Just Keep Driving Your Boat to a New Horizon


I love sunrises! I can remember when our kids were little and we made them get up before dawn one morning, grabbed some hot chocolate, and went to sit on a rock while we waited patiently for the majestic sunrise over Lake Superior. I thought it was breathtaking. They were groggy and just wanted to go back to bed.

My husband understands my love of sunrises, so just this morning we headed out to the marina on a sunrise date while the sky was changing into dawn. We idled out to the lake to not wake the boathouse sleepers. Once on the wide open water, we raced over to the other side to get out of the wind and to sit quietly, drink our coffee, and wait.

As God’s golden splendor peeked over the horizon, I said my daily prayer, This is the day that you have made, Lord, let me rejoice and be glad in it. The sun was a tad bit over the horizon and my hubby starts up the pontoon and begins driving away from my little piece of heaven.

“WHAT are you doing??”

“Driving to the next sunrise,” he smiles.


There are some cliffs that border this lake so he moved the boat a little to the south so I could watch the sun rise once again only this time above the small bluffs.

Is he not the sweetest guy ever? ❤ 🙂

After the sun winked over these bluffs, he drove off one more time so we could catch the sun rising a third time. This time it waved hello from over the cliffs that stood tall and proud.

THREE sunrises in one morning. Just keep driving your boat to a new horizon, and you can experience three sunrises in one morning. Spectacular!

Teacher candidates…think about that for a second. In your future teaching career, or in your prep program now, it’s all about perspective and driving your boat to a new horizon.

You will have students/classmates who are struggling…drive to a new horizon so YOU can understand their why.

You will have colleagues/friends who drive you crazy…drive to a new horizon so YOU can role model unconditional regard.

You will have a boat load of work/assignments to do…drive to a new horizon so YOU can give your best.

You will have an administrator/professor who intimidates you…drive to a new horizon so YOU can find courage.

You will look for new opportunities/teaching ideas…drive to a new horizon so YOU can become creative.

This is one time we can sincerely say…it IS all about YOU, teacher candidates. Having a positive perspective in teaching and in life is vital to YOU and your successes.

YOU are in control of your efforts.

YOU are in charge of your attitude.

YOU are in charge of finding the good in life.

YOU are accountable for the morale around you.

YOU have to find the beauty in your day.

Teacher candidates…whatever you’ve got going on in your teacher prep program right now, just remember…YOU are at the helm…YOU have to drive your boat to a new horizon.

Blog perspective5

Stay Calm & Take the Wheel,
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

Active Learning

Read, Set, … Learn!  It’s that time of year.  That fall feeling is in the air.  For some of us that means football; for all of us that means school!  Our minds are ready for more – to learn more – to do more.

Recently, I attended a Football for Moms session with our high school football team.  Coaches decided that we needed to learn the plays.  We listened to Coach Bahlmann draw up plays on the board, and we decoded numbers and names for players and plays.  Once we had an introduction, then we needed to give it a try and put the play into action.  I would say that we did fairly well against our high school sons as opponents. 😉  We were able to learn about the play and try it out – to engage in our learning and actively participate.

BLOG 8.29.18 Football learning
Photo credit: Coach Tony Ortmann

Part of learning more IS doing more. The lecture-style-only classroom is a thing of the past.  There is so much more to teaching and learning than lecturing.  Now, don’t get all upset if you are a lecturer; we mean no disrespect here.  It takes all of us to make the world-go-around.  We simply mean there is more to it than the historically dominate “sit and get” learning in life.  I tell teacher candidates that “you will get out of it what you put into it.” I can tell them how valuable something is and why, but until they assimilate it, digest it, believe it, work with it, and do something with it (in whatever order or preference), then it is just information. They need to actively engage in the task at hand, and make it worth their time to comprehend it and make their learning their own.

I recently had an opportunity to participate in an active learning classroom workshop on campus at Southwest Minnesota State University.  It was more than listening to how it works, it was doing more, and making it work.  We know that one of the highest levels of learning is teaching and creating.  That is just what we did under the fine guidance of Kate Borowske, Instructional Design Librarian at SMSU.

There were lots of take aways to try out in our own teaching and get our students engaged in their own active learning.  Some highlights came from Professor Robin Wright from the University of Minnesota; she shared resources to get us on the road to active teaching and learning.  Key ideas and resources to share with some of my own twist:

Mentor – develop relationships.  Professors may know the content/discipline more in depth, but students have better questions.

