Saturday, December 22, 2012

Quiet Heroism and Acts of Kindness

As I sat down to write a blog tonight -- not about the sadness or difficulty of the week, but thankfulness for the people I work with, the volunteers, the children -- acts of kindness that touch my heart -- I found this column from the Charlotte Observer.  The columnist, teacher Kay McSpadden, said it so much better than I could -- so here is her column.

Quiet heroism in schools daily

By Kay McSpadden
Special to the Observer
About the shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary…
I don’t want to talk about gun control or about our attitude in this country about guns and ownership.
And I don’t want to talk about the difficulty of getting good mental health services for suffering people – or even about the stigma and expense involved because our health care system has failed us.
I don’t want to talk about how schools in this country have changed since Columbine – how we practice lockdown every month, how armed resource officers are a normal part of the staff, how new schools are designed to keep visitors out, observed, recorded.
And I certainly don’t want to talk about the grand act of heroism of the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary who reportedly confronted the shooter, or the teacher who hid her young students and then lied about where they were before she was killed.
I don’t want to talk about that sort of heroism – the kind few of us are ever called on to witness, much less emulate. I can’t bear to talk about any of those things right now. Later, when the shock and immediate anguish have softened, we’ll talk then.
Right now I want to talk about the quiet kind of heroism that I see every day when I go to work at a public high school in America.
I want to talk about the first people on our campus every morning, the cafeteria staff who arrive in the dark to start breakfast. In my school district, almost two-thirds of our students live below the poverty level, qualifying them for either a reduced price meal or a free one.
Every time I write about the meal program, readers complain that feeding children is a parent’s responsibility, that some people are using the program fraudulently. I’m not going to talk about that now. What I want to say is that no criticism, justified or not, truthful or misinformed, takes away from the quiet heroism of the cafeteria workers who feed hungry children.
I want to tell you about the custodians, the people who get to school before I do and who are still there when I leave. The custodian who cleans my classroom clears the trash and vacuums the carpet, wipes down the desks with disinfectant, polishes the windows – and then she cleans the hall bathrooms and water fountains before moving to another classroom, and another and another. My school is cleaner than my house because of her daily heroism.
I want to talk about the school bus drivers who pick up their first students before 6 a.m. The rural district where I work is so large, so spread out, so poor, that half our students ride the bus, even to high school. Of all the jobs I can think of doing, getting up before dawn to warm up a drafty bus and then driving a load of noisy students isn’t something I would choose.
The secretaries and bookkeepers and registrars and attendance officers are my heroes, too – the way they juggle the needs of the many with dignity and patience, the way the school cannot function without them.
And the guidance counselors and media specialists and resource officers and principals and aides and coaches – watchful shepherds and surrogate parents who joke and tease and advise and worry about our students – they are unsung heroes, too.
Every teacher is a hero to some child. The teachers I know speak of their students in the possessive – “my students, my kids, my class” – not rhetorically but genuinely, giving them gifts of time and care both in the classroom and beyond, opening up the world to them, handing them tools for making their way in it later on their own.
And I want to talk about the quiet heroism of the students themselves, students I know who woke up cold this morning in an empty apartment and got themselves and younger siblings ready for school, who caught a bus at 5:55 a.m. and rode more than an hour to eat a warm breakfast in a crowded cafeteria, heading to a long day of English and math and art and history and science and marketing and computer teachers telling them that they can do it, that even when no one else believes in them the teachers do – and so do the principals and guidance counselors, as do all the adults at the school. These people perform deeds of quiet heroism, without question, today and tomorrow and the day after that.
That’s what I want to talk about now – the small acts I witness every day – because the larger sacrifices are too new, too wrenching, too horribly familiar to bear the weight of words just yet. That’s because those of us who care about our children have lost our voices to grief.
Guest columnist Kay McSpadden is author of “Notes from a Classroom: Reflections on Teaching.” Write her at

Read more here:

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tragedy in Connecticut


 I have been so disturbed today by the news of another school shooting.  This one seems worst of all, because it involved a kindergarten teacher and her class.  Ever since I started blogging, I have felt a connection to other kindergarten teachers around the world . We share ideas and plans and problems and solutions -- sometimes taking a peek into each others classrooms and lives. I think that is part of the reason why this has touched me more than usual.  My first thought was -- I wonder if she is on my blog list?  And I have pictured how incredibly horrible it would have been to see your son at your classroom door with a gun, shooting at all the little ones in your care. I can't even image, really -- but my heart goes out to all those involved in this great tragedy.  It is so very, very sad.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Great Gingerbread Exchange of 2012

 I was lucky enough to get in on the gingerbread exchange with Mrs. Parker from "Learning with Mrs. Parker" this year, and it has been so exciting to see the envelopes in my box at school.  I haven't received all of them yet, but I will go ahead and share our bulletin board full of gingerbread people.  We got one today from Germany, dressed in camouflage, from a classroom of military kids -- I will try to get it up tomorrow.
We especially have enjoyed the ones with letters enclosed.  One letter today said that their favorite story was the one that said."Run, run, as fast as you can -- you can't catch me -- I'm the Gingerbread Man!" One of my kids said, "Hey, that's our favorite , too!" 

                                           They are coming from all across the country. 

                                      The cowboy from Texas was one of the favorites

                       We still have room to squeeze in a few more -- this has been so much fun!!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

12 in '12 Linky Party

Lesson plans are written, and not time to go to bed yet -- so I'm taking time to join a Linky Party!!

Click here to find out about the
12 in '12 Linky Party

                                               And here are 12 favorite things from 2012!

12. Favorite movie you watched:
Didn't go to the movies at all this year, but I enjoyed a video series we did at church called "Not a Fan"  -- about being a follower of Christ. 
11. Favorite TV series:
NCIS -- I'd rather watch NCIS reruns than about anything else on TV. But I admit I have to look away sometimes on the gross autopsy parts.
10. Favorite restaurant:
When my daughter and I were in Denver, Colorado last month, we went to a little place called "Corner Bakery" for breakfast 3 or 4 times -- very yummy panini there.
9. Favorite new thing you tried:
Getting up early to have some quiet time before going to school -- reading "Jesus Calling" and drinking my "green monster" smoothie.

8. Favorite gift you got:
My Kindle Fire -- wish I had about 6 of them for my kinderkids to use for reading all the free books I have downloaded. I also like my i-pad furnished by the school -- but I still have a LOT to learn.

7. Favorite thing you pinned:

My book barn that my husband built after looking at the one on Reagan Tunstall's blog.
6. Favorite blog post:
First Day of Kindergarten because over 600 people actually looked at it!!
5. Best accomplishment:
It's a tie -- getting every kid in my class to benchmark scores at the end of the school year was my best professional accomplishment.  But getting to perform on the international stage with my Sweet Adelines barbershop chorus was a dream come true! And having over 10,000 page views on my little blog is just plain amazing.

4. Favorite picture:
Picture of my sweet husband at the Isle of Palms this summer
3. Favorite memory:
Vacation in Charleston, SC with my family
2. Goal for 2013:
Same goals I have every year -- lose weight and get more organized -- and one new one: start leaving the school earlier than 5:00!
1. One Little Word:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gingerbread in Disguise

      I bought this great activity from  Mrs. Miner last weekend, and I am loving the gingerbread men in disguise that my kinders have brought in this week!
                                    My assistant made a bulletin board in the hall to show them off.
                                                 Here are some close-ups of some of them
                                                              So many creative ideas!!
I am also doing an exchange with other classrooms, and we have already received Gingerbread boys and girls, from NC, California, Maryland, Texas, and Michigan.  I will post pictures of that bulletin board soon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gingerbread Men


Notice the sideways stickers on the dark brown one...
Every time I do a artsy kind of project with this large class, I can tell it will not turn out the way I planned.  With 27 kids, it is impossible to guide everyone at the same time.  This week we started our Gingerbread Man theme, and I am excited to take part in a gingerbread man exchange organized by "Learning with Mrs. Parker" in California.  We were to make 25 gingerbread men and send them out to other classes all over the United States -- even one to a class in Germany.  I looked at lots of ideas, but with so many kids, I thought simple would be better.  Color it, put on 4 stickers and 3 buttons -- what could go wrong?  Well, about half of them put the stickers in the wrong places -- even though there was an outline on the hands and feet for them to follow.  They colored them lots of weird patterns and colors. Not all are proficient with scissors --  we knew some would have amputations if we let them cut them out, and we didn't want to risk that since we were mailing them..

So, not anything fancy, but the kids were proud of them.  After I helped them rearrange stickers and buttons -- and cut off the out-of-lines crayon marks -- they looked kind of cute. . We are going to put the ones we receive on a bulletin board -- I'll take a pictures!!
I am thankful to have some volunteers to help prepare the Christmas craftivities -- but I know we will not be able to make as many as we have in previous years when we had a smaller class.  I don't know what the policymakers are thinking when they allow such large classes in kindergarten.  We all do the best we can, but there is no way to do the coaching and conferencing and guiding that we want to do.  On the bright side -- most of them are able to read and write a sentence or two, and it does get easier after Christmas...if we can survive until then!  I have laryngitis this week, so trying to teach when I can't speak above a whisper is quite a challenge!!  I thank God for my wonderful assistant!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanks for Thanksgiving

             Thanksgiving slipped up on me this year.  We just finished the Veteran's Day celebration and realized that we only had 6 days to do Thanksgiving!!  During these 6 days, I had only 2 planning periods because of  meetings, a concert, and the computer teacher's absence during the time I am supposed to have 40 minutes to work in my room without children present. Besides my lack of planning time, my assistant has NO planning time because she has to go to 4th grade to do intervention during that precious 40 minutes.  So, my crafty projects were extremely limited this year.
             I am blessed to have a talented and creative assistant, because the artsy- crafty things are not one of my strengths, to say the least.  Here's my kind of craft, purchased pre-cut with adhesive on the back.  All I had to do was pass out one piece at a time, demonstrate where to stick each part, and -- voila!  It's a turkey!! Thank you Hobby Lobby! The kids thought it was great, and I didn't have to cut out 27 sets of turkey parts.
    In the past, we have made lots of things -- including Native American vests cut from brown paper grocery bags and a headband with feathers.  But with 27 kids, it was just too overwhelming to think about.
   Back to my precious assistant --- in her "free time" -- whenever that was -- she cut and folded all these Pilgrim girl bonnets and Pilgrim boy hats -- with a little bit of help from a parent volunteer.. They looked so cute! But if you want to see some fabulous costumes, click on Reagan Tunstall's link  --- she is my inspiration --- for another year!  Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits must have a LOT of volunteers!

    And when I realized that I had forgotten about making the bracelets to help the children practice retelling the First Thanksgiving story, she got right on it and assembled 27 kits with the right color of beads and pipe-cleaners in each Ziploc baggy. She is incredible!!
   They are wearing the bracelets in the picture, but I forgot to get a close-up, so I'm using a similar one from Pinterest.

  We got to hear most of them retell the story as we twisted the ends together to make a bracelet at the end of the day today.  I also remembered the "Let's Find Out" activity and we watched that on the big screen at the end of the day.  I even squeezed in directions for making a hand print turkey this morning and they drew them on the back of their morning worksheet.  They wrote and illustrated an  "I am thankful for... book and sang a couple Thanksgiving songs from the Dr. Jean CD.

  I got our computer teacher to install Google Earth on my computer so we could see where the Pilgrims traveled. That was pretty cool.

    I read several Thanksgiving books, including these, but just didn't have time for some of my favorites in these 6 days of celebrating.

  Now that I see it all written here, I guess we covered it pretty well!!

  We have more time for Christmas, and I've already put the Thanksgiving books away and replaced them with Christmas books.  Can't wait to start on our gingerbread men -- we are doing an exchange with children in 26 classes across the country -- plus one class in Germany. That will give us another opportunity to look at maps and globes as we see where our gingerbread men will come from.
  And I can't wait to share "Pete the Cat Saves Christmas."
  But first I need to clean my house and cook a turkey for my family!  Time -- slow down!!!

  I am especially thankful this year for my blogging friends who have inspired me -- thankful that this huge class is finally starting to "get it" -- thankful for parent volunteers -- thankful for all the TPT stuff that I have bought -- and especially the freebies -- and thankful for the love of my family and their understanding when I work late many days, hog the computer, and don't cook for several days in a row.  God has blessed me greatly, and I am SO thankful for 5 days to try to catch up during Thanksgiving break!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Learning to Give

   It is time to think about GIVING...

We packed up some boxes for Samaritan's Purse today.  Parents were very generous, and we got enough to fill about 4 shoe boxes.

The children took turns choosing items to put in a box for a girl or a box for a boy.

I think it is important to teach the children that there are children around the world who don't get many gifts, and we can share with them.

Thank you, Operation Christmas Child for giving us an opportunity to give and the learn about children around the world!

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Veteran

Veterans Day 2012

I took my favorite veteran to school this week --- my husband!  Mr. Spencer spent 25 years serving his country in the Army, and although he has been retired for about 20 years, I still get a thrill out of  seeing him in his uniform.  He brought pictures of the foxhole he stayed in when he was in Vietnam, his helicopter, and his tent in Saudi Arabia. The kids were fascinated and had lots of questions.

They were especially interested in his medals --- I had him to bring the display case full of medals, and one little boy sat staring in awe.

This is a story written by one of my children --- I thought it was great!  It says, "This man is a hero."

Veterans, we salute you and thank you for your service.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pumpkins and Singing

 It is the end of October -- the month just seemed to whiz by!  Just a few more days before we change gears to learn about some American history, turkey, and about being thankful.  Friday I carved the pumpkins after we voted on the shape of eyes, nose, and teeth. Glad it wasn't anything too complicated -- my carving skills are not so great, even with my handy-dandy little Pampered Chef carving knife!  The kids all took a turn scooping out the yucky stuff.  Here are s few helpers; 

I will miss Halloween this year -- I am flying to Denver, Colorado for the Sweet Adelines International competition on Tuesday  This is the a capella chorus I sing with.  -- we are competing on the International stage for the first time, and I am excited!
                                                       Carolina Style Chorus
You can actually watch the competition this year from your own computer.  We are contestant #21 on Thursday evening around 6:30 --  I stand near the middle of the second row.
My Sweet Adelines chorus, Carolina Style, will be competing on the International stage in Denver, CO, this week. There is a live webcast for those of you who might enjoy some good ole barbershop. The webcast will begin on Tuesday with the Harmony Classic, but we will be competing on Thursday at approximately 6:24 NC time (EDT). The webcast site is: It will take you right to the link (click on the arrow in the word 'Sweet') and enjoy!CSC

Monday, October 22, 2012

Field Trip!

Today I took my class to Red Wolf Farm for our first field trip of the year.  It was a beautiful day, and I had lots of parent volunteers, so we had a great time.
There were lots of animals to feed and pet -- so much fun to feed the hens.
We even got to feed a bottle to the calf!

We loved the little pony.

Then we rode the wagon up to the pumpkin patch

and got to choose a pumpkin to take home!

What a great day!!