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

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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.