"Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it, because action has magic, grace, and power in it." Goethe

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Planning a Mock Election

I found this site from Scholastic to be helpful in planning our school wide mock election next week.
There is information about each candidate and an explanation of the electoral college.

It will be interesting to hear the students discuss their parts in this process. We need speakers, designers, schedulers, and vote counters.
Since we are out of school this Friday for staff development, we are working under short notice conditions. Sometimes, though, that’s the best way. Creative sparks often fly at the last minute!

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Teaching Tip: Just Do What You Can…Planning a Mock Election with an Eye to the Future

I have so many teaching ideas running through my mind at any given moment. The more creative, the better. If art is involved, I’m ready. The problem is time, dear readers.

I think back to previous school years. That is a dangerous thought process. I do not recommend it.

Every school year is different because every group of children is different. Their reactions and needs and abilities are different as well.

So, here we are…my fourth grade team …and our 60 kids. We are moving forward with a mock election plan. We want our students to go from room to room on campus and present factual information about each candidate, talk about the importance of voting, and then have the classes of students come into the hallway to a portable voting booth ( a large rolling cart) and vote.

Fourth graders will tally all of the votes and report back at the end of the day.

This is a much different format than some of the elections we have held in the past. There have been years when we have registered all of the children in the school, given them their own voting card to bring to a decorated polling place where they cast their vote.

Still, this will work. Different isn’t always bad. As a matter of fact, the effort alone will get us somewhere. We are learning through our conversations with the students that their voting minds are made up, and made up mainly based on race and misinformation about the two primary candidates, not facts. This bothers us.

We want our students to be able to talk about some facts about each candidate. While they are not mature enough to discuss each issue that might be important to adult voters, they are old enough to base their decision on something more than what color the candidate is. We have our work cut out for us, and it will continue long after the election is over.

Time is our enemy, we know. But, this year, our energy will be spent less on decorations and aesthetics and more on educating our students so that when the day comes that they can vote “for real” as adults, they will want to…and they will recall ways to make informed decisions before they cast that ballot.

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One of THOSE Kinds of Days

6:30 a.m
Intern #1 is sick. Fever.
No problem. I’ll sub.

7:15 a.m.
Intern #2 is sick. Vomiting.
Uh oh. I’ll sub.

7:30 a.m
Teammate calls. Baby throwing up.

It was one of those days, but the kids were exceptionally good, and we covered a lot of ground.
We wrote autobiographies, discussed election plans (they are excited!), created thankful posters to display later in week, began division with remainders ( oh my, we need practice!), and read and wrote pumpkin poems…and that was just this morning.
Maybe the novelty of just me being there set the stage for improved behavior. We kept a steady pace, and of course, I praised a lot. A lot. Kids need to hear when they are doing well.

Still, it’s nice to get texts tonight that say,
See you tomorrow. Feeling much better.
Teaching 37 kids all day long is draining.
Looking at an early bedtime tonight. ūüėČ


Gearing up for Election Day in Fourth Grade…Teacher First

The Voting Booth

The Voting Booth (Photo credit: programwitch)

Another  school week is about to start, and my mind is racing with ideas for implementing a school wide election.

My¬†previous¬†fourth graders have marked each presidential election year in some way, both in 2004 and 2008. We have registered all the other students in the school, made speeches, created posters, manned voting booths, tallied and reported results. I don’t feel the need¬†¬†to overdo it, but I am determined that we will do something.

This group of students reminds me of a group of first graders I taught several years ago. As an art lover, projects and painting are part of my teaching process. That year, though, those kids and I didn’t paint together until the very last day of school.¬†The kids were just so needy, and for lack of a better word… busy…that¬†I didn’t have guts enough to try it earlier.¬†I was determined, though, not to let a year pass without making sure every child in my care held a paintbrush, at least for a few minutes.

I’m still here to tell it, so I guess it all worked out okay.

These kiddos are something else, on an older, much different level.

I have a feeling they need this, though, just like they needed the National Day on Writing project. They need to be busy, to talk, to move around. A lot. They just need a lot of practice in knowing that busy talking and moving¬†are ideally¬†done without hitting and cursing. So, wish me luck and send positive thoughts toward Room 205. I know by the end of the year, I’ll be glad I made the effort.

Besides, I won’t have another chance at this for four more years…and I really want them to know how important it is to vote. This may be the project that they look back¬† on and think, “I voted in fourth grade and I’ll cast my real vote today.”

I hope so.


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Saturday’s Snapshot: Everything Old is New Again


When I look at these floors, every kind of childhood memory returns. These are the pieces of my past, brought to the light of the life I’m living today.
I see what it means to have people who will devote time to make your heart’s vision come true.
My mama and daddy walked on these floors. My sister and I opened Christmas gifts upon them.
These floors remind me that there are good and unexpected gifts waiting for us…these floors whisper possibilities to me.

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Friday’s Five

Glad to have this weekly space to remember five good things from the last seven days:

random texts from my son and daughter…what a gift

the floors from my childhood home, resurrected, refinished, and under my bare feet in my kitchen…what a gift

a college student’s words this week:
I love how you are…what a gift

a crayoned flag and note from one tough elementary kid, taped proudly on my desk…what a gift

a group of university students helping me throw a surprise shower for my intern…what a gift

As always, the more I think, the more good things seem to appear.


Teaching Tip: Be an Encourager

Hello, Dear Readers,

Today marks the third month of my blog. I am thankful for each reader and follower.

Thank you for choosing to read what I write. This blog is one of the best gifts I’ve ever given myself because it is time from my life that I dedicate to remembering or musing or trying out something new. Thank you for being a part of it.

Today is Tuesday, so that means I’m sharing some kind of teaching tip.

Teachers encourage. I have been told from time to time in my life that I am an encourager. I didn’t see myself that way for a long while, but as more people mentioned it, I began to see that maybe it is true.

I really don’t think anyone can receive too much encouragement. No matter our age or position, it is nice to hear positive words.

It really hit home with me last night at a poetry seminar. One of the visitors there said to poet Nick Norwood, “I bet you hear all the time that you are an artist with words.” His reply? “Not often enough.”

I had to smile at that honest answer. Don’t we all want to be encouraged? Isn’t there something about someone taking a minute to say something helpful or hopeful that can turn your day around?
I met with a new teacher this afternoon–a teacher who is writing with second graders at another campus. He wanted help, and his principal sent him here. That helped my mindset because of her belief in me as a writer. But, the added gift was that he is already doing a terrific job. I think he just needed the validation of someone who has been doing this a lot of years.

His second graders are writing short stories with engaging illustrations. One was using onomatopoeia so of course I was delighted about that. We were able to sit and visit for a few minutes about the challenges and rewards of our writing rooms. We both left with higher spirits.

So, my tip for today is “Encourage.” Stay around people who lift you up. Count off the things you do right each day. Tell someone else something you appreciate about them. It will help more than just you.

And, again, dear readers, thank you for your encouragement as readers and followers of this blog. I am thankful for every day of writing and hope that I will find exactly what it is that I am searching for in the midst of all of these lines.

Maybe the process itself is “thing” enough.

Here’s to believing,



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Always Room for the Good

A busy day as usual, and one that ended at our local university listening to visiting poet Nick Norwood.

Sometimes there are moments when I just say, “I’m happy right now.” Tonight was filled with those kinds of moments.

I took notes to share with my elementary students, my college students, my colleagues, my friends.

I wrote. I listened. I heard him talk of encouragement and specificity and typewriters…yes, my old friend–the typewriter.

I heard him speak of famous writers, colleague writers, student writers–all with the same level of respect and admiration.

One of Nick Norwood’s books gravel and hawk was available tonight. I highly recommend it.

The best part of days like this: believing I can write something just as good. Being around people who support creative types is important.

More than ever, I’m determined to surround myself with people who believe in me, who support my goals, who recognize my gifts. There’s always room for good.

Make room for all the good that’s out there.