The Chalk Blog

Digital Lesson Planner

Toss that lesson plan book and go digital instead!

If you’re still using one of those lesson plan books, or (*gasp*) sticky notes to plan your weekly lessons, it’s time to upgrade. I went digital years ago and haven’t turned back since!  

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Topics: Classroom Management, Technology

The Back-to-School Letter

Get your school year started off right!

You head to the mailbox and as it creaks open, you see a district envelope. Acceptance of the PD you took, you think…maybe even reimbursement? 

It’s the Back to School Letter (BTSL).  

The End of Break Letter. 

The No More Fun Letter. 

You can feel your heart sink into your stomach. It’s this very tangible, very time-sensitive letter that starts the school dreams and Sunday night worries. Your alarm hasn’t been set for 2 months, but now you are beholden to higher powers - the school, the contract-time clock, and your students. 

The BTSL sets the stage for all the lists and tasks that the start of school brings. But I’ve also found that the BTSL serves much more positive purpose beyond the nudge of starting to think about the upcoming school year. Here are some messages I’d encourage you to see as silver linings of this signal (back) to action. 

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Topics: Summer Vacation, Back-to-School

NEW Course on the Importance of Student-Teacher Relationships

Great Teaching Starts with Relationships

Classroom management. Starts with strong relationships. 

Student achievement. Starts with strong relationships.  

Social-emotional growth. Starts with strong relationships. 

Culturally Responsive Teaching. Starts with strong relationships. 

Notice a pattern? When it comes to quality teaching and learning, authentic relationships are key! The science of learning tells us that from birth, relationships and experiences drive brain development. As teachers, we have to opportunity and the duty to make relationship building a priority, thereby positively shaping the developing brains of the children in our care.

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Educator Coaching

Teacher Feature: August

Interview with Travis Dresch

When we were kids, our minds were blown when we saw teachers outside of school. It was so out of context, but mysteriously cool: we saw them as humans, rather than just as their professional selves. 

To this end, the Learners Edge Chalk Blog interviews teachers in a regular segment called "Teacher Feature!" To hear more about the people behind the magic in the classroom, read on, and be inspired by these fantastic education superstars.


“Choose to be happy.” This is Travis Dresch’s teaching mantra. Travis is our featured teacher for August! Travis teaches high school chemistry and biology in the Cornwall-Lebanon School District in Pennsylvania. It’s apparent he enjoys science and teenagers which not everyone can say. 

I virtually “met” Travis when he signed up for one of our new courses: 5100: Train Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Practice of HappinessHis choice of courses sense given his mantra! (We thank Travis for his loyalty as this most recent course was only one of EIGHTEEN courses he has taken since 2015. Clearly Travis is also a life-long learner!)  

We asked Travis some serious, and not so serious, questions! Take a look.

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration, Teacher Appreciation

10 Ways to Pay it Forward

Ideas for Students & Teachers

On May 20th, Robert Smith, a billionaire philanthropist, shocked the 2019 graduating class at Morehouse College by pledging to pay off all of the graduating students’ school loans. His only requirement? Pay it forward.

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration

Digital Detox

Living in the moment, not through a screen

“Ok, Mom. If we are going to Itasca, I don’t want anyone on their phones. Phones stay off and put away.” 

This is rich, I think. My 8-year-old son, who is constantly sneaking screen time, is laying down the law on screens. We are getting ready for our annual visit to Itasca State Park with my side of the family. It’s where the Mississippi begins! It’s a childhood favorite of mine- a place I cherish and want my kids to know and love, too. 

“Well, I think you are right in your idea,” I say carefully, wanting him to know I am supporting him. “Remember that we will need our phones to get a hold of each other, because we are staying in separate parts of the park.”  

He considers this. “Yeah, good point.” 

“But I think what you are getting at is that you don’t want to see us all staring at our phones. We should be where we are.”  

“Exactly, Mom. Like, we are in nature! Breathe! Look around! You don’t just sit there staring at a screen!” 

Aside from wishing I was recording the conversation to use in later situations, appreciate his thoughts about this. He’s right.  

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Topics: Technology, mindfulness

8 Ways to Support Students Who Have Anxiety

SOS: Saving Our Students: Anxiety Series Part 3 of 3

“We’re in a moment where anxiety is running rampant,
spreading like an epidemic among adolescents.
The rise of anxiety is burdening schools and counselors,
scaring parents, and harming kids, creating dangerous pathways
to depression and substance abuse.”

~ Harvard Graduate School of Education

Jen saved me.

Ten years ago, as I made a break from a perilous marriage, anxiety became my constant companion. Navigating a labyrinth of self-doubt and confusion, my new life was now filled with seemingly endless consequential decisions about finances, career, and life. It felt as though I was spinning through the air and needed grounding. Jen, the instructor for a class called The Mixx, a perfect, a-hem, mix, of jumping, punching, and choreography became my tether. My time spent straining, sweating and listening to Jen’s words of encouragement improved my physical and mental health and kept my anxiety at bay. Turns out, what’s good for your body, is also good for your mind.

Saving our students.

Our students are suffering from anxiety at the highest rates ever recorded. (CDC, 2018).

Whether it’s separation anxiety, social anxiety, selective mutism, generalized anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, or situational anxiety, our students need our support.

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Topics: anxiety, Mental Health Awareness

Struggle with the Juggle

The balance of work, life, family, and everything in between!

Like so many working moms, I “struggle with the juggle”: being a parent, a partner, and an employee fills up my brain to overflowing on a regular Tuesday. Add another commitment in there – even a small one – I need to rearrange everything to accommodate it. Many people seem to be able to handle it. I am not one of those people. 

There’s a lot of talk about self-care right now pertaining to educators (and humans in general), and it’s making me an ace at saying no, even though I don’t like doing it. 

“Sorry, I can’t volunteer/ chaperone /attend all the things at my kids’ dance/ Girl Scouts/ PTA/ soccer, etc.” 

I don’t like shirking responsibility, and don’t like that it makes me look like I don’t want to be involved.  

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Topics: educator wellness, Teacher Burnout

Building a Bridge to Skill Acquisition in Eight Easy Steps

Help Your Students Gain Positive Skills

At its widest point, the Grand Canyon stretches 18 miles (29 kilometers) acrossIt is 6000 feet deepThats more than a mile! Many people consider it to be one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The Grand Canyon is an example of amazing geology where it seems impossible to get from one side (where you are) to the other side (where you want to be). 

A similar canyon exists in classroom management: Challenges with student behavior (where you are)…great student behavior (where you want to be). 

So how do we do it? How do we get from where we are to where we want to be? The answer is simple. We build a bridge. 

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Topics: Instructional Strategies, Student Brain Development

5 Easy Tips for a Co-Designed Classroom Makeover

Creating a Well-Designed Learning Space

Every year, when summer was in full swing and my teacher batteries were nearly full, it never failed-- I would move into classroom planning mode. I don’t mean the curriculum stuff, but fun planning like classroom desk arrangements, wall decorations, and bulletin boards. I would head to Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers to find the perfect posters to match our carefully selected classroom theme for the year. So much time and energy and money went into these efforts, with the hopes that it would have a positive impact. But a recent study found the opposite to be true-- children are more likely to be distracted in a highly decorated classroom.

As we embrace more teaching and learning practices that offer our students a voice and choice in designing how they learn, it follows that we should allow for that same sense of empowerment in designing the place where the learning happens. Flexible, inviting spaces with student needs at the center have the potential to create feelings of safety and relevancy, which then lead to a willingness to engage. Spaces where students have a say in where materials are kept, how tables are arranged and what goes on the walls, can do just that. 

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Topics: Teaching Wellness & Inspiration

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