Wednesday, July 29, 2009


If you want to get to know a 13-year old, then grab a copy of James Howe’s book 13: Thirteen stories that capture the agony and ecstasy of being thirteen. This is must-reading for parents and teachers of 12-year old kids!

You would think that switching from authoring
Bunnicula to 13 would be a leap, but Howe does a marvelous job editing this compilation of short stories, giving the reader insights into what a 13-year old goes through. Each author of the 13 stories gives his/her own take on the age, and at the end of each story, there is a comment from the author about the story and the age. Short bios and snap shots of the authors when they were 13 are neatly tucked in at the end of each story.

As an example, here is what Stephen Roos author of the short story “Picky Eater” has to say about the age in his comment, “For me, thirteen was exhilarating, bewildering, scary, and wildly inconclusive. It seemed just plain wrong to give Woody [main character in the story] an awareness of what it all meant when I spent that year growing more and more clueless. All I can say is I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, but once was enough. I sincerely doubt many people could survive it twice.”

Sunday, July 26, 2009

ASCD SmartBrief

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) hosts a great service that aggregates (compiles) the day's leading stories in education. When you (educators & parents) subscribe to the ASCD SmartBrief service, you will receive a daily email with headlines and quick links to the full story. Tabs including "Eye on Curriculum," "Professional Leadership," "Technology Solutions," and "Policy Watch" draw from leading publications like Education Week, Washington Post, and NYTimes.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Playdates are times when kids can get to know one another outside of the school classroom. This is when friendships can blossom much like the special friendship between two fifth graders, Jess and Leslie, in Katherine Patersons' 1978 Newbery-winning Bridge to Terabithia. It is one of my all-time favorite young adult books.

Friendship is beautifully described in a poem I recently discovered.

The Miracle of Friendship
by Anonymous

There is a Miracle called Friendship
that dwells within the heart
and you don't know how it happens
or when it even starts.

But the happiness it brings you
always gives a special lift
and you realize that
is God's most precious gift.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Principal Principle

My office is located close to the school lobby, and the other morning I was sitting at my desk working when an air conditioner repairman wheeled a dolly loaded with equipment and tools to my door. Catching my attention, he asked, “Is Bill around?” Bill is our facilities manager.

I said, “Let me call him for you.”

After making the connection I told the thirty-something-year old repairman that Bill would be here in a minute. Not skipping a beat he asked, “Are you the principal?” I smiled and said, “Yes.” Whereupon he asked, “Why are you happy and smiling?” I instantly said, “Where can you find a work place where you are surrounded by children, caring teachers, and a warm environment?” His response, colored with a bit of incredulity, was, “That’s not what I remember. The principals I knew always wanted to beat the crap out of you.”

I laughed and said, “That’s not my style. I get my energy from kids.” A bit mystified, he guided his dolly back to the lobby to wait for Bill.

If his characterization of what school was like for him was half accurate, how sad for him to have to carry that principle around for so long.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Beyond Bullying

When you are raising and teaching children, it is hard to escape having to deal with bullying. Whether it is your own child or student, you often search for answers through emotion and anger. Such was the case for me a number of years ago when I wrote Grown-Ups Call it Harassment, and, yet, it wasn't until several years later when I read Deirdre Dolan's article "How to Be Popular" in the April 8, 2001 "NYTimes Sunday Magazine" that I understood that middle school students do have a sense of right and wrong, especially when it comes to making choices between caring for another student . . . even if it is not popular. I had the good fortune to connect with Deirdre to have her speak to the middle school students at BHMS.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I was struck when I first read the word “heuristic” for three reasons: one, I never heard it before; two, I added a new word among my growing – and it is always growing – vocabulary; and I loved the definition as soon as I looked it up.

"Enabling a person to discover or learn something for her/himself."

Unlike heuristic, which has been in dictionaries since the 1800s, more recent cultural changes spawn words like “hoodie,” “internet,” “rap,” “takeaway,” “anime,” “blading,” “e-mailing,” “ginormous,” “losingest,” “spam,” “taggin,” and “worrywort.” New words find their way into our conversations, media, and personal lexicons daily.

Until a word can be formed, accepted, and adopted, "whatsits," "thingamajig," "you know what I mean" have to do. A while back I heard the word “takeaway” somewhere; I instantly knew what the person was trying to convey; and now it seems like the word's presence is universal. It is the title of a radio talk show, "The Takeaway."

All of this self-discovery led me to buy the book
A Century of New Words. I found it fascinating to read about how inventions and cultural shifts cause our language to morph into what we need to communicate with one another. I guess the exploration was a heuristic moment for me.

Here are three links that look at dozens of new words:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot - The Third Chapter

My favorite SLL book is I’ve Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation. Her detailed account of the lives of six people touched me in a way that has made me remember the book over the past 15 years, since I first read it.

The Third Chapter, her most recent book, looks at people between the ages of 50 and 75 and the multiple transitions that they experience throughout that 25-year period. There are several notable concepts that make it worth reading the book . . . whether you are of the age or your parents are of the age.

• The idea of "looking back and giving forward" is a way of looking at how boomers can reflect on their past and leverage it to give to future generations.

• Burnout is not about working too hard. It's about boredom.

• Choices can be made between generativity or stagnation.

• It can be hard to leave those roles that give us status.

Here you can see a 30-minute interview with Bill Moyers, where SLL talks about her book. I wonder how many agree with her statement "We are about a youth-obsessed culture."

A friend I respect for his ability to look back and give forward is David Mallery. I have known David for many years, and not only does he have SLL speak at his seminars, David is in his “fourth chapter” and continues to give inspiration to all with wisdom and models of professional development. Thank you, David.