Monday, July 30, 2012

The Wonders of Honey

This past weekend, the local county fair was held here in Foster, RI. It's called Old Home Days, and it's for young and old alike, and always held on the last weekend in July. Every year I make a point to stop at the honey booth and buy local honey. This year was no exception. I sampled different varieties using mini plastic spoons, and decided upon the darkest which the gentleman behind the table told me was his least favorite because it tasted like the "M" word. Huh? Oh, it tasted like molasses. Now I thought that was a good thing and decided it was my favorite. Anyway, there are many different types and flavors but all tasty and good for you.

When growing up, I remember my mom and dad drinking a concoction of honey, apple cider vinegar and warm water. Mom made it for the two of them to sip during the day. It was good for them, she told me, as she had seen it in Prevention Magazine. I've learned in the years since that honey has many medicinal qualities including a remedy for arthritis. I love honey in my coffee, in my tea, and on my toast. When I have a sore throat, I eat spoonfuls. When I need a pick me up, I eat a spoonful, or when I just need a sweet fix. It's the one food that never spoils.

I read the book, Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Palacco, to my students at the beginning of the school year. It's a story of how a young girl can't read until her 5th grade teacher takes the time to teach her. This story is about Patricia herself as a young girl. I love how the students come to understand that this girl who once couldn't read now writes and illustrates beautiful books for children. This is my favorite line from the story: "...Honey is sweet, and so is knowledge, but knowledge is like the bee who made the honey, it has to be chased through the pages of a book."

Ah...the wonders of honey.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Power of Words

Summer is here, and while I love the summer with no set schedules, reading books by the hour, jaunting to the beach, and the warm, sultry air, I am still thinking about the last few weeks of school, and the students I will miss next year. Teaching 5th grade is unique in that you don't get to see your former students grow and mature the following school year. They are off at a new school with new teachers, new classes, and new adventures. And it never fails, that with the new school year I inevitably miss my former students. At least for awhile, until I get to know and fall in love with my new students. I'm sure this coming year will be no different.

As you probably know by now, I love teaching writing to my students. We usually write first thing in the morning, and if the stars are in our favor, and there are no interruptions, and the kids are enjoying it, we may keep going for a full 45 minutes to an hour. Shhhhh...don't tell. Most of my kids love this part of our day.

This year, Ellie wasn't easily impressed or motivated to write. It was a struggle and she told me so. I worked with her and then let her fly (discovering at some point, that there was lots of pressure from the home front to succeed), and hoped she would find some joy in writing. She progressed immensely throughout the year and it was my hope that she was enjoying it, but I was never quite sure she ever did. But during the last week of school, we spent an hour in the courtyard (a beautiful outdoor space filled with flowers and benches in the center of our little country school) for popcorn poetry. This is a time where we eat popcorn and write poetry. The kids love it! It's a time to talk, share, eat, and marvel at the surroundings. It's a time for writing what we hear, see, touch, and are feeling.

The kids shared pieces of the poems they were working on, and some boys even wrote song lyrics. I was sitting near Ellie and we were talking about writing and I shared with her some things about writing that my mom had shared with me years before. How there are thousands of words to choose from and countless ways to arrange them, and it's how you string them together that makes up stories and poetry. Well, the last day of school, she handed me a gift (hummingbird earrings because I had told her I loved them), and a handmade card with a poem. Here is the poem:

by: Ellie

Poems, essays, stories
All put together by
Writing is lovely language

About a week before this, a student from the previous year came to see me. After giving me a hug, she handed me a piece of paper and told me it was a poem she had written and dedicated to me.

by: Emily

It cools me in the summer heat
The shade is pretty hard to beat
Unless the searing heat
Evaporates the trees
Or burns them down
The trees will always be around

The shade will always serve
As a place
To cool your face
When the going gets tough
We calm down
And look around
At all that we can see

The seas of trees
The hard and smooth pond
The fleets of flowers
Are all encompassed by one thing
The shade

I dedicate this poem to my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Murphy. She always helped me when I needed
inspiration to write. Because of her, I will be a writer and a teacher just like her when I get older. Mrs. Murphy is the whole reason I love to write today. She can turn anything into a lovely written piece so I will work hard until I can as well. Thank you, Mrs. Murphy for opening my eyes to the wonders of writing. I will always remember you.

Both of these poems touch me beyond words and reinforce the pleasure and power of teaching.