Patience

Probably the most underused and overlooked character trait. Whether we are talking real (in the flesh, 3 dimensional) life, life between the covers (of a book!), life on the big screen or big stage, patience is just not one of the “biggies”.

Imagine the opening number to a big stage performance of a patient person’s life! What would the lyrics to that tune they were belting out be about? Waiting patiently for things to change so they could find happiness? And how about that big screen scene, the one where the main character is found sitting quietly (and patiently) on the sidelines while everyone else in the story grabs a piece of what they want, leaving nothing behind? Oh, and how about that main character in that book, didn’t you love the way he waited his turn to prove to the world that he was somebody?

No, we probably wouldn’t want any of those scenarios. Patience doesn’t really cut it in a main character. But what about real life? Where does patience fit in and how valued is it?

Just watch a group of children and you will see patience (not!) in action. The pushing and shoving, arguing and grabbing that go on over the tiniest things is remarkable. Like, I am remarking on those behaviors, that’s the evidence they are remarkable. It has nothing to do with the more romantic meaning we place on that word. In this case the remarkableness is merely noteworthy because it is being mentioned, by me, in this post. It’s not behavior I condone, nor do I want to encourage it, therefore it needs to be discouraged.

Or…patience needs to be encouraged!

Earlier this week (when we had school), I passed something out to my class and realized it needed to be put in their backpacks right away (or it would not make it home, for sure!)

“Children, let’s put these right in our backpacks. We have a busy day and we might forget them later,” I said.

“Good idea!” they said and stood. Some of them took off for the closet but most walked.

“Oh, it’s always crazy back here when we all come at once,” I heard one little girl remark.

“Yeah, that’s why I’m waiting here,” I heard another chime in.

I looked back to see what was going on. To my great surprise there were several children sort of holding back, waiting. I decided to leap right in on this moment!

“How clever of you, Mia, to wait until there is room near your backpack. And you too, Frank, you knew if you tried to get to your backpack you might get crushed!” I commented, admiring the patience some of them were demonstrating.

And that was it! Next thing I knew, they were all practicing some modicum of patience. And as anyone knows, practice makes better so…

“Wow, boys and girls, you were so smart to use patience! I am so impressed. So many children would have all crushed into the closet and gotten all angry at each other but not you guys! You are too smart for that!”

Well, that was all it took! Name the character trait and vault it up to a level on high! Suddenly everyone was the epitome of patience!

“You know what, guys,” I continued, “You just proved that patience meant you only had to wait about, I don’t know, and extra half a minute! And you actually all accomplished your goal and now we are all ready to move on. You are all super great!”

Yeah, I was slathering it on but you know what? Patience deserves it!

How was your patience thermometer today?

 

 

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Happy Spring!

It’s here, Spring!

And although the forecast is for snow

That’s no reason to feel low

It’s here, Spring!

Grab an egg if you have time

Start (or continue) a tradition sure to make you feel fine

It’s here, Spring!

Give it a face and a name

The photo will go down in fame

It’s here, Spring!

All you need is a steady hand

And, voila!, you’ll have a new friend!

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Rodger 2018

Stormfront Looming

Stormfront looming

Birds are chirping

Weather breaks

School settles in

Stormfront looming

Spring is arriving

How many inches

This can’t be true

Stormfront looming

People’s jobs

Morale shaken

Meetings to attend

Stormfront looming

Fire up the snowblower

Ask questions

Don’t be silent

Stormfront looming

March, you held such promise a few weeks ago…

 

 

Where We’ve Been

Stories. Everyone is a story. Everything is a story. We fall in love with stories and we want more. I spent yesterday reading so many stories. Stories about grandfathers, fathers and mothers. Stories about travels, challenges, and thankfulness. Stories about reading, writing, and learning. So many stories posted by all of the amazing writers taking part in this Slice of Life Story Challenge. Now I’m ready to share where I’ve been.

I’m sharing it because it is a story of hope. And of thankfulness. And of learning. And what are we if we don’t have hope. If we have nothing to feel thankful for. If we cease to learn. It all started one year ago, right in the midst of this very same writing challenge. But the start of something can fool you. Sometimes things get worse. Sometimes things get better. Probably they most often do both.

My husband battled cancer last year. It took us completely by surprise, as I’m sure it always does. Even his doctors would comment that he was the healthiest person in the room, except for the fact that he had cancer.

