Lessons with Scones


I’m gonna be honest…I’ve been binge watching “The Great British Baking Show”. Due to heavy exposure to British baked goods I’ve been inspired to make scones (to eat along with my cardamom black tea of course).

Unlike “The Great British Baking Show” my main judge is my husband and he’s always very nice to me. He’s not a very unbiased judge but I’m alright with that. Anyway, I have very little experience baking scones so it was a learning experience. Hooray for learning! I used this recipe from bon appetite and I feel 90% good about the finished product. I did in fact over bake it by a couple of minute as the bottoms are just a bit darker than I wish they were. Also, the recipe called for two tablespoons of sugar on top before popping into the oven.  I only did one tablespoon. But I mean, come on, that is A LOT of sugar topping! I was wrong though, two tablespoons is right amount of sugar topping. Last, these are cream scones, and while they are yummy I think I probably like butter scones better. Because, butter.

I have a bad habit of ignoring recipe instructions and going rogue. Today’s Baking Lesson: When making something for the first time, assume your thoughts are wrong and follow the instructions. Today’s life lesson: Sometimes it’s good to be a little rebellious, and sometimes, it’s just not. Choose wisely.

The joy of learning, Together.


Sally Sallies Forth

It is 3:30am on a Friday morning. My husband and I are sleeping peacefully in our bed. I awake to a rustling of the plastic wrap of a magazine I had left on the floor next to the bed (because I’m a slob, it’s fine). I sleepily call out for Nikita, our husky, to stop messing around and go to sleep. The rustling does not stop and I wonder why Nikita is in that corner of the room anyway. If you know me at all you know that I hold sleep most precious next to cheese and my loved ones so I am NOT HAPPY. In frustration I grab my phone and illuminate the scene to find, not Nikita, but Sally the Salamander who is slowly crawling around on my bedroom floor.

Let’s back up a little because there is a logical reason that Sally is in my home, although I am still unsure of how she escaped her muddy confines. I teach science outreach programming and Sally, South Carolina’s state Amphibian, is part of my next day’s program. Consequently, Sally was our houseguest for the night. Here are some fun facts about Sally’s escape:

  1. Her cage was on top of a standing desk…so I’m not sure how she made it down.
  2. She smartly turned on the touch lamp on the desk, probably to better illuminate her way. Get it, girl.
  3. After her journey down from the desk she crawled under the closed door of the office and found her way into our bedroom.
  4. In order to enter our room she had to waddle right past our dog asleep on the floor. Girl, you are bold.
  5. She smartly woke me up with by crinkling the plastic wrap to avoid drying out or getting eaten. OK, maybe she didn’t do this on purpose but I shudder to think what would have happened if she hadn’t.
  6. In her exploration she acquired a very impressive “fur coat” because, Nikita graciously leaves her fur in literal piles on the floor. Salamanders are the texture of those sticky stretchy hand toys, so you can imagine what she looked like. Girl, you look good!

After hollering a lot and capturing that tricky amphibian, we went back to sleep for a couple of hours before getting up again for the day. Sally, looking fabulous in her fur coat was returned to her rightful home. Where she will stay because I am a bad amphibian babysitter.

LessonAlways put a heavy object on top of a guest amphibian cage in case it tries to make a wild dash for it.

The joy of learning. Together.

**Disclaimer: Sally is in good health. No salamanders were injured in this unfortunately true story.**

This land is your land, this land is my land

I suppose I don’t need to state the obvious by saying it’s been a while since my last post. I haven’t lost interest in writing or learning but I have been brainstorming ways to reimagine this blog. The theme will still be centered around learning but it will be broader, encompassing my interest in less traditional forms of education and learning. Thanks for your patience with my lack of posting! Speaking of learning…Please read the below post to LEARN AND DO SOMETHING. And then spread the word, start conversations, and learn some more.

