Thomas the Civil Engineer

What do you do the first week of school to create team building?  In my classroom we design and test bridges.  A quick introduction to the Engineering Design Process and a fun “ice breaker” where I can assess easily who works well with others.  Usually this is a two day activity, with planning and design on day one and building, testing and revising on day two.  While I have used paper, toilet paper rolls, index cards and other consumable materials, last year I invested in K’Nex  Bridge Sets (Thanks to the generous grant from IFT!)

Thomas is a student whose main interest is in fun! He loved handball, friends, soccer, friends and lunch!  However something changed those first days in early Fall,  Thomas embraced the bridges!  He researched the best variations of bridge making and the world’s record on how much weight one bridge could hold.  He then set out to beat the record. He kept a model near his desk and spent recess improving it. If pieces got lost or broken, he learned how to create duplicates using our 3D printer.  (Also a generous addition to our classroom through the IFT grant!)  When others visited Thomas would ask them to please test his model so that he had “real  human weight.”   At parent conference  a mom who entered with bent shoulders, used to reports of a student who needed more focus, smiled through tears of joy as he cheerfully declared that he wanted to be a civil engineer.  Now perhaps you are thinking, oh that’s a nice story but where is the drama?  A lot of kids love building bridges!  True, but lets fast forward to yesterday.

Yesterday Thomas (who is now a 6th grader) raced into my classroom.  “Where’s the bridges?”  I was in the middle of a rather vigorous  Kahoot review about properties of Matter and admit his question did not even register.  He asked again, this time a bit more direct. “I need the bridges.  We are learning about plated tectonics and as a civil engineer I need to test bridges to see if they  will survive the quake.”  The bridge matter was quickly located.  My eyes were  now so teary eyed I could no longer see the screen.  Why the tears?  This was  a year later and Thomas was still a  Civil Engineer.  It was not just a passing fancy or fun activity he had done in 5th grade.  Somehow it had become a pathway to his future, and one he was excited about sharing with others!   Someday I can now envision fast forwarding to another future.  This time Thomas the Civil Engineer will be attending his first ribbon cutting ceremony for a bridge he helped design.  The future is now!

 

Fires!

California is on fire!  Embers, fueled by the untiring Santa Ana Winds have created mass destruction.  Wait, while tragic in epic proportions, I know this is not news for any of us.  This  natural disaster has been on my mind (and lungs) lately, causing me to reflect on a different type of fire.  Those smoldering embers of doubt and negativity that, if left unchecked can become flames of destruction.  Low test scores, homework undone, lack of respect, a student below grade level who doesn’t try, a student above grade level who doesn’t try……  The list could be endless of the embers fueled by a system designed to reflect on the negativity.  How do we extinguish these fires?  There really is only one way, eliminate their fuel source.  No, I don’t mean the students! I do mean the focus on negativity.  What if we built flame resistant classrooms.  Within our walls we  eliminate  negativity at its fuel source with a focus on strengths.  Focusing on the talents of each individual student can prepare them for a world where they are able to recognize and use their strengths to invent, discover and create!   Over the next few weeks I will share actual stories of students where strengths allowed them to develop better student relations, strengthen family ties, and even increase academic success!   I will change the names, but the stories and ideas are all true.  I invite you to reflect on your own students as I share my stories of strengths!  Tune in tomorrow……..  Camie

Happy Birthday M! (Continuation of my memories of why I teach children, not just curriculum.)

Image result for wendy's frosty and nuggets

October is a time  when I reflect back on the person who helped me to recognize that it is important to teach children, not curriculum.  If you would take a moment, I would love to share the story of a very special boy who taught me more than I ever taught him.

In my district, general education teachers are recruited to help home school students who cannot attend the regular classroom.  My first home school assignment  was a kindergarten boy named M.  M’s mom explained in broken English that he had a form of leukemia.  While it was in remission, he was still too fragile to be around other students.  Together we learned letters, numbers and songs. I experienced the joy of kindergarten!  In first grade we were thrilled when  M was able to return to school. I knew he had phonemic awareness and could sight read several words.  Letter formation was a struggle, but he could accomplish this with  effort.  He could count to 1000, skip count and add simple numbers.  Yes, I knew he could enter first grade on level with most of his peers.

However half way into the year I received an e-mail  asking if I would be his teacher again.  The Cancer had returned.  This new M was a bit different,  filled with chemicals that kept him alive on the inside, but took away his appetite and robbed his body of the healthy glow of a six- year- old.  He stopped eating, so with Mom’s permission,  each day I would stop by “Wendy’s” for a Happy Meal.  He usually managed to eat a few nuggets and loved the Chocolate Frosty.  On “good days”  we navigated the world of  reading and math.  Many days M was too sick to do any more than show me his Transformers, or sit while I read a story to him.  I admit to being a bit worried that he was not able to learn his math skills as quickly as I had hoped.  I wanted him to return to school close to grade level after all!

One day M asked me if we ever had any science at our school?   That is when I realized I was missing the mark.  I was trying to push  curriculum instead of meeting his needs.   From that day on I put the text books aside and focused on making a difference in his life.  Sometimes that meant having a scavenger hunt or playing Pokémon. Every Friday was “Friday Fun” where we did a hands on science experiment.  Looking back, while there were days M was too sick to even see me but he NEVER missed a Friday class!

M had four brothers.  When M’s younger brother learned multiplication tables and was bragging about how much more he knew then M,  I asked them if they would like to have a test.  I then secretly  gave the 2’s to M and the 9’s to his brother.  M was thrilled when he won!  Okay, perhaps not my proudest moment in education, but I didn’t see his brother tease him again!

I home schooled M until 4th grade.    By then, his tired body could no longer fight.  On a foggy  day in October, shortly before his 9th birthday, M left this earth to enter a place where he could play outside with the angels.

We have a new chance to make a difference in the lives of our students.  While I know we don’t have the opportunity to “throw curriculum out the window” I would love to request that we take some time each day to  help our students feel happy, loved and successful.  Happy Birthday M!

Teaching Children, Not Just Curriculum! A Lesson Learned from M……

Image result for wendys frosty kids meal

 

 

October is a time  when I reflect back on the person who helped me to recognize that we teach children, not curriculum.  If you would take a moment, I would love to share the story of a very special boy.  I will call him M.

In my district, general education teachers are recruited to help home school students who cannot attend the regular classroom.  My first home school assignment  was a kindergarten boy named M.  M’s mom explained in broken English that he had a form of leukemia.  While it was in remission, he was still too fragile to be around other students.  Together we learned letters, numbers and I experienced the joy of kindergarten.  In first grade M was able to return to school.

However half way into the year I received a text asking if I would be his teacher again.  The Cancer had returned.  This new M was a bit different, filled with chemicals that kept him alive on the inside, but took away his appetite and robbed his body of the healthy glow of a six- year- old.  He stopped eating, so with Mom’s permission,   each day I would stop by “Wendy’s” for a Happy Meal.  He usually managed to eat a few nuggets and loved the Chocolate Frosty.  On “good days”  we navigated the world of  reading and math.  Many days Melvin was too sick to do any more than show me his Transformers, or sit while I read a story to him.  I admit to being a bit worried that he was not able to learn his math skills as quickly as I had hoped.  I wanted him to return to school close to grade level after all!

One day M asked me if we ever had any science at our school?   That is when I realized I was missing the mark.  I was trying to push  curriculum instead of meeting the needs of my student.  From that day on I put the text books aside and focused on making a difference in his life.  Sometimes that meant having a scavenger hunt or playing Pokemon. Every Friday was “Friday Fun” where we did a hands on science experiment.  Looking back, while there were days M was too sick to even see me but he NEVER missed a Friday class!

M had four brothers.  When M’s younger brother learned multiplication tables and was bragging about how much more he knew then M,  I asked them if they would like to have a test.  I then secretly  gave the 2’s to M and the 9’s to his brother.  Melvin was thrilled when he won!  Okay, perhaps not my proudest moment in education, but I didn’t see his brother tease him again!

I home schooled M until 4th grade.    By then, his tired body could no longer fight.  On a foggy  day in October, shortly before his 9th birthday, M left this earth to enter a place where he could play outside with the angels.   I am so grateful for the games, smiles and moments of happiness we had.

Each day we have a new chance to make a difference in the lives of our students.  While I know we don’t have the opportunity to “throw curriculum out the window” I would love to request that we take some time to look at how we can help our students feel happy, loved and successful.

Mistakes and Growth Mindset!

Mistakes and Growth Mindset!

Good morning.  I am not sure if this should be a separate post or an addendum to my Back to School Night Blog.  My goal in blogging for the Hub is to provide you a glimpse into my life as a strength based teacher.  I want this to be a time where we can sit and “chat.”  Instead of a scripted, over analyzed published copy, my intention is to stream my thoughts allowing you to take a peak into my own mindset.  However after reading my Back to School Blog I must admit to being a bit embarrassed.  The  blatant errors in grammar stood out to me like the zit on my senior pictures.  Obviously I was in a state of excitement after my successful evening with parents.  However I was also overloaded, tired and in a state of mind where  where critical  analysis was not  evident in posting the Back to School Blog.  I first thought of deleting the post all together.  Is it okay for a teacher to blog with mistakes? Shouldn’t we be the example of a strong writing process, including editing!  However in the interests of providing you a real stream of thought I decided against deleting or even revising my prior post.  Instead, I look at this as a learning curve.  Communication is not a perfect medium.  In the desire to write in the moment I failed to take into consideration that my mindset was on overload.  I really did not  see the obvious (and I admit embarrassing) errors.   My thoughts turned to my own students.  Are there times I expect too much?  If they are dealing with home, family and friend problems, how can I help them to focus?  If their strength is in content and voice, and I focus on the grammar, am I burying what is most important?  So many questions, but no regrets.  My post stands as a reminder that teachers are not perfect.  Have a great day.