be a risk-taker.

I recently talked to one of my mentors — someone who I really respect — who posed a challenging question to me: how are you utilizing innovation in your classroom? I talked to her about blogging and how I wanted my kids to start using it, and before I could even start my laundry list of excuses as to why they haven’t started yet, she goes, “so why haven’t they started it?”

Boom. Roasted.

I explained that I really wasn’t comfortable starting to use it with them until my perfectionistic side knew they had a solid handle on how to blog. In other words, I wasn’t going to let them make mistakes, which is the opposite of what I tell them all the time:

  • “Making mistakes is part of learning!”
  • “If we make mistakes, it’s fine! You’ll actually remember the information better that way.”
  • “It’s safe to make mistakes in our classroom, guys.”

– Miss Brown, to her sixth graders

But I’m contradicting myself by not giving them the opportunities to even try to fail. I’m robbing them of authentic learning experiences by virtue of trying to protect them. So you know what? We’re going to blog next week. And we’re going to play around with Apple Clips to create visual displays for upcoming projects (poetry, maybe? book club presentations? guess we’ll find out!).

As for me? Well, here I am, one year after my last post, posting again. Initially, I had thought, “I can’t pick that back up, how could I? It’s been a year…how ridiculous would that look?” But I’m going to, because, why not? And what kind of an example am I if I tell my kids it’s okay to make mistakes, but I won’t allow myself to make them? #therapy

Part of innovation is making mistakes and allowing yourself to grow from them. It doesn’t mean doing it perfectly the first time. It doesn’t mean doing it perfectly the twelfth, twentieth, or sixty-first time. It means doing it. Period. Reflecting and tweaking, always. Innovation isn’t perfect, and it shouldn’t be.

Comment below: how are you using innovation in your classroom?

be engaged.

…and I don’t mean of the #alwaysabridesmaid variety.

I just signed up for iEngage Berwyn! This Saturday, I will be lucky enough to learn from and alongside my coworkers, friends, and mentors. Having not been able to attend iEngage in the past two years, I am thrilled to be able to go this year. What a privilege to work for a district where we are able to host speakers who encourage venturing outside of our comfort zones as teachers. I know that personally, I’m constantly seeking to improve myself as a teacher and do more for my kids, regardless of whether that incorporates technology or not. Part of being a top-notch educator requires looking for those ways in which we can better our relationships with our students and colleagues, with our families and communities, with our administration and with ourselves. Reflection, communication, feedback. All key components to being an effective teacher and leader.

One of my goals for next year is to choose ONE thing and be truly engaged with it. Become an expert. Be able to teach other teachers about it. Though I haven’t quite decided what that concept is going to be, I know that’s where my head is when it comes to improving myself for next year. As a very “Type-A” person, I want everything to be monumentally perfect, all the time.

Not. Possible.

Learning that has been a true journey, and one that hasn’t been easy, and one that is far from will never be over. Next year, I want to find that ONE passion I have. I want to focus on it. And I want to implement it with consistency and fidelity, seeing the outcome at the end of the year, whether it’s positive or negative (though I hardly think adding in different curriculum or management styles would be of detriment to my students; if anything, I think I would just see it as a growing edge for the following year, and would either tweak it to make it better, or swap it out for something else in its place).

Just for kicks, here’s the definition of “engaged”:

engaged (adj) – busy or occupied; involved; interlocked

Engagement isn’t just for our students. How engaged are we, as teachers? How can we better engage with what we’re teaching our students? How can we engage THEM better? Fully engaging in ONE new strategy, skill, unit, management technique, etc, will only serve to allow our students to fully participate in that as well.

I also like to think about engagement as passion. I mean, how often are you willing to listen to someone who just drones on and on about something they don’t really even care about? One of my favorite things about people — about ANY one person — is watching his or her face LIGHT UP when talking about a passion. It ignites a fire within me that just makes me feel so fortunate to even be talking to that person about something he or she feels so strongly about! If you’re not passionate about something, can you ever really engage with it?

This begs the question: what am I passionate about (I mean, only like 5.8 million things, when it comes to educating)? What do I want to fully engage in, fully commit to? With what do I want to interlock? With what do I want to be associated? What will I want people to think of when they hear my name?

“Oh, Mary Brown? Yeah, she’s the expert at ___________.”

I’ll let you know when I find the answer to that question.

be a designer.

About two weeks ago, I attended the 2017 ICE Conference in St. Charles. During my day there, I chose a workshop with Mr. Billy Spicer outlining design thinking and highlighting ways to implement it in the classroom.

