Creating a Cache Stash: Going Beyond “the List” to Meet the Needs of Every Student

By Natalie Young

Meeting the needs of every student does not end at ensuring every student is provided with your classroom’s school supply list. Students need much more than just materials and supplies. As an elementary classroom teacher working in a high-poverty school district serving mostly minority students, I created an essential stash of goods for my students each year. This “cache stash” went beyond providing typical school supply needs—it provided students with peace of mind. 

Ms. Young, my grandma tried to do my hair, and now it look a hot mess.

Ms. Young, I ain’t get to eat no breakfast today.

Ms. Young, I forgot my gloves at home.

Throughout my teaching career, I’ve had many conversations that began like that. I just recently discovered that some preservice and new teachers are unaware that every teacher needs a cache stash. Research has shown a correlation between poverty and school achievement.  Low-socioeconomic kids often earn lower scores in core subjects like reading, writing, and math (Jensen, 2010). Creating a stash for your students is simple and you can easily remembered it by using this simple acronym: STASH.

S—Snacks: You should consider snacks one of the most important items in your stash. When children are hungry, it’s difficult for them to focus and pay attention in class. Try to provide a variety of options, but also include go-to snacks like cheese crackers, popcorn, and pretzels. Be aware of any allergies students may have and keep only peanut-free items in your stash.

TTalking: Students talk all day long, so having fresh breath is important. We ask students to share and collaborate multiple times throughout the day. However, a turn-’n-talk isn’t always the best strategy if a student has bad breath. Making sure to have mouthwash and mints in your stash can help students avoid being on the receiving end of ridicule from other students.

AApparel: Being a teacher in the Midwest, I am deeply aware that our winters are long and fierce. Extra gloves, scarfs, hats, and earmuffs are an essential part of fighting our cold, windy weather. Supplying your students with essential clothing items throughout the year can make a big difference.

SSkincare: Adding items like lip balm, lotion, and sunscreen helps soothe and protect students’ skin. When adding skincare items, be sure to include fragrance-free items to avoid issues for students with sensitive skin.

HHair: Hair is very important in African American culture. As a Black woman, I grew up understanding the importance of Black hair, and I possess a vast quantity of Black hair knowledge. If you don’t have a full appreciation and thorough understanding of the uniqueness of Black hair, I strongly advise against any attempts to adjust African American hairstyles. Regardless, your stash should always include essential items like combs, brushes, hair ties, and common hair products used by students in your school’s community.

Be sure to ask close friends and family for donations to your cache stash. Give them a list of essentials you need at your next family gathering or text them your list. Most people are aware of the monetary struggles teachers face and are happy to donate items. As a new teacher, creating your own cache stash will help you meet the needs of every child, including the unexpected needs.

Dr. Young is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. She enjoys preparing future teachers to be successful in today’s diverse classrooms. She has been active in KDP since 2016 and is a faculty co-counselor for the Delta Epsilon Chapter.


Jensen, E. (2010). Teaching with poverty in mind: What being poor does to kids’ brains and what schools can do about it. ASCD.

5 Strategies to Help Traumatized Students

By MB (Marybeth) Mitcham

“She’s standing too close to you. She’s standing too close to you. She needs to go now. She needs to go now.”

Fists clenched and eyes firmly fixed on the floor at his feet, my student bellowed the same phrase again. My other students stood in the hallway, frozen, unsure of how to handle the situation. Their eyes were wide open, alternating between staring at their classmate who was obviously distressed and then at me.

“It’s okay,” I calmly said. “Why don’t you all go back to the classroom, and I will follow you in a minute.”

I smiled at my students as they quickly retreated to the classroom and then turned back to my distraught student, keeping a smile on my face. Still speaking calmly, I told him that it was okay, that I was not upset with him, and that I was glad he wanted to make sure I was okay. He quickly raised his head to look at me.

“Really? You’re not mad at me?”

Still smiling, I shook my head no and repeated that I was glad he wanted to make sure that I was okay.

At this, he burst into tears and began to speak about the hard things at home—pain, hurt, and anguish pouring out of him—as he finally felt safe enough to share what he had previously been too ashamed to let anyone know.

In the many years I’ve been teaching, I’ve learned that extreme behaviour exhibited by students, whether overly helpful, disruptive, or downright combative, often is borne out of some trauma they have experienced (Schunk, 2016). Although some traumas might be easily discernable, such as students who have battled with cancer or who have lost their home in a fire, many traumas are much harder to identify. And, even if identified, they are still extremely challenging to address without inadvertently causing more pain or shame for the student.

Here are five strategies I’ve found to be helpful, both as a formerly traumatized student and as an educator, in creating a safe and supportive learning environment for all students, but especially for those who are struggling with trauma.

