Tag Archives: inspiration

What’s Your Win?

This week as I was meeting with my mentee (and brilliant new teacher) Heather, we were discussing some of the challenges of teaching kindergarten. But then she talked about how she and her kinder colleagues try to share a “win” with one another each day. When they see each other they’ll ask, “What’s your win for today?” This got me jazzed because one of my mantras for this year is Nothing is too small to celebrate, and here these teachers were putting that idea into action.

The next day at my “lunch bunch”  (5th and 6th grade teachers in a different school) we were discussing our day and I thought I’d try asking “What’s your win for today?” to each of them. Though some were humorous, and some took a little thinking, they all had a positive aspect to what is often a very tough job. It certainly brought some levity and light to the table.

We see what we look for.

It’s not always easy to recognize a win unless you are looking for it. Sure, we sometimes have those amazing moments that reaffirm for us why we became teachers or that fill us with pride. (Here’s a link to one of my proud teaching moments)But more often there are dozens of wins going on in our day that we don’t celebrate, and might not even notice.  Did a quiet student find their voice? Did kids transition well between activities? Did turn-and-talk produce good conversation? Was someone kind to a classmate? Did students enjoy the read aloud? Did you make it to the end of the day!?

We create an environment in which kids can thrive each day and sometimes we don’t realize what the impact is of the choices and decisions we make has on their social-emotional and academic learning. We tend to notice (and perseverate) on what didn’t go well, especially when we are tired and frustrated. But so often the conditions we’ve created spark lots of small victories for our students. We just need to look for them.

This week, try and ask yourself, “What’s my win?” Then perhaps ask a colleague, “What’s your win?“Encourage one another to look for and notice those small (or large) successes that happen each day in your classrooms. They’re there!  I plan to revisit this topic in the future after checking in with more teachers on their wins. I’d love to hear about your wins!

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 9.45.11 amShared Spark! In keeping with the theme of this week’s blog post, invite students or colleagues to quick write the answer to the question, “What’s My Win Today?” There’s a large body of research that shows writing or journaling about positive events or what we are grateful for can have a powerful impact on our mental health and mood. Taking 3 to 5 minutes to reflect on a win could set you on a more positive trajectory for the rest of the day.  Try it for a few days and see what you begin to notice.

One More Off My TBR Stack!

Merci Suarez

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal! Meg Medina has written a compassionate story about a family coming to grips with the brutal reality of Alzheimer’s disease while also dealing with the everyday struggles of daily life. Merci Suárez is beginning her 6th grade at a private school where she was “lucky” to get scholarship, but she doesn’t feel so lucky when she comes up against the most popular girl at school and when her beloved Grandfather, Lolo’s, behavior makes her feel like she doesn’t know him anymore. You’ll fall in love with these characters and find yourself rooting for them to overcome hardship, I know I did.

What We Feed Grows

This is my mantra for the year. It is a truth I see realized around me and in me.

There is science and parable behind this concept.

The parable stems from the story of a grandfather telling his grandson, “There are two wolves inside of us. One represents courage, love, and kindness and the other fear, hate, and greed. The wolves are always at battle in us.”

The boy asks, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”

The grandfather looks at his grandson and wisely replies, The one you feed.

I feel those wolves battling it out everyday when I feel frustrated by situation or circumstance. One wolf wants me to choose anger and reprisal while the other one pushes for empathy and understanding.  One wolf sees a glass half empty and the other sees the glass half full (or even all full). I wish my default were always the kind and brave wolf, but it is not yet automatic. I haven’t fed it enough–YET. I need to pause, take a step back and make a choice of which one I want to feed in these circumstances.

There is a science behind this as well. Our social-emotional systems function in a feedback loop where our output influences our input. An example may be when we hold onto resentment it influences how we perceive that person or situation and it reinforces those feelings. Hate begets hate. We can recognize this when we hear ourselves or others exclaim, “Nothing ever goes right.”or “This class never listens.” We are in a negative feedback loop that influences our perceptions of all events with a singular, painful lens.

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We may not be able to change our circumstance, but luckily, we have the power to shift our perceptions. Our output can influence our input. We can choose which wolf to feed. When we feel like nothing is going right, we can ask ourselves, “Was I kind to someone?” That’s going right.  “Did I persevere and make it to school today?” That’s going right.   Maybe someone in class actually did listen. Maybe that class isn’t good at listening (yet) but they are good at something else. Maybe we can stop thinking of the class as one monolithic group and recognize the tender souls who make up the composition. Focus our energy and attention on their uniqueness and worth.

I’m not saying, Be Pollyanna.  I’m saying what we feed grows. Our choices are growing the wolves inside of us each and every day.  Pay attention and choose the wolf you want to feed.

I’ve found a podcast that I think will help me with this awareness; it is called THE ONE YOU FEED. They also have a Facebook Group for those who would like to continue the conversation from the weekly podcasts. If you have other resources that could support us in our quest for a more meaningful life in and out of school, please feel free to share in the comments. We could all use more food for our wolf.

One More Off My TBR Stack!

Screen Shot 2018-09-15 at 8.30.28 AMI LOVE YOU, MICHAEL COLLINS by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

It’s 1969. The whole world is awaiting the launch of Apollo 11. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are going to walk on the moon-they are the heroes to everyone in Mamie’s class. Yet she thinks Michael Collins, the 3rd astronaut on the journey who will stay will the command module, and not get a chance to walk on the moon, is the best one. She decides to write a series of letters to Michael Collins as he prepares for the trip and continues to write him as he is in space. However, her letters are not those of a star-struck fan, but of a girl trying to come to grips with a serious family crisis as the world comes together for the biggest event of their lifetime. The weaving of storylines, and the theme that minor characters have stories that are equally important and compelling as main characters really drew me in. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this historical fiction-and how much I learned. An MSBA nominee for 2018-19.

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

One Bite at a Time
artwork by Melissa Washburn (please visit http://www.melissawashburn.com)

There are times of the year when the demands of work and life can become overwhelming. As we transition from one season, holiday, life event, or even school term to the next, we often find our TO DO lists becoming increasingly long and daunting.  I’ve always been a list maker.  It has helped me enormously in shifting the burden from my working memory to a surrogate memory holder (post its, bullet journal, scrap paper, etc.) and has alleviated a great deal of stress.  Trying to remember everything that needs to be done, is only one of the challenges that needs attention, however.

Once we transfer our intended tasks to paper, how do we tackle the enormity of what we hope to accomplish?  Rarely do we go down a list and systematically check off an entire task before initiating the next. We tend to multi-task and look for ways to combine activities to accomplish more. How many of you are like me and jot a few items on the list you have already completed, just so you can feel some sense of satisfaction and avoid a sense of defeat?

How do you prioritize your To-Dos?  Do you try to pick the “low hanging fruit” and get the simple tasks out of the way? That can help you feel like you are making a dent, but then you are left with the more difficult tasks when you are often more tired and frazzled. Do you try to take on the big tasks and then see nothing checked off as completed at the day’s end? I don’t believe there is ONE right way to prioritize, it really depends upon the personality of the person creating the list.

However, there is one thing I have done this past year that has helped me immensely. TINY GOALS.  I realized I was often procrastinating on complex tasks because I knew I couldn’t finish them. But now I look at the task and set tiny goals to break it down into more manageable chunks.  For example, I was working on my National Boards and many of the component pieces were time consuming and complicated and I would need to work on them after a long day of teaching or on my weekends. In the past I would have put them off and done some other things that took less mental energy. But by setting a tiny goal: I’m just going to write one paragraph for this section, I didn’t feel so overwhelmed and I got it done. I felt accomplished, and after several days the section was done. In the past I would have stressed for several days about getting the section done, with no work to show for it.

Sometimes I set a timer. I’m only going to work on this for 15 minutes. At the end of that time I usually stop, without guilt. Sometimes however, I find the energy and motivation to keep going a bit longer. Either way, I have done more in 15 minutes than I would have done procrastinating because the task was emotionally exhausting.

Think about some task that you have been putting off or stressing out over.  What could you reasonable tackle in 10 or 15 minutes today? Create a tiny goal that is achievable and take a bite out of that task. Celebrate your success. Remind yourself that you have moved closer to completion and alleviated a bit of stress.  Realize just how doable this is. Don’t push yourself past your tiny goal unless you are enthusiastically motivated-otherwise you are defeating the purpose for setting them.

