Kick Off 2019 With #EduNinja30 Day Health & Wellness Challenge

Join Us January 7th for the 4th Annual #EduNinja30 Day Health & Wellness Challenge

Hello Friends,

My name is Jennifer Burdis. You may know me as the founder of EduNinja™, a 20th year veteran elementary teacher, keynote speaker, fitness instructor, and author. Growing up in Pennsylvania, sports were an important part of my life, from playing volleyball at Penn State to competing on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior seasons six and seven.

With the release of my first book The EduNinja Mindset 11 Habits for Building a Stronger Mind and Body, I'm excited to share with all people, especially teachers, administrators, and school staff the importance of giving yourself the gift of health and wellness to better serve others. When you feel better, you may teacher better, and students can potentially learn better from teachers who are healthy, happy, and engaged in their lessons.

January 7th marks the kickoff for the fourth annual EduNinja 30-Day Challenge. #eduninja30 will again inspire educators to incorporate physical activity, healthy eating, kinesthetic lessons, and mindfulness into the classroom promoting a culture of health in schools while building community across the nation. But it's not just for educators. It's for everyone everywhere.

The easiest way to join this health and wellness party is to tell your friends, principal, retweet to friends on social media, and grab your coworkers. We’re going to be moving some desks out of the way, or you may end up working out in your pj’s before school because these EduNinja workouts can be completed just about anywhere!

The primary goal is to increase cardio this month, learn a few new exercises to add to your routine, and connect with a like minded group to hold ourselves to a new standard with the support of others. The workouts are adapted for all levels, and you can try as many new exercises by looking at the easy-to-follow weekly videos on this website under the #eduninja30 tab.

Please be sure to consult your physician before starting any workout program, and I encourage you to talk to your healthcare provider today to learn about your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, BMI (Body Mass Index) and any prior health conditions or injuries. It is also recommended to have a certified personal trainer help you determine what level to start at, if appropriate, and help guide you with proper form through these exercises.

There are so many ways you can participate. Choose your favorite social media tool to stay connected.


What You’ll Need Before You Start

  • Sign up at: and check out weekly videos.

  • Request access to the private “eduninja30” Facebook group where we support, encourage, and build community with awesome teachers, administrators, and friends.

  • Follow and tag @jennifer_burdis on Twitter with #eduninja30, follow eduninja30 or jenniferburdis on Instagram.

  • Please help spread the word among other coworkers, friends, and family. Use #eduninja30 when you post pictures.

It might be helpful to have the items listed below:

A yoga mat.

Download the Tabata Pro app. timer.

Obtain a Swiss Ball and medicine ball (purchase, borrow these, or get access to a gym with them).

Preparing for the Challenge

Have a forty-ounce reusable water container at your desk and have students keep a reusable water container at their desks too. Have a student ring a water bell every hour and have everyone drink out of their water container. Try finishing the forty ounces before the end of the school day.

Log your meals and beverages daily. Try adding more vegetables, while still eating high quality proteins, and complex carbs. Be mindful of portion sizes and reducing foods that contain sugar, salt, and saturated fats. Try buying almost all perishable foods and get in the habit of eating an earlier dinner - not right before bedtime. Clear out all junk food from your home and just go out for reasonable treats.

Commit to going to bed before 10:00 p.m. knowing you’ll feel better in the morning. Sleep plays a huge part in your willpower, choosing to exercise, and eating well.

Gather a group of fun friends and decide on a place to meet to do the daily workouts together before, during (with administration approval during school lunch hours, of course), or after school.

The Fitness Part of the EduNinja 30-Day Challenge

Week 1

Level 1: 20-25 minutes of cardio such as: walking, biking, stair stepper, etc. 2-3 x a week.

Level 2: 30-35 minutes of cardio such as: hiking, jogging, biking, stair stepper, etc. 4-5 x a week. Add one set or more of the weekly EduNinja™ exercises to your routine.

Level 3: 45-50 minutes of cardio such as: jogging, biking, stair stepper, etc. 5-6 x a week. Add multiple sets of the weekly EduNinja™ exercises to your routine.

Post a picture with #eduninja30 on social media or in the private “eduninja30” Facebook group.