  1. Be consistent in your expectations. This is beneficial to all students, but even more important for students who have experienced trauma. Many traumatized students may currently live in very unstable home situations, remaining on high alert at all times. Consistent expectations will provide sorely needed stability and allow your students to lower their guards and hopefully gain some emotional respite.
  2. Value everyone equally. It is very difficult to not show favoritism toward your students. Those who are easier to work with, are more compliant, or simply tug at your heartstrings often get extra smiles, encouraging words, and praise. Although teachers often do this unconsciously, we need to be aware that it happens and actively remain consistent and comprehensive with our praise and attention.
  3. Speak the truth in love. One thing that I love most about young children is their lack of artifice. If you want to know if your outfit is ugly, just ask what they think. They’ll tell you! Traumatized students may struggle with separating reality and fantasy. They also may believe that they need to avoid speaking about certain things or hide the truth. If your classroom expectations are that everyone will speak the truth in love, then no topic is taboo. This provides a safe place for all students, including those who have been traumatized.
  4. Exhibit and promote integrity. Educators, by nature of our roles and responsibilities, are also leaders. We are watched by our students, colleagues, and community members for how we conduct ourselves. For traumatized students, who may witness situations where people in authority exhibit hypocrisy, it is imperative for them to witness integrity in a leader. When you model integrity in the classroom, you set a high standard for the rest of the class to follow, creating a safe place and helping all students, including traumatized ones, to develop their own good leadership skills.
  5. Create classroom traditions. My second-grade teacher was known for her love of butterflies. Every student entering her classroom knew that they would have monthly activities relating to butterflies and, in the spring, would raise and release butterflies. That tradition gave me something to look forward to and value, a truly priceless gift that helped me feel like I belonged. By creating classroom traditions—something completely unique to your class—you will help traumatized students feel like they belong.

By implementing these strategies in your classroom, you will provide sorely needed stability and safety that will help all your students thrive, including those suffering from trauma.

Dr. Mitcham holds graduate and doctoral degrees in public health nutrition and public health-focused curriculum and instruction. She spends most of her time working as an Extension resource educator and adjunct professor. However, she would much rather scamper up and over mountains, munch on eggplant bacon, or do zoomies with her shollie, Sig.


Schunk, D. (2016). Learning theories: An educational perspective. Pearson.

We Care: Culturally Relevant New Teachers

By Al R. Schleicher, Valerie Ooka Pang, and Jose Luis Alvarado

Caring teachers believe in their students and wrap them in blankets of affirmation that nurture, guide, teach, and motivate. Teachers also are warm demanders (Alexander, 2016): They require excellence in student’s academic work. Not only in what teachers say, but their actions also convey, “We care for our students.”

Many classrooms today are culturally diverse. Culture is more than ethnic or racial groupings. Culture includes other human aspects such as class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, language, and disabilities. To create meaningful instruction, educators get to know their students and see their multicultural richness.

If teachers build on the knowledge that culturally diverse students bring to school, schools are less likely to perpetuate stereotypes. Overgeneralizations come from a lack of knowledge about members of other cultural groups.

New culturally relevant teachers can create trusting–caring relationships with their students by using these six strategies:

1. 3-2-1 contact!

On the first day of school, dress up and appear as the namesake of your school, class, or town. Maybe your high school is Albert Einstein High; wear a grey curly-haired wig and lab coat. If your school is Harriet Tubman Elementary, can you find a long dress with a hoop skirt and a scarf to wrap around your hair? Add a necklace with a silver locket and a picture of Harriet Tubman in it. Perform a rap with clues for a treasure hunt. Students can search for the prize that symbolizes the namesake. Students use listening, interpreting, and analyzing skills in reviewing your rap. Whoever finds the treasure gets a coupon for a pizza or a new book from the library or an extra recess/break for the whole class. Engage your students!

2. Welcome back!

Say students’ names correctly in a “great to see you” tone. If you cannot say their name, ask students to help you hear the correct sounds. Most students want you to say their name properly, so they will be glad to help you improve your pronunciations. Your effort will show that they matter, and you respect them. If you don’t make the effort to pronounce their names correctly, the words you say may not mean “honored daughter” or “strong son.”

3. Super work!

Learn positive affirmations in multiple languages. Students feel affirmed when teachers tell them they make good decisions and are working hard. If your students are bilingual, whether they speak Spanish, Vietnamese, or Somali, saying “great work” in a student’s heritage language can be an encouraging surprise and sends the message that bilingualism is an asset that you value, not something that makes them different.

4. Lights, camera, smile!

Take pictures of students and put them up on your bulletin board. The title can be “We believe in each other.” If you have 30 students in your class, you might put two or three individuals together in a photo. If you have 200 students, group students with 10 or 15 others. Ask students to show crazy faces. Laugh. Most classrooms today include diverse groups of students, so this again naturally reinforces cultural diversity.