Though I hate the thought of eating an elephant, the saying rings so true! Turn those bites into tiny goals and reframe your idea of success and you might alleviate a lot of stress in your life the way I did!

What’s On My Book Radar?

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Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Cassie Arroyo is an American student who is studying in Rome with her father, an art history professor. One day her life is turned upside down when her father pulls her from school unexpectedly and they are chased by gunmen.  Her father is wounded but gives Cassie mysterious directions and scant information before she leaves him at the hospital. She flees to her friends home and together, with the help of a secret organization they try to decipher the clues to help her find her now missing father, and find out why she is the target of assassination. Lots of twists and turns in this fast-paced middle grade novel. I loved it even more because I had just visited many of the sites in Rome that are settings for this mystery and I always love strong female protagonists.  A Maine Student Book Award nominee that is worth a read!

The In Between

slice-of-life_individualThe In Between varies it’s arrival time.  Some days, hours early, other days much later. Sometimes it is a welcome visitor and others, an unwanted intruder. The In Between slips in unannounced in those minutes or hours ‘tween sleep and rising.

I lie in bed dozing and the In Between caresses my mind, enticing me to engage. It starts interjecting images or ideas as teasers, waiting to see which will seduce my cataleptic state.

Sometimes I consent to the intrusion and I am gifted with flashes of inspiration. Creative conceptions overwhelm me and I race for a pen to capture them before they retreat.

Other times I resist as a cascade of catastrophizing contemplation consumes me. Distress disturbs my  dreams and worry wakens me.

Where does the In Between come from? Where does it retreat? Why does it choose to haunt and daunt me one morn, yet motivate and invigorate the next, leaving me vexed and perplexed at the dawn of the day?

The answer absconds and I rise to meet the day, while the In Between withdraws into murky memory.

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What Makes a Hero?


“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crises, maintain their neutrality.” -Dante

“We must learn that passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

slice-of-life_individualIf you know me, you know there was a day not too long ago (November 8, 2016) that shook me to the core. That day shattered my perception of America as a land of hope and compassion and upended my sense of reality.  I had to confront some hard truths…we are not as kind and inclusive as I thought we were and truth is not as important to people as I envisioned. I felt actual grief at the death of this perception.

In the days, weeks, and months since I have not felt better. The shock is subsiding, but the horror and dismay continues. I have come to believe this statement might actually be true

I am stunned at where we find ourselves in this world now.  I couldn’t begin to address each fear/concern in this post, they are just too numerous and frightening. But where there is fear, there is hope.  Where there is evil, there are always heroes. One of best assurances of this came to me from author Tracey Baptiste. She posted a video days after the election in which she reminded me…

“In every story there is a moment when everything has gone wrong and the protagonist feels totally broken, completely devastated and feel like there is absolutely nothing they can do. They can’t physically or emotionally or mentally muster up the strength to do whatever the next thing is that they have to do.  There is no hope. There is no way. There is no path. But in every story, as we all know, this is the moment when heroes are made.”

And I am sure it was no coincidence that she was wearing a Gryffindor shirt in the video!

There are great heroes in literature (Harry Potter, Atticus Finch, Celie, Matilda) in movies (Luke Skywalker, Mr. Smith, John Doe, Forrest Gump) and in history (Mahatma Gandhi, Abe Lincoln, Oskar Schindler, MLK) who rose to greatness in response to evil and oppression.

Philip Zimbardo is a contemporary social psychologist and founder of the Heroic Imagination Project who believes that there are two kinds of heroes: 1. Impulsive Reactive Hero (who make a split second courageous decision) and 2. Proactive hero (who reflects, gets information, and has to get other people on her side to right an injustice).

We’d like to think we’d have the courage to be an Impulsive Reactive Hero if faced with a terrible circumstance, but we can all be proactive heroes who refuse to look away from wrongs that are being perpetrated and plan a course of action to address it. We are faced with challenges or situations everyday in which we need to decide if we want to get involved. We don’t know if what we choose to do will even make a difference.

When asked what makes a hero, a young Senator Obama once said, “We never know how our actions are going to ripple over time. But each of us can take some responsibility for making sure that we are pushing a little bit in the direction of justice, and in the direction of equality, and in the direction of tolerance. When we do that we may surprise ourselves with the amount of influence we actually have just by standing up or speaking out.”

