31 Days of Teaching Like an Artist Day 1

product_thumbnail 31 Days from now, I will have written 31 blogs!  This is exciting since my goal for blog posts this year is 52!  I have written two so far, and it is March.  So, it is time.

This year at the 2017 Macul Conference, I won a prize! I was privileged to be in an amazing session, and won Mike Petty’s Teaching Like an Artist book. After being hooked on the first entry of a 31 day challenge with journal and reflection prompts, I decided this this book would be exactly what I needed to get me blogging every day!

So here it is.  Day 1.

Finding your Passion. First, start by listing your three favorite movies.  After much deliberation, here they are.  This honestly took about a day to figure out! This is based on Michael Hyatt’s work.

  1.  Notting Hill
  2. The Family Man
  3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

What common thread runs through them? Figuring out a common thread between all three movies provided to be a challenging task.  I realized that I like the fact that each of these stories are about a journey.  The protagonist goes through so many different challenges throughout the movie.  It does take them a while to even figure out that they are on a journey in the first place.  I love that once they get a goal in mind, and realize what they are looking to accomplish, nothing will stand in their way.  I love the raw story. I love that they are attacked to the simple life, and focus on relationships.  I love seeing a character take a risk.  Maybe these are all things that I am hoping come true for me.  These movies also bring up some of my favorite things.  London, friendship, books, being a mom, writing, and travel.

What do you think that indicates about your passion?  I am a sucker for a good story. I like to hear about people’s lives.  I like the process in something. I like seeing growth.  I am attacked to  the idea of really living life, and  enjoying the present. I love the challenge, and making things my own. I like seeing a story as a work of art. I like seeing someone or myself work through challenges.

If you think this helped to clarify your passion, state your passion in a sentence. One sentence is tough.  So, I might revise it as I think about it. I might also look at a list of themes from literature to see if anything sticks out.

I crave a story filled with challenges. (This is a working passion).  3/20

Would this activity be useful with any students or classes that you are teaching?  If so, describe how you might use it.  Are there ways that you could modify it, basing it on students’ favorite songs or books, for example?  I like this activity.  It was tough to look at three movies, rather than just one or two.  I can see using this in the classroom. I might start with my 8th graders for a journalism class activity.  I am not sure if I would use the word passion. That seems like of heavy for a middle school student.  I like the idea of using books too. I could easily come up with books that were my favorite, but I struggled with wondering if there was a reason it was a movie (more fiction oriented). I know that if I did books, I would most likely  have a few non fiction thrown in.  I do like the idea of  song lyrics too! That is kind of a neat way of thinking about a topic too.  However, the songs I like seem to change over the years. I do think students would like songs.  Maybe rather than just passion, I would have students look at learning about themselves.

Sharing Authors and Titles

One of my favorite questions to ask a reader is, “What are you reading right now?”  Hearing a title, author and brief plot summary not only gives me an idea of a new book that I might want to read, but a way to get to know a person a little bit more.  I love hearing about why a person chose a particular book, and what his or her opinion is about the author, style subject matter, or plot. As one of my favorite Bloggers and Pod-castors, Anne Bogel says, “How good it is to be among readers”.  This is true for me.  Hearing about books is comforting and truly makes me feel balanced as if all the world is right for a little while.

This year I am have read two different books that were recommended by my very good friend Sarah.  She really enjoyed, “At the Water’s Edge”, and “Living Well Spending Less”.  It was  really neat to pick up two books, where I was familiar with the author, but  would not necessarily have read without the recommendation.  Nichole, a friend of mine from work recommended, “The Book of Joy:  Lasting Happiness in a changing world”, and I absolutely loved it. I truly savored the book like an exceptional piece of dark chocolate.   Had it not been for her talking about the book being so amazing, I am not sure I would have picked it up, let alone bought it.

One of the reason I belong to a few book clubs is to have exposure to the recommendations from so many other readers.  I love hearing someone talk passionately about a book.  While I did enjoy both of these books, there are times that someone will recommend a book and I just won’t be that into it.  Maybe it is not the right time, or maybe it is not the right book for me.  “Literary Matchmaking”,  as Ann Bogel calls it is tough.  The good thing, is that a number of the books I get are from the library, and therefore can be returned without a lot of hassle.  When I find myself wishing that the book was over, then I know that I have to put it aside;  unless of course I am almost at the end, or I sense there is still something that can be gained from the book.  With the massive amount of books in circulation today, there is always something else that I would almost certainly like better.

On recommending books.  While it is tough to truly know if someone will love a book that you recommend, it is worth while to share what you are reading.  It makes you interesting, and gives  you something to talk about.  Plus, it is another way to give.  Podcast

My Running Story

Imagine this, You are a Senior on the varsity basketball team. You don’t get a lot of playing time, so you are truly excited to be in the game. All of a sudden, your coach yells loud enough so that the entire gymnasium could hear, “You know why I have you back here Laura? Because, your too slow.” I was crushed and embarrassed. I loved team sports growing up, but I always dreaded the running part of practice. Running around the block seemed like an ultra marathon. I was almost always one of the slowest on whichever team I was part of. Running a mile seemed insurmountable. I had run a few 5K races with the family, but truly felt complete exhaustion for days after a 3.1 mile race. For some reason, I was always drawn to the idea of being able to run a long distance and enjoy it. It seemed like something so beyond my range of ability.

Fast-forward a few months. My desire to pursue running was about to change. College had begun. I was on a first date with a guy I really liked (He is now my husband). He had been an awesome cross country runner in high school and was still running. His times were impressive. As conversation progressed that on our first date, out of my mouth came words that shocked me, “Oh, you like to run, we should go running sometime together.” As I got into bed that night I thought about what I had actually said. I was suggesting that I go running with someone who could easily run a 10K! It was that evening back in September of 1997, that I realized I had better start running again so that I would be able to follow through on my proposed running date! My desire to be a runner started out as I wanted to impress a guy, and have something in common with him. Weeks of running started to come together, and sure enough I can still remember one of our first runs. I think I ended up stopping once or twice, but we made it five miles! I was pretty proud of myself. It was pretty incredible to have had the support of someone who did not question my desire to run no matter how out of shape I probably seemed. He believed in me, and treated me as if I was a runner and good enough to be running with. He allowed me to be part of the community of runners when I was not sure I was good enough to belong. I can still remember what that felt like, which is why I am always striving to give others that same experience.

For me the mile run that seemed near impossible turned into several 5K, 10K and 20K, 2 half marathons, 23 marathons and one ultra marathon . I remember after he ran his first Detroit marathon, I thought, I can do that. And, I will do that. At the time, I really had no idea what exactly a marathon was. I am not sure I even understood how many miles it was when I decided it was something I would do. I was not trained correctly for my first marathon. I felt it, and gained a whole new respect for distance running. I remember my uncle (also a marathon runner), telling me that I would have the desire to run another one when I finished the race. At mile 17, I did not think that was possible! Never again would I run! This was hard! Sure enough, he was right. Upon crossing the finish line on Ford Field back in 2002, as tears welled up in my eyes, I realized I was hooked.

Running has carried me through two college degrees, studying in Mexico, changes in jobs, three pregnancies, and 15 years of marriage. I ran through a diagnosis of Celiac Disease, teaching layoffs, a miscarriage, and all of the uncertainty that comes with life. Today, I am a middle school teacher and a mom of three very busy kids. I have never stopped running. It has carried me through some of my toughest times. I know that I can always count on the road, and that no matter what, if I show up and run, I am always better because of it. Running brings me closer to God. Today I run to be an example for my kids and my students and connect with other athletes. But, most importantly I run for me. I run because it allows me time to pray, be brave, overcome challenges, connect to others, enjoy competition, be healthy, handle stress, be in the moment, be creative, engage with the beautiful world, think big and discover a way to become the best version of myself.

Right now I am reading…


The Teach Like a Pirate series books for educators are amazing!  I recently bought Play Like a Pirate at a conference, and was hooked!  The books are so captivating, full of high energy and give the reader so many practical ideas that can be used in the classroom.  Lately, this series has been an amazing read during the end of the school year.  The book is pretty short, and would make an awesome book study or book club read.

The Uglies is a book that has been crammed in my classroom bookshelf for quite sometime.  I remember teaching high school, and having a student tell me about reading it.  However, it was not until I watched a recent video a part of a 7th grade English teacher’s blog that I knew I needed to read the book.  When her students of both genders would say that it was the best book that they had ever read, I decided it was time to give it a go.  I am excited!

Two books at once?  I find that I am most grounded when I am reading a fiction and nonfiction book at the same time. When I say the “same time”, I don’t mean that I read both of them every day.  I might get lost in my fiction for several days, and not have time to read the other book.  But, overall I love the spontaneity and flexibility of being able to go back and forth when I am looking to challenge myself with something new.

Once again I am part of a group book challenge.  I have to read 60 books in various categories.  While it is a lot of work, I love the way the challenge is designed to stretch me as a reader.  I am required to see out different genres, and get out of my comfort zone.  I also found out last year, as I was part of this challenge, that there will be books that do not fall into any of the categories.  I love when it is determined that a book is a must read, and therefore it does not matter if it “counts” or not.  As of right now, I have read 19 books this year.  I am not sure that all of the different books in the, “Pirate education series will fit”.  However, they are so good, and the authors are so captivating and willing to interact online, that these are “must reads” while my energy and focus are there.

Check out my ELA Instagram account.  You can see more of the book that are being recommended.  #scmsela7

My kids were encouraged to play sports.

Why sports?

From soccer to baseball, basketball, tennis, running and dance;  my kids have played it all.  My kids absolutely love being on a team or participating with a group of people in an athletic competition.  My husband and I are both athletic, and played several sports when we were younger.  We both continue to train as distance runners.  In addition to their own sports, my kids have grown up watching races of all distances.  They have helped  to congratulate me at more marathon finish lines than they can count on their hands.  So, the other day I started thinking about my kids, and why I have encouraged their participation in sports.

Active participation on athletic teams, has taught me some of my greatest lessons.  I have learned how to work with teammates toward a common goal.  I have had to be patient and sit on the bench, even when I so desperately wanted to get into a game.  I have struck out, or missed a free throw when it mattered.  Many of the words that coaches used to stay still come out of my mouth today.l  There is no substitute for the tremendous feeling of winning a close game! Lessons about good sportsmanship also matter.  There are many times when another player has not been respectful during a game.  However, kids quickly learn that it always important to take the high road.  When my kids are part of a team, they represent something big!  Therefore, there behavior, attitude, appreance and overall respect for others is always on display.  They soon resize what it is like to be a role model .

In addition to all the lessons abut character, student athletes  are active, and inderstand why eating healthy and sleeping well are necessary. They also understand how amazing it can feel to run around for an hour.

While there are so many positives, being a student athlete can be tough.  There are days when it exhausting, and practice does not sound like fun.  Completing homework in the late hours after a busy night at the baseball field can be daunting .  But, is there a better way to prepare for real life?  Lessons about time management and priorities are best learned when kids are younger.

My ONE Word.

At the end of 2015, I saw a post the immediately grabbed my attention. It was about the “one word” resolution for the year.  A few people I respect had tried it, so I thought why not!

My one word

The idea was not to focus on a bunch of different resolutions, but to simplify change that you want to make by turning attention to one word that could encompass everything.

I thought about my word for a long time.  The next day, I decided the word should be mindfulness.  It sounded like something that I “should” be doing more of. It also sounded like a rather intense word, so I thought I would check out a few library books on the word and learn about it if this was going to be my word.

The next day, I began thumbing  through my books on mindfulness.  There was a lot to learn.  The problem was that I was not excited about my word.  No matter what I tried to do, it did not have any energy.  Ultimately, I needed to keep looking for a new word.

That was when it hit me in the middle of a shopping mall.  We were waiting for dinner on our anniversary, and a woman came walking through with a Christmas Shopping bag that said, “Believe”.  Right away, I knew it was my word.  I was excited, felt the energy in the word, and could not wait to start thinking about how I would use this word every day!

I would encourage myself to believe in others, believe in the process of things, believe in myself and ultimately strengthen belief in God and my faith.  It was the perfect word.  Believe reminds me of magic, and a magical word that sparkles is exactly what I was looking for.




Solving the Battle of Chores and Allowance

I never thought it would happen!  My kids are excited to do chores!  And, the best part is that we are not paying them for everything that they do!  We have eliminated tears, procrastination, arguments and a messy house!  It feels like a dream come true!

When I stop to think about why this plan is successful, there are a few key things that stand out.  This time I decided to think like a teacher, “What is my objective?  What I am I really trying to teach my kids here?  What do I want the end result to look like?

  1. I want my kids to realize that they should not be paid for everything that they do.
  2. If something needs to be done, step up and help out.  
  3. A system must be simple and easy for everyone to understand and then follow.
  4. Systems work well when they are objective, visible and predictable.  
  5. If you are willing to work, you can make money.  
  6. It is important to take responsibility for the work you need to do.

I am a mom of a 4, 7 and 8 year old kids.  I will say, that this plan might be tough for kids that are too young. As an educator, I am aware that each child is very unique.  Children grasp things at different points.  Therefore, if I were to answer the question, what is the perfect age to start this chore system, I am not sure that I can give an exact age.  What I do know is that it really depends on the individual child, and that I have hit a sweet spot with my kids ranging in age from four to eight years old.

The chore plan that I have been using this summer is actually a hybrid of a few different things that I saw on line, as well as my own experiences, and a culmination of a few last minute thoughts from my husband.

So here is the plan.  At the start of each week (Monday), the kids get a new punch card with 15 numbers on it.  I use a single hole punch to punch one of the numbers when someone does a job.  IMG_1126The neat thing about this system is that the kids get to select different jobs all the time.  I wanted to find a way to have autonomy over the jobs they do.  I also needed to have something flexible that could be done even on vacation.  The child must tell my husband or I what they have completed, and we get to be the judge to decide if it is satisfactory according to our standards.  It is first come first serve on the job.  It is possible for the same job to be done twice in one day if the area gets messy twice.  However, you may not clean something that does not need to be done.  A child can do as many jobs as he or she would like to do in one day.  This is where they get to be accountable, and take responsibility for completing their chores within the allotted amount of time.  In this way, we are also learning about time management.

Everything from setting the table to cleaning a bedroom are fair game.  I even offer punches for helping me pack lunches for a day at the beach, creating a list for grocery shopping, and clipping coupons.  I love the absence of argument about which jobs someone will do.  It is possible that we will be so busy on a certain day, that hardly any jobs will get done.  That’s okay.  As long as each child gets ten punches by Sunday evening, he or she has completed the quest for the week.

A minimum of 10 punches in one week sheds light on the next topic to highlight.  At the start of the summer I had actually stopped paying for chores that were done.  I did not want to continue paying kids for every little job that they did.   However, I noticed that nobody was really doing anything and I was nagging a lot!  One of the core values that I wanted to instil, was that when there is a need you step up; and sometimes you do something just to help out.  Sometimes you don’t get paid.  It is important to feel a sense of community, and help out the family.  Originally my plan was for the kids to get ten hole punches each, and that would make their chores complete.  No money was to be attached.  Then, my husband had a brilliant idea!

What if the first ten hole punches were done just to help out; responsibilities because you live here and this is your way of  giving back.  And then, what if anything after the minimum of ten jobs each extra job was worth 25 cents?  This worked great!  My hardworking middle son Luke, has truly figured out one of my core values that if you are willing to work hard, there is a way that you can make money.

After two weeks, the system is working better than I could have imagined. I keep the punch cards along with the hole puncher in the kitchen by the electronics. I also have brought it in my purse on vacation and been able to keep the system going.  As long as there’s follow through on my part I can see this working for a long time.  So far the kids have made anything from zero extra dollars to $1.25.  I love rewarding people who have taken initiative and are working hard.  IMG_1127

Lastly, the system works well because it is objective, predictable and visible.  It is easy for me to keep track of the punches, so it is always updated.  I dont have a problem saying to someone, “You have only 3 punches, I need something done from you.”  Everyone is on the same plan, which creates a sense of community as well.  The more success I have with it, the more I think about doing an adapted plan in my classroom. I am not sure what it will look like, but I like the basic components of this plan.  The neat thing is that everyone is on board and really does like the structure of it.  My kids are taking responsibility for completing their chores!  It is wonderful.  

Putting the Magic in Education with Collaboration

Teaching is a tough profession. Today, in a world overflowing with technology and opportunities to be a connected educator, we make the choice to be isolated.  Collaboration allows for teachers to bring back the magic and energy in teaching!

This year I have learned what it really means to be a connected educator.  Working with teachers around the world has allowed me to see a whole new side of connecting.

My favorite teacher to collaborate with this year has been 4th grade teacher, Rachel Card.  I had an opportunity to talk to Rachel at my first Ed Camp.  In November of 2014, we both attended the Blue Water Ed Camp, and found huge success in the format.  Collaboration and brainstorming was immediately in the works.

Fast-forward two months.  Rachel and I were both involved in the #Miched chat one Wednesday evening.  Somehow something another teacher said got us both on the track of thinking about Genius hour.  When Rachel mentioned that her 4th graders would be participating in Genius hour this spring, I wondered what it would be like for our students to have the opportunity to collaborate while doing the project.  I remember the idea of having “penpals” popped into my head.  She had a few fantastic ideas about how we could structure it using Kid Blog, and truly had a vision of what this could look like.  The new found energy that I had was unbelievable.  I could not believe how excited I was to plan a research unit!

Over the next few months, we delivered a spectacular Genius Hour Project to our students.  We took turns creating between 3 and 5 key questions for students to focus on while they would spend time researching over the course of the week.  We used Kid Blog to keep this organized.  It was neat to be able to comment on the other classes’ blog entries.  My students enjoyed giving helpful advice, and serving in more of a mentoring role.

Although, it was not long before the students were aware of how sharp the 4th graders in Mrs. Card’s class are.  These students demonstrated passion, depth in their thinking, technology skills and were very prompt in completing their assignments.  My students learned several things from their blogs as well as finished product.  It was so neat for the students to realize that Genius knows no age.  Students of any level can be innovative in their thinking.  We can each learn something new from another student.

The finished products between both classes were amazing!  Many students created websites and blogs.  A few students chose to do a Prezi or other electronic medium.  Overall, students were able to demonstrate their thinking digitally.

After Genius hour was complete, we decided to continue collaborating.  Our next objective was to find a way to do the Makerspace within the confines of several classrooms.  We started the box challenges in my class.   Once we found a way to be successful within the parameters of both of our classrooms we sent the box challenge through inner office mail.  Students were collaborating and creating things!  It was amazing!  Again, my students got an opportunity to serve in a leadership role with fourth graders.  Seeing students  pour over their textbook trying to find the perfect objective and supporting questions was downright amazing!

After the box challenges, we moved into a large Earth Day assignment.  A full description of what we did is mentioned on the entry Earth Day Makerspace.   The collaboration was extremely helpful.  Rachel pointed out the perfect TED talk to build the perfect frame around our lesson.  Again, amazing results.

After showing a few miscellaneous videos that my students had created to show dept of thinking and voice, we decided to take an article that would allow students to take a stance and respond with evidence.  Both classes read the article, then, one would start by selecting between 3-5 students to identify their position and support it with evidence from the article.  Once a class received the video, they would then use a similar number of students to do a rebuttal based on the claims that were made from the other class.  This activity will continue throughout the remainder of the year and has truly helped my students to develop skills that require close listening and reading.  Aside from working on basic public speaking skills and digital citizenship, students are receiving real world experiences talking about bigger issues that matter. They are using their voice, and realizing what they have to say does matter. They are realizing the proper way to discuss a controversial issue.  Students have been working hard to create objective responses that in no way target the individual making the claim that they disagree with.

You tube, imovie and Twitter allowed us to connect and constantly share what we were working on back and forth.  To top off the experience and be able to collaborate with even more teachers, we  submitted a proposal to speak about our projects at the 21st Century Conference in the fall, and were accepted. It is neat to think about the journey we have taken to get to this point.  Collaboration has removed the walls in our classrooms.  We are serving a much bigger purpose.  Our students get to see the positive impact we can all make working together.