The Holiday No One Talks About

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It’s start of the holiday season, and just coming off of the bazillion Thanksgiving posts from grateful people, we are now inundated with posts of people’s decorated Christmas trees.

I, for one, boycott decorating for Christmas until the first weekend in December. I say “boycott” with love and affection because I just can’t enjoy one holiday by rushing into another. And truthfully, I still haven’t put away all my dishes from Thanksgiving yet, so I’m not ready to make another mess in my home without cleaning up from the one I already have right in front of me.

And besides, there’s still ONE more unnamed holiday event that I need to get through before putting up the tree and lights. Mother Nature sponsors this magnificent occasion, and yet it doesn’t get a special date on the calendar. Instead, we recognize this as an entire SEASON of colorful joy, known simply as FALL, or more delicately, as AUTUMN. And the crowning event of the Autumnal Season is that glorious holiday, Leaf Raking.img_0429

Now, I know what your thinking. How is leaf raking a holiday? Well, naturally, fellow New Englander, it IS a holiday since we go through the same stresses of holiday cheer and angst for raking leaves as we do for celebrating any other date on the calendar.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

First, there is the anticipation of the event. As the weeks roll from September to October to November, we anticipate the joy of fall, the changing of the leaves, and the cooler temperatures. Much like any other special event, I look forward to fall to temper my days and my wardrobe. Fall makes me realize what a great life we do have in New England and how lucky I am to be surrounded by maple and oak trees. Waiting for the hallmark leaf-raking event is like waiting for that suprise gift at Christmas or my birthday. It’s just looming in my future, an ever-present invisible force in my life that continues to create more excitement and wonder as the days draw cooler and darkness falls sooner. When  the leaves start to signal their arrival by gracefully floating to the ground in my yard, I know that the holiday is soon approaching . The only difference between the gift receiving events and the leaf-raking holiday is that not one tree ever thanks me for my leaf raking skills, and I don’t thank the trees for their bountiful yearly gifts, either.

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This year, the leaf raking celebration took on an added element: wood stacking from a felled tree. Oh, joy!

Next comes the actual pre-planning of when to rake so the town can collect the leaves. Just like any other celebration, leaf raking requires preparation, and in order for it to be a wonderfully remembered event, all the little details need to be attended to before the big day. Between Mother Nature and the local paper, I can determine when our leaves will be picked up, and then I can begin to plan when to start to rake. (Luckily, we don’t have to bag our leaves where we live…that would add another whole layer of planning!)  Raking before rain or snow hits is extremely important. Nothing breaks the blissful leaf raking spirit than soggy leaves that have been left too long to create mold on the underlying grass. Personally, I like to savor this holiday, much like you savor a delicious piece of chocolate or dessert, and do a little raking at a time.  My husband, on the other hand, likes to wait until all the leaves have fallen before participating.  But this type of thinking leads to wet leaves, colder temperatures, and generally a longer celebration. Every once in a while, praying for strong winds to blow some of the leaves out of my own yard and into the neighbor’s crosses my mind when planning for the upcoming leaf raking day. But this type of prayer always back fires.  Mother Nature somehow works it out with God to make the wind blow the neighbor’s leaves back into my yard, so I strongly advise not wasting your prayers on this self-serving invocation.

Then comes the actual day of leaf raking. Hallelujah! We’ve been waiting and waiting with our rakes in hand for this sacred day for months!  Dressed in our fall raking clothes, hats, and gloves, I want to get the holiday festivities underway as soon as possible, much to my football-loving husband’s disappointment. He’d rather stay inside and watch the 500 football games on television instead extracting the million or so leaves that we have out from under every bush and hasta plant, between the fence, and under the patio furniture. img_0424

It’s usually on a Saturday morning when we celebrate leaf raking together, and if we’re lucky, it is a sunny one. Gathering up the holiday tools like the tarp, the blower, rakes, and electrical cord isn’t too much of a hassle, but it is at this point where celebrating this joyous event takes a drastic turn for the worse. No matter how much planning or work that is done in advance, there is always anger and bitterness that comes instead of rejoicing in Mother Nature’s leaf raking ceremony.

