Courtesy of Quaker Chewy

Neil Patrick Harris is known for his diverse talents as an actor, singer, dancer, producer, emcee, writer, and even magician. Dude's got serious skills.

Off screen and offstage, he's also known for his diverse philanthropy, lending his fame and resources to various causes including cancer and AIDS research, green building initiatives, clean water access, hunger, LGBTQ support, and books for children in low-income communities.

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I recently spoke with Harris and asked him how he chooses what charities to support. He said that his personality doesn't really lend itself to choosing a singular cause—for him, it's more about the integrity of a charity. "I'm interested in knowing what organizations are actually giving a large percentage of what they get back to the actual charity itself," he says. "And then getting to know the people behind the charity. I'm kind of a stickler for authenticity in that way."

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Sometimes we can get caught up in a seemingly feel-good story and miss that it might have a dark side. An article I wrote recently praising a middle school teacher's "baggage activity" is a perfect, personal example of this. I saw that the post had been shared widely, looked at the activity through my own lens as a former teacher and current parent of teens, and missed the red flags that those trained in trauma saw in it.

The viral post, shared by a veteran teacher, explained how she had her students write down the emotional baggage they were carrying around, wad up the papers, and toss them across the room. Each student then picked up a random paper and read it to the class. Students could share if they wrote it or remain anonymous. The teacher described how the students were moved by the activity, and how she felt it helped them develop empathy for one another. The bag of wadded papers hangs by the door to remind students "they are not alone, they are loved, and we have each other's back."

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Update from the author: I wrote a follow-up to this article sharing a trauma-informed perspective of the activity. You can read it here.

Karen Loewe has been teaching for 22 years. Clearly, all of that experience has given her a solid bead on what her students really need.

The middle school English teacher from Oklahoma shared an activity she did with her students for the first day of school on Facebook and it's gone insanely viral. In just three days, her post has already been shared more than 335,000 times.

What has caught people's attention is something we all have in common—emotional baggage. We live in an era of rising mental health awareness, but also increased social pressures to appear as if you have all of your sh*t together. For kids in the turbulent middle school years, whose their bodies, minds, and spirits are growing at breakneck pace, having a place to share their emotional turmoil can be incredibly helpful. But many kids don't have a safe, supportive place to do that.

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There are many aspects of my more than decade-long career as a teacher that I'm proud of.

My reputation for giving lots and lots of homework is not one of them.

For most of my teaching career, I taught fifth or sixth grade. Sometimes I gave more than two hours of homework. Kids complained a lot, though parents rarely did — at least not to my face. I think parents mostly felt the same way I did: that homework was the best way to practice new skills, learn responsibility, develop a strong work ethic, and reflect on new learning.

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