LEAPing into the day…

Happy Leap Day!  Happy Leap Year!  Some of our Miller Bell reporters (RaeAnn, Macee, and Madi) opened our morning message with this clever poem:

  • Some months have just 30 days; the rest have 31.
  • But one month has a neat surprise; in fact, it’s kind of fun!
  • The days of February number only 28;
  • But add one more for leap year and we celebrate!

So I asked, “What is leap year exactly?”  As expected, they were read for my question.  It seems that Julius Caeser introduced leap year to the Roman Empire over 2,000 years ago.  In reality, the use of the leap year each four years keeps our calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun.  In 365 days, 45 minutes, and 46 seconds, the Earth revolves around the sun.  Thus, if we didn’t have leap year (with the added 24 hours each four years), we would lose six hours off our calendar.  After 100 years, our calendar would then be off by 24 days!  WHEW!  That’s some math to solve!  The girls also shared with us several ideas for using this extra 24 hours today (funny, no extra school hours were mentioned…).  🙂  Here’s hoping this has you LEAPing into lots of options on this special day!

Dream it; plan it; do it…

There’s a mantra hanging on the wall in the team meeting room at the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center on the campus of the University of Texas:  “Dream it; plan it; do it.”  When the football team meets in this particular room with Head Coach Mack Brown, it is obvious they will discuss teamwork; there are no pictures of individuals anywhere in this particular learning environment.  There are, however, specific dates on the walls commemorating team wins in various categories with open commas in place for the future dates to be displayed (I was really intrigued by these open commas on the wall—“not if, but when“).

I had the surprising pleasure of touring this facility with Coach Ken Rucker today following a stimulating conversation with Coach Mack Brown on leadership.  Both coaches spoke about how what we do in the young formative years shapes the future for every child.  We have to “dream more and learn more in order to do more and become more.”  Furthermore, it’s not “what we teach but what students learn.”  Whether we’re talking football or science, we need the common purpose in order to experience success . . . here’s hoping we all dream it; plan it; do it!

Note: I’ll have much more to blog on this extraordinary experience, but for now, I’m so grateful for the leadership opportunities given today!


JUMP…Oh yes…you know I used the song this morning (of all mornings) during announcements to get our Miller Moves going.  We have JUMPed and JUMPed and JUMPed all day all over the building!  Coach Rogers reports we received pledges and monies totaling $6,428.00 for the American Heart Association this year.  This is absolutely amazing!  Many thanks for sharing your extraordinary kindness, compassion, and generosity to support this cause; we appreciate you!

Our second graders performed their high-energy “Make It Healthy” program last night for our learning community.  There were songs, skits, and lots of physical activities to share:





Special thanks to our 2nd graders, their classroom leaders, and our extraordinarily talented Specials team who made this such a memorable event.  Here’s hoping we all JUMP to it and enJOY a wonderful weekend of rest from a super-busy week at LME!  🙂

…Because kindness matters…

I was surprised first thing this morning by some members of the KC Club (Kindness and Compassion) here at Miller.  They brought me beautiful hand-written cards, notes, and letters from KC Club students as well as a box of my favorite Girl Scout cookies (Thin Mints)—just what I needed to start my day!  Our KC Club is open to any Miller student who wishes to share caring and courtesy with others.  The notes they shared with me today included words of encouragement and special thanks for a variety of things:

  • “Thanks for a fun field trip with the WHOLE school and making memories with us.”
  • “Thanks for all you do for us; we appreciate you!”
  • “You are the most awesomest princiPAL ever!”
  • “Thanks for riding my bus with me and helping nurse in the clinic.”
  • “Thanks for helping us learn stuff and all that.”
  • “Morning messages make me smile, think, and laugh.”
  • “Just like our HotSteppers, you ROCK! (Your jump-roping could use some work)” 🙂
  • “Thanks for caring about us a kids in our school.”
  • “You put us first just like our teacher does.”
  • “We love you and are so blessed by your leadership.”

Perhaps I should retire right now . . . wonder what Mr. Van would have to say?  🙂  These expressions of love and appreciation are truly treasured.  These precious gifts of time, thoughts, and thanks will carry me many miles on our educational journey in the coming months.  I was always taught to be “kinder than necessary because kindness matters . . . besides, you cannot do a kindness too soon for you never know when it will be too late.”  We are blessed at LME and expressions such as these this morning only confirm it.  Here’s hoping a random act of kindness comes your way because kindness matters!

Note:  Don’t forget it’s our annual Jump Rope for Heart Event on Friday!

CATCH the spirit!

As we gear up for the annual Jump Rope for Heart event this Friday, it’s important to reflect on why we choose to support certain community organizations each year and then not others.  (Believe me, if we could support everyone, we most certainly would do so—we have such a generous, giving campus!)  Our campus CATCH Committee members (Coordinated Approach To Children’s Health) are committed to partnering with community groups who specifically support our Miller children’s health and daily fitness.  As discussed in previous blogs, this group is charged with the responsibility of planning campus events geared to improving the overall health of all learners, their classroom leaders, and Miller families—No-TV events are an example of their ongoing work each year.  The American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart event is one way we give back to the community at large while improving our own individual health in the process.

Our All-Star Fun Run this year was another CATCH (and PTO) idea to promote raising campus activity money while meeting personal fitness goals in the process.  Thanks to the success of the Fun Run, we raised over $15,000 for our campus—every child participated in a special field trip at no cost, every child received a Miller t-shirt for school events like the field trip and our field day at no cost, and we purchased a classroom set of iPads with additional equipment in order to enhance our ongoing commitment to technology.

JRfH is a tradition here at Miller; it’s a tradition we started on another elementary campus many years ago (and it’s still going strong there thanks to a nurturing staff).  Our Miller learners are excited to jump for others because they know we may very well be jumping to save someone’s life right here on our campus.  Just like I remind us everyday during morning message, “You have a choice everyday.”  As a parent, you always have the choice to participate or not; this is your right and we respect it.  All of us jump (regardless of whether we give or not).  It builds teamwork and community within our Miller family while we work together to help others and ourselves.  Please, if you ever have questions about what we’re doing or why we’re doing it, our door is open; you need only ask!  In the meantime, I know our 5th grade team always CATCHes the spirit and is really ready for the Heart ROCK Cafe this week; are you?! 🙂

Campus Field Trip Day!

It may be Mardi Gras, but in the spirit of indulgence and doing things in a big way, let it be known that we most certainly know how to shine with the best here at LME!  Our campus field trip to Casa Manana to participate in the show Charlotte’s Web was a spectacular journey today!  WOW—from the 15 buses on the road to the 750+ we represented in the theater audience, LaRue Miller Elementary truly sparkled . . .

Here are some of the buses on the interchange bridge headed onto I-20.   We experienced a slight delay due to construction traffic, but everyone stayed calm and patient throughout this part (including me).  The theater was kind enough to hold the curtain for our safe arrival too.

Here’s Charlotte’s web on stage.  The actors were crafty at creating her famous web writings in the play—from “Some Pig” to “Terrific” to “Radiant” to “Humble,” they took us through this treasured story of friendship. 



Here’s Jeffrey excited to start the show.  He told me later, “Ms. Van, that was the best show ever!  I really liked the rat, Templeton; he was funny!” 


Here is Mrs. Clark’s third grade class thanking their bus driver for a great day.  Yes, we are blessed in MISD with extraordinary folks who safely deliver our learners to all destinations!

This was indeed a unique and amazing experience for our campus.  While it may not be something we can do each year, we certainly made a special lasting memory for the 2011-2012 group of LME learners who traveled together today.  Special thanks to our teachers and staff members who spent countless hours in organizational preparation for this immense undertaking.  Thanks to our parents who supported and shared their enthusiasm for this adventure.  Thanks to our learners who fully displayed their best Miller manners throughout the day.  Here’s hoping we can create and experience other large-group field-learning opportunities like this in the future!  🙂

Note:  Thanks once again to Amy Clark for sharing her talented photography with me!

DRIVEn and Motivated!

An admired colleague of mine recently visited with me about a fascinating book I started a few months back (and then put down for other more pressing reads)—Daniel Pink’s DRIVE.  As a lifelong learner and reader, I do my best to keep up with current trends.  Mr. Pink’s works are always thought-provoking and challenging reads; after all, he is often called an “accidental scientist.”  He specifically focuses in this book on the science behind motivation–what really motivates anyone to do good work?  What really motivates someone to always want to do great work?  He shares three factors for enduring motivation:  autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  Continuing the book, he got me to thinking about our classrooms here at Miller and how we work within all three areas.  I asked some tough questions:

  • How can we foster autonomy (the ability to direct time, task, and technique) for our learners and their classroom leaders?
  • How can we provide mastery opportunities for all learners and their classroom leaders?
  • How can we ensure learners and classroom leaders find purpose (beyond extrinsic rewards) in their school work?

These are hard questions to ponder as we move into (what I affectionately call) “new STAARy horizons in public education.  We are so much more than a test score, and because of societal changes, we are expected to do so much more than teach the basic curriculum now.  WHEW…it’s mind-blogging at best!  Here’s hoping you find ways to foster autonomy, provide mastery, and ensure purpose with us because we need you!

Note:  Our campus field trip is tomorrow!  We’re so excited! 

Are you well-informed?

To communicate literally means “to convey knowledge of or information about; to make known.”  Our MISD Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jerome Stewart, is a strong communicator and storyteller; he factually shares the district’s story—the good and the not-so-good.  He is also a blogger and I strongly encourage you to follow him, specifically during his ongoing series about Midlothian ISD’s Building and Bonds program.  His remarks and comments are always current, insightful, and informational.  You can access his blog through the MISD homepage.  His most recent blog entitled Curve Ball talks specifically on two key points you need to understand as a taxpayer and citizen of Midlothian ISD. These are the facts as we know them today.  Here’s hoping you take some time to be informed!

Note:  One of our LME families lost their home today in a fire; thankfully, no one was hurt.  We are collecting gift cards for food and clothing for this family in our front office for anyone who might wish to contribute.  Thanks for your ongoing generosity and acts of kindness.

No-TV and Chili, please!

We had an extraordinary turnout this evening for our annual LME Chili Cook-off Family Event!  Special thanks to the Miller CATCH Committee who regularly sponsors our No-TV Family Events throughout the school year; they did an amazing job (as usual) and this particular event was no exception!

Guest judges for the evening were Michael Van Amburgh, James Bass, Susie Dickard, Coach Ryan Timm, and MISD Superintendent, Dr. Jerome Stewart.  These special folks deserve praise and thanks for participating with us this year!


Staff members were on hand to assist the hungry crowd following the PTO meeting while the chili judges were busy sampling entries.

Our own LME HotSteppers were on hand to show off some smooth jumping moves as part of the evening’s entertainment.  They are gearing up for the annual Jump Rope for Heart Event next week . . . and I can only dream about jumping like them some day . . . .

Congratulations to all the chili winners and those who entered their scrumptious pots of chili!  Mrs. Bly, 5th grade teacher, walked away with coveted 2012 Miller Chilipot Trophy.  Who will it be next year?


Finally, we wrapped up the family fun with several “serious” rounds of BINGO called by Susie Dickard (stepping in for our own LaRue Miller, who was feeling a bit under the weather this evening).  The competition was fierce for special prizes.  Thanks, Mrs. Dickard for serving in several capacities tonight.

We will have other No-TV Family Events in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, here’s hoping you find unique ways of celebrating family time together (without the TV).  🙂

Conversation and Thinking Games

While visiting with a small group of learners this morning, I asked the question:  “What is one important thing we have today that we didn’t have 10 years ago?”  Expecting answers like the iPhone, Kindle, X-Box 360, or wikis, this precious little voice says, “that’s easy, Mrs. Van—it’s us!”  🙂  Yes, there are advancements daily and keeping current at LME on the latest and greatest trends is a full-time job really (as a parent myself, it’s simply overwhelming at times).  Beyond all the great technology and newest gadgets though, I asked questions during our conversation to dive deeper into their thinking.  For example, as an adult, I still yearn for those conversations and thinking games I did with my parents growing up while we commuted to lessons, practices, and the like.  For instance, we had a game called “Would You Rather.”  Dad asked:  “Would you rather live in the mountains or on a beach and why?  Would you rather share a milkshake or a sundae and why?”  We also played a game called “Favorite Things.”  Mom picked a category (songs, movies, sodas) and we all shared our top favorites in that category.  One of my daughters created a game she called “What Doesn’t Belong?”  We took turns naming items and asking the others to explain which is unique and why.  They especially liked this game because there were usually several correct answers:  “Owl, ostrich, and eagle”  (ostriches can’t fly and owls hunt at night, for example). Here’s Mr. Van driving his car and asking me questions . . . .

Funny games like these promote thinking and creativity at higher levels; they also create stimulating conversation, something young learners crave in particular.  Just like my conversation with my small group this morning, here’s hoping we all take a little time to listen, ask, converse, and think in clever ways!

Note:  Our 4th Annual LME Chili Cook-off and BINGO Night is tomorrow evening starting @ 6:00 p.m. in the cafe; we hope to see you there!