LME is the BEST place to be!

Tutto bene…all is well.  It is indeed!  All’s quiet and calm right now in the building here at LaRue Miller Elementary.  After a full summer of camps, elementary summer school, and other community activities, there is much to accomplish as I return to campus to begin our year.  Even though the hallways and classrooms are dark (trying to keep things cool inside), the custodial and maintenance teams are diligently working behind the scenes to complete summer assignments.  They are amazing teams and we are so blessed to have their obvious ownership of our building high on the priority list right now in anticipation of our opening day!

In the coming weeks, I’ll highlight some subtle changes to our building and introduce you to some new faces joining our Miller family.  I’ll share news of the day, funny stories, and those popular learner anecdotes along the way.  I always welcome your input, so please share your thoughts with me.

In the meantime, enJOY these last days of summer sun, fun, and fellowship.  Savor those summer sounds, smells, tastes, and scenes.  Make special memories to share in anticipation of seeing friends soon.  We’re getting geared up and ready around here…because everyday is game day at LME!  See you soon!  🙂

Olympic Ideas!

I’m completely besotted with the Summer Olympic Games right now (what about that witty British opening ceremony?)…almost to the point of planning personal time around certain events so I can watch hours of footage.  I’m not an athlete (far from it), yet the draw for observing the BEST in action is so strong.  More than anything though, the human interest side of each athlete fascinates me—those individual stories-behind-the-story—what LaRue Miller calls, “challenging starts making for successful finishes.”  These athletes are all the greatest and the BEST in world as they represent their perspective countries with their BEST in hopes of securing the coveted medals of victory in the end.

When I think about our Miller learners, I’m convinced we have some future Olympians in our midst!  In the meantime though, we have much to do in preparation.  With our Olympic-sized academic year ahead of us, I challenge all of us to bring our BEST to school everyday.  Training starts now while we are re-establishing routines, collecting school supplies, making sure immunizations are up-t0-date, getting a school haircut, checking clothing for dress code approval, and wrapping minds around another important school year.  Bring those Olympic ideas and let’s get ready to win, LME!  🙂

Back to School!

It’s hard to believe, but school is just around the corner in another month…a month from tomorrow in fact!

I’m back at Miller on Monday morning.  The time away has flown by too fast this summer, but what memories!  Here’s hoping you are making amazing memories as well this summer.

Be sure to take time to visit the district Back 2 School website for the most recent information regarding school supplies, schedules, times, buses, Meet the Teacher Night, and much more.

As always, we are here to serve, so never hesitate to let us know what we can do to assist your learner or you.  We look forward to an extraordinary school year…because Every Day is Game Day at LME!

Training Camp

At LaRue Miller Elementary, we strive to be the BEST at three things:  (1) making a positive impact in the lives of learners; (2) helping students realize their potential as productive and successful citizens; and (3) providing engaging and meaningful learning experiences each school day.  In order to work on the positive impact portion each year, our staff willingly participates in a summer homework reading assignment each year.  Our focus for the coming school year is Jon Gordon’s Training Camp (in fact, we’ve studied two of his other books:  The Shark and The Goldfish and The Energy Bus–and if you’re reading this, Mr. Gordon, we’d love to hear from you!).  In anticipation of the coming school year, our Miller Design Team (made up of Miller staff volunteers who openly share, discuss, and help create campus culture) has created our campus theme:  “All Stars and MVPs; Miller is the BEST place to be!”  In order to kick it into high gear, we have an overall sports focus for the year, because “Every Day is Game Day at LME!”

In his book, Mr. Gordon creates a touching story about a man who faces his fears head-on while on his path to personal greatness—not only on the field but also on his life mission.  Based on his work with professional sports teams in a variety of fields, Mr. Gordon found that the BEST of the BEST, whether they are in business or education, sales or marketing, play sports or the oboe, share the same eleven traits and habits causing them to excel in their work and life:

  1. The BEST know what they truly want.
  2. The BEST want it more.
  3. The BEST are always striving to get better.
  4. The BEST do ordinary things better than everyone else.
  5. The BEST zoom-focus.
  6. The BEST are mentally stronger.
  7. The BEST overcome their fear.
  8. The BEST seize the moment.
  9. The BEST tap  into a greater power than themselves.
  10. The BEST leave a legacy.
  11. The BEST make everyone around them better!