Since then, a few amazing things have happened.

I ordered the book Launch and began reading. Only a few chapters in, I could feel my excitement growing for design thinking and encouraging creativity in my students. (I even choked up a few times.)

crying gif …maybe it wasn’t as extreme as this, but you know…teachers who care about their kids…

Anyway, Jim and I decided to start introducing the concept to our kids. Like, dive right in, go-big-or-go home mentality. So when Friday rolled around (and thanks to Jenny Lehotsky for being such a stellar design thinking mentor!), we took our Extraordinaires: Design Studio game and introduced it to our students. We likened design thinking to video games (and this was all Jim — an awesome, very accessible example of why design thinking is important): if you’re in the middle of a mission and you keep dying in the game, what do you do? (Try something different and restart the mission.) And if that doesn’t work? (Try something different and restart the mission.) Etc, etc.

After a few examples similar to that, it seemed like our kids were ready to have at the game. So we explained the minimal “rules” and got them started.

You guys…the results. were. amazing.

We saw kids who normally don’t participate AT ALL taking total leadership positions. Kids who are ALWAYS off-task were deeply engaged in their design with their groups. Students who absolutely loathe working with peers were actively seeking feedback and input. And, for one of the first times this year, the students were actually disappointed when I told them it was time to pack up. That, my friends, is a teaching win. Jim and I are excited to see what incredible ideas they came up with tomorrow when they present their findings with the rest of the class.

Needless to say, I think that this model will be an incredible launch point (pun intended) for future projects. There is a new sort of energy in our classroom since beginning to use this model. Jim and I are reinvigorated, and honestly? So are our kids.

Stick with me as we trial-and-error this process together. There will for sure be errors, that we know. But isn’t that the point of the design thinking process? And if you don’t start somewhere, you’ll never move forward.

Enjoy your Sunday, friends! I know I will, as I revel in the success of an unfamiliar lesson. And if you need further convincing of the power of this project, follow me on Twitter @missmclb to see some video footage/pics of the activity.

As always,


be challenged.

I’m posting this picture because, well, this is reality. No makeup, messy hair, 11:17 at night, Parks and Rec blaring in the background, curriculum binders and papers scattered everywhere. And my smile is huge, why? Because what I’m holding in that picture is my very first textbook for my grad program that starts this fall! HOLY. SMOKES.

Photo on 8-9-16 at 11.16 PM

(and yes, my nails are done. and yes, I did them myself because I’m cheap poor resourceful!)

My bill for the month is already paid, my books for the semester are already ordered, my planner is already filled out, my binder is already divided up into hyper-organized sections…I’m ready for school! I can’t wait to share with my students my passion for learning, because I know that it will make their experience in my/our (Jim!) classroom that much more meaningful.

Hey. You don’t want to do homework? Me neither. But I’m doing mine and I’m rocking it. Oh, plus I’m working full-time, grading papers, planning units, working with my team and my co-teacher, helping to run an after school club, working a side job, tutoring, and being there for my family in my free time. You were saying?

I love my kids. And by “my kids,” I mean my students. I pride myself on my ability to build relationships with them. And something I’m really looking forward to is when they say, “We have homework tonight?” and I can say, “Yep. I do, too. What a drag.” Just one more connection I can have with them.

Building relationships with our students is essential to creating a environment conducive to learning and educating. Education is the most valuable tool we have. Teaching is more than just delivering the content (as we all know); it is about teaching students how to learn. How to love learning. How to ignite that internal fire that makes them just crazy enough to continue going back to school when their plate is already full to the brim. Because, at the end of the day, when we stop learning, we stop living. I guess that, really, I hope that my excitement for going back to grad school shines through even when I’m exhausted this year. I know I will be, for sure. But I also know how grateful I am that I have this opportunity, how grateful I am for the homework and the readings and the tests and and and…

Above all, I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my learning and my growth with my students. Less than 2 weeks out! This year is going to be a challenge, and I can’t wait to face it head on.

And, as A said earlier when I told him my books for the semester were all shipping to me beginning today:




be excited!

Today I met with my co-teacher, Jim, to start planning for the 2016-2017 school year. I am so excited about the start of the year in just a few weeks, and I LOVE that. Especially because…well…SCHOOL SUPPLIES!

Elf Excitement

Seriously. My favorite. I already have bought at least $50 worth. No shame.

It’s easy to get bogged down by the memes circulating on the web about how summer is too short, how none of us teachers are ready to start the year, how overwhelming it can be from September through May, and the feeling that most of us have that we can never quite  get ahead. But despite all of that, I have never been so excited to get another year of teaching started.

