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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning? Remembering 9/11

Growing up I remember aunts and uncles asking one another "Where were you when you JFK was shot?".  I was too young to remember that tragic moment in American history.   Unfortunately, I was not too young to remember "where I was during 9/11".

Ten years ago on 9/11 I was in my classroom filled with 30 beautiful and innocent fourth graders.   Sara, an aide in my classroom, brought the news to me (in a hushed tone) that an airplane had struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York.  Of course we thought it was an accident.  She then went to the office to see if she could learn more about what happened.  She came back shortly to say that another plane hit the South Tower.  We became aware that it was no accident.  Sara then became our eyes and ears to the world keeping us up-to-date on the events.  As the morning progressed and the news got worse, word had spread throughout the building and all the teachers learned of the news.

My heart was racing with fear as I thought of my own children who were in my home town at their schools in Kindergarten and Grade 1. When my students were in phys. ed. I called my sister and left an hysterical message on her answering machine. "Go get my kids and bring them to your house. I want them home with you," I sobbed into the phone as I just couldn't wrap my head around what was happening.  Not my finest moment for sure. 

After I made the call and spoke with some of the other teachers.  I calmed myself down and tried to phone my sister again.  This time I spoke to her directly.  "I left a message on your answering machine - please DO NOT listen to it.  Hope you are okay and I'll see you this afternoon".  I had realized that my children would be okay with their teachers just as my students would be okay with me.  My children's teachers were not going to let anything happen to my kids just as I would be doing my best to protect my own students.

Ten years later, we had a beautiful ceremony in front of our school.  Our principal spoke briefly about all people who lost their lives and about all the heroes who helped one another.  We had local police officers and firefighters as representatives of all those who protect and serve us on a daily basis.  Our flag was raised by students then lowered to half-staff.  We all said the Pledge of Allegiance together then sang: Your a Grand Old Flag; a student played a song on his guitar and we sang again.  My friend and colleague, Suzanne, spoke to the students. She shared how her 2nd grade class during the year of 9/ll wanted to do something that would help so they created "A Garden of Hope" in the town.  "We needed to create a place that brought peace, comfort, and hope to our community, so we could honor the victims and the heroes from that day." Each year Suzanne's class plants in the fall and spring.   She also read a beautiful poem she wrote to think back on that day.

Although our students were not old enough to remember or maybe understand what happened on that beautiful, crisp, clear September day, they participated in a ceremony that shows respect and pride for our nation. 

 September 11th....Ten Years Later

Ten years ago, on a bright sunny day
America’s peace and security was taken away. 
Attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
Began some of the darkest days our country and our world would ever see.

Sadly, so many lives were lost; yet, so many heroes were found 
Because Americans are the strongest, bravest people around. 
The police officers, firefighters, and strangers alike 
Risked and gave their lives right after these horrific strikes.

Out of the darkness that fell on that day
Rose a new America...different in so many ways. 
The world came together in comfort and peace 
To help those who suffered greatly and were stricken with grief.

Neighbors helped neighbors, and we all did our part 
To keep the faith and try to make a new start. 
Where we cared more about others and gave what we could 
To make the world a better by doing some good.

America’s pride came through loud and clear 
With flags flying proudly on homes far and near. 
Out of darkness, there comes light. 
Out of fear, there comes the strength to fight.

Out of the sadness, there comes hope each new day. 
That America and the world will live in peace in some way.
No matter how much time passes, this will be a day we remember
Never forget...the 11th of September.

Today and forever we honor the heroes and victims of 9/11...
Respectfully written by Suzanne Galvin, third grade teacher, Boyden School

RESOURCES:  An article that gives tips on speaking with kids about 9/11 More strategies for talking and listening to children about this topic and other news stories.
   Scholastic Young people share their experiences of 9/11
   Brain Pop Video:  Explores the topic of 9/11 - Children should watch this with an adult.

"Where Were You When the World Stop Turning" was written by Alan Jackson and shared with me shortly after 9/11 by my colleague Michelle.  Each time I hear it I am reminded of that tragic day and I will never forget the bravery and sacrifice made by so many.


Do you remember "Where YOU Were When the World Stopped Turning?"

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book Bins and New Beginnings

Book bins with each child's name and books to start the year.
Who knew some plastic bins from the Dollar Store could bring such joy? Okay, they are colorful plastic bins.  But that's not why they brought such joy. 

During the summer I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and The Daily5 and the Cafe Book by sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.  These books became my inspiration and guides to how I will approach reading with my students this year.

Following the authors' suggestions students will select their own reading books which will then be used to practice the skills and strategies being taught - true differentiation! 

The Two Sisters suggested using Book bins for each student.  I hemmed and hawed about what to use and in the end (due to financial constraints) I chose some colorful, plastic bins from the Dollar Store. (I'm hoping they will hold up!)

Since Tropical Storm Irene blew into town and gave the students in my district a delayed school opening, I thought I would capitalize on the moment to fill each book bin with several books. 

Using my class list I selected books from my library that I thought might appeal to my new students.  Each box was then filled with books of different genres with the hope of tapping into some of their interests.  A bookmark was also added for extra measure!

What happened next was something unexpected.  I started humming. (Okay, not that unexpected if you know me.)  With a spring in my step I started bounding from the bookshelf to the book bin.   My pulse quickened and my heart twittered. I felt light and hopeful.  I realized it was the feeling of pure JOY!

When I had filled all 27 bins I stood back and admired my handiwork.  I began to wonder.  Would my students like the books? The bins?  Would they experience the joy in a similar way? Would they be excited when they could add books for themselves?  Would they enjoy reading this year?

I think I will always remember the excitement and joy I felt at the thought of this new school year.  Not just a new year, with new students, but a new beginning with renewed commitment to helping students find the JOY in reading!