To Flip or Not to Flip? That is the Question!

The Flipped Classroom or Flipped Learning has been a buzzword in education for years. This popular pedagogical model reverses the traditional elements of lesson planning, where listen to the lecture outside of class and complete assignments inside of class. Educators at all grade levels are using this valuable strategy to develop engaging lessons, collaborative learning experiences, and learner-centered environments; however, does this model work for ALL students?

Challenges of Flipping

Think for a moment about the challenges that Flipped Classroom videos create. We may spend hours designing the most engaging and groundbreaking video; however, we may create unintentional learning barriers for hearing impaired students, students with visual impairments, and even students without Internet access.

Here are some basic ways that you can flip your classroom and meet the needs of your students:

Helping Hearing Impaired Students

  • Where you publish your video can make all of the difference. YouTube’s advanced speech recognition features provide automatic closed-captioning on many published videos. Although it is not a perfect solution, it helps students with hearing impairments understand the video.
  • If your school does not permit YouTube, you may want to consider providing students with a transcript of the video. Whether they are hearing impaired or just need to read while listening, this is quickly becoming a popular method in how online courses are developed.


Helping Students without Access to Technology or the Internet

Even in the 21st Century, there are many students who do not have access to the Internet at home for a variety of reasons, such as poverty, religious beliefs, and even parental choice. Here are some ideas to help:

  • Community building is an important part of creating a learning environment. As part of your getting to know you activities, survey students at the beginning of the year if they have technology and Internet access.
  • Rather than alienating the students who do not have technology or Internet access, it may be a good idea to have help ALL students come up with a “back-up” plan if their device breaks, the Internet goes down, or they don’t have access.Help your students find places such as the library, a friend’s home, or a coffee shop.
  • Have a USB flash drive with the video for students who have a computer, but no access to the Internet.
  • Ask parents and students to help create a borrowing library of old devices, such as old cell phones, iPods, etc. If students do not have technology, the can borrow the device and watch the lesson.



Should we scrap this highly popular way of learning? By no means! Instead, we need to direct our attention not to designing experiences that work for students regardless of ability or disability. In other words, we need to look at ways for universally designing the flipped classroom to work for all students. When planning a highly impactful and engaging use of technology, it is important to plan for and address the needs of ALL students.


About Matt:
Matt Bergman is currently a Technology Integration Coach at the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, PA. He is responsible for helping teachers integrate technology into their classrooms, while providing ongoing professional development throughout the school year.  Matt has designed several graduate courses on Universal Design for Learning for teachers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey. He is a member of CAST’s Professional Learning Cadre and recently developed a five-hour online professional development course on UDL for teachers in Florida. Matt has made presentations at Harvard University, ISTE, Towson University, and Clarion University. For more ideas or questions, please feel free to check out his blog, follow him on Twitter @mattbergman14, or contact him at

Get Ready To Read Across America!


Parents and teachers will join forces on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 for Read Across America Day, which is not coincidentally the birthday of Dr. Seuss.  Dr. Seuss is known for writing beloved children’s books such as “Cat in the Hat” and “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”

The celebration in some schools may last a week, and others may recognize, March 2nd, in honor of Theodore Seuss Geisel with the goal to promote reading through classroom activities and special visitors. This celebration is a wonderful opportunity for children to see how reading can be fun.

There are numerous ways to promote this week.  As a building reading specialist I have coordinated many celebrations for the past 16 years.  Here are our top 10 favorites:

  1.  Invite community members in to read to classes.  Students especially love police officers, firefighters, parents.
  2. Ask local television celebrities in to read.  Many local television anchors are willing and happy to read aloud to a grade level or even an entire school.  On several occasions the visits have been filmed and aired on the local news which was very exciting for the students.
  3. Contact a local sports figure (or mascot) to join the fun.  Locally, our Pittsburgh Pirate Parrot visited many times.  Although the mascot can not read, the read aloud becomes a lot of fun when the mascot is acting out a book such as “Casey at Bat” being read by a principal, teacher or Superintendent!
  4. Reach out to a local bookstore.  Barnes and Noble is one example of a bookstore that may offer a promotional deal to schools that will afford districts a chance to invite a popular author in to read at a discounted price.
  5. Bring the world to your school for free.  Visitors can join students remotely through a long distance connection.  Skype in the Classroom has been a tool I have used for many years and have met many wonderful authors who have connected for free or for a minimal fee.
  6. Have a Dr. Seuss Riddle Challenge.  A daily riddle is created by a  group of students and then read on the morning announcements.  All riddles pertain to a Dr. Seuss book that classes must solve within the hour.  Winners are announced on a daily basis and the class with the most points by the end of the week wins a small popcorn and movie party.
  7. Create whimsical Seuss-like art to be displayed throughout the halls.
  8. Have a door decorating contest.  Judges could be principals, art teacher and board members.
  9. Reach out to a local shelter to see if they have an outreach program.  Handlers and their dogs visit individual classes and read stories to students.  Students not only strengthen their listening and comprehension skills, but learn valuable information about how to interact with our furry friends.
  10. Have a reading challenge.  Motivate children to read more with a book challenge.  When the school meets the goal a reward will be earned.  Display a large thermometer poster in the lobby of your school to see the progress being made.

Reading is a fundamental skill for children and NEA’s Read Across America helps children discover their potential. So let’s join forces and work toward the goal of creating a nation of readers and don’t forget to take the pledge! Reader’s Oath

Additional links that will help you to plan a great event:

Background on Read Across America

Seussgestions for a Great Event!

NEA’s Read Across America

The Mailbox Read Across America Ideas

Has Reading Gone to the Dogs?

Research indicates the presence of dogs lowers people’s blood pressure while interacting with a dog. The September 2002 issue of the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine  research demonstrates “that pets can buffer reactions to acute stress as well as reduce the perception of stress.” One reason this holds true is because animals are not perceived as judgmental.

Common characteristics of struggling readers include not wanting to read outside of school and reading to “get done”.  Children are aware of their limitations and feel judged by classmates. The use of four legged friends and their handlers has been proven to be a purposeful way to overcome these hurdles.  Visits offer children a non-judgmental and supportive environment that helps make reading fun. The relationship associated with reading and dogs becomes memorable.

How does it work? Partner with local shelters that host outreach  programs. Sessions may take place during the school day, weekends at your local library or as an after-school program.

Who can participate? Classroom teachers can request a visit for their class or reading specialists can invite Rover and their handler in for their students.

How long are the visits? Visits are approximately 30-45 minutes.  Frequency of the visits are determined by the availability of handlers and the preference of the teacher.

Why? Canine assisted literacy programs develop fluency and comprehension skills and can also have therapeutic value. Students will begin to willingly reread books at home to prepare for a visit from Rover. The time spent reading new books or rereading familiar books will help build reading skills.  When Rover visits, children are excited and motivated to share their stories with their visitor.

What books can be used?  The implementation of a visit from Rover is twofold.  First, it helps children to participate in a calm, fun reading time.  Second, it is an opportunity to introduce books that will teach proper care and treatment of animals.  There are many wonderful books that are appropriate for younger children that lend themselves to meaningful discussions about taking care of a pet.  The Animal Welfare Institute site offers free publications to teachers.

Where to begin? 

  1.  Contact a local shelter to inquire about therapy dogs/handlers that visit schools.
  2. Send home permission slips for parents.  Let them know about the visits and make certain they are comfortable with their child interacting with a dog.  (*Note:  Participating shelters will most likely require a signed permission slip.  It is always a good idea to include a parent letter explaining the visitors and their dogs have been trained to work with children.)
  3. Announce the visit to your students! Ask students to prepare for the upcoming visit by working on their reading at home.
  4. The day of the visit have your students read a book aloud to Rover and the handler.  Following your students read aloud time, the handler can share a story about dogs or join the group and read a story to your students. It is normally a very relaxed visit so students should be ready to sit in a circle on the floor.  Following the reading allow time for a meaningful conversation about how to take care of a pet and time to interact with the visiting dog.

Looking for some free resources, visit:  Free Publications.  Pablo Puppy’s Search for the Perfect Person and Kamie Cat’s Terrible Night are two favorites.  Also the Gryphon Press has a huge selection of educational books that can be purchased.  Many of which are award winners.  One of my favorites is Buddy Unchained, by Daisy Bix. Gryphon Press

The day of the visit students will feel special and will certainly bring home many wonderful stories about the visit.  Students will begin to gain confidence in their reading ability and even make a few new friends along the way!



Steaming for a Cause!

S.T.E.A.M is an educational term that refers to a means of teaching students how all things relate to one another, in school and in the real world.  The acronym S.T.E.A.M stands for:  Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. STEAM becomes a more engaging approach to learning for students because the learning is based on exploring and investigating. “S.T.E.A.M for a Cause” has proven to be a worthwhile challenge for our students.

