Tuesday, December 22, 2015

One Word 2016 #Yes

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For the past three years, because of a book I have documented my year's goal into one word. Not my school year, that is way to easy. In fact, it was not just about work, it was and is about life.

As October ended and November came closer, I tried to listen to my heart and feel the pulse of my own life. Then I would end up by my birthday in December wondering if my heart is listening closely enough. I would seek inspiration. Inspiration which comes from many places, from friends, Twitter, my church, books, conferences, things that went well and then the epic fails throughout the year. Sometimes it is hard to wait for what the One Word will be, but waiting is what you are supposed to do.

  • Twiddle thumbs
  • Look at clouds 
  • Daydream in cars
  • Stare at coffee
  • Sing songs
  • Read books
  • Laugh
  • Pray

Just when you think that you are not listening to your heart, the word that is going to shape your next year is whispered. With a strain, you ask for it to be repeated, perhaps just a bit louder this time but it is not louder. It is whispered with a power so strongly that you know that this is your word. Now, what does it mean?

Back tracking to 2014 my One Word was #bebrave. (I know, it is two words but I used a hashtag right?) If I think about it, what was I brave doing? Going back for my masters finally. Stepping into the wide world of social media, reading books just for fun and learning for the sake of learning! Jumping to 2015, my One Word was #Northstar (again, I know it is two and again, thank you hashtag system). To me that meant becoming more aware of the three bandits: too many activities, CAVE (Complain About Virtually Everything) people and materialism that  try to take me away from my true purpose, and trading it in for important chances, big dreams, direction, discernment, peace, joy, love and hope. I  focused on knowing what things, people or situations to pick up and what things to put down and to rid myself of things that do not matter. I backed off from over extending my time on social media and I do miss the crazy Twitter chats and Voxer groups that seemed to consume me, sometimes. I dabble, but don't participate nearly as much. I stopped doing activities and allowing energy zappers and CAVE people to have any power to make or break my day. I moved from a nice big house and consolidated it to one half the size and gave away so many things that I knew could bless others, but I no longer needed. I focused so well this year that I graduated with my masters from Bethel University in July and walked in December 2015.

In my season of waiting for some type of bolt of lightening, clouds to part and angels to descend to tap me on the shoulder I went to #ties15. Before I went, I knew that Brad Waid was going to be there for presentations as well as George Couros  and I was excited. Who wouldn't be.

Now, I am not saying that Brad and George are angels sent to Earth in human form to speak supernaturally to human hearts, but they are close and that is good enough. As George spoke, I felt a flutter. In my last session with Brad, I heard the whisper. Really, it is like a whisper. A nudge, a flutter of angel wings, a sudden gasp in your lungs when you know that you know and that is all that you know.

The whisper said YES and that is all I know. So that is my One Word 2016 #Yes (oh look, one word!). What will I say yes to? Adventure? Love? Life? Cheesecake? Presenting more at education conferences? Maybe I don't need to know my YES right now..I just enjoy life, love, laughter, trust God and find out. So from the breath in me to the breath in you, what is your One Word?

Whatever it is, may it be your foundation for this year ahead with all the joys, pain, highs and lows that come with it.



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One Word 365

One Word

Sunday, December 6, 2015

For the LOVE of Our Village

If you have heard the saying once, you have heard the saying twice: "It takes a village to raise a child." Maybe you have brushed it off, because some may think it is really an overused saying. It is not.

Community partnerships are ESSENTIAL for the success of any school. Not for the school or the students to survive school, but for them to thrive.

I came across a book about three years ago now that Joe Mazza introduced me to. It fascinated me and if there is one book that should be in the hands of all administrators in a district, the PTO team as well as teachers is Beyond the Bake Sale.

There are two  arching themes from this book:

  1. Families are  the key stakeholders and should be treated as such for any school improvement to happen. 
  2. To leave out the community and others who care about children from school involvement is a sure fire way to kill school improvement.

Many people have within them, a passion for partnership. It is that passion and that partnership that elevates a school and changes lives.

