Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

Intentionally Positive

As the “ALL IN” book study kicked off, the questions that were laid on the table were thought provoking and reflective all at the same time. I would have never looked at Bets 1-10 and found these very questions to be the ones to light up a conversation, but they did just that. Intentionally, positive… these two words are what struck me the hardest when combined into one single thought. These two words are the ones that my mind raced back to with each response that came through.

Intentional

The word intentional was embraced in a variety of ways. With some being intentional about the relationships that they built, while others being intentional about keeping balance between nurturing others’ needs and their own. There was not a “right or wrong” in this conversation, but a solid respect for the perspective that each of us took. We were “sitting down at the same table” and having real conversations. From the perspective of admin to teacher to support staff… it was all there and we were “all in” listening to each other’s take on being intentional. Whether it was actually said, or possibly my mind just computed it this way, I was left reconsidering how being positive affects others.

Positive

I am positive that I have a fresh take on this one word! To know that there are educators at all levels doing everything they can to bring out the best in others is so incredibly uplifting. We see it on social media and hear it in chats, but this study has brought about a way of thinking to which pushes my own and that is what I thrive on! Being positive is a choice for many on more days than others realize. The poker face is one that gives us each pause as we realize that even though it may not be intended, that a poker face can be a cultural bust. Even though it may be the one way to hold back what is truly behind those eyes, someone else has already written your story with one glance. On the flip-side, it can be a necessity… one that is a gift of respect in a way of handling a moment. One that does not need explanation. In the big picture, if a poker face is the norm, then the norm is the perception other’s are having. Regardless of our role, in order to create positive relationships, we must allow others in at one point or another.

Are you intentional with connecting with your colleagues? If so what kind of impact has it had?

How does having a positive attitude impact your role? Does a poker face help or hinder?

#2MenAndABook is comprised of Matt Larson and Ricardo Garcia, two principals that continue to shake it up within education by giving each of us a place for safe and vulnerable discussion surrounding incredible topics and books. Some books have been full-blown educational, while others are not, but the common thread is pure goodness, positive push-back and the challenging of one’s thoughts to think beyond our own perspective.

Are you ALL IN?

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

Priceless Moments of Gratitude

As I sit here in the airport, attempting to wrap my head around the last seven days of my life, I am in awe of the priceless moments of genuine gratitude I have felt within my soul.  The one thing that I know is that the kind of impact that I just embraced in Miami this past week could never have happened on its own. I have daily conversations about being intentional, finding balance, keeping self care at the forefront, contributing as much if not more than I consume, and the list goes on and on.  This week I accomplished each of these and more. Each moment counted… every single one!

When I think about the amount of opportunity I have been afforded by my administration, students, community, colleagues and yes, my incredible, selfless family I literally become overwhelmed with emotion. This is how much WE love children. This is how much WE are willing to invest in OUR future. This is the value WE place on education.

My heart beats a thousand beats a minute as I pour my passion into words attempting to type as fast as my brain is processing. It is this moment I am choosing to sit and allow each moment to wash over me so that I may feel the gratitude that humbles me to appreciate those that made this happen…

for me

for my students

for others

for the risk-taker, the dream-maker, the chance taker, the fearless and the fearful.

Yes, the fearful. That is me too. The one that just had so much new learning poured into me that I fear my brain will never remember it all or that I will forget how to execute it the way it was presented. See, I too fear, just as the amazing educators that found their way into my workshops this week bubbling over to learn something new. But that fear, the kind that gets in the way of opportunity, let it wash over you all the same… let it speak to your soul. It is that fear that reminds us that change is here. It is that fear that reminds us we have something incredibly important to embrace as our responsibility for the future we have chosen to help create. It is that fear that is yet another priceless moment of gratitude, for it is through that fear that we will embrace the best version of ourselves.

5 days of leading and learning #FETC

2 days with my god-daughter, Maddie #miamihurricanes

7 days of priceless moments of gratitude

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

#OneWord2020: MOMENT

The Gift of a Moment

The moment you realize it is right in front of you and all you have to do is embrace it, the gift! That gift may come in the smallest of packages or so large that you need two more people to help you lift it, nonetheless it is a gift that you will miss out on if you do not embrace the moment. Two years ago I chose GOODNESS for my #OneWord as it resonated with me through the act of someone’s kindness. Last year, I moved from the feeling of goodness to the action of OWNit to which I challenged myself to contribute more than I consume. As I reflect back on both of these words and the blogs that I wrote, I see the MOMENT I was attempting to embrace.

this year

this word

every moment

Small Package Moments

I suppose it is all in the eye of the beholder as to how small or big a moment feels, but for me, these are the quick and candid times that I never see coming… the small package moments. These are the unplanned, unforeseen, or unnoticed times that may get past me when I am not in the moment of life. This holiday season, I saw each one so clearly… big and small!

A Smile

I never seem to pass up the feeling of a smile that speaks to my heart, a small gift that comes my way. It is one of the kindest moments shared between two people. As I shopped this holiday season, I took in every smile and allowed it to sink in and warm my heart. It was a reminder that these moments I am living in are such a gift to me. I wouldn’t be able to shop if I didn’t have the means to do so and I wouldn’t have people to buy for if I didn’t have loved ones in my world. I wouldn’t have conversations without someone taking the time for me and I wouldn’t know the joy I may be able to give if I didn’t look up to see their smile. These smiles are small moments. Each one fuels my soul and I do my best to pass it on to the next person I encounter.

eye contact

one smile

fuel a soul

A Laugh

When my children laugh I can feel it to my core. Whether it is a “boy moment” or one that we all create together as a family, it has a way of navigating my entire mind leaving me chuckling for hours to come. What isn’t lost on me is the joy of living that brings about these moments. Our journey over the last 2 holidays was overshadowed by loss, leaving a void where laughter was once filled. This year, in place of feeling the loss, I feel the gain. The gain of those here with me and the joyful spirit of those that no longer are. My moments are not just with my home family, but with my work family as well. There was once a time when I would be in a hurry to leave my staff Christmas party.  Not because I didn’t want to be there, but because I couldn’t bring myself to live in the moment.  My mind would race to the list of holiday goodness yet to be bought or the mounds of wrapping that were hidden from plain sight.  This year, however, I took it in. I heard the laughter roar across the room and felt myself smiling and laughing without even knowing what had truly transpired.  It was a reminder that happiness is right here and that it is my choice to

feel it

embrace it

take it in

A Thought

A fleeting thought. That is what it is to me, but I stop and embrace it for what it is and share it with those I am thinking of in that very moment. It has happened more than I expected or maybe more than I had realized ever before. At times it is a feeling, other times it is something I see that reminds me of someone or simply a memory that resurfaces. No matter what it is I have been trying to take the time to reach out to the person. That thought put into action rekindles some relationships while nurturing others. It isn’t that I have been too consumed to have the thought before, I just let it go at that and did not put it into action until now.

a phone call

a tweet

a direct message

a vox

a note

an action gifted by a thought

Big Package Moments

The big package moments are what I receive when embracing the small ones. These moments occur with friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers and strangers alike.

A Moment in Time

I was blessed to travel to Nashville, Tennessee to visit my brother and his family as the holiday was being kicked off in November.  At the time, I was preparing for my first ever book launch, had not even started my Christmas shopping, had a 2.5-hour workshop to create on a topic I had not presented before and my house was in need of my attention, along with the endless loads of laundry strewn about my basement floor.  I knew that this moment in time maybe something that I cannot get back so I chose to take in everything that my visit had to offer. I did not let my to-do list get the best of me and I even made a conscious effort to walk, relax, and sleep in! There were laughs, smiles, and an abundance of positive thoughts that we each got swept up in together! Although my family left feeling the warmth and love of our time with loved ones, it was a phone call days later that gave me pause.  My brother phoned to tell me that he and his family needed that visit more than I will ever know. He didn’t elaborate, but the message was clear. This was a big package moment.

Another moment in time was the day of my book launch.  I was nervous in the most exciting way possible, yet a fear crept over me that the world was about to view my heart and possibly not like what they see.  I had a last-minute meeting scheduled for a student, or so I thought, and I was trying to make it all happen without a breakdown.  I was determined to get to school, settle in, stay on top of the book launch challenge, and be an effective teacher, all while taking in the moment I had worked so incredibly hard for… oh, and do it with grace.   As I was focused on getting paperwork together for my “meeting” my colleagues put the finishing touches on the celebration they masterminded for Jacie and me. I was quickly scooped up and sent to meet another teacher before I had enough time to say anything at all.  When I entered the room for the surprise celebration,

I saw smiles

I heard laughter

my thoughts were scattered, endless, and full of emotion, and I felt a love that was ALL IN!

Most recently, my #4OCFpln family started a spreadsheet listing each of our #OneWord2020 choices. I told them I would pray about it as it hadn’t come to me so easily this year. I left my hometown and headed for the Omni Bedford Springs in Bedford, PA to create new memories with my family. I was a bit apprehensive, as this was our first visit without mom and I wasn’t sure how it would unfold or whether I would have any control over the outcome. All I knew was that my family needed me focused on them and that my one word would have to go on my perpetual to-do list. As we entered the town, a warm feeling came over my family. No-one said a word, they just smiled as they looked out the window. We stopped for lunch, and it was there that we were lost in thought and started sharing some of our fondest memories of Nana. Those memories created by moments that gifted us an abundance of love. As the weekend unfolded, we switched up our traditional routine and opened ourselves up to new ideas, ones that led to laughter and joy. As the weekend came to a close, I sat in a chase-lounge down one my favorite corridors of the hotel and opened up a journal I had gifted to mom the summer of 2017. It was something to help her regain her focus. A way of making a choice to see the good around her when her world felt so dark with uncertainty. I open it often and reread some of the moments she captured. I had no idea that the small gift I was giving mom that day would eventually be one of the biggest gifts for me to receive. I hold onto her words and live in each moment as if I am reading them for the first time. It is the cover that spoke to me this time. When I picked it out, I knew mom needed a reminder to live in her final days and so when I stumbled across the cover of her journal I knew it was perfect for her. It reads,

MAKE

THIS

MOMENT

COUNT

The Moment of Truth

This moment in time is a stark reminder of what I may miss out on when I become laser-focused on life, my goals, and at times my loss in place of my gain. What I realize is that I can’t make it all happen without something or someone suffering along the way. There must be give and take in my life if I am going to make this moment count! The moment of truth is in front of me.

I may pass up a phone call in order to be present in a conversation.

I may skip my favorite Twitter Chats in order to make time for family in my evenings.

I may say no without apology.

I may have to skip blogging to create a workshop.

I must live without regret.

I must reserve judgment.

I must have grace.

I must lead with humility.

I must advocate for every child, including my own, when needed.

I must continue to contribute more than I consume.

I must redefine my focus.

I MUST MAKE THIS MOMENT COUNT!

Personal Learning

“Twas the Night Before Book Launch”

Twas the night before “book launch”, and all through my mind,

Thoughts of worry and fear were all I could find.

Everything in its place, Tweetdeck was loaded,

My heart skipped a beat and then it exploded.

I tried to lay down and snuggle my pup,

Her comfort is what always perked me up.

And Ellie in her spot, and I in mine,

We loved one another time after time.

When a thought hit me, like a snowball in the face,

I sprang from my couch and tried to find my place.

Away to the computer, I flew like a flash, 

Threw open my PC, and clicked on the trash.

It was there that I knew what had sunk in my heart,

A doc that was not finished, rather just a start.

What to my wondering eyes would appear,

To the right a picture of someone, I hold dear.

With a shrug of my shoulders, and a long deep sigh,

It hit me in the heart, my reason, my why.

More rapid than ever, my reasons did come,

And I stopped, took pause, and counted one by one: 

Now children! Now parents! Now colleagues and friends! For learning! For growth! For the whole child within.  From Bet 1 to Bet 2! From Bet 3 and 4! My reason, my purpose is to open the doors!

I want them to open, open for all, 

so that learning can happen in classrooms and halls.

Where children are thriving and leading the charge,

Where questions are welcomed and new ideas grow large.

And that’s when it hit me, my fear, where it had come,

From a place of three, not two, not one.

VULNERABILITY, RISK-TAKING and of course a CHANCE,

At rolling the dice on education at a glance.

This book has heart! The bets are daring! 

The Jackpot is a win with an abundance of sharing!

Double Downs will push you

With every turn.

You will stop and reflect,

and hopefully, learn.

The Ante Up is just brilliant as they come far and near,

The leaders within education,

That lead, learn, and share!

Jacie, my super, colleague, and friend,

Has shown me a new way from beginning to end.

Her openness to push back,

Her gift of trust,

Her unwavering ability to learn is a must.

A snapshot of what she has given won’t compare,

To the impact she has had on the one over here.

I read it again, I looked up and down,

I pushed my PC closed and my thoughts ran around.

These terms, these ideas, the pushback, they win

Because tomorrow the world gets a look at “ALL IN

Happy reading to all, and to all a good night!

To order your very own copy click here and go ALL IN


Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

Stepping Into the Light: OCD/Mental Health Awareness

the serious one… the humorous one

the focused… the squirrel chaser

the rule follower… the teenager

the brave 15 year old, who stepped into the light, leaving the elephant in his shadow

the one who has added awareness to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is now 17

my incredible son, Trent

At the age of 15, Trent was just beginning to see life differently… the life he was gifted, not burdened by. The one that he shared responsibility in. The one he was able to take charge of, given the right tools. In 2017, he asked me to talk about “The Elephant in the Room.” He wanted me to share his story. The thing is, he didn’t want me to share it so that I had something to blog about. He didn’t want me to share it so that he could obtain likes and shares within social media. As a matter of fact, not once has he ever even asked me if it was even read.

He simply wanted others to know they were not alone.

Leading up to this point, he had been consumed with thoughts for so long that he had almost forgotten what life was like when he himself could turn it around. The time when he felt a sense of control. As an 8-year-old child, he was in need of skills. The kind of skills that we weren’t prepared to teach him. The kind of skills that would take years of practice. There was no “quick fix.” My teaching background urged me to dial the phone for help, while my husband’s hand wanted to hang it up. Not because he didn’t want to help, but because he only knew how to keep personal worries and concerns to himself. He knew how to push forward with a tough mindset and resiliency. He knew how to break within the privacy of his own space and forge ahead projecting strength, even when he didn’t have it. He thought that it would be the same way for Trent. He thought Trent would grow and be the man we were wanting to raise him to be or more like how we wanted to raise him. Trent would do just that, but in order to get there he needed a different upbringing, different supports.

The elephant was sitting right there, staring at us in full control. He had us running around making everything perfect so Trent wouldn’t hurt. He had us walking on eggshells, just trying to get through a dinner out with family and friends. He had us working overtime to create the “perfect scenario” in hope that Trent would survive the moment, whatever moment that was on that day. He was in charge… not us, not Trent, but the elephant in the room.

Then the day came that my husband knew it was bigger than us and my hand freely reached for the phone once again.

As Trent has aged, he has grown stronger than ever. That is not to say that his life is easy, or without the whack-a-mole effect of OCD, but “the elephant” is no longer his best friend. It is actually not even a friend at all. It is more like an acquaintance. One that passes through, but does not dictate his world. Impacts it, yes. Challenges it, most definitely. Creates walls in place of bridges, yes… but the difference is he knocks them down over and over again. He now takes full advantage of the strength within his OCD, as he knows it will always be a part of his world. Now he finds positive use for it. Obsessing over his grades so that he can maintain high scholastic standing. Obsessing over the next big catch, as fishing eases his mind. Knowing how to distract when OCD wants to gain attention. If you ask him how he got this strong, he will tell you that his family loved him like no other, but that without therapy he would not be able to answer that question to it’s entirety. Therapy has given him a new lease on life, one with conviction and strength. Reaching out to the experts was the best decision we had ever made.

Some ask me, how I handled it as a mom.  How did I “handle” watching my son painfully navigate his world of anxiety.   My reply… the best that I could. That is where I myself took pause. “The best I could!” Was my best enough?  The answer was no. My best could never have brought Trent to where he is today. Yes, I had a background that was very supportive of Trent’s needs, but to truly be the best mom I could be, I needed to see beyond my strengths and value the ones that were one phone call away.  One call away to make an appointment for therapy.  My role as his mom was to give him the opportunity.

As we talked to others about this, we felt the cringe. The secret society that we just entered. The judgement being made in place of support. I’m not sure how or when the term “therapy” became such a cringe-maker in society, but to me it was a gift that I was ready to open.

So I ask you, are you going to be the one that tries to break him by cringing over the topic of therapy? Are you going to be the one spotlighting your “perfections” so that he questions why he is incapable of such a high non-existing standard? Are you going to judge him for being brave enough to share in this very conversation?

Or are YOU going to be the one driven for a better tomorrow by walking alongside my son as he ventures into this world contributing to the society that you helped to create?

Let me ask you something. As an educator do you find yourself opening doors of possibility for others? Do you try to link passion to purpose? Do you try to teach the whole child and then tell others to do it too? Do you speak at conferences about Project Based Learning, Universal Design for Learning, Building Character, Creating Leaders and Making Changes for the Betterment of Education? Do you sit on your own thoughts to stop and listen to others speak so that you can learn more about their WHY, their purpose? Do you take time to network because relationships matter to you? Do you want to be better?

If you said yes to any one of these questions, I ask you then… do you have conversations about the gift of therapy? Do you engage in tough conversations? Do you open yourself up to vulnerability, either to allow your story out or to let someone else’s in?

As long as we lead others to believe that this is a taboo topic, a private conversation, something that we attach shame and guilt to, what good is the rest? What are we really trying to say or not say? Are we truly equipped to function in the society we have helped to build without the supports of those passionate about the whole person, the mind, the balance, the brain, mental illness, social emotional learning and so much more?

In education we do not get a free pass on our impact. We will create an impact and it is up to us if it will be positive or negative. Where do you stand on this? Are you having conversations about self-care, mindfulness, and balance? I am asking you to amplify those conversations… to be courageous. I am asking you to open your heart and mind, and use your ability to make change by having conversations about the importance of therapy. For educators looking to prepare kids for their future role in society, you must do your part to remove the judgement cast. Then and only then can we build up human growth and potential by walking in one’s shoes.

While attending #TeachBetter19 this past weekend, I continued to build my professional growth portfolio, but even more I made incredible friendships. I witnessed a truth and vulnerability like never before among educators. You could feel the sense of comfort, acceptance and care in every room that you walked through. Towards the end, I started to get pulled into private conversations revolving around this topic, the elephant, OCD, mental illness, therapy, and Trent’s bravery. Each conversation came with pain, emotion, emptiness, questioning, and a whisper. Yes, our personal lives are private and we hold these conversations close to our heart, but I am left wondering if we can turn up the volume just a little bit. How has my son found the strength to tell his friends, family, and acquaintances and we are left with a whisper?

As I left the conference I heard my name being called one last time. It was then that I knew my purpose was clearly being conveyed. It was then that I knew I was being seen for the imperfect human I am… and it filled my soul. That’s when they said, “Thank you for being vulnerable, you will never know how much I needed to hear this today.” They went on to say, “you are always smiling and so positive that I would have never known if you wouldn’t have shared. You give me hope.”

I challenge you to follow my 17-year-old son’s lead. I challenge you to share vulnerability. I challenge you to better yourself and others by spotlighting the whole child.

Let’s give HOPE

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

Self Awareness-Mastering One’s Self

It started off as a typical day. I was ready to take on the world and create moments for every child along the way. Groups were being made. Goals were being set. Then came the hesitation. I started to question if they were “ready” for the experience with a new app, a class challenge, or the choice to delve into a passion project of their own. Were they ready to level up their learning and open the class restaurant on a weekly basis? Were they ready? Was I ready? My hesitation was my answer, but I just couldn’t leave it at that. Why weren’t they ready? Was it me? Was it them? What was it that stuck in my gut as a red flag, if you will. That was when it hit me… their lack of self-awareness was invading our learning space and I needed to shed light on a topic foreign to the list of 3rd grade standards written out in my daily lesson plan.

We set daily goals, but are my students clear on their strengths and weaknesses? Are they sensitive to how they project themselves on others or take away from one’s focus and ability to learn? Are they aware of how their actions and choices are pieces to their very own puzzle? If I had to answer that honestly, my answer would be no. It was then that I thought of a method that I used to use with my son, Trent when his OCD would rear its ugly head and trigger rituals that needed his awareness to help fight for himself. We would have him use a post-it-note to track each time he gave in to the ritual by making tallies. After adding several tallies to the note, it would create an awareness of the issue at hand and help him recognize that change was needed to forge ahead. Somehow this simple method built a foundation of self-awareness that in turn opened doors of opportunity to build confidence and pride in one’s own actions. This is what my students were in need of… starting today!

Post-it-notes were handed out and a line was drawn through the middle of each. We were ready to begin. “Today we are going to take the time to give ourselves credit for all the things we must hold ourselves accountable for to be empowered and productive learners,” I said with an upbeat tone. Ears were open and eyes were wide. I went on to ask simple questions like…

Has anyone ever felt a step behind because they were having a sidebar conversation or may have even drifted into thought? many hands were raised

Has anyone ever felt like there should be more time in their day or simply wonder where the moments went? many hands were raised

Has anyone ever wondered what their parents would think of the decisions that were made without them to guide or instruct? many hands were raised

Have any of you ever had your parents get frustrated because you didn’t “hear” them or acknowledge them the first time spoken to? eyes shifted to friends sitting nearby and hands went up at a rapid pace

Has anyone visualized their future self? What are you willing to do to make that vision a reality? Was that a light-bulb moment I just witnessed?

I then said, “With each directive that I give over the course of the next 40 minutes, I want you to give yourself a tally above the line if you follow the directive without redirection or restating. If I redirect or restate, place a tally below. Remember, this is not what is good vs bad, but what we are honing in on as our strengths vs what we are in need of making stronger. “

“But what if someone sees our tallies?,” one asked. “That is a fabulous question, I replied. I speak of respect every day and how we show that by keeping conversations between us, but I must tell you that your peers already see your tallies each and every day through your own choices and actions that you so freely give.” a quizzical look settled over their faces

Let’s begin!

I watched their eyes go straight for me as I began to speak. I watched their pencils go down when I gave directions. Tallies were being placed above the line and the momentum of goodness was on fire inside each one of them. Moments were rolling by, and I watched as many of them responded with a tally below the line when they found themselves off task or not engaged in their own learning. It was working. Self-awareness was coming to life right in front of my eyes.

As we headed to special, I told them that this new “thing” we are working on is our own little tool and we were about to test it out without the post-it nearby to give us our visual reminder. The beauty was in their faces when I picked them up and heard the raving of goodness shared on their behalf.

“This is amazing,” one said.

“This is showing me a lot about myself,” said another.

“I have so much choice,” stated with such conviction from yet another.

Yes, boys and girls. With each moment of self-awareness, we build confidence.

We build PRIDE!

We continued on with our tallies towards a new and better self. The kind we visualize for our future!

We are ready… bring on the next challenge!

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

Small Town Vibe

You know the small-town vibe that you get when you are passing through… if you blink you will miss it.

One restaurant

One traffic light… no, make that one stop sign

One grocery store

One way

I am currently in a book study hosted by #2menandabook on “Relentless: Changing Lives by Disrupting the Educational Norm” by Hamish Brewer. Recently, my dear friend Jennifer Ledford shared her small town experience in her reflection regarding her purpose. For as many positives as she has experienced, she went on to say,

The problem with living in a small town, especially when you don’t have the best childhood experience, is that everyone knows. My purpose was a little clouded because of what was going on with my family.

Jennifer Ledford

WOW! This reflection truly resonated with me. It made me think of how small our classrooms can be if we don’t recognize the whole child and how lost they may feel in finding their purpose. We may not be able to control outside factors for every child like Jennifer or my own childhood self, but we have full control over ourselves and the way we help to build a positive experience each day for each student that we are privileged to work with.

Big City Impact With A Small Town Vibe

If we really want to create impact, the big city kind with choices around every bend, we must allow room for life experiences that come packaged in the size of a child. Imagine if our room felt like that small town, where everyone knows you and your story… not the kind that builds relationships, but rather the judgmental kind that adds roadblocks in place of detours. There is a simple way to shine the spotlight on every child so that their small town classroom experience is loving, supportive, and full of understanding that allows for a new day and a new choice around every bend.

Building the Right Reputation

As the adult in charge, helping a child build a reputation is not only a privilege but a professional responsibility. This is a deal-breaker on how a child views themselves, reacts and lives up to their potential by thriving on their purpose that they are most likely still searching for in their world. The question is, how do we handle behavior so that we can cultivate a positive reputation for each child with their peers, staff members, and for themselves? A positive reputation builds confidence and helps a child recognize that poor choices are lessons in life, not defining. Have we forgotten that is how we too have learned (and still do). These very lessons help to build resilience and the potential for goal setting that leads to growth.

We need to ask ourselves how we handle this very delicate matter. Do we treat it like a coat that can be switched out in a minute’s notice or a layer of skin that becomes a part of who they are? A child’s behavior should be personal… a one to one conversation wrapped up in care, love, and respect. The behavior itself is their story… a road map if you will, to what that child needs. It is a way for them to express themselves and often times it comes out poorly when they do not feel valued and invested in with a strong relationship that will love them through unconditionally. In the end, we share in the responsibility of how that child’s reputation builds up from day one, as we are the adult in charge with an opportunity at hand. Let’s not forget, a child’s reputation is not the only one being shaped when we choose how to respond. Let’s create a big city impact with a small, positive vibe!

Let me leave you with my childhood hero’s words. Mr. Rogers, a Pittsburgh native and role model for all parents, always invited me into his small town neighborhood where he created a big city impact on my world. This was my safe place, where he reminded me that he loved me “just the way I was”.

Our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable EACH ONE OF US REALLY IS, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.

MISTER Rogers
Personal Learning

Truly Listening

There are times that I am left in complete awe of the words my children share with me when I am truly listening. Their willingness to be so transparent is remarkable and the way they speak with such conviction most often stops me in my tracks. Trent will soon be 17, so I suppose I have grown to expect it from him at his age. Jack, my youngest, not so much. Although, I have to say that when I stopped and truly listened I learned more than I ever imagined.

This past weekend I learned he has quite an outlook on life for a 13-year-old boy. One that gave me pause. One that spoke directly to my heart. When I was his age I simply kept most of my thoughts to myself or stored them up for conversations with my friends, but not him… or at least not this past weekend. His words were for me. #GratefulMomMoment

We were packed and ready to head to camp. A place that has become our summer sanctuary… a place of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. We listened to a variety of music on the way up and then once we arrived we nestled into our spots in the warm sun. For many reasons, including the music, the warm breeze, and the peace surrounding us, we were reminded of my late mother-in-law, most lovingly known as Nana. We fell right into a conversation about

all the times

all the memories

the laughter

the love

We were truly listening to one another… in tune with the same heart. Maybe it was the music that took us on our journey or maybe it was just our time to connect (Jack’s song pick was”Faithfully” by Journey). It didn’t matter, we were both embracing it as if we had never known such a bond and understanding. We were truly listening to one another. I asked him what he missed most about her and he quickly replied just having her here with us. I knew exactly what he meant and he seemed to trust that I was speaking his language. As our conversation came to a close, I said to Jack, “we thought we would have her for a lifetime, huh buddy?” To which he replied,

In a way we did, it was just hers.

I’m not sure why I always equated a large number to a lifetime, but Jack, at the young age of 13, seemed to get it completely. A lifetime… the duration of one’s life. Not a number, just a span of unknown time to us.

I looked at him a bit differently that day. I saw my husband differently, too. I went for as many walks as anyone wanted to and never once took out my computer. I plugged my phone in and walked away. I was truly listening. Such a gift! It was then, that I knew I create my own choices… “my lifetime”.

How will you live YOUR lifetime? #ProfoundWordsOfA13YearOld


Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

Creating A Culture of Impact

Most recently, I returned from a cruise that was not only refreshing for my mind, body, and soul, but it also reaffirmed how the simple things mean the most. Don’t get me wrong, I was pampered beyond belief and never wanted for anything, yet it was the small gestures that truly created the largest impact on me. It wasn’t an isolated occurrence, it was a culture. That my friends cost absolutely nothing and left me with the affirmation that we make choices every day that will impact… it is up to us whether it is positive or negative.

A Smile Speaks A Thousand Words

If ever there was a truer image of happiness I don’t seem to recall one that impacts greater than a smile. It is like picking out a new pair of glasses when you know that they will be your statement piece. You search and search for the perfect look so that when people see you coming they get the exact impression that you are trying to project. Search no further, as your smile is free and yet it gives to others something that is absolutely priceless and easy to obtain.

The minute I walked out of my stateroom each day, I was greeted with a smile at every turn. The smiles that I was seeing were not limited to the guest relations desk, it was the mantra for all that worked and inhabited the ship. Whether I was heading to the staircase or the elevator, someone was right there smiling and saying hello. Whether I was passing through the sun-filled pool area or sliding into quiet space for shade, there was someone’s smile greeting me that said, “all is good in the world today”.

You can just imagine, my thoughts connected with every child that we are privileged to create this same environment for… one of impact. See, that is the key… those working on the ship never underestimated their impact and the privilege of creating an opportunity of happiness for every single person aboard. As educators, we have that very same privilege. One that extends more than 7 hours every day of a child’s life. Beyond anything else, the one thing that we can single handily do without permission, without connecting to a standard, without hesitation, and with incredible impact is SMILE! It is a welcoming gesture that invites others in. It speaks a universal language of love. It exudes tenderness. It cares. It says, “YOU are important!”

It really is that simple.

Called By Name Makes the Invisible Visible

I don’t know how they do it, but if they can we all can! Yes, I was visible. Yes, I was important. Yes, I was cared for in abundance. How did I feel that every single moment of the day? It all came down to my name. Whether it was the cruise director, a deckhand, a fitness instructor (yes, I found the gym for the first time on my vacation), the stateroom steward, gift shop attendant, iLounge representative, shore excursion staff, youth counselor, photographer, or entertainer, the head of a department or the assistance’s assistant (and I could go on and on), they valued me enough to learn my name.

Miss Kristen, may I help you?

Hello, Miss Kristen, have a beautiful day!

Good morning, Miss Kristen!

When was the last time you heard your name being called out in abundance and it wasn’t because someone needed you, but because they cared for you? When was the last time a child felt that type of acceptance and belonging the minute they walked into your school? Your hallway? The lunchroom? Recess?

Do we make the invisible, visible?

Do we make every child feel important?

Do we smile

Do we call every single one of them by name?

“Impact” is what that creates and it all happens with a smile and a name. That is what we as educators get to do every single day… create impact. The question is, do we create the right one?

A culture of impact is what our children need!

Personal Learning

Boost Your Self-Care Package

I decided that I needed a little boost before I head on vacation so that I can truly relax and soak it all in with my family. I stopped to think what that really meant to me and was surprised at how quickly I was able to figure it out. Self-care is not a foreign concept to me , as I have been empowered by it from an early age. The mere idea of taking a walk by myself to allow for my thoughts to escape me has and always will be a part of the “Kristen Self-Care Package”. As I have aged, I find myself exploring new ways to boost myself in order to balance new responsibility. Simply stated, I am always open for new innovative ways, while leaning in towards what I know has always worked.

As I sat waiting for my massage, the deep tissue kind that removes the knots that I create by not breathing properly when I am under stress, I noticed a “Personalized Total Body Care” handout that the establishment was promoting for skin. I glanced over and giggled a bit as it was an “innovative approach” that I had encompassed in my own world for so long for things unrelated to skin itself. I had used these particular ideas/methods for so long that I was actually searching for something different. The crazy part was that I was searching for something that I really didn’t need, as these methods were always of value to me and worked great… it was just that with my mind always spinning towards innovation I just felt that I should be reaching out for something better, even if it didn’t exist just yet. The breakdown for this product promotion was so incredibly similar to my own methods that it felt like they had entered my mind and ran off with a little piece of me. Was this exciting for me or annoying to me or was this simply intriguing? I honestly couldn’t figure it out, but it led me to more reflection and in turn this post.

Energizing BOOST for my Soul

My energy level fluctuates, as it does for many. The thing is… that there are times I’m not so sure if it is because I am overextending myself, low on iron (I’m that girl), sitting too much (writing manuscript, blogging, curriculum, etc.) or if I am running wild through a self-pity moment that is comparing myself to the many other incredible people around me that appear to have their “stuff” together a bit more than me and my post-its. Then I pause and ask myself, did I have my coffee yet? ha! Oh, yes… 2 cups! Recently, I started “power” walking with my husband at the crack of dawn. The first day out, I thought I was going to have a heart-attack… something like, ” I can’t make it… this may not be for me!” He replied with, “Come on, you got this!” I didn’t have it that day at all and cried a few pitiful tears for myself as my chest stretched and I couldn’t catch my breath. Then when we got home I could feel that I was ready to move on with my day in a different way I hadn’t felt in awhile. I embraced the boost in my energy and accomplished quite a bit to my surprise.

Clarifying BOOST for my Mind

Power-walking led to a different accomplishment… a more clear-headed accomplishment. Here I am a month later, and I am now on fire with my walking. To be honest, I am giving my husband a real run for his money. The thing is, walking had boosted my energy level physically that in turn nurtured me mentally and ultimately gave me more time with my husband, Eric, that I didn’t even realize I was missing. WOW! This is where balance comes in for me and that needs to be my definition of balance, not that of others. When I look at others crushing balance in their lives, I compare myself to them and find myself discouraged when I am not mirroring what works so well for them. Clarifying what works for me is a self-care chat that has to happen… so when you see me engrossed in serious conversation and no one else is around, let’s just say it’s all for the good!

Hydrating BOOST for “ALL THINGS”

Ahhhh, hydration! This is a game changer, right? The amount of water I drink could float a ship… one full of my fabulous friends, family, and PLN. I find that the more I drink, the less garbage I eat, the more water I want, and the boost in my energy level goes up and up! The thing is that I actually feel like I’m glowing a bit different these day and yes, the water is a definite support, but there is something else. Somewhere in my “Kristen Care Package” I recognized that in order to put more in, that I need to take some things out. For me that meant having a “come to Jesus” moment where I recognized I needed to go through something, not around.

Renewing BOOST for Resilience

For those that are close to me, you know where this is going and for those of you who may be connecting with me for the first time, building resistance for my broken heart is something that I must go through, not around. In order for my smile to return on a regular basis and my cheerfulness to be at the forefront where others are used to, I had to seek a therapist for the grief that I had yet to go through with the loss of my mother-in-law… one of the closest people in my world. For me, it was a struggle of honoring her wishes, maintaining her confidence, fulfilling our relationship as friends beyond family, helping her to embrace her new journey with God when she wasn’t ready to leave her loved ones, and assisting her with the transition from here with us to her precious spot in Heaven. For many families, hospice provides this support, and even though they were a major support to us, with the quick unraveling of health, I took on the full responsibility to administer her medication. At the time, my mind knew it was what had to be done… my mind just didn’t convey that to my heart. As the months passed, and I tried to hold my family up in their own grief, I found myself retreating into a space unfamiliar… alone. It wasn’t until recently, and through therapy, that Eric and I realized that when mom passed, she took with her a piece of me that will never be back and left a hole in my heart no one ever had to fill, as she was the one to do just that. Building up resilience for my heart has meant opening it up to new possibilities. Allowing it to beat again, to be loved in a different way, and to trust that I can do this without her. I am getting there… a boost of love and support is around my every corner. Smiles, kindness, support, and love are renewing my heart in a way that is now able to relate to my mind.

Self-Care Package- Just For You

What is it that boost you? What is it that creates that moment of joy that you feel entering your mind, taking over your body, and filling your heart? I encourage you to find it… create the package that is made just for you. Open it up, use it daily and allow yourself that boost that you are worthy of… yes, you!