A Voice for Social Good and Educational Reform: All of Our Responsibility?

I am ending this year of 2013 with a blog post about having a voice for social change; for social good.  Social media has given us all a voice as well a potential audience.  We are living in unprecedented times.  At no time in history has there been this opportunity to reach so many people with our own unique voices using social media.

How we use that voice is up to each individual.  Social media users can choose to tweet about what they had for dinner or post selfies of their party life.  Since I have this mission-vision of making a difference especially in the field of education, I choose to use social media to disseminate my own ideas for a better educational system via this blog; using Twitter daily to tweet out ideas for educational reform and to share educational resources shared by the many great educators using Twitter.  I am finishing 2013 with close to 15,000 Twitter followers and almost 435,000 views of my blog with close to a quarter of a million in 2013.  The reason that I mention these statistics is that they provide at least a little evidence that my voice, my ideas have an audience . . . and I am very grateful for this audience.

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I also am a bit biased and opinionated in that I believe educators, counselors, social workers, and other service oriented folks should use social media to help create change in their respective and related fields.  I am guided by some powerful commentary that I heard during a Gloria Steinem keynote at a mental health conference.  She discussed that when those in the service field (I include educators in this) just work with individuals to resolve their specific problems, they are not treating the larger systemic issues.  She compared it to doctors only treating individuals in the case of a pandemic rather than trying to figure out and cure the larger epidemic.  We are living in a pandemic of bad, often toxic practices in public education where scripted curriculum, tests, and overwhelming accountability practices have taken over classrooms; where teachers and students are losing their “selves” as standardization is norm and creativity, uniqueness, and innovation are not rewarded; and being in the classroom has become painful for many teachers and way too many learners.

Many educators I know feel as though there are way too many initiatives, practices, curriculum, and assessments forced onto them that are contrary to their own beliefs, philosophies, and practices.  Some try to use their own voice and practices within their own schools and classrooms.  Others just go along for the ride because, according to them, teaching through someone else’s lens and world is better than not teaching at all . . . and still others have given up and left teaching completely (e.g, Teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’).  None of these actions results in changing the system; of helping to cure the pandemic of bad practices in education.

So in this end of year blog, I am putting out this call to action.  If you, as an educator or a supporter of a “good” education, believe that the educational systems could better meet the desires and needs of educators, administrators, learners’ families and most of all the learners, themselves, then use your voice to express your concerns and your proposed solutions for a better system.  This (educational) revolution can be Tweeted! This comment is in reference about the political movements that use social media as a voice against oppression and injustice.

The internet has opened a new arena, perhaps the purest democracy in the world. It is building bridges across continents, connecting causes, creating relationships, and raising consciousness to the point that the traditional role of the state in this area (of education) and many others is being slowly renegotiated and not on its terms. On ours. (The Revolution Will Be Tweeted)

Keeping silent might (emphasis on might) help a teacher keep his or her job, but at what cost?  What are the costs to the education professional, to oneself, to one’s own and future learners of keeping silent?

Having a voice for educational reform also connects to teachers regaining their agency as I discuss in Teacher Agency: Educators Moving from a Fixed to a Growth Mindset – with a short except here:

The bottom line, is that teachers need to reclaim their perceived and real teacher agency, voice, and empowerment. They need to develop a growth mindset that they can and do have agency in their profession.

With all that is happening in the education profession today, it is important to remember that teacher’s have power to change the system. This power for change can be called “Agency” which is defined as the capacity of teachers to shape critically their responses to educational processes and practices (Biesta and Teddler, 2006).  With all the external push from various sectors, ultimately teachers are the ones that can cut through all of the cross-purposed mandates and transform their own process and practices to ensure the best educational experiences for their students.  Teacher Agency and Today’s Teachers

. . . and as a parting shot, from Vicki Davis, CoolCatTeacher . . .

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Creating Engaging Curriculum: A More Perfect World

Recently I revised my A More Perfect World curriculum unit.  I reformatted it to a Weebly website for ease of access and update the links and web tools.

