Fun Ways to be Intentional about Teaching Gratitude
If we want kids to be grateful, we have to find a way to teach it. And not just go through the motions of talking about it, but by being intentional and teaching them how to seek out opportunities to reflect on gratitude daily. Gratitude is something that we can show throughout the day.
Gratitude begins in the morning, is cultivated throughout the day, and is the last part of our evening.
In the Morning
The journal practice I do has me listing five things I am grateful for at the start of each entry. Focusing on gratitude above anything else frames the rest of my goals. Being grateful puts my life into perspective.
I wanted to find a way for the kids to easily express gratitude each morning and evening. Everyone has his or her mini whiteboard on the fridge that has been used for everything from a tally for chores to academic skills. Recently, I wondered how it could be used to show gratitude. It is beneficial when we can see each other’s thinking. It is neat to see the specific things that are named by each member of the family.
Throughout the Day
It is easy to shuffle around the house or school and forget about the blessings that we are surrounded by. Creating a scavenger hunt for kids to “re notice” things allows for parents and teachers to be intentional about focusing on gratitude.
As a teacher, I have students go on a gratitude scavenger hunt during the school day as well as with websites that we use in computer class. I am finding that there is always a way to incorporate gratitude into any lesson.
Find something that makes you happy.
Find something that is your favorite color.
Find a book that has helped you.
Find something that smells good.
Find something you can use to make a gift for someone.
Find something that makes you feel safe.
Find a place where you enjoy spending time.
Find something that makes you laugh.
Find something that tastes good.
Find something that makes a beautiful sound.
Find something that reminds you of a special time.
Find a picture of someone you are grateful for.
Find something that reminds you of an accomplishment.
Find something that seems like it took a long time to make.
Find something that you like to read.
Find something that allows you to find information.
Find something that is comfortable.
Find something that reminds you of kindness.
Find something that makes you feel warm.
Find something that helps you when you are bored.
Find something that helps you see.
Find something that you played with when you were younger.
Find something that reminds you of a difficult experience you overcame.
Find something that was given to you for a gift.
Find something that you have slept on.
Find something that makes you smile.
Find something that reminds you of a vacation you have taken.
Find something that reminds you of a unique skill you have.
Find something that reminds you of your faith
Find something that reminds you of the freedoms you have.
Words and Actions Matter
If we want kids to be more grateful, we have to model what expressing appreciation looks like. There might be times when it seems unnecessary and does not feel authentic, but it is still worth it.
It is our responsibility as parents and teachers to facilitate the change we wish to see in the world.
I love running and running a long way. But, something happens when the race starts: I stop enjoying the run. Looking back on 29 marathons, I think I have enjoyed only two of them.
I admit that I have always enjoyed approaching the finish line in each race. There is something really exciting about the pride that comes from knowing your body has been able to carry you through such an epic distance.
Recently, I have realized that the last .2 miles, is the first time I have enjoyed the marathon.
Several runner friends of mine have challenged my mindset. After a few of them talked about this year’s Detroit Marathon, I knew I had a lot to learn from a few people. I am drawn to each of these runners’ personalities and mindsets. As I prepared in the final weeks for this year’s fall marathon, which was the day before my 40th birthday, and my 29th marathon overall, I decided I wanted to find a way to enjoy it.
The question going into this marathon was, “How do you really enjoy the marathon while running it?”
My husband, who I have known for over twenty-two years, always talks about the race like it was a party with his closest friends. He doesn’t listen to music when he races, and experiences the journey. At the end of the marathon, he talks highly about the race no matter his time. He is quite a faster runner than me, but when I see him no matter how rough my times have looked over the years, the excitement on his face makes me feel as if I will break the tape coming across the finish line.
Nate’s enthusiasm leading up to the marathon reminded me I was ready to rock it and should consider it the biggest birthday party ever.
I have known her for over thirteen years. Amy continues to be one of the people I want to talk to first after a race. She wants to hear all of the details. One of the first things that has always impressed me about her, is that she is often in a good mood, especially when she talks about running. She gets excited about dressing in really bright obnoxious colors, doing weird and crazy themed runs, enjoying details that seem random, and continues to chase the fun in running. Amy sparkles when she runs. She is a person who enjoys the course no matter what.
When she is no longer having fun, she finds a new distance or way of running that brings the fun back.
