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!


I’m Right Here

This is what I say to Charlee while I try to wrangle laundry and she proceeds to pull all things in all directions…”I’m right here! Come find me!”  She does.

With two weeks left of my maternity leave I am starting to feel the time crunch.  I’m sure all you educators can relate; it’s similar to the feeling of mid-August…except I’ve been off work for 17 months (those six days of work I did last October before I found myself laid up in the antepartum ward don’t really count).

Why does my school email me 47 times a day?

Can I email myself? Like, will these Word Docs attach if I send them to myself?

Do I even know how to teach?

These are only a few of the actual questions I’ve asked myself today.  I think it’s safe to say that I am somewhat overwhelmed about this going back to work thing because this morning I truly did not remember if emailing attachments to myself, from my own email account, was a thing.

The state of my kitchen table these days: day book, lap top open to school calendars, coffee, sippy cup, school keys, and my beckoning workout DVDs.  Oh, and Sophie, because Charlee has four teeth now.

The state of my kitchen table these days: day book, lap top open to school calendars, coffee, sippy cup, school keys, and my beckoning workout DVDs. Oh, and Sophie, because Charlee has four teeth now.

The thing I am most fearful about right now is going back to work part-time.  I am working three days between two schools and; therefore, two grades.  This was my choice, my decision, one I am very happy about.  The fear I am experiencing is stemming from my high-achieving, people pleasing tendencies.  I confessed to one of my administrators (who happens to be a dear friend)  the other day that I can’t “do it all” this year.  I told her, “I can’t be you…I can’t stay late…I can’t, can’t, can’t”.  The thing is, this word can’t is never really in my vocabulary.  I’m struggling with it right now.  Along with can’t comes the word don’t – as in, “I don’t know how to work part-time”.  I’m either all in, or all out.  In my opinion, there is not a lot of room for me to do my job well in between those two options.  I’m also struggling with this right now.

I met one of my staff’s new learning support teachers today and when introduced to her she exclaimed, “Oh! I read your blog!” I love meeting real people who read our blog because it always strikes me as funny that people read what we write. This woman went on to ask if I planned to keep up blogging while being a freshly back-to-work mama and teacher, to which I replied, “Yes!  But I have been pretty absent during the last year…I just find I have nothing to say about teaching when I’m not…teaching”.  Makes sense. She suggested I write about what I’m experiencing right now as I go through this process of re-entering the work force.

So now I’m inspired to write about how this transitional time is going for me and my family and my students.  There will be some big changes in two weeks’ time, perhaps the most profound being that I can’t stay in my jammies until 10am anymore!  In all seriousness, though, I believe change is good.  Yes, it is painful and yes, sometimes tears are involved, but through change comes growth and I am willing and open to embrace this period of growth as a teacher and (most importantly) as a mama.  Stay tuned for my inevitable meltdowns and epiphanies as I become a working mama!  My intention is to find a way to set boundaries at school and parameters around how much work I bring/don’t bring home.  I also hope to keep up meal planning, exercising, family time and friend time.

I know I can do it.


So What Are You Doing?

At a conference last weekend I met someone who follows our blog and she asked “What are you doing this year?” – This made me realize that I haven’t shared much on the blog this year.

This year teaching hasn’t been the focus of my life for the first time in a long time! It is strange to not be putting in the crazy long hours and thinking non stop about my students but I definitely think it is good for me too. So if I’m not teaching all the time then what am I doing?


In just over a week, I’m leaving for a five week trip to Fiji and New Zealand and I can’t wait! I am going to Fiji on my first ever solo travel trip and then I am meeting two of my best friends for a three week road trip in New Zealand. Traveling is something that I’m very passionate about and I have been saving up and working extra jobs trying to save for this trip so I’m really excited that it is all coming together.

And… I’m getting married!


We are planning our wedding for next summer so I have been spending way too much time researching and planning for that. I’m absolutely loving it too! I always said that if I wasn’t a teacher I would have been an event planner so I guess I’m trying to live that out this year haha.

On that note, I have actually been teaching as well it just doesn’t feel quite like the full time gig. I am currently covering one of Karley’s jobs until she returns from mat leave and it has been a lot of fun! It’s a grade 7 class and I am teaching math and social studies so I’ve been able to focus on the election coming up. I am also subbing the other days, and although it isn’t my favourite job, I do enjoy visiting different teaching friends at different schools.

I will be on the lookout for a full time job when I return from my trip and I’m really looking forward to diving back into the teaching world after a much needed friend/travel break first!


Finding Connections

One of my favourite things about teaching is the connection I get to make with people.  I love connecting with my students and other staff in the building and I especially love doing so when we have something in common.  The first few weeks of school are all about building connections and finding those common threads among us, but because I am still on maternity leave for two more months, I am missing the back to school excitement this year.

This school year is a bit odd for me, not only because of the late start I’ll be having, but also because I’m working in two different grades at two different schools (by choice). Thankfully, this means I have two fantastic teaching partners (and Meaghan, who is covering for me in one class until I come back!) who have allowed me to come into our respective classrooms to meet our students.  Today I was able to meet my grade 8s.  My friend, and grade 8 teaching partner, Leah, has started our year with a BANG; it was great to get into the classroom today to see some faces and hear some voices.

A few days ago I realized that by the time I get back to work I will have been off for about 17 months (thank you, teacher strike and unexpected pregnancy issues).  This means I haven’t really taught in 17 months.  I almost cried when I realized this while thinking, “Do I even know what I’m doing anymore!?”  I’ll admit, going into my classroom today was kind of scary.  The drive to school had me asking all kinds of questions, like: What do I do?  What do I say?  Am I wearing the right clothes?  Do I look like a cool teacher?  WILL THEY LIKE ME!?  Clearly, I have confidence issues.  But I think we all do at the start of the school year, teachers and students alike.  This is one common connection!

Our first day of school!

Our first day of school!

The piece I’m leaving out here is that I brought Charlee with me and, just like a puppy, she had the room charmed in two seconds flat.  What I didn’t really anticipate was how bringing Charlee in would establish immediate connections with some of my grade 8 students.  Within fifteen minutes we were connected through our similarities: babies, nieces, nephews, siblings, NICU stays, gymnastics, babysitting, art…all these topics came up in my short classroom visit, and nearly every student had something to say, a story to tell, or simply wanted to touch Charlee’s hand (she happily obliged).

While this was all going on Leah tried to continue on with the lesson I had ambushed – a discussion about self-regulation.  She mentioned how holding a baby close to one’s own body could help some people self-regulate, or calm down.  As I left our grade 8 classroom, with Charlee strapped in the carrier facing heart to heart, I thought, “Well, Charlee girl, you’ve done it again, you little, wise teacher”.  Calm.  Connected.  Content.

It’s going to be a great year.

How have you connected with your new students this week?  Let us know in the comments!


Resource Page


Sharing is the most important thing we will do as teachers… teaching cannot and should not happen in isolation. It’s that time of year where everyone is planning away for the school year and resource sharing is a big part of the daily interactions between teachers. So today we’ve decided to compile a list of our favourite resources, both from our blog and other sites.


Advisory Activities – A variety of different activities and routines to start off the day.

Thought Block – Different thought provoking discussions and activities.

Classroom Rules – A great conversation to discuss class rules with students.

Video: An Open Letter to Students Returning to School – A video from John Green about why school is important

Erasing Meanness – One teacher’s lesson on kindness for her students.

Language Arts

Creative Writing Lesson – Showing the progression of a creative writing unit.

Read Aloud – Making read aloud opportunities meaningful for students.

Quote and Note – Strategies for meaningful quote and note activities in novel studies.

Poems for Two Voices – One of our most popular Teach it Tuesday posts.

Genius Hour – How to start and incorporate into your class, plus some resources that will help!

Reader Response Activity – A great tool for collaborative student responses.


Teaching Math – A blog post of ideas for teaching math.

Drawing Circles – An interactive group problem solving lesson for students.

Educating Now – A review of a great resource for math teachers.

Interactive Math Journals – This is the best resource if you are going to do Interactive Math Journals for math.

Math Journals Blog Post – Another great resource for IMJs.

Estimation 180 – A great resource to help teach estimation in the classroom.

Social Studies

Research Projects – A Teach it Tuesday on starting research projects in class.

Mummified Potatoes – A great resource for a fun activity.

Inquiry Circles – A social studies resource for inquiry in the curriculum.

Law Connection – A resource for bringing law issues into the classroom.


Creative Note Taking – A Teach it Tuesday with a few different ideas for note taking.

Science and Photography – A project based learning idea.

Body Systems – An exercise based lab for learning about the human body.

The Great Plastic Round Up – A book review for an environmental book by a local group.

The Science-Penguin – A great Teachers Pay Teachers store for intermediate teachers.


French Centres – Different centres and how to incorporate them into your classroom.

French-English Dictionaries – A great way to start the year and get your students using dictionaries in class.

Tellagami – Utilizing this app in the French classroom.

French Vocabulary – Ways to make learning new vocabulary more fun and engaging in the classroom.

Teaching FSL – This is a great blog full of ideas and resources for the French classroom.

Physical Education

Go To Lesson – A progressive ball game lesson.

PE Lessons – Teach it Tuesday post: basketball, soccer, volleyball, and kickball.

PE Central – Database of PE activities and lessons

What resources would you add to our list?


