Monthly Archives: April 2015

Decorate with Diligence

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Spring time gives us that nesting instinct…to clean, to renew, to prettify. Makes us want to redecorate our offices. Tidy them up a bit. Make these offices look a bit more attractive. Hmm…maybe we should decorate our lives too? 🙂

The SMSU teacher candidates are getting ready for one of their optimal field experiences—elementary clinical. They will be taking charge of an elementary school, and they have been working hard in preparation to garnish their classrooms with engaging lessons and splendid decorations. They want to make their classrooms and their lessons be attractive, enhanced, embellished. So proud of them!!

According to, the definition of decorate is to furnish or adorn with something ornamental or becoming, embellish. Perfect for our teacher candidates who want their classrooms and their lessons to be charming. As much diligence that our teacher candidates have put into this 2-day theme based clinical, it makes us wonder that maybe it is just as important to put in that time, hard work, and effort into our lives.

How can we redecorate, tidy up, renew, or embellish our lives to make them be a tad more attractive? Patsy Clairmont, author of Twirl: A Fresh Spin at Life shares a few ideas on how to do just that…

Sidle up to joy: Move side-by-side to those people who bring you joy, and to those activities that bring you joy. Teaching…now that brings us joy. Kiddos in classrooms…yes, that brings us joy! We are 100% positive our teacher candidates would agree.

Give away something you value: Give me a T—T, give me an I—I, give me an M—M, give me an E—E. What’s that spell?? TIME. Children spell love T.I.M.E. We all value it…now give some away. Give up your time for those you care about.

Volunteer your services: When we volunteer, we think we are blessing others. Reality check is, we are doubly blessed by others!

Use your gifts: Are you great at knitting? (Stina!) Are you great at card making? (Sharon!) Whatever your talents are, use them to the advantage of others. Knit a baby cap for a friend. Make a card for the hurting.

Unpack your gratitude: Be thankful in all circumstances. We can’t control much in our lives, however, we can control our attitude of gratitude. Say thank you often!

Visit a senior: We all get lonely at times. Go visit the elderly. Take them to coffee or lunch. Age waits for no one, and we are all heading in their direction.

Compliment a stranger: Mark Twain once said “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” So, pay it forward, people. You compliment a stranger and guaranteed…that stranger will compliment someone else.

Teacher candidates: decorate your lives with the suggestions above, but most importantly, prettify (love that new word) the lives of those children you will be teaching in the next few days. Not only adorn that classroom with your awesome decorations, but also embellish it with joy! Bless the children with your undivided time and attention. Use your teaching gifts that you have been blessed with. Be grateful for this experience, and compliment each other on a job well done.

We wish you the best of luck. You CAN do this! 🙂

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

What Happens When a Retired State Trooper Becomes a Substitute Para?

Had coffee the other day with a friend who recently retired from the Minnesota State Highway Patrol. She had a 3D retirement party—Dining, Dancing, and Donuts. Go figure. 🙂

Anyway, she shared that she was just finishing up a nine week substitute job as a paraprofessional. That made the ‘ole eyebrows shoot straight up!


She was working with a few young children who needed a para with them because of possible seizures. She was also working with other children with special needs.

Her stories brought some belly laughter and also a few tears. Educators beware…honesty is shared here and some of her words may offend you.

Her first story was about a little cherub who experienced seizures. She shared:

“I’d rather go to a car crash site any day, than to watch a four year old have a full blown seizure. That was a tough situation to witness! I had just visited with this little girl about having to go back into the building soon, and she went to the top of the slide one more time, waved at me, then collapsed.

Right there at the top of the slide.

I hustled up there to get her, and carried her down. The school nurse made the call to wait just a little longer than the three minutes of seizing before giving her medication. Shortly after that time frame she came out of it. Thank goodness I was able to climb up the jungle gym. The other teacher was unable to make it up there.”

Teacher candidates…have a plan! If you are unable, for any reason, to climb up steps to get a student off the play set, have a plan. Who will you ask to help you? How will you get that child down? Having a plan in any type of emergency situation will prevent chaos later.

One student this trooper-turned-para was assisting was extremely naughty. Totally out-of-control behavior. Without thinking she asked the classroom teacher, “Where’s your Taser?” She was kidding of course. 🙂

Teacher candidates…what intervention ideas do you have up your sleeve for students with exceptionalities? A Taser is not an option. A website that is a great resource for you can be found at This website offers academic interventions, behavior interventions, and tutorial videos. It is worth a visit!

