So, what is a starnado, and why did starnado make the cut as the name of this blog? After asking my colleagues for ideas and getting responses like “johnsiedoesbikesandteachin” I decided to ponder ideas on my own. Honestly, my favorite idea was “jackofall” since I do often feel as though I am a jack of all trades, master of none. Continue reading

Teachers Pay Teachers

This post is aimed at those of us who teach. Teachers Pay Teachers is a convenient site for teachers to access a wide variety of resources to use in the classroom.

Many resources are available for free, and can be save you some time in creating new activities. During my student-teaching I was given the advice to “beg, borrow, and steal” while I create lessons and plan curriculum. While I am not condoning stealing, the Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) site offers a one-stop shop for ideas and resources.

Many teachers I know have heard of TpT, and some teachers have purchased resources. This is a great time savings as a teacher prepares their next lesson.

The main reason I am writing a post about TpT is to encourage other teachers to Sell on TpT. Signing up is free and you can put as much or as little into your ‘Store’ as you would like. I have only uploaded documents I already had created for my classes. There are some teachers who dedicate a great deal of time to creating resources, or even full curriculum.

Since the seller sets the price of their resources, some people have created a full class worth of material and sold the resources for over $200 per download!

Many of us teachers create our own resources as part of our job, so why not profit from the extra work we have put into our resources? For instance, I have only uploaded documents I already had created for class. So far I have had $20.41 automatically deposited into my personal checking account. I did not need to promote, track, or process any sales. Also, aside from the money, I have helped other teachers get needed materials to help them in their own class.

With the free seller’s account, TpT does take a pretty substantial portion of each sale. This being said, it is quite nice to randomly sell a resource and then have the amount automatically direct deposited each month a sale is made. For me this has worked out to a very small amount of extra cash, but since I had already made the resources, it feels like getting paid extra. For me, something is better than nothing!

I have suggested to several colleagues that they set up a seller’s account because the materials they have created are worthy of being shared. Common replies are that they don’t think their work is good enough to sell, or that they don’t want to worry about maintaining a storefront.

As a teacher I ask my students to share their thoughts and their work. For many students this is uncomfortable, but it is a valuable skill to be able to overcome the little voice in your head that says “you’re not right” or “your work isn’t good enough”. For my self-conscious students sharing their work is difficult but can lead to important revision and learning.

I feel it is important that we as teachers are willing to do the same. Push ourselves to create resources worth sharing. If we are doing less than that, are the resources even useful in our class? After creating resources worth sharing we should do just that, share the resources. Using a site like TpT to sell your resources is a way to reward youself for some of this extra work.

I think all teachers should sell through TpT. For those of you teachers who are really creative, and have the tools to create engaging resources, or even Google Apps, I strongly recommend you check out TpT and set up a seller’s account to make some extra cash for the work you are already doing. Peace.

BIOLOGY- A Love Poem

Last week I posted about finally finishing my children’s book “Have you seen my charger?” . This week I would like to share a little poem from my Nana.

Betty Gaskell (Fluegge) was my Nana. My maternal grandmother and I miss her dearly. Nana had many gifts, but did not always show them off. I am not sure if this was humility or a lack of confidence, but I do know she was a far better artist and poet than I would have known. Had I not overseen her drawing later in her life at a 4th of July celebration, or had my mom stumble across this poem after her passing I am not sure some of her skill would have ever been shared. Maybe she wanted to stay private, but I think it is too good not to share.

I became a biology teacher several years after Nana passed away, and many years after she wrote this poem as a school assignment. I always knew my Nana and Papa loved nature, but I did not realize they had an appreciation for nature for so long. As our world keeps getting consumed and used up I hope you can take a moment to stop and smell the flowers, listen to the birds, and see how much of life is connected all around us.

So, here it is. A little poem simply titled “Biology”. Peace.


By: Betty Gaskell (Fluegge)

Birds ‘n bees ‘n ants ‘n things,

In all the valleys, brooks ‘n springs,

On every shrub, in every place,

Life shows to me its smiling face,

O’er all the hills and grassy nooks,

Green plants there seem to be, and

Yet I yearn to tell the world that this is Biology.

I Wrote a Children’s Book!

It took a couple years of intermittently working to write the story, find an illustrator, find a way to publish, and then get the courage to finalize the project. I am excited to share that my first book is complete! Physical copies have arrived and Print On Demand (POD) is available for ordering your own copy.

So what is the story!?

