Make-ups I was sitting in a classroom in a neighboring town recently and saw a poster that read, “In real life there are no make-up exams.” I read that poster several times since it was in my line of sight. I became more and more angry with each each reading. What message is this sending to the students in the classroom? What message is it sending to me? It’s been sitting in my craw for weeks so I am purging my thoughts here.

  1. As an educator, I don’t believe in the philosophy behind this message. I do believe in letting kids make up the exam* until they can prove they’ve learned the material.
  2. School is “real life” for many of us: students, teachers, administrators, classified staff. Treating “real life” as special and separate from school, i.e. kids’ experiences, has triggered me forever.
  3. Life is a series of lessons learned over and over until we master them. I’ve had my fair share of make-up exams, whether in relationships, in work, at home, certainly as a parent, and so on.
  4. I made this image as a visual response to the poster in the classroom.


*Let “exam” equal any type of assessment or life lesson.

Tri 2014By the numbers:

Swim: .5 miles

Times I wanted to quit the race during the swim: 7

Times I wanted to heave in Cherry Creek Reservoir: 3

Bike ride: 11.4 miles

Times I cried on the bike ride: 2 (thinking of dear friends)

Walk: 5k

Times I cried on Cherry Creek dam: 1 (thinking about positive change in the air)

Times I uttered my mantra “And this:” 112

Calories ingested after the race: too many to count

I signed up for this Tri in May thinking that two friends were going to join me. I found out a few weeks earlier that they wouldn’t be able to do the race, so I decided then to bail on it as well. The Sunday before the race while celebrating my dad’s birthday I found out that my cousin’s wife was in the Tri in a relay team. I’m a believer in Signs From The Universe, so I decided that I’d better follow through and show up bright and early August 3. I stayed at her place Saturday night so we could drive to the race together, which was great. I may have bailed at the last minute.

Tri numbersThe swim was way more grueling than I had remembered. I did every stroke except the butterfly for that half-mile. (I don’t know how to to the butterfly or I may have!) I seriously didn’t want to finish the swim. My calf cramped. I choked down way too much lake water. I was nauseated. The swim finish seemed farther and farther away with every gasp. Not great, Bob. The end of the swim did obviously happen. I’m not sure how I swam faster than last time! I did zero training this summer.

The bike ride was beautiful. I’m not sure how I added to my time (I love the symmetry in my bike times, though). Again, I didn’t train for the race intentionally so I’m not exactly sure what I expected.

The walk time was much-improved. I walk a lot and work on bettering my time, so I expected to “race” faster here. Also improved this time was my overall endurance. In 2009 I felt like I was suffering from heat stroke half-way through the 5k. This time I felt hydrated and energetic and it shows in my time.

Now, the transitions were not great at all. I dinked around big time here. I took music this time and futzed with my headphones between the swim and bike legs. A volunteer told me that I wasn’t allowed to listen to anything (but I did with one earbud out). On the transition between the bike and walk, I left my music at my station since I try to follow the rules. When I was almost to the walk start, I saw many other women with earbuds in. So I doubled back to get my music knowing a) it would add to my transition time and b) I would walk faster with music. So, even though my overall time was slower, my actual race time improved.

I’ve committed to the race again next summer. My aunt was at the race cheering for us and actually jumped in and ran with me for the last 20 yards or so (the only time I’ve run in two years, ha). She’s super psyched to join me next summer to complete her first tri. It’s a gratifying and empowering experience in all.

Work in progress.

Work in progress 2011/2014.

One of the themes at the ADE 2014 Global Institute was “Changing Landscapes.” It made me reflect on the ways I’ve changed physically, personally and professionally since becoming and ADE in 2011. I’ve written about dieting before in my other blog and often say that I’ve been dieting since I was ten. That is not an exaggeration, sadly. If I’m not actively on a diet, I am constantly thinking about what I’m eating now or next or how I need to be exercising more. It’s an exhausting and oftentimes self-destructive thought process. I also don’t generally advertise that I am on diet* for a plethora of reasons, including fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being constantly monitored for what I put or don’t put in my mouth, et cetera. Oh, hey, I just noticed that “fear” is a recurring theme there. That’s the beauty of writing; I get to find out what’s going on in my brain.

I just passed the 33-pound mark and while I have a ways to go, I know I’m on a good path. I feel healthier and stronger, thanks to the Pure Barre, RIPPED and walking that I’ve been doing. I’m doing my second triathlon this weekend even though I haven’t done enough swimming this summer. Oh, well. I’ll have fun and finish the race regardless.

Personally (I played with the word “mentally” but that sounded weird), I’ve been practicing being in the present, slowing down my mind to appreciate what’s around me now. Letting go (of fears, assumptions, baggage), trusting (myself mostly) and surrendering (to experiences) are all ideas I’m working on this year. Jen shared this quote with me from Paradise in Plain Sight: “What a relief to accept that you will never get your act together. Then it is no longer an act” (emphasis mine). It’s hard to just be. Most times I like the idea of it more than living it. I guess that’s part of “the work,” yes?

Professionally, I’ve become a full-time administrator, rather than having two .5 gigs. Thank Jebus, because coordinating our IB Programme and being an assistant principal at the same time meant that I did neither job well. I’ve grown the most in approaching conflicts. I am conflict-averse and have to have many crucial conversations in my job. I have an awesome boss who handles conflict in a calm, direct, non-judgmental way, so my mission is to learn as much as I can from his example. Like the other areas, I still have a ways to go here as well.

*Vulnerability alert.

Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines

You know how you can buy orange juice concentrate? Having attending three ADE Institutes (2011 Phoenix, 2013 Austin, 2014 La Jolla) I can’t think of any other times in my life where I live in what I consider concentrate form: we spend a week with hundreds of other people eating, talking and traveling together. There’s little time for sleep! I’d hate to miss out on something cool (aka FOMO). It’s not easy to describe to others who haven’t experienced an Institute. I find that when I do try, I end up crying. Crying because I miss the constant laughing, the camaraderie of new-found friends, and the comfort of old friends that are family. There’s a hole in my heart when I have to say goodbye. No joke, it takes me a couple of weeks to recover. 

The week together proved that spending time cultivating and celebrating relationships is invaluable. (Side note: How can we expect kids to learn together if we don’t let them come together as people first?) As co-learners we explored new landscapes, uncovered histories and investigated mysteries like scientists might.  While studying languages is more my thing, it was good to be pushed beyond my comfort level, namely by being a citizen scientist and trying to sketch my learning.

A long way to go.

A long way to go.

Other learning take-aways for the week, in no particular order:

  1. While Drew Berry was specifically talking about science at the time, it holds true for any content: “Don’t dumb it down.” When I hear that classes aren’t “rigorous” enough, it may be because they’ve been dumbed down. Edit the tasks, not the content.
  2. Douglas Kiang spoke about coding in a way that opened my eyes to its secret power (I knew it was powerful but making it people-centered spoke to me): “What matters most is connecting with others.” 
  3. Process time is really important. We need to be sure to build this in for our students (of all ages).
  4. There is a difference between storytelling and lecturing. 
  5. Be present. I have to work hard on being present, in general. I conscientiously focused on the experience last week mostly because I didn’t want it to end and also I wanted it lodged in my memory. I tried to soak in the landscapes I saw with my eyes as open as possible and listen as intently as I could. It didn’t slow down the time, but I have clear memories of the sights and sounds of the week. 
  6. Jen and I had a lovely conversation with Rebecca Stockley the morning we were flying out. The term “witness” came up as we talked about the experience of the Institute and trying to take it all in, being present and remembering it all. That’s the beauty of the shared experience–we bear witness to the good and the bad and take that with us. 
  7. Related, Jen and I talked a lot after the Institute about the love and respect that was palpable in the ADE ballroom and around the campus. Last Friday afternoon when Rebecca asked us to close our eyes and think about being an ADE, I suddenly found the energy in the room emotionally overwhelming and had a little meltdown during the celebration, bordering full-on ugly cry. I love that ADE Institutes provide a safe place where I can be filter-free and goofy for a whole week with people I love and respect. 


Scripps Beach

Scripps Beach

MailboxesThanks, Nancy, for the tag. It’s great motivation to blog again. It’s been too long!

11 Random Facts About Me

  1. Little noises enrage me (my brother is the same way). I’ve self-diagnosed myself with misophonia.
  2. I often kid that I’m living my Plan D. Truth be told I had no plans A, B or C.
  3. I’m a big fan of efficiency and the bottom line (get to the point, man!). I like few steps in a process, few words in a speech, few distractions, which may be why I can’t get behind the serial comma. A Spanish professor of mine used to talk about una economía de palabras (an economy of words). (PS, don’t get me started on double-spacing after a period!)
  4. If I hadn’t gone to grad school for Spanish language and literature, I would have gone to cooking school. Maybe if I cooked for a living, I wouldn’t like it as much?
  5. I grew up in Steamboat Springs and skiing was indeed part of the PE curriculum. Each year we chose to either cross-country ski, downhill ski or ice skate every Friday (maybe it was every other Friday?).
  6. One of the best weeks I’ve ever had was last summer in Austin: five days at the ADE Summer Institute followed by a girls’ weekend. My sides ached from laughing so much. #nuttysquirrel
  7. I’ve had three very different sweat lodge experiences.
  8. I hate the flavor of orange-colored fruits: peaches, apricots, mango (especially mango). I love the color, though!
  9. I am a very finicky sleeper. Here’s my ideal sleep scenario: no light, no sound, cool or cold room, nothing constraining my legs (like pj pants), a flat-ish pillow, heavy covers.
  10. I remember names and faces easily. I forget no one (which is a blessing and a curse).
  11. I love lists and bullet points. Maybe it’s part of the efficiency thing?

11 Questions from Nancy for me

  1. What is your favorite technology tool for personal use? The iPhone. How lucky are we that we get to run around with a computer in our pocket?
  2. What is your favorite technology tool for students? See #1.
  3. What is your favorite book? Tough question, Nancy! I love to read and definitely have several favorites. My favorite book that I read recently is Eleanor & Park. Go read it now. I’ll wait.
  4. What is the “next big thing” for education? If only I knew! I think we’ll see more student involvement as far as creating and executing their own educational pathways.
  5. Who do you most admire? I don’t really have a “most.” I’ll get back to you.
  6. What topic/topics are you currently researching? Master scheduling options/rethinking the traditional school day.
  7. What is a favorite place you have visited? Kauai.
  8. What inspires you? People I know inspire me to do better and be better. I find inspiration in the photos I see on Instagram (especially Nicole’s edits!).
  9. Who was your most memorable teacher? I have three: Mrs. Stanko (G4), Profe (G9), Professor Hervey at CSU (RIP).
  10. Were you a good student? I was a decent student. I was never a fan of the courses the I HAD to take. I always want(ed) to take/do what I like(d).
  11. How do you learn best? I have to see it to learn it. And, I learn by doing (who needs to read the directions to that new coffee maker, anyway?).

Tag-You’re it!

  1. Jen Giuffre
  2. Don Goble
  3. Kendra
  4. Carla
  5. Amy White
  6. Pilar Munday
  7. LindaCO
  8. YOU!

11 Questions for YOU. If you don’t blog, feel free to answer in the comments. 

  1. What’s the story behind your name?
  2. How did you end up with the job that you have?
  3. Which song title would sum up 2013 for you?
  4. What is your favorite app and why?
  5. What was your favorite year of school and why?
  6. What is one website/blog you couldn’t go a day without reading?
  7. What is your favorite swear word?
  8. What are three things that are always in your refrigerator?
  9. What are you reading for fun right now?
  10. Who/What inspires you?
  11. What is your favorite movie quote?

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS: When you are tagged…

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 (or so) bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.


I recently met up with a dear friend of 25 years. Over dinner she talked about her quest to follow the things in life that enliven her. She also challenged me to do the same. As I finally wind down from the school year, I’m taking her advice and the time to notice and follow the things that make me feel more vibrant. On the flip side I suppose I should take note of the things that bring me down and eliminate or modify them the best I can.

Cooking and Baking
I have been playing in the kitchen since I could read. My mom refused to buy me an Easy Bake oven, and the cute little cake kits that came with it, saying I could use the real kitchen anytime. So, I did. I bake and cook for therapy. I bake to show people that I care. I suspect that my son will be getting several care packages from me next year at college.

Again, when I was little I took tap and ballet classes. I wasn’t very good, but I recall enjoying it quite a bit. My brother likes to remind me of a dance we performed called “Egg Head.” I’m not sure what the theme of the song was (but could make a guess) and the only line I remember is “‘Egg Head,’ that’s what we call him, ‘Egg Head!'” Hm. Probably wouldn’t fly today. Today, I love going to Zumba classes and salsa nights around town.

Thanks to my iPhone and Instagram I take more photos than before. I’ve always enjoyed photography and now really have fun playing with iPhoneography apps (I used Popsicolor, Percolator and Pop Camera and PicFrame for the images in this post). Using my camera apps and sharing photos has helped me keep an eye out for the beauty that surrounds me and made me more aware of my place. Sharing is an added bonus. Having someone like a photo encourages me to keep seeking beauty and sharing what and how I see.

What brings you joy and makes you feel most alive?


“Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor.”
The House on Mango Street 

The notion of letting go keeps popping up in the darndest places. I read about it and even hear it in songs. I heard about letting go at the ADE 2011 Summer Institute and again in November at an IB symposium in Denver. The contexts in both places involved the idea of educators letting go of practices that are not effective.

Several years ago I met with a woman who practices alternative medicine. She had a knack for finding the most tender pressure points in my neck, but would also talk about big-picture things like universal shifts. She told me that for the current shift, people would have to learn new ways of thinking and to let go of the old to prepare for the new. I keep thinking back to that conversation and all of the things that I still need to let go of.

I’m the eldest in my family (including both sets of cousins) and a Capricorn with a natural tendency towards stubbornness. Letting go is an unnatural and unnerving feeling for me. The words “control freak” may spring to mind. Letting go is scary and requires risk taking, something else that makes me a little queasy. I have a senior in high school. The idea of letting him go into the world usually brings tears to my eyes. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and will land on his feet no matter what he decides to do. I know that deep down. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

When I reflect on letting go, I realize that, while tough, it can also be liberating. Letting go involves a lot of trust. Trust that things will work out for the better. Trust that surrendering is often the best option.

Changing Booths by Ian Junor (Flickr Creative Commons)

2011 was a rewarding year for me professionally. It involved many unique learning opportunities and chances to grow as an educator.

I am still shocked and honored that I was selected to be an Apple Distinguished Educator. The week I spent at the ADE Summer Institute with like-minded colleagues from all of the country was inspiring, challenging and extremely rewarding. (My team’s work on global collaboration will be appearing in iTunes U soon!) I learned about augmented reality from Johnny Kissko at the dinner table. I learned audio/video tips and tricks from pros. Most of all I was reminded of the power and beauty of storytelling. What’s your story? (Check out Bill Frakes and his films.)

Another challenging, yet fun, activity I participated in was an Ignite speech. I’d been to Ignite Fort Collins a couple of times and had pondered giving my own Ignite there. But, Scott and Sandy put together an Ignite event for our district and asked me to play. I had a blast putting the images together for my topic on decisions, decision-making techniques and decision fatigue. I was reminded that I love public speaking even though it is extremely nerve-racking.

