Sunday, September 28, 2014

“[Kids] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” ― Jim Henson, It's Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider

I enjoy writing about education and learning and teaching.  I like to share personal anecdotes with all of you, my readers,  in the hopes that you will be able to glean a modicum of learning from my experiences.  Sometimes teachers must deal with situations for which they have not been trained.  My best advice is to do what is best for the students, and you will not be wrong. 

Many years ago, I had a fun and lively English II class of 28 students that was one of my favorite classes. Sadly, 7 students in that same class lost a parent during the school year.  Some passed from cancer, one was in an auto accident, one had huge health issues.  Each time a death occurred, I bought a sympathy card for everyone in the class to sign. We discussed the importance of showing respect for the deceased while supporting the survivors. Because this happened so many times, class discussions about sympathy and empathy were frequent, teary-eyed,  and sincere.  Clearly, the 7 students who suffered losses were hurting, and their classmates were feeling their pain as well.  The subject of handling parent deaths never came up in college (7 in the same class in a single school year!), so I followed my instinct to do what was best for both the individuals and the class as a whole.  The students became very close, and my classroom became a safe place at school where students could grieve with no fear of judgment.  I believe everyone in that class learned the true meaning of the word empathy. 

I am working with a young man right now who lost his father a few months ago in a tragic accident. This young man knew my late husband and we have discussed my profound sadness about Scott's death on more than one occasion.  A few days ago this young man shared with me that he had a really bad day.  I nodded my head in understanding and then  responded that sometimes bad days happen, and that it is all a part of the process.  He looked at me and said "I appreciate you so much.  I can just tell you things and you know just what I am feeling.  I never have to try to explain."  I said the words that I thought were right for him to hear, and they were the right words.  .

In your teaching career, many crazy situations will occur, and you will have no idea how to react. Just remember to do what is best for the STUDENT and your judgment should be correct.  

Rittman Publishing, LLC

My new website for STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER is up and running.  Check it out at 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place. Daniel H. Pink

Because I clearly remember how time consuming it is to be a teacher, when I see something interesting or eye catching that deals with education, I like to write about it in this blog for my teacher friends.  I was in Cleveland this weekend for the wedding of my nephew, and I saw a great story on Channel 19.  I have included the link to the video at the end of this piece.

The story was geared to elementary students, especially on the playground.  No, it is not a new type of slide or monkey bars, but it does create fun.  The new addition is called a Buddy Bench. Just what is the purpose of the Buddy Bench? Essentially, it is a place for kids to sit when they need a friend, need a playmate, or need to talk. The Buddy Benches in the story are specific to grade levels on the playground, and the children seem to be very receptive to the idea. The child interviews in the story are quite candid (as child interviews tend to be- think of Art Linkletter or Bill Cosby), and I was impressed enough to write this blog about this terrific concept.

Although I never taught elementary school, I see great lessons to be learned from this Buddy Bench; lessons that I believe would continue through middle school and high school.  When a student sits on the Bench, the student who joins him or her is really learning about empathy.  To me, the scenario stirs this kind of a conversation in the minds of the other students: "Someone is alone on the bench, and he needs a friend right now.  I think I will sit on the bench with him and find out why this person is alone."  I believe the Bench also promotes better communication skills which makes for better inclusion in the culture of the school.  It seems to me that learning these lessons about getting along with others and respecting the feeling of others early in life might make for fewer bullying incidents, which could make for fewer school shootings and stabbings.  A stretch?  I don't think so.  

I urge you to take a look at this television segment.  The children are so receptive to the idea of the Buddy Bench and the lessons they are learning.  Maybe the Buddy Bench should  be at all elementary school playgrounds.  We learn about relationships from our childhood friends, and we carry what we learned well into our adulthood.  By the way, I still have some of my childhood friends.  Do you?

As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions.

Here is the link to the story:  

My new book goes on sale September 27.  here is my new website 

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Sunday, September 14, 2014

“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” —Bob Kerrey

Educators, for so many reasons, are the guardians and curators of society. Children around the world learn acceptable behavior along with the meaning of the words "appropriate" and "not appropriate" in school.  For those who have not been taught manners at home, the cafeteria and classroom both serve as learning labs.  Teachers want to bring out the best in every child, which is why school classrooms are also headquarters for various charitable functions. Teaching knowledge by itself is not enough; we want to teach children caring, compassion, and kindness.

I was witness to an extraordinary moment this past week which I would like to share with you. This act was so pure and so unselfish that I have been thinking about it since I saw it.  

I was with the NA golf team at a teaching event at a local driving range.  Many golf professionals were assisting the 100 or so players from various school districts with their swings, driving, putting strokes, chip shots, and long iron shots. The camaraderie between the students was evident, and everyone was enjoying the lessons.  At the conclusion of the teaching sections, three contests were held:  long drive, chip shot, and putting.  The NA players won the first two contests hands down, but the putting contest was what caught my attention.

The putting green was located above ground level, and to get to the green, a person would have to climb a set of rock steps.  I saw a slightly built young man with some physical disabilities looking at the steps.  I noticed that his knees were locked, and his hands were at right angles to his wrists.  His coach had chosen him to represent their school in the putting contest, but first he had to get up the steps, which was obviously an impossibility for him.  I saw another young man, also with a slight build, approach him.  The two exchanged a few brief words, and then the second boy picked up the boy with locked knees and carried him up the steps!  No fanfare, no fireworks, just simple kindness and compassion between two friends. The coach told me this is the norm for these two friends; when the young man with the physical disability needs help to get down or up a hill on the golf course, his friend picks him up and carries him.  I am not embarrassed to tell you that I wept at this generosity of heart and brawn. Sometimes, a moment is just so perfect that you have to marvel at its perfection.  Such was this moment.  

The boy did not win the putting contest, although he gave a good run at it. His friend dutifully carried him back down the steps and the two looked so happy to be sharing that particular experience. They touched my heart forever.

As teachers and coaches, we hope to be able to teach kindness and caring, and we must always remember that we are the role models for young people. Children will become who we are. I believe that anyone who saw these two young men learned a wonderful lesson that day, and I hope they will take that lesson to heart, and pay the kindness forward.  

As always, I welcome your ideas, comments, or suggestions.  Have a great week, and be kind to someone.  It feels great.  

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Monday, September 8, 2014

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. - William Butler Yeats

When I think back to my teaching schedule, just writing the weekly lesson plans for English II, Essential English II, and Introduction to Theater required hours of work.  Making all of the necessary handouts to execute those plans was a huge venture, albeit one that I enjoyed and tried to improve upon every year.  I really loved the thrill of seeing the moments of learning occur on the faces of my students!  I know that students never knew how hard I worked for them. But they eventually discovered just how much effort it takes to be a teacher, even if it was on a small scale. 

For years, my English classes did a cooperative learning lesson in which each student was the "teacher" for his/her class of 5-6 students.  These lessons usually involved a review of 60 common usage problems.  I had students make lists of attributes of a "good" teacher as well as lists of teachers who were "not very good."  No names were involved, but students were very vocal on these topics.  I learned a lot from these discussions.  I showed students how to write a lesson plan, giving them the template to write their own.  Each "teacher" had a specific section to "teach", and they were required to make handouts and to compose and administer a quiz to check for understanding.  This assignment led to big discussions on how to make a test, what type of format should be used (matching, true-false, completion, essay, short answer?), and making sure that the quiz/test would be clear to the student.  I often laughed when some students would ask the question "Where can I find this test on the Internet?"  Although many samples of quizzes and tests are on the Internet, I told them that they had to make their test to match their teaching material.  

This cooperative learning lesson was a great exercise in confidence for many of my students. For one day, each was the "teacher" for their little group. I observed some of my shyest students bloom with confidence at their opportunity to share their new-found learning with their little groups.   If one of their "students" was absent on the day of their presentation, it was the responsibility of both students to get the lesson and take the quiz.  Believe me when I tell you that students' eyes were opened regarding the magnitude of work that goes into preparing a lesson, even a lesson for just one day!

After all presentations were completed, I handed out a questionnaire for students to answer, including their feelings about the work involved with being the teacher.  Many said it was just too much work; others said they enjoyed the work and the presenting.  I was so pleased when my former students became my colleagues. Sometimes, they shared with me that they remembered that lesson as well as the feeling of being the teacher and disseminating knowledge- what a rush!

I loved both school and teaching, and I continue to educate in my new book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER, now available on for pre-sale, with a release date of September 27, 2014.  If you love teaching, I think you will like my book.  I speak in first person, just as I do on this blog, with many personal anecdotes and some common sense information, which, as you know, is not so common.  I am also available for speaking engagements. 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Monday, September 1, 2014

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

Upon reflection this Labor Day weekend, I am thinking that for many teachers, as well as myself, the true "new year" has never been on January 1; rather,  the real new year is the beginning of each new school year. Although I am retired now, I still feel the stirrings and the anticipation of new beginnings, even as Fall brings its crisp mornings and colored leaves, the sound of football stadium cheering, and the roar of the school buses on their neighborhood routes.  When I was teaching, I always liked the idea of a "fresh start" each school year, and I believe that in no other job or profession can you have even close to the excitement of that first day of school. Teachers have the chance to practice their skills on an entirely different group of students.  For students, the curriculum that each teacher knows "by heart" presents difficult student learning challenges waiting to be conquered   For teachers, the new year brings an additional opportunity to tweak and hone lessons, making them even better than the lessons you taught  last year. I know that revamping presentations and lessons was one of my favorite parts of teaching; I thought it was fun to reflect on the lessons and think about how I could improve those lessons each year. I believe that the good teacher is similar to a good lawyer or doctor, in that teachers learn from their mistakes and experiences, making them more aware of what works and what does not work, both in the classroom and in dealing with individual students and parents.  

Although I am not teaching in the classroom this year, I want to share a new beginning with all of you.  I spent the last year finishing a book for student teachers. a book which I began to write several years ago, and continued to rewrite and revise.  So, it is only right, that in this month of September, my book is being published and is now available for pre-sale orders and on Kindle, Ibooks, Nook, and  in Barnes and Noble as well.  I hope to be back in the classrooms of colleges and universities to share my expertise with aspiring teachers.  I have written a practical and fun read to help anyone who is in education, especially student teachers and new teachers.  Suddenly, September is just as exciting as it was for those 37 years in the classroom!  I hope you will have a chance to check it out!    The book is called STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER by Dede Faltot Rittman. My new website is still under construction, but here is the link to Amazon:   

I must tell you that it is completely surreal to see my book cover and picture on The paperback is $12.95 and the Kindle version is just $3.99. 

I have always loved school and teaching, and this book is merely an extension of that love, as i offer a helping hand to those who are new in the profession. .  

Rittman Publishing, LLC