Silence is the hardest part of teaching.

“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”
― Jim Henson

And I would add to that quote…how you made them feel. 

The stories that we cannot tell are the hardest part. Some you just cannot tell. Some you don’t tell because it isn’t your story. Some just don’t feel right because they are tiny moments of human connection that to type it all out for the world to consume feels like it would somehow minimize its humanness.

But we do have to keep ourselves in check and acknowledge that we are humans and with that humanness comes brokenness. We aren’t unfeeling robots who don’t recognize that the world exists outside of our classroom. Or at least I am not.

Those moments when I want to clamp down the hardest because they aren’t figuring out MLA or reading as in depth as they should are the very moments I remember that the world spins outside of my classroom for them, just as it does for me.

And life is beautiful, and cruel and real. It gives and it takes away. Those are where the stories are at. The stories that they will tell; the stories just as I tell my own. The ones that shape us and make us who we are. Sometimes they leave us better than when they got to us and sometimes they leave us less than they were.

But they are real, they are human and my best asset as an educator (and honestly as a human) is to acknowledge that. I am blessed to have this job. It is hard because I am so emotional about it. But it is a blessing none the less.


I may just be your problem.


I don’t need research reports to tell me how to feel on this one. I don’t need to take some sort of grad seminar to convince me differently. I have been in the classroom for over 8 years at this point. All of that time I have been teaching college writing. I also have raised three girls, so I see it from a parent’s perspective.

Kids don’t need hours upon hours of homework to prove they are worthy of the high school diploma. I think sometimes we forget they are kids. And yes I say we because I have been that instructor. I have been it regularly.

Yes I may ruffle feathers, but is our goal to take every ounce of their childhood time left over at the end of the day even at 16, 17 and 18? Because if this is your goal then nope. Nope I don’t accept it.

Students are spending 8+ hours with us in our classrooms and then coming home and doing 2+ hours of homework (this is definitely on the lighter side) for us. Do we need to teach them material and work ethic with our assignments? Heck yes! They need to understand the importance of working for what you need and want. They do need to understand it takes hard work to get there. But I think we may have been skewed in methods of getting there.

Burying them in work so that they are forced to become mini-adults and machines pumping out work for us that in the end sit on our desk for assessment. I respect my profession way too much to tell others what they should be doing in their classroom. Basically, I won’t presume to know the best way to teach math or social sciences or any other course than my own. Heck I would even venture to tell my English colleagues what they should and need to do.

But what I will say for the last two years I have changed the way I teach. I teach dual credit college writing, dual credit college speech, dual credit children’s literature, English 9, Mass Media and SAT Prep. I find that smaller assignments in class with me and often partially carried over at home are more beneficial.

For example, in my college writing course we recently had a lesson on analysis of scholarly writing. In class, I taught them how to break down an author’s arguments in a table. You know argument as table top and the supporting evidence as the legs of the table. I taught it like a mathematical formula. We called them artistic proofs and centered around the rhetorical language of academe. This took about 1 and half class periods. No homework and lots of working with one another and lots of working me as a guide and observer.

Then I gave my students about half of the class period to write a one and a half page MLA formatted response paper for me. It wasn’t enough time to finish in class, but was enough time to let work with me for awhile, work with their partner for awhile and we did this all in google docs so I could see it all. They had a little that required them to work at home, but it didn’t bury them.

Can I tell you how many kids felt like that process was helpful. They mostly taught themselves how to break down academic language. I gave them the tools and they did it. Does giving them an hour worth of homework every night achieve the same. Maybe it does.

But in that weeks time they probably had 20-30 minutes of work from me and made progress as college writers that me assigning a 5 page paper and letting them go at it at home alone would not accomplish. I didn’t bury them. It was chunked out in class with me directing, me observing and then on their own.

Just the same when we are reading for my course. Anyone else struggle with students that don’t read? Yea if you don’t, I don’t believe you. There is nothing worse than that observation that inevitably happens when someone hasn’t read. So yea I do a lot of our reading together. If we read together then I spend less time in the battle of teaching to students who don’t know what is going on. I end up frustrated and they end up frustrated with me.

The reality is that I sometimes have to assign reading because I do teach college classes and English classes, but I set up my classes so that required reading is imperative to do because if not you won’t be prepared and stakes are too high to not. But they also know that the more we get done in class the better off their homework load will be. It is a pact we make and so far it works.

I have results teachers. I have positive results. I am doing something right because I have the evidence to prove it. Now I understand and will make the statement that college is a very different thing. It requires work and it requires tons of self discipline, but I will say I am teaching high school kids college courses, so I am consistently striking an odd balance between you are a college student, but also a high school kid. I teach juniors in high school who are basically freshmen in college. This works for all of us.

To be in MR’s classroom….. – MR

I miss Thailand.

How do you miss a place that you have never even been? I am not sure, but I do. Maybe it is empathy or compassion. I am a teacher to a large population of refugees. Refugees that escaped war torn lands with unjust governments, or escaped persecution for their beliefs and ideologies.

The word refugee for me was just a label I would place on people that didn’t look like me artists-respond-ban-5or sound like me. It wasn’t that I was overtly prejudice or even ethnocentric. I just had all this privilege that had just never been checked. It actually probably was never something I put much thought into not out of carelessness, but just out of ignorance.

But I do now. My personal and professional self has been changed on so many levels because of my work with my students. Of course it is, I know. But my world view has grown ten-fold. My students have traveled more and been through some of the most intense emotions known to man and all I have to offer is I have been to Canada.

I recently did a recipe project with my juniors where the goal was to tell me a personal narrative tied to a food that they have an emotional tie too. I expected quite a variance on the stories I would hear. My school is known for diversity. But what I didn’t expect was to literally feel my refugee students longing for their “temporary” homes.

This prompted a late night research fest to see what this refugee life looked like for my students and as you research you wonder how they could miss such a place. But what I instead realized that they missed wasn’t the place, but what the place meant to them. It was the simplicity of their needs, the closeness of their families and the fervor with which their beliefs withstood testing.

As I researched that and graded them I began to identify those same things and same feelings. This longing for what may have seemed more simple or the most basic parts of ourselves. We all know what it is like to long for home or simplicity. A place where we belonged no matter what. A place where the simple needs in life were all that mattered. The type of needs like cooking the food around us not the kind that you can just run to the store for, the need for human interaction so you just go to your next door neighbors or missing the simple toys that you can create from just a piece of paper.

As my students presented their recipes and their lives a common theme began to emerge and I heard over and over, “I miss Thailand.” And finally today I proclaimed, “I, too, miss Thailand” and it this wasn’t some sort of misappropriation. Instead, it was me sitting back and being the student, checking my own privilege and letting my students teach me and teaching me the way they see their worlds and what my role in it is.

I hear and see those in the world against refugees and this idea of someone’s right to our land more than another and I wonder if they sat in my classroom for just a day would they feel the same? I never saw my career path leading me this way. But my faith and my career has called me to this place, this time, my classroom, my students and I cannot walk away from that more ignorant than when I came. I refuse that injustice.

The purpose of this moment was for me to know that their missing Thailand feels an awful lot of like my missing my own home. It is familiar, it is safe, it is survival at its most basic where our main goals in life are to eat, sleep and survive and we all know what that feels like. But do we really?

Taking a moment to realize I have no idea. – MR

(Photo Credits)


Immawhat a teaching series of posts meant to inspire, reflect on the making of MR as a teacher and a classroom.

Imma a what: Take # 2 

There are two things I know my students like about my classroom. These two things are the things I hear over and over again about my classroom. One is simple. 

One is I always try and make sure my room smells good. No joke. I use those glade plug ins and kids like it because my room smells homey. That is usually the first thing I hear, “Mrs. E your room smells so good” or “I love coming into your room because it smells good.” Who knew smells changed learning, but 6 years at this and yup they sure do. 

The second before I start anything English/Speech related I always check in. I don’t talk about anything school related and if they do try and talk school I ask them to hold off. When we first started our school we called these weather updates. 

I am not sure if my colleagues still do this, but I do. I greet them at the door and then start off by saying, “How are we?” Most of the time they are too busy and don’t acknowledge me. Then guess what…they do. 

In my experience, kids want to know you care about more than their grade in your class. I won’t lie that sometimes it is exhausting juggling all of that. But I cannot even begin to tell you how many times those check-ins have helped me get a student through a tough concept in class. If they know you truly care they will work for you. 

These are no magical tips or any kind teacher whisperer stuff. This is just me being me. My authentic self is very much my best teacher self and my personal self translates quite nicely into my professional self. 

Two of my personal and professional goals: 

  1. To smell good always and to actually be known for it. 
  2. To try and leave people hopefully better than when I found them. 


Immawhat is a teaching series of posts meant to inspire, reflect on the making of MR as a teacher and a classroom. 

I am nothing special.

I have a large group of teachers that I hang with on the interwebs and I watch their instastories, follow their blogs and youtube channels and I think to myself I should share more about myself as a teacher. I consistently share the emotional side of my teaching which is likely the most poignant for me. But rarely do I share what works and what doesn’t and how I have evolved as a teacher. I hang with these people and I am truly inspired and want to show them what they show me.

And then my thought is I am nothing special and what could I possibly add that hasn’t already been said. I mean I am no different than most of the teachers I have met. We work countless hours not for the big pay, or the glory because usually there is none. I work long and often thankless hours. I go to bed worrying about my kids at night and I spend my days trying to leave them better than I have found them.

Teachers usually teach because they are called to it. Webster’s defines call[ing] as a summons or command. The connotation of that word though is so powerful. Both of those words are imperative meaning that it MUST happen. 

The first day of school this year I asked a question of my students. I said, “What qualities does a good teacher possess?” I got lots of adjectives and definitions with great meaning like “a teacher who listens”, or a “teacher who knows I am more than my grade”, or “Someone who gives second chances” and I started to try and sum it all up into a few short sentences for the whole class to agree on. One of my quiet students who has had me a few times before raised their hand and said, “A good teacher is someone who acts like you.” I blushed at the unexpected attention. I moved on quick out embarrassment, but that comment meant so much to me after I could process it away from 30 staring eyes.

I realized I need to give myself credit. I am one of many good teachers who cares a lot for her students, who works way harder than she is paid for and who is called to teach and in that moment that student acknowledged that hard work, dedication and caring. That doesn’t lessen those in the trenches with me and their shine. We are all doing amazing things and there is enough room for us all.

My philosophy on education has changed over the years, but I find one thing is consistently true and that is when I am true to who I am on the inside and out my students see it. They want someone who is authentic. I am not afraid to make a mistake, in fact, I point out my mistakes. Like the time I mispronounced vacillate and called it (spelling like I pronounced) vasillate. I still giggle about that with my students. We are human. They need see that. They are human and they need us to see that.

But in an effort to acknowledge that we all have something great to add into the whole wide world of teaching I would like to start sharing in my little corner of the web universe about Mommy Rhetoric the teacher. I remember when I started teaching I made the category tag “Imma a what?” because I was shocked how I ended up here and now I cannot imagine myself anywhere else, so it is time.

I answered the summons and I found my place and I found me.


Immawhat Volume 1 – MR

Can I finally unpack?


This school year was unreal on so many levels and I am not sure I entirely realized it until I watched our class of 2017 walk across the stage. Our principal did a run down of all of the accomplishments of the school and as he did a run down I suddenly felt like you do if you are sitting in a church hearing a sermon and like they are talking directly to you. I shook my head, I began to cry and I wiped my eyes as I smiled ear to ear.

I have not talked a lot about what I have been through professionally this year because I was worried it would come across as bragging or hurt my fellow teachers who work just as hard and furiously as I do. Teaching isn’t a single player sport. It requires collaboration, team work and the support and sometimes flat out job carrying of others to get through.

More than anything…nothing about my job is about me. I don’t teach for me. Sure I get a paycheck, but when I walk into that room or I support a student outside of my classroom it is never about me. I had the blessing to find a job that helps bring out my best attributes and fulfills a passion I never knew I held so deeply. As well, I am not even sure I can correctly articulate the wonderful things that happen at my school or in my classroom and there are many times I scratch my head and wonder if this is how every teacher feels.

But to get to the point of what I want to unpack is that a professional high that happened for me this year and it so hard to even put into words and even now months later I cannot even explain it. A local public radio interviewer came to do piece on my student population and I was picked to have them in my classroom and had the pleasure of recommending students for the piece to be interviewed. I was also interviewed. The feature ended up being picked up statewide and then nationally in an NPR piece.

And while I appreciated all that, I wish I could bottle the way I felt hearing and watching my students interact with Claire. The pride and excitement of what my students have had to overcome to change their worlds and just how they do that. I stand in awe on a regular basis.

Well the hub bub died down and then we got a call that our state’s former first lady (Judy O’Bannon) wanted to come and visit with our kids after hearing about the NPR piece. The former first lady who takes up educational issues. She also has a documentary type show where she features foreign lands and tries to make connections, so that the world seems a little less big. She has always traveled abroad for the show.

Then she heard our story and realized there is a story that fulfills her criteria right here in Indiana. She interviewed our local community, our mayor and then ended up again in my makeshift classroom and with my students. Again, I got to beam with pride. But there wasn’t much better than the moment she sat down alone to interview me and asked about the conflict that is brought to my classroom based on the diversity in my school.

Something I hadn’t really thought about since my first year at my school. A question that I tackled and went back to my own mentor to seek guidance and support. Amazingly, I responded with my 5 years of wisdom I didn’t have back then and that is that, “Most of the time it is us adults with the conflict.” I followed up with there is a lot they could teach us. She said that was the perfect way to end and hugged me and thanked me with tears in her eyes for all I do for my students.

This isn’t just about a group of students to me. It isn’t just about a school or even my classroom. I am not getting attention because I am doing something so different then the teachers who teach beside me are doing. I am just giving a face/name/classroom to what is already happening.

This is what teaching is doing. It is working more hours than you are paid for, spending more in your classroom than you probably should, sitting back and realizing students can teach us things sometimes more than we can teach them and more than anything for me it is my passion. I do it because I have found my calling and talent and I can get paid.

If you pay any attention to this post don’t pay it to me. Pay it to a teacher. Maybe a teacher that meant a lot to you or changed your life. Say thank you. Hug them and tell them because it isn’t always easy. It is exhausting quite frankly and many times I have driven home and updated my resume and decided to get out altogether. But then there is that one student….the one who shouts your name as you are leaving graduation from across the room and mouths thank you and places their hand on their heart. Yea, I cried.

So to unpack….yea it was a year…but every one is. – MR

My love and my best wishes: Class of 2017.

Class of 2017

This one has been ruminating for awhile now because saying goodbye is always so hard for me. It is probably the 2nd hardest part about being a teacher for me. You know you are sending them off to bigger and better things, but it hurts. I remember when my # 1 was just learning to crawl and I had an epiphany on the painfulness of raising children. We are literally giving birth to them to constantly watch them move away from us.

And because my own motherhood is woven into my teaching it feels exactly the same. I wrote something to share with my class a few weeks back about how I truly feel as their teacher. I am giddy, afraid, hopeful and apprehensive all at once. This is very much like motherhood. We hope we teach them well to do amazing things in the world. A world that can sometimes beat the hell of out them. But we have to trust them, we have to trust ourselves that what we taught them had an impact, and we have to watch them walk away and try it on their own.

My first group of kids was special because they were first and I love them dearly. This 2nd group of kids served a very unique and personal role that I am not sure many of them even know they did. I had them all a lot the year my guy had his brain surgery. They gave me the ability to get lost in my work. Their emails when I was down in Indy with him were uplifting and thoughtful. The daily hugs, and words of encouragement. Their love and prayers were felt on levels that they likely don’t even understand or know. When they made their way back around to me their junior year our bond became even stronger. They were and continue to bless me every day.

But on top of that they were the 2nd children in a very unique school where a big deal was made of our first group. They always kinda felt like they stood in the shadows and truthfully they did. Even though they changed the face of our school in their own unique and amazing aways. But still the shadows. But one of my best human qualities is my ability to pull people out of the shadows. This isn’t a brag, it is just my personality.

Over the last few days I have been thinking of each of them and feel nothing but immense pride at their hard work and ability and my little tiny role in that of making sure they all shined in their own ways while in my classroom and sometimes out of it. I make it a goal to have at least one connection with each student in my classroom every year.

Of course, you connect with some students more than others but there are so many in this group. In just a few days, I will watch them walk across the stage many already with their associates degree and I know that I will be that proud teacher that is all those mixed bag of emotions and trying to figure out how to say good bye. For some, I will likely never see again and others they will be shipping off.

I just can’t. I don’t want to. But I have to because it is part of the job. It is trusting you have made an impact, no matter how small, in their future so that they know they CAN and WILL be a success in where ever this life takes them.

So to my precious class of 2017 I bid you farewell. I have said it 100x to you that remember if you need reminders of your greatness you know where to find me and yes I will always awkwardly reply to your proclamations of affection because that is me. But remember that doesn’t mean I love ya’ll any less. Life gets really hard sometimes, but if you follow your heart and lead with love it won’t ever steer you wrong. Now go do great things and make us proud!

My love to you always.

Love Always Wins -MR

Rage against the dying of the light…


First off….I love social movements, social justice and culture jamming. So for you my MR audience I am sharing my favorite version of all three of these and a poem that represents the feelings this graffiti makes me feel.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-Dylan Thomas

Being human. 

Today was not the day I was expecting. I walked in expecting to teach a roomful of students who are ready, excited and willing to learn and for the most part they were. But today was one of those days when they were human and I was human. The kind of day that our state and federal legislatures need to witness and get a better grasp at what it is that myself and my fellow teachers face every day. 

The kind of day where kids make mistakes, or worse yet I make mistakes. The learning that took place was the kind that teaches compassion, forgiveness, survival and the kind of skills we all need to exist outside of class. The skills that make us human or in the least make the world seem a little less harsh. But we can’t prep for these lessons as they usually come out of nowhere and you can’t predict when they will start or where they will end. 

And yea it wasn’t perfect and likely won’t warrant an upswing on a state standardize test score. But what it will do is be a memory for them and for me of a day where we had to stop, take a deep breath and get through the next moment. We were human in very real moments that no textbook teaches. Moments that are hard to describe or explain in any sort of manner that gives them the justice of their enormity. 

When you set up a classroom with your inspirational posters, books, expo markers and your daily schedule with date on the board it all seems so easy. That stuff is easy. Even the testing and data is easy. It is the humanness that makes it hard. Some compare it to dancing or playing an instrument and those comparisons aren’t that far off. But they still don’t come close to describing what it is like to be with 20-40 humans in your classroom including yourself and the lack of predictability that exists in that humanness. 

The reality when dealing with humans is you have human moments. The kind where you just sometimes sit in silence and you just let them know that though we are in silence you are not alone. Also teaching them that silence isn’t bad and that sometimes to be human means not trying to understand the silence and just letting it exist. I am adult and I need that exact same reassurance. Sometimes the world seems unnecessarily hard and cruel and in order to survive we have to laugh, or cry or just sit in silence. These moments require very little from us other than just for us to be still and be present and be human. 

MR- On the importance of being human

I really don’t know everything.


Can I tell you I learn every year the importance of being authentic with your students. True to yourself. Some may call it vulnerable. I know there are teachers who have taught for years in the don’t smile till December mode and that is great. I don’t judge them. Teaching like parenting for me is don’t judge it because we are all in the trenches trying to figure out what works for us.

But for me it is to be truly, authentically myself. That means if I feel silly that day and I sing and dance in front of the class I will. That also means I have grumpy days, my feelings get hurt and I don’t feel well and above all education for me is a gateway to who I am and truly long to be. It always has been and always will be.

In my speech class I model a lot. I don’t mean my latest clothing styles. I mean I publicly speak. I purposefully place myself into situations where I also become the student. This is my third year teaching dual credit speech and it was to be my third year modeling the same advocacy speech about TN. And yes much advocating needs to be done where TN is concerned…but my speech was tired and easy. Guess what…that isn’t modeling if you are comfortable. I changed it to a completely different topic and that was advocating for taking care of our Hoosier teenagers. I made it relevant by connecting it the Semi-colon Project.

However, I advocated that we wouldn’t have to talk about suicide, poverty and mental illness near as much if we [Adults] found better ways to listen and support our youth. I identified the issues as I see them in my home, my classroom and in relation to my own teen years.  For this speech building up your ethos is paramount and the must have part of the speech. Speak what you know so to speak.

And in my world I know it means a lot when my voice shakes, my eyes go to the floor, a lump in my throat appears. I have two sections this semester and I delivered it to one and I nearly had a panic attack. I started the speech and stopped and admitted in front of them I was so nervous. What a great learning moment that was for all of us. They begin reminding me of nerve lessening methods. I started and stopped a few times and each time was met with so much support. I took their criticism and admitted I would have given my own speech a D. Not an F because I got up there and did it and made it through. But a D. A you didn’t get it at all, but you tried grade.

But the way I felt when it was over was gross. I had the icky feeling of teaching things that are too personal. You know like why I can’t and won’t and refuse to ever teach Jane Eyre. This book is so personal and was such a life line to me in a time in my life when I needed a character like Jane Eyre. It is personal because it matters. It MATTERS BIG!!! I had no idea this would be my reaction, but then I realized it was a revelation of my childhood dreams of being a supportive and loving mother, a teacher, a leader in my community and my very reason for standing in front of a classroom full of teenagers. It truly doesn’t get more personal than that. At least not for me. I imagine the feeling I had is akin to one of those don’t smile till December teachers actually smiling in November and thinking, “Aww crap…I lost them. They know I can smile.”

The feeling though scared me out of repeating the speech for my second section. At least until a little more than two weeks later. I needed time and distance and I needed to admit I had a severe shortfall on this speech because I chose something too personal and something that mattered too much. I used it as a teaching moment and talked about why I couldn’t repeat it till that day. It was stigma, the lack of support, the fear of judgement and their own expectations of me. But I like students to see me like they see themselves and that is as a learner.

The second delivery still skirted on the overly raw emotion and a massive case of the stage frights. But they got to witness me manage my speech and I imagine they felt a little more ease at knowing they aren’t alone. And if they didn’t that is okay…What I truly hope they picked up from the speech is it is okay to be who you are even when it is scary.

Because yes I was scared, but guess what I did it and I survived. No tears shed and they know a little more about why I do what I do. And I would easily give myself an A- or B+. So yes my students see me smile. They see me mad. They see me care. They see me cry. In fact, I am quite known for crying when students deliver big on goals I set for them. In fact, I think we were the second week in and a junior whom I had only ever had those two weeks asked me, “Why do you cry so much?” I thought for a minute and quietly said, “Because it matters.”

So yes readers…it matters. The things we do in the world matter even if you aren’t doing it in front of a classroom full of teenagers. Your kids are watching. Your partners are watching. Your friends are watching and your enemies are watching. Show them it matters every single day by being you.

I am okay with not knowing everything and being the student. -MR