How To List Your Way to Better Teaching

What Lists to Keep to Move Your Instruction Forward

7 Reasons to Actually Start Using Google Keep | PCMag

I am a list keeper.

There is satisfacton in making a checklist and completing the list.

I keep lists in my paper planner and also in my Google Keep app. Keep is on my phone and also provides a checkbox option. I can also transfer any note to a Google Doc. New learning from the last two weeks is that I can share a note with another person. This means personal notes I can share with my teacher gmail account so I have access and edit ability for everything.

For teaching , I toggle back and forth between my planner and what I call the “Rose Binder”. The rose binder is the place I put all the important things. It is where I keep student data before it ends up in the spreadsheet, lists, papers I need to not lose in the abyss of my desk, etc. Why rose binder? The binder I use has a clear sleeve for the cover where I add pictures I like. Many years ago I found a picture of a bouquet of roses from Victoria Magazine which I placed in the front. Voila!

Lists calm my mind because I know important actions have been captured and I do not have to use brain power to repeat things to myself. Lists keep me sane.

For me, my teacher lists ensure I do not lose or forget anything. With as many decisions that need to be made moment to moment this simple tool keeps me focused and on track.

Where To Keep Your Lists

  1. In the back of your paper planner (I use the Passion Planner)
  2. Important Paper Binder (My Rose Binder)
  3. Post it notes (that you adhere to the paper planner or the binder)

Teacher Lists I Keep

  1. Favorite quotes
    1. For writing instruction
    2. Motivation
    3. For articles
  2. Education article ideas to write
  3. Things to Remember for the Next School year
    1. I add to this list all year – this is where the lightbulb moments for changes to a lesson get logged, the resources you want to add later to a unit, materials you need to make or find, systems to begin, things to let go of, etc.
  4. Things to Buy for my Classroom
  5. Picture Books I need
    1. I buy a lot from thrift stores and Goodwill
    2. Borrow from Library
  6. DMO for school
  7. Printing jobs
  8. Project Ideas to Do with Students
    1. Current ones for me: mini gardens using toilet paper rolls, Kindness project, Books for me to write for kids, and Books for the World

Other Lists I Keep

  1. Random notes
  2. To do for the day
  3. Topic lists to research
  4. Lists of 10 impressions I have noticed within the day
  5. Short Story ideas
  6. Delights
  7. Articles to read later
  8. Places to publish
  9. Funny phrases the kids say
  10. Anything I want to remember
  11. DMO (see below)

D.M.O

I keep a list called the DMO – Daily Method of Operation. This is the list you keep that is the minimum for you to have a successful day that comes from Tony Robbins. One thing I have learned recently is that success is subjective. I will also tell you I have been thinking a lot about fulfillment vs achievement.

What is my DMO list you ask?

  1. water
  2. walk
  3. mantra
  4. connection
  5. fasting

What are Your Lists?

What are the most important lists you keep? I would love to hear in the comments!

Do You Know How to Rest?

What Does Rest Look Like to You?

Photo by Ivy Son on Pexels.com

Have you signed up for my newsletter? Do that here.

I am the type of person that thrives on action. I am always thinking and planning and using up all my energy by the end of the day is my goal. I use up the energy by pursuing things that light me up. This is my soul work. The question I ask myself is often, “How can I do this [insert action] at a level 10?” Level 10 is the best I can be at that moment.

But the last couple of days I have been mentally tired. I cannot focus. I cannot read for more than a couple of minutes. To leverage this feeling, I examined how I need to rest and rejuvenate. My rest doesn’t look like other people’s I have learned over the years. In the past, I also have not done this well.

I read the other day that if you have decided to rest yet you are worried about what you are not accomplishing then you are doing it wrong.

What does rest look like to you?

Sometimes rest or slowing down is the way to refuel your mind and creativity.

I love data and research so of course I used my Enneagram type to look up ways to rejuvenate. Some of the ways I listed in my Passion Planner:

  1. Enjoy morning routine and coffee ritual
  2. Laugh
  3. Run
  4. Fold towels (or some other mundane task)
  5. Read
  6. Help someone learn something
  7. Bask in the sun
  8. Listen to a podcast
  9. Be the gift fairy

I execute Level 10 well when I am thinking about my mission. I do not always do so well with the rest side of the coin.

