ABILITY-EFFORT-ATTITUDE: How the Growth Mindset Affects Learning


I don’t know how! I can’t! I don’t want to! I don’t care!

Working in public education for 20+ years has afforded me the opportunity to observe some consistently true dynamics. One such interaction is the interplay between attitude, effort, and ability among students. In recent years there has been a push in education to understand and encourage the development of a “growth mindset” in learners. Carol Dweck has done extensive research and made some rather amazing discoveries, namely that encouraging students to enjoy the process of learning reaps a more favorable outcome than praising them for successes. The former fosters a learning environment more open to persevering through difficult tasks and tolerating mistakes while the latter creates an environment where students are more interested in mastery of a task, thus possibly avoiding difficult tasks that may result in mistakes and failures along the way.

A growth mindset views working hard as more desirable than being smart. Dr. Dweck states, “This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your Sunflower_sprout_cefforts. Although people may differ in every which way in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments, everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” Believing this gives students a powerful perspective from which to springboard their learning.

With this in mind, this interactive lesson illustrates, in a visual way, how these three important attributes affect learning in school. Truth be told, these three attributes affect pretty much anything a person learns, not just academics. This activity can be generalized for playing sports, playing an instrument, developing a hobby, performing on stage, etc., and shows participants that hard work, persistence, and a positive attitude are keys to learning!

ability effort attitude

Sunflower clip art credit: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Traveling-Artist

ANGER MANAGEMENT Walking is Calming

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“I need to take a walk,” growls Joe as he storms into my office. “OK, let’s go,” I respond. Luckily it’s a nice sunny day. We walk quietly around the large parking lot together. I’ll be honest. I’m not thinking about what research is saying about this walk. I’m thrilled that Joe has utilized a strategy that works so well for him when he gets angry. He has not verbally or physically exploded in the classroom. He stormed out and came to my office and requested a walk! Wooohoooo! In the past when Joe was angry, he usually cussed a peer and teacher as he shoved a table and chair out of the way while he threatened to fight. So a walk certainly seems like success!


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The act of walking does calm a person. The Effects of Exercise on Serotonin Levels (https://www.livestrong.com/article/22590-effects-exercise-sertonin-levels/) supports “walking, running, biking, swimming (among others)” to be most effective increasing serotonin in the brain. Serotonin regulates mood.

The research described in Brain Mechanisms of Poor Anger Management (https://www.med.or.jp/english/journal/pdf/2009_03/184_190.pdf) identifies the lack of serotonin secretion in individuals who committed suicide. It continues to promote “walking, respiration, and mastication in addition to sunshine” as a way to enhance serotonin. It seems like the walk in the sunshine for Joe was just right. I wonder if chewing gum (mastication) while walking will speed up the serotonin secretions and increase calm feelings.  Hmmmm.

When Joe or any other student requests to take a walk, the counselor or I immediately drop what we are doing and walk. If it is a student I fear may run away, we stay inside and walk the hallways. I have my cell phone with me just in case I need support. Also, the teacher can text what happened in the classroom. Most days we walk outside around the parking lot. There is a natural boundary to a parking lot. We walk quietly for a bit (usually 5-10 minutes). I watch and gage the mood of the student as I walk. When the student’s body relaxes (arms swing easier/looser, eyes look around at environment, etc), I will usually make a short, non-threatening comment about the weather (“I love how warm it is today.” “The breeze feels great.” “Loving the sunshine”) or the environment (“Look at that little bird.” “Cool car.”). We keep walking together. If the student has responded in some way to my comments, I know he is becoming receptive to talking. I usually praise the student for making a good choice to take a walk. After a few more minutes, I’ll try to start a converScreen Shot 2018-01-28 at 4.29.25 PMsation related to the outburst (“You feeling better?” “What happened?”). The student is usually ready to talk. We process what happened in the classroom as we continue walking. The information texted by the teacher helps me understand the whole story. By the end of our walk, the student has calmed and is ready to resolve the issue (via apology, talking to another the student/teacher involved ,etc). The student is able to return to the classroom to continue learning.

Some school staff may feel like no extra time is available to walk with a student. You have to make the time. If the student is having an outburst in the classroom, you will have to give attention to that behavior anyway. If that behavior is not fully resolved, you may be dealing with behavior issues on and off all day with that student. Soooo take a walk, truly resolve the behavior issue at hand and enjoy the sunshine. It will help you as well.



