Episode 17 – Estella Owoimaha-Church

 

EstellaimageFind ways everyday to avoid the isolation,” reflects Estella Owoimaha-Church, a top 50 finalist for the 2017 Global Teacher Prize as she discusses the heartfelt validation she felt among colleagues at the recent ceremony in Dubai. “The isolation, I think, is what leads to the depression and teachers leaving the field in […] hoards, it’s the isolation – we’ve got to figure out how to avoid that. So connecting with like-minded teachers and working with like-minded teachers, and doing everything we can to uplift the entire profession. I know that’s hard and we maybe didn’t sign up for that, but I think it’s kind of on us now and I appreciate Varkey, Mr. Sonny Varkey and the Varkey Foundation, for what they’re doing to do that around the world. We’ve got to avoid the isolation.

Fast Facts about Estella Church

  1. Full name: Estella Owoimaha-Church
  2. Years teaching: 11
  3. Grade(s) taught: 9-12 grade, High School
  4. Current position:
  5. Current City: Los Angeles, CA
  6. Favorite books:
  7. Favorite resources:
  8. Mentioned during our chat:
  9. Why teach: “You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.” (Dr. Cornel West)

Noteworthy Outtakes from Estella’s Chat

The high rates of incarceration in the United States are felt far beyond prison walls. From resentment, anger and a student track record that went from a gifted and talented student on the brink of failing out of High School, Estella understands firsthand the impact of EstellaQuotedigging herself out of a hole she dug herself into in a subconscious attempt to lash out at her imprisoned mother.

“It takes empathy, it does.” says Estella as she discusses the importance of practicing empathy in order to build relationships and the power of allowing yourself to be vulnerable with your own truth to help your students, in turn, be vulnerable with you.

Estella goes on to say, “I teach it explicitly but […] we have to believe no matter what, in our kids, in who they are, where they come from, and love them, period. That’s it, there’s no asterisk, no side note, no subtext, that’s it. And if you can’t do that, if you can’t love the kid in front of you, no matter religion, no matter race, no matter ethnicity, nationality, immigration status – if you can’t love the kid in front of you, without them having to do anything or ever speak a word, then this isn’t the field for you.”

Despite her difficult upbringing, Estella spends time describing the need for teachers to be willing to have an open heart and to learn from their mistakes. Her vulnerable honesty about her childhood, migrant parents, imprisoned mother and an eventual rebound thanks to some very inspirational teachers she’s had along the way, helps to capture Estella’s passion for teaching to the whole child.

Validation is another component of Estella’s work as a Varkey Ambassador, as she also recognizes that many in the education field have long felt demonized in this profession. Listen in as she describes her sincere feeling of validation among other finalist at the recent Global Teacher Prize ceremony in Dubai and how, if she could, she would bottle up that feeling of validation and pride and share it in every teacher’s morning cup of coffee.

The Three H’s That Start My Student’s Morning Right!

Before figuring out any math equations, sharing whether or not the character in their book is a protagonist or antagonist the first question my students answer each morning is:

blog6“Handshake, High five, or Hug?”

Something magical happens every morning during our morning greeting – we start a new day on a clean slate. Whatever may have happened the day before, good or bad, today is a new day. A new day to learn, a new day to make better choices, or a new day for a student to meet a goal they set for themselves the day prior.

As I write this, I realize this is a piece of advice I received long before receiving the keys to my first classroom. This wasn’t a new concept to me as a new teacher, and probably isn’t to many other new teachers either. One of my favorite books, THE Classroom Management Book, by Harry and Rosemary Wong, talks in depth about why this crucial part of the day is so important.

My intent with the blogs I write, and the podcasts I host, is not so much to share innovative new ideas or strategies, but to share stories and personal aha moments teachers have had in hopes that it strikes a chord with others trying to find themselves in this profession. More than just learning about why the morning greeting is so important – one of my aha moments as a teacher came when I learned HOW to actually do it successfully!

Here is a breakdown of my love/hate experience with getting my student’s mornings off right:

If At First You Don’t Succeed; Try, Try Again … Errr, Maybe…

“Take the time to greet each child as they enter the door,” one of my teaching professors once said. Well, easier said than done. Remember, I was new at this gig. I worked with only adults in my life before teaching. That first morning as I met my students for the first time on the yard, with a beautifully decorated sign that read, “Room 10!,” in my hand, I eagerly walked them to the classroom and stood at the door ready to shake each child’s hand and say, “Good Morning, welcome to second grade!” What I wasn’t prepared for, or naively thought to consider ahead of time, was what would happen once the students who had received their greeting entered the room with their teacher still at the door greeting everyone else.

