Wednesday, May 10, 2017


      I went to see the movie Gifted with my niece.  When I saw this group of flowers I couldn’t help but see it as a clear reflection of what I had just seen in the movie.

     One red flower stands alone in a field of yellow flowers….Some may question why the gardener would allow it to grow amongst the beauty of the uniformity of color and kind.  But its difference makes its individual beauty stand out.  So although it wasn’t exactly what the gardener may have been going for….the gardener recognizes its exceptional beauty. Now, the gardener may be tempted to pluck it out of this yellow field so that its exceptional beauty can immediately be recognized by others.  Yet there would be some regret in taking it from its original surroundings.  Putting it in a vase would only allow it to be appreciated for a short amount of time.  Planting it with other red flowers would take away from the exceptional beauty it imparts to the field.  So what should the gardener do?  How does this relate to our very important role as teacher/coach/guide?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

#Slice of Life   Leah Marie
Four Cheers for Team Work
Theresa Carrillo, Anna Waszak, Christine Flowers

When I hear the word “team” I immediately think “sports.”  Now, if you know me well, you know that I am really not a “sports” fan, much to the dismay of my father, who really tried to get me to like sports as much as he did.  He made sure I had golf clubs, a bowling ball, a softball bat and ball, a whiffle ball and bat, a basketball, tennis ball and racket, a fishing rod, and a swimming pool.  He was a soft ball coach and volleyball coach at my school, to my dismay, because he made me be on his teams.  Although, I didn’t really mind.  He took me golfing, bowling, fishing, and to a Cubs baseball game at which I read a book, to his dismay.  But I was always a fan of his when he was on a team.  ….And of course I was always a fan of both of my sons when they played on sports teams.  ….And my husband is an avid fisherman, and I am certainly a fan of his!


From what I have observed, the best teams are made up of team members who are diverse.  The team members each have different abilities, experience, and talents to contribute to the team.  They are a flexible group who are willing to try new things but value knowledge gained from experience.  They work together to find and draw on their strengths and build up their weaknesses with professional development, practice, and team collaboration. 


     These are ideas that can be applied to any team in any field.  When I think of our third grade team, I can see those ideas are being applied.  We share that same thought.  Our team is not afraid to share their knowledge and ideas with each other.  We give credit to the team members who come up with new, creative, successful, or “smart” plans, lessons, or activities. We encourage our team members when someone needs it, during professional or personal struggles, failures, or bad experiences.  We share responsibilities and leadership roles.  We work together to make sure that each member knows that their contributions and their commitment is valued by the team.  We strive to become better teachers each day and lean on each other knowing that we can depend on each other for help or encouragement when we need it.  


     Why is this important in the business of teaching?   Because as the phrase says…..”#BetterTogether!”  We ARE BETTER TOGETHER!  The make up of a great team supports that.  We use our differences to make the curriculum BETTER.  Our differences help us understand the differences in our students better.  Sharing our knowledge and experiences with each other gives us the “power” to better meet the needs of our students.  We don’t have to spend precious time trying to figure out the student on our own.  We now have the means to put a practice into place that will help the student grow.  Why would anyone fight becoming a team player?  Being a team player helps us learn and grow as teachers.  The world changes.  Education changes with the world.  So those of us that have been around for awhile need to learn from our “new” colleagues.  Just as our “new” colleagues can learn from the “experienced” teachers.   TEAM WORK – WE ARE #BETTERTOGETHER!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

#Slice of Life  (Leah Marie)


     I teach in an inclusion classroom, which means there are two teachers in the classroom, a general education teacher and a special education teacher.  Co-teaching is a gift!  It is also tricky to have two teachers in one classroom.  Sometimes we have two teachers, an aide or nurse, and a classroom full of students.  So the adults have to learn how to work together, just like the students, or it can get too loud or too confusing.
     I have been working with my co-teacher, Anna Waszak, for 11 years now.  When we first started teaching together we needed to decide how to work together.  We decided very quickly that both teachers need to be seen as “teachers with authority.”  ….And we found out that this should also be the rule for the nurses or aides who work with us.  It gets very busy in classrooms and it didn’t take us long to see that the students were able to figure out, “If one says no, go ask the other.”  So we needed to be sure that we were on the same page with everything!  Even when deciding when and who we send to the bathroom!
     We realized as we began to plan together that the possibilities for differentiating within the classroom were endless.  We learned to be flexible with whole group lessons, small group lessons, and conferencing time with individual students.  We learned what our strengths and weaknesses are together, and we used that to benefit the students.  That determined who would do the whole group lesson and who would do small group lessons or individual conferencing.   Sometimes we are both able to conference with students while the whole group is working independently. 
     As time went on, we learned more about each other personally.  We began to spend time together outside of the classroom.  Which led to understanding when the other person needed help, a break, or that we could teach many lessons together as a team. 
     We laugh together during lessons and we share our memories with our students.  We ask each other questions from across the room.  Sometimes we can tell what the other person is thinking. 
      We’ve shared our life experiences for 11 years!  I watched my co-teacher achieve 10 year, get her Masters Degree, buy a home, get married, have two children, and experience death.  She has seen my children grow from boys to men and heard my struggles with that.  She has seen me work on National Board Certification twice.  She has shared in my grief along the way as well.  ….And some days we realize the day is all about survival. 
      Anna was quick to learn and willing to try new things.  She valued my experience as a teacher, shared her learning and knowledge with me, had and has a growth mindset, and continues to grow and transform(#SAM) as a teacher, team member, and as a friend. 

     The things I like most about my co-teacher are:
1.     She laughs at my jokes.
2.     She smiles instead of crying, although we HAVE cried together.
3.     She isn’t afraid to take charge and lead. (She is a good leader!)
4.     She can find the things that I misplace!
5.     She just takes it upon herself to help me look for the things I
6.     Sometimes she knows what I am going to say before I even say it and can finish my sentence for me!
7.     She has lots of creative (#URCREATIVE) ideas!
8.     She is super flexible!
9.     She is always willing to help.
10. She is kind.
    10.  She is a very strong person.
    11.  She has a growth mindset.
    12.  She is a thoughtful friend.
    13.  She is a good speller!
    14.  She is willing to try new things.  
    15.  She brings her very sweet kids for visits with me.
    16.  She is a wonderful Mom and Wife!
  *17.  She can sew a skirt over night!!!!!

*So if you ever have a chance to co-teach, give it a try.  It is a gift for you and it is a gift for the children you teach.  #Lovemyco-teacher!