Monday, December 16, 2013

Flow: Your Brain at Play

"Play is the highest form of research." - Albert Einstein

I've always been intrigued by how we learned. Why can some learn so much effortlessly, while others struggle to make minimal gains? One thing I've learned through my own experiences is that learning through play is just about as hyper-efficient as you can get. When the learner is in a state of "flow" (which is often the case during play, amazing things can happen.

What is flow? Flow is a mental state of mind in which the individual is fully immersed in whatever task they are undertaking. Their focus is razor sharp and most importantly they are having FUN! state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. They are fully absorbed in the act! This is where the magic of play happens! If you don't believe me, take a loooooooong hard look at your child the next time they are entranced by their video game or other whimsical endeavor (whimsical is my "word of the day")...take a gander at some sports obsessed family member glued to the final seconds of the games...the examples abound. You'll see flow and recognize flow because you've likely experienced it yourself many times before.

Check out the article below. It offers some great information on how you get the most learning out of play, and honestly, would you rather that your learning experiences be boring? Make the most of every moment. Learn and play. =)

How to Create Learning Through Play -

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Giving of Oneself: Recent Adventures Promoting Family Engagement!!!

One thing that I've tried to make sure I do over the course of the last year has been to make sure that I don't take on too much. Yeah...that is not always successful, but I've gotten to a point now where the next 
eight months are finally looking manageable and that is great news! Whether it's families of children with special needs, foster and adoptive families, families of children considered to be at-risk kids, or the culturally diverse community of families and learners right here in the Metro Atlanta area, there is always something to do (and nothing says it can't be FUN)! Below is a letter I wrote for the Aspen Institute on behalf of Univision Atlanta Community Affairs. They have been an absolute amazing resource to me and have allowed me to connect with other likehearted and passionate peopl. The reason I am sharing it is to hammer home a point It is a point I am always happy to be reminded of myself during the course of life. We often think we are blessing others when in fact WE are the ones being blessed.....

To whom it may concern,

I recently had the pleasure of partnering with Univision Atlanta Community Affairs, through a partnership with Gwinnett Public County Schools and Univision’s educational efforts. Their sincerest intention is to benefit Latino families and students as they aspire to reach heights limited only by their imagination and the possibilities of potential. Through this association, I was privileged to take part in several panels, as well as appear in a television segment, all focused on the multiple facets of education. These were each meant to offer guidance and information to families urgently striving to help their children achieve sustained academic and life-long success. 

It was through this purposeful partnership that I was able to also discover and collaborate with the educational endeavors of other Univision partners like HOPE (the Hispanic Organization Promoting Education) and The LAA (The Latin American Association). These memorable occasions over the last few months have provided me with unique outreach opportunities that I have used to affect families in ways I never thought possible. These goal-oriented relationships have already proven themselves to be invaluable and there are two particular instances that I would love to share with you.

The first involved the family of one of my very own students from almost a decade ago who had viewed an education focused program on Univision. My appearance during this segment encouraged them to contact me resulting in us all reuniting during a recent visit to our school. I was in awestruck wonder looking at the young man before me that had once been a student in my elementary class. They both shared with me that he was participating in what is called the STEM Targeted Educational Program (STEP Academy), a program designed for at-risk, over-aged eighth-grade students that allows them to complete multiple grades worth of course work in just one school year.  

If he was successful in completing this program, he would transition to 10th grade and remain on track to graduate with his peers. What a blessing I had standing right before me in the form of a chance to aid one of my very own former students and his mother. I asked them if they had time for an impromptu workshop on becoming a more efficient learner, since I was certain they would both enjoy and benefit from the experience. Not only was this the perfect example of a teachable moment, but it warmed my heart to be THE teacher fortunate enough to provide it. I expect wonderful things from this young man and I am appreciative of the unforeseen opportunity I was given to be involved in his academic journey once again. 

The second, and most recent occasion, came as a husband and wife approached me at school, smiles broadly displayed across their face. The mother asked if I had a free moment and I gleefully offered her as much time as she needed. She began telling me how much she had enjoyed my workshop and what a pleasure it was to speak to me now. This left me puzzled. I had just completed a school workshop that very Wednesday and I was surprised that I could not remember either of their faces. Noting my confusion, they told me that they had seen me present at a workshop during the Latin American Association’s 14th annual Latino Youth Conference at Emory University. They had been looking forward to following up with me at Kanoheda since they also have a child enrolled here as well as a child in high school. 

