Saturday, March 2, 2013

Elias Factor

I've written about Elias a few times this year. I believe he is my starfish this year. The one I'm throwing back into that ocean to survive, thrive and succeed. Elias has made a connection with not only me but the SS teacher for 7th/8th grades. He wrote her a note basically saying he needed some attention. He wasn't feeling very positive, successful or acknowledged. Elias had the chance after this note to sit down with a few people in the MS academy. After this chat, he wrote this blog post. WOW!

The adults that can affect Elias' world at school sat down yesterday afternoon to think outside the box. The challenge that is happening is  the 7th and 8th grade students are not getting what they deserve. A good majority of the student's are not receiving good teaching,  engaging lessons and positive attention enough due to the behaviors of about 15 students. Elias speaks about kids needing to respect teachers. However, we owe it to the other students like Elias to think differently about what their day looks like. The meeting lasted about four hours and the solution is in progress. 

As we were finishing up yesterday, the 7/8 SS teacher said, "Kinda cool that Elias is the kingpin in all of this!"  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Another Day Like This

"Can I show you something?" he quietly asked after the other kids had filed out. I figured Elias (the student who I've written about previously here) was going to show me a new game or some idea he was working on. He'd put something on a flash drive so he plugged it into my lap top. It was the end of the day and the hallway was chaotic as usual so I told him to open up what he wanted to show me and come get me from the hall. He did what he needed and then walked over and patiently waited for me while I wrangled with 7th/8th graders. I walked to my laptop and what he'd pulled up was not a new game or idea, it was the note in the picture below. 

I could not hold back tears as I read this in front of him (and still makes me tear up each time I read it). This kind of note is priceless. In a year where I have been pushed well beyond my comfort zone and felt less than successful... WOW! Reminds me of the story of the starfish:

No matter what has happened this year I feel good knowing I made a difference for this one student. That's all we can hope for in this world... that we make it better for at least a one.

The story doesn't end with Elias' note. I shared with him that most likely I won't be back next year due to some reprograming of specials type classes. I gave him my school email and said I want to keep in touch with him and that if he ever needs anything, I am here. I just checked my email this morning and found this:
I have had a great time today. You are one of my favorite teachers that i feel like crying because i only get to see you once this year. I hope that i will be able to keep you in my future generation because you are a really nice person to talk to someone who really understands who i am and what i do. I think this is the best time I've ever had. I feel better getting 7 hugs all in one day because that shows me that i have people who cares about me. I am going to miss you.

Days Like This! 

On a completely different note, I also had something else pretty cool happen yesterday. My campaign to spread smiles at school with the little pipe cleaner peeps was not my idea as I shared before. I thought it proper to share what I'd done with the people who sparked my idea. I got this response.
Hi Gia - This is amazing! One of our friends, who makes Little Heart Man ( will be so happy to see this. I love it that everyone is inspired by one another and that you're making these anonymously for your teachers as well as the students. If you do it often enough, I think there might be a lot of people who will be inspired by you and your work to do the same thing! I always try to pay it forward and you're definitely doing that with this project. Keep up the great work!
and this was posted on littleheartman's FB page as well:

New friends spreading random acts of kindness! We recently received a message from our friends at Make DC Smile, a teacher in Denver saw Little Heart Man on the Make DC Smile page and made her own little guys with signs inspired by Make DC Smile. She's been spreading good cheer by anonymously giving them to fellow teachers and placing them in random spots in her school for the students. We love these guys!

 Days Like This!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Days Like This

Yesterday was a Day Like This

Started out with a fitting message in my morning reading about it's not what's in our pockets, bank accounts OR the the things we have... It's about what's in our hearts. I spent the weekend making these little pipe cleaner people (got the idea from makedcsmile and little blue man on FB). My idea was to anonymously give them to a few people at school to make them smile.

Something about a new pair of kicks also started the day off well. I was a cool kid in middle school yesterday. Even had some of the kids who normally have nothing nice to say to me give me a compliment. One boy even chatted me up enough to ask what size they were. When I told him, he claimed that was his size and that I should take them off and give them to him.  I felt connected.

Had a great convo with an AP about how I can use the data maps the classroom teachers work with to help me help kids in the computer lab. Again, I felt connected. 

Mondays and Thursdays cause me a bit of anxiety because I have 8th grade these days. Yesterday they came in to my room less overwhelming. Perhaps it was my attitude (a new pair of kicks kinda attitude) but I felt they listened to my lesson more than most other times. When it was time for them to get started and work.... THEY WORKED. I assessed the work they completed on the spot and had all but 4 or so complete the task. Everything fell into place during that class. I ventured upstairs to share the positiveness with my AP. While I was up there the student who had previously wanted to steal my shoes (he's one that is hit or miss on his work completion and attitude) stated " I did good in your class today huh Miss?" I was very glad to answer him with a, "YES you certainly did." Again, connected. 

Days Like This. I bought a guitar a few years ago and have tried to learn to play it a couple times... unsuccessfully. This time, I'm hoping will be different. It already is. The music teacher started an after school guitar lesson group for students. I'm late in joining the group but that's ok. I like sitting with the kids and being on the other side with them. I also like letting them play teacher to help me catch up. One student sits next to me every time and helps, chats with me and yesterday kindly said I should learn Spanish (this is another thing on my bucket list- hopefully this summer).  Again, connected but this time on a different level. I am their classmate in that room and I love that!

Ended the day with an email from Denver Green School wanting to set up a phone interview. Made me smile knowing I'd passed step 1 (resume review) in their five step hiring process. I'm excited. 

Days Like This ..... make me smile :)

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I came across  One Word 365 a few weeks ago. The idea:

Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap that long list of goals you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway. Choose just one word.
One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long.It will take intentionality and commitment, but if you let it, your word will shape you and your year. It will guide your decisions and help you grow.
Discover the big impact one word can make.
One word. 365 days. A changed life.
 A pretty cool idea if you think about it. 

My word for 2013- BREATHE.
I want to spend this year with the mantra of JUST BREATHE. 

So much is going on in my professional world at the moment but I cannot write about it yet (but believe me I will). I am not yet ready to go public with my thoughts about certain aspects of this year. But the key for me to move through it with any kind of success will be to JUST BREATHE. 

Successes I had this week:

  • Had most groups engaged (I guess that's the word) enough in using that my nemesis- coolmathgames took a major back seat. EVEN for 8th graders. Although some of the comix they created were so not appropriate, I have to be thankful for them working right?!? 
  • As I started working on my resume, I realized the hard work I've done in my career.
  • Opened myself to a new spiritual journey with I am in week four of just listening online to the messages but plan to move to the next step of attending in person. It has honestly made a difference in my life.
So this post has been pretty random and all over the place. That's where my brain and world is at the moment.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Making a few more Connections (finally)

I have been asking students in 3rd-8th grade to blog. Knowing that they may not have Internet access, I have not asked them to work from home. This particular student, who at times needs a lot of attention, took it upon himself to write from home. I DIDN'T ask him! It made my day to wake up and see that he connected with what we did in class and wanted to work from home. I have written about my challenge in connecting with students because I see them once a week for 45 minutes. Not an ideal amount of time for building relationships. What I learned from this 4th grader doing this is that, I have connected with him. I printed a copy of his post last Friday, wrote a note to him about how proud this made me and hand delivered it. I loved seeing his smile as I walked away. Small moments. Small moments. Small moments.

Last week also marked an interesting event during 8th grade. I am still working to engage some of the tougher kids. I asked the class to evaluate a few of the tools I've used with students in previous years. Eventually I hope to get them working on a project, but I wanted to see which of the tools engaged and excited them the most. One particular student (Barb- it was the one you saw challenge me when you visited), seems to be big in to music so I helped him get started with Garageband. He fiddled around with it and as we were cleaning up I asked him what he thought. He said, "I didn't get to finish." I told my AP about this event and he smiled and said- "What?? He actually wanted to finish something?" I'm not sure I fully connected with him, but it is hopefully a start. Funny side note about this kiddo- at the end of each class, he always visits amazon to find a 'lovely' song clip to blast as he leaves. This day, instead of being annoyed as before, I said "Hey, I really appreciate how you leave me with a song every time you're here." I'm thinking he does the song blast to make sure I acknowledge him?

Yesterday marked another interesting event in the 8th grade world. A young lady who is challenging to connect with for most teachers actually said, "You are my favorite teacher." WHAT?? I have her in a small math intervention group at the end of the day and the first few days, she wandered around instead of coming down to my room. She now comes down with the group and works. 

I am realizing I have made connections with two challenging 8th graders. Next steps will be to work on building a relationship with them. I have made it clear that 8th graders are my biggest challenge and I struggle each time they are in my room. However... Small moments like these two make the challenges a bit easier to work with. I wrote about a Starfish and how you can't possibly throw them all back into the ocean to survive, but helping just ONE makes a difference to that one. Here's to making a difference with two in the past week. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Back in the Swing of Things

LOVE LOVE LOVE this kid!
 I had an AMAZINGLY AWESOME holiday filled with connections to my friends. I looked at my Google calendar just now and realize there wasn't one day of break that I didn't connect with someone in person. It felt good to talk in person. Yes... that old school in person connecting thing! Thank You! ~ JP, MD, JM, MBG, AM, JL, SF, JE, RP, JW, KH, LBR, KP, CP, RP, KS, AS ~ You helped relight my spirit! 
Jumped back into the swing of things with kiddos returning yesterday. I feel renewed, rejuvenated and ready for the second half of the year. My day started with one of my 1st grade spirit lifters. His eyes lit up when he saw me walk out in the morning to pick up my group. He stopped me and spilled excitement about the bike and helmet he received from his grandparents. He shared a story about trying to learn to ride it. I LOVED starting my day with that. 
A smile also fills my heart when on recess duty two lovely little gals ran up and hugged the begeebers outta me. They are the same ones before break I remember in class throwing compliments at me left and right. They talked yesterday about missing me and how I was their favorite and one wondered how I got my hair like that because her mom liked it. The little ones are certainly my favorites. They still like their teachers and aren't afraid to say so! 
The day continued and I had a successful lesson with my 35 first graders thanks to the para being present. This is the same lesson I tried to teach before break when my principal popped into observe. The site  glitched so I had to quickly punt to a back up plan (always good to have a back up plan in the noggin). Still waiting to hear her thoughts on that day.
My day continued to be great when I felt my approach to a couple kiddos (one first grade, one kindie) shift from previously. They are two that when it's time to line up to leave get a bit wound up. I had an a-ha moment (perhaps it was because our schedule changed a bit and I am now able to have 5 minutes of breathing time between classes and it helped ground me during the day) and decided to enlist them as special helpers. Boy was that a saver! 
My day ended well when I asked for help with the 7/8th math group. While it's only five students, they are a challenge. I get it. They are in their last 30 minutes of an 8 hour school day. But I struggled to get them to work. Thanks to my fabulous AP for being supportive enough to come down and help. In the few minutes he was there working with a couple of the kiddos, I saw a way to approach the lesson with kids better. Support from your AP is pretty important!