#MorethanEdChats article in Pi Lambda Theta's Educational Horizons Magazine



C’mere. I need to tell you a secret.

Come closer. I don’t want to have to shout this; it’s embarrassing.

Ready? Here goes.

I’m a teacher who uses Twitter.

I know what you’re thinking.

That’s it? That’s the embarrassing secret?


HERE’s the embarrassing secret. I’m on Twitter, I have NO idea what I’m doing or if I’m using it correctly, and it’s scary and fantastic and awesome all at once. THAT’s the embarrassing secret.

Now, if you’re under 30, chances are your Twitter handle is delicately inscribed on your birth certificate and you know instinctively how to win Twitter daily. You are a captain of the Twitterverse. The rest of us (and maybe some of you less tech-enthusiastic souls) needed some easing in. I know I did.

In June 2012, I began my official year as the U.S. National Teacher of the Year. I came out of my 7th-grade English classroom for a year of travel, public speaking, observations, and advocacy on behalf of America’s 3.2 million public school teachers. I traveled nearly a quarter of a million miles to nine nations, 30 states, and over 100 school districts. Along the way, I gave 200 speeches and workshops. No biggie, right?

Despite all of that, the thing that scared me the most was when my handlers told me I’d need to begin tweeting. Flop sweat. No joke. Here I was, so proud of my ability to text at lightning speeds, dial up the perfect memes for PowerPoints or Prezis, use iPads in my classroom to Skype with other teachers across continents, expertly build web or Facebook pages for various classes and projects, and yet the idea of trying Twitter just gripped me with icy, cold fear. I laugh out loud now as I type that last sentence, but it was real. I was terrified.

You see, Twitter is weird and different. At least it is to me. Handles. Hashtags. Modified tweets. Followers. @s? Chats? I still don’t know what some of that is. Twitter just isn’t as intuitive or easy for me as are other social media platforms. It took sorting out and much trial and error. Scratch that. It took much error and error. Today, after almost two years, I think I have a very basic handle on Twitter, and you know what? It’s awesome, and I can’t imagine teacher life without it for three reasons.

Read the Whole Article in Educational Horizons Magazine

My Advice to a New Teacher

Published on CNN.com


2. It’s all about the pencil. It took me far too long to realize this, so I’m telling it to you up front. New teachers often get trapped in a struggle with kids over supplies: where they are, why they didn’t bring them to class, losing them, borrowing them. It’s exhausting and it often keeps you from doing what you need to be doing. In our zeal to teach readiness and responsibility we mistakenly make having supplies a hill we choose to fight for and die on. Stubborn teachers do and kids suffer.

I once worked with an incredible social studies teacher named Karen whom I observed frequently. I watched her quickly lend supplies to any kid who was without during her lessons. I asked her about it later and she said, “I simply have too much to do with kids to get bogged down by supplies. I won’t let anything get between my kids’ learning and what I have to teach them each day. You shouldn’t either.” I have incorporated that theory into every decision I make and you should, too.

For more:  Advice for a New Teacher on cnn.com

5 Things I've Learned


Meet people where they’re at.

I have clarity about what I must do in the classroom. I know my subject matter, the standards for learning, and what achievement levels I’m obligated to help my students attain. To do that well, though, I also have a responsibility to find out where my students are academically, what they love personally, and where they see themselves eventually. When I take that walk toward my students, I greet them right where they are. I show them that I, too, am a constant learner and my most important subject at that moment is them. I reach out a hand and ask them to come with me from where they stand today to where I know they are capable of going tomorrow. This is the ultimate act of respect a teacher can show a student. They matter. What they know now is relevant. What you love, I too will love. Let’s go together and work toward the next best version of you.

For more:  5 Things I've Learned

Opinion in Support of Tom Torlakson for CA Superintendent

See Rebecca's support for Superintendent of California Schools Tom Torlakson  here.  In the meanwhile, an excerpt:

Providing a free public education to every child in this country is one of our nation’s most noble and audacious ideals. Our public schools serve as a testament to that ideal and must continue to exist and operate as a common good we bestow upon all of our children.

K-12 education is not a commodity or a consumer good to be bought and sold. Public schools are not ours to be privatized or given away to the highest bidder. The gift of education is for all of us. It strengthens our nation and knits together our values so strongly they can never be torn apart.  It fuels our growth, it prepares us for the future, and it protects us in a time of need. We deserve a state superintendent who knows this, who believes this in his heart, and who does the unending work of protecting it for the ages. Torlakson is that man.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/05/11/6387361/another-view-torlakson-devoted.html#storylink=cpy

Q & A with the NTOY in the Inquirer-Ledger

An excerpt from the article:

"Then how do we inspire more folks to become teachers and continue?

You can inspire them with the promise of changing lives, the promise of being a hero in the life of a child. … That's enough of a hook. The you share with them the funny stories, the fact that no day is like the next, that you get to make a thousand decisions, and while that's stressful at first, you get really, really good at being decisive fast.

You never know what's going to happen. A kid is going to barf, a dog is going to run into the classroom, a fire alarm is going to go off, one of your students may die -- I mean, you're just going to see all of it, and there's not a lot of jobs that give you that. So the pageant of humanity is on display, and kids are fun. They are fun people to hang out with. They are challenging, but I find that fun.

And then there's the part where I'm trying to advocate for leadership streams for ambitious college graduates who want to make a lot of money and want to have jobs of power and prestige. They won't come to teaching if it's a cul-de-sac. If you enter as a teacher and exit as a teacher, they won't come. But if you can enter as a teacher and become a master teacher and then a mentor teacher and then an expert teacher and then a teacher leader -- you can rise -- that's the best. You get all the glory of being a teacher, that heroic elements, but you also get some status and some money, and that's what all the real professions offer."

Read more here: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2013/03/26/2439079/qa-with-national-teacher-of-the.html#storylink=cpy

In Scholastic Instructor: Lessons from the Teacher of the Year

Rebecca Mieliwocki on teaching as a team sport, making sense of middle schoolers, and the art of subversive teaching published in Scholastic Instructor:

Rebecca’s 5 Tips for Teaching Middle Schoolers

1. Give them responsibility.
I have student “employees”—a host, a plant manager, a teacher’s assistant, a tech director, and a librarian. The students run our daily agenda: what we’re doing that day, what the homework is, our learning goal. They take care of details so we can focus on learning.

2. Involve students in the data.
Share data and have students help set learning targets. I’ll tell a student, “You’re nearing grade level, but not quite there. How do you feel about that?” And they’ll say, “I can do it,” or “Can I go further?” or “That looks hard for me.” Set a plan together. 

3. Make learning exciting.
We do team challenges, like having different teams race to read the most books. We did a March Madness challenge with teams of five reading sports books. Each student had to read a book and pass it to a team member. The first team to finish won basketball tickets. 

4. Reach out to parents.
Every Friday, I call one parent at random. Whatever was going on with that student, even if he or she had been a “super twerp”
all week, I find something good to share. And let me tell you, the word gets out. You call home one time and a hundred kids know about it.

5. Have an open-door policy.
Have an open mind, an open door, and an open heart to collaboration. Tell your colleagues, “I’m here to learn. I’m here to help kids learn. Let’s do this together. Let’s help each other be better teachers, because when we do it feels good and it works.”

Read more here: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/lessons-teacher-year