Category Archives: Learning Loop

It will be here before you know it…

Yes, I am guilty. I haven’t written since May. Yes, I am having a great summer. Yes, I am going back to school with all its magical surprises and adventures. This year, I may be approaching some of the future posts of KEEP IT SCHOOL differently by stating a quote and then reflecting on everyday life. Have a wonderful August and wonderful return to the world of school!

TWAS the night before school…

‘Twas the night before school starts, and all through the town,
Not a teacher was sleeping, just thrashing around.
Thoughts of the classroom brought a tear to each eye,
And all of them wished it could still be July.

The students, meanwhile, were doing just fine,
Texting and talking and typing online.
Yet they, too, were longing for more fun and games,
And hoping to hear that their school was in flames.

But the building was ready, the windows were clean,
The desks were now free of the rude and obscene.
The floors were well-polished and the lockers repaired,
All was in order, no effort was spared.

The next day the students will mope and they’ll fuss,
And with backpacks and lunch bags will climb on the bus.
The Welcome back, everyone! announcement will blare,
And the bell for first period will begin the despair.

Hallways will fill with the dazed and perplexed,
For nobody knows where they’re supposed to go next.
As the masses move slowly, lost and encumbered,
They’ll silently curse how the rooms have been numbered.

But sooner or later the classes will start,
Algebra, history, English, and art.
Summer vacation will fade from their minds,
As another semester slowly unwinds.

Within a few days they’ll resume their routine,
The relaxed and the happy will grow grouchy and mean.
Instructors will gripe that the kids are all lazy,
Students will swear that their teachers are crazy.

Quizzes will take the class by surprise,
While films will just teach them to all shut their eyes.
Lectures are met by simple, blank stares,
Tests will result in complaints of “Not fair!”

Assignments and projects and homework forgotten,
Answers unclear and writing that’s rotten.
Pupils will wonder what that book was about,
Exams will be graded, report cards sent out.

And the months will fly by, every one of the ten,
Then suddenly June will return once again,
Causing all parents to feel sad and unsteady,
Shocked that it’s summer vacation already.

So let’s be glad as September approaches,
Our kids are returning to the teachers and coaches.
We say to them now, as their hearts fill with fear,
“Good luck to all, and to all a good year!”

Compliments of Charles Gulotta
Taken from Mostly Bright Ideas

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What Americans Keep Ignoring about Finland’s School Success

As I was researching for information about education, I saw this older piece in The Atlantic written by Anu Partanen. Anu is a Finnish journalist based in New York City. She also wrote a book about what America can learn from Nordic societies. After reading it, I thought why not learn from our neighbors. Can we focus on equity and cooperation in our current system? Another similar article: Educating Americans for the 21st Century at; Why are Finland’s Schools so Successful? is also an excellent overview of Finland schools.
The Scandinavian country is an education leader because it values equality more than excellence.

Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West’s reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.
The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known — if it was known for anything at all — as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life — Newsweek ranked it number one last year — and Finland’s national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.
Finland’s schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.
Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model — long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization — Finland’s success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play. All this has led to a continuous stream of foreign delegations making the pilgrimage to Finland to visit schools and talk with the nation’s education experts, and constant coverage in the worldwide media marveling at the Finnish miracle.
So there was considerable interest in a recent visit to the U.S. by one of the leading Finnish authorities on education reform, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Earlier this month, Sahlberg stopped by the Dwight School in New York City to speak with educators and students, and his visit received national media attention and generated much discussion.
And yet it wasn’t clear that Sahlberg’s message was actually getting through. As Sahlberg put it to me later, there are certain things nobody in America really wants to talk about.
* * *
During the afternoon that Sahlberg spent at the Dwight School, a photographer from the New York Times jockeyed for position with Dan Rather’s TV crew as Sahlberg participated in a roundtable chat with students. The subsequent article in the Times about the event would focus on Finland as an “intriguing school-reform model.”
Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. “Oh,” he mentioned at one point, “and there are no private schools in Finland.”
This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it’s true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.
The irony of Sahlberg’s making this comment during a talk at the Dwight School seemed obvious. Like many of America’s best schools, Dwight is a private institution that costs high-school students upward of $35,000 a year to attend — not to mention that Dwight, in particular, is run for profit, an increasing trend in the U.S. Yet no one in the room commented on Sahlberg’s statement. I found this surprising. Sahlberg himself did not.
Sahlberg knows what Americans like to talk about when it comes to education, because he’s become their go-to guy in Finland. The son of two teachers, he grew up in a Finnish school. He taught mathematics and physics in a junior high school in Helsinki, worked his way through a variety of positions in the Finnish Ministry of Education, and spent years as an education expert at the OECD, the World Bank, and other international organizations.