Welcome Back


We hope you all had a wonderful summer! We are excited to get back into the blogging world and our plan is to blog a little more regularly this year. You can expect our regular Teach it Tuesday posts, as those have been very popular! Also, expect some more general posts to let you know about our students, schools, good reads, and more travel tales. We are always looking for post ideas and guest posters so feel free to comment or email us with ideas – taleoftwoteachers@gmail.com

Like every Back to School season, we have spent some time thinking about what we want our respective classrooms, lessons and teaching/learning experiences to look like.  We decided to come up with three goals (or intentions, if you will) to help guide our planning and preparation for the upcoming school year.  Here is what we have in mind:


With the end of my maternity leave just around the corner, I am excited to announce that for the first time ever (in my three short years of teaching) I know where and what I will be teaching before the start of September!  I’m very excited to be teaching two grades this year: a grade 8 class at one middle school (job-sharing with a good friend of mine) and a grade 7 class at my 2013/2014 middle school (job-sharing with a very lovely teacher; we are already becoming fast friends).  I will be working three days a week, or .6 in teacher-speak.  I feel like this part-time return to teaching will be the perfect blend of time well spent in the education world and time well spent at home with my family.  I won’t be returning to work until November, but I plan to be active on our blog for the remainder of my maternity leave.  Here are a few intentions I have for this school year:

  1. Look good at school.  I know, shallow.  But hear me out…I’m just finishing a year of maternity leave and for the majority of this year my “real clothes” haven’t fit.  I’m very much looking forward to getting out of my lululemon and into my teacher apparel, just for the sake of feeling professional.  It’s okay if your jaw just hit the floor…I also never thought I’d be the one to admit that my lululemon closet needs a break.  Note: this intention is allowed to be up for alteration after my first week back to school.
  2. Maximize my focus/time at school.  This might sound obvious, but I really need to develop or adopt a few systems to help me stay focused and organized this school year.  I am the kind of teacher who works/plans/marks/preps better at home.  For some, getting this work done at school is preferable, but I’ve never been able to master this part of teaching.  I’d like to keep my work at work if I can this year so that my family time is rich and plentiful at home.  Also, sometimes I can get easily overwhelmed due to the amount of paper I carry around in a day…tack on a twenty pound baby to that load and I’ll be able to skip my strength and conditioning workouts!  Mama needs an action plan.
  3. Go with the flow a bit more.  My daughter has taught me lots this year, but one of her most valuable lessons is to occasionally ditch the plan and go with the flow.  I am a control freak.  I love to be in control of everything.  Job sharing will be a completely new experience for me in which I will not be in control of everything.  I am feeling open and welcome to change, thanks to Charlee’s teachings.


This year will be looking a bit different for me as I’m starting this year off as a TOC (substitute teacher) and I am looking forward to a bit of a change in pace from the full time scene. I have really enjoyed taking some time this summer to find that place of balance again in my life and I’m hoping to extend this feeling into the fall. Here are a few of my intentions for the fall:

  1. Be happy in the moment. Like Karley, I like it when I am in control of how things go and sometimes with substitute teaching I get caught up in trying to change things that I have no control over. If I don’t get work every day I will still be okay, if I miss a callout it’s not the end of the world… I have a lot of really great things going on in my life right now, I’m very fortunate, and I am going to try to remind myself to be happy with all of these great things!
  2. Allow my creativity to shine. One of the things that I really lost a bit in the full time job spiral was my creativity – in previous years I have found that I am most creative when I’m part time or substitute teaching because I’m in the schools but I don’t have quite as much responsibility. I’m hoping to really embrace this time right now and use it to be creative and daydream about future teaching plans.
  3. Balance, and re-balance. Why is balance always on my goals/intentions? Because it will constantly be something to work towards. The biggest piece of this for me is fitness – I need to find a place where I’m active and healthy but not fully dedicating myself to a training program. I find that I have been bouncing back and forth between training hard and doing nothing which really isn’t the best for any aspect of my life. Along with that and coursework, blogging, and teaching, I want to make sure I’m spending lots of time with friends and family.

Please let us know if you have any suggestions or ideas for blog posts!


Feel Good Friday: Humans of New York

Hey everyone,

Just a quick post today about a Humans of New York (HONY) story that’s been making waves this week.  HONY, created by photographer, Brandon Stanton, aims to capture the portraits and stories of the unique individuals who live and work and gallivant in New York.  This simple, yet astoundingly beautiful, act of art has generated a huge following on social media since its inception in 2010.  Earlier this week Brandon photographed a young boy who shared a story about his personal champion, his principal, Ms. Lopez.  This is what the boy said:


“Who’s influenced you the most in your life?”
“My principal, Ms. Lopez.”
“How has she influenced you?”
“When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us. She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.” source

Naturally, as an educator who aims to be just like Ms. Lopez, I cried when I saw this HONY post.  This post had the most incredible reaction from Facebook followers and many people asked how they could help the boy’s school.  Fast forward to today…

Brandon (HONY photographer) managed to track down the real Ms. Lopez and he ended up in a series of meetings with her.  In only five days Brandon, Ms. Lopez and a team of other individuals have managed to raise over $350,000 for the school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy.

Can we all just stop for a minute here and send some gratitude to the young man who was brave enough to share his story with Brandon.  Because of that boy’s shared story, his school now has the ability to achieve some serious goals and create some phenomenal projects in the months to come!  I absolutely adore this story.  Three cheers for Ms. Lopez, Brandon and the students at Mott Hall Bridges Academy – way to be the change!

I bought our own versions of Humans of New York for Christmas this year.

I bought our own versions of Humans of New York for Christmas 2014.