The Joys of Being a Free Spirit Intern

By Anna B.

Free Spirit has an active internship program. We invited one of our publishing interns, Anna B., to write a post reflecting on her experience at Free Spirit.

The Joys of Being a Free Spirit InternThis summer, I turned 20 years old. A new decade—how exciting! But fear-inspiring clichés about the “terrible 20s” have me and many fellow young adults wondering how we’ll navigate the demands of the “real world.” Career counselors, parents, professors, and friends offer a plethora of advice on this question, and it’s hard to know what to take and what to leave. One suggestion that I did heed this summer: get an internship.

My lifelong interest in reading and writing led me to apply for publishing internships, and I ended up at Free Spirit Publishing, where I’ve spent the last three months learning about all that goes into the process of creating a book. During my time at Free Spirit, I’ve ticked the boxes that the aforementioned advice-givers would consider proof of a successful internship: I’ve learned and grown, developed useful skills, and taken a step forward in preparing for a future career.

These accomplishments are incredibly valuable, and I’m so grateful for the practical knowledge I’ve gained. But there’s another reason why I’m glad I did an internship . . . I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve loved coming into work each day, excited about the prospect of working with wonderful books and smart (and funny) colleagues. The moments of joy and fulfillment are what I’ll remember most about my time here, and it’s this enjoyment that I want to reflect on.

So, without further ado, here are the things I’ve loved most about being an intern at Free Spirit:

  • The comprehensiveness. This summer, I worked as a general publishing intern. Being unconfined to a specific role means that I’ve gotten to work on a variety of tasks in both the editorial and sales & marketing departments, which has allowed me to expand both the breadth and depth of my knowledge. As I consider pursuing a career in publishing—an industry that is increasingly requiring innovation and cross-departmental skills—I feel confident that my time at Free Spirit has equipped me with the ability to synthesize and apply my various skills to whatever future projects I work on.
  • The meetings (I’m serious!). Another perk of my general publishing intern role is that I’ve gotten to attend meetings in multiple departments, which has helped me understand how an editor’s job relates to that of the creative director or the publicist. It’s in the conference room that I’ve witnessed the pieces of the publishing puzzle fit together during conversations about sales and marketing, blog scheduling, cover design, and more. And the best part? Meetings at Free Spirit aren’t monotonous or a waste of time—they are active, productive, and meaningful. Editors, designers, and marketers speak their minds about what they think is the best way to ensure the success of our books. In meetings, my opinion is valued amongst professionals with years of experience—so much so that they trusted my fellow intern and me to each lead a meeting to discuss unsolicited submissions. At Free Spirit, interns’ voices are heard.
  • The stories and resources. I love working with words, and I’ve read a lot of them at Free Spirit. Whether I’m reviewing a new submission, the third draft of a manuscript, or an eBook, getting to interact directly with our books is energizing and rewarding. Plus, performing a task that will help bring a book to life makes me feel connected to our readers—the people we don’t get to see, but who make our work possible.
  • The Free Spirit mission. Free Spirit is seriously pro-kid, and it shows—our books are amazing! During my internship, I’ve not only learned about the publishing industry, but also contributed to an organization that is super important and necessary. During lunch breaks, I’ve thumbed through our books, thinking, “I wish I had read this when I was little!” And I’m not the only one: I frequently find myself bragging to my friends and family about how awesome our books are. When I tell them about a specific release that I’m excited about, I often hear, “That’s such an important message . . . in fact, I really needed to hear that!” Free Spirit books are truly changing the way kids (and maybe even adults!) relate to one another and to themselves.
  • And . . . the dogs. While writing copy on a deadline can be hectic, nothing eases the stress more than cuddling with a four-legged Free Spirit!

To all my fellow 20-somethings: I know this is a tumultuous time, full of excitement, frustration, and worry. But if my first few months into the terrible 20s are any indication, then they might not be so terrible after all. So far, I have one piece of advice to give: if you can, get an internship. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up at a place like Free Spirit, where you’ll not only get to work—you’ll also have a lot of fun doing it.

Anna B. was a summer 2019 publishing intern at Free Spirit Publishing and is a junior at a nearby university where she is double majoring in English and religion with a concentration in women’s and gender studies.

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)© 2019 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Diagnosis: Awesome! The Benefits of ADHD

By Eric Braun, coauthor of How to Take the ACHE Out of Mistakes

This post was originally published on February 24, 2014.

Diagnosis: Awesome! The Benefits of ADHDFor many parents, my wife and me included, the journey toward a child’s diagnosis of ADHD begins with a note or phone call from the teacher. You probably already knew that your child struggles to hear instructions or tends to be hyperactive at certain times. But it’s usually that communication from the teacher that marks the first time you seriously consider the possibility of those four letters being attached to your child.

And that communication is rarely pleasant. The note or phone call is freighted with a litany of disruptions your child is causing in class and a list of his failures—failure to complete tasks, adhere to routines, work independently, stop reading The Hobbit and start solving math problems, and consider the effect on his neighbors of his various mouth pops, foot taps, rhythmic knuckle raps, and pencil flips. The communication ends, finally, with a very specific suggestion: Have your child tested for ADHD.

You are stunned. You think, He’s so young! How could we be talking about ADHD at this age? Is he damaged? Is he going to be on medication for the rest of his life? Is he going to be at a huge disadvantage throughout school and into his adult life?

And, if we’re being honest, many of us think this less-generous thought: Isn’t the teacher basically just asking us to medicate our son into submission to make her own life easier?

But you dutifully take your child to the pediatrician, and the pediatrician gives you an inventory with questions like, “Does it seem like your child’s motor is always running?” You fill it out, and so does the teacher. Next thing you know, you’re going to the pharmacy to get a bottle of pills.

Because my son was diagnosed some time ago, and because I’ve edited a handful of books on the topic, I’ve had three different friends approach me in the past couple months to talk about their sons’ diagnoses. They were nervous about doing the right thing. They received that note or phone call, went to the doctor, and were suddenly trucking down the ADHD freeway. For all four of us, the experience was remarkably similar.

My reaction to my friends probably surprised them. The short version goes something like this: “Awesome. Congratulations!”

Well, I’m a good friend. I acknowledged their fears, and I commiserated with them about what it’s like to be the parent of a kid who can be seen as a disruption. But I believe that ADHD is more of a blessing than a curse.

All the kids I know with ADHD are smart. They have passions that make them excited. I love to see a kid who is so psyched about a topic that he’s driven to learn, analyze, and create, all without an adult telling him to. These kids are usually incredibly imaginative. They are intuitive too—they seem to have a natural ability to understand things. (If they care about those things. Maybe they’re not putting that energy into understanding the Latin roots of their spelling words. Can you blame them? Latin roots are boring.)

Luckily, there are some smart people out there talking about the good side of ADHD. The psychiatrist Edward Hallowell uses an analogy I love: Having ADHD is like having a powerful racecar motor for a brain—but with bicycle brakes. Treating ADHD is like strengthening your brakes so you’re not so out of control, and you can start enjoying the benefits of that powerful brain.

The Survival Guide for Kids with ADHD by John F. Taylor, Ph.D., is chock full of positive energy and practical tools to help kids accentuate the positive and manage the difficulties. For grown-ups whose job it is to help kids with ADHD, Ezra Werb’s Teach for Attention! provides countless tips and tools to encourage, teach, and support these kids. The subtitle to his book says it all: A Tool Belt of Strategies for Engaging Students with Attention Challenges.

It’s true that our kids need help with their brakes, and there are lots of ways to give that help. Medicine is one. We also need to help by giving kids support at home and at school and by encouraging their passions.

I know teachers are not really just trying to make things easier on themselves. They want to help kids—that’s why they became teachers. But sometimes that initial contact can really knock the wind out of a parent, and teachers can help families a lot by noticing the child’s strengths and talking about them.

I also know that these kids don’t want to be disruptive. All three of those friends I talked with reported back to me in the weeks following diagnosis that things were going great. Their kids were no longer getting so much demoralizing negative attention from teachers and classmates. They felt competent and in control. They felt good about themselves. Now that they were getting help, they were more able to use their strengths appropriately in school.

A positive point of view doesn’t make everything easy. Struggles are real, and they persist no matter how hard we focus on strengths. I still get the occasional note or phone call from school. Homework can be a battle in which all tactics are valid, including subterfuge. But as long as my son works to manage his ADHD difficulties and feels confident in his strengths, I feel like the war is already won. He is going to do amazing things.

I would love to hear more diagnosis stories from parents and teachers. Please share yours in the comments.

Author Eric BraunEric Braun writes and edits books for readers of all ages, specializing in academic and social and emotional topics. Books he has worked on have won awards and honors including a Foreword Book of the Year Gold Award, a Benjamin Franklin Award, and many others. A McKnight Artist Fellow and an Aspen Summer Words scholar for his fiction, he earned an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two sons.

How to Take the ACHE Out of MistakesEric is coauthor of How to Take the ACHE Out of Mistakes

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
This Morning Sam Went to Mars by Nancy Carlson
The Survival Guide for Kids with ADHD
by John F. Taylor
Dr. Hallowell’s website

FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2019 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Build a School Culture That Includes Everyone

By Stephanie Filio

Build a School Culture That Includes EveryoneBuilding an inclusive culture means creating an environment where all participants feel welcome and safe to be themselves. These climates foster engagement, creativity, and productivity through collaboration, because all people can feel their value in the larger system. People in an inclusive environment are supported and appreciated for the unique perspective and personal gifts they have to offer others. In a school, the culture includes students, staff, family, and visitors. Each person offers something unique to the overall group, allowing members to feel personally valued.

The Dreaded “Us and Them”

No one likes to feel like an outsider. When we’re treated like one, we wonder what it is about us that is wrong or offensive to others. We try to change, we question things we had never even noticed about ourselves, and we see everything others do as right. In this thinking, we ultimately retreat from others. The true beauty of an inclusive school culture is that everyone is the “us.” By identifying what makes a school special, based on the individuality of each person, we can build a program that includes a place for all participants.

Using Our Wide Reach

School counselors are the perfect people to be at the center of building an inclusive school culture. Our job is to serve all students and anyone who invests in student success. We have training in large-scale needs assessments, we can spot someone who needs extra resources, we are expert listeners (and can see between the lines), we know how to organize a program for emotional well-being, and we are committed to a code of ethics that would rival any other profession.

Large-Scale Needs Assessments

There are many ways to administer assessments, which can give you an idea of what the school community needs. By uncovering these specifics, you can get an expansive view of your community.

  • Use your tech tools for student outreach and have your student body answer a questionnaire about what they hope to experience or see over the school year during homeroom, study block, or core classes.
  • Have teachers fill out a survey based on what their classrooms feel like and what their feelings of satisfaction were for the prior year.
  • Use student leadership clubs to administer focus groups where students might feel more comfortable speaking freely with peers.

Spotting Needs for Extra Resources

We know our kids and coworkers and can sense when something is wrong. Build a community of openness and show you care by digging a little deeper when needed.

  • Data is always a great place to look for places where behavior might be masking an emotion that needs tending to by leaders in the building.
  • Allow for collaborative moments with students and staff so the members of your community feel that they can share and their input is valued.
  • Make sure community resources are shared with everyone, so everyone can be a helper.

Expert Listeners

Just ask! The hallways, teacher workrooms, school counselor’s office, and lunch bunches have all the intel you need to make sure that your school is inclusive and that everyone is feeling fulfilled.

  • Being present in the hallways builds rapport, allows you to spread your shining spirit, and gives you ample time to see students in their social element. The hallway is also a great place to spot teacher-student interactions, note observations, and respond with supports where needed.
  • Enjoy lunch away from the computer and eat in your teacher workrooms! You get to build relationships with all teachers, ask burning questions about their well-being, and get a better feeling for what their days look like behind the doors of their classrooms.
  • Want to know who has the scoop who hangs out in the background? Your registrar! They are so hard to see behind their hordes of new families that we often forget they’re around. Rest assured, however, that they are keeping the pulse of the school going by answering questions from families and staff, fielding calls to counselors, and getting to know all the new kids before anyone else.

Schoolwide Programs

A comprehensive message for the school ensures that all participants are thinking about the same inclusive concepts. Schoolwide programs are perfect for building relationships, responding to needs, and celebrating new lessons together.

  • Play short videos or have guest speakers from the school offer a quote or deep-thinking question during the morning announcements.
  • Use boards or signs to challenge students to do something to get to know each other (leading questions or “find a new friend who” prompts).
  • Find common times when you can mix kids up and have them do a quick icebreaker, such as in homeroom, at lunch, during physical education class, or in a study block.
  • Ensure that diversity-centered activities are celebrated and highlighted for maximum exposure (think announcements, awards nights, assemblies, newsletters, and fundraiser nights).

Commitment to Code of Ethics

Share the ethical code of helpers so everyone knows how to support one another. By encouraging inclusiveness as one of the most important character traits, everyone can aspire to do better and lead more!

  • Have classrooms come up with their own set of rules for respecting others.
  • Have common-language practices, such as PBIS, so the culture of the school is easily defined and well-known.
  • Allow agency by having participants reflect on what is important to them and by building their needs into the school culture.
  • Ensure that school leaders are examples of inclusiveness by diversifying school clubs, partnerships, committees, and events.

Be Proactive

The end of the year or summertime is a great time to establish a full-year plan that will roll out different goals to ensure that your school is building or strengthening an inclusive culture. Constant spot-checks throughout the year help you know whether you need to make alterations or add more inclusive activities. This includes recognizing student groups that may be underrepresented or providing professional development or teacher forums in areas where staff might be struggling.

