Wednesday, February 2, 2011


 I'm a visual learner.  Back in the day when I was a student, teachers didn't pay attention to learning styles.  That was research and knowledge that came out of my generation to benefit students of today.  It was challenging to learn abstract concepts without a visual perspective.  So by way of modeling, I want to talk about perspective that you have as a teacher.
 You're getting a tour of our breakfast area at the same time by the way!  Back to perspective.  You may have a particularly challenging student that is difficult to connect with or is having a really hard time "getting it" whatever "it" is at this time.  Think about the problem from a different perspective.  The student's for example.  Does this child need another way of approaching the topic or problem?  Are there background issues for the child that may impede the learning process that need to be taken into consideration?
 Taking a look at the issue at hand from a different person's perspective can also be helpful.  Are there other significant adults in the child's life you can touch base with to gain another perspective?  As you look at the issue from different angles you may discover something about the child you hadn't seen before.  Your own change of perspective can help the student look at the learning challenge differently as well.
Your role as teacher and cheerleader needs to be a balance of instruction, correction and encouragement.  Remember, you are in their life to help them grow! 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Life Lessons from the Crayon Box

"We could learn a lot from crayons.
Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull.  
Some have weird names and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box."


Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The season is still winter but where I live it looks like spring.  Don't be jealous; we all need the rest that a season of quiet and solitude can bring.  Spring is a growing, active time and to be quite honest I am not ready to get back to work cultivating our garden!

Cultivation is essential for growth. 

I'm not just talking about gardening though.  We all have to work to learn.  We have to nurture to see growth.  We have to invest time and energy to see change.  And quite frankly we need to be both diligent and relaxed in the process.  Those two words may seem almost opposite but they're not. 

To be diligent you have to pay attention, to be watchful, ready to speak or act as the situation requires.  But being hyper vigilant can cause a lot of stress for students (and the teacher) and take all the fun out of the learning experience.  To be relaxed can imply not being attentive and letting things slide which can be harmful in certain circumstances.  And while that is partially true, being relaxed does not have to turn into a state of chaos.

How does a parent / teacher do both?  Aren't diligence and relaxation mutually exclusive?  I don't think so.  Just like a gardener can over water or over fertilize or over prune, and as a result ruin the plant, too much attention to the errors in our learning can wilt or stunt the child's learning potential.  The student can develop a mindset that this area of learning "is too hard" or "they're no good at ....".  That limiting mindset stunts the ability to learn.  If a teacher / parent can overlook periodic missteps on the learning path and instead choose to focus on one area at a time to foster growth, the student can sense that mistakes are a natural part of learning and are meant to be simply a part of the process. 

If you give yourself and your students permission "to get messy, and make mistakes" (to quote my favorite teacher, Ms. Frizzle of The Magic School Bus fame), then the air of acceptance allows both the students and teacher / parent the freedom to relax.  Some of us have to cultivate diligence while others have to cultivate relaxing.  Which is your need?  If you're not sure, take a risk and ask someone who knows you well.  If you're already aware which you lean toward but are stuck and don't know how to cultivate the missing piece, ask for ideas and help.  I'd be happy to be included in your growth, to listen and share ideas. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Beauty of the Question "Why?"

Have you ever spent time with a young child outdoors? 

If you haven't yet experienced this simple joy, put it on your life goal list!  You will likely find no end to the asking of the all important question "Why?"

Now granted, for those of you who are currently parenting young ones, that question goes through an over use phase, but it has purpose for them!  They're learning!

Of course we can question too: what exactly are they learning?  How to push my buttons?  Part of you wants the incessant questions to stop!  Give it a rest already!  Mom's busy, or Miss S. is busy, or Mrs. G. is busy, or Mrs. L.  But I have wondered, what are am I teaching when I squelch the questions? Am I telling the littles that their wonder is a waste of time?  Or am I saying being an adult with so much responsibility and no time to have fun is the "right way" to be?  Do I want that to be their goal in life?

When I was a brand new teacher at the so very mature age of 23, I actually told parents of "wayward" Kindergarteners "all you need is a routine."  It's amazing to me that those parents didn't just give me the what for with my audacity!  Routine was how I ran the classroom and my life.  It all worked very well as long as I was in control.  That was the goal right?  Learning takes place in a quiet, orderly environment with 20 minutes at each learning station with neatly organized pre-cut activities to assemble.  What's the problem with that picture?

You might say nothing's the problem.  Except for the fact that all that is being learned is how to behave in a controlled environment.  Some classrooms (and home schools) are still functioning this way.  I know my classes were like that for the first 3 years of my teaching... then I moved schools and grade levels.  More on that later...

What is the real beauty of the question "Why?"

I don't always have the answer to the question!  That's the beauty of it!  If I don't always have the answer, then that means I have something left to learn!  There is a topic to research!  A book or two that need to be found at the library together!  A google search to be conducted!

Does not knowing answers stress you out?  It used to really bug me.  I had a ridiculous impression that as a teacher I was to be all knowing in all subject areas, to be ready to pour all my knowledge into the minds of my students.  Ha!  What that ridiculous impression did however was cause me to learn a lot about the subjects that I was responsible to teach.  Of course what I didn't realize at the time was the fact that I love learning!  I was that incessant questioning child.  At a certain age, my mom's response to my questions became, "Look it up!"  We had learning tools readily available at home and I had my own library card.  She fostered my need to know "why" by prodding me to find out the answers myself.

Have you equipped your children with the tools to learn?  Have you taught them how to find answers to the questions they have or do you simply tell them the answer?  

What new idea or memory about helping children learn comes to mind?  Will you share it here?  I'm sure I'm not the only person who loves to learn!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


The first day of something new always makes me feel excited!  New job, new classroom, new school year; they have all contributed to my positive anticipation.  I get jittery.  In a good way though.  Nervous excitement my mom used to say.  Then she'd say, "settle down!"  But I just can't!

Today is like that for me.  This is the first day of my new blog!  I am celebrating 30 years of educating our future citizens by going public with the gems I have gathered while learning along the Way.  Time to time not only will I give away my favorite resources but I will literally give a copy to a lucky follower.

Before you want to follow someone you want to know if there's any reason to right?  So I thought you might like to know a little bit more about me and my learning than what the About Me section says.

I love to have fun!  It's very important to me that my students (adults included!) have fun while they are learning.  I have been known to stand on the desk in a 5th grade classroom and ask the students to tell me what they know about gravity before walking off the desk.  Odd?  Perhaps.  But memorable and fun for sure.  Do I have stories to tell?

I ran into a parent of a former student in town recently, (not literally!) after her daughter had graduated from Hastings Law School, and she made a point to tell me I am still her daughter's favorite teacher.  This is a gift I never anticipated when I started this educational journey.  I guess the consumers are the truest test over time.

I have been a wife to two different men (not at the same time!) and have learned A LOT about marriage through those experiences!  And a lot about me, too. Best thing for a marriage: a tandem bicycle.  More on that later...

I am a mom of two sons.  Both are still in school: one in college and one in high school.  And yes I started a family late!  I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of their educational journeys and have lots to share on how to be a good supporter to a classroom teacher from both sides of the table!  Not only that, I home schooled each of them for 4 years so I know the joys, frustrations and exhaustion of being both parent and teacher to one's children.  Lots of anecdotes to share!

I better stop before I inundate you with 53 years of life all at once!  If you're interested in learning, and you like to have fun, then join me in this journey!  I have a little "gift" to my first 10 followers who decide to join in the fun!

So come on, let's go...