Review of Bullied by Carrie Goldman

I recently read Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher and Kid Need to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.”The mother of a bullied first grader, popular blogger Carrie Goldman’s inspiring true story triggered an outpouring of support from online communities around the world. In Bullied, she gives us a guide to the crucial lessons and actionable guidance she’s learned about how to stop bullying before it starts. It is a book born from Goldman’s post about the ridicule her daughter suffered for bringing a Star Wars thermos to school–a story that went viral on Facebook and Twitter before exploding everywhere, from and to sites all around the world. Written in Goldman’s warm, engaging style, Bullied is an important and very necessary read for parents, educators, self-professed “Girl Geeks,” or anyone who has ever felt victimized by a bully, online or in person.”

I found it to be a thought-provoking book with plenty of good tips for anyone dealing with this blight. It begins by narrating an experience the author’s daughter went through in first grade and how the family helped her through it. I found it heart-breaking to imagine a six -year-old wanting to throw away a Star Wars water bottle because it wasn’t gender appropriate with her peers.  The author then continues with good tips for t gender stereotyping and the messages that advertising and gender-specific products send to children.“Bullied” also discussed best practices for dealing not only with victims, but also with the bullies themselves. Goldman emphasizes that we should not change children to make them less of a target. Rather, we should change ourselves and our culture so that all children are safe expressing their true selves.From the starting place of her own daughter’s experience with being bullied, Carrie talks about possible solutions, including the wide variety of programs that are available to schools. She also places bullying into the community context. Programs that focus only on the victims, or only on the bully are doomed to failure. It is vital to give support to the victims at the same times as we teach the bully new ways of interacting. Punishment is not effective at reducing bullying, but intervention to teach empathy and a different set of social skills is.

Our Connections

Have you ever thought about how we are linked together? How our connections define who we are? And how each action can either create gentle ripples or leave the waters untouched. So often we imagine ourselves as separate, just living our lives. But I believe that when we seek to understand the impact our actions can have, amazing things are possible.

Like Dean Bernal did when he befriended a wild dolphin. Then he spent half his life keeping it safe.

Watch, and be inspired. You never know, the ripples you create just might keep a beautiful creature alive.

Honoring the Constitution

Every day I begin my class with a flag salute and a discussion of the Constitution. I tell my fifth-graders how great our nation is because we have Freedom of Speech, Assembly, Religion, Press, and the ability to redress grievances to our elected officials. That each and every one of them is a precious citizen.

I say, “No matter what your background in this country, you have equal rights under the law.”

But on Thursday one student asked, “But aren’t some religions illegal?”

I looked at him, confused. “No, of course not.”

Another child raised her hand. “Yes, Ms. Woodward. Those terrorist ones. I saw it on the news.”

Then I realized what the kids were thinking. I started to say that it was impossible, the Constitution was the highest law of the land, even if someone said that on the news, it couldn’t really happen.

My class looked at me doubtfully. That’s when I realized that maybe they were right. Perhaps someone was trying to deny certain people equality. And it gave me a sick feeling deep in my  heart.

I am a patriot. I love America. To me the Constitution is one of the most inspirational documents of all time. One worth fighting for. We must continue to say, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

I believe these ideals should guide our choices as educators and citizens. Keep the Constitution safe. For our children.


Marching for Peace and Equality

Women’s March In San Luis Obispo

Yesterday I joined the Women’s March, a global event to promote equality, peace, and kindness. Although, like many I’d been saddened by the rancor of our recent election and was feeling hopeless that anger, racism, and finger-pointing would continue, I still knew that there were many people who see the good in others.

That’s why I marched. Because I have a daughter and want her to be free from fear, I marched. I marched because I have a son who treats women with respect. I marched because there are little girls in my classroom who deserve the chance to dream of the same future as boys. I marched for the little boys who need to see role models who treat others with respect.

Because I believe in the United States Constitution, I marched. I believe in the First Amendment and that all American should have the right to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble peacefully, and to redress grievances with individuals in public service.

I marched because I believe with every cell, molecule, and atom of my body that people are essentially good.

And that is what I saw on January 22, 2017: a sea of beautiful, caring faces.



What is Your Mission?

No matter how large your business is, be it one novel you are promoting or a large corporation, a mission statement can guide your direction as you move forward. Each endeavor has its individual characteristics that should be capitalized on and guiding principles will make that unique in the public eye.

As an author, I want my work to achieve several things. First, I’d like to help children see the magic that resides in all of us. Secondly, I’d love to affect positive change in readers’ lives. And then of course, I want my readers to have fun, and ride a roller coaster that transports them to amazing worlds both real and imagined.

Others have different goals. My friend and colleague, Dean Bernal, for example, has one of the most admirable mission statements I’ve ever seen. His Dean and JoJo brand wishes to educate, awaken, inspire, and ignite. How? Through the example of his true lifelong friendship with a wild dolphin named JoJo, Dean has created books, films, and digital characters that spark the desire for service. In greater detail they seek to:

– Educate our audience about the delicate and essential interdependence between earth and ocean, man and animal.

– Awaken our audience so that every individual sees him/herself as an essential part of the equation for preserving the planet.

– Inspire our audience to take actions – large and small that will benefit the earth, the ocean, man and animals.

– Ignite a collective consciousness & awakening and movement for taking actions that contribute to the survival/preservation of the planet.

What do you want your business to do? Try writing a mission statement and see where it takes you.



Reflections of Home

This holiday season I am reflecting on my blessings.  Home, where farm fields roll off into the distance.  The hills are just starting to green up from the recent rains and the oaks, pepper, and acacia trees have opened their branches in thanks.  The pine tree hides a barn owl’s nest keeping the mating pair safe until they swoop down over the tiled patio.

At night coyotes yip at the constellations in the cold December sky. Orion, the Big Dipper, the Pleiades, and the great W Cassiopeia twinkle overhead as the winter moon waxes and wanes. A feral black rabbit hops in my front yard nibbling on the grass or carrots I’ve left out. Doves coo from the creek bed as teenagers skateboard in the distance.

I see memories in my back yard: Nick’s tree house fort with the monster drawings, Jess’s 005.JPGplayhouse where we used to have tea parties, the chicken coop where they bawked and begged for scratch, the old hot tub we used as a duck and goose pond, the garden with corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, and little feet. The rabbit hutch my daughter used to crawl into where she’d curl around the bunnies. A thousand hugs, a few tears, the place where my children grew to adulthood.