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Fostering Success


What an emotional week!!!

There were highs, and there were lows.

I’ve already shared some of my lows.

I thought I’d share one of the high moments.

It began last Friday.  I’d been working on identifying main ideas and details with my students.  This is a very difficult reading skill to master.

I decided to give my students a quiz.  The plan was to review the quiz results on Monday and test them on Tuesday.

Oh my word, but my heart fell when I discovered that most of my students had bombed the quiz!!!

When I reflected over the weekend, I realized that I had not scaffolded instruction properly.

So, on Monday, I apologized to my students, and we got down to the nitty gritty.  I delayed the test until Friday, scoring four more days of instructional time.

We worked.


I spent an entire class period helping them understand how to selectively highlight text.  Kids tend to highlight entire sentences and paragraphs.  It can be difficult to discern what’s important and what is not.

We also reviewed strategies I’d never gone over before.

On Wednesday, I separated my students into three groups.  I’d selected the four students who I knew needed the most assistance to work with at my guided reading table.

I pulled the students who had scored the highest and placed them in one corner of the room.  After explaining to my students that research shows that students score highest on exams when they peer coach one another, I asked the group in the corner of the room to select one person to work with (they couldn’t select a person from my guided reading table).

Then, I gave my students their quizzes from the previous week and asked them to determine the correct answers.

I took things one step further and asked students to write brief explanations of WHY each incorrect answer was not the right choice.  To do this, they had to go back to the text multiple times.

To sweeten the deal, I told my students that I would regrade their quizzes and adjust those grades in the computer.  My thinking was that mastery was more important than what they made “in the moment.”  They were doing work that was tied to curriculum, and explaining their answers took them from critical thinking to metacognition.  That’s where the real learning happens, folks!

While working with my small groups at my table, I discovered a very interesting thing.

They admitted that they had never read the text the first time!!!!

Oh my!

That freaked me out a bit.

Once we worked together, and they saw how integral it was to look at the text for answers, their eyes were opened.

Yesterday, I administered a second quiz to check on their progress.

My heart sang with joy when I reviewed my first class period’s results.

They had nearly doubled their scores!!!!

Oh my gosh!!!

The pattern continued as each class took their quizzes.

Before the classes took their quizzes, I pulled aside the students who had been absent on Wednesday and worked with them (while the others were reading silently).  I didn’t want them to miss the one-on-one instruction that the others had received.

I’ve gotta admit something to you.

I grew up in a time when if you didn’t get a concept, you were SOL, so to speak.

The teacher moved on, and you had to scramble to pull up your grade without fully comprehending the material you’d failed at.

Times are different, and we cannot teach that way any longer.

It’s a lot more work, and it means adjusting your lesson plans.

But oh my.

As I learned, it’s one of the BIGGEST keys to help foster success.

Our poor children give up because they never get the chance to succeed!!!

They have no confidence, and they wind up compensating by acting up in class or even dropping out of school.

This week’s teaching experience is huge for me.

I think it marks a turning point in the way I will structure my lesson plans.

I’m excited at what lies ahead for my students!

Oh, and a little funny for you.

Before I closed my door yesterday afternoon, I randomly took a look at the sign-in sheet that students must complete when they are tardy to class.

I think you’ll get a chuckle, as I did, when you read the gentleman’s reason…

Yes, folks, apparently he thinks that Gummies are also integral to fostering success.


How Do You Define Progress?

How do you define progress?

According to dictionary.com, you can define it as, “Forward or onward movement toward a destination.”

When you are a teacher, progress is usually defined by the gains a student makes on a high-stakes test…for instance FCAT or NRT.

Before I started teaching, I ignorantly accepted this as the “final” measure of achievement.




As you probably already know, I teach intensive reading.

One of my classes is comprised entirely of ESE students.

Not only are my students adjusting to the newness of high school, which involves many new social and academic pressures, but they are facing challenges associated with teenager-dom.  Many of them also face difficulties at home…economically and relationally.

They are helping redefine the meaning of progress.  I have learned to define progress through seemingly simple things that I’ve observed my students doing:

  • Mastering a procedure in class
  • Willingly adhering to class rules
  • Refraining from moving one’s desk away from the person that’s been assigned as his or her shoulder partner
  • Telling me that I must be a good mom if I have children in college (in this student’s words, “You had to do something right if your children went to college.)
  • Hearing this same student further acknowledge, in front of the entire class,  that I never give up on my students
  • Scheduling “appointments” to advocate for themselves (this is a huge sign of maturity…especially on the part of a ninth grader)
  • Looking me in the eye when I speak to him or her
  • Quieting the class down when it is apparent that I’m having a difficult day
  • Holding other classmates accountable to help them succeed

As a result of the first three months of teaching this amazing group of children, I have come to understand that progress isn’t necessarily defined by the number of reading comprehension questions a student gets correct on a standardized test.

It can and SHOULD also be defined by the social gains…being considerate, respectful, and cooperative…made.

Those who have never worked in education may not understand why the mastery of social graces is so important and may erroneously believe that teachers’ jobs only involve imparting academic knowledge.

I beg to differ.

My students have taught me that social progress is imperative to academic progress.

Someone should ask dictionary.com to update its definition.

The Secret to Spiritual Success – God’s Way

I have shared that the weekday morning routine in my home includes devotions with the kids.

Because we get scattered in the afternoons, the morning hour is the only time I can be sure that we’ll all be home together.

We are currently reading our way through John MacArthur’s book From Ordinary to Extraordinary.  It’s the cutest little book and packed full of wisdom!

This morning’s devotion was about the secret to spiritual success.

The kids and I read about Peter’s denial of Christ.   Can you believe that this man, who vehemently denied that he was a disciple of Jesus (even cursing in the process), later went on to be the rock upon which the Church was built on!!!


That this man, who failed so miserably at such a critical time, had an impact on the world that is still felt today…well, it’s just mind-boggling!

And the most amazing part of this story?

This man did not accomplish anything from his own efforts.


He fell from grace with a mighty thud and landed on his rear (my words, not MacArthur’s).

In other words, he was brought to his knees…humbled in probably the most unglamorous way imaginable.

And that’s when God lifted him up and was able to use him for His glory.

See, the world constantly pushes out a message of self-sufficiency…giving 110%…doing things on your own.  That is, after all, how you get ahead at work or school, right?

However, things work a little different when you’re trying to gain ground spiritually.

I have been guilty of thinking I’d “mastered” control over an area in my life…patted myself on the back…and been brought rudely back to earth by some sort of lapse.

When we rest on our own laurels, we fall.  It’s inevitable.

However, when we humble ourselves before God and acknowledge our helplessness, He lifts us up.

I think that’s why so many people lose hope and give up.  They think that because they’ve failed that they are unable to do what God demands of them.

But they are giving up at the most critical point.

We’re taught that weakness is failure, but in the Christian walk, weakness LEADS to success.  It’s at that point where all of our haughtiness and pride is stripped away, and God clothes us with His righteousness.

What a beautiful picture of success this is…much finer than anything the world could bestow upon me.

How Do You Define Success?

Please forgive me, but I’m feeling a bit melancholy right now.

I got home about 45 minutes ago from Soccer Chick’s game.  Her high school team played in the Regional Semi-finals.  To win would mean going to the Regional Finals.  A win there would mean a trip to the State Final Four.

Yeah, it was a big game.

Tonight’s opponent was the team we beat to win Districts.  Weird, eh?

Well, the top two teams from Districts got to move on to Regional playoffs, so they advanced, but we had home-field advantage.  They won their last game after playing two overtimes and then outscoring their opponent in PK’s (penalty kicks).  Not the fairest way to end a game, but it’s got to end sometime, and the kids can’t exactly run themselves to death.

So, we were facing a team we’d beaten twice this season and tied once.  The wins were close too, averaging less than two goals per win.

I had been a nervous wreck since last night.

I tried reminding myself that it’s only a game.  I tried calling to mind God’s Words that speak of peace.

Deep down inside, I really wanted this for the kids.

More importantly, I didn’t want Soccer Chick to get hurt.  My nerves are still fragile after all that she went through with her knee surgery.

The game was scoreless through the first half.  The second half was a carbon copy of its predecessor.  During regulation time, my heart nearly stopped as I watched, through the camera lens, as Soccer Chick took a brutal (and I do not exaggerate here) hit that took her and another player down.  She stayed down a few seconds but arose looking around with a question mark on her face.

The mom sitting in front of me kept repeating, “Soccer Chick is not okay.  Something is wrong with her.”

I carefully descended down the steps to the field, standing on the track as close as I could to her.  She looked at me and assured me that she was okay.

The other player stayed down for a while.  I felt so badly for Chicky.  She was stricken with pain in the knowledge that her play had injured the other girl.  I melted as I heard her apologize.

As I returned to my seat, I prayed and thanked the Lord that Soccer Chick was okay.

I watched as Soccer Chick crossed the field to talk to the player as she was assisted off the field.  She’s okay.  She had a bloody nose.  It would seem that Soccer Chick’s head  hit the other player’s nose.

And the game continued.

I watched Soccer Chick resume her play, never losing momentum despite the danger she had already placed herself in.

She was amazing.  I’m teary-eyed as I recall play after play where Soccer Chick came out of nowhere to take the ball away from an opposing player.  She passed to feet (soccer lingo for making passes that connect to same-team players), she headed balls that she shouldn’t have been able to reach.  She even megged a gal.  This is where you pass the ball between another player’s feet.  It’s cool, trust me…especially at full speed.

Soccer Chick wanted to win the game.  It was very clear in the way she played that she was playing to win.

The game ended in a tie.


Ten more minutes of near-goals, corner kicks, and throw-ins.


A second overtime began.

A repeat of the first.

It ended in a tie.


Just what we didn’t want.

The opposing team has won all but one of its games that have gone into PK’s.

Five girls from each team sat and waited for their turn to kick the ball into the net.

I cringed as I saw Soccer Chick go up second, following one player from each team…players that made their shots.

She missed, kicking it high and hitting the crossbar.  She hung her head in disappointment.  My heart cried out for her.

This was so unlike her.  She faced a pressure that I can only imagine.  She’s 17 years old, for heaven’s sake.  Certainly not a World Cup player.

She wasn’t the only person on her team to miss.  Two others did.

Game over.

The other team won.

The stadium was quiet except for the other team’s wee contingent, which celebrated their hearts out.

Tears began to flow.

I eased to the field, uncertain of what to do.

All I wanted to do was hug Chicky.

We’ve been through this a few times, and I know she takes the losses personally each time.

How do you tell the girls that despite the score, they are a success?

Who defines success anyway?

The world says it’s the amount of money you earn, your grade point average, how you look, or the numbers on a scoreboard at the end of a game.

I beg to differ.

Success is watching a group of mismatched girls come together during a season to play like champions.

Success is never giving up, as evidenced by two overtime periods.  The game could have gone on all night.

Success is doing something so remarkable that half of the student body shows up for a game called soccer…in the South…where football and baseball rule.

Success is watching players shake hands with each other, graceful in defeat.

Success is the journey, seeing where you started and how far you’ve traveled.  To take even one step forward is success.

These girls dared to go farther than any local girls soccer team has ever gone.  They dared to dream beyond what many thought them capable of, including Your’s Truly.

This is how you define success.

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