Writing Prompt and an Announcement

Starting on September 23rd if you join my Patreon community you will receive a daily prompt for 100 days like the one above. We have a Slack community as well so you can join other writers.

September 23rd starts a special time period – the last 100 days of 2020! Can you believe it???

The last 100 days is the perfect time to give yourself a challenge. You can join mine or create your own. I would love to hear what you plan to do.

Last year I vowed to do one yoga pose a day for the remaining 100 days of 2019. A friend wrote 100 word essays. The possibilities are endless. You could answer the same morning and evening questions. I follow Karissa Kouchis who is a national trainer for Tony Robbins. She has challenged herself to answer the same morning and evening questions for the next 30+ days for a training. I have been answering them in my journal as well.

What questions would propel you into a new reality if you committed to them for 100 days? One of the exercises in Tony Robbins Personal Power class is to construct questions you ask yourself every day. I have a list in my Google Keep Notes.

Here are the questions I am using right now from KK:

Morning:

  1. What are you most happy about in your life right now? How does that make you feel?
  2. What am I most proud of right now? How does that make me feel?
  3. What am I most committed to right now? How does that make me feel?

Do you see a pattern here?

Evening:

  1. What have I been given today?
  2. What have I given to others?
  3. What have I learned today?
  4. How has today added to the quality of the overall investment in my life?

Happy writing! Happy reflecting!

I would love to hear your ideas for the last 100 days. It is a perfect time for a self imposed challenge!

Choices – Path to the Future or the Past?

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This school year feels like it is everyone’s first year teaching no matter what year you are on.

A friend recommended a book by Debbie Ford called The Right Questions. There is power to questions. The first one in the book is: Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future or will it keep me stuck in the past?

As I was making notes on these first two weeks of the new school year this question was floating around in my head.

After 7 years as a coach, I went back to the classroom. As I have written before, there is a list of reasons for this movement. It is a step of learning and experience. I believe it is an important step for me necessary for an inspired future and what I want to do next.

How does this change serve me? One of the ways is to experience teaching again in a day to day way. Kindergarten is the year where the I am required to think about the simplest explanations for the most complex ideas. In kindergarten there is potential for stories in everything. Five year olds make connections and say things that are unusual and is one of my favorite parts of the job.

When I teach, I make micro-movements in instruction based on the students actions. I am taking this year to analyze how I do this in real time. This year I have the advantage of recording my meetings with students so I can go back again if there are important breakthroughs that happen in class.

There has been two weeks of this school year so far and all prep. Breaking down what I have done with my time is important for my own learning.

-There has been lots of professional development and meetings (all virtual). Some meetings have been done well, and others not so much. I am always analyzing how people conduct their trainings so I can learn what to do and what not to do in my own.

-Everything is new for everyone. The overwhelm hit us all at different times. There were moments that people felt like there were too many changes. This happened for first year teachers and the 30 year veterans. We all feel like we learn and then stumble around in the dark and find our way again. My team is wonderful and we help each other. The strengths we have become everyone’s because of the sharing. We teach each other. I have not had a true team in a long time.

-Contact with parents is always a tricky area for me but a requirement. We are must use Class DOJO and SEESAW here at the beginning. Parents are familiar with DOJO we were told. I have issue with starting with too many things and then changing.

In the Spring, I had success with text messages for contact with parents so I did the same this fall.

I sent this message to my parents this week:

Hello! This is Mrs. Breitweiser (child)’s Kindergarten teacher. I just wanted to reach out and say hello.

Material pick up starts tomorrow.

We will have a combination of live and recorded teaching in 2 sessions. 8-11 and 12-3. Please let me know which (child) prefers.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Follow up texts required answered questions. I also sent this message:

What is something you would like me to know about (child)? Something that is her/his favorite? Or a special story?

I use the child’s name as much as possible. I send audio messages talking to the student and short video messages as well.

-Virtual open house was successful. We had two 30 minute Zoom meetings and I had over half my students show up. There were smiling faces and cats on the screen. The virtual tour of the classroom and my live explanation of the learning kits were a hit. I introduced myself with a list of favorites that I told the students they would answer starting next week. I showed pictures of my family. Whatever we show our students is what they think we value so those first impressions are important.

It was important to me to tell the parents my past teaching experience. I want to assure them I am qualified to teach their child so they feel as secure as possible.

In the virtual tour I showed all the places where I have the student’s names. I want them to know that it is their classroom even when we are far away.

-Having to be in the building has helped with focus for the start of school. I had some frustration with this requirement especially on the days I spent most of the time in a chair in a meeting in front of my computer. Another focus that is a positive is that it is easier to fast while at school. There is no food there and it requires effort to get in the car and leave if I am stressed.

Do I feel prepped enough? I think so. If something goes wrong then I will pivot and we will use it as a learning experience.

I will make a list of things to remember before Tuesday at 8am.

There is a list of things I want to make sure to remember. If I don’t? I will write it down for the next meeting. This is the same practice whether I am in real life teaching or virtual.

We will see how it goes! I know for certain my choice propels me to the future I create.

What I Have Learned about Virtual Learning…so far #SOL20

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Over the past 7 days I have been working in my classroom, reseraching and attending virutal PD.

Some of the PD has been great…other sessions not so much.

I always attend workshops with the idea of examining how the presenter choses to deliver the content. I have done this since college. I write down the way people start meetings, how they show content, how they have participants interact…or not. I steal what I like for my own presentations.

Here are some things I have learned, or were reminded of, from the content and being a student over the last week about virtual learning:

  1. One of the biggest pet peeves I have about PD is presenters who conduct a training in the opposite way of how they would want you to teach kids. The workshop you are presenting is a model to the people you are teaching. I went to more than one workshop where they talked at us for over an hour. Please. Don’t.
  2. I learned about this video that brings some things into perspective. I wrote about this idea in my newsletter last week.
  3. Kids are vessels that are already full of experiences and knowledge . We need to remember they are not empty just waiting to be filled.
  4. Relationships are the center of everything.
  5. Think about your own school life. Who was an influence on you and what did they do? Connect these ideas to your own teaching.
  6. One presenter used breakout rooms with the adults expertly. We were given a task independently and then asked to talk in the Zoom breakout room. Then we were asked to make a sticky note on the class Jamboard to show accountability. Brilliant! This one I will use for my own workshops with adults. Kindergarten will take a lot of scaffolding for it to happen.
  7. Grade level work needs to be taught to students. This is an equity issue.
  8. I can keep track of what to keep doing, start doing and set aside for now. I like this structure for unpacking what I already know.
  9. To build relationships virtually I need to schedule more one on one time with my students.
  10. I also need to provide virtual social time for my students.

What have you learned in this new time we are in about teaching?

Official Back to School #SOL20

Two Writing Teachers run the Slice of Life tag ever Tuesday, where readers and writers are encouraged to write and share something about their life or day. You can check out the tag here.

Yesterday, was the first day back to school officially. The label was work day.

Delights of the Day

  • I coached a client through text
  • I connected with writer and educator friends
  • I found a word wall feature in a Bitmoji classroom I was perusing
  • I listened to some great podcasts while I went through files and books.
  • I connected with my kindergarten team who are amazing women!
  • I ordered bulletin board sets and remembered there was a time I couldn’t afford to buy much for my classroom. I spent hours cutting out items early in my career to decorate. During student teaching when I had no money I folded over packing tape 3/4ths and adhered it to a large sheet of cardboard to make a pocket chart. I remembered I have come a long way in knowledge and experience.
  • I got my SMART board to work
  • During my lunch time I revised my novel and gave myself a sticker
  • My classroom is a few steps closer to being acceptable for teaching and learning

What were the delights in your day?

Weekend Coffee Share

A Cup of Coffee and a Conversation

Welcome back to the weekend. This week has flown by as the hint of normal schedules looms in the balance. I feel that rush of trying to get errands done and checklists checked before the start of the new school year. My children have gone back to school all virtually. I will be virtual as well (at least for the first 9 weeks) but have to report to the building every day for my normal hours.

I am having black coffee today as usual. What would you like? The temperature is cooler today but I will get the pitcher of ice water anyway. The weather app lies. The humidity plays with the feeling of the air for sure.

If we were having coffee I would tell you the first round of boat repairs were completed and we launched the boat on Friday. We were doing a test run really. There are still some adjustments that need to be made on the motor as it wasn’t throttling properly. It was the first time I had launched the boat as we usually rent and it is already in the water. It was a beautiful day on the lake anyway and I was glad we were able to take it out no matter how short the trip was. It was logged as a delight in the notebook this morning!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I loaded up my copy of Story Genius which is a writing craft book by Lisa Cron. She has several books and a Ted Talk. This book is unusual as Cron says what we have learned about writing stories is essentially all wrong. People don’t worry about the change of characters which is what a lot of stories are missing. She believes we fall into the trap of writing stories “where a bunch of stuff happens.” I was encouraged by my friend Nicole Rivera of Stop Writing Alone to break out my copy. The second section is full of specific questions to ask yourself about your own story and I am examining my novel I am revising. So far, it has been helpful!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am excited about my Patreon page! I did a soft launch with my newsletter peeps and everything will roll out by the end of the month. I have 4 tiers and the platform works well for all my projects. Check it out here. I have been hosting workshops and now I can contain all the content in one area. September’s workshop is all about Conversation Experiments and I am super excited to share this class with people! My content is for Teachers and Friends of Teachers. Educators and writers make good friends. This was definitely the next right step for me.

If we were having coffee I would tell you Jami Attenberg hosted #1000words of summer this week. Her emails were brilliant and sparked an idea for an essay that is in my notebook now!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I made a 6 hour round trip to pick up some items I left behind this week. I was anxious about going but did it anyway. On the way there I was able to listen to several great podcasts and I collected many notes for writing projects. I thought of it as a story nugget gathering trip and enjoyed it so much more. I was able to have lunch with a great friend and have some amazing flatbread pizza. I also visited my Grandmother who will turn 90 on October. She still lives on her own and is a kick ass independent woman.

Do you need a refill on your coffee?

If we were having coffee I would tell you I have been writing everyday in my notebooks with my fountain pen. I had avoided using it all pandemic but broke it out last week and even ordered new ink refills. I also started the letter writing again and have been using it for that as well. There is something enjoyable about using it to craft words. It is a delight for me!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I went to the eye doctor this week. It has been a minute. Luckily, my prescription hasn’t changed much but I was able to get new glasses. My old glasses had been repaired with a paper clip but since I only use them to drive it wasn’t an issue. I do use them if I go to a conference and have to see speakers or screens but I don’t think I will have to worry about the scenario for a while. For added excitement, the tornado sirens went off and I was trapped there for awhile. The doctor and I had a nice conversation about moving, nature, and Ben Shapiro!

If we were having coffee I would tell you I am slowly transitioning back to school mode. There was so much uncertainty about the beginning of the school year (there still is) but at least I know I will be teaching from my classroom. I was a bit surprised I have to be in the building for the contractual hours, but it makes sense. Once I get back into the new schedule it will be fine.

How was your week? Was is inspiring you right now? What was one of your daily delights?

I would love to hear!

Create An AWESOME Ritual

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Every August there is the feeling like air is slowly leaking out of a balloon. As each day ticks by on the calendar we get closer to the first day of school.

How do you get ready?

This year the world is not the same which is the perfect opportunity for you to create a new kick ass ritual. You need a series of actions that lead to going back to the school year.

I use EL education materials and one aspect of this curriculum is CREW. Crew is the term EL uses which I used to call Family Meeting. It is time about learning and relationships. A book was released and I ordered it right away. It should be here by Monday!

Back to school shopping: In order to be a happy writer and teacher I need supplies. I have many friends that do not even have kids who are thrilled all the supplies are displayed in the middle of all the stores.

I am going to buy some new school shoes. It goes back to going shopping with my grandparents. A new outfit too.

I will also search the names of my new students (when they are available!) I keep checking.

I will plan the first week of school and start making my massive pile of read alouds.

Another thing I am doing this year to connect my personal passions with my professional ones is starting a Patreon. I kept trying to figure out how to serve my readers and people in my professional circle in a streamlined way. I have been saying lately that my offerings are for “Teachers and Friends of Teachers”. It makes for the most interesting group and mix of life giving conversations.

There are 142 days left in 2020. I have going to do a #100writingpromptproject for the last 100 days. My supporters will get access to a daily prompt, an exclusive community, and write in times to get together with others.

I also am expanding my coaching services and workshops. Now all the information for my events will be in one place. I am super excited!

Check it out for yourself and see if anything resonates with you!

My questions for you today:

What are you currently excited about?

What steps can you take to make a new ritual?

Can We Talk?

How Verbalization Can Help Us All Be Better Writers

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Last summer I was honored to attend a literacy conference where Cornelious Minor spoke. I took copious notes and was able to have many conversations with colleagues in the evening. That is the advantage of being at a multiple day conference – you can chat with your tribe about what you learned that day and move forward with plans for the schools.

Over the last 25 years as an educator and attendee of conferences, I have learned to synthesize my notes at the end of the day. I read back through them and fill in the gaps of half written sentences and ideas. I fill out more of the story that was shared I want to remember as an example for teaching later. I also make checklists of action items, things to further research, and people I need to talk to.

I learned Minor also takes notes in a real notebook and carries it around with him all the time when he does workshops. He is full of stories of living in New York and of students and teachers he has worked with. He had to scan all his old notebooks recently because the paper journals were taking too much room in their small NY apartment.

This conference was full of personal connections for me as well. Not only did I have the advantage of having great friends with me to confer with but also a consultant we had worked with for years. I also was able to meet someone in person from Twitter and a connection from a reading board we both had served on at different times. Overall it was three days of connection and learning.

I reflect on this experience this morning and wonder when this will happen again – if ever.

Another way I synthesize info is to skeleton plan a workshop before I even leave. I think about if I were teaching this material to others when I return to where ever I am going what would my spin on this look like. Since the beginning of my career I have paid attention to the nuts and bolts of how presentations are deployed. How did the presenter get everyone engaged? What questions did they ask? Did they do an ice breaker? How did they get people to talk? How did they build relationships? I compare these ideas to my own style and make notes about how it would look for me.

If I am taking a plane I always write and make action plans in my notebooks on the way home. There is something about being away that has a magic spell quality to it. When the wheels touch down at the home airport you have to return to the normal schedule. You fall back into natural tendencies and routine and don’t always use the new learning.

When I started teaching I also made a pact with myself that if I took time to be out of the classroom, I would make sure to use one thing the day I returned.

I do love to give presentations. I have had to move to a virtual world which bring its own complications, but I know how to pivot!

Writing matters.

It gives us tools to deal with struggle. Everyone has experiences and something to say. We have all been broken in some way or another. This applies to us (teachers, or friends of teachers) as writers and our students.

Writing gives us power over our struggle. A way to deal with it and reframe. To try out ways to tell it to other people. It is a powerful device of possibility.

As teachers we create what I call the “greenhouse effect”. We set up all the circumstances for students to have learning experiences with the most amount of obstacles out of the way. This is why we have huge classroom libraries, and over plan. Sometimes we do this too well. The goal is for students to have productive struggle in a balance as to not create frustration and shut down. A certain amount of struggle is needed for learning and retention.

Exercise:

Take out a notebook and a pen or your laptop. Set the timer for 7 minutes. Write whatever comes to mind on the topic of:

Possibility and Power – What do these words conjure up for you?

Do not censor yourself. Just write what comes. Keep your pen moving no matter what comes out.

Ok, the timer went off! You can stop. What did you notice about your thoughts are centered around these two ideas? How does that translate to your classroom?

Verbalization

When we are teaching, one of the most powerful questions we can ask is, “What do you think?” and then wait for the answer. When I have asked this question to students I get the blank stare and many times this statement: “No one has ever asked me that before.”

“What do you think?” is a question we need to be posing more often in order to give them writing practice. We ask students to write a genre after giving only one or two models many times. This is simply not fair. Verbalization can allow practice 9-10 times before writing which gives them a much better opportunity to write a higher quality piece with more confidence.

Talking before writing helps students know what they want to write down. It takes practice to figure out what we want to say. (How many drafts of that email to your principal did you write?)

The person who is doing the talking is the one that is doing the learning. Think about the last time you were in your real life classroom. (I know…go WAY back…) who was doing the talking? In my coaching experience, I would venture to guess you will say the teacher unless you teach a curriculum like EL education where student talk is built in. This is a by product of feeling like there is never enough time. Teachers need to “cover” material for students to be exposed. The worst feeling in the world is to not get to a concept which we know is tested on the high stakes exam and feeling like we didn’t even give our students an opportunity to answer even in a minimal way.

A strategy to get them talking is to use what interests them. This can range from Pokemon to zombie ants. Get them excited and engaged and use that talk to your advantage.

Exercise:

Look at your phone and find a picture that is meaningful to you. If you were to share with someone why it was meaningful, what is the story you would tell?

Storyboards

What is a Storyboard? | Storyboard Template | Storyboard Maker

Another way I have encouraged talk before writing in my classroom is to use an idea I learned from Linda Rief. A simple storyboard of 3-6 boxes is a powerful tool for talk. I have students think of an exciting or an embarrassing story to tell their classmates. I set the timer for 5 minutes and have them sketch and stick figure out the story within the 3-6 boxes. Minimal words are used here. There is a limit of 2 words per box.

Then the student tells the story, using their storyboard to a classmate. The listener gives feedback to what they enjoyed about the story and asks questions about where they are confused.

After three rounds of this practice with different partners the students write their story. The amount of detail and flow to the stories after this exercise works wonders.

How could you provide more opportunities for talk before writing in your classroom? I would love to hear about them in the comments!

Can I Ask You A Question?

An Examination of Interrogatives

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Questions and ideas should be the ax that breaks open the frozen sea within us.  -Kafka

How much thought do you put into the questions that come out of your mouth? Do you write out questions to ask in your classroom? Your journal? Are you on automatic pilot?

I love great questions personally and professionally. As an introvert I like to have an ice breaker question ready when in a social situation. I do not mind silence, but I have noticed people around me do not. I am not a fan of the typical, “What do you do for a living?” question. One of my favorites comes from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron which is, “If you could live 5 imaginary lives, what would they be?” I have found this question leads to all kinds of interesting conversations.

Another conversation question I like is: What is inspiring you lately?

In the classroom, I often plan out higher order questions I want to be sure to ask. The lower level questions come to mind more easily but lessons need to contain more than just surface level content. According to research, teacher questions should be varied and from several category types according to Bloom’s Taxonomy in order for them to be effective. These categories are familiar to every teacher I know: knowledge, comprehension, application, synthesis, analysis, and evaluation.

I always love the questions that show how students make connections I would never think of. Connection to other subjects and the world in my experience yield the most interesting conversations. The more questions they students ask, especially the ones that the teacher cannot answer, show students how to research and inquire deeper about their curiosities.

I have found the most effective questions can come from students by having them write questions for each other. I have a space on my board where I pose interesting questions to my students. I love when they suggest one for the next day.

With the high stakes testing becoming the norm, DOK or Depth of Knowledge has been my go-to sentence stems for teaching and coaching. A simple overall breakdown looks like this: DOK 1 have only one answer. DOK 2 you must use information or a concept and usually there are two steps. DOK 3 requires reasoning and usually a more complete answer requiring steps DOK 4 requires synthesis and making a judgment -it requires investigation.

Another simpler method to help teachers if the DOK levels are overwhelming, is “thick and thin question stems” seen below. This is also a great way to teach students to write more robust questions.

Life is better when you ask better questions to others and yourself.

Let’s Talk About Cold Calling

If cold calling is done correctly, it is not a punishment. Many teachers and adults in workshops use it as a tactic to try to control the room by shaming someone who is not paying attention. Don’t do this. It does not motivate anyone to answer you moving forward.

The culture you create in your classroom feeds how your students ask and answer questions. If risk and curiosity is nurtured in the learning environment then they will ask and answer. If you have to shame students into answering your questions, I would examine the engagement and interest level of your lessons.

As a coach I have said many times: Sometimes it is a teacher problem, sometimes it is a student problem and sometimes it is both. Own the areas where you need to improve in order to reach your students.

Cold calling is designed to be a positive technique. You can read more here about it used effectively from Doug Lemov.

***

What are your favorite questions to ask? What is inspiring you lately? I would love to hear in the comments!

Do You Know How to Rest?

What Does Rest Look Like to You?

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I am the type of person that thrives on action. I am always thinking and planning and using up all my energy by the end of the day is my goal. I use up the energy by pursuing things that light me up. This is my soul work. The question I ask myself is often, “How can I do this [insert action] at a level 10?” Level 10 is the best I can be at that moment.

But the last couple of days I have been mentally tired. I cannot focus. I cannot read for more than a couple of minutes. To leverage this feeling, I examined how I need to rest and rejuvenate. My rest doesn’t look like other people’s I have learned over the years. In the past, I also have not done this well.

I read the other day that if you have decided to rest yet you are worried about what you are not accomplishing then you are doing it wrong.

What does rest look like to you?

Sometimes rest or slowing down is the way to refuel your mind and creativity.

I love data and research so of course I used my Enneagram type to look up ways to rejuvenate. Some of the ways I listed in my Passion Planner:

  1. Enjoy morning routine and coffee ritual
  2. Laugh
  3. Run
  4. Fold towels (or some other mundane task)
  5. Read
  6. Help someone learn something
  7. Bask in the sun
  8. Listen to a podcast
  9. Be the gift fairy

I execute Level 10 well when I am thinking about my mission. I do not always do so well with the rest side of the coin.

For example, I am the type of woman who moves every day. I have been doing a daily walk/run depending on how I feel for over 70 days now. I know it doesn’t always have to be an intense walk. In order to rest, I need to walk at a slower pace and enjoy the scenery. I need to not be in a hurry to get to the next thing or to be done. I need to enjoy the moment. If I am compelled to run, I run. But if I am going to do rest at a Level 10 there is likely to just be walking.

Planning for the day or the week can be rejuvenating for me because I anticipate obstacles which then calms my mind. I can marinate on how I can show up at a level 10 for them all.

Writing is always rejuvenating for me.

What is your soul work? Where are you putting your energy?

Reading: I reread “Cuisine des Mémoires” by N.K. Jemisin just to enjoy it. It doesn’t mean that if I want to write down a favorite line it is not rest. I just have to pay attention to how I feel.

I know I need a rest day because I have been frustrated the last couple of days and cannot pinpoint why.

I have to pay attention.

I delight in the butterflies and the grasshoppers. the mama horse that takes the apple from me. The collage technique I play with.

Sometimes rest doesn’t look like laying around.

What what does rest look like during COVID? There are still many areas of the nation that are in lockdown. Many people I know do not leave their houses unless it is necessary. Zoom can be just as exhausting as a string of social obligations.

Rest may look different now to you since the world is different. Sometimes it can be hard to rest when there are too many people in the house, especially if they are on a different schedule than you are.

What does your ideal rest look like to you today? How can you make at least one thing from that list happen?

I have been thinking about things I have done in the past that I enjoy but have been neglecting. One of which is playing with collages. I have been inspired by Austin Kleon and his tape collages on Instagram. I also have been missing letter writing. I have a few friends I snail mail occasionally but I have resubscribed to The Letter Exchange. It is a magazine and forwarding service for letter writers. You can read more about it here.

I challenge you to find a new way to rest today – even if it doesn’t look like anyone else’s.

Let me know what you come up with in the comments!

Life Experiments

How Trying Something New Can Help You Be A Better Teacher

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Someone who follows their curiosities is far more interesting than someone who does not. Life experiments are fun challenges that allow you to play with an idea.

I love to read life experiment memoirs. A.J. Jacobs has made a writing career out of this idea. He tried different skills or lifestyles and writes about it. The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell is also one of these books. Another is The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders. I find these books inspiring to try something new.

Several years ago I went to a conference (will these even happen anymore in real life? Jury is still out…) and the speaker talked about an experiment with questions.

I love great questions. They lead to fantastic conversations and insights. Questions are great ice breakers and I have used ,”What music are you listening to in your car right now?” and “If you could live 5 imaginary lives, what would they be?” I even did a question and answer experiment and wrote about it using the 36 questions that lead to deep connection.

Inspired by the conference, at the next workshop I taught I only asked questions. I made no statements at all. i answered all questions with a question. In theory, this seems like a simple task. Humans like validation I learned. I wanted to see how my teachers would react if I turned everything back on them. Part of my personality is to be the person who gives a direct answer and my teachers know this. It isn’t always the answer people want, but it is the honest one. Many teachers come to me as a coach wanting me to give them permission to do something. In this meeting, I answered every question with a question and it drove them a little nuts. There was some anger in spurts as well. Some questions I asked were simple, “Well, what do you think?” and “How would that look in your classroom?” Finally at the end I told them what I had done. They were relieved and then we discussed how much we rely on validation and feeling seen with answers in workshops and even conversation. They talked about how they felt during the meeting and couldn’t pinpoint what it was that was making them uncomfortable. The questions made them feel unsure about what they were contributing. It was exhausting and I haven’t tried it again. Some of the teachers turned the tables on their students and asked only questions within the next week. It allowed focus on asking great questions in the classroom too.

Following your own self imposed challenges can lead to some fun. I have done challenges like eating vegan for two weeks. I learned I love cheese on my pizza and don’t want to give that up. I also learned how much dairy is in processed food that shouldn’t be – like lentil soup. I read labels much more carefully now.

Summer break allows me to experiment with time. Every summer there is always a reading project. One year, I read books only in one genre and another a whole author’s backlist. I have written many times about my Bradbury Trio challenge. Ray Bradbury, the famous brilliant author, said to be a better writer a short story, a poem, and an essay before bed. This experiment has changed the way I write. The input of wonderful writing and structure has shaped my owns words on the page and I am grateful to all the writers who are my models.

Last summer I imposed “The Writer Schedule”. I imagined what my schedule would look like as a full-time writer and followed it. My first thoughts are about creation in the morning. I wrote short stories and submitted them. I revised my novel. I entered contests. I also observed the world, created experiences, wrote at the coffee shop, made trips to the library and used bookstore, read, listened to podcasts and wrote down these impressions. There was also time for writing conversation with other writers I know. I recorded my wild life as Mary Oliver would have wanted me to. There were also naps. Many details made it into stories and some were just for me in my notebooks.

What experiment will you try?

Ideas to Try to See What Happens

  1. Copy a poem every day in your notebook
  2. Declutter one item per day for 30 days
  3. Perform a random act of kindness for 30 days
  4. Journal every day
  5. No social media for a week
  6. No reading for a week
  7. Walk in the forest
  8. No coffee for a week
  9. A news fast
  10. Cold shower for 3 minutes to start your day
  11. Buy nothing new for a month
  12. Go ziplining
  13. Rent a canoe
  14. Try a weird fruit you never have (you may have to YouTube it to figure out how to eat it!)
  15. Compliment a stranger every day

Growing and sharing these stories with your students is fun. Seeing their reactions to something they didn’t expect you would do is a glorious feeling. Even if the experiment doesn’t go well, you will always get a great story out of it!

I would love to hear which experiments resonate with you. Do you have one I haven’t thought of? Let me know in the comments.