Monday, December 29, 2014

Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion. Dalai Lama

The New Year is upon us, which is always, at least for me, a time of reflection. The year flew by, but not without giving me many moments of sheer delight, as well as minutes of pain and panic, because that is just the way life is.  I have always known in my heart that I could have never been a Stoic.  If you are not familiar with the true meaning of Stoicism, I borrowed this from Wikipedia : Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC.  the Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgement, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection" would not suffer such emotions. Unlike the Stoics, i rather enjoy the ups and downs of life, as they add the sense of drama to my life, recognizing that I could never appreciate the highs without knowing the sadness of the lows, nor could I suffer through the lows without the remembrance of the highs.  Just a personal philosophy. 

Just like LIFE magnified 100 fold, the christmas season brings many highs and lows to our emotions as well. I am thinking of the song "I'll Be home for Christmas", released in 1943 by Bing Crosby and written for the WWII soldiers who were overseas.  Through the years, that song has become a Christmas standard, taking each listener back to a childhood in which Mom and Dad were the responsible adults; happy memories of simpler times when just being together was enough; when all of the family members were connected and together; before Death would take our loved ones and make us yearn for JUST ONE MORE CHRISTMAS TOGETHER.  Such nostalgia and longing brings an invasion of pain rushing into our hearts, as we reflect on what was and what is. I believe that our fragile emotions and recollections during the Christmas season make each one of us remember who we used to be, and because of our own raw emotions, we are able to recognize the feelings of hurt and pain more easily in friends, family, and even strangers, making us softer and kinder and more compassionate toward others.  It is no accident that kindnesses abound at Christmas more than any other time of the year.

It is my wish that all people would view others in this gentler way every day of every year, not just during the Christmas season. Take the time to listen to the cry of another's soul; look at someone with soft eyes, not seeking what is wrong, but seeking what is right.  See the positives in others rather than scrutinizing for the negatives. 

In teaching, as in other professions in which a person must deal with a multitude of others, it is good to remind yourself that you are working with fragile human beings, and perhaps they are doing the best they can do with the talents they were given.  Everyone is carrying around some kind of pain from the highs and lows in their lives, and that pain is rarely visible from the outside. Remember how much a kind word lifted your spirits.  Let's make a difference every day of every year, just by being kind.

"We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us, and make us kinder.  You always have a choice." Dalai Lama

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Connect with Dede!  Twitter @dederittman

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Monday, December 22, 2014

"The power of one man or one woman doing the right thing for the right reason, and at the right time, is the greatest influence in our society." ---Jack Kemp

I recently enjoyed a thought-provoking discussion with three friends - a music professor in Education for over 50 years; a nurse who works at Children's Hospital, who is also the mother of the third person in the group; a young man who finished his student teaching, but is not employed as a teacher. We had a very lively conversation about the importance that just ONE person can have on the life and choices of another.  We know this to be true for parents and their major influences over their children, as well as for siblings and their efforts as torch-bearers for the brothers and sisters to follow in their footsteps on the path of life, but the talk quickly turned to school and to teachers, who may choose to be the "Power of One" for so many in their charge.   

The Professor said that through the years, even when he was exhausted and thought he could not reach out to another student, he thought of his own daughter, who fell apart after the death of her mother, his wife.  She was in utter collapse from grief at her college, but her professors and mentors scooped her up and delivered her to counseling and therapy, surrounding her in a cocoon of love and support.  He knew how important it was to his daughter to have that one person who cared enough to get her back on track, and all of these years later, he is still grateful, as is his daughter.  Consequently, he has been the one person who has made the difference for so many students.  He chose to do the right thing every time, changing one life at a time. 

The nurse and her son reminisced about his college choice and his discomfort with his school, until the Power of One came in the form of a friend who included him in his music venues, which led to his attainment of a college degree in music education.  Just one person changed his life.  The Power of One. And when this young man finds a teaching position, he will extend his Power of One to others in his charge.

Each man and woman has the capacity to change the world, one person at a time.  

This discussion made me think of a scene in f It's a Wonderful Life, the Frank Capra film starring Jimmy Stewart.  I have always loved the line said by the angel Clarence to George Bailey.  This scene comes a short time after Clarence grants a wish George makes: the wish that he had never been born. In fact, I think this little speech could possibly be the best single support for the power that one person has to improve the lives of others. You may remember in the film that George discovers that his brother Harry drowned at the age of 9, because George was not there to save Harry. Consequently, every man on Harry's WWII transport ship was killed, because Harry was not there to save them. Each person has a tremendous impact on others. I want to share Clarence's quote with you:

"Strange, isn't it?  Each man's life touches so many other lives.  When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he? . . . You see George, you really had a wonderful life."

I, too, had a wonderful life in the classroom.  I absolutely loved teaching for all 37 years, and I know that I chose to be a positive influence and work as much magic as I could as a Power of One.  I loved helping students to make better choices and to believe in themselves. 

Every person has the capacity to change the world, one person at a time.  We are each a Power of One.  You do not have to be a parent or sibling or teacher to make a difference in the life of another.  

During this season, and throughout the year, please share your positive outlook and strength with someone who needs it.  Change your world and someone else's world for the better. . . one person at a time.

Merry Christmas to all of my readers.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC for Student Teaching:  The Inside Scoop from a Master Teacher

Monday, December 15, 2014

“Being able to do what you wish is the best thing in the world!” ― Shiro Amano, Kingdom Hearts, Vol. 1

I was out of the country on a Norwegian Sun cruise with my friend Barb (also a widow) from Tampa to Roatan  (Honduras), Belize,  Costa Maya, and Cozumel, then back to Tampa.  Barb and I were absolutely aghast at the poverty we witnessed.  

In Belize, we signed up for a 7 hour shore excursion to go on an hour long bus ride that would take us to a river boat ride through the jungle to a little town for lunch, then back on the boat through the jungle, then back on the bus to the ship.  Two brothers were the tour guides, Roy and Edgar, ages 31 and 33, and I have never seen any two people happier in their jobs.  Their enthusiasm for their country and for making sure that everyone had a great time was over the top.  Although they worked really hard with their presentations and helping everyone on and off the boat, it was when Barb and I had some quiet time to talk with them that we found out why they were so happy in their positions as tour guides.  We also had some time with them as they walked us through the Mayan ruins, and they seemed to know just about everything about those ruins, because their mother is a Mayan!

You see, when the big ships came into port, Roy and Edgar did not have to work at their regular jobs in the sugar cane fields.  Their hands were scarred and calloused,  their muscles hard, and their bodies lean from the harsh and punishing work of the growing and reaping of the cane.  First, they said they must burn the cane, to get rid of the snakes.  Next comes the back-breaking work of cutting the cane- by hand.  Last, is the bundling of the cane into large bales and carrying it on their shoulders out of the field.  For Roy and Edgar, working as tour guides was like having vacation days!  When we asked, they said that whatever the parents job is in life. that is the job that the children will do as well.  Their dad worked in the cane fields, so they did too.  Their younger brother was working with their dad, and their younger sister was working in the home with sewing, the same as their mother.  I posed a question, asking "What if i were your child and I wanted to be a doctor?"  They exchanged a surprised look.  It seems that Roy's young son does want to be a doctor, but they are without money and means and knowledge for how to help him to achieve his dream.  I shared some websites for scholarships with him (they do have access to the Internet) and gave him my contact information.  I would love to see this young boy achieve his dream and help his people. 

Talking with Roy and Edgar made me think about how lucky we are to live in the United States. Our society has numerous resources to help someone who is willing to work to achieve his goals.  We are not expected to stay in the same position as our parents.  Our educational system is open to everyone.

Sometimes, leaving the country gives a person a different perspective and
new appreciation of their lives.  I found this to be true after the conversations with Roy and Edgar.  Although I worked four jobs each summer and as an RA during the school year to pay for my college education, I knew that my education would take me where I wanted to be in life. I knew my parents did not expect me to be a steel worker, like my father.  

Education is not as important in Belize as it is in the United States, but Roy and Edgar know it is the answer for the son.  I hope to hear from them, as they said they would email me for help and guidance, and i will keep you posted if I do.

In the meantime, let's be thankful for the educational opportunities in the United States.

As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions.  

Rittman Publishing, LLC 


Monday, December 8, 2014

Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don't recognize them. Ann Landers

I learned many lessons while aboard the Norwegian Sun on a cruise to the Western Caribbean Sea.  The ship employs over 900 people, and they sign on for a minimum of eight months, working 10-12 hours per day, with no days off. They will be granted a few hours off here and there, depending on whether the ship is in port, but the work is long and arduous, especially for the cabin workers, the servers, the chefs, and the laundry people.  

I took a three hour tour (thought of Gilligan's island - "A three hour tour, a three hour tour") of the ship and I was amazed at the sheer amount of boxes of frozen steaks and chicken and seafood, the huge refrigerated lockers of vegetables to be prepared (the ship serves over 15,000 meals in 7 days), and the amount of laundry to be done - 2000 guests, clean sheets and towels and washcloths every day, plus linens from the dining rooms and restaurants, as well as the laundry from the crew and workers).  One person is in charge of the napkins alone! In his 12 hour shift, he washes, dries, and folds 5000 napkins!  (I apologized for getting lipstick on mine the night before.)

Each person wears an identification badge, which includes their name and their country. Many were from India and Canada and the Philippines and other countries all around the world. It took me until the last day to find a ship worker who was from the United States.  He was a photographer, and they work very long hours, snapping pictures before and during dinner, and at embarking and disembarking at every location, along with posing patrons at many lovely backdrops.  They get some hours off when the ship is in port. 

I asked the Shore Excursion manager about this lack of American workers during the tour.  He said that some of the fleet ships under the American flag had to go under a different flag, because to maintain a ship under the American flag, all of the workers must be American, and they simply could not get enough workers to make it work.  Which leads to the question, are Americans adverse to hard work?  

