A Belated Mother’s Day Gift…to the Younger Version of Me

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Mother’s day is a wonderful day to acknowledge those who have and continue to love us unconditionally and miss those who are no longer with us. Thanks to my own Mom 🙂 I spent this past Mother’s Day watching my three sons play basketball and football.  It did not involve a relaxing brunch on the patio with a mimosa.  It involved snacks in a cooler bag while traveling from gym to gym and back again and then to the field.  It involved a Mother’s Day card, gift, and single flower from my boys – and not to forget the pens and “No” button from the girls (my nieces who know  me so well).  The day most importantly involved hugs and kisses from the kiddos.  It was wonderful overall!

At one the gyms, I witnessed something that reminded me of some of the things that I have learned and continue to try to learn along the way.  It caused me to reflect…
Why do we do this? All of this? Why double or triple book?  Why do you drive your kids all over for activities? We should be cleaning the house or could be relaxing with a book. 
So I may not have all the answers to the questions… I have slowly found some, and I thought I would take a few moments to write down the answers for you – the younger version of me.

Listen to the voices.  You will hear them say, “Are you crazy…driving your kids for hours to practice?” “Do you really think they will go pro?”  Answer those voices loudly and clearly.  “YES!”  I am listening to the voices now… the right ones… the ones coming from the backseat for those long drives while doing homework. They mean the most to me, and I miss them already because although the days sometimes seem long, the years are flying by.  “YES!” My kids will go pro.  The reason you chauffer your sons everyone both near and far for practices and competitions IS to make them the BEST!  It is the type of best that you need to learn more about.  It is not to be the best athlete in the competition. It is to be the best version of themselves in life. They will be professionals in life – no matter how their paths wind.  They are learning communication skills, versatility, adversity, advocacy, prioritizing, and you bet, budgeting.  The crazy ride cannot happen without it. There are growing pains involved with it all. Even when they mess up and aren’t perfect, help them grow and love ‘em up. Just keep stretching and listening.

Be quiet.  As we have become seasoned parents of young athletes, we have grown a considerable amount as supporters from the stands.  Don’t be mistaken… grown does not equal perfect.  Everyone stumbles.  We learn through failure and perspective.  We have slowly been learning perspective. Even if the team or school does not, implement the 24-hour policy for contacting coaches and teachers. If it is a safety concern, that is something different entirely… and you will know the difference.  If not, write it down. Don’t yell at the refs or your player on the court… you like to focus on “boxing out” but by the time you yell it, it’s too late.  Still working on this one…it is a favorite one of mine at any age.  “Box out” is in the running for most widely used shout out, but now behind phrases like, “Nice job, buddy” or “Keep your head up.”  In this judgmental world, there are plenty of nay-sayers out there so no need to add to that mix for your own kids.

Judge less.  Just a reminder that you are not perfect… Did I say that once before?  Even when you are older and wiser, you are not perfect.  That’s okay.  No one is… even if they think they may be.  Judge less and love more.  Everyone has something in life that they are dealing with, working on, living with… cut them some slack and hope that the love is returned.
Be naïve.  Be realistic. This does not have to be hypocritical.  Think they can along with them, but know that can means and looks differently for each person.  Help them pursue their dreams with their eyes wide open. Perspective continues to be your word this year. 🙂

Just be.  Be who you are and the parent that you can be at the time.  It’s okay to strive for perfection but expect less and just be okay with it.  Your house is not spotless – so what and who cares.  If they care, then they don’t care about you.  Oh – do continue to just try to get your kids to make their beds, however.  Just let your kids know that you love them no matter how many minutes they play or what activities they want to discontinue because they no longer love them.  Politics are everywhere so just love them and let them know it is okay to just be… just be kind, just be honest, just be respectful, just be.

There is so much more advice that I want to give you, but I recall all too well how I did not always like being told what to do a younger age… sometimes I still don’t at an older age. 😉

Again, no one is perfect so cut yourself some slack.  Like the fact that you wanted this blog published three days ago – so what?  The world is still turning, and your older self is continuing to learn to prioritize with perspective.  Just because you wrote this and are reading this doesn’t mean that you will get it right each time all the time.  We have grown as parents with our own sons as individuals, learners of the game of life; we have learned that there is so much more to the game than the ball on the court…  the character on and around the court is what truly counts.

Enough already…you need to get going…you need to pick up your kids from school and get them to their activities tonight.  Oh- but one last one because even your older self continues to try to squeeze in one more thing… life is short and no one knows when the clock runs out… so hug more and keep on huggin’!

