Legacy of bookmarks

I was attending a meeting with other assistants and teachers in our southwest suburban school district that contains three schools. As soon as I walked in a mother who now works in the district flags me down with her son beside her who is now in fifth grade. It took me only a brief minute but she said,” Do you remember my son? “I remembered him in kindergarten; a delightful boy who was a joy to work with and now a fan of the Greenbay Packers, like me. “He still uses all the bookmarks you made for him and he nods with pride,” she said.

The bookmarks???? Five years ago, it began….before the pandemic. When I started making bookmarks to celebrate all holidays in our school building. The school hosts kindergarten-2nd grade while the two other schools supported 3rd-5th and 6th -8th.  First, I began making them for the classroom I was in which was usually kindergarten and would try to personalize each with their name. Then, I would create a bookmark of something they enjoyed such as a unicorn which I distinctly remembering how popular. It also depended on the time of year or holiday.

They were three-dimensional in some way whether it be fancy heart stickers for Valentine’s Day or the great snowman with delicate snowflakes for winter break. And everybody usually got their favorite colors if my memory served me well. Sometimes if I was really in the mood, bookmarks would have an original saying such as follow your heart for Valentines Day.

After my first attempts, I would have the occasional student from another class ask if I had a book mark and so it began. I started making more….just in case. And for many that would go on to the next grade, my bookmarks followed. They would see me in the hallway and ask if I was still making them for my current students. I always had extras… given with approval. They knew where to find me. Again, never missing a student who needed that bookmark for their favorite book.

Last year, I did create bookmarks at the end of the year for a first grade class. Each in a plastic bag with a glow worm necklace following pandemic rules. They weren’t impressed. I had lost my touch with few stickers and variety. No, there is a difference in maturity levels in first grade.

I am helping in the kindergarten and have not made one this year. Maybe after the beautiful message from the fifth grader, following my heart and God, my latest bookmark beginnings will celebrate the upcoming holidays with the best snowman art I can create. But again, that is not what they like. It is just creating something handmade which is special to them even if it lacks variety. This is their first year of school and generally they are just more accepting of mistakes; trying our best, forgetting all the rest. Forging ahead with patience and love this Thanksgiving break…….the bookmarks are almost done.

A Looking Glass…..Colored Thankful

A reflection written by Caryl Clem

Thanksgiving season is a great time to reflect on the blessings in our life. Not all blessings are tangible because I am grateful for the time I spent in classrooms during my life.

As I walked to school as a child thinking the cold stern brick building with unblinking eye windows appeared formidable. I soon discovered that classrooms are alive with caring and sharing.  I thrived in the small town classes. Kids on phones are missing out on the secret note passing experience.

Magically through the years, friendships are at the top of the blessings list. I doubted my continued career in education then a birthday gift changed my mind. A small picture frame contained a big moment in life message: “ One Hundred from now…it will not matter what your bank account was, the sort of house you lived in, or the kind of car you drove, but the world may be different because you were important in the life of a CHILD.

Every time I view this silver framed jewel, like a movie reel inside my head a past teachers’ voice and smile surfaces. “I had talent. I must never give up. Believe in yourself and your potential.  Stay positive.” The same advice I carried into my classrooms.

When I asked my Dad for guidance on how to manage students, he thoughtfully replied: humor, compassion, preparedness. He said his favorite teacher opened every class with a joke, or some thought provoking comment.  I remembered my Dad’s classroom with an array of Salada tea bag sayings, quotes or Peanuts’ cartoon plastered on a bulletin board.  Dad urgently stated, “Listen to every student’s story, they need to feel you are on the same page with them.”

Years later, a few students have updated stories left unfinished when they graduated. A former gang member had a scholarship in Criminal Justice.  Another former gang member, now a mentor working with the Sheriff’s Department.  Students who thought college was not possible became college graduates.  A determined male teen opened a successful business with his older brother. Years of stories have convinced me the majority of students win in the Game of Life.

I am thankful for all the teachers who know the unbeatable formula, combine your heart and soul with the science of learning.  A classroom is so much more than a backpack with textbooks.

(the glass is available at ETSY)

The wonderful world of untapped innocence in the classroom

One kindergarten student was visiting a classroom and having such a terrible moment in class that within five minutes of him crying, two other kindergarten children gave him their special classroom rewards they had just received from their teacher.

For the last 40 days of school, a first grade student always makes sure the special needs child is securely sitting in their carrier seat on the bus and and tries to cheer him if he is having sad day.

Julie always helps five-year old Amanda on the playground when swinging on swings or going down the slide just to make sure she is having fun safely.

Five year old John helped another another boy, Tom, who was angry, pick up blocks that he had thrown so that Tom would have a better day.

Seven -year old Mary made a special picture for her friend that is very sick and was not instructed to do so. This gesture was created during indoor recess at school.

One boy always makes sure a friend that is new to school finds the right classroom he is in everyday.

Mira always asks another to play with her at recess or when they have a break because the other one feels left out.

Robert struggles with assignments but will sit and concentrate for a long time reading The Pigeon has to Go to School and many of the Mo Willems books as a special treat with his teacher.

A second grade student, Elisa shared her favorite book patiently with a first grader and helped her improve her reading, reading some words for her and sounding out others. She asked if she could help her in the future if she needed assistance.

Sheri McCabe, fourth grade instructional assistant, made a great Wonder Wall last year for a student she was working with and learned about the teaching idea from others on the Internet. She wanted to use it again so she put it in the room she is working in this year. She told the class about. Whenever they have a question about something they wonder about, they can put the questions on a post it and put it on the wonder wall and they will discuss them once a week. Sheri went back to the class a couple hours later and all these post it’s were up on the wall. Here are the questions they asked: How does it feel to be blind? I wonder how a rocket blasts off? Why is there school? Who made books? How do you drive a car? How is candy made? Do plants fart?

It doesn’t get much better than this. God bless them all!!!

I

Number 23 and telephone exchanges

During school one day, I sat with kindergarten students watching the teacher talk about numbers and I heard the number 23. And after that, I was gone into my own special memory of the number that was assigned to me during my own kindergarten days. All I could think about was that 23. I was number 23. Even without looking for the number among my own memorabilia, number 23 has been emblazoned deeply in my mind since kindergarten just like my Baby Boomer phone number too. Essex 5- 5930 or dialed as Es 5-5930. Essex was a street located in the South side of Chicago.We had to proudly recite our phone numbers throughout our early elementary years. And most of us from that generation will not forget those important numbers decades later.

telephone exchange name or central office name was a distinguishing and memorable name assigned to a central office. It identified the switching system to which a telephone was connected. Each central office served a maximum of 10,000 subscriber lines identified by the last four digits of the telephone number. Areas or cities with more subscribers were served by multiple central offices, possibly hosted in the same building.

WBEZ offers a picture of a Chicago phone book of all the exchanges in the 1950’s and 1960’s. There were specific exchanges for Police and fire since a 911 emergency number did not exist. It was PO for police as well as FI for fire followed by various numbers outlining specific communities. Phones numbers surrounding Midway airport started with Midway 3 or had to do with the airport itself. But some were just names that did not refer to any area and were actually used in other US cities.

The magic of the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle

One kindergarten student went to the Museum of Science and Industry, loving the baby chicks as her favorite exhibit. I did too and so did my own children. But when I begin another trip in the room with the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle,I am constantly in awe. I am quiet and so overwhelmed by the intricate detail of the amazing workmanship, artistry and beauty every time I visit. Maybe I have missed something again. I always do. But one year, I finally bought a book before the Internet was a resource.

The creation is the ultimate dollhouse/castle donated by Colleen Moore to the museum in 1949. She was a  Hollywood icon and one of the highest paid actresses. She conceived and designed it with about one hundred Hollywood craftsman and designers between the years of 1928 to 1935. She spent about a half a million on the castle. It has toured the US raising over a half a million dollars to give to children’s charities. Currently, the castle has 11 rooms and wonderful stories to go with each room.

The following describes each room and the finishing touches that were fascinating to me and my children:

Kitchen: It was not just the Mother Goose fairy tale murals on the walls. The best thing I liked is the kitchen of the witch from Hansel and Gretel.

Dining Room: The tapestries on the walls are so intricate that you cannot see the stitches at and the silver ware and plates on King Arthurs table are made of gold. So many pieces are over 100 years old.

Cinderella’s Drawing Room: The floor is made from China combined with quartz and jade. There is a beautiful of mural of Cinderella. A grand piano with an illustration inside the top is an instrument I always wanted to play on. I took piano lessons for many years and taught lessons.

Great Hall: On walls, windows and the ceilings there are amazing drawings of several fairy tales. There is a rosewood table that has Cinderella’s slippers on it and the chairs of the Three Bears. Of course, the balusters throughout and the stairs are gold.

Chapel; On the prayer bench is a small bible. The smallest in the world and printed on real type. I always stared at the electric pipe organ with gold pipes and music pours from it. The stained glass windows are actually made with diamonds and emeralds taken from Moore’s brooch.

Library: Is a sea motif in beautiful blue shades. There are pictures describing the classic literature of Gullivers Travels and Robinsoo Caruso. There are over 100 real books in the library many of them handwritten by famous authors.

Princess Bathroom and Bedroom: The bath tub is silver and real water can flow from the dolphins mouths on both sides of the tub. The bed is the same that Sleeping Beauty, my favorite Disney character, slept in. There is also a golden harp instrument that I always wanted to play

Prince’s Bathroom and Bedroom: The bathroom is upstairs with a mirror filled jewels. The bedroom has a huge white bear rug with real mouse teeth that I was always a little afraid.

Attic: This is just like most attics. Things that used to be in other parts of the castle are stored in the attic.

Magic Garden: Another favorite of mine. I loved the cradle that rocked the baby and you could actually see Santa Claus all year round.

The origin of Candy Land

Candy Land has been another favorite game that I like to play. Especially with the kindergarten class during indoor recess. During the polio epidemic which many Baby Boomers experienced, hundreds of children were in hospitals and thousands quarantined at home in 1948. Strange times… like today. It was then that a young San Diego schoolteacher named Eleanor Abbott invented Candy Land. Abbott created the game inside a polio ward, as a patient herself; trying to inspire the sick children; taking them on a magical trip through Peppermint Stick Forest or Gumdrop Mountain. She wanted them to experience travels, far from this devastating illness. The game was made for them and tested by the children in the same polio wards in the hospital. They loved it and she pursued Milton Bradley. The boy at the start of the original game had a brace on his leg. The Atlantic offers a picture of the first Candy Land board courtesy of the Strong Museum.

Players had tokens which raced down a track of many rainbow-like colors. Drawing from a deck of cards, they would stop according to the card description or number of spaces suggested. Whoever finished, was the winner. According to some sources, Milton Bradley published the game as a filler to school supplies in 1949 but it then, of course, became their most popular game. Hasbro purchased the game in 1984 and at least 4 versions of the game have been made as well as many limited editions. As of 2013, Candy Land is being sold by Hasbro with a spinner instead of cards. The spinner includes all outcomes that were previously on the cards.

Last year, Candy Land celebrated 70 years of existence. Very little strategy is involved and that is why it sells millions of copies. It is simple; a game producing the feeling of magic and escape when you begin to play. It is easy to get lost in. Above, the board copyrighted in 1962 was different than more recent versions. But, this was my version as well as my own children since I saved that game for them. Even now as the pandemic continues and days are gloomy not being able to play with friends, we are still able to take trips with family through Lolly Pop Woods, Ice Cream Floats, always returning…on my game anyway….to the beauty of home, sweet, home. Regardless of what version you play, Candy Land will continue to take us down a colorful road of sweet surprises beyond the pain real life sometimes expresses.

 

 

Go Noodle…I’m Still Standing and Footloose

There called brain breaks in elementary classrooms which I have talked about before.  In our kindergarten, its Go Noodle kids videos and it varies from year to year what the kids really enjoy. GoNoodle is free for teachers, parents, and kids! In addition to energizing content, GoNoodle has 300+ dance videos, mindfulness activities, and super engaging videos for kids!

Last year, the popular, always requested number was Boom Chicaka Boom-Moose Tube.  A favorite both years is also Koo Koo Kanga Roo, a comic team that does a variety videos that include a funny ride on a roller coaster and weird sounds, just to name a few. This year, right before the next animated movie came out, it was Snap Along with the Addams Family. But now a new hit has become the winning choice.

As the teacher selected the hit and it began to play, I wasn’t paying attention to the kids dancing on the screen. It was the music, the song that hit before I looked up. It was Elton John from 1982 when I’m Still Standing was released and played over and over…yeah, yeah, yeah. In fact when I hear the song one time, I can’t get the lyrics to stop playing in my head. And now I’m Still Standing is recorded by Go Noodle; a top hit in another decade. But it is the dance troup that the kids follow which is two girls and a boy that perform a variety of dance moves that the kids truly take the time to figure and follow. It is amazing to watch the kids become better after each time the video is played.

After researching Noodle Television, there are more from the Baby Boomers era from this kid trio including Footloose. Footloose is a 1984 American musical drama film directed by Herbert Ross. It tells the story of Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), a teenager from Chicago who moves to a small western town where he lives with his mother, aunt, and uncle. Throughout the movie, McCormack is seen attempting to overturn the ban on dancing, which resulted from the efforts of a local minister (John Lithgow).

The movie received mixed reviews but the song by Kenny Loggins has been popular. Another Footloose movie came out in 2011 where city teenager, the same Ren MacCormack moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned, and his rebellious spirit shakes up the populace.

Lose your blues, kick off your Sunday shoes. The video has a row, top and bottom, of dancing shoes. When it first came out in the early 1980’s, many rock and roll fans thought it was a stupid song. Not anymore. Not for the elementary students today following their favorite dance troupe.

Hall monitors and crossing guards

Beginning over 50 years ago, I am still in the position of hall monitor..at the main door of an elementary school….something that was a dream of mine at the age of 12. I took my first job in 1967 at Joseph Warren School which was an older building at the time in the south side of Chicago and I got to stand in the middle of a stairwell…three floors and two set of stairs. Students were in junior high and literally had to square their corners, walking all the way to wall and staying in a neat, quiet line when they reach the floor threshold. If they didn’t, they were immediately pulled and sent to the principal. There was always teachers in the halls to double check on your hall monitor duties. You better being doing your job and this wasn’t Catholic school. This was part of the Chicago Public School System. We need those monitors today.

Back in those days, outside crossing guards for neighborhood streets used to be patrol boys from school; many getting to wear orange belts that were place across their chests and some wore caps. The first school safety patrols were formed in the 1920s, because of growing concern for the well-being of students walking to school because of increasing accidents and injuries. Some had tennis rackets that was covered with a sign that said stop. Hammond Police offers some wonderful photos of the crossing guards popularity in the past.

Today, no universal regulations exist that describe who may be a crossing guard, where crossing guards are stationed, or for what purposes a crossing guard may be employed. This person may be paid or volunteer; the person may be a school employee, a member of local law enforcement, a city employee, or contracted privately. Many elementary school crossing guards are assisted by older students, known by a variety of titles such as “safety monitor” and “safety patrol.” These do not have legal responsibility for the safety of children. Junior safety patrol is a voluntary group of crossing guards involving older students helping younger students cross streets in elementary and middle schools across the United States.

Many now wear vests which is the most common. We were the same vests when we are directing buses and monitoring recess at our school. But my favorite position is inside at the main door hallway, though when buses come early, we have grades kindergarten through second grade sit in our large multi-purpose room just beyond the main door. Not, however, squaring corners, making perfect lines and being quiet. My position is giving hugs, high fives, and taking deep breaths to those who are just beginning their day and know that there is always someone they can trust. Much better than my first job in 1967.

 

American Girl

It was Samantha Parkington that was all the rage for many.  My daughter loved the doll and got one along with a look alike doll. I loved the books. But it was the Bitty Baby that truly brings back special and sometimes emotional holiday feelings. Christmas 2000 my daughter really wanted the Bitty Baby and under the tree on Christmas morning, there was nothing with the excuse told to her that we just couldn’t afford it. Later that morning, we traveled to the nursing home to see my Mother who would die later that summer. She handed my daughter the wrapped box and still had no idea the Bitty Baby was inside. She thought when first looking at the box that it was just too small for a baby doll. She was hoping up until the last minute that the doll would be hers forever; still is in a neatly wrapped storage box along with Samantha.

