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Morale Motivation

Teaching the Unteachable Students

May 5, 2017

“You are too stupid to learn this.”

“You are not college material.”

“You will never amount to anything in life.”

These comments were commonplace for me as a student.  I failed most tests and had to attend special education classes.  As typical with low achieving students, my behavior was less than stellar.  My desk was always beside the teacher’s desk. I was the student all teachers cringed when my name appeared on their class list.  I struggled all through school.

Years later, my mother saw my fifth-grade teacher out shopping.  After exchanging niceties, Mrs. Long asked about me (I am sure she thought I would be in jail or working a menial job.).  My mother said, “She is actually a fifth-grade teacher.”  The look of complete and utter shock and disbelief appeared on her face.  She, like others, wondered how did I make it this far.

My struggles were actually the catalyst for becoming a teacher and shaped my educator pedagogy.

One thing I did have going for me was a stubborn personality.  I was determined to become a teacher to help students like me.  Of course, in order to do that, I had to find a way to pass college.  I began trying to teach myself various ways to remember information.  I turned information into songs, stories, hand motions, acronyms, drawing pictures, and any other way of remembering the needed information.  Not only did those methods work, but also for the first time in my life, I was successful. I graduated with honors, and I went on to get my masters and doctorate degrees both with a 4.0 GPA.

As a teacher, I utilized the same strategies that worked for me and observed student achievement soar. After attending trainings and completing research on whole brain teaching, I realized that many of the strategies I used to achieve success for myself and my students were strikingly similar.  Whether you are an ahem “seasoned” teacher like myself or a novice teacher, these multisensory, multidiscipline, and whole brain teaching strategies work.  There are too many to describe in one blog post, so here are a few.  Stay tuned next month to receive more helpful tips.

  1. Utilize MULTIPLE Senses: Garner’s outdated practice of Multiple Intelligence has been refuted in the past few years. A person is not simply one type of learner.  For example, I am not merely a visual learner, but also a kinesthetic, spatial, musical, and verbal learner.  If teachers instruct students in only one modality, they have stifled other valuable pathways for learning to occur.  Instead, utilize multiple sensory activities and a variety of multiple intelligences.  Neurologist and middle school teacher, Judy Willis conducted numerous studies on the brain and the retrieval process.  Her research concluded when educators teach a subject through multiple experiences, it will activate numerous dendritic pathways for retrieval (Willis, 2007).  For example, when teaching students fractions, have them physically hop on a masking tape number line in your room, draw it, act it out—The denominator (in your best terminator voice) says I will break “YOU” up or “I ate the WHOLE thing”, the numerator says, I REPRESENT (like a rapper) the number of parts, raps, songs, hand motions, real-world applications, and the list goes on and on.  When I encounter a standard, one of the first things I do is write M.O.V.E.

M-Music-make up silly songs or jingles

O-Out of their Seats-simply using hand motions or acting it out

V-Verbals-synthesize the information in their own words-peer teach

E-Envision-Picture it to Remember it

Plan your lessons with those in mind to reach more students.

  1. Repeat to Remember– Brain research indicates that reviewing the same information sequentially for several days in a row will transfer information from short-term to long-term memory. Spiral or cumulative reviews daily is another way to retain information long-term.  Ask students to repeat directions or key information to you.  Chunk information into short five-minute intervals.  Then have students repeat or teach a partner the information as well.  This will serve two purposes.  One, it will have students repeating information and synthesizing it in their own words.  Second, it will provide a structured brain break that will better prepare their brains for the next interval of information.

Subscribe to Tenspire to make sure you do not miss Part 2 of “Whole Brain Teaching: Ten Strategies I Can Incorporate into my Teaching Today”.

Creativity Motivation

Marker, Mirror, Miracle

April 27, 2017

Marker + Mirror = Miracle

As a night owl and non-morning person, having to be at my desk at 7:15 every morning is a struggle.  Every morning I drag myself out of bed, descend down the stairs to let the dogs out, and then flip on the light and stare at my sleepy face in the mirror.  However, lately there’s been more to look at than my messy hair reflection in the mirror.  My mirror is now covered in words and messages from me to me written with a dry erase marker.  There’s an inspirational quote or message, a weekly goal, and a daily goal.

As educators, we are typically very organized and love to do lists! My paper planner and my email calendar keep me on track.  My desk is also covered with post-it notes so I thought why not use these same skills at home to better my personal and professional well-being.

All too often we think of goals or habits we would like to change but day by day they stay just that- a thought.  We are so busy so we think, tomorrow I’ll go to the gym or next week I can start reading that book.  By writing our personal goals down it makes it real!  An abstract thought with no real substance becomes something concrete and observable.

When I’m exhausted from a day’s work and I come home and see my daily goal, it helps give me that extra push to actually get it done.  And who doesn’t love that feeling of accomplishment when you cross something off a list or erase it?

It’s important to keep goals simple, especially at first. 

Long-term goals are important and inspiring but can also be overwhelming.  We all know the best way to get to a long-term goal is to set manageable and realistic short-term goals.  By coming up with simple daily and weekly goals it helps me actually take those baby steps to my long-term goals.  For example, writing this is today’s daily goal.  I came home today with a headache and lots of work to do, and I can pretty much bet there’s no way I would be sitting here typing if it wasn’t staring at me in the mirror.

So no matter what long or short-term goals you have or if there’s something you’ve been struggling with lately, I encourage you to make it more real and face it head on in the mirror every morning, evening, and night.  Combining a marker and mirror has been a miracle in my life!  It’s helped my outlook be more positive, and it’s getting me closer to my long-term goals.

Remember to be patient with yourself and celebrate each small step toward making yourself a better version of who you are. One of my favorite quotes is “Rome was not built in a day.”  Hey, maybe I’ll go write that on my mirror.

Letter From The Editor Motivation

Beautifully Broken: My Journey Through Miscarriage

April 26, 2017

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

As I sit here in the dark looking at the pictures of our baby I once carried.  Tears fill my eyes.  I cry.  What once brought me joy, now brings me pain.

Unbearable pain.

In November 2016, my husband and I decided to start our family.  We were ready for the next chapter.  The next 3 months crept by.  Each month thinking,

“This could be the month!”  But it wasn’t….

Until Friday, February 24, 2017.  I saw those two pink lines.

I was Ecstatic.  Shocked.  Nervous.  Excited.  Joyful.

Now I wonder, will seeing those next two pink lines be as exciting as the first?  Or, will I be filled with fear?  Afraid of the loss I feel so deeply in this moment.

I pray I can be filled with as much joy the second time as I was the first time.

I trust God is in control.

He will give me the desires of my heart.

On vacation in an unfamiliar place, in the cutest loft, we lost our baby.  We lost our joy.  Thinking, “This can’t be happening. This can’t happen to me.”

It happened.

I wept in the arms of my husband.  The only words I could whisper were, “I’m sorry.”

We were out of town.  Just the two of us.

I am grateful for the time we spent together blissfully ignorant of what our future held.  Grateful for the time to process our loss just the two of us in the silence between tears.

We saw our baby in the early hours on Thursday morning.

Thursday, March 30, 3:45 AM.

I felt it.  I felt our tiny baby leave my body.  I looked.  Something many women can’t or don’t do.  But I did.  I am forever thankful.

Thankful we were able to see our precious baby’s legs, arms, hands, and fingers.  The realization of how something so tiny could be so intricate was miraculous.

A miracle only God could create.

Thursday was long.  Friday was longer.

A day filled with doctor’s appointments and ultrasounds.

As the ultrasound tech took pictures, tears uncontrollably streamed down my face.

Ultrasounds should be joyful.  It was a joyful experience for us just 8 days before.  We saw our baby.

They found the heartbeat.  139 bpm.

But, not this time.

This time they were looking for what remained.  If anything.  Hoping everything had passed.  It seemed so wrong.

When the day was over and we returned home, I cried.  I cried because when I left the house a short 6 days earlier, I was pregnant.  Now I wasn’t.

I felt so empty.  So lonely.

Days go by and I feel emotions I didn’t know existed.

Devastated.  Lonely.  Angry.  Grateful.  Sad.  Hopeful.  Broken.

I questioned things.  Knowing there aren’t answers.  But questioning anyway.

Could I have done things differently?  Did I do something wrong?

Why me?

I share my story hoping and praying it will help others who have or will experience miscarriage.  If I must walk this tragic journey.  I want to support others as well.

You are not alone.

 No one can prepare you.  The feelings of hopelessness, emptiness and loneliness will overcome you at random times during the day or during any given activity.

The pain returns when you think about where you should be right now in your pregnancy or your life as a parent.

You will question things.  I was reassured there was nothing I did or didn’t do which caused my miscarriage.  I want to reassure you the same.  There is nothing you could have done differently.

You will be Mad.  Angry.

Mad it happened to you.  Mad some of the people you want to lean on, don’t know what you are going through.  Even though you would never want them to experience this pain.  They all of a sudden won’t be the ones you want to talk to.

It’s not fair to them, it doesn’t make sense and it hurts.  I encourage you to push through, reach out even when it’s difficult.  Your very best friends want to be there to support and encourage you.  Let them.  It will be hard, especially if they have babies or children, but it is a part of the healing process.

People will say helpful things.  They will say hurtful things.  No one knows what to say, so don’t be offended.  Appreciate the fact they are trying to help, though they don’t know how.  Their intentions are pure.

Be grateful.  It is difficult to be grateful in such a tragic time.  Be thankful you were able to get pregnant.  Be thankful for the time you had with your sweet baby.

The reminders…oh the reminders.  This part is hard.  The part you can’t control.  It happens when you least expect it.

The things people say or ask you about brings it back to the forefront.

The drive to the doctor’s office, once so exciting, is now so dreadful.

The bills you must pay, but nothing to show for it.

Ultrasound pictures and pregnancy announcements.  These for me are hard.  I have ultrasound pictures I am so proud of.  I was so excited to announce to the world.  They showed my baby had a heartbeat…which should decrease the likelihood of miscarriage.  But, I lost my baby.

I am excited people get to share their news and will hold their baby soon…I know the excitement and joy they feel.  I don’t know their story which got them to this point in their journey.

But it doesn’t lessen my pain.  It doesn’t help me feel better.  My heartache is real.

Seeing a pregnant woman makes my heart skip a beat.  I was there…I experienced the joy for a short time before it was ripped from my womb.  Literally.

There is hope.  Cling to the hope of the future.  Cling to the hope of your future rainbow baby.  Cling to the hope you are not alone.  Cling to God.  He is bigger.  He will restore peace where there is tragedy.  He is near to the broken-hearted.

God never said there wouldn’t be pain in this world, but he promised us hope and a future.

Trust in the Lord for He has a bigger plan.  We may not know why.  But trust in Him and keep your eyes focused on God.  He will provide the way.  He will give you the desires of your heart.

Many times, as Christ followers we believe pain and hurt won’t affect us, but it does.

Focus on God’s promises in your life and trust in the future He has promised you.

Allow yourself to feel the emotions you are feeling.  Embrace the good days without guilt.  Embrace the hard days without shame.

There will be days you feel so strong and nights you fall asleep on a tear-stained pillow.

 You are not alone.

I encourage you to reach out to others who have experienced miscarriage.  It helped me tremendously to talk to others who knew exactly how I felt and brought up feelings I didn’t understand.

As I have told people about our story, I have realized there are so many women who are in this broken community.

Grieving and healing takes time.  The amount of time is different for everyone.  The feelings you feel may be different from mine.

Give yourself grace.

I am praying for you.  I pray through my story, you find hope for your future and know…you are not alone in this journey.  Reach out to those who know the devastating loss of losing a baby and pray for guidance through the heartbreak.

It’s not over.  It’s only the beginning.  I am hopeful for the future.

This is our story.  A story I pleaded with God not to make mine.  I prayed every morning,

“I don’t want loss to be a part of my story.”

Yet…Hope is in the loss.

Now I know, this is only the beginning.  The beginning of a beautifully broken road leading me back to the joy I thought I lost.

Disclaimer:  My name is Kelli Lee Dillard.  My husband, Devin and I experienced our loss while traveling during Spring Break in 2017.  This is our very personal experience of losing a baby at 8 weeks into my pregnancy.  I do not know the pain of losing a baby further along in a pregnancy or losing a baby already born.  I do not know the pain infertility brings.  I know the pain I felt from a first trimester miscarriage.  I do not know or understand the pain others experience from other tragic events.  It is my hope and prayer my story helped create healing for your pain.

Featured Motherhood Motivation

Living on a Teacher’s Salary

March 24, 2017

Living on a teacher’s income can be tough. Whether your income is in addition to your spouse’s or you’re living off of one teacher salary like we are, making things happen can be a struggle. But check out that keyword – struggle. Not an impossibility. So today I want to offer some of the ways that our family has made cuts that have enabled us to live off one teacher’s salary without barely making ends meet.

  1. Meal Planning – The way you grocery shop and plan your meals can make a huge impact on your budget. I spend way too much money if I show up to the store without a plan, or if I make our weekly menu based off of cravings. You would be amazed at how much you can save by planning your week’s meals based off of your favorite store’s sales and only sticking to those items.
  2. Cable Alternatives – We are in such a great time to find alternatives to paying monthly for cable! Check out a streaming device and explore the world of Netflix, Hulu, etc. We haven’t missed it a bit!
  3. Health Insurance Alternatives – I didn’t think this would be possible. But there are some great alternatives out there for healthcare coverage! Using my husband’s ISD insurance was not going to be affordable for us at all. Fortunately, we were able to sign our daughter and me up for a healthcare ministry that makes way more sense for our family.
  4. Student Debt – This was another budget buster we didn’t think we could get away from. While my student loans are sticking around, repayment options like “income-based repayment” are available and soooo helpful! I would encourage you to check them out with your lender!
  5. Mortgage – There are so many details involved in this cut. But to make a long story short, my husband and I are in the middle of a “cash-out refinance”. This will allow us to use a portion of the equity we’ve gained in our home to pay off things like student debt. This is definitely something to chat about with your mortgage lender.

These are just half of the cuts and ways we’ve found to save every month! When you really crunch the numbers and search for areas you’re willing to cut back, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you’d like to chat or want to see the other ways we’ve saved, I’d love for you to visit my blog at!

Featured Morale Motivation

Born for This

March 6, 2017

Teacher friend, I want to tell you simply that Jesus is for you. If this is the place where He has called you to be and the passion He has placed in your heart, then He has also equipped you with everything you need to be successful. In the book of Luke, there is a story about a prodigal son who asks for his inheritance early and moves and squanders everything. When he returns, his father welcomes him with open arms and even throws him a huge banquet! The older brother is angry when his little brother returns and gets thrown a party when he gets nothing- after staying with his father! Then the father tells him this:

“‘My (daughter),’ the father said, ‘You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’”- Luke 15:31

Let’s apply this to our own lives.

If we see ourselves as this son, or daughter, and also see the father as Jesus, what are some things that can actually be ours?

Peace, favor, acceptance, joy, satisfaction, hope, and fullness of life. We can have life and life to the FULL! And those are just a FEW things!!

So what do we have to do to receive those things and receive everything God has for us? Two very simple things:

  • Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • Stay faithful.

Comparing yourself to others takes the blessings and gifts you already have and makes them smaller. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When you look at what someone else has or focus on their story or their “glory”, jealousy and ungratefulness creeps in, just like the older brother in the parable.

Also, stay faithful. Keep showing up. Keep pressing in. Keep giving those babies your best. Continue to declare the Word over your life and know that what God has called you for, He is equipping you for. Go get em, sister!