The Best


In class my students have been working with various texts related to grit and growth mindset. Yesterday we looked at the above infographic and discussed it. As we discussed the  words in the red on the left, students discussed their struggles. One student openly brought up the thought of the “success of others” being an area where he has a fixed mindset. Immediately I thought of the words of my fearless leader.

I thought of how to share those words with my students…

I thought, “A wise man once told me…”

No, too cliché-ish.

Plus, I don’t want the words to inflate the ego of the wise man’s head (aka my principal). We all know he doesn’t need that.

I settled for, “Someone’s dad…”

“Whose dad?” a few the kids responded all the while knowing the dad is the principal.

Then, I looked toward the son of the dad and then back to the student and continued, “Someone’s dad once told me, ‘Your will to be the best is your greatest asset and your worst obstacle.'”

I let the words absorb for  a moment, we talked a bit, and then we moved on. This is sixth grade after all, a place where focus is not sustained for great lengths of time. I do wish, however, that my kids could learn vicariously from the lessons that have taken me half a lifetime to learn.

A year and a half after the words above were shared with me,  I stop to reflect as I look up at the infographic and realize that each day I make the choice as to how I view the success of others: fixed-something that threatens me OR growth-something that offers lessons and inspiration.

I choose growth. I choose greatest asset. I choose to inspiration. I choose lessons.

In reality, I know I may never be the best, but I do know that I can learn from the best and better myself.

In the words of my indomitable leader on being the best, “BRING IT ON!”

Perhaps I can modify his words,

My will to be the best is my greatest asset OR my worst obstacle. The choice is mine.



Collaboration: Opening not Closing Doors






Sometimes I love collaboration. When people with different ways of thinking come together, each with his/her own strengths, each willing to contribute, each willing to listen to the others. I love that. I can see the sum is greater than the parts, and I can feel the impact it has on my teaching.









I love how we can envision teaching and learning in new ways and make what we do better. I love hearing other people’s ideas for teaching strategies to work with a certain concept, skill, or text. I love sharing an idea and having someone help me break it down, and together we build it back up until we know that something amazing has been created that will engage students and impact learning.





138900c6ce0e90745e024b15be48f70aOther times I shake my head wondering how in the world a team of people so different can possibly come into one room and share ideas willingly, contribute equally, and follow through consistently? In these moments, I wonder how I can be inclusive instead of divisive, and what I can do to build on the good each person has to offer.

What collaboration boils down to is teamwork, shared responsibility, and listening. Most of all, teachers need to be able to see the other people’s strengths and view working together as a good thing and not see what is happening in the classroom next door as a competition. We are, in fact, all in this together.

This time of the year is always tough on collaboration: testing season, spring break, the final quarter, yet perhaps this is the time collaboration is most important. This is sometimes the time when doors are closing when they should be opening. When I’m in the final stretch, I would like to cheer on others and be cheered on, too. And I’d like to know that we are all on the same team, and this is not about personal best it’s about coming together to challenge, inspire, and share.

Part of why I love blogging with SOL is because here is a place where I feel challenged and inspired, and we are, this month especially, spending a lot of time together–collaboratively not competitively. Thank you.







Comparison is the Thief of Joy


Note: Many years ago a teacher told me, “Comparison is the root of all unhappiness.” He was the neighbor teacher whose class everyone wanted to be in. I was the other ELA teacher, new to the school. I thought of this teacher’s words the other day when I was compared–I wear the red ribbon in the picture.

Check out the image-two ribbons, one a blue ribbon, a congratulatory cloth–the other a red ribbon, a meaningless concilatory cloth. Yes, blue ribbon, the victor is adorned with higher growth. Red ribbon gives blue ribbon’s hand a congratulatory shake all the while wondering if maybe she’s been shafted–thinking of how she carried much of the weight of the team through planning, developing resources, and creating assessments. Still, though, she wears the red ribbon. For a second, red ribbon questions why she shares, collaborates, and creates.



Even if meant as a button pushing joke, the data dump of comparison feels like a slap in the face devaluing her. In spite of all the other numbers, evidence, and data, she feels quantitatively inferior. Deflated and discouraged she questions why she has worked so hard. A single number reveals that she is “typical.” She realizes blue ribbon is “typical,” too, and wonders if with all other factors and data if perhaps the single number doesn’t signify that she is, in fact, inferior.


comparisonquote_blog2Discouraged she analyzes the data (data from a new CC test that is compared with half of old test (ELA only) with algorithms that somehow demonstrates student growth in a way the state claims is equitable for all students regardless of achievement level because there is no ceiling effect). Whatever!!  Is teacher efficacy based on a measure comparing two different tests with students with like scores? Is this fair, valid, or reliable? She tries to let go realizing that the comparison was a button pushing joke, but still she hates being pitted against others, and the comparison steals her joy.



