Change The World

Thank you, Tonya, for one of the best posts on life, character, values, and determination.

fourth generation farmgirl

This speech by US Navy Admiral, William H. McRaven is beautiful, moving, and inspiring.  I hope you will watch it.

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August G…uest #7: Children – Teaching, Reading, Storytelling, and More

I was invited to be a guest blogger on The Recipe Hunter’s terrific blog. Thank you, Esmé. It’s a great story… about me!

The Recipe Hunter

Jennie Meet Jennie @ A Teacher’s Reflections
Thank you, Esmé, for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog.  First, let me introduce myself.  I am Jennie, a long time preschool teacher, 30+ years is definitely a long time, and… well, that’s what I want to talk about.

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Guest writer: Jennie Fitzkee – The Peanut Man

I was a guest blogger on Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo, telling one of my first “Jennie Stories.”

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Teacher Jennie Fitzkee shares another of her ‘Jennie stories…tales she tells to delight the children in her care… and the child inside the rest of us.

“It happened like this… When I was in first grade, second grade, and third grade, there was a man who lived in my town- Doctor Tyler. Now, Doctor Tyler was old, really old. He was short and fat, and he had snow-white hair and a long white beard. He was a kind man. Do you know anyone who looks like that?

(Long pause, and inevitably a child says, “Santa Clause!”)

Yes! He looked exactly like Santa Clause. But he wasn’t. Doctor Tyler had a peanut farm. All summer long he grew peanuts. They grow in big bushes above the ground.

When the school year began, Doctor Tyler would come to school. Unannounced. The principal didn’t know when he was coming. The teachers didn’t know…

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No Words Needed

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited.  Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein-

And, a picture really is worth a thousand words~that light the fire of imagination.  What if there were books that could do just that?  Books with pictures only, deeply rooted in vivid imagination, and in the form of a story?

Yes, there are such books.  David Wiesner has mastered the art of wordless storytelling.  Think they’re for children?  Think again!

The David Wiesner exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum

Years ago I discovered the book, Flotsam.  A boy is at the beach, an old underwater camera washes up on the shore- with a roll of film inside.  He develops the film only to discover…

A picture of a picture, of a picture, and so on.  This leads to what is perhaps really beneath the ocean, and a sequential history of sorts.  The art is incredible.  Not surprising, as it is the story itself.  Images of what if  abound to plant the seeds of imagination.

History goes back to the turn of the century.  I love history as much as imagination.  The discussion and conversations about the children in the book, pictured back to the turn of the century, emulates just what reading aloud does, adding vocabulary and opening new doors of discovery.  Talking and thinking.  Brain building.  Soul building.  The illustrations stand on their own as a gateway to…wherever the mind can go.

On my way home, after seeing so many incredible fish, this is what I saw.  A fish in the sky!

Wordless books are sometimes my uphill battle with adults.  Many parents are so locked into the words telling you the story, that they can’t see the forest for the trees, or the immense opportunities to unlock their child’s brain and stimulate vocabulary.  Hey, the reader and listener have to talk, really talk.

All I can say is, “You have to read the book!”

Another remarkable David Wiesner book is Tuesday.  On a Tuesday, something happens to frogs.  The illustrations are a slow growth into an adventure that any and every child (and adult) delights in and understands.  Marvelous in imagination!  The ending has a terrific twist.

The day after I saw the exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum, Ryan happened to bring his frog to Summer Camp, a perfect replica of David Wiesner’s frogs.  I said, “Ryan, there is a book about your frog!”  I grabbed his hand and we went to the library at school.  Well, we actually ran.  I found Tuesday, and we dove into the book together.  Oh, how we read, talked…you get the picture.  Ryan said, “This is the best book I have ever read.”  He meant it.  He ‘got it’.


Posted in David Wiesner, Early Education, Einstein, Eric Carle, Imagination, picture books, reading, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 67 Comments

Writing Quote Number 1 from the Archives

Thank you Bridget for this wonderful George Bernard Shaw quote!



If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.
― George Bernard Shaw

This post first appeared on April 20 2014

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Meeting Yet Another Author

Mount Holyoke College in Western Massachusetts hosts children’s book authors, and recently Patricia MacLachlan was a speaker.  Remember Sarah, Plain and Tall?  It was the first book that made me cry as an adult.  Mandatory reading for my children when they were in third grade.

Sarah, Plain and Tall also won the coveted Newbery Award.  That’s the brass ring, the Holy Grail in children’s literature.  My copy is very worn and well-loved.  Patricia smiled when she saw the book and said, “This is one of the first copies.”  It seemed to bring back memories for her.

When I arrived at the speaking event, I was surprised.  The room was old and lovely- fireplace, sofas, big casement windows.  It was filled with students from the children’s literature course… and me!

“Please, come up front.  I’d be happy to answer any questions before we begin”, she said.  “I don’t see well with my macular degeneration, so please come closer.”

The students didn’t move.  I did!  I walked up and introduced myself, with my books in hand, including The Poet’s Dog, her most recent book.  It is outstanding!  My husband the book lover and voracious reader claims, “This is the best piece of literature I have ever read.”  He is right.  The opening sentences in the book reads,  “Dogs speak words.  But only poets and children hear.”  The story is told through the dog.  I wrote a blog post on this book alone last October.

“It should have won the Newbery” I said, holding up my book to the author.  And I meant it.  Patricia smiled and said, “Thank you.  Please call me Patty.”  Wow!

We chatted a bit and I looked at the big coffee table in front of her, filled with the books she had written.  There were plenty, including a picture book that I know well, The Iridescence of Birds.  It’s the story of Henri Matisse as a little boy, and how he found color in his dreary French town, and was both encouraged and influenced by his mother.

I had forgotten that Patricia MacLachlan wrote the book.  I was sorry I hadn’t brought it along for her to sign.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  “I have that book, too.  It’s wonderful.  I’m sorry I didn’t bring it along.”

Patty:  “Actually, this is my favorite book.  I loved writing it.”

Me:  “I read this all the time in my preschool class, especially when I introduce artists and their art.  I’m sure you know that Matisse’s grandson lives in my town of Groton.”

Long Pause…

Patty:  “No, I didn’t know.  I should probably send him a copy of the book.  What do you think?”

What?  This world famous author is asking me if I think she should send Matisse a copy of her book about his grandfather?

Me:  “Of course you should.  He would love the book.”

Patricia MacLachlan gave me her email address, and the next day I looked up Paul Matisse’s address and sent it to her.  After a few emails back and forth, she mailed him the book along with a note that read:

“I am typing this letter to you because I can’t read my own writing.  The redeeming quality of being this blind is that when I look into the mirror I look beautiful like an impressionist painting.”

Beautiful, indeed!

Paul Matisse wrote back to say that he thought it was charming, and he planned to share it with his grandchildren when they visited this summer.


Posted in Author interview, Early Education, Imagination, Inspiration, Patricia MacLachlan, picture books, reading, reading aloud | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Peace, The Real Peace

I talk about peace often in my classroom.  Well, that’s partially true.  When children talk about peace, I jump right in. They have a lot to say. We adults should listen more.

Years ago, when I first had the the good sense to listen to children, it struck me to paint a peace dove in our parking lot, right in front of the entrance to school.  Janine, an artist and parent of Juliet (Starry Night post) and Audrey, was happy to do the job.  Since then, she has returned many times to repaint this simple, beautiful bird.  It has become a symbol to welcome all the families and visitors who come into our school.  Crossing the threshold of peace.

Peace is really very simple.  Children know.  When asked, “What is peace?”, they pause, and pull an answer from their soul.  I think the soul is a heart that has lived.  “My new baby sister, dancing, dinner with my family”… true peace.  That’s what children say.

It took me a while in my teaching to let go of the structure of teaching peace.  I remember interviewing children when we were sitting under a Peace Portal that we had made in the classroom.

I asked, “How does peace make you feel?”

Colin answered, “It makes me feel hearty.”

“Oh… it makes you feel strong?”

“No, Jennie.  It makes me feel heart-y.”  Then he patted his heart.

Oh my goodness!

Colin answered with a why-are-you-asking, and a don’t-you-already-know, mindset.  He was right; I did know.  I was teaching peace as part of my curriculum.  I realized that peace is learned by doing.  I had to set the stage, be a role model, stop and talk at all the little and big things that happened in the classroom, read plenty of books aloud that open the door for both goodness and evil- oh, the conversations we have are pretty intense; from fairy tales to the more subtle, like Templeton the rat in “Charlotte’s Web”.  I made sure children felt comfortable saying what they thought and asking questions.

I was right.  It made a difference.  Thereafter, peace became something  real.  Now, peace in my classroom is something children just understand.  Talking about it, or making a book, or designing a quilt happens as a reflection of what they already know and feel.


Posted in Early Education, Inspiration, Kindness, Peace, Teaching young children | Tagged , , | 71 Comments