The Key to Reducing Burnout in K-12 Schools? Supporting Substitute Teachers

Guest post by Mike Teng, in collaboration with @SwingEDU

Teachers continue to experience high levels of burnout, at rates that are the highest of all industries. From lack of confidence to impacts on physical and mental health, we see signs of teachers at all stages of burnout in districts and schools across the country.

One acute challenge affecting teacher burnout is a limited pool of substitute teachers. With fewer people to relieve permanent teachers, K-12 leaders are left playing an increasingly challenging game of chess, moving students and staff around for continued coverage and learning.

The truth is that the same burnout teachers feel is hitting substitutes too. Being a substitute means living with unpredictability. They never know when an assignment will come, where it will be, or how long it will last. Then, when there is an opening they can fill, substitutes face more questions. Where do I park? Where can I keep my lunch? How long will it take me to get paid? Of course, many substitutes understand and accept the unknowns of their job. Quickly adapting to and learning in new environments is part of the package. But with the addition of stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about safety at school, and changes in students’ behaviors, among other factors, unpredictability is taking its toll.

The substitute shortage isn’t a new trend. Before the pandemic, districts struggled to find adequate coverage for absences. But according to a study from the Annenberg Institute, the problem has gotten worse. Today, 77 percent of districts have staffing problems because of unfilled substitute requests — up from about 20 percent pre-pandemic. Put those percentages in the context of nearly 600,000 substitute teachers covering 30 million teacher absences each year, and it’s easy to see the severity of the problem.

The challenge goes beyond the stress and anxiety of trying to find someone to fill a teacher’s spot for the day or week. Teachers remain one of the most important influences on student success, and unfilled absences can have a big impact on achievement. Schools may also be forced to have non-teaching staff to fill in, combine classrooms, or even group students in large spaces like the gym, cafeteria, or library with minimal supervision. In extreme cases, schools might have to close.

Better support for substitute teachers can help solve the problem. When substitutes are supported they are more likely to accept additional assignments, become quality placements, and stick with the profession over time offering more consistent relief to teachers. By adopting a few simple practices districts and schools can make their relationships with substitutes stronger.

Be welcoming

Substitute teachers are adept at stepping into new situations. Schools and districts often count on substitutes to be able to figure out information on their own, adapt on the fly, and keep their focus on providing students with quality instruction. But K-12 leaders can still meet substitutes halfway to create a more welcoming and supportive environment. A standard welcome packet can be something districts and schools make once and then use over and over with substitutes. Welcome packets could include information about parking, the teacher’s lounge, where to find lesson plans, contact information for key school staff, and timeframes for payments. Making digital PDF packets will make it easy to email the information as soon as a substitute accepts an assignment.

Provide peer connections

Most teachers and staff members in a building are friendly, but they’re also busy. If a substitute has a question during the day it can be hard to figure out who to ask. Assigning a peer to be a point of contact helps to eliminate the confusion. The point of contact’s role should not only be to answer questions but to make the substitute feel welcome. That could mean greeting the substitute when they arrive or checking in on them during the day. Creating peer connections for substitutes gives them a small dose of community support that can help them feel more confident during their assignment.

Show substitutes appreciation

It can be easy to see substitutes as only temporary staff members. But they are educators and important parts of students’ learning experiences. When we recognize substitute teachers and show them appreciation in ways we would for a permanent teacher it can build their confidence. One idea is to include a small note of appreciation in their welcome packet. Some leaders choose to follow up at the end of an assignment with a quick thank you email or give positive feedback during the day. For longer-term substitutes, including them in school-wide celebrations of educators and treating them the same as other staff members are effective steps.

Remove barriers to entry

Historically most substitutes were retired teachers or others in education who wanted to continue to give back. As fewer people choose the profession, we need different sources for substitutes. But the requirements to become a substitute teacher often create more barriers than doorways. We can make it easier for more people to become substitute teachers by building more pathways for people to enter the field. By finding better, more meaningful ways to assess instructional quality and classroom management skills, we can make substitute teaching more enticing to qualified people and simultaneously deepen the roster of available substitutes.

