Saturday, February 27, 2016

F@#*%D UP

As I sat with my class of six-year-olds on Friday morning - cozily discussing the nuances of language - an announcement on the school loudspeakers let us know that a soft lockdown had begun.

Quietly the children stood up, walked over to their designated spots and hid.  There was no need for discussion because they knew exactly what to do.  When I turned back around after locking the classroom doors I couldn't help but feel impressed that they executed this drill so beautifully.

These drills are a testament to our unfaltering ability for adaptation in difficult times but they are also a sad commentary on the threat we are forced to accept.

When I joined the children a sleepy-eyed little boy calmly asked, "Is someone going to come in here with a gun and kill us?"

He was very matter-of-fact.  He was curious but did not seem afraid. I tried to match his tone and reassured him that this was only a drill.

He responded, "Oh, good. I don't want blood all over the floor"

It was all a little too much to consider...for both of us.

Then he got quiet.  I got quiet too.

I am still quiet.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Fantastic Flying Books

Our Fantastic Flying Books courtesy of The Louis Valentino Jr. Memorial Fund
The mission of Broadway Books First Class is to promote literacy and arts education.  One component of that goal is putting high quality children's books in the hands of my students.

The Louis Valentino Jr. Memorial Fund recently brought that dream to fruition in a spectacular way.  Their generous donation to the program is allowing me to order copies of each book in the reading series for every child in first grade.

Some students proudly holding their Fantastic Flying Books
On Friday we had a little book celebration in honor of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  With books in hand we watched the Academy Award Winning Short Animated Film.

It was incredible to witness the excitement buzzing in the classroom. Children spread out on the floor following the action with every turn of the page.  Smiles and wonder showing on each face. Conversations about books. Laughter.  Gasps. Ahhh's. It was truly joyous.

"Morris found great satisfaction in caring for the books, gently fixing those
with fragile bindings and unfolding the dog-eared pages of others."
These are the moments that build ownership. Children connect with stories in these warm, cozy snippets of comfort. They build associations. They see themselves as readers. Books and stories become theirs.

Once that happens they will follow in the footsteps of Morris who loved words, stories and books.

To his cherished books he said, "'I'll carry you all in here,' and pointed to his heart."

Thank you to The Louis Valentino Jr. Memorial Fund for that gift!

Monday, February 8, 2016


Photo Credit: Nina Wurtzel Photography
 There are some things so beautiful 
the magic they create is  
The storytelling workshops Other Voices conducted with the first, second and third grade children at our school were unparalleled. For three days artists, teachers, documentarians and performers immersed  the students in the language of creativity, movement and dance.

The excitement surrounding the event was palpable as children became immersed in creating, sharing, writing and telling stories. Stories rooted in American Sign Language.  Stories stemming from real life experiences.  Stories that rattle around unfiltered in the imagination of a six-year-old.  And stories that only kids in New York City could tell.

Photo Credit: Nina Wurtzel Photography
Across our classrooms markers, pencils, crayons and paper of all sorts captured their thoughts.

We surrounded ourselves with words,

Photo Credit: Nina Wurtzel Photography
Dreams were encouraged and free to roam untethered. Everything was accepted - a beauty parlor on Pluto? Of course! Medusa fighting dragons?  Yes!  A Deaf child getting swept away by the music playing on a subway platform in Queens and getting separated from her classmates?  Tell me more!

Photo Credit: Nina Wurtzel Photography
The joy shone through on the faces of the children (captured so beautifully in Nina Wurtzel's photographs) and was reflected in the exhilarated comportment of every adult. Together we created magic. We listened. We cared.

Other Voices had a vision to "ignite students' creative imaginations by giving them the experience of seeing and hearing how powerful their own voices are as their stories are sent out into the world".

The collective stories will serve as the inspiration for a theatre piece to be performed on the High Line in April.  They will also be illustrated by Broadway designers and Deaf artists for a companion book.

A huge thank you to everyone involved for planning and executing the workshops.  It's spectacular to see what can happen when the I becomes the We.  


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