Our staff is creating our team “playbook” throughout the summer as we ponder each trait.  We are also excited to be teaming with the T.E. Baxter Elementary Staff on this journey (thanks, Mrs. Courtney Carpenter, principal, for sharing your insight and wisdom).  We have several surprises in store for both campuses and look forward to our BEST years ever!

See . . . even teachers do training camp in the summer . . . Stay safe out there because everyday is game day!  🙂

Happy Campers!

Imagine my excitement to receive not one or two, but thirteen different postcards from various Miller students attending camps and enJOYing vacations throughout this summer!  I’m so honored they would take time away to write about their experiences and share their fun with me; these are cards I will continue to treasure indeed!  Here are some examples (and note the details and writing skills):

  1. “Dear Mrs. Van, Camp is fun.  We read and swim and fish and cook and make things.  It’s just like school some days but funner because we don’t have homework.”
  2. “Dear Mrs. Van, The family is driving to grandmas and we almost didn’t make it cause we took a wrong turn back four states ago.  Grandmas house is near a lake and we swim all day.  You should see my tan (and tell nurse I used sunscreen too).  I miss school but know you are busy getting it ready for us cause you can never leave.  See you soon.  PS – tell Mrs. Samek I’m reading please.”
  3. “Dear Mrs. Van, The summer is too long.  It’s time to come back.  I’m tired of doing farm chores now. Hope you get to have some fun and not do farm chores. Please write me back.”
  4. “Dear Mrs. Van, Colorado is beautiful. You should really get out more and see this stuff!  I’m bringing you a surprise and I’ll try not to eat it before I get back to school.  See you soon!”

I can hardly wait to hear about all the adventures and summer fun!  In the meantime though, it’s great to hear from our Miller learners and know they are Happy Campers (most of them anyway) while they are away from campus.  Stay safe out there; see you soon!  🙂

Ocean of possibilities…

One of my favorite places to walk with my sister is along this passive park trail connecting the Boston Harbor on one side to the Atlantic Ocean on the other.  The air is salty and fresh; the water is crystal clear and cold!  On an early summer morn, you see the ships and boats going out to sea.  It’s a craggy coast—filled with all sizes of smooth rocks (unlike the sandy coasts of TX or FL).  As expected, the waves roll in and wash all manner of sea life ashore before retreating to capture more.  While the beauty and simplicity is apparent, truly it is the sound of the waves crashing into shore, bringing with them an ocean of possibilities…may this coming year bring the same to LaRue Miller Elementary!  🙂

Music and Passion…

As you probably know, I’ve been away traveling this past week in New England, visiting family in Boston and especially enJOYing the extraordinary music at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in Connecticut.  Our oldest daughter, Rachel, is studying as a Yale University Fellowship Recipient this summer.  During our time in Connecticut, we’ve stayed at the beautiful Mountain View Inn in Norfolk (and I highly recommend the generous hospitality of Dean and Jean Marie Johnson when you’re in the area!)–the Berkshires are something splendid to behold!  While there, a particularly clever concert on Sunday afternoon warmed my educator heart during the Festival’s “Family Day” when the young artists perform in small ensembles during a family-friendly chamber concert.  These extraordinary young musicians share their passion for music (and their highly expensive instruments) with young children and their families, followed by games, an ice cream social, and great family fun.  The weather cooperated (sunny with the temperature about 72) and even the bugs stayed hidden for the bulk of our outside time!  We were invaded by pirates when the Jigsaw Quintet (Rachel is dressed in green) claimed center stage to perform Sea Shanties for a delighted audience (who participated by saying “aarrgghh” a great deal).

Children simply adore music–it’s an international language after all–and children bring delightful reactions to any performance whether they take the stage to perform or participate as an audience member.  I’m so very grateful we have the fine arts in Midlothian ISD!  Just like Rachel (who grew up in MISD), you may be raising the next musician, artist, dancer, or other performing genius in your home right now.  May you always support the music and passion of your own child during their youth…and beyond!  Continue to stay safe and enJOY your summer!  🙂

Fireworks and Finishing with a Bang!

I had the opportunity to watch a fireworks show with Mr. Van, my sister, and several friends last night on the Boston Harbor—what a memorable time indeed!  During the festivities, it occurred to me that all fireworks shows end the same way… with a big bang!  They save the best and most spectacular displays for the grand finale; Boston was certainly no exception, and you can’t help but clap and cheer at the end.

Think back to your own school days and compare a fireworks show to the many lectures, routine skill activities, and daily classroom lessons. They often started off strong with a unique focus but often times fizzled at the end because time ran out or learners simply lost interest too quickly.  In the movies and on television, school classrooms were usually portrayed in this manner.  The lesson design included a great hook in the beginning but didn’t leave a lasting impression at the end.

The examples are numerous but the solution is simple:  we need to add some fireworks to our daily work in classrooms.  Now while I’m not talking literal fireworks here (I’m fairly confident there are fire code violations on school property), teachers are challenged daily to think of ways to create a “grand finale” and leave a lasting impression (and mastery for the lesson).  Finishing a portion of the lesson with a bang and giving learners a real reason to clap at the end is a challenge we openly embrace and work daily to achieve. We also want to give them something positive to talk about as they walk out the classroom door everyday so when you ask the question, “What did you do today in school?,” they always have something exciting to share.

Fireworks should occur more than on the 4th of July. It is our goal to create a fireworks experience every day by finishing with a bang…and just so you know, Boston Harbor fireworks are setting that standard pretty high now!  Happy July 4th!  🙂

Upon This Rock…

It’s my official summer vacation now, so instead of the usual school news, you are privy to my short time away from campus instead…I’ll do my best to keep you interested.

Mr. Van and I flew to Boston yesterday to spend time with my sister, Becky (the opera singer and teacher), and our oldest daughter, Rachel (the LA/USC grad student and oboist studying east as a Yale Fellow this summer).  I’m surrounded by musical greatness in our family…

Today was an exploration day for the two of us so we hopped in my sister’s Jeep and headed South along the Cape (along with thousands of others) to enJOY some history, sun, and summer fun.  We made our way to Plymouth (the American spelling) to visit the Plimoth Plantation (Gov. Bradford’s English spelling).  If you’re ever in the Cape area, this is a definite history lesson for everyone—and it’s not the story you know from school either!  The cast of characters speak frankly with you about daily life in the 17th Century in native languages and with careful attention to historic details.  Mr. Van’s family originally came from Leiden, Holland in 1627 (which is where the Pilgrims originally came from before departing Plymouth, England in 1620 for the New World).  While his family did not originally settle this colony, they were close behind.

The Mayflower II sits in the Plymouth Harbor–an actual replica built in 1957 precisely as the original and sailed once again to America.  I honestly do not know how 102 people set sail on this tiny sea-worthy vessel.  You can climb all over the ship, ask questions, hoist the sails, and shout orders to the crew.  Here’s Mr. Van surveying the area and speaking with our captain today as he inspects “The Elizabeth” (a small dingy used to get the crew from the ship to the shore).  I was asked to climb the mast…you can guess for yourself whether I did or not.

We enJOYed a long walk through the township, visiting with the locals, and taking a long look at THE rock, yes, THAT rock—the one the Pilgrims blessed.  I was expecting something much bigger, but perhaps hundreds of years of erosion and curiosity have taken away some of the original size?  Nevertheless, upon this rock in 1620 was built a new settlement from hard work, careful alliances, and dreams.  We are blessed today in our country for many reasons; the Pilgrims are just one example.  Have a Happy Fourth y’all!  🙂