Monthly Archives: April 2017

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Blog Woman behind the mask

Hello there! That’s me…sitting on my porch swing, taking a selfie with the ‘pretty filter’ on Snapchat. Observe carefully, please. What do you see? I’ll give you a minute to form your opinions…

Are you ready for this? Care if I expose myself? That picture is me, trying so hard to put on my happy face for those of you who know me and believe I am happy ALL.THE.TIME. Truth be told…some days I’m just not. Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about.

ME: Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

THE DEVIL IN MY HEAD: Not you, you loser! You are old. You are wrinkled. Your teeth are icky. What is up with those stupid sagging eyelids? Bag…baggy eyes, old woman. Stop frowning, moron. You can’t do anything right. You are so dumb for saying that. Suck it up, loser.

That is the ugly, scary monster I hear in my head sometimes. And, frankly…I am sick and tired of it. Just when I believe I’m deep in a pit that will imprison me forever, along comes a song that tells me I’m priceless…irreplaceable, unmistakably, incomparably beautiful. Thank you, for King and Country for throwing me a rope and rescuing me from that pit of lies!

Mistakes. I mess up a lot. Failure. I fail at meeting everyone’s expectations. Can you relate?

It seems I am always saying sorry to someone for something. Sorry, I didn’t mean to leave you out of the email. Sorry, I didn’t mean to give him the mint. Sorry, I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to encourage student voice. Sorry, I didn’t think I was talking out of both sides of my mouth. Sorry, I forgot to invite you. Sorry, I am not happy all the time. Sorry, I didn’t mean to forget to call you back. Sorry, sorry, SORRY!!!

Mistake after mistake and failure after failure makes me ponder what my purpose really is? Thank you, Mandisa, for reminding me. It’s because I’m not perfect, but God loves me anyway. God is still working on making me a masterpiece. I’m going to celebrate the truth! His work in me isn’t through. I’m just unfinished.

Guilt. Such a dreadful word. It seems to consume me. When life hands me unfortunate situations, I feel guilty when I am sad because my circumstances aren’t anything compared to what others have gone through.

Others have it worse. I’ve never lost a spouse or a child, or suffered from cancer or any other severe disease of any kind. Yet, I have sad moments. Moments that crush my heart and make me sob uncontrollably. Then the guilt smothers me like dense fog because others have it worse and I have no right to be feeling this way.

A viscous cycle!

Well, it’s time to let go of the guilt and step into the light of God’s grace. It’s time to let go of the guilt, say goodbye to where I’ve been, and tell this heart of mine to beat again…minus the guilt. A new journey is just beginning. Thanks Danny Gokey for giving me permission to let my heart beat again.

Loneliness, sadness, weariness, rejection, insecurity, defeat, betrayal, guilt…feelings we don’t want to admit we experience. These feelings don’t have to control us though. Let’s choose to defeat them and rise above them. Let’s shut the door on yesterday and let’s rise!

Everyone has struggles. Music is the ministry to help me right now. I hope these tunes help you too. Tomorrow’s a new day. Hang in there with me, okay?

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

The Joy of Action Research

Blog AR 17 LeAnne

Action Research are two words that add a bit of trepidation to our SMSU Teacher Candidate’s hearts and minds during their Junior Methods year. They hear the stories…but then, when they actually get to class and hear it and see it for themselves, they realize it has significance in their future teaching (well, that’s what I hope anyway 😉 ).

What exactly is action research (pay close attention to this, upcoming teacher candidates)? According to Richard Sagor (2000), author of Guiding School Improvement with Action Research, action research…

…is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by and for those taking the action.  The primary reason for engaging in action research is to ‘assist’ the actor in improving and/or refining his or her actions (para. 2, chapter 1).

Or, to paraphrase in my own definition that I tell my teacher candidates…action research is finding issues that elementary students may be having with their learning; researching teaching methods or instructional strategies to help the struggling students overcome these issues; putting these research-based strategies into action; and finally, analyzing the data while hoping for a desired outcome.

Simply put, action research is making learning the best it can be for the students we teach so we can watch them grow academically.  All educators want this for their students. It brings us great joy to see our students succeed.

Yes, teacher candidates, I am joyful! I had the pleasure of seeing you succeed when presenting your action research findings at the 2nd Annual Education Action Research Conference held Friday, April 7 at the Schwan’s Regional Event Center on the SMSU Campus.

I’ve heard countless accolades about your professionalism during your presentations. I guess all of those IGNITE challenges paid off, didn’t they. 🙂 You certainly have grown professionally as well as personally over the course of the past 9 months in Action Research, and I applaud you for that!

To our colleague and friend, Professor LeAnne Syring, thank you for walking through that door of opportunity and kicking off our conference with your outstanding keynote. No lemonade for you, friend…just lemon meringue pie! 🙂

Blog AR 17 Group

One gentleman who attended our Action Research Conference wrote these kind, encouraging words in an email:

“…I wanted to let you know that it was a fantastic conference and tremendous success. I attended six different presentations on varying topics.  All were wonderfully presented and the research was applicable to everyone in the audience. Again, it was a wonderful morning and I am extremely glad that I attended!! I look forward to next year!”

Continue to grow and learn, teacher candidates, by using action research to assist you with any challenges you may face in your future classrooms. It will benefit your students, and it will make you top-notch teachers. And the bonus from here on out…you won’t have to write the 30+ page paper to go along with it. 😀

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(For more pictures, please check out our SMSU School of Education’s Facebook page)

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

Twas The Night Before Clinical

This is a guest blog post by Dr. Mary Risacher who is an Assistant Professor of Education for Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota. Her background includes teaching Early Childhood, Kindergarten and serving as the Director of an Early Childhood At-Risk Program with an emphasis on pairing young children and families to needed resources. She currently teaches introductory educational and Early Childhood licensure courses for the School of Education at SMSU, as well as serving as Director of the Early Childhood Extended Learning 2+2 Program. You can find her on Twitter @MaryRisacher.

Blog Mary Clinical

It is spring – one of my most favorite seasons. We have come out of the dark, dreary days. The birds are back…the sun is with us in the evening…the worst is behind us. Well, at least that is my perception.

I know a group of students who might be wishing this week away. It is clinical time when my online students travel from across the state to show off the skills they have gained while completing their year-long method courses.

I teach the online section of ED 423 Classroom Management. The culminating event is a clinical where students take over a classroom for two days. For my online students, this is most often their first trip to campus and first time meeting instructors. That alone can be nerve wracking, but couple that with having to teach in a new setting, and you have a very nervous group.

I remind them at the start of the course this is a moment in a life time, make the most of it. Life is made up of moments some good, some bad, but it really is just a string of moments that when faced with one you don’t think you can survive – take it for what it is worth for another moment will be right around the corner. In a short time, this will be a memory and you will be facing all new moments – challenging or rewarding take what you can from them and continue forward.

I am writing this prior to meeting my online students for Clinical. Here is a bit of prose…I am not a poet and I do know it… so as you read this please know that writing poetry is not one of my gifts 🙂  I will follow up and share how the Clinical experience went for my students – until then….

It was the night before Clinical and all through the school the pre-service teachers were calm, collected, and cool.

Lesson plans had been prepared, schedules were by the door in hopes that supervisors would give a high score.

The countdown had begun, in just a few hours the kiddos would arrive…would the SMSU students survive?

Then down the hallway there arose such a clatter Dr. Risacher went to see what was the matter.

There before her stood 20 pre-service teachers and a copier up to no good!

It had been churning out copies without a hitch, then suddenly there was a glitch.

“Have no fear!” said Mary. “I know what to do when a copier is contrary.”

Then as quick as a wink and before the students could blink the copier was fixed without another hitch.

Back to their classrooms the students did fly to finish all last-minute details before the kiddos arrive.

Rooms at the ready and binders complete, it time to begin this great feat!

The kiddos arrive not knowing the thrills that await them. The days fly by with little abatement. (not sure if this is correct usage – but it rhymes 🙂 )

Adjustments were made here and there, and lessons were done with little time to spare.

At the end of day two the students wondered, “With no planning to complete what will we do?”

“For now,” Dr. Risacher said, “get off your feet and go to bed. It’s time to rest that weary head!”

Tomorrow you will find these moments in time are a treasure and only just one measure.

Clinical is over and the course nearly through—be proud of all you’ve accomplished at SMSU!

The results are in, it was a huge WIN! ~Mary

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

Persevere to Find Your Way

Stay the course.  Don’t be fooled into thinking it is going to be easy to do.  Sometimes it can be intercepted and not go as planned.  We must remain focused on the goal.

BLOG 4.5

Recently, I was privileged to hear Coach Jerry Kill speak.  As he addressed the audience, he left an impression that will not be easily forgotten.  He had an eight-count message for students or any team members, and per my notes it went something like this … set, hut.

  1. Be accountable – everyone has to do their job… be on time and don’t waste time; you only have 24 hours in a day.
  1. Go to class (or work).
  1. Acting right…be a good person; you have the choice.  You can be positive or negative.
  1. Play hard.  It takes no talent to play hard. Everyone has a different position – not everyone can be the boss or be the ultimate best; just be your best.
  1. Everyone has to do their part. It shouldn’t be an “I” culture; it needs to be a “we” culture to win.  We need to care more about the person next to us than ourselves to win.
  1. Communication – in person with people – to get the team going in the same direction.  There is  nothing more valuable than personal touch or a gesture.  Don’t judge people by their looks, and instead – get to know them.  Find out what makes them tick and treat them fairly but not the same – build relationships.
  1. Know the company/team/_______ (you fill in the blank)_______ inside out. Wash dishes. Pay dues and experience failure. Constantly learn to stay on top of your game. People are chasing you to the top.
  1. Mental toughness.  You aren’t going to win everyday. Game day – everyday. Great preparation. Perseverance. It won’t always work out the way you planned. How do I handle adversity? You can judge people when their backs are against the wall – when you see their true colors… and they can judge you.

And of course… Eat well. Sleep well. Exercise. Give back. Repeat. Persevere.

BLOG 4.5.17 JKill

For more highlights on Coach Kill, visit

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