The Finish is Just the Beginning


Fuse16 Conclusion

Bo Adams and his crew wrapped up an intense 3-day conference of Design Thinking at MVIFI.  As I completed this conference, I realized that I had just begun a journey of change.

If I wanted to bring design thinking into my classroom, I needed to change how I looked at my students and their abilities to address real-world issues.  I needed to change my ‘pre-packaged’ lesson plans and identify current events that would teach my students the real skills they needed for the future.

As I begin my journey, I recognize the ‘tool box’ of skills I acquired during this 3-day conference.  I can’t wait to use them!


Learning By Design


Fuse16 Group


We are on Day 2 of the Fuse16 conference, and I continue to have a great time as a student while I learn the “Discover-Empathize-Experiment-Produce” (DEEP) process.  In order to apply this learning, we work with local organizations that wish to make changes to sustain growth.

I have the honor to work with a local non-profit organization, Love Beyond Walls. According to their website,  “we exist to raise awareness of societal needs through technology and storytelling, and mobilize people to take part in it.” And they are good at it – really good at it -so we are helping them design a future to manage their rapid growth.

Fuse16 Spark Activity After Lunch

And we had fun with it.  This is what I want for, and with, my students.  I really appreciate the challenges and rewards of this approach to learning, and plan to design my curriculum using this strategy.

Infusing Design Into My Thinking


I have the opportunity to be a student for 3 days while I attend the Fuse16 conference at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School (MVPS).  My first experience was working through a full cycle of DEEPdt during the DT101 Lab.

This was a hands-on experience where we DID the stages of design thinking: Discover, Empathize, Experience and Produce (DEEP).  I was totally engaged because it was not a lecture explaining the process – I was actually designing something!  The morning finished with a panel discussion with educators and students at MVPS to answer questions we had about bringing this process back to our classroom.

Fuse16 Panel

I look forward to learning more about design thinking, as this is a powerful way for students to BE designers.  Just like project-based learning (PBL), students will have the chance to “own” their own learning.

How the Maker Movement Makes Sense


Yesterday I got to ‘play’ in Studio(i), the new space in our school for the Maker Movement, and I had so much fun!  Along with other teachers, we were introduced to Silhouette Studio software and a vinyl printing machine to make stickers.  While I had problems printing mine, here is a picture of it:

Vinyl Sticker Maker Movement

This experience gave me a better appreciation of the ‘Maker Movement’, a creative learning revolution that is impacting our world of education.  Not that I was skeptical of it, this just helped me experience the ownership of “learning by doing”.

Every teacher wants their students to ‘own’ their own learning.  I have seen that a prepackaged lesson plan can deprive students of engaging on the level of ‘doing’ during a Making Experience. There is a saying in the Maker Movement that says it all: “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it” (Source:  “How the Maker Movement is Transforming Education” by

Yesterday I “owned” my own learning and developed some new skills.  I had a great experience, and I look forward to more of these alongside my students.  I can see I have a LOT to learn, but with a growth mindset, we will all develop the right skills for the future.



Teaching for the Future


Every teacher wants to make a difference in their students’ lives.  We do this by helping students develop skills they can use in the future.  However, these are constantly evolving, especially with the advent of the Internet in the classroom.  How do I know what to teach my Grade 6 students to prepare them?  I reflect on this idea because of a recent study published by ACT, an independent, nonprofit organization that provides services in education and workforce development.

The study, “ACT National Curriculum Survey 2016, Education and Work In a Time of Change“, has multiple findings, but the one that caught my attention is that we are not preparing our students for the workplace.  The study indicates that ‘nonacademic’ skills are falling short of expectations.  Specifically, “conscientiousness, problem solving, critical thinking, understanding the ethical use of information, and speaking/listening ” are needing further development.

I think the implementation of Project-Based Learning (PBL) will address these issues. While I am a ‘rookie’ in this process of integrating PBL into my curriculum, I can already see that it focuses on the development of important ‘nonacademic’ skills.  Our school has already focused on building important growth mindsets in our students, and PBL will go even further in the development of the 4C’s:  Collaboration, Creativity, Communication, and Critical Thinking.

I want my students to have the skills in order to be successful.  I think our classrooms need to continue to evolve to ensure that school prepares them for the future.






As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  These words were spoken by John F. Kennedy for the Thanksgiving season in 1963. . . sadly, we lost this amazing leader shortly after this speech.

My goal is to ‘live by my feelings of gratitude” in my daily life.  I am grateful for the leaders at our school as they navigate the changes in education.  I also appreciate the talented team of teachers that encourage me in my journey to be the best teacher I can be. And I am grateful for my family and friends who provide the support I need to give this my very best.

