Seek Out the Positives in the Negatives

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Photo credit: http://joelscrivner.com/find-positives-in-negative-situations/

Everyone has a favorite children’s book. When I read certain books to my grandkids, I usually get the excited shouts of “Again, Grandma. Read it again.” You know how it goes. We have memorized these irresistible books because of the many times reading them again and again and again and again. 🙂

A few weeks ago during my Children’s Literature class, which consists mostly of sophomores in college, I taught them about the two most prestigious book awards that are given out in January. These two awards are the Newbery Award winners and the Caldecott Award winners. If you aren’t sure what these two awards entail, below are simple explanations:

The Newbery Award is chosen for its content or as Stoodt-Hill (2009) stated in her book “the committee is to make its decision primarily on the text” (p. 9). An example of this award is the 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan written by Katherine Applegate. This book epitomizes courage, and is a book you won’t want to put down until you have read every last one of its’ 336 pages (it’s a children’s book…easy read).

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The Caldecott Award is a picture book chosen for its illustrations. “The committee is to make its decision primarily on the illustrations, but other components of a book are to be considered” (Stoodt-Hill, 2009, p. 9). A favorite Caldecott of mine that I enjoy reading to my grandkids again and again is the beautifully illustrated 1986 Caldecott winner The Polar Express written by Chris Van Allsburg.

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Well, here’s a fun fact that I shared with my teacher candidates. In January 2016, a picture book was chosen as the winner of the Newbery Award.  That’s right…a PICTURE book!! This book also won the Caldecott Honor Award AND a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award. Last Stop on Market Street written by Matt de la Peña is a loving and inspiring story of a young boy and his nana appreciating all that life has to offer while putting others first. Nana points out to her grandson all the positives hidden in the negatives. When I finish reading this book to my grandchildren, it’s my turn to say, “Again, grandchildren. Let’s read it again.” I adore this story. I want my grandkids to remember me as their Grandma Wendy who was always seeking out the positives hidden in the negatives.

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Have you had that one person tell you to “look on the bright side” when life gets a little harsh? We tend to get extremely annoyed with that person for saying those words don’t we? Is it because we want him or her to jump on the pity bus with us? Think about it, though. Those five words are truth! As Joel Scrivner commented in his blog post, “let’s start to identify positive aspects in our negative situations.” In other words, let’s look on the bright side of life.

Just like Nana did with CJ in The Last Stop on Market Street, let’s seek out the hidden positives in our negatives! Let’s start bathing in the positives and it will cleanse our souls. Change our mindset, change our life.

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Stay Calm & Seek Out the Hidden Positives!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

 

Sleep Now … Or Forever

 

“Sleep is overrated.”  You have probably heard this statement before once or twice…or an outrageous number of times from individuals…like me. Guilty. Hands down. In attempts to be held accountable for change, we are here to tell you that opening line is false.  It simply isn’t true.  Sleep is how we recharge. Not getting enough sleep is like charging our phone batteries partially, and then expecting them to last all day just as if we had fully charged them.  Crazy concept, right?

Sometimes we need to be reminded we are not invincible. Sometimes we just need to sleep.

Easier said than done for some, however. In fact, we wrote about sleep in a January post after attending a session at a conference on the importance of sleep. What part about needing sleep is so difficult to absorb? Sleep is a necessity – although we often confuse it as a luxury.  In pursuit of adding to our shut-eye formula, we began looking for ways to find more sleep.  There is a plethora of resources available online and in print.  Where to start? Well, why not start with family and friends to begin gathering some information and importantly, support.  Dr. Wendy’s daughter shared this blog – Great Kids Therapy – with us, and we now share it with you. Check it out as it notes sleep’s impact on children…and all of us.

