Monthly Archives: February 2013

Memorable Stories

What better way to highlight great memories and experiences than by storytelling. Research has shown that teachers who tell informative and compelling stories impact our students’ learning and lives.  The following post lists six key elements to craft memorable stories.

Memorable Stories

The following will give a brief overview of the five elements of memorable stories. The sixth element is SS– to remember the acronym for Success. As teachers we want to use stories to assist our children with gaining knowledge and putting ideas into appropriate and useful actions.  But first you need people to be able to remember your stories.  Why do some ideas stay with us and some ideas are forgotten as soon as they were mentioned? Why do we remember the story about a tragedy, but can’t remember our school’s mission statement if our lives depended on it. The book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath was used as a reference.

Their list is:



Listen to Einstein.  Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.  Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

The easiest way to make stories simpler is by leaving out things that are not needed. Does a detail add context or flavor to a story? Or is it just confusing people? Is there something you can leave out, read the following memoirs:

Best intentions, mixed results, still trying.

Recovering perfectionist.  Still not good enough.

High school zero. Now, son’s hero.


We work in patterns and everything that is predictable is almost instantly forgotten, hardly even noticed. Have you ever had that experience when driving to work/school that you arrived and had absolutely no recollection of how you got there? That is exactly what happens to your audience when you tell a predictable story. A story that the Heath brothers pointed out was from Daniel Pink’s book, Drive. It is about an experiment at a baby daycare where they measured what happened after they introduced late pickup fees. They of course expected the amount of late pickups to decrease dramatically, but in fact the exact opposite occurred. People could now “buy off” their guilt with just a simple fee.


As an exercise in how not to write a concrete story, take a look at this health facilities mission statement.

Guided by relentless focus on our five imperatives, we will constantly strive to implement the critical initiatives required to achieve our vision. In doing this, we will deliver operational excellence in every corner of the Company and meet or exceed our commitments to the many constituencies we serve. All of our long-term strategies and short-term actions will be molded by a set of core values that are shared by each and every associate.

How about, let’s help all people live healthy lives and then list how to do that. You need to be fairly concrete. What do we need to do to help more people lead healthy lives?  One way to make your story more concrete is by telling the story of an example instead of a more abstract idea. Explain to your audience how to break up huge projects into bite-sized chunks.


Either the story, or you personally, need to be credible and ideally both. There are 2 ways of doing that. By making sure your facts line up or by making the story about you. Take for example the daycare example that was used earlier. It is very credible. Not only was it a published scientific research project, it was mentioned by a respectable business book author. It was also personal, because it was a memory from the storyteller.  A story was remembered even after reading the book a year ago. A story based around another story.


Stories are a way to get your audience to experience emotions. It needs to be personal, about real people with real emotions. This is why gossip works. Gossip is always about real people and their real emotions. That’s why we remember it. Think about today’s media reporting. A disaster will hit a network and they will tell you how big the tragedy is and what help is needed.  They will tell the story of a particular person, usually a child, and their hardships. They will go to great lengths to make this person “real” to you. They tell you their name, where they are born, if they have any siblings etc. They know that this type of story will inspire people to take action.  Media uses not only statistics, but emotions.

So next time you are working on a story, go over this checklist to see how you can make it more memorable. By making the story more memorable you make it easier for other people to retell your story. And with enough people telling your story, you and your students can change the world.

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Ageless Lingo

Compliments of Glasbergen on



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To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.
  by Ralph Waldo Emerson
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A Sense of Humor At Work

1) If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
2) If you can’t get your work done in the first 24 hours, work nights.
3) Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
4) For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
5) Keep your boss’s boss off your boss’s back.
6) Success always occurs in private, and failure in full view.
7) To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
8) The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up.
9) Don’t be irreplaceable, if you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.
10) If you are good, you will be assigned all the work. If you are really good, you will get out of it.
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One of those Mornings…Watch Out!

From Getting out of Bed to ….


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Homework for Happiness

Homework for Happiness

Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage has done work on the brain and happiness and how we can retrain the brain to scan for the good things in life—to help us see more possibility, to feel more energy, and to succeed at higher levels.  Using Achor’s research and findings, Walter Chen, founder of iDoneThis stated four very simple interventions that can over time; actually rewire your brain to see things more positively.  On a productivity blog buffer, Chen stated, “That whenever you do specific tasks over and over again, they take up less of your brain power over time.”   So how do you do this?

  • Scan for the 3 daily positives. At the end of each day, make a list of three specific good things that happened that day and reflect on what caused them to happen. The good things could be anything — bumping  into an old friend, a positive remark from someone at work, a pretty sunset. Celebrating small wins also has a proven effect of powering motivation and igniting joy. As you record your good things daily, the better you will get and feel.  Create a happiness journal or place in a huge container for everyone to see.
  • Give one shout-out to someone (daily). This is a great idea!  Take the positive things you’re getting better at recognizing and let people know you’ve noticed. Take a minute to say thanks or recognize someone for their efforts, from friends and family to people at work. A great way to go about this is by sending 1 daily email to someone. It can be a grade level partner, whose advice you are now appreciating every day. A neighbor you’ve just met. Show courage and say thanks.
  • Do something nice.  Acts of kindness boost happiness levels. Something as small and simple as making someone smile works. Pausing to do something thoughtful has the power to get you out of that negativity loop. Do something nice that is small and concrete.  (Classroom- sharpening a pencil for a friend, Work Team-taking notes and making copies for an upcoming meeting, Family-taking the dog for a walk without being told)
  • Mind your mind. Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Opening our awareness beyond the narrowness of negativity can help bring back more balance and positivity into the picture.

The lab-validated truth is that happiness brings us more success.  Make it a research project. Try this out with your class, your colleagues, or your family and see if you begin to see any different outcomes in your classroom objectives, your team member’s goals, or your family member’s happiness.

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it.  What would the world be like if we were just a little happier? I see this homework as being heartfelt, healthy, and helpful in being the great person you can be!

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Hallmark Movies




I know, call me sappy and romantic, but don’t you love how a Hallmark movie can bring out the positive values of  humanity?  Do the movies seem to place you in a dream world?  Yes, and the best part is when the film ends you have that great feeling inside. That happy feeling, or smile on your face feeling.  I enjoyed watching the Hallmark movies over Christmas and now during Valentine’s week.  Happy endings are the best, but even a sad story can allow reflection.  A story has done it’s job, if your true human emotions are brought to the surface. Don’t get me wrong, today’s movies do display great graphics, photography, or technology feats, but I don’t always need to see explosions, destruction, human violence, aliens, vampires, sexual acts, terrible language, etc.  Sometimes simplicity can leave more of an impression and thought on everyday life.

I usually DVR a movie so I don’t need to watch all the commercials; but today, I forgot to record ahead of time, and I had to watch commercials. Due to it being Valentine week, on each movie commercial break they had Hallmark writers dialogue about how they got their inspiration for the verses they wrote on Hallmark cards.  It was quite interesting to see the people behind the cards.   In today’s world getting a text, or email can bring a smile, but how many times do you watch people pick up multiple cards in the store and read and read until they pick that perfect card for that special someone? Do you see people smiling in the aisle?   My kids, husband and I still love a great card that they can touch, open and read with true sentiment.

I remember when I use to watch movies with my mom on Sunday’s.   The movies may have had mystery, music or romance but each movie left a lot to your imagination.  She use to say to me, it’s what happens beyond the door that we can’t see that makes the movie so magical.  Maybe that is why she is such a wonderful and happy person, with a smile on her face even through adversity and change in her life.  She led me to believe and have faith in the common good.  I posted the poem about children, Children Learn What They Live, and I can proudly say that I am still learning each of the values in the poem, but I was fortunate to have a great teacher from the beginning.

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Story of Patience

A story to tell of the wonder  and value of Patience.  You may have seen this article last year, but I hadn’t so I thought I would share.  (From Seen and

The Taxi Driver and the Old Lady

A NYC taxi driver wrote:

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.
By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.
There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.
She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.
She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.’
‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive through downtown?
‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly..
‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.
I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice..’The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
‘What route would you like me to take?’

I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.
We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired. Let’s go now’.

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.
Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse.
‘Nothing,’ I said
‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.
‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’
I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life..
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.
But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

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Children Learn What They Live

Who can forget the poem, “Children Learn What They Live”, something worth rereading and modeling for our children.  I bolded Patience, the virtue that came to mind on this day of reflection.  

“Children Learn What They Live”

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte
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