Category Archives: joyful teaching

The Benefits of Play

As chilly winter days transition into balmy spring time, children and adults both anticipate spending more time outdoors.  Unfortunately, the school environment doesn’t always cooperate with the onset of spring fever as students prepare for and take mandated tests or complete end of year projects.  Some classes forgo recess altogether in order to focus on academic excellence.  A nationwide study on how first through fifth grade children spend their time at school found that on a randomly selected day, 21% of children did not have any recess  at all.

What are the benefits of recess?  Here are a few:

  • Brain research show a relationship between physical activity and the development of brain connections.
  • Children who are active at school continue to be active at home.
  • Children develop social and behavioral skills as they learn to exercise leadership, negotiate, take turns and resolve conflicts.
  • Memory and attention are improved when learning is spaced out and recess provides a necessary break from academics.
  • Play for children is not just a social and physical outlet, it is a real learning activity.

How can adults encourage positive play? The best way is by setting the stage before hand.

  • Just as in the classroom, develop a specific set of rules for children to follow.  Encourage them to be a part of the process and then commit to following the rules.
  • Brainstorm games that encourage responsibility, cooperation, and communication. Make a list of the games to facilitate child choice.
  • Anticipate and discuss the most  common problems that are encountered on the playground:  not including everyone in a game, not encouraging others or putting someone down because of a lack of ability, not following the rules.
  • Develop a system for students to solve problems when they occur.  Practice with role-play how to handle disagreements.
  • Regularly review the process to see how it is working.

Related posts:

Children and Friendship Problems

Good or Bad Decision?

Teaching Kids How to Handle Emotion

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

Why failing first leads to success.

He won’t do any work in class.

She never turns in homework.

She is capable, but doesn’t work up to her potential…

If you have been  an educator for any length of time, you’ve had a child like this in your classroom. You’ve tried every strategy that you can think of–nothing is working.

Maybe you are a parent with a child  like this right now and you are out of ideas…

What can you do?

One of the amazing things about children in particular but really all of us, is that the brain has an infinite capacity to change.  In the not too distant past, we used to think that once certain habits or behavior was established that people rarely changed.  We now know that the brain continues to develop well into the 20’s and that we can make major changes in everything from our outlook to the way that we function for our entire lives.  This is called brain  plasticity.

How do we make the most of this amazing human quality?  One of the ways is by encouraging children to develop a growth mindset that basically says, “Excellence is a process.  Failure is not the end of the road but instead it is how you learn.”

Here is a video that illustrates this well:

Knowing that how you handle mistakes, failure and losing is an important indicator of how successful you are, how can we best encourage students?

In their excellent book, Switch, Chip and Dan Heath, describe a study with students who were doing poorly in math.  They  were divided into two groups.  One group spent time in a a generic study skills class.  The other group spent time in a growth mindset class where they were taught that the mind is like a muscle.  The more you work it, the smarter you become. They were reminded of how they had learned non-academic skills like skateboarding and how everything is hard before you master it.

The results?  The study skills group continued to have declining grades.  However, the growth mindset group significantly outperformed the  other group.  They reversed the downward trend, some of them dramatically.  Teachers who were unaware of the group students  were assigned to, were asked to identify the students who had made the most positive gain.  Seventy-five percent of the students they identified were in the growth mindset group.

What is truly amazing about this study is that the students improved in math, a cumulative subject and they  were not taught anything specific  to math skills!  Think about this for a moment;  just learning that you have the ability to learn and excel despite failure, caused students to improve in a specific skill.

How can you apply this information to students that you know?

How does this apply outside of the academic environment?

Related Posts:

3 Ways to Teach You Child to be a Leader

What if you embrace the difficulty?

Focusing on Joyful Parenting


Stuff Parents Want to Know:  Answers to Frequently Asked Questions 

In twenty years of school counseling I’ve been asked a lot of questions.  This ebook is a compilation of some of the most common ones along with some effective strategies and books you can read with your child to address the problem. stuffparents   Click on the link below to purchase:

Stuff Parents Want to Know: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Are you all teachered out?

Already counting down to the last days of the school year?

Living for spring break and the relief it offers? (The holiday season already a distant memory?)

Given up on all those idealistic teaching goals that you envisioned for the year?

Have only one goal left…survival?

Sounds like you are all teachered out…

You started the school year with lots of enthusiasm and dreams of all you would accomplish–the difference you were going to make in your students’ lives.  But teaching is an exhausting job that drains your energy cup pretty quickly. If you aren’t refilling it you will find yourself depleted and barely surviving.

There are a couple of reasons why this happens:

  • we equate caring for our own needs to being selfish
  • we erroneously believe that we don’t have time (this is actually a boundary issue not a time issue)
  • we expect others to just know that we need a break and rescue us without our asking

Here’s the bottom line:

You can’t share energy that you don’t have and no one is going to rescue you.

It’s up to you.

When it comes to taking care of ourselves, most of us equate that with the shadow comforts.  I had a tough day at school so I will skip the gym and treat myself to pizza and cupcakes for dinner while I veg out on the couch.  Taking a bubble bath or going on a shopping spree is not going to change your life or awaken your inner soul.  Ultimately things we do to indulge and comfort ourselves drain us even more.  Here’s how to refill your energy cup and get back on track to thriving, not just surviving.

5 Essential Needs to Renewal

1. Take care of your body

Start with the basics. Make sure that you are getting adequate exercise, eating a healthy diet and getting the required number of hours of sleep.  Cutting corners because of a heavy workload eventually results in losing momentum and energy.  You may even wind up sick and forced to take the time to get well.

2. Take care of your environment

This is not actually about recycle and reuse, although I believe in that.  This is about maintaining an environment in the classroom and at home where you are organized and manage the clutter that naturally accumulates in a busy lifestyle.  Managing the details of your life will mean that you naturally feel better and calmer when your environment is set up to create energy rather than block energy.  Create systems and follow them regularly.

3. Take care of your relationships

Take the time to relax and enjoy your family and friends.  Step off the to-do-treadmill and create moments of connection and memories of love.  Create boundaries around your work and your relationships that encourage positive growth.

4. Take care of your self-development

Was the last class you took a required in-service where you sat in the back of the room and graded papers?  Cells that are not expanding aren’t stagnant, they are actually dying and this is true for our brain cells as well.  Take the class you’ve always wanted to take, read the books you wanted to read and expand your mind. It will impact your teaching in a positive way.

5. Take care of your spirit

There is no better way to refill your energy cup than through realigning your spirit with your beliefs. You do this through prayer, meditation, inspirational reading, reflection, gratitude or worship.   Pause and enjoy the beauty of the world around you as you reconnect with it’s creator.  In the process, you just might be reenergized with your purpose and destiny.

Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games

Just for you!  Here are activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, coloring sheets, word search puzzles and games for each of the six Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books.  Over 75 pages of ideas so that you can create lessons on cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills to quickly extend and incorporate the Wyatt stories.




Top 3 Mistakes Educators Make


Educators often make the same mistakes.

How do I know?

I was a school counselor for 20 years and I’ve made them all myself.  The problem is that these mistakes don’t bring about the desired results, even though on the surface, it appears that we are helping and doing our job. Sometimes what feels like the right thing to do, doesn’t really serve our students or us.

1. Become a Teaching Machine

A teaching machine tries to do it all.  She plans each lesson perfectly and throughly. She is organized. She is invested and involved with every student.  She spends every evening and weekend grading papers, planning lessons, talking to concerned parents, etc.  She attends to everyone’s needs…but her own.

Sounds like the perfect teacher of the year, right?

In reality, no one wins if you become a teaching machine.  Students don’t learn to take initiative.  Parents don’t learn boundaries.  Administration and coworkers begin to expect you to do it all.

Ultimately you burnout.

You sacrifice your mental, physical, and spiritual health.  You may not even be aware of how stressed you are but you know that you’ve lost your zest for teaching.  Eventually you come to resent your students, parents, coworkers and the administration at your school. The worst part is that as hard as you’ve worked, you still don’t feel appreciated or respected by your students or coworkers.

The truth is that you are so much more than a teaching machine. Everyone around you benefits when you set boundaries and realistic expectations for yourself.  When you take care of yourself physically and emotionally your students get a rested and energized you.

2. Become the Behavior Police

Have you become so frustrated that you are constantly lecturing your students and staying on their case?  Have you given the class the big, long, loud repetitive lecture that starts out with: You are never going to succeed at ________ if you don’t begin ____________.  When you get to the next grade, teachers aren’t going to do _________ for you any more and you need to take responsibility now for blah, blah blah…”   It is then followed up with every annoying thing that they have done in the last month to push your buttons and aggravate you.

Here’s a more important question.

Did that lecture give you the results you were looking for?

In other words, after your lecture did your students say…

“Thank  you so much for showing me the error of my ways. I will change that behavior right now. You are the best teacher ever.”

In our dreams… right?  Teacher lectures generally fall on deaf ears. I know as a student myself, when I got the teacher lecture, I left the planet. I tuned out and figured she must be talking to all the other students in the room but me.

Of course you need to guide and instruct students but the timing and delivery is crucial. Lecturing when you are frustrated and on your last nerve is not effective.  Instead provide the same information in short conversations that lead into a lesson where the behavior identified can be practiced.  Model  and explain the type of behavior that you want to see prior to the situation rather than lecturing about the behavior after the event.

Remember,  less is more. Don’t hit students with a hundred things to change. You want to address one point at a time during a relevant teachable moment. That’s about all kids will process.

3. Become Disconnected with your students

Having a healthy connection with your students is the basis of teaching. This means that establishing a positive relationship will be essential in order to teach them the facts that you want them to learn.  This doesn’t mean that you have to become warm and fuzzy if that is not your style or that you need to become emotionally involved with students.  In fact having clear boundaries is an important part of the process as well

The mistake however that a teacher may make is that their relationship with their students becomes one-dimensional. They are all about doing but not about being:   “Turn in your homework. LIne up for lunch. Get out your textbook. Complete this worksheet. Pay attention.  Stop Talking.”

Instead stay connected to with your students’ heart and energy. Be connected to things that mean something to them.  Be interested.  Be curious.  Take time to get to know them as unique individuals who bring a great wealth of experiences to the room to share.  Your positive expectations will set the goal for them to strive for.

Happy National School Counselor Week!

In appreciation for all you do:  Grab ‘N Go Lesson Plan

Being Organized for Success


Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

It’s time to catch the school bus and Wyatt can’t find anything.  Where is his backpack?  his lunch money? Wyatt is about to learn a valuable lesson about the importance of being organized and the benefits of planning ahead.  This adorable story offers simple helpful ideas that kids and parents can use to make life less stressful and more fun.Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Front_Covr-Organized[1]
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Being Organized

How to Create an Intentional Year

January is the time of year for setting goals and planning for the future.  It’s also the time of year when it can be hard to drum up some excitement for the learning opportunities ahead. Blustery weather, overcast days and early nights when everyone is cooped up inside can quell even the most spirited among us.  The thrill of the beginning of school seems long gone and the anticipation of the end of the school year seems far, far away in the future.

What can we do to get off to a great start and create the conditions necessary for a great school year?  There’s a lot!

Five Strategies for a Magical and Intentional Year

  • Set an intention–Not to get all woo-woo on you here but this is a useful technique for whatever you are doing that is new.  Athletes, entertainers and CEO’s use this technique successfully to create optimum performance.  It can work equally well for educators.
    • Begin with the end in mind.  Picture or visualize how you want your classroom to be as we move into 2016.  The tendency is to be so busy doing (managing student behavior, putting up bulletin boards, making lessons plans) that we expend all of our energy and don’t take the time to be.  Imagine how you want the room to feel;  excited, enthusiastic, focused, curious, etc.
  • Revisit your teaching method–Look at your materials and curriculum with a renewed fresh look.  Imagine that you are seeing it for the first time.  How will you engage students, pique their curiosity, personalize the message?  Make sure the classroom environment reflects your new vision.
  • Stay positive–it is really easy to let the negative drag you down.  There are always too many things to do, too many students to adequately serve, too few resources, too many meetings to attend and not enough time.  Reserve judgement.  Expect the unexpected and see it as a learning experience.  Choose to be a positivity role model for your students and you will find your enthusiasm is contagious.
  • Focus on and process the experience as much as the material.  It’s easy to  bemoan the fact that it’s hard to teach or counsel students because of all the extenuating factors in their lives.  Instead view those circumstances as teachable moments.  Sometimes the biggest lesson you can teach is how to handle disappointment and adversity.
  • Take care of yourself–there will never be enough time to do it all.  One reason you became an educator was because of your creative, heart-centered giving spirit. Make sure sure that you direct that energy toward yourself as well as the students you serve.  When you take care of yourself, you are modeling for students how they can take care of themselves and that is an invaluable lesson.

By following a plan, you will be able to not only meet the expectations of parents and students, but also to enjoy the fruits of your efforts.

Grab ‘N Go Lesson Plan for Busy Educators:

Winning and Losing Lesson Plan


Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others? Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)



Five Ways to Encourage Creativity in Kids

Wonder how to encourage children to be creative?

Do you find students are more and more dependent on adults and technology for inspiration and ideas?

Looking for ways to tap into every child’s creative spirit?

In the Success magazine article, Get Unstuck:  Seventeen Ways To Bring More Creativity into Your Daily Life and Work author, Keri Smith was asked if she had any good synonyms for the word ‘creative’ to which she replied, “Life, I try not to separate the two.”  Good advice!

Here are five ways to encourage creativity in  kids without breaking the bank:

  1. Play--Every kid (and adult) needs playtime.  Much of our modern day life tends to minimize free play with structured sports, classes and mindless television/videos. Free play is probably the number one way to nurture creativity.
  2. Thought experiments–Ask “What if questions… What if the sun were a ball of cheese? What if an arcade were made of boxes?”  Encourage children to ask themselves similar questions to develop imagination and the habit of invention.
  3. Try new things–read books on dramatically different topics, watch movies that are different from the norm, attend unique performances, try international food, travel somewhere new.  Teach children to expand their world and be inspired by the creativity of others.
  4. Do the opposite–change something about a routine, write/draw with the opposite hand, eat dinner for breakfast, consider a problem to be solved—what would be the opposite of success?  what creates failure?
  5. Pay attention to your dreams–some of history’s greatest innovations were products of dreams.  The search engine Google, came from a dream that Larry Page, co-founder had.  The book Frankenstein came originally from a dream of Mary Shelly. Discuss dreams and  challenge kids to write or draw out their dreams.

Stuff Parents Want to Know:  Answers to Frequently Asked Questions 

In twenty years of school counseling I’ve been asked a lot of questions.  This ebook is a compilation of some of the most common ones along with some effective strategies and books you can read with your child to address the problem. stuffparents   Click on the link below to purchase:

Stuff Parents Want to Know: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions