I'm not sure what I want to be when I grow up. I'm loving the classroom right now, but I think I'd eventually like to move towards teaching teachers.

Over the summer, I was looking for some books to read to help myself grow into a teacher leader, so I asked my community on Instagram to share suggestions.

Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. By purchasing an item from Amazon using these links,  I will receive a small commission on your purchase, although your price stays the same! I use that commission to keep my blog up and running. Thank you!

You guys gave some awesome suggestions, and I promised I'd share:

5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell
Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler
Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
How to Thrive as a Teacher Leader by John Gabriel
Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf
Life is Short, Don't Wait to Dance by Valorie Kondos Field
Shaping School Culture by Terrence Deal and Kent Peterson
Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Step In, Step Up by Jane Kise and Barbara Watterson
The Disney Difference by Wayne Olson
The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon
The Truth About Leadership by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Here's the whole list on Amazon. 

Of all of the recommendations, Dare to Lead was BY FAR the most recommended. I borrowed the eBook from the local library and fell in love with Brené Brown!

I think Step In, Step Up is next for me. What's next for you?

This post was made possible through the support of Cochlear. All opinions are my own.

It’s back to school season, so I bet you’ve spent lots of time arranging (and rearranging) your classroom! As we all do, I’m sure you’ve spent at least a little time reflecting this summer on how you can improve this year. 

One area that I’m aiming to grow in this year is to better meet the needs of my students with exceptionalities, including kids that suffer from hearing loss. 

As a Cochlear partner, I’m excited to share some research-based suggestions to help you set up and manage your classroom in order to best meet the needs of any students that you have in your classroom now - or in the future - with hearing impairments. 


Students with hearing loss should have priority seating towards the middle of the classroom, with proximity to the teacher and visual aids. The goal is to position the child so that he or she can get the best auditory and visual information from the teacher and other students. Make sure that his or her seat is also located away from noisy windows and doors. Fans and air conditioning can produce a lot of noise, too! 


Background noise can make it more challenging for children with hearing loss to understand the spoken language. Rugs, pillows, curtains, and cork boards help absorb that background noise and improve the room’s acoustics. Covering chair legs with felt or tennis balls helps, too! 


Some students may benefit from your use of a Cochlear™ Wireless Mini Mic 2 or 2+ so that your voice stands out clearly. This makes listening and understanding much easier for a hearing-impaired child in a busy, noisy classroom.


Have high expectations for your students’ behavior. Wait for the whole class to be quiet and respectful before giving new spoken instructions.

If a student with hearing loss needs additional support, alternate giving directions with actionable steps. That way, the student can take a break from the concentration needed to hear and then process instructions.


When working in groups, reduce the number of students in each small group. Less students means closer quarters and less people’s conversations to keep up with. 

If necessary, you can use the buddy system. Let classmates take turns being the child’s “hearing buddy.”


Depending on your situation, you may need to inform school staff and classmates before the child starts school. Providing information about hearing loss in general, as well as the child’s specific hearing impairment and device, can help minimize teasing that occurs due to ignorance. Teach the class about basic strategies to make listening and communication easier for their hearing-impaired classmate.

Although these suggestions are a good starting point to make learning more accessible for your students, it’s just the beginning! Find more information, including a guide for teachers, on Cochlear’s Live Life Learning site.

Views expressed are those of the individual. Consult your health professional to determine if you are a candidate for Cochlear technology. 

Please seek advice from your health professional about treatments for hearing loss. Outcomes may vary, and your health professional will advise you about the factors which could affect your outcome. Always read the instructions for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information. 

@Cochlear Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Hear now. And Always and other trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of Cochlear Limited or Cochlear Bone Anchored Solutions AB.

I used Class Dojo to manage student behavior this year.


If you've never heard of Class Dojo, you're in for a treat.
 If you are a Class Dojo veteran, can I get an AMEN?!


Class Dojo is an online program that I can access from a computer, my iPad, or even my iPhone. Students can earn or lose points all day long, no matter where we are in the building. Students can earn points by setting a good example, staying on task, and following directions. Students may lose points if they demonstrate behavior that is disruptive to the learning environment.

Class Dojo also has the ability to create reports, which are great to use for report cards and parent conferences. You can check reports for today, yesterday, this week, last week, this month, last month, all time, OR a custom date range. It's incredible!

The best part about Class Dojo is that parents can create their own Class Dojo parent account and log in at any time to check on their child’s behavior. At the end of the week, Class Dojo will automatically send parents an email summarizing the child’s behavior for the week. Cool right?


Did you know...?

Behaviors are customizable. You can create your own behaviors that you want to award or take away points for. I don't like to have a TON of behaviors because it can get confusing. I do like to have "recess," "lunch," and "specials" as behavior options, especially for negative behaviors. If I feel like I need to give a parent more of an explanation, like that Susie lost a "lunch" point for throwing food, I can send the parent a private message.

You can give class points. Just click "Select All," then choose the behavior. Each student will receive a point. I give class points for "Specials" if the class receives a good report from their specials teacher for the day. I also give points for "Teamwork" if they can pack up before the 3-minute timer goes off. It's great for encouraging them to help others. 

It's great for bribing. I bribe my kids with points ALL THE TIME. "If you bring your progress report back TOMORROW, signed, you get a responsibility point!" "If you bring your field trip form and money before Friday, you'll get a responsibility point!" I never have to call parents to remind them to sign something or send something in; The kids do all the bugging for me because they want that point! It's amazing what some kids will do for one measly point. I say "jump," they say, "how high?" (Not really, but you know what I mean.) 

You can change the avatars. Students can create their own monsters by creating student accounts. Or, as the teacher, you can create new sets of avatars completely! See this post on My Little Firsties for step-by-step directions to create avatar sets.

AFTER (Next time I do this, I'm going to choose only pictures with white backgrounds. They look better.)


On Fridays, usually every other week, students trade their Dojo points for classroom rewards such as eating lunch with a friend, going to recess with another class, or using a special pen for a day. Bigger prizes will be worth more points, teaching students the concept of earning, saving, and spending. 

I have a menu that I've printed and laminated. I made it on Google Drive so that it's easy to update throughout the year.

Want to use my reward menu as a starting point? Enter your information below to join my VIP list, and I'll immediately send you the link to access the menu on Google Drive. 

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    After I have spoken briefly with each child, I reset all of the points - only for students who bought prizes - back to zero. (This does not delete history for data, just current points!)

    { Side note: Currently, Dojo does not have the capability to delete just a specific amount of points. You only have the option to set it back to zero. }

    When students buy a prize, I write the prize that the student bought on a sticky note and stick it behind my desk on my filing cabinet. I know it's sloppy and not very pretty looking, but it works for us! I don't have to keep up with prize cards or hand anything out to kids. On a day that works for me, I place the sticky note on the kid's desk before they arrive at school. They know what that means! 


    As IF you actually need any more convincing.

    1. It does the parent communication legwork for me. Parents can receive behavior information EVERY night, if they want to check the app. They can also check it throughout the day, and behavior points are timestamped! 

    2. The messaging feature is great. I can easily text parents without giving out my cell phone number, and parents can easily send me a quick message. They know I am likely to see a Dojo message before an email since I use Dojo all day long. I can text individual parents, or send a "broadcast" to all parents. (Can you guess how I got all of my parents to sign up? I offered the kids points for each parent that registered - duh!)

    3. It's a great nonverbal prompt for students who need to correct their behavior. I don't say a word. I just choose a child that is on task or setting a good example, I make sure my volume is turned up, and I give them a point. That "ding" makes the rest of the kids straighten up without me having to reprimand.

    4. It's FUN. The kids love it - really. They love changing their avatars and seeing their peers' avatars. They love seeing how many points they can earn in a day, and they work hard to do so. 

    5. It focuses on the positive. Yes, I take away points. Often. I'm harsher now than I was at the beginning of the year. The sad sound that Dojo makes during a point loss sometimes hurts my heart just as much as it hurts the kid's! (And some days it just feels realllly good.)

    All that being said...

    Class Dojo works so well for me, and maybe some of it will work for you. 

    Let me know if you have any questions about Class Dojo or if you need any help!

    Note: This post is in no way affiliated with Class Dojo. I am not receiving any perks for endorsing it. I JUST LOVE IT THAT MUCH! 

    Kids. They're so great, but boy can they get LOUD.

    I like to maintain a fun, exciting, interactive classroom environment, but with exciting activities comes excited voices. As you know, students get louder and louder in order to be heard over each other until they are no longer using inside voices.

    I have an easy tool for you to have students self-monitor the volume of their voices in the classroom. This awesome management trick was a fabulous idea that I saw on Pinterest way back before my first year teaching!

    I love to play music in my classroom. Music is a great way to help students manage the volume of their voices, especially when used with the NOISE letters for support.

    When students get so loud that we can no longer hear the music, I ring my bell, and take down a letter.

    Students have three opportunities. If they lose the E, then the S, and then the I, the letters will spell NO. That means no more talking for a set amount of time. I usually set a timer on the board for five or 10 minutes depending on the situation.

    It's simple. It's quick. It's visual, and it's effective.

    It's worked for me for seven years now!

    The concept is also cheap!

    I bought the foam letters that spell NOISE from Hobby Lobby. I put magnetic tape on the back of the letters so that I could display them on my board.

    Happy new school year!

    Tieks. I am SURE you have heard of them, especially if you are a teacher that frequents Instagram and educational blogs. Tieks have a reputation in the online world of educators for being the go-to workday flats.

    I have issues with shoes. (Okay, maybe it's my Achilles that are the issue.) I especially have trouble with flats. Before I found Tieks, I also hadn't found any flats that I could comfortably wear to run errands, much less comfortable enough to teach in all day. Pairs of unwearable flats were stacking up in my closet as my frustration grew, trying to find a professional shoe to wear during the colder months. After weeks of researching, I finally made the decision to try some Tieks. #treatyoself

    The first pair that I bought was leopard, because in my opinion, leopard is a neutral. When they arrived just a few days later, I was sooo excited to wear them to school the next day! At the end of the day, my feet felt.... well, just fine. I didn't feel like I was walking on clouds or anything, but I didn't have any pain or blisters either.

    Here I am wearing Tieks on crazy sock day - ha! #teacherlife

    I've found that Tieks do require a little breaking in, but it is nothing compared to any other flats I have ever put on my poor feet. "Breaking in" Tieks for me involves a little bit of redness on the top of my foot from tight leather and a few days of the soles squeaking on the tile floor at school. After a few wears, the tightness and the squeaking are both gone forever! 

    Oops, I did it again. I bought my second pair a month later. I decided to be a little more practical the second time around and went with matte black. I wear them at least twice a week.

    After purchasing and wearing two different pairs of Tieks, I was sold on the company.  This was years ago, now. Since then, I've slowly grown my Tieks collection, mostly through birthdays and holidays. Yes, Tieks are expensive, especially on a teacher budget. (I feel you!) But you know what else is expensive? Wasted money! The value of the crazy amount of uncomfortable (and therefore unworn) shoes that sit in my closet day after day because I can't bear to wear them to work surely exceeds the amount I've spent on Tieks.

    These flats are truly comfortable. Seriously, I even wear them on the weekends! I have never had any heel pain, Achilles pain, arch pain, or blisters of any kind. Finally, I found a professional flat I can wear all day long when it's too cold for sandals. What a RELIEF!

    Not convinced yet? 

    Guess what I did next. 

    On eBay, I sold some of my prized possessions: designer flats... that just so happen to be the worst things I've ever put my feet in. I made enough money off of them to feel a little less guilty about the money I spent on Tieks. They were gorgeous, but... Let's just say that I hope the girls that purchased them sit at desks all day long and never have to walk more than ten feet. That is all.

    I was a little sad when I dropped them at the post office, but I have no regrets. Good riddance, uncomfortable "shoes."

    champagne, cardinal red, leopard, matte black

    My collection has grown to include gold, cardinal red, mint, champagne, and taupe. I have an entire shelf in my closet dedicated to Tieks, and my husband doesn't even mind! Even he knows that they are a great investment - ha!

    I have to say, leopard is still my favorite and definitely my most worn pair. I've had them for four years now. They've held up great and are comfier than ever! They're my go-to shoes for teaching, traveling, and running errands. 

    What are you waiting for? Have you tried Tieks, or are you going to try them?

    Most importantly, which color are you dying to add to your closet?! I think cobalt is next for me...

    Are you a teacher? Please follow my journey to see where my blueprints take me! My favorite space to hang out in is Instagram - @schoolandthecity. I look forward to connecting with you! 

    Disclaimer: I received a pair of shoes at no charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

    I don't know about you, but I have my students work with partners constantly.

    Sometimes partners are assigned strategically, based on data for intentional instruction.

    Sometimes, however, I just need my students to find a partner or at least someone to turn and talk to during think-pair-share.

    I was tired of my students taking forever to find a partner.
    I was tired of my kids working with the same people over and over.
    I was tired of saying "make a better choice" or "you aren't allowed to work together."

    I have equity sticks and use them often, but the partnerships aren't planned and therefore often aren't great.

    Here's a management trick to partner your students successfully - the first time, every time. 

    Thus, I introduce to you...

    The Partner Wheel!

    I originally heard this idea from Amie Dean, The Behavior Queen. (Side note: SHE'S AMAZING!)

