Monthly Archives: February 2017

Seek Out the Positives in the Negatives


Photo credit:

Everyone has a favorite children’s book. When I read certain books to my grandkids, I usually get the excited shouts of “Again, Grandma. Read it again.” You know how it goes. We have memorized these irresistible books because of the many times reading them again and again and again and again. 🙂

A few weeks ago during my Children’s Literature class, which consists mostly of sophomores in college, I taught them about the two most prestigious book awards that are given out in January. These two awards are the Newbery Award winners and the Caldecott Award winners. If you aren’t sure what these two awards entail, below are simple explanations:

The Newbery Award is chosen for its content or as Stoodt-Hill (2009) stated in her book “the committee is to make its decision primarily on the text” (p. 9). An example of this award is the 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan written by Katherine Applegate. This book epitomizes courage, and is a book you won’t want to put down until you have read every last one of its’ 336 pages (it’s a children’s book…easy read).


The Caldecott Award is a picture book chosen for its illustrations. “The committee is to make its decision primarily on the illustrations, but other components of a book are to be considered” (Stoodt-Hill, 2009, p. 9). A favorite Caldecott of mine that I enjoy reading to my grandkids again and again is the beautifully illustrated 1986 Caldecott winner The Polar Express written by Chris Van Allsburg.


Well, here’s a fun fact that I shared with my teacher candidates. In January 2016, a picture book was chosen as the winner of the Newbery Award.  That’s right…a PICTURE book!! This book also won the Caldecott Honor Award AND a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award. Last Stop on Market Street written by Matt de la Peña is a loving and inspiring story of a young boy and his nana appreciating all that life has to offer while putting others first. Nana points out to her grandson all the positives hidden in the negatives. When I finish reading this book to my grandchildren, it’s my turn to say, “Again, grandchildren. Let’s read it again.” I adore this story. I want my grandkids to remember me as their Grandma Wendy who was always seeking out the positives hidden in the negatives.


Have you had that one person tell you to “look on the bright side” when life gets a little harsh? We tend to get extremely annoyed with that person for saying those words don’t we? Is it because we want him or her to jump on the pity bus with us? Think about it, though. Those five words are truth! As Joel Scrivner commented in his blog post, “let’s start to identify positive aspects in our negative situations.” In other words, let’s look on the bright side of life.

Just like Nana did with CJ in The Last Stop on Market Street, let’s seek out the hidden positives in our negatives! Let’s start bathing in the positives and it will cleanse our souls. Change our mindset, change our life.


Stay Calm & Seek Out the Hidden Positives!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.


Sleep Now … Or Forever


“Sleep is overrated.”  You have probably heard this statement before once or twice…or an outrageous number of times from individuals…like me. Guilty. Hands down. In attempts to be held accountable for change, we are here to tell you that opening line is false.  It simply isn’t true.  Sleep is how we recharge. Not getting enough sleep is like charging our phone batteries partially, and then expecting them to last all day just as if we had fully charged them.  Crazy concept, right?

Sometimes we need to be reminded we are not invincible. Sometimes we just need to sleep.

Easier said than done for some, however. In fact, we wrote about sleep in a January post after attending a session at a conference on the importance of sleep. What part about needing sleep is so difficult to absorb? Sleep is a necessity – although we often confuse it as a luxury.  In pursuit of adding to our shut-eye formula, we began looking for ways to find more sleep.  There is a plethora of resources available online and in print.  Where to start? Well, why not start with family and friends to begin gathering some information and importantly, support.  Dr. Wendy’s daughter shared this blog – Great Kids Therapy – with us, and we now share it with you. Check it out as it notes sleep’s impact on children…and all of us.

As my doc said to me this week, sleep is a habit just like anything else. Some habits are good.  Some habits are bad. We need family and friends to support us in this sleep venture.
Colleagues are not exempt from this responsibility.  In this busy, fast-paced world, we can get caught up in challenge to do more, to sacrifice more… Sleep becomes almost a competition.  “I didn’t go to bed until well past midnight, and had to be up early today for ________.”  You fill in the blank.  You have heard it. You may have said it. What drives us to so easily forsake sleep – our bodies’ time to refuel in efforts to accomplish more.  When in fact, we accomplish less – OR quite possibly not up to the caliber it would be minus the sleep deprivation – OR it ends up taking twice as long. Yikes – guilty of this – and have been for years.  My family reminds me frequently of my bad habit. I have always figured it was how I was wired – and that I didn’t need as much sleep as others.  Somehow I was a superior built model that requires 4-5 hours of sleep on average to perform mental and physical tasks without waver.  Guess what? I was wrong.  I mean – don’t tell others that I was wrong.  But it is true…so tell others if it can help you and your family and friends – then do tell.  We need to be supporters of each other – to sleep more!  Sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on our health.  Why would we want to be competitive about our lack of sleep and poor health choices?

