5 Restful Distractions (that might even make us more productive) #TeacherMyth

When looking at the time we have and everything that needs to be done, it can be easy to convince ourselves that the best course of action is always to double down on productivity. That mentality makes us do irrational things like skipping lunch to get more done and staying up far too late to try to pack in more productivity. I know we all have plenty to do, but I wonder if some of our extra exertion really helps us get more done or if sometimes it is actually counterproductive in the long run.

Schools have well defined schedules, and it can seem like the most productive course of action is to always maintain a nose to the grindstone approach. The trouble is that we all have limits, and if we continue to push ourselves to our limits with no opportunity to rest or rejuvenate, we will not be at our best to serve teachers and students.

Rest is hard for me. I want to solve the problems before me by working harder and longer than I thought I could, but I know that I need some rest in the middle of the whirlwind of work to really be my best.

So I want to invite you into the challenge I have for myself: find a way to slip one or two of these activities into your routine this week. It won’t make the to do list go away. It’s not a time turner. It’s not the sort of rest that we need and get outside of the school day, but I wonder if this might give us a change of pace and boost of positivity that will provide us the rest we need to be even more productive as we move forward overcoming challenges and serving others each day. I think it’s worth a try. Here are five ways to rest that might even make us more productive in the long run.

5 restful distractions (that might even make us more productive)

1. Expressing gratitude

Every day in a school is filled with a whirlwind of activity, but in the midst of all those organized events are a multitude of opportunities to thank people. Verbalizing that gratitude makes an impact, but writing it out is somehow different. Take the few minutes to thank someone on your campus. Delivering that message will provide a boost for you and for the recipient.

2. Reflecting

As the pace of work picks up, calendar out (even a tiny amount of time) for reflection. This will stretch some, but I’m going to encourage you to write about what’s going on. Think through what’s been memorable for the past week or month. What are students going to remember from the work you are putting in? While it’s not a requirement, I think it’s great to share some of your reflections with someone, and that brings us to…

3. Intentional social interaction

(I’m an introvert, so I need a little prompting here…) Take a little time and chat with someone purposefully. That doesn’t mean the topic has to be something heavy, but plan it into your day.Stepping away from the work for a brain break is important. I’d say even try to avoid work talk during this time. It’ll help you get to know folks and continue to connect to your peers at work. Armed with that new knowledge of those you work with opens up the door for…

4. Random acts of kindness

Become a force for positivity. As educators, there are plenty of hard days with tough situations. Given the myriad of challenges we face, intentionally adding some fun and kindness into your day will always be worth your effort. Post some of those “Take one” tear offs or some inspirational quotes in staff areas around your campus to make people smile or give them that extra reminder of the importance of our work. Maybe even ask a friend to bring soft drinks by for your team. It doesn’t take much effort to make people smile a bit and set someone’s day on a different trajectory.

5. Go outside

I can’t speak for you, but I spend a lot of time inside. I want to get outside a little more when time allows. If you can manage it and the weather allows, take a walk and get some sunshine.


See if you can roll a couple of these together (i.e. Go with a friend to put encouraging quote cards under people’s windshield wipers in the staff parking lot).

We all have plenty to do, but I really do believe that purposeful actions like these are a wise investment of our time. Our work is important, and while there will certainly be days that are truly just packed to the brim, if we can find ways to develop some of these other activities into habits in our routine, we might end up even better off in the long run.

If you give this a try, drop me a note in the comments about how it goes for you. I’d love to hear about your experience!

If you like what you’re reading here, you might like my book, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth: 6 Truths That Will Help You THRIVE as an Educator. The book highlights six truths that will help you THRIVE as an educator, including one–everyday every day–that talks about how big an impact our everyday actions really make. Get the book on Amazon or read more about the book here.

Your Impact #TeacherMyth

I love this video about the impact reintroducing a pack of wolves into Yellowstone National Park had on the entire ecosystem of the park.

Every time I watch this video I seem to come across a new connection to our work as educators (I know, I’m the coolest, right?). Here are a few of the parallels I’ve seen. What else would you add?

1. A single wolf could not have made the same impact, but a pack (well, three packs according to this info) had an unmistakable impact on the park. You cannot do your work alone, but it doesn’t have to be a huge pack to make an impact that will last far longer than we can imagine.

2. These wolves had no idea about the scale of their impact. They simply did what they knew to do to thrive in their new environment and the rest happened naturally. The work before us as educators doesn’t come effortlessly; for many it is quite natural, but that doesn’t lessen any of the impact. Like the wolves, we cannot see the impact of our work while we are in it.

3. The wolves can’t not have an impact on the park. Don’t be fooled into thinking that some of your work makes an impact and other aspects don’t. Every action you take has a ripple. Every choice you make has consequences. Your work makes a difference. Make sure it’s the impact you want to make.

So you may wonder to yourself, Why is he sharing these connections between education and wolves in Yellowstone?

Because I think we all need this reminder: Great change happens when a group of influencers enter an existing system.

My hunch is that we know that, but that at times, we can forget it.

Maybe we forget this truth when we get too focused in on the day to day and don’t see the big picture. Maybe forgetfulness sets in while we are right in the middle of trying to deliberately create change on a large scale. In any case, this is true: The school you work in and the students you serve will bear the evidence of your positive influence for years to come. Your work with kids will be remembered for a lifetime. Your actions have a lasting impact. Don’t forget that.

