The Perfectionism Masquerade

Is there such a thing as being too passionate? We all see it in the sports fan who dresses up make up and all for games, live posts about it on social media, and then, when their team loses, you can’t even be near them for days after. We see it in the people who are seriously passionate about politics, fashion, or even their job. But what happens when you are too passionate about education? Is it possible to be too passionate about education?

I’ve totally been there, poured my heart and soul into every part of education I possibly could. I thought that by putting all I have into every little piece, I would somehow be making education better for my students and my school. Oh boy was I wrong! By trying to be passionate about every facet of education, I took away from the one true reason I am there: my students!! I am and will always be extremely passionate about educating my students and giving them the best experience in school that I possibly can. With that said, that does not mean that I necessarily have to be passionate about every little thing that goes into education as a whole. I used to think that in order to be passionate about my students, I had to be on every committee, volunteer to take on extra responsibilities, and take on the political powers that be. I was determined to be passionate about all things education and…..I failed miserably. THANK GOODNESS!

Quote 2I came to the conclusion that what I thought was passion was actually my own perfectionism. I let my own personal need to be perfect in my job, to get accolades for being on committees, and be number one get in the way of what I was doing for my students. I was allowing my perfectionism to keep me up late obsessing over little particulars that had no impact on my students’ success and more impact on my own need to have things in order or have them done a certain way. Not only did my perfectionism take my focus off my students but slowly it started to burn me out. I was overworking myself, I was tired, and I was not feeling the joy that comes from connecting with students and digging into learning.

Being burned out is not a great place to be, but luckily for me I didn’t get so bad that I left the profession altogether. Which, by the way, happens all too often these days. I was taking my passion for educating my students and spreading it extremely thin. What I really needed was to take inventory:

What are my strengths?

What are the strengths of others around me?

What really lights my soul on fire and what are the things I do just because I’ve always done it or I need them to be perfect?
Quote 1

Once I started to reflect, I recognized my need for others; their passions, strengths, and interests. I started to embrace my imperfections and learn from them instead of always trying to hide them. I have learned so much in the last few months as I have been more and more transparent with my students and the learning process I go through. It has been eye opening to see that when I release the pressure of perfection on myself it not only allows me to grow but others to grow around me.



That Time When My Bad Attitude Got Me Nowhere

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am not a big fan of teaching PE. I’ve had a bad attitude about it for longer than I can remember. It is my least favorite part of the week. I will jump on any opportunity to get out of it too. Anyone want to do a cool art project instead?? It’s not because I’m not active. I totally am. I wake up at 5:15am every morning to work out before I start my day. I think my biggest issue is that aside from the 15-20 go-to games that we all know, I’m disasterously unprepared for teaching PE. Which ultimately ends in something that looks like mildly managed chaos resulting in crying or kids getting hurt on most occasions. My teaching partner and I used to take turns teaching while the other helped manage, which worked out well for a long time but with our schedule change this year, I have had to resort to going solo.

For a long time I thought that maybe if I just complained loud enough about it, someone would hire a PE teacher….what a dream that was! When does that ever work? With anything? I’m not sure where or when my brain recorded the information that if I whine and complain, I will get my way. I swear it’s hard wired into our brains from birth. Or maybe it’s a part of my brain that never developed past the baby phase. Cry=food, cry=changed diaper, cry=cuddles, cry=get what I want. As an adult you would think I would know better. Really I’m not sure what I was thinking. But recently I realized my need to pull on my big girl panties and decided to post about it on Twitter with my #EduSnaps IMG_0022friends.

What do you get from sharing your faults and failures with this amazing community of educators? No, not ridicule or rejection but support, guidance, and so many resources your head will spin!! Holy cow what amazing educators I get to call my friends! Through their support and encouragement, they have spurred me on to not just curbing my dislike of PE but into a full scale overhaul on my entire attitude towards it.

I have found that the passions and enthusiasm of others can be incredibly infectious.  But before I could be infected I had to pull myself out of my bad attitude long enough to find others who have that passion for teaching PE. I had to set the negativity aside in order to allow my perceptions to change. By changing my attitude and having the courage to share my fears and failures, I have been able to change my students’ experience in PE for the IMG_1763better. Today we finally had what I would consider a successful PE lesson! The lesson was organized, the equipment ready, and only one student cried (he got hit in the face with the ball so I don’t blame him!). No tattling, arguing, fighting, or any of the other various issues I’ve had in the past. I’m still not the most enthusiastic teacher of PE that there ever was, but in life attitude can make all the difference in the world!

Reflection is a 4 Letter Word

I remember back in my graduate program we used to joke that Reflection was a 4 letter word. We did so many 2 page typed reflections that year that, by the end, if I had heard the word reflection one more time, I was going to throw up. Looking back now I can see why our professors drilled reflections into our brains. What happened? Did it work? How do you know? What would you change if you were going to do it again?

My first year of teaching I was so busy keeping my head above water that reflection was barely on my radar. Over the next few years I became better and better at reflecting on the fly. Having two young children and teaching full time forces you to make the most out of the little time you get in a day. I would reflect while I was driving to school or cleaning up after school. I tried many times to write a blog but it wasn’t the kind of reflecting I was really benefiting from on a regular basis. This summer I finally figured out a way to reflect daily in a visual way and share those reflections with others. You can find the #EduSnaps blog post I wrote this summer here:

Now here it is the beginning of November and I’m on Day 54 of what was a 30 day #EduSnaps through the yearchallenge! (You can see all 54 days on my Padlet here: I have been totally blown away by the response of others on Twitter. It has been amazing to see that I was not the only one who was in need of this type of reflection. Not only has it been used by educators but there are some professors using EduSnaps as a reflection tool for their pre-service teachers. YAY! Reflection no longer has to be a 4 letter word! It can be something that is done quickly in a fun way and shared with others as a way to further that reflection, get feedback, and connect.

IMG_2853.jpgAnother positive that has come from my EduSnaps adventure is when Laura Steinbrink and I posted similar EduSnaps reflections on twitter which led us to team up on what we are calling the #KindnessChallenge. My third grade students were being particularly unkind to each other and I knew I needed to do something. So I started a Kindness Challenge in my classroom. Laura was experiencing something similar with her high school students so we decided to team up. Her high school students are now our Kindness Mentors! We met this week on Google Meet and the kids were very excited to learn more about each other. I cannot wait to see where this idea goes this year!kind snaps

Reflective practice is a marker of an excellent educator. There’s no opportunity for innovation, creation, differentiation, or personalizing learning if we are not first reflective. How are you finding a way to be reflective in your practice this week?

Join the #EduSnaps revolution on Twitter! And join me this Wednesday on the #KidsDeserveIt chat at 6pm PST to talk about reflective practice! 

Game Day

Bring It On
Yesterday morning 58,000 people woke up, ate breakfast, got their Duck gear on, and IMG_2787.jpgmade their way to Autzen stadium. 58,000 people paid for a ticket, bought clothing with the UO logos and colors at prices far higher than most clothes, and spent an average of $20 per person at the concessions. Why? The simple answer would be because they want to watch a football game or better yet because they “Love their Ducks!” But the real answer is this: because it’s exciting and unpredictable. Because wearing the colors and chanting Go Ducks! and singing “Shout” together makes us feel like we are part of a community that we can be proud of. It makes us feel like we belong somewhere. So much so that we spend hundreds of dollars and most fall Saturdays driving to games and yelling for our team!
I know that I’m one of a limited number of people in the world who finds education and learning as exciting as a football game yet I wonder: How do we leverage sports culture in our classrooms? In our schools? How do we make what we are doing at school as exciting and inviting as a football game?
The Challenge
Our culture, as a whole, is very sports oriented. It’s not something that we can fight but rather find a way to leverage in education. A few weeks ago I was cleaning out the popcorn maker in the high school concession stand. And it hit me: What am I doing in the high school’s concession stand at 8:30 at night on a Saturday evening?? AND I’m not here alone! There are other parents here volunteering their time on a Saturday evening as well! What are we doing? Why would we willingly do this? Because this year my son started playing football on the Mighty Mites team. Not only did we pay almost $200 for him to be on the team but we also sold raffle tickets and volunteered twice in the concession stand. That’s in addition to night after night of taking him to practice, picking him up, and going to football games on Saturday. That is a whole lot of commitment both financially and timewise for a first grader to play football. But we do it because our kids are excited about it. They want to play and be part of the team and I want to support that. The real challenge we face in education is that even though I find learning exciting, many people don’t. Going to school will never be quite as exciting as a football game but as a teacher I sure can make it a close call! I can create a culture in my classroom and school that reflects the many reasons people are drawn to sports. I can integrate some of the game mechanics into my classroom to make it more immersive and engaging. I can make my class something that people would pay to attend through my lessons and everything we do in between.
On Wednesdays We Wear Purple & Green!
Or at least we are supposed to…. the teachers and some of the students at our school do a great job of wearing our school colors on Wednesdays but many do not. It amazes me every time I go to a Duck game how much money people spend on their Duck gear! IMG_2768.jpgSomeone in their marketing brilliance decided to make a schedule of different colors we are supposed to wear to each game. Gone are the days of one t-shirt, one sweatshirt, or one jersey. Now we need to have a t-shirt in yellow, green, black, AND white! What??? Along with every other piece of clothing. Whoever thought that up was a marketing genius! It’s not hard to get Duck fans to wear their gear, but encouraging students to wear their school shirts can be a challenge. The best thing I have found to do is to be a good model wearing my school shirt every Wednesday proudly and giving high fives to each student who does as well. It’s free and easy. I’m also thinking about buying a few shirts and offering them as rewards in my classroom. Some of my kiddos families just can’t afford it but I still want to offer the opportunity for them to be part of the community as well. I want to make wearing our school colors to school something we all are able to be a part of.
“Coming Home”
After the first quarter of every Duck home game the Jumbotron blares the song “Coming Home” by Matt Kearny while 58,000 voices sing along in unison. Then again after the third quarter we all belt out “Shout”. You wouldn’t believe the silence that follows “Now waaaaaaiiiiiiiiit a minute!” 

