Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Walking, Just Keep Moving

Over the past few years, things from time to time have been tricky.  A motto that I have chosen in times of difficulty or controversy is to just keep on remembering what my purpose is and just keep on doing that.  It has been a difficult few years in school.  However, my focus stayed on one thing (or 22 to 23 things depending on the year):  my students.  They are my main focus and why I arrive at school every morning at 6:40 a.m. and why I work often to 10 at night.  I love to teach and it is with that purpose that I just keep on teaching.  I have refused to get involved in the controversies because I wanted to keep my focus on what matters the most to me:  the students.  So, if you are a new parent in my room, please know that my purpose is to make sure that your child has the best possible year.  I want them to own the learning, I want them to be excited by learning, and I want them to know that they are my number one focus.

After the end of the school year, I was discussing this with one of my friends on the staff.  She labeled the strategy, that she also used, as the “Just Keep Swimming” strategy.  I was unfamiliar with this line that came from the movie

“Finding Nemo”.  She suggested that I look it up and see that part of the movie.  And sure enough, on You Tube, I found the clip.  At about the 20th second, Dory says to Nemo, “when life gets you down, you know what you need to keep on doing?  Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”  I thought this was an awesome clip and thought this was exactly the mantra that we had both been following,  “When life gets you down, just keep swimming”, however in our case, it was just keep teaching.

Over this past year, I made a decision to train for a marathon.  When I was younger, I was a competitive runner, but after four surgeries on my shins, I needed to give it up.  However, one of my strategies over the past year was “quarter to four, out the door,” where I would leave school and take a walk.  This strategy was awesome for several reasons:  it gave me a good chance to reflect on the classroom or life, and two, it got me back in shape.  So, while I couldn’t run any longer, I could walk.  And after I did a half marathon last November, I decided why not train for a marathon?  So, on my 53rd birthday, I signed up to do the Maine Marathon on October 6th.  I selected that marathon because it seemed really walker friendly and was advertised as being relatively flat to downhill.

But as life often goes, things can change quickly and unexpectedly.  Some bridge on the course was closed, so they needed to reroute the course, which resulted in it now being called a moderately hilly course.  I could

path

forget it, but instead, I have added more hills to my training routes and kept on walking.  When thrown a curve ball, you need to adjust your strategy and keep on moving towards your goal or purpose.

So, imagine to my surprise one morning when I was on a 12 mile walk.  I went out early because this was during the really hot stretch of weather.  Part of the walk involved Great Meadows.  As I turned the corner and headed down the path between the two impoundments, I noticed lots of objects on the path.  Upon getting closer, I noticed these objects were Canada Geese.  Lots of Canada Geese.  I started walking towards them, yelling out “Move goose, move goose!”  That didn’t really work. I wondered to myself, should I turn around and go back the other way?  But I really didn’t want to do that.  So, I get on going straight.   Luckily the first bunch was just two geese so I could easily go around them.  But then right ahead of me was the next pack of geese.  This time there were about 25 geese.  Some were nesting, there were several new babies, and then there were the guard geese.  Again, I started yelling out for them to move, which again had no effect.  I noticed a bunch of birders out on the board walk and I yelled out to them, do you know how to get these geese to move?  And one of the birders replied, “You just keep walking.”  So, walk I did.  The geese were hissing at me as I passed.  I know geese can bite (hence the verb “goosed”)  So, I quickly walked through, talking to the geese that I wasn’t going to hurt them.  I managed to get through the 25 geese pack uneventfully and then happened upon the next group.  Again, I chose to just keep walking.  I liked the birders’ advice, it was just like the “Just Keep Swimming” line.

Geese at Great Meadows

Geese at Great Meadows

So, this past Sunday, I headed out on a 16 mile walk.  Again the walk took me through Great Meadows.  And again, there were the geese.  “Just keep walking, just keep walking,” rang through my head as I traversed around the obstacles in my walk.  But I had my goal, my purpose, and kept on walking.  I talked to them as I had several weeks back and this time there was no hissing involved.  Perhaps I was more confident heading into this week’s encounter with water fowl.   Perhaps I knew it was an obstacle and if I focused on the task on hand, I knew I could make it around them successfully.  Whatever the case, I kept on moving and had an awesome 16 mile walk.

My other big thing that I have accomplished this summer was applying to a Doctorate program.  I have long been thinking about this for me as a learner, and I found what I think is the perfect program for me.  When one of my teacher friends found out about this, she sent me a lovely message that contained a passage from a newsletter that she had received from Shady Hill.  It said “”There is no room for complacency in our view of the school’s future. Shady Hill has been a pioneer, but pioneers have a tendency to become settlers, letting a new wave of pioneers roll over them to an even more promising future. To maintain vitality will require new vision and new methods.”  She likened my applying to this program as my new adventure and that I was a pioneer that kept on moving, that I wasn’t content to “settle.”   This was the utmost compliment and showed that she gets me as someone who wants to keep on moving, keep on walking, keep on swimming, and just keep on moving.

So, it is August 1st, and the new school year is now not that far away.  I will keep on moving, keep on walking, keep on swimming, keep on my path.

The Art of Feeding Turtles

Turtle 1029 eyes the pellets

We are lucky to be head-starting two Blanding’s turtle hatchlings once again this year.  And like students, the year three hatchlings are very different from Bowser and Yertle, and Kame and Kachua.  One is overly active, climbing on the log and rocks like a mountain climber scaling the Alps.  The other turtle likes to hang out on the heater, floating there like a small child who is holding onto the dock while practicing their flutter kicks.  Their tails seem much longer than the past hatchlings.  They seem to be getting use to the noise of 22 students in the classroom and are responding to my talking to them when it is quiet in the room.  But the one thing that is very different is that we have had them for ten days and they are not good eaters.

Turtle 1029 eyes the food

This year, when we received the hatchlings, we also received “turtle jello” that Bryan Windmiller made.  Turtle jello consists of  unsweetened gelatin, tuna fish, greens, turtle pellets and sweet potatoes.  The thought was that this mixture would be more appealing to young turtles.  Not our turtles, they swam away from it like it was a predator.  I initially had a lot of water in the tank, but was told to try a very small amount of water.  Still no luck.  I decided to try the straight pellets.  Turtle 1038, the mountain climbing turtle, swan to the direct opposite side of the tank.  Turtle 1029 was mildly interested, but not so to eat.

Almost have it!

As days went on, I became more anxious that they weren’t eating.  I know in the wild, the hatchlings don’t eat until spring, but this experience was different than what I had experienced before.  I had a couple of days that previous hatchlings had not eaten but never a week.  On Thursday afternoon, after the students had left, I tried putting a few pellets in the big aquarium and much to my surprise, turtle 1029 went after a pellet.  I went home that night pretty happy that one of the two tried eating.

On Friday, I received an e-mail from Bryan about “my fussy eaters”.  In addition to trying the “crawfish smelly jelly”, Bryan said I could try:

“Another possible direction is to make up your own batch of turtle jello with something more appetizing than the tuna that I used.  I would try canned salmon, maybe some chopped up earthworms, and if that still doesn’t get them (and yoiu don’t mind) some chopped up frozen baby mice.  Just make up as per the recipe that I attached to the protocols.”  

I decided to take the turtles home and try to do a little more experimenting with Juvenile Aquatic Turtle Diet that I had good experience with Kame.  So, after a walk and a talk about robotics, the turtles loaded were loaded up and came with me to get some more coaxing from me to eat.

So, how is the art of feeding turtles like teaching my 2012 – 2013 students?  Well for the first thing, for the first time since Bowser and Yertle arrived in 2010, I have a class of brand new students.  They all have very distinct personalities.  I need to try some different tricks to teach them since they are different students than the last two years.  The one thing that I really want them to do is to “own the learning.”  But, like feeding these fussy eaters, it will be a process to get to that point.

So, gently, I coax both my students and my turtles.  Little by little, I see both becoming more comfortable with me.  They both have their own distinct styles.  I have to put behind me how my past turtles ate and my past students learned.  On Friday, I declared it to be “FUF” short for Finish Up Friday.  There were four assignments I wanted to get done heading into next week.  After the students came in on Friday morning, I asked them what they thought “FUF” stood for.  One student thought it meant “fun”.  I responded that “There’s no time for fun in fifth grade.”  One boy’s eyes lit up and said, “Fifth grade is a lot of fun.”  My heart melted a bit.  Later that day, another student came up  and showed me what he and his partner had done regarding an air, soil and water contamination project.  On their own, they had taken an iPad and wrote their notes on Evernote, completely independent.  They were already starting to own their learning.  While I sat correcting their multiplication fact quizzes on Thursday night, I was struck at the rapid improvement in a week’s time.  Clearly these new students take learning pretty seriously.  I admire their work ethic and will work even harder to be the best teacher I can be for them.

Got It!

So Saturday came and I tried talking and encouraging the hatchlings to eat.  1029 clearly is now eating pellets.  1038 still is not interested in the pellets, despite climbing up the rocks and the floating log in their “home” tank.  While buying the juvenile turtle formula for them, I did spy the frozen mice.  I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it needs to happen, I will do it.  Just like I will do with my new students.  I will do whatever I have to do to engage them fully in their learning.  New turtles and new students.  It’s going to be a fun year!

 

The two hatchlings enjoying a Sunday morning breakfast.

Post Script:  On Sunday, I tried a new “trick” to try and feed the turtles.  I noticed that when feeding 1029 in the tank, the turtle liked to hang onto the floating plants to grab the food.  So, I put both turtles into a small feeding tank, added some floating green plants and added a few pellets.  Suddenly, my not so interested in eating turtle began to snap at the pellets.  Finally success!  1038 also seemed to enjoy some of the turtle diet as well.  As I sit down to plan for the upcoming week, I look forward to trying out some new tricks with my new students as well.

Hopes for a New Year

Dear Soon to Be Students,

I am looking forward to being your teacher this coming school year.  I have high hopes for this year.  A couple of themes for our year are stories and questions.  I am looking forward to learning about your stories.  What inspires you?  What are you curious about?  What questions do you have?  What questions can you form about the topics we are studying?  But first, I have some requests for you as you enter this year.

First, as we enter this new year, I am going to ask you to step out of your comfort zone as a learner and as a classmate.  It is easy to sit back and do what you always do.  You may be really comfortable with certain classmates; you may be really comfortable with one genre of books, one way to solve a multiplication problem, one style of writing.  I am going to ask you to reach out to someone that you do not know, try reading a different type of genre, look at doing a math problem in a different way, pushing yourself as a writer.  Participate in class discussions, work collaboratively with your classmates, and push yourself to try some new things.  This summer, a good friend of mine asked me to pick her up at the airport as she was returning from a year living in Ireland.  I quickly told her I would and then I started to worry.   I had never in my 36 years of driving, driven into the airport.  I really dislike driving on major highways, I dislike driving into Boston, and I find the airport really confusing as a passenger, who wasn’t driving.  Since my friend was also bringing her dog back, the pick-up was not going to be as straight forward as finding her on the curbside.  But she was my friend, and I was going to help her out.

That sunny August day dawned, and it was time to pick up Genoveva.  I debated in my head whether I should take the back roads to Route 128 or just go down Route 2 to 128.  Passing the road where I would need to turn to take the “back roads”, I headed towards Route 2 to Route 128.  I learned tip years back from our Health Curriculum Coordinator called “self-talk” And trust me; I was talking to myself the entire ride from Route 2 to the Mass Pike on Route 128.  I paid the toll and headed into Boston on the Pike.  The traffic report said that there would be some congestion near the Prudential Center, so I “psyched” myself up for that.  Heading towards the second toll, I asked the toll taker what lane would go to the Ted Williams Tunnel.  This is a rule of myself, “use your resources”.  I then knew what lane to stay in to get to the airport.  The ride through the narrow tunnel wasn’t bad until a tractor-trailer truck came up right on the back of me.  I again talked myself through the situation and soon enough, I was out at the airport, looking for Terminal E parking signs, and determined not to miss it since that would require having to go back and circle around again.  I did miss the turn for the overflow lot, but it was easily rectified.  Relieved to be there, I walked over to the terminal to meet my friend, happy to know that at least on the way back, I would have Genoveva for company.   So, step out of that comfort zone.  I know as a teacher, I am always trying out new things that aren’t familiar to me.  I’m asking you to do the same.

