Sunday, December 16, 2012

Where do we go from here?

This is the post I created for my parents on our private classroom blog.  I thought I would share.  It is long and rambling, but it helped me prepare for tomorrow when it is my job to make the children and their families feel safe coming back to school.  Thank you for reading.  Good luck tomorrow!

Were do we go from here? After the school shooting, after the images, the shock, the rage, the disbelief, the terror, the tears, the thoughts of home schooling our children to keep them near us. Were do we go?

I believe we have several choices after witnessing such unimaginable events. We have been shown the victims, heard the stats, watched the coverage, heard from the "experts", and still our hearts are breaking. But Monday brings another school day. The attendance will be taken, reading workshop will be taught, PE, Music, Art will go on and the job of teaching and learning will go on. I promise you that I will address their fears, reassure them that they are safe, I will educate your children to the best of my ability and I will provide opportunities for them to laugh and enjoy the wonders of this season.

What do we do tomorrow as teachers? We provide your child with the routines that they are used to so they feel secure in knowing what comes next. We challenge your children to solve problems so they never feel powerless and hopeless. We provide them with the opportunity to be safe and successful academically so they can read and write and add and research so they always have the power to solve their own problems in a productive way. We broaden their minds so they can learn compassion and caring for themselves and their fellow humans. We teach tolerance, compassion and understanding to those that are different. We teach them that school is a safe place to make mistakes, to try again, to find answers, to find solutions, to find a sense of meaningful community with their peers and with the adults they encounter each day. We teach them to be responsible for their actions, to be kind to others, and to realize that they are interconnected to each and every person they come across each day. We teach them to grow, to express themselves and to seek out meaningful friendships so they never feel isolated or alone. We teach them to try their best, to never give up and to never feel defeated. We allow them to fail, to pick themselves back up and try again. We hug them, love them, protect them, cherish each child and make each moment special. We allow them to be themselves, celebrating their unique gifts. We challenge them to grow, academically and emotionally.

What do we do as parents? We hug our child extra tight before they go to school. We make sure the last thing we say each time we leave our children is "I love you very much". We don't worry about the fact that they want to wear the "crazy" outfit they picked out but instead we praise their independence and creativity. We don't waste time worrying about being five minutes late, but take the extra time to listen to the story they are telling us. We realize that each moment with our children is precious. We watch them sleep for a while. We sing with them loudly in the car. We read books with them even if we are bone tired. We set the example for them in our personal lives by not yelling at our significant others, using kind words, not cursing at the slow driver in front of us while our children are in our cars, not saying unkind things about ourselves in front of our children (like I am so fat, or stupid, or whatever negative tapes we play without thinking about it). We realize that our children learn from us so we become the adults that we want our children to grow up to be. We reassure them that they are going to a safe place to learn and that they don't need fear going to school (even though we want to home school them now just to keep them with us and keep them safe). We allow them to make mistakes and teach them that failure is not the end of the world, but just a step toward success. We get up a little early tomorrow to make pancakes and we take the time to listen to their fears and reassure them. We laugh. We drive around and look at the Christmas lights tomorrow night. We drink hot chocolate and watch Christmas specials. We read "just one more book" before they go to sleep. We help them with their homework, go over popcorn words, make them practice their hand writing even though we are so tired we just want to go to bed. We realize that the more we teach them the more powerful they will become academically, emotionally and physically so we give them a sense of accomplishment, belonging and power. We make them clean their rooms so they feel a sense of responsibility for their actions. We reward them for good choices so they feel good internally about making the right choice. We don't yell when they make a bad choice but help them figure out how they could have made a better choice. We don't allow ugliness between family members, but have family meetings to calmly and rationally solve problems. We empower them to make choices, celebrate their successes and encourage and support them when they fail. We hug them and send them to school tomorrow even though sending them to school is the last thing we want to do. We hid our fear so they can feel safe and secure. We pray, we hope and we believe in the good in the world, even though our heads and hearts are reeling at the senselessness of one selfish act committed so far away, yet so close to home. We, as a family, figure out how we can help those that are hurting around us in our community, no matter how much or how little we have. We connect, we learn, we grow so our children can follow our example so they can learn how to handle the difficult times that will arise over their life time.

As students, what do we do tomorrow? We express our fears, know that the adults in our lives will listen and reassure us. We work hard, always giving our best because that makes us feel proud of ourselves. We listen to our teachers because we know that they will keep us safe. We follow directions, because one day we (God forbid) our lives may depend on following our teachers directions immediately to stay safe. We play, we laugh, we love our learning activities and always give our best effort. We say kind words to our friends. We say kind words to those that are not our friends. We use our words to express our feelings. We don't give up when a task is difficult. We run, play, laugh, and find joy in being at school. We keep going. We keep learning. We keep trying our best. We never give up. We enjoy each moment without worrying about horrible things. We know that our school is a special place and that each adult will keep us safe, emotionally and physically.

How do we go on? We just do. It is the best thing we can do. Are we afraid? Probably. Should we be? Probably not! In times like these we have a choice to become overwhelmed by the senselessness in the world, or we make a vow to become a role model, a positive force within our own families, our own communities and in the world. Do I believe this? Absolutely! I can let this cripple me or I can use it as an opportunity to become a better teacher, mentor, mother, sister, friend, daughter and stranger to those I have never met. Is it hard? Yes. Can it be done? Yes.

I want each of you to know that I will do everything in my power tomorrow to reassure your child that they are safe and secure at school. I will become an even better teacher, friend and role model to your children. I promise I will do everything possible make tomorrow positive. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your child's life. Thank you for trusting me, and the school with our child's emotional, physical and academic security. Thank you for being so involved in your child's education that they know the adults in their lives are working together for their future. Thank you for allowing your child to come to school tomorrow. Call me if you need to. Email me. Do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable with your child leaving the safety and security of your home tomorrow. But please, hug them, tell them to have a great day, let them know that their world is still safe and secure, and then tell them that you love them and you will see them after school. The world goes on. There is much to learn. Thank you for trusting all of us at school to keep your child safe. Enjoy your day with your family. Each day is a precious gift. Celebrate each child and adult whose live was lost on Friday by making this day amazing. Realize that your job as a parent is so rewarding, so critically important and so impactful on your child. Laugh more than you cry, smile more than you frown, and make sure your words are kind, your rules are fair and firm, and your expectations for yourself and your child are high. Provide them with a "safe place to fall" and I will do the same!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Our Elf on the Shelf

The first thing the children do when they come in each day is look for Trinity, our Elf. They don't take off their coats, hang up their book bags or even say hello to me (OK, some do, followed by "Where's Trinity?"). It is so much fun. Let me share some photos with you.
Taking a little nap after a long flight back from the North Pole!

I found Trinity taking a bubble bath in my coffee cup! The kids thought this was too funny!

This morning Trinity was sporting a new sweater and hat. She also left us a note! She is hanging out on the Smart Board watching all the awesome kids!

 I got this cute little chalk board from World Market this weekend.  I also found a lot of minitures that I am going to us as props for our Elf all week.  I got little mixing bowls and wisk (she is going to be making gingerbread cookies!), little colored pencils, miniture gingerbread men and a few other little goodies.  Thought I would share my find with you.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Elves and Gingerbread Stories!

Our Elf has been so busy this week! She has been seen ballooning over the library area and hanging out in dramatic play sipping on syrup. The kids are loving having Trinity visiting from the North Pole.

We have been very busy learning about Elves and Gingerbread. In Reading Workshop we are working on comparing and contrasting the different Gingerbread books. So far we have read The Gingerbread Man, The Gingerbread Cowboy, The Gingerbread Pirates, The Gingerbread Kid at School. I have been amazed at what a wonderful job the children are doing finding similarities and differences in the books. They are noticing sentence structure, patterns, word differences, the different color schemes used by the illustrators and so much more. We are also using this information to strengthen our research, graphing and data collection skills. The children voted today on their favorite story so far. See if you can figure out which one was the favorite so far.

We have been working on following directions, multi-step directions, letter formation, putting spaces between our words, exploring character traits and writing sentences. Our Elf project is an activity that requires the students to use all of the above mentioned skills in order to create their own Elf. The topic is "What would your name be if you were an Elf?" We are working on this during small group time during afternoon Center Time. Here are some pictures of the first group working on the project.
BTW, you can
                  Get The Project Here from A Cupcake For The Teacher on Teachers Pay Teachers

The many pieces are laid out and labeled so the children know how many of each piece to collect.

Next they had to listen to oral directions so they could assemble the elf correctly.

The children worked on fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, sentence construction and receptive/expressive language skills while assembling their elves.

I brought out the glitter glue so the kids could add some festive sparkle to their elves.

Here is mine and the first group's finished elves!

I can tell that I need to pull a strategy group to reteach line spacing for capital and lower case letters. We are just now starting to use lined paper on some of our writing projects. This skill will take a lot of practice. I am proud to see many of the children using capital and lower case letters, putting spaces between their words and thinking about punctuation. Every month I try to do a project like this with the class to give them a lot of practice listening to and following directions.

Monday, December 3, 2012

What happens when a child touches an Elf?

Our poor Elf, Trinity, lost some of her magic last week when she was touched by a human child. We were so upset that this happened. Luckily, we had a book about an Elf that got touched by a child (because I KNEW this was going to happen!) and as a class we were able to work together as a team to come up with a plan to try to get her magic back. When and Elf is touched some of their magic is lost. This prevents the Elf from flying back and forth to the North Pole each night.

Now, the children were really upset with the child that touched the Elf.  I am talking six kids crying and not just the girls!  And the child that touched our Elf was crushed that his classmates were so upset with him.  Thank goodness in the book the main lesson is about forgiveness and righting a wrong.  Also, in the book the child writes a letter to Santa telling him how sorry he was for touching the Elf and how upset his sister's were about the Elf being gone from the house.

The children really thought about the book.  At that point I left the class to decide what they wanted to do.  I walked to the door and stood outside of it and listened to the children talk about what they were going to do to fix this problem.  They realized that in this situation the teacher didn't have the answer and they had the power to choose what they wanted to do. They decided to make cards asking Santa to make Trinity better and to maybe give them one more chance and send her back to us.   The children all made cards to ask Santa to please take Trinity to the special Elf hospital and to let her get better. We placed the cards next to Trinity and left for specials.  When we came back Trinity was gone! Her Elf friends must have come and gotten her and taken her back to the North Pole. Later in the afternoon we got a fax from the North Pole! It had pictures of Trinity in the Elf hospital! We were so upset!
At the end of the day the children taught me a really big lesson.  The little guy that touched the Elf came to me during Center Time and asked if I thought his friends were still mad at him.  I told him I didn't know and that we could ask them.  So we called all of the kids over to the carpet.  This little guy hung his head and shyly asked the class if they were still mad at him.  A long silence ensued.  Then, one child stood up, walked to him and said, "Friend, I forgive you." and then hugged him.  And, as tears filled my eyes, the whole class ran up and hugged him!  They all forgave him.  I didn't even talk to them about forgiveness, they just listened to the book, spent the day processing, and making their own decision.  I was so stinking proud of them.  And the little guy who touched the Elf?  Well, he apologized (and I didn't even tell him too) and hugged his friends back.  I think this was my proudest moment in teaching in a long time.

I am happy to tell you that she was able to return to us after a day in the Elf Hospital (better known as our awesome Nurse who doctored our Elf and came up with the great idea to create the Elf Hospital to help the children visualize the "hurt" touching an Elf can cause). Everyone learned a great lesson on forgiveness and that sometimes the actions of one person can either cause damage to all or lift up everyone depending on what decisions you make. This also was a great way for the children to realize that writing has a deep meaning. When they were writing to Santa they were really thinking about their message, what they wanted their words to convey and how their illustrations can help get your meaning across to the reader. The children learned a lot academically and emotionally on the Day Trinity Lost Her Magic!