Learning Through Laughing

This is my seventh year teaching. As with every new year, test scores are proving the more fun the students have, the more learning that occurs. Behind this "curtain of fun" though must be key questions leading to engagement, exploration, excitement and extension. The teacher just has to know the right questions to ask, provide space for the answers to be discovered, and believe the students are capable of owning the outcomes.

Who knew science and math could be so much fun? We all did, when we were young.

Mrs. Claus (Jessica) explaining the average time Santa has to deliver his gifts on Christmas Eve.

Dallas showing Haseeb and Zack how a small amount of force can create a greater amount.

The entire class demonstrating vibrational motion at recess.

Santa using his best Scottish accent to try and get the elves to stop moving around in all that crazy variable motion.

Ryan, Zack, Dallas, Mark and Nick celebrating a very complex and successful demonstration of continuos motion.

Mad Master-Man Rapper jamming to the classroom music.

Santa looking on in awe at the PowerPointe presentation the elves put together.

Elves Sarah and Summer explain what Santa needs to do in scientific and mathmatical terms.

Yo! My class has some mad skills Yo!


How Special You Are

How special you become depends on how special you feel you are. I thinks it's a teacher's and parent's job to nurture this feeling inside a child until it becomes a reality in their lives.

It's not enough to simply tell them they are special. We must work with them to develop their gifts and prove to them there is absolutely no doubt that they are champions at something.

What they do with that proof is up to them. For a teacher the time to do this is short, usually just one year. We must do all we can in that year to not only boost their confidence and self-esteem, but help them develop intellectual gifts that prove to them they are smart, and perhaps even the smartest in the world.

Ironically, this has a better chance of happening when the student is talking and the teacher listening. Instead of trying to force "knowledge" into their heads we allow them to construct meaning and make sense of this knowledge. It takes more effort and alot of skill and patience to "sit in their 'shoes'" and listen to them. You have to know what questions to ask and what their answers mean, but to understand how each child learns is to become empowered on how to teach them. You simply can't do this for every student if you're standing all day in front of the room, preaching how to read, understand history, and "do" math and science.

Grown men and women coach athletes trying to make champions out of them. Teachers can do the same thing.

The three students highlighted here are champions. Jessica, Amanda, and Serena discovered this on a recent nationwide reading test. Their entire class did well, with 100% of them predicted to pass the end-of-year test and therefore pass the 5th grade.

These three scored in the very top, Serena in the top 5% of the country, Amanda in the top 4%, and Jessica scoring in the top 1%.

They know they're champions and no one and nothing can tell them otherwise. Now it's time to get all of their classmates to that same level of confidence and ability, and to take Jessica, Amanda, and Serena to new international heights.

Every person has beauty and genius inside of them. How sad it is for these gifts to lie dormant, or locked up by self-doubt, fear, anxiety and worry. Do not allow this to happen to your students or children. Do not allow this to happen to you.

Little eyes watching you
Take their cue for what they can do

DREAM BIG.......DO BIG........BE BIG



A friend emailed this to me. I only have one son, but he is all-boy and I'm able to appreciate this fully.

For those who have sons & those of us who are happy that they don't.
You find out interesting things when you have sons, like...

1.) A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 sq. ft.
house 4 inches deep.

2.) If you spray hair spray on dust bunnies and run over them with
roller blades, they can ignite.

3.) A 3-year old Boy's voice is louder than 200 adults in a
crowded restaurant.

4.) If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not
strong enough to rotate a 42 pound boy wearing Batman underwear and
a Superman cape. It is strong enough, however, if tied to a paint
can, to spread paint on all four walls of a 20x20 ft. room.

5.) You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on.
When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a
few times before you get a hit. A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a
long way.

6.) The glass in windows (even double-pane) doesn't stop a
baseball hit by a ceiling fan.

7.) When you hear the toilet flush and the words "uh oh", it's
already too late.

8.) Brake fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke, and lots of it.

9.) A six-year old Boy can start a fire with a flint rock even
though a 36-year old Man says they can only do it in the movies.