Caring for the well-being of substitute teachers is not only the right thing to do, but it also has a significant impact on the entire school community. When substitute teachers feel supported and valued, they are more likely to be reliable and committed, creating a more dependable pool of substitutes to draw on to fill absences. This, in turn, gives teachers the assurance that their class is in good hands and creates better retention of individual substitutes because they have confidence they’ll be welcome and supported at a school.

Mike Teng is the CEO and co-founder of Swing Education, a tech-enabled marketplace matching substitute teachers with schools in need. Before founding Swing, Mike was a software engineer in the private sector and then the tech director at a K-12 charter school network.

Learn more @SwingEDU

Blog of Rachelle Dené Poth

Looking for some PD for your school? I provide in-person and virtual training on the following topics. If you want to learn more about and explore AI and ChatGPT, contact me to schedule!

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Bringing STEM to All Classrooms

With a prediction of a need for 3.5 million jobs related to STEM by 2025, we need to focus on finding ways to bring STEM learning opportunities to all students in every classroom. Doing so can be a challenge, depending on whether we have access to the right resources or if teachers feel that they don’t have enough knowledge or resources available to get started. As I have learned in my own experiences, we just need enough information and a few resources to start with. Once we dive in, we can make a shift to being a facilitator of learning in our classrooms. We need to embrace the opportunities to co-learn with our students so that we can best prepare them and ourselves with the skills needed in the future.

With many unknowns when it comes to jobs that will exist in the future, we need to create a variety of learning experiences such as those made possible through STEM-based activities. The skills that are necessary today may not be needed in a few years. Jobs in demand and skill sets needed are constantly changing. To stay informed, I recommend referring to the Job Skills Outlook created by the World Economic Forum. Some of the top ten in-demand skills are collaboration, communication, critical thinking, problem solving and ideation, and resilience. Each of these are areas that we can focus on in our classrooms. Being flexible enough to adapt to a changing landscape of learning and work is key.

When we choose methods or tools, we should focus on how we can make sure our instruction is relevant to the growing demands in the world of work. These in-demand skills can be fostered through STEM activities and learning experiences.

Why STEM skills impact future success

Many skills can be built through STEM such as creativity, critical thinking, innovation, problem-solving, and teamwork which will help students to be successful in the future. Through STEM, students also build social-emotional learning (SEL) skills, especially in the areas of self-awareness and self-management. By focusing on the five SEL competencies, research has shown that it increases student achievement and has a positive impact on student wellbeing. STEM promotes the development of SEL and empowers students with new ways to create, innovate, iterate, and reflect, which are directly related to the skills needed today. Students set goals, make decisions, collaborate, and build relationships that prepare them for the future and foster SEL.

Ideas for any classroom

First, there are many different STEM challenges that we can use in our classrooms that do not require many materials or the investment of a lot of time to get started. With some STEM challenges, asking students to find materials to design with or reaching out to the school and school community to ask for specific items to have on hand for a STEM/STEAM makerspace are helpful for creating more opportunities.

STEM challenges help students to build many skills which are essential in the workplace. A few examples are the Cup Tower Challenge, the Straw Challenge or the Parachute Challenge. There are even some free STEM challenges to do Around the Home to involve families in the learning!

An easy challenge without much prep is giving students a design challenge. Have students choose materials and design a structure representing their name, or a concept from class that meets a certain requirement such as height for example. Each of these can be used in all grade levels.

For all classrooms, connecting students with a guest speaker, whether in person or virtual, who works in one of the STEM fields can be highly beneficial. For students to explore careers and connect with real-world examples, it will spark curiosity and students may learn that they have a deep interest in pursuing a STEM-related career.

Project-based learning (PBL) is a method that can be used to focus on STEM. Connecting with another teacher and engaging students in a cross-curricular collaboration creates an authentic and purposeful way for them to build content knowledge in a relevant and meaningful way.

