Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dear Miss F.,

If any of you know me as a teacher, you'll know that literacy and the teaching of reading are my passion. When I arrived at NIS three years ago, Paul, my principal, asked me to help pilot the direction of school's reading program, which was to transition from basal readers and lacklustre lessons to proficient reading strategies and reading workshops. All the rest, as they say, is history.

So, it will come as no surprise that one of my favorite lessons of the year (well, ok, they're all my favorite lessons!) is the last one. Each year during this lesson I read my favorite book aloud (this year it was Sylvester and the Magic Pebble), give them nearly an hour of free reading and reflection time, and then ask them to write me a letter about what reading means to them.

This year, as always, I got some really great responses, which I'd like to post. I'm doing this not only because they're well-written, thoughtful (and sometimes funny) but because it's always fun to pick out the best bits of what kiddos say to share with others.

One of my favorite little kiddos is German, and for the life of him, can only spell phonetically. His papers are always a joy to read for that value alone. Although this particular sample of his doesn't include any laugh out loud spelling errors, I do smile at 'noligible' (knowledgeable), 'sianse' (science), 'trie' (try), and 'aut' (out):

The next one comes from one of my little guys who pretends to be 'too cool for school,' but who, deep down, is one of the strongest learners in the class. He's been my 'project' this year, if you will, as it has been my mission to encourage him and push him without his knowing. I think I might have done an ok job...

This little pumpkin makes me laugh with her fabulously colorful voice:

And this guy, another cool learner who can't follow directions for the life of him, but has more spirit and coolness than most:

It's no doubt that the above examples come from kiddos whom, throughout the year, bless me with their knowledge. This year has been a year of incredible thinkers, and I have really enjoyed some of the amazing understandings these kids have shared. But the following two students could easily run this class for me (and on a couple of occasions, did). They're the kind of girls whom you want to raise yourself and take credit for.

The first, from a little pumpkin who holds a special place in my heart as one of the best kiddos I've ever had the pleasure to teach. Her mother says she was born with a smile on her face, and I don't doubt it for a second, but along being kind and warm, she is incredibly bright, mature, and of the well-rounded grounded type. Here is just a snippet of her letter to me:

Lastly, from another kiddo whom I've grown to love. She came to us half-year, and I couldn't have been luckier to have her:

I sit at my computer and share this with you on the last day of second grade. My shirt says, 'Love' on it, to reflect my mood for the day. The sun has decided to peek out, and it is silent in all areas of the school except for the clicking of my keys and Israel Kamawababe's Somewhere Over the Rainbow playing softly from my speakers. I am satsified for another fruitful year, and agree with him that it is, indeed, a wonderful world.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A quick pick-me-up

Whenever I'm feeling like I need a reminder of why I do what I do (and not that I do that very much, because I really adore the details of my job), I look to the kiddos. Often times they say (or spell) the funniest things, and other times, they're just so sweet.

The following example is from a little cherub, a fourth-grader, who left our school just last week. Before leaving, she wrote the following in the Elementary Newsletter:

It's worth noting that this wasn't even one of my students two years ago when she was in second grade - she was in the other Grade 2 class that year. Maybe that makes her words a bit more sweet to me, and makes me smile, reminding me of the smallest ways we can often touch others without even realizing it...

Saturday, June 05, 2010

A total paradigm shift

Now, (to me) it's no shocker (although it still might be to all of you!) that more than one of my recent posts have been about food. It's kinda my new thing. (Well, ok, that's a half-truth, because there are many new things in my life right now worth telling about, although not within this particular blog). So, as I sit in my kitchen tonight smelling my first-ever batch of homemade granola, sipping on a green smoothie and just having finishing some seaweed for dinner, I'm having a mental giggle at just how far my diet, and my cooking, has evolved.

I work with and live around people with some pretty unique diets, and have friends who are incredibly self-conscious about what they eat. At school alone, we have 3-4 coeliacs (can't eat glutenous foods), a few people who are lactose-intolerant, and lots of granola-munching veggie lovers. With exception of Ricco and Mike, who eat out every night, and Michele, who eats cheese and crackers for dinner, the rest of us get along pretty well with our diets. And, per my past post, the contents of my fridge lately have definitely reflected the way I have come to think differently about the food that goes into my body.

Although I have a healthy tolerance for both glutenous and dairy foods, they are two food groups that I try to avoid as much as possible. Last year, during my lactose-free kick, I dropped 5 pounds and 26 cholesterol points, which was enough proof that consuming a lot of dairy isn't necessarily the best for me. Dropping gluten like it's hot was an easy choice to make as well - who needs all that bread and cookies and cereal and cake anyway? To be honest, without the temptation of any of them, I cut out an awful lot of crap from my pantry (and my diet) that I would have normally eaten.

One of the top favorite things of each of my weekends are trips to all of the local greengrocers. It's plural because, although I'd like to tell you that one store is enough, it is commonly known that one certain store sells celery cheap as chips while another store doesn't even sell it at all. And there are other places that, if you're willing to sell your own soul to the devil, you can occasionally find fresh blueberries. SO, when I'm done, 4 stores and ¥10,000 later, I've got a colorful fridge full of amazing things. And no, by amazing, I don't mean string cheese and chocolate milk...

Other visible modifications in my dietary thinking:

*I received a box of Lucky Charms for my birthday this year (thanks, Mom!). Because I'm sitting back on my consumption of glutenous foods, that box of cereal has been sitting in the back of my closet, until this weekend when I did a massive clean of my stuff and donated it to Leila (who accepted with a huge smile on her face!).

*I now bake granola instead of cookies. When I do bake cookies, I use gluten-free flours. Then I give all of the cookies away.

*My new favorite snacks include small packages of wet seaweed, cottage cheese with prune dressing, or homemade whipped spinach hummus.

*Instead of two bowls of cereal for breakfast in the mornings, I drink green smoothies, which are not only delicious, but satisfy my New Year's resolution to 'eat more veggies this year than last, even if I have to drink them'. Raw greens blended in a 40/60 ratio with fresh fruit and water, and your colon is as clean as, well... let's just say they're delicious too.

*Sometimes if I'm particularly craving something salty for brekky, I'll grab an onigiri (triangle-shaped, seaweed-wrapped sushi) from the corner store. This is a real change from two years ago when I'd go traveling, find that the breakfast place we'd stop at served fish/rice/miso soup, and did not, in fact, serve bacon and eggs like I wanted (followed by me crying in frustration).

*Texts to friends whom I normally rely on for cooking/shopping help have changed from, 'Do you have a cup of sugar I can borrow?' to 'Do you know where I can buy pumpkin seeds?'

*During last week's trip to Okinawa I spent a mere $60 combined at the Commissary. My purchases included steel-cut oats, Grape Nuts, flax seed, wheat germ, rice cakes, and almonds of assorted flavors. This very much differs from my usual trips to American-stocked stores and my usual purchases of Twizzlers, Golden Grahams, and 100-Calorie Snack Packs.


To be completely honest, not only is this new change good for my body, but I believe good for my mind as well. It's almost as satisfying emotionally to not crave those Twizzlers in the fridge (thanks, AB!) as it feels to physically not have eaten them. So, part of all of this is mental, but it's a mentality that I think I could get used to. The more healthily I eat, the more healthily I want to eat. Recently, someone who inspires me with his own personal brand of amazingly-insanely-inspiring fitness quirked, "The more I learned about food, the easier my craziness got. As I got more crazy, crazy got easier,' and I could not agree more. For for me, wherein food and healthy eating is concerned lately, the crazier the better.

"Tell me what you eat, I'll tell you who you are."
~Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Happy eating!