5. VIP Survey.

Create VIP student surveys to give out on the first day of school. Questions you might want to ask:
Does your family speak a language other than English at home? What language is it?
How can I as the teacher make learning more meaningful for you?
What is your favorite subject and why?

Parent surveys can also provide excellent feedback:
What technology does your child have available at home? Laptop? Tablet? Smartphone?
Do you have an Internet connection?
Or none of the above?
How safe does your child feel while getting to school?

6. Keep your ears open.

Learn about the views of your students by listening. One teacher heard two first graders talk about evolution. One said, “How do you think we came from apes?” The other classmate looked at him and shook his head, “I don’t know. Do you think it’s real?” They began to giggle. Young people are thinkers.

Learning about and caring for your students is a year-round job. As new teachers, you need to know that students bring cultural assets that can be built upon in the classroom (Pang, Alvarado, Preciado, & Schleicher, 2021).

How to be a Cultural Mediator
(Pang, 2018)

  • Listen and observe. To understand students’ cultural backgrounds, teachers need to listen and observe them in class, at lunch, on the playground, and in the community.
  • Learn. Find out additional information about cultural groups by going to local community functions, reading community newspapers, and asking community folks to be guest speakers.
  • Be open. Have a parent night and ask them for ideas of how to make schooling more culturally inclusive.
  • Clarify. In a clear and objective way, identify areas of conflict to discuss with parents and students.
  • Collaborate. Bring people together. Establish common goals. Discuss solutions. Be a community bridge.


National Education Association – Culturally Responsive Teaching

Leading Equity Podcast

Mr. Schleicher is a credentialed educator working in secondary schools in Southern California. He teaches preservice teachers in the School of Teacher Education at San Diego State University. His specializations include literacy, social studies education, and debate skills.

Dr. Pang is a Professor at San Diego State University. She is author of the textbook Diversity and Equity in the Classroom (Cengage Learning). Her specializations include teacher education, social studies, culturally relevant education, and virtual teaching.

Dr. Alvarado is Dean of the Graduate School in Education at Fordham University, New York City. He is a former special education classroom teacher who specializes in educational policy, bilingual teacher education, educational equity, and partnerships with local school districts and community colleges.


Alexander, M. (2016, April 13). The warm demander: An equity approach. Edutopia.

Pang, V. O. (2018). Diversity and equity in the classroom. Cengage Learning. Pang, V. O., Alvarado, J. L., Preciado, J. R.  & Schleicher, A. R. (2021). Culturally relevant education: Think local within a holistic orientation.Multicultural Perspectives, 23(1), 3-16.

Intentional Plagiarism? Teaching Language Learners Academic Integrity

By Ellen Yeh

Ellen Yeh is Director of the English as an Additional Language Program at Columbia College Chicago and author of the article “Intentional Plagiarism? Strategies for Teaching Language Learners Academic Integrity,” which appears in the July 2021 issue of the Kappa Delta Pi Record. Get free access to the article through the month of October.

“Learning English? Easy. Learning American? Hard.”–Jeff Yang (in Smith, 2017)

Too often, language learners struggle not only with learning the target language but also with the academic culture of the target language community. In my article, “Intentional Plagiarism? Strategies for Teaching Language Learners Academic Integrity,” I aim to examine the difficulties language learners encounter in source-based writing and to offer pedagogical practices for teachers to help struggling students overcome these challenges.

Previous literature has suggested that inappropriate text borrowing is a problem of academic literacy rather than of academic dishonesty (Hyland, 2001; Ouellette, 2008). Several research studies concluded that language learners’ inappropriate text borrowing practices are a result of the process of learning and development rather than of plagiarism. Both experienced and novice language-learning writers use paraphrasing strategies to avoid plagiarism. Limited research, however, focuses on ways learners employ different types of text-borrowing strategies and patterns depending on their linguistic proficiency and background knowledge, as well as cognitive and sociocultural factors.

Therefore, the purpose of my article is to help teachers understand language learners’ source-based writing processes and to scaffold instruction of academic integrity for learners adjusting to the U.S. academic community. The study illuminates the following crucial questions:

  • How do language learners use linguistic text-borrowing strategies and practices (e.g., patchwriting, paraphrasing) to improve their academic writing?
  • How do language learners use cognitive text-borrowing strategies and practices (e.g., synthesizing, summarizing, reading for specific purposes, metacognitive techniques) to improve their academic writing?
  • How do language learners use sociocultural text-borrowing strategies and practices (e.g., synthesizing and integrating information, becoming familiar with academic genres, metacognitive techniques of culture and identity) to improve their academic writing?

Results of this study indicate immediate needs for enhanced literacy education and academic integrity competency in not only English as a second language curricula but also in teacher education programs. Addressing these needs may enable learners to become mature users of secondary sources and to avoid unintentional plagiarism. My article suggests a model of literacy training that teachers can integrate into their curricula by engaging students with practices such as paraphrasing, critical-thinking, and building language-learning writer identity. With the implementation of these practice-oriented pedagogies, teachers can help students achieve smooth transition and adjustment to the academic target language community.