When lunch time rolled around, this retired highway patrol sat in her vehicle and ate her lunch alone two days of the week. She found the teacher’s lounge to be a tad unfriendly and negative. She admitted:

“This was my first time working with all women. I was used to working with guys only. Not one of those ladies would talk to me. When a few of the paras did speak a few words to me, they questioned how much money I was making. I responded with, ‘I don’t know, I didn’t ask.’”

Teacher candidates…be cautious of the teachers’ lounge. National Businesswomen’s Leadership Association (1987) reported that if you are in a positive mood and you walk into a negative place, it will take a mere 7 seconds to become negative yourself. Do not let that happen! Be the change agent in that lounge!

One little girl the trooper/para worked closely with had gotten blue marker on her nose. It was the end of the day and this little girl did NOT like having her face washed so battles were picked, and the marker on the nose was left alone. When trooper/para took the little girl to meet her mom, she apologized for the marker on the little girl’s nose, explained the situation, and left it at that. The next day, trooper/para had to report to the Director of Special Education. The director explained that the parent had sent an email demanding that her daughter be cleaned up every day. Well, the retired trooper, not even thinking of the marker, asked, “I’ve never gone into the bathroom with her. How do I make sure she is cleaned up?” After finding out that the mother meant the marker NOT toileting help, trooper/para let the director know she had apologized to the parent the day before. When the director heard this, she stated she would take care of it.

Teacher candidates—most parents are your allies. Some will complain now and then, however, for the most part, they want to be helpful. Remember, your students are number one in the eyes of their moms and dads. Parents just want the best for their children! Do your best, and remember QTIP when it comes to parent comments…Quit Taking It Personally!

With no teacher training whatsoever, this retired trooper was expected to teach one of her students how to do math, and the math curriculum used was head-scratching confusing. Unfortunately, the classroom teacher made it clear that she did not want to deal with the math skills of this student. Trooper-turned-para was slightly upset about this. Her explanation was:

“My perception of this specific teacher was she was passing the buck. What do I know about teaching? I was a state trooper not a teacher. She was expecting me, the para, to do her job. It was her responsibility to teach the math, not mine.”

Teacher candidates—please remember you are the teacher. Your para is there to assist you in many ways, however, paras should not be doing your duties. Treat them respectfully, and, most importantly, thank them often! Do your job, teacher candidates, and do it well!

The retired trooper friend concluded the conversation with how this subbing experience opened her eyes and her heart. She acknowledged, “It is always good to walk in someone else’s shoes. I’ve gained a renewed respect level for the teachers and paras who do this work every single day.”

To all teachers and paras, we thank you for the extraordinary tasks you accomplish every single day. Thank you! Thank you for your hard work and dedication to all those children you serve!

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

*Powerful Communication Skills for Women, (1987). National Businesswomen’s Leadership Association, A Division of National Seminars, Inc., Overland Park, KS

Finding Your Purpose

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Looking at the title, you had to be thinking – this should be good! Either you were seriously thinking this or perhaps instead you thought, “What do these two know about this?” Well if you remember the end of our last blog – asking you to stay tuned regarding a great read that was underway about doing what you were meant to do – here it is. We relied on this text to guide us this week and for the weeks moving forward. The book is titled, The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins. As author Goins writes, “This is not a book about miracles. It is a book about finding your calling, about how you discover what you were born to do” (xx).

What did feel like a miracle, is the simplicity of the text and the ease with which the reader connects to it. It makes us think that maybe our calling was to be professional readers. Wouldn’t that be a grand way to live one’s life?! We love to read… and we like to write our fair share, too. So we may not be quite sure of our calling yet – other than we love to share our love of learning and teaching with others. I guess that makes us teachers. 🙂

Still not convinced to read the book – or worse yet, not convinced in your own calling? Goins identified seven common characteristics for individuals on the road to finding their calling.  They are identified here, and this is what we learned:

Awareness. Know who you are, know your surroundings, and know where you are going. Listen to your own life’s tales.

Apprenticeship. Learn from the people and places around you. The journey is less lonely and easier going with another.

Practice. Don’t give up. Keep trying and practicing and aiming to do better than you did before. Know that sometimes it may not work and it is okay to change paths if needed.

Discovery. Be like a small child and curious about the world. Know that pursuing the discovery can be hard work and take much effort.

Profession. Like the analogy of basketball, the pivot provides you with options – with directions available before you commit. Once you take that step, move in that direction – or pass the ball.

Mastery. Try different things and find what works. Aim to master some things – not all things. Focus energy on “the” important things in life and “own” those things.

Legacy.   Leave the world a little better than you found it. Finding our callings is more about all of us than about each of us. Be the piece to the big puzzle.

These seven characteristics are not easy to consider. However, they are common themes or threads that make up our road to fulfilling our callings.

“To acknowledge that whatever is happening in their own lives now, as difficult as it might be, is important. To not hold out for the right opportunity or wait for things to get better, but to make the most of life now” (xxvi).

And that is just the introduction of the book… read it yourself to help find your purpose. Don’t wait until tomorrow – start today so you may know tomorrow what to do.

“Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come” ~Unknown (Goins, 2015, p. 31).

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

ORG 101

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So it happens. What happens you may be asking? Life. We work. We play. We work. We play. …and somehow life goes zooming by – or at least that is the case for us at times. Where did the time go? We were just teacher candidates ourselves and preparing to change the world – one student at a time. Now here we are – just a few years older 🙂 – and preparing teacher candidates to change the world one student at a time.

How can we learn to enjoy life – both work and play – while time goes zooming by? We think we have the answer to this one, and it can be learned in ORG 101 – Organization for Living and Leading. The central focus here is a healthy combination between organization and appreciation. If we can maintain a fresh perspective and enthusiasm for what we do daily, we can enjoy life and appreciate that is truly is a gift.   Our perspective impacts our families, our colleagues, our students, and almost anyone and everyone we meet. Sometimes it is challenging to maintain that positive outlook when all we see when we look up is a mess.

Where are we going with this you may be wondering? We will aim to get organized here and share our thoughts. With the craziness of the end of the school year approaching, we tend to miss the big picture at times and focus on the small things on the to-do list – and miss life happening in the mean time. We need to remember to slow down and stay calm. We need to remember to appreciate life – both work and play. We decided to set a goal that we can accomplish while the end-of-the-year rush is underway. We decided to get organized – and appreciate.

Starting with reflection…
I remember being “hyper organized” per my students. When I was in my own classroom, I had labeled each cabinet door or drawer with a number. Inside my sub, or guest teacher, notes, I had lists of what was located in each drawer or behind each drawer. If someone opened a drawer or door, the lists could be found there as well. When I would ask for student feedback throughout the year, I would get “She is kind…and hyper organized.” I guess I took that as a compliment – that, and my students seemed to be learning.

My colleagues today might laugh at this picture, and especially so, if they stop by my office where papers and lists grow wild. Where am I going with this story? Being organized is good; being kind is even better. I may have lost my way with my organization but it isn’t too late to remember it is just life and start again. I have learned a few new tricks from colleagues, students, and even my own children. (Yay – I feel like I succeeded if they are becoming responsible and organized individuals themselves!)

Get organized. Stay Organized. Revaluate Organization. Repeat as Needed. Sometimes when we are busy living, we can get out of sync and feel as though we are failing ORG 101 – even if we passed that class years ago. One of the key components here is to find what works for you. A technique that works fabulously for your colleague or friend may not work for you. Be yourself on the road to organization so you can succeed at it – and in return appreciate life – both work and play.

1. Make a list and don’t check it twice. Some of us – without naming names – were notorious for making a list of our list. (Just ask my husband!) Instead – find a method of “list making” that works and stick to it. Try not to stray away from it until you have given it 100% effort. I have learned to categorize tasks and prioritize them by deadlines. Although my preference is not to work by deadlines, it sometimes is the way life goes. The important thing to remember here is that the word deadline does not need to be stressful. Do your best and ask for help if needed.

2. Use labels and places. Aim to avoid touching paper and mail multiple times. This includes snail mail and emails. If you have places labeled to place items, it can streamline that desktop, which can free up your mind and perspective. (Still working on this one!)

3. Set aside time to get organized. If you don’t have the time to appropriately file or tend to papers and mail, set aside specific time/s during the day to pay attention to those details so that you can be efficient. This cannot happen overnight – unless you take a sick day and hide out cleaning and organizing.

4. Allow yourself freedom to mess up. We can hear negative thoughts often enough from others without constantly berating ourselves for not living up to our own expectations. After all it is only life. We have been given a gift so although we aim not to mess it up, we appreciate the learning that happens when we do. If we can model this for our own families and students, we are half way there to accomplishing great things!

5. Follow our own advice. 🙂

Look for more to come on the topic of life and doing what you are meant to do. Great new read underway that is proving to be inspirational at this time. To be continued…


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