“You’ve gotta fight (bum bum) for your right (bum bum) to paarrrrrrrrtayy.”


I don't know about you, but this used to be what always popped into my head when I thought of rights. In light of recent protests and riots over the past two years, the thought of fighting for our rights has completely changed. Over the last few years, we have seen violent protests, police brutality, and riots that feed on anger and hatred. This behavior is not acceptable and is not the kind of peaceful protesting that we as Americans have the right to conduct.


Our nation has seen a lot of struggles for human rights over the last century. Racism and sexism have been combatted by organized, peaceful protests and in many cases, has proved to be, at least temporality, effective. Something has changed about the way this country enacts change. No longer do we see MLK conducting peaceful demonstrations. Rather, we see towns being set on fire, cars flipped over and innocent bystanders becoming casualties to the rage.

I do not believe this is a one-sided battle. Both sides of the political spectrum are practicing this bad behavior. We see our students being taught to fight for their rights, but they are not given the tools and wherewithal to enact meaningful change.

This problem starts in our schools. On both ends of the spectrum, we see young people getting fired up about their rights and how they believe others are infringing upon their rights. We see young people demanding what they believe is owed to them. What we do not see as often is young people focusing this effort on a direct and actionable political platform. There are too many people that want to make a sign and scream at Trump Towers, but not enough people who want to run for office with a fair and well-thought-out vision.

As students progress into universities, they are empowered to act up against what they see as wrong in the world. We get them angry about all of the injustice, and we tell them that it is their duty to fight it, all without equipping them with peaceful and effective ways of conducting change. This is a recipe for disaster that is continuously perpetuated in our higher education system.

What we need to do is direct our children towards legitimate paths to better our society. Right now we have created monsters that are just angry and don't have any way to deal with it, so they get violent. The only way to fix this problem is to teach our children a healthy way to deal with their issues.

-          Bria


Rights…how important that single letter “s” has become in today’s world.  I grew up in the post WWII era when home, schools and churches emphasized the importance of doing what is “right.”  In today’s world, the emphasis is upon the “rights” of certain people groups.  How times have changed!

            The daily news is filled with stories about people who feel their rights have been taken away or denied to them.  Some of the complaints are too absurd to even recount them.  But it seems that what we are viewing is the real-life acting out of the old TV ad where the battery is on the man’s shoulder and he dares the viewer to “go ahead, knock it off!”  I was proud of Taylor Swift this past week when she counter-sued a DJ who tried to sue her for his job loss…to the tune of three million dollars.  She asked only a settlement of one dollar.  She knew she was right and innocent, and sought only to have the court rule in her favor.  That, in my view, was the “right” thing to do, rather than trying to make a financial gain out of a bad situation.

            My husband and I were talking about one of our students who is maturing into such a fine young man.  He came to us with a great learning disability.  Yet, over the years his parents have worked with our school staff and with him to bring about results.  Instead of demanding “rights” from the government to facilitate accommodations for this child, we all worked very hard to teach him how to work with the disability, and how to find success in spite of the disability.  No excuses were given by anyone at any time.  We just all worked very hard.  So, we did the right thing by the child. (Don’t get me wrong…I am happy that funds, facilities, etc. are available to those who want them to help with disabilities.  I just disagree with government micromanaging some of these situations to the point that a classroom teacher I know has had to insert a catheter in one of her pupils as a part of her daily teaching routine.)

            We certainly don’t give adult rights and privileges to young children.  If we did, what a different world this would become.  The best example is seen daily in our preschool.  When a child wants what another child has, he wails to the teacher, “Teacher, he won’t share!”  Thus, his interpretation of Mom’s warning to “Do what is right at school, and to share,” becomes: “It’s my right…he has to let me play with it!”  How much simpler life would be if we lived by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” 

-  Kay

Boy, the definition really calls it what it is!  Rights - a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.  Where do my rights end and yours begin?  That is the question, isn’t it?  In a hugely entitled nation, the line of demarcation is blurred.

      When I think of rights, one of the first things that comes to mind is the right to a free and public education.  As I watched angry parents try to buy school supplies, I have to ask where that “free education” went.  I was in the midst of them, buying supplies for our students.  We’re a private school, but my parents and I have always felt that, if we require the items, we should furnish the items.

     Children in Oklahoma have the right to learn the same information as children in Maine.  Thus, we have Common Core.  Now students across America can learn the same set of facts.  Not necessarily what to do with those facts…but at least everyone (in public schools) is in the same boat!

     Gifted kids are incredibly aware of their rights.  If you’ve ever had an argument with a gifted teen, you know exactly what I mean.  I believe this is because gifted kids are very self-reflective.  While all kids are pretty egocentric, a gifted kid’s analysis is more introspective.  He wants to know more about his purpose and nature. He wants to “fix” what is wrong.  Usually “we” are what is wrong, but once he understands that not everything is so black-and-white, he realizes that there are rarely “right” and “wrong” sides – just differing opinions.

     It is good for gifted kids to argue about rights.  If they are allowed to explore ideas and solutions, they are more likely to choose a career in which they might fix some of the injustices out there.  If not allowed to argue, many become jaded and fail to engage once out on their own, developing a fatalistic viewpoint and cynical outlook.

     I have often told parents not to argue with their gifted child.  I’m not changing my mind here.  Do not argue with them about curfews or allowances or chores and such, or you may find yourself handing over the car keys to a prepubescent teen!  Do, however, talk about politics and war and the rights of the people of the world.  Encourage debate and strong opinions.  When your child leaves high school and enters the real world, he/she will be so much more likely to engage in society rather than sit back and complain about how stupid everybody is.  In turn, he/she will also be more willing to exercise one of the greatest rights we Americans have:  the right to elect our leaders. 

     So, don’t be afraid of a kid who is painfully aware of his rights.  Teach him to debate fairly and embrace the fact that your child will have a significant role in society.

-          Michelle


I am the picture of grace.  Oh, not like you’re thinking.  I don’t move like a swan. I’m talking about the kind of grace God offers:  undeserved favor.  That’s me… a walking billboard for undeserved favor.  If it weren’t for God’s grace, my mouth would have definitely led me to the poorhouse by now!  For an English teacher who bemoans the use of absolutes and such, I sure don’t hesitate to sling the emotionally-charged words around when confronted. 

    This was our first week of school, and for the most part it was fantastic.  There were at least two scenarios of which my mind “went to the replay” repeatedly, though.  These two instances kept me up with worry and made my stomach hurt.  I’ve been teaching for thirty years; surely I will figure this out soon!

    Fast forward to preparation for today:  I had been asked to sing a solo at church.  I decided with the stress of the first week of school, it would have to be one I previously did.  So, I gathered up my accompaniment tracks and I began listening.  The song I chose sang my week! 

                        Another voice, another choice, to listen to the words somebody said.

                        Another day I replay one too many doubts inside my head:

                        Am I strong, beautiful, am I good enough?  Do I belong

                        After all I’ve said and done? Is it real when I feel I don’t measure up.

                        Am I loved?

    That would be the entirety of my issue:  how to get the automatic replay to stop playing.  The chorus reminded me that God made every part of me with His hands, and because I know whose I am, I know who I am.  When I mess up like I did this week, I remind myself that God’s grace has covered these mess-ups, and I am free to try again… and do better next time.  Underserved favor.  Pretty cool!

    Now my biggest challenge is to pay it forward to my students.  It’s the start of a new year; not all are on board with our routine yet.  I need to make sure there is grace in everything I say as they seek to internalize the many facets of learning at Lawton Academy. My favorite quote from the week, as I tried to help sixth and seventh graders understand that they could choose their own activities in arts/engineering/music time: “I’m not used to choosing.  They just tell me what to do and where to go, and I do it.”  That was closely followed by a “I love this school” once the enormity of freedom this allowed was comprehended.  It was great!

   In this day and age where every mistake of those in the public eye is exposed, published, and analyzed by any number of talking heads on television, I’m wishing you a measure of undeserved favor!

-          Michelle

Grace…this is either looked upon as an old-fashioned word with little meaning to today’s youth, or it is a gesture on the part of money lenders that is sought after by people in financial trouble.  Either way, not many people use this term in everyday conversation.  It’s a different story to Christians who thank God for His undeserved grace in sending Jesus as the Savior of the world. They not only talk about grace, but they sing about it!

            When I think about grace as the prayer of thanks before a meal, I can’t help but remember Jimmy Stewart’s prayer in the movie Shenandoah.   He more or less told God that he and his family had cleared the land, plowed the soil, planted the seeds, and gathered the crops and cooked the meal…but he would thank God anyway for his wife’s sake.  However, by the end of the movie, he realized all too well that it is by God’s grace that any of us survive the evil around us caused by war, greed, hatred, etc.

            We are using a new method of dealing with conflicts in our school this year.  Our physical education teacher discovered this method being used successfully by a coach.  There are six steps in the process, but they are: hands out; explain; listen; brainstorm; shake; and compliment.  I’ve already used this once during this first week of our school year.  It worked beautifully.  When I told my husband about it, he pointed out some things I hadn’t thought about.

            The first step required the students to face each other with hands out in front and palms facing up.  That step is so important, according to my husband (clinical therapist), because it strikes a welcoming pose.  Think about it: Jesus held out His hands in that fashion as He taught; parents hold out hands with palms up to welcome a small child into their arms; we show palms up to assure someone we mean them no harm.  Such a pose disarms the situation immediately.

            Our world has become somewhat hardened and shell-shocked with violence.  The negativity does cause people to be suspicious.  Maybe it would be a better place if more people showed grace instead of just retaliating hurt for hurt. 

            I once had a student who constantly caused classroom problems and refused to change his ways.  One day when his teacher asked me to come to her room and intervene, I decided to do the following.  I asked what he had done and received an explanation.  I turned to him and told him that God had shown mercy and grace to me…even though I made mistakes.  He sent Jesus to accept the punishment for me.  So, because He did that for me, I would take the three spats of the paddle for him.  I directed the teacher to spank my hand hard with the paddle instead of spanking him.  (Yes, spankings were allowed back then.)  Nothing more was ever said…I was not called to that room for his misbehavior again.  I had completely forgotten about this incident until about four months ago when a woman came up to me and told me she was in that classroom long ago.  She said, “I have never forgotten what you did for that boy!” 

            So, I stop and consider and question, “What would the world be like if we took the time to show “grace” instead of being judge, jury, and hangman…trying to right all the wrongs in the world?  

-            Kay

In conversations about self-improvement, the phrase “grace under pressure” is often used. Sometimes I feel like this can be a placeholder phrase that doesn't carry a lot of meaning. I've never heard the phrase “grace under pressure” and known what it meant or how I should apply it to my life. The only way I have really come to understand this concept is by example.

I have been blessed with a few strong women in my life that know and practice the meaning of grace under pressure. These women all have challenging jobs and demanding lifestyles, but they all also maintain an amount of composure and “put togetherness” that is nothing short of impressive.

As we as a society continuously increase our expectations, the mastering of grace under pressure will set aside those who go above and beyond. We are all being asked to do more and more and to over perform. Those of us who can learn how to manage all of the pressure and still put our best foot forward will be the ones that come out on top.

Learning grace under pressure is not easy, and it takes a lot of time to perfect. The earlier you start learning how to manage your stress levels and put your best foot forward, the better. Life only becomes more challenging and complicated as you grow up. Working on this problem as someone in high school or college will allow you a leg up in getting ahead of the challenge.

Look to those people in your life that seem to have everything figured out. Why are they able to do that? For some, it's their faith. They are able to manage their stress through faith and trust in a higher being. For others, it’s organization. It could also be exercise or meditation. If you look at these people in your life, you will learn that each one has a method of coping with the pressure and remaining calm and composed during the hard times.

No one is ever going to appear calm and collected at all times, but learning how to control your emotions and manage your stress levels early on can put you a step ahead in practicing grace under pressure throughout your life. Even if this grace does nothing for you in terms of personal success, you will still feel better than the stressed out, anxious people around you.

-          Bria


Letting Go

Letting go is not a natural action for mothers or for someone struggling to save self from a crisis situation.  In fact, it is one of the most difficult actions a parent must undertake if the child is to survive on his own.  It just isn’t as easy as a mother bear makes it look when she sends her cub(s) up a tree and proceeds to swat them hard every time they try to climb down.  Then, she disappears into the wilderness never to return to care for them again.

            Even after our children are grown and have established their own homes and families, a mother feels an ache inside like her stomach is in her throat every time she watches them leave after a short visit.  Perhaps the umbilical cord nerve endings were tougher than we thought.  The house always feels a little empty after the children and grandchildren have gone back to their homes.

            At school, I see parents face the tough task of “letting go” of their children that first day of preschool or kindergarten.  In especially tough cases, mothers cry almost as much as the child.  I do my best to assure the distraught parent(s) that I have never lost a child yet!  But after the parent(s) leave the building, the child immediately starts exploring the classroom to see what interesting things are there.

            The harder task is the parent who absolutely will not “let go” of the child.  This parent creates a strong dependency on the child’s part.  I’ve seen some of these children who cannot make a simple decision on their own without input from mom…even at twenty years of age.  Thus, the parent had good intentions: keep the child safe; but the results were an emotionally crippled child.

            Letting go can also be an even harder task for a person who has developed an addiction to something.  We are all very aware of drug and alcohol addictions.  However, I am more aware of the addiction of children and parents to video gaming.  My husband and I are constantly observing family meals at local restaurants where no one speaks…all are playing or using their phones and video devices at the table. 

            Let me make two observations that are becoming more factual each year with research that is currently being done.  It is harder for children to remember letters, spelling associations, etc. if they use computer keyboards or other such input devices.  By not hand writing letters, words, and notes, there is no tactile sense being placed in their memory formation.  All keyboard input feels identical to the touch.

            Vocabulary development is limited when children do not hear or experience the advanced language structure used by adults in their presence.  That is one reason we ask parents to read books to their children daily.  When the mind is familiar with language structures, the child is better equipped to form his or her own words, sentences, and stories. 

            My closing thoughts on the subject of letting go is this:  I must let go of the constantly expanding schedules that face me each day and find some quality time to just enjoy life’s precious moments!  I did just that this week.  With only three days left before our new school year begins with an Open House, my husband and I took off in our camper for Palo Duro Canyon in Texas.  We have just returned from being refreshed by nature’s wonders as well as being reminded of the rich history that brought about these United States.  Now, I am ready to tackle the world…well, at least my classrooms of children!

-           Kay

It's weird the topic of letting go makes me so emotional. I feel this way because I am in a period of my life where letting go defines my situation and circumstances.

I have been practicing letting go since I moved to Chicago in 2013. I say practicing because I have yet to perfect it. Moving to Chicago was easily the most terrifying thing I had done up until that point in my life. I was letting go my life in Oklahoma, my comfortable house and my car to move to the big city and live in a dorm and take the public transportation everywhere. This was quite an adjustment, and I struggled through my first year in the city.

Eventually I got comfortable with my new situation just in time to move into my own apartment. This was phase two of letting go- letting go of roommates. I lived with the same girl for two years before moving out of the dorms and living alone. This was another practice in letting go of the comfort.

So time went on and I got comfortable living alone, I got a dog and had friends over occasionally and everything worked out. And then I graduated and entered the part of my life where I had to let go of my financial safety net.

I moved into a smaller place that I could pay for myself (barely) and started working my first salaried job. This job has been the biggest practice of letting go, - because it has made me let go of expectations. All my life I expected that if I did the right things and worked hard, I would be able to live comfortably. Right now, I'm working a job that often keeps me there upwards of 70 hours a week. I am doing everything I can to be successful, I have my MA from a good school, and I have work experience with reputable companies, and I still can barely afford to live here.

I have had to let go what I thought my life would/should be like because that's just not the reality of my situation right now. This is incredibly challenging because it's so easy to look around and see what others have that I don't. I am still in the period of my life that is defined by letting go, and it's important because out of letting go, I have gained so much strength as a person. Each of these moments of letting go that I have mentioned have defined my next step towards success, and I would not be the same person without them.

Letting go can be uncomfortable, but it is incredibly necessary to helping you learn and grow as a person. As you grow up, you will experience these times and in the moment, it might make you upset that you have to let go of comfort to learn. Looking back on it, you will realize that that was a milestone in your life and it changed you. You have to let go of some things to make room for new experiences in your life.

-          Bria

     Okay… if you are a mom or teacher of young kids, you know you’re totally singing “Let it Go” from Frozen right now, aren’t you?!  I love listening to my students wail on that song.  But have you ever really listened to the lyrics?  She’s basically saying, I’m not going to worry about whether I’m hurting anyone anymore.  It doesn’t help to worry.  I’m going to use my skills, whether they hurt someone or not.  Not exactly the message we usually send to our little ones.

    I, however, say, “You go, Girl!”  Maybe not in the destructive sense of things, but with the idea that her particular gift could be used for good… if she’d just use it.  She had so much fear that she would use it for bad that it crippled her for the first two-thirds of the musical.  She actually did more damage by trying to contain it (i.e., ignoring her little sister after the loss of their parents). 

    Our school is primarily made of kids who push limits.  They have big ideas and a love of knowledge and a great sense of humor and justice.  When we try to control them too much, they “buck.”  For instance, we usually lose about seven minutes of school time lining up after recess.  First there’s a couple of minutes of getting the little ones to the right lines.  Then there’s the silence that must occur before all may go in.  Inevitably, someone says something, usually with the intent to buck authority, and the process of getting to silence starts all over. 

    This year, we’ve decided to “let go” of our usual routine.  When we ring the bell for recess to be over, students will begin entering the school right then… as they come.  They will get a drink and/or go to the bathroom and then head to the next class.

    If you are the relative of a teacher, you know that very little trash is actually trash.  We can repurpose just about anything!  Then we guard it for dear life until just that right moment when someone utters the phrase, “Does anyone have the lid from a Cystal Lite container?”  We ride in and save the day!  So… my room is full of just such items.  I’ve been buying and collecting for twenty-five years, and I have to tell you, the cries for supplies are few and far between.

    This year, I decided to “let go” of my stuff and place it out for student consumption.  It’s so very liberating.  I anticipate still needing to yell at a kid or two who is wasting my treasures, but, for the most part, I expect to see some really great creating going on.

    In such a possession-rich country, “letting go” is not that welcome a concept.  Know-it-alls and talking heads will tell us to save up and protect and prohibit, but I’m with Elsa. Let it go!  Let your kindergarten self lead a little.  Remember that poem:  “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten”?  Share a little more, let go of the need to be in control, and enjoy the freedom found in not caring quite as much as you’re supposed to.

-          Michelle


Growth… one of the processes of life.  I am especially aware of this process as I get preparations done for the start of our new school year.  I remember each student as he or she was at the end of last school year; and I am always amazed at the changes I see in each child upon the first day of school.  Not only have the children grown in stature, but they seem much more mature than last year. 

            We’ve been especially aware of the growth process at the school since we’ve had summer rains which caused a very rapid growth of grass and weeds.  No sooner has the five acres been cut than it’s time to start mowing again!  My poor son-in-law has had to work late into the night on many occasions just to stay ahead on keeping the grounds neat and trim.

            I do subscribe to Epstein’s theory of growth spurts.  I’ve seen this over the years in my students.  Basically, the theory is that the brain grows in spurts rather than continual constant growth.  In recent years, these growth spurts have been linked with four stages for child development such as Piaget’s theory. These stages are: 1): sensorimotor stage: birth – 2 years (children learn by experience through their senses); 2) preoperational stage: 2 through 7 years (develop memory and imagination and understand things symbolically, as well as past and future); 3) concrete operational stage: 7 through 11 years ( more aware of external events, feelings of others, less egocentric, an idea that not everyone shares their thoughts, beliefs, or feelings); 4) formal operational stage: 11 years and older (able to use logic and solve problems, view the world around them and plan for the future).

            In practical terms, I’ve witnessed academic growth that is in a spurt at first grade level.  The sky seems to be the limit for vertical learning.  Then, a time of reflecting, processing, and practicing seems to be horizontal with not much vertical achievement.   But then again in fourth grade, much vertical growth begins again.  The ages are not set in stone, but the process seems to be pretty reliable.

            What that has meant to me as a teacher is I must take advantage of vertical academic achievement in a time of brain growth spurt.  I then expound and enrich those learned skills during the period before the next growth spurt.  When the next growth spurt occurs, I again take the child as far as he/she can achieve.  It should be apparent to people reading this that school systems rely upon the practice of one year’s growth per year of school. Of course, that premise makes teaching all students in a classroom the same skills at the same time acceptable.  It is far harder to individualize learning to match growth spurts, but it is far more rewarding, and one of the reasons I use this method in my teaching. 

-          Kay

As I write this, I am once again sitting at stroke camp- a rehabilitative camp for stroke survivors and their caregivers. Unlike last weekend, we have no water and limited power due to a bad storm on Friday night. We are packing up this morning, and once again I am struck by the positivity and resilience of these stroke survivors. Throughout the weekend I have had the opportunity to hear the stories of many survivors' stroke experiences. One common theme is the change in personality pre- and post- stroke. Many reference the amount of personal growth that has come with this traumatic experience. We were able to discuss how hard times bring about incredible amounts of personal growth.

Growth can come from much less drastic situations as well. Throughout childhood we celebrate physical growth and change. As we grow older, growth comes in a more emotional way. Any way that it comes, growth is important and influential in our lives.

By going to stroke camp and learning about challenges that affect others in different circumstances, I have experienced a lot of growth and widening of my own understanding. This has been very beneficial to me because it makes me aware of challenges and issues that I would not have ever thought about.

One valuable lesson that I hope to carry on from my experience is to take it one day at a time. These survivors are patient and they have learned that each day is a blessing, and worrying about the future isn't worth the stress. Internalizing this lesson would be a great opportunity for continued growth for myself. It is a lesson that many of us could learn from. Keep seeking growth and learning opportunities. None of us is perfect; there's always room for improvement.

-       Bria

This is my second attempt at this subject this week.  I sat down and wrote last night, but I just couldn’t get anything substantial.  So, while in the shower this morning, I opened my mind to run loose on the topic of growth.  The first thought that came to mind was the concept of a “growth chart.”  You know, the one young mothers quote after visiting the pediatrician. 

    “My child is in the 90th percentile for height.”

     What if, similar to how I do a marketability report card in the secondary, I did a growth chart in the elementary?  Intellectually, gifted and talented perform way beyond their years, but emotionally?  Okay… not so much.  Gifted don’t lose well, they don’t win well, and they often won’t even try if they think they might fail.  It is precisely because of these tendencies that we have three recesses.  In the classroom, there is very little cause for emotional outbursts.  But on the foursquare court… oh, the fights!  Claims of cheating and instances of unwillingness to be out are many.  My bright students who are not technically “gifted” just shake their heads and leave the court in disgust.  Does the gifted child “get” what’s going on?  Nope.  He thinks he’s won the argument.

    A growth chart would give me some way to document what is occurring.  I could show where children typically are emotionally and behaviorally at certain ages as compared to the student being evaluated.  If I have a chart showing areas of deficit, I can then discuss how to help gain a target behavior.  Areas in which the student is performing in a manner consistent with or exceeding their peers would be cause for praise.

    The fact that I even research issues now shows “growth” on my part.  I used to know it all!  (Or so I often thought!)  When I first took on the duties of a principal, I felt threatened at any question of my decisions or policies.  Now, I re-read emails with the idea that the parent is just seeking information.  It’s amazing how well things go when you don’t read something in to everything!  The fact that I am soon to be 51, and I am still learning what seem to be simple concepts tells me that I have to be flexible with the “growth chart.”  Not everyone learns at the same rate, just as not everyone grows at the same rate.

    I have the start of a good idea here.  I will let it incubate for a couple of days and see if I can’t get a great idea going!



People react very differently to the idea of “labeling.”  The middle schooler self-labels, but the high schooler rejects any labeling.  Then in college, he embraces them again, identifying himself with fraternal labels and career-intent labels and such. The college graduates’ degree, her passed qualifying exam, and a subsequent job entitle her to a hard-earned label, which she wears like a badge.

  Why is it, then, that so many parents do not want their kids labeled?  I know when I used to teach on military posts, parents would prohibit labels that might get their struggling child the help he needed because it might cause a “compassionate reassignment,” something they saw as the kiss of death to their careers.  (Educators and military leaders have worked together to make sure this is not the case anymore.)

   I think some people confuse “stereotyping” with “labeling.”  I am a Christian, but I wince when I see what some people who also label themselves Christians do in the same of Jesus Christ.  Their actions may be stereotypical, but those actions in no way lessen my Christianity.

   I have been quandarying over how to get a group of kids I’m working with to quit acting upon every impulse.  I have jokingly called them “Touch the but” kids – a reference to the dare Little Nemo takes that ultimately causes him to be swept out to sea.  When I say, “Don’t touch that,” they look straight at me while touching the very thing I just said not to touch! Their impulse-driven behavior extends to every facet of the day, making the teaching of four or five of them feel like I’ve been herding cats.  

    But they’re not bad kids; in fact, they are some of my most unique students… highly intelligent and creative.  I use the “label” not to brand them, but rather to search the Internet to find strategies that will allow me to get them to obey without breaking their “spirit.”  They cannot be the only ones like them in the world.  Good grief, Mark Twain wrote about these kids when he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer!

I’m a woman, a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife, a teacher, a principal, a coach, a mentor, a Christian, a singer, and a registered voter (although, for the life of me, I don’t identify with either major party right now!), but none of these labels defines me.  They just give you a better picture of who I am.  Labels aren’t about you; they’re intended to make you less of a mystery to everyone else!  If I refuse to label myself a “mom,” does that make me any less a mom to my children?  If educators incorrectly label your child, go for it.  Rage against the machine.  But if the label fits, do some research of your own on the Internet, the goal being to give your child every opportunity to succeed.  Then you will earn one more label:  your child’s champion!

-          Michelle

As an individual with a background in marketing and advertising, I am very aware of labels. Labels are your one communication touch point you have with the consumer of your product. The way in which a product is labeled says a lot about a product and often tells a consumer whether or not he would like to buy the product.

As people, we also carry labels. Hipster, Goth, Christian, feminist, gay, straight, Democrat, Republican. We are constantly asked to take on labels that describe a certain trait about our personality or how we live our life. While this is a normal tendency, it also can be harmful because labels often come with stereotypes. Labels allow other people to have preconceived notions of what we are like as human beings.

As I'm writing this, I am volunteering at a rehabilitative summer camp for stroke survivors. For many of these campers, they have been labeled as broken or hopeless. Many have lost control of limbs or can no longer form a complete sentence. However, these campers are some of the most hopeful, motivated and inspirational people I have ever met. It's so easy to look at a person and decide that there is something wrong with him, or something that makes him “not normal.” Looking past labels and preconceived notions of what these labels mean can open us up to an amazing world of people that we might normally write off. A lot of people think of stroke survivors as brain dead, slow, or even sometimes scary. A simple conversation with a stroke survivor will tell you that this huge life experience has informed a wealth of knowledge and a depth of experiences that the rest of us simply do not have.

At the end of the day, we are all people. This year has done so much to divide us as a nation and as people groups. Labels encourage us to self-segment the population and only talk to like-minded individuals. It can be incredibly rewarding to talk to someone with the opposite opinion on any given topic and experience a different viewpoint every now and then. Getting outside of your label and experiencing people without biases can help to make you a more well-rounded individual.

-          Bria

                Labels… often a very sticky subject!  In fact, one of my pet peeves is the placing of price stickers on the front of teaching posters.  It takes a lot of time and effort to remove the adhesive without ruining the illustration on the poster!  What kind of clerk would intentionally place the sticker in such a position?  I guess someone with a grudge or a score to settle!

                Labels are also an intricate part of my classroom each year.  I use various ones to help organize the classroom materials for my young students.  Usually, color coding makes recovery even quicker.  The use of color coding is especially helpful for teaching students about steps in a process or making it easier to see patterns in math numeration, grammar, and sentence structure.

                For years, I have taught teachers not to label their reading groups with the idea of clustering students of equal abilities or needs.  My reason was that any child would see the labels such as, jets, rockets, and tanks as ability markers.  (We live in a military community.)  Once such labels are given to the class, students often allow their abilities to meet those expectations.  What a waste of mental powers!  Far better results occurred when we merely grouped students for a skill instruction, and then moved to different skills and different groupings as needed!

                One of the strangest sights I ever saw took place at our local Walmart as I was shopping for theschool’sgroceries.  A manager was literally showing a young worker how to correct the work he had just finished in the can goods aisle.  I looked at the rows of vegetables in front of us, and there it was: all the cans were neatly placed on each shelf…with labels all facing the rear!  Instead of finding the usual label identifying the contents, we were looking at rows of serving sizes and directions for use labels!

                And now, my number one pet peeve about labels… the undecipherable picture labels printed on all moving parts of my car’s dashboard!  No wonder it is harder to teach first graders how to read these days.  We use letters and words to give meaning to students.  Yet, our manufacturers have decided that the majority of the drivers are illiterates!   My question then is, “How do they pass a driver’s exam if they can’t read?”  Yes, I realize there are many languages spoken in the world.  If that is the underlying cause for the little nondescript pictures, then why can’t we order the language labels as easily as our young drivers order the precise wheels they desire?!          


Setting Parameters

Setting parameters…this is a skill that may range from a very easy task (boundaries in a playground game) to an almost impossible task (the amount of freedom given to rebellious children). I spent a great amount of time as a school administrator setting parameters, interpreting those parameters, and then enforcing those parameters with staff, students and parents.  This is not an easy task!

            Let me share two of my most effective object lessons for setting parameters in the classroom with children who were determined to try to undermine the lesson and for those who were totally self-centered and unaware of others’ needs. 

            I would bring in a large bag of mixed candies and dump it out in the middle of a table in the room.  All I said to the class was, “This candy is for you.”  Students would sit dumfounded and then one by one start asking, “What do we have to do?”  My reply was silence.  “How much can we have?”  Soon, someone would say, “I’m going to get…” or “I’m not going to be the first…” and then, “What the heck! I’m going!”  Immediately a mad rush started toward the candy…and in a matter of a minute or two, the entire bag disappeared!  Hushed sounds of exasperation were heard among the bragging of others with entire handfuls of candy.

            I then asked the class, “How do you feel?”  The replies ranged from “Man, look what I got!” to the “I didn’t like this!  It’s not fair!”  And then a few said, “I didn’t get anything!”  As students shared the feelings of success and failures, we discussed how life or games would be if there were NO RULES.   By the end of the object lesson, a few shared their candy with those who had none.  But often in the ensuing year, when questions arose over rules, someone would say, “Remember the candy game?”

            The second object lesson has been repeated only on three occasions in my fifty-year career.  It came out of desperation on my part.  I’m not saying it was good or bad…just that it served the purpose.  When I couldn’t get the cooperation of a student in the classroom, or when a student was the ring leader in disrupting the lesson, I appointed him or her to be the teacher for the rest of the day.  At first, the student was pretty proud and was going to show me just how capable he/she was. 

            It didn’t take long until the other students who were partners in the disruptions began to bother, interrupt, and taunt the student who was trying to teach.  “This is harder than I thought.”  But I did not give in…I made him or her continue to teach the lesson plan in spite of the whining and begging for permission to go sit down.  When I did agree to take back my position as the teacher, I asked the student how it felt to be in charge.  Each time I had to do this, the student teacher related how frustrating it was to teach rude students.  They also chided their “partners in crime” for being so rude.

            There is an old saying that we should not judge another person until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes.  I found it to be true that when we do let someone else walk in our shoes, he she usually has a new respect for us and what we are trying to accomplish.  Then it is easy to teach the Golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

            In both of these object lessons, some feelings had to be hurt;  however, no one suffered irreparable damages.  In fact, I have become a life-long friend to two of those students.  One of them has come to my classroom on several occasions to visit and to tell my students how I had a positive influence on his life.

            Parents and teachers have to set the parameters or guidelines so that all students may flourish in a safe environment.  Many families seek our school because it offers a safe environment for their children.  However, I must make them aware that the children are safe because we DO set parameters and we DO enforce them.  I feel so sad for many teachers who are suffering for the lack of discipline in many schools.  When these teachers tell me about the lack of control or the failure to act to defend the rights of the teachers against disruptive and violent students, I ache for them. 

            I keep the pictures of two of my former students on my classroom board.  They both died before they graduated from high school.  One was stabbed to death by a student athlete from a rival school, and the other was killed in a tragic truck accident.  Both serve as reminders to me and to my current students that none of us are promised tomorrow.  Today needs to be the best day of our lives.  One student died because he was always in the middle of disruptive students…and even though he was being good and protecting another student, being in the setting where rules were being broken (underage drinking party) allowed him to die in his senior year.  The other was a victim of a driver who chose to speed and caused his load to shift…killing both him and my former student at age 16.  Rules are there for keeping people safe.  The alternative to rules and parameters is chaos.  But keeping the parameters enforced and effective takes hard work!  

-          Kay

Setting parameters is something that everyone knows they should do, but few do successfully. As adults, we are told to set boundaries between work and personal life. If you are too invested in your job, there is an assumption that you are not spending enough time with your family, and vice versa. Work/life balance has always been an issue and it continues to affect us as technological advances make it easier and easier to take work home with us.

I have a complicated relationship with my work/life balance right now because I am doing a job that far surpasses the normal time commitment of the traditional 9:00-5:00. This job keeps me late into the evenings and often brings me in on the weekends as well. I can justify this because right now I do not have a family. Many of my co-workers have children and have to make difficult decisions about how to manage work/life balance in a demanding work environment.

I once heard someone describing work/life balance in three buckets. You have your work bucket, your family bucket, and your recreational bucket. You only have so much to give and you decide how much you put into each bucket. Working in a fulfilling job allows your work and recreation bucket to be one and the same. Eliminating the third bucket helps make sure that you are giving time to the most important bucket - your family.

In the startup world, there is the “work hard, play hard” office culture. The expectations are high, but when you finally make it to the break, it is that much more satisfying. Doing work that is able to fill both the work and recreation bucket for you is important because you are not dividing your time between three demands. Loving your job and loving what you are doing is truly a gift that few people achieve early on in their career. Making it to that point erases many of the needs to set parameters because you are willing to do so much more for a job that you love as opposed to a soul-crushing job that pays the bills.

My advice to young professionals entering the workforce would be to understand when you should set parameters, and when it is worth it to put in the extra time to do a job well. Don’t ever let yourself be taken advantage of, but realize that sometimes life demands a little extra to further your career.

-          Bria

I’m sure discipline is the first thing that pops into most people’s minds if we are discussing “setting parameters,” but I’d like to go in a different direction.  I’d like to explore the setting of parameters within relationships… specifically the ones your child forms during the teen years. 

   Some of the most dreaded words I hear from parents at the beginning of their child’s secondary years are “My child is not to ‘date’ anyone until after college.”  I’m fine with their desire for the child to concentrate on his studies; I am not fine with the fact that now I have to become a “sitter.”  With the exception of maybe two students who were so driven to make their dreams come true that they obeyed this parent-instructed rule, I have not met the child who can resist the lure of teenage love.  Oh sure, they can make it through middle school.  But in high school, when their feelings are magnified to one hundred times the actual size, crushes are inevitable.  The funny thing is that, once they’ve had one “dating” experience, many usually decide to “concentrate on their studies till after college”!

   Why do some parents insist on erecting a wall a teen feels he must conquer?  My guess is fear.  My best advice regarding romantic relationships during middle and high school is to expect them to happen, and before they do, set some parameters on the “dating.”  Those parameters could include group outings rather than two-person outings, the intended boyfriend or girlfriend joining in family outings to increase familiarity, and, of course, all the usual parameters for dating once they can be alone (appropriate age, curfew, places they may go, etc.). 

   When parents declare that no dating will occur, the teens just try to hide it.  I have a strict “no public display of affection” rule, but inevitably, the two will try to sneak-date here… prompting an outing to their parents and more babysitting opportunities for me.

    Believe me, I am very happy to be through the dating years of my kids.  I had many a dinner at Texas Roadhouse with a boy who had ordered half the menu and then wouldn’t quit talking long enough to eat it.  But because I made those opportunities for he and my daughter to be together, she was not distracted at school by the young man.  Work time was work time and together time was together time… with Mom along for the togetherness until they reached the age of sixteen (the parameter I set for the age of dating alone).

Setting parameters regarding friendships is similar. Don’t just say,  “You are not to hang out with him… or him… or her. Why don’t you be friends with that nice (fill in the blank)?”  Friendships form on the basis of shared interests, not Mom’s and Dad’s choices.  If you ban your child from a certain type of friend, you risk being labeled as a hater.  Instead of dictating with whom your child should hang out, why not set parameters for what will occur in spite of the friendship.  For instance, set a limit on how much grades can suffer due to hanging out.  If you expect A’s, then let them know that B’s will limit the opportunities to get together with that friend.  If the pair are causing issues due to the friendship while in school (i.e., talking too much together), then provide opportunities for them to get together in the evening or on weekends. 

    The key to healthy relationships during your child’s teen years is parental involvement.  If you actively seek to know the interests of your child, you will become their confidant when things go awry.  Because you are invested in many of their relationships, you won’t just encourage them to “get out of” the relationship.  You can teach your child early how to work through issues that are not really that big outside of the shadow of the relationship involved.

-          Michelle


Over the last decade women and girls have found empowerment through looking to other strong females who have resisted traditional gender roles and paths to success. For many, this has resulted in an increase in confidence and it has shattered misconceptions that there are things in life that cannot be achieved based on gender. While many women around our country enjoy the progressive environment in which they can achieve success and advancement in their careers without repression or harassment, many others do not live in that reality.


All over the world we see women’s independence being suppressed under the law of politics, religion or culture. This is obviously terrible, but in some parts of this country we have problems on the opposite end of the spectrum. Some of the more liberal parts of our country have leaned so whole heartedly into female independence that they have created unrealistic expectations that can be just as harmful to young girls.


I consider myself a feminist and I love female empowerment, but some parts of our country have created a “girl boss” culture that is unrealistic. There is an immense amount of pressure to be successful in your career while raising a family. This in and of itself is not that demanding. The problem is that social media has told us that we have to do all this while maintaining a perfect physique, flawless skin, a neat and organized home, a picture-ready family, and an active social life. This is asking too much of people. If you are someone who believes that she can do this, I support your dreams and goals, but I hate the idea of girls growing up under these expectations.


There is a way to be an independent woman without being a perfect woman. Girls, please understand that Gigi Hadid and the Jenner Sisters, and most girls that look perfect online, either aren’t showing you the bad parts of their lives, or they have a team that helps them look like they do. Dream big; don’t be bound by others’ limits for you, but also remember that you define your own success. The most important thing is that you are doing what makes you happy. Striving for personal growth and happiness is what makes a strong, independent woman. You don’t have to be a girl boss to be happy.

-          Bria


Obviously, our nation is celebrating its independence this weekend…thus, the title of our post.  Our nation’s struggle for independence is valuable as a metaphor for the struggle a child goes through for his/her independence.  Okay, there’s not a war – but sometimes we parents and teachers feel like we’ve been through one!

       Your child’s first struggles for freedom come with turning the head and turning over when you lay him down as an infant.  I want to look around!  By toddler, the struggle is one of pushing boundaries, and this continues until third grade, when, in a very Martin Lutheresque fashion, your child stands up to you regarding what she wears and how her hair is cut. This gentle rebellion against all you want to do regarding his personal life continues through 6th grade… and then the freedoms range beyond the shores of home.  Once your teen sees what’s out there, Mom, it will never be the same!  Middle school is full of comparison.  Your teen is looking for what others have and he has not, and she is beginning to think her life would be so much better if you would just (fill in the blank)

      By high school, she is fully armed with her beliefs and ready to make a stand on her own.  He begins seeking schooling far from home, and your struggle of trying to be supportive but remembering that this is your baby heightens. 

      It is not until about his sophomore year, though, that he truly revolts and establishes his independence.  She realizes she doesn’t really have to inform you of any of her decisions… just keep her grades up so she doesn’t get kicked out of the school.  You call, and everything’s fine, but the only hint of the rebellion against all you’ve carefully poured into their little heads is the occasional un-huh on the other end of the line when your advice is offered. 

      Upon graduation, the relationship changes.  You are now The British, not really the enemy, but definitely not the monarch you once were!  Don’t despair, though.  You’ll hear and see your words of wisdom, literally, when they come out of your now grown child’s mouth with his/her offspring! 

     Happy Fourth, everyone!  A heartfelt thanks to all who have sacrificed to give us our freedom!

-          Michelle