Sharing the Message of You Matter with the Bedley Bros

Last week I had the opportunity to share Choose2Matter with two educators on their own quest2matter.  Tim (@tbed63) and Scott Bedley (@TASFair), aka The Bedley Bros, host a YouTube show that highlights educators who are striving to impact the world.

I was excited to have the opportunity to share my heart with them as they carry the Choose2Matter torch to the west coast. Tim, the 2013 Riverside County Teacher of the Year, teaches 4th and 5th grade and is known for his edutaining rock band, Rockin’ the Standards.

His younger brother Scott, the 2014 Orange County Teacher of the Year, is an innovator in connecting students to the real world and created the Technology Applied Science Fair. The three of us carried the message that kids truly matter and can impact the world.

The Bedley Brothers (@BedleyBros) were eager to learn about my current passion, Choose2Matter.  I shared the thrilling story of the students at Dr. Justin Staub’s (@MrStabSTEM) Downingtown (PA) STEM Academy.

Justin, like the Bedley Bros, is one of those people who makes things happen.  He cleared the way to give his students a chance to impact problems such as teen suicide, drug addiction, and poverty.

The Bedley Bros are connecting educators to educational innovators such as Erin Klein, Steven W. Anderson, Rick Morris, and Adam Bellow.  My message was clear in our short, but passionate conversation: kids can be vessels of change.  I’m looking forward to connecting with Scott Bedley as he shares this message with one of the nations lighthouse districts, Irvine Unified, and adds to this global movement.

Check out the Bedley Bros #Edchat to see our conversation and how they are taking steps to impact education. Watch their shows live on Tim’s blog

Using Art to Teach the Classroom Habitudes

Wendy Bellagamba and Rachel Sepe, 4th grade teachers at Hough Street School in Barrington, IL, are “Teachers with Habitudes.” They have a passion for helping students become involved citizens who fully develop their genius. This guest post by Wendy and Rachel describe how the mural posted above came to be on her classroom wall.

The inspiration for the mural came from Angela Maiers’ book, Classroom Habitudes. As we were studying the book at a staff meeting last spring, we brainstormed ideas to use “We Matter” in our room and with our students.

Rachel suggested a mural. Wendy knew her daughter, Christine, would jump in to help this summer, using her art background. We wanted the mural to illustrate that we all matter to each other in our classroom and school community.

Christine found the design, and it was her idea to show diversity with the hands. We knew we wanted to list the Habitudes in the mural, and, when our class birthday wristbands arrived in the mail, we thought wristbands with the words would work!

Christine created a stencil for the title, and we decided to keep it smaller so that photos of the students, or creations made by the students demonstrating the Habitudes could be added to the mural throughout the school year.

It was so much fun to create this with Christine, and as Angela says in her book, “spread the message of the habitudes’ powers in our classroom.” It is also “an important reminder that we do nothing alone.”

When Wendy was a student at Drake University, she read Inviting School Success by William Purkey. Purkey’s book has always stuck with her and helped her form her philosophy of education. It reminds us of Classroom Habitudes because it was written to be helpful to those who wish to improve the education of all students and, at the same time, approaches it from a humanistic viewpoint. Both books invite students, and teachers, to see themselves as able, valuable and self-directing.

We’re looking forward to teaching your lessons in the months and years ahead!

Where Mattering is on the Schedule!

At East Greenwich High School in Rhode Island, “Mattering” is on the schedule!

Vice Principal, Tim Chace, believes that the relationship formed between a teacher and his student is more important, and will go further, than the content learned.

Inspired by the “You Matter” Talk at TEDxDesMoines, Tim created a “You Matter” Form for his school where both teachers and students could fill out the form, letting a co-worker or teacher know that something they did made a difference. This “You Matter” form was met with great enthusiasm. Take a look at the forms and read all about the culture change of mattering at EGHS.

Do the people in your life know that they matter to you?


Mattering at East Greenwich High School, By Tim Chace

It’s just a simple idea and a simple Google form.

But the results were far from simple.

In late April I decided to build it after seeing the You Matter speech and understanding the power of the message.

It was a tough year, as it is for most public schools. There is a powerlessness and debilitating feeling among many faculties that feel overwhelmed with all of the regulation from outside agencies, trying to work independently with kids to help them improve while being forced to teach in a one size must fit all “accountability” system and while listening to constant attacks in the media and from politician, “reformers” etc.

I make a regular practice of trying to notice at least 2-3 things a day that I can tell people face to face that they are making a difference and that they matter… but what if I could extend that… let everyone do it…. easily… quickly… as part of our culture…

What would happen then?

Attached is a screen shot of the form that I quickly developed… people have access to it through our student management system as well as through the emails that they receive when someone fills the form out for them.

I started it out by sending 6 messages to people… no fanfare… no announcement… didn’t even sign them.

By the next day 27 more had gone out.

People were surprised at how receiving one affected them and their day.  One teacher (15+ year veteran) came to see me at lunch duty and said she was in tears because she didn’t think anyone noticed what she did and it was the nicest thing that’s ever happened at work.

And those were the unsolicited ripples from my “original six”… a few days later I explained what I was doing at a faculty meeting and let it take off from there.  By the end of the year we had 361 “you matters” go out to a faculty of about 80.  And it did change our culture.

Then with May being Teacher Appreciation Month, I decided to use it for another purpose, and chronicled it here.

I hope that you can see and understand how You Matter rippled out into the world and continues to do so in our little neck of the woods.

Bullying is not just a Youth Problem; It's a Human One

There’s a powerful new post on Seth Godin’s blog with an interesting take on bullying.

It is not just a youth issue – it is a human one.

A BULLY is a person of any age who intentionally uses power to cause physical or emotional distress with the purpose of dominating the other person. Period.


  • Intentionally work to marginalize people.
  • In an organizational (or online) setting, choose not to engage in conversation or discussion.
  • Do not use legitimate authority or suasion; instead, they depend on pressure in the moment to demean and disrespect someone else—by undermining not just their ideas, but their very presence and legitimacy.

Do you know anyone like this?

Read on to see what to do about it.

Change the World One Kind Word At a Time! — Shannon Denton Guest Post

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc

The following is the inspiring debut post by new blogger Shannon Denton.  Please stay tuned to her blog, Denton’s Digest, to keep up with Shannon and her fifth grade class!


Last year, after Sandy Hook I knew I had to do something in my own classroom for my students to see that there is more beauty in the world than there is darkness.  At the same time I saw so many adults having a hard time finding the beauty, the kindness because of their own heartbreak.  I realizedit was time to continue using Peter H. Reynolds, Angela Maiers and Amy Krouse Rosenthal as my mentor authors in my classroom so we could create more beauty in the world.  We needed to go back and reread their words and listen to them speak.  We decided to begin to “Beckon the Lovely,” Amy K.R.’s call to action!  This year,  it is my mission to make sure my students know they MATTER and its our job to change the world!

This year we are going to read Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Peter H. Reynolds.  I am going to give my students, and hopefully my staff a bag of seeds, with a mission.

Here it is:
This bag of seeds is just like a person filled with many different qualities.  We must plant the seeds, water and feed them, make sure the seeds have the right amount of sunshine.  We, the people who surround the seeds and each other, are the wind in the air.  When we are kind and gentle, the seeds can grow, create more seeds and spread across the land.  When we are harsh and cold, the seeds might not grow or the plants will wither just like the insides of a person get damaged.  Ourjob is to either continue to nurture the seeds/people around us or to try to fix the damage that was done.  We need to reflect on our actions and how we can make change.

·      What do I need to do to create success around me?
·      What do I need to do for myself?
·      How can I affect the world in powerful ways?
·      How can I create a gentle breeze to carry seeds and beauty to the world?
·      How can I change the harsh wind I created into a gentle, nurturing breeze?

We need to blow the harshness away, change its course, and create the calm after the storm that allows for new beginnings!

You are POWERFUL, you MATTER and it is the CHOICES we make that can change the world!

Here is our mission:  Lets make those choices kind and world changing!  Let start by beckoning the lovely! Lets change the world one kind word at a time and make our mark!

Here is the google presentation I will also be using in the classroom before reading Plant a Kiss to see and hear Amy K. R. and see how we can make a difference!

The Immortality of Stories

image credit: khunaspix via

image credit: khunaspix via

This powerful guest post by English teacher Brian Denesha challenges us to deepen our students’ experience of learning by infusing lessons with emotion and storytelling.  In making this leap, we can take students’ experience of stories to the next level and create a more memorable and formative learning environment for them — something that will stay with them for years.  Please read on to see how Brian incorporated this idea into his teaching!


Too often, I feel that we as teachers take for granted the opportunities that we are presented on a daily basis to truly affect the lives of our students. Just the other day, upon completing a text that is near and dear to my heart, I let my true emotions spill out in front of my class of seniors. While we have built a great relationship, and are unfortunately coming to the end of our one semester together, I don’t think I would have been able to say that I had impacted all of them in a way that could stick with them and make an indelible mark on their lives…that is until the moment I thought of my own father’s mortality.

The text, “Big Fish” by Daniel Wallace, ends with the main character dying and his son finally understanding that the stories and memories of those we love are the gifts that are left behind long after their physical presence has left us for the Elysian Fields that mythology promises for the truly great…our parents.

My own father is dealing with his fourth bout of cancer, the same evil that steals Edward Bloom’s life in “Big Fish”, and I took the opportunity to share what I have learned from reading the text multiple times over the past few years.

My own father is a storyteller, a jokester, and man of words and wisdom, so the connection to Edward Bloom is a beautiful and cruel one for me each time I read the book. As we finished the last chapter, when Edward’s son William finally realizes the “truth” that he has been wanting from his father for so many years has always been within his reach and memories, just as our truths are within our own stories; some that are still waiting to be told. The stories that we share, the jokes we tell, the moments we spend with those we love are the snapshots that will linger for years and years.

It was this realization, plus the realization that my own father is in truth mortal and will leave me someday, that brought out of me my true self.

How many times have we as teachers wondered what our students will remember from our lessons tomorrow, next week, next year, or even further down the road of their lives? Will they stop and think about the grammar rules we struggled through, or how we tried to find the writer’s voice that was hiding in them all this time? I know I do.

What I know now is that my seniors will remember the class period we shared; the class period where I cried for my own father, the still living Edward Bloom. Literature is emotion. It is the emotion that the author brings to the text as well as what we bring to the text as readers. We are the collection of stories we read, hear, and sometimes tell.

I heard my dad’s voice telling me the story of the two young Indian Warriors challenging the wisdom of the Medicine Man, just as William heard his father’s stories over and over throughout his life. I shared my emotions with my students. I let them see me cry. I let them feel what I was feeling. I helped them understand what Wallace was trying to teach us all: cherish every word, every story, every joke (even the bad ones) that our loved ones share with us throughout their lives. I encouraged them to listen to the stories of those they love, as those will be the memories that will live on long after the tellers are gone. I implored them to celebrate the lives of their friends and family everyday. I reminded them that the lives we lead and the stories we tell are what live on forever.

I can only hope that this one period in time affected them as much as it affected me. I truly felt that I TAUGHT them something that transcends the four walls of our classroom…a life lesson that I hope they remember and use for the rest of their lives. In this way, I hope to live on beyond this moment.

We are teachers. We are the ones that form the future. We are the storytellers and the main characters in the stories of our students. How humbling and beautiful to think that we will be the main characters in at least one chapter in the story of each one of our students. The question I have to ask is, “What kind of story am I writing each time I step in front of my class?”

No matter what the story is, I can only hope that it is a story that will be told over and over again; even many years after I join my father in the fields of paradise. In this way, I will live on just as all of us can. That is the power of story, the power of teaching, the power of loving what we do.

We are teachers…we are immortal!

Hutto Geniuses Choose to Matter

What happens when students are encouraged to become leaders and change the world with their genius?

They do it.

On January 21st, I asked 6,000 students in Hutto, Texas to realize that they are geniuses whose contributions to the world are desperately needed. With this spark igniting their hearts and minds, the students of Hutto embarked on a two-day adventure in discovering genius and acting on passion.

They formed groups around the big problems in education, human and animal rights, child hunger, environmental issues, and STEM. Students of varying ages interacted, shared their stories, and collaborated to design solutions to things that break their hearts about the world. Not only that, but when the challenge of working through this process with 6,000 students became overwhelming, guess who stepped up and saved the day?

The creativity, drive, and courage of these students did not go unnoticed! Teachers, families, and the community at large were awed by what transpired and came together to support the students’ inspiring ideas and efforts. Truly amazing things happen when students have the freedom and support to follow their passions and live their genius.

Getting to the Heart of Collaboration

“Collaboration” has become a buzz word that we attach to any process that involves people working together.

This is because we often use collaboration as a synonym for other buzz words that start with C: Cooperation, Communication and Coordination.

In doing so, we miss the most critical element – value creation.

Collaboration describes a process of value creation that our traditional structures of communication and teamwork can’t achieve.

Let’s break it down further and clarify what it really is.

Collaboration has three parts: TEAM, PROCESS, PURPOSE

  1. Two or more people (Team)
  2. Working together (Processes)
  3. Towards shared goals (Purpose)

A group of people using social software together doesn’t, by itself, translate into collaboration.

Technology certainly raises the bar of what is possible, but merely using them does not create value.

I say that because I see schools and organizations struggling to fit social technologies into their culture. Widespreadplatform or tool adaption is not enough. There needs to be a unified plan, an understanding of what these tools can and can’t do, and more importantly how people are going to work together.

Great tools available can facilitate such collaboration, but even the best tools cannot guarantee that success.


  • Must be embedded in the culture, where a standard and expectation ethic of contribution flourishes.
  • People in the classroom or community must recognize they are smarter together.
  • People must work “out loud” – sharing is constant.
  • People collectively solve problems.
  • Together, everyone discovers more innovative ways to be successful.

Now this sounds high-tech, but it happens elegantly every day in kindergarten classrooms, where we call it “Show and Tell.”

We learned how to collaborate in the sandbox with friend and strangers alike – now we get to expand the size of the sandbox and extend the invitation for creation to anyone, living anyplace, any time, anywhere.

This is where and how disruption happens – when you invite people into the room and assure them that their contribution will be honored, they choose to contribute. They choose collaboration.

Tap into a crowd if you believe the most valuable person is the crowd. You must innately believe that smartest person in the room is the room – and that the more diverse room, the smarter it gets.

Collaboration requires unrelenting determination and commitment from those who now understand that the desired result can only be achieved together.

People at any level can make an impact, be a leader, break a barrier. No only can they; they must.

We are smarter together.