Tag Archives: kids

Get A Kid Going!

Give to Public Schools in Need! - Go to DonorsChoose.orgWhat a great resource this is… for teachers, kids, and anyone who wants to help them! DonorsChoose has been around for over ten years and is all about making it easy for folks to help classrooms in need. Teachers post classroom requests which “range from pencils for poetry to microscopes for mitochondria.” Supporters can give as little as $1 in support of the project of choice. You can truly give to a specific classroom. Projects are vetted and there’s tons of transparency and accountability, providing assurance that any donation made is a good investment in our kids’ education.

The project is nation-wide, but potential donors can search by state, town, and school. When I looked this morning there were 115 open projects in Maine–the closest to me right in Dover Foxcroft where the teacher is looking for help with securing an “incubator and humidity control system will allow my young scientists to explore embryology, life cycles and reproduction.” Current donations total just about half what’s needed, so they are well on their way!

Let’s set aside politics and the fact that we all are paying too much in taxes to consider what’s happening here… we have some teachers with a true passion for teaching and a need for a tool that we can provide fairly painlessly–remember, you can donate as little as a dollar. Unlike taxes, any contribution goes right to the project and classroom you choose and you have assurance your dollar(s) is well spent. Teachers aren’t paid to do this sort of fundraising–they do it because they love your kids and want them to learn.

A teacher in Milo is looking for some help with a digital player and dock so she can reel in some “reluctant readers” with a simple but effective incentive program.

The biggest problem you’ll have when you visit DonorsChoose.org is selecting which kids and teachers you want to support. Even if you can’t support them all, you’ll leave the site with a deeper appreciation for what is happening in our schools and what some teachers are trying to do.

My personal theme for this year is: “It is easier to build strong children than to fix broken adults.” Here’s a way to do just that. Teachers can also help by getting your need posted on the site. Let’s work together to get some kids going!

The Best of 2012

top_3_pedestal_400_clr_6491Thanks to WordPress tracking, I’ve learned which were my three “most viewed” posts of 2012. In case you missed them, here’s the report and another chance to read them:

  1. Making Change and Not Making Changes  included some musings about a summer vacation to “Amish Country” and an old favorite farm stand. What makes this most popular position even more interesting is that I published quite a few reviews on TripAdvisor relative to that same vacation… My most popular/liked review was “The More Things Change…” my observations regarding our return visit after a ten year absence. Perhaps, as it has been said, “The Amish are islands of sanity it the whirlpool of change.”
  2. Giving Up Teaching…  I don’t know how much my “attention-getting” headline had to do with the ranking of this post, but it seemed important to share an important shift in my focus when I’m in the classroom. While I don’t fully subscribe to the idea of replacing the “sage on the stage” with the “guide on the side,” I do believe “The ultimate classroom management takes place when we engage the learners’ mind as well as their pencils.”
  3. Ten Commandments For Teachers truly surprised me, perhaps because they date back some sixty years. Perhaps we have more sanity in a whirlpool of change! Personally, I hope most who read this also read Back to School Rules… there were only three!

And it does occur to me that assuming it’s not too late to make a New Year’s Resolution or two, you might want to read “Making Change And Not Making Changes” first!

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2013… with the hope that your “best of” for the year is awesome!

Won’t You Guide…?

For readers who do not know, I’ve worked with elementary kids on a volunteer basis for quite a few years… this year (at age 65) I’ve embarked a new “career” as an elementary substitute teacher.

When I got the call last Monday that I’d be needed at school, I was momentarily struck with the reality that going “to work” included the distinct possibly of not coming home. Like many, I’d been mourning the huge loss we experienced in Connecticut. As a society we’ve trusted teachers with our children’s education for a long time. The Newtown tragedy has demonstrated that we also trust those teachers and staff with our children’s very lives.

While I in no way want to diminish the loss of those children and adults, as time has passed I think we might consider that we are also mourning the loss of safe havens for children to learn. The grief that we are feeling calls out for answers and brings with it a rush to prevent this type of tragedy. We want to bring back those safe places.

One of the most meaningful things I learned about “classroom management” while preparing to become a substitute was the observation that “the only behavior you can truly control in your classroom is your own.”

boy_girl_flying_on_pencil_150_clr_186One day this week I was working with first graders on an art project. I’d been warned to keep them busy or “they will make your life miserable.” We’d been doing quite well, actually, when I suddenly lost control of the classroom. Amid the coloring and cutting and pasting and cries of “Mr. B, can you help me with this?” very suddenly and spontaneously one child started singing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Within seconds fifteen little voices chimed in and I was left to stand and watch the unfolding of what might be described as a “Normal Rockwell Moment.”  For at least six renditions of the song (the part they remembered) my life was anything but miserable.

But it was not because of anything I did.

Every sane person wants to prevent the type of tragedy we experienced on December 14. As we work through the grief, I believe we need to remember that six year old who decided to sing. To be sure, somebody taught him to sing. But he decided it was time to sing. If we don’t remember him and his choice, we are in danger of deluding ourselves into thinking we can fix this by controlling things (guns, videos, the media, etc.) and perhaps even people.

I’ve asked myself what I might do to prevent this type of tragedy and believe the long look answer lies in another truth:  “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.” While we cannot ignore those broken adults, we (collectively, not just teachers) are “breaking” children every day by missing opportunities, failing to provide structure, and in too many cases engaging in outright abuse and neglect. The same newspaper that headlined the Newtown events also carried a story of an eight year old girl who was raped. These tragedies deserve equal outrage.

Anyone who spends any time working in schools has met them–the kids we are breaking. A kid who is constantly angry for reasons we don’t yet understand–copes by screaming and pushing his way around. The loner who is always seen off by herself during recess…

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Just this week a nine year old confessed to being tired first thing in the morning explaining that her dad goes to work at 3 AM and she’s required to get up to care for her younger brother. She’s a real good kid and I think will grow up to be a responsible adult. I’m not indicting her Dad, because it’s likely an economic necessity. But she’s carrying a lot of weight on her young shoulders–can we be sure whether it will make or break her?

What happens to us shapes us, but we decide who we are. Those of us who are fortunate enough to work with kids have a key–we need to focus on building strong children who learn the skills–including the skill of self-control–that will allow them make good decisions about what they will do and who they will become.

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you’ll go down in history!

What Would Happen If…

christmas_tree_lights_flickering_150_clr_4360Our local elementary school has a seasonal “giving tree” in the hall where students can leave donations for the local food cupboard. A second grader and I were walking past it when my young friend asked, “Mr. Boomsma, what do you suppose would happen if every kid brought something for the tree every day from now until Christmas?”

Many will recognize this as a “teachable moment.” My adult brain considered whether we might explore the concept of sharing or take advantage of the opportunity to do some math. Her young brain didn’t wait. She asked a follow-up question.

“Do you think the school would explode?”

In a paranoid universe, we’d consider that language destructive–I’m quite sure if she and I had this conversation walking through an airport, we’d have found ourselves detained by airport security. And now, several weeks later, most of us are hurt, angry, and frustrated over a tragedy that reminds us–confronts us–with the reality that our imperfect world is a dangerous place that doesn’t always function in ways that make sense or suit us. Sometimes evil appears to triumph and it is easy to feel powerless in this world of uncertainty.

She might not know it, but I think my young friend understands power in ways that adults sometimes forget. She reminds us of the positive possibilities, even in the face of pain and sorrow. Let’s think about it. What would happen if each student brought one food item to school every day? I still haven’t done the math, but I do know that one can per student per day would mean a pretty big pile.  And with what I know about kids, I’d be willing to bet that it would become competitive–some kids would bring two cans and challenge their friends. Hopefully, the school wouldn’t explode, literally. But it might be in danger of collapse under the weight of that generosity and sharing.  All things considered, I’m not sure that would be destructive.

So in this time of sorrow and this season of giving, my friend has given us something to consider:

What would happen if everyone did one conscious, simple act of kindness and generosity every day?

Resource Recommendation

Strange coincidences… I actually lived in Coventry RI for one month (thirty six years ago!). Today one of my very best friends (and high school English teacher) lives there! And now, I’ve discovered a great resource there! The Coventry School District has developed a series of “tips for parents” that are awesome! I would deem them not just for parents, but for anyone who “works” with kids… the article on “Motivating Learning in Young Children” is a must read! I’ve added this link to the site permanently:


so you can always come back and find it! (For those seeking more indepth resources, many of these tips are based on information available at the National Association of School Psychologists website.)