“Steam for a Cause” offers students a chance to engage in lessons that not only incorporate science, technology, art, and math, but also seek ways to help make the world a better place. Learning to help others is a valuable skill for building strong friendships.  When children begin to see how everyone’s actions connect and effect the world, change is possible.  Books are always a good starting point and a few of my favorites are Stand in My Shoes, Kids Learning About Empathy by Bob Sornson , Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. and Dolphin Tale the Jr. Novel by Gabrielle Reyes.


Students’ learning can be pushed to a new level of complexity without the same level of stress that would be associated with a traditional classroom environment. Students begin to ask the natural questions of who, what, where and why without prompting.  With the correct activities, students will begin to volunteer their free time to work on projects that connect to the real world.  With careful consideration these same activities can open their eyes to how they can positively impact the world.

My first encounter with this type of teaching was brought to my attention while on a family vacation in Marco Island, Florida on the Dolphin Explorer Boat in 2011.  As my family and I were enjoying the scenic ride aboard the Explorer, the naturalist shared valuable information about the dolphins, manatees, birds of prey and mangrove forests.  It came to my attention the team of experts would be using Skype to connect with students around the nation.  An experience that  has changed my perspective of what teaching should truly embrace.  To gain a complete understanding of the program and how it turned out to be an experience of a lifetime,  visit the following links:

A Walk on the Beach

Saving Seymour the Dolphin

Seymour the TV Star

It’s Elementary My Dear Seymour- Sea Rescue

What I learned very quickly was that when learning connects to the real-world students will become active participants in their learning.  A goal I strive to achieve on a regular basis since my students showed me the way to “help to save a dolphin” all the way from Pittsburgh, PA.

A few of my students’ favorite S.T.E.A.M  activities include:

  1.  City of Bridges– Students read books such as Seymour Simon’s, Bridges.  Simon’s book incorporates interesting facts about the more than half-million bridges in North America and how they impact our travel. After learning about how bridges connect us to the world students then have a chance to build a bridge made from toothpicks, gumdrops or K’Nex.  (There are many more options but these are some of the materials my students worked with and found successful).  The topic of bridges lends itself to bodies of water and how the environment is effected by litter and pollution.
  2. Impact of Oil Spills– Students take part in a mock oil spill experiment and the challenges in saving the environment and wildlife.  A meaningful conversation about how  pollution can effect our health and safety concludes the experiment. A great link that offers free lessons to carry out this experiment can be found at Alaska Oil Spill Curriculum.  Prince William Sound by Gloria Rand and Oil Spill by Melvin Berger perfectly and would act as a wonderful introduction.Prince William
  3. Pillowcase Dresses– Students can learn about measurement and sewing and contribute to a worthy cause.  Visit the following link to learn more: Little Dresses for Africalogo
  4. Shoebox Recycling- Students initiate a shoe recycling project and learn about the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling in the process.  Also, all money earned can be donated to a favorite charity.  Visit Shoe Box recycling to learn more. Favorite books that connect with this lesson:  A Bag in the Wind by Ted Kooser and George Saves the Day by Lunchtime by Jo Readman.

Product Details       

These are just a few of our favorites.  The art portion of the projects usually lend themselves to the creation of environmental posters to hang throughout the school or using recycled materials to create artwork.

There are so many valuable lessons to investigate that will help to foster a love of learning, much more than any worksheet or website can offer.  I am certain there will not be another opportunity to share with the nation what my students and  I are doing in class, but I will definitely continue searching  for lessons that will prompt students to look more closely at the world.  By presenting opportunities for students to take a closer look at real-world problems we are preparing our students for their future.


Making Reading Real!

Avid readers realize how a great book can transport you to another world. Elementary age students can gain approximately 3,000 new words per year. Unfortunately struggling readers do not make those same gains and are faced with the ongoing struggle of catching up to their peers.

We have all asked the same question. What can I do as a teacher to make a difference? Research based strategies are the first step. Students must be exposed to daily interventions which include: word building, sight words, encoding, decoding and fluency. In addition, students should be afforded opportunities to read leveled books that are engaging, high-interest and on their independent reading level. I have found the following  to be helpful:

1. Listen to the experts. Making Sense of Phonics by Isabel Beck is a wonderful resource for all. The book offers insight as to the research behind reading and links teachers to prepared activities.

2. Build a leveled library. Pioneer Valley Books has many collections that include a variety of genres and themes.

3. Offer students activities they perceive as breaks, but are cleverly incorporating reading skills within the instructional time. A few rewards I have found to be purposeful are Education City, Starfall and ABC Mouse.

