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!!!

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Songs still played in kindergarten

Working with students in kindergarten, it continues to amaze me how they are mesmerized listening to the same songs like I did in kindergarten over 60 years ago. And my own children reacted the same when they were little; 3+ decades earlier. One day I watched one little guy work on his ipad to the sounds of Go Tell It On The Mountain, Skip, Skip, Skip, To My Lou, Are You Sleeping, Brother John, also known as( Fre er Jac Que). I learned the French version of Brother John in third grade. Do You Know The Muffin Man, and B-i-n-go, B-i-n-go, B-i-n-g-o, and Bingo was his name…..O, more of the past. I thought that was it….done… until the teacher put on the video of the famous all-time children’s song Wheels On The Bus and he couldn’t stop singing….neither could I. The music we sang when learning the ABC’s is another melody where everything stops and they listen to the classic creative music. We play that everyday just before we leave for home; a celebration song earned for a good day.

Go Tell It On the Mountain is a Christmas carol as its original lyrics celebrate the Nativity of Jesus: Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born. An alternate final line omits the reference to the birth of Christ, instead declaring that “Jesus Christ is Lord”. This is popular with Cedarmount kids who released a music series in the 1990’s. Skip to my Lou was song produced in 1844 and was recorded by Judy Garland in the movie Meet Me in St Louis. BeeCeeDee is a popular You Tube channel for kids with entertaining vidoes of the old music and nursery rhymes with over 2 million followers. Are you sleeping…..is another video that you can’t stop listening to as well as watching.

Do you Know the Muffin Man was a traditional nursery rhyme for the Baby Boomer generation but back then it ended with the guy who lived on Drury Lane since the song originated in London. This was a street where fresh foods delivered, such as muffins, which were delivered door-to-door by a vendor known as a muffin man. The “muffin” in question was the bread item known as an English muffin, not the typically sweeter U.S. variety of muffin. Drury Lane is still a thoroughfare bordering Covent Garden in London. You Tube, once again, has transformed the song into a creative video with cartoon characters that also introduces the Ice Cream Man and the Fruit Stand Man!

Bingo was a folk song created as early as 1780 and has been transformed in a number of ways for children. Again, a Barney video created in 2004 with the Bingo song as well as number of videos that include the Muffin songs, the Countdown Kids, The Countdown Singers, the Little Series and Debbie Doo. “The Wheels on the Bus” is a traditional American folk song from the 1930’s written by Verna Hills in Boston, MA. The song is based on the traditional nursery rhyme “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush ” sharing the same tune. It was a popular for teachers to share in the 1950’s and has been translated into several languages. The YouTube video by Cocomelon is the one our school children delight over but YouTube provides many animated rhymes.

The ABC song is the same melody we learned as we watch the video by Cocomelon and as she writes the letters on a green chalk board just like ours and our children. The song was first copyrighted in 1835 by the Boston-based music publisher Charles Bradlee, and given the title “The A.B.C., a German air with variations for the flute with an easy accompaniment for the piano. Music done well never dies.

Highlights for children

A husband and wife team began a magazine in 1946 to give children Fun with a purpose(their tagline). And it worked giving children the encouragement to learn in all different avenues that included stories, art work, puzzles, games and for me as a child, finding the hidden picture. It took me awhile learn to read, write and comprehend but I could not take my eyes off the picture page whether I checked it out at school or in a doctor’s office where Highlights were found for many Baby Boomers. Highlights encouraged to me read and now celebrating 75 years, Highlights has a book that is collection of just hidden pictures. I have placed my order.

Founder Garry Meyers and his wife were teachers of illiterate soldiers and became nationally known in education for a column called Parent Problems and co-authored many books before starting Highlights. There first copies only sold approximately 20,000 copies in 1995 they sold over 2 million. Highlights circulation numbers declined by 2015, and the magazine announced that it would move some content onto tablets and mobile devices with the help of San Francisco startup, Fingerprint Digital, led by former LeapFrog Enterprises executive Nancy MacIntyre. The magazine launched a new mobile app Highlights Every Day, in April 2017.

