character development · common core · giveaway · inspiration · interview

Force Field for Good and a Giveaway!

Force Field for Good book cover

Back in March I attended the Michigan Reading Association conference in Grand Rapids. I walked to my first session with presenters Barry Lane and Colleen Mestdagh. I knew the session was going to include singing and lessons for young writers. I was intrigued. Little did I know it would transform my thinking about character education in my classroom.

As Colleen and Barry got started I was sucked right into their message about hope, a Force Field for Good. Barry shared his songs and Colleen shared her lessons. There were so many components but it was clear that it was simple enough to easily incorporate these ideas into my teaching.

Later that week I had the pleasure of talking with Barry Lane about his book and how inspired I was. That led to a great friendship and brings me to an interview I had with Barry earlier this month. He answers some burning questions and gives you  a peek into the back story of the book.

What was your inspiration for writing Force Field for Good?

This book began with a song I wrote called Now is the New Day. The song is about hope. I started singing it in elementary schools and loved hearing the voices of children singing the chorus, “Now is the New Day.” The great Pete Seeger said, singing with children gives you hope and he was so right. I started writing more songs and enlisting friends to help me. I have never collaborated with songwriting before and was delighted with the magical process. Writing is a lonely business and sharing the process with a friend is really fun and inspiring. Beyond just writing songs, I started to think about the kinds of songs that might lead to discussions about issues in school and how to live in the world. These big issues connect to ideas in literature and life. These songs have a purpose that go far beyond entertainment.

How did you and Colleen meet and what made you decide to write a book together?

This was pretty amazing. I remember Colleen coming to a writing workshop in Michigan. She was a bubbly new teacher and she had that look in her eye that said, “I can do anything.”  Naivety is a precious thing, way more important that standards and other top-down educational mandates. She had found the song, Know Your Higher Self on Soundcloud, taught it to her students and decided to get rid of all the class rules and change them to one rule.  Be your Higher Self.  Her decision to do that and the amazing year that followed is where our book began.

Even more amazing, kids started talking about characters in novels and whether they used their higher self.  The social learning became connected to academic learning. Not all teachers have the courage to do what Colleen did. These are lifelong skills. I was so inspired I started writing even more songs and soon we had a year long kindness curriculum with a song each month to go with a helpful habit of living. Colleen crafted the structure of the lessons and I added the writing component and songs.

If you had to pick, what is your favorite song from the book?

Hmmm. Hard, but my personal favorite is Afraid of Love because it is about Xenophobia, fear of foreigners and Xenophilia, love of foreigners. There are not a lot of songs about that topic. It is a love story where love and hope wins over fear and hate. I wrote it with my friend and award-winning children’s book poet, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. After reading her poem Xenophobia, I sent her the first verse and asked her to write a chorus.

My first verse was…

His name was Xenophobia

he lived north of Morovia,

he was afraid of

everyone in town.

Her name was Xenophilia

she worked in memorabilia,

she smiled and laughed

at everyone around.


Then Amy wrote this chorus…

Afraid of love,

in love with fear,

sad hearts live alone

in stony towers,

but love shines on

through all the years

one by one

the hearts

they start to flower.


I think there is a profound truth in the song.  Love is much stronger than hate.  Sun melts all ice.  In the end it is our connection to each other that unites us no matter what madness keeps us apart. Truth lies in this connection.

The Gimme Blues and Words, Words, Words are my favorite musically because I got to jam with  British fiddle phenom Joel Grainger (his cousin is in Coldplay) and guitar virtuoso,  Dr.Frank Serafini  (the reading guru) and Dr.Mark Flescher (my psychologist cousin). I don’t consider myself much of a musician so it was a real thrill to play with some talented folks. The cd album version has six extra songs on it and will be released in august. Right now demo versions are available at Barry Lane Band Camp.

Why and how did you decide to include Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?

We feel a major flaw in the Common Core Standards is that they limit education to corporate America’s college and career ready goals and don’t talk explicitly about good citizenship or civilized behavior.  For example, you can infer that being able to collaborate with others in the workplace means you have to know about your higher self and learn to be kind, but that inference is a bit of a delusion. Force Field for Good gives the Common Core a soul.  We included the anchor standards to help teachers integrate this important work into their busy schedule.  Force Field for Good aligns with and exceeds the CCSS because it teaches through big ideas and multiple texts, and links academic learning with social emotional learning. For a mere 30 minutes a month teachers can teach helpful habits, such as kindness, courage, empathy, gratitude, etc. As Colleen often says, Force Field for Good is not an add on.  Instead it enhances everything you teach and reminds you that teachers are more than knowledge dispensers.  Wisdom.

Where can readers access your book?

Go to the website, Force Field for Good, with links to Discover Writing.  Also available on Amazon.  This website explains the project and has sample lessons. Remember that the book comes with a data DVD that contains all the songs and sing along books as well as all the forms from the book for reproduction and home connection sheets.

Here is a sample sing along song.


  • This giveaway is for a copy of Force Field for Good, Teaching Kindness Through Song and Literature.  Many thanks to Barry Lane for donating a copy for one reader.
  • For a chance to win this copy of Force Field for Good, please leave a comment about this post by Saturday, June 28th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Sunday, June 29th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, your book will shipped to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only).

Congratulations to chrisleish on winning a copy of Force Field for Good! I hope it encourages and inspires you!

41 thoughts on “Force Field for Good and a Giveaway!

  1. I love this idea! “Be your higher self” is going to be my classroom rule in September! I met Barry about 17 years ago at a Six Traits of Writing training, and have been a fan since then, too!


