Smart Teacher Tip: Give Away Everything You Know, and More Will Come Back to You.

ideas good news

Despite a decade of experience in the classroom, I still consider myself a new teacher in a lot of ways. First and foremost, I am a lifelong learner who tries to keep life interesting and relevant in the classroom. I don’t want to keep doing the same old things in the same old way just because that’s the way I’ve always done it.

I try to start each year with what worked from the previous year and change-up what didn’t work as well. Everything is up for grabs. I review policies, processes, procedures and lesson plans. I’m always on the search for ways to make my life at school and home more efficient and productive.

Of course I ask the teachers I know in real life about their classrooms and my on site teacher friends are a great resource for ideas especially when helping my tougher behavior kids. They are a living history of the previous year and they have experience with each family. Asking previous teachers for ideas has been beyond helpful.

But what about learning about new things that no one else in your area is doing? Like student blogging or integrating technology into the classroom? What about ideas for lessons you’ve never done before? Where do you go to find ideas?

A few years ago I joined Twitter and started dropping in on Wednesday evenings New Teacher chat and started following teachers from around the country. What I’ve discovered is that generous, smart, efficient, teacher leaders live all over the country and willingly share their ideas (for free!) online through their blogs, podcasts and tweets. I feel like I’ve discovered a hidden treasure!

Not only do I get new ideas from these resources, I’ve been able to share my ideas and lo and behold, the more ideas I share, the more ideas come to me. Creativity and generosity begets creativity and generosity!

So, where do you get your brilliant teachery ideas? How do you keep your teaching fresh and creative? Who is in your professional learning community? What new resources can you share here?

Image source

Spring Cleaning and Planting Seeds

Spring Cleaning – out with the old:

Comparisons be damned!

– Glasses organized – hanging on a white wooden clothes hanger and now I’m wearing ALL my glasses and feeling fancy with my cute glasses wardrobe. Thanks to Pinterest for the inspiration!

– Emptied out my sock and underwear drawer and tossed all the ugly and uncomfortable. Why did it take so long to do this? Only cute and comfortable belong in those drawers.

– Purged my entire wardrobe to make room for my new wardrobe from Swap Asana. I totally scored.

–  Sorted, stashed,  and organized all Ruby’s toys into daily toy bins. Less choice makes for a less chaotic house and kid.

– Stashed almost all Ruby’s board books – turns out babies love repeats so much, this mama was going a bit kookoo.

– My sinuses – so many allergies going on here lately. Early to bed and lots of medication and I’m making it outside every day without sneezing like a crazy person.

Planting Seeds – in with the new:

– Daily park visits with the baby in hopes of planting the seed of daily physical exercise. {Maybe I can finally learn this lesson, since I’m responsible for teaching Ruby}.

– Boot organization project envisioned and supplies procured.

– Cooking 3 meals a day for the tiny girl in hopes we’ll all have a lifetime of mindful meal times. {A girl can dream}.

– Added yoga classes to my calendar – twice a week. I remember why I love it so much – quiet, community and savasana.

– Table manners – teaching the tiny one how to use a napkin and utensils and sit at the table instead of the Exersaucer. Now if only I can get her to stop dropping the napkin and utensils on the floor…

– Reading with that girl every day from her stack of library books because children are made readers on the laps of their parents. {someone please make me a t-shirt}.

Mama meditation group – next meeting May 10th.

What have you been clearing out? What are you planting the seeds of?

photo credits: we heart it – click image for source

So You Think You Want to Teach Part 3: Before You Take the Credentialing Leap

Here’s part 3 of the So You Think You’d Like to Teach School series. The idea for this series came out of some questions I’ve gotten from folks interested in making teaching their profession.

Volunteer or at least observe 20-40 hours in a classroom, preferably in the same one. If you have to take vacation time from your job, please do. It is remarkably illuminating watching someone work. Plus you will get a head start on what is expected when you are in the front of the room. It will also help you get a head start on your credentialing school application.

