My Blog

Drive-by Educating

Right now, educators and parents are providing opportunities on social media, reminding us of the value of a schedule, and offering to help in the wake of this crisis with #covid19 That’s awesome, but it can be overwhelming. Please, resist the temptation to panic or to go overboard for a moment.

This is a Maslow before Bloom moment*.

Your job as a parent, day care provider, community librarian, teacher, preacher or other caring adult is to be present and calm. In our heavily-scheduled world, this lack of something to do, somewhere to be in an organized setting is equal parts annoying and uncomfortable. But your response, right now, makes a difference. Create a sense of calm in your home or routine.


Anxious, panicked kiddos are not learning. Not all learning happens at school. At the same time, this is not a non-stop video game journey. Here are 4 simple steps for THIS WEEK.

  1. Set a flexible schedule and ease into changes. That could be starting with a limited amount of reading or writing, such as three or four 10 minute intervals. Imagine ‘drive-by educating’ your child.
  2. Card and dice games are a type of critical and computational thinking. That’s the #1 skill I teach in classes, as it combines math, strategy, laughter, communication and learning to be a good loser.
  3. If possible, go outside for a little bit on a stoop or balcony or patio or park. Listen. The world is still spinning and the birds are chirping.
  4. Practice radical self-care. You can’t be a great guardian if you can’t take care of yourself. Humor, kindness, a long shower or stress baking are all allowed.


This is your moment to shine. Yes, you may not be able to teach your students. That’s a hard reality. It’s likely that schools may be closed for the rest of the year. It sucks. Having said that:

Nothing is stopping you from building community.

Did you hear that? We teach in the context of others. We have the strategies to be effective. We are NOT simply content-delivery farms. Yes, there are equity issues. But you have phone numbers, emails, and ways to connect with the parents or guardians of your students. Why not call them and see if they are ok, especially with kids who struggle with inequity or homelessness? Here’s a fast four for you this week as well.

  1. Start a weekly check-in using one of the many conferencing apps. While I use, there are lots of great options out there for phone calls. We need that connection with our students. Start a check-in call with them as well to avoid social isolation.
  2. Instead of overwhelming them, share 1 or 2 learning options they can do by themselves. That’s as simple as sharing something and challenging them to journal or draw about it.
  3. Now’s a good time to mail extra paperback to those kiddos you worry about, or share extra materials you have in a free library. Keep the learning that is possible going.
  4. If you are going online with students, the conversations and clarifications are more important than that slide decks. Really think about that. Those learners already have the digital literacy to read and access material. They need context.

The Center for Teaching Quality is offering primers on building online communities, and it’s what I’ve been working on for years. Reach out to the expertise that is available.

*Abraham Maslow was a psychologist that identified and quantified a hierarchy of needs as a framework for motivating individuals. Benjamin Bloom was an educational psychologist who focused on complexity of learning.

#Seeing2020 Challenge

At the start of a new decade, it is common to make a splash by proclaiming personal resolutions. Bring in the better!

There’s just one problem. The social media world is one of pretend. We don’t live here.

So here’s my own spin for #seeing2020. I am working on authentic, honest portrayals of my life. Goodbye plastic social media.

Perhaps you could join me in making a better web experience. Choose whatever way works for you. Tag it #seeing2020. The things posted are up to you, but I’d suggest

  • Posting credible sources.
  • Creating daily and sharing the process.
  • Choosing to see good in another or walking away if you cannot.
  • Posting a picture of you or family or home in it’s authentic glory.
  • Engaging in conversation instead of sound bites.

This past week has been hard, summed up best by a big bill to the vet clinic that included a diagnosis of Lyme disease and a uterine prolapse.

Our dog, Linux, is dealing with an unexpected surgery this week.

No new group to join, no membership costs for something that won’t be used. Just an opportunity to share with each other. I hope you join me.

Get your groove back: #committochange

The news is disquieting,

Covid numbers are quite frightening,

If you’ve never been a quitter

and you want to make things better.

Pave your corner of the sky

with a better by-and-by.

Take a moment, pick a cause

Pick a number from some straws.

In your town and in your place

#Committochange and spread some grace.

Are you a difference-maker? Do you want to use your voice and change the status quo? That’s become increasingly difficult for me as the summer moves along. Each day, new concerns arise. It’s easy to become overwhelmed. In short, I’ve been Stella before she got her groove back. And my Hamilton lyrical skills make me think I shouldn’t give up my day job.

After several weeks of struggle, I think I’ve learned something. I do better when I’m working with my communities. Those include the Center for Teaching Quality, my education peeps, my faith, and my political interests. While I’m not able to march, or participate in events like the Iowa Drive for Lives Car Procession, I can support others. I can lift my voice with others. We have gifts of faith, time, talent, or money. In the words of Gandhi, we can become the change we wish to be in the world.

Joining up is as simple as committing to a new habit in the next 60 days. Even better, invite a friend. You know what you can do to make the world better when injustice and inequity are present, but here are some ideas that might help you get started:

  • Option 1: Safety and PPE. With schools starting, safety equipment will be a vital need. Check out a sample Amazon list of safety equipment you could buy and donate to your school here. 
  • Option 2: Are you a writer with a passion for social media and an understanding of systemic racism hoping to educate others about privilege? Check out whitenonsenceroundup.
  • Option 3: Buy a dozen masks from a local business and donate to your local school. (Iowans, Joan Fox does a great job with this.)
    Option 4: Catch up on the movement for equity by a Twitter follow five: @valeriabrownedu, @thejlv, @teachmoore,  #educolor, and #cleartheair .
  • Option 5: Write postcards for a candidate you support by contacting their office and becoming a volunteer. Make your voice heard and support others in their right to vote.
  • Option Kitchen Sink: YOU know what you need to do in your own community. Choose an idea and make yourself accountable by tagging it. Share your own ideas with others as you #committochange  over the next 60 days. #bethechange #makeadifference #shiftstatusquo

Take a chance, make a change, challenge yourself. #readysetgo

STEAM Challenge

Looking for a low-tech, open-ended challenge for today? This can be printed off, or use a sheet of lined paper or graph paper to make an 11 x 13 grid. Yup, 11 squares in one direction, and 13 in another.

Ask a simple question. What is the smallest number of squares that will fill the grid completely? If you do nothing, the 11 x 13 grid will take 11×11 (121) + 2×11 (22) = 143 squares.

The entire lesson plan can be found on the Youcubed site.


makeymakey guitar

Students in grades 5-7 enjoyed Afterschool STEM club.  We had the opportunity to work with Rubik’s cube mosaics, bloxel game building, BreakoutEDU, Lego battlebots, and MakeyMakey.  A combination of fun, collaboration, design thinking, and goalsetting let us build games, tinker with 3D printing, and discover individual talents.



robot lego fighter
Getting ready for battlebots