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

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

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

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 12: 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. 

Over the summer, I listened to an audio-book titled, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” by Carol Dweck. Have you heard of it? If not, I highly recommend it to anyone even if you are not an educator. It’s transformative! One’s mindset impacts every aspect of his or her life including, but not limited to relationships, business, parenting, and yep, you guessed it, schools.

According to mindsetonline, “Mindsets are beliefs—beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities.” It is not an attribute of a person. It is a way of thinking about particular things. According to Dweck, and her decades of research on success and achievement, there are two type of mindsets: Fixed and Growth. People with fixed mindsets believe the way things are, and feel they can never change regardless of what they do or not. They believe their success, or lack there of, is innate.  On the other hand, people with growth mindsets believe that hard work, effort, and dedication can improve any circumstances. They believe their individual qualities can be improved and developed upon over time. 

I am sure you can guess which mindset I support and try to embrace, and which mindset a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R. should embrace.

Of course, a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R. should ALWAYS:




20171229_020022WHY WE SHOULD




In many of my posts, I ask a variation of this question, “How can you expect something from your students that you do not practice yourself?” This is the main reason why we should make embracing a growth mindset a habit. We all want our scholars to work hard, stay committed to tasks, persevere and overcome academic and social barriers, and we also want them to grow in these areas. Additionally, we want them to believe in themselves enough to feel they can be successful at whatever it is they choose to do. If you don’t want any of this for ALL of your students, you may be in the wrong profession. But if you do want this for ALL of your students, we need to make a pact.

Can we all agree that it is necessary for us as educators to also work hard, stay committed to tasks, persevere and overcome our students’ academic and social barriers, and continue to learn and grow within our profession? Furthermore, can we also agree that it is important for us to consistently believe in ourselves enough to know we are 100% capable of teaching, reaching, loving, supporting, and growing each student in our classroom in order to help bring their hopes and dreams of success to fruition? I’m sure you agree, friends.

But whether you agree or not, I still must wonder how we can expect our students to embrace something if we do not do it ourselves, first?


how-2730752_1280.pngMaybe you buy-in to the theory of the growth mindset, maybe you don’t. Let’s just say you’re interested in learning how to incorporate the idea into your classroom. I first and foremost believe that you cannot influence change and transform people, let alone children, without being a model of it yourself. My mindset is fixed in this regard. LOL! Therefore, you need to discover what mindset you embrace first, and work from there. If you have growth mindset, there are plenty of resources to use to begin the journey of helping all of your students embrace growth mindsets. If you lean more towards fixed ideas and embrace a fixed mindset, you are going to have to do some personal and perhaps professional development in this area, especially if you plan to guide your scholars towards believing in growth mindsets. And you know what? That’s okay.

According to Dweck, most people may not be consciously aware of their mindset. “Individuals may not necessarily be aware of their own mindset, but their mindset can still be discerned based on their behavior. It is especially evident in their reaction to failure. Fixed-mindset individuals dread failure because it is a negative statement on their basic abilities, while growth mindset individuals don’t mind or fear failure as much because they realize their performance can be improved and learning comes from failure.” (University of Hull).

If you are interested in learning what your mindset is, click here to complete this online assessment from While you complete the assessment, remember Day 10 and to “Keep it one hunnit” by being “Audaciously Authentic” with your answers.

I’ve Discovered The Mindset I Embrace, Now What?…


what-2730753_1280Whether you habitually embrace a fixed mindset or growth mindset, congratulations! You have taken the first step to helping your students embrace this idea of mindsets! Now is the best time to decide if what you currently do in your classroom aligns with either of these mindsets, and to decide if you want it to stay the same or change.

If you decide to remain consistent in what you currently do or change because things are not working how you like regarding your mindset, I would highly recommend reading or listening to Dweck’s book as soon as possible to help you really understand what Dweck’s research means. What you don’t want to do is introduce the idea in haphazard ways and risk not making an impact in your classroom.

Once you are comfortable with her research, introduce the idea to your students. Talk to them about what they think it means. Depending on their age, have them complete a mindset assessment to discover what your students think about themselves, and use this information when planning lessons and activities. I have done these surveys in my classrooms, and I have learned a plethora of information about my students including what they believe about themselves and what they think is possible to achieve or not. I kid you not, when things get challenging, I am able to intervene many times before a meltdown or a “walk-out-of-the-room-and-slam-the-door-with-frustration-act” occurs with certain students simply based on what I remember from their mindset assessments.

Here are five additional resources to get you started. Simply click the links.

Prof. Crole Dweck: Video-Growth Mindset Vs Fixed Mindset

Mindset Assessment Profile

How Can You Change From a Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset?

As we continue to learn and grow together, I CAUTION you not to fall into the trap of the fake growth mindset, the overzealous and the overpopularized use of growth mindset as I almost did before watching these videos and reading an article from titled, “Misinterpreting the Growth Mindset: Why We’re Doing Students a Disservice.” AND I CHALLENGE you to keep learning about mindsets and be willing to make a habit of embracing a growth mindset. As teacher Christina Gil said, “Pushing our students to adopt a growth mindset is an easy call. Adopting one ourselves is harder,” ( – “Teachers Need a Growth Mindset Too”).

Before you click away, share your thoughts about this idea of mindsets or your assessment results in the comments. I can’t wait to read your responses. Now get out there form a new habit.

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher