Celebration #SOL19

Tomorrow is a great day for my journalism club!  We are publishing our first issue of the “Eagle Eye News.”  This has been in the works since January when the club began.  Although my classrooms have dabbled in journalism and managed an “occasional” school newspaper for a couple of years, this is the first time I have opened it up to all fifth graders to create an after school club.

I have 11 journalists who stay after school one day every week.  They write about all of the news in the elementary school and cover sports and other extracurricular activities.  They do some of their interviewing and photography during the school day and at games.  We are also blessed to have a mom who helps each week.  She has been invaluable.

My reporters have been working hard and now the time has finally come.  We are going to digitally publish it tomorrow (and naturally we will print a few copies for souvenirs).   Of course, we plan to celebrate the publication of our first issue.  I am baking a pan of brownies as I type.  I know they are as excited as I am!

It is a wonderful time for my journalists.  It is my hope that we will be able to publish at least two more issues before school ends in May.  My journalists have a voice.  I want to give them every opportunity to use it.


In A Day #SOL19

Once again this weekend my husband and I were on the road.  This time we were taking our son to his first archery practice, and once again my eyes were on the sky and the snowflakes falling out of it.  What a change from Saturday when the sky was dotted with beautiful white, fluffy clouds (see the top photo)!  Today the sky was dull gray with the only white being the huge, wet, heavy flakes falling steadily and beginning to stick to everything.  Ugh.

After archery, we emerged all bundled up to once again find a beautiful blue sky, a much warmer temperature, and absolutely no evidence that it ever snowed.  As we walked to the car, we were taking off the hats, scarves, and gloves we had just donned to go outside.  I wonder as we turn the car toward home what weather we will experience before this day is done.

I did not have to wait long!  About 25 minutes into the 45-minute drive, the blue changed to gray again and we drove right into a rain shower.  Ah, such is the weather where I live!  Who knows what it will be like tomorrow!

Saturday Morning Clouds and Dreams #SOL19

The road stretches out before us as my husband and I drive to my son’s 11 a.m. basketball game.  The sky is full of white, fluffy cotton ball clouds. As I watch them drift so slowly across the bright morning sky, I notice that some clouds drift more slowly than others, some seem not to move at all, and some completely disappear before my eyes.  I entertain the notion that each cloud is like a dream moving across the expanse of time that makes up my life.

Some dreams hang around for awhile, slowly changing as life’s circumstances change, some dreams remain unaltered for years (for example, reaching my ideal weight 😞), and some dreams are shortlived and disappear almost as quickly as they arrive.

Those dreams that have been or are being realized are perhaps like clouds heavy with moisture. Once everything is just right, the moisture falls as rain, providing life-giving water to nurture and sustain that which has been realized. Realized dreams often only become that way due to time, hard work, and grit (a similar process to a cloud growing heavy with rain).

“A penny for your thoughts,” my husband says, bringing me back to the present.

“Just noticing the clouds. Aren’t they dreamy?” I reply.  He raises a puzzled eyebrow, says nothing, and drives on. I smile and go back to my daydreaming.


Finding their Voices #SOL19

During a grade level meeting today, the teachers were asked which of the writing standards each would like to unpack.   As my colleagues and I divided the information, narrative, and persuasive writing standards, I really thought about which of the three I like to teach the most.

I enjoy teaching all types of writing, but I think I enjoy teaching persuasive writing the most.  It is more important than ever for my learners to learn to use their voices in an educated and respectful manner.  I enjoy watching their confidence soar as they use their writing skills to voice their opinions and make change.  Here are just a few examples of ways my learners have reached out to make this world a better place:

  • A fifth grader noticed that the chains on the swings were greatly rusted and they needed adjustments made to the heights of the swings.  He wrote a letter to the principal and head of maintenance.  All of the chains were replaced and heights adjusted within the week.
  • Another fifth grader loved to collect a popular doll and noticed that the doll was growing more expensive while its quality was not as good as it once was.  She wrote a letter to the company.  Within three weeks, she received a letter in return.  They thanked her for sharing her concerns and told her about things they were doing to try to return the doll to its previous quality.
  • A learner wanted to start a soccer club in the community.  All of our students currently travel to neighboring communities for soccer.  He wrote to our athletic director.  The director came to the elementary school to have a sit-down meeting with the student and listen to his concerns.  While there still isn’t a local soccer club, the young man felt as if his opinions were valued and respected.

I love the excitement, engagement, and empowerment that my learners feel when they write persuasively.  They are the future, and it’s time they develop their voices. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

Five Years as Neighbors/Lifelong Friends #SOL19

My husband Randy and I stood in line waiting our turn to view the casket and pay our respects to Bruce’s family.  I looked around the room, mentally noting how grown up all of the children and grandchildren are and how many young people were there I did not know.

I thought back to the time from 1990 to 1995 when we lived across the road from Bruce and Joann.  We became fast friends with them and their four children and many grandchildren.  We spent many summer evenings on their porch or mine, drinking coffee and watching their grandchildren and my children play together.  Birthday parties, ballgames, babysitting, meals together, and going out on the pontoon… We made so many wonderful memories in the five years we were neighbors.  Joann and I shed many tears when I told her that we were moving away due to my husband’s job change.

Now here we were, waiting in line, waiting to tell her how sorry we are, how much we care for both of them and their family members, and how appreciative we are to have had the best neighbors and friends.

We finally make it to the casket.  Joann looks at me, recognition dawning on her face.  We hugged, cried, and held each other tightly.  She talked, and then the children began talking.  More hugging, crying, and reminiscing.  We moved on down the line, reliving those five years as if they were yesterday.  Grandchildren remembered us and shared their memories of playing in our yard or having a sleepover with my children.  It was as if we had never moved away.

As we said our goodbyes, we promised to visit each other soon and catch up.

“I am going to be lonely,” she says.  “I may just drop in.”

“You stop by anytime, dear friend.  I will always have a cup of coffee waiting and a seat on the porch.”

Five years as neighbors/lifelong friends.


In the Last Quarter of School #SOL19

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In the last quarter of school,

time speeds up,

activities increase,

and energy intensifies like a windstorm.


In the last quarter of school,

am I coming or going,

which way is up,

and what day is it anyway?


In the last quarter of school,

field trips abound,

special programs come in,

and let’s not forget the testing.


In the last quarter of school,

I squeeze in my lessons,

repeat the procedures,

and did I mention the testing?


In the last quarter of school,

I begin to miss my learners already.

Do they really have to move on?

Where did this school year go?


In the last quarter of school,

I’ll prepare for summer,

I’ll close out my room,

and I’ll take a breath.


Then I’ll plan to do it all over again next year.

Captivated #SOL19

The lights dim and the room darkens.  A hush falls over the theater as hundreds of students eagerly await the start of the program.  A lady’s voice sounds from somewhere-none of us can see her from our perch on the third level-and reminds us to be courteous to our neighbors and to turn our cell phones off and put them away.  It seems strange that elementary children need a reminder about cell phones, but it is a sign of the times.  She finishes her speech.  The stage grows dark.

Suddenly energetic music fills the theater.  Someone begins to clap out the beat.  My learners begin to perk up and clap their hands in tune with the music.  A different light fills the stage.  The clapping stops.  I notice just how easily the behavior of hundreds of students is being managed with music, lights, and the building of eager anticipation.

The stage darkens and a spotlight lands on a chair in the corner of the stage.  There sits a main character.  The play begins.  There is just enough light that I can see my students as the play goes on.  They are captivated.  No one is slouched in their chairs, picking at their neighbors, or chatting.  I settle in to enjoy the play knowing that I will most likely only need to glance at them periodically.

The play ends.  The audience claps enthusiastically and appropriately.  We wait patiently for the announcer to call our school so that we can return to our buses.   I tell my learners how amazing they are and how proud I am to be their teacher.  Their smiles stretch from ear to ear.  Once again, they are captivated.

A Teacher’s Life #SOL19

It’s Sunday night.  Report cards are due to the principal by the end of the day tomorrow.  I am sitting on the sofa covered in a blanket with my laptop open and papers scattered on the cushion to my left.  A bottle of water, my phone, and a tissue are to my right.  I look up at the clock and realize that I have sat in the same spot for most of the evening.  The only body parts that have moved are my fingers as they tap away at the keyboard and my head as it looks over at the scattered papers.  Occasionally my left arm reaches out to move papers around.

The bathroom calls my name, so I get up and stiffly hobble my way that direction.  The going is slow.   I try to walk a little faster.  I do not want to be away from my work too long.  It is past my 10:30 bedtime, I have spent hours upon hours assessing final essays, completing rubrics, and writing report card comments, and I am more than ready to be done.

I settle back on the sofa and set my mind to my work.  I double check as soon as I finish each section.  My tired brain can too easily make mistakes.  When I finally finish and fall into bed, it is nearly 12:30 a.m.  I mentally celebrate the achievement and give thanks that report card time only comes four times per year.  In a few hours, a new day will begin and along with it a new grading period.  I am excited to start anew and tell myself that I will reflect on ways to streamline this process for the next go around in two months.

Ah, this go around of report card time has come to an end.  I shut my eyes and fall blissfully into sleep.


Report Card Weekend #SOL19

As I spend the end-of-the-grading-period-report-card-work weekend writing student report card comments, I am reflecting upon my procedures and how to streamline them for the next go around.  I do this continually, and it does improve a little each time.

My writing students and I discuss their strengths and goals as we conference, so it would be easy to think that all of this work together during conferencing would make my final commenting easy and quick.  Just write what is in my notes for each child, right?  This is not the case.  I still find myself working on the perfect wording, making sure that I truly agree with the strengths and goals, and adding strengths that I pick up on as I reflect on my notes and consider other classroom performance throughout the quarter.

I may be able to tweak this process a little here and there, but when it comes right down to it, there’s no avoiding the time it takes to write thoughtful, reflective comments.

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Bernal Saborio via Compfight

Mastodons, Fifth Graders, and the Dining Hall #SOL19

What happens when you put 72 fifth graders on a college campus, add some mastodon bones, two snakes, an iguana, a mummy, and of course, the dining hall? A group of incredibly happy (and full) kiddos who all now have dreams of attending “such a cool college!”

Our school has created exemplars for grades K-12 that require a visit each year to a college campus.  My grade level decided to attend a local private college that also houses a natural history museum.

Throughout the day, there were lots of “oooohs” and “aaaaahs” as we toured the campus.  Eyes grew wide when we entered the specific academic buildings that appealed to their interests.  My aspiring artists eagerly peeked into classroom windows in hopes that they would see art in creation, future scientists loved the hallway displays of the artifacts of the various schools of science, and my mathematicians chattered excitedly when they realized they had entered the building where numbers reign supreme.

The museum, campus library, and the dining hall rounded out our trip.  Old dinosaur bones, a mummy, and the reptile room sparked curiosity, and the dining hall was naturally a huge hit.  The students were in awe of the incredible number of choices, and they ate without reserve.  They walked back to the buses with grand smiles on their faces and words of sincere thanks to our awesome tour guides.  It was a successful field trip!