Snow day

It wasn’t my idea. My 70 year old father looked out the window and said “It looks like the perfect snow for building a snowman.” And he was right. Wet and packy. And like all good ideas, it was followed with the conversation about the best way to get the job done. (NHES 4 interpersonal communication). He suggested rolling the first ball UP the footpath so that we wouldn’t have as much to shovel later. (Brilliant!) And then let gravity take the ball DOWN the Snowman kissingfootpath (that is on a hill) so that it wouldn’t be so challenging to roll into the designated spot. (Brilliant!) The next challenge came when the belly of the snowbeast needed to land on top of the bottom snowball. My dad recollected a time when he used a wide board to roll the snowball onto the base. Ingenious. Good call dad. I kept listening. The 3 snowballs were in place and we needed a carrot. I’m a health educator, so, OF COURSE I have a carrot in the house. Just not the right kind. I have the ready to eat, washed and cleaned baby carrots on hand. Waaay too small for this 6 foot snowman. To which my dad said he was going to venture into the garage. (For a carrot?!) He came back with a dandelion puller. You know, one of those tools that you pry the root of dandelion out with. (And that the dandelion still comes back  despite all of your efforts). The handle absolutely looks like a carrot. And charcoal eyes? The charcoal is hiding in the garage somewhere, so, I reached in my pocket and pulled out small black plastic bags. I keep them on hand for any deposits my dogs may make as I walk them. Perfect. All of those years of picking up dog waste was the catalyst for this next idea. Pick up a handful of snow and tie the bag in a knot. Bore a hole into the snowman using the dandelion tool and tuck the bags in. Voila. Charcoal eyes and buttons. Thanks for the snowday idea, dad. I haven’t done that in years!

It’s not my monkey. It’s not my zoo.

Did you ever hear something that 109297865 [Converted] monkey turning cartwheelsmade you laugh right out loud? That happened to me the other day. I was swapping end-of-the-semester war stories with a fellow teacher. And if you’ve been teaching long enough, you’ve probably got a couple of doozies up your sleeve. We were discussing the usual unsolvable teaching problems: Not enough funding, salaries, blah, blah, blah. Exasperated, and at the end of a long rant, we both took a deep breath and waited. To which point he shrugged his shoulders and said. “It’s not my monkey. It’s not my zoo.” To which I laughed right out loud and waaaaaay too long. For days. And days. I’d burst out into laughter in the middle of a thought. (NHES 7 – Self management – or lack there of??) I love it when that happens. That singular thought tickled me for days. (Maybe it was one of those “you had to be there to find it funny” moments. But I don’t think so). The metaphor of a school being a zoo full of monkey’s cracks. me. up.

This post is dedicated to Kristin, the purveyor of this fine idea. Thank you. Thinking of it gives me immeasurable joy. Am laughing right out loud. (Again).

Kids say the darndest things

Kids say the darndest things.

The other day I was in the field observing some of my pre-service teachers giving their best shots at teaching Health Education lessons. It is my general rule to never intervene while students are teaching unless it is absolutely necessary. So, when there was significant off-task behavior, and learning was no longer the focus, I felt the teachable moment had arrived and that it was necessary to intervene.

Let me provide the context to this situation. A small group of  girls were working on a coloring page that reviewed the concepts just taught in a Health Education lesson. Generally speaking, this would be a time for quiet reflection and independent work. Or, quite possibly whispering voices while working diligently. However, what was happening was a gaggle of first grade girls that were singing with rapidly escalating voices and about to hit a crescendo. One little girl was out of her seat singing Elle King’s “Exe’s and O’s” with accompanying body motions. It was time to intervene. I wanted the pre-service teacher to 1. recognize that the behavior was (way) off task and 2. more importantly I wanted her to see how to re-direct the off-task behavior. So, from my far corner of the room I slowly walked over to the girls and quietly said something to the effect: “I am looking for students that are working quietly and are completely focused on their coloring pages.”  I utilized proximity control as I circled the room giving praise. The little girl that was belting out “Exe’s and O’s” was about to start singing again when I put one finger to my lips, raised my eyebrows, gently shook my head side-to-side, and gave a “tsk-tsk.” She stopped and sat back down. I smiled on the inside. The key to effective classroom management is early and often intervention. Firm but fair. So, feeling pleased with myself that I had modeled how to redirect off-task behavior, I turned to sit back down. As I was heading back to my seat, a little hand peeped in the air.  I turned around and said “Yes?” The little girl meekly said, “Are you a police officer?” Inside I was laughing, but on the outside with a faint hint of a smile curling on my lips I said, “No, I’m a teacher.”

This got me thinking…Was  my intervention too stern? No, I just think that sometimes children are given “choices” but what they really need is authority. Discipline is an act of love. Self-control is an essential life-long skill that should be fostered at a very young age. As the adult in the classroom it was my duty to re-direct. I would have been negligent to the development of the children had I chosen to ignore the behavior and pretend that nothing was happening.

Maybe this is a post about NHES 4 – Interpersonal Communication. Or, perhaps it is teaching NHES 7 – Self-management or NHES 8 – Advocacy. (Or maybe it is addressing all of the above.) In any case, a group of children working diligently on a task will touch the heart of any teacher. We should strive to discipline and re-direct them to show them our love.

Books for the World: Advocacy

image5A few weeks ago I took a group of students on a field trip to Madison. We participated in the “Books for the World” project where new and used textbooks and library books are packed and shipped to all corners of the world. We worked side-by-side for two hours with students from UW-Madison. It felt good to help others. (NHES advocacy). Consider advocating for the health of others by donating some of your  time to an organization that could use a helping hand. Change the world, one open heart at a time.image2

My new favorite tool: The pitchfork

pitchfork picThe sunrise was spectacular as I was driving to work the other morning. There comes a time when life insists on slowing you down to show you its beauty. It got me thinking about gratitude and my upcoming presentation with my former UW-W student at our statewide Health and Physical Education Convention. The topic: gratitude and blogging. (Health Education content area Mental and Emotional Health). What rises to the top of my gratitude list is the recent balmy Wisconsin weather which has allowed me to winterize the house more easily than if there were flurries. By this I mean packing up and storing the lawn furniture, emptying pots of soil from my container gardens, and generally tidying up the garage. Reflecting on gratitude also makes me think of my new favorite tool…the pitchfork. I don’t know why it occurred to me that I needed to purchase a pitchfork, but I recently found myself in the local farm implement store sizing up a new fork. I looove my new tool. It’s like a microwave…now that I have it I can’t imagine life before the pitchfork. It handily picks up bundles of grass, leaves, and even a dump truck full of mulch. Yes, mulch.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 15 Characteristics of an Effective Health Education Curriculum. One of those characteristics is to personalize health information to engage students and encourage creative expression.


What are you grateful for? Take a moment and reflect on this and then turn and tell someone what inspires gratefulness in your heart (in this moment). Describe how gratefulness positively impacts your health. (Remember to think holistically. Which dimension of health is impacted by this feeling of gratefulness?)

What duct tape can’t hold together, friendship can

I guess after a decade I’m moving up in the world; I got an office with a window. Woo hoo! The down side? 30 year old orange carpet that cannot be replaced because removing it means possibly tampering with asbestos tile. Nope. Not gonna touch that one. The silver lining is that colleagues have been “congratulating” me on my new office and have been genuinely supportive of the move. My favorite response was from Amy that said “I’m sorry” (about the orange carpet) but “good job” on spending 5 hours duct taping together 10 or so black mat’s to create a patchwork carpet. (It is much improved over the orange, let me tell you). My overall impression as I was working was how supportive my colleagues are. Pat stopped in to tell me that the whole shootin’ match should be left justified so that the seams wouldn’t show so readily. To which I laughed and responded “Where was that advice 2 hours ago?” Josh, who is just an overall amazing person and so easy to talk to, has stopped by several times. Our last conversation was geared around ballet. Who knew. Beth waited patiently, while Bill was tasked with painting. Kelly gave me the hook up on blinds. (Thank you). Kim let me borrow her tape measure (multiple times). Ned and his new assistant (so sorry, I’ve forgotten his name already) muscled my desk and really heavy cabinet down the hall and around several corners. (And the most impressive thing was that they offered to help without even being asked). That never happens. Your kindness overwhelms me. Brandi, thanks for being a friend and for being a bookcase mover when no one else was around. And Gary is so on top of things that he already had my new name plate on the wall even before I even had a chance to start moving. Overall, this move has been a collective effort in kindness. I’m almost done purging old files, Jen.  (You inspired me). Feels good to lighten the load. Another colleague stopped by to ask if I was going to add a second bookcase in my new office. Nope. Otherwise it will just collect paper. Trying to keep things streamlined if possible.

As winter approaches (did I really say that in early September – shame on me) I am not sure the duct tape will hold the seams of the “carpet” together. (Mud and salt might just do a number on the integrity of the duct tape). But, for now, I am happy with the result of the patchwork carpet. As with all good things it might need a little maintenance. The take away? What duct tape can’t hold together, friendship can.

Thank you to all of my wonderful colleagues for your help and support during the move. Keep stopping by. I rather enjoy our conversations.


Negotiating peaceful community resolutions one rice krispy treat at a time

Rice KrispyHuman behavior can at times be relatively predictable. Have you ever met anyone that didn’t like a rice krispy treat? (Me either). So, at a recent township hall meeting I decided to bring a pan of rice krispy treats. (I called my dad beforehand to tell him what I was going to do and he laughed right out loud!) The goal was to create friendship through food. It’s harder to kick somebody under the table when you’ve broken bread with them. The issue at hand had the potential to be particularly snarly, especially since we’d addressed the issue before with no clear resolution in hand. So, the solution became obvious to me. Feed people. Put a little sugar in their system and then let them talk. I have to say, I think it worked. At one point the meeting seemed to stall and the chairman astutely detected a need to shift the tone of the meeting to allow some sunlight to enter the discussion. He jumped up and grabbed a rice krispy treat. In support of the break, another board member took charge of passing the plate around the room. Only 3 rice krispy treats were left at the end of the meeting. Not bad. We worked at a solution that required compromise (NHES 8). I suspect some were likely happier than others with the resolution, but, in the end we came together to solve a problem and work towards a common goal (NHES 6). Let the minutes reflect that a solution was decided on. (Hooray!) Now that’s how community building, problem solving, and discord is resolved; with patience, open communication (NHES 4), attentive listening, logical thinking, a good dose of kindness and “treat your neighbor the way you’d want to be treated,” in addition to a pan of rice krispy treats. (Note: The remaining 3 treats didn’t make it home).

What the Dickens!

I wrote this blog post while driving my John Deere tractor. Well, not while I was actually driving the tractor, but rather the inception of the ideas were formulated while I was driving. I guess several hours of pin striping will do that to you.

I keep coming back to this “news” broadcast (a.k.a trash television) I saw the other day. It was of a famous(?) football player and his celebrity crush. Oh gee. I have to admit that I was all judgement immediately. Really? There are not more newsworthy things to report? (NHES 2 and 3 Analyzing Influences and Accessing Valid Health Information).

(Forgive the connecting of the dots today…)

And then I heard someone talking about the tiniest of culturally “allowable” shortcuts, which is really code for “You know what you are doing is wrong, or it is cheating, or taking the shortcut as you look both ways over your shoulders, (and your conscience let’s you know it), but you actively choose on the side of wrong anyway. We’ve all been there. It’s a moral slight of hand.

We teach decision making (National Health Education Standard 5) in Health Education. But decision making is more than a process (clarify, consider, choose, consequence…). Decision making has a moral element to it. But, I am not sure we (meaning Health Educators) ever intentionally pursue the morality of choice making as often as we should in our ruggedly individualistic society, where pulling yourself up by your bootstraps seems to be the footwear of choice. But what we really should be talking about are the value systems at play when faced with making choices (big or small). It’s like a gateway drug…if you give yourself “permission” to experiment with “recreational” drugs (i.e., marijuana or alcohol) then may you give yourself “permission” to experiment with other drugs as well. If we dismiss our consciences, what decisions are we actually left to make? The consequence is that we live in a society where finger pointing, accusations, lack of accountability and self discipline, as well a sense of inflated sense of entitlement run rampant. (a.k.a. a society where there adult tantrums occur and “no” doesn’t really mean “no” anymore).

Coming full circle…

After watching the celebrity crush story it got me thinking about who I would have as a celebrity crush. I am embarrassed to say it didn’t take me long to put a name on the list.  And then I decided to do a little Internet trolling where I effortlessly found a Twitter account. I read some of the posts and then quickly put my iPad down like it was a hot potato. Looking at the Twitter account just felt like voyeurism. And that’s the reason I am not on Facebook. (Yes, I know all about adjusting privacy settings). I just don’t want others pulling back the curtains on my life and having a peek whenever they want to. It feels like being licked all over. Ewwww. It’s the smallest of infractions, but I fear that it is a slippery slope and I just don’t want to have that attached to my conscience. There are too many things to feel bad about already: A late night snack of potato chips, or not getting the monsters to the dog park when I know that they really need exercise.

So, for now I am happy to watch public television and smile knowing that if I did have a celebrity crush he’d have a black lab puppy loping astride his bicycle and he’d make the moralist of decisions led by a clean conscience and a helping hand from above. What the Dickens?!



Advocating for advocacy

Participation at a recent Shape America Midwest Conference got me thinking about advocacy (National Health Education Standard 8).  What does it mean to advocate? What are the characteristics of effective advocacy efforts? As a result of the conversation that occurred in our small work group I generated the following advocacy ideas:

1. Have data at the ready. Can you clearly articulate one valid piece of information related to teaching Health Education? (Perhaps you want to identify brain research connecting the physiological impact of movement on learning).

2. Let the data work for you. Data can be presented as the glass as half full or half empty.

3. Find common ground. Even when two perspectives are diametrically opposed, parting the shades can be difficult, but if you are equipped with conviction you. can. do. it.

4. Advocacy doesn’t have to feel like drinking from a fire hydrant. Take it one step at a time and open the valve sloooowly.

5. Know what the objections are. If you know what the objections are you can equip yourself to address those objections. As Tom Cruise alluded to as a lawyer in A Few Good Men, “Don’t ask a question that you don’t already know the answer to.”

SHAPE America pic 26. K.I.S.S. (Enough said).

7. And if so motivated to advocate for Health check out: