Tag Archives: balance


Typically, I don’t write a lot over the summer. I love trying to ‘catch up’ with all the reading I have wanted to do. That said, when I read this #CHARLESTONCHURCHSHOOTING; it resonated so much with me that I had to share it! Seriously!? Bill Ferriter has many great insights. This post, though, really gets to the essence of why I am an educator. Thank you William Ferriter!


A Cause Greater than Yourself…

Book Cover

Here’s a book on global citizenship!

I was led to that book from watching a video interview by Katie Couric that really gave me something positive to reflect on… service to others and the difference it makes. Not only does it feel good to know you’re helping others… you can actually make a real difference.

Educators make a difference in the lives of their students on a regular basis. How can we get our kids to take that and ‘pay it forward’. I’m convinced that we can combine helping opportunities with encouraging stories (like the one above) to really build global citizenship.

AND! We benefit by helping others! It’s a win-win! There’s plenty of evidence that shows that giving of ourselves is good for us, so let’s get out there and give what we can!

From Therese Borchard’s article: “How Giving Makes Us Happy”.

Old School Parenting? 6 Ways to Help Build Confident and Capable Kids!

Climbing Rocks_JordanFear. Anxiety. Risky-play. Frustration. Hunger.

These are what we parents try to protect our children from… right?

This is something I have really been struggling with, lately (with twin teenagers!). We all want to see our children develop into confident, capable, responsible individuals that exercise good judgment. Yet, I feel that every time I step in to ‘help’ my children avoid a potentially painful consequence I’m also preventing them from learning valuable lessons. It really is a balancing act!

A recent Huffington Post Blog post by Christine Gross-Loh really hit home!

From: Flickr user Brandy Shaul http://www.flickr.com/photos/zoologist/

From: Flickr user Brandy Shaul http://www.flickr.com/photos/zoologist/

  • Risky play helps kids develop a sound sense of being able to judge what they can/cannot do.
  • Waiting to eat until you’re truly hungry (and eating together as a family) is healthier (as opposed to continuous grazing).
  • Frustration and delayed-gratification help kids develop patience and self-control.
  • Learning OUTSIDE of the classroom may be more important than classroom learning. Play, music, art and life skills are essential!
  • Hurrying independence by encouraging independent sleep does not an independent child make!
  • Making children very aware that their ‘family responsibility’ or obligation is to work hard at school actually helps their achievement and motivation.

I highly recommend reading Gross-Loh’s blog post AND remembering to keep the idea of moderation in mind.

Fear, Anxiety, Risky-play,  Frustration, Hunger, and Delayed Gratification are good for our kids! Moderation is the key.

Refreshment reflection!

Laiya Road Trip

Laiya Road Trip

I just read an article that really built that fire within me! Full of great advice, it reminded me how important reflection, refreshing oneself, and passion are for us, as educators. If you think about the teachers that really made a difference in your life OR those that you work with or know whose classrooms you just love to visit, this is why! They are (or were) reflective and passionate. Those two qualities bring with them so many more positive attributes. These are the lifelong learners who are always striving to improve their professional practice!

Age is no predictor – I once worked with (I was a beginning teacher) a teacher who had been at the same school for over 30 years. He wasn’t burnt out. He regularly ‘refreshed’ (that was what summers were for, he said). He was recognized by students, parents and faculty as the most dynamic teacher at the school – even after 30 years of service. When you walked into his classroom, he was excited about each lesson he guided students through. He was thirsty for knowledge, loved trying new things and was incredibly humble! I know he would’ve agreed that each of these 10 suggestions are essential to ‘stay fresh’:

1. Get to know your assessments.

How are they linked to learning goals and standardized assessments? You might be teaching something that isn’t that interesting nor really something the students NEED to know. Take a look at what the essential goals are and make sure you’re squarely focused on them… you might surprise yourself.

2. Unpack your standards.

Here are 3 important questions to ask for each standard:

  • What thinking process does the standard demand?

  • What thinking skills will best help students develop that thinking process?

  • What content and skills will students need to learn?

This will help you plan more interesting lessons while getting students to ‘go deep’ on the learning.

3. Understand your own why.

How would you answer, “Why are you teaching this?” Can you find a good reason that you are personally connected to and fired-up about? See if you can, it will also spark that passion for learning in your students!

4. Collect things that interest you.

This is pretty self-explanatory. There’s no doubt that ‘realia’ is far more engaging than ‘sit & giit’ lectures – especially if you have a personal connection to it and can make a story about it (ask me about the wadding and shot I use to use when teaching about the Revolutionary War or my Dad’s coupon ration booklet from WWII…).

5. Read outside the field of education.

It’s amazing how refreshing it can be to read a novel or piece of non-fiction unrelated to education… and, then find yourself making connections back to what you teach without realizing it. Those are the best connections!

6. Be reflective.

One of the most valuable things teachers can do is reflect on their practice. And yet our lives are so hectic during the school year that we rarely have time to just sit and think about teaching.

Spend some time this summer reflecting on this past school year. What worked? What didn’t? What do you need to cut? What do you need to add? What skills do you need to develop to be more effective? I also like to reflect on who I am as a teacher and how I can make my teaching style more accessible to my students….Rather than trying to make yourself into someone else’s idea of a good teacher, spend time reflecting on who you are and how you can give your students the best possible version of yourself this coming school year.

I can’t say it any better than Robyn Jackson (above).

7. Shadow someone.

Self-explanatory (again) but Jackson makes the point that it can be very enlightening to shadow someone in an area outside education, as well. We can learn from ANYONE!

8. Learn your teacher evaluation instrument.

Think about what an exemplar teacher could look like (using your school’s criteria). Be it.

9. Write your assessments.

Ok… maybe not what you were thinking of spending your time on. How else can you REALLY get to know your curriculum, though? This will definitely keep you focused. Be creative!

10. Spend time not thinking about teaching.

Try to enjoy the time that you have off – focused on other interests. This will REALLY refresh you and will give you beautiful memories to tap into at those difficult moments! Life is too short to NOT spend some time enjoying the smaller things (sunsets, ocean breezes, a hard workout the company of loved ones and children’s laughter – hopefully my own! – are a few things I treasure).

Have a wonderful year!!!

Manila Bay sunset

Manila Bay sunset

It’s POSITIVELY that time of the year… again!

There’s no doubt that those of us in education go through an annual cycle… as the end of the year approaches there’s a flurry of motivational blog postings extolling the virtues of finishing strong, staying positive and building relationships just as many post how tired they are of cheating and the stress of helping students get into colleges.

Here I go, with my own effort at keeping things positive! I’ll start with a few things I saw recently on Facebook that reminded me of stepping back and taking a breather:

I also first saw the following, on Facebook, posted by a former student who is now in university… shortly after that George Couros also posted the very same Ted Talk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion”:

Rita Pierson is a true champion!

And, finally… life is too short to forget to take a moment to appreciate what we have:

With that, may we all have a positive, meaningful and happy end to another school year!!!

Real Change… really?

Even though I’ve been quite busy lately (leading schoolwide accreditation will do that!) I’ve been thinking a lot about the direction that education is headed. You can easily find proponents of a communication/technological/education revolution… I’m one who gets drawn in easily to promises of exciting innovations. Yet, at the end of the day, not a lot really changes.

Is it just fear? Is it that changes are occurring and it will only be after looking back that we see how much we have actually changed?

When I go into classrooms, I tend to see a very familiar picture. That old factory model of education is still prevalent (what century are we in!?)! Unfortunately, too often, I also see kids falling through the cracks and/or really not meeting their potential. Would a complete shift to a totally constructivist learning model REALLY mean that each kid would meet their potential and be fully prepared for an uncertain, highly technological future? As you can see, I have many more questions than answers.

Deep down, I go back to the central underlying life philosophy I subscribe to. Balance. Kids CAN learn better than they are now. Educators CAN do a better job of educating by blending constructivist approaches with a set curriculum. Best practices point to ‘student-centered’ learning (but, what does that REALLY mean?). So… the students should be directing all that they learn? How about Early Childhood literacy research that shows that “systematic instruction in phonemic awareness and decoding” [Quick, 1998] is necessary? How does that ‘gel’ with the constructivist Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP)?Preview of “Tagxedo Artwork 2-19-13 11-45-11 AM +08-00”

The fact is, there are specific skills and content that students need to learn. We can facilitate that by planning a curriculum that encourages DISCOVERY of that content and those skills but we NEED a shift in thinking to occur! We need like-minded teachers working with like-minded school leaders to take some risks and build it (remember Field of Dreams?). Parents will jump on board as soon as they can see the results.

Now! Where and when are we going to do this!?


Quick, Beth Nason. “Beginning Reading and Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP): Past, Present, and Future.” Peabody Journal of Education 73.3 (1998): 253-72. Print.

How to keep ‘rolling’…

Attribution: Flickr Creative Commons-Dunechaser, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dunechaser/253066484/

It’s easy to be positive when things are going well but how do you stay positive when confronted with multiple challenges, roadblocks, fits & starts, etc.?

  • Stay most closely connected to like-minded, energetic individuals that you can get energy/motivation from;
  • Likewise, avoid those full of negativity and if you can’t – try to focus on positive common interests (the next fun trip, reminiscences of past happy times, good family moments, etc.);
  • Get/Stay physically active – those endorphins are natural stress fighters but you need to ACTIVate them;
  • Think of a way to help others – especially those less fortunate than you (this accomplishes two things: keeps things in perspective; makes joy for others which feels good for you).

I know there’s many more ideas about how to keep ‘rolling’… what are yours?

Attribution: Flickr Creative Commons-Aunti K, http://www.flickr.com/photos/auntikhaki/292614493/