While visiting with family in northern Michigan people kept losing track of their phone and tablet chargers. It started to feel as though each time we sat down together someone was asking, “Have you seen my charger?”. I felt compelled right then to grab a pad of notebook paper and start rhyming out lines to go along with the situation taking place. It is becoming a question asked more often, “Have you seen my charger?”. Common replies seem to be “No”, “Yes, on the counter”, or “Where did you leave it last?”.

As the lines started to flow out and family members kept adding their own input, a short story was quickly developing. For the character in the story the search for a charger takes them on a journey. In searching, they find something even more valuable than the charger they were looking for in the first place.

After several tweaks and edits to the manuscript “Have you seen my charger?” is more than just a common question, it is also the title of my first book.

How can you get your own copy? Great question! There are two main options for purchasing your own copy. Book Baby’s BookShop and Even searching for the book, or my name, on Amazon boosts the status of the book. Please consider at least giving it a search or clicking the Amazon link.

BookShop sends 50% of the sales back to the author.

Amazon sends 13%. Amazon does have a much larger reach and you could add the book onto an order quite easily.

The price is actually set below the BookBaby suggested price. I would go even lower if the cost of printing allowed since I think the message of the story is worth spreading.

There are several people I will not be able to thank enough for helping this all finally come together, but I will try.

Illustrator Tracy Burnett took the manuscript and ran with it, really bringing the words to life. I am very thankful for her willingness to take a chance on the story and work through all my short-comings as someone publishing their first book. I asked a lot of Tracy and she helped make it work. Without her there literally would not be a physical copy of the story.

My family. I am blessed to have two loving families to belong to. A big thanks to the Skalecki/Haggerty side for inspiring this situation. A big thank you to the Johns family for building my confidence to continue after the initial story was written.

A special thank you to my wife and kids for listening to the story and helping with feedback. Also thank you for patience as a “quick project” stretched into multiple hurdles to overcome and a lot of new learning taking place. Also, thank you for believing in the book enough to self-publish. Another spot which could have stopped the process, but I am thankful the book is now complete.

Thank you to Kevin Kammeraad for meeting up with me at Panera Bread and encouraging a complete novice like me to find an avenue to create a finished book.

Thank you to my teachers. I recently found a few papers I had written in high school… I would say looking back that writing is not necessarily a natural gift, but I know I would lack an ability to express my thoughts through writing without their guidance. This includes my colleagues as an educator. Several of you have encouraged me to “do hard things” or build my skill set.

The process from notebook in a cabin living room to printed book was riddled with obstacles to overcome. Perhaps another blog post will help explain how each these challenges added meaning to the project overall. Peace.

Singing and Swinging: What to do when you lose your way

Have you ever felt ‘off’? Things you used to do with ease seem to take a lot of focus and effort. Or you are going through the exact same motions as before, but you don’t feel fulfilled like you used to. As much as you try to get out of a funk, nothing seems to get you back to where you know you belong. No matter how many times you try to recreate Unique Life Feels (ULFs), it seems you are not able to feel what you once did.

This feeling reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, “The Legend of Bagger Vance”. The one time all-star golfer, and hero of Savannah, Rannulph Junah (Matt Damon) struggles to find his swing. As his soon to be caddie Bagger Vance (Will Smith) points out, perhaps Junah’s real struggle is with more than the mechanics of his golf swing. Here is the scene from the movie. Here is a partial transcript if you want to skip the clip (though I recommend the clip).

Bagger: See, the trick is to find your swing.
Junuh: What did you say?
Bagger: You lost your swing. We got to go find it.
Bagger: Now it's somewhere in the harmony of all that is...
Bagger: ...all that was...
Bagger: ...all that will be.
Sometimes in life we “lose our swing” and need help to get it back.

Recently, my brother invited me to play some indoor golf and it became apparent I too had “lost my swing”. It was probably unreasonable to think I could just pick up where I left off, but mentally I expected to hit my normal shots. Even though I was out of practice and had not even attempted to golf for the past few months, something inside me expected the best version of golfer to shine through.

There is value in practice, routine, and working to improve. Even in small ways, how we spend our time makes a big impact on how we interact with the world around us. If there is something meaningful you want to maintain or improve in your life, there is a need to make a conscious effort to make it a part of your routine.

Trying to “find my swing”. The tree is a good indicator or how things started off! After getting back in the groove and settled things started coming together.