10.) Certain Lego's will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-
year old Boy.

11.) Play dough and microwave should not be used in the same

12.) Super glue is forever.

13.) No matter how much Jell-O you put in a swimming pool you
still can't walk on water.

14.) Pool filters do not like Jell-O.

15.) VCR's do not eject "PB & J" sandwiches even though TV
commercials show they do.

16.) Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.

17.) Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving.

18.) You probably DO NOT want to know what that odor is.

19.) Always look in the oven before you turn it on; plastic toys
do not like ovens.

20.) The fire department has a 5-minute response

21.) The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make
earthworms dizzy.

22.) It will, however, make cats dizzy.

23.) Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy.

24.) 80% of women will pass this on to almost all of their
friends, with or without kids.

25.) 80% of men who read this will try mixing the Clorox and brake

How Will Your Children Remember You?

People, especially children, don't remember you as much for what you said or did, but in how you made them feel.

"If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."
Author: Rachel Carson

"Never fear spoiling children by making them too happy. Happiness is the atmosphere in which all good affections grow."
Author: Thomas Bray

"The success of love is in the loving - it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done."
- Mother Teresa


Thanks for Giving

A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, "Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell is like." The Lord led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table.

In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water.

The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.

The Lord said, "You have seen Hell."

They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The holy man said, "I don't understand."

It is simple" said the Lord, "it requires but one skill. You see, they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves."

Thank you my friend, Jessica, for taking the time to give this to me. You're a good person and I miss not teaching with you at the same school. As I woke up fattened from the delicious feast I was invited to yesterday, I am thankful for my children jumping into my arms and the plate prepared for me when I arrived.

Although it is may be true that there are people in our lives who focus on what they can get from us, it is also true that there are many more who want to give. Even though it seems some people only complain about what we're not giving to them, there are many more who appreciate and are genuinely thankful for what we do give, opening us up to giving even more.

The day of Thanksgiving is one of focusing on giving to and "feeding" each other, and being thankful to others who are feeding us. It is a holiday, a special day.... just like this day is. Imagine if we take every day as a special day, a holiday of giving "good food" to others and appreciating the nourishing food others are giving to us.

The nourishment of sending kisses in the air to a child and having them returned to you. (Kisses in the Air)

The feeding of a child's soul because you kept a promise to them and forming an unbreakable bond together. (Keeping a Promise)

Being thankful for a lifetime of a grandmother's love and giving her flowers that will last forever. (Drawings For My Family)

Loving a child so completely that she completely loves herself. (Bella's Drawings)

Being so amazed with someone that you feel lucky to have them in your life and they feel lucky to have you in theirs. (The Magnificent Sun)

Enjoying the spirit of a child and having them fill your life with laughter. (Georgie Porgie Run and Hide)

For a student who gave his teacher his best so much that his teacher will continue to give his student his best, no matter how long he's in the hospital. (Patty Boy Blemur)

Thankful for the magic and power of caring in the future of a student so much that they care just as much about themself. Jessica scored in the top 1% of the country on a recent nationwide reading test, definitively becoming the best of the best and more importantly, so confident now that she is unstoppable in making her dreams come true! (Smiles and Hugs, Affect My Life)


More Time?

Great hard-fought game. Even though Michigan gave us our toughest test of the year, the Buckeyes proved to be the better team. Many said they'd beat us because they played the tougher schedule. Opinions vary, and the final score shows who was right at the end of the day.

It's your opinion of yourself that matters most in determining the final score of your life. It's never too late to start, but the sooner the better. Time will run out on you. The game will end. It's pointless to talk about what could have been. There's only WHAT WAS.

About 10% of us have final scores to our lives that result in victory; believing that we can win the biggest game of our lives and doing big until our biggest dreams come true. The rest talk about what could have been and should have been, or that they're not doing so bad because others are impressed by the car they drive, the house they own, the wonderful children they have or at least thank God they're not like those people on Jerry Springer.

