Quick Thought Thursday: Teachers Helping Teachers

What happens when hundreds of wonderful TeachersPayTeachers sellers realize that a fellow teacher is in need?
A MASSIVE fundraiser happens! That's what!
We call it Teachers Helping Teachers, and it came about after TpT teacher-authors heard the story of Diana Salmon, a New York teacher who lost a leg in a tragic hit and run accident.
Diana is an inspiration to all who know her, sending a message of strength and resilience by returning to the classroom just months after the accident.
Unfortunately, the extensive injuries Diana sustained require an expensive bionic knee for her to be at her dynamic best. This is where Teachers Helping Teachers comes in.
Diana's fundraising store, Bionic Teacher, is now the home of TEN limited edition resource bundles promising HUGE savings to all who purchase one. There is a bundle for everyone, and they all contain the most amazing products from top sellers! Best yet, 100% of the profits go to Diana's fund!
Visit Bionic Teacher, download the freebie for Diana's Story, and take a look at the bundles. You will be happy you did!

If you would like more information about Diana, go to

Happy Helping! 
Michele Luck

March Secondary Smorgasbord: Incredible Kids

After having taught for fifteen years in middle and high school before stepping out of the classroom, I met, and still remember, many incredible kids.  I remember the funny ones, the mischievous ones, the creative ones, and even the one that bit me (yes, in high school!).  My students were the true definition of incredible, and this post could end up being incredibly lengthy if I were to discuss them all. 

But there was one student who stands out in my heart beyond the rest. She was incredible from the moment I met her.  She was a young women, who had every obstacle in front of her, yet nothing held her back.  And despite her living to high school being against the odds, she persevered to achieve all of her goals and to serve as an inspiration to the rest of us who had the privilege to meet her.

Brittnee first came into my classroom as a sophomore.  She wheeled in with her specialized chair and a big smile on her face.  Despite many others begging for short-cuts and modifications, she requested none, and actually insisted on taking her own notes, completing her own assignments, and working at a level above and beyond the rest in my Honors level class.  And her attitude was simply amazing.  She did what no one else expected, and she laughed her way through every situation, never doubting herself for one moment.

I had Brittnee for 3 years in my classes, including for Yearbook her senior year.  She held her own in every task, including taking photos at the game with the camera propped into her arms.  And at graduation, I stood as she crossed the stage cheering with tears running down my cheeks, sharing the celebration with her, knowing she was reaching years that her doctors never anticipated.

After graduation, she and I stayed in touch.  I'll never forget the day I was called out of my classroom to the office for an "emergency" only to find Brittnee waiting out front to show me her new specially equipped car.  Her excitement was catchy, and I found myself giggling like a 16 year old as I checked it out!  And then she graduated from college, another milestone few had expected for her.

Sadly, Brittnee did not get to experience much of her adulthood.  That was an incredible loss for all of us who knew and loved her.  Yet, as I write, with tears again running down my cheeks, I can smile because I know it's what she would want, and even demand from me, just as she had demanded so much from herself.

As I often face those who want to do so little with their lives, I think of Brittnee.  She always did more, never complaining, knowing she would live so much less of a lifetime than the rest of us.  She was the definition of incredible.  She was our inspiration.  And as I think of her, I will always remember her spirit and her determination.  And based on her life and her living, there are no excuses.  Live life to the fullest, never stopping to ask why or reaching for less than you can handle.  If she could do it, so can we!

Miss you, Brittnee, and that smile!  Know that you continue to inspire those of us who knew you.

Visit the other blogs in the Secondary Smorgasbord to hear about more incredible kids!  It's funny how we think the teaching role is to inspire our kids, yet sometimes, they are the ones that inspire us!

Michele Luck

Quick Thought Thursday: Beyond the Interactive Notebook

Over this past weekend, I attended and exhibited at a middle school conference where I had the opportunity to talk with new and student teachers about their experiences in the classroom.  What I heard was so disappointing, and it all stems from the adoption by many districts of the Interactive Notebook.

Teaching beyond the Interactive Notebook should be the goal for every middle and high school teacher. Read to help define the interactive notebook for your classroom.

It seems that many schools have become very confused about the structure and function of the Interactive Notebook.  I used an IN every year in my Social Studies classroom, and I loved using it as an organizing tool for my struggling students (of all levels).  However, my classroom was one filled with activities and student-centered lessons that were simply recorded and retained in the notebooks.  The notebooks themselves were not the sole resource, nor were they the sole lesson, for my students.

What IS and Interactive Notebook
  • A tool for student organization
  • A tool for enhancing student participation
  • A very valuable study resource
  • A guide to help students focus with routine and structure
  • A lesson in endurance
With IN resources abundant online and even in published textbook supplements, the shift has moved toward these notebook inserts being easily added to fit the structure, and often eliminating "bigger" activities or assignments that require more than a page. The side effects of this limited use of the Interactive Notebook are devastating.

What an Interactive Notebook is NOT
  • A class activity
  • An inclusive learning tool
  • Collaboration among peers
  • A lesson that reaches the multiple intelligences of students
  • A COMPLETE learning opportunity
Students must be given the opportunity to learn in small chunks, but also in great lengths.  They must write short thesis statements and research to develop thoroughly developed papers or reports.  They need to analyze facts, but also evaluate whimsy.  Students must be given the opportunity to learn outside of the box, and off of the page.  The Interactive Notebook is an incredibly valuable tool for teaching our students organization.  But, not everything in life will fit neatly onto a single sheet of paper, and neither should any lesson.

Teaching beyond the Interactive Notebook should be the goal for every middle and high school teacher. Read to help define the interactive notebook for your classroom.

Happy Thinking!

Michele Luck

Monday Mapping: Defining Interactive Notebooks

While I have used an Interactive Notebook structure in my classes for over fifteen years, the IN method has become all the rage in every subject area over the past few years.  Teachers love to provide inserts to flip, quick tidbits to flap, and pages to attach, but for some, the Interactive Notebook has gone too far - or maybe it's not going far enough.

With the shift toward using interactive notebooks in every middle and high school class for every lesson, some are losing sight of what a real interactive classroom is. Read for tips on creating a truly differentiated, multiple intelligences classroom.

Traveling on business this past week, I had the opportunity to take a look at student work samples from the top middle schools in a mid-ranking state.  Every writing sample shown was less than a page and neatly copied from a notebook page or insert template.  Math, Science, Social Studies, and even ELA lessons were carefully structured to fit into the space allotted on that single piece of paper.  There were no research papers, no lab reports, no well-developed journals, and no creative pieces.  Yet the schools boasted of their well organized students and their dedication to the use of Interactive Notebooks across the curriculum.

In talking with teachers, I learned even more about the IN reality.  Lessons are now designed to "fit" and excuses are given that the shorter lessons help "all students" achieve at higher levels.  Poppycock!
  1. The Interactive Notebook is a tool.  It is NOT the lesson.  It's simply the "binder" or "folder" where the student's collection of knowledge is retained.  
  2. The Interactive Notebook can help students learn routine and will help them find greater classroom success by practicing similar steps through the learning process.
  3. The Interactive Notebook can be set up in a way to help students relate classroom lessons to the real world or to their individual lives.
  4. The Interactive Notebook structure creates a semester or course-long study guide for students to reference and review for content retention.
  5. The Interactive Notebook is a valuable platform for formative assessments where students and teachers can add feedback on lessons and daily activities.

A true Interactive Classroom will have more to show than a binder of glued or stapled paper.  There will be projects displayed on the walls, writing journals marked with on-going revisions, creative assessments showing student knowledge and application, and real-world assignments that push students to greater success than they could ever expect to find in the pages of a notebook.

With the shift toward using interactive notebooks in every middle and high school class for every lesson, some are losing sight of what a real interactive classroom is. Read for tips on creating a truly differentiated, multiple intelligences classroom.

Happy Teaching!
Michele Luck

Monday Mapping: The Most Important Lesson

I've taught in a few schools over my academic career, and now most of my students have grown up and moved on into adulthood.  Still, when I run into my former students, one conversation always takes place - the most important lesson they learned in my class.

The most important lessons I teach in my Social Studies classroom are about humanity and our role in the world to protect one another. Read my suggestions for bringing that lesson home in your middle or high school classroom.
This Holocaust Interactive Timeline available in my TpT Store.
During each spring semester, usually during March, my school would move into testing mode.  With the state mandated testing starting the first of April, we were required to prep, prep, and do more prep.  For most teachers, this turned into an all out, stop what you're teaching, and review to the test activity, but in my classes, I turned to what I considered more important than anything else: My Holocaust Unit.

Over the following month, students would be introduced to the victims, the perpetrators, the heroes, and most importantly, the bystanders of the German genocide and others.  We also completed an in-depth study of ourselves, taking a good look at who were were as individuals, and considering what role we may have played in Nazi Germany during the 1930s.

Most Important Topics to Cover
  • Teach the background. Understanding how the Holocaust came about (over centuries) helps students to see how it could happen again if we are not pro-active.
  • Examine the perpetrators. Seeing the reality that these were average people living average lives can show students the impact of time and place. And also peer pressure. 
  • Discuss the victims. The victims are due remembrance. When we stop talking about them and forget, it can easily happen all over again.
  • Introduce the heroes. Teach our students how to stand up. Be realistic about the sacrifices, but be firm that humanity needs these types of people to stand up!
Through a series of thought-provoking activities, well selected movies, and reflective and collaborative lessons, I walked my students through the timeline of events from pre-war Germany to the end of the Nuremberg Trials, followed by a modern-day examination of hate groups and current genocides around the world.

Movies and Video I Recommend on the Holocaust
  • Schindler's List is always at the top of my list. It does a fabulous job tracing the history and the stages of progression during the Holocaust in Germany.
  • Nuremberg (TNT Television Version) is always my second choice for a thorough and thought-provoking examination of the events and the perpetrators and their mindset.
  • Camp Liberation Video is available online or through the USHMM. Showing this actual footage of the camps recorded by the US military really shows the depth of the situation.
Movies NOT to Show on the Holocaust
Do not show any fictional accounts (not based on a true story) on the Holocaust to your students. Considering there are so many choices for strong, well-developed movies and film on the Holocaust, showing untruths about the events can mislead students and cause confusion. Do not muddy the waters or leave room for any mistrust or doubt in your students' minds.

While students are in tears in their other classes for obvious reasons, a whole variety of emotions are experienced in my class through the month.  Students not only learned about the horrific event in history, they also learned about themselves and the world they live in, even in modern times.

While I am no longer in my classroom, I am hoping that these lessons will continue in other classrooms across the country and around our world.  After all, we learn history in an effort to avoid the mistakes of the past, and hopefully to learn how to make ourselves better for the future.

The most important lessons I teach in my Social Studies classroom are about humanity and our role in the world to protect one another. Read my suggestions for bringing that lesson home in your middle or high school classroom.

Happy Teaching!
Michele Luck