Music brings people together. It gets us excited and creates a ritual that we get to share every home game. If these songs didn’t play during one game, I swear there would be a full scale mutiny! After a game in September, I started thinking about how I could integrate music more into my classroom. And not just any music but music that meant something to us as a class. So I went on Spotify and created a playlist. We started using the playlist for our transitions in our classroom and what an amazing difference it made! Our transitions are so much smoother and way more fun! After a few days, we started voting on songs that would match different parts of our day. For example our Math Theme Song is now “The Greatest” by Sia (the Kids Bop version) and our clean up song is “My House” by Flo Rida (also the Kids Bop version). What a difference it has made! We are pumped up and ready for anything that learning throws at us….and we have become closer as a community through our shared and predictable experiences.
Wait…What About the Cheerleaders?
What football game would be complete without the cheerleaders? I used to be one so…I may be a bit partial. But they keep up the crowd’s energy and get us rooting for our team even when we are losing. They are there rain or shine with smiles on their faces ready to support their team. As a teacher, I am my students’ cheerleader. I show up everyday with a smile on my face (no matter what happened that morning or if I feel like I just got hit by a truck). I am there to cheer them on in the good times and the bad, during the fun times and those times when we all just feel like crying. My energy feeds into my students and I have to be aware of that at all times. I have to be there cheering them on because for some of my students, I’m the only one who is. Not only do cheerleaders encourage and empower but they also keep the game upbeat and exciting. In between plays, during timeouts, and between quarters they provide the crowd with entertainment and enthusiasm. It may be an exhausting job, and one that I’m not up for every day if I’m being honest, but it is one of the most important jobs in the world!

My Week in #EduSnaps

Wow! From epic fails in math to some pretty epic identity projects presented by my students…this week has had its ups and downs as every week in education does. After being out of town for my sister in law’s wedding last weekend, I felt so far behind all week this week. Which led to many mishaps and mistakes. My goal for this next week is to be more prepared! Even though I’m out of town again this weekend, I made sure to set aside time to prepare for this next week and make lists of things that need to happen each day. Hoping this will set me up for a better week!

Be Fearless

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” Then…be like Katniss and burn everyone down with you!

What sets your soul on fire? For me, teaching and learning are constant sparks in my life while sharing and collaborating fan the flames. I can only recall one time in my life when I did not want to become a teacher. (I was a freshman in college and having a bit of an identity crisis.) Some of my earliest memories were playing teacher with my dolls in my bedroom with my easel and chalk. I used old books from my great grandma and my great great grandma who were also teachers. Being a teacher is in my blood. Not just literally, but deep in my soul, a part of who I am. Even when I’m not teaching, I’m teaching. It’s natural, something I just can’t turn off.What sets your soul on fire?

As much as I am a teacher, I am also a learner. I can not get my hands on enough information…EVER! Not just any information, but information about the things that make me curious. My mind is constantly asking questions…how does this work? Where did that come from? Why do we do things this way? What other way could we do it? When I find something that catches my curiosity, the search begins!! Watch out world! I’m on a mission! This is my absolute favorite part. The adventure of digging through knowledge and finding jewels of information. Then piecing those jewels together to answer the questions that my mind yearns to answer. It’s exciting and nerve racking at the same time. Once I figure out the answer to my question, you better be ready to hear all about it! I will go around telling any and everyone who will listen to me…even if they really don’t care or have any idea what I’m talking about!

narrow lensAt this point I start lighting everyone on fire with me! You may not have cared about it before now…maybe you didn’t even know to ask the question…but you sure will now and I’ll share with you all of the information I know and where to find it! Here is where it gets really exciting. We get to talk about it and work together to find a solution I may not have thought of or see a question in a light I hadn’t seen before. Without others to share and collaborate with, I really only view the answer or information through my own lens. Others are invaluable to me as a learner. This is the piece of learning that we all too often miss in education.

As a teacher, I strive to teach my students that we are all teachers and learners. I want them to see 30 people in the classroom who have a voice and information that we can learn from. I want them to learn from each other just as much as they do from me…actually even more! I am no longer the disseminator of information in my classroom. My students need to learn how to use their resources to gather the information they need, including each other! I want them to find what lights their soul on fire! I want them to be as passionate about learning as I am! And then…I want them to be like Katniss and burn everyone down with them!


#EduSnaps Challenge!

Last summer I found the app 1 Second Everyday. It is an app that takes one second of Adobe Spark (78)video or a photo for each day and then strings them together in a video. I was really intrigued by the idea so I spent the summer taking one second videos every day of my kiddos. By the end of the summer, I had a 75 second video of our entire summer. It was a fantastic way to see a recap of our summer, the ups and downs, fun times and silly times, all in less than two minutes with the ability to share it with my friends and family. After seeing the power behind this idea, I started to think about how I could use it in the classroom. Reflecting and sharing my EduJourney with my PLN has been incredibly powerful for my growth as an educator. So, how could I use one snapshot of my day to reflect, share, and grow?

But…school started again and things got busy as fall always does. I would think about this idea at night or in the morning while I was getting ready but by the time I got to school, my mind was on other things. As the mom of two little ones, I am very good at reflecting on the go! I think about my day when I’m driving to pick them up or cooking dinner, and even at night before I go to bed. I have always wanted to be good at writing or blogging my reflections on a regular basis but I have to admit that I am NOT. I start out with good intentions but eventually my intentions aren’t enough and my blog goes untouched for weeks at a time.

Now here it is the end of summer a full year later and I am still trying to find a way to reflect that will be not only valuable but sustainable. I know that I will not grow as a teacher without reflection so I ask myself; How do I create a way in which I can reflect more deeply and intentionally than on the go, but less intense and time-consuming than writing a blog post?? Then fullsizerenderinspiration hit during a 30 day challenge put on by my good friends Tisha Richmond (@tishrich) and Tara Martin (@taramartinedu) called #GratitudeSnaps. During this time we were challenged to take pics of our day, adventures, books, friends, anything that we are grateful for. We then layered Bitmojis, emojis, drawings, and text over the pic using apps like SnapChat and PicCollage. Through this challenge, I realized that I was able to be intentional in looking for the things in my day that I am grateful for and reflect on them in a quick but meaningful way. Then by sharing these with others through Twitter using the hashtag, I was able to be a part of other people’s gratitude journey which fueled my own and brought more meaning to what we were doing. That’s when it hit me….THIS IS WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR ALL ALONG! Intentional reflection in a quick and meaningful way while sharing that journey with others….brilliant!! And so #EduSnaps (another cousin of the infamous #BookSnaps) was born!img_0911

The #EduSnaps 30-Day Challenge Starts Monday, August 28th!

Take one picture every day. A highlight, epic fail, fun times with students, or prep time at home. Be warned: Don’t just capture the highlights! Highlights are great but if that’s the only thing you reflect on, your capacity for growth is greatly diminished.

Add that picture to an app like SnapChat, PicCollage, Adobe Spark Post, Google Slides, etc. Then add emojis, Bitmojis, drawings, and a text reflection to your picture. Save it to your computer or camera roll.

Share your reflection pic on Twitter using the hashtag #EduSnaps! 

I’m so excited to see how this journey unfolds! I’m looking forward to being able to reflect and share with all of you and to see all of your #EduSnaps as well!!

Take On the School Year Like a B.O.S.S.!

August brings so many feelings for me. The teacher nightmares begin, thoughts of my goals for the new year start to become clear, hot sweaty days are spent arranging my classroom and planning. I love fall and the new school year, don't get me wrong, but I also get a severe sense of dread. Not because the summer is about to end but for that dreaded first week back before school starts. That dream crushing, overwhelming, supremely negative week. Every year I psych myself up for weeks beforehand trying to get myself into a positive mindset. But inevitably by the end of the first day I have already failed miserably. I just spent the entire summer learning new things, surrounding myself with educators with a growth mindset who are constantly encouraging and supportive. I spent hours planning and preparing amazing learning opportunities for my students in the upcoming year only to sit there in meeting after meeting, training after training having my dreams and goals stuffed into a box and set aside. Making way for new initiatives, new curriculum, and new requirements from leadership. Eventually I pull that box back out, unpack it, and get back on track. But how do I skip the derailment altogether? How do I keep that excitement and drive through that first week and let it propel me into the school year?
Well….I've decided to take on the new school year LIKE A B.O.S.S.!

Be enthusiastic
(Have an) Open mind
Stay positive
Strive for greatness

Be enthusiastic: It's going to take more than just a psyched up positive mindset to get me through this and I strongly believe in the power of enthusiasm! My enthusiasm for what I have learned and what I want to do in my classroom will be infectious and spread to others! This year I won't let people tell me that I have, "Too much enthusiasm" Is that even a thing? I don't think so. The more passionate you are about something, the more enthusiasm you have. I am in the business of changing lives and educating the future. There is no such thing as too much enthusiasm!

(Have an) Open mind: After reading "Lead Like a Pirate" by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf this summer, I have realized my need to keep an Open mind especially when it comes to my administrators. They are in education for the same reason we are and I need to remember that! They aren't there to create more work for us or make us do more paperwork. They are working to make education better for all students just like I am.

Stay positive: Although having only a positive outlook didn't work for me in the past, I still think it is extremely important to Stay positive. Having a positive attitude changes everything. Negativity is like a parasite spreading from person to person until it kills your school culture from the inside out. Staying positive among negativity is never easy. It changes your actions, decisions, and your words. Speaking positivity into a generally negative conversation can be difficult but has enormous benefits for you, your colleagues, and your students.

Strive for greatness: Recently I was reading "Teach Like a Pirate" by Dave Burgess. In it he talks about asking educators, "Do you want to be great?" It kind of made me laugh reading it. I could totally see educators shifting uncomfortably in their seats as the tall dude in the pirate outfit loomed over them trying to catch someone's eye. (No offense Dave! It just made me giggle!) I'm not sure that I would have stood up and yelled, "Yes!" Though in my mind I would have been wanting to! It's funny how we have such a culture in education of not wanting to be seen as better, egotistical, or competitive. Why being great has those connotations to it, I'm not sure. But, as Dave more eloquently puts it in his book, "Being your best possible self contributes to the school culture necessary to create the environment for greatness to flourish." After reading that chapter, all I can say is "Heck yeah!! I want to be great!"

I am excited for this change in my mindset that I've made and I can't wait to see how this change will affect not only myself but also my colleagues, my family, and my students. I can now look forward to the start of school as a positive with opportunities to spread enthusiasm, keep an open mind, speak positivity, and strive for greatness!
Do you struggle with the beginning of the year like I do? How do you handle it? What is your plan to start this year with a bang?

Well PlayED 

This past week I got the great privilege of being on Michael Matera‘s (@MrMatera) gamification podcast Well PlayED (#WellPlayedU). I have never been on a podcast before so it was a totally new experience for me! Because I have two young children at home, two dogs, and a husband who is also off for the summer I can rarely find a quiet space in our house. Even my office (which doesn’t have a lock on it) is not off limits to the wild and craziness that is my home. So when Michael and I finally found a good time to chat, I found myself parked in my car under a tree in the middle of a parking lot. As I watched the cars zoom by, I thought about my year in all it’s ups and downs and my journey that has been gamification. I really enjoyed chatting with Michael and how it felt like we were just two old friends talking across the table with a cup of coffee. I hope that you all enjoy it as well:

Podcast Description: BOOM! Heather Marrs, @hmarrs24, has joined the #wellplayedu crew. This episode pops right off the ear bud. Heather shares how she got started, things she noticed and how her students soared in her gamified class. So much shared, and so much gained in this episode. I really loved having a chat with this dynamic educator who is constantly striving for bringing the best in her classroom.

While the episode is about gamifiy in elementary, it is unbelievable that all that was said can be applied to all classrooms K-College! Looking forward to many more conversations with this talented educator.

Thanks for sharing with use Heather, You rock!