Best Foot Forward

imageAs my family celebrated Easter last weekend, it brought back one of our favorite family stories…

It is hard not to be late for church when you have a house full of family and only one shower.  It is even harder not to be late when you also hold an Easter Egg hunt in the morning, have a special breakfast to enjoy, and then have small chocolatey children to wrangle into good clothes.  Our plan of attack is usually to send a small delegation of put-together adults down the street to church early to save seats for the rest of the family to slide into at the last minute.  It was during this flurry of activity that there was a sound of alarm from the upstairs floor.

My brother had just realized he left his dress shoes at home, two hours away.

As the chaos continued and children were buckled into car seats, we considered the options.  Since it was about 15 minutes before the service was due to start, we didn’t have any ideas.  None of the other men in the house had extra shoes that would fit.  We had to think outside the box for a solution.  In a last-ditch effort, we called my uncle and crossed our fingers that he hadn’t left for church yet.  That wish was granted, but…

The only shoes he could come up with so quickly were faded brown moccasins.  He showed up in the driveway moments later and tossed them to my brother through the car window.

Ten minutes later, the last of us arrived at church.  The sanctuary was packed and the service was starting.  To my poor brother’s embarrassment, he then led the procession of family members all the way down the long aisle to the only seats left, in the very front pew.  Although he did his best to walk with dignity and pretend his feet were invisible, my sister, sister-in-law, and I shook with laughter all the way through the service.  It was an Easter to remember, and we bring up that story almost every year.  At least one person finds a way to ask my brother if he remembered to pack his shoes!

This year, I was the only one to go home for Easter.  Just before locking my door and leaving for the long trip, I made one final check of the house to make sure I had all my bags.  And there, on the floor of my bedroom…were my church shoes.

I was so close to joining my brother in the Easter Family Shoe Debacle!  (I may have had to borrow and wear the brown moccasins just for tradition’s sake…)

Thank goodness I didn’t have to…


imageI had been hearing some conversations about “the big game” for awhile in my class.  It seemed to be an ongoing topic that all the kids were buzzing about.  The mystery was solved when one of the boys asked if I had recess duty on this afternoon.  When I said yes, he said he was super-excited because now I could come to the game, and he handed me a paper ticket.

What were they up to?

It turns out that they were putting together a soccer game.  It sounded like pretty normal recess play to me until I overheard two of the boys discussing who was going to be the Commentator.  Ummm…what??

And so it went…when I walked over to the soccer field at recess, my whole class was involved in the Class Soccer Match.  There were goalies and players on the field and cheerleaders by the sidelines.  There were spectators, the Commentator (of course), and one boy who paced the field with a clipboard.  Everyone knew their job and they managed to pull off a spectacular match…I think.  I’m not sure how many of them actually know all the rules of soccer.  At least two of them are pretty fuzzy on the “no hands” rule.  But it was a wonderful thing to watch them all working together, including all their classmates in whatever role they wanted to play.  They lined up at the door at the end of recess, all smiles at the success of the Big Soccer Game.  I know they had just as much fun planning it together as they did pulling it off, and I can’t wait to see what they tackle next.  I still have my ticket, so I’ll be sure to get invited!

Oh…and the boy with the clipboard was the referee.  I have no clue what he was writing down, but it surely seemed important!




It was already too late when I heard the story.

One of my students wanted to bring her new box of Pokemon cards to school.  (Students are allowed to have cards out in the gym while waiting for the morning bell to ring.). Her new (expensive) Elite Trainer Mega-Blastoise set of cards that she had saved for and bought herself.  Her mother advised her not to bring them, for fear that they would get lost or stolen.  She pleaded her case and brought them on Friday morning.

They got lost or stolen.

By Monday, the story came out amid tears.  The student was heartbroken but also embarrassed because she had pushed to bring the cards and then they disappeared on her watch.  I tried my best to figure out how to help.  From the description of the timeline, it was clear that the cards went missing while in our classroom.

I suspected everyone.  I suspected no one.  After all these days of looking into the eyes and hearts of these children with love, how could I look instead through the lens of doubt and suspicion?

I tried giving a plea to their compassion and friendship for their classmate.  We talked about empathy.  We proposed solutions.  We spent precious minutes looking in nonsense places around the room because they couldn’t accept the idea that they had been taken.  I moved on to sterner words and some interrogations.  Nothing.  I pulled out books that talked about making mistakes and fixing them.  We talked about how brave it is to have the courage to fix a mistake like this.  The little girl (again tearfully) told her classmates that she would forgive whoever had the cards and not be angry because she just wanted her cards back.  And in the end, I offered a reward–a class celebration if we could solve the problem and return the cards.  They were so excited at the idea of this that we all walked out the door optimistically thinking that the cards surely would reappear in the morning..

