Morning Meetings: Creating a Safe Space for Learning | Edutopia

  I can’t get enough of this video.  “Morning Meetings,” was reposted by a fellow parent of public school students/graduates, who was also my houseparent in boarding school.  (OK, so perhaps it’s tied with “” target=”_blank”>You do NOT understand weddings. At ALL.” because JoJo rules the world,…

Running with Ed

I will do anything—anything—to support education. And, as it turns out, so will tons of my fellow Park City residents. I’m not talking about endless hours of school volunteering, committee meetings, homework help, or even schlepping around town to tutoring sessions. Many, many of us do that, too. But we all turned out on Saturday in teams of five-10 humans of varying age ranges, for Running with Ed, a 38-mile relay that passes every school in the district, plus a few other scenic spots. Created by the Park City Education Foundation, the race raises hundreds of thousands of dollars to support programs in our awesome school district.

Go, Team! Powered By Proforma, ready to race

Go, Team! Powered By Proforma, ready to race


Let me tell you this: I never run more than 5 miles in a day. So, as I recruited a team—including my kids, another family with two kids, and our friends Kathy and Mel—I looked for a mix of fun people who would take on legs of varying length. I committed to a 5.15 mile leg of the race, from City Park to Treasure Mountain Junior High School. Which sounded fine to me, until mid-leg, when I realized I would be climbing FOREVER AND A DAY through a mountain trail in the blazing midday sun. Thankfully, I got to share a few strides with my friend Carey (who smoked my sorry butt, but whatever), which made the run more fun. But, I digress. I was in awe when my friend Kerrie said she’d run two legs, back-to-back, and do an extra mile with all the kids. And when my pal Kathy said, she’d way rather run the short, impossibly steep, leg up to Utah Olympic Park.

Like everyone, we had our pre-game rituals—ours included running behind schedule, forgetting hats and going back to fetch them, eating bagels in the car on the way to meet the rest of the team, plus some impromptu breakdancing.

Pump up the jam!

Pump up the jam!

The team spirit of the event—not just our team, but all the teams, exchange station sponsors, race volunteers, spectators around town—blew me away. As Jeff said, “It felt like a block party for the whole town!” One where the official food is donuts. No joke—donuts were featured extensively at every exchange station. Plus, candy, orange slices and water. Our friends at Educational Advantage offered dozens of Krispy Kremes, for instance. At Trailside Elementary School, there was sparkling cider in plastic wine glasses. Teams had elaborate costumes. I ran behind one woman in a demure tutu (thank you Pink Tutu Lady for keeping me going), alongside a woman in a bumblebee-striped t-shirt, behind a man in camo base layers, that, perhaps, were not the most well-thought-out costume. As I jogged behind one runner in this getup, I dubbed his thin shorts, “TMI shorts.” Sorry, dude—maybe a base layer under your base layer next year?

We hooted and hollered at various decorated vehicles, like this one.

DSC_1196 DSC_1211

Cheers! (Fizzy-juice style)

Cheers! (Fizzy-juice style)

We giggled at the presence of a limo, provided by a sponsor to the team who raised the most money in the weeks leading up to the race:

Relay in style

Relay in style


At each leg, the rest of the team picked a spot to meet the running members and escort them into the exchange point. It wasn’t planned—I decided to go meet Lance and his pal as they approached Ecker Hill Middle School, then the kids decided together to run the last 50 yards of the killer Olympic Park hill with Kathy. Our kid-led runs included the leg from Jeremy Ranch Elementary School to Ecker Hill Middle School, Park City Mountain Resort to City Park, and Trailside Elementary School to the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse at Newpark.

Running up Utah Olympic Park Hill with Kathy

Running up Utah Olympic Park Hill with Kathy


And, then, we made a “thing” of it. Here we are with Mel…

Running with Ed, Running with Mel

Running with Ed, Running with Mel


And then my boys and I found a way to run the last mile or so with our teammates, and gathered a few more team members to cross the finish line, together.



Our family’s business, Proforma Peak Printing and Promotions, is a race sponsor. We created the step-and-repeat where teams pose for pre- and post-race photos, the route guidance signs that keep runners headed in the right direction, the lawn signs that racers place in their yards, declaring, “I’m Running with Ed!”

Look how much fun we had—and how cute we look in front of that step-and-repeat! We even did a few other projects—like team running shirts for a few clients, and the swag bags for the event. As the de-facto team captain, I was too distracted by, you know, all the other things I do in a day, to order screen-printed t-shirts, so I did the next-best-thing (or maybe even the better thing) and had the kids decorate our team shirts. They designed the logo—a battery—and wrote “Powered by Proforma” on the back of each shirt. Very cute.

We finished! (Two team members departed early for a birthday party!)

We finished! (Two team members departed early for a birthday party!)

This Ragnar-sponsored event, has a home-grown feel. Though, as a non-competitive runner—really, seriously, I have such short legs and small feet, that I look like a cartoon character, blurry from the waist down, when I run—I had to say, it was cool to see the actual athletes glide by me with their perfect runner form, and still yell out, “Good Job!” as they passed me. Our town takes a lot of pride in this event, and it shows. In fact, when Mel took me to a hot yoga class at our neighborhood studio, Tadasana, the next day, the instructor gave the event a nice shout-out. “Who ran? Show of hands?” she asked, before we began. “Thank you for supporting our kids’ education! Let’s stretch those hips!”

Here’s a cool video recap of the event, from Park City Television. For the record, the editor of this video had access to footage of me, mugging for the camera, arms raised in victory, looking like I was absolutely enjoying the endless hill. You will see, at about 00:58, that the editor made the choice to show, well, a different perspective.

Any way you slice it, the day rocked.

(all photos courtesy Jeffrey Rothchild)

Help My Home State, Today!

When Hurricane Irene struck, I’d been home about 10 days from a vacation partly spent in Vermont. In fact, I was just about to start posting some pieces on the Vermont I experienced on my first visit “home” in 5 years. There was, of course, the freshest, yummiest ice cream I’d had in years (thank’s Seward’s and Villiage Snack Bar!) and an indulgent breakfast at local landmark Sugar and Spice. And, there was some sadness—the town where I grew up has fallen on hard times, and it shows. But there was also the warm embrace of family and VERY dear friends. Some of these friends are people my parents met as newlyweds and new Vermonters—and whose generosity of spirit, funds, goods and services was so great that it is the stuff of true legend in my family. My parents awoke one night to a fire in their home and they escaped—with only their lives. They gained (for themselves and for my sister and me) a true home.

Everything I needed to know about mountain community living, I learned in Vermont. I’m proud to say I use those lessons daily in Park City.
Thankfully, Irene left my nearest-and-dearest relatively unscathed; there was no injury, no property damage. And my dad, in counting-blessings mode, would like to pay forward the generosity that made my family’s continued experience in Vermont both possible and wonderful.

Here is what he wrote as he shared an article from today’s Rutland Herald (the paper that gave me some of my very first bylines) about the disaster and relief management in Pittsfield, VT.

I (we) are touched by your concern. We ARE safe and unscathed — no wind, no damage. Our “neighbors” are not so fortunate. Pittsfield, VT is 30 minutes from here, beautiful area, great Italian Restaurant. To get to it you must go through Mendon, VT — five minutes east of Rutland –Rte. 4 runs east-west through Mendon and as you will read it is closed east of Rutland and there are road problems on it also in Bridgewater and Woodstock which are east of Killington. Rt. 4 is the major east-west artery (the only one) hereabouts.

The generosity of spirit, time and money locally is amazing. As you may recall I experienced it so many years ago when I woke up to a house on fire and escaped (with Brenda) in the nick of time. Help will be needed. If you have a spare $ or two, please send it to me. There is a group that is collecting food, diapers etc. and I will match your check, buy what they tell me they need and get it back to them. The grocery store is across the street from the relief HQ and two minutes from my office. I don’t care how many times I have to go there.

