I’ve been talking and talking and talking  about writing a book based on my blog but that’s all I’ve been doing is talking about writing my book. Writing’s not a problem. I did a lot of writing while completing my MEd and liked it. I did a lot of writing for my blog over the eight years and liked it. Well, to be honest, I haven’t been writing many blog posts lately. It’s not writing that’s the problem.  The problem is I just can’t seem to get started.

When I was really busy teaching in the classroom, I used to set aside a time to write my blog and respond to comments. No problem getting the writing done. But now, that I have more time I can’t seem to get to writing my blog, never mind my book. There’s that  old adage that goes something like “if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person”, well  I didn’t fully appreciate the message until recently. I’m not busy, and I’m not getting things done.

I was reading a tweet my son, Chris Hartjes, recently wrote . I follow his tweets just because I’m his Mom and have to know. He’s been encouraging me to write this book for a while. Chris is  super busy at work and with family responsibilities and yet he’s writing his third book as well as speaking at conferences and doing  video-casts. People are always asking him how does he find the time to do all that he does when he’s so busy all the time. His answer to that question is ” Use your calendar to block out time for tasks and only do them during that time”.>

Use my calendar to block out time to write my book? I think I can do that. I will do that, and I’ll let you know how it goes.



For me. living an authentic life is living a life that honours what I value. Shakespseare said it best when he said ” Know thyself and to thine self be true”.

By now, I have a pretty good idea what I value in life. I also know that if I do not live my life according to what I value, life soon starts to suck.

For the most part, I love teaching. But, every once in a while I start to hate it. When I realize I’m starting to hate teaching, I’m always surprised.  I love teaching, especially teaching the academically at risk students I usually teach, so why am I starting to hate it?

I’ve learned to ask myself what is it about teaching my students that I love, and am I doing that? Invariably, the answer is that I am not teaching according to what I value. By not honouring what I value in my teaching practice, I’m  disconnecting  myself from my teaching practice and from my students. Once disconnected from my teaching practice and my students, life starts to suck. Once I realize there’s a problem, I start to reconnect to my teaching practice and to my students. I’ll do this  by asking  myself what it is  that I value about my students, and what is it at I value about my teaching practice. Once I’ve identified what I’m doing that doesn’t honour my values, I can change what I’m doing and start to be more authentic.  Soon, life  becomes good again.

Just a thought here: Can someone be more authentic or is being authentic one of those absolute states wherein you are authentic or you are not authentic- there’s no more or less.











I’d like to share the following article written by Tara Fisher, conflict resolution specialist,  regarding the important difference between teasing and bullying . I hope you find it useful. Thanks for the article Tara.

Teasing or bullying?

How special needs teachers & parents can identify and resolve a range of student conflicts.

By Tara Fishler

Bullying has become a buzzword. It also has mistakenly become a catch-all description for what actually can be a wide range of student conflicts.


Children, parents and school special needs personnel often jump to the conclusion that when a conflict develops between children, it must be a bullying scenario. However, although true bullying does happen in most schools, the vast majority of conflicts actually fall under teasing or disagreement situations.


It’s important for school personnel to know the difference between bullying and teasing. Bullying is defined as behavior that is intentional, aggressive and negative; carried out repeatedly against one or more targets; and occurs in a relationship where there is an imbalance of power between the parties involved. If one or more of these elements are missing, it is generally a teasing situation.


In the United States, at least 1 in 4 kids is bullied on a regular basis. Direct bullying, more common to male bullies, includes physical aggression such as punching, kicking, slapping or embarrassing remarks or actions, such as knocking over books. Indirect bullying, also known as social aggression, is more common to female bullies and young children. Indirect bullies force the victim into social isolation using techniques such as spreading gossip, refusing to socialize with the victim, bullying other people who wish to socialize with the victim, and criticizing the victim’s clothing or other socially significant markers. Evaluating the balance of power in a conflict often is the best way to identify bullying versus teasing. If one party is afraid of the other, it’s more likely to be a bullying situation. 


Most special needs student conflicts can be handled effectively by well trained and supervised peer mediators. However, true bullying, which can have extremely negative short and long-term effects on their targets, needs the attention of a trained adult. When handling a bullying situation, the adult should speak to each child privately.  Adults need to understand that targeted children often have a very real fear of escalation of the bullying as a result of the adult’s involvement, and significant efforts must be made to ensure the safety of the target, both on and off school property. Some bullies benefit from being made aware of the effects of their behavior and can truly reform themselves. Others have deeper emotional needs that must be addressed before any positive changes in behavior can occur. 


Reducing teasing and bullying in special needs classrooms requires educating the entire school community, particularly bystanders, about the various forms and aspects of bullying. Educated and empowered bystanders have the potential to remove the power from the bullies and protect the targets. Conflict resolution programs that teach empathy and perspective also are helpful in changing a school’s atmosphere from one of fear, to one where children can grow and learn to be responsible citizens.


Tara Fishler is a conflict resolution specialist and founder of Customized Training Solutions, a New York-based provider of conflict resolution, training and strategic management services. Visit www.tarafishler.com to learn more.


Contact:  Lekas & Levine PR, 847.327.9530, Joannepr@aol.com.

Front Row

I’m always on the look out for new effective, engaging teaching and learning tools that I can use in my teaching practice. I’m especially interested in finding teaching tools to help me differentiate instruction to meet the specific needs of students and that will encourage students to take charge of their own learning. Front Row is a new math app for the ipad and Chrome browser that does just that.

I really like Front Row as a math teaching, learning tool and administration. I like the fact that Front Row’s 15 000 math questions are aligned to the common core, but I love the fact that Front Row provides over 500 videos students can view when they get stuck on a question. I’ve found that students are often too embarrassed to admit that they don’t get a specific math question and choose to save face and not ask for help. Even though I always encourage my students to ask questions by telling them there are no stupid questions and that I love answering questions, some students will still not choose to ask for help because they don’t wish to appear stupid in front of their peers. Front Row enables students to ask for and get  help privately and save face when they’re stuck by viewing the over 500 videos that explain things to them. Front Row enables students to share their successes publicly and get help privately–a win/win situation.

I asked little Katie who is in grade 3 to review Front Row for me. At present Front Row is aligned to the common core up to grade five, but I’m told soon it will be available for students to the end of grade eight. I could see myself using Front Row when it’s offered at the grade seven and eight level for math remediation for those students who come to grade nine with weak math skills.

Little  Katie loved using Front Row from the first moment she opened the app. In fact, both times she came to visit since I got the Front Row app, she asked to “play” the math game. Katie finds it difficult to sit still for any length of time, yet she spent over an hour playing the math game each time she played it. I was impressed. She loved the fact that she could do the questions on the ipad screen using her finger. She likes seeing her thinking. Katie also found Front Row’s scaffolding videos engaging and watched some of them more than once before she got it. She also appreciated the positive reinforcement she got when she got the questions correct. She just had come and  share her success with me.

I can see setting up a work station of ipads or computers with Chrome as their browsers. Students who love math as well as students who dislike math could benefit from using Front Row. Katie would be asking to go to the Front Row station all the time.

Front Row is not only an excellent teaching and learning tool, it’s also a useful admin tool. I can easily track my students’ progress using Front Row. Given Front Row is aligned to the common core, I can easily track my students’ progress in a very comprehensive manner. Since I am not a fan of all the administrative tasks I have to do as a teacher, I welcome any tool that makes administrative tasks easier.

Let me  say here that I am not affiliated with Front Row in any way, but when Sidharth Kakkar from Front Row introduced me to Front Row and I had a chance to play around with it I wanted to share it with other teachers, students, and parents. If you would like a free licence to Front Row just use my email address emhartjes@gmail.com as the referrer when you go to the site and you will get full access. Hurry though, I only have 250 free licences to give away. Please let me know what you think about Front Row.

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