Monday, December 28, 2015


Let's be mindful of the gifts we can
share with kids. Perhaps not the very ones
most people associate with this time of the year.

Endearing ones like "grit,"
so children will not hesitate to carry on.
"Empathy" for the needs or desires
of others, especially when these
feelings are different from yours.
Knowledge that mistakes or failure isn't
the end, rather a door to a new beginning.
An all important truth:  find joy in each day!

Enjoy ideas from Suzie Boss (above)
who captures what I know to be beautiful
gifts for all, to carry us into a new year. 
You can follow her on TWITTER: 


Thursday, December 24, 2015

O Christmas Tree!

Decorating a tree, a
tradition for countless families. 
Whether inside or out, that tree 
often bestows special beauty and 
joyful holiday memories for so many. 
Annually I enjoy seeing the first 
lady accept the White House Tree.

Somewhere a proud farmer is 
relishing the fact that their 
pine will usher in the holidays
 at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue 
NW, in Washington, D.C.
 Merry Christmas to you and
all whom you love & hold dear.
I wish for all is immesurable
joy in the coming New Year!


Sunday, December 6, 2015

We Can Do This

Success requires kids to be both resilient
and motivated.  They can learn to be both
but pupils have to learn and to persist
even when schoolwork is challenging. 

 The Mindset Kit:
free resources for anyone
instilling positive learning 
attitudes in youngsters.

Follow Growth Mindset
on Twitter @growthmindset1


Friday, November 27, 2015

In the Gray Dawn

This lovely prose from Mary Oliver's 
Evidence reminds us of
beauty that is ours to savor.

  This day after Thanksgiving 
I encountered a lone string of
geese flying west in the gray dawn.  

The honking above me was
faint and the winds so powerful. 
Yet the flock seemed to move
effortlessly ahead, and their cries  
echoed long after they disappeared.

Courage and memories that bring 
simple truths to us are often like that.
Beautiful acts of strength and 
persistence, unforgettable yet humble.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Developing Student Strengths

Sir Ken Robinson in his essay "The Teacher You Want to Be" spoke to the unfortunate reality of education which exclusively emphasizes academics, while ignoring strengths that make children unique and successful.  

What about musical, athletic, poetic, and kinesthetic talents?  Ignoring a pupil's interests and not providing them with opportunities cooperatively engage with others is short-sighted.  Let us continue offering kids chances to engage in real-world scenarios, alongside peers and adults.  They deserve to "flex the muscles of discovery" during their school day.

How else can learners develop discipline, empathy, and pride for accomplishments they create?  What better place to safely practice and hone skills of self-control and creativity, than within the walls of a familiar building, with people they can trust.  


Saturday, September 5, 2015

We've So Much to Be Thankful For

The seasons do wax and wane, bringing with them an ever changing repertoire.  If we pay attention to each rich, solemn, funny, or stirring melody it's a very wise thing to do.  What you accomplish is an understanding of the truly important lessons of life.  Connect with others along the way and those lessons become a roadmap of sorts, a guide.

Robin LeGrand had her roadmap handy at every moment.  Without a doubt she was a guide with immeasurable talent, wit, and a smile that lit up the room.  Music was just one of her passions and she shared it with authority and grace. 

Each and every student she encountered was important.  Her charges all had potential.  What Robin brought to her classes was an opportunity to have fun, learn something new, and acquire skills alongside others who shared a common bond.  What could be more perfect?  So, so many young people benefited from her unwavering commitment to nurture musical self-expression. 

At the start of the school year, I found her giggling with fifth graders while they imitated frogs, jumping off of imaginary lily pads.  "I taught this to them when they were in first grade, years ago.  But they remember it and still want to sing it."  She turned back to the organ and continued playing the music, to the obvious delight of her charges until every one had a chance to "leap" and sing a particular verse. 

As fall deepens into winter, one could walk down the hallways of Parkside Elementary School and savor the aroma of fresh biscuits or big vats of simmering spaghetti sauce.  Meanwhile in the nearby music room were the sounds of Robin teaching and rehearsing holiday tunes.  She arranged for transportation to local nursing homes and stores out in the community, where children would proudly carol, sharing songs of the holiday season.  Nurturing talent, guiding children.....isn't that what love is all about? 

Joy and learning were the key destinations on Robin's roadmap.  Thank you dear, we will carry on in your spirit of hope and possibility. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Thank You Mrs. Brody

Fourth Grade Days at Alice Smith             
Ever Had a Teacher Who Kept You in the Palm of Her Hand?

If you had ever known Mrs. Brody, you'd remember her.  Oh what a tall, resolute, strong willed gal was she.  One could not help but notice her long, dark brown hair.  At least everyone imagined it was because we never saw her wear those locks loosely, or down.  Rather, she routinely swept that hair up in a bun atop her crown.  When I was a child female teachers were required to wear dresses or suits.  In fact pants were not allowed to be worn by any women on the school staff, including the secretaries, cooks, therapists, or our Principal.  We recognized that while Mrs. Brody's outfits were always clean, most were old, mismatched, or rather shabby.  Fall, winter, or spring time were all the same in that this woman was never without some sort of sweater.  Her glasses were always perched on her wide face in a rather menacing manner; to look at her one could imagine all kinds of uneasy things.  The lady was downright unpleasant to look at.
Mrs. Brody’s world was comprised of measured, exacting routines and her classroom was always  orderly.  Everything was in the proper place and therefore she was able to conduct lessons with few  interruptions.  None of her pupils could ever recall that she was ill or absent from class.  It was a fact; the expected and unexpected events of the day never deterred the woman.  She consistently reached out to her pupils, her parents, dealt with her Principal, and of course with her colleagues.  She was at school early and stayed late.  It was well known that Mrs. Brody graded all papers that were assigned to each pupil in red pen.  The evaluated work was promptly returned to her young charges for further corrections and she made it clear that all assignments were expected to go home for parents to see.  

This lady handled both adults and children in a firm, direct manner.  Yes, Mrs. Brody was all business.  Everything about the way she created, conducted, and then wrapped up her lessons was meticulous.  Whether she was working one-on-one with a pupil, immersed in a small group reading lesson, or was up at the chalkboard giving extra practice to a child, we all knew this lady was squeezing every moment out of the day for kids.  Her conversations were pristine and few student comments or happenings ever escaped Mrs. Brody's ear or watchful gaze.  Likewise her opinions were presented quickly, especially if she felt that you needed that "necessary" word from her.  After all she was the teacher who was responsible for her pupils and their learning. 

Well recognized in the hallways of Alice Smith Elementary was the fact that Mrs. Brody faithfully read to youngsters directly after lunch and noon recess.  The woman was a master storyteller.  Each book Mrs. Brody shared with the class “came alive.” Her students recognized that the moments she immersed them in a tale were the finest ones of the entire day.  Yes everyone, from the silliest acting girl to the most rough and tumble fellow who fancied himself a football star, they all looked forward to what she'd prepared to read aloud.  Her children dashed in from the playground, rushing from the far corners of the grassy field to the asphalt pavement in the school yard the moment she blew that whistle.  The shrill noise cut through the air, disrupting all play but it meant that recess was officially over.  It was time to line up and go inside, time for the story.  No child would dare ignore Mrs. Brody's summons because who would want to be late?  Indeed her pupils were eager to quickly settle back into the classroom so she could begin  reading.  The woman was captivating and from the moment she opening the book; Mrs. Brody had each and every listener right in the palm of her hand. 

Later in the afternoon when lessons were over and the day was winding down, all her young charges knew exactly what to do in preparing to exit the building.  She expected them to promptly gather books, shoe carriers, coats, and personal belongings.  Mrs. Brody stood at the classroom door to see that everyone was prepared to leave the room quietly and swiftly.  There was no disruptive talk, no pushing, and personal items were rarely forgotten or left behind by her students.  

Yet as each pupil walked past Mrs. Brody at the doorway of their small classroom, she embraced them.  Before they went past her into the hallway she quietly whispered “good night,” and sometimes gave them a wink. When any of the youngsters shyly responded “I love you” into her ear, she would always answer back, “And I love you too.”  

It seems like just yesterday that we counted on seeing Mrs. 

Brody,  that tall, stern but a loving figurehead at Alice Smith 

Elementary.  You see, she was my fourth grade teacher; I was 

Rosemary Ann Nelson back then.  Indeed I was one of the 

youngsters in her room that needed an ordinary, safe, fair, 

challenging, and enriching day.  My fellow classmates and I 

longed to hear her read us stories  in those early 

moments of school day, Minnesota afternoons.  She made an 

important impression that remains with me now and

probably will, forever.            ~Rose West  

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Trust Me

I attended the 2015 International Literacy Association's gathering in St. Louis last week. 
A final session found our team in the delightful company of "Bad Kitty" author Nick Bruel. 

By the way, my colleagues are
 smart, caring, and passionate.
That is a great combination, if you
care about nurturing learning 
opportunities for youngsters. 

Bruel's lighthearted luncheon banter
ended upon a serious note when he
alluded to an article by Debra Kachel, concerning  the gradual disappearance

 of school libraries across the U. S. 
That factoid has serious implications if
we're dedicated to improving literacy for

our families, schools, and community.

If you advocate for helping kids learn
how to read and write, then you'll
applaud, uphold, and use the library.

  You will support the librarian by building
a relationship, or volunteering to help

promote their many programs.  

You'll echo their mission by reading to
and with children at any opportunity.

The library provides essential services. 
Libraries are centers for the arts.
They champion youth.
Libraries are stable spots where we
gather to explore, interact, and imagine.  

Strengthening and promoting
literacy is indispensable and libraries
are an essential part of the effort.

Learn more about ILA: 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Happy Endings

June is nearly over.
School's out until August. 
Amid chores our janitorial staff
are busying themselves with,  staff
who will not return for the new term

have packed up and cleared  things
from classrooms and offices.  

They're turning in their keys. 

Before youngsters left for 
summer break, I posed this question:  
 "Just what should teachers and our
principal do now that they're not
   coming back to Parkside next year?

