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International Happiness Day

On March 20, 2014 the world celebrated the 2nd annual International Happiness Day.  The day was established by the UN in June of 2012 to recognize the common human pursuit of happiness.  The day recognizes the UN resolution which emphasizes creating opportunities for economic growth which allow all people to live happy, fulfilling lives.

The UN teamed up with artist Pharrell Williams – whose song “Happy” was nominated for Best Original Song at this year’s Academy Awards – to encourage celebrants the world over to recognize International Happiness Day by making music videos for “Happy”.  Pharrell compiled entries on his website, 24 Hours of Happiness.

Naturally, schools joined in the celebration.  I liked these two videos filmed in US schools.  The first exudes pure joy, the second impressive talent.

Did your school celebrate?



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App design challenge comes to life

Remember the conversation starter about app design?  Well, turns out Verizon agrees that asking students to design an app is a great way for them to be creative, express themselves and utilize their STEAM skills.

I loved hearing that a group of middle school girls in California had not only won, but had used the challenge to design a functional app which would support one of the special needs students in their class.  Their app was conceived to aid a visually-impaired classmate in day-to-day classroom tasks.

Way to go girls!



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What business can teach education about resilience

FastCompany has brought social science into the board room.  I love how their radical approach has inspired innovation in business.  And every time I read their publication I think: Yes – perfect for my classroom.

They’ve published 4 habits of resilient business people.  Resiliency, they claim, is a key trait of business people who make their dreams a reality.  I’ve copied the four traits below and I’d like to examine each and how it applies in the classroom.

#1 They don’t listen to the negative voice in their head

Imagine our courage if only we could shut off the nay-saying devil on our shoulder.  As children navigate learning about and getting to know their feelings, it’s important to give them the words and the explanation for the waves of emotion hitting them.  Uncertainty falls into that category.  Let’s teach our students that sometimes – oftentimes – they will be unsure.  Then, let’s teach them how to handle it.

What if we taught students a strategy for silencing that voice?  This could be a practice of writing down doubtful thoughts and then ripping up the piece of paper, or whiting out the dubious claim.  As teachers we must partner with students to find tactics which work for them.

#2 They have a personal board of directors

The application of this trait to the classroom makes me so excited.  It’s such a natural fit for the grouping and desk-pod lifestyle of the classroom.

What if desk-pods became advisory boards and students practiced offering advice to fellow pod-mates about an idea they had, or an approach to an assignment.  Surely, many teachers ask classmates to provide feedback already.  But, what if we taught students about different roles on the board?  One student should consult on the risk, another on the reward, and a third on the future iteration of the idea.

What if we taught them specifically how to give feedback as board members – one positive comment, one criticism, another comment to stretch the idea?  And what if we taught them that the success of the ideas of their pod-mates/colleagues reflected on them just as stock holders benefit from the success of their CEO??

#3 They are comfortable not knowing

Not knowing is something students face each day in the classroom; a daily challenge which requires extraordinary resilience.  Depending on the age and personality of your students this not-knowing will cause different levels of discomfort.

Let’s remind students that not knowing means they are sitting at the precipice of learning, at the edge of their comfort zone.  Let’s make arriving at that periphery an accomplishment.  And, let’s make it fun.

Last year I made each of my students stop signs.  I cut out small red stop signs, laminated them and glued them to Popsicle sticks.  My students were taught to raise their stop signs whenever they were confused by my lecture and needed me to stop and clarify.  I didn’t accept raised hands for clarification, just stop signs.

This signalling put what they didn’t know out in the open.  It added jest to the classroom – an integral component to learning.  And, it took the shame out of uncertainty.  Keep in mind I was teaching 11th graders.  Get comfortable not knowing.

#4 They let go of the “Yeah, but…”

Dragging their heels.  At times we all drag our heels.  Awareness of the times we feel hesitant is just as important as recognizing our doubting voice.

Teach students to recognize heel dragging.  Then, introduce a strategy.

Perhaps you ban this sentence-starter from the classroom?  Or, you shape it into another one: “I see the point in ______, but I am afraid.”  Or, have them create a heel-dragging journal and ask them to write down everything they’ve responded to with “yeah, but…”  The practice of acknowledging these hiccups clears space for progress.

Check back for lesson plans which incorporate the explicit teaching of these traits.



Source: Brosseau, D. (February 25, 2014). 4 Habits of the Most Resilient People. FastCompany. Retrieved from:

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In the News: Common Core vs. Creative Writing

The Common Core curriculum can cause a stalemate between teachers more insurmountable than that of the 113th US Congress.  Some love it.  Some hate it.

A recent article published on EdWeek criticizes David Coleman, an architect of the Common Core Standards, for his crass assessment of creative writing.  Coleman is quoted as saying: “Forgive me for saying it so bluntly, the only problem with …that [creative] writing is that as you grow up in this world you realize people don’t really give a [expletive] about what you think and feel.” Eeek.  Scary to think he is behind the largest overhaul of the US education system.

Paul Horton’s article in EdWeek makes an elegant counterargument in support of storytelling, a natural human instinct and a strategy for connection.

My question is, why does analytical thinking (touted by the Common Core Standards as paramount) have to be divorced of feelings and emotions?  Why can’t we ask students to analyze their feelings?  Why can’t the curriculum be a platform for evidence gathering, analytical writing and self-analysis?  Or, would that be too uncomfortable for everyone??

Perhaps today’s children will grow up to enter a work world with ornery individuals like David Coleman who won’t care how they feel.

That does change the fact that they need to be able to analyze how they feel and react accordingly.  With these skills, they can choose the right reasons for getting out of bed in the morning to face these challenging colleagues and, more importantly, choose how to temper those feelings when they are so rudely addressed.

It’s our job as educators to teach them those skills, no matter the standards.

Check back for Common Core aligned lesson plans to start this process.




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