Highlights today offers clubs and a variety of magazines including Highlights Magazine ages 6-12, High Five Magazine which focuses on pre-school ages 2-6 and Hello Magazine. With new discoveries in every issue, HELLO magazine is made for babies and toddlers. Durable, wipe-clean pages and stitched binding means they’ll enjoy it all month. They offer a great collection of picture, puzzle, arts and craft, sticker and game books for all ages besides the magazine as well great gift bundles. It’s never too early to inspire a love of reading!

Piano lessons

Many Baby Boomer children began with piano lessons building levels of musical accomplishment. Some stopped early on though I did continue through the years and taught individual lessons as an adult. My first teacher was Ms. Vera and it was all about the infamous John Thompson beginning with Teaching Little Fingers to Play. I didn’t like it much… all I remember was playing chords. My second teacher, since Vera retired, was Ms Frank, also known as Corinne Hepburn, when I was 13 and that is when I took off. I had tiny hands but she made everything possible and told me I had talent. She was fun and excellent pianist herself. Others may know her! She taught for 70 years, starting at her studio in Roseland, southeast Chicago neighborhood at the Calumet Conservatory of Music above the Roseland theatre, 40 years at Melody Mart in Homewood and finally in Mt Greenwood.

John Sylvanus Thompson was an American pianist, composer, and educator born in 1889 and lived until 1963. His piano methodsModern Course for the Piano, Teaching Little Fingers to Play (the first part of the Modern Course), Adult Piano Course and Easiest Piano Course are published by the Willis Music Company. According to many teachers, the legendary Modern Course series provides a clear and complete foundation in the study of the piano that enables the student to think and feel musically. It’s known as the method for quick, dedicated learners. The books are still for sale throughout the internet.

I have several John Thompson books from the 1960’s but currently Etsy has Teaching Little Fingers to Play (the picture above) published in the 1950’s for 72.00 dollars. I will keep mine in good condition and my mother’s books. John W. Schaum was another popular teacher and composer Bachelor of Music degree from Marquette University in 1931, a Bachelor of Music Education degree from University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and a Master of Music degree from Northwestern University in 1934 in Evanston, IL.

In Chicago, Forster Music Publisher, Inc. was a major American publisher of popular songs founded in 1916 by Fred John Adam Forster (1878–1956) and was located on Wabash Ave and according to sources, is still in business located at 5309 W Devon Ave # 1.

Calumet Conservatory of Music in Roseland is no longer there but Melody Mart was founded in 1956, and still serves the local community’s needs for music products, lessons, repairs and instrument rentals located on Dixie Highway.

Still love reading together

Over 50 days were spent in person as a teacher assistant in the first grade and now the week after Thanksgiving, all staff and students are remote, taking an adaptive pause, as they call it, in our district. Students are at home while staff are still in their perspective classrooms, offices, and conference rooms. We meet and greet on our devices, some more complex than others, but everyone agrees on one thing; it’s weird. Even though some students have been remote since the first day of school, it can be unsettling having a building not filled with students even those with masks and social distancing. They did a great job with that and are adjusting well remotely. Once again, they are successful with new challenges. They are children! What is the commonly used adjective to describe most of them? Resilient!

However, we have experienced the occasional child’s tear wanting to know when all of this will be over. Teacher assistants are diligently learning Google Meets and other computer applications. Though we don’t have the same intense responsibilities as the teachers, it is, once again, a new experience, a new schedule and ultimately, a new destination. We, too, have experienced the occasional adult tear. What this pandemic has truly taught all of us is how much we miss the physical presence of children. That eye-to-eye connection or sharing that moment where we surprise them with a whispered wonderful as we oversee their work on their desk or gracefully catch a mistake. Yes, we can see it on Seesaw when they take a sometimes blurred photo, but it is not the same.

I was worried; afraid that my own diminished computer skills would interfere in providing student expectations. Then one of my scheduled students online surprised me by doing an excellent job with sight words. We had more time available in our session which I had not planned so I grabbed a book near me called Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld. Stick and Stone is a beautiful book about friendship and that day we loved reading it together. He was so excited when I mentioned that the copy I had was his best friend’s book. He told me that he was Stone and his friend was Stick. He was actually able to read with me.

