Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The School of Hope

This year my students are learning all about global citizenship through our Social Studies project called GOAL Getters. We are fundraising this year to sponsor a year of school for a child in rural Nepal. Another second grade teacher is sponsoring a student in Uganda. Our classes collaborated to produce our first "film" titled: The School of Hope. This narrative is about a young Ugandan girl named Thea who faces a tough challenge. She dreams of going to school but doesn't have the money and her family needs her help at home. (Did you know that only ONE in five girls in the developing world finish primary school?) Watch our film to find out how children can help each other, even if they live on opposite sides of the world. This is what global citizenship is all about..realizing that we are a global family and that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can always help make a difference. ;)

For more information about GOAL Getters, please check out my "work-in-progress" website ;)






Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Letter to My Second Graders

This blog post was featured on Huffington Post Good News 
To my sweet, second-grade students,
I have some very important things to tell you. I mean, super important. You ready? Turn on your best listening ears. Open up those learning eyes nice and wide. Get that brain warmed up. Because what I'm about to tell you is something that I hope you'll always remember.
In fact, if you leave my class at the end of this year and forget some of what I've taught you except for this, that's okay. I know you won't remember everything.
But always remember this: You matter. You are loved. And you are a gift to this world.
Wait, I'm not finished. Not even close. So keep those learning eyes wide open and keep reading, kiddos.
You know how in the mornings we sit in our circle spots and talk about our days? We talk about the ups and downs, our dreams and our accomplishments. We talk about what we're excited about, scared about, happy about, mad about. We talk to each other. We listen to each other.
We've come a long way since the first day of school and now we are a family in Room 203. Anyone who visits our classroom can easily see that.
You are leaders who show love, compassion, kindness and bravery. I love you all so much, and that's why I do my best to be brave for you.
You know how every now and then you have days that just don't go your way? I'm talkin' about Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day kinda days. Yeah, those days. We all have them. Guess what? I do, too. And this week, I had a lot of those days.
On Monday, I was so sad that I just wanted to lay in bed all day and watch Food Network. But then I remembered that I had 17 beautiful faces waiting for me, and I smiled through the tears.
Every morning when I come into work I leave my worries at the door and put a smile on my face because I know that I have to be strong for each and every one of you. I know that you need me, and I'm always here for you. And you know what helps me smile? YOU. You turn my Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days intoThe Hungry Caterpillar's Saturdays -- you know, the day where he gets to eat cupcakes and candy. You guys know how much I love cupcakes!
So when you have those Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days, hop out of bed and find something to smile about. There is always something to smile about.
Remember the first week of school when we read Have You Filled a Bucket Today?We talked about how everyone carries around an imaginary bucket filled with good feelings. And when someone does something nice for you, it fills your bucket (and their bucket too).
We spent days brainstorming ways that we can fill buckets through acts of kindness. I was so proud of you for coming up with so many great examples. Did you know that you fill my bucket each and every day? And because of that my bucket is now overflowing. Thank you for filling my bucket. Especially this week. I really needed my bucket filled this week.
All this time, I thought I was teaching you, but what I've realized throughout this tough week is that you've been teaching me. You guys remind me how to be a good friend, how to dream big, how to enjoy the little moments in life and how to make the most of any situation.
You see, I've wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. And I've been practicing since I was four. Of course, back then my students were stuffed animals, dolls and if I was really lucky -- my little brother. (I promise -- you are way cooler than any stuffed animals or dolls). I was practicing so that when I met you, I'd be ready to teach you to the best of my ability.
In college, I learned even more about being a great teacher. But what my professors never taught me is that I'd get to experience the greatest gift of all: life lessons from you. Sure I'm your teacher but you teach me, too. I learn from you every single day. If I could make a list of all the lessons I've learned from you so far, I wouldn't even know where to begin.
Because of you, I have the greatest job in the world. Thank you.
You matter. You are loved. You are a gift to this world. You are a gift to me.
Thank you for making my days so much brighter. Thank you for being you. Never, ever forget how important you are to this world and to all your teachers along the way.
Love,
Ms. Wertheim

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lead By Example

It's almost January...which means I'm half way through my first year of teaching! What!? How is this possible? I truly can't believe how fast this semester has gone by. 

It seems like just yesterday I was standing in the parking lot of my favorite coffee shop, locked out of my car--at 6:30 in the morning--on the first day of school! I had accidentally left my keys in the ignition as I excitedly went inside to get my cup of joe. 

While on the verge of tears, I prayed it wasn't a sign from the universe of how this year would go for me. Not exactly how I envisioned starting my day. 

Although being locked out of my car on one of the most important days of my life didn't foreshadow this semester, I do believe it mirrors the same types of situations I face on a daily basis as a 2nd grade teacher. 

Despite all the preparation, things never truly go as planned. If there's one thing I've learned so far, it's that I have to be flexible! 

For someone who's always been a planner (I'm an architect's daughter, how can you blame me?) it's been tough to learn how to think on my toes and deal with constant change. In and outside of the classroom, education is constantly evolving and just when I feel like I'm catching my breath, another wave comes and knocks me down. But, I'm learning and getting better at the whole "being flexible" thing. 

