The more things change..

Over my 30 years of teaching I have taught many grades.  Right now I am in my second go round in third grade.  I also taught it about 20 years ago for 6 years.  It has been an adventure to come back to a grade that I previously taught.  Somethings have stayed the same and some are drastically different.

Although I am sure that the social studies in grade three has gone through many revisions, I am back to teaching countries which I taught 20 years ago.  I have been processessing the different between then and now and have found it very interesting.


Students were required to pick a country and get 3 books from the library on it.  All students brought in books.  If they didn’t have the books, they couldn’t do the project.  We did as teachers, however, go to our town libraries and get all the country books we could. We then took a huge sheet of construction paper and divided it into 6 sections and labeled each section with the topic to study.  Then students hand wrote a report.  They created a poster with the report, flag, map and cultural doll.  We had a big International Celebration completely with food and drinks from their country.


I set up more as project based learning.  It started with learning about the Olympics and the Olympic events and the students learning about them.  Then students  had to choose a country that was in the Olympics.  They were required to bring in materials (many did not) to support their learning.  It was set up as project based learning.  Students needed to research various topics (as determined by the curriculum).  This time, in addition to books, students also used travel magazines, internet print outs and the actually internet.  I did not go to the library to get extra books.

Computers were an essential part this time. Instead of going to the library, I set up a Symbaloo page (which is an online bookmarking system) which had all appropriate sites that students could go to for information.  Because of the internet, students could chose remote countries that may not have had any books on it. I had one student do his report on Eritrea (a small country in Africa that had one person in the Olympics).  I have even had students contact the country they were researching.

Traveling abroad was rare 20 years ago.  This year alone, three of my students had visited/lived in their country and added that information to their project.

The International Celebration was much different than before.  All the projects were unique as students chose the means they wanted; I had google slides, book creator (an online book creator), and presentation boards (where all students had used some word processessing). There was no food or drinks because of allergies.  Parents still came and students still presented.

The biggest aha moment for me was when a parent called to face time to hear his son present because he was in California on a business trip.  I thought that was just fabulous.


I love technology.  I love how it makes learning accessible for all students immediately.  I love how students are able to find the method that works for their brain/learning style and go with it.  However, as I look back, at what my team used to do 20 years ago (and they were doing the Country Project before I joined the team), they were incrediblely innovative! It was a fabulous project then….and now!

Here are some snapshots of parts of student work who used google slides.  Enjoy!




False Security

This week at our staff meeting, we had a police officer come in and talk safety with us.  Like every other school around the nation, we discussed lock downs and what to do if…  what to do when…  how will I get the children out if… What is the best way to protect the children…

I cried all the way home.  All.the.way.  This is just too much for me to process.  I know I have to. I know it is our warped reality. But it is too much.  This is year 30 for me.  I started teaching before internet, computers, cell phones.  When I started teaching (and for many years) there was one outside line phone in the office we had to take turns to use. We used to keep the windows open at night to cool off the classrooms in September and June.  The only reason why we started closing the outside doors was because a rabid raccoon got into the building. I like to think that despite teaching for so long, I am pretty innovative and try my best to keep up with best practices.  This, however, is too much.

You cannot open up social media without seeing people giving opinions about arming teachers.  Even though I am teacher, I am in no way qualified to speak for other teachers.  However, for me and for only me, I will not carry a gun.  I went to school to be a teacher. All I have ever wanted to be is a teacher. I am highly qualified to teach young people.  I am not qualified to carry a gun.

I will continue to do what is best for my small humans. I will protect them and nurture them the best way possible, as every teacher in America is trying to do in this crazy world. I will not let the new reality affect the childhood of my students. I will continue to keep an eye out for the student who need a little extra, whatever that will be.  But, I will also keep my door closed and locked.

What exactly is the purpose of school?

As many of you know, I participate in a twitter chat each morning at 5:30 called the #bfc530.  Each morning for 15 minutes we discuss one question.  Educators from all over the world join in.  I am so lucky to have this resource.  Often, the question leaves me pondering it for the rest of the day.  I can even lead into an assignment for my classroom.

On Friday, the question was, What do you think your students will say when asked what is the purpose of school?  Hmm….I really don’t know.  I would love for them to say things like it stimulates your brain and encourages you to learn. But then again, these are 8 year olds, who knows what they will say. I decided I would ask them.  It is alway tricky when you ask 8 year olds for their honest opinion.  They give it to you.  Honestly.  They don’t hold back. Ever.

So, with my breath held, I wrote this on the board.  “Write me a letter telling me what the purpose of school is.  Then write and tell me what the purpose of my classroom.”   I further explained..tell me why we go to school and then why we go to my classroom.

Most children wrote that the purpose of school is to learn. “The purpose of school is to learn so when you grow up you can tell your children things that they want to know or go to a good college.”

”I think the purpose of school is to learn because if you don’t learn maybe you could have problems with a lot of things like your job.”

”I think we go to school to because we need to be smart. Like if we go to college then get a job. How are we going to a get a job if we know nothing?”

This was my favorite answer:


Here is another favorite:




As far as my classroom, it seems like the majority of students thinks it is to learn and have fun.

”I go to Mrs. I.’s class to learn, have fun and explore.  I also go to her class to read.”

”I think the purpose of school is to learn and laugh at Mrs. I. Jokes.”

One of my students wrote, “I go to Mrs. I.’s class because one reason is because it is the class I was supposed to be in. Also the big humans in this class are nice.” (I always call my students short humans)

Many students commented on my relationship with my paraprofessional (a good friend of mine for 20 years and retired postal investigator now turned exceptional paraprofessional). “We need the classroom because it has walls so no one can hear us cracking up over a joke that Mrs. I. Made about Mr. Carroll being so naughty.”

This was one of my favorites:




These letters all made me smile.  The students clearly appeared happy and see school as a fun place to learn and grow.  This warmed my heart.  With all the high stakes testing and pressure on teachers to improve test scores, my students still love learning.  These letters show me that they are happy to come to school every day.  I am grateful for that.  This is a special group of students and I am enjoying every minute of this school year.


We Need To Do Something

Mom and I have kept this page strictly informational about our teaching lives. But as most people know, it is hard to completely separate work and reality. I think as teachers, it becomes even harder when we give our hearts to those tiny souls who walk through our doors five days a week.

That’s why I am torn up. I’m not sure about even posting this, but I need an outlet to process my thoughts. On Wednesday, there was yet another school shooting. And I am feeling all sorts of emotions.

First and foremost, I am heartbroken. 17 people lost their lives on a day they thought was just like any other. Well, not even any other regular day. It was Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate love, love to our partners, love to our families, love to our friends, love to anyone and everyone. But instead, it was a day of loss and mourning.

I am frustrated. SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE. After reading newspaper articles and reading Facebook posts and instagram pictures, it is apparent that the rational-thinking OF BOTH SIDES agree something needs to change. The United States, the home of the free and home of the brave, leads the WORLD in death by shootings. How is this something we can be proud of when patriotism is one of our great idealisms? Things need to change, policy needs to change, support needs to be put in place. So these are my thoughts.

I believe in gun control. I believe that background checks should be incredibly strict. I also believe that no civilian should have access to an assault weapon. I DO NOT believe that TEACHERS should have to CARRY in their schools. Schools are and should be safe havens for all who enter those doors.

I also believe in mental health reform. I believe that mental health is as important as physical health and should be taken just as seriously. I believe that in order to go into a school, movie theater, ANYWHERE, with the intention to kill means that there is something mentally wrong with that person. I believe in taking bullying and violence seriously as an educator and ensuring my students receive the supports they need as soon as they need it.

Truthfully, I am also scared. The schools I go into have security checks but that hasn’t stopped students from trying to smuggle in a gun before at different schools across the nation. I am scared because I have many family members in the education world and we are living in a world where school shootings are becoming regular. I am scared for them, I am scared for my students (past and present), I am scared for my friends, I am scared for myself.

This time, I am motivated. I am tired of this being our norm. I am tired of watching the news and seeing scared students run out of their building. I am tired of seeing the Prayers and Thoughts posts circulate and then fade out. I am ready to see change. I am ready to fight with other educators and people who are as equally frustrated and scared and motivated as I am.


It Was All Worth It

Yesterday I went into my old student teaching school and left feeling 50 pounds lighter and with a full heart.

I started by saying hello to my cooperating teacher. She began with a hug and an I miss you and ended with anything you need, you were phenomenal. It was incredibly encouraging to hear those things from her after a rocky spring semester together. At our core, we are different people, but to hear her acknowledge my hard work with our second graders made me realize I am so much more capable than I realize.

Then I set off to meet my little ones. The ones from these former blog posts, the ones who made me happier than I’ve ever been, made me see the comedy in everyday, who frustrated me until I thought I would burst, who made me cry during our last goodbye. The ones who made me realize that teaching is my calling.

As I walked up the stairs, I heard a little voice say behind me, “Miss Iwanicki?” The next thing I know I’m being ambushed by one of my second, now third, graders. She led me to the cafeteria, where eighteen out of twenty-one of my nuggets looked at me with joy and shock in their eyes. I walked up behind one of my boys and as he turned around, his eyes bugged out of his head and he ran over to me, smiling bashfully as he gave me a side armed hug. Sitting in their classroom, one of my girls didn’t let go of me during GoNoodle because she just simply wanted to stand with me, her arm wrapped around me. Saying a quick goodbye to another classroom meant that those five students stood up out of their chairs and barreled over to me, smiling in a group hug. Walking by a third grade class in the hallway led to kids tripping out of line as I repeatedly said I miss you so much and held them tight.

Those forty minutes weren’t nearly enough. My little humans aren’t so little anymore. All of them have a new student teacher, a new year, new friends. But to walk into that school and feel the outpouring of love from those eighteen kiddos…..words can’t describe it. After I texted my parents about the visit, my dad said “this is what you were made to do.” Although I’ve felt inklings of that before, nothing has ever reaffirmed it like that visit. Teaching is what I was born to do.


On Saturday, I wrote about this amazing book by Matt De la Pena. It really is spectacular. If you haven’t read it, you really need to! It is just beautiful.  I then had my students write their own version of where they find love.  I hope you enjoy their responses as much as I did! There is hope




I’d say that is pretty hard to argue with.  Thank goodness for garbage cans!  I know sometimes my students forget I have one, and mistake the floor for it, but I, personally, am glad that it is there. Right in the corner of my room, even if the trash doesn’t always make it unless I lose my mind, patiently remind my students to use it.


I love the illustrations of this one ^.  I do have to wonder, how is love in his locker?  What is going on there? Mental note, pay attention when he goes there.


Okay so this ^ child gets an A and is officially my favorite.


Don’t you just love this one^. It also came with a story about a friend who moved away and how much she was missed.


Don’t we all love that smell?


My students really showed me that they can find love in all kinds of places.  I found love in that!












There is hope

There is so much yuck in the world.  There is so much hating and unrest.  However, I am lucky.  Day after day, I get to look out at the many different colors of skin on my students and see hope.  I see students who don’t understand our nation’s past and are enraged by it.  This week, I read two picture books that showed me just that.  The first one is Sit In.

This is the true story of 4 black college friends who go to a Woolworth lunch counter in 1960.  All they want is a donut and coffee with cream on the side.  This is the story of how they came back day after day.  How they exhibited bravery as they sat there and took abuse.

This book was beautifully written and the illustrations were spectacular.  My students completely didn’t understand about this part in our history.  The reading time ended with us all rolling up our sleeves and putting our arms in the center of a circle and looking at all the fabulous different colors we ar.


The next book is I Dissent.  This book is the true story about Ruth Ginsberg, Supreme Court Justice.  In this amazing book we learn that women were brought up to get married and have babies. They were not expected to work outside the home.  We learn that Ms. Ginsburg broke the mold by being I believe one of seven women in her law school (and 500 men).  We learned how she fought for equality of all.  The girls in my class were outraged by the treatment she had endured.  I knew this book hit home when a young man in my class used the word dissent in his writing!A40EA71F-0787-45F8-95EC-599C949A63E1

The final book, and I will be writing a whole other blog on it is Love.  This book was beyond amazing.  The words, the pictures and the illustrations.  It is one of the most spectacular books I have ever read. My students did a follow up to this and I want to grab a few pictures, so I will be making another post.


I am grateful to the amazing authors and illustrators out there who bring amazing books to children.  Because of these books, we are able to explore this difficult topics in a way that is appropriate for their age.