If you like what you’re reading here, you might like my book, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth: 6 Truths That Will Help You THRIVE as an Educator. The book highlights six truths that will help you THRIVE as an educator, including one–reject isolation–that will challenge you to find a tribe of educators to support you in your work. Get the book on Amazon or read more about the book here.

Top 10 Posts of 2017

2017 has been quite a year. It’s been full of many great experiences–getting our oldest started in kindergarten, publishing Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth with Dave Burgess Consulting (and doing some speaking to share that message), and serving in a new role in my school district.

But 2017 has been tough, too. It’s included far too much loss. Too many inexplicable situations of loss. I’m ready for a fresh start a new year can bring.

With the new year, I’m excited to reset my habit of blogging. Throughout the fall, I made the mistake of not continuing to process my learning and share my learning through this blog. So, on the cusp of the new year, I find myself reviewing the past year of blogging to remind myself of how much I grow when I blog. Looking forward to a new year of blogging, here are the top 10 posts from the past year.

Top 10 Posts of 2017

10. What is Your Watch?

This post is not about watches. It’s about those things that look right, but are actually in need of some attention in our work. Without looking closely at our practices to see what is working and what isn’t, we’ll never even notice that something needs to change.

9. Top 10 Tips for Student Blogging

This post is actually a guest post by Marina Rodriguez (@mrodz308). She runs an amazing hour of blog club after school with her 4th graders, and after visiting the club during the spring, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have her share some of her experience. Not surprisingly, she went above and beyond and shared responses from her students about their experiences as bloggers. Don’t miss this post!

8. Making the Most of Summer

I’m not good a resting. I’m just not. If I don’t make a plan to take a purposeful break, I won’t use the time wisely and won’t get the rest I need. This post was one of those “Write it like it’s for others, but know the message is really for yourself” posts. It’s certainly applicable at more times than summer, too.

7. 3 Traps That Stall Innovation (and How You Can Avoid Them)

Innovation is easy to talk about and tough to actually realize. Even when we get started, it’s really easy to stall out after the enthusiasm of doing something new wears off. This post highlights a few pitfalls to avoid as you tackle that innovative opportunity.

6. Create Simple Personalized Professional Development

I’ve always felt the tension between the personalized learning we ask teachers to provide and the often one size fits all PD that we provide teachers. Creating personalized PD seems impossible (or at least impossibly time consuming), right? This post shares how we created PD for our teachers that relied on their experience and expertise; it offered a personalized touch to our PD for the year and was a huge hit with teachers. The best part is that it’s doable for so many to pull off.

5. Capture the Moment: Using Twitter Moments in Education

I don’t do many how to posts, but this definitely fits that bill. Twitter Moments began as something only for big time national news and epic social media fails, but when they released the feature to all users, I saw an opportunity to use this for educators. The post highlights how to create a Moment on Twitter and why that might be useful. Enjoy!

4. Ending the School Year Well

We hear so much about starting the year well, but there’s comparatively little out there about ending the year well. I set a quick tweet out about how folks end the year purposefully, and I was overwhelmed with the response. This post is a result of the great ideas of the incredible educators who fit my request into their busy schedule in May. I love it!

3. 4 Questions to Help you Actually Create Change

There’s a lot of conversation about change in education today, but it’s easy to stay right there–at the conversation level–and never actually put any change out there. I offer four questions to help actually create change in this post. They’re certainly not magic, but they’re necessary parts of the process if we want to actually see shifts happen.

2. 3 Ways to Make a Difference This Week

I really like this post. A lot of times, it feels like we have to do something amazing to make an impact, but the reality is that our little day to day actions have an incredible impact on others. I like that this gets shared from time to time because it reminds me to stop overthinking and remember the little things are big things in the end.

1. 41 More Books Worth Reading

My most read post for the year was just what is sounds like–a big post of 41 books that I feel are worth reading. Everything there isn’t likely for everyone, but there should be something for almost everyone on the list.

Just going through this makes me excited for the new year. 2018 has plenty on the horizon for me, and I hope the same is true for you. I’ll be back with plenty of new blog posts to process through all that the year will bring.

Have a Happy New Year!

Taking My Own Advice #TeacherMyth

You cannot do it all.

You have to give yourself some grace as you do your work.

You cannot pour into others if your tank is empty.

Over and over again, I’ve found myself sharing these ideas with others this year. Maybe it’s not those exact words. But the message is the same. You can’t do everything. You cannot excel at every task you take on. You cannot expect perfection from yourself. To do your best work, you must step away from the work at some point.

The problem is that while I do a decent job of reminding others of these realities, I find that I’m much better at sharing that with other people than I am at actually following my own advice.

I want to do it all. I want it to be perfect. I want to accomplish it all without having to rest. And if I’m honest, I want it to look effortless.

But I can’t because it’s not.

So I’m trying to take my own advice tonight. I wanted to share it. We all need to hear this (I’m not the only one who needs this reminder, right?). Maybe not today, but file it away for a time where the stress is building, a deadline is approaching, where you can feel that you’re energy is dwindling. When that happens, remember…

You cannot do it all.

You have to give yourself some grace as you do your work.

You cannot pour into others if your tank is empty.

3 Traps That Stall Innovation (and How You Can Avoid Them) #IMMOOC

“Change isn’t something that comes with a checklist.” – Dave Burgess, in the publisher’s foreword to The Innovator’s Mindset

I’d really like it if innovation were a cleaner process. One with less uncertainty. One will less failure. One with a clearer roadmap.

But that’s not what we sign up for when we set out to innovate.

Innovation is most certainly an adventure without a checklist. But even when you set out on an adventure that could go a thousand different ways, there are always a few pitfalls that you know you’ll want to avoid.

If you want to lead innovative change in your sphere of influence, then you have to avoid the pitfalls that sideline many attempts to create something new and different in education.

There are certainly others that could be included, but after thinking through three attempts to innovate over the past few years, I know that these three pitfalls can bring innovation to a halt in a hurry.

Trap #1: Innovation Replication
Innovation is tricky to replicate. A successful innovation provides a new and better solution to an existing problem. Certainly we can benefit from considering the solutions that others have identified, but just because we could implement their solution doesn’t mean we have to or need to. If we don’t have the same question they do, we don’t need try to implement the answer they’ve discovered.

What we can really benefit from is looking at the questions that others asked as they began to innovate. What drove the initial process and got their conversations off the ground? What rules did they choose to ignore? What constraints did they have to overcome?

A careful look at the path others traveled en route to innovation is more likely to benefit us than simply adopting their practice.

But we like continue to prefer solutions because we fear the unknown…

Trap #2: Fear of the Unknown
When we’re trying something new, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves in a bit of uncharted (or at least less charted) territory. While I would never advocate haphazardly jumping into the change process without a plan, I will say that most innovative change that I’ve experienced needs a different sort of planning norm. If you are making a new path, you will not walk on a nicely paved road. You will not be able to anticipate everything. You don’t even know all the obstacles in your path yet. Finding a balance between a comprehensive plan and one that you can actually bring working on is key.

While outcomes can be unpredictable, designing the process can allow you the freedom to focus on the real problem you are tackling. On the outset, identify the problem you are wanting to improve upon and honestly assess where you are at in your current reality. Then set a big goal for where you’d like to be and begin to backwards plan until you get to the actions you’d like to tackle this week. Set checkpoints for yourself, and find someone to help you out with the plan.

But don’t allow yourself to stay in planning mode forever. There’s some comfort in the planning process that you’ll need to step away from or you’ll never get started…

Trap #3: Not getting started
The problem—that area you know needs a touch of innovation—is not going to sort itself out. Your inertia will literally keep you where you are at forever unless an outside force disrupts the status quo (seriously… it’s a basic rule scientific rule). The problem you’ve identified needs an outside force to send it off its current trajectory and in a new direction. You can be that force, but you will be most effective if you don’t go it alone. After you’ve looked at the questions that inspired others to innovate and designed a process to enact a particular change, GET AFTER IT (but not on your own).

You Have a Choice to Make
Each of these traps can be avoided.

Instead of replicating answers, learn from their driving questions.

Instead of fearing the unknown journey ahead, set a goal and backwards plan toward it.

Instead of letting inertia maintain the status quo, draft a plan that you will actually start.

Looking at someone else’s innovation can sometimes leave you feeling like others have the magic touch. They don’t. They just get started on the work.

I love this reminder from J.K. Rowling: “We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: We have the power to imagine better.”

You have a choice to make: Innovate and improve the school experience for your students or let the status quo keep its hold.

Make the right choice.

If you like what you’re reading here, you should check out my book, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth. The book highlights six truths that will help you THRIVE as an educator, including one–Imagine it Better–that will challenge you to imagine better than the status quo for your students. Find the book on Amazon or read more about the book here.

Everyday Impact

Teachers who engage students in those everyday moments are remembered for a lifetime.

Sometimes we don’t believe that.

We allow ourselves to believe that memories are made exclusively by a grand gesture. We think we have to be out of the box. Often, we think we have to do something other than be ourselves.

But I really believe that each of those statements are lies.

You will make a difference for the students you serve. Make sure it’s because they see you interact with them in a genuine, authentic way (especially in the everyday interactions). Those exchanges–the ones in the day to day times that seem small and don’t take long–might leave the most profound impact on our students. How we treat people each and every day can create just as memorable an experience as a big event.

Here are 4 simple ways to make everyday interactions places that create a lasting impact on students:

  • Give students fist bumps and high fives. Maybe it’s to celebrate something awesome going on. I tend to like it most when it’s for no reason at all.
  • Take a selfie with a student. Make sure you follow all the proper protocol and procedures for your campus/district so that taking and sharing these moments is nothing but positive. Students love selfies (and it’s especially novel when they get to take them with old people… like us…).
  • Find common ground with students in conversation. Who likes your favorite sports teams? Do you enjoy the same tv shows as any of your students? Do you play the same video games as your students? Even if you don’t (maybe especially if you don’t) immediately have common ground here, making the effort to learn what students enjoy goes a long, long way. Bring up an interest you have in common during your next conversation and watch the student light up!
  • Ask about life outside of school. Show an interest in their upcoming weekend plans (or how the weekend just went). Find out what kids are involved in outside of school. Who’s in the local theater company? Who’s competing on the weekends? Who’s at the library over the weekend? Who’s bored (and ready to come back to school) most of the weekend? All of this is great to learn about your students.

Everyday interactions happen each and every day. Each one is an opportunity to make a positive impact on students. Don’t miss your chance to make an impact!

Click to tweet this image & blog!

If you like what you’re reading here, consider checking out my book, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth. The book highlights six truths that will help you THRIVE as an educator, including one–Everyday Every Day–that discusses how our daily interactions with students often create the longest lasting impact. Read more about the book here or find the book on Amazon

The Power of Story

I loved reading my students’ writing, but one assignment in particular always brought out the most interesting reflections from my students.

The writing assignment asked students to wrestle first with this claim—“The thing about humans is that they are constantly comparing themselves to one another”—before moving on to the idea that with few exceptions, we are “people who [are] wired up so that something outside [ourselves] tells [us] who [we are]” (both quotations from Donald Miller’s, Searching for God Knows What).

That’s a lot to consider, but in class, when we kept the conversation focused on how this might apply to the literature we covered throughout the year, we not only found this idea to be true, but we also found this truth to be much more tolerable when applied to anyone other than ourselves. It seemed much easier to see that Huck Finn believed in half-truths and bald faced lies throughout his story than it was to ask whether we have treated others as less than human for the same reasons. Likewise, it seemed much easier to condemn the community that shuns Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter than to look at the reasons we accept or reject people today.

After talking about how stories shaped some of the characters we met throughout the year, we shifted the focus onto ourselves and asked: “What is your story? Who are you listening to? How is that going?”

Despite the relative discomfort caused by bringing this all up in class, my students overwhelmed me with their responses as they wrote about taking care of their families, setting goals to make people smile daily, and how exhausting it is to try to keep everyone thinking that everything is going great in their lives. Many wrote about clinging to the values that had been instilled in them. More than a few wrote about the relief of not having to be known as “the funny guy” or “the quiet one” after high school.

What shapes your story?

If we are truly wired up so that something outside of us tells us who we are, we need to ask ourselves the same questions I posed to my students. We need to identify the story we are living out. We need to identify the voices who we are letting in, the voices that influence on our journey. And we owe it to ourselves to honestly ask how that is going.

To say the least, that’s not easy.

There are certainly no shortage of voices that we could let in as educators. And with all those voices out there, if you don’t know which ones to listen to, you’re going to try to please them all. (Here’s a secret: That doesn’t work out well.)

Educators and students are labeled in all sorts of ways. Whether or not those labels are fair, whether or not those labels are accurate, the reality is that labels are there; they have a real power to influence us. It’s up to us to choose what gets fed into our story and what’s left on the cutting room floor.

The story can get distorted pretty quickly. Maybe you’ve believed you don’t have the experience to contribute to the team. Maybe you want to make a change, but you’re not sure what your team will think. Maybe you just feel like you are not enough for all your students need. Maybe that’s not you, but something else is there lingering in the back of your mind.

Take a minute and ask yourself those questions: What is your story? Who are you listening to? How is that going?

Write down your responses. Write down the voices you want to listen to and a couple of ways you can give those your attention. Write down a few voices you know will try to speak into your story that you plan on not giving your attention to.

Whose story will you shape?

But don’t stop with simply recognizing the ways that stories influence you. There’s an even bigger realization that we cannot miss: If we are wired up to let outside influences impact our stories, then we have the chance to serve others as a positive voice in their story.

What we have to say to others—friends and foes, new and old—matters more than we might have previously believed. It can profoundly shape someone’s story.

Don’t believe me?

Odds are that it’s no work at all to bring back a hurtful comment or a time someone went out of the way to pay you a genuine compliment. Both inform your story. Be the person who speaks truth and encouragement to others. You have no idea how powerful an impact it may have on someone’s story!

As you move throughout your week, I hope you seek out opportunities to speak life and truth into the lives of those around you—both those closest to you and those you’ve not even met. It’s your responsibility and your privilege to invest in others in this way.

If you like what you’re reading here, consider checking out my book, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth. The book highlights six truths that will help you THRIVE as an educator. Click here to learn more about the book on my blog or find the book on Amazon.

What is Your Watch? #TeacherMyth

I started last school year with a watch that had a dead battery.

All day long, my watch showed it was 11:11.

I told myself I’d get it fixed. It wouldn’t take much time. It wouldn’t cost a lot of money. It’s not even terribly inconvenient. What would stop me from fixing that which I knew to be broken? 

I made plenty of trips to and from places that could have fixed my watch for me. And still my watch does not have a new battery. 

So why, a full year later, am I still looking at this watch that has yet to have a new battery installed?

In short–It’s a lot easier to realize something is broken than it is to change in response to that realization. (That’s even true with something as small as a watch battery.)

The watch isn’t the way I tell time anymore. I’m rarely away from my phone (that’s another post, but not the focus for today), and there are clocks in most every meeting room is be in otherwise. My watch no longer serves its original purpose.

It looks right, but it’s broken. I was able to wear my watch every single day for an entire school year without actually needing it. What’s more, nobody else noticed it was broken either. 


I wonder if there are other things like that for us. Things that look right, but with a closer look, might actually be broken. Maybe they don’t need to be tossed out, but they’re no longer serving they’re original purpose.

