Finding My Calling with TeamMates Mentoring

Finding My Calling with TeamMates Mentoring

I worked with TeamMates Mentoring at Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) shortly after Tom Osborne and his wife created the program in the early 90s. As a principal, I loved greeting the mentors because I knew how much the relationship meant to our students. The closer I got to retirement, I knew being a mentor with TeamMates was something I wanted to do with my free time.

First Steps into Mentoring

I contacted the TeamMate’s office and inquired about the organization and weekly requirements. The staff member who helped me was the wife of a fellow LPS administrator. She was excited about my participation in the program and answered all my questions. She called two days later and asked if I was interested in helping them out with a young boy who went to one of our feeder schools. After getting the okay from my superiors, I told her yes.

Building Trust with My First TeamMate

The young boy’s mother had just gone to prison, and he and his siblings were going to a foster home. Both the foster parents and the principal of the elementary school were hopeful I could help with the transition. I was ready. At least I thought so.

The first several months were hectic and rather disorganized. This young boy was very active and OCD. I soon realized my role was to give the teacher some time for him to blow off some steam. We met in a small room near the library and frequently drew on the white board. Playing organized games or reading were not yet part of our session. After some time, he became less agitated and followed directions. He obtained skills with his behavior and was a joy to work with. We were TeamMates for several years before the family moved away.

Mentoring a Bright & Independent Young Woman

When I connected with my next TeamMate, I had already retired so it was much easier. She was a middle school student who was very shy and very bright. She loved art and Dungeons and Dragons. She taught me a great deal! I worked hard to get her scholarships and find the perfect art class for her. During her senior year, she told me she didn’t want to go to college and was sorry to disappoint me. Yes, I was a bit disappointed but I realized this is what she wanted to do. She was not yet ready to move away from her parents and be on her own. To this day, we still chat on the phone and meet for lunch several times a year.

My New TeamMate with Big Dreams

This year, I have a new TeamMate who attends an elementary school. Her older brother was a student who attended Northstar, and he asked me to keep an eye on her. As a fourth grader, she is very smart, independent and already knows she wants to be an obstetrician. When I was in fourth grade, I didn’t even know what that word meant, let alone what I wanted to be.

She has her own challenges but nothing we can’t figure out together. For example, she’s so confident that when she works on a craft during our time together, she neglects to read the instructions. Minor details. We’re working on that skill first.

While working with her, I am reminded how I worked with my grandchildren when they were in elementary school. Don’t tell them what to do or how to do it, and patience is a virtue. Come to think of it, that’s still the way I communicate with my grandkids today. I’m supportive but stay out of their way! Sometimes those grandparent skills just keeping giving, long after your own grandkids are grown and on their own. I’ll always be there for my grandkids and my TeamMates.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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What to Do If Your Kid Lacks Motivation About School

What to Do If Your Kid Lacks Motivation About School

Sometimes it feels like our kids really don’t care about school. Even when they’re smart and underachieving, or especially when they’re failing school, it’s not as simple as not caring about school.

A Shift in Collyns’ Approach to Schoolwork

Collyns, who is in fourth grade, shows no enthusiasm for school and learning. We knew it was important to address the problem head on. Recently, we attended her parent-teacher conference. She is doing fine in most subjects—except math. We wanted to see what her teacher was observing in the classroom.

She has never been an A+ student, but she has always tried her best. Lately, however, she does her work for completion points and doesn’t seem to care if it’s done correctly. She isn’t asking for help at school or at home if she does not understand the problem. She takes some steps to solving the problem, but if she doesn’t know what to do next, she stops and says it’s complete even though it’s not done correctly.

How to Turn Resistance into Positive Motivation

The teacher told us that the important thing to remember is that Collyns is motivated. She’s just motivated to resist us and others when she does not want to do something. The key is to learn how to turn her negative motivation into a positive one. That’s why we worked together with her teacher to address the early signs of motivation problems and discussed how to provide a better learning environment for Collyns.

