The Little Boy and the Tokens

The Little Boy and the Tokens

The little boy glanced up and saw an old lady struggling to juggle her two large bags of groceries. He looked at his momma, who nodded her head, then he rushed over to the lady and asked her if he could help.

“Why, thank you young man. What a sweet boy you are,” beamed the old lady.

After they put the grocery bags into her trunk, she turned to the little boy and said, “Your generosity and helpfulness have earned you this token. Come back and see me after you collect ten of these tokens and you will get a special prize.”

The little boy didn’t expect any sort of payment because his momma taught him to do the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do. She said a smile from a grateful person is worth its weight in gold. However, he was delighted to get the token and daydreamed the whole way home about the prize that awaited him.

As the next couple weeks went by, he noticed that the people who carried tokens to give to helpful children wore a yellow flower pin on their collars. The pins were small, but the boy grew able to spot them a long distance away. He sprinted to be the first person to help someone with a yellow flower pin, whether he was again at the grocery store, at church, at school, or even walking down Main Street.

The little boy’s momma was pleased with her son’s helpfulness. Their family had always valued the Golden Rule of, “doing unto others as you would have done unto you.” She was hopeful that the tokens he treasured weren’t becoming the sole reason for his good deeds. Momma knew that her boy would not be given tokens for his good deeds when he was a grown up. She earns the same paycheck as her grumpy co-worker.

One day, the little boy counted up his tokens and was surprised to discover that he had collected nine. He needed just one more before he could turn them in for that long-awaited prize. Oh boy! He felt like he was going to burst with excitement.

That same day, he went to the grocery store with momma again. As they exited the store with their bags, the boy scanned the parking lot for yellow flower pins. He saw two people heading to their cars. One was an old man who looked like he was about to drop one of his heavy bags. The other was a woman carrying just one bag. He didn’t even see the old man as he spotted the yellow pin on the woman. He knew today would be the day he got that tenth token.

The boy didn’t look for his mom’s permission before running over to the lady. He asked her if she needed help, and she shrugged her shoulders and handed the boy her bag. After the bag was placed in her car, she thanked the little boy and got in her car and left. He stood there in disbelief.

He couldn’t believe that he didn’t get anything for his helpfulness. He scowled and kicked at the ground as he went back to his mother. He never looked up to see that the old man who was struggling with his bags had actually dropped one of them, spilling groceries, cans rolling all over the parking lot.

The boy wouldn’t give up his quest for his tenth token, and he did receive it that week. In anticipation he could barely contain, he gathered up his tokens and headed to the house of the old woman.

The old woman greeted him at the door with a smile and led him to a wooden chest. The boy was wide-eyed as she opened it. However, his grin turned into a frown quickly as he looked over the prizes. These were just trinkets, silly little toys that he could get from the dentist after getting his teeth cleaned. He had waited all this time and helped all those people for this junk?

He was too polite to say any of this to the woman, so he took one of the trinkets and walked home discouraged.

“I am never ever gonna help anyone again if all I get as a reward is junk!” the boy said to himself as he threw his prize on the table in his own house.

Momma saw his discouragement and anger and went to stand next to her little man, wrapping her arm around his shoulders. She whispered in his ear something he will never forget.

“The swell of joy in your heart as your kindness spreads a smile across someone’s face is the best reward in the world. It beats any trinket or even any paycheck. Kindness freely given builds people up and creates bridges across continents of sadness. Yours is a kind soul, and you need no prize other than the pride you feel by making someone’s day.”

Image source: HERE




There is an Ugly Green Monster Under My Bed

There is an Ugly Green Monster Under My Bed

When I was younger, there were times when I was jealous of someone’s success. Oh, I would try to disguise my jealousy in the form of criticism usually. In my head, I would poke holes in the person’s success. I would feel bad because I knew I wasn’t being nice. When I peeled the layers away to try to figure out what was going on, I recognized the green ugly monster that was residing within me. I was plain ol’ jealous. But, that was a long time ago. I have completely buried that monster.

If we consider yesterday a long time ago.

It happens all the time. Why are we so scared of others’ strengths?

I know why I am.

I am scared of the successes of another because I am insecure. I am not sure if I can keep up with them, I am not sure I even want to. When I see someone else doing something great, but it is something I am uncertain I can do, it is much easier on my psyche to criticize and judge them and to trivialize their successes than to accept my own weaknesses.

Yet, there are these beautiful people who float around and seem genuinely happy for others’ successes. I love these people. They have a light, airiness about them and they exude joy. They must have defeated their ugly green monsters in a skipping contest. Or, maybe they never had a monster at all. But, man, their smiles and enthusiasm for the hard work of others is a joyful sight.

They even want to share the successes of others, to shout them from the rooftops. Those monster-free people don’t seem to be worried about themselves at all as they celebrate the gifts bestowed upon someone else.

Are these people anomalies of nature, or can anyone rid themselves of the constraints of jealousy? I am asking for a friend…

If I were to create a recipe for a jealousy-free life, I might mix in the following:

  1. Love for others
  2. Love for yourself
  3. Humility
  4. Selflessness
  5. Acceptance

Stir twice and sprinkle over your green monster as needed.

The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.

-William Penn

Image source:  HERE

Why Don’t You Cry Anymore, Student of Mine?

Why Don’t You Cry Anymore, Student of Mine?

Why don’t you cry anymore, student of mine?

You looked so scared that first day of school.

I didn’t know how to help you.

So I started with a side hug and

I told you how glad I am that you are in our class.

When you wouldn’t talk to me or join the group,

I knew you needed time to learn to trust me, to trust us.

You didn’t smile

When I shared about my family

And my fascination with funny cat videos.

You did smile

When I held your hand on the slide.

You started to feel better after you made a friend

And then another.

I told you about all the good things you were doing.

I ignored many of the other things you did,

Because I know you behave that way

For a reason.

You didn’t cry the second day.

And by the third day,

You looked up at me,

Your grin going from ear to ear,

And handed me a note.

It said, “I love you.”

I think that means that

You know that

I love you too.

My Secret Talent

My Secret Talent

I am the designated finder of all lost things in my family.

I live with three males, not that I am stereotyping all males as inept finders. It is probably just the guys I live with. They cannot find anything. Even if it is right in front of them. Like the milk in the fridge. Seriously.

I have come to pride myself as a talented finder. Every time one of my guys is in the depths of despair because of a lost a phone, wallet, beloved treasure, car keys, etc. I feel a swelling of self-satisfaction as I come to his rescue.

On another note, I am also addicted to true-crime podcasts. I love learning things like the logic a dive team follows as they attempt to search a lake for a body. I am so intrigued by all the seemingly-minor details and how they tie together to form a lead.

What do my incredible talent for finding things and my addiction to true-crime podcasts have in common? In both instances, we follow the data.

When I am in the process of finding something, I gather data-points. In contrast, my sons and my husband start searching in a willy-nilly fashion, frantically moving from room to room. Meanwhile, I step back and gather data by asking questions.

  • When did you last use your wallet?
  • Where were you?
  • What did you do immediately following that?
  • When do you last remember seeing your wallet?
  • What were you wearing when you last saw your wallet?
  • Where are those pants?

I also draw on my prior knowledge of similar situations. As you can imagine, I have a plethora of similar situations to draw upon. I ask myself, where did I find the wallet the last time? Where does he usually keep his wallet?

My husband will so often say, “There is no way my wallet (keys, phone, travel coffee mug, etc.) could be there.” But when you follow the data, you often surprise yourself with what you find.

Of course, as a principal, I began thinking about how this translates into our work with students. Do we follow data-points to help us help students? Or do we frantically move from Pinterest idea to Teachers-Pay-Teachers idea to new-fangled program, crossing our fingers and hoping that one of them works?

In this case, I am not referring to standardized test results. That data is “easy data”–we can easily use the results to see what our students showed they know and don’t know. The data I am talking about is the more elusive “then what?” data. How do we help students develop mastery once we have established what they don’t know?

To begin looking at “then what?” data, maybe we could ask similar types of questions.

  • What worked for this student in the past?
  • What strategy worked best to help similar students practice this skill to the point of mastery?
  • What helps me as a learner to develop competency in skills?
  • What strengths does the student have, and could we utilize a strength to help develop this skill?
  • What interests does the student have and would tying an interest to this skill be helpful for him/her?
  • What does the research tell us about student learning? What practices might give us the biggest bang for the buck?

As with everything, relationships are key. We have to have positive and trusting relationships in order to get good data. If I asked my husband where he last used his wallet and he didn’t want to tell me where he was, I am going to get useless data. For our students, it’s the same. If we ask a student about a time he/she practiced a skill to mastery and how he/she did that, the strength of the relationship will determine the usefulness of the student’s response.

I don’t think I was born with my finding talent, I think I developed it and honed it out of necessity. My secret talent isn’t something as impressive as, say, Danny Bonaduce‘s skill on a unicycle, but it does give me job security at home and it comes in pretty handy at school.

Follow the data. Not just the easy data, like which learning standards students don’t know. Follow the “then what?” data to figure out how we help students with the what.

Image source HERE

Do Less This Year, Allowing Students To Do More

Do Less This Year, Allowing Students To Do More

Summer is a great time to recharge, reflect, and learn for educators. Based on your reflection and learning this summer, what are your goals for your classroom this year? And, how are you going to get there?

Based on my learning this summer, I developed a list of five simple ways to increase learning in your classroom while empowering students. Not only will the students reap great benefits, but these goals will help teachers stay engaged and excited about student learning.

  • Talk way less so that student voices can be heard. Whoever is doing the talking is doing the thinking, and teachers are smart enough. Let students do the talking and the thinking. Don’t just decrease teacher talk a little, decrease it dramatically while increasing the number of open-ended questions you ask exponentially.
  • Be curiosity-based. Explore your own curiosities and let that fuel your passion for learning. Then, allow students to do the same. Start as many sentences as possible with, “I wonder…” or, “I am curious about…”. Start questions with, “What are you wondering about…” or, “What are you curious about…”
  • Focus on what students are doing rather than what you are doing, and let that determine your effectiveness as a teacher. Are students cognitively engaged? Are they enthusiastic about their learning? How do you know, what evidence do you have that suggests that? It is not about a ‘show’ you put on–it is about what is going on in their heads.
  • Try something new regularly. If you are super ambitious, try something new every week. If you are a little more cautious, try one new thing a month. It could be a new technology tool, a great idea for helping students practice a skill, or a relationship-building strategy. Don’t be afraid of failure, not all your new ideas will be winners. Some may flop, but that is okay because you have a new thing to try just around the corner.
  • Help students set goals and track their progress toward the goal. It is empowering and motivating, and allows students to ‘own’ their learning. Not only that, research has proven over and over that when students set goals and track their progress, achievement increases. If you are just starting to have students set goals and track them, start small with just one subject. Build success and grow from there.

I am a principal, and my own goals this year mirror these classroom goals, just replace ‘students’ with ‘teachers’. I always see myself as a path-clearer and a thinking partner for the teachers I work with. This year, I will work to support them in exploring curiosities, trying new things, and empowering student voice.

Looking forward to our best year in education yet! Yay school!

I am not awesome. Yet.

I am not awesome. Yet.

I walked out of the grocery store knowing that I forgot something. I always forget something, even when I make a list. I never remember my reusable grocery bags either. I usually end up sweaty and flustered by the end of the shopping trip. Today was no exception.

As I loaded the groceries into my trunk, I looked over at the woman parked next to me. Not only did she have her groceries perfectly bagged into reusable grocery bags, she was loading all of her refrigerated and frozen foods into empty coolers she had waiting for that very purpose. She was humming peacefully, looking calm and ready to tackle a day full of productivity. 

I looked away, wiped my sweaty brow, and said to myself, “I want to be her when I grow up. #lifegoals.” 

I didn’t concern myself too much that she was probably younger than me. Also, when did I start talking to myself in hashtags?

I am not awesome. Yet.

I have my very own workbench in our pole barn. It is super cute and very functional. I used it like three times in the month after I got it before it became piled over with stuff. I want to be crafty and Pinterest-y, I really do. But, my creativity waxes and wanes.

I am not awesome. Yet.

My house is usually pretty clean and organized. But my car? Forgettaboutit. A disaster always.

I start each day with goals for how I will eat and exercise. I’d say there is a 75/25 chance I will come close to accomplishing my goals, as in 25% of the time I am remotely successful.

I am terribly uncoordinated. Just ask my friend who allowed me to drive her dinghy the other day–I don’t think she intended for me to nearly drive it into the cottage next door.

I try not to be mean to others, but sometimes I get caught up in thinking about myself first and am inadvertently hurtful.

I am not awesome. Yet. Sometimes I just plain stink (figuratively only I hope). Why do I tell you this? To help us all to fight a disease that affects so many–the pursuit of perfection. I will never be perfect, I don’t even want to be. That would be so boring and give me so much less to laugh about.

I will try to be a little bit better every day. I will try to make sure my failures and short-comings don’t interrupt my enjoyment of life or the lives of the people around me. These #lifegoals will happen…but, the empty cooler in the trunk for groceries is waaayyy out of my league.

To laugh at yourself is to love yourself. -Mickey Mouse

Special thanks to my friend Adolf Brown for teaching me and others that the pursuit of perfection is a disease. What a weight off the shoulders!

A Poem for Principals

A Poem for Principals

So begins another school year
The smiles on our faces bright and clear

Excitement abounds at the possibilities embed
In a brand new year, a fresh start ahead

As the thrill wears off and the honeymoon ends
Let's compel each principal to carefully attend

To both the positive, exciting news teachers share
And the frustrations and criticisms they have because they care

They care about doing the very best for learning
And sometimes the feedback they give us is concerning

Don't dismiss complaints with a wave of the hand
Citing grumpiness or tiredness or unweilding demands

Listen to your teachers with an open mind and heart
Be a team, through good and bad, that no one can part

So begins another school year
The smiles on our faces bright and clear

Honest discussions, no right and no wrong
Echo through the hallways all year long

So that on the very last day of the year,
Surprisingly, we have to wipe away a tear

Because we cannot believe how much was accomplished
When really working together, the results astonished

Image source HERE