#Kinderblog – What’s in Your Wallet?

OK, that’s not quite the topic for today, but close enough! One of the two topics posted for today is: 5 things in your backpack/purse/briefcase/tote bag.

Well… I could tell you 5 things in my purse, but that would be boring, and totally unrelated to anything on this blog. I think the point is, what are 5 things a teacher can’t live without having at all times. Here’s my list:

1. My Surface RT - you can click on that to find out why I always have it with me when I go to work.

2. My school calendar. Every summer, we get a calendar pre-printed with our training dates, PLC meetings, payroll due dates, and dates that school is closed, we have conferences, etc. I refer to this calendar often! I also have the entire school year’s plans for centers, the homework assignments and dates, and the list of objectives we assess tucked inside the calendar. Lots of important info for me there.

3. Hand lotion. As many times as we wash our hands a day, my hands get really dry. Lotion is a must!

4. Advil. I love my job. I love preschoolers. That doesn’t stop me from getting headaches almost daily. I usually end up taking 2 ibuprofin around lunch time.

5. My laptop. Until I get my laptop and Surface synced, I usually have my laptop with me to work on before school or during lunch. I never know when I might need access to my files.

Bonus item 6. Chocolate. You never know when you just might need a little chocolate to help you through the day! ;-)

2013 in review – Moments of Brilliance… or not

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Impressed by Bill Gates

059Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Bill Gates speak in Fargo, ND. I couldn’t believe just how much he impressed me.

Before it was Bill’s turn to take the stage, they had “Bill Gates Trivia” with some of the children of the Microsoft employees who were invited to the event. They asked many questions that I had no idea what the answers were. One thing I didn’t know, was that Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard as a junior, in order to start Microsoft.

Once Bill was introduced, he spent a few minutes talking about Microsoft as a company, and about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He then took questions from the employees in the audience. The questions took him all over the place. He bounced flawlessly from questions about Microsoft, to questions about the Foundation, to questions about the economy, to questions about competition in the business world, and about the diseases the Foundation is trying to eradicate. He was very passionate about every area he covered. His passion seemed very genuine. He didn’t seem like he was just trying to say the right thing. Someone in his position often comes across as arrogant; he didn’t.

I appreciated his sense of humor. When talking about some of the ways they are working towards eradicating malaria across the world, Bill said “Mosquitoes are pretty easy to kill. They don’t have any skin.” I couldn’t help but crack up at that! He talked about one thing they are trying to do is along the lines of an invisible fence. Mosquitoes apparently can’t fly higher than 12 ft. high. Imagine an invisible fence that goes 12 ft high surrounding your yard. The “fence” could detect the exact frequency of the beat of a mosquito’s wings, determining it from other insects. The “fence” would then zap only the mosquitoes, allowing potentially helpful insects to live. Here in MN, we could certainly use something like this too, though the ramifications wouldn’t so much be saving lives (as it is in Africa and other parts of the world), as something of a convenience. Of course, developing this kind of technology isn’t cheap.

070He talked about how when he started Microsoft, he had good financial advice from a sister who was an accountant, and legal advice from his father who was a lawyer. He had a pretty sizable loan to start the company. That loan was never used, and is still in the bank. Bill Gates’ goal was to always have enough in the bank to pay his entire payroll for a year if all their clients went belly up. To this day, Microsoft has enough money to pay the entire payroll of Microsoft for a year if they suddenly lost all their business (to the tune of $20 billion). This despite all the money also being given for research to eradicate diseases such as polio, measles, and malaria. How many other business owners could take some lessons from Bill Gates and Microsoft?

Since that day, I’ve been learning a bit more about Bill Gates. The more I read about, or hear him speak (thanks to Youtube, TED Talks, etc.), the more impressed I am with him. Here’s a TED Talk by Bill Gates on Teacher Feedback. He’s quickly moving up my list of heroes! Here’s a little reality check from Bill Gates as well: 11 Rules You Will Never Learn in School. If you’d like to see what else Bill Gates is up to, you can check out his web site that has his blog, reading list, etc. at thegatesnotes.com.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Peeing in the Snow

yellow-snow-warning1I enjoy sharing moments that happen in the classroom. I have shared some funny or touching moments in our class here and here.

After a snowstorm of 15″, a boy came in to our class and told us that his dad let him pee in the snow. He told us that the snow turned yellow. He then informed us that you should not eat yellow snow!

I was laughing so hard… I was walking out of the class where the rest of the parents were waiting for us to open the doors, and got some some funny looks. I told them not to tell their kids to pee in the snow, unless they want us entertained by it. A few parents laughed, and few looked horrified. I told them they’d be amazed at all the things we hear!

A School Coming Together to Give

Three years ago, a teacher from Oneka Elementary, Mrs. Garman, passed away from pancreatic cancer. Ever since then, the students (with a little help from the staff) have organized a Cancer Walk. Here’s how it works: one day in the last week of school, the entire school walks around the grounds of the school. For 2 weeks leading up to the event, they collect money for the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Because an old neighbor who we were very close with, and my husband’s grandma have both been diagnosed with cancer in the last couple years, because her great-grandpa passed away from cancer a few years ago, and because I am walking for the 2nd time in the Susan G Komen 3 Day for the Cure, my daughter wanted to be on the planning committee for the school’s event.

The committee met several times to brainstorm ways to raise money. I suggested to my daughter that they do a penny drive of some sort. A high school senior I know who helped raise money for the Relay for Life, said that it was one way they raised a large amount of their money. I also remembered the sock I used to use to collect money for the ACS that said “Sock it to Cancer” back when I sold Partylite. The committee loved the idea! I bought enough socks for each classroom at her school, and wrote “Sock it to Cancer” on them with puff paint. In just 2 days, they raised about $300 – just collecting change in the socks!

The Cancer Walk Committee selling “cancer ribbon” pins and bracelets to write a cancer-related message, or a note to someone they are walking for.

The committee also came up with the idea of making “cancer ribbon” pins that they sold for $1/piece. They had different colors to represent different kinds of cancer. The ribbon and pins used to make them was donated by Michael’s. I helped sell them the morning of the cancer walk. I couldn’t believe the number of students lined up to buy these pins. It was almost sad, some of the stories these kids told me about who in their families was affected with what kind of cancer. One boy said both his dad and his uncle fought cancer. He didn’t know what kind, but his uncle could no longer walk because of it. I heard kids talk about their close family members, including parents that had brain cancer, skin cancer, tongue cancer, “patriotic cancer” (pancreatic), lots of lung cancer, breast cancer, and kidney cancer,… it was moving to say the least.

The group also sold plain paper bracelets (like you get if you go to a water park). They provided permanent markers so that students could write cancer-related messages and messages to the people they were walking for.

The entire school was generous and supportive of this event. The entire school came together to raise money and fight cancer.

A rainbow of colors walked up to the pavilion, where I stood waiting to cheer them on!

At 2:00, the afternoon of the last day (which happened to be the anniversary of her death, the entire school walked the course. The 5th graders were in orange and started first. The 4th graders were in green, and started 5 minutes later. The 3rd graders were in blue, and started 5 minutes after that. Last to start, was the 2nd graders, wearing yellow. The committee continued to sell ribbons, bracelets, and bottles of water throughout the walk (donated by Cub Foods).

I had volunteered to help, and the Principal, Mrs. Dahlem, had asked me to stand at the halfway point. She wanted me to help make sure students were staying on track, to have an adult presence there, and mostly, just to cheer them on. It was great! I was reminded of the people who line the roads during The 3 Day, cheering on the walkers. I remember how encouraging it was. I tried to emulate that for the students, teachers, and even a few parents who joined in the walk. I stood there cheering, high fiving, letting them know they were halfway done with their lap, etc.  I also monitored their “breaks”, as I was in a pavilion, which was a natural rest area. I told them they could rest 2 minutes, and then encouraged them to keep going. No one really gave me any trouble. I was impressed at the drive these kids had to keep walking for a very good cause. Very few complained, despite the 80+ degree temps. Most of the kids did 3-4 laps, although I’m pretty sure the first group of 5th grade boys that I saw, went 5 laps.

At 2:45 or so (once the caboose made it to the gathering area), they had an outdoor assembly. There is a large boulder with a plaque honoring their teacher who lost her short battle with cancer. There is also a tree that was planted in her memory. Mrs. Dahlem introduced the committee who all gave their reasons for wanting to help organize the event. A few students had Mrs. Garmin as a teacher, some knew her, some had family members who were affected by cancer.

During the assembly, Mrs. Dahlem told the students that in 2 days, they had raised over $900 for the American Cancer Society!!! That’s impressive! She also encouraged the upcoming grades to continue the tradition, and see if they can break the record that was set by this year’s 5th grade class.

It was awesome to see an entire school come together this way. I think more schools should find a cause to come together for.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

From the Mouths of Babes

A friend from high school posted the following cute story on facebook. “I was talking to Nathan as he laid in bed about his first day of Preschool tomorrow and I asked if he was excited to see Mrs. Michelle. His response was ” well (with his eye squinted and his lip curled) ya know Mom I don’t really like her name”. I asked why and he says because when shells are on the beach they hurt my feet. OK! Ha Ha!” Thank you Kari for letting me share!

Stories like this remind me why I teach preschool. You literally never know what is going to come out of their mouths! Sometimes, you might hear a profound statement about life as they know it, sometimes it is something tragic (like that their fish died), sometimes it is something as innocent as, “My Mommy’s having a tummy tuck today” (still not sure why I found that one so hysterical!). Sometimes I hear very sad things from children, and my heart breaks for them. Other times, children can be very creative. Take for instance, the 4 year old who recently told a friend of mine that the scars on his chest were because he was shot, and his Mommy was too. My friend asked him where she was, and he told her she was inside, resting. This child happened to be an old neighbor of mine, so I asked the family what happened. His grandma told me the scars were from his heart surgery from when he was a baby, and that everyone was fine. WOW!

Working with children is very insightful. Life becomes more interesting when you listen to a 4 year-olds’ version of how things work, why things happen, etc. You can read more on my thoughts on the topic here.

Are We Doing Our Kids a Disservice?

Last week, the kids and I took a walk to the park about a mile from our house. When we got there, there was a 6 year old boy there with his brother, who I’d say was probably 11 or 12. The older brother was playing basketball, while the younger one sat and watched. There were no parents anywhere. The younger boy really liked our dog, so he followed us over to the playground. He sat and chatted with me while petting Duke, and then started playing with the kids. Now, I know I’m not a scary looking person, and I had two kids with me, but it was probably 15 minutes or so before the older brother even seemed to notice his brother had walked over to where we were.

This kind of “unsupervised” play used to really bother me, both as a parent, and as a teacher. As my kids have gotten a bit older, I’ve come to realize, it’s probably good for them. In my old neighborhood, kids played outside all the time, with very little supervision (even at 3 years old). I didn’t really become ok with this (for my youngest child) until he was about 4 1/2. Even then, I always told his sister (who’s 4 years older) to watch him. I knew the neighbors, I knew all the kids, but I was still nervous for them to be out there without me. When I was outside with them, I felt like I was constantly on their case, “Don’t go where I can’t see you… Don’t climb on that… Don’t, don’t, don’t…” My intentions were good, I wanted to keep them safe, but was I really helping them?

As I was at the park with my kids, I watched this random kid climbing on top of the tunnel that went over the slide. He invited Michael up with him. Michael tried to climb up there, but couldn’t figure out how to get up. He tried doing exactly what the other child had done to get up, and still couldn’t. I have to admit, I was a bit appalled. Not that he couldn’t do it, but that I may have hindered my child from being able to do exactly what kids his age do. I felt like somehow, in all my trying to protect him, I had done him a disservice. He’s always been a very active child, and a bit of a monkey, never in my life, would I have imagined that he would struggle to climb on top of a tunnel on a slide!

I’ve been thinking about this all week… what are we really doing to our kids by trying to be helpful?? Are we robbing them of key pieces of their childhood? When we were growing up, we played outside without parent supervision all the time! We climbed on top of the monkey bars, stood up, and tried to walk along them. We got a cut, we got a bandaid and kept going. We traveled blocks to our friends’ houses, busy roads or not. We rode our bikes wherever we wanted to go. We had freedom – freedom to be kids. Freedom to learn about cause and effect by letting it happen. If we did something, and got hurt because of it, we didn’t do it again. If we tried something, and we failed, we learned a lesson from the experience. The whole point, was that our parents didn’t hold us back…

While this whole thought process has been stewing, I came across this article and video clip from the Today show. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

How fitting. It seemed to fit with exactly what has been on my mind lately…

I’m not condoning letting your kids stay home alone at a young age, or letting them play unsupervised for hours. I do think that maybe, just maybe, we need to let kids be kids, just a little, and let them learn from their mistakes.

Blogging for Beginners

Ever since I first heard about blogging, the idea intrigued me. As someone who had always enjoyed writing, why wouldn’t I blog? Well, there were a few reasons:
1. I was afraid no one would want to read what I wrote.
2. I thought it would be too hard to set up/manage. I didn’t know what to do.
3. I was scared.

OK, so #1 and 3 are pretty much the same thing, but really, putting yourself out there on the internet where anyone could read it – that’s pretty scary! I knew I wanted to write about parenting/teaching topics. I wanted to share the funny things kids say and do. I also wanted to share things with other teachers or parents about things that have and have not worked with the kids I have worked with. Beyond that, I didn’t know what to expect.

I am lucky, in that my fiancée (Jason Strate) is an avid blogger. He forwarded a link to Brent Ozar’s blog. The post is pretty much Blogging 101. I found it VERY helpful! I also searched the internet for other information for beginner bloggers. Brent’s blog (and all its links) was the most comprehensive that I found.

Where to start
I originally wrote my blog on blogger.com. I was told by several people that WordPress is easier to use, and offers more themes. I switched over to WordPress, and have been very happy with it. Both sites are free, which is a plus. Using WordPress, I can check the stats, add or subtract widgets (the links and other fun stuff along the sidebar). I can put in pictures, change themes without having to re-do my entire blog, and more. It’s very user-friendly!

When setting up your blog, I’d strongly recommend allowing it to publish your blog to your facebook page, LinkedIn account, and Twitter. If you don’t, it is completely up to you to let people know you have a blog, when you post to it, etc. Using the social media you already use to advertise your blog is kind of a no-brainer. If you’re going to write it, you might as well let people know, right?

Writing Posts
Here’s where some people struggle. Decide what the purpose of your blog is going to be. Are you going to write solely in one “niche”, or are you going to have posts on random topics? Do you want to share information, are you writing it for professional reasons, or is it just for fun? Is your blog going to be humorous, or serious? Think about your “tone of voice”. Would YOU want to read what you wrote? Is it something you’d forward to other people?

After you’ve set up the blog, decided on your style, and actually written your post, edit it. I heard you just say, “Duh!” Truthfully though, save your draft, then preview it. Read through it slowly and carefully. If you read it too fast, you will read it as you meant to write it, not as you actually did. If it helps, read it out loud. It will make missing commas, periods, and grammar mistakes, obvious. If you want readers to keep coming back, the extra time it will take you will be worth it!

Publishing it
This is the easiest part of the process!! After your post is written, and edited, hit the Publish button. Check back occasionally, watch your stats, respond to comments… have fun with it!

One of the fun things about blogging, is that over time, it will naturally mature. Your topics may stray some from your original intent. That’s ok! Mine has strayed quite a bit, but every post is just as enjoyable to write! What matters is that you do it because you like it. Have fun!

Spreading the Word
As you are ready to increase your readership, search for sites that feature blogs on topics similar to yours. Many will accept submissions. You may even become a featured blog! Some sites, such as E-zine will publish articles on all sorts of topics. Companies can use those articles on their sites. The more places you can get your posts published, the more readers you will get. Just make sure that where ever your posts are published, they link to your site! Look for opportunities to Guest Blog. If you comment on other people’s posts, make sure it links to your blog. Get your name out there as much as you can. And please, sign your name to your site. Take credit for your work (and on that note, don’t forget to credit other people for their influences)!