Locked On

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Look at our eyes.
The words I’m reading are terrific.
Landon is hearing every word.
I can’t say enough, and he can’t hear enough.

We’re locked on.

Reading aloud is powerful, in the best of ways.

Jennie

Posted in children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , | 52 Comments

End of the School Year

The end of the school year is always fast, furious, and fun.
Emotions run wild, both with children and teachers.

The week started with visits to every child’s house.
Really.
How cool is that, to have your teacher come to your house.

We painted rocks and read a story.

We laughed, cried, told “Remember when…” stories
from school, and shared gifts.

Landon gave me an Eric Carle thank you book.

Charlotte painted a beautiful picture with a note,
“Dear Jennie, I love when you read me books.
And I love drawing with you.
I miss eating yogurt at lunch with you.
Love, Charlotte.”

We had a final Zoom with children and families.
They wanted teachers to open a gift from the Aqua Room.
Oh, my!  A yearbook.
You may remember that rainbow over the tree photo.

The final event was a car parade.
Teachers waved pom-poms and blew bubbles
as families drove by.
Omar from the Groton Police Department
led the parade.  He is wonderful!

Families had their cars all decked out, cheering and honking.

Staff had a final, farewell lunch together
before touring the renovation at the school.

This will be my classroom!

We hope to move back in at the end of the calendar year.

It was quite a busy week.  I may shed a few tears later today.
I will definitely smile as I look through photos.
Next year is right around the corner.
I have the BEST new idea already in the works!
Stay tuned.

Jennie

Posted in Early Education, Family, Giving thanks, Inspiration, joy, Kindness, preschool, teaching, Teaching young children, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 68 Comments

Chapter Reading Summary at School

As a teacher, I write about many things I do with young children.  I will tell you that the most important thing I do is reading aloud.  I know this is #1.  I also chapter read, which is uncommon in preschool.  It is my favorite part of the day.  Children feel the same way.  At the end of the school year I send a newsletter to families about the chapter books we read throughout the year.  And of course I tell them so much more.

Chapter Reading
June 17, 2020

Chapter reading is one of our treasured moments of the day.  We bring to life the imagination, the world, and the past.  The anticipation of ‘what happens next’ stirs excitement every day.  Children listen and think.  They ask questions.  Ask your child, “At chapter reading where do you make the pictures?”  You will hear your child say, “In your head.”

When we finish a good book and then start a new one, emotions run high and low.  The end of a good book is so satisfying and pleasant, yet…it is over.  That is the wonderful roller coaster of reading.  And, with each chapter book we read, we ride that roller coaster again and again.

When we left school and started distance learning, we were on page 53 of Little House in the Big Woods.  I read aloud the story on YouTube, finishing the book, and then began reading (and finishing) Little House on the Prairie.  It was thrilling; from Jack the dog, to building a house, to Indians in the house.  Pa and his neighbor Mr. Scott dug a well, and we learned about the bad gas deep inside the earth (Pa had to save Mr. Scott) that only a candle can detect.  Of course, I had to show my grandfather’s childhood portrait wearing a miner’s hat with the same candle. Laura and her family had fever ‘n’ ague (malaria), an illness that people thought came from eating watermelons.  There was much more that we typically don’t get to finish during the school year, from Mr. Edwards meets Santa Claus, to Fire on the Prairie.  There is also fear of Indians, which I treat as an opportunity to discuss diversity and prejudice- ‘Gloria’ helps with that.  If your child wants to continue the series, the next one, Farmer Boy is about Laura’s husband when he was a little boy.  I recommend the following one, On the Banks of Plum Creek, which begins their next journey after the prairie.

We vote on our favorite chapter books each year.  Charlotte’s Web is typically the clear winner.

These are the chapter books we have read this year.  Good books are meant to be read over and over again.  We encourage you to revisit these wonderful books with your child:

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Florence and Richard Atwater

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The fundamental constant that gives children the tools to succeed in school is languageThe more words that children hear, the better they will do in school.  Reading aloud to children is far more than an enjoyable experience.  It increases their language development!  In kindergarten through grade four, the primary source of instruction is oral.  The more words that a child has heard, the better s/he will understand the instruction, and the better s/he will perform in school, in all subjects.  Therefore, we will always campaign to read aloud.

A wonderful guide to book recommendations and to understanding the importance of reading aloud is the million-copy bestseller book, The Read-Aloud Handbook.  I have used the book since my children were little.  The author, Jim Trelease, visited the Aqua Room and GCS.  I am featured in the seventh edition of the book.

Jennie

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Magic In Stories!

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(www.pixabay.com)

There is magic in stories. Magic is the transmutation of objects or the manipulation of the world in ways that move outside the realm of science. Whether or not magic is real in the sense of the here and now world is not the point; magic is a metaphor for fiction. Stephen King says, “books are a uniquely portable magic” (104). This magic is in the words, in their transmitting from the writer to the reader other worlds and ideas. In writing fiction, writers create a world that was not there; even so-called realistic, literary writers create an alternate world that readers inhabit when they read the book. The writers and the readers, in a mystical incantation, create another reality, one that can be so strong sometimes that readers can be moved to tears or laughter or sadness or joy or grief or sorrow or despair or hope. Readers…

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Daily Quip

Butterfly Sand

We were all children once. Sometimes we forget that.

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A Child’s Visit – Fountain Play and a Book

Backyard neighbors strolled over for a distance visit.
The baby loves all the hanging fish and wind socks.
And then she discovered the fountain
And climbed right in.

We played, picked flowers,
all at a distance.

Children bring joy!

Then I read her a story, You Be You,
the sequel to Only One Youby Linda Kranz.
Highly recommended!

Jennie

Posted in children's books, Giving thanks, Inspiration, joy, Love, Play, reading aloud, reading aloud, young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 69 Comments

A Teacher’s Story – #3

Never underestimate the difference you can make for another person.  We all know that a smile can make someone else’s day.  If you are a teacher, and things are falling apart in the classroom, follow your instinct and do what you need to do.  The teacher did that in this story, but…  This story has twists and turns.  Stick all the way to the end.  Can one simple thing make a big difference?  You bet!  It was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul.

He was in the third grade class I taught at Saint Mary’s School in Morris, Minnesota.  All 34 of my students were dear to me, but Mark Eklund was one in a million.  Very neat in appearance, he had that happy-to-be-alive attitude that even made his occasional mischievousness delightful.

Mark also talked incessantly.  I tried to remind him again and again that talking with out permission was not acceptable.  What impressed me so much, though, was the sincere response every time I had to correct him for misbehaving.  “Thank you for correcting me, Sister!”  I didn’t know what to make of it at first but before long I became accustomed to hearing it many times a day.

One morning my patience was growing thin when Mark talked once too often.  I made a novice-teacher’s mistake.  I looked at Mark and said, “If you say one more word, I’m going to tape your mouth shut!”  

It wasn’t ten seconds later when Chuck blurted out, “Mark is talking again.”  I hadn’t asked any of the students to help me watch Mark, but since I had stated the punishment in front of the class, I had to act on it.

I remember the scene as if it had occurred this morning.  I walked to my desk, very deliberately opened the drawer and took out a roll of masking tape.  Without saying a word, I proceeded to Mark’s desk, tore off two pieces of tape and made a big X with them over his mouth.  I then returned to the front of the room.

 As I glanced at Mark to see how he was doing, he winked at me.  That did it!  I started laughing.  The entire class cheered as I walked back to Mark’s desk, removed the tape and shrugged my shoulders.  His first words were, “Thank you for correcting me, Sister.”

At the end of the year I was asked to teach junior high math.  The years flew by, and before I knew it Mark was in my classroom again.  He was more handsome than ever and just as polite.  Since he had to listen carefully to to my instruction in the “new math,” he did not talk as much in ninth grade.

One Friday things just didn’t feel right.  We had worked hard on a new concept all week, and I sensed that the students were growing frustrated with themselves – and edgy with one another.  I had to stop this crankiness before it got out of hand.  So, I asked them to list the names of other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.  Then I told them to think of the nicest thing thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the class period to finish the assignment, but as the students left the room each one handed me their paper.  Chuck smiled.  Mark said, “Thank you for teaching me, Sister.  Have a good weekend.”

That Saturday, I wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and  I listed what everyone else had about that individual.  On Monday I gave each each student his or her list.  Some of  them ran two pages.  Before long, the entire class was smiling.  “Really?”  I heard whispered.  “I never knew that meant anything to anyone!”  “I didn’t know others liked me so much!”

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again.  I never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn’t matter.  The exercise had accomplished its purpose.  The students were happy with themselves and one another again.  

That group of students moved on.  Several years later, after I had returned from a vacation, my parents met me at the airport.  As we were driving home, Mother asked the usual questions about the trip: How the weather was, my experiences in general.  There was a slight lull in the conversation.  Mother gave Dad a sideways glance and simply said, “Dad?”  My father cleared his throat.  “The Eklunds called last night,” he began.

Really?”  I said.  “I haven’t heard from them for several years.  I wonder how Mark is.”

Dad responded quietly.  “Mark was killed in Vietnam,” he said.  “The funeral is tomorrow, and his parents would like you to attend.”  To this day I can still point to the exact spot on I-494 where Dad told me about Mark.  

I had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before.  Mark looked so handsome, so mature.  All I could think at that moment was, Mark, I would give all the masking tape in the world if only you could talk to me. 

The church was packed with Mark’s friends.  Chuck’s sister sang, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  Why did it have to rain on the day of the funeral?  It was difficult enough at the graveside.  The pastor said the usual prayers and the bugler played taps.  One by one those who loved Mark took a last walk by the coffin and sprinkled it with holy water.

I was the last one to bless the coffin.  As I stood there, one of the soldiers who had acted as a pallbearer came up to me.  “Were you Mark’s math teacher?” he asked.  I nodded as I continued to stare at the coffin.  “Mark talked about you a lot,” he said.

After the funeral most of Mark’s former classmates headed to Chuck’s farmhouse for lunch.  Mark’s mother and father were there, obviously waiting for me.  “We want to show you something,” his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket.  “They found this on Mark when he was killed.  We thought you might recognize it.”

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times.  I knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which I had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.  “Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said.  “As you can see, Mark treasured it.”

Mark’s classmates started to gather around us.  Chuck smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list.  It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.”  John’s wife said, “John asked me to put his in our wedding album.”  Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group.  “I carry this with me at all times,” Vicki said without batting an eyelash.  “I think we all saved our lists.”

That’s when I finally sat down and cried.  I cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again. 

Jennie

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A Teacher’s Story – #2

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I don’t think people know who my hero is.  I doubt my own children even know; they would say my it’s my grandmother, Nan.  And, so would most people close to me.  Nan was the best grandmother, and what I learned from her shaped my character, taught me far more than even she ever realized about reading and art.  She was strong and kind, and she always inspired me.  She touched every part of my life.  Nan was a superhero.

There are heroes, and there are superheroes.  Just ask any 8-year-old.  A superhero makes a difference to everything in your life, like Nan.  A hero is someone who touches your life in a very specific way.

Heroes inspire me, because then I become a better teacher.  There is one person, a teacher in Baltimore long ago, whose teaching made me stop and realize what’s really important.  When I read her story, I felt like I was walking in her footsteps.  Well, I felt like those were the footsteps I had to walk in.  I wanted to be just like her.  I needed to be just like her.  My throat still closes and my heart pounds when I read her simple story.  It is in the original Chicken Soup for the Soul book, published in 1993:

Love: The One Creative Force

A college professor had his sociology class go into the Baltimore slums to get case histories of 200 young boys.  They were asked to write an evaluation of each boy’s future.  In every case the students wrote, “He hasn’t got a chance.”  Twenty-five years later another sociology professor came across the earlier study.  He had his students follow up on the project to see what had happened to these boys.  With the exception of 20 boys who had moved away or died, the students learned that 176 of the remaining 180 had achieved more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors and businessmen.

The professor was astounded and decided to pursue the matter further.  Fortunately, all the men were in the area and he was able to ask each one, “How do you account for your success?”  In each case the reply came with feeling, “There was a teacher.”

The teacher was still alive, so he sought her out and asked the old but still alert lady what magic formula she used to pull these boys out of the slums into successful achievement.

The teacher’s eyes sparkled and her lips broke into a gentle smile.  “It’s really very simple”, she said.  “I loved those boys.”

My copy of the book is worn, and the pages open-up to this story, because I’ve read it too many times to count.  It changed how I looked upon teaching and children.  I often write about an emergent or child-centered curriculum, and how that has led to the best learning.  Well, now you know where it started.  And, now you know who my hero is.  If I can fill her shoes and give children the same love so they can succeed, that’s all I need.

Today, more than ever, teachers need to look beyond the turmoil and trouble in reopening schools.  The most important thing is to simply love the children.  That is the most precious gift we can give to children.

Jennie

Stay tuned for Teacher Story – #3

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A Teacher’s Story – #1

When I was a new teacher I stumbled across this wonderful story.  I still have my well-worn hard copy, which I read from time to time.  It never gets old, it fills me up. I’ve read that it may not be completely true, but that doesn’t matter.  The point is, you never know when you may touch the life of someone else.  If you don’t know this story, you are in for a treat.  Stay till the end.  We all need a positive, feel-good story.

As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth.  Like most teachers, she looked at her students said that she loved them all the same.  However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath.  In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.  It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big fat “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last.  However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh.  He does his work neatly and has good manners… he is a joy to be around.”

His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.”

His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him.  He tries to do his best, but his father doesn’t show much interest, and his home life will soon affect him if steps aren’t taken.”

Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.  He doesn’t have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself.  She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s.  His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag.  Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents.  Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.  But she stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist.  Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.”

After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.  On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic.  Instead she began to teach children.  Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy.  As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive.  The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded.  By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.”

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy.  He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors.  He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came.  This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further.  The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had.  But now his name was a little longer… The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there.  You see, there was yet another letter that spring.  Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married.  He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.  Of course, Mrs. Thompson did.  And guess what?  She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing.  Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me.  Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.”

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back.  She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong.  You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference.  I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.”

(For you that don’t know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing).

Stay tuned for Teacher Story – #2.

Jennie

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The Crossing Guard Chronicles: Oh, What We’ve Missed…

As the school year is quickly coming to an end, it is filled with emptiness. There are no children to hug. There are no “moments” that bring teaching to life. Reflections are wonderful, and Steve the Crossing Guard does just that in his post – the final day at his Curbside Classroom. Read on!

S'amusing

“Today, April 30, 1789, is a big day in American history. It happened in New York City and was the first of its kind. Do you know what it is?” *

This would have been today’s question at the Curbside Classroom. ‘Would have been’, because school has been shutdown, suspended, due to the Coronavirus.

April 19th, 1775 in colonial Lexington was another landmark day in American history, as was the prior day, April 18, that same year. The American poet with the long name, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, memorialized the 18th in his poem, ‘The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere’.

So many topics the kids and I are missing at the ‘Curbside Classroom’ because of our ‘furlough’ from school and my school crossing duties.

Sure, the daily history tidbits are interesting, but there’s so much more that we discuss, point out, quiz, laugh about in the minute we have while waiting…

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