A few things spring to mind, but I’d love to hear from you: As you prepare for the new school year, ask yourself this: What isn’t serving its purpose anymore? When you have a few answers, what will you do with those things? What are the biggest changes you feel you can make in these areas?

(For this post, don’t say testing. There’s plenty to say about testing, but standardized testing is here for another year. It’s certainly something worth thinking through, but I don’t want us to miss the things that are closer to us, the things we have much more power to change.)


I’m still wearing my watch (and I still haven’t replaced the battery). Past the fact that it was a gift from my wife and I just like it, that watch has become a reminder for me of our need to be routinely reflecting on what’s working, what’s not, and what’s giving a false appearance that may be fooling us.

I’d like you to think through what your “watch” might be before you go. Think through these questions and consider what you can do to identify your watches as the new school year begins. 

  • Sometimes things look like they work until we take a closer look. What isn’t working like it should? Is there anything that is still taking up your time that no longer serves its purpose?
  • The routines we adopt as the year begins will stick with us throughout the year. What do you need to add to your routine to make this a great year? What needs to be removed from your routine? What do you need to keep telling yourself throughout the year? What do you need to stop telling yourself this year? Where is there rest built into your weekly school routine? 
  • We educate in a world that is rapidly changing. Norms from long ago are not always the norm today. What are you doing this year that you weren’t doing 5 years ago? 3 years ago? Last year? What are you doing to challenge yourself to move past what you’ve always done? 

I hope you spend a few minutes reflecting on your practice with these questions. I wish you nothing but the best of luck as you begin the new school year!

If you like what you’re reading here, consider checking out my book, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth. The book highlights six truths that will help you THRIVE as an educator, including one–Imagine It Better–that discusses how we can and should disrupt the status quo in education. Read more about the book here or find the book on Amazon

Top 10 Tips For Student Blogging (guest post by @mrodz308)

Near the end of the school year, I had the chance to see something amazing happening in one of the elementary schools in my school district. Marina Rodriguez (@mrodz308), a 4th grade dual language teacher at South Knoll Elementary, reached out to see if I would come by and participate in the “Hour of Blog”–a time she and her students use after school to explore all things blogging.

The experience was amazing.

She and her students, none of whom began the school year with any blogging experience, created hundreds of blog posts throughout their after school “Hour of Blog” they began together during the spring semester. Our time together went so quickly. The students asked wonderful questions and shared insights beyond their years.

A lot of people would look at the end product and want to replicate it, but not know where to get started. I asked if she would share about her experience. Marina was happy to share about the project and offer some tips for anyone who is interested in getting your students blogging. I also love the student and parent reflections she shares, too.

Enjoy this post from Marina Rodriguez, and get your students blogging!

Back in January of 2017, I decided to bring blogging into my 4th grade dual language classroom.  With state testing right around the corner, I wanted to offer my students something engaging they could experiment with, lead, and make their own.  I caught the name of a blogging website called Kidblog off a post on Twitter, and the only thing I knew for sure was that this blogsite was safe for kids.

My initial concerns were many… How would I introduce something I have never done before? When would we find the time to practice this unique genre?  Are my students mature enough to handle working independently online?  Will the novelty of trying something new fizzle out before we get anything valuable accomplished?  How would I make sure students practice good writing habits?  How would I manage it all for so many students, when they will have online access anywhere, anytime?  Is it crazy to try to do this on my own with 4th graders?

Even with the many concerns, blogging online seemed to carry possibilities that would excite our learning and launch us into something new and wonderful.  After talking with a small group of my students for some feedback, we decided to make it an experiment.  I decided to trust that my students would at the very least have fun trying something new.  I took a breath and we jumped into the digital world.

What happened in my classroom those next few months of school was nothing short of amazing.  My classroom shifted.  We went from a classroom to a community, from students to guides, from rule-followers to leaders… independent problem solvers, collaborators, creators, innovators, and explorers.  Learning became contagious.  Students kept a “Blogger’s Notebook” and worked hard to find reasons to write, and they wrote often.

During this process, I became a part of this magnificent shift in our learning environment.  I became a guide and an actively engaged learner.  I learned to trust myself as I pushed to learn more, just as I encourage my students to do the same. This adventure helped me to become a blogger.  I also discovered that my students, my bloggers… are some amazing human beings.  They ended the school year feeling like a part of the world around them, thinking beyond the walls of the classroom, and ready to make an impact.

Here are my Top 10 Tips for Student Blogging for teachers thinking about getting started…

Top 10 Tips for Student Blogging

  1. Why blog?

Let your students in on this secret… the more you write, the better you get at it.  Here are a few other reasons… to value student voice, to give students meaningful and purposeful reasons to write, to allow students to learn for themselves and learn from each other, to allow students to make an impact on the world, to connect with others and build relationships, to experience having an authentic audience, to struggle and reflect, to explore, to grow, to research, to collaborate, to problem solve, to create, to innovate, to practice critical thinking, to prepare for the future.  There are many other reasons why blogging can be powerful for students.  Blogging helps students learn, reflect, and grow.

Encouraging students to write what they want as much as possible is a powerful way to grow writers and critical thinkers.  When students have the freedom to lead their own learning, amazing things will happen.

