Tag Archive | challenges

Spring Break

What a great, much needed rest.

It’s been a week since Spring Break came to a close, and I’m hopeful for the next two months!  The first few days back from a break are sometimes rocky – did they REALLY not remember what country we live in after just a week away from school? – but I think we’re back in a groove.
As a teacher, each new school year seems to provide a blank slate of possibilities for what’s to come.  On the first day of school there is a magical feeling, like anything is possible and we’re going to learn everything by the end of 180 days.
Now that spring has come into our school year, there’s a sense of urgency.  I only have them for a short while, and an even shorter amount of time until their end-of-the-year state exams.  Now we tend to focus our curriculum into a tight laser of “the essential” stuff we want them to know before they’re out of our hands once again for the summer.
And isn’t life the same way?  We start out with wild dreams and crazy expectations (in a good way).  The world is our oyster.
Halfway through, we start to get a little more practical, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had.  The reality that not EVERYTHING is going to be accomplished in one lifetime is pretty clear now, and we start to focus our efforts on what we thing is most important.
I haven’t reached the spring break of my life yet, but whether we’re there, or around the halfway mark, or even if you’re still at the first days of school – this is clear: 
Treat every day like it’s the final days of learning.  The last days of school are coming soon enough….


I’ve been out with a persistent “bug” for a little while now, and finally feel ready to get back in the saddle.  After you’ve been away for a few days, it feels like forever.  Things have piled up since you’ve been gone.  It seems like the year is slipping away (we only have sixty days left?  We HAVE to get moving on those decimals!)  I have to remind myself to take a step back and remember that it’s okay to have a substitute once in awhile.  That it’s more important for thier teacher to work at 100% for most of the days, than it would have been to teach sick and tired for all of them.  (the kids are better off for it anyway – no one wants a cranky teacher!) 🙂

But now it’s time to really focus on the work.  Remember and reenergize about what we’re doing – getting these kids ready for life!  Put me in, coach!  I’m ready!

Keep Me Busy

I love the years/ages when kids are excited to go to school.  The younger ones get up every day pumped to get to school.  They can’t wait for the bus.  Can’t wait to get there.  It’s not WORK for them.  It’s exciting.  They get to do things and learn things.  Kids understand on a subconscious level that it’s better to be active and have things to do, than to not.  If they had to stay home all day, what would they do?

These days, I tend to never have a second to sit down and do nothing.  But I should count my blessings!  I’ve got things to do!

Many times I have bemoaned the fact that I’m so busy.  I think – “I’d be so much happier if I had a lazy day to do just nothing.  I’ll lay around all day.”  But if I think back on some days in the past where I actually DID do nothing all day, I think I felt even lousier at the end of those days than any other.  I wasn’t satisfied.  I just felt kind of numb.  I don’t want to be numb.

I want to be energized with life and challenges.  I think I know how the kids feel.  I WANT to go to school today.  If I’m not teaching, or learning, or challenging myself or others I’m just going to be numb.  And that’s no FUN!

We all don’t think the same


I’m always surprised when the realization hits me – people don’t all think the same as I do.  Old, young, my same age, male, female, it doesn’t matter.  While we all have a collective understanding of some things, so much of our thought process and way of thinking is different.  In fact, every person is different in many ways from everyone else.  So how, then, do we all work together day in day out?

We need UNDERSTANDING that people are different.  This applies to the classroom, boardroom, and living room.  There have been many times that I’ve tried teaching a concept to a student with no luck, only to realize they’ve been coming at the problem from a completely different way than I was.  If I had only tried to think the way they did, I would have been more successful.

The old saying is “walk a mile in their shoes,” but I think you need to slip inside their brain to really get the idea.  Try to move your mind around to their way of thinking, for a minute, to see how they see it.  It requires a limber and flexible mind to do it, but it’s possible!

For instance, I cannot understand why my wife likes to watch old masterpiece theatre “Jane Eyre” productions.  She’s actually seen about three different versions of the same story, and she’ll watch them over again.  Why would anyone want to do that? (I know there’s a few hands up already.)  I could argue with her about it, but I’m not going to change her mind.  She is going to like what she likes, and I have to see that and accept it.

Same way with kids, co workers, bosses…we need to walk a mile in some shoes.  The next time you think to yourself “how could anyone think that way?” realize that they DO think that way.  It’s a fact.  Start trying to understand and accept it, and we’ll all be a lot happier in life.

Unless you make me watch Masterpiece Theatre.


Life is a Videogame


There’s certainly challenges in my life.  It seems like they crop up every day.  Some days there’s little, some days there’s a lot.  But every day brings at least one.  It’s really just life.  Challenges are what life is all about.

Most days, the challenges are your standard variety.  The normal day to day parts of the job that people have to deal with – this student needs some extra multiplication help, this person needs an email to clarify something, the bank seems to be short $50 – minor annoyances that we are there to fix.  The lightbulbs need changing.  The laundry needs done.  Pretty routine.

But some days the big ones creep up on you.  The car won’t start before work in the morning.  The car breaks down or you get into an accident.  The kids have stomach flu, or worse.  There’s an emergency at work.  And of course, life threatening illnesses that are the world changers.  They’re out there, waiting for us.  They can happen at any time.

I used to be scared of these things happening.  I used to dread them, and when they DID happen – trying to get ready for work and suddenly the kids are throwing up all over my jacket, for instance – I would get upset and frustrated and flustered.

But I realized something in those moments that make me change my perspective.  Just a change in thinking about these instances made me change the way I approached the challenges of life. 

When we play videogames, there are challenges all over the place.  There are things we need to figure out, bad guys to defeat, and obstacles to overcome.  If there were not, we wouldn’t even bother playing the game.  A videogame where you just had to walk from point a to point b, and then it was over, with no challenges in the way, would be boring and mundane.  Why even bother putting the game in?

When the challenges in life come up, remember – this is your chance to pass this level.  This is the moment where you meet the big “boss” of this stage, and you can defeat him.  The way you handle the situation will determine whether you make it past, or have to repeat the level until you do it right.  Embrace the challenge.  Otherwise you’ll never get any farther than you already are.

First Steps

It’s a simple act.  Step outside.  Do something different.  But it always seems so hard to make the first step.  First steps in anything are, classically, the hardest ones to take.

Life is about making first steps.  Every first step you take is a new experience you’ve put under your belt.  That first time you tried turnips.  The first time you went ice skating.  The first time you wore neon green.  You don’t think about it, but you get up every day when you probably don’t want to.  You make a choice what to eat, what to get dressed in…and if you always did the same thing you’d never take any first steps.  But then would you be experiencing everything life has to offer?

I think as teachers and parents we think we’re done with our “living” and focus on teaching the young ones about it.  But the best teachers are the experienced ones.  The best instructional tool is being a great example.

I want my kids to be lovers of life.  I want them to be first step takers.  I want them to experience everything, the good and the bad.  And that means I have to show them what a first step taker looks like, acts like…what he does everyday in everything.

I think I’ll take that first step, and choose to go outside now.  Maybe I’ll go bird watching.  I’ve always thought about doing that.


Boys are awesome (girls are too)


If you are a teacher, educator or parent, you know there is a big difference between boys and girls (beyond the obvious grass stains).  You know that boys deal with problems, handle stresses, deal with boredom, deal with friendships, deal with authority all differently.

I want to be up front about the fact that I enjoy teaching girls in my class – that’s obvious.  Most teachers will tell you that the girls in their class are fairly well behaved (elementary grades).  They sit still, do their work, and their handwriting is so nice!

I’ll contend that school is a place where a girl (for the most part – there’s always exceptions to the general rule) will do well.  The sit and be nice model works for the way a girl handles life (Brain Rules – Medina).

Boys don’t sit still as well.  They are wild and crazy.  They have too much energy.  They want to hit a problem with their actual head, rather than try and solve it with their mind.

But boys are awesome too.  They are fearless and boundless.  They don’t have the problems socially with cliques so early on like girls sometimes do.  And they are enthusiastic when they are interested.  So INTEREST THEM.

Do something to engage the boys in your class.  Do something messy.  You’ll both thank me for it (and you won’t have to wrangle Johnny into his seat for the thousandth time that day).


Engagement is the key


We have the curriculum.  We have the great teachers.  We even have technology and district support.  But if the kids aren’t listening, there’s no point to the whole thing.  If the kids aren’t paying attention…if the kids just don’t CARE – there’s nothing in the world that can change it.

We need to get them engaged – engaged in the work.  Interested in the work.  They need to WANTto do it.   Without engagement, we’re knocking on a locked door.  Engagement is the key into their heads.

So, how do we engage?  There’s the old teaching tricks which still work well – use a “hook” to get them interested, discuss the stuff they are interested in (if I have to do one more problem solving problem having to do with candy or football, I swear…), use their names in the examples…those are all great and useful.  But we need to kick it up a notch with today’s learners.

1- It’s got to be relevant.  They aren’t stupid – if they know it’s something that really doesn’t MATTER, then it’s not going to matter how much you make it about pokemon cards.  They wont’ care, because it isn’t important.  You need to prove to them that it’s something they need, and can use in the future, and is RELEVANT to their lives.

2 – It’s got to be fun.  It won’t always be so simple, and nothing can be fun for everyone all the time, but it’s got to have an element of fun.  Let’s be honest – we like things to be fun too.  That’s really what FUN means.  And don’t you like teaching when it’s fun for YOU too?

3- Use technology.  Not embracing the current technologies – phones, pads, projectors, the internet…is only going to stifle a student’s growth.  The more they can control those technologies, the more they’ll be in a position to control the earth in the future.  They are the ones who’re going to be in charge of your life in 60 years – let’s make sure THEY understand how to program the VCR. 🙂 – besides, it will ENGAGE them (and it makes the work all the more relevant at the same time).  Don’t be afraid.  Use their smartphones.

4- Target instruction.  This is the toughest one in my opinion, because it takes a lot of juggling.  But if you can get the right learning targets to the right students, they are going to be motivated to be successful.  You lose half your audience when you’re targeting the instruction too high or too low.  It’s tough to do, but it’s worth it (and it IS possible – I have to give the same lesson to 1st graders, 2nd graders, 3rd and 4th graders at the same time.  It’s hard, but doable.  Trust me).


@MisterEdie on twitter – follow me!

http://tinyurl.com/edieninos1 for more info!

Everyone is a Hero in their own Way


When you go out in the morning, do you see yourself as the hero or villian in your story?  I’m willing to bet almost everyone sees themselves as the Batman in their story (or Superman, or Wonder Woman…).  And the people that are the challenges in your life, they are the bad guys – the Jokers, Lex Luthors, and…whomever Wonder Woman fights.

What we need is new thinking.  We need a realization that EVERYONE is the hero in their story.  To Apollo, Rocky was some upstart young guy who didn’t pay his dues who was getting into the big leagues and trying to steal his thunder and his paycheck.  This guy needed taken down a peg, and it was up to the hero – Apollo Creed – to do it. 

When you come up against your nemisis (like the lady at the coffee shop that always ruins your order, or the co worker who is passive agressive and always talks behind your back, or the boss who yells a lot for no reason) or just someone who is making your life difficult (like that kid who just won’t stop talking about his summer vacation, or the one who always whines when he loses at checkers) try to remember that they aren’t the villain.  They’re the hero of their story, and it’s up to you to meet them with respect – like Batman and Superman do.  They may not agree all the time.  They may believe THEY are the right hero for the job.  But they aknowldege they are both heroes, just trying to do good in this crazy little world.  And they respect each other.

Respect each other today, and believe like I believe – people are just trying to do the right thing (even if they don’t always do it the right way!).

check out http://www.livingthecrazykidslife.blogspot.com  or http://tinyurl.com/edieloco to hear about my own little life’s heroes.

Double Duty

I love when you can kill two birds with one stone.
Sometimes when you’re teaching kids you lose yourself in the process. In fact, focusing on the objective at hand is extremely important. However, if you can combine objectives – if you can do two things at once – that’s even better.
100 years ago it was pretty good if you could just read and write. But as we learn more an more about our earth, there’s more and more we have to teach. I can’t imagine what the state standards are going to look like another 100 years from now!
But with all that to teach, there’s not enough time to do it one by one. You have to get creative.
Recently we did gingerbread houses with crackers and frosting. It was great, because we could talk about nutrition, and also about communities and construciton. We talked about squares, rectangles, triangles. We talked about weight and load bearing, and why roofs should be peaked.
And in the end, we had a snack. That’s killing two birds with one stone!
check out http://www.mredie.com for more fun ideas to do with the students (or your own kids), and check out the instant plans section if you’ve got a sub day coming up.