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



Happy Mother’s Day in Heaven, Mom…

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Happy Mother’s Day in heaven, Mom…

I wish you were here so we could sit down with a hot cup of coffee and one of your scrumptious banana bars with cream cheese frosting and enjoy each other’s company.  Since you aren’t, here is my Mother’s Day thank you to you in heaven.

Thank you for teaching me unconditional love. You taught me that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes, and you know I made many of them growing up. Still do. As the years passed you continued to love me through my ups and downs. Yes, I disappointed you; yes, you reprimanded me; however, you never threw me out with the trash. You loved me no matter what.

Thank you for teaching me forgiveness. You taught me that regardless of how bad I thought an offense was, it needed to be forgiven. You demanded that I be quick to forgive and make amends. To not judge, and don’t assume. To always, ALWAYS get both sides of the story before making a decision.

Thank you for teaching me independence. You taught me that if there was an issue with someone or something, it wasn’t your job to run to my rescue. No hovering or lawn mower (bulldozing) parenting from you! It was MY job to figure it out. When my second-grade teacher was mean, you told me “the Harder she gets the smarter you get so keep working at it” (yes, I had Mrs. Harder in 2nd grade).  When mean girls poked fun at my flaws, you did not call up the mothers of those girls and yell at them. Nope, you told me to go talk with them and try to work it out, or just let it go and to remember “this too shall pass.”

Thank you for teaching me to fight. You taught me that life is worth fighting for. You fought cancer twice, once in your 50’s and once in your 70’s; you fought the darkness of depression when you lost your only son in a car accident; you fought to be the best caregiver for dad when he lost his memory to Alzheimer’s and his eyesight to Macular degeneration; you fought boldly against dementia when it had its sharp claws in you; you never gave up. You fought back, you endured, you were strong and courageous. I pray I never have to go through the trials and tribulations that you had to go through in life. But if I do, I pray I can be as audacious as you were.

Thank you for teaching me to celebrate life. You taught me that there’s always a reason to throw a party. You were a social butterfly and cherished a joyous get-together. You had parties for everything… birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, confirmations, holidays. I think you even made up a few of your own holidays just so you could have a party. You appreciated people and you wanted to share your celebrations of life with them.

Thank you for teaching me to laugh. You taught me that a good belly laugh is good for the soul. You had a delightful sense of humor. Your quick wit was a trait I absolutely adored in you. From the crazy exercise contraptions that we bought together, to the uncontrollable giggling in church, you were the perfect example of jovial. Your grandkids have inherited that from you, and now they are able to get me to laugh by using their quick wit. And most days I really need that laughter.

Thank you for teaching me to appreciate music. You tried hard to teach me to sing so thanks for the effort.  You had a beautiful voice, Mom. Harmonizing was your gift. Plus, you could yodel, play guitar, and play piano.  You loved Alan Jackson and Johnny Cash, and you also enjoyed a slow waltz and a two-step. I am still in awe of your musical talent.

Thank you for teaching me to be prompt.  You taught me to show up at least 10 minutes early to any appointment or job or game or whatever. To this day I still try to arrive early. Doesn’t always happen (especially to department meetings—sorry Dr. V.), but I try my hardest.

Thank you for teaching me to accessorize life. You taught me that lipstick and earrings and fun shoes and gum make life a little more glamorous. You were a sharp dresser. You even made sweatpants look good. You flaunted your dangling earrings and your colorful lipstick. As you aged, the snazzy shoes weren’t as important to you, but you could make tennis shoes look like high heels. Your granddaughter has taken on your love of shoes. We call her “goody 200 shoes.” 🙂 And gum…you always needed a piece of gum close to your fingertips. We even buried you with a tube of lipstick, fancy shoes, and a pack of gum.

In spite of all that, Mom, I am grateful for I Samuel 16:7b – “The LORD does not look at the things man (people) look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Amen to that…I’m grateful Jesus loves you and me just the way we are—with or without lipstick and earrings and snazzy shoes.

I’m sure there are many other lessons you have taught me, Mom. Not enough room here for all of them. I just want you to know that I miss you tremendously, I love you enormously, I ask you for forgiveness of any heartache I may have caused you, and please save me a room up there next to yours so we can once again share lots of love and laughs.

Happy Mother’s Day and see you someday soon.

