Other Days…

So after seeing this way too perfectly true quote…

We thought we would create a collection of some of the best examples of “Other Days” in this teaching world. (Thank you teacher friends for your contributions!)


Some days you change the world. Other days you…

  • Raid the desk looking for absolutely anything that contains chocolate, caffeine, or sugar… even if it’s not your desk and you’ll have to replace it later
  • End up laughing with your class over just how bad that lesson was
  • Eat all of the cookies left over from your morning Fika
  • Watch funny cat videos at your desk until it’s an appropriate time to leave the building
  • Find the pile of “things to hand out” still on that front table after the kids have gone home
  • Give yourself a sticker at the end of the day just to make things a little bit better
  • Extend the silent reading period until you can gather up enough strength to finish the afternoon
  • End up crying in the textbook room where you hope no one will find you
  • Borrow a friend’s dog for “bring pet to school day” only to have one of your students spend the whole day on the floor with the dog
  • Crawl into bed as soon as you get home from work without turning on a single light, and wake up, super confused, with your keys still around your neck
  • Have to lie down on the school couch in the dark for your lunch hour
  • Book yourself a substitute teacher and realize later you booked them for a day over Spring Break
  • Sit at your desk having a debate over whether or not students actually need feedback on the assignments piled in front of you
  • Have to actually turn the radio off on the drive home just for some peace and quiet
  • Eat all the leftover icing after a wild gingerbread man hunt that you planned for 50 kids at your school
  • Wear slippers to school and are so tired that you don’t even notice until recess
  • You actually look forward to a staff meeting because there are cookies

We all have those days! But laugh about it, shake it off, and remember the times when you are changing lives.


Book Tale: The Bridge to Brilliance

I’ve just finished reading Nadia Lopez’s new book, “The Bridge to Brilliance” and I highly recommend all educators find their own copy ASAP.  Let me explain…mhba2

Nadia Lopez is the principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy (MHBA), a public middle school she opened roughly six years ago.  Ms. Lopez’s story is one of determination, grit, inspiration and ferocity – she always does what is right for kids.  MHBA is located in Brownsville, Brooklyn, an underserved community riddled with gang turf wars and crippling poverty stats so intense that many of us can’t even wrap our thoughts around it.  I will admit that I definitely spent some time Google Earth walking myself around Brownsville while reading this book because I had absolutely no idea where the town was.  However, as I read through Ms. Lopez’s story I was able to peek inside the lives of the Brownsville students she works with every single day (even during spring and summer break) and feel like I was right there with them all.  Wow, what lives those kids lead.

Interestingly, I found many similarities between MHBA and the school I work at here in Victoria.  Both places are middle schools (grades 6-8), both have a relatively small student population (roughly 200 students), but of that small student population both schools have many students who are living below the poverty line, both have many dedicated educators and both have powerful and passionate female administrative teams.  Most of these similarities, as they came up throughout the story, brought me to tears because I could see myself, my school, and my very own students within the pages of “Bridge to Brilliance”; they’re the east coast American version of us.  I Tweeted out to Ms. Lopez and she wrote me back:


So exciting to be communicating via Twitter!

I think Ms. Lopez’s story, which was brought to media attention in 2015 via Humans of New York, needs to be read by every single educator.  Not only will her words make you question your dedication (yes, even those of you who are the most dedicated), but they will also help you see a different side to educating the whole child/the whole community.  Ms. Lopez will inspire you with her triumphant successes, but she will also make you cry because of the injustice her students endure.  This story will remind you that giving up on a child is never an option.  Go get her book and start reading – I promise you’ll learn something.

(Follow the hashtag #TheBridgeToBrilliance to read more reviews of Nadia Lopez’s story)

You can also check out Ms. Lopez’s TED talk to learn more.


Respecting the Learner

Well, I am officially settled in my job for the year and I’m very excited to say that I’m staying in the classroom I started up this September. It feels great to already have a good start at relationships with these students and, even though I’m in the middle of the craziness that is setting up a classroom at the end of September, I’m really excited for the year to come with these 6th graders.

