the first day and away we go

A promising blog worth a follow… I think many of us can relate to that time in our lives when we couldn’t stand the idea of dealing with girl friends… Why can’t we just hang with the boys? They’re just more fun! (Think Jo March’s Laurie. 😉)

Why do we bring ourselves down like that? Why can’t girls be cool and fun? Simply put, girls need to start being there for girls. (And no, this isn’t another Madeline Albright defense.)

g i r l n e s s

girl friends

It’s the first day. I spent the morning setting this up, taking too long to make lunch, and watching foreign drama on my phone. I might feel unaccomplished if I hadn’t thrown in some studious job searching and researching as well, but I did and you’re here and it’s the first day, so what’s there to feel bad about?

By now evening’s rolling in; it’s getting a little colder (if that’s possible after we’ve hit fourteen degrees,) and I’m writing this entry. But now the question is what should I talk about? Or rather, what should I tell you about? Maybe something about myself first (because I can’t help but start there,) and about this project second.

about myself

When I was teenager, I only wanted friends who were boys; I thought that girls had nothing to offer me, except maybe drama and hurt feelings, but boys could be funny

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Can WE do it? Heroes, Inspirations, and the REAL World Changers

Last week I had the pleasure of spending my evening with a group of middle/high school students from Asbury Park, NJ, through the program WAGE (Women Advocating for Girl’s Education). We were discussing the life of Malala Yousafzai: her experiences, actions, and impact on the world. It was a beautifully engaging discussion, spanning generations and ethnicities, and the topic has stuck with me so much that I feel compelled to write on it.

The students were clearly moved, and in awe of all the incredible things Malala has experienced and accomplished. I was impressed by how receptive and interested they were in her story!

However, I also found that there was a common narrative following quite literally every response to Malala’s actions. The responses were along these lines:
“Wow, that’s insane! I never could have done that.”
“She is amazing. I wish I could be that courageous.”
“I’m not sure I could ever have forgiven my enemies like Malala did.”
“What she went through was awful. And she’s my age! I don’t know how she did it.”
“Would you have been that strong? I don’t think I would have been!”

At first, the adults in the room, including myself, followed along with this narrative. I mean, it is true, isn’t it? Malala’s actions ARE amazing, and many of us wish we could have her drive and her courage!

But I do not think this is the message Malala wants to convey. In her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala stated, “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.” Malala makes it clear that her struggles are unfortunately not uncommon. We understand here that her goal is to make this part of her story LESS common.

We can do it! Mural: Malala Yousafzai as “Rosie the Riveter,” found at:

HOWEVER, I would go a step further here to say that I believe Malala hopes that her strength, courage, persistence, and humility can become MORE common. Why else would she tell her story? Malala Yousafzai wants to see this world move in a better direction. I believe it must be Malala’s hope that her admirable qualities could be not only admired, but replicated.

We have had many real life heroes like Malala throughout history. All generations of people have seen them. Some immediately come to mind include Anne Frank, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela… They have all been enormously transformational to the state of our societies and our world. Their contributions cannot be overestimated. They are true heroes.

I believe these heroes, though, including Malala, want even more from us than our admiration. These heroes are amazing because they have no unique superpowers running through their veins. They were not born with any magical ability that we wish we had in our measly human DNA. These heroes are role models because they are regular people. Malala should be looked to not because she can do things that we cannot, but because she leads us to do the things we should

I was super encouraged by this. When I brought this up to the students discussing Malala, a new energy came into the room! All of a sudden, the mood changed from despair and pity to hope and determination. The adults were equally energized! We all left challenging ourselves to truly think on what moves we must make to change the world for the better, because Malala proves that we CAN do it. We are equally human; we have the physical abilities, the mental and emotional facilities to do so. Imagine a world where every one of us began looking to our heroes not as deities, but as inspirations and models for what we can and must do! The world could be a VERY different place if we become generation that chooses to EMULATE our heroes instead of simply IDOLIZING them. We can do it. It is possible. Shall we roll up our sleeves?

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My own little piece of Orchard House… 

I received the coolest gift ever for presenting at the 2015 Conversational Series! An actual cedar shingle from Orchard House, ca. 1858! And just as great, they spelled my name right on everything!

The people of Orchard House have been such a welcoming, encouraging force in the short time I have known them, and the kind of care put into the preparation of this gift is one small example of that force. It is, however, the most tangible, so I felt the need to share it with you all!

I look forward to cherishing my own piece of Orchard House forever, as it will continually remind me to always be planning my next trip back! 🙂


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Summer Conversational Series for Tuesday, July 14

Some great feedback from Louisa May Alcott blogger Susan Bailey on my presentation at Orchard House last week… Worth a read and a follow if you are interested in the Alcott’s!

Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Yesterday’s session for the 2015  Summer Conversational Series featured these three distinguished presenters:

L to R: Cathlin Davis, PhD, Cecilia Macheski and Lianne Kulik L to R: Cathlin Davis, PhD, Cecilia Macheski and Lianne Kulik

Cathlin Davis, PhD

Dr. Davis spoke at length on “The Healing Power of Nature: Friendly Sunshine and Fresh Air,” drawing upon her extensive knowledge of Louisa’s canon. There is probably no one more knowledgeable about Louisa’s writing than Dr. Davis who has made it a mission to find every single short story ever written by Louisa (a tall order as many have never been republished.

Cecilia Macheski

Cecilia Macheski told the story of Clara Endicott Sears, the founder of the Fruitlands museum. Her presentation was titled “Towards a New Eden: Clara Endicott Sears’s Spiritual Landscapes.” Miss Sears purchased the Fruitlands house in 1910 at the age of 50 when her life took on a dramatic new direction. Ms. Macheski had wonderful photos of Sears and her…

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“Loves Mankind, Hard on People” – Bronson Alcott, Mr. Keating, and the Dangers of Putting Ideals before Students

Orchard HouseI have spent the last week at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, attending their annual Summer Conversational Series. (As an aside, it is my second year attending the SCS, and it’s an amazing experience. If you haven’t been and are a fan of the Alcott’s, transcendentalism, philosophy, or education, you really need to go!)

Anyway, there are SO many things I have taken from this week that I will probably be writing about for a long while. However, there is a certain phrase that stuck with me especially, and is where I will begin the first of many SCS 2015 reflections.

At Thursday’s SCS session, John Matteson, Pulitzer prize-winning author of Eden’s Outcasts, took questions and led discussion on “all things Alcott.” Bronson Alcott became a subject of conversation here, and he was subject to criticism (as Bronson Alcott seems to always be) for his impracticality, many failures, and particularly how harsh and strict he seemed to be regarding his own family. John Matteson’s response to this was poignant: he remarked that Bronson was a man that seemed to truly “love mankind, but he was a little hard on people.” 

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In the name of learning, throw out your grade book!

I ju51fECW3OtZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_st finished reading Assessment 3.0: Throw Out Your Grade Book and Inspire Learninga recent publication by education guru Mark Barnes. Wow. So many thoughts.

In his new publication, Mark Barnes makes his case for the “no grades classroom.” And, boy is he convincing! This is certainly a radical and revolutionary argument- some might say “too crazy” to put into practice. Yet, Barnes draws me in very logically, and calmly, but persuasively, makes the “no grades classroom” sound realistic and doable. I find myself feeling the obligation and urgency to continue to learn and research this idea so I can make this case to my own administrator.

Mark Barnes is forcing me to think! Ah!

In all seriousness,  though: it is so important to rethink how we motivate students. Students in the current system (at least in my experience teaching high school social studies) do work solely in order to get a grade… which results in the path to least resistance, often including copying and cheating along with very little learning. They don’t want to work or learn: they just want to get the right grade for the right people. It is an unbelievably shady practice that needs to stop! This is a completely irresponsible form of assessment for student “learning.” Continue reading

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5 reasons my e-reader is frustrating the heck out of me

ereader-vs-bookI am a reader. By this I mean to say that I read a whole lot. I love to read and I really love books. That being said, I am also a reader that really wanted to love the e-reader. I have been a holdout for a while- not because I was against e-readers, but mostly because I never got around to purchasing one. I always seemed to find better uses of my budget. Alas, after a long period of interest and research in e-readers, I finally came around to buying one.



The Ultimate Purchase

I ended up with a Kindle Voyage. I liked the Kindle because I am an Amazon Prime addict and the idea of being able to continue to purchase my books (even my e-books) through Amazon was very appealing to me. I also found the Kindle Unlimited feature to be highly appealing. The integration of social media, especially Goodreads, was also a huge plus for me.
My Kindle arrived and I was elated! Finally, a place where I my library can always be at my fingertips; a “book” that can fit in every bag I own, and is so easy to hold and use. But after a while, this elation began to fade. I missed my regular book, even though I was still reading regular print books while I was using the Kindle. I found these to be my biggest struggles:

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