Friday, November 30, 2012

Lean On Me

How do you define success?

Do you put a number on it? Is posted on a wall for everyone to see? Does it come in the form of accolades?   
This is what I saw this week. It happens every year. I don't know how it happens. It just does. Everyone stops what they are doing. They run to comfort and help a friend in need. They don't ask for permission. They don't think twice about it. They notice the crisis before I do. 
They never ask for thanks or praise. They just take care of what needs to be taken care of and then they move on.
It doesn't have an objective. There isn't a formal lesson attached to it. It never has a closure. But it is an assessment.
When I see it, I assess myself and the people I try to surround myself with. When I see it I know I have been successful. Somehow, someway I have taught the most important lesson in life.
But then again, I really wasn't the teacher was I?  
The Lesson
Watch the children. They are the best teachers of the Golden Rule.
So, whattaya waiting for?


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Creating the Most Unlikely of Risk Takers In the Most Unlikely of Places

"What other time will you get the opportunity to do something like that?"
I love to create risk takers out of my students. In my classroom I feel successful when I can get all of them to feel uninhibited. If you want to dance in my class, you do, you may and you will. If you want to sing, you do, you may and you will. If you want to sit and watch others do this...well you better rethink that decision because I'm gonna make you get up and boogie somehow! I thought I only claimed victims  took advantage of teachable moments in my classroom, but this past week I realized I do it everywhere and age is not a factor!
This is what happened...

Big Girl, Little Girl and I had to go purchase the ingredients for our annual Thanksgiving Sustenance Ritual.
(...we got the yummers for the Turkey Fest!)
Well, in retrospect I knew something was going to happen in the store. While in the produce section I caught sight of an elderly woman shopping with her adult son. I overheard them ticking off their shopping list only their adventure wasn't as...ahem... interesting as mine.
(Mom can we go through the candy bins?...Mom she's touching me...Mom, Mom, Mooooom..kersplat...silence...Mooooom, she did it!)
 I thought ,how sweet and patient this grown man was being with his Momma and I hoped my girls would be as patient with me when the time came.
(Truth be told, I only caught him roll his eyes once behind her back when she couldn't make up her mind if she wanted brussels sprouts or green beans! I giggled.)
They, like I, followed the stream of shoppers to each section. Then we came to the turkeys! Little Girl expressed that we needed to thank the turkey in our prayers for feeding us and Big Girl told us how many early Native American's did not waste a single part of an animal they had hunted.
(I had a quick vision of glitterfied bone jewelry created by Glitterific Girl.
*Note to self: Hide the turkey bones. I know. I'm denying her her heritage and holding back her creativity. It must be in her DNA to use every part of...everything... and bedazzle it!)
We chose our perfect turkey and prepared to leave. Then I noticed the elderly lady standing next to me and at the same time two employees were preparing to restock the rapidly depleteing supply of glorious fowl. Before them stood boxes of turkeys. They began to slowly and methodically open each box and gingerly load the freezer with the gobblers.
Then I saw the "look" in their eyes and I knew what was going to happen! 
(Great White Hunter is a "big boy" too so I've seen that look plenty of times...It said let's play!)
"Boys" being "boys" they started to race! The sights and sounds caught everyone's attention. Especially mine and the lady next to me. She looked at me. I looked at her and we both giggled.
 Slice! Rip! Heave! Boom! Slice! Rip! Heave! Boom!
The sight was remarkable. These boys were heaving at least 100lbs with seemingly no effort! She giggled and said we should clap for them. Then, she giggled again, covered her mouth and exclaimed, "Do you think we should?" Well, that's all she had to ask, and I said, "Why yes. Yes we should! We should thank them for the show. They work hard and really what other time than during the holidays will you see a sight like that?" We clapped and giggled and the "boys" smiled and nodded! This is what struck me.
 With her movements I saw the shy, self-conscious little girl covering her mouth afraid to laugh too loudly at some kind of random silliness. I saw the little girl who has been told that she shouldn't attract attention to herself. I am Thankful to have had the opportunity to allow her to take a risk and giggle at life with me!
The Lesson
Teachable moments can happen anywhere, anytime, anyplace and your students are ageless. Creating safe places for people to express themselves is limitless!
So, whattaya waiting for? I'm shy and I did this!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Are You a Sweet or a Sour?

"He's sweet, she's sour!"
I get lost if I don't print out directions to a new destination. I don't get lost because I don't know my destination. I get lost because I get distracted by comments being shouted out from the back seat of my car.
"Moooooom she's touching me!"
"Mooooooom I'm hungry!"
"Moooooooom can I hang my head out the window and screeeam?"
Yepper, sometimes it's a regular fun-fest! Yesterday was no exception. I didn't find the destination,oh well, but I did learn something. Let me 'splain.
As I was trying really hard to concentrate on maneuvering through holiday traffic,ticking away at my mental list of things I needed to get at the grocery store, I look out the passenger side window and I notice that the man in the next car is smiling and waving. I try to avert my eyes because I don't recognize him. Yikes!
 (I'm shy remember...)
The light turns green and I press the accelerator just a little bit harder than usual. Then, of course, I come to another light.
(Gotta love that holiday traffic!) 
"Aaaah, she's sour. That's too bad." That comment uttered from the back seat of my car forces me to put the mental list down and truly listen and look around me. My girls were playing a game I'm sure many of us have played in the car to pass the time.
(Anyone up for a game of Slug Bug?)
They call it Sweet and Sour. The object of the game is to catch the attention of any passer-by. On foot or on wheels, anyone is fair game, and they wave, smile and say hello. If the person smiles,waves, or acknowledges them in a positive way they call them a Sweet. Extra points if you get a laugh! If, of course, you avert your eyes (like I did) or you give a growly face (like I often do at the end of a franatic day) You are called a Sour.
As they continue to play this game, I try to catch a glimpse of how the faces of people change. Some initially look pensive and stressed then suddenly I see them soften and relax. Some, unfortunately, tighten up further and either glare at them or roll their eyes and turn away. It strikes me as odd that people are afraid to say hello anymore. I wonder to myself why we have become so closed off and cynical that we cannot take the time to greet one another on the street, in the store, anywhere really.
The Lesson

Times are hectic enough, a little laughter and a smile go a long way and good manners don't cost you a thing and really, if a child smiles at you, you really should smile back.
So, whattaya waiting for? Go out and count up as many Sweet points as you possibly can today!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Enjoying Life's Little Surprises With Every Bite

 "This one time when I was bored...
Kids plus that line equals noooooo good.
Well, in our house it equaled to a hilarious lesson. Sit back and allow me to 'splain.
Anytime I'm on a break I try really hard
(reeeeeeeeeeeeallly hard) to put the Teacher away (dang, that lady is stubborn)
I concentrate on being Momma and I channel my inner Pioneer Woman. (loooove her).
Sometimes I even try to follow a recipe.(sssh...don't go tellin' anybody...but I don't like to follow directions...I hear your can't believe it...I know,big sigh)
So on this break, like so many others, I bake.('s Science you know) 
Well, I got my little 'ol Betty Crocker recipe book out and flipped to the section on biscuits. I thought they would go perfectly with my Taco Soup.
I measure out each ingredient. Carefully. I scraped and leveled the top of the flour and measured. Exactly.(I know...I am proud of me too) 
I greased up a pan and dropped my perfect dough onto that thing. (yes I diiid)
 And in 20 minutes I pulled those golden things of beauty out of the oven. I smothered buuuuuuutter on the top and brought those yummers to the table. The house smelled delish for Great White Hunter when he came home. We sat down to dinner and proceeded to partake in our sustanance ritual. 
(we ate) I bite into that fabulous, flaky delisciosity (is that a word? It is now.) and...crunch? "Hmmm...I must have baked them a bit too long. But they don't look overbaked.", I think to myself. Oh, well, I say nothing and  we all keep on eating. Crunch...I look at Great White Hunter. He looks at me. I look at Big Girl. She looks at me. By this time Little Girl (aka Glitterific Girl) our carboholic is asking for another biscuit. She notices nothing different. 
Great White Hunter says to me that perhaps I baked them too long. Nope. Perhaps I emptied the flour into the rice jar. Nope.
(...well...maybe...I do,do things like that)
Then as we're are trying to solve this mystery, I notice Little Girl walk over to the canisters and as she is starting to put her hand in the flour jar, Great White Hunter, who doesn't notice her doing this says, " I bet somebody got into the flour..."One daaaay when I was boooored...". At the very same time he says this Little One pulls something out of the flour and echos, "This one time when I was bored..." She walks over and shows us the rice pieces she has pulled out of the flour!
The Lesson
On this Thanksgiving holiday, oh heck! Take it easy. Have fun and eat everything! And the next time you hesitate to try anything a student brings you from their home, remember this story and if you dare...take a careful bite. 
So, whattaya waiting for? Go make some cookies and make sure your salt is salt and your sugar is sugar!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kiddo Wisdom:The Importance of Quiet Time

 "Sometimes I wish I didn't know how to talk, so people could leave me alone."

Nope, that wasn't something that came out of my mouth at the end of a frantastic day of teaching.
(I can see your eyebrow going up and  I hear 'ya saying, "Suuuuure! Really it wasn't!)
Actually that comment came out of the mouth of my very own kidlet after a day of treasure hunting. We all decided to go to a local restuarant and relax.
('cuz Momma was done for the day...and Daddy was too) 
At the end of the meal (dessert time!) the perky waitress asks my kidlet if she would like some ice cream. Kidlet turns to her. 
(head cocked, ear nearly touching shoulder, big sigh...) 
"Suuuure, thank you." Then she states the afformentioned.
We all giggle and of course I have to dealve deeper into her thinking.
"Why babe?" I ask. "Because sometimes I just want to be bored and just think."
(blink...blink...blink...hmmm, she's on to something?)
The Lesson
What hit me is that with those words she mirrored exactly how many of us feel at times.
Somedays, don't you just want to shut the world out and be left alone with your thoughts? 
Somedays, don't you just want to have 5 minutes to think of...nothing?
(how long has it been since you've listened to the swooshing of your own heart?)
Kiddos feel that way too. So,the next time you think all of you are having a grand 'ol time, look around. Someone may be wandering off to sit under a tree all alone. Let 'em. "Cuz that someone just may be you and know what? It's okay to be bored...sometimes. 
So, whattaya waiting for? Go lock yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes and listen to the water trickle.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Little Hands to Breakfast In Bed:They Truly Do Grow Up Too Quickly

I never know how things are going to relate to each other and what I will learn. Sometimes I just get an itch in my brain and know that a lesson is coming.
It started last weekend. I was doing the Wal-mart run with the girls, and inevitably the 'Little One' needs to use the facilities. As I am waiting for her. I watch an older lady roll her mother over to the sink and so very tenderly help her wash her hands. There is so much love in her every movement. I just sighed and thought to myself that those frail hands at one time were strong and washed her daughter's hands. As they rolled out the Mother waved and smiled at me.
Then yesterday happened.
My kidlets and I were frantically working on getting our Thanksgiving learning done.
(did I say frantic...I meant...nah, it you say...hmmm...I feel a new word comin' on!)
When even they start walking the halls with a dazed look in their eyes and not even seeing the stream of kiddos 3 times their size coming down the stairs, and cutting them off going up the stairs, and not even hearing their teacher croak,
"For Heaven's sake what are you doing??You're cutting off Mr. H's whole class! Go up the other way!" You know it's time for a break!
(Did I mention that they did this 2 times yesterday...the second time the kids were bigger...they don't care...nothin' a-scares 'em!)
 And thank goodness our office staff has a sense of humor, because they didn't film me and post it on You-tube!
(Or did they??I just love giving the lovely Keepers of the Castle a good giggle! I live for it. They work hard!)
As I was saying, during this frantasmic day,
(see, told 'ya I had one comin'!)
I said to myself,"Wouldn't it be cool to paint the kiddos hands brown and let them make the Mayflower out of their handprint?"
(See. I was even having conversations with myself.)
So what do I do. I get the blue construction paper out and the brown paint and yell for call out for the first kidlet to come over and get their hand painted.
(Whew! That was a loooong sentence!)
As I am painting their hands, I look at their little faces and listen to their giggles. Then this thought stops me in my tracks. 'Their little hands are so small. Their giggles are so infectious.' I instantly relax.

Then this morning, I wake up. I'm tired. My Great White Hunter (hubby) had to leave early to teach a class. I whine say,"Girls, I don't want to make breakfast." Then my 'Big Girl' looks at me and says,"I'll make breakfast. I can make eggs." I hesitate. She can't possibly be able to make breakfast for me. She's too little. She'll burn herself. She'll make a mess. She'll...she'll...she'll! The 'Little One', on the other hand, is already pouring herself cereal.
(the child will never starve) 
I pour my coffee, and she's still looking at me. "Okay, just call me if you need help."
From the living room I hear the sounds of cooking happening. Pans clanking. Eggs cracking. "How high do I put the heat." I rush in. She needs me. Only for a second. She shooos me away. I smell something yummy. Then I hear the toaster pop. Scrape, scrape, scrape.Then, silence. "Here Mom!"
I had to take a picture. It was a milestone. Those little hands made me breakfast! (sniff, sniff...tear...sniff) 

The Lesson
some lyrics by John Mayer that illustrate exactly what I was thinking
Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters too
So, whattaya waiting for? Go take that little hand in yours and love on that kiddo. If that little hand isn't so little anymore, I will quote my friend Sara.
You're never too old to sit on your mama's (or daddy's) lap!




Friday, November 16, 2012

Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread: An Odd Kind Of Goodbye To A Sweet Memory


Today, throughout the busy, business of teaching my kidlets the meaning behind Thanksgiving, 
(Didja know that the children had to drink beer on the Mayflower? My students caught that little tidbit!)
I hear the familiar whistle from my phone alerting me that I had a new text message. At recess I notice it's from my baby brother. Thinking he's alerting me that there will be a huge party on his behalf across the country next week, I wait to read it. 
(born on Thanksgiving day nearly 30 years ago and still "the baby"!)
Then, I read it at lunch and this is what it said:
No more Twinkies or Ding Dongs, or Wonder Bread or any more Hostess products!! They went bankrupt and the official last delivery was today!! Go stock up, you'll never see them again!!
This stopped me in my tracks and brought back a flood of memories and of course lessons from my childhood. Odd, you may think but actually not odd at all when I explain.
Not a tortilla

The first time I saw this bread was in the First grade. I was fascinated with the "new girl" because she brought her lunch in a cool lunchpail everyday and in it were these cheese, mayonnaise and white Wonder Bread sandwiches. We traded lunches one day. She had my taco and I got to taste her cheesy sandwich!
 (I didn't hear them referred to as burritos 'til we got a Del Taco in town!)
I also remember the look on my friend Debra's face when she tasted a homemade tortilla from my home. It was unforgettable and she loved it. She had never had a tortilla con mantequilla. (butterrrrr!)
She was hooked!
Ding Dongs

I'd never seen these until my friend brought one in her lunchpail. That shiny foil caught my eye when the sunlight hit it!
(I am convinced that Firsties are part kitty-cat. Why? 'Cuz shiny, sparkly things catch their eyes. Note to self: Cover yourself in glitter and maybe they'll pay attention!)
She let me taste it and I bugged my Mom to buy some the next time she went to the store. She didn't but when I got to go shopping with my Nana on our monthly grocery trip, she bought a box!
(My Nana was fantasticalistic!)
Sno Balls
The first time my Dad brought these home I had to fight my sister for them. There were two, and there were two of us. After my Momma had more kiddos he switched to Donettes.
(So he could get more for his dollar, I'm sure!)
He still ocasionally snuck one in for my sister. 
(Yeah, not so sneaky...I remember and I am scarred...not really 'cuz this is what he'd sneak in for me...oops, I don't think I was 'posed to tell! Sorry boys!)
Ta-daaa! My Fave

Hostess Cup Cakes!

 Now me, I was methodical in my Cup Cake eating routine. I would savor every morsal and it would take me FOREVER to eat it.
(yeah, not so much on the forever side now...can you say , INHALE!)
  1. Take Cup Cake out of wrapper.
  2. Smell chocolatey sweetness.
  3. Run finger across swirly.
  4. Peel swirly off. did it! Save
  5. Peel chocolate frosting.! Save
  6. Poke finger into frosting hole. Lick.Poke.Lick.Poke. Yuuuum!
  7. Eat cake from outer edge first. Yum!
  8. Place swirly in mouth. Let it melt. Yum!
  9. Pick chocolaty frosting bit by bit allowing each tiny bit to melt on your tongue. (you know what's coming...) Yum!
When I was done, it was always a little sad. It would be a long time before I got to have another one. We were poor but I didn't even know it!


Now these weren't my faves but this summer my husband and I were talking about them. I'm sure we heard about Hostess being in financial trouble. What I remember most is my elder daughter asking," What's a Twinkie?"
Well, I just felt like the most neglectful Momma ever!
(sniff...sniff... I will pay for her therapy later...sniff!)
I told that man he needed to take my baby to the store immediately!
He took her to the store and they brought back the aforementioned yummers and to my shock, (gasp...breathe...breathe...)
She says, "I don't like them."
(She was dropped off by aliens, I am sure!)
The Lesson
We take so much for granted. The smell, tastes, sights around us shape who we are. Even though this was a confection that was probably not the best thing for me physically, the memory attached to it from the perspective of a poor little Mexican girl who grew up with tortillas and the memories of introducing her friends to her culture are priceless. The Twinkies will go away but the memory of my Dad pulling up in his big 'ol 18 wheeler after weeks on the rode with a special treat for his 'renegades' are worth every single calorie!

So, with that I say thank you Hostess and to you I say...
So, whattaya waiting for? Go knock down some little kiddo and get your last
Ho Ho!




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Shirts and Sweaters Inside Out:It's Okay Not Having It All Together!

humiliationility:(v,adv,n,adj...) The ability to laugh at anyone (yourself especially), anything(animals and inanimate objects are fair game too), anywhere(from the homestead to the classroom and everywhere in between, they are all victims inspiration) especially if it teaches you a lesson about not taking life too seriously.  I really liked how that teacher showed humiliationility when she conferenced with Johnny's mom about his inability to stay focused on her remarkable, thought-provoking, spell-binding, and awe-inspiring lessons. All whilst wearing her shirt inside-out!  

(Dear Santa, I need a dictionary for Christmas...nah...making up words is much more funner!)

I love humility or is it humiliation? Sometimes the two intertwine for me not unlike the knots in a kiddos shoelaces. Allow me to 'splain my thinking with a most colorful illustration.
Picture this:
Johnny's momma is very concerned about her child not completing his homework , classwork, and most delightful behavior. She waits outside my classroom and follows me out on a day I swear footage of me is going viral.
(See previous post) 
I try not to make eye contact and hope she goes away until I have the energy to tell her about her little darling's latest recess escapade.
(I will write about that later I promise!) 
I walk all my little lovelies out to the dismissal line and see three more parents awaiting their turn to have an impromptu discussion about...pretty much the same thing Johnny's momma wants to discuss.
(And why don't I just sit 'em all down and tell them the same story...I could just change the name...hmmm? That's a thought!)
I tell Johnny's momma about his latest escapade and she gets tears in her eyes and so I feel like a heel.
(because I'm sensitive remember?).
I tell her that we need to give Johnny the gift of time and that I really have seen improvement in his behavior.
(for heavens sake he only gets some of his recesses taken away now!)
She sighs and thanks me profusely for all I have done for Johnny and ensures me that she will continue to work with Johnny at home.
I catch her look down and giggle. I ask her what's, what?
She blushes and says to me, "Teacher, did you know that you had your sweater on inside-out?"  I look at her with tired eyes, take a deep breath, shake my head and then we both start busting up laughing, and I say to her, "Quite frankly, do you suppose some of Johnny's challenges are because of his teacher!"
The Lesson
Try to practice humiliationality on a daily basis. Don't take yourself too seriously, laugh whenever you can, with whomever is near.Teacher-Moms are human too so let 'em see that side!
Oh, did I forget to mention that I wore my shirt inside-out to my daughter's school function too? It wasn't until several hours later, when we were packing up, cleaning up, and saying our good-byes that another mom looked down at me, blushed and giggled then told me..."Didja know that you had your shirt inside-out?" We busted up laughing then she paid me a great compliment. She said, "You are soooo funny!"
So, whattaya waiting for? Go practice humiliationility today!



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Discipline Momma Style:Letting Kiddos See the Real You

Have you ever had something like this happen to you?
  • It's testing week.
  • You're being evaluated so you need to tidy up your classroom 'cuz your Mother-in-law Principal is coming.
  • You've got two blubbering kiddos on their way to the office for smacking each other at recess and punctuating it with colorful language and you know all this because all 5,427 of your Code of Conduct Enforcers students are still giving you the play by play details. 
(Nope I'm not done yet!)

  • As you're trying to evacuate your classroom because you just had to send another kiddo to the nurse carrying a trash can and allow your Custodian/KeyMaster pour the Magic Fairy Dust on that child's abode you hear your cell-phone ring in the closet.
(and to save you from grossing out too much let's just say that child's test is in that trash can and you'd have to account for it if were the would!)
  • It's the familiar tone you have reserved for your own children's school.
(breathe...breathe...breathe...panic? Not yet)
  • Of course you can't get to the phone right then but then you hear your classroom phone ring."Hellooooo???" you say in your sweetest, I got it all together voice,and your school secretary tells you to hold because your child's school is on the other line.
  • When she comes on you hear your child's school secretary giggle. 
(panic eased) 
  • She tells you that your child is fine and in the office.
(she doesn't have to tell you this 'cuz you can hear the Lucy Ricardo, waaaaaahhh... in the background!)
  • She tells you that your kidlet is alright, but she will not let them put a band-aid on a scrape that she has obsessively picked open and is now bleeding everywhere, and if she doesn't get it covered up you'll have to go get her.
(inhale deeply...sweet voice..."Put her on puuuleeeease.")

