Wednesday, August 27, 2014

0 to 60

Teachers are so lucky. We get the whole summer off.  
Let me tell you how awesome it is: 

1. Sure, I have more time but I don't have more money.  
         It's not like just because I have time off I have the ability to do all the things in my house that I always said I would do if I had more time.  And, here is the thing.  Now, I have to spend all day in my house.  Why? Well, if I leave my house I am spending money. I don't have extra money to spend.  Sure, I am saving a bit in gas but I am spending that in the extra groceries I buy during my very long grocery store trips because I just need to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE.  Also, I am a social person.  I wanted to become a teacher because I like being creative and fun and I don't want to be quiet all day.  But guess what? EVERYONE I KNOW IS WORKING.  So, sure, I have some time off.  But really, it's not all you might think it's cracked up to be.  
2. During my summer I spent time tutoring. It was really awesome but it still meant I had a place to be and a time to be there.  I also spent a LOT of time revising lesson plans, searching for new ideas, studying the new standards, reading blogs about education, attending conferences or professional development, reading young adult books, and basically "working" to get my classroom ready, my filing cabinet organized, and trying to get ahead.  

3. I'm not saying I'm great with money but I don't go wild.  Honestly, I make just enough.  I can pay my bills and I am comfortable but it's rare that I have extra.  So, even though I actually have a job where I have time to travel, and even though I LOVE to travel and have the desire to do so, and even though I work 12-14 hour days during the school year, many hours each weekend, and in the summer... I still don't have enough to go on vacation.  It's depressing. 

And then... all of a sudden it is gone.  

If you aren't a teacher, it's hard to explain.  I almost think it is detrimental for the human brain to go from the biggest stress of the day being deciding whether to choose "white" or "whole wheat" at the grocery store to the AMAZING AND INCOMPARABLE AMOUNT OF STRESS WE FACE AS TEACHERS.  

***********Now, listen up, I am not complaining about my job. I LOVE teaching.******************

Sadly, a good portion of my day isn't just teaching.  It's doing a whole bunch of other things that are time consuming and overwhelming and take me away from what I want to do most.  What I do best.  And what is that?

  • Talking to kids
  • Building their confidence
  • Establishing procedures so that they know they are safe and how to follow directions
  • Exploring their passions and encouraging them to dream
  • Reading to kids, with kids, near kids, stuff written by kids
  • Hearing kids
  • Comforting kids
  • Modeling a positive attitude and good citizenship

What I don't have time for is all the other "stuff."  It fills up my brain, so really, by the time summer rolls around I need about 6 weeks to decompress and then it is time to go back.  The kids make it worth it EVERY SINGLE DAY but it's hard. It's stressful.  

And it is so, so, so important.  

I am proud of what I do and, to me, that is an important thing to be able to say.  But right now, I've passed 60 and I'm trying to stay in control at 100.  I might miss some days on my blog, I might not return your call right away, and I might have to cancel last minute.  But only because my job isn't working with products, it's working with people. Little people.  And they are worth it.  It may seem corny and it may sound cheesy, but seriously: 


Monday, August 25, 2014

Let's Have A Ball!

Let's Go Gamecocks, Let's Go!

Around my hometown, Columbia, South Carolina, the words up above are enough to start a riot.  I have been out to dinner in a fancy place - cloth napkins and all, where this was shouted and the place erupted like a Frat House in the 11th hour and then returned to linen tablecloths and champagne as if nothing had happened.  In Columbia, you "bleed garnet" in honor of our SEC college football team, The Carolina Gamecocks.  It might be the only place where young men aren't kicked out of a respectable establishment for having the word "Cocks" on their hat.  Occasionally, someone wearing orange and purple will creep out of the woodwork in support of our biggest rival, the Clemson Tigers.  I like to think I am proud of both schools for representing South Carolina so well.  However, I won't be as nice on Game Day.  

