Box 1

Box 1

Box 2

Box 2
Character Education

Box 3

Box 3
Digital Learning

Setting Sail With Hope

Happy MLK Day, everyone! We stop today to honor a great man who had such high hopes for us all. I always like to share with my students the wishes of Dr. King's family to make this commemorative day a "day on", not a "day off". An amazing group of teacher-bloggers is joining me to make today a day on that will make a difference for the students and the teachers of the Detroit Public Schools. Each of us will choose a favorite quote from Dr. King and interpret it in a way that addresses the current crisis facing the schools in the city of Detroit.

My favorite quote from the legacy of Dr. King is above: "We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now." My take on this quote is that no matter where each of us is in our own life/work/school situation, the struggle taking place in the Detroit Public Schools must be considered our own struggle.

The troubles of the Detroit Schools began a long time ago, but is finally coming into public view because the status has gone from bad to so much worse and a major change is much needed. I live and have worked for most of my teaching career in a suburb of Detroit, so I have had kind of a second row seat to the events as they have developed.  Appointing an emergency manager clearly has not been beneficial to the mostly impoverished population and their dedicated, loving, and tireless teachers. There are many photos and some videos online now to show you the horrific conditions in which the staff and students operate each day.

We may have our share of issues with unfair and unrealistic teacher evaluations, over-testing of children way past the point of usefulness, less than posh work environments, and all the other things that keep education in our country from being an optimum educational experience, but what most of us experience as teachers pales in comparison to what Detroit teachers are faced with every day. And the children? To leave a poverty-stricken home, arriving at your "safe place", your "secure place" (school) to be greeted with a piece of moldy bread for breakfast in a freezing cold or grossly overheated room with rodents and more mold on the walls.... That belongs to all of us. And it will belong to all of us, I believe, until it is fixed.

How can teachers be expected to teach, and children expected to make progress on tests when their lives every day are of quiet desperation? I read in one article of kindergartners who just expect to wear their coats until noon when the room gets a little warmer. I know I couldn't participate in kindergarten activities while bundled in a coat for most of the day. We own this.

We all come with different life experiences shaping who we are. Our boats to get here are different. The boats we travel through each day in are different. But when it comes to wanting the best for kids, all kids, we are all in the same boat. Teachers, parents, anyone who cares about kids.

Please let the teachers of Detroit know that you stand with them and will continue to stand with them. Look for and use the hashtags: #supportDPSteachers and #dpsteachersfight back. Search for photos, articles, and videos of Detroit Public Schools online. I promise you'll be shocked at what you learn. Sign the petition .
Write letters, send letters to the editor of your local paper, or whatever you can to add your voice. The sea is so wide and their boat is so small. (paraphrased from Marion Wright Edelman, of The Children's Defense Fund) It's your boat too.

For more quotes and blog posts bringing HOPE to the DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS, please see the thumbnails below.


Fitting Fitness into Your Day

Aaahhh...January. The parking lot at the gym is filled with cars. You can get half of your workout in just walking to the building from wherever you are able to park. There are waiting lines at the treadmills, ellipticals, and weight machines. The classes are packed, and a stranger is sitting in cobbler's pose in YOUR space in the yoga studio. Besides, the new report period is starting at school, with all the planning, marking, and data collection that accompanies it. If any of this sounds familiar to you, I hope my little discovery that I made this week will be helpful!

A little background...

I have only been a gym member for the past few years, but long enough to notice the pattern of overcrowding right during NewYear's Resolution time, giving way to wide open spaces later in the year. For me, this coincides with seasonal changes. As the weather gets warmer here in Michigan, parking spots at the gym and floor space in my favorite exercise classes start to open up. I may go back to the gym later in the year. I enjoy being around other people, and the social aspect of gym membership is not lost on me.

For many years, as a busy teacher raising a family, I had to find a way to work working out into my life. It kept me strong and energetic enough to face a roomful of fourth graders every day! There was no way to go to the gym after work. My children needed to get to all of their after school activities, and I needed to shop for groceries and make dinner. Evenings? Nope. Helping with homework, grading papers, managing laundry (I swear that another family was depositing their clothes in our laundry hampers - there was always so much!), and getting kids ready for bed. My plan for all of my child-raising, working years, was to get up every day at 4:30 am and trudge to the family room, exercising to my heart's content to a dvd or broadcast on the sports network, alone and undisturbed. Hubby and kids slept until 6, and our dog Crockett knew better than to ask for a walk or breakfast at that hour. He usually just looked at me with one eye and went back to sleep.

I've been thinking about the gym situation for a couple of weeks now. Adding to my disappointment, my own schedule has changed again, and I can't even get there in time for my favorite Zumba and Yoga classes. Not good. I rooted through my old dvds and then looked for some more up to date ones online. As I searched the internet for an answer, I found no dvd that would feed my Zumba obsession or my love for the soothing ever-changing combinations I found in yoga class.

And then...quite by accident, I happened upon a blog post by a blogger who was tracking her weight loss journey and had made a mix of Zumba videos to her favorite songs. She posted this gem on You Tube and shared it with the world! I worked out to her mix and loved it! How on earth had she done this? Her workout mix may have just saved my life (well, certainly my sanity). I've always known about making mix tapes and later playlists of music to work out to, but somehow YouTube never crossed my mind when I thought of exercise.

So Here's the BRIGHT IDEA!

 (Bright to me anyway!) Go to You Tube and create your own channel. (Look to the upper left of your screen.) Then create and name a playlist for your workout. I named mine "At Home Zumba Class" - not very creative I admit, but I was still just playing with this idea then. I then started to search for songs I liked, with the word Zumba added to the search words. I collected some, but while doing this step, I found a group that I LOVE, and they already have their own playlists. (I swear that there are no endorsements going on here. I simply found something that I love and I'm anxious to share it with you!) I noticed that when I was looking for songs that I like, most of the video clips that I liked were by Refit Revolution, a dance studio in Waco, Texas. If you live there, OMG! Run to their studio now and sign up!!!! (Wait, busy schedule? Keep reading.) Refit Rev has their own playlists. You will probably like theirs even better than mine, and that's very ok with me!

Steps again because I've rambled again:

Go to You Tube.
Create your Channel.
Create and name your playlist.
Find clips you like and clock on the + to add.
You can edit your playlist later and move clips around.

Here's my playlist in case you'd like to try it: AT HOME ZUMBA CLASS

Don't like my choices? Don't be a hater - make your own! Like them? Then you're welcome!


To me, all I've described above was pretty wonderful, but my yoga issue had not been solved. I need yoga as much as I need to breathe. More internet searching, and what do you know? (Again not an endorsement, I promise! I have zero advertisers on my blog! Just my opinion!) I found a streaming service from Gaia (the company that makes some yoga equipment) that is too good to be true! They have lots of streaming videos, audio podcasts, and articles that you can sample for free, but I found their subscription to be an unbelievable bargain at a fraction of the cost of gym membership.
I have gotten triple my investment so far by trying out yoga classes with various instructors (love Colleen and Rodney Yee!), streaming videos about health and spirituality, and using meditation audios in the evening. (I have time to meditate now. My children are grown!) I've read some thought-provoking articles on their site too! Try it!

My new plan, based on my old one:
Go to bed an hour earlier.
Get up an hour earlier.
Do one hour of Zumba followed by a yoga session right at home.
Get on with my day.
So far, I love it!

Whatever your New Year's Resolutions, I wish you luck, health, and much happiness in the days ahead! When obstacles appear, just breathe, think, and solve!


Gifts of the New Year

Now that "the holidays" are over, the decorations are packed away, and the ribbons, bows, tinsel, and paper have been disposed of,  many of us think that the huge whoosh of gifting is over. I disagree!

January is the perfect time to gift yourself! Here are some gifts that I hope you will lavish upon yourselves during the often cloudy, gray, and chilling days of January:

The Gift of Time

The really busy time between Thanksgiving and New Years is behind us now. Give yourself some much-needed "me" time. Take some time to read a book just for you, work on a hobby you love, or just a few quiet moments when you can be alone with your thoughts. What? You have small children at home who need to be with you every second? If they are walking, try a little yoga with them. Teach them (along with yourself perhaps!) to just breathe. When you need to be alone with your thoughts, simply go into a room alone, sit on the floor cross-legged (criss cross applesauce!) close your eyes and let your family know that you are meditating. Just for a few minutes. They will get used to it and leave you alone. That has always been my favorite thing to do after a hectic day at school. 
If you don't already practice yoga, these posters might be helpful when you share the practice with your kids:

The Gift of Friendship

When was the last time you got together with a friend or two, or with a small group of friends? If it was during the holiday season, good for you! If not, why not text a friend or two and plan a get together? It can be just for a short time or a full evening out, whatever you can manage. It will fill your soul!

Here's one way to get some friend time: My friend and I schedule our mammograms together every year. We make an early morning appointment, go out for brunch at a nice restaurant, go to whatever movie is playing at our favorite theater with reclining seats, and then go shopping! We had so much fun this year that others want to join us for next year's outing. Being with your friends just might save your life! For me, it turned a dreaded annual procedure into a day of fun!

The Gift of Sharing

I recently found a way to finally pare down my closet. (Okay, closets. Giant ones.) It's been a struggle for a long time because I truly love almost every single article of clothing I own. When I ask myself the Marie Kondo question of "Does it bring you joy?" I usually say YES and throw it on the keep pile. But really, who needs ALL OF IT? I spend one day in the classroom currently, and the rest working from home. What do I typically wear? Yoga pants, T-shirt, sweater. Right?

I found a friend at school, still working full-time, and two family members who wear my sizes, and suddenly the joy question has taken on a new meaning. Now I have bags labelled with their names, and it brings me so much joy to pick out clothes and shoes and boots and scarves that I know each of them will love. My once loved things will have a new life being loved all over again instead of lingering as clutter while I reach for those yoga pants yet again! I love, love, love seeing my friend and relatives looking beautiful in their "new" clothes!

Try it! If you don't have a friend or family member who would like to add to their wardrobe, find a shelter or church who would like to find someone to love your clothes and share! You will never be able to wear it all!

To share the "life changing magic" of clearing out the clutter with your students, you might be interested in this:

The Gift of Laughter

Remember to laugh every day! Some of the things that annoy us the most during any typical day can actually be quite funny when you look back on them. Take a moment when something crazy interrupts your day. Step back and try to look at it through a lens of humor.

That kid who seems to be off-task? Observe for a few minutes and think about where his/her mind has traveled. When you have a moment alone, ask what they were thinking about. The answer will probably make you laugh, and it can be a good opportunity for bonding.

Your principal who pops in unexpectedly to observe you? Maybe he's wearing a ridiculous looking tie or shoes. Maybe she has part of her hair sticking up or her sweater inside out. (If not, just imagine it!) Think of something funny to make you smile. I guarantee you will sail through that lesson with a smile on your face much easier than with a worried frown! A funny example of this for me was when my principal had dropped in to watch a science lesson. He was explaining his interpretation of the standard to a student. She quickly corrected him, and proceeded to explain herself what the standard actually meant. The expression on his face was priceless and definitely made me smile then, and later as we discussed the lesson for my evaluation.

Just one more  - I think Laughter is my favorite box to open - I recently came across a book. (I Went to Vassar...For This?)   Haven't read it yet, but the main character has an issue with her microwave and finds herself back in time living in the 1950s. That could be very funny, I think! (Book Club after we all read it? )
So the next time I burn something, forget to thaw something, or have some similar mishap in the classroom, I will imagine myself trying to do the same thing in another era. My finicky Smart Board often made me think I had been transported to the at least the 70s or 80s! When it was choosing to only function as a white board, I referred to it as the "Dumb Board". Kids and I all had a good laugh at that!
Laughing makes you feel great!

To at least smile all the way through your teacher evaluations this year, be sure to check out this highly rated organizational tool:

For more ideas on how to have the best January ever, in and out of the classroom, be sure to check out these great posts by the Teacher Talk bloggers!