Thursday, December 29, 2016

17 for '17

For the past two years (2015 & 2016), I have created teacher "bucket lists" that offer challenges for you to try out in the New Year! Sticking with tradition, may I present to you the 17 for '17:

1) Give a "High-Five": We spend time each day uplifting and celebrating our students, but we sometimes forget to give that same attention to our colleagues. I created "High-Fives" this past year as a way for school staffs to recognize each other in simple, yet meaningful ways. These tokens of recognition are meant for teachers and administrators to show appreciation and thanks for the little things that sometimes get overlooked. Here's an example:

2) Use a GIANT game: Bigger is better! And GIANT games are all the rage! From Giant Jenga to Giant Kerplunk to Giant Checkers, all of our favorite childhood games have been revived in blow-up fashion. Look to get your hands on a giant version of a game and use it to create a classroom activity. Here is a Giant Kerplunk lesson I made over the summer:

3) Keep it positive: For one week, challenge yourself to not say anything negative about a student, a colleague, a parent, the administration, or the school! It's harder than it sounds since days don't always go as planned and we can get caught up in the negative space around us. Be cognizant of your surroundings and what comes out of your mouth! I bet it changes the attitudes of the people around you too!

4) Attend an unfamiliar event: You may have a diverse population of students in your classroom. Look to attend an event with a student that is out of your comfort zone. You can look to attend church, temple, or a mosque with a student's family. You can also aim to attend a sporting event or stage performance that you would not otherwise go to.

5) Bring in the media: Contact your local newspaper, television news station, or radio station to feature something cool that you're doing in your classroom or school. News outlets are looking for positive school stories to feature, so help them by cooking up something great to show!

6) Get rid of the desk: There's a good chance you stand most of the day anyway, so free up some space in your classroom by getting rid of that bulky teacher desk. If you're worried about where to stack your papers and supplies, look to transition into file organizers and cubbies that fit better against the wall. The extra space can go to great use!

7) Get rid of the lectern: While you're at it, in addition to getting rid of the desk, go ahead and get rid of that lectern that you stand behind (yes, I'm talking to you middle and high school teachers!). No student wants to look at one focal point for an hour, so get rid of that lectern and use the entire classroom as your stage!

8) Flexible seating: Another emerging trend I have noticed recently is more classrooms moving towards flexible seating. I got to feature my friend Ms. Resendes' 5th grade classroom recently on Periscope (you can see the video on my Periscope page @adamdovico). This year, she has transformed her classroom into a complete flexible seating arrangement. In the video, she explains how she obtained the furniture, set up the rules, and maintains the culture in the classroom.

9) Morning choice: This idea is one that I'll be exploring more in 2017. I was never a fan of morning work when the students arrive in the morning. It's used as a time waster for those who get to school early, but never gets done by students who come in as the bell rings (or after it). It becomes more of a frustration than a learning opportunity. New research is affirming older research that showed that children need time to explore and imagine. By changing morning work into morning choice, you can have students spend arrival time working with things like Play-do, magnetic shapes, puzzles, and anything else that will reach all types of learners. The good news is that if a student doesn't get to the classroom before the bell, they haven't missed anything that they need to make up. It may even encourage some students who move extra slow in the morning to hustle up and get to class!

10) Use a Green-screen: This is a shout out to my favorite app, Green Screen by DoInk. It's a few dollars to purchase, but has amazing features that will allow your students to create amazing pictures and videos for fun and educational purposes. I use them for a variety of things with my education majors at Wake Forest, including a bulletin board they make with their personalized background:

11) Prohibit PowerPoint: With so many web tools and use-friendly programs out there these days to create presentations, challenge yourself, and your students to not use PowerPoint for their next project!

12) Present at a conference: There is no one more credible to talk about teaching than a teacher. Gather up your best material, create a presentation, and submit a proposal to present at a conference! Start off local to get practice, then build up to submit to a state or national conference!

13) Do a "challenge" with your class: 2016 had no shortage of "challenges," which included #DoItLikeMeChallenge, #JuJuOnThatBeatChallenge, #MannequinChallenge and a host of others. There is no doubt that 2017 will bring a whole stack of new challenges!

14) Catch up with an old friend: This isn't teaching related necessarily, but something that I am personally going to work hard on this year. Life is busy and sometimes mundane things get in the way of the important relationships in our life. Take a moment this year and reconnect with someone you haven't caught up with in a while. You'll share stories of special times together and catch up on what life is like now.

15) Go digital: See how many pieces of paper you can save this year by go digital. All those worksheets you printed, all those copies you made ... consider finding ways to make them digital. With more schools moving towards 1:1 technology or at least providing more technology in the classroom, the time is now to reconsider how we are teaching and transform our methods to the digital age. Not to mention you'll be saving trees!

16) Welcome the kids back with a bang: If you are reading this before the students come back from winter break, consider welcoming them back with an entry completely unexpected. Bring in a red carpet, transform the room, set up an escape room, or change something big in your classroom. It will bring a breath of fresh air into the room and get you excited for the second half of the year.

17) Teach something SPECIAL: 2016 was a "special" (pun intended) year for me. I got my article on Making a S.P.E.C.I.A.L. first impression published by Phi Delta Kappa's Kappan magazine. The past two years in this blog post I have talked about using manners and respect in different fashions. You can use SPECIAL as a way to teach this skill set.

I hope you enjoyed the 17 in '17! For more things you "can" do in the class, check out my book Inside the Trenches.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Dear Black Friends,

I'm sorry this has happened again. For the second time in two days, and for the umpteenth time over the past few years, we have witnessed (and in the most recent cases watched live) the senseless shooting of innocent Black men.

I'm sorry that as I go through my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feed, it is primarily only you who are posting about this injustice, while many of us (White people) post pictures of our day. I have long been guilty of this. And I am committed to making a change.

I'm sorry that for those of you who have children, you now have to answer questions like "Am I going to get shot when I see a police officer?" 

I'm sorry that you get pulled over for ridiculous reasons and stereotyped based on an article of clothing.

I'm sorry that every time a shooting like this happens, rallies and protests call for change, yet little does.

I'm sorry that I'll likely never know what it feels like to not be privileged in this country based on the way that I was born, and that I cannot truly feel the degree of fear, anger, and despair that you feel.

I am NOT sorry that I will dedicate my career in education to helping serve those who need an ally, those who are underrepresented, and those who I can stand alongside and call friends in this battle for social justice and equity.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

What is "College Readiness"?

Embedded into our society and schools today is an expectation to prepare students for "college and career." It can be seen in the standards that are taught and in the legislation that is passed. For a long time, the concept was an abstract one for me personally. I was not quite sure what this specifically looked like. Having now wrapped up my second year teaching at the university level, and working with many first-year students, I have a better idea of what college readiness entails. Here are five concrete "college readiness" concepts that won't be listed in the Common Core (except one), but will sure help students succeed in higher ed!

1) Self-advocacy: In college, no professor will call your mom or dad when you fail a test, forget to come to class, or don't do your assigned readings. In fact, FERPA laws prevent professors from even acknowledging to a parent that the student is in your class. I have witnessed too many students bewildered at what to do when they get a C; a tell-tale sign that their parent was the one who made the phone call to the school when there was an issue.

What does this mean? We need to teach our students at an early age to speak up for themselves and be their own advocates. Naturally, there are appropriate times in grade school when mom or dad need to speak to the teacher or administrator, but concerns about a grade or asking for help can (and should) come from the student. I have experienced too many students in college who have never had to speak up for themselves and are still too timid to do in now, so they are left with poor grades and no skill in how to ask for help. As teachers, put it out there on day one with your students and parents that any concerns about a grade must first come from the student.

2) Time management: On average, in college you are only going to have class a few hours a day. If you plan your schedule well enough, you can have days with no class at all. That leaves A LOT of hours open to fill. Students fill these hours with studying, clubs, sports, working out, a job, volunteering, or the ever popular sleeping. The point is that time needs to be managed appropriately, and without proper skills in managing time, things that truly do need to get done get forgotten or pushed to the side. Again, since mom and dad aren't there to tell you what to do and when, students who have never had to manage time before typically face an unbalanced schedule of sleeping/partying to studying/working early in their college days.

What does this mean? As educators (and parents), we need to teach our children to set goals, use calendars, checklists, reminders, etc. to organize the many tasks and opportunities that are at our disposal. Independence comes with responsibility, so the earlier we instill pieces of responsibility, the easier the transition to college (and the real world) later on. 

3) Mental health: This is a touchy subject, and one that will not apply to all, but one that must go on the list. Each semester, I have found that I deal with a handful of students who are going through some type of mental health situation. Depression, insomnia, eating disorders, and substance abuse are all real issues that 18-22 year olds deal with. What I am finding out though in speaking to many of them is that these issues started years before in either middle or high school. Some students have a firm grasp on their situation, while others need more help.

What does this mean? We need to have keen eyes on our students at an early age for signs of mental health challenges. Since we know these issues arise early, finding professional support who can teach mechanisms to help cope and function in a setting like college is important.

4) You're not that special: That sounds really harsh, but let me explain. At the university I work at, there is an overwhelming number of students who were either captain of sports team, president of the club, top of their class, most outgoing, prom queen, soloist musician, and so on. Many of them were used to being a big fish in a little pond. When you put a lot of big fish together in an even bigger pond, not everyone can still be the big fish. Naturally, there are some special students who continue to stand out even among their peers in college, but an overwhelming amount have to come to terms with being another fish in the pond, and that is a hard reality for some.

What does this mean? Challenge all your students, even the brightest ones, because it is safe to say there is always someone smarter/more talented out there. It is important to know how to fall and get back up to fight harder. Those who do not learn how to overcome adversity tend to have the toughest time adjusting to the demands of college and beyond.

5) Write, write, write: I promised there was one Common Core related point, and here it is. As a college student myself years ago, I got my backside kicked with how much writing there was in college. It seemed like every week I had papers due, and I was an average writer at best coming out of high school, so it was a crisis! In middle school and high school I got away with generic "opinion" pieces that may or may not have been based on anything of substance. In college, now all of a sudden I am expected to dive into books, journals, and articles to find evidence to support a thesis. Many of my first-year students struggle with this as well, and I sympathize with them because I felt the same way.

What does this mean? Integrate writing into every piece of your teaching, not just during language arts. Write across the curriculum and utilize primary sources to teach proper research mechanics and styles. Offer feedback as frequently as possible and require rewrites so students learn that one draft of a paper is not "done."

In college, like most things in life, "you get out of it what you put into it." College readiness has floated around as a fun buzz word for some years now, but has not been defined in concrete terms. Hopefully these points above, gathered from real experiences, serve as a glimpse into the important pieces of making our students "college ready."  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

5-minute PDs

Professional Developments can be tiring - for the presenter and the audience member! In the rapid, time-is-of-the-essence society we live in now, we need to rethink how we are distributing and acquiring information. For my final assignment for my Wake Forest elementary education seniors, I had them create a 5-7 minute workshop on a topic of their choice that they had passion and knowledge on. I graded them not just on their content, but their stage presence and presentation style as well, since we have been working on that for two years now! Please take a few minutes and see below four excellent workshops on a variety of topics that impact many of us as educators:

1. Arianne: "Pint Sized Professionals: Teaching Professional Skills in the Upper Grades"

2. Allison: "Walking on (5 Rays) of Sunshine: Getting Students Out of Shadows"

3. Zach: "Story Maps: Helping Students with Autism"

4. Kyli: "The New ABCs: Building Up Your Broken Students"

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Can We Go Outside? Lessons for Your "Natural" Classroom

The weather is warming up, the children (and teachers) are getting antsy for summer break, and you hear the request "Let's have class outside!"

Early in my teaching career, I would have brought outside what we were doing in the classroom and we would read a book or bring our work to the playground. Then I started thinking, wouldn't it be neat to have specifically designed lessons using the "natural" elements? So using lessons from over my career, ideas inspired by other educators, and with the help and brainstorming of my Wake Forest elementary education seniors, here are our Top 10 lessons that you can teach outdoors:

1) Easter Egg Hunt: There are so many ideas you can do with Easter Eggs!
  • Write a math problem on the top half of the egg, the solution on the bottom half, and hide the halves in different places. As students find a half egg, they need to find a classmate who has found the other half. An alternative would be to give each student an answer to start with and they have to individually find the problem that matches the answer.
  • Print out slips of paper with quotes from a book you are reading as a class. As students find the egg with the quote inside, they have to find classmates with quotes that identify similar themes, characterization, or message. For example, you can have quotes that demonstrate love, vengeance, friendship, etc. 
  • Instead of using actual plastic Easter eggs, you can use the concept of an Easter egg hunt in science by "planting" different kinds of rocks around your outdoor space. Students are searching for specific rocks based on your standards.
2) Geometry Scavenger Hunt: Each student has their math journal or a clipboard and travels around the playground of outdoor space to find examples of geometric shapes throughout the space. You can also give students pre-made labels that they can put on examples of that shape.