  1. Make Expectations Crystal Clear

Making expectations crystal clear is key for just about anything.  Picture your ideal learning environment, then let students in on your vision.  Together, you can build towards that goal.  Teach mini-lesson, after mini-lesson, offer reminders, reviews, notes, etc., as much as you see is needed.  In an ideal learning environment, everyone is a learner, and everyone should develop the skill of guiding others to learn new things.

The goal is to have a room full of independent, critical thinkers, and creative problem solvers.  With the right guidance, a classroom can quickly become a place where both students and teacher carry the title of Guide, where everyone is able to offer what they know with respect and willing to help others in the process, not because it is a mandate, but because it’s the right thing to do.

  1. Begin with a Small Group

It is easier to manage things when you start small.  Begin with a group of 6-8 students who you think would not have issue with independently making decisions, setting goals, expectations, etc.  These students can be your mentors for the rest of the class.

Guide your small group in the right direction, but allow them the freedom to lead and make decisions.  Hold special blogging meetings during lunch or before school, to help launch and establish their special leadership positions.  Encourage a plan for everything, so they understand that things work best when planned.  This will give students ownership, and naturally allow them to develop the need to care and protect their work with great passion.  Students will often set the bar much higher than you expect, and will lead other students to do the same.

  1. Encourage Inquiry Projects

Inquiry learning is phenomenal.  Encourage students to use blogging to share what they learn.  When children begin school at the age of 4-5, they come in excited and ready to explore the world, often with spectacular curiosity.  They are typically ready to jump into learning and exploring with little fear or hesitation.  As the years in a classroom begin to lay its heavy hand on their curious minds, students become less of explorers and more rule followers.

Allow for natural curiosity and exploration to develop through student inquiry projects.  Blogging about an inquiry project is a fantastic way to bring back a student’s inner explorer.  Students practice developing a higher-level ability to think through what they want to learn and make good choices, not because “the teacher” told them so, but because true explorers and learners must make good decisions as they push to learn more.

Encouraging the explorer part of a student’s brain is essential to having a student-centered learning environment.  Allow students to investigate, research, and write about the things they enjoy or find intriguing and/or interesting.  It can lead to some powerful learning.

  1. Share with Parents, Admin, and Others

Sharing student work with an authentic audience can make a powerful impact.  I still remember the look on my students faces, when we talked about having their parents and other teachers read their work.  They were both nervous, but incredibly excited.  These experiences help students truly own their work, and it helps them to understand the true purpose of this communication skill we call writing.  It’s more than developing a writer or blogger, it is showing students that their words have value and can cause impact.

Publishing for a target audience helps students understand that the value of their own voice.  Not only is it important for students to publish and publish often, but by focusing on specific audiences, students practice real-world communication skills.  Writing to specific audiences is a skill that students will use for the rest of their lives.

  1. Digital Citizenship vs. Being a Good Human

The best advice to give students is that they are responsible for being good humans, both inside the digital world and out in the real world.  The difference between having digital citizenship and being a good human is absolutely nothing. The sooner students understand that who they are online is who they are in real life, the better.

Technology is a part of our everyday lives, and students need us more than ever to help guide them into making good choices.  Trusting that students do the right thing may sound like a lot to ask, but it is well worth the investment when student-centered learning is the goal.  Most students would rather participate in the digital environment to learn, than to be denied that option for poor choices.

  1. Walk Them Through the First Blog

Guiding students through their first piece is important, because it sets the expectation.  Our 21st Century Students know a lot; however, they need our experience and our guidance now more than ever to help keep them on the right learning path.

Don’t expect perfection, expect their best work.  You may want to approve the first few blogs before they post to an audience, however, only a teacher knows when best to move a student on to what comes next.  Make sure to give them the freedom to write without your approval at some point, better sooner than later.  Try to read all of their work, as much as possible.  When students begin to write more than you can keep up with, you have succeeded in creating a group of students who are living as writers.

  1. Focus on the 4 C’s

According to the National Education Association (NEA), in order to prepare our 21st Century Students for a global society, we must help them develop four key components:

  1. Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
  2. Communication
  3. Collaboration
  4. Creativity & Innovation

All four components can easily be embedded into blogging.  Making sure students understand why these components are important will help keep them focused on the big picture… their future.

  1. Teachers Can Be Bloggers Too

The best way to lead students into blogging is leading by example.  Diving into something new with your students is a priceless experience for both you and your students.  It turns everyone into a learner instantly, and allows both the teacher and students the opportunity to live as true explorers.  What an amazing experience to offer students!  Sharing experiences, good and bad, reduces the fear of making mistakes and builds an environment where students feel safe to learn, grow, take risks, and push forward to become life-long learners.

  1. Give It Time

Give yourself and your students time to develop.  Again, only the teacher knows when her class is ready for what comes next.  The use of a program that allows students to write electronically anywhere they have access to the internet is exciting.  They will develop quickly the need to write, and write often.  They will make mistakes, and you will need to help teach them how to pick up the pieces, how to make their writing stronger, fresh and fearless, or more impactful.  It will take time, but it will happen sooner than you think.

Technology is in integral part of the lives of our students.  Blogging is one way to help students maneuver in an environment that will continue to be an important part of their lives.  Preparing our 21st Century Students to become leaders in a world already at their fingertips is not only important, but necessary.