They were relatively new additions to our school family. My collaboration with the combined educational efforts of these incredible community resources yet again proved to be a boon as it allowed me to make contact with a family that I may not have otherwise been able to reach so soon. They mentioned a desire to do even more for both of their children (music to my ears) and supplement the knowledge they had already received. I was able to immediately provide them with the additional support they needed as well as get them connected with several of the upcoming learning events scheduled at our school. The familiarity with this family, afforded to me through the previous work of these amazing educational partnerships, allowed me to provide support ideally suited to benefit both of their children, despite the disparity in their age. Once again, I was graced with an unanticipated blessing through the amazing collaboration in which I have been able to take part.

Since that first meeting at our school, I’ve had the pleasure of being in communication with this family on many occasions, with each instance heralded first by huge smiles on each of our faces. I could not have dreamed of a more astonishing way to begin a prosperous educational partnership with a new family or rekindle an existing one. These powerful individual examples are the result of a broad and purposeful focus on providing the support our families need to stay engaged in the education of their children and help every single one to fulfill the promise that is within them. 

As a teacher, I am so excited by the impactful prospects for educational support that I have now discovered through Univision Atlanta and their educational partners. Furthermore as a fellow parent, I am deeply stirred and eternally grateful for what is being done for the community of families and learners I am honored to serve. I wish you success beyond measure with this marvelous endeavor. Through these efforts, you have allowed me to experience triumphs firsthand that I had never before envisioned possible. For that I am profoundly thankful.

Angel Rodriguez

I'll close this post by saying I have LOVED my life of teaching, fostering, and most importantly...parenting. =)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Learning to Learn: Helping Parents Understand Cognitive Assets

This is one of my favorite subjects to talk about…helping learners become better learners. This is a true “big picture” strategy because if you become a better learner, you’ll improve in EVERYTHING, and that provides cognitive mental return on our learning investment.

I’ve mentioned in other posts how intelligence is dynamic. This is something every parent needs to understand. There is nothing static about a learner’s potential. There never comes a point where you can say “well, that’s it…job well done…you’ve learned all you’re gonna learn!” The human brain is malleable. Simply stated, when you put your brain to work, it physically upgrades. It doesn’t fill up, rather it physically changes its structure. As the parent of two children with special needs, this is particularly uplifting. They may not learn as fast or as easily, but a world of discovery is still open to them.

This is a fact that I constantly repeat to them. You don’t keep this type of info to yourself. My kids are fully aware of their own struggles, but understanding how learning happens has given them a leg up on equipping themselves with the means to persevere. What do I equip them with you may be asking? Cognitive assets…the simple strategies and practices that make them more efficient THINKERS!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Four Ingredients of Family Engagement: 4 simple steps to effective involvement

A while back I wrote about the four types of activities make up family involvement and engagement. These are often referred to as ingredients in the Hoover-Dempsey and Sadler Model of parental involvement. I just love the insight that this model has been able to provide me and I've done all I can to share this amazing information with other educators as well as apply it with parents. The way they refer to ingredients really got my mind wandering (don't wait up...who knows where my daydreams will take me). It kind of reminded me of know, from the Food Network. In this show they open up a basket of ingredients and you are forced to make due with what you've got. Actually just "making due" won't get you far at all. You need to produce something amazing! The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this show really is just like effective parent involvement.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Angel Rodriguez Presenting at the 2014 Statewide Family Engagement Conference

I just found out today that I will be presenting at the 2014 Statewide Family Engagement Conference for the GADOE in Athens, GA! 

This is what I was sent earlier today...

Dear Mr. Rodriguez -

Thank you for your interest in the 2014 Statewide Family Engagement Conference.  We had a large number of quality proposal applications to choose from, which made the committee's task very difficult.  

I'm just gonna be real. At this point, I'm thinking the news isn't going to be good. "Large number of quality proposals"..."this was a difficult task"... OH NO!!! I think the 2014 Statewide Family Engagement Conference is breaking up with me!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Helping Your Child Build a Better Brain for Math (K-12)

I just got the opportunity to video my math workshop and share many cognitive and academic strategies for success. Not only will I be able to share it with more parents, but it will also give me the chance to really examine where I could improve by reflecting on my performance as a speaker. WOW, do I have room to improve. This is not a bad thing mind you. I really love finding ways that I can continue to develop strengths or discovering weaknesses that I can shore up and manage. Reflecting on our practices and learning from our experiences can be invaluable for any learner and I am no different. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Whirlwind Year! Talking a TON about Parental Engagement!!!