For example, I am the type of woman who moves every day. I have been doing a daily walk/run depending on how I feel for over 70 days now. I know it doesn’t always have to be an intense walk. In order to rest, I need to walk at a slower pace and enjoy the scenery. I need to not be in a hurry to get to the next thing or to be done. I need to enjoy the moment. If I am compelled to run, I run. But if I am going to do rest at a Level 10 there is likely to just be walking.

Planning for the day or the week can be rejuvenating for me because I anticipate obstacles which then calms my mind. I can marinate on how I can show up at a level 10 for them all.

Writing is always rejuvenating for me.

What is your soul work? Where are you putting your energy?

Reading: I reread “Cuisine des Mémoires” by N.K. Jemisin just to enjoy it. It doesn’t mean that if I want to write down a favorite line it is not rest. I just have to pay attention to how I feel.

I know I need a rest day because I have been frustrated the last couple of days and cannot pinpoint why.

I have to pay attention.

I delight in the butterflies and the grasshoppers. the mama horse that takes the apple from me. The collage technique I play with.

Sometimes rest doesn’t look like laying around.

What what does rest look like during COVID? There are still many areas of the nation that are in lockdown. Many people I know do not leave their houses unless it is necessary. Zoom can be just as exhausting as a string of social obligations.

Rest may look different now to you since the world is different. Sometimes it can be hard to rest when there are too many people in the house, especially if they are on a different schedule than you are.

What does your ideal rest look like to you today? How can you make at least one thing from that list happen?

I have been thinking about things I have done in the past that I enjoy but have been neglecting. One of which is playing with collages. I have been inspired by Austin Kleon and his tape collages on Instagram. I also have been missing letter writing. I have a few friends I snail mail occasionally but I have resubscribed to The Letter Exchange. It is a magazine and forwarding service for letter writers. You can read more about it here.

I challenge you to find a new way to rest today – even if it doesn’t look like anyone else’s.

Let me know what you come up with in the comments!

Six Ways To Be A Better Writing Teacher

Have you signed up for my newsletter? Do that here.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

I have been able to attend several writing conferences through my work over the years. One that had profound impact on me was the writers at work hosted by Ruth Culham in Sun Valley Idaho. I did not know the landscape could be so beautiful in a place I associate with potatoes. This education celebrity met with her small circle of authors every year to plan workshops for the year. Then she opened it up to other educators. The travel there had been adventurous for me with a small plane flying through a thunderstorm. It reminded me of the first time I was on a plane when I was 6 years old.

One of the speakers was Ralph Fletcher. He talked about how all teacher needed to be a writer with a lowercase w. The only difference between a writer with a capital and lowercase w is that capital w writers get paid. If you write, you are a writer.

As teachers, we need our students to learn to write in order to express themselves. I have found through my coaching and my own education experience that writing scares the hell out of most people. There is not a lot of instruction in writing in teacher prep courses. Why would you expect your students to do something that you are unwilling to do?

My Action List:

  1. Bradbury Challenge
  2. Unpack the Text
  3. Learn Through Your Ears
  4. Write in the Edges
  5. Challenges
  6. Join a group of creatives or writers

Bradbury Challenge

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1*jKJz9ioUILFbYSx0K6w1ig.png

Ray Bradbury said read one poem a night, one short story a night, one essay a night, for the next 1,000 nights.

This is his formula for an MFA. It works.

It is impossible to not be a better writer if you follow this formula. Read what you like from authors you like. It does not have to be any way connected to the grade level you teach.

recommendations:

Essays: Natalie Goldberg, Ray Bradbury, Zadie Smith, David Sedaris, Roxane Gay

Short stories: Nancy Stohlman, Kathy Fish, Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link

Poems: Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Naomi Shihab Nye

Unpack The Text

When you read a piece you particularly write then study it. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What works in this piece and how does it make me feel?
  2. How did the author achieve this feeling in me?
  3. What are my favorite lines?
  4. What can I try in my own writing that the author does?

Action: Write something inspired by the text you studied.

Learn Through Your Ears

One of the ways I take advantage of extra time is to listen to podcasts. I love writing podcasts in particular. I listen to podcasts mostly in the car and during workouts. There is a rotation but I always learn something.

Favorite Podcasts:

  1. Why is This Good? Naples Writers’ Workshop
  2. How Do You Write? Rachael Herron
  3. The Writers Well Podcast J Thorn and Rachael Herron
  4. How Writers Write
  5. Stop Writing Alone Nicole Rivera
  6. Qwerty Marion Roach Smith
  7. Fierce Womxn Writing
  8. Good Life Project
  9. Any podcast with Karissa Kouchis as a guest.

I also like audio courses. I have been listening to Tony Robbins and his Personal Power 30 day program and his Beautiful State training.

Listen to what fuels you and write down the memories and stories that come to mind as you listen. Write about those ideas.

Write in the Edges

I learned a long time ago that if I want to make sure I do something, I have to schedule it.

Write now, open your planner/schedule and plan a 10 minute writing time for the next 7 days.

During that time write:

  1. A memory
  2. Whatever comes to mind
  3. The story about one of your notes
  4. A reflection of a favorite line from something you read
  5. A new story based on a title of something you have read
  6. Morning Pages
  7. Anything in response to a journal prompt
  8. How you are feeling in that moment

My advice is also to carry a notebook and write down ideas that strike you, an overhead conversation, an interesting detail, a 5 senses description of where you are throughout the day. I strive for at least 10 snippets a day.

If you don’t like the notebook use a note taking app on your phone. I am partial to Google Keep. It backs itself up (I lost a whole note app full of gems I can never get back – a whole other story.) You can share notes and also easily make it a Google Doc. You can also use voice to text in this app which works for me when walking or driving. If you run and try to talk there are weird connections of words the device will pick up!

Challenges

Challenges give me a structure and a schedule. There are small challenges and large ones but I gravitate to 30 day or 100 challenges. Some examples are: Storyaday May and September, NANOWRIMO, #the100dayproject, Five Minute Friday (FMF), and Two Writing Teachers blogging.

Storyaday: This challenge is hosted by Julie Duffy and it is just what it sounds like: one story a day for the month of May and/or September. I have challneged my middle school students to do this challenge as well.

NANOWRIMO: National Novel Writing month. This challenge is to write a 50,000 word manuscript in the month of November.

#the100dayproject: A creative challenge that starts at the beginning of April. The artist creates something every day. In 2020, I wrote a random sentence every day and am creating a short story based on these sentences. Some people do post it note drawings, or doodles, or paintings, or 100 word essays, or poems. It is up to you!

FMF: Hosted by Kate Motaung Kate posts a word on Friday with a great visual. You write with this word for five minutes.

Two Writing Teachers Blog: Every Tuesday, teacher writers post on their own blogs and link up on the TWT blog. In March there is a daily blog challenge where there is support and lots of comments.

Join A Group

There are lots of groups to choose from. Lots of time if you take a class or workshop you can find people you want to continue to talk to after the course is over. There are many writing groups online that are more public like Twitter and Instagram.

There are communities you can join such as Storyaday Superstars, Ninja Writers, Sarah Selecky Writing School, Teachwrite, and Jackie Aston. Almost every author you follow has a connection to a community somewhere. I found Storyaday by Googling several years ago. Find your people!

The point is you want to find a group that is nourishing to you. Some are paid, some are free but you may have to try a few before you find the one where you fit.

Connection

After you try one or all six of these ideas, your brain will start to make connections to how this translates to your classroom. It can even be one of the things you write about during your scheduled 10 minutes.

If you write, you are a writer.

Your students will listen to you more as a model of being a writer rather than being someone who just talks about writing. There must be action.

Next Right Step

Make a change in your writing life today. Write something. Buy a notebook and a pen you like.

Your students will thank you.

Sign up for my newsletter here.

What Story Are You Telling Yourself? #SOL20

I write every Tuesday and share on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Join other teachers that share their writing and thoughts.

Think about a time you were teaching and you CRUSHED it! It was one of those lessons that went so perfect you wish you would have taped it or that your principal was in the back of the room frantically writing the notes of how brilliant your classroom is.

What were you doing? What had you done before the lesson began? What are your students doing? What were you saying to yourself?

What were you wearing? Where were you standing? Did you have a Powerpoint? What materials were out?

Get yourself back into that moment. See it in your mind’s eye and feel what it felt to be in that moment.

***

I have several moments that I like to come back to from my 25 years as an educator. One is from early in my teaching career when I was teaching first grade. We had gathered on the floor in a circle to share our writing journals. I had established a clear rhythm of family meeting that ended with a read aloud and then we wrote a group chart and then students wrote independently. I sat in the circle with everyone and had given the directions that someone would read and then we would ask questions about what was not clear and then also tell the writer what we loved about the writing.

I started the activity and guided the first couple of writers and the comments. Then my kids took over. They asked each other questions and took turns like expert writer workshop participants. I was awed. I slowly backed out of the circle because they didn’t need me. I watched as my students gave helpful feedback and suggestions. The writers knew the piece was still theirs and if they didn’t like the feedback they didn’t have to use it. I was so proud of my little students. My heart was so full that day.

I can literally tap into this experience because I have associated it within my physiology by my right hand tapping on my upper chest, right under my neck. I can get back to this moment by triggering the memory with the hand motion. I know young students are capable of doing great things because I have seen it. Even if I haven’t seen it with my own eyes I know I can find studies and stories from other teachers who have with their students. I can piggy back off their experience to fuel my own.

Over the next few weeks, I am creating a teacher identity that exemplifies what I want to accomplish this school year no matter what it looks like.

Here are some of the questions I am asking myself:

What adjectives would you use to describe yourself as a level 10 teacher?

What outcomes do you want to consistently create over the school year?

What actions do you need to take to ensure those outcomes are reached?

What mantras do you need to remember to bring you back to your goals? I wrote about this one here.

What three things if I do every day at school will guarantee I have a successful day?

What gives me energy during the school day and what depletes it?

What beliefs do I have about school, my students, and my teaching? Are they limiting or empowering?

I would love to hear about your teaching moment that you brought to the forefront of your memories!

Sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t already! I would love to connect!

The Delight of Swings

One of the delights of living somewhere new is all the fresh running routes you get to embark on! Thanks to my husband, I was able to walk/run on a new route with wonderful hills. (See the tall one pictured above.) The weather was much less humid and was overcast yesterday so overall it was a pleasant session. I also saw my assistant principal and we were able to chat for a few minutes as well.

Along this route there is also a playground in one of the neighborhoods. I could not resist the delight of swinging for a few minutes. The smile on my face was wide and I felt like a kid. There also happens to be a free little library there as well.

One of the focuses for this week has been centered around play. I want to take advantage of the small opportunities that bring me joy. I have always loved swings, and I do not know a child that doesn’t like them either. We used to have jumping contests and height contests in elementary school. For a short time I thought about putting a plank swing in my living room in one of my apartments! I am certain that wasn’t practical and it would cost me my security deposit for sure.

What opportunities for play have you taken advantage of lately? What has been bringing you joy?

I would love to hear in the comments.

Synchronicity #SOL20

How a request was met with an answer…

Photo by Swapnil Sharma on Pexels.com

Several days ago I wrote a post called, “The Delight of Connections,” about wanting to connect with a specific type of educator. You can read that here. Luckily, I have this community of teacher writers and it has changed my life for the better. I am so glad to know there are so many teacher writers out there. There are friends that I see their names or the names of their blog and I know I am in for a reading treat, especially on Tuesdays.

Lately, I have felt a bit lost. There is uncertainty that every one feels hovering around the next couple of weeks. I struggle with how I feel about it. I never shy away from hard work or new learning. I thrive on growth, but I cannot wrap my head around the details to plan because I have none.

When I am uncertain I try to find other people who are doing it better than I am. I learn from everyone I interact with. This was the reasoning behind the post: to find someone in a similar situation to find some solutions and validation. The post was liked, but there were no comments. That sometimes happens of course. Not every post we write resonates with someone and compels them to respond.