REMEMBER: When a student is escalating, our response will always impact the situation one way or another.

Of course, no educator or counselor or parent or person of any sort, for that matter, would ever want to intentionally escalate a student. In the heat of a tense situation, however, we often inadvertently say and do things that we “know” are wrong. Not because we want to. Not because we aren’t trained to do other more appropriate things. But because we are reacting without a lot of deliberate thought. Because we, too, are upset.

Following is a list of behaviors many of us accidentally do when a student is escalating:

  • We raise our voice.
  • We give an ultimatum. “Do this or else…”
  • We use sarcasm.
  • We get emotional, too…usually aggravated or frustrated at best, angry at worst.
  • We get in the student’s personal space.
  • We touch the student.
  • We correct the student publicly, in front of his peers.
  • We talk, talk, talk, trying to reason with the student.

We are only going to focus on one of these behaviors, talking. Why? Because often THE single best de-escalation strategy to use when a student is escalating is to be quiet. STOP TALKING to or about the student. Way too often, educators try to talk down an escalating student. We try to reason with someone who is so emotional that all reason is temporarily suspended. This, more often than not, backfires and has the completely opposite effect, escalating the student. Yet, we continue to talk. And talk. And talk.

So, please, STOP. STOP TALKING. Give the student time. Let his sympathetic nervous system, which has gotten aroused as he has escalated, calm down. This will result in the student getting into his rational mind instead of being in his emotional mind. His frontal lobes will begin to make decisions rather than his amygdala. Allowing a student time to calm down physiologically will result in the student calming down emotionally. Every time.

To accomplish this, calmly and quietly say something as simple as “Jason, I know you are upset. I am going to give you time to calm down before we make any decisions. I will check back with you in ___ minutes (anywhere between 5-10 minutes, depending on how escalated the student is) to see if you are ready.”

Then, for 5-10 minutes, don’t talk. Don’t hover over the student. Stay in the student’s presence visually but get busy doing something that doesn’t involve the student. Read something. Send an email. Maybe talk with another adult—but only if it is about something that has nothing to do with the current situation that has caused the student to escalate.

After 5-10 minutes, return back to the student and calmly ask “Are you ready to talk?” If the student is ready, proceed to the The Student Is Calmed Down paragraph. If the student indicates through words or lack thereof that he is still not ready to talk, again state “I will check back with you in ___ more minutes.” Then, for 5-10 more minutes, don’t talk. Return to doing something that allows you to disengage from the student.

After the additional 5-10 minutes, again calmly ask “Are you ready to talk?” The student will either say he is, will say he isn’t, or will show you through his nonverbal body language that he is isn’t. If the student is still not ready after two 5- or 10-minute periods, offer a third 5-10 minutes. “I will check back with you in ___ more minutes.” Repeat…

It is not unreasonable to give a student up to 20-30 minutes of calm-down time, but do so in 5- or 10-minute increments. This is a judgment call based on the student and the situation-at-hand.

Want to know if the student is truly calm and ready to return to the classroom environment? LuAnne, another Square Peg, uses a simple strategy to quickly gauge whether a student is ready to be cooperative. Once the student says he is ready to talk or return to a task, give him a few simple commands to see if he will be compliant. Don’t ask the student if he wants to do the task. Tell him then allow a few seconds for the student to comply with your request. Don’t expect instantaneous compliance. Typically, if a student is ready to be compliant, he will respond to your command within 5-10 seconds at most. Thank the student if he follows your request.

“Jason, bring me a piece of paper, please, and push the chair up under the desk.” (Do NOT ask “Jason, will you bring me a piece of paper please?”)

“Lauren, get out a pencil and write your name on the worksheet.”

“Bobby, put the book back on the shelf and sit down in your chair.”

Students who are unable to do these simple commands are telling you through their behavior that they are not ready to be compliant. Thankfully, this rarely happens. If a student is able to tell you he is ready,  he most likely will comply with the simple commands. Once this happens, you are ready to proceed with getting the student reintegrated into the class’s activity.

The Student Is Calmed Down—Once the student indicates that he is ready, compliment the student for being calm and proceed to talk with the student. WHAT you talk about depends on why the student escalated. If someone said or did something unkind to the student, it may require problem-solving or conflict resolution. If the student was frustrated because work was too hard, it may be necessary to reteach content or skills and offer support. If the student was simply trying to avoid doing work, preparing the student to return to the unfinished task is important. There are a few ways to do this. The most direct is to tell the student it is time to return to whatever he was doing before he got agitated, offering support as needed. The second option is to offer a choice. This may be the better option if the student is likely to re-escalate if he is told he has to immediately do the avoided task. Give the student some control by saying “When do you want to do [whatever the assignment is], now with my help or [another time]?” “When do you want to finish your personal narrative story, now with my help or during recess? For homework?” The key is to get the work done at some point that day so the student isn’t reinforced for the escalation. Otherwise, you know what will likely happen again…!

One last tip–It is very helpful to remember that it is NOT about you. An escalated student may say all sorts of mean, hurtful, disrespectful things to and about you when escalated. This is often the student’s way of trying to draw you in, to get you emotionally involved in the situation. The words a student speaks while escalated need to be ignored during that time. Threats of self and other harm or other serious comments made while escalated are best addressed after the student has completely deescalated. A formal threat assessment may be required at that time.

When a student’s behavior is escalating, there’s not time to review an article on de-escalation strategies. For this reason, you may benefit from a “cheat sheet” posted in a place where you can quickly refer to the sheet for simple visual reminders. The 3 sheets found at “Quiet Please: De-Escalation in Progress!” have varying degrees of information on them, depending on your need. Remember, our behavior always impacts the situation. What we do matters. Use one of these visuals as your own reminder of what to do so that your actions and words help de-escalate the student quickly and effectively.


  • Each student and situation is different.
  • It is important to have a staff member trained in safe crisis management present when a student is escalating. This person can assist in gauging the most appropriate de-escalation strategies to use.
  • Depending on the situation, a formal threat assessment may be required following the event.


extraordinary quote

Sometimes a little difference is, in reality, a very big 180-degree kind of difference, a night-and-day type of difference. The details matter.

Have you ever tried to freeze water at 33 degrees? What about calling someone but being one number off in their phone number, or worse yet, being off by only one number in the bajillion dollar lottery? What if a doctor performed a skilled procedure and forgot to wash her hands or failed to put on gloves beforehand? Sometimes little things are a BIG DEAL.

Which leads me to this difference…

Extra ordinary



One little space, that’s the difference. But what a huge difference that little space makes in those words! The word ‘extra’ conjures up words like especially, very, and more while the word ‘ordinary’ is synonymous with words like usual, regular, common, average and normal. Extra ordinary, therefore, means “especially average” or “very usual” or “more average” and such. Extraordinary, on the other hand, is explained with words like uncommon, amazing, astonishing, special, remarkable, wonderful and great. Two very different meanings for sure.

So what does this little observation have to do with anything, really? For me, it signifies two important life skills that are keys to turning extra ordinary into extraordinary. These life skills are persistence and paying attention to the details in how someone communicates with you.

PERSISTENCE. Sometimes attaining a goal or successfully doing something is just a small space away…but we quit. We stay at extra ordinary and miss out on extraordinary. Persistence, sticking with it, is a very important life skill for people of all ages, even babies. Babies who don’t give up when they fail at learning new tasks and instead try again and again and again and again learn new skills much faster than babies who fail and quickly stop attempting. Of course, the same is true for children and adults. Extraordinary people of all ages often find difficult tasks (academic, athletic, body, mind, spiritual, creative,…the list is endless) to be challenging but don’t quit. They don’t let “not knowing” become an excuse for giving up. They may not be enjoying the difficult task. In fact, they probably aren’t, but they do it anyway. They keep trying. Persistent people practice when they would rather be doing something else. They work hard.

PAYING ATTENTION. What about the details? Paying attention to details allows extraordinary people to capitalize on what is going on in any given moment. Being aware of oneself, one’s environment, and others gives a person an advantage, insight, when relating with others. Some people are naturally skilled at noticing and respond accordingly. Important social details are embedded in a person’s nonverbals. His facial expression, her body posture, little nuances that send additional messages a person is not conveying in his overt words or actions. The WAY we say or do something is the details. Extraordinary people notice the WAY people say or do things as much as what they person is saying or doing. In fact, extraordinary people realize that nonverbals trump words when it comes to communicating.

If you are a counselor or teacher looking for lessons on these two 21stpam_general[2] century skills to use with a whole class or an individual student, here are two stand-alone lessons on how persistence and attention to nonverbal communication can help turn extra ordinary into extraordinary!



My desk will stay clean! I am tired of piles of papers everywhere! In the upper left corner of my desk is the pile that I will get to eventually. The bottom left pile has papers I need to deal with now. Papers on the right corner are there because I need to look at them from time to time. Papers on the counter behind me need to be handed out to students. Do these piles sound familiar to you? I spend so much time looking through the piles for that one form. I do that over and over.

I am through wasting my time and getting frustrated with my desk mess!

I scoured Pinterest for organization ideas. Oh how did I function before Pinterest?! I found WHY & HOW TO MAKE A TICKLER FILE  It’s a file system to help remind you of things you need to do. Let me show you how I am using it at work and at home.

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In my closest file draw at my desk, I have 12 files (the red, yellow, blue ones) labeled with January, February, March, April, etc. and 31 manila files labeled 1, 2, 3, 4…31. These 31 files represent each day of the month. That’s it!


I file EVERY SINGLE PAPER on my desk in this system. I either file or trash papers that do not fit in this system. As you can see in the picture, the day I took the photo was July 20. I checked the #20 file, completed the required tasks and moved the #20 file folder to the back. I’m done with that file for the month. It’s empty. If I had a paper/task/form in the #20 file that I could not complete, but would be able to tomorrow, I would put the paper in #21 file.

When I have papers that I do not need to address until mid August, I put the paper in the August folder. When August 1 arrives, I will sort all papers in the August file into the #1-#31 files.

Sooooo easy! It takes just seconds to pull out the day’s file to start tackling the day’s work. I love the feeling of accomplishment and MY DESK IS CLEAN! If I’m working on a task, but do not finish, it goes in tomorrow’s file. Desk clean!

Because the Tickler File has been successful for me the past 3 months at school, I wanted to try a similar system at home. I hated how the mail seemed to just grow and grow. My husband and I would throw the mail on the counter of the antique hutch. The counter quickly filled up. So the mail started to collect on the closest counter. When that spot filled up, we moved to the counter where we prep food. I hated having to move the papers and mail in order to prepare dinner! Did we clean up our piles? NO! We moved it to the dining room table! Grrrr!

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I adjusted the Tickler File to fit our needs at home. I had a file for each month of the year but did not think we needed a file for each day of the month. So I used 2 files: one for days 1-15 and one for 16-31. This is working for us!


I also added some extra files. I determined these extra files by what papers still needed a home when I went through all our mail. These extra files are:

  • To File-anything that needs to go in our file cabinet (there are Pinterest ideas for organizing your home filing system…did it…am thrilled!) such as investments, insurance forms, car repair receipts, etc.
  • Mail Supplies-stamps, a few envelopes, return address labels
  • Entertainment-we get flyers for the season’s productions for a couple of community theatres. We want to keep those handy.
  • Coupons (this file is hiding in the picture)-we are not serious coupon users. When we get coupons in the mail, they used to hang on the fridge or sit on the counter. Now they go into this file. Honestly, they usually stay in this file until they are out of date…sigh…. I admire folks who are good coupon shoppers.

My counters have been MAIL FREE for over a month now! That is a miracle!

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These files at home are organized in a FOLD N’ FILE from THIRTY-ONE. One FOLD N’ FILE has my Tickler File. The other FOLD N’ FILE holds sunglasses, cameras, etc. Notice the clean counter!


I love being organized with systems that are easy to maintain, effective, and save me time!

HOW TO SURVIVE THE LOSS OF A LOVE: A Great Little Self-Help Book

book cover--loss of love

Two colleagues I consider to be dear friends are retiring at the end of this school year. Typically, retirement of friends causes a little tinge of jealousy to rise up in me. Not so much this time. While I don’t see them often anymore due to a change in my job responsibilities, knowing neither of them will be around the corner for a quick conversation brings a feeling of melancholy. They are both dandies.

Last week, some close family friends experienced the death of their father and grandfather, an outstanding man. He will be greatly missed. His strong passion for life, his hearty laugh, and his compassion for others will live on through his children and grandchildren. They are his greatest legacy.

Today was my last day of teaching AP Psychology at our high school, something I find great joy in doing. Silly me teared up as I said goodbye to 16 terrific young people, 14 who are graduating in two days and dealing with their own multiple “good-byes” and “lasts”. They all have promising futures.

Loss is around us all of the time.pam_general[2]

It’s no wonder that in the past week, a wonderful, timeless book has repeatedly come to mind. It was a staple during college, and over the years, I have shared it with many people who are dealing with loss, including four terrific young ladies this year alone. The book, How to Survive the Loss of a Love, is a very quick read. Written by Peter McWilliams, Melba Colgrove, and Harold H. Bloomfield, it is a series of poems that guide the reader through the stages of grief. The book focuses mainly on the loss of a relationship, but it can be beneficial for ANY type of loss. I can’t recommend it enough. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour, tops, to read and is sort of like a self-help therapy session packed in its pages!

And, want to know another fabulous thing? You can read the book online for free! Just search the title, and you’ll see a few online options of the book. But, because it is often read repeatedly during a tender time in someone’s life, I highly recommend purchasing the actual book, available at many bookstores and also found on Amazon. The hardcover book makes a lovely, thoughtful gift.



Analyzing Office Referral Data


WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER! I certainly agree with that! When I worked as a behavior consultant, I spent hours and hours compiling office referral data. Our district wanted to analyze the data to look for trends. Thanks to my terrific sister, I was introduced to Excel Pivot Tables.


Yes, you can call me a nerd/data geek/whatever! I love analyzing data and Excel Pivot Tables feed that obsession!

Imagine having a tool that will let you enter new data, and with the click of a button, all graphs are instantly updated to include the new data. After I learned how to make the Excel Pivot Table work for office referral data, each month I was able to add the new data, click Refresh and was ready to send the new data to the schools for analysis.

One school had a lot of fighting going on. No one knew why. With Excel Pivot Tables, we were able to determine that the fights were occurring near the boys bathroom in the science wing after lunch. The school increased supervision in that location after lunch. Students were better supervised and not allowed to loiter. Fights stopped. Now that’s WORKING SMARTER, NOT HARDER!

Another school’s office referrals noted disturbances on the playground. After closer analysis, the conflicts happened the last 10 minutes of the 30 minute recess. We reduced recess to 20 minutes which significantly reduced playground conflicts. WORKING SMARTER, NOT HARDER!

When analyzing office referral data, a principal noticed the majority of the office referrals were coming from 3 teachers. The principal and assistant principal increased walk-throughs in those classrooms. They were able to help the teachers gain control with problem students. Office referrals decreased. YES! WORKING SMARTER, NOT HARDER!

When we anticipate problems, we can be proactive and prevent conflicts.

Analyzing the data:

NOTE: The pivot tables below have just 11 office referrals represented. It is just as easy to analyze 1000 or 3000 office referrals as it is to analyze 11.

The Student Chart shows how many office referrals each student received. You can use this information to form an At-Risk Team.














Click on the number next to the student who has the highest referrals.



The office referral appears for just Red Riding Hood! You now have the information you need to begin to make a plan for Red Riding Hood. You can share this information with parents, special education staff, school psychologists, etc.







Another way to use Excel Pivot Tables is to determine who sends students to the office most often. This gives an administrator information to consider if the teacher needs extra support.




I always like to see what infractions occur most often. You can compare the infractions month to month to determine trends of behavior. The infractions are coded: ct1-class tardy 1st time; dis=disruption; dru=drugs; fi=fight; out=out of assigned area; etc. You can create your own codes, use the ones your internet tracking program provides or use the ones I’ve developed. The most important thought is to enter the data consistently.  For example, if I enter “fight” for two students fighting one time and then enter “student fight” another time, Excel will identify these as two different types of infractions when they are really one. So be consistent with documentation.











Other types of data collected and analyzed include: infractions per month; infractions by gender; location of infraction; time of infraction; type of consequences used. As you get more comfortable and familiar with Excel Pivot Tables, you can add more areas to analyze. Analysis is endless. If you are like me, you will be so engrossed in the data you’ll wonder how the day flew by.

If you have Excel and the Internet, you can figure this out. Check out the videos on You Tube.