American Girl is an American line of 18-inch dolls released in 1986 by Pleasant Company. The dolls portray today eight- to twelve-year-old girls of a variety of ethnicity, time periods of origin, faiths, and social classes.Originally, the stories published into books focused on various periods of American history, but were expanded in 1995 to include characters and stories from contemporary life. Aside from the original American Girl dolls, the buyer also has the option to purchase dolls that look like themselves.

Bitty Baby was an American Girl line of 15″ infant baby dolls for children ages 3 and up. Bitty Baby’s arms, legs, and head are made from vinyl. A precursor to the line called Our New Baby was first released in 1990,which consisted of Caucasian (with blond hair), African-American, and Asian-American variants. The dolls were marketed as a way to get children to adjust to having a young baby in the house. The dolls were gender neutral, unlike the later Bitty Baby; it was expected that the doll could be a younger boy or girl.

The American Girl series, by various authors, is a collection of novels set within toy line’s fictional universe. Since its inception, American Girl has published books based on the dolls, with novels and other media to tie in with their dolls. The books follow various American girls throughout both historical eras and contemporary settings.The historical novels that have corresponding dolls are referred to as the Central Series such as Samantha Parkington, Kirsten Larsen, Molly McIntire.  And I read them all even trying my hand at writing one and sending it to the publishing company.

A related series entitled History Mysteries, also known as Mysteries Through Time and/or Mysteries through History was released by American Girl in 1999 and discontinued in 2004. The series comprises a total of 22 books by various authors and forms a companion series to the popular American Girl books; unlike Girl of the Year and other lines, they do not come with any doll or toy and acts as a stand-alone novel set in a particular period in American history.

Today, all dolls purchased actually come with a book. For 2020, American girl has a new doll with a hearing loss. She is a competitive surfer that lives in California named Joss.

And the dolls of my daughter’s childhood are now considered antique and worth some money. Just like mine. One Samantha doll with her original outfit and accessories recently sold on eBay for $400. And the original Bitty baby can be found right now for under $50 dollars with only a few scratches.

Oh boy, the Grinch

The week after Thanksgiving it began..a kindergarten boy wore a t shirt with a sketch of the Grinch on it; handmade by his Mom. I wanted it! But when I was his age I was afraid of the Grinch. I loved having Mom read the Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas and loved reading it to my own children. The first animated movie was telecast in the United States on CBS on December 18, 1966 and has been a holiday favorite ever since. The special also features the voice of Boris Karloff as the Grinch and the narrator; a 26 minute cartoon with Cindy Lou Who that everyone loves. My children were fascinated by the cartoon and one Christmas, my son got a talking Grinch doll. We still have the box. I am sure the doll is somewhere in our present garage mess.

According to Grinch Mania, the musical adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas started in Minneapolis in 1994, where it also showed in 1995 and 1998 to enthusiastic audiences. In 1998, the musical began playing in San Diego, where it has shown every year since then. The production hit the big time and Broadway in 2006 where it quickly became the hottest ticket on Broadway.

As my children got older in their junior high years, their true and everlasting love story with the Grinch came out in 2000How the Grinch Stole Christmas is an American Christmas fantasy comedy-drama film directed by Ron Howard and written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. Based on Dr. Seuss’s 1957 book of the same name, it was the first Dr. Seuss book to be adapted into a full-length feature film. The film is narrated by Anthony Hopkins and stars Jim Carrey in the title role, along with Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, and introducing Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who. And according to box office statistics, one of the most successful films.

In 2018, The Grinch was released and distributed by Universal Pictures in the United States on November 9, 2018, in RealD 3D, a computer-animated Christmas comedy-drama film and played at select IMAX theaters produced by Illumination. It grossed over $511 million worldwide, so far obtaining the highest-grossing holiday film of all-time.

In the kindergarten classroom last week, we watched both cartoon from 1966 and the 2018 movie since the movie starring Jim Carey is a little scary for 5 and 6 year olds..a little scary for me. Though I must say I was positively memorized by the 2018 film….. finding the Grinch more funny than frightening.

Ultimately, as a mature adult…sometimes mature…., I love the Grinch as a doll, a picture on a box, musical renditions performed on stage, cartoon form, or any movie. It was his heart growing three sizes that day for all generations to remember…. that maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas means just a little bit more.