The waiting was the worst part of it. Waiting for tests. Waiting for procedures. Waiting for results. But wait, I’m wrong. The results were the worst, at least in the beginning. You see, in the beginning, every time we sat in an office awaiting a result, knowing there was a spectrum of answers, the answer we got was at the low end of that spectrum. The worst end of that spectrum. Until we finally hit bottom and had nowhere to go. Bladder cancer, chemo, surgery.

Then the waiting began again. New doctors. New tests. New results. Remember that spectrum. The one we were on where the answers couldn’t get any worse? Well, they began to improve. This was the course of treatment. This was the expected outcome. This was the timeline. “Superman is down,” his doctor commented, “but we can get him back up.”

We could do this!

And we did! Chemo began in May and lasted all the way through August. Two weeks on, one week off. We began to refer to the weeks on as “Chemo Wednesdays”. And my husband was a warrior, he continued to work, never lost his hair, although as our doctor pointed out, he didn’t have that much to begin with (chemo humor?). We modified our lifestyle. Less eating out (stay away from possible bacterias and germs). Less contact with the outside world (stay away from possible bacterias and germs). Some restrictions on what he could eat (stay away…you get the picture).

September was the month of rest. Thank goodness because I had to get in my classroom, get my class in shape so I could be absent for a short time during surgery. Thank goodness because my husband deserved a bit of normalcy. A glass of wine. A weekend of fun. A month of strength building before surgery.

October we faced that surgery. Bladder removed, a new bladder built. Family gathered around. Support systems in place. The promise of a life being given back. “Six months out of surgery,” his doctor promised, “no one will know what you have been through.”

They were right! It is nearly six months post surgery and life is…back to normal. I still watch him like a hawk. He will continue to see doctors at Sloan Kettering for probably years. It was a year we never expected but we made it through. He made it through. My story is a story of hope and thankfulness and learning. Hope because we never gave up hope. Thankfulness for the amazing doctors and caring nurses who get you through these things. And learning because we know so much more today than we did a year ago. Maybe we just never knew we needed to know what we know now. But we know it and so it is part of us.

And we march on!

Brrrr!

I threw on my cozy Bruce Springsteen sweatshirt and headed down the stairs. Saturday morning! Time to just enjoy. Enjoy the quiet. Enjoy the sun streaming in. Enjoy morning routines without the constant eye on the clock.

“Good morning guys!” I greeted my two dogs. Those gentle faces staring through the crate a warm and happy start to the morning routine. I reached down and slid the two latches that keep the door closed. I held the door and waited. They each sat, demonstrating their nice manners. Those two 60+ pound bodies could knock a person over as they burst from their crate! Haha, so much for the gentle faces that were staring at me a moment before.

I swung the door open, “Ok!” I said.

Two black bodies bounded out like thoroughbreds responding to the starting gate bell. Each had their own morning routine. Ace’s beeline to the door, “I gotta go!” and Harry’s pounce on his toys, “Hello friends!” Circling back to give me good morning shoves and nudges. Noses rubbing against legs, feet dancing on the floor, large bodies bumping against each other, jockeying for space.

“Ok, ok, hi guys! Do you want to go out?”

My question answered as the two leapfrogged over and around each other on their way to the door. Slipping, panting, surging. Knocking against each other as if their life depended on getting there first. I reach for the door handle in the midst of the ruckus.

I turn the handle and the power returns to me. I glance at the dogs, pushing and shoving against each other. That glance speaks to them.

“Sit, calm, wait,” it says.

“Show your manners,” it says.

“You’ll get there, no need to act like animals,” it says.

The bodies calm, all a-shiver with mounting anticipation, but calm. Conserve power mode enabled, eyes on the prize, mantras repeating in little computer brains, “The door will open, the door will open, the door will open.”

I opened the door exposing the beautiful bright March morning. The sun was reaching out to us today and despite the snow still spread across the garden and patio the promise of Spring was in the air. It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all, why not begin today! I reached for the metal handle of the storm door and got my first shock.

“Brrrr!” Wow that handle is cold.

A final glance at the two bundles of energy. All eyes on me, on my hand, on me, on my hand (When is she ever going to turn that handle and say Ok?). I take my time, I don’t know why, perhaps reveling in the bright beautiful sunshiny moment. Putting off what I know is the inevitable. I turn the handle and push open the door.

“Brrrr!” Wow that air is cold. Really cold. What’s the temperature anyway?