Letting go she realizes that the only thing she should compare is her own data, her own scores, her own classes, her own subgroups–this is how she can improve. Otherwise, she will feel deflated, degraded, and discouraged.

She beams as she thinks of all the other factors that measure her worth: rapport, relationship, humor, engagement, passion, dedication, collaboration, grit, perseverance, pedagogy, compassion, leadership, content knowledge. She smiles knowingly at the realization her gifts aren’t represented by a green circle.




Wanting to grow, she lets go of the comparison refusing to be pitted against someone else. She looks inwardly and lets go of competition. She grows. She blooms.




She realizes that she is more than a number. She is her own person. There is no comparison. Secure in being herself, she lets go of the conveyed message that she is “typical” or “less than.” While she realizes that the number represents growth, she also realizes that there is so much that can’t be counted. She realizes that she is MORE than a number. She realizes that she counts. She begins to let go of a number that measures her worth.



short-life-quote-4-475x315Like each circle is a person at a moment of time, she, too, must make the most of her moments. At that moment, she realizes that she, too, has her own unquantifiable green circle. She is her own person. With a new attitude she looks towards the horizon in the distance and asks herself what she needs to do to improve.





One Word 2016: Deliberate. As I sought to become more intentional and focused in my actions, I chose the word deliberate for this year. I liked the fact that my word could express my thoughts as a verb, an action. I liked the fact that I could strive to become a more deliberate person as if I could grab hold of this adjective, this trait and think with a sort of conscious awareness that would propel me into action. As if…

One Word 2015: Prioritize.  The result of 2015 was  I felt incomplete and reworded and rebranded myself (and my blog name) for 2016–perhaps a new word with a new slant would change my actions, help me prioritize, and help me evolve into a person who meanders less and becomes deliberate.

Yeah, right…I ain’t there yet!

I get things done. I meet my deadlines. Still, though, I just feel like there is so much to do and not enough hours in the day to do all these things. I feel like I am always playing catch up. For March Madness (blogging madness, that is), I add blogging and commenting to my plate, and life becomes busier.

I have no problem filling my plate with so many things, yet taking the time deliberately to get things done is where I find myself challenged.

I deliberately looked for deliberate quotes/images to examine. Tonight I deliberate about becoming more deliberate.



While this weekend, I gave time to my husband, my kids (not enough, though), my mom, and my friends, now I find myself wondering how to fit all the things to do before tomorrow in this evening while still being deliberate about the sleep my body needs.

I do want sleep. I sacrifice sleep. My husband constantly tells me about the studies that show that sleep deprivation leads to   X, Y, and Z.  Yet still the clock ticks, midnight comes and goes, I’m still awake, and 5:30 AM is sooooo early.

At some point being deliberate should mean getting the rest I need, giving my family the time they need, and turning off my brain long enough to relax and refuel. A person can only go, go, go for so long.


Intentional and Accidental directions.  Opposite traffic sign.

The intentional action produces deliberate results.

The accidental action takes me down my meandering path. Sometimes I make sense of my meandering, yet other times I flounder and get sidetracked.





For me, this means think about what I’m going to do, and then, make it happen. All too often, I have spent too much time considering, and then, the action just doesn’t happen.




For me, I think this quote is what being deliberate needs to become for me–manage my thoughts, focus my attention, and act deliberately. Compartmentalizing anything other than a multiple choice question is difficult for me.



deliberate2bdefinition And therein lies what being a deliberate person truly means. Being this blog is one of eight things I need to do tonight. Checked blog off the to do list I made (Yes, I made a to do list for a change!). Let’s see if I can be deliberate and prioritize this evening as I work my way through what absolutely needs to be done on my to do list.



How true this is! Perhaps this is the essence of being and living deliberately instead of just thinking deliberately.

I liken this to the difference between wisdom and prudence–prudence is the pinnacle of wisdom–this is where the actions match the thoughts.

Now I shall go and see if I can quit deliberating so much about being deliberate. Moving thoughts to action.

