Random Acts of Kindness

This week, I was blown away with the amount of kindness, positivity and love my students embodied.

I often talk to my students about the importance of being kind to others in hopes of trying to mold them into good people. I do my best to open their eyes to difference and how to appreciate it in others. I try and build empathy in them to understand that everyone has different struggles and they may not always look the same as yours. BUT most importantly, I try and prove to them that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and that will look different in everyone.

This week, it was even more important to point those things out to my students.

As random acts of kindness week was among them, I challenged them to reconnect with empathy towards others, acceptance, and how they showed leadership and kindness to one another. There were so many school wide initiatives that my students participated in that promoted kindness and anti- bullying.

These included:

  1. Pink Shirt Day: a nation wide initiative that stands up to bullies and get students to wear pink in solidarity with those trying to combat bullies.

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  2. A pledge kindness wall: our school’s foyer was decorated with paper that required students to pledge kindness by signing their name along with a hand print and give someone an awesome shout out.

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  3. Kindness Family Feud: the student council as our school put on a school wide family feud where questions regarding how someone could show kindness were incorporated.

    This included: how can you be kind to others, how can you show kindness to yourself, how can you show kindness in your community (just to name a few). There was a students team and a teachers team and this friendly competition really got all the students engaged and thinking about how they could show kindness.

    IMG_1537.JPGI was lucky enough to be on the teachers team, and the awesome costumes really showed our team spirit!

Some of my favorite things that happened this week were in the walls of my classroom.

At the beginning of the week I challenged my students to do 2 things that would promote kindness, love and positivity. They did not have to do either activity, they could do one, or both but I encouraged them to at least try one.

The two they could choose from was either to:

a) They had to take a sticky note and write one thing that they were going to do this week for kindness. This was a pledge to themselves that they could keep safe on the back of their phones, in their binders, in their lockers or any place that would remind them. AND I did not have to see it, so it was only a pledge to themselves. 

b) Write a card to a teacher, or person in their life that has made an impactful difference and write them a heart felt message. 

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I was so blown away with what my students came up with and how EVERYONE at least chose one of the two options to do. It made my heart sing with joy that they wanted to embody the ‘kindness’ spirit.

Throughout the week, I was even more honored that many students in my class and in other classes chose to write heartfelt messages to me. I felt so blessed and honored that they felt the desire to let me know that they appreciated me and it truly filled my bucket with joy.

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My random act of kindness was to give back to my students.

I don’t think often enough that they are thanked and told how wonderful they all are and how much I appreciate every one of them. I decided to take my own advice and write each of them a personal heart felt message of why I thought they were so wonderful. Along with the little note was a ring pop, because they truly are my little gems (corny but awesome… I think;)

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This act reminded me how important it is to create those extra little experiences for our students and how those small gestures go a long way. I think that it proved to my students how much I really care, and although I hope that how much I value them is in the level of lessons I plan and deliver to them, it is the extra little bit that truly makes is special.

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If you have not done a little something for your students lately, I challenge you to do something this week. It doesn’t have to be large, but reminding them how special they are is truly important in the process of relationship building.

I hope you received a random act of awesome this week.

Mental health is such an important element of what happens everyday, and although we embed it in everything we do, having a week dedicated to its importance is crucial.

Cheers,

Miss Rylance 

 

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Creating a Class Mission Statement

As the half way point of our year approaches I think it is important as teachers we have a refocus time for our students.

Recently, I attended a Leader in Me Symposium where they discussed the value of having students using key habits and principals in the classroom in order to have an organized and driven life outside the classroom.

One of the suggestions that came out of the symposium was to create a class mission statement. Now, I had heard of class mission statements before; however, I had never implemented one in my classroom. The more I heard about the value of having all students on the same page and driving towards the same common goal, the more I wanted to implement it myself. Especially because I knew my students needed a ‘mid point reminder’ and extra push to get them to the end of the year.

This week the first class I did with my students was a mission statement creation. I took 2 blocks out of my day to dedicate to goal setting as a class- and it turned out AWESOME.

Here are some steps I took to help my class create a team mission statement.

  1. As a class we brainstormed what a mission is. I asked the students questions like: “what comes to mind when you hear the word mission”, “who does mission remind you of”, “who that you know has been on a mission”. I loved the words and discussion that came out of those prompts.

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    Essentially the students came out with 2 separate streams. The first were qualities of a mission which included words like ambition, goals, danger, risk, success, motivation. And the second was people who they know who have missions like 007, mission impossible, batman, inspector gadget.

    Then we talked about how all those individuals encompassed the qualities that were necessary to carry on a mission and I told the students that we needed a mission of our own to be our own 8R 007.

  2. Then, in their groups I gave them large paper and 4 questions that they needed to answer as a class.

    -Who are we?
    -Why are we here?
    -What do we want to accomplish?
    -How will we make this happen?

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    As a class I gave them 5 minutes to answer each question in their groups. It was so incredible to see the team work and answers they came up with!

  3. After that, I posted all the papers on the board, we went through each question and found the similarities that the groups came up with.
  4. The groups then went back into collaboration mode and I challenged each group to come up with 4 words that described the answers that we found as a class. The 4 words had to describe the 4 most important things that they felt needed to be a part of our mission.
  5. Then I took all the words that the groups came up with and created a word cloud. This was now the new mission of 8R. I posted it on the wall in my classroom for everyone to see everyday, as a reminder of what is important for our class.

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I loved this activity because it brought my class together to refocus on the goals for the rest of the year. It also reminded them of their purpose in grade 8 and both what they wanted to accomplish individually and together.

If you have not created a mission for you classroom or school, I highly recommend doing it. It is a simple reminder to students where we are moving as a class and what they are expected to contribute in and outside of the classroom.

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If you have any other strategies for mission statement let me know!

Cheers,

Miss Rylance 

 

Creating a Cultural Centre

In a changing world, society is shifting from a place of borders, religion, race and gender to a place of higher acceptance and unity. Although our world is slowly getting there, there is still a constant struggle to strive for that acceptance and as we fight to help usher in an understanding, in classrooms the struggle is even more real. In a world of divide, we as teachers, are very strongly faced with the reality of having to address in inequality while creating a place of acceptance in the walls of our classrooms. As youth face their own demons of coming of age, media, societal pressures, and academic pressures, they are also faced with the larger hurdles of personal difference. The question when dealing with youth is not if they will face those hurdles but when and how they will work to overcome them.

As teachers, speaking the truth, giving students multiple perspectives and opening well rounded conversations are some of the weapons we equip ourselves with to begin the battle. But, I felt that a larger space for inclusion was required.

In Canada, we pride ourselves on promoting multiculturalism and openly supporting newcomers to Canada; however, when reflecting on the practices that the schools have in upholding that pride we were falling short. To some degree, assimilation is required in order for families and students to find success in society: knowing and understanding English, having access to education, career options, and support from friends and a community are all a part of the antidote for success. However, are all those elements truly available for newcomers or are the struggles being ignored or assumed fixed? AND do newcomers feel that the culture, language or religion that they came here with is admired and celebrated or do they feel pressure to leave behind an identity that they once new?

I believe that there are many complexities to the questions I felt compelled to ask surrounding this subject and as a new teacher, I felt even more helpless knowing that policy and order above me speak larger hurdles to overcome. But, I knew that there was something within the realm I had control over and that was to begin acting as the bridge between new families, the school, the community and what I could offer as a friendly face.

My solution: create a Cultural Centre within my school.

The vision I had was to create a place where culture could be celebrated, accepted and practiced and where my students would have a safe haven to be entirely who there were without pressures of assimilation. I also wanted it to be a place of global awareness where others could learn about each other, root for each others success, and grow by knowing and loving their differences. I also wanted it to be a place where my students could learn and practice English and where it was ok to fail and try again with guidance. I also wanted a place where families could come to seek community support and know where to find it so that they entirely felt safe within their new community. All of these things were the seeds of where I saw my centre moving.

To my surprise, as I started researching how this was going to happen, many centres like this had not existed… or at least in the cyber world. I knew at that moment my vision had to be mine entirely. After a few months of planning and envisioning and researching my visions became a reality.

On January 11, 2018… my centre was complete. On January 12, 2018 I had a room full of students eager to start using the space- my vision has come true and its healing powers had started.

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In the first day of its use, I had a grade 5 student read to me a book in her first language- Tagalog. It was the first time in my time as a teacher that I opened up the idea to my students. I told her, today you have two options; you can either read in English or Tagalog. She looked at me in disbelief that I was giving her that option knowing that as she read to me I would not understand one word and she without hesitation said- Tagalog.

As we were reading, she lit up with enthusiasm and explained to me throughout the process what was happening in the story. After reading the story in her language, we read the same story in English and she explained to me the differences between the two stories and read the story in English with little problems. Without the student knowing, I had challenged her giving her a book 2 reading levels higher than where she was reading at in her class- and she crushed it! As a teacher I was glowing knowing that she felt excited sharing with me her culture and language, but also I was thrilled knowing she was learning.

The best part was after we read it she opened up to me about how she was waiting for a space where she could read the long words in a language she knew because when she reads the long words in English they are hard. She also told me that it reminded her of her home country and how the kids she knows living there would love this book because their first goal is having a good future. At lunch, the same little girl brought 2 English speaking students to the centre where she read to them in a language they did not understand because she was so excited to prove to them her individual greatness.

Although it was a lot of work, and the goals of the Cultural Centre are growing and moving it is officially happening. My hope is that this frame work can be used in other schools with similar goals.

If you have questions or want to personally check it out- let me know!

Cheers,
Miss Rylance

Shattering Myths About Teachers

In my life I always come across people who have to put their two cents in when I tell them I am a teacher. I often get comments like, “those summers off will be really nice” or “working until 3:30 everyday is going to be a walk in the park” or my favorite “those who can’t teach”… In my experiences so far this year, I can’t even begin to explain how those myths about teachers and teaching are wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I love having a summer break to look forward to; however, the amount that goes in behind the scenes is the undocumented element that make teachers the worlds true super heroes.

In this post, I am going to uncover some of the myths behind teaching in an attempt to shed some light on the crazy, amazing profession I am apart of. And for those of you who are reading this who aren’t teachers, perhaps you will gain some empathy for the battle ground we face every day.

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Myth #1: working until 3:30 everyday is going to be a walk in the park…

LOL. In the 5 and a half months that I have been a teacher I don’t think I have left school at 3:30 once and I guarantee most teachers will agree.

The 7 and a half hours that I see my students is ‘on time’ of this profession. The time where I am persuading, presenting, teaching, creating, inspiring for 7 and a half our of the day. That time does not count the time I am preparing for what is going to happen in the 7 and a half hours every day, organizing extra curricular events and activities, meeting with parents, marking, emailing, creating report cards… all of that happens on my own time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I WANT to put in that time because of the benefit it has in my day and in my opinion is required.

Myth #2: those who can’t teach…

Most likely the most offensive of them all, but most likely the most wrong of them all. Here is the thing about being a teacher, being a teacher matters 100% of the time everyday. I am making impacting decisions that may change my students’ lives every minute, every day. The people I work with choose to make those impacting decisions with me every day. At times, I have to make split second decisions and live with what ever actions are going to come after that, and most of the time I don’t even have time to weigh those odds.

There are so many facets of being a teacher; teaching the lessons, marking assignments and tests, writing report cards… that’s the easy part. It’s the part about how you have 120 different humans in your classroom every day with different challenges and struggles, with different successes and triumphs that is the hard part.

Being a teacher matters 100% of the time. Being a teacher, requires an extra-ordinary kind of person.

Myth #3: If you went to school, you know what teaching is…

I often get people trying to give me tips about being a teacher. Although I love hearing feedback and am very open to how I can improve as a professional, it is difficult to hear the constant comments about “how this one teacher in high school used PowerPoint so I should too”, or “do you do any cool activities with your students because the best teacher would do this”.

The reality is, I am constantly and consistently innovating and changing, trying new things, old things and the unimaginable with my students. My university education, life experience, and learn from it moments along the way… are helping me be the best I can.

