Monday, April 29, 2013


Here's what I do when it's been a hectic day at school and my positivity is waning:

I ride my bike twelve miles on a trail through woods.

I stop and look at the Clinton River where it winds through the trees.

I ride as fast as I can for short bursts then recover.

I stop at the mid-way point to drink water and check my time.

I clear my mind and feel calm.

Most parts of the trail are compact gravel, with a few spots of pavement where I can increase my speed for a bit and not have to pedal so hard.  

It's peaceful.  It's calming.  It tires me while at the same time energizes me.  

There are ponds, animals, and all kinds of habitats along the way to look at.  People you pass along the way always smile and say hi.

Some days, like today, I stop to look at a site along the trail where they found a mastodon bone in July 2006.  They dated it to over 10,000 years ago. 

Kind of cool to be riding where mastodons roamed long ago!

Everybody needs to find ways to take the stress away some days.  I'm glad the warmer weather is back so I can ride outside, rather than inside at the gym. 

Now, I'm ready for tomorrow.  Bring it on.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013


So, there we were today, playing a simple spelling game.  I was at the back table playing with two little boys who got a big kick out of me playing the game with them, "even though you know how to spell all the words because you're a teacher".  I took my time saying each letter when I would get my word as they followed along on their spelling sheet to make sure I was correct.   They chuckled as I put on a serious spelling face and sounded out and spelled a word.  

"You're a really good speller," one complimented me while the other shook his head.

"Well, I should hope so," I replied.  "Besides, I've had several years in 3rd grade to practice!"

A little girl approached.  She had been playing with a boy on the back carpet.  She watched us for a minute and then poked my arm lightly.

"Can I ask you a question?" she started. 

"Mmm... hmmmm..." I murmured, as I intently watched one of the boys roll a die using just one finger.

"Well, [boy's name] just rolled for his turn and he landed on the 'miss a turn' space so he spelled the word incorrectly so he could go back and not have to miss a turn," she notified me all in one breath.  With a very incredulous look on her face.

When I didn't respond, she poked me gently again.  "Well.  Is that fair?  Can he do that?"

During any game time in the classroom,  I am always the official referee.  The only thing missing is the zebra striped shirt and a whistle. The kids always accept whatever call I make when they ask me like I'm some all-knowing rules/games person.   

I gazed across the room at the 'miss a turn' boy who had a proud smile on his face.  I saw his smile and raised him a thumbs up.  The girl frowned.  

"I wouldn't call that cheating.  I would call that strategizing," I said, in fact, impressed with the boy's thinking.   "Haven't you ever watched a basketball game that has two minutes on the clock and lasts for another thirty-five minutes because the teams are strategizing and calling time-outs and stuff?"  I added.   

With that she shrugged and walked back to her game.  I saw her quietly whispering to him, no doubt relaying my critique and ruling on the move.  They seemed satisfied as they continued playing.

"I want to stragize too," one of the boys at the table with me exclaimed.

"Well, then, go for it!" I encouraged him.  "Game on!"

Sometimes you don't have to break the rules.  You just have to bend them a little.

If you don't believe me, just ask George W. Bush:

Saturday Night Live: George W. Bush 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Spring may be in the air, but the air is not in spring.  Case in point, today, April 24th, it was in the 30's and snowing.  Yes, I typed that correctly.  Snow-ing.  (sigh) 

The morning began a little chilly, but today was our annual Pancake Breakfast event. One of my favorite parents came in bright and early to begin grilling pancakes for the kids so they could enjoy the maple syrup made from our Pioneer Field trip at the Nature Center.  It's a delicious way to start off the school day and the kids really enjoyed it.  It was so much fun we didn't even notice the chilly rain beginning to fall outside the classroom windows.   

Bellies full, the students skipped off to PE, where I apologized in advance to the gym teacher and notified her of the sweet breakfast they had all just eaten.  A little bit of sugar goes a long way with an eight/nine year old.  I headed back to my classroom to get as much done as possible so I wouldn't have to take even more home, and attacked several piles of papers that needed checking on my desk.   Lucky for me, my desk looks out on the playground, and I took a few moments of peace and quiet (a rarity in my day) to enjoy the rows of bright, yellow daffodils outside and the green grass.  It was still raining a bit and I noticed the rain drops seemed a bit icy as I listened to them on the window panes. 
Daffodils & Snow

After picking up the kids from the gym, we entered the classroom and saw big, fluffy flakes of snow falling outside the window.  Two or three students raced to the windows, smiling and laughing at the sight of snow, when, just yesterday they had enjoyed almost 70 degree temperatures outside at recess, sans coat.  

Then a voice erupted from the other side of the room.  "Nooooo.  Noooooo....", came the voice.  And then he sped it up a bit. "No. No. No. No...."    All eyes turned to him to see what all the fuss was about.  He was shaking his head but had a smile on his face.

"Is it really snowing?" he groaned.  Thirteen little ones confirmed it.  

"But look how big the snowflakes are," one added, trying to comfort the upset boy.

That did little to make many feel better as they realized that there was a possibility of indoor recess.   It took a bit of coaxing and a stern voice, but I got the students back working and soon they forgot about the weather.  As the morning went on, the snow flurries continued.   A little girl approached me, clutching her math journal, on the pretense of asking me a question about a math problem.   

"How come the snow isn't sticking on the ground?  There are so many snowflakes but there isn't any on the ground," she said as she pointed out the window.

"Well, why do you think there isn't snow on the ground?" I asked.  With that three or four other students, who were sitting close by, joined in and gave their opinions.  

"It's too warm, that's why," explained one.  His friend nodded.

"No, it's not too warm if it's snowing!  It has to be 32 degrees to snow," countered one smart little darling.   They all hesitated to digest that little fact.  She had a point.  But that still didn't explain why the snow wasn't sticking on the ground.

"Well, yesterday it was so hot.  That's why the snow isn't sticking on the ground.  Because the ground is still hot!  It hasn't cooled off yet,"  beamed one.   Although I wouldn't call the 68 degree day we had yesterday hot, it was close enough, and just like that they all turned and got busy finishing up their math while the snow swirled outside the window.  

Just before recess (which was indoor because the snow had turned to a cold rain by then), I passed by the boy's desk who had been so adamant about no snow earlier in the day.   "Hey, look what I did!" he called to me, pointing his pencil to a paper on his desk.

I looked.  And there on his desk was a very nice sketch of some snowflakes surrounding a boy who had a distressed look on his face and a speech bubble that read:  "Oh nooooooo....more snow!"  

He smiled up at me.  "I made a poem since it's poetry month!"

"Genius!" I commended him.  "Pure genius! You're a poet and you don't even know it!"

With that he laughed out loud and so did I.  

Because sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.  And besides, I hear it's going to be in the 50's tomorrow.  A regular heat wave.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Grass Is Always Greener

Ahhhh... April and spring is definitely (and finally) in the air!  The days are getting warmer, the sun is shining through my classroom windows all day, and the kids are antsy.   Although they still arrive bright and chipper, eager to learn and get started on our day, within a few hours their eyes wander over to the windows and the vacant tether ball court and empty swings.  In all honesty, I also find myself looking outside more frequently during the day and have given my students some extra recesses to take advantage of the great weather, a treat for me as much as the students.  There is something to be said for fifteen minutes outside on a beautiful day.

There are only thirty-seven more days remaining in this school year, without a doubt some of the toughest, as we teachers compete with nice weather, spring sports, and kids staying up a little later at night as they morph into "summer kid".   We are all cautiously excited anticipating the approaching summer, but all to aware that it's too early yet.  There's still lots to do before the year is over.

Today, as I watched out the window at lunchtime, half-heartedly eating my salad, a student approached.   

"Your salad looks good," she offered up as a conversation starter.   

"Why, thank you," I replied. "But do you know what looks even better?"

She cocked her head and squinted her eyes, wary of a trick question.  "Wha-a-t?" she said with her voice questioning.

"Being outside, enjoying this beautiful day!" I pointed out to her.  

She nodded her head vigorously and moved closer to the window. With this, four or five students dropped their lunch mid-bite and headed to the window, thinking there must be something they were missing outside.   

"Whoa... Whoa... why is everyone up out of their seat?" I asked.   "Let's all sit back down and eat our lunch."   I stood up for extra effect.  

They shuffled back to their seats and resumed eating.  The little girl lingered for a moment longer and watched as I cracked the window open for some fresh air. Then she turned on her heels and set off for her desk.  