For the LOVE of Our Village

I teach in a rural school in Central Minnesota.  I strive everyday to help students take ownership over their learning, believe in themselves, dream and grow as members of the community and the world...all coming back to creative, curious and diverse learners. That's all I want them to be and and I do my best to facilitate that by creating authentic learning situations through providing personalized learning as well as through books and items for our Makerspace.

Though most days, I am in the classroom alone, I want to tell you that I did not do this alone.

I want to take time to honor those who have stood with me in in the classroom, either by physical presence or financial contributions.

  • We have variety of angels in the form of parents who are a team of supporters who have provided for our classroom their TIME as well as resources like items for our classroom Makerspace and books for our bookshelves. 
  • We have Grandma Mary who comes in twice a week for a long, long time and sits with the students and listens to them read, plays games with them as well as takes the time to hear the heartbeat that the students want to share with her. She is magnificently loved by us.
  • We have a community friend who has gone above and beyond what many people do and supported our classroom with silent gifts and last year with a pizza party. 
  • There are astounding people from Donor's Choose who have surprised our classroom with gifts.
  • Random people who attended the Minnesota Twins game the day that Adopt-A-Classroom was there and donated to our classroom which I used for Christmas gifts this year for the students.
  • We had two separate families from church that supplied our class with winter hats as well as two drones.
  • The school PTO donated two sets of LEGO robotics that had the students buzzing.
  • I wrote a grant for our district and was given a gift to design and create a school wide Makerspace filled with many wonderful things to create and do!
  • I have a superintendent and a principal who are supportive of the learners in our classroom and encouraging and I can't tell you what a difference that makes in my classroom.

I am not telling the story of giving in my classroom to be boastful. I am telling the story because this changed my students lives in our classroom and I am so humbled and grateful. I must give thanks.

I am a single mom with two kids of my own and on a teacher's income striving to make our classroom learning journey exceptional and memorable. I have a small classroom stipend and I spend my own money as well. I also spend a great deal of time reaching out to people and telling them how absolutely fabulous the learners in my classroom are. I share the joy of them I tell the story of their learning and experiences on Instagram and on Twitter. I shout from the roof tops: MY STUDENTS ROCK. I reach out to others because I know that others want to help. I provide ways that they can help by making lists and talking bravely about classroom needs. People want to help. People want to invest in the future, and as Whitney Houston sings, I too believe that the children are the future!

Huffington Post
Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: "My mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world."

This is our story, it is a story of supernatural occurrences in my classroom and a story of many human angels reaching out to help. Turn on the TV or read the news on the internet, it is filled with the saddest of stories that tear apart our souls and cause our eyes to well in tears and our hearts to break. It is filled with stories that enrage our spirit. You will see bad things if you look for bad things. 

I look for the good in humanity and in situations and this is what showcase to the students, looking for the good. These have been our helpers and this has been our good. Some might think that what people are providing for my class is just toys, however, that could not be further from the truth. We received through their giving, non tangible gifts.

These are the lasting gifts the helpers in my classroom have given to my students:

  • Relationship building
  • Collaboration
  • Imagination
  • Creativity
  • Traveling to places and through time travel by reading books
  • Mattering

To those who have given in tangible ways through gifts and time in our classroom, thank you. You are stepping into a child's life and speaking life into them and making an impact that lasts a lifetime. To those who give in a variety of ways in classrooms around the world, it matters...that is all. 

It does take LOVE in many kinds to do this, thank you for loving our village, our classroom. It takes a village who together take the time to stop the chaos and the noise of life to hear the heartbeat of a child in magnificent ways. You matter. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Quality: The Heartbeat of Education

His name was Tom and this was his guide. He talked about it ALL.THE.TIME. 

If there is anything left of goodness in the world, it is this memory of him. I believe it was me, a novice and green teacher working with him for a few years that shaped me the most as a co-worker to become who I am today. I learned to stop and look at the situation from the student's perspective first. I learned to not care if the desks were in rows, as long as the students were learning. I learned to laugh a lot, I learned not to teach from the front of the room. I learned to take things in stride.  

Maybe it has been a while since you opened up the pages to this book. Perhaps you are looking for a book that will change the culture of learning at your school. 