In actuality, when they faced the tough tests of believing big they gave up and lowered the size of their dreams to match the size of their lives. When they were behind in the game instead of raising the size of their lives and effort to match their dreams they focused on the bad calls, the bad breaks, and the "what ifs?".

I wonder if the requirement to get into Heaven is the answer to one simple question: "Did you achieve the dreams that were put inside you? Yes or No?"

"Yes? Welcome. You honored your Creator (He, She, The Universe) and made the world a better place."

"No? Ohhhh, wrong answer. I'm sorry. Thanks for playing but your time has run out. You have to go to the place for people who settled and watched others pursue their dreams. We have a television there so you can continue to watch athletes, actors, leaders in their field and other news makers live their dreams. These shows are recordable so you can replay their victories and successes over and over and keep pretending that you are the one being victorious and successful, just as you did in real life.

If you compared yourself to others we have these same shows in another lovely consolation room. Here we only play the defeats and dissapointments of their lives. That should make you feel much better about your own. There will be plenty of others there that do the same so you all can have fun putting down and those fools on TV who actually believe they can achieve their dreams and are out there trying to make them happen. I hear it's quite fun to laugh at them as these poor souls get back up every time they fail, fall down, and fall short. How embarrassing! We will be sure not to show how they eventually succeeded by learning from their mistakes and having the courage to go on in spite of the naysayers. How hard and embarrassing would that be for you to realize all you had to do was the same?

We will not show you this however so you may continue to see where you are better than others. We politely request you pay no attention to where others are better than you. You might realize you could have learned from them and made your life much, much better. Being that it's now too late, you will only be miserable at this truth and sometimes the truth hurts. Your beliefs are your reality. Being that we like all our guests to be happy, even if it means lying to themselves, please continue to create the same false reality you did while on Earth. It's too late to do anything about it now anyway.

For those of you who criticized, condemned, complained and generally blamed others for your defeats, we have a special soundproof room for you. Here you can talk about those bad people to your heart's content. For your convenience, we will provide you with as many "friends" as you want who will agree with you and tell you that you're right, you tried your best, and "what else could you have done?". Don't worry, they'll enjoy this job immensely because they're doing the same thing. All we ask is that you be kind enough in return to agree with them about the "bad" people that were in their lives. We anticipate things going smoothly since this is what you all did while living.

I wouldn't be suprised to see the book by Dr. Suess "Oh, The Places You'll Go" sitting right next to the Bible, Koran, and other religious books. Talk about a road map to taking responsibility for your own situation and emotions. Follow the words in that book and not only will you achieve your dreams, you'll make a heaven right here on Earth.

We either have results or excuses. We either win the game of "our lives" or don't, making our dreams a reality or wishing we had more time; more time to believe in ourselves and more time to make it happen. Make your life happen now. Win the game of YOUR LIFE, while the clock shows time is still left.

"Every day is a new life to the wise man." - (said by some very wise person)


To Bo

Bo Schembechler, the most beloved coach of the Michigan Wolverines, passed away yesterday on the eve of today's big game with the Buckeyes. Even though he was born in Ohio and coached at Ohio State under Woody Hayes, I didn't like Bo because he coached "that team from up north". But I did admire and respect him.

I remember someone from my days in business saying that whether someone likes you or not is up to them. Whether they respect you is entirely up to you. I respected Bo. I admired the way he lived with passion and became one of the best at what he loved to do, coach college football.

To you, Bo. Thanks for showing us what it meant to live our lives fully.

May we take that same passion and put it into making our own dreams come true, and be remembered at our passing.


Failure To Fail

I'm getting ready for the gym this morning and saw this in my book:
"AB Chat: Although we are taught from birth to avoid it, failure is not a dirty word. In fact, fitness is dedicated to failure. It is the failure of a muscle to complete a task that dictates the level of strength gained. How can you get stronger if you don't test limits? You have to learn to love the struggle. In a way, failure is always victory in defeat.
It is always better than stopping short."
- The Complete Book of Abs (1998, p. 222)

As I copied today's workout into my gym journal I started listening to a show about quantum physics. This is the idea that what's happening within us is more real than the reality going on outside of us. This is because on a cellular level we are creating that reality, especially with our thoughts. People who have studied this and obviously have a more intelligent opinion of quantum mechanics than I do kept talking of having a supreme mind.

I took this concept and applied it to my workout. Doesn't it take a supreme mind to think of going to failure as success? And if this is true, isn't stopping short of pushing yourself to your limits, giving up, failing to fail? Muscles only grow and strengthen when pushed to lift more weight than they can comfortably handle. It takes higher thinking to interpret pain and suffering as ingredients for strength and success. And the mind grows in much of the same way (see "Mind Training" (August archives) & "Mind Training - Part2" (September archives).

By applying these concepts to my physical and mental self my stomach is getting more washboard and the intellectual wealth I'm constructing from pursuing my masters is phenomenal (thank you professors). Good so far. But what about the heart? How many of us find success in love? Less than half of all marriages work in this country and it's only getting worse. My own two marriages didn't work, and outside of saying I married the wrong people for me, I don't really know why.

All I do know is that I know how to love, to give, and to see the best in others. My emails are signed with a quote by Nikos. "By passionately believing in that which does not exist, we create it." Applying this to my teaching, four years ago my class motto of "Dream Big, Do Big, and Be Big" was born. In six years of teaching not one student has been held back, or failed, due to refusing to see any of them as failures. In class they are encouraged to see where they are failing, learn why and how to overcome it, and not fail in that area any longer. Areas of failure have been actively pursued and focused on until they are overcome.


Every day they come into a classroom where they know they are believed in and loved for who they are and for everything they could be. This has had a profound effect on their lives(see "The Winners of Washington Shores" (July), "Patty Boy Blemur" (August), "What Will You do that Will Last Forever" (August) and other stories like "Impossible Dreams" (September)).

So the power of loving powerfully and completely works wonders, for others. Is the universe just cruel or is finding true love for yourself some kind of game where most of us wander into dead ends and get lost in the maze? Maybe the answer lies not in trying to find true love for ourselves in another person, but in ourselves, for ourselves.

This is what I don't know. I don't know what it's like to come home to the loving arms of a woman and to be believed in for everything I could and should be. Bummer for me. But I kept loving back anyway and trying even harder (how many of us can relate to this?). I kept loving and seeing the best in her the same as Alonso (Don Quixote) saw Kitri as his "Dolcinea", the ideal woman of his dreams. I knew this woman was the one for me and that if I just "passionately believed in that which didn't exist" we could create it; that if I didn't stop short and give up we could strengthen our relationship enough that it could survive the criticizing, condemning and complaining in our marriage.

But you don't give up. You keep fighting. Everyone has problems. I was trying to be a warrior for my wife and family. Nothing and no one could stop me or get me to doubt myself, except for the angry and "in the moment" remarks from the woman I treasured, treasured more than myself. Every warrior hopes to find a good death, and her words cut through me like the blade of a kryptonite-laced sword. Death is coming for us all, and after being hospitalized for one heart attack and feeling another coming a year later, I certainly didn't feel like I was headed for a good death. And my "queen" certainly didn't see me as much of a warrior, at least not one worth appreciating. It was time to for me to grow up; to start being selfish and love myself enough to truly believe I was worthy of the same higher love I was giving out.

I also refused to teach our children that unconditional love means accepting cruelty and abuse.

Argue for your limitations and they're yours. Focus on the excuses that make you weak and you remain weak and powerless, incapable of creating a better life for yourself.

Even after we divorced, I still held on to us, to the idea of the power of love, that love was all we needed. I still hadn't learned. I believed she loved me too and that by working on ourselves we could be strong enough to work on us together and make our marriage work. Even though I was going to counseling and being advised to stay away from her, I still held on to the idea that it was she who needed changing, not my idea that love for another is all you need, and that if I just had enough patience I could hold out until she saw how much I truly loved her. For a long time, I wouldn't even allow myself to have any female friends, hoping to show her she was the only possible one for me. I still had this unconditional love for her, and very little for myself. Sometimes learning takes time.

For three years since our separation and divorce I used this idea of having a "supreme mind" to keep believing in her and remain faithful to her. I hung on to the dream of remarriage, kissing my children good night and growing old with my Dolcinea. No matter how attractive another woman was or how hard she tried to woo me, I wasn't attracted to her. Once I said I loved my Dolcinea I meant I loved her forever. The wrinkles around her eyes and sagging body parts as she grew old would always be more beautiful to me than any other woman in her prime. Even after all we'd been through I still saw past all the ugliness and focused on the beauty within her.

Although I had lost all of my self-esteem I refused to give up. I continued to love her even though my love was continually doubted. I continued to fight for our children to grow up with mommy and daddy in the same house even though I heard many statements beginning with "What kind of father........(put criticism here)....?" I would reject her cruelty and stay away from her until I healed or couldn't keep my love from blabbing out of my mouth. I would continue to profess this love to her, coming back again and again after being pushed away again and again, wanting to go back to couples counseling and even setting it up, even though she started dating another man...

And I was criticized again instead of appreciated. I developed a bleeding ulcer that casued me to vomit blood and lay in bed thinking I was minutes away from dying; my life ending in a tragedy. As I looked around at the mess in my room and imagined my family coming down to pack my things saying "Same old Adam", I smiled and saw it also as a comedy.

Still I would go to the movies by myself and place a packet of Twizzlers and a Snickers bar on the seat next to me, imaging my love was there with me eating her favorite candy.

I don't know why it happened; the words of a friend, a counselor, or maybe or loving my Dolcinea so much that I had gone to failure and feeling only pain, and had become stronger by doing so. But this time it was different. I finally saw that she could count on me. She could count on me to love myself enough to not let anyone emotionally abuse me anymore. I finally got it. I finally got what it meant to go to failure. I kept loving her with everything I had and the relationship still failing, until I realized I was failing myself. I finally could count on myself to take charge of my own life, and not put my happiness in the hands of another. I finally had enough self-worth to believe I was worth a better love, for myself, and inside myself.

Just like in the gym, by pushing our hearts and not giving up, even if we're taken to hell and back, we force it to get stronger, and smarter. We learn no matter how hard we try, if we don't give the same love to ourselves, we remain in unhealthy and addictive co-dependent relationships. We must break free by breaking the cycle, even if, and especially if, it means letting go of something you've loved more than yourself, and almost more than life itself.

I am now a stronger man and a wiser man. And my children have a better father. Even though I still toss and turn in my bed because I'm not whispering "Daddy loves you" in their ears every night, I'm no longer teaching them that love means putting up with abusive and cruel behavior. Had I continued to allow this, they would have grown up either abusing their spouses or letting their spouses abuse them. Children live what they learn. I thank my parents and grandparents for showing me that marriages can last. My grandmother still writes "Bette loves James" while she does her daily crosswords, even though Grandpa Jim passed away over years ago.

I'm trying to remember what Mother Theresa said about loving until it hurts. It's something like You love until it hurts so much there's only pain. Then there's only love.

I couldn't find it online or in one of the many notebooks I write in at the same time (which was one of my ex's contructive criticisms that I never learned from and wished I had). I'm not quite sure what the quote means yet because at the end of pain, I just felt pain; unless it means having love for yourself. You know how they say "When the student is ready, the teacher appears"? Look at what I did find:

"The success of love is in the loving - it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done."
- Mother Teresa

Sometimes we have to accept that whether or not our love was appreciated by the person it was intended for doesn't matter. This is hard for me to swallow, especially when you wanted so much for something to work, but it does make sense. It's amazing what happens when we stop blaming ourselves and others and instead simply open our ears, minds and hearts to new ways of thinking that can change our lives for the better.

Love conquers all. I 've come to realize this is both true and false. Loving another more than yourself does not conquer all, and can lead to resentment and loss of respect.

Loving yourself conquers yourself. You no longer need to seek validation from others. You don't start dating others hoping this will be the one who understands you and makes you happy. You don't keep hoping for someone "out there" to make you happy.

In quantum mechanics it's been said that the brain receives 4 billion bits of information a second. We pay attention to only 2,000 bits of this information. I guess it's our choice to pay attention to the positive or negative bits, information that can help us change our lives for the better or hold on to our excuses as to why we're right and the other is wrong, wondering why our world still stinks and we end up in the same relationships, jobs, and general unhappiness over and over.

For some reason I am still here. Is it for others to learn from my mistakes? Is it to find this "go-to-failure", "supreme mind", "Dream Big, Do Big, and Be Big" application to the heart for oneself? I know that the divorce rate is getting higher and higher. Being an honest and faithful person only seems to get you kicked in the teeth and your heart ripped out. Being chivalrous makes people wonder what you're really up to. Being a nice guy gets you dead last. And the faith that I wouldn't repeat the same cycle with another comes and goes, then starts to fade away...

..until I realize I have a lot to work on myself. I've been loving the world unselfishly hoping the world would send one to love me back. In truth the world loves those who love themselves, and is loving towards others. Being honest and faithful TO YOURSELF attracts an honest and faithful partner. Being chivalrous and respectful TO YOURSELF attracts a classy and respectful lady. Being nice TO YOURSELF attracts someone who will be nice to share your life with. And working truly ON YOURSELF brings faith that the cycle is being broken, and a new and better life awaits you.

While traveling on this new journey I find hope and healing in the lyrics and rhythms of songs of Natasha Bedenfeld's "Unwritten", Lenny Kravitz's "If I Could Fall in Love" and from The O.C. soundtrack: the South's "Paint the Silence", Joseph Arthur's "Honey And the Moon", the Dove's "Caught By The River", and Quaye & Orbit's "Dice" and Phantom Planet's "California".

Hope. I write this with hope. I hope that the reader recognizes his or her own successes and failures and looks inside to make these connections and are able to create the reality they want. I know I do.

I hope my students go on to give the world something so great that their contributions make the world a better place and last for all time. I know I will.
I hope you are strengthened from the pain in your life; to realize you can't want something for someone more than they want it for themselves, and expect it to happen. That it takes a truly committed partnership between two loving people, people who love themselves first and can share that between them, not giving all their love to the other and keeping none for themselves. I know I am.

I hope you believe you are worth being loved, respected and believed in; to have enough self-worth to not allow anyone in your life that does the opposite. I know I do.

I hope you have enough awareness to recognize when you do have someone in your life that does love, respect and believe in you to treasure them. I know I do.

I hope you have the courage to let go of one unhealthy dream to allow for a better reality; to realize you can't control what you get from others, only what you give. And if others won't accept your gifts of love, respect and belief, it's time to stop giving to them. It's time to realize the relationship has failed. I know I do.

I hope you learn to see "failure" not as a dirty and painful word, but one that is pure and empowering. I hope you are all open to constructive criticism and insight in all its forms, including first seeing where you can improve ourselves before criticizing, judging and blaming others. I know I have.

"Things don't change. We change"
- Henry David Thoreau

"We are what we think.
All that we are arises
With our thoughts.
With our thoughts,
We make our world."
- The Buddha

"Buddha" literally means "the awakened one". If we aren't happy with our world, maybe we should "wake up" by changing our thinking. Thoughts are things. And as the quantum physicists are saying, thoughts are cellular things. We change our lives from the inside out.

"Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier."
Mother Teresa

I hope you are leaving this post happier than when you arrived; empowered or maybe better in touch with the pain in your own life. Still hopeful though, and maybe even inspired, that by not running from it you are strengthened. By being strengthened your life is changing for the better. And by your life changing for the better the world is changing for the better. I know my world is by realizing that:

The "better out there" is only possible with it first becoming "better in there".