Just rollin’ along the journey…

“There is nothing like a dream to create a future…” ~Victor Hugo

Meet my friend, Kennedy, a second grader here at LME.  Shown here with her teacher, Christy McAfee, and Donice Arrington, (MISD Occupational Therapist), she is learning to use her new wheel chair tray attachment allowing her to control her own movements now!  Using a special power chair with directional controls marked on her lap tray, she is able to control her mobility without the assistance of an adult.  While practicing today in the hallway for the first time, we visited and she demonstrated her obvious delight with this new freedom.  I especially loved it when she stopped her chair by throwing her arms into the air with flourish and lots of giggling.  🙂

Teaching her left/right turns, sharp building angles, and ways to avoid obstacles (walls, corners, Mrs. Van’s feet) in the hallways requires great patience and practice on her part.  Moving in and out of doorways, navigating crowded areas, and working through the playground areas like Tricycle Town are other challenges she will master as the process becomes more refined.  She will also learn to adjust the chair up and down to meet table heights and to tilt the chair as needed to rest during her busy day.  Eventually, she will use this same device to operate a communication system while she is mobile in all her environments.  We are so proud of Kennedy for actively demonstrating how she just keeps on rollin’ along her educational journey…and we hope you and your learner are rollin’ well too!  🙂  Have a wonderful, restful spring weekend!

Note:  We survived our first week of state assessment this year at LME…many thanks for your continued support and understanding as we completed this monumental task.

It’s all good!

I recently had the pleasure of reading the most delightful children’s story to some little learners by Eric Litwin entitled, Pete the Cat:  I Love My White Shoes Pete loves his beautiful white shoes and goes walking one day.  He manages to step in strawberries, blueberries, mud, and even water throughout his explorations, thus changing the color of his white shoes several times.  Always the optimist, Pete the Cat continues to walk along his journey singing his special song about loving his shoes no matter what color they become.  “No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song…because it’s all good!” ~ Pete the Cat ~

By this point in the school year, we’ve certainly managed to step into many situations and change our figurative shoe color many times—the good, the challenging, and everything in between in fact!  It’s important along the school year journey to remember Pete’s great advice because our attitude is everything on a daily basis.  I’m grateful for our learning community—our precious learners, an incredibly dedicated staff, our involved and helpful parents, support from MISD administration, and the rigorous, engaging work to challenge our learners for a prepared and successful future.  As we enter these final weeks, may each of us keep walking along singing our song like Pete, because it’s all good!  🙂

Motivating Factors…

Having a definite and positive desire to do something is what motivation is all about here at LME!  According to a fifth grade friend who recently visited with me on this subject, “inspiration, interest, and desire are the keys needed to motivate me, Mrs. Van.”  This sounds like the very definition of the word in fact!  Take the new STAAR assessment for example . . . classroom leaders are motivated to learn all they can about how learners will be tested and what the questions may look like, but the state has been forthcoming only in small increments.  Learners are motivated to do their personal best by listening and participating in their instruction and learning so they achieve at their personal best (and from actively monitoring our entire building this week, it appears everyone is definitely trying their best!).

As a learning community, we do our best to build each other up all the time (especially in stressful times) by sharing funny stories and pep talks, giving lots of smiles and hugs…the list is endless. Take Ms. Daniell’s sweet first graders sharing treasures with their book buddies in Mrs. Kids’ fourth grade class—they had great words of encouragement to give.  There were similar kind gestures throughout our building this past week!

We always appreciate the support and encouragement we receive from you as  partners and participating members of our learning community.  You are a big part of the motivating factors nurturing our learners and classroom leaders each day.  We also thank you for your patience this week during our closed campus—you’ve been most kind about it! 🙂  Here’s hoping motivation finds you fulfilling all manner of opportunities today!