I am in a school of 1,600 middle school students. As you can imagine, a growl easily becomes a roar—quite literally, because we are also Lions! So having strong proactive supports is very important to maintaining a positive and inclusive school culture. Being proactive doesn’t mean planning for things to go wrong; it means identifying the strengths of your community and exploiting them for all they are worth, using specific, intentional practices.

An inclusive school culture is like going to a party with all your best friends and family members every day. Making sure that you invest in inclusive practices for your school is not only an equitable and ethical standard within educational institutions, it also makes students and staff excited to show up and engage in their day!

Stephanie FilioStephanie Filio is a middle school counselor in Virginia Beach. She received her undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Virginia and her M.Ed. in counseling from Old Dominion University. In a discussion with one of her UVA professors about her desire to stay in school forever, her mentor wisely responded, “If you want to be a lifelong learner, go into education,” and so she found her place. Prior to her six years as a school counselor, Stephanie worked in private education, specializing in standardized tests, test preparation, and future planning. She writes about her career and hobbies at her blog, Weekend Therapy, and can be found on Twitter @steffschoolcoun. Stephanie also enjoys spending time with her books, crafts, and family.

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)© 2019 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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What Principals Want Their Special Education Teachers to Know

By Andrew Hawk

What Principals Want Their Special Education Teachers to KnowAfter 18 years of working in classrooms, this fall I started my first year as a principal. I have now worked as a teaching assistant, a classroom teacher, a special education self-contained teacher, and a resource room teacher. In addition, as a parent, I have gone through the special education identification process with my daughter, who has a language impairment. People in each of these roles view special education through a different lens. This post is dedicated to the principal’s lens. Here are a few things that principals want their special education teachers to know.

We View the School as a Whole

As a teacher, I heard this from multiple principals. It is easy for the special education teacher to feel that general education is prioritized over special education. This is not true. It is just that general education students outnumber special education students by a lot. When making decisions about the budget, staffing, and room arrangements, principals have to take many things into consideration. No individual teacher is likely to be aware of all the moving parts that go into every decision.

You Are Important to Us

Depending on your principal’s personality, they may not really be able to describe to you how vital the special education teacher role is to the success of a school. Often the special education teacher assists with Response to Intervention (RTI) and behavioral issues for the entire school population, not only the students in special education. Knowing how to complete special education paperwork to keep a school in compliance is a challenge even for special education personnel. To top everything off, special education teachers are scarce. There simply are not enough to fill all the positions in our country. If you are a special education teacher, I hope your principal tells you how much you are appreciated. And even if your principal does not verbalize appreciation, know that you are appreciated.

Very Few Students Will Have One-to-One Teaching Assistants

Teaching assistant, paraprofessional, and instructional assistant are all titles used for the classified staff members who help teachers. Often, the special education teacher will be caught in between administrators and parents in the debate over whether a student will get a one-to-one helper. These helpers are becoming harder to get with each passing year. In order to secure one, it must be proven that the helper is vital to the safety and education of the child. It most cases, students will not have one-to-one helpers.

What Principals Want Their Special Education Teachers to KnowYou Are the Expert

In many cases, principals need their special education teachers to be the experts in their field. General education teachers come to principals to discuss all kinds of challenges they see in their classrooms. The principal needs the special education teacher to be ready to help answer general education teachers’ questions. In some cases, you might even have to research some things.

We Appreciate You Managing Relationships with General Education Teachers

There eventually comes a time for all special education teachers when they have to tell a general education teacher that the general education teacher did something incorrectly. Maybe the teacher did not follow a student’s behavior plan, give an accommodation correctly, or fill out a chart. When this happens, the general education teacher may get defensive. Should you have to be grouched at by another teacher? No, of course not. However, it is better for this kind of feedback to come from the special education teacher. When it comes from the principal, it seems a lot more like a reprimand, and this can be damaging to the relationship between the two teachers. In most cases, the general education teacher will vent for a minute or two and then comply with your request.

It Is Best Not to Keep Us in the Dark

Never let your principal be caught off guard. Tell your principal if you have an upset parent or if the school is out of compliance for some reason. Your principal will appreciate your being upfront with them.

Regulations Are Unavoidable

Whether regulations come from the federal, state, or local level, they are rarely a welcome addition to a special education teacher’s routine. Part of a principal’s job, in my opinion, is to let their teachers vent about subjects like new regulations. So by all means, come and talk to us about your frustrations, but please keep in mind that unless a regulation comes directly from us, we have no more power than teachers to change it.

We Want to Know About Your Successes

Did you do something special to reward your students and the principal didn’t show up? Did your principal fail to notice when your students made big jumps academically? If your principal didn’t recognize something positive about the special education department, it was almost certainly unintentional. Please tell us about your good news, and remind us. We want to know. Invite us to come tell your students that we appreciate their hard work. You and your students matter to us.

Andrew HawkAndrew Hawk has worked in public education for eighteen years. He started as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He completed his bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. Andrew has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. Andrew has worked as a resource room teacher and also has taught in a self-contained classroom for students on the autism spectrum. In 2017, he earned a master’s degree in educational leadership, also from Western Governor’s University. This is Andrew’s first year as a building principal. He is the principal of an elementary school that houses kindergarten through fifth grades. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with this wife and two daughters.

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)© 2019 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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Getting to School: The Balance Between Safety and Independence

By Allison Amy Wedell

Getting to School: The Balance Between Safety and IndependenceI don’t know about you, but to me it feels like about a third of my life as a parent has been spent thinking about all the awful things that could happen to my child. If I really allow my imagination to run wild, I get to the point where I want to envelop her in bubble wrap and store her in a closet. But not only would that be impractical (seriously, who has that kind of closet space to spare?!), it would of course be wildly unhealthy. She needs to experience things for herself and make mistakes in order to learn. Which means I need to walk the line between keeping her safe and letting her have some independence.

For many parents, a microcosm of this issue is the trip to and from school. There are a lot of factors that go into the decision of school transportation: timing, convenience, and distance being among the top considerations. But safety is also a factor.

We lived in Seattle until my daughter was in third grade. She went to a Catholic school that was two blocks from our house, but her dad and I never allowed her to walk there by herself. There was a moderately busy street to cross, but it was also hilly, which meant that people often drove over the speed limit and sometimes ignored the well-marked crosswalk. Because it wasn’t a public school, we couldn’t use crossing guards. So rather than put my daughter at risk of being squashed like a bug twice a day, we walked her to and from school (or I would occasionally drive her there if I was leaving for work at the same time).

I wondered if other parents shared similar fears for their kiddos’ daily school journeys, so I conducted a (very informal) poll on social media. I asked parents how their kids get to and from school, why they chose that option, and how their child’s safety and independence fit into the picture.

Many respondents mentioned the expected ways a child might get to school: being driven or riding the school bus or a city bus. But some parents mentioned hiring a car service or riding the subway. What I found especially interesting, though, were people’s reasonings for letting or not letting their kids walk alone.

Carrie, the mom of two elementary-age daughters in Seattle, walks them the one block to school because “They have to cross one busy intersection and I don’t trust the drivers to see them.” Todd from Cheyenne, Wyoming, provides a variation on the theme for his fourth grader: she can get “oblivious when walking, and that could cause problems.”

Bridget is from Fort Worth, Texas, where her son would have been able to walk to her parents’ house from his elementary school at the end of the day. She would not let him because of problems with her ex, though. And Beth from rural Roseau, Minnesota, had concerns about her four-year-old walking to the bus stop at the end of their road, none of which included the skunk they encountered the first time they made the trek.

Many other parents prefer to accompany their kids on the walk to or from school because it provides a rare opportunity to talk without screens, homework, or other activities getting in the way.

What interested me about these responses was that not a single parent—from the rural west to the heart of New York City—listed “stranger danger” as a reason not to let their kids walk to school. They had worries about their children’s safety, of course, but those worries had more to do with traffic than with shadowy men luring children into vans.

I also realized it was the same with my daughter. She started middle school last year at a school three blocks from my office, both of which are in the downtown area of our city. Because it gets very cold in the winter where we live, our buildings are connected by skyways—tunnels that run above the city streets. Not long after she started sixth grade, I showed my daughter how to get from her school to my office through the skyways, and now she can practically do it with her eyes closed. She brings along allowance to get snacks at the convenience store in my building, then does her homework while she waits for me to finish my workday.

I won’t lie: I was nervous about her running around in the skyways by herself. But there’s no traffic up there, and the worst that can happen is that she gets lost. She never has. Plus, she loves the freedom of coming to find me after school, and I appreciate not having to leave work to pick her up. For now, we have managed to strike a balance between safety and independence.

Allison Amy WedellAllison Amy Wedell is a writer, editor, and mom whose diverse work focuses on sexual abuse prevention, bullying prevention, social and emotional learning, public safety, and theater/acting. She is the author of Shaking Hands with Shakespeare: A Teenager’s Guide to Reading and Performing the Bard (Simon & Schuster, 2004), and her work has been featured here and at,, and Committee for Children. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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)© 2019 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

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