Monthly Archives: September 2014

30 Day Challenge…Done!

Done! Check! We are finally finished! This month seemed to drag on, and it’s only because of this SACS challenge we agreed to. Whose idea was this anyway?? 🙂  We still chuckle when our office administrator said something to us about treats and we said we can’t. She wrinkled her nose and said, “You’re both still doing that challenge? It’s been forever since you started it.” Well, we are done. Tougher than expected, but we survived. This is what tomorrow will look like:

Either google images or Wendy's hidden stash
Either google images or Wendy’s hidden stash 

Okay, just kidding… 🙂  Below we share our experiences with this low/no Sugar, Alcohol, Caffeine, and Salt 30-day challenge…

Sonya: Peer pressure is an amazing thing – whether you are 13 or 30-something. Everything in our challenge is somehow tied socially in life. There were times it was difficult because saying “no” to something felt like saying “no” to friends and colleagues. Anyone who knows me knows that no is something of an unknown. 🙂 Got that? Hope so. The easiest piece for me was staying with “no” as I did with caffeine – coffee and soda – and alcohol because I knew exactly if I was taking them in or not. Salt and sugar were more challenging because they seem to be everywhere. Fruit helped curb my sweet-tooth, but I did cave a few times (3 to be exact) and enjoy a treat – usually with the help of peer pressure. It has been a successful experience testing my will power. We are always stronger than we realize and although this wasn’t necessarily moving mountains, it gave me perspective to consider that someday I might be able to… and to appreciate all 30 days of this month. Valuable lessons learned in this experiment…and one lesson learned is I know I will enjoy tomorrow – October 1st very much.

Wendy: This was way harder than I thought. The easiest of the four items for me was giving up caffeine. I had already started to make the transition to decaf way before we started this challenge so it wasn’t like I went ‘cold-turkey.’ The other three items were more of a challenge. During the work week was easier to stay on track. My day usually started with a Green Monster smoothie (spinach, frozen kale, ½ frozen banana, raspberries, scoop of chocolate Slim Fast®, ground flax seed, and coconut milk); grapes and decaf coffee for a morning snack; Mason Jar salad for lunch with range dressing; apple or other fruit for a snack in the afternoon, and then homemade chicken vegetable soup or another protein, vegetable, and glass of wine for supper. Weekends were tough! One of my worst days was when I craved salt. I buckled and ate several Lays Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper® potato chips. I didn’t kick myself too hard for caving though; I did my best to get back on track to the low end of this challenge. The past 30 days has made me really think about what I am eating or drinking; which I am hoping will become a habit—think first before consuming. My end results after 30 days: 5 pounds lost. Not as much as I had hoped, BUT, my clothes are fitting a little looser than they did last fall. I’m pleased with that.

What will be our next challenge? Well, let’s just say we are not frantically looking for one to start. Although we have some ideas, we have a whole day to decide, and one thing we learned about this past 30-day challenge is that each day counts. Go ahead and give the SACS challenge a try. We challenge you to challenge yourself! If you do, please let us know how it went for you. Until next time…stay calm and eat healthy.

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

Seven Pillars of Active Listening

google images, not our dog
                 google images, not our dog

Have you ever been in the middle of an intense conversation with a close friend, when all of a sudden her phone rings and she answers it? Or her text message beep goes off so she picks up her phone to read it? (No idea where Wendy is getting her stuff here…never happens! 🙂 )

We must confess. WE have been that friend sometimes. We are trying so hard to become better conversationalists by ignoring our phones when visiting with others.

A radio station was discussing the topic of listening on the air the other day, and a suggestion given to us on the other side of the radio was to use the acronym “W.A.I.T.” when having a conversation with another person. W.A.I.T. stands for Why Am I Talking? It’s a good reminder to us to remember that actively listening is way more important than actively talking.

So how can all of us become better listeners? Below are seven suggestions to practice so that we can get better at the skill of listening. We call these the 7 Pillars of Listening:

Pay attention by making direct eye contact, and lean in toward the speaker. Try not to send a non-verbal signal depicting you are not interested in what the speaker is saying such as sitting with your arms crossed in front of you (even if it is super cold in the room and you left your parka at home). Smile at the speaker and nod occasionally to send the message “yes, I am sincerely interested in what you have to say.”

Avoid distractions by turning off cell phones, iPads, radios, or televisions. Sit close to the speaker or shut the door if needed. There are too many “squirrels” or “shiny” things to distract you in the world without adding your own devices to the story.

Paraphrase what you heard the speaker say. Quiz your understanding by repeating the information in your own words. Paraphrasing will give more depth and breadth to your comprehension of the words spoken. An example of a paraphrase may begin like “What I heard you say is…Is that correct?”

Ask questions to clarify any uncertainties you may have. Questions should be open-ended, non-judgmental, and non-threatening. You may want to ask questions such as “What did you mean when you said…?” or “How did that make you feel?”

Do not interrupt the speaker unless you need to paraphrase, ask a question or clarify what was said. Any type of interruption can be extremely frustrating to the speaker and can send the negative message that what the speaker is saying is not important to you. We have all wanted to add our two-cents worth when others are talking, however, we must restrain from jumping in with our thoughts and comments. Silence is golden!

Empathy is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “understanding of another’s situations, feelings, and motives.” Try to place yourself in the speaker’s shoes and ask yourself “what would I do in this situation?” Be aware of your own emotions and opinions and know that you may disagree with what is being said. Avoid being critical. Acknowledge what the speaker has to say and keep an open mind and an open heart!

Honor any time restraints that may exist. You may have limited time to listen and the person needing you to listen may also have limited time to speak. If you know there will be issues with time simply say, “I have a meeting in 30 minutes. What you have to say is important to me, so if we run out of time, I’d like to continue this conversation on such and such a date at such and such time.” Or, ask the speaker if there are any time restrictions he/she has that you should be aware of. This sends the positive message that you truly care.

The term listen is a verb and verbs are doing words—they demand action. Be quick to listen and slow to speak! Let’s become role models for all people we know by putting into practice the seven pillars of active listening. Too often we might hear in the classroom, “please listen” or “you need to listen more carefully” without the proper modeling and explicit instruction that is needed. Thanks for listening!

Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.  ~Sue Patton Thoele

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

30-Day Challenge Update: 3 Ways to Be Successful

google images Blog about a squirrel? Maybe...
google images
Blog about a nutty squirrel? Maybe…

WAHOO…we are half way there. Not time to celebrate yet, but as of today, we are doing very well on our 30-day SACS challenge this month. If you did not read our blog a few weeks ago, we challenged ourselves to 30 days of low to no Sugar, Alcohol, Caffeine, and Salt (SACS.) We did not find this challenge in a book anywhere; we just made it up and dared ourselves.

Wendy has been more on the low end of this challenge. Of course when you are trying so hard NOT to indulge in birthday cupcakes, birthday cheese cake, wedding wine, and family gathering potato chips, all of these goodies show up to taunt you. Wendy has done well, though…she has only had a little bit of the wine, chips, and one small bite of banana pumpkin bread—she has stayed faithful to continue on the low end path of this challenge. As for caffeine…so far so good. That culprit has been the easiest for her to ignore. She still drinks her coffee in the morning; however, it’s decaf. The salt is the most difficult for Wendy. Salt is in everything. We need some salt to stay healthy so reading labels has become a must during this challenge. Wendy chooses the lowest salt-content foods possible. Her favorite new product after reading these labels…1/3 Less Sodium & Sugar Skippy Peanut Butter ®. As of today, Wendy has lost 4 pounds.

Sonya has been aiming for the no of this challenge… at first because she just didn’t realize the low was an option. (This really has something to do with following directions and selective hearing.) So far, so good… minus the small pumpkin bar slip up because her mama makes the best there is! Back in college this bar recipe almost caused a meltdown of world war status with college roomies because someone (to this day unknown) decided to consume more than the allotted roommate amount. Anyway – you get the idea of how simply divine these yummy bars are… Sonya caved. There is still no in the alcohol and caffeine categories respectively. It is now just a mission to make it happen, and it is amazing how socially tied these two are and how often. It takes 30 days to truly appreciate this challenge. The toughest part by far is staying away from salt simply because it is in almost everything. We do need it so low is the route to go. As of today, Sonya has lost a little over 6 pounds but most importantly, feels good with energy to spare despite the no cup of Joe.

(If you feel like this has a “weight watchers anonymous” feel to it and are concerned, read on to move on….)

Has this challenge been easy…not one iota. We have found that we are determined, focused, and have our colleagues and spouses cheering us on. These three traits could help our SMSU teacher candidates go from ‘good’ teaching to ‘great’ teaching. These three traits could help all of us to be more successful, really.

Determined: As you enter the field of teaching, future teachers, be determined to be the best you can be, and then continue to work at it every day! Those great teachers have worked hard to become great. If you want to be like them, you have to work as hard as they did to get there. Believe you can get there and strive for it each day.

Focused: A cute scene from the movie Up, Dug the dog is easily distracted by squirrels. 🙂 We just love movies, don’t you? Oh wait… what were we saying? Oh yeah – Try to stay as focused as you can, future teachers. Focus on what is really important…the students and their learning. Stay away from those focus stealers like negativity, high stakes testing, and stinky feet.

