Sunday, May 27, 2012

Snow White

I have just finished reading The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales and was surprised to find that Snow White is also known as Snowdrop. Who knew?

This is one of the books Joseph Campbell put on his reading list when he taught Comparative Mythology as an Introduction to Cross-Cultural Studies at Sarah Lawrence College.  It must have been incredible to attend his class each week.  Alas, that option is not available but I have decided to work my way through the list without his guidance and imagine I am his pupil.

A short tale by the Grimm Brothers left an impression on me as I sat on the train commuting to work one morning.  It is entitled...

The Old Man and His Grandson

There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at table he
could hardly hold the spoon, and spilt the broth upon the table-cloth
or let it run out of his mouth.

His son and his son's wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not even enough of it. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears.

Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell
to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said
nothing and only sighed. Then they bought him a wooden bowl for a
few half-pence, out of which he had to eat.

They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years
old began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground. What
are you doing there, asked the father. I am making a little trough,
answered the child, for father and mother to eat out of when I am

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently
began to cry. Then they took the old grandfather to the table, and
henceforth always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if
he did spill a little of anything.

Monday, May 21, 2012


If I were one of Disney's Seven Dwarfs it would surely be Happy.

At this very adult stage of my life my parents still call me their "happy baby".

It is a term of endearment that was coined when I was an infant filled with smiles, giggles and laughter.

This optimistic attitude has stayed with me and serves me well as I navigate the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

It seems I was born this way.

I read an article last week examining the qualities happy people possess and it really did describe me.  The list includes expressing gratitude, offering forgiveness, following your bliss instead of money or material possessions, nurturing social relationships, savoring life's joys, commitment to a goal, practicing spirituality and taking care of your body.

And in the spirit of expressing gratitude I will share some things that make me happy...

  • Lauren visited the classroom today for the first time since the birth of her son, Levi. After nine years of teaching together she feels like family.  I am at once her protective big brother and champion. We were a great team but I am excited to see where this stage of her life leads.  
  • I have had the great pleasure of meeting many outstanding children's book authors and illustrators over the years and most of them because they took the time to visit us! 

Oh, and counting your blessings.  These are a few of mine.  What are yours?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I braved those "awful allergies that made me sneeze" and ventured off with the first and second graders to the Learning Garden at Randall's Island Park.

Our outdoor adventure took an unexpected twist due to the capricious humor of Mother Nature but our tenacious guides remained undaunted by the storm.

Instead of frolicking in the rain-soaked outdoor garden, our hosts created an intimate bucolic experience in one of the stadiums. We divided our students into small groups and assigned them to one of the four stations.
  1. Painting signs labeling the various fruits and vegetables in the garden.  
  2. Planting Forget Me Nots in small pots, which we got to bring home! 
  3. Learning about the parts of a plant (root, stem, seed, flower, leaf) and then tasting some delicious examples of each.  
  4. Visiting with the baby chicks.  This was perhaps the biggest thrill for the children (although I'm not sure the chicks felt the same way).  
They spent about 20 minutes at each station before rotating to the next. It was a pleasure to watch them engaging in each activity, asking questions, working together and having fun.

The Learning Garden provides an incredible opportunity for city kids to engage in a hands-on sensory exploration of garden activities such as planting, watering, weeding, mulching, composting, recycling and harvesting.  

We have a small school garden with a greenhouse--our class is growing basil, rosemary, lavender and marigolds--so these skills are put to the test on a daily basis.  Our goal is to provide food for our cafeteria so there are healthy food choices but at the moment the scope is limited.  Perhaps experiences like the one we had at the Learning Garden will motivate and inspire our students to grow the school garden into a larger program.  

A huge Thank You to the urban farmers who shared their expertise with us!  

Monday, May 14, 2012


It is always a pleasure to visit different classrooms to share ideas with other educators.

We walk around taking photographs, asking questions, muttering "ooh" and "ahhh" at the creativity and thought behind the use of space or displays of student work. We do this because we are constantly striving to improve our own methods and practices.

Unfortunately,  such opportunities are rare.  The reality is that we spend most of our time in our own classrooms too busy to venture out.  It becomes necessary to share information in alternative ways like blogging or bulletin boards.

And if you are bashful or leery of "tooting your own horn" blogging is out. However, bulletin boards provide an easy, simple way to let others know what is happening in your classroom.

A Pre-K bulletin board caught my eye recently with images of superheroes rendered through art.

Superhero Dolls Art Project

The teachers (Marilla, Ellen and Nancy) noticed their students were borrowing a lot of Superhero books from the library, wearing Superhero t-shirts to school and having conversations about Superheroes so they decided to create a unit of study based on this.

Over the course of three months they investigated questions such as, "What is a Superhero?",  "What is a bad guy/person?", "What do good people do?", "What is a hero?" and "What is your strength?".  They read books like Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod.

Stabile: Power Ranger house
They also wrote stories and created Superhero Art using a wide variety of materials.  The children made stabiles from which they told detailed stories.  They printed on styrofoam. They made stick puppets, dolls and observational drawings using paint, overhead projectors and markers.

