Friday, October 20, 2017

3 Ways to Find Comfort With Discomfort

I’ve had several recent conversations with friends, educators and non-educators, about discomfort. Several of these conversations stemmed from the news that a school pulled “To Kill A Mockingbird” because it made kids uncomfortable. My Goodness! And, all of these conversations revolved around today’s students and how education treats them in regards to their discomfort. For whatever reason, fear of lawsuits, not enough resources to deal with the parent complaints, wanting desperately to be “short term liked” by the student, or whatever else it may be… education has fallen down the slippery slope of helping students avoid discomfort. It’s not the students’ fault...they’re kids! We cannot expect them to know how good discomfort is for them and their future self. Yet we help them avoid discomfort as if THEY know what they need. We allow them to blame outside forces all too often by turning verbiage into a perpetrator that we call a “trigger word”. Our focus has shifted to the outside force instead of building capability to deal with it inside the impacted person.

We are the adults and WE should know that real life will make us uncomfortable, no matter how smart we are or how well our intentions may be. We absolutely WILL have to face discomfort and the only way to overcome this when we are adults and don’t have educational support is to encounter this as often as possible when we are young and DO have support to help us learn how to deal with it instead of avoiding it.

So, how do we help kids “deal with it” once we commit to refraining from helping them avoid it? I think there are a ton of different frameworks that can work. Different people have different ways of talking about facing discomfort and tackling it head on. But, I don’t think this is a “one and done” topic for anyone. Like staying healthy, it’s a lifestyle approach that needs to be constantly fed. I feed my skill in dealing with discomfort with these three simple (it has to be simple if it’s gonna work for me) moves that I believe are simple enough to use with kids as well:

Find The Funny
There is comedy in discomfort! Having the ability to laugh at reality is a crucial life skill, even though sometimes the laughing is at one’s own self. One of my biggest areas of discomfort used to be the “awkward silence”, especially when in groups. For me, I spent a LOT of my life uncomfortable with the absence of sound. About 10 years ago, I was attending regular meetings led by someone who was magnificent at creating awkward silence. I absolutely hated it at first. Then a co-worker (also in regular attendance of those meetings) said to me, “You ever look around the room during the awkward silences? It’s hysterical.” That right there cured my discomfort with awkward silence...for good. If we can help kids find the funny in discomfort, we can help them laugh and laughing cures quite a bit of things...even discomfort.

Own The Squirm
A good chunk of my discomfort comes from trying to hide it from others. I’ve found that I can usually cut (if not eliminate) discomfort in half if I can conjure up the energy to make it known, to everyone involved, that I’m uncomfortable with something. Simply pushing out the words, “Holy cow, I’m so not comfortable with this right now” does wonders for me and the anxiety that buddies around with discomfort. If we can help kids own what makes them squirm, we can help them rid some of their nervousness that hinders their performance during uncomfortable situations.

Go Alone
Finally, the coach in me wraps up with “Practice Practice Practice”. Getting better will not just happen, especially when under pressure, even if we know about tips and tricks. Les Brown says “If you do what’s hard, life will be easy.” So, I do things that are hard to get better at doing things that are hard. I am constantly finding ways to put myself into uncomfortable scenarios that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t truly matter. I do triathlons for two equal reasons: 1. To stay healthy  2. Because it makes me better at being uncomfortable. Triathlons and the associated training are my way of practicing being uncomfortable, by myself, in low stakes settings. If I suck at it, nobody knows or really cares. It allows me to find the funny by laughing at myself when I vomit in the middle of a run. It allows me to own the squirm by talking to other racers about how nervous I get at the start line. I’m not saying that we should all be long distance racers. But we can all help kids find something to do on their own that initiates the practice of getting better with discomfort in situations where screwing up won’t have life altering impacts.

So, next time a kid (someone else’s or our own child) starts squirming, complains of discomfort, let’s help them through it instead of getting them out of it!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Consolidating Docs

This time of year has us in a spot where we’ve got a LOT of stuff. Most teachers AND students are looking to consolidate and clean up before we head out for the summer. There’s a great tool from Alice Keeler that will automatically consolidate Google Doc work into one spreadsheet for us and our students. Just click here to get the template tool and check it out!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Drawing For Learning With AutoDraw

Illustrating is such a great way to demonstrate a concept. Sometimes I want to draw and show something & sometimes I want my kiddos to draw a concept to show how they are picturing it. However, I draw pictures as well as United Airlines draws passenger names “randomly”. Luckily, our friends at Google have tapped into some awesome artists to make a super simple, magical drawing tool that can make anyone look like DaVinci. Just go to and start drawing. Your task options are in the bottom left corner, color options are located in the bottom right and the smart images from which you can choose are located in a row along the top. Once you’re done with your masterpiece, just click the 3 hot dogs in the upper left to get action options where you can download it or share it through a variety of ways, including the simple “copy / paste” move. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

ClipArt For Google Docs

I love free stuff, and one thing I miss the most about using Microsoft Office is clipart and the ability to grab any of its amazing, royalty free images while staying INSIDE the document. I know, kind of weird...but it’s one of those things where “you don’t know what you got 'til it’s gone.” There are definitely ways to get clip art for Google Docs, but here’s a cool way for you and your students to quickly get it, for FREE, WHILE staying INSIDE the doc. Check this out...just go into any Google Doc and click “Add-ons” up top. From there, choose “Get Add-ons” and type in “Open Clipart” in the search bar. Choose the Add-on and it will install. To use it, just choose this Add-on anytime you need to use it, and it will pop up on the right hand side for you.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Survive & Advance: March Madness Class Tourney

It’s that time of year when I can’t remember winter break break, and I can’t see spring break. It’s the dog days of winter, just trying each day to survive and advance. Luckily, “survive & advance” is right around the corner w/ the NCAA tourney. I enjoy using this tourney to have a little competition in class with our content. Let me show you an example of a contest activity and tool I use in my classes to create our own tourney and spice it up a bit to help get us through this second half of winter. Click here for a link to the spreadsheet that you can make a copy of and use for yourself.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Download & Save Files To Chromebooks

Sometimes when our students are on their Chromebooks, trying to get creative and build a digital masterpiece, they face challenges with file downloading and saving because they are on a Chromebook and not a “normal” computer. Their Chromebooks actually DO have the capability to handle some file downloading and transferring, which can be used as a work-around if need be. Check out this little trick you can use with your kids to help them get past this stumbling block.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Google Classroom Individual Assignments

A new feature in Google Classroom has made it fantastically convenient for us teachers to individualize instruction. We can now assign tasks / projects / challenges to individual students within a class, instead of being locked into assigning everything to the entire class. I’ve also found that this gives us a great work around with group projects. In group projects, I am now picking one kid per group to be the “digital point person” and only those students receive the assignment. They share their copy with their partners for working purposes and then they turn it in when the task is completed. This keeps them and me more organized throughout the course. I love this new feature, and I hope you find it useful for yourself as well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Gift Yourself A PLN This Holiday Season

The best gifts are the ones we give ourselves! The time for teaching on an island is over and education has so much to give and share. But, we can’t receive these gifts unless we open them up for ourselves. Twitter is a fantastic box to open for our professional growth and development as educators. No longer can we rely on others and “In-Service” days to solely help us get better...we need a Professional Learning Network of our own. If you’re not on Twitter, get yourself signed up and just follow. You don’t need to post or interact...just read and take and grow. Here are a few people and groups that I’d recommend following to start out with:
People - @alicekeeler  @gcouros  @rmbyrne  @mickie_mueller  @plugusin  @ cybraryman
Groups - @ice_il  @isteconnects  @googleforedu  @edtechteam

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Forms Data Collection...Reverse The Order

I am not a fan of Google forms collecting data by putting the newest entries at the bottom. I often reuse forms with my students (I have some that I’ve been using since 2012) and can’t stand having to scroll to row 750 to find today’s entries. However, if you create a second tab in the spreadsheet and plop a simple formula in cell A2...all can be fixed. The formula pulls from the original data entry tab. So, if you make sure that tab is named “ENTRY”, just use the following formula in cell A2 of the new tab and you’ll be good to go: =SORT(ENTRY!A2:H,1,FALSE)

The only thing you’ll really need to pay attention to are the items in red. 1. “ENTRY” needs to match up with the exact name of the original data collection tab. 2. “A2” is in fact the top left cell from which you want to start pulling data.  3. “H” is the furthest right column from which you want to pull data. Don’t put a number after “H” so that it will continue to pull data ALL THE WAY down column H, even as new entries come in.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

By 35 years old, I’d had 3 close friends take their own lives. Whatever their struggles were, they felt that they were not equipped enough to go they stopped. I was so angry at all three funerals. At each one, I couldn’t pinpoint my anger. There were moments where I was angry with them, moments where I was angry with other people, moments where I was angry with myself, and moments where I was angry at the dirt on the ground and clouds in the sky. I knew the direction of my anger was off about all of them. Finally, it clicked… I was angry about our culture’s lack of education and support for how to deal with struggles. So, instead of just being angry, I decided to do something about it with a twitter account and recently a TEDx Talk.

We do so much to set kids up for success, to help kids avoid failure, to build confidence through wins. We ask kids… “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” The intentions there are SO good, but the results are SO lacking. They ignore the reality that no matter how we protect our kids, they ARE going to fail, struggle, and become frustrated...A lot!  We need to put more effort into preparing kids to deal with the failure WHEN it happens, how to #GetUp from the struggles WHEN they occur, how to bounce back from the disappointments WHEN they set in.

What better time for us American adults to take advantage of the here and now, than now?!?!

This election process did not yield the result I wanted. I won’t go any further, politically, than that. There is an abundance of disappointment across this nation. Our kids are living it and watching it… but they’re also watching us! They are watching their parents, their teachers, their bosses, their coaches, their aunts and uncles and grandparents.

Over the last weeks, I heard so many adults, famous and less than famous, pre-emptively claim that they would be moving to another country if their candidate doesn’t win. And now I’m hearing so many pronounce the same declaration, reactively.

Image result for fork in the roadWHAT?!?!

This! Now! Here! Today! In our homes and schools and gyms and places of worship! This is our chance to show kids how to properly react to disappointment, losing, failing, and frustration. It’s NOT time to take our ball and go home. It’s time to BE AMERICA. We are NOT a nation of quitters! We dig down, play on the team that was picked for us, and make it as successful of a season as we can make it. If we don’t like a team-mate or our coach or our captain...we don’t HAVE to. But we do need to stop complaining, put our big boy shoes on, lace ‘em up, and play ball WITH them!

This “moving to another country” stuff is insane… joking or not, It’s for the quitter mindset. If we want to move to another country because we want to live in better weather, or experience a different culture, or be closer to family... Awesome!! But leaving this incredible nation (for sure we have faults) because we don’t like our new boss? Grow the… well, we need to grow up!

So, adults...parents, teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, bosses, we go! This is such an incredible opportunity, right now!! #GetUp and grab your boots & overalls and strap ‘em up! Please...I beg, let’s model for our kids HOW to #GetUp from this and keep moving forward. Let’s dig and grind and forge on with each other so our kids and future can learn how to make the most of challenging scenarios.

Let’s do this, now, PLEASE?!?!