Contrast

“We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams.” ~Albert Einstein

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Heart-a-Day #26: Romance

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again today:  Not every lesson will go exactly as planned.  To be honest, most days are somewhat… average.  We do some reading, then some writing, then some counting, and then some singing.  We might discuss something, practice something else and have time to play.  So there’s nothing spectacular about those days.  What about the days when nothing goes right?  I’m running late and can’t get fully prepped.  Everyone has to use the restroom, seemingly at the same time and all day.  Someone has a bloody nose, the phone won’t stop ringing and my assessments of student learning bear an uncomfortable resemblance to a clogged drain.  But then there are the exceptional days, when magic happens.  A struggling student suddenly understands the concept.  Everyone is being kind and getting along.  The class bursts into spontaneous singing and dancing at a perfectly appropriate time.  Maybe my lesson takes an unexpected turn, but it ends up better than I expected.  I need to use these special “contrast” days (OK, sometimes they’re just hours or even minutes) to remind myself that everything is actually progressing exactly as it should.  It’s our nature as educators to want everything perfect all the time.  We try to control as much as we can to make sure our days go just right.  Being mindful of the contrast gives me permission to relax and allow great work to just happen.

When do you notice the contrast in your days?  Is it when things are going smoothly and an unexpected wrinkle suddenly occurs?  Or does it happen when things are at their most challenging and then you see a student’s smile and the twinkle in their eyes?  Take time to notice the contrast when it happens.  Then acknowledge the amazing work you do and recognize the difference you’re making in the lives of your students.

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

Being Centered

“Music is an outburst of the soul.” Frederick Delius

Heart-a-Day #25A

Music and song are at the core of my being.  I feel centered when I can incorporate music into a lesson.  I’m in my element.  When I teach the songs for my own “Gingerbread Man – The Musical,” I come alive.  I feel energized.  The students’ enthusiasm is exciting and we have fun retelling this story through song.  We even create some simple sets, costumes and add a bit of choreography.  When we perform our musical for families and guests, it’s received with jubilant applause.  As the students share their favorite parts, it’s easy to see their powerful learning.  Adding music to a lesson is an effective way for students to master content.  When I feel centered by sharing my love of music, I’m creating an engaging and fun environment for learning.

What centers you in teaching?  Is there a favorite movie you can incorporate into a lesson about different cultures?  Can your love of photography and the pictures you’ve taken provide a meaningful writing lesson for your students?  Finding your center can ground you as a teacher.  It allows you to be in your element.

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

Inspired

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Pablo Picasso

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Heart-a-Day #24: River Peace, in Memoriam

River peace was my friend and mentor.  He was a passionate teacher and taught with passion.  He loved teaching yoga, conservation and civil rights.  He even started an after-school yoga club for students of all ages.  He fought for the underdog and made his classroom a place of tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness.  His students quickly learned he was a safe person with whom they could share their concerns and fears.  River Peace inspired me to be a passionate teacher.  His excitement about his students and his classroom was contagious.  His professional drive and willingness to take risks inspired me to be a better teacher.  Sadly, he was taken from our world far too soon.  But I’m grateful for his friendship and everything he taught me.

Is there a teacher who inspires you?  How do they use their passion to impact their teaching?  What lessons have you learned from them?  Take time to thank them.  Your recognition means the world to them.  And by the way, the chances are pretty good that YOU’RE inspiring another teacher.  Pay it forward!

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

The Curve

“Be drawn to the visual arts for it can expand your imagination.” Barbara Januszkiewicz

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Heart-a-Day #23

It’s pretty much a given that I’ll get a “curve” thrown at me each day.  One day, it’s too many students absent so we can’t finish a project we started the day before.  Another day, it’s a dispute between two students who’ve always gotten along fine.  Sometimes, my carefully planned lesson just… fails.  These curves can upset the balance of the classroom OR they can be an opportunity for creativity.  So, if there aren’t enough students to finish the project, maybe I’ll just put it aside.  Or we’ll start a similar project that doesn’t need as many hands.  If that scuffle occurs, it’s a chance to teach a song or tell a story about handling conflicts.  And with that lesson that flops, the best bet is to acknowledge it with the students, figure out what didn’t click and find the humor in the situation to turn it around.  When I approach the curve with creativity, things have a way of ultimately succeeding.

