Winter Fest!

I have been so fortunate in my life to have lived in many places around the world! Moving so often was challenging, but on the other hand, it afforded me the opportunity to experience different cultures and traditions. No matter where I lived, Christmas was always a big deal. Like any child, I was fascinated by the twinkling candles, strings of sparkling lights, colorful wrapping paper. I loved singing the traditional carols, getting all dressed up for midnight mass, and coming home to await the arrival of Santa. I always tried to stay awake, but never was successful.

As a child, I spent several years living in Europe. This allowed me to experience the different holiday traditions in Holland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, England, and France. What I discovered was that it was a joyful, exciting time of year no matter where I found myself waking up on Christmas morning.

I have lived in two predominantly Jewish communities during my lifetime; one in New York and one in St. Louis. Living among my Jewish friends allowed me to experience the wonderful holiday of Hanukkah. I remember wondering whether it would be more fun to get gifts for eight days rather than getting all the gifts at once on Christmas morning.

Today I live in South Georgia and have also enjoyed experiencing Kwanzaa with my local friends. I love the intention behind the seven principles of Kwanzaa. They encourage us to be the best we can be and in turn to give our best to our community. These are principles we should all live by.

Having these wonderful experiences prompted me to share them with my students over the years. I called it “Winter Fest” and it was an opportunity for students to read, think, write, and expand their world a bit. It has always been one of my favorite units to teach. It allows me to focus on the true meaning of these holidays: kindness, giving, and self-improvement. But the best thing is that the actual learning is tucked away behind the fun. It is a great way to tap into the students’ holiday excitement.

So, here is the resource that celebrates my travels and my holiday joy!

Happy Teaching! Happy Memories! Happy Holidays!

The Saga of Tater!

Like a lot of people, my school experience resembled a roller coaster ride…it was filled with happy highs and not-so-happy lows. All these moments normally remain safely tucked away in my memory bank. 

For some reason, the approach of Thanksgiving this year unlocked a long forgotten incident from my elementary school, and it floated to the surface. In 1953 my dad was in the military and we were living in Virginia for a few months.

I went to a small K-12 school situated in a mostly rural area. The entire school had fewer than 100 students with one teacher per grade level. On this particular day, our play yard was blessed with beautiful, clear blue Autumn skies and a scattering of trees wearing golden, scarlet, and bronze crowns.

The Head Master had let the teachers know that the students were to assemble in the play yard at a pre-determined time that morning. We were lined up and led to the yard in a flurry of excitement. This was an unusual event and cause for lots of whispered speculation.

Picture this…

There in the center of the play yard behind the painted hopscotch grid stood the Head Master and a T-U-R-K-E-Y! Yes, a living, breathing, gobbling turkey named Tater! If this were to happen today, I expect parents would be up in arms that the children were traumatized, but sure enough, the Head Master challenged us to come up with a plan to save Tater from his fate as Thanksgiving dinner.

Now, Head Master neglected to tell us that Tater was a beloved pet, so I remember frantically trying to come up with an idea. Blank! My mind was a total blank! I think I ended up writing that they should eat extra potatoes and vegetables. Lame, I know, but in spite of my less-than-stellar suggestion, that day was special. The students across all grade levels had banded together with common purpose. Student engagement was at an all-time high and collaboration was everywhere. I don’t remember my teacher’s name or the Head Master’s name, but the turkey’s name was Tater!

He was named Tater because his family would eat nothing but potatoes before they would ever eat him! So, Tater had a happy ending, and so does this post. I memorialized this moment and Tater with my persuasive writing activity: Save Tater the Turkey.

Tofu anyone? LOL!

So, here’s to Happy Teaching, Happy Memories, and Happy Thanksgiving!

# forever my student!

Celebrate Johnny Appleseed’s birthday on September 26th!

I never had a “job”; I always had a “joy”! I have been an educator for 50 years; I began my career in 1971 and was in the classroom for 25 years. Yes, I am unabashedly an elementary school teacher. You know what that means, right? Yep…the cuter the clipart, the happier I am.

Every year I got so excited waiting for my new “family” of students to walk through the door. Yes, I felt like they were family; I mean, think about it, I spent more waking hours with my students than with anyone else in my life. I loved my students! They were part of my heart, and they remain there.

One of the things I loved about teaching was the opportunity to experience life through the eyes of a child. Children have an exuberance that is infectious, and I made a point of trying to tap into that excitement. I would always say, “What is better to celebrate than learning? Nothing! Let’s celebrate!”

