Teacher Seeking Approval

It was the middle of a Tuesday and I found myself picking the date for an announced observation for the following week. We settled on December 12th at 8:45 am. That score will play a big part in determining my LOE score that will tell, at a quick, convenient glance, what kind of teacher I am. It’s hard not to absorb identity from that number. It feels like approval or disapproval. It feels like someone has pronounced judgement on my worth as a teacher.

Sometimes, in the midst of the hurry, the pressures, and worries of this time in the semester, I forget that those things are not the sum of my life, or even the sum of my present circumstances. I have to stop and remind myself that this person’s approval may be pressing, that activity may be urgent, this work may be threatening to consume my time, but that is not all of my reality. The tyranny of the urgent will always be there, but there is always more. Everything in life- the good, the bad, and the in-between (including scores and observations, and human approval, praise, and judgement… and life outside of teaching) – all those things shape me, but they have no say in who I am now and what I have for eternity. God has that say:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do… Eph. 2:4-10

According to Ephesians 2, because Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came and brought me salvation by dying for my sin and rising again, this is my reality: I am loved by God with great love. I am God’s own handiwork, so I belong to him. I am created in Christ for good works, so the work is his, not mine. My future is not uncertain because God has prepared it in advance. God desires to show me the incomparable riches of his grace. He shows me great kindness in Christ. He gave me true life when I was dead in my own works and my own heart of hatred and defiance against him. As Paul tells the Ephesians to remember, I also remember that I was once without hope and without God in this world. I almost can’t bring myself to say those terrible, soul-shaking words aloud: without God in this world.

I need to remember that, so that I can remember this: because of God’s great gift – one I did nothing to deserve- I have received approval by the One from whom it matters most. And I am no longer without God in this world… or in eternity to come.

So, whatever comes today or the tomorrows that follow, as believers I hope this will always be among the first of our thoughts: I am no longer without God in this world. And may we remember all that that truth entails.

Whatever is pressing or clamoring for attention, he always has been, and always will be more. His is the approval that matters most, so that we can live in true joy and seek to please him as we walk in all the good works – at school and elsewhere- he has planned for us to do.


“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph. 3:16-21

Classroom Culture: Thanksgiving Pumpkin, Day One

What my fifth-graders were thankful for this week. ❤️

Supplies needed:

2 minutes

Largest pumpkin teacher can carry


The question: “What are you thankful for today?”

Directions: repeat daily until December 1.

Result: Smiles and redirected hearts after the Halloween craziness.

Giant Word Find

Laminate poster-sized sight-word word find and staple to presentation boards. (Glue gun won’t keep it mounted…) add paper copies for students to keep, a dry erase marker, and expo wipes (not pictured). I used binder clips to hold the presentation tri-folds together for easy assembly/disassembly/storage. :) This is for an outdoor school event and has 5 sides of advancing levels of word finds. The students really enjoyed it!

Teacher Space

Something new I tried last year was getting rid of my teacher desk.  said goodbye to the massive, clunky metal desk that had served well for the last five years. Granted, this was partly because I have a room half the size of normal classrooms… but my class size still runs 15-18 students. There wasn’t room for a desk and intervention table.  After teaching the previous year with a desk but no small group table, I decided to dispense with the desk and ask for an intervention table.

I had help, though. There are several helpful blogs highlighting the benefits of a teacher “space” over a teacher desk. From them (thanks, Pinterest) I got some ideas and gave “teacher space” a go. It went well enough that I’m doing for a second year. The picture above is from last year in the final stages of setting up my classroom. Several issues popped up that I hadn’t anticipated, which I have tweaked this year and it has already helped so much.

First Year

Issue 1: Set-up — Access

Negative: The printer actually ended up on the table… along with stacks of paper. Keep a lamp that big was not a viable option when students came to sit at the table. True, I had access to the printer easily… but that was not something I needed.

Positive: I had good access to the teacher books behind me, as well as my supply organizer, which I’m still using (it’s so helpful that the kids can get their own band-aids now).

Issue 2: Set-up — Aesthetics

Ok, I know that I can’t expect to have a Pinterest perfect classroom, but that shouldn’t rule out keeping aesthetic in mind.

Positive: The big, clunky desk was gone.

Negative: Looking back at that picture, the furniture is different depths, there are too many colors, too many drawers… it was organization flirting with chaos.

Issue 3: Procedures

Positive: I had a small group table, which I did not have the year before.

Negative: Since the teacher space was also the small group space, students had trouble understanding and respecting the boundary lines that a teacher’s desk should have.

Second Year

Teacher Space Year 2

This year, I kept in mind the positives and tried to incorporate them. It involved switching around several things in the classroom (check for upcoming classroom organization post).

Issue 1: Access

These bookshelves had originally been in classroom library. However, this set up was similar to something I had a couple years ago, and I regularly use this small white board with group work. Using these bookcases gave me more horizontal work space — something I had needed before.

Issue 2: Aesthetic

This set-up helps create a feeling of symmetry, even though I still have many materials stored in this small corner. The tray on the table is wonderful for keeping the desk free of misc. staples and paperclips and sticky notes. Things I need in drawers are in the cloth containers (mostly on the bottom row of shelves) instead of having multiple free standing drawer units. The catch-all paper bucket (I still don’t know how to teach without one) has a home in one of the cubicles, instead of one my desk. Now, if I could just work on getting two more stools instead of clunky chairs. :)

Issue 3: Procedures

Granted, one of my classes has all students from last year, which made it easier. However, I had two new classes this year. At the beginning of the year, I told the students that the teacher chair and space behind the table was my space. As the year went on, I added things students were allowed to access — the foreign language dictionary shelf and the staples/band aids. They also know not to look through any copies that I might have on the table. My students sometimes ask if they can work in my chair or move a stack of papers for more space (which I usually agree to).


All things considered, this teacher space works for me and my classroom. It gives me more space to work.  My materials are accessible for planning and group work. My students like the set-up. Parent-Teacher conferences around this table work great.

Sure, it takes a minute to adapt. Sometimes I still miss having a junk drawer. Sometimes, it still gets messy — copies attack, ya’ll. So, if you think if could solve space issues or just help with the look of your room, give it a try.


When the end of the semester attacks… Keepin’ it real, folks. ;)