Timing Is Key

One thing we realized is that we ask our children to do their homework right after school—before we get home and the chaos of practices begin. Collyns always has her homework completed, but neither Mitch nor I check to see if it’s done correctly. This has now changed. One of us will look it over and see if she has done it correctly and help her if she hasn’t.

Build a Support System

Next, she asks her older brother, Cohen, to help her with the homework she does not understand. Cohen didn’t have a problem in math. He continues to excel and gets his homework done correctly most of the time. Fortunately, he understands her math homework and is willing to help her problem solve.

The motivation is to do things her way, not ours. The motivation is to retain power. Her motivation stems from not knowing what to do next. Now that we have a system in place, when she gets stuck, she has an outlet in her brother.

Praise the Process, Not the Result

Lastly, we started praising her hard work, not just her overall grades. Instead of rewarding her grades, our reward comes in the form of verbal encouragement, praise, hugs and other positive attention—again, not focused on grades, but rather on the learning process in general.

We now regularly ask her about what she is learning each day and engage with her when she’s excited to tell us something about school. She seems to be doing better with her math homework and hopefully it will show on tests. I am thankful Cohen is willing and able to help her with her homework. We will continue to praise her for working hard and finding her motivation.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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How I Embraced Being Present This Summer

How I Embraced Being Present This Summer

It’s that time of year again—back to school. This summer felt like it lasted a second. I blinked and it’s gone. I feel like we just had an end of the school year party and now here we go again.

Cherishing Summer Moments With My Kids

I don’t know who enjoys summer vacation more—me or my kids. I cherished these last three months. I took time to be present in my kids’ lives. Yes, I still worked my full-time job outside the home, but having my son home most days gave me reason to leave for lunch or clock out early.

How to Prioritize Presence Over Everything

As much as I love my career, being 100% present with my kids takes center stage. I’m still on a journey to fully understand what being present means and how it can make a difference in my interactions and relationships.

I realized it all comes down to the choices I decide to make. I must select my daily priorities and give them the most attention. So, this summer I focused on three things.

1. Cut Back on Technology

As much as I love technology, and I use it as a part of my job, I still limit my technology intake. Here are my strict guidelines:

  • After 5 PM, I don’t check email and turn off notifications because those pings are distracting.
  • I put my phone away when I am with my family, so that I won’t look at anything when they are speaking with me.

2. Limit Social Media Time

I use social media for business, and I’ve almost completely cut back on social media personally. I realized I was seeing my life from my phone and was missing the in-person moments.

Social media is designed to make you engage more, to be curious about what friends are doing and saying and to check who is liking and praising you. Suddenly my minutes, hours and soon days were filled with seeing what everyone else was doing. My fear of missing out was real.

But guess what? When I fed into FOMO, I started missing out on real-life moments with the people who matter the most. So now, I take quick pictures here and there so I have them, but I want to be present in my life.

3. Start to Be Mindful

Being “mindful” and “mindfulness” have become big buzz words in my house. When you’re mindful, you’re present and aware of what’s around you. As a result, you’re able to recognize someone else’s feelings.

I’ve started meditating. Now I use all my senses when someone is talking with me. I can tell when someone close to me says one thing but their body and tone of voice say something else. This is very beneficial to my children and spouse. I am more aware of their feelings and the underlying meaning of their words.

Embracing the Back-to-School Transition

So, I am sad the summer is ending, and my days are becoming consumed with work, chores, schoolwork and kids’ activities. But, I am going to try and live in the moment.

A Note to New Mothers

However, I know this advice seems impossible for new moms. You’re probably exhausted and feeling defeated. I feel you. I know that you want some of these moments to end and that you don’t want to live in this moment forever. And you will get through it. But now that my kids are older and they sleep through the night, I truly understand why I need time to slow down.

Hold your children close and breathe them in. Today becomes tomorrow at an alarming rate. Cherish the small, insignificant moments because one day they will act as breadcrumbs, leading you back to a time, a place and a life once lived. It’s easy to get caught up in our never-ending laundry list that we overlook what truly matters. For now, I am present in my life and for my family.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Kid-Friendly Conversations About Gun Violence

Kid-Friendly Conversations About Gun Violence

Every child deserves to go to school in a safe, warm and loving environment that fosters learning. Every staff member deserves to go to work and not fear for their lives. The images are heart-wrenching, the loss of life incomprehensible. Talking to your children about what they’ve seen or heard may not be easy, but it’s necessary.

Safety Plans for Emergencies at School

Most schools have lockdown drills and lockout drills. Children are practicing for this very reason. Guns in schools should never happen, but it’s becoming more and more of a reality. I have two kids, a 9-year-old and almost 12-year-old. These shootings hit home even in Nebraska. I can’t leave them to figure this out alone. I want to be right there with them having tough conversations about complicated feelings and possible questions.

How to Ask Children About Current Events

It’s common for parents to be nervous for conversations about tragedy. I started by asking an open-ended question, like “How do you feel about this?” or “What questions do you have about that event?”

My son just asked, “Why would anyone kill a child?” I used simple words to explain that some people are cruel but most of the time those people are confused or having mental health issues. Then I sat back and just listened to my children.

I noticed what they were not saying, too. I read their nonverbal body language. My daughter was fidgety and tearful. I just wanted to snuggle her up, love both of them and never let go. My goal was to provide comfort and reassurance by being there.

Ways to Comfort Without White Lies

My husband told me that it’s important not to lie to them. I wanted to tell them that something like this will never happen in Lincoln or in their school, but I couldn’t. It could happen here, so all I could do was validate their feelings of being afraid and reassure them that the drills they are doing are to protect them if something does happen. I emphasized that schools are safe and to take safety practices seriously.

I also told them that if they see something out of the ordinary happening in school to say something. I wanted to make sure they were comfortable reporting potential problems or behaviors that make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe in their school. This could be about gun violence, bullying, or any other at-risk behavior.

Emotional Control & Empowerment Strategies

We worked together on strategies that I hope will help them feel safe and empowered while they process their emotions. Teaching them coping techniques like breathing deeply, taking a timeout, exercising or engaging in creative activities like art and music can be helpful tools to draw upon when they experience triggers related to school shootings. My husband is better at this than I am, but I also tried to model empathy and self-care by practicing what I preached. The goal was to help them gain personal strength so they can face the difficult reality in ways that promote healing rather than cause further harm.

Even with these conversations, I reminded myself that I needed to be patient. Even if they weren’t in that school or that community, they may still be having a significant response to it. I was. There needs to be a change, but for now, I encourage you all to have those difficult conversations and hug your kiddos tight.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Helping My Son Make Middle School Friends

Helping My Son Make Middle School Friends

One quarter down and Cohen is doing great in middle school. He takes pride in his schoolwork, and really enjoys most of his classes, but hates it. He dreads going every day!

I am not worried about his grades; he is getting all A’s. Even though he says middle school is much harder than elementary he is doing great. He really enjoyed his Spanish class first quarter and has taught me several words. Even though I took 4 years of it in high school, I can’t speak a word! Now he is in a healthy living class and recently learned how to make omelets. Like I said, he likes his classes but hates school.

Struggling to Make Friends

He hasn’t found “his people”. As a parent, it is so hard to watch your child struggle to make friends. Cohen is kind, loving, social and so friendly, I don’t understand why he can’t find his core group of friends. I know it’s not a lack of social skills but maybe he’s just in an environment where people don’t have the same ideas or interests as him, and he’s just having a real challenge finding his group of people. He hates his pod. A pod is where his locker is located. Don’t get me wrong, he has a couple of friends at school, but he never sees them. His middle school is so big he doesn’t have his two friends in any of his classes or near his pod.

His “happy place” is the soccer field. There he has his teammates, who he considers his best friends. He would rather hang out with them than anyone in school. However, they all go to different schools, so he doesn’t see them every day or have those friendly faces in school.

But I do think is it important for him to find a group of friends or just a couple of core friends in school. I want to make school better for him.

Putting Yourself Out There

So, I think it’s time for him to explore and maybe join an after-school activity. There are plenty of clubs and school-sponsored events he can try out. This may be the perfect way to discover his other passions and interests besides soccer —some he may not have even known he has! It’s also a great way for him to learn something new. And fingers crossed, he may even make a friend along the way.

Obviously, having a locker in a pod is new. He tells me that he’s always in a hurry because he doesn’t want to be late so maybe he seems unapproachable. So, I told him to just smile more. It seems like such a simple thing to do but a smile can start a lot of friendships. I know it’s hard for him because he is in a place where he is not making friends, no matter how hard he tries, so a smile may seem difficult to do. However, not smiling can make you even more of an outsider.

Now I’m not talking about walking around with a grin all day because people will think he’s just weird. But I’m talking about lightening up and putting positive energy out there. I told him to laugh at his classmates’ jokes (if they aren’t funny, jokes) and smile at people when he walks by. If his exterior cracks and he lets people in a little, then he may have a much better chance of making friends.

As parents, we often want to immediately jump into problem-solving mode whenever our child is having an issue. But it’s a better idea to slow down and just listen to what they have to say, first. Giving kids the space to open up and feel heard lets them know that it’s okay to talk about emotions — and that you’re a good person to turn to whenever they need help.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Reconnecting With My Substitute Grandkids

Reconnecting With My Substitute Grandkids

The weekend of June 18 was certainly a fun one for me. It was filled with my involvement in a couple of community activism events. I’ve always worked hard to include my grandkids in my community activities. We marched in the Martin Luther King Youth Rallies for years, volunteered at the Malone Center handing out food to those in need, and we even marched at the capitol for Women’s Rights. Since my grandbabies have left town, at least for the time being, I can only send pictures and text them about my activities in Lincoln and hope they will in turn become more involved and participate in their own community events which mean something near and dear to their hearts.

Taking Part in Community Activism

Earlier in the spring, I signed up to walk in my church’s entry in the Pride Parade. Last year, several of the grandkids and I watched the Pride Parade participants walking around the Nebraska Capitol. It was fun to be an observer, so I was really looking forward to participating in the parade this year. My church group had matching t-shirts and loved the idea of sharing the love.

The highlight of the parade was not our church’s entry, although we were a merry and welcoming marching group. The highlight was joining with a couple of past Lincoln Southeast High School graduates who were also marching with our church. I remembered them as strong women athletes who lead Lincoln Southeast High School in women’s basketball to numerous Nebraska State Tournaments. I was thrilled to see them and we reconnected quickly and not so quietly. I had maintained some connection with these young women and we found we were reconnected with a renewed sense of energy. We were proud of our Pride Convictions and loved reliving their joyous youth and present successes in their lives.

The second highlight of the weekend was experiencing the 2022 Juneteenth Celebration at the Lincoln Malone Center. There were multiple tents that sheltered various organizations and non-profit groups offering support to the Lincoln families. The Malone Center was very well organized and I enjoyed walking through the tents and learning how the Lincoln community supports all citizens. I learned a great deal!

It was a terribly hot afternoon. I kept under the shade of the tents as much as possible and then moved to the shade around the water sprinkler children’s fun area at Trago Park. I thought it would be a great spot to watch the small kids running through the sprinklers. I cannot deny a part of me wanted to run around with the little kids in the water spray. I’m pleased to say I controlled my heated emotions and relaxed quietly in the shade.

I relaxed quietly until I heard the Juneteenth Celebration’s emcee speaking into the mic. I paused and thought I recognized the voice. I had no idea who the emcee was and dismissed any type of connection. As I continued to watch the water spray, I also continued to listen to the emcee. He was encouraging audience members to rap the ABCs following a beat on the piano. Since I felt a connection with the emcee’s voice, I left the shade of the water spray area and moved to the heat in front of the emcee’s stage.

Reconnecting With Former Students

I looked closely at the emcee and in an instant realized he was a Lincoln Southeast High School graduate while I was principal. I stood in the heat in front of the stage hoping the emcee would recognize me. Nope, no luck. My white hair and grandma body is no longer a visual connection to the kids I had in high school in the 90s. I waited patiently until the emcee had a break. I went up to him and introduced myself. He was thrilled to reconnect with me. We hugged, took pictures, laughed and even cried together. It was another amazing reunion!

The next day, I reflected on my weekend. I truly missed not seeing and being with my own grandkids. I shared with each of my grandkids my experiences and sent them accompanied pictures. There is no replacement for not being able to be with my grandbabies. However, what I did experience was the joy of having substitute grandkids with me that weekend. I was able to laugh, cry and hug my way through the weekend in a way I never expected. Somehow I wondered how I would deal with life without my grandkids being in Lincoln with me. Now I know I can hang in there, as long as I am active in the community, active in my Southeast and Northstar high schools, and continue to look forward to reconnecting with my substitute grandkids wherever they may be.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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Getting Ready for Middle School

Getting Ready for Middle School

Middle school. Just saying the words brings me thoughts of puberty and pimples. Of insecurity and awkwardness, including bad hair and braces. Really, middle school years, I believe may be the most challenging and confusing time in one’s life.

However, the idea of changing schools for middle school is new to me. I went to a private school that was Kindergarten through 8th grade, so I never had to transition to middle school. Recently, Cohen and I had information night at his new middle school. We took a tour, met some of the staff, asked questions, and learned about expectations and procedures. He had so many questions that I tried to answer but again I didn’t go to middle school, so this is new to the both of us. Cohen says he is ready, but I am not.

Since he is my oldest, this is uncharted territory for all of us. Right now, he’s excited about meeting new people, having new experiences and gaining more independence. It will be a new adventure and I am looking forward to watching him grow. I will admit, though, that I am also more than a little scared. I’ve heard lots of stories about kids making bad choices, giving in to peer pressure, using social media for inappropriateness and trying to do grown-up things far too soon. I’m sure he’s aware of these things as well.

Part of me wants to think he is too smart and too good to fall into those traps. But then there is the real me, that refuses to be a naive parent who is blind to the truth.

Yes, I have taught him basic values and morals, but now, more than ever is the time to help him apply it all. I believe middle school is the ideal time to mentor him in how to practically work out the character qualities that he learned as a boy. He is so sweet, loving, kind and innocent – and I don’t want that to change.

Because he is our first child, it may seem like the other parents are giving freedoms and privileges that I will not; I may be stricter, but I hope to stand my ground and not feel pressured to do the same. I know my son better than anyone, and I can make the call when the time is right to do these so-called more grown-up things.

And perhaps my greatest job during these years is to study my son and determine just where he is on that spectrum of growth and development, mentally and physically, and parent him accordingly. Not according to a number (grade or age). I do not want to parent him according to what his friends are doing. I want to do the very best thing for him, in the stage he is currently in.

For me, hitting the middle school years is like getting to half-time of an important game: I may be ahead now, but the game’s not over. I need to towel-off, get a big drink of water and then gear up for the second half. This is something that I want to finish strong.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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How I Work to Inspire High School Students

How I Work to Inspire High School Students

As a principal, my husband gives many talks to the students throughout the year. Most times the talks are informational and to remind students of expectations but there are times when the talks are inspirational. During any one of these talks the students and teachers really see the heart of my husband. My favorite talk, however, is each year when my husband talks to the senior class. The words are never the same, yet the message is. I always get a little choked up when he ends this discussion, “Just remember, I love you all.” Yet, what gets to me the most is he not only encourages students to graduate from Milford High School with their high school diploma but also with a passion, a purpose and an employable skill.

Passion, Purpose, and Skill

With a passion, a purpose and an employable skill. My husband articulates this sentiment so well, yet this is my belief. This is my colleagues down the hall belief. What is really crazy about this, is an article I read about a month ago, suggesting employers today are starting to value skills over degrees. This article made it very clear degrees are still important, however, the skills prospective employees possess may have a bigger impact during the hiring process. This made me think even more. What can I do as a teacher to better connect students with their values and their employability skills?

A Love For Teaching

I love the teaching profession because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. I get the opportunity to have discussions with students on the importance of finding a passion. The importance of starting to develop or find their purpose. And even, teach about values and how these values develop into passionate employees.

Success in high school looks completely different to each student I serve. Even with my passion for teaching, I need a shift in my thinking. I need to encourage failure more and more inside my classroom. Allow students to develop more self-awareness of their values and apply these in the learning process. I need to encourage students to enjoy the learning process rather than focus on the grade. I need to encourage all of this while also helping my students find relevant experiences to connect their values and beliefs to their learning. Most importantly, I want my students to understand that no matter where their next stage in life takes them, the skills and passions they developed in high school will help them continue to live out their purpose. Through all of this, I can truly support our principal’s sentiments of graduating high school with a passion, purpose and employable skill.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Is She Trying?

Is She Trying?

School is supposed to be a fun time where children learn new and exciting things about themselves and the world around them. But sometimes children can lack motivation in school and not give it their best effort. As parents, all we want is to see our children succeed in life and that starts with school.

2 – Approaches district expectations.

That’s what I saw on most of my daughter’s report card. But this wasn’t a surprise. At parent/teacher conferences, I knew she was struggling. When I met with her 2nd grade teacher, we talked about a plan and identified the areas where she was not applying herself.

So, I wonder, is she trying? Does she care?

Setting Achievable Goals

Do you remember when you were in school, how overwhelmed you would feel with a big project or test? Maybe Collyns might be feeling too overwhelmed to do any schoolwork. So, we decided to help her by setting achievable goals that she can hit. Breaking something big into smaller milestones is a tool she has enjoyed and will use her whole life. Smaller goals make her feel accomplished and inspire her to continue working to keep this feeling up.

We started small. We decided she needed extra help in reading. She now works with a para and has a fluency folder – which is a 1-minute read at home every night, over the course of the week. She gets books from the library that she seems to enjoy reading. But to be truthful, she still hates it. She also has a hard time with reading comprehension. She tends to rush through her tests and guess on the questions rather than look for text evidence. She again despises these tests and wants them over with and so she doesn’t seem to care. During these tests, her teacher reminds her to slow down and focus and the task on hand.

Working Together at Home

At home, we also work on her spelling words. She likes using a dry-erase board to work on her list instead of pencil and paper. At night we work on 5 words from her 15-word list, so she isn’t overwhelmed with the entire list every night. Then the night before her test we work on the words she questioned during the week.

We continue to help her with math. Even though every night seems to be a fight she tries and eventually finishes the problems. She seems to understand the lesson that they are working on but must be reminded. Recently, I started to set a timer for 5 minutes. She must see how much math homework she can do correctly in the time. Most of the time she gets it done and looks at me and says, “that didn’t take as long as I thought it would.” She continues to gain confidence in her work. If she is overwhelmed, we take a break. I don’t make her do all her work in one setting if she becomes frustrated.

How you represent school and learning in your house is how your child is going to view school overall. So, if you are yelling or disciplining your child for doing bad on a test or report card, they may start to resent school and stop trying!

We’ve all done it. Used the threat of taking away something our child loves in order to try and motivate them. ‘If you don’t start doing your homework in the next 10 minutes, there will be no iPad after dinner.’

I’ve learned that doesn’t help motivate Collyns. It makes her angrier. If she starts her homework with a bad attitude, it will take her twice as long and it will most likely end with me yelling and her in tears. She will continue to hate school and feel less confident and continue to not try either at home or in class.

Staying Positive

This is not how I want her to see school. Instead, I remind myself every night to remain positive, talk about what she is doing well and see why she thinks she is not doing well in other subjects. I try not to talk down to her, but instead be the positive force she needs in her life. Fingers crossed, some of these strategies will pay off for the spring semester.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Recognizing My Gift is Joy

Recognizing My Gift is Joy

Today I started the day out in a rush. I hit my snooze button for an extra 30 minutes. I took a little longer to put makeup on, brush my teeth and walk out the door. Little did I know a handful of colored circles with wobbly lines would change my day.

Needing to Slow Down

Once I arrived at school it seemed as if I had left my checklist completely unattended the day before and there were already six new items to check off before the warning bell rang. To start the day, there was a tech issue in the Spanish classroom and I explained in my best Spanish, “Yo estoy rapido en la mañana!” All the students looked at me with a look of confusion. The actual Spanish teacher explained, “I was in a hurry this morning.”

My day started out in a rush and feeling behind. I kept reminding myself I needed that extra sleep and time this morning just to prepare myself for the day. I kept focusing on the big picture of the day. I wanted to control what needed to be checked off on my list and became very frustrated when I remembered things to keep adding to this list. At one point in the morning, my daughter kindly asked, “Mom, do you need me to help you today? You seem so rushed.”

It’s the Little Things that Matter

And before I knew it, I was abruptly reminded at about 8:30, 9:15, 10:20 and then again at 11:10, that the little things are what bring us joy. Two text messages, a reminder that a “to do” list is overrated, a “this is so cool” comment from a seventh-grader, and the excited “oohs” from kindergarteners.

Yes, four times I was reminded to look at the simple, little things. I don’t think I was intentionally ignoring the small moments of joy, I just think I wasn’t “seeing” those moments. The fourth reminder came from my little kindergartener friends. They showed me joy is right in front of me, they showed me simplicity brings joy. In my small time frame with kindergarteners today, I brought joy to them by showing them how to color little circles with wobbly lines using technology. Yet, they reminded me of my life word — joy.

“Your Gift is Joy”

Later on in the day, I was teaching my Intro to Business students a lesson on leadership and a quote from my mom popped up on one of the slides, which I had forgotten I had typed. My mom told me prior to her passing away, “Shelly your gift is joy, share it daily with your students.” It took me everything to hold back tears.

My day needed to start out in a hurry, because I needed to be reminded of the joy the simple/little things bring us in life. Some days I get caught up looking at the big picture, looking at the big goal, I forget it is about the small things that we do that allow us to have the greatest impact on those around us. I am thankful for those wobbly colored circles as they reminded me that my greatest gift is the joy I share with others.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Sending Our Daughter Off to College

Sending Our Daughter Off to College

“Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught to them.” – Jonas Salk

As we walk the path of parenting, I’m sure you’ve read or heard this quote many times. Lately, a version of this quote has been on my heart. My husband and I are preparing to send our oldest daughter back to college. Not only is she going back to college, but she’s also moving into an apartment and we fully recognize she won’t be moving back home next year.

Preparing for the Change

Is my 40-something heart ready for this? I’m not sure. I know, though, that this is the circle of life, and we prepare our children and ourselves for this time. I remember whispering to our three-month old daughter that I would teach her the tools to keep her grounded but when the time came, I would give her the wings of independence.

For nearly 20 years, what we’ve taught her has been deeply rooted in faith, hard work, joy and wanderlust. And now, I must hold up the other end of the deal and let her fly. She’s more than ready, but my heart is still heavy and full of joy.

The Transition at Home

Then I look at our other two children and how much they’ve loved having their sister home this summer. They’ll also have an adjustment period. Our sophomore daughter will no longer have those extra clothes and shoes around the house. She’ll be upgraded to oldest sibling status and her responsibilities will change. She’ll get the opportunity to be the chauffeur for her brother—just like her older sister did for her.

Our junior high son will tell you he’s taking over his sister’s room immediately, but deep down he feels as if his best friend is moving out again. He’s going to miss his older sister taking him places and paying for him. Yet, he’s excited to have more hot water in our home.

Just like one of my best friends, my husband just keeps encouraging me. This is the way it should be. We just have to trust. Our oldest’s wings are ready to fly. Yet, we know she has her roots and will find home for supper, her siblings’ events or a weekend.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Masks at School

Masks at School

I can’t believe it’s less than one month until kids are back in school. Summer break seems to fly by every year. On local parent forums, parents are excited about the planned return to full-time, face-to-face classes next month. Parents are engaging in the normal back-to-school chatter about teacher assignments, band camps, school supplies and one out-of-the-ordinary topic—whether or not to mask their unvaccinated child.

With school quickly approaching, I recently read the Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) official back-to-school plan outlining COVID-19 prevention protocols. Last year, I was very impressed with how the schools handled the pandemic, but this year, the kids and I are ready for some normalcy. But how normal?

Changes at Lunch & Recess

I know there are a couple of changes the kids are hoping return to normal like no more “zones” at recess. That was one of the “pandemic rules” my kids hated and that I heard the most about daily. My kids want to play with other kids in their grade and play where they want to play. Kids shouldn’t be restricted to where and who they can play with at recess. Recess is their fun time.

Another change they’re hoping to see is removing the plexiglass from the cafeteria tables. This was a big one for my son. Again, my son wants to sit with his friends and enjoy having a conversation at lunch. Last year, the plexiglass made it difficult to hear each other. Many conversations were had under the table. And I know both of these things were put in for safety reasons, but my kids are ready for food, friends and fun at lunch and recess!

As moms, we always worry about germs—and even more now. My kids don’t wash their hands as much as they should, but I applaud LPS for the amount of time that the teachers and staff allowed kids to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. I felt comfortable sending my kids to school because of the amount of cleaning that was taken place in the building. Even my daughter was excited to pick out the sparkly hand sanitizer and the “squishy” carrier it fit in that attached to her backpack. Hand sanitizer is now a part of the supplies needed for back to school.

Wondering if Masks Will Be Required

Among the protocols LPS is suggesting for the return to school this year is that masks will be strongly recommended for unvaccinated students and required for unvaccinated staff. But masks are not mandatory—at least not yet. My children are still in elementary school, so they’re not vaccinated. Ever since the mask mandate was lifted, my kids no longer wear masks in public. Wearing masks has never been a problem for my kids. They never complained, they followed the rules, and they liked to pick out the masks they wore—unicorns for my daughter and a Denver Broncos mask for my son. Currently, my son wears a mask at his summer camp that he attends every day, which is a requirement. My daughter goes to an in-home daycare and does not wear a mask.

Last year, they were required to wear masks every day, all day! I appreciated the protocols. They never tested positive for COVID-19, and they were not sick once—not even a cold. So having them wear masks this school year would be beneficial. Also, COVID-19 is not going away, and since my children are not vaccinated, I’ll ask my kids to wear them, but my worry is that not all kids will be wearing masks.

If it’s not mandatory and my kids have an option, what will they choose? My son told me that he plans to wear his mask. “No big deal mom, I’m used to it,” he says. However, if my daughter’s friends aren’t wearing one, she probably won’t either. I’m still undecided if they’ll actually wear the masks this upcoming school year. But all of this could change if the COVID-19 numbers continue to rise. It wouldn’t surprise me if LPS makes masks mandatory for elementary kids.

Are other parents worried their kids won’t wear their masks if it’s not required? What are other parents planning to do? Let me know!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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