Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Goals, You Matter, Zero Talent

The students enjoyed Silver Packages and were thoughtfully challenged by the question, “Who do you owe a debt of gratitude?”.  In past years I have talked about New Year’s celebrations, traditions, and resolutions, and had students write resolutions.  This year, when I received an email from ClassDojo titled, The perfect activity to kick off 2017 🎉, I was excited to have the 3-5 students grapple with becoming goal setters.   The challenge for students was to set a short-term, 3-6 month goal, one that didn’t have to be school related. It became obvious to me that there were key ideas in my What Do You Think? blog post that I wanted students to hear, believe and ponder.

Knowing that the You Matter message could be difficult for some elementary students to understand, I used examples about my “ability” to jump a distance.  Even before I began my journey and while I was on my journey to reach my jumping goal, I was enough, just as I was.  I introduced Angela Maiers to the students as my friend and shared with them that even though Angela and I had never met, she has impacted my life through the You Matter manifesto.  I showed them my You Matter shirt and began to slowly read the You Matter manifesto to the students, making eye contact around the room and gesturing to them as I spoke. Students had time to read the manifesto to themselves.

We have discussed before “that there is only one you”.  I demonstrated that, “Once I move forward, the choice and time to move any other direction are no longer an option for me, at least not in the same way.  Each decision, or lack of one, shapes what happens next - what I see, who I meet, what my options are to do next, etc”.  Decisions right now affect this afternoon, and that affects tomorrow, etc., culminating into the larger timeframes of life. I shared one thing that all three (3) of my sons can do that isn’t graded - they can get themselves up in the morning without any prodding, which allows more than just to be on time.  This will continue to reap benefits for them and I’m sure it will be valued by their employer. Reading from a vast variety of information sources I remembered and shared with students that the act of putting their goal in writing was powerful and the simple act of writing it down increased the likelihood that they would reach their goal. Wish I would have shared that it has to do with our brains.

We went through the ClassDojo goal setting activity and I reinforced that the goal did not have to be school related.  I introduced students to the Zero Talent list.  I used the example that I was an excellent softball player, but my coach had instructed me not to swing at the 1st pitch.  Glancing around the media center, I asked a student from each class to throw me a pitch.  You guessed it! I swung.  “Was I coachable?” “NO!”  We talked about the importance of making their goal measureable, referring back to my jumping example for distance and time to achieve the goal.  After a Kagan Think, Pair, Share the students began to write their goal and steps.  For the second group of classes - I added the You Matter message on their paper - I wanted them to have a copy of the manifesto with their goal.   The You Matter manifesto and the Zero Talent image were available for students to refer to, and many used the concepts in their goals.

The majority of students set goals for sports and school. It was rewarding and exciting to see students incorporate items from the zero talent skills list and to hear them share with each other about their goals, contributions and gifts.  

These resonated with me …

My goal is to tell the truth.

Make it through the week.
I need to get better at getting up.

Respect my parents.

Be on(e)  time.

I want to get better at building and diesing. (designing)

Be thankful.

Thank you, students and Angela Maiers.  I am very thankful indeed!



Friday, January 6, 2017

Coding Club - Our Last Meeting

Today was our last 2nd & 3rd grade coding club!  

The students took a survey and made word clouds today as part of our last meeting. I wanted feedback on what they enjoyed, would change, and most importantly to reflect on our time together.

Students learned and reinforced several skills as they created their word clouds and uploaded them to the Padlet. Most importantly, early finishers transferred their knowledge helping others! (Wink) Here’s what I asked them to do: Make a word cloud about coding using the Word Clouds app.  Save to the camera Roll. Put the word cloud on this padlet.

I saw one student today at The Ned Show Assembly, during media class, and in the lunchroom.  Each time he told me that he never wanted our coding club to end and that he would not want to leave the media center when our club time was over today.  His word cloud was my favorite! Can you guess which one it was?

Enjoy the padlet here or via the QR code below.

My favorite was ...

I was impressed at the time students took thinking about their responses and the clarifying questions they asked me before responding. Now to the survey data!

This response warmed my heart! I wonder who wrote it!
My favorite thing(s) about coding club ... "My favorite thing about coding club is that we learn new things and I love mrs crook."

I should have asked the students why they chose their favorite coding tool.  “Other” could mean that they couldn’t pick just one …?

I guess one (1) OK for how I did isn’t bad :)

I’m especially thankful for all the students who hugged and thanked me on their way out of the media center as we played Emily Arrow's "I Am Yoga" song.  It’s inspired by the book I Am Yoga written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.  I LOVE it!  It’s playing now as I type :)

Enjoy via SafeShareTV.

Wishing you the best on your journey.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

What do you think?

Author’s note: post inspired by this Facebook memory


Reading  numerous blogs and news articles I have an open mind when it comes to the challenges surrounding education and the potential solutions to multifaceted issues we face.

Thankfully, I tempered my approach and response to the grades our three very different sons have received. Of course we praised our high achiever/performer, but more than that we championed his passion for subjects and interests for what now has become central to his major in college.  If you follow my blog you know about another son’s coffee table military encyclopedia weighing close to 5 pounds.  I’m pleased to tell you that we supported his interests as well with the same results. He was recognized glowingly when awarded the character award in 8th grade by his team of teachers - I love it when the video pops up on the “on this day in Facebook” memories.  He’s  now a Cadet Private at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina - I love how that sounds!  Falling somewhere in the middle is our other son. Yes, you guessed it he is all over the place.  Working hard for each point - how fortunate for him a 10 point scale was adopted this year.

What do these arbitrary grades mean anyway and do they do more harm than good?  A snapshot on a random day, at a random time? What about the research that supports school beginning later in the day? Where is the room for passion, creativity, discovery, … ?  Isn’t that what is really important to individuals? What would you add that is missing from the crowded school day?  I love my friend, Angela Maiers, and Choose2Matter.  Our families, schools, communities and world need our students discovering and adopting the You Matter message in their lives.


There are so many things we don’t measure or grade, like the ability to save someone’s life through training in a club, having compassion for others, being empathetic, being able to get yourself out of bed each day without prodding, etc.

Available everywhere now, sadly I do not know who the“10 Things That Require Zero Talent” list should be attributed to. You can learn more or refamiliarize yourself with the list here.


There’s even a twist on the 1st list.

How can we embed the items on the lists in our school day?

I have more questions than answers.  Here’s another - what do you think?

As my rambling comes to a close on New Year’s Eve 2016 I want you to take inspiration from Peter H. Reynolds on this day in 2013:


Happy New Year!


Friday, December 30, 2016

Growing A Garden Club

Not only did I suggest to our garden club that they connect with Keep Gastonia Beautiful during our club formation, resulting in a beginning of school successful partnership, I also pitched hydroponics when “What will I do with the club in winter?” was asked.  It’s the perfect fit for the magnet STEAM school.  Immediately the book, Old Manhattan Has Some Farms written by Susan Lendroth and illustrated by Kate Endle, came to mind due in part to the song.  Students at my former school were treated to the story and the song, a perfect multiple curriculum and multiple grade level tie-in that is also loaded with rich back matter.


What is hydroponics?  From the NC Field & Family article: The term itself – hydroponics, from the Greek hydro, meaning water, and ponos, meaning labor – literally means “water working.”

If I peaked your curiosity and you’re interested in hydroponics you might be asking yourself, what’s next?

Seek opportunities to connect.   You can begin with a local business. A search identified one in our city - Indoorganics Plus - that offers supplies.  As an agricultural state, how is hydroponics affecting our North Carolina economy?  NC Field & Family article.   

Maybe branch out further to aquaponics.  This past summer NC State featured an aquaponics display in their student union.  Last year Stanly Community College partnered with Lucky Clays to create the introduction to aquaponics course at the college.  You can learn more about integration into schools here.  What about connecting across middle and high schools?

Amazing things are happening.  Great grant idea for 2017.

You can listen to and download the song "Old Manhattan Has Some Farms" performed by Caspar Babypants.

Sidebar: LOVE Junior Library Guild, where I first learned about Old Manhattan Has Some Farms.  

Author note: The inspiration for this blog post came from this article.

Other resources:

This visual is 4 years old, but I love infographics! http://visual.ly/5-hydroponic-fun-facts-and-figures

Thursday, December 29, 2016



The squirrels frolic and squawk above the place where you used to stalk or curl up to take a nap.

Where we planted bulbs and watched birds visit to drink or take a bath.

You were a treasure. One of the family. Aptly named after the boys’ young love of Treasure Island and my paternal grandmother’s surname.

Hawkins. Orange and white with coarse hair, laid back, loving.

The day we found you, a splendid memory etched in my mind, and Jim’s reaction to two cats, not one. Mom, Dad, the three J boys and I and a yard full of cats running this way and that. Dad: Pick that one, he’s a good climber.

You were lost two days after we moved here. From mid-September until just before you were magically returned to us the Tuesday before Thanksgiving - we had so much to be thankful for - a miracle. After that the country cats from Maw Maw Angie’s sister were officially inside/outside cats, (sorry Jim).

Our sweet cat from the country - Hawkins. You would walk with us around the block or to the lake to the amazement of others. The only one who could rival you is your sweet sister, Striker. How fortunate that the boys and our family had such a wonderful companion and friend in you. Never aloof, always down to earth, your sweet purr.  Your meow not quite as soft as a whisper, a mere rasp.  You were dearly loved by each of us and will be sorely missed. I haven’t felt this sad in a long while nor have I stopped crying since Jackson gave us the news. I don’t think I will until I fall asleep.

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Just read The Tenth Good Thing About Barney written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Erik Blegvad.

I’m still very sad, and the tears still flow, but it helped.


In no particular order … and look for this post to be edited as I add to the…

Great things that have happened since the school year began are …

Receiving a Conn First Book grant.


Have my Osmo coding and Monster Mo Donor’s Choose project funding.

Being selected to be a multicultural book reviewer.


Being selected to serve on the new AASL Social Media Editorial Board! (exclamation point from notification email)


Serving as a mentor to a colleague.


Listening to Deborah Freedman read Shy to me and a 1st grade class on the book’s birthday.

Participating in my first Global Monster project.

Being a connected educator - presenting, sharing, collaborating.

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Attending and presenting at NCSLMA with the fabulous Laura Long!

Promoting book love.


Choosing to promote and celebrate Mondays.

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(additions sure to come!)


Will we be awarded the solar panel grant I wrote? What will I learn, share, or celebrate? Who will I collaborate with? What changes or ideas will we embraced that benefit and are best for students both locally and globally?

Exciting, don’t you think?

What about your 2016 and thoughts about 2017? Share with me!

Warm Up With Great Books

This post skirts the fixed vs. flexible debate and focuses on providing book access and getting books in the hands of students.  Special thanks to my principal for agreeing to my request for open checkout all day before our winter break began.

A whopping 74% of teachers signed up on a Google document that read:

What's better than winter break?  Having great books in the hands of students to read for pleasure and information.  … Please sign up for an open checkout time.  I'm excited about partnering with you as your students select great reads.

When students arrived they were greeted by centers which were a huge hit after their browsing and book selection.

All day open checkout also makes sense when students return from break breaks - why not keep the excitement rolling? :)  

It’s hard to capture moods and excitement in pictures and my feeble words, but trust me (I’m a Crook), students enjoyed the special access.


“I love the library.”

“I going to get as many books as my hands can hold.”

Author note: Open checkout was also promoted before Thanksgiving break.

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