Read teacher books and blogs. 

Books I found inspiring:

Read some blogs to get you thinking about what issues teachers are facing today. Here are some of my favorites.

It’s Not All Flowers and Sausages

Blogging Through The Fourth Dimension

Teaching With Soul

Informational interview all kinds if teachers: ones who love their jobs and those that hate them. Find out why. It is better to know what you are getting into before you find yourself in a career you hate.

Make teacher connections on Twitter. New teacher chat #ntchat on Wednesdays at 5pm PST is a treasure trove of excellent ideas. Other helpful hashtags include: #mathchat #edchat

Read 20 Tidbits for New Teachers from Lisa Dabbs.

Substitute teach.  Sub teaching was as beneficial {or more} than my credential program in a lot of ways. Kids will never be more ill-behaved than with a sub, so you get a sneak peek into future behavior issues now. It helped my classroom management a lot. Plus, being paid to practice teaching? I’d say a pretty good gig.


Did I miss anything? Have a question about teaching? If so, leave me a note in the comments.

Stay tuned for upcoming topics in the series: Classroom Management, Taming the Homework Beast, Parents: Friend or Foe?


Interested in more about Life As A School Teacher? Be sure to click the Life As A School Teacher category link below.

Trying Technology

December 18 – Try

What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?



I want to try to use technology better next year. I’ve already committed to learning to use Skype over my winter break and have already lined up some people to help me figure it out.

What is your favorite can’t-live-without-it technology? What makes your life easier/more fun/productive?

Please note: NOTHING is too obvious. I practically have a stone tablet on my lap for getting these posts out. {Just sayin’ – I may be one of the models in the photo}.

Please share what you love and why you love it. Maybe you’ll convince me to try your favorite.



This year I wanted to try teaching yoga.

What happened?

At first, I totally freaked out.

Then I got a grip and I loved it.

I am so grateful for Michelle’s February Recess and her faith in my teaching.

I’m also glad I didn’t quit because I was afraid.

Teaching yoga has taught me things I wouldn’t have ever known otherwise.

So grateful.


What did you try this year? How did it turn out?

(Author: Kaileen Elise)

MadYoga Debuts: An Interview with Madeleine Lohman


Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!


I’m so excited for this month’s interview!

Have you met Madeleine yet?

Love her.

Madeleine Lohman is December’s Featured Teacher. She teaches Yoga Basics, Gentle and Level 1-2 yoga at It’s All Yoga and she is also part of the IAY Teacher Training faculty. Plus she does massage and private yoga sessions/parties.

Did I mention she also totally rocks?

When did you start practicing yoga? Why?

Sometime in the late-mid nineties, I returned to Seattle after going to school in Montreal. I had my degree in English Literature which naturally led me to work at a toy store. (The coolest toy store ever, Archie Mcphee, but that’s another story…)

I had free time and brain space on my hands, and needed something new to think about. My friend was taking classes at a community center, so I went along.

It was a beginner’s class, but an accelerated one intended for folks who were already “in shape.” I don’t know what led me to believe that described me. I’ll never forget the teacher kneeling beside me trying to encourage me to roll back into plough pose. All my efforts produced almost no movement, only grunting.

I do remember that I did my first handstand in that class. I actually cried out: “Jeezus!!!”

The teacher didn’t find it funny.

How has your yoga practice evolved over time?

It has definitely moved out of the realm of competition and into the realm of kindness. It took a long time. It’s still happening.

I mean, I was never going to be a super-power-vinyasa yogi, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t mistake yoga as just another way to “improve” my body.

Old habits die hard.

When you spend your teen years dieting and exercising in a punishing way, yoga can quite neatly fit into that regimen. Yoga can either change your bad habits or just give you another tool to cement them with.

Now, the asanas (poses) are a way to lavish attention on this body just as it is. And to make meditation, breathing, and just generally living a little easier.

How long have you been a yoga teacher?