I have a new job this year. Well, technically, half of a new job. I continued as IB Coordinator and am also an assistant principal, which entails new learning every single day. Mostly I am learning that I have a lot left to learn about education, working with people and helping kids thrive in and out of school.

I suspect that 2012 will also involve much transition and growth–at work as well as at home. On the home front it will be fun to see what my son decides to do after he graduates from high school in May. At work, the challenges will keep me on my toes, no doubt.

I have followed Alan Levine’s blog and Twitter feed for a couple of years. I love participating in his #ds106 projects from time to time, as well. His dear mom Alyce passed away last week and it hit a nerve with me for a number of reasons-she reminds me of my sweet grandmother who turned 86 yesterday; my mom recently worried that her mom, my other grandmother, wouldn’t be here much longer; and Alyce and I share a love of baking for people. A couple of Alan’s friends declared today Cookies for Cogdog, or the Day of CookieLove, where readers were invited to bake cookies and give them out to strangers.

I set out the butter last night so I could make chocolate chip cookies first thing this morning. I use a recipe that I got from a dear friend in Brookings, SD. Her recipe comes out beautifully every time. I mixed up the batch then divided the baked cookies into three bags. I hadn’t thought about who would get them and started to get a little nervous about it. I talk to strangers all the time, but never offer them cookies.

On the way to my car after church I noticed that there was a man taking a break from working on the roof of the house across the street. As he was heading back toward the house I hollered an “Excuse me?” at him and explained that he was receiving cookies in honor and memory of a friend’s mom (it seemed a lot easier to say “friend” than try to explain the whole online Twitter/blog thing). He was definitely caught off guard in a good way.

At the farmers’ market a few minutes later, I wandered around looking for my next recipient. The gal at the java stand looked a little lonely since most folks there were after the fresh produce. After hemming and hawing a bit, I decided that I’d give her the second bag. I told her the same thing that I told the roofer but she asked me more details about the project and we chatted a bit. She thought that #cookielove was a great idea and, by the way, chocolate chip cookies are her favorite!

The last bag went to two ladies who work at the Good Sam house where my grandparents live. They spend their whole day giving care and I wanted to return some of that to them in cookie form.

What a great project to honor the memory of a kind woman, to treat people to some cookies and to get a little spiritual boost for myself!

Rest in peace, Alyce!

It’s often a struggle to stay upbeat and positive at the end of a school year. Budgets cuts were inevitably huge this past year and we’re still recovering from the after-effects. Last spring I felt like the girls in this video:

To pick up my spirits, I reflected on a sermon I had heard called “In Search of the Spiritual.” The speaker started with the etymology of the word “spirit.” We can see its root in words like “respiration” and “inspiration.” He then offered the list of where he finds spiritual renewal-in music, in solitude, in play, etc. It made me realize that if I start my own list, I can find a bit of renewal whenever I need it:

1. Silence. Since I get sensory-overloaded easily, I take refuge in silence. I am content to ride home in total silence-no radio, no music. To sleep at night, I have to have it totally quiet and dark. I use the silence to recite mantras and get grounded after a stressful day. “Breathe in strength, breathe out growth” is my latest mantra.

2. Laughter. Nothing beats a tear-inducing belly laugh to relieve stress and feel refreshed.

3. Play.  After watching me play (and laugh) in the surf all day in Hawaii a few years ago my sister-in-law reminded me that I am a kid at heart. I love to play, whether it’s cards, golf, volleyball, charades or even dress-up. Play fuels my creativity, releases negative energy and revives me.

4. Nature. I grew up on the Western Slope of Colorado and spent more time outside than in learning to love and appreciate nature. I find renewal when I hike and fish, but especially when I take the time to listen to the aspens and streams and smell the pine trees and flowers. (I recently discovered that the bark of a Ponderosa Pine smells like butterscotch!)

Where do you find renewal?

Bridal Falls Trail Head