Usually around this time of year I post about Barrow Storybook Parade. However, this year we revised the name a bit to “Storybook Celebration”. After tons of feedback from teachers and meeting with my media technology committee, we began to craft a new plan for this annual event. A major concern from teachers was that there seemed to be less of a focus on reading and more focus on dressing up in a costume that wasn’t related to books.
This year, we decided to speak to this concern by making the entire day a focus on reading. The morning started out in our traditional way with an assembly in the gym. Each class had a chance to walk across the stage to show off their books and costumes. Some classes had a class theme such as “heroes inside of us” or “Chicka Chicka 123” or “Folktales and Fairy Tales” while other classes had students dressed as characters such as Willow Smith, Despereaux, the Grouchy Ladybug, and Where’s Waldo. After the assembly, we continued our yearly tradition of walking to 5 points and back shouting “Read More Books!”.
When we returned to school, classroom teachers planned rotations within their grade level or planned a day of literature activities within their own classrooms. Each class also signed up for one specials class in art, music, PE, social emotional learning, or health. The media center isn’t typically part of the specials rotation, but we were also one of the options to sign up for. Each of these specials planned a literature-based lesson that focused on their subject area.
In the media center, we had skype guest readers. A HUGE “thank you” goes out to all of these volunteers who took time to read exciting stories and interact with our students. Author Laurel Snyder skyped with 4th grade and read Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman. Linda Martin, media specialist at Sugar Hill Elementary in Hall County, skyped with Kindergarten and read Shake Dem Halloween Bones. Kathy Schmidt, media specialist at Rock Springs Elementary in Gwinnett County, skyped with 3rd grade and shared her “boo bubbles” science experiment. Laura Landstrom, former Barrow teacher, skyped from Washington DC with many of her former students who are now in 5th grade. Marsha West, former Barrow media specialist, skyped with 2nd grade from her new home in Nebraska. For many of our students, it was the first time to use Skype, and they were amazed by how it worked. After each author’s session, we brainstormed ways Skype might be used at school and I encouraged the students to share their ideas with their teachers so that we can continue to reach beyond our school walls into the world. For the second half of the media center time, students used the Sock Puppet app on the iPads to create 30-second stories with a partner. Some students also chose to use this time to read on our e-readers. There were some very imaginative and hilarious sock puppet shows that students created in a matter of minutes. It is amazing what students can create and figure out when they have the space to explore.
I’m awaiting feedback from teachers and students about how the day went, but from my perspective, it seemed to be a success.
Today, October 20th, is NCTE’s National Day on Writing. Many authors have contributed audio testimonials to their page about why they choose to write.
I created a Wallwisher page for students and teachers to contribute why they choose to write. A few teachers and students began the conversation today, but because we are in our early release days for parent conferences, there wasn’t a lot of time to participate. We’re going to continue to contribute to this page and invite you to visit the page and contribute your own reasons for writing.
Tonight was the Clarke County Foundation for Excellence banquet where I was honored with the Kathryn Hug Instructional Leadership Award. This awards banquet is always an inspiring event. I was very honored to have David Richard, 5th grade student poet who has been featured on this blog, to do my introduction. He did a fantastic job, and his words had me on an emotional roller coaster before I had to do my acceptance speech. Several people asked me if I would share my speech, so here it is.
I recently heard author/illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi say that when you get to be an adult, you’re able to look back at your life and name the moments and people who impacted your path in life to bring you to where you are today. Each of us in this room has a story to tell of what has brought us together today.
As a leader in education, I hope that
- my spirit of transparency and making my work public
- my collaboration with teachers, students, and families
- my risk-taking to dive into the unknown exploring innovative technologies, texts, and ideas
- my constant pursuit of developing myself professionally and being a model of lifelong learning
- and my philosophy of giving students the space to participate and be creators of content rather than just consumers of information
will somehow positively impact the paths of the students, educators, and families that I work with.
This evening, I want to honor some of the moments and people that brought me here today and invite you to reflect upon your own story and how you might continue to foster opportunities to impact the lives of individuals that cross your own path.
Where I’m From
I’m from the Blue Ridge mountains
From winding dirt roads and cool, misty creeks
Beauty shop gossip and old men gathered at the post office
From Fall leaf lookers and apple pickers
Banjo music and late night revivals
I’m from pickled corn, sliced tomatoes with salt, and Sues’ Best Hamburgers in Town
I’m from the enchanted trail through the forest from Mammaw’s to home
from the rusty, white trailer by the creek, metal storage buildings, worn down vehicles,
and discount stores
But I’m from more than a place
I’m from my family and countless educators
who paved the way to where I am today
with love, encouragement, perseverance, and support
I’m from my dad, Joe
high school education
cracked, grease-filled hands scrubbed with a toothbrush and gojo after a hard day’s work
round the clock phone calls to fix it, fix it, fix it
from “You know I love you, don’t you” and “You’re going to go to college”
I’m from the perfect model of working hard to provide for your family
I’m also from my mom, Cindy
high school education
Thinking of others before herself
weekly trips to the library for an armload of books
picnics in the park in the front seat of the van
I’m from “You make your own choices, but you have to live with what you decide”
I’m from my grandparents
Pappaw Bob, Mammaw Hazel, Pappaw Bone, and Nanny Sue
Faithful church-going Christians
“Stay in touch with the caretaker cause you never know when you’ll need took care of”
I’m from trips to Cherokee to the dirt place and yearly visits to Santa’s Land
Picnics at Vogel, waterfall tours, adventures in Helen, and late evening fishing
I’m from storytelling into a tape recorder
And made-up recipes in the kitchen
I’m from my wife, Denise
activist for homeless animals
Creative spirit and outside-the-box ideas
Encouraging words in times of stress
I’m from my daughter, Alora
eyes open to the world
helping me see everything again for the first time
I’m from my teachers
Ms. Burger’s comforting smile as my nerves and anxiety grew
Skilled storytelling with a thick southern accent from Ms. Deloache
And the pain of beloved artwork being destroyed from Ms. Montgomery
I’m from the independence learned from a space project with Ms. Pugh
and Vis-a-vis math with Ms. Shinpaugh
A push from Ms. Weaver to break past my deep-rooted fear of public speaking
and a lunchbox full of notecards for Ms. Mercier’s senior research paper
I’m from Mr. and Mrs. Moates
band directors who treated every student like a family member
my ticket out of a small town life with limited opportunities
I’m from the 59 on my first college English paper
and the ridicule of a trombone professor
From a career-changing guidance counselor
and my critical friends
I’m from Mary Ann Fitzgerald
Forward thinking about what libraries should be
a professor and friend who pushed me to create information
and think of my patrons first
I’m from Colham Ferry and Barrow
Pushing me to always reinvent my beliefs in education
I’m from each of these people and moments
Carried with me wherever I go