8/30/12

The end of August ALWAYS equals LOVE. (It never fails....)



You know that feeling you get when you fall in love?


That incredible butterfly in the stomach, wake up in the morning with a smile amazing feeling in your heart?


THAT is what teaching is all about.


I have met 18 incredible, wonderful, special souls.  And I can honestly say that after three days, I am officially in love.


It’s the greatest feeling in the world.



The greatest feeling....






(But the boy who shouted “I’m being summoned by the smell of beef jerky!”,  YOU are the man.  And I can’t wait to see what I learn from YOU this year…)






8/27/12

What do I make? I make a difference....that's what I make. (Buckle up.)

I am sitting on my bed working on lesson plans.  I want to ensure that the first day of school for the children AND for the teacher is amazing.


I can't articulate how excited I am for this school year.  I have an amazing team, a beautiful school, an incredible principal and great expectation.   I won't sleep a wink - I'll worry about what I'm wearing on the first day, what activities we'll do, if anyone will cry, and just about everything else there is to worry about.


I'm getting back to work, but wanted to share Taylor Mali's inspirational speech.  THIS is why I do what I do. (Please take a minute to watch it all.....teacher says....)







Well, the fact that I make a difference is important, but that I can laugh every day is a bonus;  A HUGE bonus.  


(Wish me luck....)

8/26/12

The Golden Rule. Frankly, it's all we need.




Okay, real quick everybody, what’s the golden rule? No cheating, looking it up online and what not, what is it? Do you remember?  

It takes a minute, but it’s “Treat everyone the way you would want to be treated.”   I think that sounds about right.  

I’m talking about rules today, because honestly that’s about all we do the first week of school.  Rules for the playground, rules for the classroom, rules for the library, rules for the bathroom, rules for the hallway, rules, rules, rules.  It’s enough to drive a person crazy.  Don’t get me wrong, they are very important! They will help keep the children safe (always a priority) and will keep the year running smoothly.  It’s just a lot of listening for these little people, and sometimes they get antsy.  (As one boy said to another the other day, “I don’t think we’ll be using our brains today.)

Many of these rules that we learn at the beginning of school are ones that the kids will hopefully carry with them throughout their school careers, and their own lives. They are the basic ones: 1. Don’t hurt anyone on the inside or outside.  (This covers almost everything.) 2.  Follow the playground rules.  3. Listen to the teacher.   4.  Use good manners.  These are the rules we all try to end up with, but what we start out with is something else entirely.

To begin the rule making process, teachers try to find out if the kids know why we have rules at all!  This is always an enlightening experience for any teacher, but in kindergarten, it is just plain fun.  Here are some of the responses I received when I posed the question, “Why do we have rules?”

-cause people might tackle you if we didn’t have rules.
-so we won’t get hurt all the time, like when my brother hurts me every day.
-cause people just do bad stuff.
-if we didn’t have rules and people were running around school they would miss the bus and then they would be stuck here all night! (this particular reason was followed by a chanting of “Stay all night! Stay all night!  Stay all night!  I had a bit of a headache after that.)

After coming up with an extensive list of why we have rules (which I knew they couldn’t read anyway, but teachers like to write on the board.) we decided to brainstorm good rules.  We thought about what rules would make our classroom a safe and happy place.  This is what they suggested:

-Do not put paper towels in the toilet.  They don’t flush. 
-Don’t throw things at people.
-Don’t draw on yourself with permanent marker.
-Don’t use potty words.
-Do not show people your privates.
-Do not squeeze guinea pigs until their guts come out.
-Flush the toilet.
-No biting your friends.
-Do not walk up the slide.
-Always use a tissue. (okay, I added that one.)

After an exhausting and extensive discussion, we decided that the original 4 rules that I suggested pretty much covered all the other rules.   As I think about these rules, and all the things the children will learn this year, I am reminded that yes, all they really need to know they learn in Kindergarten.  (okay, Mr. Fulghum, you beat me to the punch, but we were all thinking this long before you became a gazillionaire writing about it….) Yes, gazillion is a word.   I feel I really must go over these one time. It’s a nice reminder that even adults need to remember the rules: share everying; play fair; don’t hit people; put things back where you found them; clean up your own mess; don’t take things that aren’t yours; say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody; wash your hands before you eat; warm cookies and cold milk are good for you; live a balanced life - learn some, think some, draw and paint and sing and dance and play; take a nap; watch out for traffic and hold hands; be aware of wonder; Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that; goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup- they all die.  So do we.  Remember the Dick and Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all -  LOOK.