  • They give her the phone and she sounds like she needs a trip to the emergency room. You ask her what the big problem is and through snot filled tears (hers not yours) you make out the words, "I don't want them to put it on 'cuz it will huuuurrt when I have to pull it ooooooooooff! Waaaaaaah!!!"
  • You stifle a laugh and instinctively switch to Mom mode.
  • You yell say in your sweetest voice,"Listen, if you don't let them put a band-aid on it I'm gonna go over there and sit on you and put it on myself, so knock it off, suck up those tears and let them put it on, you hear me!!!"

  • The school secretary comes back on and asks,"What'd you say to her? She held up her arm,let us put it on and now she's all smiles and on her way to class!"
  • You both laugh because she heard you. You thank her, hang up and breathe.
  • By this time you notice that your students are silent.
  •  You turn and they're all staring at you, eyes wide open.
  •  Then one brave soul pipes up and asks, " What happened Teacher?"
  • You tell them and they all show their sympathy. 
(for your daughter, not you)

  • Then they proceed to tell you their band-aid pulling off horror stories and during all this one little darling says,"I knew you were talking to your daughter 'cuz you sounded just like my mom when I'm in trouble!"

The Lesson
It's okay to let your students see that Momma side of you. It makes it more real when they see that you have the same expectations from your own kiddos. It's okay to lose it sometimes. And too...that Momma voice and look works wonders!
So, whattaya waiting for? Go perfect them and let 'em have it!

P.S. Teacher-Dads you too!


Monday, November 12, 2012

Dryer Sheets and Walk-throughs: How Asking the Right Question Gets You the Answer You Want

It's silly really how home life and school life co mingle like a crazy 'ol pretzel covered in salt and mustard.
(I think I'm snacky!)
"What the heck does a pretzel have to do with dryer sheets?"
(I can hear you talkin' ...patience Grasshopper...the lesson is coming!)
No this isn't some kind of crazy notion in my head. Really I learned a funny lesson this week. Well really it's a carry over from last week. No really from about 8 years ago.
(See, all twisty turny like a  pretzel and I'm getting to the dryer sheets already!)
Well, this weekend my dear husband was washing some laundry and from across the house I hear him ask, "Hey, do you have a box of dryer sheets hiding anywhere?"
(I am a lucky woman...he does laundry... and he kills mice and big bugs too!)
"Nope, I haven't made the Wal-mart run!" I bellowed back. "Ohsey, wellsey, just throw the clothes in the dryer." Well, a while later he comes into our room and throws a pile of nice, warm, fresh smelling darks onto our bed for me to fold and hang up. I start to pull the clothes apart and what do I hear? Yep, snap, crackle, pop!
(I wished for a second that it was dark in the room so as I could have enjoyed the light time!)
But anyway I tell him, "You know there is a bottle of Downy in there you could have used in the rinse cycle."
"You didn't tell me that." he says and of course I said back in my best teacher voice, "You need to ask the appropriate question in order to elicit the correct response." He's a teacher too so I can get away with sarcastical remarks like that. (Sometimes...did I mention that he kills rats for me...I gotta watch it!)

Anyway, this is what I learned about asking the right questions.
Last week our school started the first of a series of walk-throughs. All grade levels will be released for a time to go in to other classrooms and our job is to question the students to see if we are hitting the target when it comes to Common Core Standards and Depth of Knowledge Levels.
(Teacher talk for, do the kiddos know what they are learning and why they are learning it)
Through-out the walk-through, I kept on hearing my friend Debbie's voice saying to me, "When talking to kids ask the question three times and you'll get the real story." At the time she was talking about getting the real story out of bickering kindergartners but I took heed and have applied it to my students and my own children.  
Kiddos are multi-faceted. They don't show what they know only one way. Some children draw it out. Some will only share with their bestest friends and some will give you a 5 page dissertation and 15 minute spiel on what they are learning. Our job is to give them multiple opportunities and different avenues to share what they may already know and how their new learning can and will impact their lives. It may look messy, sound noisy, look busy, but it is the best way to get the real story out of them. Ask a lot of questions and have fun with it. You may catch yourself giggling at some of their responses!

So, whattaya waiting for?



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Getting Shy Kiddos To Come Out of Their Shells: An Unconventional Approach

"Teacher, he's very shy. No one can get him to talk."
Aaaaah, Yes! I just loves me a challenge...
For many teachers when parents tell them that their child won't talk they hear the angels rejoicing. (aaaaaahhh...)
Not I! On the contrary, when parents share stuff like that about their kidlet I try really, really, really hard not to arch my brow, smirk and respond with a Grinchy," Hee, hee, hee, you don't saaaaaay???"
(REALLY hard!)
I have to restrain myself because this is a real concern for parents and I am sensitive to that 
(I just admitted it...I am sensitive...sssh...that's just between you and me okay, keep it a secret!)
With those words, I sense the heart-wrenching fear that their baby is not going to make friends, or will be forgotten, or be bullied, or not fit in, or, or, or...
Parents, all of us, want the best for their babies. We want them to be happy,make lots of friends, and love life. 
Many of us can relate to that shy kiddo too. It's dang scary to go into a room full of strangers and have to talk!
For all of those naturally extroverted people, just imagine getting up in front of a group of your peers, getting ready to present something extraordinary and then all if a sudden trying extremely hard to stifle a sneeze and... and...and then having a booger come flying out! Dang scary, I tell you!
(and nooo...I do not count myself amongst the extroverts...don't laugh...I am shy...really... stop laughin'...okay...laugh!)
Anyway, like I said before, I love a challenge and getting a shy kiddo to come out of that shell brings me joy. I know I have done my job when they flourish, feel safe and successful in my class.
So, when parents share their concern I tell them this, "Don't worry. Your child will talk and dance and sing in my class. And I promise you, by the end of the year you will hear me tell you at least once that your child missed recess for talking too much."
Now, this is how I do it.
It's unconventional...sneaky...naaah!
Sit that quiet, shy, fearful kiddo right next to the most yikk-yakketity, squirrely, need to put Super-Glue in their seat darling and after about 2-3 weeks if that shy, introverted, won't say a peep to save his life kiddo doesn't get up, walk over to you while you're trying to teach your marvelous lesson on Making Inferences and says, "Teacher, he's bothering me!" I will get up on the stage at my school and sing karaoke!
Wait, I can't do that. I'm shy!



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to Relate to Kiddos:Being a Little Silly Goes a Long Way

So have you ever done anything like this?

Have you ever watched kiddos walk down a hallway, or near a fence, or by a car, or really, by anything that doesn't move and wonder why they have to touch it? Have you ever?
I did today as I was walking to take my 17.5 minute lunch. (Okay, it only feels like it's that long!...cough...)

As I was watching them approach I got to witness that unexplainable phenomena of invisible forces compelling a kiddo to first, run his left hand, then his arm, and then his entire back side all the way down the hall!(sssslllluuup!)

I know you've all seen something like that, but have you ever gotten a wild hair like I did today and thought, "Hmmm? Wonder what that feels like?"
(you know where this is going)
Well I did.  So I too ran my hand across the wall, then my arm, and thought, "Hey, that feels kinda neat!" I walked down the hall a ways scraping my shoulder against the wall and by this time I watched the kiddos passing me in line just stare at me.
(Don't worry, they know I'm not nutso. Too many of them have had me as a teacher.)

Their teacher (who's worked with me long enough to know that I am a little nutso but loves me anyway) asks,"Are you modeling what not to do?" I say,"Nope. I was just seeing what the big deal was and know what? It feels kinda cool!"
(She shook her head and giggled...she loves me anyway...did I already say that?)

Now, this is the fun part. As I continued down the hall I asked another teacher if she'd ever tried it and guess what? (tee hee...giggle...)
The phenomenon struck another human being! She too ran her hand, then her arm, then her back against the wall and not until we claimed another victim convert was I done with my random act of silliness!
What I learned
I learned that in order to get into a kiddo's head sometimes you gotta do what they do. Some may call it "getting down to their level" but nah, that's too stuffy for me. I call it being randomly silly. Try it. You'll learn alot about why they do the things they do. (ssshhh... don't tell anyone) You'll have fun doing it!

So, whattaya waiting for??



Sunday, November 4, 2012

For Love of the Game:The Toughest Lessons We Teach Are About Life Itself


 At the start of the football season the nervous energy was almost electric in its intensity as I tried to maneuver my Firsties down the stairs past the sea of "big boys" blocking our path. "What are y'all doing up here?" I asked of one boy I had taught in first grade but who now stood eye level to me. "We're waiting for Coach. Today's our first practice and we're here to see if we made the team." I smiled at him and wished him good luck. I teased him about being sure to imagine me chasing him down, trying hard to get at his flags when he felt like slowing down.<g>

He and several other boys cracked a smile and let out a small giggle. I was glad I could ease their nervousness,if even just a smidge.  As all 3,973 of my First graders rolled down the stairs, I glanced back at the faces of these boys. The anxious anticipation returned as they watched their Coach climb back up the stairs to meet with them. 

"Will I make the team? Am I good enough? Will I be able to keep up? I've never been a part of anything." The look on the faces of those boys spoke volumes.

The look on their Coach's face? Well it spoke volumes too. Walking up the stairs I heard a long-grumbly sigh as I teased him about "the sweathogs" waiting for him outside his classroom. That sigh hinted at the task he was faced with.

 Have you ever seen the look on Tom Hanks' face in the movie A League of Their Own? 

"There's no crying in baseball!"

 I know that movie is about an all girl's baseball team. But that frustrated look? It was exactly the same! It made me giggle...everyday...a lot!

"Aye, what am I gonna do with these boys?" That's what I read on that face.

 But then, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, weekend after weekend, as these boys trained in the blistering heat, I saw a complete transformation

From initial awkward nervousness, these faces became more focused and determined. Each day, with every practice, with every win and every loss, I got to witness boys growing closer to the men they will eventually become.

 This transformation came under the guidance of a Rock-Star teacher who valued them as human beings. Who did not have the words "Give up, give in or give out" in his vocabulary. 

This teacher eventually had to teach them one of the hardest lessons in life. That unfortunately, adults don't always play fairly. That no matter how hard you have worked, how much everyone knows you deserve to go to the next level, sometimes, well...things are completely out of your control. and circumstances just aren't fair.  They don't make sense. and it's just not right. 

But even though in life there will come a time when the wind will be socked right out of you and all you can feel is let down and anger at some unnamed force, it's exactly at these times that you need to pull yourself back up, dust yourself off and walk with your head held sky high with pride at all that you have accomplished, all you have done, and all that you can and will do, and stick together... as a Team.

For me? What I learned from watching this transformation is that the titles Coach, Teacher, Mentor, Friend are synonymous and that our job does not start and end with the ringing of a school bell.



P.S. I wrote this two years ago not knowing that this same Rock-Sstar Teacher would be teaching all those around him even more hard lessons.
 Thank you InVINCEable for teaching me and all those that love you how to love life to it's fullest and to never give in! Never give up! Never give out!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Glitteriffic Girl! Parents Can't See Everything

Have you ever had this happened to you?

Your little darling of a child comes over to you while you're busy working on something and asks if it would be okay for her to create. You say, "Sure babe, just make sure you clean up." She assures you that she will and will even ask if she needs any help.
(I know you can tell where this is going!)

You say to yourself that there is no possible way she can get into any trouble. She is 2 feet away and you can see everything she is doing.
All of a sudden you hear the gasps from your older daughter and the growl from her father! "What in the world, weren't you watching her?" You turn and see the recently cleaned floor covered in glitter!

(You pause dumbstruck Blink, blink, blink... What do you say?)

  • You want to say that aliens came down, froze time, abducted and performed experiments on you.
  • You want to say that you are suffering from some exotic ailment that leaves you paralyzed and powerless to respond to anything.
  • You want to say that your child is a wizard and cast a spell on you.
(Nah...he won't buy those reasons)

So you tell the truth. You took your eyes off of her for 5 seconds and in that time she got out the glitter and gave herself a glitteriffic shower!
Really! 5 seconds!

This is what I learned from this experience

Kids can get away from you, get into things, get lost in a split second. We cannot blame ourselves or give ourselves too much credit for how they turn out or what they do. We can only try do the best we can and pray that we are doing the best by our children.

So, the next time your child decides to give themselves a glitter shower don't blame yourself or your spouse for not seeing it because the next time the same child may be sitting right next you and you may not notice she's into the glitter until you see it cascading down upon you!

(Not saying that anything like that ever happened in my home...giggle, giggle!)