Tag Archives: teachers

3 Tips to Help Crawl out of the Creative Dumps

creative dumpsThere’s a pile of dishes in the sink. The bed hasn’t been made. There are a stack of bills on my desk that I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to pay. “I need to shower,” is a relevant thought but currently I’m sitting in the middle of the floor, legs crossed, laptop on my lap with a Final Draft document open – completely white except for the blinking white cursor in the top right corner. The cursor refuses to move. There are a million thoughts in my head, scenes that play in regular rotation but can’t seem to make their way from my brain to my fingers and into the document. This is the story of a writer, and how so often the hardest part of being a writer is, well, writing.

My Year of Intent was to finish my first screenplay. My goal is to have a first draft by my 25th birthday (July 4th, if you want to set off an extra set of fireworks for me, that’d be cool). I want so badly to be able to say I wrote my first script by the time I was 25. It’s an over-achiever thing. The problem is that it’s really hard and I’m behaving very much like an under-achiever, which is something really difficult for me to deal with. I’ve had really good training on how to get things done – to make schedules, deadlines, to burn the midnight oil so that it happens – but this is different. This is personal so I want it to be perfect which means I edit myself as the scenes come instead of writing them down. I am convinced that all of them won’t work before they’re even born. The truth is you have to write everything down. If it doesn’t work you can delete it but if you don’t put it down then nothing really exists. The internal struggle has created a bit of a creative depression. Or it’s quite possible that it’s an all around depression at this point. It seems a lot easier to stay in bed than to write. I’ll put those dishes in the dishwasher at some point. Right now, I feel the need to rest in a fetal position and tell myself a few hundred more times how much I suck because this isn’t getting done. I’ve been told this is a thing that happens to a lot of writers.

It’s been my experiences that these pot holes happen to everyone when they’re working towards something big. You get stuck, and the exhaustion from spinning your wheels can put you in a funk. The important thing is that you have to get yourself out of those holes. The dishes are still in the sink, but I did manage to finish the first act of my screen play, so it’s possible. Here are my tips for pulling yourself out of the creative funk.

1. Take That Shower – This sounds like basic information, but it’s important especially if you are working from home. The appeal of rolling out of bed and sitting down at your laptop in your pajamas is so hard to overcome. Next thing you know it’s 7pm and there’s no point in showering because what would you change into? More pajamas. Make yourself get out of bed, take a shower, put on CLEAN clothes (yes, this means you have to do laundry. UGH I know). Eat some breakfast. These basic routines are part of a full robust wake up system. They make you more alert and prepared. They make you feel like a real human instead of a creative zombie on a hamster wheel. I’m not kidding – making yourself wear real pants has an amazing effect on your outlook. It also makes it more likely that people will want to be around you because B.O. is awful.

2. Set Deadlines – The problem with self-appointed goals is just that – they’re self-appointed. That means the goal post can move whenever you decide. Stop that. Set incremental goals and then give yourself a timeline in which it has to be done. My friend and Intent partner in crime MeLissa told me about her brilliant system of asking herself when she thinks she can get something done in a reasonable amount of time, and then she sets a deadline of three days earlier. So if you think it’s going to take two weeks to get something done, tell yourself you really have 10 to make it happen. Set up a penalty if it doesn’t happen. Didn’t get that draft done? Bye bye potato chips. Page count wasn’t met? I guess I’ll be DVR’ing Mad Men this week. Decided not to write at all today/this week? Haha, oh buddy, those plans to see Captain America this weekend just went down the toilet, congrats! When something is at stake you are more willing to keep the ball moving. I’m fortunate enough to have a great screenwriting teacher that’s been coaching me through the process – which brings me to the next thing!

3. Find a Hero/Coach/Inspiring Person  – This can take a lot of forms. For me, it’s Jon Bernstein. He teaches the classes I’m taking to help get this done (I realized that having grown up an academic nerd, literally making writing this screenplay homework was the best way to get me going). He is the loveliest person and super encouraging and his praise is like dancing in a rainstorm of sunshine and rainbows and candy. I feel like Eve the robot in Wall-E when she boots up in the sun whenever he tells me that I’ve done a good job, or that something I’ve written is funny or makes sense. On the downside, when he gives notes and it turns out I’m not his favorite thing about Earth I don’t know how to handle it. When I first started his class I barely had an outline, but I managed to improv my way through a log line and basic plot points. Then I had to given him a detailed description of my Act I plan and he wasn’t impressed. To be fair, I was still winging it and hadn’t really done the work. He told me he wasn’t compelled by the ending and there was no reason to keep watching the movie if that’s how I was going to do it. Um, what? This was life shattering news to me and the worst part was he was right. Everything he said rang true and that was worse. I could have thrown in the towel then because writers are sensitive and clearly if my rough outline of things I was planning to write was crap then there was no hope for me. But…I need Jon Bernstein to love me, because I respect him and trust his advice. So instead of giving up, I sat down at my desk and I wrote. I changed almost everything I had up until that point. Created new things. Broke up my darlings that were supposed to kiss at the end, made them miserable (because that’s what movies are until the end!) and I felt better for doing so. I felt more creative.

And that’s what a good coach does. Stephen King calls them an “ideal reader” but it’s the person who keeps you on track. They pop your ego balloon when you’re floating too high on praise instead of work. They are the ones that remind you that you are capable and brilliant when you’re down in that hole. Find your Jon Bernsteins. Find the people that are going to push you to that finish line because the most important lesson in all of this is that no one ever really gets there by themselves. (And again, it’s why showers are important).

Plus, I have to imagine that it’s sweeter to have people to celebrate with at the finish line.

Student Eloquently Points Out What’s Wrong with Education System in Five Minutes

It seems you can’t go five minutes without hearing about how apathetic today’s youth is about education – that they only care about getting famous or doing things that make them happy rather than learning. We are consistently bombarded with statistics about lower test scores, op-eds on why today’s college students aren’t ready for the demanding rigor of the current work force and the reminder that the United States is constantly slipping in rank when it comes to world education.

One Knox County, Tennessee student is going to tell you why. And you know what? It’s not because of apathetic students or lazy teachers. In five short minutes he breaks down the history of the “common core” and why it is failing America’s students, its teachers and the overall system. He explains the problem with treating education like a fortune 500 business and how a student’s success and quality of learning can’t be accessed by the percentage score of a scantron test. He stands up for his peers, their desire to learn, and for the hard working teachers that try to give them that opportunity to do so against seemingly impossible odds.

I come from a family of teachers. My mother just retired from teaching second grade. My father has been teaching at a community college for over 15 years and this fall my brother started his first year as a fourth grade teacher. When I go home for the holidays I will spend most of my time listening to conversations about lesson plans, parent teacher conferences and a rundown of all of the tedious paperwork that has to be filled out just to get a student diagnosed with ADD. When my mother was teaching she would often be at the school until 6pm, and when she came home she would be up until 10 or 11 grading papers, tweaking lesson plans or responding to parent e-mails. Every child of a teacher knows that it is a 24/7 job and that as the years go on it becomes more and more impossible. As the video points out, our teachers today are graded by percentage points on quarterly standardized tests rather than the desire to learn they inspire in their students. It doesn’t measure the important things like the amount of time spent helping struggling students or thinking outside the box. For the sake of their own jobs teachers today are forced to teach their students how to think like a multiple choice question rather than creating their own original ideas.

If we fail our students in learning how to think for themselves, how do we ever expect them to succeed in life?

If you know a teacher that could use this video as encouragement, share it with them to show your support! Or tell us what you think about this student’s speech in the comments below.

Everything Is


 “You have to be out there, prominent, visible. You have to speak to people.” My husband told me this one hot afternoon over tea. We sat at the patio of our favorite cafe. The big umbrellas and huge sycamores spread their respective canopies over our heads. They stopped the sun, but not the heat. It was a lazy, slow and quiet afternoon and we were talking about marketing my sticks.

“You have to be out there, speaking, teaching” he said.

Teaching. This was not the first time we had this conversation and, not for the first time, I said: no. No teaching.

You see, I never wanted to be a teacher. During my early Buddhist years there was the subtle competition among students for the best understanding, the best posture, the best silence. The best meditation. Every student hoped, not very secretly, to be the chosen one. The one who will become an heir to the dharma. The one who will become the successor. I later moved on from Zen into other realms and everything changed — but that one thing did not. The desire to become a teacher among my fellow practitioners remained.

Except for me.

I saw nothing attractive in the teaching business, quite the opposite — the prospect scared me. Why? Because of the responsibility it carried. Because every time I spoke an advice, even a small, inconsequential one, I felt the weight of my words influencing the one who asked, nudging their perspective even if just a little bit, realigning their actions. And it was too much. It was too much to handle. For me.

Ha … you know … this is not what I was going to write. I was going to write about how I feel that there is no need for me to teach others because I can see who you are, all of you. I can see the perfection of you and I know that, sooner or later, you will see it as well. I was going to talk about what is simply being and, ultimately, being perfect but …

It is not all crap, exactly … but that is not the reason why I never wanted to be a teacher. Why I don’t want to be a teacher. The reason is that it terrifies me when my dog obeys my commands, let alone a human. It mortifies me that another creature, a free, autonomous creature puts its life in my hands and obeys me unquestioningly, absolutely. Even if it is only a little dog.

I cannot handle the responsibility of influencing others. So … I pretend that it’s my sticks doing it instead?

Huh, what a strange post this is…

The Power of YOUR Words

We’ve all gotten to where we are today because someone helped us along the way. My earliest recollection of someone who has made an impact on my life is Mrs. Perskinski, my kindergarten teacher.

I had a lot of friends in school and I was pretty social – as social as any 5-year-old social butterfly could be. But one day, I came to school filled with sadness. I was down right melancholy. Mrs. Perskinski knew something was wrong because I seemed depressed, despondent and different from my usual cheery demeanor. She asked me, “What’s wrong Toan? Is everything ok?” I told her, “I’m really sad.” She asked, “Why?” I told her that I saw on the news that another kid was shot and killed in my neighborhood and that made me really sad.

What she told me next changed the trajectory of my life forever.

She told me, “In life, we have choices, Toan. You can make bad choices and you can make good choices. If you make bad choices, then bad things happen to you. If you make good choices, good things happen.”

Looking back, I think she was trying to explain cause and affect, and the idea of karma — that the good choices beget goodness and bad decisions lead to bad consequences.

This was the earliest philosophical conversation that I can remember – it was also the first person, outside of my family that made an impact on my life. Words possess such power, for good and bad. So I learned to be careful how I use them.

Funny how I chose to become a TV reporter who would cover death and destruction on a daily basis for almost a decade. I’m glad to report that although I’m grateful for that experience, I’ve left the news biz and carved out

my own path

to inspire people -through storytelling and videos – to use their power (resources, talents and network) to help others.

Thanks Mrs. Persinski and to everyone who is using your words carefully to inspire the future.

I’m currently looking for Mrs. Persinski to thank her for the impact and life lesson she’s had on me. I’m sure there’s someone in your life you’d like to thank for shaping your journey for the good…

I’d love to hear what they did and who they are (I’m sure they the person who inspired you would like to hear from you too):




Students Know What Makes a Good School (VIDEO)

 Urban Academy, located in Midtown Manhattan is a public school. As their tag line says, it’s a small school with big ideas.

The building is old, but feels like home with comfy albeit old couches and cozy student gathering places. The teachers skip teaching to the test in order to engage students in genuine inquiry based learning that challenges their thinking. Many of the students failed at other large, urban public schools, and now find success at Urban Academy. 

Some of the students travel over an hour each way every day from as far as the Brooklyn public housing projects to attend Urban Academy. Students at Urban love their school, take pride in their education and want to succeed. The model at Urban can be replicated without pouring millions and millions of dollars into a fancy new environment — although these students deserve as much. What is so special about Urban Academy? Listen to the students speak in their own words. What do you think makes a great school? 


Photo: CC Flickr//Dean Terry

Education and the Midterm Elections

 All aboard… next stop, midterm elections!

I’ve just boarded the education train. I heard that immediately after the stop at the midterms, we’re headed away from the confusing, angry land of partisan debate to the wide-open territory of bipartisan dialog! How promising — the two things I’ve waited years for — politicians in agreement and education at the top of the political agenda. Yet, now that the train has left the station, I look out the window and no longer recognize the landscape. Worse still, I’m supposes to be an expert and I’m not sure who I am.
I’ve been inside schools — public, private, religious, international — as a teacher and as an administrator. I think there are very good teachers and very bad ones. Does that make me a Democrat or a Republican?
I think the Teachers Union does many great things and I favor much of their work and I am opposed to tenure laws. Furthermore, I am confused that teachers long to be treated more like white collar professionals and then don’t understand why many American’s associate them with the blue collar labor force for their attachment to a labor union. Democrat or Republican?
I like innovative teaching platforms and I while I enjoy the idea of Khan Academy, I hardly think its an answer and it disturbs me that Bill Gates, someone who transformed the world as we know it, thinks its revolutionary. Khan Academy replicates rather than replaces the same old direct instructional techniques we have used for centuries.I think students need to actively think rather than passively absorb. Donkey or Elephant?
As far as I’m concerned, Teach for America (as a concept) undermines the science of teaching and learning and dismisses schools of education. So, I see a logical error when the Department of Education awards millions of dollars to Teach for America and also conditions other major funding (such as Reading First) on the demonstration of scientific educational research. This is a subtle contradiction with major implications. Does anyone else see this What political party does this attach us to? Both Republican and Democrats simultaneously advance these programs.
I don’t believe in National Standards. I think the country is too big and too free for this idea. I do think some private businesses have good models for education and should be invited to get on this train. I also don’t want the federal government to disband the Department of Education because I think it helps guard against discrimination and keeps us invested in justice and equality for our children. I’m not sure where these thoughts land me politically.
I don’t think the teacher portrayed by Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society is a teacher to emulate. He is an old-school sage-on-the-stage and his motivational antics left storybook impressions on students rather than providing them real world skills. I suppose that this idea makes me a party crasher.
I don’t think we can have intelligent conversations about charter, independent, or public schools without over-generalizing and therefore missing the nuances that will change our direction. I believe in standards and accountability, but like most citizens, I see that the tests we use are not working. In fact, there is much evidence that they are harming children. I wonder why nobody — neither Democrat nor Republican — is listening to the American people on this. And this deaf ear makes me fear for our democracy. On this issue we have no vote.
There appears to be no choice and no champion no way out of this dilemma. On this issue, it seems we are left with only protest or revolution. But does that even work anymore? It appears not. The drop-out dilemma can be considered the largest mass scale non-violent protest in the history of the United States and still, politicians running for office do not appear to be stepping out on standardized testing.
So, where does that leave me? I’m on a train to the unknown, not to nowhere — leaving the parties behind when it comes to education.
Today, in the field of education — for this brief moment — it’s better to not be an expert. It’s better to be a passenger rather than the conductor. We’re riding through chaos — and those educators who resist the impulse to get off on one side or another, and instead stay along for the ride awhile longer — chugging along in the midst of the problem — will be the ones who truly have the power to generate real educational change that sticks.
This change must be the result of dynamic innovation rather than acceptance of collective logical fallacies or a re-packaging of what we have known for years. To arrive at a new system we must first weather the disorganization of the existing one and stand strong against the chaos that swells around us just before we reach the creative bend in the road that will bring us to a new destiny where further disagreement is superfluous. That destination is being mapped outside of the government and our public schools. That is where we are headed and until we arrive there our votes for current education agendas are folly. 

Back to School Tips for Parents

 Although most of the country is still sweltering in the throes of summer heat, young people across the nation are thinking about new school supplies and what to wear on that anticipated first day of classes.

A new year means a new start and here are some strengths tips that will make the transition back to school easier for you and your child.


Start the year off right by getting to know your child’s teachers. One way to begin to foster positive relationships with teachers is to sit down with your elementary or middle school child and together write your teachers a letter of introduction. In this letter you can include personal information about your family, your child and your hopes for the school year. For example, you may wish to introduce yourself with an anecdote about your most memorable learning experience. Follow this up with a few lines about your greatest hopes for your child’s school year. Introduce your sons or daughters to the teacher by explaining little known facts such as how you chose your child’s name or their favorite books, colors or funniest memory. Do this with your child, so the introduction includes both your voices. By offering little known facts in this manner, the teacher will get to know you and your child in a more a personal way from the start and you will signal that you desire a positive relationship.

Let the teacher know your child’s strengths. List two or three things that your child loves to do and ask the teacher to consider this when interacting with your child. Is your child organized? Talkative? Inquisitive? Every child has strengths they bring to the classroom. When you alert these to the teacher from the get-go, your child and the teacher have a foundation to build on.

Finish your letter by inviting the teacher to write back. Ask the teacher similar questions: what is your favorite book? What was your best learning experience? When did you know you wanted to become a teacher? It is even better if you have the time to have this conversation in person. However, teachers are extremely busy at the start of the year and might welcome the letter instead. Teachers also like to save things about their students and chances are a letter of this kind will become a cherished part of a teacher’s memory folder.


It is estimated that children spend more than 75 percent of their time in school focused on social interactions. More often than not, the quality of your child’s friendships will be a significant influence in their success in school. You can’t choose your child’s friends, but there are several things you can do to help. Children function best socially when they are open to diversity in their relationships. The idea of a BFF (best friend forever) is an attractive and alluring idea that is often a highway to unhappiness. Because conflict is an inevitable part of new relationships, those children who limit their relationships by declaring BFFs too soon, or latching onto a clique are often isolated as soon as the conflicts occur.

Before school begins, sit with your child and make a list of their strengths. List everything they feel energized by whether it is a sport, a certain subject or an activity such as collecting coins or stickers. Encourage your child to find a different person who shares each one of the strengths. When young people are associated with others around shared interests, there is more opportunity for uninhibited self-expression. The focus of the relationships becomes less about popularity and more about sharing interests. Remind your child often of the importance of connecting with different kinds of children, even if they don’t consider them friends.


Start the year off right by preparing the environment for home study. All children do not study in the same way. You can help your child by determining in advance where and when your child will study at home. Some people can study in the bedroom while others are more focused at the dining room table. Some people can concentrate with music, while others prefer silence. Room temperature can play a part in a child’s ability to focus. Is your child someone who likes it cool or warm? Does the study space accommodate this? Don’t assume that the way you study is the same as your child. Each person learns in a different way.

How do you get your child to focus on homework and not on social networking or computer games? Hopefully the homework they bring home will be engaging, active and involve others but you can’t count on that. Making deals or contracts about computer use in relationship to studying or homework can be effective. Rather than disallowing all computer use until the homework is finished, try breaking the study time up between school tasks and free time. Agree that a half hour of study may be followed by a half hour of computer or television. When you make deals and not only demands, young people tend to be more cooperative.


Listen carefully to your child. Adults have a tendency to want to give advice rather than listen to a child’s experience. If you can do one thing to foster your children’s successes it will be to listen to their experiences. Rather than asking your child what he learned in school that day, ask him to tell you a story of the funniest thing that happened, what surprised him most or to describe the best interaction with someone. The quality of the questions parents ask their children will determine the level of response. Young people tend to open up when they believe adults are genuinely interested in their experiences. Don’t judge what your child tells you. Instead, follow up with more questions and comments as to what they said. Listen for your child’s uniqueness and individual experience with learning and school. When these interactions become regularly integrated into your daily routine, your child will see you are truly invested in his or her learning rather than simply wanting them to get good grades. Good grades are never as important as true engagement in learning.


The more you seek out what is unique about your child and begin to see these individual qualities as strengths to be shared, the more successful your child will be socially and in school. If you begin the year on a proactive note, showing your child and your child’s teachers that you are part of the learning relationship– then the chances increase for your child’s success in school.


Finding a Teacher

Deepak, before I ask my question I wish to thank you for all the teachings and insights you have shared with the world. I always feel transformation when I listen to you speak or read or listen to your books.  My question is how does one find a spiritual teacher or mentor. I am interested in gaining a deeper understanding/practice of Buddhism but I am also interested in gaining some exposure to Vedic texts. There are 2 Buddhist centers in my area on Long Island. Would that be a place I would find a spiritual teacher/mentor. Of course I’d like Robert Thurman but I  think he may be a bit busy 🙂


Finding the teaching or teacher that fits your spiritual needs is a very personal decision that doesn’t lend itself to generalized one-size-fits-all directions.  You need to find out what burning questions are driving your life at this point and then seek out the answers to those questions that not only satisfy your mind, but also your heart. If you approach your quest in this way, you will find the knowledge and guidance  that you need, whether it is in the form of one teacher, many different teachers, or even no external teacher at all.



For more information go to deepakchopra.com

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Prayer of Thanks to Great Spirit


Shaman in many traditions pray to Great Spirit before they do any work. They say it is crucial to give thanks, call in Great Spirit before starting out. We have used this prayer with groups to start our shaman work.

"As we start on The Path of the Feather let us pray to those who help us on the way. Let us pray for them to come to us, and be with us in this work we are about to do. God, Buddha, Great Spirit, Our Teachers, She who gardens us from above, come to us and help us with this work. We thank you for the earth, for our families, and for us as the shaman that we all are. We thank you for our spirits and our ability to pray, to make to see visions and to speak to power animals and ancient ones.. We thank you for our eyes, our ears, our hands, our bodies, and our lives.

Help us tell the truth and help us understand these words. Help us heal ourselves, others we love, and the earth. Help us make our sacred medicine wheels to heal ourselves, others, and the earth . " Close your eyes a moment and be silent. Pause and center yourself. Thank the powers that you believe in, pray for what you need.


Teachers Come When You Need Them Not Always Announced

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Posted by Mike Fielder

I was ten the first time I road the bus from Houston, Texas to Wallace, West Virginia by myself. This particular summer was the first memory – of many – of my grandmother, my mother’s mother. A deeply spiritual woman, a truck farmer’s wife. She had in her entire life of 104 years only been off the farm a few times. Into town in Clarksburg about 35 miles away, and when my parents retired and moved there to care for her in the ’80’s, they took her to California in their motorhome. Anyway, during that summer I spent with her and my grandfather, she would pull me over to a corner, or her bedroom, and with great stealth take my hand, place this tiny folded up piece of paper in it and say, "Mike, this is just for you. Don’t tell anybody and be sure you do whatever you want to with it." And close my hand before I could see it.

When I looked at it a few minutes later it would be a one dollar bill. And I put it in my pocket. During my youth this happened continually and often. Always sneaking me to a quiet place in the farm house were no one else could see us make the "trade." I truly felt special and the center of the universe. I never saw her do it with my sisters. Only me.

When I was visiting her in her 90’s, with my son who was about ten one summer. I walked into a room and he and she were in a corner, huddling over and whispering. I could just see my son’s eyes glance down and light up and smile and excitement spread across his face. Her hands were holding his hand, folding his fingers over something. And then it all hit me what an incredible women this was. I then saw her about a week later with a neighbor and friends little ten or eleven year old girl in the same huddle. And all the memories of my moments came flooding back. And I could see her and my sisters, and every little one up and down the "holler" clutching their little hands, making each feel the center of the universe with their little folded up one doller bill.

At ten, this gentle, gloroius woman had taught me that we are each the center of the universe. Though I didn’t come to know that concept intellectually until my college days when I was reading and the metaphysical became the center of my life. And I was so fortunate. For I grew up with this fine lady as a spiritual teacher teaching me through life experiences rather than religiuos structure. And my father’s mother teaching me with religious structure as a part of llife experience in her way in Houston. Two teachers, teaching my as a child, neither on an intellectual level, both with their lives, sharing experience with me in the learning process. It’s not wrong to say that I found God before I was ten, to paraphrase Jason Mraz. And yet, I also at twelve, rejected formal politicized religion, and spent the next 30 years wandering and learning from teachers of many different religions western, middle eastern, and eastern, African and Native American.

But it was my grandmothers who taught me that it is more than reading and reciting and ritual. It is just as breathing or heart beating or walking. Mindfull meditation for me was something I unknowingly learned by ten. Non violence was something I learned to let my spirit express without effort or thought by these two wonderful women. Thank you grandmothers, I love you still and your guiding light still pulls me through the darkness of ego.

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