Four Things I Do When a Student Says They Don’t Like My Class!

Depending on the student and the reason why, I might actually do…


But after I do this, there are four specific things I do, that actually work, when I receive constructive feedback from my students and even their families.

I Look Back to Move Forward

At the beginning of the school year, my students complete Content Attitude Surveys. From time to time, I go back and reread their responses to determine if any of their thoughts are an indication of them not liking my class. Most times, it’s there. I respond based on what information I glean from the survey. Sometimes you have to go back, back to move forth and forth. Click here to get the free surveys!

I Check Relationship Status

Sometimes, I need to take a step back and reflect on the relationship the student and I currently have. I have to ask myself some questions:

  • Are they having positive experiences in my class?
  • Are they making progress?
  • Am I communicating that progress?
  • How am I communicating progress?
  • Are they receptive to the way I am giving feedback?
  • Are they receiving any positive feedback?
  • Do this student and I bump heads?
  • I am the adult in this situation, so what can I do?
  • What do or don’t I know, about this student, that can help me to help them?
  • Do I really know my student?

I Get Quiet and Listen

I take what the student says seriously (more often than not). Behavior and attitude are communication. Again, I ask questions about the behavior and attitude, then I shut up, and I listen to the response as best as I can with the time that I have. (This is easier said than done, but in the whole scheme of things, it is worth it). Sometimes, I incorporate their ideas. I listen.

I Try to Never, Ever Take it Personal

But sometimes, it is personal.

Some students do try to personally attack us or our character, but sometimes, its not usually about us at all. They could be struggling with something unbeknownst to us. Perhaps past experiences in school or in similar subjects/content areas were unfavorable. Maybe it is about us, and the student thinks we are inconsistent, are unfair, are disorganized, are unclear, or talk too much. Don’t take it personal, especially if it’s true. The best way is to validate the student, and use the feedback as an opportunity for growth. An opportunity to show a child and model what to do and how to act when they receive unfavorable feedback. I rarely take things personally.

Now with most things, these steps depend on how well you know your students.

Again, at the beginning of the year, I give surveys to my students to help with this. I also gather information from their families, former teachers, and student files. I prefer to be proactive vs. reactive. Based on what you know or don’t know about your students will ultimately determine the best way to handle when a student says, “I don’t like this class.”

How do you handle when a student says they don’t like your class? Share in the comments below.

Happy Teaching!

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My Instagram Teacher Account was Hacked!

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

It started out like any other day. I was up early, getting ready for work, and still running late. But I made it to work right on time. Our staff meeting was canceled due to so many teachers being out of the building (panoramic teaching), so I set up my room for the day’s lessons.

This was our second day back from winter break, so on Monday, I made sure to spend time reviewing norms, expectations, and reconnecting with my scholars. They loved the New Year’s Goals in GIFS and PICS PowerPoint Project they worked on after they completed their Do Now (Math Spiral Review). To my surprise, Tuesday was a breeze, and they were ready to dig back into our work with fractions.

At some point in the morning, I received a message in my Instagram DMs (Direct Messages) from someone who I thought was my younger cousin, A. He asked for my number and explained why, and I sent him my number. No questions asked. That was my first problem. I gave my phone number to someone who I thought I knew without asking any questions.

I am going to tell you this now, NEVER GIVE ANYONE YOUR PHONE NUMBER WITHOUT CONFIRMING WHO THEY ARE FIRST! Also, if you have already given them your number, why would they ask you again without first saying that they lost your number?

Tip Number 1

Y’all! I didn’t ask a single question! I wondered, but I never asked why he didn’t ask his mom for my number. I didn’t ask what happened to his Facebook account which is why he needed my number. I didn’t ask why he was asking me and not someone else closer to him. I didn’t even ask if he asked anyone else. I didn’t ask him any questions until right before the damage was done, and it was too late. I responded with my cell phone number. That’s it. I was focused on work.

At this point in time, everything was fine on my end. I was still able to access my Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Later on in the day, “my cousin” reminded me to send him a link that showed up on Facebook so he could get back into his Facebook account. I don’t get on Facebook that often. As a matter of fact, I don’t even have the app on my phone, therefore it took several hours before I logged into my Facebook account to copy and paste that link into my DMs for him. He responded later asking if I had a chance to get the link yet.

I am going to tell you this now, NEVER SEND AN UNKNOWN LINK THROUGH YOUR DMS! NEVER! Especially if you have not verified (via text, phone call, video call, or another person) who you are talking to. Most likely the person you think you are talking to has already had their account hacked. I learned about 15 minutes after my account was hacked that my younger cousin’s account was hacked earlier in the same day. Had I reached out to his mom, I would’ve known that.

Tip Number 2

Once I got home, I sat down to help my son with his homework, I copied and pasted the link in the DMs, and asked if it worked. He said, “Yes, and thank you.” At this point in time, I started asking how he was doing and how college tours were going. He said, “Good.” I told him I was proud of him and that he is going to do great in college, and I ended by saying I loved him. I was slightly annoyed by his short responses and thought he was being rude, but he’s a teenage boy, we don’t talk that often, and I actually didn’t have time to talk or text at length. I thought about texting his mom later to see if he was okay. He is one of the sweetest boys I know. I should’ve known it wasn’t him. I ignored all of the red flags!

Right before I copied and pasted the link in my DMs, to who I thought was my younger cousin, A, I posted in my stories. I was about to work out and I shared that in my stories. But I had a limited amount of time before I had to be at my next destination. After I finished my workout, I planned to add a post-workout photo to my stories. I took the selfie. Clicked the Instagram application, and it said I was logged out of my account. I never log out of my account. So I simply typed in my username and password. It said the password was wrong and my email address had been changed to

I panicked. I knew what happened. Someone took advantage of me hacked my Instagram and Facebook accounts.

I was able to get my Facebook account back within 24 hours by uploading my ID to the site and filling out some reports, requesting password resets. I had to try multiple times, and at one point, Facebook told me I was doing too much and wouldn’t let me upload my ID anymore. Now that I am in, I can even see posts from my Instagram account via my Facebook Business page. BUT I STILL CANNOT LOG INTO INSTAGRAM!

Immediately after the hacking, I started getting text messages from people that had my number asking me if I changed my IG Handle to @the_renewed_teachuu. Of course, I didn’t. The hacker went in, changed my login, my password, the phone numbers linked to my account, and they even added two-factor authentication to my account which I had not even done yet!

I am going to tell you this now, if you haven’t done so yet, ADD TWO FACTOR AUTHENTICATION TO ALL OF YOUR ACCOUNTS! ASAP! Two factor-authentication is an electronic authentication method that allows you to better protect your online accounts only granting access to a website or application after successfully presenting two or more pieces of evidence beyond your login and password.

Tip Number 3

My hacked account has since been changed back to @the_renewed_teacher but I still do not have access as mentioned above. The person that has control is using my name and sharing screenshots of DMS in the stories that look like I made tons of money. I mean I wish I had the money, but this is not my money y’all!

