Fall is in the Air

Know why I love the fall?  Is it the cool, crisp weather during which I will still be wearing short sleeves and capri pants?  Is it the round orange pumpkins sitting on every porch and doorstep in town?  Is it the cascade of leaves that so conveniently covers my crab grass?  Is it the approach of that sacred of all holidays, Halloween?   Is it all of the above?  Uh, yeah – have you met me?  (and if you haven’t, then you are excused)

Since I adore all things autumn, adding fall touches to the classroom decor is on the top of my list.  Bring on the candy corn shaped templates, the tissue paper leaves, the pumpkin man glyphs -all projects I have or will incorporate into my plans in the coming weeks.  Here’s a quick snapshot of the afore-mentioned leaf project:


I even managed to insert a little science into the lesson – the leaves started out green (I do love colored xerox paper) and we discussed the loss of chlorophyll as the summer light begins to fade.  Of course, if it were truly accurate, they would somehow remove the green coloring to show the fall colors beneath, but I haven’t quite worked that out yet.

I’d like to insert a cute ending to this post, like “Happy Fall, Y’all!”  but that’s way too corny for me.  Plus, I’m not from the south.  Y’all’s not in my vocab.  But fall certainly is.


Like the Very First Time

Warning:  this post has very little to do with teaching.  It also contains trivia and information that the average American of any age will never need.

Yesterday I celebrated an anniversary.


A most glorious rerelease of the the most glorious movie of all time hit theaters this week.  The Wizard of Oz.  On an IMAX screen.  In 3D.

Take it in.

You don’t have to know me all that well to know that I have, and have had since age 1, a borderline unhealthy relationship with this movie.  I’ve seen it countless times. I waited breathlessly every year of my childhood for its annual TV showing.  I’ve owned WOZ records, videos, DVDs, posters, dolls, alarm clocks and ruby slippers. I can recite EVERY SINGLE WORD of the dialogue.  I’ve attended sing along showings dressed in full costume, had a WOZ themed birthday for my daughter complete with a tornado, and have even created a Munchkin Christmas tree.  I’ve had personal conversations with the world renowned authority on all things wizard, Mr. John Fricke.  (look him up – he’s real).  And I cry.  Every single time.  So that’s been a lot of tears.

I am not ashamed.

But yesterday, I was blown away (tornado joke!) by this movie again.

I am not only in love with WOZ, but with every bit of trivia and inside information about the movie.  And although the average person might not know it, there is a sort of WOZ cult who devours these tidbits.  Most people know a few – how the horses of a different color were painted with Jello (or the 1939 equivalent), how the original tin man, Buddy Ebsen, had an allergic reaction to the silver paint and had to be replaced.  Some of you even know that at one point, “Over the Rainbow” was nearly cut from the film.

But there’s more.  SO MUCH MORE.  Books and books and books written about it.  But yesterday I was able to see details in the film that I’ve never seen – and believe me, I’ve LOOKED at that movie.  I saw the razor burn/stubble on the Tin Man, beneath his silver makeup.  I saw the skullcaps on each and every male munchkin, so clearly that even my husband (yeah, he was there!) noticed it.   Judy’s freckles!!  Stains that came and went on her dress!  The cotton weave on her white blouse!!  Bert Lahr’s real eyebrows beneath his lion makeup!  Every bit of burlap on Scarecrow’s face!


Someone asked me if seeing all of those things took away from the movie.  ARE YOU KIDDING?  It only enhances the enjoyment.  Think of it as a “Where’s Waldo?” type of exercise.

I might go again today.  Surely there’s more to discover, even 75 years later.  There really is no movie like The Wizard of Oz.

The Most Important Thing

No pithy or punny titles today.  No pictures even.  Because today I just want to remember the most important thing.  Yesterday I attended the wake of a caring doctor.  He was there the day my daughter was born, nearly 20 years ago, and remained there every step of the way for our family.  A sudden heart attack at age 57 has shattered the lives of his family, both immediate and extended.  His loss will be felt by families who have similar stories to mine; stories of how he soothed the nerves of the new mother who worried about breastfeeding.  Stories of how he recognized the early signs of a health condition in their child.  Stories of how he was an integral part of the most important thing we parents and we teachers have.  Our children.

Maybe one photo is ok:


Thank you, Dr. C.  From all of the children and those of us who care for them too.


Those Shoes

The bag o’shoes was a perfect fit yesterday.  And they were definitely worth the aggravation suffered by Mr. T that morning.  Here’s how it went:

The lesson began with a read aloud of “Those Shoes” by Maribeth Boelts.  It’s a lovely, many layered story about longing, jealousy and sacrifice, told in a way that second graders completely understand.  I use it over the course of year to illustrate a variety of points.  But today, it was really about shoes. 



Or, more accurately, the importance of the perfect fit.  In the story, the boy finally finds an affordable pairs of those shoes, only to discover that they are too small.  He buys them anyway, but cannot wear them.  When we discussed this, one sweet little girl said, “If they don’t fit, they’re useless.”  And they were useless to him….until he decided to give them to someone that could wear them.

And that brought us to the point of the lesson.  Choosing shoes that fit is important; so is choosing BOOKS that fit.

That’s when the bag o’shoes made its appearance.  And so did my in-need-of-a-pedicure foot.  Because to illustrate the point, I needed to try on the shoes.  Some fit.  Some didn’t.  Just like some books.  

We talked about the purpose behind the shoes in the bag.  Some are for exercise, and some are for the beach.  Choosing books with a purpose in mind is important too – are you looking for information or would you like to be entertained?

We noticed that the bag o’shoes did not contain basketball high tops or baseball cleats.

(SIDE NOTE:  As I was typing this, I had to confirm with Mr. T that the sport of baseball does, in fact, require cleats.  “Why do you need to know that?”   “It has to do with the bag o’shoes.”  His response?  An indescribable look of “why did I even ask my crazy teacher wife?”  END SIDE NOTE)

The bag did not hold any type of sports shoes because I am not interested in sports (understatement of the year!)  That brought us to the next point – when choosing a book, think about whether it might be of interest to you.

All in all, a very effective lesson illustrating the importance of choosing a just right book.  The bulk of it comes from a teacher’s resource entitled “The Daily Five.”  While our school doesn’t follow the program per se, I have borrowed some of the lessons.  This is a particularly good one.  

Today, we’ll do a follow up, choosing books that seem to fit us in terms of readability, interest and purpose.  But the bag o’shoes will not reappear.  I had to put them back in the closet.

For me, there is really only one pair of “those shoes.”  And if you knew me well, you’d know what they were without an illustration.  But here’s one anyway:



I’d wear those shoes even if they didn’t fit.  

Bag O’Shoes

Wait…is that a thing?  Well, in my house yesterday morning, it most certainly was. 

I’ll set the scene:  I’m eating my breakfast bar while checking my emails/twitter/pinterest/facebook and I hear my husband of nearly 26 years spending a longer-than-usual amount of time rummaging through the closet in the bedroom.  Now, I assume he’s not looking for the perfect accessory to go with his outfit, but I really don’t give it much thought.   After all, I’ve got a standing early-morning date with my various sites.

I’m still working my way through the web when he appears in the office doorway.  “Dumb question – have you seen my other shoe?”

“Yes, it’s in the bag of shoes in the kitchen.”

“I just spent 15 minutes looking for my shoe!”

“Well, I need it for school.”

“Well, I need it for work.”

“So, take it out – but give me another one!”

Now, most spouses would be put out by the above conversation, but mine registered only mere annoyance.  He’s been taught well.  He goes into the kitchen and sees the bag o’shoes.


After exchanging the shoes, he quietly returns and asks, in all seriousness, “Is it Shoe Day?”

He recalls those many theme days when I taught Kindergarten.  He really misses Little Red Hen Day, when I would make a loaf of honey bread for him before bringing one to school. But that’s beside the point.  

“No, not Shoe Day.  Just need it for a lesson.” (see tomorrow’s post to find out what lesson it was)


And that is the story of the Bag O’Shoes.  Only a teacher’s significant other would react with such calm and understanding.

Thanks for nearly 26 years and another chuckle.  The chuckle patch is blooming.  (A Magic Garden reference.  Google it if you don’t get it.  And I’m sorry for your loss.  You missed one heck of a kids’ tv show in the 70s)

There was one wistful moment for me in the above exchange.  When he asked if it was “Shoe Day,” once upon a time I might have answered a resounding “Yes!”  But today, in second grade, in the land of CCSS, PARCC, SRI and a myriad of other acronyms, theme days are VERY far and few between.  

But that’s another post.   

I’m Going to Regret This

I did it.  I broke my own cardinal day-before-the-first-day-of-school rule. 

ImageI slept in.

I had this all planned.  I stayed up late last night, hoping to get up early this morning.  That would mean I’d be tired all day today, and would be able to go to bed early and fall fast asleep, all so that I’d be a squirrel (you know, all bright and bushy tailed) for tomorrow’s first day.

Ugh.Image Now I’ll be wide awake at 11:00 pm, fall asleep sometime after midnight, and wake up exhausted.

I’ve done it before.  And luckily, that teacher adrenaline will kick in right after my morning sip of Diet Coke (aka cold caffeine), and the day will proceed flawlessly.  And no one will be the wiser.  Unless, of course, you’ve read this blog.  And in that case, you’ll simply marvel at how much energy I have, given the fact that I slept so little.

There.  I’ve turned it all around.  I feel better already.  And tomorrow night, after a spectacular first day, I’ll be ready for bed at 8:00 pm.Image

And I’ll fall fast asleep.  Like I wish I would tonight.

But I won’t.

‘Cause I slept in.


Pirates are Passionate

If you haven’t read Dave Burgess’s “Teach Like a PIRATE” yet, stop reading this.  Right now.  Borrow it, buy it, download it, get it.  You won’t be sorry.


On our first day back, a day of professional development, we were honored – and I don’t use that term lightly – to participate in Dave’s presentation.  It.  Was. Priceless.  And not just because he was in costume, although he had me at pirate earring.  He is the embodiment of why I’m a teacher – after all, the P in PIRATE stands for Passion.  I’ve always had passion – more passion on some days than on others, but passion is the key.  It unlocks that treasure chest of learning for all students.  If you were in this audience and weren’t moved, either to tears or laughter (or in my case, lots of both), then you might need to rethink your career.  No joke.    It was the most powerful professional development I’ve attended in 25 years.

He received a standing ovation.  At a PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP.  Yes, it really happened.

And he deserved it.

It was unforgettable.

And that is all.

The End is Near…

Of course, I’m talking about the summer.  But really, it should read “The beginning is here.”  Of school.  Of new crayons.  Of happy, shiny, eager faces…those of the kids and this teacher. Today is Labor Day, and I’ll be (gladly) laboring once again, putting the final touches on the jungle classroom.  And I must say, that I’ve had a good time doing it, because my friend understands the following about me:


There WAS some collaboration (I’m not a monster!!), but given our mutual trust and respect (and knowing that I’m going back to my own building next week, and she can change anything she’d like!!), I was able to create the space that I’d envisioned.  And most importantly, she’s wild about it.  Pun most certainly intended.

So, the summer ends on a high note.  Tomorrow we return to professional development. followed by a meet-and-greet with our students.  Then, due to Rosh Hashanah, we don’t start teaching until Monday.  And then we hit the ground running.  And no matter how much sleep I caught up on this summer, I’ll be bone tired until Christmas vacay.  But that’s the life I’ve chosen.  Wouldn’t want it any other way.  But remind me of that, when I’m growling at the 6:00 am alarm tomorrow.

It Was a Jungle in There

No wild animal sightings, but with the heat and humidity, despite the a/c, it did feel very tropical in the classroom today.  But here’s what we have to show for our hard work!


The social studies table was covered in an animal print burlap, and the books and shelves were organized.  Notice the real jungle foliage!


Another plant, more book organization and an easel set up for a welcome.  Hi, Curious George!


Animal print genre posters – thanks to the vendor on TpT who supplied them!


Read aloud books displayed


An art supplies table, covered in the same cool fabric that we used elsewhere.


A student coat closet plus teacher storage lies beyond the doors.  WILD ABOUT WORDS refers to the various words that the teacher will have the students post on the doors.


A shelf to hold the writing supplies, made cute with a sign and some animals.


Even old, metal file cabinets and the teacher’s desk can come to life with a little border, decorative tape, and some “catch” phrases!


This one makes me smile…and laugh!


An organized social studies area


The view from near the doorway.  See, there really are student desks in here!!

We’ll do a bit more organizing tomorrow and that should do it!  This tiger is tired!