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Purging, Planning, and the Common Denominator: Welcome to a New School Year!

By Stacey Burt on August 10, 2009
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

This summer I re-read Todd Whitaker's book, What Great Teachers Do Differently: Fourteen Things That Matter Most. I love this book, highly recommend it, and have read it countless times. It reminds me that no matter what is going on in the classroom, there is one common denominator, the teacher.  Whitaker reminds the reader of the importance of setting high expectations for students, being flexible to change, knowing ourselves, and most importantly, knowing our students. It is this last point that I would like to spend a little time on.

Enter Ian Lockwood, a bright-eyed student that sat in the front of my 5th grade science class six years ago eager and full of questions.  By far, one of the most intelligent students I have ever taught. About nine days ago I received a message from Ian's mom requesting that I contact him; he wanted to speak with me. Seven hours away, Ian (now 16) had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, had undergone surgery to remove most of the tumor in his right frontal lobe, and was slated to begin radiation and chemotherapy in the coming weeks. He had asked that a few former teachers be notified and I was among them.

This past weekend I drove from Nashville to Navarre, Florida, for a visit. During the drive I reflected on the year I spent with Ian and how had I never allowed the extra time getting to know him I may have never found out that he wanted to be a neurologist, never been able to provide some comfort for him during this difficult time, and I would definitely have never developed a bond that would span six years and three states.

Thank you for reading this week's blog. I promise to keep it lighter with images and ideas for classroom organization next Tuesday. Have a great week and I hope you check in often.

Comments (6)

Stacy, I was just going through all of your posts and they are all brilliant. Your ideas are amazing and the way you express them is so on target--eloquent and easy to understand and to "borrow". I have to say that I was so moved by your story about Ian. I am so touched that you would share it here. And we are all pulling for him--and for you--the dedicated teacher and friend! Kate


Your kind words are so appreciated! Thank you for taking the time to read the posts and respond. I hope that you can use some (or all) of the suggestions in the blogs.

Ian is doing well and is finishing up his last rounds of treatment and plans on "starting" his junior year of high school in a couple of weeks. Thank you keeping him in your thoughts. He is an amazing young man.



Stacy, Your story was heartfelt! I agree that knowing the whole child is extremely beneficial. Thanks and keep up the awesome work.


Thanks for taking the time to read that post and respond. As educators, getting to know our students is just part of what makes our profession so rewarding, even when our students experience enormous obstacles.



Thanks for the encouraging story! It meant a lot for you to share it.


Thank you for taking the time to respond. I am sure that you have many stories of inspiring situations as well. Our students are incredible people that have so much to give to those around them.

Warm Regards-


Stacey- it is a testament to you as a teacher to have touched students' lives in the way you have Ian's (I'm sure he's not the only one who feels this connection to you!) Thanks for sharing this story- it reminds all of us of the extraordinary position we are in as professional educators- Have a great back to school!

Stacey, I too was very moved by your post. I think your slideshow is sensational, and I have decided that is how I want to display my photos tomorrow when I post. Additionally, building a strong relationship with your students is major, as you can change their lives forever without even realizing it at times.

Hi Stacey,

What a touching story! Best of luck for Ian in his journey. It is so true that teachers are much more than just information pushers. What an amazing reminder of the power and potential that teachers possess.

Best, Amy

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