While at most schools, and in many classrooms, discipline is not a factor – this wasn’t the case for me, and it wasn’t the case at my school. It was the first day of school after all, and I hadn’t even begun to understand what would need to go into building a safe and productive classroom culture.

The first thing I noticed was how baffled each child seemed to be when they saw me standing at the door, hand outstretched and a big smile on my face. It occurred to me much later on that this was probably one of the first times many of my students of color in a predominantly low socioeconomic community had an adult waiting to greet them.

Second thing I noticed was that about a third of the way through greeting my students, disciplinary problems began to arise both inside the classroom with children who had already been greeted, and in the hall with students still waiting their turn. Looking back, it was all a blur, but I do remember that after that it took me a long time to try to greet my students at the door again. All of what I had read in the Wong & Wong book on classroom management became replaced with the fight or flight instinct to just move forward with my day and try to get through my lessons without allowing the space for lack of supervision to occur again.

I Did Try Again!

Over time, I began to learn new techniques and strategies for how to structure my day with my classroom. I wish I could say it was in that first year, but it wasn’t. That first year was hard – I am sure that I will pepper future posts with anecdotes along the way, but much like Connie Lam, my teaching experience also started with struggle and absolutely being thrown into just chaos.

But I digress…

Into my second year of teaching, I found myself in a new school, with an innovative concept of taking Montessori public and free of charge to a largely urban and diverse community.

I felt renewed and excited to start fresh. I felt defeated from my previous experience, but I also realize how much I learned from that first year as a teacher. With my new school’s concept of putting the child’s emotional needs first, I was ready to figure out a way to implement giving each of my student’s a personal greeting each morning.

Here are some of the strategies used in my class to set up the morning greeting for success:

  • Walk the students to the line, before having them place their items on the hook, face them and give them very specific instructions such as, “Good morning class, please place your items on your hooks and when you enter the room please begin independent reading/check the board for your morning do-now.” The key here is planning ahead what the students will do when they enter so that you are free to give your individual greeting. On the first day of school, before you’ve been able to establish these routines, you may want to leave items on their desks, such as their name tags that they can begin coloring and decorating.
  • Stand strategically at the door where your line of view includes the hall where students are placing their items away, and inside the classroom.
  • Take a knee, meet your students at their level.
  • Offer options students can choose from. Some of them will be cuddly, and will want a hug – others won’t and will feel more comfortable with a handshake or a high five.
  • Don’t just say, “Good morning,” add things like:
    • “I am so happy you’re at school today!”
    • “What did you have for breakfast today?”
    • “You’re eye contact tells me that you are ready to learn today!”
  • Use this opportunity to check in! Ask, “How are you feeling this morning?” “Remember the reading goals we talked about yesterday? I look forward to seeing you work toward them today!”

What I Learned from the “Hand shake, high five or hug?”

The way that students enter the classroom determines almost everything else that happens after. And, it may be the only time of the day that I get to have any one on one interaction with every child in my classroom. With upwards of 30 or more students in your class, these personal one on one greetings really may be the only time all day that you get to look each child in the eyes and tell them how special they are. As I write these words I immediately think of one student in particular who because of his special needs is pulled out often throughout the day for services. If it weren’t for the connection we make every morning, he wouldn’t feel as comfortable when he is in class as I hope he does.

If I were to rewind even more, I can even look back and realize that the reason the very first students I had gave me that look of bewilderment because in their case – it probably was the first time an adult looked at them with a smile on their face happy and eager to enter them into the classroom. If there is any reason at all to implement a morning greeting (not to be confused with or replaced by the whole class morning meeting that takes place inside the classroom), it would be to realize that for many children, especially the most under-served students in the most underprivileged communities, your morning greeting might be the only time in their day they are welcomed into any space they walk into.

12 Ways Teaching Has Affected My Thinking

I thought I knew, but I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I began teaching – I can’t be the only one, right? I hope not.

I mean, how can you really anticipate what will happen when you are left alone in a room with 25 or more children and the door closes behind you, and they’re staring back at you in anticipation? One day you’re playing teacher with all your stuffed toys in the safety of your bedroom as a child. Then the next you have the responsibility of imparting knowledge, safety and wisdom on the young people before you.