Since 2003 or so. My first certification, ironically enough, was through “YogaFit.” They do trainings which take place over one weekend, which certainly opens them up to a lot of criticism in the yoga community.

And no, you can’t learn to be a yoga teacher in a weekend.

But it’s a very useful starting point for students like me, who were being nudged in the direction of teaching by a lot of sources, but were afraid of the full, Yoga Alliance approved, hundreds of hours type of commitment. It lets you know if you’re moving in the right direction.

And then I felt ready to jump in to the hundreds of hours of training I’ve done since then, knowing I liked what I was experiencing.

Truly, though, the only thing that prepares you for teaching is teaching.

Lots of it. As much as you can. Especially, when you’re starting out, offering your teaching freely to groups that might not ordinarily have access to the practice.

Do you have a home practice? What’s it like?

I believe if you don’t have a consistent home practice, you got nothing to teach.

My home practice finally started because it had to, it was a requirement of my second teacher training. There’s nothing like having to turn in a report that makes you get your practice in gear.

Since then, it’s faltered now and then, but for the most part, that’s how I teach, by making sure I practice and then teaching what I’ve found.

After confidently telling students for years that it’s more beneficial to have a shorter home practice that’s more frequent, I’ve completely changed my mind.

I do practice every morning, but by that I mean a sitting meditation and some very simple stretching.

In terms of the whiz-bang, full-on, get-down-on-it asana practice, I do that Monday/Wednesday/Friday, because I’m regimented like that. I discovered that shorter asana practices every day made me feel like I was reading a bunch of short stories, when what I wanted was to read a novel.

For me, taking a class definitely does not take the place of a home practice. Home practice is the work, class is the vacation. And as anyone who’s read my blog knows, I have a little trouble taking enough vacations.

Favorite pose?

Everyone gets a free pass or two in yoga, the poses and body parts that generally give you no complaints and are a lot of fun to wallow in. For me, that’s hips and hamstrings. So, give me a forward fold or a pigeon and I’m happy. The one pose I do every day, though, is downward dog.

Least favorite pose?

I’m not sure what you would call the opposite of your “free pass” – but for me it’s anything that requires upper body flexibility or strength. Chaturanga is the first that comes to mind, but any pose where you bind your arms (clasping hands together in a complicated way behind your torso) will find me cursing and looking for a strap.


If you’d like to learn more about Madeleine check out her new website and blog!

Stay tuned for Part 2 – MadYoga Goes Online!

Please leave any questions or comment love below – we’d love to hear from you.


November 2010: Alicia Herrera – 4th grade teacher/Textile Artist – Spirit House Designs.

October 2010: Ryan Fong – Teaching Assistant/PhD Candidate in English at UC Davis.

September 2010: Michelle Marlahan– Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.

In Case You Missed It Edition! Volume 8

Each week I’ll give you links to posts that made me laugh, cry, think or at least raise an eyebrow. Please click the links and check out the posts. You may find something that rocks your world too.

Leave me some feedback in the form of comments below on what you liked, what you hated and what you’d like to see more of. I’m here to help you find the best of what is online.


My Best Of…

Two WordsOne from 2010 and one for 2011 – I almost wish I would have picked these. {While you are there, I highly recommend signing up for updates on Michelle’s newest project. I already have and I can’t wait to find out more.}

Why is Teaching A Lonely Job? – Mrs. Ripp asks the question and wants to hear your thoughts.

A Moment of (Perceived) Stillnessso beautiful.

Simple Living News from Rowdy Kittens – Includes: Women in blogging, A Case Against Buying Christmas Presents and A Boycott of Perfectionism.

Remember 7th Grade?Ever wonder if grades or what you say as a teacher matters?


That is the In Case You Missed It Edition for this week folks.

Remember to click the links and leave some comments. This is a conversation, you know.