Just hangin’ with our peeps…

In our front office everyday, we see and experience a little bit of everything (and if you ever want to just hang out for grins, it’s never a dull moment).  For example, these little friends showed up this morning.  It’s spring; it’s nearly Easter.  What do you expect?  Since we were testing all over our building and weren’t delivering items to anyone, these special bunnies chilled in the office for the day.  It became a game, in fact, for anyone who came to the office.  “So, what’s your name?”  “Do you come here often?”  “How long do you plan to stay in the area?”  One young learner (who was not testing) stopped by with a message from a teacher and asked, “Are these bunnies keeping you company, Mrs. Huff?”  Another child leaving for the day commented, “So, you’re just hangin’ with somebunny special today, huh?!”  🙂   Yes, we were ALL just hangin’ with our peeps and so grateful that state assessment days come only once a year!  Thanks for all you do to support and encourage our learners everyday; thanks for just hangin’ with us too!  🙂

Note:  We continue testing tomorrow with make-ups on Thursday and Friday this week.

Technology and Learning

Technology continues to change the way we teach, learn, work, and connect in our classrooms today.  The following skills are ones we focus on for today’s learners to ensure they are 21st century leaders for their successful futures:

  • Basic Programming Language:  Our learners consume online content (for example, our Miller students rarely know what a card catalog is!).  We empower them in their daily learning to create their own multimedia online content (such as classroom blogs, etc.).  If you visit a site like Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu/), you will find fun, easy, engaging ways to use programming language and to help your student create interactive stories, animations, games, and even music.
  • Meaningful Projects:  We have our learners participate in projects throughout the school year that have impact on our community.  Although quite challenging at times, they learn important higher order thinking and critical problem solving skills in the process.  Check with your child’s teacher to learn what technology projects are forthcoming.
  • Responsible Digital Citizens:  The Internet is not going away, so teaching our learners to navigate the online world safely and responsibly requires a practical approach from educators and parents; we must continue to work together.

As our students become increasingly mobile, we are also finding ways to integrate mobile devices (such as smartphones) in ways that benefit learning in the classroom.  Some of our Miller 5th grade teachers have started this process on certain projects (and with parent permission only).  Technology and learning are interchangeable really; we hope you join us on this exciting journey!

Note:  Just a reminder we are testing this week.  We appreciate your understanding, patience, and cooperation as we work for the benefit of all our learners. 

Census Report

Are there more boys or girls at LME?  Which grade level has the most students?  In what month were you born?  Fifth graders at Miller set out to answer these and other pressing questions while creating the LaRue Miller Elementary Student Body Census 2012.  Under the direction of 5th grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Campbell, these learners are working in each classroom to collect census data in order to compile statistics for our school (just like the census takers do each 10 years).  They are asking specific questions of each learner at LME, recording their findings, and preparing to report final results in the coming week.  Even our youngest friends in Head Start are answering questions (with help from their teachers) to provide information for the census.  One young friend wore a sticky-note with answers to assist in answering the questions—he pointed to the note when he didn’t remember an answer and the 5th grader reported, “Now that was just adorable, Mrs. Van!  It’s great we can COUNT on each other to help when needed!”  🙂  Stay tuned for their final report coming soon.  In the meantime, enJOY time outside in this beautiful spring weather!

Tricycle Town!

It’s still humbling to know others actually read and comment on this blog occasionally.  There were some yesterday who read the short blurb about our Tricycle Town and wanted to know more (thanks for sharing your questions with me) . . .

I absolutely adore our Tricycle Town here at LME (thanks to the Midlothian Education Foundation for initially funding this innovative grant request our first year in operation at LME).  This outdoor dramatic play area consists of a tricycle path complete with fishing pond, booths (interchangeable with various signs to represent community places and town structures), road signs, and all manner of fun, interactive outdoor equipment.  The overall purpose is to promote core subject skills (math, science, language, literacy, social studies, cooperative play, gross motor, and physical fitness) in young learners through hands-on dramatic play experiences.  Students have the opportunity to experience unique life lessons as they “drive” their tricycles through the town.  Social skills, real-life problem solving situations, and communication skills through the magical world of make-believe provide solid foundations for young, developing minds.  Furthermore, this area is easily adapted to meet the needs of any young learner.  Peyton tells me “I like to ride but the helmet is itchy.” 🙂

Ashley is getting off her tricycle to fish in the pond before eating her Happy Meal from McDonald’s. 🙂 Connor is resting near the gas station before he fills up his tank for the long ride ahead.  🙂

Teachers set up a dramatic play scenario and discuss the scene with learners.  Through preparation and then action, several learning objectives can be addressed for each child.  Often times, community helpers dressed in the role assist (a police officer may pull someone over for violating a sign or the “fire trike” may sound the horn and ring the bell on the way to an emergency).

On a beautiful day, our youngest learners beg to be outside, learning, and moving.  We are so thankful and blessed to have Tricycle Town to spark imagination for our PK, Head Start, PPCD, CBI, and Kinder friends while developing critical thinking skills in an engaging, meaningful way.  Come join us sometime!

Leadership and Learning

A leader is defined as “someone who leads; one who has the principal part in something important; the head of a group whose example is followed.”  Leadership is “being the leader; having the ability to lead as the head of a group.”  LaRue Miller Elementary had the privilege today of hosting a leadership group of leaders from the Midlothian area at our campus.  Our Student Honor Council served as student leaders and guides throughout the building.  Mrs. Miller, our honorary campus leader, spoke eloquently about her educational experiences in Midlothian ISD to this important group.  Dr. Stewart and other MISD administrators took time out to share their thoughts and answer questions.  I shared specific information about our campus as well as the unique programs and projects  experienced at all six MISD elementary schools.   The leadership group spent time touring and visiting in classrooms to see our learners in action.  Some of our CBI and PPCD friends were working in Tricycle Town (our outdoor language learning classroom).  As you can tell, they were having a great time in the breezy weather!  Our StuCo presented each visitor with a special Miller Elementary t-shirt bag of goodies to commemorate their time here with us.  Yes, we are blessed in MISD to have community leaders who take time away from busy daily schedules to support and encourage our work in the schools; their investment today truly reaps rewards for the future in Midlothian ISD and Midlothian, Texas!

BElieve in YOUrself!

During morning walk-about today, I happened across a small group discussion taking place regarding our morning message from the announcements:

Learner #1:  Did you hear what she was talking about; did you listen to the message?
Learner #2:  It’s hard to believe in myself sometimes; I don’t always get it right.
Learner #3:  That’s the point; you have to believe in you in order to believe in yourself and others.  You have to be your own coach sometimes; we’ll be a coach with you.
Learner #1:  Just like the Abraham Lincoln quote she said, “I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing it to the end.”  You only have to do your personal best; that’s all any of us can really do.

Although the conversation carried on a bit, they noticed I was standing close by observing (our caring counselor, Mrs. Stanley, would not have been any prouder at that moment; they talked while I just listened!).  The whole point to morning message everyday is to challenge our learners and their classroom leaders to become interdependent of each other—not dependent and not independent, but interdependent thinkers and leaders for the future—working together for the common good.  Observing this group in action today is a great example of how they are heeding the call to assist one another.

We are focusing this week on BElieving in YOUrself (just like the graphic shows).  This is the start of a challenging time in Texas Public Education for our learners (as we gear up for the first round of state assessments); we want them truly BELIEVING in themselves and their academic abilities, their classroom leaders, and each other.  Here’s hoping you share your belief in your learner today (and everyday!).  🙂

Fads and Fresh Starts…

We’re back in session and if the weather is any indication of the day, things are moving fast and furious indeed!  During morning walk-about, some students visited with me concerning fads—you know, those particular likes (or dislikes) and fashionable crazes.

These IMAGINE students, under the direction of GT teacher, Peggy Davidson, studied trends and philosophical ideas from various generations and decades in the 20th century.  While dressing the part to make their point, they each presented a unique perspective showcasing the trendy styles, ideas, and fun facts in various genres.  Although they laughed at previous directions in our society, I reminded them that they will someday reap the wrath of future generations for their choices today (as a mom, I know this firsthand since my own are forever questioning my prior choices of dress, style, fads, and ideas—you know what I’m talking about, too!).  🙂  Of course, I had to share some pictures from my 28+ years in education with them—the good and the not-so-good “teachery” fashion choices as well as my hair changes through the years—we all had a good laugh!  Here’s some LME trend trivia for you:  Did you know, some of our Miller staff still have their original school shirts, painted shoes, and “teacher” sweaters from the early 80s?  We’ll have another “vintage” day sometime to show them off to you!

We also enJOYed a springy but rainy fresh start today as we gear up for the remaining weeks of the 2011-2012 school year.  There is much to accomplish in the next eleven weeks; welcome back!  🙂