Good luck or fortune?

CloverBeing of some Irish decent, the pipes are usually calling from glen to glen this time of year.  Walking the building, you see the signs of beginning spring, especially those 3-and-4-leaf clovers.

This little batch of shamrocks (three leaves on each stem and the national emblem of Ireland) was found right off our playground.  It reminded me of a poem my Granny B would share:  “May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow; and may trouble avoid you wherever you go!”  The batch of shamrocks also brought about an interesting discussion today between some wee friends:

  • Child #1:  It’s our lucky day!
  • Child #2:  How do you know?
  • Child #1:  Because it’s ‘fortune’ we found these shamrocks.
  • Child #2:  You mean lucky, huh?
  • Child #1:  No, it’s ‘fortune’ because they’re worth so much!
  • Child #2:  How will these build fortune?
  • Child #1:  Because now we find the leprechaun and the pot of gold!   (…and then they started the search…)  🙂

Whether good luck or great fortune, may the wonder of finding a small patch of dewey shamrocks always bring great promise…and as my Granny B would sing:

“May there always be work for your hands to do; may your purse always hold a coin or two.  May the sun always shine on your windowpane; may a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.  May the hand of a friend always be near you; may your heart fill with great JOY to always cheer you!”  Yes, perhaps we all become a little Irish when we find good luck and great fortune in our path!  🙂

Organized vs Disorganized, Part Two

This is the next blog in a series from the book Organizing the Disorganized Child organizingby Martin L. Kutscher and Marcella Moran.

So, we established earlier how the brain is at fault when it comes to the child being organized—this should free us from feeling like victims of a “lazy child” or “uncaring teacher.”  We can focus now on working together as learning partners to teach and finesse the child’s brain into organization (and remember, the brain is still developing well into young adulthood).  With society expecting so much more planning from our children today (with outside events like clubs, sports, social media, etc.) and so much sooner (we have 2-year-olds on iPads!), it’s a challenge to fit in academics at all really!

It’s time now to bring up this topic of organization with your child.  I know…easier said than done.  Most likely your child suspects your concern and a calm conversation may do wonders for all involved.  There are some steps to note:

  1. Stay calm.  Pick an appropriate time when everyone is calm (not yelling about grades, searching for the homework paper, or other issues) and can have meaningful conversation.  Remind them about the benefits of being organized such as getting homework done faster, less frustration in the house, more free time for other things, etc.
  2. Listen to your child–actively listen and ask clarifying questions.  If the child says, “that may work for you,  but it doesn’t work for me,” this is a sign.  Ask the child to explain a strategy to you in her own words and really listen (don’t judge).
  3. Stay positive.  The authors note:  “If you really want to bring out your child’s self-motivation–and preserve your relationship with him–you’ll need to keep it positive.  Punishments don’t teach skills.”  Find something to praise; use humor to redirect.  If there’s a punishment to hand out, consider doing it with only a positive attitude in place–make it short and to the point.  Stay focused on the fact this is YOUR child.
  4. Supervise the skills.  Many children know what to do but they just can’t do it–this is where supervision takes place.  Remember, the frontal lobes on the brain of your child have trouble carrying out the plan.  Your child needs you to lend your expertise (and frontal lobes) to assist.  Be a safety net and monitor progress while standing in the background.
  5. Give it time.  There is no timetable for success.  If you’re frustrated, imagine how your child feels.

It’s a good idea to also know your child’s organizational style…but that’s a topic for our next in the series!  🙂

Destination Imagination 2013

One of the greatest thrills in the learning process is observing a group of learners experiencing the creative process from imagination to innovation.  This is never more prominent than our students who are involved in the Destination Imagination  program here at LME.  The premise behind this international phenomenon is the simple approach taken to develop opportunities for learners in their diverse and creative thinking processes.  The creative process includes the ability to recognize a challenge or problem, to imagine new options, to initiate and commit to a possible option, to collaborate using social intelligence, to assess for the best solution, and to evaluate the final results.  In plain English:  You tackle a problem with a group and create an action plan to solve it!   🙂

We are fortunate at LME to have two active (and  highly competitive) teams of DI learners who completely embrace the creative process in a big way!  They are truly working to be creative in every aspect of their lives.  Under the gentle guidance of parent team managers, these teams identify a challenge and use their crafted problemDSC_0076 solving skills to create imaginative, innovative solutions.

Both teams competed this past weekend in the regional DI Tournament in Mineral Wells.  Our Rising Stars Team of Collin, Avery, Gunner, Alessandra, Grace, and Allyson was given a special award for their outstanding teamwork and collaboration throughout the process.  Our EstablisheTeam Photo BWd Team of Kathryn, Tanner, Whitney, Skyler, Allana, and Aidan truly “WOWed” the audience with their highly creative interpretations and outcomes.

Congratulations to both groups of creative learners and their team managers for once again shining like the stars they are in patience, flexibility, persistence, elaboration, respect for others and their ideas, and using the creative problem solving process so well!  As one friend shared:  “DI is all about the experience, Mrs. Van; we work as a team to think and act out our ideas together so REAL learning takes place.”  Here’s to the DI process!  🙂

Chili Cookoff!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe enJOYed a festive evening of food, fun, and fellowship at the annual CATCH Committee Chili Cookoff event last night here at LME.  Our CATCH Committee planned several active family-oriented events for our learning community throughout the year (no-TV events, Rowdy Runners, Family Nights, etc.); this was one such gathering.  There were 16 homemade chili entries and the judges had a challenging time picking their favorites.  Congratulations to all the winners, especially the grand prize winner (with bragging rights), Whitney!

Special thanks to our chili judges:  Coach Timm, Mrs. Worley, Mr. Chadwell, and Mrs. Walk!  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThanks to our CATCH Committee:  Coach Rogers, Nurse Sullivan, Mrs. Bass, Mrs. Garippa, Mrs. Dickard, Ms. Trish, and Coach Martin.  Thanks to all the great chili cooks and servers as well as our families who came out to share a meal and fellowship with us!

SomeBUNNY loves you…

This touching story of great kindness was shared with me today.  Thanks, Ms. Williams, for sharing your personal experience!

Here’s hoping it warms your heart too…

DSC01673My mom was an incredible seamstress and she made all of my clothes when I was little.  She often made gifts and outfits for my teachers too.  When I was 7, my mom was diagnosed with a terrible illness causing her to lose her fine motor skills, and she was unable to continue her sewing.  One of the last things she made was a pair of Pilgrim Bunnies for my first grade teacher, Mrs. L.  Last week, Mrs. L. wrote to me and told me she still had those two precious bunnies in her classroom every year.  Now that Mrs. L. is retired, she was sending the bunnies back for me to for safe-keeping.  A package arrived at school and I opened the box in front of my class.  My students were able to hear the bunny story while passing them around and holding them in class.  It just absolutely warms my heart to see the second generation of hugs for these bunnies, especially now that my mom is no longer able to sew.  I’m taking the bunnies home to surprise my mom and I’m certain they have a new home in my classroom now! 

As one learner summarized:  It’s important to know someBUNNY loves you, huh?!   🙂

Organized vs. Disorganized, Part One

During a recent parent conference, the following scenario was presented:

I’m not certain she uses her planner in class; in fact, she doesn’t even know where the planner is right now.  I had to bring her back up to school two days ago because she left everything in her desk and nothing was brought home to complete the presentation assignment.  We argued for two hours with me yelling to get the work done and then she forgot to turn in the work for her final grade the next day!  When will this stop?

Sound like something you’ve experienced?  A book study group of us have been reading Organizing the Disorganized Child…Simple Strategies to Succeed in School by organizingMartin L. Kutscher and Marcella Moran.  Quite frankly, this should be essential reading for any parent of a child entering school (personal sidebar there).  The authors quickly reveal the root causes of disorganization and guide you to more constructive solutions and strategies to overcome the situation.  More importantly, they focus on essential organizational styles and offer specific strategies and study skills so children experience the success they deserve.  The bottom line:  the fault lies only with the brain!

Organizational skills come from the frontal lobe of the brain, conveniently located in the front of our head just behind the forehead.  These frontal lobes are responsible for getting things done.  Funny though, our frontal lobes are not actually fully developed until the later teenage years–well beyond the early formative years of school when patterns are established.  The authors note:  “It’s not the child’s fault the brain has not yet fully developed.  He doesn’t want to be disorganized or get bad grades any more than you want him to do.  Demoralizing F’s will not magically teach him the needed skills.” 

There are no hardwired parts of the brain for academic skills and organization.  The authors point out that while schools and teachers focus attention in these areas in an effort to assist, parents have the ultimate responsibility for helping the child find and refine his or her personal skills, thus it’s critical to keep working as learning partners and participating members of the educational team.

In a series over the next few weeks, I plan to share our thoughts with you about organization.  Heaven bless those who possess the gift of organization and help those who are still learning it!  🙂

Welcome Home, Ethan!

IMG_1177LME was all abuzz this morning…Ethan came back to school today!  His fourth grade class met him at the door with lots of posters, cards, notes, and more.  Ethan will be able to join them part-time for the next few weeks while he completes his final treatments.  He air-hugged me (this is safest for him right now) and told me, “The first question I asked my doctor last week IMG_1179was if I could come back to school…he said, ‘How can I argue with this request?!'”  Although it was quite obvious this morning, Ethan reminded me that he loves his friends, his Miller family, the support of our community, and the chance to be a “real student” at LME once again.

Ethan, we are so very proud of your courage, your strength, and your strong example of grace in the face of unimaginable circumstances.  Air hugs to you and welcome home!  🙂

Rowdy Runners Rule!

It’s time to sign up and participate in the first-ever t-RowdyRunnersMISD Rowdy Run 5K!  On Saturday, March 2nd, come out early to show your Midlo pride while showcasing your healthy lifestyle in 2013.

Rowdy Runners are a active club on each elementary campus in MISD.  Here at LME, we have over 100 participants (students with adults) who meet weekly to talk strategy and work on running skills.  They are challenging all of us to join them in this big event!

Start/Finish:  Kimmel Park

Check-in:  7:00-7:30 a.m.  Start time:  8:00 a.m.

Route:  Running in town and through residential area near Kimmel Park

Registration:  You can register online at:  or  pick up a form in any elementary school office.

Coach Rogers and Coach Martin challenge all of us at LME to join in the fun!  Run, jog, or walk to your way to a 5K…Rowdy Runners Rule!  🙂

Happy Hearts Day!

Our youngest learners have a challenging time saying the word “valentine.”  It comes out in several unique ways and always with a big smile!  Many just give up and say “happy hearts day” instead.  Such is the case when one precocious little friend climbed into my lap to share his vintageval2thoughts today:

Child:  Happy ‘Balentiney-heart’ Day, Mrs. Van!

Me:  Thank you…and Happy Hearts Day to you too!

Child:  Do you love me?

Me:  Always and forever.

Child:  But what will Mr. Van say?

Me:  He’s okay with it; he knows I love all our Miller family.

Child:  WOW!  That’s a lotta love!  🙂

As Victor Hugo noted:  “What a grand thing to be loved…what a grander thing still to love!”  We are blessed everyday to work in an environment where our relationships with our learners and each other model unconditional love.  Here’s hoping everyone feels this love today and every day!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

HEARTy thanks for LOVEly thoughts…

candyheartsAfter a hectic start to our instructional day with testing personnel on campus, fourth graders testing, our morning message, walkabout, and discussions with various teams, I rounded the corner to my office to find a heart-shaped box overflowing with special greetings.  The anonymous gift left written clues to follow as to who sent this surprise kindness today.  While following the clues, I engaged in several conversations around campus regarding this clever idea.  More importantly, it was simply amazing to follow the trail of LOVEly thoughts and HEARTy thanks along the journey!  So here’s a question for you to ponder today:  If you created this box of candy hearts to share with someone special, what would your secret message be?  Here’s hoping you share your own LOVEly thoughts and HEARTy thanks with those you hold dear today and everyday!

Note:  Valentine’s Day Parties are tomorrow!  HS/KG/1st/2nd = 9:00-10:00; 3rd/4th/5th = 1:30-2:30.