Moving Toward the Magic



We are all guilty of over enjoying the comforts in life. We want the most comfortable bed, shoes, clothes, and car. We equate comfort with quality of life. When I first heard the idea that the greatest things in life happen outside of your comfort zone, I was a bit confused. Don’t we work our whole lives to achieve comfort? Why would great things happen when I’m uncomfortable? I didn’t really get it, but I’m not typically a risk taker. I’ve never climbed the face of a cliff. I panic at the thought of purging my material items and living in a trendy “tiny house.”  I don’t have the need for speed, and I picked my car for safety and comfort over style ad fashion.  Leave me in my comfortable bed while you risk life and limb in search of magic. I’ll like your dangerous-feet-hanging-out-of-the-airplane picture on Instagram while snuggling with my puppy and sipping chamomile tea.

Then I started thinking about risks and comfort zones within the classroom, and I realized I’m actually a risk taker! Stacy McNally may fear the risks in life, but Mrs. McNally will do anything it takes to improve and make learning fun. Mind. Blown. I’m not afraid to stand on a desk and sing a song I wrote about properly answering text dependent questions. I’m not afraid to send my kids on a scavenger hunt throughout the school for pieces of a puzzle to create the perfect thesis. I’m not afraid to start blogging with my students when all the other teachers in my building are still writing traditional essays. I’m not afraid to dress like a puritan woman and walk through the halls during class change to get my kids excited about what we are doing in class. I have certainly failed when taking risks. When I dress in costume and walk with (okay, maybe chase) my students down the hallway, they are mortified to know me. They call me crazy, but they are excited to come to class.

I spent the last six years of my career teaching in West Virginia. When we added twin baby boys to our family, being away from home didn’t feel right to my husband or me any more. We needed our children to be raised with family. My husband started his job search first to bring us home. He was a police officer, so we thought he would have a tougher time finding the right job. We thought wrong. Within a month, my husband had landed an amazing job and was set to begin at the start of the year. It was one thing to talk about making this huge jump and moving back to my hometown. It was another to actually do it! I started getting my portfolio ready to present to a future employer. I filed my paperwork for Ohio certification, and eventually I had an interview at my dream school. I was hired and I will start teaching at Beaver Local High School in a few weeks. They have a 1-1 initiative which will allow each student to have their own iPad. Their new K-12 School is the most innovative school in the state (and I would venture to say country). I am so excited to begin this new journey.

Since beginning this transition to come back home, I have told myself over and over, “The magic happens outside of your comfort zone.” I have taken this risk in uprooting my family and career with the faith that magic will happen. I am confident that my new school will allow me to blossom into a greater teacher than I could ever have imagined. I’m determined to continue to push myself  until I am making magic in my students’ lives every single day. I believe it will happen. If you’re interested in seeing my journey to the magic, subscribe. I will keep you posted on the highs and lows of teaching outside of my comfort zone.

How Blogging Transformed my Classes

This semester I incorporated blogging into my classes. I decided to use Edublogs and encourage each student to set up their own blog. All the individual blogs link back to mine, and students can see one another’s work on their “Dashboard” when logged in. This is nice because instead of clicking on the link to each student’s page and then searching for the posts, recent published posts show up on the dashboard for easy reading. Students can then create lists or subscribe to peer’s blogs for easy reading. Edublog allowed me to monitor and have editing rights to the students posts in an educational setting. Edublog was easy to learn and my students picked up the basics so quickly. I did pay a small price for a year long subscription to a Pro Account, but I believe it was well worth the nominal fee. Edublog has tons of resources to help you format and make your blog as complicated or as simple as you would like. I do not have experience using other blogging platforms, but I would highly suggest Edublogs to anyone looking to get into blogging for the first time. I know nothing about coding or website building and I think my blog is pretty impressive. Even if you think you can’t blog, you can! Now, on to why you’re really here- How blogging has transformed my teaching!

I was apprehensive about how blogging would impact my classes at first. I wanted to make sure that blogging was meaningful and not just replacing typical essays we would write in class. I was worried I would not be able to find the balance between students writing for academic purposes and students writing for self expression. Looking back, I had nothing to worry about. I was able to easily balance the blogging assignments so my students were able to show their personality as well as practice fine tuning their writing skills (specifically research and citation skills).

Obviously I worked with my students on the writing concepts I wanted them to display in their blogs, but the real magic happened when students were reading one another’s posts and interacting in the comments. I hoped this would happen, but I wasn’t sure how much I would have to coach them to make meaningful connections with their peers work. At first, I instructed students to comment on a certain number of posts, and I even gave them guidelines about what to include in their comments. Once students had a baseline understanding of my expectations, they took off. Most students read every single one of their peers’ posts. Many students commented tons of posts. All students talked about posts and suggested posts to their friends to read. Seeing my students engaged in one another’s writing and beliefs and opinions was powerful. Can you imagine if every student printed out their persuasive essay and we passed them around class to read and comment on? WOOF! I’m even bored thinking about grading all those assignments that way. Blogging made the writing fresh and fun. Blogging made my students interested in what their peers had to say and opened up so many meaningful classroom conversations that would have never happened in a traditional classroom.

