Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Farewell to the, I want to write horrific but perhaps will tone that drama down a bit - how about...less than stellar, fading year 2008.

I wish you all a fantastic new year of health, happiness, kindness and above all else - love.

A year to 'follow your bliss'.

I have never been one to make new year's resolutions but this year I think I'll give it a go. As Reya often writes "onward and upwards".

Sunday, December 28, 2008


On the last day of school, before our Christmas vacation, the children sat and wrote about the upcoming holidays. It is so interesting to watch their writing process. What they do when they do not know how to spell a word? Do they ask someone? Stretch it out? Look around the room or find books that they remember contain the exact word they are looking for? Give up?

What part does motivation play? How do they communicate when their message is important and personal?

The sampling of stories below bear testament to the writing process as it develops in young children. Some look conventional while others epitomize the fledgling learner and the struggle to map letters to sounds. They are all beautiful. They are all progressing and growing.

I decorate my Christmas tree. 
Notice his long spider like arm reaching for the ornament? Make it work kid!

 She is learning to remember to add spaces between her words but I'msureyoucanstillreadit.

I think you can read this on your own, especially if you are an elementary school teacher or have young children. Great bunch of presents under the tree.

I love this. Take a look at the big chairs and how long she had to make their legs in order to reach the floor (and the heels).

This boy told me he colored all the boys blue and all the girls pink. He didn't learn that from me!

We had the best time playing dreidel. Gimel, Gimel, Gimel!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ho Ho Shh!

I am all about the magic of Christmas. 

"A million reasons to Believe" according to Macy*s. 

I am right there staring wide-eyed with optimism while Santa and the elves swirl magical Christmas enchantment around an eager populace.  I am that guy singing Christmas carols, spreading optimistic good will towards my fellow man and bouncing through each day with a smile on my face.

Belief!  Belief in possibilities!  That's me.

So, in 1989 when I read in the newspaper that Macy*s was looking for 'a few good elves' to work in SANTALAND at the "World's Largest Department Store" in NYC - the setting for that classic Christmas tear-jerker Miracle on 34th Street - I thought "oh yeah.  Sign me up!"

I scheduled an interview and met with a very pleasant woman at the 34th street offices.  I bounded in, full of enthusiasm and smiles.  I explained why I wanted to be an elf with an earnest childlike innocence and she fell for me.  At the end of the interview she said my spirit was perfect for the qualities they look for in their Santas and offered me that job.  

"Wow!"  says I  "I came in to be an elf and leave as Santa!"  It's like going out for a supporting role and ending up with the lead. Yippee!!

She calmed me down here to tell me that ALL ROLES are equal. No one is more important than anyone else here at SANTALAND.  I thought, "That's right.  All those kids line up to meet an elf."  But whatever, I was going to be Santa Claus at Macy*s.  

Due to a prior commitment I was unable to attend the training over the Thanksgiving holiday. I showed up for my first day rather nervous.  The more experienced, older Santas took me under their wing and explained the process; move the line along, pose for a picture with the kids and send in the next one.  No worries.  Just don't spend too long with anyone child because the lines are so long.

I was told that there are five Santa houses with one Santa waiting in each to keep things moving smoothly.  All one big family operating like a well-oiled machine.  Fantastic!

They have quite a production team in place.  I was escorted to the costume department where I was assigned my own Santa suit. An amazingly intricate and detailed piece of finery that was truly awe inspiring.  I met my personal hair and makeup person (loved her). The Santa wig and beard are set every evening and they showed me how to put them on, along with the eyebrows. By the time I was finished only a bit of my own face peered through.  Oh, and don't forget the glasses.

I was a hit; at first.  There was buzz about this young 'kid' (I was 25) who was the skinniest Santa in the history of SANTALAND (At 5'10" I weighed about 145lbs).  

On the first day I was lead to my house and sat down on Santa's throne.  Surrounded by toys, elves and Christmas music I felt excited.  But, it was hot under the lights wearing all that padding under my heavy costume with hair everywhere.  My house elf kept bringing me water to sip through a straw but I just sat there sweating like crazy. 

I was uncomfortable!

I decided to make the most of it though and thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the small children and happy adults. I guess I enjoyed it a little too much because I was told I was taking too long with each group and should remember "In and out" as fast as possible. Smile, click, see you on Christmas Eve and "Next".  

But who can stop me when I'm on?  

The other issue was that I was a very loud "Ho Ho Ho'er".  I got into the hearty belly laugh so much that I was repeatedly told to keep it down.  It seems that children sitting on Santa's lap in the houses next door (separated only by a thin wall) could hear another Santa. That didn't go over well as it spoiled the magic.  But I couldn't help myself.  

And I evidently didn't push for the pics as much as I should have.

It was lonely as a Santa.  Never out of costume, God forbid if I dropped character for even a moment while in the costume. I had to eat lunch alone in the back hallway next to the lockers. I was hot, losing weight, too loud, too talkative and couldn't wait for this gig to end (which it did, on Christmas Eve with me refusing to stay late.)  

I got a lovely t-shirt for my involvement (see above) and a stash of extra cash that I saved to travel Europe for two months the following May/June.  

Macy*s didn't invite me back the following year (I would have turned them down anyway - so there.) I only have three photos of this time.  Two of me standing in the back hallway in full costume which I can't find.  And one with my friend James, who was an elf, sitting on my lap. He has it framed and has promised to lend it to me so I can add it to this post.  We'll see.

"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" 

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Sammy's Angels.

My magical niece Samantha continues to amaze me. Last night she handed me a piece of paper on which she had written the names of her angels.

4 angels who watch over her.

Of course, I wanted to know how she knew their names. Sometimes her answers to these metaphysical questions are very vague while at other times they are so matter of fact "duh" that I feel silly for even having asked. But for this question she simply said "They told me".

According to her, the angels Kyle, Simon, Lennon and Joshua are with her during the night and if she pretends she is asleep she can catch a glimpse of them. They only tell her their names - no other conversation occurs.

I asked her if everyone has their own angels. Her reply, "Yes". However, according to her, your angels rotate and move on to help others. So the four angels who watch over her today may or may not be the same four next week. The angels are there for many reasons including to "protect me from the bad angels" (fallen angels?).

I asked her how I could find out the names of my angels and she said I could ask. As I lay on the futon last night I did just that. I opened up my mind to this question and let the answers come uncensored. Several interesting names came to me but when I awoke this morning only one name stuck out; Tony!

Tony does not seem to be an angelic name to me. I told Sammy this morning that I asked my angels to tell me their names but could only remember one name. I expressed doubt about an angel named Tony.

Gary: I don't think there is an angel named Tony. Don't you think that is a weird name for an angel.

Samantha: No, that's not strange.

Gary: Oh, okay.

What does one say after that?

She is so matter of fact about all of this. It seems as natural to her as a blue sky and green grass.

The extraordinary aspect of this is that her family are not church going folk. Good and bad angels? How would she know about this unless she knew about this, you know?

Give it a try tonight. Ask your angels to reveal themselves to you by name and let me know what names come to you. Utterly astonishing.

Update: My sister, Jennifer,  recently asked Samantha to describe one of her many angels and Sammy told about the angel Raphael.  She said he was a teenager with long hair and was holding something like a sword or an ax. So, Jennifer Googled 'angel Raphael' and discovered that Raphael is the archangel of healing.  Given the fact that Sammy is a self professed healer (she recently healed her kindergarten teacher and has great confidence in her ability) the coincidence was rather amazing.  That coupled with the fact that he is described as "a young man carrying a staff" is cause for goosebumps.

One of the images I found when I Googled 'the archangel of healing' was the picture on the right of Raphael guiding children safely across a bridge.  This is one of my favorite images and I have a copy of it hanging in the bedroom.  

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tips From My Mom #8

I am a night person. My true inner clock prefers that I stay up until the wee hours of the morning and spend a large chunk of the next day comfortably asleep in bed. I was able to indulge this preference when I was in my teens (not so much anymore) because my mom allowed it. Once she let me sleep until 4:00 in the afternoon just to see how long I would go before waking up.

Upon waking I would often find little handwritten notes on my nightstand telling me where everyone was so I wouldn't stumble around in a foggy haze thinking "I wonder where everybody is".
There would sometimes be torn corners from a notepad that read "went to the store" or on the back on an envelope I'd see "went to feed the horses".

I'd wake up, read these notes, and be somehow comforted by knowing what was going on in my little world.

If I had to get up early for some reason I typically found time in the afternoon for a glorious nap (on top of the covers with the window open and the curtain fluttering beside me). As a theater major I would often nap before opening night and once again Ma would leave me a small note (see above for one such note), a yellow rose (my favorite) and a small bottle of champagne.

Ma was and is a great communicator.

Not only with her notes but with the big stuff as well; love, security, trust, humanity, compassion, honesty, respect, struggles. There were certainly ups and downs, as with any family, but I never doubted for a second that I was loved and I firmly believe that this was because of communication.

Communication does not always mean that you have the answers. It can mean you have no idea what the hell is going on or how to respond. It allows for vulnerability and humanness. It means that you share part of yourself with those you love, warts and all. Ma taught me this by example and I have always cherished her for that.

I'm not sure I have mastered this exactly but I do believe that the folks I love are well aware of it. Communication and love - thanks Ma!
Hey, I think I am starting to see a theme with those smiley faces (see header).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Visit From Maureen Sullivan & Alison Josephs

My class was invited to a delightful reading and book signing this morning of Ankle Soup. The timing could not have been better as the story involves a "French Bulldog finding his way through New York City's Grand Central Terminal on Thanksgiving Day".

I was immediately enamored of the vivacious, outgoing, energetic, charismatic and commanding author, Maureen Sullivan. She was in her element before a group of kindergarten and first grade students as she set the stage for the reading. She explained that the story takes place in our wonderful city and highlighted the places the children may have visited.

Maureen encouraged the children to meet the challenge of big words in texts. Those delicious and descriptive words like immortal, dodging, terminal and careened (all in the book) but none as big as that gi-normous one from Mary Poppins - you know the one, it starts with an 'S'.

During the reading Alison, the illustrator, displayed the exquisite artwork that accompanied Maureen's words. Hers are luscious, colorful images chock full of details for young readers to explore. The sushi in the display case, Clifford the Big Red Dog balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, the taxi cab driver, the title of the book a young girl is holding. They draw you in (so to speak).

A question and answer period followed in which Maureen and Alison explained that this was their first children's book collaboration. A second book Custard and Mustard is expected in Spring 2009. It is a "love letter to Coney Island the reader is sure to relish".

It was a pleasure to see these enterprising women share their talents with us today. I'll end as they end Ankle Soup, with a short poem:

Rich and poor, short and tall
We're in it together on this great big ball
Let's all be grateful on this Thanksgiving Day
For the soup we're all in and life's buffet

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Going Once, Going Twice, SOLD!

Everyone is feeling the pinch in these difficult economic times so it often takes an enterprising and imaginative spirit to keep from slipping into the financial red. My little 200 year old church on the hill, with its dwindling congregation, is no exception.

We are constantly struggling to raise enough money to meet our operating costs and fund outreach programs like supporting the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, missionary work and disaster relief. But as the expression states, when times get tough, the tough get going. And the 'tough' in this instance were the ladies of our Serendipity Circle.

Spurred on by high hopes and good will these ladies organized our first ever (annual?) pasta dinner and live auction. Every church member was encouraged to donate a service or item for bidding. The idea behind the service is that each of us has unique talents and skills that we can share with others. For some this was 15 hours of yard or house work while for others it was 8 hours of handyman work (plumbing, electrical work, painting, etc). A lawyer offered to prepare two wills, someone donated a cord or half cord of fire wood and a family donated their time share property.

I was 'voluntold' to offer to teach a class in American Sign Language. I figured I could teach four one to one tutoring sessions in my home and possibly raise as much as $200 for the church. As the event neared I was approached by several people expressing interest in the lessons. My 'item' was going to be part of the live auction (there were 76 items in the silent auction, 14 in the live) and I was beginning to wonder how the bidding would go.

The pasta dinner/auction took place this past Saturday and the ASL lessons were the hot ticket. It turns out that six people were interested. So, instead of asking them all to continue to place individual bids I was asked if I would consider teaching a class so everyone could participate. I said 'okay' and the bidding closed. Each person agreed to pay $110 each which brought in $660! Pretty cool.

In total, the pasta dinner/auction brought in about $8,500. It exceeded our expectations and was a wonderful evening of fellowship. Now if I could just figure out a way to make some extra money for myself. Anyone interested in learning sign language?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The super duper artist in residence at our school this year, Agee, has been working closely with Lauren and I to ensure that the art projects she does with our students reflect and support the work we are doing in the classroom.

When we told her we were starting an investigation into the Greek Myths, to correspond with our recent visit to The Metropolitan Museum of Art tour of the Monsters, Gods and Heroes of Greek Mythology, she was chock full o' ideas.

Since we introduce these stories with the mythical bang and horror of Medusa and Cyclops she suggested we make masks to represent these creatures.

They are constructed on sturdy cardboard backing with a simple cut out for the nose and eyes (for Medusa) or nose (for Cyclops). This is then covered with colored tissue paper with a diluted glue substance. Students were encouraged to use the images they 'saw' when they visualized these creatures during our initial read alouds.

The texture of Medusa's skin was bandied about as was the requisite amount of glitter for Cyclops' eye (evidently a lot!).

The final product(s) will be displayed in the lobby of our school for all to see. I think they are amazing!

Next up...The Trojan Horse!

Monday, November 17, 2008


History in the making?

The recognition of the importance of the outcome?

Acknowledging and demanding that our collective voice be heard?

What was it that made this election the family affair that it was?

I do not recall, in recent memory, the level of interest in an election that I witnessed during the McCain/Obama run for the presidency of the United States.

Mothers and fathers brought their children into the voting booths with them. They explained the process in broad terms (the role of the president and what is at stake this election) and in more immediate terms (this lever shuts the curtain, this button casts the vote). Including their children in the voting process seemed to be an important undertaking for many parents on November 4th.

I was witness to it as I patiently stood on line to vote in Trenton, N.J.

It was brought to my attention the day after the election as my New York City students spontaneously engaged in a conversation to share their experiences at the voting booth with their moms and/or dads.

It was evident in their writing...

I went with my daddy to vote. Obama or McCain? And my daddy voted Obama and I have fun with daddy.

in their involvement...
I see Obama on the stage.

in their reasoning...

Obama is best because he is nice and he supports Deaf people.

and in their visions...

This one sums it up:

Saturday, November 1, 2008


The low key vibe that ushered in this school year has continued to permeate all of our classroom functions. This was quite apparent on Friday as Halloween came and went without the overstimulation that usually accompanies it.

Children did, of course, change into their costumes (superheroes, princesses), we shared both scary and funny Halloween stories and I am sure I saw a candy bar or two but it was all done in a vedy, vedy, civilized manner.

As is the tradition in our school, children do not change into costume until after lunch.  At that time we can have celebrations (or not) until the school wide Spirit Day! assembly.  Everyone gathers together to parade their finery, class by class, while others cheer and 'ooh' and 'ahh'.

This year I decided to be an old tyme baseball player (Go Phillies!) and Lauren was a court jester.

I must say that wearing a baseball uniform and swinging a bat is much more comfortable than wearing a big, yellow hat and cradling a monkey like I did last year when I was The Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George.

In the midst of all this I began to do some research for my current doctoral class - Reading and writing as Psycholinguistic Processes.  I am going to compare the reading processes of an emergent reader with a skilled reader in terms of verbal protocol, miscue analysis, comprehension, conceptual signs, phonological awareness and retelling.  Lauren has agreed (Thank you!) to be my skilled reader so I recorded us reading a story together so I can analyze her 'online' reading.

I am including it here for several reasons:

1) It is a Halloween story.

2) There is an ongoing question about how we promote and support bilingualism in English and American Sign Language when one language (ASL) has no written form.  This fact makes our school program different from other bilingual programs where both languages are written and spoken.  The solutions are not always easy or mutually agreed upon.  However, one thing we do is to provide read alouds utilizing both languages as you will see in the video below.  At other times the read aloud is done strictly in American Sign Language without voicing.

3) My mom likes the book The Hallo-Wiener.  It makes her chuckle. And since my last post did not make her chuckle, I thought it was time to redeem myself. So, this is for you mom.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


In classrooms all across The United States school children and their teachers stand facing the American Flag every morning to recite The Pledge of Alligiance. In our school this is said in both American Sign Language and English. In other schools those young children with their right hands over their hearts may be speaking Spanish. Although the language differs, there is something we have in common. We are all Americans.

The words sometimes get jumbled. I have heard "one nature under God, invisible, with Liberty and Justice that's all" and many times the young ones like to throw in an "Amen" at the end. Yet, in spite of the less than perfect delivery the essence of the words somehow shines through. When Lauren and I take our students on class trips and they notice a flag waving outside a building they turn to us with excitement and exclaim "Look! America!" as they recite (over and over) the pledge.

They are proud of America. Proud to be Americans.

In our classroom we try to support this citizenship by teaching respect. Together we develop a set of classroom rules that serve as reminders in achieving this goal. Rules like...

And my personal favorite

It is sometimes a struggle to keep things operating smoothly but all in all I think we succeed. After all, these are five-and-six-year-olds.

It has struck me over the last month or so that given the performance of John McCain during the presidential debates, at rallies, on the news and in his campaign ads, I think he would have a difficult time managing in first grade, let alone the White House.
Do we honestly want someone who has yet to learn how to take turns or show respect for others running our country? Throw that in with taking away my medical benefits, cutting Medicare, stripping away the right of a woman to choose, the lying, the promoting of hate and horrendous judgement in picking the unethical and down right scary Sarah Palin as his running mate and you have one colossal disaster waiting to happen.
I would advise these two to step back to first grade before they venture out into the world where they will just get themselves, and us, into trouble.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Little to the Left

At the start of each new school year Lauren and I rethink the classroom environment, making changes from previous years, so the space feels new and invigorating. When we first started teaching together back in 2002 it was all about creating the most colorful atmosphere possible.

Our walls were covered with so much multicolored paper that visitors commented it looked like The Partridge Family tour bus. We spray painted old furniture in bright hues, hung Crayola colored alphabet letters from the ceiling lights and added vibrant borders to our bulletin boards. It was an overstimulating feast for the eyes and we loved it.

As time went on we started to realize that perhaps this approach was a tad overdone. We began to study the Reggio Emilia philosophy from Italy that suggested a more toned down, sedate learning space. Out went color and in came the plants, mirrors to reflect natural light, bulletin boards covered in plain brown paper without borders, table lamps and twinkle lights. It was a relaxing respite for the eyes and we loved it.

But, as with all things, the pendulum is beginning to swing once more. This year our classroom (see above) is colorful without being overwhelming, natural tones and primary colors are juxtaposed throughout and we continue to provide open but well defined work spaces.

Room arrangement is a truly collaborative effort between Lauren and I that usually takes place during the first days of the new school year. However there was one space that I had envisioned during the summer and couldn't wait to set up.

This is a reading 'nook' anchored by the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom coconut tree that I have on loan from my friend Dawn. This was the first area we established and then build the rest of the room off of that. So far it has proved a popular area for the students to go and read books of their choosing; from comic books (that basket is full of them) to chapter books.

We also decided to repaint our beat up blackboard with something called Blackboard Paint. This stuff can be used to cover a variety of surfaces to create an instant blackboard. The can invites you to cover kitchen cabinets, closets and any blank surface that a child might like to scribble on.

I used the left over paint from our blackboard to make a drawing area on the back of a metal fire door. We also plan to record student heights on this door. Just another fun, novel idea we stumbled upon quite by accident.

Now, once again, we consider our classroom to be a welcoming oasis where exploration and learning can proceed in a purposeful manner and we love it.

I wonder what ideas the next year will bring.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Sometimes I get so excited by things that I feel compelled to share them on me wee blog. Usually what I choose to share is related to a new children's book discovery or some compelling happening or observation from my teaching life. But today I want to share a unique and interesting bit of jewelry.  

My friend Joy recently began creating necklaces using Scrabble tiles. In addition to seasonal items like ghosts and jack o' lanterns (which I purchased for my three nieces and all were lovingly shipped in individual little organza bags with a personalized, hand crafted note) she also custom makes tiles with the American Sign Language alphabet. 

The pendants are available with your choice of colored background as well as backing letter. Simply write a message 'the the seller' to dictate your preference.  I just love this idea because it is a) a novel way to promote conversation about ASL b) shows support for the language and c) makes a beautiful piece of stunning jewelry in its own right.  

Joy is slowly building her stock with more holiday pendants and scenic landscapes. You can check out her offerings at Joyously Alive Creations. I am encouraging Joy to make some Curious George pendants that can be coupled with some chains for the men folk - perhaps leather or the kind of chain you see with military dog tags.

Well, maybe the men folk would choose something other than my favorite little monkey but I am confident that Joy will branch off in interesting, creative ways. So, if you check out her Etsy offerings and can't find anything that speaks to you keep checking back - ya never know.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Monsters lead such innnnnnnnnnteresting lives, so says Bugs. And they do too. Thanks to the vivid imaginations of young children everywhere.

I have an incredible little girl named Tully in my class who just turned six last Thursday. She has been charming me with her writing and drawings about monsters. Strange as it seems, given the fact that I routinely expose my first grade students to the monsters of Greek Mythology, I have not come across too many children who regularly write about things that go bump in the night. Those terrifying things that lurk in your closet or stow away under your bed waiting for you to let down your defenses before they grab you. When I was little this last bit became a reality thanks to the torturous sense of humor of my older brother Wally who unexpectedly grabbed my foot when I stepped towards my bed after getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. I wonder how long he was hiding under there to scar me for life.

Anyhoo, I have become totally enamored of Tully's artwork (see below).
Mommy and Daddy go out and then monster come. "No, No" "No, No"
Monster eats candy

The purpose for monsters became clear to me as I looked at Tully's drawings. How silly that I never realized it before, but monsters are there for us to conquer. To help assure ourselves that the things we fear are not all that bad. That monsters can come but the worst they will do is eat your candy. They remind us that we are in control. How did I miss that? Did I miss that or was it just so obvious that I did not think about it as deeply as I have this past week?

For her birthday I thought it would be great if I could read Tully a few books about children who battle monsters and come out on top. Mercer Mayer has some fantastic books depicting brave children (boys and girls) who confront their 'something' or 'nightmare' or 'monster' and discover that it is ultimately harmless.

Check out these three by Mercer Mayer:

There's Something in my Attic

There's a Nightmare in my Closet

There are Monsters Everywhere

Another title I just discovered is called Harry and the Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach. In this story a little boy discovers a 'whatzit' hiding behind the furnace which made me laugh because it reminds me of this story from Joy's childhood.

As an adult I find there are unfortunately still some monsters that I have had to face. Happily, like the boy with the cork gun in There's a Nightmare in my Closet, I have found that when I confront the things that scare me the most they turn out to be less fearsome than my imagination created. There is a power in facing down the monsters, in taking away the mystery of wandering fear and dealing with reality rather than fantasy.

Monsters may lead "innnnnnnnnteresting lives" but life is much more interesting when they are put in perspective and float quietly through the side door.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Warm Cookies

We are four weeks into the school year and I find myself asking "What happened to the BACK TO SCHOOL frenzy?" Where were the ubiquitous television and print ads hawking the latest 'must have' items for teens in the know? How did I escape the crowds at STAPLES where bewildered parents ushered their reluctant children through the abundantly stocked aisles in pursuit of notebooks, pens and all things Hannah Montana? It must have have happened. As the Grinch knows, there is no stopping Christmas and there is certainly no stopping that similar consumer onslaught that BACK TO SCHOOL sales engender.

It came and went, yet the craziness somehow passed me by. This was a gentler, kinder, calmer beginning. A start to a new year marked by the slow pace of someone who had the confidence and experience to realize that all will unfold in its proper time. It was not a bad place in which to find myself.

Instead of rushing through my days with a singular focus, or sequential unfolding foci that require running from one thing to another, I took time to enjoy the 'warm cookie' moments.

These are moments that allow you to partake in the greatest treasure we have - one another. If we think back to our childhoods I think all of us can identify several precious moments that we now hold dear but that were just ordinary moments at the time. Perspective changes as we get older doesn't it.

My friend Patti wrote me on the first day of this school year wishing me well and sharing her thoughts about sending her children off to school. With her permission I'd like to include part of her email:

Today, the first day of school, is always special to me. I try and make it special for the kids also. My oldest Anna is off at 6:40 am, so I made her breakfast and just chatted about what to expect. It was a special time for me. Calli was off at 8:55 am, and now I am at work for a bit. Can't wait to hear all the stories of day 1 for both of them over milk and warm cookies (yes, I am a geek) Warm cookies are always a first day of school affair.

Her daughters may not know it now but these are the days my friend (we thought they'd never end...) I can clearly see my younger self tearing off the school bus and running home to tell my mom all about my first day of school - thanks for listening mom!

This is what BACK TO SCHOOL should be, at least in my opinion. The warm cookie moments are the moments to remember. I am sure the big hearted Grinch would agree.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New Victory

I Love New York!

or rather...

NYC is chock full o' amazing opportunities for school children and I am of the opinion that it is my honor/duty as an educator to provide my students with the means to take advantage of as many of them as possible. If you are going to attend classes in this cultural wonderland why not partake of its majestic parks, wondrous museums and captivating theater?

In the past I have taken my students to see several shows including Peter Pan at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. We went to see The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley last December and attended a children's theater performance of The Adventures of Curious George at The Town Hall in the heart of New York's theater district.

But for each of these shows I have had to figure out a way to raise the bucks to fund the outing or jump through hoops to acquire the script to give to the sign language interpreters. This was all a hassle, to be sure, but one that seemed worth it while the children's excitement grew as the day of the show drew nearer. The troubles I went through to bring them to their seats were forgotten when the curtain rose, but when it came time to plan another outing those memories came flooding back. I'd tell myself to take a deep breath and dive into the paperwork again.

So, imagine my delight when I discovered The New Victory Theater Education Program. This is a ridiculously affordable theater experience at the gorgeously restored New Victory Theater on 42nd Street in Manhattan.

Their Education Partnership Program includes "$2 tickets to education performances, free New Vic in the classroom workshops, free New Vic SCHOOL TOOL resource guides and free seasonal teacher institutes" and each of the 15 shows in the 2008/09 season includes a sign language interpreted performance! Who could ask for anything more?

There is a $100 enrollment fee which my gracious and supportive principal Rebecca is paying. That covers the entire school for the next year. And to top it all off the contact person at the New Vic is Jonathan Shmidt - Education Associate. He has made this process extremely smooth for me. I give him a great big heartfelt "Thank You!"

The first show we are attending on September 16th is based on the children's book Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox. Jonathan was able to arrange it so that our entire kindergarten and first grade could acquire last minute tickets (yippee!).

This show is done with puppets while other titles in the season range from circus performances to comedy, variety and music/dance. It seems to be a brilliantly diverse offering of shows that reflects the colors of our exciting city. I heart New York indeed!


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