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What's Saving Your Life This Spring?

What's Saving Your Life

I hear you... counting down the days...days till the next break...days till summer...days till 
retirement. Been there, done that! And now, looking back at our teaching life from retirement, I hear Joni Mitchell singing in my ear, "I've looked at life from both sides now..." The view from here isn't all sunshine and roses, but I can make a few observations with most of the emotion now stripped away. I adore my teacher friends, still in the classroom, and still making a tremendous contribution. I have former students, children of my heart forever, now working as teachers or just entering the profession. I want only the best for each of them and you, and I hope this post will have a little something to ease you on down the road to summer! 

This is an idea that comes from an idea that one of my fav bloggers revisits every year. If you haven't read posts by Modern Mrs. Darcy, I highly recommend her blog. She has so many ideas for lifelong readers and book lovers, like us!  

According to Mrs, Darcy, "The idea comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s wonderful memoir Leaving Church. In it, she tells the story of how once, when she was invited to speak at a gathering, her host gave her this instruction for her speaking topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.” She said the genius of the question is that though most of us know exactly what’s killing us, it’s harder to name what’s saving us. It’s too good a question not to revisit from time to time, and so we’ve done it annually at the midpoint of winter. (Or, in 2024, thereabouts.)" 

And so, my darlings, here we go! Onward to Teacher Appreciation Day, with each of us indulging in a little self-appreciation in the days ahead.

Currently Saving My Life

Pink - Pink saves my life. Deeply affected by Barbie, the movie, just that bright, saturated Barbie pink color saves me every day. I surround myself with touches of it, and gazing at them makes me happy. Clothing, nails, shoes, Zumba shoes, ink, markers, acrylic paints, glitter (sorry, not sorry), drinking cups, and my favorite song by Pink herself, "Never Not Gonna Dance Again". Wait till you see my new pink dress that I am saving for Mother's Day! I will wear it all day whether I am alone or with family. Because it saves me. 

Dance - Dancing saves my life. I love going to Zumba class with all the sweet young things. I tell them that I have returned to stumble along behind them, but after a few short minutes (maybe a song or two into the hour), I feel that I am actually doing something that approximates dancing! Can't find a class near you? Make a playlist on Youtube. I love the routines by ZumbaDaze! Try it! I promise you'll love it, and it just may save you, if only for an hour a day! Dance like no one is watching. Because they likely are not!

Cooking - Creative cooking has always saved my life. Due to hubby's recent lifestyle changes required for his health, I have temporarily suspended my love of trying new recipes and especially exploring Korean cooking, as I've done for the past year. If you are interested in dabbling, I started with Eric Kim, but then found Maangchi's blog. Maangchi saves my life. Her love of cooking is infectious! Also, Molly Yeh from Girl Meets Farm is magnificent in the way she blends Asian and Midwestern cooking. And her kitchen...Sigh...Don't get me started!

The way I'm saving my life with cooking has boiled down (😂) to simplicity. We eat mostly protein and veggies now. Could get boring, but some easy things that you and your family might love are: Egg Roll in a Bowl (recipes everywhere)! Who ever thought of cooking cole slaw mix? Brilliant! I expanded that idea to cooking various bagged salad mixes, adding spices, flavored oils, or sesame oil, light soy sauce, whatever, and adding cooked protein - chicken, beef, turkey, shrimp, or tofu. Yummy and done in a hot second!

Reading - But of course! I am and always have been all about the books.

Currently loving: 

Museum of Failures by Thrity Umrigard 

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

For more and detailed suggestions for reading for you and your students, check out this post:

What's Saving Your Life Right Now?

As you continue the countdown mentioned above, save your teaching life with some ready-to go Spring lessons and activities from Rainbow City Learning!

I would love love love to hear what's saving your life right now! Please answer in the comments below!

For more Spring classroom ideas, don't miss these great posts by our awesome members of Teacher Talk!  

If you would also like to be a part of Teacher Talk, we are a group of teacher bloggers who share posts
that are heavy on the ideas with just a little selling of our educational materials at  For more information about joining The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative, go to  Feel free to email me at if you have any questions.

PLEASE DO NOT ENTER OUR LINKY IF YOU ARE NOT A MEMBER OF TEACHER TALK. We would love to have you join our group, but please don't post until you do!

We would love to have you read and comment on our posts. If you are selling a school or another course of study and commenting as a way to advertise, please don't! Your comment will go to SPAM.


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Create a Zen Classroom

Full Moon ahead? Major school break coming up? Too much excitement for students in the class before yours, or on the bus ride to school? Yikes! That could mean that your day is set up for major headaches, much waiting for quiet and attention, and a constant struggle to get through the lesson plan.

But what if you could bring an atmosphere of calm and peace to your classroom each and every day, no matter what may be happening just outside your door? Welcome to the Zen Classroom! Here are some easy-peasy ways to bring back the calm and get on with the learning:

Of course, we all have heard of brain breaks, and many teachers are already making great use of brain breaks and brain gym activities on a regular basis. I'm wondering if you've tried just breathing at the start of a lesson, after a transition, or when things get a little out of control. You can bring your class right back to center and focus with just a minute or two of focused breathing. Have a sign ready that says, "Breathe". Have a pre-agreed posture that kids automatically get into because they've learned it. It can be sitting up straight in their chair, criss-cross applesauce on desktops, or on a pre-designated spot on the floor. My students often enjoyed taking a seat on the floor under their desks to find a quiet personal spot.

When the sign is displayed, students can engage in one of several types of breathing. Simple and slow  in through the nose and out through the mouth, one of many yoga breaths than can be learned and at the ready for these moments, or whatever breath helps each child to slow down and get calm. Different kids will have their favorites, and one or two that will work best for them.

Just a minute or two spent breathing in this way will restore peace and calm to each student in your class. Because I love you, and because I really want you to try this, here's a free poster for you! Just click, download and print!


Try setting up a yoga poster or two at each of the stations (math, writing, etc.) in your class. Set up a routine with kids that before attempting each academic station, they will practice a pose and/or a breath. Kids and you will see a definite upswing in success, I promise! It's just a great way to clear your head and to save a space in your brain for the learning to sink in. Try it with those dreaded times tables or even a passage from Shakespeare! You just may be surprised!

The most wonderful benefit of starting some of these practices with your kids is that they are truly life practices. Kids will remember and even automatically start breathing or assuming certain positions in stressful or difficult situations or even when preparing for a test, first date, or job interview in the future. You will have given your students a gift for a lifetime by starting some of these habits now in your classroom.

Here's another great use for those yoga posters or yoga cards!
Set up a series of yoga mats, or bath/beach towels, or just areas marked off by tape around your room (or playground!). Place a yoga card/poster at each area. connect the course with yoga straps stretched out (or tape) or yoga blocks laid in a row (can also be stepping stones from the garden or paper stepping stones). I love to use paper stepping stones with messages written on them like, "Just Breathe!" or "Find Your Focus!" or "Be Calm!" or even "Chill!" Laminate them and tape to the floor or ground. Instruct students to follow the paths you have set up from station to station where they will  spend from three to five minutes practicing the postures and/or breaths posted there.

If you make setting up the obstacle course a class job, it will be a very easy and short setup for you, and a yoga obstacle course can be done as frequently and easily as a brain break. Definitely try it outdoors in the Spring for a calm and organized recess with a purpose!
Individual sets of yoga pose and breath cards in each student's desk make it possible for individuals to use these relaxation techniques whenever the need arises. That might not be at the same time for every student! When students have quick access to visual cues, they can try out some new or trusted poses or breaths whenever they need them. A new way of redirecting behavior for you just might become, "Try a card!"

Try hole-punching and adding a "ring-it" to individual decks. Kids can cut out the cards, hole-punch, and assemble themselves in third grade and above. Don't make more work for yourself by creating all the decks yourself when kids can give some zen back to you by doing it themselves. (Of course, cutting and assembling does have its rewards. Try binging on Netflix while cutting!)

 In my classroom, a very popular volunteer position was "CPA Parents". These wonderful (usually full-time working) parents would check their kids' backpacks each night for bags of materials from me to "Cut, Paste, Assemble" (CPA). All the work would usually be completed that evening and returned to school the next day. It's like having a team of fairy godmothers and godfathers just waiting for you to make a wish! Bibbidy-bobbidy-boo! It's an easy way for parents who must work, but want to volunteer in the classroom to take part.

Coloring books and zentangles of all kinds have been increasing in popularity for several years now, and it's no wonder! Focusing in on coloring changes your breathing and is a calming and restorative practice for kids and grownups alike. Using different colored pencils, crayons, markers, and even touches of watercolor adds to the experience. I love using coloring pages with a message. Kids will internalize the message as their fingers make strokes inside and outside the lines. Try printing posters (your choice - make them yourself or make it easy and purchase some) in black/white or grayscale for kids to color in. You can add to your classroom decor with posters personalized by your students. A win for all!

I hope that some or all of these suggestions will help you to create the kind of space in your classroom that will make you feel peaceful and happy while traveling to work to each day, looking forward to teaching and learning as you have always hoped it would be!

You might find some of the resources in these two bundles helpful in your journey to zen:

For more Spring classroom ideas, don't miss these great posts by our awesome members of Teacher Talk!  

If you would also like to be a part of Teacher Talk, we are a group of teacher bloggers who share posts
that are heavy on the ideas with just a little selling of our educational materials at  For more information about joining The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative, go to  Feel free to email me at if you have any questions.

Celebrate Reading

How do you celebrate reading?

Bringing back a favorite post to help you plan ahead for "March is Reading Month".

"It's always something." (Gilda Radner as Roseanne Rosannadanna) Every day that we show up at school, ready to learn, is a cause for celebration. "...and everywhere was a song and a celebration." (Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. Woodstock, baby.) Seriously, teachers, we can find something to celebrate in class every single day. The biggest celebration, of course, is when the imaginary light bulbs flash with new learning, with a newly converted reader for life, budding author, artist, mathematician, researcher, or maker. As teachers, we are part of those amazing moments all year long. And yet, if we seek other celebrations to bring a learning theme to our students, the calendar is filled with them. Here's a year-long resource for an author birthday focus every month.
Read Across America Day was originally conceived to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss. You might have been wearing out your "Cat in the Hat" striped chapeau for all the Marches for as long as you've been teaching. Maybe your school focuses on Dr. Seuss, or maybe you just enjoy that celebration in your classroom. Maybe your own teacher tied a red bow around her neck every March, and the memories are filled with warm fuzzies. are ready for a new idea?

Did you know that Leo Dillon's birthday is March 2 also?  With his wife, Diane, Leo Dillon was the author/illustrator of forty beloved children's books. Many of the books will bring the concepts of diversity and world peace into your classroom. What a beautiful segue from February is Black History Month! Why not kick off March is Reading Month this year with a fresh focus?

A favorite Dillon book of mine is If Kids Ran the World. My students were so fortunate to have the chance to meet this gentle and lovely couple before Leo's death in 2012, when they visited our school.  The mentoring for our future authors and illustrators was off the charts! If Kids Ran the World was the book they were working on at the time of Leo's passing.

In addition to the beautiful illustrations and words showing how the world would be a better place if we all cared  for others in the way these children do, this book effortlessly becomes a mentor text. Click below to learn more:

Some other authors whose work will make for great sharing and inspiration any time of the year: Patricia Polacco, Eve Bunting, and Jacqueline Woodson. These are a few of my favorites, and my students have enjoyed many lessons for reading and writing led off by the works of these writers. 

Try The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco to see how the author's own mother was encouraged to love reading!
Share a read-aloud of The Wretched Stone by Chris Van Alsburg to prompt a discussion of all the things we might enjoy if we give up a little screen time. 

Of course, no month-long celebration is complete without a few official school-wide or grade-wide or even class-wide activities. Some of my favorites:

Hold a Read-In
In no way should this be confused with a clean your desk, grade papers, and enter data day. Wipe that thought from your mind. It's tempting for sure, but a read-in day where you participate right along with the kids is a golden opportunity to encourage a lifelong love of reading (like yours!). Only you can be the role model for that in your classroom. Sleeping bags, blankies, jammies, and pillows optional! My kids always liked making little fort areas under the desks for uninterrupted reading bliss!

Who doesn't love a Parade?
Ask your students to bring in their Radio Flyer or Little Tykes wagons to use as float carriers for a Parade of Books! (Think Macy's Thanksgiving or Disney any day, or The Rose Bowl Parade, but with books!)  Kids work in teams to create a float display (think giant diorama!) of a book. The team members dress as some of the characters as they accompany their float in a parade for school and community!

Spotlight on Books
Create a display with a fun place to leave comments/reviews about a book that the class shared as a class novel, book club choice, or read-aloud. Place a book cover in the center of the display, and kids write comments all around. Examples of fun places to leave comments: black construction paper with colored chalks, small white boards with wipe-off markers, plexiglass with window markers, fabric with glitter pens. I know your kids can  help you think of more! 

Recommended in Rainbow City
That's what we called ours, anyway! Start a weekly or monthly newsletter or blog section where kids can review books they have read and loved. It's a great resource for your students to clip and keep on hand for when they are browsing for new books to read. 

Book Trailers
Use your technology (iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or your favorite movie creator) to have your students create exciting trailers to "advertise" their favorite books. So many resources, directions, and examples of book trailers for kids in this post. (Just click on the director below!)

I loved sharing ideas for March is Reading Month with my podcasting friends, Tracy, Deann, and Kathie. Tune in to "We Teach So Hard" Episode 28 to hear what we came up with!

Happy, happy March! Hope you get to read something you love this month, too!

If I can do anything else to help make your job easier this year, please let me know in the comments below! If I use your idea for a new blog post, you will win a TpT $10 gift card. If I create a new resource for Rainbow City Learning based on your idea, you will win a free copy of that resource to use in your classroom! (Note: all comments are reviewed before appearing on my blog. It may take a few hours for your comment to appear! Thanks for your patience!)

For more thoughts on teaching as we wait for Spring, don't miss these posts by our awesome members of Teacher Talk!  

If you would also like to be a part of Teacher Talk, we are a group of teacher bloggers who share posts
that are heavy on the ideas with just a little selling of our educational materials at  For more information about joining The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative, go to  Feel free to email me at if you have any questions.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

A Read Aloud for February

February Read Aloud

She climbed in my lap, her fluffy curls tickling my chin, and grandsweetheart #6 and I began to devour our latest new book, Have I Ever Told You? by Shani King. What a delicious and inspirational read for home, with your own precious babies, or at school with your also precious students. (No longer an affiliate. I recommend this book purely from the depths of my heart!)

As we turned the pages, each one beginning with the words, "Have I ever told you..." or "Have I told you...", and she answered in her sweet and bell-like voice, "Yes, you have!" or "No." or "Just now!", my mind was buzzing with the reach of this idea far beyond a bedtime story. What a beautiful read for February, the month of love, this month of remembrance, of honoring the achievements of African Americans, of looking forward to honoring the achievements of women in March. If I still had my classroom, I would definitely be dancing down the hall with this one this week, ready to share with my class! Yeah, I love sleeping late and not even worrying about snow days, but I would give it all up to share this with some kids! As many as possible, so teachers, please help me out with this!

Each page reaches deep within your soul and far beyond your own existence to all the possibilities that just being human can offer. It lets the child know that he/she is special, loved, can be anything, and should reach out to others on so many levels. It reminds with each new page that as teachers, as parents, and grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers and keepers of kids in any way that rings true for you. that we teach what we are.

We teach what we are. The kids are always watching and listening. The best things we can model are love and compassion for others. No fancy props or complicated lesson plan is ever necessary for this. You don't need to write notes or start your class valentines with, "Have I ever told you?" (although what a great mentor text lesson you might do with this book!). Some key management decisions that you might make for your classroom could easily send that message.

Simple things like letting your class plan the Valentine party and how Valentines might be distributed and shared would send the message, "Have I ever told you what great ideas you have?"

Establishing a class government system in which every child has a voice and a personal  stake says, "Have I ever told you that you can make hard choices and live with them?"

Infusing multicultural studies throughout the year, not just during a designated month or week or holiday, will be sending the clear message, "Have I told you how important it is that we all feel honored, loved and respected? All of us!"

Showing students the future career possibilities of work that they are doing right now will say, "Have I told you that you can be anything you choose as you prepare for life as an adult?" Letting your kids respond to lessons in multiple ways or to craft responses using their current strengths will tell them that you value their strengths and make them unafraid to try new things and respond in other ways as well.

This is a perfect time to stretch our wings with some additional modeling. If we are teachers who respect others, show compassion for all, and truly believe in our kids as learners now and citizens in the future, let's teach it through the opportunities we provide.  Love is in the air in the days ahead. Let's sprinkle in some positivity, compassion, belief in each other, and trust with what matters. The air has plenty of room and can hold all that and more! Start with a great read-aloud!

Click on links above for ideas from Rainbow City Learning on adding more to the air than love next month!

For more great ideas for the month ahead, be sure to visit all the blogs of Teacher Talk!

If you would also like to be a part of Teacher Talk, we are a group of teacher bloggers who share posts
that are heavy on the ideas with just a little selling of our educational materials (to make your teacher life easier) at  For more information about joining The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative, go to  Feel free to email me at if you have any questions. 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Read it Again!

 Season's Readings! It's cold and stormy here, and I can't wait to take my insulated mug of tea and climb under a fluffy blanket with my new book, The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store. My book club will be discussing it next week, and I am hoping that it will transport me away from the memories of the book I finished just this morning. I haven't stopped longing for the fantasy world inside that last one.

My mind is wandering back to all the read-aloud, class novels, and lit circle (book club) books that have filled my teaching life for so many years. When I open a copy of Tuck Everlasting or Gifts From the Sea, I am immediately transported back, not only to the world of the story, but also to my painted rocking chair and the engaged and precious faces in front of me. We felt all the feels together, and made some precious reading memories.

Everyone must have at least one book or story that never gets old, and is a different pleasurable experience every time it is reread. When I was ten years old, my little brother was an insatiable fan of Dr. Seuss. To this day, I can still recite Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat by heart. As soon as the book ended, my brother would joyfully shout, "Again!" I won't tell you how many times I've reread Second Star to the Right. Ok, ok, at least 12 times. Maybe more. Really, do you ever tire of visiting Disney Land or World? The familiar feels like home, and there is always something new that you may have missed or forgotten. My copy of The Velveteen Rabbit is worn and loved as much as the tattered main character. The images of the rooms in the ancient rooming house of Second Star to the Right can be called up at will, especially the top floor. (You'll just have to read it. I hear you have a little vacation time just ahead. Since there's more than one book with this title, here is a link: 

My classroom application of all this reminiscing would be to have a "sweet memories" book club. (Create your own title if that's a little too sugary for you.) Ask your students to write on a ballot the titles of three or five or whatever number of books that they would love to reread and discuss in a book club with classmates. Tally the ballots and put a few groups together. I can't imagine a more delicious lit experience than this! My head is literally spinning with the idea of discussing my all-time fav (above) with others who have read and loved it! 

If you decide to have a sweet memories book club experience, please please please comment below or email me and I'll enter you in a drawing for a $10 TpT gift card! I would love to hear all about how it went!

For resources to help you make this happen in your classroom, try these resources from Rainbow City Learning!

Wishing you and your students Season's Readings, and a sweet holiday season!


For more December thoughts and tips, be sure to check out the posts of my blogging friends.

If you would also like to be a part of Teacher Talk, we are a group of teacher bloggers who share posts
that are heavy on the ideas with just a little selling of our educational materials (to make your teacher life easier) at  For more information about joining The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative, go to  Feel free to email me at if you have any questions. 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Enough at Holiday Time

Our family has a reunion every year at Thanksgiving time. We are scattered all over the country (actually all over the world) now, but each year as many as possible try to meet up for a banquet cooked by professional chefs (yay!) rather than by any of us. We meet in a hotel back where I grew up and spend several days just enjoying each other and loving on our newest generation. It takes me back to my childhood, when most of the meals were home cooked, certainly at Thanksgiving, and when most of my extended family hung out together all the time. We were there for so many of the milestones in each other's lives, sometimes because they were official and came with an invitation, and sometimes because we just happened to all be there. We were all always there, either at my parents' house, or my grandparents' house, known simply as "down the house" (In Pittsburghese, "You gon' dahn the hause?" Or, "See ya later dahn the hause.") We never said yinz in our family, but we sure pronounced words like dahn and hause just that way. It brings a tear. Sigh.

Our Thanksgiving celebrations through the years always included the long table for adults and the kids' table. I believe I sat at the kids' table until I graduated from college and was married with a tiny apartment table of my own. It was a good place to be, and a great place to grow up.

We hosted a brunch at our house recently, and my favorite grandson (aka only grandson) asked if we could move the kids' table to the end of the adult table so that it would be just one long table and we all could sit together. What a brilliant idea! I wish I had thought to ask my grandmother the same question. Her kids' table was seriously all the way in the living room. We always felt that we were missing something over there! Brunch was so much fun that day, and the furniture arrangement just might have had something to do with it!

Thoughts of Thanksgivings past and future also brought me to the thoughts of the season of excess, which seems to start earlier and earlier each year. I thought I had finished all of my holiday shopping yesterday, but thought of several items that I wanted to add today. A tiny voice in my head said, "Enough!" The voice was right. I took some time tonight to think of all the things that I have enough of. I certainly have enough clothes to last forever. Six bags are ready for donation right now. I have a precious family to love, and I know they love me, so enough love. I have probably far more friends than any one person deserves, so enough friendship. Since I've rekindled my love for dancing and exercise, I am mostly blessed with good health. I do request that you stay away from me though if you have not had your flu shot. Learned that the hard way. Enough food? Probably too much, given my never-ending struggles with the scale.

Yes, enough. I am so sure that I have enough that I have no holiday wish list of my own. The days ahead might just be a good time to consider with your students and children or grandchildren, nieces, and nephews - whoever is important in your life - what exactly each of you has enough of. And then, you might want to extend the conversation to ways you can reach out and share with others who might not have enough. Some examples (some that I've talked about in previous blog posts) might be:

  • Adopt a family to gather and wrap holiday gifts for.
  • Pack winter comfort bags for the homeless.
  • Visit an elderly residence and play board games or sing. 
  • Plan an act of kindness to do every day (or even once a week) for someone else.
  • Share your holiday spirit by learning more about winter holidays celebrated by others in your community and around the world.
An amazing book that I've just discovered is I am Enough by Grace Byers. It is a lovely way to remind our children that each of them is a precious gift to the world.

For resources to make your teaching life a little easier in the days ahead, and to learn about winter holidays celebrated by others, click here! Winter Holidays with Rainbow City Learning
For resources to emphasize Gratitude, click here! Celebrating Gratitude with Rainbow City Learning

In the days ahead, I wish you a seat at the table surrounded by those you love, and the most precious of gifts to open: friendship, caring, and awareness of the needs of others.

For more November thoughts and tips, be sure to check out the posts of my blogging friends.

If you would also like to be a part of Teacher Talk, we are a group of teacher bloggers who share posts
that are heavy on the ideas with just a little selling of our educational materials at  For more information about joining The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative, go to  Feel free to email me at if you have any questions. 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

The Beauty of the Buddy Bench

When I was six years old and walking to my new school where I didn't know anyone, I heard a voice from across the street: "Hi! My name is Gloria! Will you come to my birthday party tomorrow?"  My new very outgoing little friend introduced me to all of her friends, and all the anxiety of starting at a new school vanished! We became fast friends for many years following.

When I was a junior in college, my sorority decreed that we ALL needed to attend a fraternity party that we were invited to as a group. Nervous and somewhat annoyed at being forced to attend, I walked into the party with my friend Susan. The most adorable boy greeted us, took my arm, and said, "Didn't I meet you before?" It was a corny beginning, but we celebrated our fifty-first wedding anniversary this year!

Each time I began teaching at a new school during my teaching career, there was always a smiling face in the next classroom, or across the hall, ready to become a lifelong friend, and to teach me the ropes of a new, unique situation.

Entering a wedding shower for my friend's daughter, she told me to "sit anywhere". I looked around the room, and whispered (I thought) to her, "I don't know anyone here." Immediately, a sweet and adorable cousin of my friend (someone I had hadn't met yet) appeared at my side and said, "I'm Terri. Now you know me. Sit with us!" Terri is one of my favorite people to this day!

At funeral this week for a dear friend, my husband and I were sitting alone and really feeling the sadness. The man in front of us turned around and started making jokes with us. I said, "Do we know you?" He said, "You do now. I'm Jack, and this is my wife Pat. Now we're friends."

This week's funeral encounter made my mind travel back to all the other times in my life when I was sad or alone, and a stranger became a friend. As a teacher, I always tried, and sometimes struggled to make this magic happen for my students. I knew that, for kids, friendship doesn't always come just by getting them together at recess or in collaborative groups. That's where the Buddy Bench reports for duty.

The Buddy Bench
What is a Buddy Bench? This concept has been around since 2013, when a second grader came up with an idea for lonely kids at recess time. The Buddy Bench doesn't even have to be an actual bench, but it does have to be an agreed upon meeting place. When a child sits on a Buddy Bench, it sends a signal to others that he/she/they would like to interact with someone. This could mean just talking or joining in a game. It's a great way to promote inclusion and to build empathy. I'm all for anything we can do to build kids up from the inside out. The Buddy Bench is relationship and SEL magic!

The secret to success with your Buddy Bench is to discretely teach what it's all about and to model using it. When we installed one at my school, I discovered that the very kids who needed it most in order to find companions at recess were the kids who lacked skill in interpersonal communication. (Anyone surprised?) That's when I developed a set of cards that could be laminated and left at the Buddy Bench to serve as conversation prompts. You can make your own or find them for outdoor use here and in classroom use here, but the important thing is to practice using them. Select a topic and try a model discussion. The topics on my cards all center on finding some common ground on which a friendship may be built.  What are your favorite kind of movies? Music? Ice cream? What do you like to do best at recess? What's your favorite joke?  You get it!

The Permanent Buddy Bench  

Your Buddy Bench will be a fixture on your playground. Our PTA even added a second one right outside the office for indoor recess. Kids will use it to signal that they would rather not spend  recess alone, and other kids will join them. They will find something something to chat about, and may move on to a soccer match, a jump rope game, or a race around the track. They may even find a quiet place under a tree to read a book together. As a teacher (or recess supervisor), you need to kind of watch the bench out of the corner of your eye. If a kid has been sitting there for too long, either encourage a child (that you have pre-arranged a buddy position with) or go and sit there yourself. Start up a conversation. No one wants to put himself/herself out there as being all alone, and then stay that way.

My favorite nine year old told me today that the Buddy Bench at his school is just a place to throw your coat if you get too warm at recess. He went on to say that since everyone at his school is already such good friends with everyone else, the Buddy Bench isn't used anymore. My dad had an expression for that which, in translation, means, "It should always be so." I swear I heard his voice telling me that when I heard about this repurposed Buddy Bench! My wish for you is that yours becomes a coat holder as well!

In any case, your Buddy Bench should become a familiar sight and a familiar concept to your students. It's their signal to be good people and to include others whenever possible. How lovely to sit on the Buddy Bench on a perfect Spring day and chat with a new found friend! Sigh.

From an unknown source, here is a testimonial to the beauty of the Buddy Bench:

Wishing you peace, friendship, and a classroom full of good people!

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