Things I’m Learning (Pt. 1) and the Two C’s

T.I.M: Things I’m Learning (Pt. 1)

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  • NEVER rely on school copiers. They are finicky, expensive, and break down without a care in the world for the 120 worksheets you need to print before class.
  • On a similar note: if you NEED to use the copier, live & die by the classic proverb, “The early bird gets the worm” . . . The line to use it can be loooong, so get to school early to be safe! Also, “Paper Jam” is one of the more dreaded things you’ll ever see flashing on a screen.

An anecdote: Last week, I headed to the staff room at the end of the day to print materials for a lesson. There was another teacher ahead of me in line, but she offered to run my sheets through when she was done. I came back about twenty minutes later to see her glaring at the little control panel with her hands on her hips. Apparently, one of my sheets had gotten caught somewhere inside the giant machine.

After practically an hour of following the on-screen instructions, turning levers and knobs, flipping switches, and delicately lifting and lowering flaps and trays, we finally managed to extricate all of the little pieces of what used to be my worksheet.

The copier was brand-new, and there was no way on earth I was going to leave without fixing it. Especially since the worksheet said “Mr. Pfeiffer” at the top. Wanna know how NOT to make friends in the workplace? Jam the copier and leave it.


  • Bathroom breaks are precious. Go in the morning before classes begin, even if you don’t have to.
  • Be kind to the cleaning staff, janitors, and lunchroom personnel. They have your back!
  • The dollar store is your best friend, especially for pencils. Kids lose a lot of pencils.
  • Make the directions and instructions you give to your students as clear and explicit as possible.
  • Have eyes in the back of your head.
  • Give praise frequently and be genuine. It goes a long way.
  • Always have a “spare tire” activity on hand. Without one, down time turns into CHAOS.
  • Avoid labeling kids early on. If they make a mistake, give them every chance to earn back your trust.
  • Invest in comfortable shoes. I find myself on my feet for 90% of the day.
  • Get to the lunch room early if you want to use the microwave.
  • Students are appreciative of your efforts. When they communicate this to me, I feel overwhelmed, humbled, and grateful. They also have a knack for giving you a pick-me-up just when you need it, whether it is a homemade cookie, a drawing, or a colorful bracelet made of beads.


Cooperation & Conflict

Last week, I taught a self-designed lesson that examined two important historical themes that are quite relevant today: Cooperation and Conflict.

In context, the lesson was designed to serve as an introduction to the interactions between the Native Americans living in North America and European settlers during the 17th century. The Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) categorize the interactions between these two groups of people as examples of either cooperation or conflict.

In this lesson, I asked students to engage in a problem-solving activity. After getting them to brainstorm and share what they already knew about the interactions, I divided students into four clusters:

Group 1 – Native Americans

Group 1 – Settlers

Group 2 – Native Americans

Group 2 – Settlers

Then, I gave students this scenario:

The year is 1618… A group of European settlers has just reached North America and encountered a Native American society. There are two possible INTERACTIONS (2).
European Settlers Native Americans
-have armor, guns, steel swords

-want to take land for themselves

-believe the land is theirs to take

-have steel shovels, hoes, gardening tools

-have trade goods, including coffee, sugar, and sheep

-have hammers, nails, saws for constructing wooden buildings


-have bows, arrows, axes

-don’t believe land can be owned by anyone

-are peaceful people, don’t want violence

-would prefer if Europeans left, but this is not possible

-grow corn, beans, and squash.

-know what plants are safe to eat

-know what seasons are good for growing

BOTH have their own practices, customs, traditions (ie. religion, ways of organizing family)

Question: What should the interactions be between Native Americans and Europeans?

  1. With your group, please write down what a good solution to this situation is (what would be the best case for both sides)?
  2. With your group, please write down what the worst case scenario might be.



During the activity phase, students enthusiastically worked with their group members to come up with best and worst-case scenarios using the given information. They remained engaged throughout, and were able to come up with some interesting solutions!

After students completed the problem-solving activity, I revealed the two themes/types of interactions, provided definitions, and asked students to generate their own examples.

Finally, I directed students to an article from, a fantastic website that provides leveled, high-interest news stories in different content-related areas (please check out my Resources page if you want to learn more).

The article, “Native Americans fight oil pipeline project near reservations” (Newsela Staff, 2016), provided a succinct, kid-friendly explanation of the controversial construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

After students read the article, I asked them to pair up and discuss two questions:

  1. What is the main conflict the article describes?
  1. How might the two groups cooperate?

In this way, I attempted to have students construct meaningful connections between the past and present. News of the pipeline has saturated the media lately, and I thought that students would be interested to know that the themes that they had learned were not simply history, and are topics of conversation and debate on a daily basis.

Some sample responses:

“Why can’t they have a meeting and talk it over?”

“Can’t they agree to build the pipeline somewhere else?”

“I think they should respect the Native Americans’ land and heritage”

“Maybe they should try to figure out a way not to build it at all”





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