…a dark and dreary…

Halloween on a Monday just doesn’t seem fair somehow…Whether you observe it or not, the infectious spirit of the day cannot go unnoticed.  Although we did our campus celebration last Friday (thanks again to all our amazing parents who made treats, planned events, and shared in our fun), there was still a faint and fun air about our building today.  Visiting in classrooms, there were lots of stories, ideas, and laughs to share.  One writer stopped me to visit and read his writing so far:  “It was a dark and dreary evening because I was sitting home alone answering the door to the neighborhood trick-or-treaters…”  I can hardly wait to see what happens next!

Our creative staff enJOYs the opportunity to occasionally move out of clothing comfort zones and into more challenging wardrobes, such as the third grade Smurfs/Smurfettes:

…and Snow White and her Seven Dwarfs (dwarves?), courtesy of 5th grade and friends.

We are grateful for fun times, special events, and celebrations to showcase our work in fun, engaging ways.  They help those times when the work may feel “dark and dreary.”  We invite you to join us in celebrating more throughout the coming year!

Happy Fall, Y’all!

It’s Character Day, Fall Party Day, and the end of an extremely busy week here at LME!  We’ve sung, danced, rooted for our Texas Rangers, paraded in book character costumes, collected cans for Manna House, purchased books at the Book Fair, dressed up in themes for Red Ribbon Week, and even learned some important lessons during the week.  Here are some fourth grade friends who did an amazing job last night in their Welcome To The Jungle program! Thanks, fourth grade learners and leaders for sharing your vast talents with all of us!

As I’ve noted before in this blog, there are days (even a full week) where the lessons are about so much more than just state standards and curriculum.  Don’t misunderstand; we stay the course and continue our scope and sequence timelines, but these unique experiences within a given week make wonderful memories to share.  We are so appreciative of the volunteers who give their time, extreme talents, and service to provide supplies, food, and fun for these wonderful memories; many, many thanks!

  Here is our specials team (who worked extremely hard this week in preparation for the fourth grade program–way to go, team!).  They came as the book characters from Peter Pan and served as “grand marshals” for the Character Parade.

Yes, autumn has come to Miller; festivities and blessings abound!  Happy Fall, Y’all!  🙂

Note:  Monday is a regular school day with school dress code; no costumes on Monday.  

Harvesting responsibility…

I was reminded today by a student (while completing my daily walk-about) how important it is to set the right example.  Our words are important but our actions are much more powerful.  My Granny had a saying she used with my sister and me (more with my sister, of course 🙂 ):  “If you can’t be a good example then you’ll just have to be a bad warning.”  There is great truth in these words.  Think about it . . .

As I remind us each day during our morning announcement message:  “You have a choice everyday and I hope you choose to make it a great day here at LaRue Miller Elementary!”  We each must take personal responsibility for our words and actions.  When Mrs. Bass or I visit with students during a discipline intervention, the heart of the matter always involves taking personal responsibility and then being held accountable.  These are tough lessons; these are ongoing conversations.

As always, we appreciate the insight and support our parents give to us during these challenging situations.  In fact, I have to share what one parent said today to me: “You know, Mrs. Van, perhaps she’ll just have to go without; one day without sure might make the impression to remember and be responsible next time, huh?!”

A seasonal sign currently hanging on my door sums it up the best:  “We plant today the harvest of tomorrow.”  Here’s hoping we’re all planting strong responsibility seeds and examples; after all, as my daddy likes to say, “they’ll be choosing my assisted living arrangement one day . . . ”   🙂

Book Fair and Red Fever continues!

This just in . . . A raging case of Red Fever continues to sweep the Miller hallways throughout each instructional day this week!  Red Fever symptoms include spontaneous Texas Rangers’ pledges, songs, cheers, chants, and strange hand motions–a group even took over our morning announcements today!  Math, language, writing, reading, and science lessons include unusual baseball statistics, averages, stories, and problems to solve.  Learners and their classroom leaders continue to spread the Fever excitement as they send a positive, energetic vibe to the home team during the World Series.  Let’s go, Rangers, let’s go! (Clap, Clap!)  Thanks, first grade friends, for sharing your work, your excitement, and your passion for baseball with us!

As if Red Ribbon Week and Red Fever were not enough excitement (with Party Day coming on Friday too!), we add our fall Book Fair and the fourth grade program to the mix this week.  Learners are enJOYing the opportunity to browse and shop while our parent volunteers and Mrs. Bolgiano, library media specialist, assist everyone.  While shopping myself this afternoon, I happened upon four staff members (see, they’ve caught the fever too) taking time out to peruse the hundreds of options available.  Everyone is invited to stop by on Thursday to make those final selections; the Book Fair will be open 7:45 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. tomorrow evening.  Our Fourth Graders will also present their show, “Welcome To The Jungle” at 7:00 p.m. in the cafe.  Here’s hoping you join us for all these events at Miller this week!

Note:  The Student Honor Council announced just now we collected 819 cans today for our one-day food drive.  Way to go, Miller, way to go (clap, clap, clap)!

Red Ribbon Week Festivities!

It’s the annual Red Ribbon Week campaign and our learners and their leaders are truly enJOYing the messages and themes each day (thanks to our caring counselor, Mrs. Stanley, and the clever Student Honor Council)!  On Monday, it was a sea of red colors as we were proud of being drug-free (and of our Texas Rangers too).  Today, we were being “Good Sports; Don’t do drugs!”  Again, there were lots of Rangers jerseys (because we all have “Red Fever”), but my favorite (and most definitely biased) picture today was with my friend, Kennedy, who wore a special shirt in my honor.  It says, “Go, Blue” for the University of Michigan Wolverines.  My oldest daughter recently graduated from U of M (she’s now at USC in Los Angeles in graduate school) and when she found out Kennedy’s family were big Ohio State fans, she naturally felt compelled to remedy the situation.  Of course, I took some grief from her family, but hey, what’s wrong with a little friendly rivalry?  Kennedy is excited we can even add USC and now OU (Boomer Sooner!) to the repertoire as well!  🙂

On Wednesday, we celebrate “I Can; You Can; We CAN be drug-free!”  Everyone is challenged to bring canned foods for donating to our local Manna House.  Thursday is “Go Green; Don’t let drugs pollute your life!”  Wear green as we clean and talk about the importance of taking care of our personal environment.  Finally, on Friday, it’s our annual Miller “Character Day.”  We dress to show good character and celebrate with a big character parade.  It’s also Fall Party Day and the excitement is truly building!  Here’s hoping, though, the messages we talk about today and throughout this important week will be remembered tomorrow as our learners continue the difficult task of growing up in a world of tempting choices; here’s hoping their voice may help another make the right choice!


I had the opportunity not long ago to walk a new family around our campus during the enrollment process and we stopped a few moments in our gym.  “Now if you want to participate in something really cool, you’ll have the chance to traverse our school’s rock wall,” I commented to the perspective student.  His dad looked at me:  “Are you kidding me?  A rock wall at school?  Why?”  That’s the only question I needed to launch into a complete dissertation on the benefits of Rock Walls . . . 

Traversing a rock wall (moving horizontally across the wall) has multiple benefits, one being the constant movement of large numbers of students at safe heights.  Climbing is a captivating activity promoting self-esteem while contributing to the overall physical fitness levels of the climber (cardiovascular, muscular, strength-building, and coordination, to name a few).  Climbing in general challenges our students to travel beyond their personal comfort zones into the world of adventure-based learning.  There’s also the added benefits of problem solving, team-building, positive risk-taking, student focus, concentration, listening skills, and self-discipline.  In fact, climbing across the 48 feet of rocks on the wall system under the mats (providing a safe landing area for those of us who need it) is a challenge for even the best of physically-fit learners and leaders!

  Traverse rock climbing is one of many innovative physical activities Coach Rogers and Coach Martin incorporate into daily P.E. activities for our learners.  It’s also another great reason why P.E. ROCKS at Miller everyday!  (Thanks to the Midlothian Education Foundation for the initial grant that brought the first Rock Wall to MISD at Longbranch Elementary years ago…it was the catalyst for all the others!)

PAWs for Reflection…

Children are naturally drawn to great adventure and outdoor learning experiences, especially when it involves friendly animals trained to interact with them!  Our Community-Based Instruction (CBI) class took a field trip this week with other classes to the beautiful Paws for Reflection Ranch in Midlothian (www.pawsforreflectionranch.org). The Ranch plans specific programs and experiences to meet a variety of individual learning needs including hands-on time with animals, creative arts and crafts, team-building activities, nature walks, picnics, and a day of extraordinary fun!

Here are my CBI friends and their leaders building a scarecrow from several materials.  Chance told me the scarecrow looked “funny and full, but he was smiling.”

My friend, Hunter, was riding a horse and talking about it . . . look at his smile!  Kade told me the horse ride was “bumpy like the bus.”

Kennedy giggled the whole time she rode the horse!

Conner showed everyone how to pet the miniature horses.  Dawson said the dog, Sadie, “barked” and the hedgehog “rolled into a ball.”

. . . and there’s nothing like a hayride on a beautiful sunny autumn afternoon to close out a day filled with fun, friends, fellowship, and fond fall memories.  Here’s hoping we all take time to pause for fun and reflection soon!

A Wonderful Moment in Teaching History…

I’m relaying this true story through a ghost-writer (Mrs. Gunter, 5th grade teacher), who shared this heartwarming teaching moment with me today:

We never know what a passing comment of encouragement might yield someday.  Perhaps a robotic desk cleaner?  One of our clever fifth graders, Jake, came to demonstrate his growing knowledge of circuitry he’s been perfecting through Mrs. Garippa’s science class this year.  I praised Jake’s talents and told him “I sure would love for you to engineer some domestic help for me:  folding clothes, washing dishes, cleaning off my school desk, etc.”  He replied, “I’ll work on that, Mrs. Gunter!”  Today, less than a week later, I received a working, cleaning, mini-robot as his gift!  Just imagine–I’ve been teaching for 23 years and Jake is the first learner to create a robot for my personal needs!  What a wonderful moment in my teaching history!

Congratulations, Jake, for planning your work, working your plan, and autographing your work with personal engineering excellence!  Congratulations to Mrs. Gunter and Mrs. Garippa for challenging learners to stretch their potential to higher levels daily!  Here’s hoping we all take an opportunity to make a moment in teaching history as we journey through together at LME!


iLead, iLearn, iListen, iLaugh, iServe, and iStuCo…these are the words chanted to me as our Miller Elementary Student Honor Council (SHC) share a favorite song.  We are  blessed at Miller Elementary to have student leaders who take their work seriously, but not themselves too seriously this year.  This talented group of campus leaders recently attended the TEPSA “Leaders-R-Us; You Are Following A Leader” Student Council Workshop at Merrifield Elementary in Duncanville ISD.  They spent an entire day learning, sharing, eating a “real” lunch, and planning for the year ahead.  Our caring counselor, Mrs. Stanley, is their campus sponsor, and the group this year consists of:  Autumn, Baylee, Bryce, Cade, Emily, Jace, Jamison, Johnathan, Kara, and Michael.  They have much to share about this day-long seminar (and were literally talking over one another to get it all said, therefore, I was writing quickly!):

  • SHC:  We loved the workshop–so much fun meeting new leaders, talking, doing silly games to learn about our jobs, and singing!
  • Me:  So, what is a leader really?
  • SHC:  Actually, a leader is a Learner who is Enthusiastic, Alert, Democratic, Energetic, Responsible, and Spirited, Mrs. Van!
  • Me:  What are your goals for this year?
  • SHC:  We talked about goals like promoting other leaders, teaching teamwork, being responsible, showing school spirit, and helping others.
  • Me:  Did you have to make any promises this year?
  • SHC:  We had to pledge to have a “can-do” attitude, create team spirit here at school, be ready to do any job required, complete things on time, respect others, and know the work we do is a privilege.
  • Me:  It sounds like being a leader is an overwhelming task!
  • SHC:  Mrs. Van, you have no idea! 🙂

These young ladies and gentlemen have a code they must follow, so I share with it you now:  “Live with courage.  Take pride in what you do.  Always finish what you start.  Do what has to be done.  Be tough and be fair.  When you make a promise, keep it!  Be loyal to the team.  Talk less and listen more.”  Sounds like a great plan to live by everyday.  Here’s hoping we all heed this great advice and lead by example!  Thanks, SHC, for setting the bar so high this year!

Do we have the sense of a goose?

While walking along the Miller track during recess time with a group of learners today, we looked up and noticed a flock of geese in their famous “V” formation.  It reminded me of a powerful lesson my mom always told her staff and one, in fact, I’ve shared with mine.  In light of the cooler Autumn temps today and the geese we noticed, I shared this lesson with the students walking with me: 

Everything in nature happens for a reason and scientists have discovered why geese fly in the “V” formation.  As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following.  By flying this way, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.  Truth #1:  If we share a common direction and sense of community, we can get where we’re going quicker and easier because we travel on the power of one another.  Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.  Truth #2:  It’s important to stay in formation with those who are headed in the same direction we are going.  When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back into the formation and another goose flies point.  Truth #3:  It pays to take turns doing the hard work–with people or with geese flying.  Geese honk from behind (just like Mrs. Bass does with me on occasion–she actually says, “Good Honk!”) to encourage one another and the others up front to keep up their speed.  Truth #4:  We need to be careful what we honk when we honk from behind! 🙂  Finally, when a goose gets sick or wounded and falls out of formation, two geese fall out to follow her down to help and protect.  They stay with her until she is able to fly or goes to the great sky beyond, then they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up to their group.  Final truth:  If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other no matter what.  Here’s hoping our goose-sense and these basic truths always prevail . . . HONK!   🙂