The Freshman Transition Network

Working together to transition freshmen & transform schools from the bottom up!

Summer is here! Understandably, most teachers aren’t all that interested in thinking about the classroom this time of year. However, I want to encourage all members of the Freshman Transition Network to begin thinking about something very specific for next year:

How will you inspire and motivate your students next year? How will you get them to learn about life beyond the content of your course? How will you teach them the attitudes and beliefs that they will need to succeed?

Most teachers I know say that they would love to be inspirational and motivational. I think that many of us, though, get caught up in the day-to-day and don’t find the time to actively incorporate motivation into our daily classroom activities. So here’s the idea – let’s try to come up with ideas together over the summer. Let’s use this forum to share things that can be done in class to inspire kids. Share movie clip recommendations and how to use them. Share quotes. Share motivational songs. Share lessons and activities.

I’m planning on regularly adding to this discussion, but I really hope I won’t be the only participant. Imagine if this summer every member of the network added even 1 idea to this discussion. What an amazing list of ideas we’d have! Then when the day-to-day is getting the best of you, you can simply come to this discussion, find an idea, and use it to motivate your students.

So come on, folks – let’s see what you’ve got!

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Kids respond to quotes. Try starting off your class with a quote about once a week or once every other week. Put the quote on your board or overhead and have students write a short reflection (1 or 2 sentences to a paragraph in length) about the quote. Then give students a chance to share their reflection. The whole activity might take 5-7 minutes but will provide you with an opportunity to share new ways of thinking with your students.

I've shared one of my favorite quotes below. Feel free to simply leave a favorite quote as a reply. Doing so will complete your summer assignment!

"The reason most people fail instead of succeed is that they trade what they want most for what they want at the moment."
"Education is that which remains after you have forgotten everything else you have been taught... "
Here's a good quote to teach your students:

“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” - Tom Watson

Our students are afraid to fail. As a result they don't even try. This leads to failure - but at least in their minds they can say they didn't even try.

We need to teach our students that it's ok to fail if you're trying to succeed. In fact, you can't really succeed without first failing - or messing up - along the way. The goal with this quote is to give students a completely different outlook on failure.

Here's a website with more Tom Watson quotes.

http://thinkexist.com/quotation/if_you_want_to_increase_your_succes...
This year, I started using Glory Road in my classroom. The students really liked it, but the best part is that it has such good examples of the blocks of the John Wooden's Pyramid of Success. One of the cornerstones is Industriousness. Don Haskins' players ran and ran - even when they doubted they would have success.

It has great examples of some of the less emphasized blocks. Alertness is a block that is hard to get across to students. However, when Don Haskins has the good sense to see that black players could play, contrary to the prevailing attitudes of the day, he began recruiting those players when others in the south would not. He also had the initiative (another block in the Pyramid) to see the moment in history and decide to play only black players in the National Championship game. He said that he was only playing his best players, which may well be the truth. However, he did what no one else had done before him.

As the same scene continues, one of the white players (Jerry Armstrong) says that he wants to play, but he gives his support to the coach's decision. That is a great example of Team Spirit as well as Alertness to the moment. He also showed the Intiative to get up and say what needed to be said just at the right time to say it.


If you have not seen Glory Road, check it out. If you have already seen it, watch it again looking for the values that you would like to teach your students. Be sure to check the features that have interviews with the actual players.
Like many of you have already stated, I enjoy using quotes to inspire my students. My favorite person to quote is Winston Churchill. He has a lot of inspiring words, and he is covered in my SOLs. I also take input from my students on quotes they would like to see (ex. One student wanted a quote from Gandhi.). My favorite Churchill quote is, "We are tired, and we are bloody, but we are not done yet. It is a great one to use at the end of the year, or after a difficult test like the SOLs.
Good post, Justin. It's always a good idea to try to find people that relate to your content to share about - whether it's a quote they said or the example of their lives. For example, Science or Math teachers might use the example of Isaac Newton. As a former World History teacher (like Justin), I always like to share about Martin Luther's life. It was a great example of standing for what you believe in and impacting the rest of history.

By the way, for those of you not from Virginia (Justin and I are both from Salem, VA) it might be good to explain what SOLs are. In Virginia, our end-of-course state tests - the ones that are also used for NCLB/AYP tests - are called the SOL tests. Here, SOL stands for Standards of Learning. We're aware that in other parts of the country SOL stands for something else... :)
Here's a quote - actually a short story - that you can share with your students. It's from Portia Nelson and the 1993 book, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk.

Chapter 1:
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…
I am helpless.
It is not my fault.
It takes forever to find my way out.

Chapter 2:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in…It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5:
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk down another street.


I first heard this story in a marriage class my church put on. Then I saw it in 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. When I shared it with my students I wondered if they'd be able to get it. I had it on the overhead for their Do Now assignment. I asked them to read it and reflect on it. (By that time in the year I had done a lot of quotes and my students had learned how to reflect on them.)

Bottom line - they got it and could apply it to their lives. I taught them that if you are in Chapter 3 you are ok because you have realized that your problems are your problems and that you need to fix them. The bad place to be is in Chapters 1 or 2 because you're blaming others and not ready to fix things in your life.

It was neat to see kids apply this quote throughout the rest of the year. I was able to say to students - "Why don't you walk around that hole?" and they understood what I meant.
Great post, James. I'll be interested to hear how your class goes. One thing I'd suggest you have as a long term goal is to find ways to help other teachers in the building incorporate into their classrooms the lessons you're teaching in yours. Doing so can benefit your students exponentially.

Glad to hear you're going to use John Wooden. You need to email/contact Ray Moore about the Pyramid of Success and about using John Wooden in the classroom. I'm trying to get Ray to start a series of blog posts on each block of the pyramid. You might also want to check out this DVD about John Wooden. Again, Ray could give you some good ideas on how to use it.
The most important goal I establish for my students and me to achieve is to learn the tools for successful collaboration. They will use these skills in every avenue of life: marriage, parenting, home, career, faith community, and neighborhood relationships. My statement at the end of every email is "We are all in this together." When I first said this, one of my colleagues said the line reminded her of High School Musical. I haven't seen it, but I do believe that WE is stronger than ME. I want students to think about ME/WE and how one can find both in the two letters just by flipping ME up or WE down. I want them to think about what happens when we think less about me and more about we. This can serve as a strong visual for students who need to understand why "teamwork works."
As a parent of an elementary schooler, a middle schooler, and an upcoming high schooler I have to say that YOU HAVE TO WATCH HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL! :)

Actually, I would encourage teachers of 9th graders to watch movies like the High School Musical series. For starters, our kids know them. One great way to connect with kids is to know what they know. Secondly, there are a couple things one could use. For example, in the first HSM movie there is a song called Stick to the Status Quo. It's all about breaking out of high school stereotypes and following your passion. Might be a good song to share with your students. They know the song but perhaps haven't thought about it in its full context.
I agree with Scott. Ninth graders will always think we don't understand them. When all of a sudden you can reference a song, show, book, movie, or band that they like, you will have captured their attention. I always try to connect with a student through one of these avenues. Last year I had several students reading the Twilight series, so I read the books too (and they were great!!). It gave me something to connect with them and I would come in and update them on what part I was on. Luckily I am a fast reader so I was able to keep the connection with students at the beginning of the series as well as the end. The point is that you have to look at the things kids are in to and find a way to talk to them about it. When you are on the same page, then you can talk to them about the values (or lack of) in those things. When they think that you do "understand" them, then they will listen to you.
How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!
Maya Angelou


I love using quotes for journal entries, class discussions and even speeches. There are many great websites out there that have quotes listed by author, theme etc. Of course being an English and Speech teacher I love to use quotes from authors. Maya is my favorite

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
Maya Angelou

I also need to admit that I am the one who went to the website in Italy. I was fortunate enough to visit Rome for nine days, but have to admit that I did take some time to check emails. I plan on using some of my photos for class also.
Esther in Davenport, Iowa

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