I See You: The Power of Affirmation

My husband Eric is the inspiration behind this post.  He said something to me that I knew I had to share with everyone. I’d be selfish if I didn’t. Recently, he made an area of our home into an office. I wanted a place just for Dr. Joy.  When we talked about it I wasn’t sure what it would look like because we had limited space.  The outcome was absolutely gorgeous.  He framed my academic degrees, a few special photos of the children and one photo of a much younger version of the two of us. He hung them on a solid black wall. When he was finished, he brought me to that…

We Were Them…Then: A Reflection

My 6- year- old son, Christopher, was just bouncing around the house one day. This particular day was rough, and I was emotionally, mentally and spiritually drained. To make matters worse, Christopher had a marker in his room and it bled through his bed sheets. Frustrated and at my wit’s end, I looked at him and said, “WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO MAKE A MESS!” He looked at me with an equal level of frustration and said, “I’M 6, HOW CAN I NOT MAKE A MESS!” That response stopped me in my tracks. I remembered not too long before that day working on a project at my office and getting hot glue all over a table. So, I took a deep breath, picked Christopher up, and he cried in my arms. Now, I am a sucker for this little boy, but I also realized at that moment that we were both just drained.

Student Voice: The Journey Begins on Day 1

When I was a classroom teacher, I would start getting a little anxious around  mid-August as I anticipated the upcoming school year. Mostly, I  was excited for the opportunity to reinvent myself. I realized today that I pretty much always started the first day of school the same. I spent a big chunk of the day involved in the following activities: Finding adequate space for the abundance of hand sanitizer, tissue boxes and storage bags Helping students organize binders and label already color-coded folders Taping name tags on desks once…

Creating Conditions That Encourage Student Voice

I took my nine year old daughter, Erica Lynn, shopping for school clothes this weekend (ay yi yi).  I heard about the social and emotional changes that begin to occur during this age, but I can’t say I was totally prepared for them. During our all day experience (and I mean all day), there was laughter, tears, compromise, frustration, and at the end of the day there was joy. Erica put her nose up at about 80% of the outfits I had in mind for her, but I realized something…

Whats You’re Take on Misteaks?

We all have one of those memorable mistakes.  When I was 16, I worked at a sporting goods store.  I loved it!  I worked with a group of fun woman and we wore cute referee uniforms.  One evening, we were yapping away and looking busy at the register when a young charming man walked in requesting change for his 50 dollar bill. He was friendly, complimented us on our uniforms, and even told us about some of the parties that were going on that evening. I don’t remember exactly what…

The Buddy System: It’s Not Just for Field Trips

My first year of teaching was fun and overwhelming.  I had a very challenging group of 25 first graders (at least I thought they were).  At the end of each quarter, I was required to submit a reading and writing portfolio for each student. Near the end of the first quarter, my deadline was fast approaching and my student portfolios were an unorganized mess. I was doing the work, but just hadn’t figured out a good “organize as you go” type of system.  The evening before my portfolios were due,…

I Know Now That It Was Unintentional: A Reflection

Writing was always my favorite subject in school. I loved writing assignments, and was very excited when one of my elementary school teachers announced to my class that we would have the opportunity to write an essay on a state of our choice. There was one catch. Everyone in the class had to have a different state. It did not take me long to decide which state I wanted to write about.  Since my last name was Armstead and my teacher always did everything by last name order, I would not…

Count Me In: Using Icebreakers to Build an Inclusive Classroom Community

One of the essential components of a positive learning environment is the establishment of positive relationships. Creating a classroom tone that is friendly, supportive and invites opportunities for connected modes of learning, can enhance the learning experience for all students. Incorporating icebreakers can help create an environment where all students feel safe sharing. Icebreakers not only encourage student voice, they can support students in making meaningful connections to content. My experience with facilitating icebreakers with students and adults has taught me a few tips and tricks. I’ve had some great…

In the Hot Seat: Resources to Help Teachers Respond to Questions about Race

As a classroom teacher, I did not believe I was skilled at engaging in meaningful conversations about race with my colleagues or responding to questions from my students that directly related to equity,discrimination or oppression. I was slightly fearful that I would say something that might be taken out of context. It wasn’t until a “hot moment” erupted in my fifth grade classroom that I realized I had to grapple with my personal feelings and emotions.  It became quite clear that many of my fifth graders were more honest, articulate…

5 Muhammad Ali Quotes Every Teacher Needs in the Classroom

As a fan of boxing, it’s easy to compare the world of education to this fascinating sport. Educators, regardless of their role, have ringside seats to a main event focused on transforming education. There are always competing initiatives (going toe-to-toe), which can be difficult to navigate. Despite the constant battles,  those who want to make a difference never throw in the towel. Teachers and students hit the canvas each day. Teachers work to create independent learners who can get themselves out of a clinch. When a student gets knocked down, a…