Saying Goodbye

Twenty years ago this month I sat in my freshman English class with a brand new Mead 5 Star Notebook covered by a sticker with my favorite band at the time – Shaded Red. A boy walked by my desk and noticed said sticker, then mentioned that he would be seeing them in concert that evening. After negotiations with my parents to join this new friend and his dad for the concert, I knew that the Mugfords would play an important part of my life for years to come.

Shortly after our concert experience, I started attending the youth service that Jeff Mugford led, aptly called Hot Church. This youth group was unlike anything I had experienced. There was a full band rocking out with a team of high schoolers leading vocals, relevant and timely messages for teenagers, small group options to learn more about God, and a tight knit community that supported one another in life. Within months, I joined the worship team and a small group, and even convinced my parents to move churches.

There were weekly rehearsals, weekend camps, yearly overnights to Magic Mountain, summer missions trips, and SO many concerts. The memories are vivid and the relationships still exist.

Today marks the Hot Church Reunion where we all come together to reminisce and bid farewell to the facility that convened us during our formative years. As we have all prepared for the service that will take place and shared memories, I have braced myself to feel all the feels. This building was my second home, more than any other place. It was my church from freshman year of high school until I graduated college and moved to Nebraska. It was my first job when I helped program music for services. It was the place where we said our final goodbye to my dad in a sanctuary filled with friends and family.

Today we say goodbye to Hot Church, but not to all the memories that we keep forever with us.

You matter to me and you matter to God.


I Didn’t Know

Fifteen years ago tonight, I said goodbye to my dad for the final time.

I didn’t know it would be the last time I would give him a hug and tell him I loved him. I didn’t know that his heart couldn’t take anymore. I didn’t know that I should have gone with my mom to the hospital when they called. I didn’t know how to react when the doctor came to tell us he was gone. I didn’t know how I could feel pain so severe, while simultaneously be completely numb to it. I didn’t know that I would somehow sing at his funeral days later. I didn’t know that burial felt so concrete.

I didn’t know that I would start my freshman year in college without a father. I didn’t know that I would get married almost four years later and not have him there to walk me down the aisle. I didn’t know all of the milestones in my life that he would miss.

I didn’t know that my heart would still ache fifteen years later.


Taking Time to Model Reflecting


Image is CC0 Public Domain

At the end of most of my sessions, I try to build in time for reflection because it’s a great way to process new learnings, consider applications, and bring our time together to a close. One of my favorite ways to do this is to use Padlet and show the real-time reflections in the room. I’ve done this several times recently and it’s because of how one experience caused me to pause and take note. Normally, I encourage participants to share key takeaways and next steps. Not too long ago, I was doing this and several constructive comments were written regarding some choices made over the course of the day. Instead of just reading them and letting them sit there, I wrote some notes speaking to each comment and addressed each of them as we came back together before the end of the day. There were intentional choices made during the day that were important to point out and explain. This exercise was very powerful for me. Not only did I read the comments, I modeled processing them.

We often discuss coaching as an effective model with teachers and students because of the feedback loop involved. Yet, I rarely see it in action. That is not to say that it doesn’t happen. But how often and where? As part of our evaluations? During professional learning opportunities? Even if we consider session evaluations as part of the feedback loop for professional developers, do we read and process them? Do we read them, fixate on the negative ones, get defensive, and not change anything in our future work? I’m all too guilty of this myself. I’m not quite sure what made me approach this differently, but I did. And it was a powerful practice for me. I will be very intentional of doing this again in future work, as uncomfortable as it may be. It’s important for growth and a great way to feel empowered. Imagine if we all practiced this and modeled this process for educators and students.

Five Things To Do INSTEAD of Watching a Movie Before Break

Dear teacher,

It’s the last week of school before break. You are reaching your limits, and so are your students. Your personal holiday busyness is bleeding into your classroom…and you just want to put a movie in. I get it, I’ve been there. But before you do, think.

  • Did you know that watching a movie for entertainment (not tied to curriculum), is not considered fair use and is a violation of copyright?
  • What message are we sending students and parents by watching a movie during instructional time?
  • Could this time be used for something else?

Instead of watching a movie this last week before break, here are five options to consider:

5 by Leo Reynolds is licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA
  1. Design: 
  2. Create:
    • Build a makerspace with everyday objects
    • Make commercials and record (even use YOUR phone)
  3. Play:
    • Pull that book of reader’s theater out and put one together
    • Bring back art activities in the classroom: paint, draw, sketch, build
  4. Investigate:
  5. Code:
    • Give students more time to get in and play with all those great sites that you discovered during the Hour of Code week.

It may be tempting to pop that movie in, but look at all of these meaningful activities that could happen instead. Imagine the problem-solving, critical-thinking, creativity, collaboration, and fun that could take place. Share what you end up doing with your students – I’d love to know!


Edcamp Meets CA Teachers Summit

Over 14,000 educators across the state of California gathered for the first California Teachers Summit taking place at 33 colleges and universities. In an effort to empower those in attendance, part of the day was designed to bring the Edcamp unconference model in and allow voice and choice.

You may be wondering why I was involved if I’m not a California teacher. Well, my friends in the Bay Area have already adopted me…AND the Edcamp Foundation asked me to help. How could I say no to a trip to Bakersfield at the end of July?

Friday was truly a special day for the 500+ attendees at CSU Bakersfield because I got to introduce them to Edcamp. The CSU Bakersfield staff were a little anxious about the two hour chunk of time that had no set schedule, but I promised them that they could trust me to help guide everyone and to also trust the process. Sure, there were people that were uncomfortable. There were also skeptics. But I saw a session board grow in front of my eyes in five minutes and I knew that they were ready. With the reminder to contribute to the conversation, use the rule of two feet, and a little luck…they were sent on their way. As I walked the campus making my way into a variety of sessions, I could feel the energy. It was electrifying. It was invigorating. People were sharing, taking notes, and learning.

As we ended our time, there were takeaways shared through a Padlet. The overwhelming majority of comments were positive and reflected the same energy that I witnessed. As the day drew to a close, all attendees were once again asked to reflect on their day and share their thoughts with the group. Several people highlighted choice of learning, getting the opportunity to learn from others, sharing best practices, and building community. It is through the California Teacher Summit and the Edcamp unconference that these highlights came to be. Because, we are better together.

There are over 14,000 educators that experienced a little slice of an Edcamp; And for that, my heart is happy.

My Story Isn’t Over

December of my senior year in high school, I gave into the voices and tried to end my life. I was behind the wheel of my dad’s car and a dark road spread out in front of me. Tears stained my face and I was set on making the pain end. 5 miles from my house, I tried to run the car off the road into a power pole. I truly believe that God stopped me before it was too late and I was able to pull the car back onto the road. It was in this moment that I recognized my depression and asked for help.

This event seems so long ago, and yet it’s not. There have been other dark places since. But I know that it gets better. I know that depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts still exist in my life. There are days that they show their faces and I retreat into myself. My extroverted self withdraws and wants nothing to do with anything or anyone.

Depression is real and can pull you under like the strongest riptide imaginable. Educators are not exempt from it. No one is. But talking about it is the first step. The more we talk about mental health as a whole, the more honest we can be. These candid conversations could mean more than we even know. I share my story among other educators that want to openly discuss mental health issues and support Project Semicolon through #semicolonEDU

My story isn’t over.



In the words of Nick Provenzano… I want people to ask us about this punctuation mark on our wrists so we can share our story. The more people know about mental health issues, the more we can get rid of the stigma. The more we get rid of that stigma, the more people will feel comfortable sharing their stories. We need students to feel comfortable sharing these feelings with their teachers and we need teachers to better understand mental health so they can support these students and their colleagues.  It is not a fun conversation, but it is one we need to have if we want to help people and possibly save lives. There is something all of you can do to show your support.
I would love to see pictures across the Internet from all of my PLN on Tuesday, July 14th with a Semicolon drawn (or tattooed if you are up to it) on your body to show support for all of the educators dealing with mental health issues. Use the tag #semicolonEDU to show your support on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Let’s show the world that we can come together and fight mental health stigmas by showing our support for one another. I know we can do it. Read Nick’s full #semicolonEDU post here and read Joe’s story here