Support: Having our colleagues cheer us on has meant so much to us. We appreciate their support. Find at least one person in your building who will support you in your teaching, future teachers. It may be your grade level or content co-worker. It may be the music teacher. It may be your paraprofessional who is your right-hand woman or man. Also rely on your spouse or significant other or even your mom or dad to support you and cheer you on. Even though the challenge is for only 30 days…it seems a lot longer than that when you are right smack dab in the middle of it. Find those people who bless you, not stress you. [Click 2 Tweet]

Good luck to you if you have joined us in this challenge. Wahoo—only 15 more days to go. We CAN do this!

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


google images
google images

The path doesn’t always follow a roadmap. Currently on highway 212 near Eden Prairie, GPS tells us we are not on a road but instead in a field. That is one good example of our path not following a roadmap. At one time there was no road here until someone decided there needed to be one. The change was made, and it is better than it once was.

The same is true about life. We are where we are today because of roadmaps and changes in the path. It doesn’t always make sense when we are on the road, but maybe from the sky it does. The original detour of this post was going to be about the SACS challenge… and how it wasn’t maybe going according to plan. (Don’t tell Wendy, but I had the blog titled last week before we even started the 30-Day Challenge. Nice positive thinking, huh?) Turns out that the SACS challenge is going according to plan –post caffeine headaches resolved of course. (Don’t tell Sonya, but I knew we could do it without a doubt and a little prayer.) Well, this post is about life’s detours unrelated to the SACS challenge and instead is about what we do when life and learning throws a curveball or a big, giant boulder. 

We are no longer on highway 212 and instead at the University of Minnesota to see an orthopedic specialist – a spine doctor to be quite medically precise. Mr. V., who recently had foot surgery, is now being challenged with some serious back issues. We don’t know much about this path yet, but we are on it. We will figure out the roadmap along our way. The phrase “stay the course” might be optimal for some situations but not for all. For this one, we will figure out which course is needed and go from there. We need to take the detour.

Doesn’t this happen each day in the classroom? Teachers make plans and more plans considering what the day might bring and what the weather is doing outside. (FYI -Teachers are seriously gifted with meteorology skills when observing their students.) When plans need to be altered, effective teachers do that – change plans mid-course as needed and take detours along the way. (We just realized that course is one letter longer than curse. Hmmm…)

Flexibility is key to teacher survival. We can prepare for possible paths and detours, but we can’t control everything. So what is a teacher to do? Take a look at the path and what happened to the path. Map where you have been including detours you had to take so you know where you might want to go. Mapping learning is the end product of lesson planning. It is taking a look at where a teacher planned to lead their students and where they actually went. Hind-sight is always 20-20, right? Detours are usually not fun but eventually we get where we need to be. And…sometimes the scenery on the detour brings unexpected wonder, beauty, and awe. We might even be thankful for the detours at the end of the journey.

So for today – think about where you are going and then consider where you have been. The roadmap might have a few scribbles, but if we are flexible, we will be just fine on the detour. Our scribble for today is not posting this blog when we wanted to…yesterday. So… remember yesterday, enjoy today, and plan tomorrow. Sometimes the scenery on the detour brings unexpected wonder, beauty, and awe. We are thankful we were detoured.

One last detour for this reading… Have you considered the 60-for-60 pledge? Check it out… and it has nothing to do with giving up caffeine. 🙂

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs ~ Dr. C. & Dr. V.

30-Day Challenge

google images
google images

That’s it! We’ve had it! We’ve come to our wit’s end. It’s time to change this! Those few extra pounds that snuck up on us over the summer months have got to go! They have overstayed their visit! Ok- so maybe it isn’t only the unwelcomed visitors but also that tired-from-a-sugar-high feeling or the dragging feeling without the necessary intake of daily coffee needed to keep the engines running high.

What to do?? Take on a 30-day challenge of course! It is time to detox the junk and start from scratch.

Matt Cutts shares in his TED talk several different 30-day challenges that he has accomplished. Some challenges required adding something to his life, while other challenges took away something.

We can tell you that after we watched that talk, we tried a few challenges ourselves. Challenges like adding 60 minutes of exercise a day for 30 days; taking away Facebook for 30 days; adding 30 push-ups a day for 30 days; taking away candy in the month of February. In all honesty, we were victorious when we added to our lives, but we failed miserably every time we took something away.

Well, we are hopeful that we are about to change that. Beginning September 1 until September 30, we are taking action and doing the SACS Diet 30-Day Challenge. The Low/No Sugar, Alcohol, Caffeine, and Salt (SACS) Diet. And, no, you won’t find that diet in a book anywhere. We just made it up. 🙂 Wait…maybe that will be in our book?!

We believe we can do this. We will keep you posted on how we are doing. As the American Authors sing, “I’m just a believer that things will get better.” Please join us if you’re up for the challenge! And may we ask that you please keep us posted on your successes and difficulties! Are you ready? Ready, set, ….GO!

Let the SACS Challenge begin, and, “may the odds be ever in our favor!”

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