Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Stop, Disconnect, & Listen

Admittedly, I stole this title from a great post by Barry Saide and Christopher Bronke, “Stop, Collaborate, and Listen” who, of course, borrowed the title from Vanilla Ice. While the article for ASCD highlighted the fun and passion ignited through connection, often via conferences and social media, when it arrived in my inbox while I was on vacation, I was less than inspired by the sentiments. It led me to ponder why I felt this way, since being a connected educator is something I am very passionate about. My mornings are typically greeted by coffee over my Feedly stream, followed by checking out my Buffer suggestions and my favorite Twitter groups.

I’ve never been one who needed a full stop vacation. Rather, I typically fill vacations with work at the beach, fitness, attempting not to fall off mountains, and reading. I’m not alone in engaging in the fake break. Over summer, the call to learning is prolific across PLNs, transforming traditional R & R into Reflection & Reading...with a generous dash of tinkering and tweeting on the side. In fact, if we are not using our downtime for workshops and Twitter chats, we feel almost - dare I suggest - lazy. It is presumptuous to assume this is a shared feeling, but based on the neurotic streams of information, I can’t imagine I am alone in the frenzy.

So for the past few days, which I had the chance to spend in solitude at the beach, I took a different approach. With work deadlines to be met, I could not realistically shut it down completely, but I decided to turn the waterfall into a trickle. I allocated work time to accomplish my must-dos but disconnected from many of my feeds, only checking Feedly for morning reading on one day. I chose the sounds of nature over music and a fiction read over the titles on my professional development shelf. I ignored reading recommendations from friends (sorry!) and “pocketed” them for later...maybe.

Here’s what I noticed, aside from the stunning sounds and sights of nature. The pace slowed, my stress fell, and I felt cleaner. I know it’s a strange description, but it felt like disconnecting purged frenetic pollutants from my system. When these things exited, other things flowed in. Ideas mainly, and lots of them. They are not the ideas of others shared on my media streams, though I’m certain they are not completely original, but they did originate in my mind.

The downside is, I still feel I missed a lot while absent, though the reality is we miss the majority even while present (jumping into a Twitter stream is like standing under the waterfall and thinking you can drink all the water). Another downside is I’m not sure I have a clear sense of what actions I’m going to take to make room for disconnection in my life. But, I am committed to the idea, and when I figure out my strategy, I will share it...via social media, of course, where there surely already exists a deluge of top tips on disconnecting from your tech.  

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Road to Digital Independence: 5 Tips to Cultivate Independence in #DigitalNatives

In America, Independence Day means celebrating our freedom through the time-honored sharing of hotdogs and burgers on the grill. To paraphrase a sentiment from Warren Buffett, we are sitting in the shade of freedom today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. The right to be individual and independent, to have agency over action and belief, has been part of our cultural DNA from the inception of our nation. As instinctual as it is, however, it must also be cultivated with intention and purpose within our children. This is especially true in the digital world where freedom thrives but also threatens.
In honor of Independency Day, here are five tips we as parents and educators can employ to help children along the path to digital independence.
#1: Model
From the earliest of ages, our children can learn from us about the digital world and our collective responsibility within it. Just as we model waiting for the “walking man” to safely cross the street, we should model online safety and awareness practices. The opportunities to also model activism, connected work ethic, and learning thrive with digital tools. Watching TED videos together (there are several by incredibly innovative children) and using social media to connect and collaborate allow our children to observe the most purposeful and powerful benefits of the digital world.
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#2: Learn the Language
To be truly independent within any culture, knowledge of the common language is essential. Though most of us learned to navigate the digital world within knowledge of code, today it is possible to empower children with a creative voice not just using digital tools but creating them through code. Tools like Tynker, Khan Academy, and Scratch provide coding environments for children to learn the language of programming. These kid-friendly environments cultivate independence in its rawest form--creation.

#3: Create & Innovate

To create is to bring individual thought to existence. Creative energy flourishes in children, especially at a young age when the conventions of the world have not put boundaries on untamed ideas. By using digital tools to create music, film, design, art, choreography, and writing, children are embedded with a maker, rather than consumer, mindset for the use of digital media.
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#4: Explore
Our children may be digital natives, but just as one born native to New York City is a native to it, we would not expect that child to instinctively understand how to safely navigate the city independently. Such learning takes place over time, from “walking man” to independent subway navigation and street awareness. Just as we start giving children boundaries of safe independent neighborhood navigation, we too must establish these safe exploration boundaries online. Outlining where, when, and with whom it is safe and productive to travel online is an essential prerequisite to independent exploration. As children age, we broaden the landscape of independent travel but remain connected with them.
#5: Teach and Model Balance
To speak of online independence without balance of offline agency would be remiss. Too often, children explore the digital world without a healthy balance and thereby establish an unhealthy reliance on the digital world for meaning, voice, and independence. Where they have them online, they may suffer offline. We bear the onus of establishing balance through boundaries and exposure to offline tools which similarly cultivate independence. Taking children to maker events, empowering them with the tools to create offline and explore the “real world” with us are as, if not more important, as the digital world becomes more and more integral to our lives.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Teach Fit Tip: Teaching with Joy

