Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Latest Project

The end of May, I was trying to find a summer project.  I always need a challenge and embrace learning something new. (I'm definitely not one to sit idle for the summer!!)  I went online to look at Ashland's summer courses, knowing the class would need to be independent, a weekend, or online.  My goal was not to take too much time away from my family, yet satisfy my constant desire to learn something new.  Ashland had an online, self-paced class for sign language, which I decided was for me. 

Becoming more proficient in sign language has been on my "bucket list" for sometime.  When my children were little, I taught them basic signs, plus we bought the Signing Time videos to view and learn.  By watching these 30 minute videos off and on, my children began using some signs in their day-to-day happenings. 

Talking With Your Hands and Listening with Your Eyes is a must have for anyone learning sign language and wanting to incorporate signing in their classroom.  It was the required text, but when it came in the mail, my son recognized it from his own classroom at school.  It's a complete photographic guide to learning the language.  The chapters are organized by usage, and not alphabetical.  For example:   conversing; pronouns, people, and relationships; actions, home & clothing, etc... Even chapters on school, geography, math, communities, and science.

I want to incorporate signing in my morning and closing meetings, learning new content vocabulary, and non-verbal community signals.  Seeing, hearing, and moving to new concepts and words can help students understand better, so I'm hoping this may be one strategy to help my students.  As I work on my new vocabulary this summer, why this summer did I choose to learn the language?   Is there a child who I may reach by using this skill?  Is this a tool that I can make a difference in the life of just one?  Will someone come into my life who I may reach?  I can't answer these questions.  All I know is I've been given this time to learn the language.

The purpose of life is not to be happy - but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all.  ~Leo Rosten

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How Full Is Your Bucket?

Attending Meet The Teacher and Curriculum Nights as a parent last year, I noticed every teacher had these books displayed at the school my children attend.  The premise is that everyone carries an invisible bucket around and when random acts of kindness happen "buckets" are filled.  A bucket dipper is someone who tears down another person and so they are "dipping" in a bucket.  This Bucket-Fillers initiative was bought in by everyone on their staff, from the top down.  The teachers, parapros, cafeteria workers, custodians, and most of all the administration emphasized being bucket fillers daily.  Throughout the year, the conversations were constant, even with fourth and fifth graders.  What I noticed was a community that worked together making a difference.

At home, my children began talking about bucket fillers.  It became talking points at dinner about how they filled someone's bucket at school.  Filling a bucket can be small and not noticeable, but you are looking out for someone.  As a family, our conversations  about making a difference have meshed with the Bucket Filler philosophy.  The other day, we rode to the school park and took grocery bags to spend time picking up trash.  As they noticed how much trash there was, Austin said, "Mama, we are filling Wyandot Run's bucket by picking up trash!"  He got it!

Thinking about the beginning of the year, I'm going to use this idea for my classroom, as part of my building a learning community work in September.  Filling up buckets with kindness, small or big,  

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Puppy Place and the Pool

Our first official day of summer began yesterday amidst torrential rains in Central Ohio, so we trekked to the Northwest Library (my fav!) for some summer reads.  Addyson and her friend were searching for the Puppy Place series.  The series centers around foster dogs that make their way into various homes for training and the struggles that arise.  After searching the database, Austin found the few remaining on the shelf.  We walked out the door with 9 Puppy Place books!

Today, we ran some errands and headed to the pool.  Both kids threw books in their pool bags and were so excited to read them.  Their friends caught on to their enthusiasm and read along with them before and during the breaks.  Amazing what transpires when a series captures their interests. 
Our family motto:
Readers are Leaders!

Monday, June 7, 2010

And Here's To You!

Over the holiday weekend, my family traveled to our hometown where we stopped in Ollie's Bargain Outlet.  It has the biggest children's selection of books in the entire town.  Sometimes it can be hit or miss, but I hit jackpot that weekend.  And Here's To You! by David Elliot

I love this book because it celebrates the uniqueness of all creatures in a catchy verse form.  As I read it aloud tonight, I found myself speaking in an announcer's voice:  "Here's to the frogs! The Singing People! Frogs!  Oh, I loooooove the frogs!" After every creature's uniqueness, the voice would repeat that same phrase. David Elliot and Randy Cecil did an nice job of combining verse with brilliant illustrations.  I didn't think Austin was listening until before baths he said, "And Here's To Austin" in the same voice I read!

As I'm thinking about building my community next year, and tapping into their uniqueness, I can imagine my class creating their own "And Here's To You!" poem about themselves.  Each one writing a page, perhaps using keynote to create a class digital book.  Oh, I looooove picture books!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sights of Summer

My children anxiously await the first backyard camp-out of the summer.  They have the camping genes from their father's side, not mine!  Last weekend, Andy decided Sunday night would be the "Welcome Summer" camp-out.  He put up the tent and built a fire, while the kids brought out their sleeping bags, pillows, and a plethora of stuffed animals. 

After the smores, Austin popped up from his chair and ran inside.  "I'm going to get 'The House That Jack Built' to read," he yelled as he flew past me.  A minute later, he sat in his chair, by the fire, and proceeded to read aloud his book.  He made sure to show us the pictures as his precious teachers have modeled for him all year.  Addyson followed suit by finding her newly acquired Skippyjohn Jones book and read it for us.  Only for her, darkness quickly came and she finished reading aloud by flashlight.

My heart was filled with joy as reading is not mom, dad, or teacher initiated.  It's part of who they are.  They are living literate lives!  Thanks to all the teachers and mentors who have touched my children this year.  You have changed their lives and are better for having you as their mentor!!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Last Day

As I'm sitting in my library typing this post, remnants of the last week of school are apparent.  In one corner are baskets of picture books that I want to organize into mentor texts for the beginning of the year.  Books on friendship, manners, diversity: but mostly about building a community.  In another corner are gifts from students, newly purchased professional books, and my books bags from school dropped from the moment I came in.  In the middle are my kids' art work, summer reading programs, and brain games they were excited to look at when they got home.  My kitchen is messy, laundry is clean/not folded, and my family has dispersed to their own "getting ready for the weekend" activities.  Authentic evidence of how crazy the last week can be!

Our last day tradition at school is the 5th Grade Clap-In.  The entire student body lines the halls clapping, as the fifth graders walk through one last time.  For the adults, it can be emotional when you see that special student whom you made a difference walk through.  Today, I was already teary due to a retirement breakfast speech, so the tears flowed freely.  As one particular class walked by, six students broke rank and came over to hug me, boys and girls.  (At this point, I was flowing like a faucet!!)  What a special moment that was!  I guess it's never too cool to hug a teacher.

Later, a family I had 4 years ago was out in the hall with their two toddler daughters.  An amazing family that recently adopted a toddler from the Ukraine and what a beautiful family they have.  The mother has been blogging about her adoption process and bringing awareness to children with special needs.  As I read it tonight, one common theme was prevalent in her writing:  treat each day as a gift and live a life filled with love.  I'm attaching the link to Loving Alina and Bridget's Light. Bridget and Alina's  mother writes with love, with gratitude, and with appreciation for her children.  Check it out.  It's amazing story!!  

So, now that the last student has left the building, the desks are piled on top of each other, my books have been used, I think the gift I gave my students was a classroom environment filled with possibilities!

As you begin to renew yourself this summer, live each day with love and gratitude for the gifts around you.