I've read often about how bloggers start with a whirlwind of activity, only to then drift off...

I just wanted to let my friends following me know that it has been the opposite. I've desperately wanted to return to blogging  consistently, but things have been BANANAS (but in a good way...not the kind of bananas that got too ripe are now only good for banana bread). I just wanted to fill you in before I got back in the saddle with what will hopefully be great content on the blog for you to use and enjoy.

I've been so humbled and honored by recent opportunities. First I was able to do a radio interview regarding parent involvement on Atlanta's first Spanish language radio station. Then came a tv spot on Telemundo Atlanta on the first day of school this year.

If that wasn't enough, I got a chance to take part in a TV education series on Univision a few weeks later, and NOW I've been asked to participate in town hall meeting on Univision, sharing my passion about parental involvement, as one of about five experts on various fields related to education from around the state!!! 

This has been an amazing year and I'm so glad for every chance I've gotten to reach out to even more parents! I'm waiting on your call're just down the road and I've got some open spots left on my schedule. :)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Interview for GCPS-TV on Parent Engagement!

I've had some great opportunities to encourage parents during several interviews over the last few months. Each has been in Spanish, my second language. I just got the chance to finally do an interview in English! more worries about possibly inventing a word due to limited Spanish vocabulary, although I've been known to invent a few in English as well (just less likely)! 

Please let me know what you think! =)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Blessings of Serving Others

Magic Moments That Come From Serving Others: Sharing a Happy Memory

Lessons we never expect
Many years ago I was interpreting for a family attending a school I worked at. They were one of many families that I've helped along the way, yet I never saw them again. I had hoped that someday I would get the chance to help them again, but you just never know for sure in these circumstances. You just do as you can and try to be at peace. This post is just my experience with one of those situations that ended up coming around full circle...a family I meant in one brief moment...a moment that lasted longer than I ever thought it would.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Supporting Families Affected by #FAS: A NEW partnership between Emory University and NOFAS Georgia!

Department of Psychiatry,
Behavioral Science and Pediatrics
“What lies behind us & what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I find it so surreal. I almost cannot believe this is happening, but it is and it's only going to get better. Our meeting at Emory went great!! Tracy and I are so happy in our role of strengthening NOFAS Georgia (National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). We are even more honored to take part in a new partnership between NOFAS Georgia and Emory University that will allow us to offer support for families affected by ‪#‎FASD‬! Our hope is to quickly begin work in the Metro Atlanta area and then expand this network of support throughout the state so we can impact as many lives as possible!

Before now, NOFAS Georgia has held on by a string, thanks to the herculean efforts of Melissa Cook (a parent volunteer facing the same challenges as us) and the folks at Emory University. Tracy and I have joined Melissa, and the three of us have pledged ourselves to lead a parent initiative, through NOFAS Georgia, that will offer families in our state the support they so desperately need. Great things start from humble beginnings. Our goals are very modest...we just want to change the world!!! I just love a good fight. That's just me...challenge accepted!!!

Our Family's Story:
The girl that stole our hearts
My wife and I actually talked about adoption on our first date. We knew from the beginning that we had found a similar spirit in each other. I sincerely believe that divine providence lead our lives in that very direction. Our hearts led us first to become foster parents. I was an educator, with a particular love for early childhood education and Tracy would be a stay at home mom. We had been prayerful and saw this as the role we were meant to fulfill. We still wanted to adopt someday, but we put that on hold to answer the call of serving children and families in need. We went through the training, orientation, and evaluation that goes into becoming foster parents and soon had our very first placement. God blessed us with Aniah!

I held her in my she holds my heart in hers.
Aniah's birth mother had tried to do the right thing. She attempted to curb her drug use during pregnancy, but tragically turned to consuming greater amounts of alcohol instead. Aniah weighed a little over two lbs when she was born prematurely. We could cradle her in a single hand. Thankfully due to the close relationship we formed with her birth mother, we were made aware of so many details regarding the pregnancy. Aniah will struggle with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) her entire life. FASD is often referred to as the invisible disability. Thankfully, we knew what we were up against. This knowledge can be a unique blessing for any child suffering with FASD and we were determined to make the most of it. 

What is FASD?
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are a group of conditions that can occur when a mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy. FASD is a disability that lasts a lifetime.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sept. 9th is now Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day in Georgia!

Georgia NOFAS (National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) is set to start moving mountains! September 9th is now ‪#‎FASD‬ Awareness Day thanks to the efforts my friend Melissa Cook (the author of this proclamation signed by our Governor) and her efforts on behalf of families dealing with FASD! So glad to be part of this revitalized GA NOFAS team, that includes the smart and talented Tracy Rodriguez! 

The effects of FASD have had a huge impact on our family. I've been blessed with so much information that has helped us and now we just want to offer our support to others. Once upon a time, I would have thought that despite my good intentions, my efforts wouldn't really make that much of a difference. I'm so glad to have left that thinking far behind me where it belongs. Wayne Gretzky was quoted as saying "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I'm not sure how much we will be able to accomplish, but I truly believe the three of us are going to be getting a lot done. I am POSITIVE that it will be more than we ever expected, especially if we had just convinced ourselves not to act! This is just the beginning!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Feeding Your Brain AND Body: Our Family's Journey

**This is a guest post by a VERY special guest poster...Tracy Rodriguez!!! I am hoping she will accept a very low paying position as a regular commentator on nutrition and clean eating here at WiseLearners! Welcome Tracy!

Feeding our children well is so important for the development of their bodies and brains. When I say "well", I don't mean what taste good. What I mean is food packed with nutrition and healthy fats. I use to think I fed my family well. The boxes of food said things like "whole grain", "all natural", "fat free", "multigrain" and a whole host of other labels that are misleading. It turns out that I wasn't feeding my family well at all because I wasn't feeding them actual food. I'd like to share with you a little about how we went from eating processed products to real food. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The 4 types of parental involvement: Is there such a thing as too much?

Is that even a serious question?

When it comes to limits on parental involvement, I believe honestly that there is NO LIMIT at all! In fact, give me all you got! Where things seem to go wrong comes from the focus we sometimes place on some types of involvement to the exclusion of others. I don’t think we do this on purpose, but the effects are deleterious. This is where that sense of hopelessness first begins with parents that are so desperate to help their children, yet feel lost in regards to how and where to begin.  This may not make me popular, but teachers often do make this situation worse without even meaning to. Let me break it down the how and why.

3 Superpowers Your Kids Can Possess

BunnyGirl, IronRunt, and FrankenBro
Superheroes are cool!
Wouldn't it be great if we had super powers? I love superheroes, in fact my kids are pretty darned convinced that I may be one (and who am I to dissuade them). I think this is where my fascination with learning and the brain first started. Here you have these larger than life characters that are just beyond extraordinary! Some had superpowers that you just can't ever dream of duplicating, but others LEARNED how to become awesome! In fact, it is their brain that makes them truly standout! That's within OUR reach!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mindfulness: How children can develop self-discipline!

Like a boss!
This summer I've been teaching summer school. It's been a really great experience so far. They gave me specific standards to cover, but all the freedom in the world to get this accomplished! That was a huge win-win in my estimation! To make things even better, I've had the opportunity to also share some brain-based learning strategies with this great group of kids over the last three weeks. Hrmmm, so I guess it's a win-win-win (and here I thought it couldn't get any better).

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Three Phases of Genius

I find it amazing just how big computers used to be. Considering all the advances that have occurred, it is even more fascinating to consider just how complex the human brain is. The process by which our brains operate is so elegantly described in the Three Phases of Genius. I just love the way that sounds. In a nutshell, these phases are a simple way for us to look at the needs of our students (and ourselves) in order to help develop the cognitive assets needed to succeed. The best part is that this applies to ALL learners. It doesn't matter if they struggle coping with their special needs (like my littles ones with FASD) or if they are tackling advanced academic all works this way.

Monday, June 10, 2013

No Need to Sugarcoat: Keep it Real

Oh my Aniah! How I love this girl! She (using her own words) "owns my heart" and I could not agree more with that statement. Since she was a baby and I first held her in my hand (yes my hand...she weighed 2lbs when she was born), she has had me wrapped around her finger. My daughter is nine years old now and she battles daily with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. To put it simply, it is brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol, an incredibly potent neurotoxin. I only mention this because of a simple exchange we had today that I want to share with anyone that has children, especially those with special needs.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Upcoming Workshop for Foster Parents at Georgia AGAPE

