Be Brave, Stand Up, Speak the Truth–Oh Yeah!

The last time I was in a public school classroom I was subbing for a 3rd grade teacher. It had been a few years since I’d stopped teaching and I was in shock.  The kids changed classes so frequently it was mind boggling. I could barely begin to remember a child’s name before they would be up and out the door.

Animal standing and listening. Be brave, stand up, speak the truth at, photo copyright J. Pierre Stephens
photo by J. Pierre Stephens

There was constant turnover in the kids and the classwork. First it’s time for a math drill. Now we have benchmark quiz.  Next the speed test. Quick, its time for standardized test practice. Grab your standards sheets and go! My head was spinning.

The kids were used to the pace and well trained. They were segregated into different leveled reading groups and bent to their tasks. They worked on their books and then took their test for each book. The room was quiet. Brows were furrowed. Heads were down.

I was not feeling the love of learning. I felt superfluous.

Finally one little girl raised her hand. She was in tears.

I stood beside her and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“I’m not smart, ” she sobbed. “I can’t figure out this question. They don’t make sense to me. I’m not smart. I won’t be able to go up to the next book.”

I broke a cardinal rule and gave her a hug. I put my hand on her back, squatted beside her and read the questions. Hmm. Shook my head and read the questions again. I went back to the beginning of the book and skimmed through the story. I read the questions again. Now MY brow was furrowed.

I stood up. The whole table full of kids were staring up at me. I gave her another hug and a kleenex and asked, “Do you think I’m smart?”

She looked perplexed. 

So, I asked again, “Do you? Do you think I’m smart and that I know what I am talking about?”

She  timidly shook her head yes. I looked around the room and saw most of the kids peeking over.  I made eye contact and raised my eyebrows. They slowly nodded.

“Good. You are right, I am smart. And I say this book doesn’t make sense. And you are smart. You are  SO smart,  your brain realized the whole story doesn’t really make  much sense.  Not only are you smart, you are so brave you raised your hand and asked me about it. You didn’t just pretend you knew what you were doing. You didn’t pretend it made sense.

You are smart and brave and honest.  That’s what matters.

It’s good to do hard things. Sometimes reading and learning can be hard and the  real goal is to learn how to keep trying and to keep going when things are hard to do.You can get better at things if you want to, if you practice and pay attention to what you are doing.

But sometimes, things do not make sense. Even if they are in books, or a grown up or a teacher or a boss says to do them.

And knowing when something isn’t right and saying something about it or telling someone is a really, really smart thing and brave thing to do. It’s an important thing to do, even if it makes you different than everybody else.

So, guess what – you are really smart!  You are thinking about what makes sense and doing something about it. Give me a high five!

Everybody, stand up and  get ready to shake your bootie. We are going to do the stand up and speak the truth boogie!”

They looked at me with saucer eyes, as if they were a little bit afraid of this crazy substitute teacher, and slowly started to get out of their chairs.

“Come on, come on, everybody up!  Up! Up! Follow me!”

We formed a conga line and started boogieing and shimmying around the room while I led the chant:

“Be smart -oh yeah – be brave – oh yeah – stand up- oh yeah – speak the truth – oh yeah – be silly – oh yea!!! What do you say?  Say it again…”

Maybe I wasn’t so superfluous after all.

What do you need to stand up for?  What truth are you telling?

 The world needs you to be smart and be brave.  Thank you.

Overivew of the city of Paris at night with Eiffell Tower lit in blue.

What do great conferences have in common with the City of Light?

And why should conferences be on your priority list for learning resources?

Because conferences provide inspiration, connection, and if you allow it, transformation.

Favorite.Learning.Resources.Conferences! at

A  conference story:

The year we started homeschooling I attended the Adventures in Homeschooling Conference in Sacramento.  Carrie and I went together since we were both new and a bit scared of leaving the familiar path of schooling.

I was amazed at the breadth of offerings, from inspirational keynote talks to workshops walking you through homeschooling legal issues and how to set up your own private school entity.  We enjoyed panels, sessions, group gatherings, an exhibitor display hall and a used materials exchange sale. Teens and wee ones could take advantage of a sessions just for them. More than 1000 folks participated and I was impressed–and relieved. We wouldn’t be homeschooling alone.   Continue reading

Ten Tips for Teens to Thrive

Ten Tips for Teen to Thrive at Tulip Photo by J.PierreStephens
photo credit JPStephens

Here’s to the power of ten!  Here are ten tips and tasks for teens taking  control of their quest to thrive.

Test drive keeping a learning or project  journal. Start reflecting and recording :

Ten things you are thankful for – think of this everyday.

Ten problems in the world you care deeply about.

Ten priorities for your life or what I call Tombstone thinking – what do you want it to say?

Ten things you want to learn more about.

Ten places you would like to visit, go  and explore.

Ten talents, strengths and what makes you unique.

Ten skills you would like to improve.

Ten goals for this year. 

Ten minutes: take time  to take the next step on what you care about everyday. Take ten minutes and start now.

Do you have any tips or tasks to try? Do tell!

I’d love to hear from you! Find me on twitter @lisanalbone or email me at!  Thanks.

Book Review: Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn

front cover of Punished by Rewards, book review at LisaNalbone.comThis book makes me want to get on a soapbox and shout: read this! Think!

I want us to take a look at how we use praise, rewards, power, control and coercion, even inadvertently, on a daily basis.

 I want us to have the courage to take steps to make changes that will truly help our children grow and learn.

I want it to be required reading for every parent, teacher and boss.

Kohn challenges us to question a pervasive mode of operating that many of us have come to accept as normal:

“My premise here is that rewarding people for compliance is not  ‘the way the world works’  as many insist. It is not a fundamental law of human nature. It is but one way of thinking and organizing our experience and dealing with others.  It may seem natural to us, but it actually reflects a particular ideology that can be questioned. I think it is long past time that we do so…” 

Kohn examines the underlying beliefs of behaviorism and the spread of these ideas across institutions and through society.  He looks at the implication of the use of rewards in the workplace, in schools and in the home. Continue reading