Is your class....... boring? It only takes a spark to get the fire going

Ever sat in a boring faculty meeting or professional development workshop? I’ve had more than my fair share. I can remember how I felt in that very moment but what I don’t recall is what the presenter was saying even if the information was important. Imagine how students feel day after day in a boring class. Are you a teacher who struggles from time to time with engaging your students?

Engaging your learners is imperative to good instruction. I have observed many classrooms that I wanted to fall asleep in. I was ready to go after just 5 minutes, so I can only imagine how those students felt day after day. While it is true that every lesson won’t be as exciting as others, if your students were asked about your class overall, boring should NEVER be an adjective used! The first thing you need to focus on is what should students know, understand, and be able to do. But the most important part is planning how students will get there. Planning interactive and engaging lessons takes time (Edwards, 2018), but if you do it correctly, it will be worth the effort.

One thing I used to do as a classroom teacher is make sure students were involved in their learning. Student autonomy is necessary. Additionally, students loved to talk and they were going to talk anyway, so what not control their discussions? I never liked a quiet classroom, so I would make sure to include student role cards (Found Here) during collaborative work. More examples can be found in Achieving Success in Inner City Schools, A Guide for New and Seasoned Teachers, 2018.

To get your students engaged, let me suggest (for now) three ways to do so. (Sometimes too many can seem overwhelming).

Movement always gets students going. Don’t let students stay seated the entire class period. Gone are the days that we allow students to read from a text- book and answer discussion questions at the end of the chapter. Students have to be engaged in lessons. For example, instead of reading about the Solar System, allow students to use themselves as models to recreate it (Edwards, 2018). There are many more strategies in the section Teaching Methods in Strategies, of my book. Get it today, you won’t regret it!


Hip Hop Pioneer, “Sparky D”engaging with students.

2. Capture your students’ interest. Know what your students like. Mind you, each class may have a different vibe, so it’s important to hone in on their distinctive traits. I was once teaching a Unit on Argument. The district’s textbook suggestion was a good one, but not for my students. I decided to make the unit more interesting. Students participated in a Hip Hop v. America argumentative Unit. Students loved music as I did, and I would often engage in conversations about their favorite musical artist. Part of my reward system was to allow music at times. During this Unit, we researched the history of various genres of music, engaged in discussions and debates while using argumentative techniques, wrote argumentative essays and quick-writes/journals. Additionally, we analyzed lyrics and articles, students created their own lyrics and performed creative pieces based on certain criterias. I was able to use the theme and align each activity to address the state standards. We even had a special guest who was the parent of one of my students, Hip Hop pioneer SparkyD! The student recruited her mom to come in because of her musical background. She spoke about the history of Hip Hop and the transformation to Rap music. Years earlier, the BET network had a debate where several celebrities was on the panel to discuss this topic, so I further engaged students by showing clips from the debate; it sparked even more conversations. The entire Unit was a Go! Students challenged me to keep them engaged, so it was a win-win situation. Additionally, even after our guest, SparkyD’s child graduated, the parent worked on a mentoring program for girls right at the school. It was a great way to build a home-school relationship.

Spark D speaks further to students.

3. Include games and competition. Who doesn’t like a good game? A good friendly competition ain’t never hurt nobody. “Healthy competition and participation pushes participants to excel! Don’t shy away from incorporating it. Keep the competition fair with students of similar abilities. Include team captains (they were always used to help keep the group on task). Remember, as you create healthy, engaging competitions, the ultimate goal is that students are eager to learn. It will definitely boost student engagement and motivation.” (Edwards, 2018). Strategies can be found in my book. Get it today; invest in yourself.

If instruction is boring, students will make you aware. Sometimes it is not verbal, but through discipline issues  (Edwards, 2018). There is never a need to reinvent the wheel, there are so many great resources already created by our colleagues near and far. Search the web and modify the lesson to fit the needs of your students. I highly recommend getting my book. There are so many strategies and ideas that can be adopted and implemented right now. Get it HERE!

…and I hope these few words find you well,

Dr. E!

Should I Stay or Go?.....I Don't Know!

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Research notes that many new teachers leave the profession within their first 5 years in the classroom; however, they are not the only ones looking for a change in scenery. Tenured teachers are constantly weighing their options and self-reflecting. Do I want to change grade levels? Subjects? Schools? Districts? or Careers? Do I need to just take a break?

I have had to ask myself these questions many times throughout the years. Even after changing school systems in search of something different, after a few years, I grew unsatisfied. I was ready for something new. One summer, I emailed my principal to inquire about any other job openings at my school. His response,” Are you talking about for you or someone else?” Of course, I was talking about for me. He understood that I was ready for something different, but encouraged me to give it one more year in the classroom and make up my mind that it would be my last.

Rewind a decade prior, I was on the administrative track. I was on all types of leadership committees, taking a few workshops, shadowing and assisting administration with their duties while trying to get a feel for what was to come; however, my first real taste of administration, which occurred a few years back, still wasn’t hitting the spot. There was more paperwork, more parents to appease, more students to discipline, and more teachers to accommodate. However, there was less “me time”, and I felt confined. It wasn’t my thing.

Then, I decided to hone in on another venture that I had overlooked because I was focusing on the administrative route. I realized that instructional leadership was gratifying! In the past, I had been working with my district’s coordinator on refining units, customizing frameworks for teachers, facilitating professional development workshops and trainings; I assumed various teacher leader roles. I had always enjoyed doing it but didn’t realize how this satisfied me. And, it clicked!

Becoming an Instructional Coach, Coordinator, or a similar type of role would put me directly where I wanted to be. I could work with adult learners, have more flexibility, have an impact on students (indirectly), and still be in the field of education. As I continued to sharpen my focus on my next steps, I decided to zoom in on educational consulting. I could create my own schedule, choose my own jobs, work with adults, work from home or in my neighborhood coffee shop, and not feel so confined. This was more of my thing.

Are you looking for a change? Sometimes weighing the pros and cons is necessary to determine your path. Income is the number one reason why people may stay put and not bungee to other job and career paths. But, if you don’t fulfill your desire to do something different, you may look at yourself years later and feel stuck in the same place.

So, sit down and map out your next move. If you feel like you need a change, first figure out if maybe a new subject or grade level will do. Begin diving deeper to determine if maybe a change in school districts may be best for you. Or, if you are looking for a career change, begin looking at your finances, plan everything out and ask, is this doable? You may have to stick to a tight budget and/or change your lifestyle habits. Remember, you may not be saying goodbye to education forever, but rather I’ll be right back!

If you are not content, weigh all options. Sometimes you have to just do it-strategically. As the saying goes, make your next move your best move!

To help you with your decision, use this tool that I have created for you. Click here! Let me know how it goes!

Teaching Black History the Correct Way (And Throughout the Year)

When I was in grade school, my teachers usually celebrated Black History Month in some form. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Eli Whitney were always the topics of discussion. Once, my class churned butter and held cotton in our hands in celebration of the month … (pause), and this is as far as our lessons ever went. With all due respect to the three names mentioned, there are so many more freedom fighters, inventors, scientists, artists, musicians, etc., that were never mentioned or taught in school. It seemed as if Black History was an island. It was taught away from the actual lesson-some type of checklist to get it out the way. We would do Black History and then get back to the real stuff. If it weren’t for my mama or grandma, I would have never been exposed to many of the Greats. To this day, I am constantly introduced to so much Black greatness who I never knew even existed, such as Katherine Johnson. Unfortunately, I never heard of her contribution to past and modern day society until the movie, Hidden Figures, hit the theaters. Then there was Neil deGrasse Tyson. It wasn't until I was teaching a unit a few years back about risk and exploration that I discovered him on Youtube. Often, when I show students photos and videos of Africa today, they are so amazed because they have only seen one perspective. Students believe they are all living in poverty with no electricity. They don’t understand that Africa is a continent of 55 countries filled with a diverse population of innovative people who live in cities that’s full of culture. In celebration of Black History Month, expose your students to what they don’t know. I wanted to put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts for you.

Do Make it Relevant. Incorporate Black History into your curriculum. It is not separate. Teach within the context of your content area. For example, in an Argumentative unit for English, conduct a teacher-led close read for Sojourner’s Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech. It focuses not only on civil rights but on women’s rights. Or, for a deeper conversation and analysis, focus of the differing perspectives between Malcolm X and Huey P. Newton. Additionally, black mathematician’s, scientists, and inventors have contributed globally. Include them in STEM classes. For Social Studies, allow students to conduct research on The Harlem Renaissance, The Transatlantic Slave Trade, or The Great Migration; it would be the start of a great history lesson, discussion, and an introduction to many Blacks that students have never heard of before.

Do celebrate the month. Although there are many schools around the nation that honor the month, it is very common for many schools to do nothing. With the nation’s student demographical shift on the rise, how can we do nothing and ignore it? Hold a student-led assembly. Incorporate music, dance, art, and an engaging speaker. Conduct a school-wide writing or drawing contest focusing on a historical figure. Hold a decorative door contest. Get everyone involved.

Do teach other Blacks besides the common ones. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks can never be erased, but if they are the only focus, that becomes a major problem. Hit the link to view Famous Black Inventors and Mathematicians or Influential Black Musicians. Perhaps you want to start off with Black Civil Rights Activists. Have students conduct a short presentation/ project and make your classroom a mini-museum. Or, wherever you decide to start, don’t try to fit it all within the month. Incorporate it throughout the year.

Here are the Don’ts.

Do NOT focus only on slavery. The story does not stop there; show the progression of the history. Jim Crow and systematic oppression cannot be deleted, but putting a heavy emphasis is draining and can be depressing. Make the connection for students to see how the event’s and actions of the past have impacted today. Show victories! Celebrate all aspects of the Black experience, including the defeats and triumphs!

Do not use your regular assignments and change their names and scenario. This is not Black History and this is never ok. I really wanted to add a photo of a colleague’s math lesson but couldn’t muster the strength to display such ignorance. In brief, the assignment included regular math problems but instead of apples and oranges per se in the word problem, the teacher changed the names and objects into stereotypical ones that she associated with Black people. Changing names and scenarios are worthless. It is offensive and simply, don’t do it.

Don’t give lectures. Student engagement is the key into all of this. Allow discussion and reflection. Allow creativity. If you simply read passages, you will bore the heck out of students.

Exposure is so important, so make your lessons relevant to all student. Remember, Black History is American History. Every year, schools across the nation incorporate creative ways to celebrate the month. Please, share your ideas!

And I hope these few words find you well!

Dr. E

The Power of "Yet", Fostering a Growth Mindset in Low-Income Students

There is no secret that students who live in low-income areas don’t perform as well as their peers who live in more affluent areas. However, students in low-income areas, who have a growth mindset, can perform the same and/or even better than students in higher income areas who have a fixed mindset.

Let’s distinguish growth and fixed mindsets. A growth mindset is one where students understand that with hard work, practice, and dedication, they can and will achieve. On the contrary, in a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They don’t take the time to develop their skills since they believe it cannot change. Unfortunately, students who live in poverty areas are more than likely to have a fixed mindset. So are we blaming low-income students for their academic achievement or lack thereof? The goal should not be on what students understand right now but the focus should be on their progress of learning. When students state they don’t understand a skill or concept, encourage them to include the word yet at the end of their sentence. This will build their confidence.

In the article, “Impact of Poverty on Student Achievement: All in their Minds”, the author noted, “The problem, some advocates say, is not that the more than half of all American children who live in poverty have the wrong mindset. The problem is that more than half of all American children live in poverty.”

Educators will agree that when students are motivated, learning is improved. This causes a boomerang effect in the quality of instruction. Therefore, how do we encourage the growth mindset in our students? How do we identify and address the need a shift in their thinking? What are the challenges in encouraging student achievement?

First, educators have to be equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools to make this mind shift occur in students. According to the Education Week (EW) article, “Mindset in the Classroom: A National Study of K-12 Teachers,” mentions, “only 20 percent of teachers strongly believe they are good at fostering a growth mindset in their own students. They have even less confidence in their fellow teachers and school administrators. And just one in five says they have deeply integrated growth mindset into their teaching practice.”

This can be improved through ongoing professional learning communities. EW also stated, “Eight-five percent of teachers want more professional development related to the growth mindset, despite the fact that almost half of those educators report having prior training on the topic.”

A systematic change needs to occur so that we can begin meditating the thinking of our low-income students so that they know that with practice and hard work, they can achieve! Watch how Carol Dweck, author and professor, explains the growth mindset.

Therefore, how can educators promote growth mindset environments? Review the 10 ways listed below. To read in detail, visit the link here.

  1. Avoid Praising Intelligence and Sheer Effort

  2. Use Diverse Teaching Strategies

  3. Introduce Simple Gamification Elements

  4. Teach the Values of Challenges

  5. Encourage Students to Expand their Answers

  6. Explain the Purposes of Abstract Skills and Concepts

  7. Allow Time for Goal-Based Journaling

  8. Say “Yet” More Often

  9. Help Students Change their Language  

  10. Use Success Folders

Instill the Growth mindset in YOU by printing and completing the Growth Mindset Discussion Question and Practices handout found here. Incorporate it into your professional learning communities. Leave a comment.

I hope these few words find you well!

Dr. E!

Establishing a Culture of High Expectations for All Learners....No Matter What

Your students will live up to your expectations whether you set them high or low. So how are you motivating students to reach their full potential? As a student, I would perform better academically for teachers who pushed me and expected more from me. Yes, they got on my last nerve, but in hindsight, they had a greater impact on me than those who seemed to be satisfied with my bare minimum performance. Because these teachers didn’t push, I was satisfied with just getting by, and that is exactly what I did in some classes.

There is one phrase that I have heard repeatedly by teachers about their instructional practices that infuriates me. “I can’t do this (lesson/activity) with these students.” Usually, because they feel the students can’t achieve and won’t be able to keep up. In truth, the student may not be able to reach mastery, but we can’t provide assignments that are not challenging them enough. Have you been guilty of watering down the content? Do you consider this helping your students? If so, it is not.

It is necessary to meet students where they are and push them as they progress to where they need to be, but you can’t dumb down the curriculum. On the other hand, how do you set and maintain high expectations for high achievers? Do you give them more work to do, or are activities purposefully assigned that will help progress their learning to the next level?

Dr. Robert Marzano, researcher, and trainer found that when we set high expectations of students, we act differently. We call on them more often, wait longer for their answers, and give them more opportunities to succeed. Teachers who set high expectations for their students have more of a positive attitude towards learners which results in effective teaching practices.

Expectations are not simply standardized test scores. It has been defined as any effort to set the same high educational standards for all students in a class, school, or education system.

So how do you make sure you are setting high expectations for all learners? Simply, by raising the bar! Teachers must support diverse learners in a rigorous way which means intentional planning. “Rigor,” refers to that fine line between challenging and frustrating a student. Students are challenged to perform, think, and grow. In rigor lessons, students are building their level of understanding to achieve at higher levels. Review the Norman Webb’s (1997, 1999) Depth of Knowledge (DOK):

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How do Common Core standards encourage rigor in your classroom? What do you consider rigorous for students?

Maintain the rigor in your classroom high by using this Matrix of DOK Question Stems. Limit asking lower level questions such as recall, or DOK -1 questions, but encourage strategic and extending thinking which are high order questioning. Are students expected to acquire knowledge (DOK-1)?   Apply knowledge (DOK-2)?  Analyze knowledge (DOK-3)?  Augment knowledge (DOK-4)?

Provide scaffolding (chunking, modeling, prompting through questions, graphic organizers) to support students as they progress. Ask yourself, “ How can I target my student’s needs?” Students may have the ability to perform but may need direction because of task complexity.

All in all, set high expectations and don’t compromise the rigor of instruction. Kids may not be reaching their full potential because they aren’t pushed to do so. Let students know you care and don’t be satisfied with mediocre. Instructional rigor is an essential aspect of effective instruction. Our practices make an impact on our student expectations.

I hope these few words find you well.

-Dr. E!


Getting the Most Uninterested Students Engaged


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I once posed a question to students as an introduction to The Giver by Lois Lowry. “What would it take to make your world perfect?” The most common answer, no school! School can be boring for many students. Well, let me state that differently, the social aspect for students is the highlight of their school day. It's the sitting in class and the actual learning part that they would rather do without (go figure). Wouldn't it be great to push a button that allows students to obtain all knowledge? I wish I could just pour a fountain of smartness into the little darlings. Maybe in the next lifetime.

In their defense, I have observed classes where even I was ready to leave after just a few minutes. It was too boring and teacher-focused! I felt the pain of the students who had to suffer through class periods like this on a daily basis. Then, there have been other classes where I’ve wanted to stay longer and even come back the next day! How do you distinguish your class from one that students consider boring, or maybe I’ll use a euphemism to dress it up. How do you distinguish your class from one that students consider, “dry?” I know, I know, every day, students can’t hang from the ceiling in fun, but can’t we aim for it the majority of the time they are in your classroom?

There are some students that no matter what you do, they are disengaged and inattentive to anything you have to teach. How many times have you spent purposeful hours putting together what you’ve considered, highly engaging lessons, only to realize that some students aren't as interested as you!

Let me see if I can help. Classes should always be student-centered! What lecture? If you are talking more than students, a shift is definitely needed.

We’ve all read books or watched a movie where it started off good, but somewhere along the lines you lost interest, or there have been times where a book or movie started off terrible and you have no idea how it ended because you couldn’t stand another minute of it. Your classroom shouldn’t mimic either of these scenarios. Make sure to keep lessons interactive and engaging. So how do you capture your students’ interest and maintain it?

Get them up and moving! Students would rather be out of their seat moving around versus sitting idle at their desks. For example, If students are participating in answering selected responses, put the answers choices around the class and allow them to rotate to them, collaborate within their group, and defend their answers. Introducing a concept? Involve students in your examples by making them act out the water cycle, for example. Reading a class book or novel? Allow them to reenact the scene from a different character’s point of view. All in all, get them involved.

Encourage Collaboration Get them talking. Students are going to talk anyway, so why not channel what they are talking about? Use Cooperative Role Cards like the one found in my book Achieving Success in Inner-City Schools. Tasks are delegated and conversations are structured.

Keep them on their toes Stop allowing students to raise their hand to respond to a question. Use a random picker instead! When posing a question, allow students to first collaborate with a partner, and then answer. They have to stay ready. This will ensure you don’t call on the same students and will give those who stay in the shadows an opportunity to contribute. Additionally, another tip may be to use a Go-Around-Cup. Write every student’s name on a popsicle stick. Place them in a cute cup (get it from The Dollar Tree). Shake it up, pull a name or allow students to rotate being in charge of this. This will keep them on their toes!

Give them Choice Students need autonomy; this is how you strengthen the buy-in. Include a choice board. Like the ones, I found here. It will boost their engagement and motivation. When students have an input, they’re more likely to own it.

Include Friendly, Healthy Competition Competition can make learning seem like a game. And, anytime there is a game, students are all in! Include websites such as Kahoot or Quizizz. For more ideas, purchase my book. Build your instructional toolbox with ideas!

Reward Students Whether you give students a sticker, a shout out, a call home, or a sweet treat, students like being recognized. Make sure to recognize students for a job well done. Don’t only focus on the ones who do everything right, but make sure to pay attention to those students who are normally unengaged; rewards/recognition can encourage their involvement.

Change the Scenery/Locations Have class in the Media Center or outdoors. You’d be surprised at how students will appreciate the change. Allow students Free-Seating-Friday’s, change up the furniture arrangement, or decorate your classroom to make it feel like an oasis.

Encourage Structured Debates Students enjoy anytime they get to share their point of view, especially when a debate can pursue. Debates foster abstract thinking, teamwork, and collaboration. For example, The Four Corner debate will encourage students to use critical thinking skills. Post the signs, Strongly agree, Agree, Strongly Disagree, and Disagree in four corners around the class. Pose a controversial question and allow student to stand in the corner that reflects their opinion. They should begin a discussion with their peers who have chosen the same corner. Allow students to express their thoughts and feelings openly, or it can be more objective. This is a sure way to get everyone involved. You can even use this strategy as a “brain-break” (intermission from learning) and pose a fun question such as “Snickers is the best candy bar in the world.” This is especially good for those on block schedules.

Allow Students to Present/Perform Craft fun activities where students can demonstrate their level of understanding. Whether they put it in speech-like format, a Prezi or Google Slide, or put it in song. Allow them to show what they know.

I hope these words find you well,

-Dr. E

Purchase Achieving Success in Inner-City Schools: A Guide for New and Seasoned Teachers for more ideas!

Guest Submission: Summer Side Gigs for Teachers

Written by Joyce Wilson

Teaching ain’t what it used to be – at least, that’s the perception that most people have. Often listed as one of the most stressful jobs in America, teaching has long been viewed as a formerly middle-class profession fallen on hard times. True, over 1.2 million teachers don’t have social security, and they’ve been in the news recently protesting gun violence, stagnant wages and poor school conditions. Still, teachers are paid pretty decently. 

Nationwide, the median annual salary for a high school teacher is $58,030, just slightly lower than the median household income in the U.S. ($59,039). Moreover, most teachers also enjoy a perk that’s unheard of in other professions: A three-month vacation in the summer. So here are some tips and advice for teachers on summer side gigs that can also be worked into your school-year schedule.


One of the great but overlooked aspects of a teacher’s skill set is that it’s so marketable. Kids need to ace their college essays. Adults need to brush up on their own skill set. So during your break from work, just switch out “teacher” for “tutor.” The downside of tutoring is that it might take you years to drum up a steady business. But the plus side is that you can set your own rate, and if you have the right clientele, you stand to make far more from this gig than you would drawing a regular paycheck. Post your resume online, stop into local tutoring centers, or network through good old word-of-mouth to get your business up and running.



Here’s another feature of your skill set, teachers: Many of you become unsung authorities on what you teach. So start a website or your own blog, and broadcast your expertise. If you teach history, visit Civil War battlefields this summer and write about your journeys. Science teachers, plant a garden and explain the process of photosynthesis that makes it so lush (with Pinterest-caliber pictures, to boot). English teachers? Maybe it’s time you wrote your novel. The list goes on. Just do something you’re passionate about so that your audience can sense you’re genuine. And if you’re ever interested in turning this passion into a profit, do your homework on how to get some revenue flowing through it.

At-Home Workspace

Now that you’ve got some idea of the business you’re interested in, think about installing an at-home workspace where you can focus and maximize productivity.  Where you put it will likely depend on the specifics of your house. Generally, though, it’s a good idea to stay out of the way of foot-traffic and be at a decent reserve from the commotion burbling through the other rooms. Make a list of all the office furniture and equipment that you need, and buy accordingly. Think about investing in an ergonomic chair so that you’re comfortable at all times. And always declutter it, so that the stuff around you doesn’t compound any mental pressure you already harbor. Finally, make sure it’s comfortable, so that you won’t procrastinate (like the students you’re always chiding), but instead be excited about going in there again and again.


Come the graduation lullaby of May, many teachers are exhausted with the long school year, and they want to retire their skill set (above) and simply be humans for the summer. Nothing wrong with that, either. Plus, now that you’ve remodeled your home with a swanky new workspace, consider doing AirBNB or renting your place on terms that best fit your schedule. That might mean opening up your room – or the whole house – for a few days or a few weeks. Summer’s the perfect time to go camping or see the country, so think about getting out of town. And make some money in the process. It’s not the worst idea in the world.

Image via Unsplash & Unsplash

Joyce Wilson is a retired teacher.

Social Media for Educators

Social media can be an invaluable resource. I have been one to scroll while looking at photos, reading comments, and engaging in conversation with friends, family, and even strangers, but now, things have changed for me. I used to use social media solely for pleasure until after casually scrolling through Instagram (IG), I haphazardly clicked on a follower's hashtag #teachersofinstagram and #teachersfollowteachers, and Boom! I discovered another world out there. I was intrigued by everything I saw. I decided to sign up for another account solely for educational networking purposes, away from my personal account, and I love it! The social media world of education is full of ideas that can be used immediately. For example, one of my Instagram friends posed a question about what to do with his class since testing was over, students were antsy, and everybody was mentally through with school; however, school was still in session. Oh how I loved the quick and unique responses of Instagrammers from everywhere who shared their ideas with him! There were so many suggestions and I was excited to provide input and began gathering ideas from other commenters that can be shared with others and put into my educational toolbox.

Social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter are great ways to collaborate with peers. Of course social media can still be your personal playground, but consider creating an educational page away from your personal page to post related content.

The summer is a great way to refresh your ideas and strategies to implement for the next school year and what better way to do this than collaborating with fellow educators from around the country and even the world! The chats seem to never stop! The ideas are always new! The people are always willing to help. There are new hires, novice teachers, and undergraduates who join in on conversation, ask questions, and share what they do in their classroom.

I have even created a folder on Instagram to save cool ideas that I come across to dig up at a later date. Additionally, I follow blogs such as  Cult of Pedagogy  and Teachthought . This allows you to target any area(s) you want to sharpen.

Social media can really work for you, so I encourage you to sign up and when you do, make sure to follow @icoachteachersllc on Instagram and @icoachteachers on Twitter!


-Dr. E!


Are you a Culturally Proficient Teacher? Part1

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Photo by:

Did you know that in the United States there is a major shift in the demographics of our schools? With an increasingly diverse world, more children of color will begin dominating schools around the nation. Ironically, the majority of teachers will continue to be middle aged white women. This new epidemic is certainly taking place, but how are we preparing ourselves for what is to come? Will there be a cultural mismatch between teachers and the students they teach? How do we ensure this mismatch doesn't interfere with student learning. 

The first step to avoid this mismatch is to become aware of our own assumptions and possible biases about cultural groups. Assumptions and biases can interfere or facilitate a student's progress to a great education. What happens when we teach an Asian student who may not meet our assumptions of being smart? What about that Black student who aces every assignment but comes from a single parent home? Our assumptions can impact the way we feel about and treat students.  

To successfully reach all students, one must become culturally proficient. Culturally proficiency enables individuals to respond effectively to people who are different from them. 

For many, becoming culturally proficient takes much time, reflection, and practice.There are six points along the cultural proficiency continuum that indicate unique ways of perceiving and responding to differences. The goal is to move ourselves from the downward spiral of the continuum into the upward spiral.

How are teaches developing their teaching style to accommodate students? Before differentiating, what must one have to know?  If educators do not have some knowledge of their students' lives outside of paper-and-pencil work, and even outside of their classrooms, then they cannot accurately know their students' strengths and weaknesses (Delpit, 1995).

We must teach students according to how they learn; we cannot expect students to learn the way we teach. This is a disservice to learners and many will be left behind. When we become culturally proficient, then we have the ability and openness to adapt to diverse learners thus building cultural responsive relationships. Lessons become meaningful and culture relevance becomes daily practice. Instruction should be culturally relevant to accelerate student learning.  This is done by initially knowing students’ interests and abilities.

