Coins to Wishes

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Three Coins in the Fountain.”

At the beginning of June, I really wanted to have a great Summer with the wife and kids. We were at a fountain in front of a restaurant one day and my daughters were asking me for coins as usual. My 8 year old said to me as I was giving over some change, “Daddy, why don’t you make a wish?” I did make a wish and it was that we would all have an awesome, meaningful Summer together. These are the wishes we wish when we’re more mature than an 8 or 10 year old. My then 16 year old wasn’t there to make a wish but I think all my kids usually wish like the fool to the genie of the lamp. These are wishes for material wealth etc.

It turns out I got my wish. We had the most awesome Summer possible. We spent a lot of time in my pool and spa which makes for some very enlightening parent/child conversation. I usually get what I wish for but not because of coins or wells. I hope I’ve gained wisdom at 46 to know what the good stuff is and how we all can have access to it. I took a few steps toward my wish and it met me halfway. Watching wishes come true is a little bit knowing what’s worth asking and a little wishing it. After that, a strong will and some elbow grease, along with faith, turns coins to wishes almost without fail.

On Being a Listener More Than a Talker

The best advice I ever got from my father and others but didn’t take, through much of my 20’s and 30’s, was to be a listener more than a talker. You give more to people that way than you will ever know. I started to get it in my 30’s and am now still working at it in my mid forties. The challenge marches on.

Damien Riley ListeningAll people in my circle from my family to the strangers I see in the supermarket could use more of a listening ear from me. Can you listen when someone is silent? Yes, it’s called giving someone your attention. This advice is really about being focused on someone and giving them your attention. Listening to someone’s words is just one way to give that attention, it’s not always easy. You can listen to people’s body language, their clothing, their mannerisms, gestures and more. You can even listen to the way people walk by you. For my purposes, the most important way to listen is through listening to other people’s words. This doesn’t come naturally for most people, and I certainly need a lot more patience in this area.

I’m learning more and more that the quotes like: “A closed mouth gathers no foot” and “I would rater remain seated in a group and be thought a fool that stand and speak removing all doubt” are among the most profound. I see every day as a chance to do a listening experiment. At the same time, listening is an act of love because it embraces someone else’s perspective if only for a moment of consideration. It’s not important that you agree with the other person but that you listen and attempt to comprehend what she/he is saying. If I could offer one piece of advice to those seeking a fulfilling life, I’d offer the advice to be a listener more than a talker.

Is there any advice you should have taken through the years from Dad or anyone else?


This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, prompt #3. It is also a response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take It From Me.”

Great Lesson Basics – Mixing Methods

IAF_CL1_PX01192If you’re like me, you’ve been to hundreds of trainings, most claiming to be the greatest lesson method. Then, you learned they were good and bad but never universal. Have you ever sat down and tried to piece together the best of the best into something that works for you? Whether you have or not “knowingly” done so, that is the role of the teacher … to synthesize a lot of information, create, and innovate. I used to be a huge proponent of a method called “EDI.” In fact, my EDI posts get the most traffic of any posts here on the blog. I am proud to share EDI because plain and simple: it works! A few years later since my initial EDI training, I have created sort of a hybrid set of “great lesson basics” that work to foster student achievement. I am happy to share them here with you.

  1. Learning Objective: I have to introduce what I am teaching and what the students are expected to do in order to be successful after the lesson.

  2. Engagement: This is a step I invented. It is what people often call a “sponge activity.” It can be a story, a puppet show, a short video, a game, anything that gets the learner absorbed into the subject matter.

  3. Importance: I have found time and time again that when the kids know the value of learning the lesson, they are more engaged and thus learn more and faster.

  4. Steps: Everything in education can be broken down to steps. This is often easier said than done. Taking time with the steps is invaluable toward getting kids to meet the demands of the lesson.

  5. Guided Practice: Simply put, SHOW THEM HOW YOU DO IT. Use the steps and model over and over. I learned to play guitar by imitating Dave Sharp on the Alarm albums. I would move the needle back again and again until I knew every guitar riff. Kids are the same today with academics. Show them and then show them some more. Gradually release them to do it on their own.

  6. Independent Practice: At this step they should be doing what they watched you do over and over. Make sure they can do it before you let them go on their own.

