What Really Matters?



This will be my last Monday Motivation for this school year. I hope they have been meaningful to you. I know creating them has meant a lot to me.

This week I want to share the link to Jon Harper’s blog. It speaks to something that is more important than our instructional strategy, PDSA or formative assessment. It is a great reminder that we teach people every day.


Along with the kids we teach each day, many of us are parent, aunts, uncles, friends of young people who we love very much. This summer invest in them. Give them the memories of your time, your words, and your love to carry with them for the rest of their life.

Renew yourself, learn something new for school and for life, and have an amazing summer.




Fearlessly be yourself and…believe.

You are the difference.


I have two favorite quotes that adorn the walls of Summit. The first, “Believe deep down in your heart you are destined to do great things.” Each of us does them every day. We celebrate students, nurture them and help them to learn skills and habits that will help them live on this earth. But each of us has so much more to do beyond our work here at school. We are moms, dads, sons, daughters, neighbors. We make a difference and do great things for so many people.

The other quote that I hope is instilled on all our students and that each of us live out each day is, “There is only one you for all time. Fearlessly be yourself.” In our world of standardized tests and standardization of expectations, let us never forget that we each have a unique skill set, a wide variety of experiences and dreams. It is through our individual contribution to our team that we become great. The cacophony of our individuality shared with others creates a symphony of excellence in our school and the life of each other. Let your individual greatness shine in all you do for the teams to which you belong.

As we wrap up the last baker’s dozen of days with students. Celebrate your contribution as a educator, a true ambassador of possibilities, for our students and create a plan for relaxation this summer. You have given of yourself sacrificially and whole-heartedly. Plan for your rest, your renewal and your revitalization. Your students next year need you to believe in them too.



This is true of each of us too!

Molder of Dreams


Today, our society makes a lot of noise about education. Are our students college and career ready? Does technology enhance learning enough? Do we use too much technology? How can we hold teachers more accountable? Do we need to promote more creativity? In the midst of all the discussion, I hope during this Teacher Appreciation Week, you put all of that aside and remember your impact.


Teachers… Molders of Dreams

read to Guy Doud by Ronald Reagan

Author: Clark R. Mollenhoff

You are the molders of their dreams
The gods who build or crush
Their young beliefs of right or wrong. You are the spark that sets aflame
The poet’s hand or lights the flame
Of some great singer’s song.
You are the god of the young, the very young You are the guardian of a million dreams Your every smile or frown
Can heal or pierce the heart
You are a hundred lives, a thousand lives. Yours the pride of loving them
And the sorrow too.
Your patient work, your touch
Make you the gods of hope
Who fill their souls with dreams
To make those dreams come true.


To make the journey of life as a teacher, and to do it with all of you, is such a joy.


Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!


The world is better because of you!

Creativity- Think Different


Mankind will always need creativity to advance and move forward.  As educators how are we supporting each and every child’s journey to discover their creativity and potential to contribute to the world?  We may not be able to change our educational system of standardization over night but we can change what we do in our classroom every day to celebrate the creativity of every student.

This brief clip from CBS News is a must see for anyone who believes creativity is an important skill people will need in this century.




Two great Ted Talks about creativity and how schools don’t really support it even though we want to say we do. A bit lengthy but well worth watching when you have a spare minute.








 Let’s “Think Different”

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can

change the world

are the ones who do.


Let’s remind every kid (and adult) we come in contact with the world needs them to

Be an original!


 You may not have all the answers but begin your journey.

The kids we teach deserve us wrestling with this question.

Their future may depend on it.

Great Day to Be a Bison (Monday Motivation 4-20-15)

This week we will host our 4th Leadership Day at Summit. We are proud of the fact that we are one of only 122 “Leader in Me Lighthouse Schools” in the world. It has been good work and our students are better for it.


  We are more proud of our students. Think of some of the things they have done in the five years our school has been in existence. They have contributed to the drilling of water wells in Africa, the education of girls around the world and helped animals have more comfort here in our hometown. They have shaved their heads for St. Baldricks, “Bald Up for Peanut” and raised money for Bowl for Jason’s Friends. They have weekly shared a KKN podcast of school news, taught teachers how to better use tech and participated in numerous Mystery Skypes with friends around America. They have traveled to two Lego Robotics competitions outside of Wyoming and twice visited Teton Science School.

Even more importantly, they have developed a school culture that is caring and supportive of other students. They have great attitudes toward learning and they make Summit a good place for other kids.

Yes, this week we honor the students who are leaders in our school. Let’s also celebrate the role of some adult leaders. Time does not allow me to mention all the things staff members from Summit do, and like the students, there are probably many contributions you make that I do not know.


These things I do know about our support staff:

• Our custodial staff not only keeps our building looking magnificent but you also assist with the smooth transition of traffic during morning arrival and afternoon dismissal, open milk cartons.

• Our office staff greets every student when they arrive in the morning, most by name, and make coming to Summit the highlight of the day for some of our students. You also are willing to support the work of classroom teachers in any way they can.

• Our lunch ladies make every child feel special as they go through the lunch line by greeting them with a smile and a warm word.

• Our playground staff weathers wind, light rain and snow to allow our kids who most need to get out and move, a safe place to play every day. You work to help students resolve issues and be able to return to class without drama from the playground ruining their day.

• Resource support staff, your professionalism, patience and productivity has our special education students performing above District norms. You also work in classrooms on a daily basis supporting the work of teachers and the learning of students. Our children are blessed to have you in their learning lives.

• Our librarian supports a love of reading, helps kids learn good research skills online and print and you run one of the coolest Book Fairs in our hometown.

• Our Refocus Coordinator helps teachers by helping students regain appropriate behavior before returning to class and she does that in a way that honors the student’s dignity.


Each of you do this daily. Support staff, thank you for making Summit the school that it is. Your professionalism is beyond exemplary. Beyond that, who you are as people is what makes you truly great. I know all of the teachers join me in thanking you for making,

“Every day a great day to be a Bison!”

Monday Motivation-(4-13-15)- The Back Nine on Sunday of Education.


Anyone who watches The Masters knows the saying, “The Masters does not begin until the back nine on Sunday.” For those who do not know anything about golf, this saying reflects that fact that the tournament, although 72 holes, is usually settled over the final nine.  Of course, we know the first 63 holes are crucial if one is going to win. Too many bogeys or a couple of balls in the creek and you have, no shot!

Education has a similarity. There are many things we want our students to be able to do. Some are deep-rooted in the fabric of school. They must read, write and understand the basics of math. Those skills are a focus of instruction and testing in every school. The tests let us know how we are doing just like par does on the golf course.

Many of those tested items are not the key to a child’s future. They are not the “Back nine on Sunday” of life.



Educators should never lose sight of the traits which help students to be better people. Each day we should nurture and encourage these traits with the same passion we teach reading and writing.

As Albert Einstein suggested,


This week as you pursue the best for your students, don’t forget those items that cannot be tested. For when you see your former students years later, no one will remember the test scores but their life will reflect the passion you poured into them in nurturing the development of key life skills.


All that we do counts, but just like the Sunday back nine at Augusta, some of it counts more than the rest.

Monday Motivation #1 4-6-2015

Last fall I had the pleasure of being exposed to @Jennifer_Hogan’s Monday Motivation blog. Each Monday, I eagerly wondered what would inspire me for the upcoming week. The idea even led me to create Monday Motivations to share each week at my school.

I started this blog last summer, but even a brief perusal will show I have not done much to keep it up. As I was thinking about my school’s MM for this week, I decided some good multi-tasking was in order. As we race toward the finish line of another school year, I hope to motivate a broader audience. If these thoughts positively impact just one, it will be a great reward!





I celebrate the work done by those who change the trajectory of a child’s life each day. Whether it is the teacher who delivers the lesson, the support personnel who smile and ask each kid how they are doing or the custodial staff who make sure our building is pristine, you make a difference. This work takes energy, effort and a constant desire for excellence. Truly, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” I suspect some of our greatest critics would not last two weeks doing the work we do. However, we must keep our focus. We can’t let the negativity of criticism bring us down. Reflect on the fact that YOU are changing the future of our world every day.



Today when you go to work, take a positive thought with you. Pick your thought and share it with a colleague…you might change their day too.

                My thought is:

“Believe deep down in your heart you’re destined to do great things.”

Educators-you do great things every day!

Don’t stop believing!

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

As summer winds down and thoughts of football are in many of our hearts, I am reminded of the story told about the great Green Bay Packer coach, Vince Lombardi. It is said that he started every season with his great Packer teams by holding up a football and saying, “Men, this is a football. Our goal is to get this football in the end zone more often than our opponent gets the ball in the end zone.” As a teacher, I have to remember, what is the “football” of my job? Test scores? Differentiated instruction? PBL? PLC? IEPs? RtI? No, these things are all important, but they don’t rise to the level of the most important.

The most important thing is not even a thing. It is the children who eagerly enter my classroom each fall. They come wanting to have a wonderful year in 5th grade. For some, the expectation of success in school started for them in pre-school and they have thrived every year of their school career. For others, their journey has been rough and rocky. They come to my class a bit discouraged and down on school. They have been told “you do not do this well, you misbehave too often, your test scores need to improve.” I love each and every kid in my class, but it is the battered and bruised ones that hold a special place in my heart.

I was that kid in elementary school. In third grade, as I remember it, I spent half the year in the hallway because I would not sit still, I could not print well enough and I talked too much.  But then…4th grade came along and with it, came Mr. Miller. Mr. Miller was in his second year of teaching and he was different. Yes, he expected me to behave. However, when I didn’t, he would gently correct me. He taught us fun games to play during recess and would even come out and QB our football games. Mr. Miller asked us to stop by his ticket booth when we attended the high school football games on Friday night. When we did, he acted like we were the most important people there. I never missed a home game!

He got what the “football” was as a teacher. I am sure he wanted us to learn and do well in his class. However, it never felt like our value depended on how well we did. Our value was based on the fact that we were young people that he was happy to teach and guide on our journey of education. I would like to tell you every thing changed for me in school after 4th grade, but it did not. Fifth grade was worse than third grade, but now I knew I mattered and I had a place in school. I could be something, anything I wanted. And I knew what I wanted to be.

Each year for 23 years, I have told my students, “If I can be half the teacher to you that Mr. Miller was to me, you are going to have a great year!” I hope I have succeeded. Many of them tell me I have. This year as you head back to school, I know you are going to face challenges. We all do as educators. Please remember what the “football” of education truly is. I challenge you to find the students who you can see from the first day are ready to give you a run for your money. Invest in him. Talk to her. Help them feel like you care. And show them you love who they are. Have the courage to discipline them but then have the courage to go back and welcome them to class the next day.

You never know what small acts of kindness will do for the future of those kids. You could be changing the trajectory of that kid’s life. If it had not been for Mr. Miller, I don’t know where I would be today. Who will you be a Mr. Miller to this year? Get your eyes on the “football” and help them score touchdowns in the game of life.


Use The Compelled Educator  Link Party  to connect to other Motivational Monday blogs.

Why am I blogging?

If you had told me on Independence Day I would be a Tweeter and blogger within the next 10 days, I would have looked at you like your head had exploded like a firework. As I sit here  this Saturday morning, I am certainly the first, and when I finish writing this, I will become the second. Why the sudden change? Has mid-life caused me to try to seem hip and trendy? Do I want to know all the celebrity gossip and up-to-the-minute sports announcements? Do I long to have my meager thoughts on the web forever?  No, these things did not draw me to stretch myself, even though I did enjoy all the tweet about King James returning home.

No, I am expanding my circle of learning because I am an educator. As an educator, I always strive to learn and to do new things because if I stop learning, I begin to lose my effectiveness. As an educator, I also practice self-reflection. As I reflect on this new journey, several additional themes emerge to help explain my new experience.

Why blog?

Cowboy Up: In essence, here in Wyoming, this means you have to keep trying. While I do not use these words with kids when they write, I do give them the message that they have to ‘cowboy up’ each day and explore their world through the written word. Writing this blog reminds me of the risk I am asking them to take. Sure, as a teacher I write all the time, but seldom do I publish that work to respected peers and eagerly await their feedback. Blogging is going to cure that situation pretty quickly. Once I hit publish, it will be out there for the world to ‘enjoy.’ The next time I am in class and see that struggling writer sitting there, I will understand why they are nervous and think they  do not have anything to say. I will share my three days and multiple rehearsals with this blog and encourage them to ‘cowboy up.’

Synergy: I am blessed to be a member of a Leader in Me Lighthouse school. These schools live the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey) and guide students in living them. Habit #6 is Synergize. Basically, it means together we are better. I have experienced that in my own school frequently.  My idea of with whom I synergize has exploded. I joined Twitter and experienced the community of educators who are passionate about what they do and who are eager to help others. I am now a member of this virtual community, and as a member, I have a role of sharing my thoughts and reflections to add to the greater good. I hope my reflections will help fellow educators on their journey to the deep level that their reflections help me.

Celebration: I have been teaching for 20+ years and I love what I do, but if I am honest, I was starting to feel a little in a rut. I have been at my current school for five years. A long time for me! I constantly am looking for a new challenge and adventure. However, I can’t leave this school! I spent a year of my professional life helping my principal and three other teachers design our curriculum, cultural expectations, procedures and the building. I could not just pack my boxes and move to another school.  I needed something to add some wood to the fire that was not burning white hot anymore. Connecting with other fully engaged educators on Twitter is revitalizing the flame. In less than a week, my summer reading list has gained 20 titles (may not get them all read) and I have acquired ideas about 10 new online platforms I need to explore with my students (certainly won’t try every one). Now, I am invigorated to go back to my students in the fall.

Why start this blog with a thought about Independence day?  Just as our world was changed on the first July 4th, my professional world is changing for the better because of my new virtual community.