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My favorite characteristics in Ed Leaders

I had the privilege of spending the last two days in the schools of Pendergast Elementary in Phoenix, Arizona.  The principals were welcoming, the teachers inviting, and the students’ enthusiasm was invigorating.  The mornings of both days were spent doing site visits.  We got such a feel for the climate and culture of each school from seeing what they hung on their walls, from watching the students learn, and talking to teachers about their excitement and trepidations surrounding the upcoming technology integration.  My afternoons were spent talking and planning with a wonderful group of leaders at their central office.  The key characteristics of good leaders I mention below are true in any field, but I titled it specifically to educational leadership in honor of those individuals I met this week.

Effective and innovative leaders all have the following characteristics.

  1. They are good communicators.
  2. They are willing to take risks and encourage others to do so, too.
  3. They focus on what’s best for the students.
  4. They keep their vision and goals in front of them.
  5. They are constantly learning new things.


Five Reasons I Love My Job


This past summer I made the switch from public school educator to entrepreneur.  I get to use my years of experience as a classroom teacher and district-level curriculum director to impact schools around our country as an educational consultant and trainer.  I just returned (in the wee hours of the morning) from a work trip in Texas.  Though I am exhausted, I’m still glowing from the after-effects from getting to do what I love.   Here is why my career is so incredible:

  1. I believe in the power of education, and that all students can learn.  They deserve caring teachers who make learning applicable, relevant, and engaging.
  2. I get to work with teachers, students, technology integrationists, district-level administrators, and principals.  It’s fun to work with different stakeholders and make a positive impact on the organization as a whole.
  3. I constantly get to meet new people.  I meet people daily via LinkedIn, airplanes, and schools because of my work.
  4. I get to learn new things and share them with people to make their jobs easier and more exciting.  I am a lifelong learner.  Sharing what I’ve learned with others is more energizing than my favorite coffee.
  5. I get to work from home some of the time.  I have the two most amazing kids of my own.  Being an educational consultant and trainer takes me away from home on a regular basis, but when I am here, I get to be a full-time mom (well, mostly…) and enjoy my own children.  

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Five Friday Faves – Small things that bring me big joy


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This week has been crazy busy (seems like that is the case more than it should be), and that means that my Five Friday Faves topic didn’t get thought about until this morning.  I just dropped my two kids off at school.  My daughter is dropped off at the junior high first, and then my son and I usually have to wait in the drop off line at the elementary school for about ten minutes before they let him in.  This morning, he challenged me to a Thumb War during the wait.  *Let me just say that my reign as all-time champ is still firmly in place.*  That kid makes me laugh more than just about anyone, and it was during my drive away that this idea came to me for my post.  In the midst of life’s craziness, it’s usually the small things that matter most.  Here are my five favorite “small things” that give me BIG joy.

  1. When my kids call me beautiful.  My daughter is twelve, and fighting preteen attitude with a vengeance (fortunately she wins that battle more often than not).  My son is nine and scans the perimeter of his surroundings before giving me a kiss or hug.  At ages when my kids could be indifferent, the fact that they take the time to notice me and compliment me are huge.  Add to it, that they often tell me how pretty I am when I’m not feeling it so much.  Their compliments probably mean more to me than anyone else’s.
  2. Really good hugs.  I’m a hugger.  I may have mentioned this in other posts, and it remains so.  I value friends who give real hugs – not the obligatory “nice to see you” hugs, and definitely not the A-frame “polite” hugs – but real, squeeze-you-hard-because-you-are-important-to-me hugs.  Obviously, I don’t want hugs like that from strangers, or mere acquaintances.  That would just be awkward, and borderline obnoxious.
  3. Funny people.  Here’s the thing I’ve noticed…truly funny people are also very intelligent.  You have to be smart to have a quick wit.  People who I find most humorous, are also good friends.  We have to understand each other to understand the sense of humor we each possess.  So, it’s not just about the laughing, but about enjoying the company of the person making me laugh.  And I love to laugh as much as I love a good hug.
  4. Snail mail.  Seriously, this is a dying endearment.  Honestly, though, who doesn’t like getting a kind card or package in the mail?  Something about finding it on your doorstep, or in the mailbox makes it extra special.  It says that this person cared an extra bit to go to the effort of mailing me something.
  5. Good music.  I love to sing and dance.  Am I gifted in those areas? (Close friends and family will be chuckling at this point.)  No, I’m not.  My friend, Rena, and I often joke about why we haven’t been invited to the worship team at church.  Well, I was having a “down” day yesterday.  Anyone else get those?  (If not, keep that info to yourself.  I like to pretend that I’m normal most days.)  I kind of moped around all day.  I even tried coffee and chocolate.  Who am I kidding?  Coffee and chocolate are parts of my daily routine.  Anyway, it wasn’t until I finally worked out at 7pm last night with my buddy Shawn T on my Hip Hop Abs DVD (I’m guessing there is some more chuckling happening right now at that visual), that I actually started to feel better.  Why?  Because I got to dance to fun music and call it a workout.  I love to make up show tune-esque songs to my kids to make them laugh.  I often threaten to sing and dance around their friends if they don’t do what I tell them to do.  My family has been know to put in an old Jock Jams CD (remember those round shiny discs??) and have dance parties in the living room.  When I travel for work, I love listening to gorgeous piano music on when I get ready in my hotel room each morning.  Music just feeds my soul.

I could definitely make this list longer, but I wanted to focus more on feelings and less on events and things.  The five that made my list are on there because of the joy that comes with them (and most often, the people involved).  What brings you joy?

My Five Favorite Places in Indiana

fall in Indiana

Growing up, I didn’t enjoy many of the facets to living in Indiana.  It’s funny how, while life gets busier as you get older, you notice the little things more.  While I love to travel and experience new places, I’m thankful to live where I do.  Here are a few of my favorite places to be in the Hoosier state:

  1. Ball State University in Muncie to rollerblade around the campus.  This is where I did my undergrad work.  My husband and I lived in Muncie after graduation (and after we married) for a couple of years.  Going to campus at night to rollerblade was one of our favorite activities (and fit the newlywed/fresh college grad budget).  I’m sure skating around any college campus would be enjoyable, I’m just partially biased to the beauty of BSU (Beneficence, Frog Baby Fountain, The Village…)
  2. Ivanhoe’s restaurant in Upland to eat one of their words-defying sundaes.  If you like ice cream, Ivanhoe’s should be on your bucket list.  They hand make over a hundred different sundaes and milkshakes.  The Snickers sundae is my favorite.
  3. Salamonie or Mississinewa State Parks to hike the trails of the many state parks during the fall season.  Autumn in Indiana is my favorite season.  The yellows, oranges, and reds of the changing leaves are truly gorgeous and I never tire of looking at them.  I also take a child-like pleasure in crunching fallen, dried, brown leaves under my feet.  Salamonie and Mississinewa state parks have fabulous trails to spend a day hiking, or campgrounds to spend a weekend at.
  4. One World Handcrafts in North Manchester to shop for fair trade coffee, chocolate, clothing, jewelry, home decor at One World Handcrafts.  This is a small shop, packed with amazing products hand-crafted by artisans around the world.  You can feel good about your purchases because they go to support men, women, and children who are trying to support themselves in economies that make it difficult to live, let alone thrive.  
  5. My small-town, country home – no explanation needed, it’s home.

Five Favorite (YA) Fiction Books(ish)

woman reading

love to read.  I mean, really, really, really like it.  I enjoy reading a variety of genres, but definitely prefer fiction for my pleasure reading.  Typically, if someone asks me my favorite book, I just sit there blank-faced.  Most avid readers/book lovers can’t name a single book as being a favorite.  We might have a current favorite (which means I am presently reading it, or just finished it), or a favorite dystopian series, favorite paranormal romance, favorite historical fiction, etc.  So, I picked only my top five all-time favorite Young Adult Fiction Novels.  And, yes, I cheated (which I can do, b/c it’s my blog) and chose three different series, so technically there are more than five books.  None are new releases, but all have left me with book hangovers, and all have left me wanting more (in a good way).  I’m not going to provide a summary, because most likely you’ve heard of these, and if you haven’t go to the link and check them out on Amazon.  They are in no order, and I couldn’t pick one as the #1.  They are all phenomenal for different reasons.  Please share your favorite YA books not on my list.  I’m always looking for new great books to read.

  1. Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  2. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  3. Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
  4. Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  5. Fault in our Stars by John Green

Five Favorite Formative Assessment Tools

formative assessment

I hope all educators would agree on the importance of formative assessment.  What we might disagree on is the method for assessing.  Maybe you have your “quizzes” all made up from previous years.  Maybe your district requires everyone to administer the same assessments.  Or maybe, you are always looking for new (and engaging) ways to take the temperature of your class.  If that’s you, you might like these digital tools.

  1. Google Forms – I love Google Drive, so it seems natural to include two quick ideas for formative assessment from Google Apps.  The first one is easy.  Create a Google form with any questions you are wanting to check.  You can quickly view the responses in a spreadsheet, or in graphs to surmise real-time what needs to be review before moving on.
  2. Google Slides – You might not have thought of using Google Slides as a formative assessment tool.  My favorite way for a quick check is to share out a presentation that you have created to the class (use Google Classroom for easiest/quickest whole-class sharing).  The students are assigned one slide to demonstrate learning.  For example, you just taught a writing mini lesson on writing strong leads.  Each student has to type their lead onto a Google Slide within the class presentation you have shared.  Then (and here is the powerful piece), each student has to read and comment on three other slides.  If there are already three comments on that slide, they have to move to a different one.  So, you can read all the leads in one place, but the students can also get peer review and advice.
  3. Kahoot – Kahoot can be used for review and/or formative assessments.  Students have fun using this interactive website to show what they know.  An awesome feature is that there are pre-made Kahoots that you can access or create your own.
  4. EdPuzzle – This is a tool I just recently discovered, but the ways to use it are endless.  There are Chrome, iOS, and Android apps.  You can clip a video from multiple sources (YouTube, Khan, etc) and add your own questions at different stop points along the play time.  This ensures better student engagement, and allows you to check for understanding, too.
  5. Padlet – Picture a posterboard where students can slap a sticky note to show learning.  Padlet is the digital version.  In addition to adding quick notes, though, they can embed videos, add images, and links.  The teacher can pose a question, and students prove their learning on the shared Padlet.  It’s both, easy and quick.

It was a bit difficult for me to choose just five resources.  There are many, many tools designed specifically for formative assessment, but there are endless possibilities when you look at old tools in new ways.  So, try something new to drive your instruction and engage students in their own learning.  As always, feel free to share your favorite resources in the comment section!

Five Friday Faves (laughing/word choice edition)


What do you do when you have been out of town most of the week, and have a son wake up with the stomach flu Friday morning?  You come up with a lame fun topic for Five Friday Faves.

I am sitting at my table trying to catch up on work in between cleaning up my son’s most recent “sick” experience. (Oh, the joys of parenthood)  Did I mention that I may have, somehow, thrown my back out while on clean-up duty this morning?  (It absolutely has nothing to do with my age!!).  Anyway – my son just said “I think only old people chuckle.”  Keep in mind, it is not unusual for him to say random things…but this sparked my idea for today’s post. I am a generally happy person, and love to laugh.  And I strongly disagree with my little cutie, that people of all ages can chuckle.  So here are my five favorite words for laugh.  If you are a writing teacher, you can also see this as an example of using rich language in your writing (aka word choice).

  1. Chortle (this is my favorite because you can’t really say this word without giggling a bit – try it…)
  2. Chuckle – because it gave me my writing inspiration in the middle of a day without much to chuckle about (and yes, I just ended that sentence with a preposition. What can you expect, English teachers? I’m focused on word choice at the moment, not proper grammar).
  3. Guffaw – If you’ve never seen someone guffaw, then you haven’t lived happily enough.
  4. Snicker – a snicker is so different from a guffaw.  The term “laugh” doesn’t even come close to describing either.
  5. Giggle – This one doesn’t get points for originality, but it does for endearment.  I have a 12yo daughter and I still love listening to her and her friends when they get giggling.  You can’t listen to children giggling without smiling (well, I can’t anyway).

There you go.  While not very enlightening, I hope you found the post, at least mildly, entertaining.