20120815-140604.jpg7. Small group intervention: There are usually going to be a group of kids who need extra guided practice. Take them to a side table which the whole group is working independently. Just repeat the steps of the lessons for as long as you have time or until they get it, whichever is first.

This is the lesson method I have developed through the years. I would really appreciate your comments of what you think of it, ie; how I might improve it. Thanks for being part of the Dynamite Lesson Plan professional learning community.

The post Great Lesson Basics – Mixing Methods appeared first on Dynamite Lesson Plan.

Morning Thankfulness

morning-poolBeing thankful first thing in the morning gives health to the bones. Our psyche is like a 4 seat car. You can’t safely buckle in 5 or more people. If you fill your car with happy people and a bummer person wants to ride, he just can’t. It’s like that when you fill your car with thankfulness, negativity just can’t fit.

This post is in response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Golden Hour.”

The morning hours are golden for practicing thankfulness. No matter what has transpired the day before, there always seems to be a feeling of “clean slate” in the morning. Sometimes it’s even hard to sleep but wen you do and then wake up in the morning, things always seem a little different, a little fresher. This morning I woke up and felt great but there were already a couple concerns on my mind. They weren’t helping me start out well. I read Corinne’s post about thankfulness and it reminded me of my favorite morning exercise: practicing thankfulness in the morning.

I got away from the tv and kids and ventured out to the pool in the shade with my journal and pen. I practiced deep breathing and some relaxation techniques and meditated on the things I am thankful for. I recorded my thoughts.

  • My wife amazing and she supports me in all ways. I was truly blessed when I met her.
  • My kids. You only have to look at my flickr photo statuses to see how much I cherish them. I chose to be a husband and dad and I am so thankful for that.
  • My blogging goals – I’ve set blogging goals for years but it’s only in the past couple months that I was challenged by the ROW80 community to make and report measurable progress. It has been an excellent tool and I use my goals to make daily blogging routines. I waste less time.
  • Summer off teaching. I chose a great career for being a dad and hopefully an ever increasingly better husband. Summers off get me to the doctor and help me explore the things I enjoy like blogging to their fullest extent. I’ve worked hard to be a teacher and Summer is a large benefit.
  • Friends like Don. Don’s a recent friend I’ve been in contact with. Great guy. A fellow teacher and dad/husband. I have many friends. Some tradional and others far off or online. They all mean a lot to me and as hard as it probably is to be my friend, I am thankful they all want anything even to do with me.
  • I’m thankful for my health. I feel great and the small minor issues I deal with: high blood sugar (102-109 on average) and hypertension (currently normal) are common  for a male 46 y/o and I am thankful I don’t have anything life threatening. I plan to live to see my great grandchildren one day.
  • My almost 17 y/o son and I get along.
  • I have a good medical group with doctors helping me to live long and prosper.

That’s what came to me on the chaise lounge. I give credit to Corinne, one of those far off friends in India (wow) for hosting this circle. The graphic below is a link to her gratitude circle post.


My Blogging Health Food List – ROW80

ROW80I wrote some awesome goals last ROW80 check in but today I realized I had not included reading other people’s blogs. As I wrap up my goals for this round, this is what it’s all about for me. What good is any success or personal growth if it doesn’t include connecting with other good people out there blogging. I know it can be easy to forget the importance of reading and commenting when all out personal goals take so much of our time. Reading other people’s blogs is the most important thing I can do, the way I see it, even more than writing my own posts. So with that in mind, here is my adjust list of goals going forward as the round closes:

  • Meditate daily in the am and write down things I’m thankful for. (non public)
  • Read/comment on other people’s blogs for 20 mins to 1 hour daily.
  • Write a Daily Post Prompt, tag with #postaday on Twitter.
  • Write a daily movie review post. I have a lot of catching up to do!
  • Write a weekly post in Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop.
  • Write a Stream of Consciousness Saturday post each Saturday. Use blog tag #SOCS
  • Write blog post updates for ROW80 Wed and Sun (on hiatus til Round 3)
  • Add Twitter hashtag #ROW80 to Wed/Sun updates.
  • Add updates to the ROW80 Facebook group.
  • Rate every movie I watch on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. If I have time, write a review too.
  • Participate in the Gratitude Circle challenge the last Thu of each month.

