Proud to Be a Loser

There’s an Irish proverb that says: You must empty a box before you can fill it again. I’ve been dealing with some empty boxes – ones that came from rejection and failure to achieve what I wanted. Yet, I am not upset. I am a loser and proud to be in the club.

All year long I have been talking to my students about how it’s okay to take risks. That it’s okay to fail because you gain strength when you get up again. Talk is cheap and easy to do. So when I failed for the third time in a BIG way this spring, it was my time to take a dose of my own medicine. I didn’t like the taste one little bit.

To understand why I was so disappointed, I have to backtrack a bit. In 2012 I founded the Books to Africa Partnership where my students raise money to send books to teachers and students in some impoverished schools in Africa. Through the years, these teachers have become close friends and visiting them in person became important to me. I knew I could learn a lot by visiting their communities and bring back that knowledge to my library classroom.

In 2014 I applied for a grant through an organization that specializes in investing in teachers who want to enrich their classroom through professional development which enriches their skills and confidence. I was turned down. I was heartbroken when I read the word “with great regret, we are writing to let you know…”. I moped and had a great big pity party for myself and invited anyone who would listen to me complain. That was failure #1.

No! buttonCreative Commons License Ruth Hartnup via Compfight

However, I am pretty self-determined (stubborn) person and applied again in 2015. I rewrote the grant, edited it, and changed the focus. Once again I was turned down. Failure #2. This time I swallowed and nearly chocked on the “you are a failure” message. I shared the news with one of my classes, and one boy raised his hand. When I called on him he asked, “Why don’t you go anyway?” I quickly listed off all the reasons why I couldn’t go. He heard me, but wasn’t listening. “I still think you should go,” he mumbled as he walked away.

His words rumbled around my brain. I told my husband and he said, “if you can figure it out, you need to go.” That summer I traveled to South Africa and visited the teachers and students at the schools we send books to. I turned my failure into a success.

My 2015 trip had such an impact on me as a person, that I decided to try grant writing one more time. I spent over 40 hours wordsmithing each paragraph until I thought there was no way it would be turned down. I consulted a very experienced grant writer and I submitted my application with confidence.

The “we regret to inform you” email arrived April 5th. Failure #3 was like a punch to the gut. I hurt from the inside out. I wanted to quit. I did quit. Three times out was enough for me.

In an article “How to Fail Up!”  Lucie Hemmen, PhD., author of The Teen Girl’s Suicide Guide, writes about the four steps in the aftermath of failure.

1 – Sit with your feelings.

2 – Reflect

3 – Set a Goal

4 – Act.

It wasn’t until today when I read her article, did I realize I went through those stages without really consciously realizing it.

During my reflection stage, I realized that quitting wasn’t setting a very good example for my students. All year long I’d been harping on them to not fear failure. How could I quit on something that matters so much to me and be a believable role-model for my students?

Ask any writer or artist to tell you their story and they will have their own rejection experiences. Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times before his first book was published. Author Dan Gutman openly writes on his website www.dangutman.com about how he’s been rejected hundreds of times. Even basketball legend Michael Jordan was cut from his basketball team during his sophomore year because he wasn’t good enough. But Jordan, like Seuss, Gutman and many others, didn’t give up. They got down to business and used that rejection as a launching board to success.

In her TED Talk author and psychologist Angela Duckworth calls that desire to persevere and charge through the muck as grit. In several studies, and in her own experiences as a math teacher, she has found that it’s not intellect or talent that makes a person a life-long achiever. It’s grit. It’s the ability to turn the negative into a positive by keeping with something especially when the going gets rough.

As I moved through the steps of my own failure experience, I set a new goal and acted upon it.  I would take my grant failure and turn it around into an opportunity to grow and risk again.

Educational Postcard: Cultivating a willingness to persevere Ken Whytock via Compfight

I created a GoFundMe campaign and quietly shared it outside of school with friends, family, parents, and colleagues. Those people then shared it with their friends. Seven days after launching my website, my dream to teach in South Africa this summer was fully financed. In 88 days I will depart on a trip that will take me away from my family,friends, and everything in my comfort zone.  I will live with a host family I don’t know, teach in a school radically different from my own and spend two weeks struggling to understand a language I’ve never heard before in my life. I can’t wait to grow and learn!

I shared the news first with my kids. After all, they have been coming to before school meetings for months. They are the ones who believe in helping others. They are the ones who will ultimately benefit. As tears rolled down my face and they looked at me strangely wondering what was wrong, I told them about my upcoming trip.

