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The Response-Able Educator Newsletter 19
June 9, 2003


Welcome! This is a free newsletter on becoming a Response-Able Educator and developing Response-Able students.



My mission is to inspire, encourage and uplift the spirits of educators so they can in turn inspire, encourage, and uplift the spirits of their students.





1. Quote [back to top]


"The beauty of the day is contingent upon your seeing it."



2. Humor [back to top]



You move your dinner partner's glass away from the edge of the table.

You ask if anyone needs to go to the bathroom as you enter a theater with a group of friends.

You fold your spouse's fingers over the coins as you hand over money for the toll booth.

You ask a quiet person at the party if he or she has something to share with the group.

You inform your spouse that scissors need to be carried with the point down.

You give the ticket back to the police officer because it didn't have his or her name on it.

You use a red pen to circle the typos in the evening newspaper.


3. Spirit Whisperer Contemplation [back to top]


What if your greatest transportation system is your train of thought? What destination are you heading for today?


4. Fact [back to top]


Gay bashing has become the insult of choice in schools today. Half the teens polled in a new nationwide survey say they hear these taunts at least once a day.


5. Article: The Day I Changed My Mind About Myself [back to top]


The Day I Changed My Mind About Myself

By Chick Moorman

I wonder how Mrs. Axtell viewed the end of the school year in June of 1955. Did she give a big sigh of relief or feel a pang of sadness when her fifth graders exited her room for the final time that year? Did she skip down the hall high-fiving her colleagues in a jubilant expression of completion, or did she ponder what would become of these eleven-year-olds who had just been promoted to sixth grade? I wonder if Mrs. Axtell took the time to pat herself on the back for the successes she had achieved as a professional
educator. Or did she do as many teachers do - worry about the one or two students who didn't demonstrate the level of responsibility or achievement that she had envisioned for them?

I suspect that Mrs. Axtell went home that summer to relax or pursue her professional training. My guess is that she didn't spend a lot of time thinking about that new kid from Chicago who'd arrived in the middle of the year. She really had no way of knowing the influence she had had or how she helped me change my mind about myself.

I was a middle-of-the-year transfer student because my parents moved from Chicago to Traverse City, Michigan, in order to raise children where fishing, swimming, skiing, and the outdoors called. As a result, I experienced only a half year with Mrs. Axtell - but it was plenty of time for a miracle worker to ply her trade.

I recall the principal of Oak Park Elementary School escorting me down the hall of my new school to meet the teacher and view the fifth-grade classroom for the first time. I was assigned a seat in the middle of the last row. It was necessary for me to pull my chair up close to another kid's desk because there were no extra desks in the classroom. There weren't enough books either, so I also had to share math and social studies books. It didn't matter. Mrs. Axtell didn't use books and chairs to fashion miracles. She did it with words and the way she chose to speak to children.

I entered Oak Park Elementary School carrying emotional baggage. My core belief had been firmly planted and was freely growing. Simply stated, it was this: "I am a troublemaker." That was what I believed about myself, what influenced my behaviors at that time in my life, and what I believed was my identity.

In second grade I had led a gang that hassled first graders on the playground. I bought ice cream from the Good Humor man at recess and stuffed it down other kids' shirts. In third grade I threw a snowball and accidentally hit a teacher in the face. (My parents were called to school to discuss that incident.) After every report card was issued, I simply took the card home, put it on the dining room table, and proceeded straight to my bedroom. I didn't need to be told I was grounded. It wasn't that my grades were so bad - it was the other side of the report card that was cause for concern. Teachers wrote comments that said, "Talks all the time," "Is abusive to materials," "Attitude needs improvement," "Messy work."

It was with this history and my core belief, "I am a troublemaker," that I entered Mrs. Axtell's fifth-grade room that day. Within two hours of my arrival, she created the incident that enabled me to change my mind about myself.

I have total recall of the incident and can bring it back to consciousness at will. It is one of those rare freeze-frame moments in my life. I can still smell the smells, hear the sounds, and see the sights.

Mrs. Axtell began a lesson on long division. She wore a yellow dress and black shoes. The clock over the drinking fountain revealed that it was 10:35 in the morning

"I'm going to put a problem on the board," she announced. "I haven't taught long division yet, so it's okay if you don't know how to do this."

(I had been taught long division the week before in Chicago at my old school. Be advised that it was not my habit to pay attention in school. I have no idea how I remembered the process of long division. But I did. Chalk it up as miracle number one.)

"I need a volunteer," Mrs. Axtell announced. "Who would be willing to take a risk with this problem? Just get it going and I'll help you finish it."

My hand shot immediately into the air.

(Miracle number two. It was not my normal practice to volunteer for things of this nature. I had long since learned that only bad things happened in school when I was called on. My mode of operation had always been to sit there and hope I wouldn't be noticed or called on to perform.)

Before I reined my hand in, Mrs. Axtell called my name.

"You put the number out front into the first two numbers under the division sign," I began. "I think it goes five times. You multiply the number out front by five and put it here. Subtract. Look to make sure the answer you get is lower than the number out front. If it is, bring down the next number. Then put the main number into this new number. I think it goes three times. Multiply and write it down. Subtract. Since the number I got after subtracting is lower than the number out front, that's the remainder. Write that up here with an R for 'remainder.'"

I nailed that problem! I didn't miss a step. The computation was accurate.

I'll never forget the look on Mrs. Axtell's face when I finished explaining how to solve that problem. First, her jaw dropped. Then she broke into a huge smile. It was at that moment that she uttered the words that helped me change my mind about myself: "Boys and girls," she said, "do we ever have somebody special here!"

Everybody turned to look at me. Thirty-seven faces were grinning and looking at me as if I was somebody special. I liked it. I remember thinking, "They don't know." And then I thought, "I'm not going to tell them." The positive attention felt good.

It was during that moment that I changed my core belief from "I am a troublemaker" to "I am special." Not "I am better than" or "I am special and you are not." We are all special in our own ways. It was in that instant that I first glimpsed the specialness that helps make me who and what I am as a unique human being.

When you believe "I am special," that belief changes how you think of yourself. It influences your behaviors. I liked the attention I got that day and I wanted more of it. I started paying attention. I raised my hand regularly. I read the assignments. I did homework. I experienced a new kind of attention, the attention you get from being a learner rather than a troublemaker.

I suspect Mrs. Axtell went home that summer not fully appreciating what she had done for me. I regret that I never went back to tell her. I tried to find her once, but she had long since retired. I hope she had a great summer that year. I hope she had a series of great summers.

Thank you, Mrs. Axtell, for touching my spirit, for being there for me in 1955. You showed up right on schedule, just when I needed you. I appreciate your efforts.


6. Calling It Quits [back to top]


In 1998, Ms. MacLeish was named teacher of the year in Orange County, Florida. If you wore new shoes in her kindergarten classroom, the class sang the New Shoe song in your honor. She routinely asked children, "Would you rather sing this or read it?" Mrs. MacLeish played the autoharp and led cheers such as, "K is for Kindergarten, Hip Hip Hooray!" She put so much FUN in FUNdamentals that the children didn't always realize they were learning.

This year, Ms. MacLeish, 53, informed parents by letter that this will be her last year teaching. The farewell letter was not polite. She was m-a-d and that rhymes with s-a-d and she had h-a-d enough. Her message included the words, "A single high-stakes test score is now measuring Florida's children, leaving little time to devote to their character or potential or talents or depth of knowledge. Kindergarten teachers throughout the state have replaced valued learning centers (home center, blocks, art center, dramatic play) with paper and pencil tasks, dittos, coloring sheets, scripted lessons and workbook pages."

The straw that broke the camel's back for her was an article in the local newspaper praising a kindergarten teacher who was helping her district get a higher grade on the annual state report card by eliminating learning centers and replacing them with reading drills.

This is indeed s-a-d.


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7. Book Report [back to top]


When Sandy Washmon retired after 30 years of teaching, she wanted to give back to the Oklahoma school district that had been such a big part of her life for so many years. She decided to lead a book study for her former colleagues, a program that would allow her to continue dialoguing with them about relevant educational issues.

This past year, Sandy selected "Spirit Whisperers: Teachers Who Nourish a Child's Spirit" to use with the book study group.

"I chose 'Spirit Whisperers,'" Sandy explains, "because I had just finished reading it and was very impressed."

She chose not to seek grant funds to purchase the books because she felt that teachers would want to keep their copies so they could read them more than once.

An email to the faculty and staff produced 23 participants. The first meeting was short. It was used to distribute the books and establish the meeting and reading schedule. The group agreed to meet one afternoon each week at the high school. Meetings, which lasted for 90 minutes, were spent discussing the section of the book that had been read the previous week.

Each week Sandy prepared scenarios that allowed the teachers to practice the ideas presented in the week's reading assignment. According to Sandy, "The response was overwhelming! The teachers were engrossed in the reading and the discussion that followed. They shared that they found themselves using 'Spirit Whisperer language' as they dealt with their students. They also noticed each other using the language. We all became more aware of how we approach our students, but also how we connect with others outside the school setting as well.

"We made a conscious effort to change our behaviors and approach with students," she went on. "The results were extremely positive."

(For more information on how to organize and conduct an educational book club, contact Sandy Washmon at


For quantity discounts on "Spirit Whisperers: Teachers Who Nourish a Child's
Spirit," contact Personal Power Press at or call (toll-free)


8. Parent Training Opportunities [back to top]


Do something extraordinary for the parents in your community!

Become a certified Parent Talk System facilitator. Join a select group of
people throughout the world who are already working to improve family life
in their communities.

Summer Training Schedule

Cancun, Mexico June 25, 26, 27
Contact Ivonne Delaflor (

Dearborn, MI July 31, August 1-2
Contact Chick Moorman (

Wausau, WI August 4, 5, 6
Contact Lynn Gabriel (

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