The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Posts tagged “About

Getting Out of a Slump

I just realised it has been over a week since I last wrote a blog post. I don’t know why I’ve had such a hard time updating each day this year. Maybe it is because of grad school, maybe it is because I feel so totally exhausted at the end of the day, maybe it is just because I feel like I am repeating myself a lot after more than four years of blogging about my teaching experiences.

The thing is, I don’t think I actually am repeating myself all that much. Each year provides a new class with new experiences and each day is a fresh start. I don’t think I’m in a rut or in a slump. I think I’m just trying to get back into the habit of writing. My father-in-law, whose many hats includes published author, has often shared that one of the tricks to writing is to just do it. Write! Every single day!

This is good, sound advice! So is this bit of wisdom from a favoured author:

So even though I’ve said it before, I’m going to say it again, because it is the same standard that I hold my students to: I need to write every day. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. It doesn’t even have to be good. It just has to be something. Of course, it has to be something about the classroom, even if it is just a brief snippet of a conversation with a student.

I want my students to work on their writing every day. I can’t in good conscience tell my students to do something that I myself am not willing to do, too. So I am going to start writing again every day and hopefully I will get out of this slump and back into the swing of things. After all, this blog is my space to reflect on my teaching practices and what happens in my classroom and I can’t do that if I am not, well, doing it!

I also need my handful of faithful readers to hold me accountable. Whether you call me out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, phone call, text message, or carrier pigeon, I need someone to be my writing accountability buddy. So if you are willing to help me, please let me know if I haven’t shared something on my blog by 5 pm!



Blogging to Stay Positive

Even after saying a couple of months ago that I wouldn’t apologise if I miss a day of blogging, I feel like I do need to apologise now because I have missed two days of blogging. The new semester has started, not just in my classroom, but also for my graduate coursework. I have classes on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings this semester instead of Monday and Wednesday, and I had a meeting with my Cub Scout leaders last night that went longer than anticipated. None of that is to excuse me from not keeping my personal commitment to blog each day; rather, it is just a reason for my absence. And as I so often tell me students, a reason isn’t necessarily an excuse.

However, I have recommitted myself to keeping my blogging goals, not because I feel like there are people who are upset when I miss out, but because I feel like I am depriving myself of a much needed time to reflect on my day and share my thoughts about what positive things we have been doing in my classroom.

Sometimes it can be hard to find the positive. I have a rough days. Every teacher does. Anyone who tells you that every day is calm and peaceful and focused and on task and magical is probably trying to sell you something. I don’t say that to be cynical by any stretch of the imagination. It is simply the reality of what it is to be a teacher, especially in a public school. I have 22 students now. Each and every single one of them comes to me with a unique background and unique experiences. And each student has his or her own worries, concerns, fears, hopes, and dreams. All of that comes with them in the classroom. No one student is alike. We are all different. And that means we are not going to all do the same thing at the same time. Unless you transport us all to Camazotz. But, even then, there are going to be variations.

And so our differences, which can cause friction and strife, are ultimately what cause all of the good that happens, too. Blogging about the good stuff helps me keep a more positive attitude. So I want to keep it up. There is enough negativity in the world as it is; I don’t want to contribute to it if I can help it.

And we do have good things happen! Every day something positive, something great happens in my classroom. My students are learning. They are growing. They show compassion and empathy. They help each other. They help me. They want to do right, not because they will get rewarded, although sometimes they will, not because they fear punishment if they don’t, although some will, not because it is expected of them, although it absolutely is, but because they know that it is simply the right thing to do. But they are still children. They are young. And they are going to make mistakes.

One of my students got frustrated with a classmate today and expressed that in a way that was not as positive and healthy as it could have been. When I was speaking to him about it, he started to take out that frustration on me. It was hard to keep control because it was making me feel frustrated, too. But then he calmed down and i was able to talk to him about what happened and he said something that was so simple yet so profound. He said, “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean it.”

I wish more of us would take the time to do that. It reminds me of some fantastic advice from a young man who is an inspiration to me and so many others: Kid President.

So now that the first couple of weeks of the new semester have gotten started, I am going to work at getting back into blogging each day. Thank you for your continuing support! Please feel free to share something positive that has happened today!

Student Saturday

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned having a guest post of sorts go up on Kirby Larson’s blog. I also mentioned that I was going to start incorporating her Teacher Tuesday concept on my blog with Student Saturdays. I am not going to use any of my students’ names, first, last, or even initials. I will just be featuring a different student’s response to a few questions I asked them each Saturday. I actually meant to start this two weeks ago, but you know, life…

Anyway, today is the first Student Saturday feature. I am not going to edit my students’ responses at all. I want this to be their voices sharing their ideas without any interference from me! My goal is to let each student have an opportunity to share a little bit about him- or herself with visitors to our blog. If you have any questions or remarks for them, feel free to leave them in the comments below and I will pass them on!


  • What is your all-time favorite book? Why?
    I don’t have a favorite book all the ones I read are really good so I can’t really tell
  • Tell about a recent story, poem, or essay you have written. Why did you write it?
    It’s called The Tale Of The Two Princess’s I wrote it because I felt like writing a book
  • What has been the most challenging thing you have learned to do in math?
    I don’t really know maybe two digit by two digit multiplication.
  • What has been the best research project or science experiment you have done?
    My French Explorer report.
  • Who is your favorite person in all of history? Why?
    In all of history maybe Leonardo Da Vinci  because he was an awesome artist
  • What is your favorite activity in P.E.? Why?
    FOUR CORNER DODGEBALL AND BLOB TAG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Because they the awesomest games of all time
  • What do you prefer to do during recess? Why?
    In recess I like to play SORRY!! because it is awesome
  • Describe fourth grade in just one word!