I have asked Instagram for help, written them emails, done video facial recognition. I can still see my cell phone number linked to the account, I can still receive text messages and emails at my number and email address from Instagram to put in codes to unlock my account, but I do not have the 6-digit number for the two-factor authentication. I went back to my screenshots from 2018 when I first sign up for Instagram to see if I had a screenshot of the 6-digit code and I don’t.

When I started writing this post on Wednesday, January 12th, I wished I had a happy ending. I hoped and prayed to get my account back.

As of Sunday, January 16 at 12:29 am, The Instagram Team came through! I NOW HAVE CONTROL OF @the_renewed_teacher!!!

You can’t hold a good woman back or keep a good woman down!

I have shared three tips on how you can prevent your account from being hacked:


In my next blog post, I will share what I did to get my account back in case the preventative tips above do not work.

Stay tuned for updates and more ways to renew your passion for teaching in the coming weeks!

You can’t keep a good woman down!

Happy Teaching,

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

How to Create a Bitmoji Classroom with PowerPoint

Recently, I posted this video Instagram and Facebook  and had many teachers requesting to help them create their Bitmoji Classrooms in PowerPoint, embed videos into PowerPoint, and get their Bitmojis to dance or as I said, “Bust a Move!” Although I am a classroom teacher, creating tutorials is not something I am used to doing for adults…yet! But I gladly obliged. Why? Well, Bitmoji Classrooms are a way that RenewED Teachers can try new things! See Day 8 of What is a RenewED Teacher?

Why PowerPoint? 

Because of Covid-19, we were forced to teach from home or not at all. Those of us that taught remotely…let’s just say when I say we showed up and out during quarantine, baby I mean we took over remote teaching and learning as if it was second nature. That’s the thing about us teachers. We are not often respected for our ability to adapt, innovate, shift with movements that occur. But we did just that! Between Zoom, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams and other digital platforms, we made learning as conducive, relevant,  and hopefully as fun as possible for our scholars.

Because my district used Microsoft Teams, I used everything Microsoft including PowerPoint. Back in late mid-to-late April, I started seeing Bitmojis popping up online everywhere. I was already using them in my classroom as part of the decor, but teachers were putting their Bitmojis in digital classrooms! It looked like a video game to me. The thing is, most of the YouTube videos, Blogs, Instagram and Facebook posts I saw used Google Classroom. I didn’t have the time to learn a new platform, so I taught myself how to create Bitmoji Classrooms Using PowerPoint.

Let’s Get Started!

What you will need:

  • A blank PowerPoint slide
  • The website
  • The Bitmoji Extension or Bitmoji App on your phone (You can save to Google Drive or email Bitmojis to yourself)

Steps to Creating your First Bitmoji Classroom:


The RenewED Teacher

If you are a visual learner, here is a video tutorial that will help get you started with your Bitmoji Classroom as well!


Click the Classroom to access the Bitmoji Classroom Tutorial Video

Adding your Bitmoji to your Classroom Scene:


The RenewED Teacher

For more #TeacherTipTuesday Tips, click on the link to the tips on my Instagram Page @the_renewed_teacher.

I hope these tips are helpful! Here is your call to action! If you would like to sign up for a live Bitmoji Classroom Tutorial via Zoom, please send me an e-mail at, and I will follow up with you!

Here are some samples of student work from the last Bitmoji Classroom Tutorial I hosted!

Until next time, Remember to Try New Things and Happy Teaching!

Yours in Education,

Krystal L. Smith


The RenewED Teacher: Family Edition

I have been hearing from families left and right concerned about the education of their image9children as a result of Coronavirus impact. Many families are livid and disappointed that we have not yet started remote teaching and learning yet. It’s going on four weeks. Some families are upset that we are attempting remote learning with the amount of families that do not have access to the necessary technology or internet in many areas. This is one of the reasons we have not yet started.



But then you have the families that have everything they need to get started, but are


Table of Contents from The RenewED Teacher: Family Edition

confused about where to get resources to help them teach their children. Because of this, I created a Google Site titled The RenewED Teacher: Family Edition. The purpose of the site is to provide tips and resources for parents and guardians of children in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade to partner with teachers to teach their children at home. In addition to resources for children, it also includes a section on self-care for families, managing stress and anxiety, as well as staying education and up-to-date on Covid-19.

Feel free to share this website, and to provide feedback, and additional resources in the comments below, or on the The RenewED Teacher: Family Edition Site.

Until then,

Take care of yourself and Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith

Teaching Online: It Just Got Real

Screenshot_20200330-021809RenewED Teachers are always looking to see what is new, and how they can enhance their skills in the classroom! However, COVID-19 has most of the teachers in our country (perhaps the world) outside of their classroom these days. Because of that, many of us are moving towards some version of Remote/Distance Teaching and Learning, E-Learning, and/or Digital Instruction.

While many teachers have dabbled in flipped instruction, not all classroom educators, especially K-12 teachers, have experienced teaching 100% from the comfort of their home. According to, a flipped classroom is a type of blended learning where students are introduced to content at home and practice working through it at school. In addition to this, face-to-face instruction is mixed with online (internet/web-based) instruction. I started dabbling with this in 2011 with,, and  today with ClassDojo.


There is no blended learning right now. It is all online in the event that our Governor extends the Stay-at-Home Order beyond Tuesday, April 14th. (Update: President Trump extended social distancing through the end of April).

Now many educators have already began their digital journey and appear to be killing it! Many have been using Zoom and Google Meets. I am familiar with both, but when my district sent a survey asking how familiar I was with Microsoft Teams, I had to type in a one on that scale. That’s when my search began. And like these other educators killing it on Zoom and Meets, we are going to kill it on Teams!

What is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is a web-based program that has capabilities for “students, teachers, and staff [to] seamlessly work together, create content, and share resources all from a single, easy-to-learn and simple to use platform” ( Microsoft Teams allows teachers to create classrooms, keep students remotely engaged, facilitate remote learning, collaborate, communicate, and personalize online instruction.

Teaching and learning online is our inevitable future. I have come to accept that this will be our new normal for the next few weeks. With that, I have continued to do research. I have also texted links to my colleagues and posted helpful sites on my Facebook page and groups I am a member of. The resources are plentiful.

Although I do not feel overwhelmed at the time, I am sure that other educators are, and this blog is here to help teachers focus on self-care. Part of healthy self-care is being pro-active and being prepared for what is here or may come. To help us all prepare for this digital instruction we are about to participate in, I am sharing the 10 resources I have come across throughout my research. It is my hope that this post will be an easy access point, a hub of sorts where teachers can visit and get tips on how to use Microsoft Teams.Screenshot_20200330-014232

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, download the Microsoft Team app to your phone or tablet.

10 Helpful Microsoft Teams Resources for Educators 


1.Microsoft Teams Interactive Demo


Demo Screenshot

2. How to use Microsoft Teams for Remote and Online Learning


3. Explore How Microsoft Teams Can Be Used in the Educational Space


4. Online Lessons using Microsoft Teams for Remote Learning

5. Top Ten Tips when Teaching with Teams

Articles/Websites/Blog Posts

6. The Microsoft Team wrote this article titled, “How Schools can ramp up Remote Learning Programs Quickly with Microsoft Teams.”

7. Jenifer Gonzales, the author of The Cult of Pedagogy, discusses her experience using Microsoft Teams.

8. From Tony is Here, Tony Phillips provides a “Teacher Guide to Presenting Remote Remote Lessons using Microsoft Teams.”

9. Dr. Monica Burns from Class Tech Tips discusses collaboration and feedback.

10. Because I foresee teaching changing due to the impact Covid-19 has had on the world, I believe this article by Steve Forbes titled “How to Improve Productivity Using Microsoft Teams” will be beneficial to us in the future.

By doing a basic Google search or going to YouTube, you will find a plethora of resources on Google Teams. This is just a starting point. I hope you enjoy these resources, and I hope they are helpful.

Have you used Microsoft Teams before? How have you found equitable ways to include ALL of your scholars? Share tips and additional resources in the comments section.

Until next time, Happy teaching and learning!

Krystal L. Smith

Communicating with Your Scholars and Families Amid Covid-19

This week was a roller coaster! Between daylight savings, a full moon, Friday the 13th, Corona-virus, and the excitement of Pi Day and the half day we had last Friday, I cannot believe we all survived!


Roller Coaster of a Ride. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

On Friday, March 13, teachers in Pennsylvania received news from our Governor, Tom


Closed for 10 Days. Image courtesy of Flickr.

Wolf that all K-12 schools would be closed for 10 business days effective Monday, March 16 due to the pandemic spread of Covid-19 in the commonwealth. This announcement was made after our scholars had been dismissed from school. Students had a half day of school while teachers stayed for professional development. During that time, we discussed Covid-19 and began preparing for schools to close as the virus continued to spread throughout the nation. We originally thought teachers would be in school on Monday and Tuesday. Students would come on Wednesday for a half day, and then we would be out for 10 days. Governor Wolf wanted all schools closed immediately. On Saturday, two cases were reported in Allegheny County. Two more reported on Sunday. Currently, there are 6 or 7 confirmed cases in the Pittsburgh region. (The data is changing rapidly.) State wise, as of Monday, March 16, there were 76 confirmed cases. On Thursday, there were only 22, and on Friday, there were 41.

With many people following the Governor’s order to socially distance themselves from family, friends, and other large crowds, how do we help the families of our scholars remotely when our schools or districts are not necessarily set up to do so?

Here are three ways I intend to do so:

Class Dojo

  • Class Dojo is an educational app and website that connects teachers, students, and families, through communication features such as feed for photos and videos from the school day, and messaging. I messaged the families of my scholars today to check in with them. I informed them that ALL schools in the district would serve food throughout the week from 11am-1pm. I also shared that an academic packet would be ready for them at the school when they arrived. In addition to this, I left them with more contact information. I sent them my e-mail address and Google Voice number.Google Voice
  • Google Voice is a telephone service (app) that provides a U.S. telephone number chosen from selected area codes, call forwarding, voicemail, voice, and text messaging services for Google Account customers for free. Because I prefer to not give my personal cell phone number to the families of my schools, I have chosen to use a Google Voice Number. What is really cool about this communication service is that I can receive and make phone calls with my Google Voice Number on my cell phone. When I call families, my Google Voice number shows up on their Caller ID. Two parents called me today, and I was able to give them more information about how long we were going to be out of school, the food at the school, the academic packets that were being sent home, and just to help relieve some anxiety that some family members
  • E-mail, well we all should know what that is, but just in case, e-mail stands for electronic mail and is a way to exchange messages between people using electronic devices via the internet. While I attempted to upload the 110 page document to Class Dojo for families to have access, I quickly learned that the file was too large to upload. I therefore e-mailed it to one of the families that e-mailed me earlier in the day, and then returned to Class Dojo to ask families to send me their e-mail addresses. However, I later learned that Dojo was having a few glitches throughout the day, and about 10 minutes ago, I was able to upload the academic packet to Class Dojo! Yay!!!

With all of this uncertainty, I think that we teachers should enjoy being at home with our families. However, I also believe that we are all in this together, and our scholars as well as their families need us to support them. These are three ways we can reach out to communicate with families amid the Covid-19 takeover.

How are you keeping in contact with your scholars and their families? What do you recommend? I have seen some really cool remote ways of facilitating communication and learning (Zoom, Google Classroom, Quizlet Live) these last few days, and I would love to hear some details on how it works and how well it works in your world!

Until next time, happy teaching from home,

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

Happy 2nd Blogiversary

I know, I know! It has been awhile since I have written a blog post. But I have no excuses! What I will say is that I could not let today pass by without announcing that it is the RenewED Teacher’s 2nd Blogiversary!


Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Yes, two years ago, on this day, I decided to start a blog. I wanted to share how I overcame burnout and overcame the urge to quit teaching, not once but twice within a seven year span. I still want to share this, as I have since learned that practicing self-care and staying committed to your passion and purpose takes balanced, consistent and daily work.

Fran Warren – Teacher Self Care-Conference and Founder and CEO of The Educator’s Room

I have discovered two ideas that have helped me stay committed to remaining in the classroom! The first is being intentional about self-care. When I say self-care, I don’t only mean surface level interventions such as manicures, pedicures, working out, spending time with friends and family, getting enough rest, and dressing nice, although these do help. I also mean going deep, and dealing with why we are the way we are and dealing with financial debt, childhood trauma, systemic racism, and every other non-sexy aspect of life that can impact us negatively. Self-care is about getting to the root of improving the quality of one’s life–one’s overall wellness. Self-care can be fun, but it also takes some under the surface, hard work. In my humble opinion, I feel it is the number one way to overcome burnout. As an educator, I often ask myself, if I am not at my best, how can I expect the best from my scholars?

The second idea is focusing on why I teach–my passion and purpose meeting. In his book, “Start with Why,” Simon Sinek says, “all organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.” I want my scholars to be great, so it’s important for me to work to be great! Keeping my why at the forefront of what I do, has helped me persevere and overcome the urge to quit teaching when I had disheartening


Image courtesy of Pixabay.

days, wild weeks, and yucky years. I’m sure many of you can relate to this. Candidly speaking, I am sure the urge to quit teaching would have sneakily crept upon me again this year if I had not taken the time to regularly remember and reflect on my why. I was challenged as if I was novice, and many days, I felt like one. (I also have had the pleasure of working with some really amazing teachers in Western PA and across the country that have supported and inspired me. Y’all know who you are!!! If you’re wondering if I am talking about YOU, you’re right, I am!).