The next thing I am going to ask you to do is to set challenging goals and persevere in reaching those goals.  Set a goal that is going to take some work to attain.   If reading isn’t your favorite thing to do, set a goal to read three books by the holiday break.  If you tend to be quieter in class, make a goal to first participate in a class discussion once a day and keep increasing that number.  If you tend to rush through assignments, slow down and do your very best work.  But don’t make it an easy goal.  It will be more rewarding if you know you worked hard to obtain your goal.

Battle Road Map

This summer, I set a lofty goal to walk the Battle Road trail out to the end and back, which is a total of ten miles.  I had thought about this goal for a couple of years, but I never spent the time getting in shape to actually be able to do it easily.  However, during the month of March, I decided to seriously start walking.  I would leave school about a half hour after you all did and walk.  My walks ranged in distance from a couple of miles to about four miles.  I could feel myself getting faster.

So right after school ended, I decided to see if I could do half of the goal distance, 5 miles.  I set off the trail on a pretty good clip, starting at the Meriam House, going out to the Smith House and back.  It took me 71 minutes 49 seconds to do the 5.2 miles.  I felt great after doing this, and a week later, I tried going 6 miles, starting at the Meriam House and going to the Revere Capture Site.  For the 6.27 miles, it took me 92 minutes and 4 seconds.  I felt pretty confident that I would be able to accomplish this goal with a little more training.

View from Battle Road on a very hot summer day. (SJE)

At the end of July, on a very hot and humid Saturday morning, I thought I would go 8 miles, which would then make it pretty close to my target goal.  Within a mile, I felt pretty lousy.  At seven thirty in the morning, it was about 80 degrees and the dew point was a balmy 74 degrees.  Sweat was running down my face before I got to the end of the first mile with seven miles to go.  I had brought my camera along to take some pictures of fields of sunflowers that I had previously spotted on my walk, so carrying that on my back, along with a bottle of water, was kind of on the heavy side.  After about three miles, I started to get a little more in the groove and felt better as I strode along on the wooded path.  I didn’t usually walk on the weekends, so I was surprised to see so many people out walking, running, and bike riding along these historic grounds.  I reached the four-mile turn around point and felt really pretty strong at that point.  However, at about six miles, I started to experience a sharp shooting pain on the top of my left foot.  I slowed up a bit, but the pain stayed pretty present.  I also started to notice small rocks in my shoes.  I didn’t stop to address that as I figured it wouldn’t bother my foot.  So, on I semi-limped along, one foot in pain on the top, and the rocks on the other foot shifting along with every step I took.  The last two miles seemed like they took forever, the sweat was running down my face, and I would use my t-shirt to mop it up.  The strings on the bag on my back seemed to cut into my shoulders.  Finally, after about 121 minutes, I rounded the corner to the parking area.  My face was beet red, the top of my foot was aching, and I found that the little rock in the bottom of my right sneaker had caused a huge blister on my heel.  I wondered if I was going to be able to actually complete my ten-mile walk.  I was going to have to let my blister heal, figure out what was going on with my foot, and find a cooler day.

Several weeks later, after buying a new pair of sneakers that were more comfortable, letting my blister heal, I was ready to try and reach the goal.  I carefully looked at the Weather Channel since I didn’t want a repeat of the hot and humid day.  It was Saturday, August 18th and I thought perhaps I would try it at the end of the next week.  But, then I thought about it.  The weather was relatively okay that day, the humidity was low, and I needed to take a walk.  So, at about 3:00 p.m., I headed over to Meriam House to make my attempt.  My goal was to try to get it done in about 2 and a half hours.  I wanted to stroll relatively easily, but before I knew it, I was walking fairly quickly for a long walk.  I was passing other walkers and moving very quickly.  Perhaps too quickly for the distance.  But I kept going.  When I got the four-mile mark, the path suddenly turned up hill.  I knew where the path ended, so I kept on walking hard up the rutted path.  When I got to the official end of the trail, I looked at my pedometer to see how fast I had done the five miles in.  However, I hadn’t done five miles yet.  I had only done 4.5 miles.  I debated on whether I should just turn around and call it a nine miler, or should I continue on the sidewalk to go the full five miles before turning around.  So, I continued on the hot pavement, still going uphill until I reached a full five miles before turning around.  That mile was physically challenging as well as mentally challenging.  The next five miles went by fairly quickly.  Learning my lesson from the last time, I stopped and emptied out my shoes when I felt small stones.  After two hours and 19 minutes, I reached the parking lot, elated to have finished this goal.  I have now set a new goal to perhaps walk the entire marathon distance.  So, when you reach your goal, set a new one.  Keep trying to challenge yourself.

The third thing I am going to ask you to do is to look at things from different points of view.  We will do that in social studies a fair amount, which is a better way to study history.  However in class, instead of perhaps snickering at a classmate’s answer, think about why they may have that perspective.  We often sing a song at assemblies, called “Walk a Mile in Your Shoes”.  Be empathetic to others.  Look at a problem in many different ways.  When we go out to the river, don’t always just look across.  Look up, down, and to the side.  Get a real snapshot of your place by looking at it from different angles.  This summer, I visited my best friend from 5thgrade.  We ended up going to a concert at the “Met” in New York City.  These tickets were day of the performance tickets, so I wasn’t quite sure where we would end up.

Concert from a Different Point of View (SJE)

When my friend Dan came over with the envelopes, he was smiling and said, “I’m not sure what this means, but it says we are sitting on the stage.”  And indeed, we were sitting behind the musicians on the stage.  I had never seen a concert from that vantage point and it was really awesome.  Some people might say that I only saw the musicians’ backs, but while that was true for the musicians in the back row, I had great views of the musicians on the side and I had even a better view of the conductor.  I could see him as he nodded at the violinist, I could see the expressions on his face as the music changed tempo, and I could see him smile at his musicians after they finished a challenging piece.  It was an awesome seat from a totally different point of view and I saw the concert in a very different fashion.  So, don’t be afraid to try and look at something from a different point of view during this school year.

Emily Dickinson poems, Amherst MA (SJE)

Finally, the last thing I am going to ask you is to find joy in life.  Slow down sometimes (and ask me every once in awhile) to slow down as well and look around you.  The world is full of fascinating things and you need to be “open bowled” to find these items.   I spent time this summer just looking at a bullfrog for 15 minutes, looking at flowers, and just looking at my surroundings in deeper detail.  Be happy learning.  Last year, my students were interested in a storm drain behind the school and we spent countless rainy days out there checking it out.  Being out in the rain was glorious.  It will remain one of my fondest memories of my teaching career.  Being able to watch the conductor from the different point of view also allowed me to witness his great joy while conducting his group.

So, as these waning days of summer come to an end, I look forward to having you all as my students in this coming year.  I look forward to inspiring you to be the best learner you can be and I look forward to your inspiring me to be the best teacher and learner I can be.

See you Tuesday,

Mrs. Erickson

Just What the Doctor Ordered: Thoreau School Genius Bar aka Tech Boot Camp

From Google images

After what seemed like years of doing as my son Christopher describes as “scut work”, today was what the doctor ordered for this teacher who is not quite ready to give up summer.  Students.  Engaged Students.  Students owning the learning.  I was jazzed about this morning all day long.

Today, my teaching partner and myself decided to introduce a Genius Bar training or a Teh Boot Camp.  Our departing students were tech whizzes.  We decided to hold kind of a boot camp to introduce our “newbies” to some of the tech tools that we frequently use in fifth grade.  But the twist was that instead of us doing the teaching, the departing fifth graders would mentor the incoming fifth graders.  I love the model of students teaching students, so we thought that this would be a success.

And a success it was.  After some initial awkwardness, you would have never known that the two groups of students did not know one another before this morning.  The room was buzzing with excited students, both the “teachers” and the “students”.  It was like my nine new fifth graders who were able to attend jumped in to a new situation without missing a beat.  And my nine sixth graders were equally engaged in being mentors.  It was a magical two hours.  Students excitedly wanted me to view their iMovies, their SAM animations, their scratch games.  I saw a wonderful team player, learning the iPad.  I was suddenly re-energized and totally jazzed.  It was students owning their own learning big time.

With 15 minutes to go, I had the students reflect on the experience.  This was a newer experience for the fifth graders.  They definitely thought the two hours was really worthwhile.  One student said she felt coming into this morning, that she didn’t feel confident in technology, but after her “mentor Zoe” worked with her, she felt really confident.  (she went on to make several i-Movies).  They all want to be involved as a mentor in next year’s training.  They already got this model after two short hours.  Students teaching students.  The 6th graders were more use to reflecting.  Some said it felt good to be back in the room.  They liked being the teacher.  Another felt that it was a good way for the fifth graders to preview what the year would be like.  And another said that it was really fun teaching these students and she felt that they picked up the technology faster than they did. This statement stayed with me after everyone left and I was reflecting on the morning.

I kept thinking why did these students learn more quickly?  Probably number one, was I taught them some of these tools as a whole class.  So, instead of a 1 to 1 or 1 to 2 ratio, it was a 1 to 22 ratio.  So, being able to individualize learning seems to be a key component on student engagement.  Ms. Howard, our tech specialist, has gone to this model more and more.  No longer does she do whole class instruction, she teaches a few students and lets them teach others.  I think the other real key is that the “mentor” students owned the learning and passed it onto the new 5th graders.  The new 5th graders chose what tool they wanted to learn.  They were invested in learning from the year older students.  They were proud of their accomplishments.  You can check out some of the projects at our Erickson LC You Tube Channel (and some of you have already done this!)  and a cool Scratch project.

You are going to hear me talk a lot this year about “Who Owns the Learning?”  I think that we are off to a really great start in determining the answer to that question.

Before signing off, I would like to thank the nine 6th graders who donated their time this morning.  As I have said all along, you guys are rock stars.  Become the tech leaders at the middle school.  The world awaits you.  Do good things.  Continue to ask good questions.  Continue to push yourself to get the best out of yourselves.

For my new 5th graders, after today, I am so excited about the possibilities.  I will be writing you all a blog this weekend about my hopes and expectations for you.

Thank you all!

All About Me Project — Pictures Tell a Great Story!

For Friday, I want you to have four to six digital pictures on your flashdrive.  You’ll be making a short movie to share with the class about yourself.  Digital Storytelling is a powerful tool and it will be the first digital farm project of the year.

Here is the one about me for you to have an idea of what we will be doing.

NOTE TO SELF BEFORE THE SCHOOL YEAR STARTS

(I also wrote this blog for Teaching Tolerance)

Dear Susan,

Blanding's Turtles checking out their home for the weekend

As you enjoy these last few days before the whirlwind of school starts once again, remember what you learned by watching the Blanding’s turtles this weekend.

  1. Remember that it is going to take a bit for the turtles to become accustomed to their new surroundings. This too is true for your new students. Fourth grade can be a big jump and they will be nervous and tentative when they enter the classroom on Tuesday just like the turtles were when they came to the classroom. Even though the four young turtles look very much the same, they too seem to have pretty distinct personalities and how they adapt to their new tank. Some of your students may be really quiet or may be too talkative, allow them to become familiar with their new classroom in what feels most comfortable to them.
  2. Since this is a time of transition for both the turtles and students, be patient as they learn new routines. It’s easy to remember the students that you had at the end of June and how much they could accomplish. But these new students and turtles will be full of curiosity about their new surroundings. Be patient, everything is going to take longer whether it is learning how to write assignments in their homework notebook or cleaning out the turtle tank.
  3. Be flexible. Just as you learned this weekend, you may have to try several different ways to reach different students. For your turtles, you needed to try different turtle food and a different method to feed them. You might too need to try different ways to reach a reluctant writer or reader or a student who says they stink in math. Be persistent and don’t give up. Remember what your new principal said at the staff meeting. This is important. You can do it. I won’t give up on you.
  4. Rejoice in watching your students and turtles. Observe them carefully. Find out what makes them tick. Enjoy them.

Well, time to go and plan for next week.

Best,

Susan

http://www.tolerance.org

Of Toads and Turtles

Toads Hanging Out in June

In June, the Eastern Spadefoot Toad tadpoles had become toadlets.  They were now fully capable of hopping around, capturing beetles, finding cool places to hide out, and just hang out and enjoy one another’s company.  We were “fattening” them up before they went back to the Cape.  By the end of June, my students had moved onto fifth grade, and my toads were heading back to Sandy Neck on the Cape.  I mourned both of their leaving.  The class and I had put a lot of effort into making sure that the toads would be successful onto their release into the wild.  The students and I had also put a lot of effort into our own learning over the year.  I knew they would be successful learners and people as they move on in their schooling.

And then comes August.  For this teacher, I remember that I have “given away” students who could do anything ask of them and in a short time, I’d be inheriting third graders who would need to learn the routines and expectations all over again.  Assignment Chart will take 30 minutes as I guide them through the fine art of recording assignments in their Student Planner.  I don’t know them as learners yet, don’t know what makes them tick, don’t know their unique personalities.  August is a time of transitions for both the teacher and students who share similar thoughts.

And then came last Thursday.  I was asked by Bryan Windmiller, the biologist who arranged for the class to have the toads, to accompany him as he check on the Blanding’s turtle eggs that he was tracking.  This year, all the 4th grades in

A one-day old Blanding's turtle

town will be studying the Blanding’s turtle.  After a professional development day on Tuesday, where we designed curriculum about the turtle, I was really excited.  So I eagerly accepted the invitation and then drove to Bryan’s house where I met another 4th grade teacher and a former Thoreau alum who is at CCHS and works as an intern. First, Bryan showed us a one-day old hatchling and to my surprise, five of the toads that he had held back.  While not much larger, the toads looked more mature.  The hourglass shape on their back was more defined.  They seemed the same on one hand, but different on another hand.

We headed off to the first site, up on the Concord-Lincoln line.  At an office building, a Blanding’s turtle had laid eggs right by the door.  Quickly, Bryan started digging and soon enough, he held up a hatchling.  I was so excited to see the turtle, it was amazing.  He kept digging, and soon pulled up an intact egg.  Before I knew it, the egg was hatching in his hand.  

Exploring

More and more hatchlings were unearthed.  One by one, they were put into a little plastic box.  Soon, the little hatchlings were exploring all over the tub.  I was amazed at how curious they were as they traversed the box – up and over paper towels, over each other, over broken egg pieces.    Then, it dawned on me.  These turtles were so excited to be exploring.  Everything was new and they were curious about their surroundings.  This is just like my new students will

Follow Me!

be, full of wonder and eagerness to learn about their new environment.  I suddenly became really excited to be able to share this experience with my new students.  Through the turtles, we will learn about each other.   Together, we will explore our environment and explore new ideas about learning that I heard about while at BLC 10.  I am really looking forward to my turtles arriving in Room 305B.

I arrived home after about two hours of walking around in the 90ºF heat.  We had found two nests of hatchlings and it was fascinating.  As I pulled into my driveway, there was one of my “toads” waiting for me to give me a bag of sand from Scotland and her journal.  She too looked older and more mature.  I’m happy to still have the toads in my life, as well, as I’m looking forward to my turtles arriving in a few weeks.