Parents can I get your insight

I am considering changing my homework for my class. I want to see my kids reading more, discussing their reading and overall being empowered through text. Right now the only time I can squeeze in more reading is homework.

My plan is to roll out 3rd grade book clubs in lieu of homework. This is what I see.

Each student/reading group will  have a book or chapter to read every night. The next day during their reading time they’ll reply to questions through our class website. We’ll also discuss the book in our specific reading time. Towards the end of the session they can do a project, open discussion or even an Accelerated Reader quiz on the book.

Dear Parents, I want to know what you think about homework and this idea. If you student just came home with a book every night with dedicated pages to read how would you feel? I will not be offended in anyway so please be as honest as possible.6620d-6a0120a8d8c83d970b01676357327a970b-pi.


And so it begins

This school year started off with very little fan fair. That’s a good thing, trust me. I’m OK with easing into gear and a slow take off to cruising altitude. Let’s look at the current state of affairs.


The Exciting

  • I have 15 students. Most are of Hispanic descent.

  • I have more boys than girls in my class. I like my class theme. Whitaker’s Bookstore. The kids seem to like it as well.


    Day 1 room configuration


Another shot of Day 1 room set up


Now that we know how to do let’s change the room around to allow you to move better.

  • Reading and getting everyone to read on level is HUGE and at this very moment almost the only thing that matters.

    Got to give this guy credit for being a snazzy dresser

    Got to give this guy credit for being a snazzy dresser

  • I have some spirited students, but everyone else knows why they come to school and are ready to work.

  • My new school is SUPER supportive. Lots of support staff ready to help in any way.

  • I’ve met almost all my parents. Some don’t speak English, but I have me them.


    Thanks for all the great supplies to stock our class for learning!

  • That being said EVERY parent has brought me a huge bag of classroom supplies. Yahtzee!

  • My team is six deep. Never had that many co-workers on a grade level. Lots of good ideas and mind share.

  • The ethnic mix of teachers/students and staff is cool. Not all one ethnic group or even gender. Lots of males in my school.


Aren’t we adorable?

  • 1st grade is GREAT! They’re so small and funny. Kinda remind me of my own DD2 in size.

The Kinda Big Deal


My lunch box and water bottle take up my entire rolling cart. Sup wit dat?

  •  I don’t feel l have a full grasp on my daily schedule. Praying every second no one does a “walk through” on me.

  • It’s a LONG school day. 6:25 – 3:45 is a thing for sure. Add in Coaching or Training at CFSC and I’m wore out by days end.

  • I am not eating enough and sometimes I find myself going  long stretches of time sans food. Not a good idea at all.

  • Though my school is considerably closer to my house. I still have a lot of turns to make so it ends up being 15-20 minutes.

  • I get paid once a month. That’s odd. But let’s just praise God that I GET PAID!

  •  I can’t use most of the charts I made in my previous school. Can I sell ’em?

OMG! It’s time to freak out!

I can’t have a fridge in my class! I’ve spent 30000 man hours trying to find a reasonable cooler I can bring with my everyday. (It’s really that big a deal, trust me.)


Yeah, my lunch box is big. What’s it to ya!?

This year is off to a great start. I know there will be some hiccups along the way, but I’m very pleased with the start. Now, if I could find a Yeti cooler for sale.

 How’s your year starting off?


No more 2nd grade for me. 1st grade has stolen my heart.

My new classroom

A new district. New school. New classroom. I’m looking for as many creative storage and decorative ideas as possible, but I’m not going to just pull them from Pinterest. I want this year’s classroom theme to be a darling of Pinterest and be 100% original ideas and content.  I’m expecting others to pin me all over their blogs, social sites and the InterWeb. That’s saying a lot cause my Super Learners themed room still is the most popular view on this humble blog.H

If you are creative and want to throw your hat in on this challenge, please comment. I’d appreciate your insights. Here’s the pallet. Now I need to just be creative.

The door has to be the best door entry I've ever done. Ever.

The door has to be the best door entry I’ve ever done. Ever. It has to SCREAM that we’re all about reading in this room. 


This hallway/entrance has to be intense.

This hallway/entrance has to be intense. I’m at the end of the hall, but I want this to be THE destination. I want other kids to say to my students “THAT’S YOUR classroom?” with awe and wonder. 

The room comes with SUPPLIES!

The room comes with SUPPLIES! The room already has lots of good supplies and materials. I just need to organize them. 

I have a lot of ideas for this space. Please know that it won't look like this long.

I have a lot of ideas for this space. Please know that it won’t look like this long. I have a teacher’s desk. You already know how I feel about that. Yuck. 

I need a curtain idea. My theme is going to be "All the things we can read"

I need a curtain idea. My theme is going to be “All the things we can read”

Pretty good storage closet in class

Pretty good storage closet in class. It needs to be organized so Day 1 has a mission already. 


Nice size closet.

Nice size closet. My coats, shoes and aprons have a home. Going to keep some other ready to go classroom supplies in here as well. A wide angle shot of the place I'll be calling home in a month.

A wide angle shot of the place I’ll be calling home in a month. So much to do. Check out the blue carpet!

Another angle of the room. Lots can be done with this space.

Another angle of the room. Lots can be done with this space. Did I mention that I have a restroom IN my class? (No reading in there, please!)

So many ideas. So much space.

So many ideas. So much space. This is going to be so much fun. Even better than Super Learners. 

The Dip started early this year

If you’ve ever read the book “The Dip” by Godin you know I mean. The dip is the drop, dead space, the slog that happens in every venture. For runners it’s the 20th mile of a marathon. For med school students it’s Organic Chemistry. Every field, every venture has a dip and those that master their craft all over come the dip. For me it seems like every year I get into a dip. It usually happens right after MLK Day. There aren’t any more holidays coming up and we have 6 long weeks of heavy teaching before Spring Break. It’s a grind.

Just the other day I was getting myself in the mind set to press through the Dip. I know the kids are getting antsy. Hey, I’m getting kinda antsy, too. Yeah, I’m about the take this thing like a boss. Then I looked up, IT’S ONLY NOVEMBER! I’m in trouble!

The lessons aren’t popping. The talking isn’t stopping. I’m not sure if I’m coming or going most days. This year has really been odd. I’m pulling out my pre Spring break tricks and some of those aren’t working. The weather is blah so being outside isn’t nearly as rewarding. Calling home isn’t resulting in what I expected. I can’t say it enough this year is very peculiar. Another bi product of being in the dip to long is it’s draining. My ideas have been flat and I haven’t had the desire to blog. I’m going to keep pushing on through and maybe that will mean that my post MLK Day slog will be much less “sloggy”.

Meal prep has been excellent. I’m starting to see results in eating better. I’m starting to do bigger breakfasts, nice sized lunches, but a much smaller dinner. This has resulted in me going to be really early rather than being up late, tempted to eat. We’ll see.

How’s your school year going? Is it strange for you as well?

Weights don’t make you stronger

You all know I enjoy CrossFit, but joining a CrossFit gym won’t make you stronger. Going into said CF gym and working your butt off, listening to your trainer and eating better will make you stronger. You’ve got to work in order to get stronger. Just like this example, carrying a book bag, a book, sitting at a desk will not make you smarter. Even wishing and hoping won’t give you a grasp of the content. You’ve got to apply yourself in order to get better.

I mention this, because, I’ve found that most of my students are serious about FAITH. They believe that they’ll have a great life, full of riches, fame and success. They also are convinced that they will not have to do a lot of work to get it. They’re just going to “be ok”. Or the really sad response is the blank stare. Most adults realize that this isn’t a good strategy. Most successful people know that this is a horrible idea. But how do you get someone excited, bought into working hard?

To me this is one of the biggest issues. I have to find more ways to get my students excited about learning. Not sure if making them do burpees and our power cleans for time would be a good idea. I’ve located a HUGE area for growth across my entire class. Reading. Next week I’m zero-ing in on their specific shortfalls. We’re going to have a Readers Bootcamp. More details to follow. I just want this school year to be a real demarcation point for my class. Something is going to have to break free this year.

Merry Christmas!

It's here! Christmas break is finally here what took ya so long. This school year has gone so slow fast.  I can't believe it's only Christmas break. So much to do. So much done. 

Christmas is a great time to reflect, relax and recharge and not see your students for 2 weeks. The 1st Sememster has been good in a running a triathlon with a brick tied to your head kinda way. My students are fantastic in a herding cats kind of way. I'm really going to miss them over the break dear Lord, don't strike me for that blatant lie

Can't wait to just kick back on the couch with some hot chocolate and catch up on some grading, paper work and grades. No seriously most of us do school work on our breaks, that's not cool at all. For most of us this is a real time to breathe. The year sometimes goes so fast that it's hard to catch a breath, think and figure out what in the world am I doing fine details of life. 

