Trading Passion for Love in Education


I told myself, a few others, and wrote my last blog post promising not to tweet or write about education for one month. Guess what? I failed.

I will say this though, I have given myself some time to reflect. I’ve determined I no longer desire to be a defined as a passionate educator. No, that doesn’t mean I’m quitting. Many in education exclaim for the desire for schools to be filled with passionate teachers, but lately I’ve wondered what that really means? According to Webster’s dictionary the word ‘passion’ is defined as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something” or “a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way.” Passion, in other words is a temporary emotion, even a dangerous one. In the end, passion within the constraints of the definition doesn’t last.

A passionate teacher is at the whimsy of his or her feelings. One day, feeling on top of the world, and the next, weary and withdrawn. What does this leave for students and others? Confusion. What does this word, if a teacher has been labeled as ‘passionate’ mean for his or her long term health–disappointment. No one can maintain something that by its very definition is meant to be short term.

Therefore, I am urging that we exchange ‘passion’ for ‘love’. A loving teacher or teacher who loves his calling is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “an unselfish loyalty and benevolent concern for the good of another; a brotherly concern.” Much of what we do in education requires service to others (unselfishness). It also requires loyalty (consistent dedication). There are days in the field that are awesome and clicking just right, and there are others that are difficult and frustrating. However–with love as our guide, we know this and have patience with the process. We stay true to our work, ourselves, and our colleagues because love is enduring through the storms and the celebrations. In our love for education we watch out for one another with brotherly concern. This means it’s not all about us. It’s about all of us working toward unified goals, together for the benefit of the students in our charge.

Maybe it’s less about the passion for our content, and more about the love for our students. By striving for love we live out spiritual fruits such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Those are elements of love that last and make a true impact in the classroom.

I’ve also spent about three weeks studying Coach John Wooden, who passed in 2010. His words of wisdom on teaching and coaching has brought peace to my heart and inspiration for the upcoming year. I would highly recommend listening to him, and gaining confidence from his experiences.

Teaching will always be a work of the heart. It’s important to love and care for ourselves, our family, our students, and each other. In the end, it’s about love.




Learning and Middle Schoolers: A Reflection

Well, it’s here. Post planning is ending tomorrow, and I’m reflecting on the year. Although, I’m busting with ideas for instruction next year, I promised myself to take June off with the exception of the grant I’m writing and some instructional strategies I want to research. All the extras (Twitter for #edu, Blogging) must end for at least one month.

The following are a few things I want to remind myself of as I plan for next year:

The Realities of Teaching Middle Schoolers

  1. Every group of students is different, and the thought of strategically planning out every moment of instruction during the summer is a farce. Get real and understand this–kids and then curriculum. You can’t reach kids you don’t know no matter how amazing you think your instruction is–focus on team building activities, learning surveys–read and respond to them within the first week, and research each child before they step a foot into your classroom (know their strengths and weaknesses, background, preferred name).
  2. Think in Levels. In other words, differentiate. My goal for the upcoming year is two fold– engagement and growth. I never want to beat learning into kids. However, the climate, expectations, and goals must be top notch–to the sky–why settle for less? Middle school learners need different approaches depending on their learning styles and needs.
    1. (Level 1) For the strugglers, I’m thinking a heavy focus on writing/grammar/spelling/vocabulary, but also close reading with current events, as well as personal reading goals. Focus on making it more of a newsy class–keep it snazzy, but focused on the essentials (non-fiction texts) and remediation to create the growth needed.
    2. (Level 2/3) Focus heavily on writing/grammar/vocabulary, but add in a variety of back-up projects that enrich to support those who have shown mastery, so there is never the question of what happens next?  Find ways to move those level 3’s to 4’s. Differentiate the novel choices and products for the novels. Create student led goals that students must be accountable for weekly.
    3. (Level 3/4) Focus heavily on writing/vocabulary/challenging texts. Novel choices are differentiated. Add in projects with current events that equate to real world experiences through writing, podcasting, blogging. List out all writing contests and have students enter at least two a year.