Love your daughter…

Stay Calm & Happy Mother’s Day!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

What are some life lessons your mother has taught you? Please share in the comments below and then make sure to tell your mom.  

The Global Achievement Gap – From Minnesota to Finland

This week’s post features guest blogger, Mr. Christian Skillings, a graduate student at Southwest Minnesota State University, who I have had the priviledge to serve as his advisor and chair his graduate work.  He is ready to change the world – and has been already.  There is so much more to share about this educational leader as he is on his way to great things… without further ado, Mr. Christian Skillings.

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Hi all,

My name is Christian Skillings and I am a graduate student at Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU). Currently, I am making the final revisions to my thesis and will be graduating this May with my Master of Science in Education, emphasis in TESL. Being so, I was approached to summarize my research and findings, which took place over the last year in both the United States and Finland.

The foundation of my study came after reading The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner. If you have not had the chance to read this book, I strongly encourage all educators or aspiring teachers to do so. The critical point presented by Mr. Wagner is the undeniable statistics on the United States’ troublesome education system; namely, the widespread inadequate preparation of secondary students. Currently, the United States is experiencing a global achievement gap, which as stated by Wagner (2008/2014), is, “The gap between what even our best suburban, urban, and rural public schools are teaching and testing versus what all students will need to succeed as learners, workers, and citizens in today’s global knowledge economy” (p. 8). As a result of the global achievement gap, it has been found that high school graduates are unprepared for the rigors of higher education and the workforce. In a survey of 63,366 entering community college students, conducted by the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCSCE), the Center on Standards and Assessments Implementation (CSAI) (2016) found that 67% of high school graduates were required to take remedial courses upon entering community college.  Furthermore, Wagner (2010) found nearly 50% of employers, in a survey of more than 400, felt that individuals out of secondary school were “deficient” in preparation, in addition to the 65% of university professors that reported students as being unprepared for higher education. (Sorry for all the statistics and APA citations. This project has made me a bit of a nerd and APA prude).

So…… it is apparent learners are lacking the attributes needed to succeed, but what skills are exactly required? Wagner (2008/2014) termed the needed skills “Survival Skills, whereas others, such as Hilton (2015), coined these attributes “21st-century skills.” Regardless of the terminology, secondary school graduates must possess the ability to: think critically and problem solve, collaborate across networks and lead by influence, have agility and adaptability, demonstrate initiative and entrepreneurialism, effectively communicate, access and analyze information, inspire curiosity and imagination, and self-management. This is a long, but necessary set of attributes that are sought out in today’s knowledge economy.

Reflecting back on my own personal education experience, it became obviously that I was, and perhaps still am, a part of this achievement gap. Moreover, current reform measures in the United States and pedagogy in the classroom do not appear to be narrowing this global achievement gap. Thus, I looked internationally to find a nation that was succeeding in the world of education, in addition to equipping their students with the noted 21st-century skills, subsequently producing more college and career ready individuals. Finland, a small Nordic nation, against all odds, was a potential answer to my search. Perhaps I also just wanted to appease my insatiable appetite for travel! Nonetheless, I ventured across the Atlantic to study the Finnish education system.

Long story short; I won’t bore you with the minute research details, I studied two Finnish lower secondary schools (Grades 7-9) and two Minnesota middle schools (Grades 6-8), allowing me to make a comparative analysis of the two education systems. Specifically, I looked only at Grade 8 in Minnesota and Grade 9 in Finland. Why, you might ask, did I only study those two grades? Because research points to Grade 8 as being a tipping-point in college and career readiness (Doughtery, 2015; Royster, Gross, & Hochbein, 2015; Schaefer & Rivera, 2012). In Finland, Grade 9 is the year before secondary school, so for applicability reasons the 9th grade was studied. My research goal was to uncover 3-4 transferable aspects of the Finnish education system that better equip students with the noted 21st-century skills. Furthermore, I wished to take a more in-depth look at the ideological similarities and differences between students and educators in Minnesota and Finland.

After collecting all of the data, using the aid of a student survey, educator interviews, and classroom observations, it was time to see if distinguishments between the two education systems could be made and conclude on tangible elements of the Finnish education system that could be of use, here in Minnesota. Below are the most significant findings:

Unfortunately, it can be discerned that an apparent preparedness ideology gap exists among both Minnesota learners and educators. Taking the results of the student survey and educator interviews, nearly 100% of students (n = 201) and all educators in the studied Minnesota middle schools stated that their education was properly preparing students for higher education and the workforce. This, however, is simply not true if we look at the statistics of prior research.

