Archive for May, 2014

Loss and Hope

This morning brought the news that one of those heroes of words and spirit passed away. My gut panged as I reflected on this loss. Maya Angelou is a collective body of work and an incredible teacher. Her words have moved me, connected me and encouraged me. They challenge and they drive me. I have sat in her presence in a couple of different settings that I knew in those moments I sat with someone of rich character. I remember thinking in those encounters that I would value hearing her words alive in my ears throughout my lifetime.

My day continued forward, I received a call from a parent. She shared that she had contacted the local news with a story about her child and Joyner. Her daughter, Olivia, has made the decision to ask for donations for clean water for people in Uganda rather than ask for birthday gifts. She has taken this wish to the next step in setting up a website to make it happen. The parent involved Joyner as she shared her joy with how Joyner was a part of encouraging Olivia to think and act in this way. The local news station came out and interviewed Olivia. She captivated the photographer. The parents spoke with me afterward and celebrated the work of the staff at Joyner.

As I look back at these two moments of my day, I see a grand connection of hope of spirit. I see the gifts that Maya Angelou gave in her words. She encouraged people to move and act and be better and be themselves completely. And here at Joyner, I saw an example of what I see so often, I saw a little girl who has moved us. A little girl who has acted on her spirit. A little girl who sees her world as a bigger place.

I am proud to have this live connection today. While I am sad for the loss of someone I honor, I am so glad to see the hope that our children continue to offer to us all. And grateful to the teachers and parents who encourage and celebrate that spirit.

Diving into Exhibition

May always means that our fifth graders are in full gear with their IB Exhibition projects. This is a culminating activity that should showcase so much that a student has learned through the years through our IB PYP. They use the resources, knowledge base and learner profile. And it is always such an amazing opportunity for our teachers to see our students take action.

This year, our students kept their focus at home. The question revolves around how to make Joyner a better place. Students and staff brainstormed what issues they see around the school and seek ideas for solutions. Each student group has a mentor teacher that supports their work but really is there to assist if needed. The students guide their learning and resolutions. We have groups looking at beautification, creation of clubs, tutoring and so much more. Our safety patrol has even reflected on how to make our school even safer. 

Our safety patrol team evoked quite a stir last Friday. In their group they discussed their concern of the number of parents in the carpool line talking on cell phones. They shared stories that they have cars take off before the door is shut. Their toes are often in the way of that moving car. They were concerned. They wanted to make it a public rule to not be on the cell phone. But they also were concerned about parent response. So they decided to survey the parents in carpool on Friday afternoon. 

I have heard from several parents asking why they received this question. Conversations have occurred amazed at our students taking ownership of their school. Some concerned and wondering why they were asked such a question.

This is a process. And through each conversation I have with parents about the many topics our fifth graders are buzzing about, I am proud that our students have taken their exhibition projects so seriously and so passionately. 

Our students love their school. They are proud of the JYJ family. And they are problem solvers at its best. They see the school from probably the most important lens… through the child’s eye. They are risk takers as they challenge some of our norms and help us to create an even better environment to learn and grow.

Thank you fifth grade! Congratulations on the meaningful work you are doing for Joyner!

Hold off Fireflies!

Some of you might have seen my tweet last night after I came in from a walk. I stopped in my tracks because my eye caught a lightning bug. This couldn’t be! It is just early May! But sure enough, off that bug blinked again at me! All day yesterday I felt that summer heat. I smelled that little sweaty kid smell from children coming off the playground. I noticed the shorts and sundresses were in full swing! Even the lightning bugs were trying to tell me summertime was here.

But I will go on the record to say that we still have four weeks of learning to go at the JYJ. We haven’t shut down. I continue to walk through the building and hear incredible teaching. Measurement is all over in math. I cannot tell you how many times I heard about centimeters and inches in the same breath. I have watched our youngest students to our oldest researching and talking text features in their books. I have been able to sit in presentations and skits about scientific facts. Books are getting published. Books are being read. Art is at its amazing production stage. We are still whirling in our learning.

So I ask you to please be careful to not let the fireflies outside woo you. The break is on its way, but keep your children focused on their math, research, reading and all. Go and play in that sunshine but call the kids in to bed at their normal time. Enjoy watering the flowers together but also remind your child that school is tomorrow.

Let’s enjoy our learning together this school year and put off summer just a little bit longer. At least until June 12th!

Appreciative of Teachers

I have been in school for a long time. I always tell my own children that mom never has left school. After college, I jumped right back into school and never moved on! And I feel so lucky to work with the amazing people in education. Teachers are truly a gift for a child. As I reflect this week on the National Teacher Appreciation Day, I think back on the teachers in my life.

Ms. Layman was my Kindergarten teacher. I won a prize for putting the most pumpkins on a page. She made me feel so special with those little celebrations. Ms. Pinky in first grade had the longest legs; and when she walked in her bell bottoms, I was amazed by her swiftness. Her curlie hair even jumped with the energy she gave in her teaching. Ms. Egleston in third grade was my favorite. She encouraged me to be creative and allowed me to explore and be unique. She supported me in my love of reading and encouraged it to flourish. She also taught me humanity as I remember her emotional response to tragic national events that year. Ms. Eubanks in fourth grade helped me through a tough time at home. She showed compassion and shared resiliency. Ms. Rogers in fifth grade, phew, she was my first tough teacher who held nothing back. I would achieve no matter what because she expected it! And finally Mr. Pierce, my first male teacher, showed me what fun can look like in school. He also let my creativity shine in writing everyday. AND he let us read under our desks…. imagine! I could go on and on. Ms. Smith, my high school biology teacher, who taught while standing on her lab table to truly make a point. My junior English teacher, Ms. Kinnard, who cried when we presented the death of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Yes, teachers truly make an impact. They truly make a difference in our lives. And I am so thankful that I continue to work with amazing teachers who teach me still. I appreciate their guidance, their advice, their advocacy for children and the sharing of dreams that they give to our students.

I have worked in schools from here to Africa, and one thing remains the same. Teachers truly do matter. And I want to thank them all for everything they give to other people’s children. Thank for the gift you give to our future by shaping lives.

I truly do encourage you to say it again to a teacher in your life that makes a difference, thank you!

Joyner Loves a Parade

This morning our hallways began to build with energy as the day was starting. Parents started to congregate in our foyer connecting and talking, even more than usual. And as the 8:30 bell rang, the rest of our students started coming into the hallway to line up. And within 5 minutes proud third graders began to walk through the hallways displaying their biography research. Children cheered. Parents proudly snapped photos. And for a few minutes we started our day together with a wonderful feeling. By 8:45, students were back in class learning and teachers teaching.
What can happen in just a few minutes with a parade at Joyner makes an impact on our community and our students that touches them for much longer. A parade is a way for students to have an opportunity to celebrate learning. They show off a talent. Portray a new idea. Capture a concept in a creative way. It is an opportunity to culminate a unit outwardly to the rest of the school.
A parade allows our younger students to see a role model to aspire to. They see what is to come and get excited. They love to see the older students.
A parade allows our older students to learn to celebrate kids of every age. They remember their moments walking the JYJ halls at different ages. They connect to the learning on a similar subject not so many years ago.
Teachers see former students and call out their names. Students see their siblings with pride. And parents have the opportunity to join in our learning fun and see their children in their school environment.
We, as a community, come together to build in each other this relationship of support. These moments are important to who we are as a Joyner family community.
At Joyner, I am so glad that we will take these important moments to celebrate our students. Allowing them to perform. Allowing them to share learning. Allowing them to connect as a larger part of the school beyond their classroom and grade level.