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?”


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

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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! 💪👏😍

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

Born to Imagine and Play

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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.

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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

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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. 🙂

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

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Facebook Friends Do Not Equal Lifetime Friends

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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.

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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! 🙏

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

Tell Your Story – Write Your Own Path

Far too often we see the mountain as the struggle and not the journey.  We allow the steep struggle uphill to blind our path and cloud our goals. The journey should shape us but not stop us.

Our stories of struggles and victories are waiting to be told.  Who better than to tell our stories than us? Far too often we let our stories be told for us. We let unknown authors write our paths. The world turns, and we turn with it.

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Story writer, Adam Braun, shares his story in The Promise of a Pencil, which began when traveling as a college student to India. He asked a begging boy on the street what he wanted most.  The boy told Braun that he wanted a pencil. From there, Braun has changed his path and the lives of many others.  Pencils of Promise has since built more than two hundred schools all over the world.  Braun shares his story and path to help others to be inspired, ignite their own passion, and find their ways.

Some of Adam’s inspirational excerpts…

For anyone going through a restless period in life, looking to make a change but not sure how, start with an ambitious but attainable goal. I set out to build just one school. Only after I realized that it was possible and how much of a difference it made in the life of others did I focus on enabling anyone else to have the same experience too. The key is to think big and then take small, incremental steps forward day by day.

Start by changing the subjects of your daily conversation from the life you are living to the life you aspire to create. By speaking the language of the person you seek to become, you will soon find yourself immersed in the conversations that make you most come alive. You’ll sense the energy you emit attracting similar energy from others. Your conversations will lead to opportunities, which will become actions, which will become footprints for good.

But you can’t keep saying, “I’ll get started tomorrow.” The world has far too many problems, and you are way too smart and capable to not tackle them.  Your time is now.

As humans we are natural storytellers. We weave narrative into nearly every relationship  we build and value. …Regardless of age or status, if you’re not satisfied with the path you’re on, it’s time to rewrite your future. Your life should be a story you are excited to tell.

It requires strength of imagination. It relies on that ability we each possess to suspend belief in the restraints of today to enable the possibilities of tomorrow. Most of all…each morning that we make a choice to bring positive or negatively into the world, and that with every single person there lies an extraordinary story waiting to unfold.  (p.249-251)

Stop. Pick up your pencil and have the courage to share it with others. Write your own story. Find your own path. Let your imagination guide your way. You are your best storyteller of you. Write your path. Today.

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Thanks, Adam Braun, for sharing your story – your change. It all begins with a pencil.

Braun, A. (2014). The promise of a pencil: How an ordinary person can create extraordinary change. New York, NY: Scribner.

Stay Calm & Write On to Change On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

The Houses that Built Us

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My hubby and I had the enjoyment of taking our two middle grandchildren to the Paw Patrol Live! The Great Pirate Adventure last Wednesday in Sioux Falls, SD. What a fun, interactive show it was. I think grandma and grandpa had just as much fun (if not more) as the kids did, waving our Jolly Rogers and yelling “PIRATE PARROT” every time we’d spot that sneaky little bird. It was 85-minutes of adventure that kept our eyes on the stage.

After the show was over, we let the 3 and 4 year old choose where they’d like to have lunch. Of course they picked McDonald’s. 😉🍟🍔

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I share this little story because later that evening, sitting by the fireplace, my husband and I began to share memories of when we were younger. He said he could count on one hand how many times he had been to McDonald’s as a kid. For me, it was never. And off we went down memory lane sharing many interesting facts about the homes that built us.

I think my favorite story of his was about where his childhood home came from. His mom and dad moved an old country school house onto their home place and added a basement, a kitchen, and remodeled inside. My mother-in-law was a school teacher back in the early 50’s, married in the 50’s to a gentleman with the last name of Schoolmeester, then went back to teaching after her 6th child left home.

So…think about that. It just makes my heart smile. 😍 My beautiful, God-loving mother-in-law was a school teacher living in an old country school house whose last name was Schoolmeester. That was a whole lot of schools right there. I adored her.

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One more story my hubby shared that I found intriguing was his bedroom was on the third floor of that old country school house, and it was cold up there. He liked the fact that his bedroom had a clothes shoot in it. He would head to the basement, open the clothes shoot down there so the heat from the wood burning stove would meander up to his bedroom.

Our homes we grew up in have helped shape who we are today. I’m sure you’ve started to think of many memories from your home. Maybe some good and maybe some not so good.

I’d like to share an activity I’ve used in my Children’s Literature course to allow my teacher candidates the opportunity to share memories of their homes, and how those homes have shaped them into who they are today as a future teacher.

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After reading a favorite Little Golden Book classic called The House that Jack Built, I ask my students to flip around the last two words in the title and fill in the blank with their name: The House that Built ____________. As best as they can, they rewrite the story using the same format as the book, sharing with us about the house that built them into the person they are now.

Even though this can be a challenging assignment for college kids, I believe it is one that elementary children could be successful with. Their success will depend on OUR delivery of the assignment. 😊👍

Take a few moments today and enjoy memories of the house that built you. And, if you ever get a chance to go to Paw Patrol Live! The Great Pirate Adventure it is worth every minute!!! Argh…⚓😊

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

Grandma…You Have Blue Teeth 😳

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My granddaughter and I were playing with her dolls the other day. She said something silly which triggered a good ole belly laugh in me.  Though she started out laughing with me, she stopped and just looked at me with this serious look on her face. I quit giggling to ask her if she was okay. Very concerned she whispered, “Grandma, you have blue teeth.”

Tooth be told…😆 I got a little concerned. You know how your mind starts to go through scenarios and gets all twisted up like spaghetti? I thought…did I drink something blue? Did I suck on something blue? Did I chew something blue? And…as quickly as those thoughts flew into my mind, they soared right back out. I knew. I knew what she saw.

I am from the ‘olden days.’ Back when we had cavities, our teeth were filled with silver. UGH!!! Well…after about 45 years of that silver taking up long term residency in my tooth, it has stained the whole tooth and it’s a gross gray. My granddaughter saw blue. 🤦‍

Being the elementary teacher that I am, I used this opportunity as a teachable moment. How much this 4-year old little girl grasped about cavities and silver and how lucky she is because fillings are now white is questionable. But, I went into full teacher mode and she got the full lesson on taking care of her teeth. Floss as much as you can! Brush twice a day. Visit the dentist, sweet girl. Poor thing…all she wanted to do was play dolls. 🤷‍

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. The American Dental Association’s slogan for 2019 is “Brush and clean in between to build a healthy smile.” Back when I was teaching 3rd graders, the school nurse always came into my classroom during February and my students got to chew on red tablets. They certainly got a kick out of it, and thought it was funny to show off their red-toothed smile! Do they still do that? The ADA offers activity sheets on dental health regardless if your school nurse comes in or not. Click here to check them out. If The Dentist Were An Animal written by Rachel Grider and illustrated by Summer Morrison is a cute book to read with your students. There are many dental health children’s books to choose from. Check out google for other titles.

I brush at least twice a day, floss at least twice a day, and irrigate twice a day. Plus, I’m fortunate to get to visit the dentist every six months. At my age, I’m doing everything in my power to keep my teeth. Want to join me? Let’s take care of our teeth together…even if they are blue. 😉 Happy National Children’s Dental Health Month.

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Photo credit: American Dental Association

Stay Calm & Brush, Floss, Irrigate!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.