When I am running with her, I cannot help but laugh and smile. I have a picture from one of our first 10K races about sixteen years ago. It was a PR for me. But it is interesting, that is not what I remember about the race. When I look at the two of us, we look as though we were almost dancing, and bursting with enthusiasm at the halfway point.
This year, I decided to try something Amy would do. Since I was turning 40 less than 24 hours after the marathon, I attached a sign that said, “It’s my 40th birthday” to my back. I have not done anything quite like this before. It ended up being one of the most fun parts of the marathon. I was serenaded in song from crowds of spectators, wished happy birthday by so many runners, and engaged in conversation about PR’s as a Master’s runner, and told I was choosing the best way to celebrate from so many supportive people.
I have known Marvin for about a year and a half. He is one of the founders of our local running club and has made being a runner come alive for me again, as I can be part of a team. He is a enthusiastic, incredibly funny, and high energy person. He is someone that people are drawn to. After every interaction online or in person, I walk away feeling like someone believes in me and is excited about my racing journey. Marvin is one of the first people you want to talk to after a run.
He cheers for you no matter how rough the run was. He reminds me of that brother you can’t wait to find to fist bump and share your race results with.
One of the things that impresses me most about Marvin is how happy he looks during a race. The race photos throughout the course make it look like it was an epic experience. I have often wondered how he could be having so much fun during what might be a tough run, and why he was smiling. In addition to his photos, his race recaps are always really enjoyable.
Whenever I read about his experience I am jealous of how rich and exciting the entire experience seemed to be.
I have only really known Kayla for about 6 months. But in that time, she has become one of my go-to friends for inspiration, perspective, and support. We met due several mutual friends, a running club, and bonded over reading the same books. We have had several electronic conversations that have reminded me of my purpose and why I run. Kayla is an incredibly brave and deep person. She is authentic and challenges my thinking.
I am fortunate to have found a friend who has similar goals as a runner.
As I would look at some of her training run times, I realized that she was “My impossible”. During this race, she passed me, but when she did I realized I had the best visual in the world. I had a chance to chase my impossible. I look forward to doing this again in the spring as we are both running the Toledo Marathon.
No matter what Kayla’s time ends up being, she decides that the race was worth it, and shares her excitement and gratitude for the experience. When she talked about the Detroit Marathon this fall it was filled with a million things she did along the way. Even though her time was not what she had dreamed of back in the summer, she thrived and had what I would argue was an incredible experience filled with enthusiasm and zest for life. The interactions she had were not accidental. She engaged in conversation along the way.
One of the reasons I chose to keep my headphones off until mile 16 was because of Kayla. This ended up being one of the best decisions I made.
If I had chosen to listen to music throughout the entire course, as I have in every other marathon, I would have missed so many things. I would have missed out on the opportunity to have conversations, hear people saying happy birthday, and hear the pace team leader talk about the race. Without music, I felt whole, present and able to stay focused. It helped me to stay on pace.
A Spectator Sign I Notice
I see it in every marathon. It is either being held by a cheering spectator, or secured to the ground, but it is always there.
It reads, “Smile you paid for this”.
During my most recent marathon, I thought about this sign a lot. I thought about the fact that I should be happy. Most marathons cost around one hundred dollars, for the race fee alone, in addition to time and extra travel costs involved in making it to the starting line. I thought about the logistics involved in being a parent who races, and everything that goes into making the racing weekend possible. I challenged my perspective this time, decided that I would pause to consider all of the people who would drop everything to trade places with me at the most difficult spots in the race.
I thought about the people who are in pain physically, mentally and spiritually, and have unlike me, not paid for it, and not chosen it.
I enjoyed it
After 29 marathons, and in the last hours before turning 40, I completely enjoyed the marathon experience. I broke four hours. I was overcome with emotion when I thought about the fact that I had not seen a 3, in front of my marathon result since 2011.
When I think about why I enjoyed this race, it was not just the time on my watch that made it an epic experience. It was the friends who believed in me, it was not listening to music, it was being bold by wearing a sign about my birthday, it was about giving myself permission to enjoy every step of the journey and take lessons from runners I admire. I am ready for a new decade of challenges, amazing race times, but most importantly experiences filled with bliss.
I used to think creativity was about being good at art, and being able to do a really good job on a project for school. I also thought that some teachers were creative and able to plan the most exciting lessons and decorate the best classrooms while other educators just did not care to be creative. Recently we studied creativity as the character strength of the week. Our school does the Positivity Project, and each week a new strength is learned.
Playing games, visualizing, brainstorming, developing a mantra, taking risks, observing others, and ultimately celebrating the ways that you are already creative are ways to strengthen this character strength.
Today I am realizing that creativity includes so much more than I originally thought. Creativity incorporates everything from strategies to cook new dinners to teaching kids to stretch their minds about different ways that regular household items can be used.
Play the Creativity Game
One of my favorite games to play with my kids is the creativity game. We take an object nearby and go back and forth thinking of things that the item could be used for. It stretches thinking and makes the time enjoyable. We have an ongoing game during dinner where we keep track of creativity points. It is boys versus girls. We take an object and for two minutes come up with as many creative uses as possible. The other team has to verify that the list is reasonable. Last night the items were a sandwich size plastic bag and a sock. It is a lot of fun because everyone is engaged in the thinking process.
Creativity includes depth of thinking and risk-taking.
Visualize the Best Case Scenario
Begin with the end in mind. Imagine the best thing that could happen. Now, get excited about that “Best Thing”. Visualize what it feels like, looks like, sounds like and any other of the senses that provide details to the height of possibility.
Visualizing gives us perspective and new ideas of how to be creative.
Everything is Figuroutable
One of my favorite quotes is, “Everything is Figuroutable”. Marie Forleo’s book, Everything Is Figuroutable has given me a mantra to change my perspective on what is possible. Yesterday, my daughter wanted to go as a character from the Harry Potter Series, and with an hour before the Halloween activities at her school, I had to figure out how to tie a tie. As I got frustrated and realized that I had no idea what I was doing after watching two different YouTube videos, I kept hearing the phrase, “Everything is Figuroutable” in my head. I believed that there was a way to figure it out.
Determined, I found new videos, and after what was probably 20 minutes, I figured it out.
Brainstorm Many Possibilities
Even when you know how to tackle a situation or solve a problem, requiring yourself to think of other options will stretch your thinking. Sometimes it is fun to experiment with a less popular option. If the stakes are not that high it is okay to see what happens if you try one of the choices farther down the list.
Do Things You Have Never Done Before
I make it a habit of writing every day. This practice has made me more creative over time, but recently after reading several of the Haikus amazing writers have crafted, I decided to stretch my creativity and try one. Writing poetry is something I have only started doing in the last few weeks.
Writing a Haiku that not only included the correct number of syllables but one that also made sense and even had the element of rhythm and beauty seemed near impossible at one point.
After a little research, I looked up the format to remind myself of the structure as well as found a fantastic syllable counter online. Writing my first Haiku got a lot easier.
The more Haikus I read the more I enjoyed my newfound creativity as a writer. I got encouraging feedback and even learned a lot about writing as I read the author notes from other writers.
Looking at an established poet’s work gave me great enthusiasm to write more.
Observe Creative People
Find creative people. Notice people who demonstrate the trait that you are looking to improve in yourself. When I put away my phone and pause to observe people around me, I can learn a lot. I am inspired, engaged and am provided with free resources.
I might notice everything from how someone keeps busy waiting in the lobby at the hockey rink, to how a mom manages her four young kids in the grocery store.
The little things that people do, the behaviors and the patterns can be observed provide interesting insight and might even help make life more productive. I also enjoy looking at other people’s resources. Some people have carefully packed bags that organize materials in the most amazingly. Other people are reading or utilizing resources that might be useful in the areas I am looking to learn more about.
Recognize the Ways that You are Creative
Everyone is creative. Creativity does not look the same for everyone, but everyone has a gift and ability to think differently about something. Focusing on strengths leads to confidence.
Every area of life includes creativity.
Kids who play video games are incredibly creative when they are deciding how to master a level. People who volunteer use creative skills as they decide how to best serve large groups of people, and provide resources that matter for a reasonable cost. And looking at a busy holiday schedule, trying to decide where we will go and when is related to our ability to be creative and think differently.
Ultimately we are already creative, but like anything the more we work at it the stronger the trait becomes. Looking at creativity with a growth mindset allows us to see potential. Working on being more creative will help us in all areas of life.
I am exhausted after a long day of teaching middle school. One job that I don’t enjoy is making lunches for three kids after I have cooked dinner and cleaned up the house. I decided when my daughter was two, I had to find a way to outsource the task of making lunches.
At ages six, four and two, my kids started making their lunches.
I am Happier
Today my kids are thirteen, eleven and nine. I love when I have the opportunity to bless them buy purchasing things to make the process of making lunch easier. I love it when there is an opportunity to make someone a sandwich or help out with finishing touches on lunch due to a late night with sports.
There is a lot of freedom in trusting that my kids will make their lunches.
The Perfect Lunch
When my daughter was two, we started by showing all three kids (she and her two older brothers) what should go into a lunch. As the youngest in the family, she was determined to keep up with her older brothers. She saw the opportunity to make lunch as a challenge that she could take on. Each lunch has certainly not been, “Perfect”. But in reality, who’s lunch is? Some days we make an amazing lunch, and some days are less than perfect. What I do know is that my two-year-old daughter felt like she mattered.
She felt as if she were being entrusted with a very important responsibility.
We began by having her physically put things in the lunch box, but helped her with any tasks that she struggled with. Permitting kids to make their lunch says that we believe in them. It says that they are worthy of responsibility and that we know they will figure out a way to pack their perfect lunch.
We also checked over the lunch that she was making, so that she didn’t open up a lunch filled with candy, chips and Oreo’s.
The Right Age
As with many things in life, there isn’t a perfect age. When we wait for the “Right Age” to begin something, there is the possibility of a missed opportunity. Every child is different. Some children will require more support. However, there is always a way to find some success.
When considering a starting age, the personality and strengths of the oldest child are a big factor. If he or she takes instruction, is motivated by opportunities, and demonstrates leadership, the age may not matter as much.
If we don’t start in preschool, do we wait for elementary school, and if not by fourth grade, do we wait until they are a freshman, or even a high school senior before introducing ownership in the task?
As a parent, one of my goals is to foster independence. I love that my kids need me for so many things. I serve them in numerous ways from introducing them to sports and activities, driving them, allowing travel opportunities, to showing them how to navigate research, projects and ways of contributing to the world. For everything that I teach them, I want to give opportunities for my kids to be independent.
Similar to how we would allow our kids opportunity to handle small amounts of money growing up, they must be given a chance to take ownership of things like packing a backpack, lunch, or organizing an activity with friends.
Kids need to be able to make decisions and see results. They need to have experiences where they are in control.
Making lunch is the perfect opportunity for a child to decide what he or she wants, and how much of each item should be apart of the lunch. Our kids know what they eat. Growing up, I a girl at school, who would continue to throw away a ham and cheese sandwich every day because she did not know-how to tell her mom that ham and cheese was something she no longer wanted.
Our Purpose as Parents
Parents have been chosen to care for their children in the best way they know how. Besides loving their children unconditionally, one of the best things parents can do is to give children opportunities to grow. Opportunities look filling out a planner, picking out clothing, doing chores, and making meals.
Today my two middle-school kids remember meetings, homework, and requirements for school on their own. When there are opportunities to remind them about something I try and do that. But, I find that teaching strategies to be responsible are more useful than constantly talking to them about what needs to be done. Kids have to have opportunities to make mistakes with what parents might call, “low risk” situations.
My Kids Take Ownership
I am proud that my kids take ownership of the work that they do. They are not filled with excuses as to why things did not go well.
I Have New Responsibilities
Even though I am no longer making lunch, I have found a way to be involved in the process. I still check over the lunches from time to time to get an idea of what they are packing. At least once a week my kids will ask me to make soup, or pasta in a thermos to be added to their lunch. The simple gesture of warming up something to nourish and bless their bodies makes me happy.
When I was making lunches, I didn’t always remember to put a note in the lunchbox. Today, I try to sneak one in everyone’s lunch. I recently found a pack of notes that include a joke.
My daughter loves sharing these with her friends at lunch. It makes me smile to realize I am a part of their lunch experience.
There may be resistance and issues when kids first start making lunch. Depending on the age, and how long the child has had a lunch made for him or her, there might not be the immediate desire for change.
Stick with it.
Don’t give up. All of a sudden, when least expected, a habit can form. As with most things in life, the biggest resistance happens right before a breakthrough. If you don’t start when your kids are young, it can become more difficult to make a major change. As a parent, be very positive. There is always something to compliment a child about.
They may have done a terrible job organizing lunch, but the willingness or the creativity involved into creating the lunch is worth applauding.
My favorite number is fourteen, and so the number seven feels like it is halfway to a milestone. The number seven also is a stand-alone number that is complete and just enough so that it is not overwhelming. As an educator, parent and writer, I have several resources that are in my regular rotation. I am finding that these are seven of the places I seek information as well as ideas most regularly this fall.
These are the seven resources I am currently using most.
These Six Things (Book and Website)
Everything is Figuroutable (Book ,Website, Videos, and Podcasts)
The Positivity Project (Website)
Dogo News (website)
The New York Times (Newspaper and Website)
These 6 Things
One of the things I love about this book is that the author, Dave Stuart is still in the classroom. His book is packed with incredible insight and strategies to help a teacher navigate the way to his or her level of success. The ideas are not new or gimmicky.
Stuart’s methods are tried and true. They represent universal solid instruction.
The first chapter focuses on “Defining your Everest”. Stuart says we should be working towards a singular propose. This is simple, yet deep and very rich idea that helps us and our students define why they are in our classroom.
Defining our Everest helps us to frame everything we are doing. If we were physically climbing Everest, it would be critical to know if we were on track and moving toward accomplishing our goal of climbing the mountain.
In addition to “Defining our Everest”, Stuart focuses on keeping track of genuine moments of connection, skills that lead to long term flourishing, a new way of using index cards to get to know students, and a fantastic building connections exercise.
I like how the author explains that the goal is to limit readers to focus on six things in regards to teaching.
My expectations have already been exceeded by this book, and I am only in the third chapter.
Everything Is Figuroutable
This book has changed my life. Recently I used some of the strategies to create a structure for a budget that I enjoy. I also discovered a few ideas on how to deal with a challenging class.
The Positivity Project has changed me as a teacher. Our entire school is different. I love the opportunities my students have because of it. Each week we focus on a character strength, and intentionally spend our time processing what it means to uphold a particular virtue. The resources are a combination of videos, stories, and suggestions for interactive activities that allow any type of learner to connect. Throughout the week and well after a strength has been discussed, I can refer back to it. The Positivity Project has helped our school to grow quality people.
I was introduced to this site by a teacher, and continue to use it as a source of ideas and inspiration. Wonderopolis provides a constant supply of content that inspires creative assignments, writing topics and an opportunity to teach and show students how to be curious. I enjoy the topics as well as the brief questions, vocabulary terms, and resources that it provides. Wonderopolis
This interactive site offers and exceptional collection of genres about every topic imaginable. I love reading the content and find that it serves as fuel for me intellectually, spiritually, mentally and physically. The articles are unique, provide interesting perspective as well as allows me to write for an audience daily. I love not only writing but interacting with other writers.
Since I am not currently teaching English, and miss the opportunity to share writing, edit and exchange feedback it has been the perfect opportunity to reignite passion for good content and writing.
I love this site. The news articles are great for middle school-aged students. I enjoy the variety. Plus, it is a site that not everyone is familiar with, so I typically have new information to share with students. Sometimes I have students annotate an article on the computer, or use it as a pathway to deeper research in an area.
Recently we looked at an article on smart clothing, and students were able to research other websites as well as create a prototype for something that they could create.
The New York Times
I love the feel of a newspaper. I read The New York Times weekly. I honestly feel smarter when I read it. And, almost always will be inspired by authentic ideas for lesson plans or prompts to write about. I have more interesting conversations and can collaborate with a larger variety of people after I have read the Sunday edition. I am exposed to new perspectives, places, and contributors. On the weeks where I don’t get a chance to read the newspaper (even if I have looked at a few articles online), I feel like something is missing. The New York Times
I Will Change my Seven
As the year continues, I am sure my seven resources will be adjusted to make room for new material. I love the balance of newspapers, books, podcasts, and websites to make my learning experience rich. I have found that even though I only take a few ideas from a book or podcast, it can serve as an incredibly important piece that frames my perspective for the time being.
The Quest to Highlight Moments of Integrity with my Kids
I thought a lot about integrity this week. Our school does the Positivity Project, and integrity was the character trait we focused on. The word integrity includes telling the truth, doing the right thing and having the courage to live with excellence even when nobody is watching or it is difficult.
As we watched video clips, talked about examples from popular culture and examined our values, I realize that this is one of the traits I want to emphasize most with my children.
My First Experience with Integrity
My parents have shown an amazing amount of integrity over the years. I can 100 percent count on them to be where they say they will be, and always have been able to. Their word is golden. If they say they will do something, it will happen. I have always admired this. My parents’ example growing up, and my faith are two of the reasons I strongly value integrity today. It has been interesting to think about integrity over my lifetime. I especially enjoyed thinking back to examples in my life growing up.
A Lack of Integrity
Growing up I remember getting in trouble for stealing butter from a table at the luncheon. One of my mom’s friends had us over and I decided that the stick of butter on the table looked too good not to try. And so I took it upon myself to eat a few pieces with my fingers.
Right before lunch, the question was asked about who took the butter, I decided not to answer.
I remember lying to my parents in 3rd grade a few times, which was followed up by a visit to the pastor at our church. As a parent, I realize that kids don’t lie to make us upset. They lie because they don’t have a better strategy. They also don’t want to disappoint us and aren’t sure what to do.
From the Perspective of an Employee
My first job was a sales associate at K-mart. We had an undercover cop who would walk around the store dressed as a normal guy who tried to catch people shoplifting. He was able to bust several people. I remember one of the girls he arrested, I was called to sit in on the situation and be the other female in the room. This girl recently out of high school had stolen over a 150 dollars in makeup. She seemed very upset and devastated. I later found out that she had been recently caught shop lifting in several stores.
When I waited tables we had access to a lot of food items. I remember one of the first nights a fellow employee asking what we were able to freely eat. I thought that asking for clarification was a really good strategy.
What I Looked For In a Husband
Growing up with parents that showed integrity made an impression on me. As I began college and started dating finding someone who also valued integrity was important. Thinking back to the years before we were married, and now after being married for almost 18 years, integrity is still valued highly. I have not been stood up, and can count on my husband’s words with complete certainty.
As a Runner
Not only do I try and run with integrity in mind, and do my best every race, I make sure not to lie about the experience that I had. Sometimes the reason for poor results was simply poor training. When I think about giving my all in a race, I have to constantly come back to that question when I am ready to mentally give up.
Running with integrity also means being honest during a race. It means running the full mileage and not cutting the course short. It means paying for a race even when you might not get caught.
I remember the first time I heard about a person running a “Bootleg Marathon”. Before the Chicago Marathon, a friend of mine had invited another friend to dinner. He told us that he was running a Bootleg Marathon.
He explained that he had not paid for the race and would most likely be thrown out during the last mile right before the finish line. I could not believe someone would run this kind of race. It bothered me. A few years later a friend of mine talked of running the Boston Marathon. She had not qualified and was part of the huge pack of runners that would start after the last official runners crossed the starting line. This bothered me for two reasons. First of all, if you tell people you ran the Boston Marathon, you better have done it officially. It is a life goal for so many people, myself included. And secondly, when people don’t pay for races, the cost and resources are forced to increase over time.
There is no free Gatorade.
As a Mom and Teacher
There are numerous times that I label something as stealing when kids reference things that could happen. Participating in the Positivity Project at our school allows for students and I to spend an entire week on Integrity. I also find that one of the biggest areas I am addressing in the classroom is connected to plagiarism. Today students believe that it is an option to freely use pictures online regardless of who they belong to. When there is an opportunity to point something out, I make sure to take it and label the action what it is.
Stealing is stealing. When people do not give credit to pictures, websites, music or movies- that is stealing.
I am Fortunate
I feel incredibly fortunate that my parents set me up with a life where I was introduced to what was right and wrong at an early age. My parents have introduced me to a faith that allows me to be convicted and lean into truth. I am fortunate to have kids that understand the word integrity. I am fortunate to live in a time where integrity is valued and there are examples of it in everything I experience.
It is okay, and even incredibly smart to say “No” sometimes. Saying no correctly, tactfully and respectfully is an art. It works best when there is confidence, respect and support enveloped in the “No”.
I am finding that I practice being open-minded in the general sense. There are times to be adventurous and try open-minded to trying new things. Sometimes we try something on a whim having no idea what the result will be. Experiencing new things adds to our character, promotes growth and challenges us. However, as an athlete, I love what I do so much so that I choose to be selective in what I do.
Being open-minded about new experiences as a runner looks different for me.
It is okay that I have run mainly road races and choose not to do trails as often or enter ultra marathons. I am defining myself, and who I am as a runner. And I love what my sport looks like for me.
Life is Short
The days might be long, but the years fly by. We never know when we will need to make changes to our lives as a result of our own doing or our physical or mental limitations.
It is because we never know what tomorrow holds, that today matters.
It is important that we are honest with ourselves and we do the activities we most want to. When someone has a genuine love for something, he or she is excited to share the passion. Sometimes people will ask us to join in on a particular adventure. Sometimes giving it a try is the right answer and may end up serving us well. However, especially when you are established in your sport or hobby, it is okay to confidently decline and say “No” without hesitation or apology. It can be tough when close friends and family recommend certain activities they think we will love.
I am fortunate that people always think positively of my ability to engage in a physically demanding adventure. But, I also feel fortunate I have learned to determine what I want to do.
My Husband Loves the Experience
My husband is an extraordinary Ultra Marathon runner. He has an uncanny ability to run and bike for extreme distances. He trains hard and has a love for adventure. He wrote about a few of his epic races bellow. I love his excitement for new adventures. His passion fuels my excitement for the things I love.
When I read about his experiences I am fascinated and want to know more.
I love details related to picking out a race, getting gear, reading and analyzing the course, researching strategies and enjoy hearing about the grueling moments experienced throughout the race. I am so incredibly excited for my husband who has recently decided to take on an even more extreme challenge in 2020. After race reports are some of my favorite things to read.
While the excitement of a challenge energizes me, I can confidently say “No” to some of the things that do not particularly interest me.
I have found that I love watching other people complete Ultra Distances and Spartan style military runs, but don’t wish to do them myself.
The Art of Saying No
After being asked twice this weekend to consider an ultra marathon, I was happy that I had the confidence to say “No”. I explained that I wanted to be very selective about the races I was choosing to do since this was the year I wanted to complete some of my own epic goals. Using the word no correctly requires a unique set of skills. It is an art. In a non threatening situation, it can require a gentle tone filled with respect. A set of skills that at almost 40 years old, and 28 marathons later, I am just beginning to sharpen.
What if there was a way to teach Kids need to learn to read and write code. Steve Jobs has been quoted saying, “Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer because it teaches you how to think”. Opportunities to practice thinking might not seem like a big deal, but I would argue that the typical school day and job does not always allow for pure thinking to take place.
Thinking requires that we spend time developing the questions that inspire research and exploration.
What does it mean to code, and why is it necessary for my students to be exposed to it?
How can I introduce middle school students to a world that I can hardly keep up with? How do I tap into the natural curiosity of students? What is the best way to get started? How do I keep finding resources that will engage my learners who are at a variety of abilities? How can I teach students that coding is about big issues and solving world problems? What are the most useful methods for teaching today’s coders?
My enthusiasm matters.
I have found that if I am energized about a topic, it is much easier for students to get excited about their learning. One of the best things I have done is to show the video that code.org made for the National Week of Coding a few years ago. It gets kids wondering. It taps into curiosity. I have noticed that when I watch it, I get excited all over again. It has a way of making the viewer think that coding is achievable and something that he or she would want to do.
In essence, the challenge is to find a way to tap into. It only the interest and passion level of a student, but to peak his or her curiosity so much so that experimenting by writing lines of code becomes something that is just done.
Start with A Question
I am currently reading a book that begs the question, “What is your Everest?”
Dave Stuart, the author of These 6 Things, suggests that our “Everest” is what we want to accomplish. It is similar to a mission statement. It is a singular purpose to make so specific so that we can tell if we have lost our way. When the “Everest” is identified, we work backward and determine the steps to get there. When I think about “My Everest” in regards to introducing students to the world of computer science, I am overwhelmed with so many thoughts. I like that Stuart suggests we write out an initial draft of what our Everest is and then revise it. I decided to start with a question to frame the direction I move in towards answering this question.
What is my role as an educator in a field that is constantly changing? What are the universal skills that I can pass along that will any generation at any decade?
I am only beginning to formulate what “Everest” looks like in the computer science portion of my classroom. I have challenged myself to define this by Friday.
Remind them that they are in Control
When I think about the story that I am asking kids to tell with lines of computer code, I realize that it is important for me to deliver the message of how much power they have. Middle school aged students in particular, crave the ability to make decisions and be in control.
Coding provides an opportunity for ownership and control.
It is my mission to remind students that they are authors and get to choose the story to be told. Programming might be the answer to meeting one of the students’ greatest needs.
I was in the middle of a run when I heard a phrase that empowered me.
The Statement that Changed Me
Robin Arzon, One Peloton’s head instructor had created a 45-minute workout that was to serve as a training simulation for an upcoming marathon. She was about half-way through the run, when, as she usually does, delivers motivating thoughts. She said a world-class runner was recently asked about why she runs. Her response was, “I run so that young girls know what’s possible”.
Everything Made Sense
It was at that moment that I knew my why. Everything made sense. It was as if I had found the focus knob on the camera and my purpose was becoming clear. Feeling my fastest in a long time, after what seemed like a supernatural uncanny ability I was given to speed up, that I share the same purpose as this interviewed runner.
To Show What Is Possible
I set goals as a runner to show my kids what is possible. It is my way of giving permission to dream big and to think about the epic things that they want to achieve.
Sometimes it takes a long time before we understand why we do things. Now that I have uncovered it, I can apply to every area I am trying to teach my children.
But once we figure it out, it is like connecting the dots.
All of a sudden we understand and are more empowered than ever. Chasing my why, and then understanding it makes every run worth it.
I have tried before, but each time failed. Partly due to my own inconsistency, and partly due to the fact that I didn’t believe it was that important I suppose. As the summer was coming to an end, the idea crossed my mind again.
But with any good idea, I am always bombarded with a looming collection of questions that are both good and bad. What if… I tried one more time? Would it work, was it necessary, would it backfire, would I just revert to what I had done in the past all over again? What would I do about ____, what would happen when_____, and lastly, with everything else going on, how much energy could I devote to this goal? Would I honestly be able to be consistent and follow through?
The thought of setting myself up for failure makes my skin crawl.
As I continued to wonder if I was doing the right thing, I stumbled across an article that made a difference for me. Thomas Oppong talks about seeing failures and things that have happened as data points in his article Think Like A Scientisthe suggests we we should think like a scientist and see feedback as data. Sometimes our hypothesis works, and we find out something happens as planned. Other times, it does not and it is important to see the information as exactly that; a negative data point. That’s it.
When I look at feedback like a scientist would, I am much more likely to take risks and go for something even when failure could happen again. But I did it. I posted the sign outside my classroom, and inside,
“Phone Free Zone” .
When I finished putting up the last of the tape to hold the sign in place, I felt good. I had gone against the grain and I was being uncommon among uncommon people in society. I had set a new tone for the year, and was communicating something important to me.
Over the last couple of years we have gone from having a focus where students should bring technology to class because we do not have the money for each student to be one to one with a device. Unfortunately, the problem has become that is so incredibly tough for an anyone to listen, stay focused and be productive while having the option of the phone nearby.
If adults, many who are college educated and really trying to learn and experience education struggle to be intentional with time on a device, then how in the world can we expect 10–14 year-old kids to have already mastered this skill?
I am confident the benefits will outweigh the challenges for a number of reasons.
Technology access is not the problem. I teach in a computer lab.
The majority of the time the phone does not serve any educational purpose.
Students will see the advantage of doing one thing at a time and realize that minimizing distractions is key in life.
I don’t quit. I don’t give in, and have an ability to be consistent even when it is tough. This is why I started enforcing the expectation immediately.
I am respected by my students, and honestly believe they will follow this expectation.
I need to do what I believe is best for students. What is best is not always popular.
I feel like I have taken back the good parts of education somehow. When students had phones with them, it seemed as though their emotions were more negative then positive. It felt as though classroom work was pulling them away from what they wanted to do on their phones. And, from a teacher stand point I had no idea what was happening behind the screens in my very classroom. This always bothered me.
It is nice to give students the permission to choose their absence from social media for an hour.
It feels as though humanity has been restored to the classroom. It is comforting and reassuring to be back to basics and see the silly behaviors, share smiles, jokes and just be ourselves without worrying about multiple screens getting in the way. My students can be kids again.
So far I have yet to meet resistance from students or parents.
I was somewhat shocked on the first day when the policy was not questioned or even met with an eye roll or a groan. Maybe that is because other teachers are doing it as well and it is familiar.
In order to cover any issue that could arise, I explained that students could ask to step out in the hall if they needed to send a text or check a message from a parent and I would consider their request. I had one student ask to do this during the course of the week. One student out of 140 or so students is pretty good.