The reality is, if you went to school you don’t know how to be a teacher.

Myth #4: It’s your job, you get paid for it…

As a first year teacher, with 4 years on university the reality of making a $100,000 salary is not in my near future. The extra overtime and the bonuses for doing good work don’t exist in the profession I chose.

The reality, teachers I know have second jobs to support themselves and their families.

The reality, we may not be paid in  dollars, but we are paid in the difference we make every day, the smiles and laughs the students share in my classroom, and the appreciation for being a person that my students will remember forever; in this sense, myth is correct in that I get paid for it.

I could continue with the realities of the profession I love and admire so much. I wouldn’t change it for the world and I hope by reading these realities people begin the appreciate the work that happens behind the scenes.

 

Cheers,

Miss Rylance 

In a divided world, how do we teach inclusively?

The headlines in our world are more controversial then ever and every time I open my web browser I cringe with the opinions that are filling my Facebook wall and breaking news headlines that are so constant. Immigration bans, hate crimes based on difference, political divide, racism, religious oppression, sexism, ageism, misogyny… how do I promote a positive classroom of inclusive principles when these are the headlines filling my students’ lives?

Especially as a Social Studies teacher this has been something I have been battling for the last few months, but more recently this is a daily reality in my classroom.

As a teacher, how to I objectively teach my students the “right thing”, is there even a “right thing” and how do I help them formulate their own opinions when the radicality of our world is so polarized.

My solution is to tackle it day to day, situation by situation. The strategy accompanied with this idea is to give my students the information for multiple perspectives. Tell them everything I know, research everything I don’t, and separate opinion as much as possible until the students are capable to choose their own side. Now, I am not saying this is easy especially when student’s start to form opinions different then mine… but I know they have the right to their own judgement.

Another issue I am having is one of how can I have a classroom of equals when hate and inequality are becoming norms of influential and important leaders in our world. Each classroom has a mosaic of difference and the beauty that difference brings, whether that be gender, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity each person contributes differently to my classroom wholeness.

It’s hard. 

Especially for those students already dealing with the struggles of fitting in a being in middle school. My solution… make my classroom a safe haven of equality, love, and support. So far, it’s working. As I work every day to shatter the hate filling the young minds of my students… I wish one thing, that they grow into people understanding difference and appreciating it.

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Share with me your strategies… what are you doing to combat the crazy?

Cheers,

Miss Rylance

Life Long Learning!?

When I was in grade school I never really understood when my teachers always said they were life long learners, until I became a teacher. Every principle and passion I try and hammer into my students about reading more and exploring more, clearly rubbed off on me when I decided after just one semester of being “graduated” to go back to school.

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Now, you might be thinking…
“Wow she is a first year teacher who is trying to have a life and she is going back to school”…
Why yes, I am. AND here is why.

Once I got into the classroom, I was so eager to engage all the tools I learned in University and test out all the ideas and information that had been marinating for the past 4 years, and I did. But then as my ideas expanded, I realized where my short comings as a professional were and where my students needed more from me.

Yes, I am my biggest critic. Yes, I in reality don’t have time. But, as a part of making a pact to myself that I would reflect the person that I want my students leaving my classroom as, I decided to do it.

There is something that will always and has always been rumbling inside of me to improve myself. But, the question of if I jumped the gun and decided to go back too soon is also something running through my head.

Here is what I know so far, I am excited to be back. I am newly inspired by my classmates and professors. And, I am getting fresh material on how to make my classes better. Stay tuned in a few weeks when papers are due, report cards are happening and I have exams.

But right now, my ‘few times a week’ night class is going to be the newest adventure for this first year teacher.

Let me know what you do to stay fresh and keep you passion brewing!

Cheers,

Miss Rylance

Starting Fresh: What are your resolutions?

I took a bit of a hiatus from blogging as I did from school during the Christmas season. The push before Christmas has perhaps been the most difficult time for me thus far as a new teacher. The pressure of finishing assessments and units before the break, along with Christmas and holiday events during school hours, parties, the works… it was a lot, as I am sure you know.

After that my brain took about 2 weeks to normalize as I got ready for the New Year. As a new teacher, I feel as though the amount of reflecting and growing that happens is endless but as the New Year started, I think this gives teachers a moment to really think about how this year is going and assess what needs to happen moving forward.

TIP: In making resolution for the New Year, cut yourself some slack. I am my own biggest critic… and although reflection is good… be careful to give your self more credit then you think you need. Find small and effective ways to strengthen your practice.

Check out some of my teaching ‘resolutions’ for this year! 2017… bigger and better!

  1. If you’re having fun, so are your students!
    Before the break, as the insanity of December set in, I felt like as I was becoming more anxious so were my students. Yes, there are always ‘fun things’ happening, but in the day to day business of routine with your students… its so important to make sure you’re still lovin’ it.
  2. Let it be.
    I found that up to this point, I have had a level of patients and acceptance with my students (as you of course need). However, the bottle flipping and dabbing were getting to be frustrating. I decided that coming into the New Year, I was going to understand that those things were inevitable and it was time to just ‘Let it Be’.
  3. PBL: PROJECT BASED LEARNING.
    Its going to happen… stay posted for more details. What I can tell you, its going to be epic;)

 

These simple things are hopefully going to help my classroom grow more into 2017. I recommend making goals and resolutions not only for life in the classroom but also life outside. The balance required to maintain a fresh vibe is essential. Some of my other goals included health, relationship, adventure and financial goals; all of which will help me be a better educator.

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If you want to share your new year, new you goals with me let me know!

Cheers,
Miss Rylance 

The Midpoint Struggle: PUSH!

You have reached the ‘1 week until Christmas break’ mark: students are going loopy, you are going loopy, assessments are due, you’re sick, the kids are sick, Christmas concerts, Christmas events, staff events… how are you going to make it?

Well… I am about asking myself the same question. I think the pressures of being a new teacher are always there and are always a battle but in times like this when the struggle is truly real, here are some things getting me through it.

  1. You’re not in it alone:
    I know it may seem that you are the new teacher that is trudging up the mountain alone, but even after talking to my principal today… we are all pushing through. Don’t feel like you’re in this alone. Talk to colleagues, go for some wine. Remember the end is near. If you try and fight this one alone, you are in for a long week.
  2. Try and make things fun:
    Trust me, there are moments in the day that I think to myself ‘man I am boring right now’, or ‘really my kids look like they are going to fall asleep’, and it may be because they played too much mine craft but it may also be because you’re loosing the spark. One of the things that I have to remind myself this week is that even with all the hustle and bustle, I still have to make things fun and exciting for my kids. How am I doing this?
    -Fun ‘secret Santa’ gift exchange for all of my students through out the week
    -I have a super awesome political cartoonist come and talk to us about current events!
    -Christmas Craft at the end of the week!
    Some simple easy things can even get you through the hard times you feel like you’re turning dull… trust me, it won’t only help you, it will help your students

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  3. The end is near!
    Use the time during the break to re-charge. I know every bone in our bodies is going to tell us to go in and change seating plans, or get ahead in planning, and although these things are obviously important…. don’t work so hard. A wise mentor once told me;

    “As soon as the students are working harder than you, you aren’t doing it right. We must work smarter, not harder”


    So lets all work together… cheers to a smarter not harder last week. For all of you first timers out there, I’m pushing here with you!

Cheers,

Miss Rylance

Your Guide to Establishing a Classroom Routine

One of the biggest things that I find an asset to the success of my day to day ‘teacher life’ is the routine and structure that I have established with my students in my classroom. Although there is a ton of flexibility in terms of the dynamic instruction of my lessons, some simple things have helped my class run smoothly. I also have found this to be a saving grace for classroom management and the establishment of strong student relationships.

Short, Quick, Simple. My formula to effective classroom routines. Check out my tips below!

  1. Have something for students to come into class every morning expecting. For me, this includes a Quote of the Day, and Today’s Plan for each lesson. Both of these are slightly time consuming as I switch my quotes daily and switch my plan per class; however, it is something I know they appreciate.

