"One can never consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar." ---Helen Keller

Monday, June 2, 2014


I finally feel like I have made it. I am just a few days away from retiring. 31 years behind me...

I have a few things to do this summer to close out the grant, but I am feeling the taste of freedom, and I must say it is nice.

This will be my last post for the blog since I started it to go along with the grant. I have been reflective over the last month. Did I do a good job with the last 31 years? Did I spend enough time doing the things that really mattered? 

My advice to teachers would be to make sure you keep perspective with teaching. That perspective is to do what is best for the students you are given each year. I can't tell you how many things I have seen come and go. 

And...to make sure you don't let the job swallow you up. I think I did a bit too much of that the last ten years. I let the pressures of testing, trying to make parents happy, etc rule me. I regret that I didn't hold that off a bit more.

Early on in my career, I had a student come through my room. His name was Andrew. 4th grade at Ocean City Elementary. He was always so neat and well dressed. He didn't have a lot, but his jeans were ALWAYS starched with a crease in them. Being an ironer myself (I know that I am a dying breed) this was something I always noticed. So, my assumption was he was well taken care of at home. I will be honest...he drove me nuts:) He wanted to make 100's on everything. If he missed anything, I had to find it in the book to show him, so that he could be sure I hadn't messed up. He would have died with today's answers, because we have so many drawing conclusions, inferring kinds of questions. Back then, every thing was pretty concrete right there in front of you. He and I sparred often in a good way. Close to the end of the school year, I gave Andrew and two other students a pizza party after school for completing a math multiplication goal. The pizza was slightly late because of busses, so Andrew didn't get out to the car quite quick enough. His aunt picked him by coming to the room. She was nice enough at the door, but all the way down the hallway I heard her getting after him about being late. I will be honest, I didn't even know he lived with an aunt. I spoke with the guidance counselor that afternoon and discovered quite a few things I didn't know. I leave those off..I will say he was well taken care of, but there were certainly some things I wish I had known earlier. I wouldn't have begrudged him always needing to make a 100.

On the very last day of school, I did notice he wasn't really participating in game day, but rather he asked if he could get the Florida History book that I had already put on the shelf for next year. I said yes, and I vaguely noticed he was drawing. To be honest, I was counting the minutes down. As the bell rang, he was up and out with the crowd, so I didn't notice what he left on the desk.

Now, I guessing this is not going to look like much to anyone. How many drawings do we get every year, but this one touched me profoundly based on the relationship I had with this student. So much so, that I kept it and placed it in my scrapbook.

The fact that Andrew thought I was a great teacher tore me up. He really meant that, because he never said anything like that previously nor would he have ever had the guts to say that to me or give it to me personally. It touched my heart. I considered those notes and expressions that I received from that day forward better than any reward that could be offered. I know we all like to be noticed and patted on the back, but doing a job that made a difference to a child is the ultimate reward

I don't know what happened to him, because he wasn't there next year for 5th grade, but I never forgot him. 

We teach for the students, not the earthly rewards, the district mandates, or tests, but for the individual child. 

On a lighter note, I found this on the same page of the scrapbook. This was what I looked like and a view of the classroom that year. LOOK at that gorgeous black hair. I miss that too!!!!!!!!!!

circa ---early 1990's
On to the next chapter.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Three Very Special Teacher Friends

To say that this year has been a strange year would be an understatement. I have experienced much sorrow, but in doing so it has caused me to be so thankful for my many blessings. You lose people here on Earth, you miss them dearly, and you realize how much people touch your lives even in the smallest of ways.

Throughout this year of taking care of my mom and dealing with my stepdad's cancer and subsequent death, I have also planned a wedding. Times of sorrow and sweetness. It has been a year of feeling like I was on some kind of ride where there were highs and lows.

I lost three very special teacher friends this year. As teachers, we share a very special bond. I guess all professions do, but for us, we know that we get each other through the good and the bad. We know we have to smile for the kids and come to school even when we are going through rough times. We just hold each other up. Often times I wondered if we were really what you would call "friends" since in many cases, we only see each other at work, but I think we are. We spend a huge portion of time together and pull each other along with encouragement when you have the rough kids that weigh you down.

When I took the science coach job a little over 2 and a half years ago, I left behind a superb class and one of the best group of teachers that I had ever worked with. We got along so well and enjoyed our laughs in the hallway when we dropped the students off for PE. We were one of those groups that rather than whine, we kind of just laughed off the insanities and encouraged each other. We met for lunch at the end of that year to send one off to retirement land, well really two (she hadn't announced it yet). We had a great lunch together and little did we know that we would lose two of them in two short years.

My friend Jackie, the healthiest person and most physically fit person I have ever known, was struck with a brain tumor. I knew Jackie long before I worked with her because we have boys the same age who did Little League together. Jackie always had a smile and a positive attitude. She came in every morning with such pep and zest for life in general. She loved teaching and I was blessed to know her. I loved how she just always laughed about everything. She loved her family and we had that in common. Family first. I learned at her funeral that she often gave china cups as gifts. She had all boys, so she remembered to use china to drink her coffee in. She had to keep the girly, beautiful things around her. I have been using my china a lot more recently to have that morning coffee and remembering my sweet friend Jackie.

I will take time to notice the pretty things.

My dear Martha was also at that lunch table planning to retire in a few short days. She would have taught forever, but she knew something wasn't quite right. Martha was already sick. She would never really enjoy retirement, but I think that was ok with Martha. Teaching was her life. I knew who Martha was even before I started teaching at Shalimar. She had a teacher website long before most ever thought of them. I had stalked it and thought what a great teacher she must be. When I met her, there was no doubt. Amazing teacher. I miss Martha already.

And then, there is dear Hope. I truly don't think there has ever been a nicer person than Hope. She was a Title 1 teacher at the school I worked at when my children were born. She had two little ones then. I watched her raise them making sure they never missed church. She was a great mother and teacher. Inclusion started way back then, and I must say I wasn't too keen on it. One of the Title 1 teachers made you feel so nervous, but not Hope. I loved having her in my room. She was so genuinely kind and sincere that I never minded her presence in my room.  I will truly miss seeing Hope, but I see her in her daughter. She left a legacy there for sure.

I just felt a strong need to share how much these ladies had touched me. Teaching is a busy, fast paced job, but our teacher friends can make such a difference in our lives.

Life is very fleeting. I feel a very strong need to live life to the fullest everyday. I have spent a lot of time stressing over work and not nearly enough time living. I plan to rectify that.

I will do my best to stop and smell the roses.

This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. ---Psalms 118:24

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Leaf Safari

Mrs. Leach's class at Florosa came in today, and we did the AIMS lesson "Leaf Safari." I have enjoyed working with Mrs. Leach this year. She has let me model each month the lesson and taken notes, so that she would feel comfortable doing them next year on her own. She is a wonderful teacher and her class is a pleasure to work with because they are so well behaved.

Of course, I always forget to take pictures while I am teaching, so I put together some at the beginning and end so that you could see what they did.

To begin, we had a variety of leaves found only on the school grounds to observe and work with. I say only on the school grounds, because if you have more time than we did, you can have the students collect them on a nature walk. Also, by using only what I had here, I was able to keep it a low stress preparation lesson.

The students came in and sat on the floor first. We read the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. (I love including good books with our science labs.) 

Leaf Man is an adorable book that has the Leaf Man traveling everywhere. Things I like about the book are...beautiful pictures, repeated lines, imagination, and children must observe closely to find the imaginative pictures made with the leaves.

See the turtle and fish on the lake.

See the cute cow.

After reading we discussed words that describe leaves and just ways to observe that would lead to the intermediate grades classifying leaves.

Part of our list of describing words.

Then, the students went to the table to observe and discuss what they saw. They chose one leaf to draw and write three descriptive words to go with it. They would later measure the length and width in centimeters of course!

Then I led them through classifying the leaves. We did needle and broad first, then rough and smooth, then the students had to come up with their own way to classify them. Mrs. Leach and I walked around and tried to guess.

The circles are from AIMS and come in a set of three. For first grade, we only used two, but if we had more time, we could have easily increased the difficulty.

We then had them measure the length and width of one leaf.

The final activity was to make a leaf rubbing. You can then really see the veins and patterns that show up in the leaf. I can't believe how many kids don't know what rubbing is. We used to do that all the time when I was little. Good reason for why we need the A in STEM, so now it is STEAM adding art in.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Last Year


             What a year!

My last year of a public school teacher is almost done. Can I get a cheer? I have almost made it. My plan for the blog is to finish out the remainder of the year with a few reflections, and then it is on to a new chapter in my life.

I thought I would share a few changes to my bio from the "Meet the Coach" post/page. 

For one, my daughter graduated from Auburn, met her love, got a job, and married the perfect match for her on February 1st of this year. We had fun planning the wedding, although they are very costly and a bit stressful:) However, the week of the wedding was the now infamous deep freeze that paralyzed Atlanta and Birmingham. Tyler's (my new son-in-law) parents spent the night in a Publix parking lot in Atlanta. A couple of the girls in the wedding live in Birmingham, so by Saturday, I was just relieved they all made it safely.
The day turned out to be pretty and pleasant. You can read more about it here.

Yes, I am proud.

Had to include this picture b/c the next picture of me coming up is so horrible:)

My fantastic husband of almost 30 years is now the principal of a high school. I think they are so lucky to have him. He is a fantastic leader and in my humble opinion, the very best. I am grateful for his leadership in our home.

Board meeting.
Terrible picture of me!!!

Well, I have great plans for myself. I am excited about what the future holds.
I will be blogging this summer at my new blog...

I Majored in Home Economics


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Fun Day at Florosa

 On Thursday, Mrs. McGlynn spear headed a fun day of space/aviation/science fun for the third graders. With the help of the fabulous third grade teachers, they had some great teamwork going. The students didn't need a field trip to have a full day of fun learning. The third grade teachers at Florosa are fun to work with. They always are the most flexible and do their job in the science lab with no whining, so I was not surprised when I went down to their pod to see each of them working together to give the students a day of learning that had students fully engaged.

Each teacher had a lesson prepared and then shared with each homeroom group throughout the day. One did a lesson on Mars, another on food in space, another balloon rockets, another straw rockets, and another on Bernoulli's theory. As I poked my head in each group to take a look, the kids were definitely having a great time.

I finally remembered to pull out my phone and take a few photos...some a little too late. I was so proud of all the teachers though. I love when you see teamwork by the teachers.
Kind of rare these days...
Students made a Bernoulli mask after learning about how low pressure is created above an airplane wing with fast moving air that then causes the air pressure to be high beneath the wing which helps it to create lift. The students blew through the hole which caused the strip of paper to rise.

Like I said I remembered too late to get pictures, but the students used these homemade straw rocket launchers made by the Hurlburt AFA members for teacher workshops.
The students used these to launch for not only distance, but target accuracy as well.

Some of the targets were laying flat on the floor while others were hanging.

One teacher taught about Mars and the students made a timeline of facts.

And I am sad that I got no pictures of the students using the balloon rockets and measuring for distance traveled or the lesson on eating in space. 

One of the dad pilots shared several video clips with the students. This is showed night vision and another I saw had them doing drops of cargo into a very small targeted area.

They shared some of the planes that fly over in our area.

They ended up in the multipurpose room with a guest author, and then their very own military dad pilots' as guest speakers. They loved this. I loved how well behaved they were and how attentive they were. Good job third graders.

Each time I see our very own military doing things in the schools like this, I am reminded of how lucky we are to live in our area. Each room had volunteers from Hurlburt helping out with the projects going on in each of the rooms.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Classroom Tour with Movie Maker

In the past, I did a post on the book Environments for Learning by Eric Jensen. Jensen does a great job with brain research and education. His website is http://www.ericjensen.com/.  You can view the post that I summarized pieces of the book here.

I recently attended a workshop on using Movie Maker, so I put my last 3rd grade classroom into a video with information from this book.

Here is the video that I made for that workshop.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Science Fix

I love this guy's site. He doesn't post often, but when he does, it is worth noting.

A must see post is this one:

If you are looking for a way to share how results can be varied in the scientific method, then check out his video.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Introducing a Science Lab

One of my favorite ways to introduce a science lesson is with a science trade book. When Ms. McFarland sent me an email requesting a lab for her kindergarten class on objects that would sink and float, I went to work gathering her some interesting objects to test. As I gathered, I remembered a book that would be just the perfect introduction, Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen. An adorable book that has farm animals entering a boat--- "one at a time to go for a row in the bay for no reason". With the repeated line of "Do you know who sank the boat?", we discover that the smallest of the animals was the final straw for sinking the boat.

Book available on Amazon

Starting with the book, Ms. McFarland sparked the students interest as well as used their reading skills of predictions to share the book. 

She then introduced the lesson that the students would do. She had them go to their tables so that they could see their materials, but she guided them through placing several items in the tub of water and discussing what happened as a group. 

For instance, she had one person place the rock into water. They discussed what they saw while teaching them how to place it in and the proper rules for behavior. It is IMPERATIVE that you model and train them in order for students to give you that proper scientific behavior, otherwise, those "little darlins' will splash water all over the place. Guaranteed!!!!

Then, we had a interesting item come up. The shell. 


Would you get different results depending on how you placed it in the tub???
Oh, how much fun science is!!!

Well, we did:) On this one, the shell was light enough to float like a bowl. 

I purposely placed all shells in this shape in their bags.

Some of them did float like bowls, however, some were too heavy to do so. A LOT for a kindergarten student, but never ever underestimate their ability.

Then, she let them go to work with exploring all of the items in their baggie....index card, bouncy ball, aluminum foil, toy soldier, spoon, penny, sponge, etc.

You have to turn them loose sometimes to let them explore. She guided them first, then let them work in pairs for the remainder of the items.

After calling them all back to the carpet, she reviewed each item and let them discuss if it sank, floated, or if they noticed anything else. 

Then she took a small, clear plastic cup to act as the boat like in the book. One by one she added things to the cup until it too sank, tying that lesson all up in one neat package.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Water Safety in 1st Grade

In first grade, we have a standard that reads: 
Describe the need for water and how to be safe around water.

The second half of the standard was addressed in the following lesson featured today.
The key question presented to students was: What are some ways that we can be safe around water?

This lesson is very appropriate for our area as well since we are located on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Mrs. Deslauriers brought her class in this week for this lesson. And....I know you have heard me say it before, but it is such a huge part of the success stories, she came in ahead of time and read over the lab!

Here are the materials for the lesson: lesson plan, booklets, and 9 sets of sorting cards in baggie.

The students brought in their school boxes and placed them at the lab tables, then proceeded to the floor area to meet with Mrs. Deslauriers. She reviewed places where they might be around large bodies of water (beach, pool, river, etc.). The lesson calls for the students to read the booklet called "A Day at the Pool." The lesson plan that was provided by AIMs called for the teacher to read it aloud and listen carefully for any water safety tips. However, Mrs. Deslauriers had the students choral read it. I loved it!!! I have mostly taught intermediate grades and not used choral reading, but it just goes to show how we can use so many different approaches. Her students were very attentive and did capture the safety rules. She knew her students well.

Choral reading and discussing their books.

They discussed these tips and later compiled a list in their classrooms.

The students worked in pairs to to sort the cards into two groups ----those that show unsafe practices, and those that show safe water practices.

If time permitted, you could have the kids compare their sorts to another group.

Mrs. Deslauriers copied the cards onto a worksheet to have them individually sort for an assessment.
Great Idea!

Here is their assessment of safe and not safe. Great Job.

I love it as a science coach when teachers are willing to take those boxes in the lab and give it a whirl, then provide me feedback on whether it was successful or needs tweaking. Sharing with others what works and doesn't helps us all be more effective.

When the lab doesn't go as planned...

When your lab doesn't go as it planned, it is not always a failed teaching event.

Here is a wonderful example:
Mrs. Fendrick brought her 3rd grade class in to do a lesson on condensation right before our incredible ICE storm last week. The lab did not call for using heat (as many labs do) other than the air temperature to generate the condensation, hence, we had a minor problem....it was getting colder by the minute. As the children were walking in, we were noticing that the rain hitting the walkway roof sounded a little heavier than regular raindrops. The students were excited and maybe even hoping for a bit of the white stuff that is not seen in our area!!!

Materials all set up and ready to pass out for groups of two to work with.

The experiment we had planned that day is an AIMS experiment called "Kool Kups." The premise of the lesson was to have flavored drink mix with ice in one cup and drink mix without ice in another cup with a thermometer attached to record the air temperature surrounding the cup.

The flavored drink mix would illustrate that the condensation formed on the outside of the cup with the ice in it came from the air around the cup and not inside the cup. As the student would wipe the outside of the cup it would be clear wetness rather than red.

The science behind the experiment is that the air around contains water vapor (a gas). We need energy transfer to cause a phase change of gas to liquid. When water vapor is cooled it moves from gas to liquid. The air surrounding the cup should have been able to cool the air surrounding the cup from gas to liquid. However, the classroom temperature kept dropping that day.  I should have known we were in trouble, because I had some Sprite in a paper cup with ice and no condensation was forming. When I finally took note just before the class came in - I picked up the cup and not a ring of water left. SIGH!!!

IF that had been a warmer day, a paper cup would have left a puddle of water around it. Now fortunately, since we are from the south, the kids knew what should have happened to my cup of Sprite which was used to help them understand why our experiment failed.

All is not lost, we did start the lesson, recording our temperatures every 3 minutes. We talked as we went about the temperature needed and an experiment that some had seen in the Climate and Weather Pitsco Mission that eventually all students will do when that station comes up for them in the rotation.

The point is.... making the failure or the things that we can not control work for you. Mrs. Fendrick will be able to tie this back in on the first day she has a glass of water in her room that has condensation everywhere. It can lead to a host of ideas to be discussed from the botched experiment to why they now see condensation on her water cup or to why a Tervis tumbler or insulated cup would keep condensation from forming.

Teachable moments are everywhere, even in the mess ups. Might even be better because now they see both sides of the condensation puzzle.

Wish I had more photos to share, but as you can imagine, sleet and cold weather excited the students a bit, and we were busy keeping them on track for which they did well, but it left no time for pictures. Just keeping it real:)

Friday, January 24, 2014

ICE on the BAYOU ---Gulf Coast of Florida

It is not supposed to do this way down here on the bayou. This is the Gulf Coast of Florida on a bayou off of Choctawhatchee Bay. I looked out after about the first day of temperatures below freezing, well really in the 20's a couple of weeks ago, and saw an ice sheet about 2/3's of the way across our bayou. Wow. I have never ever seen that. My son took these videos later that morning when the sun was up good and it should have been warming up.

The first one shows him placing a golf ball gently down, because surely it would break the ice..right?! Then he tapped it...look how far it went. INCREDIBLE for here.

On the second one, he dropped it a bit harder. AMAZING!

The Great Space Race Freebie

I am beginning to go through all of my science stuff as I getting closer to that retirement date. Yippie!!!!!!!!!!

I thought I would share a freebie with you today. I love the history of space exploration. I don't know why, but it has always fascinated me. I have shared a small portion of that love in these posts. I had a space theme running through my classroom for many years. From my Sunshine Math program to the big production - aka Space Play presented to the parents at the end of the school year.

One activity that I shared with my students was a little history of the United States / Soviet Union Space Race that kicked off before I was born with the launching of the Sputnik satellite. The Space Race was a major event for most of my childhood, and I followed it closely after I was old enough and then studied everything I could get my hands on after that. I would say my love for it began with a LIFE magazine and then really went in to overdrive in about 2nd grade when the little fuzzy TV rolled into the classroom. Thanks Mrs. Bates and Repton Elementary.

Anyway, I am sharing a PowerPoint that I made to go through the major events. This PowerPoint was inspired by a Mini Page. The Mini Page had a series of events that were considered firsts in the Space History and milestones.

After reading through this, I got the idea to highlight some example of the Space Race between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialists' Republic (USSR) from the 1960's. I tried to bring out that throughout that decade it would seem they were beating us, but they were taking chances that we would not take with our astronauts. Depending on the grade level I was teaching determined how in depth I went with the topic. 
However, there is so many things to highlight about the good in our country. I think this was an incredible endeavor and believe it is important to teach to share with the next generation what we can do as a nation. There trip to greatness may be Mars or just solving problems that exist in our world.

Here is a copy of the PowerPoint. I was not so specific in the notes portion, because I just have it stored in the head:)

I took the events then and made a worksheet that could students could follow along as we went through the PowerPoint and add the dates to it. Then the sheet could be cut apart to put the dates in order. Timeline skills!!! Here is a copy of the worksheet.

Below are some pictures of what it looked like. As you can see, easy activity, nothing special. I guess if I were more motivated, I would spruce it up and put it on Teachers Pay Teachers. Truth is I would rather just share and hope that I helped someone else, and I don't know if it would fly with copyright issues on all those prints. Many of those are available via NASA.

Pretty plain as you can see, but it takes care of timelines and historical facts.

This one is a bit more doctored up, but still really plain.

The picture below is the picture on the top of the second student piece. I got it from an old book, but I am sure you can find something similar.

I loved how it had us winning by making it to the moon!!! Go USA!

Hopefully, someone out there shares my passion and can use the idea.

Love this one too. Taken from an old Time for Kids.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Active Word Strategies with Word Lanyards

As I mentioned in this post, I wanted to share some of the best ways to incorporate some movement and active ideas into content vocabulary instruction from the book Word Nerds by Overturf, Montgomery, and Smith. One of my favorites was Vocabulary Lanyards.

Vocabulary Lanyards have the students wear a vocabulary word, synonym, or antonym in a clear plastic container on a lanyard. Students receive a different word each day, but they might have to switch words during the day so that they are responsible for knowing more than just the word they wear.

*It goes without saying that you would have to teach and model appropriate uses of their lanyards and to respect and take care of them.

Throughout the day, you would have activities related to the words. For instance, line them up with...."If you are wearing the word that means _____________, then line up, or "If you are wearing the word that means the opposite of the word that means ____________, line up.

Another idea presented was to have them find classmates with related synonyms and antonyms and huddle up in the classroom.

These are just a few of the ideas, but a good start to see if it is something you would be interested in pursuing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Early Simple Machines LEGOs "Spinning Top"

One of my favorite things in our labs are the Early Simple Machine LEGO kits. They contain 8 building cards with a lesson attached and then 4 problem solving lessons that promote a free build. They are built around a 4 C model of teaching.

  • Connect - The teacher reads a very short story to present a problem that must be solved by the simple machine that the students build.
  • Construct - Students build following instructions on the building cards.
  • Contemplate - Students carry out the scientific investigation with their build.
  • Continue - Ideas for further study or investigation.

In the Spinning Tops lesson, the students listen to a story where two children are having fun spinning toy tops. However, they quickly fall over and their fingers are tired from all the spinning.  They must construct a launcher that make the tops spin longer. They use a building card to guide them.

Front of card.

Back of card.

After building there launcher, the students are asked to try it out a few times and get the hang of it.


After the students can launch it well, the question is presented for them to contemplate. The tops can work two ways... 

1) The yellow piece is on top and the red piece is on the bottom as pictured above. This means that the disc with the largest surface area is on the top and the disc with the smallest surface area is on the bottom.

2) The discs are reversed with the red on top and yellow on bottom changing the largest surface area to the bottom.

The students predict which they think will spin the longest. Then the practice begins with doing it both ways.

When the students have had ample practice, you call them altogether to discuss the results. We took Mrs. Leach's first grade class pictured in the examples out into the hallway and made two lines and then took one launcher and tested each of the tops multiple times and had a great discussion right out in the hallway. Fantastic class, Mrs. Leach!!! 

  • We talked about our predictions
  • why we would have to spin it multiple times
  • was it a fair test such as did we always turn the handle the same amount of times
  • was the surface the same or did the tops hit cracks in the floor.
Lots of things to consider. 

We then shared some research on the topic.
We found that to spin longer, the larger surface on the bottom works best because it has a lower center of gravity, but we found that the larger surface area on top spins faster. 

To extend the lesson, it suggest making a top with different shapes. I found a site that tells children how to make a top out of index card and a toothpick so that they could go home and try some more ideas.

As you can see, this was a fun lesson for the kids and opens up so many questions for the children to think about in science.