And, finally, I am grateful for my students.  As I write ‘thank you notes’ for their end-of-year teacher gifts, I smile at their thoughtfulness in selecting items that show they care; Starbucks gift cards for my daily coffee habit or Barnes & Nobles gift cards because they enjoyed the classroom library.  But, more than anything, I thank them for their contribution to my classroom and sharing their passion for great books and authors that made us better.



What Do Summers Mean to Teachers?


The summer months are here in Atlanta, which means high temperatures and lots of air conditioning.  It also means a summer break from school during the months of June and July.  (Note:  I still wonder what happened to the month of August for the summer break?)

Either way, teachers love this time – it is an annual “sabbatical” from the classroom.  The word sabbatical, which can be a noun or an adjective, comes from the Greek word sabatikos, which means “of the Sabbath,” the day of rest (Source:  The summer offers teachers, and students, a time of rest.  What you do with it says a lot about you.

Since I became a teacher in 2006, the summers offered a special time with family and friends.  Yet it also provided me with a time of rest from classroom activities.  I love my classroom and I love my students, but the school year does not afford me enough time to REFLECT, a key component of good teaching!

So my summers provide me with some time to reflect on my purpose and meaning. Summers are the meaningful pursuit of new initiatives in my Literature curriculum.  Last summer I purposely revamped my independent reading program and built a classroom library from books found in garage sales and used book stores.

This year, I am going to purposely re-design my curriculum with Project-Based Learning (PBL) in order to provide more meaning to my lessons.  According to Buck Institute for Education (BIE),the 21st century workplace and in college, success requires more than basic knowledge and skills.  In a project, students learn how to take initiative and responsibility, build their confidence, solve problems, work in teams, communicate ideas, and manage themselves more effectively.”  These sound like the skills I want for my students.

So my summer will involve the infusing of meaning and purpose in my classroom.  I am excited about the possibilities of PBL along with the design-thinking and maker movements which are embraced at our school.  Who knows what PBL will do for the teachers and students?


The Psychology of Learning


I want to teach my dog some new tricks. Nothing fancy, just some new behaviors that will make our lives better, such as improved interactions with other dogs or leaving paper on the ground without shredding it!  As I teach her these new behaviors, I see how motivation plays a key role in her learning.

According to the article “How Motivation Affects Learning and Behavior” in Educational Psychology (2008), “motivation is something that energizes, directs, and sustains behavior; it gets students moving, points them in a particular direction, and keeps them going.” While my student is a dog in this case, the theory still applies.  I know Belle will be motivated to learn these new behaviors with food (always) as well as positive reinforcement and consistency.

This applies to my students in the classroom as well; identifying the motivators in learning impacts how understanding is acquired or changed and knowledge and skills are retained.  I think our new initiative with the Project-Based Learning (PBL) approach will provide important motivators in my lessons by “engaging students by starting with the concrete and solving hands-on, real-world problems . . .” (Edutopia, June 9 2016).

So, I will continue to work with my dog this summer and identify what motivates her to learn.  And this summer I will also integrate the PBL approach in my lessons for the upcoming year by focusing on ‘real world problems’ to energize my students and keep them going in the right direction.  All of us can learn new tricks, right?




Making Connections


I am reflecting on my lesson plans for the upcoming year, and I always want to improve on them to make better connections with my students.  I begin my year with the classic book, The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton because this is required summer reading. For those who actually read the book, we make connections because it touches on their sense of identity and every student has a story about being an outsider.

Last year, we had ‘Character Day’ and students could dress up as their favorite character.  I  was impressed with one student’s approach to being a Greaser (and how much he loved his cat 🙂

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 8.18.05 PM

As this picture reveals, students relate to the Greasers, not the Socs, because they are the ones who are misunderstood and disenfranchised.  Everyone has experienced these feelings so we can all make connections with each other. So, this unit helps me expand awareness that all people have common life experiences both positive and negative, which promotes empathy in the classroom.  A powerful way to begin the year and I am looking forward to improving on this through authentic experiences.

Gardening is a Work of Art


I love to play in the dirt.  It takes me outdoors to enjoy nature, and I love the rewards of blooming flowers and strategically-placed plants.  It is pleasing to the eye, and I see it as a creative work of art.

One aspect of my garden involves ‘landscape painting’ – I see my garden as a canvas on which I draw an outline of pleasing shapes to be colored with shrubs and flowers. Another aspect of my garden involves ‘landscape architecture’ where some elements are joined together to create pleasing paths, spaces and shapes.

Gardening Blog 2

Whether I am a painter or an architect doesn’t matter; what matters is that I love the process of creating something new that did not exist before.  I find new discoveries every day as I walk the gardens with my coffee in the morning, listening to birds and watching the butterflies.  And I am rewarded with the thought that I created this, and it makes me happy.