Tipi and Slice of Life Tuesday – No Grades

Today, to be honest, I should not be blogging. I should be finishing my grades for quarter 3, which are due any day now. (Like tomorrow, but I am having a hard time admitting that!)

After a month of blogging daily in March, I am relieved and excited to join the only-once-a-week Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge. I’m looking forward to spending a bit of time on Tuesdays with my new Slice of Life writing tribe, for I know they will help me kickstart my neglected blogging habit. Thank God no one grades me on my blog posts. Instead, encouragement from this group helps me practice and learn, so I can grow as a writer.

On a loosely related topic, at school today my small group built.

This quarter, each teacher was assigned eight students for group work, and with them we were to choose and study a tribe of people from anywhere in the world. We chose the Nez Perce in North America because our supervisor is from the Nez Perce tribe. She has lots of amazing relics, so we were able to learn from her and see first hand some of the valuable art and artifacts from this group of Native American people.

Today my group built a tipi.

It was great, and it was better than thinking about blogging.

It was most certainly better than thinking about and / or recording and finishing grades.

It was exciting.

It was real.

It was math.

It was problem solving.

It was critical thinking.

It was dangerous.

It was kinesthetic.

It was making.

It wasn’t a number on a report card, and it never will be.

It’s like life. We do things, like blogging and baking, but we don’t get graded on them. My students would be shocked and appalled if I tried to assign them a grade for their work on the tipi. It just would be a distraction and a disappointment, no matter what grades were “given” or “earned.”

It’s not that we didn’t do our best. As in life, there are always consequences for what we do. Did we do a good job? Did we figure out what we have to do to make it easier and better next time?

If we didn’t, our next attempt may result in the same mistakes. If we did really learn something from today’s activity, then we’ll be even more successful when we build it again for our presentation.

Can’t we do more authentic activities?

Can’t we do real-life work that doesn’t require grades?


Filling the frame with a tipi today. #cy365 #t365project

A post shared by Denise Krebs (@mrsdkrebs) on

More tipi building.

A post shared by Denise Krebs (@mrsdkrebs) on

Day 29 – #AprilBlogADay – My History of Learning

Your History of Learning – What have been your greatest learning experiences? (I’m going to tweak this a bit. I’ve learned some valuable lessons, but they’ve happened over a lifetime, not just experiences I can name.)

Two more days of #AprilBlogADay. I’m making it! I really didn’t think I would do it every single day in April! Yippee!

That’s one thing I’ve learned, perseverance. To carry on and keep going. Even when the road gets rough. Like when I was crawling into bed and forgot to write a blog post on April 20, I managed to stand up and turn around and write a really short one. I live by the you-need-to-eat-an-elephant-a-bite-at-a-time philosophy. Just keep on going…

Another thing I’ve learned I already wrote about here on Day 27. Over the years, I have learned to let go and become the chief learner in my life, in my faith, and in my teaching. It has made all the difference.

Another learning that has transformed my life is to choose grace and forgiveness, rather than judgment and bitterness.

How about you? What are the greatest things you’ve learned?

Day 27 – #AprilBlogADay – Letting Go

How to Build a More Powerful Classroom by Letting Go

I don’t understand fully what happened to me when I became a connected educator. That’s when it started, though. That’s when my classroom became more powerful. That’s when I began to let go. I became the chief learner.

When I started that journey as a reflective learner, about five years ago, everything changed. It wasn’t about blogging and Twitter, necessarily. Those just happened to be the conduits for change.

It was really about learning, thinking about learning, and reflecting on my learning through blogging. Then, with the help of Twitter, it was finding a community of enthusiastic educators that I could follow and learn from. Critical friends that we could rub virtual elbows with.

That’s when my classroom became more powerful, and I was able to let go.

So, my advice to all of us, if we want a more powerful classroom, we must continue to let go. Let go of control. Let go of power. Let go of the illusion that we are sufficient for our classrooms. We aren’t. We need our students. There is so much that our students already know. There is so much that our students need to do and be.

They need freedom to be able to share their knowledge. They need freedom to do and become.

They don’t need us to pretend to have answers. They don’t need us to do and be it for them.

Our classroom becomes more powerful, when we spread the power to all in the room.

What do you say? How do you let go?

Day 9 – #AprilBlogADay – Advice

What would you say to your beginning teacher-self?chief learner banner

I would give two pieces of advice to my beginning teacher-self.

  1. Don’t be such a know-it-all. You don’t know anything, really. It’s OK to not know. It’s OK to admit your ignorance. It’s OK to have questions. In fact, you will not begin to succeed until you become the chief learner in your classroom.
  2. Don’t do any harm.  Don’t take a child’s behavior personally. Hold your tongue. Hug instead. Only love.

An Open Letter to My Pre-Service and New Teacher Friends

Dear Friends,

I’ve finally learned a few important things about teaching that I’ll never let go. I wish I could have put into practice all these things from the start, but I’m offering them now to you. PLEASE spend some time reading about and considering these priorities in your classroom. And, even more importantly, if you are not willing to consider them, please get out of the field now while you are young and can still find meaningful work. We need only the best teachers for the work that needs to be done in education.

Today, I offer these four priorities:

Bring whimsy.

Laugh and invite your students to laugh. What teachers do you remember? I remember a few of the crabby teachers who made life miserable for students. I don’t think I remember the insipid teachers who didn’t care. However, I do remember many warm teachers I loved, the teachers who loved life, loved me, and were just pleasant to be around.

I was excited when I found my name on the class list of Mrs. Rhodes, the “best” first grade teacher. (Even at that age, we all knew who was best.)  To our delight, this grey-haired lady did things to surprise us and make us smile, like pulling out of the closet a giant plastic Tweetie Bird mask to wear in our Halloween parade.

I have images of Mr. Golji folded in half with laughter, snorting. I don’t remember why he laughed, but I know his love for life was contagious to us normally cynical eighth graders.

Mr. Thornburg, goofy high school business teacher, delighted in making us laugh with his quiet and silly antics.

I do know those teachers didn’t laugh at the expense of other people. They laughed with us and often at themselves.

Make your classroom a fun and safe place to be, and don’t forget to give them opportunities to laugh at you.

Recognize your colleagues.

Your fellow teachers are your colleagues. You will learn much from them. You will laugh and cry with them. Make friends with the positive ones. Don’t get bogged down with the negative ones. But work collegially with all of them.

However, you have colleagues far beyond the teachers you work with in your district. You have more colleagues than you could ever count in the wonderful world of your online Personal Learning Network. (If you haven’t met them yet, join Twitter and give it time to make connections. Twitter is not an end — it’s a means to find and get to know your friendly and helpful, yet distant, colleagues.)

Your administrators are on your team, and they are your colleagues in casting vision for what is important for students. (In my experience, administrators are not autocrats, most want to work WITH you, not above you.)

Most importantly, your students are your colleagues in learning. Work collegially with them, which is defined as “the power and authority vested equally among colleagues.” Learn WITH your students; don’t just try to give them knowledge, which brings me to the next priority…

Be chief learner.

You must be the chief learner, learning every day. Let your students see you learn. Say “I don’t know” often. Say “Let’s find out!” and “Look what I learned!” MORE often.

Do not begin to think that you have already learned enough content and teaching strategies to carry you through a career. You don’t know much. (I don’t either.)

If you do think you are done learning, please just leave teaching now. We do not need any know-it-all teachers who think professional development is a waste of their precious time.

At this critical time in education, we need lifelong learners who relish opportunities to become better at their craft and grow in their understanding of the world. If you love to learn and are never satisfied, we need you to join this precious club called education!

Find and nourish genius.

Find and nourish your students’ genius. I could write a book about this one, and many people have. Please know that all your students are lovable, capable, creative, amazing, talented, gifted geniuses. THEY. ARE. RIGHT. NOW. Each of them.

You need to get to know what makes them tick, what floats their boat, trips their trigger, tickles their fancy, flips their pancakes, razzles their berries, tosses their salad, flies their kite, sizzles their bacon, bakes their cake, lights their candle, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera! (OK, I’ll stop with the bad metaphors.)

Everyone loves to learn something, and you must invite your students to learn the things they are passionate about as often as possible.

I am finally passionate and unwavering about these priorities in education, and, if you haven’t already, I pray you will study and learn these and other important educational priorities.

Here are some experts I’ve read and watched (search for them on YouTube) who have helped me grow:

What do you know? The following link came in a tweet today: Ten of the Best Ted Talks on Improving Education. So I’ll check those out later. Always, always, always learn…Please join me!


Denise Krebs

P.S. To my PLN, what other priorities have I not listed?

Chief Learner

 I used to teach my students,

But now, as chief learner in my classroom, we create learning together.

I used to use technology to enhance student learning,

But now I empower geniuses to use technology to connect, create, contribute, and collaborate.

I once was the teacher up front,

But now I sit in a student desk elbow-to-elbow with learners.

If I could I would give the gift of lifelong learning to every child.

I would always be patient and guide them to their passions.

I will not quit my quest to inspire and empower them,

But I need them to keep inspiring and empowering me as well.

I’m not always successful,

But I do love them and will keep telling them they are geniuses until they believe it.

I won’t give up,

But I get discouraged when students can’t seem to unlearn the old ways.

I used to teach my students,

But now I am the chief learner in my classroom.

~Denise Krebs

August, 2012. It’s been a busy month.

Early in the month, I had a week of relaxing vacation where all I did was read and hike. Then I came back to a classroom needing attention. Now, I’ve just finished my first full week of a new school year.

It’s also Connected Educator Month, where I have had three awesome experiences!

It’s been a great month! I wrote the poem above because I was inspired by my connections. Thank you, PLN!