Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Making Progress....

Thank goodness that my hard work (at teaching Reed to work hard:) is paying off.  It is almost midterm and he has straight As.  He has worked hard, done everything we asked of him and more.  He is helping out around here without me having to ask him and he hasn't tried to get out of his sentence one time.  He is such a good boy and I hope that he is learning a lot about responsibility and work ethic.  It's only been a few weeks, but we are in this for the long haul!

Brittney has come so far also.  She has always struggled so much academically.  But it is understandable with her history.  She is such a hard worker though.  She really cares and wants to do well.  Her math has improved and she is starting to get the hang of multiplication and her reading is really coming along.  She has discovered Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew books and loves them.  We have been purchasing them on the Nook and she really enjoys them.  I love to see her enjoy school and love to learn.  I'm so proud of her!

I'm so grateful for both of my babies!  It's a love like no other!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

When Things Are HARD

I never thought that my child would bring home a report card like this!!  My sweet son who is a freshman in high school had me in tears last night.  Yesterday was report card day and has always been a day to be celebrated.  Well last night it was a time for tears!  As my husband carried his TV and X-Box out of his room I cried and reminded him that since the day he was born I have made sure that he had everything he needed to be successful.  I told him of all I did during his crucial beginning years of development to help him learn and grown.  I pointed out how hard his dad and I work to make sure that he has all he needs and most of what he wants.   As the words came out of my mouth....I had a moment of clarity.

I HAVE CREATED A CHILD WHO HASN'T LEARNED HOW TO WORK HARD!!  How did this happen?  I just want him to be happy and have a good childhood.  But he has never really had to struggle.  He is such a good soul--so kind and well-behaved, he's very bright and in GRC and always just "gotten it"....friends have always come easy, grades have come easy.  And, we love him sooo much that we love to give him things he wants.  We don't lavish him with material things year-round, but when Christmas and birthdays come, he's set.  He's had a very easy road in his near 15 years.   I've taken such good "care" of my child that he hasn't learned what to do when things are "hard."

As we talked about why he got the grades he received, he kept saying...it's hard.  There is a lot to remember.  However, I hardly see him study--and we've pointed this out numerous times.

Well, the season of struggle has begun.  This will definitely be a character building time for my sweet boy.  He will learn how to work hard, how to persevere and how to "shoot" for excellence and not just do enough to get by.  

I guess I'm glad this happened.   It's not fun to ground your child from all of the fun I love to see him have, but I don't want him leaving our home sheltered and not knowing how to work hard and survive times of struggle.  Because if one thing is certain, he will face adult challenges soon enough and life can be so HARD.  

Being a parent is HARD.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reflections on 2011-Hopes for 2012

2011 was a GREAT year for my family.  Countless blessings for sure!  We finalized Brittney's adoption, were chosen to be a part of CBS's "A Home for the Holidays," took our annual beach trip with our extended family and had an amazing trip to LA to tape the show.  I was also chosen by my peers as teacher of the year at my school.  This honor means a lot to me because I am fortunate to do what I love to do and to teach along side some awesome teachers and for them to choose me for this honor means so much.   Besides all of these awesome events, our days are filled with love and laughter with our crazy family and our dear friends.   They are the ones that make life fun.   

We are also blessed with a loving church family.  It is so awesome to be a part of this body of Christ and to do God's work with them and to worship the Lord with them.  I have grown so much in my faith in the last several years.  I still have far to go on my journey, but it is because of my faith that I can have joy in the hard parts and appreciate the struggles.  No, my life is not perfect and there are hard times.  But there is joy in the Lord.  With the new year, comes change.  Change is a constant in this world.  However, I find joy in the fact that the one thing that never changes are God's promises and God's love.  He is who he says He is....today, tomorrow, forever.  

I hope for us all--a year of gratefulness for all the good, that faith and hope are abound during the struggles and that I can be the hands and feet of God in all of the ways He plans.   

Happy New Year!

Monday, November 21, 2011

CBS's 13th Annual "A Home For the Holidays"

Our family will be featured on CBS's 13th Annual "A Home for the Holidays" on December 21st.  A fellow teacher and dear friend nominated us for the show because we are both huge fans, but she didn't tell me she had done this until they called and were interested in our story.  That was a hilarious scene when she frantically ran to me to tell me what she had done and that a producer wanted to talk to me.  It was exciting, but I really thought it would never happen.  But it did!  The producer interviewed us individually over the phone this summer and then we learned in August that we were chosen to be a part of the show.  They came to our home in August and filmed us in our home and around our town.  It was definitely an experience.  Then, just last Wednesday we flew to LA for the taping of the show.  It was simply one of the most amazing experiences we have ever had.  We were treated like stars!  Limos, hair and make-up, front row seats to performances by Martina McBride, Christina Perri, Gavin DeGraw, One Republic, Mary J. Blige and more stars like Kathryn Heigl, Jillian Michaels, and Denise Richards.  Justin Beiber will also appear on the show!  Our story of our family's adoption of Brittney is one of four family stories shared.  Martina McBride introduced us.  And one of the most fun moments of the night was when Gavin DeGraw came over and hugged me while he was performing.  It was unbelievable!  So much fun!!  We also got to visit Universal Studios, take a Hollywood tour and see many sights!