This year has already started off with two experiences of me, the teacher, being fully immersed in the role of a learner. As is common with teaching and professional development, this role of being the learner is comfortable and familiar. Over the years I have become more critical of the opportunities in which I am the learner – partially because I have high expectations as to what a learning environment should look and feel like, and partially because my time feels a lot more precious these days.

I have started my Master’s degree this year which will be 6 weekends each term in classes and then online coursework in between. My first weekend was an incredible learning experience. Our cohort was immersed in the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, where we built a dream statement (or mission statement) for us in the cohort. One of the most valuable practices we started was the check in (here is someone else’s explanation of it). With the check in we are each given the opportunity to explain where we are at or how we are feeling by answering a question. This process is something I have experienced before but it felt even more valuable in this situation with a new group of people, all willing to jump in and be vulnerable with one another. After our first weekend of coursework I truly felt respected as a learner.

The second experience this year was at a district wide Pro D event. While the idea of having a district wide gathering was exciting to me and I embraced this opportunity of bringing everyone together, the actual event was much more of an information session. My high expectations of what coming together could mean for our district left me feeling let down at the end of it all. It’s not that the information or presentation was bad, it’s that I don’t feel that same respect as a learner when I’m being talked to without having the opportunity to contribute, engage or ask questions. A friend and I were discussing how it was a good start at creating a district wide culture of collaboration but needed a more engaging format. There was so much talent and knowledge in that room and it wasn’t put to good use. As David Weinberger says, “The smartest person in the room is the room.” We weren’t given the opportunity to make use of this brilliance, to feel respected as learners.

This got me to thinking about the ways in which I respect the learners in my classroom. How do we let our students engage in meaningful ways? How do we let them be a part of the learning? How do we utilize the strength of diversity in our class?

Here are some of the ways I’m trying to show more respect to the learners in my room:
1. Check In’s – This process allows us to work together in a more effective manner and allows for students to share. We are doing this at least twice a week right now.
2. Inquiry Based Learning – I love this post full of ideas to use inquiry in the first week (or weeks) of school.
3. Brain Breaks – By allowing the students to suggest when they need a brain break they are able to take more control of what they need in their learning (although I do have final say… they are in middle school and we can’t have a brain break every 5 minutes!)
4. Growth Mindset – By teaching more about Growth Mindset I feel that my students are starting to take more of an ownership over their learning. This is something we will continue to work on specifically once a week all year, and it will be talked about and incorporated into most things we do.
5. Appreciative Inquiry – This week I’m going to adapt the Appreciative Inquiry process to create our dream/mission statement for the school year together (that will be another post in itself!)


Trying New Things

For many teachers September is essentially a “New Year” celebration.  New students, new work clothes, new daily planner, new schedule…even if you’re a seasoned teacher September is still a fresh breath and rush of everything new.  It’s exciting!

So when is the last time you actually tried something new yourself?  When is the last time you were vulnerable enough to step outside your very cozy comfort zone and be a brand new student at something?

I feel like every time I try something new I rediscover what it means to be a student and a teacher; and while it’s never a comfortable experience to try something new that I’m not instantly good at it’s always worth it.  This year to supplement my 14 middle/high school dance classes I teach each week I decided to sign up for my own dance class.  My intentions for registering for my own class are a mixture of selfish reasons and professional development reasons.  Selfishly, I want someone to teach ME to become a better dancer, and professionally, I know my learning will definitely play a role in my teaching.  So on Tuesday evenings I now partake in an adult hip hop advanced level class and it’s hilarious, guys.  I am not the most natural of hip hop dancers…my body would much rather be holding perfect posture than poppin’ n’ lockin’, BUT! I’m doing it. It’s SO much ridiculous fun.

