Happy Holidays!

Home for Holidays (c) M Wilbourn fir Free Spirit Publishing

December is flying by, and before we know it 2015 will be upon us.

The entire staff at Free Spirit Publishing is heading home for their winter holidays. We will be spending time with our families, walking our dogs, and playing with our cats. We will be reading books, taking naps, and enjoying the season—both indoors and out. We will also probably be eating too much, and preparing our lists of New Year’s Resolutions.

And we will be back to blogging and being in the office on December 29th, so be sure to join us back here then!

We wish you all a wonderful holiday!

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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After the Holiday: How to Recharge for the Coming Year

By Mary Stennes Wilbourn and Anastasia Scott

We asked Free Spirit authors to tell us how they use the holiday break to recharge and share relaxation tips for teachers. Below are their plans and advice for a rejuvenating winter break.

“When I have an extended amount of time to take a break from a hectic day-to-day schedule, the first thing I do is get off the Internet. No checking Facebook or news sites or otherwise browsing online. I sporadically check emails on my phone and only answer messages that require a timely response. I take my time reading the newspaper, rather than rushing through headlines and the first and last paragraphs of articles. I listen to my kids intently, without dividing my attention to multitask. And I enjoy my coffee while it’s still hot, with no visits to the microwave to warm it up!”
Mariam G. MacGregor, M.S., author of Building Everyday Leadership in All Kids

meditation common license wikimedia“In addition to catching up on rest and play, I like to spend some time in meditation offering gratitude for all that’s happened in the previous year—especially the rough stuff. I know it’s what I do in the challenging times that helps shape me, and I’m thankful to know my heart can always get bigger.”
Kelly Huegel, author of GLBTQ

“I always like to try something new during the break. I find it important to change up my routine of balancing family and school life during the rest of the school year.”—Susan M. Islascox, M.A., coauthor of The Survival Guide for School Success

“I give my students homework every weeknight, without fail. They do some kind of writing, reading, or both, no matter the season. With that said, I also assign NO homework on the weekends or on a holiday break. When I tell them the only thing I’d like them to do, as teenagers, is sleep till noon, text and Instagram until their thumbs are sore, and eat a whole sit-down dinner with their families, they literally cheer. I also tell them I will be doing much of the same thing (though for me that’s more like yard-sale shopping, coffee with friends, and movies), but limited grading. I believe in regular breaks. I believe in working diligently, playing often, and moderation. Balance and mindfulness make us all better, more willing learners both in and out of the classroom. And if any of them choose to take a break and read for pleasure, that’s just a bonus . . . and something we would also have in common.”
Ann Camacho, editor of Bookmarked

Knitting in progress“What I would like to do is sit in a comfy chair all weekend and knit a sweater for my new granddaughter, Lillian.”
Nancy Carlson, author of Armond Goes to a Party

Some of our authors have great advice for teachers, reminders that we all need to shift gears and chill out sometimes, and tips for making the most of quiet time.

“Arrange to associate with persons outside the age range of your students as much as possible. An early childhood educator, for example, gets less of a break if surrounded by preschoolers.”
John F. Taylor, Ph.D., author of The Survival Guide for Kids with ADHD

“The best advice I can offer is to NOT take work home with you over the holidays. This is a time for you to spend with your family and friends. Also, don’t assign your students homework (outside of reading for 20 minutes each day) over the holidays. You don’t want to be evaluating all that homework after the holidays.”
Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., coauthor of Differentiation for Gifted Learners

Peter_Luger's_Special_Holy_Cow_Hot_Fudge_Sundae by Benzoyl wikimedia commons“Relaxation from the stress of teaching boosts your immune system while lowering your chance for strokes and heart problems. You catch fewer colds and have less depression. Relaxation even helps you stay slim. Unless, of course, you gorge on delicious chocolates and hot fudge sundaes.”
Barbara A. Lewis, author of Building Character with True Stories from Nature

“For those of us who work with children all day long, taking care of ourselves during this time of the year should come naturally. As the holidays approach, just think like a child. Get outdoors and throw some snowballs or build a snowman. Look through all of those catalogs and mark off the gifts you want Santa to bring you. Snuggle into your bed early and watch your favorite holiday movie with a cup of hot chocolate. Laugh and giggle as you decorate holiday cookies with too much icing and too many sprinkles. Enjoy the season like those wonderful children you work with every day have taught you to do, and you will come back to work smiling and refreshed.”
Elizabeth Reeve, M.D., coauthor of The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Snowshoeing_by Fungus Guy wikimedia commons“We who work with kids need to always be on our game. That takes tremendous physical, mental, and emotional energy. Five ways to recharge your mind, body, and spirit during the holidays are to 1) spend time with people who lift your spirits, 2) get out in nature, 3) stay off social media, 4) do something you love, just for yourself, and 5) sleep well. Happy holidays and thank you for being an educator!”
Annie Fox, M.Ed., author of the Middle School Confidential™ series

“If you keep your nose to the grindstone, all you get is a flat nose. When folks are on their deathbeds, very few of them say ‘Gee, I wish I’d spent more time working.’ To quote Jerome K. Jerome: ‘I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.’ To quote Dr. Seuss: ‘When he worked, he really worked. But when he played, he really PLAYED.’”
Thomas McIntyre, Ph.D., author of The Survival Guide for Kids with Behavior Challenges

And one response shows that while relaxation is a good thing, sometimes we’re happy to get back to routine.

“A little distance makes the heart grow fonder. It’s true in romantic love, parental love, sibling love, and it’s true for the love educators have for their students. ‘Our kids’ have an emotional bond with their teachers. We call them ours because they matter to us. We are in the business of building people, and that requires an emotional connection to our job that feels different from other professions. We think about our students in the evenings and worry about them when we know they face hardship. Educators do not stop their work once the buses drive away, and that is why distance is so important to us.

“It is during breaks that we can have silence which brings an opportunity to reflect. We can consume a meal when we are hungry, and some educators have been known, during breaks, to eat sitting down, without watching a clock count down the three minutes until their presence is required somewhere. It is on breaks that we get to go to the bathroom whenever the urge strikes. And it is during breaks that teachers do not have to organize, engage, and enlighten large groups of children for hours at a time.

“A magical thing happens in those breaks. While we enjoy the quiet and the slower pace of life on a break, as we grocery shop in the daylight or mow our own lawns, it doesn’t take many days of living in that luxury to begin feeling sort of empty. Our job, by design, means that it matters that we are there. Those little people, even the teens taller than us are looking for us when they walk through the schoolhouse door. They want to show us new shoes and tell funny stories, or they simply want to hear someone call them by their name. Kessler quote  shown on Hill_of_Three_Oaks Carelton College by Brojoghost wikimedia commonsTeaching is personal, and no one knows that as much as the student who feels invisible in the world but not in your classroom.

“After 21 years of being a teacher and principal, I have learned to schedule time to do nothing, even during the busy holiday season. There is a reason that airline warnings tell passengers “In the event of the loss of cabin pressure, secure your mask before you help others.” Breaks are the oxygen for an army of educators who serve kids every day in our schools. Take time to enjoy the quiet, for it is through those periods of rest that you are able to return to the classroom stronger, with greater clarity about how to teach in a way that results in student learning, and with a renewed commitment to the important work you do daily: serving your students, who so desperately need you.”
Susan Stone Kessler, Ed.D., coauthor of The Principal’s Survival Guide coming in March 2015

How do you relax and recharge over your winter break?

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Guest Post: Holiday Kindness: “So Be Good for Goodness’ Sake!”

By Alex Packer, author of How Rude!® The Teen Guide to Good Manners, Proper Behavior, and Not Grossing People Out

crowded store by David Wright wikimedia commonsAh, the long-awaited holiday season! What’s not to love?

Long lines. Crowded stores. Stampeding shoppers.

Parking lot slugfests. Tedious office parties. Overbooked flights.

Obnoxious uncles. Alcoholic in-laws. Grandpa’s fourth wife. People who don’t RSVP. Guests who don’t leave. Kids who don’t say thank you. Gaining back in a week the 10 pounds you took all year to lose.

And let’s not forget your college classmate’s annual “Dear Friends” newsletter telling you all about the family ski trip to Gstaad, Ted’s raise, Lorraine being made partner, Ted junior’s acceptance at Harvard, and little Lucy’s first-prize ribbon in dressage—“She has such a gift with horses!”

All capped with New Year’s to remind you of the passing of another year of failed dreams, dashed hopes, and financial disaster.

Well, enough of this good cheer. The holidays can also be a time of depression, exhaustion, conflict, and stress.

