Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11th.......

That day is etched in my memory. That day took away a sense of security that Americans came to expect.  As I sit and watch the History Channel show "102 Minutes" the pain is still raw.  Tears will still run down my checks and I will gasp in horror at total devastation.  I watch people waving white flags out of windows, waiting for rescue that will never come.  The terrified voices of people in the building.  The falling man.
                                                                                                                                                                          The fear that must have over taken this man to a point of no return. 

Some people went to work and never expected it to be their last time.  They wave white towels out of windows in hopes to attract attention, little did the know they had the attention of the entire world at the moment in time.

Today in class I felt it was my duty as a teacher to say something about that day.  I told my 1st graders it was a day to thank our heroes.  I didn't mention WTC, or anything about the NY tragedy.  Their minds are to young to even comprehend such a horrible day in our country.  We talked about people that are heroes and what they do.  Heroes are people that run to help others in need.  We talked about how brave firefighters and policemen are.  
Maybe one day, when they are older they will sit down and read a book or watch a documentary about this day in our history.  Maybe they will make a connection to their first grade teacher and understand why we talked about heroes. Maybe they will understand then, why I make them stand up straight and tall during the Pledge Of Allegiance every day.  Maybe they will begin to love our country the way I do.  The pictures they colored of the flags today will be more than just a "color sheet."  It will be something to take pride in and do your very best on.  As they began to show me their finished work, they were very beautiful and I was very proud.  Several sweeties gave me their flag, they said they made it for me.  I was touched.  Most of the flags went home to hopefully take their rightful place on the refrigerator.  
I know one day my students will be taught (not by me) about the significance of this day.  But until then I will talk about heroes, our Flag and how grateful I am to live in the United States of America.  
I will teach them to be proud of their flag.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

I love her...

One of my boys is married.  Another is getting married next month.  As I've watched their relationships grow, I've come to realize several things...

I love her because she loves my son.

I love her because she smiles at him.

I love her because I hear her say "I love you."

I love her because he loves her.

I love her because she tells him he is handsome.

I love her because she smiles when he walks into the room.

I love her because she is proud of him.

I love her because he is proud of her.

I love her because she is beautiful inside and out.

I love her because she is thrifty.

I'm thankful that God brought these young ladies into our family.  I am thankful that my boys made the right choice.

Monday, May 26, 2014

To Read or Not to Read

Reading is fundamental.  Reading is fun. Reading is the key to helping a child find success in their educational career.  Over the past five years, I have taught many children to read.  One of the greatest moments as an educator is when that six year old realizes "I can read!"  It is what motivates me daily to get up and go into my classroom and read.  Everyday I read to my students, sometimes multiple books a day.  My favorite book to read to my students is "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" by Kate DiCamillo.  There is nothing, and I do mean nothing, like stepping into a book and taking your students along with you.  While reading about Edward Tulane, I have had students shed tears over a young girl's heartache.  These are six and seven year olds.  They listen, comprehend and stare in amazement.  They become part of the novel.  They are able to visualize, draw pictures and write awesome reflections about the characters of this book.  It's an amazing, motivating sight to see.  It becomes a motivator for students to learn how to read.

This year I incorporated a reading log into my student's homework.  I would check it twice a week, and give rewards, such as stickers, and placement on the "Wall of Fame."  No matter how simple the concept, it worked well.  The point I want to make is that the students in my classroom with the highest reading levels, believe it or not, were those who filled out numerous reading logs.  Every day, they would have entries.  They read at home.  They read with someone.  And as a result, their reading soared.

This project let me know quickly that parent involvement is key in reading.  As a teacher, I can teach, read out loud daily, and encourage reading at home.  However, parents make it happen.  So this summer, encourage the children close to you to read.  It really matters.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

No longer Sammy. Just Sam.

This week marks a significant time in the life of my family.  My youngest son graduates from high school, as well as finishing his first year of college.  As I think back over the past 18 years, I wonder where the time has gone. It seems like just yesterday, we were giving him numerous nicknames (Fred, Rudy, Brown Sugar.. to name a few).  Now, it's just Sam.  No longer Sammy.  Just Sam.  It really does pass quickly.  I must say I am very proud of him.  He is a good person.  He loves God, his family and his girlfriend.  He never disappoints me, and the choices he makes have always made me proud.

As I think back to when I was 18 years old, I remember the carefree feeling of knowing it all.  Little did I know that I did not.  So with that in mind, I thought I would offer some words of wisdom to Sam, and any other 18 year old getting ready to step into their future.

1. When you are older, you will look back and see that few friends from your teenage years are still around.  Probably only one or two, if any.  Choose your friends wisely.

2. When dating, only date people who share your same values.  I promise you one day you will care.

3. Always be willing to take a chance on yourself.  Be confident and don't second guess your instinct.

4. Talk to your parents at least once a day.  One day they will not be there.

5.  Your siblings are the greatest gift your parents gave you.  Cherish them and talk with them.  If you ever need something or someone in a moment of crisis, you will call one of your siblings.  I promise.

6.  Purity in your relationship is essential.  It is a gift that one day you will give to your spouse.  Don't give it away.  It is too important.  Once it is gone, you can never get it back.

7.  It's never to late to try something new.  You are never to old to start over.  

8.  Be confident, even when your don't feel like you are.  Acting confident will build confidence.  

9.  No matter what, you can always call home.  I will be here for your regardless of the circumstance.  My love is unconditional. 

10.  Finally, and most importantly, seek God and keep him first.  Pray daily, read your Bible, and trust in the one who created you.

Take chances.  Do what you feel like you can't do.  Step out of your comfort zone and believe in yourself.  You are worth it! You are not perfect, so please don't try to be.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The marks on the end of the crib..

Last night I went over to my niece's house to help her out with her kids.  I love being around them and watching them play and experience life.  She is an awesome mother to 7 wonderful kids.  Most recently two little precious girls.  As I walked through her room, I glanced at the crib that I loaned her.  I looked at the teeth marks that are on the ends of the beds.  The little marks that were made by my boys, who are now 18, 22 & 23.  I ran my hand over the marks and just looked at them and remembered.  I remember the sleepless nights, the exhausting days, and the days I thought I just couldn't do it.  I remember wishing that I didn't have mounds of clothes lying on the floor of my washroom.  I wished my house could be straight for just one day.  I wished I could go to the bathroom alone.  All of that seems so far away now.  What a distant memory.  Now, my washroom floor is empty, my house is usually straight, and I am seldom get woke up during the night.  I miss those babies.  The ones that chewed on the end of the crib.  

Last week walking through Target, I saw some friends with their three little kids.  It was hectic, they were tired.  They talked about the fact that they were never alone.  I laughed and told them to enjoy it.  "Yeah, right!"  I told them without hesitation that I would go back, even if for one trip to Target, or one hectic meal out with four kids.  And I would, no doubt.  

My kids always think it is funny that I will immediately cry when I listen to Alan Jackson's song Remember When.  (You can listen to it here )  However, this song perfectly sums up my emotions.  Remember when.... the sound of little feet was music...  yes I do...

I am honored to be a mother.  I am honored to have memories that bring tears to my eyes.  One day, when my kids have kids of their own, they will listen to this song, and I guarantee their eyes will fill with tears.  In the meantime, I will remember those hectic days, and continue to wish that even for a moment I could travel back....

Happy Mother's Day:)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

God's protection and My memories..

Today I was reminded of a miracle.  Two years ago, my oldest son had an abdominal aneurysm that almost cost him his life.  As I looked over the medical records, I was amazed that he came through such a traumatic experience.  I did not even realize at that moment that his life was hanging on the edge.  I'm glad that I did not know.

It was during those days in the ICU and hospital, that he turned 21 years old.  It was also during those days that I really got to know the young lady God had chosen for him.  They had only been dating a few months and we knew she was special. But during that week, she became a part of our family.    I was there, but he needed her.  She was the one who cheered (literally) him on the road to recovery.  It was a strange feeling to walk out of ICU that first night.  He wanted her to stay.  I remember him saying "Mom, you can stay if you want."  I knew he said that just for me.  He didn't need me to stay.  Although she didn't know it at the time, it was hard for me to walk out that night.  I knew my job was complete.

I'm so thankful for that day.  The day God saved my son's life.  God used that time to teach me that I can't control everything.  Somethings are out of my reach.  As hard as it is to let my mind retrace those days, I must.  For in those memories lie the blessings of a second chance.

I am grateful that today in the middle of a very hectic day at school, God stopped my mind long enough to remind me that He is in control, I am not, and that He is very near. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

At risk?

What exactly is at risk and how does it change our perceptions of our students?  While thinking about students I have come across over the past several years, I have seen a large number of students, mostly boys, who would be considered at risk.  What exactly are they at risk for?  Poverty? Education?  Crime?  If they are truly at risk, how can I help them achieve success?

While researching this topic, I learned about a teacher who also felt the need to try and make a change.  She was presented with a class of students who were labeled unteachable or below average.  This group of students were not expected to succeed and they were well aware of those expectations. This teacher, know as Ms. G. refused to accept those assumptions and became an instrument of change in the lives of her students.  I challenge you to read her story.  Not only is it inspiring, but it is real-life change.  It is confirmation that we as teachers can help students break a cycle and beat the odds.  Her story can be read here Freedom Writers.

The students in our classrooms are not very different from the students Ms. G taught.  Yes, they were in high school and probably more aware of their social standing.  My students are 1st graders, but they too are well aware of their obstacles.  This past week, I had my students complete a poem biography. I was not expecting what I received.  The concept was to write a sentence about several things, such as "I dream...., I wish....., I love....., I worry... etc.  The answers were eye opening.  Things such as "I worry about never seeing my mom."  "I dream of meeting my dad."  "I want to go to college."  "I wish I had cute clothes."  These type of pressures are heavy.  How can we expect a six year old to be motivated to read and write, when their basic needs are being compromised?  I believe the solution can be found in teachers who give their all to their students.  We must offer a place of safety and security where worries are left at the door.  Perhaps if we examine the freedom writers model, we can find ways to bring that success to our own classroom.

Maybe if we drop the stereotypes and walk away from the ideology that certain students are going to fail, we will begin to see the very students in question succeed.  When that happens, then we will all succeed.  Isn't that why we are here in the first place?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

21 Days... but whose counting...

So after today there are 21 more days of school.  Of course that doesn't count the obligatory 3 days of post planning.  I must admit I am tired.  I am weary of paperwork and more paperwork.  All I really want to do is teach.  I want to teach kids how to read, write and add.  That's what drove me to return to college at the age of 40.  I wish that teachers would be able to have a decision in the very thing we do.. teach.

Just when I get really frustrated I remind myself of why I am here.  It's not to compile numerous mounds of data, that no one will ever look at.  It's to teach 6 and 7 year olds how to read.  I am here to see my students smile, laugh and tell me they love to read.  I am here to watch their face light up when they check out their first chapter book.  I am here because I was fortunate enough to land a job in a time when a lot of teachers were losing theirs.

I know that I am making a difference.  I can see it in their faces.  And occasionally when I feel like I'm not making an impact I open the drawer on my desk that contains all of the letters and cards.  The ones that remind me of why I am here.  And if I'm lucky, I'll find one or 20  laying on my desk just to remind me:)

And if I am really lucky we will all be on green at the end of the day:)

Monday, April 21, 2014

The end of a busy year..

I am amazed that this school year is coming to a close.  The new Common Core Standards have been implemented and the kids are learning.  I have seen teachers come together for a common goal of seeing students succeed.

My love of reading and teaching reaching has grown this year.  I have seen 23 six year olds begin to read, read and read some more.  We are now reading chapter books that excite and motivate.  Junie B. Jones and Cam Jansen are the most requested.  I began allowing students to check out books from my own library.  This has motivated them tremendously.  Every day they will ask if they can check out one of my books.  I have teacher friends, that do not allow students to take their own personal books home.  Several years ago, I decided that I would allow my books to leave my room.  I feel that if I loose one or two books, but I motivate a child to read it is not a loss.  I would gladly relinquish my library and replinish it yearly, if I can help my students become readers.

As I end my 4th year in a 1st grade classroom, I must say that I am continually honored to be in this profession.  I love my students and I love my job.  I get up each morning excited to go to work.  Of course, I get tired, discouraged and overwhelmed.  However, there are still nights that I wake up and think about a particular student, and try to figure out ways to help him or her succeed.  It is such an awesome responsibility.