Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Elementary School Reunion - Celebrating a Special School 40 Years Later

On a cold, rainy, Sunday evening about 40 former students of the Fisher Elementary School, Walpole, MA joined 7 former teachers to celebrate an incredible time in their lives at the first ever Fisher Elementary School Reunion.  These teachers and students all attended the elementary school between the years of 1971 - 1981.  In attendance were siblings, former camper/counselor, neighbors and friends.  While for some it may seem this was a trip down memory lane - for most it was a way to celebrate a special school, special educators and a special decade.

Paul Sowden, Pam Nobel, Ellie Muldoon, Tom Monaghan, Judy Donovan, Sue Kelly, Sue Gillam
It all started back in 2011 when Tom Monaghan, my former sixth grade teacher started a group on Facebook: "Students of Fisher School 1971-1981."  It didn't take long for former students and teachers to join.  (I think the group is up to 266 members and growing!).  Read about it here:  Social Media for Educators - Forty Years Later.

My Grade 3 Reading Teacher & Me
Conversations occur almost daily on the Facebook Group.  Recently, one of the conversations surrounded the idea of a "reunion".  Ron Spicer (Fisher class of '74) decided to do more than talk - he quickly organized the reunion (from his home in St. Louis).  He found a function room at a restaurant in the town.  He put out an all call for photos and memorabilia and created a slideshow.  He created a form to survey former school members and prepared name tags.  In two short weeks a "Fisher School Reunion" was born.

One of the many highlights of the evening included a game. One of our beloved teachers, Suzanne Hopkins Gillam, recreated her famous Quiz Show (which, back in the day it was rather revolutionary) based on Fisher trivia questions.  She even brought along her Quiz Show Buzzers!  Coins were given to teams who answered correctly! The team with the most coins received the coveted "Fisher School Trivia" Certificate.

My Trivia Team Captain (Sue Pollak-Kelly)
Throughout the evening some common themes emerged: "I'm here because I wanted to say Thank You!"   "I'm here because Fisher School set a strong foundation for me!"  "I'm here because I remember those days fondly".    Former students shared stories about their teachers and shared the difference these teachers made in their lives!  Former teachers shared the behind the scenes stories about that special time and how connected they felt to students and their families. (These were, after all,  the kind of teachers we invited to dinner, who played games with us at recess, who have attended our weddings - who were truly the Rockstars of that time!). 

I think Carol Reardon Hawk summed it up the evening best with her following post on FB:

"All I can say is if you ever have an opportunity to go back in time....do it! Had an incredible night of reminiscing and laughs with elementary school classmates and teachers!! Couldn't miss the opportunity to get a photo with my 4th grade, 5th grade and 6th grade teachers" Carol Reardon Hawk - Fisher Class of '78

Of course we are all looking forward to the NEXT Fisher School Reunion!  I know with more planning time and word of mouth - it will be even better attended.

Thank you Ron Spicer and Tom Monaghan and thank you Facebook for keeping us connected!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Inclusive Schools Week

"Ms. Albert, says, that everything we do goes out, like a ripple into the world." This excerpt is from the book, Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson, which our principal read to the class the other day as part of "Inclusive Schools Week".  The story is about a young school girl who misses several opportunities to befriend a classmate.  She finally makes a decision to be friendly to the other child only to find out that child moves away.  The end of the story is not what one would expect as the main character is left feeling she should have done things differently. 
Creating ripples by adding a kindness rock
The students (and I) were moved by this book.  So much so they were asking if there was a sequel. It gave us an opportunity to talk about friendship, inclusion and simple ways to make someone feel connected.   Next we discussed "Random Acts of Kindness".  Students brainstormed how to "Treat Others Like You Want to be Treated".  A few thoughts included: holding the door for someone, passing the ball to someone who usually doesn't get it; help find a missing item and Smile at someone.  

Knowing I must do something with these ideas,  I decided I needed to find a way for students to create "ripples" of their own.  I grabbed a container and filled it with water.  As I have a container of rocks in my classroom I grabbed those too.  And so, the Ten Days of School Random Acts of Kindness was born.  Each student who performs a RAK at school will drop a rock in the container at the end of the day.  We will celebrate the ripples that will surely ensue from these simple yet grand gestures.  
Creating Ripples of Kindness

We started on Friday and were able to collect 12 rocks in our container.  While hoping to fill that bucket before the holidays the long-term goal would be that these acts of kindness will continue way beyond our holidays and creep into our lives by habit!

Others:  What are some other RAK that could be added to our list for school?

Several other activities students completed as part of "Inclusive Schools Week" celebrated everyone's uniqueness.  A banner was created and each student in the school added their Thumbprint as well as their name.  The banner acted as sort of a pledge for students to include all in their daily activities.  To show commonalities as well as differences students wrote "I AM" poems.  The poem described student's role (brother, son, cousin etc); their hobbies/interests and their personality traits (thoughtful, caring, friendly etc). Students shared and displayed these wonderful pieces of themselves. 

While these were just some of the activities our school shared during this 'highlighted' week, our plan is to continually promote acceptance of diversity. I leave you with this quote by Max De Pree, "We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing and inclusion"


Inclusive Schools Week  - Information by the Inclusive Schools Network

Teaching Kids to Embrace Diversity - Ideas broken into age categories from 0 - 11

Cybraryman: Character and Ethics. This collection is filled with all kinds of resources for Character Education which includes Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

20 Random Acts of Kindness for Kids: A list of other ideas that go beyond the classroom.