I'm really looking forward to the next presentation I'll be doing this summer for AGAPE of GA, a private foster and adoption agency that is full of love. My wife and I worked with this amazing organization for over 8 years as foster parents, and even though we've "retired" now, I'm so pleased to still have an opportunity to contribute in some way. Because of AGAPE, our lives will be changed forever. Aniah and heart transformed forever....thank you to the special folks at AGAPE (past, present, and future). I hope this workshop ends up being a blessing for the foster parents in attendance. You will always have my very best effort.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Parent Outreach: What a GREAT Discussion of Parent Involvement on LaRaza 102.3 FM in Atlanta

Well my interview on the radio went absolutely great! When I stepped in the studio, I was feeling more excited than nervous. I've rarely gotten spooked by speaking to a large audience, but I still had concerns. Those concerns evaporated quickly because....quite frankly....I was talking to a few folks in a tiny square room. There was no huge crowd (that I could see), or any faces that I felt I had to "read" in order to change my message to suit them (I have rushed the occasional workshop at the hint of a tired face). Nope, none of that. It was just a few folks and the Director of Media Relations for the largest school system in Georgia!!! No worries tho. =)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Learning to Appreciate What Is Difficult To Appreciate

Photo courtesy of Christopher Chan
I've always promoted a strength-based approach to the development of any learner, and it is ABSOLUTELY ideal when working with a child. Focus on developing their strengths and go from good to great....from great to extraordinary! In contrast, if all you do is work on your weaknesses, you are basically shooting for mediocre. That is just not my style, and when it comes to learning it shouldn't be yours. It is flat out inefficient. You put a heck of a lot of effort into very poor results that way.

Monday, May 13, 2013

What if Students Could Ask Vince Lombardi How To Succeed!

Is time travel possible? I had a go at it myself recently with some great results! The following is a script that I wrote for our Student Council to present during a parent assembly. They had asked if I could have the students share any good "brain-based" tips or solid practices from positive psychology. To increase the degree of difficulty, they allotted me about 3-5 minutes. Hrmm...share awesome nuggets of information, convey the value and worth of those "nuggets", and do it all fast!!! CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Job, Career, or Vocation: Which do you want for your kid?

Help Wanted...\

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
― Confucius

The brain can be hyper efficient, especially when we pursue our passions. We want our kids to learn this way as they progress through school, but what about their profession? Where is all this hard work in school leading them? What will they spend the next 40 years of their life doing? Will they have a job, a career, or a vocation? Which should you as a parent hope for? Follow along and I'll explain each and let you make up your own mind.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Parenting Battle Royale!!! Tag-Team Champions (totally a dad blog title)

RIP Razor Headphones
Well, my kids just tore up my favorite set of headphones...sigh. Kids got up at the crack of dawn, while I was trying to get up at the crack of 10 (and nothing good comes of this combination). Although the "headphone incident" did result in the loss of property, some REALLY GREAT things came out of it! We've had a string of unfortunate events happen with things "breaking" because of carelessness, so this time I had to turn it up a notch.

Monday, April 29, 2013

5 Survival Habits for Parents of Kids with Special Needs

Parenting a child with special needs is hard, it is demanding, and it is often thankless. We often feel as if we are surviving from day to day. Yet, without you, where would your child be?  Your child needs you. More than that, your child needs you at your very best. Below are five habits that I sincerely believe we must always keep our eyes fixed on developing as we fight to do our best for our children. I know that sense of exhaustion first hand and I hope this can help you refocus, renew, and revitalize all of your efforts.

Monday, April 22, 2013

PASSING (out during) EXAMS!!!: Nutrition is How You Can Outwit & Outlast the TEST!

This pic seemed to really capture the spirit of the post

Today I got the opportunity to proctor in a 4th grade class during our state’s week long standardized testing rodeo. It was a torturous test…not for the kids mind you, but for me! I’m still dizzy from walking around in circles (I threw some figure 8s in there for good measure). I just wearily kept bouncing from student to student, while carefully monitoring every last bubble filling moment of the testing process. Over the years, there has been ONE observation that always stands out and most folks don’t seem to be aware of it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Stressed Out? Testing, Learning, & Your Brain


‎"When I hear somebody sigh, "Life is hard," I am always tempted to ask, "Compared to what?" "
-Sydney Harris

Testing season!
I’m in north Georgia, just an hour away from the Appalachian mountains. Spring is absolutely beautiful here, with a gorgeous explosion of colors. It really is marvelous…well all except for the pollen. And along with spring, another season is upon us…TESTING SEASON! To some, testing is absolutely horrifying, with a tragic explosion of worry and stress. It really is migraine inducing...well except for its actual purpose. I must admit that I actually enjoy testing. Why? Because I see the underlying purpose, and do my part to fulfill it’s ideal intention…to gain greater understanding of what a learner knows, so we can help them reach their potential. That is the good, and I just work on cutting out the bad.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Developing Readers: Part 2 - Viva Las Vegas

I like playing the numbers. I like playing the odds. Just look at any Vegas casino. You could walk in there with $20 and walk out with $20,000...yet at the end of the day, the casino STILL made money! And they repeat the process over and over. Why? Because the odds are in their favor. As a learner, if I can stack the deck in my favor, I do it and so should you!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Developing Readers: Part 1 - Feeling the Love

Everyone knows that reading at home is important. There are Public Service Announcements and slogans (reading is FUNdamental). You've heard it, your kids have heard it, and it is probably the #1 suggestion given by teachers since the beginning of time (read more books, read more scrolls, read more hieroglyphics  read more cave, read, read). So you go home and you try do it. It was easy as cake with your first kid, ah but the second. All kids are different. Some are ready to swim in the deep blue ocean of words while others stick their big toes in and their whole body shivers. What are we missing?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Autism Awareness Month: Celebrating Amazing Parents & 6 Ways of Teaching Kids With Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month. This has been celebrated since the 1970s by the Autism Society as a way of educating people about autism and issues confronted by the autism community. The school that I work at houses many of the autism classrooms in our local cluster of schools and it has given me the chance to interact with these children and families on a daily basis. The one big take-away that I've learned from working with and supporting these families (from help with IEPs to our monthly special needs playtime get together), is how deeply they are committed to ADVOCATE and EDUCATE!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Adoption, Brain-Based Learning, and Fatherhood: My Interview today by DaddyBloggerTV

Okay, this was pretty cool. Today I was interviewed by Ricky Shetty at DaddyBloggerTV and it was a blast! Those that know me can tell you that I love my kids, I love foster care, I love adoption, and I love learning (I also love Cuban food, but there are only so many hours in the day). Now give me an opportunity to talk about ALL of them at one time?!?!....Well, let's just say I'm surprised my head didn't explode!

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Ultimate Blog Party 2013

My name is Angel Rodriguez. I'm a educator, adoptive dad, scholar, neuro-geek, and occasional superhero (according to my kiddos). I'm excited about participating in UTB13 and hope to visit and enjoy many of your blogs. 

I'm new myself to this whole blogging thing, but I am awfully excited about it! In a nutshell, my life pretty much revolves around helping others (especially families and children) and LEARNING! My hope is to share what I've discovered through my odd assortment of experiences (oh boy...its been odd, but in a wondrous way) and help them reach their potential through the use of brain-based learning. I'm literally in love with learning and that's what this blog is all about. I hope to use this tool, and some other forms of social media (especially Pinterest! HOLY CRAP PINTEREST IS FUN!!!...pardon me, I digress) to reach as many people as I can.

Why do it? Over the last 17 years I've watched moms, dads, and the children they love, struggle. As the father of two amazing children with disabilities, as a teacher, as a learner...I've struggled too. I don't want you to have to re-invent the wheel. I want you to know what I know. The knowledge I've acquired has been hard fought, and thankfully it has been an incredible blessing to my family. All I can hope is that it can be a blessing to yours as well. Visit often...I guarantee you'll LEARN A LOT!!!

How to Make Your Child FAILURE-PROOF!

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
Thomas A. Edison 

There are countless ways that learning can be derailed, but none is as insidious and long lasting as mis-interpreting failure. I'm a dad of four amazing kids. Each has climbed to amazing heights, yet each and every one has also stumbled and fallen. That's life. There is nothing wrong with messing up. There is nothing wrong with coming up short. This is nothing wrong with flat out FAILURE! The hard part is that as a parent, you don't want them to suffer through it, or do you? Actually, you want them to fall (although not ALL the time...and please no broken bones), because that is when your child will learn something to pick themselves back up and soldier on!

Parents & The Brain: Wondertwin Powers Activate!!!

The brain is capable of so much! Telekinesis, telepathy, mind control...wait I'm thinking Star Wars. Still the brain actually is extremely powerful. I'm a self-described neuro-geek. I've really dedicated myself to studying neuroscience and education. It just makes so much sense to me. Parents and educators are in the business of brains. We are focused on helping others (children or students) learn, preferably to their fullest potential. The marriage of neuroscience and education is fairly new, with new and amazing discoveries made possible because of advances in technology. Yet, what works in regards to learning isn't new. We are just gaining greater understanding of "why" it works so well, and that understanding can help us decide what best fits OUR learners.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Learning from Failure and Modeling Greatness (from a sports perspective)

Failure is not a bad thing. Take into consideration that failure is a huge factor in guiding our actions. Our brains are constantly taking in information, processing it, and then making decisions based on that information. Failure, if perceived as a learning opportunity, will play a paramount role in guiding our actions. Think about this. Half of us learned not to touch a hot stove when mom (repeatedly and FRANTICALLY in my case) told us not to do it. The other half of hurt a lot didn't it?

Just as we learn through failure, we also learn a great deal through the modeling of success. Trust me when I say that one of the greatest tools in the arsenal of educators is modeling. We could spend an eternity talking (and most do), but when we model achievement, it is easier for the brain to learn. You're already familiar with this. You tell a kid something a thousand times and just HOPE they remember, yet let them watch you do something (especially a bad habit) and they'll imitate things you hoped they never would! The same holds true for imitating the greatness of others (I always thought Teddy Roosevelt was really cool...yes I'm a nerd for saying that). For those of you trying to get your kids focused on imitating greatness, modeling is a great way to get the point across. Here is a short article on an NBA player that crafted his entire career on imitating the greatness of those that came before him. There truly is nothing new under the sun, you just need to go learn it. =)

Kobe Bryant: Studying (keyword STUDYING) Film and Imitating Greatness

Monday, April 8, 2013

How to Help Your Kids Remember What They Read & CRAZY Fun with Sightwords!!! A 2 for 1 special!

This is a great three step process that trains your brain to hit the "save" button and increase comprehension.
Enjoy these 3 Steps to Increase Reading Comprehension!

And for those with youngens just learning to read, try...

Want to have some serious fun with sight words? You've got to try sight word twister. Perfect for kids Pre-k through 3rd grade on so many levels. Just mixing in the kinesthetic movement is enough, but taking something like sightwords (which can really be tuned out by some learners) and making it this fun GUARANTEES learning! Some brain-based practices at their best! Try your hand (and feet) at Sight Word Twister!!!

My Family of Wise Learners: My Inspiration

So, someone asked me the other day about what sparked this crazy interest I have in neuroscience, and as a result, now sparks this equally nutty desire to share, share, share, through WiseLearners (cute name right?). Well...I've always been fascinated by this amazing brain resting comfortably between our ears ever since I was a kid. That was the initial spark...but the kindling? That has been my family, especially my kiddos. Tracy and I served as foster parents for eight years. Serving children with severe emotional, physical and mental disabilities. Both of our children that we adopted through foster care have FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). In a nutshell, this is permanent brain damage caused by a mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. If you think I was driven to learn about the brain before, being blessed these two children pushed me to a whole new extreme.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

How to Become a MEDIOCRE TEACHER in Ten Easy Steps!!!

Are you tired of doing your best? Is the satisfaction you gain from your effort to be a good, or even great teacher, weighing down? This was a great article I read on that I shared with a few teacher friends a bit ago. I was reminded of it today, by my friend Mike Monroe, so I thought why not share it here with you.

You may be thinking "Angel, I'm not a teacher. I have other areas of mediocrity to focus on."
Stop selling yourself short! Aim high...errr....I mean LOW! These lowered expectations are within your reach! Educators aren't the only teachers. Please remember that as a parent you are your child's FIRST and most INFLUENTIAL teacher (this part is absolutely true BTW...the rest is meant for giggles, but this statement is the truth)!

So, if you are looking to take it to the next level and waste every possible learning opportunity, enjoy this simple and short guide on how to be as unproductive as possible!

How To Be A Mediocre Teacher!!!

Just to state again, you truly are your child's first and most influential teacher. I hope this guide helps illustrate that we do sometimes innadvertently work against our best intentions (nobody really wants to be they?). With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I hope you get a kick out of this article and it helps you avoid many of these pitfalls. =)

pic courtesy of Peter Huys via creative commons

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Awesome Dad Cheat Sheet!

If only we were handed an owners manual as fathers. I've been on this ride FOUR times as a parent to my own children, and an additional SIX rounds as a foster parent, and I can attest to the fact that there will always be room to improve and better oneself. At no point in life do you ever stand still and claim to have arrived. It just doesn't ever happen. We are CONSTANTLY learning...hence, why I love learning.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How Does Your Brain Work?

The science behind the inner workings of your ol'noggin can be pretty complicated, but this short video does a wonderful job of explaining it in a simple way. Now if you want to get the MOST out of this video, make sure to show it to your kids! Just sharing the concept of neuroplasticity (how your brain is changeable AND moldable) has been shown to have a positive impact on learners! So check out the video below with your kids. You'll probably all learn something new! =)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Discover YOUR Personality Type! Get to Know Yourself Better!

Just how well do you know yourself or your kids? It may sound odd, but there is always more to know. This post is by request (yes I do requests). I was speaking to a friend earlier today. She is getting ready to graduate high school and she told me something I've heard hundreds of times from kids (and adults) when they ponder higher education...
"I don't know what I want to do with my life!" which I responded

Her statement inspired me to share a little about Personality Types (your gonna love them), which are based upon the theoretical works of Carl G. Jung, a pioneer in psychology. If you take a few minutes to take this Jung style (no relation to Gangnam Style) personality test, you'll be amazed at what you can discover about yourself. What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What career suits me best? What career should I avoid at all costs? Relationships, friendships, career path,'s as if you are reading an incredibly accurate horoscope, or a biography about yourself.

Now, there are many free ones available on the internet (if a site says to pay, you must stay away), but the one I posted below was incredibly short (4 questions), straight to the point, and best of all, FREE! You can do an internet search and find many others, but the results from this one were just as accurate (I've taken a ton of these). Just to stretch out the fun, once you have your personality type, do an internet search for that particular type and you will come across a ton of websites that go into endless detail. If you don't want to search, just click here. You can even learn about famous people that shared your personality type. I'm an ENFJ just like Sean Connery, Abraham Lincoln (Vampire Hunter...I couldn't resist), and King David...pretty cool eh?

So NO excuses! Find our what your personality type is! Out of the 8 suggestions it gave me, I've worked in 6 of the fields and loved every minute. Figure out what YOUR dream job just might be! =)
Jung Personality Test (short and sweet)

If you have small children, I am linking a Jung Personality Test for Kids. You answer the questions for them (sorry...way more than 4), but I found this extremely helpful. It gave me a ton of additional insight into my own children, including ways that they learn best. In fact, it really made me reflect on how we offer our oldest son feedback. Our youngest kids are tough as nails (seriously, they chew up nails and spit out quarters...true story), but my son Lawson has a real gentle soul. These test results offered some simple suggestions to convey our needed corrections, without having him perceive himself to be buried in criticism. Try it out. There is nothing more powerful than an empowered parent!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

3 HUGE Mistakes We Make with Kids, and How to Fix Them

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
Thomas A. Edison 

I'm a huge fan of Martin Seligman (and Edison too obviously...the man had NO quit in him). Seligman has written some amazing work in the field of positive psychology and it well known for his theory of learned helplessness. One of my favorite things he has written about is our perception of failure. You see, failure is actually a GOOD thing! It is our perception of failure that impacts us negatively in so many ways, not simply the failure itself.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

How often do you daydream?

My wife is a daydreamer, my kids are daydreamers, and I am most certainly a daydreamer. We all spend our time drifting off into the clouds, but this is a good thing.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Welcome to

My name is Angel Rodriguez. I'm a educator, adoptive dad, scholar, neuro-geek, and amateur stuntman (according to my kiddos). I have joyfully been helping others learn for nearly 17 years and each has been an adventure. During that time I’ve taught children in Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade and Special Education classes. I’ve also served as an ESOL teacher and Technology Specialist as well. I currently work with families as the Parent Instructional Support Coordinator (I’d much rather just say I’m a teacher) at Kanoheda Elementary. This school is part of the Gwinnett County Public Schools, which is the largest school system in the state of Georgia. Although I miss having my own kiddos, I’m blessed to have had the unique opportunity of teaching families how they can best support the education of their children. I get to offer workshops, trainings, and coordinate school events for our families. I loved being able to work with 20+ families per year before working in this capacity, but it has been a dream come true to have the chance to work with 900+ families per year and help make an impact.

In addition to working with families as an educator, I’ve also served as a foster parent for 8 years. My wife and I specialized in working with families in crisis, caring for children diagnosed as having severe physical, mental, and emotional disorders, which included Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).