    It's perfect for partnering your students. Put students that you don't want working together on the same circle… They will never figure out why they never end up as partners.  LOL! #teacherwin

    I've been implementing more whole-brain teaching into my daily routines, so I've been using this partner wheel to determine weekly reading carpet partners. It may not be the prettiest thing, but it serves its purpose!

    If you want to make one yourself: Search "circle segmented into __ parts" on Google images to find a circle that fits your needs. If you have 24 students, you'll need a circle partitioned into 12 parts. Print one smaller than the other, attach with a brad, and there you have it!

    Want to save some time? Download my editable template for FREE!

    Join my VIP list by entering your email address below, and the partner wheel template will immediately be delivered straight to your email inbox. 

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      Give it a try! If you make your own, please send a picture my way on Instagram either @schoolandthecity so I can praise your hard work!

      Love this idea? I'd super appreciate it if you shared this post with your teacher friends.

      Note: This blog post was originally published on The Primary Peach blog on February 9, 2017. 

      Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Teach Your Heart Out conference onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Navigator of the Seas!

      Quality time with other teachers, who just GET me...

      PD at sea...

      What could be better?!

      Let me tell you all about it.


      We boarded the ship on Friday in Miami. Having arrived early, we were able to spend the afternoon at the pool meeting and hanging out with teachers from all over the country! 

      On Friday night, TYHO threw a luau-themed welcome party. We had a great time on the dance floor!


      Saturday was reserved for the conference. 

      Sessions were divided up by grade level, but not mandated, so that each teacher could choose relevant sessions!

      I started the morning with a joint session by Juan Gonzalez and Brittany Root, "Turning Content into an Adventure." They talked about engagement strategies for introducing new topics as well as fun - but rigorous - ways to practice skills in context, like simple "escape" activities.

      Next was "Wild About Writing" with Ashlyn Ellsworth from The Creative Classroom. Teaching writing is definitely a weakness of mine, so I appreciated all of her insight! 

      After the (all-you-can-eat buffet) lunch break, I got to see Brooke Brown in action talking about integrating STEM with reading and writing. 

      Brooke's session gave me tons of ideas about how I can incorporate play into my classroom - even in the midst of test prep emphasis coming down from the top. 

      Lastly, I hung out with Eric Crouch and Jed Dearybury - who are hilarious - in their session, "Destroying Writers Block." 

      What I loved about each session is that all of the information was innovative, but completely realistic and applicable for my own classroom. I certainly walked away with some great ideas and renewed motivation!


      After the sessions on Saturday, we grabbed some chairs by the pool to enjoy some sun before dinner and a show. 

      Oh, Sunday. On Sunday, the magic happened. 

      We debarked as soon as the gangway opened in Nassau, Bahamas. Hundreds of educators in matching T-shirt carried bags, boxes, and SUITCASES full of school supplies to donate to local students and teachers. 

      Once we made it through the port, we hopped on buses - which were VERY well air-conditioned, might I add! - that took us through Nassau to Sandilands Primary School.

      First, we spent some time wandering around and exploring the school. I was able to see inside a third grade classroom and the administrative office. Other teachers visited the library and the computer lab.

      After some time exploring, we all gathered at the front of the school to donate the school supplies we brought with us.

      Casey Bethel's aunt is actually the principal of the school! 

      Casey told us that our donations would "leave ripples for generations and generations." Many kids in the neighborhood can't attend school because they can't afford uniforms. He told us that there are parents who do not send their students to school because they don't have the materials they need to learn. 

      "For us to be able to do this for this school shows that all of us, all educators, all around the world, are fighting the same fight. We're pouring into lives of the next generation of kids who are going to help make the world a better place." 
      - Casey Bethel 


      Although school was not currently in session, many teachers came to meet with us. Students were invited to come say hello and pick out some brand new supplies.

      The principal, Esther Cartwright, noted that the teachers were wearing matching teal shirts, just like us! Their shirts said, "It takes a big heart to shape little minds." Ms. Cartwright went on to say,

      "That's for our little darlings that come to school every day. We try to steer them in the right direction for them to succeed at their schoolwork. We're going to do it one child at a time." 


      The conference concluded with a night with Gerry Brooks. He is hysterical and so uplifting. (Gerry, are you hiring?!)

      All that being said, if you get the chance to attend a TYHO conference - especially on a cruise ship - DO IT! It was the perfect mix of work and play, and was exactly what my teacher heart needed this summer. I can't wait to do it all over again in 2021! What are you waiting for?