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Brian McDavitt @bmcd25

Brian McDavitt @bmcd25

Brian McDavitt spent ten years teaching elementary students in Pleasant Hill, MO. He taught third grade for eight years and has taught fourth for two. In addition to teaching in the classroom, he has served as vice-president and president of his district's professional development committee, been a team leader for third and fourth grades, and is the chair of his building's standards based grading committee. Starting in August, 2016, Brian will be taking on a new position as the Technology Integration Specialist for Millennium @ Santa Fe Elementary School, part of the Hickman Mills C-1 School District in Kansas City, MO.  He holds a BA in Elementary Education from Graceland University and a Master of Education in Technology-Enhanced Teaching from MidAmerica Nazarene University. Brian is passionate about creating authentic learning experiences for his students, technology integration, professional development, and improving classroom management. Connect with Brian on Twitter: @bmcd25.

Posted by on in General


As I enter my eleventh year in education, I have spent a lot of time reflecting back to my first year.  A decade into my career, I am making a transition from the classroom to an instructional coaching position. This has caused much thought about what I know now and what I knew way back in August of 2016. I thought about writing a letter to all first year teachers, but that seemed too presumptuous - who am I to give them advice when I don't really know them.  Instead, I've composed a letter to the twenty-three year old version of myself containing the advice I would want to give him if I could go back in time.  Here it goes:

Dear Brian,

     It's me.  Or you.  Or both of us, I guess.  Let me start by telling you that million dollar heated toilet seat idea you had was already invented.  Sorry, man, I know how proud you were of that one.  This letter isn't really about your failed inventions, though.  It is about that career you've chosen - the journey on which you are so scared to embark in a few days.  I'm about to start my eleventh year in education and I have some advice for you (Or is it me?  Still not sure how to address you...) that might just make it better.  The following list is a result of ten years of mistakes, triumphs, and experience.  I hope you take it to heart.

Be yourself.

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Posted by on in Classroom Management


We've all been there. You are halfway through the school year and things just aren't going as planned. All that time spent last summer revising units of instruction and planing amazing learning activities had you energized, but now it is winter break and you aren't sure you can go back next week. "It's just this class," you think, "I've never had a group with behavior problems like this!" Each day has been a struggle, you feel like you are drowning, and you can't help but sense defeat lurking around the corner. Sound familiar? Of course it does. We've all been there.

Almost every teacher, from first-year to veteran, has experienced days when she or he heads out of the building questioning their ability to manage a classroom. Those days are hard, but nothing compared to the years when a class seems to have gotten out of control. Perhaps this is that kind of year for you. Don't despair - there is good news! First of all, rest assured you are not alone. That veteran teacher down the hall who seems to never refer anyone for discipline may appear perfect, but she has likely had the same experience with which you are now struggling. Secondly, in the next few weeks you have a chance to turn your students' behavior around. A new semester is about to begin, and with it comes a chance to improve your classroom management.

Avoid placing blame.

This is the first and most important step when attempting to fix class-wide behavior problems halfway through the year. Resist the temptation to blame anyone. Assigning fault for a negative situation is all too easy. Avoid statements like "kids these days" or "if I had any support at all from administration" or "if parents would do their part at home". Allowing these blame-first statements to take hold in your mind severely limits your ability to correct the situation in which you find yourself. Blaming leads to complaining, and the worst way to fix student behavior is to complain about student behavior. 

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Posted by on in School Culture


Social studies has always been my favorite subject. For eight years, I taught third grade in Missouri, where the state's curriculum expectations in social studies mainly focused on communities. While this covered a wide spectrum of topics, we always came back to one central idea: what is a community? Our working definition was a community is a place where people live, work, and have fun together.

Now I teach fourth grade and this word community still pops up in our discussions. At the beginning of this year, I asked my students to create a list of beliefs we could agree to follow throughout the year.  One of the beliefs my students created for this year was, "We believe our classroom is a community of learners." We have continually referred back to our beliefs (especially during the last week before winter break) and this one always stands out, which has made me reflect on the definition I taught my third graders all those years and how it can apply to my teaching.

The best way I've found to consider the importance of creating a learning community is by thinking back to my time as a student.  We've all been in classes where we didn't feel a connection with the teacher, content, or even our classmates. I don't know about you, but I learned less in those classes than I did in classrooms where I felt connected and at ease. Any collection of teachers and students can be a class, but the most effective educators always seem to create a feeling of collaboration, safety, and comfort that transcends the normal classroom experience. Over the past few years, I have set the goal of creating this feeling.  Following are a few ways I have worked toward creating a learning community.

Share ownership

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Posted by on in Education Technology

On Wednesday, December 9th, our school hosted an Hour of Code event in conjunction with Computer Science Education Week 2015.  We sent the flyer home in the middle of last week and within a few days we knew this event was going to be well-attended.  The building in which I teach is a 3rd and 4th grade building, containing just over 320 students.  61 of those students attended our Hour of Code - nearly double the turnout from last year's event.  Thanks to the support of our principal, parents, and teachers, these five dozen students who chose to stay after school for an entire hour had a blast, while learning a skill that could last them a lifetime.

codeIn order to handle the large number of students, we planned two different activities.  First, we had the obvious: students participated in the Hour of Code from Code.org on computers or iPads.  If you are looking for a great site to get students interested in writing software code, look no further.  Code.org allows students to use a code-writing system called Blockly to create programs using some of the most popular games out there, including Minecraft.  Our other activity was "unplugged" coding created by Thinkersmith.  In this activity, students become a team of programmers writing code for a cup-stacking "robot" (played by another student).  

I am happy to report both experiences were well-received - in fact, the kids were engaged the whole hour.  There were absolutely zero behavior issues, and the room was practically buzzing with excitement.  Many mentioned wanting to code more, and they will, thanks to this great list of resources from Common Sense Media.  Afterwards, we heard from parents who said they loved the event and even suggested we start a coding club for our elementary students who were interested in learning more about programming and software engineering.  In the several hours since participating in this event, I've had some time to process why I think it was popular and why I feel it is important for all kids to learn how to code:

Coding improves critical thinking and problem solving.

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Posted by on in Student Engagement

photodune 9147848 excited girl xs

This past summer I had the opportunity to hear Glenn Wiebe's (@glennw98) closing keynote at Podstock in Wichita, Kansas. At one point he said, "Kids start school in kindergarten excited, but they don't usually end school the same way. We have to change that."

Mr. Weibe’s words made me reflect on my own time as a student. Do you remember yours? Or perhaps your child's? I have never met a kid who is not excited for their very first day of school. They may be nervous, even a bit scared. Perhaps they experience some separation anxiety. However, every child looks forward to starting school - it is a rite of passage, a sign they are growing up - a big kid now.


I started school in the same way you did – the same way your children did – full of hope and excitement.  In fact that is a very hopeful version of me in the picture above. However, somewhere along the way I lost that excitement and I am not alone in this. Look at the high school graduation rate in the United States. According to a report last updated in May 2015 from the National Center for Education Statistics, 81% of public high school students in our country graduated on time in 2012.

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