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. 



Art Bulbs

What I’m Reading:  I’m listening to “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante. It’s the story of a life long friendship between two girls beginning in Naples, Italy in the 1950s. I treasure my long term friendships-shout out to the buddies I’ve been hanging with since elementary and high school…you’re the best and I love you. Thanks for really knowing me. Needless to say, I’m enjoying Ferrante’s exciting and sometimes tragic story of Elena and Lila.

Building Confident Learners: Have fun! Learning is fun, although it sometimes gets a bad reputation for being a daunting process. Value curiosity, and model having fun while learning. It goes a long way!

What Gives Me Joy: Community and the arts. Last Thursday was The Art Bulbs Awards in Spartanburg. I was happy to be able to help hand out awards, and the event was a success. Look at all the amazing pieces of artwork represented in the Art Bulbs around town! And don’t forget to check out the Spartanburg Art Museum. Paper Worlds is on exhibit until December 10th so get yourself on over to SAM to check it out.

The joy of learning. Together.



Happy Halloween! This year I dressed up as pizza again, because everybody loves pizza. Popularity isn’t everything but when you’re pizza, you can’t avoid it. I don’t hate it.

Dog approved pizza costume

Anyway, I‘m back to posting after a brief hiatus due to family visits and other lovely things. This week’s Passion Parent Advocate post is on “Grit”. Grit, which has turned into a popular buzzword in education, is the ability to persevere through challenges and passion for long-term goals. What I like about the idea is that it measures a person’s learning capacity not with IQ or a standardized test, but instead it measures learning capacity by a person’s ability to work hard to make a specific outcome a reality. To me, this seems a perfectly inclusive view of the whole person in learning (after all whole child learning is my bag). The idea of grit in education was popularized and named by Angela Lee Duckworth, founder of Character Lab and professor of psychology at University of Pennsylvania. You you can watch her Ted Talk here if you want to hear her talk about her theory. Of course, as with almost anything, grit has its limitations. Although I really like and support the idea of grit, I don’t blindly accept grit as the end all be all in education. I mean, I don’t suggest blindly accept anything really. I think it’s important to to research all aspects of a theory so I’m also providing you with this article for a contrary opinion of Duckworth’s theory. Feel free to go out and do your own research. In your free time. I know, there’s always so much of that.

And if you’re still curious and want to keep learning but your sick of staring at a screen, you can listen to this “Freakonmics” podcast. What do you think of grit? Have you seen evidence of it in your classrooms and homes?

The joy of learning. Together. 


People of Great Kindness

Let’s take a moment to celebrate people of great kindness. We all know people of great kindness. They are our our parents, aunts or uncles, sisters and brothers, friends and neighbors. They are our teachers, our leaders, and our mentors. I am so grateful for the multitude of people in my life who have taught me to be kind. Who is someone who showed you great kindness?

You don’t have to be well-known to have a huge impact on others but here is a list (in no particular order) of some of my favorite famous people of great kindness and strength. Who would you add to this list?

The joy of learning. Together. 


Martin Luther King Junior 


The Dalai Lama


Mohandas Gandhi


Mother Teresa

mother teresa

Nelson Mandela


Maya Angelou


Malala Yousafzai