Snow day.  A day to sleep in, make cookies, watch a new show, read a book that I need to finish by the next ESC, work on DPC, and shovel.  Also, a day to catch up on a blog that I’ve had in my mind for about a week, but just haven’t had time to get the words down before today.  So, here goes….

Great Meadows, January 2nd, 2011

2011 — A New Year.  A New Beginning.  A time to make new resolutions for the year, a time to start a new hobby or change a bad habit.  This New Year’s came, and I didn’t have a New Year’s resolution.  There’s always my standard exercise more and eat less.  Try to make more time for myself and my family.  Try to not over extend myself with too many extra activities. (and yes of today, I have a three week on-line course, and two books to read for ESC and a math discussion group.  Clearly, I have already botched that one!)  Although all of these goals are important, none of them stuck in my mind as really inspiring.  On Sunday, January 2nd, the day before heading back to school, during a walk, I had an idea about a blog to do for my students.  However, I needed a picture from Great Meadows.   I asked my husband to drive me over, that way if the parking lot was busy, he could just circle around until I came back with my one picture.  This particular Sunday was pretty interesting weather wise.  It was more on the warm side, and the snow was sublimating away, creating a very low cloud cover.  Quickly, I walked down the path towards the spot that we had stood in October.  The scenery was absolutely stunning.  Then and there, I knew what my new New Year’s resolution would be — to get outside and take more pictures on a regular basis.  Since I was in college, I have enjoyed taking pictures.  I got away from it for many years, but when I started taking my class down to the river, I began taking more pictures again and that spark re-ignited in me.  Having a former principal who was a photographer also helped me in  rekindling my interest.  Through some of his suggestions, I learned to equate photography with writing.  What is it in your picture that you really want to capture?  How can you change it up by cropping, adding different color effects.  So, while the kids write at the river, I am “writing” in pictures.  So, my resolution is to get outside at least once a week and take pictures.  (and the one picture that I needed turned into 51 pictures!)

New Tools.  Tuesday January 4th was a “Tech Tuesday” for the fourth grade teachers.  We were going to learn a new tool

Great Meadows

called “ePals” that during the BLC10 conference last summer, my Tech Specialist buddy decided this would be a great tool for our students to be able to participate in an online learning environment.  During the vacation, I started to investigate what this opportunity could offer my students and I was excited about the possibilities.  Tuesday was our chance to “play” with ePals and learn even more about what it could do.  Not wanting to forget anything, Wednesday afternoon, I decided to roll it out with my students.  Luckily, Ms. Howard was already scheduled to be in our room, and since I don’t usually tend to wade into the water, we jumped on in.  Before long, all the students had accepted my invitation to join our Room305B Learning group.  We played with posting a question about the Mandate of Heaven and having them respond to it.  The next morning, I had the laptops all set up on their desks and they had to respond to a poll question in the forums section.  We followed this up by doing an assignment at night.  I just love introducing these new tools to my students.  This year, we’ve played with Voice Thread, Voki, Scratch, and now ePals.  These new tools continue to motivate my students and enhance student learning.

Great Meadows in black and white

New Ideas. Last Thursday afternoon, we started work on DPC.  I wanted to run a few thoughts by the students before setting in to their group work.  That didn’t happen.  What happened instead was mind-boggling.  My mind was about to explode by the end of the day.  One might think that the students were not good, that they weren’t well mannered.  However, this wasn’t the case.  We spent one hour and twenty minutes brainstorming new ideas and thoughts about our turtle project.  Quickly, I started typing down their ideas.  Creating a turtle refuge, designing a magazine and kids’ coloring book, holding a book night at Barefoot Books were only three of the ideas that are on the page and a half of new ideas.  I finally needed to stop as my hand was about the fall off and ask the students to write down any more thoughts on an index card.  Every student in the class contributed to this incredible discussion.  I know my head was about to explode, so I rewarded them with a recess at the end of this day filled with incredible new ideas.  Now only to execute them, which I think we will certainly do.

Cattails

New Traditions At the end of this incredible day, I was off to dinner with good friends to share in one of my friend’s favorite traditions.  It was a holiday that we don’t usually celebrate, but hearing about the role that this holiday plays in my friend’s life, reminded me of the importance of learning about what inspires both our friends, family, and students.  What traditions are important to them?  How can I, as a teacher, wife, mother, daughter, and friend participate in old traditions?  How can I create new traditions?  As I tried new foods during this dinner, the sounds of laughter amongst us warmed the room, and I in my mind came up with this blog title.  While it has taken me  a bit of time to pull it together, may this new year continue to offer me new opportunities to grow and help my students thrive as students and citizens of the world.

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