Furthermore, in association with this preparedness ideology gap, based off of the results of the question; becoming college and career prepared needs to be achieved by the end of middle school (lower secondary school), it was found that only 41% of 8th grade students in Minnesota understood the urgency to become college and career ready. In addition, relating this student survey item to the educator interviews, the ideology held firm when speaking with teaching personnel. Based of the inquiry of whether or not educators in Minnesota viewed the 8th grade as a tipping point for college and career readiness, 0% of interviewees responded yes and 50% of Minnesota educators responded with skepticism by reporting yes and no. The results of Finland vastly differed, as over 85% of students felt the need to be prepared at this young age. Furthermore, an incredible 90% of Finnish educators viewed Grade 9 as a tipping point for future college and career readiness.

Okay, so it is now even more obvious that our education system needs a little help, both in practice and ideology, in order to better prepare student for life after secondary school. Compiling all of the data, four elements of the Finnish education system were noted as significant and transferable to the Minnesota education system. These items include:

  • Modeling Finland, Minnesota middle school students could benefit from increased college and workforce knowledge, in addition to explicitly attempting to equip students with 21st-century skills, that a curriculum-backed college and career readiness program can offer (Finland has a national requirement of 4-hours per week of college and career readiness courses). This college and career readiness program should be a part of the school curriculum and act as another year-long course.
  • In conjunction with the implementation of a formalized program, attempts to incorporate teach-by-topic/multidisciplinary teaching and learning should be made. Teach-by-topic is the current reform measure in Finland, and will be nation-wide by 2020.
  • Educators in Minnesota could assist students in meaningfully acquiring classroom skills and knowledge by increasing wait-time. This is something we have all been taught in theory, but it is not uniformly applied in all classrooms.
  • In association with increased wait-time, Finland’s education system places a high value on student autonomy. It is common for Finnish educators to consistently reiterate and explain to students that they are in charge of their own learning, academic success, and personal prosperity. The teacher merely acts as a guide to knowledge; with minimal lectures and just a few examples at the beginning of class. In Minnesota, learners are given less opportunity to work at their own pace and classes are much more teacher oriented.

Finally, we have come to the end of this rather long post. What I hope you take from this writing is the realization that we can easily implement many of the fruitful elements of the Finnish education system. Of course, an entire education system cannot be transferred over, but Finland could be used as a model.

As for me, I will be moving to Beijing, China, this summer to start my teaching career and continue my research. If you would like to further discuss my research, please do not hesitate to drop me a message: christian.skillings@smsu.edu  or simply stop by my office BA 119 (next to the wrestling room).

~Mr. Christian Skillings



Everything I Know About Teaching I Learned From Moving Snow….

This is a guest blog post by friend and colleague Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter who is a Professor of Education for Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota.  Dr. Bonnstetter is serving in her 13th year as a Professor of Education at SMSU. Dr. Bonnstetter enjoys spending time with her children and 15 grandchildren, supervising student teachers, and working with in-service teachers to improve their pedagogical practice. You can follow her on Twitter at @jrbonnst.   

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The title is meant to mimic a book of short essays called “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” written by American minister and author Robert Fulghum (1986). If you have not read his work, I highly recommend it; Fulghum discusses how many of the struggles we face as adults could be improved if we applied lessons we learned as children, such as sharing, cleaning up after ourselves, being kind to one another, etc.

We all face challenges, both in our home lives and our teaching lives, and I’m certainly no different. My world changed dramatically last year when I lost my husband of almost 40 years quite suddenly to a heart attack.

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That has forced to me change how I look at things, including rather mundane Minnesota tasks like moving snow. As is often the case, my husband had taken care of the majority of the ‘moving snow’ tasks over the years. Now this task is still there, but needs a different approach. I am fortunate that my son lives nearby, and has been willing to take this on for me, but on a Sunday morning in January, he and his wife were gone on a short vacation to Mexico, and I had been blessed with about 2 inches of fresh, white snow overnight. The snow should be moved so that it doesn’t get packed down by walking or driving on it, creating icy patches that take ‘forever’ to thaw. But, this looked like a big project. I decided to take it on with my trusty shovel, since I had made a New Year’s resolution to get more exercise (at least 5,000 steps/day, with a goal of reaching 10,000 steps). I’ve found that I have a hard time exercising just because it’s good for me; I am much more likely to stick with it if I am actually doing/accomplishing something, rather than just spending time on my treadmill. So, the shovel it is! Along the way to a clean driveway, I had plenty of time to ponder. Here are seven things I realized I have learned along the way, and they tie into teaching perfectly…

