Teacher Inspiration


Do you ever get the educator blues? It can be difficult sometimes to handle all of the day-to-day responsibilities that comes with a role of service to children and parents. The pay isn’t always rewarding; sometimes you’re blamed for things that you have no control over; and you often find yourself taking care of everyone in your class and school besides yourself. So, what is the remedy? Unfortunately, there is no cookie-cutter answer to that question. And just like the plans that you create for your children, they have to be individualized. It is definitely something to take time out to think about.


One thought is to make a list of things that make you smile in the work place. In fact, you should think about the things that you believe would make you most successful in your current role. List what will help you advance or what you could do to enhance your skills as an educator. Once you have your list, figure out what you can control. For example, could you take classes that could help enhance your skills? Could you volunteer and offer your skills to assist another teacher or staff member? Think about your school and if there are issues that affect you, figure out what you can do to help solve them. Complaining doesn’t help, but strategizing and planning could create possibilities and hope for a happy work environment.


It’s amazing how I talk to teachers on a regular basis that complain about their school, their administrators, but haven’t taken time to do things such as, journal possible solutions, ask questions, make phone calls, call meetings, network with other educators, or even vote in local elections to help make changes that they want to see. My point is, before you complain – think about the steps you’ve taken to fix a challenging situation. What have you done that would make you say, “Well this is what I tried to do…”


How is your health? Mentally and physically? It is important to always maintain or work towards being at your optimal best each day with the children, parents, co-workers and administrators. That can be hard if you’re not happy. And again, this is individualized instruction to think about. I talked to a teacher who said that she made an effort to drink as much water as she could daily but stopped because of her ongoing schedule in the classroom. We all know, as a teacher, it’s hard to break away to go to the restroom throughout the day. But she was determined to take care of herself, so she told her principal that drinking more water was a personal goal and also discussed the challenges so that she was aware of her issue. After she put her request to be relieved for multiple restroom breaks in writing, the principal made it a point to gather a group of teachers and brainstorm ways to create more break times throughout the day. She decided to set up a restroom buddy system for the teachers. Her principal appointed a “floater” to check in with teachers to make sure that their classroom was covered for 5-minute restroom breaks, several times each day. This worked for their school schedule. But the main point is that she talked to her principal and made a contribution towards finding a solution instead of contributing to negative talk with co-workers about how they could never participate in a challenge to drink more water daily.


It can be helpful to try to have a conversation with people in your school that can influence change. Initiating change could help you with personal goals (ex. drinking more water; walking during break times; having a quiet area to read and reflect; providing work periods so that work doesn’t leave the school; etc.). And if a simple conversation doesn’t work… document that you tried. Then you can’t say you didn’t.


One thing that really helped me as an educator was to post quotes around my classroom to remind me why I chose this profession – or why I chose to stay in a particular workplace – or help me strive towards being my best self, regardless of any drama or obstacles I faced each day. Because of my chosen faith, sometimes they were scriptures or uplifting texts from books or articles, and then other times they were sayings from philosophers or famous celebrities. I would change them out frequently throughout the month, and other teachers were invited to read or share quotes that they chose. I made it a point to not offend anyone around me, so they were appropriate for the work place. And I found out that many times my positive postings would ward off negativity that sometimes traveled throughout the hallways.


There are tons of inspirational quotes online and it’s important to look to inspiration each day – even if your work setting is picture-perfect. In this blog post, I’ve listed some of my favorite quotes. Hopefully they will inspire you find quotes that fit your individualized, educational needs. We’re all human and there will always be obstacles to overcome in life. So, remember the goal is to keep your head up, stay humble, advance your skills and knowledge in education and take care of yourself so that your children will benefit.



“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” ~Tony Robbins


“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” ~Albert Einstein


“Listen. Acknowledge. Solve. Thank.” ~ New York City cafe sign


“There is no one giant step that does it. It’s a lot of little steps.” ~Unknown


“On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100% and that’s pretty good.” ~Unknown




“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.


“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ~William Arthur Ward




“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt


“Be fearless in trying new things, whether they are physical, mental or emotional. Being afraid can challenge you to go to the next level.” ~Rita Wilson




Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t.” ~Angela Duckworth

“What I do today is very important because I’m exchanging a day of my life for it.” ~Lynn Ramthun




Gratitude helps us to see what is there instead of what isn’t. ~Madison Avenue Baptist Church sign


“The only people who you should get even with are those who have helped you.” ~Buz Moxon




“Worry is a misuse of imagination.” ~Dan Zadra


“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” ~John Wooden




“Don’t count the days; make the days count.” ~Muhammad Ali


He who gives when he is asked has waited too long.” ~Sunshine Magazine




An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming. ~Tecla Barber


“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little – do what you can.” ~Sydney Smith




“Wherever you are, be all there.” ~Jim Elliot


“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.” ~Unknown


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Nap Time is the Best Time


“Think nap time for preschoolers during the school day might be time better spent in educational activities? Think again. New research shows that a midday nap may play a crucial role in enhancing memory and boosting learning capabilities in preschool-age children.” Dr. Michael J. Breus 2014


I don’t know about you, but I always receive a burst of “I can conquer the world” any time I am able to get a good night’s sleep or take a 1 or if I’m lucky, 2-hour nap on the weekend. My mood changes. I can think better. I am energized. So how do you think naps affect your children? It’s not that children need more energy… It’s the fact that there are several benefactors that stem from a routine, scheduled nap each day.




Check out a study that was reported by the National Academy of Sciences. It’s a fact that classroom naps can enhance memory, problem solving and reasoning skills. Rebecca Spencer, Associate Professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said that napping should be part of any preschool curriculum. And this is true for preschool-aged children because at this age the ability to remember and recall experiences are important.


As teachers, we are taught how important it is to provide hands-on materials and experiences so that children can retrieve those experiences to help support and create new ones. Well, those hands-on experiences are processed in the brain – the hippocampus to be exact. This part of the brain creates short term memories. When children take a nap, the brain continues to work to store those memories for long term. Once children wake up, their hippocampus is rejuvenated to store new skills and practices. A well-rested mind can recall and use prior knowledge or skills to support new information that needs to be retained.


That’s good information to know, but do you have children that have a hard time falling asleep during nap time? There could be several factors that could keep children wide awake. And many of those factors may be out of your control (ex. A child that arrives to school mid-morning that slept late). But there are some classroom considerations you could try. There are environmental influences and teacher led activities that you could introduce to help children rest their minds and their bodies so that their hippocampus has a midday boost. Here are a few ideas.


Play relaxing music. Before the children transition to their cots, talk to the children about the relaxing music they will hear while they rest their bodies, rest their minds and rest their eyes. Play a snippet of the music so they know what to expect. Talk to them and explain how the music can help them relax, take calm breaths and how rest affects their growth. When they lay on their cots, begin to play the music and provide a 5-minute practice period of closing their eyes, keeping their bodies still and taking deep breaths. Many of your children will fall asleep. For those that don’t, here are more creative ideas that may help.


Provide “Sleepy Cream.” This would be hypoallergenic lotion used on the children’s hands to “magically” put them to sleep. Place the cream in a pump dispenser, decorate a “Sleepy Cream” label with glitter or sequins and allow the children to pump a pea-sized amount into their hands to rub their hands until their bodies fall asleep. Many children like it if their teachers rub sleepy cream on their hands. This gives you an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with them as you rub their hands.


Spray “Dreamtime Sleepy Spray.” This would be good, old fashioned water in a spray or misting bottle. Decorate the bottle by attaching short plastic colorful streamers. Spray the mist in the air and explain to the children that this mist will help them rest their bodies and minds.


Play a relaxing voice recording of your voice. Play relaxing music in the background as you record your voice giving nap time instructions. For example, say “Lay very, very still on your cot. Raise one arm for 3 seconds, 1, 2, 3. Now rest your arm. Raise your other arm for 3 seconds, 1, 2, 3. Now rest that arm…” Get creative. Since children love to wiggle around on their cots anyway, provide an outlet to move before they focus to lay still.



Attach streamers to a fan. If your classroom could use an extra burst of air, use a fan to create a whimsical, magical, dreamy-time atmosphere. The key to this is with the use of colorful streamers. The sound itself produces a relaxing sound that is sure to comfort your wiggly ones and coax them to rest their bodies.



Crawl through the “Dream Hoop”. Decorate a Hula Hoop using mesh and sparkling material. Allow the children to crawl through it and share with you what they will dream about when they fall asleep.



Tonii Lewis







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Class Community Initiative

One school year, a very long time ago, sometime in the late 90s… I remember I planned a lesson on the class environment, furniture, the use of class materials and why we have them in school. It was at the beginning of the year and it was to help me and my co-teacher discuss how we take care of our class as a community. It turned out to be a very interesting topic and I wish HGTV was as popular then as it is now. But HGTV was a very new concept – in fact, I believe at that time it was called Home, Lawn and Garden. So, my children didn’t have many references other than their house or the homes of family members and friends. I made sure they were really familiar with their classroom furniture and materials by the end of the lesson.


For months, we discussed the importance and why it’s important to take care of our furniture and materials. We even tied it to the topic of recycling and repurposing to cut down on waste. To my surprise, the children really listened and followed our guidance – they worked as a community. They pointed out how they needed trays or poster board to protect the tables when they used drawing or painting tools. They pointed out how they should place containers on the shelves gently so that it doesn’t scratch the surface. They even asked for soap and water when they noticed dirt or dust so that shelves, toys and materials remained clean. We hosted pretend auctions and class furniture sales so that children could help to rearrange and repurpose materials. And parents were excited to bring in items from home that they no longer needed.


