Accountability Partners

Accountability partners are a great way to keep you motivated and ensure that you are working out, reading, losing weight, saving money, or meeting any other goals.

When I need to decompress a quick walk around the block is a great way to reset my mind. There are so many times when I find other things that are “more important” than taking this time for myself. That’s when my accountability partner Max comes into play.

He’s always up for a walk no matter what the weather is like or what time of day it is. We will walk anywhere from a half mile to two miles. That time outside, away from computers, phones, and email, is usually what I need to get me in a good mindset. It is just Max and me with our thoughts. The best part about Max is his schedule is always open. Of course, that’s what happens when you’re a five-year-old Labradoodle.

Max is always ready for a walk.
Max leading the way on a one mile walk in our neighborhood.

Max is a great accountability partner. If we don’t go for a walk one day, I start to feel bad that he’s not getting enough exercise. I’ve walked more in the last five years than I did in the 15 years prior to getting Max. While you might not have a canine who loves to walk, there’s a friend, colleague, significant other, or somebody else in your life who would love to help you. When you have an accountability partner the fear of letting them down will often get you going. So go find somebody to keep you motivated. Be the best you and good luck!

Mindful Eating

After dropping my students off at lunch, I think about three emails I need to send before the end of the school day. There’s also a stack of quizzes on my desk I told myself would be graded and returned to students today. So, during my lunch I sit at my desk and fire off emails, grade quizzes, and shovel lunch into my mouth. I would love to say that days like this were outliers, but that wouldn’t be the truth. They were more the norm than the exception.

I have to admit, didn’t really know what mindfulness was a few years ago. Yes, I knew that it meant paying attention to what you were doing throughout your daily routine, but I didn’t really understand what that looked like. After I learned more about mindfulness, I realized one of the areas were I was really struggling was eating. I would eat regularly in front of the television, a computer, or some other device.

It never occurred to me that this was a problem until I was in a professional development last year about mindfulness. One of the sessions discussed mindful eating and the dangers of multitasking while you eat – watching television, working on your computer, etc.

According to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, when you are distracted you eat more food. This is because your mind sends signals to tell you’re full and should stop eating. These signals can start about 20 minutes after you start eating. If you’re not paying attention to your meal, the signals your mind sends to the rest of your body might not be noticed. When you’re distracted, it is easier to miss these signals.

In addition to being more mindful, there are other strategies to help decrease the amount of food you eat before your mind sends the “I’m full” signal. Here are some great suggestions from Harvard Medical School:

  • Set a timer to 20 minutes.
  • Eat with your non-dominant hand.
  • Use chopsticks if you don’t normally use them.
  • Eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun’s rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook.
  • Take small bites and chew well.
  • Before opening the fridge or cabinet, take a breath and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?”
  • Do something else, like reading or going on a short walk.

Since I learned more about mindfulness, I eat almost every day in the faculty room with a colleague. My computer is in my classroom, and I try to keep my cell phone in my pocket. It has helped the amount I consume, and I’ve found it helps me reset my body and mind for the afternoon. One of these day, though, I might break out some chopsticks and give that a shot too.


A few years ago I was having some pretty significant hip pain. It was to the point where I could barely walk, and my orthopedic surgeon was talking about a hip replacement – in my mid-30s. There was rest (I didn’t run for almost three years), physical therapy, pain medication, and even cortisone shots under X-ray, but nothing would ease the pain.

Then I tried yoga. Within a months, my symptoms decreased exponentially. About six months later, I felt almost 100% again. At first, I was doing a half-hour yoga routine on a DVD I purchased. I liked the convenience of doing this in my living room.

Here are a couple of my takeaways from my experience with yoga. First, it is not as easy as it looks. When I watch videos online, most of the yogis make it look so easy and effortless. When I first started practicing yoga, I spent most of my time trying to catch my balance. That improve over time. Second, it does get easier. The first time I tried the half-hour routine, I made it through about five minutes. The next time I made it a few minutes more. Eventually, I was able to complete the entire 30 minute routine. Finally, this is one of the best workouts I’ve ever done. It is a great full-body workout and helps release mental stress. I was very reluctant to try it at first because it was way out of my comfort zone. I grew up playing basketball, baseball, and soccer. This wasn’t macho enough for me. I was completely wrong. This is a real workout.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, a healthy teacher is better able to take care of students. My Friday posts have, accidentally, become centered on health and wellness. Today I had to drive about three hours away. My muscles were extremely stiff when I got out of the car, and the only thing I wanted to do was a couple yoga poses. If you’re limited on time, I think the best yoga pose for the time is Downward Dog. It helps stretch out your hamstrings and strengthen your core. Here’s a quick video of how it works. Hope it helps!

Three for the Week

Saturdays are my time to reflect on what I read, heard, and discussed throughout the week. It is my “exit ticket” for the last seven days. So here are three ideas that made me think this week. (They are not in any particular order.)

1 – Did you know there are three meanings of multiplication? I didn’t know them until a couple years ago. A blog post by Jeff Lisciandrello reminded me that the meanings are not widely known. They are: equal groups, rates, multiplicative comparison, rectangular array, and Cartesian products. Jeff has a great description of each meaning in his blog post.

2 – Michael Pollan is a food writer and the author of books like  “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” “The Botany of Desire,” “In Defense of Food” and “How to Change Your Mind.” His new book, which is only available as an audiobook on Audible, tackles our complex relationship with caffeine. Pollan explores the effects of caffeine in our society and how it impacts our bodies. I have not listened to the book, but read an interesting preview in the Washington Post. In his book, Pollan says, “Something like 90 percent of humans ingest caffeine regularly, making it the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world and the only one we routinely give to children, commonly in the form of soda. It’s so pervasive that it’s easy to overlook the fact that to be caffeinated is not baseline consciousness but, in fact, is an altered state.” That’s a pretty sobering thought.

3 – The third slot is again reserved for something which will put a smile on your face. I’ve never really believed in the whole idea of a spirit animal. Then I saw this video of a dog sledding down a hill. I now complete embrace the idea of a spirit animal and believe I’ve found mine.


Regardless of the content or grade level, every teacher gets frustrated from time to time in the classroom. Research has shown that teachers make about 1,500 decisions in the course of a day. Add to that unexpected changes in the day, a student having a tough emotional day, the teacher feeling under the weather, or a dispute between students which needs to be addressed. It can all become the perfect storm for an overly stressed teacher. I know, because I’ve been there.

A few years ago I started reading more about yoga and meditation. My wife actually introduced me to both. Yoga and meditation had an enormous impact on my mood and physical wellbeing. Eventually, I started reading and listening Dr. Weil who practices integrated medicine.

One idea I heard from Dr. Weil, which has been incredibly useful, is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It’s an exercise based off of yoga practice.

  • Exhale through your mouth;
  • Close your mouth;
  • Breathe in through your mouth to a count of 4;
  • Hold your breath for a count of 7;
  • Blow air out through your mouth to a count of 8.

This process is repeated for four breath cycles. The process takes only about 30 seconds and can be done sitting, standing, or lying down. (Not that I recommend lying down in the middle of your classroom.)

I tried the 4-7-8 breathing exercise about a year go for the first time. As Dr. Weil mentions in this video, it is a process that takes time to develop. Over time, it did become more natural and extremely relaxing.

The next time you are feeling stressed in the middle of a lesson, take 30 seconds and give the 4-7-8 breathing exercise a try. It take so little time that your students won’t even notice. It’s a win-win for everybody!

Can Teachers Be Financially Comfortable?

I had a conversation at lunch today with a couple of colleagues about financial wellbeing. It’s an important conversation to have – if not with colleagues, then with a spouse/significant other, or at least with ourselves.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, a healthy teacher is better able to take care of students. One important way to take care of our overall health is to ensure that our financial wellbeing is monitored and addressed. Financial insecurity can lead to chronic stress, which can negatively affect mental and physical health – ulcers, digestive issues, migraines, insomnia, anxiety, etc.  

There are many resources out there to help understand finances and improve financial wellness. One that I like, and have personally used, is Dave Ramsey’s baby steps:

  1. Save $1,000 for your starter emergency fund.
  2. Pay off all debt (except the house) using the debt snowball.
  3. Save 3-6 months of expenses in a fully funded emergency fund.
  4. Invest 15% of your household income in retirement.
  5. Save for your children’s college fund.
  6. Pay off your home early.
  7. Build wealth and give.

Dave Ramsey wrote a best-selling book, called The Total Money Makeover, which outlines the baby steps and guides readers to, what he calls, financial peace. It is an incredibly quick read, and can help anybody become more knowledgeable about finances and money. One friend recently told me the book literally changed his life.

I’ve read a number of the books on this topic by a range of authors and financial gurus. The key isn’t necessary whom you are reading but that you are reading and thinking about your financial wellbeing. Two other books I’ve found interesting are The Millionaire Next Door and Start Late, Finish Rich. These two books are wonderful because they apply to the average person, not necessarily a surgeon making $500,000 a year. They, and Dave Ramsey, discuss a common thread: financial health is not correlated to level of income.

It is no secret that teacher’s are not in the top income earners in our country. Should teachers be paid more? Yes, but we can only worry about what we can control. So how do we work with what we have, financially speaking? That’s what some of these resources will help unpack. Most of the authors and gurus boil it down to simple ideas like planning, being intentional with money, and minimizing the amount of debt you have because that means more interest payments.

There are many teachers continually improving their financial wellbeing. In fact, a recent study found that one of the top five professions for millionaires is… wait for it… teachers. (Engineer, accountant, “management,” and attorneys were the other professions in the top five.) If planning and being intentional are some of the bedrocks to financial wellbeing, then who knows how to plan better than teachers?

This study shows that it is possible for teachers to become financial successful. The goal isn’t to become “rich.” The goal is to pay attention to our financial wellbeing, continue to learn about finances, and put ourselves in a position so that money is not a constant stressor which leads to health problems. The goal is to be healthy, so we can all be better teachers!

Three for the Week

Saturdays are my time to reflect on what I read, heard, and discussed throughout the week. It is my “exit ticket” for the last seven days. So here are three ideas that made me think this week. (They are not in any particular order.)

1 – The overall health of teachers is so important. We work in a very emotionally, physically, and mentally demanding field. It is critical that we take care of our bodies and minds in order to better take care of our students. So I was doing some digging for the best exercises and workouts. I love running but know that the impact is not great for your body. I found an interesting article which outlines exercises to do at every age group. For example, they recommend boot camp in your 20’s, high-intensity interval training in your 30’s, and running in your 40’s. Guess I don’t have to stop running quite yet!

2 – An article from The University of Virginia really caught my attention. It is a Q&A with NCTM President and UVA professor Dr. Samuel Braley Gray. He outlines what effective math teaching looks like in our schools, touches on some inequities in math education, and even talks about why children should use their fingers in math. (That last point alone got me wondering why we would encourage students to use printed ten frames, but discourage them from using their fingers – which are ten frames.) What really struck me was what Dr. Gray said about the effective ways to teach math. “These ideas are a shift from focusing on memorization. Mathematics is more than getting an answer quickly. Effective mathematics teaching engages students in explaining why their answers make sense and why the strategy they used is appropriate.” Well said, Dr. Gray!

3 – Last week I chose something lighthearted as my third point for the week. I’ll keep that trend going this week. Two ridiculously cute boys show up to a Canadian airport to pick up their grandmother. The boys decide to play a trick on grandma and dress up in full T-Rex costumes. Grandma, as grandmas always seem to do, was one step ahead of the boys. She appeared wearing… a full T-Rex costume of her own. The video is well worth the 2:29 of your time and will definitely put a smile on your face.

What Should We Eat?

What should we eat? That’s a question I never really seem to be able to answer. Usually I fall into paralysis by analysis and just eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. I’m pretty much a novice when it comes to understanding diet and nutrition. Honestly, in my early 20’s I would drink a Coca-Cola for breakfast on the way into work. Not in addition to anything of substance. A can of Coke was my entire breakfast. So clearly I had a lot to learn.

My father used to always tell me, “Wait until you turn 30. That wonderful metabolism will slow down in a hurry.” Thankfully, the turn wasn’t as dramatic as he implied, but I did start to pay more attention to how I was treating my body.

I started reading about nutrition and wellness a little more. The more I read, the more confused I became. It seemed like everything I read contradicted the last article. Eat this… no, that’s bad for you, eat this… no wait, that might be bad for you if you’re over thirty… you should eat meat with every meal… no, don’t eat meat at all… wait, you can eat meat, but only if it grass fed and free of antibiotics… on second thought, you can only eat chicken that listened to classical music and did pilates twice a week prior to the butcher… Ugh! It was utterly confusing.

Then somebody told me about Food Rules by Michael Pollan. It is an extremely quick read that tries to unpack some of the confusion around eating and nutrition. The first sentence of the introduction says, “Eating in our time has gotten complicated – needlessly so, in my opinion.” He was reading my mind!

Food Rules is broken into three parts: Part I- What should I eat? Part II – What kind of food should I eat? Part III – How should I eat it? In each section, Pollan gives very practical advice that is easy to understand. Each tip is accompanied by a brief, often one paragraph, explanation of the suggestion. Here are my ten favorites:

  1. Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize.
  2. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human being would keep in their pantry. (Xanthan gum, anyone?)
  3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce. (Boys and girls, can you say “Xanthan gum?”)
  4. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
  5. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
  6. Stop eating before you’re full.
  7. Eat when you’re hungry, not when you are bored.
  8. Buy smaller plates and glasses.
  9. Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does. (No hotdogs off the rollers at the gas station. That would have been shocking to my twenty-year-old self.)
  10. Break the rules once in a while.

There are so many wonderful thoughts in this book, and Pollan presents them all in a way that is easy to understand and hard to forget. For a person like me, it was the perfect place to start thinking about what I was putting in my body.

Pollan shares seven words he believes are the answer to that incredibly complex questions of what to eat: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

I try to think about these seven words as much as possible. It’s hard, especially when I walk into the faculty room to a table overflowing with donuts and other baked goods. There’s got to be some Xanthan gum in something on that table. Sometimes I follow the rules; sometimes I break them. At least I’m thinking about food rules at all. That’s got to count for something, right?