    At times, the inspirational quote may be the one thing that the student needs at that moment and the plan outlining the lesson is perfect for those students who have issues with transitions or need more prompting. Both of these short, quick, simple things are very meaningful in establishing what my students can expect entering my classroom.

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  2. ‘Do Now’ activities. At the beginning of each one of my classes, students come in knowing that they are expected to sit down and ‘do’ something immediately. In my English classes, this looks like 10 minutes of silent reading at the beginning of each class, in my Ukrainian class this looks like a question on the board they are expected to answer. Regardless, students come in knowing their brain is working from the start.

    This works well when I need an extra few minutes to transition between classes and also helps my students know the expectation and work expected when they come in.

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  3. Every Friday I change things up a bit. Throughout the week students know that we will be working through material striving for our summative assessment. But at the end of each week I do a ‘current events’ Friday and a Library period for them to have some ‘chill’ reading time.

    Both of these things are items students look forward to during the week, but also give me a chance to hit different outcomes that may not be included in my unit plan.

    I use an awesome video to start my current events lesson from www.cnn.com/studentnews and then get students to work in groups to look up local, national and international headlines. This gets students familiar with reading the news and collaborating with each other to come up with education explanations of world events.

I hope these 3 tips can assist you in establishing your classroom routines. Let me know any of your tips and tricks, I would love to hear!

Cheers,

Miss Rylance 

 

Extracurricular: Is It Worth It?

As a new teacher, I find that I have the hardest time figuring out how to leave the walls of my school. The amazing lesson plans, project based learning assessments, differentiation, class bulletin boards, meetings… the list truly goes on and on. But at what point do you move beyond your classroom and become apart of the larger school community?

I think it goes without saying that the first few years of teaching are an uphill battle of curriculum learning, self discovery and figuring out how to really be a teacher but when it comes down to it being a teacher is about 60% teaching… and about 40% everything else. Now, I am about to geek out pretty hard and reveal that I love 100% of whatever being a teacher encompasses, but I assure you that it easily takes over everything.

I am still figuring out what it takes to establish that beautiful balance, but I have found that being apart of the school community is essential to encompassing fully your duty as a teacher in your students’ lives. In my opinion, if you are only there for the 60% teaching, you are missing out on being the 100% kind of teacher that you want to be. Now, is this attainable in the long term teaching plans of my career- I am yet to find out- but here is what I know so far.

The tips that I have in how to pick the ‘right’ amount to be involved in beyond your classroom activities are what I have put into this post. Although I am still figuring it out,  I do know that extracurricular is definitely worth it and those long hours pay off in the long run. You want to make yourself a valuable contributor to your school community and your students will appreciate you so much more if they know you are invested in their success- or that’s how my students are at least.

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The tips of Extracurricular: 

1.Be simple but effective:
-I suggest picking 2 things that will limit your choices on how to not become engulfed in everything extra curricular. Be careful because as soon as people figure out you’re willing to help out, you will be roped into everything! This is good, because it proves you are reliable and willing to become involved. But be careful as it may easily take over.

2.Follow through with everything you agree to:
-The hardest part of saying yes to the extra curricular endeavors is to make sure you are capable of following through of everything you say ‘yes’ to. Even though you may say ye to these things, not being able to commit to your commitment is a <no go zone>

3. Do your job well:
-Make sure that you get involved in things that you are passionate about, or that you are capable to go above and beyond with. Try different ideas, do things a little different, get other teachers or groups from your school involved. Little things can go a long way and your students will acknowledge the time you put in to make it awesome.

Now, I warn you. So far I have not followed my own advice. I am involved in 4 extra curricular and am working out the constant schedule of balance. But I am learning from everything I am doing so if anything, please learn from me. Things that I am loving doing this year- Student Council! Performing Arts Musical! Basket Ball Team Teacher Rep! Literacy Conference Teacher Lead!… the list goes on unfortunately.

I am still trying to figure out if this method is sustainable in the ‘teacher-life’ I am leading. But so far its working. If you have any suggestions on how to make this method work long-term let me know!

Cheers,

Miss Rylance