Tag Archives: #teaching

Ready For My Next Assignment

In 1987, the Lord chose me for the assignment of serving others in the ministry of education. The classroom became my mission ground. Today begins the first day of my last year of this assignment. When I reach May 2023 (Lord willing), I will humbly hand in my 36 year old teaching assignment that I have worked at so diligently to the best of my abilities. I believe God will give me an A on it. I sure hope so, anyway!

From the 14 years of teaching third graders (8 years) and fifth graders (6 years), to the year of serving all elementary students and their teachers as their elementary principal, to the past 21 years of teaching future teachers how to be teachers, I pray I have made a positive impact on the lives of students and adults of all ages from all places.

This wonderful world of education…there has been no better adventure than this! I have been on this magical journey for almost 36 years and there are so many people who have tagged along with me on this enjoyable voyage. I will reach my final destination of this educational trip in May, however, I have had the time of my life completing this significant assignment entrusted to me!

To tweak the words of Walt Disney, I have “followed my teaching dreams to a place where exhilarating learning has come to life. I have created magical memories and discovered fun where imagination reigned.”

You, traveling companions, have given me daily splashes of happiness and laughter. I thank you and appreciate all of you!

To all my students since the fall of 1987, you rock my world each and every day. I wish I could name all of you, but that would take up way too much space. From Jeff, Dena, and Marci in my very first third grade class who are now successful adults and positive role models for their own children; to Sam, Kelsey, Andy, and Wilson in my college courses who are now outstanding educators; all of you have been my beacons of light. My students are the reasons why I continued on with this assignment for 36 years. I am so proud of ALL my past and present students!! You all mean the world to me!

To my family, friends, and colleagues…you have been nothing but supportive during this exciting assignment! Thank you for being some of my favorite traveling companions! I love you all!!

And, finally, to Ken Stanek…I’ve said this before, but I am going to say it again! You, sir, gave this hometown girl a chance in the wonderful world of education. You were my principal and my guide and you always went to bat for me. Even when the school board questioned your hiring policy because you hired a hometown girl…heaven forbid! 😜 I couldn’t be more grateful! Hugs to you always!

Two thumbs up to the 2022 – 2023 school year!! 👍👍 Educators, I know we will be giving our all this year as we always do!! And when it’s all said and done…Lord, I’ll be ready for my next assignment! 🙏😍🙌

Stay Calm & Give Your All!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V.   

Let the Children Go to the Bathroom

A curly blonde-haired, green-eyed first grader raised her hand with her pointing finger sticking straight up high in the air obeying the rule to indicate #1 or #2. The teacher gave her a glance and shook her head NO. With tears stinging in the little girl’s eyes, she grimaced, she shifted in her seat, and she just couldn’t hold on any longer.

Overflowing the wooden chair seat, the urine dripped onto the floor leaving an obvious puddle for the whole class to see. Total humiliation.

That little girl was me. And that incident was over 50 years ago.  

I remember that “accident” like it was yesterday. In my memory, I see myself sitting quietly in my cute blue polka-dotted dress with lacy bobby socks and white tennis shoes in the second desk of the row that was closest to the room closet; row one on the west side of the classroom which was directly across the hall from the bathrooms.

A fifth grade boy asked to use the bathroom right before getting on the bus at the end of the day. He was told no. Bus rides aren’t short. He didn’t make it. Everyone knew because of the smell on the bus. Rightfully so, the parents of this boy were extremely upset and paid a visit to the principal.

A third grade girl sat in her desk during a test all while squirming frantically and crossing her legs trying her hardest to ‘hold it.’ She didn’t succeed. The expectation was students were not allowed to ask permission to go to the bathroom during a test and because she was a rule follower, she didn’t ask. Public embarrassment.

A second grade boy asked to use the bathroom and was told no. He lost control but thankfully his jeans soaked it up. He also had on a long t-shirt which covered his saturated blue jeans so none of his classmates knew what had happened. Whew!

A first grade girl asked to use the bathroom and was told no – she was to wait until after the spelling test and go before recess. She didn’t make it out to recess. The new teacher graciously asked her if the plant had spilled on her – as that sometimes happens. Oh dear. My first grade self knew better, but the teacher who didn’t let her go to the bathroom helped her recover in front of her peers.

A preschooler asked to use the bathroom while lining up from recess. He was told no. This little boy was fortunate as he told his mommy “I squeezed my cheeks together and I tried to hold it in.” He was fortunate and didn’t have an accident in front of all his peers, which could have led to teasing and bullying.

Schools are the only place I know that don’t allow a person to use the bathroom when needed. I was an elementary teacher. I get it. We don’t want our students to miss any of our important teaching.

When I first began teaching third graders, I had cute wooden spoons with cute little faces painted on them. These were my ‘Bathroom Passes.’ If a student needed to use the bathroom, and that spoon was hanging up, they could grab the spoon and take it with them into the bathroom then return it when finished.

Yeah, that didn’t go so well. The spoons were left in the bathrooms most times and when you think about it, the spoons were probably full of germs. Yuck!

My second year of teaching third graders, I had an epiphany. A family requested that if their son asked to use the bathroom, to please let him go. I am so grateful to that family because it changed my approach to using the bathroom. And it was only my second year. From that year on, if a child asked me permission to use the bathroom, I would simply ask, “Can it wait? If not, go now. Only you know!”

I understand we teachers like to have our students present during instruction. However, we ALL know there are times when needing a restroom is immediate! So, please…trust your students, and let the children go to the bathroom.

Please share in the comments below any successful bathroom classroom management technique(s) you have used in your classroom.

Stay Calm & Let Them GO!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

(Pics linked to resources).

Everything I Need to Know I Learned on Sabbatical

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 school teaching English learners full-time.  Yes, that’s right – full-time.  I became a teacher, a caretaker, an advocate, …  full-time.  There were days that I laughed so much my cheeks hurt.  There were days that I cried so much my eyes hurt.  I became 100% invested in my opportunity to change lives.  I thank my colleagues for allowing me to step away from my position on campus to walk in the shoes of an EL teacher.

What did I learn from my experience?  Well, some of you have been reading updates of my adventures throughout the past few months and want to know – so here goes:

Teaching strategies…sure
Implementing best practices…you bet
Assessments and data mining…check

But there really is so much more…

*Life is bigger than any one person or job.

*Giving to others fills up the soul with joy and sparkles and feelings of nice.

*Learning English can be fun!

*Go on a letter hunt instead of a bear hunt!

*Be kind.  Everyone has struggles.  Don’t judge theirs…it’s not your job or mine.

*Work hard, play hard.  Enjoy life and work.

*Be with family no matter what you are doing.


*Not to clean the house sometimes when it is important and to clean it when it is important and to know the difference.  If that doesn’t make sense, it may someday.

*Rest does not necessarily happen on the couch or with a nap.  Energize the soul to feel rested.

*Incremental rehearsal works.

*Take risks – appropriately of course.

*SIOP is for all teachers and learners.

*Don’t be late to the teachers’ lounge on sunshine treat days… you will never get it back.
This is a lesson learned long ago but needed to be revisited.

*Candy is still a tactful way to bribe learners to do their best – whether youth or adults.

*Keep learning, trying, and growing. Stay curious.


*Field trips are exciting at any age.

*Learn another language – and keep using it.

*Observations do not have to be scary when you are in it to grow and be better than you were before.

*Teaching is more than what the written curriculum is and what the lesson plans say… it is about caring and sometimes saving.

*Forget the small stuff – even though it may feel big sometimes. Learn to let go.

*If I have the necessities and the greatest gift, love, I have all things.

*Professional Development should be lifelong.  Never stop learning.


*Snow days are nature’s way of giving us a break from the pressure. Still love them at my age!


*Sometimes kids need a hug.  Sometimes kids need clothes.  Sometimes kids need food.

*Do not be an island.

*Learn about someone else.  Take a sincere interest to learn about him or her – culture, religion, language, …favorite color.


*Culturally responsive teaching makes a difference.

*Brain breaks and a little dancing can do us all some good. Just move it!


*Missing addends are important to know but learning manners trumps that. Please and thank you can make all the difference.

*Food on the table each day for each student is not always a true statement.

*Hugs and smiles can fix tons and keep the world going around.

*Be flexible…things may change and that is a constant.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect to be great as long as “I do my best” in the words of a certain kindergarten teacher at Park Side. 🙂

*Be humble and kind.

*Be passionate and positive, not stressed and negative. Change will happen either way.

*Just like the saying, “Students will never care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

I was truly humbled by my sabbatical experience.  I taught children. They are smart. They are bright. They are kind. They want to learn and grow. They happen to be learning English as an additional language to their native tongue. They taught me just as much as I taught them – if not more.

Some of these children had food.  Some of these children did not.  Some of these children had a fresh change of clothing.  Some of these children did not. Some of these children received hugs at home. Some of these children did not. Each day I gave what I could to these children – from the alphabet and numbers to a bag of food and clothes.  I consider all of these children “my kids.”  My own children at home have learned as much as I have during this sabbatical experience about giving to others and resigning from judgment of others.  All of these children have a special place in my heart for the lessons they have taught me.

My goals were so grand in my sabbatical plan…
but I learned so much more than any plan I could create.

Some One must have had this plan for me…
Live – Laugh – Love – repeat… and to share this wise advice with others.

Helping children in need doesn’t have to happen across the globe.
It can happen right here, right now.

During my sabbatical experience, I was often smiling at all the possibilities there were to help others.  I hope to take this – along with all the lessons learned – to campus with me as I return to teach and guide the next generation of teachers.  No pressure but the world is counting on them.


A special thank you goes out to Ms. Prior for creating the video and teaching me a thing or two while I mentored her during student teaching. Good luck in your new position as an EL teacher. Take care of “our” kids.

Stay Calm & Live Life, Laugh Often, Love Much!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.



Trick or Treat…Spell and Read…Give Me Something Good to Teach


So we already know that we teach learners and not subjects.  It is a tricky question when someone asks a teacher “What do you teach?”  The answer is very simply “learners.”  It is easy to think “social studies” or “math”… but it is always “learners” first.  So something good to teach?  You bet – our kids!  Now what to teach and how to teach is a different question… In a world of canned curriculum and a sea of sailing ships of educational trends, it can be tough to decide if it is a trick or treat when it comes to knowing what is best for our kids (aka – learners).

Recently I had the privilege of attending the Minnesota English Learner Education Conference (MELEd) with colleagues from Marshall Public Schools.  Some of you may be thinking “privilege” might be stretching the truth some, but it is so true!  (I know; I know… I am completely addicted to learning.  But would you want a teacher any other way?! 🙂 )


The sessions that I attended focused on best practices based on research to use in our teaching repertoire.  One of the top sessions in my humble opinion was on the topic of differentiation for linguistically diverse students.  Amy Faust Fraser, WIDA expert, shared with the attendees a variety of ways to differentiate for English learners considering the literacy domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  What was really great about this hands-on session was that differentiation helps to support English learners as well as all learners.  One concrete example was how graphic organizers support the WIDA ELD (English Language Development) standards in our teaching.  For example, the Venn Diagram allows learners to compare and contrast two entities. Ms. Fraser provided examples of incorporating the diagram into social and instructional language, the language of language arts, the language of mathematics, the language of science, and the language of social studies.  It is more than just implementing an organizer.  It is about appropriately matching it to the content, the language, and the learner.

Another great take-away from this session was creating a class portrait and student portraits using the WIDA Can Do Descriptors based on ACCESS scores – and knowing who our students are.  EL teachers can collaborate with classroom teachers to provide a list of supporting strategies by the literacy domains (listening, speaking, reading, and writing).  These portraits should include assets, contributions, and potential for learners.  This provides insight for the teacher as well as the learner as it is important for each student to recognize strengths and challenges as well as help set personal goals.

Speaking of challenges and goals… Dr. Cari Maguire presented a session that discussed linguistic scaffolds for writing language objectives, highlighting expressive language.  Basically, language objectives address how students are learning concepts considering the literacy domains: reading, writing, speaking, and listening while scaffolding provides learners with stepping stones to climb the hill of learning.  The goal here is that teachers – whether EL teachers or classroom teachers – should be aware of more than the content of their teaching.  We need to know how students are using their literacy skills to learn.  Language objectives look something like this… “Learners will (active verb phrase) using (language target).”  The more concisely we can state what learners are expected to do and how, the more learners will flourish in our classrooms.  That is simply the trick to teaching – learnings flourishing in our classrooms – and it is a special treat when it happens for them all.

The conference highlighted many best practices based on research.  I recommend it for any colleagues looking to learn more teaching English learners – and that’s no trick! 😉

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


Teaching 101

So after 18 years in education, I attended “new teacher” workshops to start off my 19th year. You see I am on sabbatical this fall to rejuvenate, relearn, and renew. I am headed back to the classroom after almost seven years away to restock my teacher toolkit and soul. I will be an EL – English Learner teacher for the Marshall Public School district. I am so pumped up for this as I join this classy group of “new” teachers pictured here.

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 d
So what is new or what is important to renew in the teacher toolkit? LOTS! You may find blog posts this fall to read somewhat like a journal entry in the life of a new teacher. 😉

First impressions are important. They can be lasting. If it bombs, however, it can be changed… but it is no longer a first impression of course. 😉 This summer I had the privilege of attending a session with Justin Patton. Incredible experience! If you ever have an opportunity to hear Justin speak or be coached by him, you will not regret it! Some takeaways to consider… We are all just people so we live and learn and sometimes change. We need to do our best to respect others and forgive them for messing up as we hope the favor is returned in kind. No matter if the first impression is stellar or not, communicate honestly and build authentic relationships with people as we are all on this adventure together. Make your presence count. One of my favorite quotes from Justin and now one of my own mantra phrases – “Take responsiblilty for the energy you show up with!” Okay – I am pretty fired up about Leading with Head & Heart so look for more on this in upcoming posts. I hope to share this with my students and fellow staff-mates. Now – back to school, folks…

The cycle of morale exists somewhat for all levels of experience in education and possibly other career fields, too. In the new teacher workshops, the Director of Teaching & Learning shared a great visual about the phases of the school year in the life of a teacher.

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 a

When searching for the image, I stumbled across this one as well. Made me laugh out loud, which is good for the soul and morale.

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101

There are highs and lows in school and in life. Be there to support others and know that “this too shall pass” is a phrase to live by. Laughter is inexpensive medicine to cure the “common cold” in education, too.

Knowing the cycle – continue to learn and grow – and not because you are told to do so, but instead learn and grow because you know it makes you whole. Here is just one example… For any teachers out there who make it to MEA break, join this Pirate crew if you can!

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 P

It’s critical to remember that we teach kids not content. As much as I love me some good content, it’s the kids who matter and will remember. I received two fabulous reminders of who great teachers are and what they do because they care.

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 G
Thanks to Principal Darci Love for sharing “Great Teachers….” with me this week.

Thanks also goes to Director Amanda Granger, who shared about standards-based grading this week and reminded me it’s up to all of us to repair the broken…

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 F

I could really jump on the soapbox here with grades, but I will hold off for another time to “fix” that. My teacher candidates have heard some ranting and raving about this before. I am passionate about kids and not grades, I guess. (I know there are some of you out there who cringe at the word “kids” so insert your own words; I like it.) Another saying that I really like was tweeted out by our very own Dr. Wendy this week. It is so, so true.

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 S

So to recap because I lost track… kindness and communication matter, continuing to learn and grow matter, and having hope and spirit matter. So what else have I learned?
Take care… and take a nap. We should really be learning from our kids’ habits. They nap and are like the Energizer Bunny. Wherever, whenever (it is legal) – take a nap. There is no warrior badge for the teacher who goes without a nap, a message, leisure reading, … The list goes on and on. Teachers don’t keep up like the Energizer Bunny if they skip over enjoying some of that list. That list is actually called life. Teaching can consume the teacher, and what’s left isn’t a pretty picture. Love yourself so you can love others.

BLOG 8.26.16 Teaching 101 c

This could go on and on but frankly, I’m exhausted from the week and all the adrenaline in this anticipation phase. My no-longer-21-year-old self can’t keep up quite the same as when I started almost two decades ago. But that’s okay because I love what I do, I love the people I serve… and I love a rare nap much more than I ever thought I could when I was forced to take them as a toddler.

Education related tag cloud illustration
Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

10 Reading Strategies for Use in Any Classroom

BLOG reading

Reading is one of the three critical pieces of learning; reading, writing, and discussion, as proposed by Mike Schmoker, are “…the foundation for a well-equipped mind: the key to equity, access, and economic opportunity” (2006, p.72).

The following are useful B-D-A strategies to use in any classroom:

Before Reading Strategies: used to motivate, build and activate prior knowledge, introduce vocab, and develop metacognitive awareness (Vacca, Vacca, and Mraz, 2011).

1—Anticipation Guide


3—Story Impressions


During Reading Strategies: used to connect reader to text with structured guidance so students distinguish importance between ideas, understand relationships, and activity respond to meaning (Vacca, Vacca, and Mraz, 2011).

4—Discussion Web

5—Admit Slip/Ticket to Enter

6—Guided Reading Procedure (GRP)


After Reading Strategies: used to clarify and extend emerging concepts (Vacca, Vacca, and Mraz, 2011).



9—Reciprocal Teaching


Drum roll, please…

10—Spread the wealth to others… share our blog and read again!
Happy Reading!

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

What Happens When a Retired State Trooper Becomes a Substitute Para?


Had coffee the other day with a friend who recently retired from the Minnesota State Highway Patrol. She had a 3D retirement party—Dining, Dancing, and Donuts. Go figure. 🙂

Anyway, she shared that she was just finishing up a nine week substitute job as a paraprofessional. That made the ‘ole eyebrows shoot straight up!


She was working with a few young children who needed a para with them because of possible seizures. She was also working with other children with special needs.

Her stories brought some belly laughter and also a few tears. Educators beware…honesty is shared here and some of her words may offend you.

Her first story was about a little cherub who experienced seizures. She shared:

“I’d rather go to a car crash site any day, than to watch a four year old have a full blown seizure. That was a tough situation to witness! I had just visited with this little girl about having to go back into the building soon, and she went to the top of the slide one more time, waved at me, then collapsed.

Right there at the top of the slide.

I hustled up there to get her, and carried her down. The school nurse made the call to wait just a little longer than the three minutes of seizing before giving her medication. Shortly after that time frame she came out of it. Thank goodness I was able to climb up the jungle gym. The other teacher was unable to make it up there.”

Teacher candidates…have a plan! If you are unable, for any reason, to climb up steps to get a student off the play set, have a plan. Who will you ask to help you? How will you get that child down? Having a plan in any type of emergency situation will prevent chaos later.

One student this trooper-turned-para was assisting was extremely naughty. Totally out-of-control behavior. Without thinking she asked the classroom teacher, “Where’s your Taser?” She was kidding of course. 🙂

Teacher candidates…what intervention ideas do you have up your sleeve for students with exceptionalities? A Taser is not an option. A website that is a great resource for you can be found at www.interventioncentral.org. This website offers academic interventions, behavior interventions, and tutorial videos. It is worth a visit!

When lunch time rolled around, this retired highway patrol sat in her vehicle and ate her lunch alone two days of the week. She found the teacher’s lounge to be a tad unfriendly and negative. She admitted:

“This was my first time working with all women. I was used to working with guys only. Not one of those ladies would talk to me. When a few of the paras did speak a few words to me, they questioned how much money I was making. I responded with, ‘I don’t know, I didn’t ask.’”

Teacher candidates…be cautious of the teachers’ lounge. National Businesswomen’s Leadership Association (1987) reported that if you are in a positive mood and you walk into a negative place, it will take a mere 7 seconds to become negative yourself. Do not let that happen! Be the change agent in that lounge!

One little girl the trooper/para worked closely with had gotten blue marker on her nose. It was the end of the day and this little girl did NOT like having her face washed so battles were picked, and the marker on the nose was left alone. When trooper/para took the little girl to meet her mom, she apologized for the marker on the little girl’s nose, explained the situation, and left it at that. The next day, trooper/para had to report to the Director of Special Education. The director explained that the parent had sent an email demanding that her daughter be cleaned up every day. Well, the retired trooper, not even thinking of the marker, asked, “I’ve never gone into the bathroom with her. How do I make sure she is cleaned up?” After finding out that the mother meant the marker NOT toileting help, trooper/para let the director know she had apologized to the parent the day before. When the director heard this, she stated she would take care of it.

Teacher candidates—most parents are your allies. Some will complain now and then, however, for the most part, they want to be helpful. Remember, your students are number one in the eyes of their moms and dads. Parents just want the best for their children! Do your best, and remember QTIP when it comes to parent comments…Quit Taking It Personally!

With no teacher training whatsoever, this retired trooper was expected to teach one of her students how to do math, and the math curriculum used was head-scratching confusing. Unfortunately, the classroom teacher made it clear that she did not want to deal with the math skills of this student. Trooper-turned-para was slightly upset about this. Her explanation was:

“My perception of this specific teacher was she was passing the buck. What do I know about teaching? I was a state trooper not a teacher. She was expecting me, the para, to do her job. It was her responsibility to teach the math, not mine.”

Teacher candidates—please remember you are the teacher. Your para is there to assist you in many ways, however, paras should not be doing your duties. Treat them respectfully, and, most importantly, thank them often! Do your job, teacher candidates, and do it well!

The retired trooper friend concluded the conversation with how this subbing experience opened her eyes and her heart. She acknowledged, “It is always good to walk in someone else’s shoes. I’ve gained a renewed respect level for the teachers and paras who do this work every single day.”

To all teachers and paras, we thank you for the extraordinary tasks you accomplish every single day. Thank you! Thank you for your hard work and dedication to all those children you serve!

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

*Powerful Communication Skills for Women, (1987). National Businesswomen’s Leadership Association, A Division of National Seminars, Inc., Overland Park, KS

Staying Connected: The Weekly Parent Newsletter 2.0


Harry and Rosemary Wong’s new book, The Classroom Management Book, lays out step-by-step directions on how to teach, rehearse, and reinforce procedures in the classroom. Our SMSU teacher candidates just finished reading about these procedures and then taught their peers about many of the procedures using the jigsaw method.

One procedure discussed was the Home School Connection chapter and how to stay in contact with parents. As parents and as a teachers, we concur that it is vital to keep the parent communication lines open. Involving stakeholders is critical for the success of the student…for the success of the school.

One way to stay in contact with parents is through a weekly newsletter. This newsletter can take on many forms…a note sent home in the backpack, a blog post, a tweet, or a Facebook update just to name a few. The form is not so critical; the important piece is to stay connected.

Thanks to second grade teacher @Webers2ndGrade for sharing a brand new way to send a newsletter to parents using an iPad app called Shadow Puppet Edu. Mrs. Weber’s second graders used this medium to share their weekly activities with their parents. First, they chose pictures of what they had done in their classroom that week, and then they used the voice over to narrate each picture. Once the process was complete, Mrs. Weber’s second graders tweeted it out for the parents to read. Check it out here: @Webers2ndGrade Newsletter.

Teachers can use this app to stay connected to their parents. These newsletters could be tweeted, put on the class webpage, or the class Facebook page. Principals could use this app to stay connected to their teachers. Shadow Puppet Edu could be used to make announcements in the morning, or to showcase teacher accomplishment. The possibilities are endless.

What are ways that you could use this iPad app? How do you stay connected with your stakeholders – parents or teachers or students?

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Seven Pillars of Active Listening

google images, not our dog
                 google images, not our dog

Have you ever been in the middle of an intense conversation with a close friend, when all of a sudden her phone rings and she answers it? Or her text message beep goes off so she picks up her phone to read it? (No idea where Wendy is getting her stuff here…never happens! 🙂 )

We must confess. WE have been that friend sometimes. We are trying so hard to become better conversationalists by ignoring our phones when visiting with others.

A radio station was discussing the topic of listening on the air the other day, and a suggestion given to us on the other side of the radio was to use the acronym “W.A.I.T.” when having a conversation with another person. W.A.I.T. stands for Why Am I Talking? It’s a good reminder to us to remember that actively listening is way more important than actively talking.

So how can all of us become better listeners? Below are seven suggestions to practice so that we can get better at the skill of listening. We call these the 7 Pillars of Listening:

Pay attention by making direct eye contact, and lean in toward the speaker. Try not to send a non-verbal signal depicting you are not interested in what the speaker is saying such as sitting with your arms crossed in front of you (even if it is super cold in the room and you left your parka at home). Smile at the speaker and nod occasionally to send the message “yes, I am sincerely interested in what you have to say.”

Avoid distractions by turning off cell phones, iPads, radios, or televisions. Sit close to the speaker or shut the door if needed. There are too many “squirrels” or “shiny” things to distract you in the world without adding your own devices to the story.

Paraphrase what you heard the speaker say. Quiz your understanding by repeating the information in your own words. Paraphrasing will give more depth and breadth to your comprehension of the words spoken. An example of a paraphrase may begin like “What I heard you say is…Is that correct?”

Ask questions to clarify any uncertainties you may have. Questions should be open-ended, non-judgmental, and non-threatening. You may want to ask questions such as “What did you mean when you said…?” or “How did that make you feel?”

Do not interrupt the speaker unless you need to paraphrase, ask a question or clarify what was said. Any type of interruption can be extremely frustrating to the speaker and can send the negative message that what the speaker is saying is not important to you. We have all wanted to add our two-cents worth when others are talking, however, we must restrain from jumping in with our thoughts and comments. Silence is golden!

Empathy is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “understanding of another’s situations, feelings, and motives.” Try to place yourself in the speaker’s shoes and ask yourself “what would I do in this situation?” Be aware of your own emotions and opinions and know that you may disagree with what is being said. Avoid being critical. Acknowledge what the speaker has to say and keep an open mind and an open heart!

Honor any time restraints that may exist. You may have limited time to listen and the person needing you to listen may also have limited time to speak. If you know there will be issues with time simply say, “I have a meeting in 30 minutes. What you have to say is important to me, so if we run out of time, I’d like to continue this conversation on such and such a date at such and such time.” Or, ask the speaker if there are any time restrictions he/she has that you should be aware of. This sends the positive message that you truly care.

The term listen is a verb and verbs are doing words—they demand action. Be quick to listen and slow to speak! Let’s become role models for all people we know by putting into practice the seven pillars of active listening. Too often we might hear in the classroom, “please listen” or “you need to listen more carefully” without the proper modeling and explicit instruction that is needed. Thanks for listening!

Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.  ~Sue Patton Thoele

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Let’s Chat Naked

blog chat naked 

Stopped by the Family Aquatic Center to say hello, and the picture above is what we walked in on. So without thinking, we blurted out “Let’s chat naked.” Yes, every single one of those kids stopped doing whatever it was they were doing with their cell phones and looked up at us. A miracle…they looked up from their phones. Now we had their attention. “Let’s chat…face-to-face. Let’s chat naked,” we suggested.

One of the girls smiled at us and said she had heard the saying of ‘going to a meeting naked’ where no lap tops, iPads, or smartphones were allowed. Hmm…now that’s an interesting concept we think we should try.

We chatted, briefly, and then they all went back to their phones. Made us think of a YouTube video we just watched on someone’s Facebook page the other day called “Look Up From Your Phone.” It’s worth the five minutes it takes to watch it.

In Abraham Lincoln’s closing remarks to Congress in December, 1892, he wisely recommended that we all rise to the occasion even if “the occasion is piled high with difficulty.” That can certainly apply to the use of cell phones in a classroom, can’t it? Even if your students are using cell phones when you think they shouldn’t be, maybe it’s time we teachers rise to the occasion and figure out HOW to use them in class rather than HOW to abandon their use.

Below are five ways we have discovered to be useful when using the cell phone in class:

  1. Poll your students on their opinions. Polleverywhere.com  is a great resource for this. For example we’ve used Polleverywhere.com to poll our Intro to Education students on WHY they want to become teachers, which leads to great face-to-face discussion in class
  2. Ask a question of your students and have all students ‘Tweet’ their answer to a special Twitter account set up just for your class. For example, we could ask our students to name five assessment tools used in schools or ask the students who is the author of a certain children’s book and they tweet their answer to us. The tweets then lead to outstanding ‘naked’ conversation.
  3. Place QR codes throughout your presentation. Students pull out their phones to “follow” your presentation and lesson. It helps with all of the “extras” that may not be shared during the class because of time restraints. It can also be a place for students to go for their assignments.
  4. Students can use their phones to record a lesson or presentation to share with the class. It can also be used to self-assess a presentation. Students can then upload their video to Youtube and let the learning go viral.
  5. Take a fieldtrip with the phone! If you can’t go somewhere, bring the somewhere to you. Students can Facetime with primary sources—aka people—instead of just reading it on the Internet (or find it in a book…the thing with pages on their desk).

Just like the comment “let’s chat naked” caused all six of those kids to look up from their cell phone, using the cell phone as a teaching tool can enhance face-to-face dialogue. Meaningful discussions will augment our classroom teaching. Using the cell phone in our teaching can aid with the discussion process, which in turn will increase student learning. And that, fellow educators, is what teaching is all about.

What are some ways that you are using a mobile device in your classrooms?


Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.