About Blair Mishleau

Blair Mishleau teaches technology at KIPP DC: Heights Academy, where he works with 415 amazing elementary school students. Before that, he taught in Minneapolis through TFA. He's an Institute junkie (SOM and CMA @ Tulsa!); has a degree in digital journalism and American Sign Language at Columbia College Chicago and loves grammatical symbols like the ampersand.

Differentiating: The One Day-Monday Paradigm

Differentiating Instruction- The One Day-Monday | Differentiation is the most powerful ways I’ve seen to drive students to success. It can also be a scary task for teachers (novice and veteran alike) who are used to direct, full-class instruction.

Differentiation is the most powerful ways I’ve seen to drive students to success. It can also be a scary task for teachers (novice and veteran alike) who are used to direct, full-class instruction all day e’ry day.

But, as my principal had reminded my team this year, grown-up discomfort is worth it if it drives results for kids. Or, in other words: yes, differentiation can be scary and hard at first, but it is a huge way to build strong learners and build deeper relationships with kids.

By |August 21st, 2015|General Pop, Teaching Tips|Comments Off on Differentiating: The One Day-Monday Paradigm|

Blended on a Budget: 4 Ways to Incorporate Tech-Based Curricula without Breaking the Bank


Blended learning—using technology to individualize and target instruction in addition to traditional teacher-led lessons—is awesome. It also can cost lots of money. There are countless tech-based curricula that are vying for a slice of the blended-learning pie, and it’s easy to drop hundreds of dollars on every student.

That is if you have the money. Many schools don’t have a budget for computers, let alone expensive programs.

But you still can bring your kiddos great individualized learning even without a budget. Here are four programs that stand out:

By |December 2nd, 2014|General Pop|Comments Off on Blended on a Budget: 4 Ways to Incorporate Tech-Based Curricula without Breaking the Bank|

5 Ways To Introduce Technology To Your Classroom Without Enough Technology

(Photo Credit: Blair Mishleau)

As the technology specialist at a school, I’m constantly running into issues (our computers haven’t arrived yet, the tech staff doesn’t have time to install them, my lab is being used for NWEA testing, etc.).

But, never fear. There are a lot of ways to get nerdy with kids without needing a laptop for everyone. Here are my tips – I’d love to hear some more, if you have them, in the comments!

By |September 22nd, 2014|Teaching Tips, Your Stories|Comments Off on 5 Ways To Introduce Technology To Your Classroom Without Enough Technology|

Institute Tips: Get SOM Love!

(Photo credit: epSos.de)

(Photo credit: epSos.de)

The blessing and the curse of Institute is the sheer number of human beings whose job it is to help you in some way, shape, or form. It’s like acronym city and everyone has something to offer!

That being said, you’ve been around for a few weeks (which, in Institute time, is a few months) and it’s high time you get friendly with an awesome person: your SOM (School Operations Manager). (Note: If you’re not at a National/Centralized Institute, your SOM may have a variety of creative and unique terms, but this person essentially helps run operations at one or more school sites.)

Your SOM. Words cannot describe how awesome he or she is. I don’t say this because I was a SOM last summer, of course.

By |June 27th, 2014|Teaching Tips|Comments Off on Institute Tips: Get SOM Love!|

Institute Tips: Lesson-Planning Breakdown

(Photo credit: Hugh Gallagher)

They say he’s in the details. (Photo credit: Hugh Gallagher)

So, you’re lesson-planning. Maybe you feel like you’re about to have a breakdown. Your Corps Member Advisor is there to help, of course, but if you want another way to have it explained or just need some sass in your life, read on!

First, some perspective on who the heck I am:

Hi, I’m Blair! I’m a Corps Member Advisor at the Tulsa Institute (woot!), and I finished up TFA in the Twin Cities region about a week ago (yup, I’m a newly minted alum… yikes!).

Now, let’s break down lesson-planning in three quick-and-dirty concepts:

1) Start your lesson plan by thinking about WHAT kiddos can DO and HOW they will explain your objective after you’ve taught them. If you’re teaching multiplication, what will it look like for your kiddos to DO the math, show their work, and explain their answer? This is why your exemplar response is so important. Side note: If YOU don’t know the skill, you’ll have the darndest time teaching it. Make sure you can explain the skill backwards and forwards. Try explaining it to your beau, your mom, or a friend via phone—if you can do it there, you can teach it!

By |June 19th, 2014|Teaching Tips|Comments Off on Institute Tips: Lesson-Planning Breakdown|

Institute: Don’t Be Freaked Out

(Photo credit: Nate Steiner)

(Photo credit: Nate Steiner)

It was the first day of teaching for all Tulsa Institute corps members. This day had been coming for many months, since the moment they were first accepted into the corps.

All of this time boiled down to their first hour in the classroom. It’s a lot of pressure.

As a School Operations Manager, I was doing my rounds (most likely re-taping signage or putting up a bulletin board) when I saw him. Ross. Sitting outside of his classroom, on the floor. He wasn’t crying, but the look on his face communicated his utter inner turmoil.

I sat down next to him and asked what was up. He candidly told me how absolutely awful his first lesson had gone.

By |June 7th, 2014|Personal Perspectives, Your Stories|Comments Off on Institute: Don’t Be Freaked Out|

How to Quickly and Authentically Build Relationships with Students

(Photo credit: Alice Combes)

(Photo credit: Alice Combes)

“This is really important, so I want to be sure everyone is remaining engaged. I know we’re tired, but you’ll need this through your two years of teaching!”

During Institute (and Professional Saturdays), this phrase was invoked time and time again. Often, it cued a silent ugh in my head as I struggled to stay awake. The thing is, I didn’t think the session I was sitting through was unimportant, but I just struggled with the fact that everything was given A-level status. As hard as I wanted to be a great teacher, I couldn’t make all of the advice and strategies I got a priority.

But two years later, while reflecting on my time at Institute, there’s one thing that I do wish I had given A-level status. Interestingly enough, it was one thing that wasn’t given very much exposure during my two years as a CM:

Building relationships with students.

Building relationships with kids is SO important, especially when you’re working with Institute students for just a few short weeks. When I was going through Institute, we had the one-off anecdotes about contacting parents, or ideas for team-building activities, but that was about it.

I’m here to tell you that to get kids to work their butts off for you during their summer, there HAS to be a relationship. Think about it: if some random person came to you and demanded hard work during your summer, how would you feel? Probably weirded out. If students know you as a human being, and know that you care about them, they’re way more likely to put in said hard work.

By |June 4th, 2014|Teaching Tips|Comments Off on How to Quickly and Authentically Build Relationships with Students|

Institute Staff Members: We’re Not Magical Robots of Awesome

(Photo credit: Robin Zebrowski)

(Photo credit: Robin Zebrowski)

Two years ago, when I was starting Institute as a brand-new corps member, I had many questions and loose assumptions about what the experience would be like. I was curious about housing, my students, the training, and just how exactly I would master the art of lesson planning and behavior management in a few short weeks.

Most of all, though, I had questions and assumptions about who worked at Institute. In a nutshell, I assumed that everyone on staff—from the School Director to the School Operations Manger to my Corps Member Advisor—was a Magical Robot of Awesome.

Sure, they weren’t necessarily perfect, but I just assumed (sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously) that they were really, really good at everything education-wise, and that’s why they were there to drop knowledge on me.

Because of this, I often internalized my Corps Member Advisor’s actions, which I thought were the actions of a really, really good teacher. Remember being in, say, sixth grade and analyzing your teacher’s every action? Why’d she dress up today? Why did he create a new seating chart? What does she do on the weekend?

Yeah, I was sort of like that with my CMA.