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.