I was honored to be a guest writer for Dave Burgess Consulting’s blog recently. I hope this walk down memory lane reflecting on my favorite, Ms. Frizzle, brightens your day!
Ms. Frizzle Wannabe
I am that person. I always wanted to be a teacher. My childhood memories are centered around playing school. I would line up my dolls and stuffed animals and read books, write out spelling words on my mini-chalkboard, and practice math facts with handmade flash cards. I felt so grown up taking imaginary attendance and creating charts for the lunch count.
I spent hours honing my craft. I would drag my poor little brother into my “classroom” and try my best to educate him. You talk about a reluctant learner! Trust me, he wasn’t a fan of my career choice. I took his lack of motivation as a challenge and used his outbursts to develop some pretty savvy classroom management strategies. Growing up, I kept my eyes on the prize… becoming a teacher! I taught kids everywhere I could from babysitting to summer camps to Sunday School. I was in it to win it! I wanted to be a teacher and just when I started college to pursue my education degree, I found my teaching hero in the pages of a children’s book series. Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen brilliantly brought teaching and learning to life through The Magic School Bus books and introduced us to the original Rockstar teacher, Ms. Frizzle.
What’s not to love about the Frizz? She literally wears her curriculum with flair! Her students are always “doing” the learning instead of just sitting and getting. Student projects and work fill her classroom and there is a constant enthusiastic chatter among her students about the cool things they are learning. Who can forget her incredible field trips and the school bus that can transform into a spaceship or a cell? What about the interesting community members she includes along the way? Laughter, questions, and exploration are encouraged with this energetic educator. Everyone wants to be in Ms. Frizzle’s class.
I quickly became a Ms. Frizzle Wannabe. I began my career as a fourth-grade teacher. My first year I had 32 students with abilities, behaviors, and personalities all over the place. I realized in the beginning weeks of school that I was going to have to pull out all the stops to keep this unique group of learners engaged and interested in the mountains of curriculum I needed to share. I looked to my wonderful, seasoned colleagues and recognized that my teaching style and approach was very different. They were successful with a traditional, textbook/worksheet routine, but I knew I would never survive with that type of instruction. I had to make my own way. It was time to teach like Ms. Frizzle!
One of my first steps, and most superficial, to become like my hero, was to develop a fashion sense like my beloved Frizz. For many years, I too could be found sporting an outfit with a Heinz Ketchup or Out of this World Space theme. I was the queen of the teacher sweater and proudly wore the crown. The crazier, brighter, sillier the outfit… the more I wanted to add it to my closet because those fashion faux pas got kids talking about the learning we were doing.
A more significant decision in my quest to become Ms. Frizzle was to make learning not just engaging but empowering for students. I wanted my learners to be confident in not only the content we were discovering, but to make it their own! I wanted them to explore, design, build, and create things that mattered. My motto became, “If they LIVE it, they will LEARN it, and they will LOVE it.”
I realized that the more students could actually “live” the content or concept, the deeper they would learn the ideas and in turn, they would love learning. This led me very quickly to the notion of Project Based Learning. PBL is not a new idea. The approach has had various names and dimensions, but my passion for this type of teaching and learning has been unwavering over my entire career. I
recognized what motivated and captivated my students and developed a step-by step process to implement my Project Based Learning approach. Weaving together standards, authentic challenges, research, student choice/voice, audience, mini-lessons, conferring, and assessment into high interest PBL units became my way of differentiating and reaching my learners. It worked for Ms. Frizzle and it worked for me.
There are hidden teaching gems within the pages of The Magic School Bus books. Here are a few of my favorite Ms. Frizzle quotes that continue to keep me on my path:
- “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”
- “The best way to know is to do.”
- “If you keep asking questions, you’ll keep getting answers.”
- “Let’s get out there and explore.”
- “Where the road ends, adventure begins!”
These favorite quotes remind us of the importance and power of taking chances, making mistakes, and exploring new adventures whether we are students or teachers. During this time of teaching in the midst of a pandemic, we have all had to tap into our inner Ms. Frizzle and get creative.
Many years have passed since my first introduction to the free-spirited driver of the Magic School Bus. I may have changed my fashion style and passed all my teacher sweaters on to garage sale shoppers, but I have never lost the passion to be Ms. Frizzle and use Project Based Learning as my chosen method of instruction. She may be a fictional character, but she continues to inspire teachers like me to be the best we can be for our students. Thanks, Ms. Frizzle!