Three years in, I am not quite as terrified as I was on that very first day — however, many soon-to-be teachers think teaching will be their avenue for “saving the world,” that all their students will love them, and all their lesson plans will be so incredible and engaging that they will never be “that” teacher with disciplinary problems. Oh, and summers… ahhh, summers! Need I say more about that one?!

While I am fully aware that I still have a long way to go on my path to being a more effective and confident teacher, here are twelve ways teaching has so far affected my thinking:

  1. All my students will love me – but that doesn’t mean that they will do what I want them to do!
    While some may love you more than others, most students do have love for their teachers, whether they admit it or not. They want your love and adoration – but setting clear boundaries as a teacher is as important as parents setting loving boundaries at home with their children. As their teachers, we want them to feel loved and cared for, after all students who know their teacher loves them will also work harder at trying to meet expectations. However, there is a difference between trying to be their “friend,” and setting clear expectations while also inviting your students to get to know you on a somewhat personal level. In my podcast chat with Melissa Ascencio, she talks about how she uses her sense of humor with students to help build relationships and trust.
  2. blog5Teaching is 90% Relationships and 10% academics.
    Much in the same frame as above, I have come to realize that teaching is a lot more than lesson plans and unit writing. Connie Lam talks honestly about her experience of being “thrown into just chaos” when she began teaching. She talks about how she wishes she had more support in building relationships and classroom management strategies with her specific population of students. It wasn’t until I moved from working in a standard classroom, which can be very formative based and numbers driven, to a Montessori school where I finally learned more about looking at the “whole child” and explicitly teaching solid strategies to meet their emotional needs that I began to really feel like I was becoming a teacher.
  3. My day is not done at 3, it’s not done at 5 either…
    A common misconception about becoming a teacher is that our jobs are flexible. Our students are dismissed by 3 (or even earlier at some schools) so, naturally a teacher’s day is now open to doing “whatever,” yeah right. One of the most common things I am hearing among all my podcast chats has been this common struggle among teachers about how to balance one’s personal life and teaching life. Think about it, all the emails that come in during the day, all the paperwork that needs to get done, lessons that need to get planned, meetings that need to take place, professional development and credentialing requirements, parents who need to check in, and so on… all those things cannot even be touched until all your children have been dismissed at the end of the day. I have come to learn that I need to be more efficient with my time to get things done. Something I am still working on.
  4. I cannot fix everything.
    Danielle David talks about not always having to have an answer. She shares how one of her biggest lessons as a teacher has been the realization that “the most valuable tool you can give to someone is your active listening… you’re just listening with your ears and heart.” As teachers, we can be made to feel like we should know everything and that we should know how to fix it all too. However, as a teacher I have learned that the most powerful tool I can give my students is the skill to learn the process of figuring things out. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know,” it’s ok to just teach how to listen with your “eyes, ears and heart.” Those lifelong skills will stay with them far into their future — and also relieves me from feeling like I need to have an answer to every question they may have.
  5. Teaching is not always fun.
    That’s right kids, sometimes your teacher doesn’t want to come to school either! As a career changer, I definitely feel like I spend my days more productively and walk away feeling more fulfilled than I did at previous jobs, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have days where I just want to tear my hair out. Sometimes, teaching is just not fun, but it’s always meaningful, and it’s always challenging and it’s always different every day.
  6. Professional development can sometimes be a drag.
    I am what they call a “introverted extrovert,” which means that while I thrive on social interaction, I also gain energy from time alone. I enjoy sharing strategies, chatting and learning more about how I can be a better teacher – hence the development of these podcasts and blogs. However… there are times that professional development meetings can also feel like a drag. With so many things on a teacher’s plate during the day, it is often hard to concentrate during a PD meeting without also thinking of all the other things that you can be doing during that time.
  7. I’ve become more aware of the importance of self care.
    I feel so grateful to work for an Ashoka Changemaker school where mindfulness practices such as meditation, silence and empathy are embedded in our daily curriculum, as well as at our own staff meetings. With a background that started in corporate America, in the fast-paced city of New York, it has been so wonderful learning how to slow down. That said, just as I am still working on strategies on being more efficient with my time, I am still working on implementing mindfulness and self care into my daily life. However, being a teacher is all about modeling and I often model using strategies such as meditation, and deep breaths with my students and have seen it help them develop coping strategies at such an early age.
  8. I’ve come to appreciate having a growth mindset.
    It can be so easy to get caught up in scores, but being able to sit back and watch a child go from barely putting sounds together in the beginning of the year, to reading close to grade level in just a matter of months is so rewarding. They are growing, we are growing. The process should be just as celebrated as the outcome.
  9. No two teachers do things the same way.
    I mentioned before how much I enjoy collaborating with peers. When I first began teaching, however, I thought that I needed to copy exactly what other experienced teachers were doing in order to be successful. I soon realize that taking bits and pieces of strategies from other teachers and finding my own style would really be what feels natural and in the end lead to positive growth as a teacher.
  10. I absolutely appreciate parents who understand that mistakes are for learning and that it’s OK if there child is not happy ALL of the time.
    As a parent before becoming an educator, I was privy to lots of playground talks with other parents who were overly concerned with their child’s constant state of happiness. While I never really bought into that mindset, as I think teaching resilience and creativity that can, and often, comes out of things like frustration and boredom is actually healthier in the long term – I have come to appreciate so much other parents who also appreciate this kind of growth mindset for their child. It makes teaching their child so much easier because they are able to understand that mistakes are for learning!
  11. I’ve come to learn to let go of parent expectations – especially my own
    Often parents are the first to be blamed if their child falls short of expectations. As a mom of two boys, I have had many times where I felt that my boys behaviors were an absolute reflection of me, and while that may be true in many ways, it is not absolute. I appreciate that being a teacher, who is also a mom, I’ve been able to see each child for who they are without judging their parents. I could teach my son all about how important it is to follow directions in school, but I’ve come to face it, he is a social butterfly. His love of talking, in moments that aren’t always the best during class, does not make me a bad parent.
  12. Summer and holiday breaks fly by!
    That’s right folks… and as a career changer, I totally remember what it was like to only have five vacation days in a year. However, I have learned that teaching is such an enormous job, that when a break comes along, it is greatly needed! Also, to be even more honest, teachers are never really “off.” Whether planning, attending professional development conferences, setting up the classroom, or finding creative ways to raise money for classroom supplies – because well, if I wasn’t so set on wanting to not go over just 12 ways teaching has affected my thinking, I would add a 13th about how underpaid teachers are and how under-served many of the schools we work in can be, especially those of us who work in urban public schools.

Funny thing though readers, despite all I’ve listed, teaching has been the most rewarding and enriching career I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. And I guess, if I were to cheat and add a 13th after all, it would really be that one of the most everlasting ways teaching has affected the way I think it would be that I see the future in my children, and so I see the future very brightly!

By Jennifer Khadir

Want to be a Teacher? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

Teaching is something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl I had a chalkboard in my room and would “teach” my younger brother, along with all my stuffed animals and cabbage patch dolls — who I’d line up seated in a horseshoe shaped-U, in front of me as I lectured them on reading and writing.

blog4I was also an avid reader and writer myself and kept a number of composition books and various notebooks filled with short stories that I wish so badly I still had today. My dual passions for teaching and writing were always at odds and for most of my life I thought of as two separate entities pitting themselves against each other. I had to choose — be a writer, or be a teacher.

Writing won out at first as I spent most of my high school and college years dedicated to writing for and acting as editor for my school newspaper, respectively. Although teaching seemed to always be calling to me in the far ends of my mind, studying Journalism and ultimately landing a career in communications seemed more natural — at first.

When my family embarked on our cross-country move to the San Francisco Bay area from New York City back in 2011 I took the opportunity to go back to school and study education. Before committing to any program I spent a year volunteering at my son’s preschool, and visited many elementary classrooms as well. Once in my Masters program, I excelled – A’s all around!

I thought I was prepared, but very quickly realized once in the classroom that there was so much more that I didn’t consider, or think to ask myself ahead of time. One of my most recent chat with teacher podcasts with Danielle David, educator in the East Bay for over 11 years, touched on three questions any person considering a career in education should ask themselves. At about the 48:55 mark, you’ll hear Danielle suggest asking yourself the following:

  1. Do I really like kids?
    Danielle admitted that while this may seem like a no-brainer, that it is very important to consider your feelings about children. Whether you’re considering early elementary, middle school or High School — do you like being around young children, adolescents or teenagers. Your love of math may not be good enough to qualify you for being a math teacher in a room full of around 30 teenage students if you can’t stand being in the room with them in the first place.
  2. How am I going to balance the workload and my life?
    “I know that seems like putting the horse before the cart,” says Danielle, “but at the same time, it’s really important to have a work/life balance. Being a new teacher, it’ll eat you up if you let it.”
    Thinking about how to honor all the parts of your life that are important to you is good  advice in any career you choose, but as Danielle says, as a teacher “there will always be work, there will always be lessons to write, but you’re not always going to have that time to be with your family or that you could go and take an exercise class and you don’t want to lose yourself to try to get ahead.” If you’re not putting your best self forward, you’re not going to be able to forge long lasting relationships, a part of teaching that is extremely important, and often goes overlooked in teaching programs.
  3. How am I going to prepare myself for feedback that maybe isn’t so great?
    During our chat, Danielle shared a personal anecdote from her earlier years in the classroom. She talked about how an administrator once said “I don’t like your voice.” Danielle shared how hurtful that felt at first, but after some thought and reflection was able to figure out that she had been talking loudly over her students. She was able to take, what she referred to as badly worded constructive criticism, and turn it into a teachable moment that taught her to slow her pace and be more aware of her students engagement during lessons.
    “It is a very personal profession. You are out there on stage,” says Danielle, “people are going to come in and they’re going to have things to say about it [your teaching], it’s going to happen.”Danielle went on to say that despite the comments anyone gets, “people are going to get feedback that they don’t want to hear.” She suggests asking yourself, how will you be able to respond to that? She also recommends not being reactionary, and instead consider where the observer is coming from? How truthful are they? And, are they someone you trust?

Teaching has so far proven to be a profession that definitely requires one to have patience with children, and adults! It has also taken more of an effort to balance my life as a mother, wife, teacher and now blogger, than ever before. In a separate podcast with 16 year teaching veteran, Melissa Ascencio, we chatted candidly about what balancing her life as a teacher/mom meant to her — understanding that nothing can be equally balanced at the same time, that sometimes certain parts of your life required more attention than the others at any given time, but that as long as it all evens out in the end you have achieved some sort of balance.

And lastly, one thing I am so grateful to have learned as a teacher so far, has been this idea of tackling everything life throws my way with a growth mindset and willingness to improve for the betterment of myself and for the sake of my children…both my children at home and in my classroom.

by Jennifer Khadir

The Five Letter Word That Saved My Life!

img_20161017_151040385

Ok… so I have a flare for the dramatic! But seriously, when I began getting ready for my first year of teaching I planned lessons, decorated bulletin boards, set up the classroom furniture, and had my first day of school read aloud book all ready to go. I was prepared, so I thought.

I soon found out that the missing piece of the puzzle was a well thought out curriculum in social emotional learning (SEL) and the incorporation of a five-letter word that has since been a wonderful addition to my classroom: PEACE!

But what is peace? Why is it important to teach and include in your curriculum?

Once I discovered the value and importance in talking to my students about peace, I began starting each school year with a conversation about what the kids themselves think peace means.

“Being able to feel good about yourself!”

“Blue!”

“Soft and quiet!”

These are just some of the things they’ve come up with, and they are always surprised to learn that peace can be found in many places. It doesn’t just refer to “world peace”. They can have a hand in creating a peaceful environment wherever they are.

We then read the book Peace Week in Ms. Fox’s Class by Eileen Spinelli. After reading about all the squabbling and chaos happening in Ms. Fox’s class we share moments of difficulty we’ve had in the past and how we worked through them. I then, and with that dramatic flare previously mentioned, reveal a “peace path.” The kids “Oooo” and “Ahhhh.” Once settled down we go over the different parts of the peace path:

  1. Take a Breath
  2. Stop and Think
  3. I statements: “I felt __________ when __________ because___________.”
  4. Followed by the listener repeating the persons feeling with, “I understand you felt ___________ when ____________ because __________.”
  5. Brainstorm: One idea at a time, problem solve, take turns.
  6. Come to an agreement and make peace: Shake hands, high five or hug.”

img_20161017_142250462This is followed by some fun modeling on how to use the peace path and give respectful “I statements” as well as how we use our listening tools (“we listen with our eyes, ears and hearts!”). Each person on the peace path stands on either side of it, with another student whose classroom job is a “Peacemaker.” They then follow the steps on the path and step forward until they meet in the middle where they brainstorm ways to make amends and come to an agreement in the middle.

What has been great about the addition of the peace path in my classroom is that it has given my students a voice and builds their skills as leaders when they help their peers “walk the peace path.”

