#TeacherLove: On the Shoulders of Giants


“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing
upon the shoulders of giants.”

~ Sir Isaac Newton

Editors Note: This post, originally titled, “A Week of Gratitude #ThankATeacher #TLC2014,” was first featured on Sean’s blog, “Constant Learning….” on May 11, 2014. Sean revised this piece to share on Tchers’ Voice.

None of us make it completely on our own. Family, friends, good fortune, and often a lot of teachers serve as the parents of possibility. I was acutely aware of that truth in my own life, when in May 2014 I was announced as the National Teacher of the Year.


For Teacher Appreciation Week, I sent cards and photos with appreciation and gratitude to five foundational teachers in my life. And I even popped in on two of them. Below is a re-post of my reflection on that experience:

The past couple of months have given me great cause to reflect on the people who have shaped my life. I was able to give my family the opportunity to meet President Obama, I was able to share the joy that has come into my life through students and colleagues at Patapsco HS and CFA, and this week I was able to extend some gratitude to the Teachers who made that all possible by unlocking my potential. There are certainly more than these five who are deserving, but here are five educators who shaped the man I am today:

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Why Singing In Science Makes Sense


As teachers, learning styles aren’t a topic we focus on very often. They have quietly gone the way of other education trends and slipped behind what we know as well-rounded instruction and differentiation. We educators, though, still know that learning styles provide valuable insight and that we need to reach our students via their multiple intelligences.

We strive to teach students in a way that engages them and reaches their minds and souls. And this is only the start of why I sing to my students.

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Saturday… Really!? Saturday?

Asking a teacher to do anything teaching related on a Saturday is just as terrifying as being at the wrong end of a firing squad. How can we do this and expect educators to attend? These thoughts, and many others, were racing through my head as I logged off the Skype call with the team planning an upcoming Teacher2Teacher Engag(ED) Exchange Event in Washington, D.C.

But you DID come out on a cold damp winter day. You came from within the city of Washington, from Maryland, and from Virginia. You traveled down from Philadelphia… and even from Mississippi. You came!

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Meeting The Needs of Diverse Learners

Getting Better Together

As a teacher, I’m always reflecting on my practice and working to learn and improve. This year, as a Teaching Channel Laureate, my Getting Better Together focus is all about meeting the needs of the diverse learners in my classes. There are a million ways to support students in our classrooms and my colleagues and I have tried a variety of strategies this year to help all of our kids grow. With these new videos, you’ll get a chance to see us in action, try out one of our strategies (should you choose!), and even give us direct feedback on our teaching.

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#TeacherLove: Appreciating That Special Teacher


Mrs. Taub, my 3rd grade teacher, taught me about warmth and kindness and acceptance.

Mr. Ganzi, my 6th grade teacher, showed me that the environment matters enough to take action.

Mr. Ritterman, my high school calculus teacher, made me understand the importance of humor in the midst of serious tasks.

Bud Hunt, a colleague from my National Writing Project days, continually reveals to me the power of social media and online personal learning networks. He basically dragged me onto Twitter, and I’ve always been grateful.

I could go on. As, I’m sure, you could. Soon, you’ll have a chance to do just that. As part of our #TeacherLove campaign during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2-6, recognize any one or all of the teachers who’ve had an impact on your life, professionally or personally.

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Designing Earth-Friendly Solutions To The Plastics Problem


Editor’s Note: In honor of Earth Day 2016, Teaching Channel asked science teacher Kathryn Davis to describe her work teaching a biopolymers unit that resulted from a partnership between Tch and The Boeing Company.

According to the United Nations, each year enough plastic is thrown away to circle the earth four times, and these plastics can take over 1000 years to degrade! Sobering facts such as these and images illustrating the devastating effect of plastic waste on wildlife can leave many feeling paralyzed and hopeless.

While there are startling examples of the negative impact humans have had on the earth, there are also stories of innovation and incredible problem solving. I shared with my students the story of the engineer in India who created edible utensils, replacing plastic forks and knives with cutlery that is both delicious and eco-friendly, and the graduate student designing biodegradable clamshell containers from actual clamshells. I want my students to be inspired by these stories, and to feel hopeful that through human innovation and design, we can begin to tackle problems and make changes that can alter our current environmental trajectory.

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Tips to Enrich School-Family Partnerships

Super reader teachers her mom how she uses pointer power when she reads

Super reader teaches her mom how she uses pointer power when she reads

The classroom is filled with parents, siblings, and grandparents eager to learn from kindergarten super readers. All around the room, students dressed as their favorite reading superpower are sitting alongside their their families, immersed in stacks of books, teaching their families how to use superpowers as they read.

When they get to challenging “kryptonite” words, students demonstrate how they use picture power to study the picture and think about what word might make sense. This is how we celebrate reading. It’s an opportunity for students to demonstrate their growth and for families to learn about how they can continue to support their child’s reading at home. It’s a bridge from school to home. This is one of the many ways that we engage families at our school.

Engaging in meaningful school-family partnerships is foundational to improving student outcomes. Families are an essential resource as we strive to work together to best support our students. Over the past few years, our school has grappled with this question: How do we build meaningful school-family partnerships? While our practices are always evolving, I’ll share some of the ones that have successfully enriched our school-family partnerships that you might try in your own school:

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Clear Out the Clutter in Professional Learning

The Big Tent #anewkindofpd

Though the world has changed and digital communication has become the norm, the postal system has valiantly carried on, and in the process has plagued my household for years. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting some mail — birthday cards, seasons greetings, W-2s. Each of these plays an important role in our lives and are best communicated in a tangible manner. But the rest of it, the endless credit applications, coupon flyers, alumni donation requests, are often overwhelming and nearly always ineffective. As we attempted to develop a system for dealing with the onslaught of mail at home, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels to my work life.

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#TchLIVE: Verve and Verse–Unlocking The Power Of Poetry

“Is poetry alone big enough to teach Language Arts?”

I posed this question to a room full of graduate students at the Notre Dame of Maryland University a few years ago. As a first-time college professor, I had never experienced a conversation so rich and generative, and it was all about poetry. My lesson, which focused on teaching poetry in the secondary classroom, was really on the form and function of poetry and how much students naturally gravitate to it. Then, the lesson took wings.

“I suppose it can. If you recall, poetry predates the novel and short story,” replied one of my students.

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