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Why Teachers Are Obsessed John Green Books

In honor of his new book coming out,  I thought I would give a little insight as to why John Green has my undying devotion and support as a high school English Language Arts Teacher.

1. His Books Are Just That Good

Any book that can draw you in from the first page is a good book in my eyes.  And all of his books have that magic quality that just makes you want to keep reading and reading.  I have had to beg students to put the book away so we could finish a lesson and then promised them that they could take it back out as soon as their work was done.  Fighting a student to get them to stop reading?  An English teacher’s dream. And the best part?  He keeps writing books, which means this fight is never-ending.  :)

2. The Sophistication of the Language and Style of Writing  

All of Green’s books are intended for a teen/young adult audience.  And yet he does not do the normal dumbing down of plot lines and language.  His characters, plot, and literary techniques are complicated, sophisticated, and of quality.  Because he believes that teenagers are complicated and sophisticated and deserving of quality words to read.  The simple assumption that teens can, and want to read high end prose is one that I thank him for.  I love any book that gets students hooked on reading regardless of the quality of writing ( I’m looking at you Twilight).  However, there is a special place in my heart for the books and authors who respect my students brains enough to give them beautiful literature that assumes they are intelligent, and forces them to think without being so highbrow that the text is inaccessible.  From his allusions to Shakespeare and Hemingway’s style in TFIOS, to the complicated math in An Abundance of Katherines, Green respects his teen readers enough to give them complicated material to grapple with.  But he also sets them up for success and interest when their pesky ELA teachers hand them these classic texts.

3.  The Assumption That Teens Have Meaningful Stories All On Their Own

I love a good dystopian story as much as the next Hunger Games fangirl.  But this narrative that one must be special, have a special skill, stand out from the crowd, be the “chosen one”, can leave a lot of kids feeling left in the dust.  We can’t all be Katniss or Tris ( as much as I really want to be).   Green celebrates the everyday teen without unattainable plot points.  His characters are normal boys and girls.  In fact, his most beloved characters are boys and girls who are living lives that are way less than ideal.  And yet their stories are important.  Their stories are  interesting.  Their stories are exactly what our students need to hear.  For this, I am so thankful.  To be able to a student a book that they can see themselves in is a true gift.  ( and exactly why we need more diverse books, but that is a whole different blog post)

4. The Message That Teens Can Be Smart and It Is Cool To Read and Learn

John Green, you made reading cool.  You made learning cool.  You made my most reluctant readers want to talk to their peers about books. You made my students have strong emotional reactions to a piece of literature ( How could you do that to Gus?!).  You made my students have opinions on what they read. ( “Paper Towns isn’t as good as TFIOS” “No way!  Have you read Looking for Alaska?” )  Your words were the catalyst for conversations on books from students who I had never seen pick up a book before.  Your words let teens know that you can think big thoughts, and have educated opinions on the world.  Teens are capable of being intelligent, and still having fun.  I will never forget the day in my ELA class where I threw out the question, “ What is it that you fear?” in reference to a classic text.  And I had my most timid and shy student immediately throw her hand in air and answer “oblivion”.  I owe John Green for the gaggle of girls who raced into my room the day the Paper Towns trailer came out and begged me to play it nice and big on my projector screen after school.  And then their friends in the hall popped their heads in and we played it three more times for even more kids.  And these same teens talked up these books and walked right to the school library to see if they could check out something to read.  Reading is cool because John Green says it is on instagram and tumblr.  And I would never argue with anything posted on tumblr.

Can you tell I am beyond excited to add another Green book to my collection on books to read and recommend?  Which of his books is your favorite?  Let me know below!

Every teacher knows that your shoe choice for the day can not only make or break your outfit but may actually break your foot…

Case in point: me.  I wore the cutest Sam Edelman flats pretty much every single day one spring.  This included caf duty, after school duty, and walking around my classroom.  I had always worn flats to teach.  They matched with everything and were simply adorable. However, I did not account for them to pretty much ruin my feet for all shoes in the future.  I slowly started to get pain in my feet, and before I knew it I had developed plantar fasciitis.

When I stood up, it felt like there were razor blades digging into my heels at every moment and with every step.  I desperately made appointments with doctors and podiatrists to see what I could do to stop the constant pain.  I bought every crazy looking gadget ( and there are a TON) off Amazon and did all the stretches and exercises.  And still, my feet were killing me in every pair of shoes I wore.  But I was determined to find a pair that worked.  By chance,  my mom also developed this annoying condition and she too was on the hunt for footwear that would provide relief.  She stumbled upon the holy grail of foot comfort: The FitFlop.  I had seen people wearing these shoes and being the shoe snob I was I couldn't understand why anyone would wear a platform sandal outside of the 90’s ( the humor is not lost on me by the fact that 90s style is so back in right now…)  But my pain overtook my snobbishness, and I bought every pair of fitflop Nordstrom rack had on sale!  They were expensive, but oh so worth it.  I could walk and stand without being in constant pain, and I finally did not dread every time I had to walk somewhere.

But as my summer ended and the school year drew closer and closer I realized I couldn’t wear flipflops into the winter and keep my toes. (I live in Boston…)  I also needed more professional looking footwear to make it through the more dressy days as a teacher.  And, as my feet started to feel a little more comfortable, my inner footwear snob returned.  I again went out on the hunt for shoes that not only made my feet feel heavenly, but that fit my need to keep the style quality of my shoe collection on point.  

After months of shopping sales, deals, and online retailers I found my go-to shoes that I know are worth the splurge, have helped to heal my feet, and still help me feel like all the other pinterest and insta stylish teachers under the #teacherstyle hashtag!  I can say I am now back to getting excited to feature my feeties on #teacherfeetupfriday.  And I want to help other teachers out there looking for comfy and stylish footwear!   

Here are my top finds for shoes that make you forget you have plantar fasciitis, and allow you to stand tall  ( without pain!) each day!

These styles can be expensive, but I have been able to find them on sale at places like DSW, Nordstrom Rack, and Amazon.

Happy Shopping!

First up: Vionic
These are a bit pricey, but I have been able to find them on sale at Lord and Taylor ( coupon city!) and at Nordstrom Rack. I bought this pair at Nordstrom recently when they were having a sale. It is the perfect black flat for any outfit but has amazing arch and heel support.

Next pick: Some classic Birks

Thank goodness these babies are back in style. I remember when the clogs were in when I was in high school and then I never wore them again... These are the most comfortable shoes I own, and I wear them every.single.day. Again, these can be found on sale at different stores. I like to shop Amazon and Nordstrom. I would stay away from the knockoff of these shoes because the magic really is in the patented cork insoles. They are very much worth the price. The best part is that any licensed Birkenstock seller can replace the cork insoles for you for about $40 when they wear down. The leather stays amazing and you can get a basically brand new shoe for way less than full price! Here are both my sandals picks, and my winter boot look!

Next up: Comfy Clarks
A girl is always in need of a classic pair of black pumps. The low heel on these makes them just formal enough for meetings, and still doable for standing for long periods of time. Plus, I adore the feminine little bow and the fact that they can go with any outfit!

Final pick: The Famous Fit Flop

These are the shoes that I so callously overlooked because of my inner fashionista. I did some searching and found myself a pair that is comfy and stylish and doesn't offend my inner shoe collector. I am obsessed with this simple black pair and love that it comes in other colors as well. They pair great with skirts, dresses, and pants. The best part? Your feet will thank you!

What are your lifesavers in the classroom? Let me know what I should add to my closet to support my poor aching feet!

My Favorite Part of My Math Classroom: Word Walls

Thinking about back to school, I start to reflect on what I want to change for the coming year and what I love so much I would never change. Is there a certain area in your classroom that you think about and just smile? I think all of us teachers have that place where we find joy. For me, it is my word wall.

Not only do I love all of the bright colors, but I also love that my word wall gives my students a visual representation of all the vocabulary we learn throughout the year. I love that these cards are not just the words themselves but visual reminders of what each word means. Every time I ask a question and see a student glance at it for reference I cannot help but feel all the warm and fuzzies. I strongly believe all students especially secondary students need visual cues to aid their learning particularly in a mathematics classroom. For more, see this NCTE article on math vocabulary.

These word cards also improve my students' mathematical literacy, encourage deeper thinking, etc. and are used all year including review games, students create their own, and so on. Now that you know how much I love my word wall, I hope you will share in this passion of mine and put up one in your classroom this year.

How do I go about making or buying my own word wall? A couple of summers ago I had this idea and decided to put myself to work making my dream become a part of my classroom. It took me ALL summer to make these cards for each course I taught at the time (maybe not the best use of my summer?). So to save you that kind of time, if you teach Algebra 2, PreCalculus, Calculus, or Statistics, check out my Word Walls on TPT.
If you are inspired to create your own:

  1. Make a list of all the vocabulary words for the course
  2. Think about how each word can be written in a way that illustrates its definition
  3. Make those ideas come to life in PowerPoint, Word, etc.
  4. Print, laminate, and post as you teach during the year
Welcome to the amazing world of word walls! I hope you love yours and find a way to make it your own this school year.

Writing Your Best College Essay

The dreaded college essay.  A right of passage for all students seeking to enter into higher institutions of learning.  And one that seems like an even playing field.  But is it?   For my low-income students, this piece of the college process feels like space where they have all the same chances and opportunities as their more affluent peers.   I thought the same.  Until my sister and my cousin were both applying to college. And one of them was paying $1500 for college essay editing/writing services. And it wasn’t my sister.  

There is a whole world out there of college acceptance services and companies to help navigate the college process successfully and with great results.  But this world is only accessible to a select few. And it is a sound business plan.  Everyone who wants to go to college needs to write an essay, this essay needs to be super specific, and writing is intimidating. So, why not hire someone to help you?  Especially someone who has seen and written essays that earned ivy league acceptance?

As an English teacher, I like to think that I am a pretty good writing.  I might even be an expert in some areas. ( I’m looking at you MLA citation!)  I thought I knew what a great caliber college essay was.  And I did have a pretty good idea, but I was absolutely blown away when I saw the essays my cousin was writing with her $1500 help.  Then, I was blown away again when my sister sent me her friends ( fellow Ivy Leaguers) essays her freshman year.

So, why am I writing all this?  Well, I want to make the college essay process transparent, simplistic, and accessible to all students.

For the past 6 years, I have been helping my first-generation students write and perfect their college essays.  Some people have told me that this is an ethical dilemma, and I point these people to the websites of the $1500 essay writing services.

What is my method?  One, I love writing.  Two, I have spent hours of my life reading hundreds of successful college essays.  Three, I’ve worked at a college prep school the past two years with a college counseling team with over 15 years of inside admission experience.  I’ve listened, I’ve lived it, and I’ve learned. Now, I am ready to share it all!

Below, are my top tips for helping students to start the college essay writing process!

Each week, I am going to feature a longer post delving into the hows and whys of each tip, and provide examples from college essays that worked :)

If you're looking for some great real life examples of exemplary essays, feel free to buy my essay example bundle here On sale this week for half-price!

Let’s get our students into some amazing colleges and set them up to achieve their dreams!

Dream Teacher Closet

I like expensive things.  And yet, I chose a career path that one decidedly does not choose for the income ( I'm here for the outcome baby!)  

                                                                (Life mantra TBH)

But like all teachers, I want the best for my students.  Which means digging into my pockets to buy the decorations at target, and the extra pencils, and the grading pens, and the cute supplies to get kids excited about the lesson, and yes the needed snacks for those kiddos who you know just need an extra snack snuck to them under their desk.

But in my ideal world, I would also have my quintessential teacher wardrobe.  So come along with me on my fantasy, where I show you my teacher dream closet, where prices don't exist, and there is no spending limit.   I give you Ms. Mueller's Ultimate Teacher Looks

Step one: Shoes
All teachers know that you need some great kicks, especially for #teacherfeetupfriday :)  And these keds do the trick.  Plus, these also happen to be on sale for $29!  So maybe they don't have to be distant dream and can enter my real life closet asap.

Next up: The Teacher Sweater

I love a good sweater.  And I love an even better graphic sweater.  Plus, I also love science. So what better way to combine these loves, than with a DINO sweater! Find it here. 


Continuing on with some Teacher Bling
Everyone has Kendra Scott jewelry and I just want some too!

Best Bottoms

Can't ever go wrong with a little Lilly!  I need these pants in my life.  They brighten my mood just by looking at them!

Final Piece: The Teacher Tote ( One of many bags lugged in by teachers across the nation each day)
I am loving this leather work of art that looks like it can hold my two planners, independent reading book, stack of essays, and random assortment of markers and highlighters.

                                        (Yeah, you can hold my life essentials and then some)

Here are a smattering of my other ultimate closet wishes to help make me the most stylish teacher in the school #lifegoals

(Not school appropriate but still cute!)           (Looks so comfy!)        ( Lilly Love!) 

What on in your teacher closet wish list?! I'd love to add to my collections of outfit ideas!

On Trend Book Recommendations ( and what to read when you finish binging 13 Reasons Why)

My favorite thing in the world is when a quality book is made into a teen TV show and then that TV show is a major hit.  Case in point: 13 Reasons Why.  This book by Jay Asher has always been a top pick with my students.  In fact, if I have a reluctant reader, this novel has always been one of the books that I put in their hands. And more often than not, they read the whole entire thing and come back asking for more.   So I am pretty much in English teacher heaven with the popularity not only among teens, but among all age groups for this new mini series.  Because that means I can place this book out on my desk, and I know I will not only get 15 million questions and comments about it through out the day, but I will also get at least 10 request to borrow my only copy.  ( Obviously I give it away and real quick whip up a sign up sheet for it!).  So, what do I do for my readers who come back begging for more, or who are at the bottom of my wait list?  I point them in the direction of some other quality reads that I know are either written in the same style, deal with the same types of characters and issues, or speak to the same themes that readers are loving.

And so I give you my list of quick reads for your students who are loving 13 Reasons Why! Hang this in your classroom for some instant book recs!   You can download it as a PDF on my TPT store here

Hook Your Readers With Book Trailers!

Independent reading is something I wholeheartedly believe in.  Students need space to explore topics, ideas, and concepts, and they need to be able to see reading as something that is enjoyable and not just required by their pesky English teacher.  I like to hype up my students on library check out day by presenting them with a wide option of books to choose from.  One of my favorite tools to make them super hype about checking out a book is to use book trailers.  The recent popularity of YA novels being turned into movies has made my life much easier when searching for trailers to show my students.  Below are a few of my favorite ones to share with my classes and get my students excited to try out some new books.  The best part of this, is that it exposes students to books they might not have picked off the shelf.  It also encourages discussion among students who have already read the book and can now be the expert on if it was good or not.  However, as always,  in my classroom everyone knows the book is WAY better than the movie!

13 Reasons Why

The Maze Runner

The Book Thief

The Zoo Keepers Wife

Everything Everything

Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children

Harry Potter

Hunger Games


The Handmaidens Tale

The Circle

Jurassic Park
( This is the trailer for Jurassic World, but that is mostly because I like to give myself an excuse to ogle Chris Pratt in class... So basically this is a gift to myself)

The Duff

The Fault in Our Stars
( Again,  this is a gift to myself because I just really adore this book and these characters and this cast)


Pretty Little Liars

Paper Towns


The Great Gatsby
(Double win with this one.  Classic novel, and some Leo screen time)

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

I am Number Four

The Perks of Being A Wallflower

If I Stay

Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist

A Walk to Remember
( ugh Shane West...)

The Host

It's Kind of A Funny Story

My Sisters Keeper

Freaky Friday

Warm Bodies

World War Z

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
(I happen to have strong feelings about Zombie books.  They are the best)

The Walking Dead

I Love You Beth Cooper

The 5th Wave

The Spectacular Now

There are so many more, and I am always adding to my collection of trailers.  This is also a great activity to do when you have those pesky 2-4 minutes of down time at the end of class period.  I love to pull up a trailer, ask if anyone has read the book, and end the class talking about reading!

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