If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.-—Joseph Campbell

Posts tagged ‘problem solving’

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice. Practice. Practice

In the intern seminars I facilitate (beginning teachers seeking alternative certification) we practice applying education research and theory in our classrooms..

In my afterschool classes we practice balancing our uniqueness with respect for others.

Outside as the cold wind and rain assault the tender vegetables, I practice accepting Nature’s way and staying open to how I can help.

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.  Yogi Berra

Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.  Anton Chekhov

It is easy to talk on religion, but difficult to practice it.  Ramakrishna

Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal, with takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.  Arnold J. Toynbee


Creative Problem Solving

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.     Albert Einstein

Last night’s elementary intern seminar.

Who: Twelve beginning teachers.

Problem: How to manage class time and keep all students engaged.


1. Divide class into three small groups alphabetically by last names. As students are changing seats, distribute four cards of different colors. Each student chooses a color. Announce that pink will be the leader, green will be the recorder, yellow will be the presenter, and orange will be the time manager.

3. The group will address the question “What are your biggest problems in time management?” using a round robin technique, beginning with the leader and moving clockwise. There will be no cross talk or discussion. You will have two minutes and should be able to go around the group at least twice. This will be the responsibility of the time manager. There will be a follow up question for another two minutes. Each presenter will then share the big ideas with the whole class, therefore, the recorder should take good notes.

4. Are there any questions? Who can summarize what I just said? OK, the timer is set. Go.

5. After this round of sharing, the teacher presents the question, “How are you addressing your problems?” The same procedure applies.  Remember after this round each presenter will share.


What techniques did we use to manage time and assure each student was engaged? What did you learn from hearing others’ problems and solutions?


For the next five days, write a reflection (spend at least ten minutes writing one well-thought out paragraph per day) addressing time management and engagement problems you dealt with that day. What worked? What didn’t work? How are you attempting to solve the problems?

The interns start whining. I rarely give written homework. What is this rebellion? I feel like fussing at them.

Step back, Laura. Make it relevant. Tell them how it will help.

Y’all have been practicing problem solving night. The homework assignment is a practice in self-assessment. It’s how we learn to step back from a problem and adjust the lesson when we’re in the middle of it.

TV or not TV


Pow! It sounds like a breaker shutting down an overloaded circuit, but the lights are still on. My old TV, the only one I own, has sound, but no picture.

Whatdo I do now? I watch less than five hours a week, and it’s usually at night as I fall asleep.

Yesterday evening I fought an urge to just go “look” at new TVs, but resisted because I wasn’t eager to spend the money.

This morning I’m listening to Mozart, mentally rearranging the furniture in this room, finishing today’s post, and waiting for Lowe’s to deliver the laminate.

Pay attention, Laura.

What is the draw of a TV? Is it something I only miss at night? Has it just become a mindless habit? How will I fill my time without it?

I’ll wait a week before I attempt to answer the burning question, TV or not TV.


It has been a restless night.  Is it the storm outside?  The backache I’ve been working around all week?  My experiences and thoughts during the day?


At 4:00 I give up trying to sleep, get coffee and my notebook, and begin writing to the rhythm of rain and wind.

Is my body reacting to Jazzercise, the humidity, what I’ve been eating, my age?  I’ve been adjusting and assessing.

Hold your shoulders back, my mother would say.  My rounded shoulders are becoming more pronounced with age.  This morning I wonder if it’s my heart I’m protecting.

Spring semester begins this week.  Last semester ended the first week of December.  Yesterday morning during new intern orientation, I realize how much I’ve missed the routine.  A month of introspection and rest were welcome, but I need meaningful work in my life.

It’s January, Laura, named for Janus, the two-faced god looking to the future and past, a god of beginnings and transitions, of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time.

Well that makes sense.


You Feel It in Your Heart

There is no mistaking love. You feel it in your heart. It is the common fiber of life, the flame that heats our soul, energizes our spirit, and supplies passion to our lives.
– Elisabeth Kubler Ross

Last night I have concerns for members of my family and my world.  I feel so helpless.  What can I do?

Surrender to sleep, Laura.

But I’ve felt these concerns before…Surely there’s something I could be doing.

Yes, Laura, there is.  Let go.  Tomorrow is another day.


Today is another day.  I wake, not with specific solutions for my concerns, but with creative ideas.  Stories I want to tell.  Pictures I want to draw.  Is this love?

Always Flowers

windowboxThere are always flowers for those who want to see them.   Henri Matisse

Flowers made from plastic water bottles…or how I always have flowers.

Cut the bottom of bottle.

Cut the bottom of bottle.

Cut and curl petals.

Cut and curl petals.

Paint your flower.

Paint your flower.

Add floral stake stem and pipe cleaner stamen.

Add floral stake stem and pipe cleaner stamen.


Once a Teacher…

Work while you have the light. You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you. Henri Frederic Amiel

Quotes like this can make me anxious.

I struggle with depression. It’s a family thing. It’s who I have been for probably forever. It’s the introvert behavior, the easily overwhelmed feelings, etc.

I want to get over it. Just be cured of it. There, I said it. But the truth of the matter is it is always there, just under the surface, ready to show itself, when I’m tired or hungry or I’ve overbooked myself and who-knows-what-else.

So I find strategies that might help. There are the obvious ones– Zoloft, morning pages, exercise, eating healthily. Then, of course, every time I think I’m “cured” I let the obvious slide, until it becomes…obvious.

But I am also a teacher, and as I watch some of my beginning teachers becoming increasingly overwhelmed and disillusioned, I begin to develop a plan, a lesson plan. Something teachers use to map out their day.

The format includes:

1.  A measurable objective (what I want to accomplish)…I’ve made a list for today.

2.  Motivation (a link to what I know and why I want to accomplish this)…If this is works, it could be next week’s seminar lesson on time management.

3.  “Plan of attack” (that’s not teacher language)…I add times to my list of things to do–how long each will take and where it fits in the schedule.

4.  Assessment (how well I accomplished the objectives)…I will check off each item as it is done.

5. Closure (a review of what was done/learned)

OK, I’ve taken liberties with this lesson plan idea. A purist (like maybe a teacher) might take me to task. But this is a structure I know. I’m ready to try it out on my day.

My life is a classroom.

Listening to Learn

Learning to Listen

Listening for Lessons

A Teacher and her Writing Practice

Writing Is My Drink

slake your thirst; find your voice


~ creative ideas for making a difference ~

...the house I live in...

A journal of life pursued