Comments from my 4th grade class of 2016-17 students and parents…

“I blog because it is fun and I love inspiring people. It helps them get through a problem.”  -Malichi, 4th Grade 

“I love blogging because it’s a way for me to express my writing in the form of technology, and I just love how blogging brought all of us together as a tiny community.”  -Mariana, 4th Grade

“I like blogging because it is challenging for me.”  -Juan, 4th Grade

“I like to blog about just about anything I can.  I like blogging because I like seeing other people’s perspectives on blogging and what they think about the different categories that you can blog about. I personally think it’s COOL to see what other people think about it.”  -Isaiah, 4th Grade

“I like to blog about things that would help you later in life. I also like to post quotes and poems.”        

-Luke, 4th Grade 

“I like blogging about poems. I like blogging because it helps me interact with my friends.”  -Luis, 4th Grade

“I like to Blog about how to build character. Most of my Blogs are in the category of Building Character. I like to Blog because it is a great way to express your feelings for a certain topic. Blogging is a great experience!  I can’t wait to continue with it.”  -Sam, 4th Grade

“I like to blog about Star Wars, and science fiction.  I like to blog because I do not like to share my work a lot, but Kidblog makes it less scary.”  -Hudson, 4th Grade 

“I love to blog because other people can learn from my blogs and create more like mine, and just carry on the idea! I blog to change the world, and to follow my dreams! ( ; I like writing encouraging poems and also writing fictional stories.”  -Halle, 4th Grade

“I like to blog because it helps me with my learning and my writing skills.”  -Efrain, 4th Grade

“I like to blog about things like family. I also like it because you can learn from it, and you get to chat about the things that you are to do. You can learn from your mistakes, and that helps you get better, and you will love it even more. That is why I love blogging.” -Madison, 4th Grade

“It is fun and educational.”  -Nathanael, 4th Grade

“I like blogging what is in my mind. I think that blogging what is in my mind makes others think how I think about things around me.”  -Ashley, 4th Grade

“I like to blog, because you can interact with your friends, you can share your writing, and give your opinion about the writing.”  -Paloma, 4th Grade

“I like blogging, because the options to write about are endless…”  -Lily, 4th Grade 

“Blogging helped my daughter in so many ways with her attitude toward writing and her overall writing skills!  She would write short stories here and there at home prior to blogging. Once introduced to blogging, her short stories began to expand to include elaborate titles and chapters! She began writing stories!  She looked forward to being a part of the blogging group after school. She learned to express more of her thoughts on paper/computer.  Being shy, this provided an outlet for her. She found that writing can be fun! She would think of topics, plan ahead and write creatively.  We are grateful that she was introduced to blogging at SK by you!” -Parent

“So many positive changes in my son since he began the blogging class with you.  He has always been a voracious reader, this opened him up to the process of writing & not dreading writing assignments.  I even noticed improvement in his vocabulary & spelling habits.  For him being such an introvert, the most positive change I noticed was social.  He seemed to forge stronger friendships with his classmates as this was a fun bonding assignment outside of the normal classroom setting.  He corresponded via email with a classmate about topics & ideas for their blog, and spend lots of time brainstorming & collaborating with a friend.  Having a “special” time & fun activity outside of the traditional classroom structure was so beneficial for my son, as it gave him the opportunity to be creative & have complete control over his work product.  We are so thankful & appreciative for this opportunity, and… he thoroughly enjoyed staying after class each week to participate!” -Parent

“My son has grown immensely this year in his writing and I believe it is largely due in part to his blog experience.  I have seen him use his free time to write and blog, which is a big change from years past.  He enjoys brainstorming and coming up with new ideas for his writing… I wanted you to know how much you had an impact on him.” -Parent

“The blogging experience conducted by Mrs. Marina Rodriguez helped my daughter increase her interest and motivation in writing generally, and more specifically in writing poetry and even some ‘philosophical’ meditations about life and other essential topics. She became more aware of her spelling weaknesses and made the best of the opportunity to correct them. She also visualized (and still does) herself as a ‘blogger’ and, in many occasions, she has introduced herself to other people by using the expression: ‘I am a blogger.’ It clearly means that she has become more familiar with several contemporary media platforms that are now part of our daily technological experience. My daughter also had the opportunity to interact with some of her classmates’ blogging activities, exchanging therefore with them thoughts and getting in the know of their areas of interest or concern. That made her more aware of her circle of friends and contributed toward friendship and communication, and not the opposite. Also, she has kept her interest up projected to the future and plan to continuing her blogging activity despite the class is over.” -Parent

“We feel it is a wonderful example of using current technological resources to reach children academically… without them seeing it as work at all!  Well done!” – Parent

“Blogging created an excitement for writing for my son.  He was often eager to share what he had written with our family.  He also enjoyed reading others entries.  I felt like blogging was very helpful for his social and emotional well-being and helped him feel very connected with his classmates and wonderful teacher!  Thank you Sra. Rodriguez!” -Parent

“I feel that it helped my daughter become more expressive with her writing. This is obviously very subjective, but it seems that she started to see writing as more of a tool to initiate communication than simply something used to respond to others.” -Parent

Be sure to check out Marina’s blog (www.marinarodz.com/blog) and connect with her on Twitter (@mrodz308).

