Tag Archives: Wonder

Be Kind to Yourself

Teachers: We are exhausted, we are excited, we are fearful. Welcome to the 2016 testing season!!

Today was the first day of standardized testing at the elementary school where I work.  Teachers arrived early to check out testing supplies.  Parents crowded the car rider lines, dropping students off a good 15 minutes before their arrival time.  All campus faculty and staff were smiling as they greeted each other in the hallway.  Everything was looking optimistic…until it wasn’t.


Image courtesy education.com.

I want you to understand that I have a love/hate relationship with this time of the year.  You see, I am competitive. And I like to get evaluations on how well my students master learning objectives.  So test taking for me, is sort of exciting  please do not judge me too harshly—there is a big but coming.)  BUT, I am here to tell you that I am exhausted. And I bet you are too.  My excitement and fear are coexisting in a very tiny place.  I have faith that I have done everything in my educational power to push the students toward success, but fear is creeping in on me. And like every year at this, I am beginning to doubt myself.  Fear is a much darker friend than optimism.  I don’t like fear.  It makes me weak and indecisive.  Fear makes my stomach hurt, and my head hurt too. And to tell you the truth, now I want to cry.  But, I don’t cry because I can handle this. I am the teacher, and teachers don’t cry. Period. But sometimes, the kids do.

And so cry some kids did today, before their tests were being passed out to them, before they arrived at school, even before they went to bed last night.  You know students like this. They over obsess about failure instead of nurturing their confidence.   You see them in your classes each day succeeding, learning, growing.  But today is the day of the big test. And  you can hardly recognize these students today. They act like a totally different, terrified kid that you didn’t know before yesterday. And for these reasons, I really hate standardized testing. And I bet you do too.

Last week I was in a bookstore, and I happened upon a book written by the Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh.  I am not a Buddhist, but I love the idea of Zen.  The book was about facing fears.  I read the book today after school because I saw a lot of fear and anxiety on campus today.  Guess what? I feel better now. So much so that I thought I would share what I learned today.

View of the rain

I learned that it is better to acknowledge anxieties, and replace them with emotions that are kinder to our souls.  I was re-taught that positive and negative emotions coexist inside all of us.  Hanh wrote that being in the moment and not worrying about the future, or grieving about past events, will allow our thoughts to be focussed on the tasks at hand.  You have probably read these thoughts before. I mean they are pretty common mindsets.  After my reading today, I was thinking that yes, I know how to self-soothe. But have we taught these survival skills to our students? Or have we assumed they were already equipped with these skills? Or do we not even see these skills as part of our curriculum?

I don’t want to sound too idealistic and “out-there.” And I say these things with respect and with all seriousness. Maybe something as simple as thinking positively and replacing our negative self-descriptions with positive thoughts, would be an effective way to retrain our students to be kind to themselves.  Practicing self-kindness could be revolutionary in situations that are high stress—for us and for our kids.

What if we teachers modeled this type of self-reflection for our families, students, and coworkers?  Our environments can be more peaceful, and potentially more productive.  

We know that testing is not going away any time soon.  I also know that tomorrow, round two of testing will bring more tears and anxious stomachs.  We say that we believe in ourselves, and we can do it (whatever the “it” might be). But how do we cast off the negative emotions and doubts?  Tomorrow I will be taking deep breaths with the student testers.  I will be modeling how to take an internal dialogue of doubt, and replace the unkind with gentler self-descriptors.  When it’s time to do something difficult, test or other, maybe they will be able to choose to be kind to themselves, just like their teacher has taught them.


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Creating Artists

A Field Trip to the Horlock House


A couple of weeks ago, a gaggle of students and I made the hike to a local art museum located just a couple of blocks from our school.

Our little town is unique in the fact that we have a museum  hosting three artists in residence at our very own Horlock House.  I needed to find a field trip for our students that did not cost much money, but that would also be intellectually stimulating for them. The Horlock House fit the bill.  Not only was it free to visit, but it was also within walking distance of our school—a perfect field trip destination.

The artists of the house were welcoming.  I had already created a plan for the day with Mr. Scotty Gorham, the neon artist in residence, and I had stopped by earlier to drop off some cookies and bananas so the students would have a snack for later. (Teacher tip:  Always have snacks!)  The kids were excited to meet: Scotty, Andrea Edwards and Steve Knotts.  All of these newly-friended artists create their art through different media at the Horlock House.  Andrea is a skilled photographer from Washington state.  Steve is a realistic painter and native Texan.  And Scotty is a neon artist from… well I am not quite sure.


The day began with a presentation by Scotty talking about neon art and the different gases used to create the color effects.  The kids were mesmerized by the lights. And through our discussion, Scotty talked about this art form as being both ordinary and extraordinary! He spoke to the students and called this art form very “American,” and explained his process for creation and installation.  It was like attending an art lecture, but with the benefit of actually seeing, touching, and understanding the art!

Horlock-House-PhotographyNext, Miss Drea talked to the students about creating art using photosensitive paper and the sun.  She even allowed the students to create their own art using leaves that we collected.   After a sweet intermission, we brushed away the cookie crumbs from our hands and looked at Steve’s artwork. He had quite a bit to say about the elements of his craft, about the lines and details of his paintings.  The children listened and asked about his process as we sat lounging on the floor.  The experience was very sophisticated, and yet very casual at the same time.  I was worried about going to a museum because sometimes artists can be uptight, or restrictive. But, not these guys.  These artists were encouraging, enthusiastic and passionate about their art.  Our students absorbed these sentiments that day, and were ready to take up careers in art. As the teacher, I LOVED it!

Most of the students on the field trip had never even heard of the Horlock House, and they have lived in the town their entire life.  For some of the students, the visit to the museum was their first exposure to art in a formal setting.  It is strange that sometimes we overlook the most unusual gems in our own backyards.


After a picnic in the backyard with the artists, and visits with a kitty cat the kids renamed Burnt Toast, the kids promised they would return to visit the Horlock House over the holidays with their parents. I hope they did.

The exposure that students have to art in our schools is minimal these days. But when you think about it, the art we learned about at the Horlock House involved science, electronics, math, reading, writing and even history.  I feel that we are working in an educational system that often overlooks the value of art and creativity.  When we start to omit art, we stop creating artists. And I am not just talking about the painters and photographers.  Think about the art of engineering. We under serve future generations if we don’t teach students how to create, and if we allow them to believe that science and engineering are not in some way artistic.

So today friends, I encourage you to take your students to a museum.  Encourage them to be artistic.  Encourage them to create, instead of just to remember facts and figures and parts of speech.

As one of the world’s most famous scientists said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” – Albert Einstein

Thank you to the Horlock House and the artists in residence for reminding this teacher how important art education can be in our schools.


Want to learn more about the importance of art in child development? Just follow the link!

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Book Prom 2015 Was a Success!

As you may have heard, we hosted a Book Prom in Navasota last Friday, and man, did we HAVE FUN!

Fun at Book PromThe #SecretSocietyOfReaders decorated the library and moved out the tables and books to create a dance floor for our readers.  When the students arrived to the library, they signed in with their “book date,” and strutted down the royal blue carpet.  Students were dressed in their finest clothes, and some students dressed up their books too.

Students and teachers were invited to attend Book Prom, and even the Mayor of Navasota, Texas attended the celebration!  After walking the carpet our kids had their Book Prom, posed pictures taken in front of a city backdrop.  Guests were then treated to a donated breakfast, and after eating settled themselves for the welcoming ceremony presented by:  Sarah Martin, Kevin Bradford and Kathryn French.

Talking StickEach student was given the talking stick, to introduce the book that they chose to take to the prom.  Some parents and visitors, even shared their favorite books that they would take to the Book Prom.  It was indeed a splendid moment to hear adults from our school district, and community, speak about their love of literacy with our student learners.

After the book talks, students voted on which book they thought deserved to be the Book Prom King or Queen.  While volunteers scrambled to tally the votes, students danced and did the “Wobble “with their books.  I was one happy librarian to watch kids dance, the library was alive with positive energy, and  celebration!

Students were so excited to have a Skype chat with the wonderful librarian, artist, explorer and book lover!  We discussed our favorite books and what we wanted to be when we grow up.  Ms. Miller was kind enough to encourage our students to keep reading.  She introduced our students to fresh new books, books that we had not heard of before.  Our kids had a blast!

Book Prom 2015 King and QueenWhen the moment arrived to crown the Prom King and Queen…we all waited, quiet with anticipation…the winners were for:  Prom King was the book, Wonder, written by RJ Palacio and the Prom Queen was Divergent, written by Veronica Roth!  Of course, those were the MOST popular books in the library this school year!  We were all excited.

Tomorrow is Friday, the second to last Friday of the 2014-2015 school year.   So many of our #SecretSocietyOfReaders have asked if we will be meeting tomorrow, they want to get together again before summer vacation to talk about what they are reading.  I will miss our secret meetings that are no longer a secret, but I do not believe that I can beat our Book Prom Friday.  The readers will just have to wait until next year, which I guarantee you, will be BIGGER and BETTER than this year!  Book Prom 2015 was a success, my hope is that readers will be inspired to host mini Book Prom in their classrooms in celebrations of literacy.  It has been a wonderful year. -K


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