First line of defense? Good manners, of course. But you knew I’d say that. I’m the manners guy. The rough edges of relatives and rudeness can be smoothed by a bit of tolerance and consideration, perspective and patience. So I could write about chewing with your mouth closed and keeping elbows off the table; about shaking hands and taking coats; sharing treats and saying “please”; showing thanks and offering to help; greeting guests and PUTTING AWAY YOUR PHONE!

But I won’t. Instead, I want to talk about kindness. Why kindness? Because being kind makes you feel good. And it makes the recipient of your kindness feel good as well. And that makes him or her more likely to behave kindly in turn. Isn’t that what we really want at this time of year?

During the holidays, we up the ante in doing things to make our kids happy. We give them treats, take them on special outings, cook their favorite foods, and buy them presents. It’s part of the joy of the holiday season. But we can make our kids even happier by encouraging them to be givers of goodness, and not just receivers.

random acts of kindness artA growing body of research demonstrates the contagious and positive impact of behaving in kind and generous ways. In an experiment published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers James Fowler of UCSD and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University devised a game to examine how behaviors spread through social communities. They divided participants into groups of four, giving each person 20 credits. Players, in secret, could either keep the credits for themselves, or give a portion (or all) to a common fund. At the conclusion of the game, the fund would be augmented by 40 percent, with the proceeds divided equally and returned to the participants. Mathematically, the best return would be achieved if everyone gave away all their money, since players would reap their original 20 credits plus the 40 percent bonus. Without knowing how much others were contributing to the common fund, however, the best financial strategy would be to hold on to your own 20 credits, and then benefit from the generosity of your fellow players when the common fund gets distributed.

At the conclusion of each game, participants learned anonymously how others in their group behaved. Players were then assigned to new groups to play the game again. The researchers found that generosity begat generosity. Meticulously tracing each player’s behavior to see how it influenced group members in subsequent games, the study showed a cause-and-effect result: One person’s largess triggered greater generosity in those with whom they played. In fact, acts of giving tripled over the course of the study.

In another study, called Kindness Counts, several hundred kids ages 9 to 11 in British Columbia were randomly divided into two groups. One group was instructed to perform three acts of kindness of their own choosing per week for four weeks, while the other was instructed to visit any three places they wished (e.g., “shopping centre,” “baseball diamond,” “Grandma’s house”). Acts of kindness included such behaviors as “gave my mom a hug when she was stressed by her job,” “gave someone some of my lunch,” and “invited someone to join a game.” Students kept a record of their journeys or kind acts.

Children in both groups reported greater feelings of happiness and well-being at the end of the experiment. But the kids who committed acts of kindness experienced a bonus—they became significantly more popular than did their classmates who just visited places.

These and other studies suggest that doing good for others can trigger a cascade of benefits for kids, families, classrooms, and school communities. The benefits can travel across many degrees of separation, influencing total strangers in distant locations. Here’s how it works: Kids who behave kindly experience increased happiness. Happy kids are more likely to engage in further acts of kindness, leading to greater peer acceptance and satisfying friendships. Well-liked kids are less likely to be bullied, and more likely to perform well academically and be emotionally well-adjusted. Thus, happiness, popularity, and kindness have a reciprocal, reinforcing effect on one another. And, as other children experience this sphere of goodness, their feelings of well-being are likely to increase, triggering a further increase in prosocial behaviors and peer acceptance. This can have a powerful positive impact on classroom climate as the average mental health of students in classrooms with an even distribution of popularity is higher than in stratified classrooms with extremes of favored children and marginalized children.

These and similar findings suggest that one of the best ways to thrive during the holidays—to avoid conflict, hurt feelings, resentment, and exhaustion—is to focus your family and/or classroom on a kindness crusade.

Here’s how. Gather everyone together. Explain that the holidays can be a busy and stressful time with crowds, deadlines, pressures, and demands. And that this can lead to fights, slights, tears, and trauma.

Therefore—drum roll, please—we are going to have a Family/Classroom Kindness Campaign. Every day from now until January 1, each of us (adults, too) will:

  1. Perform an act of kindness for someone else
  2. Perform an act of kindness for ourselves
  3. Think of one thing we’re grateful for

Everyone should be able to come up with examples of kindness, e.g., visiting a sick friend, giving someone your seat on a bus, holding a door, consoling a sibling, making a present, etc. (Anonymous acts of kindness and volunteering as a family count, too.) The idea of being kind to oneself may require a little discussion. When you’re focused on others—a hallmark of the holidays—it’s easy to forget your own needs. Self-kindness isn’t selfishness; it’s taking care of yourself so you have the energy and emotional well-being to take care of others. It means doing something that makes you feel happy, entertained, relaxed, comforted, or fulfilled: taking a nap or bubble bath, going for a nature hike, reading a book, eating a nice meal out, etc.

Students, teachers, and family members should record and share their kind acts and grateful feelings. This can be done at mealtimes or during class. It can be done daily or every few days depending on your sense of the best frequency for keeping the campaign alive without overdoing it. The idea is to reinforce the process by publicly describing acts of kindness, recognizing the recipients’ delight or other positive consequences, and talking about the feelings of pride, purpose, connection, gratitude, and/or joy that ensued for both giver and receiver.

You can explain to any groaners, cynics, or eyeball rollers that behaving kindly will not only make them feel good, it will improve the behavior of those ingrates, slobs, narcissists, and pesky siblings who surround them. It’s scientifically proven! In fact, many social scientists believe that kindness, empathy, laughter, generosity, cooperation, gratitude, and self-sacrifice play a critical role in evolution. Indeed, while “survival of the fittest” makes us think of aggression, strength, competition, and dominance, Darwin believed that the caring emotions associated with human goodness were just as vital to perpetuating the species.

At the end of the Kindness Campaign, you can decide whether it has the momentum and buy-in to continue beyond January 1, or is best tucked away, like Grandma’s fancy tablecloth, until next year’s holiday season.

Well, I’m going to have to sign off for now. It’s a busy time for the Manners Guru to the Youth of America, and I see somebody texting at the table. So many smartphones. So little time….

Alex Packer's BooksThis post originally ran on the author’s blog. To read more from Alex Packer, follow him online at www.alexjpacker.com/blog. And you can follow him on Twitter at @HowRudeBook.

Alex J. Packer received his Ph.D. in educational and developmental psychology from Boston College and his master’s degree in education from Harvard. He has been headmaster of an alternative school for 11- to 15-year-olds and director of education at the Capital Children’s Museum. He is president emeritus of FCD Educational Services, a Boston-based provider of drug education and substance abuse prevention services to schools worldwide. He is also the author of an eBook for teens Wise Highs: How to Thrill, Chill, and Get Away from It All Without Alcohol or Drugs.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2014 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved.

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Counselor’s Corner: Holiday Tips for Divorced and Separated Families

The holiday season can be the most stressful time of the year. Being separated or divorced can create additional stressors and challenges during the holidays. According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Here are some tips to help families living in separate homes navigate the holiday season.

Recognize and Honor Kids’ Feelings
Whether you are newly separated or have been divorced for years, keep in mind that your children may still have strong feelings of grief and loss. The holidays can be an especially tough time because it’s a season when families come together. homes sweet homesChildren may be feeling upset about having to go back and forth between different homes during the holiday or having to spend the holiday season without one of their parents. Use care in deciding how the holidays will be split between you and your ex. Try to alternate different holidays or work with your children and ex to determine a schedule that works best for everyone. Regardless of how you arrange your schedule, kids still may feel sad or angry during this season. Affirm kids’ feelings by acknowledging them.

Create New Traditions
When families separate, traditions they used to do as a family tend to fade. Help your kids heal by creating new traditions for the holidays. There are lots of fun, seasonal things you can do during this time of year. Here are some examples of traditions you can start:

  • Gingerbread_house by tcr25 via wikimedia commonsCutting down a live tree together
  • Making holiday cookies
  • Decorating gingerbread houses
  • Driving around to look at holiday lights
  • Getting up early one weekend morning to go shopping together
  • Buying seasonal drinks and walking around town or a historic area
  • Going sledding or skiing together
  • Attending a holiday concert

If you live in a bigger city, you can check out the visitors’ bureau for holiday events. If you have new family members, such as stepparents, stepsiblings, boyfriends, or girlfriends, try to involve them for some added bonding.

Give Choices When You Can—Help Kids Feel in Control
Try to involve kids in planning, decision making, and creating new traditions in any way that you can. Giving kids choices will help them feel like they have a say in what’s going on and make them feel more in control. Even small choices can help ease kids’ anxiety and give them more buy-in.

What tips do you have for divorced or separated families during the holiday season?

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

Suggested Resources
Divorce Is Not the End of the World: Zoe and Evan’s Coping Guide for Kids by Zoe Stern and Evan Stern
Smart Girl’s Guide to Her Parents’ Divorce by Nancy Holyoke
The Step-Tween Survival Guide by Lisa Cohn and Debbie Glasser, Ph.D.
What in the World Do You Do When Your Parents Divorce? by Kent Winchester, J.D., and Roberta Beyer, J.D.

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2014 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved.

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Winter Sports, Year-Round Inspiration

by Mary Stennes Wilbourn and Alison Behnke

vinter_i_danmark-by-nico-nils-jepsen-wikimedia-commonsWinter arrived early this year for most of us, and it hit with a vengeance. Windchills plummeted and snow fell hard, leaving many people thinking “here we go again.” Then, against the backdrop of plows and icy roads, snowmen began to appear in front yards. Local hills became sled runs, and ski destinations gave reports on snow conditions.

Lots of us enjoy winter sports as a weekend outing. Then there are the adventurers and athletes who take winter as a call to do more, be stronger, and learn about their own limits and abilities. Here are three excerpts from Brad Herzog’s Count on Me: Sports series that show the remarkable character and impressive accomplishments that people are capable of.

From Powerful Stories of Perseverance in Sports
CONQUERING A CONTINENT ● January 22, 2012 ● Antarctica
Felicity Aston knew exactly what she wanted after her record-setting journey. “A very long, very hot shower,” she said. “It’s something I haven’t had in quite a long time.”

Fifty-nine days, to be exact. That’s how long it took Aston to become the first human to ski solo across Antarctica without help from kites or machines. At 34 years old, the British adventurer used only her own muscles and mental resolve. For nearly two months, Aston dragged 187 pounds of supplies behind her on two sleds. She crossed 1,084 miles of ice and snow. Her diet was mostly freeze-dried food, and she battled through temperatures well below freezing. Sometimes it was as cold as 22 degrees below zero. And she was all alone.

conquering a continent (c) Free Spirit PublishingAston started at a location called the Ross Ice Shelf. From there, she traveled up Leverett Glacier. As she headed across the glacier, the wind blew so hard that she thought her tent was going to rip apart. Then, as she crossed the Transantarctic Mountains, her two lighters suddenly stopped working. Aston was in trouble. She needed fire to survive. She did have a box of safety matches—exactly 46 of them. She used them very carefully, hoping they would last. Finally, as she came down out of the mountains, her lighters began to work again. Aston next crossed the vast central plain, fighting against constant headwinds. At last, on December 20, 2011, she arrived at the South Pole. The stop was one of only two points in her journey where she got fresh supplies.

She got to the pole six days after a big anniversary. One hundred years earlier, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first person ever to reach the globe’s southernmost point. He did it on December 14, 1911. But Amundsen had traveled with four teammates and more than 50 dogs. Aston was by herself. And she went far past the pole. In fact, she went all the way to the other side of the continent. After all, she had a deadline to meet. She had to catch the last flight out of Antarctica before the harsh winter set in.

Aston had faced tough challenges before. She had raced in the Canadian Arctic, trekked across the Sahara Desert, and skied along a frozen Siberian river. But in Antarctica, she learned that her biggest hardship wasn’t physical. It was mental. Loneliness was the enemy. “Being alone sounds like such a simple thing,” says Aston. “But when was the last time you went a whole day without seeing any person?” During her trek, Aston was alone for weeks.

Along the way, Aston learned a lot about pushing her limits. She explains that whatever challenge you’re facing, “if you can just find a way to keep going, then you will discover that you have potential within yourself that you never realized. At some point in the future you’ll look back and just be amazed at how far you’ve come.”

From Remarkable Stories of Teamwork in Sports
PUPPY LOVE ● March 14, 1990 ● Nome, Alaska, United States
Susan Butcher had just raced through the Alaskan wilderness for 1,151 frostbitten miles. She was tired and cold. But she was happy. Wearing a bright red snowsuit and a wide smile, she trotted across the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. And she did it with the team that it made it possible—her dogs.