Resources to explore for STEM

  • Birdbrain Technologies. When I started to teach STEAM, my 8th-grade students learned to code by using the Hummingbird Robots from Birdbrain. We focused on French and Spanish culture and students created projects to represent something they learned. Birdbrain also has the Finch Robot, which can also be used in any content area. With the Finch, students can explore AI and robotics using Google Teachable Machine with the Finch. Teachers can sign up for a trial period with these resources.
  • Offers many resources to help students of all ages learn about coding and STEM-related fields like computer science. According to statistics from the site, 67% of new STEM jobs are in computing, and as of today, only 54% of schools offer computer science courses to students.
  • CSFirst from Google: There are many resources to help educators get started with teaching computer science and that are aligned to the CSTA and ISTE Standards. Activities include focus areas of art and storytelling in addition to other free materials. Teachers can participate in distance training and download the lessons and other ready-to-use materials.
  • Defined Learning: They offer a variety of resources for educators to learn about STEM and topics such as PBL and SEL. Explore their blogs to find ideas for your classroom and check out their PBL solution that offers everything that teachers need to get started in the classroom.
  • Elementari: A platform that can be used for storytelling and coding together. Students can create a book and learn about coding by creating interactive stories. There are examples to explore that can be remixed. Teachers can incorporate STEM into any classroom by having students and have students
  • GoldieBlox: Offers materials for girls to become more involved in STEAM and also has activities and materials for use at home. They recently started the “Code Along” initiative with other STEM organizations including Black Girls CODE, with the goal of bridging the opportunity gap for underrepresented communities in STEM fields such as computer science.
  • Ozobot. A one-inch robot that can be used in any classroom and that has lessons and ideas available for subjects including English Language Arts, math, and more. There are also two different ways to code using Ozobots, screen-free by using markers and color codes and with the program on the computer. Some students have written a book summary and programmed the Ozobot to move around and stop at each point in the story timeline. There are many creative ways to use Ozobot in the classroom.
  • Marty the Robot. My students were thrilled when I brought Marty in for class. Marty is a humanoid that offers multiple ways to learn about coding. With infrared sensors on his feet, he responds to color cards, providing screen-free coding. The app has block- and text-based coding and students can quickly create a program to have Marty walk, dance and talk. Teachers can request a trial of Marty in their classroom.
  • Scratch and Scratch Jr. are free resources for students of ages 8 through 16. There are more than 70 languages available which help to promote accessibility and because Scratch is free, it also promotes equity in learning.

With STEM, we provide opportunities for students to drive their own learning. The knowledge gained and skills developed through STEM experiences will enable students to adapt to a changing world of education and work.

Looking for PD for your school? I provide in-person and virtual training on the following topics. If you want to learn more about and explore AI and ChatGPT, contact me to schedule! 

**Interested in writing a guest blog or submitting a sponsored post for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

Five ways to demonstrate learning

As educators, it is important that we provide a variety of options for students to develop their content area knowledge and skills in ways that meet their interests and needs. When choosing methods and tools to use, it is also important to create opportunities for students to develop social-emotional learning (SEL) skills as they are essential for personal and professional growth. 

Our decisions need to focus on helping students by designing assessments and ways for students to show what they have learned while also promoting voice and choice in learning. Depending on the types of methods and tools we use for our assessments, they must help students to identify where they are on their learning journey and provide us with evidence of student learning that we can use to provide feedback and additional resources for our students.  

Some questions to consider when deciding on methods or tools can be:

  • How can we promote more interactive and collaborative experiences for students?
  • Which tools assist us by providing access to real-time feedback?
  • What are some ways to promote more student choice in learning?

As educators had to seek new ways to assess students and provide opportunities for students to share what they were learning, ask questions, interact, and feel connected to a classroom community, many sought digital tools. Technology has provided many options for learning and enables educators to find something that meets each student’s needs and interests and sometimes even their comfort level.

It is important to convey to students why we choose a certain method or digital tool for use in our classroom and doing this helps us to stay clearly focused on our purpose. Consider how the method or tool will enhance learning or provide more benefits for students beyond being a way to practice the content or take an assessment.  The use of digital tools promotes collaboration, communication, creativity, and many more of the essential skills while also boosting student engagement in learning as they have the power of choice in how to share what they have learned.

Here are five ways for students to demonstrate learning. 