This is what I learned in my hip hop class last week:

  • it doesn’t feel cool when everyone is watching you and you don’t know what the heck you’re doing
  • it’s much better to perform a new skill in a group of 4 than going it solo
  • a good playlist with a solid beat makes advanced hip hop (and almost all other things in life) much more tolerable/enjoyable

I already knew these things before I signed up for the hip hop class, but I was gently reminded of them as soon as I stepped foot in the studio.  So as I struggled my way through the class I thought of my students and I thought of how exposing dancing in front of mirrors is while a crew of unfamiliar people are present.  How’s that for a dose of vulnerability?!

Because I am living the path of being vulnerable on the dance floor I think it will make me better at inspiring this vulnerability within my students.  I teach a wide range of abilities this year; some students have never done a dance class ever, whereas others dance 15+ hours a week, but what I’ve discovered in a week’s worth of getting to know them all is that there is always more room for digging deeper despite the level they’re at.


My daughter is also trying things new to her right now.  From this image you’d likely think gymnastics is her ‘new thing’, but it’s not…we practice every night in the living room. For her, being in large groups of other children is new.  Before her rest today I whispered in her ear, “I am so proud of you for getting out of your comfort zone and being in that large group of kids – it’s not always easy to work with other people.”

I love how much embracing and experiencing my own insecurities teaches me about the teaching profession.  I love how putting myself in the “student position” makes me a better teacher almost instantly. And I love how hard my advanced level hip hop class is, despite the fact that I am most certainly the odd one out! I have much to learn.

What is your newest thing lately? How is it impacting your work as a teacher? Join us in conversation in the comments!


Teach it Tuesday: New Year, New Plans

As this new year is off and running I though I would follow up on last years RESOURCE post with some of the new things that I’m planning to try this year. Currently I’m starting up a grade 6 class but jobs haven’t been filled yet in our district. I’m feeling a bit jaded with the job process this year… well a lot jaded to be honest. BUT I’m feeling very excited and enthusiastic to get going with this school year and I have lots of exciting ideas that I want to try out!

Along with trying Karley’s Fika and Feel Good Friday regulars. I’m going to bring back the Thursday Thought Blocks, and I’m excited to add in two new things this year. Growth Mindset is something you’ve all been hearing lots about for the past couple of years. This year I’m going to dedicate an Advisory block once a week to learning about growth mindset and practicing some of the essentials. The other new thing I’m going to do is dedicate a few minutes each day to a guided meditation practice with my students. I’m hoping with the regular practice students will start to internalize the practice and we can be calm (well as calm as middle schoolers can be) to start the day.

Language Arts:
I have heard about the Global Read Aloud for a few years now but have never been in the position to actually take part. I don’t know what grade I will be teaching yet but I’m really leaning towards doing Pax (unless I get grade 8). Has anyone else participated in this before? Would love to hear some feedback!

After taking Jo Boaler’s online course this summer most of my focus for planning has been in math. I’m going to start off the year using the Week of Inspirational Maths lessons and I really can’t wait! I think this will be such a good way to introduce a year of working differently in math. I’m also keen to start the Collaborative Math Teams approach in my classroom and I’ve signed up for the course. I just really hope that I can find someone else to do this with me at the school I end up at – It would be great to have a partner to run things by!

Since I don’t know what else I will be teaching yet in terms of Science/Socials/French/PE I haven’t done too much planning in other areas. I would love to hear about some of the exciting things you are planning on trying this year! Let me know in the comments.


Guest Post: Math Teams with Nikki Lineham

We are very excited and honoured to have Nikki Lineham guest post for us today.  Nikki is a brilliant and masterful teacher in our school district; she specializes in teaching math using pictorial, symbolic and concrete methods, while keeping the learning process creative and engaging for both students and teachers.  Meaghan and I have worked with Nikki in various Pro D sessions and we have also both used Nikki’s math resources (available through her website Educating Now) in our respective classrooms.  Thank you, Nikki, for sharing your knowledge and passion for teaching math with us here on Tale of Two Teachers!  We hope all our readers enjoy Nikki’s post.

Firstly, I want to thank Meaghan and Karley for inviting me to be a guest blogger for Tale of Two Teachers; I’m honoured, as I have a boatload of respect for these two dedicated teachers and I love reading their posts and empathizing with their journeys. Although I’ve been teaching for 15 years, I still feel like I have so much to learn and try. This is one of the reasons why I love my job so much; I have the opportunity to try out new strategies and approaches that I read about. Not only that, but because I work with several teachers, I can try out these ideas in many classrooms, using trial and error to make the lessons so much better. Rarely do I ‘nail it’ on the first try, and having the opportunity to refine multiple times each week (sometimes even in one day) allows me the chance to share what I know really works with other educators. This is the approach I took when learning how to set up and use collaborative math teams in math classes. Trust me, there was a whole lot of trial and error before we figured out the recipe for success.
The reason that I’m so passionate about these math teams is that I saw, first hand, in multiple classrooms, how powerful of an impact they had on both teachers and students; teachers were so inspired by the level of student engagement and learning and they had time to better assess and meet the needs of their students during class time and they felt less exhausted after lessons.  I also feel very strongly that we ought to be focusing more on competencies (as we see in our new curriculum) rather than solely on the content, as we have been conditioned to do. When students are in these teams, the roles are assigned (based on Complex Instruction) and criteria co-created, students become deep thinkers, collaborators and excellent communicators. Here are some of my observations from the classes I had the privilege of working in.
In a grade 6 class, I was blown away by the questions that the students started asking after a few weeks of working in teams. Because of all the work we did around creating growth mindsets and developing criteria around the competencies, students changed from ‘doing’ math to thinking about math (they were also still doing math). They started asking questions like, “When does infinity start?” and, “Are there such things as negative fractions and decimals?”. Students became curious and excited about learning how the math worked and how numbers were connected. One lesson, when we didn’t give the students any methods for multiplying decimals, but rather asked them to make predictions and explore in their teams what it means to multiply decimals, they were literally begging us to teach them the method (how often does that happen?!).
In a grade 8 class, after about two months of working in teams, when we moved into learning about rates and ratios, we literally didn’t have to teach a single method of solving. Students used their math reasoning, communicating and conceptual understanding to solve rates problems based on what made sense in the given contexts; the students could clearly explain their procedures. This proved to me, once again, that if students have conceptual understanding they can develop procedures, conversely, if students have memorized procedures (without really understanding them) and then they forget the procedure or rule (which happens all the time), they have nowhere to go.  When students get stuck like this the learning stops and they become entirely dependent on you, or someone else, to show them the procedure again. To be honest, we gave them the problem on rates as a way to prime their brains for learning the procedure, not expecting them to actually solve them without learning the procedure. Yet again, my expectations were surpassed.
After watching in amazement how these teams transformed students into mathematicians, I wondered, ‘Why on earth aren’t we all doing this?’. One thing I realized is that, generally speaking, teachers tend to be control freaks and giving up control to allow students to struggle and problem solve on their own is a tough transition (but so worth it). Teachers are also incredibly busy with the gazillion other tasks during their days and it’s challenging to find time to frequently read articles and books. I did read a few articles and books on how to use these teams and still had a lot of trial and error, so it wasn’t a quick and easy change to make. This is why I spent my summer creating a course on how to use these math teams so that it can be easily done by any teacher. If you are interested in learning more, please join me for a free webinar that will give an overview of how to use the math teams and if you really want to dive in, then sign up for our 12 part course that provides detailed day by day support on how to set up and use these teams in your classroom.   We have a number of teachers signed up and taking this course already and are offering you an opportunity to sign up at a 25% discount (use code: TALEOFTWO). Course registration closes at the end of September.

