Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What will you do when you retire?

In 15 years, I am going to retire.
 I recently realized that I better start cultivating some hobbies or I will end up sitting on the couch watching re-runs of Oprah's Lifeclass while eating rows of Double-Stuffed Oreos. That would not be pretty.
Painting: Sure, I could buy some canvases and paints and make some acrylic magic happen. However, last summer when I tried to do that, I agonized over my color combinations and spacing and couldn't quite connect with my inner artist. Meanwhile Matt the Hot Husband dipped his brush into the paints and after 5 minutes created an ocean scene that made crowds gather and swoon. So...I'm not a painter. My ego can't take it.
Cooking: I could become a cook and venture outside my limited culinary milieu, but if past behaviors predict future ones, I know that I will end up with pots of colorless, pasty vegetable concoctions that will sit uneaten for days in my refrigerator. 
Knitting? Ha..no. 
Theater? Um...no.
Belly-dancing? I can't even stomach the image.
Tennis?  Perhaps.
Photography? Maybe.

Motivated by fear, I bought a ukulele.
So, there's that.
I am going to be a retired, chubby, happy ukulele player.
Maybe I'll start a band and we can roam around Maryland performing at church flea markets. 
Oh, it's so on.
The future is looking very bright indeed. 

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Jesus Calling....So Pick up.

Around Christmas, my young cousin handed me a neatly wrapped little package and said that she hoped that I would enjoy the book; it happened to be her favorite daily devotional titled Jesus Calling. More than anything I appreciated the sweetness of her gesture, especially considering the tight budget under which she lives. Eventually, I knew I would get around to reading through it, but I definitely did not rush. However, when Lent came, I decided to make a point of taking time out each morning to read a page each day.
It's simple. It's clear. It's beautiful.
Now, I find that Jesus Calling is everywhere.
When a co-worker was stressing about new responsibilities, I mentioned that she might want to buy this book.
She already had it...said that she depended on the words to help her survive the transition.
When my sister was anxious about the changes in her family dynamic looming on the horizon, I mentioned that she also may want the support of Jesus Calling. 
She had it downloaded on her phone.
Another co-worker reads the book everyday as well...the way one might digest a morning vitamin.
Recently, one of our lovely Catholic sisters at school seemed as though she would enjoy a boost, so I bought the book for her as a small gesture of appreciation. After she opened the package, she kept it in her work room for others to enjoy.
One of the building managers came to her this morning.
He heard she had a book.
He shared the fact that he needed a little spiritual lifting because his son is going to be deported soon.
Sister gave him the copy right then and there.
In my opinion, that is what Jesus Calling is for...to pass on to others and....
To let the reader feel a sense of encouragement each day.
To let the reader know that he/she is not alone.
To let the reader find peace even in the midst of confusion.
Jesus Calling.
I'm very glad I picked up.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Simple Mentor Teacher Advice

On occasion, I play a mentor role in the school.
However, though I've been teaching for 25 years now, sometimes I, myself, can still become overwhelmed with the responsibilities that my job entails.
Recently, I approached a much-admired co-worker who has been teaching for over 30 years. For the 10 years I have worked with her, I have never seen her in a bad mood, and she always has a pleasant sense of calm about her.
How does she do it?
I wanted to know this from her, in particular, because there are few teachers whom I know that have been teaching for more than 30 years and aren't complainers.
Her advice was simple.
She told me that the reason she maintains her calm and positive attitude is because she makes a deliberate effort to stay connected to her spiritual life on a daily basis. By doing so she is able to keep her perspective on school issues and to manage her priorities in her personal life.
Don't you love those moments when someone offers clear, simple advice?
We should carefully consider taking time for daily spiritual connection... as necessary as oxygen.
Without healthy amounts, we find ourselves struggling and weak.
With it, we can have energy, direction, and clarity.
Easy as prayer.
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Monday, January 9, 2012

What Does That Noodle & Paste Project Have to Do with Anything?

My nephew's girlfriend and I recently had an interesting chat about the skills she has found are most necessary in her very demanding marketing job. Guess what the number one required skill is?
In her position as a marketing representative, she is constantly asked to think about products in a new way and to develop stories about them. Because her degree is in business and her tendencies lean toward more logical and mathematical reasoning, this creativity demand is a challenge for her.
For a teacher like me, this information is refreshing. I read an abundance of current articles about how educators need to emphasize the sciences more and to invest more time in integrating technology. There is little attention currently being given to creativity in education media. This is all just peachy, but if you lack creative skills, where will these other more practical skills lead? Probably to a desk job where you take orders from a creative person who thinks outside the box and explores ideas with vigor.
So, I'm not going to worry about the practical aspects of writing goofy stories with my students or assigning enrichment projects to them. I have heard from a very reliable source that being creative and clever is much needed in today's "real" world. ( And, since, at 23, she already makes more money than I do, I'm confident she knows what she is talking about.)
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Promise to Love, Honor, and Not Take Too Long to Choose a Christmas Tree

Money management, conflict resolution ideas, and faith practices are all important components of marriage preparation meetings. You know what else should be in there? Christmas tree shopping habits. There are so many variables to the the Christmas tree issue that couples should be required to reveal their must-do's before they tie the knot. Must you have an artificial tree? Must the branches be symmetrical? Must you buy from a charity? Must you have the "perfect" tree regardless of price? Must you have the cheapest tree regardless of its appearance? Knowing these things ahead of time could save hours of painful (pineful) arguing. ** My husband and I are a tree match because we both have the same desire when we shop for our tree: Let's see how fast we can do this. Usually by the time he has yanked the third one from the tree line-up, we are good to go. We pay for our good-enough tree and carry it home to its trusty stand. (The firehouse lot is only a block away.) Then the issue of how to put the lights on the tree comes to surface.....that's another story entirely. post signature

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Piece on Peace

In a nearby neighborhood a rooster was apprehended by animal control last week because, according to an official report, it was disturbing the peace.
Disturbing the peace.
We don't hear much about disturbing the peace these days do we? I heard the phrase on TV shows a lot while growing up. If I recall correctly, Barney Fife threatened to arrest people for disturbing the peace and I think The Monkees may have been jailed for peace infractions at one point as well.
But in 2011?
Not so much.
Perhaps we don't revere peace as much as we used to.
In fact, I feel that the message is more about being tolerant of others who make noise: talking on their cell phones in elevators, playing their ipods at ear-splitting levels on the subway, or raising a ruckus in restaurant dining rooms. If you ask someone to please be quiet, you run the risk of hearing how you need to chill out, to try decaf, or to get a life.
I believe we need to emphasize our need for peace just a little bit more, especially this time of year. With the noise of holiday commercials and blaring Christmas music in our midst, the quest for quiet is a challenging one. This year I submit that we deem it an advent priority by making deliberate plans to have moments of calm amid the surrounding cacophony.
Have your peace and calm with a cup of herbal tea.
Wake up a bit earlier and enjoy it with the sunrise.
Walk into a church in the middle of the day and keep company with it in a pew.
Peace, quiet, and calm.
Help yourself to some this season....and don't let anyone disturb it.
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More about Christmas & peace here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Curse on Cursive?

Today I read an interesting article discussing cursive writing and education.
Is it necessary to teach handwriting anymore?
Cursive brings back some entertaining memories.
I remember some seriously dark days in elementary school with those cursive lessons in loops and curls. At 10 years old, I practiced my big fat O's and G's so that they were the loopiest and curliest in the whole fifth grade.
However, my teacher, Mrs. Cochran, didn't appreciate my jolly, rotund lettering.
She wanted the letters to be long, lean and slanted.
As a result, I had to stay inside for recess and practice my cursive letters in the painted white lines on the blackboard. Clearly, I was being punished for my loopiness.....
And now, it is a though Mr. Cursive is perched on a rocking chair, chewing sunflower seeds and counting out his twilight years wondering if anyone will ever need him anymore.
I believe we are close to the end for the poor old guy.
To be honest, the demise of cursive makes me a little blue. I associate fine handwriting skills with elegance and culture and I am especially intrigued by professional writers who choose to write-out their entire drafts in cursive. These are the ones who enjoy the intimacy of the pen and the paper and the way it connects to their thoughts as they craft their ideas. Too, I have often admired beautiful handwriting the way I would admire someone dressed with impeccable style and finished detail. Polished handwriting skills demonstrate a pride and effort often missing in today's ultra-casual culture. The bottom line is that I believe I will miss this unique component of our language and communication.
Of course, there are a few veteran second and third grade teachers who will cling to Mr. Cursive's tradition and try with admirable efforts to squeeze him between lessons on the wet lands and chapters from The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. But, the sad truth is that there is simply little time for cursive in the typical classroom schedule anymore. I predict it will eventually become a skill associated with "artsy" people who might be hired to write names in fancy loopy cursive at children's birthday parties.
Eureka...I think I see my second career.
Wouldn't Mrs. Cochran be surprised?
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Schools, Parents, Mixed Messages and a Thank You

My younger sister and I talk on the phone a lot regarding school and parent issues. Since I don't have any children, I often ask for her (a mother to 4) perspective when I am not sure why a parent behaves a certain way. Since she is not a classroom teacher, she frequently will share teacher stories with me, and I will tell her why we teachers do and say certain things.
The other day I shared a brief story with her about how I quickly acquiesced to a parent's firm request regarding a late homework assignment. Since the matter was of little significance to me, but apparently quite significant to the parent, I let it go. As a result, my sister explained that I have taught this parent that when she doesn't agree with a teacher, she simply needs to write an angry, stern letter, and she can have her way....even if it may not be in the best interest of the child. This situation, of course, frustrates parents like my sister who try consistently to support teachers' decisions and procedures- even when they may not agree with them. Consequently, I realized during this conversation that we teachers don't thank you enough.
* Thank you to the parents who support the consequences we have put into place at school to manage poor behavior and to curtail irresponsible choices.
*Thank you to the parents who encourage outside reading and who emphasize the benefits of solid efforts in academic pursuits.
*Thank you to the parents who know that my job is not to give out A's.
*Thank you to the parents who recognize that a B is actually a good grade and that your child may not be excellent/outstanding in all subjects.
* Thank you for knowing that sometimes your child makes mistakes and for recognizing that my job is to call him/her on it.
*Thank you for being nice, for saying hello, for writing those emails with positive feedback, for helping with classroom activities when needed, and for speaking about us in a respectful way with your children.
I promise we DO notice you; we DO appreciate you; we DO smile when we see that you are next on the list of conference appointments, and we DO know that we need you to help us do the best job possible. Honestly, we may even tussle over who gets to have you as a classroom parent.
We are grateful and we don't say it nearly enough.
Thank you.
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Friday, October 28, 2011

What do you want...a badge or something?

Girl Scout Troop 2059.
Not a match.
If it were 1973 and you were to look at my older sisters' Girl Scout sashes then compare those to mine, you would have to laugh. While theirs had many badges sewn meticulously-row after row, I believe mine had a total of 3 badges dangling from the fabric. Cooking, music, and camping- those are the only ones that made it to the sash.
Yes, I had more badges, but once I earned them, I put them into my pocket, into a drawer, or into a book. The badges did not motivate me much....cookies-yes...badges-no.
But wait.
Apparently, they have added some newer and groovier Girl Scout badge choices. These include badges geared towards computer knowledge, marketing, product design, chemistry, and even happiness....very sophisticated stuff.
This makes me wonder how awesome it could be if we adults could earn badges. I'm finally ready to take this badge business to heart.
Do we ever stop learning, growing, or evolving? I think not.
There are some skills and truths for which I would like a badge...
Self-Service Grocery Check Out (I'm oddly very proud of myself when I do this correctly.) Badge please.
Comfortable Shoes (Buying shoes that I can actually wear instead of stare at on my closet floor.)
Badge please.
Change of Life (Doesn't need explanation)
Badge please.
Skinny body ( Realization it won't ever happen)
Badge please
Dessert (Yes, I order it.)
Badge please.
Messy Bathroom (Embracing it.)
Badge please.
Cooking Rarely (With no guilt.)
Badge please.
Unmatched Socks (Boot season- why bother matching?)
Badge please.
Just because we are older, doesn't mean we should stop rewarding ourselves for the new skills and talents we master.
Older means smarter, better, and stronger.
I'm not cranky....I'm reflective.
I'm not moody...I'm creative.
I'm not flaky...I'm easy-going.
These aren't wrinkles...They are character lines.
Making up stuff
Badge please.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Lesson in Rice

