Tips For New Teachers

I put together some tidbits of wisdom that I gathered as a teacher, as well as insights from mistakes I have made and learned from. I hope they are of value to you.

  1. Bring your best self to school. For many students school is a safe haven. Once in on a rainy day I ran over a dog on the way to school. Needless to say I was devastated, late and had mascara all over my face from crying.  I took the day off rather than try toTeach after such an awful experience.  The students need you to be completely present for them. 
  2. Build trust with the students, parents and staff. I have learned how important it is to have trust among those you work with on a daily basis. Keep confidential information to yourself. Another person’s life experiences are not your story to tell.
  3. Help students set goals. Not everyone will have the same goals. Model goal setting by sharing your own goals. I shared with my class that my goal was to read 40 books in one year. It inspired several students to do their own goal setting.
  4. Continue to develop professionally. Getting a teaching credential is a fantastic achievement, but keep growing by connecting to opportunities that enhance your craft. Here are some: Scholastic Khan Academy  Discovery lessons K-12    Common Core resources      Printable resources                 Free Powerpoints for kids  Podcasts for teachers
  5. Decide what kind of classroom management you want. be consistent, caring and fair. Read about Positive Discipline (Discipline teaches, punishment hurts) Decide if you want a reward system (points, stickers, small tokens) Time out area for stressed kids (helpful, not punitive) Time out for YOU (teacher time) Teach how to be peacekeepers. Be consistent, be fair. When issues arise, hold a Class Meeting to talk it out together.

Saying Goodbye to Future Teachers

I have been an online instructor for a university for seven years. Each term I change my course based on what I feel would enhance the learning for my students. I learn so much from them. I love sharing my experiences and insights. This last term I decided to try a new course. I sent out an email to my course developer who put me in touch with a colleague who set me up with a course I have long wanted to teach, Children’s Literature. Whenever I try something new I get a bit anxious, and once I get into it (believe me, I research), I feel like Wonder Woman. On top of it all, I was given autonomy to make any changes I feel are necessary. Being brand new, I hardly changed a thing. To have that level of trust and responsibility given to me is life affirming. I went well above and beyond and made more work for myself than necessary. But oh, what a good class!

I now need to say goodbye to my students as they have completed the term. I received feedback from them stating how much they learned from the course. I wish the course was longer. We could have covered so much more in depth. Goodbyes are hard, but I know the students will make a difference in the lives of their own students. That’s the best outcome ever.

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Name Calling

Children will own the names you call them. Choose your words carefully. This is good advice for teachers, but especially important that parents know this too. They are a child’s first teacher. Call them scholars, call them friends, call them writers, call them mathematicians, call them scientists, call them teachers, call them helpers, call them readers, call them thinkers, call them loved.

A book
I highly recommend to build a child’s confidence.

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We All Shine Differently

Standardized testing requirements are designed to hold teachers, students, and schools accountable for academic achievement and to incentivize improvement. They provide a benchmark for assessing problems and measuring progress, highlighting areas for improvement.

Despite these key benefits, standardized academic achievement tests in US public schools have been controversial since their inception. Major points of contention have centered on who should design and administer tests (federal, state, or district level), how often they should be given, and whether they place some school districts at an advantage or disadvantage. More critically, parents and educators have questioned whether standardized tests are fair to teachers and students.

Standardized testing requirements are designed to hold teachers, students, and schools accountable for academic achievement and to incentivize improvement. They provide a benchmark for assessing problems and measuring progress, highlighting areas for improvement.

Despite these key benefits, standardized academic achievement tests in US public schools have been controversial since their inception. Major points of contention have centered on who should design and administer tests (federal, state, or district level), how often they should be given, and whether they place some school districts at an advantage or disadvantage. More critically, parents and educators have questioned whether standardized tests are fair to teachers and students.

Standardized tests are thought to be fair because every student takes the same test and evaluations are largely objective, but a one-size-fits-all approach to testing is arguably biased because it fails to account for variables such as language deficiencies, learning disabilities, difficult home lives, or varying knowledge of US cultural conventions. (

With a few of these disadvantages in mind, there are alternatives for standardized testing that have been pulled together by experts:

  1. Sampling: administering standardized tests to a random sample of students, instead of all students every year
  2. Stealth Assessments: another way to collect reading and math scores; digital programs that students complete throughout the year in order to show progress over time
  3. Multiple Measures: collecting other data in order to track student progress, rather than relying on one standardized test
    1. social and emotional skills survey
    2. game-based assessments
    3. performance/portfolio-based assessments
  4. Inspections: different approaches to assessments including projects, reports, presentations, etc. (

The overemphasis on testing has led many teachers to eliminate projects and activities that provide students with an opportunity to be creative and imaginative, and scripted curriculum has become the norm in many classrooms. There is nothing creative or imaginative about filling in a bubble sheet for a multiple choice test. Students are so tired of prepping for and taking standardized test that some have protested by dressing up like zombies to protest — and thousands of families are opting their children out of taking high-stakes exams.

Every student is a unique individual with their own talents and abilities. The standardized testing regime fails to recognize the importance of individual achievement in education and instead uses a “cookie cutter” approach to learning that ignores students’ individual interests and abilities.

Teach Your Children Well

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“I Wish You Happiness”

Try this. I just might change things…..

Photo by Jack Hawley on

I once read that Richard Gere, that handsome actor from An Officer and a Gentleman, said that when he encounters someone who is angry or hurtful toward him, he directs this unspoken thought to them, “I wish you happiness.” I recall thinking, ” How can he be so gracious in the face of such bitterness?” I decided to give his peaceful method a try.

There was the woman in Costco that shoved her way past me. Mind you, we are in a pandemic and she might just be afraid of covid. I wished her happiness in my mind. It didn’t prompt her to turn around and apologize, but I did feel a bit better that I’d chosen to react kindly (and silently). I tried it again when a man cut me off on the freeway. He was driving a huge truck with too many tires and I was driving toward the exit ramp with my turn signal on. He sped up and gave me a finger wave and a mean glare as he sped past me. I am grateful for my reflexes because he almost hit my car. Yes, I wished him happiness rather than yelling at a man who couldn’t hear me and didn’t care. I must admit, I felt calmer.

Would this practice be effective with my husband who on occasion gets on my nerves? We know each other’s triggers after almost 25 years of marriage. I figured it can’t hurt to try. He leaves 10-12 pairs of tennis shoes in our front entryway. I moved them to the garage on a brand new shoe stand right by the door. He moved them back. Although I wanted to yell, “I worked hard to clean up that area,” I told him that I like the area to be clear of clutter. Then I silently wished him happiness. It didn’t take care of the excess shoe issue, but I felt that displaying his large stash of shoes is obviously important to him. They remain where he put them. Who knows why, but I let it go, hoping he would be happy.

What I took away from this new mental exercise in kindness is that it only harms me when I unleash anger or react without taking a pause to assess how my next move may effect my health. My amygdala, the part the brain that warns us to fight or flee, would secrete cortisol. Too much cortisol leads to serious health issues. On the other hand, if I wish someone happiness, it oddly brings me a moment of happiness, however brief. I’ll take it.

My Advice to Parents

I did not do my best with my own children in regards to parenting. It has been through years of higher education and many years as a teacher that has shown me the results of both good and bad parenting. I am committed to being a good grandmother. Although I cannot change the past, I have hope for the future, Children look to their parents for guidance and boundaries. They are their own person, not here to entertain or stroke our egos. They need love that is unconditional and faith that is unshakeable. If the parents don’t have faith in something greater than themselves, their children are left to follow whatever comes along, not having a foundation that begins at home. Without a good compass they are prey to all measure of influences. Children need boundaries that are established with consistency. Toddlers are not meant to negotiate. Teach them that ‘no’ means ‘no.’ Children need their parents to steer them in the right direction and that means towards what is age appropriate, and that which will help them live a healthy, happy life. I have learned that discipline teaches and punishment hurts. To sum it up, my advice is: Give your children Love, Faith, Discipline, Consistency, and Boundaries.

When Life Gives You Scraps…..

My sewing room is my happy place. It serves as my craft room as well as my office. It’s cooler downstairs, so on hot summer days I often go to my sewing/craft/office to relax. I am an avid follower of crafty blogs that repurpose fabric and findings to make interesting objects of beauty.

My most recent venture into craftiness is fabric-wrapped rope baskets and rugs. I decided to try my hand at it and if you don’t look too closely at the stitching, it came out pretty nice. There is something oddly meditative in wrapping fabric around rope and creating a unique design (even if you have no idea what to do with it). I started with a small bowl that I almost threw away, but thought I’d keep it to remind me that beginnings are often messy and imperfect. With practice, patience and time on my hands I have learned quite a bit. The kind ladies in my online group are truly inspirational. No negative comments to take the wind out of my sails, just encouragement. They are my kind of people.

Who couldn’t use a bit of quiet time while creating something unique? My scrap bins are thinning out and I am currently finishing up placemats for my daughter.

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Random Thoughts

The day I became a grandmother I began evaluating my life, or I should say reevaluating it. I realized that this beautiful child is not mine and I am a part of a much bigger picture, yet only a part. What part do I play? As a retired elementary teacher I know the joy of teaching young children. I have learned things I never knew about when raising my own three. Will I have any credibility when I suggest ideas for my grandchild to learn to read or learn to navigate technology when I left it up to teachers to provide literacy instruction for my own children? Is it my place to offer any suggestions? I know best practices and I have learned to lean on researched methods with proven results, yet this little one is not mine and I have to realize that I am an eager grandmother, one with hopes and dreams, but this child is the child of my child. “Take a deep breath and slow down,” I tell myself, “Enjoy the moment, and let the parents have their shot at raising their own child.” I am going to listen to that not so quiet voice. I will read aloud when I get opportunities and rejoice in my child’s journey with his child. Now if I am asked for advice, well, that’s another story.

The Hike

My son called to ask if we could celebrate my husband’s birthday by hiking near the coast. He has two small children; a two year old daughter and a 3 1/2 month old son. The hike is 4 miles total, and seemed at first to be a bad idea. We met at our favorite cafe for breakfast and then drove to the headlands to begin our hike. I marveled at how much gear my son had for the children. My daughter-in-law wrapped the 3 month old around her stomach as my son put the largest kid seat I’d ever seen on his back. This contraption even had stirrups and a cup holder. My granddaughter had other ideas. She insisted on walking. Her parents went ahead as my husband, the birthday boy, and I walked with Kaia. She walked along dodging dog poop and refused to hold my hand. Other hikers smiled as they passed my independent granddaughter so determined to make the hike on her own. All I wanted was to hold her hand until I realized that this tiny human is giving us all a glimpse of the future. She will make her own way someday. She walked a mile before getting tired and reluctantly got into her 21st century backpack seat to let her daddy carry her. It was so much more than a beautiful long hike.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on


The numbers on my bathroom scale made me dizzy. How can it be that
I weigh that much? When and where did I lose control of my weight? How can I get back to my old self? How soon? Being at home during a pandemic is a recipe for weight gain.

One of the side effects of the medication I take is weight gain, but geez, this much? Being the clothes horse that I am this is unacceptable.

I decided to enlist the help of a trainer at a local fitness center. My trainer came highly recommended and her smile put me at ease immediately. She asked the standard questions and I shared about my personal illness and my goals to gain strength and lose weight. We went to work setting up a routine. My end of the deal is work out on my own 2-3 days a week and meet with her on Friday afternoons. She showed me how to set up and properly use the machines.

I was self-conscious at first, but kept telling myself that there isn’t a soul in the gym that cares if I am a newbie. They are there for their own health and well being. There were lots of smiles and people around me were more focused on their own goals.

I am either committed or not. My trainer could sense that I have a lazy streak, so she told me to think of it as my job to show up for work. Tomorrow I will travel 4 hours to Stanford Hospital for a medical procedure and allow myself a day or two to rest, then I plan to show up and get to work.

Update1 : The pandemic has put a halt to any gym activity. I purchased an eliptical and some stretch bands. I live at the beach where taking a walk is not a chore. I also bought a membership to Body Groove and dance myself silly in the living room. I am going to stick with my commitment.

Update 2: Down 6 pounds in one week. Woohoo!

Update 3: I joined an online group that gathers on Zoom to discuss healthy lifestyle choices. They are a great group of local women and I am happy to be on the same journey.

Update 4: Down 10 pounds. Woohoo!!

Update 5: I make my own granola and morning muffins– healthy and delicious

Update 6: Going back to my gym! Yahoo! What a nightmare these last two plus years have been. Like Maya Angelou said, “Still I rise.”

Update 7: I spent 8 days in the hospital with Covid and pneumonia. It was a nightmare. I was fully vaccinated, but still got it (pre-existing condition). The nurse said the vaccinations saved my life. Anyway, after a long period of recuperation, I am back to the gym to regain strength from reconditioning. I am a determined, strong lady who wants to enjoy life. Here I go……wish me luck.

Below are some archives.

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Stop and Be Still

My grandson on a morning walk with his dad . This was taken half a mile from his home.

I learn so much from my grandchildren. They teach me how to enjoy the moment. They teach me to be still and absorb sights and sounds that I have taken for granted. I have learned to see nature through their eyes. It fills me with optimism and hope that the new generation will not take for granted the splendor that is all around them. My grandson is fortunate to live close to a nature preserve that he and his dad walk to often. On this particular day he was very still and watched as a deer crossed his path. He noticed everything about the deer, but knew to be very quiet and very still. He just stood there and looked on with awe at this beautiful animal. Such restraint from a two year old! I would have scrambled for my phone if I had been there. Obviously my son did just that. Not my grandson. That moment is in his memory bank.

Children learn through experiences. New information is stored in longterm memory when it is connected to multi-sensory experiences. These walks to nature are such good learning opportunities.
Perhaps next time I will join them and leave my phone in the car.

Get outside. Stop and be still. You never know what you might see.

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Move On

I’m not sure if it’s the pandemic or the recent tragic devastation from tornadoes across six states that reminds me of how fragile our time on earth is, or maybe it’s old age, but I have been dwelling on mistakes I’ve made that can’t be undone. It hurts to know that one moment in time when I could have done something differently, is lost forever. Poor choices, a lapse in judgement, a slip of the tongue, all these hideous memories that haunt me can’t be undone. All that is left is my guilt and a desire to try to keep true to my values. I know that I can make better choices moving forward. More importantly, I want to do better. I want my time to be spent feeling the joy of knowing I did the right thing. I want to know I loved fully and I made good choices.

Outdoor Play

I used a card table and a sheet

This picture brought to mind how my cousins and I would make do with whatever was handy to create our own environment for play. We didn’t need expensive toys or electronic devices to entertain us, our imaginations did the work. Our creativity flourished in our grandmother’s garage that housed boxes of old clothes that we used to put on plays. We draped a sheet across the wire that held the garage door and it instantly became a theater. We didn’t care if we had an audience or not. A refrigerator box became a puppet theater.

I remember learning about the lifecycle of frogs long before second grade. The little stream near our home was host to tadpoles, frogs and dragonflies. We were keen observers and had conversations about our discoveries. Holding a caterpillar or a snail was a science lesson. The lessons and experiences gained from outdoor play are stored in longterm memory. I think the most important aspect of outdoor play is that it supports children’s problem-solving skills and nurtures their creativity, as well as providing rich opportunities for their developing imagination, inventiveness and resourcefulness.

Nature promotes the use of executive function skills. Executive function skills are the life skills we use at every age, and that help us stay organized and independent. With unstructured play in nature, children are using creativity to solve problems and working memory to make up stories. They work their flexible thinking skills by testing boundaries and learning how to stay safe while exploring, creating, and having fun. They are strengthening and challenging their own life skills just by playing!

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Finding Joy

I have taken a break from any kind of “must do” or social media that tends to take me down a rabbit hole. I have been taking an internal inventory of my values to make sure I am living in alignment with them. It has been a journey of the soul, one that has opened my eyes to the many missed opportunities to right the wrong and stay true to what is important to me. My daily routine includes time on the treadmill listening to music that I love. I put flowers in a vase on my dining room table to remind me of the beauty outside my door. An afternoon nap recharges my energy and reminds me that rest is restorative. I now make my own frozen yogurt so I know exactly what is in it. My experiment in eating 90% plant- based food has proven to be beneficial. I discovered how good cherry tomatoes are as a snack. I squeeze a lime into my water and add crushed ice. I am making simple changes that heal body and mind.

My grandson turns two on Monday and he tugged on my blouse the other day. I turned around and he said, ” I love you, grandma, so so much. You’re a good grandma.” I picked him up, held him, and wanted to freeze time. It really is the little things that feed our soul. There is no doubt that when you stop to acknowledge the good, actively move in the direction of your values, and disconnect from anything that gets you off track, you enjoy the little things. I wish you joy.

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Feeling Safe

Feeling protected provides us with warmth, confidence and security. Feeling wanted leads to feeling safe. Being safe is the absence of beating yourself up or feeling that all that is good in your life is a moment away from vanishing forever. When you are protected, you know deeply that you deserve to live in a safe space and have the happiness that it brings.

To help us be safe, a part of the brain, the amygdala, monitors the environment. Anything unexpected or unfamiliar causes the amygdala to release stresshormones. Though the amygdala may be reacting to something that is harmless, the hormones cause feelings of alarm and the urge to escape. What happens next depends on whether a person is secure or insecure.

Feeling secure is a basic human need in several ways. Firstly, there is the physical security – we need to be protected from the elements and other dangers. But mental security is just as important – we need to feel that we belong and that we have control of our lives, that we are safe.

Being safe is the state of being protected from harm or other non-desirable outcomes. Feeling safe, which is also called psychological safety, means being self-assured that we are not in danger. Having a sense of well-being can’t fully happen if we don’t feel safe first. A lack of psychological safety is a major trigger for many of our unwanted emotions as fear and anxiety, which can really block the pursuit of a healthy and calm mind. 

Try to notice how your body responds when you start to feel unsafe. You may feel like your heart is racing, you might feel like you are losing control, or even going into a full panic attack. The reality is that most of the time we are not in real threatening danger, and those reactions are only a sensation created by how our minds perceive the environment to be.

  1. Don’t deny your feelings. Awareness is key. If you feel unsafe, afraid, or anxious, don’t try to fight these feelings. Don’t try to convince yourself you are not scared or anxious, instead, accept and calmly plan how you can shift away from those feelings. Avoid those who do not share your values.
  2. When you feel unsafe, speak with someone, seek support, don’t keep your thoughts to yourself. A human voice can help you calm down, organize your thoughts, and think more clearly on an action plan.
  3. Seek out these who lift you up, share your values, and have an overarching spirit of positivity.


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A Little Love

Don’t we all need it right now?

More important than me loving you, is you loving yourself. I’ve been thinking a lot about self-love and how it is not selfish to love and care for yourself. Sadness, loneliness and despair can keep you trapped in a downward spiral. Self-pity can wrap around you like a poisonous vine. I love a quote from Susan David’s book, Emotional Agility: ” Don’t believe everything you think.” Begin each day by saying three things you are grateful for. I can start you off with number one, you woke up to see another day. Be patient with yourself. Get outside even for a few minutes. Take deep breaths and let them out slowly while thinking of who you could help this day, even if it is yourself, and even if you share a smile with someone. Take care, my friend.

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Quit Now

I would add smoking to this list as I watched my mother gasp for air as she died from emphysema.

The time to hit the redo button is now.

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I Am a Book Lover

A great book feels like a good hug, the kind that lingers awhile.

I have been reading more in the last 14 months than I ever have. Being the owner of at least fifty books that been collecting dust, I kept promising myself I would use the pandemic as an opportunity to catch up on my reading. I am glad to report that I completed almost every book. Some of the books I read were previously cast aside as not worthy of my time. I hastily concluded that if the first few pages failed to capture my interest, then it would make it to the “to be read” shelf.

Lately I have approached each book on my cast off shelf with a new perspective since I realized how grateful I am to have choices of books to read. There have been a few books that brought me on a journey, several brought me to tears, and most became a blessed escape from current events. I will take that “hug” anytime!

Listed below are powerful books that I read during the height of the pandemic. Some offered hope, others offered escape, they all offered me time with a great book.

A true account of life in unimaginable circumstances as told by a Holocaust survivor. A lesson on what is important.

A guide to finding peace and calm in times of trouble. His book is an easy read and has gems of wisdom throughout.

This book will help you break old habits and build habits that will serve you well.

A beautiful tale of a childless couple in the wilderness of Alaska during the 1920s. The imagery alone makes this a beautiful book. The story is one that will stay with you for awhile.

A tribute to the grit of the women who survived during the Dust Bowl era. As fierce as the winds were during that time, a mother’s love and devotion prevails. A great read from an author who can write an epic with incredible power.

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