  1. Blogging: Blogging has been effective in my Spanish classes for years. With the digital tools available, it makes it easier for students to have a space to build their writing skills as they share ideas with their teacher and possibly their peers. Having students engage in blog writing also helps to promote the development of digital citizenship skills, especially if they have the opportunity to respond to classmates and provide feedback. One option that has been great to try with my students is Spaces. Using Spaces promotes communication and collaboration between teacher and student or it can be between students and include audio as well. 
  2. Data visualization: Being able to process information and create a representation of what has been learned helps students to better retain what they have learned. For visual learners, using tools to create a concept map or an infographic can help with processing a lot of information. With tools like Canva or Piktochart, students can choose from templates available to help them get started with designing an infographic. These tools and others like them to promote critical thinking skills and creativity as students decide how to best illustrate what they have learned. There are also options for students who prefer to not use technology such as drawing a concept map or creating a sketchnote to capture what has been learned. 
  3. Digital Storytelling: Whether at the beginning of a new unit or at the end, having students create something using one of the many digital tools available will help them to share their learning in authentic and meaningful ways. use of digital storytelling or making a video. My students enjoy using tools that offer multimedia options and libraries full of choices in characters, backgrounds, animations, and more to tell their story. Some of our favorites include BunceeBook CreatorGenially, and Story Jumper.  With several of these, students can even work together to create a presentation or a book to share with classmates. 
  1. Game-based assessments: Encourage practice and be able to provide feedback and more targeted lessons by using some of the digital tools available to do a pulse-check for where students are in the learning process. We can implement some hands-on games through flashcards, gestures, and conversations or leverage some of the game-based learning tools, such as Blooket, Gimkit, Kahoot!, Quizizz, and Quizlet Live!  Each of these offers a variety of question types or modes of play that will connect students with the content and provide us with real-time data to help plan our next steps and give meaningful feedback to our students.
  2. Interactive Lessons: Using tools that promote student engagement through the variety of content and activities that can be added to the lesson helps educators to better understand student progress and enables students to build self-awareness in learning. With tools like Edpuzzle, Formative, Nearpod, and Pear Deck, educators have many options for adding content and activities to help students to build their skills. What I really appreciate about tools like these is that we can provide students with a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning through open-ended responses, polls, multiple-choice questions, quizzes, and more, depending on the tool. Formative was a game changer in our classroom last year because I could use it to create lessons with videos and audio instructions that students could work through at their own pace. I could also use it in class for assessments which enabled me to provide timely feedback directly to students and adjust my lessons as needed. These options enable us to differentiate our instruction while promoting student choice in voice and learning. 

These are just some of the many ways that we can have our students demonstrate what they are learning. Whether through technology and the many tools available that facilitate communication, collaboration, and creativity, or using traditional methods, it is important to offer choices to our students. When we can provide options that promote agency in learning, it leads to more meaningful experiences that promote the development of essential skills for the future and empower students through self-driven learning.


Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network.  She is the author of sevens books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World”, “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us,” “Your World Language Classroom: Strategies for In-person and Digital Instruction” and “Things I Wish [..] Knew.” All books are available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. 

I am available for PD sessions in-person and virtually on a variety of topics. Key focus areas are AI, ChatGPT, AR and VR, SEL, and STEM.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

SEL, self-care, and self-love

In collaboration with PebbleGo

Especially at this time of the year when school schedules can become challenging with spring activities, testing, and daily routines, focusing on SEL, self-care, and self-love is essential. More importantly, we need to help students develop habits that enable them to focus on their well-being and develop the skills needed to work through challenges and deal with emotions. We need to foster the development of practices and behaviors that will promote emotional, mental, and physical health.

By creating opportunities for students to develop SEL skills and a positive self-image, it will enable them to manage their emotions, develop supportive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Self-care is crucial for students’ well-being and academic success. Students who practice self-care are more likely to have better mental health, reduced stress levels, improved academic performance, and higher levels of overall happiness. This, in turn, enables them to focus better on academic work and set and achieve their learning goals. One idea to try is to have students design vision boards. The boards can include each student’s goals in each of these areas and can be a great activity for students to use for personal reflection.

Self-love, which involves developing a positive self-image and nurturing oneself with kindness and compassion, can boost self-esteem, self-confidence, and resilience. These directly relate to the SEL skills that are essential for personal success. Developing these skills will enable students to navigate their social and emotional worlds and build meaningful relationships with others. Students will be better able to manage emotions, communicate effectively, develop empathy and understanding for others, and work through challenges they may face.

Ideas for focusing on self-love and SEL

Buncee: Teachers can use Buncee, a multimedia and creativity tool, to help students create multimedia projects that promote self-care, self-love, and SEL. For example, students can create digital posters that showcase self-love affirmations, gratitude journals, or mindfulness exercises. They can also create projects to share that teach SEL skills such as empathy, self-awareness, and responsible decision-making. Buncee and using PebbleGo Create foster creativity and when students have writing or art assignments, they can express their emotions and thoughts in a safe and supportive environment.

Here are some examples to try!

  • Healthy Habits: Use PebbleGo to research healthy habits. A focus on self-love involves practicing healthy habits such as exercise, nutrition, and getting adequate sleep. With PebbleGo, students can research healthy habits in areas such as health, physical education, or science. Students will learn about the benefits of exercise on the brain and mood, the importance of sleep for mental and physical health, or the role of nutrition in energy and well-being. By learning about healthy habits, students can develop SEL skills of self-management and promote their physical and emotional well-being. Students can then create a visual to share what they have learned and encourage others to focus on their habits too!
  • Gratitude Jars and Journals: Showing gratitude is a great way to promote self-love and positive emotions. Students can think about what they are grateful for, whether it is something they learned, a story they read, a historical figure that developed something that impacted the world. Students can then use PebbleGo Create to design a digital gratitude journal or a gratitude jar and can add pictures or audio recordings to personalize their journals. By doing this, it will help students develop positive emotions and SEL skills of social awareness.
  • Learning About Others and Building Awareness There are many wonderful non-fiction articles available with PebbleGo that cover a range of SEL topics that will help students develop self-awareness and social awareness. Students can find articles about emotions such as anger, fear, or sadness, and learn about strategies that will help them to better manage their emotions. Through the resources, they can learn about empathy, perspective-taking, and even conflict resolution, which are essential relationship skills. To share their learning, students can create a PSA to share in the classroom or the school!
  • Create Digital Affirmation Cards: Making affirmation cards is a powerful tool to better promote self-love and positive self-image. It can be a great way to help students connect with how they are feeling and set some goals. Students can explore the topics about health and wellness, and then create digital affirmation cards to refer to when they need a confidence boost or a reminder of their self-worth. The multimedia options available with stickers, animations and more boost creativity and help students to create visually appealing affirmation cards. Students can also create cards that highlight their strengths and accomplishments, such as “I am a good friend,” or “I am a talented artist.” These activities help students develop their self-awareness skills and boost their self-esteem.

PebbleGo can be used to explore feelings and emotions across content areas, such as science, social studies, or language arts. For example, students can research different animals and their emotions, such as how dogs show affection or how dolphins communicate with each other. Students can also explore emotions in literature by researching characters’ feelings and motivations in stories.

Researching inspirational figures, exploring feelings and emotions, creating positive affirmations, researching mindfulness practices, and researching healthy habits with Pebble Go, students can develop self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. These skills are crucial for academic success and personal well-being. As teachers, we can use PebbleGo to provide students with access to a variety of non-fiction resources that promote self-reflection, positive self-talk, and healthy habits, which can help them develop a positive self-image and promote their emotional well-being.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

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Innovation Or Creativity? What’s the Difference?  

Guest post by Kathleen Fox- ImaginGO Team 

Often, teachers clump innovation with creativity, but understanding the difference between the two skills is paramount for teachers to successfully teach and measure students for both skills.

Innovation can be measured in outcomes – a new idea that results in a tangible product or idea.

Creativity doesn’t have to result in measurable outcomes.  

Basically, creativity “contributes” to innovation. Without creativity, you won’t have innovation. 

Need a more concrete example?