Most of us cannot quit our jobs and abandon our families to focus on fighting for social justice, but we can create or embrace opportunities to make a difference in the lives of someone we don’t even know. It may cost us some time and energy. It may subject us to ridicule by others. It may feel uncomfortable at times.

“Heroism is about one thing. It’s about a concern for other people in need, a concern to develop, to defend a moral cause knowing there is a personal cost or risk. And you do it without expectation of reward.” –Philip Zimbardo

If you follow me on social media you will notice that I refuse to be a bystander at this time in our history. I don’t necessarily consider that heroic, but I will stand up, speak out and get involved. That will be my ripple effect.

See Philip Zimbardo’s TED Talk “Heroes” here. I strongly encourage you to watch this and ask yourself, “What will my ripple effect be?”



These Go to 11!


11 is my favorite number. (It’s one better than 10.) I’m also an unrepentant Spinal Tap fan!

Inspired by top 10 lists I offer you 11 (one more than 10) of my favorite inspirational quotes. Don’t under estimate the power of an honest, uplifting message to stimulate someone’s thinking, reframe a challenge, and energize the weary. I love to collect quotes and reflect on the deeper meanings and implications beyond the ‘simple’ phrase that serves as their container. There are many more than 11 uplifting quotes, for sure.  I’d love to hear what resonates with you!

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What messages or memes inspire you?

I Wish People Knew…

We know teaching is a difficult profession. (Well you do if you are in it!) One of the things that makes it difficult is when we feel invested and  truly care about the children we work with.  This week I witnessed just how difficult it can be as I watched no less than than three teachers reduced to tears by their circumstance.  Difficult parents, reluctant students, and an inability to fix everything.

We can’t expect to get a lot of empathy from people outside the profession who think our job is easy, or that we aren’t working long enough or hard enough, or that they know more about teaching than we do. We can’t expect help from people who pass mandates that ask us to do more with less, who cry “more money won’t help” and “class size doesn’t matter”, or who think the quick fix (and only fix) is simply opening charter schools and passing out vouchers for ‘choice’.

Sure, there are many parents, friends and family members who support us but it can still be overwhelming and at times we feel alone. The thing is, we aren’t. I think it is increasingly important that we seek and give support to those who walk in our shoes everyday. I saw it when I witnessed other teachers rally to comfort the tearful teachers. They knew. They empathized. They had been there.

These distraught teachers were not “whiners’. They were genuinely stressed by circumstance and demands and I thought they displayed courage by reaching out for support. I think we need to do more of this. I also know that it isn’t just the circumstance of the day that can be the tipping point for us. We carry our entire lives into our classrooms with us that acts as a base layer for our days. We don’t shed our personal stresses, concerns, health, or hopes at the door. We are humans, not robots.

At a workshop I facilitated yesterday, I wanted to bring that sense of empathy and community to our large staff. We all know each other, or think we do. Yet each of us sitting there brought  all of our ‘outside life’ into the room. It is unavoidable, it’s as much a part of who we are as our DNA is. So before we began, I wanted us to approach our learning together with open hearts and a genuine caring for one another, our profession, and the work we do as we live our lives.

I asked each teacher to anonymously fill out a slip:Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 7.26.13 AM.pngThen we mixed up the slips and shared them at different tables to protect the anonymity of the writer. Here are some of the responses we read:

I wish people knew…

  • How difficult it is to take care of my mother.
  • How much I miss my babies.
  • I struggle to find nice things about myself that I like.
  • That I have social anxiety.
  • How much I work to make things less stressful for others.
  • That mornings are hard for me.
  • I’m dealing with a parent whose health is declining.
  • That if feel nervous in big crowds.
  • My anxiety controls me.
  • I was pregnant.
  • Sometimes I feel guilty that other people’s kids and not my own get the best parts of me because I’m so exhausted by the time I get home.
  • That I have a hard time showing emotions.
  • I worry about my adult children.
  • That it was my birthday.
  • That at school I feel very alone teaching.
  • How much the school means to me.
  • My dog is getting really old and it is breaking my heart.
  • That I grew up in a low income project in a city and that we lived off state welfare.
  • How discouraged I am due to the variety of student levels in my room.
  • I am always exhausted.
  • That the financial stress of planning a wedding is killing me softly.
  • I am still dealing with the death of my dog.
  • I have a horrible memory.
  • The heavy heart I carry.
  • How much I worry about my students’ home life.
  • I have a baby on the way.
  • Both my boys are in the military. That’s scary
  • How insecure I can be about my teaching.