With the help of a dear friend, we talked to the kids about how failure does not make you a loser. With the right mindset, failure can turn you into a winner and I can show you how.

 

 

Print Friendly

Backpack Buddy Tribute to Golden Acorn Recipients

Our PTSA honors amazing volunteers each year with the Golden Acorn Award. The recipients are chosen for their excellence in service to the school community. They are dedicated to making our school a better place for all of the students.

This year’s winners are Cynthia Lydum, Dara Schaffer and Celinda Hoover. As a tribute, we now have added three new Backpack Buddies to our collection. These interactive reading backpacks are ready for checkout for our primary age students.

Backpack Buddy “Ballet Cat” for 2017 Golden Acorn winner Celinda Hoover

Backpack Buddy “The Kissing Hand” for 2017 Golden Acorn winner Dara Schaffer

Backpack Buddy “Pete the Cat” for 2017 Golden Acorn winner Cynthia Lydum

I have been creating backpack buddies for many years, but recently started the program at my present school in the fall of 2016. Each backpack has a hand puppet or a stuffed animal and a matching book. The idea is for children to practice reading in a fun manner. I got the idea after working with my former Reading with Rover therapy dog. Students sat down and read to him. The format takes away the stress of reading because nobody is correcting the child if they say a word correctly or read slowly.

Megan and Reese

In the Reading with Rover program, children with reading difficulties actually read stories to a dog and the logs love to listen. a child that may be hesitant to read aloud to his peers is typically less stressed when reading to a dog and the dog never judges the child’s reading ability. Click this link to learn  more about the local Reading with Rover program. There are local events at the Crossroaads Community Center in Bellevue and at the KCLS Sammamish Library in Sammamish.

Since we can’t have therapy dogs on campus, Backpack Buddies are the next best solution. The stuffed animal or puppet is used as the listener and the child reads with a quiet and very attentive audience.

Example of a backpack buddy coming soon to the library!

We now have about a dozen backpack buddies with more to come this spring. Due to the limited numbers of backpacks, only students in grades 1 and 2 are able to check out backpack buddies at this time.

If you would like to create your own Backpack Buddies, I have found the clear, large take home backpacks from Lakeshore Learning to last the longest. I love the flush puppets and book character dolls from Folkmanis and MerryMakers. You can often find the same items in local quality toy and book stores.

I also try to have an assortment of fiction and non-fiction topics that appeal to primary aged boys and girls. The kids can practice reading non-fiction and using text features without knowing they are doing valuable homework.

If you have any other questions, please leave me a comment and I will try to answer your questions.

Happy Reading,

Julie

 

Print Friendly

Aphrodite the Diva Book Trailer

I love creativity! To me, creativity is the inside shining out. When students are creative, we see a different side to them that may not come out during everyday classroom assignments. Recently one girl and her actor  demonstrated their creativity in their quarterly class book report.

Students can chose how they want to report out on the book they read. In this case this student decided to make a live action book trailer with a few of her friends. When I saw it, I immediately asked all parents if I could publish the book trailer. It’s creative and fun. It’s a fabulous advertisement for Aphrodite and the Diva by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams. The book trailer will convince some students to read this book.

After I published the trailer, I tweeted out the link and look who responded!

This just goes to show that students can have their voice heard with really positive results.

Print Friendly

Skyping with an Arctic Explorer

Drawings of polar bears and maps of the Arctic region decorating the hallways signal the arrival of March at our school. So when I read the announcement that teachers could sign up to Skype with one of the polar explorers at the UK Arctic Research Station in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, the most northerly permanent settlement in the world, I registered immediately. I am a teacher-librarian and know from many previous Skype sessions that an experience like this would be an inspiring launch activity for the first grade study of the Arctic habitat. The first grade teachers when our application was accepted.

To prepare the students we told them that they would be speaking with a polar explorer who would tell them what it’s like to work in such an extreme location. The students prepared questions they wanted to ask Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop, the Director of the Digital Explorer program. The questions needed to be ones that weren’t readily answered on the internet.

On the day of the call, my students learned a lesson about time zones that they didn’t expect. When you Skype in the morning from the west coast of the US with a person who lives nine hours away, you can’t see anything outside because it’s already the early evening. While the students were disappointed that they couldn’t see the landscape, they were thrilled about the question and answer experience.

Jamie started off our Skype call explaining that the polar scientists were researching how glaciers are changing over a melt season and how they might change in the future and the impacts that might have for sea animals in the area.

Then we started our question and answer segment. One boy about the thickness of the sea ice we were surprised by the answer. There is no sea ice at all around the island at all. In fact the temperatures are so warm this year that their most difficult problem is not bone-chilling cold, but rather rain.  The rain, fog, wind storms and murky days are affecting the equipment and causing a completely different set of problems.

Jamie answered numerous other questions about how they protect themselves from polar bears, working in the extreme cold, and their recycling and composting procedures during our twenty-five minute Skype call.

When one boy asked if they put ice in their drinks there, we learned some fun facts about iceberg ice. Jamie’s answer got lots of giggles from the crowd. Apparently iceberg chunks make a fun hissing sound when the ice melts in water and the air is released after being trapped for thousands of years.

For many children, that single ice chunk story will be the one the children remember from the experience and that’s okay. These conversations with scientists thousands of miles away highlight the impact of virtual field trips. The likelihood of any of us actually traveling to the Arctic is slim at best. However, through Skype virtual field trips, students can have the next best thing. They can virtually be in Svalbard, talk to the experts in the field, and experience science as it’s happening in the moment.

We ended our call with cheers and claps. Comments like “That was awesome!” “It was fun!” “The best day ever!’ “I loved it because he (Jamie) can explain things to us.” let us all know the impact of the experience.

Indeed, the lessons from this virtual Skype field trip extend beyond the call. The Digital Explorers have created frozen ocean resources which teachers can download and use in their classrooms. When our students started studying  polar glaciers in class this week, they were able to view a 360 view of a scientist rappelling into a glacier from the UK Arctic Research Station in Ny-Ålesund. As One little boy told me, “It was fun because we actually saw him and didn’t just see it in a book.” Skype in in the Classroom can bring learning to life!

This post was cross published on the Skype in the Classroom Blog.

Print Friendly

Happy Read Across America Week!

Join us this week as we celebrate the life and books of Dr. Seuss! Each day has a special theme. On Wednesday you can either dress up like your favorite book character OR wear your wackiest socks! On Friday, please wear your PJ’s and bring a favorite book to read. Sometime during the day we will have some DEAR time = Drop Everything And Read. Everyone will stop what they are doing, move into the hallways and quietly read together. Let’s have some reading fun this week!

Print Friendly

World Read Aloud Day 2017

Read Aloud. Change the World.

That’s the message of World Read Aloud Day. Today we celebrated the joy of reading — the joy of listening to a book and the joy of talking to authors.  We were so fortunate and we took action on behalf of the 758 million people who cannot read.

If you have visited my blog before, you know I’m passionate about spreading the love of reading throughout the world in events like this and through my Books to Africa Partnership. Today we Skyped with two authors- Dan Gemeinhart and Robin Yardi.

Dan Gemeinhart is the author of the middle grade novels, The Honest Truth, Some Kind of Courage and Scar Island.

Dan spoke to us from his home in Washington state and shared his reading and writing story to an audience of 4th and 5th graders. Nearly everyone in the room had read at least one of his books and they were completely enthralled with his presentation. Dan shared how he moved a lot when he was young, and while that was difficult, he found that he always had one thing no matter where he was….BOOKS!

Nobody could take away the stories from him and he always had a book in hand. In fact, like many authors and readers, he got in trouble for reading TOO much. Only readers know how painful it is to hear parents beg them to go outside and get stop reading. By second grade, he knew he wanted to be an author, but he didn’t do anything to make that dream come true until much later as an adult. His message that you have to make your dreams come true – that they don’t come true magically on their own was especially powerful. Even more powerful when that message is coupled with the fact that he had a very hard time getting published.

Dan was very candid about the fact that he wrote for 8 years and tried to publish 5 and I quote – “terrible” books, but was rejected 99 times! Then letter #100 came back with a big YES, and The Honest Truth came to life. Now there’s The Honest Truth, Some Kind of Courage and Scar Island with two more books in the works.

As soon as our call ended, there was a mad dash of students trying to be first to nab one of his books. You know it’s a successful author visit when you have to figure out a way to safely hand out books! thank you Dan for so generously sharing your story with our readers for World Read Aloud Day.

In the afternoon, we hosted Robin Yardi, author of The Midnight War of Mario Martinez and They Just Know: Animal Instincts.

Robin read They Just Know Animal Instincts to my Thursday 1st and 2nd grade classes in an interactive presentation. The students let Robin know when they saw silly and real illustrations as they read the story together.

Afterward she shared photos of cool animals like the pygmy seahorse and a species of bats. They learned the words adaptation and echolocation. she shared some of her new favorite books with us as well before we had to end our call. The children loved being to talk to an author almost in person. They were super excited to checkout their own book and bring it home. I am so grateful to the Microsoft in Education Skype in the Classroom program for our Skype visit with Robin.

World Read Aloud Day 17 is nearly over, but the message remains the same. We can all take action on any day to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. We can all dream  and imagine a world where everyone can read. As Dan said in our call, dreams take work, and we can all make a difference.

Since I began celebrating in 2012, I’ve noticed the numbers of illiterate people advertised in the handout literature are going down. The handouts in 2012, stated there were 793 million illiterate people in the world.  The 2017 materials have 758 million people. That’s a reduction of 35 million in 5 years! We are making this dream come true for millions of people. Keep advocating locally and globally!

Print Friendly

Power of QR Codes

The power of a QR code has become crystal clear in the past few weeks. I’ve been working closely with a teacher who works with significantly learning disabled students. Each student has highly specialized individual education plans. The demands on this teacher to ensure that her students have different activities which support their IEPs  every single day is overwhelming at times.

She has looked at technology as a possible solution to some of her questions, and is an avid OneNote user. In our conversations about her students and their new access to iPads, we were brainstorming programs and how her students were going to use the devices. I suggested that she try using Microsoft Forms with her students.

The next day she had a form made, but we ran into a new wall. How could her students independently access the form? The forms live online, but it’s too hard for her students to type lengthy URLs. There had to be an easy way. Enter the QR code solution! Using a QR code generator she was able to make a simple title page with a QR code to put in her student’s notebook. Then she taught her students and their Educational Assistants how to scan the QR code with a QR code reader. In seconds, the form activity was activated and the student was working.

Her students all love using devices, and since she has implemented the program, they are starting to push against adult assistance! More and more she is seeing a “I can do this myself!” mindset.

What I love is this wonderful blending of adaptive technology – iPads + Microsoft Forms + QR codes = independence AND gives this teacher more time and flexibility for other lessons. It’s a pretty big win!

Print Friendly

Celebrating Generosity

How do you celebrate the fact that 35 Books to Africa club members came together, created posters, screamed loudly, and inspired students from kindergarten to grade to dig deep into their coin jars and piggy banks and donate to their project?

You play “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang and make sure it’s blaring loudly from the speakers as they walk into the library! We had much to celebrate this morning as I was able to announce our final figures.

Surprisingly, at first I wasn’t sure how to celebrate. As I was kicking around ideas in my head, I realized that maybe the best thing I could do is help them see that their actions are similar to some of the most giving and selfless people in the world:

Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Mandela, MLK, Jr.

This is the Sway we watched:


Afterward, it was time to share the news around the school with mini-thank you posters to attach to our big posters already plastered along every wall in school. However, that easy idea, quickly got a bit complicated. When we began, our final number was $1251.04. Woo-hoo!

And then more people came to our meeting today and asked, “Can we donate more money still?”

Five minutes later, we had $1262.54.

Ten minutes after that it was $1288.54.

By the end, we had $1302.54 donated to our cause!

That will pay the postage for 14 boxes of books to be sent to our partner schools in Lesotho, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia. It has been a great week of caring and sharing!

Update: Tuesday, February 2, 2017 Final Coin Drive amount raised:

$1316.44

 

Print Friendly

Coins Change Lives

marty hadding via Compfight

Welcome 2017! It’s a new year to change lives! Precisely four years ago when my students launched our Books to Africa club they learned that simple coins can change the lives of children they don’t even know. All it takes is the belief that everybody matters and anyone can help. That original post in 2013, began a program that links children with books to other children who also love reading, but need books to make their dreams come true.

We’re collecting those coins again this year on Wednesday, January 25th. We will have Books to Africa coin collections stations before school in the front and rear where we will accept any cash donation. Those coins add up and make a huge difference. We will use them to pay for the postage to send boxes of books to our partner schools in Lesotho, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia. So look under those couch cushions, in your piggy banks, under the car mats for change to bring to school. Coins change lives!

 

Print Friendly