Blog guest rhonda yard

1.) Big jobs can seem daunting at the start. I have a BIG yard to clean out, and it looked a bit overwhelming at first. I decided to break it up in to chunks, and to tackle each chunk at a time. That made the task more do-able. The same is true for big projects at work, such as curriculum mapping, or taking on the latest teaching initiative in your district. Our students often have the same problem – a project that we assign can seem insurmountable. We can help them to learn how to break that project into smaller chunks, and tackle one at a time, rather than do it for them as teachers. They won’t learn how to apply this strategy if we always do it for them!

2.) Take a few minutes to see how the pros do it. I was pushing snow and pushing snow, but some would fall off the edges of the shovel, and I would have to go back to clean it up. That wasn’t too efficient and was taking extra time. Soon I saw a county snowplow come by, pushing snow off the road. I noticed that his blade was at an angle – not just to move the snow to the edge, but it also helped to keep the snow from rolling of the inside and piling up on the road. Once I tried using that technique, I was spending less time going back for clean-up. The same is true in teaching; take a look at the research on a topic. How have the pros attacked this problem or one similar to it? Education journals can be a wealth of knowledge, and can save us a great deal of time as teachers – we do not have to reinvent the wheel! We can use the wisdom of others to help us deal with the teaching problems that we face.

3.) Bring along a friend. Tackling big problems alone is exhausting! I let my puppy out while I was shoveling the snow, and his favorite activity is to have me throw his ‘ball on a rope’ so that he can retrieve it. He LOVES bounding through new snow, so the combination of chasing his ball and tromping through the fresh snowfall made his day! Watching his joy and being part of it helped to make my day better as well. The same is true in teaching – you probably have friends or colleagues who are dealing with similar problems. Choose to tackle them together, as part of a PLC in your school or just as friends. Attend a conference together, or take a graduate class together. We make each other stronger and better when we work together!

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4.) Take a break from time to time. About half way into my snow-moving project, my hands were getting cold and my fingers were starting to ache. I could have given up and just left it to go inside where it was warm, but I decided to try taking a break. After a few minutes of rest, I was ready to step back out and keep working on it. Teaching and dealing with students, parents, administrators, and more can be exhausting at times; in order to be our best, we all need to take a break from time to time. One of the biggest challenges many teachers face is finding a balance between work and home life. Some teachers I’ve worked with make it a point to never take school work home with them – literally and figuratively. They stay at school until 4:30-5:00 each evening to grade papers and create lesson plans, so that when they leave, they are fully prepared for the next day and they don’t need to bring anything home. Others find ways to build in time at home to work on these teaching tasks. The important thing is to not get so wrapped up in making a living that they forget to also make a life for themselves outside of school. Take a ‘me’ day from time to time, or schedule time in each day to be with family and friends. Your mental health will be better, and you will be a better teacher when you take time to recharge your own batteries.

5.) Use your talents to do what you can, then let the sun (and the Son) do the rest. Once I had the majority of the snow moved off the yard, the power of the sun started melting the little wisps that were left, leaving a clean, dry surface. I have long been a believer that this is also true in life; we are each given a variety of talents to use. We are expected to develop and use those talents as best we can, and then God will step in and take care of the rest. This probably comes from hearing the old adage, “God helps those who help themselves”. Principals expect this of their teachers as well; not every problem child can be sent to the principal’s office for that person to deal with. As a teacher you need to use all the talents you have to address the student issues in your classroom; once you have done all you can, then it’s time to call in a higher power whether that be the child’s parent/guardian, the principal, and/or your school’s psychologist.

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6.) Sometimes ‘helping’ isn’t….  As I was moving the snow, several people drove by, and a few even waved. No one stopped to help – and I was glad that they didn’t, especially once I was done. I felt a big sense of accomplishment in taking on this project and completing it on my own. I had met my goal of at least 5,000 steps already by noon! Sometimes as teachers and parents, we want to protect or help our children, so we swoop in to ‘help’ them to tackle problems, sometimes even if they haven’t asked for help! This does a disservice to our students/children, as we take away that feeling of pride and accomplishment in solving the problem for themselves. In the end, that is the opposite of helping them – it can actually keep them from developing the sense of confidence and self-efficacy to deal with problems on their own. This is where the constructivist model of teaching comes in; facilitate learning, don’t feed it to students piece by piece. Help them to learn to take charge of their own learning, and they will become lifelong learners who can ‘move the snow’ that comes their way, whether it be mountains or molehills!