You do not have to be an Excel Pivot Table Pro to use this. If you want the data/tracking but don’t want to create it yourself, I’ve made one for you with step by step directions. You may find it well worth the $7 price tag to save yourself the time, energy and effort of learing how to make a pivot table. Just download the one I’ve already created-OFFICE REFERRAL DATA ANALYSIS. It’s ready to use. Remember, WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER!


roosevelt quote

February, the month of LOVE, is home to Valentine’s Day and, personally, my more preferred celebration, Random Acts of Kindness week. This year, RAK week is February 9th-15th. You agree, I’m sure, that RAK should be every day, not just a week-long celebration, but intentionally promoting it during this week is lots of fun! Links to two of my favorite sites for passing on kindness every day are found at the end of this post. However, the point of this post is to tell you about a great resource to use with students who are NOT being treated kindly, targets of bullying. The link to this site is also at the end of this post, but don’t skip ahead just yet. First, let me tell you a little more about why it’s so great and what makes it different from other bully prevention programs.

Being teased, or worse yet bullied, is never okay. While it is not okay, it is true that all people will have times when they get teased, and for some, the level of teasing will occasionally reach the severity of bullying. When these situations occur, it is important to thoroughly investigate, consequence the bully, and support the target. While the bully will receive discipline, with legal action being an option if the bullying is severe, what happens to the target? (Note: More about working with students who bully in a future post because it is not all about punishing!)

I’ve had students and parents, alike, get very mad and even argue with me when I talk with them pam_general[2]about what the target can do to decrease the chances of being teased or bullied again. The whole concept of the target changing his behavior to decrease the frequency of bullying is viewed by some as suggesting that the target CAUSED the bullying. This is not true. The target did not MAKE the bully tease him. Another complaint about this approach is “Why should I have to change? I didn’t do anything wrong!” This is true. However, before you stop reading and tune me out altogether, consider the following…

What about a paradigm shift here? Recognize that in order for bullying to happen, there must be, at a minimum, one person doing the bullying and one person receiving the bullying. This makes it an interaction between two people. Since the target cannot change anyone except him/herself, it is helpful to teach the target strategies that DISCOURAGE bullying. While there are many curricula on this very topic, most rely on strategies such as walking away, getting adult help, using positive self-talk to refute the teasing, and assertively telling the bully to stop. These are all good strategies, depending on the situation, but they do not really address the option of adjusting how a target views the situation. What if the target decides to think about the situation differently, recognizing that a bully can only hurt him if he lets the insult bother him? This is a radical shift in perspective. Stay with me!

Years ago, I worked with a sixth grade gifted student who was a target of bullying. We will call her Sally. When other students teased Sally, she responded in a provocative manner, yelling, demanding they stop, crying, and getting very emotional. While the bullies were dealt with by school administration, since Sally was a “repeat” target, it was decided that it would be beneficial for her to learn skills to prevent her from inadvertently announcing, “If you want to have fun, pick on me because my response is entertaining!” This is where the Bullies2Buddies lessons came into play. I don’t remember where I first heard about this curriculum, but I have used it for many years. It has been helpful with many targets, including Sally, who adamantly argued with me throughout the first three lessons. She persisted in her opinion that she should not change; the bullies were the ones who should have to change. She was right about the bullies needing to change but wrong about herself. Sally finished the lessons and returned to a year of ongoing problems.

When Sally went into the 7th grade, she had significantly fewer issues with teasing. A few months into the school year, I called her to my office to see how things were going. Sally’s answer was one of those unforgettable counseling moments. “I know I argued with you the whole time you taught me those lessons last year, but this year I decided to do what I learned, and it works!” The following year, when she was in 8th grade, I asked Sally if she would like to teach the lessons to a 6th grade student who was having similar struggles, and with permission from both students’ parents, she gladly obliged. It is no surprise that the 6th grade student received the message with much less resistance since Sally was her teacher and had been down a similar road.

Eleanor Roosevelt was on to something, and what Izzy Kalman has created is a direct offshoot of her famous quote. Izzy’s website, www.Bullies2Buddies.com, is loaded with resources. The lessons I used with Sally (and many others) are found in a FREE manual titled “How to Stop Being Teased and Bullied Without Really Trying” at http://bullies2buddies.com/resources/free-manuals/ Check it out!

Two awesome kindness websites: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/   http://www.values.com/

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” by Richelle M CC BY 2.0


BAGGAGE: We all have it!

Smile Chart

My 20 year-old son is spending the spring semester in Spain. We are all excited and looking forward to his adventures. Apparently traveling in Europe is inexpensive as long as one does not check any baggage. So he (and I) completely stressed on how he was to pack in one backpack for a 4-month stay. Well he did! So the adventure is on…

Those are baggage issues we all prefer.

