Magical Progress

It seems that it can be hard for me to notice my own progress while I am in the trenches putting in the work. When it goes unnoticed for too long, or I discount it, the motivation needed to keep going gets tougher. Instead of feeling motivated I feel stuck or defeated. 
Young children are so excited to share their improvement, their progress and celebrate it so joyfully! “Look at me! I did it!” At some point that joyful celebration begins to come less easily, with less enthusiasm.
When I was teaching Summer School most of my students were hesitant to write. “I can’t do it.” or “I am not good at it.” were common statements. As almost third graders they were feeling stuck and unmotivated. I know how that feels. They were unable to see, or acknowledge, their writing capabilities and unwilling and fearful to try and improve. 
I wanted them to notice their capabilities and see every bit of improvement they made. With support, effort, focus and fun we worked on our writing for the 20, half days we were together. Celebrating as much as we could, every little bit.
On our last day of school I decided to share some bits and pieces of our pre and post writing assessment with them. I didn’t share the scores, or the names on the papers, and we discussed not saying, “That’s mine.” or “I know who’s that is.” 
We looked at the pre and post side by side and noticed the improvement. What do you see that is better than the first test? We noticed spaces between words, easier to read, better spelling, capital letters at the start of a sentence, period at the end, clearer printing…Any little improvement we noticed it and we smiled about it.
 We did not discuss scores and didn’t use the word perfect. We used the words changed, improved, transformed and magic. Is it magic? It can feel like it, but we know it’s not because we know the effort, hard work and focus that it took to get better at writing. The feeling of owning the improvement is magical, joyful, and motivating!!
I hope that as they enter into third grade next week they carry that feeling with them and let that feeling give them the courage to keep working hard and to try their best. I hope they amaze themselves with all they can do.

Creating Strength

I have been thinking a lot about what contributes to a strong classroom and what defines a strong classroom. What builds an environment of growth? How do we nuture that? How do we make it safe and joy filled? What does it feel like and look like to walk into The Strongest Classroom? At this moment I find myself thinking in poetry, specifically haikus, which help me think in few words that can convey strong feeling. I hope one of these poems might connect with you. Maybe you will be inspired to write your own haiku about the environment we need to nurture for children that leads to growth, learning and joy! I would love that!! If you feel comfortable sharing one with me that would be amazing!

The strongest classroom!
Happens anywhere at all,
when we nurture care.
A builder of hope...
the difficulty is seen,
the effort is given.
All in together.
Contributing to our best.
Community here.
Unscalable height...
one attempt has failed,
looks scalable now!
There is the feel of
wonder, possibility!
What could happen next?
Joy is with many.
Encouragement is alive.
Attempt, celebrate!
A safe space for us
where challenges are taken.
Resilience moves.
Ongoing process
with cycling dips and peaks
moving us upward.
I doubt that I can.
I will courageously try.
I am capable!

The Beginning of More


I haven’t written here in a while. In the world I have been feeling small and not enough. Feeling pressure from heaviness. I have been thinking that at almost fifty I should have life figured out, I mean talk about a late bloomer!

Recently two things have happened that have inspired me to share some of my experiences and ideas again. I watched a musician, John Batiste, and his wife Suleika Jaouad, interviewed on TV. My heart opened when I listened to the way he talked about music and song writing. He shared that music is the way for him to express day & night, dark & light and the connection between them. They mentioned that we all have different ways to express that. We should seek that out, our own best way to express what seems impossible, so then we can shift or rotate. Listening to him play the piano while he shared his ideas about the struggle with light and dark and adversity was so, so beautiful. 

The second thing that happened was a student reminded of what I love. I was in a third grade classroom and it was free choice time. The children could build with blocks and other materials, draw, play board games, etc. When there were ten minutes left one student asked me if she could continue reading the book that I had shared during read aloud time. Of course. I gave her the book and she walked halfway to her seat, turned around and said, “Could you read it to me? You are so good at it.”  What a wonderful compliment. We sat down at her desk and I started to read. When it was time for free choice to end, four kiddos were gathered around listening. I was so surprised that students would choose to listen to me read aloud when they could do other fun things?!!  She had just given me the gift of seeing what I had forgotten to notice.

Over the next few days I really began recognizing that I read children’s books when I am feeling lost. I take notes from the book. I think of art projects to go with the book. I share them with my family, I send them to friends. I read them aloud to children. All of that helps me to see a path again, to find clarity, to see connections.  As unflashy and simple as that is, I think that is my way. It is a practice that I return to to shift, rotate, connect all that  life holds. It helps me to see the beauty of everyday life and when I share the books in my way I see a difference that I can make. It’s in those moments of recognition that I feel that I am enough, that I am reminded that hope lies within each one of us.

With these two events, and talking with friends and family I came back to simplicity, to just me. I began to see, again, that better begins with me. When I express myself in my own way, and I act on that then I feel content. I can expand to my family, the classroom…and contribute from my heart outward, just as others have done for me. When I try to make sense and find answers to the”big”, the all encompassing world and work back from “way out there” toward myself, that’s when I experience disconnection and hopelessness. 

Right now, I don’t feel like a late bloomer because I remembered that it is a lifelong human practice to figure out how to navigate the world community, and that there is not one perfect path or way. We are all finding our ways! This time I see it as a heartbeat, I expand outward towards others until the connection gets murky and I get pulled so far away from myself that I  forget my way. Then I have to return to my center to recognize the way I shift through light and dark again and see the beauty. I think with practice my heartbeat slows and I will be able to encompass and contribute further and further out becoming better able to navigate through the darker times. 

I will continue to practice and I will get better at becoming aware of my singular responsibility to choose to create, take action and move forward with compassion so that I can contribute to my community and the world. I believe there’s magic somewhere in this practice because every now and then a spark lights my way. A spark that says each individual can make a difference, that’s the beginning of better together. Each one of us is enough.

Remembering to Notice Again

I want to see and hear about more positive things happening. I want to hear stories of progress, adaptation, cooperation, and kindness. When I watch the news it seems to be filled with bad things that are happening and I start to feel helpless, and depleted. My answer to combat this feeling is to turn it off, not read it and not discuss it. I believe being aware of how much news I am consuming, and how I am feeling as a result of that is beneficial for me, but completely unplugging doesn’t sit right with me. Turning it off stops the influx of bad news, but it also hides the good news from me. It’s putting up a barrier and I feel separate from so much. There is a loss of connection, which I am sure lends itself to the feeling of powerlessness.

My friend, and mentor, Carl Paoli said that if I want to hear and see more positive news than I need to look for it, share it and be deliberate about it. To become the source of what I want to see more of.  When I thought about that it seemed simple, powerful and fully in my control. I can become the source as the root is to a plant. I can be the start of what I want to see more of, of what I think we need to see more of.  From that start there is possibiity for growth. Carl has reminded me of the difference a single act, a single person can make. 

The problems, and the sadness that I see in the news can settle a cloud over the good things that are happening around me. A simple way I can return to noticing joy, and goodness is to purposely  look for it and become that which I want to see. This requires my awareness and the responsibility is on me to do so. I have to put it into practice continuously.

Almost one year ago (Sept. 2020)  I started the Noticing Joy Together tree in my neighborhood, which lasted until the winter weather arrived. We looked for things that brought us joy  and shared it with each other by posting it on a  tree. The purpose of the tree was  to help ourselves practice noticing the good things (no matter how small) that were bringing us joy, and to share them with others to add light to their day as well.  This was during quarantine when the news was scary to watch, but that act of noticing joy together brought about connection and community.  I have forgotten how this activity helped me through that difficult time. I have gotten out of practice.

It has taken a reminder, and it will take deliberate practice but this way of being (becoming the source of what I want to see more of)  feels fuller, and with direction.  I appreciate the chance to begin again. 