I leave the peace path in a part of the room dubbed the “Peace Area” and students are free to offer the flower to a peer and invite them to the peace path when they feel like they need to resolve an issue.

Generally, I have found asking students to use the peace path during recess, or other transition parts of the day doesn’t generally interrupt the work time as a class. I’ve also even allowed some kiddos to go to the peace path whenever they’ve needed to and have seen it help with them getting focused again when they return to working because they feel heard and have had their feelings valued.

There is so much I am still learning about social emotional learning and building a peaceful environment and culture in my classroom. I hope this one example of the use of a Peace path is helpful to you and can help you and your students work towards building these very important social emotional skills.

By Jennifer Khadir

Finding My Place As A Teacher

“What’s your secret?!”

“How do you get your students to the circle so peacefully?”

“How do you keep your kids so engaged?”

“When do you have time to plan your lessons?”

So many questions still left unanswered, or come up throughout the career of a teacher, that were not quite so covered in Education 101. Three years into teaching and I have so far found that there has been no better training than the lessons taught to me by my very own students. Them and the peers I work alongside.

Before I go on, I have to first admit that teaching is a second life career for me. I first spent almost a decade working in Corporate Communications while I lived in New York City. Having always longed to be a teacher, when my husband and I decided to move our young family of three across country to San Francisco, CA, I jumped at the chance to go back to school and earn my Masters of Arts in Teaching.

How smart of me to go back to school during my time as a stay at home mom. I didn’t have to work and I’d have plenty of time to study, earn good grades and take in everything I could during my time as a student teacher. I was 30 years old, my son was three, and we just moved 3,000 miles away from the family and friends we spent all our lives around helping us and providing support that I was too naive to have realized I was getting so much of.

Needless to say, it was a tough road. If it weren’t for the support of my husband, and the fortunate placement of some pretty incredible people that have been placed in my life along the way, I couldn’t have done it. But thanks to them, my ambition and type A personality, I graduated with a 4.0 degree from a top rated University and was well on my way to becoming the educator I had always dreamed of being.

Soon after I was even offered a teaching position as a second grade teacher for a school in East Oakland. I was on cloud nine. My timeline was all coming together… I should also mention that a month after graduating I gave birth to a second son who was a mere eight months old when I started working again after a three year hiatus as a stay at home mom. All my check boxes were getting ticked off.

Move cross-country, check!
Experience being a stay at home mom after working non-stop since high school, check!
Get Master’s degree, check!
Have another baby, check!
Become a bonafide teacher, check!

Does it sound like I am bragging? Because I’m not. Like all those celebrity couples that the media loves to place on a pedestal, watch in amusement as they attempt to live up to the live’s the tabloids created for them, then later watch their relationship experience a great fall…I must admit my first year teaching was the most difficult and gut-wrenching experience I ever had.

It was like a punch to the gut. I spent countless hours planning, preparing, fixing up my classroom. I remember aching to get my hands on those classroom keys! I memorized my class roster. I spent weekends the summer before my first Fall as a teacher at Lakeshore. I was already spending money before I was even making any! I was so excited.

Then reality hit.

Teaching is not for the faint of heart. Especially in a school serving an area’s most vulnerable and under-served young people. I was in for it. My type A personality was about to get a humble lesson in humility. My students were my best teachers. That said, I did not feel ready for the challenges that faced me that first year.

In just the short two years since, I have grown immensely, learned so much, and learned to take whatever advice I could get with an open heart and an even more open ear.

I’ve since also grown to appreciate the importance of things like social emotional learning, and building a culture of love and safety before all else, including the curriculum.

It is my hope that this will be a place where teachers come together to share their experiences, share their expectations, their hopes, and their ups and downs.

As I think back to my time as a student teacher, I remember admiring so much the classroom management displayed by my host teacher and asking, “Can you tell me exactly what goes into your classroom management techniques?” After sharing and showing me some of the things she does, she said, “…but you’ll have to figure out what feels right to you.” And while that is so true, it doesn’t hurt having resources, tips and tricks shared along the way!

I have grown to value the importance of good and ongoing mentorship. It is with all this in mind that I look to build a place where weekly blog posts and podcasts can live to help me and any teacher looking to build a resource of mentors and resources can come to as we seek answers to those unending questions of how to best support our students and live up to the needs our children have as they grow and learn all they need to know to go out into the world as competent well-rounded people.

By Jennifer Khadir