Celebrate This Week: In Which I Pull a Firetruck


It’s Saturday and time to reflect on the week and celebrate. Join our community and celebrate this week by linking up or just stopping by the host Ruth Ayres’ blog to read others’ celebrations.

Today, my husband and I participated in a Firetruck Pull. Yes, that’s right. We pulled the fire truck. We were on the team with other women from the Barre gym I go to (and a couple more husbands). It was a charity event to raise money to get winter coats for children in need. It is the kind of event I usually think looks fun. It is the kind of event I usually don’t sign up for. But this time, I did sign up, which meant I had to show up. I couldn’t let my social anxiety keep me from this one. We had a team counting on us.

14435156_10101355326052724_810356637543691946_oWe had so much fun! I would not have had this fun if I had stayed in my comfort zone and let it pass me by. I am proud of myself for stepping up and deciding to do something this time.    



What else in my week could compare to this? What a rush! We pulled the truck seventy-five feet in 23 seconds the first run and 22 seconds the second run. We came in 5th out of 9 teams, but the 4 top teams were all really muscular men. Two of the teams were firefighter teams.


A video posted by Emily (@jungbow) on

It was most fun to watch how teams collaborated and strategized to try to beat their times. We all watched the model firefighter teams. Every team came out the second time and beat their first time. I couldn’t help but think about how much we all learned about pulling a truck. And about how applicable this story will be to my conversations in the classroom about growth mindset. In particular, I am thinking about some of the traits Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz talk about in A Mindset for Learning.

Optimism: Firetrucks are really heavy, yet no one said they weren’t going to be able to do it.

Persistence: Some teams were a lot slower the first time, yet none of them gave up.

Flexibility: Almost all of the teams adjusted their strategy the second time around.

I can’t wait to share with my students. I think they will get a kick out of the videos of the truck being pulled by my team. And I am excited to share with them about the way I applied the traits to get my mind ready for learning.

What do you have to celebrate this week? I would love to hear from you in the comments!


Celebrate This Week 9/17 Challenges and Flexibility


It’s Saturday and that means it is time to reflect on the week and celebrate things both big and small. Join our community and celebrate this week by linking up or just stopping by the host Ruth Ayres’ blog to read others’ celebrations.

Lifestyle Challenge


Today I start my third round of the Whole Life Challenge. This challenge asks participants to score themselves daily on 7 different health habits: nutrition, drinking water, exercise, stretching, sleep, daily reflection, and a weekly lifestyle habit.  I loved the challenge the first time and it really helped me to change the way I was eating and to think about all my habits. I did not do as well the second time around. But I still loved the fact that I was actively thinking about my health habits every day. This time around, I am doing a more challenging level for nutrition. I will need to cut out more things, but I know that the way I was eating helped me lose weight last time, so I am motivated to do it. I love that this challenge is not at all about winning anything. It is purely about working to change your habits. It is with flexibility to adapt these habits that I will be successful.

Language Challenge

Another challenge this week was welcoming three new students into my classroom and getting them acclimated to our routines and procedures. Two of these students are refugees and neither of them speaks English. One of the girls can sometimes understand quite simple directions but the other girl does not understand any English. They both do an excellent job of watching and following the other students. The challenge for me will be to differentiate my lessons to help these girls get as much out of school as they can get. The biggest celebration with this is the way my students have accepted these girls and are working hard to help them (almost to a fault). I will need to be very flexible in the designing of lessons to be able to accommodate for the needs of my learners.

