It’s All About Balance

Let’s talk about balance. The reality check about balance is that it’s different for everyone! And the annoying part, once you think you’ve find that “magic” formula, “Ta Dah” it changes over and over again. Then all those pundits who say you should do this, you should do that, don’t live in my world and don’t know me. Traveling my road I discovered what works for me now and recognizing it will change again. What stress we put on ourselves trying to be like “others!” Understanding others is so important, but understanding yourself, is immeasurable.

It’s like teaching and learning, barely does that cookie cutter turn out those cookies the way you expected. We’re sold a bill of goods telling us “follow the program step by step” and you’re guaranteed success. Not true and at what cost! Know your people folks, know your audience, the balance here starts with you and them, not the program. And each year it changes. The hard part of teaching occurs when that program, that formula comes first; your students need you to know them, build relationships and be their guide as they travel the curriculum in your class. I’ll preach it, “Teach from your heart, the brain will catch up.”

I write this far from home, visiting family and friends, seeing both familiar and unfamiliar sites as I travel in Israel. A trip that focuses on balance. Not designed, unexpected but an accommodation that’s working for all of us (I hope). As my grandkids go off to school each morning (as well as their parents), I wait for them at home. In the early afternoon we (my daughter, son-in-law, my son and I) go off on an adventure close by. Then in the early evening we’re all together till bedtime. We’ve (my son and I) had days away visiting other family, seeing more of the country and getting a better perspective of life here.

A quiet neighborhood  

A reflective quiet morning, time to write because the words in my mind need a passage way. In a week we’ll be on our way home. The balance there will be so different. I’ve retired and I’m so grateful that I continue to sub at my school; dates to sub already on my calendar. First a week to readjust and take care of stuff. Friends will ask, “Don’t you need more time to rest before you start working?” Me, “It’s all good, I figured out how to balance it, for now.”


Caesarea                                                                                         Rosh Hanikra


Baha’i Temple                                                                         Bet Guvrin-Maresha (caves)

How do you look at balance in your life? Does it continue to change?

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Preventive Care: Sketch Out

This crazy thought percolated in my head as I scratched and scratched my awful spider bites. Oh I know, don’t shout at me, I should not be doing that! But, but I made a mistake. Not earth shattering, nothing that I can’t stop (I hope). I have home remedies that work and when the next urge to scratch overwhelms, I’ll use one of them. But maybe better yet, I’ll do some preventive care.

If you read my blog you’ll know that this is connected to teaching and learning. How often do our students say “I made a mistake?” How often do kids say “What if I make a mistake?” How those worries impact our students often depends on how we, their teachers, respond.

In our hurray to get going, to start our “teaching” do we take time to set up an environment where “be brave” is as respected and encouraged as the “A” kids may seek. As I sub in various classrooms I see, what I’ll call ‘class rules/core values’ anchor charts that students developed with their teachers, to reflect what’s important in their learning space. Be kind, play safely, respect property, listen respectfully and others that set the classroom tone. Kids sign their chart and can refer to them when incidents occur. Kindness, building relationships, respecting differences are wonderful powerful talking points.

And then the caveat, you don’t say it once and walk away. Kids (and many adults) don’t learn that way. New work, of any kind, needs a gentle reminder that some stuff may be more challenging to understand, it takes time and practice. And some stuff has no right or wrong. And in most stuff there are NO MISTAKE! It’s really about the trying, the joy and effort in discovery.

So when we had a delightful Geniushour Lego Challenge and the chorus of  ‘I did this wrong’ and ‘I made a mistake’ reminded us to let these adventurous first graders know that working together, problem solving and enjoying the challenge was doing it,  just fine!

I have found that Heart Maps are a great way to generate writing  prompts that are authentic to the individual student. After a mini lesson the kids went back to their seats to work on their ‘maps.’ They were so excited to get going, but a few were uncertain (not an unusual occurrence). Some asked ‘What if I make a mistake?’ ‘What if I do it wrong?’ Here again that gentle reminder about mistakes and this was a chance to sketch out what was important to them.

So yes I like that term SKETCH OUT. That’s can be their ‘preventive care.’ Let’s let our students ‘sketch out’ what’s important to them so they can leave those mistake worries behind. We need to remember to listen. So next time I sub, going to share with my students that it’s important to figure out what we want do and then try it, before the “making mistake cacophony.” How about you? Is this something you see? How do you help your students overcome their ‘mistakes’ worry?

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That Takes Time (Leo the Late Bloomer)

I’m writing this from the parents’ lens, but read till the end, your teacher connection is right there. 

I had lunch with a kindergarten teacher. We taught next door to each other for 23 years. We called ourselves sisters from different parents. Both born a month apart, both in Germany. The reasons for our birth places quite different; she the child of a dad who was  in Germany, employed by our government after the war and I the daughter of survivors. We have always been kindred spirits and our dedication to teaching keeps us close to this day. But mostly we enjoy each other’s company. When we meet we have so much to catch up, reminiscing about teaching kinders and inevitably we talk about our families and grandkids. Today’s conversation lead to an epiphany, another a-ha moment as we shared where our grandkids were in their school life. And then like a flash I thought of Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Jose Aruego. Like Leo’s dad, we all worry about our kids;

how they measure up to our definition of “on target” development. We wait and wait, cajole, encourage, prompt and worry. And then it becomes “their” time to reach those milestones (generalizing to get to school): they play, crawl, walk, talk, scribble, draw, write, count and read. And we sigh with relief as they hit those “markers.” But then we’re not done, we compare. Where does my kid fit in with their peers? That one knows what they want to be. That one’s so passionate about (you choose). That one’s an artist, for sure! That one’s athleticism will get them far. That one’s a thinker. That one’s a doer. And you wonder about yours. How often do we get to lazy, unmotivated, spoiled, pampered? How often do we hear we have to get them to shape up. Life is not a joy ride!

And to this I would say WHOA! Take it easy. Look at them with an open mind and heart. Things take time. They have the foundation, you’ve given them that. You’re their role model. And things take time. They’re all different. What they need is for you to believe in them and that they’ll get there. They will bloom. That takes time.

And now from my seat at the table as a teacher, how empowering is it for these kids when we remember, there are often many “late bloomers” that come into our classroom. They’re not cookie cutters. They’re all different in their interests and abilities. There strengths and needs vary. They’ll put you to the test many times. Build those relationships, find a connection. Enjoy them, cherish them, be their champion! Make that commitment. That’s what we do with “all bloomers!”

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Change And A Parable

I went to temple for Rosh Hashanah services and listened to an interesting sermon each day of the holiday. One was on change: how some change may appear as good and how some change may appear as bad. Basically my take-a-way: it’s what we do about the change that confronts us, that is up to us. Continue reading

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Playdough, Why Not

What if that first day of school starts with a big huge ball of playdough. Every kid, every classroom, every grade. Well to start, how about kinder to 6th. Preschool already does, so they’re ahead of the curve.

There’s that glob of playdough in front of your students. What would they do? For sure they’ll look around at their peers, at you, the teacher, and wonder “what the heck” (well maybe not in kinder). They’ll look at it and ask you, “What’s that for? What should I do with it? Can I play with it? You’ll look at them and say, “Sure if you want to.” And then you hear it, the joy, laughter and hubbub of conversation as they get their hands right into it and manipulate that glob in front of them. You smile, it brings back fond memories. Playdough has been a favorite of yours. The play resounds with laughter in the room. You have a purpose for that chunk of playdough. Your kids will see that the year starts with play, with silliness that puts you and them at ease. You’ll get to know one another; the kids and you and each other. You’re building relationships. You’re creating a space that welcomes them, that leaves room for trial and error, there is no right or wrong in playdough; just the doing and trying. So much “stuff” to do in the days that follow.

You’ll work together to set up your physical environment, your classroom library, your learning spaces (flexible seating has finally been realized in your room), you’ll have a discussions about the curriculum. You’ll hopefully develop agency, the goal of your classroom culture! Kids want to be heard and you’ll listen to them to understand who they are. If you haven’t started yet, what do you want those first days to look like? And if you have, start a Monday with playdough. You might like to give it a try. Many call it soft starts. That works for me. Playdough is soft!

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A Rainy Day Insight

View from the Javits Center

My week in New York is a lot different this time, from last year. True I’m here because my son is in the New York NOW show at the Javits Center. Last year I came, I saw, I conquered. I hadn’t been here in almost 18 years! It was all about me exploring and enjoying all the Big Apple has to offer. No obligations, no work entailed, really, all about me. This year I’m my son’s assistant, so to speak. I helped him set up his booth, was a sounding board for some questions and decisions. And mornings were with him at his booth. Afternoons were for exploring on my own. Excursions in the rain are just not my thing, so taxis and Uber’s took me from here to there, which led me to unexpected adventures and will get me to why I’m writing this post.

“My misadventure. I took a “bootleg” cab ( I was clueless) from the Javits Center to what I thought was the MET. (Apparently there are such cabs outside of the Javits. I saw many when David and I left for the evening.) Told the “cabby” I wanted to go to the Met. No clue what he thought I said, but ended up at the “Natural History Museum” When I went out of the cab just saw many steps going up to a museum. It was raining and I had to walk to the end of a long line. After 35 minutes went inside and saw two big dinosaur replicas. Guess what, I knew I WASN’T IN KANSAS ANYMORE! Took a “real” cab to the MET, stood in line another 20 minutes and “ta-dah” I saw STUFF.”


I was exhausted when I returned by “real” cab to the Javits Center but quickly reflected and thought of our students and their unexpected adventures. The unfamiliar is just plain not easy! Why does it take so long for us to understand this.

Some days just work and click for our students! We have our lessons planned. We know what’s on the agenda. We talk, we share, we discuss, we teach; they understand and they learn. Well maybe and then we go on. But more often then not there are missteps, bumps on the road and wrong turns. It’s really all about how we face those times, wherever we are in our continuum of learning and life. Do we give in? Do we give up? (At one point I thought maybe I’d forget about the museum and head back. Was it worth it to get stressed out and what was the payoff? It was.)

If you didn’t know about me and rain, you’d say what’s the big deal. If didn’t know that I could be challenged just so much, you’d say what’s the big deal. If you didn’t know I had different responsibilities this trip, you’d say what’s the big deal? You need to know me, to know about me.

We need to know our students, where they’ve been, where they are and where they’d like to be going. Let’s make a plan. Not about the curriculum to be covered, we know about that. Let’s make a plan to get to know our students, their families and let’s plan to work together. Let’s build those relationships that show we care. We will get to the curriculum. We will face the unfamiliar together. It’s who we are. It’s who they need.

I have a plan. I will be subbing again this year. My dream job at this time in my career. As the school year starts, what will your plan look like?

Book vendors at the Javits Center

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