Monthly Archives: December 2014

Think Positive

99111783ea48aba75ce77647d457f029Why is it that the bad days, long meetings, misbehaving students, mad parents, and disastrous lessons stick in our heads so much more than the good days, cancelled meetings, adorable students, supportive parents, and amazing lesson do? Why do I fixate on the two rough parents teacher conferences that I had instead of lingering over the other 64 conferences I had that went just fine? (64 because I have seperate math, homeroom, and lang arts classes.)

I think it is human nature to focus on the negative. It’s what we instinctively do. So we very intentionally and purposefully need to train ourselves to focus on the positive.

One way I do this is I journal. I write about my day teaching whenever I find time (which is definitely not every day.) And yes I write about the bad stuff, but I also make a point to write about the good stuff, even if it’s little. Here are a few little stories from this week that I will hang onto and look back on to stay positive:

probabilityWe are learning about probability in math (impossible, unlikely, likely, and certain is about all we do in 3rd grade.) It was assessment day and I was doing testing on a few kids at a time. One of my boys finished his tests and left to go find his parents. About ten minutes later he comes rushing back into my room and says “Ms. Cutshall, we are all certain to take tests today. It’s likely that it will take us an hour to complete. It’s unlikely we will take three hours, and it’s impossible for us to finish in five minutes.” And then he rushed back out of the room. He was applying what he was learning without being asked and telling me about it just for fun. It made my heart melt.


I was teaching a social studies lesson and I was shuffling papers around. I inadvertently gave myself a paper cut. I think I said “ow, a paper cut” then went right on teaching. (I have taught with strep before, a paper cut is nothing.) And 30 seconds later one of my girls is standing in front of me offering me a bandaid. I was not seriously injured, I did not make a big deal about it, but she was still thoughtful enough to get me a bandaid without being asked.

Smiley Flower Happy!

I was standing outside after the bell had rung keeping an eye on all the kiddos when one of my former students came up to me. (Side note: one of my favorite parts of having taught for a few years is having former students. Even the most frustrating student in your class can be lovable the next year when they have moved up and are no longer in your class ūüėČ This student is in 5th grade and his brother is in 2nd. He told me how he was telling his 2nd grade brother what a great teacher I was and how he would be lucky to have me as a teacher next year, and he was really genuine about it. I think my smile looked about like that daisy picture.

tumblr_m9nc8oUamI1r78lpko1_500Everyday, find a little moment that was good to remember your day by. It’s hard work, but totally worth it in the long run.


Sometimes I don’t feel like I learned anything in college…


Nothing against my professors or UNC, it’s just that teaching has to be learned by doing. I felt super unprepared to start student teaching. I probably learned 10% of what I needed to know in undergrad and the other 90% in my semester of full time student teaching. That’s why every year teaching gets a little bit easier; it’s the experience we need to be better teachers. (So if you’re a first or second or even third year teacher struggling to keep your head above water, hang in there. I promise it gets better!)

However, every once in a while I dig through my binders and boxes of stuff from undergrad and I pull out a lesson to teach my kiddos. This is one of those lessons: Facial Glyphs. This is definitely an “unnecessary lesson” that I can do if I manage to squeeze two other lessons into one day, but it’s fun and meaningful and the kids remember doing it.¬†collage


You start by showing the kids the¬†Facial Glyphs¬†doc. Then they create their glyphs by following the color system on the doc. It’s not supposed to look like them, it’s supposed to represent them. Then once everyone is done we create graphs using the data. We look at the wall of glyphs and see how many kids are right handed by looking at the color of their glyph’s mouth. Then we create a tally chart and a bar graph.

It’s a really fun way to display data.

Reflection on Student Behavior

My students have had really great behavior this year, much better than my previous classes. I’m sure there are many factors involved in this occurrence: the combination of students I was given, my deskless classroom, having my masters degree completed, my increasing knowledge and experience as a fifth year teacher, and I’m sure many more.

However, I was curious if this good behavior was exclusive to my classroom or if it carried over with my students to other places throughout the school. So I collected some anecdotal data from the other teachers that see my students every week.

