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Teacher Appreciation Week

May 2, 2016

NTD-2013-FB-profile-3.jpgI hope you are all as fortunate as I am, and that you are able to look back on your years in school and remember a teacher or teachers who made a difference in your life. If you can do that…..then let them know. During national teacher appreciation week, send a teacher a note, an email, or Facebook message and let them know that they are important to who you are today. Good teachers are invested in the success of their students. And while we say we “touch the future” we often are not quite sure of that. Take time this week to let them know. Thank a teacher!

Presidential Proclamation — National Teacher Appreciation Day and National Teacher Appreciation Week, 2016

Just as we know a student’s circumstances do not dictate his or her potential, we know that having an effective teacher is the most important in-school factor for student success……

Our future is written in schools across our country. It is likely that the first person who will go to Mars is in a classroom today. Our students are our future teachers, scientists, politicians, public servants, and parents — a generation that will steer the course we will take as a people and make possible things we have not even imagined yet. We look to the women and men standing in front of classrooms in all corners of our country — from cities to reservations to rural towns — to vest America’s daughters and sons with the hard skills they will need to put their dreams within reach and to inspire them to dream even bigger. On National Teacher Appreciation Day and during National Teacher Appreciation Week, let us ensure our educators know how much we value their service in the classroom, how much we appreciate all they do for our students and families, and how thankful we are for their contributions to our national progress.


April 22 – Earth Day

April 19, 2016

April 22 is Earth Day.  I’m hoping we are teaching environmental awareness throughout the year. If you plan to touch on Earth Day in the coming days, below are some awesome resources for you and your students.

Jewish Culture-Gram: Passover Edition

April 19, 2016

Today’s post is written by guest blogger Kelly Steiner. Kelly shares these insights with her faculty and administration. Thank you Kelly for sharing your culture with us. Happy Passover.

Friday night is the first night of one of the most important Jewish holidays-Passover. (This ancient Jewish festival  starts at sunset on Friday, April 22, 2016 and ends the evening of April 30.)

What is this one about?

Passover is the story of the Exodus from Egypt.  It’s Pesach in Hebrew, but that just means Passover.  It is the retelling of how our ancestors came to be slaves in Egypt, their treatment under the Egyptians (spoiler alert – it wasn’t good), Moses, the plagues and their eventual escape from oppression.  The story is retold, pretty much the same way, every year.  In the process of telling the story, families (who traditionally gather from all over) go through a ritual meal called a Seder (which means “order” in Hebrew).  It is full of symbols.  For example, there are several symbols out on the table: Matzah (the unleavened bread that represents how the Jewish people had to flee so quickly they couldn’t wait for their bread to rise and it baked on their backs while they fled through the desert – it’s why we eat Passoverunleavened bread for 8 days), a hard boiled egg (I think this one is the circle of life and new beginnings), a green vegetable (that gets dipped in salt water to remind us of the tears of our ancestors), a shank bone (the term Passover comes from the fact that during the last plague- slaying of the first born- the angel of death passed over the Jewish houses because they marked their door posts with the blood of a lamb), Charoses (a sweet mix of apples, honey, cinnamon and wine that reminds us of the mortar used by our ancestors in their bondage), and bitter herbs (in my family this is bits of raw horseradish to remind us of the bitterness of bondage- it’ll definitely clear your sinuses).

You can see that this isn’t a party holiday, but it is a real centerpiece of the Jewish calendar and a key gathering of family.  For me growing up, this was the only time aside from Thanksgiving where everyone made sure to be in one place.  This is especially challenging since most people don’t get time off of work or school for Passover and so getting family from all over to the same place for this ceremonial meal meant lots of sacrifices.  It’s also a really interesting one to visit.  It is customary to leave an empty seat for any stranger since we were once strangers in a strange land.  This is sometimes re-interpreted as just a wide welcoming of visitors that want to engage in a Seder.  So if you’ve always wanted to know more about Jewish culture, you could totally join in a Seder sometime.

A highlight for me is the focus on social justice.  In many Haggadot (plural for Haggadah – the book that lays out the Seder and contains the story, prayers and songs) the readings focus on the need for all Jews to rededicate themselves at Passover to the freedom of all, including freedom from hunger, freedom from oppression, bigotry, hatred, war, etc.  We are reminded over and over that as a people we remember the pain of bondage and we are bound to commit ourselves to understanding and alleviating the pain of bondage of others.  It is said several times that we should all think of ourselves as personally having escaped Egypt and experiencing the Exodus because if it hadn’t happened we’d still be there.  I also think it’s cool that when we read out the ten plagues (because you haven’t really had a festive meal until you have discussed boils, blood, and locusts) we dip our fingers into our wine and remove a drop for each plague.  This reminds us that although the Egyptians were our oppressors, they were still people and their suffering should remove some of our joy from our cup.

A flip side or controversy is that another traditional custom is to say “next year in Israel”.  This is hard for many cultures (including Palestinians) because if all the Jews who said that, actually went to Israel, it would cause some serious population dynamic problems.  I don’t mean to be flip, I wanted to bring up why this is a hard day for many Arabs without getting into the whole ball of wax.

But can I expect kids do their homework?

In terms of the nitty-gritty – you may have students absent Friday and/or Monday.  This is probably because they traveled to be with family or are preparing on Friday since family is so important for this holiday.  The Seder traditionally takes several hours on Friday night (and some families do a traditional second Seder on Saturday night).  This really takes almost all night and would make it very tough to do homework (even if the house wasn’t full of extended family).  So, if you can, please cut your Jewish kids some slack on homework this weekend.

Anything else I should know to be sensitive?

First, many Jewish students may not eat leavened bread (or lots of other things- there’s a lot of specifically Kosher for Passover foods) for 8 days starting Friday night.  If you’re supervising lunch or other treats, you can be sensitive to this temporary dietary restriction.

Second, if you want to say something, you can say happy Passover or have a sweet Passover- it’s just with more of a happy Easter tone (a more serious one) than a happy birthday tone since the holiday is a solemn one.  (Honest, Jews do have party holidays, just not big enough to write e-mails for-we just had Purim which is a riot).

Kelly teaches science in Milwaukee, WI. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and an adjunct professor at Cardinal Stritch University.

Milestone Celebration

April 9, 2016

Many of you know that the Surviving to Thriving team of Linda, Jennifer, and Linda have a Teachers Pay Teachers store. We don’t usually “advertise” on this blog in an effort to keep it “commercial free” and a  go-to resource for teacher support. But we have reached a major milestone on our store and we wanted to share the celebration with our colleagues, so we hope you won’t mind:)celebrate

Next week TPT will be featuring our resource, The One and Only Ivan Novel Study Unit PlanTo celebrate we are offering The One and Only Ivan Novel Study Unit Plan   for 20% off April 11-14.

It’s not just about the earnings. We are excited to know our lesson plans and unit plans are in classrooms all over the world. We believe all students deserve great teachers and we feel strongly that our work supports teachers in becoming the teachers they really want to be.

Be sure to take advantage of the savings and please leave us your feedback. We honor your opinion and plan our new resources to meet those needs.

More information.

April is Poetry Month

April 2, 2016


Poems are like messages in a bottle sent out with little hope of finding a recipient. Those of us who find and read poems become their unknown addresses.

From How to Read a Poem (and Fall in Love with Poetry)

by Edward Hirsch Poetry Foundation

As I prepared for today’s post, I again realized I am not as poetic as I would like. I am not as comfortable as I would like to be in my appreciation or teaching of poetry. I know that it is an essential part of who we are. It tells our histories, our dreams, and our secret aspirations, but most importantly it is a creative tool to communicate all of the above.

While we hope that poetry is appreciated in your classroom throughout the year, April is a reminder that our children deserve an opportunity to learn to love poetry.

Poetry is well and alive in our schools. A Milwaukee fourth grader is on her way to the National Poetry Slam in New York. Congratulations Pashia!

Have a great day!


Resources for Teaching and Appreciating Poetry

Please share  ways you teach poetry in your classroom. Comments are welcome.

Updated and reblogged April 2, 2016 from the original March 30, 2012 post.

Add Some Fun and Excitement to Your Classroom

February 19, 2016

It’s February! It’s that time of year when students, classrooms AND teachers need rejuvenating. If you are looking for something new and exciting to follow in your classroom, consider the Decorah Live Eagle Cam. The Live Cam follows a pair of bald eagles from the mating season until the young adults leave the nest. The exciting news is that the first egg was laid yesterday. Mom and Dad are now taking turns keeping the egg warm and turning it. It is expected that another egg will be laid in the next few days. It’s fun, exciting, and educational to watch. Use it in your classroom and share it with your families. The Live Cam is sponsored by the Raptor Resource Project. Enjoy!

(TEACHERS/EDUCATORS, If you have not already done so, please complete this Decorah Eagle Cam Teacher/Educator Questionnaire. USTREAM has partnered with RRP to provide ads-free viewing for schools. Please email us for the details to set up ads-free viewing for your classroom.)

Raptor Resource Nest Camseagles

Election 2016: Campaigns, Candidates, and Voting

February 10, 2016

Today marks my 200th post for this blog. Thanks to all my followers for your support!

While I can’t say I have enjoyed the campaigns and the never-ending media coverage so far, I must admit it has been and continues to be a VERY interesting election year. As classroom teachers, it is our responsibility to remain unbiased and give our students the opportunity to learn about the election Your_Vote_Counts_Badgeprocess in a safe and neutral classroom environment. Below are some resources for teaching about the primaries, debates, campaigns, candidates, and the 2016 Election. Remember to keep your opinions private and let your students explore and make  their own informed decisions. Most importantly teach your students the importance of voting and the importance of active and responsible citizenship in a democracy.




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