CountOnMeSports_Teamwork (c) Free Spirit PublishingThe Iditarod is a demanding event. In it, sled dog racers drive teams of specially trained dogs. Sled dog racers are also called mushers. During the Iditarod, mushers go through blizzards, over mountain ranges, and across frozen seas. They travel between the cities of Anchorage and Nome. The race is a test of endurance for both the humans and their furry companions. The 1990 race was especially hard for the 70 teams that started it. That year, mushers had to deal with the deepest snow in 25 years. They also ran into ash from a volcano and even the occasional aggressive moose or herd of buffalo. Fortunately, Butcher and her team of dogs had been preparing for the challenge for years.

Butcher was from Massachusetts. When she was little, her parents got divorced. It was a hard time for Butcher. But she found comfort in four-legged friends. “I was born with a particular ability with animals and a particular love for them,” she said. “An animal loves you, and you love them. I needed that as a child.” She later became a veterinary technician. She also raised dogs called huskies.

Butcher’s personal bond with the dogs she raised started the minute they were born. She held each tiny puppy in her hands. She fed the dogs, trained them, and massaged them after long runs. She let a few of them sleep in the cabin each night. Once she even stayed up for five nights in a row with a sick dog named Granite. Butcher held Granite’s head in her lap until he got better. Eventually he became, according to Butcher, one of the best sled dogs ever.

Butcher won the 1990 Iditarod in record time. It took her and her team of dogs 11 days, 1 hour, 53 minutes, and 23 seconds. The victory was her fourth in five years, making her one of the sport’s all-time greats. She eventually joined the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

The Iditarod crowns an individual champion. But Butcher knew that she shared credit for the success. “This team has been absolutely incredible,” she said after that fourth triumph. “I’ve never had a team go as strong as this.”

From Inspiring Stories of Sportsmanship
SNOW ANGEL ● February 14, 2006 ● Turin, Italy
It was Sara Renner’s dream to win a medal at the Olympic Games. It had been her dream almost since she was born—in a town called Golden.

snow angel FreeSpirit Publishing (c) Free Spirit PublishingThe Canadian cross-country skier got her first Olympic experience in 1998. That year she competed at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. But she finished far behind the medal winners. Not long afterward, she was diagnosed with a condition called Graves’ disease. She had to have her thyroid removed. Still, her dreams remained. She came back to compete in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. This time, she competed in four events. Her highest finish was eighth place. Renner vowed to return once more. In 2006, she headed to Turin, Italy, with her skis, her poles, and her mission to win a medal.

At the Turin Olympics, Renner’s best chance at a gold was the women’s team sprint competition. During the final race, she started strong. But then a competitor accidentally stepped on one of Renner’s poles, breaking it. Renner wobbled forward for a few moments. But it was a bit like trying to fly with a broken wing. In a 17-minute race, every second counted. Renner despaired as skiers from Finland, Sweden, and Norway glided past her.

Then a man appeared by the course. He handed Renner a pole. She grabbed it and continued on.

The helpful man was Bjørnar Håkensmoen. He was the Norwegian cross-country skiing coach. Cross-country skiing is one form of Nordic skiing, which is Norway’s national sport. This would be Håkensmoen’s last Olympic Games. Like Renner, he desperately hoped his team would return home with a medal. But when he saw Renner in trouble, he didn’t hesitate. “Winning is not everything in sport,” he later explained. “What win is that, if you achieve your goal but don’t help somebody when you should have helped them?”

Renner’s new pole was longer than her old one, but it was a whole lot better than a broken pole. She charged forward to a silver medal with teammate Beckie Scott. The two skiers hugged and joyfully collapsed into the snow.

The Norwegians finished fourth. Håkensmoen’s skiers just missed taking a medal home, but the coach had no regrets. “How can you be proud of a medal if you win when someone else’s equipment is not working?” he asked.

Renner went on to win a bronze medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. But before that, she gave Håkensmoen a gift and a note thanking him for his help during that February 14 race. Renner said, “He was my valentine.”

Perseverance, teamwork, sportsmanship—these attributes help all of us as we take on challenges. They help if you are dreaming of speed skating to a medal or mastering that backside rodeo flip on your snowboard. They can be great tools when you spend the afternoon shoveling snow so you can get out to go sledding. Winter brings new chances to test skills and endurance, and share the love of outdoors and sports with friends and family.

What is your favorite winter sport?
Count on me sports series Free Spirit Publishing

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

Suggested Resources
The Count on Me: Sports series by Brad Herzog

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