The Gift of Words…

I had the great JOY of sharing a special moment with some truly thoughtful 4th grade friends in Mrs. Kids’ class who chose to share gift of wordsthe Gift of Words with each other this year.  They opened brightly colored packages containing a poem, quote, book, or song to share with one another.  As one friend noted, “We all get stuff but we rarely spend time sharing thoughts and words together with each other.”  So in the spirit of sharing this blessing of WORDS as we close down our campus for the next two weeks of holiday break, enJOY this little poem written in 1943:

The lights are dim, but atop the tree a star is shining bright;

For in spite of closing darkness, it’s Christmas Eve night.

Small hands clasp at a doll’s soft curl, and small eyes open wide;

And a small heart thrills with happiness at the presents side by side.

But dear little one, the things you have are more than those you see;

The gifts at this Christmastime are not placed upon the tree.

A family close in love and JOY, the care that they each give;

The promise you shall always have, this country in which you live.

Each may have some presents, but yours are more precious dear;

For you give love and hope anew by simply being here.

May we always share the gifts we are given, the JOY of this season of giving, and the blessing of sharing words with each other…  Merry Christmas to all!

JOY and more!

It’s no secret my favorite word is JOY…our learners know it because it’s something we talk about during morning message—finding our own JOY in simple, everyday ways.  We see the word all over the JOYplace during this time of year; you can find it on ornaments, in greetings, on wrapping paper, or even on the smiling young faces of little learners whose eyes sparkle and marvel at the wonder of the season (and there was great JOY on the beautiful faces of our third grade friends who shared their holiday spirit during “North Pole Diaries” last week!).

Additionally there was great JOY on the face of our own Mrs. Griffin-Loftis this afternoon as we celebrated her 21 years of educational excellence in MISD.  Mrs. Griffin-Loftis is retiring from our campus at the end of this month.  Thanks to the staff, fellow colleagues, former students, and others who stopped by to wish her the best.  Well done our great, faithful, JOYous leader of learners!

Yes, JOY surrounds us, but we must teach our little ones the way to find it for themselves and how to share it with others, thus leading me to a couple of challenging questions for today:  How do you share JOY with those you hold dear during this JOYous season?  How do you convey JOY to little ones who look to you for guidance in finding it within themselves?  Perhaps these are tough questions to ponder as you prepare for the coming days ahead…but, as always, may great hope, peace, JOY, and love surround you and those you hold dear!

Christmas spending…

A group of writers were conversing this morning in a small group about how they spend Christmas.  They were creating a list of ideas to share from the recent poll they conducted in their grade level.  The conversation turned to the way they spend it rather than how much is spent (on things).  I know… my mind was blown!

Of course, I had to share the story of President Andrew Jackson who loved to spend Christmas having a snowball fight with his relatives and the children from the local orphanage or playing games.  Since his wife died early in their marriage, he always shared his home (including the White House) with friends and others.  He would spend time with them versus buying lots of gifts for Christmas (although I feel certain there were gifts too).  He made sure everyone was a part of the big celebration.

One student pointed out one of my favorite animated series, charliebrown1the Peanuts Gang (the Christmas episode in particular), where Linus helps Charlie Brown learn the way to spend Christmas versus how much to spend.  Of course, this leads to our question for you today:  “In what way(s) do you spend Christmas and with whom?”

I believe it was Thoreau (while pondering life on Walden Pond) who noted, “The way you spend Christmas is far more important than how much.”  The group this morning has officially adopted this as their holiday mantra…here’s hoping you will consider it as well.  :-)

The blessing of music…

The blessing of music was gifted to our third and fourth grade friends today as we enJOYed a special performance of Billy Goat’s Gruff given by the Ft. Worth Opera and Children’s Theatre program.
Through the generous work between our six ad2elementary campuses across the district in conjunction with FWO, our learners experienced a full opera at their level, many for the very first time!  Studies show that repetitive positive experiences with arts education (music, art, dance, and more) not only encourages a lifelong relationship with the arts, but often opens the windows of curiosity leading to a new enthusiasm and discipline for learning in general.  Since 1972, Fort Worth Opera has opened millions of young minds to the colorful and exciting world of opera. (See more at: http://www.fwopera.org).
The operatic version of the Billy Goat’s Gruff story is based on scenes from operas by Mozart, Donizetti, and Rossini.  An after-school game of hide and seek is ruined for three friends when a big bully blocks a bridge, and the two boy goats decide to go for help. The girl goat stays to confront the bully, but shows him kindness instead. By the end, she is able to introduce the ex-bully as their new friend. Billy Goats Gruff addresses the current issue of bullying, and teaches learners how compassion and understanding helps everyone get along.
At this time of year especially, the blessing of music is glorious indeed and never more so than when performed for children to experience (some for the first time). As one child wrote (and shared with me) today, “I could close my eyes and let the beautiful singing move me through time to another place.  Music makes my life so much better.  Thanks for this special musical performance and singing today, Mrs. Van.”   Here’s hoping the blessing of music, in any form you choose to participate, moves you during this festive holiday season.  :-)**Note:  We have early dismissal on Thursday and Friday this week @ 12:45 p.m. 

Pearls of Ornamental Wisdom…

A young learner stopped me in the hallway just after announcements:

  • Child:  “Mrs. Van, I have a Christmas Question for you today.”
  • Me:  “Yes?”
  • Child:  “Do you have a favorite ornament on your Christmas tree that is dear to you?”
  • Me:  “Actually, I do, and thanks for asking! What a great question!”
  • Child:  “Will you write about it so I can read it on the ‘puter bog?  :-)

Here goes little friend:  One of my favorite words holidayornamentin the English language is “JOY.”  While happiness is grand, it concentrates more on a circumstance of life–we just “happen” to find ourselves happy because of a situation.  JOY is a deep, soulful emotion bringing delight and gladness–comfort and JOY to the beholder.  There is an ornament I keep close at hand all year (it actually hangs on our tree during the season) with the little word JOY inscribed on the antique snowball.  My Granny B. actually wrote the word JOY on the little ornament the day we had this conversation about JOY.  As always, this was her special way of sharing a “pearl of wisdom” with me.  She was known for doing clever little things like this . . .

As these students were making ornaments today in a workstation during Daily 5 rotations, they were anxious to share the results, which bears this important seasonal question today:  Think of an ornament from your past or present that is dear to you; why does it have special meaning?  Here’s hoping you share your own special JOY and pearl of wisdom with your little one this year!

Merry Christmas Readings…

Originally posted on Van Am Gram:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for reading . . . the weather is cold and windy, the seasonal stories are abundant, and the temptation to curl up with someone you love and share a great story is powerfully strong.  I keep books outside my office door all the time (as the picture indicates) and I’m known to climb in my office rocker and read them too!

I had the pleasure today of observing a group of second graders “sell” their recently chosen library book to another reader.  They created new book covers (without taking away from the published ones) to advertise and entice younger readers to want to pick up their seasonal book and have it read to them.  The new illustrations on the child-created book covers and the book reviews written convinced me!  If the office had not interrupted my visit with an urgent need, I…

View original 111 more words

Traditional treasures…

Most likely you have a favorite holiday tradition or two…something you treasure each year as the season comes around again.  Whether it’s placing a special ornament on the tree, watching a favorite holiday movie together, visiting a certain jolly fellow (in our family, the Northpark Santa IS the real Santa), or doing a familiar holiday activity together, you have a tradition you never want to miss.

My sister and I would always write long, detailed letters to Santa each year; it was our tradition together in fact.  My parents would then take us downtown to Titches (yes, I’m that old), to visit with St. Nick to share our letters.  I would never tell my parents what I wrote even though they would do any number of things to make me “spill it” (Momma says I’m stubborn that way; go figure?!).  It took me a while to pin down exactly why they wanted to know this personal information.  (The picture is me in third grade with my sister, Becky talking with Santa).  Writing our letters was a tradition we shared together.  Today, we still write our shopping lists (using email or text) because great minds think alike and we’ve also been known to buy the same present for a family member.  Talking and planning (along with writing) with my sister are traditions during the holidays and everyday I never want to miss!

During our morning message today, I asked students about the blessing of traditions, so this leads me to our question today:  What are your favorite family holiday traditions?  In whatever way your family chooses to define the holiday season and make seasonal memories, here’s hoping you take time to reflect together on special traditions.  If you don’t have a favorite tradition, here’s hoping you start one this year!

Note:   A special PTO holiday tradition at LME is the annual Penguin Patch Shop going on all week on campus.  They will also be open Thursday evening before and after the 3rd Grade Holiday Program for your shopping convenience.