Revision: A Little Like Pulling off the Band-Aid

A recent teacher conference with a 4th grade author in my classroom:

Me: (after reading through her literary essay) C____, how do you feel about your essay?

C: It is confusing.  My thoughts seem to be all over the place.

Me: Okay.  What is your main message?

C: The little firefly had friends all along. He didn’t give up, and he finally found them.

Me: Okay.  Where would be the best place to introduce your opinion?

C: In the beginning?

Me: That sounds good.  Do you think we could move some things around?

C: (hesitantly) Okay…

The best part of her essay begins in the middle, so I highlight the top half and press “cut.”

C: (concerned gasp) What did you do?  Where did it go?

Me: Don’t panic.  Let’s paste this part at the bottom and move the rest up.   Remember, revision isn’t about checking capitals and punctuation.

C: That’s editing.

Me: Yes.  Revising means moving things, adding things, or deleting things until your message is focused and clear.

C: Yes, but it feels like pulling off a band-aid.

Me: (chuckling) Yes, I suppose it does.  Good simile, C.

She works through what to keep, where to put it, and what to completely remove.  C finishes and is visibly pleased with her work. 

C: This is so much better because everything was all over the place and wasn’t all relating to the first thing I said.  Thanks, Mrs. V., for pulling off the band-aid.  It is much better.  I like it!

Me: You are welcome, C.  I like it, too.

Another Harry Potter Weekend #SOL19


“Wait! Put it on pause! I haven’t gotten my butterbeer yet!”  My oldest granddaughter says in a panic as the movie begins to play.  “Oh, and I haven’t gotten my snacks, either!”

“And I better go to the bathrooooom,” our youngest shouts as she suddenly zooms past us and runs out of the room.

Papa and I glance at each other and chuckle.  So begins our Harry Potter weekend movie marathon.

Periodically, we gather for a weekend of magic, butterbeer (purchased from a local vendor), and snacks that appeal to all tastes.   This weekend is one such weekend.

Choosing Wands at Ollivander’s

Yep, we’re that family.  We are nearing the label of Potterheads.  These stories are beloved by all ages in our family, and we have made many memories around them.  In fact, we’re currently in the process of planning our return visit to Harry’s magical world at Universal Studios.  My husband and oldest granddaughter are looking forward to breaking out their interactive wands and revisiting all of the areas where the magic comes to life.

The children return to the living room and settle into their favorite movie-watching spots.  It’s time for the magic to begin.

“Is everyone ready now?” Papa asks as he peers at each child.  They nod their heads.  “Okay.  Here we go!”  Papa pushes play, and I dim the lights.  Yes, here we go, ready to approach Platform 9 and 3/4 and enter that familiar, enchanted world yet again.

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.


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.

When Students Return as Adults #SOL19

Two weeks ago, a former student, Casey, emailed me to ask if I’d mind if he visited for a day to observe my classroom.  He is taking an early childhood education class and needed to observe teacher-student and student-student interactions.

Yesterday was the day he visited.  What a treat it was to spend the day with him!  My mind kept comparing Casey the third grader to Casey the adult.  He was an intelligent and shy, quiet child.  He was always polite, well-behaved, and well-liked by the other students.  Today he is an intelligent, confident young man.  He is still polite and well-liked by his peers.  He has a wife and child, coaches wrestling, has a party supply business, and attends school to become a teacher.  Obviously, he is incredibly responsible and hardworking, too!

I feel honored that he chose my class to visit.  I am happy that I positively impacted his elementary education and hope to positively impact his teacher education, as well.   Experiences such as this are the rewards of teaching.


Wrinkles on an Avatar #SOL19

I had a good laugh yesterday.  Not just a chuckle but a hearty, deep-bellied laugh.  One of my fourth graders asked for help creating an avatar for the Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge.  Creating an avatar is a part of the week 1 task.  So during the indoor recess, she and I set about working through the steps to create an avatar.  I made one right along with her.  As we worked through the process, we talked and laughed and asked each other’s opinions about the perfect hair color to choose, etc.

Before long, we had created our masterpieces and gave our final compliments over each other’s work.  She asked if I thought hers really looked like her.  Outside of the pony tail that she always wears, there was a striking resemblance.  I then asked what she thought of mine.  She thought about it for a moment and said, “It looks pretty good, but…”  She turned her head slowly to look at the avatar and look at me.  Finally, she said, “I’ve figured out what’s missing.  The program needs to add an option for wrinkles.”   At first I looked at her with surprise.  She blushed and apologized, embarrassed.  She is a kind-hearted person who would not say potentially hurtful things on purpose.  Then I began to laugh.  I laughed so long and so hard.  When she realized that I was not upset, she began to laugh, also.  We laughed until recess ended a few minutes later.

As the day continued, I found myself chuckling about the wrinkles comment frequently.  I love the humorous moments of my work.  That simple little comment made my day.  Oh, and she’s right.  The avatar program needs to add crow’s feet and a few other wrinkles!

Perspective Matters


Today was one of those days when I am reminded that many children frequently experience more negativity and hurt in their young lives than I will ever be able to fathom.  The resiliency of the young is an amazing thing.  It is a gift that helps them survive.

It is difficult to expect students to get along with one another or act in socially appropriate ways when they have little idea what those things look and feel like.  Although school adults model appropriate behavior and coping skills, it is often so far removed from the norm they have experienced for most of their lives that they truly do not understand it.  So what is an educator to do?

I have come to the conclusion that the best way to help is to simply approach the behaviors with an attitude of love.  Their behavior is not a personal attack on me or anyone else.  It is usually a shout out for someone to care.  I try to remember these things when dealing with student behaviors.  Admittedly, though, it can feel like an impossible goal at times.  I also want to point out that this does not mean a free pass for the student’s behavior.  There still must be a resolution agreed upon by all for the issue at hand.  However, when I do try to see the issues with an open heart, I find that I can view the problem and possible solutions with greater perspective and a more positive mindset.

I think this would be a good practice for life in general.  What would happen if all problems were viewed through a lens of love?

A Heart for All

Cookie Heart StampCreative Commons License Marco Verch via Compfight

February has commonly come to be known as the heart month. Everyone wears red and draws attention to the many things you can do to improve your physical heart health. While those efforts are incredibly important, I would also encourage you to consider the things you can do to improve the emotional and social heart health of those within your circles of influence.

As educators, we see students and parents who are hurting. They feel anxious, excluded, unwanted, and unloved. The increase in school/public shootings, incarcerated family members, drug and alcohol abuse, etc. point to an emotional void within the heart that is begging to be heard in any way possible. I realize that some of these issues have their basis in mental illness and need professional care, but a lot of it points to a society where it has become okay to ignore, exclude, and reject others for any given reason.

Just do a quick search on the topic and a multitude of articles from reputable sources show up in your feed. What can we do about it? As educators, we can work on building positive relationships with our students. That can be as simple as a greeting every day at the door, showing an interest in a student’s ideas, inquiring after their health or the health of a parent, etc. We can send quick notes or phone calls to parents just to check in and show that we care about their students and their families. There are many articles that give ideas for building the rapport that will let students and parents know that they are important to you. Here are just a couple of sites that have helpful tips:

So this February while we are eating our heart-healthy foods and trying to fit in more heart-healthy exercise, let’s also seek ways to reach out to the emotional hearts of the students and parents we serve. While you’re at it, see what you can do to reach out to your colleagues and administrators, too. Teaching and leading are stressful, and often our colleagues and administrators feel alone in their struggles. By reaching out to build positive relationships with those around us, perhaps we can make a small dent in the easing the hurt that is so prevalent in our society today.