3) Chalked Polls: Chalk is one of the most common and easy to implement ideas for outdoor space. We frequently see it used for math problems or vocabulary words, but what if you turned it into a larger scale purpose. For example, have students put out a poll to the rest of the school asking various questions that require choice. So as classes go outside for recess, students can contribute to the poll questions. The next day (hopefully it doesn't rain!) go back outside and have students collect the data and turn it into graphs and charts. Be sure to let your colleagues know what you are up to so they can participate!

4) Tic-Tac-Toe Relay Game: The idea for this came from a YouTube video where students did a relay race Tic-Tac-Toe for what appears to be a warm-up in PE. This can be brought outside using the same racing concept, except that students cannot run to the Tic-Tac-Toe board until they answer a question. This would be great for math fact review since you want to have questions that students can quickly answer and then run.

5) Playground Division: Tell the students that each grade level is receiving an equal piece of the outdoor space. The students must figure out how to equally divide up the outdoor space by determining the area of the space, how to divide it, and what is the most equitable means for dividing it up where each grade receives a fair space to use for their students. If you provide string students can even rope off the areas to show how it is divided.

6) Convertible Car Push: For grade levels that deal with force and motion, this is a great activity that I did for many years with my students! First, find an extra adult or two to assist! Then find a teacher that has a convertible car and kindly ask them to borrow it. Have the kids safely out of the way and have a starting and finishing line marked out (about 50 feet is good). With an adult in the driver's seat, put the car in Neutral. Then call your biggest kid up and have him push the car as fast as he can across the finish line. Have someone time him. Then bring up two kids and do the same. Continue this with 3, 4, and 5 kids. You can measure speed, force, and several other science and math concepts with this activity.

7) Speedy Kids: In a classic race format, have students sprint across a track and record their times. Using the times (which can be differentiated by whole seconds, tenths, hundreds, or thousandths depending on the grade level), use this data to order and compare times of the runners. This is a good opportunity to use chalk as well when dealing with the times.

8) Paleontology: Create a scenario where you tell the students there has just been a magnificent find on your school campus and they believe a fossil has been discovered. Take the kids outside and have them dig up (get permission for this!) a bone (that you have previously buried) for the kids to find. After finding it, have the kids begin measuring the circumference, diameter, etc. and then they can discuss and write about what kind of bone they think it is, what animal it may have come from, and use estimation to guess how old they think it could be. This involves a lot of good story telling and role play from the teacher!

9) Water Balloon Launch: Using a sling shot and water balloon, have the students launch water balloons as far as they can. Measure the distances of the balloons in feet, yards, meters, etc and have them convert them to different units.

10) Historical Reenactments: Since most famous historical events have occurred outside, it would seem natural to reenact them there! In small groups, have students create scripts and characters for a reenactment of a famous historical event (e.g. Boston Massacre, The Alamo, Battle of Antietam).


If you do one of these lessons, or any other neat outdoor lesson that you create, put pictures up on social media (Twitter, Instagram, or the RCA App) and tag me @adamdovico by April 22nd. My students and I will pick our favorite one and you will receive a free signed copy of my book, Inside the Trenches

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The (White) Elephant in the Room

When comparing elementary, middle, and high schools against one another, typically our high schools come out as the most socioeconomically and racially diverse. In general, they are the largest of the three levels of schooling, include a number of diverse communities within an area, and therefore, hold the greatest potential for diversity. And many do. In fact, it is refreshing looking at the statistics of many high schools on paper, seeing a wide range of racial and socioeconomic groups, sometimes even accurately reflecting the demographic makeup of the city.

It is eye-opening then that when I have the opportunity to step into these schools, time after time I have seen inequities in its classrooms. It has become uncomfortably predictable that when I step into an AP or Honors classroom, I expect to see a sea of White or Asian faces in the classroom. When I go into a Standard or Remedial class, I expectantly gaze at a sea of Black and Hispanic faces. There are exceptions, of course, but I have seen enough examples of this now in my travels to say it is not anything but the norm.

To solidify this some, I want to share pieces of a study that a classmate of mine in my administration program and I did last semester at a large suburban high school where she teaches. This school has 2,040 students; approximately 78% of the students identify as White, 7% Hispanic, 7% Black, 5% Asian, and 3% other. We were interested in studying who was enrolled in particular courses. Our focus was on Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which are accelerated courses that offer college level content and provide the opportunity to earn college credit upon passing an exam.

Our research found that Asians are represented 1.6 times more in AP courses than their enrollment at the school. In other words, Asians represent 5% of the total school population, but 8.5% of the AP enrollments. Likewise, we see Black students at a factor of .636 and Hispanic at .551, which means these groups are grossly under-represented in AP courses. White students are the only racial group that are equitably represented when comparing total school enrollment to AP enrollment with a factor of 1.026.

I had a magnificent conversation with a black assistant principal at a predominantly white high school recently and wanted his thoughts on this, since I saw the same scenario as above at his school. He was honest and said it angers him going into the Honors and AP courses and not seeing kids that look like him, particularly males (who are even more under-represented than black females). He did not put blame on anyone, but he said we have to do better. I couldn't agree more.

So what do we do? I believe that we (educators) need to begin identifying minority students with academic potential at an earlier age. Tracking (the process of placing students into certain classes) begins "officially" usually in or around 3rd grade (when Academically Gifted [AG] courses begin), though in some schools/states it's earlier. The disproportionate representation of Black and Hispanic students is evident there as well. Some schools have begun a "talent pool," where students who may not officially qualify for AG are still put in those classes because their teachers believe that student can be pushed and challenged. I think this is an excellent start.

I would challenge high schools to have a similar concept, where freshmen teachers are mandated to identify a percentage of minority students who are not currently being tracked to be "invited" (and urged) to enroll in Honors or AP courses as sophomores. This would also be done after sophomore year, and students could have the opportunity to enroll in Honors or AP courses junior or senior year.  A counselor or academic advisor at the school should follow up with parents as well to provide information and answer questions.

The inequities in our individual classrooms are real, even when the diverse school demographics may mask it. We need to be more intentional on who is sitting in our classrooms, and the "white" elephant that is sitting in many Honors and AP courses needs to be addressed.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Beyond the 15 Second Video You Watched 10 Times

There is a good chance that within the past 72 hours you have seen or heard about Ron Clark and a handful of the Ron Clark Academy students breaking the internet with their #DoItLikeMeChallenge dance. It's been covered by CNN, People Magazine, CBS Nightly News, Huffington Post, Complex - just to name a few. People from all walks of life and from around the world have commented - mostly positively - about how it is refreshing to see a teacher connect with his students and show that kind of energy in the classroom. Many commenters have said how they wish they had had a teacher like that when they were in school. Can't argue there.

What you do not see, however, in those 15 seconds is that Ron Clark, the students, and the staff of the Ron Clark Academy is a complex beast. Yes, there is dancing, singing, and endless energy and passion that goes on. But there is also rigorous coursework, strict discipline enforcing manners and respect, and constant reinforcement of the skill sets that young people need to be successful in life. In my years working at the Academy, I had the pleasure of being a part of many of the exciting moments where celebrities stopped by the school or a video became popular on the internet (though nowhere near as big as this one). But I also had the honor of taking the students to national and international Model United Nations Conferences (see pictures below), where the students competed (and won awards) against some of the top middle and high school students from around the world in political and societal debate. I also am proud of coaching the first LEGO robotics team at the school, which made it all the way to the Georgia state finals. There is a national award winning step team at the school, which has won back-to-back titles and not only competes but has a big focus on community service as well. I have had the pleasure of seeing our alumni represent themselves in academic, social, and athletic successes in their high school and college careers beyond their days at Ron Clark Academy.

So as you think "I wish I had a teacher like this" when I was in school when you watch the video, implying one who can dance and be energetic, I also hope in the same breath that you would want a teacher who made sure you were performing your best at every moment academically, socially, and behaviorally as well. That is just a snapshot of the complex beast of the Ron Clark Academy. If you've never visited the Academy, I would definitely encourage you put it on your bucket list! You can find out how to do it here.

Prague, Czech Rep at the Yale International Model United Competition

Istanbul, Tukey at the Hisar School Model United Nations Conference

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

16 for '16

Last year I wrote a "bucket list" (which seemed to be a theme in 2015) at the start of the year with ideas for your classroom called "15 for '15"

Continuing with the theme, I present to you a new version for 2016, "16 for '16":

1) Create a Periscope account and host a 'scope on something interesting to you. If you are not familiar with Periscope, it is a free live video streaming app. Download the app on your phone and feel free to follow me @adamdovico

2) Start a classroom "giving back" campaign. Many students are used to "getting," but it is just as important to learn how to give back. Find a local organization that needs volunteers, supplies, or recognition, and have your students brainstorm ways that they can learn about giving back.