It can be extremely overwhelming to deal with all the responsibilities placed on teachers--especially during year one! I constantly stress out and worry about how to fit in all the curriculum and standards. It's no secret--there's literally not enough time in the day. 

Tonight I watched a TED talk 
by former teacher and coach John Wooden about the meaning of Success. He read a short poem that really touched me:

No written word, no spoken plea
Can teach our youth what they should be Nor all the books, on all the shelves. 
It's what the teachers are themselves.

This reminded me of how important my job really is. 

I may not be able to teach every standard perfectly and I can't be a perfect teacher. But what I can be for all of my students is a positive role model. When they leave my classroom and look back on 2nd grade, I want them to remember a loving teacher who believed in them and lead by example. 

These precious children look up to me and I owe it to them to be the best person I can be. 

Of course I want every single one of my students to leave my classroom as a better reader, writer, mathematician, scientist, and critical thinker. But above all I want them to leave as a better person. The best way I can teach them how to be good people is to model it each and every day--leading by example.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

GOAL Getters are Changing the World


Repost from my classroom blog: mswertheim.blogspot.com:

Do YOU care about global citizenship education and wish there was more of it in schools? Join us and become a GOAL Getters classroom! Find out more here

I am so excited to share photos from the Claxton Holiday Craft Fair which was a huge success! Our kids made button bracelets, magnets, and scarves to raise money to sponsor children's education in developing countries.

 This educational project is part of our year-long Social Studies initiative called GOAL Getters (Global Opportunities, Awareness, and Leadership). The aim of GOAL Getters is to integrate Global Citizenship education throughout as much of the core curriculum as possible.

Students learn about global issues and then set goals to take action and help. Our main classroom goal this year is to sponsor a year of education for a girl in rural Nepal. As 21st century learners, it is important for our kiddos to be exposed to other cultures, service opportunities, and social responsibility at a young age.

These experiences help shape them into the wonderful future leaders that our world needs. The purpose of the craft fair fundraiser was to teach our kids that we can use our talents (in this case, making crafts) to help make a difference in the world.

My class teamed up with Ms. Adams's class to sell our crafts and I am beyond proud to announce that together we raised $350 for girls' education!

Now you may be wondering: Why girls? Why aren't we sponsoring boys and girls? Well, the answer is simple, and one that our kids agree with: girls in developing countries are not given the same educational opportunities as boys, so as global citizens we should help close this gender gap.*

In our classes we are learning about the differences between our culture and other cultures. Education in developing countries is not free and it is not covered through taxes. Therefore, families have to find money on their own if they want to send their children to school. If families do have money to send their children to school, they are more likely to send their sons instead of daughters. This cycle deprives girls of the opportunity to learn to read and write, which in turn leads to a lack of job opportunities later in life, and a wide range of other issues.

It is obvious that putting a girl in school changes her entire life trajectory, and it's incredible that our 2nd graders in Asheville can change the lives of kids on the other side of the world! *Learn more facts about girls' education, here!

I am so proud of all of our students for working so hard on these crafts! They love knowing that they are making a difference. :) And most importantly, thank you SO much to all of the parents who contributed to the craft fair fundraiser; from buying the materials, to volunteering in the classroom and the day of the fair-- none of this would've been possible with you! :) Enjoy the pics!


Making the crafts: 







The craft fair: 












Huge thank you to all the Claxton families for being so supportive of our initiative!




Sunday, September 15, 2013

We Must Not Forget to Educate Hearts

I'm sure every teacher can agree with me when I say that there are truly not enough minutes in the day to teach everything we need to teach. Racing against the clock is the norm for teachers nationwide. When planning our weeks and filling our days with awesome Reading, Writing, and Math lessons it's easy to run out of space for the other subject areas: Social Studies, Character Education, Humanities, the Arts, and the list goes on...That's why this picture is such a special reminder. 

This is probably my shortest post thus far, but I wanted to share this beautiful quote by the Dalai Lama. I believe it speaks for itself which is why I'm not going to say much more. However, I will add that this mindset is my motivation behind GOAL Getters. With all the stress that comes along with being a first-year teacher, it's been hard to find time to work on my GOAL Getters curriculum and website. But I never let myself forget that educating hearts is equally as important, and that's why I must press on. :) 


Saturday, August 31, 2013

We Make a Life By What We Give

GUESS WHAT? I survived my first week of teaching seven-year-olds! Even though I was warned that I'd probably cry, no tears were shed from me. In fact, I was all smiles. So were the kids. That's not to say that I haven't been stressed or challenged, because believe me- teaching is far from easy! I am absolutely drained from this week. 

But the great thing about teaching is that even though it drains you, you get filled right back up by the love from your students. 

They give me the energy that I feel like I won't be able to find. They cheer me up when I feel like I may be on the verge of losing it. And most importantly they greet me every single day, wide-eyed and eager for me to teach them. Over the course of just a few days we've already become a family in Room 203. 

When I dread the sound of my 5 a.m. alarm I think of the sweet faces of my 18 children who I'm so lucky to know, then I jump out of bed to begin my day.

I've wanted to teach for as long as I can remember. Since I was three years old, I "played school" and imagined what it would be like to have a classroom of my own. And I guess I played my cards right (or just got extremely lucky) because I ended up in my dream grade, at my dream school, in my dream city. 

 I never thought of teaching as a "job," but instead as something I genuinely enjoyed. I didn't think about the money. 

If you follow education news, you've seen the bad reputation that my great state of North Carolina has received lately. To put things simply--it is a TOUGH time to be entering the education profession in NC. 

Every direction I turn I hear more negative news about how our children and teachers are being walked on. I've even had teachers tell me not to teach! That's what makes me the saddest. It kills me to see educators whose spirit has been broken due to harmful legislation created by people who have never stepped foot in a classroom, let alone tried to TEACH, inspire, and care for America's youth. 

But, I have promised myself that I would not let the discouraging news keep me from doing what I LOVE! I recently saw a tweet that said "As a teacher, I don't make money. I make a difference." 

I agree. 


I may never be "wealthy" in the sense that society defines wealthy. But I will always be wealthy in a very special way that only some people get to experience. 

I will have a wealthy life, full of creative, curious, and hilarious children who remind me every single day why I am doing what I do. I'm surrounded by optimism and hope on a daily basis because when all else is crazy in the world, my kids show me how to be kind, how to be a friend, how to enjoy the simple things, and how to love. They are the reason I work 12 hours a day without getting much sleep. They are the reason I spend my evenings visiting their homes to build stronger relationships with them and their families. They are the reason I am constantly learning of innovative ways to be the best teacher I can be. They are the reason I know I'm exactly where I'm meant to be. 

I may not ever make much money, but what I receive is worth so much more

As Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give." 

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to give my children the ultimate form of wealth--a wealth of knowledge. And of course, I'm grateful for the memories I'm making with my amazing 2nd graders. That's something money can't buy!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Never Too Young to Change the World

This is an article I wrote for Huffington Post Impact:


On July 12, 2013, hundreds of young leaders from over 75 nations gathered at the United Nations in New York City for the first-ever UN Youth Takeover. On the agenda? A promise and demand that all children, in every nation, receive the quality education they deserve. The event, officially known as Malala Day, was held in honor of Malala Yousafzai, the courageous Pakistani school girl who was shot by the Taliban last October after advocating girls’ right to an education. That day, we celebrated a day that some hoped she’d never live to see—her sixteenth birthday.

It was such an honor to attend Malala Day as a representative for She’s the First, a non-profit organization that sponsors girls’ education in developing nations so they can be the first in their families to graduate. It felt incredible to be surrounded by so many other young people just as passionate about education as I am. UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, kicked off the event by pointing out that “There is a new superpower in the world. It is the power of young people to change the world and deliver education for all!”

In her first public speech since the shooting, Malala made a bold claim.

“Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy, and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights...I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard; those who have fought for their right to live in peace; their right for equality of opportunity; their right to be educated.”

For some, it may be hard to believe that Malala is only sixteen years old. Her words are as wise, eloquent, and powerful as someone who has lived a lifetime. Malala embodies the strength of my generation. We won’t take no for an answer, we won’t back down, and we will continue to take action until every child is in school. Malala’s words give hope for the future and remind us of the bravery and determination of young people today.

As Malala spoke, I couldn’t help but think of the 57 million children who are not presently enrolled in school. I also thought of the many ways that my generation is changing that.
At the UN Headquarters in NYC with Lindsay Brown
At the UN, we demanded education for all. But it is not enough to solely demand education; we are demanding quality education, one which teaches youth to be socially responsible global citizens. In order to ensure that young people continue to take action, global citizenship must be taught from an early age.

During the Youth Assembly, a Youth Resolution was presented to world leaders. This resolution, titled “The Education We Want: Young People’s Call for a Response to the Education Emergency” was developed by youth leaders and includes a six step process to providing the fundamental human right of education to all children by 2015. One of the steps emphasizes the importance of citizenship education in all schools.

As a recent college graduate who will be teaching 2nd grade this year, I’ve seen first-hand the value and impact of teaching young kids what it means to not only be citizens of their communities, but also citizens of the world. During my student teaching experience, I developed a program called GOAL Getters (Global Opportunities, Awareness and Leadership), in partnership with She’s the First, to teach elementary school students about global citizenship through the core belief that “you’re never too young to change the world.”

My students learned about issues related to education inequality and worked together to solve related problems. By taking action, they raised enough money to sponsor nearly two years of school for a girl their same age in rural Nepal.

That is the power of education.

In the words of Malala, “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. We must speak up. Education first!”

Whether you’re a second grade student from North Carolina or a sixteen year old girl from Pakistan, you can make a difference. Malala Day brought young people together from around the world. Yes, we are young—but we are also full of ideas, ambition, and determination. And above all, we love sharing the message that you’re truly never too young to change the world.

Keep dreaming big,