Holiday Traditions

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 in my letter 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 Becky) talking with Santa.  Notice I already have a “teachery” stocking pin dangling from my shirt (because it’s all about the accessories, you know).  Writing our letters was a tradition we shared together.  Today, we still write our shopping lists (using email or text) because great minds (like ours) think alike and we’ve also been known to buy the same present for a family member.  Talking, planning, and writing with my sister are traditions during the holidays (and everyday) I never want to miss!

In past newsletters each December, you may have read other personal reflections of mine on favorite holiday family traditions.  This leads me to our Christmas Question of the Day:  What are your favorite family Christmas or holiday traditions?  In whatever way your family chooses to define the holiday season, take time to reflect with your learner on special traditions.  If you don’t have a favorite tradition, here’s hoping you start one this year!

Note:  Speaking of Santa pictures, thanks to the volunteers who assisted today during PTO’s Pictures with Santa at Miller.  Thanks, Santa, for stopping by to visit with us!

Season of Sentiments

Yes . . . Christmas is in the air now at LME!  Is there anything more exciting to a child than this season of love, peace, JOY, and goodwill?  I notice several smiling more right now.  Carols ring throughout the classrooms during workstation time.  Capturing all the sights, sounds, scents, and sentiments of this holiday can be a daunting task at times.  The reason for the season can be so powerful that it is challenging to express the story . . . .

Speaking of sentiments, while visiting with a Miller learner today, we talked about ways to share our thoughts.  She was making a card to send her grandmother during writing workstation this morning.  The colorful materials and textures she chose piqued my interest (and look at her creative, artistic idea!).  Her words (while personal) were most heartfelt and flowing with unconditional love.  We talked about Christmas Cards and why they mean so much to others who receive them.

After leaving this classroom, I remembered  a note I received years later from a friend of mine.  She reminded me of the time she was in a special hospital receiving treatment for bulimia during the holiday season and I sent her a homemade card (not as cute as my friend’s here) to let her know I was thinking of her during Christmas.  She told me she carried this card around with her all during the season and would stop people to say, “Look at this Christmas card my friend sent to me.  I’m not forgotten.”  She said that “knowing someone cared was the beginning of recovery.”  I have her note in my memory box 35 years later . . . .

As is our Miller tradition, I begin each morning in December with a Christmas question-of-the-day, so this is the first in our 2011 series and is dedicated to my young writing friend who asked me today:  “What was the greatest Christmas Card sentiment you remember receiving from a friend or family member?”  Here’s hoping you send someone a special greeting this season; you never know the impact it may have on the other person’s life!

Note:  Speaking of impacts on others, we greatly appreciate all the Angel Tree help you are giving to the annual Miller Angel Tree!  We still have 30 “angels” who need adopting, so stop by the front office to visit with Mrs. Stanley, our caring counselor, this week to assist.

Positive practice makes perfect!

You’ve no doubt heard the term:  “Practice makes perfect.”  Positive practice is a term used to describe the repetition of a desired outcome in a positive way.  Behavior specialists use positive practice to assist students in learning the correct way to go about a certain task or to achieve a desired result.  Today at Miller, we used positive practice to remind our learners about the importance of safety and respect in our cafe during lunch each day.

Learners and their classroom leaders participated in a session this morning in the cafe to actively demonstrate the behavior expectations we have at LME for everyone during lunch–specific things like properly asking for assistance, helping others, cleaning our personal space, and showing respect for the adults on supervision duty.  Role-playing and role models led the discussion.  Mrs. Bass and I acted as commentators so the message of safety was shared by all.

We believe in having “down time” during lunch–it should be a time of eating, visiting quietly, and sharing socially with friends.  It is a special time to practice our best table manners (just like we would at our family table at home or at a restaurant).  What surprises me most when I question a student about irresponsible cafe behavior and ask: “Would someone at home like to see you doing this at the table?”  The answer is always “No!” 🙂

Applying the good choices we learn and practice at home should not be challenging at school.  I continue to encourage you to challenge your learner to be the best example for others to follow in the cafe . . . and as always, you are invited any day of the week to put on an Miller apron (condiments and little scissors provided) and assist us in the cafe as a positive adult role model!  Positive practice makes perfect; here’s hoping we continue to see improvements everyday!  🙂

Note:  A note went home sharing our new Miller lunch times for each grade level daily as well as a website posting before our past week off.  Please check with the front office if you have questions.

Super Outrageous Science ROCKS today!

Yes, it’s hip to be square at LaRue Miller Elementary!  Our annual Super Outrageous Science (SOS) Day was in full swing.  Learners dressed as scientists to embark on multiple scientific journeys in classroom labs across the campus.  Mrs. Clark’s third graders started the day dancing to our “Miller Moves” song.

Leaders of learners and special volunteers planned unique, engaging, and exciting lessons involving inquiry, discovery, and the scientific method.  Everything from creating lava lamps to studying the force used on spinning tops and yo-yos to practicing animal adaptations– a wide spectrum of scientific possibilities were a reality today!

Here’s Kaylie exploring the science of Chromatography while Joseph creates a groovy lava lamp through chemical reaction.

Schoolwide events such as SOS are the creation of an extraordinary vision by our staff here at LME!  They find a need and then fill it!  Because there is always a strong emphasis on science and problem solving in general, our students enthusiastically succeed with amazing results.  Grateful thanks to our teachers, parent volunteers, community helpers, and visitors who embraced a complete day of “science madness” to create lasting scientific memories . . . As one friend noted, “You know, Mrs. Van, SCIENCE ROCKS! ”  🙂

Note:  I’m thrilled to have completed so many blog posts this semester–one per LME school day was a challenge I wasn’t sure I could feasibly accomplish.  While it is important to nurture and visit the blog daily (great advice from a blogger friend), I plan to take the next week off to nurture my personal family and friends during our Thanksgiving break.  I look forward to sharing a series in December:  Christmas Questions.  May your week be showered in extraordinary blessings of thanks and giving.  🙂

Fabulous Feasts!

There are blessings around us each day at LaRue Miller Elementary!  I enJOYed a very special lunch today with some extraordinary cooks.  We feasted on roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls with real butter (a personal favorite), and a plethora of pies!  As is the tradition, these friends annually prepare a Thanksgiving lunch for several of the adults in our building as a way to say thanks for our time and service with them each day.  The real blessing, though, are the many ways these wonderful friends bless my life each day! 

Mrs. Wimpee, Mrs. Bush, and I are pictured here with Connor, Ashley, Kade, and Dawson who explained in great detail how much work a meal like this actually takes.  🙂  They even decorated the tables and shared their fancy artwork with us during the meal.  When I told one friend I wanted to stay for rest time, she politely informed me I needed to “get back to work because you’re the principal; principals don’t rest!”  🙂

As you gather together in the coming week with family or friends, it’s my sincere hope you take time to model to your child and reflect together on the many abundant blessings in your lives.  As I told learners this morning during our morning message, we must all remember to have “attitudes of gratitude,” not just on Thanksgiving, but throughout each day of the year . . . .

WOW in action!

The MISD Board of Trustees met on Monday evening for their regular monthly meeting.  Each month, one campus is invited to share with our Board members a lesson demonstrating the lesson design qualities of our daily work, what we, in MISD, call Working on the Work.  Based on the research and teachings of Dr. Phillip Schlechty, this educational philosophy gives our daily lessons a framework for improving and sustaining student performance.  It’s all about designing engaging work for all learners.  Teachers are designers, leaders, and guiding mentors to instruction; they collaborate on best teaching practices to ensure the following ten design elements can be found in lessons:  content and substance, organization of knowledge, novelty and variety, clear and compelling standards, product focus, choice, affiliation, affirmation, authenticity, and protection from adverse consequences.  You ask, “What does all this mean?”

Meet some extraordinary Miller second graders led by their classroom leaders.  Our friends, Presley, Paris, Abbie, Briley, Haidyn, and Allison shared their powerful journey of finding lost treasure as pirates while discovering the necessities of directions, maps, landforms, the compass rose, and several other student expectations of required second grade social studies TEKS.  This week-long study also integrated the core subject areas of math, reading, language arts, writing, science, social studies while including technology, art, music, and dance . . . WHEW!  What a journey to convey!

I am grateful to these willing learners and their leaders who wanted to share their work with the Board and general public!  Not only did they convey their emotion and passion for their work, it is obvious they made some lasting educational memories along the way; they are WOW in action!  🙂

A bountiful feast of blessings…

Today was our campus Thanksgiving Feast in the cafe during all six lunch periods.  We invited family and friends to join us for a feast of turkey and all the fixins . . . and what a great time we had making memories and sharing powerful conversations!  Several students shared what they were thankful for:  food, their home, their family, sports, fun times with friends; the list grows long.  First grade friends like Ethan and Logan dressed up for the occasion.

  Travis enJOYed having both dad and mom come for lunch; they brought a special treat!

Some students enJOYed several generations feasting together; what a true blessing!

We are grateful for the overwhelming participation of our families during special occasions; your presence in the midst of a busy day is most welcome and appreciated.  We invite you to join us for several more opportunities throughout the school year.  You are our most important partners and participating members of our learning community after all; we cannot successfully do our work here at school without you!  Here’s hoping you and those you hold dear continue to enJOY food, family time, fellowship, and festive fall fun!  🙂

‘Twas the week before Thanksgiving…

It’s the week before Thanksgiving; things are moving and shaking around Miller today!  During my walk-about this morning, I was stopped by a learner who shared this poem from poet, Jack Prelutsky:

It’s the middle of November and our weather’s crisp and cool;

Thanksgiving’s getting closer so there’s lots to do at school.

Our teacher gives us projects that we work on every day;

We make Indians and Pilgrims out of paper, glue, and clay.

Our bright Thanksgiving murals are displayed on all the wall;

And our cut-out paper pumpkins gaily decorate the halls.

Today I drew a turkey with a fat and funny face;

In the middle of November, school’s a very busy place!

Yes, we have so many activities going on throughout the coming week!  Our second graders present tonight at the MISD Board Meeting.  We have a Thanksgiving Feast (prior reservations required) tomorrow in our cafe during all lunch times.  The annual Science Fair is going on upstairs all week where our Miller scientists are thankful for extraordinary equipment, supplies, and the opportunity to share some exciting experiments throughout the week (special thanks to our PTO Volunteers who serve each day assisting our learners!).  Speaking of PTO, they will meet this week on Thurs; Nov. 17 @ 6:30 p.m. in our cafe.  To top off the week, our annual SOS (Super Outrageous Science) Day will be a full day on Friday where we also have the world-champion “Science of SPIN ” group presenting some fun lessons with spinning tops and yo-yos to all learners.

Miller is indeed a very busy place this week; here’s hoping you join us at some point in the celebrations!  🙂

Veteran’s Day 2011!

“Honor to the soldier and the sailor everywhere, who bravely bears the country’s cause.  Honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother of the field, and serves, as best he can, the same cause.”  These words spoken by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War on the battlefield of Gettysburg, pledged support and thanks for the service and work of our nation’s veterans.  Our fifth grade learners and leaders presented an extraordinary program this morning to our entire campus!  The audience was packed with veterans, parents, friends, and community leaders to support and celebrate our veterans.  The annual Wall of Honor is currently displayed in our main hallway along with several research projects shared by our fifth graders.  We also enjoyed classroom visits by several veterans sharing their personal stories.

Scouting Pack #277 presented the colors and led the audience in the Pledge. 

Fifth graders shared important history, facts, and several beautiful songs such as “Bless Our Troops” and “Thank A Vet.”   The Miller Ringers also played a stirring patriotic medley using our beautiful handbells (thank you, MEF).  Bill Thompson, long time friend and former U.S. Navy trumpeteer (who performed for President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington D.C.), played opening bugle calls and closed our ceremony with the traditional “Taps.”

There are over 24 million living veterans today and we took time to honor and recognize each branch of the armed services during the singing of the “Armed Forces” medley.  It was a great tribute of thanks and admiration, especially considering we have Candace Ramirez (Kinder teacher) who served in the Navy before serving in the classrooms of MISD!  You can see Mrs. Ramirez here with two of her young friends, Presley and Tristyn.

It is noted that in teaching others, we teach ourselves.  Our fifth graders did their personal best today to teach all of us from the heart.  What tugs the most at my heartstrings is the look on the faces of our future generation and knowing many of them will be called to serve shortly.  I have former students of mine serving all over the world; while I worry about their personal safety knowing they are doing their best to protect themselves and others, I am so humbled and proud to know they willingly serve their country so we continue to have freedom with liberty and justice for all Americans.

The fifth grade ceremony today marks an opportunity to remember, reflect, and revisit the sacrifices and service of the brave men and women who have before, who are today, and who will tomorrow give unselfishly of themselves on behalf of our great country.  We also thank the families of all veterans who sacrifice as well; the contributions of your entire family are greatly respected and appreciated!

It was definitely a Golden Bell of Success today at LaRue Miller Elementary School!  Many thanks to all who shared, participated, and gave valuable time, talents, and service!

Specials team:  You are superstars!

Fifth learners and leaders:  Huge BRAVOS to all!

Thanks to third grade teacher and super-photographer, Amy Clark, for allowing me to share her photos today in my blog! 

Note:  To the veteran who asked about the words to “Taps” I shared today before Mr. Thompson played:

“Day is done; Gone the sun. From the hills, from the lakes, from the skies.  All is well; safely rest.  God is nigh.  Thanks and praise; For our days. ‘Neath the sun, ‘Neath the stars, ‘Neath the sky.  As we go; this we know.  God is nigh.”

Wrapping up Success…again!

It’s time for another round of report cards, progress reports, and celebrations of successes!  Here’s a quick Miller recap of the last few weeks of learning:

Head Start:  These youngest learners studied the letters, syllables, fall things, fire safety, pumpkin carving, and their families.  They traveled to the pumpkin farm and enjoyed breakfast with their dads during a special family event.

Kindergarten:  Our Kinder friends visited with the Midlothian Fire Department to practice fire safety, traveled back in time to visit with Christopher Columbus, studied nocturnal animals like the owl, bat, and raccoon (they were fascinated during the stinky skunk crisis), and celebrated fall with several BOO-tiful events.

1st Grade:  These outstanding readers completed a short vowel study and began work on the long vowels as well.  They conquered money and time while continuing to practice basic addition facts.  Traditional customs are shared with so many holidays approaching!

2nd Grade:  These friends focused on the history of Midlothian and compared/contrasted schools in the 1800s versus our school today.  Verbs (present, past, and future tenses) brought action to each day.  Counting money, practicing time, and emphasizing place value were the critical math skills each day (keep practicing those facts everyday!).

3rd Grade:  Round and round they go; where these learners stop, no one can know!  They are rounding in math with songs and writing about monsterous stories.  Science experiments include changes in water and melting Hershey’s kisses . . . yum!

4th Grade:  Molecular structures MATTER with these savvy scientists!  They are also multiplying several digits and measuring-up with area and volume.  Novels and lots of creative writing dominate their reading and language time.  They presented their fabulous musical, “Welcome to the Jungle,” to a packed crowd . . . Bravos to all!

5th Grade:  Our top learners have been busy discovering information about the United States branches of armed services in anticipation of their annual Veteran’s Day Program (this Friday, Nov. 11 @ 8:15).  They completed highly successful sixty-second science projects while investigating the effects of force on an object.

Our Library Media Center sponsored our fall Book Fair, the visiting author, P.W. Cantanese, and the fabulous Field of Readers!  The specials team worked on various grade level programs, art projects and props, and several sports and health units in PE.   Rowdy Runners made a mighty debut at the annual Fall Festival and Midlo Dash!

Special thanks and continued bravos go out to our incredible PTO for purchasing the new outdoor water fountains near both playground areas and assisting in the site licenses for our shape-cutter machine.  The recent Staff Luncheon of soups, salads, and subs was extraordinary—what great chefs and bakers we are blessed to have at Miller!  Also, thanks to our DADS Club who diligently come in rain or shine to help us greet everyone in the morning during arrival; we adore you and appreciate your assistance in so many ways!  Yes, it’s been such a profoundly productive fall here at Miller; let’s keep that momentum and those celebration of successes going!