Hyland, F. (2001). Dealing with plagiarism when giving feedback. ELT Journal, 55(4), 375–381.

Ouellette, M. A. (2008). Weaving strands of writer identity: Self as author and the NNES “plagiarist.” Journal of Second Language Writing, 17(4), 255–273. Smith, L. (2017). Six words fresh off the boat: Stories of immigration, identity, and coming to America. Kingswell.

Trauma-Informed Strategies to Support Students During the Pandemic

By Pamela Kramer Ertel

When I learned that I would have to move my university-based courses to remote instruction for the remainder of the semester due to the pandemic, I was heartbroken. I grieved for my teacher candidates who were not going to get to do their second placement in their pre-student teaching residency experience. I grieved for all the missed learning opportunities and celebrations that would typically happen on campus.

I didn’t have much time to grieve these losses, because I knew I had to quickly switch gears and create the best possible learning experiences for my students. I recognized that we were all experiencing some sort of trauma and stress in dealing with the pandemic. While my students are not children, I knew the impact of stress and trauma could still seriously impact their ability to learn. I decided to use what I knew about trauma-informed care to help my students learn more effectively.

Pillar 1: Connection

Bath (2008) identified three pillars of trauma-informed care. One of the most important pillars is connection. “If children feel safe and connected to their teachers, they will be able to learn” (Call et al., 2014, p. 6). This is as true in elementary classrooms as it was for my more mature students. Strategies that can help children (and adults) feel safe include having a warm, welcoming voice, a positive greeting, and “soft eyes.” One of the reasons I opted to conduct my class using live Zoom sessions is that I wanted to be able to connect with my students, see their faces, read their emotions, and be able to respond to them on the spot.

I started each Zoom session with some calm, encouraging music videos. I used songs such as “It’s Going to Be Alright,” by Sara Groves; “Shower the People,” by James Taylor; and “Be a Light,” by Thomas Rhett. I selected these specific songs and videos because of their calming melodies and upbeat messages. I wanted to create a comfortable environment that was welcoming and supportive for students who were faced with uncertainty.

Pillar 2: Safety

The second pillar is safety. Bath (2008, p. 19), defines safety with characteristics such as “Consistency, reliability, predictability, availability, honesty, and transparency.” I tried to use a consistent, predictable format for each session. I started with a warm welcome and music, then presented the day’s “road map,” which included the objectives and the agenda for the session. I also allowed time for students to ask questions about anything. In the daily road map, I also posted a funny picture or cartoon to lighten the mood as we started each session.

Pillar 3: Emotional Regulation

The third pillar identified by Bath is emotional regulation. I know many of my students were feeling like they had no control over any aspect of their lives, and this is often even more acute with young learners. I tried to allow time for them to check in and share how they were feeling by using the poll feature on Zoom. I reminded them that we were going to get through this together. I knew that it was essential that I remain calm and compassionate, no matter how stressed I was feeling. In addition, I presented a clear outline of all course adjustments, which had been modified to meet their needs, so all expectations were transparent.

I also made myself vulnerable to my students by being honest about the things I did not know. For example, I had never even used Zoom before, so I willingly admitted that this was a new learning experience for me, too, as I modeled how to persevere in challenging teaching experiences, often through trial and error. I believe these actions helped my students better control their own emotions—something even more important for young students.

Additional Course Adjustments

Since my students were not able to do about half of their typical fieldwork, I searched to find the best possible videos to showcase actual classroom experiences. I found excellent videos on YouTube, The Teaching Channel, and Edutopia to help support their learning as they featured best teaching practices. We would then discuss the videos and applications to classroom practices.

Concluding Thoughts

I certainly did not have all the answers as I navigated the challenges presented by the pandemic. I am thankful that I was able to use what I knew about trauma-informed classrooms to help support my students during a particularly challenging time in our educational experience. I believe these three pillars of trauma-informed care can support learners of all ages.

Dr. Ertel is an Associate Professor at Middle Tennessee State University. She has been a teacher educator for 30 years, teaching at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania and Middle Tennessee State University. She is a past president of KDP.


Bath, H. (2008). The three pillars of trauma-informed care. Reclaiming Children & Youth, 17(3), 17–21. Call, C., Purvis, K., Parris, S.R., & Cross, D. (2014). Creating trauma-informed classrooms. Adoption Advocate, 75, 1–9.

Change Agency Is Not for the Faint of Heart: 4 Steps to Strengthen Your Resolve

By Karen Terry and Barbara Radcliffe

Twentieth-century education theorist John Dewey noted the fundamental purpose of education should be an active process of learning through living, and those endeavors should be relevant and applicable in the life of the learner. As a pragmatist, he believed the art of teaching and learning is a social function as well as an intellectual one (Muraro, 2016).

As the COVID-19 pandemic forces massive global change in the area of public health, education classrooms from Pre-K to post-secondary have been transformed, with teachers and students immersed in the new reality of distance learning. The death of George Floyd has sparked global outrage against systemic racism and produced a worldwide coalition for social justice. The extent to which racism impacts social functioning is based on the recognition that those who are able to function adequately view the world and themselves with a sense of worth, independence, and self-determination; racism adversely impacts oppressed people (Edwards, 2006).

We are returning to classrooms unlike any we’ve ever experienced. Dewey’s theories are just as applicable now, and a focus on social functioning must be paired with intellectual endeavors if we are to move forward. What better place to start than in our classrooms?

Embracing the Unknown

From our vantage point as professors of education, we observed novice to veteran teachers from elementary to high school accustomed to teaching face-to-face, as well as university faculty and preservice student teachers. From Gen Z to Millennials to Boomers, the degree of discomfort was not tied to any single generation. Not all Boomers were old dogs who couldn’t learn new tricks, and not all Gen Z’ers could adapt social media and app expertise to distance teaching and learning. And how might recent events concerning race relations additionally impact an already-disrupted educational phenomenon? What path might lead us through transformational change to higher ground? Is it too much to ask educators to tackle all of it at once?

We offer four strategies for setting a foundation to support change in our learning environments:

  1. Expand your comfort zone. Stepping outside our comfort zones can be daunting, even debilitating. David Iny (2016) suggests aligning your approach to growing outside your comfort zone to Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. Learn more ( as you begin to expand your own comfort zone of proximal development.
  2. Seek understanding. When we’re getting uncomfortable, it’s the perfect time to stop talking and actively listen and work to understand others’ perspectives. Allowing an opportunity for empathy to weave freely through open dialogue is a habit Stephen Covey ( deems essential.
  3. Be brave. We may be familiar with the concept of safe spaces—spaces in which we feel protected and not exposed to danger or risk. This is also a time to be brave, to demonstrate and activate courage rather than passive apathy (Ali, 2017).
  4. Fixate on fixed mindsets. You may teach and model the elements of growth mindset to your students. It is also imperative to identify fixed mindset actions that cause harm to others. Review Carol Dweck’s work (, but this time with a focus on fixed mindset attributes and their dangers.

Becoming Advocates for Change

After calculating a path outside our comfort zone, actively listening with empathy, creating brave space, and acknowledging the negative effects of a fixed mindset, we are poised to be advocates for change. Our message to students is that we, instructors included, are a community of learners working together toward two common goals:

  1. The tangible, successful completion of the course.
  2. The intangible benefits of our experiences, which contribute to our personal and professional growth as well as our impact on our communities.

With a focus on intellectual and social functioning, we are implored to actively learn and grow rather than passively participate. In this way, we can begin to find our voices and join in the chorus to establish positive sustainable change in our classrooms, schools, and communities.

Dr. Radcliffe is an associate professor in the Middle Grades Education program at Valdosta State University. Her research interests focus on educator preparation as well adolescent literacy.

Dr. Terry is an Assistant Professor at Valdosta State University in the Department of Teacher Education. She teaches in the undergraduate middle grades and secondary education programs and Teacher Leadership graduate program. Her research interests include education policy and disruptive innovation.


Ali, D. (2017, October). Safe spaces and brave spaces: Historical context and recommendations for student affairs professionals. NASPA Policy and Practice Series, 2.

Edwards, B. L. (2006). The impact of racism on social functioning: Is it skin deep? Journal of Emotional Abuse, 6(2–3), 31–46.

Iny, D. (2016, November 08). What science says about going outside your comfort zone. Retrieved from

Muraro, D. N. (2016). The critical philosophy and the education for John Dewey. American Journal of Educational Research, 4(17), 1197–1204.

My name is Lindsey, and I’m here for YOU!

Hello there, KDP new teacher!

Thanks for clicking the link that landed you here—on my first official blog post for KDP!

While supporting you and guiding your experience with KDP is my job, my top priority right now is to connect with you. In order to do that, I am a believer that we need to form authentic relationships (as much as we can virtually) so we can show up for each other and be a community of teachers working together to be supportive of one another in the ways that only teachers know how to do.

You know what I mean because you’re a teacher, too. No one who hasn’t done this job gets it like we do. Am I right?

LindseyActonFamilySo, I’d like to start by sharing just a bit about myself. You already know my name, so we’ve gotten that out of the way—that’s a great first step. I’m married to my partner Jon. We’ve been together for 11 years, and we have two beautiful sons; Jack is my bonus son, and he will be 13 this month. Andrew is ours together, and he just turned 6. He’s in Kindergarten and he thinks he knows All. Of. The. Things. He’s decided he’s grown now that he goes to school, so we all better look out. It’s been fun to watch him head to school and love it. He’s thriving, which makes my heart so very happy. Jack is in middle school, which is just a strange phase of life, but we are lucky to have two incredibly kind and thoughtful boys in our family, and we are blessed.

In my non-mom time (what even IS THAT?), I am a reader—I’ll read a cereal box if it’s the only thing around. I enjoy rigorous physical exercise—as a former Division 1 athlete, my body requires it. I also love trying new foods, eating outside, sitting by a fire, and having long, meaningful conversations. I’m an introvert who loves people right up until I don’t, and in that way I’m somewhat like a cat. I like human interaction on my terms, but I am passionate about being a mom, being a wife, being a good human, and about being and showing up for the people I love. I am a writer—I have one published book and am working on a second. I write regularly for a blog on my own website and now, for KDP and this incredible community we’re a part of together!

Professionally, I taught high school English for 15 years and 15 days before I made the incredibly difficult decision to leave the classroom and join Team KDP to support you.

Why did I do that? Great question . . .

During my first year of teaching, I experienced a trauma in my classroom at the hands of one of my students. That trauma became the subject of my first book, Throwing Rocks. What I realized is that far too many teachers are carrying around emotional and physical traumas and baggage that they don’t feel safe discussing or dealing with—or even that they don’t have the time to deal with because our jobs are so incredibly demanding. What became actionable for me was not always the trauma, but instead how leaders and fellow teachers can be there for our education professionals. How are we showing up for teachers?

The trauma that I experienced as a first-year teacher could have crippled me . . . maybe even should have crippled me, but I decided not to allow that to be my story. Instead, I started speaking about school leadership. Pause . . . I do not want to be an administrator, like EVER, but I do want to help school leaders show up for their people in the ways they need. I also started sharing my relationship-building superpower with other teachers: I taught them to build communities in their classrooms. The only real way to make progress with our students is to first make the choice to like them, because forming meaningful, impactful relationships with students is exactly what school leaders should be doing with teachers. These connections pave the way for the magic that needs to happen in school buildings for success at every level.

That’s ultimately what led me to KDP. I know that you are capable of being this teacher—the teacher you want to be.

I know that you desire to have a meaningful experience in your classroom, but that sometimes acknowledging that teaching is really stinkin’ hard is something that you don’t have the safety or the space to do.

Well, now you do.

You have it with KDP and you have it with me. I want to invite you into this community of educators where we will collaborate together, support one another, and create a place where you can be yourself—whatever that entails—and feel free to express the concerns you have as a teacher, and where we will do our best to provide, curate, and create what you need to make that really stinkin’ hard feel just a little less scary.

I hope you will spend some time with us this school year and beyond and that this will become a community in which you learn and grow, and one that you recommend to other up-and-coming teachers. Please know that it is OK to hate the job sometimes. It is OK to be tired. It is OK to be frustrated and scared and sad and have any other feelings—anyone who has taught for a single day has felt all of these feelings right along with you. My encouragement to you is to allow yourself to feel all of that, and to then seek a solution without shutting down. We are a team, and we will work together to support you in whatever ways we can.

Once again, welcome to the most incredible profession in the world.

I am so happy to have you in a classroom with students, and your students are so incredibly lucky to have you as their teachers. It is my privilege to be part of your journey, and I cannot wait to get started.

My Own Untaming: Becoming a ScholARTist

By Elizabeth Laura Yomantas

This post is based on Elizabeth Yomantas’s article, “Becoming Untamed Educators,” in the current issue of The Educational Forum. You can access this article for free during the month of September.

Dr. Yomantas is a teacher educator and qualitative researcher. Her research interests include critical allyship and culturally responsive experiential education. Elizabeth enjoys conducting arts-based research, particularly narrative inquiry.

In my earliest years of classroom teaching, I was happy, but I suspected that something was missing. There was no whole me present – only selected parts of my identity made their way into the classroom. I thought this was the way it was supposed to be. The teacher version of me was present, but the creative, artist, human dimensions of my identity were absent. I had no idea how much more there could be.

Everything changed when I entered my doctoral program. One of my beloved professors, Dr. Penny Bryan, introduced me to arts-based research (Leavy, 2015, 2019). I finally felt like I had found my home in the world. In arts-based research (ABR), the personhood of the researcher is intimately connected with their work. Arts-based researchers identify as scholARTists (Cahnmann-Taylor & Siegesmund, 2008), meaning we are concurrently scholars, artists, and teachers. The boundaries are blurred, and therefore, we bring all of ourselves into our work as artists, teachers, researchers. Brenè Brown (2020) describes this as “living with antennas up” and making connections between things that seemingly do not have overt connections.

This idea was both transformative and exciting for me. I found myself asking, “I can be an artist and a teacher? I can be a scholar and an artist? I can be all of these things at the same time?”

Once introduced to ABR, I instantly decided to become an arts-based researcher and a person who embraces all dimensions of life from the perspective of a scholARTist. This was a new beginning for me. My scholarship, artistry, and teaching were transformed.

My recently published article, “Becoming Untamed Educators,” is a manifestation of my identity as a scholARTist who aims to live with “antennas up.” As I read Glennon Doyle’s New York Times bestseller Untamed (2020), I could not stop thinking about the implications and connections to our work as educators. Although Glennon’s writing is considered a memoir, the text is ripe for analysis in connection to our field. It was a holistic and joyful experience to work this article, and I appreciated the opportunity to expand the boundaries of what “counts” as academic scholarship.

Looking back, if it hadn’t been for Dr. Bryan introducing me to idea that it is acceptable to bring all of myself to my work, this journal article would never be. It takes courage to write outside the boundaries of the traditional confines of the academy, and I did not have the courage, confidence, or experience before working with Dr. Bryan. Through her continual invitation of creativity and her constant affirmations of creative risk taking, she nurtured the artist hidden deep inside me and set me on the path of scholARTistry. This journey is a dimension of “untaming” myself. To find out more about becoming untamed, please check out the full article, “Becoming Untamed Educators.”


Brown, B. (Host). (2020, April 7). Unlocking Us: [Audio podcast]. Alicia Keys and Brené on “More Myself.”

Cahnmann-Taylor, M., & Siegesmund, R. (Eds.) (2008). Arts-based research in education: Foundations for practice. Routledge.

Leavy, P. (2015). Method meets art: Arts-based research practice. Guilford Press. Leavy, P. (2019). Handbook of Arts-Based Research. Guilford Press.

7 Tips for Surviving Your First Year of Teaching When You Don’t Know What It Will Look Like

By Vincent Laverick

Congratulations! You survived a COVID-19 student teaching experience that may have been cut short or completely altered. Also, you have landed your first teaching position in the fall, and you are eager to get prepared after your interview conducted through videoconferencing and digital introduction to the school.

The first year of teaching is a steep learning curve for all teachers, but this year it will likely cause a few more sleepless nights, because no one knows exactly what the school year will look like or how it will be delivered (face-to-face, hybrid, or digital).

Here are a few ideas to help you begin to prepare for any teaching experience ahead.

1. Create a digital introduction of yourself.

There is nothing more fun than welcoming your students to your classroom. Developing a digital introduction will allow you to send it to students and caregivers prior to the first day, regardless of the delivery method of instruction at your school. Consider a program like Scratch to develop an engaging introduction.

2. Develop “how-to” videos of your planned technologies.

Not all caregivers and students are tech savvy, so a how-to video or a link to a video of the technologies you will be using in the school year is helpful. This will help you in face-to-face scenarios when students may need to access something at home or have forgotten how to use a program. In addition, in a possible digital school setting, caregivers and at-home educational support will be able to guide students to correctly utilize the technology to enhance learning. If you can’t make or borrow a simple video, it may not be the best choice to use in your first year of teaching.

3. Keep instructions and communications simple.

Much like this article, you can communicate important items in just a few words. When communicating instructions in writing, use bulleted lists instead of long-winded paragraphs. No one needs to know you were an English minor and have the ability to write a four-page, perfectly punctuated email to explain the activities of the day. Break the text into two- to three-sentence sections to help the audience read the material efficiently. Use clear rubrics that students and caregivers can understand and self-assess prior to submitting completed assignments without you providing additional instructions.

4. Create student-centered assignments and projects.

Because students may be feeling a loss of personal connections with outsiders due to long periods of social distancing, assignments and projects developed by teachers and students in collaboration creates an opportunity for you to get to know your students while also allowing students to demonstrate a depth of knowledge well beyond what you may have in mind. Also, by allowing students to be a part of the learning process, they will be more likely to develop a passion for the topic.

5. Be creative!

COVID-19 has created a teaching environment where some of the previous practices used in a school classroom—either face-to-face, hybrid, or digital—simply will not work. Look to these challenges as opportunities to find better methods to be an effective educator. Tasks like having a student pass out physical papers may not be possible due to social distancing. Each setting will allow for different solutions and possibly make you develop a new approach to use once social distancing requirements relax.

6. Use all your available resources for support.

Asking a veteran colleague for help on how to teach a specific item or for an idea to teach a challenging math section is good practice. Asking for help or ideas is a technique that veteran teachers use on a regular basis. Being vulnerable and asking for help will likely endear you to your fellow teachers, and they will soon be coming to you for ideas that worked well. Again, no one has taught in the situation we are moving toward this fall, and all will be teaching, assessing, and communicating in different methods than they previously used.

7. Accept that you will make mistakes.

Mistakes will be made—by you, students, caregivers, and administrators. Use each mistake you make as an opportunity to effectively model how to learn from mistakes and take corrective action. Students who see you are willing to talk about your mistakes and demonstrate a growth mentality will be more willing to take risks and learn from their mistakes in your classroom.

Without a doubt, you have been well prepared to be an effective teacher. The seven ideas above should help you survive the beginning months as you effectively teach and make a difference in the lives of your students. Be positive, smile, and enjoy what likely will be a memorable year for you in the teaching profession!

Dr. Laverick is an Assistant Professor and Chair of the Education division at Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio. His research interest lies in teaching and learning. Please use to communicate any questions or ideas.

11 Tech Tools and Suggestions for Using Them

By Melissa Comer

In the words of the great philosopher (okay, singer/songwriter) Thomas Rhett, “Life changes!” From a teaching standpoint, this has never been truer than during the coronavirus pandemic and the transition to online learning and teaching. Many of us found that we were at a loss as to where to begin, regardless of how comfortable we might have been in using a smartphone to make calls, watch TikTok videos, or read the news. Suddenly, we were (and are) being tasked with using technology as the chief means for teaching.

With technology as the primary mode of instructional delivery, answering the questions of where to begin and what tools to use is critical. To that end, read on for suggestions and not quite a baker’s dozen of Web 2.0 tools that are free and relatively easy to use.

  1. Check out Flipgrid (, a discussion platform that allows you to record a short, 2-minute video. After setting up your educator registration, create a Grid on whichever topic you choose and share a link or code with your students. Suggestions: Assign students to complete learning reflections, project presentations, or discussion-question responses.
  2. Use Thinglink ( for interactive projects using images, videos, and other media. Rather than something static, you can include various links and other information to reinforce the content of the image or video posted. Suggestions: Post a word cloud of vocabulary relating to a specific topic or insert URLs that provide more information.
  3. Make a visual story using Adobe Spark ( This easy video platform allows you to add photos, video clips, soundtracks, and even your own voice. Suggestions: Use as a platform for making an engaging lecture, have students practice digital storytelling, or explain the step-by-step process for answering an algebraic equation.
  4. Try podcasting with Vocaroo (, a free voice-recording service that requires no registration. Simply press the button to start recording. Once finished, save it, download it, or share through social media, email, embed, or via a QR code. Suggestions: Read/tell a story, discuss a science experiment, or review historical or current events.
  5. Stay in touch with students via Remind (, a free text-messaging tool that requires no phone numbers. Set up a class and have students join with a code. Add to your messages by uploading documents, photos, or more. You can also send direct links to Google Classroom, Flipgrid, SurveyMonkey, and more. Suggestions: Set virtual office hours so students can text you with questions, send reminders of assignment due dates, and share handouts.
  6. Assess students using Google Forms ( Design a quiz using multiple choice, true/false, short answer, essay, or scaled questions. Suggestions: Find out students’ interests and attitudes toward reading by implementing a reading interest survey or give a traditional test over content studied.
  7. Create an online character, or avatar, with Voki ( Customize the avatar by selecting hair, skin, and eye color. Record your voice and share via a link or embed it on a website. Suggestions: As an alternative autobiography, ask students to share 10 tidbits about themselves, or use a historical figure and include 10 facts about that person’s life.
  8. Engage in online discussions on documents you upload with Now Comment ( Suggestion: Form cooperative groups of students and have them work together to do a close read of a document.
  9. Get a quick response to a question using Easy Poll ( Pose your question, share the link, and get responses. Suggestions: Have students rate their understanding of a particular concept or indicate their answer to a direct question.
  10. Check students’ ability to listen actively with ESL Video ( Insert a link for a YouTube video and pose questions that can only be answered by watching the video. Suggestions: Use a video/quiz already designed or locate a high-interest music video and create your own active listening assessment to reinforce content comprehension for ESL/ELL students as well as native English-speaking ones.
  11. Share data with the Data GIF Maker ( This is extremely easy to use! Create rectangle, circle, or racetrack graphs. Suggestion: Ask students to agree or disagree with a statement and create a circles-data GIF to show responses.

Many of us would love to be in the classroom, interacting with students in a face-to-face environment; however, given the current circumstances, that’s an impossibility. To paraphrase Thomas Rhett, you woke up and found nothing the same; your teaching life has changed, and “you can’t stop it [so] just hop on the train.”

Breathe and know that you’re not alone. It’s a learning process that we are all going through. There will be failures; learn from them. There will be successes; celebrate them!

Dr. Comer, a Professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at Tennessee Technological University, teaches graduate and undergraduate literacy courses. Professional activities include presentations at local, state, regional, national, and international levels as well as publications of conference proceedings, scholarly articles, and book chapters.