For me, the return of the school year signifies a new season in many ways.  A tiny bit of chill in the air is welcome after the Carolina heat, new students come into my classroom a little bigger than I remember them from the year before, and my beloved Fighting Gamecocks head to the field to commence a football season full of tailgating, victory, and some of the best teamwork I've ever seen.  

Speaking of teamwork, I have been very active on Twitter recently.  Not as a fan of "The Voice" (ok, maybe a little) but as an educational tool.  I have discovered an amazing network of educators and they have inspired me to make stronger connections with my team in my school!  It's funny that people I don't know have encouraged me to think about my working relationships with people I do know!  A new Twitter friend (@JayBilly2) has even inspired me to help moderate a chat.  If you don't know what that means, it is when you come up with a topic and post questions during a specific time slot and then sit back and WATCH AMAZING THINGS HAPPEN!  I am so excited to work with him.  The best part?  He's a principal!  In the real world, it's hard to find time to meet with my principal because we are both so busy and because there is always that "this is my boss, don't say something dumb" feeling.  But here we are, working together, sharing ideas, and encouraging each other to try new things! 

So... in honor of the 1st Gamecocks game and our collaboration, we invite you to join us Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 10:00 pm EST for #TLeadChat where we will be discussing the viewpoint from the "sideline" (The Coach/Principal) and from the "field" (The Player/Teacher).  

Strap on your helmets, put on your team colors, and join us! Game ON! Let's Go Twitter, Let's Go!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

You Know... "That" Kid

Here we are at the beginning of the school year again and I've already met him. 

You know who I'm talking about.  "That" kid.  "That" one. 

That one who is going to change your whole world.  

The one that will walk in every single day with a smile. 

The one that needs you more than anyone else because he just sees the world a little differently.

The one that hugs you because he loves you and because he knows that that is what will make the difference in his life. 

The one that might get picked on so he has to know you have his back. 

The one that will try but might not pass the test

The one that will drive you crazy every now and then but will cry when he leaves your room. 

We all have "THAT" kid.  We might have more than one.  And we get the JOY  of seeing those smiling faces for a whole school year.  We are so lucky that we get to watch "that" kid grow confidence this year, make a new friend this year, or get lost in a new book this year. 

I got to hang out with my new friend today and he has already taught me some things.  When "that" kid walks in Wednesday morning, I better be ready.  We have a lot of work to do so he can remember "THAT" teacher.  I hope I don't let him down.    

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What A Pain in My Foot


If you are anything like me at all, that first word made you shudder.  I can't stand that word.  Ugh.  Typing it was too much for me.  What's even worse than typing it? Yup. 

Having one.  

Look, I fully expected that when I turned 89 my foot would look crooked all over like a question mark and I would resort to wearing Birkenstocks and long flowing purple dresses and drinking herbal tea.  At 89, I wouldn't care about high heels, pedicures, and fun toe polish.  At 89, I would use words like bunion. 

I am not 89.  

What started as a slight twinge of discomfort in my right foot had turned into a "Wow, I must have mistakenly hammered a nail into my right foot last night while I was sleeping" kind of pain.  I am fairly active, despite my healthy (read:fluffy) size and I play tag with the kids, I work out more than once a year, and this summer I even HIKED.  I also have a high pain tolerance.  So, I knew this had to be sort of serious.  However, I still didn't go to the doctor.  Then, I went to the lake and had a VERY GOOD TIME and somehow I forgot how to properly use stairs and I twisted my ankle.  I went, thinking he would wrap it, give me some anti-inflammatories, and send me packin'.  Do you know what he said to me?

How long have you had this bunion? What? Didn't he know how young I am, my chart is right there!

So, now I have a foot doctor.  Again, I went in with the calm and cool collectedness of a young person in her 30's.  I assured all of the assistants that I probably didn't need to be there.  When the doctor came in, I explained to her that we were probably ALL just overreacting.  It was just a little swelling.  I'm sure it will go away.  I'm not even 40.  She did x-rays. 

Not *just* a bunion... a MODERATE bunion.  WILL require surgery eventually. 

Like, when I'm 89? 

Nope, proably before that.  In fact, I can't even do anything now except try to alleviate and not make it get worse faster.  She started using words like orthapedic inserts and nighttime "Bunion Booty" and that is when I checked out.  It was too much for me. 

And then it hit me.  I didn't have this 2 years ago.  It was teaching. TEACHING did this to me.  When I got home, I took a good look in the mirror.  I have gray hair now, seriously, like a whole stripe, not just one random one.  My closet is full of non-flattering clothes that cover every millimeter of cleavage.  I stopped wearing shirts that were fancy because they all have Sharpie marks or highlighter or vomit or Lysol wipe bleach marks on them within an hour.  And all those heels, those beautiful heels with strappy backs and pointy toes just sit there in dust.  Now, I opt for comfortable shoes with a sensible wedge.  That's when I saw it.  My one summer purchase.  A flowy purple dress.  I looked down and there it was, staring back up at me. 

My bunion. 

Pass the tea and strap on the Birkenstocks.  I'm here.  And, you know what?  It's O.K.  I may dress like and have the feet of an 89 year old but I get to play with kids every day and it keeps me young at heart.  You can keep your sexy skirts and heels, I'm going outside to play Octopus Ball at recess.  Keep your bathroom breaks whenever you want, I taught a kid a new word today.  And what is more exciting than laying on the floor and reading with a kid who discovered a book they love?  Nothing. 

I love it and I am here to stay.  I ordered the insert and I got a prescription for sneakers.  Take that bunion.  You didn't deFEET me this time! Now, I just need to run and get some hair dye. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Nerd Girl

"I'm not really THAT into sci-fi stuff." 

That is a phrase I have said so often and then followed with a story of a sci-fi movie or book that I absolutely loved.  I'm starting to think that the only person I am still fooling is me.

Here's the story:   

Let me share a little bit about my mom.  She was absolutely amazing.  She was kind of a hippie and she always encouraged me to express myself.  

Cowboy chaps to go to the grocery store? Great! Lace Madonna gloves in Kindergarten? You Go Girl!  Glitter make-up in 5th grade? Go for it!  1996, belly button piercing (she HAS to say NO, right?)? Sure, maybe I'll get one too! 


I remember my friends calling the house and asking to talk to my mom.  She was just cool.  She was crafty and funny and silly and artistic.  She would take us to the movies and we actually WANTED her to hang out.  

But as a teenager, it was really hard to be rebellious.  My 15th birthday present was a tattoo.  (My dad thought it was fake well into the 2000's)

There was one, and only one, way.  She was a sci-fi junkie.  All of it.  Isaac Asimov, Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Dark Shadows, Larry Niven, Philip Jose Farmer, C.S. Lewis, The Hobbit, Madeline L'Engle, War of the Worlds, those ape movies... she loved them all.  

So I wasn't gonna.  

That's right. I didn't watch Star Wars, I cringed at late night movies with Elvira introducing them, and I only read The Hobbit because she paid me.    

It was my big plan of rebellion. Finally, I could feel the pain of all the other youth of America.  I couldn't be a true artist without some sort of parent sob story and this was mine.  

One problem... this stuff was good.  Have you ever even seen Dr. Who or read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe?  IT'S AMAZING.  So, like most artistic people with overly allowing parents, I became a sci-fi junkie.  Sure, I could keep it quiet most of the time.  Barely anyone found out.  My World of Warcraft friends weren't social enough to tell anyone on me.  Nobody had to know.  

Then, one day, I woke up and my mom wasn't here any more.  Just like that, she was gone.  I was so grateful for the amazing woman who shaped me, who let me be me, who loved science fiction and the daughter who didn't.  So, in her honor, the time has come: 

I'm saying it loud and proud.  I'm a total nerd and I love it.  I'm enjoying discovering all the things I proudly disavowed and it's making me such a cool person.  

I mean, just don't tell anyone.   

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hot Mess

My name is Maria and there is a whole lot of mess in my classroom closet, drawers, and in my brain. 

I am great at helping other people come up with organizational systems.  Turns out, I stink at implementing them.  I can either organize it so well that it takes me three years to set it all up, can only be deciphered by a handbook, and is color coded.  Or, everything goes into one drawer and I have no idea how to find anything ever again.  

Some days, I wish I was better at this.  I wish I could just put my hands on that one piece of paper.  I feel like I am going to pull my hair out because I know I made three copies of something and it isn't in the "Tuesday" folder where I swear I put it.  

Other days, however, I'm glad that my brain doesn't function like this.  Too much structure, for me, feels stifling.  

Classrooms can be effective in chaos.  Some of the best days in my room have been when I can't see or remember the color of the carpet.  I know that I need to find a balance but it doesn't make sense to me to spend more time worrying about where the colored pencils should be rather than creating exciting opportunities to use  them.  

One of the challenges for me in teaching is the number of questions and requests thrown at me during the day.  Early on, I implement strategies such as "Ask three before me" to limit the number of small people standing within 3 inches of me needing something.  A lot of times, however, the line of kids is excited to show me something, want to read me something, or want to share a story.  And these are the moments when I really get to know my kids.  

I'm grateful during these times to have a brain that allows me to be off task.  I'm not saying that structured, well organized, efficient people can't be successful teachers.  I just know that it wouldn't work for me.  Sometimes, allowing the kids to work in weird spots, look through my "craft box" in the closet, or asking them to decide how they want to present a topic, is exactly what we need to build community, get energized, and effectively teach and share content information.  

As I prepare to go back to school and I peruse the beautiful classrooms on Pinterest and in my own school, I know that organization is important.  I want my students to feel proud of our shared space and I want it to be efficient and clutter free.  Unfortunately, it doesn't come naturally to me.  I can come up with creative seating, rhyming birthday cards, and catchy bulletin boards.  However, I have no idea how/where to store my own materials.  I just know that they need a place.  

So, I went to the 1$ store and I bought places.  I got a label maker and I made labels.  I researched, I got materials, and tomorrow I will engage in my own PBL design project.  

I'm almost happy that I am having this experience.  It's hard for me to understand why my students don't know how to use a sheet of notebook paper, where to put their homework, or construct an argument with fact and fluency.  But really, these are all different types of organization skills.  I know I can help them with these!  I also know that if they don't have "it" I can give them strategies to get there.   

I'm going to start with a plan and I'm going to do my best to stick with it.  However, if I have to choose between stopping kids to clean up or continuing to create, my new strategy will be a sign on the door that says:

And I'm totally OK with that.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Headed to Australia

Have you ever had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?

Of course you have.  Everyone has.  And if you are an educator, you probably know that I am referencing a lovely book by Judith Viorst titled Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  In this book, Alexander decides that he is going to Australia since his day is so awful.  At my school, we are encouraged to have an "Australia" or area that a student can go to calm down, take a moment, or just sit quietly for a few minutes.  I haven't had one because I felt like my room was cramped enough.  Tomorrow, I'm going pillow shopping.   

I just couldn't get it together today.  It really started yesterday.  I did something to upset a friend and it was completely unintentional.  The weird thing is, she was so gracious.  I apologized, I told her why I had done what I had done and she told me not to worry.  In fact, I went to her to see what I could do to "fix it," and she said that it was all O.K.  Later, she even texted me to tell me, again, that it was all a misunderstanding and that I shouldn't feel bad. 

I still did. 

Then, another friend had a car battery situation.  It all worked out but I still worried for her.  I know that feeling of having something that functions stop functioning.  I also know what it's like to have an unplanned expenditure come up.  I didn't want that for her.  And, I realized that I was in no position to help her.  It wasn't my fault AT ALL.  And, she didn't need my help.  Why in the world would I feel bad?  

I still did.  

