Three down!

“The most important day of a person’s education is the first day of school, not Graduation Day.” – H. Wong

I was hoping after the first three days of the year, I would have something amazing and profound to share, but it is difficult for me to put these first three days into words.

This year, I felt like we were able to hit the ground running. (Of course it helps that my teammate has taught all of the 6th graders on our team before, and I know them decently well!) The first three days were filled with smiles, laughter, teamwork, reading, vocabulary development, conversations, investigations and collaboration. I could not be happier.

On our very first day of school, both my 5th graders (pictured below) and 6th graders were able to generate a list of mathematical questions that could be answered by analyzing an image, using prior knowledge and estimation skills. For this activity, we used the image from day 41 of Andrew’ Stadel’s Estimation 180. Estimation 180 has been one of may favorite ways to encourage students to communicate with each other about mathematical reasoning and allow them to become more comfortable justifying their thinking. Last year, I used the Estimation 180 tasks in a whole class activity modeled after the style of a number talk. This year, collaboration is one of key components in my classroom, so I modified how I used Estimation 180 with teams of students. It put the biggest smile on my face, when students took it up on themselves to use tools while working together as a team to answer some of the mathematical questions that were proposed. (Remember, this is day ONE of the school year). They got right out of their seats and walked up to the board to start making measurements and sharing their reasoning. This requires a huge “Thank-you” to their teachers prior, who instilled in them the skills and confidence necessary to jump right back into thinking and learning.

Day 1 Math Teamwork

On day two, we began our first hands on science activity. We modeled on the SMART Board how to set up our science notebooks to introduce to students how their notebooks were going to be organized. Then both the 5th and 6th graders used their sense of sight, smell and touch to make observations about each sample. The teams then had to come to a community consensus, just as scientists do, about their theory as to the contents of each sample. The strawberries, bananas, carrots and sweet potatoes were correctly identified and agreed upon, but the spinach and blackberries stumped most of the 5/6 scientists!

All in all, the first few days were a beautiful balance of relationship building, schedule learning, and content instruction. I was on the verge of tears multiple times during the first three days, in the best way possible. Nothing will ever be better than beginning of the day, middle of the day and end of the day hugs and the “thank yous” kids share for various reasons.

If the first three days are any indication how the rest of the year will unfold, I am in for one of the greatest rides of my life. I am truly blessed to have had such a smooth transition in to year 6!

Side Note! So excited to share the solar eclipse with these awesome kiddos on Monday!



Love is the Answer.

I have spent a great deal of time this weekend processing how I could synthesize my current thoughts. With everything going on in our nation, in-particular the sickening and angering events in Charlottesville, I find it very fitting that I began reading a book yesterday about “fueling your life, work and team with positive energy.” While by no means, am I going to attempt to ignore the horrible acts and disgusting sets of beliefs that are too prevalent and real in our nation, I would be doing a disservice to my time spent reading and reflecting on The Energy Bus if I did not try to channel positive energy to help myself, and the people around me continue forward.

For those of you that are not familiar with Jon Gordon’s book The Energy Bus, the story follows a man for two weeks who is “down on his luck” and for lack of better words, his life (work, home, marriage) is in shambles and he is on the verge of disaster. During the story, he learns 10 rules “for the ride of your life.” Through his journey, he learns how positive energy can turn his life around and allow him to reach the goals and visions he has set his sights on. I could go on and on about my favorite parts of this story, and to be honest, I probably will– so be prepared for a few more Energy Bus posts as we head into the first week of school!

Jumping ahead in the story quite a bit, Rule 8 for the ride of your life is to “Love your passengers”. The message of this chapter is that all any of us really want is to be loved. Us as adults, employees, leaders, bosses, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons and friends have a desire to know we are loved. Our students, the loud ones, the quiet ones, the gifted ones, the at risk ones, the boys, the girls, the calm, the fidgety, the well-fed ones, the hungry ones, the well rested ones, the exhausted ones, the oldest siblings, the youngest siblings, the only children they ALL simply desire to be loved. As Joy is teaching George in chapter 26 she reminds him that “Enthusiasm is important. But love is the answer. To really, really and I mean really tap the power of your heart and lead with positive, contagious energy you must love your passengers” (Gordon, pg 114).

Our passengers may be the students we have the honor of teaching this year, our passengers may be our co-workers (old or new). Our passengers may be our family members, our passengers may be our neighbors. Our passengers may  be people we have similar positive life values and views with, or our passengers might be individuals that surround us who choose to feed into the negativity, judgement, racism and discrimination that plagues our society. Whoever our passengers may be, our job is to share our enthusiasm for positivity (I would also argue and advocate for sharing the position of justice and equality) through an outpouring of love.

So when the days get long, the lesson plans seem to never be finished, the stacks of homework and assessments to grade seem endless and time to relax with our family seems scarce, take time to remember how positivity and love can make all the difference– because “thoughts are magnetic. What we think about, we attract. What we think about expands and grows. What we put our energy and attention on starts to show up more in our life. And the energy we project through our thoughts is the energy we receive” (Gordon, pg 42).

My daily gratitude goes out to my principal, Liz, for having a personal and professional focus on positivity, and purchasing Jon Gordon’s The Energy Bus for our building leadership team.  To my new teammate, Brian, for encouraging me to start reading again (more importantly motivated me to start reading The Energy Bus  yesterday). And to  one of my co-workers, MaryAnn, for reaching out to talk about the important aspects of positive energy and the “sticking points” we face while trying to life life with a positive outlook. Thank you for leading me with your positive energy!


Education · Teaching



Today, I spent 3 hours with 28 wonderful colleagues (25 teachers in my building, our principal and 2 instructional coaches in the district) talking and learning about literacy and how we can incorporate the elements of a balanced literacy framework in our classrooms. That in itself is worth a conversation all on its own. We are less than a week from the 2017-2018 school year being in full swing, and such a large group of teachers chose to spend time learning together instead of relaxing by the pool, taking an extra nap, or lets face it, writing lesson plans.

One of the first tasks of our morning was to remember our “why” for teaching. We were then prompted to write our sentence, phrase or word on a label to keep as a constant reminder throughout the school year. (A fitting task seeing as one of our goals for the day was to understand the hierarchy of written language– from meaning, sentences, phrase, words all the way down to the formation of letters). We couldn’t narrow down our “why” to a phrase or a word unless we had fully developed the meaning behind our “why”.

My why is “future” for more reasons than one. Yes, our students and young people are the future of our nation. But more importantly, EACH AND EVERY ONE of our students’ individual futures are so incredibly valuable.  What motivates me each and every day is the fact that all of those 10, 11 and 12 year olds I have/will have the pleasure of teaching and learning from are full of potential and I am honored to be able to help cultivate that potential and help them realize what they can become. Our principal uses the phrase “every child needs a champion” repeatedly in her messages to us throughout the year. (If you have never seen Rita Pierson’s TedTalk “Every Kid Needs a Champion” take an 8 minute break and watch it now). I couldn’t agree with this statement more. Every kid needs a champion. To be their champion, that means I care about their past, their day today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and the years to come.



One Step At A Time


One Step At A Time

Today is the last day of July, but was my first day back in “school mode” (and hence last day of my summer break). I had day 1 of a 4 day training for the new math program our district adopted for 6th-12th grade. While I was very excited to being learning about this new resource, about mid day I hit my “overwhelming point” as I realized how not ready I am for school to start.

Heading into my 6th year teaching, there are many things I am NOT worried about like I was 6 years ago. However, having 3 new preps I am teaching, and a new program for the 1 prep I am familiar with has left me with more questions today that I was prepared to be thinking about. All through our teacher preparation programs, student teaching, first year teaching, resident educator programs and beyond, we tell ourselves and others how flexible teachers have to be (in more ways than one). Flexability is one of the keys to successful teaching, but so is structure and organization, and today, the structure and organization is what really got me.

I started to worry about the little things, that to me, felt like big things. I had the overwhleming feelings from wondering

  • “how am I going to have students set up their notebooks”
  • “how am I going to have to change and modify the structure and flow of our class period to meet the components of this program”
  • “how can I best integrate my content areas with the time blocks I have”
  • “what will my homework policy be now that I am teaching 2 contents for 2 grades with new resources”
  • “what will my students have access to”
  • “how am I going to set my students up for succes when it comes to thinking, learning and working together?”

The question list can go on and on, but the answers have yet to come. As I was grocery shopping today (one of my favorite things to do), I convinced myself that it was okay I did not know all the answers to the list of questions racing through my mind. I reminded myself that I do not need to work three chapters ahead of myself. I do not need to know what September, October and November are going to be like. I do not need to have everything perfect day one (or even by day 100). What matters are the 100+ smiling faces I will get to great at breakfast duty on the 16th. What matters are the 30 fifth graders who will get to spend the first half of their day in my room getting comfortable with each other and with me. What matters are the 30 sixth graders I get to spend the second half of the day with and walk out of the building after their last first day as elementary students.

While these next 16 days are going to fly by, I am going to have to keep reminding myself, that I don’t need to have everything perfectly figured out in 16 days. If it takes until the first full week for school before we do our first “real math lesson from the new text book” that will be okay. If it takes us until midway through the first or even second full week of school before students and myself are comfortable accessing all the features of our online science program and virtual labs, that is okay.

So all you other teachers out there who understand exactly where my worries and anxiety are coming from– try to keep getting sleep, take deep breaths and remember to take it one step at a time. Trust me, easier said than done, I know. I know I am going to struggle even taking my own advice at times as we head into August, but we can do it!

Breathe Relax Smile



Relationships Matter

This is a tag line/title that I imagine you are going to see frequently. 

The staff I teach with knows all too well (as do many teachers) that the relationships you build and foster with your students can make all the difference. When our students know we love them and care about them there is nothing they won’t try. Their motivation might be internal, but often times they just want to make their supporters — at home and at school proud.

Not having children of my own (yet– hopefully someday!), the majority of my knowledge of adolescents and child development comes from the classroom and my experiences with my students. Tonight, I began a 4 day babysitting “assignment” for a family from church. The parents of these 3 kiddos ( ages 6, 4 and 2) are out of town for a conference, so I have been able to experience the highs and lows of a typical Monday.

While today was “uneventful” I can’t seem to forget how instantly sad the two older kiddos got when they thought I would be upset with them, how the 2 year old just wanted to be held the entire hour and a half between dinner and bed time and how the only way I could get the 6 year old to sleep was to let her snuggle with me in her mom and dad’s bed until she fell asleep. She was almost in tears not understanding why she couldn’t fall asleep and kept apologizing. It took an hour and a half to get her to be sound asleep– but it did not upset me (perhaps it’s because it’s only night one of “mom life”).

Reflecting on each of these moments, I come back to the same conclusion. Relationships matter. In just 4 hours, I built a relationship with some kiddos I only “kind of knew” before today that has been incredibly meaningful. Knowing there will be 3 smiling faces ready to play (they already told me they can’t wait to do my hair and go to the park) gives me a sense of clam and peace as I get ready to fall asleep. This is the same feeling I get at the end of a school day, week or month where so many stressful moments get washed away by the one comment or kiddo that makes me  remember why I do what I do.

Get some rest y’all! 



Organization-The calm before the storm

Changing grade levels/configurations this year meant switching classrooms as well. And oh goodness was that a larger task than I anticipated!

Step 1: Clean out old room — get rid of what I don’t need and attempt to re-organize everything I do need!

Step 2: Move everything to new room! This step was a tricky yet important step. There were 3 of us moving rooms this year, Teacher A moved to Teacher B’s room, Teacher B moved to Teacher C’s room and Teacher C moved to Teacher A’s room. I did not want to bombard the room I was moving into, but needed to get out of my old room to make way for the new person coming in. Here was the aftermath of Step 2.

classroom m8

Step 3: Begin to organize and clear the tables! This step was a therapeutic step. I love to re-organize and make sure everything has a logical place to live! The longer I stared at this mess of “stuff” I became more overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. Thankfully, I had my pseudo little sister (a former student who was the third child in her family I had the honor and pleasure of teaching, and whose mother works in the building) who is an organizing and purging queen there to help me! We made quick work (6 hours worth) of those piles of supplies!

Everything has a home!! My room had not been officially cleaned when we finished this process, so I had to keep some items in my closet until they could be “set up”. (My desk items, turn in baskets, absent and missing work station).

Step 4: Most teachers dream of having perfect bulletin boards, and then quickly begin to HATE putting them up. Especially if your room is set up in a way where you have to create you own boards, because they don’t technically exist. I had been in my first classroom for 5 years. First year teachers always have so much more patience for the aesthetics of a classroom, and I forgot how much patience I had then. I spent so many hours hanging my felt and borders my first year and they stayed in wonderful shape for all 5 years I was in room W2. I was able to re-use all my boarders and felt (SO WORTH THE INITIAL EXPENSE– going on year 6– I did turn it around so the side that was against the wall the first 5 years is now facing out) to make my new boards in W3, but I did not spend nearly as much time making them “perfectly level and straight”.


Classroom 2
This board will theoretically be science focused — we will have a Scientist of the week/month (depending on how many I find before August!). The Science Fusion program we use has a database of scientists and their bios. Majority of them are scientists of color and I am thrilled to be able share their lives and accomplishments with my kiddos!


Classroom 1
This board will theoretically be a math focused board — student work, unit of focus and important vocabulary. I am sure I will change my mind 10 more times before school starts though!





















As I mentioned in the yellow caption, I am sure I will change my mind on what these boards turn out to be, so you will have to check back in mid to late August to see what I decided on!

I don’t decorate my room TOO MUCH before the year starts. I like it to be a blank canvas for our learning to take place. The walls will soon be covered with anchor charts, examples of teamwork and collaboration and displays of academic growth and achievement. This also fulfills my husbands reminder to me that come October, half my supplies will be gone and another quarter of them will be in the wrong place, because that is what kids do!

Step 5: MAINTENANCE !!  One of my personal goals this year to NOT let that tornado of kids get the best of my half way through the fall! I am really hoping to keep everything organized ESPECIALLY MY DESK all year. I do REALLY good job of giving my desk a deep clean the day before a guest teacher comes, but I am making it a priority to do this daily to avoid the piles and organized chaos my desk can become! What organizing ideas and tips do you love to utilize to keep your classroom and desk organized when the year is in full swing?




Meet the Teacher.

Hi and Welcome! Thank you for starting this wonderful and hopefully insightful journey with me!

As a wife (married for just over a year), teacher, sister (oldest of 4 girls), daughter, Christ follower (If you live in the Hilliard, OH area and need a church home, come check out MovementColumbus) and friend, I am blessed with many thoughts and ambitions that feel I have a duty to share. In hopes of continuing my own personal and professional growth as well as facilitating the growth of others, I decided to start my journey of writing with the Rhodes to Teaching Blog. Thank goodness my husband has a last name that can be easily added into a title, “Giardina to Teaching” just doesn’t have the same ring to it!

In 24 days, I will begin my 6th year of teaching! I graduated from The Ohio State University in the summer of 2016 with my Masters in School Administration and from Capital University in 2012 with a middle childhood (grades 4-9) teaching license. My content areas of focus were math and science, but I also obtained my generalist certificate for 4th, 5th and 6th grade in language arts and social studies. This allowed me to be hired at the Elementary school I currently teach at as a 6th grade self contained teacher. After my first year of teaching, our team departmentalized and I taught 6th grade math for the next 4 years. For the 2017-2018 school year, our building is re-structuring the middle grade teams, and I will be teaching math and science this year on a 5th and 6th grade team.

This change in content and modification of grade level comes with both nerves and excitement. After obtaining my masters and principal license, I was in search and need of a different teaching experience before making the switch to the administration side of the teaching world, and this 5/6 team was a perfect solution for that need.