A Nice Note to Start the School Year!

A Nice Note to Start the School Year!

As with other educators, I am spending time getting ready for a new school year. Yes, even non-formal educators, such as myself, do this. This morning I revised my garden club membership – permission slip letter for this coming school year. I am hoping for an increased enrollment as this is my second year at the school and I was able to meet the entire student body by having all of the classes plant with me in the school gardens last May. I am not a new face anymore!  Hopefully, that will work in my favor.

In addition, I have been thinking a lot about the writer’s circle I used to run at one of my resident district’s elementary schools,  We ran for six years and I had six students a year that met with me for enrichment writing projects on a weekly basis. Last year was the first year in six I did not offer the club. But, seen as how last week I met with one of the teachers that used to help me coordinate this for the third grade, writer’s circle and my fondness for the group, as well as the students was revisited.  As I told this teacher, I miss having the group greatly, but feel like I made a clean break with the school in which it was offered. I really do not want to go back to old habits, feeling uncomfortable, and vying for a space in which to hold a student group that should have had more value placed on it than it did.  And, there we left it. I told her that while I would like to do it again, I just cannot do it in a building that I loved but had become a different place than I once knew.  She understood.

Strangely enough, the day after I had this conversation, I  received a note out of the blue from a former writer’s circle student! She was in my second to last writer’s circle group and will now be going into sixth grade! (This means I had her two and a half years ago!)  She contacted me with the following message:

“I was just looking over this right now! I can see every single mistake.. so many things that I would fix as well! This is really late to reply 🙂 but I just felt like it. I’m looking over all my old writing and I just wanted to thank you for being a patient teacher!”

I was shocked! And, very touched, as you can imagine. Her note was in reference to my comments on google docs about a piece of writing she did in the spring of her third grade year on “Favorite Activities.”  This student was a shy and gentle person. For her to feel able to contact me almost three years, thanking me for my patience showed a lot of growth! And, she was reviewing her writing! Wow! I would love to read a piece she’s written recently.

Since late last week, I have been mulling over ways in my mind in which I could still offer a writer’s circle to our community. I would love to foster the love of learning in a non-pressured, non-graded way, that might transform student fear of writing to something more enjoyable.  More than that, having the group would allow me to connect with students again.

I have several ideas up my sleeve. I will share them when I can. What do you think?

writer's-circle-alphabetbooks copy

This post is part of Slice of Life Tuesday, a forum offered by TwoWritingTeachers.org.

Qualities of Leadership Series: Being Inspirational

Qualities of Leadership Series: Being Inspirational

Earlier this year I wrote about leadership, what it is and what it is not.  There are many qualities that leaders share. Who do you consider a leader? Why? What it is about the person that makes you think of them as a leader? Is it something they do? Or, maybe something they don’t?  Is it how they talk? Or is it that they are able to influence others?

An article by Travis Bradberry on Entrepreneur.com offered the following definition of Leadership: Leadership is a process of social influence which maximizes the efforts of others toward the achievement of a greater good. Hmmmm? This makes sense but it is not all that straightforward.  Merriamwebster.com does not offer a definition much better, defining leadership as the capacity to lead.  The tough part of defining a leader or leadership is that we all might have different views of who is a leader, the qualities of leaders, and or what it is that leaders do to successfully lead. So, the definition and hence, even our ideas about leadership, can be fuzzy.