4 Questions to Help You Actually Create Change #TeacherMyth

Before Roger Bannister ran the first mile under four minutes, it was thought to be impossible. Not only that, if you talked to a medical professional about the idea of running a mile in less than four minutes at the time Bannister was chasing that mark, he or she would have likely told you that there were serious health risks associated with even attempting such a feat.

Last month (June 2017), the tenth high school student recorded a sub 4 minute mile. Think about that. 65 years ago, common thought among medical professionals was that this would be seriously risky for your health, but here we are with a new understanding of what is possible because someone dared to push back on an established idea.

Sometimes it feels like we might need more than we feel we have to offer to create meaningful change. Maybe we feel need more courage or different ideas. Maybe it’s that we simply lack confidence. Maybe fear keeps us in our place, or perhaps it’s simply our own inertia that keeps us from moving forward.

In her 2008 Harvard commencement speech, J.K. Rowling reminded graduates that they did “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

I agree with her wholeheartedly. We have the power to imagine better, but I often find myself doing the same old things. Making a plan won’t create the change we want to see, but we will not break out of our old routines and practices without a plan.


What do you want to change next year?

Go ahead and think big here. (Of course you don’t need my permission, but a little encouragement never hurt, right?) What is it that you would most like to see change in the next school year? What would you like to change in your classroom?

Why are you in education? What made this sound like a worthwhile career to invest yourself into when you began? Don’t just think about that–write it down.

Now compare that to what your day to day looks like. How will this change bring you back to your why?

What are your current obstacles?

One of the trickiest things about creating change is the dynamic landscape we are often working within. No two schools are exactly alike, and although many are similar, we have to be careful about broad stroke comments about how to actually create change on the ground in schools.

Think about your situation. What are the obstacles that you can already see coming? Anticipating those road blocks (because there will most certainly be road blocks) will allow you to avoid some of the frustration that comes with those interactions with those who do not share your perspective. Will it make it easy? No. Will it help you feel like you are the one continuing to drive this movement forward? Absolutely.

Who will help you create this change?

For this to become a movement (that’s what you want, right–not just you toiling away on your own trying to make a difference), you need to make sure you’re not going to take this journey alone.

Successful change happens when passionate people do what others believe is impossible. What you hope to change is going to make a difference, and that’s why people are in education: to make a difference.

You need a few people around you to help you refine your idea and help you identify those early obstacles mentioned earlier. You also need them as a sounding board for when you begin to get feedback (because as someone who is about to stir things up and create change for good, you will get feedback).

Two things will happen when you begin to get some movement: People will love it, and people will hate it.

Don’t move forward without at least two people you can count on to support and challenge you throughout this process.

Change calls people out of their comfortable routines. Some are going to see what you are doing and be invigorated to make their own change. Some will want to join your cause. And some will not be happy with you. Be prepared for that. Don’t give in to that feedback. I’d shy away from completely dismissing it, but take it in, determine if there’s any validity to the critique, and move past it. You have work to do and only so much energy to spend doing it.

What time & energy can you commit to this change?

You cannot continue to pile more things onto your plate forever. You are not limitless. You cannot do everything. (Yes, I’m talking to you, too, if you just responded, “Yes I can” to that claim.) We have a finite amount of energy, and that’s ok.

You cannot give more than all you have to give.

But that reality is hard to swallow because the common narrative is that the best are the ones who can keep going forever, the Energizer Bunnies who never seem to stop, never seem to waver, and always accomplish their goals beautifully. I’m tempted to say, “That’s great if you can pull it off,” but I am really coming to believe that nobody can pull that off. At least I can’t, so I’m trying to dedicate my available time to the goals that matter most to me (more on that as the school year approaches).

If you give everything you have at school, you likely won’t have enough for your family and yourself when you get home. (I know I’ve heard Jimmy Casas share about the difficulty of balancing an emotionally draining job with the desire to be fully present at home when you’re there. I feel like I’ve heard others share a similar sentiment. If there’s a chance I heard that from you or you recognize where I should give other credit, please let me know so I can give credit where it’s due.) Certainly there are days like this. Things come up, the reality of serving others is that it can be simultaneously live giving and incredibly draining all at once. I’m not exactly sure how, but that’s my lived experience. What I’m saying is that we cannot schedule ourselves to that point. We have to keep something in the tank for the others in our lives and for ourselves.

Giving every last bit of energy you have to your work is not a healthy long term solution. Figure out what you have to give and go full throttle into giving that amount. Be dialed in, focused, and determined to drain every ounce of that dedicated time to create change, but be willing to give yourself the white space to recharge afterward.

Achieving the Impossible

Bannister’s record breaking run in 1954 changed the landscape of track and field. The next runner to break the “impossible” four minute barrier did so just two months later. Hundreds have done it since. Last month, the tenth high school student broke the four minute barrier. Some runners have finished a mile under four minutes more than 100 times.

The impossible is happening.

I’m excited for you and for your future. The changes you make this year will have an impact far greater than you are likely to every know. But they won’t happen without someone like you getting back to the reason you got into education and pushing your reality back toward that original motivation.

Where will you upset the status quo?

If you like what you’re reading here, consider checking out my book, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth. The book highlights six truths that will help you THRIVE as an educator, including one–Imagine It Better–that discusses how we can and should disrupt the status quo in education. Read more about the book here or find the book on Amazon