Tag Archives: change


Two ubiquitous postings float the internet nowadays: one is a paraphrasing of Churchill’s famous saying-paraphrased into “Keep calm and – ______________ ” fill in the blank here. Some make me smile ( “Keep Calm and Mother on” ) others make … Continue reading

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Perspective: stepping away- a way to the future


The words come from a colleague’s Twitter account; juxtaposing them with the image brings to life what I have seen and experienced: the ‘OMG’ feeling when work of any kind- disappears in front of our eyes on the computer- or becomes muddled in our heads due to over taxed brains and the stress of one – to paraphrase a book title: “No Good, Very Bad, Day”. We all have them.

And that brings me to today’s topic- the beauty of “Tomorrow”. This is not an ode to procrastination, nor to the necessity of “sleeping on it”. It is a reminder that things do change, and we do change, and sometimes, the best one can do is to take a step away from what appears to be immediate overwhelm and put it into perspective.

The book mentioned above would be classified a “children’s text” and I would love to see it and others find their way into High School library corners, and even College/University shelves, for just as we are recognizing the benefits of having pets wander the campus during exam week, to offer a brief respite from stress overload by encouraging students to refresh with a pet- take a mini break and pet an animal- it would be great if the books that not only bring a belly laugh in early grades but also- inspire- would be readily available too.

We hear a lot about the positives and negatives of testing, read how testing may not actually reveal one’s real knowledge base, let alone understanding, nor even accurately prepare one for the “real world” challenges that may be encountered. Yet the challenges that are found in the nearly addictive Video games are accepted, as are the regular defeats that occur on a sports field; the collective groan that emerges when a favorite team misses the ball is very quickly replaced with the mutter of “next year” and few would simply toss the video game aside rather than getting up and attempting the “next level” on another day. For some reason though when a student may miss the mark, some institutions may be quick to encourage student and family to lower their expectations- why? Given the right environment learning can take place- note I am not stating a lower environment – but a different one. The beauty of Higher Education is that once a student has made it this far, options actually increase rather than decrease. Most campuses today are dedicated to enabling students to give themselves second chances, and to recognizing how changing direction may land one in the right place after all.

Maybe Annie knew best when she sang about “Tomorrow” and we have to distinguish the two notions and become aware that stepping away from a problem to breathe, and procrastination, are separate entities. So take heart, life long learners everywhere, and take a minute or more of time, to know that if you have made it this far- you can keep going.

In art “All perspective drawings assume the viewer is a certain distance away from the drawing”* – how do we then establish that distance when so close to a project as to experience “overwhelm”? Sometimes, it does take more than a day- either way, we can recall we and others have experienced disappointments, and sometimes it is the simplest perspective as found in the children’s tales that offer the remind- everyone can have a no good, very bad, day- or blow a test, miss an interview, not get the ….fill in the blank here. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; keep working towards that dream. 


actual book title: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

* Wikipedia definitions

Colleague:  Bobby Umar

Visit on twitter: mytutoringspace   – see you here and there …


Do you ever get ” RUSTY? “

If I do, I know its time to change direction-

The rhythm of a school year is quite set- both students and teachers can feel the changes as May arrives- with June, there is a strong sense of completion- down time in the positive sense.  Here, in my place, I have one student graduating High-School, another just returned from studying, 5 months, abroad- and as mom, I love noting how these two young adults continue to challenge each other and themselves.

So…we are celebrating!  

All it takes to feel a little less stiff is a good belly laugh and hugs all around- school systems being what they are- hugs are rarely possible between students and teachers, so we have to hope that our students do indeed recognize the genuine warmth and best wishes that are offered along with the final reports.  Teaching privately to a range of ages gives me the chance to move to a different rhythm, in keeping with a student’s needs, and this in turn keeps me jumping- TRY it! Differentiated direct instruction makes one hyper aware of each student’s challenges and each student brings me a new perspective on what is meant by “learning” objectives.  ‘Cause as they grow- so do I. 

Tutoring also puts into practice the current “new phrase”,  bringing a “flipped” classroom experience to every session.  Students bring their questions, their curiousity and even their irritation to a lesson.  And while I would like them to “nail it” on quizzes and tests and any form of assignments they may have, I’m most impressed when they exhibit “polish” and shine with excitement as they share ideas-

“Polished”, “refined”, “sophisticated”; all antonyms to the original adjective in question; and the changes that I see over the course of months when working with writing skills.  But not at all “done”.  The challenge I give myself? To instill a genuine interest in improving, from an evolutionary perspective- at times. stochastic leaps, at other times, subtle, incremental steps towards a genuine understanding of self; not only how one learns best, but also how to keep learning.   

Tomorow I will be posting links to annotated book lists, by age, and to interactive websites.  So many students bring their cell phones to camp- I wish everyone would bring an empty journal and fill it with …what ever appeals. 

I teach throughout the summer, and bring a little bit of the outdoors inside whenever possible.  I also am known for encouraging my students and my children to recognize the truly symbiotic relationships between science and art; both require: dedication to a craft, working with tools and technology, practice and experimentation. 

Here is a link to an article featuring an artist who is combining the two fields and a potent reminder about the serendipity of innovation. 



The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”
–Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.,
U.S. Supreme Court justice

 To me the quote suggests that wisdom sees the individual in a situation and is able to listen and put reason and context into a judgement.  

I joined Mothers against Drunk Driving before I became a mom.  I am the last person to be in a position to defend a student for being slightly under the influence- but I also know kids- and know that schools inadvertently encourage drinking when they set up rules and arbitrarily decide who will be punished.  I also know that kids have their own code of honour and expecting one student to call out fifty more is a ridiculous notion.   

“Zero Tolerance”- imagine if that really were put into place beyond the school system- no need for a legal profession then/ after all, no need to weigh the crime of a stealing of a loaf of bread ( Victor Hugo – yes- Les Miserables) against the crime of cold blooded murder- no need to weigh anything at all- no need for perspective, understanding-balance- just… punishment.    And no worries if the punishment fit the crime- OH – but that’s a dystopia-  can’t possibly be what one wants from or for an education system.  

Teach Literature to students really offering them an understanding of the issues at hand and sit back and listen to how much kids do care- and stop sending mixed messages.  As a mom, I know the difference between a small infraction and a major one, and silently or vocally as the occasion demands praise the positive and give thanks that the testing the waters of adolescents is, in the grand scheme of things, about generally safe exposure to new ideas and sometimes, new tastes.

Change-  Kids change – when adults let them; over punishment doesn’t allow for change and may in fact push the student in the opposite direction.  People -and kids are people too- need to feel a sense of control over their lives.  Remove that sense and all that is encouraged is rebellion.  I know of a beautiful young student whose participation at her High School has been exemplary, whose one indiscretion is being held up without being weighed or even set beside the four years of non-stop team school participatory action.  Zero-tolerance? As adults, as educators, as parents, we ought to be fighting tooth and nail against such an empty slogan; a zero-tolerance society is not going to create future leaders who are capable of recognizing exceptions. 

Dealing with the “Real” World

 Some have a belief that school is not real- that real life begins only upon graduation- I wonder, in today’s age of fast pacing and career switching, how any could still suggest that the place students are expected to spend at least 12 years of their lives is not “real”.  A microcosm perhaps, but nevertheless, very real in the social-cultural, and physical-material sense.  And is school an audition? another idea that appears to be floating – No.  School is the way in which the majority of children are socialized and when the fit is right- children thrive- when wrong the blisters not only burst but chafe so deeply the right space might still feel too constricting.

   While homeschooling may provide an answer and is increasingly an option for those who have the time to devote to not only searching out places that will provide stimulation and feed the curiousity of the learners ( museums, art spaces, public performances, lunch time forums, construction sites,  people watching ..) for the majority a school- regardless if private or public, remains the full time space where one’s children attend to daily rituals of practice- practicing communication skills, practicing public participation, practicing organizational skills, practicing physical skills, practicing the give and take of learning- practicing.

   And it is the curriculum that determines what gets practiced.  April is when many parents begin to question the past year’s choice of schooling and wonder if new arrangements ought to be made for the following September.  Things I encourage parents to look for in a school when touring a new space go beyond the basics- not just the physical structure and the size of the rooms, but importantly the sounds one hears when walking the halls; are the sounds coming from the classrooms representative of students’ voices? Do the walls feature student work? Is there an energy even outside the grounds?  For elementary students, what appears to be happening during lunch time recess? For junior high school students, are the activities/clubs posted of the type your child may express interest in joining? In a Senior High students should be visible- activities are ongoing and classes more individualized- visit at more than one point during the day and notice how students move about…

School is the “real world” for students while they are moving through it; help them understand and appreciate how growth in any direction can require a new fitting, and believe in them when they are ready to practice something new.