Day 12: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?

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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

Day 11: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?

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As we come closer to the end of the, “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.? Series” we focus on the letter C.

As a RenewED Teacher, we should ALWAYS prioritize…


20171228_115718As defined by, content knowledge, “refers to the body of knowledge and information that teachers teach and that students are expected to learn in a given subject or content area, such as English language arts, mathematics, science, or social studies. Content knowledge generally refers to the facts, concepts, theories, and principles that are taught and learned in specific academic courses, rather than to related skills—such as reading, writing, or researching—that students also learn in school.”

Based on this definition, content seems to be the core of teaching and learning. It is the “WHAT” of the puzzle. We can build the best relationships with students, have the most well behaved class in

content-is-king-1132259_1920 (2)

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

the school, show up early and stay late everyday, love kids with the greatest amount of compassion and logic, be the neatest, most organized and creative teacher in the building, but without a deep level of content knowledge and strategies to present that content in meaningful ways, we are still ineffective. I don’t want to swallow this pill anymore than any of you, but as Bill Gates said, “Content is King.” If you’re a lady, go ahead and say, “Content is Queen!”

Content is important for three reasons including behavior, communication, and making sense of and connecting to the world.


Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Content Often Drives Our Behavior 

As a student and as an adult, I can recall being disengaged and bored in school or during a course when I did not have the background knowledge or experience to relate to a topic of discussion. Our students behave in similar ways, by talking, being off task, or many times by acting out to avoid learning or looking ignorant all together.

Having knowledge or lack their of in a particular subject can drive our behaviors positively or negatively. I have heard teachers say they are glad their grade level is departmentalized, and that they only have to teach reading or math because they did not “like reading” or, “sucked at math!” It seems students and teachers alike get anxious about the subjects they are less comfortable with. But as I wrote on Day 9, we have to experience a level of discomfort in order to grow, and on Day 4, it is important to take initiative and educate ourselves on those things we don’t know or else we fail ourselves and our students. If we don’t take initiative to gain knowledge about things we are uncomfortable and unfamiliar with, how can we expect our scholars to do so? This is their life almost everyday at school. Let’s show them how to navigate the world by making good choices when content knowledge is the only way to thrive and survive.

Content Helps Us to Communicate Ideas about Varying Subjects

For the teachers that teach in isolation, we do our students a huge disservice. I am sometimes guilty of that myself, so no judgement here. As a National Board Teaching Candidate (No, I am not certified…YET.), I am aware and learning more about how


How could we use this image to help us create lessons that could forge a path for students to learn math, reading, science, history, technology, engineering, and                             art simultaneously?                             Image courtesy of Pixabay.

“accomplished teachers value the relationships among subject areas, using those relationships to forge multiple paths to knowledge…[and to] recogniz[e] how knowledge is established within and across subject areas [as something] crucial to the instruction of logical reasoning.” (National Board, Proposition 2).

Many people assume content knowledge is just about facts, and that we should not teach facts because it does not teach students how to become critical thinkers. Many people think facts are things that need to be memorized and used only for standardized testing. But my question is if you don’t know anything about the basic facts regarding content in a particular subject, how can you formulate a critical thought to help build understanding, and later communicate it to someone else effectively? Content including some basic facts (and some need to be memorized), is the basis of teaching and learning.

I personally have a difficult time teaching concepts and skills I am unable to help students relate to the real world. I always ask myself why do students need to know this? If I cannot find a logical answer, I will do research and ask around before I teach it. Otherwise, I may not do my best teaching it because in my mind, I will believe it’s not important for them to know, and I could be wrong.

Last year, I struggled with teaching the powers of 10 in math. The concept itself is easy. The hard part was finding something relevant and meaningful to teach and reach my students. As I was planning a science lesson on Astronomical Units and how far each planet was from the sun, I finally found a way for my students to practice and understand why we may need to know and use powers of 10. The distance from Earth to the Sun is


Image courtesy of Google Images.

referred to as the Astronomical Unit (AU) and is 150,000,000 km. Why write 7 zeros if we can write 15×107? They saw this as a short-cut for writing large numbers, and they were right! Thank goodness for that astronomy course I dropped in college after 2 weeks. I learned something! This, some research, and reaching out to others allowed me to teach a cross-curricular lesson and help my students discover how math and science are interrelated.

Content Helps Us to Make Sense of and Connect to The World 


Throughout my years of teaching, I have often wondered how and why the content knowledge of my lowest performing student was so much different than my highest performing student, and why there was such a huge difference in how they demonstrated what they learned or did not learn, as well as major differences in their behaviors. I don’t have all if any of the exact answers to these wonderings, but through some research, content, context, and being able to connect play huge roles.

As a college sophomore and junior, I was an Americorps member of Jumpstart. Jumpstart’s mission is to provide “language, literacy, and social-emotional programming for preschool children from under-resourced communities and promotes quality early learning for all.” I start here because language, literacy, and social-emotional development (connected to behavior) is a child’s first experience with how they learn and comprehend content within given contexts.


                                     This is where Jumpstart began.                                       Image courtesy of Pixabay. Edited by PowerPoint.

Read it again… Let it sink in… Got it? 30 million fewer words by age 3!? This quote is from a landmark study done by the late University of Kansas child psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, and can be found in the book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young Children. There is even more telling in addition to this famous quote, and can be found here. “The researchers found that, on average, children from professional families heard more than 2,150 words an hour. Those in working-class families heard about 1,250 words. Children in families on welfare heard little more than 600 words an hour.” This is not just a word gap, it’s a content gap. When students are not hearing words or communicating with others, they are not learning content or gaining experience with people and the world. “Dale Walker, an associate research professor in early language and communication” who worked with Hart and Risley did a follow-up study, and learned that “vocabulary gaps in preschool predicted 3rd grade gaps in language-test performance.” In her words, “What I found in visiting those children from kindergarten to 3rd grade was, those who had heard the least were still at a disadvantage years later.[…]I always knew where to find them; frequently, they were in the hallways, for behavior problems.”

Making sense of the world begins prior to students entering school. We know this, right!? Therefore we know that many of our students from low income communities enter our classrooms with word, vocabulary, and experiential gaps. In essence, we know that they are unable to make more sense of the world than many of their peers because they are lacking some specific content. As educators, we cannot afford to contribute to these gaps because we know it then changes from a content gap to an achievement gap. It is our duty to learn who our students are and what they know or do not know and can and cannot do. It is further more our responsibility to continue to learn and study what they are supposed to know, and then work with families and community organizations to insure they learn it. This is what we do daily, teachers, and we know the mission is not easy. It’s important that we never give up though.

In closing, I feel that teacher Daisy Christodoulou, and the author of “Seven Myths of Education,” which was adapted by the American Educator as “Minding the Knowledge Gap: The Importance of Content in Student Learning” summarizes why content knowledge is so important in these three quotes:

Minding the Knowledge Gap 1.PNG   Minding the Knowledge Gap 2.PNG     Minding the Knowledge Gap 3.PNG

As RenewED Teachers, we have to keep content at the forefront of what we learn so that our scholars learn to manage their behaviors, communicate effectively, and make sense of and connect to the world.

As we continue to learn and grow together, I am interested in your thoughts and ideas regarding content as well. Feel free to respond to these three questions. On a scale of 1-10:

  1. How well do you think you know the content you teach?
  2. How well do you think you are able to connect one content area to another?
  3. How important is content to you?

Leave your digits and thoughts in the comments! I cannot wait to hear from you!

(Here are my digits: 6, 6, 10!)

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

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Click to access Christodoulou.pdf



Day 10: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D T.E.A.C.H.E.R?

If you don’t have time to read this post, feel free to listen to it here by clicking this link


Courtesy of Google Images

I believe in “Keeping it 100%, (one hunnit),” ALL of the time. Would you agree that it’s not always easy do though? Okay, let me take a step back. What does “Keepin’ it one hunnit” mean? According to a few definitions from Urban Dictionary it means:


  • “To keep yourself real and true, to be honest and stick to the way you are, no matter what any one else thinks.”
  • “To tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. AKA “Keep it Real” or be honest with yourself as well as others.”
  • “Keep it pure.”

I remember “Keepin’ it real” so much that a parent of one of my former students just had


There she is in the middle! This is her high school graduation party. #proudteachermoment #5thgradeteacher #backtoback with these young ladies!

to meet me! She could not believe what her daughter was saying about me at home. Back in 2009-2010, I used to love this show called “The Game” that starred Tia Mowry of Sister, Sister and Pooch Hall. Pooch played Derwin who was a professional athlete in the show. Tia played Melanie, his significant other. Derwin always said “Dueces” which means goodbye, and “That’s what’s up!” which is a compliment similar to good-job, but better. A few of my students watched the show, which made it easy for me to incorporate these phrases into my daily language and communication with them. This wasn’t done intentionally. It just worked. A group of students would be working well together by getting along, being on task, using quiet voices, and staying focused, and I would walk over to them, and say, “That’s what’s up, ya’ll! You’re on task and using your time wisely to complete the assignment.” I’d give them a high five, say “Deuces!” and put up two fingers, and walk away. They would laugh, smile, or say deuces back and continue doing what they were supposed to be doing. The young lady that told her mother I used these phrases and loved the show, loved every minute of it, but her mother felt differently. She showed up on parent-teacher conferences confused and upset. In a nutshell, she thought I was “ghetto” or uneducated and thought I was being inappropriate for using such phrases with the students. However, once she met me, and got to know me, we laughed, and she understood why her daughter talked about me so much at home. The mother learned to appreciate the fact that I stayed true to myself, and opened doors of communication for the students and I to relate to each other. She also appreciated how fond her daughter was of me. “I was different. I was her favorite teacher,” she said.



With that folks, I bring you Day 10 of the “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.? Series” which focuses on being authentic.

As RenewED Teachers, we should ALWAYS strive to be:


This means that we should be bold, courageous, and fearless in addition to also being candid, true to and consistent of ourselves, and caring of content and people while teaching and learning.Day10


Why We Should Be Audaciously Authentic

The word authentic is everywhere! We are required to have authentic assessments, use authentic/prime resources, create or use authentic math tasks, provide students with authentic readings they can relate to, as well as build authentic relationships with them and their families. I don’t see anything wrong with this. If everything else has to be authentic, I feel we should be authentic educators and human beings as well.

While the word authentic could lose it’s zest because it’s overused, the fact remains that we should simply be real, honest, truthful, and be ourselves while striving to become better over time. Teachers are not Gods, nor are we superheroes. Even though we do save some lives sometimes, teachers are not mystical beings, and should not pretend be something we are not, or fake. Period. We are human beings that have feelings and emotions similar to the students we teach and people we work with on a daily basis. Teachers should be legit…”Too legit to quit!” (Okay, I couldn’t resist). Students value this, and let’s face it, while we sometimes have to fake the funk to make it through a day or two or more, it is more fun be ourselves and to be direct and honest, but also compassionate.

According to Science Daily, in an article titled, “Authentic Teachers are Better [at] Engaging With Their Students,” the research “indicated that authentic teachers were seen as approachable, passionate, attentive, capable, and knowledgeable, while inauthentic teachers were viewed as unapproachable, lacking passion, inattentive, incapable, and disrespectful.” Which teacher would you rather be?

While the study focused on [about] 300 college students, I am sure many of us can attest that regardless of the level we teach, when we are more authentic with our students, the relationships we develop and the learning that occurs in our classrooms and perhaps outside of them, is stronger and full of impact.


Being Authentic is About Knowing and Accepting Who We Are

During my sophomore or junior year of college, I was a member of a program called Emerging Leaders. One of the sessions had us describe our personality as either introverted or extroverted. I knew I was introverted! Although I was outspoken, I enjoyed time to myself, always read on the bus to and from class, had my headphones on to avoid being in non-productive conversations, I mean it was a no brainer. I was an introvert. However, as I pleaded my case, the students in the program, who had only known me for about about 2 weeks, ALL disagreed with me. The entire class looked at me as if I were crazy! So I changed my answer to extrovert. I mean it fit too! I did love to talk, had tons of interests, was pretty open, and people described me as friendly and nice. I guess I was an extrovert after all! Had I known about ambiverts then, the answer I would have used to describe myself would have been perfect.

In order to “Keep it 100;” in order to be audaciously authentic, we really need to know ourselves. David Grossman from says, “Leading authentically isn’t about being like someone else. Instead, it’s about knowing yourself and being who you are.” At 19-20 years old, I obviously had no clue who I was. I couldn’t definitively decide if I was an introvert or an extrovert. I was still in the discovery phase. (I believe that I still am in that phase today.) I was loud, boisterous, and outgoing, but also enjoyed alone time. However, I was sometimes told to calm down, or told I was too loud (by family and very close friends), and sadly, I did…for a brief moment. Because of this, I had a slight identity crisis. I tried to fit the mold of what others expected of me, but could not stop being who I was. I now accept who I am, and I am unapologetic about it. I am, who I am. This works for me in and out of my classroom because I am comfortable in the skin I am in. But I am always willing to grow and become better than I am.

Being audaciously authentic may look different for all of us. It certainly can be frightening though, right!? It is scary to show who we really are because we are afraid of what others will think and say. On Day 8 of this series, “Try New Things,” I discussed some new things I tried in my classroom. Creating songs and then performing them in front of a room full of students filled of judgment and looks of awe took great courage. Writing about it and sharing the experience on my blog was even more fearless!

Regardless of whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or an ambivert, we all must discover who we are and accept it. If we are uncomfortable in our own skin, how can we expect our students, their families, and colleagues to accept us for who we are and further trust that they can learn with us and from us? 

Authenticity is key. So go ahead and have the audacity to be.

As we continue to learn and grow together, please share whether you an an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert. Let this be the beginning of you becoming audaciously authentic! If you are not sure which idea describes you best, here are two quizzes to choose from:

Quiz 1

Quiz 2

Here are my results (you can read them on your own): 

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher


Word Fun at Autumn’s End

Although it may feel as if winter is here with all of the holiday decorations, music, cheer, and early December festivities, plus the snow that some of you may have already experiencing, the last day of Autumn isn’t until Thursday, December 21st!


Image courtesy of Pixabay

As we teachers approach winter break, which is sometimes a high-stress time for us and our students, why not give our students the chance to unwind with a fun word scramble!

While a word scramble, may not be standards based in and of itself, it can be used to hit many ELA Standards (English Language Arts). In Pennsylvania, this word scramble would lend itself perfectly for the PA Core Standard: C.C.1.4 Narrative Writing: “Students write for different purposes and audiences. Students write clear and focused text to convey a well-defined perspective and appropriate content.” It would also fit well with various grade levels. Below I provide you with 5 ways to use this word scramble in your classroom. 


Image courtesy of Google Images.

Five Ways to Use this Word Scramble in the Classroom

  1. Have students brainstorm words that they think of when it comes to fall or Thanksgiving. Create a word bank with their list. Add to it as necessary so students yield success. (Team building as well.)
  2. Have students unscramble the words, and then use them to create a story. (Adapt by allowing the students to choose the number of words but no less than 1/2 (or five of the words.) Provide the students with a standard’s based rubric when writing.
  3. Once students have completed the word scramble, allow them to draw a picture or poster including the items. (This would be great as an extension for the story, or just as an outlet for those students that are artistically gifted or simply love to draw.)
  4. Hide the items or pictures of the words in your classroom and allow students to search for them. Once the students have found the items/pictures, they will then use them to unscramble the words. (This allows for those more kinesthetic learners to release some energy.)
  5. Provide a word bank, and allow students to complete the word scramble if they finish other assignments early. (We all have those few students that complete everything quickly.)

I hope this word scramble and these activities allow you some respite from your day-to-day and week-to-week planning that must be done.

Here is your free resource from word scramble and answer key

As we continue to learn and grow together, I wonder what other activities can be used to incorporate this word scramble into the classroom. If you have some cool and/or creative activities, please share them in the comments.

For more reading activities, go to

Thank you for reading!

Until next time, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher


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

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“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?

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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



Science Project: When Seeds Explode

When Seeds Explode

As a 4th and 5th grade teacher, and a teacher of science, I believe hands-on activities are one of the best ways for students to learn. I recently heard someone say, “Number sense [in math] is not taught, it is caught.” To a certain extent, I believe this because much of what we learn is more through our experiences. I feel that this quote could also be applied to the sciences.
Think about it: Student one reads a book about exploding seeds. Student two decides to watch a YouTube video on exploding seeds. Student three gets some seeds, a pot, potting soil, and other necessary materials to observe these exploding seeds. Student four reads a book, watches a video, and uses materials to observe exploding seeds. I am sure we all know which student will learn the most and have the most fun!
The cool thing about this lesson is that the seeds that are to be used actually do EXPLODE! What student do you know would not find this interesting?
Please enjoy this guest post and some cool math games that are available with this link:
Third Grade Science Science Projects: When Seeds Explode

Research Question:

  • What environmental factors trigger the release of seeds from seed pods?
  • How far away to the released seeds travel? Do all seeds travel the same distance?
  • Do seed pods from different plants release them in response to same stimuli?

Plants such as mistletoe, violets, primrose and pansies release their seeds into the air, often with substantial force. In this experiment, students will examine under what conditions individual plants release seeds and how far the seeds are released.


  • Camera
  • Two to four different plants that release their seeds in the air. Pansies, wild geraniums, evening primrose and violets are good candidates, but others work well, too.
  • Compass
  • Windvane
  • Graph paper
  • Tongue Depressor
  • Felt

Experimental Procedure

  1. Purchase two to four different plants that shoot seeds into the air. Do some library research to identify when your plants produce seedpods and when the seedpods mature. Learn whether special conditions such bright sunlight, rain, or darkness are necessary.
  2. Set up the wine vane at the same height as the seed pods. If necessary, you can improvise a wind vane by tying a ribbon to a stick and anchoring the stick in the ground. This step is not necessary if you keep your plants indoors.
  3. Cover the area surrounding each plant with felt. Felt is desirable because the seeds will tend to stick more to the felt than they will to paper. How much felt you need depends upon the size of your plants. Be sure to have at least one yard of felt in all directions from the plant. Do not put plants immediately next to each other or you will have difficulties telling their seeds apart. A basement or garage floor may be ideal for this.
  4. Check your plants several times a day and examine their seed pods so that you know when the pods release their seeds. After the pods have released their seeds, make a record of the wind speed, time of day and distance that the seeds traveled. Draw a map, indicating approximate distances. Graph the distances against the number of seeds.
  5. Estimate the trajectory that the seed traveled.
  6. Determine whether there was a relationship between the seed shape and the distance traveled.

Terms/Concepts: Seed dispersal, explosive seed dispersal


  • Marika Hayashi, Kara L. Feilich and David J. Ellerby. “The mechanics of explosive seed dispersal in orange jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).” Journal of Experimental Botany (2009).
  • Countryside Info: Explosive Seed Dispersal

For more cool activities please click on the following link: Elementary School 

As we continue to learn and grow together, let’s share resources with each other. If you have cool content-based sites for math, science, social studies or ELA, please drop them in the comments. 

Until next time, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

Did You Miss It?

What a great week it has been! I hope that you have been enjoying the “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?” series!

Teaching is not for the faint at heart. To remain committed and dedicated to this profession, it takes a tremendous amount of grit, altruism, patience, persistence, passion, and an attitude of life long learning–a growth mindset! I could go on and on with this list about what it takes, but I won’t take up your time doing that. I will say it is worth it, though!

About six years ago, my fourth year teaching, I began to lose my drive and my passion for the field. I was afraid. What would I do if I didn’t teach? I was sad. I am a good teacher, why would someone who cares and advocates for children quit? I was angry. Why am I feeling this way? Why do I want to quit? I don’t want to quit. I am not a quitter. Why am I not receiving the support I need to grow into a better educator and to overcome these thoughts and feelings? I was tired, and I was not growing. My thoughts and my feelings both stifled and confused me.

I knew I was made for this teaching life, but I was beginning to not invest my heart, and simply put, I was really starting not to care. However, I was pretty good at keeping busy and hiding these thoughts and feelings–until I wasn’t. It took a long time to overcome these thoughts and feelings. I had to take action. The meaning behind what it means to be a RenewED Teacher is my way of reviving my heart, refreshing my mind, and renewing my passion for this teacher life.

I hope you have been able to keep up with the series for the past week. If not, here is your chance to review the first 7 posts.

Simply click the post you are interested in reading to learn what it means to be a RenewED Teacher.

Stay tuned for the final 7 posts in this series coming soon!

Day 1- Remember Your Why                       Day 2

Day 3                       Day 4

Day 5 Updated                       Day 6

Day 7

If you like, love, or enjoyed what you have read follow the blog and follow me on PinterestLinkedIn, and Facebook. 

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher















Day 7: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?

Well, we are at the end of the first week of the “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?” series. Today, we focus on the letter D.

As RenewED Teachers, we must leave no room for chance. We must:


I went to a networking event hosted by KyShira Moffett, back in June where I met someDay 7.jpg
amazing boss females dominating in a plethora of fields, primarily from the City of Pittsburgh. I was the only classroom teacher there. Nevertheless, as I always do, I turned this day and the weekend into a learning experience.

I had the opportunity to meet, LaChelle Binion. She is the author of the blog, The Kismet Life, and the Director of Alumni Engagement at Carlow University. As soon as I met her, I
knew the description of her, by Angelica Cooper (a high school friend I recently reconnected with), was a too legit! I immediately saw how genuine, passionate, and simply put, kind, LaChelle was. I could see she was living her passion. I felt comfortable in her presence.

Krystal and LaChelle.jpg

LaChelle and I at the Hustle HER Way Summit: Slay in Your Lane Networking Event at V Lounge, June 9th

Ms. Binion was one of the speakers at the conference I attended the day following the networking event. She said a lot of things I agreed with, and one thing that really stuck with me was when she said, “Get strategic — Be intentional. Think about goals  and what you want to do and strategies, how you are going to get there.”

Because I feel teaching is my purpose and my passion, every conference I attend or class I take that is not directly related to education, I find a way to make it connect.

While LaChelle is up there saying, “Be intentional!” I am sitting in my chair, all in my head, asking myself:



Is what I do in my classroom intentional?

Am I being strategic?

Am I thinking about the goals I have for my students as I plan?

What are those goals?

What strategies will I use to help them meet/exceed these goals?

I also had these same questions about this blog, and this is one of the reasons I began this series. But that’s another topic for a different post.

This year in my classroom, I will ask myself these questions daily, as I am on a journey to become a RenewED Teacher. I will DARE TO BE INTENTIONAL in everything I do. What does this mean?









Although I do many of these things, as I am sure you do as well, I feel that there is always room for improvement. As I stated earlier this summer on one of my Facebook posts,


With that, everyone, I DARE YOU TO BE INTENTIONAL.

As we continue to learn and grow together, I am interested in your thoughts and ideas too. Since I have dared you, I would love for you to share what you plan to be intentional about this school year and in general. Leave your thoughts in the comments! I cannot wait to hear from you!

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

If you like, love, or enjoyed what you have read follow the blog and follow me on PinterestLinkedIn, and Facebook. 


Day 6: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?

As we get closer to wrapping up the first week of the “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R?” series, I share one of the many reasons I have stuck with teaching for the past 10 years.

As RenewED Teachers, we must always remember to have fun so we may always:

Entertain Our Students to Entertain Ourselves

It was a gloomy Thursday, March morning around 8:30 am. It had rained the night before. I was running slightly late as usual. As I carried all 10 of my bags, plus the laptop I borrowed from my principal to work on my National Board Certification, in class, the previous night, I hurried to enter the building before anyone could see me entering a few minutes behind schedule.

The universe had it in for me.

As I proceeded to step upon the curb, all hell broke lose!

The tip of my shoe hit the curb, and everything in my hands, including the massive amounts of papers nestled in my binder and my principal’s laptop slid out of my hands. But not before I attempted to save the laptop. Everything fell onto the curb and even into the nearby grass. Papers were sprawled like in an old school movie representing the last day of school for students. I was so embarrassed even though I wasn’t sure anyone had seen how well the ground and I were getting along. I tried to use my now free hands to prevent falling more, but I was down for the count and so were my bags. My pantyhose had a whole and runs up and down my entire leg. Not only did I fall, I seriously bounced as if I had just fallen on a trampoline. Who bounces on concrete!?

I hope and pray no one saw me fall, because not one person came to my rescue. (That would be pretty shady.) The entire time I crawled around to pick things up, I was livid. I walked in the building, still fuming. I had a scrape on my knee that was beginning to bleed.

The students entered the room about 30-40 minutes later, and I was still heated. They could tell. They kept asking me if I was okay, and I tried to play it off, and leave my emotions at the door as I often encourage them to do, but I couldn’t. I eventually had to tell them about my Thursday morning shenanigans.

Oh! What a relief!? They listened to the entire story much like you are reading and waiting to see what happened next. We had a really good laugh about Mrs. Smith getting balled up outside of the school!

That’s not the end of the story.

I don’t know what my story did to my students this particular morning, but they were absolutely on. I mean focused on my every word and movement, and asked awesome questions, and followed directions almost better than ever before. (This is important because they never ever shut up! Swear!) Well, I think I was modeling a problem with fraction strips before they were going to get started on a similar activity which they were allowed to use.

Remember I said how on they were? Well, once students got to work on their task, I walked around the room to eavesdrop on their conversations and ask questions as necessary. When it was time to share, I called on three different groups to share their ideas. One group used the manipulatives, another used a number line, and the last group drew a picture. Once they shared their different strategies, I asked each student to write and compare & contrast each of the strategies. The responses were amazing!

I was so excited about how on point the class was with their attention, attitude, effort, explanations, justifications, that I picked up a set of fraction strips, held the pieces up in the air as if they were a microphone and drop it.

We all started cracking up!

Every class has a class clown, right!? Well, throughout the all of the silliness and laughter, the class clown raises his hand to tell me what another classmate says:

T: Mrs. Smith, guess what E. said?

Me: What did she say?

T: She said those fraction pieces bounced like you did this morning! (In my head, I am dead! LOL!)

Class: Silence.

I am cool and strict at the same time, so I’ve been told. The students were unsure of how to react to this statement. I mean, E. was low key throwing shade. But T. knew I would laugh or else he would have said nothing! LOL! He and I typically saw eye-to-eye and understood each other. I learned that E. was a hoot! An identified gifted student, she was a cool-nerd, probably the smartest and hard working girl in the class, very quiet, always on task, asked thought provoking questions, and did not let me continue to teach if she didn’t understand anything. But if you ask her if she has swag, she will attempt to show you, and genuinely and seriously say with no smile, “I have no swag.” The girl was a silent riot! No one knew how funny and cool E. was until this year!

Me: That was a good one, E. You’re lucky I like you.

And we all busted out laughing again! Kids were giving her high fives and everything! Lol!

The point of me sharing this story in this post is to remind us not take ourselves too seriously. I often get caught up in being too serious, well, because education is that serious to me. But, although I do use tons of music in my class, and I have even created songs and remixes to popular songs to help them remember certain information, it is not always necessary. Sometimes just keeping it real is entertaining enough for you and your students.

As we continue to grow and renew our passion for teaching, sharing life’s little occurrences with our students can make for a more fulfilling and entertaining day.

Now it’s your turn! What embarrassing or humorous moments have you shared with your students? I’d love to hear! Share your stories in the comments!

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

If you like, love, or enjoyed what you have read follow the blog and follow me onPinterestLinkedIn, and Facebook.