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Running Through the Ages, Spinning With Emotions

Music: Farewell, Musician: Ilya Truhanov, URL:

This morning I went for a 25 minute run around my neighborhood. During the run I was noticing the houses, and thinking about the living happening within the walls. I was noticing nature, gardens, yard decorations. Everything I seemed to be seeing was tugging at my heart with an appreciation for what has been, what is and what is to become. I was breathing fine, my eyes were welling up.

What changed this from a quick run to get in some movement, to an emotion, thought filled run was a yard sign that was sharing the exciting news that a child in that house was graduating from Kindergarten this year. I thought, “Oh my what fun is happening in that house right now and for the years to come!” The wonder, the excitement, the play, the running in the halls.

And then I thought, “I am over those years. I have a child graduating from high school and the next one is close behind.” I began to worry if I had stepped back enough through the years to notice all the milestones along the way? The laughter, the love, the time spent playing on the floor, the walks to school holding hands. Nostalgia while running, I wasn’t sure if it was a good mix or not. Then I saw a fifth grade graduation sign, and an eighth grade graduation sign and some high school signs! All these amazing moments taking place street after street. I was celebrating each one for each child, and family as I moved by. Taking me through all the ages, all the times we had gone through together as a family. Waves of emotions while running! So much affection for all those time periods of the past. So much sadness that we are entering a new changed chapter in life. A longing that was causing tears to build in my eyes, but filling my heart up at the same time.

What came next as I continued to move along? A spinning row of pinwheels reflecting the sunshine and moving with the wind gusts. One wheel would spin and then the next. Some would be spinning others would be still, reminding me that we are all experiencing life in this moment, sometimes the wind is pushing us forward with change, and at other times we are still. Here I was reminiscing about all the big changes that had taken place over the years, and feeling so much appreciation for the moments gone by. I thought, “Pinwheels are joy.” I stopped to take a video. Right now is joy.

I then resumed my run feeling quite energized. I stopped noticing the yard signs and began to take in nature next to the sidewalks. I came upon a huge tree that had fallen and had been cut up and taken away. All that was left was the tipped over stump and the roots sticking up out of the ground. There were so many rings of growth! I thought, “Trees are amazing.” That tree had been there for so long, had seen so many families and children go by, had weathered many winds.

I kept on pumping my arms and legs. One twenty-five minute run was all that it looked like to anyone else.

A Dozen Illuminating Books

Twelve children’s books that help us see our connection to nature, help show us the process of learning and growing, and shine a light on our connection as a world community…

…and for me a poem was inspired and created from all twelve titles. Enjoy 🙂

  • find a complete list of books at the end of this post

Life can be cared for, and grow into more than we know.

Just like the plants in My Garden and the trees that we climb.

The Tree That Time Built and now towers up above us in it’s beauty knows growth. 

The time to become grand like the trees can seem Forever or A Day.

I worry If I Never Forever Endeavor time may pass me by and

The Book of Mistakes will say the right time never arrived as I waited.

This Place I Know can be scary, but I am not alone. I find comfort in belonging and the courage to move on.

The Most Magnificent Thing is knowing I Am Human, and so are you.

I Thank You, World for the life all around me, and the rising and setting sun continuing on at each turn I take, and question I ask.

I will do my best to Pass It On so all of us will know we are here together and  believe the message that says, “You’re Here For a Reason”.

By Kay Lybeck
  • Life By Cynthia Rylant
  • My Garden by Kevin Henkes
  • The Tree That Time Built by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston
  • Forever or a Day by Sarah Jacoby
  • If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade
  • The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
  • This Place I Know Poems of Comfort by Georgia Heard
  • The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
  • I Am Human by Susan Verde
  • Thank You, World by Alice B. McGinty
  • Pass It On by Sophy Henn
  • You’re Here for a Reason by Nancy Tillman