One thing seems perfectly clear!

Hope you like the quick summary!

For the vast majority of us, the school year has ended for 2019/2020.  While it’s impossible to know what experience each individual has had, I feel comfortable saying, “this year has been more stressful, anxiety-filled, and challenging than most of us can ever remember.”  For me, this is year 30 in the field of education! I can’t recall a time frame when so many questions have remained unanswered.  Three consistent ones that I’ve thought about and heard from others are:

  1. When is it appropriate for children to go back to school?  
  2. What kind of grading policies work best?  
  3. How can we make learning equitable for all kids? 

Even with all of those challenges, we often miss that one thing that seems perfectly clear: The Power and Necessity of Building Relationships with Students!

When I was in high school, and even in college, there were only a few meaningful connections that I made with teachers.  Luckily though, those relationships shaped my view of why creating lasting memories for students is so important.  I recall, Mrs. Gold, my college Calculus professor, making learning interesting, fun, and I dare say, inspiring. But even more importantly, she truly loved her job!  No matter what obstacles she faced, (I was part of many of them), she always smiled, showed patience, and was able to laugh when so many other teachers would have never understood the fact that we were still adolescents.  Watching her and other outstanding educators teach, helped me to see the value in building those connections with students. I’m sure many of you feel the same.  We realize the true benefits of connecting with children and teens.

Of course, the drumbeat of how do you measure those positive relationships?  How can you apply data to something as simple as a greeting in the morning? What measuring stick do we use for watching our students laugh and smile is always present. Even though it may be hard to quantify in data terms, it doesn’t have to be!  You see, all the studies that are being done about kids being away from school are showing the deep value of relationships with their teachers.  Here is a great example!

Being with our students, whether virtually or in-person helps to create those lasting memories that are often spoken about when seniors graduate.   Even with that knowledge, we must build social, emotional, and physical skills that we know are imperative for EVERY student.  Covid-19 has helped us realize, and not take for granted the true value of being connected with our students.  No matter what situation we get sent our way when school starts, we need to think about ways we can help our students to love the school experience. While there are many factors that can contribute to this, here are three things that can ensure we all flourish.

First, we have to make those connections no matter what the situation.  Sure it will be harder to make this happen if we are in a virtual setting.  But it isn’t impossible.  Using technology has allowed us to see and hear students and their families over the internet.  While this may not be an option for every school, even sending letters home with a personal message will make a huge difference.  For educators who can reach out personally, those initial chats will do wonders that go far beyond the short period of time spent.  Again, data has shown how much learning and even wellness is affected by the loss of the teacher and student relationship.

Maybe we are lucky enough to go back to some kind of traditional setting.  If that’s the case, the relationships we form will be a cornerstone to how the year plays out, even if we happen to have a second wave where students are forced to go home.  Once we start to get students comfortable in class, the second step is setting those really high expectations around effort, respect, trust, managing time, and other “soft skills”(never understood that term!) that are tremendously important for the building of a successful school year.  Again, this isn’t unique teaching.  You probably do this already!

As of this writing, many states are seeing another increase in outbreaks of Covid-19. That can’t make any of us feel confident about what the immediate future might hold. This is why the third step will be so critical for students, their families, and any person in an educational setting. It’s simply being consistent, with positive messages of praise, positivity, and sharing a passion for teaching. I’m going to quickly go back to Mrs. Gold’s example. While she was very knowledgeable about her content area, organized, and detailed oriented, what made me and others in her class want to learn was her constant praise when work was done well. She maintained an aura of positivity that made us want to be better!. Finally, and what I consider most important of all, was her passion for teaching never wavered.  Each one of us knew she wanted to be the best educator.  All of us are capable of those same qualities.  Our students and their families are counting on us to bring that positivity, passion, praise, excitement, and enthusiasm to school.  I believe we can do it together!

Craig Shapiro

Connecting on Twitter

start with these four

Intro and Highlights! Thx for checking it out!

As somebody who has been in the wellness field both as a teacher and trainer for 35 years, I can attest to the frustrations and misunderstandings that often occur when people seek to improve their wellness. They want to reach that certain zen level that happens when being healthy becomes part of your daily life. Unfortunately, there are so many quick fixes, mixed messages, and new ideas, that just getting going can, and usually does lead to quitting before you get started. I’m hoping that the four steps below will get you on the right track.

Before jumping into those four steps, I’d like to briefly mention a story I often tell students in my exercise class. While it may seem silly, they usually get the point of understanding and implementing all four steps. Hopefully, you’ll feel the same way!

As we were beginning class, I was listening to the typical habits that many teens and even adults exhibit to sabotage their wellness. Such as, lack of sleep, eating junk (or not eating at all), not being confident, etc… I thought for a moment and then said, “okay everyone, here’s a little example that may help you. Let’s say you order a pizza (I know, poor choice of food). The pizza you’re ordering has four slices (if you’re eating 8, we need to focus on portions!) plain, pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom. Each of those pieces represents the following: pepperoni/exercise, mushroom/nutrition, sausage/sleep, plain/mental attitude. When the delivery person comes to your house and gives you the pizza; you open it up and see one of the pieces is missing! Would you pay full price, or even take the pizza?” Every student will either say, “no” or ask if they get a discount for the missing piece! My point is that each piece of pizza is important. If you’re missing a slice, some of your wellness will be lacking. Let’s briefly look at them.

Pepperoni/Exercise – I won’t bore you with all the benefits of exercise. There are too many to mention. Here are four tips to start. Please realize that they are far from all-inclusive. I’ll do another post that is solely about exercise.

  • Find something you like or love! The majority of people will never stick with exercise if it feels like a chore. Yes, you have to give it time to stick, but if after a few weeks you hate it, move on to something else!
  • PLEASE, PLEASE, be consistent. Doing something one time and stopping doesn’t allow you to say, “I tried this, and I’m not seeing any difference!” It doesn’t have to be every day, but a few times a week is really a necessity for change to happen.
  • Find a partner or group. Exercise is so much more rewarding and beneficial when you’re with others. You’ll motivate and challenge each other to be better. Plus, you won’t quit just because things get a little tough.
  • Get Progressive! Not the insurance, but how you train. Your body and even your mind will improve and adapt to the work you put in. As you get better, work harder, mix it up, and even consider trying new types of exercise.

Mushroom/Nutrition – The diet industry is a billion-dollar behemoth for a reason. Sticking to a plan and eating clean is tough for many reasons. It’s a combo of media messages, advertising, how we’ve been trained to eat, and other keys. But simply, most of us love foods that taste good and might not be good for us! I love asparagus! When is the last time you saw a commercial that said, “eat your asparagus, your body will thank you for it!” Out of all the areas to conquer, eating is often the most challenging. Below are three key tips. Just as with exercise, I’ll do a more lengthy post as a follow-up.

  • Avoid cutting every single food you love out! While some people have the will power to make this happen, most don’t. Focus on little changes to start and build on them. One of my favorites is cutting out drinking your calories. Drink water!!
  • Please don’t follow what your favorite celebrity is doing. They have dieticians, large sums of money, and most importantly more time than most of us can only dream of. Find your own path! If you need help, there are thousands of resources to guide you. You can even reach out to me!
  • Forget the scale, and focus on how you feel. A scale just provides numbers. When you start eating healthy you will FEEL BETTER! That is the best scale I can think of!

Sausage/Sleep – I can’t give you an exact number of hours to sleep. Some of us can easily get by on 5-6 hours a day and others need a solid 7-8. In either instance, if you are constantly tired when you get up, feel fatigued during the day, and feel grumpy because of lack of sleep, it’s time to consider these three things:

  1. Set your body clock to a normal bedtime. Our bodies adjust quickly to sleep schedules. Going to bed close to the same time each night will help you to get to bed quicker, clear your head, and even promote a night of more restful sleep.
  2. Turn off all tech at least 30 minutes prior to going to bed. We don’t want our brains even thinking about the tweets we sent, games we played, or any other things related to technology.
  3. This is my favorite! About 5-10 minutes before bed, do some easy yoga, mediation, and body relaxing movements. Keep the lights low and if you are playing music, avoid music that gets you pumped up. It’s supposed to help you relax.

Plain/Mental Attitude – For those who aren’t on Twitter, I started a chat called #teachpos on Sunday night. The goal was to have a chat that focused solely on positive things in education and beyond. I mention this because so often Social Media can descend into a session of complaining, disagreements, and create tension that goes against everything positive wellness can do for you. I believe that the Plain slice/Mental Attitude is by far the most important part of the wellness pizza. I’ve listed four tips below. There will be multiple posts that follow.

  1. When it comes to wellness, positivity is huge! We all have bad days, weeks, months, and even years. Life events happen! I lost my dad 25 years ago, which I mentioned in the “challenge of change!” It was a sad period of time, as would be expected. But it doesn’t mean that I should dwell on it forever. Finding positive vibes in little things can lead to big changes.
  2. Find positive folks as cohorts to share your joy. Don’t be a downer Duck! People will gravitate to those who inspire and uplift them. Plus, many of those people you connect with will pay you back by enhancing your life.
  3. Allow your emotions to show. Holding everything in and never allowing yourself to show happiness, joy, anger or sadness leads to much higher levels of stress, emotional fatigue, and unhappiness. While there are times to consider your voice, don’t allow yourself to be stricken by never letting your emotions show.
  4. Give yourself credit! I was sitting in a room listening to a bunch of teens chat. The banter was joking, but also really self-deprecating in nature. Part of the mental wellness piece is being able to say, “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished! I’m happy with the growth I’ve made. I’m going to continue to help myself and others to be better each day!”

I hope you enjoyed four steps to wellness. Again, there are articles and videos that go into greater detail and have more components than what I’ve listed. This isn’t meant to encompass all aspects, but to highlight four that I personally consider important to start with. I welcome your feedback, comments and any questions you might have.


listen even when you’d rather not!

Sunset 1 – June 27th OBX
Sunset 2 – June 27th OBX

We were on our last day at OBX North Carolina getting some beautiful pictures of the sunset (see above). My son and his two friends had joined the fun for a few parting pics. When we were done, a gentleman, who was with his wife on the pier asked if they were all my kids. What followed should give us all pause and maybe a little hope!

For about the next 45 minutes or so, he and I had a conversation, some might say a heated one. Personally, I didn’t think it was. But more like two boxers spending an entire fight trying to land a punch, and neither one ever hitting the other one really hard. The funny thing is I’m still not sure how it got started. Maybe he saw in me, a person who loves to talk (I do) or a person who would listen (I’d like to think I do), or maybe it was just to vent. In either case, when we finally parted with goodbyes, those around me said, “Craig, how the heck did you have a conversation with that guy?” I responded, “look, he just started talking. I could have just walked away politely. But I was curious about his views, and once he gave them, it was my turn to share mine.”

I won’t delve into his strong worldly positions, but to just say they were the polar opposite of mine. I got the sense that his purpose was to convince me to see his perspective. Maybe mine was the same. What I was really hoping we could do was to “please listen” to one another without attacking the person who was speaking. Mission accomplished!

While this was going on, I’m guessing that others heard our conversation and likely grimaced at some of the dialogue depending on their own views of the world. He mentioned on more than one occasion, “Craig, it’s really great talking to you! I know we don’t see eye to eye on much of anything, but at least we can have a civil conversation!” I replied, “I agree! I love that we can at least listen to each other, even if our views seem to be different.”

The conversation helped me to see what is lacking in much of our daily lives; the ability to listen with intention. No matter our views on the world, politics, social reforms, and other issues, it’s imperative that we have open ears to at least hear what others might have to say. Disagreements will surely exist when we step out of our own little box of comfort. Especially when those individuals see and hear the same things that we do, but have a vastly different perspective. That should be okay as long as a willingness to hear another person is about changing our world for the better.

I’m not sure what he and his wife spoke about when they walked away. Quite possibly, it was that my views were crazy! Again, that’s perfectly okay, because my group thought his views were crazy! What was important to both of us according to our parting words, was that we had a spirited conversation. We listened, didn’t interrupt, and smiled often. If that’s what it takes to start making our world a little more tolerant I’m all in! I hope you are as well! Thanks again for reading, and I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful day!

Craig Shapiro