Much of our staff will be different for the next school year. Some of these changes are due to retirements, and some are the result of new positions or promotions within the district.
Notice: your fourth grade is solid. Mrs. Mouton, Ms. Nold, Mr. Culbertson, and I are holding things together on the home front.
Author Laurie Calkhoven successfully captures the serious drama, the tension, and the stench of the Civil War in her novel about the Battle of Gettyburg. The book with the longest title of this year's Mark Twain Award nominees is fully titled Boys of Wartime: Will at the Battle of Gettysburg 1863. It began as many such stories, with a 12-year-old boy who thinks he is ready to face the war. Too many times, we have heard of the boys, too young to enlist, who yearned to fight, or as in this case, dreams of being a drummer in the war. In spite of its predictable and trite beginning, the book picks up pace in the middle.
I have always been intrigued with the Civil War. It is about the most complicated war in the history books, from the reasons to the logistics, but the uniforms and the culture have such an allure to modern armchair history buffs. In her book, Calkhoven successfully places her character into the battle and whittles it into something that can be easily followed. She correctly gets the boy from one end of the battle to the other in a realistic manner and allows him to meet and interact with historic figures in a way that seems like it could have actually happened.
I was rooting for Will throughout, and I never had the feeling that everyone was going to live happily ever after. This, after all, is not a fairy tale.
If a student reads (or is read) as few as four of the twelve Mark Twain Award nominees from the Missouri Association of School Librarians list, s/he may officially vote to help determine the 2014 recipient of the award.
Sometimes, when we go to the movies or as we watch a show on TV, we are transported into the plot. Directors understand that their selection of background music can change and enhance a scene.
Now it is time to turn it around. This time, the music comes first. Do not watch the video; instead, let the music lead your imagination. As it plays, allow it to transport you into a scene that has yet to be written. Then, write the scene. Use all the visual imagery you can muster in your writing. At the end, you will share your writing. Will it stand on its own, without the music in the background?
This year, some special achievements were made by students in Room 404:
On May 22, 2011, Joplin, Missouri, experienced the most destructive tornado in modern history. Much has been written about our resilient spirit during the rescue, recovery, and rebuilding of our fair city following the devastation. After the destruction of the high school, administrators secured two locations in which our high school students would meet for a couple of years. The junior/senior campus was placed in an empty big box store in North Park Mall, temporarily, while awaiting a new high school. I can pick out a few Hoggatteers in this amazing illustration of surviving and thriving.
Take nine minutes to watch this video:
Now for some questions:
Just when you thought it was safe, another update to the website is posted! I will continue to update throughout the summer - both for summer school students and for others. Some of the postings will involve the addition of online materials for use in our fourth grade class, next year; others will provide commentary, ideas, or news that need to be dispersed.Irving Elementary after the 2011 Joplin tornado
This particular update, however, is not about the summer; it is about spring - the time of year that we know, all too well, brings the threat of severe weather.
A couple of days ago, upon getting home after school, I heard for the first time, about the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, triggering the need for schools to take emergency shelter and enact their emergency plans. School buses were not running their routes until safety could be assured. My brother, living near the affected area, had to take leave of his job to collect his two children from their respective schools. The church where I met my wife was among the first to set up alternative shelter and relief for victims.
Once I found that my family was in the clear, I started watching the news. The heartbreaking word of teachers sheltering their students in a school restroom hit home with us. The heart-wrenching account of children trapped in a school and predicted dead is difficult to hear. After experiencing our own EF-5 twister, exactly two years ago, we watched with extreme clarity as cadaver dogs padded through the debris.
Still, the 2011 tornado in Joplin was different. We were not in school on that Sunday, but the schools did immediately initiate a plan to locate all of our students and staff. I have visited the families of all but one of the students our school district lost in the storm. The single staff member who perished, along with her husband, were among my best friends (They were holding and cooing with my then one-year-old, the morning of the storm. Forever, this will be the image I save in my memory.). There is no way of knowing how things might have been different if students had been in school. Some who died would likely have been saved in their schools, but their parents, fraught with worry about them, may have dangerously been rushing to the schools in their cars to assure their safety, endangering themselves in cars on outside. We cannot know if the destroyed school buildings would have provided sufficient shelter for students if school had been in session.
Community safe rooms at school facilities soon
Our own school would have been sufficient. The center section is reinforced for just such an event. Now, of course, a new gym/safe room will be built before next fall. In the event of a storm, the structure will automatically open for the surrounding community.
As teachers, we think about a variety of scenarios that would spark our emergency responses. I believe it is in the nature of most teachers to shield students as much as possible. I believe most would step between students and danger. Thankfully, we did not have to test that belief in 2011, but we have often found ourselves doing the same, as much as possible, emotionally. In 1995, it was my decision that put our Oklahoma City school building into lockout in the minutes/hours following the terrorist bombing. In 2001, I assisted in unofficially advising my co-workers of how to deal with student reactions. And in the 2011/2, just as in the weeks following the '95 bombing, we addressed the effects of the Joplin tornado. It is impossible to put myself in the path of the emotional whirlwind that succeeds disaster, but I have attempted to help my pupils work through their own emotional responses to tragedy.
With the news of the devastation and loss of life in Moore, Oklahoma, are you or someone in your family experiencing "flashbacks"? During this second anniversary of the Joplin tornado, are you still dealing with overwhelming emotions? Please contact me. There are agencies I can help you contact, and I would be honored to personally accompany you to them for introductions.
This was the first year to use Class Dojo in my classroom. With the program, we were able to track positive and negative points based on behaviors and choices made by students. The donut graph below illustrates the results from the 2012/3 school year in Room 404. Green areas of the donut represent our positive points, and red areas indicate area in need of improvement.
PAIGE was clearly the highest earner, having taken an early lead and never relinquishing it. She ended the year with 203 points. Coming in second was our highest earning boy, JAH-KI, with 169 points. It is interesting to note that, if KYNDEL had been in our class the whole year, she would have given our highest earners some stiff competition.
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