These are just a few ideas. One size will never fit all for maximum growth and potential for every student. Choice must be offered, but help and remediation must be given as well. There is always that balance of science and art that equates to achievement, and a teacher willing to offer it.


There is No Straight Line to Success in the Classroom

Back in September I sat in a tech conference. The presenter displayed  a funny video clip on the board of a teacher wailing, crouched on the floor pounding his fists against the floor. She exclaimed, “This is what teachers do when you ask them to change or try something new! They dig in their heels and scream, ‘No!'”

As a brand new teacher, I would have thought, “Ha! Ha! So true!” Now, with a few more years under my belt, I’d scream, “Heck yeah, and I know why, and by the way, Can I join in, too?”
I’m not trying to exhibit the awful stance of negativity. In fact, I love trying new initiatives and ideas, but–I’ve also noticed a trend in education. 

The trend seems to be that we jump from one idea, program, initiative (whatever it may be) to the next all in the hope of being innovative, without giving any of it much time to develop or be successful. 

The truth is- there is no magic bullet. 

Chromebooks aren’t magic and won’t create instant results. Just as with iPads, BYOT, or desktop computers–they’re just devices. Objects. It’s how the teacher utilizes them for their instruction that matters. 

Some questions to consider:

  • How can learning impact more students through the use of the device? 
  • How might the IPad work for one lesson (like a scavenger hunt)? 
  • How can the Chromebook be used for blogging or collaborating on a project from home for students? 
  • How can BYOT be used for review or formative assessments?

Nothing new (programs, technology, professional development (edcamps) will build great teaching alone. 

The grassroots of excellence in the classroom falls on positive relationship building, building curriculum based on their interests and needs–(you must know your students first to understand how to engage them). The tools (chromebooks, textbooks, iPads, paper, pencil, BYOT) are what are used to help make the magic happen in learning for the particular students in your charge. 

Learn and explore–no need for hand wailing. Despite constant change-it’s important to remember that the teacher makes the positive difference in the classroom. The tools only support the teacher in making a greater impact.  

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover–(but, what about the start?)

Read this…

Now, read…..

Okay…how about this…

Which would you pick as a John Newbery Medal winner?

{The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.}

Click here for a list of Newbery Medal winners. 

How about as the runner up as a Newbery honoree?

Which book would you guess has not been awarded at all?

Out of the three, which caught your attention the most?

Which book would you want to keep reading?

Isn’t it interesting? The art of the start.

The first book, Because of Mr. Terupt, has no awards, yet has some heavy buzz of high interest surrounding it. Isn’t the start intriguing? As a middle grades teacher, it snapped at me. I was instantly attracted. Yet, the language was a bit drab–(an old fart?)

The second, The Crossover, by Kwan Alexander, is a John Newberry Winner. The free verse zoomed to my eyes. How can anyone not love free verse as a novel? Its raw quality with precise words and imagery hooks the reader.

Finally, Dogsong, by Gary Paulsen, a Newberry Honor winner provokes the reader with a poem.

Isn’t that interesting? Both Newbery winner and honoree use poetry to start their novels. Is there a connection?

The power of poetry.

Shouldn’t all writing classes then begin with poetry?

Something to reflect on….

Start Class Each Day with a Poem

Poetry in Motion
Web Links to Poetry Resources
Poetry Apps
Poetry and Performance

15 Things I Want My Daughters to Understand

1. Never be the girl who can’t go to the bathroom by herself. (Girls feel stronger together. You must be strong alone.)

2. Boyfriends are temporary. Your future is not. Dare to dream big. Pediatrician. Absolutely! Find out what you must do to be one and make that the primary focus. 

3. Stay in the Arts (Band/Chorus/Drama). As a high school student I feared dropping out of band due to the fact that every girlfriend I had attached herself to a boy, got into drugs, or just got lazy. Seriously, stay in the arts. It will keep you focused and grounded. It’s also all-year round allowing you to build and maintain friendships that will last a lifetime. 

4. It’s okay to put your needs ahead of others in certain circumstances. Not all “friends” have your best interest at heart. Be self-aware and know when to step away. 

5. Go with your “gut”. Have you ever come up to a group of people and something felt odd? Did you get a weird feeling in your stomach? That is your gut telling you to run. And when you run, who is the first person you should call? Mom or Dad. Strong parents know that bad situations happen, and they will always be there as a support. 

6. Work Hard and Be Accountable for Your Actions. No one is looking out for you and your success. That’s a hard truth to understand, but it’s best to learn it young. Your parents can’t rescue you in a job situation or college class. You’re on your own. It’s all you, baby. Do the right thing. 

7. Never think any job is beneath you. I got my first job at fifteen, and I’ve worked in some capacity ever since. I’ve cleaned houses, waited tables in restaurants, cleaned bathrooms, lawn jobs, freelance writing, secretary–all these positions helped me graduate debt free from college and stay at home with you both as babies. 

8. Never take on debt. It’s a heavy load to carry, a lot of hard work to make it work–but the wise pay cash and live within their means. No one really cares what car you drive, how big your house is, or what clothes sit on your back. Also–there are ways around this,too. Look great for less! 

9. Never start at the high dollar stores when you shop. With almost everything start at Good Will, then Big Lots, Wal-Mart, and then Target. That about covers it. 

10. Always look clean and look your best. My great grandmother said, “Love, there’s no sin against being poor, but there is sin in being unclean.” Always bath twice a day, wash hair once a day, brush your teeth,iron your clothes, etc. Do what it takes to look your best! People respect those who respect themselves. 

11. Always date a gentleman: Never settle. A man may have all the riches and material wealth in the world, but that doesn’t mean he’s a good man or one you should date. There is no such thing as playing the field. As they say, “Keep your head, heels, and standards high.”

12. Always go above and beyond the expectations of others: as an employee don’t just wipe the tables of the restaurant–make them shine. Don’t just take a customer’s order, think ahead and bring them essentials they may not have thought of yet. As a friend, take time to ask about their day and their trials–never get a “what’s in it for me” attitude. You are there to be their friend. 

13. Be servant-minded: Always strive to put the needs of others ahead of your own needs. That doesn’t mean putting your own needs on back-burner. Stay strong and create boundaries–just know it’s not all about you. Really- remember you’re not that awesome. Stay humble. 

14. Begin with the End in Mind: How do you want to be remembered? Life on this planet is short. Invest your days on things that create true memories and bring meaning to your life. It seems that we all live in sound bites and news clips. One day here living the good life, and the next we’re only a brief news bit on Facebook, soon to be forgotten as other more entertaining feeds occur. Expand beyond this and live your life to its fullest capacity. Write those dreams down now and live them out. You can do it! 

15. So, what’s it all about? Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and  mind. And love your neighbor as yourself. This will take love, forgiveness, acts of kindness, understanding, and servitude. This is the highest calling of all. 


Teachers: What are your summer goals? 

In nervous anticipation future sixth grade students timidly walk the halls of their future school. They wonder, “Will this be my classroom?” “Oh, that teacher seems nice, I hope I get him!” The parents wonder, “Will my child be cared for?” “Will she receive a quality education?”

These are all natural questions, and the best part is that teachers have a fresh start every year to answer the questions and provide those answers in even greater ways.

This leaves us with the question, “How do we prepare?”

The following are my quick thoughts as a sixth grade ELA/Reading teacher. It’s fun to think of the possibilities!

Spend June (all of June) on reading, and exploring passions. Teachers must feed their minds beyond tweets and posts, which meet the needs of a fast paced school year, but June is a time to rejuvenate.

  • I plan to read 10 books of this list in June for Donalyn Miller’s Summer #bookaday challenge on Twitter. Check out the book list here:
  • I plan to go fishing at the lake next to the library with my children. Libraries are free and fishing is fairly cheap. Luckily the lake sits adjacent to my favorite library. What a peaceful day!
  • I will not blog or tweet in June. I will fast in order open my mind to new ideas and perspectives. Too much media can make you cranky and dull. Free your mind and the rest will follow!
  • As July roles around I will think more of the classroom. Fresh decor, quotes, and positivity.
  • I’ll create a #GPS #TLAP sign for outside my classroom.  Check out the video here: Summer Challenge for Educators!
  • I will build a holder for all cellphones. No phones for learning in Mrs. Farmer’s class.
  • I will follow a 20/60/20 rule. 20 percent of the curriculum will focus on the arts (drama,speech,creative arts) 60 percent will focus on the core standards of (close reading, writing, research, grammar utilizing technology 1:1 instruction w/Chromebooks.) 20 percent will focus on literature that inspires through (novels, short stories, poems, blogging, and creative writing.)

This is just a quick outline. So, what are you planning? What are your summer goals?

A rested teacher is a happier and healthier teacher. The time is there for a reason. Enjoy the simple moments of life and take a breathe.

The Pros and Cons of Chromebook Integration in the Classroom 


  1. Collaboration and Sharing of documents such as written pieces in Google Docs. (I love that my students can easily send me their typed papers, share in the revising/editing process , and add comments via voice feature.)
  2. Ease of organization. (Students turn in papers seemlessly through Google Classroom. This equates to no “lost” papers.) Returning grades is at the click of a button. 
  3. Assignments are stored in Google Classroom. (Students can move ahead or work on a variety of projects at the same time. This equates to ease of differentiated practices.)
  4. Ease of grading. (Flubaroo makes grading multiple choice questions a breeze saving hours of needless work grading papers. Also helps with data collection.) 
  5. Ease of research. (Students can research and work on their papers at the same time via the research tool.) 
  6. Split screen ends needless flipping between taps. (Students can work on their paper adding in text evidence directly from the text from one screen.) 
  7. Multimedia savvy. (Students can create blog posts and add videos or podcasts through Blogger or other apps. Students can also create their own websites for projects such as Genuis Hour (a personal project based on student passions). Students love Google Slides and can create with ease.
  8. Collaboration via Google Hangouts. (Students can work on group projects by collaborating via GH or through the online chat feature in Google Classroom. Students love the chat feature.)
  9. Enhances keyboarding skills. Most of my students can read, annotate, and type their papers in one class sitting. It took about five months to get really fluid at this, but now they tell me how easy it is for them. 


  1. Teacher and Student Relationships are diminished. (I began using Chromebooks in September and integrated almost daily this year, and there has been less dialogue/discussion happening in my class than ever before. I do not like this aspect. Students love tech, yes, but they also need to develop relationships from discussion between peers and teacher–the online chat feature in GC doesn’t count. A balance must be created within assignments, so Chromebooks are needed no more than once or twice a week.) 
  2. Student empathy is diminished. (Overuse of technology creates a disconnect with students. They are less patient, quick to argue, or say why someone is wrong. BYOT, IPads, chromebooks become–all consuming. It becomes less about the learning for students and more about just using the technology. In order to create better learners and future citizens, technology must be limited to strict purposes with strict time limits attached for instructional needs only.)
  3. Grading can be difficult to adjust to for ELA. (There is not a perfect rubric system for Google Docs. One friend gave me the tip of copying the rubric to the bottom of student papers and then typing in comments with a grade. I could then return to students by emailing. One class of thirty students took me three to four hours on a Saturday. There must be a better way. I can grade 120 paper essays in one evening with an excellent rubric, which offers quick feedback for daily instruction and differentiation.) 
  4. Students get tired of Chromebooks. Technology will never be a magic cure for engagement and it certainly won’t replace great teaching. It is only one more tool in the teacher toolbox. A great one, yes, but can never replace a quality teacher. 
  5. Harder to reach every student. (Not all students do well with typing or written feedback on a Chromebook. Some need one on one time with a teacher who can teach and reteach with paper and pencil. They need the human connection and serious guidance.) 

The Final Analysis: I would love a class set of Chromebooks! The good outweighs the negatives. We must always keep in mind that excellent teaching  will always be a matter of the heart and sure willpower that every child succeeds. Chromebooks are a tool for enhancing great teaching, but will never replace it. 

5 Excellent Attitudes of Thought for Teacher Leadership 

1. Be a Teacher of Excellence. Do your core calling (teaching) with excellence.  Remember that just with any business, your reputation proceeds you: taking care of the students entrusted to you is priority number one. 

2. Be a Positive Role Model. I read an article recently by an excellent teacher via Twitter demanding Teacher Leaders stand up and keep the naysayer teachers accountable–(seriously bad advice). You can’t fight fire with fire: it doesn’t work. Many times a listening ear does the job-that and asking questions: “What brought you to that conclusion?” “What do you mean? Followed by “How can we improve in this area?” “What should we try and do?” Many times these types of questions lead to a better understanding. Also, taking interest in others passions and share ideas: asking for their advice, feedback, or thoughts on a project with an open mind. Stay positive knowing that all things ebb and flow-keep moving forward.

3. Know what your selling before the pitch. Teachers are all strained for time. Many teacher leaders lead initiatives that are new and must recruit help. This is always the basis in much of leadership: recruitment. The worst option is for a leader to go in front of a group of teachers or visit without putting together a plan–why would teachers want to volunteer their time with you? How will this project make for a worthy cause to support? How will this better their teaching experiences or help them gain in furthering their own leadership? These are questions that must be answered. Preparation is key to team success and growth. 

4. Always believe that others want to help and be apart of something great. It’s very easy to assume that others don’t want to volunteer their time. You may send out an e-mail requesting volunteers and no one responds: suddenly, you just throw in the towel. Bad move. E-mail is the worst form of communication when seeking volunteers. It’s fine to throw out an e-mail or two, but don’t except grand returns. Face to face is always a first choice, then personal phone calls. A large part of leadership is relationship building. Then, show others how they can make a difference, the steps, and how they will benefit from it. 

5: Find ways to allow others to lead. Shared leadership creates results and community. Under TKES (teacher keys evaluation system) to receive an exemplary rating, teachers must be consistently leading in a certain area. Demonstrate to teachers how being apart of the team can help them be teacher leaders themselves. Accent the possibilities, and ignite the passion for leadership by creating roles for all who are involved and check in and support each other through the process. Also, never hide it. Tell the administrators of the great things happening in the school. 


If any other thoughts on teacher leadership? Please comment. Thank you! 

This is the Problem with Passion in #Edu

It’s Thursday. My students had spent two days testing. In fact, they test every Friday, with a lot of heavy instruction in between. As a result, they’ve grown academically. Yes, in fact I highly expect some nice growth and high achievement scores this year. I’ve also grown as a teacher: learning how to use rubrics more effectively  and learning to document growth at even deeper levels thanks to some pretty awesome fellow teachers. 

Within this lies one problem. With TKES and the pressures of standardized testing I’m losing my voice as an educator. I’ve always taken great pride in my classroom and most of all my love for creating a strong classroom culture: one in which children are happy and excited to come to school. Not because they can sit around and play on their IPhones. I am not a proponent of permissive teaching. But, a place students can call home because a loving and caring teacher awaits their arrival. 

This past Thursday, after two days of testing I decided to do something I hadn’t dared all year. A classroom game day. I brought Scrabble, Dominoes, and Apples to Apples. I told the students that they could bring in a snack and drink and sent a note to their parents via Remind. (This wasn’t on the lesson plan). But. I knew my students needed it. Why? Because I know kids. 

The next day, the students were thrilled! They brought in cupcakes, drinks galore, and most of all smiles! 