By late afternoon, the squirming and the talking and the lack of focus was about a 9 on a scale of 1-10.  What to do?  We tried a brain break.  But that only seemed to crank the dial up on the silliness. I explained to them that we still had lots to do before the end of the school year and I needed them to put forth their best effort.  That earned me a few yawns.  I stifled a yawn myself. 

Some days it's hard being a teacher when all the kids want to do is run and play. It's hard knowing that Michigan weather offers up a limited number of perfect days for outside.   It's hard because you want to give them that fun, but know that there is way too much curriculum still to be covered and assignments to be completed.   

As we all were getting settled on the back carpet for reading, I longingly looked outside at the newly green grass and the blooming yellow daffodils planted last fall by the PTO and students. I thought about how sometimes the grass is greener on the other side. 

Or maybe sometimes the grass is just green. 
Waiting on a gorgeous spring day for us to come outside and play and run on it.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Words To Live By

Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier.

— Mother Teresa

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Day In The Life Of

Third graders are so wonderful!  They are still young enough to really, truly enjoy school and everything about it.  They have a great attitude and still want to be a teacher-pleaser.    They try really hard and are, in general, a pretty cooperative bunch. 

So... what's it like to be at school from the perspective of a 3rd grader?   Well, although I can't possibly know 100%, I have a pretty good idea of how their typical day goes.  So, let's step inside their shoes and take a look.

Arrive on bus and gather outside the school doors, anxious to get inside and get to classroom.  Talk in a really loud voice, because you're outside and you can.  Bell rings.  Push and fast-walk through hallways and get to coat rack before any of your neighbors get to their coat rack.  When they arrive declare, in a loud voice, "I got here before you!" like there is some kind of contest going on.  Grab binder and head into class.  Say hello to your teacher who is standing in the doorway greeting you.  Check in for lunch.  Help teacher out and turn on Promethean board and document camera to display planner and night's homework.  Grab chair and sit in seat.   Ruffle through messy desk to find pencil.  Find pencil that needs sharpening so zip over to pencil sharpener, quickly sharpen pencil and return to seat. Copy down the night's homework.  Remember that you haven't turned in your homework so grab homework out of planner and jump from your seat.  Rush across the room to turn it in as teacher is announcing to class to remember to turn in their homework.  Begin working on math journal page.  Listen as teacher points at the board and goes over planner and explains the schedule for the day.  Say, "Yes!" out loud and clench fist and put into the air when teacher gets to gym on the schedule.   See teacher frown as she looks your way.  Settle in as everyone else does and feel happy about the day ahead of you.

Listen as teacher explains math activities for today's lesson.  As soon as she mentions the words "choose a partner and.." tune out everything she is saying to start making waving motions and intense eye contact with your friend across the room.  When she asks if there are any questions, look confident as you shake you head no and hope your partner was listening.  Scramble across the room when math begins to your partner and begin working on assignment.  When neither of you can start because you can't remember what to do, look at the Math board and figure it out together.   As you talk over answers and solve some problems with your partner, hear your stomach grumble loudly.  Laugh with your friend as you envision your stomach answering the math problems.    Wonder how much more time before math ends so you can have you snack.  Get immediately back on task when teacher eyes you from across the room.

At snack, head to the hallway to dig through your lunchbox and find your dessert that's supposed to be for your lunch but you want to eat now.  Think about whether you want to eat it now or wait until after your lunch.   Make the right choice and grab your banana and keep that yummy chocolate chip cookie for lunchtime.  Something to look forward to.  Ask teacher to "start" your banana because you can't and ask her if she thinks the banana is "too mushy".   She confirms it is not, so head off to eat banana with friends on the back carpet.    After snack, head back to desk.

Teacher announces it is Book Club time and you locate book club folder in desk.  Panic for a few minutes as you wonder if you completed the assignment for today.  Open folder and see completed work and feel good that you did what you were supposed to do.  Go to book club meeting place and sit back while another student takes charge.  As teacher approaches your group, sit up straight, clear throat, and comment on other student's reading.  Make sure teacher knows you are participating.  Show her your assignment so she can congratulate you on your nice work.  

After Book Clubs, wait as your table is called to line up for music.  Line up for music, but move so that you are near your friend in the line.  Start talking with friend.  Notice that all of a sudden it's very quiet and the teacher is waiting for everyone to stop talking.  Stop talking.  Resume talking again as soon as teacher leads line down the hallway towards the music room.   Stop talking when teacher stops in hallway and shushes the line of students. Resume talking when teacher turns around.    Arrive at music and happily go to seat.   Wait for teacher to return to get you.  Have fun in music playing instruments and singing.   When teacher appears in doorway, music teacher relays to her that the class was good but "very chatty".  Put on your most innocent, cute face and look at teacher.  Teacher smiles and shrugs.  

Walk and talk back to the classroom.   When lunch is announced get a piece of paper to draw because it's the only time of day the teacher lets you draw.  Teacher reminds students to stay in their seats until she returns with buyers.  Stay in seat.  Talk loudly across the room to your friend as soon as teacher and buyers leave room.  Talk even louder when another student tells you to not talk so loud.   Stop talking so loudly when same student declares, "I'm gonna tell the teacher."    Draw.  Hold up drawing and show to everyone.  Break pencil lead because you are pushing too hard and debate whether it's worth a chance to try and get up and sharpen pencil while teacher is gone.  Remember that you will have to stay in for 10 minutes of recess if you get up out of your seat. Remember that the teacher will follow through with the consequence and you will be inside for 10 precious minutes of recess.    Search through desk and find tiny pencil with lead and use that. 

When teacher returns to class with buyers, go and get lunchbox.  Sit down and eat chocolate chip cookie first.  Then eat pretzels.  Then eat fruit snack.  Then eat sandwich.  Clean up, wash desk, and find a book to read after recess.   Realize that it's "fiction" day for IDR but try and sneak a Calvin & Hobbes anyway.   Put away Calvin & Hobbes when teacher catches on and pull out Magic Tree House.

When bell rings, go to hallway and put on jacket.  Take off jacket when other friends tell you that it's warm and you don't need it.  Put jacket back on when teacher tells you it's not that warm and you need to wear it out if you brought it.  Sigh.   Head outside to play. 

Run, swing, yell, jump, climb.  Repeat another twenty-five times.   Pick up stick.  Put down stick when you see recess lady looking your way.  Run, swing, yell, jump, climb.
Be glad you brought your jacket out because it's chilly with the wind. 

Bell rings and head inside.  Go over to desk and open Magic Tree House book to look for spot where you left off.  Spend five minutes trying to figure out where you last stopped.  Look at your friend across the room reading.   Watch teacher come into room and start cleaning up things on her desk.   Look at book when teacher looks your way.  Decide you don't want to read Magic Tree House.  Look through book box and locate a book on tornadoes.  Start reading.  Show student next to you pictures of a tornado.   Teacher comes over and reminds you that it is fiction day and that book is non-fiction.  Tell her that you just can't help yourself because you are so interested in tornadoes.  Smile.  Listen as teacher tells you that that's great -- you can look forward to reading it Friday then.  Put tornado book up and grab Magic Tree House book again.  Flip to a page and start reading.   Suddenly find the story interesting and really start reading.  At about this time, teacher announces that IDR is over, find a place to stop and put up book box.   Put up book box.  

Watch as teacher shows video on loggers in a logging camp.  Get excited about learning about Michigan lumberjacks and hearing about the lumbering industry.  Wonder what it would be like to be a lumberjack.  Hear more about lumberjacks getting up early, working all day, living with other men in camps, and decide you're glad you're not a lumberjack.  Daydream about what you are going to do after school.  

Get called to line up for gym.  Stay really quiet in line because you don't want to be one second late for gym.  Walk to gym and as soon as you enter the gym, run screaming to your place.  Feel so happy to be in gym.    When teacher returns, listen as gym teacher tells her  the class was good, but "chatty".    Return to class.   Walk over to window before going to seat to look at solar powered monkey.  Have the urge to touch it but know you shouldn't.  Resist urge and just watch and laugh.  

Return to seat when teacher asks you to.  Go to back carpet for some reading.  Sit next to reading partner and make a funny face.  Lay down on floor and act really tired.  Sit up when teacher reminds everyone that there is not enough room to stretch out all over the carpet.  Listen as teacher reads book.  Enjoy the story and the way teacher reads it.  Talk to partner about the book when directed by teacher.  Forget what partner said when teacher calls on you to tell what your partner thought.  Feel better when teacher explains that it is hard to listen to someone else sometimes.  Tell yourself you will really concentrate and listen to your partner next time.  

Go back to desk and get binder out because it's near the end of the day.  Look under desk and kick eraser over underneath someone else's desk so you don't have to pick it up.  Stack chair, get mail, and go into the hallway to pack up.  Return back to the class and sit on desk.  Look at clock and see there are only five more minutes of school and you can't wait to get home and have another snack and watch some TV.  Hurry to stack some chairs when teacher asks if anyone can please help stack chairs.  Get two tickets from teacher for helping out.   

Line up at door one minute before the bell.  Bell rings.  Push and fast-walk through hallways and get to bus before any other students get there.  When they arrive declare, in a loud voice, "I got here before you!" like there is some kind of contest going on. Talk loudly on the bus and laugh.  

No doubt in my mind, life is good when you are a third grader.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How To Keep A 3rd Grader Happy

It's easy. 

Talk to them, 
laugh with them,
hug them,
ask them what they think,
help them,
compliment them,
offer advice to them, 
make silly faces with them, 
praise them,
eat lunch with them,
sit next to them on the floor,
expect the best from them,
be fair,
love what you do because they can tell,
give them a present for their birthday,
have and show patience,
reward them randomly,
make them work hard,
read to them,
listen to them read,
never give up,
appreciate their uniqueness,
make mistakes,
don't let them take the easy way,
teach them,
take them out for extra recess,
let them fail sometimes,
be honest,
don't just tell them; show them,
let them solve some of their own problems,
encourage questions, even ones you can't answer,
be spontaneous sometimes,
model respect,
laugh at yourself,
tell them how important they are,
have fun with them,
be proud of them,
and above all,
spend time with them.

Isn't it great that something so easy to do can have such an extraordinary outcome?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Make It Stop

For the second time this school year, I have left school, climbed into my car, turned on the radio and happily headed for home, only to be shocked by some horrific news.  The first time was back in December during the Sandy Hook tragedy, which still brings tears to my eyes.  As I listened to the horror of that day being broadcast on the radio, I almost had to pull over to the side of the road, I was so overcome with sadness. 

Today, only four months after that event, there were two bombs set off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Again, as I drove home, I listened to the details on the radio and my eyes stung with tears. It is so difficult to imagine why anyone, anywhere, could purposely intend to kill people, especially children.  

It seems to happen everywhere.  Movie theaters, office buildings, schools, malls, restaurants, nightclubs, and hotels.  The list goes on and on.  And no matter how hard we try, we are losing the sense of safety as these events happen again and again.  

Many people mark their life with one tragic event and can remember what they were doing, where they were, and every detail of hearing the awful news. I can relive every moment of September 11th, 2001 and the World Trade Center disaster.  But how are we going to cope when we have way too many horrible events that mark our lives?  

I worry sometimes as I look at the little ones I teach every day.  I worry about their safety and their ability to cope with events that are completely out of their control.  They were not even alive in 2001; will their future hold an even bigger defining moment of tragedy?  I hope that they will be able to look on the bright side and keep their optimism, as they do so well now as a child.  But in the world today, that's getting more difficult every day.

More than ever, I'm going to continue my quest to look to find the positive in every day.  To relish the time I have as a teacher, a mother, a wife, a daughter.  To hopefully positively influence little children and others around me in any small way I can.  More than ever, we need to try not to let the tragedies around us, pull us down.  

But days like today, that can be very hard to do.   

Friday, April 12, 2013

April Showers Bring....

If April showers do, in fact, really bring May flowers, then we are going to be blooming all over the place come May.  It has been raining a solid five days in a row.  Seriously.   Luckily for us, today the skies cleared briefly, and the rain held off to allow for an entire twenty-five minutes of "blacktop only" outdoor recess.  Yay! 

I watched outside the window as the students jumped and played and thoroughly enjoyed being outside of the classroom.  It's hard being cooped up in a classroom for seven hours every day.  As I looked out the window, I debated whether to head outside and enjoy recess with the kids, but after being out the last two days, the mounds on my desk said otherwise.

The kids were excited and happy to see me today and the feeling was mutual.   I missed being in the classroom with them.  Bonus -- both subs left nice notes about the students and the room was very clean when I returned this morning.  What a terrific class!  I made sure and told them how proud I was of them and how great they did while I was gone.  

I just checked the long range forecast and it looks like the April showers are going to continue next week, with a 50% chance of rain most days.  

Guess it will make stopping and smelling the roses even sweeter when that day finally arrives.  Hang in there teacher friends.  Only forty-four more days.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Job Is Better Than Your Job

When I was a young girl, one of my favorite things to play was "school".  I would gather papers and worksheets and notebooks and crayons and red pens and play for hours with my BFF.  Occasional we would score some stickers - a real treat!  My mom even purchased an old antique school desk that we would use as we played away the summers. When my best friend was busy, I would hunt down my younger brother and subject him to mounds of paperwork and practice, making him redo his work until it was perfect.    I actually think I should take some credit for how smart he turned out to be! 

When I was a young girl,I had no doubt what I wanted to be when I grew up, even though I did toy with several other ideas through my rebellious teenage years.  I loved everything about school.  Like the smell of a school.  Like office supply stores.  Like the "Back to School" aisles filled with endless racks of markers, crayons, scissors, glue sticks, folders, new lunch boxes, and so much more!   I love when the bell rings at the beginning of the day and sometimes love it even more at the end of the day. I love shopping for school clothes and making sure I get a hair cut before picture day.   There are school lunches and recess and field trips.  I love having my own classroom with desks and bulletin boards and personal little decorations.  I love the "copy room", my mailbox in the office, my name outside my classroom and freshly waxed floors after school breaks.  I love coat racks and the smell of the library with all its great stories for children. I love fire drills and tornado drills. I love freshly sharpened pencils with pink erasers and crisp notebook paper.  I love book orders and office supply catalogs.

Often parents will look at me, usually this occurs after a class party or field trip, and say,  "I don't know how you do it."    Or they say, "I could never do what you do."  I always just smile and tell them how much I enjoy my job.  Because I really do.

Wednesday, my husband had some surgery on his shoulder.  Throughout our morning the nurses popped in and out of the room, smiling and adjusting his IV. They monitored his blood pressure and heart rate and always asked if he was comfortable.    After the surgery, the nurses appeared again, checking, monitoring, adjusting and always asking about his comfort and pain level.  Any little thing we asked, they happily complied or answered.   I couldn't help but keep thinking, "I don't know how they do this!"   When one of my husband's  bandages came loose and blood trickled down his chest, I panicked, ran into the hallway to find a nurse and watched as the nurse gently and efficiently rebandaged the arm.  Again, I thought to myself, "I could never do this!"

I've been "playing" nurse for two days now as my husband is recovering at home. He has been in a lot of pain and is unable to do many of the things we take for granted every day.  He had some complications the first night, resulting in a return trip to the hospital.  He is grateful when I bring him a snack or help fluff up his pillows to make him more comfortable.  I've had to adjust the IV picc ball that sends numbing medication to his arm. I'm administering pain medication at precise times and keeping ice at the ready.  But no matter what I do,  I know I'm not nearly as efficient as the nurses. 

At some point in our life we decide what we want to be when we grow up.  Sometimes we make the right choice and sometimes we don't.  I'm glad I made the right choice.  I love going to school every day.  I work with wonderful people.  I work with a community of parents that go above and beyond to support us teachers.  I have a district that supports and believes in its teachers.  There is no other job that I would want to do.  And I speak from experience as I've had several other careers.

To all the nurses and doctors and social workers and police officers.  To all the veterinarians and lawyers and scientists.  To all the EMTs and parole officers and judges.  To all the engineers and CEOs and entrepreneurs.  To the stay at home moms and the psychologists and the principals. To the waitresses and store clerks and the astronauts. To the firemen and the secretaries and the construction workers.   To the pilots and plumbers and farmers and managers.  To the dentists and the pharmacists and the computer programmers and the occupational therapists.  To the speech pathologists and the hair stylists and the artists. To the musicians and the morticians and the auto mechanics and the bus drivers.  

I don't know how you do it! I could never do what you do!

Thank you.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


This morning my class and I headed to the school farm for our "Farmology" field trip, a fun-filled two hour experience. Petting, watching, and learning about baby sheep, goats, and ducklings is the highlight of the program, and even the acrid smells in the barn aren't a deterrent.  The guides at our farm are fantastic and patient, making sure each little 3rd grader gets their chance to pet the baby animals and ask questions.  And, as usual, they had lots of questions.  And, as usual, they made me smile throughout the morning.

The barn visit was, overall, fairly uneventful, with the exception of one of the sheep peeing while the guide was pointing out its animal features and adaptations.  Always good for a few "ewwws" and giggles. 

Next, we set off for the Poultry House, which was warm albeit a bit smellier than the barn.  We all crowded around a little penned off area where no less than ten little ducklings were kept with two adult ducks.  The guide pointed out for us to notice that as soon as we approached, all the ducklings made quacking noises and huddled around the bigger ducks.  She asked the kids to observe that and think about the behavior they were seeing.  

"What do you notice about how they are acting right now?" she quizzed them.

Several hands shot into the air.  They are all so polite.  The guide nodded to one sweet little girl.  "Yes?" she prompted.

"They are all acting very nice," she smiled.  And indeed, they were being nice little ducklings.  

"Well, yes," said the guide.  "They certainly are being nice.  But what do you notice about how they are acting?"

"Well, I see they are cooperating with each other well," added one little boy. 

How cute is that?  They all saw the ducks as cooperative, nice little animals.  Rather like themselves, I think! 

After more discussion and some duckling petting, we headed outside to look at more ducks and look at their adaptations.  The guide picked up one of the ducks and started to place it into a large aquarium.  One Sea World savvy little one guided the kids back from what he explained was the "splash zone".  The kids squealed with delight as they watched it paddle around and dip its beak into the water, skimming for food.   It was cool because they could see the ducks webbed feet underwater and watch the water bead up on its feathers.  

"Is the duck cold?" asked one little boy.  "Because I am and I'm not even in water."

Several other heads nodded in agreement and rubbed their hands together to warm them.

"What do you think?" asked the guide.

They talked back and forth for a bit and ended the conversation understanding that the feathers keep them warm and cozy.   As we headed off to the field, a little cutie began walking next to me and talking.

"I wish I had feathers," she told me. "Then I would be warm."  

We talked the rest of that walk to decide if she should get some feathers and how she might attach them to her body.  If gluing them on a sweater would be the best way.  She mentioned to me that she was going to ask for feathers for her next birthday.  

Next up was watching a trained Border Collie named Spike herd ducks around a field and back into a cage.  That probably doesn't sound as interesting as it actually was in person.  The kids loved it. 

Our final stop was into the greenhouse to learn about plants.  Now, let me just preface this last story with the fact that the humidity today was about 78%.  And we were in a greenhouse.  

The guide was explaining vascular and nonvascular plants and we were looking at different plants and plant structures.  Kids were raising their hands and commenting and asking questions.  One of my boys raised his hand, and before even being asked he pointed to me (I was standing across the greenhouse) and shouted, "What happened to your hair?" 

Fourteen little heads and two guides immediately looked my way.  My eyes got big as saucers as I patted my hair with my hands.  If any of you out there have hair that completely goes crazy, frizzy in humidity, you can feel my pain.   We all got a good chuckle out of it as I explained briefly to them that what happened to my hair is called "humidity".  I told them my hair is like a hygrometer; when the humidity or moisture in the air rises, so does my hair.  

And then we went back to plants.  Although I did see a few kids sneak some secretive glances my way to look again at my growing hairdo.  

And more than a couple teachers asked me when I got back if I had been outside on a field trip as their eyes traveled to the top of my head, hoping there was a reason for the new do.

Guess I better go find my flat iron.  Although with a rainy week predicted ahead,  it's no match for Michigan's humidity.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Carry On

It's amazing how quickly a week goes by when you're on break, like I was from school last week.  Today, Monday, the students and staff returned, a great majority of them tanned and renewed by their trips to sunny destinations, family time, and some much needed R & R.  My break didn't consist of any sunny vacation, but it was full of catching up with friends and family.  

After commiserating with my hallway teacher friends about the fun we had over break and how we knew in fifteen minutes we'd feel like we never left at all, the students began to stream in. My students arrived with their usual happy dispositions and many hugged me as they passed by me and into the classroom.  You could tell they were happy to be back; they missed their friends and routines.  We quickly settled in to begin the day.  

I had noticed when I arrived this morning that the clocks in the building were all off by an hour.  They were an hour ahead which was very frustrating because I am such a clock-watcher.  I'm sure I could guess at any point during any day what the time is and get it correct within one or two minutes.  I mentioned to the kids as they were getting out their planners this morning that the clocks were off and nothing much was said.  They glanced at the clock, shrugged, and went back to their planners.

At 11:35, with the clock display reading 12:35, one of my little darlings began waving her hand urgently while we were working on some fractions in a small math group. Thrilled that she was finally understanding fractions on a number line, I looked her way.