My macro goals are to read more blogs as a member of the community, review more movies, and become a better writer.


Honesty with Wisdom is the Best Policy

“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.” -Groucho Marx

Damien Riley Who AwardIf we were always honest about what we think, we would offend almost everyone in our circle. Sometimes we have to craft a lie to keep peace. “I’m so sorry I said that to you, I wasn’t thinking,” for an example is a bold faced lie. If you weren’t thinking you’d be asleep, dead, or hypnotized. Bloggers are rhetoricians, trying to persuade, therefore we lie sometimes. We all craft lies to keep our lives manageable. I was in jury duty recently and I heard several people, after taking the oath, say what were clearly lies to the judge. It almost seemed like he expected it because he had a clarifying question ready for each one. “I have my own business and if I am away, we don’t make any money.” The judge would reply,

“What type of business … oh in that business you don’t make money this time of year right? etc.” I saw many people try to get out only to be found out by the judge and guess what, no one was taken into custody. One guy even said, “My views are against judges.” Guess what, the judge laughed and said, “You’ll do fine.”

There are a myriad of examples from my work but of course I never lie, I am only speaking of other people. It is illogical to presume honesty is always the best policy. You might say the best policy is to say what produces the best outcome for all parties involved. I don’t think we should be concerned that people lie to get through life. The bigger concern is the gravity of a lie. If a child is in a horrible accident, disfiguring them for life and from the hospital bed, their parent calls their teacher asking is she/he has done enough to complete the year’s requirements, and she/he hasn’t but only by a small test, should the teacher tell the truth or practice leniency and common sense and inform the parent and child they have completed the requirements? Where you draw the line in situations like this is what determines a lie I believe. Of course most this post has been tongue in cheek but there is some truth in it. When you are dealing children, you should always model honesty as the best policy. At the same time, to say “always” and mean it as an adult can be considered dishonest in and of itself. In conclusion, anyone who disagrees with me, I can adjust my words if you like, let’s talk ;)

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Truth or Dare.”

My 2 Religious 180’s

This is from Forest Home, CA, a church camp I attended growing up.
This is from Forest Home, CA, a church camp I attended growing up. I have great memories of the place.
In early adulthood I had a surge of faith that was integral to the good in my life now. It was not helpful on its own. It took me abandoning the faith of my youth to find my take on the world. Church never really helped with that. I used to think Christianity was the only way to heaven, I see now that was a wrong belief. I also used to think Christians should tell others what is right or wrong, that axiom was embarrassingly wrong. After having traded in gangly teen bible studies for real friendships with atheists and people who frankly just don’t care about faith, I’ve seen how much churches feed on the insecurities of the young. Christianity is largely a guilt based institution. The Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, etc. come up to me to share their faith and hand me something. I see them all as the same. So that was the first 180 I made from the faith of my upbringing. It was miraculous in terms of my new ability to think freely.

My second 180 has been my opening up again to the faith of my youth. I do believe in God and all my years of indoctrination into the protestant church solidified and formed that belief. Whereas I used to ignore religious posts on Facebook, now I embrace them again. I am pro-same sex marriage, pro-abortion, and pro-just about anything the Christian church opposes, but I love God. So, my second 180 has been a journey of love and acceptance of hypocrites who call themselves Christians. It’s not the tenets of Jesus that make it hard for me to call myself a Christian, it’s Christians themselves. Well, you got a dose of potentially offensive stuff there. I hope it doesn’t keep us from being online acquaintances. I owe a lot to Christianity but I definitely don’t fit the stereotype.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “180 Degrees.”

Bloggers All Invent Themselves

First of all, I am not a privacy expert so don’t follow my advice like gospel. I’m speaking to those who get what servers are and how Facebook and Twitter work. If you don’t fall into that category, you might want to ignore my advice. You might call me the Naked Blogger because I share my life in an online diary almost every day. Some people might recoil at that but I sleep fine at night because I’ve paid attention over time and learned from what worked. Here’s my good advices to people like me:

Online diaries are online. Sharing names and places is only partly necessary. Most people who will read your diary do not know you. It’s okay to make stuff up. You’re arrogant to think people want to read about your grand notions of the world. They don’t care if you live or die so write that way. Hold out bait for those who might like to hear what you want to broadcast. Most of it is (bullshitting) so don’t take it seriously. Blog posts have a very short shelf life to be read. Now that you’ve read that, why reveal personal info?

