Category Archives: Uncategorized

Book Talk: Against All Odds by Luke Nelson

Blog Against all odds little library

The other day, on a pleasant sunny morning, I walked out my front door at the same time someone in a red pick-up truck pulled up to our Little Free Library. When the driver emerged from the pick-up, I saw it was an acquaintance of mine. She told me she was bringing books to place in the Little Library.

Perfect!! Thank you, Susie!!

As she was putting in her last book, she flashed me the cover and recommended I read it. Okay, I thought. Then she added the cliffhanger… “It’s about a boy who had a stroke when he was in his mother’s womb. I think he’s from around here.”

What?? Well, that certainly grabbed my attention. As she drove away, I grabbed the book out of the Little Library and took it with me to the campground for the weekend. That was on Friday. Today is Sunday. I’m done reading it. It was that good.

Blog Against all odds book

The author’s name is Luke Nelson and he states on page 33 of his book, “…I likely had a stroke as an unborn baby, causing a blood clot that resulted in the loss of one-third of my cerebellum.”

Oh my goodness. 😳 With this type of diagnosis, Luke’s doctors suggested he would never be like other kids — able to run, or ride a bike, or go to high school. And yet, here he is, writing his story. Hallelujah, praise Jesus!!! 🙏❤

The setting of this book takes place in Southwest Minnesota. On page 17, Luke tells about his mom suspecting something was different about her pregnancy. So she heads to the hospital to have an ultra sound…in Slayton, Minnesota. He certainly is from around here because Slayton is just down the road a bit.

Blog Against all odds pg 17

I truly enjoyed the testimonies shared throughout the book by those who have been pivotal in Luke’s life. Stories from Luke’s mom, dad, sister, doctor, teacher, friend. When Luke introduces us to a very special lady who he believes God placed in his life to get him through high school, my mouth dropped open. I know her.

Blog Against all odds pg 91 Julie

If you are an educator like me, we know how mean some kids can be. Do you think Luke breezed through school without any ridicule or mocking or teasing or heart wrenching moments? Bullying happens in ALL schools. And, sadly, it happened to Luke…

Blog Against all odds pg 83 Mocked

Want to know another unbelievable thing about Luke, in addition to him being born with one-third of his brain gone? He almost died. Not just once but three times. THREE!! How you wonder?

Read the book.

Want to discover how he managed to graduate high school?

Read the book.

Want to find out how he overcame bullying?

READ.THE.BOOK!

While Against All Odds by Luke Nelson is for everyone, I want to encourage our teacher candidates to read it. A “Luke” just might be in your classroom someday!!

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Stay Calm & Never Give Up!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Kids & Parents Pullin’ for Kids & Parents

Blog Pop Tabs Hill

Last fall, Hill Elementary School students and parents accepted a challenge to save pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). Those 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade kids learned a few facts about the Ronald McDonald House Charities Pop Tab program. Did YOU know:

  • It takes approximately 1,128 pop tabs to make 1 pound.
  • The RMHC receives approximately 50 cents per 1 pound of pop tabs.
  • It takes approximately 93 pounds for one night’s stay at the RMH.

Here we are, at the end of May already, and look at how many 5-gallon pails are plumb full of tabs. WOW!!! The kids and their families went above and beyond what was expected. The tabs were weighed at the SD Ronald McDonald House in Sioux Falls today and, drum roll please…..Hill Elementary collected a whopping 144 pounds of tabs. 💪👍👊 Kudos to the students and families of Hill Elementary School! 👏👏👏

Blog Pop Tabs

To Hill Elementary School students, parents, administration, faculty, and staff…thank you from our family to yours! My son shares his thanks in the video below. ❤

Blog Pop Tabs Lucy

Stay Calm & Keep Pullin’!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Carter’s Court

It takes a village. That is for certain. As the wise Prince has shared, “Dearly beloved…we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” Together. None of us will actually make it out of here alive – so let’s make this life a better “thing” and a better place to be, to live, to love.

As many of our readers know, my nephew, Carter Boerboom, passed away on June 30, 2015. We usually dedicate an annual blog in his honor and memory. This one comes a little earlier than usual because we need your help. Yes – you… your help. We are hoping to win a little friendly competition hosted by the Minnesota Timberwolves. They are going to remodel a court in southern MN, and Marshall has been selected to be one of the possible sites.  We are asking you to please vote daily to help us bring “Carter’s Court” to Marshall. This is possible with the help of those who proposed the idea and have worked to make the dream almost real. Voting ends on Friday, May 24th– so don’t delay. With your help and votes, this dream can become a reality.