One student in fourth period, dared me to play a game of UNO (he was a champion UNO player afterall). Yes! This made my year! Game on! 

We played. With fourteen or more kids playing they made me take the extra cards and cried, “We got you this time, Mrs. Farmer!” “Ha! This is for all those check point quizzes! This is for all the stressful writing sessions! Ha! Ha!” 

I loved that they felt open enough to be honest with me, and for the first time all year I saw many relax for the first time in my class.

The funny part is in the mist of all this, my assistant principal walks in for my summative assessment for TKES! (This is the big kahoona of assessments–you just never know when it’s coming). As I sit with passionate UNO players surrounding me, one yells out, “We’re playing UNO- ELA style!” 

Funny enough, this child was trying to protect me, so we could continue. 

Thankfully, I was not observed, saved for another day. 

The point is when you’re a passionate teacher, when you are in tune with your students–you know what you need to do (to keep them motivated, happy, and thriving). This is all built on human connection that no piece of technology can provide, but is essential to academic and healthy growth of children. 

TKES and LKES–testing–does not support the passionate parents, teachers, and leaders  who care for kids and the whole child (spirit, mind, and body).

Now, as my educational ramblings come to a desivive point I’d like to shout the following: “Have no Fear!” Build rapport with your students! Always have them leave your class knowing they are more than a test score to you, and no matter the final outcome, you are proud to be their teacher. 

Offer your students your best! Let your students always be your driving force! 

Stay passionate. Kind and compassionate for the rest of your days. Offer extordinary learning experiences built on relationship building and trust! In that way you can protect the very thing that has been entrusted to you: your students’ hearts, souls, and minds. 

Stay passionate teachers, administrators, leaders, and parents. Your students and children need you. 

7 Ways to Connect and Learn (Without) Twitter

I first started Twitter for #edu after being introduced to it by my first principal. 

At first, I groaned, “Really?” My husband had already practically forced me to join Facebook in 2008. 

Truly, I never liked technology much in the sense of communication as a teen and early adult: beepers (nope)–cell phones (blahhh) and email (yikes). Who needs all that baggage? I wanted to be free as a bird, happy go lucky Laura. That’s all. 

Since, I’ve realized that when people actually care about you and your well being you cause them great amounts of undo stess by not being a strong communicator. I’ve learned it’s not about me, but the friends and family who care about me. 

Now, that being said, Twitter is a fantastic tool for learning and collaboration! I could not imagine only reading professional articles or dry texts on education as my main source of growth. However, on the flip side, we need not try to be a carbon copy of the great educators we study via Twitter. 

The greats such as Dave Burgess and gang, Ron Clark, Alice Keeler serve to provide fantastic dialogue and helpful resources, but not at the cost of our own passions,  our own voice, and our own mission as educators. 

Furthermore, it’s easy to connect online (it barely takes any effort), but how can strong connections and learning be achieved at an even deeper level offline? 

Here are seven suggestions:

1. Have lunch with someone on your team. Make a consious effort to invite someone to eat with you. Bring cookies (always a positive). 

2. Start a book club in person! Find an awesome educational read, like one of Dave Burgess’ books and have a study. Bring cookies (again, always a positive). 

3. Pick up a few $1.oo cards while doing your weekly shopping, and fill them in with inspiring messages and place them in their teacher boxes.

4. Smile and make eye contact with others (even if they ignore you) People have a lot on their minds-make a conscience effort. Remember it’s about them (not you).

5. Be quick to respond and help others in need. Go above and beyond their expectations of you! 

6. Visit another classroom and watch other educators in action at least once a month. 

7. Host an edcamp at your school, just for your fellow teachers: provide coffee and pastries. Offer jeans passes or other incentives and let the learning happen! 

Remember that in the world of digital communication, relationships are at a surface level at best. Let’s make a difference by truly connecting and learning from those we work with every day, and also remember to be the educators we were born to be. God brought us here for a purpose. 

Teach and love it!