Welcome Back!

Hello my friends! I am sitting down to update my blog while my baby boy is trying to climb behind the TV and play with the wires. “This Is Us” is on in the background, and I’m sipping on my iced Americano while I ignore the pile of essays that I eventually need to grade. Life has changed quite a bit since I first started Too Cool for Middle School!


Let me reintroduce myself. My profile read “second-year teacher,” but now I’m in my sixth year of teaching. I work at an amazing middle school in Southern California with students from all over the world. I’m currently teaching 6th grade history, 6th grade English, and 8th grade English. I coach volleyball, softball, and I’ve acquired a little collection of clubs including a Human Rights club, a Hamilton/Harry Potter club, and a fashion club. Clearly my students and I share a lot of interests!


This is a new season of life for me. For the first time since Kindergarten, I’m not a student. I completed my Masters degree in US History last May (at thirty-nine weeks pregnant!). I wrote my thesis on Rothschild Francis, my husband’s great grandfather, who fought for citizenship and civil rights in the US Virgin Islands in the 1920’s. Research, writing, and telling the stories of unlikely heroes truly fulfill me. I’m sure that I will find myself in the world of academia again soon.

Last June my husband and I began the most incredible journey we’ve walked together yet–parenthood! Our son Jenson was born on the last day of school in 2016, and we spent the summer learning all about diapering, nursing, swaddling, and functioning on two hours of sleep. Jenson is a year old now and he’s an absolute joy. He is THE cutest child I’ve ever seen in my life (I’m biased, I know), and he keeps us laughing constantly. He fills up my Instastories, so for his daily antics, check out my Instagram!



Speaking of social media, my YouTube channel has grown slowly but intimately. I’ve made genuine friends through both YouTube and Instagram, and I love the sense of community from the subscribers who comment and engage with my posts. I want to write more about my lessons and classroom strategies, and offer resources to middle school teachers. This blog is a useful platform for those goals, so I am going to be more intentional about creating blog content in addition to YouTube videos.

I’ve always written and spoken about fashion, and these days I am even more invested in fashion than ever. My fashion goals are to purchase only fair trade clothing, or clothing made in the US. I am becoming much more minimalist in my style, and I want to invest in pieces that truly make me feel like my best self, and that will last for years to come. I am learning about sustainable fashion, eco-friendly fashion, and the effects that fast fashion have on human rights, the planet, and even our sense of satisfaction. I will continue to share with you amazing companies that are making the world a better place, while also offering beautiful products. I have a few fair trade fashion posts coming soon!



Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. I appreciate this online community of teachers, and I hope to make this Internet world a more positive and encouraging place. Thank you for the opportunity!

Photos by Joyetic

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Jeans  (made in the USA)


7 inspirational videos to use on block days

This year my school piloted the new SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) tests with just two computer labs for the entire school.  The online tests take quite a bit of time, so for several weeks, the whole school was on a block schedule, meaning that class periods were a little over two hours long.  Some days we saw our 1st, 3rd and 5th period classes, and then the next day we had our 2nd, 4th and 6th period classes.  There was one day when I took my English classes down to the lab for testing, but for the rest of the 3 weeks or so, I just had very long class periods.  I know that many schools operate on block schedules all the time, but it was a bit of an adjustment for our kiddos.

(P.S. It drives me absolutely BONKERS that the name of California’s testing company is Smarter Balanced.  English teachers, do you see why?  It should be Smart-LY Balanced, or Smarter BALANCE, but I think a margarine company already took that one.  I just have to say “SBAC” or else I gag.)

I knew it was going to be tough for my middle schoolers to make it through a 2-hour block, plus have the stamina to finish two days’ worth of lessons in one sitting.  So I made a deal with them that every time we had a block period, we would stop halfway through and watch a surprise video.  They were allowed to stop me at any point in a lesson at exactly the halfway mark, and we would take our video break.  This gave me leverage at the beginning of class, (“Come on guys, you just need to focus for about 15 more minutes and then you’ll have a break!”), and the videos I chose tended to inspire students to do well for the second half of class.

A huge part of the reason that I became a teacher is because I want to teach kids to become kind, compassionate, globally conscious people.  This break time gave me the perfect opportunity to use videos to teach them important life lessons that, really, might be more valuable to them than understanding that Smarter Balanced is grammatically incorrect.  (Ugh, gag still.)

Before I list all the videos, let me share the best app that I’ve found for showing videos on my iPad (the only device I have in my classroom).  Students are usually the best resource for tech questions, and one of my 8th graders showed me iTube.  It allows me to download videos at home (since our internet blocks pretty much every website in existence), and then use it later without having to rely on wifi.  I have playlists for History, English, and Inspirational Videos.  Life.  Saver.



Video #1: Tech N9ne- Fragile (Director’s Cut)

This song took on a life of its own in my class.  I loved the sound, and the message that even if some people see you as “fragile,” maybe you are just creative and sensitive to what matters.  I see kids like this in my classes all the time, and sometimes I am actually jealous of their ability to tap into their emotions so deeply.  My students LOVED this video, and they all went home and downloaded the song.  (Tech N9ne, contact me here to give me my cut of the royalties!)  The begged me to play it every day during passing period.  There is one bad word in there (at 2:12) but I just got really good at muting my speakers for that split second while the whole class groaned.

Video #2: Middle School Football Players Execute Life-Changing Play

This is such a sweet story about some “cool kids” who stood up for kid with special needs.  I could tell that it really made my students think about how they treat other kids at school.  The girls thought the football players were “OMG, so cute!” so they were basically enraptured.  I’m not entirely sure, but I could have sworn I saw a couple boys wipe away a tear.

There was one kid (who has been a pain in the butt all year) who yelled out, “Ha, what a little b*$#^!” in the middle of the video.  I almost lost it on him, but the ones who react like that are the ones who need to see this stuff the most.  I think subconsciously he knows that he would never have thought to do something nice like that for anyone, and it made him feel bad.

Video #3: Caine’s Arcade

If you haven’t seen this short film yet, you will love it!  Caine is adorable, and he lives in our area.  The film is incredibly well done, and Caine’s perseverance, ingenuity, and passion are so inspiring.  I think it’s so important to show my students examples of kids who are doing amazing things.  They loved it, and they want to plan a field trip down to Caine’s Arcade. 🙂

Video #4: How Do YOU Define Yourself? By Lizzie Velasquez

Honestly, I felt like I had to work my way up to this video.  But by this point in our “video journey” my students had started to pick up on what we were doing.  Lizzie Velasquez is a phenomenal motivational speaker with a sparkling personality.  She was once labeled “The Ugliest Woman in the World,” but she overcame merciless bullying with a kind and fighting spirit.  Lizzie is such a good role model, and watching her video provided my students with the opportunity to practice compassion, understanding, and seeing past physical appearance.  It’s great!

Video #5: Kid President–20 Things We Should Say More Often

This kid is just adorable.  It’s undeniable!  Most of my students had already seen this one, but they love him!  And at the end, every student had to choose one positive thing to say (besides the scream!).

Video #6: Kid President–Pep Talk to Teachers and Students

They just couldn’t get enough of him, so we did another!

Video #7: Kid Snippets–Book Report

Okay, we kind of got on a silly streak, but these Kid Snippet videos are hilarious (and clean).  You’d be surprised how much a little laugh break can increase the productivity in your classroom!

Bonus Video: Somethin’ Special (by me)

They’ve been asking me to sing for them all year, so I let them see one of my cheesy little cover videos that I like to make sometimes.  I think it’s good for them to see adults being creative and doing things for fun.  It was also good for them to see that I made some little mistakes in my song, but I didn’t let that stop me from having fun with it and sharing it with them.  You don’t have to be perfect all the time!

Next time you have an extended day, or an intense lesson that warrants a rest in the middle, try one of these videos with your kiddos and see how it goes.  The best thing is that they will inspire your students to become more resilient, more caring, and more creative.  Watching them together fostered a really neat, connected attitude within my classroom as well.  It’s a win-win-win!

the power of our words


I came across this quote on Pinterest one day, and I felt instantly convicted. I tend to get a little snarky and sarcastic with my students when they walk in with their middle school attitudes and drama. Usually I am very good-natured with them, but at times I lose my patience and put those crazies in their place with an arched eyebrow, a pointed finger and a subtle insult. Of course it’s necessary to be firm, but instead of snapping, “Seriously? Are you like, five years old? Get it together, Gavin,” maybe I could say, “Gavin, you’re really good at this type of question. Try it out and stay focused, dude.”

On the other hand, I really can’t stand it when teachers talk to middle schoolers like they’re in Kindergarten. You will never ever hear me say, “Good morning, boys and girls! Today we are going to go on a learning adventure and discover how George Washington became the first president of the United States!” Yuck.

But there is a very wide middle ground between being insincerely sugary sweet and practically bullying your students into humiliated submission. Different teachers bring with them different personalities (thank goodness!) so your middle ground won’t look exactly the same as mine. This quote is a great reminder, though, that our words have the potential to ring in our students’ ears. I know people who never forgot harsh words spoken by parents or teachers. But fortunately, it would be fantastic if our students internalized comments like, “That was a fabulous question!” or, “You are such a hard worker!” or, “Wow, this group is lucky to have your drawing skills for their project!” Let’s give them a leg up on that whole finding-your-inner-voice thing while we can. 🙂