A Quick Break

A few keys to taking a Quick Break

I just learned that my daughter will not be returning to college for the rest of the Spring Semester. My son is off from school for at least another 10 days. I’m guessing it will be much longer. My wife is wiping doors, cleaning floors, and doing all things Coronavirus related. I can’t help but to be drained from all this change. Writing “A Quick Break” will hopefully help you, like it has helped me.

Our lives have changed! There isn’t any reason to sugar coat things. But we also have opportunities to do things we might not ordinarily think about. Yes, that’s the glass half-full approach. For me, and I’m hoping you, that’s most definitely needed. So here are three “Quick Breaks” that have helped me to deal with our current state of stress.

  • I’ve spent time with my son playing board games. Sure, he constantly complains that I’m cheating. Sure, he keeps reading the rules, over and over to make sure we play right. But it’s these times that I’ll always cherish. You need to find these times as well. Whether it’s developing a hobby, reading a book, writing a story, playing with your kids, or even (I dare say) going for a walk ALONE! Take advantage of these moments!
  • I started working on my CMSDREAMBIG website over a year ago. For whatever reason, it got stuck in the abyss. Now that some time has become available, I’ve had a chance to get that really going. I hope you like it. Take these opportunities to either get back to something you started, begin something you dreamed of, or reflect on something that’s impacted you or others in a positive way.
  • The hectic pace of working, and in my case teaching isn’t something to take lightly. No matter your job/role, it’s impossible to not get caught up with all that’s going on in our place of work, schools and classrooms. Whatever job you may have, I hope you love, or at least like it . For those of you who are in education, I hope you love being in education, I definitely do! But, having a little time off has helped me to truly realize how blessed we are. Also, and just as important, is how much we really mean for the rest of the world. Use some of your time to breathe. Use some of your time to reflect on the difference you make. Use some of your time to tell your students, co-workers and families that you care. They will appreciate that more than you know.

I appreciate all that you do each day. You make a difference. Please remember that a little, quick break can be a true life saver. Be safe, use precautions, tell others you care, and create those times that you’ll remember forever.





Start with this “P”

It was Sunday night around 11:00 p.m. and I was checking some Twitter comments and chats that were happening.  I came across a chat that had just ended called, #boldschool.  It’s not one that I’d be on before, but the topic they had been covering was around “positivity” in schools and the classrooms. I immediately started to post responses to some of the questions, while also reading many of the amazing answers that other individuals had given.  It struck me that earlier that night, a chat that I run every Sunday night, called #teachpos was talking about being motivated and how we help students and colleagues to be motivated in school.  The similarities were so spot on, that it convinced me to do a blog post about the power of positivity in our classrooms and schools.

Positivity in our classrooms and schools isn’t an option.  As educators at any level, our ability to bring and maintain a positive attitude contributes greatly to how students feel, respond and learn in our class.  We can always debate the powers that contribute to how students perform in schools.  But, it seems reasonable to conclude that a teacher who is positive, both with their actions and words will at the very least help students to feel welcome and happy. Also, and I’d say even more importantly, a teacher who exudes a constant aura of positivity, leads students to follow in their footsteps.  If this seems like a stretch, just think about when you’ve watched smiling and happy kids or teens in class.  We know that their enthusiasm wasn’t happening because their teacher was miserable and uptight.  Rather, it was at least in part (and I’d go further to say a large part) because of the energy and upbeat attitude that the teacher was modeling.

Before providing some ideas on how to bring that positive energy to class, I’ll readily admit that all of us have those tough moments.  It’s completely reasonable to have times where either outside influences or even stuff in school affects our positivity meter. As a person who tries every day to be positive, I recall when my dog Izzy, (our 16-year-old Golden Retriever) had to be put down.  The next day, many of the students mentioned that I seemed a “little off” as they put it.  Instead of disregarding their feelings, I told them that my dog had passed away and it’s tough when you’ve lost a pet that was part of your family.  Not only were the students receptive to my response, many were empathetic because they’d been through the same kind of trauma before.  Again, while we all will have difficult days, it’s imperative that we’re open and honest with our students.  In times when our positivity isn’t what they’re used to seeing, we can explain why and how it’s affecting us.

Positivity is a choice – Each of us, as I mentioned above has a different positivity meter that carries us through our day.  No two people are alike, and it’s understandable to think that being positive or negative is just who we are.  But, in the vast majority of people, it really comes down to how we want students to view us in the class.  The great thing about making positive habits part of your class is just how incredibly easy it is, and the benefits they cause for everyone.  Here are four easy ways to be positive with your students:

  • Greet them at the door.  It’s a no-lose situation and will immediately promote a positive message.
  • Chat with them as they enter the class.  This offers a chance to get to know students on a personal level before instruction has started.
  • Have a positive word of the day!  Words like: proud, happy, dedicated, kind, respectful, friendly, and my personal favorite: genuine, are all ways to spread a positive outlook
  • Use reminder notes for students.  This is a great way to get kids and yourself thinking positive thoughts.  Just take a post-it note for the week and have students fill up the note with at least one “happy” thing that either going to happen or has happened during the day.  I love doing this for myself as well!

Be a note taker – Many of us have lesson plans for class and guidelines for how a particular unit should be taught.  I personally still use the Green (old as dirt) lesson plan book.  I love technology, but there is something to be said for just writing stuff down.  But truth be told, up until rather recently, I’d ponder briefly about things, and maybe jot down some reflective ideas when something either went really well or really poorly.  But more often than not, most of the time, the daily instruction would be in and out of my head just as quickly as it came in.  About 5 years ago, I began teaching mostly in the classroom.  I decided to spend 1 semester writing down at least a sentence or comment about every single class.  Even if it is was just, “class went well.”  Initially, those little notes became gratifying reminders on the impact positive lessons had on students.  It also gave me clarity on those times where I didn’t rise to the level of positivity that I’d done previously.  I’m not suggesting you write a paragraph all the time or even some of the time.  As a matter of fact, I only do that at the end of the day to summarize the entire day’s worth of class.  Even just a sentence can make a huge difference.  For example, “so glad that lesson went well, the kids really enjoyed our class”, is a prime example of a quick comment that helps us to remember the importance of positive reflection.

Start to finish – I’m a huge believer in the importance of the beginning and end of class.  They say when you go on an interview, your body language, tone and the words you use either eliminate your immediately or give you a chance for greatness.  The same holds true for class!  I mentioned about some of the key things for entering the room, but it’s just as important to finish strong, with a genuinely positive message.  As a point of reference, have you ever heard students complaining about the previous class they came from?  I know that older students are notorious for these types of outbursts.  While I feel really bad that they aren’t coming in happy, it always gives me pause as to what could have been done differently to stop that from happening.  For brevity’s sake, it’s really just being mindful.  If the class was challenging for students, giving them a minute to chat and unwind can be a huge difference maker.  Also, simply doing a brief reflection with a positive message can raise their spirits.  Again, ending strong helps your colleagues as students transition to their class, and leaves them inspired when they come back the next time.

Bringing positive energy to our classes and schools is transformative in nature.  That’s truly not an exaggeration.  When you see students and staff that are happy, smiling and positive the impact can change the culture of your school and even the community at large.  So when you enter the class, smile, say “hi” and spread positivity to all around you.  You’ll be happy with the results!

Always remember, you might have one!

Let’s always make sure we are helping others!


I’m lucky enough to have significant portions of my day spent teaching students how to exercise.  I won’t lie, helping teens to learn about the benefits of wellness and health isn’t something I take for granted.  One of the highlights of many past years is offering students who have special needs the opportunity to have Adaptive Physical Education.  Besides myself, we usually have 3-4 aides in the room who do a fabulous job of teaching.  I’ve gotten to know many of the staff on a first name basis. It’s not uncommon for us to chat after class ,and reflect on those things that went well and improvements that may be necessary.   

