In Response to the Full Plate Analogy


I’ve been MIA from this blog for quite some time.  The busy-ness of life and parenting and work sometimes requires you to focus in on priorities and let some things slip for a bit, and in my case, this blog was something I let slip.

My plate was full, you could say.

Which is the inspiration for this post today.  The full plate analogy.

I don’t know about you guys, but when it comes to the work of educators, I hear over and over again, the story of the full plate.  As in,

“Oh there’s just too much on my plate.”  “Teachers don’t need one more thing on their plates.”  “Let’s be careful not to put one more thing on their plate.”

Nonstop full plate analogies.

And to be a little honest here, because I can be since it’s my blog and my thoughts and all, I’m weary of the plate analogy.

More than weary, maybe.  I’m getting annoyed.

Let me explain why.  This full plate has become a way to avoid doing some hard, necessary work.

I’m a classroom teacher.  I’m one of the people with full plates.  And this coming school year, I’ve accepted a new position as a technology integration instructional coach.  I can imagine my plate is going to be heaping and I’m going to feel overwhelmed daily.  As we all are as educators.

But guess what?  That’s ok.

Full plates aren’t just symbolic of having too much to eat (do).  They also symbolize abundance and plenty.  And as educators, we have an abundance of tools and strategies and research and support to fill our plates with to help our students.

So maybe we should try looking at it that way for a moment?

I mean, I’m American.

We have a lot of buffets around.  We love a good all-you-can-eat buffet. Everyone knows that buffet or restaurant near them that has a good buffet.  Recently I was in St. Charles, Missouri for a PLC Institute (amazing learning experience, by the way) and we ate out at Tucano’s Brazilian Grill.  We ate a LOT of good food that night.  And it just kept coming as long as we kept the green signal up. And don’t get me started on their salad bar (salad festival).  Wow.

We load plates ON PURPOSE.  We load them with the stuff we enjoy.  And when we are done with a plate, we go back for MORE.

(yes, I know.  Overeating isn’t good for us.  I’m over-generalizing and not everyone likes eating at buffets.  There are a lot of problems that stem from overeating.  We have an obesity problem in this country.  We are wasteful with food, especially considering the staggering number of people who live in poverty here and globally. We have students sitting in our classrooms who live in food poor homes.  I get all of that, truly.  And I RARELY go to buffets myself.  But just hang with me for a second and have an open mind.)

Maybe it’s time to rethink our full plates in education.

Let’s imagine we are at a really good buffet.  And that buffet is loaded with best practices and strategies for our students. Every. single. learner.  Let’s welcome a full plate of what’s good for kids.  Don’t pick stuff off the buffet that isn’t good for kids, because those things are what make us too full too soon.  Let’s fill our plates with what’s good for kids, and then go back for more. Because it’s good stuff.  And it’s okay to have a full plate when it’s good stuff.  We could even go to that buffet with our colleagues.  You know, divide and conquer.  One of your teammembers could try one part of the buffet, and you could try another, and then you sit down at the table together and share and compare.  You know, collaborate?  The bigger the team at the buffet (PLC), the more you can manage those plates TOGETHER, because every single one of you is there for that buffet of best practices and strategies and interventions for our kids.

I can only speak for myself, but I’m making a promise to me and my fellow educators:

Instead of complaining of a full plate, I’m going to think about it this way from now on.  I’m going to focus on filling my plate a HEAPING amout of the good stuff, and I’m going to enjoy that plate because of what it holds for my students.  And when I’m overwhelmed at the amount of stuff on the buffet, I’m going to lean on my colleagues to help me manuever and find balance.   I’m going to save calories in other places, wear stretchy pants, and dig into the hard work of these full plates in education.

And then I’m going to go for a run.   🙂


updated resume 2015

The Fear Factor Project: Reflection & Overview Part I

I’m late with this post, but life and work have been so chaotic I haven’t had time to really sit and blog since before winter break.

For today’s post I wanted to write about and reflect on my giant, and now COMPLETE, Fear Factor project in 8th grade language arts.

That’s right… we have finished the project!  It only took roughly 12 weeks, but we did it.  And we learned a lot.  And the coolest thing is, we didn’t even realize fully HOW MUCH we were learning.  Who knew that we could be learning AND having fun at the same time?!

Here’s a summary of the Fear Factor, a project close to my heart, born in June of 2013 and molded and modified and grown and executed and adapted for many, many months.  My first “official” dive head first into project-based learning.

The Fear Factor

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.”  H.P. Lovecraft.

According to research in neuromarketing, fear is the most effective technique used in industries to sell goods/ideas.  From entertainment, politics, healthcare, nonprofits, and more- using fear as a motivating factor works.

For this project, students addressed the following essential and guiding questions:

How does fear motivate (drive) us as human beings? 

a. How can I use fear appeal to promote my guided reading book?

b. How can we use fear to raise awareness of a social issue and affect change?

What are the biological and psychological responses to fear?

How do different industries use fear to sell a product or idea?

What are current social issues (local or global) and how can we utilize fear to raise awareness/work to create change? 


The Fear Factor Learning Targets (content standards)

1. I can use technology to produce and publish a variety of writing pieces and projects.

2. I can work collaboratively in a group and express my ideas clearly.

3.  I can read and comprehend high level literature.

4.  I can use multiple sources to research a topic.

The Fear Factor Habits of Mind

1. Applying past knowledge to new situations.

2. Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision.

3. Creating, imagining, and innovating.

4.  Thinking interdependently.

The Fear Factor 21st Century Skills

1. Information Literacy

2. Collaboration and Communication Skills

3. Self-monitoring and self-direction skills

4.  Project management skills

Overall, the Fear Factor project was a success.  Sure there are many things to tweak and change if I were to do it again, and I will address those in future posts on this topic, but based on student feedback and their reflection papers, it was overwhelmingly popular and students learned a lot that they didn’t even realize they were learning.  When it comes to skills and the Habits of Mind, most students demonstrated tremendous success and growth.

Here are some excerpts from student papers:

“Some of the skills that I learned during the first part of the Fear Factor were; teamwork, patience, becoming tech savvy, acting, creativity…”

“In this project were assigned to choose a topic we felt strongly about, and use fear to make people want to fix that problem….including research, a slogan, a website a thirty second PSA commercial, finding another already existing foundation working towards the same issue as you, and to make two print ads.  Some of my peers did extra work and made Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Tumblr pages, and hashtags for their issues.”

“This project was interesting and new.  Most language arts classes would be doing seatwork about commas and boring book reports.  Here we got to show not only some knowledge of language arts things like commas, but also our ability to create many things, like websites, videos, YouTube channels, social media pages, and more.”

“With this reflection paper I realize all the habits of mind and learning targets we were accomplishing.  I think it’s fantastic that we were establishing all these skills and not even knowing that we were!”

Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision

“We had to use high levels of communication skills for this project.  If I was working at home and something went wrong, I needed to contact my partner right away to keep her updated.  We would text back and forth to stay in touch outside of school.  I used to loathe group work but found a partner I work really well with.  I think my communication skills with my peers have improved with this project!”

Applying past knowledge to new situations

“I used my previous knowledge of how to make the video trailer and print ad from part one of The Fear Factor to create my PSA commercial and prints ads for part two.”

“I displayed this habit by using iMovie, which is a program I’m already familiar with.  I used iMovie for our World War Z trailer and our 30 second PSA commercial.”

Creating, imagining, and innovating

“We had to use our creativity throughout the whole project.  Rough drafts, outlines, and revisions played a large roll during the trial and error part of this project.  If a website or app wasn’t working in our favor, finding new tools was the best idea.”

“I learned technology can be used for SO much more than Tweeting and Facebooking and Snap Chat.  We used technology throughout the entire project, which I loved!”

“Throughout this whole project process we have been accomplishing things we weren’t even aware we were doing!  We created and edited videos, experimented with website design, played with audio and sound effects, used augmented reality, and published our products online.  These are all skills we can use in other classes and outside of school!”

“I learned it’s okay to experiment with different technologies to get the effects I am happiest with and to do my best work.  I also learned persistence when some technology didn’t cooperate and I had to try again or start over.”

“Sometimes I got frustrated because I just wanted an answer and you wouldn’t give us any!  I realize though what you were doing, and that it’s important we figure things out on our own.”

Thinking Interdependently

“I learned how to work better in groups and to trust people’s ideas more.”

“My group learned how to build on each other’s individual strengths and listen better to each other’s ideas.”

In order to not let this post get too lengthy, I’ll end with a photo from the project launch to peak your interest in learning more in Part II!!

zombie launch

Some new tech tools, resources, and apps I’m exploring and enjoying right now…..

Flipboard (

Description:  Flipboard is the world’s first social magazine. It makes reading world news & personal news on mobile devices a beautiful and easy experience.

 I’m wondering if this couldn’t be a neat, high interest way to do nonfiction reading, article sharing, and current events with students.  It’s super user-friendly and has a huge variety of topics and news sources to pull from.  To check out my Flipboard, download the free app and search for Cleveland’s Corner (@sacleveland)

**Speaking of news stories and current events, check out Pulse (

With this free app, you can select topics and news sources (channels) to follow, almost reminiscent of an RSS feed to stay current on issues you’re interested in.  For example, in Pulse I follow the Department of Education News, Education Week, BBC News, Reuters, TED Talks, AP Technology, Mashable Tech, LIfehacker, USA Today, Digital Trends, AP Top News, Time, Engadget, and more.  I use this mainly for a newsfeed resource to stay up to date on news I care about.  I haven’t really dug into how to use it WITH students yet.   If you have ideas, or use Pulse with your classes, please share in the comments!

Snapguide (
Description:   Snapguide is a free iOS app and web service for those that want to create and share step-by-step “how to guides.” The service provides easy to understand instructions for a wide array of topics including cooking, gardening, crafts, repairs, do-it-yourself projects, fashion tips, entertaining and more.  Users are invited to create their own guides using the iPhone app. Snap pictures and videos of your project, add captions, and share your guide with the Snapguide community.
I’m thinking Snapguide would be perfect for teacher and student-created tutorials to share learning that combines photography, video, and writing descriptions and how-to paragraphs to teach others a variety of topics.  Teachers and their classes could link up and form a community to view each other’s guides.
 Cameo (
Description: Cameo allows you to easily create beautiful short films on your own or with friends. Cameo is the first app to bring professional-grade video effects and styles to users of any skill level. Unlimited video creatiion, free professional-grade effects and fonts, instantly share on Cameo as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, 720p HD video is embeddable on any website or blog, upload to YouTube, Vimeo, or Instagram, Cloud storage so video clips don’t take up space on your phone, follow friends and other creators.
Do your students like to create videos?  Are they using Instagram and Vine to make and share short video clips?  Then have them check out Cameo as another terrific, free, short video creation tool! Film length is limited to 6 seconds, so creativity and innovation is a must to make a compelling film in a short amount of time.

Quora (

Description:  Quora is your best source for knowledge. Quora aims to be the easiest place to write new content and share content from the web.Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. 

Interesting in crowdsourcing?  Being able to ask questions and collaborate and discuss in a global community?  Then Quora may be just the place for you.  With this free app, you can post questions on a variety of topics and receive answers from people with first-hand knowledge of that topic. It’s a “knowledge sharing community.”  Maybe sort of “wikipedia-like?”  For example. if you have a student interested in traveling in India, he/she could post a specific question and get feedback/answers from experts and/or people who have experience/knowledge with travel in India.  I’m thinking this could be a great way to connect with experts from all over the world on a vast array of topics/subjects/issues, but also emphasize fact-checking skills and discussions on reliability and bias, depending on who is providing answers to questions.

PopAGraph (

Description:  Introducing PopAGraph – the app that offers endless combinations of features that will reduce redundancy in style and produce a 3D effect by literally popping your image off the page.

PopAGraph is a great app for unique photo editing.  If you’re looking for a way to make your photos look unique and different from the usual photo editors with standard filters, borders, stickers, etc., then check this one out.  You can literally make elements of your photos appear 3D and jump out of the background, play with color, and so much more.  I know many of my students enjoyed all of the photo editing we did in our last project, so this is just one more editor tool to add to your collection!

 bubbli (

Description:  The next best thing to being there.  bubbli is the app for making dynamic, spherical photos called bubbles.  You can then explore the photograph in a full 360 degrees.

I love this app!  It’s almost a bit like a virtual field trip on your device 🙂  The photo “bubbles” capture an image in a full 360 degrees, so you can explore the image like you’re standing there, looking around.  You can have students create their own bubbles (what a way to show the world a full 360 view of your classroom or other shared space) or you can explore shared bubbles (ever wondered what it would be like to stand in the Colosseum and look around but can’t afford the trip?) bubbli can give you a way to “see” places all over the world right in your hand on your phone or other device.

And last but not least, I’d like to share the TedEd channel on YouTube for those of you who may not already know about it.  I encourage my students to be curious.  To want to know more and learn about a variety of things.  To question their world.  To me, TedEd is a great place to be curious and learn more.  A video on TedEd may be the spark to a new interest area, passion, or PBL topic for teachers!  Check it out:         

Up next…….

I’m off to explore Nearpod ( next.  Anyone already using and loving Nearpod?  Share and link up below!  


2013 8th grade career fair



As students prepare to begin the I Have a Plan Iowa 4 year high school course plan and career interest inventory, we launched this guidance-led unit with our annual career fair on November 22.  Professionals from a variety of careers/jobs came in to share their work with our students.  8th graders were able to sit and talk about what different jobs entail, job duties and requirements, field outlook and employability skills, responsibilities and degree options, and more with community members.  We had representatives from the many fields, including cosmetology, engineering, nursing and other healthcare areas, HVAC, welding, firefighters, law, conservation, information technology, and so many more.  We so appreciate them taking time out of their busy schedules to come share with our students.  It was a GREAT day and wonderful learning experience.

IMG_1168 IMG_1167 IMG_1165 IMG_1164 IMG_1163 IMG_1162 IMG_1161 IMG_1160 IMG_1159 IMG_1158 IMG_1157 IMG_1156 IMG_1155 IMG_1154 IMG_1153 IMG_1152 IMG_1151 IMG_1150 IMG_1149 IMG_1148


Our 8th graders will be embarking on some career exploration in the coming weeks as part of the state of Iowa’s “I Have a Plan” career pathways program.

Students will be looking and planning ahead a bit at the opportunities for courses provided at the high school that may suit their interests as well as career plans for their future.  I can say I wish this program was available to me as a student, as it really allows our kids to see what they can/should take through high school to prepare them for courses in college that are required in their degree programs.  It also allows students, even those who are non-college bound to plot graduation requirements and credits.

I’ll share this article with my classes, but I’d love for parents and community members to read it and really reflect on it as well.  Time magazine shared information on employability in their article called, “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired.”  In the article, they cite a deficit (weaknesses, areas lacking strength) in “soft skills” such as critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and teamwork skills, and creativity and communication.

Project-based learning addresses all of these areas ALONGSIDE core standards and curriculum.

Students have to learn to work collaboratively in groups with their peers, locally and globally.

Students have to be willing to problem solve, think big, and tackle issues.

Students have to be willing to revise, rethink, fail, and try again.

PBL is one route to address these skills.

Field Trip Friday!

8H3 and 8H4 had a great, exhausting day exploring energy during our science outing on Friday, October 4! Enjoy the photos from our day 🙂

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A big thank you to the people at Nahant Marsh, ATEEC, and the Kahl Center and Exelon for teaching us so much and creating a terrific learning experience for our students!

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