Give yourself permission to do nothing!

As I sit here up at my family’s lakeside cottage I ask myself, Is doing nothing, something? When my 3 children woke up this morning I asked them what they wanted to do today? My wife response was quicker than the kids, “Nothing!!” Since we spent yesterday cleaning up our property, chipping wood, this was an appropriate answer.

But can you really ever do nothing? If you are sitting on the couch you are still doing something! In fact as I am writing this post, my wife and kids are enjoying the lake. As I reflect back to the school year, my students often responded to the question, What did you do over the weekend? “Nothing”  Is nothing just the quick response by someone who doesn’t want to be held down by plans or just the quick response that requires no thinking?

For me nothing is reflection, unplanned learning and freedom. Nothing allows us to fill our minds and use imagination to do what ever we want! If we set out to do something: say build a dog house or read a book. Well then we have to complete that task or we feel we did not accomplish our “goal” for the day. Nothing gives us permission to do anything or not. No feeling of missing out or lack of accomplishment.

Just remember that when you are done doing “nothing!” to reflect on what you actually did accomplish doing IT!

Why I Teach!

I was born the son of a teacher and doctor. My mother, the teacher, was always fostering learning for her 3 sons. She would constantly find activities to engage us. Frequent trips to the  zoo, museum, park and library were a large part of growing up. Dad, when around, also helped us develop a passion for learning. He would make sure to explain every step when fixing items around the house. He mandated our attendance when he worked on the car or boat, “So you know how to do it!” He always exclaimed when we issued complains.

As I grew older, all three of us developed a passion for figuring things out. This passion often end us up in trouble. I vividly remember, taking apart the lawn mower with my little brother one day because it wasn’t working. We thought we found the problem and put it back together. Then realized we hadn’t used all of the parts. When dad got home, we heard about the need for patience and value of questions. Surprisingly dad, took the time with us to make sure the lawnmower was fixed correctly. Not that we enjoyed the time taking it back apart, going to the store to get a schematic diagram to know where all the parts really belonged. Eventually dad even taught me to fly an airplane, since his grandfather taught him, when he was a teenager.

Unfortunately, my parents pasted away due to a tragic plan accident when I was 17 years old. Lucky for me, I was old enough to remember their teaching and modeling of learning. I remember my mother belong to a literary guild, attending monthly meetings and writing research papers. My father constantly learning new procedures for his medical practice. Turn the VCR on in our house growing up it was either a historic documentary or a medical training film.

My parents placed kindling on my educational career. After their passing, It took a few sparks to light the fire. First it was my grandmother. Seeing that I was not self-motivated. She force me to take an aptitude test. The results of which said I should go into a helping profession. Naturally, I resisted, like any teenager lost in life would do. In college, I ventured into classes that were easy, fun or I found interesting. I fell into a communications major with emphasis in video production. I graduated with not prospects of a job. I floundered around in sales and customer service positions. Finding no passion or satisfaction. About ten years after the aptitude testing, my grandmother brought it up again. This time the kindling started to glow.

As I returned to college, tackling another major, I felt the passion winds begin to blow. School this time had meaning. I did not care about fun, socializing or frat parties. I want to learn and fast. Each class my passion for becoming an educator grew. I remembered how my parents fostered my learning. I began to recall, how they also helped everyone around them learn. Mom would help anyone, at church, at home or at school. Dad stopped to answer every patients questions (party of why he was not home often).  I felt pleasure and joy in help others learn. Sure felt better than selling a person an item or fielding a complaint.

I teach to honor my parents. To share our collective love of learning with others. Teaching is about creating passionate learners. It is about help others find their passion. Making students become the teachers. Creating meaningful relationships between teacher, student and knowledge. I teach to pass along my love of learning and spark others fires.

Learning Vocabulary with Metaphors

Today I used the following assignment in my science classroom:

The Learning target for today is to demonstrate understanding of vocabulary through the use of Metaphoric representation.

Part 1: Required- Vocab Metaphors

  • Pick 4 of our vocabulary words from our vocab list
  • Find a “non-scientific” picture that represents the word – Like we did yesterday in class
  • Explain why the picture represents the word

Click here to go to Quizlet to review vocabulary.

Go here to write your Vocabulary Metaphors in your

Mentor Text for a 4

An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of ocean water generated by the forces acting

When I read that definition I began to think about my advisory students who are preparing for the NWEA test.  To help them improve their math scores I am bringing them in the computer lab to review.  I feel like this test is like an ocean current because it is directing the path of education.   The direction of education is currently moving to align more and more with the tests.  Teachers and students are under great ”forces” to be successful.   Ocean currents are controlling the flow of water and tests are controlling education.

Mentor Text for a 3

Title: Vocab Metaphors

Vocabulary word: Front –  the atmospheric phenomenon created at the boundary between two different air masses

This image represents front because the Mickey Mouse character is a boundary between the two different masses of people.  Also the Mickey Mouse looks like he in the atmosphere. This connects to the vocabulary word because “Front” is a boundary between two masses of air.


The mentor texts are present to model for the students the quality of writing that is expected  in their blog posts. The use of Metaphors to connect to vocabulary was modeled in my classroom yesterday with the help of our wonderful, special education teacher, Mrs Hogan.

Many of my students are struggling to meet the criteria for success on this assignment. It is not that they can’t define the words, or use pictures to connect to the words, but because the students are concrete thinkers. My students struggle with the idea of a metaphor. When they want to be literal in the representation with a picture. Look at the following example for the word “Climate”

                  CLIMATE: the climate in the desert  stays the same all the time.

A picture of a desert climate to be a metaphor for climate? The picture does represent a climate but not metaphorically. I need to figure out how to engage the students at a higher level of thinking to create metaphors instead of literal representation.

As I continued to see literal representation after literal representation, I asked the class to reexamine the “mentor” texts. Ask themselves if they were following the model laid out before them. Many were upset. They acknowledge that the model was not being followed accurately. I stated that “It is okay to make a mistake, it is not okay to leave the mistake uncorrected after realizing it is a mistake.”  Student went back to work and created samples that looked more like this:

Ocean Current: The steady flow of surface ocean water in a prevailing direction.

This image of a highway is like an ocean current because the movement is continuous.


Atmosphere – is a mix of gases that surround the Earth. When I think of the atmosphere I think of salad, because salads are always mixed with something, weather it’s salad dressing, fruits and vegetables, etc.

Students need constant reminders of expectations. When expectations are not met teachers need to guide students back to the goal of the learning activity. Teachers need to point the students towards high quality examples of work. Allow the students to assess their own work and give them time to make the necessary changes. Students seem to rush into assignments with the desire of completion. Monitoring needs to occur to make sure learning targets are achieved.

EdCamp Style PD for school PD – Take the risk

Today it happened!! Our school took a slice of its regularly scheduled PD time and made a small change. Teachers signed up to share. Share something they are doing in their classroom that works. Something that they feel would help others. The staff then could choose a location to attend 4 or 5 of these mini-PD session. Sessions ranged from computer applications to be used in the classrooms to procedures to how to create a calm climate for learning.

Our principal took a risk by allowing the staff to guide their learning. I feel it let the silent stars shine. Teachers who usually are quiet took center stage. Shared what was working for them, and slow drifted back to silence. Sharing gave the staff power to decide what they felt ours might want. It gave our staff respect, by allowing us to pick what sessions we wanted to attend. It gave our staff power over their own learning. Ultimately it gave our staff, a nice feeling inside as we head into spring break and down the home stretch of the year. To top it all off our assistant principal felt we needed a snack after work before soaking in the PD so she prepared a “Tater” bar with all the fixings, for the entire staff to snack on as they soaked in the Edcamp style session.