My goal in being deliberate is truly the action brought about by focused attention and managed thoughts.

The time is now.

Button Pushing Hyperbolic Subtlety


Meet my principal–he’s anything but subtle. He’s direct. He’s hands-on. He doesn’t mince words. He’s critical and complimentary, sometimes both in one sentence. He says it like it is even when you don’t want to hear it.  If he’s mad, you know it by his body language, tone of voice, general demeanor, and occasionally even by the color of his clothes. He carries himself like he’s 7 feet tall, and when he’s got his game face on even taller.

A man like this you would not expect to take a less direct approach with a purpose, but of course, a man like this always has a purpose. When he feels he needs to take a different approach, he forgoes his usual candidness and engages in an approach that I’ll call button pushing hyperbolic subtlety.

Over the 3 1/2 years I’ve worked with him this button pushing has involved me talking too much at meetings, not listening to him, being hard-headed, making too many copies, not ever shutting down, working myself to exhaustion, being too busy in my lessons, giving excuses, being rude/disrespectful, and caring too much. Without the ability to laugh at my weaknesses, I didn’t find this button pushing at all funny. In fact, I considered this button pushing quite rude and often took each and every word personally.

Over the past 3 1/2 years, my response to this has ranged from pushback and defensiveness to reluctant compliance. For the longest time, I thought this was a  literal view of me as a loud-mouthed, paper wasting, self-righteous know-it-all teacher who was full of excuses who wasn’t going to listen to anything he had to say. While I tried to listen and be respectful, his delivery would often fall on deaf ears with me shaking my head in bewilderment at his audacity and judgment.

Over the past year, I’ve realized that this sort of button pushing picking on me is a bizarre sort of straight-faced hyperbolic statement that has a meaningful message for me to decipher:

  • Get your department to ease up on the copies. 
  • Listen more. Talk less.
  • Don’t try to do too much in a lesson.
  • Ground yourself.
  • Don’t pay so much attention to the problems of one child that you neglect other students. 

Most recently, though, I realized that his button pushing hyperbolic picking on me is his straight-faced humor schtick that should be met not with pushback, but instead with humor, introspection, and most of all action.

In a recent button pushing conversation, he told me that I plan by picking the technology I’m going to teach and plugging in my standards to fit it. I listened to him picking on me, got slightly defensive for a second, and then I told him I got his point. I walked away wondering what in the world a little annoyed but aware that he was making the point that technology should add to not take away from the lesson.  

Yesterday when the network decided to fail in my room only, I walked up to my boss deciding to have fun. I played the role of clueless damsel in distress teacher, “I just don’t know how to teach today. My computer isn’t working, and I had a great tech lesson planned that I was going to plug some standards into. Now that my computer doesn’t work–what will I do? I can’t teach without technology!”

He smiled and laughed. I told him how angry I had been about his pushing my buttons but that I understood what he was driving at about making sure my technology is instructionally grounded. With a “gotcha” sort of smirk on his face, he told me that maybe the message would have been lost if he hadn’t been so subtle.

My boss-on one hand, he’s a direct, candid, say-it-like-it-is type of guy.

On the other hand, he engages in straight-faced humorous button pushing hyperbolic subtleties that should be met with humor, humility, introspection, and action.

I suppose next time I feel as if I am not in a laughing and learning mood and if the message and humor are lost on me, I’ll just have to smile and say, “What’s your point, boss?  Get candid. I can take it.”

Sometimes, yes, I  take things too literally and too personally, miss the humor, and am so focused on the big picture that I miss the nuances in meaning. 




Stopping by the Blog on a Planning Evening


Stopping by the Blog on a Planning Evening

Apologies to Robert Frost

Frost’s Poem “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”


Whose night this is too well I know.
My laptop in the dark  aglow;
I will not be asleep soon I fear,
Plan with data the life I know.

My little cat must think it weird
That everyone else is aslumber here,
Once again sorting data to differentiate,
Challenged to do this each day of the year.

Much to do in these lessons I make,
Scant hours before I wake,
No other sound–my house now sleeps.
Sleep deprived habit I must break.

Yet these plans are lovely, data filled and deep,
with the data I must keep,
Spreadsheets to sort before I sleep,
Spreadsheets to sort before I sleep.

Bells & Whistles &/or Nuts & Bolts


Bells and whistles.

Wow!  Look at that!  Whoa–get a load of the stereo in that car!  Blaupunkt–wow–turn it up!  That stereo rocks! I can’t wait to drive around campus listening to that. I can imagine those thoughts racing through my brother’s mind before he bought the stereo along with the car. Oftentimes, as consumers we are wooed by the bells and whistles, the extras that make something stand out. I learned the hard way that Hunter remote control ceiling fans will not last as long as the simpler ceiling fans with an old school string to pull, but I indulged in a ceiling fan with that “bell and whistle” that seemed so cool at the time. What I have found is that bells and whistles often overshadow the essentials of so much.

The bells and whistles  of a lesson may have the potential to transform a lesson from good to great; however, if the original lesson is not solidly formed with all its essentials, then there is not a solid foundation on which to build.  Of course, I am attracted by bells and whistles–the shiny stuff that glitters: the engagement factor, the perfect video clip, an engaging and timely text, the perfect real world connection, and the infusion of technology. Yes, these things have the potential to increase engagement and impact learning; however, bells and whistles are a cacophonous noise of distraction if the essential components of a lesson aren’t present.

At some point, you or someone you know well has been lured by the “bells and whistles” of something:

  • In the 80s, my brother bought a lemon, a Volkswagen Passat. While there were some warning signs, the bells and whistles wooed my brother; the car had a rocking Blaupunkt stereo. As a family, we joked that at least he had the stereo to listen to the many time he was broken down for hours on the interstate.
  • In the late 80s, I bought a bedroom suite of cheap black lacquer furniture that shined and shimmered, with trim of a grey marblesque design, a  geometric sort of design of mirrors, and shiny gold pull handles. My sister’s boyfriend criticized me for buying junky furniture, but I didn’t get it. All I saw were the bells and whistles of having furniture that looked good. I failed to notice the cheap construction of furniture that would begin falling apart after one move.
  • Last year, I decided I really wanted to improve my lesson closings, so I blogged about endings that would WOW my audience and wow me to the extent that I would never want to end a day without closing my lesson: Endings that Don’t Suck, Engage, It’s All the Rage, Thought Provoking Questions to End a LessonEndings that Don’t Suck, Part II, QR Closings, and From a Fizzle to a Finale. Even as I tried to frame my closings around the nuts and bolts, I found myself searching for the wow factor/the bells as my first priority.  In the end, I didn’t create lasting change in my practice. I created a some cool tools that I could plug in occasionally to end a lesson, and I fell short of impacting lasting change.

Fast forward to February of 2016, the students survey data indicates that there has been no improvement in the areas of closings on student surveys under the item, “My teacher takes time each day to summarize what we have learned.”

I could give you a litany of excuses to why that score is again lower than I would like:

  • One class surveyed was the lunch class–there isn’t time for closing.
  • I run out of time.
  • With all the differentiation going on, I’m not sure how to close a lesson.
  • We do different sorts of closings, so I’m not sure if the kids see it as a summary.
  • Summarizing a lesson seems like regurgitation, and that’s boring and falls short of the challenges I set forth in each lesson.
  • Did I mention that the lunch class was surveyed?

All that said, I believe my excuses need to be laid to rest along with my search for bells and whistles in everything I do. If I have too many bells and whistles, the kids miss the point as they are distracted by the noise that I’ve created. Furthermore, they won’t find what’s essential.

Admittedly, I have been distracted by the bells and whistles as I look for what shimmers and what shines. The bells and whistles are the add ons, and I can’t add on to something that’s junk.  In other words, I need to ground myself in the practice and habit of good closings before I try to add to them. If I fail to do that, then, I, too, will fail to find what’s essential. If I try to refine a practice I haven’t mastered with consistency, my bells and whistles are like the cacophony of a Blaupunkt stereo attached to a lemon of an automobile.

Before I get distracted by the bells and whistles of engagement as I try to fulfill my vision, I need to focus on the substance of the work that needs to be done. I need to be deliberate about creating a routine of consistent closing practice that focuses on making sure my students get what they need to master the content/standards. Once I’ve established that with fidelity, only then should I add the bells and whistles. I could suffice it to say that I am continually realizing that the nuts and bolts of lesson construction must come before (or at least work alongside) the bells and whistles, and perhaps I’ve found the root cause of the lesson of dots that I cannot connect and the underlying cause of a lesson that my principal refers to as “too busy.”






