The Power of the Light Switch

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

BLOG 4.4.18 Switch

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. 🙂

Grandma and Grandpa dancing S18

“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

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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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The Delivery of your Message Matters!

Blog words power

Mentor Teacher: What did you think of your lesson?

Student teacher: It didn’t go as well as I wanted.

Mentor Teacher: Yes, it WAS disappointing.

From that message on, the student teacher didn’t believe in himself as a future teacher. He questioned all his skills and abilities.

Professor: What would you change in your presentation? This audience is going out and a new audience is coming in. What will you tweak, change, take out, fix?

Teacher candidates: We wouldn’t look at our note cards as much.

Professor: Remember Q-TIP, ladies. This stands for “quit taking it personally.” All suggestions shared from your peers are to help ALL of us in this room to grow professionally.

Peers…what is one thing this group could improve on?

Peers: Your attire! Our field-experience mentor teachers would NEVER let us dress like that!

Unfortunately, the two teary-eyed teacher candidates took it personally.

Our verbal messages have the power to build up or knock down…all depending on our delivery methods.

I often express to our teacher candidates that delivery is almost more important than the words we choose when teaching. HOW we present our messages matter. Gestures, volume, tone, attitude, facial expressions, eye contact…body language. The mechanics of the delivery matter.

I read a story the other day of a gal who wanted to go into ministry. Her ‘friend’ encouraged her and told her she would be awesome at ministry. This friend told the gal she had the passion. She had the knowledge. She had the drive. She would be phenomenal at ministry. And then…the friend dropped the bomb that collapsed the gal’s spirit. “But first you should lose some weight because that is what others will see first.”

That last destructive sentence kept the gal from ministry for 17 years. Such a devastating outcome.

In the above scenarios, the friend and the peers and the mentor teacher did not intentionally mean to hurt anyone, their messages and words were misinterpreted.

Teachers and teacher candidates…we have great power. The power is in our words. In our messages. With this great power comes great responsibility.

Let’s be superheroes by being conscientious of the messages we are sending to our students. It is all in our delivery. Let us deliver messages that pack a positive punch! 🙂

Blog power of words

Stay Calm & Remember Delivery Matters!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 


Sprinkle Compliments Like Glitter & Watch Your Students Sparkle

Blog Compliments Glitter

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Good Wednesday morning. Did you know that today is National Compliment Day? I did not know that either until I heard it on the radio this morning. Thanks for sharing, Life96.5

What a great day. We all thrive on genuine compliments from others. Even Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” That shows compliments are powerful stuff.

Teachers…ALL your students have good in them. Yes, ALL of your students. We may have to search hard to find it, but I guarantee it’s there. I’ll never forget GS. He was a young student who was kicked out of almost every kindergarten classroom he was placed in. By the time he came to our school he carried around the label of EBD (Emotional and Behavior Disorder). Plain and simple…he was rough around the edges. Uffdah.

His grandma lived up the street from me. I was doing yard work outside one day when I heard GS say to her, “Yup, love you grandma. K…see ya later.” My jaw hit the grass. Yes, even GS had good in him. The next day he was in school, I made sure to point out that I was impressed with how he cared for his grandma.

Find the good in your students today and every day. Then sincerely compliment them on it. Compliments don’t have to be extravagant. Simple, kind words is all it will take. “Johnny, I love that t-shirt.” “Suzie, your hair looks so cute today.” See…easy, peasy. 🙂

If you are looking for a compliment project on this National Compliment Day, check out the blog written by Jennifer Gonzalez. The Compliments Project is a great resource for you.

Hey, teacher candidates and student teachers and teachers…you are all awesome. Continue to bless children in your classrooms. Thank you for working so hard to make our world a better place for our young people.

Sprinkle around compliments today like they are glitter. Watch your students sparkle. 🙂

Blog compliments twain

Stay Calm & Share a Compliment!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

January is EA/TEF Awareness Month

Blog EA TEF Awareness 2018

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The New Year is a time to set goals, resolutions. Many folks are using the #oneword resolution idea, and many are choosing the word “DETERMINED” or “RESILIENT” for their New Year’s goal.

Both are perfect words for EA/TEF Awareness Month. The little ones diagnosed with this rare defect are certainly determined and resilient. They are tenacious and tough in their fight. My granddaughter certainly has been so far.

Back in July 2017, I briefly introduced you to my newest granddaughter, Miss Lucy Lavonne. Remember…she didn’t stick to the schedule. 🙂 Miss Lucy has had quite the journey in her first 6 months of life. She is one resilient and determined little fighter!

Lucy was born with EA/TEF – VACTERL which are rare congenital defects. If you are an MD, you understand all those letters. However, if you are like the majority of us, you probably had to google it because we have no idea what those letters stand for. Just click on the link to save yourself some time.

Six months and 3 surgeries later, Miss Lucy is our miracle grandbaby. She has proven to be one courageous little fighter with the cutest giggles you’ll ever hear.  And if this grandma may say so herself…she is beautiful! 🙂

We are forever grateful for all who have prayed diligently for her. And of course, we ask that you please continue those prayers.

For all the sweet EA/TEF and VACTERL fighters out there along with their mommas and daddys, we lift you up in prayer. Be strong. Be courageous. Be determined. Be resilient. Be full of faith. Be blessed!

May God grant you an abundance of peace during this awareness month and in all the days, months, and years to come. ❤

Blog EA_TEF VACTERL Princess

Stay Calm & Fight on Little Ones!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.



Top 10 Teacher Traits by Our Top Teacher Candidates


Blog ED Majors

SMSU Teacher Candidates are EDU Rock Stars.  We get to know our students from the time they arrive on campus in the fall of their freshman year until that final year they make their way across the stage to accept their diploma. Wow!! What a difference in maturity level as these young teacher candidates travel through their teacher prep program. It is inspiring to see their growth—both personally and professionally.

During their freshman year, our education majors are required to take an Introduction to Education course. At the beginning of this course, they are asked to list the top ten teacher traits they believe are the most significant traits to own as a teacher. These freshmen base their answers on those teachers they just left behind in high school or from their elementary days.

Now that these same students are currently teacher candidates and juniors here at SMSU, and have…

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C.E.L.E.B.R.A.T.E. Christmas

blog Celebrate Tyus

Are you dreading the holiday season this year? Too many parties to attend? Bad weather keeping your family from making it home? Not enough in your bank account to buy gifts? No one to celebrate with? Unexpected health issues?

Those are all difficult situations. Try hard to not let those stresses and worries steal your joy during this beautiful time of the year. Let’s remember the reason for the season. Christmas time is a time to celebrate. A time to celebrate family, friends, and most importantly, a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

We would like to share with you a few ways to CELEBRATE Christmas and every single day.

C = Connect with your family, your friends, your church. Invite others over for a cup of hot chocolate and conversation. Or, gather together to play a few games. Ones like Guess Who or Sorry.

E = Enjoy some YOU time. Light a scented Christmas candle and take a leisurely bath. Pop some corn and watch your favorite Hallmark Christmas movie(s). Turn up the music on the Pandora Rockin’ Holidays Radio station and dance away while you bake some Christmas goodies.

L = Laugh together. Find humor in every moment. Children laugh over 400 times a day. Adults? Maybe 15 times a day. Let’s change that!

E = Extend an invitation to others to come over for a Christmas pot luck. Have them bring their favorite Christmas foods and beverages. Keep it casual then give it a KISS—Keep It Simple Silly.

B = Bake a few goodies and deliver to your neighbors, the church shut ins, and the older adults at your local nursing home. Buy small devotional books and share with friends and family. One favorite devotional is Grace for the Moment by Max Lucado.

R = Read the Christmas story together while sitting around the Christmas tree or the fireplace. It’s a beautiful story that can be found in the chapter of Luke in the bible.

A = Accentuate the positive. Be one of the good people still in this world by blessing others with unexpected kindness. One person, one place, one act at a time can change the world. Check out the book A Case For Kindness by Lisa Barrickman for many kindness ideas.

T = Thank others and thank them often. Thank you to all of you for being our faithful readers. We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

E = Eat as healthy as you can during this season of delightful eats, however, do not deprive yourself of that delicious frosted Christmas tree sugar cookie. Exercise too. Maybe walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. Stay healthy!

May you be blessed indeed in 2018. Merry Christmas from us to you!

Stay Calm & Celebrate the Season!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.