Our Courts. Our Future. – Timberwolves 

Carter loved life, and he loved basketball. Help us pass this love for life and love for the game to many more to come in Marshall, Minnesota and surrounding communities. 

Stay Calm & Vote Today!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Is Cussing and Swearing Freedom of Speech?

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As a Professor of Education, I have the privilege of visiting many schools in my area, usually while supervising student teachers. The most recent high school I visited caused me some heartache! Granted, I realize it is almost the end of the year so that may be why, but wow…what I witnessed in the hallway between classes was discouraging.

Let me share this story. While I was visiting with a teacher, the bell rang. This young teacher stood up and headed to the hallway.  I joined in by standing outside the door with the teacher. Looking up and down the hall, I did not see any other teachers outside their doors. That doesn’t mean they weren’t there, I just didn’t see any. I asked this teacher if all teachers were expected to stand out in the hallway during this 3-4 minutes passing time. The answer I expected…YES!

When two boys came around a corner, I saw one of them punch the other in the stomach. The hit wasn’t just a friendly little tap. Nope, it was a solid punch! The one who was socked in the gut turned around to go after the kid who punched him. I automatically went into teacher mode and yelled “HEY…STOP” while the boy who did the punching is yelling “I’m f’ing pissed now” as he was backing away.

Those weren’t the only nasty words flying around in the hallway. Other comments made by these high schoolers were:

“They are so pissed.”

“She f’ing makes me so mad…she’s a b****.”

“You are so f’ing stupid.”

When the teacher I was standing with asked the students to change the way they phrased things, one response from a student was “It’s called freedom of speech…”

Seriously? Is it really? Is swearing and cussing and profanity considered freedom of speech?

I asked Alexa that question. Alexa’s response…“Hmmm…I’m not sure about that?”

Figures…🙄

Next, I texted my lawyer son the same question. His text back…

Blog freedom of speech

Okay, Google…what do you have to say about this complicated issue?

According to Hudson (2011), “profanity isn’t always protected speech. Certain categories of speech are not entitled to First Amendment protection, including fighting words and true threats. If a person engages in profane fighting words or utters a true threat with profanity, those words may not be protected speech” (para. 5) (emphasis mine).

So…would “Now I’m f’ing pissed” fall under that category since the kid punched another kid then said the words??? Would his words be considered fighting words?

In another article by Hudson Jr. (2017), he stated that “profanity can be regulated, however, under certain circumstances consistent with the First Amendment. Profane rants that cross the line into direct face-to-face personal insults or fighting words are not protected by the First Amendment” (para. 4).

My lawyer son was right. Case by case. Good grief. No wonder teachers don’t want to say much to those students who spew foul language. Do not be dismayed…

There is some hope for public schools when dealing with this issue. Freedom Forum Institute (n.d.) offered these words of reassurance, “Though public school students do possess First Amendment freedoms, the courts allow school officials to regulate certain types of student expression. For example, school officials may prohibit speech that substantially disrupts the school environment or that invades the rights of others. Many courts have held that school officials can restrict student speech that is lewd” (para. 3).

When I taught fifth graders, I didn’t even allow the word “sucks.” I asked my students to please not use that word as it was offensive to me. It means “to inhale vigorously.” One year while at a basketball game, one of my former fifth graders came to sit by me on the bleachers. Josh was then a junior in high school (he’s in his 30’s now). He was sharing a story with me and ended with “Doesn’t that just inhale vigorously, Ms. Schoolmeester?” I laughed and laughed. He remembered. And he honored my wishes that many years later.

I’m not a fan of swearing. In the same breath, I will never stop caring for kids because of their foul mouths. Parents…please teach your children that swearing is ugly. Take advice from Will Smith’s grandma…

Smith said, “She found my rap book and she never said anything to me but she wrote in the back of it ‘Dear Willard, truly intelligent people do not have to use words like this to express themselves. Please show the world that you’re as smart as we think you are. Love Gigi.’”

