Category Archives: School Programs

Unintended Consequences -- -- the good, the bad, the ugly:

A recent post on Facebook told the story of a teacher shopping for school supplies. She was approached by several parents shopping together (who had their school-aged children with them) and subsequently forced to listen to them complain about how much they were spending on back-to-school supplies and how teachers must think parents are made out of money. Apparently, they didn’t notice that the teacher was spending even more money than they. Her cart was full of things she needed and supplies to help out the students she knew would not have what was necessary.

It was an interesting story, certainly. The teacher handled a potentially ugly situation gracefully and sympathetically. I admired that but felt a real kinship with her when she described what she really wanted to say those parents.

Adults often “thing” children. We forget they are there and, more importantly, forget they are watching, listening and learning.  It’s a mistake that’s easy to make. Even teachers must guard against it. We see them as “kids” or “students” and lose sight of the fact they are small people with big brains that are like sponges.

Not only did those parents not notice the teacher’s cart was full, they forgot there were little people watching, listening, and learning.

So the teacher wanted to remind those parents there were little people there and what they were hearing was, “School is not important enough to spend money on, teachers are not to be trusted, they have bad judgment, and learning does not require investment.”

In fairness to those parents, they (hopefully!) didn’t want their children to hear that. We sometimes call this “unintended consequences.”

I watched a child tugging on her mother’s hand as they walked down the street, almost yelling, “Mom! Mom!” Mom was totally focused on her cell phone screen and it appeared not even acknowledging the child. I don’t know what was so important on the phone. I don’t know why the child needed her mother. But I’m fairly sure I know the message the child was getting. I also know that a few simple words and eye contact with the child could have conveyed a very different message.

When it’s back to school shopping time–or school budget time–I believe all adults have a responsibility to “watch our words.” We may be frustrated at the expense while we’re shopping and angered with increasing budgets and taxes but because we’re adults we should be able to express our frustrations and anger in an appropriate manner.

Let’s not teach our kids to disrespect schools and teachers. Let’s be careful we do not devalue learning and education–even unintentionally.

Education is expensive. But it’s also important. Let’s teach our children both of those truths and model good problem-solving skills.

Sometimes unintended consequences can be good. Another time in a store, I heard a young child ask what might have been a fairly simple question–I honestly don’t remember it exactly, but it was relative to why something was where it was.  The parent stopped and looked at it with the child then said, “That’s interesting. Why do you think it’s there?” I didn’t need to eavesdrop on the entire conversation to know that child was learning he and his thinking is important. I also hope to have that child in a classroom I’m teaching some day.

Thinking is not only allowed, it’s needed. Not just in classrooms, but in life.

Mr. Boomsma’s Brag Book

When I started my own consulting business many years ago, a colleague and mentor encouraged me to start what he called a “God Shelf.” It could, of course, be called a “trophy case” or “wall of fame.” As I recall, his explanation was, in part, “You’re going to need to learn to treasure the awards and certificates you receive. Since you’re working for yourself, you’ll probably won’t get ’employee of the month’ awards from your company.”

He was right–and I’ll never forget the story he told of an award he received in the mail. He made it into an event by going out to dinner with his wife and having her present it to him over coffee.

Maybe that’s a bit over the top, but I do think we should enjoy the recognition we receive.

As many know, in addition to substitute teaching, I volunteer at our elementary school with the kids. A few years ago I agreed to assume responsibility for publishing the yearbook through my little publishing company, Abbot Village Press.

A lot of folks express surprise that an elementary school has a yearbook, but we think it makes sense. In a way, it’s the kids’ brag book. It helps create a sense of community and school spirit. We involve the kids in its design and production with things like a contest for the cover design. We even have a yearbook team of sixth graders.

But truth be told, my primary motivation is that it provides another excuse for me to work, play, and learn with the kids.

At the end of the school year, the kids always surprise me with some sort of recognition. Last year I was presented with a basketful of thank-you notes–one from just about every kid at school (nearly 300), kindergarten through sixth grade. What makes them really cool is they are personal. Each kid tried to find something specific to thank me for–and I can tell you that in many cases they appreciate things I don’t remember doing! The basket sits next to my desk and if I’m ever feeling discouraged or down, I grab a few and re-read them.

This year’s surprise was an extra page in the yearbook, designed by the yearbook team with the help of Mrs. Daniels, our art teacher and my “partner” in getting the yearbook published. I’ve shared the page with a few friends–they’ve encouraged me to make it public.

Thanks, kids… for another page in my brag book and for being so much fun to work, play, and learn with.

Great idea, but…

In Brief... a short thought, idea, or story!
In Brief… a short thought, idea, or story featured as a brain leak or musing!

The phone rang yesterday and a number I didn’t recognize appeared on the screen. Usually, that means “junk,” but I answered anyway.

The caller began talking rapidly and it became clear we were going to suffer a language barrier, but since she used the word “suicide” I knew it wasn’t a junk call.

Slowing the conversation and lots of repeating revealed that the caller was associated with a school and her question was, “I know you do suicide training for teachers, but would you do it for parents?”

I of course answered, “Yes!” My mind racing ahead to consider the idea of a school sponsoring a program for parents. I’m often approached by parents who are concerned about their kids but this was truly a first. Hmmm…

As we explored the idea, it occurred to me to ask where she was from. She replied, “Brooklyn, NY.” It didn’t occur to me to ask how and why she’d decided to call me in Central Maine. I was just glad she called.

I was able to refer her to some more localized resources using my NAMI connection and encouraged her to call again if I could help further. I hope she has success putting something together. I confess I felt a bit smug that I got the call–even though I don’t know how she found me. But I felt even smugger that the conversation around suicide prevention is becoming increasing normalized and easy to have.

Look for more on this topic…

Say Something! -- preventing violence before it happens:

This article is reprinted from the “Say Something” website… while I haven’t fully “vetted” this program, if your school or organization is interested, I will be happy to assist you… I also have the material and can teach the Eddie Eagle Program — a gun safety program designed for pre-k through fourth grade.


Did you know that when it comes to violence, suicide and threats, most are known by at least shp_2016_say_something_week_logoone other individual before the incident occurs. In fact, in 4 out of 5 school shootings, the attacker told people of his/her plans ahead of time. Additionally, 70% of people who commit suicide told someone of their plans or gave some type of warning or indication. Imagine how much tragedy could be averted if these individuals said something?

Say Something teaches students, grades 6 -12, how to look for warning signs, signals and threats, especially in social media, from individuals who may want to hurt themselves or others and to Say Something to a trusted adult to get them help. The program is based on research conducted by Dr. Dewey Cornell and Dr. Reid Meloy, two leading national experts in threat assessment and intervention.

National Say Something Week is organized by Sandy Hook Promise (http://www.sandyhookpromise.org) and will take place October 24 – 28, 2016. Hundreds of schools and youth organizations across the United States will be participating in Say Something Week. Will you join them?

Say Something Week raises awareness and educates students and the community through training, media events, advertising, public proclamations, contests and school awards. Say Something Week reinforces the power young people have to prevent tragedies and Say Something to a trusted adult to protect a friend from hurting them self or others!

Say Something is a no-cost and easy to implement program that is available to all middle schools, high schools and youth organizations serving youth grades 6 – 12. In addition to young people, Say Something will benefit educators, administrators, community-based organization leaders and parents. By building a culture of looking out for one another and reporting possible threats of violence when someone sees, reads or hears something, entire communities will become safer and lives will be saved.

Schools and youth organizations participating in Say Something Week agree to host a no cost, easy to implement, flexible Say Something training that can take place within the classroom, an assembly, or be led by student ambassadors. The training can be accomplished in 50 minutes or less and activities (which SHP provides or schools and organizations can create) can take place on one day or spread throughout the week. In addition to the initial training, the Say Something program offers a wide range of post training activities that can be done throughout the year and serve as reminders. Schools and youth organizations have the option of choosing the day, time and format they would like to deliver the Say Something training during the week of October 24 – 28.

Please help us empower our young people to prevent violence before it takes place. Please sign up to participate in Say Something week today at: http://www.sandyhookpromise.org/saysomethingweek.

Who is Sandy Hook Promise?
Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national, nonprofit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. We are led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 that claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and 6 educators.


Sandy Hook Promise is focused on preventing gun violence (and all violence) before it happens. SHP does this by educating and mobilizing parents, schools and communities on mental health and wellness programs that identify, intervene and help at-risk individuals.

SHP is a moderate, above-the-politics organization. Our intent is to honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation. For more information on Sandy Hook Promise, please visit:www.sandyhookpromise.org.


Read a chapter from my book regarding the Sandy Hook tragedy.