Life’s About Choices

Recently, I went to the  funeral of a family friend. He wasn’t someone I knew extremely well, but more a friend of my parents. The service was out of town, which meant a long drive, and a missed day of school. I didn’t really want to go, but it was the right thing to do.  I cobbled together a suit from my closet, which was not very comfortable for me. I would rather wear jeans any day. But wearing a suit to a funeral is the right thing to do. My parents and I rode to the funeral home together that morning, and along the way we saw one of their neighbors driving into the neighborhood. My mom suggested we turn around and offer them a ride. I wasn’t excited about being crammed in the backseat of my mother’s car with two people I hardly knew, but it was the right thing to do.

We walked into the funeral home and I offered my condolences to the the newly widowed Mrs. Newport, and she looked me in the eye and thanked me for coming, with tears in her eyes. I knew I had done the right thing. During the service several readings and speakers mentioned how Mr. Newport had always paid great attention to details, and how things were done. He was a carreer Navy pilot, then a commercial pilot, before retiring to develop a hobby of fine woodworking. His work was excellent, and he shared it with everyone. He led a local Habitat for Humanity group building homes for those in need in his community. He did this not for the money or the recognition, but simply because it was the right thing to do.

As I drove home that afternoon I thought about the message I kept hearing through this experience, and I realized how powerful this message could be. If we could all live our lives by choosing to do the right thing in each situation the world would be a much better place.

My father has a saying, which he has used for many years to help people around him decide what to do (including me!). He will simply say “Life’s about choices.” As I grow older I find this message to be more and more true. In every situation there are choices to be made, and he result of those choices will determine what happens next.

I try to teach this message to my students as we go through second grade. There are many choices to be made here as well. Sometimes the right choice is not the easy one, but it is still the right one. We all make mistakes, but if we use those mistakes to help us make a better choice the next time, even that is the right thing to do.

What choices will you make today?

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Worth the Wait

This week in room 116 we are writing about traditions, and memories we have surrounding the holidays. We have discussed Christmas, Haunukkah, Kwanzaa, and even what to do if you have no holiday to celebrate this season. There have been discussions about parties, relatives, food, and gifts. Each of the things we have talked about has meaning for someone in the room. What we have not talked much about is what is coming. The anticipation of what is to come is like a blizzard in the room. It is so thick we have to push it aside to get to the past.

There is alot of buildup towards the holidays. Christmas decorations go up the day after Thanksgiving in the stores. There is shopping to do, parties to attend, and holiday songs on the radio. With all the anticipation, the children are wound as tightly as the string on a  top, waiting to be pulled. For many grown-ups it can be hard to remember this feeling of  anticipation, but it is there. As I manage the world of 17 second graders this week I am mindful of that blizzard surrounding us. I try to use it to my advantage when I can.  I hope whatever happiness my students have coming this holiday season is as good as they expect it to be. Whatever it is will surely be worth the wait.

Happy Holidays!

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A Time For Thanks

 

As the weather outside turns into Autumn I am reminded of what this time must have meant for the pilgrims and the Native Americans before them. It would have been a time of plenty for the Native people if they had a good harvest. There was feasting because of the many crops they had planted months before. It was a huge amount of work to ensure there would be enough food for the winter. In today’s society we have lost touch with this kind of advance planning and dedication. If we need flour to make a pie we just go to the store and buy it. The Natives would have planted corn in the spring and summer to be sure there was a good harvest. Then they would have dried the corn in the sun for a week or more. The women would then have ground the dried corn into cornmeal or flour to mix with water to make pies, cornbread and muffins with the pumpkins, apples, and other crops which had also been planted, tended, and harvested. If the weather was bad the whole crop could be ruined. A good harvest was reason for celebration and sharing. As you gather with friends and family in the coming days remember those who were here before you and the hardships they endured in order to enjoy a feast at harvest time. Count your blessings and be thankful for all that you have. This is the real meaning of Thanksgiving, at least for me.

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Mother Nature’s Flair for the Dramatic

The Colors of Fall

We have been talking about the seasons, and change in room 116. We have also been talking about weather. Mother Nature has been doing her part as well. With each new season comes changes. Plants and animals change how they look and how they live. The coming of fall is a dramatic example of this.  We have watched V-shaped flocks of geese fly over us at recess, and seen the brave playground squirrels gathering food. Another thing we have been doing is watching our tree. We have “adopted” a tree in front of the school. It is a nice middle aged maple that we can see from our window. Since September we have been watching it grow and change. The exciting part has happened in the last few weeks though. In our science journals we have made observations and drawn pictures of the exciting show going on outside our window. First it was a few colors, then an explosion of oranges, yellows and red. Finally, just recently the leaves have dropped. We read a book about Freddie the leaf, who goes through this process and had a discussion about the life cycle of  a tree. Then we went out to take a part of the tree to describe. Using our best adjectives and colorful language we each described our leaf in detail. After editing and correcting the rough drafts we created  finished peices of writing that now adorn our hallway bulletin board along with the leaves we chose and colorful representations in crayon. Our “adopted” tree may be bare now, but its splendor lives on in our creative creations. We will continue to watch the tree as winter takes hold and the tree goes dormant. Then we will eagerly await the first tiny green buds that will signal the coming of spring. The cycle will continue. Mother nature is putting on a pretty good show for us all the time. All we have to do is take a moment to look around and pay attention. What will you notice today?

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A Story With No Words

 

A story is made of words. Usually. Some of my favorite story books have no words at all, only pictures. That way I can use my imagination to create the story how I want it each time I “read” the story.  It isn’t always the same.

A Rainy Day Treat

A Rainy Day Treat

Yesterday was our first really rainy school day. I knew it was time to introduce Yellow Umbrella. It is a story with no words. That is until 17 second graders made it their own. As we listened to the beautiful piano music echoing the colorful watercolor illustrations there was no other sound in the room. The notes rose and fell, went around and around, and even imitated a train passing. Still not one voice was heard. As the final notes sounded we quietly went to our seats and began to write and draw. Each person expressing in words  what he or she saw and heard. They were not all the same. They were each beautiful.

hard at work

"I thought it was about one yellow umbrella that leads them. They were all heading to school."

 

"The Yellow Umbrella had nice music. It sounded like smooth jazz."

"The Yellow Umbrella had nice music. It sounded like smooth jazz."

"I think the story was about a bunch of friends walking somewhere."

"I think the story was about a bunch of friends walking somewhere."

"At first is was one yellow umbrella. Butthen a blue one came. Then a red one came. Guess what, at the end it was alot of colors."

"At first is was one yellow umbrella. But then a blue one came. Then a red one came. Guess what, at the end it was alot of colors."

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A Look Around

 

And The Moon Shone Down

And The Moon Shone Down

I am an observer.  I am also a writer. These two things go well together, because good writers are always looking for things to put into their writing. The things we see, and the things we do, come through in our words. Sometimes it is right away, but sometimes it may take days, weeks, months, or even years before our experiences affect our writing. The memories are there, but sometimes they need the right setting to come out.

This weekend I went to the folk festival down by the river. Friday night I went by myself. I observed all the sights sounds,  smells and tastes I could. Many of these will come out in things I write, someday. One of the most powerful images I saw Friday night had nothing to do with the festival. I stood on the bridge to Brown’s Island and looked down at the river sparkling in the moonlight. I have stood there many times, but never at night with the moon shining down. There were hundreds of people walking across that bridge, and many of them did not even look down at the beautiful sight before them. But I did.

In our class we are writers. We write about the things we do, hear and see. We write letters, stories, descriptions and simple responses to things in our world. Our experiences outside the classroom affect the things we write inside the classroom, and vise-versa. How will today’s experiences affect who you are tomorrow?

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Perpetual Learning

My Teachers for the day

My Teachers for the day

We are all learners, and we are all teachers. I am reminded of this daily in the classroom as my students teach me something new that they already know.  This weekend I went to Jamestown and became a student. I tried to look through the eyes of my 9 and 5 year olds as we scraped the charred inside of a dugout canoe with oyster shells. I listened as Sage told me about how to grind dried corn to make cornmeal. We had the place almost to ourselves, and made use of the extra attention, as Robert helped fire the cannon in Yorktown. It was a learning experience for them as well as for me. These are lessons I will surely use as I teach my class about the Powhatan Indians, George Washington and the Revolutionary War later in the year. Everything I learn makes me a better teacher, and I want to learn as much as I can.

And the Teacher becomes the Student!

And the Teacher becomes the Student!

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Back To School

owl

School has started, and we are almost done with our first week in room 116. The children are getting to know each other, making new friends and renewing friendships from the past. For me there are some familiar faces, and some new ones too. All are welcome as we begin a journey through second grade. I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful class. I can tell already it is going to be a great year. Stay tuned here for updates and pictures from the class to stay in touch with what we are into. We are learning about being good citizens this week and next. We will talk about big words like responsibility and respect. These are deep ideas for 7 year olds, but we will take our time and wade in carefully to explore what they mean to us as we create a caring community of learners in our class. I love my job!!!

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Summer’s End

Sunset

Of all the things I experienced this summer, coming back to school was probably the most exciting. There is so much activity here in the building, with construction, cleaning, organizing, more cleaning and catching up with old freinds. Soon a whole class of new friends will be walking through the door, entering the world of second grade in room 116.

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