Skip to main content

2 Rules and 1 fact

Every year on the first day, just like so many other teachers, I lay down the law.  The rules, the expectations.  Pretty standard stuff.  But then I tell the students two rules and one fact that the three most important things to remember in my class (and in life).

Rule 1: No Glitter. Now, don't get me wrong.  I love glitter.  Sparkly things are pretty! But, sometimes I really hate glitter.  First, when  kids cover a project in glitter it is inevitable that the glitter is going to end of everywhere.  For months afterwards, I go home with pieces of glitter stuck to my face and and I find it all over the classroom. Also, I run a science classroom where students learn to think like scientists and act like scientists. As far as I can tell, scientists don't often (or ever) put glitter on, well, anything.  It's hard to take someone's life's work seriously when it sparkles.  After I present this rule, there are the inevitable "What about...." questions.  What about glitter tape? Or glitter glue? No and No.  If you have to ask "What about..."then the answer is no.

But this rule also has a figurative meaning. I HATE when kids spend so long making a project look pretty that they run out of time for the content.  Or when parents spend a ridiculous amount of money on supplies so a student can build a working volcano that actually shoots magma (um, this would actually be really cool) and in the end the kid learns nothing about content. As long as student work is neat and professional, I don't really care what it looks like.  The content is always the most important thing.

Rule 2: Just Be Nice. There's a back story to this one. A bunch of years ago my mom called me.  She said "Jess, I just started a church and it's called the Church of Just Be Nice.  All you have to do to be a part of the church is to just be nice.  And I've already excommunicated your father" (She was kidding about that last part.  He was sitting right next to her and he's actually a pretty fantastic and kind hearted guy - although he'd never want to let on that he was actually nice). In 2011 my mom passed away. Every year on her birthday and the anniversary of her death I declare the day to be "Just Be Nice Day" and I ask people to be just a little kinder because sometimes a little kindness can go further than you've ever imagined. I share this with my students too.

But, it's not enough to be nice two days of the year.  It's important to be nice every day.  It's never OK not to be nice, or at the very least, respectful, to another human being.  You don't have to like everyone, but you don't have to be mean either. Why waste the effort of being mean to someone you don't like.  Just don't interact with them. This is hard for students some times (especially in middle school). But I remind them often and praise them for their kindness and hope that this rule is one that they follow in school and in life.

Fact: I am awesome. At the beginning of every year I tell this fact to my students.  I am awesome.  They laugh and I tell them with much seriousness that they can laugh but it's true.  The way I see it, the most important person to think I'm awesome is me.  I want my students to see how important it is to accept, like and even love yourself.  And if you think you're less than awesome: (1) you're wrong and (2) do what you have to do to find your awesome.

So, in glitter, just be nice and I (and you) are awesome.  Rules to live by.


Popular posts from this blog

A Teacher or an Educator?

I hope that I am an educator and not a teacher.
Let me go back a few steps.This past week I watched a very good friend of mine give her first TEDx talk on her experiences throwing out grades (and she rocked it!). This event also featured several student speakers.All the students were fantastic – well spoken, poised and passionate in their delivery. They had a lot of great things to say but two of those things stood out for me.One student talked about the experiences of students working hard to create projects that only the teacher sees.This has sparked in me a tiny revolution but I am going to go into that further in another post.This post focuses on the talk of a young man named Timmy, a senior in high school, who counted off the number of teachers he’d had over the years that he considered educators and not just teachers. As he went on to elaborate about what made a teacher an educator, I just kept thinking, “I wonder if he would call me an educator and not a teacher”.
What makes s…

Time to Fly

What if I fall?
Oh, but my darling. What if you fly?
- Erin Hanson

By this point we all know that "effective" teaching involves less of the teacher teaching and more of the students doing. But letting go of control in the classroom can be scary. This is a tale of how I faced my fear of loosing the reins, how it paid off in spades and how you can do the same.

My educational experience growing up was chalk and talk. I learned everything I was supposed to pretty well. So did my friends (likely because they were just like me). So, why change something if it isn't broken? In my first several years of teaching, chalk and talk was my default mode. When in doubt, just deliver the content. But, I knew all the research. This isn't really the way it should be done. Kids learn better when they do, when they are more engaged in the lesson, when they have more ownership, blah blah blah. But chalk and talk was working. So, why change the system? And what if I let go a little, try so…

I heart Middle School

I teach middle school. Yes, I chose to teach middle school. I have taught every grade from 6 through 12 and middle school is my happy place. When I moved and had to find a new job, the first places I looked were middle schools. In middle school the kids are old enough to have serious, adult-like conversations. But sometimes, they forget that they are trying to be all adulty and they act like kids. It's the best of both worlds. Yes, they can be moody and difficult as they try to navigate their way through the roller coaster ride that is puberty. But it is an awesome privilege to be a part of their lives as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to be.
My first formal teaching job was in a middle school. We were a new school with very green teachers. There were four classrooms, 6 teachers and a whole lot of sixth graders. I went in on the first day nervous and excited. I love science, love teaching science and I love working with kids. I was going to rock it! Fast for…