10 Secrets to Longevity


Photo Credit: Jana Beckering

My husband’s Grandpa DeVries was ALMOST a centurion when he passed away. So close…but only a young 99. Good genes, wouldn’t you say? He lived a good life. He shared a little wisdom with his grands along the way too. Want to know what I believe are a few of his secrets to longevity? Read on…

He was a Godly man who believed that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. He quoted John 3:16 quite often in conversation. One of his favorite verses was Provers 3:5-6 which reads “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; but acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your paths straight.”

My hubby’s grandpa was a hard-working farmer, which we all know is an occupation that can have dangers attached to it. One trial that Grandpa DeVries had encountered in his early 50’s was a farming accident that caused him to break his neck.

He was moving a cattle feed bunk with a loader. As he was backing up, the bunk was being lifted at the same time. Grandpa DeVries didn’t realize how high the arms on the loader were getting. They were too high. It caused the bunk to slide back down the arms and hit him. He laid in traction for several weeks along with having to wear a halo for several more.

During that time he learned to be still. He would watch out the window for hours at a time and be meticulously observant. A habit he took with him the rest of his years on Earth. Grandpa DeVries told the story of watching a horse for over an hour. By being still and watching that horse closely, he found that the horse would lift one leg at a time to rest it, and every 15 minutes would change to a different leg. Fascinating.

During his younger years and during his retirement, Grandpa DeVries enjoyed traveling the United States. He often visited family wherever they might be settled.  From California to Texas to Michigan and Connecticut, he enjoyed driving, then later in years, flying around the country. Grandpa DeVries was known for frequently saying “plan like you are going to live forever, and live like you are going to die tomorrow.” No, he isn’t the author of that quote, but he role-modeled it to perfection.

My mother-in-law shared with me that Grandpa DeVries would often say “got to keep moving and thinking.” He was a gentleman who just “kept on trucking” as the saying goes. He certainly wasn’t afraid of a good walk. I remember one trip that we all took to Texas to visit family. While we were there, we toured where Kennedy had been assassinated. Grandpa DeVries walked the whole thing with us.  I remember many of us younger ones were more worn out than he was. On a side note: he went para sailing for the first time…when he was 89. He initially wanted to try bungee jumping, but he found it was too expensive so he chose para sailing instead. I know…astonishing.

Speaking of ‘got to keep thinking,’ if you ever needed to borrow a pen, you could always rely on Grandpa DeVries to have one in his shirt pocket. He believed in keeping the mind as sharp as a tack. He was faithful about attending his grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s sporting events. Out came that pen so he could jot down the event’s score on a piece of paper, and then add up the numbers to make sure those score keepers were doing it right. He was always figuring. Doing a little math. Thinking. Keeping his mind active. When he passed away, he was buried with a pen in his pocket.

If there was a family gathering, it was guaranteed that Grandpa DeVries would be there. He had the gift of showing up. Family knew he would be there so we all recognized we had better be there too. He was the glue that held the family together.

If Grandpa DeVries was all of sudden missing in action during those family gatherings, family members understood that he had quietly returned to his room to lie down and take a nap. No announcement made, just gone. He was wise enough to discern when it was time to rest.

Mmmm…coffee. Love the smell of it. Love the taste of it. And so did Grandpa DeVries. He would drink a cup of coffee about four times throughout the day. With breakfast or dinner. At gatherings and with friends. No creamer…just black. He was often seen with a cup of coffee in his hand. Even though you cannot see it, in the picture above he is holding a cup of coffee in his right hand.

When the day was done, and dinner was finished and the dishes were cleaned up, Grandpa DeVries liked to sit down, relax and enjoy 2 – 3 ounces of Mogen David red wine. That’s it. No overindulging. Just 2 – 3 ounces of red wine; which research shows is good for you.

There you have it, a few of Grandpa DeVries’ secrets to living longer. Now I have a challenge for you. Be still and closely observe the picture above. Do you see anything out of the ordinary? Look closely at the bare trees in the window. The surprise is in the branches. When I first noticed it, it took my breath away. But then again, it didn’t surprise me because of the Godly man Grandpa DeVries was. Hope you see it…

For those of you who like lists (Dr. V.)🙂, below are Grandpa DeVries’ 10 secrets to longevity. Stay calm and live long, everyone…

*Be a Godly Person

*Be Hard Working

*Be Still

*Plan Like You Will Live Forever; Live Like You’ll Die Tomorrow

*Keep Your Mind Sharp

*Keep Moving

*Show Up

*Take a Nap

*Drink Coffee

*Drink a Little Red Wine


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

To Get Where You Are Going…Turn Left At The Cow

google images: thecrewcoach.com

Have you ever had to stop to ask for directions?  No? Lucky you!  Well, let me tell you that it can be a humbling experience.  I mean – at least that is what I have heard.😉 When asking for directions, it is important to listen carefully to get all the directions just right.  It turns out sometimes the person giving the directions may not actually know for sure, but they sound confident and certain so you just go with it and hope for the best.  Giving directions is so much easier than following them.😉 Thank goodness my dear friend Siri is on board these days so she can politely guide me where I need to go.

Recently, I had an opportunity to follow Siri’s directions to hear author, Lisa Bullard, speak to an audience at the Southwest Minnesota Reading Council fall conference.  It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with other readers and writers.  From experienced teachers to beginning teacher candidates, we were fired up by Lisa’s story to get reading and writing and help guide the learners in our classrooms to do the same.  “The more we read, the better writers we become” as Lisa shared is something I like to share with my own learners.  “Reading and writing feed each other.”  Oh – that reminds me… the meal at the SWMNRC conference was fabulous!

Lisa’s story doesn’t begin with her writing since birth – although she did start writing early on.  Lisa is currently working on her 93rd book after first spending some time in the insurance field and then 16 years in publishing before turning to the dark side…authorhood.  Her ideas and stories come from life experiences and research.

A few key ideas that Lisa shared with the audience include:

*It’s not the author’s job to share the truth or real story in fiction; it’s the emotional truth that they are responsible for.
*Nonfiction and fiction writers need to research.
*Stories can sometimes be deep inside us.  We just need to research unusual facts and pay attention to life around us.
*Typically conflict needs to start right away to keep readers interested because of short attention spans.
*Perseverance is key.  Start with a word, then a sentence, then a page, then a chapter, then a book.

Lisa shared a lot of great ideas and a lot of great books with us.  You Can Write a Story! is a story-writing recipe for kids that I couldn’t resist purchasing – and getting autographed!  Oh – and we cannot forget the best titled book ever, Turn Left at the Cow.  You know you want to find out more about that one!

A major takeaway for me after listening to Lisa Bullard speak is to keep reading and writing – and to encourage others to join in on the hard work and fun.  We are all writers in our own right.  We just have to follow our directions to get where we are going – and to not be afraid to ask for directions when needed.


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

Time to Get Off the Struggle Bus



People enjoy talking about the joyful happenings in their lives. The successes their kids have experienced, the vacations they have gone on, the new jobs they have accepted. No one likes to talk about the struggles they are experiencing. Well, let’s chat about that.

I’ve been riding the struggle bus a lot lately. I’ve been struggling with my weight, struggling with my attitude, struggling with my emotions, struggling with my self-discipline, struggling with my energy. Struggling physically, emotionally, and mentally. Can I get a show of hands from those who are riding the same bus with me? Now a show of hands from all of you who agree with the next sentence…

HELP…we want off. Seriously…please drop us off at the next bus stop.

Rest assured, friends, help is available. We just have to choose it.

I love how messages come at just the right time. Coincidental? I don’t think so. Divine intervention? That would be my thought.

The teacher candidates in my Social Studies Methods class were doing their presentation the other day on the Transformation chapter from Teach Like a PIRATE written and published by Dave Burgess. Their main message was how to transform our teaching, our lessons. To go from simple to spectacular. To be a purple cow not a brown cow (read the book, you’ll get it). Well…I heard it as how to transform me…transform my life. Transform my struggles.

This group supplemented their presentation with a YouTube clip called 212The Extra Degree. A very powerful message. Couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time for me. Prayerfully, for you too.

Think about it. At 211 degrees water is extremely hot. Just ONE degree higher and it starts to boil. Just one teeny tiny drastic change. One extra degree makes all the difference. From hot to unlimited possibilities. Amazing.

So now apply that thought to teaching. More importantly, apply it to life. “One extra degree of effort in teaching or in life separates the good from the great.”

I tell my teacher candidates a similar message. “At SMSU, we train you to be good teachers. It’s up to YOU to become great teachers.” This applies to our lives as well. It’s OUR life. WE are responsible for our results. It’s up to us to make our lives great, and I want to be great. If we choose to make just one teeny tiny change, our lives could have unlimited possibilities. It’s time we turn up the heat, folks. Turn up the heat to help get us off the struggle bus! Let’s make this choice together.


Another message I received at just the right time was the Very.Next.Day. Just by chance? Not in my humble opinion.

I went to discuss some blood work and nutrition results with one of my doctors. While we were discussing what I needed to do to get on the road to better health, the doctor said to me three different times, “who is responsible for your healing?” Three times. And he said it with that ‘teacher look.’

Convicted. That would be me. I am responsible. I have to make the changes. I have to make the choice. I have to turn up the heat.

It’s time. Time to take charge. Time to choose life. Time to turn up the heat. Time to request a stop, to pull the bell, so we can depart this front row seat on the struggle bus.

Let’s do it. Let’s make that teeny tiny change. Let’s persevere, be extraordinary, and be self-disciplined together.

Thank you Joni, Mackenzie, and Kaylea, the group of teacher candidates who shared the 212The Extra Degree video during their transformation presentation. You may have transformed my life. I’m grateful, truly grateful.🙂


Stay Calm & Turn Up The Heat!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Curious Minds Want to Know

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These past few weeks of the school year have simply flown by.  It is officially fall, and the school year is well underway.  One of the focus topics with the start of a new school year is… social norms.  We need to know what behaviors are socially acceptable.  This is critical now as the “honeymoon” period of the school year is almost over as well as for new students just entering school for the first time.  Desired behaviors can be learned by most on most days.  Who said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?  We can all learn something sometime, right?

This past week while working on social norms, one of the English learners in my care greeted his teacher on his own one morning and another learner told her teacher “You’re welcome” while finishing up some math work on the board and politely handing the smartboard marker back to the teacher.  Both cases caused the classroom teacher to be pleasantly surprised by the learning that has taken place in such a short time – and has been applied. (Yay!  I played a part in that!!🙂 )  These two individuals are motivated to learn and curious about the English language and culture; they want to learn.

“Learning is what we humans do best.  We learn throughout our lives by wondering and exploring, experiencing and playing” (Ostroff, 2016, p.1).  In Wendy Ostroff’s book, Cultivating Curiosity in K-12 Classrooms, we are reminded that curiosity is essential to being human, living well, and being happy.  Curious to know more?  You are encouraged to read the book to learn more.

So how can teachers encourage curiosity without killing the cat? “Fostering curiosity involves listening to the myriad of voices and perspectives of the class community members and respecting each other enough to put oneself ‘out there'” (Ostroff, 2016, p.6).  The power of a positive growth mindset remains unchallenged.  We can accomplish almost anything that we believe.

Learners should be involved with both content and technique.  They should be engaged in the learning and active participants instead of being told what to know and how to think.  If involved, motivation to learn cultivates curiosity, which can bring out the child in all of us.

Allowing learners an opportunity to grow during unstructured times with choices, provides a safe place to make mistakes… to learn from them, and grow from them.  This can be a hard one to let go and grow with, but it is essential to curiosity leading to creativity.  If learners cannot be tasked with the charge to be curious and learn, we have failed.  This doesn’t mean it will be an overnight success without guidance.  We need to model and mold – all the while knowing the mold is meant to change.

A little respect can go a long way – in life and in career; this includes how we treat and challenge others.  Create curious habits and habitats for learners.  Enlist the help of Curious George and other characters who live a life of curiosity and never stop learning and growing.

Life and learning are a journey; enjoy the adventure!

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

Today IS Glorious…Rejoice! Be Grateful For It!


Sunrise on the Missouri River at Meridian Bridge Campground

Today is Sunday…September 11, 2016…the 15th anniversary of that tragic day when over 3000 lives were lost due to terrorists. Many of us remember exactly where we were at and what we were doing at the time of this catastrophic occurrence. Facebook and Twitter have been filled with stories and videos and pictures today all to remind us to never forget.

Rips my heart apart…again.😦

One story about that senseless catastrophe I had not heard before is about the man in the red bandana. Just saw it today. Have you heard the story?  If you haven’t, or even if you have, below is a touching video that tells the remarkable story about this true, REAL hero. Watching it will be 10 minutes of your life well spent!

The video begins with the thought provoking question, “What would you do in the last hour of your life?” WHOA! How does a person answer that? I don’t know?? I pray to God that I never have to make that decision. Do you have an answer? If yes, please share it below. Or, just share what you were doing at the time when those planes hit the Twin Towers. We would love to read your stories…and to remember so we never forget.

Reading the 9-11 stories today and seeing the 9-11 pictures posted on Facebook and Twitter truly makes me appreciate the day…TODAY!  All I have is today. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow isn’t here yet. So…I rejoice for today. I am grateful for today. For this moment. For right now.

Psalm 118:24 says “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Please allow me to encourage you to recite that verse the minute you open your groggy eyes in the morning. Yes, even before your feet even hit the floor. Just say it. And, say it out loud… “This is the day that you have made, Lord, thank you. Let me rejoice all day long and be grateful for this day, this moment in time!”

I know…life happens. Life will (not might), WILL deliver a tornado or two…the tornado of disease, the tornado of divorce, the tornado of a lost job, the tornado of a lost friendship, the tornado of a child being diagnosed with diabetes, the tornado of Alzheimer’s, the tornado of losing a sibling or parents (many of my life tornadoes so far).

Remaining positive is a choice. Your choice. Or as a dear friend of mine who was going through cancer said to me when I told her that her positive attitude was amazing…she said “being positive is nonnegotiable.” God bless you, Steph!

So, to ALL of you…family, friends, teacher candidates, colleagues, appreciated blog readers…remember that today IS glorious. Rejoice and be grateful that you are alive.

Stay positive today, tomorrow, and every day! It’s nonnegotiable!


My hubby and me—Yankton, SD Missouri River

Stay Calm & Rejoice in Today!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Fill It Up!

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“My cup runneth over.”  Although I haven’t seen the movie in some time, I immediately recognize the line from, Hope Floats, where the grandmother in this 1998 film kindly shares, “My cup runneth over.” Although there are various ways to interpret this phrase, I have always thought she meant it in an endearing way to say that she has everything she needs with the love of her family.

You might be thinking “that is not the only place you can find that quote” – and you are correct.  It may be found elsewhere…including the Bible, which is probably where it all started. ;-)  Psalm 23: 1-6 reads:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

My cup runneth over. So I wasn’t quite sure what it meant at the time I first watched that film almost 20 years ago or when I read it in scripture, but I know what it means to me now.

Today standing in-line – it happened.  I could feel my bucket (or cup in this case) filling up.  As I helped an English learner with her fingerprints for lunch (Yes – that’s how modern day school lunch lines go for those of you wondering), we were chatting.  What did we talk about?  Shoes.  Sparkling, silver shoes to be more precise.  Although the little girl and I were not fluent in the same language, we were able to communicate about something we had in common – loving rockstar shoes!  During this time, I was able to connect with one of the precious ELs who I will have the opportunity to teach and learn from this fall.  My cup runneth over.

Opportunities are everywhere.  The bucket can hold all kinds of energy.  We just have to see the opportunities and seize them.  Last week at teacher workshops, I had the pleasure to hear two fabulous speakers.  (Yes – I know that might be crazy to say.)  The time simply flew by and my bucket was overflowing…gushing maybe.  And I might be a groupie to both Willow Sweeney and Dr. Luis Cruz now…. My cup runneth over.

Willow Sweeney, partner in creating the Top 20 Training, fired us up to connect with our students and each other. There is potential in all of us.  Take ownership for the energy that we show up with each day and keep each day.  Not everything will go our way but how we react to it is up to us.

Dr. Luis Cruz was the first in his family to attend college – and become a doctor!  (Even if his daughter thinks he’s not a real doctor, I say kudos to him!  It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to make that happen.)  His message for us is to never give up on our kids, on each other, on hope.  I won’t give up. Hope floats after all.

If you have the opportunity to experience either of these two speakers in action live, go for it!  You won’t regret it!  I absolutely LOVED the speakers!  They reminded me that we can make a difference.  I realize that I am optimistic person, who is an idealist almost to a fault. 🙂 I am continuing to learn to be a pragmatist and realist each day, but it seems to start over every morning with the same “let’s change the world and make it a better place” mentality.  I just can’t help it.  Everyone has a vice… mine include: reading, writing in run-on sentences (hard to believe since I am a language arts teacher at heart, but I have so much I want to share with you), fountain pops with lots of ice, a glass of cabernet now and then, fun pens, and of course shoes (if you weren’t paying attention earlier)…and being an idealist.  As the Marshall Public Schools mission statement reads, “MPS develops the potential of each learner for success in a changing world.”  Let’s do this –together!

I love my profession – teaching young students as well as my teacher candidates.  That fills my bucket.  Although I greatly miss my SMSU peeps, I am truly enjoying my adventure at MPS.  My goal this semester is to bring great ideas back to the SMSU teacher candidates from my experience at Park Side and enhance our rapport with schools throughout our community.  Taking time away from my university family has made me fully realize the impact that we have on the community and what more we could even do.  People and authentic relationships make us who we are and how we can help each other.  We truly can make this world a better place.  My cup runneth over.

Cheers to the weekend and making this world a better place and to you… May you find something to fill your bucket that is perfect for you!

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



The Life of a First Year “Pinterest” Teacher: A Mom’s Perspective


At our SMSU back-to-school professional development days, a professor friend from the Sociology Department approached me and said “WENDY…I had no idea how hard it would be to set up an elementary classroom!”

Up went my eyebrows and out came a VERY LOUD giggle. I said to her “oh, PLEASE write this down then email it to me. You can be a guest blogger for Dr. V and me.”

Well…here it is. Cindy’s reflection on her first ever experience with setting up an elementary classroom with her daughter, Sarah, and Sarah’s friend, Aileen. Both of these young ladies are SMSU graduates and are beginning their first year as elementary teachers. Good luck to you, Sarah and Aileen. Your rooms look fabulous! And thank you for sharing your story, Cindy. It made me laugh!🙂 Enjoy everyone…

This is a guest blog post by SMSU Associate Professor of Sociology, Dr. Cindy Aamlid. She is the proud mom of a brand spanking new 4th grade teacher.  Cindy loves to read, hike with her family, and sew. You may contact her via email at cindy.aamlid@smsu.edu.

I am…Mom of an Elementary Teacher

It was only natural that my daughter become a teacher.  I am a teacher.  My mom was a teacher.  My grandma was a librarian.  Collectively we have been involved in education for more than 70 years. We have experienced setting up classrooms, making bulletin boards, planning seating arrangements, and making lesson plans.  What none of us had experienced, though, is the life of an elementary teacher, and especially this new “Pinterest” teacher.

I spent most of the month of July getting my daughter ready for the big move to the first teaching job in Kansas.  This involved not only packing for apartment living again, but also helping her get things ready for the classroom.  On my list were things like finding cute baskets for the shelves, painting and recovering an old padded rocker for the “cozy corner” in her classroom, making pillows, painting letters and frames, and cleaning out her closet.  What I didn’t know was that my education into the life of an elementary teacher, a Pinterest teacher, was just beginning.


I learned that classrooms aren’t planned around themes anymore…now it’s all about a color scheme.  And the chosen color scheme was a little unique (just like my daughter)…coral, navy, aqua, and gray.  We painted the old chair with a blue chalk paint, and used gray/white fabric to recover the cushions.  My daughter bought a few things like small rugs, bins, and pillows in those 4 cute colors, and I found a few ready-made wall decorations.  We bought fabric and ribbon to use on the bulletin boards, instead of paper.  I thought we were fairly organized and ready.  Looking back on this, I really had no clue.  I should have paid more attention to Pinterest. 

Walking into her 4th grade room for the first time was fun for me.  It was a sort of a life passage.  But it soon became very overwhelming.  I had forgotten how bare an empty classroom looks.  As we walked down the school hallways, we just stared in awe.  The majority of the rooms were all filled from floor to ceiling with wall decorations, as well as having the door covered and decorated.  These teachers had set a high bar in this school, and for a new first year teacher, how could you ever compete with that?  You just couldn’t.  But our conversation also revolved around the fact that parents’ night was 4 days away, and that the parents and students would also be judging and comparing her room with the others.  So how could we find a happy medium…between all the “stuff” that had been collected and developed over the years by experienced teachers and the emptiness of a first year room?  So we turned to Pinterest again. 

What was supposed to be (in my mind anyway) a 5 hour classroom set up, turned into a 4 day adventure.  The first thing I learned is that the school did not have any construction paper in these 4 fun unique colors my daughter chose, and that they did not have a supply of the sticky tape to put things on the walls.  So that sent me to every dollar store, fabric store, and craft store to find the right colored paper; I think I also bought out the town’s supply of sticky tape.  The second thing we learned is that the school has required items that need to be on the walls, such as a Word Wall, Star Student, How We Get Home, and CHAMPS.  So we had to create our own (with helpful ideas from Pinterest) or beg/borrow from the other teachers.  Personally, I would like to suggest to all principals that these required items come already printed and laminated for the new teachers to just hang up…what a time saver and a stress reliever, especially for us mothers. 


The third thing I learned is that I can’t achieve the Pinterest look without the helpful advice of videos and blog directions.  My daughter wanted big fluffy tissue paper pompoms, in those 4 fun unique colors.  The first attempts were somewhat crumpled and misshapen.  Who knew that I would be watching an 8 minute video in order to figure out all the tricks…but it worked.  I can make those pompoms look pretty good. 


Then on to figuring out how to make a cookie sheet magnet board.  We couldn’t find cute magnets in the 4 fun unique colors, so we decided to make our own, using wooden star cutouts, a little paint, a small magnet, and a glue gun.  My husband was really proud of himself for learning to use a glue gun.  We created the Word Wall and Star Student decorations with die cut letters, scrapbook paper, and ribbon.  Pinterest was a big help.  And I am so thankful that I can sew!  I made the girls curtains for their bookshelves (to hide the emptiness) and pillows for the cozy corners. 

Oh…I forgot to mention that we were not just setting up one classroom… my daughter and her best SMSU friend (and roomie) both came to Kansas to teach, so we were also helping her a bit.  I just started making doubles of everything.

As I look back on those crazy 4 days, I know that each year will be easier.  And I also know that I plan on helping out every year that I can…I had better get my Pinterest board set up now! 



Dear Sarah and Aileen…change the world, ladies!!!! One student at a time. We expect nothing less!🙂 Have a fantastic first year!

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

Teaching 101

So after 18 years in education, I attended “new teacher” workshops to start off my 19th year. You see I am on sabbatical this fall to rejuvenate, relearn, and renew. I am headed back to the classroom after almost seven years away to restock my teacher toolkit and soul. I will be an EL – Englisher Learner teacher for the Marshall Public School district. I am so pumped up for this as I join this classy group of “new” teachers pictured here.

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So what is new or what is important to renew in the teacher toolkit? LOTS! You may find blog posts this fall to read somewhat like a journal entry in the life of a new teacher.😉

First impressions are important. They can be lasting. If it bombs, however, it can be changed… but it is no longer a first impression of course.😉 This summer I had the privilege of attending a session with Justin Patton. Incredible experience! If you ever have an opportunity to hear Justin speak or be coached by him, you will not regret it! Some takeaways to consider… We are all just people so we live and learn and sometimes change. We need to do our best to respect others and forgive them for messing up as we hope the favor is returned in kind. No matter if the first impression is stellar or not, communicate honestly and build authentic relationships with people as we are all on this adventure together. Make your presence count. One of my favorite quotes from Justin and now one of my own mantra phrases – “Take responsiblilty for the energy you show up with!” Okay – I am pretty fired up about Leading with Head & Heart so look for more on this in upcoming posts. I hope to share this with my students and fellow staff-mates. Now – back to school, folks…

The cycle of morale exists somewhat for all levels of experience in education and possibly other career fields, too. In the new teacher workshops, the Director of Teaching & Learning shared a great visual about the phases of the school year in the life of a teacher.

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When searching for the image, I stumbled across this one as well. Made me laugh out loud, which is good for the soul and morale.

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There are highs and lows in school and in life. Be there to support others and know that “this too shall pass” is a phrase to live by. Laughter is inexpensive medicine to cure the “common cold” in education, too.

Knowing the cycle – continue to learn and grow – and not because you are told to do so, but instead learn and grow because you know it makes you whole. Here is just one example… For any teachers out there who make it to MEA break, join this Pirate crew if you can!

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It’s critical to remember that we teach kids not content. As much as I love me some good content, it’s the kids who matter and will remember. I received two fabulous reminders of who great teachers are and what they do because they care.

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Thanks to Principal Darci Love for sharing “Great Teachers….” with me this week.

Thanks also goes to Director Amanda Granger, who shared about standards-based grading this week and reminded me it’s up to all of us to repair the broken…

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I could really jump on the soapbox here with grades, but I will hold off for another time to “fix” that. My teacher candidates have heard some ranting and raving about this before. I am passionate about kids and not grades, I guess. (I know there are some of you out there who cringe at the word “kids” so insert your own words; I like it.) Another saying that I really like was tweeted out by our very own Dr. Wendy this week. It is so, so true.

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So to recap because I lost track… kindness and communication matter, continuing to learn and grow matter, and having hope and spirit matter. So what else have I learned?
Take care… and take a nap. We should really be learning from our kids’ habits. They nap and are like the Energizer Bunny. Wherever, whenever (it is legal) – take a nap. There is no warrior badge for the teacher who goes without a nap, a message, leisure reading, … The list goes on and on. Teachers don’t keep up like the Energizer Bunny if they skip over enjoying some of that list. That list is actually called life. Teaching can consume the teacher, and what’s left isn’t a pretty picture. Love yourself so you can love others.

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 c

This could go on and on but frankly, I’m exhausted from the week and all the adrenaline in this anticipation phase. My no-longer-21-year-old self can’t keep up quite the same as when I started almost two decades ago. But that’s okay because I love what I do, I love the people I serve… and I love a rare nap much more than I ever thought I could when I was forced to take them as a toddler.

Education related tag cloud illustration

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

Culturally Responsive Teaching & Living


Created with Wordle

As we get ready to go back to school this fall, we are energized from the summer. The fall-like air the last few days is just the right timing to make it official.  Love the summer, but love the fall so much too!  My boys may not be as excited as I am for school supply shopping, but I am! It goes with the territory of being a teacher regardless how much I love summer.

Watching the Olympics this past two weeks has taught us a number of things – including:

*Help each other up.  We are all humans (well – all of us except those of us impersonating humans) and just need a hand once in a while. You may have fallen, but you don’t need to stay there.

*We are different, and that is wonderful.  As the Olympic athletes pour out their blood, sweat, and tears, they are the same in that way, representing their countries and their dreams.

*Be humble and kind.  Winning isn’t everything, but when you do, share the glory.  No one is an island – at least not forever.  Eventually you need a ship for supplies or other life to keep living.

Work Hard – Play Hard!  Repeat!
*Work hard, play hard.  One of my favorites…  and so true.  Both lose their purpose without the other.  Live each day this way. It is a simple recipe for success.

Thinking about these Olympic stories – remember the takeaways as you head to school this fall.  Whether welcoming a student at the door or sending your own student out the door on his or her way to kindergarten, middle school, high school, or beyond – be responsive.

Culturally Responsive Teaching is not a new concept by any means.  It is common sense and incredibly valuable; it just needs revisiting from time to time.  We need to be reminded what we know and what we know is right and just.

What is culturally responsive teaching?  “A pedagogy that crosses disciplines and cultures to engage learners while respecting their cultural integrity.  It accommodates the dynamic mix of race, ethnicity, class, gender, region, religion, and family that contributes to every student’s cultural identity.  The foundation for this approach lies in theories of intrinsic motivation” (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 1995).

Resources to consider and share when preparing for a culturally responsive classroom or workplace – aka respectful zone where everyone is valued for who they are and what they bring to the space.  We can all learn more and grow more from each other starting today.
Strategies & tools:

Have you seen the Ron Clark story yet?  Watch the film – great motivation to be the best teacher possible starting today.


English Language Learners: Culture, Equity, and Language NEA Priority Schools Campaign 2012



SIOP Model overview



SIOP Model for Teaching English Learners



SIOP Model & WIDA Standards


Check out The SIOP Model resource library


Want more? This is the tip of the iceberg folks.  It starts here.  There is so much more out there.  So for today, be more.

Stay Calm & Be Responsive!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.



Go for the Gold!

BLOG 8.12.16 Olympics
google images / edition.cnn.com


So you didn’t take our advice last week?  How about this week?  Or maybe you are wondering what our advice was?  (Don’t worry – I had to think about it too.)  Our blog was about Pokemon Go and to get going to connect.  So did you try it or maybe even consider it?  Well either way – if you are anything like my family this week, we are holed up with bugged out eyes and quite sleep deprived.  We just can’t seem to look away from the TV.  It is like a bad train wreck – in a good way that is. What is it?  It is reality TV at its finest, and it’s actually real.  It is two weeks of “America’s Got Talent” all day long and into late primetime.  It is the Olympics!

It is more than the sports and competition.  It is seeing ordinary people do extraordinary things.  Athletes who train more than anything else or anyone else.  They are dedicated to their sport, and what they can do amazes the rest of us “average joes.”  They make it look effortless – all of it, even the pain.  What makes it so incredible to watch is that they have family and friends who support them endlessly behind the scenes.  They are “average joes” in some ways too.

For me, the best part of the Olympics is the family-time it has created for us.  We have avoided going out for dinner, golfing, movies with friends, and more just to stay home and watch the Olympics together.  Being home together is a feat in itself as the kids continue to become more involved in activities and their own lives. We are volunteering at the county fair food stand for our church tonight; we are praying that there is a TV somewhere near by – or that the customers will watch the races with us on our phones?  It’s not rude if we invite them instead of ignore them, right?🙂

We have had some great conversations around the Olympics about competition, compassion, dedication, perseverance, and life.  Jonah, the middle son, likes to stop us mid-talk and say, “Is this going to be one of your inspirational talks?”  (Yes – my glass is usually half-full. :-)  The time, the talks, and shared common goal – Go USA – have brought us closer together.  Sounds cliché but true.

It is a time to learn about different sports and about one another.  We were watching rowing, and I made a comment about my college crew team.  My son’s eyes got big, and he said, “You did this in college, mom?  This? Really?  Wait – did you go to the Olympics?  Did you win gold?”  My initial response was to just to stare at him because I am 100% sure that I had talked about this plenty in the past.  He needed something to connect it to – or no one is listening when I talk?!

It happened again last night.  As we were watching the floor exercise, our oldest son, Jackson, asked about the music, and if there are guidelines as to what they could have.  My response was probably long-winded and included that Huey Lewis & the News’ Power of Love was my favorite floor routine music. He interjected, “Wait, you were in gymnastics?”  “Yes, son, for ten years when I was younger.” (Um, I mean not now of course.  And really – does no one listen to me reminisce ever?)

My youngest son, JR, has dug out the swim cap and goggles and begs to go to the pool each day to practice flip turns.  This is great since I have tried to get them to be on the swim team again for a number of years.  Thanks, Olympics, I owe you one!

We are addicted to watching the athletes compete and win… and learning more about them.  Check out this NBC site to learn more.  The reporters do a nice job of making them seem “normal” by telling their stories.  It isn’t always an easy flowers and roses story either.  What we don’t see and really know is all the hours of blood, sweat, and tears that goes into their lives and workouts each and every day.

Some of their incredible stories:

Michael Phelps broke a 2,168 year old Olympic record.  I was waiting to post this blog as long as I could but my self-control has finally crumbled.  Phelps has a final swim yet tonight. Will Phelps win the gold in the 100 Butterfly? Only time will tell… pardon the pun🙂

Simone Manuel became the first African-American swimmer to win Olympic gold as she tied for first in the women’s 100 meter freestyle.  Sweet swim!

Kerri Walsh Jennings is going for gold in beach volleyball in her fourth Olympic games.  This mother of three played hurt this past year to qualify for the games in Rio.  She learned to hit left-handed and served underhanded to make it a go.  Interestingly, she met her husband when trying out to be a teammate to her former partner, Misty May-Treanor.  She obviously got the role and the husband.  Will she will gold again with her new volleyball partner, April Ross?

Did you know that professional volleyball players will have about a week off and then go play for their franchise teams across the globe until next May when they will get about another week off and then play on their national teams?  Amazing and grueling.

There are so many cool stories like…
-Swimmer Dirado’s perfect SAT score and how it’s a family tradition to attend Stanford,
-the swimmer from Hungary who is married to her cheered on by and coached by her husband,
-the Phelps family and baby Boomer.
The list continues on and on…

I don’t know about you, but we have become phenomenal swimmers, volleyball players, gymnasts, rowers, fencers, … ourselves.  You name it.  We have been watching it, and we are now good at it, too.  It’s got to be like some kind of visual training. If we see it enough, we can do it, too.

The incredible thing about the Olympics make us want to be better.  Better athletes, better people, more dedicated, more drive.  Check out a few of the inspirational promos to get geared up to win a gold of your own.

DICK’S Sporting Goods 2016 TEAM USA Commercial “Gold in US” shows athletes everywhere that “we all have gold inside of us…but only some have the strength to dig it out.” #GoldInUS

Under Armour #RuleYourself #IWill

“If your goals really mean something to you, then you’ll never give up on them. That’s how it has to be—and that’s exactly what Michael Phelps is doing.” #EARNYOURARMOUR

Now how can we keep the spirit of the Olympics alive each day in our lives at home, at school, at work?  Gold or not – set goals and be better.  Good luck!


Stay Calm & Go USA!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.