They became immersed in creating and expressing themselves.  It seems to me projects like this showcase the best of education.

I am sure the children were excited to come to school each morning so they could let their imaginations soar around a topic that fascinated them.

If it weren't for a bulletin board I never would have known about this project.  Don't be bashful - spread the word!

Saturday, May 12, 2012


It is very refreshing as a teacher to encounter parents who are realistic about their children.  Those who admit that their little girl isn't the angelic pixie she appears to be or their wee lad can do no wrong.

Over the years I have found it is generally the "older" parents who fit this category.  They seem to be less protective, uptight and defensive about discussing their child's social and academic behaviors.

And when this attitude is coupled with a no BS, down to earth sense of humor I could chat with that mom or dad for hours.

Back when I taught preschool I had such a parent.  Each morning she would drop her daughter Sophie off in class accompanied by Sophie's little brother, Thomas.  And each morning a little boy, who was receiving speech and language therapy, would greet them.  This boy would pronounce the letters /s/ and /t/ as /d/ so when he greeted them he would say, "Hi Dopey and Dumb-ass".

This wonderful mom turned to me and said, "Yep, those are my kids - Dopey and Dumb-ass.  I'm so proud!"

Monday, May 7, 2012


There are eight million stories in the naked city.  This is one of mine...

I am innocently walking to Fordham University to teach a class when an attractive older woman approaches me at Columbus Circle and says,

"You look like someone who works around here".

Thinking she might be lost and in need of my assistance I reply,

"Oh, yes.  I'm an adjunct at Fordham University right over there (I point)".

I added that last bit because I thought it would add credibility and speak to my ability to steer her in the right direction and set her on her merry way.

But instead she looks at me with bedroom eyes and a flirtatious smile and tells me that I remind her of a gentleman friend who used to come up to her apartment and well, you know...

"What? Oh, how nice" I sputter.

Inside I am thinking, "Is she coming on to me?  Does she think I will sleep with her? Is she trying to distract me so someone can steal my wallet?"

With my hand securely over my messenger bag I smile but act like I don't really get her underlying point.   She then asks me if I would like to come over to her place which is just around the corner.  She hands me her card. I politely decline.

"Oh, no that's okay.  Thanks anyway."

She will not be swayed.  She follows me as I continue to walk telling me that I should take her card in case I change my mind.  Finally, I slip away but the encounter has freaked me out.  I immediately call my best friend Joy to relate this experience.  What the f*%# just happened?  And why did this woman, who was older than my mother, think I would sleep with her?

Joy talked me down and calmed my theatrics but the exchange still left me feeling uneasy.  And when I am uneasy I talk.  A lot.  I told all of my friends about this and one of them asked me if I heard about Betty White's new show "Off Their Rockers".  I hadn't.

It turns out I was one of the "unsuspecting young people" pranked by a senior citizen.  I watched the first episode and sure enough there was the woman who tried to seduce me, Ann Benson, strutting alongside Betty White in the opening credits.

Now I wish I did take her card because maybe it would have read "Ha! Got you!" or something.  I keep watching the show to see if I turn up but as nobody asked me to sign any permission waivers I figure I was just practice material.  But who knows?

Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 6, 2012


With my Dissertation Committee Chairperson  Dr. Uhry
Fordham University held its annual Student Research Celebration this past week. This event is a tradition for students in the Graduate School of Education to show off their educational wares.

This can include mini-research projects from courses, research apprenticeship projects and portions of dissertations.

It is a poster session format with folks milling about and informally chatting with one another about their work.  I love these things because it gives me an opportunity to talk with other doctoral students, get their feedback and network.

This session was particularly fruitful for me as I was able to exchange information with two women who have contacts at schools and programs I want to involve in my study.

Aside from the professional aspect, it is wonderful to chat with friends over hors d'oeuvres, take pictures, laugh and commiserate.  Earning a Ph.D. is an exciting, difficult and long journey and it's nice to know I'm not alone.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


It seems it was a difficult week for everyone.

Perhaps it was the dreary weather?  Allergies?  The impending full moon?

Whatever the uncontrollable forces were that brought about a feeling of discord, it's good to know that we are in control of how we deal with such nonsense.

And I got a lesson in that yesterday when a student handed me this note.

This note impressed me for several reasons.  First of all because it shows that she understands the power of the written word to express thoughts and communicate a message. Also because she did this on her own.  We have been discussing her "grumpyness" this week and I have been supportive in helping her understand that sometimes we all have bad days (or weeks) and we can help one another meet those challenges.

Parents and teachers always try to be clear about separating the child's negative behavior from the child as a whole. We never say a child is bad. Instead we focus on what they did--he hit someone or she threw something--and delve into why that behavior is unacceptable.  We try to give children a way to cope with these feelings in more appropriate ways.

This note let me know that such strategies work.

Maybe it wasn't such a bad week after all.


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