Famous Flops!


Perseverance pays off. Just use these famous examples of flops to inspire perseverance. Mistakes are simply opportunities for learning.

  • Bill Gates dropped out of college. His first software company (Traf-O-Data) failed. He went on to create Microsoft and become a billionaire.
  • Theodor Geisel was an author. His first book was rejected 28 times, but he didn’t quit. He eventually sold more than 600 million books. You know him as Dr. Seuss.
  • Henry Ford loved building cars. He started a car factory, but it failed. Ford didn’t give up. He found investors to start a new company – Ford Motors.
  • K. Rowling was a poor, single mother when she wrote her first major book. It was rejected by 12 publishing houses. The book was “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
  • Katy Perry only sold 200 copies of her first album. She was dropped from two other recording labels. It took her 10 years before she recorded her first hit. She has now sold over 40 million albums.
  • Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job for being unfit for television. She went on to host the highest ranked national talk show.
  • Walt Disney was rejected from the army. He was fired for not being creative enough and his first company went bankrupt. He won 22 Academy Awards and is known as one of the most creative men of the century.
  • Michael Jordan did not make the varsity basketball team on his first try. He went on to win six championship basketball titles.
  • Elvis Presley’s first two records failed. He was rejected from a group because he “couldn’t sing.” It is estimated that more than one billion of his records have been sold.
  • Thomas Edison had many inventions, but he was determined to create a usable lightbulb. His designs failed more than 10,000 times. He is quoted as saying, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

B+ (or Be Positive)


On cold January days, it can be tough to stay positive. If we can push through the gray days and attitudes to find positive energy, we will be rewarded in a variety of ways. Remember these wonderful reasons to stay positive in your classroom and life!

  • Positive people have more energy

Scientists have proven that people with a positive dispositional affect have more energy and enthusiasm than those who have more negative affectivity. A little extra energy and enthusiasm can go a long way with a class full of learners!

  • Positive people are healthier

A recent Harvard School of Public Health study found that positive psychological well-being, which includes positive relationships and self-acceptance, is associated with improved hearth health. People who tend to think positively have better cholesterol results and fewer heart problems. A related study found that positive thinkers had lower levels of triglycerides in the blood.

  • Positive people are less likely to “stress out”

A study at Quebec’s Concordia University found that optimists produce less cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, during difficult times. They also did not perceive stress as much as their less-positive peers.

  • Positivity builds resilience

While positivity helps us to feel good in the short term, it can also build neural connections for the long term. Using positive thinking can literally train our brains for more resilient ways of thinking.

  • Positivity improves decision making

Research also shows that positive thinking stimulates the growth of the frontal lobes in our brain. This area of the brain is responsible for logical thinking, goal construction, decision-making, and complex tasks.

  • Positivity is contagious

A recent article in Psychology Today confirmed that emotions are contagious. Studies have found that people automatically and unconsciously mimic the emotional expressions of others. These expressions trigger reaction in our brains that cause us to interpret those expressions as our own feelings. Being positive will spread positive energy to your students, colleagues, and family members!

So how can you stay positive? Try these three easy tips.

  • Positive self-talk.

When you find yourself gravitating toward a negative mindset, reframe it. Instead of saying, ‘I can’t do this’, try saying ‘This may be tough, but I can get through it one step at a time’. Positive self-talk is also a wonderful habit to share with students so that they can learn to persevere.

  • Gratitude for improved attitude

Instead of making mental lists of the bad stuff, focus on the positive things in your life. Research shows that the brain starts to develop a new habit of scanning the world for positives instead of negatives after just three weeks of gratitude work. What do you have to do in gratitude work? Just take a couple of minutes each day to list things for which you are grateful.

  • Feel good habits

Simple, easy practices can improve positivity. Just three belly breaths can reset your brain and encourage de-escalation. Meditation has been proven to increase endorphins and serotonin which help you to feel good. A daily walk outside (even a short walk) results in increased feeling of pleasant energy.

The power of positive thinking is tremendous. Positive people can bring joy and energy to their surroundings, even during the gray days of January!


Welcome Back from Winter Break


Returning from winter break can be difficult. Students (and teachers) are accustomed to sleeping in, following their own schedules, and relaxing. It can be tough to return to the routine. Make the adjustment easier by using one of the following strategies.

1.) Make New Year’s Resolutions for School

Returning from winter break is a great time to reflect on opportunities for growth. Model this process by sharing resolutions you have for the new year. This helps students to develop a growth mindset for continuous improvement. Then, give them opportunities to brainstorm ideas. Time for individual reflection and goal setting will result in clear objectives for the new year.

2.) Have a Show and Tell Time

When students return from winter break, they are full of stories about their adventures. Embrace their enthusiasm and give them the opportunity to share. Invite students to bring an item (not a toy) that illustrates something from winter break. Take turns sharing. In the process, they learn valuable speaking and listening skills.

3.) Or invite them to share with writing. Have a free write time using one of the following prompts:

  • Describe a person you spent time with over the break. Use detail!
  • Write about something that you did with your family over the break.
  • Describe a place you visited over the break in detail. It can be as simple as the grocery store!
  • How would you fill your winter break if you did not have screens?
  • What is the best gift you have ever given? Describe what made it special.

4.) Create a Class Winter Break Memory Book

Another option for capturing student enthusiasm is creating a class memory book. Students can create pages individually, share them, and add them to the class memory book. Or make memory book pages a fun writing center. It will be a favorite way to share!

5.) Play a fun game to remind students of class procedures and rules!

Expect that your students will forget many routines that had been mastered before the break. Make reminders fun by playing a game!

6.) Get students excited about learning with a Mind Missions lesson. Free sample lessons are available on the website here:

Mind Missions sample lesson


Hope these ideas help for a smooth transition back to school!

Supporting Civil Discourse in Classrooms

Preschool teacher and children in classroom

Civil Discourse starts young

Most Americans believe that civility has severely declined over the past two decades. We hear stories daily about ridicule, bullying, and simple rudeness – and these stories are happening in homes, classrooms, on the Internet, and in businesses. There are several reasons for this decline. Some scholars suggest that as society has become more informal and that long agreed-upon rules for respectful behavior have diminished. Television shows, radio programs, and movies exhibit revolutionized norms for polite, appropriate behavior. The internet has produced an easy method for people to post anonymous and uncivil comments with little accountability.

Educators are well positioned to provide a counterweight to this change in civil discourse. Schools and classrooms must strive to be safe places where students can exchange ideas, try out opinions, and receive feedback on their ideas without fear or intimidation. Schools must become places where students learn to communicate respectfully and effectively.

Teaching students to participate in effective civil discourse is more than teaching them to be polite. Polite behavior often dictates that confrontation and disagreement must be avoided. However, good public discourse invites people to share differences of opinion for the benefit of society. Healthy arguments are essential in a democracy. They allow understanding and compromise to develop. In a world with few role models, educators must teach students the rules and norms for civil discourse.

Steps for Teaching Civil Discourse:

1.) Make Ground Rules

Ground rules are helpful for any class or team discussion. Rules are usually most effective when they are generated and agreed upon by the students. These guidelines will govern class discussions and hold students accountable to appropriate behavior.

2.) Teach Students how to Listen

Listening is at least half of civil discourse and it is more important than speaking. Teach students how to listen effectively. Teach active listening with 5 steps:

  • Make eye contact
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Ask questions if needed
  • Repeat back what you think the speaker said.
  • Get clarification for total meaning.

3.) Teach Students how to Speak

Everyone has an opinion and most people like to express their opinions. A task of educators is to teach students how to state and support their opinions for effective argumentation. These skills create an important foundation for persuasive writing and speaking in later years. Teach students the 3 essential elements of an argument (SEE):

  • State (What do you think?)
  • Explain (Why do you think that?)
  • Evidence (Tell me concrete facts that support your reasoning.)

These steps require students to think about their statements during civil discourse and prepare effectively. It highlights the importance of evidence during argumentation. This strategy also encourages students to listen critically and develop strong inquiry skills.

4.) Teach students to reflect on common ground and compromise.

After students have had an opportunity to share by listening and speaking, give them quiet time to reflect on common ground and areas of compromise. Then, share their thoughts.

Using these four strategies for civil discourse builds an environment of respectful, authentic learning. They provide a foundation for effective communication skills for our students. And they are essential to the support of a strong democracy.

Super Social Studies

Diligent beginner


“This is boring.”

“Why do we have to learn this?”

“My students don’t like Social Studies.”

Why do students dread Social Studies and why do teachers find teaching Social Studies frustrating?

There are many possible answers to this dilemma, but I suspect that a major cause is the marginalization of Social Studies due to standardized testing and its almost exclusive emphasis on language arts and math. As a result, social studies instruction is being squeezed into smaller and smaller chunks of time. All teachers feel that they have time to do is “cover” the content.  Unfortunately, “covering” the content usually leads to ineffective strategies for learning and frustrating preparation for teachers.

So, what are some simple (but super) social studies strategies that are effective, fun, and easy to implement?

Bring Social Studies learning to life – Show primary source images from the topic to emphasize the human impact of history, geography, and civics. The Library of Congress offers free, wonderful primary source image sets to accompany learning and make it real. Ask students about the pictures and discuss what might have happened before, during, and after the photograph. This activity can also kickstart critical source inquiry. Ask, “what was the photographer trying to communicate?”.

Act it out! – Skits, commercials, newscasts, and plays are a great way to bring history to life. Have students act out a particular event from history (or report on it). Creating the event and building dialogue help students to connect with social studies moments.

Or make a tableau – Don’t have time for an entire skit? Ask students to build a living scene from history. Using their bodies to create a historical moment builds brain connections that a power point can’t match! Ask students to reflect on the “characters”, the moment, and how it impacted them.

Solve real social studies problems – History and geography offer a plethora of real-world problems to challenge students. Mind Missions lessons are designed to inform students about a variety of historical and geographical problems. Then, students creatively and collaboratively innovate solutions of their own! Try one at https://mindmissions.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Forge-Feet-Sample-1810b.pdf

Make it musical – Play music from the place or time period you are studying. It gives students a glimpse into a unique time and/or culture. Where appropriate, study the lyrics and discuss the historical context and meaning.

Send a postcard – When studying a place or past event, send a postcard! Instead of asking students to write an essay, ask them to demonstrate true understanding by summarizing it in a postcard. Students can use the 5 W’s (Who, What, Where, When, Why) as an organizer and write in the first person to reveal the impact of social studies on individuals. AND they can draw a picture that illustrates their learning on the front. Don’t forget to date it!

Of course, the most important part of super social studies strategies is reflection following the activity.  Great questions include: What was portrayed? Why was it important? What did we learn? Could there be another point of view? Taking the time to debrief and reflect is essential to building deep learning.

I hope you can use some of these strategies to bring joy and effective learning to the Social Studies classroom. Have more ideas you want to share? Share with me at susan.gallander@mindmissions.com.