Apr 17

I want adventure in the great wide somewhere…

Cotswolds countryside

This weekend, we finally went to the movie theater to see Beauty and the Beast. (I’ll leave comparisons of US vs UK movie going experiences for another day.) Beaty and the Beast has always been my favorite Disney animated movie since first seeing it in high school. I even had it on VHS (and have it on DVD now). So seeing a remake (or alternate version) of a movie I love while living in my alternate reality was a bit surreal.

As a teen, I identified with Belle – the odd girl who didn’t seem to fit in, nose stuck in a book yet with head in the clouds wanting more. As I watched the movie on Saturday, I realized I’ve had adventures in the great wide somewhere – more than I could have ever imagined when I first saw the movie. (You can read all about past adventures on this blog.) Plus, I’m living a pretty huge adventure right now – living in another country.

Living in another country makes you more cognizant taking time to explore. We don’t know how many years we’ll live in England, so we want to make the most of our time here. For example, over my two week Easter break from school, here are just a few things I’ve had the chance to do:

  • take the train to Brighton with former colleagues and students visiting from Georgia
  • explore the British Museum (I love the Greek statues)
  • ramble around the Tower of London
  • walk along the River Thames
  • use various forms of transportation around London including trains, the tube, boat, and buses
  • walk around National Trust property Snowshill Manor
  • explore the gardens of National Trust property Hidcote
  • eat a cream tea sitting in the sunshine
  • drive through the Cotswolds
  • see the Rollright Stones, a collection of ancient stone monuments including a stone circle
  • drive by Stonehenge and visit its gift shop.

And these are just a few things I’ve done over the span of a couple of weeks. Since moving to England in June, I’ve had numerous chances to explore and find adventure in the great wide somewhere. Let’s see where the adventure continues to lead!

I’ve decided to work on posting a new update/story every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’ve been making a list of US vs. UK topics to share about from driving to shopping to school schedules and weekend activities. Look for Wednesday’s post all about how this adventure began: the flight to England!


Apr 14

Adjusting to an alternate reality

Since June (2016), I’ve been adjusting to a “new normal” (one of my husband’s favorite expressions). Perhaps I’ve been reading too much fantasy/scifi lately, but I feel like I’ve been plucked from my normal, comfortable reality to a slightly different, alternate one. There are so many things about living in England that are the same as being in the US, but often with a small, subtle (or not so subtle) tweak.

For instance, before I left Georgia, I sold my lovely red 2007 Mazda 3. It was nearly 10 years old, but it didn’t feel that way to me. After a few months without a car in England, and right before school began, my husband bought me a car: a blue 2007 Mazda 3. So much about this car is the same as my old one, but with some significant differences, the most obvious being the side of the car the steering wheel is on and the color (colour?).


Over the next months, I plan to share my adventures in this alternate reality. There will be stories of everyday life, grand adventures, and how teaching in England compares to teaching in the US. I hope you’ll join me as I share my stories.

May 24

A Goodbye Sendoff

Last week, the multimedia students (which include several of my former students), my colleagues, and students completely surprised me with this beautiful video sendoff. I asked one of my former students who does a lot with our video program if he could help me with a video. So, they also conspired to make this, the final episode of the We Are Lanier documentary program they developed this year.

As teachers, we often don’t realize the impact we are making. I feel like this year I have been blessed to really see the difference I am making. I feel a bit like Mr. Holland in Mr. Holland’s Opus, except I didn’t have to wait until I retired to see the impact I made on some of my students.

I work with the most amazing fellow educators and students. What we have in our CDAT program at Lanier is truly special. I will miss them all so much when I am in England. Now, I just need to find an equally amazing place to teach in England!

May 17

Making Leaders #MakerEd

IMG_8769I love the Maker Movement. It affords kids opportunities to create and do amazing things. We provide them the tools and the space and allow them to be creative, to put their own spin on learning.

Last year, we hosted our first Maker Fest. We held it at our school and called it the CDAT STEM Maker Fest. It was a fun event, and the maker spirit was really fostered in our students.

This year, we had the opportunity to partner with our city in order to host the Sugar Hill Maker Fest in front of city hall. Once again, it was an amazing experience, and it showed the maker spirit. This time, it included community makers, vendors, food trucks, music, and our fabulous students.

However, what I have realized watching the progression of our Maker Fest is this. We are not just allowing our students to be makers. We are making leaders. The Maker Movement is just as much about character development as making.

Last year, our juniors worked through the planning. As it was our first year, the teachers did a lot of the support work. This year, the now seniors along with some juniors and sophomores continued with the organization of the event. Our students met with city officials, planned the event, worked on advertising, and organized the logistics so the day ran smoothly. Although we as teachers were there and participated, we did not have an active role in the planning. Why? They didn’t need us. The experiences from the year before helped them to learn and grow. Hosting a maker fest helped us to make student leaders.

Tonight, I attended the Datties, our annual CDAT awards ceremony. It was an incredible, well planned, and organized event. It started with a dessert social, then followed with awards for high achieving students, student and teacher superlatives, and our favorite: paper plate awards. The planning has been in the works for months now. But the most impressive thing is who planned the event. The event was an overwhelming success because two young ladies in the junior class made it that way. They took care of every detail. Organized everything from sending out surveys for awards, creating certificates, lining up presenters, and ordering cake. I love that we have an environment where students are encouraged to develop their leadership skills and given the avenue to put the skills into play. We had so much fun tonight sharing stories, eating and laughing with our students, and recognizing everyone’s hard work and unique contributions to CDAT.

So, when you think about the Maker Movement, I want you to consider another scenario. It definitely helps foster the maker spirit in our students. But remember, it can also make our makers into leaders. What can you do to start making leaders in your school? And remember, kids these days are amazing; let’s continue to provide them with incredible opportunities!IMG_8773


May 11

Big changes ahead

I’m not sure how it’s been almost a year since my last post. That’s just embarrassing. It’s been a transitional year, and I suppose that partly explains it. So what’s been happening?

My husband is from England. He’s been in the US since 1999, and he’s been incredibly home sick for a few years now. Last summer, he found a job in England, so he moved back there in July to test the waters. Well he’s absolutely loved it, and our dog Devon, cats Halley and Newton, and I have not been so happy about being here on our own.

So, here’s the big changes that lie ahead. When the school year ends (which is only a couple of weeks away) and my visa arrives, we’ll be packing up and moving to England to reunite with my husband. It is bittersweet as I think about leaving my fabulous school and students behind. I will miss them so much, and I truly believe we have some of the best students. However, I can’t wait to be with my husband again. This has definitely been a challenging year!

What happens next? Well, hopefully I’ll be able to find a teaching job in England. The school system in England is different from what I am used to in the US, and I’ve been researching to make sure I have a better understanding. However, I love teaching so much, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Dare mighty things has never meant so much to me as it has the past year, and as I prepare for the adventure ahead. Though it will be hard to leave behind my family, friends, and school, I know that adventure awaits.

Dare Mighty Things!

May 14

Lanier STEM Maker Fest is almost here! #edBlogaDay

Our STEM Maker Fest is the day after tomorrow. Today, one of our group of students who has been working on their project for hours and hours during and after school for weeks got everything up and running. They built a robot from the ground up. It’s a tank with a t-shirt canon on it. They got some help from the robotics team on the programming, but did the majority of the work themselves. Judging by the crowd they drew in the hallway while testing today, they are going to be very popular at the Maker Fest. They even contacted Chik-fil-A for t-shirt donations to shoot from the cannon. So proud of these kids who have been working so hard to make this event a success. Two of the students in this group didn’t have a technology class this year. However, from this project alone they learned much more than most students learn in a year. If you wonder if Maker Ed and Project Based Learning really has a place in schools, you need to see this process in action. This is inspired learning that goes outside of the classroom to real skills that are valuable in today’s society. Give kids a chance to tinker and make! Trust me; you’ll be amazed with what they come up with!

The T-shirt cannon tank is a go for #stemmakerfest

A video posted by @janellewilson on

May 11

Lanier STEM Maker Fest #edBlogaDay

Our STEM Maker Fest is on Saturday. This weekend, one of my students made this video to encourage students from our feeder middle school to attend. It’s a great video. What’s really cool? She didn’t have to make this awesome video. She decided to make it of her own initiative because she really wants the middle school kids to know about it and attend. It’s just another great example of why I love Maker Ed!


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