Books, Character Education, Creating a Community, Distance Learning, Education, Leadership, Reading, Self Care, Teamwork, Wellness

I don’t know what to say…

Anybody who knows me personally, knows this is an extremely rare phrase to come out of my mouth. Generally, I always know what to say, or think I do, or just say something regardless… I am a talker!

Right now though, I find myself not knowing what to say. I don’t know what to say to my own children, my family, my students, my friends and co-workers, my friends on social media, and to myself. We are in such unprecedented times. Right now – we are experiencing a global health pandemic on a scale I have never seen in my lifetime. Right now – America is the most divided, bitter, and angry nation I have ever known. Right now – the legacy of racism in America continues to rear its ugly head forcing all of us to determine what we will do to change this crisis. Right now – we see corruption, dishonesty, and plain unkindness as the norm…just another day at the office.

I don’t know what to say in response to all of this. So, I try to share my thoughts with meaningful social media posts that focus on spreading honesty and goodness. I try to teach my children and my students the value of each and every human being regardless of color, creed, background, or any other unique attribute. I try to live a life where my actions match my faith and values. But…sometimes it all seems woefully inadequate, like I am a tiny pebble in a giant pond.

Then, I remember… I AM a tiny pebble in a giant pond. That is what I need to say… Let me explain.

One of my favorite read aloud books is Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. The book is about how every thing we do creates ripples out into the world. Unkindness, denial, participation in the bitterness they spread like ripples in a pond. But kindness, love, care, empathy, courage, and hope spread too. Here is a video of the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlNgYno4W14

At the start of every year, I read this book to my class and we discuss the way we treat each other. They are always horrified that the story doesn’t have a happy ending…that it doesn’t end well. I explain that too often, our unkindness, simply can’t be taken back. Words said cannot be unsaid. Mean actions cannot be taken back. But, we can learn from them…we can do better.

So, here is what I want to say that I hope will ripple out into the world. Our actions matter. We are part of a global community of humans. We are part of a fabric woven together and our responsibility is to each other.

As educators, we have a pivotal role in dropping little pebbles and trying to get our students to keep spreading the ripples. Whether we are in distance learning, in a classroom, or some other version of school we are unable to imagine right now, we have to spread what is good. So focus your teaching beyond your subject onto these things:

  • Being good human beings.
  • Creating curious and open minded students of life
  • Fostering a sense of Ubuntu (I am because you are).
  • Teaching history – where we have come from, the mistakes that have been made, and the lessons that can be learned.
  • Your role in your family, community, nation, and world – they must be active participants in making the world better.
  • The values of disagreeing and challenging each other with RESPECT while continuing to learn from each other.

So, in these times that seem overwhelming, and you just don’t know what to say that could make any of it better… remember the ripple you can make by your actions both positive and negative. I wish I had better words to say to people about these horrible situations we find our nation in. I wish I knew the right thing to say, but I don’t. So, I am going to focus on saying things and THINKing. This poster is in many classrooms, but really needs to be said right now in today’s world. Before I speak… is what I am saying true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind. If we all THINK – we will send out some pretty powerful ripples. That is the best thing we can say when we don’t know what to say.

Character Education, Distance Learning, Education, Self Care, Teamwork, Wellness

The Kindness Battle

I just keep hearing a voice inside my head saying “It’s all about the kindness.” Now, this may be a sign I’ve been in quarantine too long since I am hearing voices! OR, it may be the voice of something higher than me reminding me there is a battle happening right now and kindness is the weapon. That is an odd way to refer to kindness, as a weapon. It is the antithesis of the very meaning of the word. Let me explain.

On the news right now we are bombarded by images and sounds of really unkind and frankly, scary people in leadership, in our communities, in our world.

Americans turning on each other because one man fans the flames of hate and discord hiding behind a mask of righteousness while serving only himself.

On social media, it is too easy to participate in the behind the screen bravery that allows us to be unkind.

With our education leaders, administrators, parents, co-workers, and even students, we are hearing negative, critical voices saying that what we are doing is not enough, not correct, can’t continue, not effective.

Within our own families and the families of our students, we know there is negativity that comes from the endless cycle of “togetherness” where siblings, couples, parents are all tired of each other.

It is simply too easy to be unkind and to allow the unkindness to cover us like a dark blanket.

Then…I see tiny points of light..of kindness poking through.

The greatest basketball player in the world weeping when shown an image of his teammates saying he was not kind, although effective. Kindness made a difference and broke the heart of a champion. https://twitter.com/i/status/1259664534471614466

A bored actor creates a simple, homemade fake news program to highlight Some Good News, and it becomes an international symbol of all that is right in the world. https://www.facebook.com/SomeGoodNewsSGN/

A child writes a letter to a teacher years down the road and says I am here..graduating…because of you. Thank you.

A dad builds his daughter a graduation stage, or takes her to prom, or to the daddy/daughter dance. https://abcn.ws/2Tje6ip

A mom dances a tiktok with her teenage son, or allows her kids to cover her in makeup, or laughs hysterically at the absurdity of life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygdB-ZE0daY

When we look for them, the images of kindness battling darkness are literally everywhere. When we add to the light, as a community of HUMANS, the light ALWAYS WINS.

As an educator, I have one fundamental task. To prepare the children in front of me to become the leaders, thinkers, innovators, and workers of the future.

Whether I am behind a computer screen, face to face, or in some other, not yet thought of way, in my role as a teacher, I MUST teach my students to wield kindness as a weapon.

I must model kindness as a weapon in the way I treat my family, my co-workers, my administrators, the parents, my community, and my world.

I must face each daunting what if of this time with the answer of “What if…I offer kindness in response?”

I don’t know about you, but wielding kindness as a weapon is exhausting.

My administrators don’t value me….respond with kindness.

A parent bashes me…respond with kindness.

A student mistreats me or his peers…respond with kindness.

A person on social media rants against me…respond with kindness.

I don’t know whether to wear a mask or return to work or stay home…respond with kindness.

I am scared for my future and want to fight for only myself and my family…respond with kindness.

Can you see how challenging kindness as a weapon is? Can you see the cost it takes to put away our fear, resentment, greed, guilt, anger, and hatred to find a way to make kindness my weapon in every moment and in every situation?

So – I call upon us, the educators, to step into the light and be the leaders. If we are to have a role in changing the world from the darkness, negativity, and anger…it will literally depend on us teaching OUR STUDENTS, so that they can teach others…Kindness is your weapon. Now – go and use it!

Here are some resources on kindness if you need a boost on where, how, or why to begin. Let’s start a kindness revolution!

Distance Learning, Education, Leadership, Self Care, Teamwork, Wellness

The Worth of a Teacher

In these unprecedented times, there are moments over and over that make me unbelievably proud to be part of the tribe of teachers. I have watched my friends and colleagues wholeheartedly finding ways to reach our students, comfort them, encourage them, and yes, still continue to educate them. I have seen my daughter’s face as her teacher drove through on a “We miss you car parade” and when she dropped off a goodie bag in our mailbox of activities for the week. (fully sanitized). I have seen my teenage sons leave a zoom conference with their teachers with a big smile on their face. Teachers are part of this ESSENTIAL group of caregivers that while the world shuts down continue to do their job against all odds.

I have also watched as educators around my state and the country suffer under the unreasonable, confusing, and often out of touch demands from administrators, districts, and state level school boards and education officials. I have listened while friends cry trying to manage a whole new world of teaching, while helping their own families and children. I have seen where debates from parents on social media erupt into a “the way this teacher is doing this is so wrong…” type of conversation. I have watched as politicians decide how I will teach, when I will teach, and when I will have to “make up” the time lost. I am sharing some sage advice from Brad Johnson, author of Putting Teachers First.

Ask any educator that you know personally and he/she will tell you that the workload right now is much higher. Teachers are used to the routine of being in the building and are able to pull out their “tried and true” lesson plans crafted previously.  There are no “tried and true” lessons already created in case school is out for over a month. So teachers are creating all of their lessons from scratch and handing them over to a “substitute teacher.” Administrators are requiring online PD, frequent online staff/grade level meetings, some are requiring online tools that the teachers have never used before and must teach themselves. During all this, teachers are being asked questions by their students and parents. Within a classroom, these quick exchanges are effortless to clarify an assignment. By being virtual questions via email, it becomes more complicated and time-consuming to respond. Don’t get me wrong, we want to stay in touch, clarify our instructions, and create the best lessons possible. Giving our best to everything is part of most teachers, so we are not on an early summer break. We are truly working harder than we ever have. 

It all leads me to ask the question “What is the worth of teachers?”. What value do we have, bring, and offer to our administrators, schools, districts, communities and states? What are our administrators, schools, districts, communities and states willing to do to support OUR needs? So here are some questions we need to consider when we look at the worth of our educators.

  1. What should we expect of our teachers while they serve their own families and children during this time?
  2. How can we ask our educators what they need to be successful in this difficult time and then provide it to them remotely?
  3. What can a parent do to support what their child’s teacher needs to continue educating their children?
  4. What demands should be made of teachers to “make up” lost instructional time? Our state is considering extending the school year in the summer or returning early. Most teachers will tell you they are working harder in distance learning than they ever have. Educators should have this worked counted and valued – not be expected to “make it up”.
  5. What can administrators and school districts do to say to teachers what do you need to be successful right now? What can I take off your plate? What boundaries or expectations can I help you put into place to make this work?

I think about the post I wrote about the promises I made to parents. https://authenticteaching.blog/2020/01/27/i-promise/ I want you to know those promises are all still true and even more so. I wake up worrying about my “kids”, spend all day trying to support them, and go to bed worrying about them. I am spending more time supporting, encouraging, and helping my co-workers and friends than ever before and they are doing the same for me. As there is a lot of noise from lots of people outside the teacher tribe discussing my worth, I want to stand up and loudly proclaim

“TEACHERS ARE WORTH AS MUCH AS ANY OTHER ESSENTIAL WORKER”. We do not want more, but we are tired of accepting less. Value us as the loving, dedicated, and committed professionals we are. We want you – administrators, schools, districts, communities, and state officials – to wake up worrying a little about us, spend the day trying to support us, and go to bed worrying about us and all of the other essential workers keeping America going through this crisis. We value you….please value us. co-written by Alexandra Keilen @aktechteacher

# Professional Development, #Classroom Community, Creating a Community, Distance Learning, Education, Self Care, Teamwork

Circle of Control

WOW! These are historic and unprecedented times. My friends and I joked we felt like we were in the beginning scenes of a major Hollywood pandemic blockbuster. Sadly, we are not in a movie. This can bring feelings of stress, worry, anxiety, and fear. As educators, we worry about our own families AND our kids that we have just sent home for an undisclosed amount of time if your school has closed. So – I go back to a lesson learned from the Leader in Me, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Franklin Covey. This concept is the idea that some things are in our control and that is where our power is. Our energy spent worrying about the things outside of our control ultimately harm us rather than help us. So – here are some tips to helping you take control for yourself, your family, and your students in distance learning as we go through these uncharted waters together.

  • Alexandra Keilen, Technology Facilitator and Super Friend, helped me create this one stop shopping resource for all of the supports in place for educators, families, and students during this time. Click here to get information which we will continue to update as we find information. bit.ly/remotelearn
  • Make a schedule – Endless days of rest, relaxation, and hanging out sound great in theory…but after a short patch these become tedious and boring. Set some work hours, play hours, rest hours, etc. Here is a great sample schedule: undefined
  • Zoom to keep in contact – My daughter had an amazing playdate yesterday with a friend and they were in TWO DIFFERENT HOUSES! Zoom is a free video conferencing app that you can download from the play store or the apple store.  To create an account, all you need is a working email. You can set up a sign up genius and do individual zoom teaching or conferences with students or parents. (This would be great for students with IEP, 504 Plans, or LEP Plans) You can do whole class daily live lessons at a scheduled time. You can meet remotely with your PLC or team of educators to figure out next ideas or steps. You can use it to set up times with your family and friends to “hang out”. Here is a great starter video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ik5o6WptX0 
  • Use tools like Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams to provide students with assignments, materials, or resources – We are so fortunate to live in a world with these technology resources. For our students without internet access or appropriate devices – Spectrum and Comcast are both providing free internet service for families simply by calling their number. Encourage families to consider using an old cell phone that can attach to the wi-fi, tablets, etc. to have students work. For our most at-risk/needy students, look for ways to mail information or drop it off if there is little chance they will get any kind of internet support.
  • Finally, take care of yourself, your family, and your community. We have all heard and seen the stories of people ripping toilet paper out of each other’s hands or mistreating each other as fear sets in. What has NOT been as widely shared is the community of people everywhere that are reaching out to each other, providing services for the community, helping a neighbor, and so much more. If we lead as educators in modeling kindness, respect, and treating our fellow humans with love…we will all come out of this time with a renewed sense of who we are as part of the human family!

#Classroom Community, Creating a Community, Education, Leadership, Teamwork

Leading your tribe

All of us in education are leaders of a tribe. For some of us, it is a general education classroom of students, an EC classroom, a special area class, a department, or as an administrator, a team of educators. This group is our tribe. Ubuntu is an African concept that focuses on the power of a tribe. Translated it means “I am because you are.”. Creating a tribe that is effective, inclusive, authentic, and fosters individual member’s well being is the highest art form in education. But when a tribe is created and led with greatness….the possibilities are endless.

So, how do you create a tribe in your classroom, with your team/department, or as an administrator? Here are some great tips:

  1. Lead by example – Children will not always do what we say, but very often they will do what they see us do. Staff at a school are a reflection of their administration and leadership team for better or for worse. What example are you setting in the way you talk to others, about others, treat others, and problem solve? How do you show the core values of your school, personal faith or belief system, or what you expect of your tribe? How do you care for others? I just had a parent contact me to tell me about a conversation she had with her son this week. I taught this student several years ago. His mom was discussing gossiping and he said “It is important not to stir the pot” (meaning spreading gossip and sharing what unkind things have been said). She asked where he had heard this concept and he said “From Mrs. B” I had no idea that years later this idea I try to demonstrate (sometimes not so successfully) stayed with him. Lead by example and your tribe will follow.
  2. Take responsibility – I saw a post on a social media educator group I belong to this week where a teacher asked of the group how to overcome making a mistake in front of her class. She said she did not know how to get over the humiliation of getting something wrong in front of everyone. She asked for advice from the group. My advice – openly and proudly admit YOU WERE WRONG. If we want students, our team/department, or our staff to learn from their mistakes…we have to show them how. I make so many mistakes while talking (I feel it is because of how fast my brain works, my mouth can’t keep up…but probably it is just because I am a mess..) that several years ago I had a student who was spending the day with me due to some behavior concerns from another 5th grade classroom notice this issue. I told the students to take out their science notebooks, but of course, I actually meant their reading notebooks. Every kid in my homeroom pulled out their reading notebook. I heard the kid whisper to the student I had paired him with for the day “Why are you guys getting out your reading notebooks, she said science?” My student calmly looked at him and whispered back, ” She speaks Barbenglish (my last name is Barberio). It is a different language – you just have to translate what she really means.” Since that day, I have informed all of my students they will become fluent in another language “Barbenglish” because I so frequently mess up when speaking. The growth mindset tell us to teach our students how to use failure and defeat as feedback (FADAF) and that every mistake is an opportunity to learn from. If you are unwilling to take responsibility for your mistakes as a leader, how can you expect anybody else to? You will foster a culture of “It’s not my fault because….” rather than “I messed up…how can I fix it?”
  3. Listen – I am often guilty of being a know it all. A common problem among educators and administrators is believing that they have all the answers. People want to be heard. They want to have their ideas valued and their concerns addressed. Too often, we don’t want to hear the complaining so we shut down any negative talk or become defensive. What always happens when we shut down people’s concerns? Their concerns grow and their hurt and frustration explode. Your job as the leader of the tribe is to find intentional ways to LISTEN to your tribe and allow them to determine how to move forward (within the parameters you set). My favorite tools as a classroom teacher – my weekly reflection and class meeting. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Weekly-Class-Meeting-Lesson-Plan-Template-4837084 https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Weekly-Reflection-4750316 These two tools allow me to have a built in system to listen to students (not one of my natural strengths) and to allow them to find ways to make our tribe function better. Every time I implement a suggestion from a student our tribe gets stronger and better.
  4. Allow for different ways to make things work – In addition to my fabulous quality of being a know it all, I am a teensy tiny control freak! Okay, a really huge control freak…but I have learned over and over again that there are dozens of ways to get things done. One of my greatest frustrations in modern American education is the concept that “Research says this is the only way to teach/do…xyz) First, the research based practices wave is based on flawed thinking. Who does the research? Someone who generally wants to sell a curriculum or a training model. The research is designed to yield results that support why their curriculum, idea, training model is the best. As a friend says “You can find research to support anything.” Too many times in education, we are told that the way we were teaching with success for many years, is research proven not to work. Huh?? I was teaching that way…with success…but your research says it doesn’t work anymore? We get in our way with this idea that there is only one way to do anything. Listening to your tribe, reflecting on their needs, and ensuring that whatever you are doing meets the needs or culture of your group makes things work. I got stuck on having my seats arranged in a very specific pattern. This year, I was unable to make it work no matter how hard I tried. A friend of mine said “You are getting in your own way – think about it differently based on what THIS group needs”…and it worked. My most influential educational theory comes from the Research for Better Teaching. https://www.rbteach.com/ This organization did a long term study on what made great teachers. They found that great teachers had “drawers” in a variety of categories (management, organization, instruction, etc.) and they had a large repertoire of skills in each drawer. They would match the skill to the students in front of them to achieve success. So – leading a tribe successfully…well…it depends on the tribe and your skills.
  5. Be a servant leader – The most effective principal I ever had, started at a new school the same year I did. He spent the first month of his new principalship DOING EVERY JOB IN THE BUILDING FOR A DAY. I mean, every job, all day! He spent a full day serving food in the cafeteria, cleaning the campus, in a classroom in each grade level (without the real teacher there), in the front office, etc. He said that his role was to serve us and empower us with all the tools we needed to do our jobs. If he did not not know what we needed to do our jobs, how would he serve us going forward? WOW! Too many times, we do not take into consideration what our tribe NEEDS to be successful. We come from a place of “This is my tribe…I have all the answers…they need to do what I tell them.” Stop and think – do you even know what your tribe would say they need to be more successful? Have you asked? Listened? Responded? Leaders are not forcing people to do it their way…they are backing up their people with what THEY need to get the job done themselves. Leaders serve the tribe and grow more leaders.
  6. Communicate – How many times have people had the best of intentions with the worst of results from a failure to communicate effectively? Email is such a challenging tool because as my husband says “You can’t interpret somebody’s tone from an email.” How many times have you assumed everybody in your room, group, or team understood what you wanted…only to find out there was a barrier you never took the time to discover. A true leader IS RESPONSIBLE FOR EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. It is not the responsibility of the tribe to foster effective communication…it is the JOB of the leader to create effective communication tools. Communication involves listening (already covered), gathering input BEFORE you move forward, notifying people of changes or the plan, explaining your thinking/rationale, accepting feedback and rethinking, and/or apologizing when your communication was ineffective (also discussed). Communication involves authenticity and sharing who you are with your tribe. Being authentic in your communication allows for others to do the same.
  7. Grace – This was my grandmother’s name and my daughter’s middle name…it is one of my all time favorite words. Grace is this concept that you allow people to mess up, be human, be flawed, and you forgive them for it. Grace is the concept that we can be accepted and loved – even if we don’t deserve it. Grace is the most powerful tool in a tribe. Are you allowing for, modeling, and expecting your tribe to show grace to each other? There is a story that has made it way around social media. It seems like such a powerful concept of grace:

This story was recorded by Leonard Zunin in his book Contact: The First Four Minutes. Here is an excerpt:

“When a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe, regardless of age, begins to talk aloud to the accused, one at a time, about all the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy is recounted…the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe…Perhaps this overwhelming positive bombardment not only strengthens his positive self-image, but also helps him choose to live up to the ‘expectations’ of his tribe” (Zunin 207-208).

Leading your tribe will be the most important thing you do to achieve success. Go and Ubuntu… I am because you are!

#Classroom Community, Behavior Management, Books, Creating a Community, Education, PLC, Reading, Self Care, Teamwork, Wellness

Giving Thanks

We are just a few school days away from Thanksgiving and every teacher and student is counting down the days. For some of us the countdown is all about “the break”…getting ready for sleeping in, using the bathroom whenever we want, drinking HOT coffee out of a regular coffee mug, eating food at a table at our own pace and other basic joys of the teacher at home. We may be excited about family, friends, and a big feast. Our students may be ready for no homework, video games, travel to distant relatives, or long days spent doing what they want.

For some children (and some teachers), the break is not a break they are looking forward to. 5 days is a long time to go without consistent food, experience domestic violence, addiction, or family fighting. For some it is 5 days to survive until the safety of school returns. Many children will escalate their negative behavior at school to prepare for the transition to this tumultuous environment. Studies have been done that show that our most challenging students must create chaos at school to mentally prepare for the chaos they may experience at home. So, as teachers we must pay attention to these needy children and help them these last few days before break with a little extra kindness and patience.

This year, our team of teachers, has started a “wellness plan”. Each month, we set up 2 – 3 wellness based activities a week to keep us as healthy as possible. We share food, take a power walk together, practice the calm app in PLC, schedule nights out, and every Friday after school meet for Gratitude Friday. This has rapidly become the most important part of the week for me. We share some candy, cry, vent, laugh, and then we each take a moment to write things we are grateful for. We read them aloud and then pass our books around to write for each person present what we appreciate about them. I enter the room miserable many Friday afternoons and leave the room ready to go home and be mom. So, let’s give some thanks and gratitude for all we have. Here is my list of things I am grateful for:

  1. My family and its good health.
  2. The students in my class are growing in many areas.
  3. I have made a difference in people’s lives – a true gift to me.
  4. I have friends who I can laugh or cry with.
  5. Teachers have a voice growing with unity across our state and nation.
  6. I have food on my table, a warm house, and all I need to live a comfortable life.
  7. I am constantly learning new things because I am teaching new things.
  8. There are endless books to read that give my life meaning.
  9. I have health care… which is a surprisingly important thing that almost wasn’t… here in NC.
  10. I saw 2 former students working at fast food restaurants in the last 2 days…their joy, excitement, and enthusiasm when they saw me made every hard day worthwhile.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving season? Share your list here or on our social media sites! Let’s start a gratitude chain! Wait and see how powerful it can be!

# Professional Development, #Classroom Community, Behavior Management, Class Meeting, Creating a Community, Education, Intervention, Teamwork

Beneath the Iceberg

One of my friends said this week “The honeymoon period is over”. Like all groups – a classroom, a teaching team or a school will move from a phase of endless possibility to the true work of creating a community. When the “honeymoon” ends…the real work begins. One of the best descriptions I have ever heard of about groups uses this concept developed by psychologist Bruce Tuckman of the stages of a group achieving success.

We have left the forming stage for most of our classrooms, grade level teams, or schools and are making the tough transition into the “storming” phase of group formation. This is where a group must find the ability to effectively work through their differences, problems, and concerns so they can transition into “norming” which ultimately leads to “performing”. This storming phase requires so much effort, heartache, stress, dedication, and attention that it is often the stage that zaps teachers of their energy and focus.

Like the iceberg concept of success, what happens during these darker times, is literally the most essential part of moving the group forward towards a successful team of people that are driven towards one goal. This time requires all of the growth mindset goals we see here to achieve that magical place where our class, team, or school is performing like a well oiled machine.

So – is the honeymoon over for you? Are you storming right now? Here are some ways to find your way out of the storm, set some norms, so your class, team, or school can perform!

  1. Stop to assess what the issues are so you can plan for how to address things positively. You might want to use the 5 How’s worksheet on Authentic Teaching TPT if this is happening in your class. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/How-To-Planning-Sheet-4750755
  2. Isolate out whole group issues vs. individual issues. You can then make a plan for whole group issues you need to solve and work on individual plans for those who need them. Here is a tool to help you evaluate what is happening with a specific student from Authentic Teaching TPT https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Student-Behavior-Motivation-Educator-Plan-4800920
  3. Think about what is happening under the surface for a particular student or teammate that you may not be aware of. Just like the iceberg shows us only the tip of what it takes to achieve success, we only see the tip of a person’s life. Take the time to learn more and figure out what is under the surface.
  4. Think about new norms that need to be set for the group that can move you out of the storming phase. Sometimes having a tough conversation with students, parents, teammate that is said with love and care can solve many concerns and help create new expectations for everyone involved. I loved this article on all the steps of having a tough conversation https://www.judyringer.com/resources/articles/we-have-to-talk-a-stepbystep-checklist-for-difficult-conversations.php .
  5. Make sure you have a clear idea of what “performing” for the class, team or school looks like so you can create a shared goal that everyone is working towards. Sometimes we assume (and you know what that makes us) that our class, our team, or our school has the same goal we have for what it means for this group to be performing. I really like the simple, straightforward steps of this article on how to develop a shared goal https://magazine.vunela.com/4-steps-to-creating-a-shared-vision-that-will-energize-your-team-82b801e742ed .

Never forget that success is like an iceberg. People rarely see the work and effort put in to achieve it. So, if you are having one of those times where it seems to be too much – remind yourself that all this under the surface work leads to success. Hang in there and give others grace so that your class, team, or school can achieve success together by moving through storming and norming to performing.

Behavior Management, Character Education, Creating a Community, PLC, Recipes, Teamwork

Yin and Yang

I had the opportunity this week to attend a symposium for students with Down Syndrome. One of the presenters did an activity with us that I thought was profound in its simplicity. It made me realize the yin and the yang of so many things. So much of what frustrates us can be dialed down to how we see it. How do we see our teammates, administration, students, our families, etc? Our attitude towards anything shapes our reaction. Take a moment and complete this activity using the directions below. Then apply this concept to a challenging student, a difficult co-worker, or a family member you are struggling with. How can you see things differently and flip your perspective to react BETTER? See below for some yin and yang recipes (salty and sweet) to add to your week of looking at things from both sides!

FIRST – read through this list of character traits for yourself and pick between 5 – 10 that describe you. (I tried to remove my words that I circled – but if you know me…the smudges give me away!) Record the numbers on a sheet of paper. Don’t agonize over it, just pick the best words to describe your strengths. If you are not sure what a word means – look it up!

NOW – take that list of numbers and write the word from THIS list that matches it next to each number.

FINALLY – reflect on how our greatest strengths can be our biggest weaknesses. Think if you have a student with a specific challenge area – what strength could you build on in them BASED on that weakness? If you are struggling with a teammate – what weakness could you look at from the corresponding strength they probably have? If you are having difficulty with a family member – what negative character trait could you flip your thinking and see from the positive side? This activity is so fun and powerful when you begin thinking of the yin and yang in all of us. Seek to balance strengths and weaknesses by CELEBRATING strengths and weaknesses. Now – on to the yin and yang of food…

I am frequently put in charge of “appetizers” when I go to my friend’s lake house! We have moved to skipping dinner and just eating appetizers (really my favorite concept). Anyways – here is my sure fire favorite dip recipe with lots of possibilities. Below is my favorite brownie recipe! Salty and Sweet – the yin and yang of food! Have fun!

Creamy dip – YIN

  1. Begin with the “holy trinity” of dips – diced onion, peppers, and garlic. Use whatever amount, portion, size, etc. you want. Lightly saute these in a pan with olive oil or cooking spray until they are soft.
  2. Decide on the “main star” – today I am using Kale. I have made this with Spinach/Artichoke, shredded zucchini or yellow squash, roasted tomatoes, roasted eggplant, corn or any other hearty vegetable combo you like. You can definitely add in meats (sausage, pepperoni, hamburger, chicken) but for some reason I generally stick with veggies. I am counting my calories!!! Yep – that is it!
  3. Add the main star (in this case Kale – that I have taken off the stems and ripped into smaller pieces) to the pan with your holy trinity and cook until it is totally wilted down to pretty much nothing. (Amazing how much it shrinks).
  4. Take this off the heat and add in salt, pepper, whatever spicing you like beyond what you have (I have added some lemon juice to the mixture in the pan – dark greens LOVE lemon juice).
  5. In this large saucepan (or transfer to a big bowl) put in 1 block of cream cheese, 1/2 – 1 cup of sour cream, greek yogurt, or buttermilk, 1 cup of parmesan cheese (or whatever cheese you like best). Mix this up until it is all smooth and evenly mixed.
  6. Put this into a oven baking dish (I generally use a 9×9 square pan). Put 1/2 – 1 cup of fresh mozzarella cheese (or whatever you cheese you like) on top. Other great toppings include cracker or bread crumbs mixed with parmesan cheese, bacon bits, fresh herbs, chopped chives or green onions, etc. Some of this go on before baking, some after…you choose….
  7. Bake at 375 – 400 degrees until the top is golden brown and the pan is bubbling.
  8. Try to hold off as LONG as you can before burning your mouth completely…not something I am skilled at and then serve with bread (crostini – where you cut it thin and toast with olive oil or butter is fab), crackers of some type, pita chips, pita bread, corn chips (blue corn is my favorite). Sometimes adding a side of salsa makes this super rich creamy dip even better. ENJOY!

Yummiest Brownie recipe – YANG

  • 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup of chips, chopped candy, or chocolate
  • 1/2 cup of nuts (optional)
  1. Get a big saucepan (that’s right for the stove…) and melt your butter.
  2. Once the butter is melted add in the brown sugar and cocoa powder – stir it up until it makes this thick paste of chocolatey goodness. Pull that off the heat and let it cool slightly.
  3. Get your flour, baking powder, and salt measure and add that into the super thick paste. Extra benefit of this recipe – super buff arms!
  4. Lightly beat the 4 eggs and add in the vanilla. Add this mixture to the now super dry mixture in your saucepan. AHHHHH…there it is brownie batter.
  5. Now – decide on what kind of chip, chocolate, or candy you want inside. You can use any bite size pieces that suits your fancy. Generally, I go with straightforward semi-sweet chocolate chips…but it works with anything. I even made it once with leftover halloween candy assortment…
  6. Think about nuts…who like ’em and who doesn’t…my kids don’t like nuts in their brownies – so I either skip them, put them on top (1/2 only) after they are out of the oven, or make them with nuts so my kids won’t eat them and they are ALL MINE!!!!!
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Now – here is the weird thing about this recipe – this is a really jiggly brownie recipe – almost like fudge. So – when you take it out, the sides should be set and the middle should be jiggly. Remember – under cooked brownies are just better – but be careful they are not fully liquid. Delicious – but much harder to eat!
  8. Today, I added a delicious peanut butter chocolate icing to the top – just for fun. (see peanut butter coca cola cake recipe).

https://youtu.be/9TkFCCvSF9Q

If you are not sure how to get kale or collard greens off the stalk….I made this fun little video….

# Professional Development, Creating a Community, Education, PLC, Recipes, Teamwork

A cup of kindness

I saw this beautiful writing on facebook this week and I was completely struck by the idea of taking people as they are. First, I love trees, and so considering their beauty WITH all their flaws was like slightly turning my head and seeing something for the first time. Second, it truly hit me the importance of not only accepting the flaws that life has created for each person, but celebrating the beauty in them.

Each post, I take a picture of my coffee cup somewhere in my backyard (other than my family – my 2 favorite things). This week, as I thought about this revolutionary idea of truly seeing our differences and quirks as what makes us shine, I thought of the best gift I have ever received from a student. In my early teaching career, I was at a Title 1, high poverty school deep in the country of Union County, NC. It was Christmas time and my kids wanted to bring me presents. Some had parents who could afford the traditional gift card or tshotshkes. Others brought me items from the dollar store or homemade cards. All were appreciated and cherished. But one little girl, who was a struggling student and consistently unkempt, had really shown growth in my class. Quiet, focused, and hard working; she was drinking the Barberio Kool-aid of the growth mindset (way before I knew what that was). The last morning before break, she brought me an unwrapped box with ripped off labels and thrust it at me. She said loudly “DO NOT OPEN THIS UNTIL AFTER I GO HOME TODAY”. I was surprised by her volume since she was such a soft-spoken student normally. So I asked, “You don’t want me to open it with you?” Again, she said loudly “DO NOT OPEN THIS UNTIL AFTER I LEAVE..” So, I put my curiosity aside and taught for the last day before break (fun for everybody!!). When all the students had gone home and I was packing up my gifts, dirty coffee cups, and food containers to go home for the holiday break, I saw the box and immediately opened it. Inside, was a coffee mug shaped like a happy, little PANCREAS. The card inside made it clear this was a gift from the hospital to someone who had their pancreas operated on (I truly wonder what hospital staff thought that was a great parting gift!). I realized that someone in her family had received this and it had not been given away or sold. It was something odd that was probably shoved into the back of a cupboard where nobody cared about it. This sweet child, with nothing to give, desperately wanted to give ME a gift and took the one thing she had. I cried realizing my power to impact a child and vowed to keep my mind on this in the hard times as a teacher. It sits at the top of my coffee cup cupboard to remind me every time I run across it to treasure my students however they arrive. She saw me for all my flaws and loved me regardless and I hope she felt truly seen and loved by me.

The Pancreas Cup by my woods…

This is a concept we have talked a lot about in our posts on Authentic Teaching. But, I want to change our focus from our students, to our teams of co-workers (PLC,PLT, Learning Community, whatever the popular name given to it is). Many of us get the idea of taking our students how they come and helping them grow. But, sometimes we do not give our co-workers that same grace. As I discussed in Banana Bread Bribery, you will not only need your team, but will be successful or not based on the tribe you create. I have been so fortunate to be on many amazing teams who have become life-long friends. However, I have also been on teams that required me to come to the table seeing the forest and CELEBRATING ALL OF OUR FLAWS. Here are the ways my teams have formed a true tribe of teachers willing to work as one to impact every child and each other.

  1. Be a Grown-Up – All of us have seen or been a part of grown people talking about people behind their back, gossiping, being jealous, being manipulative, or just being mean. Every time I find myself doing any of these things, I work to get myself back to being a grown up.  You are a grown-up. You have a responsibility to model grown-up behavior for your students. So, treat your team mates – ALL OF THEM- with respect and kindness because you are a grown up. Forgive their mistakes and flaws because you are a grown up. Work with them not against them because you are a grown up. Let people run their own classroom because you are a grown up. Just commit to being a grown up as often as you can.
  2. Have the tough conversations – On the teams I have been on where we just did not all click or there was true conflict, we had tough conversations as a group to fix it. This is part of being a grown up. Tough Conversations involve getting everybody in the room, most likely without an administrator, and respectfully discussing the issues with everyone. Be willing to hear what you have done wrong and be open to apologizing and asking for forgiveness. Then, the group should make real rules for the team, that everyone agrees to. (I am NOT talking about norms!!)) For example, your group may decide rules like – We will discuss our frustrations ONLY with the person we are frustrated with or We will always back each other up with parents or We will agree to follow whatever the group decision is or agree to not make a group decision. Setting clear rules that everybody agrees to follow and then holding each other accountable to follow, can turn a tough team dynamic into a functioning one.
  3. Become the amoeba – My current team refers to ourselves as “The amoeba” (we have a true science lover on our team!!). I realized this name has fit every highly successful team I have been on. The amoeba concept is simple – every single kid on our grade level is “our kid”. We all work together to support the most challenging students, discipline students, and to hold grade level behavior expectations. This means anybody can talk to anybody’s students or class at anytime. It means we think outside the box on challenging kids to serve them together. Second, problems are solved as a unified front. We meet with parents with at least one other member of the team, we solve problems with schedules, administrative assignments, or intervention needs as a team. We cover for each other when times are tough. We basically move as one body to serve our students AND EACH OTHER.
  4. Learn the flaws, See the cause, and Love the beauty of the flaws – My team jokingly refers to me as needing extra support from other team members. I never have a pencil or paper, I am frequently running my mouth when I should stay quiet, and basically have a bazillion flaws. But I am absolutely and unequivocally loved and supported FOR this, because I have other real strengths that I bring to the table. The same goes for every member of my team. We truly care about each other and work to balance each other out. Sure, we get on each other’s nerves and have to apologize for overstepping our bounds or failing each other in some way, but we are committed to each other and to building each other up.
  5. Keep it in the family – Like the mafia, we keep it all in the family. This means, that when times are tough for somebody on our team or there is juicy gossip to be shared, we keep it quiet and within our group until that person wants it shared. A team I was on several years ago, went through an absolutely horrific time. Everybody wanted to “get in on that gossip”. We were like a bank vault for each other. We did not allow our team’s heartache, heartbreak, or sorrow to be fodder for the gossip mill. This concept helps create a safety zone in your team and build trust.
  6. Break Bread together – One of my favorite historical stories of the integration of schools in Charlotte in the late 1960’s was found at the Levine Museum of the New South, which has an unbelievable educator program that explains the segregation, integration, and re-segregation of Charlotte schools. There was a casserole dish hanging on the wall and the information plate explained that one year prior to integrating Charlotte schools, the heads of the PTA for both the African-American and White schools, got together and decided to set up dinners for both sets of families so people could get to know each other. The theory was, that people who break bread with each other, have a much more difficult time disliking each other. These women were credited with being a significant part of integration working in Charlotte. If this concept can work in a time of true trauma like the civil rights era, it can definitely work with your team. When you have a new team member, meet them for a meal first. Find times to get together for drinks, dinner, backyard BBQ’s, whatever floats your boat. Getting to know people as PEOPLE, makes it much easier to work with them and love them for their flaws. In that spirit, invite everybody to a potluck at your house, and make my very favorite cake – a Peanut Butter Chocolate Coca Cola Cake! Recipe below.

Bent, curved, a few holes in you, a section that has died off, whatever your flaws are….when you are truly SEEN as being amazing and beautiful both by others and by yourself…life becomes much more authentic and meaningful. Take the time to see the trees in the forest for what they are….beautiful and valuable in all their flawed grace.

Peanut Butter Coca Cola Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ground
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 can(s)coca-cola
  • 1 cup butter,
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows (optional)
  • 1 cup chocolate and/or peanut butter chips (optional)

For the icing:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 to 3/4 can of coca cola
  • 1/2 cup pecans, optional
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In your stand mixer or in a large bowl place first 5 dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt) lightly stir these together with either a fork (my favorite mixing tool) or a few turns of the paddle on the stand mixer
  3. Get a good pot and place it on the stove. Take your butter and melt it in the pan. When butter is melted, stir in cocoa powder, can of coke (I use coke zero because that is what my husband drinks, but I have used regular coke and diet coke. DO NOT USE PEPSI BECAUSE THAT IS JUST YUCK…Okay, if you like pepsi… use it but I personally think it is against the laws of man and nature.) Whisk in the can of coke and cocoa powder. Bring this to a boil.
  4. Pour the hot mixture over your dry mixture and begin mixing slowly. Seriously….sloooowwwwwlllly…..hot butter/coke mixture is painful…or so I have heard.
  5. Take 2 eggs and lightly beat them in a small bowl or if you are lazy like me just dump them in and mix…
  6. Add in buttermilk and vanilla and mix
  7. Now – you have decisions to make. First, among coca cola cake connoisseurs this is grounds for war – mini-marshmallows or no mini-marshmallows. Mini-marshmallows make your cake extra, tooth hurting sweet – delicious. They also crisp up at the top of the cake giving a slightly “toasted marshmallow” flavor. Sometimes, I am in the mood for this…sometimes I am not. Decide what you like. Second, chocolate chips or peanut butter chips or both inside the batter? I generally choose chips OR mini-marshmallows. I like a 50/50 balance of chocolate and peanut butter chips if I have them…If not, just chocolate chips.
  8. Pour the batter (Don’t panic…this is a very liquidy batter) into a greased 13×9 inch rectangle pan and bake for 15 – 25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Now for that icing…..Melt your butter and peanut butter in the same pan you used to melt the other ingredients for the cake. Why mess up 2 pans when that leftover will just make your icing tastier? Once they are melted, add in your coca cola, and cocoa powder and bring to a boil. Pour this over the 4 cups of powdered sugar (again – I use the same bowl or stand mixer bowl I used for the cake batter) and begin lightly mixing.
  10. Again – you have a decision to make…pecans IN the frosting or pecans ON TOP of the frosting? I do pecans ON TOP because my picky kids “Don’t like nuts in their dessert”. So, I only put nuts on half the cake…booooo…..You can also leave the pecans off all together. Another option is to put chocolate and/or peanut butter chips on top with or without the nuts. Really, the possibilities are endless!
  11. Finally, let that cake cool for around 45 minutes – 1 hour. It should still be slightly warm. Take the icing that has also cooled for that same amount of time and pour on top. Put any toppings on top of the icing. This is a very loose icing and is meant to drip down when you cut the warm cake…mmmmmmm NOT a buttercream frosting that stays in place.
  12. Now – don’t forget – you have invited everyone to your house for a potluck or you have convinced the co-worker whose kids are in college and not destroying their house daily to invite everyone over. Pull out that literally spectacular coca cola cake and make everyone love you a little more – because chocolate, peanut butter, caffeine – it’s like the angels are singing!
Recipes, Self Care, Teamwork

Preaching and trying to Practice

I may or may not be a bit of a know it all! I knew it had probably gone too far when I was called by a co-worker in my classroom to request orthopedic advice! That being said, I try to be a resource for my friends and family about experiences I have had that I hope might help them. One of my friends suggested I write about #ASKBARBERIO…which made me laugh out loud. Then, I decided to once again take the suggestion and write some advice.

By now, most educators have gone back to school. We have endured setting up our rooms, endless professional development, those calls to parents to welcome their child to your room, open house, the first day with students, and much more. The excitement of seeing your colleagues and starting a fresh year may have worn off. Many of us have hit the phase of overwhelmed, overworked, and overtired. So, I want to offer some ideas of my favorite things to relax, rest, indulge, unwind, and hopefully rejuvenate myself for the long year ahead.

As educators, we are in a marathon not a sprint. Today’s teaching world expects more than any one person could accomplish in the regular work day. It is so essential that we keep ourselves balanced to allow for us to do the truly pivotal work with our students. Many teachers are Type A overachievers and this can lead to burnout. So, as we start the year, I want all of us to practice what I am going to preach below regarding my Top 10 favorite ways to take care of myself as an educator, mom, wife, friend, daughter, and several other hats I wear. I am going to preach and try to practice! Hope you will do the same!

  1. Be one thing at a time. I decided when I first had kids while teaching that when I was at school I was going to be 100% teacher and when I was at home I was going to be 100% mom as much as I could. So, I rarely take work home (unless grades are due). I participate in my kids school as a volunteer by taking a day off here and there. I leave work at a reasonable hour to be with my family. I try to keep answering emails to a minimum after school hours. It will all still be there when you get back and believe me you will get it done! Basically, whenever I can, I try to be present in the place I am at. It makes me a better teacher and hopefully, a better mom.
  2. Find your mental escape. I need something that takes me totally away from all my “hats”. So, every day, I look for an opportunity to escape with something I love. For me, it is a ridiculous fantasy novel series, Real Housewives of any city, or a binge worthy show on your streaming service or TV. (Stranger Things and Outlander were my summer binges. I began speaking in a Scottish accent for awhile…I was in that deep. ) The reality is that we are all capable of thinking, talking, breathing education at every minute of every day. You will bring more to the table, solve more problems, and just generally be happier if you intentionally give yourself a mental escape every day.
  3. Sleep enough and well. Teachers are early birds by necessity or design. Many of us continue to wear our “hats” well into the after-school and evening hours. This can make shutting off our brain and truly resting really hard. We care too much and it can impact our sleep. Every adult needs 8 solid hours of sleep daily….which sounds semi-impossible. I am working consciously to get as close to 8 hours of sleep nightly (which almost never happens – preaching not practicing yet). I have a consistent bedtime routine that involves prayer, meditation, gratitude, and reading to allow my brain to get the message to shut it all down. My electronic devices are plugged in for the night in another room. Work with your doctors if insomnia is an issue to ensure that you get true rest. Remember when you had a newborn baby, new puppy, or thought you were invincible in college? Exhausted people are more emotional, make less sound decisions, and have a host of physical repercussions. So, get some sleep!
  4. Ice Cream Yep, for me ice cream is a true piece of joy. Obviously, you are not able to eat it every day, but whenever I need a little gift to myself it is ice cream (or brownies, or salty chips, or the entire back the truck up appetizer menu at the local tavern…ok…focus….it is ice cream!) So, here are my favorite ice cream options – Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Brownie, Market Pantry (Target brand) Peanut Butter Fudge, McDonald’s Oreo Mcflurry snack size, Shake Shack’s Pie oh my (they work with a local bakery and change up a specific pie flavor every month or so…they mush up the pie into the most luscious vanilla custard ice cream), and if you live, specifically, in Union County, NC Dollar Cone (a mom and pop ice cream shop IN THE MIDDLE OF A CORNFIELD with the best soft serve ice cream cones they dip in the chocolate shell that hardens and you can have a variety of toppings FOR A DOLLAR!!!!)
  5. Monitor and address your physical and mental health early! Educators are one the largest groups of people on anxiety and depression medication. We need to make mental health without stigma – it is just another chronic, chemically based health concern. This is because teaching is one of the most challenging jobs in the world – more decisions per minute than most other careers. If you are going to be a great teacher, you have to be physically well and mentally well. Plus, is there ANYTHING worse than making sub plans? Teachers are notorious for waiting too long to address a physical need or a mental health need. It is time for us to bravely and confidently take care of ourselves first so we can take care of others. You know…put on your oxygen mask first….
  6. Purposefully have gratitude every day. Due to some ongoing health issues, I decided a year ago to start a nightly health journal that covered everything (sleep, diet, stress, physical, reactions, etc.) It has helped me find all kinds of trends in my physical and mental well being. But, the last thing I do every night is list 3 things I am grateful for from that day. I have heard this suggestion for years, but until I faithfully did it I was unaware of its benefits. Literally, the last thing I think of every night is what I am thankful and happy for. It has changed my focus completely! I now can take any day ranging from horrible to amazing and remind myself of how lucky I am. That is a gift!
  7. Get back to nature. Did you know in Japan a prescribed treatment for depression is go sit in a forest for an hour daily? WHY? We are inter-connected with our world and on some primitive level we all crave nature. Now, I have a few friends who like nature to be the well-groomed shrubs they pass on the way into Nordstrom’s…and some who literally “go off the grid” for a week. Regardless of where you fall on the back to nature spectrum, find a way to connect with the natural world. Plants in your classroom, walks in the park/greenway, go sit by a body of water that makes your happy (pool, lake, ocean, etc.), find a local park that has a great gazebo to grade papers at, whatever works to get you back to nature. It is a big world out there and there are days I literally never walk outside my building. Being in the big world keeps my focus on more than the little world I inhabit and create each day.
  8. Keep your friendships strong. Banana Bread Bribery discussed the importance of developing relationships with your colleagues. I am so lucky to have friends from all phases of my life (some for over 25 years….yep…I am that old). I make it a conscious goal to be a good friend. I seek my friends out and foster time to be with people who make me laugh, hold my hand when I cry, and listen when needed. Your friends will make every aspect of your life better – so keep your friendships strong.
  9. Laugh. Period…just laugh! Life is absolutely absurd at times. There are times as a teacher or parent if you don’t laugh, you will cry. Teachers can get waaaayyyyy too serious about everything. My husband, who is an elementary teacher surrounded by women every where he goes, is often amazed by the things that I get worked up about at school. He regularly encourages me to keep my focus on what I need to do for the people in my classroom and to stop worrying about the other stuff. He also makes me laugh. My friends make me laugh uncontrollably. I watch TV shows and movies that make me laugh. I diffuse so many situations in my classroom and with my kids with humor and laughter. Remember, we should find joy in what we do and who we are with…so laugh!
  10. Bake something delicious that makes your house smell fantastic! Banana Bread Bribery was a popular column, so I am going to give you my second favorite, foolproof recipe below for scones. Did you know that smell is the strongest of all the senses in impacting memory and emotion? I promise these scones will make your house smell fantastic and if you don’t want to eat them yourself consider them “Sucking up Scones” and give them to your co-workers!

Basic Scone Recipe

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Get on a good apron or old clothes because it tends to get messy. Now – look in your fridge for some fruit that appears to be closing in on not that great. You can also make chocolate or cinnamon if you are not a fruit fan.

  • 2 cups of Bisquick OR 2 cups of AP flour with 1 Tablespoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons of sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 – 1.5 cups of something (fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, some combo of something)
  • 1 cup of some kind of milk (buttermilk is my favorite, but I have made it with everything from almond milk to heavy cream)
  • Spices or zest that match your “something” above (apples and cinnamon, blueberry and lemon zest, strawberries and nutmeg, etc.)
  • For the glaze – 1 cup of powdered sugar, 2 – 4 Tablespoons of some liquid (depending on how thick/thin you want it – fruit juice, milk, syrup, etc.), real vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon or so of zest or spices that match above, and a Tablespoon of butter.
  1. Look inside your fridge for that fruit (if you are going the fruit route). I have made this with apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, mixed berries, you name it. Cut up the fruit into small, bite sized pieces. I like them about the size of your thumbnail. Get about a cup to a cup and half of this fruit. Now set it to the side. Skip this step if you are going with chocolate or some other flavor of chips. You will just measure those out and pour in. No chopping required. Side note – If I am using apple, I put sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice/zest on the apples and toss before I set aside (like an apple pie filling).
  2. Put the 2 cups of bisquick or flour mixture into a bowl. With a fork (my favorite mixing tool) add in the sugar and briefly stir together. Now, I am NOT a sifter….I know…things are lighter and fluffier….so if you would rather sift them together it will probably make it better. Ain’t nobody got time for that….
  3. Your 5 Tablespoons of butter should be in the fridge or freezer so they are rock hard COLD. Take your trusty, regular sized cheese grater and grate the cold butter into the flour mixture. Use that fabulous fork and stir that around. Again, you can use a fancy pastry cutter tool and get the butter in chunks – but I promise the grating trick is AMAZING!
  4. Now decide what zest or spices or both goes well with what you plan to put in. My favorite combinations are apples with cinnamon, lemon, and nutmeg; blueberry and lemon zest; strawberry and nutmeg; or mixed berries with lemon zest. Stir this zest (use a microplane – buy one if you don’t have one…best tool ever!) or spices (again buy whole nutmeg and use the microplane – seriously, your life will be forever changed by grating in fresh, whole nutmeg…but if you don’t have it no worries!) Stir this in….
  5. Now take the fruit you cut up or measure out chocolate or other chips or nuts or do some combo… (apple, pecan, and chocolate would be delicious or peach and pecan) and make a well in your flour mixture (dig a hole like in the sand). Pour in the fruit/chip/nut and gently toss it around with your fork until each piece is coated with flour and spread throughout the mix.
  6. Next…even more gently to not smush up the fruit…dig another well. Pour in your 1 cup of milk product and stir until it forms a pretty dry ball of dough. If your batter is really wet and sticky – add in more bisquick or flour. If your dough is too dry and not coming together (lots of bits everywhere) add in more milk.
  7. Word of advice – I always skip this step and remember AFTER I do step 8. Believe me… you will get flour and dough EVERYWHERE! I know this from experience. So…get out 2 cookie sheets and line them with parchment paper, spray them with cooking spray, or the old fashioned butter and flour method. Have them RIGHT NEXT TO WHERE YOU PLAN TO ROLL OUT THE DOUGH!!! Seriously….
  8. Okay…at this point…MAKE SURE YOU ARE WEARING AN APRON OR OLD CLOTHES…put flour/bisquick all over your counter (clean it first) or a cutting board or your kitchen table. Somewhere you can spread out basically! Dump the bowl over onto the floured surface, put some flour on your hands, and lightly smush/form/pat the dough into a rectangle shaped, 1/2 inch thick even layer. Cut the dough down the middle like a hamburger fold (all the teachers know what I am talking about – if you are reading this and not a teacher…ask a teacher you know, what that is). Then, on each half begin cutting triangles. Take each triangle and place it onto that baking sheet you remembered to prepare and put next to you.
  9. Once you have cut them all out and they are on the baking sheet, I take cooking spray and spray the tops of each one. You could make an egg wash (one egg with some water or milk) or use milk or melted butter and brush it on – but I love the cooking spray method. Then I take some sort of sugar (regular old granulated, a coarser kind, etc.) and sprinkle with a spoon on top of each scone. This will give them a lovely, crunchy, sugary top!
  10. Watch until the scones are brown on the top and bottom and seem pretty firm (not hard). Start checking them around 10 minutes. They usually take 10 – 15 minutes. Take them out and let them cool as long as you can stand it. I generally leave them on the pan to cool, but you can put them on a cooling rack. Now, for our Step 10 of this article above remember to smell….isn’t it lovely????
  11. While they are cooling (this will stop you from eating them right away), make the glaze. Put 1 cup of powdered sugar in a microwave safe bowl. Pour in the 2 – 4 Tablespoons of liquid that matches the flavor of the scone. Try apple with maple syrup glaze…unbelievable. If you are going to add in zest or spices, put those in now. Pop this in the microwave for 30 seconds. Take it out and stir until it is smooth. If it is like water, add more powdered sugar. If it is a rock, add more liquid until you get it the way you want it. Once you like the texture pour in 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and add in a softened or slightly melted tablespoon of butter. Stir until smooth and glossy. NOW HERE IS MY BEST ADVICE…. POUR THAT FABULOUS GLAZE IN A MASON JAR OR OTHER AIRTIGHT CONTAINER. Once you glaze those scones, their shelf life is going fast! They will be mushy and gross by the evening. Keep the glaze in the fridge and pull it out each time you plan to eat a scone or share a scone. You might have to shake it up if it has separated. Unglazed scones will last up to a week in the fridge. You can pop them in the toaster oven or regular oven – put on a little glaze and it is delicious. You can also freeze the scones once they have cooled and pull out individually to re-heat.
  12. Now…your house smells fabulous and is probably covered in flour. You are happy and calm. Decide if these are all for you scones, my secret treat in the freezer scones, my family can have a few scones, or if they are “Sucking up scones” and you are headed to school with them. Bring the scones in one container and that mason jar of glaze in the other and make some new friends or keep your old ones!