There were dozens more. Each were equally touching and honest.  I can’t help but think differently about my staff now.  When I look into their faces, I have so much more empathy for the human beings they are, not just the teachers they present as. I thought I knew them all well, but there are so many levels of knowing!  As teachers, we acknowledge and grieve that our kids have struggles.  Let’s try to remember our colleagues do,too. Let’s continue to lift one another and be a light when things are dark.

What’s On My Book Radar?

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-7-47-26-amSCAR ISLAND by DAN GEMEINHART

I have loved every one of Dan Gemeinhart’s novels and not a one is in any way similar! He creates such strong characters, exquisite settings, and edge-of-your-seat plots! Each one I read I find myself saying, “This is my favorite!” In this couldn’t-put-down middle grade novel, Jonathan Grisby is sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, but it’s more like a dungeon on an island. He’s done something so terrible, he cannot bring himself to tell anyone about it. When something bizarre happens on the island, the children find themselves free, but then they must grapple with what freedom really means. It’s not what any of them expected. This book is like Dickens meets Lord of the Flies! Do yourself a favor and get a copy …NOW!

Secure Your Own Mask First!

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-9-14-20-pmThere’s a reason airlines advise their passengers to “Secure your own mask first before helping others.” It may sound harsh, but they know you can’t help others when you are incapacitated. It’s advice we need to take to heart more often.

We’ve just come off some much needed down time from teaching.  For some, spending the holidays with friends and family was restorative and relaxing. For others, the opportunity to travel was exciting and enjoyable. For a few of us, the days may have been hectic and stressful.  But for all of us, it was time to focus on personal needs and choices- we received a little much needed oxygen.

As we transition back into our working lives, it is important to make sure we keep that oxygen mask secure when the pressure changes.  That oxygen mask is teacher self-care that will help us thrive in 2017.

So what can that self-care look like? It looks like kindness. It looks like patience. It looks like nurturing.  It doesn’t look like sh*#%d.  One of my mantras is “Stop “shoulding” all over yourself!” So as I offer some suggestions for self-care, try to avoid turning them into “shoulds”. That just leads to guilt and stress.  Rather, think about the care, nurturing, and advice you would give your child or any child and offer that same kindness to that child you see in the mirror each day!

BREATHE.  Seriously.  Most of us BREATHE shallow breaths that  leads to a poor exchange of oxygen and CO2 in the bloodstream, depriving our bodies of both vital gases. It’s like we are in a constant state of hyperventilation. We sometimes hold our breath when we are stressed or upset.  We are rarely aware of our breathing unless we are ‘out of breath’ or have a cold.  Watch how babies BREATHE, deep relaxing breaths from their abdomens. When you feel stressed, anxious, or tired check in with your BREATHING.   Before the kids walk in the classroom take a few deep, cleansing breaths. Feel the oxygen filling your lungs and nourishing your body. BREATHE out the stress and anxiety. When tension levels peak during a lesson, take a few deep breaths before reacting. When the kids walk out the door take time to BREATHE deep and be grateful for the day. When we take time to focus on our breathing we are present in that moment and focusing on the gift being alive. Isn’t that really the most important gift we have?

SLEEP.  This is a tough one for me.  Life seems so short and there is so much I want to do, (so many books I want to read!) SLEEP sometimes seems like a waste or a luxury.   But researchers are finding an increasing relationship between SLEEP and health; both physical and mental.  Lack of SLEEP is related to weight gain, high blood pressure, heart and kidney disease, memory loss, depression… A more recent study shows a 20% higher risk of car accidents when people don’t get enough SLEEP. There is no lesson plan, no grading, no studying that will offer you the health benefits that SLEEP will.  Think about it!

MOVE.  Most of us aren’t going from Couch to 5K, but we can all MOVE a little more each day.  One of the best things I did to monitor my movement was investing in a FitBit (or pedometer). I notice a huge difference in the way I feel on the days when I get very few steps in.  The health benefits for our bodies are well documented, but our brains also thrive when we MOVE. A recent study involving 120 people found that walking briskly 30-40 minutes a day three times a week helped to “regrow” the structures of the brain linked to cognitive decline in older adults.

If you find yourself sitting a lot at work, try to stand up every 30 minutes.  Walk around your classroom to monitor student work or vary where you address your students. Park further from school, walk to talk instead of sending email, make more trips to your car instead of carrying large loads. Try to get outside and walk before/after school, during lunch, or planning periods.  You can “work and walk” or you can take a brain break and MOVE.  Have walking meetings with colleagues! This isn’t leisure, it isn’t frivolous, it’s serious self-care. Encourage others to join you and think kindly of others who do it. They aren’t slackers-they are nurturers!

EAT.  But do it consciously.  I will never be successful with a restrictive diet-for long.  I EAT for more than nutritional reasons and I get that. It’s social. It’s festive. It’s fun.  If dieting was easy, I’d be Twiggy! What I can start to do, is EAT more mindfully.  I can think about whether a food is ‘calorie-worthy’  or ‘me-worthy’ when I choose to EAT it, and if it makes the ‘cut’,  I want to enjoy it-NO guilt.  Taste it, savor it, sit with it! If I slow down and really notice how it tastes and makes me feel, I’ll probably eat less more naturally. If I decide I really want something,  I can think about portions and pace and stop making myself feel guilty-robbing me of some of the joy that food was intended to give me! Stop thinking about deprivation, and focus more on appreciation!

STOP. We all have had that experience when we are driving someplace and realize we don’t remember going past something. We are on auto-pilot.  We do that during our workday as well.  The day is almost over and we realize we didn’t get everything done, or we feel stress as the day goes on, finding little things setting us off that normally wouldn’t.  If we just STOPped periodically to check in with ourselves we might find we can change the trajectory of our day and choose a direction that is helpful.

Transitions are a great time to STOP.  We can invite the kids to join us. “Ok, before we start (next lesson) let’s stop for a minute and think about (previous lesson) and how that went for you and what you need to be successful next.” Or “Let’s just stop and take a couple deep breaths to get our minds ready for (whatever is next)”

We can just check in with ourselves as well.  Ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?  What do I need? What’s going well?”  Too often we only reflect on our difficulties and not successes. STOP to notice and then celebrate, too!

LOVE.  Before you find yourself getting bogged down in the minutiae of teaching and working, think about what you LOVE about teaching and try to give that the bulk of your energy and time. Find something to LOVE about each of your students (and colleagues) remember that when the going gets tough.  LOVE what you do. LOVE those you do it with. LOVE yourself and self-care will be a focus of all your actions!  “Where there is LOVE, there is life.” –Gandhi

So grab that oxygen mask, take a deep breath, and then you’ll be ready to help others!  Happy 2017, my friends!

What’s On My Book Radar?


All We Have Left  by Wendy Mills

There have been several wonderful books about the September 11th tragedy on the 15th anniversary (nine, ten: a September 11 Story, Towers Falling, The Memory of Things, Eleven,and  Just a Drop of Water, to name a few.  I’ve just added Wendy Mills’ beautiful novel to my list.

Two girls’ lives intersect 15 years after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. This YA novel tells the story of 16 year old Alia, a Muslim who finds herself in the World Trade Center on that fateful day-she shouldn’t have been there. It also tells the story of Jesse, now 16 years old, whose brother Travis also should not have been in the tower and was trapped with Alia. Wendy Mills weaves these stories together beautiful and surprisingly as we see how hatred and love walk such a fine line in our lives. For older readers. Mills doesn’t hold back on the tragedy of that day as she seeks to share the heroism and humanity that still impact our lives today.

Olympic Teaching: 5 Lessons and Look-Fors from Rio 2016

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As the Summer 2016 Olympics begin much of the world will be following the feats of incredibly talented athletes as they strive for peak performance. Announcers will share profiles of athletes and expound on the life lessons we can take from these games. As with everything I experience, I often see it through the lens of an educator and the Olympics will be no different!

So what can the Olympics do to enhance our teaching?  I guess that is in the eye of the beholder, but for me I’ll be watching for inspiration and insights that will transfer beyond these events. So here is what I’ll be looking for:

Teamwork– even with individual events, no athlete makes it to the Olympics alone.  They are part of a team and there are so many support personnel who help them to make their dreams come true. We teachers are all a part of a larger team, even on those days when we feel most alone.  We couldn’t do what we do without a whole team including administrators, ed techs, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, etc. And every one of the athletes has at least one coach.  These coaches don’t just tell athletes what to do to win, they have strategies, inspiration, and feedback that helps pull the best out of them. I believe teachers deserve coaches, too. We should never feel like we have to go it alone.

Perspective-I listened to an interesting podcast recently about the perspective of medal winners in the Olympics.  Naturally gold medal winners are the happiest, but  you would think silver medal winners would be next.  Wrong.  It’s actually the bronze medal winners who are happier.  Turns out their perspective makes them more grateful.  Silver medalists compare themselves to gold medalists and think about what could have been. Bronze medalists compare themselves to non-medal winners and feel more fortunate.  Our perspective can certain impact our experiences in life. Constantly comparing ourselves to other teachers, classrooms, schools, etc. can erode our happiness.  Focusing on the ‘gift’ of what IS without the filters of comparison can provide us a perspective of greater happiness.

Goals-These athletes all set daily, weekly, monthly, lifetime goals and have plans to achieve them. They don’t plod along with hope and a prayer.  They approach roadblocks strategically and determinedly.  They all have setbacks. They all fail at some point. I want to think about what goals do I want to set for myself this year. Not goals for evaluation or administration, but personal goals to achieve MY peak performance this year.  Athletes make it look easy-but it’s not.  As I watch replays of victories or medal ceremonies I want to remember how much goal-oriented work went into helping those athletes succeed and take inspiration for those times that the going gets tough.

Failure– more athletes will fail at these Olympics than will win. Very few of those athletes will quit.  Many athletes speak of the losses that taught them more than the wins. Often they credit their toughest losses as being their greatest inspirations. I will enjoy the victories of the winners, but I will also watch how the other athletes handle their setbacks, disappointments, and losses and take inspiration from their courage and solace in knowing that even the most elite competitors will fail and move on.

Celebration-Win or lose, the Olympians all participate in celebrations-did you see the joy in that opening ceremony?  They sincerely appreciate the commitment and effort of their fellow athletes and feel a part of something larger than themselves. Many schools celebrate student accomplishments, but the schools that I work in with the best morale have always taken time to celebrate the effort and accomplishments of staff as well. As I enjoy the Olympics I will be reflecting on those teachers and staff around me who are working on personal or professional goals and contemplate ways to celebrate their efforts, progress, and achievements.

I’m sure as the games progress I will pull more inspiration and insights. I will remember how much effort and sacrifice went into preparing for that moment in the spotlight for each and every athlete, whether they win or lose.  I’ll enjoy the personal profiles and courageous bios, remembering each ‘star’ was once (and some still are) a child who was nurtured and guided to this achievement.

I’d love to hear what lessons others may glean from these games.


What’s On My Book Radar?

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 1.27.38 PMDon’t let the title scare you off. It is integral to the story in a way you might not have imagined. I am putting this book on a MUST READ list. A story of three friends during their senior year in rural America (TN) who are contemplating what the future holds for them and are struggling with the limitations their past may have on that. Incredibly well written- I couldn’t put it down! An amazing book that can help young people think about their own personal identities as they see Dill, Travis, and Amelia examine theirs and ask “Who am I?” This book will make you feel so many emotions and hopefully encourage empathy for those around us who are marginalized or ‘discarded’. The Serpent King will be on many award lists this year!



Predawn Awakenings

#SOL16  Day 10

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My muse kisses my brow.

I roll over and reach for my pen,


holding the thinking in my head until I secure my notebook.

Becoming proficient with blind scrawling.

Ideas flow from my sleepy brain to the beckoning page.

There it awaits a more lucid reader at dawn.

I retreat  into my downy burrow

Hopes of REM diminishing

This dormancy far too brief

when inspiration calls again.


Several years ago, as I began cultivating my ideas for CLOSE WRITING, I found my sleep pattern forever transformed.  Almost every night, I dream lessons and conversations with learners and awake in the predawn hours with ideas bursting from my head. I have notebooks and scrap papers littering my bedside -inspiration overload.  If I can release them to paper, I am often able to catch a few more zzzz’s, but more often than not, I’ve only opened the floodgates!