Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Today was our field trip to the farm.  An interesting prospect since it's February in Michigan, not ideal weather to be outside.  However, as luck would have it, the weather finally broke and today was a balmy 39 degrees, a virtual heatwave.  So much so, that I had to be extra vigilant as I reminded the little ones that, yes, they really did need to still wear their gloves and hats and zip up their coats.  

So, let's break this down.  Kids love animals. Kids love being outside, no matter what the temperature.  Kids love field trips.  Put them all together and you have a few hours, outside, at a farm with animals and it's a win-win.   It's also a great time for me to stand back and listen to the students outside our normal classroom walls.  Today, like every other field trip day, I found myself chuckling and giggling over some of the cute things that came out of their mouths.

My favorite comments of the day occurred in the chicken coop.  Seems like every year this is where I hear the most comical things for some reason.   Maybe it's the cramped space.   Perhaps it's the awful smell.  Could be the squawking and quacking we hear from the wall beside us as we talk outside of the room. 

For last year's farm field trip blog click here: Farm Field Trip 2013

"Welcome to the chicken coop," said our guide, holding up an egg for all to see.  "Does anyone know what this is?" 

Several excited little voices responded, "Eggs!" which got our field trip off to a great start.

"Does anyone know what a male chicken is called?" she asked.

"A rooster," replied one little boy as a couple nodded in agreement.

"That's right.  And the female chicken is called a hen," said the guide, pointing to a chart of chicken pictures.  "So how do we get eggs?"'  

"Well, I know," came the confident response from a little girl.  "When the boy and the girl chicken get married they have little chicks."  She smiled looking at her quiet audience of friends, amazed at all her chicken knowledge.

"Yes, well that's kind of right," the guide continued.  "Except chickens don't get married.  It's more like they just have lots of boyfriends and girlfriends."   

"So they cheat on each other?" interjected one little boy.

"No, they just do the chicken dance," countered his friend, moving his arms up and down like a chicken.  

Our guide looked at me, smiling weakly, but I wasn't going to bail her out.  She started this conversation, after all.  

At this our guide very wisely and quickly ushered us into the chicken area where the kids could look at lots of chickens, quail, and even two pot bellied pigs. 

On the bus ride back, the other 3rd grade teacher and I told them all that we would be heading outside as soon as we returned to school so they could play.  They had missed their recess today and really needed to get some important play time.  Simply by adding the recess onto our afternoon schedule, the field trip was becoming the "best day ever!"   Sometimes it's just the little things. 

Forty-two little kids raced outside onto the playground, with snow piled in some areas over five feet high.  The temperature and sun provided the perfect "packing" snow and the kids took off in all directions to have some fun.  We have missed way too many recess times this year due to the frigid temperatures so it was wonderful to see them all so happy and enjoying the snow. 

I scanned the playground and was instantly struck by the random snowballs everywhere.  There were big ones, small ones, oval ones, and perfectly round ones. There were lopsided ones and square ones.  The students must have been busy at recess.

Interestingly, none of them were piled on top of another.  They were all just singular snow balls, abandoned and alone, waiting for another bell to call the kids back out.

I snapped a couple of pictures because I found the entire scene very interesting. 
Do you see it?  

A tribute to winter.
Created by children.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

They Love Me, They Love Me Not

Combine Valentine's Day with our annual Variety Show last Friday, and you could have a recipe for disaster.  Luckily, the day was just a swirl of non-stop excitement and fun.  At least for the kids. 

The kids came to school charged up, clutching heart covered boxes and stacks of tiny envelopes addressed to their friends.  As I stood in the hallway, donning my one and only festive, red item of clothing, a scarf, the cuties wished me an enthusiastic "Happy Valentine's Day" as they crowded through the doorway.  Within minutes my desk was covered with many handmade, personal valentines (my favorite), most of them taped to an Almond Joy bar (also my favorite).  Perfect timing, also, as my supply of Almond Joys from all their Halloween candy gifts was running low.  They are so sweet!  It never gets old to get a card written in little kids writing declaring me "the best teacher in the whole world!" 

I attempted to settle them down a bit before the Variety Show.  Even with a microphone on it was difficult to keep them quiet for more than a minute or two at a time.  They were just so darn excited about the day. They tried.  They really did.  Soon we were headed off to Act I of the show.  My little ones sat down on the gym floor squished together in a row, excited and eager to see their friends on stage.  Now, assemblies and author visits and all-school shows are usually lots of fun, especially for kids, but for a teacher we are on a constant, vigilant watch to monitor behavior and shush as needed.   Trust me when I say no kid wants to feel "the stare" from his/her teacher and look over to see said teacher motioning them over to sit next to the teacher.  

After lunch, my little valentines were so excited for their party that they couldn't stand it.  They passed out their decorated cards and candies and then returned to Ohh and Ahhh at their pile of valentines.  There is just something really special about getting twenty-three tiny, little red and pink personalized cards all in one day.

During Act II of the show, two of my darling little girls sang and danced to a song replaced with their own lyrics about 3rd grade and our school.   It was quite a touching song, tearing me up in some sections.  Especially the part where they pointed to me in the audience as they were declaring me the reason 3rd grade was so much fun.  Last week, they had casually asked me where I would be sitting during the Variety Show.  After the morning's Act I, they asked me to sit in the same place for Act II.  Now I know it was so they wouldn't have to pause mid-way in their beautiful song to try and locate me out in the gym filled with five hundred students and teachers.  I think the most delightful part was when they walked out on stage and one of the girls looked to the other and whispered, "She's there!"  Of course I was there.  I wouldn't miss this for anything.  I felt on top of the world.    I had to fight the urge to storm onto the stage, grab the mike, and imitate Sally Field when she accepted her Academy Award and said, "You like me!  You really like me!"

After the show, we had our party, which consisted of reading, eating the candy from their valentine's cards, eating popcorn, and one of my students making snow cones for everyone.  Hard to top in the kid world. Was there more talking than reading?  Yes.  Was it fun?  Absolutely.  

On mornings like Friday, when I'm being stern and trying to put a lid on the talking, they probably don't love me so much. Or think I'm the greatest teacher ever. 

On days when I'm making math or social studies more fun and engaging, they probably love me. 

On some afternoons, when I'm tired and cranky, and I'm not being very patient with them, they probably don't love me.

On beautiful days, when I take them out for an extra recess, I know they love me. 

On assignments, when I insist they do it over or give me their very best, every time, I doubt they love me very much.

But on days like Friday, when they sing about me in front of the whole school, I know they love me.  

And I love them too.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Lesson In Life

Last week I hung up a chalkboard (contact paper backed) on one of my storage cabinets in my room inviting the students to share what they have learned.  Since we moved years ago to dry erase boards and markers, the students were instantly fascinated and drawn to using chalk to write. I didn't even have to tell them what it was, or ask them to write on it.   By noon, they had grabbed some chalk from the paper cup I had sitting nearby and started to write.  Third graders are like that.  They figure things out and they just do.

Every day the board gets filled with student thinking and comments and random thoughts about the day.   
<----------  See sample.

Lately, we have been learning about decimals, and heard a presentation on the lamprey eel invading the Great Lakes, so many comments are in reference to what we did that day.

Every day at the end of the day, I erase it all so that the students have a clean slate for the next day.   Even after almost seven days, they are eager and anxious to write on it, often lining up to wait for their turn.   I've noticed the color of the chalk can be very important.

How could something so simple be so much fun?  And also useful since I share some of the questions and comments with the class, clear up misconceptions, and the students spend time reading the board to see what their friends are learning.   It's becoming a real conversation piece and focal part of the room.

Today, near the end of the day, I wandered over to the chalkboard cabinet door and read one of the best things chalked by a 3rd grader yet.  

If you look carefully in the middle you can see it.  It says: I learned that you don't always get what you want.  

Bravo!  What a wonderful life lesson to learn.  And she's only eight.  I know way too many adults that haven't accepted this fact of life yet.  Of course I do tell my students this all the time and emphasize it by saying, "I want to be in Florida, but I'm not.   Because you can't always get what you want."  

So, for any parents that hear the standard answer to their daily question to their child: "What did you learn today?" [student replies, "Nothing."] may I suggest you stick up a chalkboard and give them some chalk.  You might be amazed at what you see. 

Now, for sure I can't give every student what they want.  
But I sure can keep trying my best to give them what they need.

Listen to the man who said it best -- 
Mick: You Can't Always Get What You Want

Friday, February 7, 2014

If You Have Your Health, You Have Everything

I was thinking to myself last Sunday that I had not been sick once this year and congratulating myself on avoiding any germs, so naturally when I woke up Monday morning I had a slight headache and a bit of a scratchy throat.  I ignored it as I bustled into school quickly to get out of the (still) frigid temperatures around here.  By noon, I had to take a couple of Tylenol but I told myself I wasn't going to get sick.  I had made it to February and I wasn't going to let it happen now.  Besides, I haven't had any students out sick lately.  How in the world could I have caught something?  It couldn't possibly be the fact that I work in a building with 450 little germ magnets.

On Monday night I went to bed extra early in the hopes that some sleep would cure this approaching sickness.  I drank three extra glasses of water to hopefully drown out any germs that might be multiplying.  I even knocked on wood, but it was way too late for that.

On Tuesday morning I woke up and knew I was getting sick.  My head felt like it was stuffed with cotton, my nose was running constantly, and my head ached.  However, the thought of putting together sub plans seemed like more time and effort than just going into school,  so I decided I would power through.  I would take some DayQuil and everything would be alright, I told myself as I sluggishly got ready for school.  

At noon, I was hanging on by a thread.  The third graders were performing their musical concert that evening and I couldn't even imagine myself standing vertically at that point. As the students ate lunch I sat at my desk and ate some chicken noodle soup.  One little boy approached.  They were all sensing that something was wrong with me, but they hadn't quite figured out just what it was yet.  He was the brave one to find out.

"Mrs. Jeppson?" he began as he watched me spoon some noodles into my mouth.

"Humm???" I responded. 

"Is that chicken noodle soup?" he asked.  

"Yes.  It is.  I'm not feeling really great so I thought some soup would help," I explained.

"But that's not enough.  That little bit of soup won't make you better," he declared.

At this I picked up a bag of oyster crackers from my desk and waved them near him.

"Oyster crackers!" he shouted, with glee.  "I love oyster crackers!  But I'm glad they are not really oysters."

"Aren't we all?" I told him as I opened the bag.  

And then he did something that made me feel better than any bag of crackers or soup ever could.  He moved closer and he hugged me and he said he hoped I felt better. 

I missed the performance that evening.  I missed school the next day.  

On Thursday, even though I was nowhere near back to 100%, I figured I could make it through the day.  I apologized to the little ones that I was not able to see their musical performance.  I mentioned that the other teachers had complimented them on their wonderful singing and concert.  

Finally, today, Friday, I feel mostly back to my normal, healthy self.  I'm thankful that I work with amazing teachers who always are there to jump in and help.  When I knew I was too sick to be there for the concert, a teacher friend stepped in to volunteer to walk my class to the stage and be there for them.  When I needed to make sub plans, a teacher friend offered to write my plans and gather materials for me so I didn't have to do it.  When I passed my teacher friends in the hallway, they all asked if I was feeling better and I think they even genuinely meant it.

They say if you have your health, you have everything.  

But, lucky me.  I have my health and great teacher friends and amazing students and a wonderful parent community.  

I guess you could say, I have it all. 

To read another blog from last year read: "Sick Day"