But, when I think of the qualities of people I consider to be leaders, I think of:









Can-Do Attitude


Open Communicator



Today, let’s look at how a leader can be inspirational.  While working at my first job out of college, my head nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where I worked would arrive at 5am. At first, I thought this was crazy and unnecessary! After all, she was the “Head Nurse!”  She had earned the right to work day shift, come in at 6:30 (not 5 a.m.) and start her day. But, not too long into my job (this was more than 30  years ago), I realized that she was very smart in arriving at 5 a.m..  She would don scrubs, enter the unit and work right along side all of us (a mix of  new nurses and seasoned ones) who were finishing up our night shifts.  Ah, I got it!  She was able to learn who we were by being accessible, as well as working with us during busy times, codes, and even when it was slow.  In the unlikely case she was in her office, which had a glass window, instead of on the unit with us, we knew she was there. You might say this is accessibility not inspiration. But, while she was accessible, no doubt, she has always stayed in the forefront of my mind as being a great leader. She never made a big deal about being there early and in doing so she worked with all three shifts of her nurses in the unit. Of course, she was there the entire day shift  – but some of that time was probably taken up with meetings. And, for evening shift which started at 3pm, she was present until 5pm, or there about. So, she worked a 60 hour week and knew all of her nurses (in a huge 45 bed intensive care unit).  I’d say she was a very inspirational nursing leader. Inspirational leaders are not easily forgotten.

An inspirational leader makes you want to rise to the occasion, do your best, make things better for the team (or unit, or community, or business). An inspirational leader shows what he/she wants by example, not by directives or yelling, playing games, or stomping of feet. An inspirational leader makes us want what is not good for one’s self but also for others. Who do you know that is an inspirational leader? If I had to name a person who is more famous than my former head nurse and who is also an inspirational leader,  it would be the Dalai Lama.

Over the next few months,  my blog will explore some more of the leadership qualities listed above. We desperately need exceptional leaders today more than ever as we face the challenges of climate change, the need for educational reform, and the advancement of more and more technology. Great leaders can inspire us all to do more and be more for the good of the world around us.

I hope you stop back to explore leadership with me and comment on what qualities you think a great leader possesses.








Silent Sunday: Farms & Barns

Silent Sunday: Farms & Barns

Roadside Barn © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Dilapidated Barn, Western New York, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Barn in Arcadia, Wisconsin as seen from a drive. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2018
Green Barn – Woodshop. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Minnesota Farm, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Farm beyond the Cemetary. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
Barn as seen from Golf Course at Drugan’s while skiing. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2016
Colors of Fall. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
Farmer & Fodder.© Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
HIxon BlueberryFarm.jpeg
Hixon, Wisconsin Blueberry Farm, © Carol Labuzzetta 2015
The tradition of a hand-written thank you note.

The tradition of a hand-written thank you note.

I am going out on a little limb with this post. My recently graduated son is leaving for college today.  He had many thank you notes to write since his high school graduation party on June 3rd.  And, a week-long trip to Italy that started a week later delayed this a bit.  Admittedly, the writing of the notes took him a while. First, he made a list. Then, he typed what he wanted to say on a google doc, and finally, he hand wrote his thank you notes.  Most were sent out within a month of his graduation party, where the majority of them were received.

Today, as we packed the van to move him to college, he had two final notes to go out. They were personal notes he had written to one of the high school administrators and one of the teachers at the high school that he very much connected with in his final years.  Both of these young men appreciated my son for who he was in high school. Neither came to his party, most likely for the obvious reasons that it is difficult to go to one student’s party and not another. My son understood this. He knew they valued him as a person. Now was his turn to tell them the same.

Actually, I had no idea that he had written these notes. He had talked about it but I had assumed that they were done and sent out with the rest of the thank you notes last month. It was only last week when my son told me that he still needed to mail the final thank you notes to these two educators.  I put them in the mailbox this morning. As my son starts his journey in a new city, at a new school, these educators – who listened, supported, encouraged, and I believe – understood my son, will receive a heartfelt note from him.  I am so happy that they will know of their impact on him.  It makes me proud.


In this day and age of technology, receiving a hand-written thank you note in the mail is a special treat. It is a throw back to the old days when thank you notes were commonly sent quickly after receiving a gift or other such act of kindness. The note is really such a small token of appreciation and one that should not be overlooked. The sending of my son’s completed of thank you notes indicates that he has experienced the power of gratitude – of both the giving and receiving gifts. It will serve him well in the future.

To all those who supported Matt during his years of education by teaching, listening, giving of yourself, coaching, tutoring, mentoring, and even learning from him – please consider this post a heartfelt thank you from me.  He’s on his way!


The Spider Prank

The Spider Prank

When our boys were smaller we had small several cheap remote control animals. One was an ugly spider with beady red eyes. It was a source of bad jokes, like the time it was put in their Aunt’s bed, under her comforter, when she was visiting.  The boys got a kick out of scaring her or at least trying to scare her!  Over the years, the spider was misplaced, being put in various different locations after being used to try to scare an unsuspecting visitor or family member.

It, or a spider very much like it,  made an appearance again this morning! My husband came out of the laundry room where he showers and asked, “did you put that spider in there?”

“What spider? What are you talking about?” I said in return.

“That big, black fake spider, it’s on the floor and I stepped on it! It scared me!” he replied.


Still somewhat confused, I asked, “The one the boys used to put in your sister’s bed when she came to visit?”

“Yeah, that one!” I heard him say as I went into the laundry room to take a look.


Sure enough on the floor, near the dryer, was the fake black spider with the beady red eyes! I laughed. “It must be Matt trying to prank us. He must have found it while he was packing his boxes for school. It’s kind of funny actually!”

“Well, it scared me! I just stepped on it without my glasses on and didn’t know what it was!” I chuckled and thought to myself, well, that is kind of the point, isn’t it?!

Arriving in the kitchen for a quick breakfast before heading to the YMCA, Matt appeared. “Hey – did you put that spider on the floor in the laundry room?”

Bored and sleepily he answered, “What spider, Mom?”

“Go look,” I said.

Reluctantly, he went around the corner to the laundry room to look. Next, I heard, “It wasn’t me! I didn’t put that there!”

“Oh, sorry!” I told him. “You got blamed for it! I though maybe you found it while packing and put it there to scare me!”

“Nope. It wasn’t me!” and with that he left for the Y.

My youngest came home from soccer practice. I asked him about the spider. He denied it as well, stating that it was there in the morning when he showered at 6:15. He didn’t know where it came from.

Okay. So, it wasn’t there at 10:30 last night when I went to bed. It was there this morning when my youngest showered at 6:30. Hmmm?! Well, it is a fake spider, so it didn’t walk into the laundry room on its own, I thought to myself.

I’m guessing the prank’s on me! I had a bad day yesterday and am thinking this is the way my 18-year-old and his friend were trying to make today a little brighter! Ah, you have to love a good prank! However, it is still being denied.  But, to whoever is responsible, just so you know, you did make my day much brighter than the darkness of yesterday.  Thank you!


And, now, I’ll go put the spider away, until it’s time for to play another prank!




How does being an optimist, a pessimist or a realist effect your happiness?

How does being an optimist, a pessimist or a realist effect your happiness?

What do you classify yourself as? Are you a pessimist, an optimist, or a realist? Part of my husband’s change in jobs last January was to get away from a work environment in which there was a lot of negativity. This included cynical attitudes, disparaging remarks, and general lack of support for the department from administration.  As one can imagine, being around negativity breeds negativity.  Negativity at work spills over into negativity at home. We have had many conversations over the last few years about the need for both of us to be less negative.

In the same vein, over time, I felt myself becoming a more negative person. I feel that part of the reason this occurred was that I tried to “fix” some larger issues that existed in our community. The process of fixing the issues was like fighting city hall and included many things related to belief systems, what people valued, and wanting equity for all students.  It also included my belief in student centeredness, which some might ascribe to verbally, but fail to act in such a way that validates what they said.  It was draining. The lack of my ability to be an agent of change, led to some negativity on my part.  I realized this, did not care for it, and took actions to change. Part of the change has been to read several books this summer on finding joy. They’ve been enlightening and over the last few months, the negativity has lifted in our home. If you are interested in what I read, the titles and some brief review can be found in an earlier blog. I have to tell you that it did take a concentrated effort on the part of myself and my spouse.