So there you have it! Have a great weekend! School starts again on Monday!

Looking Forward to 2014

I spend a lot of time on this blog reflecting on my teaching and what happens in and around my classroom. That makes sense, since this is, primarily, a blog about what happens in and around my classroom. But I also spend a lot of time off the blog reflecting on my personal expectations for Adventures in Teaching Fourth. I don’t write about this nearly as much, but today I will make an exception because a) it is December 31, b) I just reviewed my official WordPress Annual Report and c) it is early in the morning and my herbal tea is still steeping, so I don’t have much else to do right now.

I suppose that before I get into what I expect of this blog, I should review my stated purpose for blogging. This can be found in my blogging manifesto (which I have recently reviewed and updated for the fourth time), borrowed and adapted from an online colleague’s blog, that can be found in the upper right-hand corner of the page. I won’t copy it all here, but the section on my rights and responsibilities is particularly relevant to this topic:

As an educator who chooses to blog, I have the following rights:

  • I have the right to use my blog to reflect on my teaching journey, honestly and openly.
  • I have the right to collaborate with educators from all over the world.
  • I have the right to wonder what is best practice, debate education policies/practices/teaching styles, and question what is not working within our system in general and my classroom specifically.
  • I have the right to use my blog to process a difficult day, as long as I stay within the limits of the responsibilities listed below.

As an education blogger, I have the following responsibilities:

  • I will never forget the purpose for why I’m blogging.
  • I will always write about my students in such a manner that if parents found this blog they would know that I respect every aspect of their child’s learning.
  • I will always write about my co-workers, including all members of the faculty and staff of the buildings in which I work, in a way that reflects their strengths.
  • I will not write anything that will prevent anyone, especially myself and my colleagues, from doing his or her job.

By acknowledging these rights and responsibilities, I will be better able to:

  • Communicate with educators, parents, and others from all over the world
  • Become more reflective in my teaching
  • Improve my teaching practices to best benefit my students
  • Find the silver linings inside the most frustrating of days
  • Keep a sense of humor, which, in turn, allows me to be a stronger teacher who comes back to work day after day inspired, energized, and ready for a challenge.

To summarise all of those bullet points, my purpose in blogging about teaching is to reflect on what I am doing in a way that is positive, productive, and helpful. I often use an acronym to help my students quickly reflect before they say or do anything. I thought I’d shared this before, but I can’t find it, so I am guessing I never did. It is fairly simple: THINK! Ask yourself the following questions:


Likewise as a teacher, I need to THINK before I post anything online, especially if it is about students, parents, colleagues, or administrators! What this means in practice is that if there is a part of my day that is frustrating, I can still write about it, but I can do so in a way that will help us process what worked well, what didn’t, and what we can do better the next day.

I also use my blog as another way to communicate with parents, teachers, and members of the community. I include my URL on every newsletter I send home, it is linked by my name on my school’s website, and links are shared publicly through a variety of social networking services, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Tumblr. (And yes, that is just another of the many reasons that I will NEVER use the name of a student on my blog and I will ONLY use the name of colleagues or other adults with explicit permission.)

So, getting back to that original question, what do I expect for Adventures of Teaching Fourth in 2014?


I’m not really sure.

I know I want to continue what I have been doing: blog each day I am with students to share at least one highlight of the day. Think about what I am doing and why I am doing it. Invite others to read and share these posts. Keep track of the books I have been reading, particularly those that relate to my work, regardless of genre.

I also know what I would love to see happen: more comments. I know that I have on average 40 unique visitors to my blog each day, but I have no idea who these people are or why they are coming. I would be delighted to see more parents visiting and leaving brief comments, anonymous or not, to let me know they are reading and discussing with their children; for teachers, administrators, and other interested parties to share their thoughts; for suggestions on what I can do better in teaching and/or on topics to write about in the future. But I also have to be completely honest here: if I did not have a single visitor to my blog, I would continue to write. I am doing this primarily for me, to keep track of what I am doing. I share it with others because it is a medium I enjoy using and believe that others enjoy, as well.

The coming year is going to be a great one! Thank you, one and all, for being a part of my journey. I look forward to continuing to reflect on my own adventures!

2012 in Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

2011 in Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 57 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this whole thing, but it looked spiffy, so I figured I’d toss it out there for anyone who may be interested. The important thing for me, though, is not the stats. I monitor them for curiosity’s sake but, really, they are just curious. The important thing is taking time to reflect and consider what I am doing. I blog for the sake of recording my experiences and sharing them with those who may be interested in reading them. If I didn’t have a single blog visitor for the rest of the time I wrote, I would still write, though.

Here’s to a new year! See you all on Monday!

New Old Look

All of the teachers in my district have an inservice staff development day today, so the students get the day off. I tried to convince my students that I am the lucky one because I get to go school today, but I don’t know how many of them really bought it. Just like adults look forward to the holidays that give them a break from their day-to-day routines, students, even those who love school, still like having time off.

In lieu of a post about teaching or staff development (today is a continuation of the work we did during our last inservice day), I thought I’d point out that I have finally gotten around to begging my wonderfully talented wife to update the artwork she created for my substituting blog so that I could get it put on here. Currently, the only update is that she changed the name of the title in the header: “Adventures in Substituting” is now “Adventures in Teaching Fourth.” With the exception of the font she used, it is all her original work so, please, no figuring out a way to pilfer the images and use them, either in whole or in part, elsewhere without written permission.

There will most likely be some revisions of the site design, particularly with the header, but I was getting really tired of seeing the boring template header with a white background that WordPress had set as a default. Happy Friday!