What do you think of this quote? It has been floating around my Facebook feed for a few days. Makes me wonder, are my friends in the midst of a storm or are they encouraging others with this anonymous sentiment.

As it goes, my storm ebbs and flows. I’m still afloat, which is a good thing, and I’ve traveled in some reasonable waters in conjunction with family vacations mostly. Setting out with my favorite three people is an eye in this storm.

Yes, I rented a limo as transportation from the airport. Because memories.

But to think a storm clears the path makes me kind of sad. There wasn’t anything wrong with the path we were on BC (before cancer). He had some big, adventurous ideas that would have been quite the journey. Or even just staying put and enjoying what we have at home was a good plan, too. But no.

I’m making some course changes these days, but I don’t consider them course corrections. Picking a different star to set my sight on, perhaps, but there is nothing wrong with the one I’ve followed for the past decade. If anything, perhaps in a change I will rediscover a voice for sharing my story in a more tranquil sea.

An Ed Stading original, Kachemak Bay.

My Next 3 – Missions Edition

I picked my Twitter handle @tchlrn_ak over 6 years ago to acknowledge that teaching as a profession (and life as a whole) isn’t just about teaching, it better be more about learning. And for me, that is mostly going to be in Alaska. Well, this #widowteacher is on her way home from Bolivia right now, and this blog has now come to the intersection of faith and profession, of Christianity and public schools, and of vocation and calling. Come, jump in the van, and take that turn with me.

People preparing to use vans and go to the mountains.

The Missions team in Cochabamba

The Bible is very clear about the role of missions in a Christian’s practice:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:18‭-‬19 NLT


Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:10‭-‬11 NIV

A Christian really can’t argue this one. Christianity spread in the Middle East as hundreds of Christ’s original followers obeyed that command; it spread throughout Europe and Africa and Asia and the Americas for the same reason. It continues to spread, and will continue to the ends of the Earth.

If you had told me a year ago (in the midst of our cancer) that I’d be serving Jesus in the Andes Mountains con mis hermanos en Cristo, I would have said you are smoking crack. If you’d told me two years ago before the Big C made itself known in my husband, I would have nodded and replied, “You know, that would be cool someday. Maybe when I retire.”

No, how about over Spring Break, just nine months into widowhood. God’s ways are not ours, indeed.

El Cristo de la Concordia

El Cristo de la Concordia, overlooking Cochabamba, Bolivia

For the four of you who have followed my blogging since the beginning, you know I like the “Next 3” list. It helps to focus one’s direction, so here are my Next 3 for missions:

1. Keep learning Spanish/reactivate French.

2. Find out how to $$ support Punto de Gracia in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and set up a regular contribution.

3. (Broad) Parent my children to the point where we can take a family mission trip by Summer 2022.

The details…

1. Keep learning Spanish/reactivate French. In January, I started using Duolingo. I got sick at the end of March and fell away from it, but even just those three months gave me a much better shot at communicating in Bolivia. And by the end of the week, I was looking to use what little I did know whenever I could. I’m sure I sound like a two-year-old with a funky speech pattern, but I can keep learning. Plus, I honestly think if this trip had been to a French-speaking country, the *8* years of classroom French would have come back.

Even if it is childish speech, I know that speaking Spanish and French opens up so many countries and ministry possibilities.

2. Find out how to $$ support Punto de Gracia in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and set up a regular contribution. Dropping my American self into the poor city of Cochabamba put a lot of things I know about world economics into perspective. Granted, it doesn’t take much to see how blessed I am to live where I do and with the resources I have. Somehow, there is a way to support my Bolivian church in an accountable manner that doesn’t ruffle any international feathers. I’m going to figure that out. (Si, mi iglasia boliviana. Seems I am collecting churches because I have one in Seattle, too, plus my home church and the church of my youth.)

3. Parent my children to the point where we can take a family mission trip by Summer 2022. Jesus meets us where we are to give us what we need. While I thought He would meet me in my widowhood (He has, but…), He meets me more as a mom. My children already love Jesus, and my teen is already active in ministry, but it doesn’t end there. It can’t. There is so much more I know (and don’t know) to do to parent them to God’s glory. So I am going to do that and part of that will be to serve Jesus together on mission by Summer 2022.

It would be reckless to roll back in to Alaska and announce we are doing that NOW, and I spend enough time in Proverbs to know what happens to fools. (Parenting deserves its own “Next 3” but I’m not up for that, somewhere over the Caribbean Sea. But I am reading “Raising Kingdom Kids” by Tony Evans and finishing that book would be on that Next 3 list.)


In a longer story I may someday share, on Monday, April 29th, I was asked to take some time to see if God had something to tell me.  The reasons I even have a “Next 3-Missions Edition” is because it turns out, God did have a few things to tell me:

The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. Proverbs 29:7 NIV

Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire. Proverbs 29:17 NIV

So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:11 NIV

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3 NIV

Take up your cross and follow me. – Jesus, from Matthew 10

A week before the trip, I could finally verbalize at least one reason why I think God ordained this mission trip for me, or me for the trip: to trade the sorrow of grief for the joy of serving Him. Becoming a widow in one’s 40s isn’t in any wife’s plan. But God is so faithful when we put our trust in Him, and my joy in the Lord IS my strength. I return from Bolivia as happier than I have been for a while, not because the trip was beautifully amazing but because God is beautifully amazing.  I return with a clearer understanding of who Jesus is and why we serve Him:  If you love me, feed my sheep. John 21:17


10,000 ft in the Andes

Con mi vida quiero adorar
Todo lo que tengo y lo que soy
Todo lo que he sido te lo doy
Que mi vida sea para ti
Como un perfume a tus pies

My Twitter Anniversary

My life changed six years ago today.  Sounds dramatic, right?  Seeing as I am talking about the day I joined Twitter, it probably sounds melodramatic.  But I am not wrong in this.  The day I joined Twitter changed my teaching and hence, my life.

These are things I love about Twitter:

It is there when you need it.
It holds about a billion fabulous ideas.
It provides an easy way to connect with like-minded people.
It has so many things to be like-minded about.
It is really fun to watch Live Tweets during events.
It is easy to use for five minutes a day.
It is easy to use for hours a day.
You find amazing ideas on it.
(Or perhaps they find you.)

Thank you, Twitter. What will we be in six more years?


Giraffe Watch

I am up at 11 o’clock at night streaming April the Giraffe on my TV.  I’m doing this with about 70,000 or 80,000 other people around the world.  On past nights, it’s been about 35,000 people doing the same but tonight is different because her vets have said there’s indicators that she’s significantly closer to giving birth.  (Like I just saw a contraction or her calf is having quite the party in utero.)

Why, you might wonder, am I up watching when I have never really paid attention to giraffe cams, or other animal cams for that matter, ever in my life?  It is the Monday after time change I certainly should be getting some rest.   But instead I’m streaming a giraffe from New York.  Why indeed.

Well, because I can.  I have high speed internet and the zoo has a sponsor providing the streaming. (For real, if I ever needed exotic animal food I would buy it from a company called Mazuri.) There is no one else awake to tell me how boring it is to watch an animal walk around.  I’m enthralled and I’m not the only one.

This is the world we have. We connect over animal cams while waiting for a calf to be born.  We read Facebook posts about how watching this giraffe helps people in time of grief or depression just by seeing and sharing the animal’s life as well as the promise of new life.  All the while we’re learning about giraffes.  I know more about giraffes now than I did three weeks ago and no one made me learn it.

Where is this in the classroom?  Are we following students’ interests and helping them connect with others?  Because that cause is as much my reason for watching April.  It reminds me THIS is what learning learning looks like:  16 feet tall and beautiful.  

Good luck, April.  And good night.  I’ll check on you in the morning with your 80,000 other fans.


Attending ASTE always makes me think, I should blog more.

Well, of course I should.

Tonight my daughter and I are “competing” in a robotics competition.  Brand new stuff for both of us.  Saturday I presented about the Global Read Aloud and tomorrow I’ll be presenting about special education and blended learning.  My daughter is running a Mystery Skype tomorrow, too.

ASTE is inspiring.  I should totally blog more.

Math Teacher?

I am not a math teacher, am I? I’m not trained to teach math except for the youngest of students. I’ve had no “math methods” or “How to teach teens Algebra” classes. Yet here I am, under the umbrella of special education, teaching teens with the intent of them taking Algebra next year.

It’s daunting. But when I want to throw my hands up, throw in the towel, throw out the baby, or just plain throw up from despair, I remind myself these things:

1. I know how to do math.
2. I know how to find good math resources.
3. I know how to follow the lesson plans that come with those good resources.

But most importantly…

4. I know how to individualize instruction.

And, under the umbrella of special education (and the Academic Freedom clause of my contract), I can do as I need with “grades” and focus instead on learning. They are going to be stronger in math in May than we were in August.

We’ve got this.

Cybertraps: Administrator Responses to Cyberbullying

I’ve been studying Freedom of Speech and Social Media from an school administrator’s point of view.  Cybertraps for Educators by Fredrick Lane is one of my main sources of information and if you’re in education, you should read it.  I’m going to share bits of what I’ve learned over the next few weeks.

Super interesting is that at this point, student speech is far more protected than teacher speech.  If cyberbullying occurs off campus, for the most part it has been considered protected by the First Amendment.  (Well, to clarify, it’s not NOT protected…the key is if it causes a substantial disruption to the school.)  So even if there’s no legal or disciplinary recourse for administrators, a reasonable person should do something about it.

Even with the precedence that off-campus speech is generally protected by the First Amendment, administrators must not ignore known cases of cyberbullying of both students and teachers.  Students may not be able to receive corrective action at the school but other ways exist to combat such events.

First and foremost, the administrator should make sure that the student’s parents are notified if not fully brought alongside to curb the cyberbullying.  Access to technology presents new challenges for parents of the 95% of high school students who own some sort of personal device (Lane, 2015).  Allowing their children to use the phone or iPad without supervision put parents in a precarious situation with the legal system should cyberbullying occur.  Courts have ruled that parents may be liable for emotional suffering caused by their children in cyberbullying situations if they do not take due action to correct the situation (Bloomberg BNA, 2014).  While school may not be an active party, private citizens may sue each other over these cases.

Additionally, administrators should look for spillover to the school setting, even if it is not considered substantially disruptive.  Character-building programs, classroom social interventions, and further targeted behavioral interventions can be used with effect.  Additionally, to address the occurrence before it happens is another approach; bullying is less likely to occur in a school with a positive climate (Wang, 2013).  Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) programs demonstrate success in improving school climate, including the relationships between students and teachers (Wang, 2013).

Is there more that can be done?  Of course.  But certainly parents and PBIS are a good start.



Bloomberg BNA. (2014, October 22). Georgia court rules parents may be liable for child’s fake Facebook account. Retrieved from

Lane, F. (2015). Cybertraps for educators [Kinde 6]. Retrieved from

Wang, C. M. (2013). The critical role of school climate in effective bullying prevention. Theory into Practice, 52(4), 296-302

Do Your Research

Like a bazillion other moms, I’m “in to” essential oils.  I’m a member of the original for-the-masses company and it has been super interesting seeing what’s around on the internet to either build up or discredit that company.  Very little of the negative information comes from research-based arguments; there’s more research on the pro-side but again, not a substantial amount.  People are not making decisions about essential oils based on scientific research.

The same can be said for education at times.  For classroom instruction, publishers push that their products are “research-based” and therefore must be great for learning.  But what research are we talking about?  I get especially leery when a program claims this but then there’s no set way to use the program.  Which part was researched?  By whom?  We want to think that research is performed without bias but we’re human.  Action research, especially, can be affected by the teachers who do it.

What to do?  Well, read, read, read.

Where to start?  Here are two resources that I enjoy browsing;  they’ve done the work for you.

What Works Clearinghouse

The Institute for Education Sciences, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, reviews research about different programs and summarizes the studies.  They do not do original research themselves.  They have a nifty little graphic that shows the possible gains or losses through using the materials.

WWC Saxon

Example of WWC data, this one for Saxon Math at the Middle School level.

Visible Learning

Visible Learning is a meta-study of all sorts of other studies about teaching practices, materials, and environments that impact learning.  John Hattie developed a barometer to reflect the possible growth shown in studies.  It is super interesting:  what is shown to be effective on paper is not necessarily what you would expect.

Teaching practices with the greatest effect size according to Hattie.

Teaching practices with the greatest effect size according to Hattie.

Both of these resources have informed my practice and my students are growing.  What other resources are out there to help teachers make informed instructional decisions?

Twitter Testimony

Every chance I get, I tell educators, “You should be on Twitter.”  But how did I find Twitter and, even more important, decide to start using it?

In August 2011, we had a start of the year inservice where pretty much the whole district showed up for a face-to-face kick off.  It was the first year that we were going to use Discovery Education and they brought up Hall Davidson as the special speaker, one of Discovery Ed’s big wigs.

His talk was a lot of showing us fun things we can do with iPads or Discovery Ed which was all a lot of fun but what stuck with me was when he asked the crowd something like….”How many of you have email?” and every hand went up.  “Okay, how about facebook?” and that was a majority of the room, too.  Then he asked, “And how many of you have a Twitter account?” Now, it was less than 10 percent of the room.  And he replies, “Well, you need to be on Twitter.  So here’s what I’m going to do…I’m going to give you all a Twitter account…on ME!  So jump on and log in and start following other educators and you will see why it is the best thing ever.”  And having previously been on Twitter around the 2008 election season, I thought, why not?

I did and he was right.  Twitter has been an amazing resource for me as I’ve built up my Professional Learning Network over the past three-and-a-half years.  These are educators around the globe that post ideas, articles, blog posts, supportive statements, personal challenges and successes, and they post a lot.  An estimated 4.2 million education-related tweets go out on Twitter each day. (

Twitter is where I discovered Genius Hour and Mystery Skype, two of my favorite classroom learning activities.  I also participate in #edchat when I can (it’s on Tuesdays) where educators discuss different topics like the role of grades in classrooms or the future of textbooks.  Perhaps my favorite use of Twitter is to tweet out during conferences;  it is a way for me to take notes as well as get pertinent ideas out to a larger audience.  What’s the point of hearing something amazing and not sharing it?

Seeing how my educational practice has changed because of this particular social media makes me an ambassador for Twitter.  Give it a shot.  It will work for you and you will take collaboration to a different level or it won’t be all that and you’ll let it fade.  The best part, though? It will be there if you need it.


Classrooms are seeking YOU out for Mystery Skype!  This activity is a great way to collaborate across the country or the world and build geographic understanding in students.  I’m on my second year of doing Mystery Skypes with the same group of students and watching their geography grow is reaffirming.  We don’t do a lot of geography otherwise; I’m glad they are picking it up.

How does one do Mystery Skype?  You and another classroom (or individual) will set up a time to skype.  Then your classes take turns asking yes/no questions about the other class’ location.  Are you west of the Mississippi River?  Are you in the Eastern time zone?  It finally narrows down until you guess which state.  It is so much fun.

To find Mystery Skype classrooms, look at

Another way is to search for the #mysteryskype hashtag on Twitter.  There are also various google docs out there to sign up on, like this one:…

Trust me, people will want to skype with you because you’re in Alaska.  Try it out!