Several standards were covered in Science, Social Studies, Math, Language, Personal Social, Physical Development and Emotional Development (I pretended to cry when we auctioned off my favorite basket to my co-teacher… the children were moved by my emotion and so they problem-solved ways to buy it back). Speaking of problem solving, there were several opportunities to work on that skill. The children practiced using their imagination by thinking of ways to use materials creatively and in multiple ways. We looked through magazines, home photos, made comparisons to furniture and materials outside of school that were familiar to us and involved other teachers, staff and parents that wanted to participate. Overall, the lesson helped to build school-wide awareness of how we take care of our home and school environments.


Many of you tie your specific themes or lessons to books and there are several books that you could use with the lesson(s) I just mentioned. I can’t recall all of the books I used with my topic because it was so long ago… but I do remember one. If you’re wanting to help children think about their class physical environment and the materials they use, here are a few books that you can find through Scholastic or Amazon to enhance your children’s experiences on the topic.


  1. This book would allow your children to think about and imagine the type of furniture and appliances they would want in their own house. The children could create a blueprint of how they would want their house to look and function. Provide materials in the block, art, writing and science areas to help them follow their blueprint. Take pictures, create a class book and allow them to share. This book will help you include STEM projects into this lesson. Read over and over again because the story also rhymes


  1. The word I would use to describe this book would be… delightful. You could use this book to share with children the importance of everything in the classroom and how they should be thankful to have a safe, fun and active place to learn each day. Point out how the young child talks about furniture, pets, materials and ask why they think the young child is so happy and appreciative to have these things. Ruth Krauss is the author of The Carrot Seed and Maurice Sendak is the illustrator for Where the Wild Things Are. So the combination of these children book legends will always produce a unique and imaginative child’s perspective.


  1. If you think about it, lots of classic fairy tales involve characters that use furniture or materials in interesting ways. I tied my lesson to familiar fairy tales and I remember one of the books was Goldilocks and the Three Bears – A Tale Moderne by Steven Guarnaccia. This book is very special because it allows you to expose children to art and furniture styles that are displayed in magazines, museums and perhaps their homes. You can even go a step further to expose them to different artists, art styles and colors. Steven also modernized the story of the Three Little Pigs which can be used to expose children to famous architects and architectural styles. It’s fun to introduce new vocabulary words and concepts that they will most likely see again as they continue their schooling.



Children would love to be able to reread and picture-read these books over and over again. Make sure you place them in your book area and revisit activities and class pictures throughout the year. Your class furniture and materials will benefit from your effort to support children as they take care of their classroom as a community.

Written by Tonii Lewis, Assistant Project Director

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Dual Language Learners often arrive in your class with working knowledge of Tier I English words, that is, words commonly used during daily communication. However, their knowledge of Tier II and Tier III English words is often not well developed. You need to intentionally plan to teach words that are typically found in books (Tier II) and those that apply to specific learning domains (Tier III).  Introduce and reinforce vocabulary ways that speak to the child’s culture and experiences.  Many Dual Language Learners have home backgrounds the are collective where the family or group is extremely important.  Think about how this knowledge can shape your classroom teaching.  For example, select an activity from your Teacher Toolbox that encourages learning through meaningful social interactions such as APL1.4c: A Trip to the MoonRead Curious George and the Rocket by H.A. Rey. Select Tier II and Tier III words such as curious, professor, clever, scientists, parachute, brave, launch site, bail and “out of the blue.” Teach these new words and design center activities that reinforce this vocabulary.  Encourage your children to use these words as they plan and implement their own space adventures.  Keep in mind, that the benefits of learning English are enhanced by encouraging Dual Language Learners to use their home language in the classroom.


This is the last of four posts in a series submitted by Linda Snead-Sanders. Browse through previous posts to find other entries about dual language learners!

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The Simultaneous Dual Language Learner

Let’s take a look at a Simultaneous Dual Language Learner, that is, a child who has heard two or more languages since birth.  Yago’s parents speak to him in both Spanish and English.   In this video, Yago is primarily speaking to mom and dad in English however, he readily switches and begins speaking to mom in Spanish.  His parents are fostering his language and learning by intentionally facilitating play using a kitchen set designed and created by mom.  This type of activity encourages problem solving, critical thinking and active learning around daily routine activities.  Take a chapter from this family’s playbook to help Dual Language Learners in your class learn and retain concepts and new vocabulary through child-centered dramatic play activities.


This is the third of four posts in a series submitted by Linda Snead-Sanders. Stay tuned for more on dual language learners!

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