Yesterday, as I was sitting outside of a local coffee shop I witnessed something that isn’t unusual, and yet it is still so important to talk about. A group of four young people consisting of two white passing people and two brown skinned people were chatting about their fledgling adulthood experiences when a woman drove by and stopped her car by the curb to yell at the group. She yelled profanities about how two of the group members with brown skin should go back to Pakistan or India before she drove off. The young people at whom the hateful words were aimed at were only slightly fazed and essentially expressed that “it could have been worse.” The thing is, they’re right. It could have been worse, and it has been worse for many people.

So, how do we talk about this scenario? I honestly feel like I don’t know how to talk about it because it’s layered and because of my place of privilege but I’m going to try to anyway because I have to. We all have to. First of all, my initial shock is a sign of my privilege. The fact that I was even a little surprised is my privilege because this type of racism isn’t a part of my daily life. Second, although I didn’t have the time to confront the woman in the car, I did have the time to address the young people. I wish I had said I’m sorry that happened to them. I wish I had said that the woman’s ideology is disgusting and entirely wrong. I told myself it doesn’t matter what little old me says anyway, but I think that’s the beginning of a larger issue isn’t it? We can all DO something, even if it’s as small as saying “I’m so sorry that happened to you, it’s not right.”

Lastly, the woman in the car was African American and I have a lot of trepidation talking about this. This phenomena of horizontal hostility as explained by Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer, MA, founder/CEO of Bridgebuilder Consulting, is when “marginalized groups fight against each other instead of working with one another to fight systemic oppression, because a perceived scarcity of power and resources.” (Anna has more to say about this, and more, in her blog called “A Place On Earth”- check her out!). The actuality of scarcity of power in our country is very real. Consequently, I see why this fear exists as it is validated by systemic oppression. However, the idea that fighting against each other will solve the problem cannot be right. But as a white woman, what does my opinion mean? I don’t experience the type of prejudice and hatred that people of color in this country do. I know my place in the world allows me to suggest that love will always beat out hate and I really want to believe it.

SO, I want to talk about this. I want to know what you think, and I want to hear your insights. I want to learn more. Together.

Imposters Everywhere

As we get back into the swing of things after the holidays, here’s a nice reminder that you’re doing enough and you are enough!

Learn with Nora


I sat down to write this post and I really did not feel inspired. I didn’t feel like I had anything riveting to share, and I wasn’t in the mood to write. Here’s why: First, I like many people, sometimes fall into the metaphorical pit of self-pity where I envelop myself in histrionic feelings of inadequacy. Sounds like a real party, am I right? Second because I felt like this post was doomed to failure I did not feel motivated to write it. With all this fun stuff rolling around in my head I opened up my computer to get down to business. It’s not surprising that I found plenty of things on the Internet that were more interesting (a cinnamon roll recipe, various crochet patterns, facebook posts, emails, my bank account, literally anything else). Eventually I wrangled my brain and summoned some self-control. I then pulled up a blank…

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Music and Self-Regulation


I had a really great Thanksgiving, and I hope you all did too! But coming back to reality after a handful of days off with family is hard. And now, I find that I’m feeling pretty homesick. So to take care of myself I’m listening to a little Bill Evans, and drinking tea by our little Christmas tree. YAS that sounds amazing, right? Right. Unless you don’t like jazz, tea, or you don’t celebrate Christmas. Which is all fine, but then sub in your favorite things. Have you mentally filled in  your favorite self-care activities? Now it sounds good right? Right.

While the holidays can be a truly joyful time filled with delicious food, family time, sparkly lights, candles, hot chocolate and iceskating it can also be a very overwhelming time for children and adults alike! If you’re a parent, teacher, or anyone who spends a lot of time with kids you know that from Thanksgiving to New Years kids sort of lose their minds. But let’s step back and remember that when we were children, we too and had a hard time reigning in our excited energy during this time. And now let’s think further about how we as adults can also lose it during this time.

So now I’m gonna bring it full circle and talk about Bill Evans for a second. I choose Bill Evans because his music reminds me of my family and the people I love most. Music has a way of doing that doesn’t it? So even if you don’t agree with my musical taste (that’s fine but you’re crazy) you probably agree that music can guide your mood. Music can be a GREAT way to help kids regulate their emotions. This is especially helpful during the holiday season when emotions are running high all around.

You can use music to:

  • Help a child calm down at bedtime with classical or soothing playlists.
  • Find a song about something they are learning about and  add it to their lessons. This adds relevance AND  is especially  beneficial for our auditory learners.
  • Build specific songs into routines to cue children and make a mundane task more fun.
  • Cheer them up by playing their favorite music.
  • Get them pumped up by playing upbeat music.

I used music in my classroom in a lot of different ways:

  • Playing a specific song during an activity helped my students time their activity once they became familiar with the song. Time management? Check.
  • Playing relaxing music during silent reading at a low level kept the energy level low and the environment calm.
  • Morning songs welcomed the kids into the classroom and cued them to begin their day.
  • I sang to them at the end of the day as they packed up their backpacks. (Obviously I sang them a few jazz tunes). This was handy because it did two wonderful things. First, it kept them focused because they knew how long they had to pack up before I was finished with the songs. Second, it made for a happy end of the day. By the end of the year they sang along (which kept down the distracting chatter and bolstered our sense of community).

So the lesson here is that the holidays can be hard and that’s OK. Perhaps try to be purposeful about your music choice during this holiday season and see if it helps regulate everyone’s emotions.

In case you’re curious about Bill Evans, just click the link for a little taste of his stuff. And here is an article if you’re motivated to learn more: “3 Musical Ways to Influence a Child’s Emotions”

The joy of learning. Together. 


Short Stories and Mashed Potatoes

What I’m Reading:  “100 Years of American Short Stories” edited by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor. While I love novels, I’m also a sucker for short stories. This particular complication is wonderfully organized by time period starting in 1915. Moore and Pitlor give a brief history of each author before their short story, which I think provides important context. I’ve only just started reading this 753 page behemoth but I’m enjoying it so far!

100 years

Building Confident Learners: Experiential learning. Provide actual context for learners whenever possible. If you’re learning about history, go to a historical home or monument. If you’re learning about science, DO a science experiment or explore nature. Physical and mental exploration are key in retention of information.

What Gives Me Joy: Travel. Although I’m not in a position to travel very far right now, I did visit Charleston with my mom when she was in town for Thanksgiving. American history (both beautiful and horrific) is imbedded in the city and I enjoyed learning more about our country’s past while there. Plus, time with my mom is always a plus!


We obviously had to stop for some delicious (although perhaps not nutritious) food on our trip. I’m a fervent fan of mashed potatoes.

The joy of learning. Together. 


Empathy and Self-Care


What I’m Reading:  “Empathy Is Tough to Teach, But Here’s One Trick That Will Boost It”– A quick article on teaching empathy. I especially loved how the author notes that sometimes our first thought about a situation is not our best thought.  I have learned to be kind to myself about my sometimes less then wonderful first thoughts, and to wait for the second thought. Usually the second thought is where empathy enters, and where connection can begin.

Building Confident Learners: Connection. Building authentic and meaningful connections with learners is essential. When we feel heard we allow ourselves to open up to an experience, so listening and connecting through empathy and understanding help promote a safe a productive learning environment.

What Gives Me Joy: Yoga. I’ve been trying to readjust my schedule to build in time for yoga and meditation because, I’ll be honest, I haven’t been making it a priority. It’s so easy to forget to do the little things that make us happy (i.e. self-care) so I’m doing my best to remember.

The joy of learning. Together.


Teaching Empathy

Empathy is an innate human characteristic, and in my opinion one of the most important characteristics we have. Some studies suggest that humans aren’t alone in their ability to empathize with other beings and that animals experience empathy as well. Stories abound about how animals take care of other animals outside of their species. I mean, look at this dog mom taking care of orphaned kittens. Ugh…slayed.


I know I’m not the only one whose feeling pangs of heartwarming joy from seeing that picture. It’s cute because it reminds us of kindness and we are filled with hope that if animals do it, we will continue to experience it as humans too. We empathize with the picture. We as humans aren’t alone in our ability to understand or share the feelings of another being, and it must therefore serve as a survival mechanism. If it’s a survival mechanism it’s important and necessary for survival. That’s pretty simple logic, am I right?

While empathy is innate, it can be boosted through experiences and direct teaching. Sometimes children, depending on their stage of development lack what adults understand as empathy. It’s important to note that a three-year-old child who can’t understand the world outside of their worldview isn’t being a jerk, they’re just being a normal three-year-old. But school age children are certainly able to bolster their ability to empathize with their friends, classmates, and family members. It can be taught through modeling, group work and activites, books, listening, peer mentorship, discussions, and directly teaching point of view among many other ways.

Below are some fun activities I’ve used with children to work on empathy and have fun while doing it!

Mirror Mirror: Teaching children to connect to themselves with loving kindness can help them connect to others in the same way.

mirror mirror

Kindess Postcards: This is a fun way to work in letter writing techniques with teaching empathy and kindness.

kindess postcards

Friendship Rainbows: A colorful activity to show teach students how to compliment others and build empathy towards friends and classmates.


Empathy Game: a great way to practice looking at someone else’s point of view.

empathy game

Feeling Chart: This isn’t really an activity on it’s own but it can be really helpful. Often, children don’t have the vocabulary or conscience knowledge of their feelings so something like a feelings chart can be a helpful way to identify feelings. You can use the chart as a starting point for charades, emotions sorting games (for younger children) etc…





Short Stories, Birthdays, and Cheesecake

What I’m Reading:  A compilation of short stories by O.Henry. Born in Greensboro NC, not too far from Spartanburg, O.Henry is a master of the short story and of capturing the intricacies of the human experience.

Building Confident Learners: Praise when positive gains are made. If a student is struggling take notice of the small, or large gains they make by addressing what they’ve done correctly. No need to make up a compliment, just be mindful of their growth and let them know you see how hard they are working!

What Gives Me Joy: Baking. This week is my husband’s birthday and he loves cheesecake. As it happens, I also love cheesecake so it’s a win-win. To celebrate I made one, and we plan on sharing it with friends. As I’ve said before, there’s no greater joy than sharing a meal (or a cheesecake) with friends and family.

The joy of learning. Together.


Growth Mindset

A related concept to grit is “Growth Mindset”. The Growth Mindset philosophy has enjoyed a huge uptick in the education world and is utilized in many classrooms and schools. Growth Mindset is based on the work of Carol Dweck, a psychologist and motivation researcher out of Stanford University. Here’s a little bit about Growth Mindset:

  • Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset.
    • A student who believes that intelligence is derived from effort and interest has a growth mindset. Someone who loves a challenge or feels that abilities can be developed has a growth mindset.
    • A student who has a fixed mindset believes we are inherently “good” or “bad” at certain subjects, and that this isn’t something we can really change. Have you ever hear a parent say “Oh he struggles with math. I was always really bad at math too so he comes by it naturally.” I have! It’s not an uncommon representation of fixed mindset at work.
    • For obvious reasons learners who possess Growth Mindset often enjoy more success and less anxiety around learning opportunities. They engage deeply in new challenges and show curiosity in the unknown.
    • People can go back and forth between these mindsets, and mindsets can be taught.

I love the idea of growth mindset because it opens the world up to learners! It can create grit, and resilience and it certainly rewards hard work/effort. Check out the resources below if you want to learn more.


Education Week Article

The joy of learning. Together.