What I’m Thankful For

So here we are heading into the final three weeks of school before the winter holiday, and I feel compelled to re-share a post from a couple of years ago. As you all know, the month of December is right around the corner, and now is a good time I think to reflect on the many things that bring us joy and inspiration as educators. My hope is that these eight little things will resonate with you, again, and give you an extra boost so you take on these final days with energy, smiles, joy and gratitude. Reading these again certainly helped to frame the weeks ahead for me, so here we go…some things that I continue to be thankful for…

The Noise – Have you ever taken a few minutes in the day to stop and listen to the white noise of a school? If you haven’t then do it on Monday morning…it might just be the most beautiful sound you’ll ever hear. It’s a constant hum of laughing and learning, and failure and success, and teaching and determination and love. One of the best parts of my day is to walk down a hallway and to listen from outside the door to the sounds of kids engaged…or to stand off in the corner of the playground during recess time and listen to the shouts and squeals of happiness, as kids play and make new friends and learn how to fit in…it is definitely music to my ears, and without a doubt, the soundtrack to a beautiful day. 

A Child’s Beauty – Children are the best teachers that any of us could possibly have, and the most beautiful inspirations that exist in our world. It is impossible for someone to spend a day with a child and not come away inspired and changed for the better. If you really listen to what children say, and if you take the time to watch them interact with the world, your heart will fill with joy and your smile will stretch across your face. The way they notice the little things in life that we often take for granted, the way that they are constantly curious, the utter joy that spills from their bodies when they learn something new and find a little success, and their imagination, creativity, and willingness to fail and to try, try, try again…wow…there is nothing in our world like the beauty of a child. 

Committed Educators – Teaching is the most noble, honorable and important profession/vocation that we have in society, and quality teachers are as close to true and living superheroes that we have in our world. Committed educators are change agents…they are sculptors…they are artists…they are mentors…they are role models, and they are oftentimes under appreciated. No professional works harder than a committed educator in my opinion, with the sole focus and responsibility of moulding their students into positive change-makers for our world, and into empathetic, compassionate, critical thinking, and creative members of our communities. Quality teachers are truly amazing and deserve to be lauded for their tremendous efforts and contributions to the future of our planet. 

The Opportunity – The opportunity that we have as educators is incredible, and the responsibility is immense. The opportunity to re-imagine education and to break free from traditional schooling is in our collective hands, and there is no more exciting time to be an educator than right now. We have the ability to transform how we teach our kids, and how we design and redesign learning spaces, and how we write and deliver curriculum, and how we prepare our students for a rapidly changing world…awesome! We have the opportunity to be courageous and innovative and transformational…let’s seize it!

The Struggle – Watching kids learn, and grow, and fail, and develop is a beautiful struggle, and one that I will never get tired of being a part of. Growing up is hard, and trying to find your way in this world is difficult at the best of times. I love this struggle, and I love each child’s journey into becoming who they will eventually become. They all burn so bright, and their joy and pain is so open and honest and so on display. The struggle is incredible to watch, and it brings you back to that time in your life that shaped who you are. It’ll make you laugh and cry and get frustrated, and it will make you proud…but most importantly it will make you feel, and become a part of something truly special, which is each child’s journey into finding themselves, and their purpose…this struggle is at the core of what is beautiful about education. 

The Constant Learning – Each and every day I learn (and re-learn) something new. Being in classrooms and interacting with students and teachers is a constant learning process that makes me a better person. I learn from my mistakes, I learn from the mistakes of others, and I learn about people and how to best support and challenge them. I learn about current educational trends and research, I learn about what’s being successful in other quality schools, I learn from my outstanding leadership and admin teams, and like I said before, I learn from the best teachers that we have…our kids. They teach me everyday about the importance of being my best self for others, and to be humble and honest and a good listener. It’s staggering how much you can learn in the run of a school day if you just open yourself up to it.

The Unexpected – An educator’s day never goes as planned and I love it. The thing about school is that you never know from one second to the next what will come your way, and this uncertainty makes me love my job. There’s always an unexpected mini crisis or a student celebration or an issue with a parent or a teacher or a kid, and it keeps us on our toes in the best possible way. From one hour to the next you can be floored by a student accomplishment, you can be bewildered by a decision that a student or adult has made, you can have a belly laugh from something that a kid says to you, and you can be thrown into a situation that will break your heart…and it’s all good. An individual school day is just like a student…ever-changing, unpredictable, surprising, and always beautiful!

The Joy – If you’re like me then coming to school everyday brings you tremendous joy…how could it not? We get to hang out with kids all day long, we get to spend time with our colleagues who are also our friends, we get to learn and feel and become better human beings because of our daily interactions with our students and each other, and we get to shape the future of our little (and not so little) kids. What other profession can offer such a joyful and purposeful existence? Just when you start to feel stressed or frustrated or overworked, you turn the corner and run into a beautiful little kid, with a huge smile on their face, and so much joy in their hearts, and they run up to you and they give you a big hug and you just melt as their energy reminds you why you love school so much. I’m so grateful for what children bring to my life!

There are only a few weeks left until the holiday break everyone, so keep your energy up and keep your heart open to why you love school so much. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other. 

Quote of the week…

 Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses -Alphonse Karr

Inspiring Videos – 

Foster Dad

Reindeer Dog 

So Good – from 2018

Possibility. Purpose. Action.

I am not an old man.

10 print “Hello, I am cool.”
20 goto
Run

“Hello, I am cool” would cycle down the screen.  Early days of coding with BASIC in my later elementary years on an Apple 2E.

In high school my relationship with the phone was a bit adversarial and yet I dreamed of a day when I would see on a sort of screen, my aunt and uncle as I spoke with them on the phone.  Likely this was not entirely of my own imagination but influenced by the popular animated sitcom, “The Jetsons.”

During six years of university I borrowed a friend’s Brother word processor to type papers before toting around both floppy and hard diskettes, external writable storage devices. These were helpful when I managed to reserve computer time at the only computer lab on campus, a university with 16,000 enrolled students. 

Imagine 16,000 students sharing 15 computers today!

For the first few years of teaching I did not have a personal or laptop computer.  There were no projectors in the classroom, aside from an overhead projector.  Next to it were printed transparencies to share and a stack of blanks for writing notes for the class to copy. 

I am not an old man.

A few years into the 2nd millennium and classrooms began to be retrofitted for the digitization that was underway. Digital projectors began to be mounted on classroom ceilings and in one school I worked, SMART boards debuted. The interactive white boards all the rage before they quickly fizzled out.

The intention is not to look fondly back as if to say, “These were the days.”  All the contrary and instead, this short bit of history points at how far and fast we have come. Moreover, might we imagine what is next?  Anything is always possible, as I was reminded of this past week in class.

Oculus Provides a Glimpse Into the Future

“Ten years from now, everything is going to be virtual,” proclaimed one of my quieter eleven year-old students.  Her shyness overcome by both her passion and resoluteness.  We were preparing to have an introductory experience with virtual reality.  The device, the Oculus, aptly named for it means, “eye” in Latin.  Further, oculi are architecturally structural elements that are round openings at the tops of domes or cupolas. The Pantheon in Rome is one of the best examples. Originating in antiquity, the oculus is the perfect name as we begin to challenge ourselves in learning from the future. 

The actual VR experience proved stimulating for students, the connection being one linked to our current unit on innovation and how access clearly is a social justice issue. More provocative than virtually dancing with a robot, was the captivating conversation that ensued. One which reflected how students need not wait to create their own reality and how entrepreneurial mindsets  can drive transformative experiences in our schools. A definitive juxtaposition from the default where educational models often result in teachers and students senselessly passing back and forth assignments.  Free of audience and purpose. 

An Entrepreneurial Spirit Remains Alive

“So much is already virtual. I am selling my art as NFTs,” voiced probably my second most reserved student. He went on to broadcast the platform where five of his digital art pieces are being auctioned. Students enquired about the cost and the artist further imparted what he understood about non fungible tokens (and though English is his second language, he pronounced this perfectly), cryptocurrencies and Ethereum in particular.  In effect, between the five pieces of his artwork, the value was equivalent to more than $18,000USD.  I remind you, this is an eleven-year old.  So, it’s possible he could enter school, sit all day being talked at by teachers, and exit at 2:30 with thousands of dollars in his virtual pocket, or wallet.  

Why not tap into this?  

None of the art was done at school.  None of the computer platform learning or marketing if you will.  None of the background on cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

Yet, he and so many other students, find a way to learn.  To follow their passions.  In this case, business and art.  But what about the child studying the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6, ensuring a clean and stable water supply and effective water sanitation for all people?  Is she effectively contributing to making a difference so this goal might be realized in the next eight years?  Or, might she simply be researching, taking notes, and making a Google slides presentation?

Possibility.

Purpose.

Action.

Seems these three words might best become a mantra of sorts in our schools.  

10 print “Possibility. Purpose. Action.”
20 goto 10
Run

################

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Language – perhaps your students speak several different languages. What is it like to learn a new one? And how does language influence what you do each day? Books and stories help develop proficiency in any language. These books, fiction and nonfiction, all take a closer look at different aspects of language.

Dee and the Apostrofee by Judith Henderson, illustrated by Ohara Hale. A fun book for kids who are not quite sure about Apostrofee’s powers. Which letters does he make lost? Does he really devour them? And are the letters right – is aphostrofee eating all the O’s? Is he stealing letters and does he make you the owner of things? A laugh-aloud language picture book to share in the classroom to teach grammar without the students even noticing. Kids Can Press, ISBN 978-1-5253-0326-5

Exclamation Mark

! (Exclamation Mark) is a hilarious picture book by Amy Rouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. ! feels different from everyone else. Period. Until someone shows up who has lots of questions – ? – and shows him his potential. ! is so excited he can’t wait to show his powers and make his mark! ISBN 978-0-545-4379-3, Scholastic

How To Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, with gorgeous art by Melissa Sweet, celebrates all things book. From curling up in just the right spot, to turning page by rustling page, with ‘words and sounds in leaps and bounds’… Comparing books to juicy clementines, art and text work together to create a book to sing and dance and chant along as you celebrate reading with kids. ISBN 978-0-06-230781-1, Harper Collins Children

The Word For Friend not only is the story of a child (a pengolin actually…) moving to a new country and having to learn a whole new language while going to school and wanting to make new friends. It is also the story of Esperanto, including real words in this global language. This story works on many different levels, including art (the two new friends make paper cuttings for each other). ISBN 978-0-374-31046-2, Farrar, Strauss, Giroux.

Sugar Comes Arabic by Barbara Whitesides is a unique, user friendly beginner’s guide to letters and words in Arabic. The book is well designed and starts off gently to guide you through changing letters and words from English to Arabic, showing how each letter is formed. It makes me hopefully that I can learn a difficult new language. ISBN 978-1-56656-757-2

And a field which requires its very own lingo is that of advertisements. Mad For Ads by Erica Fyvie, illustrated by Ian Turner, is a book all students in Grades 4 and up should be made to read to ensure they are aware of how ads influence their daily life and the effects is has on their wants and needs. Language is important in this field, as are images and repetition. Touching on commercials but also on election campaigns, among others, the book includes a closer look at social media advertising. The book shows how brand names and logos work and how they effect your brain, your emotions, at whom TV ads are aimed, how your shopping habits are tracked and much more. An eye opener for both kids and adults! ISBN 978-1-5253-0131-5, Kids Can Press

Margriet Ruurs is the author of many books for children. She conducts author presentations and writing workshops at international schools and shares her love of travels and books here:

www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

Assistive technology for inclusive pedagogy

Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on Canva.com

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology includes a wide range of strategies from assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices and other resources used to compensate for the lack of certain abilities. In an inclusive classroom, there are needs that have to be met with specific resources, for example, for students having specific learning disabilities educational software can help in skill-building with multisensory experiences and individualized instruction.

Why Use Assistive Technology?

Inclusive pedagogy focuses on identifying and overcoming barriers in education. It provides the least restrictive environment (LRE) to include students with special needs and disabilities. Hence there emerges the need to plan for instructional strategies in an inclusive classroom. Assistive technology is also known as technical aids or assistive equipment. For example, students with dyscalculia can use onscreen calculators that are integrated with the online assessment task, other examples are speech to text and larger font size options.

Similarly, teachers can use assistive technology to address diversity challenges, for example, if a student is ELL/EAL they can be allowed to use an online translator to translate content and tasks, also use speech to text software for capturing teacher lectures. Assistive technology connects a student’s cognitive abilities to an educational opportunity that may not be accessible due to their disability. This tells us that assistive technology in an inclusive classroom can have multiple ways for students to articulate their understanding and complete tasks with more agency and accountability.

How to Use Assistive Technology?

There are many ways to use assistive technologies in an inclusive classroom. Assistive technology can enhance the basic skills of students with needs to be part of the classroom by being able to access the materials and resources which were limited due to their needs. Teachers should consider a list of factors in order to select the type of assistive technology, some of which are; determining the specific student need; identifying the student’s strengths; engaging the student in the planning process; choosing the assistive technology which is affordable and easy to use. Other guidelines include choosing an assistive technology that suits the student, not the other way around. The instructional strategies should be allowing students to learn the technological skill, this also requires the teacher to be up-to-date with the assistive technology available in the market.

What type of Assistive Technology to Support Inclusion?

There are many types of assistive technologies available nowadays to successfully manage an inclusive classroom:

  1. Written Assistive Technology Tools: students struggling with writing skills can use spell-checkers, proofreading tools, speech recognition and speech synthesizing tools.
  2. Reading Assistive Technology Tools: students with reading challenges can use online documents to increase the size of text, phone recorders or variable speech control (VSC) technology, optical character recognition devices(OCRs).
  3. Mathematics Assistive Technology Tools: students with dyscalculia or dysgraphia can use online calculators, others struggling with math can enrol for Khan Academy video lessons.
  4. Listening Assistive Technologies Tools: students with listening disabilities can use speech to text, listening devices and recording devices.
  5. Memory Assistive Technologies Tools: students struggling to remember can use graphic organisers, glossaries, personal data managers to be able to retain information.

The use of assistive technology (AT) in an inclusive classroom is necessary to support students with learning disabilities. AT can help students function without any hurdles. The AT tools range from technology to tools to props to anything that helps the students to feel included. Even though the AT tools do not take away the disability or learning challenge, it supports the student to access the teaching and learning in the best possible way.

Bibliography

Adebisi, R.O., Liman, N.A., & Longpoe, P.K. (2015). Using assistive technology in teaching children with learning disabilities in the 21st century. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(24), 14-20. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1078825.pdf

Ahmad, F. H. (2015). Use of assistive technology in inclusive education. Transcience, 6(2), 62-77. Retrieved from https://www2.hu-berlin.de/transcience/Vol6_No2_62_77.pdf

Dean, M. (2019). 13 ways to incorporate assistive technology into the classroom. Retrieved from https://www.classcraft.com/blog/ways-to-incorporate-assistive-technology-into-the-classroom/

Connection Seeking

So a couple of weeks ago at a child study meeting we began speaking about a beautiful little kid who has been struggling recently with his behavior, both inside and outside of the classroom. We were trying to figure out the root of his attention seeking behavior when all of a sudden it came to us that he wasn’t just seeking attention, he was desperately looking for some connections and a deeper sense of belonging. As the meeting was ending, our conversation turned to that whole idea of what we tend to refer to as “attention seeking”, and we agreed to start referring to it as “connection seeking” from now on. 

You see, something powerful happened when we started to look at his troubling behavior through this subtle lens change. It became much easier for us to get to the root of what he ultimately needed, and why he was displaying these behaviors in the first place. When framing the issue with the idea of connection and belonging in mind, we quickly moved past the behaviors themselves, and got to the cause and to the why with a greater sense of compassion and care. 

The timing of that meeting was important for me, because this past week was chock-full of difficult issues and conversations involving not only students but adults as well, and as it turned out, every one of those situations was rooted in the individual needing a deeper connection in one way or another. It got me thinking about our school-wide initiative around belonging, and how important it is for our school, and for all schools, to be digging into this work.

Just to be clear, when we talk about belonging, we’re talking about four specific areas under that umbrella term, which are: the need to be seen, heard, valued, and protected. So when dealing with a couple of the issues involving adults this past week, I actually went to a few members of the child study team, and we engaged in a kind of “adult study” dialogue, where we looked at the issue through that connection seeking lens. What we discovered was that in every instance the adult was not receiving what they needed from at least one of those four areas, and just like the little kid that we had discussed two weeks ago, the adults were simply seeking what they ultimately desired, a deeper sense of belonging…but isn’t that just what it is to be human? We all need to be seen, and heard, and protected, and valued, and if we have a deficit in one of those areas it will eventually show up in one way or another, and that isn’t specific to kids, it’s the same with all people I think. 

Anyway, with all that in mind, I’m going to start viewing the world through more of a “belonging” lens, and I’m asking you all to try it out as well. I think it will help us all to show up to certain situations with a little more care, and a little more compassion, and a little more love…I know it won’t hurt to have a little more of those in our lives. Have a wonderful week and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Communication Is merely an exchange of information, but connection is an exchange of our humanity – Sean Stephenson

Related Articles – 

Connection Seeking

The Fred Rogers Approach

Social Connection in Schools

Every Kid Needs to Be Seen

The Power of Being Heard and Seen

TED Talks – 

Connecting to Others

Inspiring Videos – 

Stealing the Show

Returning Some Hope

10 Things That Made Us Smile

Happy Thanksgiving

Safety first

Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on canva.com

We feel, therefore we learn; learning is an emotional journey. But what if all we feel is, threatened, angry, scared, sad and unwanted, then what do we learn?

The first thing to consider for education organisations is safety! If safety is compromised, learning is compromised. Safety is everything, a child and even an adult learn only when they feel safe. Some common threats to safety seen in many schools are:

  1. Abusive language
  2. Bullying
  3. Racial discrimination
  4. Gender discrimination
  5. Microaggressions
  6. Body shaming
  7. Lack of health and safety, child safeguarding policies
  8. Patriarchial dominance
  9. Digital safety
  10. Lack of emergency protocols

While some of the safety issues are taken care of by the following state, country or international standards for safety; emergency protocols, health and safety, child safeguarding policies are mostly covered under the authorisation of a school or educational institute.  But alarmingly many other issues are still prevalent and more threatening.

Let us focus on some existing issues; firstly it is hard to identify these silent safety risks, therefore educators need to be very vigilant. Here are a few ways of identifying safety risks:

  1. Some teachers in your school use abusive language when disciplining students.
  2. Students form cliques and always work in cliques never allowing “others”.
  3. There is a culture of favouritism, supremism and indifference.
  4. Your school does not have a social-emotional learning (SEL) programme and/or coordinator.
  5. Your school does not have diversity in teaching staff.
  6. Student agency and student voices are not valued.
  7. Undesirable behaviour is always punished but good behaviour is never acknowledged.
  8. All important positions are held by the male gender.
  9. There are no firewalls for digital content accessed by students in school.
  10. All decisions are made by heads of sections without any input from teachers, students or parents.

There are many more ways of identifying an unhealthy environment that leads to students feeling anxious, unsafe and distant. There needs to be a unified approach to creating a safe haven for students.