4. Be Consistent, Keep lessons structured and predictable. The routine helps students to focus their attention on the reading.

5. Don’t be afraid to challenge your struggling readers. Picture books are a favorite of most students because of the colorful pictures that support their reading. Emerging readers feel safe when presented with a picture book, but it is our job to strategically nudge students outside of their comfort zone. Novels allow students to dig deeper into their comprehension. With appropriate support, students can read grade level novels that challenge their abilities in a safe setting. These opportunities allow students to feel a sense of accomplishment and realize how much fun it is to be a part of a “book club”. 

6. Keep Parents Informed! Using technology such as Remind allows teachers to share messages with parents throughout the day or on a scheduled basis. Good news notices can be sent to congratulate a child on extra effort. A free and interesting site is Wonderopolis! Children can explore wonders and submit their wonders to the site to be answered too. 

7. Connect with the world. Through the use of Skype technology students can connect with other classrooms around the world. Renowned teacher, Pernille Ripp created the Global Read Aloud in 2010 and her 6 week project continues to be a motivation to teachers all over the world. Sign-up for the 2016 project at:

Maintaining effective practices for struggling readers is a necessary component, but motivation to read is also key in making a change. Make books readily accessible, high-interest and connect reading to the real-world when possible.

If we were making widgets…

There aren’t too many professions where the raw material a person works with is unique in every circumstance. It makes the process of creating an end product unwieldy, unreliable, unstable. It is inefficient to use unique and heterogeneous raw materials. In short, it is against every model of business practice known around the world.

Enter education, public, private, charter – any at all.

A teacher is expected to take the person that walks in the room, and bring all of the other young people in the room on a journey where they all reach a high-end result. It doesn’t seem to matter to the pundits whether the “raw material” being supplied is high-grade, low-grade or nonexistent. Somehow, teachers should be held accountable for the quality of the material being supplied to produce the end product.

It also doesn’t seem to matter to the pundits that there are external forces that weigh on students that have impact in the classroom.

No, none of that makes for good media.

So, as I teach my college Career Development course for future school counselors late into the night, as every piece of academic literature seems to consistently remind us to take account of the myriad contextual variables that all inform a person’s decisions every single day, I am reminded of one thing: Education is personal. What I am willing to put into it is defined by where I came from, what tools, both physical and mental I have been provided to work with, whether anyone fed me breakfast or not or if there was anything to eat, what’s it going to be like when I get home, how long will I be home alone, are my clothes clean, do I need to pick up and watch my sister, are the water or lights going to turn off?

Many have some of these or other burdens they carry throughout the school day, and some have none of these. And you, teacher, counselor, principal, custodian, cafeteria staff, receptionists, school data managers, teaching assistants, bus drivers, media center specialists, you work everyday to take an inconsistent set of variables and hopefully add them to at least 13. Hopefully, without any repeat or retention, but trying nonetheless.

June comes soon, to soon for some to pull it together. But you, there is a student who needs someone just like you to realize the variables can add up.

Is Homework Necessary In Elementary School?

Elementary school kids have a full plate these days. Between school and extracurricular activities, the last thing they want to do when they get home is hours of homework. But is homework even necessary at all? Does it help our students improve their academic performance?

If you look back at the history of homework, in the early 1900’s homework was nonexistent. This was because children often helped their families with important chores like tending to farms, animals, etc. Fast forward to the 1950’s when there was pressure for the United States to keep up with Russia in the Space Race and the thought was that students were falling behind the Russian students. Teachers began to assign homework to their students. In the 1980’s there is a feeling that American education is just mediocre and in the 1990’s the majority of educators and the general public are in favor of homework.

A study was done in 2006 by Duke researcher Harris Cooper concluded that homework does have a positive effect on student achievement with a much stronger correlation in for those in middle school rather than elementary school. But, too much homework can be counter-productive for students in all grades. Cooper said the research is consistent with the “10-minute rule” suggesting the optimum amount of homework that teachers ought to assign. The “10-minute rule,” Cooper said, is a commonly accepted practice in which teachers add 10 minutes of homework as students progress one grade. In other words, a fourth-grader would be assigned 40 minutes of homework a night, while a high school senior would be assigned about two hours. For upper high school students, after about two hours’ worth, more homework was not associated with higher achievement. The authors suggest many reasons for why older students benefit from homework than younger students. Elementary teachers may assign homework to establish study skills.
“Kids burn out,” Cooper said. “The bottom line really is all kids should be doing homework, but the amount and type should vary according to their developmental level and home circumstances. Homework for young students should be short, lead to success without much struggle, occasionally involve parents and, when possible, use out-of-school activities that kids enjoy, such as their sports teams or high-interest reading.”