Teach so hard.  We need to think about the balance between teaching and learning. We are all teaching and learning alongside each other.

“Students have an amazing capacity to learn…amazing capacity for creativity.  They will give you hope for the future.”

“Thrill of seeing through new eyes…”  Allowing ourselves to see something thru another’s perspective, we allow ourselves a chance to change, a chance to get better, a chance to understand.

TED Talk by Ramsay Musallem – 3 rules to spark learning

Teaching effectively in active learning spaces:

Team teach. Model/learn scholarly discourse. It will make learning transformative.

Enlist help.  Undergraduate learning assistants or interns or volunteers can help support active learning. Engage others are we aim to integrate active learning into everyday teaching.

Use time-saving strategies (grading rubrics, mail merge for student communications, and more) to save on teacher sanity.

Encourage metacognition.  Learners need to think about what they are learning and how they are learning and what it all means.

Create a community of learners.  We are not in this alone.  Put your minds together and collaborate on how this can become how we learn.

What we process, we learn. Sure, we can memorize something. But there is so much more that we can do with information and knowledge.

Connect emotion to learning.  When a reader connects to text, he or she comprehends the text more easily.  When we connect to what we are learning, we retain it, which means we have a better chance of using the information in the future and integrating it into our lives.

Steps on How to Teach in an Active Learning Classroom – Steelcase Education

Teaching Methods for Inspiring the Students of the Future – Joe Ruhl

Teach Like a Champion: Getting everyone’s attention in class – Doug Lemov


ablconnect – Harvard University

Without further ado, it’s time to learn more – do more. Get your active learn on.

A special thanks to all who helped offer and make the Active Learning Classroom a success, especially:
Kate Borowske
Dan Baun
Shawn Hedman
Ben Nwachukwu

Stay Calm & Get Active~
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Felony 101: A New Course for Future Educators

This is a guest blog post by an SMSU alumna who has asked to remain anonymous. She was a student of Wendy’s and is now Wendy’s dear friend. This guest blogger is a dynamic educator and has visited Wendy’s classes, sharing her innovative and creative teaching ideas for Early Childhood Education. Wendy was supposed to meet this person for lunch on that fateful day the police showed up at her apartment and arrested her. This is a story of an educator’s fight against viciousness, and her hope is that her message will help all of us. 

It’s an understatement to say that teachers don’t get paid enough for the work they do. We do the most important work in the world. Things that are THAT important are usually not easy.  Like other high stress jobs, educators need to vent and find healthy ways to channel their stresses.  Rather than lecture college students about the proper and safe ways to vent, I’ve been asked to share my story with you.  My story is not about safe venting or healthy ways to channel stress. It’s about how I messed up, and how I was never offered a college course on avoiding felony charges and jail time when I got my education degree. I had to figure all of that out on my own.

I graduated from SMSU with an education degree, tons of passion, major drive, and new confidence. When people asked me what I wanted to do with my degree, my typical response was “change the world!”  I got a job in early childhood education and quickly started climbing the ladder to management and beyond.  I was never content staying put for too long and was always seeking ways to grow and be a part of more change. 

I worked for the same company for five years, and after trying out a management role, I decided it was time for the next step.  I began grad school, and to balance my workload I left my management job and took a part time position at a new location within the same company.  Change doesn’t always go smoothly, and this was one of those occasions.  Even though I’d been with the company for five years, I struggled to get along with my new boss. This was to be expected.  Coming from a full-time management position and taking on the part-time employee role again was difficult.  I quickly encountered many things about her management style that just rubbed me the wrong way.  I had been trained by the best, and then sent to work for someone who felt mediocre was good enough.  You can imagine that my “PASSION” wasn’t always appreciated when it contradicted the boss and her leadership. 

We worked together with minor tension for over a year. After a more serious issue occurred, I spoke up to someone at the corporate office. My boss felt challenged and belittled. I knew I was doing the right thing, but she was very upset with me. I decided to transfer to another center until I finished my grad school classes. I really thought that diffusing the situation was best.

Leaving was the right choice, but not the end of the conflict. My old boss started talking about me within the company and saying things that were untrue. I felt like my new position was being sabotaged by someone for whom I no longer worked and thought I had escaped. I loved my new position, and my new boss was amazing. I was having a blast with a group of school agers that inspired me daily!  I was so frustrated to still be dealing with the past when my drive for the future was at its peak. In less than a year I was set to graduate with my Masters degree, and then I would be off to CHANGE THE WORLD!  Why did she feel the need to hurt me?

Sparing you the details (Someday I’ll write the whole story down!) I tried hard to focus on the positive.  This included what I thought was healthy venting with trusted friends. My co-teacher was great at assuring me that I was a wonderful educator with fabulous vision. She was great at telling me that what was happening to me was unfair and immature. She invited me over to her place one night to talk more. My frustration faded after some healthy venting around a campfire. I felt better and we began laughing and joking.  I sent a text message to a former coworker, expressing how frustrating the whole situation was.  I made a bad joke, meant to make her laugh and respond with some friendly wisdom. But it was late and she didn’t respond that night. I thought that was it. 

I can now safely tell you that venting in written form is NOT a good idea.  You see, that simple joke somehow got back to my old boss.  Understandably, she was upset.  I guess she also felt vengeful.  I had pushed her buttons the wrong way, and now I had given her all the material she needed to hurt me.

Two days later I was fired from the company that I had given my all to for almost seven years. Fired for sending a text message that sounded threatening. Fired for venting to someone I thought shared my frustrations.  I felt like I was being fired for speaking up about things that I didn’t feel were ok. I felt like my passion and my big mouth had turned against me. I was devastated and felt broken and betrayed.  Sadly, this was just the beginning.

The next morning, I was trying to regroup and focus on the next step. I was updating my resume when there was a knock on my door.  I was quickly arrested and taken to jail. I was charged with a felony offense of “terroristic threats.”  If you google that specific charge, you can start to see how one joking comment in writing can be twisted into a threat if you use any triggering words or if the person on the other side simply says that they feel threatened. 

For the next seven months I was in and out of court rooms as the police searched my car, my apartment, my laptop, my phone, and my whole life for evidence that I was a violent criminal, threatening the life of my former boss. I had to defend my character, my motivations, and my passions to people who didn’t know me. I was told that a simple “LOL” or laughing face at the end of my text would have identified it as a joke, but without it could be construed as a threat. I was arrested for not using the correct emoji to convey my intent.

Completely unsuccessful in their search to defame me, the charges were eventually dropped, and the arrest was taken off my record. It was essentially as if nothing had ever happened.  Except that it all DID happen, and I still live with that truth. I thought my life was ruined and feared I would never work with kids again.  I felt as if my hard work and drive to change the world had been wasted. My spirit was crushed and my passion seemed to be gone. It took me a long time to rebuild any confidence. 

Telling this story is tricky. As you can imagine, I’m constantly dealing with fears of saying too much, saying the wrong thing, or speaking up at the right times. I tell my story not to scare anyone, but to inspire real discussion about how stressful things can be. As educators, our advocacy on behalf of the children SHOULD be something we take seriously and speak about with passion. As teachers, you WILL encounter frustrating people and sometimes maddening issues.  These issues deserve your focus and attention because the work we do is so very important. We should be talking more about how to deal with that stress in constructive and safe ways. There isn’t a college course to keep you out of jail, but maybe there should be more of a focus on how to tactfully address important issues. How do we stand up for kids when it means standing up to huge risks or positions of power?

In many careers, but especially in education, teamwork and communication are key.  Being able to process important issues and emotions is imperative, and there are certainly times when venting to coworkers is the best way to get real, applicable feedback. However, when our emotions are overloaded and we need to process on a more personal level, it’s important to find support networks that are disconnected from the direct conflict.  There is great value in the perspective of a third party that cannot be reached through teacher’s lounge venting or jokes between coworkers. Sometimes blowing off a bit of steam helps a lot.  Other times, more professional action should be taken.  In my case, I wasn’t being treated well, and I chose to vent when I should have voiced my valid concerns with the appropriate people. And I regret that. Every day.

I can’t tell anyone what sorts of discussions to have after reading this, but I’d be more than open to hearing feedback to some of the questions I’ve asked myself. What are some constructive ways to vent when you’re frustrated? How can we support each other in a field that calls for passion and strong advocates? How can we overcome obstacles big and small in our careers?  What sort of protections do we need to take to keep doing passionate work?  How can sharing our struggles help others?

My story has a happy ending, because I refused to accept that chapter of my life would be the defining one. Years later I’m still changing the world every day with and for children. I’m more motivated than ever before to make change in education. So, this isn’t a lecture on safe venting.  This is a simple message to current and future educators.  Use your passion. Support each other. Speak up as an advocate for children. Never stop learning. While you’re doing all that, be careful with your words, actions, and influence.  You are doing the most important work in the world.

Please give our guest blogger some feedback to her questions in the comments below. She’d be grateful.

Stay Calm & Vent Wisely!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

My Ron Clark Academy Experience

This is a guest blog post by friend and SMSU alumna, Kelsey Stanek Brust, who is currently a 4th/5th Grade Multiage Teacher at RTR Elementary School in Ruthton, Minnesota. Kelsey just completed her first year of teaching and is excited about making her classroom a place where students want to be. You can reach her at kelsey.brust@rtrschools.org or on Twitter @KelseyStanek

Blog KelseyRon

When I was a junior at SMSU, I learned about Ron Clark in Dr. Wendy’s ED 423 Classroom Management class.  We watched the movie, The Ron Clark Story, and learned various strategies that he used in his classroom that we could apply to our own management philosophy.  From then, I have thought it would be absolutely amazing to have the chance to visit the Ron Clark Academy (RCA) located in Atlanta, GA.

Fast forward three years, I finally had my very own classroom and I was the TEACHER. 🙂  I found huge value in social media for professional development and networking reasons and came across so many educators throughout the nation who have shared their classroom transformations and just being “RCA Inspired.”  And then BAM!  I was like I NEED to go there!  I read so many blogs about teachers who have experienced the RCA training and I read more about the training itself and all its details.  The RCA training isn’t very cheap so I debated whether I should go now or wait a few years.  The more I thought about it, I just knew that I needed to go now.  I took the plunge and registered for the summer conference.  TALK ABOUT BUTTERFLIES!

Blog Kelsey RCA Excited

Let’s fast forward again.  It’s finally the first day of the training.  I was unbelievably nervous because I went to RCA alone…just me, myself, and I.  A small town girl who is used to seeing five people on main street and now I am here with over 650 educators whom I have never met!  Deep breath…smile and wave people, smile and wave. 🙂  The staff was finally opening up the gates for us to plow in and start this phenomenal experience.  There was music blasting, kids dancing and cheering, and then there was Ron Clark!!!  He was greeting us as we came in with a hugely infectious smile and then he came up and shook my hand and said, “Welcome!”  Yes, Ron Clark shook my hand!!  Is it socially acceptable to never wash my hand again?!? 🙂

The energy of this place is outstanding.  We are all heading into the gym and on our way in we pass by Kim Bearden.  Ya’ll…she is the most kind-hearted, down to earth soul you will meet.  While we were waiting in the gym, the students came up to us and started up conversations with us.  The conversational skills that these middle schoolers demonstrated was astounding!!!  Once everyone is settled in the gym, Ron skips out on stage and speaks to us about the revolution they want to make in education.

He says that education should be young, fun, sexy, and hot!  It shouldn’t be worksheets and frowns by bored teachers.  What kid is going to want to be a teacher when they grow up if all they see is their teacher passing out lame worksheets and not having fun at all?

From there, we were split into groups and went to various workshops throughout the day.  We were also able to see classrooms in action with the students.  We finally were able to go to Ron’s room and watch him teach.  It was AMAZING!  There was music and no one was talking. Ron was just using a whole bunch of signs and sign language for what the students were supposed to do.  Pretty soon he was on the tables dancing and waiting for the students to complete their math problem correctly.

Following the Q & A, we were going to be slide certified!  Ya’ll…I’ve been on my share of slides, but this slide was the fastest one I have ever been on!  Again, there was music and kids dancing and singing.  When I shot out of the slide and landed on the floor, there were teachers helping you up and a then a student handed you a slide certified sticker.  This was like a rite of passage!

Following the certification, we transitioned into Kim Bearden’s book release party for her new book, Talk to Me.  I had one goal for going to RCA and that was to get a picture with Ron Clark.  I found him with a line of seven people behind him so I bee-lined it over there and got in line.  Finally it was my turn.  BUTTERFLIES!  BUTTERFLIES!  BUTTERFLIES!  We got our picture together and then he asked where I was from and couldn’t believe I was there alone.  He then proceeded to take my phone and take a selfie of us.  Not trying to toot my own horn at all, but he didn’t take a selfie with anyone else in line when I was there so we’re pretty much BFFs. 🙂  And just like that day one was complete.

The next day I woke up so energized and pumped to get back to RCA.  We started out the day with a house competition.  If you are not familiar with the house system that RCA has implemented, stay tuned.  RCA (staff and students) is divided into four houses: Amistad, Reveur, Altruismo, and Isibindi.  Each house means something different.  On this day, we were supposed to wear the shirt for the house of our choice.  I chose Reveur which is the house of dreamers, the go getters.  The energy in the gym during this house competition was unbelievable!  Everyone was having so much fun and our passion was showing through.

Blog Kelsey Housechoice

Following this, we went to more valuable workshops and classroom observations.  Ya’ll…the entire school is so intricately decorated and it all totally fits the Harry Potter theme.  The day went so fast and pretty soon Ron was doing his closing speech along with Kim.  I wanted to cry when it was over because it was amazing and I didn’t want it to end.

Blog Kelsey Houses.jpg

I learned so many valuable things, but I believe that the most important thing I learned is if you want a change to happen or you have a vision for your classroom or school, YOU need to be the change because it starts with you.  There was a quote that sat above the main door at RCA that really resonates with me: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Blog Kelsey Ralphwaldo

Do something different with me and join the revolution to make education “young, fun, sexy, and hot.” 🙂  ~Kelsey

Stay Calm & Love Teaching!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Life Changes

“You make your plans, and you hear God laughing…Life changes, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.” – Life Changes by Thomas Rhett

Love, LOVE, L O V E this song!  It is real life. It is so true.  We make plans all the time, and it (life) doesn’t always go according to plan.  This happens and all we are left to do is shrug and move on… or dwell on it, and be unhappy.  Make plans and change plans. We just need to be flexible. 

A real life example happened this week.  Without much advance planning, the two of us found ourselves planning to attend a teacher educator workshop at the University of Michigan.  That was our plan as of last week anyway…

Wendy’s story…

Waking up in an airport motel…(not a college dorm room, Mr. Thomas Rhett 🙂 ). Plans were in place to fly out of Sioux Falls on Monday to meet Dr. V. at the Minneapolis airport at 6:30 a.m. and then we would be on our way together to the educator workshop in Michigan. I had an early flight so stayed in the airport motel. My alarm gently woke me up at 3:00 a.m. and by 4:30 a.m. I was boarding the airplane. My first thought was, ‘seriously, who flies at 5:00 a.m.?’  Well, I discovered a lot of people do. This flight was full with over 100 people on board. 

The plane was pushed back from the gate at 4:55 a.m. which made me smile and think this was going to be great…5 minutes ahead of the planned take off.

Ain’t it funny how life changes (it sure does, Mr. Rhett). Plans changed. About 15 minutes after we were pushed away from the gate, the captain came on the intercom and announced there were some engine ignition problems but that it should only take about 15 minutes to correct. He also announced that we’d have to be pushed/pulled back to the gate to take care of the issue. So we waited. We were finally pushed to the gate about 15 minutes later.

Meanwhile, I’m texting Dr. V. and my husband. He is behind the scenes trying to find flights and seats, which were limited. Maybe one that would get me to Michigan late. Bummer.

Forty minutes later, the captain came back on and apologized with more bad news. The mechanics team wouldn’t be able to arrive to fix the problem for at least an hour maybe more so the plan was to deplane. All passengers were allowed to get off.

Ya make your plans and ya hear God laughing. (Yes, indeed, sir. Proverbs 16:9 says it this way “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Can I get an Amen?). Because this was a mechanical issue, I was given full refund of my flight ticket. No questions asked. My plan was to join Dr. V. in Michigan. I guess God had a different plan.

Have fun, Dr. V. Can’t wait to hear all about it. 🙂

Blog Life changes

We don’t always know why our plans don’t work out, but that’s life.  So keep making plans… Just don’t get too disappointed when they don’t always go the way you had planned.  Great thought for all of us – especially for educators. 

Stay tuned for more on Practice Based Teacher Education….

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

Wendy’s Wednesday Wisdom: Turn Your Uglies Into Lovelies

Blog Wendy's Wisdom

May I just expose my uglies today? My morning routine is to wake up, grab a cup of coffee and head to my devotions chair. I read four devotions every morning…one is my Guideposts Daily Devotions book and the other three come through my gmail account.

So, I got comfy in my Jesus chair, picked up my phone to go to my gmail account and I unconsciously tapped on Facebook…grr!  I had a few notifications so thought “Okay, Lord, I’ll just look at these quickly and then get to my devotions.”

Oh, silly girl.

One of the notifications tripped my trigger. Irritated me. Bugged me bad. Made my blood pressure go up. And why? It wasn’t even a comment made at me. It wasn’t a comment on anything I had posted. And yet, my ugly side came out.  WHY????

I shut down Facebook and had a little conversation with the Lord. Why do I react this way to this person, Lord? Is it jealousy? I don’t think so. Is it class with me being on the lower end? Nope. What is it, Jesus? I don’t like this feeling so help me figure this out, Lord, so I can get over it and be at peace.

Well, God is good and my answer came in my devotions. Not just one devotion but THREE out of the four had the same message. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I believe I have some insecurities going on. I want to be good enough. I want to be present enough. I want to be loved enough. For some reason I’ve allowed this person to make me feel less than any of those. This person has done me no wrong. It’s MY issue, and I have to remember that I am enough. I have to forgive myself for allowing this person to trip my trigger. To push my buttons. I have to love this person for who he/she is because, like me, he/she is enough. That is what God spoke to my heart through my devotions this morning.

Blog GIG

The first devotion that I read hit home with me. So much so that I shared it with several lady friends via text messaging. So many great quotes but the one I shared along with the link was this: “God has uniquely and precisely created you with specific gifts and talents to do exactly what He has called you to do.” This applies to me. This applies to the person who I started out the day irritated with. This applies to you.

If you’d like to read the rest of the devotion titled “When Comparison Kills Confidence” by Sharon Jaynes, click here:


Blog Tony Evans

When I opened up my second devotion in my gmail account, just the title made my heart do a little dance of excitement.  After reading the last devotion’s message and then seeing this title “You Were Custom Made,” I knew, without a doubt, that the Lord was speaking to me loud and clear. My favorite sentence in this devotion was: “This means you can stop trying to be somebody else and be satisfied with the unique person God made you to be.” WOW. I’m listening, Lord. I am who I am, and this other person is who he/she is!

If you’d like to read this devotion written by Dr. Tony Evans, check it out here:


Blog daily guideposts

In my Daily Guidepost Devotion, the author reminded me that “I am who God says I am, and He says I am perfect in His sight.” Yes, I am and so is this person too. Wish I could share a link on this one with you but it is in book form, not on-line. 🙂

Love who you are. You are uniquely made. You are who God says you are…beautiful, forgiven, chosen, loved. Be you. And remember…those people who sometimes irritate us and bring out our ugly side with no apparent reason why, they are also uniquely made, and God loves us all.

Find a good devotion to start your day. It can turn your uglies into lovelies.  There you go. Wendy’s Wednesday Wisdom.

Stay Calm & Be You!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Hey Kid

You’ve got to be kidding me.  It simply cannot be this date again…already – June 30th. It has been three years ago since we prayed for a miracle so that he could stay. We prayed for a miracle so that he would peacefully let go.  It was a struggle that we all shared on that last day of June in 2015.  It is a struggle that we continue to share this last day in June of 2018.  It’s a story that we continue to share.  “How can we not talk about family when family is all that we got.” ~Wiz Khalifa  We remain #Carterstrong.

Today’s blog is in memory of Carter Joseph Boerboom; it is written by his sister, Katie Boerboom, for families who are fighting cancer and praying for their own miracles.

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Hey kid,

It’s been a while.

I remember this day, 3 years ago. It was the last day I heard your voice. I remember how tired you looked. I remember holding your hand, and I remember the last time we talked.  You said my name out of nowhere, and told me you loved me. I love you too, and I miss you every second, of every minute, of every day.

There are lots of days that I wonder if things could’ve been different – if there was some magic cure – if there was some possibility that we could be sitting here together today, enjoying the lake. I know how much you loved the lake, and so I try as best as I can to enjoy it enough for both of us; but it’s not the same without you.

There will always be something missing. I miss waking up to the sounds of basketball dribbling in the kitchen. I miss finding new shows to watch with you. I miss your goofy sense of humor; and even more than that, I miss your goofy laugh. I miss driving you around – and I miss letting you drive my car (sorry dad). I miss when you’d play with my hair. I miss the shenanigans you and Sam used to pull. I miss our ice-cream trips. I miss my brother – I miss you.

It’s so hard to believe you’d be a senior this year. I’m certain that if you were here that Coach K would already have a Jersey for you (that’s the Duke coach, right?). You were so special. You are still so special – you endured something that no one your age should ever have to go through – and I hope you know what an inspiration you are to so many people. I think one of the hardest things when you left us – was trying to figure out how to keep going. It was the simple thought of you, my 14 year old little brother –  who showed more strength and grace than any adult I’ve ever known… it was by your example that I was able to keep going. Kid, you’re my hero. I hope someday that I will be as strong as you were that day. I hope someday that I will be able to live the way you did.

For many, stage 4 cancer is a death sentence; but you somehow managed to keep living until the very end. You fought for your life, and you didn’t let cancer win. I’m the proudest sister in the world, and I am so very blessed to be able to call you my brother. I think about this day a lot – and we never really got to say goodbye; I’m glad we didn’t. I’ll see you again someday.


Your big sister

Carter enjoying the ride
Carter enjoyed his ride!


Stay Calm & See You Again Someday!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Lessons Gleaned From My 40th Class Reunion

Class Reunion 40

I can remember when I thought 40-year old people were ancient. I guess it’s all in one’s perspective. What are some sayings about time flying by so quickly?

Time sure flies when you’re having fun.

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.

If I could put time in a bottle.

If I could turn back time.

Time waits for no one.

And, my favorite saying from Andy Rooney… “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.”

This past weekend, the PHS Class of 1978 celebrated our 40th class reunion. It was a delight to reconnect with so many great people, and I believe everyone had a fantastic time. I sure did.

Thanks to everyone who joined in on the planning, decorating, and clean-up. BIG thanks to everyone who came. We had a phenomenal turnout. Without you showing up, it wouldn’t have happened. It was a team effort and I’d say we were victorious. So high fives for everyone!!

Here are a few lessons I learned from #reunion40…

Social Media Teamwork Works: “Teamwork divides the task & multiplies the success.” Spot on!! Because of Facebook and the private messaging ability, many classmates were able to share their ideas for the reunion. We had a group message going and private messages going. We also had text messages going (because not everyone is on Facebook). Once tasks were completed, we could post pictures of our accomplishments on these messages. It kept classmates in the loop, and it worked well!

Less Is More: From decorating the float to decorating the venue, the motto was ‘keep it simple.’ The reunion didn’t have elaborate decorations. We photo copied pictures from the annual and randomly spread those on white round tables then added a little ribbon of the school colors to each table. We didn’t cater the meal. We had a pot luck and had enough food to last for a week.

Preschool Teachers Have Beautiful Handwriting: If you need anything hand-written when decorating a float or the venue, find the preschool teacher classmate and ask her to do the honors. Permanent black markers do not come with erasers. So trust that teacher’s handwriting (thank you Miss Cindy ❤ ).

With Age Comes Wisdom & Forgiveness: For me, this reunion was my favorite. When I think back to high school, I know there were people I hurt with my words or my actions. While most of the time life was good in high school, let’s admit that there were arguments and disagreements and bullying and cattiness. Thank goodness we change. Thank goodness we become wiser. Thank goodness we forgive. At this reunion, we reunited after not seeing each other for a while, decades for some, and we just visited and hugged and laughed and cried together over life.

Memories Are Our Diaries: In 40 years we have lost 14 classmates. That seems like a lot to me. We created a memory table and decorated it with an old PHS graduation gown and hat. We placed photo copies of these classmates around the table with the framed saying “Memory…is the diary we all carry about with us.” Fourteen balloons in school colors sat on the table. After we took our group picture, we let the balloons go in memory of those classmates who have gone before us.

Classmates Are Generous: We had a free will offering bucket setting out on a table. With the donations collected, we were able to pay for the venue. You all rock!

Pic On A Stick: During the parade, we carried our graduation “pic on a stick.” This was a huge success. These made people laugh, and of course the parade goers appreciated it because no one recognized us now that we are 40 years older. 😮 Make an 8 X 10 of your graduation picture, then glue it to a piece of cardboard that has been glued to a paint stick. Thanks to Julie for the fabulous idea and to True Value for donating the sticks.

Friendships = Priceless: Yes they are, Tom! No matter how old we are, friendships will always be a gift from above. Just like marriage, though, it takes effort and commitment to make sure those friendships keep going. My best friend in high school is still a good friend today. Even though we don’t see each other often, we make the effort to visit and get together occasionally. Marilyn…thanks for being there for me all through the years. You’re the best.

The reunion was a blast, and it was so fun to reconnect! Whether we meet again in 5 years at the 45th or in 10 years at the 50th, my prayer for all of you is that the Lord blesses you with fabulous health and much happiness.

(Reunion recap via this video. Video credit goes to classmate and friend, Tom Johnson)

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

Co-Teaching: Educators Collaborating for Learners … Two Brains Are Better Than One

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Once in a while, spending some quality time alone is just plain good for the soul.  Going solo provides an opportunity to be calm and reflect.  It can provide an opportunity to gather one’s wits and plan for what’s next.  During this reflection time, some of us like to make a list.  Some of us like to listen to music.  Some of us like to take a nap and recharge.

While spending time on our own is important, part of our human nature is to be social creatures and be together.  Just as we can alone, we can brainstorm and reflect and prepare for tomorrow together.  As the proverb expresses, “Two heads are better than one” – or something along those lines.  It can be amazing what we can accomplish together with effective collaboration.

With a single head, teaching can be an overwhelming and lonely world if we let it be.  When we join forces with our colleagues, we can move mountains to change the world one mind at a time.  Considering this specifically, co-teaching is a framework that does just that – puts minds together to help other minds.

There are a variety of ways to effectively collaborate with colleagues in co-teaching.  Some of the most identified models of co-teaching include:

  • One Teach, One Assist
  • One Teach, One Observe
  • Station Teaching
  • Parallel Teaching
  • Alternate Teaching
  • Team Teaching
  • Peer Teaching

It is important for co-teachers to find out what works best for their students and their colleague.  Co-teaching is definitely not a one-size-fits-all model, and the models can change to meet the students’ and teachers’ needs.  Check out these videos for more information on co-teaching models:

Martina Wagner with Wagner Educational Consulting points out some benefits and challenges to co-teaching:

-Opportunity to problem solve and collaborate
-Enhanced personal support
-Increased confidence and professional development – two brains are better than one
-Extra support for students
-Absence of stigmatization
-Increased participation rate with lower teacher : student ratio
-Improved classroom management
-More on-task time… for the students and the teachers J
-Additional positive connections with adults

Challenges: Questions to consider…
-Whose students are these?
-Who gives grades? How do we grade?
-Whose classroom management rules do we use?
-What space do I get?
-What do we tell the students? the parents?
-How can we get time to co-plan?

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Although there is tranquility in solitude, consider giving co-teaching a try in efforts to increase interaction and student achievement.  After all – two brains are better than one…  just ask my co-blogger. 😉

Stay Calm & Co-Teach ~
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Love Your Students Every Single Day


“This beautiful 50 foot pine tree…I lay back and look up through the branches of this tree that I call home. I look at my mom and my sister and am amazed at how peaceful they can sleep here. Me? I have to protect them no matter what.” ~Vin Shambry

After listening to Vin Shambry tell his story of living part of his childhood homeless, now every time I look at pine trees, it is from a brand new perspective.

When I see towering evergreens while on a drive, on a walk, or visiting a friend, I pause and wonder…

How tall is that evergreen?

Is the ground under it smooth enough to sleep on?

Are the branches low enough to the ground to be hidden and feel safe?

Would a family be able to fit under there?

This NPR podcast called The Moth Radio Hour reminded me of what Brian Mendler, author, speaker, creator of #30secpd, and classroom management expert, repeatedly says in his workshops and on Twitter. Not all students are excited for vacations. They live in chaos and dysfunction. School is their safety zone.

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Educators, as we look forward to summer vacation, let us not forget that some of our students will be in survival mode during their time off.  Be empathetic and verbalize how much you care about them. Are you willing to be available for your students even during your restful days of summer? If yes, please let them know. Love your students! Not just during the school year but…Every.Single.Day.

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(Click here to listen to Vin Shambry tell his story called Outdoor Camp… http://player.themoth.org/#/?actionType=ADD_AND_PLAY&storyId=14111)

Stay Calm & Enjoy Summer!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.