Monthly Archives: January 2017

Embrace the Struggle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

We Are Called To Be Courageous Leaders

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

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

Leadership: a person who guides, directs, leads.

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

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

“Why you do that?”

“Do what?” asked the principal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything I Need to Know I Learned on Sabbatical

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

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

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

But there really is so much more…

*Life is bigger than any one person or job.

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

*Learning English can be fun!

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

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

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

*Be with family no matter what you are doing.

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

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

*Incremental rehearsal works.

*Take risks – appropriately of course.

*SIOP is for all teachers and learners.

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

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

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

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*Field trips are exciting at any age.

*Learn another language – and keep using it.

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

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

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

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

*Professional Development should be lifelong.  Never stop learning.

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

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

*Do not be an island.

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

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*Culturally responsive teaching makes a difference.

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

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

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

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

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

*Be humble and kind.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

The 7-Up Candy Bar…Mmmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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#booksnaps

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

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

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

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