Got my list of Christmas wishes, too

  • That each of my students want to do better than they did the 1st part of the year. A full book bag would be nice, too! 
  • Better organization system. Less paperwork in general, please
  • Consistant parent involvement. Ok, I'll settle for working phone numbers
  • Fewer meetings. No joke there. Fewer meetings, dear Jesus! 
  • The perfect lesson plans. Just kidding my lessons are the best
  • A steady stream of iced coffee pumped into my class at an ideal 40 degrees. I'll take freshly squeezed green juice in January and February, tough
  • Some means to squeeze 2 more work home hours into the work home time
  • A new pair of work running and lifting shoes 
  • To be very comfortable with all my body weight workouts by dropping some bodyweight!

Ok, the last two had nothing to do with work, but they help me relax, relate, release so I can do my job. In all seriousness this school year's been a hoot and a holler. I expect some great things to happen in 2014 like Spring Break and Summer

I pray everyone has a safe and restful Christmas break. May all teachers experience 30 days worth or rest, relaxation and family. May every second of rest be better than 2 hours of work. Keep your head up and we'll see you in 2014. 

Merry Christmas I ain't politically correct and Happy New Years! 



It's been all over the news. It's been everywhere and it seems like it's getting worse and worse, bullying. When I was a kid it was called being a kid, but what's happening today is pretty rough. 

A parent came to me today to tell me her child was being bullied. I told her to have him stop by my room tomorrow and we'd talk about it. I chose to write out my thoughts cause I think this speaks to a much deeper issue in the Bully and those being Bullied. Here we go. 

    You are not going to like what I have to say. You're going to be mad and you're going to maybe cry, but I'm only telling you this because someone told me this same thing multi-decades ago. 

    You're a man. You may not like it and you may not feel like it right now. If the Lord allows, you're going to know that you are a man one day. And the only thing more sure than that is that Life is going to do her very best to kick your butt every day from this until the end. 

    You're going to have to resolve one day and it better be soon that you're going to stick in there and keep getting up and keep moving forward every time she knocks you down. Oh and she will. She's going to knock the wind out of you more time than you can count. You're just going to have to keep getting back up. 

    One day you'll have a family, kids, job and all those wonderful things that come with being "grown". Along with that you'll have scars, a lot of them. The thicker your skin the more surface those scars and the less deep wounds they'll be.

Some will hurt and some will cut you pretty bad. You're welcome to come to my class when they get real bad and we'll talk, heck we'll even cry about them. What you're also going to do is walk out of here, stand up and fight another day. 

People tend to want to delittle those they see as a threats to the norm or just "too big for their britches". You have a choice to let them drag you down into the small space they fill or to rise above them and shine like a star. I think you know what I want you to do. 

You're going to have to look many a person in the face and let them know who you are and who you're not. You're not defined by anyone, but yourself and your God. If you allow every person you meet to validate and define you, you're in for a life of struggle and pain with no growth or end. That would be hopeless and sad.

But if you know who you are then anyone else's definition of you can only be to small. You're so much more than what people see and because of that they have to try to box you, define you…contain you. 

Bullies are only powerful if we cheris their words. Actually, they're crying out for the same attention they want to give you. They need somone to validate, define, honor their words. You don't realize just how much power you have and your bullies DO! 

You're going to have to walk away from a lot of folk and stand up to some as well. You're going to ball your fist up and want to scream.  But this will still be true. You're a man. You're going to have to rise above this and whatever else comes at you. 

I hope I didn't undersell this. I hope I didn't make you think that this was a walk in the park. Lady Life has taken many a better man then me out. She does do her job well. You're better than you know and you're stronger than you figure. Stand up to her and her attack dogs. Let them know that you aren't some soft serve on a hot day. You're here and you plan to remain well after their words have faded. 

Teachers UNITE!

So now the October stretch has started. This is the time when teachers (ME) question: 

  • Am I making a difference? 
  • Am I in the profession?
  • What the HECK am I doing? 

This week has been a trip. Just a lot of off task-ness and refocusing. I even had a kid steal one of my fidget bands from off the bottom of a chair. #WhoDoesThat!? 

The super frustrating thing is that this week's lessons/content weren't very hard. It was more of a stretch week than a new subject. So there was a lot of room for the kids to grow and feel successful. Can't honestly say that it panned out like that. 

The feeling that I'm getting from the group is "Mr. Whitaker, you're cool and all and I'm going to let you finish this lesson. But you ain't speakin' my language and I don't care to learn yours." I'm starting to get a sense of what it's like for a person from another country to come to America. Total immersion. Is there a Rosetta Stone for teaching in the inner city? 

This week I knew thoughtI was killin' it on my imagery and word pictures. I thought I was breaking it down to the very last compound. I thought I was making my case for them to desire to learn like Johnny Cochran.  What I saw was my words fall flat like a tire. I'm just not speaking their language. Now we can certainly debate culture, but that's another blog post for sure. These babies just don't know how or want to learn. 

All Therosist need not apply. I don't care what a book says or some gal on Oprah. I want trench dwelling teachers to tell me what they do to motivate the unmotivated. Help!

I know a lot of my teacher friends read, but don't comment on blogs. I'd love to hear you thoughts. Pass this question on to others in your circle, cause I cherish the feedback. 

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I might be Teacher of the Year!

I might be Teacher of the Year!

That's right if I keep teaching like this I might as well prepare my acceptance speech.

What's that you say?

Oh, wait I have to have more than 5 good teaching days in a ROW to qualify?

Dang, a WHOLE year, you say, huh?

Wow. That's serious. Can I at least get Teacher of the 4th week in August? Thanks. 

I guess I'll just be Teacher of the Year in my classroom. I'd be a shoe in for BOW TIED Teacher of the Year! 

Anyway, this week's been outstanding. This group of kids are really special. I'm positive that they're going to change their family trees and re-shape their destinies. They make teaching fun and exciting. 

To be totally honest this year has been exactly what I expected. My mind has been on the good, pleasing and perfect will of God for me and my family. Needless to say I've not been disappointed. 

I will say that I've read the 7 habits of Successful People before. However, the kids version is serious. The simplicity of the truths really hit home in a new way. I will like I'm must more aware of when I'm being proactive as well as my goals. I know I could go a better job at goal setting, but I'll get better as the class keeps going over the Habits. The students are getting better. They've really embraced the Habits so we'll see when they've gone through all 7 a couple of times.

This is where I think I am as of today. I really wouldn't mind being a 5 in all areas, but all jokes aside I want to keep pushing myself as well as the kids to better results.  

  • My classroom procedures, work (4.5 bow ties)
  • Classroom routines are pretty special (4 bow ties)
  • My basic filing system is ok (3 bow ties)
  • Storage is pretty swift (3 bow ties) I need more hangers
  • Teaching is in the neighborhood (3.5 bow ties)
  • Centers (3.5 bow ties) Not as consistent as I'd like
  • Communications (2.5 bow ties)
  • Meetings (NO TIE!)
  • Lesson planning (3 bow ties)
  • Planning sessions with the students (3.5 bow ties)
  • Time management (3.5 bow ties)
  • Teacher lead instruction vs. Student lead (3 bow ties) 
  • Having a system that is keeping me from wearing the same bow tie in the same week (5 bow ties) 

This school year has been rocking along like a well oiled machine. The major things are under control. The little fine tuning issues will be dealt with on a daily basis, but the important things are under wraps. 

Now, I'm not sure if my Libertarian brothers and sisters will accept me for this, but hey. I really like the Fresh Fruit and Veggie program our school is doing. Not sure if this is a part of FLOTUS initiative or what. Everyday our school gets a shipment of a fruit, veggies or both for our kids to taste. It's nothing super elaborate. The school serves it up  as a mid-morning snack. Yesterday was a Pluots and Bok Chow. The day before strawberries and muscadines. Today they had kiwis. The kids LOVE it! My class at least has been very receptive to the snack choices and give everything a good tasting. I like the idea. Seems like they're more receptive after snack time than they were pre-snack. Might make some kind of game or lesson out of it if the schools keeps doing it. I hope so. 

How's your year starting off? What do you do to communicate with parents who aren't as tech savy? You don't want to call after hours, because your time doesn't allow. So what do you do? 



A picture is worth 1,000 words, but you better be reading, too. This really provoked me. I don't keep track of the time we read, but I will be making sure it's at least 20 minutes of good, quality reading. I also noticed that this is just for the school  year. If a child doubles up during the summer or takes their Summer Reading list this number could be higher. 

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