End of Year Reflection

As the school year draws to an end, I find myself reflecting on the past 171 school days. I’m reminded of the many ways my students have shaped my year.  I can’t help but smile when I think of all the humorous comments they have made and the conversations we have held together.

It always amazes me how much they grow physically, academically and socially during the course of one school year. Watching them become successful in these areas brings the highest sense of satisfaction as an educator. While I am so thankful that they have grown in these areas, I believe that the area of growth that I enjoy witnessing the most is that they have become a family.

From Day 1, I always explain to my students that they are going to spend so much time together throughout the year that they are practically brothers and sisters. I explain that they should show respect to each person in the room and they should find ways to show that they care for each other every day.

Imagine BoardIt warms my heart to see them attend to a friend that is upset or to watch them express appreciation towards one another. I will never forget this group of children that I have been blessed with the opportunity to invest in throughout this school year. They are a special group of kids and their teacher loved them for who they were when they walked in the door and will love them for who they have become as they transition from my classroom.

I wrote a poem for all of my students and have given it to them since I began teaching in 2011. Every child receives this poem before they leave my classroom. This is the best way for me to express my feelings as I reflect on my year with my students.

I started teaching because I wanted to help change lives. The more I teach, the more I find that they too are changing my life. My students challenge me to grow in so many areas. I want to be the best person I can be in their eyes because in my eyes they deserve nothing less.

Written for My Students Past and Present:


My life is different because I’ve known you

And it’s hard to see you go.

You have made my year so special

In more ways than you’ll ever know.


You’re an amazing kid and that’s a fact.

I’ve watched you learn and play.

This is how I’ll always see you

And in my memory you’ll stay.


Watching you grow has been the best!

I’m excited to see where you go.

A World-Changer is who you are.

Remember Mr. V told you so.


I’ll always be here when you need me.

I’ll always root for you.

Just know that you are loved

And I believe in you!


I’m blessed to call you my student.

Thanks for sharing this time with me.

Go out and make a difference.

Be the best YOU that you can be!


Until our paths meet again,

Remember it’s not “Goodbye!”

Instead “I’ll see you soon!”

Do “Good”, be great and fly!

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The Power of Positive Thinking

Each day before heading into the classroom, I have to stop to ask myself, “What do I want my kids to get out of this day?” It seems simple enough. After all, I like to assume that all educators take time to reflect before entering this arena, called teaching. That’s why we are here, right? We are here for the kids. To change lives.

I learned throughout my own education that the true difference between a “teller” of knowledge and a teacher is that a true teacher builds a relationship. They do not just give the information and expect regurgitation.

They get to know their students. They discover their likes and dislikes. They WANT to know what they are interested in. They seek opportunities to understand what a student may be going through. They build their students up. They listen. They speak. They care.

Now, before we get started, I’m sure that some of you may be thinking, “Positive thinking can only get you so far.” In certain aspects, this is true. It CAN only get you so far. But your delivery and belief is what will make all of the difference. We have to remember that a lot of our students are coming from backgrounds where they have not always been told how great they are. They have not been told that they are special and will grow up to make a difference in this world. They have not been encouraged to believe in their dreams and reach for the biggest goal they can imagine.

Many students, instead, come from homes where mom and dad are rarely around. Many students do not know where they will be sleeping at night. There are those that wonder if they will eat at night when they get home. When these kids are coming from these situations and these circumstances, it’s more important than ever that we challenge ourselves to fill in the gap for all of the positive lessons that they have not been afforded the opportunity to experience. Many students just wish for one second they can find something slightly resembling the normal.

While this may make you feel somewhat disheartened or overwhelmed, there is good news! You have an opportunity daily to step into the classroom and speak truth into these kids. You have a platform where you can have the attention of many different children and just take the time to say, “You are unique! You are special! No one else in this world can be YOU! I’m glad that we get an entire year to discover your gifts and passions.”

Every now and then, I like to start our day in the classroom by taking out the classic foil star stickers that we have all come to love. As each child comes into my classroom, I bend down, place a star on their shirt and I tell them, “I’m giving you this star because I know that today, more than ever before,  you are going to learn, you are going to show your best behavior and you are going to make a difference!” The star becomes a symbol for the student and myself that today is going to be a great day!

I see it as a way to show that I’ve taken time to encourage my kids that day. It’s funny how a few words and a foil star can make a child start to believe in themselves. It’s the power of positive thinking. It’s showing your children that no matter what baggage they came in with, or what circumstance they are going to go home to when they leave you, at that moment when you place the star on their shirt, someone cares and someone believes that they are special and worth the time you are giving to be with them!

I like to believe that my students from the past will always remember the times that they came into my classroom and the attention was completely focused on them. I hope that they can remember how I greeted them at the door with a smile on my face and showed that I was there to make a difference for THEM. It’s not about me. It’s about my students. It’s about the chance to impact them and in return have them impact everyone they ever come into contact with.

Think I’m a dreamer? If so, you are right. I dream of a world where educators are passionate about stepping into the classroom. I dream about a world where students love coming to school because they feel valued! Sure I dream… and I hope that after reading my blog, you will begin to DREAM too!

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Can I Write Hell On This Paper?

Teaching, in my eyes, is about brand new experiences every day. It’s about sparking a fire in the life of a child. It’s about creating an environment that promotes learning and making children feel loved. It’s even about the little moments where the innocence of youth makes you stop to think about life in a brand new way.

Moments like these exist often when challenging twenty-two children on a daily basis to see the world differently. On one particular day, my students were participating in an activity to review word families. Little did I know that this assignment would lead to an ongoing project that turned into the thoughts that you will read about within this blog.

It was a day like most others. My students were working together in cooperative groups and they were very excited about what we were doing that afternoon. Even though it was a typical school day, it lead to a question that still makes me laugh to this day.

We had been working on brand new word families and my students were ready to show everything that they knew. The goal of this activity was to allow the cooperative groups to work together to list as many words as they could think of that belonged to the word family on their poster. Then, the groups rotated and they would add to another groups poster.

As my students walked around the room adding new words to word family posters, one little boy stopped to ask what seemed at the time to be an urgent question. He had come to a crossroad in this project. He was now at the word family poster for -ell and it lead to a question that just begged to be answered. “Mr. Vaughn,” he said with eyes wide and innocent, “Can I write hell on this paper?”

His sincerity when asking this question made this a moment that I will never forget. The question was simple enough, right? I could not help but wonder what life would be like if we all just stopped to ask the questions that no one else was comfortable asking. I mean, how many other kids had stopped at that table, had the same thought, and moved along without even attempting to find the answer to the burning question. How would things be different if we had the gumption of this kid and saw the world through the lens that he sees it through every day?

After speaking to the child about his new word choice and deciding that the word was not the optimal choice for the classroom poster, the student went about his day as if the situation had never happened. But it had happened and I was thankful. The experience sparked an idea to journal the funny things that my students say and relate them to real world teaching and experiences that hopefully everyone reading can enjoy.

Whether you are a teacher, a parent or just a student of life, I hope that you can take some time within these posts to reflect on the children in your life that challenge us to see the world in a brand new way, every single day. My goal for these stories is to give you a new opportunity to laugh, cry or just take a deep breath and remember that life IS good! And on the days that life isn’t so good, I want to give you the opportunity to just stop, reflect and ask yourself… “Can I write hell on this paper?”

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