There needs to be conversations in elementary schools about what kind, how much, and the importance of the homework teachers are assigning. Teachers need to collaborate, especially if there is a departmentalized model taking place throughout the grade levels, to ensure too much homework is not given.

Cooper, H. 2006. Homework Helps Students Succeed in School As Long As It’s Not Too Much.

Preparing for the Inevitable: 10 things you should always have available for a substitute

I wrote in a previous post (Substitute Survival Guide) about my recent return to the classroom as a substitute teacher and I offered some advice for my colleagues who teach on an ad hoc basis. This post offers the flip side – what you can do as a classroom teacher to make life easy on your sub and your students.

There’s no one who can run your classroom as well as you. From the carefully organized bookshelf to the exact location of your favorite stapler upon your desk, everything has a place and purpose. You have the flow of the day calculated down to the minute, making sure everything is accomplished with enough time to fully explain the homework and wrap up the lesson. Even the climate and ambience of the classroom has been carefully cultivated. Perhaps it’s this personal attachment and investment with our classrooms that makes it so hard for teachers to allow someone to step in and take over – whether it’s for an afternoon dentist appointment or a 6-week parental leave. I hated calling off sick when I was a classroom teacher. Even more than the unplanned absences that come about from illness or emergencies, I would stress over writing down each detail for a upcoming day off for PD or an appointment. Sometimes, it feels like more work to prep for a sub than to just go to work!

Whether you leave your sub a well-detailed novel about what should happen in the course of a day, or you scribble, “Students should continue yesterday’s assignment – they know what to do” on a post-it (I’ve encountered a number of variations of both!), here’s a quick list of 10 things you can prepare ahead of time and have accessible for when a substitute comes to your classroom:

  1. Class rosters: Are all of these students supposed to be here? Who is missing?
  2. Schedule: When does that bell ring? What subject should you be teaching at that time? Most importantly, when is lunch!?!
  3. Homeroom Responsibilities: In addition to taking attendance, do you need to do anything else like collect lunch money or monitor the dress code?
  4. Supervisory Responsibilities: Do you have lunch, recess, hallway, or dismissal duty? If so, what does that entail?
  5. Lesson Plans: What are you supposed to be covering today?
  6. Emergency Procedures: What do you take with you for a fire drill? Where do you go?
  7. Behavioral Procedures: How do you handle misbehavior? Is there a system in place that you should follow?
  8. IEP / Special Education Information: Don’t violate FERPA, but who needs accommodations?
  9. Go-To People: What teacher nearby can help, or who do you approach in the office if you need help? Which students can you trust to give help?
  10. Support Staff: Is there anyone who pushes into the classroom for help? What is their role?

If you feel overwhelmed with the idea of creating a substitute resource file from scratch, there are a ton of planners, binder templates, and documents that you can download from the Internet to help you plan these items in an organized fashion. Here’s one that I created and offer for free download. Whatever you choose to use, make sure that this information is accessible – it’s really frustrating to wing it through the day, only to find the sub-binder on a shelf in the back of the room or the lesson plans on the floor under the desk where they were knocked off by the janitorial staff!

Once you have all of this work taken care of, don’t forget to take some vitamin C, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly so that you can use less sick days and just let that newly created sub-binder collect some dust!

Substitute Survival Guide


While I’ve been active in the education profession as a writer, consultant, and trainer for the past 6 years, I haven’t actually held a classroom teaching position in that time. Recently, I decided to avoid being disconnected from the classroom by taking up a position as a substitute teacher. In the midst of all the chaos – classrooms without plans, students trying to take advantage you, or getting called for a shift 15 minutes before the school day starts – I do really love subbing. I learn more about connecting with students, lesson delivery, and classroom management in a day or two of subbing than hours logged in university education or professional development. For those of you who share in this role as a substitute teacher, whether on-call daily or in a long-term position, here’s my top five tips for surviving subbing.


  1. Don’t undervalue your role. I get asked by students, “Why aren’t you a real teacher?” I usually reply with dramatically feigned surprise, “This isn’t real?!?” Subbing is seen as the bottom of the totem pole for education careers. There’s a mindset that if a substitute is below retirement age, then obviously they have this job because they just couldn’t land a full time job. Anyone over retirement age is just filling in for nostalgia’s sake or to cure boredom. Regardless of your reasons for subbing, you have a really important job. You need to provide stability in an unstable situation. Teachers need to be out of the classroom due to illness, professional development, family needs, or even for a vacation (yes, those a real!). You need to hold down the fort. Like a soldier taking over the post, you are responsible for this group of students – even if it’s for just a few hours. You are not “only a sub.” You are the superhero swooping in to hold back the chaos of routine disruption.
  2. Build relationships. Sure, you might just be a day-to-day sub in a different classroom, building, or even district each day of the week, but it’s still critical to connect with people (children and adults) everywhere you go. Every time you walk through the halls of a school, smile and greet people. You’ll find it makes your day generally more enjoyable. If you re in an elementary building, also make an attempt to get to know all of the “specials” teachers because chances are you will see at least one of them each time you work. Build a relationship with the building secretary; this is the person whom you see first and last each day. They wield an awful lot of power and act as the glue pulling everyone else together. Finally, try to get to know the children. Try to learn their names. Let them know you care. Too many children have adults come in and out of their lives and they never feel valued. In a class period, or over the course of a day show them how important they are.
  3. Observe to learn. Look around the classroom and the building. You can learn a lot about the school culture and classroom social environment by taking a few minutes to just look around. Don’t go through cupboards or desks in a snooping, invasive sense – but even a superficial evaluation could be enough. See what teachers are doing that works. Do you like a center strategy, library arrangement, job chart, or seating plan? Jot it down, or take a photo (but do NOT photograph students or their likenesses). Write down materials you like and consider writing a note to the teacher to ask where materials were purchased. If you are familiar with the school and are a frequent visitor, you can even ask to borrow a book or resource. Learn from each room that you are a guest in.
  4. Try it all. Go through your Pinterest board, web bookmarks, favorite blogs, or dog eared book pages and give a try to behavior modifications, bell-ringer activities, popcorn reading strategies, review games, transition ideas, and time fillers. Each day, you get a new set of students to be your guinea pigs for pedagogical experimentation. Keep a log book or chart noting the strategy you tried, the age level of the children, and pros/cons of your facilitation. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you come to learn what works well for you. This trial and error process can be critical research as you reaffirm your personal philosophy of education. You will know what you believe in because you have not only tried it with success, you know that it is better than other strategies that have failed for you.
  5. Keep a bag of tricks. What’s in my bag? Multiples copies of a daily evaluation sheet that I leave for teachers. (I use this Teachers Pay Teachers freebie: I also keep stickers, a smiley face stamp and scented ink pad, pencils, erasers, and a box of crayons to share with students. The placement company I work for forbids giving food to students (it’s a liability given food sensitives, allergies, and dietary restrictions) but I know many other substitutes who keep crackers, pretzels, or small candies in their bag as well. For my own use, I also have hand sanitizer, tissues, cough drops, a granola bar, and a notebook. I also usually throw in a book to keep me occupied if I have a long lunch or planning period (those are the days to live for!).


Hopefully these tips can help my fellow substitutes embrace their role and arrive prepared to create a great day of learning for students!

With the holidays upon us…

First, let me extend greetings and warm wishes for you and your family during both this holiday season and for the year.

Second, let me ask you to consider the message you send through the holiday season in your classroom, your office or your building.

You have constraints, certainly, imposed by your governing body (district, building admin, etc.), but within the constraints of your seasonal celebrations, what messages are you conveying to students? To parents? To the community at large? While you are thinking about that, let me run down another trail for a moment.

My family celebrates Christmas. The operational possession there is “my family”. It is not my Christmas. I didn’t make it. I don’t own it. The traditions I had with my parents are certainly a part of my celebration today, but there are definitely differences.

No one owns the holidays. There’s a lot of hostility that exists because people have stopped wishing each other an exclusive holiday, and have gone for the more global “Happy Holidays”. Personally, I want to be inclusive. I’m not looking to rob anyone of their celebration of Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or the Prophet’s Birthday or Cyber Monday or Wright Brothers Day. I hope you, and everyone else, to has a great and relaxing holiday, and I’m not interested in wishing you the incorrect holiday for what you choose to celebrate. And if you decide to wish me a happy holiday, feel free to wish me good tidings for the holiday you celebrate, because if you wish me a Happy Chanukah, I know you are sending kind regards.

So as you get ready to celebrate, and even as you begin to remove some decorations late next week, think about how wide you are casting your net to spread tidings of comfort and joy. Hopefully, all of your students feel their celebrations are worthy of sharing with others, particularly if they include peace on earth and good will to all.