Monday, June 29, 2015

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it” ― Gautama Buddha

I have mentioned this before, but I actually LIKE to work.  I like the challenges and creativity, the problems and solutions.  I like feeling useful and being of service to others. I like the fact that I am contributing to society every day.  I loved both teaching and coaching, and found my purpose in both for 37 years, and now I have found a new purpose in my retired life as an author, a speaker, a radio talk show co-host, and an educational consultant.

I live in the school district in which I taught for 35 years, so it is not too unusual for me to bump into former students around town.  I have seen two students in the past few months who are now adults, but who are dealing with sad issues in their lives.  Both of these students are wandering aimlessly, living at home, and depressed because of their particular circumstance. I spent over an hour with each of them, and it felt just like I was back in the classroom and they were in 10th grade again.  

Sometimes, families members walk around problems, because they hope by not addressing those issues, the problems will go away.  (That method never works. I know this for a fact, as I have tried it myself.)  Instead, as my former students poured their individual problems out for me to hear, I led them to recognize and say aloud what their parents or significant others would not say to them - they did not know their purpose.  

Knowing and having a purpose is so fulfilling.  At the end of the day, it just feels good to finish a project, to help a friend or neighbor, to do a good deed, or to put in a hard day's work.  When grief or sadness or anger try to steal away happiness, one's purpose and work can go a long way toward helping to keep an even keel. I, personally, believe that our life's purposes are constantly changing, and that we must open our minds and our spirits to embrace the purposes with which we are presented.

When my parents both died unexpectedly within 82 days of each other back in 2002, I was very depressed.  Both died of massive heart attacks without any warning, and there were no final goodbyes.  I continued to teach and coach, to be the best wife I could be, and to try to make my life as normal as possible, which really helped me personally.  When Scott died in 2012, I had already retired from teaching, but I continued to coach and to do all of the paperwork that comes with a death.  My purpose was also to clean up our house to be sold, and to find a new condo for one, which was maintenance-free.  It took 5 months of 16 hours a day to do all of that, but each night, I could go to sleep knowing that I was fulfilling my purpose for that time. Moving and the death of a spouse, along with the deaths of both of my husband's parents and a diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer (no, I never smoked-very scary) took some time to work through, and I knew I had to find a new purpose.  I had started writing my book for student teachers some years before, returning to it now and then.  I suddenly had the chance to really write, as I no longer had hundreds of English II essays to grade. I began this blog, and finished and published the book.  

I feel lucky that I have had so many purposes, and I feel for someone who can't find one.  I told both of my former students in separate conversations that they must go back to what they love to do. Work and purpose must be enjoyable to be good for one's mental health.
It seems silly, but for both, those words were what they needed to hear.  They walked away from our conversations with hope in their eyes, and I hope they are both on the road to discovering their individual purposes. 

Here's to all teachers knowing their purpose and to helping their students to find theirs. 

“Get going. Move forward. Aim High. Plan a takeoff. Don't just sit on the runway and hope someone will come along and push the airplane. It simply won't happen. Change your attitude and gain some altitude. Believe me, you'll love it up here.” ― Donald Trump

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Dede's book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER, has won 7 awards! Buy it at 

See Dede's 5 star reviews on Amazon

Connect with Dede!

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

Sunday, June 21, 2015

"My grandson Sam Saunders has been playing golf since he could hold a club and I spent a lot of time with him over the years. Like my father taught me, I showed him the fundamentals of the game and helped him make adjustments as he and his game matured over the years." Arnold Palmer

Father's Day and Sunday at the U.S. Open fall on the same day every year.  I think both have great lessons to teach.

A father's love and influence cannot be measured.  Early childhood lessons from dads resonate as loudly as the later-in-life quiet talks with dads, as father and child reflect on what has been learned in the life the two have shared.  Life lessons are passed from generation to generation, each incorporating the "Dad-isms"  into the lives of his/her own children.  Just think about the number of times we utter sentences beginning with "My dad said . . ." or "My dad told me. . ." or "My dad said that when he was young . . ."

After teaching for 37 years, I knew that the students who did not have an active and loving father in their lives knew that they were missing something special.  Their "free writings" (that means write about anything that strikes a chord with you!) echoed their desire to have a "whole family."  Many of those students chose male staff members as their paternal influence. They wanted and needed the guidance that a father provides: try your best; don't quit; you are better than you think you are; sometimes Life disappoints, but that is no reason to stop trying; Failure is also a good teacher, but only if you pay attention to why you failed.

So, what do fathers and Father's Day have to do with the U.S.Open? Golf and life are very similar, and competing on the world stage adds stressors that mere mortals who are not golf professionals cannot even vaguely understand. Players must adhere to all of Dad's lessons and teachings in order to compete and rise above the rest.  After a bad shot or missed putt, they need to hear Dad saying, "One shot- put it behind you and keep trying."   When a bad break occurs, and there will be many more at Chambers Bay, players must carry Dad in their collective ear saying, "Life disappoints, and so does Golf, but keep going and give it your best."  Many of the PGA Tour players were taught to play golf by their fathers, which makes the winner's hug from dad at the conclusion of the tournament all the more poignant.
I really love it that Father's Day and the final round of the Open are on the same day. Somehow, this sharing of this special day is just right.

My dad is gone now, having left us in 2002.  He played golf in his early years, and he was delighted when I began playing, and then coaching golf for 33 years.  In the 42 years I have played, I have heard my father's voice in my ear hundreds of times, encouraging me and applauding me.  I wish I could have another conversation with him, perhaps to talk about golf, but more importantly to tell him how much I appreciate all of the life lessons he imparted.

Happy Father's Day to all dads!  Thanks for sharing your wisdom, both on and off the golf course!

ADDENDUM:  PGA golfer Jason Day personifies the message of this blog.  On Friday of the championship on the 9th hole, his final hole to play, Jason fell to the ground, a victim of vertigo.  He got up carefully and finished the round and went to the hospital for testing.  On Saturday at the Open, Jason shot an impressive 68, and finished in a four-way tie with three other golfers for the lead.  Jason admitted he did not have his usual energy, but he plowed forward, with his trusty caddie, Colin Swatton by his side. Colin is not the usual bag-carrying and yardage-wielding caddie; he is also Jason's swing coach mentor, and as Jason says, his "Father figure." Colin came into Jason's life as a golf teacher when Jason was just 13, a year after Jason's father died from stomach cancer.  The two have been best friends for years. If Jason Day wins today- Father's Day and Sunday at the U.S.Open at Chambers Bay-the story will be about much more than a golf score.  It will be about giving one's best under difficult circumstances, putting the bad shots behind, and being guided by the encouragement of  a friend, coach, mentor and father figure.  Win or lose, this is a great Father's Day story, which will become a part of the annals of U.S.Open history. 

Great article on Jason and Colin: 

As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Visit Dede's new and updated website! 

Read the five star reviews on Amazon! 

Connect with Dede

Facebook  Dede Faltot Rittman
LinkedIn  Dede Faltot Rittman
Twitter @dederittman
Tumblr  The Bunny Teacher
Instagram dede_rittman
Google+  Dede Rittman 

Monday, June 15, 2015

"Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.”― Marian Wright Edelman

I never have to look very far to find topics to write about for my weekly blog.  Just paying attention while going through life presents me with many blog ideas.