Now, in addition to his other duties, Sahlberg hosts about a hundred visits a year by foreign educators, including many Americans, who want to know the secret of Finland’s success. Sahlberg’s new book is partly an attempt to help answer the questions he always gets asked.
From his point of view, Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students’ performance if you don’t test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?
The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America’s school reformers are trying to do.
For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what’s called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.
Instead, the public school system’s teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.
As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”
For Sahlberg what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master’s degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal’s responsibility to notice and deal with it.
And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Paronen: “Real winners do not compete.” It’s hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland’s success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.
Finally, in Finland, school choice is noticeably not a priority, nor is engaging the private sector at all. Which brings us back to the silence after Sahlberg’s comment at the Dwight School that schools like Dwight don’t exist in Finland.
“Here in America,” Sahlberg said at the Teachers College, “parents can choose to take their kids to private schools. It’s the same idea of a marketplace that applies to, say, shops. Schools are a shop and parents can buy what ever they want. In Finland parents can also choose. But the options are all the same.”
Herein lay the real shocker. As Sahlberg continued, his core message emerged, whether or not anyone in his American audience heard it.
Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.
* * *
Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.
In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.
In fact, since academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland — unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway — was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.
That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year — or even just the price of a house in a good public school district — and the other “99 percent” is painfully plain to see.
Pasi Sahlberg goes out of his way to emphasize that his book Finnish Lessons is not meant as a how-to guide for fixing the education systems of other countries. All countries are different, and as many Americans point out, Finland is a small nation with a much more homogeneous population than the United States.
Yet Sahlberg doesn’t think that questions of size or homogeneity should give Americans reason to dismiss the Finnish example. Finland is a relatively homogeneous country — as of 2010, just 4.6 percent of Finnish residents had been born in another country, compared with 12.7 percent in the United States. But the number of foreign-born residents in Finland doubled during the decade leading up to 2010, and the country didn’t lose its edge in education. Immigrants tended to concentrate in certain areas, causing some schools to become much more mixed than others, yet there has not been much change in the remarkable lack of variation between Finnish schools in the PISA surveys across the same period.
Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Teachers College, has addressed the effects of size and homogeneity on a nation’s education performance by comparing Finland with another Nordic country: Norway. Like Finland, Norway is small and not especially diverse overall, but unlike Finland it has taken an approach to education that is more American than Finnish. The result? Mediocre performance in the PISA survey. Educational policy, Abrams suggests, is probably more important to the success of a country’s school system than the nation’s size or ethnic makeup.
Indeed, Finland’s population of 5.4 million can be compared to many an American state — after all, most American education is managed at the state level. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a research organization in Washington, there were 18 states in the U.S. in 2010 with an identical or significantly smaller percentage of foreign-born residents than Finland.
What’s more, despite their many differences, Finland and the U.S. have an educational goal in common. When Finnish policymakers decided to reform the country’s education system in the 1970s, they did so because they realized that to be competitive, Finland couldn’t rely on manufacturing or its scant natural resources and instead had to invest in a knowledge-based economy.
With America’s manufacturing industries now in decline, the goal of educational policy in the U.S. — as articulated by most everyone from President Obama on down — is to preserve American competitiveness by doing the same thing. Finland’s experience suggests that to win at that game, a country has to prepare not just some of its population well, but all of its population well, for the new economy. To possess some of the best schools in the world might still not be good enough if there are children being left behind.
Is that an impossible goal? Sahlberg says that while his book isn’t meant to be a how-to manual, it is meant to be a “pamphlet of hope.”
“When President Kennedy was making his appeal for advancing American science and technology by putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s, many said it couldn’t be done,” Sahlberg said during his visit to New York. “But he had a dream. Just like Martin Luther King a few years later had a dream. Those dreams came true. Finland’s dream was that we want to have a good public education for every child regardless of where they go to school or what kind of families they come from, and many even in Finland said it couldn’t be done.”
Clearly, many were wrong. It is possible to create equality. And perhaps even more important — as a challenge to the American way of thinking about education reform — Finland’s experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.

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Fireworks In Action

Firework in Motion

Firework in Motion

Click on it!

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May Day in Bloom

The Netherlands in May

At first glance, it looks like a giant child armed with a box of crayons has been set loose upon the landscape. Vivid stripes of purple, yellow, red, pink, orange and green make up A glorious patchwork. Yet far from being a child’s sketchbook, this is, in fact, the northern Netherlands in the middle of tulip season. The Dutch landscape in May is a kaleidoscope of color as  the tulips burst into life. The bulbs are planted in late October and early November.  More than three billion tulips are grown each year and two-thirds of the vibrant blooms are exported, mostly to the U.S. and Germany.

It doesn’t even look real…

But here are the Tulips Up Close…..

Article from                           Pictures are compliments of

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Why cheat?

When we look at cheating, should we first be looking at the underlying causes vs. what do we do when someone cheats?  Study skill articles and self help information is frequently published for students and staff to benefit a healthy school system.  Due to being fully immersed in the culture, you may find it rare to be able to spend time reading important information to help your classroom or your own study skills. I found this article came from Carnegie Mellon University from the Student Affairs Center where it outlines the student and staff responsibilities and possible causes of cheating.  Even though it is written by university writers, I think that each of the areas can be easily translated into lower grade levels. I applaud how this article is organized by showing that we need to understand each others perspectives or reasoning before working together to meet mutual goals in the classroom.

Why do students cheat?

It is a rare  individual who actively chooses to be dishonest. But why do a few students make  compromising choices? What can lead people to act in ways that they aren’t  proud of? Below are some underlying beliefs and confusions which students at Carnegie  Mellon give as explanations for slipping standards of integrity.

A Victimless Crime?

Students generally are familiar with the  disciplinary actions and penalties for getting caught. However, they may fail  to understand that one of the personal consequences of cheating and/or  plagiarism is that they aren’t actually learning or practicing the material.  They may not realize that they will actually need and be accountable for  certain knowledge and skills.

Instructors may not explain the personal  consequences and loss of trust that accompany academic dishonesty if they are  focused mainly on stating the procedures and punishments related to academic  disciplinary actions. They may not tell students how dishonesty damages their  trust in a student and his or her work which can affect a student’s ability to  get a strong recommendation for employment or graduate school.

It’s a “Dog-Eat-Dog” University

Students and their families often have very high  expectations about grade achievements because they are accustomed to getting  As. More pressure comes from the emphasis on grades in hiring and graduate  admissions. Some students may feel pressured to develop unorthodox means to get  competitive and marketable credentials.

Instructors sometimes evaluate the performance of  one student against the performance of others instead of measuring each  student’s achievement with respect to specified criteria. If students must  compete with other students to get one of a limited number of As, they begin to  look for ways to “get ahead.”

If Everyone Else Jumped in a Lake  . . .

Students sometimes view cheating as a necessary,  not totally unacceptable method for academic survival. If they believe that  “everyone cheats sometimes,” they may not seriously ask themselves,  “Why shouldn’t I?”

Professors and teaching assistants do not always confront suspected  breaches of academic integrity. If they perceive that others do not pursue the  formal process or that it is difficult to prove a breach has occurred,  instructors may decide not to talk directly with students about potential  problems. Instructors may no report an incident from their course believing  that the student has “learned their lesson” but with no official record of the  incident there is no way of knowing whether the student had cheated before or  cheats again.

Too Much Work, Too Little Time?

Students often have multiple assignments due on  the same day and in some courses may have only a few opportunities to  demonstrate what they know. Cheating can be a tempting path when they have  difficulty managing their time. Some may have little remorse because they  rationalize “doing what it takes” to get all of their work done. One  poor performance on a high-stakes assignment or feeling “shafted out of an  A” by a curve may increase the perceived pressure to switch from honest  work to questionable “shortcuts.”

Instructors often underestimate students’ need for  multiple assignments to get feedback, to receive a fair grade, and to stay  motivated to learn. Sometimes in an effort to reduce the workload, they may not  think about the intense pressure on students when a course grade is based only  on a midterm and a final. Or, in an effort to provide lots of timely practice  and feedback, others may lose track of how much pressure students feel to meet  deadlines.

The Past is Passed On

Students are accustomed to sharing their work  from past semesters with others and using friends’ old exams to study, and they  are often encouraged to do so. But the limits of a good learning strategy can  be stretched too far if students “borrow” from papers, homework sets  or lab reports done by other students.

Instructors often do a good job of varying exam  questions and assignments from semester to semester. But they may begin to  resent the time and suspicion involved in altering effective materials just to  take precautions against potential cheating or plagiarism. Even if specific  instructions are given for students not to access past materials, students  report that past materials are very easy to come by and often too alluring to  pass up.

Do We Have to Spell Everything Out?

Students recognize the obvious examples of  academic dishonesty such as copying during an exam or quoting extensively  without a citation. They can be much less clear on how much collaboration is  allowed, what kind of paraphrasing is appropriate to summarize a source or  whether one assignment can be turned in for two different classes. If students  are not accustomed to thinking about the ownership of ideas, they tend to  underreport their sources.

Instructors often state their expectations for  tests and about quoting, footnoting, and paraphrasing in papers and they  outline the consequences of being dishonest. However, they may not state  precisely what they consider to be appropriate collaboration (if any) and what  they recommend as guidelines for teamwork.

Playing the Odds

Students sometimes feel that receiving a zero  for an exam or a paper is a justified penalty for cheating, but they may also  convince themselves that they won’t get caught. And they can be reinforced in  this thinking if grading procedures aren’t planned carefully or if instructors  don’t follow up on suspicious incidents.

Instructors may have difficulty discovering that  students copied or inappropriately collaborated on assignments when a large  number of exams and papers must be graded. Grading procedures which include  comparison among students and across multiple sections take extra time so  instructors sometimes bet on their ability to spot students’ papers which are  strikingly similar.

Don’t Rock the Boat

Students often feel they need to stick together  and watch out for each other; thus, they feel extremely reluctant to report a  peer’s academic dishonesty, even when they suspect someone they don’t like.  They think, “Would I want them to report me if they thought I was  cheating?” The answer usually is no, so they often let it slide. To avoid  confrontation, they may not even talk to a friend.

Instructors sometimes avoid discussions of  questionable behaviors with individual students. Some are honestly confused about  whether an initial discussion has to lead to a charge of dishonesty and a  potentially long procedure (it doesn’t). Instructors may also be reluctant to  approach a student about questionable work without solid evidence because they  don’t want to make unwarranted accusations.

 Carnegie Mellon University 5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
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Cheating with Technology

Compliments of Calvin and Hobbs… on

The following article was written by Grace Fleming from Guide.  In reviewing articles about cheating, I like how this article points out the common practices that are happening in high schools and how this practice transfers into colleges.  I think that the more teachers show students specific examples of cheating and are clear about what is or is not acceptable, the more knowledgeable students will become in meeting expectations and being true in their work.  We do not want to make assumptions of what our students know and do not know. 

Cheating with Technology

By Grace Fleming, Guide

Educators are showing serious concern about cheating in high schools, and for good reason. Cheating has become commonplace in high schools, largely because students are using technology to gather and share information in rather innovative ways. Since students are a little more tech-savvy than many adults, grownups are always playing catch-up when it comes to finding out what students are up to.

But this technology-centered cat-and-mouse activity can be fatal to your educational future. Students start to blur the ethical boundaries and think it’s OK to do many things, simply because they’ve gotten away with them in the past. While parents and high school teachers might be less savvy than their students about using cell phones and calculators to share work, and too overworked to catch cheaters, college professors are a little different. They have graduate assistants, college honor courts, and cheat-detecting software that they can tap into.

Unintentional Cheating

Since students use tools and techniques that have not been used before, they might not always know what really constitutes cheating. For your information, the following activities constitute cheating. They can get you kicked out of college.

  • Buying a paper from an Internet site
  • Sharing homework answers via IMs, email, text messaging, or any other device
  • Using a whiteboard to share answers
  • Having another student write a paper for you
  • Cutting and pasting text from the Internet without citing it
  • Using sample essays from the Internet
  • Using text messaging to tell somebody else an answer
  • Programming notes into your calculator
  • Taking and/or sending a cell phone picture of test material or notes
  • Video recording lectures with cell phones and replaying during test
  • Surfing web for answers during a test
  • Using a pager to receive information during a test
  • Viewing notes on your PDA, electronic calendar, cell phone, or other device during a test
  • Storing definitions in a graphing calculator or cell phone
  • Using a watch to hold notes

If you’ve been transmitting answers to homework or test questions, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve been cheating—even though it might have been unintentional. The bottom line is that students can develop habits in high school that will get them expelled when they use them in college, and sometimes students won’t even realize their “habits” are illegal.

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Liebster Award

Liebster Award

Thank you for nominating me for this award. I really appreciate your kindness and  support!

Liebster Award is given to bloggers that have less than 200 followers.  It’s meant to encourage those bloggers to keep up the good work.  Nominations are given by fellow bloggers.

The rules for the Liebster Award are to publicly thank the person who nominated me, so big thanks to you   I appreciate your kind words and for thinking of me. Then I have to share 11 things about myself and answer the 11 questions that were asked of me.  I must write-up 11 questions of my own that the 11 bloggers that I will nominate shall answer.

11 Things About Myself

1. I’m a daughter.

2. I’m a mom.

3. I’m a sister.

4. I’m married.

5. I have 2 wonderful children.

6.  I love sunsets and listening to the water.

7.  I enjoy reading stories about families and writing for enjoyment.

8. I have been blessed with wonderful friends.

9. I started this blog about five months ago.

10.  I have a great dog that is always in a good mood.

11.  I like my tea in the morning.

Eleven Questions That Were Asked By The Blog Who Nominated Me

  • What’s your favorite film? Some of my favorites are, “To Sir With Love” and “City of Angels”.
  • What kind of music do you listen to? I enjoy alternative rock and traditional rock and roll.
  • What’s your favorite color? Shades of blue, yellow and orange.
  • If you stranded in a desert island – what five things would you take with you? Water, food, paper and writing utensil, shelter and a ticket off the island to use as needed.
  • What’s on your nightstand? Clock, my phone, glasses, remote, reading material.
  • Do you have a favorite TV program? I enjoy a variety, for example; Grey’s Anatomy, Chicago Fire, Modern Family, Elementary etc.
  • What’s your favorite food? I enjoy seafood.
  • If your boss gave you a day off, what would you do? I would spend time with family and friends or dependent on the day spend time relaxing.
  • Three words that describes you best? Organized yet flexible, Caring, and Dedicated
  • What is your biggest fear and why? To be honest, I don’t know.
  • What is your favorite childhood memory? One of my favorite Childhood memories is waking up Christmas morning with my family.

Eleven Nominees for Liebster Award- (There are too many to list…)

Questions for my Nominated Bloggers

  • What was your favorite Children’s book?
  • What kind of music do you listen to?
  • Where was your best vacation?
  • What do you like the most about your job?
  • What is one thing that you would like to change in your lifetime?
  • What piece that you wrote or type of writing are you the most proud of?
  • What was the best advice that was given to you?
  • What is your favorite comfort food?
  • Three words that describe you?
  • If you could change occupations, what would you do? and why?
  • What type of blogs do you like to follow?
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May the Irish Be With You…

What do you get when you cross poison ivy with a four-leaf clover?  A rash of
good luck.  ~Author Unknown

Never iron a four-leaf clover, because you don’t want to press your luck.
~Author Unknown

If you’re enough lucky to be Irish, you’re lucky enough!  ~Irish Saying

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold
~Irish Blessing

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble
avoid you
Wherever you go.
~Irish Blessing

May luck be our companion
May friends stand by our side
May history remind
us all
Of Ireland’s faith and pride.
May God bless us with
May love and faith abide.
~Irish Blessing

May your
pockets be heavy and your heart be light,
May good luck pursue you each
morning and night.
~Irish Blessing

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Images of Patience

Let’s learn from nature and the animal kingdom.

                           patience buddha

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Trails of Winter


Couldn’t you just write a story or poem to accompany these pictures?  (compliments of Bing images)

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