2013-12-28_1106http://moreperfectfuture.weebly.com/

This unit is driven by several of my core beliefs regarding effective instructional practices:

  • Reading as Choice: Reading is such an amazing gift we have as humans and way too many students don’t like to read for their own pleasure and learning.  Reading engagement and enjoyment are increased when students are permitted to choose what they read. No single practice inspires my students to read as much as the opportunity to choose their own books (Becoming a Classroom of Readers).
  • Choices in Learning Content:  Choice in how the content is learned increases engagement and intrinsic motivation.  Students should be given choices as to how to learn the content.  Content should be presented to learners in a variety of ways: readings, videos, graphics with the only expectation that they learn it in a way that works for them.  This is in line with Universal Design for Learning Principle: Provide Multiple Means of Representation.
  • Choices in Expressing Knowledge and Competency: Choice in how the learner demonstrates his or her knowledge of the content increases engagement and intrinsic motivation.  Learners should be given a choice as to how they want to and can express what they learned about the content based on their own styles, interests, and strengths.  This is in line with the Universal Design for Learning Principle: Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression.
  • Student Interest: Incorporating student interests into the curriculum increases relevancy.  Curiosity and thus learning thrive when connected to and/or emergent from contexts which are familiar and meaningful to the learner (The Importance of Engaging Students’ Interest in their Learning).   In this case, this unit incorporate the current interest of many young people in dystopian fiction as well as gives them opportunities to delve into their own interest areas throughout the lessons.
  • Project-Based Learning: Project-based learning is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges, simultaneously developing cross-curriculum skills. Because project-based learning is filled with active and engaged learning, it inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they’re studying. Research also indicates that students are more likely to retain the knowledge gained through this approach far more readily than through traditional textbook-centered learning. (Why Teach with Project-Based Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience).  For more about project-based learning, see my curated Scoopit on Project-Based Learning and my post Is It Project-Based Learning, Maker Education or Just Projects?
  • Drawing on Learners’ Idealism; Desire for a Better World: Many young people think about ways to create a better world. Idealism is a developmental milestone of adolescence. Young adolescents are idealistic at this stage, and they are quick to point out what is fair and what is not.  Their idealism pours into asking questions about the meaning of life, questions for which there are not definitive answers. They also become inwardly reflective about who they are and the roles they play. It is a great stage of life and a great opportunity and challenge to meet the needs of these young adolescents (Adolescent Development). These ideas should be integrated into the learning setting.
  • Arts Integration:  Arts integration is highly effective in engaging and motivating students. The arts provide students multiple modes for demonstrating learning and competency. A rich array of arts skills and intellectual processes provide multiple entry points for students linking to content in other subject areas. Similarly, arts instruction is deepened through integration of content from the other subject areas. It enlivens the teaching and learning experience for entire school communities. At its best, arts integration is transformative for students, teachers and communities. The imaginations and creative capacities of teachers and students are nurtured and their aspirations afforded many avenues for realization and recognition (Creating an Arts Integration School).

Maker Education: A “Good” 2013-14 Educational Trend

In the midst of the implementation of common core state standards and no relief in sight from all the standardized testing, there’s been a breadth of fresh air in the form of maker education entering into many classrooms.  The Maker Movement is not easily defined nor placed neatly into a nice little box.  It can be high tech or low tech; hacking what is or creating from scratch; it can be creating from building and arts materials or creating on the computer.  We have entered into a convergence of several factors that are igniting the maker education movement.

The rise of maker culture has been slowly bubbling out of sheds, science labs, tech workshops, in schools and learning spaces. But, suddenly it is very present. The Imagination Foundation that has emerged out of energy and excitement of Caine’s Arcade is raising funds and investing in projects that support maker activities in education. The New Maker Education Initiative, backed by a range of organizations including Intel and Pixar, has just launched its first project called Maker Corps.  There are initiatives like the Make2Learn which aims to “leverage DIY culture, digital practices, and educational research to advocate for placing making, creating, and designing at the core of educational practice”. Makers and Teachers Unite!