I don't know the answer.  If I were young, I think working on a ship like the Sun would be a big adventure.  It would be a chance to see the world and learn something about hard work in the process.  Of course, my parents instilled me with a very strong work ethic, one of the best gifts I received from them.  As I grow older, I do not always see the same kind of commitment to one's responsibilities in the younger generation, but I believe that a work ethic is more of a personal trait rather than a generational one. 

I enjoy working.  Even though I retired from teaching, I still love to work and contribute to the well-being of society and others.  I like to know that what I am doing matters, even if it is in some small way.  I have always felt that our society would be better off if everyone would contribute and know that their contributions are appreciated.

How do you feel about work? Are you intrinsically motivated, as I am, and do you enjoy the feeling of a job well done? When I was teaching, I always talked about the importance of work responsibility, and for the most part, students were receptive. School work provides the foundation for one's life work.

Enjoy your work day and your accomplishments.  Feel the good internal glow of finishing a task. Know that you are making a difference.  Appreciate your own strong work ethic! 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Like my blogs?  My new book STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER, is available at It is a fun and fast read, spoken in first person, with tips and anecdotes all about success and being the best you can be.



Monday, December 1, 2014

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” ― Plato

It is December, and oh, how the television and radio stations and mainstream media tell us to be joyful, because the Christmas season is the happiest time of the year.  TV commercials take us into a perfectly decorated house and wake us up with a message of love for family disguised as a cup of coffee; every Christmas commercial child  has straight teeth and curly hair, all smiles, no tears, and perfect health and behavior. No one is sad, lonely, or in medical distress or financial need.

Would that it were so.

In the real world, where most of us live outside the television box, I believe that we really want to be happy, although it is sometimes very difficult.  I have written before that I choose to be happy each day since Scott died. I will admit that deciding to be happy is sometimes a daunting task, especially around the holidays, surrounded by memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases past, moments that will never be again. 

I speak from my heart when I ask you to be kind this season, even kinder than usual.  Although many people may look "normal" on the outside (whatever "normal" is in our unique and diverse American culture), the burdens of grief and strife do not always show.  I have always wished for a kind of x-ray vision, the ability to see into people's hearts.  If I could use the power of this x-ray vision, I could see so many feelings: the grief in the heart of a young woman who just lost a baby; the stress of a husband who just discovered his wife has cancer; the strife of a caregiver dealing with a sick child and a parent with Alzheimer's; the despair of the man who lost his job; the sadness of the parents who have to choose between food and heat for their family for the month, or Christmas gifts for the day.  I am not sure how I would be able to help all of these people, but sometimes just a kind word and a voice of caring concern can be uplifting.  Our world would be so much better if we could see the battles our fellow human beings are fighting by looking into their hearts, instead of at their clothes.  I actually believe that the human touch, the act of caring, can sometimes even outweigh a monetary contribution.  Life is about CONNECTIONS, and if you personally have the ability to connect with another person about feelings, the exchange is priceless.  Not only does it validate each of your feelings, it connects the two of you in a way that will be remembered and cherished; indeed, it will become a topic of conversation and reflection.    

In a world where there are so many uncertainties:  ISIS, world peace, the price of gasoline, the stock market, and global terrorism, the most important connections we can make are those we make with one another.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”  ― Plato 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Visit for more teaching ideas in Dede's new book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER.  

Dede retired from 33 years of coaching golf.  Here are the links to two complimentary articles about Dede, as a coach and a teacher.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead. — Nelson Mandela

On Thursday, November 20, my 62nd birthday, I was a presenter in a Gathering of Authors at the Allegheny Valley Library in Natrona Heights, less than a half mile from my place of birth.  What a humbling experience that was, to visit the place of my birth to speak to my first group and have my first book signing for STUDENT TEACHING;  THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER.  It was truly an emotional experience, and I wished in vain for my parents and my late husband to be there with me.  They would have been so pleased.

After each author presented, a question and answer period was held, and then the patrons chose and bought books and brought them forward to be signed by the authors.  I was particularly touched by a young woman who asked me to inscribe the book for her sister. She said her sister had studied to be a teacher, but she was unable to find a permanent position, and became disillusioned, and she is now doing a job that requires manual labor, not her teaching degree.  The young woman liked my enthusiasm for teaching, and she hoped that by sharing my book with her sister, that her sister would try again to return to the profession she loved.  The young woman thought that I could make a difference to her sister - through my book.

I wrote an encouraging note in the book, and I thought about how often one person CAN make a difference to others.

Please stop reading for a few seconds and think about someone who made a difference for YOU.  Maybe it was a teacher  . . . or a parent, a relative, a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker; someone who lifted you up when you were down, or someone who helped to point you in the right direction as you were traveling in circles.  

Wouldn't it be nice to let that person know that he or she made a difference in your life?

This week is Thanksgiving, and then the crazy time of the year begins, when we all try to fit one whole month of fun and parties into a few weeks' time.  But, it is good to sit still for a few minutes and allow your mind and body to be calm.  Perhaps when you are enjoying a moment, you could send an email or a text, or better yet, a handwritten note, to someone in your distant or not so distant past who made a difference for you.  Let them know that in the spirit of Thanksgiving, you are remembering and reaching out to let them know how much you appreciate their time and guidance.   I can promise you that should you choose to write a note, the note will become worn out from many readings, but the internal glow of both the sender and the receiver will not be extinguished.  

You see, everyone needs to be acknowledged and appreciated.  Everyone needs to know that they have helped to make a difference in the lives of others.  

Please let me know your feelings and the outcome if you should decide to do this.  I would like it if my advice made a difference to YOU.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Like my blogs?  My new book STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER, is available at It is a fun and fast read, spoken in first person, with tips and anecdotes all about success and being the best you can be.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” ― Phil Collins

I retired from teaching in June of 2011 when my husband's cancer worsened and I needed to care for him.  Scott died in May of 2012, leaving a huge void in my life.  He was my best friend and my husband, as well as my volunteer assistant golf coach.  Because I wanted some sort of normalcy in my life, and because my athletic director asked me to stay on as Varsity Head Boys' Golf Coach, I stayed.  I loved coaching as much as I loved teaching, sometimes even more, as  I did not have to correct any essays!  But this year, I decided to retire from coaching after 33 years.

Today's blog is about reflections.  I have talked with former colleagues a great deal about my decision to leave.  The time just seemed to be right.  Many of those I spoke with have also retired from their avocations:  coaching, sponsoring a club, or directing.  They all had decided the time was right to leave, just as I did, but upon leaving, they felt so much more.  They were humbled by the opportunity to work with students and to help to shape their lives, and they were rewarded with relationships with former students who have turned into friends and colleagues. You see, when you work with students in a capacity outside the regular classroom setting, you are permitted to see students in a whole new light. 

If you are a classroom teacher reading this blog, I urge you to get involved with a school activity, sport, or club.  My former coach/sponsor/director colleagues would all agree. The relationships you will form with students during extra-curricular activities are something that you just can't get in the classroom. When I think of the relationships formed on the golf teams all those years and all the lessons everyone learned from working together, from teamwork and from encouraging and supporting each other, I know that those are life lessons that those students will carry forever.  For me as a coach, it was not so much about winning; rather, it was about the player doing the best he could do with what he had,  practicing good manners and etiquette, supporting team members by being a team player, and presenting himself in a positive manner to others.  Many former players have told me that they never forgot those lessons.

All the years I directed the North Allegheny Spring Musical and the North Allegheny Intermediate Talent Show, sponsored various clubs and worked with Student Council, it was also a great experience to work with the students, both one-on-one and as a group.  Each person involved discovered that he/she was an important part of something that was much bigger than any single individual. When a teacher works with students outside of the classroom, I have found that a new respect emerges for the others involved, as students learn to work together and to grow and accept leadership roles within a club or group.  Students learn about the amount of time and organization it takes to make activities and shows and club meetings run smoothly, as well as the importance of being responsible and reliable.  Of course, you, as the teacher or sponsor, must model this behavior, and the students should appreciate your time and efforts. I strongly recommend getting involved!  You will enjoy your classroom teaching even more, when you know the students outside the classroom and inside.  I know that as a classroom teacher and as a coach and director and sponsor,  I learned far more from my students than they ever learned from me.  It was a great ride.  

Do yourself a favor.  Become re-energized by working with students outside the classroom. You will love it, and you will learn so much.  

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Visit for more teaching ideas in Dede's new book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER.  

Dede retired from 33 years of coaching golf.  Here are the links to two complimentary articles about Dede, as a coach and a teacher. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody - a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns - bent down and helped us pick up our boots. ~Thurgood Marshall

Have you ever seen a human pyramid?  High school and college cheerleaders are absolutely amazing with their agility and strength, and each person does his part in raising another to the next level. Then, the exuberance of the person at the top is always fun to watch.  I think seeing a pyramid made of human beings supporting each other is not only a fun event to watch, but also a great analogy for life and success.

In many ways, succeeding in life is like building a human pyramid.  No matter how hard a person  works on the way to the top, he still needs others to support the climb; no one can make it to the pinnacle alone. 

Many people are involved in a person's success, whether it be in writing recommendations; teaching  "the ropes" in a new position;  making introductions to the right people; contacting others to promote talents; or speaking positively to others.  Ultimately, if you do make it to the top of the pyramid, many people supported you as you climbed the ladder.

Teachers seem to be among the best boosters and supporters, giving a "leg up" to send students to the top. Throughout my career and the careers of my colleagues, we often discussed the behind-the -scenes work we did for our students to help them to be successful. As a faculty, we offered many skills and services to our students:  writing  recommendations, correcting college essays, nominating students for awards, making students aware of scholarship opportunities, telephoning or emailing potential employers, and tutoring for hours after school until the light bulb of understanding turned on.

I loved being able to do all of these things for my students.

Even now, I revel in the successes of the men and women my tenth graders became.  So do my colleagues.  I was out with some teachers friends on the weekend, and the talk turned to the pursuits and successes of many of our former students.

We are SO PROUD that we could help some of our students make it to the top.  We are thrilled that maybe, just maybe, something we did helped these students move up another level on the pyramid of success.

Perhaps this piece has made you think about a teacher who helped you to become successful. Think of how wonderful it would be for both of you if you could reconnect with that teacher and share your appreciation for their part in boosting you up.  I looked up several teachers through the years, because I wanted them to know they made a big difference in my life, as they helped me along my pathway to success. I am so happy I made the effort to say "Thank you."

Even if you are at the top of the pyramid, you should take the time to say thank you.  You should also remember to help others on their way, because that is  how human pyramids work.

As always, I welcome comments and suggestions.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Like my blogs?  My new book STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER, is available at It is a fun and fast read, spoken in first person, with tips and anecdotes all about success and being the best you can be.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

“It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ― Mother Teresa

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the importance of teaching empathy in school.  Many of you wrote to me personally and said that you agreed. Since that writing, I have read several articles with research that point out that students who learn empathy and kindness in school are better citizens.  I saw all of those principles involving empathy and caring about others in action at a North Allegheny football game two weeks ago, and I am sharing the story with you in this blog.

As a coach and a teacher, I always wanted my students to be good role models and student leaders.  It seems the North Allegheny Senior class has some students who have learned that lesson well.  The week of the final home game of the season, the students sold pink T shirts at every school in the district,  including elementary schools- ordering more and more shirts until they sold out for the final time- and the group donated over $5000 to the Glimmer of Hope Foundation.  I worked security at that game, and I know I could have easily sold another 50 shirts at my post! One of my golf team members was in charge of this event, and he was thrilled to present the hefty check to the Foundation.

Additionally, the NA Cheerleaders put the word out to the school and the community that they were collecting gently used coats to be given to the Food Bank and homeless shelters. They rented a medium sized U-Haul truck and the community filled the ENTIRE TRUCK! 

So, what lessons were learned, and who benefited?  Students and supervising adults learned that organization makes everything run smoothly and that the probability of success is enhanced when organization is in place.  Everyone involved with advertising learned how much work it is to spread the word and to get others to care about a cause.  Students in the entire district learned what it feels like to be a part of something much bigger than just a class or a school, since the initiative for the pink shirts was district-wide.  For one day and one game, everyone was connected to each other and to a greater cause.  Those who donated the coats learned what it means to think about others as the cold weather approaches, and the cheerleaders learned that organizing a drive and helping others to give is a great contribution they can make to others in need.  Also,  the high school students taught the elementary students a lesson about giving.  Everyone benefited- in the district and the community.

That football game was against North Hills, and NA won the game easily, and the crowd seemed to be so happy.  I don't think it was just the score that buoyed the spirits. I think it was the good feeling within that comes from helping others.

Every community and church support causes like these two chosen by the NA students.  I urge those of you who are educators to get your classes involved with a positive project.  Your students will benefit from working together and lending a hand to others. And I know that you and your classes will be enriched by the experience of putting yourselves in the other person's shoes, and giving of yourselves.  The season for giving will soon be upon us, but then, I think it is always  that season. (A word to the wise- just make sure your principal agrees before you take on a class project!)

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Visit for more teaching ideas in Dede's new book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

"I had many teachers that were great, positive role models, and taught me to be a good person and to stand up and be a good man. A lot of the principles they taught me still affect how I act sometimes, and it’s 30 years later." Kevin James

This week, I encountered some former students from the 1980's, and of course, we talked about our school days together. I know I have said this before, but I really LOVED school! Although I worked very hard at preparing and improving lessons, grading papers, and working with students in groups and one on one, it was my passion, and I enjoyed the work so much that it was not like work at all.  When I see my former students, my heart bursts with joy to know that I was as important to them as they were (and are) to me.  And I realize more and more just how important my behavior in the classroom every day impacted all my students through the years. 

This piece is for the new teachers who read this blog every week and for the veterans who need to be reminded of this lesson.

YOU, as a teacher, make a difference every day.  You do not even realize it, but a kind word, a compliment, or an encouragement from you, THE TEACHER, can completely change a student's mood, day, attitude, grade, or decision-making process, as well as the way that they react to what happens to them each day, because you are setting an example of how adult behavior should be.  Like it or not, you are the role model, every minute of every day.  You, and you alone, cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you will react to what curve balls are thrown your way. And students are watching.  Elementary eyes, middle school eyes, or high school eyes are on you:  your responsibility is huge.  Students are also watching the way that you interact and react with other students.  And I promise you this:  they will remember.  

Forty years after teaching my first class all those years ago at Penn Hills (1974), I saw a former student from my first year of teaching.  And guess what?  He remembered everything- not what classics he read- but, rather, the ambiance of the classroom.  English was his "favorite" class. Class was fun, and he said  that "I didn't get angry, like the other teachers, when something bad happened. You liked us."  Although I was just 21 and my students were 16 and 17, I was insightful enough to know that they were paying attention to my actions, and that I had the ability to directly impact their lives every day.  Growing up, I had so many great role models as teachers, so I learned the lesson of modeling expected behavior long before I became a teacher.

Sometimes in our society, the "cool" thing seems to be about complaining rather than appreciating, and criticizing rather than praising.  It is up to you, the classroom teacher, to make your space and time with your students a positive part of the day, not a class they dread attending.  You need to step up to be the positive role model for your students.  You may not know it for years, but remember that your positive impact is far reaching, and will stay with your students throughout their lifetimes.  

Teaching human beings is such an overwhelming responsibility, and it is important to try to be the best role model you can be every day.  Someone is watching. . .actually, everyone is watching. Know that your influence goes far beyond your subject matter and classroom, and you are helping young people to shape their behaviors and reactions.  It is an awesome task, but one I know you can handle.  Have a positive day- being the best you can be.  Who knows? Maybe in 40 years, you, too, will see a former student who will remember your class, but who will mostly remember YOU.

As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions.

My new book, STUDENT TEACHING; THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER, is available at  You can also see my beautiful new press release at my website.

Rittman Publishing, LLC


Sunday, October 19, 2014

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ― Leo Buscaglia

In thinking about this week's blog, I have spent several hours making notes and reading articles online about EMPATHY.  I believe that although some children are instinctively empathetic, empathy should be taught in schools, and I do not mean just elementary schools.  Being able to show empathy and to extend oneself to others and feel with them is not only a gift, but also a key to successful relationships, both personally and in business. If you have not read Howard Gardner's 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, it is a terrific book which examines seven criteria which can make a behavior an intelligence, which is more than just measuring an IQ . Gardner specifically mentions Empathy under the Interpersonal relationship category, and he says that those with a high interpersonal intelligence are often successful as teachers, social workers, salesman, and counselors, just to name a few.

When I was teaching at North Allegheny for 35 years, our student body was involved in many worthy causes.  Although our district was quite affluent overall, some municipalities within the district were impoverished.  One of the favorite projects we did every year was called Santa's Stocking.  Each homeroom was given the name of 1 or 2 children- all ages, from babies to 15 years old- and homeroom representatives collected money and/or gifts.  To be on this gift list, families had to meet specific criteria as set forth by the North Hills Food Bank, and I remember that parents had to be out of work for at least two years.  Students were told at the beginning of this project that whatever gift(s) were bought by the classes, that would be all these children received from "Santa" that year, as the parents had no extra money for frivolities like Christmas presents.

Overheard chatter in the classes sounded like this:  "How could you NOT have Christmas presents?  That is so sad"  or  "I would cry if my mom and dad could not buy me new skis (or a car or a snowboard)." Perhaps  the greatest moment came when a favorite Social Studies teacher spoke to the entire school.  He told the student body that he did not remember what he received for Christmas last year, or a few years ago, but that there was one toy that he would always remember.  He was the son of a single mother, and there was no money for Christmas gifts at their house, because they did not even have enough money for food.  His name was given to a charity group, not unlike our Santa's Stocking, and he received a gift, the most important gift he had ever or would ever receive.  Just knowing someone cared enough to feel his pain - that he would have nothing for Christmas without their empathy and generosity, filled his heart with joy.  I think it takes a big man with big courage to share a personal story like this one, but this man is a teacher, and he knows he has a lesson worth teaching.  He still talks to all of the students every year, and the classroom discussions and the new feelings that the students shared because of his disclosure made, and continue to make, our school better.

If you are a teacher, perhaps you can ask your principal to partner with a group like the local food bank, for a canned food drive, Christmas gifts, or even a mitten tree. (I found out after all of the years of working with the food bank that gloves are the number one most requested item.) You could introduce the idea by having a student discussion or brainstorm some words to describe the emotions they think they would feel if they could not have Thanksgiving dinner, a winter coat and hat and gloves, or any holiday gifts.  Sometimes, just imagining such a scenario is impetus enough to help others.

There are so many great causes in our communities, and teaching our young people to show empathy for others is so important.  I always loved the day we wrapped the gifts for our "children" and then the entire class walked them down to the auditorium, which was filled with rows and rows of shiny new bicycles, giant stuffed animals, new winter coats and boots, and a most wanted toy for each child.  On the walk back to our now-empty classroom, students said things like "I hope she will like our presents" or "I wish I could see him when he sees the bike!"As the teacher, I always wrote a letter to the parents and asked them to send us a note about the gifts.  We usually received a thank you note, and sometimes a picture, and for many students, the warmth of that good feeling of helping someone and feeling their pain and joy was reignited.  I believe that although sometimes our classes gave simple gifts, there was nothing simple about the learning to feel empathy that happened.

We are coming up to a special time of year, which for some, will not be festive. 

Maybe you or your classes could make some magic happen for someone who is not expecting any, and they, too, can learn the lesson of empathy and the good feelings associated with giving.

As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions.  Best, Dede

Rittman Publishing, LLC

My press release just came out for STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER.  Jason Price at Word Association Publishers designed it, and it is beautiful! You can see it at and click on Media and the download press kit.

ALSO- I made a new Facebook page for my book!  Please visit my page and like it at 

Monday, October 13, 2014

"You should never retire FROM something; you should always retire TO something." Dr. Paula Calabrese

Years before I ever knew I would have to retire from teaching in June of 2011 to take care of my darling husband, Scott, who was dying from stage four colon cancer, I had a luncheon meeting with my good friend Dr. Paula Calabrese, who said to me the words I used to title this piece, "You should never retire FROM something; you should always retire TO something." Paula is so bright and so capable, so I always listen when she speaks. She has so much to teach, and I am a very willing pupil, so I thought about my next focus.  When I retired from teaching, it was to take care of Scott and his parents.  For a year, I was never without a focus.  Then Scott died May 8, 2012; Dad Rittman died July 18, 2012; and Mom Rittman died September 26, 2012.  However, I still was not without a focus!  I  had all of the house fixing and clean up to do before it was put on the market; there was much time spent looking at condos; and for the first time in a long time, I was the only one I had to take care of- definitely not the norm for me!

I always wanted to be a writer. In fact, here is a secret I will share with you:  I think every English teacher wants to be a writer!  All those credits in prose and poetry- appreciating the singular beauty of similes and metaphors, modifiers and qualifiers, precise word choices and action verbs- is just too much to bear, and we see ourselves enveloped in these beautiful words and images, and we want to be a part of it, just as it is a part of us. But there is no way an English teacher working full time can ever have the luxury of time needed to compose and reflect and edit. 

When Scott was dying from colon cancer for those 30 months, I wrote a weekly blog on a free site called The Caring Bridge.  This free site is for those who are seriously ill, and the caregiver or a family member or close friend can post updates on the patient's progress.  I remember discussing this site with Scott.  He was not sure that he wanted any part of it, but he agreed it would be easier for me to write a weekly update than to answer 50 plus emails and phone calls per week.  

And so my journey as a writer began, and at the time, I did not even know it.  I did know that I liked the feeling and the process of writing for an audience.

The first entries of The Caring Bridge were tentative.  I did not want to disclose too much information, as Scott was so private, but I did want to thank all who cared enough to log in and check on him. Gradually, Scott and I worked out a pattern of behaviors which was almost like a dance: we focused on discussing what was important to share, giving a glimpse into our daily life together  (which we still tried to enjoy as much as possible despite his diagnosis), and saying thank you to all who visited our site.  

The writing was cathartic for me.  I tried to write when Scott was not in the same room, as I always cried while typing, as I attempted to compose and present everything in a positive manner.  I  read each entry to Scott before posting it to the Internet, because it was his site as much as mine. We both enjoyed the positive and uplifting comments posted by friends, and our site became an extension of our real life friends, in an  Internet  friendship venue.  In 30 months, we had over 15,000 visits, a true testament to the loyalty and faithfulness of our friends.

Besides missing Scott terribly, I really missed writing on The Caring Bridge after Scott died.

I revisited a book I started years before, liked what I read, and decided to finish writing the book.  


And the timing was so right.  This past week, I also retired from 33 years of coaching golf at North Allegheny. I retired FROM coaching TO full time writing, just like Paula advised me to do all those years ago.  And now it feels right.  I enjoy writing this blog every week. I am starting a new book. And right now,  I am on the wings of a flurry of publicity for my new book, which is available on amazon, Kindle, IBooks, Nook, and at    

I was even lucky enough to get some good press and free publicity from Kevin Gorman at the Tribune Review.  If you did not see his article and blog about my career as a coach, teacher, and writer, here is the link.  (It is quite flattering).  

I share all of this with you because I have found that it is important to have something to look forward to each day and to continue to contribute, even after retirement.  Each person is blessed with many talents, and I am happy to share my talents and ideas with others. I suppose that the cliché is true:  Once a teacher, always a teacher. 

Thank you, Paula, my good friend, for your words of wisdom.  Thank you, my friends and readers, for allowing me to share my feelings and ideas with you.  

I am looking to advertise my book. I bought a book called 1001 WAYS TO MARKET YOUR BOOK, and I have already begun to implement some of those strategies. One line in the book struck me:  MORE BOOKS ARE SOLD BY WORD OF MOUTH THAN BY ANY OTHER VENUE.  So, I am asking for your help.  If you can help me to spread the word and need more information, please visit . You can read an entire chapter on my website.  I will share this with you- a bus driver who took the NA team to a golf match read the book while we were playing in the tournament.  She told me that it was not just for teachers, but that my book was a blueprint for how to be successful.  I promise you that it is a fast and a fun read.  Any ideas or suggestions would be welcomed. I need to get into colleges and universities, and would appreciate any help from all of you.  Thanks in advance for caring! 

Best,   Dede

Rittman Publishing, LLC

A note about The Caring Bridge- it is a free site.  Go to to set up your own site. This takes a lot of the stress off the caregiver, as updates can be written on a schedule or as needed. If you would like to visit Scott's site. log in to  In the site you want to visit, type scottrittman as one word.  You will be prompted to enter and email and to create a password to use (they never send you any email).  I posted many pictures and updates, plus you can look at the Guestbook and see the many messages that were left.  My final entry in the site is the eulogy I wrote and gave at Scott's funeral.  I read it to him before he died, along with his obituary, which I wrote on my IPad as he lay dying.   The Caring Bridge was a wonderful vehicle for us to use to keep everyone in the loop. If one person benefits from knowing about this site from my blog, my writing/editing time was worth more than gold.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Success in golf depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind and character. Arnold Palmer

This past week, I had a great opportunity to be with golf legend Arnold Palmer.  This was not our first meeting; indeed, we have spoken on many occasions through the years, mostly on a golf course, but not always. This week's blog is about Lessons the Bunny Teacher Learned from Arnold Palmer. 

The WPIAL Boys' Individual Finals were held at Latrobe Country Club on October 2, and Mr. Arnold Palmer  was to make a guest appearance before the tournament and provide a photo opportunity for all of the players and the WPIAL Golf Committee, of which I am a member. People over the age of 50 know about the contributions Arnold Palmer has made to the golf world; the young people know the Arnold Palmer drink in a can. What everyone was to find out is this:  Arnold Palmer is a man who honors his commitments. 

Mr. Palmer arrived, and he looked so sick.  Turns out, he was not only sick, he stopped off at the course on the way to see his doctor.  Why did he come to the course when he was ill?  He told the players he would.  Simple, honest, and true, his Western Pennsylvania values superseded his illness. Near the close of the competition, he even came back! (Looking and feeling better, I should add, after an adjustment to his new pacemaker, he told me.)   He was his affable self, shaking hands and allowing photos with anyone who asked.  When a playoff ensued, he drove out to watch the drama and congratulated the winner, remembering the times when he was the WPIAL Champion in both 1946 and 1947. 

I had the chance to spend more than an hour with Arnold Palmer, my favorite golfer.  I told him that when I was a little girl (and the Steelers were terrible), Daddy and I would sit in the same overstuffed chair (we were both painfully thin) and watch golf.  Daddy would say "That Arnold Palmer is going to change golf.  He makes it fun and exciting, and it won't be just a rich man's game anymore."  (Daddy was right.  Arnold Palmer did change the face of golf forever, and his legions of fans know that he is the man behind the exponential growth of the game all those years ago.)  I shared this story with Arnie, and he looked at me with such seriousness and such humility, then looked down, almost embarrassed, and said "Thank you."

Arnold Palmer is one of the most successful businessmen who ever lived.  His name sells everything from cars to drinks to memberships in the USGA. Yet, he is a very real person. We discussed many topics,  from my late husband's death from cancer (I cried because of the empathy he showed me as he patted my hand, remembering the loss of his wife, Winnie) to the importance of coaches in young people's lives. We talked about his grandsons (I know both) and about pacemakers (Daddy had one.) We walked down memory lane as I shared that I walked outside the ropes with him on 18 at Oakmont in 1994, his last US Open, and that I cried every step of the hole.  He humbly looked down and murmured a low "Thank you."

But this piece is about neither adoration nor adulation. Arnold Palmer is simply a man who never forgot his roots and his core values.  He is successful because he worked hard his entire life, and he continues to work several days a week, even at age 85. His philanthropy is legendary, with medical centers and wings from the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando to the Arnold Palmer Pavilion at the UPMC in Pittsburgh to the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies and the Arnold Palmer Prostate Center in California. He is the spokesperson for the USGA, and the "King" of the Golf Channel, as well as the designer of worldwide and world class golf courses.  Yet, Arnold Palmer still lives in Latrobe, and continues to make his hometown better, through his support of the Latrobe Excela  Hospital and the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve near St. Vincent College in Latrobe, just to name a few. 

I had a great day with Arnold Palmer.  With all of his accomplishments, he was interested in me, as both a person and as a coach.  He thanked me for my 33 years of service to the youth of North Allegheny as a coach.  Very humbling, I will say, and a day I will never forget.  

Arnold Palmer confirmed what I already knew about him as a person, and what I would like to share with you.  It is important to remember your roots.  Those are the people who liked you before you were famous.  Giving back is the way to go.  No need for fanfare, just do things quietly, and make the lives of others better, just because you can. Appreciate what you have. Humility is key.  Remember who you are and where you came from.  Be yourself.  Don't let the adulation of millions of people change your persona. They like you for who you are, so why change?  Don't let success go to your head.  If you are good at something, share it with others.  Arnold Palmer has taught countless others to play the game (including his grandsons.) Remember the lessons your father taught you, as they will serve you well for the rest of your life.  Here is the link to a recent and short video in which Arnie remembers his childhood lessons:

There will never be another Arnold Palmer.  The word GOLF is synonymous with his name.  His passion made the game exciting and fun and available to everyone on a world stage.  His charity and compassion for others exceeds that of any other athlete, which is why he received the Congressional Gold Medal  in 2012, one of only six athletes to receive this honor.  

Thank you, Arnold Palmer, for being you, and for teaching all of us what success, grace, and humility really mean.  You are a national treasure who just happens to be from Latrobe.  And one more time, I will say what I have always said to you every time we have met through these many decades and years :  "I still love you, Arnie."  And your answer (with the twinkle in your eyes) is always the same:  "I know, honey. you told me last time." 

Rittman Publishing, LLC