Olivia and Linda, a Happy New Year

I have only one photo of children in my class beside my computer.  One.

Meet, left to right, Maddy, Allison, Olivia, Sophie, and Sarah.  These children are now in college, and still it is my favorite photo.  I have a big collection of precious photos that mean the world to me.  Yet, this is this one.  A picture speaks a thousand words.

It was taken at a party at Sarah’s house.  Each child brought their favorite book (including me) to read and share.  We had a grand time!  I still recognize the books from the photo.

I have kept in touch with all of these children over the years.  All except Olivia.  That changed yesterday.

Olivia had a Nanny, Linda, who often dropped off and picked her up at school.  While I got to know Olivia’s parents, I also got to know Linda.  It was friendly and cordial.  Then Olivia moved on to kindergarten and public school.  We didn’t keep in touch.

Yesterday I bumped into Linda at the local hardware store.  She recognized me immediately.  Her year had been consumed with health issues, moving, and change.  The bright spot for Linda was an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner from Olivia’s family.  It had been many years since she and Olivia had seen each other.

As Linda described the greeting, full of hugs and smiles, I saw her eyes sparkle.  Joy. Olivia is now a lovely, grownup young lady.  This reunion meant the world to Linda.

We briefly reminisced about school and Olivia, way back when.  Linda then  reached out and took my arm.  She had words to say, and her conversation went something like this:

Jennie, I want to tell you I remember you teaching.  I used to watch you when I came into school.  You were different.

“Different”, she said.  Linda was serious.

I watched you with the children and I learned from you.  I did.  You helped me.  I want you to know that.

“Thank you, Linda” was all I could say.  She smiled, the kind of smile that comes from letting words go that have been stored inside for a long time.  I snapped her picture, and wished her and Olivia a Happy New Year.

Jennie

Posted in children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, Kindness | Tagged , , , , , | 47 Comments

Quotations on Books!

charles french words reading and writing

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(https://pixabay.com)

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(https://pixabay.com)

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

                                                                  Marcus Tullius Cicero

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

                                                                 Jorge Luis Borges

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”

                                   …

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Darth Vader, Marines, and Reading Aloud

I watched a TED Talks with actor Adam Driver who plays Darth Vader’s son in the last two Star Wars movies.  He is one great actor!  The new Star Wars movie (saw it yesterday) is outstanding.

What he does outside of the movie world is remarkable, and mirrors what I do with children.

Adams’s pathway to Star Wars is surprising.  After 9/11 he enlisted into the Marines.  In his words, “It was the right thing to do.”  He was thrust into a diverse world where everyone got along, and got your back.  Friendships were tight, and so were routines and orders.

Adam was wounded.  All his fellow Marines were there at the hospital.  A band of brothers. He never forgot this.

After serving in the Marines he studied acting, something he had loved since high school. He felt strongly about expressing words and feelings, and knew that for many of his Marine buddies and members of the military, this was not always easy.

Adam thought of providing entertainment of all sorts,  as a medium for words and thoughts, to those who don’t have an opportunity to express themselves. Brilliant!  He began a non profit, Arts in the Armed Forces.  This simply brought reading and speaking, and performing a little of everything — often words from plays or books — that soldiers hadn’t heard before.  Words that opened their world.  Words that opened their eyes. Words that gave them the way to express their own words and feelings.

Books do that.  Words do that.  It struck me that I am doing for children what Adam and Arts in the Armed Forces is doing for soldiers and sailors.  I am giving children words and opening their world.  Book after book, from picture books to chapter reading, builds upon all those words.  Scaffolding.  Suddenly, children begin to relate and understand.  They use those words and learn to express themselves  and to understand others.

The arts hold the power to make a difference and enhance learning.  Thank you, Adam Driver:

Jennie

Posted in Diversity, Expressing words and feelings, Giving, Imagination, Inspiration, military, play performances, reading, reading aloud, storytelling, The Arts | Tagged , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

My Legend of the Sticky Buns

Over twenty years ago there were two little girls in my preschool class, Michelle and Nicole.  Sisters.  Michelle was full of heart.  She cried at The Runaway Bunny.  She was always the star in our plays.  I think her most memorable performance was Rapunzel, wearing a long knitted scarf as her hair.  Nicole was ever-cheerful.  She asked questions all the time, and constantly had a cluster of friends.  Lunchtime conversations were always fascinating, thanks to Nicole.

Together, these two sisters embodied joy and heart and character.

Their mom, Anne, loved to bake.  She came into the class and helped the children make sticky buns.  That was really fun!  Talk about a hands-on activity… the best.  Then, Christmas came along.  Anne and the girls showed up at my door on Christmas Eve with a delivery of sticky buns.  I was so touched!  And, oh were they ever good.

The girls grew older, too old for my preschool class.  Yet, the following year another Christmas Eve delivery of sticky buns arrived at my door. And the following year, and the next, and on and on, and again this year:

As the years went by, we kept in touch about school, then the worry and excitement of college applications and acceptances.  Then, there were new jobs, moving away from home, and changing jobs.  Life was constantly changing and evolving, and we shared those stories together like family.  Christmas Eve and the delivery of sticky buns became an annual get-together.  We spend the evening sharing stories of loss and sorrow, health worries, joyous moments in life, and belly laughing over the funny, little things.

Always the best Christmas Eve.

My preschool children over twenty years ago are now like a family to me.  In the words of their mother, Woo Hoo!

Jennie

Posted in Family, Giving, Giving thanks, Kindness, Love | Tagged , , , , , | 44 Comments

Christmas Eve

“Where the Treetops Glisten”

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Dog Lovers and Book Lovers: “The Poet’s Dog”

As the holidays and winter are upon us, I am once again drawn to the best book.  Fall in love with a dog, a poet, and children- magnificently written.

“Dogs speak words.  But only poets and children hear.”

Those are the opening words in Patricia MacLachlan’s new book, The Poet’s Dog.  I have read the book twice, because there are many words not to be missed; words that are pure and don’t need added adjectives and text.  MacLachlan’s writing stands alone in a field of masterful literature.  Her eighty-eight pages are some of the best I have ever read.  In the words of the publisher:

“Alone in a fierce winter storm, Nickel and Flora are brave but afraid.  A dog finds them.  Teddy speaks words and brings them to shelter.  The Poet’s cabin has light and food and love.  But where is the poet?  Teddy will tell the story of how words make poems and connect to those who hear each other.”

Sylvan the poet constantly reads to Teddy.  He reads Yeats and Shakespeare.  He also reads Charlotte’s Web, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Ox Cart Man.  Teddy learns how words follow one another.

I had no idea that Ox Cart Man, one of my favorite children’s books, is actually a poem.  I scrambled to find my copy and read the words again, this time seeing the words for what they are meant to be – a poem.  When I read the book again to my preschoolers this month, it will be more beautiful than ever.

The Poet’s Dog is a story of adventure, survival, love and friendship, death, reading and poetry.  The beginning is a fishing line that hooks the reader, and the ocean opens to… well, you will have to read the book  The ending is as surprising as ever.

I told a friend and fellow teacher about The Poet’s Dog and quoted to her the first lines, “Dogs speak words.  But only poets and children hear.” Our conversation went something like this:

“I hear my cat.  I know what she’s saying.”

“Then you must be either a child or a poet.”

“I’m a child.  My heart is always a child.  And I love poetry.”

She smiled a knowing smile.  I did, too.

Jennie

P.S. Dogs: Maddie, Ollie, Ani, Bailey and Lucy… and more – tell your human to read this book.

Posted in Book Review, books, children's books, Dogs, Particia MacLachlan, Poetry, reading | Tagged , , , , , | 70 Comments

A Gift To Me From My “Family”

Today our Room Parents arrived with gifts for the teachers, from all the families in our class.  Children were excited to watch their teachers tear open paper and uncover a gift.  Rarely am I at a loss for words.  I was when I opened the gift.

It was a book, Our Aqua Room Family.  Family.  That word somehow becomes cemented in September.  It is much like a badge, something everyone wears, feels and just knows.  We’re a family.

This was the first page:
Our family comes from many towns:
Our hair is straight, our hair is brown,
Our hair is curled, our eyes are blue, Our skins are different colors, too.

We’re girls and boys, we’re big and small,
We’re young and old, we’re short and tall.
We’re everything that we can be
And still we are a family.

We laugh and cry, we work and play,
We help each other ever day.
The world’s a lovely place to be

Because we are a family.

The following pages in the book were done by each child, drawing our Aqua Room family.  Page after page depicted a child’s view of  friends and teachers.

Here is Savannah’s page:

The final page was the pinnacle:

The definition of family!

Life’s greatest blessing.  A group that dreams, laughs, plays and loves together.  Those whom you can always count on.  Always present not only in the good times.  The most precious gift.

That’s my class.  The thread of being and doing (family) becomes who we are.  Children and teachers always talk about being a family, because we are.  Thank goodness the parents know and understand that, and feel the same way.

Here’s to Family!

Jennie

Posted in books, children's books, Early Education, Family, storytelling, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , | 66 Comments