I look back at my two companions. Eyes trained on me, awaiting the signal.

“Ok!”

I step aside as two bullets, cannonballs, rockets shoot past me. Each choosing their path. One shoots off to the right, one to the left. “Free!”

“Brrrr!” screams inside my head. I step back and yank that door shut, both doors! “Wow, it’s cold out there!” I pull my cozy warm sweatshirt tight against my quickly cooling skin and glance at the thermometer. I do a double take and then realize why.

“Holy crap,” I think inside my head, “It’s only in the twenties out there.”

Yup, it’s March 17th. Yup, the sun is shining like there is no tomorrow. Yup, I’m cozy inside my sweatshirt. But…

Brrrr!

Alpha, Alpha, Leader!

I was having a conversation with a colleague the other day and she had such an interesting dilemma! She teaches one of our pull-out Resource Room classes and has a combination of K, 1st, and 2nd grade students. She is having great luck with her K and 1 students but was pulling her hair out with her 4 second grade boys. The problem?

Too many leaders!

Kind of funny for me to hear that since I have been dealing with a lack of leaders in my own third grade classroom. I wrote about how I am working through that problem recently and from the comments I am getting it sounds like many of you see a similar problem in your classrooms.

But not this Resource Room, nope, there are 4 alpha boys in there and they all want to be first. First to line up. First to hand in their work. First to finish their snack (and put their lunchbox in line in the hall). First to choose a writing implement from the basket (because then that is the one everyone wants that day!). First, first, first, first, first!

So, we were brainstorming what to try with these 4 boys. I began to talk about my reverse leadership problems and how I have to actually teach my students to act like leaders…

And that was when it came to me!

Let them be leaders. Give them the job! But give it to them one day at a time. Today is your day and tomorrow is your day… Make a chart listing what the daily leader’s role is and…Make a chart listing what everyone else’s role is (the day they are not the leader!). That’s where the real training is going to come in. Points could even be earned and/or lost according to the leadership/not my day for leadership behaviors the boys are exhibiting.

My colleague’s eyes lit up! Well, this could work she said. I’ll have to spend some time working on it.

So “Alpha, Alpha, Leader!” can happen if you train your leaders and coach your alphas on how to let someone else lead. Wow, wouldn’t it be great if we all knew how to lead when necessary and how to support that leader when it makes the most sense!

Small Geniuses

The most sacred word in my classroom is

Think!

Permeating every aspect of our day, thinking is, or should be, the juice that drives us. So one thing I teach my third grade class is, “Use this (gesture towards my head) before…”

Use your head before using your mouth. Before you speak

Think!

Use your head before using your hands. Before touching (or creating or completing or…)

Think!

I try to help them understand that the connection that exists between their brains and their words and actions is something they need to take control of. And then I begin to notice the times when they think before speaking. The times when they think before writing. The times when they think before acting.

The times when the act of thinking, because it came first, resulted in something to be proud of.

Then along came this little biography about a man whose name signifies using your brain: On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein. I read it to my class because we are studying the biography genre. I read it to them because it was Einstein’s birthday. I read it to them because we had lost Stephen Hawking.

They learned that Einstein was a quiet boy, very quiet.

“I’m quiet,” mumbled some of them.

They learned that Einstein asked a lot of questions. A LOT of questions!

“I ask a lot of questions,” murmured some of them.

They learned that Einstein wondered about things. Wondered about EVERYTHING.

“I wonder about things all of the time,” gibbered some of them.

They began to see the Einstein in every one of them, the value of quiet and questioning and wondering.

The value of

Thinking!

Small geniuses everywhere!

 

I’ll Take a Class With a Leader, Please!

I’ve always said that all you need is that strong leader-kid. The one that every other kid in your class wants to be like. If you have that kid, you have got it made because she or he will be your class leader and will make things happen. Even a naughty leader-kid will work. Trust me, you can get them to put that personality type to work for you.

But what if there is no leader-kid in your classroom?

Well, of course you have a leader kid. That kid that everyone else pivots around. That kid who kickstarts the laughter and the serious student learner attitude. That kid who instinctively knows when it’s time to follow rules or shrug your shoulders at them.

But what if there is no leader-kid this year? What would it be like.

Guess what? Yup, you got it, I have a leaderless classroom this year. I know, it’s hard to believe but it’s true. It took me about 2-3 months to put my finger on what was ‘wrong’ but once I did it made total sense! Now all I had to do was help this terrific group of kids grow some leaders.