Is there a way to meet your curve creatively?  How can you turn that problem into an opportunity?  Step, back take a breath and stare down the curve.  Then trust your creativity.

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

 

Art and Science

“The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin even, or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity.” Mae Jemison

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Heart-a-Day #22: Picaso at the Lapine Agile

Part of our science curriculum includes learning about trees – how they grow, their parts and the products that come from them. We’ll take a walk to see the different kinds of trees on our campus. Often, we’ll draw pictures of the trees during these walks. We’ll even put harmless labels on some of the trees to identify their parts. We’ll use these same labels for our drawings. I’ll change the words to the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” to “Leaves, Branches, Trunk and Roots.” As we sing, we’ll act it out. Back in the classroom, we’ll read the A-B-C story “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” (written by Bill Marten, Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Louis Ehlert). Next time we’re outside, we’ll place letters of the alphabet on the trunk of a nearby palm tree. As the year and seasons progress, we’ll draw and display trees that represent each season. For example, in Winter, we’ll show a birch tree with no leaves. In Spring, we’ll use a cherry tree full of blossoms. When I combine science with creativity, the students are engaged and their learning grows.

How can you use creativity to deepen your students’ learning in science? Perhaps they could draw a picture to hypothesize the results of an experiment. After the experiment, could they draw a picture of the results, then compare their two drawings? Is there a relevant song to introduce a science topic? Using the arts to augment your science lessons will give your students solid roots.

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

 

Story of Love

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Scott Adams

Heart-a-Day #21: NPH Story of Love

One of my passions is musical theatre. I love it all: the songs, the stories, the choreography, the costumes and the sets. I love the creativity. I take every possibility to bring my love of musical theatre to my students. First thing in the morning, when we’re listening to “elevator music” to get ready for our day, I sing along with every musical theater melody I recognize. The students cheer (which is my version of a curtain call). In the fall, we read several versions of “The Gingerbread Man.” The finale of our study is our production of “Gingerbread Man – The Musical!” I’ve changed the lyrics of several familiar and simple tunes to re-tell the story. The students gain a deeper understanding of the story and we all love performing the songs. When I teach through my passion, my students become passionate about learning.

What are your passions and how can you share them with your students? Can you take your students on a virtual trip to a favorite vacation spot? Is there a game or sport you love that can be incorporated into a lesson? Your students will learn more when you add your passions to your lessons.

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)

Fresh Air

“A picture book is a small door to the enormous world of the visual arts, and they’re often the first art a young person sees.” Tomie dePaola

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Heart-a-Day #20: Reverse Bubbles

Our Scholastic book orders arrived today. This time, I ordered two fiction books about narwhales and their resemblance to unicorns. You see, unicorns are my latest spirit animal (and will probably soon be joined by narwhales). As an aside, even though you probably already know this, a narwhale is a small Arctic whale. The males have a long forward-pointing spirally twisted tusk growing from one of its teeth. Now, back to the subject: Getting new books is like fresh air in the classroom. I love figuring out how I can incorporate them into our curriculum. When I show excitement about books, the students become excited. With the narwhales, I remember that I have another book about a horse that wants to be a unicorn. Good pairing. This goes beyond a reading lesson. Perhaps we’ll write our own story about narwhales and unicorns. Maybe we’ll create math problems around different kinds of whales. What if we design and build a life size model of a narwhale out of recycled materials? Of course, we’ll draw and decorate our own versions of fantasy unicorn narwhales. I love breathing this fresh air.

Which books are you excited to share with your students? How do these books inspire you and your class? New books and creative applications are everyone’s fresh air. Take a breath…and teach!

 

(Access to these photographs does not constitute a transfer of copyright or a license for commercial use.  The images are for personal use only.  No portion of the images can be used without the expressed written permission of Michael B. Stanley, Jr.)