However, many of our students must deal with a different kind of baggage. Our student may bring home, family, friend issues into school each morning. It’s frustrating for us because we are ready to focus on reading and math. However, our student may still be dealing with home issues from last night or this morning. If we ignore the student’s issues, s/he may melt down and act out. No learning occurs.

I developed a simple way the classroom teacher or instructional assistant can help guide a young child through the previous night’s distractions. The SMILE CHART lets the child pick a smiley/straight/sad/angry face on how she felt the previous evening. Next you ask how she felt at bed time. The child picks a face. You can make notes on the sheet about what the child is saying. You also discuss how the child felt in the morning. As the child is picking a face to show how she felt, take this opportunity to empathize and trouble shoot the issue. The last question is how that child is feeling right now. Hopefully this process has helped her put the distractions to rest so she can move on with her day.

If needed, this SMILE CHART can also be used as anecdotal notes to share with the school counselor or community resources. I hope you find this Smile Chart as helpful with your students as I did with mine.

Flashdance and Food Allergies?


Every now and again someone will post a picture on social media around “throwback Thursday” or such that takes me back to my childhood.  Sometimes it is an old family picture that reminds me of life growing up with my parents and two sisters, and sometimes it’s a picture from my school days that for a few moments helps me to remember what it was like to be a kid.  If I allow my mind to wander down that path, I stop to consider all the things that are vastly different than when I was a child.  No continuous access to a phone! Passing notes in school, doing research in a library, cheap gas, big hair and neon. I look back on those things fondly, even the big hair. :)  When I consider some things that my kids will never experience, I have to confess it makes me a little sad.  There was something about Saturday morning cartoons that just always made that day one to look forward to…………

Sometimes I consider those changes in the context of my job.  In all my years of schooling, I never knew of any student to have a life-threatening allergy.  It just didn’t happen.   And  later when I started working in school health  it was still rare. Thirteen years later it seems that there are several children with life threatening food allergies in every school and chances are ……..  in your classrooms and schools.  The amount of hair spray used since the 80’s isn’t the only thing that has changed.

A process for dealing with a plan to manage life threatening food allergies is essential for every school and classroom where children have allergies. There are simple measures that can be taken to help make your school and classrooms a safe learning environment for even the most severely allergic child. And these are easy measures to institute.

First, check your school and district policy for food allergies.  Some states are strong in this area, others not so much.  But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published some “voluntary guidelines” for schools to follow.  This document can be found at:


It is an excellent resource for schools to utilize.  You will also want to follow your district procedures for referral through ADA or IDEA when it comes to students with life threatening conditions. That process will vary according to the need.

You can do some things that will make a big difference in your classroom:  talk to the parents of the child with allergies to see if it’s okay to send a letter home to other parents letting them know there is a student with a life threatening condition in your class.  Ask them not to send that product with their children (ex. if the allergy is peanuts, then ask for no peanut butter containing products).  Ideally all parents would honor that request but there are many many variables which come into play.  So what you CAN do is make your classroom a “nut free” zone.  Don’t allow kids to eat those items in the classroom, and have a plan worked out  as to how eating in the cafeteria will be handled  (that’s a topic for another blog).

Post “Peanut free Zone” (or tree nut) outside of your classroom and inside as well.  Only allow parents to send in prepackaged foods with labels (no homemade treats) so that you can look to see what ingredients have been included.  Always make sure students wash their hands after eating to get rid of any residual oils (hand sanitizer will not do the job) and make sure that the student (and you) have access to his/her epi pen!! You will also want to be sure that a school nurse has trained you to recognize the signs of an anaphylactic reaction, and on the use of that particular brand of pen.  And finally, always be on the lookout for signs of bullying- which can be a common occurrence for children with severe allergies.   Often those incidences can be minimized by providing other children with education about food allergies.

For a free checklist that may be helpful to make sure things have been addressed in your room go to http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Checklist-for-Making-a-Classroom-Allergy-Ready-1644565.  It is meant for the classroom level (and not the other areas of school where modifications may need to occur)  but can give you an “at a glance” of some key areas.

Students learn best when they are healthy and safe, and even though the level of care in classrooms has changed over the last several years, the needs of children haven’t.  If we want to ensure success for all children, then a few simple steps can help make the classroom a much safer environment.