Understandably, I didn't feel great when I woke up this morning.  I couldn't believe my alarm was going off, it felt like I had just laid down!  My very old dog isn't doing well and she wouldn't eat.  I can't leave food out for her because my very fat wiener dog is on a diet.  I finally got out the door and down the road when the sun came out and I had left my sunglasses at home.  I NEVER LEAVE MY SUNGLASSES.  They are like my security blanket and I've had the LASIK and they make me look like a 1950's movie star and they hold my hair back just perfectly.  

I had to be at school at 8:00 a.m.  It was fine. I was on time.  

But how do you think my day went?

It didn't matter that after that morning, nothing went that poorly.  It didn't matter that everyone was kind to me.  It didn't matter that we had a successful session of professional development and team planning.  It didn't matter that I finally organized that "junk tub" in my classroom (you have one too, right?).  It just didn't matter. 

When I got home, my answer to "How was your day?" was "It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day."  The rotten that I woke up with just wouldn't go away.  It just stunk up all the good that followed.  

I'm a grown-up.  I know how to handle my feelings and emotions.  I know that there will be times when I will make poor choices, bad decisions, or act unwisely.  However, through experience, I know that tomorrow will probably be better.  It's all going to be fine. Eventually.  I am hoping that as I get even older (perhaps, wiser) that I will be able to see that even more quickly and not dwell in it at all.  But what about when you're 9 or 10?  You may not realize that it's going to get better.  You may think that the whole world is against you.  And you may not know that it's going to be all right.  

Sometimes I think all I have time to teach is content.  But if someone in my room is having one of those days, are they really listening to me anyway?  I would say probably not.  

So, I guess I get it.  I need an "Australia."  I'm not saying it will be any better because: 

But maybe some pillows and a safe space will help.  Maybe a hug.  I'm going to go try it myself right now.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Let's Agree to Disagree

Do people know how to have a conversation anymore?

One of the first conversations I will have with my students is how to have a conversation.  By the time my students leave my classroom, it is not uncommon to hear them speaking to one another in a manner that shows greater skill than some adults I have spoken with.  By mid-year, I am beaming with pride when I hear one of my students say "I respectfully disagree with what you are saying."  It doesn't have quite the panache as "Yo' Mama" jokes but it does reflect a lot of hard work and modeling.  

In this age of internet conversation, I often wonder if people are losing their sense of courtesy.  Obviously it is easier to be mean when you don't have to see the "whites of their eyes," but I want to take it a step further.  

If you are obviously passionate about something and a person is willing to publicly call you out, disagree, or challenge your belief, what is the goal of the conversation that is about to ensue should you reply?  

Now, as I tell my students, I think that in that type of conversation, the goal should be to inform.  If each party is knowledgeable, passionate, and willing, great learning can take place.  The key is that in order to have this conversation, you have to come prepared.  If you didn't put in the time, act like a mime.  Turn your voice off.  What's great about that is... you can still listen!  And, you have two ears so you are working hard! 

However...  what I see happening at this point, in my classroom and on the internet, is that it suddenly goes from a conversation to a verbal lashing and disagreement of epic proportions.  The goal is no longer to inform but to WIN>! And, really, that's not what it should be about.  

I wonder what the adults in their lives are modeling?  I grew up in a house where there wasn't yelling.  I am 100% sure that my parents disagreed on things.  My mom was a hippie and my dad was military.  They were basically Dharma & Greg but they looked like normal people.  I was raised to feel like my opinion mattered but taught to listen to what other people thought as well.  I'm not sure that many of my students have this.  

So, it falls on the teachers. Again.  You know what though, that's ok.  There are a lot of things that I will teach them that they won't remember.  This is something that I think can influence the rest of their life.  Instead of anger and emotions that run out of control, how great would it be if the kids that came through my room got up, shook hands, and said "Let's agree to disagree," and walked off.  We need more of that. At least, that's what I think.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I got a 4 in skipping?

This is NOT what you think it might be. 

I'm going to tease you and make you think that I'm going to talk about assessment and grading. I'm not. One day I might but it's not here yet.  I am going to share a story that could go down that path. But it won't. 

1985 and I was in Kindergarten.  If you know me now and you think I am kind of a "knowitallbossypants," (it's o.k. I can't see you shaking your head yes) than boy, oh, boy, you should have seen me back then.  First, I was pretty blonde.  Like that corn field Southern girl blonde with ringlet-ish curls. Next, my eyes were about 1/4 of my face and my eyelashes were like tiny arms.  Oh, and last, my mother was amazing and a little bit insane and she would put me in tiny color coordinated things with matching accessories and shoes that squeaked.  

This is a younger picture but it's late and it was available. Just add awesome. 

I was basically the poster child for "Adorable."  And everyone told me how great I was. I was an early reader, an early talker, and my pretend food was out. of. this. world.  If there had been Kinder-superlatives, I would have been Dress-Up Prom Queen.  

So, fast forward to the exam day.  That's right. In the 80's in South Carolina you had to prove that you could do some things and do them well if you had any chance of advancing into the wild, wild world of 1st grade.  From what I can remember, there were some physical challenges.  You had to write letters (easy), you had to cut on a line (champ), you had to walk on a balance beam (please?), and you had to skip (FAIL). What?  How could I have messed up skipping?  I was an adorable, tiny, blonde human who skipped everywhere I went just for affect and to make my pony tail swing!  Oh, my skipping was fine but the established rule of the classroom  was that each child must walk on cement.  Movement any faster than walking had to be done on the sand. Including skipping.  I looked down. Cement.  

But I was excited! The teacher was sitting on the cement! I just wanted to win Kindergarten. 

It didn't matter. I broke the rule.  I failed skipping even though I could skip.  As you can tell, I'm still not over it.  Maybe in 30 more years. 

Today, a co-worker and friend seemed surprised that I was so "ridgid" when it came to "rule following."  It was interesting to hear her say that because I totally understood why she felt that way.  I tend to waiver on the far side of wacky.  I don't like things to line up, I barely match, and I think dance breaks should be mandatory for any age group.  The actual Senior Superlative I received in high school was "Most Original" and I have been called a hippie and a free thinker.  

But the bottom line is... I never want to fail at skipping again when I know how to skip.  I am perfectly happy making mistakes and failing because I tried my hardest and it just wasn't right.  But I'm not going down because I didn't follow the rules.  

In fact, the reason I am so confident and capable when it comes to taking risks and flexing my creativity is because I feel safe in knowing the established rules.  Once you know them, you know what's important and what can be pushed.  Once you agree to abide by them, you don't feel defined by them and you can put your free thinking towards an area that hasn't been defined.  I love being me but I'm still that kid.  I want to please and I'm kind of a "showoff."  

So, as I go back in the classroom, I want to make sure that the established rules are set in stone.  However, I also want my kids to be a part of the process and allow them the autonomy to contribute to the classroom procedures.  I want them to feel comfortable enough to fail, but I never want that failure to be for the wrong reason.  

If they break the rule, I will let them know and I won't let them off easy.  That 4 in skipping has followed me for the rest of my life but it was a lesson that stuck.  And sometimes, those kinds of lessons are hard to learn and not easy to teach.  But I will, because I want want what's best for my kids.  And, sometimes, that includes a serious chat and a humbling experience.  No matter how big their giant eyes are.       

Monday, August 4, 2014


Yup, those are the brains of sheep. 

Most of the staff at my school came together today for voluntary professional development.  It wasn't district mandated, it wasn't required, but it was sure to be exciting.  And boy, was it.  

The main focus for today was the brain body connection.  

Here, try this.  Go on, nobody is watching: 

  • While sitting, legs dangling, lift your right foot a few inches from the floor 
  • Rotate it in a clockwise direction, keep circling
  • Now, use your right index finger to draw the # 6 in the air in front of your face
  • Why did your leg start circling the other way?
Your brain and body are connected and not just by your neck! Did you notice the alternating color in the bullet points above?  Did it make them easier for you to read?  It should have! 