Some maker-related educational movements that gained traction in 2013 and will most likely gain more momentum in 2014 include:

  • A focus on STEM (science, technology, education, and mathematics) and STEAM (science technology, engineering, arts, mathematics):

At a time when many people are asking how we can get more students interested in STEM fields, we are hearing from teachers who have found making to be a great way to get students excited and engaged in their classrooms. We are seeing making occurring in subject classes such as math or science — in classes specifically listed as maker classes — and in a variety of less formal settings such as clubs and study halls. Many of these projects incorporate a variety of STEM topics. (Engaging Students in the STEM Classroom Through “Making”)

New open-source microcontrollers, sensors, and interfaces connect the physical and digital worlds in ways never before possible. Plug-and-play devices that connect small microprocessors to the Internet, to each other, or to any number of sensors mean that low-cost, easy-to-make computational devices can test, monitor, and control your world. They offer much more than just “hands-on” crafting—these tools bring electronics, programming, and computational mathematics together in meaningful, powerful ways. We must reimagine school science and math not as a way to prepare students for the next academic challenge, or a future career, but as a place where students are inventors, scientists, and mathematicians today. (How the Maker Movement is Transforming Education)

  • The growing popularity of online game making and hacking platforms like Scratch and Minecraft:

Think of the Maker Movement as DIY for technology. It’s not just a passing fad – web tools like KidsRuby, Gamemaker, Scratch, Storify and Mozilla Webmaker make it possible for people of all ages to learn to code, build games, and re-mix media. For libraries and schools, the Maker Movement means new opportunities for promoting digital, media, visual, and critical literacies (21st century literacies). (Inanimate Alice and the Maker Movement)

  • An interest in and focus on design thinking both in educational and corporate sectors:

Making is a way of bringing creativity, authentic design thinking, and engineering to learners. Tinkering is the process of design, the way real scientists and engineers invent new things. Such concrete experiences provide a meaningful context for understanding abstract science and math concepts while often incorporating esthetic components. Creating opportunities for students to solve real problems, combined with imaginative new materials and technology, makes learning come alive and cements understandings that are difficult when only studied in the abstract. (Why we’re excited about the Maker Movement, maybe you should be too!)

3D Printing is one of the most disruptive technologies around. These printers are affordable, personal fabrication tools, compact enough to sit on any desktop, and allow anyone at any skill level to become producers, inventors and artists. Students participate in project-based learning that is experiential in nature and has real-world applications.  3D printing projects engage students in the world around them, kindles a curiosity about how machines work, how objects fit together, and how the designers, architects, and inventors who build the products, spaces and technology in their lives have found solutions to a variety of design problems.  (Makerbot Curriculum)

The goals of Imagination Foundation, who sponsors, the Cardboard Challenge is in line with many Maker Education Initiatives:

1. Instill Creative Thinking as a Core Skill and Social Value
Give kids the tools to develop as creative thinkers who can take on the jobs of the future, seek innovative and resourceful solutions, tackle social issues and find happiness.

2. Give Kids Opportunities to Create and Learn Based on their Passions
Help children find and develop their passions through play, hands-on learning and supportive communities. Design scalable Project-Based Learning programs that can be used by a wide range of communities.

3. Foster a Community of Creative Makers
Develop an engaged community (local and global) of young makers, parents, storytellers and educators who can share with, learn from, and inspire one another.  (Goals of the Imagination Foundation)

Common Core and the new Next Generation Science Standards emphasize critical thinking, creativity, and 21st century skills. To achieve these goals requires taking a hard look at both what we teach and how we teach it. The Maker Movement offers lessons, tools, and technology to steer a new course to more relevant, engaging learning experiences for all students. (Lessons from the Maker Movement for K-12 Educators)

Technology and the related movements as discussed above have amplified the human desire to create, innovate, share, learn from one another, and have an authentic audience.  What was once reserved for those with special skills and often lots of money is now accessible to the masses.  Maker education stems from developments related to Web 3.0 and the evovling Education 3.0 – which is characterized by learners being creators, contributors, connectors, and constructivists.  This is the type of education many of this generation are embracing often, sadly, in their “beyond school” learning.

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These movements, initiatives, technological advancements show no signs of slowing down in the future and hopefully, will change education to better meet the needs, desires, interests, and passions of both educators and learners. Maker education has become a grassroots movement of informal learning as so many are craving and embracing this type of learning.  Just maybe, with educators and learners taking the initiative, these developments will work their way into more formal educational settings.