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7.) Don’t forget to have fun! If you stop enjoying what you do, it’s time to re-think what you are doing. Do you need more challenge? Do you need a new location? A great job in a toxic atmosphere can be draining, and a lousy job with great co-workers can be a wonderful experience! Maybe you need to move to a new grade level, or a new district. Maybe it’s time to think about moving into administration or adding a new license to give you some new challenges. Life is short – love what you do and do what you love!

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Fulghum, R. (1986). All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. New York: Villard   Books. ISBN 978-0-394-57102-7

Stay Calm & Move On, Snow!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Education Action Researchers = Significant Presentations

Blog Action Research Group

Teacher candidates walked the stairs or took the elevator up to the 2nd floor at the Schwan’s Regional Event Center (REC) the day before the BIG conference to practice a run-through of their presentations. The majority of them had never seen the upstairs to the REC…where the suites at the SMSU football stadium are located. Many walked through the venue admiring and just taking it all in. The best comment made that morning was when a teacher candidate sat down in one of the chairs where the keynote would take place and with a big smile on her face she said, “I feel so important.”

That is what a positive environment can do for us. When I shared with my friend what this young gal had said, my friend added: “a hospitable environment can equal significant outcomes.” It sure can, Mel! The REC was a hospitable venue to host our 3rd Annual Education Action Research Conference, and we most certainly celebrated the significant outcomes of the keynote speaker, the presenters, the evaluators, the tech supporters, and the visitors.

The teacher candidates did a marvelous job of presenting the projects they conducted  during their yearlong studies at rural schools in Minnesota. From Graphic Organizers and Story Mapping to Digital Flashcards and Word Walls, these action researchers provided insights on the outcomes of when literacy strategies are implemented into elementary classrooms.

Congrats, Action Researchers. Accolades to ALL on a job well done! 🙂


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

The Power of the Light Switch

Our life is what our thoughts make it.
~Marcus Aurelius

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Imagine a light switch for a moment.  Flip it up – and voila … let there be light!  Flip it down – and poof … the light is gone in a blink of an eye.  If the light switch is on, it really makes it easy to find what you are looking for.  If the light switch is off, it really makes it hard to find what you are looking for.  (And no – you can’t use the flashlight on your phone to help  you.)  In Dr. Caroline Leaf’s 2013 book, Switch on Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health,  readers learn about the power of a light switch and how it compares similarly to switching on one’s brain.  Amazing to consider!

I recently went on an adventure that allowed my brain some time to think and to be creative.  I found myself reading Leaf’s book… and then taking notes.  It took quite some time to read because I kept getting distracted by taking notes in attempt to memorize Leaf’s points.  In fact, I couldn’t get the book finished in time for this blog, but I just couldn’t wait to share it with you …  Read on to see some thought-provoking quotes from Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book sprinkled in with some of my own two cents.  Enjoy!

BLOG 4.4.18 Switch2“What would you do if you found a switch that could turn on your brain and enable you to be happier, healthier in your mind and body, more prosperous, and more intelligent?” (Leaf, 2013, p.13).

Um – YES! Sign me up! Dr. Leaf tells us how – and it’s simple too. Your mind is the switch. Page one of the prologue gives away the secret – and makes me want to read more. I have always heard and preached about the power of positive thinking… and now I know that I am positively right about being positive.

“The choices we make with our mind impact generations” (p.14).

“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought. ~Peace Pilgrim” (p.15).

Leaf pairs scripture & science throughout her book with amazing clarity and connections.  Her words direct us to common language in our lives…
We believe in God the Father…
Believe in yourself…
I think I can, I think I can…

“How we react to the events and circumstances of life can have an enormous impact on our mental and even physical health” (p.20).

“You can do whatever you set your mind to…” (p.20).

A recent example of this was when I was visiting my Grandmother.  She has not been doing so well and has needed help getting out of her chair… except when she “gets something  in her head” and “makes up her mind to do something” as Grandpa kindly puts it.  Notice in the video that she has dancing on her mind. 🙂

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“Mind over matter” (p.25).

“Happiness comes from within and success follows – not the other way around” (p.26).

A somewhat controversial yet powerful statement – “You don’t have to fear that if a condition runs in your family that you are going to get it (for example, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or depression)” (p.26).

“Matter does not control us; we control matter through our thinking and choosing. We cannot control the events and circumstances of life but we can control our reactions” (p.32).

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Leaf 2013, p.62 and the Good Book – aka Bible – Philippians 4:8).

Consider “5-16 minutes a day of focused, meditative capturing of thoughts” (p.75).

“We cannot control the events and circumstances of life, but we can control our reactions to those events and circumstances” (p.82).  Amen.

“…state of mind in which we switch off to the external and switch on to the internal… in this deeply intellectual state… is more focused and introspective… we move into a highly intelligent, self-reflective, directed state” (p.82).

“In this directed rest state, you focus inward, you introspective, and you appear to slow down; but actually, your mental resources speed up and your thinking moves to a higher level” (p.83).  Wonderful rationale for siestas and vacations!

In closing, the light switch is yours to decide what to do with … flip it on or off.  If I can give any advice, think positively and let your light shine.  It makes the world a much brighter place for us all. 

Stay Calm & Switch on Your Brain ~
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Say YES! To Elementary Clinical

Blog Yes Clinical Group 2018

SMSU School of Education takes pride in the clinical experiences we offer to our teacher candidates. From the time they are freshman in ED 101 Introduction to Education to when they are student teaching at the end of their teacher preparation program, our teacher candidates get to be in the classrooms quite often and practice what it is truly like to be a teacher. And, we all know that practice makes perfect.

An SMSU field experience highlight is our 2-day clinical during the teacher candidates’ junior year. The secondary majors complete this 2-day experience during the fall. The elementary education majors complete the 2-day clinical in the spring as the capstone of their classroom management course (although it will now be during the fall beginning 2018-2019 school year).

Austin, who is an elementary education major from Jackson, MN, described clinical the best when he wrote, “clinical was the most stressful but satisfying two days of my life.” Thank you for that, Mr. Olson! Well penned! I guarantee you will never forget it. I graduated over 30-plus years ago from SMSU (SSU at that time), and I still remember my clinical experience like it was just yesterday.

This year was an exceptional clinical year as our SMSU teacher candidates were completing their last week of pre-student teaching the week prior to clinical. Throw in a few unexpected snow days to cause them to have to make up that time, and these future teachers learned how to stretch and grow with unpredictable circumstances.

When all is said and done, the best reaction from all teacher candidates (and the professors of the Classroom Management courses) was the passionately charged fist pump in the air and a LOUD ecstatic “YES!” The on-campus teacher candidates did it.

Up next…the 2 + 2 teacher candidates, traveling from all over the state of MN, will arrive in Marshall in April to participate in their special 2-day clinical. Best wishes to all of you and to your professor. You too, will give the universal “YES!” fist pump in the air when you successfully complete these two exhausting days.

I asked my students to write down fun stories from their 2-day experience. While I’d love to share all of them, I share just one as it is the first time in over 16 years this has happened during my tenure as the ED 423 Classroom Management professor.

“In the last two minutes of the first day, a student pulled out his tooth. He didn’t say anything. We didn’t notice until the other students told us. We didn’t have any plastic bags in the classroom. We had to find some paper towels to wrap it up in.”

I guess next year I’ll share with my teacher candidates what to do if a student loses a tooth. 😉

Life and teaching are like your 2-day clinical, teacher candidates. There will be ups and downs. There will be best moments and worst moments. There will be unexpected twists and turns. However…knowing that you can stretch and grow from life and all teaching experiences and survive them; then you can give an enthusiastic fist pump in the air and say “YES!” Yes to giving your all. YES to survival. YES to a job well done! YES to the best profession on Earth. YES to SMSU School of Education. Congrats to all of you! 🙂

Blog YES Lucy

YES! 😀


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Stay Calm & Clinical Congrats!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

I Can Only Imagine What it Will Be Like

Blog Imagine

Photo Credit: https://icanonlyimagine.com/

I cannot imagine what he went through while growing up with his father after his mom left them both behind.

Physical abuse. Verbal abuse. Emotional abuse. Psychological abuse.

Breaks my heart. I just cannot imagine. What causes a dad to do this to his own child?

My husband and I went to see the movie I Can Only Imagine a few days ago. It is a moving story about Bart Millard’s life growing up. Who is Bart? He is the lead singer of the Christian band MercyMe.

Bart penned the well-known song I Can Only Imagine which has gone platinum twice. Bart witnessed God’s miracle when his dad was transformed. Bart’s message is this: “If God can change my dad who was a monster, God can change anyone.” Grace and forgiveness win every time.

