Monday, May 25, 2015

“I think there is one higher office than President - and I would call that patriot.” —Gary Hart

On this Memorial Day, 2015, I am thinking back to when I was a child and the day to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice  was called "Decoration Day."  My family lived on a main road, and my brothers and I could watch the parade from the top of our front steps. When we got a little older, we sometimes rode our bicycles after the end of the parade for a few blocks.  I can remember my late mother talking about "Decoration Day" when she was a child, and that many people worked together to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers from all of the wars. (My mother was born in 1922, so decorating the graves of the World War I deceased were also included in her memories.) When I was in junior high school, I learned that for many years following the Civil War, fallen heroes were honored and remembered by their entire families, who would pack picnic lunches to eat graveside after planting flowers and tending to the plot of their loved one. (The honor of sacrifice back then is so much different than the "Memorial Day sales" today.)

How many of today's students know that Decoration Day began three years after the Civil War, and the purpose was to decorate the graves and commemorate the lives of fallen soldiers?  How many know that "Decoration Day" was changed to "Memorial Day" in 1967 to honor all men who gave the ultimate sacrifice for America?

Schools today have such a huge emphasis on "teaching to the test", but I am writing this column today with the hope that teachers will remember that schools are the sustainers of our unique American culture.  The knowledge imparted in schools will keep important cultural traditions alive.  Students need to know why Memorial Day is such an important day in the history of our country, and that all veterans should be recognized for their service to our country, especially those who gave their lives. More and more in this crazy world with the emergence of ISIS and their barbaric beheadings, Americans are  recognizing even more that we would not have the freedoms we enjoy today without the sacrifice of the servicemen and women. For me personally, when I see  servicemen and servicewomen, I verbally thank them for their service, and I often shake hands with them as well. The United States of America was built on the backs of her soldiers, and the ones who survived deserve our recognition, just as the ones who were killed deserve to be honored by all Americans. I am not making a political statement about my feelings as a hawk or a dove, just that service to one's country demands respect from others.

Taking a few minutes of classroom time to teach an important life lesson like Decoration Day and Memorial Day is my suggestion. Teaching gratefulness for courage and honor for service are two important lessons not to be missed.  Although questions about these topics will not be on the Pennsylvania Keystone exams, these lessons are as important as any that will be tested.

Today is a good day to honor a fallen soldier with a word, a thought, or a prayer.  Today is also a good day to thank a veteran. I am think of, and thanking my dad, George J. Faltot, WWII veteran, who is in Heaven right now, and I ask you to join me in showing appreciation and thankfulness to all of the veterans in our collective pathways. Have a thoughtful Memorial Day. Dede

My dad, George J. Faltot, in his WWII Army uniform.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

I found an interesting article online about how Decoration Day came into being- very informative.

TWITTER @dederittman
LINKEDIN Dede Faltot Rittman
Facebook Dede Faltot Rittman or Rittman Rules 


Monday, May 18, 2015

Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots - but you have to play the ball where it lies. - Bobby Jones

On Saturday, I played in The First Tee event at Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley, PA, which is the golf club where I belong. It is a yearly event in which students who attend programs with The First Tee of Pittsburgh are invited as guests to play at our course. Foursomes were comprised of two club members and two first tee kids. I had the opportunity to play with a bright young lady who represented The First Tee in a very positive light, with her good manners and her interest in the game. It was evident that all of the kids were a little nervous to play at such a "great country club", as they called it, but once the rounds began, the caring adults in the group made the kids feel safe, important, respected, and valued.

Do you know about The First Tee?   10.5 million students have participated in The First Tee since its inception in 1997. 19,000 adults work as volunteers with the program. Besides teaching the fundamentals of the golf swing, kids learn real life lessons like how to: manage emotions, communicate with others, set goals, and resolve conflicts.  They also have a strict code of conduct that includes showing respect for oneself, others, and one's surrounding.  Additionally, students of The First Tee learn nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment.  The First Tee is really a program to teach character and life skills, and to help students to be successful in both school and life. Adult mentors and coaches help students with their struggles on and off the golf course, enabling the students to grow and mature into responsible adults.  

If you are a teacher, all of the information I have listed sounds a lot like what we do in our roles as teachers in school, doesn't it? Every teacher in every school is a mentor and a coach, helping students to set and reach goals, manage emotions, communicate with others, and to gain confidence. Teachers have daily opportunities through classroom experiences, extracurricular experiences, and sports programs to teach all of these same lessons, as well as core values, to students.  I think that sometimes with testing and scores and covering material, teachers lose sight of how important the job of mentoring really is. You, the teacher,  must make your students feel safe, important, respected, and valued to bring out the best in them, just like The First Tee. 

I strongly recommend The First Tee to all young people, and I urge you, as teacher mentors, to recommend The First Tee to your students.  When it comes right down to it, golf is really a lot like life.  The way a person conducts himself on the golf course tells so much about that person: his temperament, whether or not he cheats, how he handles adversity, and how he gets along with others.  Those same standards apply in the classroom and on the playing field. Help your students to be the best they can be - by being the best teacher that you can be. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions

Connect with Dede!
Twitter @dederittman
Google+  Dede Rittman
Facebook  Dede Faltot Rittman or Rittman Rules
LinkedIn  Dede Rittman

Dede's book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER, has won a fifth award!  or

To see more about The First Tee, go to: 

Monday, May 11, 2015

"The future destiny of a child is always the work of the mother."- Napoleon Bonaparte

And so another Mother's Day is here.  For many, this is a day of great joy, and it should be. Procreating life and perpetuating one's name is an unbelievable gift!  Wearing the title of Mother is so wonderful. Congratulations and a wonderful day to all of you!  

But for those women who do not have children, whether by choice or not, it can be a sad day. 

I do not have any children, and many of my female teacher colleagues did/do not have children.  However, I choose to think of Mother's Day as a wonderful day to think about all of the students I had in class: in the musicals, in the talent shows, and on the golf teams for the 37 years I taught school. Indeed, I did have the great opportunity to be the surrogate mother more times than I could have ever imagined!  I believe that if I really think about it and weigh all of the times I taught a boy how to tie a tie, my total is probably around 300 boys. I think if I count all the girls I taught how to apply stage make-up, mascara, lipstick, or eyeliner, my total is around 500. If we move on to bows and bow ties, add another 600-800. And those are just some practical knowledge shares, which do not even include the shaping of character and morals. 

Of course, the reason for this blog is simple: whether or not you are a mom, in some way you have contributed to the well-being of a young person.  Female teachers know this to be especially true.   No matter what your age when you begin your career, you are instantly "Mom" to many of your students.  Guess what?  That is a magnificent thing in itself!  Helping to guide young people, regardless of age, is always the correct thing to do.

Happy Mother's Day to all moms out there - and all of the "teacher moms" as well!  I am so know that your caring, time, advice, and influence will ripple for years to come.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Connect with Dede!

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


Monday, May 4, 2015

"If you improve a teacher's self-esteem, confidence, communication skills, or stress levels, you improve that teacher's overall effectiveness across the curriculum." Elaine MacDonald

I was fortunate to have the great opportunity to attend the National Publicity Summit in New York City this past weekend.  I was invited as the Producer and Co-Host of the Total Education Network (, and I was part of a symposium and forum of media moguls who answered questions and gave advice to people who have a product to offer: a book, an idea, a service, or an invention.  It was truly an exciting opportunity, and one that made me think about the importance of confidence in everyday life, and especially for teachers. .

After participating in the Q and A session, I was ushered to a booth where participants "pitched" their ideas and books to me.  Each person was given 2 1/2 minutes, and they were tapped on the shoulder by my assistant at the 2 minute mark, so each one knew that only 30 seconds remained to close his pitch.  I listened and took notes for 3 hours.  I will say that the situation was intense, but exhilarating, and the world is filled with creative people!.

Some of the participants had an obviously memorized and rehearsed speech, which I did not find to be very effective. To be honest, these carefully memorized pitches were painful to hear. Whether I should have or not, I stopped a few of the participants with the scripted speeches and said  "Since it's just me, why don't we just talk and you tell me about yourself and your idea?" You see, after 37 years in the classroom, coaching, and directing, I really believe the best "pitch" is simply this: to be yourself. I could actually see the relief on the faces of the people to whom I made this suggestion. The memorized pitch made the people look less confident; speaking with passion about their book or product was so much more effective. After reflecting on this experience, I confirmed in my thought process that it is never a good idea to pretend or say something rehearsed, because being yourself is so much more sincere, real, and rewarding,  I believe that for teachers, this statement is especially correct, and that  teachers must present themselves in a true and authentic way to be effective.   

I know that when I was in the classroom, as well as coaching and directing, two things were true for all of those hats I wore:  as the teacher, coach, or director, I had to be confident, and I had to be myself. In case you do not know this, students grades K-College can see right through those educators who lack confidence and present a "fake" self. It is very difficult to maintain a fake persona as well, especially if that persona attempts to be perfect and know everything! Teachers do not have to know every answer to every question!  In fact, a teachable moment presents itself when the teacher confidently says that he or she does not know the answer, and the class should find the answer together. The passion about finding the correct answer together will not be lost on your students. 

Confidence and authenticity are MUSTS for every classroom leader, and teachers must always remain true to themselves, be only themselves, and not present a false self to their students.  Teachers should show their students that they like and respect them because the students are their authentic selves, and the students will return that respect for the authentic teacher.  In this crazy world, where it is sometimes difficult to determine what is real and what is fake, students need and want a real relationship with their teachers, whom they perceive as leaders.  Teachers should present passion and confidence for their subjects, as well as in sharing the teaching and learning experience with the students.

Authenticity and confidence are two ingredients of great teachers. Practice both for greater success in your classroom. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.  

Connect with Dede!

Twitter @dederittman
Facebook Dede Faltot Rittman or Rittman Rules 
LinkedIn Dede Rittman
Google + Dede Rittman
Tumblr The Bunny Teacher

See Dede's 5 star book reviews on