In Case You Missed Edition Archives: Volume 7,  Volume 6,  Volume 5,  Volume 4,  Volume 3,  Volume 2,  Volume 1

Teacher Tips: From the Yoga Mat to the Classroom


Tip #1  – Yoga Can Help Teach You Patience

School teachers need an abundance of patience. Dealing with classroom disruptions, endless meetings, the bureaucratic nature of our jobs. And let’s not forget the endless repetition of hearing your own name thousands of times a day.

Since most of us need much more patience than we naturally have, I would venture to say one would make an absolute fortune should one find a way to bottle and sell patience.

Yoga can teach you patience.

Let me rephrase that: yoga has taught me to have much more patience and I think it can help you too.

Here’s an example of how yoga has let me practice learning patience:  learning a new yoga pose gives me lots of opportunities to practice patience.

First, I have to come to grips with the physical and mental limitations of my body at the time.

My arms seem to suddenly be shorter than necessary.

My legs seem impossibly long (not in the good way).

My wrists are delicate little things when what is required is strength and flexibility.

My personal favorite: I’m tired.

Face it, some poses are just out of my reach right now.

I could get all caught up in the striving – – or I can relax and understand with practice and yes, patience, I may find that pose becomes easier over time.

Tip #2 – Yoga Can Heighten Your Sense of Patterns and Deepen Your Awareness

In my first few years of teaching, I pretty much abandoned all activities that weren’t directly related to school.

Big mistake.

I thought by creating a laser-like focus on my job, I’d somehow skip over the learning process of becoming a teacher. Mostly, I just burnt myself out.

Since I started practicing yoga on a regular basis, my teaching has dramatically improved.

By stepping away from the classroom, I’ve been able to notice patterns of behavior – mine and theirs.

The time away has given me insights into how my mood, stress level and attitude is reflected in my students. I was able to see that I get back what I put out there.

Time on the mat has also freed up space in my brain to see behavior triggers and stop them before they become an issue.

It’s not that I’m spending all this time on my mat thinking about work either.

It’s like when you are working, working, working on a problem and then you get up to take a walk. You clear your mind and suddenly the answer comes to you while you’re walking. That happens all the time on my mat.

One last lesson I’ve learned from yoga about patterns:

Everything changes.

The good things are temporary.

The impossible-to-stand-for-even-a-second-longers are also temporary.

Tip #3 – Breathing Is A Good Thing

One of the many things I’ve been reminded of over and over during my Fred Jones Classroom Management training this year is the importance of two relaxing breaths.

Pausing to take two relaxing breaths before you take on any teaching situation can help everything (including you!) stay calmer.

According to Fred Jones, “Calm is strength.”

How has yoga or another activity helped you at work?


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Yoga Goes to University – Part 2 – Ryan Fong, Yogi


Don’t you just love them?   

I know I do.   

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.   

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.   

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.   

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!   

In case you missed PART ONE with Ryan Fong.

When did you start practicing yoga?

My first yoga class was probably 8-10 years ago now, when I took an intro series at the now-closed Free Spirit Studio.  In the years since, I have wandered on and off the mat at various points.  But in this last round, I’ve been practicing at It’s All Yoga since June of 2009.

Why did you start practicing yoga?

I initially started coming to yoga in search of an exercise program that would work for me.  I wanted something that would help cultivate both flexibility and strength, and I was also looking for a form of exercise that didn’t feel like punishment. 

As a very overweight person, traditional gyms have been an incredibly toxic environment for me because I find their overall philosophy to be about beating your body in to submission in order to achieve a supposed physical ideal.  Whenever I walked into one, I always felt incredibly self-conscious about my body and weight, and always felt like I didn’t belong. 

As I became more familiar with yoga, I was intrigued by the way that it encouraged you to inhabit and honor your body–and the importance of attending to your mind and spirit as a crucial part of self-care.

For me, yoga brings the right balance: a strength building discipline that is also about getting your body, mind and soul all in better “shape.”

Where did you practice?

I’ve practiced at Free Spirit Studio and Shanti Studio, both of which are now closed.  My yoga home is now It’s All Yoga.

