La Bamba, or the Things I’ve Learned from Watching Movies in Class

One of the love-hate elements of substitute teaching at the high school level is that the classroom teacher often leaves films for subs to watch with students.  

In my opinion, leaving movies as the lesson plan doesn’t reflect especially well on the classroom teacher because it often communicates one of two things.  Either the teacher views the substitute as incompetent and incapable of moving learning forward, or the teacher was caught without emergency lesson plans when he or she came down with the winter cold.  The exception is highly specialized classes such as band, choir, or theater.

One such day, Continue reading


Favorite Subbing Stories (Part 1)

I could probably do a whole blog devoted entirely to subbing stories. This morning as I walked around the neighborhood with my daughter, I was reflecting on all my crazy teaching experience.  I have now had my license for seven years, and I have more years of subbing than actual full-time teaching under my belt.  And that’s okay; the system needs good reliable subs who can handle the crazy, the ridiculous, and the stupid.

As I pondered this, I was reminded of all the fabulous stories I’ve collected in classrooms over those years.  And I decided they simply must be shared. Continue reading

Book Recap: Drive by Daniel Pink


Although Daniel Pink’s revolutionary book Drive primarily addresses businesses, the concepts are extremely applicable to education.  The book explains the psychology behind human motivation and work. This is probably the most transformative professional development book I’ve read since Teach Like a Champion. And I read it for fun, which is fitting 🙂

When considering my teaching and grading style (small groups and grades based regularly on participation), the concepts in Drive are alternately mind-blowing and completely obvious.  I have always known that something had gone deeply awry in the grading of 6-12 grade students, but I could never quite put my finger on it.  Daniel Pink and his research nailed it. Continue reading

A Word on Substitute Teaching

I once read a Facebook comment on the wall of an acquaintance who teaches P.E. and was planning for an absence.  Her coworker essentially told her to “Just give them a movie. They’re just a sub.”  I was flabbergasted. And thoroughly offended.  So, let me set the record straight.

Substitutes are an indispensable support beam in the education world. Schools and classrooms literally could not Continue reading

In Which I Give a Graduation Speech

To the families, friends, and students of the North Clackamas Christian School Class of 2016:

I am so honored to be here this evening to celebrate such a diverse collection of individuals that meld together so delightfully.

We have shared some special years in each others’ lives.  I saw you through high school and you saw me through pregnancy, which, between the mood swings, illness, and sleeping patterns, are basically the same thing.  Let’s be honest.

I subbed for you your first trimester freshman year and Continue reading

Six Needs of Teachers as Professionals

Teachers are an integral part of the education system.  However, it seems that their needs as professionals often go unacknowledged.  If students are to succeed, then we must support our teachers.  Every year we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week.  The Starbucks gift cards and cutsy mugs are nice, but they aren’t what’s needed to keep teachers in the classroom and truly encouraged at the core.  Teaching is hard; it is emotionally and mentally draining.  But there is so much that Continue reading

The Purpose of Education

What is the purpose of education?  This is such a basic question. Such a duh question.  And yet, it seems so utterly neglected as all levels of education leadership in the United States either run around fighting fires or giving haphazard directives based on minute elements of the education experience.  All organizations need a mission statement and a framework to keep them focused.  Public education is no exception. And so, we must answer this very basic question. First. Now.  Before we do anything else.

The purpose of education Continue reading

The Overarching Flaw

Though it might give me more official credibility, I don’t really have a desire to go back to school myself to get a higher degree in education.  I prefer to spend my time with students in a classroom setting.  I am much happier there.

However, my varied experience in the classroom has highlighted so many ways our education system could grow and improve.  We all know the system is flawed.  One of the biggest flaws, and nearly every teacher would probably agree, is that we keep trying to fix the problem from the top down.  This is not necessarily a bad thing; Continue reading