What shall make them happy in retirement?" 

   made, here are their proposals: 

#5  "Get a cool, new pet."
 They suggested something
unusual, perhaps a pig.  Why? 
A pig will help you make new friends.

#4  "Eat all your favorite foods."
They guessed retirees would opt for burgers & s'mores.

#3  "Hang out with friends & those you love."

 Now that is sage advice!
Note their phrase:  "Hang Out."

#2  "Every so often, get all dressed-up."
They cautioned me that men who retire
 would not have to dress-up as often as ladies.

#1 "Take lots of naps."  
Tough job, yet someone has to do it.

Kids are wise;
listen to them more often. 

  In the conversations about retirement
and ending a school year,
sincere feelings concerning all
four woman began to spill out.

"They are ending their school year forever."
Everyone had an opinion about
Mrs. Large, Mrs. Dickerson,
Mrs. Mullen, and or  Mrs. Frederick. 
I'm not sure that the teachers or
staff at a school always realize,
really realize how very important
they are in the lives of their students.

The youngsters had numerous,
sincere opinions about each
(beyond time management suggestions)
related to "happiness." 
The realization that these familiar
people would no longer be present daily,
was prompting some thoughtful responses.

Several were upset that they'd never
have a chance to have these
retirees as a classroom teacher.

Many wished they'd see one or more
of the women back, as substitutes.

I'll never forget this response:
"Oh she's so special.
She made learning fun again, for me."

"She always believed in us
and I'll miss her," was
echoed by so many students.

Yes, careers come to a close,
and "happy endings" are grand.
I just hope that these women
understand that they've
made an important difference
in the lives of many children.

Yes indeed, we shall miss them!

I trust they'll continue finding
fulfilling ways to spend their days.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ten Positives

"Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed.  Happiness is
the spiritual experience of living every
minute with love, grace, and gratitude."
                                                              ~Denis Waitley

Walking together
Having shoes
Sharing conversation
Knowing the route
Feeling safe
Sheltered from rain
Heading home
Giving encouragement
Feeling capable


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Dear Mom

What's One Thing You
Want to Say About Your Mom?

From SoulPancake 

Recently I found out what Kindergarten, First, and Second graders think about the adult women in their families.  At no time were they at a loss for words!  My customers earnestly gave their impressions of mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, and even great grandmothers. 

It began with Blueberries for SalIf you haven't discovered it, treat yourself
to this Robert McCloskey tale. 

We went on to fashion pouches using
paper decorated with individual
drawings and watercolor images. 
Filled with some sweets and a
note for the intended recipients, the
creations will likely become
Mother's Day surprises.    

Wish I could see the faces of these
beloved women when they're handed
those "little packages of love" during 
the next few days.  Discovering how
the children feel will surely reaffirm
the deep devotion our youngsters
feel for those whom they depend upon.
I savored their lovely colors and artwork. 
The notes were filled with 
honest feelings such as these:

"You are a lot of stuff.  
Mostly, you are pretty."

  "I really, really, really, really, really love you!"

"You are the best!"

"You will always be in my heart!"

"I love playing games with you!"

"The chocolate chip cookies
you make are so yummy!" 

"Our Mom is the loveliest one I know."

"You are as sweet as candy."

 "You rock!"

"My favorite time of the day is
when you tuck me into bed
and give me a kiss good night." 

"Thank you for being my Mommy!"

"You're my hero."

"My mom is the 
prettiest one in the whole world."

"You are so nice to me!"

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Devour or Write," As Much As Possible!

A wonderful time is here,
"National Poetry Month."

Immerse yourself in verse.
Share your enthusiasm for
poems with reckless joy and delight!

Read, write, recite some poetry.
Treat yourself to glorious lines and stories. 

After all, poems are a
language of history,
longing, despair, courage,
and often a beautiful song.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Sonya Romero could be your neighbor.

First of all, she's a parent.   

She's currently an educator at Albuquerque Public Schools.  Go there and you'll
find this teacher in a kindergarten
classroom at Lew Wallace Elementary.   
Sonya Romero considers herself a 
"first responder,"
by serving her pupils in all ways that
enable them to feel valuable, secure, safe.
I like her thinking!

It is essential for the youngsters
who enter into the classroom to
feel a part of something important. 
The school experience is often the
initial community each child becomes a
part of, beyond that of their family.  

  Sonya is not unlike many educators
today who value their kids as the unique human beings they are, not simply
a "number" on the class roster.  

She was recently surprised and
honored by Ellen Degeneres
(watch the segment on the link above)

for the impact Sonya Romero's made
at her workplace, on behalf of children.    

It does a heart "good" to make a difference.
Thanks to the teachers
who do that every day.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Here To Stay

Aye wintery days do fade
while snowdrifts melt away
for spring in all its loveliness,
is finally here to stay.  

Enjoy the week ahead!  
Anticipate good things await you because
sincere effort, and opportunity is not far behind.   

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sunny, Saturday Pi

Today was grand!
So cue up"Uptown Funk." 

Smile, because spring's on-the-way! 
I hope you had your slice of "pi." 

To quote Bruno Mars:
"Smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy!"