More on Distraction

More on Distractions.

Last February I wrote: I am distracted… just like my students. It’s no different this year I need to correct their revised essays; this year, I just want to binge watch Arrow, instead of reading a book. I get it, the distraction, a way to cope with feeling overwhelmed. The distractions that keep us from following through on what needs to get done!  I continue to be distracted by the question I posed last year: what do my students need, really need?

I started this blog, to model a writing practice for my students, and I have not written another post since last February… FEAR of revealing my writing publicly, as well as school, grad school, and LIFE, too much in an already filled life!

For a while now I have been enamored with neuroscience. And last year I obsessively studied the teenage brain.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Adolescents are primed for learning,  “in terms of sheer intellectual power, the brain of an adolescent is a match for an adult’s. The capacity of a person to learn will never be greater than during adolescence”. If this is the case why are so many of my students apathetic about school? And why are so many stressed to the point that it impedes their learning? According to one  American Psychological Association survey, during the school year adolescents feel more stress than adults.  So what is causing this stress?  I do not have an answer. “The Science of Happiness”, says part of the problem is information overload, constant emails, texts, instagrams etc, as well as the expectations to have a decent resume by the time they graduate; in other word too many commitments- too much pressure.

What I do know is that stress releases cortisol, which has been named “public enemy number one” by Chris Bergland, writer for Psychology Today. Too much cortisol can cause depression and anxiety, as well lower immune function, and  inhibits the storing and recalling of information.  So if this true, what are the implications for learning?

Stress is the culprit for many of our distractions. I asked my students what they do when they feel overwhelmed: “Binge watch Netflix, sleep, play sports, do nothing, cry, try not punch something, eat were some of their answers. Stress — how do we help our students to cope with feeling so overwhelmed that it interferes with their learning? 

In February’s blog, I wrote:  “Last year I instituted Motivational Mondays – I show a short inspiring video and my students and I set our intention for the week.The intentions range from personal to academic. “Some of their intentions: get to bed earlier, use study hall effectively, write down homework, shave time off my run, have a better attitude when we lose a game, eat healthier”.   Fridays we check in, how did we do?? We get stickers if we stuck to our a goal, (even if sparingly). At the end of the year my students they felt that the goals helped them stay focused personally and academically; more importantly, they felt better about themselves.   

I continue to do implement motivational Mondays. Now, I ask them questions like, how do you deal with your stress; what is causing your stress?  The purpose of these questions is to hopefully begin a metacognitive query. My fascination with the brain expanded to looking for ways to relieve stress and empower the brain! Personally, I have been meditating for a long time. And it hit me… mindfulness reduces my stress and there is tons of research out there that mindfulness is good for your health. So, I took a class, Mindfulness for Educators through Mindful Schools. And voila — a possible solution; in the spring semester, I will add an 8-week mindfulness course.  This will give students some skills to relieve stress!  Mindfulness is cool in so many ways… It teaches us how to respond rather than react; how to be present; choice of where to place our attention; and  improves executive function skills.

So there you have it! 



Special Education Tips for General Education Teachers





10Note: this is a version of an article originally posted on MilKids Ed. It has been edited and reposted by the original author.

If your classrooms are like mine, your students span the spectrum of abilities and learning styles.

My kids fidget at their desks, can’t sit still for any length of time, and have varying timelines for mastering new content.

Instead of fighting it, I’m embracing it. I’m just using special education tricks and tips to work with my students’ learning styles.

Here are my 10 best special education tips for the general education classroom.

1. Walk Away from the Desks: Have you ever sat in those chairs? They are deeply uncomfortable. And we are asking children to spend the majority of their days sitting “appropriately” in them. Which is why I stopped. I instituted freedom of learning. My kids are allowed to work anywhere they want during dedicated…

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I Don’t Feel It…

I don’t feel like writing.

I have been thinking about modeling action, writing, reading, working, for my students. What does it mean to model good writing?  If I am going to teach writing, I need to be writing.  So, here I sit on a blustery, snowy, soon to be rainy winter day, BLAH!…I am not feelin’ it. How many times have I heard my students say that. “Ms. Fullerton, I’m just not in the mood to read or write”. And here I sit. I’m just not in the mood.  I want to be curled up on the couch reading my murder mystery novel, a yummy, no effort, totally entertaining book; it’s Patricia Cornwell’s Southern Cross. It’s vacation week!

I have made a commitment to myself to write on my blog weekly; so here I sit, writing anyway.  

(I find this comical because I have not shared my blog with many people. I am moving closer to the edge of jumping off into the oblivion of sharing this blog via my profile on Twitter. I do mean the edge of oblivion).

I am not a confident writer, when it comes to the public.  One has to develop a sort of lizard skin, or as I like to call it a strong s@#& shield.  Let’s face it people judge. My students feel that at some level. The fear of judgement.  I cringe when I hear some of the comments they have received on papers. No wonder they resist.  How teachers write comments can make all the difference in the world for our students. They are young, and teenagers can be sensitive, not likely to admit it. (Yes, they are in the midst of developing their identities.  Albeit this is a lifelong process, and teens are becoming every day).  I digress.

Realistically there are other reasons my students do not want to write that paragraph, DIDLS, DED, or essay- they have other priorities. They are busy writing on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and all the other social media apps out there.  I often find myself in that cavernous space of harnessing the power of digital media and the knitty-gritty reality of writing. Because, simply, good writing takes time, patience; it takes dwelling in frustration and sometimes pure anger, being in that insecure place of,  “I don’t get how to do this; I am not a good writer”.  And at other times it can be exhilarating!  Writing takes effort, or the new educational buzzword “grit”.

Education should be interesting and yes, fun. However, students still need to understand sometimes, we are not going to like what we are given.  This means writing the dreaded five-paragraph essay, the DBQ, the DIDLS, the DED — yes, many still dread writing when they have chosen the topic. I know this sounds like a downer of a post, and it is also a reality in many humanities classroom.

So, here I sit a half-hour later, more “into it”, and I am writing.  I will leave it, come back to it, revise it and post it.  This is why and how I model action to my students.  I need to be willing to do it, even when I do not want to.

Two days later… I’m posting.

The influence of distraction…

I am distracted… just like my students. I need to correct their revised paragraphs; I just want to read my book. I get it, the distraction. The distractions that keep us from following through on what needs to get done!  And yet…. Life is precarious, this balance of ever growing change and need.  I keep getting distracted by the question, what do my students need, really need?

I started this blog, to model a writing practice for my students.

Most of my students think school is geared towards one thing- getting into college.  We say we are not, but that is the message my students hear loud and clear. Some of them have no intention of going to college; some want to take a gap year; some are going straight into the military; some do not know what they want.

With this in mind, helping students to self-reflect on what they want no matter how small,  I instituted Motivational Mondays – I show a short inspiring video and my students and I set our intention for the week.The intentions range from personal to academic. Some of their intentions: get to bed earlier, use my study hall effectively, write down my homework, shave time off of my run, have a better attitude when we lose a game, eat healthier.   Fridays we check in, how did we do?? We get stickers if we stuck to our a goal, (even if sparingly).  The ones who don’t – we borrow an attitude from Carol Dweck- not yet!  The kids love it!!!  I do too because it keeps me accountable.

Why do I do this in English class – because a lot of them will not do it on their own, have not  been asked consistently, and/or they need someone who is going to check in with them.  What’s been great, is that my students have started to connect the dots, like when they get an extra hour of sleep they concentrate better, when they have a better attitude when they lose they are better able to look at it as learning opportunity, and when they eat healthier they feel better.  They are seeing that all these seemingly small intentions flow into all areas of their lives. 

What do my students need on any given day?  This answer changes pending on the day, however, three needs are consistent: To be heard, listened to, understood.


One Year Later…

I am borrowing portions of this post from my personal blog… the one before my educational blog. I read my last blog post from a year ago- I was gung-ho on starting to blog weekly. Alas, this past year blogging has not been a part of my daily repertoire… and I am OK with this. Normally, when looking back about a commitment I had made and failed at would send me into the depths of the chaotic ruminations of self-condemnation–not this time.

I know I will return. There is always a return…with some sense of new understanding, new learning.

I am listening to my new favorite podcast, The One You Feed, thinking about Thich Nhat Hanh and the internal seeds I water daily, or as their podcast postulates, which wolf do I feed…which seed do I water: the self condemning, fearful one or the loving, joyful one? I ponder, Jung’s shadow, that side of us we keep hidden from the world.   What do I nourish, joy, gratitude, passion or fear, apathy, and self-loathing? Both wolves need to be approached with an objective compassion- I will never be “rid” of my human self.

The commitment to write last year has not faded, nor did the commitment to health and exercise….I write every day, just not on my blog, yet.

I asked myself last year: “The doubting, the self-critic so strong and mean at times – can be crushing.  The question becomes – how do we use irrational fear and transform it into a power that catapults us to the next step?” Meditation, writing, exercising, serving others, and a host of other things lead me to self-acceptance, a form of loving kindness to myself. My meditation has also called me to a commitment of no TV for a year, with a focus on more intentional writing and reading, and as always, exercise (walking, running, strength training, stairs, yoga – some form of movement) every day for 10 minutes or more and meditation is included in this commitment.  So far, so good – 33 days

So here I sit in my yet, writing a new blog post, modeling literacy for my students.  Challenging myself to write publicly.

Initial Ponderings…’s thoughts, heard and read by anyone.  DAUNTING. People can post comments, possibly nasty comments. No more waiting for a letter to the editor for comments.  Why start blogging? My students!  If I want my students to become confident writers, I need to model this “confidence” -whether I feel it or not.   If I want my students to publish or write on a blog, I need to be publishing.

I must confess, I have another “private” blog about my running practice, a blog that I have let very few people know about. Why?  Fear. They say public speaking is one of the top ten fears, well mine is publishing my writing.  Educators, people in general can be … critical and not the constructive kind.   I read an article in The Atlantic Monthly by a fellow English educator, and the poor guy was lambasted for a sentence that was not “perfectly” structured.  I realize, one needs to mentally prepare and to skillfully create some steely mental armor that is not easy to pierce when thinking about publishing any work; and remember Rule #62: “Don’t take yourself so… seriously”!

So, here I sit in my empty classroom on a frigid, 13 degree day, beginning to create my mental shield of titanium, and more importantly beginning a conversation with  students, colleagues, teachers, parents about education, learning, and the classroom.

What does it mean to be literate, a student, educated?