The thing was, I really liked my class right from the beginning of the year. They were really nice, bright kids. They were fun to be around and they were caring. They seemed like they should be one of those great classes but something was missing. I noticed it in small ways. I was leading daily procedures, the class just wasn’t taking charge of doing this on their own. I was always the one looking for those ‘little helpers’, someone to clean something up or move something around or take charge of lending a hand. And I was the one who was exhausted at the end of the day.

I don’t remember when it dawned on me that I had a leadership problem but once it did it was like a lightbulb went off. And once a problem is identified a plan can be made.

So I began to teach my kids why leaders are so important. We brainstormed what leaders in a classroom look like, how they help in a classroom setting, and why leadership practice was so important! (Like, hello, you guys are our future leaders!) We made charts and set goals. When I want their attention I’ll just say, “Oh Leaders, could you raise your hands?” As the hands come up a little “Thank you,” lets them know how much I really do need them. I call out leadership moments when I see them.

“I like how you are reminding your table to follow procedures, that’s real leadership.”

“Wow, look at all my leaders with their quiet signals up!”

“You remembered what I said we were going to do after lunch! And you did it and others followed! You are such a good leader!”

And we are making progress. And my students see the progress. They actually do understand how important leadership is and what it takes to put it in place. Today I can name ways they are taking on leadership roles, better yet, they can name ways they are taking on leadership roles. And they are proud of their accomplishments!

And Mrs. Scannell doesn’t go home the most exhausted kid in the class anymore!

 

Good Morning, Writers!

Yesterday was our first day back after an unexpected 5 day weekend (shall we call it late winter break or not quite spring break?). On top of the 5 day weekend we returned to a delayed opening so, yeah, we were all messed up!

“Good morning, writers!” I greeted my third graders.

“Good morning, Mrs. Scannell!” They (pretty much) enthusiastically responded.

This workshop I was beginning with the children was not in my plans. It was not part of the unit we were in. It was a teachable moment. Sort of a second part teachable moment. Two weeks ago I jumped on a teachable moment during the reading of a book. As we were preparing for an author visit I read one of the author’s books to my class and ¬†discovered the book, (The Tooth Fairy Trap by Rachelle Burk) got my entire class telling stories. We quickly discussed how these are exactly the small moment stories writers struggle to find so we wrote our tooth stories. It was a highly successful (aka fun!) writing adventure.

So this morning I decided to capitalize on that great success. You see, I knew something about my class that they didn’t know, they all now had snow day stories.

“Remember when we went home last Tuesday? We figured maybe we wouldn’t have school on Wednesday because of the storm but, wow, who knew we wouldn’t see each other until today? It’s five days later!” I began.

As I had predicted in my head, they all started talking about their snow day experiences!

“Whoa, whoa, listen to all of you! Your are telling stories again! Really good stories! This reminds me of the day I was reading The Tooth Fairy Trap and you all had stories to tell.”

I then actually read my blog post to them, and some email that went back and forth about their great story writing that week. We recalled the hesitancy some of the children had and how we got past that. We recalled how, as it turned out, each of them did have a tooth story.

“But I didn’t actually do anything,” one little girl said.

“Me either,” said another, “I was just home.”

“But,” I interjected, “how many of you had to go to work with mom or dad because you couldn’t go to school,” (some eyes lit up) “or went out and helped mom or dad shovel or shake off trees,” (hands started to come up) “or had to go to grandma’s or a friend’s because you lost power?”

I went on like this for a while until they were all talking again (always a good sign when it comes to writing!).

“So I’m going to give you 5 minutes to tell your story to someone. Then we are going to go back to our seats and write that story down. We will take 15 minutes to write and then we need to do some math. But if you finish your math early you can go back to your story! Sound goo? Everyone ready?”

“Yes!” they all pretty much shouted.¬†

And so we began. And once again, my writers gained a better appreciation for what makes a small moment story. It’s not because anything had to happen, it’s just because something is always happening, because we are alive and life goes along!

Hit the Pause Button

This whole month of March has felt like someone keeps hitting the pause button! Actually, 2018 has felt that way. When you think about it, here in the northeast January was fraught with snow and bitter cold, February was fraught with the flu and other varied illnesses and here we are in March pondering our third snow event ( I hate to call them storms!!!) of the MONTH!

Someone please hit that Pause button and turn it off!

Can I hear a vote for

Spring!

Anyone?