Monday, January 26, 2015

"Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together." James Cash Penney

I was very fortunate to work in a school in which the teachers really cared about the students, and we worked as a group to make our school better.  The staff was composed of many leaders, but only one common agenda: improving the school climate.

What kinds of activities did we promote?  We sponsored an in-service day Canadian Breakfast for the entire district staff at our school, with monies used for student activities.  This breakfast was a yearly function for over a decade.  The staff also worked with the students to clean up and beautify the courtyards of our once award-winning, but later, neglected green spaces. Homeroom teachers worked together to promote "penny wars", uniting the staff and student body toward a common fund raising goal. We sponsored North Allegheny Intermediate, aka, NAI Idol, as well as a Battle of the Bands, both to benefit charity projects chosen by the students.  Before Thanksgiving every year, the school partnered with the local food bank, and homerooms raced against each other to win the top prize for bringing in the most cans. One year, our school brought in more than 12,000 cans, and the students learned first hand about the great things that can happen when school and the community work together. Our school also worked with the local food bank for a Santa's Stocking Project, in which home rooms "adopted" a needy child and became that child's Santa Claus for Christmas.  At our school, student council committees held special "teacher appreciation" luncheons and after school events. The memories of some of these touching events still live within me, as they validated all I tried to be as a teacher.

You see, our students respected us as teachers, and the teachers also respected the students.  The staff leaders took turns thinking of ways to improve the school itself,  the student body as a team, or the staff and students as a team, and the ideas were supported by the staff, administration, and school as a whole.  It was an almost perfect environment, as I look back.  No petty jealousies, no back biting, just a group of dedicated teachers who wanted their school to be the best it could be, and to teach the lessons of teamwork and goal setting along with the joy of giving to charity. I have had the opportunity to see many of my former students through the years, and they, too, look back fondly on their time at North Allegheny Intermediate, a school that promoted respect, caring, and sharing.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions

Rittman Publishing, LLC. 

Connect with Dede!

Twitter @dederittman

LinkedIn Dede Faltot Rittman

Facebook Rittman Rulea

Monday, January 19, 2015

"When you encourage others, you in the processes are encouraged because you're making a commitment and difference in that person's life. Encouragement really does make a difference." Zig Ziglar

I have been traveling in Florida for a few weeks, and this past week I stayed at the home of Jim and Cathy Sloan.  Jim and I taught together at North Allegheny Intermediate High School for over 30 years.  He retired in 2004 and I retired in 2011, and although we are no longer together every day, our friendship has never wavered. When we were teaching, Jim and I had  similar teaching styles, and we also shared a great passion for making both teaching and learning fun. Our classrooms were our personal theaters, the stages on which we performed five shows daily.  We loved our subjects, our classes, coaching, and even cafeteria duty.  Looking back, I must say that our zest for teaching, the high expectations for our students, our care, concern, and respect for our students, and the use of lots of humor in the classroom made our students arrive at class on time, and for the most part, ready to learn.

Jim and Cathy and I discussed our past teaching lives, and we remembered some outstanding students as well as some students who had problems.  I talked about my various blogs about how one person can make a difference in the life of another, especially in terms of a teacher/student relationship.  Jim shared a great story that I will share with you; a story that really showcases the importance of  mentoring and guiding students.

Jim taught 10th grade World Cultures, and one day in late September, he noticed a female student in his class who was really involved with the wrong crowd.  Way beyond the "bad boy" group of smokers and drinkers, she was actually involved with a young man several years her senior who was involved in a shooting incident with police after he dropped her off at school.  Jim spoke with the girl and expressed his concern about the "friend choices" she was making. Embarrassed to be talking with a teacher, she asked Jim to assign detention to her; thus alleviating any chance that her school friends would think she was choosing to talk to a teacher. He assigned her the requested detention. During their detention conversation, the girl asked for advice; she really did not know what she should do.  Jim told her to drop her trouble-bound friends before she, too, got into trouble,  and to get some new friends.  Unbelievably, she dropped her friends.  But then came the rub - she asked him to assign her many more detentions, to talk to him about being unhappy, because she had no friends.  Obviously, this was not a good situation, for Jim or the student.  Jim thought about the problem, and asked another female student to stay after school for detention.  He felt that her personality and interests might be a good match for the student with no friends.  He introduced the two girls, who actually became friends very quickly.  In fact, their friendship lasted through high school, and they became college room mates!

Please allow me to share a very pleasant addendum to this story, which reaffirmed Jim's advice years before to "Get new friends." First, you need to know that Jim coached girls' tennis at North Allegheny for over 30 years.  The much younger niece of the troubled girl played tennis for Jim about 20 years after the original incident occurred.  The parents of the girl (née the aunt and uncle of the tennis player) attended a tennis match and waited to see Jim after the match.  They looked him squarely in the eyes, shook hands with Jim, and said "Thank you for saving our daughter's life all those years ago."  And so, there is a sort of fairytale ending to a very real story of a girl who was making bad choices, a story that could have ended in disaster.  As teachers, we have great power to influence the lives of young people in a positive manner.  We must wield that power carefully, always keeping in mind that we must do what benefits the student.

Teaching offers so many rewards, and helping to shape a life is one of the best rewards. Educators should always want the best for their students.

Do you have a story similar to Jim Sloan's?  Please fell free to comment or share your story.

As always, I welcomc your comments or suggestions.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Connect with Dede

Twitter @dederittman

LinkedIn Dede Faltot Rittman

Facebook Dede Faltot Rittman or Rittman Rules

Dede is available to speak to your group on a variety of educational topics or as an inspirational speaker.

Dede's award-winning book Student Teaching: The Inside Scoop from a Master Teacher, is available at

Monday, January 12, 2015

"I love using the latest technologies to make life more efficient, but I don't want to advocate that technology replaces the need to get together and enjoy human connections with people." Maynard Webb

In the past few weeks, I have really been thinking about just how inundated we all are with screens.  Television, IPads, IPods, IPhones, Samsungs, Galaxies, Kindles, texting, and desktop and laptop computer screens occupy such a huge part of our lives, and it seems that even our individual social interactions are also controlled by screens.  Facebook, Twitter, daily emails, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Google +, and all of the other social media sites require even more time than all of the hours we spent years ago returning phone calls.  The technology is a double-edged sword : the connections to others make us so much more accessible and connected, yet we are not really connected personally any more, because there is always a screen as the intermediary.  I don't know if you have noticed, but it seems we can never take time off from the screens, which have taken over our lives.

I taught grade 10 for 37 years, and I did not retire until well after schools were using computer labs and laptops and smartboards and all of the students had IPhones and IPods. The students were completely plugged in, long before Most adults I know. In fact, at one faculty meeting, the Principal said that we were no longer teaching teenagers; rather, we were teaching "screen-agers", and of course, he was correct.

Because of all of the screens that surround all of us every day, I believe that the daily human interactions between teachers and students is more important than ever.  Sometimes, students just want someone to listen to them, and to look them in the eyes as they speak. In my opinion, screens will never be able to replace the compassionate caring of another human being.  Students come to school every day with personal and family problems, and often, they need a sounding board or advice from a trusted adult.  Sadly, they can't always find either of those at home.  As teachers, we often spend more time with a child than their own parents, so it is only natural that a child would turn to a trusted teacher for help and support.  I urge you to be there for your students when they put their screens down.  Teachers have a great opportunity to create positive influences in the lives of their students.  Help them to make the human connection they sorely need in their screen-filled lives.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

As always,  I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Dede's book Student Teaching: The Inside Scoop from a Master Teacher, is available at or

Dede is available to speak on a variety of educational topics.  Contact info is available at her website.

Connect with Dede!

Twitter @dederittman
LinkedIn Dede Faltot Rittman
Facebook Dede Faltot Rittman or Rittman Rules

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Excited to,share this link!

Monday, January 5, 2015

"You can only do your best. That's all you can do. And if it isn't good enough, it isn't good enough. " Imelda Staunton

I recently heard a wonderful Children's Sermon at my church, and the lesson made a lot of sense, not only for the kids, but also for just about everyone I know.  The lesson was about how we view things in life.

The actual quote for the lesson was "As you go through life, make sure you look at the whole donut and not just at the hole."  Clever, right? So often, when we are faced with a small problem or when things are just not going our way, we tend to focus on only what is wrong, and we completely miss what is right in our lives.

What can we learn from that quote when it comes to Education? As a teacher for 37 years, I sat through so many parent meetings in which the parents were very down on their children, and I often had to be the child's advocate.  (Yes, I also sat through many meetings in which the parent thought the child was perfect.  I will save that for another blog.).  I must point out that in many cases, these students were good students, from nice homes, well-mannered, involved is sports and other activities, and really trying their best.  However, the parents were disappointed in the child's performance. For those who do not know, the Academics at North Allegheny are quite difficult, and even the very best students spend hours on homework and projects.  Under parental pressure, many students schedule all Honors and AP classes, which is challenging in itself, even before adding sports and clubs and jobs and boyfriends/girlfriends to the workload.  Although I am a proponent of high expectations and excellence, I am also a proponent of recognizing effort and work ethics.  Sometimes, parents place ridiculous standards on their children, both in Academics and in sports.  As a golf coach for 33 years, I saw first hand how some parents were reliving their own lives vicariously through the lives of their sons.  I actually had  players lie to their parents about their golf scores (before the Internet posted all scores) because the parents would be angry if the golf score was too high.  High school sports programs should provide a place to learn and to form friendships, and a place to grow and mature, and a place to have fun and have challenges.  High school sports should NOT be used by parents to measure a child.

As a teacher, you will encounter these kinds of parents.  Please be sure to point out the good things about the child when the parents are focusing on the negatives.  There is nothing wrong with being a "B" student when the child is doing the best he can.  There is nothing wrong with playing on the JV instead of the Varsity team if his talent is not extraordinary.  All children have special gifts, but not all children have ALL gifts. I am thinking back to so many students through the years, both in the classroom and on the golf team, who were completely down on themselves because their parents were down on them, no matter how hard they tried.  I always felt it was my job, as their teacher or coach, to tell them they were so much more than what their parents told them they were NOT.

You see, I saw the whole donut, and their parents only saw the hole.

Make sure you see the whole donut in your students and your own children, and let them know their efforts and positive attributes are appreciated.  You know how good you feel when your efforts are appreciated.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Please visit Dede's book site at

Follow Dede on Twitter @dederittman

Linked In Dede Faltot Rittman