Raising Voices and Lifting Spirits

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Lifting their voices in celebration. (Photo from 2013 Concert)

In what has become an annual community tradition, Piscataquis Community Elementary students from kindergarten through grade six will raise their voices and instruments for parents and friends at their annual winter concert on Wednesday, December 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the Piscataquis Community Secondary School Gymnasium. Under the direction of music teacher Michelle Briggs and physical education teacher Sheryl Allen, the program involves over 300 students and serves up a wide diversity of talent and entertainment. Everyone works hard to produce a program that includes something for everyone, young and old.

Classes offer creative presentations that often go beyond the expected and the Sixth Grade Band makes their debut. “We pack a lot of talent into a one hour show,” notes Briggs. “The kids work hard, but we also have fun. The kids really enjoy performing for the community.” Briggs also hinted that there will be a special closing to this year’s show in the form of a specially choreographed piece featuring fourth graders. Students and attendees are encouraged to wear “fun festive accessories such as ties, hats and hair pieces” to contribute to the spirit of celebration.

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Lifting their drawings as well as their voices. (Photo from 2013 Concert.)

One local resident who rarely misses a concert points out, “These are the kinds of events that put the ‘community’ in Piscataquis Community Elementary School. They are today’s version of a ‘Norman Rockwell Moment’ – a picture perfect evening of friends and neighbors gathering together for simple and traditional pleasure.”

The snow date for the concert is Monday, December 15. Updates and additional information will be available on the M.S.A.D. 4 website and Facebook Page. There will be an audio live stream available on the district website for those who cannot attend.

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A Community Celebrating Veterans

thank-you-veteransWhat better way is there to celebrate and thank our Veterans than to join in a community event featuring them? Once again this year, the students and staff of M.S.A.D. 4 are planning a gala celebration in honor of and appreciation for our Veterans on Monday, November 10 2014 at Piscataquis Community Secondary School in Guilford starting at 1:00 p.m. sharp. This long-standing tradition just gets better every year!

2013 File Photo

2013 file photo by Mr. Boomsma

Veteran’s will be greeted by a receiving line of third graders and the program will be facilitated by members of the PCSS National Honor Society. There will be lots of music, including several stirring numbers by the combined PCSS Band and Chorus under the direction of Band Leader Mr. Carey. The Marine Corps League will again this year serve as honor guard. This year’s event is truly “multi-media” and will include a live “Skype” session with Elaine Riitano, a 2013 PCSS graduate who is currently serving our country.

The regular feature of the Armed Forces Theme Song Salute gives us a visual reminder of our community’s contribution to our country as people stand to acknowledge their connection to each branch of service, hearts swelling with pride and lumps in the throat.

The multi-media aspect is being taken to the maximum and the event will be “live-streamed” thanks to technology. Those who are truly unable to attend can watch events unfold on the SAD 4 website.  In fact, Legion Halls and assisted living centers to might consider making the program available this way.

But if possible, join your friends and neighbors for an hour of celebrating our freedom and those who make it possible while supporting our very talented kids. See you in the gym!

2013 file photo by Mr. Boomsma

2013 file photo by Mr. Boomsma

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Mr. Boomsma Makes Mag!

SR Mag Clip“Mr. Boomsma” is the subject of a special article in the October Issue of Maine Seniors Magazine. The article was originally going to focus on the Grange, but as her research developed, writer Donna Halvorsen found a slightly different focus. She writes, “Each Grange can choose its own projects, reflecting local needs and interests. That’s how the Valley Grange, whose area stretches from Monson to Milo, came to focus so strongly on children. And how Boomsma—who talks with his hands and quotes Socrates—built a life around it.

I knew I quoted Socrates, but didn’t realize I talk with my hands. Although it makes sense because I happen to believe that a teacher can and should be his own greatest visual aid. I like to draw, too! (I didn’t say I was good at it… in fact I’ve been working on forming my letters correctly so I don’t embarrass myself in Kindergarten.)

One interesting side bar story… when the article was going through it’s final edits, Donna requested some pictures of me “working with kids.” Since I’m usually the photographer at school, I didn’t find very many so we decided to have a photo shoot. But who to invite?

I remembered how several years ago Kendall Kimball (then a second grader) announced to me she is going to be a “pop star” when she grows up. She also provided a detailed explanation of the difference between a “pop star” and a “rock star” and her determination has not waned. Needing a young model, it occurred to me that we might launch her career and establish her identity as a media darling. When you see the photo of us on page 35, I think you’ll agree–the camera loves her.

As for me… well, when the magazine hit Park Danforth–an assisted living center in Portland–my Aunt called to inform me that some of her girlfriends think I’m a real “hunk.” So I guess I’m popular with the eight year olds and the eighty-somethings.

Maine Seniors is a high quality magazine published right here in Maine and distributed throughout the state featuring “community icons” and “prime movers”— seniors who are making a difference in their communities and state. The article features some of Valley Grange’s initiatives such as Words for Thirds, Bookworming, and the GrowME project while telling some of my favorite stories about working with kids. But it also makes clear the fact that Mr. Boomsma believes it’s not about programs. The programs I like “are really just an excuse to do the real work.”

I would quickly add that it’s hard to think of something that’s this much fun as work. If  you  haven’t guessed what “the work” is, read the article.

A  complete digital copy is available on http://wboomsma.com. (Thanks to the publisher for generous reprint rights.) The entire issue will be accessible at http://meseniors.com before the month of October is over.

An outtake of the pop star and the hunk!

An outtake featuring the pop star and the hunk!

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Filed under Big Brains, Big Hearts, Causes and Friends, Learning, Maine Life, Personal Growth, Small People, Teaching

Third Grader Daniel Speaks About Hunger

Continuing the theme of “never underestimate a child,” take a couple of minutes to listen to a third grader from Texas talk about hunger. He nails it. (Thanks to Kate Garland from Penobscot County Extension for sending the link to this because, “…knowing how much you value the power of kids, I thought you might enjoy it.”)

 

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Gee! Haw!

Farmington_35SMMeet four-year old Julia and her two large friends. She had the fine distinction of being the youngest and smallest driver in a special class of oxen pulling created at the Farmington Fair this year. She also had the distinction of having the largest team in the class.

For somebody who’s a huge fan of oxen pulling and an even bigger fan of kids this was one of the better experiences I had while attending fairs this year. She was truly amazing. Driving oxen is about using a “goad” (the stick she’s holding in the photo) and “tapping” the oxen in distinct spots to encourage them to move in certain directions. Julia got some chuckles because she had trouble reaching their backs so she would occasionally leap into the air if a correction seemed necessary. She would also occasional leap over piles of poop. The oxen seemed to understand and follow her lead. (They didn’t leap, but they pulled nicely.)

Surely some credit is owed her Dad–these oxen are obviously older than Julia so he must have done most of their training. And a lot of credit goes to the Farmington Fair Association for encouraging these kids. There seven teams driven by kids of assorted ages. Honorable mention goes to Oxford Fair where I was pleased to find a 4-H Club centered around kids raising steers and learning to drive oxen–thought by many to be a “dying art.”

I don’t know if Julia will continue to compete as she grows up, but she did seem to have fun. It’s not usual to see kids walk with a team at the end of competition. But this was not the case. The adults who were present kept their distance and the kids did the actual drawing. One young fellow kept running out of hands. He needed one for the goad, one for the rope attached to the halter, and one to pull up his pants as they kept sliding down.

I sorta kept an eye on Julia while she was waiting her turn–not out of concern for her safety, but out of curiosity. Her attention didn’t waiver; she gave her oxen the same attention one might expect of adult teamsters. She also seemed to have a lot more energy than her adult counterparts.

Watching her was a powerful reminder–one that I hope you’ll experience from seeing these photos–even if you know nothing about oxen and these competitions. Remember, she’s four years old–preschool age. If a picture isn’t worth a thousand words, here are the words: Never underestimate a kid.

"Okay, guys... we just need to wait here until you are hitched."

“Okay, guys… we just need to wait here until you are hitched to the drag.”

 

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Before the Birds Start Singing…

Let's get some thinking done before the birds in trees start singing and the phone starts tweeting.

Let’s get some thinking done before the birds in trees start singing and the phone starts tweeting.

One of the things I enjoy about starting my day between 4:30 and 5 a.m. is the quiet. At this time of the year even the birds aren’t up to sing. The phone doesn’t ring. (Well, usually… sometimes there’s the call inviting me to sub at school but it usually doesn’t come much before 6 a.m.) Unfortunately, email does arrive–but usually at a much slower pace than throughout the day so I can start t feel like I’m catching up. And, depending on what my plan is for the morning, I can of course “turn off” the email. I don’t mind bragging that I can accomplish lots in that hour or two of solitude with no interruptions or distractions.

This morning’s email included a point to an article on a site I particularly enjoy called “Brain Pickings.” (I’d been using the phrase “brain leaks” before I came across it and now I’m not sure but what I like their idea better. The idea of picking someone’s brain does seem more acceptable than looking at what leaks out. Maybe.)

Anyway, this particular article is “The Psychology of Writing.”But it’s really about way more than writing. The article is an in-depth review of a book by Ronald T. Kellogg by the same title. I gather from the review the book “explores how work schedules, behavioral rituals, and writing environments affect the amount of time invested in trying to write and the degree to which that time is spent in a state of boredom, anxiety, or creative flow.”

It’s particularly interesting that the book was written in 1994 – twenty years ago – before we became constantly connected to each other electronically. But it’s not much of a stretch to see some application and connection. Are we really more productive because our smart phones are strapped to our side? (Actually more often they are in the hand at at the ready.) Our “behavior rituals and writing environments” have definitely changed in the last twenty years.

There’s a quote on this site “I write to discover what I think” and I would offer that the psychology of writing is akin to the psychology of thinking.  For some reason, there is a fascination with writer’s environments and habits. Perhaps we could develop an interest in thinkers environments and habits. We may not all be “writers” in the professional sense, but we are all thinkers. I hope.

When I teach writing, my bias is “put the pen on the paper” (or your fingers on keys) and get started. That physical act will often get the creative juices flowing. Thinking is a bit more abstract, but physical acts or rituals can be developed. With the kids at school we sometimes go through a motion of putting imaginary thinking caps on to signal we are going to make a deliberate effort to think. It’s really fun to watch the kids’ countenances change. The room becomes quieter and facial expressions change to a serious, thoughtful look.

Certain types of thinking do require a disciplined approach and that can include consideration of the environment and perhaps some ritual, particularly when we are starting. Reading the habits of great writers can be particularly entertaining–although one might do well to wonder how much was about writing and how much was about branding. I can’t say that I’m conscious of any particular rituals or habits I use, but I’m working on some. I think it would be fun to be a “character.”

I do have some thinking rituals. I actually have two imaginary thinking caps that help me decide how I’m going to think about the topic at hand. One is divergent or lateral and I wear it when I’m trying to generate ideas or look for possibilities and consequences. The other is convergent and I wear it when I’m trying to get focused and task oriented. I’m convinced we should sometimes think about how we’re going to think as much as what we’re going to think about.

The more we write (or think) the more likely it is we will discover what works and what doesn’t work for us. I don’t have a writing cap, but I suppose I could. Writers and thinkers should develop a high level of self-awareness and a few rituals along with it. It will increase our efficiency and output. Let’s put on our thinking caps and read The Psychology of Writing, then give some thought to what thinking and writing environments and rituals work best for us.

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Some Opportunities…

I recently had the distinct privilege of helping out in the 4-H booth at the Piscataquis Valley Fair… in the process I met an awesome five year old who was quite excited over the prospect of entering Kindergarten next week. She thought it was really cool that I sometimes teach at her school as a substitute and wanted to be sure that I knew she spells her name with a “K” and not with a “C.”

back_to_school_supplies_400_clr_9051One of the great joys of being a sub is getting to experience the excitement of “back to school.” If you miss that excitement, there are some opportunities coming up!

I’ll be teaching the Substitute Training Course twice: On September 10 for PVAEC in Dover Foxcroft and on September 13 for RSU 19 in Newport. This one day course includes classroom management strategies and teaching stratgeies… for information or to register, contact PVAEC at 207 564-6525 for the Dover class and RSU 19 Adult Ed at 368-3290 for the Newport class.

On September 23, budding authors and publishers can attend the “Is there a book in you? Publish it!” class in Dover Foxcroft. This evening class explores the opportunity of “Indie Publishing” and print on demand technology.  This is an evening class that will also be offered in Newport on October 21.

If you are in the Bangor area, I’ll be a guest at the ERA Dawson Mixer  on September 8 for those with an interest in a real estate career. Typically, other speakers include lenders, insurers and title companies. For information about the Mixer call Julie Williams at 947-6788 or email juliewilliams@eradawson.com.

Of course there’s the usual schedule of Real Estate Courses: Sales Agent starting on September 17, Associate Broker, and Broker both starting in October.

Also in October, you can take the Your WordPress Website class in Dover Foxcroft at PVAEC or in Newport at RSU 19. Building a site can be fast, easy, and free!

You can also download a complete Fall 2014 Course Schedule and a Flyer for the Sub Course. Be like my new-found five year old friend and be ready to learn! (It does help if you can spell and write your name correctly!)

 

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