3) Have a "mystery reader" in your class. I am actually stealing this idea from my son's pre-school teacher. She emailed the parents to see if any of us wanted to come in and be the mystery reader. I couldn't pass up the opportunity! I had a blast, and while it is not hard to surprise four year olds, students of all ages enjoy the unknown once in a while, especially if the surprise is one of their parents.

4) Collaborate with the lunch servers. Last year I wrote about encouraging manners and respect in your classroom. To make this more applicable to the real world, have a chat with the lunch servers in your school and ask them to work with you on implementing manners in the lunch line. You can ask them to not serve the students until they greet them and have the student return to the back of the line if they do not say "thank you." It will only take a couple of students to be made an example of before they all catch on!

5) Host a student teacher. If you have a college or university nearby with a educator preparation program, talk to your principal about hosting a student teacher. Colleges and universities need to partner with the local school system to make their programs successful, so step up and offer your classroom to host a student teacher!

6) Join in on a Twitter chat. I have not done this as often as I would like, so this is one of my personal big goals for 2016! There are many highly regarded Twitter chats out there and it is an excellent way to connect and collaborate with educators from around the world.

7) Videotape yourself teaching and watch it back. This can be excruciating to do (no one likes hearing themselves on video), but I promise there is no better way to improve your teaching than to watch yourself in action. You will notice small things that can positively change your teaching style.

8) Write notes to your students. One of my student teachers I supervised wrote notes of encouragement on sticky notes and put them on her students' desks before they came into the classroom. Many of them were personalized and I was able to witness on many occasions their faces when they saw the notes. She even had special thematic treats once in a while like this one below from Thanksgiving.

9) Family book club. This was an activity I did with my 5th graders and their families one year. I selected a book (ended up being Bridge to Terabithia) and told my families that we would have a before school book club that would meet a few times where we would discuss the book. I provided a light breakfast and it was a great opportunity for the students to see their parents also learning and discussing books, just like they do in class!

10) Extend your professional learning. I think it's important to find ways to constantly grow as professionals, and it can be easy to become stagnant in our ways, so extending our professional learning is a great way to stay fresh with ideas and trends in education. You can do this by going back to school for a new degree, apply for National Board Certification, earn a specialist certification, attending local or national conferences, or taking unique courses that pertain to what you do.

11) Keep your classroom website up-to-date. Before I visit schools, I always check their website to get a feel for their school. In this technological age, many parents "window shop" for schools from their websites. It is astonishing how many websites (school and individual teacher) are outdated. Make it a habit to update your website at least once a month so that students, parents, and random visitors to your site get a great first impression.

12) Create a classroom identity. The first school I worked at out of college had a neat tradition. Each classroom teacher would have a "mascot" for their room (usually some type of alliteration) and we would have classroom t-shirts made, which encouraged identity for your room. Naturally, being a Wake Forest graduate and having my last name start with D, we were Dovico's Deacs. What I discovered was that students kept these t-shirts over the years, as I came across one year when I did a commencement ceremony speech at that school and a student from my very first class (whose brother was graduating that day) was wearing our class t-shirt.

13) Co-teach a lesson. With a colleague, create a super engaging lesson that can be done as a duo. With two people, it gives you a chance to go bigger since you have more hands on the job. Look to transform the classroom, create a simulation, or hold class in a unique place.

14) Find a great photographer for a day. I never appreciated the art of photography until I saw how unbelievably untalented I am at it. My buddy J Amezqua is an amazing photographer and every time he takes pictures of me teaching, I am blown away at how good he can make my teaching look. Great photos of you and your kids in action can serve as a wonderful collection of memories from your classroom.

15) Leave your desk organized. Those who know me know that I have a touch of OCD in me, so it is not surprising that before I leave my classroom or office for the day, everything on my desk has to be perfectly organized for the next day. For me, it is one less thing I need to worry about in the morning when I know where everything is going to be.

16) Get into "teacher position." Every athlete can tell you they are taught body positions they should be in while playing their sport. Teaching should be no different! The best teachers I have observed have common body positions: stepping forward from the front of the room, connecting eyes with students, and hands being used to animate.

For more things you can do in the classroom, take a look at Inside the Trenches, available on Amazon and Kindle.  I also have some of my favorite lessons on my Inside the Trenches website.

Happy 2016!