“If we’re not taking risks we’re not growing”: WoFo’s Educator Spotlight is on Principal Eric Fieldler

Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight features awesome educators who are dedicated to teaching and inspiring young people everyday.

In the second edition of the 2017-2018 school year, WoFo features elementary school Principal Eric Fiedler.  I would like to thank Eric for his interview and dedication to the educational enterprise.

Taking risks in both teaching and learning yields far greater growth and achievement then playing it safe.


Who is Eric Fiedler?

Besides being a principal at Forked River Elementary School, I am the son of William and Barbara Fiedler, brother to William Fiedler III and Carolyn Sheppard, husband to Kara Fiedler, and father of Dylan and Dakota Fiedler.

Personally I am passionate about all things outdoors, daily workouts, and visiting cool places with family and extended family.

Tell us about your background in education.

I am a career change educator who left the financial world after working for Merrill Lynch as a financial consultant to attain my elementary education degree and certification from Richard Stockton College.  I went on to earn my graduate degree and administrative certifications through New Jersey City University.

I taught first grade for five years in the Little Egg Harbor Township School District.  I then moved into administration as a vice-principal and curriculum coordinator at Sea Isle City Public School and then  Elementary #1 in Middle Township Cape May County.  In 2007 I was hired by the Lacey Township Board of Education to serve as the principal of the Forked River School in my hometown where I have spent the last ten years,

If you could give your entire staff one book, what would it be and why?

I would give our staff a copy of The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney  I would want this wordless adaptation of one of Aesop’s greatest fables to serve as a reminder to our elementary educators that despite the pressures of our current standards based environment, every child should be given opportunities often to create their own versions of stories free of the confines we find in so many “teach to the test” educational climates within today’s classrooms.

What is the one essential ingredient needed to build a successful school culture?

Trust.  The development of trust between all stakeholders provides the necessary safety for risk taking without fear of judgement or any other negative repercussions.  Taking risks in both teaching and learning yields far greater growth and achievement then playing it safe.  If we’re not taking risks we’re not growing.  If we are not growing we are not striving for self-actualization.

If you could build the perfect leader, consisting of three leaders, living or dead, who would you pick and why?

I would choose Walt Disney for his transformational leadership style that motivated and inspired his employees to achieve using their own personal beliefs, creativity, and strengths.

Next, I would choose Harriet Tubman for her servant leadership that modeled humility for the selfless-sacrifice she endured for the betterment of humanity.

Lastly, I would choose General George Patton for his situational leadership that provided the flexibility necessary to read and react to the ever changing and complex situations of our world past and present..

If you weren’t an educator, what would you be?

If I wasn’t an educator my third attempt at a career would involve pursuing a job as a harbor pilot.  I enjoy time on the water and the challenges of operating complex machines.  Navigating a harbor provides discrete technical challenges in a maritime environment without enduring the long-term passages that take ocean going captains away from their families for extended periods of time.

What advice would you give to first year teachers?

Plan and develop your lessons based on the most current research and best practices.  Self-assess your lessons often using your own video/audio recordings and communicate with professionalism and care with students, parents, and colleagues.  Lastly and most importantly, have fun and don’t sweat the small stuff!

What is the worst advice you commonly hear given to teachers?

In various phrases with the common message being “Fly under the radar and get the job done…” is the very worst advice that I have often heard be given to new educators. 

I expect all staff members to play an equal role in the collaborative environment of the school house.  Everyone has their own unique educational, career, and life experiences that bring perspective and innovation to the team.  This serves to enrich and improve upon the collaborative efforts of our mission.

What is your favorite movie?

One of my all time favorite movies is The Man Without a Face (1993).  Based on Isabelle Holland’s 1972 Novel of the same name, it teaches us the importance of tolerance and reserving judgement.   It also demonstrates the incredible influence an educator can have on his or her students.  An influence that is boundless.

 Who inspires you?

This is always an interesting question.