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I watched an Ironman competition on TV a few years back. Even more than I was astounded by the fitness endurance of these strong competitors, I was dazzled by one athlete’s smile: that of Chrissie Wellington, already a three time Ironman World Champion at the time of the event. What was so amazing to me wasn’t her smile (though it’s lovely, of course) but rather the endurance of her smile to match the endurance of her physical feats. Through every rotation on the bike and every step along the run, Chrissie was smiling.

I later read tips from Ms. Wellington as I prepared for my recent not-so-ironman triathlon. In this one, she provides an explanation for that ironman smile:

Performance tip #6: Have a mantra (or two): "I have some that I write on my water bottle and wristband when I race. One is 'smile,' and another is 'never give up.'"
So I set out to try the impossible: exercise while smiling. I’ll admit, like my medal count, my smiling endurance falls well short of Chrissie Wellington’s, but I did manage to smile often and even find a remarkable amount of joy in my fitness. And by joy in my fitness, I mean joy during, not after, my fitness.

To me, this has become the central most important mantra in my life: smile and find the joy in every moment. It’s challenging, no doubt, especially when we are exhausted. The tendency to look ahead to the next rest point for relief or fun is not unique to fitness, teaching, parenting--or any number of other strenuous endeavors--but there is so much missed in doing so. The fact is we spend much more time exerting ourselves than taking breaks, and personally, I’d rather be happy during the majority of my time.

Beyond the personal impact of joy is the effect it has on our practice. Just as I run much faster when I am happy in the moment, so too do I teach more effectively when I am laughing, smiling, and enjoying my time with my students. Sometimes it seems there are many obstacles to finding this joy. The blisters which form in our practice, whether caused by testing, errant student behavior, parental frustrations, or lack of support, can make it nearly impossible to be happy in our classrooms in the moment of teaching. In these moments, however, there are two endless ways we can capture the joy in our practice. The first is a physical action--a smile. By taking a break to smile, we are conditioning a happier response. Smiling when we least want to or feel like it is exactly the action needed. The second is borrowing joy from students. Students are very joyful. In fact, their joy and silliness often causes ours to run away. However, instead of trying to suppress it or check it, I find it sometimes necessary to steal it, or rather, to allow it to spread to me as a source of energy.

There are several ways of bringing joy into the teaching practice, but I would venture to say that without it, there can be no teaching. Teaching happens through relationships. Joy is among the few prerequisite conductors through which learning transmits from teacher to student.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Teach Fit Tip: Teaching with Flexibility

April Blogging Series: Teach Fit, the "cross-fit" between my two worlds (fitness & education) in exploration of how fitness has more to do with teaching than we might think.

Teach Fit Tip #2: Teach with Flexibility

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When we exercise, we build strength by taxing our muscles and forcing them to grow. Tiny ruptures in the muscles occur when we have upped our fitness and forced our body to adapt. The medical term for that Oh my god, I can't lift my arms to wash my hair feeling after a great workout is delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. It's a normal part of fitness but can have detrimental results such as tightness and poor posture if we don't balance our strength training with some stretching and flexibility training. By engaging in yoga and other forms of flexibility, we not only ensure our fitness leads to healthy growth over time, but we also bring balance to our practice.

Core Training
As teachers, we face much that is rigid and inflexible. These things cause us pain sometimes, but they are not necessarily the evils of education we make them out to be. The problem is, we don't necessarily have the right flexibility training in place to balance their impact on our practice. Here are three rigid-Ed buzz words along with a flexible practice teachers can use to counterbalance them.

1. rigor: a (1) :  harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment : severity (2) :  the quality of being unyielding or inflexible (Merriam-Webster)

Rigor must be among the least accurate words used ad nauseam to describe quality education. It's unfortunate because it translates to piling up the mental exercises so excessively as to remove any ounce of free time students might have after school. While a rigorous program may prepare students to be even more competitive and accountable in life, it can also be emotionally exhausting in its unforgiving magnification of inevitable mistakes.

Flexibility Exercise: Rapport building can counteract today's rigorous atmosphere of competition. While there is no escaping the high stakes and high stress, teachers can serve as voices of reason instead of contributing to the madness. Skilled teachers can also complement high expectations with high support and genuine care. They also have a way of lifting students up in moments of crisis.    

2. standard :  something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality (Merriam-Webster)

Standards-based grading, standards-based learning, standards-based assessment...clearly standards are at the "common core" of our daily practice. Standards are valuable because they serve as a musculature of learning design. However, what we allow students to do with those muscles can be far more flexible.

Flexibility Exercise: Choice-based learning is like a yoga practice with many modifications in play. Anyone who has taken a yoga class can attest to the instructions being given in tiers for almost every move and the fact that in many classes individuals choose to veer into their own practice for chunks of class. I do this when we go into plow or headstand. I just don't like the idea of putting pressure on my neck, so instead I move over to the wall and do a handstand. I'm still upside down, so I get the benefits of that portion of practice, but I accomplish this in my own style. In our classes, we have several opportunities to allow students to make modifications on their own through choices along the way. The standards keep us generally in "flow" together, but allowing for variations in content based on interests or self-assessment, process based on preferred learning style, and outcome based on creative disposition, is an excellent way to allow students agency over their learning practice.

3. schedule : a plan of things that will be done and the times when they will be done (Merriam-Webster)

Schedules are necessary for school safety and learning, yet even the most progressive bell schedules still constrain us in our attempts to maximize exploration and foster deep understanding. 

Flexibility Exercise: Open up time and space by creating blended learning opportunities. Using a platforms like Schoology and Google Apps for Education, learning via collaboration can extend far beyond the allocated time and space. This practice also creates diversity in learning space where one may attract a learner who feels intimidated by a more traditional space.  

Cool Down (Stretch!)
In the early years of our teaching careers, we are nimble with optimism and energy for our practice, but these perspectives can become jaded and worn over time if we are not careful just as we become tight and achy as we age! But there's a solution to this. When we are presented with inevitable soreness of our practice, whether in the class or on the track, we can rejuvenate through a dedication to flexibility training. #teachfit  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Teaching With an Adventurous Spirit

As much I flooded my blog with shameless bragging over my preparations for and "reasons" to, it was hard to miss that I was in a triathlon race this weekend. When it was over, my 28 days of race blogging also came to an end, and I was left thinking about the connections between two central pieces of my identity: fitness and education. I feel strongly that one informs the other constantly, so I set out to explore these connections a bit as I bring my readers and self back over the conceptual bridge.

One synapse through which energy flows between all the facets of my personal and professional life is adventure. When I think of adventure, my heart returns to my childhood favorite The Goonies, in which an eclectic crew of well-intentioned, ill-prepared teens sets off to find the hidden pirate treasure that will "save the Goondocks" from foreclosure. With no forethought, the group hops on their bicycles with nothing more than an old map and key, an asthma inhaler, and a ton of brash courage. Along the way, they find friendship, purpose, compassion, inner talent, and (of course) the treasure.

While it would be hardly responsible to send students off to impending doom by booby trap, it seems today that too many teachers are fearful of teaching with an adventurous spirit. As I stood in front of the waves on Sunday's race day, it was not without a fair amount of trepidation, but I also felt sure that I could at least survive and succeed given my level of preparation. In an age of so many creative and collaborative possibilities, educators would benefit from confidence in their abilities in order to dive into an adventurous sea. When facing something new or unexpected, we need to remember that we have arrived on this shoreline of possibility with no trivial amount of preparation. Unlike our beloved Goonies, we have far more in our packs to help us avoid danger and find the learning treasures with our students. Here are five adventurous seas most teachers face and should feel confident diving into...

1) Tech Integration: Beyond checking age-appropriate guidelines for platform use, which are clearly outlined in the user terms, the integration of technology, especially that which has been specifically designed for the classroom, is a safe sea. While there will be waves to contend with, nobody is going to drown. Allowing students to play around in the surf and share with each other how they used different techniques to arrive at the same task completion is a great practice.

2) Project-Based Learning: The best projects are often the most open-ended ones. It's uncomfortable for teachers to set forth projects with vague rubrics, but students can benefit from ones that set high standards for creativity, collaboration, and quality, with very little else detailed.

3) Choice-Based Exploration: As long as the prerequisite standards have been set so that students know how they must show they have learned, allowing students to choose what they learn and design their own demonstrations of learning is an excellent way to foster agency and creativity.

4) Unfamiliar Topic: In today's data age, information is as easy to come by asking Siri. What is far more difficult to find is guidance, rapport, and connection. Allowing for student choice sometimes means allowing for topics outside our expertise. That's okay though because teachers are adept at the latter skills so as to guide students to the best resources and connections. We are boosters of brain power and creative, critical thinking...not databases for facts. Think Socrates--he never answered any questions!

5) Being Ourselves: This is a personal and sometimes polarizing topic. Teachers cannot and should not try to be separate people in class and outside of school. While it would be unprofessional to over share information about one's personal life, our families and our interests make us human and relatable. These are two qualities a computer can never be. Yet, teachers are understandably fearful of sharing about their family if they feel the environment is intolerant. A moving example is Chris Friend's Edutopia blog "Silence is not Golden" in which Chris explores his missed opportunity in helping students embrace their own identities and differences. "Because I never brought up my sexuality on campus, I continued the discrimination. By hiding, I silently expressed my fear and added to the problem I feebly wanted to protect students from. I was trying to make sure that students felt safe in my classroom. Instead, I showed them that even I was not." 

There is no shortage of fear in teaching. Sometimes we fear for ourselves, but mostly we fear the impact our mistakes will have on our students. We feel the weight of each interaction because we know that there are no neutral moments or do-overs. Still, with safe boundaries for exploration, we can trust in our skills as educators when faced with some trepidation. Our adventurous spirits can inspire our students to learn at new heights if we provision our packs with trust, creativity, and strong rapport. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Finish, for the story & the glory!

Reason to Race #28: For the story & the glory...oh yes, and pancakes!

Up at 4, I was starting to question this brilliant idea, but my team (mom, dad, & Gabriella) were in full swing getting coffee on and my gear ready to ride down to South Beach.

Thanks to dad's front door service to the transition area, I was set up in no time, and by 6 AM, I was taking the presunrise 1 mile stroll up to the Olympic starting point. 

The sea was far less helpful than my team. The chop was strong and endless, causing a delay in our start time, even for the professionals. This news had me shaking in my wetsuit (which incidentally I had accidentally put on backwards in my nervous state). Soon it was time to go or go home, so I manned up and started my flailing attempts to dolphin (manatee more like) out to the bouey while the sun rose with quicker pace over the gorgeous  seascape.

While the ocean looked beautiful, it felt brutal! I really felt like I was being tossed around in a washing machine and my chosen swim mantra bubble, bubble, breathe quickly turned into bubble, bubble, gulp-spit-cough. I won't go into detail regarding how I managed to make the mile to the orange bouey, but suffice it to say, a lot of backstroke and other forms of flailing which can hardly be classified as strokes were involved. 

When the beach finally spit me out, I was on my bike within two sips of a Gatorade bottle. Ah, finally I could breathe, if not relax during the stunning 25 mi ride over the causeways, through Key Biscayne, on closed roads to the consternation of locals trying to get to brunch in their Lambourginis. #thumbsup!

I was spared the despair of a flat (thank you Tri gods!) and made it back to transition at my target pace. My rubber legs felt less rubbery than expected as I repeated my run mantra light quick feet, light quick feet! I was passing people left and right feeling super--see my smile as I said hi to my team which had grown to include my brother (photo creds) and sister-in-law:

The smile and feeling were very short lived, ending as soon as my feet hit the two mile soft sand part of the run (meanies!). The rest was painful and hot despite my light and spry mantra. I honestly, felt like walking it in, but just kept putting one foot in front of the other until finally I saw the finish line up ahead. I managed to sprint it in and not pass out immediately...however, I was not smiling! 

I was exhausted, but I felt great when I joined my family and Mandell & Rocket colleagues. We headed to Big Pink where I welcomed the biggest pancake I've ever seen to my table. 

That's race story: Reason to Race #28, for the story & the glory!

Though the race is over, it's not too late to donate to my race cause, Scholarship America. If you'd like to, please click the link below. And that's a wrap for the SoBe Tri. Thanks for all the support and love along the way. It's been so motivating! #thumbsup

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race 27

Reason to Race #27: I'm already here so I might as well!

Tomorrow is race day--thank goodness because I'm running out of reasons! I woke this morning feeling strong and race ready. We headed down to pick up our packets, and it was beautiful out. What an amazing site for the event:

Why not go for a little swim, bike, run tomorrow?! Reason to Race #27: Why the heck back to elevating my legs. #thumbsup

If you'd like to contribute to my race cause, Scholarship America, please click the link below and thank you for all the support!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race #26

Reason to Race #26: Well, it's not for the fashion!

There are some great reasons to race in a triathlon (see numbers 1-25) but let me tell you, fashion is not among them. I went to buy my tri suit today; the race is this weekend, so you can tell how (NOT) enticing this purchase was to me. 

There was a good reason people stopped wearing bike shorts and neon in the 80s. 

So reason #26 is not fashion, but don't worry; I've still got a great reason to race. There are only a couple moments when the following advice applies, especially connected with fitness and a healthy lifestyle. 

From my cousin (awesome and inspiring coach Sean Edwards  @personalbesttri)..."Wed on should be when you start to carb load, basically adding carbs in to your diet, and Thursday is the big carb night."

You got it coach! I'm onto day three of carb loading (mixing in protein now) and loving pre-race life. So the real reason to race #26: 1 word--CARBS. Happy Friday indeed!

Even though it has nothing to do with carbs, please consider donating to my race cause, Scholarship America, by clicking the link below. Thank you for all the likes, shares, retweets and other support. Only one more day until race day!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race #25 Zombie Apocalypse Training

Tiffany & Lizzy Zombies

I was running out of ideas as I headed into the final days before the race, but hey, you have to power through those last miles. So I asked my students while eating lunch with them the other day, "Why do you think I should race?" Of course, one of them (my girl Lizzy) gave me the best reason yet. "Because if there's a zombie apocalypse, you'd be able to outrun the zombies...or at least the other people!" #brilliant #stuvoice

This got me thinking...not only is running looking advantageous, but I also can't imagine zombies can swim. I took this thought home with me and asked my resident zombie experts, my kids Joe and Alina. We all came to the conclusion that zombies probably can somewhat swim (in an awkward floating motion) or walk under water (though we debated this for quite some time). Either way, even as slow as I swim, there's a decent chance I'd be faster. #greatnews

So there you have it, thanks to the creative genius of my student Lizzy. Reason to Race #25: Also training for a zombie apocalypse. #multitasking

If you'd like to support the creative genius of other human children, donate to my race cause, Scholarship America, by clicking the link below. Thank you for all the love, shares, retweets, and other forms of support. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Reason to Race #24: For the Kids Who Still Race

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Let's address the elephant in my cyber room. Those of you who have visited my Crowdrise fundraising site may have noticed my absurd fundraising goal of $25,000. If you haven't seen it, here's how my progress looks:

Though the generosity of friends and family, I've raised $1285, which is no small amount. Still, I knew going into this that the chances of raising $25,000 were more or less impossible. So why set the goal so high? There are a few reasons...

#1 Because that's what it feels like to face something which seems impossibly far away despite all your hard work and the support of many. Being aware that this is a reality for so many of my students who envision an excellent education for themselves gives me a glimmer of perspective. It's no wonder that it seems so daunting and unreachable, and much more of an impervious reality than an arbitrary number on a fundraising site.

#2 The average annual cost of college in-state at a public university is $18,391. The average cost for a private college is $40, 917. Even if we get beyond the misconstrued use of the word public to describe our state university systems, the reality is there are too many students for too few spots at these schools. Even if a student gets in, aid is sparse and usually falls well short of covering expenses at even the public universities.

#3 The public annual cost of $18,391 would consume more than 3/4 of the total annual household income for a family of four living at or below the federal poverty line.

#4 The school-to-prison pipeline is stronger than the school-to-college pipeline in impoverished communities. These communities and the children who live in them have less access to high achieving schools and resources. Instead, they have access to the plagues of poverty: fear and crime.

#5 See these articles on how our education system is still a) inequitable and b) racist: "American Schools are Still Racist, Government Report Finds" & School Data Finds Pattern of Inequality Along Racial Lines.

#6 Because a shocking number of students I have taught in NYC simply ended up without a zoned public school at the end of the "public" application process. Where do families go when there is no public school which says, "We'll take your child"? They turn to private schools to fill that basic education need. The average tuition for a year of private school in NYC is $39,700 per year. While schools, like Mandell, are working earnestly to supply enough aid to families of pretty amazing students left without a public home, it's impossible to cover the extensive need.

#7 Because even despite these obstacles, I hope that my students and their families will continue to fight for educational opportunities. There are a lot of brick walls, but there are open doors and people to help along the way.

So, I'm going to fail in raising my $25,000. I knew that before I started this journey. I told myself I would likely get my straight A's in swim training, hit my target scores for pacing, and finish the physical race strong...all the while failing in one major goal. I wanted this experience because it's only a drop in the ocean compared to the feelings of inadequacy and failure millions of students really live through. And yet, they still race--Reason to Race #24.

If you'd like to contribute to my race cause, Scholarship America, which funds open doors instead of brick walls, please donate by clicking the link below. Thank you so much for your support, sharing, liking, retweeting, and other forms of support! It really means the world to me. #thumbsup

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Reason to Race #23: Ocean Swim Sans Sharks

Yes, this is Miami...and yes, those are sharks.
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I can think of few things as beautiful and serene as the ocean off South Florida. A swim in these crystal clear, warm, and calm waters is among life's greatest pleasures...unless of course, there are thousands of sharks migrating up or down the shoreline to keep you company! Yes, this is the one thing I am terrified of when I swim solo in Florida, but when I get the chance to train in the open water, I tend to suck it up and swim while this soundtrack plays on repeat in my head, "Was that a shark? I think I felt something! It's in your head. Just keep swimming....Is that a shark? I think I felt something!"

I'm looking forward to the race on Sunday as my first 2014 ocean swim without the fear of sharks mistaking me for food. According to, the #1 way to avoid a shark attack is to "Stay in groups and do not wander away from your companions, since sharks are more likely to attack individuals." Check! 

Reason to race #23: To lose the fear of a shark attack and only have to worry about the "Just keep swimming" part. Easy breezy! ;)

If you'd like to support my race cause, Scholarship America, please click the link below and thank you for your continued sharing, likes, comments, retweets, and other forms of support! #thumbsup

I do want to go on record as a postscript that sharks are amazing creatures. Also cited on is the following fact: while sharks kill 10 humans a year, humans kill between 20-30 million sharks. Usually, sharks only attack us because they mistake us for their natural prey, while humans catch and kill sharks for entertainment. That video gone viral from Boca is evidence of this...shameful! #sharklove #justdon'tbiteme

Monday, March 31, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race #22

Reason to Race #22: To Be "On the Edge"

me...on the edge of a frozen waterfall

I'm often asked to explain my Twitter handle & blog: Teach on the Edge. The edge is a space where the flat, secure terrain meets a precipice. Beyond the precipice is a vastness which is simultaneously breathtaking, awe-inspiring, and terrifying. Being on the edge means balancing awareness of both spaces and consciously pushing some level of security into the vastness so as to capture its power without falling in. In my life, in my classroom, in my fitness, I like to be on the edge...

Where land meets air
of a cliff (literally, in a harness)
of a crevasse (anchored in & ice axe in hand)
of a frozen waterfall

Where old meets new
of innovation
of change
of creativity

Where maternal meets military 
of compassion
of expectation
of no-nonsense

Where power meets blackout
of exhaustion
of failure
of personal best

Being on the edge means feeling continuously empowered by possibility and slightly unnerved by possibility. And just when you think you can't reach higher, pull stronger, push do. Reason to Race #21? That feeling! 

If you'd like to support my race cause, Scholarship America, please click the link below. Thank you for the sharing, liking, tweeting and other forms of support. #getedgy #thumbsup

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race #21

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(smoothie cheers!)
Reason to Race #21: A Better Goal for 21

There's something seriously wrong with college culture, and we aren't talking about it enough. Across the nation, there's a growing epidemic  endangering the lives of our college-aged children. Let's see if we can name the culprit...

1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from it, roughly the same number as an entire graduating class at Dartmouth.

More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been doing it. That is more than the total population of most US cities.

More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of sexual assault or date rape related to it. This is almost five times the number of individuals who can fit into Madison Square Garden and about 10,000 more than fit into "The Swamp" at University of Florida.

599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of it. That is just shy of the number of people who live in Boston.

More than 150,000 students develop a health problem related to it, and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of students indicate that they tried to commit suicide within the past year due to it. (

As you've undoubtedly inferred by now, the culprit is drinking, binge drinking specifically.

And the solution lies in student choice, voice, and leadership. Just as my generation raised itself out of the smoke-infested life most of us grew up in when we recognized how seriously dangerous it is to smoke and gross it is to smoke inside restaurants and too can this next generation raise itself out of the Animal House debauchery we gifted to you. In other words, be smarter than us for crying out loud!

What many of my generation didn't realize until they had already suffered many consequences of rough living is a much better path to dealing with stress and a much smarter way to socialize. You guessed!

So my Reason to Race #21 is to inspire a new goal for 21. How about a classic distance tri? That's about 21 miles, what an amazing accomplishment! Even a fun midnight run followed by a ton of cake would be a great idea. Don't love my old-lady ideas? Here's a great list by a college student who is part of the 20% who don't drink, "Sober Things to do on Your 21st Birthday"

My wish to all my students and my children is that you stop the insanity. Already, some of you out there have begun to make that change in the college culture with strong leadership. Bravo! I firmly believe that some of the student leadership needed at the college level is going to come from students who have talent and not funds. It's one of the reasons I've chosen Scholarship America for my race cause. If you'd like to donate, please click the link below, and thank you for your support! #thumbsup!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race #20

Reason to Race #20: "Because I'm Happy!"

Like much of the world, I'm in love with song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. Yes, I'll "clap along!" Yes, I do feel like "a room without a roof" and "that happiness is the truth!" It makes me happy each time I hear it, and usually it makes me burst into clapping, even in the midst of a run. It also makes me wonder how I got so happy...

There was definitely a time in my life when I was far more moody and sad. I wasn't suffering from diagnosed depression, but my temper was often short, and I just felt a certain dullness settle as a layer atop life's daily gifts. It was as if I needed an event or something special to raise the texture to vibrant. Flash forward a few years, and here's me, happy and feeling on top of the world, which is how I feel literally here but how I feel figuratively day to day!

I'm very grateful to have lived an overall happy life. However, even those of us fortunate to live a life free of debilitating mental illness experience the vicissitudes of mood. When I began exercising, everything illuminated, and my outlook on life grew more optimistic and empowered. It's no secret that exercise causes boosts in mood through endorphin release. In fact, research shows fitness could do even more than just boost our mood a little. According to Web MD, "exercise is an effective but often underused treatment for mild to moderate depression."

As I've grown in years and gray hair, so has my career grown in opportunities and the accompanying stresses. And yet, I find that I rarely feel overwhelmed, tired, or stressed. I also feel paradoxically younger as I get older--and of course, much happier. I attribute all this to fitness, and next week I'm racing for that peak feeling of power, accomplishment, and happiness! I hope that in doing so, I am also showing my students and children a healthy way of attaining happiness in a stressful world.

If you'd like to contribute to my race cause, Scholarship America, please click the link below. Thank for for sharing, liking, retweeting, and other forms of love & support! Thumbs up! Now off to do my happy dance part of my taper week. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race #19

Reason to Race #19: To Hit the (Hopefully Flat!) Beach

It's Friday again, and what better way to enjoy TGIF than a morning walk on the beach with my mom? As I strolled along the shore before hopping on a flight back to NYC, I thought no matter how many times I see the ocean, I'm always struck by its beauty. 

However, it would be nice if the ocean's motion calmed down a bit between now and next week's race. The three days of strong rip currents and whitecaps as far out as I could see kept me on shore. I'll be completely open in saying I'm very worried I'll be faced with daunting waves again next Sunday. I'm hoping that if it's a moment of get over it (literally) or go home, I'll overcome my trepidation and persevere. Still, if I could have one TGIF wish (if there is such a thing), I'm putting out a request to Mother Nature that when I return next Friday, I'll be welcomed by a different TGIF...Thank God It's Flat!!!

Hoping for this:

Not this:

So friends, send out all your good weather karma to South Beach for me! I know it's a lot to ask when all my NYC friends are needing it to banish neverending winter, but I would be very grateful! 

Also, if you're able to support my race cause, Scholarship America, please click the link below. Thanks for all the sharing, likes, retweets and other support! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race #18

Reason to Race #18: If the bone don't show, you GO!

After bagging my swim yesterday because of nasty waves, I woke today to this:

and this:

I was as angry as the ocean seemed to be! I had planned for a long ocean swim yesterday and a practice run at the full tri today. I went into pouting mode and had resigned myself to battling the 15-20 mph wind gusts on the bike and run today and heading back to the stinking pool upon my return to NYC. Then, this guy called (the handsome guy without all the wool):

Midway through my rant about the state of the ocean and wind, Eric interrupted me and said, "Honey, you are in Florida; there are a million ways to swim. And regarding the wind, be grateful for it. It'll make it easier on race day if it's not as strong and doable if it is. Now, stop the pity party and go get the job done. You can do it!" 

I love Eric for many reasons, but today I love him for giving me a kick in the rear. He reminded me that (as he often says in his many ways of expressing his no-excuses attitude to life), "Excuses are like butts. We've all got 'em but nobody wants to hear 'em!" 

So I ditched my pity party and hit the pool at a local gym, had my awesome dad meet me with my bike for my post-swim transition, and my mom meet me with my shoes for the transition to the run. Even if I hated the chlorine instead of the beautiful ocean, and my run time was much slower than my current pace, I finished my trial tri and mostly felt strong!

Thanks to my hubby Eric for my reason to race today. To quote the most handsome guy in my life, "If the bone don't show, you GO!" 

If you'd like to contribute to my race cause, Scholarship America, please click the link below. Thank you for all the love, likes, retweets, & other support! #thumbsup

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race #17

Reason to Race #17: Carpe Diem

As more tragic news hit the streams this week with the fate of Malaysian flight 370 and the mud slide which swept away the idyllic community in Washington, I found myself feeling grateful for each moment I have with all the wonderful people in my life. 

There's no moment like this one to capture life's opportunities. Each step I take, each mile I ride, each lap I swim, I seek to feel more alive. However, there are few things that measure up to the rush of crossing the finish line in a race! This year, when my colleagues asked me to join them in the race, I thought I don't have a bike, or a pool, or time...maybe next year. But then I thought, Why not? It's not like I'll have more of any of those later! I'm so glad I didn't hesitate and dove right in. We often get stuck in a pattern of analysis paralysis in our lives when the reality is tomorrow is not usually better than today nor any easier. So, reason to race #17: Carpe Diem!

If you'd like to donate to my race cause, Scholarship America, please click the link below. Thank you for the continued likes, shares, comments, and other support along the way! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race #16

Reason to Race #16: To see my Florida family & friends!

Having moved to NYC almost five years ago, I've adjusted to all aspects of city life (even the weather!) but I haven't adjusted to not seeing my Florida crew. I miss them all the time and look for every excuse to get down here and see them. 

My parents have even kicked their hospitality (always stellar) up a notch to help me get race ready. I traveled down this week for a spring break training session and arrived to a supply of sports beans and Gatorade, with my equipment ready to go as well. 

Mom drove me to pick up my bike, and tomorrow morning will find her walking along the beach next to my swim route. I'm a very lucky person to have such wonderful people in my life in both of my favorite places. Looking forward to returning in April for more time with my Florida family & to rocking the race! 

If you'd like to contribute to my ace cause, Scholarship America, please do so here. Thank you! 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race #15

Reason to Race #15: The Anti-Virtual Reality

It's "spring time" in NYC so naturally we are holding steady at 30 right now. I'm sick of the cold, and the virtual training that accompanies it! This winter, swim, bike, run went mostly like this: laps, spin, treadmill. It's a reality of training in cold climates but it's sure far from the reality of a great race. 

In fact, so much of what we experience today is mere simulation of the real thing. It's an unfortunate byproduct of our tech-enriched lives. As much as I promote the possibilities our virtual, digital world can offer in my field, it's not at the expense of real reality. Racing means getting in a real ocean and swimming with the current for an actual distance, getting on the bike and going through south beach, and running from one place to another. I can't wait for real miles and the anti virtual experience of it all!

If you'd like to support my race cause, Scholarship America, please do so by clicking the link below. Thank you for your support and encouragement! 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race #14

Reason to Race #14: Recovery Days

As I type this, I am very sore from some great workouts last week leading into this weekend. I need a day off, or at least one of mild yoga or stretching. Even though I love working out, I don't always love it until I'm in it, and sometimes, not even then. Today was one of those days...wasn't looking forward to the workout and fought the urge to cut out all the way through it. I'm feeling fatigued and my muscles are mad at me, so I'm thinking tomorrow is a good recovery day.

When I work out well, I never have just a "day off" because instead of having it off (passive), I'm helping my muscles to recover (active). Even though it's a game of semantics, I works to convince me that I've done my job for the day. And like pancakes, the recovery day taste so much sweeter when I've properly earned it!

If you'd like to contribute to my race cause, Scholarship America, please do so by clicking here. Thank you to all my donors so far and for all the encouragement!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tri for Triumph: Reason to Race #13

Reason to Race #13: Inspiration

I don't have many brilliant ideas, but the ones I do have ALWAYS come to me in the midst of a great run, bike, or swim. Almost every speech, every blog, and every interesting lesson I've created has its genesis in sweat. Maybe it's the beautiful surroundings when I'm outside or the meditative breathing of swimming but something about expending physical energy fires up my mind. Speaking of ideas...I'd better head outside for a ride so I can think up some more reasons to race!

If you'd like to support my race cause, Scholarship America, please contribute here and thank you for the continued support and encouragement!