At his dad’s funeral, Bart’s grandma made the comment “I can only imagine what your dad is seeing right now.” From that humble statement, the song I Can Only Imagine was born. It took 10 minutes for Bart to write the words to this touching song that has netted over 2 million digital downloads and has probably been played at many, many, many funerals over the years.

My hubby and I highly recommend the movie. Warning…take Kleenex. The jam-packed theater (grateful we got to sit together) was sniffling simultaneously. I wanted to offer a Kleenex to the stranger sitting next to me but I used my last one. 😮

On a fun note…the gal who played Bart’s girlfriend, Shannon (actress Madeline Carroll), looks a lot like one of my current SMSU students. When I sent Calisha an email to let her know this, she thanked me and said several people have told her that. Fun! 🙂

We give this movie a five-star rating. Go! Bring your tissue. Be touched. We believe you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Stay Calm & Imagine!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

A Thank You to My Principal

blog Thank you Principal

Dear Mr. Ken Stanek:

I just want to say thank you for giving this hometown girl a chance at being a teacher. I still remember the local newspaper’s article shortly after you offered me the 3rd grade position replacing Lyla Bracken. “School Board Questions Principal’s Hiring Policy.”

Holy cow. I thought I was going to be fired before I even got started. Back then, the school board did not believe in hiring hometown people. My, how things have changed. Thank goodness! 🙂

Now we encourage our hometown kids to stay or come back after high school. You were ahead of the game, sir. So…from the bottom of my heart, I sincerely say thank you for believing in me! Thank you for having my back those years you were in charge.

I now teach college students how to be teachers, Mr. Stanek. I still love what I do. One of the best honors for me though, is that I have had the opportunity to share my educational passion with your two granddaughters, Kelsey and Sarah. What a privilege for me to pass on my passion and enthusiasm for this profession to your two lovely granddaughters. Honored.

You will never guess what I did the other day, Mr. Stanek. Give up?

I went to my TRA retirement meeting. Yes, I reach the Rule of 90 and can retire in September of this year. Yes, you read that correctly! This year…2018. I am just as shocked as you are. Where did that time go?

I will not retire though, Mr. Stanek! I am not ready yet. Even after 31 years of being in education, I still LOVE what I do. I still get excited every day to go to school. I still enjoy serving the students. I still want to listen to what they did over their break.  I still work late hours to get assignments corrected and that is okay. I still enjoy finding new ideas to try out in my classroom. I still appreciate learning from other educators. Nope, not ready yet. 🙂

I remember when you retired, sir. It was a time that the Teacher Retirement Association offered an early retirement incentive. You jumped on the opportunity, and I think you were a young 55 at the time. Do I have that right?

I do not blame you. Being a principal is tough. I did that gig for a short time. Educational leadership is hard. Being an educator comes with many challenges. Please know that I believed you were very good at what you did! I appreciated you then, and I appreciate you now.

Thank you for everything, Mr. Stanek. Thank you for taking a chance on a small town girl who just wanted the opportunity to show the community I could be a good teacher. And my journey from teacher to principal to professor is partially because of you and your encouragement…never underestimate the difference you made in my life.

Hugs to you, sir! God bless always.

blog thank a principal

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

Everything I Need to Know I Learned on Sabbatical

Amazing how quickly time flies by… just wow! This was a year ago already – my experience serving as a teacher for English learners. Today, I was privileged to be part of the Reading in the Content Areas classes, and share about culturally responsive teaching with the K-12 and secondary teacher candidates and about my sabbatical experience.  Joining me today were two EL experts from our community with years of experience working with English learners and integrating Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) into their teaching.  Culturally Relevant Pedagogy is another term for Culturally Responsive Teaching. CRP can be defined as… “A pedagogy that crosses disciplines and cultures to engage learners while respecting their cultural integrity. It accommodates the dynamic mix of race, ethnicity, class, gender, region, religion, and family that contributes to every student’s cultural identity. The foundation for this approach lies in theories of intrinsic motivation” (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 1995, para 2).

Today was a wonderful opportunity to engage in dialog around CRT with our future teachers, who – no pressure – are responsible for changing the world one learner at a time. Best of luck to all – and enjoy! Life is short – so share it with others.

Wlodkowski, R.J., & Ginsberg, M.B. (1995). A framework for culturally responsive teaching. Educational Leadership, 53(1), 17-21.


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…

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