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The Response-Able Educator Newsletter 35
Sept. 30, 2004


Welcome! This is a free newsletter on becoming a Response-Able teacher 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
    2. Bumper Sticker
    3. Spirit Whisperer Contemplation
    4. Teacher Talk Tip
    5. Teacher Talk Seminar
    6. Being on Topic
    7. Teamwork
    8. Article: So What Are Students Going to Remember About Your Classroom Ten Years From Today?
    9. Facts
    10. Manage Your Subscription


1. Quote [back to top]


“To be educated, a person doesn’t have to know much or be informed, but he or she does have to have been exposed vulnerably to the transformative events of an engaged human life.”

—Thomas Moore


2. Bumper Sticker [back to top]


Spotted on a Chevy van in Merrill, MI:

“The Good Stuff Is in the Middle.”

Hemlock Middle School


3. Spirit Whisperer Contemplation [back to top]


“Pay attention,” we often tell students. What if the most important attention students can pay today is to their own thoughts? Are you teaching students to pay attention to their own thoughts and to where those thoughts are taking them, or are you teaching them to pay attention to you and to where you are taking them?


4. Teacher Talk Tip[back to top]


When you apologize to a student, the structure of your Teacher Talk is important. If you yell, use sarcasm, or publicly ridicule a child, an apology is appropriate. When apologizing, be careful with the word “but.”

“I’m sorry I reprimanded you in front of the class, but your choice of behavior was inappropriate” uses the word “but” to excuse your behavior. The apology is stronger if you change the order of your Teacher Talk. Say, “Your choice of behavior was inappropriate, but I’m sorry I reprimanded you in front of the class.” An even more effective apology occurs when you replace “but” with “and.” Tell the student, “Your choice of behavior was inappropriate, and I’m sorry I reprimanded you in front of the class.”


The Teacher Talk Seminar is currently one of our most requested seminars. Skill-based and practical, this verbal skills training offers teachers strategies they can put to use
immediately. Chick Moorman is currently booking summer and back-to-school programs.

To reserve your date, contact Chick at


5. Teacher Talk Seminar [back to top]


The Teacher Talk Seminar is currently one of our most requested seminars. Skill-based and practical, this verbal skills training offers teachers strategies they can put to use immediately.

Chick Moorman may be coming to a city near you with this dynamic and enlightening seminar. Check the dates and places below. Email to request a brochure on the seminar, which is titled “Achievement Motivation and Behavior Management.”

LANSING, MI — November 5, 2004
MINNEAPOLIS, MN — November 15, 2004
MILWAUKEE, WI — November 16, 2004

To bring the Teacher Talk Seminar to your school, contact Chick at or call (toll-free) 877-360-1477.


6. Being on TOPIC [back to top]


Patty Tamble teaches math to high school students in Sauk Rapids, MN. Like many tenth to twelfth graders, her students are not always on task. “I have some students,” she says, “who waste their time and disrupt others rather than work on problems.” Patty set out to correct that situation.

“I remember what you taught us, Chick — that if you want a behavior, you have to teach a behavior,” she said to me recently. “I decided to apply it to work time.”

One Monday Patty set out to teach all her student how to “Be On the Topic.” Using the direct teaching approach, she taught five behaviors that are necessary in order to “Be on the Topic.” They were:

1.) Turn to the proper page.
2.) Open your notebook.
3.) Pick up your pencil.
4.) Info in upper left-hand corner.
5.) Concentrate on your work.

As she wrote the five items on a large poster, she made the first letter of the first word in each point extra large, spelling the word “TOPIC.”

Near the end of the period of each of her classes, Patty debriefed with her students by asking them to rate themselves on a scale of one to ten on how well they had been on the topic that day. She also assigned students to complete the sentence starter, “Next time, we can be on the topic better if we . . .” A brief discussion followed.

“The five steps are clear and easy for my students to remember with the help of the poster,” Patty says. She adds, “It also helps to give the behavior I wanted a name.”

Asking, “Are you on TOPIC?” has replaced going up to students and giving them such reminders as “Pick up your pencil and get to work.”

“Since I invested the time in teaching the behavior I wanted, my students have been on task a lot more often,” Patty reports.


7. Teamwork [back to top]


The following was overheard at the beginning of the school year kindergarten orientation at MacGregor Elementary School in Bay City, MI:

Kindergarten teacher Valerie Haller, explaining the importance of parents and teachers working together: “I am an early childhood specialist. I am an expert at teaching five- and six-year-olds. You are an expert on your child. Together, that makes us a great team.”


8. Article: So What Are Students Going to Remember About Your Classroom Ten Years From Today? [back to top]


By Chick Moorman

Marilyn O’Brien’s third graders spent $210 on tropical fish. The investment represented the culmination of six weeks of effort on the part of Marilyn, her students, and the entire school population. Two weeks later the fish were dead. The ich disease and a faulty heater had combined to destroy them all.

This is not a story about how fish die, nor is it about good deeds that make for happy endings. It is simply an account of a group of third graders involved in planning, caring, and doing. It is a celebration of the beauty of the process. The message is simple: Products die, processes live.

The process began innocently enough with a comment from one of the students. Two weeks into the school year, he noticed the cloudy condition of the fish tank in the school library and said, “Hey, you can hardly see inside the tank.” A classroom meeting confirmed that there was indeed a problem with the library fish tank and that something needed to be done about it.

Marilyn O’Brien believes in the value of helping children work through real-life problems using real-life solutions while checking out real-life results. So she allowed the tank talk to continue. As the tank situation took up more classroom time during the next few days, Marilyn listened, asked questions, and shared her own perceptions. She was supportive, patient, and nondirective. Marilyn believes that initiative cannot be taught; rather it is learned by children who are given the room to initiate.

The third graders decided they needed a clean tank, fewer snails, new gravel, a filter, a bubbler, some plants, and new fish. They created a scheme to acquire the money to finance these decisions. Their plan to raise money involved holding a cookie sale, sponsoring a movie, and soliciting donations throughout the school.

As the money began to come in, the third graders started planning their purchases. The eight-year-olds called pet shops, priced fish and aquarium equipment, and made additional decisions. It quickly became clear to them that more dollars would be necessary.

A contest was devised. The students filled a small fish bowl with candy hearts and red hots, then invited students throughout the school to buy chances indicating how many pieces of candy were in the bowl. Whoever came closest would win all the candy.

The third graders eventually raised over $200.

They then debated the pet shop vs. discount store question and decided to go with the pet shop. They picked two stores and checked them both out. Marilyn and five students whose names had been drawn from a hat did the major purchasing of tank equipment on a Saturday. During the next two weeks the remaining students had an opportunity to visit the pet shop. Their task was to buy the fish.

After six weeks of collecting money and two weeks of spending it, the library fish tank was complete. The third graders had planned, organized, and stocked the aquarium, which now occupied a place of prominence in the school library.

The new fish enjoyed a week and a half of healthy living. Then one youngster noticed that a fish he had bought was missing. When he reported this mystery to the class, the students headed en masse to the library, where they quickly noticed the missing fish lying on the bottom of the tank, dead.

Then it began.

“Look at my fish! It’s got white things all over it.”

“Mine’s got the same thing!”

“Mine, too!”

The fish looked gruesome. Marilyn left the librarian in charge of her students and headed immediately for the pet store. Ich disease was the diagnosis. A bottle of medicine that turned the water blue was the prescription. The correct number of drops was added and
the vigil began.

Students and teacher watched day by day as the fish took turns dying. Each morning produced the all too familiar scene of fish floating on top of the water or lying silently on the bottom of the tank. The grieving process stretched over several days and included tears, anger, detachment, and an occasional cuss word.

It was difficult for the third grades to watch the fish die. They became discouraged and felt helpless. The question of WHY kept surfacing, and it was very clear that the students wanted an answer.

Consultation with a fish expert revealed that the most probable cause of death was the temperature of the tank. The heater, which worked well on school days, was insufficient to warm the water when the heat was cut back on weekends. Lacking warmth, the fish contracted the ich disease and eventually died.

Marilyn’s concern matched that of her students. Thinking of the time, effort, energy, and love that went into the project — as well as of her students’ reactions — Marilyn, too, was upset. And she understood that something had to be done.

The owner of the pet shop refused to replace the fish, since they had been healthy when they left his store. In the end, Marilyn bought three goldfish.

The project is over now. The unexpected result of so much effort turned out to be three goldfish swimming around in the library fish tank. Today they serve as a constant reminder of the fickle relationship between effort and results.

Results can never be fully controlled. We can have total control only over the degree of effort we make. Expected outcomes don’t necessarily follow.

Even so, this group of third graders learned many valuable lessons about identifying problems, searching for solutions, creating plans, and following through. They also experienced firsthand the unstable relationship between effort and results.

What are students going to remember about your classroom ten years from today?

Chick Moorman is the author of “Spirit Whisperers: Teachers Who Nourish a Child’s Spirit” and “Parent Talk: How to Talk to Your Child in Language That Builds Self-Esteem and Encourages Responsibility.” He is the co-author of “The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose.” His books are available from Personal Power Press at (toll-free) 877-360-1477.


Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are available to keynote your conference or present one of their highly acclaimed full-day seminars for your building or district staff.

Their most popular seminars are:

    • Celebrate the Spirit Whisperers
    • Transforming Aggression in Children
    • Teaching for Respect and Responsibility
    • Brain Functioning
    • Behavior in Children
    • Achievement, Motivation and Behavior Management

Contact them at, or call (toll-free) 877-360-1477 to discuss possible dates and topics.


9. Facts [back to top]


In a recent Canadian study, obese children rated their quality of life as low as that of young cancer patients because of teasing and health problems.

Overweight adolescents are more likely than normal-weight children to be victims and perpetrators of bullying.

Obese girls were more than five times more likely than normal-weight girls to physically bully other youngsters at least once weekly.

Obese boys and girls were more than two times more likely than normal-weight youngsters to be victims of “relational” bullying — being intentionally left out of social activities.

—Pediatrics, May 2004


10. Manage Your Subscription [back to top]


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To find out more about books, tapes, and materials by Chick Moorman, contact him at (toll-free) 877-360-1477 or on the web at


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