If you haven’t dozed off already, get some shut-eye. Don’t worry – You have the teachers’ permission. 😉

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



How to Lead With Love


Erin @ Crafts and Sutch –

Radio music blaring, sun shining, winds calm out of the west, roads clear of ice and snow…it was a great day to be driving to Bloomington, MN where I would be attending the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA) Institute 2017. This conference is one of my all-time favorite conferences to attend each year, and it always falls on the first week in February. So, no ice and snow was a bonus!!!


In tow was my copy of Renegade Leadership written by Dr. Brad Gustafson, elementary principal in Wayzata, MN. I was hoping to get his autograph while at MESPA and guess what? He was the FIRST person I bumped into after I registered for the conference. #MESPAmn mission accomplished.


Sessions I attended pitched out many ideas and advice on how to inspire schoolwide excellence, how to lead little ones in the ECE arena, how to make sure your school is culturally responsive, and how to apply mental health first aid for those students struggling. You know what the ONE overarching piece of advice was that I heard in every single one of those sessions?  To lead with love! Boldly, fiercely, outrageously, unconditionally…


Keynote speaker Principal Baruti Kafele got the conference rolling with his presentation on Critical Leadership Questions for Inspiring Schoolwide Excellence. Lead with love takeaways were:

  • Analyze our game film and replays. Dissect it. Reflect on it. Is it filled with love for those students in our buildings?
  • Lead with purpose. Find a specificity.
  • Be on a mission to impact the lives of children.
  • Have a vision for ourselves and for our students.
  • Simultaneously see our students for who they are now AND for who they will become.
  • Leaders: WE are the #1 determinant of the successes or failures of our students.
  • Have a winning mindset for our students.
  • Greet our students every morning with a smile and one of the three H’s—high five, handshake, or hug.
  • Be intentional.
  • Take pride in our buildings and grounds. Both reflect our leadership.

Principal Baruti Kafele received a standing ovation, and his admirable message left us feeling filled with unconditional love. Sadly, his departure from Minnesota did not. The MSP Airport and the TSA’s must have left their Minnesota nice at home that day, and it breaks my heart. I am so sorry this happened to you, sir. No words!  😦


Session presenter Principal Jessica Cabeen shared with us on how to lead from the sandbox giving considerations for leading at the Prek-3 level. A brief look at her lead with love message:

  • Support effective teaching.
  • Support students.
  • Support play.
  • Support families.
  • Support professional development.

When we support each other, we certainly role-model love for each other. Jessica, your enthusiasm and passion for this ECE level was very transparent. Thank you for the great brain breaks too. LOVED dancing with you. Would love to see you dancing with your kiddos on the playground in the mornings. 🙂 Toni B…I challenge you. Then PLEASE invite me over to shake a leg with you. 😀

The final keynote speaker was Dr. Sharroky Hollie and he presented six ways to know if our schools are culturally responsive. A few highlights from his lead with love message were:

  • Be an advocate for the under-served.
  • Have courageous conversations about race.
  • Being culturally responsive gives a sense of belonging.
  • Most kids need ‘outrageous’ love.
  • Validate and affirm students.
  • Celebrate culture all year long.

Thank you, Dr. Hollie, for empowering and inspiring us to become culturally responsive.


Session presenter, Paige Thompson, mental health consultant, was the last session of the day. However, even though she was last, she was engaging and held our attention for the full hour. She was knowledgeable and full of vibrancy. She was my favorite of all sessions. Plus, she matter-of-factly told us she would not let us out early since we were earning CEU’s from her session. 🙂

The story Paige told at the beginning was enough to stir any heart. A boy was on a subway bus, heading to his secret place to end his life. He thought if just ONE person on that bus would ask him one simple question then he would not go through with it. No one did. Not one person asked those three powerful words, “are you okay?” If that is all it takes, I’m doing it! I do not ever want to be that ONE person.

Five simple tips considered to be “protective factors” for mental health and are certainly ways to lead with love were:

  • Constructive recreation
  • Economic security
  • Connection with ONE adult
  • Spirituality
  • Healthy practices such as: Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise


The MESPA 2017 Institute came to a near close on Friday morning with MESPA’s Legal Counsel and renowned education lawyer, Roger Aronson, giving elementary principals the legislature lowdown. I do not want to get into politics, but the picture below demonstrates just a touch of Roger’s sense of humor. 😀 His lead with love advice for all leaders: “Be great, smile, have fun.”

The grand finale was the 2nd Annual MESPA Speaks. TED talk style presentations for principals by principals. Very BRAVE principals I might add. Check out the hashtag #mespamn to watch a few on Periscope.


Two thumbs up to MESPA and to these three lovely ladies behind the scenes who make it a HUGE success. This is one of the best conferences I attend. God willing, see you next year! 🙂


How do you lead with love?

Stay Calm & Lead with Love!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.