Week 2

Level 1: 25-30 minutes of cardio such as: walking, biking, stair stepper, etc. 2-3 x a week.

Level 2: 35-40 minutes of cardio such as: hiking, jogging, biking, stair stepper, etc. 4-5 x a week. Add one set or more of the weekly EduNinja™ exercises to your routine.

Level 3: 55-60 minutes of cardio such as: jogging, biking, stair stepper, etc. 5-6 x a week. Add multiple sets of the weekly EduNinja™ exercises to your routine.

Post a picture with #eduninja30 on social media or in the private “eduninja30” Facebook group.

Week 3

Level 1: 25-30+ minutes of cardio such as: brisk walking, biking, stair stepper, etc. 2-3 x a week.

Level 2: 35-45+ minutes of cardio such as: hiking, jogging, biking, stair stepper, etc. 4-5 x a week. Add one set or more of the weekly EduNinja™ exercises to your routine.

Level 3: 55-60+ minutes of cardio such as: jogging, biking, stair stepper, etc. 5-6 x a week. Add multiple sets of the weekly EduNinja™ exercises to your routine.

Post a picture with #eduninja30 on social media or in the private “eduninja30” Facebook group.

Week 4

Level 1: 30+ minutes of cardio such as: brisk walking, biking, stair stepper, etc. 3 x a week.

Level 2: 45+ minutes of cardio such as: hiking, jogging, biking, stair stepper, etc. 5 x a week. Add one set or more of the weekly EduNinja™ exercises to your routine.

Level 3: 60+ minutes of cardio such as: jogging, biking, stair stepper, etc. 6 x a week. Add multiple sets of the weekly EduNinja™ exercises to your routine.

Post a picture with #eduninja30 on social media or in the private “eduninja30” Facebook group to inspire others.

Each week I’ll post one video sharing 4 exercises to add to your cardio routine. Please download the Tabata Pro Timer.

Level 1: Stay committed to your fun movement goals. Could you try one new exercise from the EduNinja Challenge weekly video?

Level 2: Could you add 1-2 sets of the EduNinja Challenge weekly exercises to your cardio days?

Level 3: Could you add 2-3 sets of the EduNinja Challenge weekly exercises added to your cardio days?

If you are looking for a way to hold yourself more accountable in reaching your goals, getting the daily workout, trying new brain breaks, gathering kinesthetic lesson ideas, getting nutrition and mindfulness tools, and making better daily food choices, then please join us on Facebook at EduNinja30. We’re better together, so let’s do this! Together we can inspire healthy fitness ninjas across the country.

Twitter: jennifer_burdis

Facebook: "eduninja30" private group (ask to join)

Instagram: eduninja30 or jenniferburdis


In health and happiness,

Jen Burdis


EduNinja™ Summer News

Eduninja™ Fitness & Fun Summer Selfie Contest

How do you make fitness and wellness fun? We started taking healthy selfies…of healthy fruits and veggies we picked up at the local farmer’s market, taking on new exercise challenges with friends, and yes times of relaxation for balance. There’s still time to join us. It’s easy. Here’s how:

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1. Ask to join eduninja30 closed Facebook group by searching eduninja30 or

2. Click here to follow:

3. Post Selfies with #EduNinjaMindset and tag Jennifer Burdis on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for a Chance to Win Prizes.

4. Click here to get your game board:


Our July EduNinja™ Free Community Workout was a Blast! 

A huge thanks to Derek Flail and Ryan Poletti for spreading the word and helping to organize this event. It was an awesome turnout of people of all ages coming together for this high intensity interval training workout, meeting new friends, and staying connected. Thanks to everyone who joined us and told others so they could join us next time. My hope is to meet up again Thanksgiving break. We might need to get creative with the weather. : ) 

Check out our pics  

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The EduNinja Mindset 11 Habits For Building a Stronger Mind and Body Book Signing at Roma Pizzeria in Pottsville, PA

A Huge Thanks To Roma Pizzeria in Pottsville, PA for Hosting The EduNinja Mindset Book Signing. If you haven’t tried their chicken beet salad, it’s as amazing as their pizza. : ) It was inspiring seeing mentors, coaches, friends, family, and making new connections. Thank you for your support. 

EduNinja Mindset 11 Habits For Building a Stronger Mind and Body book link:



Check out our pics  

The EduNinja Mindset 11 Habits For Building a Stronger Mind and Body at The Student Book Store at Penn State (330 E College Ave, State College) 

A big shout out to Mark at The Student Bookstore for supporting local authors. I’m grateful for all the future ninjas I met there. We held up sidewalk traffic a few times as students and I did a few push-ups together. I also had an opportunity to meet local author and former teacher Denise L. Kaminsky. Check out her books.
They make great gifts as well.

EduNinja Mindset 11 Habits For Building a Stronger Mind and Body book link:

Check out our pics  


Better Together CA California Teachers Summit 

What an honor to be a small part of this amazing statewide event!  The summit featured a live video feed from keynote speaker Sir Ken Robinson for 10,000 plus teachers across the state of California at the Cal State schools. A huge thanks to the team at Cal State Northridge for organizing this and allowing me to give an Ed Talk at this location. It was an incredible day of collaboration and learning. 

This year’s theme was: It’s Personal Meeting the Needs of EVERY Student by Building Relationships & Fostering 'Grit Aren't You Glad You Didn't Quit?’ 

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If your school or organization is looking to build a healthier culture, set bigger goals, develop grit, enhance performance, and strengthen relationships, bring Jen Burdis to your school! email Jen or go to for details.

Check out our pics  


Would You Like Your Your EduNinja Mindset 11 Habits For Building a Stronger Mind and Body Book Review To be Featured On,, or

I would be absolutely honored if your book review was posted on this website and Amazon for the world to see with endorsements from Gabby Reece, Russ Rose, Kerry Mc Coy, Jon Gordon, Dr. John Skretta, Adam Taliaferro, Sean Gaillard, and Peg Pennepacker. Please go to The EduNinja Mindset tab on this website or visit to see what they are saying about The EduNinja Mindset 11 Habits For Building a Stronger Mind and Body. To leave an Amazon review please click here: and email me your review at so the world can see what you think and how you've been applying these principles to your life.

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Upcoming Events:

Join Us For The Penn State Alumni Association: San Diego Chapter - SDPSU Padres vs. Phillies Game Aug. 11th. Tailgate starting at 3:00 p.m. with a 5:40 gametime.

Listen to the Chris Watson podcast: I was honored to be a guest. Please check out the awesome work he’s doing to inspire and motivate others.

San Diego UTC Mall Back to School Health and Wellness Event at Athleta in August. Date and Time TBA.

FIrst Football Weekend at Penn State University EduNinja Mindset 11 Habits For Building a Stronger Mind and Body Book Signing Event at The Penn State Bookstore on campus Sept. 1st 10:00 a.m - 1:00 p.m. Book Link: WE ARE!!!!

Free Community EduNinja™ Thanksgiving Week Workout in Schuylkill County Date TBA (If you have any ideas based on weather or making this event even better please email me at

Get Out There and Keep Inspiring Others With Your Quest For Personal Greatness

What can we do to inspire health and wellness among friends, family, or work environment?  We’re taking the first step here by surrounding ourselves with this supportive and caring community.  As teachers, parents, individuals we are all role models. No matter our age or exercise experience our job is to care for ourselves so we’re at our very best for our families, friends, and students. 

Together we can make a positive change. I’ll be continuing to host free workouts, online challenges and contests, book signings and meet and greets, and speaking to sports teams, teachers, and students. 

I can’t wait to see and share what you are doing so we can inspire others. Please be sure to reach out if you’d like me to speak to your team, school, organization. Stay connected and keep doing what you do best. Thanks for inspiring health and wellness for our communities.

Join Me As I Host: #BetterTogether and #tlap Twitter Chats #eduninja30 Day Health & Wellness Challenge, and Athleta EduNinja™ Fit Book Launch

Hello my friends! I’m grateful to be hosting a few upcoming Twitter chats (#bettertogether June 4th 7 p.m., #tlap June 11th 6 p.m.) the 3rd annual #eduninja30 day health and wellness challenge going strong now, and EduNinja™ Fit kickoff to summer and book release signing at Athleta on June 16th. Please join me with all these fun things on the horizon and thanks for inspiring healthy teachers, students, friends, and families.