Innovation is quantifiable, action-driven, and involves risk. Say a student created a new sneaker that allowed a wearer to jump higher and run faster. The innovative part of the sneaker could be measured to show improved height and speed for the sneaker wearer. 

Creativity is intangible, subjective, involves less risk, and typically results in a “concept” only. Using that same sneaker example for creativity, a student might have the creative idea to use bird-like wings to jump higher or a micro rocket booster to make a wearer run faster. Creativity allows students the freedom to explore beyond boundaries before they apply more critical thinking. Innovation happens at that “what if” moment where unlimited creativity collides with logic.

A little bit more… 

Here’s the kicker, not all innovation is what we think of as being “creative.”  But it is. Much of our innovation stems from solving a problem, filling a gap, or improving on something that already exists. A person who is creative or has learned to be creative (yes, it can be learned!) is typically more apt to twist, bend, or stretch an idea in order to create fresh, new ideas.

If you look at the last few decades of innovation, much has been in technology, medicine, and communication. Those industries realize it’s essential to have creative thinkers on their teams to grow and produce new ideas, before the ideas are handed off to be developed and then measured for their innovative outcomes. Basically, they need each other to succeed. Like Ernie and Bert, peanut butter and jelly, or cut and paste.

Creativity in education…

As teachers, we are constantly measuring our students, and to some degree, ourselves. Every standard, every lesson, every moment seems to need a measurable outcome—from spelling quizzes to STEM lab exploration, to state-wide testing, to choir performances—we give a score, equate a grade, and figure the percentile of success in comparison to others.

There is an absolute need for measurable outcomes in education, but there is also ample room to weave creativity into the daily curriculum. When you do, learning becomes balanced. 

Both innovation and creativity require new ideas and concepts, as well as a willingness to take risks. Both drive change. And both will help your students succeed now and well into the future. We should all remember that without creativity and creative thinkers, there will be no innovation. 

Kathleen Fox is the co-creator of ImaginGO. A former public school teacher, school librarian, and director of her own school. Kathleen authored two children’s books, dozens of educational games, and professional development books for teachers. You can reach her at 

About Rdene915

Rachelle Dené Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Educator at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant, Speaker, and the Author of seven books about education and edtech. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Rdene915

I am available for PD sessions in-person and virtually on a variety of topics. Key focus areas are AI, ChatGPT, AR and VR, SEL, and STEM.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Celebrating Poetry All Year

Adapted from a prior post for Getting Smart

In April we recognize National Poetry Month, which has become an annual celebration of poetry in the United States, which was first established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. The goal is to raise awareness of the importance and power of poetry in our lives and in the world. Poetry has the power to evoke emotions, boost imagination, and even challenge perspectives, which makes it a great medium for exploring new ideas, developing social awareness, and building literacy skills.

We can celebrate poetry throughout the year, not just during April. It is important to encourage students to read and write more and a great way to do that is to explore and write poetry. Whether teachers find content-related poems to read to students or have students boost writing and creativity skills and write their own poems, there are many resources to explore and ideas for sparking interest in the beauty of poetry.

Some Ideas to Explore

When I was in the seventh grade, we had to create a book of poetry that included a variety of poems we found and a few that we wrote. We also had to memorize two poems to recite in our class. I still have my yellow binder with the poems that I hand-wrote and pictures that I drew to illustrate the poem’s theme. I wrote two poems similar to some of the styles we learned about such as acrostic poems and haikus. I really enjoyed doing that project because it gave us a choice, I felt creative and it led me to love poetry!

More than just a month

To celebrate poetry all year long, encourage your students to write their own poems. Offer different prompts or themes or provide examples to guide students as they develop their critical thinking skills by analyzing and interpreting poems. In elementary or middle school, reading poems to students is also a beneficial way to explore language and creativity. Depending on the grade level you teach, you could also read poetry aloud together and engage in discussions about what you like about each poem or compare poetry styles. We can help students to build confidence and communication skills. In language classes, we can build cultural and social awareness skills by learning about different poets and styles of poetry.

Some middle school students may enjoy exploring different poetic forms and techniques. Encourage students to choose a type of poem to write such as haikus, sonnets, or maybe free verse. Something fun to do is a poetry slam. Poetry slams are a fun and exciting way to celebrate National Poetry Month. They give students the opportunity to perform their own poems in front of an audience (classmates) and can help build confidence and public speaking skills. Consider organizing a poetry slam at your school or even using tools like Flip for students to record a poetry slam. Depending on your students, you might break them into small groups so that they can collaborate and challenge each other and have fun in the process! Or divide students into groups and have them write a collaborative poem to share with classmates. Writing poetry together can be a fun and engaging way to encourage creativity and teamwork.

For older students, depending on the content area, choosing to learn about and explore the works of famous poets from different time periods and cultures can be very beneficial. In my Spanish class, we read poems throughout the year and learn about the culture and history connected to the poet and the content of the poem. Students could even participate in writing workshops or attend virtual lectures by poets.

In addition to ideas for the classroom, here are five resources to explore that offer activities, lesson plans, and many ideas for teachers and students.

  • Academy of American Poets is full of great resources for educators and families. Explore the site to find a variety of resources and a list of 30 ways to celebrate Poetry Month! On the site, explore Teach this poem to find ideas for students in grades K-12. It has lesson plans and shares 1 poem per week. You can also listen to the poems available on the site.
  • Listenwise offers a variety of activities for students to listen to podcasts and then engage in a variety of activities to share their learning. There are some great ideas to celebrate poetry this month!
  • Nearpod provides activities and content that can be used to create an interactive lesson or explore ready-to-run lessons to teach about poetry. Use the drag-and-drop feature to create magnetic poetry right in Nearpod. Also with Flocabulary, there are poetry lessons to get students up and moving. Students can use Lyric Lab to write their own poems!
  • Read, Write, Think for K-12 has lesson plans and libraries with resources for each grade band. One idea is to select students to be “Poets for a Day” and share their favorite poems or maybe they can write their own poems to share.
  • Verse By Verse uses AI to write a poem. You select up to 3 poets and the style, and a number of syllables and provide some input. It then generates a poem for you based on your selections.

Teachers can find a lot of resources from these sites and also look at the website for more resources and activities. There are also some fun activities via the Bored Teachers site to engage students in movement and excitement for poetry.

Beyond just reading the poems, students can compare poems and debate about the styles or the meaning. Students can also read poems and then design art to reflect the poem’s message. There are so many ways to celebrate National Poetry Month throughout the year and develop a true appreciation for the beauty of poetry.

About the Author

Rachelle Dené Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Educator at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant, Speaker, and the Author of seven books about education and edtech. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Rdene915

I am available for PD sessions in-person and virtual on a variety of topics. Key focus areas are AI, ChatGPT, AR and VR, SEL and STEM.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

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Learning about Self-Driving Cars with CV Pro

In collaboration with Robotix, all opinions expressed are my own.

In my eighth-grade STEAM class, we have been exploring artificial intelligence, coding, and other emerging technologies for a few years. I am always interested in finding new resources for students to explore that give them a chance to become curious and also invest in creating and innovating. We started to use the courses available from AI World School two years ago and my students really enjoyed them. The courses provide engaging learning experiences about artificial intelligence and machine learning for students. Within each course, the modules included definitions, challenges, and quizzes to spark interest in students that would lead them to think about becoming creators with AI.

Why learn about AI?

Many people wonder about the benefits of learning about AI and why bring it into our classrooms? We interact with AI every day and students need to understand what it is, how it works, the impact it has, and what it might mean for the future of work and education. We have seen an increase in AI over the past couple of months and it will continue to grow.

With a prediction that there will be 33 million self-driving cars on the road by 2040, it is important that students understand how this type of technology is created and how it functions. However, as we know, self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles are no longer a thing of the future. They are rapidly becoming a reality, and the technology that drives them is advancing at an unbelievable pace.

By providing students with opportunities to learn about this field today, and to make an impact with what they create, they will have a significant advantage in the future job market. By learning about self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles, students can develop essential “21st century” and “future-ready” skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving. We will shift students from consumers to creators, to innovators.

CV Pro

Finding the right resources is key. With CV Pro from Robotix, educators can provide powerful learning experiences for students in their classrooms. Students need opportunities to learn how to code and to do so at their own pace or while collaborating with classmates. One critical area of learning about self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles is coding. As the technology behind these vehicles becomes more sophisticated, the programming required to operate them becomes more complex. Students who learn to code will have a significant advantage in the job market, as the demand for skilled coders in this field is growing rapidly, with a prediction of 58 million STEM-related jobs available by 2025.

What is the CV Pro?

CV Pro is a hands-on solutions platform for students to use as they discover and explore platooning, self-driving cars & autonomous vehicles. It has smart computer vision technology that utilizes the extensive sensor suites, powerful computational abilities and state-of-the-art communication channels of smartphones as the operating brain power. Students can learn about advanced AI technologies like machine learning, applied deep learning and neural networks.

By diving into learning with the CV Pro, students will learn the operational techniques of advanced computer vision technologies such as how vehicles stay in the lane, lane detection, lane changing, vehicle or person-following. Students also look at how to program it so they prevent collisions by using object identification for example.

The features of CV Pro

Being able to interact with and write programs for these self-driving cars gives students an edge with the technology. It is important for students to understand how these vehicles function. These tools can include sensors, cameras, and other advanced technologies that allow the vehicles to perceive their surroundings and react accordingly. Students will be better equipped to troubleshoot problems that arise after they spend time writing programs, facing challenges and continuing to improve their coding skills. During this process, it will foster discussions about ethics and how decisions are made that impact the programming for these tools.

Students should also learn about the ethical and social implications of self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles. These vehicles have the potential to revolutionize transportation and make our roads safer. However, they also raise important questions about privacy, liability, and the role of human drivers. Students who understand the ethical and social implications of these vehicles will be better equipped to make informed decisions about their use and development.

Robotix is a valuable resource for students who are interested in learning about self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles. Robotix offers a range of courses that teach students about coding, robotics, and other related fields. For example, the course “Artificial Intelligence & Robotics” provides an introduction to the principles of AI and robotics and teaches students how to program robots using Python.

VDC is an autonomous car simulator just like a flight simulator. Get a VDC course for free by subscribing to the CV Pro kickstarter campaign landing page.

Learning about self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles is a valuable investment in a student’s future. Students who learn about coding, hardware, ethics, and social implications in this field will be better equipped to navigate the future job market and will be better prepared for a world in which self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles are a significant part of everyday life. With resources such as Robotix and AI World School available, there has never been a better time to start learning about this exciting and rapidly advancing field.

I love sharing about these awesome tools at conferences!

CV Pro at FETC

In January, I had the chance to share the CV Pro during a few of my sessions at the FETC (Future of Education Technology Conference). It was exciting to hear from classroom teachers, tech coaches, and administrators about their interests in the types of tools available for students to learn about these technologies. Being able to see the CV Pro and understand all the ways that students can use it to learn about autonomous driving was a great experience for attendees. Knowing that there are options available that place learning in the students’ hands is powerful!

CV Pro at BETT 2023:

Recently, CV Pro was showcased at the BETT Show 2023 which was held in ExCEL London from the 29th to the 31st of March 2023. The Robotix team demonstrated various autonomous driving programs carried out by CV Pro to an audience consisting of educators [K12, college & university level], researchers & professors in Computer Science, Robotics & AI enthusiasts, delegates from education ministries, and distributors & providers of EdTech solutions to name a few.

The CV Pro robots demonstrated how they carried out lane identification, lane tracking & following as they drove around a track. Another feature demonstrated was how CV Pro carried out object recognition by responding to objects such as traffic signs, as it was moving along the track.

Most visitors expressed their keen interest in CV Pro as an educational aid for exploring the topic of self-driving cars. Some of them suggested that CV Pro can also be used in Robotics competitions for students. Industry experts also provided a few helpful & critical suggestions & modifications which shall be implemented before the launch on Kickstarter.

Overall, the feedback that CV Pro received at BETT 2023 has been positive, productive, and promising.


About the Author

Rachelle Dené Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Educator at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant, Speaker and Author of seven books about education and edtech. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Rdene915

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