The are about 15 communities like Pittsfield– and while it might be a wonderful bonding experience (see article) today, its not going to be so wonderful when food, water run short.

If you would like to help this grassroots effort to get food and supplies to fill immediate needs (and the idea of making my dad schelp to the store entertains you), please email my dad at Norcoh at aol dot com, and he will send you the address at his law office. If he gets overwhelmed (and I expect that he will–my peeps are a generous lot!), he’ll send you the link to either, or another nonprofit that’s getting aid to local victims of Hurricane Irene. This is simply a stopgap measure to get needed supplies into the right hands right away.

In a few days, I’ll try to share my experience of the bucolic surroundings that helped raise me, and what it has meant to show that to my kids—only to have to use it as an object lesson for my kids in disaster, living in the moment, and more…. Today, it’s about getting Vermonters back on their feet.

Graduate school for the soul

One of the best parts of my job is that I feel like I get a mini-masters degree in, well, life. I get paid to listen to the top experts in health, fitness, psychology and many other fields give me private tutorials in a variety of subjects. Then i get to drill down to the core of the matter and ask even more specific questions.

And when I tried my hand at teaching this year, volunteering to lead a Junior Great Books program at my son’s elementary school, I realized that one of the best things I could do was to “interview” the students to get the skinny on what they took away from the stories we read. It was as good an education as any I got when I was on their side of the learning curve.

Thing is, when my most important job is on the line, I sometimes have a hard time committing to this practice. That is, in parenting, I’m often guilty of lecturing rather than listening. If I could just get myself to bite my tongue and not look for the “teaching moment” in the simple tasks of the day (getting in and out of the car, for instance), then maybe I’d have a clue why my kids evade my brilliant parenting moves (clean up your room…or else! Do what I ask the first time…or else!) which mainly involve removing access to electronic toys.

Today, I read a great essay on, which reminded me of just that. The author talked about her own limitations in getting her kids to open up—mainly that she was so preoccupied with solving it, with “actively” parenting, she missed the cues to shut up and listen. And by listening, I might just learn something—about my own parenting, about my kids and the people they are becoming, and about the quiet spaces where change happens. Whatever that may be.

This got me thinking about something I heard last night, when I was watching  Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes, in which Senior Producer Jack thanked Oprah for all that he learned in 15 years of working for her. “This is where my soul went to graduate school,” he said, which stopped Oprah in her tracks. Me too. “I learned to be a better man, a better husband, a better father, right here.”

So, now I have it in my head that parenting itself is the graduate school for the soul. And I’m gonna see where that takes me. Starting now. What’s your take on graduate school for the soul?


Crowns and halos

Yesterday, I led my weekly “book club,” in my son’s second grade class. We do a program called Junior Great Books in which we read classic tales with themes that are relevant to the kids’ real lives, and discuss them. Yesterday, we read  Arap Sang and the Cranes, an African folk tale about a man who learns to think outside his immediate needs, and look at the bigger picture, and the way that even his best intentions can have a cost when executed without enough thought.

If you’re not familiar with the tale, I suggest you read it. Arap Sang is so grateful to a group of cranes for helping him in his moment of need that he bestows golden crowns on them. However, they come back to say he’s harmed their population by making them the targets of hunters who wish to harvest their golden crowns. So, he casts a spell to change the crowns to feathered halos and everyone is happier.

The kids had lots of interesting insights–everything from the ways pushing their own agendas can backfire (like when they beg their parents for a new toy) or how  altruism can become self-serving if it’s not done in the correct spirit.

For me, it was enlightening to think about this in terms of my own parenting–how I teach my kids the lessons they need to learn can be more important than the message I want to convey. I’ve bumped up against this before–throwing a fit at my kids by way of reprimanding them for, yep, throwing a fit. It makes me wonder, constantly, what is the crown and what is the halo I can offer them in a situation.

What are your favorite halos? When have you accidentally crowned your child with a burdensome “reward”? Chime in!