Celebrating and Reflecting on the School Year

Hello California Teachers, Join us Monday, June 4th, 7 - 8 pm as we celebrate the school year and kickoff summer strong with the #bettertogether chat and the follow up free day of learning this summer. Sign up here: How can we nurture creativity in schools? #BetterTogetherCA keynote speaker @SirKenRobinson will kick off our 2018 Summit this July 27th and make the case for a learning revolution. More about registration at

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The #eduninja30 Health and Wellness Challenge

May 16th marked the beginning of the third annual EduNinja Challenge. It’s not too late to join us. This year's 30 day challenge will again inspire educators and friends to increase physical activity and mindful, healthy eating by connecting and supporting each other here. 

Please invite teachers, families, and friends to join our group and give themselves the gift of health and wellness this month: May 16th - June 15th.

Please follow us: eduninja30  on Instagram or @jennifer_burdis on Twitter. Thanks for inspiring healthy students. Please go to for more information.

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Athleta Hosts Jen Burdis with EduNinja™Fit to Kickoff Summer!

Are you ready to sneak in a stealth workout with the Eduninja? Join Jen Burdis, two-time American Ninja Warrior contestant, educator, author, and trainer as she leads a high intensity interval training session Saturday, June 16th from 9 a.m. - 10 a.m. followed by a book signing of her new book The EduNinja Mindset 11 Habits for Building a Stronger Mind and Body.

All ages, skill levels, and families are welcome and encouraged to join. This class will test your strength, balance, cardiovascular fitness, and agility. Exercises will range from whole body dynamic bodyweight intervals, circuits using light weights, bands, Bosu, plyos, and core strengthening exercises.

The best part is the strength you’ll gain from training together as a fun, encouraging, and hard-working group. You'll leave sweaty, make new friends, and inspire others. We can't wait for you to join us! Thanks for inspiring healthy teachers, students, families, and friends. See you Saturday, June 16th at 9 a.m. for this kickoff to summer!


Speaking At SDCUE

Honored to be Presenting at The SDCUE 2016 Tech Fair

Join me on a learning adventure as I speak and share: EduNinja Whole Child Approach to a Healthier Classroom: Empowering Teachers to Lead From Within A Guide To Creating a Culture Of Health At Your School Through Physical Activity, Brain Breaks, Kinesthetic Lessons, Nutrition, And Mindfulness. Teachers will be empowered to create a personal EduNinja wellness plan, increase daily activity, use brain breaks regularly, incorporate kinesthetic lessons, practice mindfulness tools, organize lunch clubs, and lead healthy challenges to improve the wellness of staff, students, and families. I'll be sharing lessons, resources, videos, worksheet templates, strategies and guided activities as well to help you create a culture of health at your school.

Are you interested in learning more?  Subscribe to the EduNinja Newsletter, check out the EduNinja Educational Services and Events Calendar to join us for the next EduNinja Lunch and Learn, EduNinja Fit Club, or EduNinja speaking event. 

Would your school like to learn more about implementing these kinesthetic, health, and wellness strategies?  I can come to your school to lead your next professional development. Just e-mail me by clicking the link below. Thanks for inspiring healthy students!

Creativity in the Classroom: Meeting Peter J. Reynolds Author of The Dot

Meeting Peter J. Reynolds, Author of The Dot, this past summer at ISTE 2016 in Denver, Colorado was a special moment for me. He took time to truly connect with each and every person who was eager to meet him. Peter has a knack for helping people discover their talents, encourage people to start the next project they’ve been thinking about, to dream big, and create bravely. If you haven’t read any of his picture books, it’s time to grab one. Peter evokes a creative spirit within children and adults alike. Right before I left his booth at ISTE 2016 he reminded me, “Be careful who you tell your dreams to because they might help you make them come true."

International Dot Day is celebrated September 15thish. It's a day for students to create bravely and "make their mark." Students individually and collectively defined what it meant to "make their mark" and inspire others. Here are some of their creations our class created using the Quiver app.  