So, I’d like to end our little rule session with a shout out to the mother of a little fella in my classroom.  He’s the one that told his mom that his new Kindergarten teacher was “hot!”  That Teacher’s Pet t-shirt I ordered is on its way!  (Oh, and the nurse will be in the check his eyes - although I’m sure they’re fine!)




(Yeah, it's one of my first columns....but why re-invent the wheel?  WHY? Plus, I am in my classroom 24/7 right now.  TWENTY FOUR SEVEN. And I am excited beyond belief. Stay tuned....) 

8/23/12

Oh Mr. Postman, sometimes you deliver more than just the mail...


My new classroom in my new building is situated at the very end of a very long hallway.  In fact, it’s about as far from the office as one can get, which in years past might have been a good thing.

I’ve spent many days these last few weeks unpacking, organizing, decorating and acclimating myself to this new climate.  There have been many lovely people popping into my room to introduce themselves and I certainly have felt the love.  I’ve also kept a low profile, just a bit too busy to assume the role of social butterfly that I’ve come to know and love all these years.

Frankly, I’m still a bit out of my element.  I’m the “new” girl.  And while I’m not the fresh-faced teacher right out of college, I still feel totally like the new girl. I spent 21 years in one building here in Smythe, Oregon. And then someone moved my cheese.

Yet through all of this “newness” I’ve felt an incredible happiness in my heart, and lightness in my step.  I feel as if a great weight has been lifted from my heart- and I am embarking on an amazing adventure. 


But there are moments; tiny moments when I still feel a bit alone in this new, lovely building.


I’ve tried to walk down to the office each day- to at least smile at the office staff and check my mailbox.  The people I pass smile and the ladies in the office are always welcoming.


The mailbox is always empty.



I’ve attributed this to the fact that I have chosen to return to my maiden name, and many might not know this.  I’m also new to the building, so most of the book clubs, teacher resource supply stores and various other vendors don’t know who or where I am.  THAT, I have found, is a good thing.

Today I made my daily walk, and when I poked my head into the mailroom I saw it.  There was an envelope sitting in my mailbox!  I stared for a minute- a bit stunned - and then smiled and reached inside.

I quickly opened it and read this note.





I stood in the tiny mailroom and read the note over and over.  I wiped the tears from my eyes and felt the tiny arms of my friend as he reached out to push me on my way.



We find our courage in the most surprising places, don’t we?  Mine? It  was right there hiding in my mailbox.




(Thank you, Jack.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.)


8/22/12

Oh sure, I'm the teacher; but this note is from the mom.






As another school year quickly approaches, I wanted to send a heartfelt message to this community’s teachers.  Okay, I am a teacher and yes, I get excited about the new school year, but I am first and foremost a mom.  My message to you is not from the teacher, the friend or the co-worker, but from the mother of the child that will be in your class next year.  I am sending you my most precious, precious gift. My child.  Let me tell you about her….

My child is the little girl who sleeps with the bathroom light on because she is a little afraid of the dark.  My child is the girl who makes sure that the windows are locked at night, just in case.  My child is the girl who worries if her clothes match, because the other children will make fun of her if they don’t.  My child is the girl whose smile and laughter brighten our lives, but who just can’t keep her mouth shut at school!  My child is the girl that no one wants to be friends with because she’s a tattle tale. (Mom, I am just following the rules!)  My child is the girl who might be a little sad at school because she lost her only grandpa last year.  My daughter is the girl who is afraid to come to school because the other girls tease her and tell her she is too fat.  My child is the girl who tripped over the recycling bin, and fell face first on the floor in front of the boy she had a crush on.  My child is the girl who collects insects in the summer, identifies their tracks, does science experiments in her room, but hates to read. 

My child is the boy who loves to do mental math, but refuses to read a book.  My child is the boy no one wants to be friends with because he plays house.  My child is the boy who will climb on the roof, fly down the hill on his bike, climb WAY too far up the tree, but is afraid to participate in class.  My child is the boy who forgets where he is sometimes, and picks his nose in class.   My child is the boy who puts the little orange cones on his chest and pretends they are boobs for all his six-year old friends.  My child is the boy who is mad because another boy told him he loved him.  My child is the boy who didn’t want to come in from gym, figured it was an emergency, and peed in the woods.  Yeah, the gym teacher caught him.  My child is the boy who is a little bigger than the other children, a little younger than the other children, and thinks he’s stupid.  My child is the boy who still likes being tucked in at night, and wants a good night kiss.

What do I need from you?  I need you to make her feel she is special, and an important part of the classroom community.   I need you to understand that it is okay for her to make mistakes, be wrong, and that a B is okay!  I need you to help her along when she stumbles, fumbles, and makes a fool of herself in front of her friends.  I want her to wake up in the morning and be glad that she has something to look forward to, school! 

What do I need you to do for me?  I need you to tell me what my child is doing at school. Newsletters are great!  Believe me, they do not remember anything they did during the day!  It might be nice if you give me a call sometime, even if my child is not in trouble.  I need you to tell me no, my child is NOT gifted, but she’s a hard worker, and I shouldn’t be contacting the learning enrichment teacher at home.  

Basically, I want you to be all that you are - enthusiastic, motivating, risk-taking, kind, empathetic, understanding, loving, humorous and compassionate.  Most importantly, I want you to please, please remember that each child in your class is someone’s precious, precious gift.  It’s their child, my child, your child.  


Please handle with care.   





(I wrote this long before I realized that a writing career was in my future.  However, it is one piece that will always resonate...)

8/21/12

There's something in the air...and it takes me back.




I drove slowly around the lane that loops around the high school parking lot.  I was a bit early to pick up Golden Boy and a few of his fellow ninth graders from the grueling morning football practice.

I was the head of the parent parking brigade, and I rolled my window down before I turned off the car.

I turned my head slightly to the left so that I could watch the high school band practice their halftime show in the parking lot below.


It took my breath away.


They were playing Anchors Away and each section marched with purpose and determination as they zig zagged their way through each other.

My heart filled as I listened to the familiar song. My eyes searched quickly for the percussion section as my mind returned to 1972.   I spotted her; the smallest member of the section balancing the oversized snare drum as her legs tried desperately to keep pace with her fellow percussionists.  

It wasn’t easy; and that I knew for a fact.

I was that girl; the last to get her drum and the shortest drummer in the band.  I worked hard, made sure I kept up, and laughed while others were convinced I would quit.

But I didn’t.


On this summer day I smiled because I knew that the smallest drummer out in that parking lot wouldn’t quit, either.



Well, except when she becomes the cheerleader.  Only THEN will she quit the band.  She’ll do it on her own terms, and go from the smallest drummer in the band to the happiest cheerleader on the squad.  She’ll be perched proudly on the tippy top of the pyramid, and then all of the band will be cheering.  


They most certainly all will be cheering. 




(Some stories do have a happy ending.)

8/20/12

Warm summer days and the thrill of a lifetime. (aka Dorney Park puts their $$$ where their mouth is.)



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This is sponsored content from BlogHer and Cedar Fair

The morning smelled of the promise of long summer days, freshly mowed lawns and the uncontrollable laughter of children traveling on the wings of a summer breeze.
You remember the feel of those mornings, don’t you? The feel on a warm summer mornings when the excitement of a trip fluttered in your stomach like a million butterflies trying to escape. It’s magical, no matter what your age.
 
I packed my teenage boy, along with his two friends, into our car with plenty of food but no electronic devices.  We arrived at Dorney Park, nestled outside a quaint town, ready to begin our first summer adventure.  I felt fortunate that I was able to convince these teen boys to spend a day with me – considering that being with your mother is not cool when you’re fourteen and coming into your own.

My plan to spend time with my son and his friends was accepted quickly by them, as it was wrapped in several incredible roller coasters such as the Stinger and Talon, and the promise of at least two drenching water rides.
 


And so we spent the day in a very clean and beautiful park- surrounded by the excited screams of rides filled to the brim, families enjoying the awesomeness of the first weekend of the summer, and groups celebrating a year of great work that has come to a close.

The park was much, much larger than I expected.  It had roller coasters perched around the periphery of the park, and ride after ride peppered throughout.  Tucked in every nook and cranny were food booths that offered such a variety that any craving you might have could be met.  There were funnel cakes, warm pretzels, tacos, burger, franks, ice cream, and anything else you could possibly imagine.
But what impressed this mother the most?  It was the cleanest park I have ever, ever been to.  (Oh sure, the boys only saw the thrilling rides, but this parent saw the numerous employees dressed neatly and carrying brooms and scoopers to take care of any scrap that might be dropped.)

Planet Snoopy is a clever and magical area designed for the younger children and their parents.  The rides were large enough that parents could ride WITH their children in comfort and enjoyment.  The rest of the park was a perfect combination of familiar rides, and thrilling, state-of-the-art roller coasters.  The park rates its rides from 1 to 5, so you know which coasters provide the most thrills.
 
It was a most fantastic day – and although the boys slept for part of the ride home, they spent the remainder of that ride talked excitedly about all they had done at Dorney Park, and planning our next- much longer- trip there.  They’re in love; they’re in love with some incredible roller coasters and a park that lived up to its promise.


Do you ride the roller coasters with the thrill seekers or wait for them at the end of the line?



8/16/12

You know what, Bilbo Baggins? I know just how you feel....


"...but I’m beginning to feel it in my heart. I feel…thin. Sort of stretched, like…butter scraped over too much bread. I need a holiday. A very long holiday. "   BIlbo Baggins.



It seems I'm ruffling too many feathers.  I don't have the energy...


I'm taking a little siesta.....be well, my friends.  





8/15/12

It's the most wonderful time of the year..(everybody, now)

Still unpacking, organizing, unpacking, re-organizing, moving one pile to another pile, and another pile to another place.  It's a crazy game of where's the pebble - and I will only be ready at midnight the night before school starts.  And THEN, I have to find time to GLANCE at my NEW UNITS.   Sweet Cheezus.



And so I offer you the best of the back to school cartoons.  Frankly, I'm searching high and low for ways to laugh....high and low....












That one up there??    Brilliant......


And you CAN'T tell me that this wasn't the best back to school commercial EVER. (hands down.)



8/13/12

Sometimes you can go home again. (Even if it IS just in your heart.)




I am visiting with a dear friend Beth today, who lived two doors down from me on Lemon Road.

We are heading to Annapolis to surround ourselves in all things historical, naval, watery and lovely.  We will bask in memories old and new, and gaze at the green midshipmen as they navigate their new surroundings.

We will talk of Barbies, The Monkees, crayfish, children, weddings, funerals, heartbreak and love.   And more; much, much more....











Sigh.  



(I am squeezing every drop out of this summer...every SINGLE drop...)




Now, get to the pool, people. 






8/11/12

Jon Stewart- you should be required television...(aka, will you marry me?)

No one points out the (not so) obvious like my Jon.


Please, do yourself a huge favor this morning and watch this. (You can thank me later...and make sure you swallow your coffee first...)


8/10/12

dis-au-sted, adjective...drained of one's physical and mental resources..

I spent the last two days unpacking a thousand boxes, only to discover that the incredible teacher who left my new building was kind enough to leave me her stuff.


All.    Her.   Stuff.


Um.



I'm too tired to talk.  I offer the following incredible thought of the day- and an invitation to anyone even REMOTELY near Winchester Elementary here in Smythe, Oregon, to meet in my new classroom on Wednesday morning.  (Taking a little TINY trip to Maryland. :-)   Be back soon.....)






boom.





8/6/12

Intentions are highly overrated...and the universe knows it. (BlogHer Part One.)




I went to this years BlogHer conference with vague intentions. 


I knew I wanted to see old friends, talk to folks about what I was writing and my intentions for the book, and I couldn’t wait to see what surprises the universe had in store for me.  (And there were plenty….)

These conferences are unique in that we meet hundreds of people, and we wrap our arms around them as if we are old, old friends.  It’s crazy! But you know what?  We are...

We wrap our arms around each other because we are old friends. We smile with genuine happiness because our hearts are connected.

We’ve been engaged in the story of each other’s lives for years, months, or perhaps even weeks.   We’ve met through the blog of a friend, or the friend of a friend of a friend.   We’ve read each other’s thoughts, stories, secrets, tragedies and triumphs. 

We were with Anna when she lost a precious child; gone through divorces together; watched Kevin and his wife as their child struggles with an illness we have no control over; cheered for Jill when she published her book, and we’ve seen each other slip, fall and get back up.  

We laugh as we see others stumble as we do, and we cry when their memories strike a chord inside our own hearts.  We sit for hours combing through the stories of their lives and our minds digest the journeys that both shock and encourage us.  We feel entertained, lifted, saddened and happy in a matter of minutes.  We learn details about their lives that they might not share if we were sharing a beer at the corner pub. We release things into the blogosphere in the middle of a quiet still night, that often have stayed hidden in the corner of our hearts, and it is freeing.


We know them.


And they know us.


And so when we see their names and hear their voices we embrace them with joy and gusto, because we know who they are.  



And that particular kind of friendship is priceless.  It’s new, unique, and hard to describe to some who aren’t connected to this blogosphere.


But it’s priceless, nonetheless.