Dodgeball 7s and World Peace

Dodgeball 7’s was an idea for an afternoon of fun sponsored by the Dubai American Academy Senate.

The primary purpose for this event was to bring a smile to every face in the school.  I think it worked!


The Girls are the dodgeball players.  Each grade (Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors) entered two teams coached by Boys.  The teams each had an entrance to the dodgeball arena designed to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents.  As you will see the Freshmen and Sophomores did not scare anyone, but I still have nightmares about the Junior and Senior entrance!

Speaking of nightmares, the Junior cheer leading routine will give anyone bad dreams, so watch at your own risk!  Did I mention cheer leading?  Each grade also got to compete in a cheer leading competition, but all the cheerleaders were Boys coached by the Girls.  Good fun!

We also had live commentators, a sideline reporter, and lots of other surprises!

All teams had 3 days to practice.

World Peace?

What you are about to see is teenagers from around the globe, working together as best friends and having a blast!  There are no less than 40 nationalities represented in these players and cheerleaders.  If these are the future leaders of the world, maybe there is room for optimism…

Enjoy the Video!

Chris Severy Day (Weekly Inspiration)

On October 12, 1998, I was deeply impacted by the death of a friend Chris Severy.  He was one of the brightest, friendliest, and most talented people I have ever known, and he was far too young to die.  It was a morning like any other when he hit a tree while riding his bike down Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder.  I am pretty sure when Chris woke up that morning he had no idea that it would be his last.  I had a hard time coming to terms with the idea that in one moment life can seem long, full of possibilities, and dreams waiting to come true, while in the next moment it can just end.  I had just turned 28, and for the first time in my life, I think I understood my own mortality.  If Chris could die in an instant, anyone could.

About two years after his death, I started an annual tradition with my high school students  to help me deal with a loss I still didn’t understand.  Each year on October 12th, I would tell a few stories about some of my memories of Chris and share how he died.  I pledged, along with my students, that once a year we should set aside a day and let all the important people in our lives know how important they are, how much we love them, and how much better our lives are because we know them.  It was a way to get straight with the world, resolve petty conflicts, and forgive wrong doings.  I would remind myself, and my students, that none of us know when we will meet our tree or have our time run out.  We are crazy not to take a few moments every year to get straight in our relationships, and make certain that the people we love the most, know how we feel, and that we appreciate them being in our lives.

I no longer have a class to stand in front of and tell these stories, but I have many former students who read this blog and remember the stories.  I know there are other readers of this blog I have never met, or had in my classes, but you are still invited to celebrate this day and this pledge with us.  Post a kind shout out on your facebook profile, send out a few emails, hand write a note or two, make a phone call you have been putting off, or whatever you feel you need to do just in case you meet your tree sooner than later.

I am so thankful to be surrounded by amazing family and friends who have added more life to my days than I can quantify.  I love all of you!  To my former students – Know that I learned more from you over the years, than you ever did from me!  You have shaped my life and the person I am today!  To the friends I have yet to meet – I love you too and look forward to our adventures together!  Happy Chris Severy (Sev) Day!

The Story of Teddy Stoddard (Weekly Inspiration #19)

For all of you overly emotional saps (like me) out there, this story might entice a tear drop or two, so have a tissue ready.  This is a classic story that has inspired many teachers over the years, but we can all learn lessons from its message.  Enjoy!

There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same.
But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.
Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners. He is a joy to be around.”

His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.”

His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.”

Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present which was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag.
Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist.

Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, and writing, and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children.

Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.”

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. 
He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer – the letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.
They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.”

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, 
”Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.”

The power of encouragement is immense!  Here’s to all the parents, teachers, grandparents, and friends who find the lovable and bring out the best in all of us!

The Cracked Pot: Weekly Inspiration # 18

I apologize for not posting last week but this weeks inspirational story will make up for it!  This one goes out to all you crack pots out there!

A water bearer in India had two large pots, one hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the bearer’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer bringing only one and a half pots full of water in his  house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made.

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.
“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.” “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?” “I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the  house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again the Pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my  table. Without you being just the way you are, I would not have this beauty to grace my house.”

Each of us has our own unique flaws. We’re all cracked pots. Don’t be afraid of your flaws. Acknowledge them, and you too can be the cause of beauty. Know that in our weakness we find our strength.

This story always reminds me not only to appreciate my own flaws and imperfections but also to value and appreciate the flaw and imperfections in other people.  Long live the cracked pots!

What Life Is About (Weekly Inspiration #17)

Has it already been another week?  Crazy!  In case you have been wondering what life is all about, I dug up one of the first weekly inspirations I ever used in one of my classes.  It is targeted for high school aged people but I think every point made applies to us adults as well!

What Life is About

Life isn’t about keeping score. 
It’s not about how many friends you have 
Or how accepted you are. 
Not about if you have plans this weekend or if you’re alone.

It isn’t about who you have kissed, 
It isn’t about who your family is or 
how much money they have 
Or what kind of car you drive. 

Or where you are sent to school.

It’s not about how beautiful or ugly you are. 
Or what clothes you wear, what shoes you have on, 
Or what kind of music you listen to.

It’s not about if your hair is blonde, red, black, or brown, 
Or if your skin is too light or too dark. 
Not about what grades you get how smart you are, how smart 
everybody else thinks you are, or how smart 
standardized tests say you are.

Life just isn’t. 

Life is about who you love and who you hurt.

It’s about who you make happy or unhappy purposely. 
It’s about keeping or betraying trust. 
It’s about friendship, used as a sanctity or as a weapon. 

It’s about what you say and mean, maybe hurtful, maybe heartening.

It’s about starting rumors and contributing to petty gossip. 
It’s about what judgments you pass and why. 
And who your judgments are spread to.

It’s about who you’ve ignored with full control and intention. 
It’s about jealousy, fear, ignorance, and revenge. 
It’s about carrying inner hate and love, 
letting it grow and spreading it.

But most of all, it’s about using your life to touch or poison 
other people’s hearts in such a way that could have 
never occurred alone.

Only you choose the way those hearts are affected, and those 
choices are what life’s all about.

Every time I read this it helps get my priorities in order.  Enjoy the week!

The Pencil Maker (Weekly Inspiration #16)

This weeks inspiration is in my top 5 all time!  I used this one every year as a teacher and still think of it often.  Enjoy!

The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside, just before putting him into the box.

“There are 5 things you need to know,” he told the pencil, “Before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best pencil you can be. “

#1 — You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in Someone’s hand.

#2 — You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you’ll need it to become a better pencil.

#3 — You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.

#4 — The most important part of you will always be what’s inside.

#5 — On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition you must continue to write.

The pencil understood and promised to remember, and went into the box with purpose in his heart.

These are 5 good lessons both for people and for pencils!

Have a great week!

The Mule and The Well (Weekly Inspiration #15)

Here is a great short story that illustrates how determination and perseverance can help us overcome adversity.  Enjoy!

Once there was a farmer who owned an old mule. One day the mule fell into the farmer’s well and the farmer heard the mule praying or whatever mules do when they fall into wells.

After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving.

Instead, he called all his neighbors together, told them what had happened and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.

Initially, the old mule was hysterical, but as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, he could shake it off and step up! This he did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up … shake it off and step up … shake it off and step up!”
He repeated this to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or how distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought “panic” and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up!

It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, finally stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would only bury him actually helped him … all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

The Farmer had given up on the mule, but the mule had not given up on himself.  The mule realized that he could use the farmers attempts to bury him as an opportunity to rise above.  It was up to the mule to take the actions necessary to change his situation.  If he accepted the farmers assessment that he was not worth saving, he could have laid down and let the dirt bury him.

The lesson for me in this story is to think of the dirt as a metaphor for doubts, criticisms, artificial limitations, and other obstacles that might get in my way.  I can either accept them, lay down, and allow them to bury me, or I can shake them off and stay determined to accomplish my goals.  Adversity will certainly come.  How I handle it is up to me.