As my doc said to me this week, sleep is a habit just like anything else. Some habits are good.  Some habits are bad. We need family and friends to support us in this sleep venture.
Colleagues are not exempt from this responsibility.  In this busy, fast-paced world, we can get caught up in challenge to do more, to sacrifice more… Sleep becomes almost a competition.  “I didn’t go to bed until well past midnight, and had to be up early today for ________.”  You fill in the blank.  You have heard it. You may have said it. What drives us to so easily forsake sleep – our bodies’ time to refuel in efforts to accomplish more.  When in fact, we accomplish less – OR quite possibly not up to the caliber it would be minus the sleep deprivation – OR it ends up taking twice as long. Yikes – guilty of this – and have been for years.  My family reminds me frequently of my bad habit. I have always figured it was how I was wired – and that I didn’t need as much sleep as others.  Somehow I was a superior built model that requires 4-5 hours of sleep on average to perform mental and physical tasks without waver.  Guess what? I was wrong.  I mean – don’t tell others that I was wrong.  But it is true…so tell others if it can help you and your family and friends – then do tell.  We need to be supporters of each other – to sleep more!  Sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on our health.  Why would we want to be competitive about our lack of sleep and poor health choices?

If you haven’t dozed off already, get some shut-eye. Don’t worry – You have the teachers’ permission. 😉

Stay Calm & Sleep On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

 

 

How to Lead With Love

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Erin @ Crafts and Sutch – http://www.craftsandsutch.com/2011/01/but-greatest-of-these-is-love-printable.html

Radio music blaring, sun shining, winds calm out of the west, roads clear of ice and snow…it was a great day to be driving to Bloomington, MN where I would be attending the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA) Institute 2017. This conference is one of my all-time favorite conferences to attend each year, and it always falls on the first week in February. So, no ice and snow was a bonus!!!

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In tow was my copy of Renegade Leadership written by Dr. Brad Gustafson, elementary principal in Wayzata, MN. I was hoping to get his autograph while at MESPA and guess what? He was the FIRST person I bumped into after I registered for the conference. #MESPAmn mission accomplished.

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Sessions I attended pitched out many ideas and advice on how to inspire schoolwide excellence, how to lead little ones in the ECE arena, how to make sure your school is culturally responsive, and how to apply mental health first aid for those students struggling. You know what the ONE overarching piece of advice was that I heard in every single one of those sessions?  To lead with love! Boldly, fiercely, outrageously, unconditionally…

LEAD.WITH.LOVE!

Keynote speaker Principal Baruti Kafele got the conference rolling with his presentation on Critical Leadership Questions for Inspiring Schoolwide Excellence. Lead with love takeaways were:

  • Analyze our game film and replays. Dissect it. Reflect on it. Is it filled with love for those students in our buildings?
  • Lead with purpose. Find a specificity.
  • Be on a mission to impact the lives of children.
  • Have a vision for ourselves and for our students.
  • Simultaneously see our students for who they are now AND for who they will become.
  • Leaders: WE are the #1 determinant of the successes or failures of our students.
  • Have a winning mindset for our students.
  • Greet our students every morning with a smile and one of the three H’s—high five, handshake, or hug.
  • Be intentional.
  • Take pride in our buildings and grounds. Both reflect our leadership.

Principal Baruti Kafele received a standing ovation, and his admirable message left us feeling filled with unconditional love. Sadly, his departure from Minnesota did not. The MSP Airport and the TSA’s must have left their Minnesota nice at home that day, and it breaks my heart. I am so sorry this happened to you, sir. No words!  😦

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Session presenter Principal Jessica Cabeen shared with us on how to lead from the sandbox giving considerations for leading at the Prek-3 level. A brief look at her lead with love message:

  • Support effective teaching.
  • Support students.
  • Support play.
  • Support families.
  • Support professional development.

When we support each other, we certainly role-model love for each other. Jessica, your enthusiasm and passion for this ECE level was very transparent. Thank you for the great brain breaks too. LOVED dancing with you. Would love to see you dancing with your kiddos on the playground in the mornings. 🙂 Toni B…I challenge you. Then PLEASE invite me over to shake a leg with you. 😀

The final keynote speaker was Dr. Sharroky Hollie and he presented six ways to know if our schools are culturally responsive. A few highlights from his lead with love message were:

  • Be an advocate for the under-served.
  • Have courageous conversations about race.
  • Being culturally responsive gives a sense of belonging.
  • Most kids need ‘outrageous’ love.
  • Validate and affirm students.
  • Celebrate culture all year long.

Thank you, Dr. Hollie, for empowering and inspiring us to become culturally responsive.

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Session presenter, Paige Thompson, mental health consultant, was the last session of the day. However, even though she was last, she was engaging and held our attention for the full hour. She was knowledgeable and full of vibrancy. She was my favorite of all sessions. Plus, she matter-of-factly told us she would not let us out early since we were earning CEU’s from her session. 🙂

The story Paige told at the beginning was enough to stir any heart. A boy was on a subway bus, heading to his secret place to end his life. He thought if just ONE person on that bus would ask him one simple question then he would not go through with it. No one did. Not one person asked those three powerful words, “are you okay?” If that is all it takes, I’m doing it! I do not ever want to be that ONE person.

Five simple tips considered to be “protective factors” for mental health and are certainly ways to lead with love were:

  • Constructive recreation
  • Economic security
  • Connection with ONE adult
  • Spirituality
  • Healthy practices such as: Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise

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The MESPA 2017 Institute came to a near close on Friday morning with MESPA’s Legal Counsel and renowned education lawyer, Roger Aronson, giving elementary principals the legislature lowdown. I do not want to get into politics, but the picture below demonstrates just a touch of Roger’s sense of humor. 😀 His lead with love advice for all leaders: “Be great, smile, have fun.”

The grand finale was the 2nd Annual MESPA Speaks. TED talk style presentations for principals by principals. Very BRAVE principals I might add. Check out the hashtag #mespamn to watch a few on Periscope.

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Two thumbs up to MESPA and to these three lovely ladies behind the scenes who make it a HUGE success. This is one of the best conferences I attend. God willing, see you next year! 🙂

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How do you lead with love?

Stay Calm & Lead with Love!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Embrace the Struggle

 Get real. No one really wants to struggle. It takes a lot of energy, drive, and focus to persevere through the struggle in efforts to find success. That – and a good amount of sleep.  My goal was to post this on Monday – or at least earlier in the week… but here it is – Friday!  Finally Friday.  What a week or two it has been!  Would I change it?  Well, maybe some things and maybe not some things….What I have decided along this journey of life is I can either spend my time and energy looking backwards to the past for “what if” moments or embrace it and make right now work…embrace the struggle!

I recently attended the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.  I had never been to Nashville before – and I highly recommend visiting!  As a friend and colleague once wrote, “Nashville didn’t disappoint.”  You just never know when you might stumble upon an impromptu jam session with Lady Antebellum.  Who knew?  Well – we certainly didn’t.  We did see a big charter bus outside The Stage.  I asked a few folks standing in line about who they were going to see.  Their responses?  One said, “Carrie Underwood.”  Another confidently yelled, “Free hot dogs.”  This made us laugh of course.  The idea of standing in line for a hot dog? Well – if it is a really good hot dog then maybe.  Once inside we learned it was Lady A.  The show soon started, and it was incredible.  Did I mention the price? Free!  Did I mention where I was standing? Front of the stage!  Okay – so no struggle there!  It was a struggle to decide to wait in line or keep on keepin’ on.  We waited – and it paid off!  It did cut into some shut-eye time, however.

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Speaking of missing sleep…while attending the conference, there was a session on mental health awareness, which highlighted the need for sleep and how our world is functioning in a sleep-deprived state regularly.  There were a lot of lessons learned from the session, but one main thought is that lack of sleep causes us to make poor decisions.  If we add caffeine into the mix to keep us functioning, it simply allows us to make those poor decisions quicker. Yikes!  Decision-making under the influence of sleep deprivation is a struggle.  I was about to reach for another cup of joe at that moment, but opted for a quick 15-minute snooze instead.  And you know what?  I felt pretty darn good after that. Maybe the sleep researchers are truly on to something.

Additionally there were timely sessions about inclusion as well as mindsets.  As I listened to the speakers share their stories as well as research, I kept hearing and thinking to myself – Attitude can make a difference. I’ve heard it before, and I am sure you have as well.  You will probably continue to hear it – because it is true. Attitude can do a lot of things. Attitude can make a struggle manageable. 

The Presidential Inauguration took place while at convention. Let me tell you it was a struggle not to skip the day’s events to be glued to the television. My thought it that no matter a person’s political position, there needs to be a respect for the Office. Considering this, I would want to watch the day’s events unfold because it is our history. People joined together to watch the future unfold. Indeed, attitude can make all the difference.

Continuing to reflect upon attitude, I revisited the thought about attitude making such a big difference when aboard Southwest Airlines. They are just friendly people, aren’t they? From the gatekeeper to the flight attendant, they can really “just smile” when doing just about anything – handing out peanuts and all.  They seemed really happy and having a good time. Are they really that happy though?  Attitude can be contagious. I thought, “Could I do that?” Why yes – yes I could.  New mantra – “Fake it until you make it.”  Okay – I will give it a try! It may be a struggle, but I will aim to embrace it. Spread the contagious attitude.

While at the airport, I found myself with extra time.  Rare, I know!  I found a book called Outliers: The story of success by Malcolm Gladwell.  Perhaps you have read this #1 National Bestseller’s David and Goliath. I found myself engrossed in this reading. The author tells the story in an easy-to-read narrative fashion. I have not quite finished the book yet, but I will soon and will share it with you. Lots of takeaways from the reading so far…

So what are some take-aways from my visit to Nashville and living the past few weeks?

Smile. Laugh. Take in your surroundings. Enjoy the journey; it’s the only one you’ve got.

Everyone has his or her own struggle.  Support me with mine.  Support you with yours.

Don’t judge mine, and I won’t judge yours. Struggles are real – so embrace them and carry on.

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Stay Calm & Embrace the Struggle!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

 

We Are Called To Be Courageous Leaders

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School Board members, superintendents, principals, teachers, parents…ALL educators are called to be courageous leaders. I looked up the definitions of those two words, and here is what Dictionary.com stated:

Courageous: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.

Leadership: a person who guides, directs, leads.

I had the privilege of attending the Minnesota School Boards Association’s Annual Leadership Conference last week, and the theme was Courageous Leadership. Alan Blankstein was our first keynote speaker, and he danced his way onto the stage to Aretha Franklin’s Respect. The man had moves…and dancing in front of 2,200 people is pretty courageous if you ask me.

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One memorable story Alan shared was of a boy who walked by the principal every day. The principal would extend his hand to shake the boy’s hand, and each time the boy would walk on by. Day after day the boy would stroll by and not shake the principal’s hand. After three months of trying, the principal stopped putting his hand out. When the boy walked by and the principal didn’t have his hand extended, the boy asked:

“Why you do that?”

“Do what?” asked the principal.

“Not put your hand out?” the boy quizzed.

“Because for three months you refused to shake it so I stopped,” the principal answered.

The boy slumped his shoulders, frowned, and dismally said, “You gave up on me man.”

Alan Blankstein encouraged us to NEVER give up on kids, no matter how long it takes. Other motivating advice that Alan had for all of us to be courageous leaders was:

  • Courageous leaders run toward the danger, not from it.
  • Those who need courageous leaders the most expect it the least.
  • To be effective teachers, you must truly understand your students.
  • We cannot give up, even when students push us away…and they will push us away.
  • Equity is the issue of our times.
  • Creating school cultures for the lowest students is good for ALL students.
  • Implicit Association Bias…we all do it. What are we going to do to change it?
  • Trust is critical. If there is no trust, there is almost no chance of students excelling.
  • Start with where kids are at.
  • Create schools where kids want to get into more than they want to get out of.

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I was giddy when I read in the MSBA program booklet that former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and former Minnesota Viking Defensive Lineman, Alan Page, was our closing keynote. I faithfully watched him play football during my high school days in the late 70’s. I was a true “purple people eater” fan.

I also read in the MSBA program booklet that Justice Page had published a children’s book with his daughter titled  Alan and his Perfectly Pointy Impossibly Perpendicular Pinky. I ordered it from Amazon and brought it with me to the conference in hopes for his autograph. I planned on tackling him to get it. 😉 Okay, maybe not. But…after he was finished speaking, I walked back behind stage (with the permission of the MSBA folks) and had the honor of shaking his hand and getting my book signed. Autograph victory!

It was an extraordinary presentation by Justice Alan Page. He was inspirational, gentle, humorous, humble, and focused. It was an honor to hear his beliefs on courageous leadership:

  • Preparation is key to success. Without preparation opportunity becomes an empty promise.
  • Our fears may be what limits us, but even if they cause us to stumble, good preparation will help pick us back up.
  • Be the best you can be at whatever you choose to do in life.
  • People who have a stake in society protect that society.
  • Effective education: one school at a time, one classroom at a time, one child at a time.
  • The power of choice is the power of liberty.
  • No matter who we are or what we do, we need to continually review our character.
  • Our character is defined by how we act.
  • Rhetoric without action is self-defeating.
  • If we are going to learn to live together, then we need to start living together.
  • Making bias harder to detect is not the same as making it go away.
  • It is time that more is done than said.

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Being a courageous leader may be difficult at times, but let’s work hard, be brave, and face the challenges before us. Let’s run towards the challenges, not away from them. Let’s create schools where kids are breaking down the doors to get in and not out. Let’s take quality education and kick it up a notch. We are called to be courageous leaders. Let’s answer that calling without fear, and let’s do it with finesse for our kids.

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Stay Calm & Be a Courageous Leader!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned on Sabbatical

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You may have heard the phrase… “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.”  It was true… until my sabbatical.  What is a sabbatical you may be asking?  It is a time to reflect, a time to renew, a time to reenergize, and a time to start fresh…
Some spend time during sabbatical researching, writing books, focusing on different work, and/or relaxing on location.  It provides an opportunity to try something new and to stretch professionally in ways that have been imagined during stressful days…or unimagined.  My imagination originally directed me toward writing a book and relaxing. At least that was what I imagined when my sabbatical seemed far off.   As my sabbatical began approaching my imagination had a new image in mind, which would require an intense amount of time, energy, and emotion. You see my sabbatical experience took on a life of its own in a PK-2 school teaching English learners full-time.  Yes, that’s right – full-time.  I became a teacher, a caretaker, an advocate, …  full-time.  There were days that I laughed so much my cheeks hurt.  There were days that I cried so much my eyes hurt.  I became 100% invested in my opportunity to change lives.  I thank my colleagues for allowing me to step away from my position on campus to walk in the shoes of an EL teacher.

What did I learn from my experience?  Well, some of you have been reading updates of my adventures throughout the past few months and want to know – so here goes:

Teaching strategies…sure
Implementing best practices…you bet
Assessments and data mining…check

But there really is so much more…

*Life is bigger than any one person or job.

*Giving to others fills up the soul with joy and sparkles and feelings of nice.

*Learning English can be fun!

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*Go on a letter hunt instead of a bear hunt!

*Be kind.  Everyone has struggles.  Don’t judge theirs…it’s not your job or mine.

*Work hard, play hard.  Enjoy life and work.

*Be with family no matter what you are doing.

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*Not to clean the house sometimes when it is important and to clean it when it is important and to know the difference.  If that doesn’t make sense, it may someday.

*Rest does not necessarily happen on the couch or with a nap.  Energize the soul to feel rested.

*Incremental rehearsal works.

*Take risks – appropriately of course.

*SIOP is for all teachers and learners.

*Don’t be late to the teachers’ lounge on sunshine treat days… you will never get it back.
This is a lesson learned long ago but needed to be revisited.

*Candy is still a tactful way to bribe learners to do their best – whether youth or adults.

*Keep learning, trying, and growing. Stay curious.

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*Field trips are exciting at any age.

*Learn another language – and keep using it.

*Observations do not have to be scary when you are in it to grow and be better than you were before.

*Teaching is more than what the written curriculum is and what the lesson plans say… it is about caring and sometimes saving.

*Forget the small stuff – even though it may feel big sometimes. Learn to let go.

*If I have the necessities and the greatest gift, love, I have all things.

*Professional Development should be lifelong.  Never stop learning.

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*Snow days are nature’s way of giving us a break from the pressure. Still love them at my age!

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*Sometimes kids need a hug.  Sometimes kids need clothes.  Sometimes kids need food.

*Do not be an island.

*Learn about someone else.  Take a sincere interest to learn about him or her – culture, religion, language, …favorite color.

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*Culturally responsive teaching makes a difference.

*Brain breaks and a little dancing can do us all some good. Just move it!

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*Missing addends are important to know but learning manners trumps that. Please and thank you can make all the difference.

*Food on the table each day for each student is not always a true statement.

*Hugs and smiles can fix tons and keep the world going around.

*Be flexible…things may change and that is a constant.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect to be great as long as “I do my best” in the words of a certain kindergarten teacher at Park Side. 🙂

*Be humble and kind.

*Be passionate and positive, not stressed and negative. Change will happen either way.

*Just like the saying, “Students will never care how much you know until they know how much you care.”


I was truly humbled by my sabbatical experience.  I taught children. They are smart. They are bright. They are kind. They want to learn and grow. They happen to be learning English as an additional language to their native tongue. They taught me just as much as I taught them – if not more.

Some of these children had food.  Some of these children did not.  Some of these children had a fresh change of clothing.  Some of these children did not. Some of these children received hugs at home. Some of these children did not. Each day I gave what I could to these children – from the alphabet and numbers to a bag of food and clothes.  I consider all of these children “my kids.”  My own children at home have learned as much as I have during this sabbatical experience about giving to others and resigning from judgment of others.  All of these children have a special place in my heart for the lessons they have taught me.

My goals were so grand in my sabbatical plan…
but I learned so much more than any plan I could create.

Some One must have had this plan for me…
Live – Laugh – Love – repeat… and to share this wise advice with others.

Helping children in need doesn’t have to happen across the globe.
It can happen right here, right now.

During my sabbatical experience, I was often smiling at all the possibilities there were to help others.  I hope to take this – along with all the lessons learned – to campus with me as I return to teach and guide the next generation of teachers.  No pressure but the world is counting on them.

 

A special thank you goes out to Ms. Prior for creating the video and teaching me a thing or two while I mentored her during student teaching. Good luck in your new position as an EL teacher. Take care of “our” kids.

Stay Calm & Live Life, Laugh Often, Love Much!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

 

 

What’s Up for 2017? My 7-Up Goals and a 7-Up Candy Bar

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Happy New Year, everyone. Hope it’s off to a grand beginning. Did you read our last blog post? Dr. V. wrote about how life can be like a box of chocolates. Oh my gosh…her blog post awakened a pleasant childhood memory of mine…

The 7-Up Candy Bar…Mmmm.

Any of you old enough to remember this delightful treat? It was a “box of chocolates” wrapped up in one scrumptious candy bar. And, my favorite piece was…drum roll…the orange jelly-filled piece. Just thinking about it makes my mouth drool. Yes, I am one of those who likes the jelly filling, Dr. V. 🙂

BUT…even if I could taste one right this instant, I would pass. The New Year has begun and my goals have been set. (Trust me…as soon as I can, I’m ordering one of those 7-Up Bars from Amazon and will savor every.single.bite).

Dave Burgess wrote an inspiring blog about New Year’s resolutions and one word goals. He noted that neither are effective for him.  His goal is to simply do his best. That is a GREAT goal, Captain! Please check out his blog by clicking here: http://daveburgess.com/play-your-drum-in-2017/

Elementary principal Todd Nesloney wrote a New Year’s blog sharing with us what his one word is for 2017…HOPE. Beautiful post, @techninjatodd.Click here to read about his hope for growth, change, and compassion http://www.toddnesloney.com/class-blog.

For me, setting goals for the New Year is a good thing. Beginning January 1st, my husband and I started a 30 day challenge…the Whole30 Challenge which is outlined in the book It Starts with Food written by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig. According to the authors, this 30-day challenge is NOT hard. Really??? Giving up sugar, legumes and grains, alcohol, seed oils, and dairy might be a little bit hard. Check out my #booksnap below…talk about conviction… 😮

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#booksnaps

Including the Whole30 challenge, my “7-Up” goals are listed below. I will strive to do my best this year to:

  • Lift Up prayers and pray about everything (Lord, please heal that 3-year old girl who recently had a stroke 😦 ).
  • Give Up bad habits and persevere through challenges (I CAN do this 30-day challenge…it is NOT hard. Lord, help me with this. See goal 1).
  • Stand Up for others and serve them (It’s not about me, it’s about the students, and everyone else!).
  • Wake Up each day with a positive mindset (Yes, I am lovable, secure, beautiful, worthy, able, a child of God…).
  • Jazz Up my teaching and turn on the passion every day (Preheat the grill and make my lessons sizzle! HOOKS galore!).
  • Listen Up and be obedient (Next time, Lord, I’ll give that custodial person at the mall a BIG tip…sorry).
  • Change Up my attitude and stay non-judgmental (PLEASE be quiet while this grandson of mine is sleeping! Oh wait…that was ME making the noise).

How about you? What are your goals, aspirations, resolutions, one-words, and desired outcomes for 2017? Heads up, 7-up, readers. What goals do YOU pick? Whatever they are, we wish you ALL the best in ALL you do in 2017 (and beyond)!!!

Stay Calm & Eat a 7-Up Candy Bar!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates…Until It’s Not

Just like Forrest Gump and his momma say, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”  Yum! Well – sometimes anyway.  Other times not so much.

It’s that time of year when we reflect on the past and look ahead to the future and really, really try to live in the present while on winter break.  We LOVE Christmas time and Christmas vacation! 🙂

So what have we learned from this year…

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Just like Forrest and his wise momma said… life is indeed like a box of chocolates.  Each day brings something new and unexpected.  Some of the days are like the best pieces of melted caramel in milk chocolate that one can imagine.  Other days are a little more like the dark chocolate with some jelly something or other inside.  What?  You like those chocolates?? Well – we each have our own opinions and perspectives.  Just consider the most recent Presidential election… or not – depending on your outlook.  We are all different, and we all help make the world go around.  With that in mind, what will you do with your chocolate in 2017?  Eat it? Give it up? Share it?

We’re still working on the list of lessons gleaned from 2016.  We are living up each moment until we ring in 2017.  Hope you find time to live it up with your family and friends as 2016 draws to a close and we welcome in 2017!

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Stay Calm & Chocolate On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Life is Like a Piñata: Jam-Packed Full of Surprises

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“People are like piñatas, chock-full of unexpected goodies.” ~Patsy Clairmont

December is jam-packed full of birthdays. All three of my grandkids have their birthdays this month. My friend, colleague, and blogging partner has her birthday coming up this week on the 22nd (oh please send her a happy birthday shout out on Twitter @drvteacher 🙂 ). And, of course, the most famous birthday this month is on December 25th. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Back to birthdays. One exciting activity at my grandson’s birthday parties the past few years has been the breaking of the piñatas. What little one doesn’t love to swing a bat as hard as they can at the hanging object that is stuffed full of unknown goodies?

The kiddos all took turns. I know my granddaughter was giving it her all to bust that bumble bee wide open. This always makes me a tad bit nervous though. As the kids were swinging, I was praying silently that those future little baseball players hang on to that bat after smacking the piñata. 😮

When the piñata was finally broken and all the goodies fell to the ground, those little ones dashed to the treasure lying on the carpet, then dropped to their knees to gather up as many of those yummy treats as they possibly could hold in their young arms. “Oohs” and “aahhs” escaped from their tiny lips when they discovered more than just candy. SURPRISE…toys galore. Unexpected glow rings and puzzle shapes that challenged even the Grandpas.  Many happy kiddos at the end of that birthday party.

A few nights ago my hubby and I had the fun of attending an early birthday party for Dr. V. A party planned by her hubby that she swears she had no idea about. SURPRISE…just like a piñata, the room was jam-packed full of family and friends waiting to celebrate with her. Lordy, Lordy, Someone is 40. 😀 And, YES, 40 looks fabulous on you!

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This surprise birthday evening was jam-packed full of fun and laughter and stories and music and food and overall awesomeness. Chock-full of blessings. Just as life should be. Happy birthday, dear piñata friend. You are jam-packed full of beauty and kindness and humor and love. 🙂 Thanks for being a blessing in my life.

As we approach Christmas, the best birthday party of all, I challenge all of us to be a piñata in someone’s life this holiday season. Christmas can be very difficult for some. Not everyone will be joyful during this joyful holiday. Be jam-packed full of surprises for others.

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Maybe some have recently lost a loved one and will be spending Christmas without that person for the first time. Surprise them with a card, a phone call, or a face-to-face visit. Watch a movie or share some hot chocolate together.

Maybe some are in hospitals fighting for their health. Surprise them with a Christmas stocking jam-packed full of goodies such as books, shampoos, CD’s, journals. Possibly put one together for a child, a teenager, an adult, and a senior citizen.

Maybe some feel alone. It’s possible that the waiters/waitresses who just served their customers food have no family nearby. Surprise them by leaving an extra-large tip with a note of appreciation.

Maybe some are down on their luck and are struggling financially. Buy a gift card to a grocery store that also has a gas station. Surprise them by hand-delivering the gift card, complete with a hug, and let the person know that a thank you is not necessary. The only expectation would be to pay it forward someday when they can afford it.

Yes, indeed. Life and people are certainly like piñatas, chock-full of unexpected goodies. Be a piñata for others today and EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  And…happy birthday to you…whenever your birthday is. SURPRISE… 🙂

Stay Calm & Be Someone’s Piñata!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

What Motivates You?

“Let it drive you or defeat you… only you can choose.
No one owns your attitude but you.”

These one-day-famous words were once said by Mama Bear to her Baby Bear.  Okay – I may just be the Mama Bear in this story.  You see… Baby Bear was facing some adversity and the porridge was no longer just quite right.  School, teams, responsibilities, …the tug-of-war of it all can be consuming.

It is hard to see our kids struggle – whether it is our children at home or our children in our classrooms or our children in activities or our children out in the world.  There is not necessarily an age limit where it stops hurting when the challenges come knocking and are no longer at bay.  You may have heard this one before… “Knock, knock.”  “Who’s there?”  “Life’s challenges that’s who.”  ….and I forget how the rest of the joke goes, but I know how the story ends.  We either finish it the best we can or start fresh or walk away.  Well, in most situations, it should only be option A.

“I get knocked down, but I get up again… you’re never going to keep me down.”  These lyrics randomly pop in my head when life gets overwhelming and the going gets tough.  It all started back during my undergrad work when I was challenged beyond my imagination juggling life away from home, my studies, my internships, my responsibilities, and of course my social obligations.  Were these events life changing?  You bet.  Were they world ending?  Not so much.  At the time, I wasn’t so sure, however.  That is the beauty of facing challenges and conquering doubts.  Although we may feel in over our heads, we can tread water and eventually swim back to shore. …Now back to the song – I am not quite sure if these are the true lyrics to the tune, but they certainly were and remain true for me.  Get back up and just keep swimming.

So what motivates us to “keep on keepin’ on” each day?  Some ideas based on thorough research… or rather, Deep Thoughts by Dr. V.  (I apologize that only a certain population of SNL viewers will understand that last statement.)

Finding clues to the next stage of the game…

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Helping others find their clues…

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Finding enjoyment and passion and life…

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Witnessing the strength of others…

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Pushing ourselves to do better and be better…

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Being a part of something bigger than ourselves…

Family & friends…

…and of course furry friends with BIG brown eyes!

What motivates you?

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade… or just let the sour stuff ruin your day.  We choose how we live and what we do with the lemons headed down the aisle of life our way on any given day.

Stay Calm & remember…where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.