The cultural mismatch among teachers and the students they teach can't and won't be eliminated overnight. People are generally ignorant to their lack of cultural awareness; however, if we can aim to move those up the continuum, it is sure to become contagious.



Delpit, Lisa (1995). Other Peoples' Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New York: New Press.











Image: Bipolar Bandit

Image: Bipolar Bandit

I love filters! Specifically, Snapchat always has fun and exciting filters that includes crops, face and voice changers!  Unfortunately, I found myself wanting to post myself on social media only with an added filter; I had more confidence with one. My skin became smoother, lighter, my nose slimmer, and it even added lashes with a pop of color painted on my lips. Before, I would never post a selfie and definitely not a close up video, but now I found myself posting left and right. Then, I received notification that I had two new followers, my nieces, both under 12. Hmm... I thought. Gladly, they were restricted by their parents from having any followers or following anyone except for family; they only signed up for the fun filters! But, I realized that there were more pictures of them in their photo  gallery with filters than with their beautiful, authentic selves. Problem! Then I thought, if I, a grown adult, felt more beautiful with filters versus without them, what is this doing to children and their self esteem? At least as an adult, I could handle looking not quite like myself, well, sorta-kinda. Did they still feel pretty or confident without the filters? Was this just really for fun?

The truth is we, society, care how we are perceived. We want more likes, more comments, and more followers to boost our confidence, so women...and men are enhancing body parts, altering their appearance, and are depending on "likes" for self approval.

Magazines with photo-shopped and retouched images of celebrities have broken down kids' self image for decades.  The fashion world has told Americans that a size 8 is plus size! Social media is so powerful. It has taught us that lighter skin is prettier, skinny is more appealing, colored eyes makes you beautiful, and "good hair" is only achieved through extensions, perms, being of other ethnicities, and wigs.

Snapchat, and other apps alike, have seasoned the media's stance on what beauty is. Yes, filters are fun to play around with; I still use them, but young children should not, I repeat, they SHOULD NOT have an any social media account where they are allowed to alter their appearance. They should not get to participate in changing who they are because they will begin to feel that the "fake them" is prettier. If children would rather post pictures and videos with filters, it is cause for alarm. I know many adults who should take heed to the same advice although children are much more impressionable. What they perceive as pretty, they want to look like.

Being a student in today's world is harder than what most adults can imagine. This generation is so technological advanced that they are exposed to everything by the click of a button and want to emulate what they see, even if it is not in the most positive light. As an educator, I've seen students walk around the school building with hoods on their heads (boys and girls) because of low self esteem. After sitting in a girls' mentoring group, I witnessed students described themselves as ugly and unhappy and feel that having sex appeal makes them more desirable to their male counterparts. Most students who were in this mentoring group had a social media account of some sort. When asked to see their profile picture, almost all of them had a filter! Shocking?

Parents, I encourage you to promote posting #therealme while including #nofilter. Be the example. Until your child can love themselves genuinely and accept them for who they really are, (and being an adolescent is definitely not the right time), monitor them as much as possible and refrain from "fun" filters.


I hope these few words find you well,

Dr. E

Homework? To give or not give

The majority of parents I come across are advocates of homework. They feel that homework is good practice, it will improve their student's understanding and mastery of skills, and that it gives students something constructive to do when they come home rather than grabbing their cell phone or playing video games all evening. A few months ago, a teacher caused much controversy after she made headlines when she relinquished homework so students could enjoy family, fun, and being a kid instead. Was she on to something, or was she not maximizing an independent learning opportunity to reinforce skills and concepts learned in class? Was she stirring up trouble and making other teachers around the nation look like the bad guys? Would no homework become the trend? 

I've encountered teachers who don't like assigning homework while others are consistently handing out assignments like it is going out of style. Teachers who are opposed to the idea do so because of the irritation of students simply not submitting it, except for those A and B students, the extra headache of finding meaningful material that students can take on at home, and the frustration of more work to grade. Other teachers assign it to fulfill school policy and/or parental request. Truthfully, many teachers would rather not assign it and the majority of students can live without it.

We must keep in mind that homework is almost always the least weighted category; it comes last to tests, quizzes, classwork, and participation. Many school districts have banned grading the actual homework assignment, as it should be, but grade it as a pass (submitting it) or fail (not submitting it). Students are not penalized for wrong answers but receive credit for completing it. So is it really important?

Some teachers use homework as time management in keeping the pace. How many times have teaches run out of instructional time and needed students to do a portion at home in order to stay on pace with the lesson? But, how many students fail to complete the assignment? So let's get to the nitty-gritty. What do studies show? After researching, this topic has many pros and cons, but a common factor is that if homework has to be assigned, it should have purpose, relevance and benefit, "and it should be designed to cultivate learning and development."

Here are some points to ponder as you reevaluate why and what you are assigning.

    •    Economically disadvantaged students are unintentionally penalized because their environments often make it almost impossible to complete assignments at home.

    •    Too much homework harms students' health and family time.

    •    Teachers are not well trained in how to assign homework.

    •    Teachers should only assign homework when they can justify that the assignments are “beneficial”, ideally involving students in activities appropriate for the home, such as performing an experiment in the kitchen, cooking, doing crossword puzzles with the family, watching good TV shows, or reading. 

    •    Assign homework that is beneficial to student learning instead of assigning homework as a matter of policy.

My suggestion would be to not eradicate homework, but give it a facelift. Homework shouldn't be complete a chapter inWorld History, or write vocabulary words and the definition. This is busy work. Instead, follow these suggestions:

  1. Assign work with purpose. If you have to think about what to assign, assign nothing.

  2. Make it doable. Five problems of practice are all that is needed, not 50!

  3. Make it meaningful and engaging. Allow students to conduct a mini lab.

    • If students are discussing conflict, have them watch a 30 minute sitcom and identify the conflict, the parts of plot, character traits, etc.

  4. Involve others. Allow students to read an assigned magazine, article, comic book for 15-30m and have them summarize their readings to a family member.

    • In math, have the students complete a math problem and encourage them to try to teach it to a parent, older brother/sister. Let them record the teaching and send it to you via email.

Assigning homework every night has no impact if it has no purpose. Reevaluate your practices and develop more effective techniques. 

I hope these few words find you well,

Dr. E






Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C., & Patall, E. A. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987–2003. Review of Educational Research, 76(1), 1–62

Kohn, A. (2006a). The homework myth: Why our kids get too much of a bad thing. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.




(Student Blog) Honor thy flag...or not?

Colin Kaepernick, who is a quarterback for San Francisco 49ers,  has caused much controversy  by refusing to stand for the playing of the national anthem. His defense is that he is in protest of what he considers are wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States.

Kaepernick states,"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Kaepernick’s actions have generated much attention and prompted other players around the NFL to protest. Some players from several teams took a knee during the anthem, raised a fist, or, in the case of the Seattle Seahawks, stood with arms interlinked.

However, the protests have also enraged many who feel that refusing to stand for the anthem in a typical manner before games is a sign of disrespect. One commentator has stated "Kaepernick is a backup QB whose job is to be quiet and sit in the shadows." He stated that this controversy has "torn the fabric of the team apart."  

Other critics have stated, "Football fans tune in to watch the NFL, not social justice protests." "In the "ultimate" team game, Kaepernick should put the interests of the team above his personal political beliefs."

According to the Washington Post, Kaepernick’s choice not to stand during the national anthem has caused much attention, both positive and negative, that may ultimately cost him millions in future endorsements and affect his value as a player on his team, reducing salary earnings or even jeopardizing his job. If team ticket sales seriously dipped as a result, he would pay for his stance.

What are your thoughts?




Accusations of selfishness

(Student Blog): Can parents go too far in supporting their children's dreams?

Early Show special contributor Ayla Brown spent time with a 13-year-old Jordan Romero hopes to be the youngest person to climb Mt. Everest

Jordan Romero, a teenage mountain climber, had already climbed the highest mountain on every continent by the age of 15! By the age of 13, he became the youngest climber to reach the top of Mount Everest! "Every step I take is finally toward the biggest goal of my life, to stand on top of the world," Jordan said on his blog. Jordan had the support of his father and stepmother who decided to climb with him. It took much training and discipline.

However, although many people supported Jordan and his family, it caused great controversy. Many argued that he was too young to take such a huge risk. They argued that climbing the high altitudes could be physically harming his young, growing body. One psychologist and expert even noted, “Most 13 year olds don’t have the wiring to make cognitive life-and-death decisions and are not truly able to understand what they’re signing up for.”  Other critics argued that he has his whole life to climb Mount Everest; the risks are so great that he could even die trying.

However, Jordan’s dad argued that they are fully aware of all the risks. " I feel good about what my parents taught me about setting goals," Jordan says. Now, he wants to spread that message to others.

Whose side are you on? Did Jordan's parents go too far in supporting his dream? What are your thoughts?


Mountains Conquered by Jordan Romero:

• Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak at 19, 340 ft. (age 10); 

• Mt. Kosciuszko, Australia's highest peak at 7,310 ft. (age 10)

• Mt. Elbrus, Europe's highest peak at 18,510 ft. (age 11)

• Mt. Aconcagua, South America's highest peak at 22,841 ft. (age 11)

• Mt. McKinley, North America's highest peak at 20,320 ft. (age 11)

• Carstensz Pyramid, Oceania's highest peak at 16,024 ft. (age 13)

• Mt. Everest, Asia's highest peak at 29,035 ft. (age 13)



Acknowledging the Elephant in the Room

It is impossible to ignore current events of this great nation. Not only is it impossible, but it would be a disservice to students to not address the issues that are occurring in our classrooms. Whether you teach in a predominately white or black school, or one where the demographics are evenly distributed, conversations must occur. To ignore it is to sweep it under the rug as if nothing is happening. School is real life, and the situations between police, black lives, and all lives, is real. Teachers are trained to bring community into school, to make lessons meaningful, engaging, and relevant for students. It can't get any realer than this! These are truly trying times for many. Educators may be faced with students' frustration, confusion, sadness, anger, and many questions. Are students engaging in deep conversations at home? Maybe yes, or no, but you are the conductor of your train. Have tough conversations with students. How do you do this?

Create the forum and facilitate deep, rich conversations for students. Help them understand key terms such as racism, discrimination, and prejudice. This is a difficult thing to do, but pretending as if their are no issues taking place is crazy. Many students also believe these words all have the same meaning. Although they are similar, they have their distinct characteristics.

Teach students how to respect others' opinions even if it is different from their own. Allow students to share their thoughts and feelings respectively. It is a touchy subject but keeping the environment calm and open is imperative. Everyone's perspective is important to hear so make sure to review class norms so voices are heard.

Allow students to engage with each other. Let them to ask questions to each other and prompt thoughts with their peers. This mimics a student-centered classroom.

