Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Departed, Lamented, Lifeless Hummingbird

      The last week of school one of our student's moms brought in this beautiful ruby throated hummingbird which she had found perished in her garage (or should I write “passed away”, “expired”?  “Dead” just seems so awful.  Time to get out the thesaurus.) .  While I have seen several of these hovering around, I have never had the privilege of holding one in my hand.  The wings were so tiny, the beak so thin, and the body so minute.  My mother used to love to find their nests-- they are about the size of an expresso cup.  One of our students informed us that their eggs are as big as a bean.  May we never stop learning-- even from “deceased” birds.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

Students Student Teach

       This was another new February Fun Day -- Student Teacher Day.  The high school students all had the opportunity to teach one of the elementary classes for a day.  Three chose to teach math, one chose English, and one chose science.  Although I only got pictures of the ladies (I was busy teaching when the three gentlemen taught), they all did a great job.  They enjoyed teaching, and the younger students enjoyed having one of their fellow students teach them for a day.  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Art of Clean-Up

      Once a teacher friend of ours told us that he made an extra $6,000 or so doing masonry in the summer while he wasn’t teaching.  He asked us what we did.  We looked at each other and then truthfully replied, “We read books about teaching, get ideas, de-stress and plan for the next school year.  We also travel with our children, sing in choirs, and go to teacher’s workshops.”  We felt a little silly, but it was true, and we could not imagine spending our summers any other way.  You mean we would rather make less money and spend our time with our children and planning to make our next school year more wonderful?  Yes, that is what we do.  And we don’t get paid an extra $6,000 to spend our time making ourselves better teachers, either.  
     So it was last summer that I was at one of our favorite “teacher” stores (meaning it is not actually a teacher store, but that teachers can find all kinds of neat stuff there), Whole Earth Provision Company, that I picked up this book and had to buy it.  It is called The Art of Clean Up by Ursus Wehrli, and it is full of interesting before and after pictures.  In the before picture, the items are all mixed-up, and in the after picture they are neatly organized.  (Hey, I actually spent money to be a better teacher.)  I showed the book to my students and gave them a week to come up with their own ideas.  They always amaze me.  Here are a few of my favorites, all of which my students came up with on their own.  None are copied from the above book.  Books serve to give us ideas, the creativity we must generate on our own.  

The above two photos were taken by +Lexi Miller .



Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Make a No-Sew Haversack

     This was our art project the last week of school, so that we would have something in which we could collect all of our “stuff” that we needed for our Sherman’s March to the Sea Honor Roll Party.  To learn more about that, click here.
     I was originally looking for Civil War-era haversacks, which these aren’t exactly.  But they were sorta similar, and they were no-sew, and they used recycling old t-shirts, so it worked.

     First of all get an old t-shirt.  
     Next, mark a straight line 6 ½” from the bottom of the t-shirt.  Then, cut lines straight up from the bottom of the shirt to the line you drew.  Make these cuts about 1” apart.

     After that, cut off the sleeves including the seam, and the neck line, cutting down into a large “V” so that the opening of the bag will be a little larger.

     Last, tie each of the pairs of fringes on the bottom in two knots and pull tight.  

     If these were done with brownish shirts they would look Native Americanish, if they were done with bright colors they would look more beachish, and if they were done with interesting print t-shirts, they would be even more creative.  

Falling Off a Cart at the Store

      This picture really should have gone in my “working together” post, but it didn’t, so here it is now.  And here is the story behind it.  We had to go shopping to get all the food and decorations for the graduation reception and the last honor roll party that the 7th-12th graders were preparing for the rest of the students.  We arrived at the store, got a cart, and loaded up the humans.  You see, the other four upper-grades gentlemen had other plans that evening, and so it was that we ended up with just one gentleman.  And, being a true gentleman, he offered to give the ladies a ride while the cart was not yet full of groceries.  Things were going pretty well until he went around a corner and one of the ladies tumbled off and went splat in the aisle in front of a man and his family.  She was right in his path, and so he had to veer around her.  Fortunately, he was extremely good-natured and laughed and talked to us a bit.  Being the teacher here, I had to put an end to the fun as it was getting a little dangerous and I didn’t want any of the students in my charge to be run over by a grocery cart.  When you spend time with remarkable people 1.) it is never boring and 2.) it is always fun.  And my students are remarkable people.  

Friday, May 15, 2015


      I’ve been to quite a few graduation ceremonies over the years, including four at the high school from which I graduated where the band members (including me) had to play Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance for almost two hours straight while over five hundred graduates walked across the stage.  But, the most recent graduation ceremony I attended was quite special.  

     These five students have been through a lot together.  They have worked exceptionally hard taking classes above and beyond the “normal” requirements (Algebra I and II, Spanish, Marine Biology, Human Anatomy. . . .)  They have worked together for four years studying, making study guides and sharing them, quizzing each other, writing endless essays for my English and history classes, performing dissections, and discussing Biblical doctrine.  They have also thrown a lot of frisbees, perfected their softball technique, and shared a lot of meals, honor roll parties, and  after-school work projects.  They also have fun (see the last picture).  

     So, it was with a lot of emotion that we celebrated their graduation with them.  We had shared so many precious moments together and have so many marvelous memories.  And with this ceremony-- (or within two days anyway),  it is all over.  We will all go our separate ways, and while we will still see each other at times, it will be so different.  

     I am so happy for each one of these special people, and I am looking forward to hearing what they will accomplish in the future.  

the Lott Mennonite School Class of 2015
L to R -  front row:  Diana Wesselink, Alexis Miller, Jerilyn Friesen, 
back row:  Joseph Swanson, Timmy Fisher

Many Hands Make Light Work - Preparing for Graduation

     After our graduation ceremony and year-end program slide show, one of my teacher friends remarked, “It looks like your students really work together well.”  And it is true--they do.  But this did not just happen by osmosis.  There are several ways that this has been encouraged over the last several years including teaching compassion for others, making the environment safe for students to share their opinions, teaching the students to respect each others’ opinions, and pairing them up with “buddies” weekly for art projects and at every field trip.  Through all of these they learn to appreciate each other, respect each other, and to be responsible for those younger and weaker than they.  

     So, I had not really thought about it, but I had to answer, “Yes, they really do.”  They work together really well, and we are all blessed because of it.  Working together is so much fun.  The last week of school the “red room” (grades 7-12) worked together on two big projects:  the graduation reception and the Civil War honor roll party they hosted for all the younger students. Here are some pictures of them the day before graduation as they prepared a Mexican fiesta.  All five of the graduates had a younger sibling in the school, so it was decided that they would be the servers.  Other red room students showed up too, just to help for fun.  And it is a lot of fun working with these incredible people. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sherman's March to the Sea Honor Roll Party-- Attack of the Deserters!

      For the last honor roll party of the year, the seventh through twelfth graders planned an evening for the first through sixth graders, since the third through sixth graders had planned the previous honor roll party for them.  

      We decided to have a Civil War-era party since we had studied that in American history, and we eventually settled on a Sherman’s March to the Sea theme as we had found the study of this especially interesting to discuss because of the “total or absolute war” concept, and its devastating affects on the south and the inhabitants of Georgia who were unlucky enough to be in its paths.  (There were actually three different routes the army took.) 

       I always try to encourage my students to do something different, rather than just doing the same thing over and over again.  One of them had the idea to make a newspaper story invitation, and another had the idea to just make one big one and hang it up on a bulletin board for the students to see.  Both ideas were novel; we had never had a newspaper invitation, and we had never just hung one big invitation up for all of them to see.  To make it, I printed a real front page from the December  22, 1864, New York Herald newspaper.  Next I made an overhead out of it on the copy machine, then we projected it onto paper hung on the wall and copied it.  They were told to arrive at the school at 5:30 on May 7th, and asked to bring their art projects to wear a watch. 

      Next, we had to make their art projects the day or two before.  These were no-sew haversacks.  To learn how to make these, click here. (Coming soon!)

      The students arrived at “Oak Valley Plantation” (the front entrance to our school) with their haversacks ready to go.  I read them some background on the March to the Sea, told them that Sherman’s army was on their way, that they had to find all the older students, and then get safely away before the army arrived.  (We were fleeing evil.)
     I read the first clue in the form of a poem, and as they found each student behind doors all over the school, fellowship hall and church, the discovered student would in turn read a poem clue to find the next student.  Several of them also gave the students something to take with them in their haversacks, including band-aids, peppermint sticks, a photo of their parents (we got these before hand and printed them in sepia tone), fake coins, and fake dollars.  

      Behind the last door was Uncle Jed, the principal, who handed them train tickets.  We ran to the parking lot behind the school just as our “train” (a bus driven by one of the brothers from our church) pulled up.  As we boarded the train, we looked across the field and saw the “burning of Atlanta” (boxes piled really high lit on fire by two of the older students and another brother from church.)  We screamed and jumped on the bus.  
     We went on a nice little drive out in the country, until up ahead there was a road block.  The train tracks had been torn up by Sherman’s army, and we had to pull over and turn around.  When we did this, three deserters from the Confederate army jumped aboard the train.  As they boarded, Uncle Jed told us all to be non-resistant and to give the men whatever they wanted. They wanted food, but we didn’t have any, so they demanded money and any other valuables we had.  There went the watches!  (One young man was especially distressed--his mother had bought him a watch just for this.)   

       We could not continue on with the tracks torn up, so we headed back for the plantation as we hoped it was now safe to return. 

       Once back at the school we discovered the deserters hiding.  We told them that we would share our food with them.  They accepted our invitation and gave us back the money and watches they had stolen from us.  

     We entered a school room that had been blocked off during the scavenger hunt.  We had moved all the furniture, covered it up, and made the room look as different as we could, and set up tables with dollar store silver platters and goblets I had gotten at a thrift store which we have used a few times before for the Medieval honor roll party and possibly something else.  (I keep bins of all this stuff up in the attic and we reuse them whenever the theme fits.)

We had a lovely Southern meal of corn bread muffins, bacon, grilled corn-on-the-cob, beans, cole slaw, and lemonade, served by our paid servants, the older students.  For dessert we had brownies and ice cream.  

      When the evening was over, we had the traditional game of kick-the-can, and the older students helped us clean up.   We took a few pictures because we had worked really hard on these dresses!  (The home economics class had found amazing dress patterns at a store-closing sale, and while we had planned to make them in the summer after school was out, when we decided on theme for this party we got our sewing machines out . . . .)

And what do Southern Belles wear under their hoop skirts?  Converse tennis shoes, of course!

It was a wonderfully historical, exciting, end to a fabulous year together.