Friday, December 31, 2010

The Moments

There are moments when the pressure lifts and it becomes possible to simply listen.

To be.

These moments are rare for teachers because we are responsible. Responsible for educating, for assessing, for safety. Our minds are constantly one step ahead.  Always thinking, monitoring, watching, planning.

We don't drop our guard because no matter how much we may enjoy what we are doing, teaching is a responsibility that we take seriously.  Good teaching does not happen by chance.  And so the mind races.

But on the last day of school before the winter break I had a perfect moment with some of the students in my class.  In this moment they were not my students.  In this moment they were simply children.  Children who had stories to share. Stories that moved me.

I sat on the rug with a small group of five-year-olds and we talked about what they wanted for the holidays. Some had written to Santa.  Others had not.  Some were very specific while others couldn't think of anything they wanted, although they said they wanted something.  One boy said he wanted a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree with velcro letters like the one we have in the classroom.  That was all.

And they asked what I wanted.

They really listened to one another. It was brilliant.  For a moment there was no pressure.  Nothing to do next. Just happy children full of anticipation and quiet excitement.  It was an experience that I knew would stay with me. A little oasis in the busyness of life.  A moment I didn't even realize I needed. But, one that I was given. Thanks kids!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Visit From Olympic Diver Scott Donie

"What are some things you can do in the water?"

This is how Scott Donie welcomed our kindergarten children into a conversation about his journey to the Olympics. In 1992, Scott earned an Olympic Silver Medal in Barcelona for 10-meter platform diving. Only 23 at the time, he was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic diving team.

He returned to the Olympics in 1996 to compete in Atlanta and there earned Forth-Place honors for his skill on the 3-meter springboard.

These are impressive accomplishments indeed!

Scott listened as the children shared stories of swimming in the pool or at the beach and stressed that "everyone should take swimming lessons to be safe around the beach and around the pool".

He began diving when he was an 8-year-old boy and practiced every day until he was 28. Throughout the early years his dream of being part of the biggest sporting event in the world THE OLYMPICS provided motivation.

He showed us pictures of himself on the 10-meter platform (that's as tall as a 3-story building), played a video of his 1992 dive and even passed around his Silver Medal! This was my favorite.  How many times do you have an opportunity to hold an Olympic Medal?

The children asked him questions like "Do you get afraid of being up that high?" (his answer was "Yes") and "Do you still dive?" (Scott coaches the diving team at NYU).

He stated that if you combine gymnastics and going off a diving board it's a sport called diving.

We learned a lot about this sport from Scott but one thing we knew already was that it is amazing to watch. We asked to see his diving video more than once to take it all in.

Truly fantastic!

And what a great treat that he took the time to share his story with all of us. Thank you Scott!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


In American Sign Language Pah! means "finally" or "success at last!"

Well, after 15 years and much badgering my friend Maria finally came to visit my classroom.

Over the years many of my friends have come in to teach lessons (thanks Ed, Jason, Ashley, Gregg, Sydney & Denise), accompany us on trips (gratitude to Joy & Kimy) or read a book.

I am definitely of the opinion that it takes a village. Bringing in experts to share their knowledge always seemed like a good idea to me and it adds excitement to the routine school day.

Especially if the visitor brings delicious cupcakes!

Maria came in the afternoon and joined us for our math lesson before beginning her read aloud of Who Will Help Santa this Year? by Jerry Pallotta.

An unexpected outcome of her visit was that she now says she would love to become a teacher.  I don't think she will actually pursue it but the fact that the thought even entered her mind speaks to how impressed she was with our students.

I remember when I was working with Maria many years ago I went to visit Lexington School for the Deaf and left there more than ever determined to spend my days teaching. It was a dream that came true for me. Once again I feel how blessed I am to wake up every day to do something that speaks to my heart and soul.  What a gift! And what a gift I have in her friendship. Thanks Maria!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

1,000 Words to Sign

My co-teacher, Lauren (that's her on the cover!), is featured in the new American Sign Language book 1,000 Words to Sign by Geoffrey S. Poor.

It is a pictorial dictionary that also includes an instructional DVD showing the signs in motion.

The DVD contains letters, numbers and words that appear in the book both with subtitles (as a learning aid) and without (as a testing aid).

The author includes a touch of linguistic information at the start of the book including a brief history of ASL in addition to grammar.  His explanations are clear and helpful.

For those of you interested in learning American Sign Language this book is a great way to kick off your journey and motivate interest.  And for those of you who already know some sign, it will serve as a useful resource.

Congratulations Lauren, and my fellow co-worker Darren, for your work on this project.


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