On the days when the leaves are dry and brittle, it is pleasurable to rake if my husband and I show up with the right attitude. But adding one little change to the environment, like a whipping wind for instance, our attitude shifts very quickly, giving just the right spark to light our short fuses. I hear Mother Nature’s silent laugh as the wind continues to howl, causing the tarp not to want to be placed on the ground and the leaves to exit quickly from where they were placed. Of course, this stressful situtation forces us to speak to each other in flamboyant language, bringing unexpected color and excited gestures to the experience. These words cause a rift to rise between us, completely changing the festive tone of the event from delight to dread.

img_0430Aside from the wind whipping issue, our own ideas of how to appreciate this particular holiday to its fullest potential often cloud our pleasure. Take this common scenario: my husband wants to lug the leaf-filled tarp one way, and I want to go another way and I wonder aloud in a sharp and fiery tone, “Why are you going that way?”  This ignites some anger and makes my husband, the lead person on the tarp, to walk faster, thus pulling the tarp in such a manner that I lose my grip on the tarp. Leaves tumble out, creating another pile needing to be raked and extending the anger jamboree.

Another common issue is that my husband walks faster than me, so I can’t keep up, and I literally have to run with the tarp in hand to the curb without tripping. As you can imagine, I do trip, and more colorful words ensue between the two of us as leaves continue to tumble out of the tarp.

Pace also impacts our raking. Typically, my husband rakes more quickly and thoroughly than I do. And because of this, we are often in competition with each other to get the leaves done our own way. I’d rather take lighter trips with the tarp to the curb whereas my husband would rather fill it so it weighs as much as a blue whale and then drag me behind, tripping and cursing.  Clearly, our pace and viewpoints are no match for the glory in leaf raking.

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Then the blower or rakes get misplaced, seemingly miles away from the actual leaves, making it more tiresome to retrieve these items after each turn-over of the tarp. Or one wants to use the blower instead of the rake, or both of us want the blower, and the other is putting the tarp too far away from the leaf pile or heaven forbid, ON TOP OF some leaves! The emotions overflow for hours during this holiday affair, and we are both are thankful once the nightmare of leaf raking is finally over.

The tools are slowly returned to the garage, and the merriment is over until next year. The yard still has leaves that have been missed and will have to wait until spring, because by this point, I don’t really care if every leaf hasn’t made it to the curb. I just want to sit down and watch the 5o0 football games we missed.

I just love the holidays, don’t you?

Yours in HOLIDAY adventures,

TWL

That’s What You’re Thankful For?

Here are 5  items that a year ago, I wouldn’t have put on my ‘thankful’ list. My, how times have changed!

My Nutritionist, Maureen Wasik

Maureen, without you,  I wouldn’t be eating all the green vegetables and protein that I need to function like a semi-normal human being.  Heck, before last December, I didn’t even HAVE a nutritionist! And thankfully, I’ve not had to go back to you since the summer since I’ve kind of surpassed what I needed your expertise for in terms of my own food intake and needs.  But truly, if I hadn’t found you when I did, I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now. Thank you.  (I still haven’t eaten liver since that first time….I hope you understand.)

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Kale and Brussel Sprouts, you are the two greens who have helped to turn my cells around and give me back some of my energy lost from Lyme. A year ago, you wouldn’t even be on my grocery list, let alone in my refrigerator! Now, you are my friends that I love to eat and must have every.single.week.  I find that when I can’t get my fix of roasted brussel spouts with garlic and bacon, I’m missing you terribly..not in the same way that I miss chocolate, but almost. Thank you.

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Green tea, you have allowed me to have one more fluid to drink besides water, and for this, my taste buds are truly appreciative.  I love to have some kind of ‘taste’ in what I eat and drink, and without you, I’d be stuck drinking plain.old.water. Thank you for giving me something different to drink each day, as well as provide some more ‘green’ in my diet.

Olive Oil

You truly know how to make a gal happy!  Just a few turns of you around the pan, and my eggs easily release and taste delicious, too! You also help keep my cholesterol and blood pressure low. And it goes without saying, my kale and brussel sprouts just wouldn’t be the same without you.

My Woo Woo Guy, Dan Court

And last but not least, Dan Court, my “woo woo” guy, you have started me on a healing road with the supplements that I faithfully take. I call you my “woo woo” guy because truthfully, your methods are so “woo woo” to my own experience.  And yet, your non-Western medicine methods helped me tremendously when the medical community, with their regulations and man-made medicines and by the book diagnoses, weren’t correct and didn’t work.  Yes, you are a long drive away from my home, and yes, I wish you took insurance to make my wallet a bit more full. BUT….had I not heard of you from a friend of a friend of my husband’s ,  I believe that I wouldn’t be as well as I am.

And I most certainly wouldn’t be back at work handling my 20 scholars with the full energy level that I currently have and need this year!

Thank you for opening my eyes and getting me back on the road to wellness!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Chaos Conquered in 5 Ways

When you are living with a chronic illness, even every day tasks require pre-planning and thought…and just that thought ALONE can send one running back under the covers.

Here are 5 ways to make managing the holidays a bit easier and hopefully more enjoyable.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER

After having a bickering weekend recently, fueled only by my OWN issues with worrying about getting housework done, I started defining small weekly tasks on my calendar, like laundry, ordering groceries (see SHOP SMARTER below), dusting and vacuuming, and bathrooms.  Each night is designated for ONE task so that my weekend isn’t consumed by cleaning.  Tuesdays I’m not home until 7 pm, so that night I give myself a break from a chore, but the rest of the week is planned out.  AND FOR ME, IT ACTUALLY WORKED! Sunday was indeed a day of rest, so I am sticking to my pre-planning habit through the holidays.

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I like to be in control of things in my home, but found that I need to get better at doling out tasks for my family members to do to help around the house so I’m not feeling like the sole worker bee.   My husband is great with cooking for me–he’s the grill master, for sure,  so he will grill up meat for me over the weekend for my lunches for the upcoming week. And he’s learned how to make my tea, so he’ll put a pot on for me if he sees the kettle out. And my ten-year old can easily vacuum the stairs with a hand vac and organize the couch pillows if I let her know.

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help and sharing the load–many hands make light work, right?


SHOP SMARTER, NOT HARDER

I discovered that I could order my groceries online several years ago, and this has been quite the weekly lifesaver!  I can either have them delivered or pick them up, depending on which store I shop at.  I mostly order non-perishables and things like milk and eggs; meat and veggies we get elsewhere.  But truly, this is the BEST WAY to get my grocery shopping done without having to fight aisle antics, crying children, and blinking lights that signal coupon issues at the checkout.

I also shop for many of my holiday gifts online and have them delivered to me at work. It’s wonderful since I can get my goodies without having to worry about them being left on the front porch in the bad weather.  I can also squirrel things away from my husband and daughter.

Shopping smarter can really pay off in terms of your sanity.  Two years ago, I went out on Black Friday to a local chain store near my home.  The line to pay literally went down to the back of the store, and as much as I wanted the few items I selected, they didn’t warrant me standing in line for hours. So,  I snapped a few photos of the items and their UPC codes on my phone, then went home and ordered them online.   I received the same deals –and with free shipping–without having to wait in line!

That was a magical moment!

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We have a very large extended family, and add in the kindly neighbor, the classroom teacher, the dance teacher, the bus driver… it’s plain to see, the holidays can become very expensive very quickly!

I create a holiday table in Word on my computer each year, and I don’t necessarily delineate dollar amounts per person–that seems a little too Scrooge for me– but I do itemize who I’m giving to and try to get some shopping done early prior to December so I’m not scrambling for money or gifts.

Since I do this each year, I can look back to see what I’ve given and not repeat the same gift.  I also try to avoid the same candle/mug/tie gift.

Truly,  who really needs another Santa mug or holiday tie?

 

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This year, if I do venture out of my home to shop,  I’m going local to shop to support ‘the little guy or gal’. I’ve got plans to go to a local book sale at a library near the town I grew up in over the Thanksgiving weekend.  They held a similar event over the summer, and I found some wonderful reading treasures there for myself.  I’m going to try it out and see how many family members I can surprise with a literary gift this year.  It shouldn’t break the bank, and I’m glad to be supporting library events instead of a CEO’s wallet.

I’m also going to gift the gift of my time this year.  My sisters and I are planning on getting together with our kids over the winter break and do something together instead of the usual present in a box that never gets seen again.  I’d rather create some memories that will leave a lasting impression.

Isn’t that what the holidays are about anyway?

Yours in HOLIDAY Lyme Adventures,

TWL

Friday Love Notes

 

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I went back to work the August after an unexpected medical leave in January 2016.

It’s been good to be back, even with the challenges of a larger group of students with varying levels of specific needs.

One of the things I love about teaching Kindergarten is that I can literally shape how a child views anything–even the most mundane task–just by my reaction or how I present it to them.  Work they need to do becomes “a project” or “a puzzle”. Assessments or small group work  becomes “working with Mrs. T” time –-and everyone LOVES one on one time with the teacher! Even a little post-it lunch box note from Mom turns into a glorious love note. The kids BEAM when I gush, “OH LOOK!!!! Mommy wrote you a LOVE NOTE!!” We read it together and the child toddles off with a smile on his or her face, so happy they got a love note from home.

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Sometimes, the children bring in pictures for me—beautiful Kindergarten drawings of us together, sometimes with a drawing of my faithful puppet Red Word Fred intermingled with the hearts and shapes and colors. This year, I’ve had a few of my scholars  say, “I made you a love note,” handing their treasure over to me when we collect the mail at the start of the day. I gush and preen over each note, thanking the child and putting it up on my bulletin board behind my table. My bulletin board is already filled with these notes, and I decided it was time to give back the love to my students.

This past Friday, I sent each of them home with a love note from me. Since we do mail in the morning, I had to remind them they couldn’t open it up now, or on the bus, or at the YMCA program after school. They had to wait until they got home to share it with their families.

Their reactions were priceless as they were handed folded notes. Some said thank you, some sat there in awe, looking at their name and heart drawn on the front, reminding me of Charlie Bucket when he found the Golden Ticket, and others were literally just beaming with joy and smiles. I had enclosed both a note and a dot-to-dot page. I’m not sure what will transpire as far as an extra little goodie inside each week—I haven’t planned that far ahead– but my goal is to give them each a love note every Friday morning to read at home.fullsizerender

I hope the love gets passed around this year between home and school!

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Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL

 

 

Kindergarten Classroom Summer Olympics

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I officially went back to work on Thursday, August 25, 2016.

It was my first day of school since leaving on January 15, 2016.

And it was great.

It was like I never even left, outside of all the hugs and well wishes and “So glad to see your smiling face!” greetings. Even sweeter was a post it note from my new principal that he left in my classroom the night before, saying how welcoming everything looked and how happy he’s glad I’m able to return.

Prior to our “official” start date, I participated in the Kindergarten Classroom Summer Olympics.  Usually, it can be a five-day or longer event .  This year, due to scheduling issues, it was a 3 day affair with multiple-tiered activities.

I engaged in all sorts of games that had been previously set up by the individuals in my room, both adults and children,  while I was out on sick leave. And let me tell you, they did a wonderful job of challenging me! I tried my best to complete each game to the best of my ability. Some of them were more challenging than others, but all in all, I think I represented my Kindergarten colleagues quite well!

What’s In The Cabinet?” was great fun as I discovered all sorts of materials and paperwork out-of-place. Some cabinets I just opened and then quickly shut, while others I cleaned and organized without much fanfare. This multi-tiered event didn’t put me in the running for the gold or even bronze medal,  but my efforts were rewarded with several empty cabinets. I still have several that need to be tackled, but that is for another day.20160830_074637_resized

Container Crash” was not an event I wanted to participate in due to the time constraints I was under,  but it was necessary to complete.  For about an hour, I sorted through the 16 years worth of containers that I have–baskets, boxes, and lids of all sorts of sizes and colors. Some matched, while others remained lonely.  I managed to give away a few of them to some of my co-workers, but I still have a huge store of containers stacked in boxes over the cubbies.  If you need any containers or lids, either matching ones or replacement parts, let me know. I’ll give them to you for FREE! (That is certainly worth a silver medal, right?)

20160830_074800_resizedBook Jam I” was a difficult event.  My trade books were not in any particular order, and I was unable to properly organize them to my satisfaction in the allotted time.   I did ok with the “Book Jam II“, sorting Reading Workshop books into the correct bins and finding my personal collection of board books that I like to use to start out the year with. But the BEST part of “Book Jam II” was when I masterfully placed my outward-facing bookshelves so I actually have TWO book corners this year for my little Kindergarten scholars! I think that event was purposefully scheduled to try to trick me into getting rid of Kindergarten furniture. I get a double gold medal for that one!20160830_074840_resized

Where Are The Spacemen?”  is still alluding me. During writing, we use these adorable spacemen clothespins created by Really Good Stuff for teaching about putting spaces between words.  I can’t find any of them!  They may have gone into Mr. Pail at the end of the year, or they may still be playing “What’s In The Cabinet?” Another level to this game is “Where Is The Smartboard Pen?” I had two pens, and one is missing.  Clearly, no medal for  me for this event.

At the start of “Kindergarten Kitchen Nightmare“, pocket books were filled with toy food, little scratch pads had one scribble on a page, dishes were mixed in with clothing, and the babies had bed head and were all naked.  I had to get everything back in its correct, loving place. By the time I was done, the table was set with a tablecloth and napkins I made over the summer, the babies were all clothed and in bed with little handmade blankets, and the food and dishes were put away in the correct spots.  Another gold medal for me! Sorry, no picture proof of this, but I can honestly say, the kitchen looked wonderful by the time I was done!

Sharpen The 1,000 Pencils” was another non-medal event, sadly.  My TWO electric pencil sharpeners are busted, so I’ll be purchasing one over the weekend. Guess I’ll be participating in that one on Monday morning!

And “What Did I Order?” is a game also still  in progress. I purchased glue sticks prior to the start of the Kindergarten Classroom Summer Olympics while back to school shopping. Lo and behold on Friday, I received two boxes of glue sticks that  I guess I ordered since my name was on them! Ah well…better extra glue than no glue!

Class List Confusion”  is always a challenging event for even the most seasoned teacher.  A new student was added to my class list and I wasn’t aware of this change when the children visited on Thursday, the 25th.  I had to make her crayon cup with her instead of it already set for her at her seat.  But on Friday, I made sure to make the labels for seat and cubby, so she will be all set for the first day of school the following week.

Paperwork Paparazzi” started out as a challenge, but ended up being a silver medal event for me.  Another side-event of “What’s in the Cabinet?”, I found student work and assessments from last year in two separate locations that needed to be sorted, organized, and distributed to the first grade teachers.  I also located behavior charts for students, parent information, and other miscellaneous paperwork that just didn’t find its way into Mr. Pail at the end of the school year last year.  About an hour and half later, all the pertinent paperwork was correctly organized and given to the proper people.

 

Bulletin Board Brilliance” was a gold medal winner for me, for sure!  Not only was the bulletin board I made adorable, it is highly effective in terms of student work placement. I made little cupcakes from bulletin boarders and tissue paper. The flame above lists my scholars’ birthdays. Underneath each one, there is a clothes pin hanging by a tack. Putting up and taking down student work is a snap!  An added bonus: I’ll be putting their photos underneath by the 2nd week of school, so everyone who visits will quickly know which happy little cupcake belongs to which scholar.14054047_10207200523746791_8415621747711157217_n

The best game, though was “Toss It!” I KNOW I won the gold medal on this game!  I had THE biggest pile of boxes, trash, a rug, broken containers, and other unusable items stacked up in three towers of trash. Too bad I didn’t take a picture of my award-winning dump pile! (You can see a bit of the pile creeping out of the hallway in this photo.)

All in all, I think I fared pretty well in this year’s Olympics.

Now, let the learning games begin!

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL

 

5 “Needs” To Be Ready For Kindergarten

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Welcome to Kindergarten, my new friends!

Here are 5 things you need to be ready for Kindergarten!

BRING A BACKPACK that you can carry that has your name on it.

 

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BRING ONE lunch box with your name on it to hold both your snack and lunch. More than one lunch box makes it hard for four and five year olds to figure out what to eat when. Also: be sure your child can open any food containers you send without assistance. If they can’t do it on their own, then it should not be sent to school. NO peanut/nut products or candy at school, please.

WEAR sturdy shoes and play clothes! Shoes should be close-toed for safety on the playground. NO LIGHT UP SHOES, JEWELRY, TOYS, OR TRINKETS, PLEASE.

 

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BRING EXTRA CLOTHES TO KEEP AT SCHOOL. We get messy, have accidents, or get wet at the fountain. We want to avoid calls home for replacement clothes, so please send in clothes to keep at school. Please include an extra plastic bag to send soiled clothes home in and supply replacement clothes should the bag come home.

 

BE WELL-RESTED AND EAT BREAKFAST BEFORE SCHOOL EVERY DAY! Four and five year olds need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night! We are busy learning from day 1, so it is very important to get to sleep early, eat a good breakfast, and be on time for school.

 

I can’t wait to see you on the first day of school!

Three Ways to Help Your Custodian

 

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Have you ever tried to wash and wax your kitchen floor in 90-degree heat? Most logically-thinking people would say, “Of course not! The floor will never dry!” Most people wait for cooler temperatures to wash and wax floors, since high temperatures directly impact how easily and quickly the task can be done.

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And yet, that’s what our faithful custodians in my school must do every summer. The teachers pack up as much of their classroom materials as possible in June, storing things in cabinets, closets and cubbies. The custodians then remove all the furniture and any supplies and materials that didn’t fit in the classroom storage areas to the hallway. The floors are then washed and waxed, then the room is reassembled according to a map left by the teacher. Once all the rooms are done in the wing, then the hallways are done. It’s an exhausting, heat-infused, time consuming job. One wing in our building has at minimum 10 rooms. Multiply that by 4 wings…it’s a lot of work.

This year, we had both summer school and a preschool program running in our building, which impacted when the custodians could do their yearly summer routine. Since our summer school and pre-k programs weren’t completed until August 12th, it left only two and a half weeks for the custodians to get their work done, as our new earlier start date this year is August 29th. The classrooms in the wing that was slated for summer school were washed and waxed prior to summer school starting, but that still left the hallway to be done as well many classrooms left untouched until the Pre-k program let out.imgres-4

When I went in on the one day in August that the school was open to start working in my classroom, (Yes, teachers DO work in their classrooms over the summer to get ready for their new scholars!) the three custodians were busy all over the building. One was waxing the upper floor in my hallway, and the other two were in another section of the building, unloading classrooms and beginning to wash and wax those floors. It’s a thankless job made more stressful by the fact that school is set to open in two weeks.

This madness got me thinking of a few solutions to make their job a little more bearable in 90-degree temperatures with no air conditioning and possibly make the summer cleaning schedule a little more productive.

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  1. Start school after Labor Day if summer school and other programs must run through mid-August in school buildings. The extra few weeks will give the custodians ample time to do their work without having the pressure of school starting at the end of August.
  1. Hold summer school in a different town building, like a Recreation Department or Community Center, freeing up the school buildings for custodians to use the months of June through August to work and get the schools ready for another school year.
  1. Set up a schedule for all custodians to rotate through all the schools over the summer, helping to move all the furniture and clean the classrooms and hallways in each building, so there are more people to assist at each school and get the buildings ready sooner. A team of three custodians in each wing for a week could get more done than merely 3 per building. Many hands make light work, right? 

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I intend to send an email to our Superintendent about this issue once school starts. My hope is that those who make the school calendar for next year take into account the hard work of the custodians over the summer months, especially those who have to work around summer school and other educational programs. Without them and their efforts, we wouldn’t have the sparkling windows, doors, and floors that greet the children and staff every year.

What type of job do you have? Can you just leave your office at the end of the year, or do you have to pack up and set up each work year?

 

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

 

TWL

 

 

 

 

 

6 WAYS TO BE SMART, SAVY, AND SCHOOL-FRIENDLY IN THE DIGITAL AGE

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20160606_111639_resizedOk, kids. Technology has made things easier to some degree in our lives, but not necessarily any smarter. Let’s go over a few things to keep in mind when you are granting ‘all access to you all the time’ on your Smartphone and social media accounts. And let’s see how you can be smarter for your kids and you at your child’s school for the next school year.

REMEMBER: SAFETY FIRST

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Oftentimes, Facebook pages light up with parent complaints about not feeling ‘welcome’ anymore at their child’s school when it comes to attending school functions. Translation: they are upset that they have to sign up to attend school events and just can’t “show up” to “help out” anymore.

When frustration takes over at these seemingly unfriendly school rules, we as parents need to remember that schools are first and foremost, places of learning for students.

Sadly, we live…

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6 WAYS TO BE SMART, SAVY, AND SCHOOL-FRIENDLY IN THE DIGITAL AGE

 

20160606_111639_resizedOk, kids. Technology has made things easier to some degree in our lives, but not necessarily any smarter. Let’s go over a few things to keep in mind when you are granting ‘all access to you all the time’ on your Smartphone and social media accounts. And let’s see how you can be smarter for your kids and you at your child’s school for the next school year.

REMEMBER: SAFETY FIRST

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Oftentimes, Facebook pages light up with parent complaints about not feeling ‘welcome’ anymore at their child’s school when it comes to attending school functions. Translation: they are upset that they have to sign up to attend school events and just can’t “show up” to “help out” anymore.

When frustration takes over at these seemingly unfriendly school rules, we as parents need to remember that schools are first and foremost, places of learning for students.

Sadly, we live in a much more socially dangerous time, where adults and children have access to guns and other weapons. They cause unthinkable carnage at schools and other public places. Innocent people are killed, families are destroyed, and schools are left trying to make sense of it all while still continuing on valiantly to educate students in the pressing age of data driven instruction and assessment.

Many schools now have systems and procedures in place to account for people in and out of the building as a result of the violence that occurs daily across our country. Principals request all dismissal information to be sent in paper format and parents to call if a child is absent. Schools have set arrival and dismissal times and procedures for all students, whether they are driven in, walk, or ride the bus. And schools have much tighter security during the day, where doors are locked and teachers use swipe keys to enter and exit.

These are safety measures for your children and the adults in the building. The rules that are in place are not made to make you feel unwelcome. They are put in place to keep everyone safe.

So don’t become upset when your child’s school asks for parents to sign to attend a school function. It’s much smarter to realize that your child is in a building with hundreds of other children who also deserve to be just as safe as your child. And you would want those parents to follow the safety rules for the sake of your child’s safety, too.

ANNOUNCE YOUR VISIT

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Imagine this: You’ve got a big presentation to that you are working on for your job. You went in early to get a head start on the day. Then there’s a knock at your door and your boss is standing there. She needs to you work on some other task right away, even though she knows that you are in the middle of your presentation work. Not the best time, right?

You may think you are doing something loving for your child by a surprise visit to the school by dropping off the forgotten homework or instrument. These seemingly innocent little unannounced visits interrupt the secretary trying to manage the school, the teacher trying to work with students, and your child trying to learn.

A smarter way: pack and check the bag the night before with your child. And don’t worry. One day without the violin or the homework isn’t going to put an end to your child’s school career. Use the forgotten item as a way to remember to plan ahead instead of an excuse to just pop in at school.


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Parking can also be an issue at schools. As a teacher, I’ve almost been hit by parents countless times zooming in or out of a school parking lot. Imagine how you would feel if your child were hit by a parent. Or what if, in your haste, you hit another child? Parking procedures are in place to keep everyone safe, including your child, as well as the other students in the school.

There are universal parking rules, like marked handicapped spaces, that need to be adhered to whenever you public places, including schools. And then there are signs at schools that indicate where you can and cannot park because of bus drop offs and fire regulations. At my school, the whole front lot is for parents, and teachers need to park on the side and in the back lots. We work there, and we as teachers need to follow the parking rules just like the parents. Disregarding the signs or rules because you are the PTA President or because you are ‘just running in’ to the school puts others at risk and also shows that you feel you are above any rules. It also sends a message to your child that if my adult doesn’t follow the rules, I don’t need to, either. Everyone: parents, children and teachers, who are part of a school community, needs to follow the parking and safety rules for the benefit of all.

TURN OFF YOUR PHONE

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I love my phone. And I know we all have become so attached to all the aspects of a Smartphone: texting, taking pictures, tweeting, and instant access to online information-all.the.time. It’s a great device for quick communication, but with it comes responsibility of how much and when to use it.

When attending a function at your child’s school, please turn off your phone- especially on field trips, when you are in charge of students. No one likes to hear it ring, and if you really have to check it for messages, or text someone, or look on Facebook, then you’re not paying attention to the kids, and shouldn’t you be? And don’t post those photos that you took of your child performing with other kids. You know the ones…the ones you took while you were blocking the view of the parents behind you who were trying to watch their child.

Save the photo ops until you meet up with your child afterwards. You’ll be able to enjoy the performance from start to finish and get better close-ups later on.

 WHICH OF THESE TWO IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER?

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I had the opportunity to attend two spring school performances this past year. One was my daughter’s chorus and band concert and the other was my niece’s school play. I won’t pinpoint which event was which, but let’s see if you can spot the difference between the two events. At one event, all the audience members, parents and children, were seated quietly and respectfully, listening and clapping as appropriate. At the other, younger children were wandering all over the auditorium with their friends before and during the actual performance, switching seats and just generally being not good audience members like they are taught in school. A pair of parents sitting directly in front of me could hear their children making noise in balcony seats overhead and instead of retrieving their children and sitting with them, the adults just watched them from afar, gesturing to their kids to be quiet.

Can you tell which event was the more difficult of the two to enjoy? In both instances, the children and teachers had worked all year to perfect their skills, and yet only one audience really showed the proper respect for all their hard work. And sadly, it was the parents who were the ones who weren’t holding their children accountable for their concert behavior, not the teachers.

TEACHER TROUBLE?  TALK IN PERSON

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I really enjoy social media. I have gotten in touch with friends that I haven’t been in contact with in years, and family and friends who are out of state can keep in touch with my family and me. I use it as a way to have fun, and I try to be very cognizant and careful about what I post.

Once August hits and teacher assignments are determined, I often see posts from parents asking about whose kid has or had this teacher and whether the teacher was kind, nice, mean, etc. If you like or dislike a particular teacher, that is certainly is your right. But guess what? It also can remain your private business! It gives me a pit in my stomach, wondering what is being said about me. I am a teacher myself, and I know I work very hard to do the best job I can do for my students. I also know that I am human and have made errors in my career. I would just rather hear about it in person rather than read about it on social media.

Think of it this way: Would you like your kid to post on a social media site how mean, nice, or strict you are at home? Probably not. How about your boss posting on your work performance for everyone to formulate an opinion, regardless of whether or not all the facts are presented? Again, probably a negative.

Conversations about placement should be held in person with the teacher, not with your friends on Facebook.

That’s it for today. So, how do you measure up when it comes to social media and school relationships? Do you pass with flying colors or do you need to brush up on a few skills?

That’s ok.

That’s why we go to school.

Class dismissed.

 

EXTRA CREDIT

Track how often you check and use your phone for messages, texting, and checking your social media accounts for three days. Compare that to the amount of time you spend with your children and spouse.

Which takes up more of your time?

Which SHOULD take up more of your time?

 

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL

 

 

Dear Governor Malloy

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I wrote this letter back in 2014, and with a new school year approaching, I felt the urge to post it here on my blog.  To all parents: we teachers support your children’s learning every day, even in the face of mandates that seem out of reach. And to all teachers: I salute you in the job that you do every day, in the face of seen and unseen hardships.

I wish every one a safe, fun, and positive school year!

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March 8, 2014

Governor Dannel Malloy

State Capitol

210 Capitol Avenue

Hartford CT 06106

Dear Governor Malloy:

I could never be a true leader. True leaders have a very difficult job—balancing the needs of the masses while holding onto your own ideals and values. Listening to every side to make informed decisions that will propel people forward to greatness. Anticipating problems before they occur, so that final…

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