God bless grandmas!!! Their gray hair is a sign of wisdom. ❤❤

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Stay Calm & Please Don’t Cuss!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

SMSU 2019 Joyful Graduates

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Graduation…it’s a joyful day. A day long awaited for. From the day you all stepped on campus as freshmen to this day when you had the privilege of walking across the stage with a heart full of joy as you received your diploma. 👨🏼‍🎓👩🏼‍🎓🎓

While I was driving to campus this morning to celebrate with you, I heard a song on the radio by Jonny Diaz called Joy. It is a song that gives you happy feet so if you would like to do a little dancing on your graduation day, check it out: 🎶

While I listened to Jonny sing the words, I realized how much they apply to your graduation today, and how much the words apply to when you begin your journey into the wonderful world of teaching this fall:

Have joy down in your soul

Take it with you wherever you go!

Don’t worry about what you don’t know

You’ll be alright as long as you’ve got joy!

 

Joy in your heart, waving like a torch

In the jet black night, you’ll see the stars.

 

Let joy be your strength

Let it be your truth, and see you through!

Let it be your hope, be your shield

Let it lift you up, no matter how you feel.

You’ll be alright as long as you’ve got joy. ~ Jonny Diaz

Some days will be hard during your first year of teaching…really, really hard. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. KNOW you are champions for children. Be joyful with those children. They deserve it! Keep choosing joy every single day.

To our ‘former’ students and now our teaching colleagues…congratulations, SMSU School of Education graduates! 🙌 (Sorry about all the pics of me… 😉🤷‍♀️. Email me some and I’ll add to the slideshow! 👍).

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Stay Calm & Be Joyful Graduates!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Thank You, Teachers: There IS Power in your Moments!

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Thank you, teachers!! We celebrate you this week during Teacher Appreciation Week! We celebrate you every day as you enter your classroom with our children and our grandchildren.

There is power in your moments with our kids. These powerful moments can positively change your students’ lives, or these powerful moments can drive a wedge between you and them.  I know in my heart you want to grant love, gentleness, kindness, patience, goodness, and joy to your students.

The powerful moments shared with your students are priceless. A smile, a wave, a ‘good morning’, a handshake, a high five, a listening ear, an empathetic response, a gentle nudge, a laugh, a cry, a safe environment, a calm demeanor, a ___________. Fill in the blank! You offer our kids these powerful moments each and every day. And why?

Because you LOVE kids, you LOVE what you do, you want to make a difference! You want to inspire and encourage your students and you want to role-model this because you might just be their only hope! Thank you!!!

Thank you for never giving up on our kids, for offering endless patience, for loving them unconditionally. Thank you for letting kindness and love thrive in your classrooms and your schools!

For all of these powerful moments, we say THANK YOU! 💪👏😍

Blog Power of a Moment Seuss (2)

Stay Calm & Thank you, Teachers!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Born to Imagine and Play

Blog Creative play bookmark

This past Saturday proved to be a fun, fabulous day full of creative play and imagination with the grandchildren. There was a scavenger hunt that got a little competitive by the oldest grandson (oh, and me too). For a time, I was royalty. My granddaughter was the queen and I was the princess. We sat in our royal thrones on the deck with our blanket regal robes wrapped around our shoulders.  Swinging and sliding took place at the “home” playground, forts were built out of blankets and pillows, basketball games took place in the driveway, pictures were colored, and marching bands were serenading us from the basement play room. Play…it is vital to a child’s development.

Play is not a four letter word,” writes Rae Pica (2015) in her book What If Everybody Understood Child Development? Children are creatures born to use their imaginations and creativity during play, which all of us adults were once these creative creatures.

What do you see in the picture above? When I asked several adults this question, I got the same answer…a bookmark. That is not what my 4 year old granddaughter saw. One day while she was playing with her 3-year old cousin, she asked me if I had seen her superpower phone. Imagine yourself asking others if they had seen YOUR phone. Yes, that is the ‘panic’ she had in her voice. “Grandma…have you seen my superpower phone?” I hadn’t because I had no idea what she was talking about.

A few minutes later, she shouted out, “found it, Grandma.” I went to see what her ‘superpower phone’ was. Check out the picture below. Love it! ❤😃 Play…creative, imaginative, innovative.

Blog Creative Sibyl

Pica (2015) strongly believes “true play is open-ended and intrinsically motivated. True play is not directed by adults. It has nothing to do with product (home runs, goals, points, and wins) and everything to do with process (fun)” (p. 61).

If children don’t learn to play when they are young, then the likelihood of discovering the value of play as an adult is stifled. What a dreadful, dreary life it would be without the presence of a playful attitude (Pica, 2015).  

In the 19th Century, Freidrich Froebel created what we now know as Kindergarten. He understood the importance of play. According to the podcast 99% Invisible (2019):

The word Kindergarten cleverly encompassed two different ideas: kids would play in and learn from nature, but they would also themselves be nurtured and nourished “like plants in a garden.” There were literal gardens and outdoor activities, but the real key to it all was a set of deceptively simple-looking toys that became known as Froebelgaben or in English, Froebel’s Gifts (Para. 7).

Dr. Peter Gray (2014) informs his TEDxNavesink audience that he believes play has declined over the years because of the speculation that children learn best from adults, and that self-directed play is a waste of time. He also believes play has declined because of fear. Parents have fear something bad may happen to their children if the children aren’t supervised at all times.

Dr. Gray (2014) proposes these solutions to the unfortunate decline of play. He advises we: 1) examine our own priorities; 2) get to know our neighbors and develop neighborhood networks; 3) establish places for children to play; and, 4) stand up against more schooling.

Teachers…please understand the value of play!  Allow your students to participate in self-regulated play. Get creative and incorporate play into your curriculum, no matter what grade level you teach. Never take away recess, especially from the ones who need it the most!  And most importantly, play along WITH your students. (My fifth graders called me the Dodge Ball Queen 😃).

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Stay Calm & Just Keep Playing!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Taking Action to Meet the Needs of Children

Blog Mr. Rogers2

In the classroom, whose responsibility is it to take care of the children? The teacher’s, that’s who!!! Those who see children’s needs and respond to those needs are considered my heroes. My heroes…classroom teachers!

Teachers see the needs of students, research for the best ways to help those students, and then respond to those needs by taking action. This action teachers take is called action research. Our SMSU teacher candidates…our heroes…carry out an action research study during their Junior Methods year at SMSU.

The culminating event for the hard work these future teachers have put into their Action Research study throughout the year is presenting their findings at the Undergraduate Action Research Conference held in the spring.

The teacher candidates have a practice day the day before the conference. This practice day brings back fond memories of when I taught elementary students. Back then, we would have music program practices, and I would always fear the program would be a disaster because of how the practice went. Then the night of the program, my little cherubs would rock it.

Same story with my college students. Practice always seems to be a disaster, and then…their conference and presentations are PHENOMENAL.

And they were, teacher candidates!!! Your presentations were PHENOMENAL!!  You ROCKED it!

From your freshman year in Intro to ED to now in your Action Research class…you’ve grown exponentially both personally and professionally, and we applaud you!!

Be THAT teacher who sees the needs of your students and responds to those needs by finding ways to help your students succeed! Take action and be their heroes.

Thank you to the moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, sisters, brothers, and friends who showed up to offer support. Thank you to our tech guy who was there all morning for our every yelp for help. Thank you to the EMSP Club for the delicious yogurt bar breakfast. Thank you to the evaluators for giving constructive feedback. Thank you to Dean Easton-Brooks from the University of South Dakota for keynoting the conference, and thank you to Dr. Rhonda for being our Plan D. 🙂

Blog AR 2019

Stay Calm & Respond with Action!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

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Facebook Friends Do Not Equal Lifetime Friends

Blog Friends

My heart was racing, my palms were clammy, my stomach felt nauseated, and tears were stinging the corners of my eyes. I was slowly walking with my union rep over to the administrative conference room because I was being questioned on something I had said to a student.

A colleague was being terminated and the students were so sad about this because they had the utmost respect for him. They wanted to start a petition but that didn’t go as planned. One student approached me and asked what she could do. My suggestion: “maybe bombard the administration with emails??”

This student, who I still love and respect today, wrote these words on her Facebook page: A faculty member says we should bombard the administration with emails.

Goodness…I didn’t even have a Facebook account and Facebook got me in trouble. 😲 Let me ask you…which part of that message do you think caused me heartache?

Fast forward 15 years. I have a private Facebook account with my husband. When I started the account over a decade ago, the plan was to have only family members be ‘friends.’ So much for that plan. 🙄 Today I am at 529 ‘Facebook Friends,’ and I’m not sure when I decided to accept more than family.

May I ask you a few questions? Jot down your answers, please. Ready?

What do you believe makes a true friend?

How many “friends” do you have on Facebook?

How many of your Facebook friends possess those qualities you just listed as a ‘true’ friend?

Got your answers??

I asked our teacher candidates those same questions. Compare your answers with theirs. The #1 friendship trait mentioned by 23 out of 27 teacher candidates (25 female, 2 male) for a response rate of 85% was:

Great friends are there for you no matter what.

Other true-friend traits mentioned were: someone who truly cares about you, supports you, accepts you for who you are, gently corrects you when you’re wrong, picks up exactly where you left off after not seeing each other for a while, and makes you laugh.

The teacher candidate’s ratios of true friends to Facebook friends will not shock you, or maybe they will? Below are a few answers of those who responded.

Mariah – 4/598, Danielle – 1/349, Amber – 50/1006, Hayley – 15/534, Maizie – 20/462, Shelby – 3/959, Victoria – 5/383, Kali – 5/653, Jenna – 10/311, Stacy – 40/651, Brendan – 7/681, Tah – 50/5000

Facebook friends DO NOT equal lifetime friends!

Teacher candidates…please remember Facebook does not give the full context of what is happening in your life. It’s all about perspective. As public school educators, you will always be under the microscope of the community you teach in. Your Facebook ‘friends’ may see a picture you posted and, not knowing the full story that goes along with that picture, those ‘friends’ may perceive it as you not doing your job, or you drinking too much, or whatever assumptions are made; which could then lead that ‘Facebook friend’ to report their speculations to administration.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for ALL of us to consider the ‘friends’ we have on Facebook and do a little house cleaning.

If you are going to post something on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat and feel a strong ‘nudge’ not to…listen to that nudge! (That is speaking from experience. I was nudged, didn’t listen to that nudge, and my picture post caused heartache for someone else). Keep in mind the possible ramifications of your social media usage.

Let’s return to 15 years ago. Which word do you think caused me heartache? If you guessed ‘bombard,’ you are correct! Maybe suggesting “email admin” would have been a better choice than “bombard admin with email.”

The suggestion wasn’t given with a ‘get-em’ attitude. It was just an idea. When it was read on Facebook, it was interpreted as vicious; which I am not.  All turned out fine. It was a learning experience, and no matter how painful they can be somethimes, we learn from our experiences, right?

I’d like to leave you with this Reason, Season, and Lifetime poem.

Blog friendship poem

Stay Calm & Be a Lifetime Friend,
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

 

When Storms Rage On In Life or In Classrooms…Regain Your Control

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Flash flood – “a sudden local flood; raging torrents after heavy rains that rip through river beds and streets.” Or in our case here in the Midwest, “raging torrents happening due to heavy rain during winter months when the ground is still frozen and the sewage drains are blocked by 5 feet of plowed snow.” There is nowhere for the water to go…besides over roads, in fields, and in basements, schools, and hospitals. 😥

With the temps dropping below freezing, now we get to add to the flash flooding the new term used by meteorologist, Brian Karstens, a “Flash Blizzard” is pummeling the area!

Flash blizzard – “a sudden local blizzard ripping through our communities.” The wind is howling, the snow is horizontal, and nature’s fury is screaming at us.

Sometimes teaching can feel like a flash blizzard. One moment all is good, and the next moment a storm rips through our classrooms. Yikes! Raise your hand if you can relate! 🙋

I remember Andrea…a 3rd grade girl who went from happy to ANGRY in .02 seconds. Oh my goodness. No gradual decent with that kid. It took us all off guard and shook us to the core. When her ‘flash blizzard’ would hit, the teachers had a code blue plan in place for her. We needed to keep her safe and we needed to keep the other students safe. We had a special room for her to go so she could calm down. A place where she could listen to soothing music and fill her lungs with oxygen.

If and when Andrea was ready to visit, she would sometimes share what was causing her to be so upset. Usually, within 30 minutes or so, she was ready to return to her classroom.

Anger is not bad or good. Anger is an emotion we all experience and those teachable moments will arise for us to teach our students HOW to deal with their anger. Hurting others or self is not okay. The best way to get started on anger prevention in your classroom is to visit with your school social worker and ask her/him for ideas. Prevention is always best.

I can guarantee you will experience “flash blizzards” once in a while in the classroom. Thank goodness these storms are rare. When they do rip through our classrooms, let’s have a plan in place. Also, keep in mind what Brian Mendler says about storms like this, “the behavior isn’t the problem, it’s the solution to the problem.”

Always remember…it’s okay to have a good cry when classroom storms hit. I know I certainly did! Just don’t wallow in those tears.  Regain your control and ask others for support when you need it.

When life rages on, the song below helps me find peace in the middle of my storms.

 

Prayers for all who are experiencing the challenges of this storm right now…the flash flooding and flash blizzard. I pray for everyone’s safety! 🙏

Blog storm kelo

Stay Calm & Survive the Storms!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.