They did not.

Pokemon cards are a hot commodity these days among my second graders.  If one of the kids really did snatch the box and take it home, those cards are surely absorbed seamlessly into another collection with no one the wiser.  This situation lurks like a cloud over our classroom, but as much as it troubles my heart, I am out of ideas on how to get to a resolution.  It’s been an expensive lesson to learn for one little girl in particular, but the rest of the kids and I are also paying the price of a loss of trust among us.  This is not the direction I want our feelings to go as we zoom towards the end of our school year together!  We have some work to do as a class in our conversations in the coming days, and my hope is that we can regain some of the trust that has been damaged.  This has been a sad chapter in our class story.

Any advice or ideas would be much appreciated!

So Squirrely…

imageimageHe was there again today, just like every day.  This time he was on the ground.  Sometimes he is in the middle of my path and other times he is already up in the tree.

He’s my little squirrel playmate.  Or my vicious squirrel stalker.  I’m not really sure yet.

Today we had a game of peek-a-boo.  He dashed around the back of the tree and then hid for a few moments.  Before long, his curiosity got the better of him and he peeked around the trunk at me.  Usually I just keep walking, but this time it was too tempting to see what he would do.  I stood completely still and just waited.  He peeked around one side, then frantically pulled back to hide once more.  In a few seconds, his squirrely little face peeked around the other side.  The longer I stood, the more he could not resist the peeking and hiding game.

Before long, he dashed up to reach the first branches overhead.  He picked a sturdy branch to perch on and froze, staying just as still as I did.  When I didn’t react, he went a little higher and tried the same staredown tactics.  He seemed to be more than a little agitated at this point, but he also didn’t want to go off to his squirrely life work while I was still standing at his tree staring at him.

The final straw for me was when he ventured out a little further on a higher branch. Suddenly I had a vision of a kamikaze flying jump that would result in a squirrel plastered to my head and I decided to move on with a little speed.

Well played, squirrel.  I’ll be back tomorrow.



imageI needed something lighthearted to read to my class following Spring Break.  I picked up “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” because I knew my second graders would get a kick out of it and maybe some would pick it or its sequels up to read on their own.

What I didn’t realize was how much I would enjoy their laughter.  They can’t wait for me to open the book each day.  They settle in to listen quietly, just waiting for the first ridiculous line that tickles their funny bone.  And every day, I am not disappointed.

First,, as they listen, someone inevitably mutters something like “…but that doesn’t make any SENSE” or “wait a minute, that’s not right”.  And then, someone else blares out with a big “HA!” and the giggles begin.  Before long, the whole class dissolves in laughter and we have to take a minute to get back to the story.

There are a couple kiddos who are my favorite laughers.  One boy, who loses himself in his own books on any given day to the point of not hearing any of us around him, becomes so absorbed in the antics of the student in Wayside School that he lets out a crazy high-pitched “HEEEEE” almost before anyone else realizes the funny in the moment.  I love when he does that, and I find myself thinking ahead as I read, trying to guess which part will get him going.  He doesn’t disappoint!

One of my girls usually listens quietly and laughs with the others as usual…until something really big happens, when she sits up ramrod straight and bellows out a huge “HA!” and then doubles over with a loud belly laugh.  Once she starts her shouts of laughter, we all lose it!

I always had fun reading this book with my first graders, but reading it with second graders this year makes me think they are the perfect age for the zany, nonsensical (but to them, perfectly logical)  stories that are told.  I guarantee they are going to remember this book for a long time to come!

(And yes, my belly-laugher checked out another copy from the library and is trying her best to read at least one story ahead of me…)

What a Show!

imageI led my class down the hallway with a smile.  The kids had picked up on my excitement on the way to the assembly.  I tried to prepare them a little bit for what they were about to see, because many second graders had no idea what a “show choir” could possibly be.  So I had put up a YouTube clip of our school’s group singing and dancing at a competition just to give them an idea.  Even so, I could tell they had no idea what a treat was in store for them.

As the high school performers took their places and waited for the music to start, I searched for familiar faces.  I always love watching the show choir, but it makes it even more fun when there are kids I know that I can enjoy watching in particular.  I spotted several kids and then was surprised and delighted when a tall boy in the back started waving and smiling at me.  Wow!  Kids change a LOT between first grade and high school, and I almost didn’t recognize this young man.  And I immediately was so proud of him for being involved in something like show choir!  I never would have guessed he would try something like this–but he was clearly having a very good time on stage.