Nikki Lineham


The Heart Of It

Here is the heart of it…

Last year I was waiting. The year started off with me being a substitute teacher while I was waiting to head off on my travels. I’ll admit it substitute teaching has never brought out the best in me. I don’t have the relationships with students that make me want to be a great teacher, and I happily leave at the end of the day to get home way earlier than if I had a contract. I remember telling someone that substitute teaching was the best for work/life balance but in my case that is really not true because there is very little on the work side of that scale. Enthusiasm went out the window after week one. I was waiting. Waiting for my travels. Waiting for a “better” job.

When I returned from my travels I headed straight back into the classroom, by straight back I mean that I returned on a Wednesday and started teaching full time on the Thursday. I neglected my work life balance here again but the scale had tipped the other way. My home life was suffering because I chose to dive into a classroom and everything that entails, right after I had been off traveling with friends for 5 weeks. It wasn’t fair to my (now) husband and it wasn’t fair to myself.

After the winter break I entered in to some of the toughest teaching times I’ve experienced. I talked about it a bit and I wrote about it but I wouldn’t say that I really ever dealt with it. During these times I was put in the place of defending what felt like every decision I made as a teacher. My confidence took a big blow but I never acknowledged that part of it. Instead I was back in the waiting game because I knew I had a way out into a different job. A new job meant a fresh start, or so I thought. But by ignoring the healing I needed to do I wasn’t setting myself up for success. Within the first few weeks I had that familiar drowning in work feeling – trying to deal with a new school, new grades, new students, and new colleagues. Again I switched into this “waiting mode” by deciding that I could make it to Spring Break and then start anew after.

Little did I know that after Spring Break I would break my arm, need surgery, and be out of the classroom for weeks. Again with the waiting. And then it was June and the craziness of end of year hit. This is probably the time I enjoyed most out of the school year, but I was still in that waiting stage. Waiting for summer. Waiting for my wedding. Waiting for a break.

No, it wasn’t all bad. I really loved both my classes and made strong connections with lots of students and families. I enjoyed experimenting with the new curriculum. I got to travel and see more of the world, and experience that change in mindset that comes with it. I planned my wedding that was a perfect love filled and fun day.


Well since you asked I’ll throw in a photo…                 Oh you didn’t ask?

So what didn’t work? What did all that waiting mean? It meant that I was not being mindful. I was not living in the moment. I was not fully present for all those moments in my life.

With this in mind, and the fact that I am heading into a busy year with my Masters starting this weekend. By making some important commitments to myself I feel ready for the year and I’m so excited for all the learning and growth that lies ahead. This year I am making a commitment to wait less, process more, and be more mindful:

First, I will listen to constructive criticism from the people I respect, and ignore criticism that is meant to harm.


Second, I will find ways to be happy in the job that I am in. Through good and bad times there are always ways to be happy – a connection with a colleague or a student, a creative teaching idea, an extracurricular, etc. (And no, I don’t have a job yet but I will! Positive thinking, positive thinking!)

Finally, I will practice yoga and/or meditation regularly. Focusing my mind always helps me to live in the moment and be present for the people that matter most.

Here’s to a year filled with mindfulness, love, and lots of laughter – We can do this together, teachers!



The “No” Girl: A Balancing Act

Meaghan and I decided that this year, along with our reestablished commitment to blogging with our authentic voice(s), we needed to figure out where we were at on our own personal blogging and teaching journeys.

My personal challenge this year will be to remain a “no” girl.  That is, I vow to say NO to most things asked of me.  No thank-you, I won’t coach that team. No sorry, I probably won’t make it to that extra-curricular planning meeting.  And, no, I won’t go in to school on weekends.  Let me be clear in saying that almost always I ask and expect myself to do these things.  I am a pleaser, a doer and somewhat of an extremist so if a colleague or my administration asks extra of me this year of course I will professionally consider doing the work, but not before weighing in how the “extra” will impact my family life.  Saying “no” is going to be my secret to balancing work and life this year. Thankfully I have my almost-two-year-old to remind me (quite often) how exactly to say it…noooooooo!


I dabbled with this “just say no!” work/life balance strategy last year a little bit, but I wasn’t entirely successful because I was still an academic teacher who had just come off an excellent year of maternity leave.  I felt stuck as the “do it all” type of teacher that I am, while having a tiny daughter at home to care for.  Mad props to all you working parents. I learned a lot last year and even though I taught and was paid for .6 FTE (three full days a week) I actually worked full time (3+ hours per night at home after my daughter went to bed, even on my days off). Somehow I still managed to exercise and read for pleasure. I don’t want to cram all this in anymore; it isn’t a truly pleasant way to live, to be honest.  When exercising starts to feel like a chore, I know I’ve gone down a slippery slope.

This year, and years in the future, will be different.  After a lot of thinking and debating I have decided to say NO to the classroom for a few years. Instead I’ve chosen to delve back in to the amazing, exciting and fun world of being an exploratory teacher.  A few weeks ago I was offered a (part-time) continuing contract teaching middle school dance and drama and I immediately accepted the offer.  For me, this contract will allow me space.  Space to be the mama I want to be to my incredible toddler.  Space to exercise well. Space to cook and plan healthy meals.  Space to spend time with my family.  And space to take a dance class of my own!  While being an exploratory teacher is no joke (we teach every single student in the school over the course of the year!) teaching dance/drama will totally alleviate the workload because for me teaching dance is second nature.  The sheer joy I find in (teaching) dance can not be matched.  This part-time continuing contract is an incredible gift to me and I plan to do great things with it.  I’ll be working in a school that has never had an established dance program (that I know of), so one could say I am essentially starting from scratch!  While being an exploratory teacher will not be the duration of my entire teaching career, it definitely will play a prominent role for the next five years or so.  I am so excited to see what these next years have in store!

I am in my final year of my 20s and I’m finally learning to say NO to most things so that I can say YES to the things I actually want to do.  Heck, maybe I AM getting wiser with age!


A Story We’re Living

We have been discussing the direction our blog will take for a while now and this year we have made a commitment. Our commitment is not to just blog more, but to blog with a return to our authentic voices.

What spurred this decision? It started with a conversation we had with a colleague in the spring. He thanked us for sharing honestly on the blog and that prompted us to think about how our honest sharing has changed over our time blogging. When we first started blogging we wrote about very personal and professional stories with very little fear of our audience – mostly because we thought our parents would be the only ones reading. Both of us have felt that we have drifted away from this authentic voice over the years. Partly because the line between personal and professional can be a little bit scary on a public forum, and partly because it is often really difficult to share these stories. Elizabeth Gilbert expressed this struggle perfectly in her request for privacy during a difficult time:

“I trust that you understand how this is a story that I am living — not a story that I am telling.”

In response to this same message, Glennon Doyle responded, “Please let the world offer.. no advice, no platitudes, no criticism, nothing but love and gratitude for living and loving and hurting aloud – so that we can see how it’s done.” When we choose to put our stories out for everyone to read there is a lot of trust that goes with that and a lot of risk. But with this risk, this vulnerability, comes a real voice that breeds connection and growth. The best gift of blogging is connection and the more authentic our voice remains the stronger these connections will be. Of course there are stories that will be reserved for our loved ones, but we are committing to sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of this teaching life.

We choose to share our stories.

We want to share our stories.

We love to share our stories.

So our commitment this year to you, our readers, is that we will return to authenticity in voices and our posts. We promise to be honest, truthful and vulnerable and, in return, we hope that you will choose authenticity and vulnerability with your own stories.


It’s Not Goodbye, Just See You Later

Unfortunately welcoming summer brings with it some tough goodbyes. We met up today for a quick catch up outside of school after saying some tearful goodbyes to our amazing coworkers this year.

We have plans to bring back our blog bigger and better next school year but until then have a great and well-deserved break wonderful teachers! Thank you for everything you do for these amazing children in our lives.