Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Release of the Guilt

I have a bad case of the guilts.  Most of the 7th grade was out on field trip today and the ten students that stayed back...I let them kinda have free time.  I know, free time for an hour, only ten kids, while about 200 of their peers were out at a field trip...


I have become so programmed to feel guilty whenever I waste even 10-minutes of valuable class time. There is always to much to do... I hear the voice of admin saying, "there are always skills and standards that can be taught or practiced in those little windows of time.  Wasting them is not an option!"

Ouch!  Boy have I become one of those that watches myself and my time with my students like a hawk.  My students and those that I sat with today certainly deserve a few minutes of rest time, fun time.  We are very near to the end of the semester.  There are many high stakes tests in the next 10-days.  It is getting near winter break and...these kids have been stuck inside for more than a month now due to weather.

Can I allow myself the release of the guilt?

I hope so.  I mean, we are teaching and tending to the whole child, right?  We are all only human.  Maybe the 60-minutes today is exactly the mind-rest needed to give them the mind-space to dig deeper into these coming tests?  Maybe they will have more energy and stamina now?  I think they will.

With responsibility and accountability sometimes comes an unhealthy lack of appreciation for self-care and taking care of self. We all need to take care of ourselves so we can do what is needed when it counts.  If we are mentally or physically exhausted, there is nothing left to give...this includes on tests.

Okay, I forgive myself.  For now...

Be Mindful.


Mark Levine


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Inner Voice

As we are approaching the new year, I feel like I have a growing list of new expectations for the year.  It is interesting how a new year, a new school year, or even a new week gives us the so-called clean slate that we so often need to set new goals and expectations.

We get this cheerleader voice in our heads...

"This will be the year"

"We got this"

"There is no stopping me now"

As we let go of the inner voice saying...

"As soon as I finish ____, I can finally work on me"

"Once ___ is done, I can finally get to _____"

"I can't wait until ______"

Why don'y we simply put on the breaks right now, this very second, and bring about the changes that we want to happen.  We are always waiting for some type of magical starting line which somehow will propel us towards our goals because we waited until we were ready.

A new year, new month, or even a new day will not make you any more ready than you were yesterday, are doing what is needed to set in motion, these new wonderful plans or pathways to the big goals.

Who am I writing this for?

Me, of course.  It is what I needed to remind myself when I look at the calendar and say to myself, wow...only 20 more days before I can finally begin that new project.


I can start any time.  I can start right now if I let myself.  I think I will.

Be Mindful.


Mark Levine


Monday, December 10, 2018

Santa Grams

One of the benefits of being a teacher who writes is that when you can't find exactly what you are looking for as an example, you simply write it yourself.

My 7th grade students are studying the US Constitution and they are looking at current applications of the Bill of Rights.  As there have been many similar articles in the news as of late, I decided to bring this issue to our school as noted within the text.

My students were to read this article, note central idea, create a claim supported by evidence, note vocabulary, among other standards-based practice.

The article is below.

Santa Grams questioned as

December 7, 2018

As school in a suburb of Chicago called Lukancic Middle School has run into trouble
due to a tradition that started many years ago.  Now the practice is being questioned
to decide if the practice is constitutional or not.

Every year, a few weeks before winter break, the Romeoville school sells Santa
Grams which are candy canes with a nice message attached.  These are messages
of good will.

Students send them to other students and teachers. Teachers also send them
to other teachers and students.  It is a sign of caring that the middle school has
come to be known for through the years. The problem? These nice messages
and candy offerings have become a topic of controversy in the community.

As there are students that practice varying religions and beliefs that attend
the school, the real question here is, “Is this practice a violation of constitutional

There are students that attend the middle school that practice such religions that
do not follow or celebrate the Christian holiday of Christmas.  These include
Muslim, Jehovah's Witness, and Jewish Students. They have been brought up
in a religion or culture that does not recognize these days as holidays.  Is it fair to
have these students subjected to only one faith’s belief system?

People asking for this practice to be stopped have filled a petition and are
expecting this to be brought to the state Supreme Court as early as Wednesday
of this week.  They are afraid that if they wait too long, that these Santa Grams
will be sold and rights may be violated.

A spokesperson from the school has suggested that they be named something
different such as Holiday Grams.  This idea was rejected as many still felt that this
did not satisfy all groups concerned. With one final attempt at settling this in time
for the sale, there as a push to change the name to Winter Grams. Students at the
school have commented that they are not willing to change the name of the greeting
from Santa Gram unless the courts force them to do so.


It is fun to be able to help my students think in terms of their own school and
community while tackling bigger issues in learning. Being a teacher who writes
allows me to do things like this...

Be Mindful.


Mark Levine


Sunday, December 9, 2018

Newest Goals

Is it too early for New Years goals?

I see some of my peers are already choosing their One-Little-Word.  I am afraid I do not have mine yet.  Maybe I take it to seriously as I commit to living the word and taking it on as more than a goal, but as a true direction...a true north.

In the past, I have had words like Craft, Curate, Balance, Gift, Present, Mindful, and so on.  It wasn't until I came up with the word persist this year that the word and living the word had taken hold.


Because I needed to word.  It was so much more than a word.  I asked for a word to guide me and it helped to not only guide me, but coach me through the entire year.  I have persisted in many things this past calendar year, but writing daily on this blog was the target that I hit daily.

As I consider words, I have to start by looking at my goals for the year.

- I want to write an article a week for Choice Literacy

- I want to write a Chapter a month in one of my book projects

- I want to make minimization a focus in my life

- I want to work toward readiness to retire

- I want to re-establish my identity as a friend

- I want to sort out my obligations and to find those most meaningful to me

- I want relaxation and appreciation to be built into my life in conjunction with meditation

- I want to know that I am alive


These are my foci leading me towards my word.  Wish me luck!

(Suggestions are always welcome!)

Be Mindful.


Mark Levine


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Human Mind

I have spoke before about my routine of not leaving my classroom for lunch and instead, assigning myself monthly units of learning.  This month, my focus of self-awareness and learning is about the newest research on the human mind, and thus the brain and its function.

As I was learning various things that I can directly apply to my students during the past few days of lessons, I stumbled about the idea of being Born into being a sociopath.  What I found was that the core of the brain is very much smaller in those that will become sociopaths.  This is 1 out of 100 people on earth.  As the population grows, as do these numbers. The people with the smallest of these organs within the brain will become killers.  There is no remorse in these people.  They manipulate for personal gain and for the gain of power.  Often they have narcissistic personalities and tendencies.

After making a checklist of the qualities that make up the not-so-dangerous group of the 1out of 100, one thing stands out to me.  To go into politics for a majority, these people qualify as the lesser group of sociopaths.

Of course, there are those that try to go into politics to make changes for humanity...the altruistic ones.  They do not tend to last.  It is as if they are too smart of have a larger part of their brain that deals with morals and they refuse to play the game.

Our nation's politicians are not the only ones that fit this profile.  Most larger nations experience this as well.  Maybe this is why France and England are experiencing what they have been over the past few weeks?

Those who know me know clearly that I hold complete distain for anything politics, but not people or government in general.  I know arguing about politics is futile and self-damaging. 


With this new information...

Maybe it is time to redefine government and power within.  It no longer fits our world.  We need to save our planet from people and their plastics, greed, and laziness.

It is time to become aware.

Be Mindful.


Mark Levine


Friday, December 7, 2018

My Legacy

This is the time of year that I end up running into or hearing from past students.  My oldest students are now 32 years old.  Many have families and in fact, I will be teaching some of their kids next year.

I love catching up with my past students.  I love hearing what they are doing, what life has brought for them, and what they deem as important in their lives.  Most bring up my class and events that they recall from my classroom.  I often hear how they enjoyed my class, they enjoyed my teaching styles, and I have impacted their lives.

If I am honest, while I am talking to them, this is what is always on my mind....

"Did I impact your life at all?  Was my teaching holistic enough where you were able to learn about life and yourself, and not just social studies?"

I sometimes get the nerve to ask.  Most often, I just stand there and wonder.  If I am lucky, past students will offer this information to me without me asking.  As I reflect on this practice, the reality is...I just want to know that what I am doing is making a difference to as many people as possible.

We all consider and dream about our legacies.  I know what I want my legacy to be...I want to be remembered as a teacher who cared.  I want students to think of me as a person and not only as their teacher.  I want to matter in their lives.

As the holidays get closer and I am lucky enough to run into past students...I wonder what I will ask, or need.  I hope I have the courage to be open and honest with them.  I hope I can help them know that their opinions mean a lot to me.

Be Mindful.


Mark Levine


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ready for some changes

As we enter into the last two weeks of the first semester, I am at a place of reflection per usual.  Did I do enough, should I have pushed my students harder, should I have expected more, did I offer enough energy and inspiration, was I present enough, did my lessons create enough curiosity and motivation for learning...

I know I am pretty hard on myself and consistently have enormous exceptions for myself in my work. work directly impacts the futures of others.  I have to make sure that I am at my best and doing everything I possibly can with the times that I have.

Am I ready for some changes?


I am always reinventing my teaching as I grow in thinking through various means of professional development and reflection of my work.  My students are always my best teachers as they teach me daily, what they need, thus...what I need to be doing to be most effective.

So what have my students taught me this year that I need to correct for in semester two?

I have listened and learned and have come up with this incomplete list so far...

*  Smaller units

*  More vocabulary

*  More formative feedback

*  More clarity on standards

*  Better developed rubrics

*  Student self-assessment using clear and concise rubrics

*  Standards-Based communication of growth

*  More energy in engaging my students from minute one

Again, this is a partial list, but it is meaty enough to create my plans for personal growth and planning over break to make the second semester everything that I want it to be and my students need it to be.

Be Mindful.


Mark Levine