Saturday, December 19, 2015

Hello Winter Break!!! (AKA: Christmas Break)

Today's agenda:

What I have done so far today:

I have declared today: "Don't leave the house, drink lots of coffee, and wear your PJ's all day"
It's so nice to know that today's guided groups will not happen in person; however, I might just video something so I can "stay in the routine"- maybe not.

Really, today is all about catching up on the tons of dirty laundry, cleaning the kitchen so I can do my Christmas baking, wrapping gifts, and finally getting around to decorating my trees.

I hope your day is as productive and relaxing as mine! Stay tuned, the second half of Dyslexia- A Blessing will come soon- after several more cups of coffee and a clean kitchen!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dyslexia- A Curse?

I am by no means an expert when it comes to dyslexia. I can say; however, I am the mom and the teacher of dyslexics and I have walked in the shoes of parent and educator. I know the tears. I know the frustrations. I know the words, "you are not working hard enough", "you have to pass this test", "pay attention and concentrate", "study harder". I know the 504 accommodation law and I have educated many with how this plan works and how the parent and student MUST advocate ALL. THE. TIME. This all sounds like a huge curse and it is. It is heartbreaking and all the while the intelligent, amazing person is trapped in the box of "this is how we do school and you must conform or you will not be successful" (Yes, my daughter has heard this, too.) And, it does not stop there. These incredible people often give up. They hate the game of school because they do not conform to the standardization, because, well, they are not the standard learner. Many people have misconceptions concerning these people. "Oh, you are dyslexic? You can't read?!?!" (Yes, my daughter has heard this too, yet she loves to read.) Teachers are not trained enough with how to help these precious students. Teachers often become easily frustrated, because educating a dyslexic student is up and down. Each day is adventure.

If this wasn't enough, consider the point of view of the dyslexic learner. Imagine: you know the material, the test is read to you, BUT, on this day, because you know how much is riding on the score, your brain shuts down and you can't perform. You can't connect the words. You can't come up with the perfect vocabulary word. Sure, you know what schedule means; however, you can't quite explain except to say, "it's that thing you follow". Because memorizing things verbatim is a struggle, you think, how can I pass this test since the teacher/professor believes regurgitating the information exactly as dictated shows you know the information? How about the music teacher who belittles you because you can't play the music from memory even if you are first chair? You get the picture: You feel like a loser, you can never live up to expectations, the teacher/professor hates you because you are different and by law they must follow your 504 Plan. That's not all: your peers. They think you are stupid. They don't understand and never want to revise or edit your paper. Your papers look like a third grader wrote it, even if it is typed. You hate the 504 Plan because others see you have "special" things for the test, like extra time or a quiet, small group. Your peers view it as cheating or unfair because they don't get these "special" things for test taking or for learning. You always fall apart, your parents can't brag on Facebook about your straight A's, or being on the honor roll.

Where is the blessing? How could dyslexia be a gift? Is there ever a silver lining
Stay tuned for the next post!

Monday, August 3, 2015


I am on vacation. I am supposed to relax.
Not going to happen!
It seems I can't turn off my brain.

Today, while walking around the capital in Sacramento, I came up with a new idea.
"Mrs. H. Amplified"

I want kids to see things.
I want kids to wonder.
I want kids to see more of the world around them.
I want to build schema.
I want to help make connections.
I want kids to see places with which they may or may not be familiar.
I want to inspire kids to read more.

The idea: read short snippets to kids in lots of different places. Here is my first video:

This was so much fun! We are headed to Yosemite this weekend. I can't wait to publish more videos!!!!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Directed or Inspired?

On a recent road trip, I heard a talk show use these words. It made me think: how many classrooms have teachers who direct kids to learn? The answer-too many. With standard testing firmly in place, too many teachers feel they must make sure kids read books and answer "test like" questions. Where is the inspiration in that? The special learners (you know who they are) feel directed. They hate coming to class. Can you imagine how you would feel day after day, knowing you will never do well? It's like picking up a physics book day after day trying to make sense of it because someone said it has to be done to pass the test. (sorry in advance to any physics people....I am not a math person!)

I was intrigued with the ideas of directed and inspired and looked at some research. I found a group of researchers at Case Western Reserve University. They looked at 2 types of coaching. One was positive emotional and the other was negative emotional. In the positive emotional session, the researchers were able to show that asking sophomores to talk about their dream future in 10 years activated parts of the visual cortex involved in imagining things. The more positive approach stimulated those parts of the brain involved in being open to new ideas and other people. The negative emotional session asked students who they were doing on their homework, readings, and assignments. It was found in this type of session, the questioning activated areas in the brain know to indicate self-consciousness and guilt.

Here is another article:

INSPIRE!!!!! Just hearing the word lifts the spirit. Everyone needs a role model and the story behind them. Cue in the picture books! Picture books are not just for young children. The shorter text, which can be high level with vocabulary, along with the pictures can help kids build knowledge and build vocabulary. Picture books can take children of all ages into new cultures and new experiences. The text and pictures help build images and help make connections to experiences or build a curiosity for a new idea. 

And, to the math people- There are many picture books about math concepts. I sure wish these books were around when I was in school. Maybe, just maybe these math picture books would have inspired me and I would have been a better math student. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Out of the Box

It's lonely outside of the box. Inside the box, I would have lots of people, who will want to be my friend. Why? Well, everyone is the same. There is nothing to make someone stand out. No competition. In my 30+ years in the field of education, If you are out of the box, one of two things happens-

1. If you are outside the box and you have team members who understand you, care about you and support you, school and personal life is easier. You have people who are interested and helpful, no matter how crazy the idea. These team members will listen, give advice, and give permission to allow for something new.  FACT: this does not happen often. In 30 years, I have had 2 teams, which were like this.

2. If you are outside the box and team members don't understand and don't care about YOU, school life is lonely and miserable. Nobody calls, nobody cares to check on you, nobody wants to be around you inside and/or outside of school. Outside of the box requires understanding of yourself and how others do NOT define you. Even still, it's lonely. You KNOW you are excluded. You KNOW there is negative chat behind your back. FACT: This happens all the time...even to our students.

When people view outside of the box as a threat, they consider outside of the box as making them look bad. This is not the intent. Outside of the box thinkers/teachers are not trying to out-do someone else. They are looking for a way to make things work better and more efficient..... going past the curriculum document to assure content and authentic learning happens. Students learn and are happy doing so. Outside of the box thinkers/teachers are not looking for attention, stand outs, or awards- Other teammates do not see this. They see Outside of the box thinkers/teachers as competition, a threat, a pain, eccentric, difficult to deal with, unable to comprehend.

When is this learned? How can this happen? We have students who deal with this problem every day. This is not just our Gifted and Talented students who identify with outside of the box. Consider the dyslexic, the ADD/ADHD, the introvert, the poverty stricken who look different due to lack of money. Yes, outside of the box starts in childhood and continues into the workplace.

It hurts.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Self Assessment

Just finished cleaning my closet. It took a massive amount of self assessment. Nobody could tell me exactly what the closet should look like when it was finished. There was no teacher to ask, "Is this good?". My mom was not around for me to say, "Do you think I did a good job?" My husband would tell me "It looks a lot better than yesterday!" but, is that really a good assessment of what I did? After all, I had 7 bags of donations, I can now find every piece of jewelry I own, and I know where to find last year's tax documentation. How do I know I did a "good" job? Is my closet cleaning finished? Is there something more I can do to improve? Who could I turn to for answers?

Students face this same problem. Often, they slap something down on the paper and run up to the teacher for a critique. Students want an answer and to be finished so they can move forward or not have homework. Is this learning? It is said the single most important thing a student can do to grow is to be able to self assess. We must teach them how to critically look at their work and the work of others. How do we do this? Stay tuned.......

By the way- the closet is not finished; however, I do feel better starting my school year now that I know I need to purchase. I am not sure if and when my closet will ever be complete- maybe we should just say it's a work in progress indefinitly!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


This is a difficult learning disability to understand. There are so many varying degrees of dyslexia. A dyslexic person works 10 times harder and longer than the average student. This article is thought provoking and interesting. Check out the end of the article which talks about how dyslexia is not in the DSM, and how some places do not even call the disability dyslexia. :(

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Another idea!

I need more coffee- my brain is on a roll this morning!


We have bucket lists, what about #LearningLists? A list of things you want to learn. I have loads of things on my list. Here is an excerpt from my list:
1. Classical guitar
2. The Frank Sonata for flute and piano
3. The 3rd movement of the Moonlight Sonata for piano
4. Google classroom
5. Quilling
6. Felting
7. Photography- yes, this is broad and a work in progress. I need to add to my knowledge every month
8. Cooking- specifically clean eating snacks
9. Essential oils
10. How to create stained glass pieces

What's on YOUR #LearningLists? How powerful would this be for your students?

Saturday, June 27, 2015


I have been on Twitter for 3 days now. It has been life changing. I am learning to navigate Twitter- I have now figured out Tweetdeck! I am connected to a huge technology conference #ISTE2015 and found some ideas regarding the use of a blog for each of my students. This may not sound life changing, especially for those who are more techie than me. But.......after 30 years in the classroom, I feel like I am back where I was in my first few years of teaching. I am excited. New ideas, new material to learn and I am connected with experts who can help. My students will benefit, and I will continue my life long journey of learning. The real fun begins when I can apply my learning to my classroom in the fall. Watch out, kids! Some toad-ally awesome learning has happened with your teacher and she is not afraid to use this learning on you!!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thinking Places

Starting a blog for the first time. Have an accountability partner so I make sure I post at least once a month. We are supposed to start in August, but the over achiever in me wants to start now!


I love summer. It gives me time to slow down, learn, and reflect. My district just gave an amazing staff development centered around technology. #MISDConverge I learned so much and subsequently decided to step out of the comfort zone to start a Twitter account for my class/professional connections AND a blog!

This morning, while walking my dog #ThinkingPlace, I was reflecting. While reflecting, somehow the idea hit- #ThinkingPlaces. Everyone, including kids have special places where ideas and reflections happen. This is NOT just the classroom. My best thinking happens in places away from the classroom. This would be why I stopped bringing home papers to grade. I am not free to think and reflect when I feel overwhelmed with papers to read.

What about you? Where are your #ThinkingPlaces? Wouldn't it be great for everyone to post photos of their #ThinkingPlaces? I bet when I see the photos of next year's students' #ThinkingPlaces, it will give me great insights to my students as a learner, person, and leader. It will allow me to peak inside their world and create learning environments which would encourage radical thinking and learning.