I also noticed my students working harder to produce quality work. Most students knew that their friends and peers would read their posts, so they wanted to make sure they were bringing their A game. Students were naturally revising. Through my teaching career, I have struggled to get students to actually go back into their writings and revise and edit. With blogging, my students were publishing their post, viewing it on their page, going back and changing formatting, editing grammar and spelling mistakes, revising and changing because they wanted their work to be the best it could be. Their writing went from being a teacher-student communication to a public communication. They were intrinsically motivated to make their work better because they knew more people would see it. This is not to say all posts are perfect. If you look through my students’ pages, you will find plenty of mistakes. My students are still just sophomores in high school and they make plenty of mistakes. That’s how they grow. I saw every single student grow and develop as we were blogging.

The student blogs allowed each student to show their personality in a safe manner. Today’s student is different than even my friends and I were in high school. We were starting the online movement with chat rooms and AIM. But our students now are often more comfortable behind the anonymous nature of a computer screen and screen name. Students could show their personality by choosing a theme they liked or customizing their blog with images and fonts that showed off who they are. We spent a few days in class experimenting with the looks and layouts of the blogs. Their first assignment as to delete the sample pages, create a tag line, and publish an “about me” page. It was really awesome to see kids figuring out how to do something and then teaching one another what they learned. Students were looking at their peers’ pages for inspiration and giving praise when someone figured out how to do something cool. Blogging allowed my students to break out of their shells and form relationships with students they never would have worked with or even spoken to. When a self proclaimed “redneck” read a post by a transgender student about the struggles LGBT people face, I saw one of the most powerful conversations I have ever witnessed. These two students probably would have avoided working together at all cost, but were able to form an understanding because of their blogs.

When I decided to start blogging, I wanted to make sure my kids would learn the same skills as the other 10th graders who were writing one long persuasive essay (for the whole semester) with a fresh and new spin on writing. I wasn’t sure that I would be up to the challenge of many smaller argumentative essays, or that my students would even like blogging. My fears were totally unfounded. My students embraced blogging (and dare I say LOVED it) like I hoped they would. Although initially blogging was intended to really replace what we were doing traditionally, it opened so many more opportunities and dialogs that traditional writing has never allowed in my classes. Writing was redefined by student blogs and I will never go back to the old ways. Blogging transformed my teaching and my students’ learning in just a few short weeks. I am so excited to start next year with blogging. I cannot imagine the impact an entire year of blogging will have on my students, but I have some really great ideas about how our student blogs can really change the culture of a school.


Stay tuned, because I know you’re going to like what’s to come!

Nice Matters


This morning, after dropping my twins off at the babysitter’s, I was walking to my car when a neighbor was walking past with his dog. He was frowning and didn’t look very happy to be out and about at 7am. He glanced over at me and I greeted him with a smile and a bright, “Good morning!” I didn’t think much of it, as it’s a pretty standard procedure for me to greet anyone I see. As I pulled out of the driveway and went along my way, I had to drive past the man. This time, I noticed he was smiling from ear to year. A few moments before that, he had looked miserable. Had my smile and words changed his perspective?

I attended a small college of national distinction in the hills of West Virginia- Bethany. What struck me about Bethany when I toured as a high school senior was that everyone seemed so happy. Professors welcomed us into their classes to show us experiments they were working on (I still remember the fruit flies and how the professor explained their breeding habits although I have long forgotten his name). Students smiled and said hello as we passed through the corridors of Old Main. Everyone made eye contact and greeted you with a smile as you passed. I actually wondered out loud if they had placed these people just for the tour, but our guide assured me that was just how people acted in that cheery little town. People were just generally nice and kind. Although this wasn’t my only reason for choosing to attend Bethany College, it did influence my decision. Bethany’s outlook on strangers also changed the way I went about my day for the rest of my life.

I always say hello and good morning when I pass colleagues in the halls. It’s funny to me how many people will put their head down and not acknowledge someone passing just feet away from them. I’m as guilty as anyone for getting caught up in my own troubles and problems, but sometimes one little interaction can change your whole perspective. If I’m having a rough morning, a bright greeting from a colleague may change my mood and leave me walking away with a smile. It’s only fair that I give that back whenever I can.

I try to greet as many of my students as I can by name in the hallways with a hello, a smile, and a question about how their English class is going this semester. Some of my students seem mortified that their teacher spoke to them in front of friends, but most leave walking away with a big smile. I hope they pass that smile and kindness on to someone else as they go. I really believe that a kind word can change a day for the better, like a harsh word can send a day into a downward spiral. I believe niceness matters.

I really have no idea if it was my words that perked the man up this morning, or if he was just amused by something his dog did. But it really made me remember that a simple greeting and a smile can change a person’s world.

Back to school!

Slide1October 19th may seem like an odd time for a back to school post, but tomorrow is my first day of classes for my graduate degree at West Liberty University. I have to admit, I am terrified. Nearly every day I talk to my students about preparing them for college or “life after McNally.” I pride myself at knowing where I need to get my seniors to be “ready,” but am I ready?

So much has changed since the last time I was going back to school as a student. I graduated high school in 2004. Bethany wasn’t even one of the few schools that had connected into the Facebook network yet. My mom took care of all my financial aid and registration. I had a trusty Nokia cell phone (still arguably the most durable mobile ever made), but there was no cell phone service at Bethany. I had a calling card to call home and talk to my parents. I had a laptop that I bought with my graduation party money, but wireless at Bethany was spotty at best and nonexistent at worst. I was super prepared with my trendy bedding, my reliable shower caddy, and my freshman lanyard. I was nervous about making friends and getting along with my roommate. I was determined to make a good impression on the sorority I wanted to join. I was scared I wouldn’t be smart enough to pass my classes, and I was actually a broadcasting major. Looking back, I was a baby.

Getting ready for college this time, I’m not worried about my bedding and finding the perfect roomie, but I am still nervous!  Will I be the oldest one in class? Will everyone laugh and think I’m a nerd when I bust out my laptop to take notes? Will I be able to keep up while still being a full time teacher and full time mom to nine month old twins? Will I regret my decision to go back to school? Will I be enjoy my classes? Will I look up to my professors? Will my professors like me? Will I know any of my classmates? Will I like any of my classmates? Will I get straight A’s?

Although many of my worries are different this time, there is a similarity: excitement. I am so excited to start this new chapter of my life. I am so excited to reconnect educationally. One of my favorite professors from Bethany is the Dean of the Education Department at West Liberty. I can’t wait to work with the professors she has brought into her program. I know that this experience is going to make me a better teacher as I learn new ways to connect with my students. I am excited to learn! I know, huge nerd, but it is the truth. I want to hear viewpoints that differ from my own and broaden my horizons and try new and innovative strategies. I want to connect with educators outside of my district and collaborate to allow myself to become the best teacher I can be.

Standby, friends. I’m sure you will be getting lots of posts based upon the information I am picking up in my classes. Wish me luck!

My name is Stacy, and I’m more than a teacher.

What happens to teachers after the last bell of the day rings? Do we crawl into a coffin hidden in the front of the room, sleep through the afternoon and evening, and rise again with the morning sun to teach once more? Do we travel hours away from our school to live in a remote community alone and far from students? Oh, I know! We  go home, lock the door, and never leave again.

Last week I made a pit stop at the bank before heading home. Shortly after beginning my transaction, one of my students got in line behind me. I didn’t notice him right away but when the teller called me by my first name, he spoke up.

“I’m going to start calling you Stacy,” the student announced.

I was a bit caught off guard and I wasn’t sure what to say at first. I always try to be relateable to my students. As a coach, my players all knew that my name is Stacy and often would refer to me as Coach Stacy. I use twitter with my students and my first name is clearly seen there. But for this student, my first name was a mystery. It seemed that when he learned my first name, I became more than Mrs. McNally. I became relateable to this student as a person outside of my classroom.

How did I miss this student? How have I not made a connection with him outside of the walls of my classroom? Why was he so shocked to see me beyond JMHS? I know about his life. I know where he works, his educational history, his work habits, his writing styles. I know the type of music I can find on his iPhone and the friends he talks with at lunch. I know where he prefers to sit in class and even his favorite way to eat chicken nuggets. I was successful in getting to know this student, and I’m confident he can tell you about Mrs. McNally. But last week at the bank was the first time he met Stacy.

Stacy and Mrs. McNally have a lot of the same characteristics, but they’re different too. We are both outgoing and outspoken. We both love to laugh and have a good time. Mrs. McNally and Stacy both like to dress up and look nice, but Stacy is much more likely to be in a volleyball t-shirt and sweat pants than Mrs. McNally’s typical heels and dress clothes. Mrs. McNally wakes up at 5am each day to have herself ready for work and to take the boys to daycare. Stacy can sleep in and lounge in bed all weekend with a good book. Mrs. McNally’s classroom is decorated in zebra and bright colors. Stacy’s home is more reserved and favors a country decor.

Some teachers may believe they need to keep their school persona and their personal life separated. I understand the need to keep my personal life personal, but I need to merge my two different people into one person in the classroom. It’s okay to let your students see a little more of the real you within your room. They can know you shop at the local Kroger and bank at the same place as they do. Our students will connect with us and work harder for us once they see that we are more than teachers. We are mothers, we are little league coaches, we love the same things as they do, we both order the same burger at the same burger joint, and we even know all the words to their favorite song. We can connect with our students on a fundamental level as people and still maintain the professionalism we all need to have by letting our walls down just a little. Let your students see the you behind the teacher, and I think you will see your connections become more meaningful.


I’m going to give it a shot! Let’s see if Stacy and Mrs. McNally can coexist in New Wing 2 South and form one really amazing person.