The maker movement has the opportunity to transform education by inviting students to be something other than consumers of education. They can become makers and creators of their own educational lives, moving from being directed to do something to becoming self-directed and independent learners. Increasingly, they can take advantage of new tools for creative expression and for exploring the real world around them. They can be active participants in constructing a new kind of education for the 21st-century, which will promote the creativity and critical thinking we say we value in people like Steve Jobs. Learning by Making: American kids should be building rockets and robots, not taking standardized tests by Dale Dougherty, founder, President & CEO of Maker Media, Inc.

Other posts on the Maker Movement:

Best Education-Related Videos of 2013

I love end of year “best of” lists.  My own list is what I found to be the most powerful education related videos of 2013. They all, in some way, address the mind, heart, and spirit of education.  Each touched me in some way to help illuminate the purpose and core of education.  They are in no particular order expect for the first one which is my number one choice and one that I believe all educators should be required to watch.

Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion

Favorite Quote:

Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

Favorite Quote:

Governments decide they know best and they’re going to tell you what to do. The trouble is that education doesn’t go on in the committee rooms of our legislative buildings. It happens in classrooms and schools, and the people who do it are the teachers and the students. And if you remove their discretion, it stops working.

Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud

Favorite Quote:

We need a curriculum of big questions, examinations where children can talk, share and use the Internet, and new, peer assessment systems. We need children from a range of economic and geographic backgrounds and an army of visionary educators. We need a pedagogy free from fear and focused on the magic of children’s innate quest for information and understanding.

Malala Yousafzai United Nations Speech 2013

Favorite Quote:

Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child’s bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education for everyone. No one can stop us. We will speak for our rights and we will bring change through our voice. We must believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the world.  Because we are all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

Hackschooling makes me happy

Favorite Quote:

We don’t seem to make how to be healthy and happy a priority in our schools; it’s separate from schools, and for some kids it doesn’t exist at all, but what if we didn’t make it separate? What if we based our education on the practice of being happy and healthy because that’s what it is: a practice, and a simple practice at that. … Education is important, but why is being happy and healthy not considered education? I just don’t get it.

If students designed their own schools…

Favorite Quote:

It’s crazy that in a system that is meant to teach and help the youth there is no voice from the youth at all.

I think the more options we have in our schools, the more students we will help develop into the kind of citizens that we need and that it’s okay for you to need a little bit of a different approach from mine.

“To This Day” … for the bullied and beautiful

Favorite Quote:

Why else would we still be here?
we grew up learning to cheer on the underdog
because we see ourselves in them
we stem from a root planted in the belief
that we are not what we were called we are not abandoned cars stalled out and sitting empty on a highway
and if in some way we are
don’t worry
we only got out to walk and get gas
we are graduating members from the class of
f–k off we made it
not the faded echoes of voices crying out
names will never hurt me

TN Student Speaks Out About Common Core, Teacher Evaluations, and Educational Data

Quote:

I stand before you because I care about education, but also because I want to support my teachers, and just as they fought for my academic achievement, so I want to fight for their ability to teach. This relationship is at the heart of instruction, yet there will never be a system by which it is accurately measured.

Middle school football players execute life-changing play

Favorite Quote:

I kind of went from being somebody who mostly cared about myself and my friends to caring about everyone and trying to make everyone’s day and everyone’s life.

I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate

So this one is for my generation.  The ones that found what they were looking for on Google, the ones who followed their dreams on Twitter, pictured their future on Instagram, accepted destiny on Facebook.This ones for my “failures” and “dropouts”  For my unemployed graduates. My shop assistants, cleaners and cashiers with bigger dreams!! My world changers and dream chasers!!
Because purpose of “Why I hate school, but love education” was not to initiate a world wide debate, but to let them know that whether 72 or 88, 44 or 68.  We will not let an exam results decide our fate. Peace.

My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech

Favorite Quote:

You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living… You can either sit in your basement and wait, or you can get out there and do some crazy stuff… Life is just a bunch of beautiful moments, one right after the other…

A Pep Talk from Kid President to You

Favorite Quote:

This is your time. This is my time. It’s our time, if we can make everyday better for each other, if we’re all in the same team lets start acting like it. We got work to do. We can cry about it or dance about it. We were made to be awesome. Lets get out there.

Landfill Harmonic Amazing and Inspirational

Teachers: A Simple (Not Easy) Pedagogy Assessment

I have discussed and promoted the need for educators to reflect deeply on their beliefs, processes, and practices in several of my posts: Where is Reflection in the Learning Process and  Teacher Agency: Coming from a Strong Foundation.  As another strategy for engaging in this type of self-reflection, I developed these questions to have educators assess their pedagogical principles and instructional preferences:

  • Do you want your students to parrot the thoughts of others or want them to develop and express their own original thoughts?
  • Do you want students to consume knowledge and content or have them to add content to existing knowledge bases?
  • Do you want to give your students the content to be learned or have them learn to search for and locate the content for themselves?
  • Do you only teach students only what was or do you also ask to imagine what could be?
  • Do you have students copy what is or do you ask them develop and create “new” things?
  • Do you tell students what projects to create or give them the permission, time, and resources to create their projects?
  • Do you focus on telling students your and other experts’ stories or do you integrate the students’ stories in the classroom?
  • Do you view all students are equal or do you see them as unique individuals and help insure that each receives unique instruction?  (tricky)
  • Do you seek to control the behavior of your students or do you work to teach them the skills to manage and direct their own behaviors?
  • Do you want your students only to learn to just listen to you, the teacher, or also to one another, other students, adults, and experts?
  • Do you insist that your students be like everyone else or do you insist that they become their own individual “selves”?

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This title of this post states “simple but not easy” because to answer the questions is simple.  I know that every good teacher would answer these questions in the direction of student-centric education; one that is in the best interests of the student.  But implementation is another thing.  To implement the non-maintstream alternative is not easy given the accountability systems, one’s own training and background, and mandated school initiatives.  It takes a strong, self-directed and courageous educator to do so.

Teacher Agency: Coming from a Strong Foundation

My past few blog posts have been dedicated to teacher agency:

This post focuses on the foundation needed to have authentic, strong, and purpose-driven teacher agency.  To have a voice, to gain agency, it is important to have a strong philosophical foundation and be able to clearly articulate one’s ideals, values, mission, and vision as an educator.

As part of teaching pre-service teachers, I ask them to spend a lot of time exploring why they are becoming teachers, their values related to being one, philosophical orientations, and desired instructional practices.  This builds a good foundation for their lives as teachers but what I find interesting is that educators are rarely asked to re-visit these core and foundational areas once they become teachers, once they have the experience of being a teacher.  I fear that many, once they get caught up with the mandates, accountability systems, requirements of being a teacher, they lose sight the why they became teachers.

The recommendation, then, is for educators to periodically revisit why they became teachers along with the exploring and possibly revising their value system and related teaching philosophies.  This could be done as an individual endeavor but it is more powerful done within a professional learning community.  Some exercises to assist with this process follow.

Characteristics of Effective Teachers and Letter to an Ineffective Teacher

Brainstorm characteristics of effective teachers.  The recommended number is about 10 to 15.  As a follow up, a letter could be written to an ineffective teacher, explaining what made him/her ineffective and what could make make him or her more effective.  Example:

Developing a Teaching Mission Statement

Grant Wiggins believes educators should be able to address and answer the question, Why do you teach?, in the form of a teaching mission statement.

Having taught, what should they have learned?  What do you aim to accomplish as a teacher? What is your goal for the year, for all the years? What kind of a difference in their thinking and acting are you committed to? Why You Teach: Developing A Teacher Mission Statement

Some resources for assisting with this process:

Specifying Beliefs as an Educator

This is an expansion of the developing a mission statement.  It is a list of guiding beliefs or principles for teaching.  Examples:

Promises to Our Students

Create a list of promises to your students.  Post them in your classroom so both you and they can view them.

teachers promise 2http://firstgradewow.blogspot.com/2012/09/my-promise-to-my-students.html

Create a Purpose Statement of Education from a Futuristic Perspective

Pretend it is the year 2100. So almost a hundred years have passed from the current day.  What has been the purpose of education in the 21st century based on your beliefs on what is the best education for our students?

    • create an image
    • write a newspaper or magazine article
    • create a fable
    • create presentation
    • write a narrative

Year_2100This is a great paper written by an alternative teaching licensure student:

2100 Scenario: The 100th Year Progress Report of the Bio-Regional Resource Center for Public Education

Conclusion

As this is part of my mission to encourage educators to demand their own agency, it is important for educators to take these exercises to the next level.  They need to live out and put into practice their beliefs and values.  They need to demand of themselves, their students, their administrators, and their communities that they are given the opportunity to do what they know in their hearts and minds what is in the best interests of the students.

A Culture of Kindness: 26 Acts of Kindness – 2013

Why on earth would a rational person give money to charity–particularly a charity that supports strangers? What do they get?

A story.

In fact, every time someone donates to a good cause, they’re buying a story, a story that’s worth more than the amount they donated.

It might be the story of doing the right thing, or fitting in, or pleasing a friend or honoring a memory, but the story has value. It might be the story that you, and you alone are able to make this difference, or perhaps it’s the story of using leverage to change the world. For many, it’s the story of what it means to be part of a community.  Seth Godin http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/11/what-do-we-get-when-we-give-to-a-good-cause.html

This Seth Godin quote provides a solid rationale why adults give to charities.  Kids and young people don’t have nor do many of them think about charity in terms of dollars and cents.  A precursor to giving both time as a volunteer and money as an adult, I believe, is creating a culture of kindness and giving in kids’ home and school lives.

We need to create a “culture of kindness,” encouraging a spirit of generosity and love where differences are accepted and celebrated, rather than targeted. In a culture of kindness, students stand up for and next to one another, all for one and one for all.  A dedicated effort to teach, advocate, and model kindness will work much better than efforts to punish meanness. Michael Josephson http://whatwillmatter.com/2012/04/commentary-establishing-a-culture-of-kindness/

One of the best ways to create a culture of kindness is to model and live one.  Last year, in response to the Sandy Hook travesty, Ann Curry propose 26 acts of kindness to honor the 26 children and teachers killed at the elementary school. My post of last year’s acts, Living a Life of Kindness: #26acts.  I plan on making this a yearly occurrence and posting about it – hopefully to inspire others to add a little more kindness into their own and their kids’/students’ lives. (Note: I actually have been doing acts of kindness for years especially around the holidays when I get a break from my college teaching.  I never told anyone of these acts as they are personal and I don’t do them for any need of acknowledgement.  But as I’ve stated, I hope telling this story inspires others to be proactive in their acts of kindness.)

Below are the beginning of my 2013 list as a response to Black Friday – they are my stories of giving kindness.  They begin with acts that were not financial based and then with acts of giving money to charities.

#1 – Clerk with Autism

I went to the local Hastings to buy my brother some books for the holidays.  I asked for a specific genre – WWII – because this topic is a passion for my brother, who has Aspergers.  I explained this to her.  She said that she has Asperger’s, too.  I told her that she was doing well as a clerk and she said sometimes it is hard for her.  That night there was a special event at the mall.  The center of the mall was set up to host live bands and some of the local restaurants were giving away free appetizers.  I explained this to the clerk who did not know of the event.  I asked her if she had a break to go check out the event.  She said she did not as she was only on 5 hour shifts.  At the same time, two of the young Hastings clerks, early twenties possibly, were going on break and headed towards this event.  The clerk asked them as they were leaving, “Can you get me some food?”  They totally ignored her.  As soon as I finish paying for the books, I headed to the event, grabbed several appetizers, went back to Hastings, and handed her the food.

#2 – Birthday Party for Kim

20131106_165623Kim is a very sweet and dedicated spin bike instructor.  She is giving is time, energy, and resources . . . goes way beyond what one expects or gets from a fitness instructor.  She told us a birthday was coming up.  I got party decorations and a decadent chocolate cake and set up the spin room prior to class.  She celebrated through three of her classes.

#3 – An Unexpected Hug

I take a pottery class at the local community college.  There about 15 in the class including an older woman from Germany.  She is abrupt in her comments and thoughts; and lacks the humor that most of the rest of us have in the class.  She is not well-liked due to this.  I have somewhat befriended her talking to her about her pots.  We had a long break coming due to Thanksgiving.  She was leaving and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving.  I asked her for a hug before she left expecting a little, slight embrace.  The opposite occurred.  She gave me a strong, long, caring hug – such an unexpected treat.

#4 – Donated to Save the Children disaster relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan right after the typhoon.

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#5 – Supported the amazing Black Girls Rock by Tweeting about their sheros show and purchasing a t-shirt.

#6, 7, 8, 9, 10 – Donated special gifts through Save the Children – 2 goats, school clinic, clean water clinic, community book bank, 14 week supply of ready to use food

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#11 – Selected a Donors Choose program for a local classroom teacher to buy books, The Fault in Our Stars and Thirteen Reasons Why, for her teen students.

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#12 – Another donation to help with those in the Philippines affected by the typhon

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#14 – Donation to help in Haiti’s Beyond the Borders to help end childhood slavery there.

#15 – Donated to Indiegogo project – Afrimakers: Empower makers in Africa to develop sustainable projects and use making to solve local challenges and create an exchange of best practices between locals.

#16 – Gave a Hug & a Chocolate Treat

I have a fitness instructor who is amazing in fitness but lacking in social skills.  She often runs her group fitness classes like a drill sergeant – making everyone be there on time and yelling about form the whole time.  Many don’t take her class due to this.  But I like her routine, so I put up with her “meanness”.  That day someone in class mentioned it was her birthday.  After class, I took a deep breath and went up to her to give her a hug.  During her barely touching me hug, I said that I appreciated her classes and was happy I got to take them.  That day I went to the local bakery and bought her chocolate brownies and gave them to her as a birthday/Christmas present a few days later.  She seemed genuinely appreciative.

#17 – Donated to Be K.I.N.D. to a Girl in Malawi. Provide a School Scholarship.

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#18 – Ceramic Sponges to My Pottery Buds

Bought and gave out specialized ceramic sponges to my pottery buddies.

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#19 – Toys for Tots Zumbathon

Attended a Zumbathon where the entrance fee was a toy for tots.

20131214_122444FYI – I bought the Black and Decker kids’ toolkit seen in the front.  It supports my belief that kids’ toys and play should involve creating, making, innovating.

#20 – Holiday Treats for My Brother and His Family

I have been disconnected with my youngest brother and his family for about three years – no calls, presents, or cards.  It was not precipitated by anything.  It just happened.  I bought and am sending his family a basket of baked treats for a local bakery for Christmas.

#21 – Donated and Supported (through Tweets) to Project for Awesome

Donated to get a t-shirt and a signed copy of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (score! in many ways).

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#22 – Donated to Pencils of Promise to Help Build a School

2013-12-17_1917#23 – Helped 80-something Betsy learn how to shape a pottery bowl

I rented some studio space at Santa Fe Clay for the month of December because the college where I do pottery is closed for the winter break.  Studio space costs some $$$ – it has as such become a place where retired and a bit wealthy patrons make pots.  I have been going in a few hours several days a week.  I tend to just focus on my work.  I did notice a woman probably in her mid or late 80s working on some bowls and asked her about it.  She told me that she made pots in her 20s and wanted to get back into it.  She explained that it was NOT like riding a bike and that she was struggling a bit.  I have a great handmade wooden tool, called a rib, that’s great for shaping bowls.  As she was working on a bowl, I asked her if I could shape her bowl to show her how.  She watched intently and asked some questions.  I told her to try the rib on her next bowl.  When she got to the point of shaping with my rib, I went over and talked her through using it.  Her bowl looked good – much better than the bowls she made earlier – and showed me as such.  She thanked me and said it was probably the best tip she’s gotten since going back to pottery.  A little bit of my time made a difference for her AND for me as the gift in giving is priceless.

#24 – Donated to Unicef USA as an end of year matched donation

2013-12-31_1037#25 – Donated to Save the Children

2013-12-31_1115#26 – Donated to International Rescues

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Parting shot . . .

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