One day as a class was ending, I’d just finished chatting with one of our aides.  She mentioned the difficulty a few of her colleagues were having adjusting to the new caseload, and how much stress they felt in their current jobs.  Our class had a few severely impaired teens and the physicality of the job, along with a few other factors was taking a toll. We brainstormed some solutions that could easily be put in place. With the hope of integrating them for the next class.

As we were leaving the room, I noticed one of the male aides who’d recently finished the class.  He was walking down the hall with his head down, and it was obvious from his body language that his mood wasn’t on the stellar list of best days ever!  As he approached, I recalled how challenging a few of the previous classes had been for him.  The conflict of deciding what to say at the moment he came close was a memory I’ll always have.  Walking right past me and not noticing me, forced me to say, “Hello, is everything alright?” He continued to walk, without even a pause in his step.  Again, I said, “are you okay?  You seem really upset!”

Now, I don’t honestly know if me saying anything was the right thing or not.  These are situations that have so many variables which shape our reactions.  But because I knew him well and it was obvious he was under severe duress, the need to see if my assistance could help seemed important.  After the second shout, he turned around!  I could see the tears in his eyes and it was clear how upset he was.  He came back towards me and started to cry slightly.  I said, “I’m sorry for stopping you.  It seemed like you were really sad.”  He replied, “Craig, thank you so much for taking the time to say something.  I apologize for walking right past you.  I’m having such a horrible day that I got lost in my own little world.  Just having a friend trying to help me is making a huge difference.  Thank you again for raising my spirits.”

Even though the above situation only lasted about 2-3 minutes, it’s left an indelible footprint on the importance of helping and connecting with our colleagues.  Now I realize this it seems like common sense to help our fellow staff who work with children.  But it’s all too easy to wrap ourselves in our day and then leave; only taking the time to think about our daily lessons is commonplace in the hectic world of teaching.  I know I’ve been guilty of this on more occasion. Unfortunately, there aren’t any magic bullets for getting out of our own “little world.”  With that said,  some daily reflection can make a huge difference.  Along with taking time to think about our days, it’s refreshing to just unwind with our colleagues.  I’d only suggest that spending time and helping others not turn into a constant place where negativity reigns.  It’s perfectly okay to vent and discuss issues that we may be facing.  We all do this!  Keep in mind though, that whether you’re just chatting about the day or providing assistance, listening and positive talk really can change things for the better.  Below are a few tips that may be helpful.

  • Listen, without always giving advice.  Learning to have an open ear isn’t just a skill demonstrated in the classroom.  Even when advice seems useful, make sure it’s about helping with a purpose.  Keep it simple and on point.  If clarification is necessary, it should come from them, not just because we want to hear our own voices.  
  • Forget the four walls.  We know it’s best practice to meet and greet students in the hall.  But that’s not the only reason to leave your room.  Whether it’s sharing lunch with colleagues, getting a quick chat at the copy machine (okay, maybe not that quick), or just simply saying “hi” to the teacher next to you, the benefits can be huge.  Connections with our fellow educators can lay the groundwork for professional and personal growth that won’t occur if we just wrap ourselves solely into our classroom.
  • Share a lesson that’s gone well for you, or something that will make the day of a colleague better.  Even if you think another teacher has it all figured out, providing even the littlest help can do wonders.  Also, you’ll open yourself up to getting great ideas from them as well.  
  • Give a positive note or “shout out!”  We’ve done this at our school, and the benefits have been amazing.  Just a simple, “thanks for all you do” can brighten another person’s day.  The cost is a small, and everyone benefits.

While much of our day revolves around teaching, finding ways to connect and support another staff member is a win-win.  Building a strong climate and culture is a team effort.  If you start it, others will follow.  I hope you’ll take the time to make the day just a little brighter.