How has your practice evolved over time?

In reading over my answer to question six, I’m realizing that I probably wouldn’t have even been able to think of yoga in those terms when I first started, or more accurately, to really believe them. 

Throughout my practice, I’ve struggled with feelings of competitiveness and with releasing the negative thoughts of “You need to sweat and work harder and hold this pose because you’re a bad person for eating those cookies and getting so fat.” 

There was a time when I couldn’t practice in the same room as my partner because I would get so steaming mad when he could do a pose that I had mentally deemed “impossible” and “only for the super bendy.” 

Much of shifting away from that mindset has been in learning about the facets of yoga that go beyond the poses.  It has also been about finding a yoga home where I’ve learned how to not necessarily silence the committee of howling negativity monkeys in my head, but at least to not give them so much power.  I’m slowly getting more comfortable in my own skin (which probably has a lot to do with being 30 instead of 20!), and I’ve come to see the place of yoga in my life as less of an activity and more as a way of being.

Do you have a home practice? What is it like? How often? Where? How’d you start and how do you keep at it?

I wish I had a regular home practice.  I’m still struggling with that. 

Right now, I’m focusing on a regular home meditation practice that I do every morning.  I got a Zafu for my birthday, and I think it’s really going to help facilitate that.  Finding a good space has been a bit of a challenge, as the living room is the only place in the house that works but at the same time, it doesn’t feel quite right.  I’m trying to just let it be and not wait for things to be “perfect” to start on it thought. 

My intention right now and for the near future is to just sit my butt on my Zafu and meditate for 10-15 minutes each morning.  That, in and of itself, is a challenging edge for me to work with.

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

Because I’ve really come to see Nataraja as a personal icon and spiritual avatar, I love Lord of the Dance. {You can read more about that on my blog}

I also have really tight hips, so going into Figure 4 at the wall and pigeon are some of the most opening poses for me.  A prop laden Savasana after a more active practice is heaven. 

Pretty much anything involving props is a good thing. {I couldn’t agree more!}

What’s your least favorite pose?

I hate Happy Baby.  In my head, I call it Angry Baby. 

My ample stomach doesn’t allow me to grip my feet or even my shins, and so the howler monkey committee can really get going when everyone else is blissing out.  (Of course, that in itself a big fat story of negative self-talk: thinking I am the only one in the whole room who is experiencing challenge in a pose.) 

Plus, holding my legs up like that just fatigues my ab muscles and puts a lot of tension and strain into my upper shoulders.

How do you bring your yoga practice into your teaching practice?
How does your teaching practice influence your yoga practice?

Both of these questions are a little difficult to answer, because I’ve tended not to think of them together.  I’ve thought a lot about the relationship between my yoga practice and the process of writing my dissertation.  They truly represent the yin and the yang in my life and my quest for balance.  A lot of my stuff shows up when I’m on the mat and when I’m writing at my computer, and so there’s a lot of interplay between both spaces of work. 

In graduate school, we are encouraged to think of teaching a the compartmentalized thing we do to get paid.  It’s the thing that we have to do in order to do the thing that’s actually valuable (meaning, our research, which will allegedly be the thing were most judged on in the academy). 

I’ve tried to cultivate a greater sense of investment in my teaching than that–by teaching things that I’m interested in and pieces of literature I’m passionate about–but it’s hard to think about teaching being as central to my life as either writing or yoga.  That’s more than a little ironic given that I’m in this to eventually get a teaching position at a college or university. 

I hadn’t realized how much I had absorbed the research-centric focus of the university until just now.  It’s a bit embarrassing to be honest.  I can say though that this answer certainly has cultivated a greater awareness of the way I categorize and create boundaries around different parts of my life and work.

Please leave any questions or comment love below:     

If you want to learn more about Ryan Deep Homework and Two of Us Riding Somewhere.



September 2010: Michelle Marlahan– Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.