Getting Teachers, Students, and Parents Moving EduNinja Go Noodle Style

There are so many amazing schools, organizations, and individuals who are getting their communities moving.  What can you do to be part of the movement of incorporating 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every day?  It’s easier than you think. 

Try Educating Parents At Back To School Night: Share with parents the importance of their health and how it affects their children. So many habits are learned and can be positively relearned. Healthy habits can be formed in 30 days. Why not assign some healthy homework that families can do together? Share with parents some of the ways you incorporate movement into the day so families can replicate, share the fun at home, feel better, and live healthier. Students and families can even log their physical activity minutes.

Try Organizing Healthy and Active Weekend Family Field Trips: What better way to move than scheduling a time to connect with students and families outside of school once a month or a few times a year. Are there any charitable races on the horizon? A new trampoline park to try? A rock climbing class to take together? You may be surprised and how many families truly look forward to this time of moving and learning as a positive community.

This one hour EduNinja Fit class incorporates yoga, bodyweight exercise stations, running stairs, and core exercises for parents and daughters alike.

This one hour EduNinja Fit class incorporates yoga, bodyweight exercise stations, running stairs, and core exercises for parents and daughters alike.

A Ninja School Birthday Surprise

A Birthday Surprise Visit From Daniel Gill, Sam Sann, and Brian Bartolomei. 

Wednesday September 9th 2015.

My 4:40 am alarm sounded (I never set my alarm on an odd number.)  Time to wake up for my early morning coffee workout routine.  I grabbed my computer and my vanilla almond milk coffee, and headed upstairs to clip into my spin shoes to start checking e-mails while peddling away. Pretty standard morning. Early morning school e-mails, checking people’s Tweets, thinking back to yesterday’s 5 am morning bike and ride Voxer business call about October’s upcoming #EduNinjaChallenge

I was warming up for today - a good day with already lots to do. I showered quickly, threw on my teacher’s clothes - Simple plain earth tones today- an army green sleeveless top paired with a long tan pencil skirt, no heels for a few more months since I’m only 4 months into my torn Achilles rehab so tan pillowy soft Clarks flip flops for me. I pulled my hair back in a long braid and headband and was ready to head to school.

The morning flew by: reading, writing, math.  As math was waning and lunch was waxing I heard our principal start making an announcement on the loud speaker as the phone was simultaneously ringing. It was our librarian.  She told me to get right to the library when the bell rings because it’s there’s something important she needed help with. The bell rang and students started heading to lunch as I quickly started heading to the library. It was lightly drizzling outside so another 4th grade teacher stopped me and said the students would be heading to the gym to eat inside instead of outside today.  

As I got to the library Stacey, the librarian, good friend, all around awesome person started talking about her casted arm and her injury prognosis and asking about my torn Achilles. In an instant she said we quickly needed to get to the gym.  Without knowing why we got up and dashed over to the gym where it was completely quiet. 

I squeezed in the very front last seat left and was waiting to see why we were here. I looked up to our principal waiting to hear directions and then a voice came from behind the stage like it was going to be an assembly of some kind that I had obviously missed on the school calendar. The unrecognizable voice continued, “We’re here to celebrate somebody’s birthday.”  Hmm that’s right I thought.  My birthday is tomorrow… is this going to be about me?  It was then I started looking around when I saw my boyfriend step onto the stage.  How did I not recognize his voice even out of context here at school.  

I was confused, embarrassed, stunned. He called me up to the stage and continued, “Tomorrow is Miss Burdis’ birthday and I’ve invited some people to help sing Happy Birthday to her.”  I glanced stage left and didn’t see anyone. Then my favorite ninjas appeared. Sam Sann and Daniel Gill took the stage with the biggest smiles on their faces mirroring my happiness. The Opera singer Daniel, Sam the Survivor, and my amazingly clever and awesome boyfriend were on stage with the auditorium filled with 4th and 5th graders, teachers, and ninjas who were all singing Happy Birthday.  The students were shocked, and couldn’t contain their excitement. It really was a gift having so many special people in my life share that moment together.  

Sam and Daniel went on to share some amazing stories of heartache, hard work, inspiration, positivity, overcoming your fears and not stopping when you say you aren't initially good at something - Instead reframing the statement and say, “I’m not good at this yet.  I just need some help." Sam’s message was about asking for help when you need it. 

“Just because you aren’t good at one subject in school it doesn’t mean that you aren’t good at it it just means you need to practice a little more so obstacle courses apply to school, to life, anything you want to put yourself through.  Any of you guys having a weak subject you aren’t liking? Guess what?  Get more help. It’s simple. I didn’t speak English when I first got here and look at me.  I’m standing in front of you.”

The students were in awe and respect of the ninjas standing before them.  Some had never seen or heard of Daniel or Sam before today.  A few days later one boy in my class asked if when I was little if I always wanted to be like Sam. The boy went on to say that he wants to be like Sam when he grows up and went home and has been training everyday with the help of his mother and father.  Another boy wrote a thank you letter to Sam saying he either wanted to be Sam when he grows up or the President of the United States. No matter what these students choose to become I know that Daniel and Sam inspired many students that day to try their hardest and not give up in the face of adversity. Thanks to everyone who made my 40th birthday very special and one that I'll never forget.

Join #EdBeat EduNinja This Wednesday 8 PM ET/ 5 PM PT

I'm honored to be hosting the next #EdBeat EduNinja Twitter Professional Development. Join this uplifting #EdBeat EduNinja Twitter chat Wednesday, Sept. 30th as we discuss movement for the mind, body, and soul. Learn ways to incorporate health, wellness, and kinesthetic lessons into the classroom for both you and your students.


The Very First EdBeat EduNinja Challenge

Okay Teachers! The school year is off and running. Students are settled into routines, Back to School Night is complete. Now it's time time to reintroduce health, fitness, and wellness into your routine or refine your practices.

Join us in spreading the word about the upcoming October EdBeat EduNinja Challenge. Please check out all the details of the challenge by clicking on the Google slides below. Don't forget to share this link with friends, and follow @jennifer_burdis on Twitter for more details. Each day of the week will consist of a different and unique fitness, kinesthetic, and wellness focus for you and your students. 

I'm looking forward to meeting many new teachers and friends in person and also via Twitter, Voxer, Instagram, and Periscope. I can't wait to see what playlists the uplifting and upbeat Sean Galliard and Natalie Krayenvenger come up with on Spotify to keep us moving, groovin', and motivated every step of this EdBeat EduNinja Challenge!

Be the inspiration - for healthier kids, for a healthier world. Go Noodle

Why Not Create a Surprise Go Noodle Concert at Your School? Here’s How We Did It.

What do teachers, students, and principals all have in common? They all love Go Noodle for inspiring healthy kids. With the help of our occupational therapist, who introduced Go Noodle at a staff development meeting, teachers at our school became passionate about using Go Noodle brain breaks within their four walls.  It was time to unite as a school to see what would happen. Thank goodness we did.  Our teachers collaborated and created a ten song Go Noodle concert to promote healthy kids, celebrate students efforts, and show unity in a grand finale to our school year. It was epic!

So the question you may be asking is how did the teachers pull off a surprising ten song Go Noodle concert for kindergartners through fourth graders that incorporated teachers, custodians, playground staff, tech staff, and even the principal?  It wasn’t as hard as you may think. From idea to implementation it took less than two weeks.


The whole event stemmed from two teachers wanting to dress up like Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s Neil and Bryan for Halloween, but it was June and they couldn’t wait until October. It quickly turned into a texting frenzy recruiting teachers to collaborate on a surprise concert.  We wanted to include everyone, so staff members and K- 4 teachers were e-mailed to see which song their class wanted to perform (without letting the students know they would be performing.) We had a great response, so we booked the auditorium and arranged for the teachers to meet at lunch to practice their Pop See Koo 2.0 moves for the grand finale.


‘Neil’ and ‘Bryan’, the MC’s, got busy writing a script that incorporated lots of dialogue and references to Go Noodle.  In the meantime, classes casually practiced and were encouraged to dress in something fun. Ten songs were deliberately selected so we could all experience sending our champ to the transmogrifier. It really was that simple.

What a great way to end the year. We saw all types of students thrive on stage, from those who were typically shy and surprised us all by opening up and expressing themselves, to those still learning how to direct their energy in a traditional classroom setting and emerged as rockstars. The whole event unified our school. Hotdog was dancing next to Maximo, Fourth graders were dancing right next to kindergartners, and teachers were dancing in the audience and onstage. Our reading specialist said, “The Performing Arts Center was transformed into a incredible concert for one hour.”  It was a truly unique experience where adults and students alike could come together and just focus on movement and having fun.  Our tech savvy kids were creating hashtags like: #epic #phenomenal #teachersdressedup and #nailedit!  This is one that students will be talking about for a very long time. Thanks Go Noodle, Thanks to our ‘Neil’ and ‘Bryan’ and thanks to the real ‘Neil’ and ‘Bryan’ for inspiring teachers every day to ‘Get Yo Body Movin’.

"What's It Like Being a Fourth Grade Teacher?"

When I was asked the other day, “What’s it like being a fourth grade teacher?” For me, It's a lot more than the field trips to the mission at San Juan Capistrano, the Julian gold mine, the fish dissection at Birch Aquarium. And it's beyond the seaweed smorgasbord in our classroom during ocean week studying the kelp forest habitat. For me, it's showing gratitude to all my teachers and giving back. It's empowering students with the skills and tools needed in life, and showing them that we're always being tested. We don't just study for a 'big test' because we are continually tested and given opportunities to learn and grow all the time.  Sometimes we just need help seeing it. That's the job of a teacher.

Fourth grade is it’s own little community where developing cohesiveness and sense of purpose inside the classroom means showing students you care about them, their thoughts, feelings, efforts, and learning. It’s sharing and collaborating, celebrating mistakes, pushing each other’s thinking. It’s growing together, refining thoughts, and resetting goals to achieve personal and collective bests. In our class: We are #littleninjas so ‘We go above and beyond.’

It’s helping students see why their education is important by reading, discussing, and comparing their experiences to powerful stories like Malala Yousafzai’s book, I am Malala.  It’s having whole class powerful discussions where students appreciate their opportunities and recognize their responsibilities. It’s taking these connections and building upon them in smaller book club books through the year.

It’s helping students see the value of community responsibility, by taking the connections, inspiration, and ideas we’ve formed together and extending them outside the classroom, questioning and asking, “How can we make an positive impact or difference in the lives of others?” In fourth grade it’s helping veterans in the Warrior Foundation. From having bake sales to raising money for food and care of Canine Companions for Independence service dogs. To baking cookies for military service families during the holidays.

Students learn in fourth grade how to become independent learners.  They begin holding themselves accountable by setting daily individual, skill-based, measurable goals and taking time to reflect, confer with teachers, meet in partnerships: resetting short-term and long-term goals.  

They know what the term academic rigor means, and they know academic rigor is balanced with movement or “brain breaks” to get energized, refocused, and in charge of their next segment of learning.

It’s about becoming critical readers and problem solvers when exploring topics like the Gold Rush, Westward Expansion, or Women of the West. With amazing technology, there is an abundance of content quickly available. By modeling and teaching reasoning and problem solving vs. just finding content helps students develop skills to determine reputable sources, look up information, form new ideas - using text evidence to agree, disagree, change their thinking, offer critiques, and start to examine author background or bias. 

It's about giving students time to explore questions deeply: about process, reasoning, and critical thinking is crucial because it allows students to work through problems - persevere, show grit, until they get it, see it, remember it, feel it, and share it.  Using mathematical visual models, or hands-on manipulative to solve exemplars are ways students build, clarify, show and share conceptual knowledge about fractions, decimals, multiplication, and division.

It’s about developing independence in students -showing them they are part of the bigger community but in charge of their own learning at any moment. By giving them the tools and feedback, they know they’ll only get out of fourth grade the amount of effort they put into it. They will be held accountable, but more importantly is the idea of trusting themselves, holding themselves accountable, by reaching or exceeding their goals everyday. They realize there is a direct correlation between feeling good and giving their best effort every day.

From developing a sense of community, to personal responsibility, to making a difference in the lives of others, becoming independent learners and critical thinkers who question, make connections, keep moving, face their fears to grow, show grit, and develop new ideas is what fourth grade is all about.  

Fourth grade is a pretty cool place that I get to visit everyday, where students feel smart and strong when they go above and beyond. They are empowered learners whom I have the opportunity to guide.  That’s what teaching fourth grade is like for me.

Inspired by a Legendary Boxer and Extraordinary Group of Ninja Warriors

“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” - Muhammad Ali 

Muhammad Ali is know for his amazing boxing skills, famous insightful & bold quotes, and his dedication to physical conditioning.  Recently, on a hometown trip, I had the opportunity to step inside this boxer’s very own tiny, historic training camp.

Tucked away on a windy hillside road in Schulykill County, PA, you wouldn’t think much driving of the little Linkin Log structures that looked more like a boy scout camp than ‘The Champ’s’ camp. In fact, growing up only three minutes away, I never once thought of exploring these ‘old’ cabins any further. 

Sprinkled outside, between the Ali’s cabin, the barn, the tiny mosque, and his sparring partners’ cabins, are giant boulders. Supposedly, (according to Guernsey’s online article) Ali’s dad was a painter and used these rocks as a canvas to hand paint names of the incredible boxers ranging from: Jack Johnson, Floyd Patterson, Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray (Robinson) and Joe Louis.  

Sparring partners like Mr. "T" even started out as a body guard of Ali at the camp, and greats like: Sugar Ray Leonard, and Larry Holmes were rumored to be there too.

I can't even describe the combination of feelings I had on that hot August day, walking through the doors of his gym…the humidity, the history, the awe, the imagination running wild… the fights that took place here, the hype before and during the fights, the famous people who visited here like the Jackson Five, and Elvis.  In stark contrast, thinking back to what I would have been doing a few miles down the street, such as running around the woods, or playing in the creek.  

I can only imagine the quiet hard work Ali put in leading up to these aggressive, technical, and strong bouts, Ali’s feeling of confidence that he trained so hard, sparred so relentlessly, against fighters to be physically and mentally prepared, touting himself the greatest, and eventually proving it time and time again.  I could feel it, as I was standing in that gym, looking at the giant painted mural of the greatest boxer of all time. 

That greatness continued as I left the Ali’s old training camp and headed off to New Jersey to a another type of training facility.  This one was very different but no less extraordinary with a brand new breed of athletes.

I walked into a new playground of athletes. Ones running, jumping, climbing.  People of all ages, sizes, and shapes.  Sometimes deceptive, but always possessing extraordinary speed, or strength, or skill, or inspiration, or creativity. Whatever it was they were exploring to find it, or hone it, share it brightly to inspire and support the others who were doing the same things.  A beautiful thing to experience.

These extraordinary and talented group of creative, innovative, connected group of individuals, understood the value of community, commitment to physically pushing your body, and creatively pushing your mind to look at things in a different way, to train in a different way, to think in a different way, and support each other in a different way - Ninja Warriors.  Each ninja having amazing assets and backgrounds to make them extraordinary and help push the group to a higher level of excellence. The whole mindset of overcoming obstacles and pushing yourself beyond perceived limits is nothing short of extraordinary.  Of course unlike Ali, I like the ninja style.  They didn't have to tell everyone that they were great at x, y, or z.  It was obvious.

Walking into that gym, I honestly didn’t even want to admit to anyone that I tried the course in Venice Beach only completing three obstacles.  But then a friendly ninja, or two, or three, took the time to reach out and connect.  That’s all it took was a few people reaching out, and connecting, for me to walk out of the gym feeling like a small part of the extraordinary community.  

I hope to someday embrace being a ninja warrior, to reach out like these ninjas did to to make a positive impact, to greet, inspire, and welcome a new brand of athlete to the community.  One that has “…a desire, a dream, a vision… last-minute stamina… having to be a little faster…having the skill and the will...The will being stronger than the skill…” to conquer, not the opponent facing you in the boxing ring but the almighty Mt. Midoriyama.