Sustainable Practice


Red Bird Workshop helps teachers, education leaders, and other caring professionals develop the insights, skills, and habits that support them as they prevent burnout and thrive in their work.




I am pleased to share with you Root Down: Preparing to Thrive. These are materials to support ten one-hour conversations with preservice and early-career teachers and other caring professionals about burnout prevention and sustainable practice.

Each one-page essay and set of questions supports a stand-alone conversation, with reflection, small group sharing, and full-group harvesting of insights and take-aways. Use them individually, or as a ten-week lunch-and-learn series!

They are free to download and use, according to Creative Commons license.

If you find them valuable, please drop me a line and let me know about your experience!

Root Down- Preparing to Thrive April 2021

Here are opening slides with norms and agenda for use with Zoom groups.

Norms and Agenda for Root Down- Preparing to Thrive


ONE: Your institution is not other than you. For better or worse, it is you.

TWO: Caregiver struggles are about way more than the caregiver.

THREE: You can only do what you can do – but only you can do it.

FOUR: Caring, like healing, is a journey, not a fixed destination.

FIVE: Paying attention to texts about care, and making our own, helps us care better.

SIX: Professional love is less and more than personal love.

SEVEN: Power exists in professional caring relationships, and you must manage it.

EIGHT: Your scars are your stories.

NINE: We all need a community.

TEN: Bloom where you’re planted.


Why Red Bird Workshop?

When I was young. I lived in upstate New York, where we didn’t see many cardinals. There were plenty of blue jays: screeching, aggressive, attacking each other, occasionally attacking you if you came too close to the nest.

But the cardinal was elusive, rare, special. It was my mom’s favorite bird, so I watched for them. When one appeared, it meant something.

One morning, decades later, I was driving into a job I didn’t love, bracing for a day I was dreading. It was ice, drizzly, and gray; I was barely awake, and miserable. At a stop light, I looked into the impenetrable heavens and asked for something to let me know that I was still on my path, because it sure didn’t feel like it.

A minute later, a flash of red flared into my periphery. I glanced to the shoulder of the road to glimpse a frozen, leafless bush, stark against the white snow, aflame with cardinals. Seven or eight of them, a few fluttering, the rest still, looking placidly back at me. I blinked and craned my neck to get another look as I rolled past. There they still were, their heat fading as I continued my commute.

Later that year I found Annie Dillard’s account of a similar experience, and I recognized her as a fellow traveler in the quest for meaning in a life that sometimes seems meaningless:

One day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck. I have since only very rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.

I’m still spending the power. And in the mountains of North Carolina, cardinals abound.

Red Bird Workshop is named for that moment of enlightenment and hope, and dedicated to cultivating the conditions for all of us to find the deepest and most nutritive meaning in our own journeys through our lives.

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