Christian Teacher, Public School

". . .the word of God is not bound." II Tim. 2:9b

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Gearing up for a new assignment: 2nd Grade, Here I Come!

Organization is always a hot topic for teachers at the end of the school year as we pack up our classrooms for the summer and take time to rethink the way that we do what we do. Currently, I'm moving out of my high school English classroom and into my new room (and new assignment!) in second grade. This is a huge change, as you can imagine, but the good news is, much of what I used in my old room can stay right where it is. It's not going to move with me, so my successor will simply inherit those resources.

God's Words - Binder Clips

Meanwhile, as I look to my new adventure as a second-grade teacher, I'm imagining all of the ways my classroom and my school day will be different. Here are just a few:

  • One class, seven students, all subjects, all day
  • Shorter prep times
  • Strong support team of elementary teachers
  • Manipulatives galore
  • More visuals and anchor charts on the walls
  • Calendar time
  • New class Website, apps, and tech
  • New forms of parent communication
  • Increased volume of paper flow
  • Take-home folders
  • Cubbies
  • Volunteers
  • Elementary classroom management
  • Recess duties
  • Standards-based report cards
  • Daily hugs from kiddos!
Needless to say, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I plan to do lots of learning and growing along with my students this year!

Heading into my new assignment, organization is going to be huge. This summer, I'll be getting my classroom shipshape so it's clean, cozy, safe, and a place where learning can happen. More on that process in a future post! 

In addition to the "academic stuff," I want to teach my second-graders to be kind. There are tons of resources out there for fostering kindness in the classroom. Check out my Kindness Pinterest board for starters. Some ideas I plan to implement include displaying words about kindness throughout the room, creating a class mantra, having a Random Acts of Kindness bulletin board, and wearing tees and accessories that point up the same message. Of course, there's no substitute for taking advantage of teachable moments as they come up. Kindness can be taught!

I'm feeling so blessed right now to have this new opportunity at this point in my career. Moving to second grade has infused my work life with new energy and focus. 

I would love to connect with other second-grade teachers right now! Please reach out in the comments, or email me here: aballard (at) What do you love about that "magical" grade level you teach?

Changing teaching assignments for fall? What challenges do you face as you make the change? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Have a fantastic end of the school year,


Saturday, May 1, 2021

Teacher Appreciation Week

It's a hectic, exciting time of year for teachers! We're juggling concert rehearsals, awards nights, drama performances, track meets, graduation celebrations, and of course reviewing for end-of-year assessments. That's why Teacher Appreciation Week is such a welcome burst of sunshine to our busy schedules.

Just in time, Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing its Teacher Appreciation sale May 4 and 5. Time to dust off those wish lists and fill up the shopping cart!

To get ready for this fun sale, I've updated all the store graphics on my TPT store, Brevity. 

The cute potted plant image came from, which you should totally check out.

Inspiration to tinker with graphic design has come from many directions recently, but one of my favorites is Michelle Emerson's YouTube channel, Pocketful of Primary. Michelle teaches 4th grade in Maryland, and she has tons of ideas for using educational technology, hybrid teaching, digital planning, classroom organization, and more. Best of all, she's upbeat and positive, which is what I am looking for in a teacher YouTuber!

And to wrap up this brief missive, if you're looking for an end-of-year read-aloud for the middle grades, look no further than By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman. It's a laugh-aloud tale of a boy and a butler who need to strike it rich in the goldfields of California to save the family fortune. My nine-year-old loved it, and we stake our claim that it's our new favorite book.

Hope you have a happy week of appreciation for everything that you do.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Loving God, Even In a Pandemic

It's been a while! It's true that I'd like to be able to blog twice a week like so many fantastic teachers out there, but I've never been ready for that kind of commitment! But that's okay. That's the kind of freedom you have when you're doing it for free.

Here's a little update since the worldwide pandemic hit! Last March, like much of America, my community went into quarantine. My school went to soft-closure, meaning we were teaching and learning remotely. That lasted for the rest of the school year, with our 2020 graduating class having a modified commencement ceremony with limited guests and rigid social distancing in place. 

In the fall, we were back to school face-to-face until partway through November, when a new quarantine was put in place. That time around, I came down with COVID, along with my whole family. I'm so thankful that none of us had very bad symptoms. The worst side-effect was probably the debilitating tiredness. I'd think, "I should really do the dishes," and then my body would respond, "Yeah, right."

After a second round of quarantine in the first semester of 2020/2021, I was ready for life to return to normal. Okay, that still hasn't happened yet. Currently, my school is teaching and learning face-to-face again, crossing fingers that it can be this way for the rest of the year. With just five weeks to go, the end is in sight! 

I love the tee shirts that say, "I taught during a worldwide pandemic. What's your superpower?" This past year and a half has certainly proven our mettle as educators, spouses, parents, friends, and community members. For some of us, it's taken a major toll. Never have we needed each other more. Never in my lifetime (well, since 9/11) have we collectively cried out to God in greater desperation. I for one know that God was there for me. 

Some of the scariest times have revealed the greatest blessings. When the grocery shelves were bare of flour and toilet paper and tissues, God provided for my family. We never ran out. When I feared my family getting sick, we got sick mildly and recovered uneventfully. Of course, that is not the case for some we care about. It's tempting to question God in these dark times. 

All right, so question Him. He invites us to do so. Will we continue to believe that He loves us? 


FREE Conference to check out: 

Idaho Coaching Network's all-online statewide conference 
The theme this year is Passion & Purpose

Sunday, February 7, 2021

What Must Be Taught In Reading Instruction?

There are lots of things that get teachers excited. Lightbulbs going on, trend lines on a graph going up, rapport being cemented, the smell of the first sharpened pencil of the new school year. . . .

Ranking right up there in the top thrills of a teacher's career is collaborating with a great team to choose new curriculum.

At my district, I inherited literature textbooks that were published in 2007. There were no consumables, and we didn't have access to online resources now offered by the publisher to districts that purchase brand-new curriculum. That has meant a lot of reinventing the wheel, aligning outdated texts to new standards, and even consulting Teachers Pay Teachers for quick answers. Throw in three sessions in quarantine due to COVID outbreaks, and the existing resources' deficiencies became that much more glaring.

So it's easy to see why new curriculum on the horizon is a matter for celebration. I'm eager to have resources at my fingertips to help me meet the needs of individual learners. I can't wait to get my hands on standards-aligned, research-based lessons and their corresponding assessments. I want online everything, alongside traditional textbooks so learners can access texts from home or at school, in a format that works best for them.

As we gear up to examine what exactly we are looking for in a reading/ELA curriculum, my administrator has arranged for a half-day intensive workshop (okay, she billed it as a party) to help focus our quest.

And there's homework! Each team member received curriculum samples from one publisher, with more on the way, to review ahead of the session. And we're reading an article on the Science of Reading by Laura Stuart, National Director for The Reading League. You can find it on the Zaner-Bloser Science of Reading Hub.

In the article, Stuart spells out answers to the burning question, "What must be taught?" Synthesizing current studies on how children learn to read, there are five essential components of reading that must be taught, as Stuart says, "thoroughly and skillfully." These are: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluent text reading, vocabulary, and comprehension. 

Stuart explains each component briefly before going on to offer evidence-based principles of instruction, or, the nuts and bolts of  "How to teach it."

I'm excited to see what my colleagues bring to the discussion after reading our homework and browsing curriculum samples. And I'm wondering, how might our collaboration on February 12 change the way we teach, even before we choose new curriculum? 

Also Read:

Using Mentor Texts to Teach Writing and Enhance Creativity

Presenting a Lively Professional Development: Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners