History, Modeling Behavior, and Coffee!

What I’m Reading:  Radium Girls by Kate Moore. I’m actually listening to the audiobook version using Hoopla, which is an app I think everyone needs to know about! I’m a sucker for historical content so I’m loving this one. Radium Girls tells the story of the young woman who worked in the radium-dial factories painting glowing numbers on watches with radium paint. We know now that radium is a deadly element but at the turn of the 20th century it was a miracle substance. The story chronicles their fight for justice and workers’ rights as they suffered from radium poisoning. So much drama, so much truth, such an important story.


Building Confident Learners: Model failing with grace. I know, it’s easier said then done but children learn so much from watching the important adults in their lives. Remember, children are always watching and learning so be who you want them to be. Model the best version of yourself whenever possible (no pressure right?).

What Gives Me Joy: Coffee shops. Writing this, I am at Little River Roasting Co. in downtown Spartanburg drinking a delicious latte. This particular coffee shop also has a bakery (Cakehead Bakeshop) and a bookstore (HubCity Bookshop) attached to it so it’s pretty much my version of heaven.


The joy of learning. Together.


Quick Tips: Failure and Internal Locus of Control


Another week, another post on everyone’s favorite subject-failure!

Failure is of course unavoidable. You can help your child cope by assisting them to create an internal locus of control by reminding them that they don’t need someone else to say they are the best, in order to be their best. Additionally, they don’t need to blame others for their mistakes.

Julian Rotter first brought the concept of internal or external locus of control to light in the mid 20th century and many aspects of it hold true today. The theory states that someone has a a strong internal locus of control if they believe that what happens to them is largely their doing, while someone with a strong external locus of control believes that their life is controlled by luck, or by other people.

Of course, there are many things in life that we don’t have control over. You can refer to my previous post on control and anxiety to take a peek at my thoughts on the subject. Still, having a internal locus of control allows the individual to feel empowered by their own actions. It’s important to note that the danger of of an overly fortified internal locus of control is overconfidence and/or lack of perspective. We have to keep in mind the societal and cultural structures in which we live in, which affect our lives outcomes. Rotter’s work could be improved if he included the interaction of social privilege and locus of control.

Simply put, a healthy balanced individual with an internal locus of control can find success because they are empowered to work for it, and believe they can succeed. And when they fail, which they will at some point, they often own their part of the failure and strive to fix it. On the other hand, an individual with an external locus of control will blame the people around them for their failures and are less likely to fix their mistakes.

By helping your child stray from blaming others for their failures and instead look at their part, they will be able to build on their mistakes. They can then learn from said mistakes and in the end find more success. Model self-reflective behavior, probe them with questions when they experience failure, and help them feel excited to do better next time.

The joy of learning. Together. 


Books That Teach Kindness

As promised I have compiled a few books that teach kindness. Although there are many great books out there, for the purpose of brevity I will list four. The first two books are suggestions for lower elementary readers, while the second two are for an older audience of young readers.

  1. “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.

the giving tree

A true classic for young readers. I love its focus on empathy and find my heart breaking a little for the giving tree every time I read it. The story reminds young readers to be grateful for the support they have, and to return love and kindness.

  1. “Have you Filled a Bucket Today?” By Carol McCloud

bucket filler

This book uses the metaphor of filling up a bucket with your love, kindness, and positive actions. It encourages loving behavior by illustrating how our actions and words either “fill up” or “empty” our buckets.

  1. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis


Although perhaps above the reading level of younger children, it is accessible to them by reading aloud with an adult. The characters in “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” and particularly relatable to children and the book has many lessons on kindness and navigating sibling relationships.

  1. “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain


A more complex look into friendship, freedom and systemic oppression. It asks readers to think about how we as a part of a community within a broader society, show either love and kindness, or hate and subjugation. Because the story touches on a handful or sensitive (albeit very important issues) I suggest this story be saved for middle and high school readers.

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

-Mark Twain

The joy of learning. Together. 


Audiobooks, Empathetic Teaching and Running

What I’m Reading:  I’m currently listening to an audiobook version of “Introvert Power” by Laurie Helgoe, PhD. This is a great book for both introverts and extroverts because it clears up common misconceptions about what both introversion and extroversion really are. For example, I am an introvert, which does not mean that I don’t like people. After all, my chosen profession involves being actively engaged with people much of my waking time. In fact, I really love people and I love being with people. I just need alone time to recharge and collect my thoughts. Additionally, as an educator I also appreciate how the book gives insight into how my introverted students might have different avenues of learning than my extroverted students, and it inspired ideas of how to target each type.


Building Confident Learners: Meet learners where they are. Pay attention to the student’s emotional and physical state and adjust your expectations accordingly. Focus on their health status, their sleep quota, and what’s happening in their lives both inside and outside of school that might affect their overall ability to perform academically.

What Gives Me Joy: Running. I’ve been enjoying running outside now that being outside doesn’t immediately turn me into a human sweat-ball. For this native Wisconsinite, the temperatures of SC have verged on traumatic but I will not give up! I’ve especially enjoyed running on the Mary Black Trail, more commonly called the Rail Trail, in Spartanburg. Everyone waves or smiles when I pass them on my runs, which, when I think about it, really shows how welcoming the community is considering how overheated and disheveled I am. Kudos to the community of Spartanburg for their welcoming nature!

Me in Alaska (it’s a little colder there), doing a celebratory jump during a run.

The joy of learning. Together.


Quick Tips: Failure

Here are this weeks quick tips on how to help your child deal with experiences of failure.


  • Remind them that everyone fails sometimes, and that failure often leads to lessons about how to do something better next time. At the very least it teaches you about your own reactions to making mistakes and how to transform your reactions into actions. 
  • Comparing is despairing. This is one of my favorite quick reminders. There will always be someone who does something better then you, or at least appears to. But we don’t know the whole story, we don’t know what their experiences are. We only know what our experiences are, and that’s what’s important.
  • Remind them that there is always time to try again! Tomorrow is a new day, and no matter what you get to be part of the world. My father once told me (after a moment of extreme embarrassment), “Well, they can’t kick you out of the world.” And he was right, I’m still here making mistakes and learning everyday.

The joy of learning. Together.


Kindness a Definition

Thank you to those of you who responded with you definitions, I loved them! Based on your responses and my own ideas of what kindness is, I came up with this list of words that exemplify what kindness is.

  • Patience
  • Acceptance
  • Love
  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Support
  • Trust
  • Sympathy
  • Forbearance (self control and tolerance)

I also came up with a list of concrete examples of actions kids can relate to and use on a daily basis.

  • Provide relief or help others when they need it. For example, helping a friend tie their shoe or helping them with a math problem
  • Give hugs
  • Give compliments
  • Wait your turn
  • Listen without interrupting
  • Try to understand someone else’s point of view. For example, perhaps you’re trying to decide on which game to play, and your friend is upset because you’ve gotten to choose the last few times. Think how you would feel if you were them, and act based on how you think they might feel (maybe let them choose this time to be fair).
  • When in a disagreement, wait to respond if you know you’ll lose your temper. Take a deep breath, walk away for a little while, or talk to a trusted adult.
  • Speaking to others as you would like to be spoken to. Think, “Would I like it if someone said this to me?”
  • Using the “Golden Rule” in general
  • Show appreciation by saying “thank you” to others. For example you can say thank you to your parents for making you meals and helping with homework, or to your friends for their kindness towards you.
  • When someone else is sad you can show them sympathy by asking if you can help them, giving them a hug, or telling them you care about them.
  • Remind yourself that you can disagree with someone and still care about them.

Most importantly, BE RIGHT SIZED. This was my number one classroom rule. It means that in order to be kind we must always remember that we are not better or worse than the person sitting next to us. Nothing about us makes us inherently better or worse than anybody else. Our abilities, ethnicity, religion, race, gender, skin color, socio-economic status, learned skills, possessions, grades, ideas, or geographic location etc…do no make us better or worse than anybody else. If we remember to be just the right size, not bigger (better) or smaller (less important) we can do a lot of good and spread a lot of kindness.

Next up, I’ll be talking about books that you can read with your child to teach them about kindness. Get excited, I know I am!

The joy of learning. Together.



What I’m Reading:  “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown. I first learned about Brene Brown when I heard her do a TEDtalk and I was blown away. “Rising Strong” is about my worst fear-failure. I mean, that and dying a fiery death in an airplane crash. On the bright side, failure is more likely and less deadly. Honestly though, as a perfectionist failure feels like it might kill me sometimes. If you too struggle with failure, read “Rising Strong”. You won’t regret it.

rising strong

Building Confident Learners: Speaking of failure, there is nothing more satisfying in the world of learning than a success after some struggle or even failure. Allowing children to make mistakes and fail, creates a safe space to actually learn and make connections. Striving for excellence is not the same as striving for perfection. If a child expects perfection, they will inevitably fail because, YOU GUYS (or maybe I should start working in ya’ll) PERFECTION IS NOT REAL. If a child expects excellence however, there is more wiggle room for errors in the process.

What Gives Me Joy: Wouldn’t it be neat if I could say something like “ I love failing!”, or “Making mistakes is a blast!”? It sure would. But I can’t honestly say that, so I won’t. I do love learning and have come to terms with the fact that learning often involves making a mistake or two. So this week I’ll say that I am joyful about getting better at making mistakes and being patient with myself and others.

The joy of learning. Together.


Quick Tips: Dealing with Failure


In a society where every child gets a prize for participating, how can we help our children lose with grace? Let’s face it, after childhood you stop getting awards for participation. This unfortunate reality is hard to swallow especially when children have very little experience with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting praise, respect, and cheering on aren’t necessary. I am suggesting however, that we aren’t doing our children any favors by contantly giving them awards for simply showing up. To put it into perspective, when was the last time you were given a trophy for being on time for work? Or a handed a pretty ribbon for cleaning up the dinner dishes? There are plenty of loving and wonderful things you can do to help a child be an active participant in their academics, sports, and other extracurricular activities without feeling like they need to receive something to make it all worth while. The gift of losing gracefully is the ability to see that your worth is inherently always there, win or lose. If a child can master this mindset success will follow. Below are a few quick tips to help you child deal with failure. More to come next week!

  • Positive verbal affirmations. For example: “You did you’re best and I’m so proud of you!” It’s important to give them authentic praise. Skip going overboard with made-up compliments to ease their pain. You can certainly find things that they did well and praise them accordingly.
  • Point out the fun that was had even when they lose and help them explore things they can be proud of. For example: “What was your favorite part of today?” and “I know you lost, and what do you think you did well?”
  • Let them be sad about losing and talk them through their feelings. Sometimes the disappointment of losing is very strong and should be addressed. Allow them the space to feel sad about it, and then help them move on.


I have been thinking a lot about kindness. The experience of kindness is undoubtely integral to learning and flourishing. We cannot grow and learn in a classroom, in a home, or in a community where there is an absence of kindness. I believe that there is no more important endeavor than to be kind to others and to exercise empathy. I know that if kindness is my first goal, then everything else I strive to accomplish will be positively affected.

Let’s start at the beginning with a basic and important question. What is kindness? It seems like such a silly question, but it’s not. Let’s pretend for a moment that a child you care about asked you to answer that question. What would you say? How would you explain or summarize what kindness is? What would you hope they understood from your definition? Do you embody kindness in the way you would explain it to this child? If not, why not? If so, how so? You see, it’s not really a simple question because it involves so much action. In the next handful of posts I will be discussing the topic of kindness, and as kindness is action I would like to hear from my readers! Tell me, how do you define kindness?

The kinds hands one of my past 3rd grade classes

The joy of learning. Together.


The Power of “Yet”

What I’m Reading:  “Brain Based Strategies to Reduce Test Stress” by Judy Willis. This article is an interesting, relevant, and a quick read. Tests are, for most children, a stressor. I found Willis’s ideas to be insightful and she gave some nice tips for teachers (but parents could utilize them as well). If you would like to read it yourself, follow the link.

Building Confident Learners: Most people aren’t good at something the first time they try it. Remind your child that it’s OK to be bad at something initially. The stamina it takes to keep trying is where they will find success.

What Gives Me Joy: Creating. I’ve been a huge crocheting kick recently and have made a few different projects. Here’s the thing, I’m not very good at it. Yet. Ahh, the glorious power of yet when learning something new!


The joy of learning. Together.