Monday, April 30, 2012

There's A Party, and You're Invited

I'm hosting my first ever live online chat party!

Here's your invitation:

Watch live streaming video from braveteachers at

I hope you can join us right HERE

I'm so excited!  It's going to be so much fun!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Finishing Well

My students and I survived testing.  It was a challenge on Friday just to get back into a regular old math lesson with no practice questions!  I really did feel a let down when it was all over.  I try to act like it doesn't matter, but my body tells a different story.

So what's next?

I've been thinking about what does it mean to finish well.  So what does it mean to finish well?

Here are some of the things I'm thinking about finishing well:

  • I'm providing my students with some projects to take away from the year with them--a power point research project, a poetry anthology, book club projects.
  • Having special events like field trips
  • Cleaning the room so it is ready to start next year.
  • Beginning planning for next year so that it can be even better than this year
  • HERE IS THE REALLY BIG ONE--taking care of myself so that none of the above things, or the mountain of year end paperwork, or my life away from school makes me crazy.  So that I enter summer calmly.
I'm not sure how to do all of this, but I hope to share some of that here.

I'm also doing a FREE live coaching session on Thursday, May 3, at 9 p.m. Eastern.  I'll share more about this over the next couple days.

What are you doing to finish well this year?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kids Encouraging Kids

Do you ever notice how the role models most kids have are not showing them how or why to be kind to other people?  It feels to me like just the opposite, but I am old!  This drives me crazy!  I want kids to know how really really good it feels to encourage someone else or extend yourself in kindness!  {I think it's one of the BEST feelings in life!}

In the spirit of this belief my 4th graders did a "secret mission."  They wrote inspiring messages on 4x6 index cards for the other 3rd and 4th graders in our building.  (They didn't know it, but there was another class doing the same thing for them!)

They also made posters to hang all around our classroom.  This is the lazy teacher's method of covering all potentially helpful tools and charts in the classroom during state testing!

How do you encourage and empower acts of kindness in your students?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

You Know My Name And Want Me To Succeed

A couple years ago I drove through a small town that  had a big banner at the main intersection wishing their students well on state testing.  I thought this was amazing.

I wondered what I could do for all the students in my little school--about 150 kids in 3rd and 4th grade.  What I did took time, and it was small.  (I could have spent the same amount of time creating some snazzy review activity.)  I was blown away by what a big deal it was for some of the kids.

I made a little hand written banner that reads:
3rd and 4th Graders:  You make us proud every day.  Now do your best on the OAA!
(From the Staff and Students of our school.)

Then I wrote each kids first name on a little star and hung them up.  The location was by the kitchen, because on testing days the parent group makes the kids breakfast.  I hung them up a few days before testing started.

Here's the thing:  Everyone wants (needs) to be recognized and known.    This was way bigger than reviewing.  Someone knows my name and wants me to do well.  That is big--HUGE.  I think it's so easy to forget this in education--especially around high stakes testing.

I'm always nervous when we get to testing week, but I feel good knowing that for some kids being seen will be enough--regardless of their score.

What tips do you have for empowering kids or teachers around high stakes testing?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Making Time For Creativity

I am the last person who is going to tell you it is easy to find time to be creative.  In fact, I don't think we find time.  I think we make time by making intentional decisions about what to include in our lives.  It is not easy, but it is worth it--well worth it!  Here is my experience and my tips that grew out of it:

Waterscape watercolor created this weekend.

Close up flower corner of painting

Close up of beach grass

For most of my adult life I had lots of after work time when I could create.  I had few responsibilities or time commitments outside of work.  Somehow I was always busy--sometimes the busy-ness was productive and constructive, but sometimes I was busy watching TV or eating ice cream.

I am now the bread-winner in my house, and I live with an active 3 year old (I know that's redundant!)  I am busy and tired.  I have every reason to never take a photo or make a painting or blog or create products or events for Brave Teachers.

Here is what I know:

  • I can create in very small snippets of time.  The painting above was created in many little 2 - 5 minute segments around spending time with my family.  Sometimes I'm tempted to think I need to go into seclusion for a week or at least a weekend.  That might be nice, but it's not necessary.
  • I do not need a large space of lots of materials to create.  Most people would laugh at the cheap watercolors I use, and my camera is just a little Cannon Powershot.  I usually paint in a space off our kitchen that is 4 x 7.  It's enough.
  • I can include my family in many parts of creating.  We love to walk in the woods or hike the Towpath.  I usually have my little camera with me.  The bonus is that I get many fun photos of my family that I wouldn't otherwise get.  My son LOVES to watercolor with me, and sometimes I just set aside my project to have fun with him.
  • I can schedule times for creativity.  I have a couple BIG projects that I'm going to unveil for summer.  This is the 2 week window in which I am just creating--this stuff will evolve into posters and calendars, but for now I'm just creating.  {It's VERY fun and freeing!}  By making a schedule and a timeline I am able to feel really good about creating now, and not worry about what is not getting done.
  • I can ask for help and time.  I am just learning how to do this, and it's hard!  My husband spends the day with our son, and then he has other plans several nights a week.  I told him that I needed one evening a week to plan, recharge, and be.  I go from school to yoga and then to creative time on Wednesdays.  I have a favorite coffee shop, and I plan blogs, plan in notebooks, and sometimes create there.  It's amazing to me what comes to me in that 1 - 2 1/2 hour block each week.  It's a start!
  • It has to be fun.  If I'm not excited about it, everything else will suck me in.  {I know it's time to revaluate when I am mopping the kitchen floor rather than create!}

If you're looking for more on this topic the most powerful voice in my life on this topic is Melody Ross over at Brave Girls Club.  She is so inspiring because she really walks the walk.  I highly recommend the online classes as a  reason to be creative and figure out priorities for yourself and live the life that was meant for you.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Slow Down

Just hoping that we can all take some time today and just slow down!

Amazing you, 

Please know you are in my thoughts today!

I'm sending you courage and strength for whatever life is sending your way!


Friday, April 20, 2012

Forget Me Not

This seems impossible to believe, but today is the tenth anniversary of my mom's death. She was only 59. {It's tough to even imagine what she would be like at 69.}

She is the teacher who showed me how to see my students. And how to be excited and enthusiastic about learning. She taught me to love learning and teaching.

While I can still hear her voice in the back of my head saying, "I didn't raise you to behave that way!" I also know that she did raise me to be a strong woman and to question all sorts of situations and form my own opinions. She raised me to be an adventurer--even though she disliked travel. She taught me to be a voracious reader. She taught me to do what was right and fight injustice, regardless of what others do. She did tell me all of this, but more importantly, she showed me all of this in her life in her way.

I miss my mother. I so wish she could see Sam. I am sad while writing this.

I hope she would be pleased to see that she is remembered not just today, but she is remembered in the way I choose to live my life every day.

Organizing Independence And Ownership: Part 2

If I told you that there was a way to foster independence and ownership and respect and responsibility for all of the students in your classroom in 10 - 15 minutes a day, would you be willing to sacrifice the time?

I bet you will want to know more--especially since it sound too good to be true.

It is really simple, but it takes intentionality on the part of the teacher, and it may take awhile to see results. (Warning: you might never see the full results that you want, but I'm confident you will be planting seeds!

Here it is--{drum roll}--run a daily class meeting.

You might be saying right now, "That's it?" And if there is a fair amount of skepticism in your voice, I do understand. But I've watched it work some in the past. This year I really went at it because of an antibullying campaign our district had.

And now for the icing on the cake--the kids are leading the class meetings! There is a little folder with a calendar, a little form to fill out, greetings in lots of languages, and a list of possible topics for discussion.

It isn't working perfectly. I don't think it ever will. (I interrupt too much!) But kids are practicing leading a meeting, and that's a big dose of independence and leadership!

Coming soon. . .resources and suggestions for success with 4th grade class meetings!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Organizing Independence And Ownership: Part 1

Organizing student independence and ownership is one of the most daunting tasks for me in my classroom. I've finally started to realize that I hit two snags on this path--First, I have to let go of control. {YIKES!} And it takes lots of planning, organizing, and time. When it happens, there are always great rewards.

Today I'm sharing some of my super simple tips for planning my heart out and then letting go of the results.

Tomorrow I'm going to share one BIG spot in my day where I am finessing this theory in the present--right now--as in today!

My caution is for control freaks--your room will not always look or sound the way "you want it to," and your day will often turn out differently then you expected. Don't let those stop you! The benefits to kids will so far out weigh that in improved self confidence, fewer behavior issues, ownership, and respect for people and materials.

I recommend baby steps--that's what you see below--little bitty micro-movements forward on the continuum of organizing a classroom for independence and ownership.

For starters, I have not written the date on the board for months. Students take the initiative and do it! They don't ask, but it magically gets done--usually at the end of the day before.

My reading groups are named for authors--got this idea from some cool teacher, but I can't remember who! We change groups about 4 - 5 times during the year. As soon as I organize the groups, I print out the list. It is obviously displayed so that everyone can find it. It is surprising how long some kids are still checking the list. It's also great for subs, and it's one less thing I go crazy duplicating for my sub notebook.

There is a couch in our classroom! {Lucky, lucky us!} Everyone is assigned to a couch group, and these are listed on the monthly calendar. If you forget that it's your couch day, I feel a little sad for you, but it's a great chance to remember something valuable without a grown up needing to remind you--LIFE SKILL!

I've never been great about displaying academic work. Problem solved: Everyone has a clip--clothespin with a gold star and their number. They choose what work to display and how often to change it out. Some kids change it often, and some kids leave the same paper up for 2 - 3 months! No worries!

I know these are super simple ways to foster independence and ownership in the classroom. I am creative and artsy, but I don't have a wonderfully color coordinated Martha Stewart classroom. I do LOVE this time of year when I can really see how kids have blossomed, taken ownership of the classroom, and gained more independence.

Next up: Part 2!

What tips do you have for organizing so that kids have ownership and you get to teach?

If you're feeling overwhelmed or need a pick up, check out the 3 Adventure Kits over at Brave Teachers. They won't organize your classroom, but they will improve your outlook on life! And you get to choose the price!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Surrounded By Kindness

This photo is a piece of a painting I did over Spring Break. I feel like there is so much kindness all around me. It really is blooming!

I'm super pleased to be a new Sponsor of Kind Over Matter. {I loooove that site!} When people ask me what I read online, KOM is always on my list.

There is a great guest post over there today, called The Kindness Manifesto. Check it out!

I'm also excited to say that the newest edition of Sprouts magazine is available, and the theme of this issue is kindness. How cool is that? In addition to being a generally gorgeous and artsy magazine, this issue has some of my absolute favorite writers and contributors!

I am always pleased by what an inspirational value this magazine is!

Click here to visit Persistent Green. (This is where to click if you want more details or to buy a copy of this issue of Sprouts!)

How is kindness surrounding you today?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Raining Rubber Bands and Making Sense of Life

I've been doing some serious soul searching. Looking up into the sky. Carefully examining some situations up close--real close. I'm waiting for clarity. It seems really illusive.

In the meantime I take inspiration from kids--

First there is Sam who found a pink rubber band on the sidewalk. He promptly picked it up and put it on his wrist. He then asked about a bazillion times where it came from. None of my answers about falling out of pockets or purses or anything else was satisfactory. After along silence in the backseat of the car, there was an epiphany, and Sam said, "Maybe it was raining rubber bands!"

I wish I could convey to you how tickled I was by that statement. And on so many different levels--I want a creative kid. And the rebel in my loves discarding conventional wisdom. Sometimes the most obvious answers are not the right ones.

Then there are my students, who are mostly ten, and learning that the stuff that has mattered to them their whole lives are not nearly as important as certain brands of clothing or electronic gadgets or hanging out with certain people. This breaks my heart. It's not what I want or hope for them. I hope that they will carefully guard their uniqueness.

This makes me think of myself, and how easily I surrender my originality--especially when I doubt myself or feel unbalanced. So while I'm still trying to make sense of life, I'm clinging to the thought that at any moment it might start raining pink rubber bands!

Adventure Kits are a great way to sort out life and explore your originality. Take a closer look or buy them HERE.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Book Recommendation

It's been a while since I recommended a book here. This is NOT school related. It is a spiritual memoir. I'm sure plenty of people could find reason to be offended--this is probably true for any book.

Anyway. . .

I am so glad that this was the book I picked to read over spring break. I can't believe I hadn't found it before. The book is Take this Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles.

It challenged me to really think about 2 things:

1. What parts of my spiritual practice do I do just because people around me are doing them.

2. It really just takes a willingness and determination to do some really big stuff to make the world a better place.

I loved the way the author described conversion as a process--a really long process. It would be impossible to put this book in a nutshell, but it really focuses on being physically and spiritually fed. If you're feeling hungry in your spirit, this is a beautifully thoughtful read.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.
~Winston Churchill

All human wisdom is summed up in two words--wait and hope.
~Alexander Dumas

Recap of Easter With Sam

So my favorite part of Easter with Sam is how it just keeps going. He is still giving away jelly beans and saying, "Happy Easter!" His enthusiasm (And impish naughtiness) are contagious and adorable. (He does NOT need to know this!)

Some highlights:
  • Coloring eggs at grandma's house
  • Hunting for eggs at grandma's house
  • Putting on a tie and saying, "Now I'm like Uncle Jon."
  • Thinking he needed to go downstairs before 7 am, " because I think the Easter bunny left me a nest while I slept."
  • Saying, "Here mommy, this is chocolate with peanut butter inside!" with such zeal that some candy company should hire him.
  • Make and eating "Resurrection Biscuits" at Sunday School--"with marshmallows inside!"
Fun, fun, fun!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Adventure Kits Are Here

Adventure Kits are here!

I'm so excited to finally to able to share these amazing kits! They are going to inspire you. Uplift you. Challenge you. Invite courage into your life. Give you some hope. Inspire the push you need to make it to the end of the year.

Here's the really cool thing. . .

When you click the purchase button for any of the 3 Adventure Kits you will see a suggested price of $14 per kit, HOWEVER you get to choose the price. Yep, you read that correctly. You can change the price to whatever feels right to you!

I am so confident that these kits are such a good thing, that I want you to have them in your hands as a tool, a resource, and a beacon of hope.

Each kit will come to your email box as soon as you pay in the form of a full color PDF. How cool is that?

It is a colorful and artsy kit filled with ideas and inspiration from my heart and life just for you!

Go ahead and check out the Spring Fling Adventure Kits. What do you have to lose?

The rest of this week I'm going to be previewing each of the kits over at Brave Teachers.

And Shell and Anonymous who left comments for me about which kits you would like, if you email me (, I will have those kits to you for FREE before the day is over!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Space Ships and Syrup and Sticks

So the highlight of my week--I mean the ab-so-lute very best part has been spending time with Sam. I have not finished any of my projects--for home or school or the business or myself, but that little guy has been so fun and silly and annoying. I'm so in love with him and feeling fiercely protective, too. We've gone hiking, out to breakfast, celebrated his dad's 40th birthday, and gone to the museum. It's so worth having lots of unfinished projects.

He LOVES sticks. You could start a bonfire with the pile of sticks he has collected and had to leave outside the back door. He has this one stick he calls his space ship. Of course, with a little imagination, it does look like a rocket. He had it on a little car ride, and before we knew what was happening he was creating a whole history and existence for his space ship. So here is where it gets crazy--pure genius! This is no ordinary space ship. It also squirts syrup and has six astronauts. I LOVE how logically those two details connect in his little brain! There was a whole back story most of which I've forgotten and lots of sound effects.

Does life get better than that? I doubt it!