Each month, I looked for a chance to celebrate: October was Spiderama, November was a Thanksgiving Feast, December was a Winterfest, March was a Peanut Festival…you get the idea. When I speak to my former students, so often they remind me of our “festivals”; students don’t remember doing math problems on page 136, but they remember those joy-filled moments where they could make a personal connection to their learning. These “festivals of learning” were my way of letting them know that I was proud of them and excited to celebrate their accomplishments.

The first festival of the year was our AppleFest. AppleFest was planned around Johnny Appleseed’s birthday, which falls on September 26th every year. What is it about Johnny Appleseed that makes him such an endearing folk hero? This festival celebrated his life and all things apple. Johnny Appleseed was known for his kindness, and this was a great way to focus on classroom kindness. Then, it was up to me to see how many ways we could incorporate apples into the curriculum. So much fun!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being retired; but I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t think about my life in the classroom. This week I was remembering our fun at AppleFest and put my memories into a Johnny Appleseed unit to share. Pulling together these units is such fun for me, AND I get to reconnect with all my favorite super cute clipart!

Today my students are grown, they have wonderful careers, live all over the world, are married, have children and some even have grandchildren. Yikes! I stay connected to many of my former students through social media and I am proud to let them know that they are #forevermystudent

A New Chapter

Back-to-School is always so bittersweet. I can barely sleep the night before because I am so excited to meet my new flock of students, but when the alarm goes off at “zero dark thirty”, I groan and wonder why I put myself through this.

Why do I put myself through this? Easy…27 or so fresh young faces looking at me expectantly…eager to learn, excited to explore, wondering what this year will bring.

This time of year can be sooooo hectic … there is so much to organize and somehow administrators always take time away from us for meetings. There is so much to do in the classrooms; that’s why the school parking lot is full of cars even before school opens…they are all busy trying to get classroom bulletin boards displayed, name tags on desks, welcoming hallway decorations in place.

Over my long career, I managed to put together some items that I am sharing with teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers at my Chalk Dust and Dreams Back to School Store. Check them out!

MLK, Jr. ~ Freedom Fighter

Bring Learning to Life!

Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the world I live in and I always love taking time in the school year to celebrate his life and his work. I have posted a unit of ready-to-print-and-use activities. This unit includes:

  • a biography
  • words to know and use
  • fiction writing
  • informational/non-fiction writing
  • research
  • graphic organizer
  • art
  • bulletin board post-its
  • materials for a timeline
  • poetry
  • student self-evaluation
  • teacher resources for extending learning

New Products for Winter!

Check out my new items on Teachers Pay Teachers; they are all designed to bring some zing to dreary winter days.

If you have semester conference coming up, be sure to check out the Individual Student/Parent Conference Folder and the free Parent Conference Reminder Slip.

Rose Parade: Is it really “Making a Difference”?

imagesIt is that time of year, so I am posting my annual ROSE BOWL PARADE REFLECTION…

Now don’t get me wrong…I live in Georgia and I am so excited that our team is competing this year in the Rose Bowl.  My issue has nothing at all to do with the actual Rose Bowl game; my problem is with the Rose Bowl Parade associated with the game.

This year the theme of the parade is “Making a Difference”; I find that quite interesting since I think there are better ways to make a difference than a parade. Here’s why…

MY CONCERN:

  1. The estimated base cost to a corporation for one of the big floats is $250,000; there will be 44 floats this year. According to the official Rose Parade website, “float building is a multi-million dollar business.”
  2. Calculate the cost of transporting the marching bands. There will be 21 bands in this year’s parade. I know that the students are so excited to have a chance to march in this parade, but the money the school system will spend on transportation, meals, and lodging really adds up.
  3. Can you imagine how much it costs to outfit and transport the 20 equestrian units?
  4. The official cost of a ticket ranges from $60.00 to $180.00; however, scalping of tickets has raised the average price of a ticket this year to $480.00! YIKES!!!!  They expect 1,000,000 attendees to line the streets for the 2018 parade.
  5. Now figure in the cost to sponsors for advertising during the televised parade.
  6. Let’s not forget the huge cost of security…even higher in light of the terrorist attacks around the world.
  7. Then when it is all over, we have to add in the cost of post-parade clean-up.  That will be hefty.

Add this up…it is ASTRONOMICAL!

MY QUESTION:

How many homeless and hungry children could we feed and clothe with the money spent on flowers that will be wilted in the trash the next day?

MY SUGGESTION:

Corporations, Universities, and Schools donate the money they would have spent on the parade to a charity of their choice in exchange for a huge, positive promotional campaign of their product, service, or school. Companies will still have lots of positive publicity and children will be fed. I would be much more willing to spend money with a company who is actively contributing to helping hungry and homeless people during these cold winter months than I am to a company who spends $500,000 on a float.

So, no, I will not be watching the parade again this year. #sixtieschick #stillprotesting