Firstly, schools and other educational institutions need to hire diverse staff, representing different genders, colours, accents, interests and experiences. This creates harmony in the school culture as there is always that one person a student can find who speaks their language or has the same interests. Students can connect better with people around them as they get used to differences. They learn to agree to disagree and most importantly they learn as they feel safe.

Next teachers have to model caring and mindful behaviour. Use of anger and foul language should not be allowed or tolerated. Teachers’ arrogance, anger and rude behaviour are one of the main reasons students fear to share ideas and even ask questions. If schools can have zero tolerance for plagiarism, they can also enforce zero tolerance for rude behaviour! Another prevalent issue is reprimanding students for their mistakes and never rewarding their efforts. After some time students run into the danger of not caring about it and there comes a breaking point after which students do not care at all about anything. This leads to poor self-esteem and hidden insecurities which become massive identity issues as they grow up. Always encourage when learning, never discourage when teaching.

Finally, students should be discouraged to be part of strong cliques, this leaves out shy or new students, leads to bullying of students who are not in the clique and changes the behaviour of students on both sides, in the clique and outside. Students need to be made comfortable with handling unknown and unfamiliar circumstances so they won’t try to get into a comfort zone to try to “fit in”. I still remember one of my students confiding in me about vaping in school; the reason shared by the student was that she was trying to be normal to “fit in”. Therefore mixing students into different groups in the classroom really helps them to get comfortable with the unknown and unfamiliar.

Safety first is not only a requirement it is a necessity. A student who does not feel safe tells us many things about ourselves, our systems, and our culture. Create a happy space for a happy learning experience to foster a happy person who will create a happy future and a happy world.

I’ve Always Kind of Thought Greek History Didn’t Seem Real

Could there be a better time for students to understand the importance of evaluating the sources where they get information?  Not only a common core standard but a valued life skill. One creative hook is to introduce students to an article from “”America’s Finest News Source,” the Onion.  Any satirical source for that matter would work just fine.  One of our favorite articles is titled, “Historians Admit to Inventing Ancient Greeks.”  It was especially near and dear when Percy Jackson books were all the rage.  A teacher might think a students’ precursory examination of the ads on the page, or even the “shop” button at the top, would be a dead give-away.  But they aren’t!  

“Sorry Alexis, being from Greece, I’m sure this is kind of a bummer to find out,” I consoled one seventh grade student this year.


“Ah, it’s okay.  I’ve always kind of thought Greek history didn’t seem real.”

Even greater credence giving to the value of learning to evaluate sources.

5 W’s Introduced
Thankfully questions inevitable do however always surface. In response we take the Onion through the 5 W’s of Website Evaluation.  The following table was built on a Britannica breakdown.

WHOWho wrote the pages and are they an expert? Is a biography of the author included? How can I find out more about the author?
WHATWhat does the author say is the purpose of the site? What else might the author have in mind for the site? What makes the site easy to use? What information is included and does this information differ from other sites?
WHENWhen was the site created? When was the site last updated?
WHEREWhere does the information come from? Where can I look to find out more about the sponsor of the site?
WHYWhy is this information useful for my purpose? Why should I use this information? Why is this page better than another?

Research, Note Taking and Evaluation

After students designed their own research questions and received feedback, peer to peer and teacher, time is provided to research.  Paraphrasing is practiced in note taking form and sources cited. Then, students are tasked with identifying any one source they used and putting it through the 5 W’s to determine if ultimately they should trust where their information came from.

For the Love of It

I would like to say there was intention in how the lessons culminated but it seemed to happen more organically. Careful not to come off as the boasting type, I wanted to review what was learned and what better way to make this memorable than to look at a professionally published piece by their teacher?  One, where at the top the author was listed as “Guest Author.” 

“Sus!” students were quick to blurt, meaning suspicious.

As I scrolled down I asked volunteers to share their observations. They were quick to note how images were credited, the article was recently published, and several active links to find out more were included. The links to reputable sources like the New York Times and Harvard. Then, at the bottom they saw my name and possibly even more surprising to students, was the invitation to click on my Twitter handle.  

I didn’t anticipate any further questions but may have guessed someone might ask, “How did you get your work published?” Or, “How long does it take you to write an article like that.”

Instead, the only question was an expected one.

“How much do you get paid to write those articles?”

Remembering back to more than two decades ago and my Masters work, the teachable moment seemed to scream in my ear.

“Get paid?” I quizzically asked.  Honestly disbelieving in a sort of way,  

As if artistry and joy are any less meritable than money. Base but also aligned with the experience of many students. The “is this on the test” mentality perverting the wonder and excitement of learning.

“I don’t receive any compensation in the form of money.  Instead, I write because I love it,” I imparted.  Finishing with such a message seemed like the perfect closure. To share out of generosity but also in gratitude for the one reader to whom my words might resonate. 

#####################

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

The sounds of science – these are all brand new picture books that deal with science: the science of sound and light. Share these books during science but also during social studies or just before music lessons.

Sounds All Around, the Science of How Sound Works by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Ellen Rooney. From natural sounds like the buzzing of a bee or the clap of thunder, to instruments and sirens – this book looks at how sounds happen and what they communicate. A nonfiction book for budding readers. ISBN 978-1-5253-0250-3, Kids Can Press

Listen Up! Train Song, by Victoria Allenby is a board book for toddlers, turning all train sounds into a song. A story to share aloud, teaching the importance of rhyme and rhythm in poetry while having fun with onomatopoeia. ISBN 978-1-77278-213-4, Pajama Press

My City Speaks, Darren Lebeuf, art by Ashley Barron is a lovely, colourful picture book for the very youngest readers about all things city. From mailboxes to construction sites, from city parks to sidewalk shops, a sight-impaired girl explores her city and its sounds. Complete with a heartwarming ending. ISBN 978-1-5253-0414-9, Kids Can Press

Lights Day and Night, The Science of how Light Works written by Susan Hughes, art by Ellen Rooney is a wonderful first guide to the science of light. It explains in simple terms how light travels, how light is absorbed or reflected. It tells of the difference between natural and artificial light. A glossary in the back gives more details on terms. The entire picture book is a perfect balance between text and art, story and science. ISBN 978-1-5253-0319-7, Kids Can Press

The Science of Song, How and Why we Make Music, by Alan Cross, Emma Cross and Nicole Mortillaro is a fascinating account of music, what it is and how we make it. From the oldest instrument (a bone flute of 40,000 years old) to rock star holograms, this new nonfiction title chronicles the history of music people have made over the ages, and how it works. Here, finally, is a book that especially music teachers will love! ISBN 978-1-77138-787-3, Kids Can Press

And speaking of sounds and music, here’s a novel about a musical legend, reviewed by teen-aged reader Matilda Colvin:  Kid Sterling by Christine Welldon.

It’s 1906 in America. Sterling Crawford, a 11-year-old trumpet-player, lives with his family in New Orleans. He’s set on learning from Buddy Bolden, an icon who is now remembered as a father of jazz. Being African American, Sterling also grapples with the devastating systemic racism of early-20th-century America. The story of Kid Sterling shines a light on the beginnings of jazz culture through its roots in oppression, solidarity, and courage. Its engaging narrative weaves coming-of-age and historical fiction to the soulfully defiant sound of a jazz trumpet. Kid Sterling is as much about the evolution of a vibrant genre as it is about one determined boy. Buzzing with jazz history and bursting with life, this book will be devoured by young music fans and aspiring jazz artists—as well as anyone who’s interested in the story of a creative kid with a dash of vivid history.  ISBN 978-0889956162, Red Deer Press

Margriet Ruurs is the Canadian author of many books for children. She shares her travels to international schools and her passion for books here: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

Mississippi River Challenge

This coming summer, my son Max (Class of  2026) and I are going to attempt to canoe down the entire length of the Mississippi River (2,400 miles)!  In doing this we are going to be raising money for two of the service organizations that ISY supports.  One is United World Schools which our school, ISY has already partnered with to build a school in Myanmar. Each year ISY raises money to support the school and money raised from this challenge will go towards ISY’s annual financial commitment.  The other organization is the Care for the Least Center which is an orphanage in Yangon. Funds raised from this challenge will go towards a new access road, a transformer to allow them to have electricity and a harvester to harvest the rice they grow for food.

Our home is in Minnesota which is where the Mississippi River starts as a small river.  As it flows south it becomes America’s largest river ending in the Gulf of Mexico.  To canoe the length of the river has always been a dream of mine which hopefully we’ll realize this summer. We will post updates on this challenge on my Tie Online blog from time to time but you can also follow along on Dr. Hedger’s personal blog. Donors of $1,000 or more can have their names/company logos placed on  my blog.  If you would like to donate to this challenge you can use the dedicated donation page.

A Little Bit of Magic

So I was walking by the early childhood outdoor learning space the other day, when I stopped to chat with a couple of kids playing in the hedges beside the mud kitchen. They were very animated and very interested in some leaves that had fallen from the adjacent tree, and I asked them what they were looking at. They said, “We are looking for fairies because they live in these bushes and they float down from the sky on the leaves!” One of the little girls then said, “My brother says that fairies don’t exist but I know that they do, and I’m going to find one to show him”. I told them good luck and I went on my way, smiling and thinking about how beautiful that interaction was, and how quickly it made my day. 

Anyway, a couple of days later I was running through the park close to my house and I turned down a particularly gorgeous tree-lined trail. As soon as I did I noticed dozens of autumn leaves falling from the trees to the ground like soft, colorful snowflakes, and I all of a sudden began to imagine that each leaf had a tiny little fairy riding on it, just like the little girl had imagined. I even slowed down to pick one up, just for fun, to see if I could get that elusive evidence for her but of course, no such luck. As I got going again I started to think about what a gift it must be to see the world like those little kids do, with such imagination, and wonder, and with such a belief in magic and magical things. Things that make us wonder, and excited, and leave us with an absolute sense of awe. 

That beautiful run through the park, and that interaction with those fairy detectives opened up my heart to the fact that there is beauty and magic all around us, and sometimes we just need to be reminded to open up our eyes and look for it. Over the past week I have been trying hard to notice as many magical, awe inspiring things as I can, and you know what, it’s hard to keep count. Just in the last couple of days alone I’ve seen a double rainbow, shades of autumn colors that I have never seen before, a brightly colored woodpecker outside my house, a cotton candy sunrise and a sunset that looked like it was literally on fire. Not to mention the beautifully haunting sound of the wind just before it rains, and the smell of the world after the rain stops. It’s hard to even walk down the street without being stopped in your tracks by something amazing, but of course, you have to be looking. 

Even as I write this I’m looking out the window at two yellow roses that are hanging on tightly to their last few summer petals, and there is a little ladybug clinging to the stem of one of them….so cool. This little reminder has come at the perfect time too by the way, as the weather is getting colder and the days are getting shorter and the light is getting scarce. The descent into winter is here and these little magical gifts will keep me going during this time of transition. It’s not lost on me that the nudge to open up my eyes to the beauty of our world came from a couple of children, oftentimes our greatest teachers. So with all that said, my challenge to you this week is to search for beauty everywhere you look, and even though you might not find a fairy floating down on a falling leaf, you might just find some joy and gratitude, which is sometimes all you need to keep you smiling through the colder and darker days. Enjoy this poem below, one of my favorites, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

-William Wordsworth

Quote of the Week…

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.

– Roald Dahl

Related Articles – 

Nature Creates Magic

Embed Magic Into Your Everyday Lives

Finding Magic

Unlock the Magic

The Science of Magic

The Magic of the Mundane

Inspiring Videos- –

Helping Dads

Setting Records

Things That Made Us Smile

The Restorative Potential of Nature’s Beauty – (TED Talk)

Cloudy With a Chance of Joy (TED Talk)

For the Love of Birds (TED Talk)

Fibonacci Magic (TED Talk)