As the music started and the kids swung into action, I was torn as to which direction to watch.  I love those show choir performances and can’t get enough of watching the kids show their talent–but my attention was continually diverted to the kids in my class.  When the first notes started, my kids sat up straight and were transfixed by what they saw.  I watched a few kids swaying to the beat and a few others who stared intently at the choir members dancing in the very front.  One girl’s mouth hung open while another had a smile that stretched across her whole face.  They were spellbound.

I love this assembly.  I love talking to my kids about what they can do with music and school activities when they are bigger.  Today’s conversations following the performance were no different.  Two of the high school students ran over and gave me hugs–which gave me the chance to tell my class that they had once been sitting on the gym floor where they were, watching the Big Kids perform–and now look at them!  One of my young students pulled at my arm to tell me that she was going to ask and ask her dad if he would take her to that when she was older.  When I told her that those kids belonged to show choir AT SCHOOL, her eyes popped!  She thought it must be some sort of a special club from parts unknown that you must join and travel to practices.  That was nothing compared to the group of students who eagerly told me the names of the famous actors and musicians that they thought they spotted among the singers and dancers.  They were so amazed by the performance that they were convinced this was a professional tour of some kind.  Maybe the best part was watching some of my kids who don’t always see people who look like them take careful note of the amazing singing and dancing of this diverse group of  role models on stage.  No doubt it made a huge impact on them to see what fun this very talented group of high school students have performing together.

Show Choir Elementary School Tour is the best assembly of the year as far as I’m concerned.  It is all joy, all the way around and at the end hopefully there are many small students who have been inspired with a new goal and dream for themselves that involves making great music with friends.

Vintage Photos

imageI love my camera.  I have loved my camera for a long time.  A long, long time.  It’s an ancient digital camera (so…not as ancient as a camera that uses film, but that’s beside the point).  Even though it takes a whole minute between turning the camera on until it is ready to take a picture, it’s worth it.  It takes beautiful pictures!  Although I’ve tried to update to newer cameras (and yes, my phone), I still revert back to my old one when the picture-taking matters.

Last week, one of these occasions popped up.  I grabbed my beloved old camera and packed it in my bag.  All was good until I turned it on and realized something.  The memory card was missing.  All I could use was the internal memory, which was enough for about 15 pictures.  Well, all right–I figured the memory card was in my schoolbag, or inserted in either my home laptop or my school laptop.  And that’s when the panic hit…

About two months ago, the tech people replaced my school laptop (nicknamed “Old Wheezy”) with a new ThinkPad.  WHAT IF MY CARD WAS IN OLD WHEEZY??  Immediately my mind raced through the catalog of pictures that were undoubtably gone forever.  And it was a traumatic barrage of  of them, because one little memory card held over a thousand pictures from my completely outdated camera!  (Step into reality–yes, most of those pictures are actually backed up on other storage, but that did nothing to stop my panic.)

This began a long week of trying to solve my camera problem, since it was rendered useless without a memory card.  My first move was to send a passionate plea for help to the tech department to see if Old Wheezy was still on the premises somewhere and the card could be recovered.  Next, I went online to order a new memory card.  I found two 8GB cards for a very reasonable price.  (I knew they had to be at a minimum of storage capactity or the camera would just give up trying to read them.). Perfect!  I pressed the “Place Order” button and they were on the way, still in time for use over Spring Break.

Once the new cards arrived, I popped one in and turned the camera on.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And…WAITED.  I had a sinking feeling that 8GB was still too much for my camera to handle.  I went online and investigated.  Yep, true.  So I ordered (UGH!) a pair of 2GB cards at a bit of a higher price (UGH!) which would still arrive just at the edge of the end of my break.

And mistakenly had them sent to the wrong address.  (My home, instead of my parents’ home where I was visiting.)

It seemed that the deck was stacked against me.  And I reluctantly considered that maybe it was finally time to let my favorite camera go and just rely on my phone.

And then the email came.  The tech people went on a  mission to search for Old Wheezy in the depths of wherever-laptops-go-to-die and FOUND it!  “We have recovered your memory card,” said the note, “and it is on your desk in your classroom”.  Hooray!  I thanked them gratefully for their efforts and regained my hopeful attitude.  I may not have been able to use my camera over break as I had wanted to do, but at least my pictures were safe and the camera was back in operation.

I know it’s silly to use something so old, but in normal circumstances my favorite camera takes beautiful pictures.  And in the meantime, I think I had better buy a few more of those 2GB cards in preparation for the day that they don’t make them anymore!  (I’ll store them near my stash of blank VHS tapes…)