Monitor and Adjust – by Cheri

Hello Friends!  It has been a while, and I must apologize…it has been a busy summer with a lot of ups and downs…but Teachers That Sparkle are back…with a few adjustments…

One of the most important things I share with my staff each year is the importance of Monitor and Adjust.  So many times I see that teachers spend a lot of time designing a lesson that is sure to prove student success, but when something goes wrong and students don’t perform quite like the teacher had hoped, it is VERY important to be able to recognize the break down and make adjustments.

Life is a lot like this.  After a very busy, and unexpected, school year, we felt that we could continue on and make the online academy happen, but life had other plans for us.  We had to monitor where we were and make some adjustments.  Are we disappointed, yes, but we are both quite the perfectionists and want to be sure we are doing right by our audience before we move forward.

So, what is the plan?  We will continue to work throughout the school year to bring you the best we can through our blog and facebook posts.  We are continuing to build our online course…because we are going to make that happen…and in the meantime, I will be trying it out with some of my own 2nd year teachers to ensure what we bring you is of the highest quality that we can produce.  Kimber will continue to work hard at learning how to navigate this whole “teaching” thing as a second year teacher herself…and we plan to continue to make both of our schools the best places they can be for kids.

We hope you continue to follow us and look for quality information throughout the school year!

Sparkle on, my friends!

What a Ride! by Cheri


I must apologize!  Wrapping up the school year was a bit challenging this year!  Not only did we finish a year and had to do normal things…Kimber finished her 1st year (a challenge all in of itself), and my school had to prepare to vacate by the end of the day on the final day of school so that they could begin a 2 and a half month long renovation!  So, to say the least…it was busy!

On top of that, I got sick!  I NEVER get sick!  I think it has been at least two years since I felt bad last time.  This time, I think it all caught up with me and I got a severe sinus infection!  Ugh!

So, Teachers That Sparkle had to take a small break, but we are back and ready to take on the world!  We will be recording and releasing our first Introductory webinar on Saturday, June 16, so please watch for that!  Shortly after, we will be announcing details on how to start our online academy, which will support teachers as they learn ways to design and deliver effective instructional supports for all students!  We are very excited to share our experiences and to help others become the best they can be!

In the meantime, continue to check out our social media, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, for our weekly scheduled posts and other exciting ideas and tips for teachers!

Sparkle on, my friends!


School is Out for the Summer! by Cheri and Kimber

For most of you, school is out or almost out for the summer!  We are right with you, wrapping up the year both in a classroom and as the principal!  We know these last few weeks are challenging, and we want to wish all teachers out there good luck!

Teachers That Sparkle will be working hard in June to finalize the upcoming Teacher Academy, our online monthly subscription course for those new to teaching or those looking for some additional support as you gain knowledge and experience in the teaching field!  More details to come soon!  Stay tuned!

Sparkle on, my friends!

Giving Feedback to Students and Parents – by Cheri

Yes, it is that time of year when everyone wants to know how they did.  Students want to know if they “passed that test”…parents want to know if “their child is being promoted to the next grade level”…everyone wants feedback!  And, I don’t know about you, but I had to learn HOW to give good feedback!  I had to learn WHAT is good feedback that will actually make a difference!

I think back to my first year of teaching…and I promise….I probably told a student and their parents (and maybe more than one) that their child did OK…OK????  What does OK mean?  And, as a parent already, I didn’t want to hear that my own child was doing OK!  But, I remember why I used that word…I didn’t want to crush a student by giving bad news at the end of the year (if that is what was needed), and I knew as a parent, I didn’t want to hear anything bad about my own child right at the end of the year, so my word became…OK.

And, as all good teachers do, I had to spend time reflecting on this and learning better ways to give feedback!  As I did learn, I found that the type and way you give feedback can definitely make or break a student…forever!  So, here are some tips below!

  • My BIGGEST tip today…don’t wait until the end of the year to give students and parents your concerns!  The end of the year report card should NOT be the first time a parent or student has heard that you are concerned with the progress the student has made!  Communicate early and communicate often!  BEST tip you will ever get…I promise!
  • Reflect on your own mindset…do you believe all students can learn?  Students may not all learn in the same way or within the same timelines, but once you focus on the fact that all students can make progress, you will see the progress stand out!  And once you begin to see it, and communicate it, students change!  They begin to believe they can learn also!  Hmmmm…I bet that makes a difference in a child’s progress!
  • Sometimes it is not about what you say, but how you say it!  I remind my staff about this all the time!  I know it is pretty easy to say something like…Johnny, you are always talking and driving the other students crazy!  Now…Johnny feels bad…the other students feel bad because they know Johnny drives them crazy!  It may be true that he does drive them crazy, but what if you said…Johnny, I know you enjoy talking about what you did this weekend at home, but if you can stay on task right now, I will have time to allow you to share what you did later, after we finish the assignment.  Johnny now believes he is going to get his time to talk…he understands that the learning is important….and he knows that if he gives you time, you will give him time.
  • Be honest about academic progress…but use the sandwich approach!  I always have found that when I had to give serious information (especially with struggling students), it was best to “sandwich” that information between two positive things about a student.  For example, I may say, Ms. Dixon, Kimberly has been doing a great job of working with her team this year.  She helps the team learn so much new information.  However, Kimberly has been having some difficulty with her talking in class.  I know she has a lot to share, but we must try hard to keep her focused.  I am concerned she will be talking during a time that I am sharing important information and she will miss it.  Now, Kimberly is very bright and I know you want her to be one of our top students, just as I do.  I am sure we can get this small issue resolved easily so she can excel in class….got the information across to the parent I wanted to share, but still kept the focus on Kimberly’s intelligence and academic success…especially because I know Kimberly’s mom and she only wants the best for her (hmmm….wonder who that mom is? :)!

These are just a few easy tips to follow that can have a BIG impact on your classroom, parent communication, and student progress.  I hope that as you are wrapping up your school year, you are continually finding ways to effectively give feedback to students and parents in a way that will encourage students to continue to do their best!  Teachers That Sparkle loves to hear any suggestions out there!  Feel free to share!

Sparkle on, my friends!

It Is THAT Time of Year! – by Cheri

I cannot tell you how many times I have said this phrase over the last month!  I tell my new teachers!  I tell my veteran teachers!  I tell my daughter!  I tell myself! Because, yes, it is THAT time of year!  Everyone has lost their minds…and I am sorry to say…they are not going to find them until August!

One thing I have learned in my 22 years of doing this, school calendars are designed as they are for a reason.  22-24 people can only be expected to be confined to one (or a couple of) room for only so long during the year.  This is why every district schedules breaks throughout the year!  People get too comfortable with each other and, unfortunately, find out how to push each others buttons.  Then you add how much students grow over the year…and we have not even begun to discuss SPRING/SUMMER FEVER!  Ugh!

Yes, the end of the school year is a challenge!  It always has been, and it always will be!  However, as a teacher, there are many things that you can do to ensure you finish the year on a positive note!

  • Be sure to take care of yourself.  Your patience is running thin and you are tired, but you must remember, that if you are not on your game, the students won’t be either.  Get extra rest!  Find your outlet to relieve stress!  Take time to reflect!  And…most importantly…breathe before responding to student misbehavior!
  • Continue to keep the same structure in your class during the last week of school as you did the first week!  Students need structure!  They are growing, they are maturing, and they are ready for summer break!  If you don’t keep the classroom controlled and structured, while still enforcing the rules and expectations, students will take over!  And, you will get frustrated, adding to your exhaustion….you get the idea!
  • Continue to communicate with parents and students in a positive manner.  Students begin to get anxious about leaving school for an extended break, as some don’t know what their days will look like when at home every day for three months.  Parents get anxious as they worry about who will take care of their child(ren) during three months of time, especially if they are working hard during the school year just to make ends meet.  How you communicate with families will determine how conversations go…they can come in upset, but you have the power to de-escalate the situation just by using professional, calm communication!  I promise, I deal with more parent complaints during the final month of school than I do all year!  PLEASE…do yourself and your principal a favor and remember this tip!
  • The busier and more productive students are in class, the less they want to misbehave and be sent out to the office (remember our article about student compliance vs student engagement?).  Continue to teach!  Continue to provide students with purposeful and engaging activities that will hold their attention.  This will save you a ton of headache in the long run!  Remember, school is winding down but it is not over until it is over!  They will keep coming up until that last day, expecting to do something!  Why don’t we make that “something” meaningful and fun!

These are just a few tips for you as you wind down the year!  If you have had a year like us…a DEVASTING hurricane and an ICE storm (yes, ice in Houston!)…then I am sure you are ready for it to be done and to start fresh…just remember, your students need you to provide them a place each day until it is over that will keep them safe and productive.  I truly believe that YOU, the teacher, have the power to make the year end on a positive or negative note…how do you want it to end is a question you must ask yourself and then do the work!  I am sure you have worked too hard this year to want it to fizzle out in the end!  I am sure you just want to SPARKLE  in that classroom until your last day!

Sparkle on, my friends!

Riding The Wild Ride… -By Kimber

Hello and happy Sunday! I haven’t made a blog post in what feels like such a long time! I have been incredibly busy lately. If you are in the state of Texas, you may be familiar with alternative teaching certification programs. If you are not familiar, allow me to explain. If you want to become a teacher in the state of Texas, but did not graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree in the field of education, you may pay money and complete courses through companies affiliated with the Texas Education Agency to obtain your teaching certification. These programs last one full school year, and you have projects and online modules to complete, as well as observations from a field supervisor. I chose to go that route to become a teacher, as my degree is in Applied Arts and Sciences. I thought completing the courses would be a piece of cake, but, like most other things in my new teaching career, I was very wrong. You complete the courses and projects while you are teaching, so it’s basically as if you are still in school to complete your degree. To make a long story short, I was so burnt out from going to school full time and working full time, that after I graduated in December,  I put off completing my courses until the very last minute, and caused myself unnecessary stress. I have completed everything (finally) and feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and just in time for the end of the year and summer break. These past few days of my new found freedom have allowed me to reflect. When I was approaching graduation last November, I had it in my mind that I was going to immediately enroll back in school to complete my Master’s degree. Everyone kept telling me, “Maybe you should take a little break….a year off might be a really good idea…complete your alternative certification first and then see how you feel”. And all I kept thinking was, “Man, these people do not know me. I am a hard worker and a hustler and when I want what I want, I just have to go for it. I’m not afraid of a little hard work!” Again, like most things in my new teaching career, everyone was very right, and I was really wrong. Just working on establishing myself as a new teacher, completing all courses and requirements for my alternative certification, maintaining a balanced diet and exercise, trying to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, all while keeping my sanity turned out to actually be pretty hard. I write all of this because I have finally realized (at the middle of the last month of school) that the first year of teaching is really hard (as if you all didn’t know) and it’s okay to be more forgiving of yourself than you think you should be. Any of you who know me know that I am a HUGE perfectionist. Everything I do has to be perfect, and I usually don’t allow myself any wiggle room in that aspect. When I got hired as a teacher, my mom told me countless times that not everything will be perfect the first year of teaching, and that’s okay. Even my principal has told me several times that the first year is very difficult and that you can’t compare yourself to any other teacher on campus. But, being the stubborn person that I am, I thought I was going to get through this first year with no stumbles and it would be a breeze. Clearly that was not the case, but I truly could not be more grateful for that. This difficult year has taught me so much that I wouldn’t have learned if it wasn’t for the hardships and stress that I have experienced. I have learned so much; number one, I have learned to be so much nicer to myself. Looking back, I know that I have given this school year my all. I really beat myself up when I felt like my best wasn’t good enough. I wish I would have been more forgiving. I have put in 150% everyday for my students, and even if it wasn’t perfect, I did my very best and that’s all I can ever ask of myself. Number two, I have learned to start listening to others with more experience than me, especially my mom (don’t tell her I ever said that). Wisdom and knowledge come from experience, and as a new teacher, no matter how hard you try, you will never have all of the wisdom and knowledge experienced teachers have. Just do yourself a favor, and listen to the advice they tell you the first time.

With that being said, now that I have a little wisdom and knowledge myself, I’ll leave you with this: If you are about to embark on your first year of teaching, just know that if you do your very best every day, you are doing a great job. Also, don’t take on too much. Your plate is very full with trying to be the best teacher you can, don’t overwhelm yourself with items that can be accomplished your second or third year of teaching. And finally, forgive yourself. No one is perfect, especially a first year teacher. Try your best, learn as much as you can, and enjoy all the moments with your students, because the school year is really done before you know it.

