Monthly Archives: September 2016

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

google images


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!

google images 


“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

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.