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Top 5 Friday: Records, animals, smiley faces, and more

Well, it’s not Friday anymore, but I promise I have a good reason for not finishing my Top 5 post finished two days ago! After school on Friday, I zoomed to the airport to fly out to meet my niece for the first time. We’ve been bonding ever since, and even though she’s wailing in the photo below, I like to think she’s crying tears of joy at meeting her favorite aunt.

Let’s get to five of the many great things that happened in Love Hall last week:

5. Record-breaking swimming success: The culmination of the swimming units for Third, Fourth, and Fifth Graders in P.E. is one of the most exciting times of the year. At the Third Grade meet, the excitement was worth the slight hearing loss due to the constant cheers (screams). Two Pre-First classes made the trek to Turner to watch their buddies participate in relays and individual events. We saw history made! McKinley Bandy and Nyvette Gray’s student, Cate, broke the record for the Girls 25 Yard Butterfly. The record had been in place since 1985! Way to go, Cate!

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Can you hear the cheers/screams echoing? Third Graders have so much spirit!

Cate, our Third Grade record breaker


4. Wildcats, horses, and chickens: I learned a lot about Westminster by reading this blog post by Pre-First teachers Kimberly Rimmer and Jennifer Griffith. Assistant Headmaster Scoot Dimon visited with students to share the history of our school, how we became the Wildcats, why we enjoy Coke products, and lots of information about the rich family history of Westminster. Also, First Grade teacher Andrea Haan visited with the students to tell them all about Cluck Hall!

3. GOAL: A great highlight of the week was the launching of GOAL groups. So much time, careful thought, and detailed planning went into creating the groups of students receiving small group instruction. We’ve had two meetings so far, and the students in my group have shown compassion for each other, self-reflection skills, a genuine interest in the materials we’ll use throughout our sessions, and a sense of humor. If you have questions about your child’s GOAL group, email your child’s homeroom teachers.

2. Chalk time: If you’ve walked through Carpool A and the garden, you’ve noticed the chalk drawings decorating the area. Members of the Kindness Club spent Tuesday afternoon adorning the concrete with happy messages and pictures so that the first thing people see when they arrive at Love Hall is love! Some of the First Graders created a game in which one can step only on the smiley faces on the stairs, avoiding the frowny faces.

KC chalk game 10-6-15

A new game: Step only on the smiley faces! Avoid the frowny ones!

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Happy chalk drawing!

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When the message is encouragement and love, we’re not sticklers for correct spelling

1. An honor for one of Westminster’s finest: Did you see the announcement in the Weekly Parent Update about the one and only Nancy Beane? Mrs. Beane, Westminster’s wonderful Associate Director of College Counseling, recently was named president-elect of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Here’s another article about this exciting announcement.

Happy long weekend! Teachers and staff will be at school on Tuesday, and students will return on Wednesday. Enjoy the extra time together!

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Rocks, rabbits, LEGOs, and more!

We are almost finished with the sixth week of school! How did that happen? Time flies when you’re having fun in Love Hall. Read on for seven fairly unrelated but fun things to know about our year so far!

1. Fancy decor: My wall tree gets “leafier” by the day! Almost all students’ and teachers’ names are on a leaf. I love to see them when I walk into my room each morning, and I hope that kids and adults feel like they belong in there with me.

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Day one — an empty tree

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Six weeks into school — check out my tree full of names!

2. Rocks in your shoe: How do you know if your problem is “big enough” that you should seek out your school counselor? Here’s the simple way I explain to students how I can help them with their problems:

“If you had sand in your shoe, could you walk?” I ask the students, holding up a small bag of sand. “Sure,” they reply, “but it would uncomfortable — weird — annoying. I’d want to dump it out!” The grains of sand represent tiny problems or nuisances that kids can take care of by themselves. Through our SEL/Guidance lessons (and everyday teachings by all adults and school and home!), kids can learn problem-solving strategies to deal with sand problems.

Next, I hold up a bag of pebbles. “What about these? Could you walk if you had pebbles in your shoe?” Students’ responses vary, but usually they say, “Yes, you could walk, but it would hurt. You’d be thinking about the pebbles when you take a step.” Pebbles represent the problems that cause pain or feelings of discomfort, and for these, kids can reach out for adult help. I encourage students to go to their teachers as a first point of contact. Are they experiencing friendship drama? Is there a situation at home they need to talk through? Homeroom teachers can help. As their school counselor, I can help, too. A student can write me a note and leave it in the mailbox outside of my door, and soon I’ll find him or her to check in.

Finally, I hold up a bag of rocks the size of small potatoes. “Could you walk if these were in your shoe?” All of the students say, “No way!” I agree. Rock problems are the ones that are so big that functioning normally at school is almost impossible. Teachers and classmates can tell that something’s wrong. Kids should seek adult help immediately. Near the beginning of the school year, a teacher brought a tearful student to my door. The student wanted to participate in morning meeting, but her “rock problem” was weighing so heavily on her heart and mind that she couldn’t think of anything else. We spent 30 minutes together, coloring pictures and talking about her situation.

We all have “sand problems,” “pebble problems,” and “rock problems.” At school, your children are surrounded by adults who guide them toward solving their own problems or step in to provide needed assistance. Don’t forget that this goes for parents, too. Worried about something your child has shared about the day at school? Send me an email or call anytime, and we’ll talk through it.

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Sand problems, pebble problems, and rock problems — we all have them!

3. Pre-First lessons: In Pre-First SEL/Guidance lessons, we’ve focused on good listening skills and the reasons for why we need to be good listeners at school (and home!). Howard B. Wigglebottom is a very silly rabbit who makes poor choices at school by not listening to his teachers and friends. During a stint in time-out, he realizes that it’s up to him to make better choices. He decides to use his eyes and ears to listen, stay safe, respect his classmates and teacher, and allow others to learn. Students enjoyed watching Howard’s animated book online (see this story and many more on www.wedolisten.org) and then coloring a paper, making Howard as crazily decorated as possible. They’re learning that Ms. Strother likes for each student’s creation to be different from the next student’s creation!

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It’s fun to color outside the lines and make your Howard look different from everyone else’s Howard!

4. Fantastic Five: Do you know the members of the School Counseling Department? I’m thankful to be part of an awesome team. Tray Malloy is the Middle School counselor, and in the Upper School, there are three school counselors to take good care of Westminster’s oldest and wisest Wildcats: Rose Harper, Morgan DiOrio, and Ben Merrill. Our contact information and philosophy statement, mission statement, and belief statement are on my Counseling Department page.

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The School Counseling Department of The Westminster Schools: Tray Malloy, Kate Strother, Rose Harper, Morgan DiOrio, and Ben Merrill

5. For the birds: The After School Program (ASK!) club of which I am a part is called the Kindness Club. Every Tuesday afternoon is a new adventure. To be kind to our bird population, last week we made a mess pinecone bird feeders to hang outside. From the “to do” list to the final product, it was a packed 60 minutes of stickiness, controlled chaos, and forest exploration. As I explained that they could wait for my assistance, the students surprised me by carefully tying their own pinecones on the branches. It was a humbling lesson for me! Next time, I’ll step back and allow these capable students in Pre-First, First Grade, and Second Grade to lead as I follow.

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Spreading an allergy-friendly mixture of wet ingredients on our pinecones

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After rolling the pinecones in birdseed, we were ready to hang them as a treat for our bird friends!

6. Piecing things together: The members of the Lower School Robotics team, the WiredCats, have been busy building mission models and researching “the fascinating world of trash” in preparation for participating in the FIRST LEGO League Challenge with teams across the state. Interested to know more about what we do? Check out the FIRST LEGO League website.

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Fifth Grade WiredCats prepare to carefully — very carefully — follow a few dozen steps to build a mission model

7. Game on: Finally, here’s a great blog post from Art it Out Therapy Center about how parents can use games to help improve social skills and self-management in their children. One of the keys to this: Talking before, during, and after the game. Read and bookmark this page for future reference! (I have quite a few card games and board games in my office to get kids talking when we’re in a small group. They share, we all learn, everyone has fun!) Happy gaming!

Kindness Club returns!

Last Tuesday afternoon, 16 students gathered in the ASK! building for the third installment of the Kindness Club. There is a great mix of Pre-First, First, and Second Graders in the group, and it will be fun for kids to get to know Wildcats in other grades! Together we will perform acts of kindness in Love Hall and around Westminster’s campus.

After introducing ourselves, we drew a diagram outlining the concept of “paying it forward.” The students began to get excited about the possibility of making small changes in the world through the activities we’ll do in future meetings.

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Next, we traveled to a Third Grade classroom to watch we watched this YouTube video that shows a chain reaction of acts of kindness. The children saw that although some acts of kindness cost money, such as buying a meal for someone else, many acts of kindness are completely free.

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Enthralled by the video of a chain reaction of acts of kindness

KC3, girls watching video March 2015

Kindly sharing one chair

Upon leaving the classroom, we saw birthday girl Mrs. DuPriest in the hallway. We realized we didn’t have to wait for a future meeting to start our acts of kindness, and as our first official and impromptu act as a group, we sang “Happy Birthday” to her. She was thrilled by our surprise serenade!

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A very happy birthday serenade for Mrs. DuPriest!

Tomorrow we’ll meet again for another adventure! In the meantime, spread kindness! 🙂

Kindness Club: Week 7, pumpkin fun

Yesterday was a beautiful day for decorating mini pumpkins with the Kindness Club! Students chose three pumpkins and decorated them with Sharpies. They could keep one and give away two to special people. As we decorated, we talked about the special people who might receive these happy Halloween gifts.

Then, we made a thank you sign for my friend who purchased the pumpkins over the weekend. “What is his favorite color so we can draw the sign in it?” asked one club member. We sent my friend a text message, asking about his color preferences. When he wrote back that he loves green and blue, the students got right to work! It’s so fun to watch a blank piece of paper transform into a wild masterpiece of words, drawings, and exclamation points.

Finally, we delivered pumpkins to a few special friends: Mrs. Tozzer, Mr. Mosley, and Mrs. Rouse in ASK. Mrs. Tozzer, who received two pumpkins, said, “Thank you so much! My first Halloween pumpkins!” See some pictures of our fun time below!

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KC making sign at carpool 10-27-14

KC making Barnett sign 10-27-14

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KC Barnett sign 10-27-14

Top 5 Friday: Coins, beans, and games

5. Love for Habitat: This morning, Upper School service prefects stood at the flagpole to collect donations for Habitat for Humanity from our students’ banks. Thank you to the older students for getting to school early to help Mrs. Boggs collect the money, and thank you to the Lower School Wildcats for their generosity! The next flagpole collection will be Thursday, October 23.

Habitat picstitch

 

4. Love for beans, too: Yesterday, our Flik nutritionist, Melanie Lester, set up a table in the lunchroom to highlight the bean of the month, the black bean. Students were encouraged to try the black bean habanero pepper dip. Most of them sported a sticker indicating that they had been a food explorer and tried a new recipe! Stay tuned… next month, there will be a new bean to enjoy!

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Bean love

 

3. Games galore: The Second Grade cardboard arcade is a spectacular culmination of students’ hard work in Design Thinking. Along the lines of the inspiring Caine’s Arcade, our students worked in groups to build games. Check out the fantastic (and difficult to win!) games below.

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2. A new role: Next Friday is an extremely special day in Love Hall, Grandparents and Special Friends Day. Most students will parade around their beloved family members, showing off the art room, gym, and other special locations. Students whose relatives are unable to attend will have a faculty or staff member as their special friend. Just a few minutes ago, a third grader stopped by to ask if I would accompany her around the building next Friday. I was so happy! I told her Yes and that I wished it were next Friday already! When I went through the elementary school here, my grandparents lived in California and Massachusetts, and they weren’t able to travel to visit for this day. I was so lucky, though, that my friend and classmate, Jenny, was the granddaughter of our wonderful principal, Judy Marine. Mrs. Marine did double duty and acted as my substitute grandmother, and now I have the honor of acting as someone’s special friend on this special day. Isn’t it amazing how things come back around?

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I can’t wait for this special day!

 

1. Kindness Club note discovered! Speaking of things coming back around, earlier this week, I received an email from a father of a Pre-First student. He wrote, “We wanted you to know that our son got a book from the library, and we were elated to find a Kindness Club note (see photo attached). It made our day. We will be sure to pass on the kindness. Hope you are having a great day!” I was so thrilled that a) the note was discovered by a family who would make sure to pass on the kindness and b) the parent would take the time to send me an email. Here is last year’s post about the day when the Kindness Club wrote and hid the notes in the library books.

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A photo from a kind father who discovered this Kindness Club note in a library book with his son

 

Happy weekend to all! Don’t forget to collect coins, eat beans, play games, hug your family, and pass on kindness! 🙂

Kindness Club: Weeks 5 and 6, Brainstorming and lemonade

Last Monday, the Kindness Club kids engaged in roundtable brainstorming session about potential activities we could do in the coming weeks. (We also had a snack because at 4:00 in the afternoon, everyone deserves the kindness and happiness that accompany a bag of microwave popcorn.) Below is a photo of the ideas the students generated. The ideas with the yellow stars next to them were the most popular options.

KC idea list

 

Yesterday, we fulfilled our yellow-starred idea of making a treat and giving it away. Last year’s “free lemonade” stand with the first generation of Kindness Club members was a fun success, so Kindness Club 2.0 repeated it! We had to decide who the recipients of the lemonade would be, and since there was a softball game happening next to the ASK building, we thought of the spectators and players. “We should give it to the other team, too!” said Hicks. A very kind idea. The children thought that it would be kind to offer lemonade to all of the children in ASK, too.

After making a plan, three club members offered to make posters, and they got right to work. The remaining members carefully poured water into the tea container lent to us by the kind lunchroom staff members, poured in the packets of lemonade mix, stirred the delicious concoction, and made signs for the outside of the container.

We set up the container on the wall outside of the ASK building, and the club members efficiently advertised their endeavor by holding their signs and yelling, “Freeeeeee lemonaaaaade!” Other students quickly poured the lemonade into cups and gave them away to the swarms of ASK students who descended upon us. They also carefully carried full cups to the softball spectators. (We didn’t get to offer any to the busy players.) As expected, the lemonade recipients were grateful and happy, which made the Kindness Club members happy, too!

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Step 1: Make the “Free Lemonade!” posters

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Step 2: Make the lemonade

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Step 3: Prominently display the lemonade

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Step 4: Walk in the direction of thirsty people

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Step 5: Offer free lemonade to thirsty people and receive kind “Thank you”s in return!

Kindness Club: Week 4, caring for the community

This week’s weather was perfect for an outdoor adventure with the Kindness Club! Although picking up trash and recyclable items might not sound appealing to some, the club members eagerly donned one plastic glove each and began the cleanup campaign. They took turns carrying the trash bag and the recycling bag as we cleaned up quite a bit of snack trash on the playground and then along the sidewalk to Turner Gym. When we arrived at the gym, the kids wanted to peek at the creek, so we started to walk toward the back of the parking lot and the beginning of the trail. Suddenly dozens of male and female cross country runners were upon us! As they sprinted, ran, jogged, and eventually speedwalked past us, we cheered and clapped in encouragement. It was fun to see some of the older students wave their breathless thanks. After the parade of athletes, we went to the bridge over the creek for a quick peek, and then it was time to head back to ASK with our two bags of items!

I observed very kind behavior among club members this week. The boys and girls were patient with each other, never using a bossy or whiny tone of voice. They were proud of their trash and recycling “haul,” and one student vowed to encourage classmates to always pick up their own trash on the playground. Way to go, Kindness Club!

KC members with trash bag, Sept. 2014

The Kindness Club, fall 2014

KC peek at the creek, Sept. 2014

A peek at the creek

KC recycling and trash bags, Sept. 2014

Our “haul” — recycling bag on the left, trash bag on the right

Kindness Club: Week 3, artwork for others

During today’s Kindness Club meeting, the members drew pictures for a teacher, fellow student, and/or family member or their choice. Most children chose to make their drawings anonymous. One member drew a picture for another member as a thoughtful surprise! Everyone worked together to clean up the art supplies and stickers, and then the drawings for teachers were quickly delivered to their mailboxes in the faculty lounge (while the eager, very curious children peeked through the doorway). On the way back to the ASK! building, we worked on saying “Hello!” or “Good afternoon!” to people we passed. One student went the extra mile and called out to a parent walking with her two sons, “You look very nice today!” All in all, it was a successful meeting of the Kindness Club!

KC kids drawing pictures Sept 2014

Creative minds at work

Kindness Club: Week 2, big ideas and small steps

The second meeting of the Kindness Club was full from beginning to end! Here’s a recap of our 60 minutes of fun:

– All six club members were present this week, so we reintroduced ourselves (two Pre-First students and four First Graders).

– Big ideas: To understand WHY we do acts of kindness, we drew and talked about the concept of “paying it forward.” One member said, “It could go on and on until the whole world is kind!!”

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How quickly our acts of kindness can spread!

– We watched this wonderful five-minute YouTube video and counted the acts of kindness (we lost count at 10): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRZyOtiyz7E

– Small steps: We voted on what we’d like to do for our activity: 1) walk around and look for things we could do to help people OR 2) write nice notes and draw nice pictures to give to others. Choice #1 was the winner, so off we went!

– We stopped in the ASK! foyer to find out if we could help with something, and Mrs. Rouse whispered that it would be so helpful if we cleaned up the blocks in one of the rooms. Done!

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Teamwork! Let’s get these blocks put away!

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These two took the initiative to clean up more than the block area

– As we walked toward Love Hall, we discovered an abandoned Hello Kitty water bottle and a pencil at Carpool B. Lost & Found — done!

– We visited Nurse Keri Caldwell to see if we could help her. She needed a pencil to be returned to Mrs. Smith. Done!

– We visited the gym to see if the P.E. teachers needed help. We didn’t find the teachers, but we did run around for three minutes for fun!

– We saw Mrs. Chapman and Mrs. Haan in their classroom, and they said they had two jobs for the Kindness Club: to find playground toys that had rolled all the way to the fence at the bottom and to check the chicken coop for fresh eggs. Done! Club members found a basketball, a hula hoop, and a few small pieces of trash on the playground, which Mrs. Chapman really appreciated. She gave Leila the key to the padlock so that we could put the items back where they belonged. Mrs. Haan appreciated that we checked for eggs.

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Heading to the fence on the search for runaway playground toys

The padlock is off, and the basketball is going back where it belongs!

With two minutes left, we headed back to the ASK! building to review the small acts of kindness we had done. We can’t wait for next week’s adventures!

Top 5 Friday: Legos, Kindness Club, and a 5th grade gentleman

5. Ice bucket challenges: Throughout the week, quite a few Love Hall faculty members accepted and participated in the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness for ALS. Have you seen the video of Mr. McKnight, Ms. Tedesco, and Ms. Padgett getting drenched? Check it out on Westminster’s Facebook page! Mr. Mosley, Ms. Throckmorton, Ms. Boyette, Ms. Hight, Ms. Heller, Mr. Sottnick, Mrs. Dick, Mrs. Kopp, Ms. Linkon, and Mrs. Stallworth were some of the other participants. 

4. A personal Legoland: Here’s a sentence I had never heard before this week: “Ms. Strother, get ready for your whole life to change if you go to my basement.” The first grade boy who had just said this through a mouthful of green beans looked at me. I looked at him and raised an eyebrow. He continued excitedly, “I have thousands of Legos. They will change your life! I promise!”

3. Thinking of others: A second grade girl approached me in the hallway and said, “I have an idea that I have been thinking about. I want to talk to you about it. What if everybody in the school brought in coins, and we put all of the coins all together, and then we gave the coins to a school that doesn’t have a lot of money?” She and I have a meeting scheduled for next week.

2. Kindness Club: Monday was the first meeting of this semester’s Kindness Club in the ASK! program, and we began our time together by being kind to fellow members and to ourselves. Club members decorated small treasure boxes to keep at home. Next week, the students will learn about the concept of “paying it forward.” Throughout the semester, we’ll be out and about, spreading kindness to unsuspecting Westminster teachers, staff members, and students!

1. Quiet thoughtfulness: Yesterday morning, I peeked into the chapel as two fifth grade classes began a joint morning meeting, and the teachers and students invited me to stay. All of the chairs were taken, and as I looked around for a place to sit on the floor, a boy quietly stood up and moved to the ground. He drew no attention to himself; he didn’t even make eye contact with me. He didn’t ask for a “thank you.” A true gentleman.

Actions really do speak louder than words.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Kindness Club back in action