If you are a first year teacher like me and are bringing your rookie year to a close, let me say this: congratulations! You have almost made it! Right about now, you are probably working on end of year testing and your calendar is full with many events to wrap up the year. Keep pushing, you only have a few weeks left, and you will never be a first year teacher again.

And last, but definitely not least, to those of you who have been by my side through this first year…THANK YOU! I know that being my friend and/or family member has not the been the easiest this school year, and I am so happy to have you. I promise I will start listening to all of your advice more!

Sparkle on!

Starting the Morning Right! – by Cheri

Recently, I saw a social media post about the importance of greeting students each morning.  I stopped for a minute to think about this, as a principal, I take it for granted that everyone begins their day with a positive attitude and is greeting students.  Now, I know this is pretty naive of me to think this…and yes, I really do know better.  However, this is one of the MOST important things a teacher can do each day!

Since I became a teacher, I found myself ALWAYS waiting at the door for my students to arrive.  My first year of teaching in Houston was in a portable building, so by the time they all got into class, my makeup had melted down my face and I needed a shower, but I forced myself to do this ritual each and every day!  Why?  I was able to check the pulse of my students and ensure they knew that I was there for them, ready for a great day, no matter what!

As a principal, I find I do the exact same thing!  Each morning I arrive on campus early to ensure that I have everything ready for the day, and then I head out into the building.  I have a route I always follow…start at the front entrance to ensure bus riders enter the building calm…walk through each grade level hallway to ensure staff members are on duty, students see me and greet me, and greeting all staff members entering the building.  I then make a second pass through the building to ensure later arrivals are seeing me, greeting me, and on duty.  I carry my coffee and on Fridays I bring my newest or favorite picture book so I can read to students while they wait to enter their classrooms.

As I continue to think about this morning routine, I remember how many people ask me how I can do this each day with a smile on my face…no matter what my mood!  It’s simple…one, I love what I do so I enjoy seeing students and staff walk in each morning ready to learn…and two, I am very good at following my own advice, which is “fake it until you make it”…yes, even one who loves their job has to do this every once in a while!

So, as I have navigated my way through this 20+ year career in education, here are the reasons I believe this is so beneficial.

  • I believe that how your first moment in an experience begins is how your day will continue.  My goal for every student is that they can walk in my room (or building) knowing that someone cares about them.  It is simple to begin with a good morning…doesn’t take much effort to say that at all…but can make someone’s day.
  • Students need to learn social graces.  I have lead 3 schools in my career and found the same thing as I worked to help every one of these schools improve…students (well, being honest, people) do not just “know” how to greet each other!  I had to teach most of the students how to walk in, look at someone, and say good morning!  Then I have to consistently model this so that it becomes our culture.  It is funny how my family (not in education) do not understand that this is something we teach, as they just assume everyone knows…
  • I also incorporate how to shake a hand.  This is BIG!  One of my biggest pet-peeves…yes, I am pretty intense…is when you go to shake someone’s hand and they either don’t know how to do it correctly or they do it with the lightest grip you have ever seen.  NOT my students!  I believe in first impressions and handshakes will take you far…no matter what your economic status or background…and we must teach our students to have a GOOD one!
  • The first greeting each morning can tell you, the teacher, many things.  With the exception of one school I worked in, I have always worked in high poverty, title one schools.  And, being honest again, these are communities where home life for our students is not always what we have in our own homes.  Students come to school many mornings with a lot of baggage from home.  Students walk into the school and you may be the only person who has communicated with them since they left you yesterday.  I don’t think I need to say this, but this first moment of the day is BIG…

As I am finishing my third year on my current campus, I have found that every one of my teachers who take time each day to meet their students at the door and greet them have the highest performing classes with the lowest incidences of office referrals.  Yes, this may be coincidence…but maybe not!  I have also found that if I am not there in the mornings (those dreaded principal meeting days), students comment on how they missed seeing me when I return.  I also know…as I watch my students interact with each other each morning, they have started greeting each other…and this did not happen the day I walked into this building!  Something as simple as “good morning” can have such an impact on your day, your students’ day, and the world…and we don’t even realize it!

Sparkle on, my friends!

Good Morning!