Gentle November

Photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

Nestled between October and December is the month of November.  November allows us to glory in the colors of Autumn, the Earth’s brightest smile. I love November! 

November is when we take a breath; we relax and focus on gratitude and the blessings we enjoy. As a child, I loved this time of year. We raked, jumped in leaf piles, put on sweaters, and we enjoyed bedtime stories more because it was dark outside.

As though November isn’t already perfect enough, it brings us Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is such a perfect holiday. It is such an unassuming and gentle holiday; Thanksgiving is when I focus on the things I cherish…on gratitude for good food, wonderful friends, precious family, and yummy food. 

I bask in my “over the river and through the woods” Thanksgiving memories. Thanksgiving reminds me to be grateful for what I have and to do for others…to be the good in someone else’s life.  

During November, the Earth slows down and settles into the coming of Winter. Days are shorter, trees drop their leaves, animals hibernate or migrate. Nature knows it is time to settle in.  

November is a chance for us all to step back, take a deep breath, and focus on how we fit into the world. Everything calms down; there is no racing about, no shopping frenzy, no chaos.  The worst thing that happens is a post-turkey tryptophan-induced nap.

I love shopping for just the perfect, plump turkey. I get excited to smell pumpkin pies baking. I bake loaves of bread for the stuffing, I simmer autumn spices in the potpourri pot, I fill my house with pumpkins and gourds, and I relax. I spend time focusing on my gratitude…and I have so much to be thankful for.

Many of my friends already have their homes decorated for Christmas. I respect everyone’s right to do what feels right for them, but I refuse to sacrifice this time that allows me to just be still.  December will come and I will put up a tree, wrap gifts, and enjoy the twinkle.  For now, I am content to be fully present in my November. 

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!

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.

Black Friday…good name!

I blogged about the fact that for many the Christmas season now begins the day after Halloween.  Today, I am reflecting on the fact that Black Friday is certainly a dark day… “black” indeed. 

My children work in retail. Today is Thanksgiving, but I will not be sitting down to a lovely meal with my family.  No, my children have to leave at noon to get to their retail establishments because the shopping frenzy begins at 2:00 p.m.

Why? Because Black Friday is no longer a day; it has spread like a vicious virus into a week, perhaps even a month. Black FRIDAY begins at 2:00 p.m. on THURSDAY.  This gentle holiday of thanksgiving has morphed into a day of unmitigated greed.  

Are people sitting around the table lingering over coffee and pie, chatting and reminiscing?  Why no!  We are frantically focused on our Smartphones checking shopping apps for alerts that let us know where the best deals will be.  What next?  A race to the mall to fight the crowds, run up credit card bills, and load up on more “stuff”.  

Today was meant to be a day that families revel in each other, celebrate life, create wonderful memories, and reflect on life’s blessings.  So, when making the decision to race away from your family to run to the stores, think about the fact that life is so short.  When we find ourselves at the end of life, I promise we don’t think about how lucky we are to have accumulated a lot of stuff.  In that moment, it is about family and friends.  

I will NOT be in the stores today or even tomorrow.  I will be home snuggled up in front of the fire sipping a cup of apple cider. For my family, friends, and the gifts of the Earth, I give thanks. 

I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

To everything there is a season…

aut12_pileofleavesAs a child, I would get so excited for Halloween; costumes, candy, how can it get any better?  I would look forward to this one night for a month!  The month of October was a blur of excitement! This same pattern would repeat itself for the entire month of December. What child doesn’t love all the excitement of Christmas? The month of December raced by! Leading up to the big day there were Advent calendars, cookie exchanges, gift shopping, gift wrapping, tree trimming, enchanting store windows, and finally Midnight Mass.  Basically, December was another blur!

Nestled between October and December is the month of November.  November allowed us to glory in the Earth’s brightest smile. November is when we all took a breath; we relaxed and focused on gratitude and the blessings we enjoyed. We raked, jumped in leaf piles, put on sweaters, and went enjoyed bedtime stories more because it was dark outside.

As though November wasn’t already perfect enough, it brings us Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is such a perfect holiday; it is all about food and friends and family.  It is calm. There is no racing about, no shopping frenzy, no chaos.  The worst thing that happens is a post-turkey tryptophan-induced nap.

Somehow, we seem to have lost Thanksgiving.  Christmas decorations show up in the stores before Halloween.  Christmas music is played all day everyday beginning November 1 and Christmas movies are on every channel.  By the 2nd of November, my Facebook and Instagram accounts are filled with pictures of Christmas trees that are twinkling in my friends’ living rooms. And then there are the teacher accounts…teachers bemoaning the fact that though it is only November 3rd, the Christmas frenzy behavior has already begun.  And why wouldn’t it?  Everywhere children go, all they see and hear is Christmas.  Not the religious meaning of the holiday, but the glitz, glamor, and greed.

So, yes, I miss the “over the river and through the woods” Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving reminds me to be grateful for what I have and to do for others…to be the good in someone else’s life.  During November, the Earth slows down and settles into the coming of Winter. Days are shorter, trees drop their leaves, animals hibernate or migrate. Nature knows it is time to settle in.  November is a chance for us all to step back, take a deep breath, and focus on how we fit into the world. Everything calms down, so why do we race into December and all the “crazy” that seems to go with it?

Let me say again, I refuse to ignore Thanksgiving.  I love shopping for just the perfect, plump turkey. I get excited to smell pumpkin pies baking. I make bread for the stuffing, I simmer autumn spices in the potpourri pot, I fill my house with pumpkins and gourds, and I relax. I spend time focusing on my gratitude…and I have so much to be thankful for.

Will I enjoy Christmas?  Absolutely, but I refuse to sacrifice this time to just be still.  December will come and I will put up a tree, wrap gifts, and enjoy the twinkle.  For now, I am content to be fully present in my November. 

Santa Claus is Coming: Please Consider This!

dec10_button1This is a letter to parents of young children who are so excited that Santa is coming to visit.  Santa is just amazing, isn’t he?.  He allows us to focus on the spirit of Christmas: kindness, giving, and some old fashioned magic.  But, this is a letter to parents asking that we look at Santa through different eyes.

This is such a busy time of year, I hate to even suggest that you think of one more thing. However, this is important to me and has been weighing on my heart.  I just want to join my teacher friends in raising awareness and sensitivity.  Every community and every school, no matter how affluent or how poor, has children living in homes from a variety of financial levels.

I live and work in a community where about 75% of children live in poverty.  However, that leaves 25% who are not living in poverty.  Now, I want you to think about this scenario: Johnny, Luis, and Latricia are in the same class.  They all celebrate Christmas and Santa visits each of their homes.

Luis is an only child; his family has a lovely, decorated tree. Under the tree there are lots of presents from family and extended family.  Santa will come to the house, and as is their tradition, Santa will leave just one gift.  Santa has an iPadPro and an Apple Pencil (cost = around $1000) for Luis this year.

Latricia is one of three children. Her mom and dad both work, but money is always tight.  Nevertheless, there are presents under the tree for all of the children. Under the tree, there are lots of little presents for the children from mom and dad (pajamas, books, dolls, crayons, action figures).  This year, the three children will have a visit from Santa and he will leave an expensive gaming system for them to share along with some games (cost = $550.00).

Johnny is our third student. He is one of four children living with a single mom who is out of work and depends on welfare and occasional part time work to make ends meet.  They have a small tree and a few presents.  Santa is coming to Johnny’s house too. However, Johnny will find a new pair of much needed sneakers from Santa (cost = $20.00).

Now, travel forward with me to January 4, 2018.  The children are back at school and excited to share about what they got from Santa. There is a big difference between what Luis got and what Johnny got.  My fear is that Johnny is left wondering why Santa likes Luis so much more than he likes him.  He worries that he was not a good boy or that his is not smart enough or didn’t do a good enough job helping his mom around the house. How sad!  We know that Santa loves all children equally.

So, here is my request.  Please think about all the Johnnys in your child’s school.  When it is time to put out the cookies and milk for Santa, please leave a note asking him to leave small gifts for your child.  This will not diminish your Christmas morning at all since you can proudly put your name on the big ticket items for your child. I promise that Santa will appreciate how you are helping him look out for the happiness of all his boys and girls.

Merry Christmas from my home to yours.