Above all the fun we had, the best and most important part of the trip was the opportunity to be a part of a show that helps children in need of forever homes a chance to find just that!  The show is responsible for thousands of adoptions over the past 12 years.  I have been a fan of the show for years and have even called for the information packet.  It still feels so surreal that I am now a part of it.   Please spread the word that the show will air on CBS on December 21st.  It is my prayer that those who feel lead to adopt will be inspired by the show or that there are those who will discover a desire to adopt.  God is doing important work here and it was a privilege to do His work and share our story.  We do not take a second of this for granted and we are so grateful for ALL of these blessings and for memories we will hold dear our entire lives.

Martina McBride will host
CBS's 13th Annual "A Home for the Holidays"
December 21, 2011


Friday, September 9, 2011

Kindergarteners Express What They Want From Their Teacher

The beginning of kindergarten is always full of "learning about how to be student."  We’ve spent lots of time talking about what I expect from the children. Today I asked them what they need from me. Their responses are truly treasures that remind me of what’s most important. 

This is some of what was said when I asked them, "What do you need me to do as your teacher to help you learn and be happy at school?'

“Tell kids not to hit so that nobody gets hurt.” 
“Be sweet and kind and never hurt kids.” 
“Say nice things like, ‘I love you.’” 
“Teach kids to stick up for others.” 
“To say ‘Good morning’ and be happy when I get to school.”
 “Let us do what we want to do sometimes.”
 “To let kids have fun.”
 “The teacher needs to smile and laugh.”
 “To love reading books to kids.”

When you want to know what matters most, go straight to the source. It’s universal.... kids need security, love and kindness, to feel empowered, to have fun and to know they matter.  Really, it’s what adults seek too. 

This list will go up next to my desk and I will refer to it often, because THEY matter.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

10 Picture Books I Can't Live Without

Thanks so much to Cathy Mere of Refine and Reflect and Mandy Robeck of  Enjoying and Embracing Learning  for leading this blogging event.  The question was basically....What 10 picture books could you not live without?  It was so hard to narrow down this list to only 10, but here goes!

1.  Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin-This was a book that my kindergarteners held on tight to all year long.  They loved the book and anything related.  The simple catchy rhythm of the text along with the groovy song deliver a very powerful message for kindergarteners.  "Don't sweat the small stuff!"  I love Pete, his attitude and his message.  So...much to my delight, Pete the Cat is now Rocking His School Shoes.  I was so thrilled with this sequel and had my doubts as to whether it could live up to the original, but it does!  Love it!

2.  We Share Everything! by Robert Munsch- This is a book that I read every year on the first day of school.  It is silly and a perfect ice-breaker and leads to a little discussion of things we do and don't do in kindergarten.   I love Robert Munsch and always do an author study in February and my students all become big fans.

3.  No David! by David Shannon- All of the David Shannon books are a must in kindergarten.  No David! is always the book I use to help the the students generate class rules we can all agree on.  The kids find these books hilarious and can all connect to the character.  And, with the simple text, all of the students want these books in their hands and love to reread them.  I have multiple copies and they are always in demand.

4.  Knufflebunny by Mo Willems- This is one of my favorite Mo Willems books and I love ALL THINGS Mo Willems. He earned 3 spots in this list and it was hard not to give him more.   I love to read this book towards the beginning of the year as a way to illustrate growth over time with persistence.  Trixie, the main character, is a toddler who is not talking and only babbling. ("Aggle-flaggle"....lots of laughs!)  But when her precious stuffed bunny "Knufflebunny" is left at the laundry mat, she protests in her loudest babble until she is able to clearly speak the word "Knufflebunny!" at the end of the story.  I use Trixie's persistence to illustrate how many of them feel that they can't read, or draw or write.....but if they only keep trying in the best way that they know how...they will get there.  If you don't try, you never give yourself a chance.  Trixie didn't give up and she got her precious Knufflebunny back because of it!   This is an important life lesson and so valuable in our classroom.

5. Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog- Another Mo Willems favorite.  My students LOVE this book and beg me to read it over and over.  It is often a reward at the end of the day for me to read this AGAIN if I still have some voice left because I haven't had to give the same directions over and over again.  (wink! wink!)  I do this small squeaky voice for the little chick and they laugh so hard.  I have multiple copies of all of the pigeon books and they are always in someones book box throughout the year.

6.  ALL Piggie and Elephant books by Mo Willems- I can't pick.  It's impossible.  Mo Willems is one of the most clever writers I know.  He uses the simplest of text and illustrations to tell brilliantly funny stories of these two best friends.  My students love these books so much.  And they are perfect for beginning readers to reread again and again.  Every year I have many parents emailing me and telling me that their child is hounding them to go to the library to check out Mo Willems books or go into the book store to buy one.  They are amazed that their 5 year old has a favorite author and is asking to go to the public library or the book store.
7. Chalk by Bill Thomson- This is one of the BEST wordless books I have ever read.  I bought it last summer and used it last year to "prove" to my students that they CAN read.  The first step in kindergarten is often helping the students realize all they are capable of and redefining reading for them.   I had them "read" the book to me by orally telling each other what was happening in the story and sharing it with the group.   They were in shock as they realized that they were making meaning out of work on a printed page.  They ARE readers.  I can't imagine not having this incredible book now to help the children cross this bridge to confidence in themselves.  Love this book!
8.  Miss Tizzy by Libba Moore Gray- I absolutely love Miss Tizzy!  One of my favorite college professors, Dr. Lynn Kirkland, who really helped spark my love of children's literature read this book to us in a class one day.  I have read it every year since.  The children love the story and can really connect to it.  Miss Tizzy really reminds me of the kind of teacher I want to be.  One that focuses on what really matters, cares about children, dares to be different.....and gives all that she can.

9.  Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco- This book is one that I cannot ever read all the way through without tearing up.  This is a true story about young Patricia Polacco and her struggle to learn to read and a teacher who found a way to help her.   This story is one of perseverance and struggle and success.  The children are in awe at the end of the story to learn that the story is about the author and illustrator.   This book changed who I was as a teacher and restores my teaching spirit every time I read it.

10. Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider and Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin-  Okay, I'm bending the rules a little but I can't decide.  These are some of the funniest books I've read and my students ALWAYS love them and can't wait to get their hands on them.  They are witty and clever and I laugh every time.   It is so much fun to see children delight in a book and these books always bring that joy!

It was nearly impossible to narrow down this list.   I often genuinely say to my students, "This is one of my favorite books," as I begin a new story.  And, they tell me...."You always say that!!"  But it is so true!  It is terrible that this list doesn't include any Cynthia Rylant books.  She is one of my very favorite authors.....but at the start of this new school year, my mind is on the books that bring kids joy and promote a love of books and reading.  It is such an important thing for beginning readers to find that book that really lights their passion for reading.

And a shout out to Twitter.  I feel like I have "met" new teacher friends this summer through twitter.   Cathy Mere, thanks so much for always sharing your thinking.   I appreciate you!   I can't wait to read everyone else's list.   Cathy will be linking them at her blog.  Be sure to check them out.   I would love to hear your favorites if you want to comment here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Seeing the World With "Teacher Eyes"

     Not too long ago I was talking with a friend about several different things and she made the comment, "I think it's because you see the world with 'teacher eyes'."  After that comment I began to really notice all of the ways I do that.   One that really came to mind was on our recent trip to the beach.
     Many of you know that we are adopting our daughter and for over 2 years now we have been trying to help her make up for all she missed the first 6 years of her life.  She had not been read to or engaged in thoughtful discussion, she lacked life experience and vocabulary was a huge interference in reading.  She has come SO far in the last 2 years and is such an amazing little girl.   While we were at the beach there were so many things she did for the first time that made me think....this is really going to help her make connections and understand things she reads.   This was her third trip to the beach with us (she had never been before joining our family) and it is still awesome to see her discover.  This year, at Britt's request, her aunt buried her in the sand.  She squealed with joy and described in detail how the sand felt on top her her and how "hard" it was to move to wiggle out because the sand was "heavy."   She was also completely enthralled with collecting these little muscles at the shoreline and then letting them go one at a time.  She commented that they couldn't "climb back in the dry sand" and they could only "climb back in the wet sand when the water washed over it."   Such rich learning experiences!
     One last example that comes to mind was riding go carts at the amusement park.  This is something Reed loves to do and has since dad would have to drive him in one at 2-3 years of age.  A couple years ago Brittney didn't know what a go-cart was.  The past couple times, she has declined a ride and was unsure of the adventure.  This year, with a little encouragement, she drove the kiddie-cart!  She loved it and to hear her describe how "hard" it was at first and how it felt going around the track was priceless.  
     I was telling my husband afterwards how awesome it was to watch her ride and even better to hear her talk about the experience.  It was then that it occurred to me....I really do see so many things with teacher eyes.  It's who I am.

searching for "treasures"

Lots of giggles

a bit of a struggle to bust free

Reed ready to race

Britt racing

Collecting lots of little creatures

Miss Sassy Pants :)