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.