Skip to main content


The philosopher Nietzsche said that, "Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I know people have considered me insane on several occasions, but that has never stopped me from hearing the music. I never stop considering how my time spent here on earth can be simplified. I want to love what I do and be present––from adoring the memory foam mattress topper on my bed to enjoying the stream of light that falls on the dining room table in the morning.

I cannot do this if my life is cluttered. If there are clothes on my bed or a curtain is blocking the light from my window. In any classroom there are so many things to be tamed, from data to paperwork to classroom books. Ultimately though we are there to teach children. That should be our main priority––by what all goals and assessments and classroom arrangements should be chosen.

When I taught first and second graders, I found myself being judged because of the lack of stuff on the walls. "It's so empty in here, when are you going to set it up?" I have been known to say in an interview, "If you're looking for an apple sweater wearing teacher, I'm not your girl." What I meant by this was that I'm not going to cutesy up my classroom. Decorating would be for me and what I want. My priority is teaching children. I believe that when we focus on theme-based classrooms and using other people's materials in their entirety instead of making them our own based on our student's needs, we are falling prey to the age of distraction.

I have watched children struggle with problems in the classroom and go to the teacher for help when there were hundreds of charts on the walls that could have helped, but they couldn't find the right one. I think of it this way, if you are driving and you come to a corner where there is a stop sign, a yield sign, and a do not enter sign, how will you know what to do? We must be very clear, and having walls filled with the alphabet, sight words, and how to stand in straight lines charts is confusing. I know that your principals may not understand, but I assure you I have lived without those things and gotten high marks on my observations. Tell them there are other ways to help children that work. The alphabet taped to their desk is a heck of a lot easier place to find the one you need. Sight words that are memorized can be done quickly during circle time or at a workstation for practice. Having a strong rationale for why you do things goes a long way to getting a principal to agree with your philosophy. So you must develop a philosophy you can stand behind again and again. And you must shift that stance as your knowledge base grows.

Go ahead, buy the thousands of education books that are published each month. They will grow your knowledge base, but don't make their philosophy yours. No one can be you and that's what makes teaching so special. Take down the curtains that cover up the amazing work you are doing. Let the sun shine in special spots of your classroom throughout the day highlighting two children laughing over a book or one boy madly writing his slice of life on a clipboard. At the end of a hard day's work, lower your body onto a comfortable memory foam pillow and read a book that you can share with your students. Simplify your days so that you don't need someone else to tell you how great your teaching is, you'll already know.

Your classroom family hears the music and dances every day.


  1. This was exactly the conversation Julieanne and I had on Voxer yesterday - how to focus on the important, to be ourselves as teachers.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

5 Ways to Help Gifted Kids Find Their Gifts

When I work with gifted kids, I'm amazed by their lack of understanding about what interests them. They know how to surf the net exhaustively for Youtube videos that make them laugh, but not what skills and practices further their interests.

Developing interests and passions is critical to these students. Many people out there tell me that this is not just for gifted kids, that their average developing child needs to know how to do this too. While of course I agree that this is true, I also think that typical academic, fine arts, and sports programs are available in most communities are enough to engage and motivate most kids. Not true of gifted children who become jaded, disinterested, and shut down quickly when a program doesn't meet their needs.
Most people think of gifted students as being prodigies who know exactly where their gifts lie. This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, I often question if some children who are identified as gifted will ever find thei…

Moo by Sharon Creech

I moved to Maine in 1982. I was a thirteen year old freshman in high school fresh out of a childhood in New York City. It sounds more exotic than it really was. The Maine I moved into wasn't so rustic. The town, Cape Elizabeth, is quite upwardly mobile––think Boston suburb. I remember distinctly the day my friends told me we were headed to the Fryeburg Fair. I had been to a few Maine county fairs over the summers I spent Downeast on the coast of Maine, so I knew what to expect. The 4H clubs mesmerized me. These kids who took such control of large livestock were amazing. They knew what they were doing. They were all pig whisperers and lamb crooners. These animals I knew nothing about in the real world were kept clean, safe and show-worthy by kids who looked to be no more than nine or ten years old. At sixteen or so, I felt too old to learn how but man did I want to join that club.
Wordsmith Sharon Creech has come out with the new middle grade novel, Moo. It is kind of a verse nove…

DigiLit Sunday: Relationships

In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf..

On Sunday, I interviewed a woman named Julie Lindsay. She lives in Australia and started a company called Flat Connections. Her message to me was that Web 2.0 tools have changed the face of education. It brought the walls down so that we could all reach each other.

On  Monday, I read a book by Pernille Ripp, a teacher living in Wisconsin. In Reimagining Literacy through Global Connections, Ripp's message to me was to keep it simple when going global, the students just need to know they can connect and share who they are.

On Tuesday, I voxed Julieanne Harmatz. "Let's do this!" I said. "I've got a fourth grade, you've got a fifth. Mine is in Maine, yours is in California. Let's read together and share thoughts." She agreed.

On Wednesday, Julieanne emailed suggestions for three books she had multiple copies of. I book talked them to my students that afternoon.

On Thursday, I worked online with…