Do You See What I See?

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Today I am tired, but it is a good tired.  It is a tired that comes from staying up late to celebrate the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl win. It really was a magical season with a fairy tale ending.  There are many parts of the game I could talk about that were noteworthy, but it was an interview I watched during the pre-game festivities that stays with me.

NBC10 sports reporter, John Clark interviewed Brian Dawkins (Eagle’s free safety for 13 years) about being named to the Football Hall of Fame. John asked Brian if he ever thought he would be this great. In his usual humble way B. Dawkins responded.  I paraphrase below.

‘I was blessed to have individuals along the way who have seen small things in me – more in me than I thought of myself. My coach, Emmitt Thomas, would not let me settle.  He kept telling me – you could be this great.  If he were the type of coach who got angry with my mistakes and yelled, I probably wouldn’t be here now. He and others along the way kept telling me what I could do.  I started to hear those words and believe them. That is something we are missing today.  Words are so powerful, and we should be paying more attention to the words we use with our young impressionable people.’

WOW!  How powerful were his words!.  They got me thinking about myself as a teacher and the young impressionable minds entrusted to my care.  I am pretty positive and very rarely get upset with my students.  When I do, I do my best to put a positive spin on my words to make each situation a learning experience rather than a punitive one.  But do I tell them enough how great they are?  Do I help them see in themselves that little something that I see in them?  

I keep telling them that if we want this world to be different it has to start with them.  They are the voice of our future, but am I helping them find that voice?  Am I helping them “not settle” for less than their best?  I hope so, but just in case I will carry the words of Brian Dawkins with me each day and make sure that I keep telling them just how great they can be!



A New School Year

Great teachers empathize with children, respect them, and believes that each one has something special that can be built upon. ~ Ann Lieberman

Tomorrow I begin another school year.  It never ceases to amaze me how much I love meeting my new students.  No matter who sits in front of me, I enjoy getting to know them.  When I tell people that I teach 7th grade English, they often make anguished faces or ominous sounds.  They think that middle school kids are like some unfamiliar beasts or space aliens.  What do they know?

Middle school kids are just like little kids only in bigger bodies.  They want to be loved and accepted.  They want to please and be successful.  They just have a couple of obstacles in the way – hormones and peer pressure.

I didn’t really enjoy grades 6-7-8.  Believe it or not – I was a NERD!  I spent most of my time reading Nancy Drew mysteries.  My parents were pretty strict, so I wasn’t allowed to do some of the things the other girls were doing.  I played intramural basketball, but I am not athlete.  I wore glasses sans makeup so my eyes looked kind of beady, and the long straight hair of the 70’s did nothing for my then long slender face.  I was never one of the “cool kids” or one of the students that teachers paid any extra attention.  I was a goody-goody and hardly ever got into any trouble which made me almost invisible in class.  I was smart and got good grades, but that wasn’t something you talked about with other kids.  In 7th and 8th grade I had to go to speech class (very new at that time) to correct a lisp.  I hated going out to speech – well until 8th grade when the captain of the basketball team had to go too.  I had a terrible crush on him!

When my students come through the door tomorrow and every day this year, I want them to know that I care about who they are not just what grades they earn.  I don’t want them to feel the way I did in middle school.  I survived, but thriving, not surviving should be the goal of education!

Haunted House Build – Take 2



Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. ~ Helen Keller

The haunted house build is complete, and it was a huge success!  The kids were engaged each day of the build without much redirection needed from me. (Well you always have a few!) The students presented their houses to the class yesterday and explained why they design certain features in their homes.  One house even had a witch who “flew” down from the roof on straws and landed seated in a chair.  So cool!

The kids are finishing up their personal reflections about the process and the product.  I can’t wait until Thursday to read them.  This makes me want to find a way to use Project Based Learning more often in my ELA classroom.  I am just not sure how or what to do next?  I will keep thinking though.

Please take a look at my iMovie documentation of the process.



Haunted Mansions


We just need to make that building come alive.  Together, we can figure this out. ~Sue Black

Today my ELA classes began a two-week adventure.  They started their Haunted Mansion STREAM build.  Each group of students received a Halloween Character and a box of various items.  They are working in teams to design and build a mansion by following the engineering process while documenting their process in writing.  

The room was buzzing with energy and ideas.  They perused my “shop” and looked at what they might “buy” with the Haunted House “cash” that they have earned over the past couple of weeks. Students will have another class period on Thursday to finalize their plans, then the actual build begins on Monday. What a joy it was to listen to the kids interact with each other. This is a lesson in creativity, cooperation, and collaboration. I will check in again next week and let you know how the process is going.  You can follow us on Twitter @RitaDiCarne.


Labor Day


“To find joy in work is to find the fountain of youth.” –Pearl S. Buck

Going back to school has always been exciting for me as a student and as a teacher.  I get to start over the way the rest of the world does on New Year’s Day.  I make resolutions and have new plans to complement my tried and true ones.  Each year I reflect on my past work, like on New Year’s Eve, and decide how I can be better than the year before.

Being a teacher is not easy.  It is a daunting task set before me each day of each school year.  I am charged with teaching students what they “need to know” while nurturing their sense of wonder. I want to encourage them to love learning while still having to “grade” their best efforts.

I want my students to rejoice in their successes and learn from their mistakes.  I want them to understand that perfection is a futile goal for it is in the mistakes where the learning takes place. Most of all I want each and every one of my students to know that they are not their test scores.  They are each unique with their own special voice and ideas that will make a mark on this world some day.