Allow students to do the talking and only chime in when necessary. Sure, it's ok to make the closing statements, but make sure you remain unbiased. Clear up misconceptions and misunderstanding. You may also "piggy back" off someones question or statement with another thought provoking question to get those minds working. 

Make this a recurring discussion. As verdicts are announced in the news and while events continue to take place daily, have more discussions. The "buck should not stop here".

Create lessons from current events. Assign articles, research projects, and writing assignments. Students can debate by using evidence from their readings; they may write an argumentative piece, or present a speech that expresses their thoughts. Incorporate a history lesson or allow them to research events such as the history of the KKK, Black Panthers Movement,  Police brutality, etc. You may want to assign a novel to read as a class.

However you incorporate the elephant in the room is up to you, but please don't ignore what is going on. This is part of being a culturally responsive teacher. 

...and I hope these few words find you well...

Dr. E

Summer Learning Loss and Poverty

NBC's Brian Williams discusses how summer learning loss puts students at a disadvantage academically. For more information, go to

Summer break is a time for kids to relax, go on vacation, sleep late, attend fun summer camps, play video games, and do absolutely anything they want. Besides, there is no homework and assignments to worry about completing; however, summer break brings concerns in academics for students who live in impoverished areas. Summer learning loss is where students lose skills over the summer break. As a result, the achievement gap between low and high income students widen and continues to stretch each school year. How does this problem continue to worsen as the student progresses each year? Students perform below those from higher income homes in classwork and such assessments as standardized tests, the SAT, and ACT. Students' preparation for college and beyond is also threatened. 

There are opportunities for students in low income areas to get involved in summer programs, so seek those in your area. GET INVOLVED! It has been said that effective summer reading programs provide families with meaningful strategies and resources that can be carried over and implemented in their home, which ensures continuity of summer reading programs throughout the year. What can you do to avoid summer learning loss? 

  • SET READING GOALS- (1 book weekly or bi weekly) Attend your local library OFTEN. They offer suggested readings and activities you can do along with the book.

  • CREATE A BOOK CLUB WITH SIBLINGS- Allow students to select the book and talk about it. Encourage them to converse and ask each other questions.

  • CHOOSE A BOOK WITH A MOVIE- Allow students to read the book; the movie will be a good incentive to see afterwards and will allow them to compare and contrast the book to the movie.

  • FIND A GOOD SUMMER PROGRAM- Look for a well balanced program filled with learning and fun activities.

  • CHOOSE ONLINE READINGS, WITH AUDIO-There are many online books that may engage students more than a hard cover book.

  • BE A GOOD EXAMPLE AND READ YOURSELF! The best encouragement and motivation is being the example. Model the expectation! Set out times where you read together!

After you've watched the video, I hope you have better insight to the importance of using your summer break wisely. As an educator, I have many experiences with students who return to school from the summer break and forget critical skills, concepts, and strategies that were taught just a few months back. It takes up much time to reteach these skills, but it has to be done in order for teachers to continue to build students' knowledge base. Keep learning ongoing. Just because school is out doesn't mean leaning has to be as well. Whether in a low income area or high income area, your learning should always be in.

I hope these few words find you well,

-Dr. E. 

Equity before Equality



Equity and equality are words that are used interchangeably; however, they have unique characteristics from each other, but how can we bring these two words together? The above illustration gives a vivid example of the distinctions of the two. Equity gives you what you need. Equality ensures that everyone gets their equal share.

                       Equality= Sameness            Equity=Fairness

Now that we understand the words, let's look more deeply and apply it to our schools.

I worked in a large urban school district, particularly in a Title I school, where 99% of students qualified to eat free or reduced lunch. Students in these communities were usually low-income minorities. When I would go across town to more affluent areas, it always irritated me to see the resources they had that my school didn't. Let me say that some resources, such as Promethean (Smartboards, textbooks) were similar, but we did not have all the bells and whistles that came along with it.

The school on the side of town where I was employed had to have resource officers frequent the staff parking lot throughout the day. Why were their demolished and abandoned buildings as our window view? Why did teachers have to scurry to leave campus before dark to avoid being a possible victim of criminal activity? Why did we not have high-interest reading material for students to enjoy? Where were the funds to address these needs? Therefore, funding should not be the same. Some schools may need more than other schools.

Making resources available for every child and teacher, even if it means giving more to one over the other in order to equal the playing field is necessary--that is, only if we expect to provide a high-quality education. Many times teachers are playing catch up because students are not performing on grade level and students are often several grade levels below. So should those schools receive equal funding as other schools who are on target and excelling? No! This may mean hiring more teachers or keeping the ones we have and not sending them to other schools to even out the student: teacher ratio to fulfill some calculation guidelines. It doesn't make sense. I am a master teacher; however, there are difficulties in having 30 students in one class setting who are at different academic abilities...and behaviors. Some don't want to be there and behave as such which hinders instruction from flowing smoothly and others who are on grade level and/or high achievers mixed in with students who are struggling learners and/or several levels below their grade. We can't forget about our ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) learners, and we can't forget the students with social and emotional challenges--- all in one class setting! What am I going to do with that? How do I effectively teach and expect to reach all? 

Is this equality? Heck no! It's a disadvantage and we are only hurting ourselves because our children are our future, or so I thought...

It is a true misconception that these two words, equality, and equity are twins. The truth about equality is that it's only right if we all start from the same place. Equity must be established before equality can stand a chance. Only then can equity be synonymous with equality.

I hope these few words find you well,

Dr. E