This post is about more than just golf though. The title for this post ‘Singing and Swinging’ hit me one Sunday while my wife and I attended church. At our church, we begin the service singing worship songs. On this particular Sunday I felt as though my voice as carrying the tune with some power, the notes flowed steadily as we sang along. Whether the melody or the harmony, my voice was locked into the songs. It felt great to sing and feel so connected to the music!

During the last song, I had a much more meaningful realization. My voice was much more of an outward expression of my spirit than I had realized.

The fact my voice felt connected and ‘on’ was great! The realization my voice, and spirit, had been ‘off’ for months was not.

I had been letting my faith wane. Not that I was actively abandoning my faith, but I was certainly no longer in a practice of growing my faith. In some way I had become Rannulph Junuh. I was expecting to stay filled with faith, even though I had not been making faith a priority. I believe the religious term for this situation is that I had become a sloth, not putting in effort to maintain or grow my faith.

As I stood in church and thought about how pure and connected my voice felt, I could not help but think of another clip from “The Legend of Bagger Vance”. In this scene, Bagger is explaining “the field” to Rannulph Junah. Here is partial transcript if you want to skip the video clip (although I recommend the clip).

There's a perfect shot out there trying to find each and every one of us.
All we got to do is get ourselves out of its way, to let it choose us.
Where everything that is becomes one.                
You've got to seek that place, with your soul, Junuh.                
Seek it with your hands, don't think about it, feel it.                
Your hands are wiser than your head's ever gonna be.                
Now I can't take you there just hopes I can help you find a way.                
It's just you that ball, that flag, and all you are.   
“The field” is the groove we all search for, the place where life makes sense. Often we might need someone (or something) to help us redirect in order to “see the field”.

During those few months of feeling a disconnect I did several things to try to fill in a hole I did not consciously realize had even been growing. As Bagger Vance explains to Junuh, getting back into my faith did not include a checklist of things to do, but rather involved letting myself go enough to feel connected with my faith once again.

For me, it is no surprise “The Legend of Bagger Vance” is based on a sacred Hindu story about a deity intervening in a warrior’s life to help them realize their full potential. I believe the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us and has the ability to help us all reach our full potential.

Perhaps sometimes the spirit is communicating with us, and we are just focusing on everything except this one thing inside which can lead us back to a fulfilling life. Perhaps that Holy Spirit is always working to help guide our way, and we also just need to “get ourselves out of its way” and let it choose how we can use our gifts to live a fulfilling life. Peace.

Posted: A Nature Poem


I sit. I Listen.
I allow silence to surround.

With winter fading and spring awaiting,
no leaves on tree or ground.

With little wind the forest rests,
and invites me to do the same.

I close my eyes and rest as well,
and let the woods reclaim.

With mother nature all around it’s easy to let go.
Of all my stress and worry, right now I do not know.

And as I sit and listen to the stillness of the breeze,
my focus shifts to “Posted” signs, stapled to the trees.

They rustle and they rattle and break the peaceful quiet.
We have broken nature, though society denies it.

Nature is the great inventor of what was and is to come.
While we continue to abuse her, we become more numb.

What can a single soul like me do to help amend?
Certainly not turn away, ignore, or just pretend.

Nature needs us more than ever, this I truly know.
Our gifts alone can help or harm, destroy or let regrow.

Remove the “Posted” from the land, and also from your mind.
Nature is here to be protected, not destroyed by humankind.

I sit. I listen. I think of what could be.
For nature has already given all needs for you and me.

Back to Basics Entertainment

Last week in The Grand Rapids Press I found it interesting to find two articles which seem to pivot around the same idea. Article #1 titled “These toys can help kids have healthier minds, bodies” was written by a Harvard Health doctor and the list of toys to help a child’s mind includes: Blocks, drawing materials, dollhouses, cars, play kitchen, dress-up clothes.

For those of you who read this list and said “yeah right, any child would get bored with these.” you are not alone. Dr. McCarthy admits boredom might be the result of some of these toys, but she also points out that boredom might be a key piece to breeding creativity. “If they are constantly entertained, they will never learn to entertain themselves, and they will miss out on important opportunities to create and explore.”

Now just a few pages later in the same edition of The Grand Rapids Press is the article titled ” ‘Fortnite’ addiction is forcing kids into video-game rehab”. Whoa. In this article Jef Feeley and Christopher Palmeri give a laundry list of issues with kids being hooked into gaming, specifically Fortnite.

Continue reading