Letting Go of Blame–Naming & Taming My Fear


Do you ever get stupid as soon as you see the clipboard carrying or laptop toting principal enter your room? I always have, and I thought I always would. Nobody ever called me on it until a few weeks ago when I was told that after 19 years I shouldn’t be afraid–that I should be able to relax and keep focus on students.


Perhaps every administrator thought I was a tense teacher all the time. Perhaps they didn’t notice, thought I was unprepared, or thought I was having yet another bad day. Honestly, things don’t always go as planned, but I tweak, adjust, and figure it out–usually without tension and always with humor, passion, and energy.

Unless, of course, the clipboard toting administrator enters the room. Then, my typical M-O was to freak out and freeze up. Recently I wrote about this, Evaluaphobia following a visit from my new evaluator who called me on shifting my focus from the kids to him and called me on my inability to relax with him in the room. Also, he affirmed my experience, expertise, and knowledge and told me I had no reason to be afraid. A few days after I wrote that blog post naming my fear, I experienced my first fearless visit from a clipboard toting evaluator, and that is what I celebrate today.

  • I celebrate being nearly fearless being evaluated for the first time ever.
  • I celebrate an evaluator getting to see who I truly am in the classroom. That felt good–even if I am weird, quirky, goofy, and a little spastic.
  • I celebrate that day in my room, feeling comfortable enough to respond with ease to failing technology and to all the students in need of support never once considering what my evaluator was thinking (well, except when I jokingly picked on a kid for needing tech support from a 47-year-old–was wondering how he would view my sarcastic humor).
  • I celebrate maintaining focus on the most important people in the classroom–the students.
  • I celebrate being called on my fear and being challenged to move past it.
  • I celebrate maintaining my teacher identity in spite of the DREADED clipboard.

My hope is that this is a lasting change and that I can celebrate overcoming this fear no matter who enters my room. I especially hope that HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED (LOL, he reads my blog) will not instill the usual fear the next time he enters my room. I would love to be able to keep my focus on kids and for him to see who I truly am as a teacher instead of seeing the teacher who nervously fidgets, kicks clutter, and hyper-focuses on his presence.  Even with the game face he projects and the constructive criticism he always gives, I’m sure he’d rather see the real me than the fumbling and bumbling me. And, of course, I’d hate for anyone to begin to believe that the stumbling and fumbling and bumbling teacher is truly who I am…

Today, though, I celebrate what I hope is a paradigm shift for me as I have named my fear and am moving in the right direction to overcome my fear. And so my plan is to quit placing blame on the clipboard toting evaluators. No more placing blame–my fear has been named–my fear will be tamed.

And that is worthy of celebration Saturday.


19th year in the classroom and I have to admit that I have evaluaphobia–I suppose this is stage fright of the teacher. I know it’s stage fright the moment I lose focus of the students and begin to focus on every little thing that is off in my lesson.

Few worries when I am in the room with the kids. I have fun every single day and love what I do. The mere thought of evaluation freaks me out. Today before 12 teachers who are a part of this year’s TechEds group came into my room, I was nervous, but when they came in I was fine. Perhaps because they weren’t evaluating me, but in a way they were–just not formally. Why was today different?  My kids knew what they were doing, they knew why they were doing it, we were working with technology, and the attention was not on me, but the attention was on what my students were doing.

Still, though, I am terrified when a administrator comes in my room to evaluate me. Recently, once again, I fumbled and lost focus of my kids in a moment of anxiety. Being that my visitor was not my usual suspect, I was nervous in a different way. What happened? What happened was I quit focusing on the kids; instead I focused on myself. I was more focused on teacher moves than on student moves. Where does that get me? Nowhere fast. In addition, I couldn’t envision my lesson the night before. I had a new idea, but I couldn’t figure out how the pieces would fit together. And my realization on that day was that if I cannot connect the dots from beginning to end, then I’m not ready to teach that lesson in front of anyone other than the kids, or maybe I need a few if then scenarios to play out in my mind, so I am consciously thinking of adjustments I might need to make.

My other revelation based on conversation and time to reflect is that I need to learn to relax and be more confident in who I am as a teacher and keep the focus on the lesson and the students. Like the new suspect said, I have no reason to be afraid as a teacher of nearly nineteen years–I need to relax. He’s right–nearly 19 years teaching, and I should be able to relax no matter who is in my room.

I did a little research after my epiphany that my whole problem is “stagefright.” Reality tells me–the classroom is not a stage–not for me anyway–I am not the sage on the stage. I know I am the guide on the side, right? Soooooo…why do I let the little things that go wrong when visitors are in my room take hold of my brain, shift my focus, and make me a bumbling idiot?

Being that I like to answer these kind of questions, I did some research, and here is my insight of how I can avoid EVALUAPHOBIA (a few articles linked below from where some of these tidbits came):

  1. Make detailed plans–ones that I can visualize, and visualize my lesson the night before (and from a friend–visualize my visitor sitting in your room before my lesson). Visualize engagement, learning, kids laughing at my jokes, etc.
  2. Prepare my tech, my papers, my board, my material–have it all ready and in place.
  3. Be relaxed and natural and focus on getting kids into the “flow”.
  4. Remember the class is my domain. Say it to myself in my brain if necessary.
  5. Breathe–deeply, evenly, and slowly for a few minutes if I start to lose it. Slow down my thoughts, and keep my focus on students–ignore the person in the room.
  6. Encourage students, and don’t let misbehavior frazzle me–deal with it, project an energy that says I’m  not frazzled or embarrassed, and move on.
  7. Be confident. Let my  passion, skills, and rapport shine through.
  8. Quit stressing about being judged or defined by that snippet of time–what truly defines me as a teacher is much more than numbers in little boxes.
  9. Most of all, I think for me it’s important to realize that the people who come visit me are ultimately here to support me: they believe in me, and they legitimately want to see me find my best teaching self, and with that, there is something in it for me and ultimately my students.

I’m going to work on prioritizing this list for what to do before, during, and after evaluations in order to continue to focus on opportunities for growth. For now, though, I must sleep because who knows who will be in my class tomorrow. Have any tips yourself? I’d love to read them.

Links to Relevant Articles:

Mentally Tough Teacher

Discover. Play. Build.
I celebrate Ruth Ayers at for encouraging celebration and positivity.


Convincing myself for so many years that I was tough was counter-productive, counter-intuitive. Now I realize, being tough did not mean what I thought it meant.  Life continues to show me how wrong I’ve been and how wrong I sometimes continue to be.  Being mentally tough does not mean being mentally stubborn, dismissive, or arrogant. Being mentally tough is all about being present, letting go of my junk, living in the moment, and relying on God. Gordon writes of 20 ways to get mentally tough; I applied this to my teaching life.


20 Ways to be a Mentally Tough Teacher 

  1. USE SETBACKS TO REDEFINE YOURSELF. When you encounter a setback in teaching,  think of it as a defining moment and seek the takeaway that will lead to future growth and success.
  2. EMBRACE ADVERSITY–WALK THROUGH IT AND KNOW IT WILL LEAD TO SOMETHING GREATER. When you encounter adversity (behavior, motivation, management, conflict, whatever else), remember, the best don’t just face adversity; they embrace it, knowing it’s not a dead end but a detour to something greater and better.
  3. STAY POSITIVE WHEN YOU FACE NEGATIVE PEOPLE. When you face negative people (students, parents, coworkers), know that the key to life is to stay positive in the face of negativity, not in the absence of it. After all, everyone will have to overcome negativity to define themselves and create their success.
  4. WHEN YOU FACE THE NAYSAYERS, REMEMBER THE YES SAYERS.  When you face the naysayers (both young and old), remember the people who believed in you and spoke positive words to you.
  5.  WHEN YOU FACE CRITICS, TUNE OUT THE CRITICISM AND TUNE INTO FOCUSING ON BECOMING YOUR BEST. When you face critics (those who only see your weaknesses or who just don’t get you), remember to tune them out and focus only on being the best you can be.
  6. FROM YOUR HOUSE TO YOUR CLASS–WALK IN GRATITUDE AND PRAYER. When you wake up in the morning, take a morning walk of gratitude and prayer (from your doorstop, to your drive, to the parking lot, to your classroom). It will create a fertile mind ready for success.
  7. FAITH IS GREATER THAN DOUBT. When you fear, trust. Let your faith be greater than your doubt. Like Martin, recognize those fears, name them, cast them out, trust in God, and shed the doubt. 
  8. FIND THE LESSON IN FAILURE. When you fail (a lesson is unsuccessful, the test scores are not what they should be, an evaluation is less than satisfactory), find the lesson in it, and then recall a time when you have succeeded.
  9. ENTER THE BATTLE VISUALIZING SUCCESS. When you head into battle (that class, that student, that parent), visualize success.
  10. PUT YOUR ENERGY IN THE NOW. When you are thinking about the class or lesson or test that did not go well or worrying about the next class or lesson or test, instead focus your energy on the present moment. The now is where your power is the greatest.
  11. DON’T COMPLAIN–SEEK SOLUTIONS. When you want to complain about a student or teacher or parent or principal or standard or assessment, instead identify a solution.
  12. WEED OUT DOUBT. CULTIVATE POSITIVITY. When your own self-doubt crowds your mind and the tasks at hand seem too great, weed them out and replace them with positive thoughts and positive self-talk.
  13. WHEN DISTRACTED, CLEAR YOUR MIND & SEEK THE ZONE. When you feel distracted (when you are tired, sick, struggling or being evaluated), focus on your breathing, observe your surroundings, clear your mind, and get into The Zone. The Zone is not a random event. It can be created.
  14. WHEN ALL SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE, LOOK TO GOT AND REALIZE ALL IS POSSIBLE. When you feel all is impossible (that the bar is too high, the summit is unreachable), know that with God all things are possible.
  15. WHEN YOU FEEL ALONE, REMEMBER YOU’RE LOVED AND SUPPORTED. When you feel alone (just you and that daunting task of meeting each kid where he/she is and meeting all his/her needs and moving each forward), think of all the people (including the kids, parents, coworkers, family) who have helped you along the way and who love and support you now and realize you are NOT alone.
  16. WHEN YOU’RE LOST, PRAY FOR GUIDANCE. When you feel lost in your own school/content/class (in a lesson, a day, or a year), pray for guidance.
  17. WHEN YOU’RE TIRED, DON’T GIVE UP–ALWAYS FINISH STRONG. When you are tired and drained and the next break seems miles away, remember to never, never, never give up. Finish strong in each lesson, each day and each year. 
  18. WHEN YOU FEEL DEFEATED, SEEK THE STRENGTH OF GOD. When you feel like you can’t make it through the class (much less the school day, the quarter or the year), know that you can do all things through God who gives you strength.
  19. WHEN YOUR SITUATION IS OUT OF CONTROL, PRAY, SURRENDER–THEN, FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL.When you feel like your situation (the class, a student’s motivation/ability/behavior/work ethic, the standards, your resources, the evaluation measure), is beyond your control, pray and surrender. Focus on what you can control–let go of what you can’t.
  20. WHEN YOU FEEL PRESSURED, DON’T LET STRESS DEFINE YOU. INSTEAD REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE A TEACHER AND SMILE, HAVE FUN AND SIEZE THE MOMENT. When you’re in a high-pressure/high-stakes situation (when the next test ominously looms around the corner, and the daunting task of preparing the kids for this ominous task is haunting you), remember to not let that stress define who you are. Instead, remember why you became a teacher, and then, smile, have fun, and still enjoy each moment of teaching. Life is short; you only live once.  In spite of all that is thrown at you, quit counting the school days, and quit counting the days until that test. Be present to your students and to what they need.  SIEZE THE MOMENT!


At first when I encountered Jon Gordon, his positivity was too much for me, and I was critical of his writing, but now I see the difference that positivity makes, so as I read his blog, Tweets, and books, I try to reserve my cynicism. I enjoy the narrative, at times shaking my head at the naïveté of the protagonist, until I see how I am like a bit like the  protagonist and in need of a lesson. Then, I try to embrace my part in the story.

Like Martin, I feed the wrong wolf at times letting what others think about my teacher identity define who I am and/or get me down. When I see a negative comment about a moment in my classroom as a commentary on who I am anything but mentally tough. I do not want to feed the combative snarling, growling, and whimpering canine; that’s for sure.


This is not who I am, who I want to be, or who I’m destined to be. Seeing the wall as unscalable,  I let myself be defined by what I think of myself and what others thing of me. When I try to climb the wall focusing on the obstacle without seeking God’s help, the wall is insurmountable.


Other writing about Gordon deals with  falls and setbacks/cha chas. Also, related to Gordon: Driving the Bus (9/9/14), My Greatest Asset will NO Longer be My Biggest Obstacle (9/15/14), Obligation or Opportunity (6/9/15), and From a Fizzle to a Finale (7/6/15).


The original list about being mentally tough: