Tag: vulnerable

We Are All In This Together – Episode 043

We Are All In This Together – Episode 043

I have a very important message that I need to you to understand.

One that is echoed in a very impassioned quote from Martin Luther King Jr.

Its something that I have held onto since the first time I stepped into my classroom; something I must remind myself from time to time.

And when you hear this ONE thing, I want you to envision this idea as an integral part of the way you approach your classroom.

In fact, ANYTHING I talk about in this podcast or anywhere in the Seal It With A Smile universe, is content that is designed for you to digest and USE in your classroom. Not because I think it’s a good idea; but because it works! All of my students, both in the classroom and those that have gone through my online course, The Self Driven Classroom: The Queen Bee, use the methodologies, ideas, strategies and mentality that I speak about in these podcasts… not because they are “nice” or “ideal”; but because they WORK!

The ONE thing I want you to walk away from with this podcast:

We are all in this together

Here is the quote from Martin Luther King Jr.

We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.  We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.  And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.


“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”

Commencement Address for Oberlin College
By Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
June 1965, Oberlin Ohio


Growing up as a child in the 1980’s, I saw movies and media that told me teachers were “other”. They were boring, know it all people who didn’t care about me or my well being. I was taught by teachers that were like this; but I was also privileged to be around teachers who actually cared about me, who looked after me, and who took the time and the energy to guide me in the right directions. They saw in me something and encouraged me to move forward. I bring those thoughts into my classroom daily.

You need your kids.

Your kids need you.

I am constantly surprised by anyone who calls themselves an “educator” who easily casts our a child. Who uses their fear to predict the outcome of any child, no matter the age or their situation.

Great stories start with conflict.

And you and your students are in it together.

In fact, YOU put obstacles in their path, that you expect them to overcome, in a small amount of time, sometimes on their own.

You call it teaching.

You PURPOSEFULLY present NEW information to them, which causes anxiety, panic, stress, and cognitive dissonance; a gaping chasm in their psychology. Then you FILL that chasm with understanding… your students work it out, get to a point of understanding… then you hit them AGAIN!

Its kinda like you digging a hole for them, telling them they need to jump into the hole, then you jumping out of that hole, and showing them how they can get out… and once most of them are out of the hole… you do it AGAIN!

If you are a great teacher; you are in the hole with them, working with them one on one, and getting as dirty as they are.

Ineffective teachers; post “how to dig out of the hole” pictures on the board, and then complain when they aren’t getting out fast enough.

You need them.

They need you.

No matter what grade level they are in, these kids will eventually participate in our society. They will eventually pay taxes, work, have children… live life! If you aren’t doing everything you can to make sure they are successful, you are only hurting YOURSELF!

If you aren’t brining your best everyday, or challenging yourself to be better today then you were yesterday… you are doing a disservice to the people around you, your loved ones, and your students.

Your students NEED you to be in that hole with them; they need you to bring your best. You NEED them to bring their best to your classroom.

There is no THEY; there is only US.

In life, there is no THEM; there is only WE.

What you learn in this podcast will make you feel uncomfortable; I am creating cognitive dissonance in your mind for a reason. Its time for US, all of US, to elevate our profession and serve a new kind of learning experience for our students, and for ourselves.

The ONE thing I want you to walk away from with this podcast:

We are all in this together

Reach out to your students; reach out to your fellow teachers, to those who are across the hall and across the building. Understand that WE are all tied together. And if you do wrong by a child, you do wrong by all of us.

We are all in this together


No matter where you go

What you do

Who you meet

At the end of every lesson,

Every classroom

Every experience…

Make sure you Seal It…

With A Smile


Twitter: @sealwithsmiles

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Why school doesn’t matter – Episode 037

Why school doesn’t matter – Episode 037

Let me tell you a story about Matthew;

Matthew is what you would probably imagine as a “trouble maker”; whatever that person is in your mind, he is that kid.

Not only that, Matthew is smart. It has been my experience that for the most part, on average, most of my trouble makers are usually of high intelligence. These are kids rub many people the wrong way for a number of reasons. Most adults would rather not deal with these kids, so they get shuffled along. They are not challenged to be better; they are forced to conform. And for a highly intelligent kid like Matthew; this doesn’t make sense.  Why should I have to “pretend” to like going to school, pretend to be interested in any of these subjects, when Matthew already has a plan for the rest of his life; a plan which doesn’t involve school.  When other kids are seeing their education as a vehicle that will propel them to the life they hope to have, there are many kids like Matthew who for them, the educational system has been a burden that has been more interested in their hair style, their clothing choices, and shut the door on them when it wasn’t their fault they were late.  This is the conversation I had with Matthew which lead to this one question; why should school matter to me, when I never mattered to anyone at school?


He’s right.


School doesn’t matter to many kids. It’s not a valuable institution to them for a number of reasons. We could generalize these kids and go through the blame game; socioeconomic conditions, bad parenting, poverty, culture, drugs, gangs, cell phones, etc. We could also blame them directly; a generation of disrespect, lack of humility, lack of hard work and labor, unapologetic and spoiled rotten. But that doesn’t remedy an important point in the argument that Matthew makes; why did he not matter to anyone at school? Why did this child spend 13 years in an educational system, and not once, not ONCE, did he feel he mattered to someone?

One of the seven truths that you will learn when you take the Seal It With A Smile course is that the emotional reality of a person IS their reality. When you wake up in a good mood, that good mood lasts. When your in a bad mood, typically that bad mood will ALSO have staying power. If your in a positive feeling, you see opportunity. If you’re in a negative feeling, the walls feel like they are falling down over you. And when your a kid; you lack the cognitive functioning and maturity and experience to understand what’s going on. And when your a kid, not feeling loved or important or even thought of, has a huge impact.

If adults have a hard time dealing with their own emotions, can you imagine how our kids must feel?

OR the better question is; do you feel like they are YOUR kids?

Everyone needs love.

Everyone needs to feel loved. It is part of our development; we are wired to receive it and give it. We are wired to comprehend what that is, and we know when we are sometimes more aware of when we DON’T have it, than when we do. For that reason, Matthew is correct; why should he care when no one cared about him? That is his reality, after 13 years of being in the educational system. No one cared.

School doesn’t matter to Matthew. But he matters to me. And since we started this year, I have made it of high importance to me that he knows he matters to me. How do I do that? I listen to him. I do not judge him or his opinions or thoughts. I accept him exactly as he is. I follow all of the systems I created in the Seal It With A Smile course, and most important of all; I care enough to do this.

The other day Matthew told me he was really trying hard this year; his last year of high school. He’s felt more motivated than ever to not skip school, to not fall asleep in class, and to actually do his work.


Because he wants to join the military. He sees the benefits of serving and he sees himself being in the Marines for life. Everything about that life excites him, and his recruiter has been rallying him to sign. He’s signing up when he turns 18 in a few months.

How do I know this? Because I listened to him. And I feel honored that the kid that no one would pay attention to and felt like he didn’t matter, wants to serve and protect you and me. The kid that everyone ignored, wants to do something he’s proud of.

Matthew is right; school doesn’t matter to him.


But Matthew matters to me.

(UPDATED) The Humble Thread In The Cape – Episode 015

(UPDATED) The Humble Thread In The Cape – Episode 015

(UPDATED) The Humble Thread In The Cape – Episode 015

During this week of Thanksgiving, most of us will be resting and relaxing and hopefully enjoying some time off with family, friends, our animal friends, and loved ones. During this time of reflection, we can also reflect on our lives and find humility within us. But how can we do that? How can we be humble?

Being humble comes from understanding your power; your ability to destroy, to harm, to cause injury and pain, to cause a sense of defeat and humiliation, to cause shame and embarrassment.

This quote from Haim Ginott speaks to the power we have in the classroom.

The difference between a super hero and a super villain comes down to a choice. Both are almost equal in size, strength, and power. It is the choices they make on a daily basis, how they use their unique abilities, that makes them heroic and supermodels of behavior and moral authorities.

When you understand the power you have on a daily basis to hurt and to cause pain… and you choose to do good.. then you will develop humility and the ability to be humble.

Be humble, be a servant, know your strengths; be the hero of your own story.

When you look into your students eyes, they see themselves though your eyes, and they see that so much is possible and that they are capable of so much. If they see you as the hero in your own life, they will search through your eyes, the hero within themselves.

At the end of the day, at the end of the school year, each of us leaves behind a legacy.

You will forever be their first grade, second grade, science, history, English or math teacher. You will forever be their coach or band director.  You will leave an emotional fingerprint surrounding their experience in your class and in your specific content area, forever.

So my question to you is; what is your legacy going to be? What is your story going to be because when it’s all over that’s what you will be: threads in their cape. Your lasting emotional legacy will forever be apart of the threads of their cape.

Each one of us deserves to be the hero of our own story.  Will the threads you weave into their cape them help them soar or hold them back?

The Story of 17 x 24 – Episode 014

The Story of 17 x 24 – Episode 014

Clear your mind….

I want to take you back about 60 or so years, back to the early 1950’s in rural West Texas. Take you to a warm hot day in August; dry mountain air in a small one horse town. Exactly the kind of town you would imagine when you think of a one horse town in your mind. These types of towns continue to exist, they are full of tight knit communities where people know each other not on superficial level, but because they live life together. Most of these rural agricultural towns are at the mercy of weather patterns, supply and demand from large cities which to many seem foreign and threatening. Their shared experiences, both high and low, contribute to a combined and agreed upon awareness and understanding that defines their world view.

Now imagine in our one horse town there existed a middle school, attended by the boys and girls of the town, who are all growing up together, all have the same familiar chores, and responsibilities at home. It would be entirely possible that the teachers in this particular school would be some of, if not the only, college educated people in this small community.

Many of the children in the school are attending at a cost. In the case of middle school children, they are at an age where they are mentally able to grasp responsibility and the importance of hard work. Not only that, but the cost of attending he school, will at some point be recouped by the education and knowledge that they are gaining at the school. In essence, it’s a trade off that many rural parents are hoping will pay off for them, when their children return to the farm, and continue in its operation, maybe even bringing their newly acquired knowledge in implementing it to make the farm more efficient and profitable.

And what if you found a love for numbers. What if you found a love for numbers, and calculating. What if you would help your mother in her country kitchen by making sure her measurements were accurate and were more mesmerized by the measuring cups than the texture of the batter. What if you had a secret desire, hidden in your Heart, growing with your experience, to escape your rural confines; not in an effort to run away, but towards the coziness of a university campus, where bright educated minds can finally answer questions about life and the universe that you are too afraid to ask. Not because of some fear of rejection, but because you know that your physical geography limits your access to these special intellectual people. People who you know in your heart you would get along with, and could spend hours and hours listening to, because their thoughts would be so fascinating and amazing. And so you dream of knowing these answers, dream of finding yourself in a place that’s mentally stimulating and can offer you the answers to the questions that you wish you had.

Your access to this information is due to forces out of your control, so what you end up doing is settling in your mind for the information you have access to at your school. Understanding that at some point you might be able to arrive at a university, having confidence in your abilities and in your developing skills.

And on the first day of school, as a middle schooler, you enter your Algebra class eager to learn, ready to grow, understanding that your mind will be challenged and your want to learn will be fulfilled. You sit nervously in your chair, not only because it’s the first time you will meet your teacher but your also nervously anxious about seeing your friends, about any new kids that might have shown up, which in a very small town is a very big deal. So your anxious, your nervous, your excited…. Truly eager to learn because you feel that your old enough to get to the “real” education you’ve been waiting for. No more kid stuff.. your older, your wiser, and your ready. Your ready to learn and to grow.

Your teacher, a male, walks into your classroom. He looks knowledgeable. He looks and sounds wise and serious. He lays the scope of the land, and it’s all word and no play. He’s serious about what he’s teaching and he’s serious about his methods and his discipline plan. While the other kids might be dreading this kind of teacher, secretly, it’s a comfort to you. It’s a comfort to you because maybe this is the class where the boys won’t cause any more distrCtions. Maybe this will be the class where your really going to get all of the answers. There’s a comfort in his disciplinarian attitude, which you respect.

Day one, day two, day three goes past, and while there are some distractions, your chugging along, interested, fascinated, paying attention to the lesson (even if it is Review) but your going along with it. And it’s wonderful because your more confident in your abilities, your proud of yourself for knowing what you know, and not asking for help. Day four comes and your eager to prove yourself on the quiz he announced two days prior. Desk cleared, sharpened pencil in your hand, your ready to go. Your teachers lack of empathy and disciplined affect don’t faze you so much, not because it’s not intimidating, but because life is hard; your family has taught you that well. His scowled face, which never smiles, doesn’t affect you so much, so there’s no reason for you not to smile at him when he walks up to your desk and hands you your Quiz, straight faced.

It doesn’t seem appropriate for you to smile, even though your bursting at the seams because you know you will get a 100 on this quiz. So as you hold back your smile, you also can’t, hold back your smile. You finally make eye contact with him; he pauses in front of you, his face unresponsive. Then, as he places the quiz on your desk, he says in a calm and controlled tone,

”I’m not sure why you’re trying so hard, your going to end up pregnant in a kitchen regardless”

Steady, deep, and methodical boot sounds fill the silence left behind.

“It’s a waste of time to teach a girl anything” “it’s a waste of my time to invest in any girl” “they should keep girls out of school, so we can focus on more serious items”

This story is still happening today. We are not immune to the ideas of others. That is a 2×2 situation that we are all subject to. Let me explain….

When we are children the idea of counting to 10 seems extremely difficult. But as time passes or abilities increased to the point where we can count to 100. And then at some point we can go beyond that and understand multiplication and understand the vision and at some point we can calculate 2×2. This becomes almost 2nd nature to us because we learn it so early in our development and it becomes such a common sense equation that at some point it is just a known fact about the world. We simply understand this to be true and relying on it; we can regurgitate the fact in a second. In fact there might of been a point in time where you either made fun of someone for forgetting this fact or you were the subject of someone making fun of you for not knowing this fact. Whatever the case maybe we take this as fact we absorb it and it becomes easily accessible something quick to bring up that is useful information for us. This not only happens with facts but it also happens with people and our perceptions of people and the world around us.

Thinking, Fast and Slow is a best-selling book published in 2011 by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics laureate Daniel Kahneman

In the book’s first section, Kahneman describes two different ways the brain forms thoughts:

System 1: Fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious. Examples (in order of complexity) of things system 1 can do:
* see that an object is at a greater distance than another
* localize the source of a specific sound
* solve 2+2=?
* read a text on a billboard
* drive a car on an empty road

System 2: Slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious. Examples of things system 2 can do:
* point your attention towards someone at a loud party
* look out for the woman with the grey hair
* dig into your memory to recognize a sound
* determine the appropriateness of a behavior in a social setting
* give someone your phone number
* park into a tight parking space
* determine the price/quality ratio of two washing machines

The System 1 vs. System 2 debate dives into the reasoning or lack thereof for human decision making.

Overconfidence is a major issue.

Kahneman introduces the concept he labels “What You See Is All There Is” (WYSIATI). This theory states that when the mind makes decisions, it deals primarily with Known Knowns, phenomena it has already observed.

In the case of the teacher who already made up in his mind that we were not going to do anything productive with our lives with the knowledge we had of math. (*And I do want to add that this is not in anyway shape or form to say that women who choose to have that lifestyle are in any way less than other people because raising children and maintaining A positive home life is extremely important and it’s a very tough job and I praise women that make that decision. But there is a big difference between consciously making that decision and having someone else’s opinions of you dictate that decision for you or limit your thinking to believing that all you can do or all you’re capable of doing is that.)

Reasoning rarely considers Known Unknowns, phenomena that it knows to be relevant but about which it has no information. Unknown unknowns in this situation would be our interest in math, our desire to succeed. The teacher our eagerness and showed an awareness of the fact that we were putting in our efforts but he didn’t know how or where that came from. He didn’t even care to know where that drive was coming from and no information was looked for by him in order for him to figure out if this was a passion or if he was in the interest of ours doesn’t even matter to him. He was aware of this but never took the time to probe further.

Finally some people’s reasoning appears oblivious to the possibility of Unknown Unknowns; unknown phenomena of unknown relevance.
He explains that humans fail to take into account complexity and that their understanding of the world consists of a small and necessarily un-representative set of observations. Furthermore, the mind generally does not account for the role of chance and therefore falsely assumes that a future event will mirror a past event.

Teachers do this all the time. We will consistently without fail put that annoying kid in the corner because we know exactly how he’s going to act we don’t want to put up with that we don’t want to deal with it we don’t want to mess with that and that kid is going to go there. That teacher knew based on his observations that we were going to end up pregnant and in the kitchen that in our lives we were not going to be anything more than a set of expectations that

What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI)

What we see in our students as “bad”or unwanted or undesirable is really influenced by the limitations of their parents. Children are not poor; their parents are. Children are not badly behaved; that was taught and modeled. If we are to truly make a difference in the lives of our children, we need to stop seeing them as 2 x 2… and instead start seeing them as 17 x 24

You will stop to figure out 17 x 24
You will take the time to get that right
You will focus your energy and attention to solving that problem
You will pull in external resources to solve that
You will work hard to get that right
You will own that… understand it, maybe even re read it
You will not simply ignore that equation if it comes across your path.

And you shouldn’t… because you expect that from others….. you expect your assistant primpicals, your admin, your superiors to understand you. You expect your spouses and significant others to understand you. And you expect those people whom you have a deep vested interest in to take the time to underhand you because you are worthy of that time and effort and expense. Aren’t you?

Guess who else is worthy of that… every single child in your classroom…. Every single child in your classroom…. All of them….

Every child is 17 x 24… because so are you…


BE KIND…. so your students have the space to be COURAGEOUS!

And make sure every lesson, every interaction, eveything you do, is Sealed With Your Smile! 🙂

The Importance of Your Smile – Episode 010

The Importance of Your Smile – Episode 010

Towards the end of my first year of teaching, I had arrived at a level of tired understood only by other teachers. During these weeks, when the attention span of every child is as long as their interest in completing work, I was having a very difficult time. The only thing I could do was smile. And laugh and smile.

When I saw the reaction from my students, I realized just how impactful my smiling was.

The last study I can find regarding smiling was in 1955!

In his AMAZING TED talk, Rob Gutman talks about the hidden power of smiling and how it really is a superpower. I urge you to watch this!

Smiling is the most universal and powerful method of human communication.

Why? Because that’s just the way we’re wired. Smiling is contagious and human!

In summary:

o Smiling is an actionable technique. You can use it anytime!
o It can reframe a situation towards a positive direction
o “Seals”positive behavior
o Affirms the experiences of your students
o A humanistic way to acknowledge your students
o The most human of interactions
o Something kids do normally; a way to communicate with them that they can understand


Learning To Be Vulnerable – Episode 004

Learning To Be Vulnerable – Episode 004

This weeks episode was inspired by two different situations: the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and a podcast from the show Invisibilia  (click on the link below to listen to the podcast)

NPR: Invisibilia – The New Norm

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, thousands of people from across the country and in Houston have been responding to the needs of the people who have been heavily impacted by Harvey. From a furniture store owner who opened his store as a shelter, to a preacher who (for some) hesitated or reluctantly opened his doors to those in need. The idea of vulnerability is a sensitive topic and how we respond to those who are vulnerable can have a massive impact.

Ursa (latin for bear) is a oil rig platform 130 miles south east of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico. It was not only the deepest offshore oil well in the world (at the time of its completion) but its $1.45 billion dollar price tag was something never accomplished before. If Ursa was to be successful, the people who would live and work on the Ursa would need to learn how to confront their fears and become vulnerable. In other words; they had to deal with their feelings.

As one of the Shell leaders would discover, it would be critical to the operation of the platform that the men get in touch with their own feelings. In such a complicated and dangerous work environment, the success of the Ursa and the safety of everyone on board relied heavily on the ability of the men to communicate efficiently and effectively. Communication and awareness are a matter of life and death in a 24/7 work environment such as this. It is because of this need, that the workers would need to not allow their pride, their idea of manliness, their notion of failure or their perception of weakness to interfere with their work. The lives on the platform, and their own lives, depended on their ability to not let fear get in the way. Which lead me to think about our students, who are the most vulnerable people in our classrooms.

Do we allow our children to be vulnerable? Do we support our students in communicating their feelings, their fears, their anxieties? Do we create in our classroom an environment where our students feel safe about expressing themselves and the things that they need?

And if they do, are we responsive to their needs?

Our students face many challenges and many of them find it difficult to express needs and to be vulnerable in the classroom. The fear of becoming ostracized, made fun of, laughed at, or pegged in a particular way can have a permanent and lasting effect and can create a learning environment where learning is curved at best; completely unreachable at worst.

It is no surprise then that an article by the Harvard Business Review found that after 15 years of applying these practices, that the company accident rate declined by 84% while productivity, efficiency, and reliability increased beyond any previous company benchmark.

How much more productive could our students be in the classroom if we created an environment where we can learn to be vulnerable? How much more efficient could the natural organic learning process become if we supported in each of our classrooms an ecosystem where all of the players shared and interacted with each other in a way that allowed each participant to express who they truly are. To be themselves; their true authentic selves.

With 50 million children going through our public education system every year, how much of an impact could our classrooms have on our society if we focused on learning to be vulnerable in a safe environment… and if you, the leader, the gatekeeper, created that safe environment every day and sealed every lesson, every experience… with a smile.