Monday, December 14, 2009

Ask a Child and You Shall Receive

Have you ever asked a child for advice? I mean genuinely asked them? I was having a crummy day last week. I was stressed about some things, worried about some others and tired of a few more. Instead of taking my usual complaints to my usual friends I decided to go to a little girl in my classroom. Unorthodox, you bet, but I never said I was a traditionalist.

“Hey Maddie,” I said, “I’m having kind of a rough day today. Do you think it would help if I took a deep breathe and said, “I can?” She thought about it and shook her head. “Yes.” She even volunteered to do it with me. Turns out, she was having a bad day, too. We sat in a corner and took a deep breath. We said it out loud “I can.” I thought about all the things I can do. I can breathe, I can jump, I can walk, I can believe. Then I thought about all the things I could do. What if I could turn this day around? What if I believed in myself a little more? What if I was having a good day and not a bad one? I imagine she was doing something similar. Soon, we both started to smile. “It worked,” she said, and just like that, we were back.

We spend so much time trying to teach children. We teach them how to read and write, how to be afraid, how to eat properly, bathe properly, sleep properly. How to say please and thank you. How to grow up. Do we ever stop, though, and think about all the ways they teach us?

They teach us patience, kindness. They teach us respect and integrity. They teach us openness, devotion and, yes, unconditional love. They teach us how to let things go. But perhaps the biggest thing they teach us is how to teach them. People often ask me how I got to be so “good” with children, what my tricks are for teaching. I always answer the same way: they teach me.

Having a bad day? Ask your child for some advice. They may just have the answer you are looking for.

With love,


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What if?

There is a game I have started with my children called “What if?” My dear friend and willPower and Grace instructor, Christine D’Ercole, uses it in her class and I had the good fortune of talking with the amazing people at thinkso (a marketing and design agency) about it as well. It’s a game that gets us up and moving around the room, engages our imaginations and helps us, well, think BIG. It goes like this…

What if… this room was a swimming pool?
What if… we had wheels on our feet?
What if… we were fearless and jumped?
What if… we were in a forest?
What if… my hands were made of propellers?
What if… I can?

Children are used to hearing no. We don’t say it to shut them down or stunt their creative development. We love them, we care about them, we don’t want to see them get hurt. When they ask to go outside and it’s too cold we say no, but maybe tomorrow. When they ask for a cookie after bed we say no, no sugar at night. When they run across the street we yell it, “no!”

It is our job to protect them but it is also our job to help them expand and grow. It is our job to foster and nurture the little beliefs inside of them that they are lions or princesses or crabs at the bottom of the ocean. I spoke a few weeks ago about the importance of “I can” in my classroom and how much it has changed these children. The simple words, the mantra, has made all of the difference. I can. I can tie my shoe. I can speak kindly. I can make a difference. And that isn’t even touching on the way it has changed me.

If this belief helps our children, if using these words can transform them the way I’ve seen, then don’t we owe ourselves the same mantra? Say it with me…I can. I can face today with an open heart. I can choose kindness and not annoyance. I can lend a helping hand. I can make a difference. Even if you don’t believe it ask yourself this question: what if I can? Soon, like my children, you will begin to believe it.

Much love,


Monday, November 30, 2009

Letting Go

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of going trapezing in Williamsburg. I am the kind of person who loves to leap, who leads with my heart and lets my head follow, but I admit to being more than a little terrified when I got up there and suddenly it was my turn to swing. What I noticed was that the more concerned I got, the more my body tensed up. There was no way I was going to be able to reach for the bar, let alone grab it. I could barely move my arms from where they were stuck by my sides. It became very clear, very quickly, that I needed another strategy.

Thank god for my years with children who have taught me how to think on my feet! What I decided to do was to trust the man holding me. To breathe. To relax. To let go. My body slacked, loosened. My head cleared and all at once I was ready to leap, ready to fly. Are you getting the metaphor here?

I remember at the beginning of my career being so concerned about getting things right. Would the children be learning? Would I follow my lesson plan? Would I be able to be of service in some way? I remember fearing that the students in my care wouldn’t learn unless I did it the exact “correct” way. It took me perhaps a decade to learn what I want to share with you here…there is no correct way.

The years have allowed me a multitude of lessons, surely, but none as powerful as the ability to trust my own process, to let go and let be. Allow things to happen. You cannot steer your own game. When you try to force something it just doesn’t work. We are all, as human beings, in a constant dialogue with the world around us. It is our job to stay open and alert and communicate with what we are being given at every moment. If you are on the right path you will know because doors will open and hands will come out, ready to lift you higher. If you let go and trust the world, it just might let you fly.

Have a wonderful week!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Getting on their Level

I have often spoken about the importance of play and being silly and on a similar note I wanted to write a bit today about how we, as adults, can contribute to that. Children model what we do, not what we say. It’s an old adage, but a good one. Which means if we tell them, “yes, go play” yet we are hunched over a computer, frowning miserably, odds are they aren’t going to be their happiest, either. Which is why “getting on their level” is so important with children. You must speak their language. One of my favorite things about my golf program is how accessible all the materials are for children. The snagazoo, now that’s a word they understand! We play a little game to work on foot rotation called, “squish the bug,” because the motion reminds them of squishing a bug on the sidewalk. We pretend we are giraffes who can’t bend their knees to work on posture. We draw targets and silly faces on the cement and we do it all together.
The children see me pretend I am a monkey or an elephant or the color blue right alongside them. They can relax because they are in their own company and when they learn, it is on their own terms. Learning becomes organic, a natural extension of the world they inhabit, and play in. It is not something impressed upon them but something they feel through and towards. When they do finally understand a concept they understand it completely…they have internalized it and it is now a part of their universe.
The thing I don’t have to pretend? That I am this joyful. Being in their company, hearing their squeals of delight and, yes, frustration, is the most rewarding thing on the planet. My kind friends and fellow professionals are often telling me how much their children get out of my program. My response? I get two-fold. The children teach me. If I just get on their level they show we a whole new world.

Have a wonderful week!


Monday, November 9, 2009

The Importance of Play

I was thinking the other day about beginnings and where my own journey with children originated. There are many things in life that cannot be pinpointed but if you’re very lucky you can recognize the start of something. Joan Didion speaks about this in her piece, “Goodbye to all That.” She says: “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me.”
Like Didion’s, my own journey has a recognizable start point that I wanted to share with you all here today.
It was about fourteen years ago. I remember walking by the Hudson Street playground. It was a chilly afternoon and I’m sure my mind was preoccupied with getting home, amongst other things. I didn’t notice him at first but as I got closer I saw there was a little boy there playing with a stick. It was just him and this wooden walking stick yet he was coming up with all sorts of games. He’d toss it up in the air, put it down on the ground. Hop over it, spin it around. He was having a blast. Pure joy. And all he had was this one little stick. I stopped dead in my tracks and realized something incredibly important: I had forgotten how to play.
Of course I had forgotten how to play. I was a grown-up. I had responsibilities and priorities. I had bills and an apartment. I had a life. But when I saw this child, I knew. I felt it down into my bones: play is an incredibly important aspect of life and you are forgetting it. When is it that a stick becomes just a stick and not a portal into a world of adventure? When is it that we stop seeing a jeweled sword and start seeing just a discarded branch?
What I am about to suggest may seem impossible and ridiculous, but bear with me: the state of imagination and play never has to end.
The only reason we stop seeing the sword is because we allow ourselves to. What if we saw play for what it really is? A vitally important aspect of life. The thing that fuels and fills us. Joy.
Play is creative. It is fun and it is improvisational. One of my favorite things about my job is how dynamic it is. Sure I have lesson plans and there are some things I want to get done but being with children never goes according to the rules. I am constantly on my toes, seeing what the children really need from me in any given moment. I am using my creativity and to me, that’s play.
Being silly, breaking the rules, telling stories, laughing, skipping, listening to music, MOVING. Have you played today?
Have a wonderful week!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Life Doesn't Frighten Me

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me
Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Bad dogs barking loud
Big ghosts in a cloud
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Mean old Mother Goose
Lions on the loose
They don’t frighten me at all

Dragons breathing flame
On my counterpane
That doesn’t frighten me at all.

I go boo
Make them shoo
I make fun
Way they run
I won’t cry
So they fly
I just smile
They go wild

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Tough guys fight
All alone at night
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Panthers in the park
Strangers in the dark
No, they don’t frighten me at all.

That new classroom where
Boys all pull my hair
(Kissy little girls
With their hair in curls)
They don’t frighten me at all.

Don’t show me frogs and snakes
And listen for my scream,
If I’m afraid at all
It’s only in my dreams.

I’ve got a magic charm
That I keep up my sleeve
I can walk the ocean floor
And never have to breathe.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Not at all
Not at all.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

- Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s words are so simple and profound. I love this poem and I use it with my children in creative movement class. It is a wonderful compliment to the willPower and Grace practice we have adopted. I especially love to use it around Halloween when I ask the children to make their “brave stance.” I beat the drum and say the words and they pose like warriors, ready to do battle with whatever daemons come their way. “If you ran into a ghost, what would you do?” I ask them, and they make their brave stance. It is a way for them to feel centered, stable and to know that they can take on life’s challenges. It’s not about tackling things that frighten us but about remaining strong in who we are, feeling rooted to the ground and knowing that we can weather any storm.
Just yesterday in fact one of my five year olds came up to me at the end of class. She told me she was scared when she went to bed the night before but she remembered to say to herself “life doesn’t frighten me at all” and it made her feel better. Poetry to my ears.
So much of life has to do with fear. Learning to work with it, through it and let it go. I know that children experience fear. They are sometimes frightened of the unknown, of all the things they still have yet to explore, of the ways the world will and will not be kind to them. I consider myself so lucky to be with them during this formative time and to give them some tools to deal with the emotions that arise. Having a “brave stance” is amazing for any stage of life. I hope my children carry their brave stance well into their adult lives. To be honest, I still use mine from time to time.

Have a wonderful week,


Friday, October 30, 2009

The Great Blueness

The other day it was too rainy outside to play our usual golf so we decided to do indoor creative movement instead. One of the keys to what I do is flexibility, in basically every sense of the word. Physical, mental and emotional. No possibility for golf? Doesn’t mean we should miss an afternoon together. During my time with children over the years one thing has become increasingly clear to me: it is less about what we do and more about the attitude with which we do it. Of course there are certain golf swings I want them to practice and techniques that are important but if they aren’t focused and having a good time, it really doesn’t matter what gets done.

Cut to last week. I decided to do a few stories with the children. The one I started with is called The Great Blueness and it’s currently out of print. My copy is old, worn and pretty much falling apart at the seams but it’s a favorite and I treasure it. To summarize, The Great Blueness is about a town with no color. The book opens with a wizard waking up in the time of “the great greyness.” He decides to make a magic potion and at the bottom of the pot appears the color blue. Everyone is thrilled and they paint the whole town blue. After awhile, though, the town begins to feel sad. There is simply too much blue. The wizard goes back down into his basement and creates the color yellow. Everything is wonderful! The town is happy and thriving until everything becomes too bright and people can’t see. On it goes. Red makes people angry, etc. The wizard is busy at work and the pot begins to overflow as all the colors come tumbling out. The world is beautiful and bright in a variety of different shades! The end.
I love this book and so do the children. We always have a lot of fun with it and last week was no exception. What I realized in doing it, though, is how symbolic it is for the way I see life and education: no one color works, we need them all. Holistic. I come back to this word over and over again. It is what I strive for in my classroom always. A holistic experience. I want these children to work their bodies, minds and hearts because I know that they are all important components of education. When children are taught in a holistic environment and all their faculties are strengthened they feel stable, centered and, yes, more able and willing to take on the daily challenges that throw all of us, regardless of age, off balance.
Flexibility. If the red is broken, so what? Grab a yellow. If the green doesn’t work? Create a blue. If it’s raining outside? Stay indoors. You might just get to paint the world a million shades of color.

Have a great week!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Unknown Impact of Community

The meditation on community began for me last weekend when I took Christine D'Ercole’s willPower and Grace class at Equinox. As most of you know fitness is a big part of my life and I absolutely love my time in Christine’s class. Her methodology is amazing and I always leave feeling empowered and centered. She goes through mantras throughout her class (re: yes I can!) and the entire experience is incredible…one I thought my students should have, as well.

Enter the classroom. I was working on tree pose with my five year olds and some of them were having trouble getting up. I decided to bring willPower and Grace in right then and there. It started like this: I told them about my own experience in the class and how it had helped me with some challenging things in my life and then I said, “sometimes I hear some of you say, ‘I can’t,” and you know what? We are going to change our words. Let’s say to ourselves, out loud, ‘I can, I can, I can.’” Within moments most of the students were up in tree pose. Sure they were still wobbly but they got the message loud and clear: my words affect my actions.

What I kept thinking was: other people’s words affect my actions, too. So much of what we say and do goes unnoticed, or so we think. Does everyone tell their spin instructor that she really got you through a tough day with her encouragement or the man who serves you your local Starbucks that his smile was just what you needed this morning?

As I was leaving class the other day a little boy was putting his sock on and he was having some trouble. Practically in tears, he looked up at me and asked, very politely, if he might have some help. Normally I would have dropped to my knees and yanked that sock right on, but I recognized this moment. In school we call these moments, “teaching moments,” moments that go beyond the instance themselves; moments that have the possibility to impart some wisdom. I crouched down on his level and said, “Do you remember what we were talking about in class? How our words affect the things we do? Let’s say it together now, ‘I can, I can, I can.’” We said it together over and over but he continued to struggle. What I noticed was, despite not getting the sock on, he was calm about it. It was as if he knew the sock would eventually get on. He wasn’t upset anymore. A few more minutes went by and I busied myself with shuffling papers, watching him out of the corner of my eye. Finally, after what must have been a good five minutes, he leapt up from the floor and bellowed, “I did it!” Pure, absolute joy. A moment, I hope, that will stick with him when other challenges arise, as well.
willPower and Grace has proved to be an amazing thing in my classroom. The other day one of my students exclaimed, “let’s have an ‘I can’ parade!” and we marched around the room chanting, “I can.” They love it. Like me in Christine’s class they feel empowered and centered. Her gift has spread.

Does she know? Well she does because I made a point of telling her and we are working on some exciting things together, actually, but how many other people in my life slip through the cracks without being acknowledged? I have been trying to make it a point to say, “thank you,” whenever I can, to acknowledge the people who make my world what it is on every single level.

The other day I was talking to my friend Rebecca who runs a children’s program called Nurturing Narratives. We were talking about partnering our respective programs and the topic of service got brought up. I have always considered myself to be incredibly lucky that my job is something that brings me so much joy but what I realized last week is that my job brings me joy because I have the ability to serve others, to bring fun and creativity to children’s lives. As Rebecca and I said, “is there anything better?”
A mother came up to me after a golf session a few days ago and said, “what you do is about so much more than golf. You bring these children you.” It was an extraordinary compliment and one I have been thinking a lot about. That is the service we can provide: simply bringing the world us. Whoever you are and whatever you do is enough because by being authentic, you touch people. Thank those in your life that bring you them. Say it out loud. I think it’s time we started recognizing the amazing community around us and how vital a role each of us plays in making it all work.

Have a wonderful week!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


SNAG (Starting New at Golf) is a unique program designed by experts in the field of golf. By using a variety of training tools people can learn and develop in the sport off the golf course. SNAG is a perfect compliment to the game as well as a valuable program for those without a readily available golf course (such as people in urban areas). I first fell in love with SNAG’s methods years ago and I have employed them in my program ever since. SNAG is perfect for children. It can look, just sitting on the sidelines, like these children are simply snapping ribbons around and rolling balls but they are really learning valuable tools to help them in the game of golf such as a variety of swing techniques, patience, concentration, wrist control and determination. I often say golf is the absolute mind-body sport and the SNAG tools reflect that philosophy perfectly. From their specially designed balls to their specific bulls-eye clubs they not only make golf fun for the children but also absolutely accessible.

SNAG is fun! The SNAG tools are all brightly colored and colorfully named and the children love playing with the Snagazoo (a device used to work on a chip shot), the Snapper (a long ribbon used to work on wrist control) and the Rollers and Launchers (both modified clubs). For a complete list of training tools and to learn a bit more about the program, please visit:

See you all outside!


An Afternoon in the Park

Last week we had our second outdoor Urban Golf Academy session at 97th and 5th. There is a beautiful bend in the park filled with lots of open, green grass…the perfect place to practice our favorite game.
I arrive about thirty minutes before the children and start setting up. We have lots of different tools we use to work on every aspect of the sport. I set up four different stations. There are four shots in golf: the putt, chip, pitch and full swing shot. We worked on the putt, chip and full swing at these stations.

-The first I call the “little points” game where children work on lining the ball up and rolling it towards a "Rollerama" (makeshift Velco bench) with different numbers on it. The goal is to have the ball line up with the number 1 which is in the center of the Rollerama (the balls adhere to the Velcro). The children put or "roll" (in SNAG terms) the ball towards the target.

-The second station I set up is to work on full swing. The children use modified golf clubs to work on their swing. They stand in color-organized hula-hoops that tell them where their arms should be for their swing. For instance, if they want to work on a regular shot, they are meant to stay within the blue area of the hoop.

-The third station I set up is where we practice “chipping.” Chipping is a skill used to get the ball up and into the air when it doesn’t have a great distance to travel but the grass is tall and the ball needs height. In this station we work with a tool called a snagazoo that makes a funny sound when the children bend their wrist. For chipping shots the swing is very small and the goal is to keep the snagazoo perfectly silent (quite a feat amongst the youngsters).

-The forth area I set up is with the snapper. The snapper is a stick with a long, red ribbon attached to the end. If anyone has ever seen rhythmic gymnastics it is basically the same tool they use. The snapper is meant to help children with wrist control. When they are working their wrists in the ideal way the ribbon will “snap,” hence its name.

The children start to arrive around 3:10 but one boy comes around 3:00. “Does this mean we can start earlier?” he asks eagerly. Definitely a sign of a good afternoon ahead.

Once all the children arrive and get settled (we have about 10 today, aged 4-8), I call everyone over to a rock a few paces away for a “quick meeting” before we begin. I go over a bit of what we are going to do today, who is going to start where, and we’re off.

The girls head on over to the snapper while the older boys start working on their swing and the younger boys work on the snagazoo and the “little points” game. I am careful to keep an eye on the overall dynamics of the group and split my attention equally. Luckily my amazing co-teacher, Monica, and a trusty assistant are there to help. I walk around to the different stations and engage with each of the children to get a feel for how they are doing and what level they are at today. One of the girls get’s a “bulls-eye” on the little-points game and three of her friends cheer. High five’s all around.

After about ten or fifteen minutes I call the children in for another “quick meeting.” I tell them what I saw. I always start with positive reinforcement and go over (quite pointedly) what worked. I use different children as examples and we have a brief question-answer. Then we split up again and rotate stations. After each switch we have a quick meeting. It is a great way to pull the energy of the group together and make sure things don’t get too fractured or splintered as well as give the children the opportunity to get fast feedback and responses from me.

We always pick up all the balls together as I want the children to be engaged and active in every aspect of the sport. We switch three times, enough for every child to get to practice at every station. Once we have finished we all gather for a final meeting, under a tree by the sidewalk. As we sit in the shade we talk about how each of us has a different recipe for our golf swing with very special ingredients all our own. I ask each child what they think their key ingredient is and help them to understand that the things they need to work on are not problems, but unique skills. There is always some chatter and a lot of noise coming from the snagazoos, but the children often seem calmer after their golf practice then before. Despite the heat and the activity they have come together to focus, improve and most importantly, have fun. High five’s all around, indeed.

The Urban Golf Academy is now back from Montauk Downs Golf Course and we're holding sessions in a number of locations throughout the city. If you’d like to find out where and when our sessions are please refer to our schedule on the sidebar of the blog or feel free to email me.

See you all outside!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

KT Urban Golf Academy is in Montauk

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

“This program is extremely unique in our business and brings a lot of things to the table beyond your average golf instruction. Kate is bringing people to golf that wouldn’t normally have that opportunity. Golf is the game of a lifetime, and Kate’s fun and exciting approach will encourage kids to be involved with it for their lifetime.” – Kevin Smith, Head Golf Professional, Montauk Downs State Park
“Kate is totally engaged and student centered and stands out as an instructor who is looking for the uniqueness in people as students. She has a heart full of compassion and caring for others and always strives for excellence. She wants to be an excellent golf player, but more importantly, she wants to be an excellent teacher of the game, and goes the extra mile to do so.” – Kathy Murphy, Lead Instructor for the LPGA National Education Program Series
“Kate’s method of teaching kinesthetically sinks in in a way that doesn’t when material is presented on a chalkboard. The kids don’t even realize they’re learning, and they’re completely relaxed around her. She really brought Jack out of his shell.” – Meaghan, mother of Jack, who was in Kate’s creative movement class for three years at St. Thomas More Play Group, and took golf lessons with Kate.