If the rice isn't right, it really doesn't matter what else you do, you're not going to be able to serve great sushi.
This article makes a simple, but excellent, point about the importance of perfecting groundwork before taking on additional tasks. The author uses the skill of cooking rice as a metaphor for the skill of knowing business basics; however, the comparison also works in matters of education. In the classroom, those first few weeks of school should be dedicated to the daily basics..."making the rice." Teachers should deliberately and frequently set aside time, for explaining rules, communicating objectives, and building trusting relationships with students. Too often, we teachers don't want to waste any valuable instruction time, so by day two, we frantically hand out the syllabus, assign the chapters, and begin checking off the academic standards. Why? Because all this makes us feel as though we are being efficient, accountable and productive. On the other hand, if we dedicated more time to creating effective classroom communities, we might discover that we don't have to stop as often during the school year to remind or to lecture about expectations or behaviors. Eureka! More learning could take place.
Yes, rice is an everyday, perhaps even overlooked, simple pleasure.
However, if not prepared reasonably well, it can ruin a perfectly good meal.
Note to self: before you move along with your grand plans,
take time to make the rice.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Would You Mind Sliding Down the Pew and Making Room for My Refreshments?

I'm not sure if you could find many people who love coffee more than I do.
I l-o-v-e it.
I like the aroma of coffee, the ritual of coffee drinking, the cold weather pilgrimage to buy a delicious cup of too expensive coffee, and the good old fashioned coffee break.
Coffee completes me.
I don't get this new trend I see of people bringing coffee into church.
Hot steaming cups of deliciousness accompany them to the pews.
Though I should be previewing the readings and saying some prayers, I sit watching in twisted fascination.
Really? What did I miss and when did this become okay?
The gum chewing was once hard for me to grasp, but at least that can be concealed in the mouth.
The coffee cup in the hand sends a different message.
I'm not sure what the message is but I find it all very peculiar.
I am a woman whose family didn't eat an hour before church and whose grandmother once put a napkin on her head because she didn't have a veil.
If I wear jeans on Sunday, I still can hear my dad's voice telling me that one never wears dungarees to church.
So, you can see why this new trend has caught my attention.
We can bring treats to church now?
We can make sure that we have everything we need with us to be comfortable for that long hour of sitting, singing, and praying?
Comfy cozy?
I'm all for it.
Maybe since it's autumn, next week I'll bring a piece of pumpkin pie to eat.
I'll slide into the pew with my plate, fork, and pie.
Next, I'll pull a can of whipped cream out of my purse and oh-so-quietly put some on top.
Then, I will relax and listen to the readings while nibbling on my slice of pumpkin heaven.
This sounds like a grand idea.
Hey- you know what would go well with all that?
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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Making Mondays in the Classroom

For years, Cheryl , a lovely woman and author, has used her perpetual perkiness to prompt her readers into writing positive thoughts each Monday for her Makes My Monday posts on her Twinfatuation blog. Bloggers from all over have participated and shared little bits of their lives for which they are grateful. This has been an uplifting, beginning- of-the-week pause for many.
Now, with Cheryl's permission, I am transporting her idea into my classroom in two useful ways.
First, written on the classroom whiteboard on Monday mornings will be the words What Makes Your Monday?
Nearby, post-its will be available for students to write their short notes about the good things that are happening in their lives right now. I'm expecting delightful little nuggets about weekend games, dances, and out-of -town visits. Of course, I know it may take a bit of authoritative, gentle nudging at first, but I'm confident the idea will stick...ha. (Get it? Stick?)
Next, I am a firm believer in sending good news notes home to parents, but unfortunately, time slips away from me, distractions lurk around every corner, and my brain forgets. There is no reason I can't take the Makes My Monday concept and use it as a reminder to send those notes home. Right?
Telling a mother that her son read a Dickens's passage so beautifully that the class wanted him to do it again?
Explaining to a father that his daughter is one of the best writers I've ever taught?
I'm thinking there are many super Monday Making possibilities here.
I look forward to getting this ball rolling.
(Thank you again Cheryl for your inspiration.)
On that note, I hope all your Mondays are filled with an abundance of delightful things.
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where did circle time go?

Kindergarten and first grade were awesome.
Not because I learned to write in complete sentences or learned how to add.
What I remember most about those delicious years is the time we spent in a circle with our legs crossed on the carpet. In kindergarten, Mrs. Woofter would read Uncle Remus stories to us to help us calm down for our naps. In first grade, Mrs. Land would play Doris Day records and make us laugh with her funny voices. More than anything, I recall feeling completely relaxed and comfortable in these circles where we also blurted out details about our pets and shared family, vacation, and favorite dream stories . Somewhere along the way, "frivolous" circle time gave way to productivity: worksheets and drills. I deeply missed the songs, the stories, and the giggles from those circle time days.
Guess what? As flaky as it may sound, middle school students can use a little circle time at school too. From what I can see, their lives in and out of school are a tornado of activity; there is little time for chilling without the distraction of TV, computer, or phones. As a result, I have come to believe strongly in planned and unplanned circle time for designated homeroom periods, and I've also learned a few lessons on how make it work.
  • Have a focus ready. This can be as simple as a question or two. For example, in what way was your week great? In what way was it el-stinko?
  • As the adult/leader, I go first and share something that happened to me that the students don't know and that could possibly surprise them. I make sure to emphasize my dorkiness whenever possible. Laughter is good.
  • Have lollipops or some other treat to keep the mood light. Gummy bears work great.
  • If I really think I may have trouble with participation, I've even added another prop like play-dough so that they can have something to do while they talk about whatever is on their minds.
  • When circle time works (and the kids don't think they are being held hostage in some nightmare after school special) then I learn precious many things....how funny they are, how resilient they are, how stressed they sometimes feel, and how much I just enjoy being in their company.

Yes, it's true the the technology education movement is on a meteoric rise and teachers are strongly encouraged to keep their classroom paces cyber-friendly, brisk and efficient. But please, let us not become so web-driven and jaded that we forget to be human with each other....that is, without a doubt, the good stuff.

Which is why, in my not so humble opinion, circle time will always rock.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Cell Phone, The Middle Schooler, & The Attitude

My very close friend "April" was having a difficult time with her 13 year old daughter "Sophie's" attitude.
Since I teach 13 year old's, she didn't have to explain much for me to understand what she meant. Goodness yes, I do love middle schoolers very much for their hefty servings of wit, resilience, and unpredictability but I also know that it all comes with some assorted side dishes.
The dismissive shrugs.
The exasperated eye rolls.
The occasional hisses and mumblings.
Years in the classroom have made me quite fluent in middle-schoolese.
So the story goes that one evening April had reached her tolerance limit regarding attitude and decided to dole out a consequence to Sophie.... she took her cell phone away.
This measure elicited very little reaction or remorse from Sophie.
As a result, to take it up a parent power notch, April decided to cancel the entire cell phone plan.....over and out.
Later, when April called AT&T to take care of business, the customer representative dutifully asked April why she was cancelling her account.
April explained that her daughter was giving her attitude and the situation called for a significant consequence. The representative responded with an empathetic, "I understand."
The representative continued..."But you don't need to cancel the entire plan, just suspend it. " April learned that at no cost to her, she could pause the service, save a little money, and teach her lovely, talented daughter that respect is not an option.
But apparently an interruption in your cell phone plan is.
Do you suppose that AT&T had been fielding a plethora of cancellation requests from exhausted parents looking for that magical punishment that would make their teens less...uh...that way?
I'm thinking that's exactly what happened.
Hence, the suspend-your-own-account plan was born.
Good call....on so many levels.
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why a teacher should blog and other tales...

To stay current, I have been trying to read at least 2 educational/social concerns articles a day on linkedin.com.
Today, I came across this article Why Teachers Should Blog....of all the points the blogger makes, I find this one the most significant: we should blog so that our professional learning can serve as a model for the learning process. Be transparent.
"Whether you have been teaching one year, or 30, there is so much we can learn from everyone."
As a result, (though I had been putting blogging on the back burner) here I am again.
While I work to make my classroom a 21st century one and strive to implement technology into more lesson plans, it only makes sense that I would continue to reflect and to write about my teaching experiences.
What have I been up to?
Since April, when last I posted, I have made a few changes in my classroom routine.
1) Wednesdays are "World Wednesday" when I emphasize global concerns in lessons by either sharing articles or viewing video clips to create thoughtful discussions about hunger, joblessness, and environment degradation. In addition, I came across a great simulation game on the web Playspent.org that teaches students how difficult it is for a family to make a living on a minimum wage salary. We create classroom families and have students make difficult life-like choices based on their low earnings. This has helped them to realize how easy it is for someone to fall on hard times and become homeless.
2) I asked parents last week to send me an email telling me all about their child. Only a couple parents took me up on it, but I am now a firm believer in the practice because right from the go, I know the special talents and interests of a few children in my class. Love that. Next year, I may reward each student a free late homework pass if she/he can convince a parent to write me a little something.
3) The book Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov (one of the best "how to" manuals I've ever read on teaching) drives home the idea that an effective teacher will always remember, the essential "J" factor in the classroom.
What is the "J" factor you ask?
Kids need joy.....tell a joke, give out a surprise treat, or play a fun activity.
Don't you do a better job when you have had time to laugh?
To smile?
To joke?
I know I do.
J Factor...an essential teaching ingredient. Hope I never forget it.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Heart a Clever Homemade Valentine

I decided in my bossy, teacher kind of way that this year I wanted my students to MAKE their valentines. Between you and me, I wasn't quite sure if I was going to pull it off. (They are 7th graders you know.) However, somehow, someway all the students in my homeroom came in with a version of a homemade valentine. There were rockets (made with a roll of Mentos and a Hershey's kiss) that said "Blast off!" One young man drew a picture of a little tug boat and wrote "You float my boat." Another put a fortune cookie inside of a takeout container and wrote on a slip of paper, "It's my good fortune to be your friend." All cute, yes? But the grandaddy of them all was this one...

Outstanding effort and attention to detail- the students voted and she won first prize. (Okay, all the prizes are from the dollar store but the students don't care that my prizes are el-cheapo.)

All in all, my pushiness paid off; it was a very good day.

Now, I can finally unwrap those earplugs and eat them. post signature

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

I have a few favorite literature pieces that I set aside for Black History Month. One is Langston Hughes' poem Mother to Son. The speaker is a tough broad who has faced some harsh challenges. She tells her son (in so many words) not to whine, not to be a wimp, not to be lazy, and not to give up. I find this is solid advice for all us- young and old alike.

Well, son, I'll tell you: Life for me ain't been no crystal stair. It's had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor -- Bare. But all the time I'se been a-climbin' on

And reachin' landin's, And turnin' corners, And sometimes goin' in the dark

Where there ain't been no light.

So boy, don't you turn back.

Don't you set down on the steps

'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.

Don't you fall now -- For I'se still goin', honey,

I'se still climbin',

And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

By Langston Hughes

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Monday, February 14, 2011

I Heart Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is a fun-filled day at school.
The students arrive very excited about the little 40 minute celebrations
we will be having in our homerooms.
(These parties basically consist of a few cupcakes, some drinks, and giving out cards.)
This year my class has decided to make their valentines.
I have two fabulous prizes for the best ones.....okay, I bought the fabulous prizes at the dollar store, but wrap anything in cellophane and it can look fabulous.
This is a holiday that really hasn't changed much since
I was in school.
Cards and heart-shaped candies still make young people smile....
and that Makes My Monday.
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For a big Valentine's Day ear to ear smile, go visit Cheryl.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bright Beginnings

This year, as we considered what we might like to do for a Catholic Schools Week schoolwide service project, I searched around the internet to find a DC school or shelter that could use some support.
What I found was a small school in the city called Bright Beginnings which serves homeless families by providing infant, toddler, and pre-k classes throughout the week. After a few emails and several questions, I discovered that they often run in short supply of everyday school and daycare items.
Our classrooms collected diapers, markers, stationery, colored pencils, construction paper and other school supplies to keep this noble little facility running fully stocked for several weeks. Even in the aftermath of the "thundersnow" that disrupted many of our school families' lives, our community came through with donations.
I woke up this morning remembering that tomorrow my co-worker and I will be driving the supplies over there, meeting the fabulous teachers, and taking a tour of the school.
Looking forward to it.
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Visit Cheryl and you will have a bright beginning to your week too!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Subject of the Matter....

I think we adults need to be careful downplaying any subject or skill in front of children.
Let's avoid making commentaries like-
Oh it's just art.
It's religion; it's not like it's a real class.
No one pays attention to grammar rules anymore anyway.
Believe me. In ten years it won't matter if you can figure out what X + Y means.
I've heard these types of statements in different situations.
..... from parents who don't understand how a child can earn a C in a religion class. (The disbelief is that a teacher would GIVE a student a C in religion.)
......from a parent who dismissed a negative behavior comment from an art teacher.
......from a tutor who thought my grammar emphasis was out of date.
Guess what?
Art IS the gift some children have.
Religion class IS where some students feel most at home.
Grammar skills offer many children a way to exercise their brains and hone their language skills so that they can become polished writers and effective speakers.
Some kids love analyzing words the same way others love to work out math problems.
I've heard from adults ..it's not like anyone cares if a verb is in the indicative mood or the subjunctive mood. (Accompanied by an eye roll.)
Actually. there ARE some kids who care, but if they hear US make comments like these, I bet they wont' care a whole lot anymore.
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,
each of us is to exercise them accordingly...Romans 12:6
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No Matter How Small (A Respect for Life Poem)

Horton Hears a Who... Finally, at last! From that speck on that clover Their voices were heard! They rang out clear and clean.And the elephant smiled. "Do you see what I mean?...They've proved there are persons, no matter how small.And their whole world was saved by the Smallest of All!" "How true! Yes, how true," said the big kangaroo."And, from now on, you know what I'm planning to do?...From now on, I'm going to protect them with you!"And the young kangaroo in her pouch said,..."...ME, TOO!"
by Dr. Seuss

Plain or pretty

Skinny or Fat

A person's a person

I like it like that.

And if you speak funny

Like some of us do..

Guess what? You're a person!

Oh my yes. It's true.

Are you somewhat nutty?

A bit off your rocker?

You still count my dear friend

(I know it's a shocker!)

If you have some limbs

That don't work so well,

You're 100 percent people..

This fact I do tell.

Do you like to eat liver?

(Though I think it's gross).

That still makes you human

And to you I toast!

Your brain may be slow

or yet, fast it may be

But the fact still is this-

You suit God to a T.

Perhaps you are old

And your skin doesn't fit.

But that doesn't matter

Not one little bit...

Or maybe you're tiny

And can hardly be seen

You are no less a person

To say so is mean.

Because you ARE a person

The most awesome of all...

And a person's a person

No matter how small.

by Laura Graham Fetters (with some Dr. Seuss inspiration.) post signature

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How to Make Toast.....

I have come to the conclusion that we assume too much in this world.
We teachers assume that middle schoolers know how to address an envelope.
Drivers assume that other drivers will use their turn signals when they are going to change lanes.
Customers assume that sales associates will want to help them find the right product.
And the list goes on and on.
I have always assumed that the typical human knows how to make toast.
But not everyone must know the in's and out's of toast-making because there is an EHOW page for this very thing. Thank goodness.
Maybe you should read it.
Maybe you really don't' know how.
Maybe you've doing it wrong all these years.
Maybe this is the exact remedy you need for that crippling breakfast anxiety you face everyday.
Stop embarrassing yourself with your incorrect toast-making techniques.
Read the article.
Really....it's not too late to make a change.
You don't have to thank me.
I'm here to serve.
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Adjust, Review, Dream, Focus, Plan, and more....

The 7th graders in my religion class each had to choose a focus word that would help them to center themselves for the second half of the school year. The word could relate to personal needs, academic needs, or spiritual needs. Some of the students were so intent on choosing the right word that they continued to switch words several times.
The activity of choosing the words themselves led to terrific discussions and meaningful reflections. I was especially delighted when several of these young teenagers read aloud from their journals about why they wanted to focus on a particular area of their lives. (Folks who work with this age group know that sometimes encouraging them to share feelings is a challenge.)
All of us, me too, made a magnet of our word as a daily visible reminder of the mindset we want to embrace.
Great stuff.
Don't even try to tell me that our young people today aren't ambitious and thoughtful.
I know that they are. post signature

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You've Got Bad Mail....

My 7th graders are so much fun to sit around and shoot the breeze with. Today we were chatting about mail during some homeroom time, and we all agreed that receiving mail is fun. They reminisced about how exciting it was to receive a party invitation in the mail when they were young- like in kindergarten. But it cracked me up when they talked about how much they HATED....and I do mean HATED receiving thank you notes. Intrigued, I asked, "How could you hate a thank you note?" One girl passionately explained, "You see an envelope sitting there, and you are still excited about a party that you attended the week before. You, of course, remember that the invitation to that great party came in an envelope. You have party on the brain, so you see this OTHER NEW envelope and you think Oh yay- another party invitation yippee, but it's not. It's just a stupid thank you note that you can't read anyway because you're 5." They all chimed in saying that they used to open those thank you notes and basically throw them down in disgust. How very interesting and amusing... I learned something new today. And I've got a haiku to prove it.
Yippee! I've got mail!
(I betcha it's an INVITE)
Boo...no it is not.
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