The Cardinal Way

Sharing and Learning at Southport Middle School

Student Success is a Team Effort!

IN THE MIDDLE OF IT - Blogging, It's Not For Me (Pt. 4)

It is teacher appreciation week! I am fortunate enough to be the son of two retired educators, to be married to a phenomenal teacher (who is the daughter of two educators herself), and to serve a group of amazing teachers daily. Over my ten years as an administrator, I have had the opportunity to observe- and learn from- some teachers who would be among the best and the brightest in any school. As I have thought about attributes the best in their field have in common, I have come up with six characteristics that I believe are embodied by all great teachers.

  • Great teachers care about kids first and foremost. Great teachers do not teach math... or grammar... or science... or arts... -- they teach students. Rick Dufour stated, “You can’t prove anything was taught, until you have proof of learning.” Teaching does not happen without learning being the end result or product; therefore, if students are not learning, we are not teaching. This can be a hard pill to swallow for average teachers. They put their content first, they love it, they preach it/teach it, and then place all the onus in learning on their students. Great teachers have come to realize if we are not doing work that brings students in, and makes them want to learn, (which is hard work, especially if students are not very interested in what is being taught) are we really thinking about the kids and putting them first?

  • Great teachers are risk takers. Great teachers are constantly looking for ways to make school new and/or better for students. Great teachers are innovative and therefore provide space for students to innovate as well. Innovation is a norm in the classrooms of great teachers. Average teachers live in their comfort zone- they play it safe to ensure they always get it right. They do not take risks out of fear of “looking bad” or “not always having an answer” in front of their students. Great teachers do not change for the sake of changing, but they take risks to improve their classroom. Great teachers realize every individual in the classroom is a learner and learning requires making mistakes -- teachers included.

  • Great teachers have a “no blame attitude.” We live in a society of blamers -- people who are not willing to take responsibility for how their own actions impact outcomes. From smokers who blame and sue cigarette companies for causing them cancer, to fast food junkies who blame restaurants for being unhealthy -- we live in a culture of blame. Great teachers never blame their circumstances. While average teachers point their fingers at the students or parents- trying to deflect blame for academic or behavioral deficiencies in their classrooms- great teachers make no excuses. Great teachers believe all students can be successful with the right support. Average teachers ask themselves “Can my students do this?” Great teachers ask questions like, “HOW can my students do this?” or “WHAT can I do to get my students to that point?” As my friend and colleague Dr. Danny Mendez (@dmendez2378) would put it, great ones have a “whatever-it-takes” attitude. They have high standards for every student, and find ways for all students, regardless of their perceived ability, to achieve success. Great teachers own the learning in their classroom - no blame, no shame, and definitely no excuses!

  • Great teachers are team players. Great teachers are amazing collaborators. They understand that we are all better together and we need each other to be our best. Where average teachers may keep their great ideas to themselves out of a need to feel superior, great ones share freely. The best learning does not happen in isolation and great teachers understand this concept in relationship to themselves and their students. Great teachers understand that it does not matter how good you are in your classroom if you don’t share it with others. They want learning to be better for all students, they understand the point of a school is to make it better for all students, not to selfishly hold ideas so you can be better than your colleagues. Great teachers do not just want to have a great classroom; they want to have a great school. Average teachers are satisfied with only helping the students sitting in front of them each year. Great ones raise their game, by bring others up around them.

  • Great teachers are challengers, but not resistors. Great teachers challenge the status quo because they want things better. They have no interest in just being good. They want what is best for their students. Great teachers do not resist initiatives or change, but they do ask a lot of questions and push to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed before moving forward. They do this out of the best interest of their students and the school. Average teachers are often prone to resistance of new ideas or ways of thinking. They resist because, in doing so- it makes their job easier. Great teachers have no problem working harder and smarter in the best interest of the students in their care.

  • Great teachers have a purpose. Maybe most importantly, great teachers know who they are and why they teach. They live by a credence that all students can and will be successful in their classrooms. Great teachers get up everyday to go to a job they love. Although the work is hard, their passion and purpose carry them through the day-to-day and year-to-year challenges. Average teachers view their position as just a job. They float around, like a ship without a rudder, trying to find joy in what they do, often looking in all the wrong places. They question why they are teaching and therefore lack the gusto often seen in great teachers. Great teachers know who they are, are confident in their decisions, and always do what is best for the students they serve.

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Teachers, in general, may often be undervalued in society, but the great ones- they are never underappreciated or unloved by their students. Great teachers will probably never fully understand the impact they have on students lives, or realize the difference they make on a daily basis, but they push forward anyway. Great teachers value learning for themselves and their students, and that is what keeps them coming back and excited year after year!

Thank you to all the great teachers out there! You make a difference everyday!

Do you recognize these traits in some of your colleagues? Tell them! Celebrate each other and what makes us great!

This post is dedicated to all the great teachers out there who work tirelessly for their students. Your hard work is noticed and appreciated!!

Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!

This is cross posted on my Principal's Blog


  • Thank you to our entire staff. This week may be called Teacher Appreciation Week, but we all know it takes everyone here to run a school...every staff member is a vital part of our success!
  • Thank you to everyone who helped cover all or portion of a class today. We only had 10 subs this week to fill in the 27 needed spots. With everyone's extra effort we were able to fill every classroom during the week. Thank you!!
  • Thank you to Diane Headington for organizing our honors night programs. I appreciate all the teachers who were able to come out and support the students on these nights. Student success is a team effort!
  • Thank you to Andy Ashcraft and the Innovation team for the efforts they have already put in to organize and support innovation.
  • I appreciate all the extra effort going into our teacher Genius Projects. It has been awesome watching people push themselves and take risks in their classrooms in May.

Teacher of the Month

Congratulations to Tasha Bynum for the being the April Teacher of the Month. Tasha was nominated for her unwavering compassion for all her students and despite of everything going on in her life, had perfect attendance for the month of April. Great work Tasha, we are proud of you!


Week 34 Grateful Friday Challenge

Teachers are superheroes! If some of your colleagues were superheroes, what would be their superpower and their superhero name. Please feel free to share these with all.

Maybe Mr. Greathouse will pick a few of the best and animate them for us...


Students trick their custodian and he walks into surprise of his life!


Each day we share a story of learning taking place at Southport Middle on our 180 Days of Learning Blog. Below are this week's stories of learning.

7th and 8th Grade Honors Night

The 7th and 8th Grade Honors Program is an opportunity to celebrate the success of some of the outstanding students who have worked hard to excel in the daily learning that take place at SMS. Nearly 500 students were recognized in these program. Students came down to the gym at the end of the day to run through the program and then brought their parents back in the evenings to take part in the celebrations. These students demonstrate the kind of intellectual excellence and work ethic that is our goal for all students at Southport Middle. This evening is truly one of the highlights of our school year. It is exciting to be able to take an opportunity to recognize these students and their efforts in learning. Congratulations to our students and the teachers who recognized them!

Michelle Swan

As part of her Genius Project, Ms. Swan is working through different grouping strategies in her math classroom. Today, Mrs. Swan's 8th grade students were learning about graphing inequalities and systems of equations. Students were split into two groups. One group started with Ms. Swan for some direct instruction and practice with the new materials. The other group was given independent work to review yesterday's material and reinforce the direct instruction from today's lesson. At the end of class, students reflected on their learning and the activities completed during class.

Angie Chisham

As part of her Genius Project, Mrs. Chisham created an original "Cell Town" board game for student to play as they are learning about animal and plant cells. Students had a great time playing the game in class today. Students participated like a normal board game, moving around the board, and collecting different cell parts. The theme of the game was centered around analogies of how different cell parts and their functions are like different parts of the Town in the game. Students recorded information as they played, made connects between different cell parts and their function in the cell, and reflected on the experience at the end of class. This project was a fun, engaging way for students to pick up analogies for the functions of different cell parts.

Patricia Coleman

The Metric 500 has begun in 8th grade science classes. The Metric 500 has become a tradition for 8th graders at SMS. Students will spend the next couple of weeks designing and building CO2 powered dragsters. During this project students must find a teacher sponsor who works with the students to raise awareness for a nonprofit organization and helps them budget imaginary funds that are needed to purchase items for their dragster. In return the students are given tasks to complete for the teacher on a regular basis. This project has truly grown into a school wide project that students and teachers look forward to each year. In the picture, students in Mrs. Coleman's class are beginning their initial car design today. Students discussed possible designs in an attempt the build the fastest most aerodynamic car.

Anne Manning

As part of her Genius Project, Mrs. Manning is taking her students on a "Walkabout." Mrs. Manning posed the following questions to her students: What do you want to learn about? How will you go about learning about it? What experience can you make for yourself that will allow you to grow as a person and guide you into your future? What is your mission? and Does your Walkabout help you live your mission. Each student is creating an individual Walkabout program. Students are choosing to take their "walkabout" and create their own learning experience in topics such as: career exploration, community service, or logical inquiry. Students have been brainstorming ideas and are keeping a reflective journal throughout the process.


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