"Oh my gosh!" she squealed with her hand still waving madly in the air.  Naturally everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at her to see what all the fuss was about. 

"Oh my gosh!" she repeated, in case we hadn't heard the first time.  "We have been so busy we forgot all about lunch!"

This started a whole wave of excitement amongst the little boys and girls.  Everyone had apparently forgotten about the clock having the wrong time, including me for just a brief moment.  My stomach sank and for a split second I actually thought maybe we were so busy we really did forget about lunch today. Was I losing it? A glance down at my watch confirmed to me that we had certainly not missed lunch.  Therefore I was not losing it.  
 I quickly recovered and quieted the masses who were now standing and milling about the room wondering what I was going to do about their missed lunch.  

"Boys and girls," I began in my calmest teacher voice.  "Remember when I pointed out this morning that the clock was incorrect and was showing an hour ahead of time?"  I explained, pointing to the clock a la Vanna White. 

Several nodded their heads and smiled remembering from the morning and immediately placated.   A few others looked as if they didn't care what I had told them, the clock showed 12:35 and we eat lunch at 12:00.  The truth of the matter is, that if, in fact, it truly was 12:35 that would mean they also had missed five minutes of precious recess time and that hadn't occurred to them yet.  

"Here," I offered, quickly walking to my desk and retrieving my cell phone.  "If you don't believe me, look at the time on my iPhone."    

Fifteen eager heads pushed together and zeroed in on my phone and looked for the time.   "What time is it?" I prompted. 

"11:37 a.m.!" four or five voices hollered with relief so everyone could hear.  

"It's a good thing phones don't get messed up with the time, like our clock does," said one little girl, with a happy sigh.  
I smiled at them.  I put my phone back on my desk.   And we went back to math for another twenty-five minutes until it was time for lunch.

Because that's what we do. 
We carry on.

[Note:  The song "Carry On" by Fueled by Ramen is a favorite song of mine. I listen to it to remember to keep going, even when things are tough.  To all my teacher friends, as we approach the end of the school year and an extremely hectic time, don't forget to just carry on.]
Play Carry On  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Award Winning!

I'm one of sixteen bloggers that the website "We Are Teachers" chose for the Best Teacher Blogger Awards 2012!  Yay!  Thanks to all the people who are reading and enjoying my blog.  According to We Are Teachers, I am not just a blogger, I am an edu-blogger!

Click here to read: We Are Teachers

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Runs In The Family

[My school is on spring break, so my stories of school and kids are on break too.  In lieu of my daily stories of life as a teacher, I've blogged today about life as a mother]

About a month ago, my daughter told me that she was looking into volunteering in another country and experiencing a different culture.  My first reaction, as her mother, was to ask way too many questions about safety and details and all that parent stuff. But, she had done her do diligence and checked everything out, even contacting prior volunteers in the organization to see how their experience went.  I quickly informed her that she had my full support and jumped in to help her with preparing for her six week adventure.  

Sure enough, she  is currently living in Costa Rica volunteering in an orphanage. What a positive thing to do in your life!  She's young, she's courageous, and is open to new people, experiences, and cultures.  

I went to Chicago last weekend to help her organize and prepare for her travels. We purchased some international texting on her phone but planned to communicate mainly by email.  Early on Easter Sunday, I dropped her off at O'Hare for her flight and watched her backpack disappear into the lit terminal.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't fight back some tears as I drove off and began my five hour drive back to Michigan.  I was proud of her and excited for her and wanted her to have a wonderful time.  In all honesty, I was even a bit jealous, thinking back to a time in my life when I could have/should have done something so daring!

Through our conversations, I know that she is out of her comfort zone.  She doesn't speak Spanish.  She's never worked around little children.  She has only previously been outside the U.S. to Mexico, Turks & Caicos, and Canada, all with her family.  She arrived in a foreign country alone and had to find the "meeting spot" and a stranger with her name on a sign to drive her to the volunteer center for orientation. She doesn't have her high heels, her girly dresses, her hair dryer, or many of the other comforts she's used to.  It's new foods, new people from around the world, a new home, and even a new mom. 

Before she left, she started a blog to document her six week journey. It's a good read; I highly recommend it!

Read her blog:Stephanie's Blog

I'm going to have to step it up on my blog.  She's giving me a run for my money.