The Internet is easily accessible but things can be deleted. Work must be considrered. If you assume you are being read by your bosses, write with a filter. If you’re creative enough, this is easy. If you get cold feet, you can delete your questionable words. It’s rare people will keep a record of your blog through the modifications.

In conclusion, I don’t live in fear of privacy concerns. People can find anyone nowadays. At the same time, I’m smart and I keep the power of my persona with me. I control what goes out and how I want to be seen. I recognize that is not and will never be the true me. That’s part of the allure for me. Believing you can portray yourself online accurately is arrogance.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Do Not Disturb.”

No One to Blame

Damien Riley Open Mic
I played lots of open mics like this in my 20’s. It was a rush to share songs I had written.

I always hate when somebody asks about my childhood because I want to say how hard I had it and blame my parents etc, but I can’t. The truth is, I had a Disney childhood. My parents did an amazing job, they were well-rounded with discipline and a “let it be” attitude. I was encouraged to pursue my interests and I did. I was supported in doing them. I have no regrets for my childhood. My teen and young adult years were a but more messy but I have no one to blame for that but myself. It would have been a nice experiment to put all the musical equipment and instruments in my hand that I could hand at about age 14-15. I was beginning really master the guitar and other instruments at that point might have opened other doors the guitar didn’t. Nonetheless, I’ve written a peacock spread of music on the guitar and used it at my job and sharing online with fans and other musicians. It’s been a blast playing guitar.

That raises my question: “Do musicians make it big because they got everything they needed from their parents, including moral support, or will true talent rise up and make it no matter what the obstacles? I tend toward believing the latter. I I want to be known for something I ought to be doing it. I stopped playing in bands because it wasn’t paying the rent. What if I had parents that paid my rent? Would that cause me to be a better musican and get better shows? Or … would it just make me more complacent and lazy and stay with my parents supporting me way too long. I have seen this happen time and again. Anyway, I went into teaching and while tough at times, it fits me. I went out into the world on my own and decided that path for myself. I think ultimately the best parents can do is set their child up for success which is making her/his own decisions in life. My parents weren’t perfect but that’s how I live my life now so they did something right with me. I am a very happy guy.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Childhood Revisited.”

People Across the Sands from My World

My 3 teachers at Universidad Autónoma in Guadalajara México 1996.
My 3 teachers at Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara México 1996.

I spent the Summer of ’96 as an exchange student at Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara. I was finishing the last Spanish Conversation class requirement for my MA from Cal State Fullerton. I met so many amazing and generous people down there. My instructors were students themselves but they were so curious about America, Disneyland specifically. They’d all never been yet I had a season pass in my wallet. They really admired America. The way of life down there was definitely not as posh as what I had grown up in. It was a coming of age time for me.

Es difícil a decir cuántos personas conocen yo fui al Guadalajara estudiar Español in mil novecientos noventa y seis. He escribido much en mi blog sobre la experiencia. Todavía, artículos en un blog son perdido y olvidado rápidamente.

It’s difficult to say if many people know I went to Guadalajara to study Spanish in Nineteen Ninety Six. I’ve written in my blog much about the experience. Still, posts on a blog are quickly lost and forgotten. Though I was already 26, I was sheltered most of my youth in the wealthy town of Mission Viejo. This adventure taught me more than just Spanish. I use my Spanish daily as a 4th grade publish school teacher in the High Desert of California. At least 1/3 of my students are Hispanic in Spanish speaking families. Beyond that, it taught me about another part of the world. I saw a different way of existing, of being. Poverty was everywhere and yet people were making life work in the sun, across the sands from my world.

Today, I’m very proud that this 45 year old white Irish teacher from Orange County does all his parent conferences without needing an interpreter! I have much to say about that time in Mexico and words will be coming out of me until the day I die. I’m not sure if you knew that about me and many more probably will not as this post inevitably fades into the archives. Tat’s how it is with blogs. Posts have a mixed shelf life. Mine seem to be actively read 1-5 days at the most. Regardless the life of these words however,  My time in Mexico in me forever.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma.”