  2. Barry Lane is the perfect person to write this book and these songs as he is always his highest, most kind and true self. I feel grateful to be his friend and to have had a few sneak peeks into his writing process. A wise man, Barry teaches all of us – of all ages – how to be better humans.


  3. I saw Barry Lane for the first time in Lansing last November. The way I teach and think about have changed since that day. Thank you for the opportunity to get his book.


  4. As teachers, we are more and more responsible to teach children how to be a good person. I have quote from, Socrates, in my room, “Be who you wish to seem.” Barry Lane’s message, “Be your higher self.” is a perfect companion message. Thank you for sharing!


  5. Every has the potential to impact the world in a positive way… Teaching them to be their higher self is a step in the right direction. Teaching through music will likely help it to”stick” Thank you for creating this!


  6. This sounds fantastic. I am a sucker for anything that involves children in thinking “Be your higher self.” I love it! Just may my new number one rule with my children.


  7. Our job to teach students to read, write, think, and do math is easier to do when students work toward being the best ‘person’ they can be. It seems as if this book gives us a great way to link being a ‘good person’ with academics.


  8. Love the concept of this book. Too often the focus on the big picture tends to minimize all the little factors needed to accomplish those goals!


  9. I was just thinking that I would like to be incorporating more music and singing into the school day. This sounds like a meaningful way to do that.


  10. Two things: this is a fantastic reminder that nothing is taught in isolation; music, literature, writing and character development-everything and everyone is part of the puzzle that is life. Also, kids are our hope. Thank you Barry, Colleen, and Betsy.


  11. So needed in the world today. As families are busier, little time for religion and teaching of values, and less time for the passing along of these important ideals, we need to talk about this in school. Can’t wait


  12. Favorite part…”I think there is a profound truth in the song. Love is much stronger than hate. Sun melts all ice. In the end it is our connection to each other that unites us no matter what madness keeps us apart. Truth lies in this connection.”


  13. Giving Common Core a soul. Beautiful integration of what really matters to be truly successful in life and what is at the core of what means to be a teacher. Thank you so much for sharing this interview.


  14. Beautiful idea. I’m looking forward to incorporating this with the lessons from the book, Bullying Hurts. I used that book last year as my first four weeks of read alouds. After 20+ years of teaching, I had the easiest year of discipline and the greatest exhibit of kindness to others in the class.


  15. This book sounds wonderful! The students really respond to music and I enjoy incorporating music into our daily activities.


  16. I love the idea of connecting his book to other read alouds like Wonder. I would use in my classroom as well as at home.


  17. Betsy, Great interview with Barry! I love the concept that the information in this book is not an add on but a way of life. I taught my students the Know Your Higher Self song this year and they absolutely loved it! I loved that it gave me an avenue into discussions with my students that connected to the character education program that our school already has established. I’d love to read more about it in preparation for next year! Seeing Barry Lane at All-Write this year was definitely something I’ll remember for a long time — he’s quite a character!


  18. next stop i tunes “Know Your Higher Self”. I read Wonder to my kids at the beginning of the year as our first read a loud and it leads to wonderful discussions and common language for how to treat each other at school. I love having a song as a unifying theme as well. Thank you for the post and introducing me to Barry Lane.


  19. THIS is what we need. Not more rigor. Not more academic learning objectives. Not more tests. I am one of the pilot teachers for a new social emotional learning curriculum in our district (RULER) and a facilitator for the Virtues Project. I am really excited to hear that you (Barry Lane), one of my favorite authors and writing teachers, are on this wave with us! Can’t WAIT to read this and play and sing songs with my kids!


  20. I NEED this book! I love how they weaved this critical work into the CCSS. “This work gives the Common Core a Soul.” Thank you for all of your amazing posts! Your wisdom here at the Two Writing Teachers continually inspires me and helps make me a better teacher.


  21. Hi Betsy. Barry was truly inspiring to see at dinner the other night. I’m glad to hear you are incorporating some of his work, will share with those I work with. Great to see you at All-Write!


  22. This book sounds like it will have some fun ideas for teaching social skills. For the past two years my school has done a One School, One Book program with a book emphasizing kindness. I’d love to read this book and get some ideas to continue teaching this theme.


  23. This is so needed in our schools, homes, and communities..a force field for good. I am excited about Barry Lane’s project. Count me in to the give-away. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but no matter what, I want this book.


  24. Ooh, I’ve never liked to post 5 rules. Be your higher self…I’m liking it! I’d enjoy reading the book also. Thanks for the post.


  25. I just saw Barry and Colleen present at AllWrite 14 in Warsaw, IN. They are amazing, the songs would appeal to any age (I teach 6th). They are so correct in that kids remember songs and the words they will be singing are so important. I love the concept of one rule, Be Your Higher Self. I can see my doorway decorated as something like, “You are Entering The Force Field for Good!”


  26. I love the class rule “Be Your Higher Self”. And music to teach that concept throughout the year. Lovely. I will definitely read this book and get the accompanying information. Thank you for this post.


  27. Thank you for posting this. I enjoyed reading it on my first day of summer vacation. It was just what I needed to get exited about next year. Making connections with kids about who they are and want to be is so important.


    1. I too have been a Barry Lane Groupie for a long time. He came to Doane College in Crete, NE many years ago and presented to my undergraduate students. He impacted them and me. Doane has continued to use his materials across the years. Recently I took several students to one of his workshops in Omaha and we loved his songs. The songs can really make a difference in the classroom. My students were singing the songs on the way home. I know the songs will make it into their classrooms and impact students in the future!


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