The RenewED Teacher: Family Edition

I have been hearing from families left and right concerned about the education of their image9children as a result of Coronavirus impact. Many families are livid and disappointed that we have not yet started remote teaching and learning yet. It’s going on four weeks. Some families are upset that we are attempting remote learning with the amount of families that do not have access to the necessary technology or internet in many areas. This is one of the reasons we have not yet started.



But then you have the families that have everything they need to get started, but are


Table of Contents from The RenewED Teacher: Family Edition

confused about where to get resources to help them teach their children. Because of this, I created a Google Site titled The RenewED Teacher: Family Edition. The purpose of the site is to provide tips and resources for parents and guardians of children in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade to partner with teachers to teach their children at home. In addition to resources for children, it also includes a section on self-care for families, managing stress and anxiety, as well as staying education and up-to-date on Covid-19.

Feel free to share this website, and to provide feedback, and additional resources in the comments below, or on the The RenewED Teacher: Family Edition Site.

Until then,

Take care of yourself and Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith

Teaching Online: It Just Got Real

Screenshot_20200330-021809RenewED Teachers are always looking to see what is new, and how they can enhance their skills in the classroom! However, COVID-19 has most of the teachers in our country (perhaps the world) outside of their classroom these days. Because of that, many of us are moving towards some version of Remote/Distance Teaching and Learning, E-Learning, and/or Digital Instruction.

While many teachers have dabbled in flipped instruction, not all classroom educators, especially K-12 teachers, have experienced teaching 100% from the comfort of their home. According to, a flipped classroom is a type of blended learning where students are introduced to content at home and practice working through it at school. In addition to this, face-to-face instruction is mixed with online (internet/web-based) instruction. I started dabbling with this in 2011 with,, and  today with ClassDojo.


There is no blended learning right now. It is all online in the event that our Governor extends the Stay-at-Home Order beyond Tuesday, April 14th. (Update: President Trump extended social distancing through the end of April).

Now many educators have already began their digital journey and appear to be killing it! Many have been using Zoom and Google Meets. I am familiar with both, but when my district sent a survey asking how familiar I was with Microsoft Teams, I had to type in a one on that scale. That’s when my search began. And like these other educators killing it on Zoom and Meets, we are going to kill it on Teams!

What is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is a web-based program that has capabilities for “students, teachers, and staff [to] seamlessly work together, create content, and share resources all from a single, easy-to-learn and simple to use platform” ( Microsoft Teams allows teachers to create classrooms, keep students remotely engaged, facilitate remote learning, collaborate, communicate, and personalize online instruction.

Teaching and learning online is our inevitable future. I have come to accept that this will be our new normal for the next few weeks. With that, I have continued to do research. I have also texted links to my colleagues and posted helpful sites on my Facebook page and groups I am a member of. The resources are plentiful.

Although I do not feel overwhelmed at the time, I am sure that other educators are, and this blog is here to help teachers focus on self-care. Part of healthy self-care is being pro-active and being prepared for what is here or may come. To help us all prepare for this digital instruction we are about to participate in, I am sharing the 10 resources I have come across throughout my research. It is my hope that this post will be an easy access point, a hub of sorts where teachers can visit and get tips on how to use Microsoft Teams.Screenshot_20200330-014232

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, download the Microsoft Team app to your phone or tablet.

10 Helpful Microsoft Teams Resources for Educators 


1.Microsoft Teams Interactive Demo


Demo Screenshot

2. How to use Microsoft Teams for Remote and Online Learning


3. Explore How Microsoft Teams Can Be Used in the Educational Space


4. Online Lessons using Microsoft Teams for Remote Learning

5. Top Ten Tips when Teaching with Teams

Articles/Websites/Blog Posts

6. The Microsoft Team wrote this article titled, “How Schools can ramp up Remote Learning Programs Quickly with Microsoft Teams.”

7. Jenifer Gonzales, the author of The Cult of Pedagogy, discusses her experience using Microsoft Teams.

8. From Tony is Here, Tony Phillips provides a “Teacher Guide to Presenting Remote Remote Lessons using Microsoft Teams.”

9. Dr. Monica Burns from Class Tech Tips discusses collaboration and feedback.

10. Because I foresee teaching changing due to the impact Covid-19 has had on the world, I believe this article by Steve Forbes titled “How to Improve Productivity Using Microsoft Teams” will be beneficial to us in the future.

By doing a basic Google search or going to YouTube, you will find a plethora of resources on Google Teams. This is just a starting point. I hope you enjoy these resources, and I hope they are helpful.

Have you used Microsoft Teams before? How have you found equitable ways to include ALL of your scholars? Share tips and additional resources in the comments section.

Until next time, Happy teaching and learning!

Krystal L. Smith

Communicating with Your Scholars and Families Amid Covid-19

This week was a roller coaster! Between daylight savings, a full moon, Friday the 13th, Corona-virus, and the excitement of Pi Day and the half day we had last Friday, I cannot believe we all survived!


Roller Coaster of a Ride. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

On Friday, March 13, teachers in Pennsylvania received news from our Governor, Tom


Closed for 10 Days. Image courtesy of Flickr.

Wolf that all K-12 schools would be closed for 10 business days effective Monday, March 16 due to the pandemic spread of Covid-19 in the commonwealth. This announcement was made after our scholars had been dismissed from school. Students had a half day of school while teachers stayed for professional development. During that time, we discussed Covid-19 and began preparing for schools to close as the virus continued to spread throughout the nation. We originally thought teachers would be in school on Monday and Tuesday. Students would come on Wednesday for a half day, and then we would be out for 10 days. Governor Wolf wanted all schools closed immediately. On Saturday, two cases were reported in Allegheny County. Two more reported on Sunday. Currently, there are 6 or 7 confirmed cases in the Pittsburgh region. (The data is changing rapidly.) State wise, as of Monday, March 16, there were 76 confirmed cases. On Thursday, there were only 22, and on Friday, there were 41.

With many people following the Governor’s order to socially distance themselves from family, friends, and other large crowds, how do we help the families of our scholars remotely when our schools or districts are not necessarily set up to do so?

Here are three ways I intend to do so:

Class Dojo

  • Class Dojo is an educational app and website that connects teachers, students, and families, through communication features such as feed for photos and videos from the school day, and messaging. I messaged the families of my scholars today to check in with them. I informed them that ALL schools in the district would serve food throughout the week from 11am-1pm. I also shared that an academic packet would be ready for them at the school when they arrived. In addition to this, I left them with more contact information. I sent them my e-mail address and Google Voice number.Google Voice
  • Google Voice is a telephone service (app) that provides a U.S. telephone number chosen from selected area codes, call forwarding, voicemail, voice, and text messaging services for Google Account customers for free. Because I prefer to not give my personal cell phone number to the families of my schools, I have chosen to use a Google Voice Number. What is really cool about this communication service is that I can receive and make phone calls with my Google Voice Number on my cell phone. When I call families, my Google Voice number shows up on their Caller ID. Two parents called me today, and I was able to give them more information about how long we were going to be out of school, the food at the school, the academic packets that were being sent home, and just to help relieve some anxiety that some family members
  • E-mail, well we all should know what that is, but just in case, e-mail stands for electronic mail and is a way to exchange messages between people using electronic devices via the internet. While I attempted to upload the 110 page document to Class Dojo for families to have access, I quickly learned that the file was too large to upload. I therefore e-mailed it to one of the families that e-mailed me earlier in the day, and then returned to Class Dojo to ask families to send me their e-mail addresses. However, I later learned that Dojo was having a few glitches throughout the day, and about 10 minutes ago, I was able to upload the academic packet to Class Dojo! Yay!!!

With all of this uncertainty, I think that we teachers should enjoy being at home with our families. However, I also believe that we are all in this together, and our scholars as well as their families need us to support them. These are three ways we can reach out to communicate with families amid the Covid-19 takeover.

How are you keeping in contact with your scholars and their families? What do you recommend? I have seen some really cool remote ways of facilitating communication and learning (Zoom, Google Classroom, Quizlet Live) these last few days, and I would love to hear some details on how it works and how well it works in your world!

Until next time, happy teaching from home,

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

Happy 2nd Blogiversary

I know, I know! It has been awhile since I have written a blog post. But I have no excuses! What I will say is that I could not let today pass by without announcing that it is the RenewED Teacher’s 2nd Blogiversary!


Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Yes, two years ago, on this day, I decided to start a blog. I wanted to share how I overcame burnout and overcame the urge to quit teaching, not once but twice within a seven year span. I still want to share this, as I have since learned that practicing self-care and staying committed to your passion and purpose takes balanced, consistent and daily work.

Fran Warren – Teacher Self Care-Conference and Founder and CEO of The Educator’s Room

I have discovered two ideas that have helped me stay committed to remaining in the classroom! The first is being intentional about self-care. When I say self-care, I don’t only mean surface level interventions such as manicures, pedicures, working out, spending time with friends and family, getting enough rest, and dressing nice, although these do help. I also mean going deep, and dealing with why we are the way we are and dealing with financial debt, childhood trauma, systemic racism, and every other non-sexy aspect of life that can impact us negatively. Self-care is about getting to the root of improving the quality of one’s life–one’s overall wellness. Self-care can be fun, but it also takes some under the surface, hard work. In my humble opinion, I feel it is the number one way to overcome burnout. As an educator, I often ask myself, if I am not at my best, how can I expect the best from my scholars?

The second idea is focusing on why I teach–my passion and purpose meeting. In his book, “Start with Why,” Simon Sinek says, “all organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.” I want my scholars to be great, so it’s important for me to work to be great! Keeping my why at the forefront of what I do, has helped me persevere and overcome the urge to quit teaching when I had disheartening


Image courtesy of Pixabay.

days, wild weeks, and yucky years. I’m sure many of you can relate to this. Candidly speaking, I am sure the urge to quit teaching would have sneakily crept upon me again this year if I had not taken the time to regularly remember and reflect on my why. I was challenged as if I was novice, and many days, I felt like one. (I also have had the pleasure of working with some really amazing teachers in Western PA and across the country that have supported and inspired me. Y’all know who you are!!! If you’re wondering if I am talking about YOU, you’re right, I am!).

Speaking of reflection though, as I think about the the last year, and what my goals were for the RenewED Teacher, I realize that I have not hit them! I started a Teacher Book Club that was a flop because I couldn’t keep up with reading the book and being an active moderator of the group. I was unsure of how to keep the group members engaged and accountable for reading and responding to the topics of each chapter. I was inconsistent. I was completely overwhelmed with the changes in my new school building. It seems I bit off more than I could chew. I am not sure I will renew this goal. The beginning of the school year is definitely not a good time to begin a teacher book club.

Another goal was to share blog posts about math content. I have several drafts and pictures ready to use, but none of them are ready to go live. I am renewing this goal!

However, I am leery about setting new goals because sometimes goals define limitations. But as in all of my blog posts, I aim to continue to learn and grow, and always urge my readers to do the same, so we can empower our students to commit to lifelong learning! If I do not set goals, I may allow lack of belief in myself, the wrong unintended goal, past failures, fear, lackadaisicalness, my personal comfort zone, and the need for instant gratification to hold me back from learning and growing. I can’t help but think how this will impact my scholars. Therefore, I do intend to set goals despite past failures and fear vying to collaborate against me.


This blog has helped me stay committed to education and teaching! I hope somewhere out there, this blog has also motivated, encouraged, inspired and empowered other educators and teachers!

As I enter my 12th year of teaching this year, I shout, Happy Blogiversary!

Stay tuned for the RenewED Teacher’s goals for year 3!

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3 – Cultivating Grit – A Guest Post by Jillian Smart, M.Ed.

The Value in Cultivating Grit

In January, I returned from hiatus with a blog post on confidence-building strategies. The take-home points are that we (1) value mistakes and model healthy responses to failure, (2) encourage learners to focus on what they can do, and (3) maximize critically thinking opportunities.

Since we’re in the thick of it, I’d be remiss if I did not also recap student strategies for less stressful testing. Testing season is an intense time for educators, learners, and parents. There’re a number of ways to decrease stress and enter testing season with greater confidence. One of our guest bloggers, Jillian Smart, M.Ed., shares four strategies

  1. Review information daily
  2. Clarify gaps in learning
  3. Change daily habits
  4. Build endurance


There’s a connection.

Confidence-building strategies and strategies for less stressful testing are linked by grit. When we cultivate grit, we learn (and teach others) to persevere over long periods of time. For instance, one confidence-building strategy is that we model healthy responses to failure. It’s not likely that modeling a healthy response once is going to cut it. Dealing with failure in healthy ways requires a lot of personal growth initially.

Learner perceptions about failure can be deep-rooted. The more deeply rooted our behaviors and thoughts, the more exposure to new behaviors and thoughts we require before change happens. This is not only true of our response to failure; it’s true of our response to challenge. Habits are hard to break if we aren’t gritty about making the change.

Students with low confidence and poor test performance behave and think in ways that are not self serving. We don’t want to overlook environmental factors that obliterate a child’s confidence in himself or leaves her ill-prepared to compete academically. We also don’t want to nurture narcissism. For a moment, we want to highlight something that learners can do for themselves: cultivate grit.

Cultivating Grit: An approach to increasing confidence explores character development: grit, growth mindset, and motivation. I draw on personal and professional experiences as well as current research to share do-it-yourself confidence-building strategies with educators and parents. Cultivating Grit takes readers and listeners on a journey through an eight-part discussion with five reflection activities to be completed individually or as a group. The premise is that by helping learners increase confidence, performance improves in class and at home.

It’s a journey.

Those who experience failure are erroneously viewed as lacking grit. Grit skeptics seem to think that persevering over time means that we never miss the mark, that we always get the “thing” we’re passionate about… if we work hard enough. Though some focus on one goal, execute the plan, and live happily ever after, many more of us will have to work very hard at a number of our passions.

Sectors of society are afflicted with the “this is how we’ve always done it” approach to education and training, which is much too rigid for us to reap the benefits of all our talents. I encourage you to have a closer look at the opportunities we uncover by understanding and cultivating grit in our lives.

We’ve found that character development is the secret to student growth. Cultivating grit is an important piece of character education for educators and parents. Request your free download of Cultivating Grit today.

Jillian Smart, M.Ed. is an author, coach, and educator. She partners with educators and families around the world to facilitate development of more independent learners. Jillian launched Jackson Education Support as the vehicle for this work. The program she has developed is a breakthrough that has garnered much support and applause since the launch. The 96% success rate among exam preparation and tutoring clients evidences program efficacy.

Her approach is unique in that she leverages character development to affect cognitive development. Character development experiences with clients and professional development training serve as the foundation for this book.

As we continue to learn and grow together, please fill free to connect with and reach out to Jillian by visiting her site at Jackson Education Support or follow her on Facebook. In addition, please share your ideas on how you prepare your scholars to build confidence and overcome testing anxiety.

Thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, and following!

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

Day 14: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.? A Reflection

No time to read? Click here to enjoy listening to this post.

It was Saturday, December 16, 2017. The day my National Board Teaching Scores would be released. The day I learned whether I could shout, “I AM A NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFIED TEACHER!” Or the day, I tucked my tail, crawled back in bed, and complained about having to pay and redo all of the hard work I assumed was my best. Hmmm… I sat at my computer eating some grapes and drinking a nice glass of cold coffee. (Yes, we prefer iced coffee in this home. LOL!) I was excited! My husband was at work, and our son was still asleep. I was thankful for some quiet and alone time.


Image Courtesy of Windows 10 Spotlight Images: Escape from Reality, Mangroves at sunset, Darwin, Australia

I clicked the black button on my mouse and waited for my computer to load. This beautiful background with a mangrove tree, and an amazing glow of dusk appeared before I logged-in. I took this glow as a sign of success. I keyed in my password.


I had the National Board Website bookmarked for easy access. I logged into my National Board account! I began to bite my nails. I felt butterflies in my belly, and my left leg shook rapidly as I waited for my scorecard to open! I was turnt-up! My excitement, nerves, and anxiety were wrapped together like a burrito. This is what I read:

“Dear Krystal Reid,
Your performance on this attempt did not meet the threshold established by our Board of Directors for achieving National Board Certification.”


Image Courtesy of Pixabay.

That quickly, my heart dropped. I could not immediately read the rest of the letter. My eyes teemed with tears. I knew that there would be some positive jargon to follow, and I simply wasn’t ready for it. All I would think was,

“I have failed to become a National Board Certified Teacher.”

There! I said it.

I was heartbroken, angry, and frustrated. Quite candidly, I was pissed. I typically keep feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness to myself. But it is important for me to deal with these emotions so that I can move forward and reflect to continue to grow and achieve the goal of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher. I still want it!

However, sharing this information brings another level of emotion I often conceal as well:


Image Courtesy of Flickr.


                          This video terrified me as a child!                        Giphy Courtesy of

I don’t want you to see me as a failure.

I don’t want you to judge me because I failed.

I don’t want you to think I am an incompetent educator.

While I shouldn’t worry about what people think, my feelings about my failure are real. If you are up-to-date with this 14 day series on what it means to be a RenewED Teacher, I am glad that I waited to share this final day because this failure is the perfect opportunity to share what the final “R” in R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R. means.

As a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R, it is important that we always strive to:



As we are still roughly at the beginning of 2018, this is the perfect time to reflect on the past year, and create changes to make this year the best year ever! One of my major goals this year is to become a National Board Certified Teacher.

In my effort to be more reflective as an educator, sustain growth within the profession, and to help achieve my goal of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher, I am focusing on 5 questions:

  1. What can I learn from this?
  2. What could I have done differently?
  3. Do I need to inquiry or improve some skill?
  4. Who can I learn from?
  5. What will I do next?

Since I am not certified, YET, it is time to begin planning and preparing to retake certain components. I am still frustrated because I don’t want to have to put in the astronomical amount of time again, or spend the money it costs to retake the components. But I want to be the best teacher I can possibly be, in order to help my students reach their fullest potential and to achieve their grandest dreams. I have already learned so much about myself through this journey, that I want to learn more for the sake of my students. I also have regained my passion for teaching through this process, and I don’t want to lose momentum. Additionally, this quote by T.D. Jakes, gives me so much life:

“A setback is a setup for a comeback.”

Courtesy of Power of Positivity on Facebook.

I am ready for my comeback. Professional and personal development are powerful. I have been reading a plethora of books, listening to several podcasts, and implementing many of the strategies I am learning, and many quotes resonate with me. Darren Hardy said, “The key to success is massive failure.” John Dewey said, “Failure is instructive.” My all time favorite, and I have mentioned this before, is what Frederick Douglass said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” If I think of failure in terms of these quotes, I am going to use it as a means to an end and a massive opportunity to learn from what I didn’t do and don’t know; what I could have done differently; continue to learn and grow; find someone that can teach me what I do not know; and set goals to achieve National Board Certification.

This failure shows I am human and not perfect. I am “Purposed not Perfect.” As a RenewED Teacher, I have room for growth. My deadline is December 2019.

As we continue to learn and grow together, I would love to start a conversation about reflection and productive failure, and how we can use our failures and our reflection of them, to motivate our students when they fail. Most of us, as adults, do not give up, but many of our students unfortunately do. What steps do you take to overcome your failure? How can we use reflection of our failures as a tool for growth to help our students learn and grow?

Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing!

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher