The Physics of Santa 2.0

The Skeptical Teacher

Years ago I posted here about how I kill Santa with science, and it goes without saying that doing so can get quite a reaction out of people. Some reactions have been negative, but a surprising number of people have contacted me actually thanking me for killing the Santa myth.  In fact, I was recently commissioned to write a formal article on killing Santa with science for TESConnect, an educational magazine and networking organization centered in the UK.  I am happy to share with you the full article in all of its colored glory, along with explicit physics calculations, below… Happy Holidays! 🙂




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It’s been a tough year…so I need to establish some poise?

This is a tough year.

I feel like that has been the mantra for teachers and me for the last few years.  Is it the Common Core?  Misguided accountability?  Children now-a-days?  The mountain of paperwork?  Who knows… In the end, what it comes down to is that I love teaching.  And when it gets hard, I head back to one of my favourite books…

Simple Abundance is a staple for being the better me.

So, I went to open it up today…I do try to read most days in order. But when a topic speaks to me, I let it.

My Nook literally took me to October 10th…the date 3 days before my anniversary, and a month and 7 days before today.  “Poise Wreckers.”  Just the title gave me pause.  I feel surrounded by chaos and difficulty.  People I love are struggling…are sad.  I just can’t manage to ‘master’ my classroom this year…and my family seems in some disarray.  And I haven’t felt up to par.

So why poise?

Honestly, I don’t think much about poise.  I’m not exactly sure what poise is.

 Well, maybe it’s time.

“No quality is more attractive than poise – that deep sense of being at ease with yourself and the world.”

Good Housekeeping, September 1947.

Sarah Ban Breathnach describes a day she changed herself for a meeting rather than relax and be who she is.  In the end, she worried herself up to late at night, dressed outside her comfort zone, and ended up farther away from happiness and peace.

“To achieve order within, begin with outward order.”

Sarah Ban Breathnach

When I start to struggle, I always look for clues for how to get back to the better me.  It’s true.  It’s difficult to feel confidence and serene amid piles of stuff.  My classroom feels in disarray…my home is still not done from summer….I feel like I am always a full five steps behind where I need to be.

How can my teaching feel together and with it, if my life is ‘cluttered’ and ‘jumbled’?  The Common Core feels like a ‘new look’.  (The new Florida standards is the Common Core – except for a sentence or two each grade level.)

According to SBB, “If you want a new look, put it together thoughtfully and gradually, so that you’ll be at ease with the final effect.”  Well, I don’t feel like I have put this new look together well.

The implementation feels jumbled, my thoughts are cluttered with new stuff, I just don’t have the ‘poise.’  Maybe that is where I am going wrong.

“Poise is often overlooked when we think of putting together our authentic look.”  So…if I stop focusing on what’s going wrong, what feels off, Sarah says my smile will become ‘warmer’, my laughter more ‘spontaneous’, and my thoughtfulness will ‘blossom.”  I soooo want that!  I am very reflective and I feel if I am not quite right with the world, my students aren’t heading down the smoothest path possible.  And honestly, I know I challenge them…but I still want their challenges to feel they are developed in strength and not chaos.  Does that make sense?  So, I need to gain some poise…find some order and take time to have a ‘beauty routine’ that sets my day BEFORE I leave my home.

Poise is more than just looks, it is that ease with my self.  As a leader in my classroom, I need be the calm before the storm, rather than the wind than brings in the tornados and hurricanes.  And these days, I feel more like I am weathering storms, rather than having the confidence gained with good planning before one. (I feel like I’m thinking in idioms.)

That said.  I am heading back to blogging my thoughts….getting my mental dressing table prepared for each day…making sure my classroom plans reflect the planning and preparation I expect for myself…and that I need.

I need to include my family in that…and my own health.

You are probably thinking I am already out timing myself…where will I get all this time?  I need to focus better, rest more, and exercise.  I need to eat healthier…and use each minute well.  More important…

The only way we become truly at ease with ourselves is by knowing who we are.

Sarah Ban Breathnauch

Maybe that is what is the most wrong this year.  With all the changes and piling paperwork…less time…mounting family challenges…maybe I’ve lost sight of who I am in all of this.  I have always sort of know who I was as a teacher and my strengths.  This year I feel like I am facing so many challenges, I am losing site of who I am.

Well, regardless…resilience is one of my superpowers.  In the end, I love my family, I love my students, and I love to teach.  So, I need to put my head down and organize my ‘dressing table’ and closet.  I need to spend some time putting my new self together thoughtfully and gradually…and enjoy the growth and change.  I need to gain order outward, before I truly have that inward order.  I need to personally groom my inner own sense of style…that comes from celebrating on my strengths and less on the shortfalls.  I need to place nurturing my ‘inner poise’ into A daily ritual…I need to have a daily beauty ritual!

And of course…it only costs me time…ugh..and self nurturing…well…. as many spouses, parents and teachers will tell you…that will be the biggest challenge.  ‘Who I am’ and ‘time for me’ seemed to be at the end of the line when it comes to work and family.

That’s where I am going wrong…so…Poise wreckers…move over!  I can ‘bend and snap’ like the rest of them!

First on my list..going to be early and getting some good sleep!



Understanding by Design…. new year, new teams…but old ways!

 Back to school in a week and this kitchen remodel has placed me well behind my goals.  Still…it is a good experience for someone who loves to plan and keep chaos at bay…because, there has been so much I could not manage.  Sometimes, I realize I just need to “Let it Go!”  (My summer mantra.)


Getting started for the new year!

Well, now that I have a floor, I have started to clean inches of concrete dust, have a clean space, and I have found my work!!   (Although, I am wondering why I didn’t just hang out here by the pool most days.)  All in all, it was needed.  I can honestly say I barely thought about the new Florida standards and this year, which I think was good.  I also better see my priorities…I have an amazing husband and family that needs my time.

As far as school, I’m fresh and unfocused…sometimes needed for creativity or starting a new path. 

To gear up, I have started Wiggins’ “Understanding by Backward Design.”  Although I usually start with the standards and student outcomes, with all the changes this year I figured I needed to go back to the foundation. So, I’m heading back to the ‘old ways’ –  focusing on assessment for learning and student outcomes.understanding by design

This blog will be up and going more this 2014 to 2015 school year.  There was a lot of great things that happened over this past year, but time seemed so fluid it was difficult to write down my reflections.  And yet, I felt I should have.  There were times I thought things through, had great ideas, was trying to self-assessment a path I was on…and I would wake up, or drive home, and it was gone!  Sometimes temporarily…sometimes I would think, “I had it all figured out and it’s lost.”

I was going to start my MA in Ed Leadership.  However, I am the 4th grade team lead, on the team for the new Florida Standards Implementation at our school, and have 2 interns from August to December.  Although my degree is important (  :0 )   , I want to achieve better balance this year (don’t laugh).  I want to be more present with my family and more targeted at work.

I have always wanted to be a teacher trainer, and now it’s here!  I love teaching and want to share that.  At the same time, I am curious when it comes to adult learners.  Having taught grown ups in the Air Force, I have some experience; however, I expect this to be very different.

Teaching can be personal.  It is not a career that ends at 5pm and you leave at the office. Curriculum, students, events, moments…all stick in your head when it comes to the children you teach.   They are not computer programs or ‘widgets’ you walk away from when you turn off the lights.

Although I wonder if teaching has to be a passion or calling, I do feel that our education mentoring program here in Brevard (education in general) could be improved – and I hope to see if my thinking has positive outcomes.

Just like I believe in assessment for learning, metacognition, and personal goal setting with my students, I intend to use those strategies with my interns.  At the end of our time, I want these new teachers to feel stronger, more knowledgable, more skills, and better prepared for teaching with a greater idea of their personal strengths and challenges.

Therefore, “Understanding by Design” will not only help me think through the new Florida standards, but I intend to ‘plan’ my time with my new teams and my interns.  We’ll see.

We will see.  All very grand ideas and then the school year hits….

Gifted Kids Write to Parliament

Creatingcurriculum's Blog

96 students from Gifted Kids have collaborated to write an open letter to Parliament. What can this inspire you to write to someone who can make a difference?


To All Members of Parliament

You don’t know who I am, what makes me tick or just how clever I am. You may walk past me in the street and not even notice me. You wouldn’t be the first. But it’s likely I’m going to be the next Bill Gallagher, Witi Ihimaera, Michael King, Janet Frame, Trelise Cooper or … To be a successful adult, I need to be a successful kid. To be a successful kid, I need your support now.

Hi! We are Gifted Kids from the Hutt Valley. We are 96 students in years 1- 8 who attend Gifted Kids, a specialist strength-based programme one day a week with other like-minded students. We learn in an environment where everyone…

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At moments like this, I just want to share how much I love teaching…

This has been such a wonderful year…
I enjoy my 4th grade team. They motivate and support and truly make me smile!
I love my nearby teacher roomies…they challenge and inspire me beyond belief!
I have an administration that models leadership and encouragement…
And I have students that make me work harder and think faster just to keep pace – not ahead, but even.

As we head into our Tea design challenge and into the last FCAT 2.0…

My only true worry with 5 perfect scores in my class and bunches of 4’s is will I teach well enough for them to show growth? It’s not even me ‘teaching’. Will we work and learn together well enough to show that growth? I don’t want to be under 0 for VAM next year.

It will not be from a lack of assessing, tracking, differentiating, and using assessment for learning with students – as well as metacognition, PBLs, higher order questioning, I can statements, student choice, learning styles/multiple intelligences..



Video: Susan Kimball, Kindergarten Teacher: Too Much Assessing and Not Enough Teaching Under Common Core

Wow! The video is tough to watch because you can hear the teacher’s frustration and concern. I haven’t been opposed to the CCSS because I have only been back in the American classroom for the last 3 1/2 years – only 2 of which have been teaching literacy and now math.

Regardless of my thoughts, I am so thankful we live in a country were these conversations occur and there are Senators that listen to the people. I truly hope the teacher can go back to a position where she can enjoy teaching her students.

I still miss the influence of higher education that I felt was apparent in England.

I would really like to hear from them on the CCSS and more.


Susan Kimball, an elementary school teacher, testified to the legislature that:

In a professional development meeting inservice in November and at a faculty meeting in January, we were told in my building, and I quote: ‘Be careful about what you post on Facebook or talk about in public regarding Common Core.  Don’t say anything negative. It could affect your job.’

“So even though many teachers were hating the Common Core curriculum, they would not voice their opinon to anyone. So I began speaking out –trying to educate and inform anyone who was willing to listen.  When I turned in a personal day request to come to support the rally for House Bill 1490, I was asked by my principal, ‘Do you really want that in your personnel file?’ 

“And then I was bullied and ostracized by my administration, a few other teachers, and the president of the school board, and…

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