Library- I take my language arts class to the library, so it’s slightly different, but our librarian says that all our third grade classes are about the same level of good behavior.

Science Lab- Our science specialist said that all our classes are about even, but she has noticed that some of my students choose to stand behind their chairs in the lab.

Art- Unfortunately for my kiddos we have art on Fridays and we always seem to have fridays off for some reason or another, so my students haven’t gotten nearly as much art as the other third grade classes this year. But our art teacher said that my class compared to the other third grade classes seems more calm.

PE- gym is a little difficult to guage because we have PE twice a week always with 2 classes together, but our PE teacher said that Thursdays, the day my class and Mrs. Ziebold’s third grade class have PE together, is one of the classes she looks forward to the most.

Music- Our music teacher said that my class is one of her best classes, so that was exciting to hear.

Technology- In tech we have more tangible data in that Mr. Stout keeps a class point system and my class was the first to reach the top and earn a free day in tech class. My kid’s rocket ship is the one right in the middle.

IMG_2425So overall I’d say that my class is comparable if not better than other classes. There are so many factors: I will definitely need to keep collecting data on this.


Teach with Passion

Be passionate!

I know, like many things in teaching, that’s often easier said than done. ¬†It’s not easy to be passionate when you’re teaching something you find uninteresting (like 4 months of multiplication…)

So show the kids things that you are passionate about. Show them you are a life long learner. Let them see you get excited!

Some of the things my kids see me get excited about are books, astronomy, music, and Disney.

No it is not always related to your curriculum and can I already hear the protesting teachers saying “I don’t have time to teach what I’m required to teach to begin with, how am I going to fit anything else in?” I’m not saying to teach an entire unit about Disney. Just find creative ways to incorporate it in.

Here are some examples for me:

Books Books

It’s not hard as a third grade teacher to show a passion for books. I’m teaching kids to read every day. I share my favorite books with them. I talk to them about what I’m reading for fun. I make a point to drop everything and read (DEAR) at least a few times a week (my kids do it every day.) And I share with them my reading goal. I wanted to read 60 books this year in 2014 and in 2015 I am going to try to read 100 books. I keep track of it on GoodReads, a super awesome website.

observing1pic Astronomy

I did not get into astronomy until a few years after I started teaching it. The more I taught about it, the more I wanted to learn. It’s just so cool! There are so many things to wonder about.¬†But if you are passionate about astronomy and you are not fortunate enough to teach it to your students as a whole unit there are still ways you can include it:

For example, if you teach about the water cycle, you could substitute one of your lessons (not add another lesson) with a lesson about Saturn’s moon, Titan. Titan has a Methane cycle just like Earth has a water cycle.¬†On Titan it rains Methane! That’s just so cool! And what a great way to get kids to connect what they are learning to other things. Art Station Titan is a program run by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and this video of it is pretty awesome.

If you are teaching your kids to write “how tos” you could show them Chris Hadfield’s how to make a peanut butter sandwich in space video here on youtube.

If you’re teaching music you could play Gustav Holst’s The Planets.

Or you could always include some space current events, as a writing prompt, or homework assignment, or inquiry activity. I use SciShow Space a lot and it is good for older kids. I use it with my third graders, but I always watch it first to check that the content is appropriate.

IMG_0638 Music 

I play my guitar and my cello for the kids. I sing all the time. I always have music going in the background while we are working. There are songs that go with every content area: Multiplication with Schoolhouse Rock, Ecology and decomposers on Youtube, Astronomy with They Might Be Giants , Parts of Speech with Schoolhouse Rock  and the list goes on and on.


This one seems a little far fetched, but I actually bring up Disney all the time in my instruction. If we are having a bad day, I will grab my guitar and we will sing Zip-a-dee-do-dah and actively change our attitude. And that only takes 2 minutes. When we are doing biographies I do my example about Walt Disney. When we write personal narratives, I write about the summer I worked at Walt Disney World.

947c4712eaed6bd32ce5905a54dead29Love what you do. Be passionate and share that passion with your students. It will make you love teaching even more and your kids love learning even more.