The brain is made up of various areas, each with specific tasks that connect with other parts of your brain and your entire body.  Once we started thinking about brains and then got the chance to investigate the actual sheep brain, I was hooked! 

A term that was used today was "amygdala highjacking." The amygdala is a tiny part of the human brain... about the size of an almond.  But what is really nuts (see what I did there?) is how this tiny part of our brain can respond to fear. Even perceived fear.  It doesn't even have to be real!  

If you aren't creating an environment for your students that allows them to feel safe, non-threatened, and important... 

They, quite literally, might not be able to learn at that time.  They might not be able to think rationally and "cool down."  They might not build trust for you because their brain is in a flight function.  

Now, listen.  I am no brain surgeon or rocket scientist.  However, I do know that there are ways to ensure that all of my students have the best possible learning environment that I can give them.  If I want them to use their brains, doesn't it make sense for me to learn how they work?  

If I want to change them for the better, I better know what I am trying to change.  Wouldn't ewe? 

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Quick question, ever heard of 
Morgan Freeman?  

Of course you have. If you're like me you would like for him to read you a bedtime story every night and you've seen all of his movies, even the one about penguins. 

What about Scarlett Johansson?  If you're a male I'm guessing you know exactly who I am talking about (she's a total hottie- I don't blame you) and if you are a lady you probably have heard of her.  

I bring this up because they are the lead actors in a new movie called Lucy that I really want to go see and I have heard lots of people talk about and it is listed as one of the summer Blockbusters and I have seen previews for it and the premise looks amazing and those actors are great and...

my point?

I, honestly, have no idea who directed it.  I had to look it up.  

His name is Luc Besson.  Turns out he directed another little film called The Fifth Element. Without looking, I know that Milla Jovovich and Bruce Willis were in that. 

I started thinking about other movies I love.  Could I name the directors?

Dirty Dancing... nope ( Emile Ardolino)
Run Lola Run... nope (Tom Tykwer)
The Shawshank Redemption... nope (Frank Darabont)
Forrest Gump... nope (Robert Zemeckis, I knew his name but didn't make the connection)
The Silence of the Lambs... nope (Jonathan Demme)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind... nope (Michel Gondry)

Now don't get me wrong.  There are lots of movies I love (or didn't love) that I know exactly who directed.  In my undergrad as a media arts major I studied some of the "greats." Names like Scorsese, Spielberg, Tarantino, Kubrick, and the late but great John Hughes stand out in my mind as stars of their industry.  However, that doesn't mean that the work of the previous directors isn't quality material.

I have read many articles and heard interviews with a lot of famous actors who give credit to the directors of films.  They are the ones with the creative vision, the big picture idea, and the connection to all the various other teams that are needed to create great cinema.  And what do I do?  I focus on the actors.  The ones on camera.  And, usually, not the one behind the lens capturing those moments to be edited together into the story I love.  

Much like a movie, a classroom and a school doesn't just happen.  It, indeed, "takes a village."  However, in my own classroom, am I trying to be the actor?  Getting noticed for the great lessons I plan, the cool projects I introduce, and the awesome bungee chair I own?  Or am I the director?  Allowing my students to blossom and take my project to a whole other level, giving them the opportunity to shine, and stepping back so they can take the credit.  

It isn't through being the biggest voice in the room but, perhaps, the most quiet where students are allowed the opportunity for ownership, collaboration, and the feeling of personal success.  Those fine educators who do this well, I think, are the ones that have become household names in this great profession.   

As I go back to school tomorrow to prepare for the return of the students in a couple of weeks, I am going to make sure that I keep this in mind.  It isn't about me at all.  This is just my job but it is their life.  I'm going to establish some ground rules (I am still the director, after all) but then I will let them be the stars.  They are the ones I want people to remember and talk about.  I'm just happy to be a part of the "Action!"