Certainly my family members each serve as inspiration for me in unique ways. Rather than sharing specifics regarding the inspiration provided by my family, I am going to choose a more broad response as to who inspires me.  I find myself absolutely in awe of and drawn to those folks who I encounter in life who have reached our ultimate goal of self-actualization.  I find these folks to be incredibly genuine, kind, and free of judgement and negativity.  They bring out the best in those around them and are inspiring to be around!

 

Follow Eric on Twitter @FRSprincipal and can be contacted by email at efiedler@laceyschools.org .

You can also check out Eric on the Forked River School website.


Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others?

If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight Series. You can contact me at writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay 

Asking Good Questions: Why Teachers Should Listen to the Tim Ferriss Show

I always thought I was going be a 9th grade teacher. At that age…14, 15… there seems to be a lot of important forks in the road.–Tim Ferriss from Podcast #255 How to Turn Failure into Success 

Tim Ferriss is an entrepreneur, writer, angel investor and podcaster extraordinaire. A human dynamo with a child-like curiously and Stoic self-discipline, Tim has built himself into a multi-media giant.

Each of his massively successful books Tools of Titans, The 4-Hour Chef, The 4-Hour Body, The 4-Hour Work Week scored long runs on The New York Times Bestseller List.

The Tim Ferriss Show started as an experiment in 2014. However, it’s now one of the top podcasts on iTunes, collecting over 150 million downloads to date. Tim’s purpose is to “deconstruct would class performers” attempting to learn the habits and philosophies of ultra successful people including Arnold Schwarzengger, Jamie Foxx, Seth Godin and Brene Brown.

Amazingly, despite it’s success, the podcast remains a low-budget, lightly-edited production. An undecorated classroom, if you will.

How does Tim do it? What’s his secret sauce?

Tim Ferriss, like an effective teacher, asks his guests really good questions.

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.– Tim Ferriss

Tim constructs questions that reveal the deep truths and stories of his guests. By designing, then asking well-crafted questions–the answers are authentic and rich and make for great entertainment.

For teachers, it’s imperative to understand that if you want your students to elicit meaningful responses, you have to craft meaningful questions.

When classroom questions lack quality, student responses will lack quality.

Often, the educational wheel is clogged with buzz words and en vogue practices. Progression is great but curiosity coupled with crafting and asking good, meaningful questions is the ancient foundation on which education was built.

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.–Socrates

The Open Question Effect

Asking “closed questions” or questions with finite response are good to assess comprehension and retention.

Who was the first President of the United Sates?

“Open questions” or questions with infinite response are necessary to increase engagement, encourage discussion and inspire critical thinking.

What do you think George Washington was feeling when he was nominated to be the first President of the United States?

Open questions requires students to work. To answer an open question, you may have to mine through your own contradictions to find the most honest answer. It’s from this mining where genuine and meaningful answers are discovered.

Maybe George Washington was excited at the prospect but, I have to think, he was overwhelmed, and possibly discourage, by being the first president of a new nation. 

Tim demonstrates how open questions spark honest and rich conversation. Most of his published podcast run for well over an hour. However, his unedited conversations, like two old friends just talking, last for hours. (A recent conversation with ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen lasted 3 hours.) It’s the flexibility of these open questions that propel these marathon conversations.

Listening

It’s near impossible to fake interest.

And students know when teachers are or are not interested in their ideas. When students feel this interest, they’re more willing to share themselves, become healthy risk takers and subsequently, develop into more creative and critical thinkers.

The art of listening is the most fundamental way to honor any relationship.

Tim Ferriss models that to be a good interviewer, you must be an active listener. Though many of his questions are scripted, many are not. Many questions, follow-up and clarifying questions, are spawned from the rhythms of the conversations.

As a teacher, like a good interviewer, you must invest yourself into your classroom conversation. You must listen in order to ask follow-up and clarifying questions.  By actively listening to students, teachers build and strengthen the student-teacher relationship. And even if you have 30 students in your class, if you actively listen to them, give their voice ample attention, the learning experience becomes a personal one for each student.

Vulnerability

A great interview materializes when the interviewer is willing to be expose their own vulnerabilities.

Tim Ferriss is unafraid to share with his guest (and millions of listeners) his own failures, limitations and struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. This vulnerability builds a trust with his guest (and his audience) and encourages all listeners to share their own personal struggles.

For teachers, it’s imperative that you present your vulnerability as a strength. A classroom that embraces vulnerability, fosters risk taking and supports authentic student-teacher discussions.

Our vulnerability, our imperfections, establish trust with students and creates  a positive classroom culture.

Give vulnerability a shot. Give discomfort its due. Because I think he or she who is willing to be the most uncomfortable is not only the bravest, but rises the fastest.– Tim Ferriss

Call to Action

Listening to podcasts on your commute to and from school is great way to boost creativity and cultivate new ideas.

The Tim Ferriss Show exemplifies the power of good questions. Tim demonstrates how well-crafted questions along with actively listening inspire people to share more of themselves.

In terms of education, student success often hinges on a teachers ability to construct and ask meaningful questions that encourage reflection and critical thinking– two essential practices for student growth.

Below you will find 7 of Tim’s best questions. See if you can borrow, shape and scale any of them to fit your classroom and content. Theses questions may serve as interesting writing prompts or discussion starters:

  1. Who or what is your darkest teacher?
  2. What’s one thing that you do that people think is crazy and why do you do it?”
  3. If you could relive one moment in your life, which would you choose and why?
  4. Who is the first person that you think of when you hear “success”? Why?
  5. If you could have a giant billboard with one message on it, to inspire thousands  of people, what would it say?
  6. What have you changed your mind about in the last few years and why?
  7. How has a failure set you up for future success?

Since you’re here…check out The Write on Fight on Teachers Spotlight. A monthly interview with an awesome educator who is actively shaping and inspiring young minds.

This month’s interview is with history teacher and blogger Julie Boulton.        

I love to bring stories to light that might have been forgotten otherwise.”– Julie  Boulton 

 

 

 

Facing Fear: An Interview with Horror Writer Deanna Destito

Deanna Destito is a freelance writer/editor based in New Jersey. Her articles and short stories have been featured in print and online publications in various industries and genres. She has also served as writer and editor for comic books, magazines, websites, and role-playing game books.
 …….
Her most recent work can be found in The Dark Reaches, a horror anthology graphic novel, which features three of her short stories in collaboration with The Walking Dead’s Rus Wooton and artists Daniel Crosier and Ted Pogo. Coming soon: a short comic in Spiders and Stardust: A Tribute to David Bowie. 

What makes the horror genre so appealing? 

I love a good spooky story. Horror fascinates me because everyone has fears and horror can be any story based on those fears. It doesn’t have to be gory and it doesn’t have to have monsters. It can be something as simple as dark water or a strange sound. Being scared and dealing with that emotion are critical to being human. Facing fear is important and horror forces you to do that. 

 

It’s hard to say because I’ve always told stories and made up characters, as far back as grade school. I loved fairy tales and myths growing up. My favorite book is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Gaiman is a huge influence on me because he draws a lot from myth and folklore and creates his own versions of those worlds. 
…..
Do you have any quirky writing rituals or odd sources of writing inspiration?
 I’m a night owl and tend to get the best inspiration at 2 or 3 am. It’s really good for horror writing because it’s dark and the house is super quiet. My mind starts going and I tend to scare myself, but it works for writing scary stories.
 
What is the most famous book you’ve never read?
… 
1984 
 
Why do you write?
 …
It’s always been a part of me. It’s an extension of my thoughts. It’s how I can express myself when other ways fail. It’s how I deal with any negativity or anxiety I may have. It’s how I purge stuff festering inside. I also like people watching and creating stories about random individuals I see. 
 
If you could build a super-author consisting of three, living or deceased, authors who would you pick and why?
 ….
Neil Gaiman, DH Lawrence, and Geoffrey Chaucer. All three have a tremendous grasp on the written word. They are also masters at describing exactly what you need to see in your head as you read. They are all VERY different in their subject matter and backgrounds, so all fronts would be covered in a super novel. 
 
What literally character would you like to meet for lunch? Why?
 ….
Dream from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Series. I know it’s a graphic novel series, but the character is so fascinating. He’s got this quiet strength that is so alluring.

….

 What are you currently working on that’s got you excited?

I’m working on a cop noir graphic novel with artists Martin Dunn and Javier Lugo. It’s a slight departure in genre for me. It’s got some creepy elements, but it’s not horror. It’s more of a thriller. Nothing supernatural at all. 
 …..
Where can we find you?
I will be at New Jersey Comic Expo this November 18-19 in Edison.
You can purchase my work online at: 
 …
I’m also on
Instagram: deannad28

Thanks for reading and since you’re here…

I have two small favors to ask…

  1. Please check out the author’s social media accounts and help promote the their work.
  2. If you know a published author, I would love to promote their work and feature them on Write on Fight on. Please be awesome and share this post with them. If interested, I can be reached at…writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay


Trouble with Scales (Or the time the doctor thought I had a stroke)

Total Read Time: 4 Minutes

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.

     ~ Pablo Picasso

I remember the first time I heard the name Norman Rockwell.

It was springtime, baseball season.

I was playing shortstop ant there was a pop-up along the third base line in foul territory.

I remember sprinting in front of third baseman, crossing into foul territory, and diving head first, with my glove out stretched before me and like a fat rain drop the baseball fell into my glove. Then I tumbled and rolled and landed on my back looking up at sky.

I remember how the crowd, moms and dads tucked into folding chairs, released a collective “Wow!” then broke into laughter when I pulled the ball from my glove and held it up, into the air, like the big leaguers do when they make a diving catch.

I stood up and my coach, whose name I can’t remember, Barry? Bill? rushed over to me.

“Wow! What a catch! That was like a Norman Rockwell painting or something.”

“The Dugout” by Norman Rockwell (The Saturday Evening Post, September 1948)

 Dad drove home.

From the backseat I asked, “What is a Norman Rockwell painting?’

With the window down, his elbow nubbed out into the cool passing world, Dad explained that Norman Rockwell was a painter who painted these detailed pictures of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

“Does he still paint pictures?”

“No”.

“Why?”

“He died a long time ago.”

“Oh.”

I was 10 and remember, during that car ride, thinking how curious it was that a painting could out live it’s painter.

In August 2013 I got sick.

I’ve chronicled my illness before so I won’t I bore you with recycled facts. But if you lean in, if press your ear against the page, I will tell you something new. Something that was suppose to be ordinary but became a Rockwell.

A mousy nurse in scrubs opens the waiting room door and calls me back. She leads me down the hall to a scale. She instructs me to take off my shoes and step up on the scale. I offer her a smile. The kind of smile you give the person standing behind you in line at the supermarket when the person in front of you has too many cans of cat food and too many coupons.

Things are not good.

I have to hold onto the wall to take my shoes off. Still holding, my brain sends the command, “Right leg up” and my right leg responds like it should. I offer mousy nurse the supermarket smile again.

My left foot is flat on the ground and I want it up on the scale with my right. Again, my brain sends the command. But something is wrong. Something has been wrong since the calendar flipped August.

Like an old car sitting in the driveway too long, the transmission of signals is not smooth.

Left leg up. Left leg up. Left leg up. Left leg…up

It wasn’t pretty but both feet finally found the scale. Young mousy nurse takes my height and weight and instructs me to step down.

She pretends to read my chart but is watching me stand at the edge of the scale, gripping the wall, hoping the messages being written in my brain are successfully sent through the interwebs of my torso and delivered on time to my legs.

I use the wall again. Right leg down. Left leg down. Left leg down. Left leg…down.

She won’t look at me when she points and says, “You can sit in that chair.” She knows I’m embarrassed.

While taking my blood pressure she notices I’m sweating and hands me a tissue.

She scratches down my blood pressure and doesn’t tell me my score and doesn’t ask me why I’m here today. She says, “good luck” offers me that supermarket smile again, opens the door and darts into the hall.

The doctor is in. He’s my primary doctor. We have known each other for years.

I tell him my symptoms and I tell him about the trouble with the scale. I tell him that my legs feel different, like their not connected to my brain, like I’m a giant toddler learning how to walk and he scratches down a few notes crosses his arms and wonders out loud if I had suffered a stroke.

He writes a some scripts, tells me not to panic but keeps repeating “proactive” which makes me panic and shakes my hand and wishes me luck.

Moving down the hall toward the waiting room I see this tacked on the wall…

“Before the Shot” by Norman Rockwell (The Saturday Evening Post, March 1958)

I stop and stand in front of the painting long enough to replay the first story I told you today. How my coach– Barry? Bill? (…how imperfect memory can be!), with a smile and tufts of red hair billowing out from under his blue ballcap rushed to me and said “Wow! What a catch. That was like a Norman Rockwell or something.” And how that was the first time I had heard of Norman Rockwell. A painter obsessed with finding the extraordinary often lost in ordinary life.

Until August 2013 I defined myself as an athlete. Prided myself on my physicality. My ability to sprint across a baseball diamond and dive and catch instinctively, effortlessly.

But things were different now. The only chance I had to achieve extraordinary physical things was through the flawed process of memory.

Even now, my stomach becomes light and oily when I think about standing at the edge of the scale that day. Like standing on some suspension bridge, toes curled over the steel, a rushing river below, the mousy nurse witnessing a framed moment. A portrait of a man, his face bent with sadness and fear, afraid to jump or maybe, he’s more afraid to stay. A Norman Rockwell.

I push through the waiting room, into the parking and into my car. I cut the key and put down the window and like my father had done many years ago, nubbed my elbow out into the world.

“Maybe as I grew up and found the world wasn’t the perfect place I had thought it to be, I unconsciously decided that if it wasn’t an ideal world, it should be, and so painted only the ideal aspects of it.” ~Norman Rockwell

No matter the medium–paintings, written stories all outlive their gods and possess a divine power able to terminate time. And since I can’t draw or painting, maybe I write stories to outlive my life, to strike a bolt of memory in the living.

Maybe that’s what Norman Rockwell aspired to do.

There’s a pile of scripts tagged with the doctor’s scribbled instructions, on the passenger’s seat advising me to be proactive.

I’m still sweating. I never want to see mousy nurse again.

I remember how that August wouldn’t quite. Waves of heavy humidity, days grinding into days giving me enough trouble for one lifetime.

Be well,
Jay

“Freedom of Speech” by Norman Rockwell (1943)

6 Reasons Why You Should Tell a Story on the First Day of School

In 8 Reasons How To Be A More Interesting Teacher This Year I explained stories are how I often communicate complex concepts to my students and how stories help heighten student engagement.

With that being said, there is no better school day than the first day to engage students with a story.

Here are five reasons why you should tell a story on the first day of school:

1.You Will be Memorable

The first day of school is the last day to make a first impression.

For students, the excitement of the first day quickly ends when all their teachers are doing the same thing, “Hello…How was your summer?…Here is the course syllabus and here are the classroom rules…”

Do something different. Leave a good impression. Tell a story.

A first day story will get students excited for the impending school year. It will be something they tell their friends and parents about. Which, by them sharing your story, they are learning an important lesson– we are all storytellers and we pass our stories along to deepen our connection with others.

Suggestion–The first day is a great time to share a story about a personal failure. Talking openly about failure shows humility and vulnerability, two qualities children too rarely find in adults. Admitting you failed will immediately make you more relatable to your students.

2.You Will Calm Your First Day Jitters

Like students, teachers also get first day jitters. These jitters are often fueled by the new school year blitz of emails introducing new teachers, new initiatives, new procedures, and new curriculum.

In addition to all this newness, you still have to plan for your first class. A first class where you may feel the squeeze of trying to include every detail about class, its content and the year ahead. But you don’t. The school year is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Take a deep breath and remember, we were storytellers long before we were teachers. Sharing stories is natural, nonthreatening way to communicate important ideas.

3.You Will Begin Establishing Classroom Management

By telling a story, you are establishing the value listening. A value that you expect your students practice. Because listening is how we honor relationships. Because listening is the foundation of effective classroom management and effective teaching and learning. 

4.You Will Begin Creating a Classroom Community

Stories bring people together. Stories are for sharing. 

The first day story will help your students understand they’re part of a community and acknowledge that your classroom is a place of acceptance. A healthy environment which promotes vulnerability and authenticity.  If students feel safe and supported they will be more open to future learning.

Open to me, so that I may open.

Provide me your inspiration

So that I might see mine. —Rumi

5.You Will Be Creating Emotional Engagement

Stories make us feel.

While immersed in a story we begin to feel what the characters feel. If they cry, we may want to cry. This empathy is a vital classroom component. When students are emotionally engaged, your instruction will be more impactful and they will be more responsive to constructive criticism from you.

6.You Will Be Speaking Their Language

Though the content of your subject may be new to students, stories are not.

According to Business Insider, two-fifths of American teenagers use the photo sharing app Shapchat multiple times a day. The app allows users to post and share Snapchat stories, which are personal pictures users share to tell a narrative.

The modern student has been raised on social media.And at its core, social media is simply an advanced form of storytelling. As a teaching strategy, storytelling will help student see how their classroom learning can be similar and as entertaining as their favorite phone app. 

 

Storytelling is our most primitive vehicle for transferring information, for connecting and teaching.  And despite all their modernity, the story form remains incredibly recognizable and important to our students. Use the power of storytelling on the first day to introduce yourself and your content to the students and they will be excited to return for the second day. 

Good Luck with the New School Year!

Be well,

Jay

Before you go…

I highly recommend checking out the Tedx Talk, The Magical Science of Storytelling  presented by speaker and author David JP Phillips.  David explains the biology behind storytelling. How listening to stories release positive chemical reactions in the body, including the release of dopamine in the brain which increases both focus and motivation. 

Bringing Stories to Light: WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight is on Julie Boulton

Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight features awesome educators who are dedicated to teaching and inspiring young people everyday.

In the first edition of the 2017-2018 school year, WoFo features history teacher and blogger Julie Boulton. I would like to thank Julie for her interview and dedication to the teaching profession.

I love to bring stories to light that might have been forgotten otherwise.”


Besides being a teacher Julie Boulton is….

Wife, mother, sister, hiker, music lover, obsessive coffee drinker, history addict, blogger, traveler and nature lover.
.
Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long?

I currently teach in Vaughan Ontario. I teach History and Social Science courses, including Law and Politics. I have been teaching for 10 years.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?

To be honest, I don’t know if I have one lesson.  I love simulations and mock trials. This year I ran my Congress of Vienna Simulation in October, and students were still debating the outcomes with me in May. I love that! I love any activity or lesson that makes the students passionate.

However, I also really enjoy teaching students history that they may not have learned. For example, I never learned about the Nanking Massacre. I was fortunate enough to apply and be selected as an educator for a study trip in China. I visited with government officials, survivors and various historic sites in four different provinces in China for about 3 weeks. I couldn’t believe that the Nanking Massacre had been left out of a lot of World War Two history. Now, I think it has become more well known, and I think it is because it is being discussed more in the classrooms and the media. I love to bring stories to light that might have been forgotten otherwise. I also love to do this as an ongoing lesson in all of my courses. I challenge my students to find ‘what stories are missing’ from our textbooks. We also discuss why certain stories are emphasized whereas others are ignored or forgotten.

Basically, if it is a lesson where my students are thinking, conversing, researching and asking questions than I am a happy teacher!

If, for one day, you were in charge of your school what would you do?

I would devote a day to staff and student wellness/community building. I find the mental health and personal struggles in our schools overwhelming and often overlooked. Our students have so much on their plates that we may or may not be aware of. I really think that our first job as educators is to build relationships with our students and support them. Similarly, I have witnessed teacher burn out, and have definitely felt on the brink myself at times. We can’t expect staff and students to thrive if they are not mentally well and provided with adequate supports.

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?

A good life is one where at the end of your life you can say that you have given more than you have taken – Ross Plunkett (My Dad)

On your website julieboulton.com , you write about teaching strategies and best practices. How has writing helped you has a teacher?

My blog is very reflective and honest. I strive to outline my experiences and ideas for teaching in the classroom. I also like to point out educators I admire and resources that I find helpful. I am not a perfect teacher, and my blog talks about my successes and my failures. It is very personal, reflective and I spend a lot of time thinking about what I would like to hear as a teacher. I am personally against professional development that begins by negatively talking about teachers and education. I know how hard this job is and how hard most teachers work, so my goal is really to celebrate educators and empower them with tools and resources that have worked for me.

What advice would you give to all new teachers?

Loving your students and trying hard is enough – you’re enough. I had an incredible Mentor tell me one year that if you try one or two new things each year, then you were doing really well. That message stuck with me. Professional development and ministry initiatives can be overwhelming, and sometimes out of touch with the realities of the classroom. I think that it is important for teachers to trust themselves and know that if they are working in the best interest of their students that is enough. If you love your kids and fight for them, than you are 80% there (maybe 90%).

If the best thing about teaching is the students, what’s the second  best thing?  
Being creative. I love creating a lesson or assignment. I enjoy the creative process, brainstorming, executing it and learning what worked and what didn’t. When you achieve that state of flow in your classroom, it is almost like a runner’s high – you feel so elated as a teacher. I love that feeling!

                                      Who inspires you?                                      

My Aunt Brenda. Unfortunately she passed away in a car crash a couple of years ago, but she was an incredible woman. Google Brenda Zimmerman and you can see what I am talking about. She achieved tremendous professional success, and used it to help others. On top of that, she somehow always managed to make time for and support the people she loved, and she loved to love. She believed in working hard, playing harder and giving back. She rarely criticized others and focused on helping others achieve their dreams. She was one of those rare people who loved to celebrate the success of others.  If I could be like anyone, it would be her. Also, my husband, Jeff, he is truly the kindest, most intelligent man that I have ever met.  I am so truly thankful for him.

My classroom superpower is… because…

Caring, because I have a reputation for supporting my students and my colleagues. I really believe in relationships first above all else, and I focus on building that before worrying about any content or curriculum expectations.

 Connect with Julie on Twitter @JulieBoulton12   

And checkout her awesome blog julieboulton.com


If you liked Julie’s interview check out “8  Simple Ways To Be A More Interesting Teacher This School Year”

 


Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others?

If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight Series. You can contact me at writeonfighton@gmail.com.

Be well,

Jay 

How to Persevere Like a 4 Year Old

Total Read Time: 4 minutes

THE MONKEY BARS. The playground’s proving ground. The callouser of hands. The skinner of knees.

A horizontal symbol of strength, of perseverance. Conquered by only big kids.

On a sun-splashed day, my wife and I take our 3 kids to a local park.

When the kids find the playground, our youngest, Dylan rushes to the monkey bars.

He stands underneath, looking up (the littlest one is always looking up), sizing up the bars with his big blue eyes. His little head swirling with possibilities, willing to disregard his physical safety to answer his own little “What if’s…?”

Dylan shouts, “Hey mom, dad watch!”

Cindy and I plant ourselves, across the playground, on a stone bench anchored in some shade.

Like a little gymnast, Dylan stands on the platform and eyes up the bars.

A buzzer sounds in his head and with both hands Dylan grabs the first rung and pulls his feet from the platform. He dangles. And dangles.

And dangles.

Feeling the fullness of his own weight for the first time.

Valiantly, he tries to muscle his right arm forward but the distance between rungs is too great and he crashes to the ground.

Cindy and I let out that familiar parental gasp.  But before we could push ourselves from our seats Dylan unknots himself, springs to his feet,”I’m ok!” and dashes back on the platform. Unfazed. Determined.

Cindy and I sit down and find our breaths.

They don’t know it, but these children are fantastic teachers. Little daredevils who remind you about the power of perseverance.

And if you’re struggling, questioning your limits (and let’s be honest…who isn’t) observe children discover their abilities, their potential, their unflinching desire to persevere, to answer the “What if…?” and you’ll be humbled.

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. –F. Scott Fitzgerald

Begin with the End in Mind

Dylan is standing on platform again, staring down the length of the monkey bars. It’s only 6 feet, but in his eyes it must look like crossing the Grand Canyon.

How quickly do we think about falling before our feet leave the platform? How quickly does doubt extinguish our fires of victory?

Skin Your Knees, Callous Your Hands

Dylan divorces the platform. Unafraid to skin his knees, to callous his hands.

He dangles with nothing but his soft, little kid arms holding his weight. His right hand moves forward. His left hand remains. In the space and time when he’s dandling by one hand, I’m sure he feels the strain, the familiar flash of human doubt, but his right hand finds the next rung, followed by his left.

Leaving doubt and fear behind on the previous rung.

How many times have we skirted a challenge for fear we might get hurt? For fear, that the risk wouldn’t be worth the reward?

Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go. –William Feather

Keep Your Enthusiasm

Rung by rung, Dylan moves forward. It’s hard and it hurts but he’s smiling. He feels his own momentum. He feels the tide of achievement. He understands he’s on the verge of doing something he’s never done.

He’s happy.

Why is enthusiasm so hard for adults to find? 

Crush Your Threshold

One rung remains.

He’s dangling by both arms. His body like a soft pendulum, swinging back and forth.  His arms are screaming. He’s at his limits. Then, somehow, his right arm pushes forward, and grabs the next rung.

Why is it that the older we get, the more unwilling we are to cross our thresholds? Why do we see thresholds as roadblocks instead of doorways into a new world?

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
— Confucius

Go the Distance

When Dylan’s feet hit the platform at the end of the monkey bars he smiles, throws his hands in the air and shouts’ “I did it!”

It’s the pure joy of accomplishment. He stands on the platform and looks back at the monkey bars he just crossed.

Cindy and I are clapping. We’re the only ones, in the whole playground, clapping.

And that’s all Dylan needs.

My 4 Year Old Teaches Me About Perseverance

A writer’s life is not for the faint of heart.

There have been plenty of moments, after I’ve poured my blood into a piece, convinced it was my finest work, sure to be liked and shared and explode across the internet only to have it published– not with a bang but a whimper. 

And if I’m still being honest, there have been many late nights sitting at my table, glassy-eyed, staring at the computer, dandling on the rung of doubt. Questioning myself. Why am I doing this? Is anyone really going to read this? Why aren’t I in bed already? What if I fail?

But on a perfect summer afternoon I witnessed my son, a 4 year old boy, strain under his own body weight.

I witnessed him persevere.

He taught me that the strain is our greatest teacher.

And I was humbled.

May you always stay committed to your goals. Because your commitment, your perseverance is another person’s motivation.

May you always have the strength to keep moving forward.

May you always persevere.

Be well,

Jay