Hello, students and anyone else who is reading this,
I am happy and I am a little sad, too. I’m leaving one school for another — from computer lab to library and computer lab — starting next week.
You kids at my old school — you’re great students. But you know this already, because I told you so all the time, am I right? I’m right. You are fantastic, and I will miss you so much. But you come and find me here, leave me notes, and I’ll send you notes back, OK? (Your e-mail does not show up when you leave a comment; only I see that.)
Note to my new students: I’m really looking forward to getting to know you! I’ve heard that you are a cool, smart bunch, too. Yay!
I just missed my library work too much. (That’s what most of my background is in.) But I do love computers, too, especially when we’re using them for reading and writing. That’s how I’m writing this blog post right now, as a matter of fact! Ha. This way I’ll be able to teach half the time in the library, half the time in the computer lab. That works for me.
Let’s talk about art projects, because they’re part of learning, too.
I’ve been collecting stamps for years. Stamps can be quite beautiful works of art. A few weeks ago I found two tins of postage stamps (some of them old, dating back to 1947) that my paternal grandmother saved, and some that I had saved, too, because she taught me to look for stamps. My grandma loved her stamps — I have her collection in a great book. She gave it to my dad, then it was passed along to me. Anyway, it’s fun to look through. My own kids have never taken to it, and that’s fine. It seems so old-fashioned now, I get that.
(Or “vintage,” as I prefer.)
I’m always looking for new ways to educate/entertain/engage my students, and when I came across those tins, and some construction paper, and lined paper… Well, there you have it.
I spent some time constructing little books out of the construction paper — all different colors, so that made it fun. I stapled 6 or 8 sheets of lined paper inside, found some glue sticks and scotch tape, and we were ready to go. (The stamps — most of which included the postmarks — were already trimmed and ready.)
This turned out to be one of the best lessons I’ve ever come up with, and it cost me nothing in supplies; I already had everything on hand.
I had enough stamps for two classes, and hello, I’m no fool. I wanted someone who would share my goofy joy in stamp collecting. Hi, 3rd graders, let’s get going on this fun project.
* We practiced saying “philatelist” and it is really fun to say. Philately! One of the world’s most popular hobbies! I had to dial the lesson way back once I realized that many of them weren’t familiar with the following terms:
Seriously. We do so much by auto-pay now, e-mail and texting, the kids aren’t really sending/receiving much mail, seeing letters appear in the mailbox at home, any of that. So we talked about penpals, too. I explained that “real” stamp collectors (like coin collectors) go for the uncirculated items, in pristine condition, and that no, glue and scotch tape aren’t recommended. (Acid-free paper, collections kept in boxes, inside safe deposit boxes, etc.) Smart kids — right away they wanted to know, Are these worth money? How much? And started looking for the oldest ones. I told them that they are welcome to go to a stamp/coin dealer and talk business, but that I’ve always been in it just for fun.
I suggested that they ask their parents, neighbors, grandparents, teachers, anyone, really, to save stamps for them, if they’re interested in collecting them. They each got to pick out five stamps from the tins, and we ended up with enough for both classes, plus a few extras. They decorated the covers, showed them off a bit, and really, it was super fun. We also talked about some of the things they like to collect, including (but not limited to):
Coins, rocks, dolls, video games, shells, agates, toys! and now, stamps.
One of the boys asked me if he could have a blank book and stamps, since he missed school the day we had the lesson. One of the 5th graders heard about it, and requested books and “starter stamps” for himself and his 2nd grade sister. One of the girls asked me for an extra book, “I already filled mine up!” Please bring it to show me, I asked her, and she did.
It’s just beautiful. Lovely stamps from around the world. Where did they all come from? I asked.
…we’re working on reading, math, reading, keyboarding, math and Google Docs.
Because we really like to write, that’s why!
And now, how about a beautiful picture for you, before we jump into the lesson?
(Photo by Steve Rawley)
(That’s Willie Nelson, with his pretty daughter, Amy, singing back-up, and his amazing harp player, Mickey Raphael. They like to make music.)
Here are some tricks I teach the students, re: writing:
I’m a writer, before I am anything else. I love being a teacher, a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, all of that. But before I was anything else in the world, I was a writer.
I “wrote” my first book, an alphabet book, when I was two and a half or so? I still have it. I didn’t know how to write, exactly, or spell, exactly, so I told my mom what I was trying to say and she wrote the words.
“A” was for acrobat.
I never gave up, and I still love writing. (Let’s see how many times I say “I” here. Sorry.) My teachers encouraged me, and friends and family. I wrote for my high school paper (a little) and my college paper (a lot), and went to work as a clerk for The Oregonian newspaper after that, where I wrote, wrote, wrote my head off.
* Don’t freeze up when you see a blank screen or a blank sheet of paper. Write “gah gah gah gah.” Write, “no, no, yes, yes, yes.” Write anything. Write: “I don’t know exactly what Mrs. R. wants me to write here, so I’ll just keep writing until I dream up something.”
* Write letters — to friends, to family members, to yourself. Write to invisible friends. Write to your grandma. Use 14- or 16-point, and write in a typeface that isn’t impossible to read. Flourishes and fancy-fancy looks good, but can be difficult to decipher.
* Write notes on cards, write notes on postcards, grab some old-fashioned stationery and envelopes. Cover the envelopes with stickers. Mail them. Snail mail still exists; learn (or re-learn) how to use it.
* Keep a journal. Write in it. Make collages, save ticket stubs and cool paper and whatever else you want — tuck it into the journal. Use colored pencils, pens, stickers, whatever you feel like. It’s yours.
* Maybe writing isn’t your thing, but music is. Maybe you’re a songwriter, but not a singer. Maybe you’re a singer, not a songwriter. Maybe you’re good at playing guitar, writing, and singing, like my buddy Willie Nelson. Or maybe your gift is painting. Gardening, knitting, doing math. Maybe you’re good with older people, or little kids. Maybe you’re a healer, and will help people feel better. My daughter had heart surgery a couple of years ago, and her surgeon, an artist in his own right, really loves to play and coach basketball. And save kids’ lives on the side. My point is — you have a gift, and you will figure this out as you go along. Look for the people who will help you hone it.