Speaking of reflection though, as I think about the the last year, and what my goals were for the RenewED Teacher, I realize that I have not hit them! I started a Teacher Book Club that was a flop because I couldn’t keep up with reading the book and being an active moderator of the group. I was unsure of how to keep the group members engaged and accountable for reading and responding to the topics of each chapter. I was inconsistent. I was completely overwhelmed with the changes in my new school building. It seems I bit off more than I could chew. I am not sure I will renew this goal. The beginning of the school year is definitely not a good time to begin a teacher book club.

Another goal was to share blog posts about math content. I have several drafts and pictures ready to use, but none of them are ready to go live. I am renewing this goal!

However, I am leery about setting new goals because sometimes goals define limitations. But as in all of my blog posts, I aim to continue to learn and grow, and always urge my readers to do the same, so we can empower our students to commit to lifelong learning! If I do not set goals, I may allow lack of belief in myself, the wrong unintended goal, past failures, fear, lackadaisicalness, my personal comfort zone, and the need for instant gratification to hold me back from learning and growing. I can’t help but think how this will impact my scholars. Therefore, I do intend to set goals despite past failures and fear vying to collaborate against me.


This blog has helped me stay committed to education and teaching! I hope somewhere out there, this blog has also motivated, encouraged, inspired and empowered other educators and teachers!

As I enter my 12th year of teaching this year, I shout, Happy Blogiversary!

Stay tuned for the RenewED Teacher’s goals for year 3!

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

Day 13: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?

No time to read? Click here to enjoy listening to this post.

I am what many would consider a veteran teacher. I am in my 11th year of teaching. For ten years, I taught in a low-income, title-one, and sub-urban school. The racial make-up was about 50% African American, 40% Caucasian, and 10% two or more races. According to the website,, 100% of students are recipients of free/reduced school lunches.

This year, I decided to apply somewhere closer to home. I was blessed with two interviews, and offered 3 teaching positions; one of which I accepted which is about a 10 minute drive from home!

The school I currently teach in is also a low-income and title-one, but urban school. The racial makeup is about 94% African American, 2% Caucasian, and 3% two or more races. Based on information also from, about 53% of students are eligible for free/reduced school lunches. It is the largest elementary (K-5) school in the district, but smaller than and houses less students than the school from which I transferred from.

Leaving my former district, I felt I was at the top of my game (but still with room for improvement). I may have been overly praised and evaluated, and I may have been led to believe I was a better teacher than what I really was because this year, I feel like a novice. But then again maybe I really was a great teacher for those students, in that school, at that time. Nevertheless, the change in schools has been a rude awakening for me.

Change is never easy. In fact, it is unavoidable, can help us grow, is often scary, but often brings opportunities. Many times we fight change. I actually fought changing my approach to teaching in my new classroom this year. I thought my routines, procedures, and style of teaching would be just as effective in my new home school as they were in my previous one. Y’all, I was all the way wrong, but I did not want to change. I didn’t think I needed to change. I wanted to change the kids and make them fit into my box. What was I thinking? That sounds like a teacher with a fixed mindset, right?

Things are getting better in my new classroom. I am actually teaching and not always dealing with discipline issues. I can say that this change has a lot to do with me being willing to change and not forcing my students to fit my mold. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe each and every child in my class can and will succeed. I believe they will not only meet my level of expectation, but will rise above my expectations. However, I had to meet them where they were.

On this 13th day of the “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R. Series,” I want to talk about the final E in T.E.A.C.H.E.R.

As a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R, we should always:


Upon applying to my new school district, I knew that I would more than likely teach in a


school that was considered high needs. A high-needs school according to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is defined as “within the top quartile of elementary and secondary schools statewide, as ranked by the number of unfilled, available teacher positions; or is located in an area where at least 30 percent of students come from families with incomes below the poverty line; or an area with a high percentage of out-of-field-teachers, high teacher turnover rate, or a high percentage of teachers who are not certified or licensed.” I was used to working in this kind of school with these statistics. Because I felt this way, I made a few assumptions. You know what they say about that…

It was then that I stopped assuming I knew best, and started over by asking questions. The beginning of my school year was more challenging than even my first year out of graduate school. In my blog post, “Caveats to Day 13: An Overwhelming and Under-Prepared Beginning” I describe in detail what made this year more challenging than I anticipated in addition to my asinine assumptions. Click here to read or listen to a short blog post about them.)

On Engaging with Students

Now that you have the facts, starting over was challenging. I had to let go of what was, and focus on what is. I had to commit to getting to know my colleagues, students and their families and stop comparing them to my former colleagues and students. I used the 2 by 10 Strategy attributed to Robert Wlodkowski. I spent 2 minutes (give or take a few seconds) each day for 10 days in a row talking to my students about anything they wanted to talk about. Most times it was an impromptu conversation in the morning after Harambe, at their lockers, in the hall during transitions, before or after lunch, during dismissal, or during our morning circle.

This strategy is recommended for teachers to use with at-risk students. It is really easy to use if you only have a few at risk students in your classroom, but when the entire class is at-risk, it takes a bit more elbow grease. Some students needed more than 10 days. I can tell that it is working because my students and I get along well. (They don’t always get along well with each other, so I still have some work to do there.) Additionally, another educator in the building brought to my attention that one young lady in my class this year is 100% better behaved now than she was last year. She said, “I don’t know what you did, but keep doing it. She’s a totally different person. 100% better.” After I heard a few things about this student and her behavior last year, I was committed to “Making her My Girl!” I’m so glad I chose to engage with her and the rest of my scholars.

The strategy is not a magic trick and it’s nothing miraculous. It simply helps teachers build better relationships and rapports with their students.

On Embracing Culture

Because nearly 100% of the students in my 4th and 5th grade classes are African American (this has never been true for me prior to this year), I feel that it is important to mention this next statement. As an African American teacher in the United States, who attended a public school district (before having a major goal to eliminate racial disparities in achievement levels of African-American students) and a predominantly white University (before it had the Center for Urban Education), I was taught using a curriculum that was primarily and essentially Eurocentric. Because this is the education system in which I was molded, I am sure the way I teach is also Eurocentric in nature.

What does this mean? It means I am unable to connect with my students culturally. You may think that it does not matter because I look like my students. We know that color matters. YES, WE DO. We may not want it to matter, but that’s the unfortunate basis of the United States of America. The fact is that the color of my skin DOES NOT ALWAYS afford me opportunities to better relate to students and families that look like me. Culture is more than skin deep. My historical education has limited my ability to truly understand who I am as an African American. Because of this, I am unable to fully understand who my students are and furthermore unable to help them fully understand who they are.

According to Afroetry of in an article titled, Education: Europe-Centered (Eurocentrism) vs. African-Centered, we were and “are typically taught that human civilization begins with Greece and Rome…[and]…further educated within the framework of Greek, Roman and European culture. The substance of what [is] learn[ed] is rooted in the western stories [we] learn to read from, the mathematical concepts [we] learn in school, and the science applications that are rooted in the observations of white males.” To read this article in its entirety, please click here. We all know that human civilization began well before Greece and Rome.

I mention this to say that no matter where you teach, no matter your race, nationality, ethnicity, religion or cultural background, it’s our responsibility to learn about who we teach, and intentionally take the time to do so. We do not have to act or dress or pretend to be something we are not to understand those that we teach. It’s unnecessary to appropriate. These things make us look as if we are trying too hard, being fake, and typically backfire. It’s always best to Keep it 100 by being Audaciously Authentic. But we do need to talk to our students and their families, listen to them, respect them, and value the differences and the similarities we share. We should read what they read, watch what they watch, and go where they go. We should read about their history with non-judgmental lenses on. This is no easy enterprise, but I believe it is worth it for us as educators and furthermore for the development of our students, schools, country, and world.

In conclusion, although I am African American, my mindset is Eurocentric at best. There is nothing wrong with that. However, as Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome say in the title of their book, the “Kids Deserve It.” Our scholars deserve renewed teachers that engage with them and are willing to and able to embrace their culture.

I learned a valuable lesson this year by changing school districts. I learned what worked before, may not work later, and in order to meet the needs of my students, I need to be a great teacher for these students, in this school, at this time, every time.

Until then, Happy Teaching
Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher
American and African American History Resources:
Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson
Stolen Legacy by George G.M. James.

Caveats to Day 13: An Overwhelming and Under-Prepared Beginning

No time to read? Click here to enjoy listening to this post. 

20180107_011541.jpgIf you have been following my blog for the past couple of months, you will know that I am currently completing the “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?” Series, where I share the essential elements to being a RenewED Teacher. This post is a caveat to Day 13. I felt the need to include this post for three reasons: 1) Day 13 was entirely too long; 2) The beginning of the year sets the stage for how the rest of the year will be; 3) I need you, my readers, to understand that despite stressful situations, a good teaching year can still be had. There were barriers and obstacles that my devilish mind felt were automatic set ups for failure. My angelic mind helped me to be patient and realistic about the situation. Things needed to get done regardless of how unfair I felt the conditions were. 


GIF courtesy of

Let’s jump right in. The beginning of my school year was no where near what I expected. I was overwhelmed and under-prepared. This post is not meant to bash or throw shade on anyone or any organization. I am simply stating some facts that increased my level of anxiety at the beginning of the school year. Schools and districts have rules and policies that must be adhered to in order to be in compliance with the district and state. With that being said, if I were a new teacher, you know, my first year out of college, I would’ve probably quit, and I wonder if events like this are related to why there are high rates of teacher attrition. Check out the 10 reasons that were beyond my control that could have easily contributed to the beginning of burn-out and frustration for me this year.

Day 13 Caveats:

10 Reasons I Had An Overwhelming and Under-Prepared Beginning

  1. I was not permitted to set up my room until I was cleared, which was about one week before students started. We started on a Tuesday, and the students started the following Monday. I know what you are thinking, I had six days to set up. No, I didn’t. Keep reading.


    Image courtesy of Pixabay.

  2. I was not able to bring anything in the room until the former teacher’s materials were removed. Most were removed by the end of the day on Monday, and the rest were removed by Tuesday morning. (Between her new position, trainings, and the summer program, I understand the lack of time she had to clear the room out.)
  3. Most of my teaching supplies and materials were at home in my garage until the Wednesday before school started. (I packed my car and brought things in little by little beginning on Monday. On Wednesday, my husband brought everything else in.)


    My guys are the best!

  4. On Wednesday, we had a big back to school celebration and District-Wide PD. I was out of the building for a great portion of the day. (It was pretty fun and exciting though!)


    District-wide PD was packed and boomin’!

  5. Thursday, we had Math PD outside of the building. ALL DAY!!! I returned to the school later in the evening to continue getting my classroom to actually look like a classroom. (Slightly frustrated this day. I teach both 4th and 5th grade math. We were separated by grade level. I could not attend both sessions at the same time.)

  6. Friday, I made copies, lesson plans, organized Monday’s materials, etc. My friend and former colleague and I hosted a hugs and farewell party with our former co-workers, so I left the building around 5 pm. Although we both resigned around the same time, we did not plan this. We left for varying reasons, and she is in a different state. (I cried as I drove to the going away party. Not because I was sad I would miss them, but because my classroom was no where near ready for Monday. I was overwhelmed, felt under-prepared, and exhausted.)
  7. 20180107_010508.jpg

    I love these ladies. We were a dream team!.

    Each day, we had to exit the building by 5:30-6:00 pm.


    He had to get his nap in.

  8. The building was open on Saturday from 9 am – 2 pm. My husband came to help. (Mr. Organization and Get Stuff Done, was amazing. I could not have finished the room without him.) Our son took his nap on the rug in my classroom with a bean bag as a pillow.
  9. I did not receive my class roster until the first day of school. (Yes, the day students arrived. No shade. Based on my knowledge, every teacher received their roster the same day. The only difference is that they knew most of the students because they were not new to the building.)
  10. The one thing I have done every year I have taught is mail letters (Yes, snail-mail) home to my students and their families. This gives them an opportunity to get to learn about me prior to the first day of school. I believe the letters set the tone. Additionally, I call the families after the letters are sent home to touch base with them. I also provide families with a means to communicate back with me about their child. I was not able to do any of this. I strongly believe this pro-active method of communication has benefited me and the relationships I have with my students and their families over the years. There is only one year I was not able to mail the letters, and that year was terrible! That was the year I wanted to quit teaching! This year was headed down the same line.

With that folks, look out for day 13 of the “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?” series, where I share the next component and what the final E in T.E.A.C.H.E.R. represents.

As we continue to learn and grow together, how was your beginning of the school year? I hope not as stressful as mine. Share in the comments below. I look forward to reading them.

Until then, Happy Teaching!

The RenewED Teacher, Krystal L. Smith

P.S. Here is a video of my classroom on the first day of school! (I do not own the rights to the music in the video.)

If this video does not work, please try the one below (No music).

Day 9: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?

Don’t have time to read this post? Click here to listen.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglass


Photo courtesy of Flickr.

This is one of my favorite quotes. I remember as a first year teacher, I said this quote day-in and day-out to my students. My goal was for them to realize that struggle was part of the process of growing and learning over time. I often allowed them time to write about and discuss what they thought it meant. To add my two cents, I often used analogies to help them understand. I talked about babies learning to walk and talk, and how that process takes a about a year for most babies, but can take longer! They often laughed at this realizing the truth of the statement. I even used sports’ analogies, sharing how athletes get better over time with consistent and persistent effort. Often times, my students ate this up, and were motivated to work harder. Some of them were transformed, and continued to work harder over massive periods of time as if they were completely different students! Over the years, I have come to refer to or even use this quote less, but I have recently began using it again because I still believe in the words spoken by Frederick Douglass so long ago. Can you relate to this quote?


When I think about every opportunity I have had in my life, and every time I have failed or excelled at something, the road has never been easy. Even getting my new teaching position this year was not easy. I missed plenty of Zzz, completing applications, gathering reliable people to write letters of recommendations and to use as references, updating and creating a new resume and portfolio (I went digital! Post about this coming soon!), planning and preparing for potential interviews, while still ensuring I dotted and crossed every i and t, at my current place of employment. Burn out could have set in, but I remembered my goal and how this short-term sacrifice could help me reach a longer-term goal. One that I had set out to achieve only 10 years earlier, and was politely denied with an offer I knew was not for me. Even still, throughout the process of teaching and learning there are many opportunities that allow for our struggles to lead to progress.

As educators, our daily tasks are not always, and sometimes never simple. We all know


the struggle is real, and we know it all too well. We have to deal with 20+ little people’s personalities who may or may not want to learn, or are unable to focus on learning due to some basic need not being met or extenuating circumstances. We also have to read or create Individualized Education Plans (IEPs); create lesson plans; adapt activities; purchase materials using our own funds; attend staff and PLC meetings; participate in Professional Development (PD); align curriculum to standards; teach culturally relevant content; grade papers; display student work; contact families; keep clearances up-to-date; make copies on a copy machine that is like Bob Marley: Always Jammin’!; hold our bladders for hours; and stay positive knowing we have to come early, stay late, or take work home with us when we simply don’t want to. Do you feel me?

Because of our many responsibilities as teachers, it is vital that we always have on the hat of a learner. As a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R., we should always be willing to:




Image Courtesy of Google.

As the image above states, being comfortable is cool, but you’re not getting better. I mean, I love being at home in my cozy sweats, wrapped in a blanket, eating popcorn and watching TV with my family. However, if my goal is to have a six-pack with quads, hamstrings, biceps, and triceps to match, I am not going to develop that body in my comfort zone. As educators, how can we expect our students to push through their level of discomfort or frustration to learn, if we are unable to put ourselves in similar situations to teach and reach all learners? We should never expect from our students what we are unable or unwilling to do ourselves. #lifelonglearner So as my father always asked me before I left for school, I ask you, “Do you have your thinking cap on?”


Recently, I attended a two day seminar titled, “Beyond Diversity: Introduction to Courageous Conversations and a Foundation for Deinstitutionalizing Racism and Eliminating Racial Achievement Disparities.” Because talking about race seems to be taboo for many people, the conversations we had were sometimes quite uncomfortable. But I went wanting to learn and was ready for the uncomfortable conversations that were bound to surface.

One woman asked, “As a white woman, how do I get over the guilt?” It took

Image courtesy of Google Images.

me sometime, but as I considered her question, in my mind I thought, “First, remember, it’s not your fault. Never give up on eliminating racial disparities; be intentional in learning about your students; don’t assume, but rather ask questions; and continue to educate yourself by reading and becoming familiar with culturally relevant teaching.” Since I began teaching in a new school district, this year, these were all things I had to do to get my mind right before stepping into unfamiliar teaching territory. I have never taught in a predominantly African American school. I later shared my thoughts and experiences with her.

Another participant shared that he and his siblings had never seen his father shirtless. Not even when they went swimming, or when he went to bathe. About three years before he died, he took his shirt off at a family reunion to show why he never removed it in front of his children. He had decades worth of pain hidden on his back. As a former Indentured Servant in Alabama, in the 20th century, he received lashings that not only scarred him, but could have scarred his children much more had he shown them during their childhood. This blew my mind!

The stories of my bi-racial classmates added another level of discomfort. I never knew lighter toned African Americans desired to have a darker complexion because they were tired of everyone saying they thought they were better because of their light, close to white skin. When we talked about White Privilege and what that meant by completing a survey and comparing scores, none of us were surprised by the results due to the nature of the questions. However, the look of the room was pitiful. You could clearly see the haves and the have nots. (Teaching Tolerance offers some PD on racism and white privilege here.)

Mary Jane Burke’s Tweet.

While the two days were enlightening, I was wrapped up in my feelings and thoughts. IN MY UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH, I couldn’t help but think that because I have assimilated into white culture, I am sometimes unable to relate to my students of color. I’m so uncomfortable that I want to backspace this entire sentence. These thoughts get me wrapped up in my feelings because it makes me angry that I can’t always understand or relate to people that look like me. Race is not everything, but it is the first objective characteristic most people notice when a person enters a space. Nevertheless, all of this made me extremely uncomfortable. I pride myself in connecting with my students and their families by building strong relationships, and I still feel that I have the gift of doing so, but at times I struggle. I gather that this is normal…you know? To struggle sometimes. But when you struggle with the same type of student over time and you begin to notice it, or realize that something is not quite right, it’s time to get out of your feelings and thoughts, and take action. In the words of Shinora Grayson Johnson, personal finance guru and money manager at Disciplined Dollars, “You have to get to a healthy level of disgust if you really want to change.”

So, what are some ways are you being like Frederick Douglass today? How are you embracing your teaching struggles in order to help you grow and to help your students grow?

As we continue to learn and grow together through discomfort, please share your teaching struggles, and how you have been able to overcome them or not. I cannot wait to hear how the struggle is real for you. While this post was not meant to focus on race, it kind of took that turn, but please feel free to share any of your struggles.

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith

Day 8: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?

This post right here describes my life (and probably yours) at the current moment. LOL! Can you relate?

Screenshot_20171112-220552 (1)

Courtesy of Facebook.

Nevertheless, work must be done, if we plan to continue growing and learning together.

Therefore, let’s continue with DAY EIGHT and the SECOND HALF of the “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?” Series. To access the first 7-posts on the essential elements to being a RenewED Teacher, feel free to click here.

As a quick review, R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.S consciously and intentionally choose to:

Remember Their Why

Exercise Their Minds, Bodies, and Souls

Never Give Up

Educate Themselves

Work With Families

Entertain Their Students to Entertain Themselves, and

Dare to Be Intentional

The T in T.E.A.C.H.E.R. is an important component to anything we do in life.

As a RenewED Teacher, we ALWAYS:


Day8TryNewThings (2)

Have you ever been bored in your classroom teaching the same old lessons that you have taught year after year? Do your students seem bored and disengaged as well? Is this starting to frustrate you? Are you losing hope in yourself and perhaps your students? Have you become complacent and seem to just be going to work for the paycheck (especially if you have reached that top step)? Are you just going through the motions? Are you burned out?

Listen, don’t feel bad if you have answered yes to any of these questions. I once answered yes to them all.

If you have answered yes to any of these questions though, trying something new may be just the thing you need to shake things up a bit. But this cannot be a one-stop-shop. We must be committed to being consistent with this new thing.

Why Try New Things

Trying new things can be daunting, but they can also be fun! In the classroom, trying new things is rarely about us as the educator though. Trying new things is about making an impact on the education and lives of the children in our classrooms by motivating, encouraging, inspiring, and even transforming them to learn and put forth the consistent effort to do so. We want to help them use their efforts and abilities to achieve the greatest academic success possible. If we want our students to try new things (new math concepts, science experiments, reading strategies, historical concepts, etc.), we need to be willing to share with them the new things we are trying.

Where To Begin?

I personally love attending conferences, but I have not been to any in a few years. However, in the past, if I learned something new there, I tried it in my class immediately, and most times I have been pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I also enjoy professional development workshops. I am currently enrolled in a math course at our local intermediate unit, and the ideas and strategies that I have learned there over the past two years, have really helped me to value and appreciate the CRA model (Concrete-Representation-Abstract Model for teaching math. Click here to see a short video on CRA.). Wait for it… At one point in time, I did not think it necessary for 5th grade students to use manipulatives to study and solve math problems. 😮 (CRA article and examples).

Social Media has given me a whole new world of ideas. Between Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you can probably find a new idea for every lesson that you currently teach! It can be overwhelming seeing what all these other teachers are doing, but you cannot compare your Monday with someone else’s Friday, so pick and choose wisely by focusing on your time, creative genius, hobbies, and personality.


RIGHT NOW, if you answered yes to the questions above. LOL! But seriously, why wait? Try something new as soon as possible.

New Things I Have Tried

Did you know I was trying something new when I created this blog? Yep! I was considering quitting teaching. I was burned out, frustrated, unsupported (in my opinion by my administrator), my students did not behave the way I expected them to, the families were not as involved as other families had been in previous years, and nothing I did seemed to work. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was not good enough. I was ready to leave this profession.

With this blog, one of my personal goals was to renew my passion for teaching!


OMG, it actually worked!

Let me put it to you this way. Had I not started this blog, and took the time to develop and practice what it means to be a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R., I would probably quit teaching right now. YES,  I said it! Right now!

This year, is just as challenging as the year I considered quitting during my 4th year of service. The difference now, is that I do have a supportive administrator, BUT, yes there is a big ol’ BUT, I have also learned to prevent and react to burn-out and frustration in effective ways. I have a set of skills that have helped me become a stronger teacher and to overcome adversity. Trying new things is one of those essential elements.

Something else new I tried is attempting to become a National Board Certified Teacher. I began in Fall of 2014 when I was 6 months pregnant! I still do not know what I was thinking! I completed the final component in May 2017. I will learn if I am certified come December 2017. Whether I earn it or not, I do believe that my teaching practice has been enhanced immensely. However, I welcome any and all prayers and words of encouragement as the certification season nears.

One thing I have always wanted to do in my classroom is write songs. In particularly, remixes to popular songs my students know or their families may know. As a child, my sister and I did this all the time, and we got it from our father. He taught us our zip-code by singing it to the tune of “Beauty and the Beast.” LOL! I still remember it. My dad would have been a great teacher.

Music, is the great equalizer, and has proven time and time again to be effective in helping students to learn and remember things.  Greg Coleman, the author of Mr. Elementary Math, has a really cool post titled The Power of Teaching with Math Songs, where he talks about why this is important, some tips on how to implement songs, and he even provides some great resources. I created a Division Remix to Whatever You Need by rapper Meek Mill featuring Chris Brown and Ty Dolla Sign. My students learned what a quotient was from the song, and my two year old knows the chorus! LOL! Click here to view.

Keep in mind that many of us learned the 26 letters of the alphabet with a song, right!? Many advertisements use music and lyrics to persuade us to buy whatever it is they are selling. Listen, whether you use Nationwide Insurance or not, almost everyone knows the slogan that is hummed or sang by Peyton Manning, “Nationwide is on your side!” (Did you sing it or say it? LOL! Share in the comments.)

I have wanted to create songs this since my first year teaching, but I was too worried about and afraid of what my colleagues would think. I mean none of them were doing it. I was afraid of being different. (Don’t let fear get in your way.) I never thought to ask if any of my colleagues wanted to create a song until about 2-3 years ago when my fifth grade team and I created a remix to Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars titled Fifth Grade Funk! It was so much fun! Something we and our students will always remember.

With that in mind, I created three new songs this year, and shared them with my students. (A future goal is to create one with them). I took a huge risk this year with my new students. I was so nervous for the first day of school, that I decided to do the Bodak Yellow Challenge Teacher Version, and create a welcome back to school song for my students. Click here to listen. The other song is a transition song sang to Bruno Mars’ What I Like and is sang to the chorus of the song:

“It’s time for us to focus,

So Mrs. Smith can teach us.

I’m here in school so I can learn,

so I can learn!

I’m gonna go and zip my lips

to learn some tips!” (2x) 

Now granted I love music, and I am somewhat musically inclined. I sang in my church choir, played a lead and semi-lead role in some musicals back in the day, so I can hit a note or two, but I am no Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, or fill in the blank. I can even bust a move here and there.

Guess what? I use this to my advantage in my classroom when it is effective for my students. Not only am I entertaining my students, I am entertaining myself (Day 6). Everyone is having fun! Teaching is much easier when we are all having fun, and learning at the same time.

As RenewED Teachers, we need to think about all the things we love to do. With so much teacher autonomy being taken away from us, we have to fit it in somehow to keep teaching fun for us so that we can make learning fun for our students. We need to base what we try new on the students in our room, at this time, based on what they need, and their interests while also considering how our strengths, passions, and hobbies can be merged into our classrooms to engage our students.

As we continue to learn and grow together, please share what you will try or have tried new in your classroom this year. Share your hobbies and perhaps how you can merge them with your students’ interests. Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments! I cannot wait to hear your ideas!

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith



Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3 – Cultivating Grit – A Guest Post by Jillian Smart, M.Ed.

The Value in Cultivating Grit

In January, I returned from hiatus with a blog post on confidence-building strategies. The take-home points are that we (1) value mistakes and model healthy responses to failure, (2) encourage learners to focus on what they can do, and (3) maximize critically thinking opportunities.

Since we’re in the thick of it, I’d be remiss if I did not also recap student strategies for less stressful testing. Testing season is an intense time for educators, learners, and parents. There’re a number of ways to decrease stress and enter testing season with greater confidence. One of our guest bloggers, Jillian Smart, M.Ed., shares four strategies

  1. Review information daily
  2. Clarify gaps in learning
  3. Change daily habits
  4. Build endurance


There’s a connection.

Confidence-building strategies and strategies for less stressful testing are linked by grit. When we cultivate grit, we learn (and teach others) to persevere over long periods of time. For instance, one confidence-building strategy is that we model healthy responses to failure. It’s not likely that modeling a healthy response once is going to cut it. Dealing with failure in healthy ways requires a lot of personal growth initially.

Learner perceptions about failure can be deep-rooted. The more deeply rooted our behaviors and thoughts, the more exposure to new behaviors and thoughts we require before change happens. This is not only true of our response to failure; it’s true of our response to challenge. Habits are hard to break if we aren’t gritty about making the change.

Students with low confidence and poor test performance behave and think in ways that are not self serving. We don’t want to overlook environmental factors that obliterate a child’s confidence in himself or leaves her ill-prepared to compete academically. We also don’t want to nurture narcissism. For a moment, we want to highlight something that learners can do for themselves: cultivate grit.

Cultivating Grit: An approach to increasing confidence explores character development: grit, growth mindset, and motivation. I draw on personal and professional experiences as well as current research to share do-it-yourself confidence-building strategies with educators and parents. Cultivating Grit takes readers and listeners on a journey through an eight-part discussion with five reflection activities to be completed individually or as a group. The premise is that by helping learners increase confidence, performance improves in class and at home.

It’s a journey.

Those who experience failure are erroneously viewed as lacking grit. Grit skeptics seem to think that persevering over time means that we never miss the mark, that we always get the “thing” we’re passionate about… if we work hard enough. Though some focus on one goal, execute the plan, and live happily ever after, many more of us will have to work very hard at a number of our passions.

Sectors of society are afflicted with the “this is how we’ve always done it” approach to education and training, which is much too rigid for us to reap the benefits of all our talents. I encourage you to have a closer look at the opportunities we uncover by understanding and cultivating grit in our lives.

We’ve found that character development is the secret to student growth. Cultivating grit is an important piece of character education for educators and parents. Request your free download of Cultivating Grit today.

Jillian Smart, M.Ed. is an author, coach, and educator. She partners with educators and families around the world to facilitate development of more independent learners. Jillian launched Jackson Education Support as the vehicle for this work. The program she has developed is a breakthrough that has garnered much support and applause since the launch. The 96% success rate among exam preparation and tutoring clients evidences program efficacy.

Her approach is unique in that she leverages character development to affect cognitive development. Character development experiences with clients and professional development training serve as the foundation for this book.

As we continue to learn and grow together, please fill free to connect with and reach out to Jillian by visiting her site at Jackson Education Support or follow her on Facebook. In addition, please share your ideas on how you prepare your scholars to build confidence and overcome testing anxiety.

Thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, and following!

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

Day 14: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.? A Reflection

No time to read? Click here to enjoy listening to this post.

It was Saturday, December 16, 2017. The day my National Board Teaching Scores would be released. The day I learned whether I could shout, “I AM A NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFIED TEACHER!” Or the day, I tucked my tail, crawled back in bed, and complained about having to pay and redo all of the hard work I assumed was my best. Hmmm… I sat at my computer eating some grapes and drinking a nice glass of cold coffee. (Yes, we prefer iced coffee in this home. LOL!) I was excited! My husband was at work, and our son was still asleep. I was thankful for some quiet and alone time.


Image Courtesy of Windows 10 Spotlight Images: Escape from Reality, Mangroves at sunset, Darwin, Australia

I clicked the black button on my mouse and waited for my computer to load. This beautiful background with a mangrove tree, and an amazing glow of dusk appeared before I logged-in. I took this glow as a sign of success. I keyed in my password.


I had the National Board Website bookmarked for easy access. I logged into my National Board account! I began to bite my nails. I felt butterflies in my belly, and my left leg shook rapidly as I waited for my scorecard to open! I was turnt-up! My excitement, nerves, and anxiety were wrapped together like a burrito. This is what I read:

“Dear Krystal Reid,
Your performance on this attempt did not meet the threshold established by our Board of Directors for achieving National Board Certification.”


Image Courtesy of Pixabay.

That quickly, my heart dropped. I could not immediately read the rest of the letter. My eyes teemed with tears. I knew that there would be some positive jargon to follow, and I simply wasn’t ready for it. All I would think was,

“I have failed to become a National Board Certified Teacher.”

There! I said it.

I was heartbroken, angry, and frustrated. Quite candidly, I was pissed. I typically keep feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness to myself. But it is important for me to deal with these emotions so that I can move forward and reflect to continue to grow and achieve the goal of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher. I still want it!

However, sharing this information brings another level of emotion I often conceal as well:


Image Courtesy of Flickr.


                          This video terrified me as a child!                        Giphy Courtesy of

I don’t want you to see me as a failure.

I don’t want you to judge me because I failed.

I don’t want you to think I am an incompetent educator.

While I shouldn’t worry about what people think, my feelings about my failure are real. If you are up-to-date with this 14 day series on what it means to be a RenewED Teacher, I am glad that I waited to share this final day because this failure is the perfect opportunity to share what the final “R” in R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R. means.

As a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R, it is important that we always strive to:



As we are still roughly at the beginning of 2018, this is the perfect time to reflect on the past year, and create changes to make this year the best year ever! One of my major goals this year is to become a National Board Certified Teacher.

In my effort to be more reflective as an educator, sustain growth within the profession, and to help achieve my goal of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher, I am focusing on 5 questions:

  1. What can I learn from this?
  2. What could I have done differently?
  3. Do I need to inquiry or improve some skill?
  4. Who can I learn from?
  5. What will I do next?

Since I am not certified, YET, it is time to begin planning and preparing to retake certain components. I am still frustrated because I don’t want to have to put in the astronomical amount of time again, or spend the money it costs to retake the components. But I want to be the best teacher I can possibly be, in order to help my students reach their fullest potential and to achieve their grandest dreams. I have already learned so much about myself through this journey, that I want to learn more for the sake of my students. I also have regained my passion for teaching through this process, and I don’t want to lose momentum. Additionally, this quote by T.D. Jakes, gives me so much life:

“A setback is a setup for a comeback.”

Courtesy of Power of Positivity on Facebook.

I am ready for my comeback. Professional and personal development are powerful. I have been reading a plethora of books, listening to several podcasts, and implementing many of the strategies I am learning, and many quotes resonate with me. Darren Hardy said, “The key to success is massive failure.” John Dewey said, “Failure is instructive.” My all time favorite, and I have mentioned this before, is what Frederick Douglass said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” If I think of failure in terms of these quotes, I am going to use it as a means to an end and a massive opportunity to learn from what I didn’t do and don’t know; what I could have done differently; continue to learn and grow; find someone that can teach me what I do not know; and set goals to achieve National Board Certification.

This failure shows I am human and not perfect. I am “Purposed not Perfect.” As a RenewED Teacher, I have room for growth. My deadline is December 2019.

As we continue to learn and grow together, I would love to start a conversation about reflection and productive failure, and how we can use our failures and our reflection of them, to motivate our students when they fail. Most of us, as adults, do not give up, but many of our students unfortunately do. What steps do you take to overcome your failure? How can we use reflection of our failures as a tool for growth to help our students learn and grow?

Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing!

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher