Friday's study of the Battle of Bunker Hill made us familiar with the famous utterance, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes." We thought that to be a most interesting quote, and we had to think about what it meant and why it was declared. The Patriot soldiers at Boston's Bunker Hill only had five musket balls and limited gunpowder at their disposal, so they could not afford to waste their shots. They had to conserve their ammunition, so they were told to wait until the British soldiers came closer before shooting.
In a more positive vein, we did a brief study of the human eye before creating an artwork worthy of your refrigerator at home. On construction paper, each student constructed an eye, complete with eyelashes and eyebrow. Inside the eye, instead of a cornea and pupil, they recreated a holiday scene found on one of the dozens of cards I have collected through the last several years. I was very pleased with some of their final products.
It seems a little like a cop out to me.
"Thanks for all that you do," they say. Whether it be Teacher Appreciation Week or just a general note to the staff.
"Thanks for all that you do."
It is something that it said generically, to a group, without individual thought. No specifics.
I am lumped in with the inexperienced, the inferior, the master, the creative, the gossip, the professional, the first-year, the soon-to-be-retired, and all the rest.
I am given the same accolades as them all, in spite of what I achieved, in spite of what I failed. Everyone gets the same note: "Thanks for all that you do."
We would do better to give thought to our comments and compliments, to personalize our praise. Just as we are expected to give constructive feedback for our students, we should demand the same from our peers and administrators. Constructive. Feedback.
Instead of a generic message that means very little to me, give me something that will help me. Give me some compliment that tells me what I did right.
Fort Ticonderoga 360
At the end of the day, there is something to be said for loneliness. I caught these 360-degree videos on the south side of Fort Ticonderoga at the end of working hours, while only a few people remained on campus. Notice how quiet everything is.
Visiting Former Students
I have started to think that I can still support students who transfer to other schools in our district. I'm not so full of myself to think that my visit to a student who moved will make a positive difference, but for some with whom I have shared a positive relationship, it might help the student adapt to the change in setting.
Earlier in the year, I visited one of the students from last year's class. He had a traumatic experience during Christmas Break, last year, and then moved to a new school for fifth grade. I knew he was having some difficulty with the transition, so I took a short trip to his school during my planning time. The principal was able to pull him out of his classroom, and we talked in the hallway for a brief time.
Yesterday, I drove across town to see one of our students who moved into a new house a few weeks ago. Sometimes making new friends is hard to do, and I estimated that to be a possibility in this case, but what I saw while she played at recess was a girl much happier than predicted. Hopefully, by waiting for her to have time to adjust, she was able to do so without an earlier visit. Our experience was a positive one. When she spotted me on the playground, I don't know what was going through her head, but she looked at me like she didn't recognize me for a while. I maintained eye contact with her for a while, and when she was 15 feet in front of me, she finally, astonished, quietly said my name as a question.
Here she was, after weeks of being away from me, and seeing me in a different setting than ever before, and she was amazed. She immediately approached me and embraced me. "I miss you so much," she declared, and I I hugged her back, I could hear the playground teachers behind me set out a big "Ahhh." The two of us walked into the building to chat. Shortly afterward, she showed me to her classroom where I returned her to her teacher.
Sometimes the little gestures make big differences in the lives of our children. I pray that the short time I had with each of these Hoggatteers will stick with them as they move forward. After all, once you become a Hoggatteer, you will always be a Hoggatteer.
Fort Ticonderoga: Historical Trades
For one activity during the teacher institute at Fort Ticonderoga, we made our way out of the classroom for a while, getting to try our hands at four historic trades seen every day at the fort. We learned about the complexity of shoemaking, the details of uniform tailoring, the details of driving yoked cattle, and the physical activity of boat construction.
For more about my incredible teacher institute experiences, visit my Fort Ticonderoga page.
Our Own Elfish Man
78 Years Since Infamy
In a short time, yesterday, the fourth grade classes reflected upon the events of December 7, 1941. On that date, Japanese planes surprised the U.S. military stationed in Hawaii, especially in a place known as Pearl Harbor. We investigated some of the unsung and unlikely heroes of that and the following day. Mr. Culbertson and I showed images to students and watched a documentary about the surprise attack that brought our nation into the war.
History isn't always as distant as we think. It's hard to believe the last Civil War veteran died just six years before I was born. All in all, there have not been an exhaustive number of generations since the birth of our nation, 243 years ago. There will be a time, when the children of some of the up-and-coming kids of today may realize that their parents lived on the same planet, at the same time, as soldiers who fought the battles of World War 2.
I am happy to foster an appreciation for our military men and women. Agree or disagree with the wars they fought (or events that occur during peace time), we can assuredly agree that their service was a personal and familial sacrifice.
I challenge you to show me someone flawless who has made a significant contribution to history. It is not perfection that characterizes greatness. It is, rather, the ability to achieve great things in spite of our weaknesses.
John McCain, in the Forward to Hero of the High Seas, by Michael L. Cooper
At our school, we are fortunate to have two copy machines. They are new, this year, and they are quite fast. They have the ability to scan from and print to both sides of a page. They can punch holes in the copies, and they can staple multiple pages in a variety of patterns. They even hold several reams of copy paper, so they won't have to be reloaded as often.
The problem, it seems, is the human component. Copy jobs can be sent wirelessly through any computer that is connected to the system, and many teachers like to sit in their classrooms to hit the PRINT button. Ideally, from that position, one would then walk to the printer to pick up the copy or copies she printed.
But that ain't happenin'.
Instead, a person will hit PRINT and then forget that the copy is waiting to be picked up. Then, when I come along, I set the unidentified page(s) on a shelf beside the copier. When the person finally makes her way to the copy machine, she spends unnecessary time sorting through the random pages on the shelf to look for hers. It seems like a waste of time to me.
Then there is the person who physically walks to the copy machine to kick off a series of copy jobs that will take many, many sheets of paper (Perhaps this person then makes her way to the other copy to print pages, as well.). The trouble with this is that the person walks away, leaving the machine whirring and clicking along, and does not babysit the process. The machine jams? Someone else waiting to make copies will clear the jam if they want to eventually get to their own business. The paper runs out? Someone else will refill the machine. So many copies stack up on the tray that no more can be pooped out? Someone else will neatly stack them to the side. The copier explodes? Someone else will pull the fire alarm.
My point is this: please babysit your copy jobs! It never fails that if I send something from my classroom, and then walk to pick up what I have printed, something will be wrong with the copy machine, or my job sits waiting in queue with a dozen others, and I don't have the time to wait. My planning time is precious, so I need to spend it being productive and not working on unexpected maintenance on a machine I know nothing about.
Except on rare occasions, here's what I do: I take my laptop to the copy machine to make all of my copies. I stand there to make sure the machine does what it is supposed to do. I feed the paper into the tray when the machine stops. I clear my own jams. I clear the output tray and neatly stack my copies. It's that easy...and I have the peace of mind that I have remembered to pick up all of my jobs and that I have not unexpectedly held up someone else.
Fort Ticonderoga: Guns by Night
How about a sunset at Fort Ticonderoga on a beautiful night? This was the night that the teachers at the institute were invited to take spots in the Guns by Night program, typically an upcharge event at the fort. I had already seen a Civil War cannon fired over a lake after dark, in which the reenactors added aluminum to the wadding to cause colorful sparks at the firing.
Finally, we ended the tour where we began, and watched the same musketeers firing the same weapons in the dark. Then the same loading and firing procedure was performed with the cannon. I knew I wouldn't be able to catch these things with the digital camera, and I was right. That didn't stop me from trying, of course, as you can see in that last shot above.
There's still more to come, but if you want to see everything I've collected about the teacher institute,
go to my Fort Ticonderoga page now.
Presenting Past and Future
Mrs. Miller asked us to present our borrowed items from the American Revolution Institute to her kindergarten class. Hoggatteers briefly explained about the items, stressing which were from the past and which were designed to look as if they came from the past. Mrs. Miller donned a heavy naval coat and tricorn hat for them to see while we were there.
A hearty welcome is extended
to the newest member of the Hoggatteer family: SELENA.
SELENA comes to us from another school in Joplin.
SELENA, our wish is for you to feel at home in our classroom,
to feel at ease with making mistakes,
and to desire to constantly improve on your abilities.
Our fourth grade classroom is happier with you in it.
Artifacts from the Past
October and November SOARsemblies
Before our Thanksgiving Break, we honored exemplary students in a SOARsembly. For our class, LACOTA is the November SOAR recipient, having excelled at Showing respect, Observing safety, Accepting responsibility, and Resolving conflict in September.
Additionally, we honored two good citizens. Here is what I said about each of them:
I can’t say enough about these two students. They have naturally fallen into their roles as the teacher’s personal assistants - even though I never assigned them such roles. She is intuitive as to what I need to present a lesson, and she takes it upon herself to do those things without being asked. He knows when something needs to be done even when I don’t think about it, and he is willing to make sure it all gets done correctly. Both express their gratitude to me regularly, but I can’t tell them enough. AMELIAH and DAVID from my heart to yours, thank you.
I think I missed posting the October recipients of these awards. AMELIAH was our SOAR recipient and these were the good citizens:
Playing Dress up
The trunk we borrowed from the American Revolution Institute contained a variety of French, English, and American Continental seafaring uniforms and outfits. Most pieces of the uniforms were too big for the students in our class. Some still got to feel the weight of the coats and hats, last week, and I snapped these pictures.
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