You Want to Run a What? Part 2

In May, I heard the words, I will never do that again. Krista ran her first marathon in May.  You want to run a WHAT?! Yesterday, not 5 months later, she ran her second.  She ran her second after transferring schools, changing her major, working two jobs and rushing a sorority.

386E7AB9-9ADC-4BBD-81ED-C538E6CD8A62This time, she joined a running group; stuck more to her training and ate a restrictive diet to prepare.  She also lived at college and had midterm week right before the marathon.  She had hopes of doing an 8 minute mile for all 26 miles.

Yesterday’s weather was warm and humid; a stark contrast to that in May.  I did not drive to see her, but rather wore my running shoes and chased after her as she snaked her way through the city of Hartford.

After she left the Hartford city limits, I raced back to watch my brother in law finish the half marathon.  He had had hip surgery less than 1 year before! I am in awe that he would even attempt a 5K, let alone a half!

After that, it was wait for Krista to finish. With modern technology as it is, I saw that she 215C23E4-C8FA-405B-9EA1-8B07F5C93E7Fwas able to keep her 8 minute mile until about mile 20.  Then she dropped to about 9 minute mile. Racing to see her at the finish (in under 4 hours) the first words out of her mouth was, “Don’t let me do that ever again.”

Both my daughter and my brother in law overcame obstacles to compete yesterday.  Running is not easy.  It is you and the pavement.  Running that many miles is grueling under the best of circumstances.  Having that kind of grit and determination I know that Krista will be fine in life.  No matter what life throws at her.  She has learned to perservere and endure when situation are less than optimal.  I teach my students that it is not about the knowledge but about the sticktoitness that will utimately decide success.


As for Krista, we did some gentle yin yoga this morning.  She was still saying that she won’t do another marathon, but she also told me she was going to take a full week off from working out..let’s see if she does that first.



Bringing the World To Us

I have seen many changes in education in the past 30 years.  Some good, some not so good.  Over all the changes I have seen, the best one, the one I feel has impacted learning the most has been technology.  When I first started, there were no computers.  Hard to imagine that!


Yesterday was one of those amazing days. That you look back and are glad that you were apart of it.  It started with my daughter Kelsey FaceTiming in to our class from South Africa.  She spends Thursdays at University of Cape Town and uses their WiFi to connect.  The students were able to ask “in person” their questions about her bungee jumping, lion meeting and other adventures.  She showed them her university and then turned the camera around and showed them the mountains.  You know she has been making a difference when one student said, “Oh, I see Table Mountain.”

The second exciting thing to happen was because of Wonder .  We have been reading the chapter book and I stumbled across a Facebook Group of teachers reading it.  Through that group, Megan Brown contacted me and said she was willing to Skype from Washington with my class to discuss her life as someone who has craniofacial issues.  D5AC6B69-904C-408F-BC71-ABF2EB88DCD7Megan presented to my class for about 15 minutes about her life and then my students asked her questions.

Also part of the day, which I didn’t think about until after because it is becoming so common place (which is crazy) is we checked Twitter. On Twitter our friend Carl DeStefano from Australia had tweeted pictures of his alpaca at us.  I then told the kids a story that Carl was tell me that morning in a twitter chat and we tweet back to him.  We have been corresponding with Carl all year, but how crazy is that?! My students saw alpaca pics from Australia?!

In one day, my students traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, Washington State and Australia.  Wow!  Just Wow!

Maybe because 30 years ago I could never imagine even talking on the phone during the day to South Africa or Washington let alone Skype and FaceTime, but yesterday was one of those magical, special days. It is one of those days that make me feel lucky to be able to do what I do and keeps my faith that I have the greatest job in the world.

Robots (well maybe)

This week we started the Global Read Aloud.  The Global Read Aloud is one book that is read aloud to students around the world.  There are a few


books to choose from.  The choices change every year.  This is my fifth year participating and it is one of my favorite global projects.  Over 2 million, yes, million children participate.

This year, I am reading the Wild Robot by Peter Brown.  It is a delightful story of a robot who gets stranded on a deserted island.  We are only in our first week, so we are not that far into the book. However, we did have to make our own robots because how can you read a book about robots and not make one?

Here is what they came up with.  How cute are they, right?!  The only directions were that they had to be shorter than 18 inches and had to stand. They were given 1 hour.  Materials could be used from the classroom or brought from home.  I had robot dogs, cats, heads

IMG_1051[1]and even a dinosaur.

