Sunday, April 13, 2014

Good Luck, Good Bye, Bobby Jean

Since beginning this blog over a year ago, I have primarily used this space to share my thoughts and feelings about teaching and learning with others.  The motivation behind today's post is very different, and is deeply personal.  The other day, a long time colleague officially announced she would be retiring at the end of the year (her modesty prevents me from using her name).  For many, this news came as a shock because this is a teacher who is certainly not "burnt out" or on the "back nine".  In fact, I would argue she is as passionate and innovative as ever.   She toiled over the decision for months and ultimately came to the conclusion that it was time to walk away.  Although she will no longer be employed by our district, she will certainly continue to be a friend, mentor, and role model.

In 1983 during Bruce Springsteen's recording of Born in the USA, long time friend and guitarist Little Steven Van Zandt left the E Street band to pursue other opportunities.  Bruce wrote and added a song called Bobby Jean to what would be his biggest selling album ever.  The song is about saying farewell to someone you care for dearly, "I'm just calling one last time not to change your mind...good luck, good bye, Bobby Jean."

I could send this individual a card, call her up, or maybe I could even try writing a song for her.  For now I will just stick to what I'm most comfortable with, a top ten list!

10 Lessons Learned from my friend "Bobby Jean"

  • No idea is too crazy to try out
  • Teaching comes from the heart
  • There is no such thing as caring too much
  • Advocate for students no matter what
  • Never stop learning from others 
  • Give every lesson your all
  • To be a teacher is to love what you do
  • Relationships matter
  • It's never about what's best for the teacher
  • See the best in everyone around you

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Who are your students? Just look in the mirror

I don’t remember the exact context but I was recently involved in a Twitter chat and answered a question with the following statement, “As Teachers the one thing we can truly control every day is our attitude...Others will mirror what we portray-no student should be stressed.” Despite, or rather because of, the current climate filled with high stakes testing and accountability, I stand by that statement 100%. The more I thought about it the more examples of how our behavior and attitudes truly impact the development of a student’s outlook toward school and learning.

 10 Ways Your Attitude and Behavior Can Set the Tone for Learning 

  • If you’re stressed out, they’ll be stressed out 
  • Greeting students as they enter the room tells them you are happy to see them 
  • Introduce lessons with passion and excitement
  • If you use sarcasm, so will they 
  • Ask thought provoking questions 
  • Value quality work and effort
  • Smile whenever you can
  • When you stay calm in the face of adversity they will too 
  • Practice active listening with them and your colleagues 
  • Counting down until the end of the year devalues everything you do with the days you have left

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I Don't do Yoga and I am not Getting a Massage: 10 Ways to be Happier at School



Stress. Pressure.  Anxiety.  No job is completely void of these feelings and teaching is no exception. People find all sorts of ways to relax on their own time, but can anything be done to prevent feeling overwhelmed? Here are some things teachers can do within the context of the school day to keep a positive attitude.


  • Eat lunch sitting down at a table with other people
  • Technology is your friend and should make things easier
  • Make it a point to laugh everyday
  • Stay current by reading about what is going on in education
  • Focus on what needs to be done now
  • Become comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • Think outside the four walls of your classroom
  • Observe and be observed by colleagues
  • Hold conversations with your students
  • End every day with a reminder of one thing that went really


Monday, March 10, 2014

Look at me, I'm on the big screen!

I admit I am not a huge basketball fan but tonight I went to a Celtics game with my family and we had a wonderful time.  Sure, the Celtics don't have many wins this season; however we were happy to see a victory tonight.  It was the first time my sons, ages 14 and 10, attended an NBA game and for the most part they enjoyed the action and overall experience.   What struck me most interesting about the game was what happened every time play was interrupted by a time out, a foul, or the end of a quarter.  The camera scanned the crowd looking for fans to show on the big screen.  I am not sure who were funnier, the ones doing everything they could to get on, or the unsuspecting ones whose reactions played out for thousands to see in real time. Some danced and others looked away.  Most acted a little crazy (even me!) and some just smiled and waved.  It got me thinking about what happens when we put the spotlight on our students and their learning? How might they react?

How might students react when given the spotlight?What happens in your classroom and what it looked like on the big screen

Smile appreciatively 
(Shy wave)

Beg for the attention
(Hey cameraman, over here!)

Genuine surprise 
(Eyes popped open and hand over mouth)

Won’t even realize they are in the spotlight
(Just continuing to eat their nachos)

Bring out the best
(This young kid put on a dancing clinic, he was amazing!)

Bring out the worst
(Some big guy started to take off his shirt)

Become extremely uncomfortable
(Turning away and trying to get off the screen)

Get tired of being in the spotlight
(A nun was shown repeatedly, by about the fifth time during Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer, she just shooed the camera away)

Give the attention to someone else
(The two handed point to the person sitting right next to them)

Do whatever it takes to get even more attention
(These people just got louder and their actions more exaggerated)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why I Never Blogged. Why I Blog. Why You Might Consider Blogging.

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of my blog.  I began blogging with very few expectations other than I wanted to give it a shot and see what would happen.  It has evolved into a rather important piece of my professional life.   Happy Birthday to Little Bits of Advice! 

         Why I Never Blogged
  • Ummm…I didn’t even know what “blogging” meant
  • Lack of confidence in my writing 
  • Fear of putting my beliefs out there
  • I had no time for that

    Why I Blog
  • It forces me to examine my beliefs and attitudes on all things education
  • Offers me the opportunity to meet (virtually) professionals from around the world
  • Getting feedback helps make me a better educator
  • I enjoy it

    Why You Might Consider Blogging
  • You have a lot to offer to others in our profession
  • It is a creative and meaningful way to reflect on your work

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Do You Want Fries With That...And Other Quick Decisions We Make

It is pretty startling when you think about all the decisions we are faced with daily.  I am not referring to decisions that will make a major impact on our lives per say, but rather the quick and on the spot choices we practically make without even thinking.  Which check-out line to get in?  Should I get paper or plastic bags?  Am I in the mood for hot or iced coffee?   Should I take this parking spot or that one?  Should I stop at the yellow light or go through it?

Very few professionals are put in the position to make more swift decisions than teachers are.   Even though the best teachers are well prepared, know their students, and have previous experience to draw upon, they too are often required to think on their feet and make split second decisions.

Here are 10 examples of choices teachers need to make every day while facilitating learning in their classrooms.  There are of course no incorrect answers, each situation is unique, but it is good to know that there are options available.

  • Small group or whole class
  • Confront the student or look the other way
  • Plow through or stop and regroup
  • Independently or cooperatively
  • Wrap it up or extend time
  • Explain it or let them wonder
  • Private or public feedback
  • Hide or show your emotions
  • Intrinsic or extrinsic motivation
  • Paper and pencil or something else

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The 10 Most Important People I Met at the #Edtechri Un-Conference

Another incredible day of learning, collaboration, and all capped off with reflection, on a Saturday no less!  What brings more than 60 educators from over 20 schools and institutions together on a weekend in January?  Are we offering credits? No.  Is there a give away? Nope. Is it mandated?  Absolutely not!  If you have ever been to an EdtechRI Un-Conference you might say it’s because of the people.  Here are the 10 most important individuals that made today and other events like it such a success.

  • The Gatherer – Hungry for as much information as one can handle.
  • The Cheerleader – Helping to encourage and facilitate new learning for everyone.
  • The Expert – Offering their expertise and knowledge for the cost of a smile.
  • The Old Friend – Reconnecting with those they may have lost touch with.
  • The New Friend – You wish you met this individual sooner and can’t wait to collaborate with them.
  • The Helper – Events like this need an “all hands on deck” approach, the helper is there to do whatever is needed.
  • The Connector – This person is responsible for introducing you to others and growing your professional network.
  • The Partner – Often able to communicate with no words and always offers honest feedback.
  • The Energizer – Their enthusiasm is contagious.
  • The Ponderer- Asking the difficult questions that challenge your thinking.