Flexible Seating Challenge

The last celebration that I have this week is the arrival of the supplies that were on my DonorsChoose project. They got here very fast! I was able to introduce the wobble chairs and balance boards in my classroom. The lessons I am learning from implementing flexible seating in my classroom are material for another post, but suffice it to say that there is a steep learning curve here and it is full of challenges. The biggest issue this week for me as a teacher was the discovery that these new chairs and a couple of the balance boards can spin. Having furniture in the classroom that allows for movement is not for the faint of heart. I went over safety with my students and they are following safety rules, but I am constantly coming up with more as we go. For instance, “Don’t spin while you are trying to read” will be introduced this week. It drove me crazy to see a girl read a page, spin a 360, read a page, spin a 360 over and over again during independent reading. It was not distracting to her or any of her classmates, but it distracted me big time. We are happy to have the new furniture and I am happy to allow the students to work where they are most productive, but we will need a little bit of time to get used to it. Here’s the celebration of flexibility on my part. I am learning to let go and let this new experience teach me.


What do you have to celebrate this week? I would love to hear from you in the comments!


Celebrate This Week 9/10


It’s Saturday and that means it is time to reflect on the week and celebrate things both big and small. Join our community and celebrate this week by linking up or just stopping by the host Ruth Ayres’ blog to read others’ celebrations.

The start of a new school year is such a whirlwind of activity and, amidst the stress and headaches of getting going, there is so much to celebrate.

We were blessed last week with weather that was cooler for the first two days of school. Then, this week was hot and humid and gross in the classroom. On Tuesday, the temperature soared into the high 90s and we all melted. But we also plugged away at learning routines and starting to learn content. The rest of the week was only in the high 80s so we survived and only partly melted and kept learning. I am celebrating the fact that we survived this heat!

I have a few students that were big behavioral challenges last year. One in particular was with the Social worker or Psychologist almost every day having some sort of fit in which he refused to enter the classroom. I am so blessed so far this year that this student came into the school year with the idea that he wants to “be good” this year. I have already done a lot of teaching about how the brain can grow and we can get smarter. I think this will be a year of helping this particular boy to really get that. I have a feeling that he is told quite often that he is stupid by other adults in his life. This attitude of starting fresh with a new identity of being good is such a celebration. I am able to get to know this friendly young man and form a relationship with him without an antagonistic twist to it. I know that will help us later in the year if he does have days that he slips up or brings upset with him to school.

In the week we have been at school, we have been able to create a friendly space. There is room for improvement and we will get there, but I have been happy to see my students being kind to each other for the most part. This was not so much the case last year for some of these students, so we are going to continue to work on building our community and working to be kind.

I am looking forward (with a few nervous butterflies) to welcoming two students who are Burmese refugees with very little English to our classroom. There was a glitch with busing so they were not at school for the first week. It will be a new challenge for me to have ESL students who are not Spanish speakers. I know we will be able to figure something out, but I am nervous about communication and helping these girls to find a place in our classroom community. I am celebrating a new opportunity to grow.

In Reading Workshop:

We made Reading Salads (idea comes from Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor) to show how real reading includes both text and thinking. This is the third year I have used this simple concrete way to show this concept and every year the 4th graders love doing it and beg to do it again. We also worked on Stamina and got up to 13 minutes.

In Math:

We used the Week of Inspirational Math curriculum for the beginning of the school year. I love how the team at Stanford has put together videos about mindsets for learning mathematics. I love the videos because they help students learn about their brain. The challenge activities then reinforce the concepts that students learned and give them a math challenge.

Last, but certainly not least, I have implemented flexible seating in my classroom. It has been an interesting start to the school year, but I think it will be great. We have bean bags and a few end tables for floor seating, we have 4 yoga balls for seats, we have some standing tables, and we have a table with some benches (at some point, I might like to make some crate seats as seen in many articles about flexible seating, but d-i-y is not my strong suit). The rest of the desks have regular chairs.

My biggest celebration this week was the surprise funding of my Donors Choose project which will give us more seating/ desk options. The Herb Kohl Foundation funded ALL of the projects that were up and posted by Wisconsin teachers on Donors Choose. This was a huge surprise to all of us that received the funds. Another teacher in my school had 5 projects posted and every single one of them was funded!!! I am getting 6 wiggle chairs and 4 balance boards for my classroom from this project! I can’t wait to have more options for these kiddos.

What do you have to celebrate this week? I would love to hear from you in the comments!