My husband, David, is very handy and has a workbench in our garage that holds a rather large, yellow toolbox. His toolbox is filled with numerous size hammers, screwdrivers, bits, and materials. At first, I thought it was crazy that he had so many different tools because the rather small toolbox that I had had before I married him only held two screwdrivers, one hammer, and a small level. I don’t think I even owned any nails, which shows you how much use the hammer actually had in my care. Needless to say, I am continually amazed at how his toolbox always seems to have the right size drill bit or screwdriver that we need for various projects around the house. Since his toolbox is so well stocked with a variety of tools, he is much more prepared for a project than I ever could be with the few tools I had in my toolbox.

As teachers, it is our job to equip our students to be problem solvers and to help fill up their “toolbox” with strategies to be successful both now and in the future. Did you know that as teachers we are preparing students for jobs that probably haven’t even been created yet? When I was in high school, social media strategist wasn’t even a thing, but it is today. It’s truly hard to imagine what life will be like in the next 10, 20, 30+ years. The best thing we can do as teachers is to equip our students with a wide variety of tools and strategies in the following areas:

  • In Relationships

    Healthy relationships take work and students need to be taught strategies for conflict and resolution skills. They need to understand the difference between a big and small problem, as well as ways to resolve them. I always teach my students that a small problem is something that kids can solve on their own, but a big problem is something that they need an adult to help them solve. I then teach and model strategies that they can use to solve small problems and identify when they need an adult’s help for a big problem. We empower kids when we help them fill up their “toolbox” with strategies to be problem solvers.

  • In Academics

    At the beginning of the year I can’t tell you how many of my students come up to me and say “Mrs. Foxwell, I don’t know this word. What is it?” I could just tell them the word, but would I be setting them up for success if I did that every time? Absolutely not! Instead, I fill up their reading “toolbox” by teaching, modeling, and practicing strategies for them to learn how to decode unknown words. I introduce them to some reading stuffed animals, like Flippy the Dolphin who teaches them to flip the vowel in a word from the short to long sound. Or Chunky Monkey who teaches them to look for chunks in words that they are familiar with like the digraph /ch/. So, now when they come to a word they don’t know they have tools to figure out the word! Regardless of the grade or subject you teach, students need strategies for academics that will allow them to be successful both in and beyond the walls of our classroom.

  • As Digital Citizens

    A couple of years ago I had a student come into my classroom and proclaim: “Mrs. Foxwell, I googled you last night and I saw a video of you singing one of our math songs.” They had come across my teaching website where I share ideas and resources for other teachers, but I’ll never forget the day because it served as an important reminder to me that the world is constantly changing. Our students have so much access to information at their fingertips, which means we need to teach our students to be responsible digital citizens. In order for our kids to be successful both now and in the future, they need to be equipped with tools to be critical thinkers and innovative problem solvers. We need to teach them how to discern what is true and what is false, how to use technology responsibly, and model all of this by making sure we are leaving a good digital footprint.

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Becca Foxwell

Becca Foxwell

Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year 2016-2017

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.