Monthly Archives: November 2011

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!  🙂