It’s National Children’s Book Week!

I always look forward to sharing National Children’s Book Week each year and we celebrate in a big way at LME!  We have a theme each day and encourage everyone to dress up according to the theme: 

  • Monday:  Our future’s so bright in reading we have to wear SHADES.
  • Tuesday:  FLIP-FLOP into reading.
  • Wednesday:  BEACH blanket (towel) reading!
  • Thursday:  Travel the world of reading as a TOURIST.
  • Friday:  HATS off to reading. (It’s Field Day, so wear those hats to protect yourself!)

I’ll do my best to include some pictures throughout the week.  Feel free to stop by the library to select some special books and study the summer reading lists.  The Meadows Public Library sponsors outstanding reading challenges and special programs throughout the summer; check them out too!  Here’s hoping you enJOY a great piece of children’s literature with your learner today and everyday!

Food for thought…literally!

It’s a Friday after a LONG testing week so we’re wrapping up a few things with some food for thought (thanks to some help from my friends):

This jar of treats was waiting on my desk for me this morning.  I frequently talk about eating a balanced diet (which, for me, sometimes means a cookie in each hand).  I want to thank Mrs. Waddill for literally feeding my habit with her homemade treats while also offering an exercise option to plant the wildflower seeds in my garden of good/evil at home this weekend!  🙂

Then there was the sticky note attachment to my favorite notepad on my desk where someone added a personal message.  I think someone’s trying to tell me something . . . where is my baker-gal-Hannah when I need her most?  🙂

Sadly, our colorful, cheerful LME art gallery is beginning to come down so each artist may enJOY his or her work at home.  It’s truly been a pleasure walking the 93,000 square feet of LaRue Miller Elementary everyday and always seeing something new catch my eye!  We have multiple talented artists and visionaries indeed!  🙂

Thanks for helping us through the week, LME learning community!  🙂

Note:  Don’t forget about the PTO annual Boys’ Night Out from 6:00-9:00 p.m. in the back playground area—great food, fun, and festivities! 

Clap your hands!

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!”  A little learner sang this to me in the hallway today in order to have me join them in clapping my hands right after I announced our testing day was complete (in fact, beyond clapping my hands, I would have done some round-off flips if my physical-self had cooperated).  We started a conversation and I realized she really wanted me to get out the BIG clappers I keep for morning announcements and use these.  I was then treated to a brief explanation about how clapping hands became a sign of appreciation.  It turns out, humans clap with the palms of their hands, often in a rhythm to match sounds in music or dance or to express approval for something, such as the applause we give to performers.  Another young friend commented, “Did you know, Mrs. Van, seals are among some of the animals that clap as well for the same reasons as humans?”  I just never know which way my day will turn sometimes . . . .  🙂

We are definitely clapping our hands at Miller today because state assessments are nearly completed for the year!  We only have one day of makeups to go now.  Here’s hoping you clap your hands today and everyday for any reason you can imagine!

Thanks, Helping Hands!

On these long, quiet assessment days we have a moment during testing for silent reflection and thanks for the helping hands of an entire staff who make certain everything runs according to expectations and rules.  What you may not know is Mrs. Bass, our assistant principal, also wears the hat of Testing Coordinator for LME; she does her work exceptionally well!  Being the humble individual she is, she always points to the entire team, generously giving credit where credit is due.  The reality is she spends days in preparation (much on her own time—weekends, that is) organizing, arranging, demonstrating, meeting, and triple-ensuring we are ready for each test administration day.  This is much more than opening a box and counting out booklets!

Mrs. Bass, thanks for being in charge of all the helping hands at LME everyday.  Thanks for sharing your multiple talents and service with great humor, enthusiasm, and passion.  Thanks for saying “yes” and unselfishly giving your helping hands to all of us!

The power of penmanship…

I frequently have the most interesting conversations with our learners and one yesterday afternoon with a young friend is no exception:

  • Me:  (While visiting in a classroom)  You are working so diligently on your penmanship right now!
  • Learner:  Penmanship?  This is my handwriting practice, Mrs. Van!
  • Me:  Yes, but in my elementary school days, my teachers called it penmanship.
  • Learner:  You must be really old ’cause that’s a word my Grandy uses.  🙂

Our conversation moved into the realm of this child working so hard for a special handwriting award for the week—most improved cursive writing.  She spoke of a news article her mom shared with her about a young girl from another state born without hands who recently won the Zaner-Bloser Penmanship Award for $1,000 (way to go, mom, for sharing positive news stories with your child!).  This little girl’s story made the rounds of conversation within the group so we did some quick research together to find the article online.  It turns out the young girl, Annie, carefully manipulates her pencil between her forearms to control her strokes when writing.  The picture with the article was a powerful testament to her diligent practice.  My young friends chimed in:  “If she can do this with no hands or fingers, then certainly all of us can do this as well!” 🙂

Transitioning from manuscript to cursive is a daunting task for young learners, especially in this digital age of keyboarding.  In fact, it’s hard to justify WHY we need to practice our penmanship when there are so many other demands on our instructional time.  I may be old (and with that comes some wisdom I hope), but clearly signing my name on official documents or writing a personal note of thanks are skills I appreciate having.  Here’s hoping we all take a moment to reflect on the power of penmanship.

It’s a free market after all…

Mr. Van has a saying (one of many, but a favorite of mine):  “When your outflow exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall.”  He will smile today knowing some fourth graders are learning the value of this important lesson in our free enterprise system. 🙂

Ms. Williams’ fourth grade class members have divided themselves into producers and consumers in order to make money to purchase business licenses, supplies, and participate in the Fourth Grade Free Market Society.  While talking with some of them recently, it is interesting to note they are highly engaged in this meaningful process.  As one friend shared with me:  “Basically, Mrs. Van, we are covering business strategy…things like profit margins, losses, fines, fees, pricing, consumerism, consumer index, the need to be innovative, the right time to raise or lower prices, making change, counting out bills at the bank, and the awesome responsibility it takes to keep track of a pay check and bills while meeting demanding deadlines . . . WHEW!  It’s a lot for a fourth grader!”  🙂  Another helper added, “I know one thing now, I’m glad I’m not a grownup yet!”  🙂

Evidently, this is expanding some in the coming weeks in order to more closely examine what happens when scarcity drives up prices and flooding the market then drives them back down.  What will happen to each learner’s business plan?  How adaptive will these learners be next?  It’s exciting to see their growth and enthusiasm, especially with a concept most adults have a challenging time mastering!

Note:  Thanks for remembering we are a closed campus this week to all visitors, deliveries, and helpers due to final state assessments.  We appreciate your assistance.

Ms. Tillie…our sweet friend…

LME lost one its own this past week with the passing of our dear Ms. Tillie.  Known for her servant heart, warm smile, positive attitude, and strong faith, she drove her “sweet babies” as a proud bus driver for more than 22 years (over 14 in MISD).  During the past four years, she drove for LME, specifically sharing her time and talents with learners having special needs.  With her trusty sidekick, Ms. Sheila, they safely delivered several LME friends each morning and afternoon.

As one who meets our buses each morning, I can tell you firsthand what an inspiration she was to everyone she touched.  I remember her telling me our first day here at Miller:  “Ms. Beth, my babies and I are here to open this new school year!”  🙂  She was exceptionally gifted at building relationships and communicating well with not only her families, but the entire instructional team at LME.  On a more personal note, Ms. Tillie and I shared a special bond since we endured cancer treatments about the same time; we often swapped stories.  She never let cancer (or the treatments) define her or hinder her on the job; she always persevered in spite of the struggle.

Ms. Tillie, we feel your presence everyday (especially when we work on your bus) and know you’re still taking care of all your sweet babies…we love you, our friend….

Come one; come all!

“The big day is finally here, Mrs. Van!”  🙂  This was the excited announcement of a young learner entering the building early this morning so eager to share her talented art and musical abilities this evening with our entire learning community.  Our first grade friends have been busy preparing their show called “We Are Making Music!”  There’s even a reception in the cafe immediately following the show.

Our PTO volunteers and Mr. Fio have spent countless hours hanging student portfolios throughout the downstairs hallways for the Art Gallery Walk.  You can check out our art show flyer for more information. 

Our librarian, Mrs. Bolgiano, and her volunteers are restocking the shelves for the crowd who will shop the spring Book Fair tonight during this festive family evening.  The new Texas 2013 Bluebonnet nominee books are on sale along with stacks of great reading choices.  You might pick up a couple of great summer reads as well . . .

It’s a No-TV Night at LME and here’s hoping you join us at LaRue MIller Elementary for the evening!

Roundup new friends this week…

We’re in the middle of early enrollment (or what we call “RoundUp”) this week.  Any child who will be 5 years old on or before September 1, 2012 is eligible to attend the MISD’s full-day kindergarten. Early registration for the 2012-2013 kindergarten school year will be April 17-20, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at each elementary home campus. If you are unsure which elementary campus your child will attend you may access the campus locator and enter your address to find out your home campus. Parents must provide the required registration documents. Read more about Kindergarten, Pre-K and Head Start pre-registration. Download enrollment forms so you’re ready to go.  We will also meet with our new families on Tuesday, May 1 @ 6:30 for our annual Kinder Kamp Event.  We look forward to greeting our new friends in the coming days!

Essential 55 + Excellent 11 = End of Molasses Classes…

It’s a known fact; I adore and deeply revere the teachings and writings of Ron Clark, master educator extraordinaire.  His message in each book is inspiring, yet he is equally quick to face the brutal facts (as we all should) no matter the situation.  He is all about leading each learner to greatness.

In The Essential 55, Mr. Clark showcases 55 key rules, all so simple and obvious yet equally powerful as life tools demonstrating exactly how each learner can become the best student and person imaginable.  He notes, “I tell my students all the time, a person can have the best education in the world, but it will mean nothing if that person doesn’t treat others with kindness, have respect for the individuals he or she comes in contact with, and attempt to use the knowledge and skills they have obtained to help others.”  From Rule #1, answering with “yes, ma’am or no sir,” to Rule #55, “Be the best person you can be,” the book talks about and walks through the important things in life.

While pondering The Excellent 11, Mr. Clark embraces the eleven qualities shared by children who love to learn; these same key elements are found in teachers and parents who know how to bring out the JOY of learning in any child.  He pinpoints what it takes to make a great learner by sharing eleven basic characteristics (enthusiasm, adventure, creativity, reflection, balance, compassion, confidence, humor, common sense, appreciation, and resilience), why they work, and how to incorporate these into the classroom, home, and life.

Finally, studying and discussing the The End of Molasses Classes with our Miller Design Team this year has created great conversation about innovative ways we enliven and ignite engagement in all learners.  His journey in this book is filled with successes, heartaches, mistakes, and multiple triumphs, culminating in the hugely successful Ron Clark Academy.  Beware though, he is tough on parents; he believes in the power of forming bonds with each child by sacrificing to make time for the child before anything else (including work and outside extracurricular activities).  As a working mom, I found myself yelling at the book while also applauding his strong commitment to personal excellence for each learner no matter the means.

His basic message for everyone:  “Be different.  Be bold.  Join it.”  I encourage you to read, study, and form your own opinions.  Here’s hoping as we continue on this LME journey to educational excellence, we all consider the essential, excellent qualities to avoid molasses classes!  🙂