What I Learned From ALWAYS Obsessing Over Best Practices... & A Giveaway!

Hey, Teachers!

Lately I've been spending some time reflecting on my teaching in a different way. I've taken a step back and stopped worrying about best practices. I am not worrying about the Common Core, my curriculum, or my lesson objectives. I am not worrying about how Lucas is going to complete his writing project or how Anna is going to get her math done. When is the last time that you took a step back from your plans, the emails, the copies... and asked yourself, "Am I having fun?"

I hope it is not a time you can't remember. If we aren't having fun, how can we expect our kids to have fun? If we are so stressed and overwhelmed by the amount of work we have to do, are we pushing that stress onto our students? Now, I know we might really enjoy teaching reading. I know you plan dynamic lessons all of the time. What I'm wondering is... did you spend some time making one out-of-this-world kid-approved fun lesson? Did you make something explode in chemistry? Did you let the kids use art supplies? Did you do something that you know your class would love and would spark learning and bring the joy back into your classroom? THAT is the fun that I'm talking about. Sometimes, though, it can get pushed away with SGOs and observations and standardized tests sometimes.

Here is my number one rule for every week (but ideally each day): 

This probably seems obvious. But we don't always do it because we are so busy and stressed sometimes. I've gotten so caught up in worrying about best practices, the Common Core State Standards, my curriculum, the needs of my students, aligning my perfectly-worded objective to 40,000 standards, and the never-ending to-do list, that sometimes I will forget why I chose this job. 

According to Responsive Classroom/The Northeast Foundation For Children, kids need 3 main things in order to learn. This is what needs to be met ALL OF THE TIME:

1. Belonging: Kids need to feel like they are cared for and belong to your group.
2. Significance: Kids need to feel significant and important in your group. 
3. Fun: Kids need to have FUN in your group!

If one of these basic needs are missing, kids will try to fill it. It's human nature! It's why adults fool around in faculty meetings at the end of the day. We need to have some fun! If we don't have fun, we make our own fun. Are you letting the pressure get to you? Find something fun. It'll build your community, and chances are, you will find a way to make it work for you and your curriculum anyway!

This is why I wanted to step back and focus on just one thing I did for fun this week. This doesn't mean that I don't care about the standards or that my instruction isn't rigorous. It does, however, mean that I remember I am teaching 8-year-old kids who need to... well... be kids!!! I think this lets them soak up the academics much more effectively.

This week, we created some Tom the Turkey projects for Thanksgiving. We decorated and disguised our turkeys (so they won't get eaten on Thanksgiving) and wrote stories to go along with them! The kids have been loving it. They rush over to the display every morning to see the newly added turkeys not-turkeys. Some of our funniest... not-turkeys... so far include: Taylor Swift, a chocolate chip cookie, a minion, a crazy sheep-vampire, a snowman, and more. See for yourself!

As you can see, our minion does NOT have tail feathers. That's because it's not a turkey. It is carrying bananas. And the writer of that story wants you to know that turkeys. don't. like. bananas.

That's not a turkey you see all the way on the left. That's Taylor Swift. You can tell by her glittery dress and shoes. Turkeys don't wear those, you know! Guys, I have a celebrity in my classroom!!!!

The crazy vampire-sheep gets me every time. It is SO hysterical to me. There are no words. I just love it!!!! LOOK AT HIS FACE. Adorable!

I am glad I gave my kids a chance to share their creativity. We are going to share our turkeys during Morning Meeting on Wednesday before the break. We will also read our stories to each other and give feedback. All of a sudden, when we think about what we expect from a narrative writing piece and we use a checklist, this becomes a FUN but completely educational experience for the kids. They can be creative while assessing each other and thinking about the qualities of good writing. Fun, right?! It's not so bad!

So, to all of my friends at my school (who I know feel the pressure given the current political climate in New Jersey) or elsewhere, I CHALLENGE YOU TO FOCUS ON DOING ONE FUN THING PER DAY. If that feels like too much, then I challenge you to focus on doing one fun thing per week! Remember, I am not saying you aren't fun. I KNOW you are fun! I just want you to give yourself permission to live a little while you teach! Maybe it is spending 5 minutes between classes to do a class game or brain break. Maybe it is using clay during math one day. 

What will you commit to doing this week? Comment below for a chance to win....

my Common-Core Aligned Math Extension Activities!!! That's right... fo' free! Click the picture above to view this in my store. I wrote about this product here. Seriously, all you have to do is commit to doing one fun thing tomorrow, or this week if you need to take baby steps, and comment what that is below. If you don't end up doing it, I won't send the fun police after you. I want this to feel...well... fun! Try again the next day if you need to. Get commenting!


  1. For fun tomorrow, we'll be using the Geoboards; watching Charlie Brown coming over on the Mayflower; and having a half day! I enjoyed your post because I love Responsive Classroom and use it in my room, too. I loved how you summed up the importance of feeling a sense of belonging, importance,...Well Done!

    1. That does sound fun!! How were the geoboards, Susan?