help you give your students the guidance they need to take their peer editing to the next level.

To plenty of learners, the mere mention of ‘peer review’ brings on all the classic symptoms: the audible groan, the predictable eye-roll, the suddenly ‘busy’ demeanor.  Anything to assume an outward distaste for a classically dreadful task.

Meanwhile, plenty of teachers feel the same way in issuing the task.  

Quite frankly, students have a hard time seeing places that need improvement in their own writing at any level; so how can we expect them to spot errors in each others’ work?

Meanwhile, they tend to dash through assigned tasks as quickly as possible, in ceaseless effort to ‘get it over with’.

It’s no wonder we ask ourselves:

Is peer review even worth the effort--and the precious class time?


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10 Savvy Tech Tools to Help you Teach from a Digital Distance

21st century tools Apr 03, 2020

As we dive head-first into distance and virtual learning, tech tools for teaching have gone from being a luxury, and sometimes a nuisance, to being absolutely necessary for helping students continue their educational journey. These 10 savvy tech tools provide a solid foundation for fostering growth and learning during these unprecedented times.

For plenty of schools, the act of using technology can be summed up in a few verbs: block, filter, confiscate. Yet in allowing smartphones in hand, our students are more connected to the world outside our classroom than we could have ever imagined.

Once we get past the idea that technology is more than a mere distraction, we can finally tap into the world of opportunity it opens for our students.

In terms of mindset, I sure hope this post finds you on the bright side of the digital rainbow because I've got 10 tech tools to share, which benefit both our learners and our trailblazin' teachers.

One thing I want to point out before begin,...

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Teaching ELA Remotely: 10 inspiring ideas for digital instruction

Teachers all over are trying to navigate teaching ELA remotely, and this post is full of inspiring, innovative ideas for digital instruction.

('10 Inspiring Ideas for Digital Instruction': you can watch the full Facebook Live featuring all these ideas and more by clicking HERE.)

Are you wearing your digital hard helmet (?!) because our classrooms are officially under 21st-century construction!

As overwhelming as it can be to shift toward teaching ELA remotely, we aren't going to spend this post talking about our limitations, fears, or concerns; instead, we're going to shift the emphasis on embracing and recognizing opportunities, sharing them, and making sure we all have the resources we need to implement awesome learning in our ELA classrooms. 

By now, experience has likely told you that virtual learning is not like classroom learning. In other words, you can't simply 'transfer' what you're doing from physical space to digital. Rather, it's a matter of transforming...

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