Sunday a friend reached out in text and we started talking. As a coach, I went into her room frequently. She is one of those teachers I love working with because her teaching light is so bright. Every time it was a joy to enter her room. Her kids learned and were happy to do it. They were fun and had humor in their room. I listened to them perform their readers theatre just after winter break and the students were amazing and expressive. I will never forget that day.

This friend mentioned she knew one of the ladies that had applied for my job when I left. Through the text conversation I learned she was teaching fifth grade but had been a coach and a kindergarten teacher in the duration of her career! This new connection and I had an amazing conversation over Instagram.

If there is something you are seeking, ask. You never know how the answer will show up for you. I remained open to it and am pleased with this new connection. I thought it would come from the blog. It is a delight it came through a random conversation with a friend who doesn’t even know I have a blog! Be open to what comes. I love it when our needs are provided for in such unexpected ways.

Have you experienced Synchronicity lately? I would love to hear about it.

Weekend Coffee Share

A Cup of Coffee and a Conversation

Image for post

Welcome back to the weekend! HOW is it the middle of July already? I am trying to savor my summertime but it seems to be whizzing by.

I am having black coffee today as usual, but I have cream and sugar if you like. As always, there is ice water as well. It is nice right now, let’s go out onto the porch. The view is lovely and the sun is shining today!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I have been walking/running every day. It has gone well except for the rain. I check the app before I go like all good runners do and it lies. I have gotten soaked multiple times this week. Other than the annoyance I worry that my phone will be affected one of these times. I try to shield it with my shirt which works for a while. I am always learning something on my runs because I listen to podcasts or workshops.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I have had some great conversations with my writing friends over Slack and text. I rely on them and am so grateful they are in my inner circle. I was able to figure out a way to revise my one novel that seems to be working so I am thrilled about that fact!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I scheduled my next workshop. I am super excited about it since the first one was so full of life-giving conversation and laughter. If you would like to sign up for this free workshop on personality and relationships please click here.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I am doing a giveaway fueled by sign ups for my newsletter! Click here to sign up. I update once a week so I won’t flood your inbox. I always have a cool quote, a personal story, something I have learned, and a journal prompt.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I have enjoyed avocados this week! I love avocado toast and have eaten it for the last couple of days. Juicy red tomatoes, sea salt, pepper, a little mayo on whole grain bread — delicious. It has been such a delight to eat. What are your favorite foods? When was the last time you had them?

If we were having coffee, I would tell you the five minute Friday prompt was SMILE this week. I had fun writing it and threw a comment about sweet corn in there. It always amazes me what resonates with people. Several comments were made about the corn which made me smile all over again.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I send you laughter and warmth. I send you sunshine and smiles!

I would love to hear about your week.

The Delight of Connections

100+ Preschool Pictures | Download Free Images on Unsplash

Finding our tribe is important. It helps us belong and feel comforted that there are people that are like us. Having diversity in the group helps us learn from people who are different from us as well. No two people are exactly alike and that is a good thing!

I will be teaching kindergarten this fall, hopefully in person. I will be incorporating play, centers, loads of writing and reading, priming, EL education, and protocols. This is not an exhaustive list.

One of the things I do is incorporate my personal passions into my classroom. If there is something I become obsessed with – like llamas, for instance – they find their way into my teaching. I believe this shows my students that the things they love are important as well. I had a student one time that put a pickle in her stories. For some reason, she was obsessed with them. It became a fun game how she could incorporate them into her writing and her speech. She learned she could play with words and it was accepted in the room and encouraged.

My education experience feels unique and I want to close that gap. I am sure I am not the only one who is a writer, a coach, and a classroom teacher. I plan to go back to coaching after a year back in the classroom. I believe the classroom experience makes me a better coach especially in a new district. I continue to write and publish. This makes me more of an authority to my students when they know this information when we have writing workshop.

My students will see themselves as readers, writers, and problem solvers on day 1.

My goal is to form a mastermind of like minded educators in order to fuel each other to take risks and learn from what we experience with our students. Does this appeal to you?

Comment or email me at tammybreitweiser@gmail.com – I would love to connect.