Sticks and Stones, Inspired by #BFC530

This morning, I participated in the #BFC530 chat from the treadmill, as I (try to) do every morning.  Today’s topic,

struck me as particularly blog-worthy because I had a very strong reaction to it.

The worst piece of advice I’ve ever gotten has been, “you’re not cut out for [teaching].”  It was given to me very early in my career, and I almost took it.  Thank God I didn’t.

I came into teaching through alternative certification with a background in television production.  Almost every job I had from the age of 12-21 involved working with children, and as I approached the end of my undergrad studies, I realized that I was very interested in teaching.  Of course, it would have been foolish to change my major when I had already completed nearly all of my coursework.  Thus, alternative certification programs became really appealing.

The golden opportunity came one day when I came across a flyer for a cohort through my university.  I was selected to join this group, and within a year, my dream of having my own classroom came true.

Understandably, the first few years were a steep learning curve.  Yet, time and again, I was told that teaching was not for me.  I wasn’t “cut out to be a teacher.”  I was, “still very young and [had my] whole life ahead of [me],” to find something that I “really love doing.”

Yes, I was young, but I was also stubborn.  I knew exactly what I loved, and it was building relationships and learning with the students in front of me.  Year after year, I was constantly bombarded with less-than-positive messages about how I needed to quit.

Then one day, it finally clicked.  I started to find my way around year four, when I received the support that I had needed.  Year five, I was able to use my background in technology, and everything changed.

This morning, I struggled while trying to answer the second part of the question.  My initial reaction was that the negative advice made me work harder to prove myself, but then I thought…did it?

Not really.

What it did was the opposite.  It gave me baggage and insecurity as a teacher, that took a long time to shake.  Truth be told, some of it still lingers.

Last night, I was listening to the Edu-Allstars Podcast with Principal El, who made a great point.  He was talking about how he would never again give up on a student, and also how we should never give up on struggling teachers.

By definition, a struggle implies some form of effort.  To paraphrase Principal El, if someone is giving an effort to help students, they should be celebrated, not vilified.

A member of my PLN nailed it:

We need to be very mindful in our profession how we treat one another.  As educators, we are often persecuted by media and society.  It’s not fair to do so to one another.  Just as we are supposed to be patient and supportive with our students, we need to do the same with others in our field, especially those with good intentions, who may just need help.  After all, we are all still learning ourselves.

To answer the second part of the question, something positive did come from that bad advice.  I now understand exactly how it feels to be on the receiving end, and can better advocate for the “struggling teachers.”  If you are doing what you truly love, don’t let anyone else tell you what’s in your heart.  Keep pushing forward, and be a sponge when it comes to best practices.  To those of us in a position to help, let’s do so from a place of love.  We are judged enough already!

P.S.: The story has a happy ending. Nearly ten years have passed, and I have seen many of the people mentioned above recently.  They have been very supportive! Let’s all continue to support each other, and work as a team for the good of our students 🙂


How to Cheat on Your Lunch Break to Get Fit

About two years (and X number of pounds) ago, I vlogged about how technology helped me get in shape.

I am happy to report that I am still in shape…a shape called “round.”  Hardy har har.

To be honest, I went to extreme measures to get those results.  This included counting, measuring, and weighing every single freaking little thing, giving up my social life, and feeling like crap in general.  I used to call it beast mode, but it was just a beast.  It wasn’t worth the misery, just to look good in my H&M jeans.  Plus, when life started happening, and I began to hit the road on the conference circuit, I soon realized that it wasn’t sustainable.

Since then, I’ve been looking for the perfect mix of diet, exercise, and life that will be maintainable over the long haul, regardless of where I go or how much control I have over the menu (as a vegetarian on the road, I’ll tell you that it looks more like being a carbitarian).

The current iteration involves intermittent fasting.  Many thanks to a good friend of mine, Shana White, who clarified my misconception of starving myself half to death. (By the way, I highly recommend you speak with a professional before starting any crazy diet or exercise plan.)  If you do your research, it’s pretty fascinating stuff.  Not easy, but fascinating!  Early results are promising.

What I am taking from beast mode, though, is the frequent exercise, especially at different points in the day.  I enjoy exercise, so it’s actually fun.  In addition, as my good friend Justin Schleider can tell you, exercise is a brain boost.  I love working out first thing in the morning, and some of my students could even tell the difference when I had worked out and when I hadn’t.  In the latter scenario, I tended to be grumpy and very Oscar-the-Grouch-ish.

My goal is to work out two times a day, once before work and once after work.  Some days, the second workout has to be bumped, out of necessity, to the lunch break.  What follows are some tips and tricks to cheat on lunch, and “get er done” when you’re in a pinch for time.  This is a tried and trusted method, endorsed by former administrators, as indicated by smiles and thumbs up.  To be clear, you are “cheating” on your lunch break, and not on anyone or anything else…please don’t be a cheater!

(Caveat: This is written from the perspective of someone who, when I was recently in the classroom, had a luxury of a 30-minute lunch break and a daily planning period of at least 45 minutes.  This may or may not apply to all readers.  Feel free to substitute various factors whenever applicable.)

How to Cheat on Lunch

The Wardrobe

If you are to be successful in your cheating, every minute counts.  This means, on cheat days, to minimize any and all wardrobe changes in order to save every precious second.  The suggested wardrobe for cheat days includes the following:

  • Fitted T-Shirt (one that looks professional under a blazer)
  • Slacks
  • Blazer or jacket
  • Professional-ish looking sneakers

(See Figure A)

FullSizeRender (6)
Figure A.

Your Bag of Tricks

A gym bag will suffice.  Just keep it in close proximity to you at all times.  You *must* have Dexter-like precision to be successful!

In the bag, keep, at a bare minimum:

  • Deodorant and baby wipes (or your students/coworkers will probably hate you)
  • Sweat pants or shorts

Optional items include a zip-up hoodie (depending on weather) and a lock (if using a locker).


The Execution

Before you begin, get familiar with HIIT (high intensity interval training).  This will be your best friend today.

As quickly as humanly possible, execute the following steps:

  1. Flee to a pre-identified changing space, preferably one that can be locked (i.e. bathroom stall, closet, empty classroom) and pull off the Clark Kent/Superman quick change.
  2. Speedwalk to the gym, outside, or your running location of choice.  Make sure you get your heart rate waaaaayyyy up, because this also doubles as your warm-up.  (This is also a good time to check/answer emails from your phone, en route.  Just watch where you walk, so you don’t accidentally bulldoze small children.)
  3.  Do rounds of HIIT for as long as you have time.  I usually go anywhere from 5-9 minutes.  You can accomplish this with props such as jump ropes, etc., but it’s also fine to stick with a run/walk combo.  Bonus points if you sweat!
  4. This is the part where you might want to ignore me.  I tend to skip the cool down when I’m super-pressed for time.  If you can carve out five minutes, though, it may be a good idea to gradually cool down and stretch.  Whatever you do, be sure to give your body enough time to ease back into normal mode, even if it’s while executing step five.
  5. Repeat step one in reverse.  Be sure to de-funk with baby wipes and deodorant.  This last step is mandatory.

Some helpful apps:

  • Runify: you can set up your Spotify playlist to match your runs.  They have pre-programmed times, or you can customize your own.
  • SworkIt: has lots of great stretches and other stuff.
  • Zombies, Run: run away from invisible zombies, trying to eat you.  When I used it, the missions seemed to be set up for half an hour.  They may have updated it.  Don’t run in the parking lot, or you may find yourself playing a human game of Frogger.


The Aftermath

If you have done this correctly, you will have gotten in a decent workout with time to spare.  You’re probably wondering, when to eat?

This is what planning periods are for, my friend.  In this case, multitasking is not a dirty word.  Trust me, you can scarf down a salad (wishful thinking) while grading papers.  It’s definitely do-able.

Pro-tip: Bring your lunch, or call to have it delivered right before your workout.  

If planning falls before lunch, then just run during planning and eat/plan during lunch.


In my experience, cheat days should not be every day.  These are for special times, when you need to get your workout on, but have minimal time to cram it in.  I used cheat days most frequently last year when I was coaching basketball, when our school team had games going to 9 p.m.

Depending on how speedy your de-funking abilities are, I would budget about 20 minutes total for the workout, including the quick-change.

I am no longer a classroom teacher, but this has saved my rear end many times.  I’m sure it will continue to do so in the future when time is tight.  Happy HIIT-ing, friends!