Talking to Children about the Horrific Events in Newton

A main focus of this parenting blog is keeping kids safe. In effect, it is what do every single day, every moment in caring for our children. From the day we are first pregnant, we fret about what to eat, how much to exercise, our prenatal care, and plan for how we will best care for our babies. We worry about how and what we will feed them, then as they learn to move, we protect them from dangers in our home, and hold their hands as they learn to walk.

One painful reality we all learn quickly is that we can’t protect our kids from every hurt, pain, or heartbreak.  There are lessons in skinned knees, hurt feelings, and disappointments.

This week is different. We need to question what children need to know about the tragic shootings in Newton. We have been reminded how even in our schools, where countless people surround our beautiful children with love, support and safety, unspeakable horror can happen. It has rattled us to the core. We mourn with the parents who are facing the loss of their most precious, deepest love. As we hug our children, we mourn for the loss of those who can hug their children no longer.

Read the rest of this post at Non-Toxic Kids

15 Must Read Books on Education in the U.S.


I’m so thrilled to have my book, Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus chosen for the Christian Science Monitor’s list of 15 Must Read Books on Education.


I have wonderful company…one of my heros, Jonathan Kozol, and other well known education writers and leaders such as Diane Ravich. I’m pleased to see several new voices on the list as well.


Thanks to the Christian Science Monitor for including the voices of real, practicing teachers who have an in the trenches perspective that is much needed in the national conversation about teaching.  Just yesterday, I led a workshop for teachers in New Hampshire and they voiced many of the themes in the book. All of them admitted to extreme frustration with the direction of teaching and education, and eagerly discussed possible solutions. These are the kind of voices we need at the policy making level.

6 Things Teachers Want Parents to Know (but may not tell them) As School Starts

It’s that busy time of year in the Northeast when teachers are in countless meetings, trainings, and in-sevice days, and in between setting up and cleaning their classrooms to get ready for students. In my own classroom, the nametags are on the hooks, the mailboxes and cubbies are labeled, and a hand-written welcome note, a bookmark, and a new pencil sits on each child’s desk.


As a teacher and a parent, I get a bird’s eye view of how teachers and parents can team up to provide the best education possible for a child. Here are a few things I think most teachers would want parents to know as the school year begins.


1. Share what you know! You are your child’s first and best teacher. You know what excites, frustrates, and inspires your child. Fill out any surveys sent home, and send in insights about your child via email or notes, or even a quick hallway chat. Teachers want to learn quickly how to best reach and teach your child.


2.  We are on the same team in the best interest of the child. I know it seems obvious, but starting conversations from the perspective of how we can best work together can be very powerful and productive. Amazing things can happen when parents and teachers team up. I’ve seen children make tremendous progress, gain confidence, and take on new challenges when teachers and parents communicate frequently and team up to support each other. Sometimes, we may have different perspectives and opinions, but teachers (like parents) want what is best for the child both emotionally and academically, and will work tirelessly for it.

Read the rest of this post at Fox News opinion

Go Green, Get Fit Challenge: Lessons from the Trail


As part of the Go Green, Get Fit Challenge with the EcoMom Alliance, I’ve taken to the trail. I’ve been running on roads for years. The trail gives an added challenge, and a new direction in the sport I love so much. So far, I’ve hit the trails on several runs, and here is I have learned so far.


1.  You will not go as far as you are used to. It will take longer. Don’t be demoralized!

I usually run between 3-6 miles on the roads, and when I run for an hour, I expect to go 6-7 miles or more. Not trail running!  With the extreme hills, bumpy footing, and navigation, trail running is much slower. I have gone on runs for an hour with my Garmin watch totaling my miles, which came out at 4 miles total. This made my 12 mile trail race goal feel like more than a marathon. I’ll keep working on it, but for the time being I know that I will simply be a bit slower and not go as far as I expected on the trail. And that is okay. For a runner used to logging a certain number of miles, this is easier said than done.


2. You will fall!  

This has happened to me on several occasions. Usually its when I have spaced out, deep in thought, then before I know it, splat! Down in the mud. Talk about a physical reminder to be mindful and present! Trail running (like yoga) demands this. It takes mental training to pull your mind into focus on the trail in front of you, looking where you want to go (not where you don’t want to go). I am working on this.


3. You have to pay attention more.

 Many times when I am running I simply slog along, deep in thought, paying almost no attention to where I am going. Not with trail running!  You have to plan out your route, and follow it or you might end up in the middle of Timbuktu.  If you do an out and back, or wing it, you must pay attention to every trail, and every turn off so you keep track of where you are. I spent several minutes at signs recently, figuring out where I was and where I was headed. While this interrupts the run, it is time well spent if you want to make it home for dinner.


4.  You will be sore. 

A road runner is used to the even road surface. Trail running supplies none of this.  A constantly changing surface, trail running holds uneven terrain, from hard rock to sand, to deep mud. I was surprised that after a 4 mile run (which I do all the time) I was sore. The shorter steps, the quick moves, and the uneven terrain made my hamstrings and calves more sore than I expected.


5. Get some good trail shoes. 

I was lucky enough to receive a sweet new pair of Solomon XR Crossmax Guidance trail shoes from Planet Shoes for this challenge. They are so much better than my road shoes for trails.


I overpronate excessively and need stability running shoes most of the time. But these light and cushy rides are perfect for hitting the trail. They have a much lower profile which protects the ankles. The tread is aggressive and sticks to rocks, logs and other slippery surfaces. These trail shoes have a light, water resistant exterior, and laces you can pull tight and tuck in.  They have a bit higher sides to keep out rocks and dirt. This takes a bit to get used to but is very helpful. These shoes are super cushy compared to my firm stability trainers. I didn’t want to take them off!  I can see hiking in them too.


I have read these kinds of tips a thousand times but nothing drives home lessons like hard earned experience. Go out on the trails, and see if these tips help, and share your own here! I’d love to hear about your experience trail running.


image: seeannarun on Flickr under CC 

Go Green, Get Fit Challenge: 5 Ways to Stay Green, Fit and Healthy While Vacationing with Kids

We all know it is NOT easy to fit in fitness and exercise while full time parenting.  At least at home, we can schedule workout time based on work schedules, play dates, naps, bedtime and activities. But when vacationing, it can actually be even harder to fit in exercise.  With long drives, family activities, planning meals, and the challenge of getting kids settled into bed at a new place– those hours can fly by and then your workout plan has crashed.  Here are some tips I discovered on a recent road trip with my family while trying to keep up with my training and the Go Green, Get Fit Challenge.


1.  Be opportunistic.

Are the kids playing well in your vacation rental or hotel?  Seize the moment.  Do some yoga, even if you didn’t bring your mat.  Try a plank, and a side plank, a few sun salutations and poses.  It is better than nothing, and can loosen up muscles tightened during travel.  In addition, if you can practice outside (on a deck?) you will observe your surroundings in a different and meaningful way.


Or maybe the kids (and your spouse) are napping, happily watching a movie or playing a game. Now is your time.  Grab a short walk or run, or head to the hotel fitness club.  Even 20 minutes walking is an attitude changer and is good for you.


2.  Be flexible:  Cross Train.

If you are training for an event, you might not fit in your training for that sport.  For me, I am training for a couple of running races in the fall. I knew I wasn’t going to get my long run in, but on vacation I had to be flexible.


Take walks with your kids, rent bikes, go swimming, or on hikes as a family.  Hikes and walks are particularly good ways to enjoy your surroundings.  Getting away from the car provides perspective and shows kids how to enjoy physical activity.  These activities are wonderful examples for children about how to stay healthy and active, and provide exercise for everyone. As long as you are keeping active, cross train away!


3. Eat locally.

Find local, whole foods wherever  you go.  Is it blueberry season where you are visiting?  Visit a local farm stand or pick your own farm and taste the bounty of where you are.  Instead of expensive restaurant meals grab a baguette from a local bakery, some local cheese and produce, and have a picnic.  You’ll save money and eat lighter.  The kids will enjoy a special picnic meal too.


Savor treats as special.  Ice cream and summer go hand in hand.  On your trip, certainly consider sampling from local scoop shops. Make it a special treat and only go once or twice during your vacation.


4.  Take time for yourself. 

It is your vacation after all!  Make sure to have some stress free downtime and advocate for yourself so you get it.  This may be a run, a lingering trip to a local coffee shop, sleeping in, or a long walk.  Whatever your zen is, treat yourself to it during the trip because before your know it, the trip will be over and you will be wondering– what did I do for myself? So many times as moms we forget about ourselves.  Reclaim your passion and refuel by taking some time everyday for yourself.


5. Rethink Road Food. 

The fast food chain companies would have you think that eating at their restaurants are the only option while traveling. Not so!


Grab your eats from home and some containers, and head out.  For example, we brought our localvore CSA food with us on a recent trip.  The girls snacked on fresh plums, a baguette and cheese on a recent 10 hour drive.  You can also make sandwiches in no waste lunch containers to bring along. No waste, no junk food, no supporting questionable companies and factory farms.  Woot!


Be sure to bring your reusable utensils, cloth napkins, a reusable coffee mug, and water-bottles to use as well.


What are your tips for staying green, fit and healthy while on the road with kids?  I know you savvy readers have tips to share, so please, add your thoughts.  Please join us in the Go Green, Get Fit Challenge to, and get moving.


Happy road tripping!



CNN School of Thought blog: 6 Ways to Retain Great Teachers

(Here is the first part of a post I wrote that recently published on CNN’s School of Thought blog. I was thrilled they contacted me to write an article about teacher retention based on the research for my book, Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus.)

A big part of the national conversation about education is how to attract the best and brightest teachers to the profession. It is a favorite line of many a politician. While that is well and good, it seems that many policy makers and education experts are missing the point: how to keep good teachers in our nation’s classrooms once they are actually there.

With about one-third of our teachers leaving the profession in their first three years, and even higher turnover rates in some urban areas, this is a pressing issue in American education that isn’t getting much attention.

We have an anti-teacher climate that has only worsened since I wrote the book “Why Great Teachers Quit and How we Might Stop the Exodus.” Based on my interviews of teachers nationwide, I learned firsthand why teachers are quitting the profession in droves, and personally, I saw it happen to my friend and mentee.

Read the rest at CNN’s School of Thought blog.

Go Green, Get Fit Challenge (week 2): Heading Off Road

It’s been a mixed bag for exercise this week, based on the heat, my husand’s work schedule, and of course, the kid’s activities.  For the first time, however, I experienced the joy of a few hours to myself each day that the girls were in camp.  This so rarely happens that my mind becomes frantic with all the many thing that could be done with a couple hours of independence.

I discovered that it is A LOT easier to eat breakfast when someone else makes it!  Hot, ready, and tasty, not early in the a.m. but perfectly around nine.  Eating breakfast everyday is one of my goals for the challenge– and it is a hard one for me.  Getting kids (and myself) ready to get out the door, with all the stuff they need for the day’s activities, who has time to chew anything?

So I treated myself to a few bagels and a tasty crepe with a girlfriend this week.  Truly lovely.  So, breakfast, check.  Hard on the pocketbook, perfect for my breakfast aversion.

Next up was running and yoga. I did a few shorter runs this week, and had the time to do an 8 and a 1/2 miler loop of the most beautiful Vermont dirt roads.  I felt strong and so, so happy to have the opportunity to do it.  Then later, of course, I was very sore.  During that run I was on a particularly rocky section of dirt road and I ate it, full on, and caught my body with my hands. In that moment I realized I need to practice running on trails if I am going to survive the Vermont 50 mile relay I hope to complete this September with friends.  I’ll be researching trail running tips and sharing them here.  I’d love to hear if you have any tips for me as I head to the trail for more varied and challenging runs.

I did some yoga after a short run that focused on my arms.  This one from Yoga Journal. I love the mellow and thoughtful style of the instructor, Jason Crandell.  This one leaves your arms burning and your whole self invigorated.

Speaking of challenging, the camps are over, and for the last two days I have not been able to fit in any running. It was a super hot day here, even in Vermont, and not one inch of me feels like doing yoga or going down to the basement treadmill.

How have you managed the heat?


Rituals of Self Care: Starting the Go Green, Get Fit Challenge

I’ve been an athlete for as long as I can remember.  The catalyst my running life was in 9th grade, when a friend of my dad’s said that I had the legs of a runner– and the fact that my best friend started running track.

Nevermind that we first started running to my house during practice, making popcorn, and watching Oprah.  Eventually I actually started to run– and have loved it ever since.

Running has taken me more places than I ever thought possible. It has saved me, on many occasions, from the throws of grief, stress, the isolation of new parenthood, and sparked creativity, goal setting, and joy in my life.

While I try to run as much as I can, it is never as much as I want to. And I have trouble, as many busy moms do, with self care.  I don’t get enough sleep, don’t eat as well as I should, and don’t allow myself much needed down time for fun and relaxation. This of course effects everything:  my parenting, relationships, running, and overall wellness.

Rituals of self care.  Activities like yoga, playing my guitar, eating healthful meals–slowly, and yes, running. I need more of these in my life.

That is why I am joining 25+ fabulous green bloggers in the summer 2012 Go Green Get Fit Challenge as part of the EcoMom Alliance Sustain YourSelf™ Program presented by This 12 week health and wellness series is where we will share inspiration, motivation, progress (or a lack there of), and encouragement  for whatever fitness goals we have.

And what of my latest running goals?  I’ve got two big events planned for the fall–more on that later.

You know what comes next!

Will you join us?

What are your rituals of self care– and your fitness goals for summer?


The Guardian

It is graduation season, and I am saying goodbye to my wonderful sixth grade class.  As they head off into their adolescence, and all the challenges, joys, and discoveries of that tumultuous time, I ponder how I hold them– forever in my mind– at age 12.  Here is a poem I am reading tomorrow night at their graduation ceremony, and it is featured at the beginning of my book, Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus. 


I am the guardian of your 12 year old self

I bear witness, child one second

teenager the next

developing a sense

of what is right

what is wrong

and all in between

pushing boundaries of childhood

like water on the levees

intense daily interactions

reading, writing, thinking

talking, laughing, brooding

until poof! you’re gone

like summer in Vermont

or a flock of birds overhead

flying fast out of sight

I squint to see

the tiny dots disappear.


So when I see you in town

at the grocery store

don’t think I’ odd

because I stop in my tracks




because while I’ve stayed

the same in the mirror

you’ve gone through a

swirling metamorphosis

when I wasn’t looking

you’ve danced, sung

played, changed

and done more than

I’d ever known

or could teach you.

I’m looking for the relic

for the tiny piece

of your preadolescent

clumsy, shining self

searching the pictures

in my mind

head spinning.


So when you see me

on the street

stop and say hello.

Tell me who you are now

and I will tell you

who you were then.

image:  by Ro’smom on Flickr under Creative Commons

Joining the Go Green, Get Fit Challenge

Managing, teaching, and caring for 23 students and 2 daughters, while meeting freelance writing deadlines, and keeping up with the causes important to me– well, it consumes almost every part of my day.


But there is a problem. And that is looking out for me– my health, wellness, creativity and self care. Of course these are interconnected with how I care for others.


 Like many moms, sometimes I don’t do a good job with that balance.


 Two weeks ago, I ran a half marathon.  It was a challenge, it was joyous, it was exciting and fun.  Then my daughter got very sick and my school obligations super intense.  I haven’t exercised much and have been feeling low on energy.


 I’ve signed on to the Go Green, Get Fit Challenge, with a team of mom bloggers who want to collectively take better care of ourselves. We all have different goals, and we will post and support each other in our progress, and in our failings. But you can bet we will all make good progress toward getting healthier, especially together.  Won’t you join us?


The Go Green, Get Fit Challenge officially starts June 18th, but I am setting my goals now. This challenge will run 12 weeks, and I will be blogging about these goals (and more as I have them!):


1. Each day, go for a run, a hike, or do yoga. At least 5 or 6 days a week. This is hard because I usually run or do yoga every other day.  I’d like to have more consistency and see better results.


2.  Eat a healthy breakfast every day.  I don’t like eating breakfast and often skip it. Believe me, each day I hear my mom’s voice in my head telling me, “It’s the most important meal of the day!”  I know, I know. I need to make this a priority for good health.


3. Pick another event to inspire and motivate me. Half marathons are good because they are a challenge but don’t overwhelm my life like marathon training did. I’m searching for a fun, exciting fall event in the Northeast.  Any ideas?


I’d love to hear about your fitness and health goals, and please join us for the Go Green, Get Fit Challenge.  Together, we can improve women’s health and take better care of ourselves.  We (and our families) deserve it!