What the picture doesn’t show is the hard work that went into these creations.  There was a lot of trial and error happening for sure!  There was also a lot of cooperation and sharing.  There was even squeals of delight when their creation stood up, like they wanted it to.

After we finished our creations, we snuck into my teaching buddy’s 5th grade classroom to get a look at hers.  What a difference a couple years make.  Hers all looked like robots.  Some moved, one was even voice activated!  They were amazing!

I chuckled that I did not have any “robot looking” robots at all.  But what I did have was children being children.  Simply delighted in the idea of creating something.  Using amazing problem solving skill.  Cooperation.  Kindness. Pride.  What I did have was a morning filled with smiles and giggles. It was a time to remind me that they are still children.

Third Grade Questions for South Africa

Why did you go to South Africa?  How long are you going to stay there?

I went to South Africa to study abroad. That means during a period of time during college, you live in a different country and take classes at their school. I could choose between Cape Town or London, but chose Cape Town because when else will I be in Africa?

I arrived at the end of August and will be leaving December 10th! But I won’t be back in the United States until December 11 because the flight takes so long.

What does your school look like?  What is it made out of?  Is there Chrome books?  Why is there so many kids in a class?

The school looks different than yours because there aren’t any hallways! To get from one classroom to another, you walk outside. Besides that, the classrooms look the same, with desks and chairs, posters, papers and pens. There’s a lot of bricks.

The technology that they use aren’t Chrome books, instead they have desktop computers (like the one my mom uses). There’s just the computer lab, not laptops that travel around. I don’t think they have computers in the classroom either.

There are so many kids in a class because there aren’t that many teachers and SO many kids. Compared to other classes that have 50 or more students, 30 isn’t that many!


Is South Africa near the equator?

It’s actually not. South Africa, specifically Cape Town, is the southern-most country in Africa. Here’s a map. South Africa is green! The bottom most coast is where I live (on the left-hand side).

Why is there poor and not poor sections?

In South Africa, there’s a history called “apartheid,” when people were separated by the color of their skin. The white people in charge were very mean to the black people and forced them to move out of their homes into a poor area called the “Cape Flats.” The black families only had a few hours to get as many of their things as they could before they had to move to those small houses I showed you before. Even though this period of time has ended, there are still poor and wealthy sections.

Why didn’t the tigers and monkeys attack?  Where they trained?  What about the elephants?  Are they trained?  Why were their tusks small?  Were they not grown or had someone cut it?

These tigers and monkeys were rescued by humans and have spent the majority of their lives in the sanctuary, so they are used to people walking by their cages and also the workers coming into their cages to feed them. So they were never actually trained but “domesticated,” meaning that they’re used to being around people.

And believe it or not, but a lion did actually charge at the fence when we were watching him! Our tour guide thought it was because we were near him while he was eating and thought we were going to steal his food!

The elephants are actually trained. They take about two years to be fully trained. They use treats, just like dogs. They look like bunny pellets. I got to feed my elephant, Jabu, a handful (or trunkful) of them! Elephants also love pumpkin, we fed them that too! One of the elephants, Tante, never grew her trunks. This is because of poachers, or bad people who kill elephants for their ivory trunks. So in order to stay alive, the elephants changed the way they grow so a very small percentage don’t even grow their tusks. The other two elephants, Jabu and Marula, don’t have their full trunks. The elephant trainers aren’t really sure why they’re like that, but they think it’s because another thing elephants can get killed for are strong trunks!




I have been waiting for this book since I first knew of its existence.  I watched in envy as people with advanced copies tweeted and posted about its magic.  I even preordered it from Amazon Prime, which is not something I do often with books.  Katherine Applegate is a writing genius.  Her books are amazing.  The One and Only Ivan is a must read aloud every year for me. It is brilliant. For those of you who don’t know, it is about a gorilla who is in a shopping mall zoo and the trials and tribulations that come with it.  It was the first book that I had a student so invested in the book that she broke down and cried at one part.

As I sit here on a chilly end of September morning wrapped in a blanket, I devour the whole book in one sitting. I wanted to slow down and savior its deliciousness, but my brain need to absorb every word and find out how/if the story worked out. Once I finished, I felt I should go to the gym, but I must write about this work of art. Beautiful.  That is how I describe this book.  Just beautiful. My favorite line of the whole story is, “I wanted to tell them that friendship doesn’t have to be hard.  That sometimes we let the world make it hard.”  I reread that line again and again.  I find myself still mulling that line over.

This book is meant to be shared, talked about and lingered over.  The central character is Red an oak tree. Red and the other animals help the reader to see a different perspective than we usually see.  This book is about friendship, kindness of strangers, prejudice and so much more.  This book takes us back to look forward.

I cannot wait to share this work of art with my students.  They will love it!





Reading aloud is the most important thing I do in my classroom.  It is the glue that holds us together. Read aloud is so much more than hearing a really wonderful story.  During read aloud, we discuss reading and reading skills without the students realizing it. We talk about how books go and what to expect from certain books. We talk about how the book reminds us of other books. We make predictions, we notice patterns and we analyze the plot.

But read aloud time is more than that.  It is when we become a community.  It is when we learn about ourselves and our world.  Read aloud is when we tackle big social problems as group through the safety of literature and our classroom.  

Beginning grade three is a time when I begin to build that trust.  I always start off the year with Marty McGuire.  A delightful story by Kate Messner.  The students enjoy Marty and her naughtiness and I begin to hook them.  I usually read Marty McGuire Digs For Worms next to get kids hooked on series.  This year, however, I tried something new.  Usually, my first “heavy” book would be done with the Global Read Aloud, in October. But with the movie Wonder coming out in November, I decided that it would be my next read aloud.

I struggled with the decision, was it too early in the year for my students?  Wonder is about a boy with cranifacial abnormalities who is attending school for the first time.  It is a wonderful story that I would definitely read later in the year.  However, I am a reading purist and do not like reading a book after the movie has come out.  So I struggled, should I do this? Would my small humans be able to handle the complexity of the book?

I decide that I will try and see what happens.  Well, this week has shown me that I made the right decision.  I am a little over half way through with the book. I am beginning to notice a change in my students.  They are starting to get emotionally involved in the book.  Auggie is taking up space in our classroom and in our hearts.  We are beginning to really dislike other characters.  Students are spontaneously cheering at appropriate parts (not to give anything away). During meaner and more intense parts, I am watching their faces and they are so engrossed in the story line.  Many showing anger and happiness throughout my reading.

What amazed me the most was yesterday.  I showed them a short YouTube video called I am Auggie.  It was a montage of different people saying, “I am Auggie Pullman.”  Each person had a different abnormality.  It was very powerful to watch.  You could hear a pin drop in my room as the students sat and really watched the video.  The discussion after it was priceless. In such a short period of time, they have grown as humans.  A good book does that.

I am glad I made the decision to read the book early.  I always believe that students will surprise you every time.  As we head toward the second half of the book, it is with mixed emotion.  I don’t know if we will be ready to put Auggie away, but I know that he will be in our classroom the rest of the year!

International Dot Day; the day after

I meant to take a lot of pictures.  I actually even told my students that I would make a slide show after, but that didn’t happen.  I took one picture.  I was so involved in each activity! As each activity finished, I was like oh shoot, I forgot to take pictures.  But this is what did happen..

We started off the day being scientists and examining dots (drops of water).  We learned we needed to read the directions carefully or we could ruin the experiment for others!  We put drops of water onto a penny.  Did you know that over 20 drops can fit on a penny?  We learned that when dots of water are close together on wax paper, they attract each other and slide together.  Wait, we had to learn what wax paper was! We watched as we added one drop of food coloring to a glass full of water.  While we predicted that the whole glass would turn color, the drop actually made some pretty cool designs.  We learned that scientists slow down and observe.

Mystery Skype was next.  We guessed our friends state of New Hampshire.  During this activity, we learned to be careful listeners and how to ask questions that made sense to what we had already learned.  This is hard for third graders because we barely know
where we live, let alone any other state.  This is what we learned.  New Hampshire is not in the Midwest.  It borders Canada.  It is in the Northeast and it borders Maine.

After that, we created dots that we made three dimensional with an app called Quiver.  Very cool!  We ended our day with watching live (with thousands of children around the world) a Kidlit tv show about Dot Day.  We got to see Peter Reynolds, the mayor of Boston and several illustrations with new books coming out soon.  Several of which my students want me to buy.

It was a very full day with lots of learning, creating and fun. My plans of going to the gym after school were traded in for my pajamas, my dog and the couch.