The Giving Tree


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This week I read a book to the class called The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. We have been reading books about character to the students all week.

I made it about half of the way through the book before I choked up. I read how the boy in the story took leaves from the tree to make a crown, and how he climbed in her branches for enjoyment. I read until he took all he could from her until he wanted more worldly things. My cooperating teacher gracefully finished the book for me because tears were streaming down my face.

While I was reading it I had a hard time pin-pointing what exactly made me so emotional. While the book is a sad one, about a selfish boy that takes and takes from a tree that gives and gives, I finally realized why I couldn’t finish the book.

The tree is a teacher! I also feel she could be a mother as well. We give up so much of our time and energy for our kids. We are resilient. We have limitless reserves. We give until we have nothing left to give, and even then we give even more.

How embarrassing that I cried in front of my students, kids that have way bigger issues to deal with at 8 years of age than I ever will! Thankfully, we have a positive classroom where crying is ok. My students were more concerned about why I was crying than about the end of the book. My favorite student, even though we aren’t supposed to have favorites, and a new student who did not know me at all, kept putting their hands in my arm in sympathy.

There is hope for the world, y’all. I just realized we aren’t treating our kids with enough kindness.


Educational Quotes


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“Know thyself.” Socrates

Educational quotes tend to be really sappy and ethereal. It’s nice to believe that education can be summed up in one nice quote by an intelligent leader that most respect. But which quote is right?

After searching for the perfect quote for the bottom of my first letter home to parents, I had difficulty narrowing it down. Some of my favorites that I have come across are as follows:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

 “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”  Mark Twain

“When you know better, you do better.” Maya Angelou

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” Plutarch

“Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” Albus Dumbledore

and, because I love the Harry Potter series,

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” Albus Dumbledore

What makes a great quote? That it is real? Or that it has great ideals but does not necessarily happen in real life? Perhaps it is the potential for which we all strive.

So, which is your favorite?

First meeting with teacher!


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Yesterday my cohort (Class of 2014) met at a local elementary school to meet with our cooperating teachers for next year. Our student teaching will be unique to most teacher education programs because we will be in this one class for the entire year to see how to set up routines and expectations, set up the classroom, collect data, among other things.


The lingo I’ll be using for my posts this year include “teacher candidate”, which will be my role as the student teacher, “cooperating teacher”, who will be kind enough to let me teach in her room for the majority of the school year, and “the program”, which is the teacher education pilot program through the University of Missouri-Kansas City that is training all elementary teachers to teach effectively in the inner cities.

I had some fears going into this meeting because I am really just an acquaintance with my cooperating teacher. Since she teaches at my husband’s school and I usually go to their happy hours, I met her in August at the first one of the new school year. While I knew she was personable and smart, I really did not have a clue about her classroom makeup and her teaching style.

In high school I got a waitressing job. I had no experience so I went in blind and naïve. My “trainer” treated me like her paid assistant and because I only ran drinks for her customers for my week of training, I was not prepared to wait tables when I was finally put on the schedule. I was so afraid that I would fall into being a teacher’s “assistant”, only making copies of worksheets and handling bathroom duty. However, I know that my experience this year is going to be NOTHING like my waitressing job.

First, she is a graduate of the same program so she knows what I have to be able to do. She also wants me to have the same experience with student teaching that she did. She is still in contact with her cooperating teacher, who was at the same meeting yesterday taking on another teacher candidate!

goal block 2

Second, we have common goals for the kids this year. My goal every year will be to have all students on grade level. Most teachers say they want to just move students up a level and a half from where they are, but I believe with a lot of work that students can read on their grade level. It’s imperative that third graders be on grade level at the end of the year because the data for “low” readers is catastrophic. Look it up. Most students of color who cannot read by third grade end up in prison.

goal block

We also believe that worksheets are a complete waste of time and will not be using them unless it is a graphic organizer that requires most of the information to be constructed by the student. Also, she likes to use music in her lessons and integrate social studies and science in the other subjects.

I asked to take on several duties right away as well. I will have an RTI group, a reading group, and will be team-teaching the behavior expectations. I can’t wait to get through all of the beginning-of-the-year meetings and get to work!


To Teach


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It is July, a month before I begin student teaching. I’m happy about my placement. I’m scared about my upcoming failures (because there are going to be a lot of them). Mostly I’m excited about all of the things I’m going to learn this year.


I have had a lot of time this summer to become anxious excited and contemplate what I’m doing and why. I get a lot of ugly faces when I tell people where my student teaching will be and with whom. (I’ll be at a charter school in Kansas City, Missouri that serves primarily African American families.) This degree is expensive. Really expensive. I have taken several years off from holding a full time job to pursue a second degree. However, I’m not discouraged. I felt called to teach because of the challenge it presents. I worked in banking and accounting for several years and was never really challenged or fulfilled.

I entered a program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City that focuses on urban education. I wanted to teach urban children from the beginning because I saw how the achievement gap in reading and math was affecting a student I tutored. She was on a Kindergarten reading level and had been passed through to the fourth grade. Whose job was it to make sure she was learning? Shouldn’t it be the school’s job?!


While the achievement gap has many causes, and most of them are outside of my control as a single person, I realized that I was capable of teaching and even felt like it was my responsibility to teach. A year later I moved that student to a fourth grade level. I did it! And the best part? It was so much fun. After so many years of trying to find a purpose for my life, I finally saw that all I needed was a problem to solve.

So, finally after three years of additional schooling to get my teaching certificate and Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, I have reached my student teaching year! UMKC requires a full year of student teaching in one classroom and with the same teacher all year. We will engage in team teaching all year, where I will gain skills in integrating math, science, language, reading, social studies, and the arts together.

My goals for the year:

1. Learn how to teach students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

2. Manage my classroom in a safe but firm way that facilitates learning.

3. Learn as much from my cooperating teacher as I possibly can. (Anybody have a flash drive I can borrow to fill up with lesson plans?!)

4. Learn Common Core and plan meaningful lessons for my urban students.

5. Build meaningful relationships with my teacher and students.

6. Keep stress low and spirits high.

The last one will be especially challenging because I tend to dwell on imperfection and let it get me down. I hope that I can learn just as much from the 30 people that will be in my classroom everyday, just as much as I am teaching them. Thus, the name of this blog is not “Mrs. Brown’s Student Teaching” or “Mrs. Brown’s Third Grade,” but rather “Teaching Mrs. Brown.” It will be reflections on my learning in this crazy/difficult/beautiful/ thing called teaching. Let the teaching begin!