Sitting down this summer to plan made me realize just how much I love my current teaching situation. I took this summer off of teaching and nannying, and I took it mostly off of tutoring. Spending time with A’s boys was seriously so fun, and felt nothing like teaching (even though we worked on a lot of preschool and kinder stuff!). As a result, I feel so much more prepared to start this school year off on the highest note possible. And if I’m being honest, that’s totally necessary, because this is what my Fall 2016 looks like:

  • starting graduate school to get my master’s in Curriculum & Instruction
  • teaching full time
  • some extra responsibilities at the middle school — stay tuned on that one
  • working as a rep for National Junior Honor Society — again!
  • working to promote my own business (Arbonne)
  • tutoring when possible
  • traveling — Dallas, Atlanta, and small weekend excursions inbetween!
  • sleeping…somehow. maybe?

So the next few weeks are dedicated to trying to get things prepped for the start of school year 2016-2017. What are some of your favorite resources? Post a comment and let me know!

Just a few of the teachers I turn to regularly for inspiration:

Jen Jones, Hello Literacy

I’m Lovin’ Lit

Michelle Brezek, Literacy Coach

Check out their TpT stores for some great ideas to get started on the right foot this school year! Why reinvent the wheel when these amazing educators have worked out so many kinks for you? Gives you more time to devote to your kids. Michelle is a personal friend of mine, and is so wonderful. Always willing to help and provide insight.

Hope your planning is/has been as successful as mine! Ideas? Questions? Comments? Let me know, and I’ll help you out and appreciate any help YOU give ME!



be presumptuous.

…and I mean that in the best possible way, truly.

There are a few big things going on in my life currently, and all of them are wonderful. One thing that I love in particular is the feeling of being completely and utterly blessed when it comes to the people I have in my life.

See, sometimes I get these crazy ideas. And when I get them, I don’t stop working for them until they’re a reality. They can range from the kind of dress I envision wearing to a formal event (I’ve almost made one myself when I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for in-store), having some serious financial freedom (that’s one that probably won’t happen anytime in the near future — but working hard at it!), and, 99% of the time, they have to do with my students.

So this time around, I started mapping out a curriculum for next year, and decided I needed some serious funds to purchase the materials I need. In a highly presumptuous, highly risky move, I started a Go Fund Me account to raise some money for a single set of class books.

And now?

Well, let’s just say this: I have enough money to buy several sets of class books. I intend on situating myself for next year with some of the most up-and-coming novels, some of the classics, and materials that I can create with my own time this summer. Nerding out at its finest. And this has all inspired me to push to get back to graduate school for a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, with aspirations to be a curriculum director, stopping at nothing to make sure the district for which I’m working is using consistent, stable, and effective resources. Turns out that making assumptions isn’t always a bad thing. And it looks like, in a world that is dominated by so much greed, envy, malice, etc…there is so much good still there. A reminder all of us need for sure — from time to time, anyway.

There will always be nay-sayers. And I will always have that drive, that childlike hope that things are going to be different. And I intend on pushing towards those goals with everything I have.

How lucky am I to be able to do all of these things? Like I said, so many wonderful things happening in my life, but most of all, I am so blessed to have such generous people in my circle of close family and friends. Those who donate their money, but most of all, those who donate their patience to me to help me stay sane, and to help me stay driven. They have no idea how much their love affects me.

Thank you to all of those who donated. You have truly made a difference in my life, and in the lives of my students. You’re the best!

be childlike.

So it’s 9:45, I didn’t fall asleep until after 2 a.m. last night, and by all means, I should be snuggled up in bed and ready to saw some logs.

But what am I doing instead, you ask?

Dancing around my apartment. Alone.

…yes. Dancing.

Go ahead, judge away, but you would be dancing too if you reached out to a 3 time World Cup champion on Twitter and then he followed you back!

Let me explain quickly (before I really do try and calm down before packing it up for the night):

This biography project — the one I mentioned a few posts back — well, we’ve finally started the research. And two of my kiddos, two of my toughest kiddos, chose Eddie Pope. Pope not only played for the World Cup 3 times, but he is also an olympian. Though it was a long shot, I tweeted to him the other day in hopes that he would respond with an opportunity for my little guys to maybe Skype with him. And, right now, he’s following me back! Hey, his mom is a schoolteacher, so I think he gets it. Though nothing may come from it, I’m certainly going to try and make it happen! But HOW AWESOME IS THIS?

I know. I’m a child. And a geek. And I wholeheartedly accept that. 🙂 Now, for some rest.