Now, I am on a mission to select all sorts of books and practice reading to a screen. I know they especially love the books by Mo Willems like The Pigeon Has to go School. Many have talked about the Elf on the Shelf and their Elves arriving at their home.

I am going to research now……….or what about?????? And I am also learning how to surprise them online and make comments they don’t expect. I can do this…….we can do this! Once again, each day, I am constantly reminded of our teachers dedication, enthusiasm and ability to problem solve and provide solutions. They, too, are just as resilent as their students.

Brachs

Another Chicago original to celebrate National Candy Month! And it was the candy corn celebrated at Halloween that I enjoyed the best as a child. Brach’s candy corn is still the  best selling candy in the US today. I also remember the conversation hearts known as Sweethearts candy passed out at Valentines Day as well as Jelly Bird eggs at Easter. For my children, it was Jolly Ranchers that was my son’s favorite. The company was founded by Emil Brach in 1904 located at the corner of North Avenue and Town Street in Chicago.With a 1,000 investment, he named it “Brach’s Palace of Sweets” and employed his two sons to help.

Emil started with one kettle. Investing in additional equipment he was able to lower his production costs and sell his candy for 20 cents per pound. According to Wikipedia,by 1911, his production had reached 50,000 pounds per week and his first product was caramels. In 1913, Brachs developed the first candy factory and a second factory in 1921. In the late 1940’s an explosion happened killing many but Brachs continued on building a state of the art facility, becoming the largest candy manufacturer in the world.

One of the sons was 75 years old when he sold the company in 1966. Bertram Johnson bought the company in 1980 and moved its headquarters  but it started to decline and he bought Brochs Candy Company and merged the two which brought on new products. In 2003, Barry Callebaut AG purchased the new company. As part of the deal, Barry Callebaut agreed to assume $16 million in debt, fund restructuring efforts for 5 years and paid a symbolic $1 (one dollar) for the company.

In 2007, the company was sold to the Farley’s & Sathers Candy Company, which in turn merged with the Ferrara Pan Candy Company in 2012 to form the Ferrara Candy Company, based in Chicago, moving its headquarters here in 2019.

The little engine that could

I think I can….I can…I can. The values of today as well as yesteryear have not changed. Because the boys and girls are still reading the little engine that could. Some are still reading the original that was published in 1930 stressing optimism and hard work.

This was also a book that encouraged me to become a better reader. Reading was a struggle in first and second grades but it was the little engine that could that told me I could do this too. And I did…I did.

I began to think about the little engine while watching a student in my class follow the words being read out loud on his starfall iPad reading app. But this was a tale of two little engines that together, they could do it. The book talks about the  little red engine who trys and trys while a similar blue little engine helps push the cars of toys over the mountain. Other engines also pass them by.  This version focuses on true teamwork.

The student was excited about the story adding the types of childhood inflection repeating words as I did decades ago. He read it over and over in class. The same week that I noticed him become entranced in little engines, another student selected a book from the wide variety in the classroom. The original Little Engine that could.

And she did the same with the small, hard copy book. She decided to read it outloud while others listened. Later that day we had an assembly with a few members from the Kane county cougar team supporting are reading program.  Once again, one baseball player said that his favorite book was …guess what? Three times. … a charm.

So, of course, after school that same day, I went to the community library. I had saved many of my childhood favorites in a bookcase at home but not this one. There were many editions of the book as I discovered through the digital card catalog  including , a DVD, and a movie. But copies were checked out and the librarian said that it was always like that with The Little Engine That Could. Would I like The Little Engine That Could Gets a Check Up?

No, that is fine. I will just have the students read to me the copies at the school I assist,  whenever I need to be reminded of my childhood..my beginnings of academic success. Whenever I need to know,today, that I still can!

 

 

 

 

 

What does child poverty look like in your state?

Hopefully, 2018 will bring a better year to the poverty and homelessness crisis in the US. especially among individuals with long-term disabling conditions whose statistics increased in 2017. However, homelessness among families with children declined 5.4 percent nationwide since 2016, while local communities report the number of persons experiencing long-term chronic homelessness and veterans experiencing homelessness has increased according to Continuum of Care in Dupage County in Illinois.

“In many high-cost areas of our country, especially along the West Coast, the severe shortage of affordable housing is manifesting itself on our streets,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “With rents rising faster than incomes, we need to bring everybody to the table to produce more affordable housing and ease the pressure that is forcing too many of our neighbors into our shelters and onto our streets. This is not a federal problem—it’s everybody’s problem.”

As I walked an older woman  through the doors of First United Congregational Church of Downers Grove, she could barely speak and she pointed toward the sixth floor.  I knew exactly where she was going. I helped her as many have done for others looking for solutions.  I made sure she found a comfortable seat in the mass of people waiting to see a counselor. She thanked me with a tear in her eye as I looked around the room at so many young and old… children… who could not smile or greet me; their dignity ravished by their situation. Their only hope was Hopes Front Door.

Who or what is Hope’s Front Door?  In the southwestern suburbs of Chicago in Dupage County, Hope’s Front Door often acts as a “first responder” to neighbors who are facing financial and/or medical crises. They play an integral role in ensuring the well-being of individuals, families and the overall communities they support. When clients walk through the doors, they determine their immediate needs. They help them with either food, medical, dental and/or transportation vouchers, plus a clear pathway into the network of social agencies that can assist them with the long-term restructuring of their lives, by helping move them out of living a “crisis to crisis existence”. They serve the homeless, as well as those seeking assistance in six local communities.

Childhood hunger is not just something that happens in other cities or counties. One in six children living in DuPage County experiences food insecurity. Everyday Hope’s Front Door provides food vouchers to help area families have access to fresh food.  Over 72,800 live in poverty in DuPage County, once known as a fairly stable employment community, with over 27,000 living in extreme conditions.

Unfortunately, to afford the average rent, according to a survey completed by Bridge Communities,who also connect homeless families to a better future, you would have to work 110 hours per week to afford a 2 bedroom apartment which is approximately 1,176 a month.  A one night survey conducted at Bridge on January 28th 2016 indicated that 642 persons in DuPage County were homeless on that night, an increase from 2014.

Through the help of their program partners and supporters, Bridge Communities provides free transitional housing to homeless DuPage County families each year. During the two years each family spends in their program, they are able to save money, learn budgeting skills, and obtain better employment, so they can live self-sufficiently once they graduate. I work with one of the families children who is doing exceedingly well and loves the new opportunities given; working hard to maintain a much more promising life.

Program supporters and partners are instrumental in helping the needs of their communities and there are many ways to give your support in volunteering or making a donation as well as becoming a partner. Area businesses have become an integral part of providing special services.

As a Chicago lifer living in the city and suburbs, I have watched the deterioration of many families due to job loss, high cost of living, low wages and no adequate health care; many who are friends as well as my family. Some who are older and been homeless for many months have just chosen to mark time in emergency shelters..hoping that illness will help them leave this life quickly. Others continue to struggle with one crisis after another; losing just a little bit more of themselves as the days go on. Though, somehow, someway, they do believe in God’s love for them.  I guess we all have our priorities such as fair rights for women, gun control, ant-political protests, racism………but what about this?

 

Closer to God

My ex-husband, Kevin, passed away this week from Stage 4 cancer after being diagnosed in May. And now I watch my love and concern for the children we had together, my almost 30 year old son and daughter, Kris and Kaleigh, grow in a new direction as I help them take one day at a time through the grieving process of losing a parent. Though, I lost my Dad at an early age, this is not about me. This is about their Dad.

After he was diagnosed, I had spent more time with Kevin who only lived a short distance away. I wanted to be there for my children when they needed me to take them to tests and cancer treatments. As so many cry for his loss, I celebrate the time that was blessed to him so that he could be with those he loved.  I watched sharing texts or phone calls every night with his daughter, making sure each other was ok and most of all, saying I love you. He was able to spend quality time with his 13 year old son Mikey from a previous marriage, advising him of what to do. He had celebrated my son’s 30th birthday in July helping to host the party and stayed a long time even though he was sick. We, too, as many of his lifetime friends will remember, celebrated Kevin’s 30th surprise party and still visible on VHS. However, it will be transferred either online or DVD for those to enjoy soon.

In the last few months, he and I were able to talk about those friends from the party as well as others from that day. He talked of his friend Jimmy who always called Kevin Fred still in contact today. He talked about his friend Davey who came to visit him just a few weeks ago….so proud of the time he could spend.

And he talked about visiting his Mom who lives out of state, not able to travel , proudly showing me the new sailboat weather vane she had purchased; sailing was always his first love. Our first date was on a sail boat in Lake Geneva. He shared his love of his Dad who had passed away a few years ago. How he missed his close friend Billy. Kevin was known as the Sal-man or Salsky in Billy’s eyes who had also passed away from cancer a year ago. He talked of his sisters and brothers, many who lived out of state, but always came to visit and he would take them to his favorite bar and grill called Paps. A memorial service is being held on Saturday at Paps in Mount Prospect on August 26th at 2 pm.

Most of all, he talked of God….that he truly believed now more than ever!

I had a strong premonition early on, that he would not live any longer due to complications that can occur when battling  this terrible disease and tried to prepare my family. Unfortunately, there really is no way to do that; Kevin passed away in his sleep at home on Thursday.

Today, I watch my son and daughter reach out to those in his life that were important and continually amazed at their strength and courage. I watch how they share each others tears and pain.. until numb with spent emotion And my pride grows even more pronounced for dealing with the pain of death; a true adulthood tragedy.

And Kevin? He is more impassioned in spirit than ever before; being greeted by his Dad, his grandparents, and Billy, welcoming Salsky with a beer in his hand to a world that offers no pain but only love. He is always there for his family to say good morning, good night and just sit down together to pray for their lives here throughout the years as they experience struggles and new opportunity.

He is always there to say “sgood” a common phrase for that’s good that he was known to give on earth…. but more powerful than ever in heaven. They will hear that more than ever before.

Thank you for all of your wonderful prayers!

Hate, hate and more hate

A child asked me why there was so much hate in America…..a child!!!!

So I looked up hate in America on the Internet where a child could easily access the information.  After the Charlottesville incident, the latest news articles listed what states had the most hate groups and the type of prejudice that they evoked. In fact, Florida was exemplified as one of the worst states for Americans….Americans.. I will state again…not to get along.

You have got to be kidding me!

I went to school in the 1960’s and grew up in a Jewish neighborhood with some of my best friends being Jewish and Black. And thank God in heaven the access to the virtual Internet, social networks and the media that is completely out of control didn’t exist for people to spew their dangerous name calling and insanity. These are virtual friends, for the most part, we may be talking to though I have known real intimate relationships deteriorate because of what that child called….what is it again???….hate. That is what it has become.

Back in the old days…better not say…automatically more grounds for discrimination and maybe hatred, we did not have to constantly verify what was fake news and the truth. And if we did not like someone…or hate someone which will always exist, we didn’t have social networks running with the highly exaggerated opinion or article so that writers could get a viral count in views for their work. Because that is what they want in the long run…they love to see us jump on ourselves, maim and murder others. They are right there to assist in anything that we need.

Hate articles bring in money. Because we read, we think, we have a bad day, think back to someone who we did not get along with in the past, watch more violent videos, suddenly, we too, are on our personal road to destruction. And you know what….hate, emotional pain, depression, animosity brings on the same in our own lives.

We begin to see our jobs suffer, our relationships weaken, our children struggle and illness take on new meaning;  becoming a part of our community, family and friends. All we have to do is read and think anti semetism, white supremacy, racism, KKK and we are creating lives for ourselves that will lack opportunity, happiness and ultimate peace. Wayne Dwyer constantly said what you think about, you create!

We are not Jewish Americans, Black Americans, Mexican Americans, Irish Americans or German Americans, the latter many will call me. I don’t want to be known as a German American. I want to be known as an American that supports her fellow countryman…..that’s a line I haven’t heard in awhile. I want to be someone I can help to improve the lives of others. I want others to feel safe in my community and be understood for there differences. I want to be able to focus on the positive….because guess what, greater gifts are given to me when I can bring a smile to someone that may be living a life much worse than my own.

And I never want to be asked by children why there is so much hate in America. Because I can’t answer that question…nor do I  ever want to!