Get Rid of Excuses and Get Ahead

Day 42 of 80 Days of Excellence

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

A fictional account of what happened in Daniel captured my interest tonight. Taken from the book Agents of Babylon by David Jeremiah, on page 169, the fictionalized Daniel talks about the peace in the districts he manages and says,


“Unrest always has an underlying — and often legitimate — cause… it serves us well as leaders to listen and learn. In most cases, a simple compromise can appease the people and protect our interests while costing us nothing. And when we work for an agreeable resolution, the people begin to trust us and become cooperative, which eliminates the need for force.”

How to Get Rid of Excuses with Other People

In the fictional example above, Daniel talks about listening. Well, after fifteen years of teaching, I typically know the excuses students make that keep them from learning. So, my strategy is hitting it head-on.

Today is a perfect example. Before I started teaching the hardest thing of the year in my advanced Computer Science class today, binary numbers, I got the excuses out of the way. Those excuses are typically:

  • This looks too hard
  • I can’t learn it
  • I won’t learn it
  • If I pretend to learn I can just not understand this and she’ll eventually move on without me having to learn it
  • I’m not going to pay attention and then blame it on her
  • It is going to take me too long to learn it and I’ll fail the first test so why try?
  • I’m going to make a joke out of it and try to get a laugh

How do I handle this?

Deal with excuses up front

Well, I give an excuse-killing speech that goes something like this,

“We’re going to learn the hardest thing of the year right now to get it out of the way. In all 15 years I’ve taught, every student has learned how to do binary numbers. All of them. And unless you think you might be the first, here’s how this works. I teach it until you know it. When the whole class is making A’s, then we move on.

Sometimes I’ve taught a class in 7 days with 4 or 5 tests. Other times it has taken me two weeks and the all time top record was 14 different quizzes or tests to get to where we knew it.

I’ve got four different ways to teach binary numbers. Eventually I’ll get to the way you learn. If I don’t we’ll spend one on one time making sure you get it. If you’re worried about all of these quizzes and tests, there’s no need. I do something called formative assessment.

This means, I’m quizzing you while knowledge is forming. So, I give lots of little quizzes so you can see how you’re doing. I don’t give a real quiz or test until all of you are answering the formative quizzes with over 80% right and I know you understand it.

Some of you will look at it and think it is too hard. But then, there are some of you who will learn it and it will be ridiculously easy. Don’t say anything to make the others feel bad – it looks really hard until the light bulb goes on and it is really easy.”

Now, yes, that takes a good five minutes and in reality, is a tad longer. However, since I’ve started setting their frame of mind for this, the kids will learn how to convert binary to decimal within 15 minutes of giving this speech – and that time includes a 5-minute movie.

No Excuses Can Mean Real Progress

You see, once they know that I accept no excuses and everyone will learn it and I will teach everyone, they’ll relax and learn it.

But here’s the cool thing, they not only finished in my class, but they went to math class and after they finished started working binary problems “for fun.” I praised the class for how quickly they all learned it as each person showed me their answer.

The first class took 5 problems before everyone got it right. My second class took 4 problems! The previous record was 8 problems!

Who You Excuse Says A Lot About You

I can tell a great teacher by who they blame.

A mediocre or average teacher will usually blame the students or parents or society. They’ll make excuses for themselves, however.

The greatest teachers are always striving to do better. They hold a very high standard for themselves first — but also a high one for their students.  These teachers focus on what they can control — themselves.

I like to stay away from the blame game.

As an aside, every sort of “blame” can be a problem if taken too far. (Who doesn’t know the person who is always saying “I’m sorry” when they haven’t done anything wrong! You can say, it is cold today and they’ll apologize!)

Accepting Responsibility

However, taking responsibility for what you can do is important.

Today’s challenge is to look at areas of your life and see who gets your excuses? Who gets most of your blame?

I have a sign Mom handed down to me in my classroom.

“No Whining”

If I find myself whining, then I do something about it. Either a swift self-kick in the pants or I face facts about a situation and do something to change it or move on.

I just loved how Daniel in the opening didn’t make excuses for poor governing. He showed mercy for his people. And he held the government officials responsible as well as himself.

Today’s Excellence Challenge

Think of the biggest struggle in your life.

Are you making excuses for yourself? Are you blaming others? If others are truly at fault, how will you respond?


The post Get Rid of Excuses and Get Ahead appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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Waste: Finding Balance in a Demanding World

Day 41 of 80 Days of Excellence

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

To complain without action or to pour yourself out without reservation: both of these habits are a waste. Not all bad things are worth belaboring. All good things are not you-things that you have to do. Sometimes a desert of exhaustion and despair is of our own making.

Right now, we have a long weekend off school. Part of what I’m doing is to rest and recover! Looking through old journal entries, I came across a poem I wrote on February 24, 2016 entitled “Waste” that spoke to me about the challenge we all face not to waste our lives complaining about what we can’t change or pouring ourselves into causes we’re not called to do.


There are those who will tell you every wrong.

Listen and they’ll sing their song.

“Woe is me. Poor me – sad me. Everything ill.