If you have not read this book, here are the key points:

Students’ Needs Come First
  • Students sense belonging when they receive positive attention from the teacher and others and participate actively in class concerns
  • School environment is kept safe and free from personal threat
  • Students participate in making decisions about topics to be studied and procedure for working in class or assigns them responsibility for class duties
  • Students experience fun by working and talking with others
  • Students sense freedom when the teacher allows them to make responsible choices concerning what they will study, how they will do so, and how they will demonstrate their accomplishments
Quality Curriculum

  • Schools must be places where students learn useful information and learn it well
  • If students are old enough you may ask them to identify what they would like to explore deeper (Geniushour)
  • Depth of understanding combined with a good grasp of value
  • Ask students regularly to assess the quality of their own efforts
Quality Teaching
  • Provide a warm, supportive classroom climate
  • Use lead teaching rather than boss teaching
  • Ask students only to do work that is useful 
  • Always ask students to do the best they can
  • Help students learn to use reflection
  • Help students recognize that doing quality work makes them feel good

Whew! Looking at this list, it would be hard to achieve this without a cost: sweat, blood and tears. The cost is deciding that school is all about the students and their families. It is a school where student voice thrives. It is a school where as my friend Angela Maiers so eloquently and simply states, "Mattering IS the agenda!"

In many schools stakeholders are competing for who has the control or the power and often its a misinterpretation of power. Case in point: Grading. Does a teacher GIVE grades or does a student EARN grades? Grading is not supposed to be a power play. 

Glasser would say that we can navigate this by looking at what we are doing in our school culture to nurture caring habits or to bring about bad habits. 

Seven Caring Habits
  • Supporting
  • Encouraging
  • Listening
  • Accepting
  • Trusting
  • Respecting
  • Negotiating differences

Seven Deadly Habits
  • Criticizing
  • Blaming
  • Complaining
  • Nagging
  • Threatening
  • Punishing
  • Bribing or rewarding to control
The end point is that leadership is not supposed to be from top down. I like how Deborah Walker described it in the Constructivist Leader

"Leader Among Leaders Leaders: They recognize their limitations and who is in the best position to lead and work to establish organizational processes to encourage others to lead and learn together." 

The #vachat (7PM CST) was all about this on Monday night, growing leaders, but it is hard to grow leaders when the lead learner of the school is not leading. A friend of mine faces a everyday and real struggle with this and deals with leadership manipulation, coercion, bullying and lies. It is a battle of the mind to get to work, but my friend goes because of who they are serving, the students are the WHY.

I want to tip my hat to my friends who set the bar high, from whom I love learning, laughing and sometimes breaking bread with. They are excellent lead learners. They are risk takers, they continue in the trailblazing path that Glasser forged. They are putting students first. They are making learning relevant. They are people who I would call as Walker did, a "Leader Among Leaders."

You become like the people you hang around with:

Andre Meadows, Brookport Elementary, Illinois

If it had not been for Tom and at the time, our fantastic lead learner, Mr. James Fennick, I am sure I would not be who I am today. They set me on the right path, they modeled excellence in education for me from the get-go. Thank you for helping me daily remember that the heartbeat of education is a quality school and a quality classroom.

(Tom is still working as a education coach in his school in Anoka-Hennepin, but not active on social media. ) 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Fill Buckets, Light Fires: Geniushour

Long before the word GENIUSHOUR was part of my everyday vernacular, I sought ways to be a cultivator of genius at school. It was not through science fair projects or the wonderful production of Romeo and Juliet that the fifth graders put on for the school and families in my classroom (though using a lunchroom cart with wheels was clever). It also went above and beyond the times I would do a Reading Wax Museum. It was instead found in the 15 minute window each day before school was over when the students would share with the class something that they were working on just for fun or a talent that they were mastering.

Classic Example: My fourth- fifth grade looping classroom when Dan was in there, 2001-2003.  Dan asked if all the desks and chairs could be pushed to the side of the room. We were entertained with a wonderful rendition of Schawan's Lake. No, not Swan's, Schawan's as in the ice cream and frozen food company that many Minnesotan's use. Through leaps and bounds from one side of the room to another, Dan told the story of the secret affair of his grandmother with the Schawan's delivery man without a single word spoken. Genius.

We laughed. His family was mortified, just mortified.

His mother, Mrs. N. said that she at first thought I was the worst teacher ever for her very intellectual child who excelled at what I call, "Doing School." She was nervous as he would come home with stories and escapades of shenanigans in our room with a twinkle in his eye and in him was unleashed a power to be free to be him and explore parts of him that his family never knew were there. Mrs. N. later said that she loved the way her son became alive and we still remain good friends. She adamantly proclaimed that the story of Schawan's Lake was far, far from the truth and she can't imagine where Dan got all the ideas in his head. However, in the end, she found it so humorous and it is a tale that is retold in their family. 

Dan is now in his second year of teaching in Colorado. He teaches middle school. He has an adventuresome spirit still that has led him to study overseas, to explore new people groups, languages and food. Dan is fully alive and is happy being Dan.


Geniushour is just like that. It sets aside time to bring people to life. Every child is filled with trillions of genius DNA inside of them itching to break free and to leap across the room, tell a story, share their passion for something, or speak from the depths of their souls. Geniushour is for all students and as unique as the sunrise or sunset on any given day, full of radiance and soul resting beauty. I love whatever geniushour brings, but mostly it's the celebration of individuality.

Now, the first trimester presentations are now in the books. Geniushour was about drawing, knitting, tree climbing, movies, singing, reading, hunting and math.  We learned about drawing, rockets and baking. We were treated to two breathtaking reflections on the essence of family in society. We also enjoyed a student's journey into family history as well as a student who wanted to share about her love of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

What people didn't see is the genius forming in the depths of the students heart and mind. The things that they had to tell themselves in order to step to the front of the classroom which sometimes was filled with almost 60 people. There had been tears in the process, a fight with the unknown, battles with what students had told themselves in their thought language and what was actually truth. There was a war within the human soul as students wrestled with faith in themselves. There were many I Can'ts that became Maybe I Cans.

What you didn't see is the time we took to study genius through Angela Maier's book Liberating Genius this year and the videos we studied about people's genius. We watched Ted Talks during morning meeting about people who were and are overcomers. We studied Eric Palmer's PVLEGS as we went along our journey into genius together.

Some will say, "Geniushour takes so much time and we just don't have the time."

I will say that nothing matters more than the freedom to be alive and to self express. School is not about learning to read and to understand math. It is a framework for foundation building. Geniushour mixed with sweat and tears, laughter and encouragement is the foundation that grows strong and healthy life long learners who I believe, become productive adults in society full of life and seeking to bring out the genius in people that they meet along their way. We all have a genius. It is the song of each person's heart that complements the talents and skills we were born with. It is what makes us fully alive.

As the first trimester comes to a close, I am thankful for all the parents that came to our school over three days for to support the whole class. I believe that it takes a whole village to raise a child and strong parent unity makes a difference. I could not be a quality teacher without the parents because they matter and because they are the first teachers and I'm just one extra human standing in the gap with them for a season in their child's journey.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Thankful Learner

Once upon a time, I met a wonderful friend who introduced me to a wonderful friend.

Has that happened to you? If you are a connected educator, I am sure it has.

I could list for you all the people that I have learned from in the wide world of Twitter or Facebook who have radically changed my life. Actually, I did do that. Then I deleted it. It looked more like a year book entry from my senior year of high school.

What I want to share with you is what I know now that I didn't...and I learned it all from you.

You encouraged me in my love of sharing one another's story and taught how to use something simple like 30 Hands or something more challenging like Touch Cast and everything in between to share a story.
Designed for me by Oliver Shinkten

From you, I learned billions of things about Google and other Google-ly things upon other Google-ly things and my mind exploded and then I realized that there is no way I can keep up and it is more like an a la carte line and you just pick up what you need and what works for your set of learners.

I learned about Blab, Periscope and GHO-ing and how that changes and brings people together to learn and how to use these for more ways to share stories.

Who ever it was that told me about Voxer, I'll never remember. Then, I joined Voxer groups; then I left Voxer groups because my phone exploded. Now I am limited my Voxer groups to just a few groups and that too is okay!

I became a TLAP educator because of you and kept sailing my pirate ship waving new flags like PVLEGS and Geniushour lover and how to put that all together in my classroom.

I fell in love with edcamps and then I went to more edcamps because of you and when you pointed me to TED Talks I figured out how to bring the spirit of both into the classroom.

You stepped back from the front of the classroom, so I bravely became the lead learner, not the Alpha and Omega of knowledge and I am very comfortable with letting the students own their own learning and to share out their learning without me.

I noticed when you remove your desk from your classroom. You created rotating office spaces in different areas of your schools so that you were no longer hiding behind desks and walls so I bravely did and pushed the students to find learning spaces in the room that fit them as well.

You stopped insanely grading piddly assignments and TOLD me you were D.O.N.E ... and so I did and I try to have very authentic and meaningful things to do...and sometimes, that is on paper, but not always.

You embraced your failures and learning through it and I became able to face plant myself in my failures and rise again without embarrassment...just a growth mindset.

I saw you love teaching and learning and I discovered that I still did too and you helped me find my way back to my roots (when I wanted to quit and join a circus) and find you why and I know know my why and that is my North Star.

I discovered books...upon books and yet, more books written by you and then Amazon and I formed a monthly relationship, and I was changed by Beyond the Bake Sale and Teach Like A Pirate and Creating Innovators.

You taught me the importance of helping others in my sphere of influence know that they mattered and that mattering is the agenda and why we are here and what teaching needs to be all about.

I learned explored many new streets and I have seen many wonderful things that I just can't even nail down to how it will fit with my classroom, but it is pretty neat-o in yours and I celebrate that we can have wonderful classrooms filled with gifted educators dedicated to passionate learning.

Mostly, I have learned and I have seen the world through  your eyes, virtually stepped into your classrooms and looked around. I have used my passport to learning well.

In this month of gratefulness and reflection, I know that my entire life was changed because of you and I am eternally grateful.  For all that we have learned together and for all that we will continue to learn together, I am eternally grateful.

Because of you, I am. Thank you.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Book: Fish In A Tree

Fish In A Tree: You know it's a good - GREAT book when you crack the page and cry almost the whole way through. You can buy the book HERE. Your students need it and your family at home needs it for read-alouds. 

My heart sings louder, I can do better!

My heart pounds stronger, be the change!

My heart was not prepared to be broken as it was. I feel so completely broken from reading this because of my striving to meet edu-professional responsibilities. 

I have come to the end of my road. 

I'm a teacher who is madly in love with learning and empowering students to go on a journey of learning...and that has nothing to do with ed policies. This book is why I am a teacher madly in love with helping students know they belong.  

A long, long time ago when I was a wee little girl I learned this song by the Gaithers:

"I am a promise,
I am a possibility
I am a promise with a capital "P";
I can be anything, anything God wants me to be..."

We are all a promise. Each gift of life that is in our classroom is there, not to just take up space in a desk or a name in a grade book of some kind...they are there because they are our promise. 

My name is Kimberly, each day I teach knowing that my audience is an audience full of promises. They ARE the promise. 

In a world of education where students are being compared, say ENOUGH!

In a world where teachers are being compared, say ENOUGH!

In a world of brokenness, with people seeking accolades to be better than each other, will you join me in saying You Are Enough? Come, just as you are. You are worthy of being in this great big world..full of your gifts, talents and dreams.  It is so crucial for hearts to know and for minds to hear and for actions to speak that the student is ENOUGH!

 It's time to say ENOUGH.

Worth More Thank Gold: Britt Nicole


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Speak Life!


Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind is a lie. A big fat lie. I am tired of it and I am going to stare it down and swing my one stone and knock it down.

My whole squad of dollies and stuffies that I used to teach when I was five and I are ready. Yes, I always wanted to be a teacher, that is not a secret. I wanted to help people fall in love with learning and I have known this since I was that little. Years of planning for this in life prior to university studies could not have prepared me for how my mind races now, and it is not racing to the top. Yes, maybe we did leave no child behind (wait that is NOT true) but this whole agenda HAS left great teachers behind and in many cases without sanity.

Am I to be congratulated because my students tested well? Am I to be lead to the stockades for ridicule because they don't? It is so much pressure and you know what happens when people are under pressure, they break.

Displaying 2015-10-10 19.33.56.jpgIt is sham...I mean, it is a shame that we are trying so hard to stay present and live in the moment that education IS right now. It  will wear on you. The pressure is intense and there is NO way that anyone can say that they can't feel it, because we are being turned into scapegoats for everything going wrong in education and the goats are being led to a death trap. So here are your choices: Stay in. Bite your tongue. Do it this way. Or get out.

Those are your choices.

What is sacrificed? Me..my joy...my love of teaching is on the butchering block and it is becoming more my job, not my joy. The creative aspects that all teachers bring to the table, the respect of professionalism that teachers have is questioned when we are brave enough to question.

But I AM questioning, because I know in the depths of my heart this focus on data as we race to the top is wrong. The way teachers are measured on data is wrong. I know it and so do you.

Today, I went to a funeral for a student's mom. He has moved on from my room and is now a sixth grader and yet like you, once a student of ours, always a student of ours..right? Right.

And in a room where we all have gathered because of a death, life was celebrated.

Its the life of children that need to be celebrated, not scores. It is their hopes and dreams that matter, not a test score. It is their talents that matter, not a test score.

I have felt trapped. I have felt like the walls of school are not speaking life. They are speaking death. In a place buzzing with noise and people, there is a feeling of death. Maybe you like me have come home from work burnt out and on the verge of tears. Who am I kidding, not even on the verge, the tears just come. School....doing school is like this right now.

Where as, at a funeral where we ponder life's final whispers here on earth, life was spoken.


No one in that room was there to talk about test scores that she may have received on the back in the day the Iowa Basics which were given once a year. No, they were there to talk about how Mrs. P. lived her life. What made her unique, not standardized.

What mattered? Her laughter, the way she put others needs ahead of her own, the bravery she had to fight her battle, the way she loved with no limits her husband her two children. The way the faith she had changed how she "did life."

My student is more than a test score, he is now a boy that lost his mother and if we don't recognize and honor the journeys that the students are on outside our doors, we won't know the student. Data tracked from testing intensely doesn't help us know a student. Guess what? It ends up that no one discussed even Mrs. P's report card.

Don't wait for the funeral to speak life! Do it now!

This is a call from my heart to speak life!

Shout it loudly from the rooftops, whisper it in the corner where people are hiding. You matter! You have a purpose and it is a valid one! You are a gift! You are unique! Say it over and over the students. Say it over over their families.

Speak life into the walls of your classroom, of your school. It starts with seeing the child and looking at the student..finding their why..and helping them discover elements of understanding so they know that they are not a data point. They are human beings.

You don't need to be a scapegoat for an agenda that has nothing to do with mattering. You can be the change. The change needs to start with each of us as individuals..and then collectively saying WE are not test scores and neither are our students.

Speak life, before it is too late and you burn out the light in your own heart and in the hearts of the students. Don't hide it under a bushel. Let your light shine. Be the best you you can be because the world needs you to whisper not data points but to speak life.

I am worthy of this. You are worthy of this and so are all your students and staff.

Speak Life: Toby Mac

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dear Diary

October 7, 2015

Dear Diary,

It is only October and I am wiped out. I come home every single day and I am so worn out.  Oh, please don't tell me that I need to drink a energy shake and push it through. No, that will not do. I don't need to rejoin a fitness club and burn off my stress.

I need for the stress to subside.

But how did I get this stressed anyhow? Goodness! I mean my MEd program is over and for awhile, I don't have any papers left to write. That was hard...to teach, parent and go to school myself.

I have backed off social media and became more of a stalker. I have not participated in Twitter chats since...when? I don't even know.

What is my stress? It is hard to nail that down. Is it the insane amount of crazy and unrealistic expectations that keep coming down the line?

No, I think that is a huge problem, but not the source of my stress.

I think it is more like a fight inside of me. I am trying to do my best at so many things that are expected of teachers but feel like I don't do any of them well. I want to do things well. I want to "exceed" at all the things that I do.  How is that possible to exceed when I can't ever catch up, take a breath without drowning in what is not yet done. I think I am stressed because I am trying to keep it all together...this ruse I cover myself with is drowning me.

So, I am just going to come clean. I don't have it all together and instead of comparing myself to others, I am going to own my load and try to shift things around so that I can balance better. I am taking the advice of my pastor...when you bring one thing new into your life, do everything possible to take two things out.

So if I have not been keeping up with my own blog or yours lately, I am sorry. If I have not been in your Twitter chat, I am sorry. If I have skipped over your voxes, I am sorry. I am sorry and yet, not sorry. What I gained back and brought back into balance was my family. That matters.

Perspective matters. This is my fight song.

Friday, September 4, 2015

I can't wait for the TED Talks Again!

"Also, some ambitious teachers encourage their students to present their own TED-style talks - and perhaps their very own actual TED Talks." From Liberating Genius Angela Maiers​ 

I can't tell you HOW this process changed me last year. Watching the genius of students come alive during their TED Talks and spending three days crying with pride and joy over them was magnificent. Their theme was: You can see photos of their Ted Talks here in my Instagram account (Scan down and look for students standing on or by a red circle). I was too busy listening and taking one photo and could not make a video. I would have cried too much and the whole video would have been shaky!

How To Be AWESOME When things are not awesome. 

This year's theme is:

The Change Begins With ME In Grade Three! 

Stay tuned for the TED Talks again in May before Labor Day! I can't wait to see how the students will talk about their passions and how they will be the change!

In between September 8-June 3 is the opportunity for me to partner with their families and their community to speak life! What a gift! These are people's babies..their heart and soul and I MUST not ever forget that.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Seeing People, Seeing In Color

Life is best seen when you see it through many, many colors and we start to teach infants to see things in colors from the day they are born. 

We teach them to see color in art, in nature and in animals as they get older. Black Lives Matter protested peacefully without any incidents in front of the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday. I did not see the protest because I was working at the fair at #mathonastick but I did see the 10 o'clock news when I got home and I did read some Facebook feeds where people said or wrote the most interesting thing: "I don't see color." I have heard people say this before and it has baffled me.

Allow me back track.

I have taught before units on color and I know that color happens when light strikes an object and then the reflection hits our eyes. To see color in art, you have to open your eyes. 

Color As Infants:

Maybe you have seen or even  yourself created a nursery for a soon to be born infant. My guess it is that when you were thinking about it, you were not hoping to make it as boring as possible. When you bought toys for the infant, you did not select ones that were void of colors. No, you picked the bright ones, the bold ones (and maybe the loud ones!).

"Vision, and how the brain uses visual information, are learned skills.From birth, babies begin exploring the wonders in the world with their eyes. Even before they learn to reach and grab with their hands or crawl and sit-up, their eyes are providing information and stimulation important for their development. Although an infant's color vision is not as sensitive as an adult's, it is generally believed that babies have good color vision by five months of age." 

Color In Art: 


At some point, students have learned about the color wheel in an art class, if your school still has one. If they don't there are many color wheels to be found at paint stores and fabric stores in the form of samples and swatches.  Maybe you have purchased or you yourself loved the big box of 64 color crayons! Color plays a huge role in art. There are properties that people learn about as they study art such as art has values, intensities and hues.

Color in Nature:

Color is everywhere in nature! Our Great Creator was quite the artist and often, it was done with a sense of humor. From the variety of hues of greens, yellows or purples to the sunrise and sunset, color is everywhere. You can even look at the Animal Kingdom and see so many colors that make that animal special and unique

Color in People: 

If this is all so, if color is in us since infancy and we study it in art and find it in nature, why do people tell others that they don't see color when it comes to racial backgrounds? Why do people say, "I am teaching my kids not to see color."

I think that when we do that we are undoing all the blessings of beauty that color brings us and it reduces us to live in a type of Giver utopian society of dullness.  Living a life in living color allows us to see differences and allows those differences to create a beautiful world and even make us beautiful.

I love this quote from Kids R Kids: "Children have a universal language of love, laughter, and acceptance. It doesn’t matter what culture they represent, the common denomination in the heart of a child is the desire to enjoy a loving, nurturing and supportive environment. As long as children are having fun and being treated kindly, the difference in appearance is not important to them."

Even by a very young age, children notice racial differences and then I think what happens is that well meaning parents say...if you say you notice it, then you may be labeled a racist or something, so shhh! Don't say a thing! In doing that, you have told them that seeing color is wrong. Colors are wrong.

So, what can we do instead? We can celebrate the colors. Celebrate the differences because those differences are there to help us be a better society. We can start by taking just a few steps. It is a hard one and a brave one.

First, seek to understand then be understood (Steven Covey,). Taking the time to understand others, their holidays, their struggle in society, to talk with them about hopes and dreams and to do life big along side of them is where we can be game changers is world.

In Mr. Covey's book he has Be Proactive as the first step. I think when it comes to the issue of colors and race, we can do this by stepping out and realizing that the power is within us to "Be the change" as Gandhi said.

Begin with the end in mind: If you want your children to live in a colorful world, then involve your family in opportunities that take them out of their own cul-de-sac and in to places where other cultures are alive and thriving. Eat food from different countries and cultures and learn about those cultures at home around the dinner table. Pray for missionaries and others serving in other countries and learn about the people groups they are serving.  Success for seeing a world full of colors first starts at home.

Think Win Win: Practicing life by making valuable deposits in other people's life such as serving along side of them and truly wanting the best for them because the best for you lies within first wanting the best in others. If they hurt, you hurt too.

Synergize: Knowing that people can disagree and that no one person is right is a break through as we learn to see colors in races.

The habit of putting first things first is so alive in us when we put people first. For example, I love my church's motto: Love God, Love People and Serve the World. When we can truly see other people first, not ourselves I think we have put down our foot and said...NO, not my family, not I myself...not my home we will not live in colorless world, but acknowledge that color is out there and embrace it all with joy!

Finally when time is taken to sharpen the saw, we can find renewal. We can't teach or preach something that we do not ourselves understand or believe in. The more we know, the more our saw is sharpened and the better we are equipped to serve other.

Black lives matter. All lives matter. Let's go back to living in a world of beautiful colors! Let's go back to living in a world were race and the colors of our skin do not separate us, but draw us together as we learn with and from one another. My family comes in many colors of black, white and brown. I am complete when I know that and celebrate that!

Seeing in color is really in the end, all about LOVE! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Let's Roll: Seeds for Learning

As I get ready to start up my blogging again ( I discovered I have not blogged since state testing in April of 2015 and took all summer off) this is what I am keeping in my mind and writing on my heart.

It is more important for teachers, students as well as families to focus on learning and the process of learning more than a grade.

In the season of sowing that the years of elementary are, be skillful farmers and gardeners. Know your soil, water it well and fertilize it with the correct things for that crop. Each student is a different seed that you are planting. They need different things, but collectively they need love, nurture, attention, and guidance on how to go from a little seed and push
through the ground, grow strong in the light, take in the nutrients and become the seed they were designed to be.

A focus on grades won't do that. A focus on learning will.

So, Let's Roll!
Third Grade: Ms.Horst ‪#‎LS125‬ (class hashtag)
Class song: Fight Song

Student motto: The change begins with me in grade three (‪#‎geniushour‬ theme)

Teacher motto: Growing Creative, Curious and Diverse Learners One Day At A Time.

Full of: SeeSaw, Read Theory, Front Row, the 40 book challenge (Book Whisperer), ‪#‎stu2stuchat‬, innovation, PBL, Osmo, drones, Makey Makey, Legos, makerspace stuff, giggles, you matter, hugs and high fives.

To result in: Learners who take ownership over their learning, love learning, believe in themselves, dream and grow as members of the community and the world...all coming back to creative, curious and diverse learners. That's all I want them to be.

Its going to be a great school year! Happy 2015-2016 everyone!