When I see Michael Phelps, I see his gold medals.  I picture his remarkable Olympic swims, his triumphs, his records, his endorsements, his time standing on the Olympic podium as our flag was being raised, and, have I mentioned his gold medals?  But what I, and I assume many, don’t picture is the daily, grueling work that prepared Phelps to rewrite history.

Recently I finished reading The Golden Rules: 10 Steps to World-Class Excellence in Your Life and Work.  In one part of the book, Bob Bowman, the swimming coach of Michael Phelps and many other successful swimmers, talks about how many swimmers take Sundays off.  Because of scheduling issues when Phelps was younger, Michael began practicing on Sundays and stuck to it as time passed.  So, while others were taking the day off, Phelps was, “getting five years of training into everyone else’s four years” (Bowman and Butler 131). That’s preparation.  And it’s just one example of how Phelps prepared.

When people fall short of their goals, it’s often due to a lack of preparation.  Perhaps you wanted to become more fit this year.  But, did you come up with a daily plan and stay committed to it?  It’s easy to look at the end result of what we’d like to achieve but we often don’t envision the long road that will get us there, thus resulting in disappointment.

I now appreciate Michael Phelps and Bob Bowman so much more.  I no longer just see the gold medals.  I respect the intense preparation the two went through to achieve excellence.  I see the medals that Phelps earned and deserves.

So my #OneWord2017 is preparation.  I plan to focus on the daily grind, the steps that are arduous and don’t sparkle and shine like gold medals do.  I’ll make this choice because behind every successful person is this easily overlooked preparation.


Bowman, Bob, and Charles Butler.  The Golden Rules: 10 Steps to World-Class  

     Excellence in Your Life and Work.  St. Martin’s Press, 2016.


Remembering Our Angels

Four years ago today, a heinous crime was committed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  Personally, this hit home on many levels.  Not only did I grow up in the town next to Newtown, but I am also a teacher.  If ever there was a town that something like this would “never happen in,” it was Newtown.  Every morning when I walk into my classroom, I place my key down on a table next to my door and I cannot help but think of that day.  After all, it’s one of the reasons I intentionally leave my keys where I do.  And four years later, the events that unfolded are truly still incomprehensible to me.

When you walk into my classroom, you might notice that my desk is topped with a bright, colorful, laminated collage with photos and inspirational quotes.  It’s a great pick-me-up on a tough day.  But what might go unnoticed is something that sits on the front, left corner of my desk.  It’s a laminated letter on understated white paper.  In the wake of the tragedy, I came across this letter from Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose daughter Ana Grace got her wings on December 14, 2012.  I encourage you to take the time to read it.

As we remember all of the people whose lives were forever changed because of that day in Newtown, let us also remember the wise words of Ana Grace and her mother.

The Equalizer: A Fast-Paced Brain “Break”


This week we played a math game that I made up, somewhat on the spot (my best ideas always seem to come this way), that turned out to be really fun.  The students were in teams working through problems in math.  When their entire team completed the work and showed they understood the problem, they got to play the game.  It was a quick and exciting brain “break,” with math snuck into it, of course!  A support teacher in my class named it “The Equalizer” because any team, no matter how many questions they completed, had a chance of winning.  Seriously, it got crazy!  My students are not very familiar with negative numbers but this was a simple introduction to them.  With the basic use of a number line on our wall, they calculated their scores pretty easily.

Here’s how the game works…

  • Get three different colored dice. I happened to have green, white and red at school.  You could also number the dice or use one die and just roll it three separate times.
  • Roll the red die.
  • Roll the white die and subtract the white die amount from the red die amount. Sometimes this produces a positive number and sometimes this produces a negative number.
  • Roll the green die.
    • If the green die is even, your score for that round (red die minus white die) doubles. *This is wonderful if you had a positive number but it’s a huge disappointment if you had a negative number.*
    • If the green die is odd, your score for that round (red die minus white die) clears to zero. *This is wonderful if you had a negative number but it’s a huge disappointment if you had a positive number.*
  • Keep a running list of the scores for each round and add them together at the end.

That’s it!  It was fast-paced, exciting, and quite the toss up in terms of who was in the lead at various times.