Tag Archives: teaching

Are You A Child?

According to Pulitzer Prize winning American cartoonist Doug Marlette, “We are all children in various stages of growing up.” Of course I’m sensitive to the fact that children are in various stages and sometimes the differences are amazing. There are some kids who would benefit from the advice they should “grow up”–even if only a little. There are others who would perhaps benefit from being reminded it’s okay to be a child. I recall one-fourth grader who visited the classroom while I was straightening up after a day of substitute teaching. This young man is nine years old going on forty, at least most of the time. He noted that he cherished his opportunities to visit with teachers after the school day was over because he could “have some really mature conversations.”

During our “mature conversation” we discussed a number of topics including enjoying life.  he also observed that pre K and Kindergarten were the best years of his life. The reason, he admitted, was that he didn’t have to do much. Now what adult doesn’t occasionally yearn for the relatively worry-free childhood years?

I suppose a truly in depth conversation would have led us to consider the possibility of balancing behaviors without necessarily labeling them. I rather enjoy thinking like a kid. It’s freeing and opens the door to creativity and it’s a  whole lot of fun. I remember one day while visiting an art class I found myself getting involved only to discover I had managed to get red paint on my pants. The kids thought it was rather funny when I said, “Uh oh. My Mom is not going to be happy about this.”

My communication style seems to change when I’m around the kids a lot. Just yesterday I was in a very formal adult setting and realized in my excitement I’d said, “Oh man… you know what’s really cool about that?” I also noticed it was quite effective. Perhaps more effective than making the adult statement, “There are some very unique benefits associated with…” The amused look on my listener’s faces suggested they enjoyed the simplicity and noticed my enthusiasm.

There are two communication tips we might consider even when we are having mature conversations. Unfortunately I’m not sure who said it first, but the command, “Explain it to me like I’m a third grader” often will stop people dead in their tracks. Too many adults have not only grown up but they have also outgrown their third grade vocabulary and simplicity.

When I work with volunteers in classrooms, I can watch the kids’ eyes glaze over when an adult doesn’t get down to their level. Or maybe that sentence should read “up to that level” because there’s a lot to be said for keeping communication simple. Getting and keeping things simple is not always easy after we become an adult.

The second communication tip we might consider is “Reduce it to the ridiculous.” Except maybe it’s not ridiculous to reduce things to the lowest possible level. Let me demonstrate with a seasonally appropriate observation that isn’t reduced:


It would bring me great pleasure if we could engage our orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction, perhaps based on the upcoming or current season featuring a celebration of the heritage of those hearkening from a republic consisting of 26 of 32 counties comprising an island originally associated with the United Kingdom located in the Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe.

Or we could reduce it to, “Kiss me, I’m Irish!”

County Teacher of the Year?

apple iconAs a strong supporter, Bangor Savings Bank just announced that nominations for teacher of the year are open.  One of the exciting changes to the program this year is the selection of sixteen (16) 2014 County Teachers of the Year, one of whom will ultimately be selected as the 2015 Maine Teacher of the Year.

Since we have some GREAT teachers in Piscataquis County, I’m thinking you’ll want to “get with the program” and nominate your favorite. The winner of the Maine Teacher of the Year award becomes eligible for the National Teacher of the Year Award.

According to the Educate Maine website, “The County Teachers and Maine Teacher of the Year should be committed to excellence and to nurturing the achievement of all students.  The nominee should bring to the classroom exemplary skills that are recognized by students, colleagues, parents, and all other members of your school’s community.  To be considered for nomination, a teacher must hold at least a four-year degree and be employed by a Maine public school, including a public charter school; or be employed by a publicly supported secondary school (a private school that enrolls 60 percent or more publicly funded students, sometimes referred to as “the academies” or “the Big 11″).”

To recognize a teacher’s role in engaging his/her students positively to improve student achievement, click here for the online nomination form and eligibility requirements or visit any Bangor Savings Bank branch to pick up a nomination form. Deadline for nominations is 5:00 p.m. on February 28, 2014.




There’s no sub for the sub…

Unfortunately, due to illness (mine!) and low enrollment, we are cancelling the Substitute Teachers’ Class scheduled for tomorrow in Dexter. In addition to not wanting to infect others, I  don’t have much voice and that’s one thing that makes it very hard to teach! Please note the class is offered again on February 11th in Dover Foxcroft. Call PVAEC at 564-6525 for information and to register.

Yes, I am drinking plenty of liquids and hope to be back on track soon…

Mr. Boomsma, I really love you!

There are some self-appointed experts out there (I might be considered one depending in the topic) who really don’t get it right. They remind me of Lucy of the Peanuts comic strip once who once declared, “If you can’t be right, be wrong loudlyl”

I’ve been frustrated ever since reading a column by a minister (his emphasis, not mine) who seems to think he’s got raising kids figured out. As is often the case these days, his solution is one-dimensional. He thinks kids need love; parents need respect and therein lies the tension in child rearing. His recommendation is to make certain our children feel loved when we discipline—that way they’ll be more likely to respect us. You’ve heard it before. Maybe you’ve used it before. “I’m only doing this because I love you.”

balance love respectOf course he’s not wrong—unless you consider only dealing with half the equation correct. In my work with the kids I’ve found that kids need (and deserve) respect just as much as adults. What successes I’ve had includes dishing out lots of both love and respect.

There’s a young lady at school who is beginning to figure this out. When she needs redirecting and correcting she will come over to me, grab me around the legs for a hug and say, “Mr. Boomsma, I really love you.” It’s an interesting coping mechanism on her part and was initially very disarming. Assuring me she really loves me could, after all, make me melt into submission. “It’s okay. All is forgiven”.

This is not just about love and forgiveness, so  I will respond by affirming that I love her as well but we also have to respect each other so together we can accomplish our work for the day. One of Mr. Boomsma’s rules is “follow directions quickly” and her love for me doesn’t negate the rule. She gets assurance that I also don’t feel any less loved when she doesn’t quite measure up.  But this is also about demonstrating respect for each other.

My best day with her recently was when she kept saying she needed to tell me something. Unfortunately this came at the busiest time of the day and it was necessary to ask her to wait until things were settled so I could pay attention better to a girl who is easy to ignore; she’s pretty high maintenance. (But what five-year old isn’t? If you don’t figure out how to get the kids to help you prioritize, the school day can be long and arduous with nineteen little voices calling your name.)

When we’d achieved order, I walked over and knelt down beside her. I immediately noticed she had tears on her cheeks. When I asked what was wrong she replied, “Mr. Boomsma, I’m really sorry my behavior wasn’t very good today.”

So it was my turn to tell her I really love her. I don’t think she noticed the tear in the corner of my eye as I thanked her for trying that day. I felt loved and respected by her acknowledgement. She is accepting responsibility for her behavior as well as her love.  I think we might be onto something.

Phew! Quick notes…

low batteryHere’s a few quick notes… the past few days have been a blur of “let’s get stuff done!” I’ve continued to work on setting up Abbot Village Press… including an online store! Part of this is in anticipation of final release of the “Maine Real Estate Law and Rules Handbook.” We’re still in the “final proofing” stage thanks to a minor oops on my part, but I fully expect to have it completed and released by the end of next week.

In addition to taking some time out for a re-charge, it seemed important to give a quick update and share a few thoughts. As things evolve, there may be some minor confusion with things looking a little strange, but the plan is to make this site even more about education and personal growth. To that end, I’ll be moving some of the resources regarding books and publishing to the Abbot Village Press website. Of course there will be plenty of links that should make things easy to find.

With the development of Abbot Village Press it will now be possible to order any of my books directly from the publisher through the Square Market (our online store). Of course you can still order from Amazon and Kindle as well as a number of other resources such as Barnes and Noble. You did hear me say the word for this year is “evolve,” right? Well, we’re evolving!

By the way, the PVAEC catalog is out–I’m not sure exactly when I received mine because I haven’t dared venture down the driveway for a while! I haven’t felt trapped, I’ve been too busy!

Anyway, check it out and discover lots of opportunities to evolve! We have two substitute teacher courses coming up soon, plus the popular two night class on how to start your own blog/website using WordPress. Real Estate licensing courses also begin in February so things are starting to get busy! It’ll be spring before you know it!