Noelle: Regardless of what the family structure is we need to respect that and understand and not over-expect. And you can tell that in the way you approach your students, that you are not just a teacher in this school, you're a member of the community.
You mentioned you have twins, [and are a] single mom. What was that
like being a mom in the school where your kindergarteners work? What did
that feel like coming to work with your children?
Sharon: That was actually really great. As I said
before, I had wanted to be a stay at home mom; I wanted to raise my
kids. And when it worked out that I had to go back to work, I still felt
as though I was a daily part of their life here at school, it was nice
to have them here, I was able to attend all their awards ceremonies.
If one was not feeling well, I didn't have a job where I had to go into
my boss and say, “Listen, my son's at school, he’s sick, I need to
I was able to have the luxury of him maybe coming up to my classroom
and laying down or going to the clinic and letting me come in and let
him know—especially when they were younger—"Mommy's here, it's okay.
We'll go home at two o'clock."
I think my children liked it. It was at a time where their lives were
changing. They were able to know that every day someone was here for
Noelle: When I think about Florida culture, and I
think about teaching in Florida—because this is where I started my
career and my teaching—I always want to put it out there to our
listeners [that] there is a deep rivalry in the state of Florida.
So of course, being your rival, the first thing I see is there is
this orange and blue. Tell us a little bit about your pride of being a
University of Florida fan. How did you come into University of Florida
as a fan? And then how does that support you with making connections to
Sharon: I have been a Gator fan since I was a young
girl. I did not go to the University of Florida, I actually went to
USF—go Bulls!—but I was always a Gator fan. I really love football.
Because of that, and back at the time when I was growing up, the Gators
were the team.
Noelle: Well, to some people.
Sharon: To some people that is true. To some people.
My mom was a Gator fan and it was just something that I picked up
[and] stayed with—the excitement, the orange and the blue, going to the
stadium. And maybe, I will say this to you because I know you are a
Seminole fan, that really my only experiences with going to college
football games were at UF.
It was the one thing I knew and I just kind of stuck with it and I
represent that to my students. I have that in my classroom. My son Sean
goes to UF. My son Ryan goes to UCF —go Knights! But I also feel like
the university is a really great university educationally. They have a
lot of pride. So I like to share that in my classroom with my students.
Noelle: One of your ways of bringing them back to
attention is “I say orange, you say blue”. You didn't get to hear, but
at the end, one of the students came by and I could tell he had been
waiting for this moment. And he came by and just looked at me and
whispered, “Crimson Tide.”
And I was like, “Okay. You're bold. That is awesome. I love that
you've been waiting for this moment.” And he gave me the best smile.
But what that showed me is your students are not afraid to express
themselves. They are bold. They are putting themselves out there. How
did you establish that? Because there's some things that you're doing to
allow them to know, especially with math, this is a risk-free
environment, and we all are going to be a part of it and we're all going
to celebrate it.
Sharon: Well, first of all, my students are an incredible group. But I would say that about almost all of the students that I've taught. In my classroom, I try to create an environment where everyone feels safe, not just physically, but to be wrong.
Because it's okay to be wrong. That's how we learn. I think often
students are afraid to take risks to answer because they might be
ridiculed by their peers. This is an age—especially in fourth grade,
where students are starting to change—I always say, "You're at a
crossroads and you can go down this path or you can go down that path,
but you should go down this path because that's the good path," to let them know we are a classroom family.
I talk about that a lot with them. At the beginning of the year, we
talk about family, how it's okay in our own families with our parents to
make mistakes, [how it’s okay] to be wrong. We might get in trouble,
but that's all right. We have consequences, but you know that your
parents love you and you are safe.
We need to know that here because we spend 180 days together and
that's a long time. If they don't feel comfortable taking risks and
answering questions wrong and [they] fear being ridiculed or laughed at,
they're not going to learn and grow. Even the quietest of
students—those are the ones, you always have the ones that are eager to
raise their hand and want to be heard, but it's those quiet ones that
you have to really let them understand that it's all right.
We treat everyone the way we want to be treated. And early on, when
something happens, maybe there is an occasion where someone answers and
someone chuckles or whatever, I stop, and we reflect as a group: "How
would you feel if you answered, and we all laughed at you? Think about
that, stop for a minute and reflect in yourself if that's something you
would feel good about."
And of course the student thinks and answers no. I think at first
they probably can't even believe I'm stopping instruction for that, but
I'm going to. Because in the long run, the time that I spend early on
doing that, it saves me problems down the road because they already know
what to expect.
We talk a lot too about, we are a classroom family and we all need to
get along. And we might like Joe better than John, but at the end of
the day, Joe and John are both your classmates and we're in this room
together. We're spending 180 days together, so we need to be
And I talk to them about life. In life, you're going to meet people
that you may not care for, but that does not mean you get to slug them.
You have to learn how to just accept people and move on. So it's helped.
I'm happy with the type of culture that is in my classroom.