Hands Free Mama Podcasts

As I have been reading Rachel’s book “Hands Free Life” and listening to these podcasts, a quote that I had given my former high school soccer players kept running through my head.

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I hope you enjoy these five podcasts as we explore living a “Hands Free” life both in and out of the classroom. Focus on what is important. While at school, it’s the kids that need that attention. There can be so many distractions while at school but if we put up boundaries we can really focus on what is important.

The Slow Home Podcast

In this podcast, it really hit home when Rachel discussed how she felt that busyness equaled success. Just because I took time to do it, whether it was a short period of time or something longer, didn’t necessarily mean that it was important. Rachel’s discussion about this topic hit home and I have tried focusing on those special moments at home or with the kids in the classroom.

Joyful Courage Parenting Podcast

What hit home in this podcast was how Rachel is like all of us as parents in many ways. She has kids and is trying to enjoy her professional career and make sure her family has what they need…all while trying to keep herself together and taken care of. But in the end, she is making an impact, which is what I want to do-both at home and in the classroom.

The Home Hour

I think this was one of the first podcasts Rachel was on when her first book came out. I enjoyed hearing about how she still uses technology but is able to set up boundaries for it. This is something I really need to work on in my life and the discussion was interesting to me. I also connected with her talking about how to choose opportunities wisely and sometimes you just have to say no. I have worked on Derek Sivers thought of if I don’t say “Hell yes” I should answer no. Just a thought.

The Power of Moms

Story changers. After listening to this podcast that is what I wanted to become. I wanted to become a story changer for my kids, my wife, and the children in my classroom. There are many ways to become a story changer and this podcast helped guide some thoughts about it.

The Happiest Home

This is another of Rachel’s earliest interviews on a podcast. The focus of the conversation is on the struggle with juggling the demands of outside life with being really present for your family. Both important topics for me as I try to be as productive, efficient, and effective at school so I can enjoy every moment with my family as I can.

I hope you check out these podcasts and reflect on ways to become more “Hands Free” as an educator as well as a parent.


Have a great day!


Little Moments

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***That’s Jupiter!!!!***

I didn’t want to put G down.

Our son’s piercing blue eyes widen as he holds up his mother’s iPhone to the sky to see where his beloved planets could be seen in the morning sky. Our five-year-old son has been hooked on the planets and his Star Tracker app since Thanksgiving.


Despite being up four times with him from 10:15PM to 5:00AM, having him cough in my face, wiping his runny nose, snot wiped on my shirt, it all didn’t matter. (For the germophobe level I am at, it is a lot! J)


I was standing outside at 5:30AM in our driveway, holding G tightly in my arms as he scanned the early morning sky with the Star Tracker app on the Missus’ phone, and I wanted this moment to last forever. “There’s Jupiter, Daddy. Jupiter! It’s so bright this morning. I am so glad we are doing this. This is the best day ever.”


We stayed out for a few minutes enjoying the brisk cool air and each other’s company. He was bummed we couldn’t quite see all of the planets this morning and told me he was getting cold. “Can we check tomorrow, Daddy? Can we? We need to see all five!” “Of course, buddy. Let’s go have some breakfast.”


As I have written in each blog post, I have tried to become more productive, efficient, and effective so that I can enjoy as many of these moments as I can. Last week, I explored Dr. Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” to put myself in the right frame of mind for myself, as well as how I can model it for G and his spunky little sister also known as the Little Momma. I learned quite a lot last week. I wanted to take it further to maximize the enjoyment of these little moments now that I have found the mindset that I feel like I have been searching for on my journey.


This is why I am exploring Rachel Macy Stafford this week. She is the author and creator of the Hands Free Revolution. I am reading her book “Hands Free Life” where she discusses nine habits to overcoming distractions. I go back and forth between reflecting what I read as a parent and then as a teacher. Many of the items can carry over. An example is when she talks about Habit #3, “Building a Foundation.” In the book, she shares about building a foundation through listening and lifelines. How true is this with our students? Last week, one of our little girls was quite sad because her mother was going to be out of town for a week and she was staying with her grandmother. Each day, I would talk to her a little bit in the morning during our “soft start” time as kids are using the bathroom, signing in, hanging up bags, that kind of thing. I could tell each day she seemed to enjoy our little chat and was opening up a bit more. Once Friday rolled around, she wanted to explore a new set of materials for addition we had put out on the shelves. I did our little “mini-lesson” first, and then she tried. She picked up the task quickly, and as I was going to go help another student, she asked me to stay. I could see it in her eyes that it meant a lot to her, but she did not know how to say it. I told her “of course” and we did a few more. We even went down to the principal’s office to show off our new skill. We built a foundation and her belief in herself skyrocketed.


I hope you check out the Hands Free Revolution, because I am glad I did. (Thanks for the recommendation, Daniea!)


Tomorrow, I will share a few podcasts that I have found with Rachel Macy Stafford and a few other ideas I have taken from the book to help with teaching and the evaluation system.


Make sure you take a moment in enjoy these little moments of listening to a student or your own child. It will go a long way in building that growth mindset.

Have a great day!

8 simple ways to promote a Growth Mindset in your classroom

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I hope you have enjoyed our study of Dr. Carol Dweck’s “Mindset.” Today I wanted to give an example for each of the 8 steps within the System of how you can imprint a growth mindset into your teaching. If you additional ideas, please let me know!

Step 1: I am a stakeholder

Model. Plain and simple. Whether you are teaching in a whole group or small group setting, make a mistake. Try a different pathway. They see you doing it; they will be more prone to try as well. I also think reading in front of the children is a great way too. Not just your teacher’s edition. Grab an old classic. I am starting Siddhartha right now. If given time, I will take it out and it could be the start of a conversation on reading for enjoyment. Model, model, model.

Step 2: Examining students

A key component in this step is communicating with parents. In yesterday’s video, we discussed our weekly/monthly newsletter and “Everyday Homework.” Do you send home projects or activities families can do together? Can families then come in and share the process they went through to get it done sharing what worked, what didn’t, what they needed to tweak. Focus on the process!

Step 3: Classroom Management System with high learning standards

I do a lot of role-playing in our classroom to model the behavior and choices we are looking for. While modeling these behaviors early on, can you discuss how our brains are malleable and need practice to learn these behaviors? Some may not happen right away but if we practice and try our best we will be headed in the right direction. Also, have the students play an active role in designing the systems you use every day. They will then take ownership of it. Praise the process of finding the right system!

Step 4: Thoughtful Planning

Creating an environment where students are given an opportunity to take risks in a controlled environment. Are the students able to investigate with a variety of mediums? Can the students be scaffolded in a way that they feel comfortable yet grow? Can you put in your lesson plans specific instances where you know you will be wrong and have to try a new way to help the students feel more comfortable taking risks?

Step 5: Multiple Planning Techniques

I feel if you set high expectations, the students will shoot for those. If your expectations are lower, they will be low. I plan out and script my questions in a leveled way using Bloom’s Taxonomy. If you have different levels and push children up those rungs of the ladder, everyone can grow. Set high expectations with thoughtful questions and multiple planning options will show the students you have faith and belief in them. Which in turn will make them feel more comfortable grow and achieve your high standards regardless of where they are academically.

Step 6: Use of Appropriate Resources

Take a look around your classroom. Do you have investigative materials that push students to grow? Do you consider the multiple intelligences to give students different pathways to the end goal or objective? Having great materials is one thing. Having a plan to use them as a vehicle for growth is another. Take those great materials and open up new worlds by focusing on the process, trying new things, and working together.


Step 7: Maintaining classroom order

As you begin to create a growth mindset classroom, I think a focus from the very beginning should be communication amongst everyone in the classroom. Find ways to praise the process students are working on. Admire a student taking a chance or a risk. Have thoughtful questions that will create an atmosphere of growth. I found a great idea from Tools of the Mind. Each day, the students put together a plan for their day. This shows that the students have a say in their learning and can provide opportunities for both teacher led and student led activities.

Step 8: Adjust, modify, reflect

A great way to hook students is a personal narrative or telling a story. I used this a great deal in coaching and it helped drive home a point to the players. Within the classroom, what about an anecdote about Thomas Edison and how long it took to create the light bulb? How many tries did it take? Did he want to give up? Probably. But did he? No. Or think about other inventions or contributions to society that had to happen over time. Focus on sharing about the process and overcoming adversity will help cultivate a growth mindset.

I hope you enjoyed our exploration of Dr. Carol Dweck’s “Mindset.” Make sure you sign up for our “Extra Innings” newsletter that will come out Friday with even more information on ways to offer growth mindset experiences in your classroom.  Check out our video as well!

Please share in the comments how you provide a growth mindset classroom. I would love to hear from you!


Creating a Growth Mindset with students and their families

Please enjoy our newest video that describes a way to create and nurture a Growth Mindset with students and their families.

This is a great tool that works as evidence across domains on your teacher evaluation system!
We share an example of our “Everyday Homework” and how it is used to help promote a growth mindset with our students and their families. Our goal is to create a structured framework that empowers our students to create a growth mindset at home.   Then at school we utilize these tools to nurture to growth mindset in creative exploratory activities.

How do you imprint a growth mindset with your students?

Mindset articles


On Tuesdays, I will dive into articles that our author for the week wrote or articles about the topic.  I found two that I thought could enhance our investigation into “Mindset” by Dr. Carol Dweck  this week.  Make sure you check out our intro post about Mindset from yesterday!

This is a newer article from September 2015 that Dr. Dweck wrote for Education Week.

Education Week: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html

The Big 3 takeaways are:

  1. The importance of understanding our personal triggers and knowing when to talk ourselves through anxious moments. I have started to do this and it helps, but it takes a lot of practice.
  2. As a parent of a child with a sensory processing disorder, we do our best to provide and create a toolkit to navigate through experiences. We make sure G knows that the toolkit is always growing and tools can be modified as we get older. The goal is for him to make the connection. I joked with him yesterday that I would teach him how to fish so he could eat his whole life. His response, “Daddy, I don’t like fish.” Oh the ways of a four year old.
  3. Finally, as a teacher, I do mention effort quite a bit. I need to continue to work on talking about the process. I need to really get to know my students to find their personal triggers and work on my repsonses to them in the ranging experiences we provide. It seems like a lot, but the goal will be to make it habit so it is engrained in all of us.


I also must keep in mind we all are a mixture of both mindsets. It’s when times get tough, which mindset will I pick and which one will I encourage my students and own children to use?


Edutopia: http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/developing-growth-mindset-teachers-and-staff

I visit Edutopia from time to time to browse their different topics and videos. Teachers have written to me asking about working on morale and teambuilding amongst teachers and staff. I thought this article by Australian high school teacher, Keith Heggert, would help start the brainstorming process. We all have worked in jobs or environments that could be characterized by a fixed or growth mindset. Thinking as a teacher leader, here are my three takeaways on helping build a growth mindset in the workplace.

  1. It all starts at the top. Back in college I worked with the tradesmen on campus. A simple rule they had was “s&*t runs downhill.” This thought didn’t register until I moved into the teacher workforce. I have worked for nine principals in my 15 years of teaching. I firmly believe the best leaders (no matter what the field) know when to put the umbrella up for those below them. The leaders in the building, both administrative and teacher, need to model the gorwth mindset. Period.
  2. I was very intrigued by the idea of creating space for new ideas. We all need that to learn and grow. I have noticed many teachers feeling like they have to walk on eggshells and cannot take chances or try new things because of the evaluation system. It seems counterproductive to me if the evaluation system is truly for developing teachers. Again, it goes back to the tone that is set at the top. Are you helping your group grow?
  3. The best environment I have worked in was when the administrator and I would have conversations ABOUT the evaluation process. I felt comfortable sharing what I thought. She was fair and consistent but also pushed me to grow. There was a year stretch where I grew exponentially because of the environment that I was in based on the administrator’s mindset. It was very refreshing and I became the teacher I am today because of it.

I hope you enjoy these articles and it helps you start thinking about your classroom, your school, as well as your home with a growth mindset.   Join our “Extra Innings” email newsletter at the top of this page to gain even more information every Friday!

Tomorrow we will share a quick video on how we use the growth mindset every day!  Keep me posted on your thoughts from the Mindset podcasts as well!