My husband now works with a manager who is very much an optimist. She sees the glass almost full (not even half) most of the time! She sees the good in people, not the bad. She exudes positivity in work and most probably in life, as whole. Much the same as the negativity and pessimism rubbing off, the optimism and happiness with life does as well when you are around joyful minded people. It has been interesting to watch the shift in attitude – almost like a mini-social science experiment! And while, my husband is not an optimist, he has shifted away from cynicism. As for myself, I kept reading. And, more importantly, I thought about what I said before I said it and watched my tone. I expected less, talked less, and appreciated more. I let my appreciation show – even for the little things.

One of Rubin’s Happiness Project tenants is:  “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” (Rubin, 2015, pg. 297)  I found it to be great advice!

However, yesterday, I fell into the same old unattractive, complaining mess, that I have exhibited in the past. Since I had not been acting negative, being short and snappish, demanding, or having an impatient tone, I  noted when I fell back into this late last night when I discovered laundry needed to be done at 10:30 p.m. for my son’s soccer training camp t-shirts. Let it be said that he has been doing his own laundry this summer, and essentially this was “his” problem – he did throw the wash in, but only after I had to remove my load from the dryer and transfer another one of my loads from the washer. So, unfortunately, it involved me, as well, just at the time I was getting ready for bed!  I know there were multiple ways of handing this and don’t really need someone to point that out but it was this event that pushed the negativity that had been growing over the course of the day into a full boil.

While I laid on the couch finishing Rubin’s book (I was not sleepy anymore and felt the need to reclaim some advice on happiness), it struck me that more was going on here than a late load of laundry or over-scheduled soccer practice in 90 degree heat.  Summer grad courses end Friday, my second son goes off to college on Friday, the garden at school needs weeding (every day),  registration needs to take place for new courses, a new school year looms ahead, and more. It is a time of transition and that seems to bring out negativity in me. After a lot of self-reflection, I think the negativity stems from being anxious about all the changes.

Well, we can’t be perfect.  I know the changes are part of life – a good life.  My true self is neither being a pessimist nor an optimist. It is being a realist. So, that means dealing with life changes in the best way possible. And, being grateful my children are active, intelligent, hardworking individuals helps me to put a t-shirt that needs washing at 10:30 at night in perspective. Yesterday was yesterday. Today, I’m going to take Rubin’s sage advice and be “a little more happier” not only for me but for everyone else.

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday, which is hosted by TwoWritingTeacher’s on their blog. It is a wonderful community of supportive writers each sharing a “slice” of writing about their life. I am grateful to be a participant in such a group! 

Cerulean: A Color Poem

Cerulean: A Color Poem

Cerulean sounds otherworldly.

Can it be?


Cerulean: a tinge of deep bluish purple in the vastness of outer space.

Rich, yet cold, Cerulean says, “I am deep.”

Deep like a never explored ocean trench,

Deep like the bottom of an ancient water well,

Deep like the color of your loved one’s eyes filled with



Cerulean, can you hear it?

It is the rhythm of ocean waves

Lapping on the side of your kayak when you cannot see

Land any longer.

It is the sound of nature’s hunger.


Cerulean is the not so complete darkness

Covering the sky when the moon is full.

It is the entrance to a cave, damp with dew in the dusk.


Cerulean is the deep hue of a concord grape

that stains your fingers, tongue, and plate, not only with

that deep, endless color but fills you with a taste of autumn.

It is sweet but tangy and unusual,  too.


Cerulean. Do you know it?

Can you see it? Can you hear it?

Can you taste it?










This poem was written two years ago as I worked with third graders as part of a writer’s circle. I always tried to write right along side the students to model what my expectations were. I enjoyed the process as much or more than the results. Color poems are a wonderful way to have students use adjectives and try to create a picture in their reader’s mind. I miss it.