So, sit here and hear me complain and I will.”

Crystal spider webs can be woven to make a strong line,

So do grumblers who weave their own straight jacket one tiny complaint at a time.


Then there are those with no boundary

They’ll do their job and others’ without quandary.

But one day they wake up and have lost their art

No thanks. No joy. Just broken heart.

They pour out their pitcher until it dries up

And stare open mouthed at their empty cup.


Oh the happy soul who strikes the chord

Of harmonious balance, each day looking toward.

They don’t whine and complain nor everything touch,

Their life has purpose with some sense left to clutch.

Oh to balance life tween thick and thin, with joy left to put it all in

No binding vest or empty vase, just life to the full with nothing a waste.

By Vicki Davis


I hope you’re encouraged to find balance in your life as you seek to make things better and find your purpose. You’re called to something but not everything. You’re called somewhere but you can’t physically be everywhere.

Life is full of choices. The best among us make those choices.

  • They work where they can make a difference.
  • They refuse to complain pointlessly.
  • They steward their lives as the finite and precious resource that they are.

Nobody is making more time and nobody is making any more of you. You’ve got to make choices about the best way to spend you and your time and nobody can do that for you. But if you burn out and wear out and there’s no more of you, you can’t really do anyone any good, can you?

Today, examine your past week. Did you complain pointlessly at any time? Are you pouring your time and energy into too many things? Even worse, are you pouring them into things that aren’t really a calling for you anymore? Reflect and take action.

This post is day 41 of 80 days of excellence. I’ve created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

The post Waste: Finding Balance in a Demanding World appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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5 Ways to Stop Bullying in Every School

Rick Rando on episode 260 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

School culture and policies are part of what helps us combat bullying in schools. Rick Rando, school empowerment speaker, shares what schools can do to help stop bullying.

Check out Reinventing Writing, the book I authored that teaches about the nine collaborative writing tools, how to build writing communities, and tips and tricks for collaborative writing in Google Docs and more.

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Enhanced Transcript

5 Ways to Stop Bullying in Every School

Link to show: http://www.coolcatteacher/e260
Date: February 16, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Rick Rando @RandoSpeaks. He travels the country, delivers keynotes, and has a message about anti-bullying. But today, we’re going to talk about five ways to stand against bullying in every school.

So Rick, what’s our first way?

Rick: Well, basically, it all comes down to culture.

Number one? Know your school’s anti-bullying culture and showcase it proudly.

Tip 1: Know your school’s anti-bullying culture and showcase it proudly.

I’m a big Disney fan. Roy Disney said it best, “It’s easy to make decisions when you know what your values are.”

I have a quick acronym for you. It’s BEEE.

  • Build
  • Establish
  • Execute
  • Enforce/Reinforce that culture.

What you have to do is figure out what your school is about, how you want to approach bullying, to find exactly what it is about bullying that you need to look for or identify, and then basically create a culture around not having that be present.

Essentially, this has to be exhibited from the top down. And I’ll do one step further. Once you create your anti-bullying culture — what it looks like, how to identify it –, then you can’t be afraid to revisit that culture, knowing that. Is this something that’s working? Is it not working? Be able to revisit that tool, basically, create it or implement it almost like a business.

In a business when they implement something, it’s create and then train their staff and implement a new idea, and then they have to assess if it’s working or not to retool and retrain.

Essentially, it’s all about creating an anti-bullying culture. That’s something that we forget to do. When I go into schools, it’s something that a lot of schools don’t have, frankly.

Vicki: Yes. I remember seeing two young men today, and they said, “Oh, we’re just playing and having fun.”

I said, “I don’t like how it looks. You just have not to do it, because I don’t like how it looks.”

That’s part of that culture of, “This is how we treat each other.”

OK, what’s our second, Rick?

Rick: Give everyone the resources to live and to thrive in the culture that you’ve actually just created.

Tip 2: Give everyone the resources to live and to thrive in the culture that you’ve actually just created.

Like I said, once you clearly defined what bullying actually is (because there’s a difference between bullying and name-calling, teasing — there’s definitely a little bit of difference there, so it’s important to establish exactly what it is) but then, go ahead and give your staff, your parents, your students, your administrators the tools that they need to go ahead and stamp it out, identify it, deal with it.

To give you an example, like staff… I went to one school once and they all had t-shirts on that said, “We are not a bully school!”

From verbal training to disciplinary procedures to positive reinforcement of an anti-bullying platform or message…

Parents: In Allegany County, Maryland have on their website information that you can access, but also submit and anonymous incidence report. What happens is they get a chance to — the school board can assess to see exactly what this is and where it’s happening and follow up with administrators and hopefully serve those needs in that particular school. Parents feel really connected, that they have a platform to reach out and know that the school and the school board is going to handle it.

Students: Posters, fliers, assemblies. I do assemblies. I just came from one this morning in schools, talking about anti-drug, anti-bullying. Again, it’s about creating that culture of, “We’re not going to stand for it.”

Staff: Having those messages from the guidance counselor — guidance talks and handouts.

Administrators: I think that too many times, administrators are hamstrung about what they can do and what they can’t do because they can’t share information due to confidentiality. Or a lot of times, they just don’t know where to turn.

Giving them the resources necessary to again, identify it, and also be able to thrive in that culture where it’s going to be a zero-tolerance. So you’ve got to give your staff and your people the opportunity to be able to have the resources to deal with it and thrive in that culture.

Vicki: Very true. What’s next?

Rick: The third one is empower your students to take a stand.

Tip 3: Empower your students to take a stand.

At my martial arts studio, we have a program called Common Sense Before Self Defense. We give an anti-bullying tip every single week, and it’s all using your mind or your brain to be able to diffuse a situation or outhink the bully.

We say, “Using your brain before causing pain.”

We say, “Find your voice. Find a trusted adult. Find the courage to tell a parent your guardian. Find your voice to stand up to a bully. Tell them how that makes you feel, that it’s not OK. Find a trusted adult to confide in at the school system or a babysitter or childcare provider. Also find the courage to tell mom and dad, because a lot of kids think it’s their fault, that they’re doing something wrong, that they have shoes on or they speak the wrong language or have the wrong skin color.

In more concrete terms of being able to handle bullies, when you empower your students to take a stand, you can teach them how to agree with a bully. “Yeah, I know these glasses maybe look a little odd. But, man, I can see crystal clear, and that’s why I get such good grades.” Or, “I know these shoes might look a little off, but man, I can run really fast.”

You know, being nice to the bully, walking away, using trickery. If you’re caught into a bathroom, and all of a sudden the bully comes in. You can suddenly start itching like you have poison ivy or something. “I wouldn’t touch me. I’m really contagious.”

Of course refusing to fight or calling for help — these are all concrete things that you can use to teach to empower your students and your kids to stand up to bullying.

Vicki: So important. OK, what’s our fourth?

Rick: Reinforce effort. Work at leadership success as often as humanly possible.

Tip 4: Reinforce effort. Work at leadership success.

So as a teacher, as an educator, we do what we call spotlighting or highlighting. When we see a positive behavior being done, we want to say, “Guys, did you see how Timmy lined up so fast and so quickly. He’s standing perfectly still, and this is what we want to see everybody do.”

What we’re looking for is once we’ve created this culture, this anti-bullying culture in your school system, saying we’re not going to be picked on, we’re not going to tolerate this behavior, we’re going to go ahead and showcase people that are actually modeling that culture, modeling that positive behavior.

Essentially, in business, we say, “Find somebody doing something right. We’re going to spotlight it. We’re going to highlight it.”

Everybody’s version of success could be different. Johnny with ADHD is having trouble concentrating, so when he does something in that realm, that one step further of concentration, we want to pat him on the back, and we want to spotlight him. Whereas Timmy who gets good grades all the time, and for him, it could be really going above and beyond on a project, where we want to highlight him and give him that high-five and that fistbump. Also just making sure that we’re catching kids doing something right in that positive behavior realm.

Vicki: Oh, and catching them doing something right is so important, because otherwise, people are always running because we’re never saying anything positive! (laughs)

OK, what’s our fifth?

Rick: Our fifth thing is probably the most important element as far as anybody that’s handling or being around children. It’s to be there for your students and families. Serve their needs each and every day.

Tip 5: Be there for your students and families. Serve their needs each and every day.

“Serve” is this catch phrase. It’s this buzzword now in the corporate world. It really comes down to being present, listening, paying attention, and being willing to go above and beyond — even when you don’t want to, even when it’s inconvenient, even when you feel like this kid doesn’t deserve it. OK, you’ve got to be there, and you’ve got to pay attention. You’re looking, and you’re noticing these small things, these small imperfections. How do we, as parents, know that our kid is being bullied anyway? We’re looking for different patterns of how they’re eating, or how they’re behaving. Maybe they’re short with us. We know when our kids are not feeling well because of the signs, the physiognomy that we use to study our child. Why can’t we do the same thing in a classroom? Why can’t we do the same thing in our class of 25 kids? We’ve got to know these kids. We’ve got to know that THEY know that they care about us and we care about them because we’re in that leadership position.

As a teacher — and I’ll just end with this — you have an unshakeable accountability to continue to be a positive example in our society, but the most awesome responsibility lies in the magnitude of our daily actions in the minds of our adolescents that we model and are around. They continuously look to us with wide eyes and open hearts to mimic our actions, repeat our words. Our ultimate role — of a teacher, of someone that influences children — is to be their superhero. Be present.

Vicki: Wow, Rick. I think we’ll end with that.

Educators, let’s take a stand against bullying. Let’s really be present for our kids.


Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Rick Rando – Bio as submitted

Author, Consultant, 6th Degree Black Belt, and Keynote Empowerment Speaker, Master Rick Rando is regarded as a High-Octane Motivational Master. Focusing on instilling confidence and individuality, Master Rando has conducted thousands of presentations on empowerment and leadership in the business world and in academia. He owns one of the largest open-spaced martial arts studios in the country, teaching hundreds on children weekly.

Rando is a CEO (, philanthropist, marathon runner, and most importantly husband to a beautiful wife and father of two wonderful children.


Twitter: @RandoSpeaks

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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The One String Masterpiece: What We Can Learn from Paganini’s One String

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Paganini was there to play his great work “Napoleon.” His violin glistened. One string popped. He continued to play. Then, another one! Paganini played on. After his third string broke, he had one left. As he looked to his sold out but shocked audience in Italy,he held up his violin and yelled,

“Paganini and one string!”

And proceeded to wow them with the entire piece played on just one string. He received a standing ovation when he was done.

While it wowed his audience, no one redesigned the violin with one string. The violin is still a violin although Paganini could play a masterpiece on one string. That is because Paganini is a master. Everyone in the audience knew that one string was not dripping with talent. Nor was that one string possessed. That one string was played. Played by a master. And so it sung.

There are master teachers. They can teach with just their voice. Or a stick. Or a book. Or a computer. Hand them one string and they’ll make learning sing. These craftsman teachers — they teach. Anyplace. Anytime. With anything.

And yet, we worship the string.

Certainly, some strings are better than others. They are stronger. More resonant. Better tools. That is great. I’m all for great tools.

But we should not forget that the master is the one who plays the strings. People in the audience watching the teaching should know that one app or tool or feature is not dripping with talent. That one app is not possessed. That one tool was played. Played by a master. And so it taught.

There are people who buy and sell strings. They talk about the music played on the string as if the string is possessed. They hawk the masterpiece as if it lives in the string and can be played at will.

What our modern world does with tools would be like walking on stage after Paganini finished his piece and pushing him off the stage. Then, grabbing his one-stringed violin, the seller would hold it up high. He would start asking the audience to kneel to the one string. Or start selling one stringed violins. In homage to its greatness.

That string was just a string. The master had left the stage.

There is a method of the master. A way to play the string that produces great music.

Likewise, there’s a method of the master teacher, leader, master businessperson, master marketer, master parent, master speaker. Anything of worth can be mastered.

But often, many of us in search of excellence place too much emphasis on the tools and not on the craftsmanship of becoming a master of the craft.

As for me, I shall not worship the string. I shall learn from the masters.

Those who worship strings will find themselves in quiet company. Sitting around surrounded by tools, gadgets, and bills for downloaded apps. In boxes. Unused. Or broken. Misused. But not played for masterful accomplishment.

The advancement of any art form requires an honoring of the master craftsmen who know the trade.

Here’s to you master teachers or masters of any trade. Those of us who play the tune of learning know where the masterpiece really starts.

Honor your profession. Learn the craft from great craftsmen. Become a master. Play on.

This post is day 40 of 80 days of excellence. I’ve created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

The post The One String Masterpiece: What We Can Learn from Paganini’s One String appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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School Counselors Helping More Women Go Into Computer Science: Tips and Advice to Find the Fit

Angela Cleveland on episode 254 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Guidance counselors are challenged to encourage students into exciting opportunities that fit their skills and abilities but also to be careful not to stereotype. Today, Angela Cleveland talks about the tips, resources, and ideas to help encourage young women to go into Computer Science.

women computer science

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Enhanced Transcript

School Counselors Helping More Women Go Into Computer Science

Link to show:

Date: February 5, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Angela Cleveland @AngCleveland. She is the 2017 New Jersey State School Counselor of the Year.

But now, she’s working with school counselors across the United States, helping them help girls go into IT.

She’s co-founder of Reigning It (

So, Angela, how do we help counselors advise women or young girls to take a look at IT and computer science?

angela cleveland women computer science

Angela: First of all, thanks so much for having me on your show. I’m a big fan, so I appreciate this opportunity.

In terms of young women, school counselors and really all educators can help young women and really all of our students learn more about computer science and technology by thinking about how it intersects with every area of interest.

So it can mean just taking a look around at our world and thinking, “Hmmm, this is something interesting. How was this created? Someone had to invent this app that’s on my phone, or this way of solving a certain problem. How did that process take place?”

Really, thinking about how computer science affects every area of interest, whether it’s art or history or fashion or sports. It’s there somewhere. When we start to see that intersection as educators, we can have those conversations with our students.

Thinking about how computer science affects every area of interest

Vicki: What are some things that counselors do right, that actually work with helping girls? We’re not talking about encouraging a girl who may not be a good fit for that. But we are talking about having an open mind, right?

Angela: Right.

An open mind is really key. Sometimes we have to check our own bias about who we think is right for computer science.

In our society, there may be a certain perception that it’s maybe someone who is very quiet, who likes to work alone, and maybe a male, or maybe someone who’s very good at math or science. A lot of those, if not all of those, are really myths about who is right for computer science.

Today, people are working in groups. There’s a concept called Pair Programming, where students work together on a coding activity. Computer science is about problem-solving.

Computer science is about problem-solving

The biggest predictor of who’s going to be successful in computer science is someone who likes to solve problems. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have a strong math or science background, but that you have an inquisitive and curious mind.

So if you have a student who likes to solve puzzles, or they like doing Sudoku, that’s somebody who would be great for computer science!

All of our students have this great ability to pick up on what may be some problems in our society. Talking to student about, “How would you fix that? Especially using technology, how could you address that problem?’

So that’s really important.

For school counselors, what’s key is that school counselors have the ability to look at the demographics of a school, to look at where students are going in terms of course placement.

They can look at, “Is there a gender gap in our computer science class?”

Or, “We’re running this after-school club, and we’re noticing that all the same types of students are gravitating toward this club.”

So school counselors have this ability to look at the system as a whole and to support students.

School counselors have this ability to look at the system as a whole

One of the most effective things that school counselors can do is to encourage young women to explore a club or a computer science class with a friend. Just having someone else in there who is like them, who they feel comfortable with, is really important. We find that there’s a lot of success with just having a friend in the class with you.

Vicki: So you’ve already named one mistake, which is stereotyping.

Angela: (agrees)

Vicki: Don’t think that they just have to be a loner, or that sort of thing.

Are there any other common mistakes that you think end up not helping young girls the way we should?

Angela: Right. Sometimes it has to do with the environment that students are going into in terms of the classroom, the actual setting itself.

School counselors — we’ve talked to them across the country — go into a computer science class and look around. You can get a sense, just from the posters that are on the wall, “Is this an inclusive environment? Is there a fair representation of all people?”

If you’re a young woman going into a computer science class, and you look around and you see posters with Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, you start to maybe get an idea that, “Hmmm. This is a field for white males.”

It would be as simple as just having more representation in the classroom that shows women that there are people who are doing this job, and they’re in this industry, and they’re just like you. They have a background similar to yours.

Display more representation of women and people of diversity

Vicki: That’s so important, to show girls and give them models.

In my classroom, we talk of course about Augusta Ada Byron Lovelace, who was the world’s first programmer.

Angela: (laughs) Yes!

Vicki: Just realizing how many women (and people of) of diversity are really part of the computer science revolution.

So what are some of the resources that counselors can access that will help them in this area? Some counselors I know feel awkward talking about computer science because they’re not really very technical themselves.

What are some resources for counselors and other educators?

Angela: Absolutely. That’s a great question. I get asked that quite frequently.

I’m going to share with you one of my favorite resources. It’s completely free and very accessible.

It’s a magazine called “Careers With Code.” (

If you go to their website in the Shownotes, you can download a magazine that they have. It’s totally free to download. You can also order some copies of it. What’s great about this magazine is they lead with this concept called CS, which stands for computer science, plus X.
And X is any area of interest.

They have really fun personality quizzes in there, and they talk about how — whatever you’re interested in — if you’re interested in pop culture and you like to keep up with the Kardashians — there is a career in computer science for you.

They really demystify what computer science is, how it affects all of these different areas of interest, how it’s changing the world.

Then, there are extension activities. You can go onto the Careers With Code YouTube channel, and you can see more interviews with the people who are featured.

It’s a really great resource, and I think especially for counselors to see that there are different pathways to computer science.

It’s not so linear (pun intended) where people start at a young age, coding in their basement.

Oftentimes with young women, they come into computer science because there’s something they’re interested in, there’s a problem they want to solve, and technology provides a pathway for them to solve that problem.

Vicki: So Angela, as we were recording this recently, you were at Georgia Tech working with about 70 counselors in this area.

What are counselors saying about the conversations they’re having with kids — particularly girls — about this topic?

What are counselors saying about this topic?

Angela: Right. When we meet with school counselors, one of the things that we share out is the data regarding Bachelor’s degrees that are being conferred in this country, and the number of jobs that are available.

This is something that really resonates with school counselors because we’re very much focused on graduating students to go into post-secondary education, the military, or the world of work, and to have sustainable careers.

When we look at the data, we have the majority of degrees being conferred in the social sciences, but there aren’t enough jobs in this country for someone who just has a degree in the social sciences.

The reverse is happening in computer science. Sometimes when we’re talking about STEM, we’re looking at science, technology, engineering, and math.

But really, the jobs that are coming up in the STEM fields are in the computing industry. There are so many jobs available, and not enough people with those backgrounds.

So when we talk to school counselors about — ultimately, as I said, our job is to graduate students to have sustainable careers and to be happy and to have rewarding careers — the way for them to do that is to think about how — whatever their area of interest is — how it’s being transformed by technology. That will prepare them to enter a major or to enter a workforce.

Vicki: Wow. Are counselors feeling overwhelmed by all of this change?

Angela: You know, I think it’s something that really resonates with what school counselors believe in.

It’s really tied to our ethical code as school counselors.

We’re kind of a very unique profession, where not only are we addressing change with individual students, supporting that individual child, but we’re also — as school counselors, part of our responsibility which many people don’t know about is looking at a system (whether it’s our educational system in our district or looking bigger picture) and making sure that we are providing optimal learning environments and equitable access to all of our students.

This is at the heart of what school counselors do.

Looking at the big picture is at the heart of what school counselors do

When they see that there’s a way for them to achieve this goal and support their students, it actually feels very accessible to them.

It takes a problem that feels very big, and it provides the pathway for them to support students with something as simple as, “Hey, here’s a computer science class. Why don’t you and a friend sign up together, and I’ll make sure you’re in this class.”

Vicki: Well, school counselors and everyone listening, the counseling job is such an important job.

There are also many times that teachers of high school kids find ourselves wearing a little bit of a counselor’s hat, maybe not quite as much, but kids will come to us.

I think that we’ve heard some very important concepts to encourage all of our students to take a look at STEM jobs and IT jobs, and to kind of have an open mind about things because we do want our students to be successful and lead successful lives.

Part of that equation is not only building relationships and living healthy lives, but also finding a career that they love — a successful career for them.

So take a look at these resources. I’m particularly interested in the “Careers With Code” magazine. I’ll be sharing that with my students.

Thank you so much, Angela!

Angela: Thank you so much for having me!


Contact us about the show: 

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Angela Cleveland, M.S.Ed., M.Ed., MA [] advocates for equity and access to STEM opportunities, she consults for the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)’s [] Counselors for Computing [] division, PBS’s SciGirls, [] and Accepted to School. []

Angela has 15 years of experience as a professional school counselor and is a Google Certified Educator. She is an executive board member and webmaster for the New Jersey School Counselor Association (NJSCA). [] Angela co-founded ReigningIt, [] a non-profit dedicated to creating a STEM dialogue inclusive of every woman.

Angela is a technology contributor to national publications, such as Edutopia, [] she presents on a national level about computer science and the school counseling profession, and she is an adjunct professor at Caldwell University. []

Angela’s advocacy has earned her recognition, most recently the “2017 NJ State School Counselor of the Year” award and was featured in Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls blog. []

In her free time, Angela enjoys writing and is the author of several therapeutic children’s books. [] Learn more about her: []


Twitter: @AngCleveland

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post School Counselors Helping More Women Go Into Computer Science: Tips and Advice to Find the Fit appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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Hearing the Sound of Silence and Knowing When to Break It

Day 39 of 80 Days of Excellence

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Silence is not always golden, sometimes it is very dark and needs the light of the right word spoken at the right time. To be a good listener, we must not only hear what people are saying but also to hear the sound of silence. Learning when to speak and when to break the silence can make all the difference in whether we can be a more excellent person or whether we sit by and let things go unsaid and miss out.

Martin Luther King, Jr said,

“In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Way too often we say words that need not be said and hold back what we really need to say the most. Why do we do that? Silence always says something.

George Bernard Shaw said,

“Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn.”

Don’t just talk to speak, though. Pythagoras said,

“Silence is better than unmeaning words.”



Silence can be caused by many things:

  • Deep wounds
  • Deep shame
  • Deep dissapointment
  • Deep disagreement
  • Deep scorn
  • Death

While silence is something we all need sometimes, I’m talking about the silence between people who know and love each other. Or silence to speak out against injustice. Silence over things that should be said. Silence about love.

People are irreplaceable. And those with whom we’ve grown up, made memories and loved are not disposable. You can’t throw away those relationships like an old shoe. The relationship is worth fighting for even if you’ll never agree.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to break the momentum of inertia and pick up the phone, go see someone, or stop them in the hall.

There is a time to speak and a time to be quiet. And the wise among us know that often the hardest but greatest thing to do is to break a silence that deserves to be broken.

I wish I could wave my magic wand and help you build rebuild bridges torn asunder by differences of opinion. I wish there were easy answers. I only know that people are important and worth the effort to try to speak when it is just easier to be silent.

As you seek to be excellent, ask yourself if there are injustices, love, or great wrongs that require you to speak. Time passes and there can come a time when words can no longer be said.

Silence isn’t golden, sometimes it is a darkness that needs the light of the right word said at the right time.

This post is day 39 of 80 days of excellence. I’ve created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

The post Hearing the Sound of Silence and Knowing When to Break It appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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Teach the Whole Preschooler: Nurturing Developing Minds

Cindy Terebush on episode 254 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Cindy Terebush talks about the common mistakes of preschool programs. She also shares awesome success stories and tips for helping your preschool be the best in today’s era. She shares the challenges of teaching things at a younger age and why standards may not be a problem while implementation can be.

Cindy Terebush teach the whole preschooler

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Matific is a fantastic site full of math manipulatives and customized playlists of activities to help students at every level master math. This fun, gamified site is sponsoring Math games this February and students can compete to win prizes for themselves and your school. Set up is easy, send them their class rosters and they’ll have you set up in 24-hours. This is a great way to try out matific, help your kids boost their math skills and have fun. And it’s free!

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Enhanced Transcript

Teach the Whole Preschooler: Nurturing Developing Minds

Link to show:
Date: February 15, 2018

Vicki: How should we be teaching preschoolers?

Cindy Terebush @earlychildhood7 is an expert, and she’s author of Teach the Whole Preschooler: Strategies for Nurturing Developing Minds.

So, Cindy, as you started to look at preschool today, what do you think the biggest issues are for where we’re going wrong?

Cindy: I think that there are a couple of issues, actually.

I think that we’re living in a very high pressure world right now, in a very immediate gratification world. So what’s happened is that we’ve gotten away from respecting the process of early childhood learning.

Respect the process of early childhood learning

You know, it is a process. And those of us who are adults, we’ve gone through that process. We know it. We know that there are certain skills that children have to obtain before we can realistically ask them to do some of the more academic things that adults want them to do. But I think we’re just so used to having everything at our fingertips that we’ve lost patience with that.

I also think that the demands that are going on right now in our schools have dropped the curriculum. So what used to be taught in second grade is either being taught in first or kindergarten, depending on where you are. And what used to be first grade is now being taught in kindergarten or preschool, depending on where you are.

Our schools have dropped the curriculum from kindergarten into preschool

It used to be that I would speak in front of a group of kindergarten teachers, and I would say — maybe 5 years ago — “What grade level are you teaching? Where was that learning 5 years ago?”

They would say, “It was in first grade.”

And now when I stand in front of a lot of kindergarten teachers, they tell me they’re teaching second grade work.

And so it has also fallen down to preschool. So the preschool teachers are scared.


Vicki: So a lack of patience, and — it’s not that the standards are too high, but the standards are not age-appropriate — is what some have told me.

Is that what you’re thinking? Do think that we’re pushing them to do too much, too fast, too early?

Cindy: You know, I don’t know.

I’ve read the standards. And I don’t know that they are so inappropriate if they are implemented correctly. And I think that’s the problem.

I think, when I look at preschool standards, for example? They say, “Children should be exposed to (or have demonstrated) an interest in…”

None of it says “Mastered”… Mastery of things having to do with letters, and sounds and reading and math are part of the kindergarten standards, not preschool.

The problem is not the standards, but the implementation of them

So, you know, when we look at preschools — what they’re doing is, instead of taking the children where they are today, looking at the children and saying “Where are you today? How can I lift you a little bit? How can I add to your knowledge?”

What they’re doing is they’re looking ahead. Our preschools have definitely become a feeding ground for preparing for the future versus nurturing today. And it really comes from fear.

The standards themselves are not so inappropriate. It’s the implementation of the standards, that I think are very challenging. I think that the standards for kindergarten are the ones that say, “Children need to have mastered certain skills,” not preschool. Preschool is all about exposure and experience and exploration.

Preschool is all about exposure, experience and exploration, not mastery


Vicki: So do you think that how we’re doing these standards-based report cards — where we have the “M” for mastered, or whatever — Is that where we’re falling short, by actually grading them on mastery, instead of just exposing them?

Cindy: Yeah. And I think mastered for one child is different than mastered for another. These are individuals.

Our school systems were really designed on the factory model, when we think about it, sort of like the Ford assembly line. You know, we’re going to take them children, and we’re going to teach them. Then we’re going to move them ahead and teach them this here. Then we’re going to move them ahead and we’re going to teach them this here. And move them ahead and teach them this there.

The industrial age model doesn’t work — especially for preschool

But the problem with that is that we’re dealing with individuals, with different levels of experience, development, and ability.

So I think to kind of “blanketly” say, “Well, you’ve mastered this, that’s great. But the person next to you has not.” At the age of three, four, and five? This makes it very challenging for the teachers.


Vicki: OK, so we’ve talked about some problems. Is there anything we’re doing right, that’s kind of new, that you think we’ve got right?

Cindy: I do think that it’s great that I’m noticing that the pendulum is swinging back to understanding the importance of play in the early childhood years.

The pendulum is swinging back

There are a couple of states that have taken the core standards and put a statement in front of them saying, “We need to be sure we’re emphasizing play.” I think that’s great.


I do think that it’s going a little bit back to people understanding the importance of experiential learning. So the pendulum swings slowly, though. That’s the problem. That pendulum swings really slowly.

And we need to — as early childhood professionals — be looking at the world which these children are entering, which is very different than the world you and I entered after our early childhood experience.

Looking at the knowledge that we have about how young children learn, and saying, “What do they need for the world they will go to?” which is frankly, something you and I probably can’t even picture at this point, with the speed of technology.

The world they will enter is very different from what ours was


Vicki: (agrees)

And with smart machines coming… I mean, I’m reading a book. The title is Humility, and it’s about how it’s important in the smart machine age — things like creativity and innovation. People skills are so important. We’re spending so much time focusing on some rote knowledge, at some points.

Cindy: We really are. And you know what? If you look at the standards, too, social-emotional is in there, and it can’t be ignored. It should be the first standard, because it’s really what these children are going to need so much. Information at their fingertips.

I was in a classroom with 2-year-olds. One of them asked me a question, and I said, “Oh, I don’t know… I’ll find out.” She said, “Where’s your Google?” She’s two! (laughs)


Vicki: (laughs)

Cindy: She knows to look in Google. (laughs)

They’re growing up with that. They don’t need to sit and rote memorize as much as we did, but they certainly need their critical thinking skills, so that when they’re looking at that information online, they can think critically about it.

(They can) try to determine if it’s true or not true. They’ll know the right questions to even ask. You know these are the things they’re going to need to know– how to analyze things through, to get the information out.


Vicki: So Cindy, you travel the country, and you take a look at a lot of preschools.

Can you tell me an exciting story — and you don’t have to names names but you could. Tell me a story of “preschool done amazingly right.”

Preschool done amazingly right

Cindy: “Preschool done amazingly right”… There are a number of schools that I walk into now, that have stopped doing weekly themes (which we all did), have stopped doing “letter of the week” (which we all did)…


Vicki: (laughs)

Cindy: And they now realize that sort of thing is not deeper learning.

I love it when I walk into schools (like) one last week where they were doing more like “study topics,” where the children are investigating a particular topic for maybe a month or two months.

They’re really digging deep, and children were being observed by the adults as the adults kind of figured out by watching them, “What do you know? What don’t you know? How can I add to your learning?”

There were lots of hands on and experiments.

One of the soap boxes that I’m on right now has to do with — when I walk into schools, and everything will be great, and they’ll be doing all this experiential learning, but I still see them doing letter of the week.

We should know better now. That’s not really how children learn alphabet best. That also needs to be individualized and based on each student.

So there are some schools I walk into where the children are learning letters in the order of what’s important to them, like their name, and then maybe their parents’ names, and their street name. That’s wonderful! That’s really doing it right.


Vicki: Oh, but isn’t it so hard to have every child learning different letters in a different order?

Cindy: You know, it is, but it’s all about your classroom management. Sometimes teachers will say to me, “How am I supposed to do that? I’ve got 15 kids in here!”

So how you do that is you divide and conquer.

Classroom management: divide and conquer

Instead of doing it all together as a large class, you sit them down in small groups and work with them, maybe four at a time. Generally speaking, early childhood classrooms have ratios so that there’s more than one adult in the room.

That’s how you do it. You divide and conquer.

Teachers have to remember that the large group time, when everyone is gathered or listening to you is not actually the optimal learning time. It’s when they’re sitting with you one-on-one or with a small group.


Vicki: Wow. But then the teacher says, “How can I have one-on-one time with everybody to teach everything?” That would be ideal.

Cindy: (laughs) You can’t.

It would! It would! You can’t have one-on-one time with everybody everyday, that’s for sure.


Vicki: Absolutely.

Cindy: You can have some small group time, like one-to-four or one-to-five almost every day.

Each day, maybe you pick another child or a couple of children where you think, “I’m going to do some work with these children today, and these other children tomorrow, and these other children the next day.”

I think we do have this very adult need to do everything with everyone at the same time. And it’s just not how they absorb information the best.


Vicki: Cindy, give us a 30-second pep talk for preschool teachers about going out there and really bringing it for their preschoolers this week.

Cindy: OK, so my 30-minute elevator speech about the importance of bringing it for preschoolers.

The importance of bringing it for preschoolers

When we work with preschoolers, we’re touching the future.

When I ask adults, “How would you like the world to be?” they tell me, “I would like the world to be kind and compassionate. I would like it to be respectful. I would like there to be a respect for intelligence and knowledge.”

That’s what we do in early childhood education. What you want the world to be, it’s what you’re creating. So I think we have to remember that when we’re sitting and speaking with early childhood learners and when we’re interacting with them.


Vicki: Well, preschool teachers, you’re so important. It is so refreshing to see that we are swinging back toward some things that make a little more sense.

But we do have to remember that these are precious, beautiful children. We can get so caught up in numbers and standards that we can forget that they are children. I know that you great preschool teachers out there — you keep that front and center, and that’s part of your job, is to advocate for those kids.

So get out there, and thank you so much for what you do.

Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Cindy Terebush – Bio as submitted

Cindy Terebush, author of “Teach the Whole Preschooler: Strategies for Nurturing Developing Minds” (WW Norton – publisher), has worked with young children for 20 years. She has experience teaching and directing in daycare, preschool and school age programs. Cindy is a sought-after workshop facilitator, keynote speaker and professional development provider for early childhood professionals and parent groups.

Cindy writes about issues related to both teaching and parenting young children for a variety of venues. She is the author of the popular blog “Helping Kids Achieve with Cindy Terebush.” She was an online reporter for “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink.” She has been a guest writer and interviewed expert for print publications, podcasts and other media. Cindy has appeared as both a panel guest and on an interview Up Close segment on the PBS show “Caucus: New Jersey with Steve Adubato.”

Cindy is a Child Development Associate (CDA) Professional Development Specialist and class instructor. She is an approved New Jersey Workforce Registry Instructor and is a trainer for the Grow NJ Kids Quality Rating Initiative System.

Cindy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree and teaching certification from Kean University (formerly Kean College) with graduate work from Walden University. Cindy also completed the State of New Jersey Director’s Academy for Early Care and Education. Cindy has earned a certificate of training completion in Healthy Lifestyles for Preschool Families from Rutgers University, The University of Arizona and Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey. Cindy earned her Certified Professional Coach & Certified Youth, Parent, Family Coach credentials from the World Coach Institute.


Twitter: @earlychildhood7

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Teach the Whole Preschooler: Nurturing Developing Minds appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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