I was a "walk in"  at a nail salon on Tuesday afternoon around 5:30 p.m.  The salon was not crowded when I arrived, so I delighted in immediate service.  Within 15 minutes or so, the salon was packed, and people were waiting. When my nails were under the dryer at 6:15, a woman walked in and approached a nail technician who was sitting alone at a table while many people were waiting.  The woman said 'Hi, I'm here."  The nail tech was plainly upset, yet very controlled. She said softly in her English-is my-second-language-voice "Where were you? I must pass up others for your appointment."  She was not stern, but she was upset that she could have made more money from another client, rather than waiting for this client.  (If you have ever had your nails done, you know that the workers spend long hours at the salons- for very low pay.) The late client puffed herself up, put one hand on her hip, and thrust the pointer finger of her other hand into the nail tech's face, bellowing loud enough for everyone in the salon to hear, "Are you REPRIMANDING ME for being late?  Is that what YOU are trying to do? To reprimand ME, in front of all of these people?"  (It was truly ugly, and I think anyone who intervened would have become a punching bag, which is why I said nothing.  I need my face and other parts of my body to be in complete working order.) This woman personified a bad attitude.  The nail technician looked at her and attempted to hold her ground. "You are late. You could have called. I lost a customer." These words were not said in a pleading voice, just quietly, as a statement of fact.  The woman did not back down; she shook her head and shouted again,  "You ARE trying to reprimand me in front of all these people." After a short standoff and a few whispered words between the two, the bullying and bellowing lady with bad attitude sat down to have her manicure. It was an ugly scene to observe.

Throughout the exchange of words, the nail tech held her dignity while the thundering woman lost any dignity she may have had - the very moment she opened her mouth.

Of course, these two women were arguing about consideration and respect.  The nail technician had a complete understanding of the meanings of those two words in two languages, but the client had no understanding of either word, not even in her native language, English.

Welcome to society today.  You have probably noticed from the local news reports that these kinds of confrontations are not uncommon.  We see videos of women wrestling in a Wal-mart. Road rage incidents abound. More and more, people show total disrespect for any authority figure and think that is OK, because they believe they are above listening to and respecting authority, or showing consideration for others. In essence, the accepted norm of society for so many years, being considerate of others, no longer seems to apply.  I am thinking of these: drivers no longer pull to the side of the road to let an ambulance pass; people do not listen when the police tell them to sit, stand, or put their hands on the steering wheel; drivers zoom by the flashing red lights of a school bus; students believe that they are running the school, and teachers fear for their personal safety. You surely have noticed this pattern of no respect for authority, and no consideration for the other person. It seems to me that this behavior is becoming the norm, and showing respect and consideration, once the only acceptable behavior, are now the rare. 

The event I witnessed on Tuesday precipitated this thought:  I think that school teachers can play a major role in recovering decency and respect and consideration for others, and they can do it by being role models to their students on a daily basis. Showing respect and consideration toward students and others is the best lesson. Discussing the reasons that considerate behavior is appropriate further cements the lesson.  Not all students are learning the social mores at home, and it is up to us, as educators, to share the knowledge of what is acceptable and preferred in our culture.  Teachers are the keepers of the culture and the biggest influencers of young minds.  We must be the teachers of not only basic skills, but also social mores. 

I close with this profound statement from a great author: 
“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” ― Robert A. HeinleinFriday

Rittman Publishing, LLC

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.


Book awards

Dede was honored on Friday, June 12, at State College, PA, as she accepted an award of Album of Distinction for her book from  Delta Kappa Gamma (International Group of Notable Women Educators) 

Check out Dede's 5 star reviews on Amazon!

Connect with Dede! 

Twitter @dederittman

Facebook Dede Faltot Rittman


LinkedIn Dede Faltot Rittman

Pinterest Rittman Publishing, LLC

Tumblr  The Bunny Teacher

Instagram Dede_Rittman


Sunday, June 7, 2015

“Stop giving meaningless praise and start giving meaningful action.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

I was half-listening to the news this week, when I thought I heard something about a large number of valedictorians in a community in Ohio.  I thought the news report said over 200 valedictorians were named in just three schools.  I googled it, and it is true!  Here is the link to prove it! The news article says that in Dublin's three high schools, 2 out of every 10 students were named as a class valedictorian. In one high school, 44 were awarded the status; the second school had 82; the third had a whopping 96 students named to the highest honor of valedictorian, which, by the way, is defined as "a student, typically having the highest academic achievements of the class, who delivers the valedictory at a graduation ceremony." (Luckily, they did not all speak.)

I know that all school have so many wonderful high schools students, but really?  

I simply do not agree that everyone with a high achievement should be named as valedictorian. In no way is this "everybody wins" philosophy preparing students for the real world. Add more criteria to the the elimination and confirmation process, and may the best man/woman win.

When I heard this story and then followed up on it, I was reminded of my friends and their experiences with their small children through the years growing up. In T-ball, everyone got a trophy; same for softball and football and other kid sports.  Just for participating, everyone was a "winner and a champion."

At age 62, I know that is just not so.  In fact, I learned that lesson as a 12 year old, and I have never forgotten it.  I tried out for both majorette and cheerleader (although I never could do a split) in 7th grade.  I made it to the finals, and I was terribly disappointed when I was not chosen.  I did notice, even at that young age, that many of the girls who were chosen (not all) had ties to the school; that is, their parents were teachers or on the school board.  I mentioned this to my wise mother, who answered. "You just had your first real life lesson, Dede.  Sometimes you don't get chosen, even if you are the best, just because you don't have the right connections."  I never forgot that in the real world, that is sometimes the way things are. I pursued other interests and clubs, and I never auditioned for cheerleader ort majorette again, and I won many awards through high school, college, and in my career.  They were all awards that were EARNED, not just handed out because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. 

When we, as a society, give our young people trophies just for participation in an activity, I think we are setting them up for a really big disappointment later in life. When praise is offered repeatedly without being earned, it becomes empty and meaningless.

I think all of the 222 valedictorians should be recognized for their extraordinary achievements and exceedingly high GPAs, but to name them all valedictorians is like handing out trophies to every kid who participated in T-ball.  The honor becomes meaningless when spread so thin. 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Connect with Dede! 
Twitter @dederittman
LinkedIn Dede Faltot Rittman
Facebook Dede Faltot Rittman or Rittman Rules
Pinterest Rittman Publishing, LLC
Tumblr the Bunny Teacher
Instagram Dede_Rittman


Check out Dede's book reviews on Amazon


Monday, June 1, 2015

"You cannot open a book without learning something." Confucius

Summer vacation will be here soon, and although everyone enjoys a break, as a teacher, I have a real concern about the loss of learning over a three month period of time with no school.  I know that many schools across the country have gone to year round schools at least partially for this reason, which I think is well-founded.

My three nephews moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina when they were in middle school, at about the same time North Carolina changed to a school year that is year round. The boys said that they actually liked year round school better, for more than one reason. They felt that the 3-4 week breaks came just when they were needed most, and that the shorter vacation period led to less boredom.  They were refreshed and ready to return after the break. All bright students, readers, and lifelong learners, the three agreed that they forgot less with the shorter break time.  Because they had more frequent vacation periods, fewer students missed class time for travel time and family vacations, which is a real problem in the north.  In my 37 years of teaching, I signed a plethora of forms for winter vacations!  For those students, all of that learning time was lost forever. 

I would support year round schools in Pennsylvania, but until it happens, here are a few tips for parents to guide their children in the summer learning mode.

1. Have your child sign up for a daily vocabulary word delivered by email. I like two sites. provides vocabulary words from elementary to high school. Click on the link, choose the grade of the student, and sign up.  Their presentations and word explanations are both informative and entertaining.

2. Another site I like for high school is Wordsmith Great words, explanations, etymology, and usage examples.

3. Encourage your child to read.  Take elementary students to the library each week, and read aloud to them. Your children will remember the moments you spent together reading.

4. College bound students should choose some books to read from the awesome list provided by the College Board 

5. Elementary Students can also read from a list of recommended books! The best list I know is 

6. Download some apps at the App store! Vocabahead, Wordsmith, Quizup, SAT prep and ACT prep are a few good ones.

7 . Encourage your child to share new things they learn each day by setting an example of being a lifelong learner yourself.  Point out interesting articles in the newspaper, and discuss some of the favorite topics you enjoy learning about.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

See the five star reviews on Amazon 

TWITTER @dederittman
FACEBOOK Dede Faltot Rittman or Rittman Rules
LinkedIn Dede Faltot Rittman
Tumblr The Bunny Teacher
Pinterest Rittman Publishing, LLC
Google+ Dede Rittman