Friday, March 11, 2016

Five for Happy Friday

Today finds me contemplating happiness, both in the classroom and at home.  Thanks, Kacey, for Five for Friday so I can link up to share.

1.  Did you catch the New York Times article about some new testing? The latest thing that "the powers that be" want tested in the classroom are social skills, including grit and joy.... can you hear me moan, wail, and gnash my teeth right through your computer screen, because that is what this news makes me do! And I'm not the only one. The person who coined the term "grit" in current educational settings, and wrote the book of the same name, Angela Duckworth, was on the board overseeing the project and she RESIGNED over the testing issue! She said, "I do not think we should be doing this; it is a bad idea."  One more way to put pressure on kids and blame them, and teachers, if they are found not to have "social awareness" and "growth mindset.." whatever that means... and however they think they are going to test for it!

Okay, so you're thinking, this post was supposed to be "happy" and that first paragraph was anything but! To counterbalance the horrible testing news, I'll share another article, also from the NYT. In this one, Emma Seppala, author of The Happiness Track, talks about the importance of happiness in life, and how to help kids be happy. The article suggests concrete ways to help kids in the classroom. (What a world we live in that so much press is spent on stressed out elementary students.) I've been contemplating the list for the last several days, and on some ideas make notes:

Live in the moment  Help kids focus on what's at hand and not the ever present to-do list.

Model Resilience   Help kids overcome challenges and find respite from pressures.

Manage your energy  Are we as teachers sometimes so full of happy, frenetic energy that we forget to recognize and strive for joy in calm moments, too? In looking at my own classroom I can find calmer happy moments with some read alouds, or in choosing and sharing my own small moment stories in writing workshop. A fellow teacher builds yoga into her classroom routine which she says brings calm happiness.

Do nothing  Kids cannot always be on task (and yet that is our expectation... hmmm.) So build in time for kids to be "off task" and following their own thoughts and impulses. Recess? Free choice? I happened on yet another great article on this topic here.

Be kind to yourself   Kids think of mistakes as good things when we teach and model that. When my kiddos make public mistakes, I sometimes say, "Yippie and wow, what a good way to learn. Thanks for helping us learn with you." A positive spin helps kids realize we all make mistakes and we can all learn from them.

Be kind to others   Thankfully, kids are naturally kind... though on bad days we can forget that. We need to value and protect their trait of compassion.

Here are links to both articles so you can read them yourself... pin now, read later.

Testing for Joy and Grit?... 

Letting Happiness Flourish in the Classroom 

Now I share some things that make me happy, and maybe you, too...
2.  Happy with our house– Last week I posted on the new built-in bookshelves in our entry hall. We needed more book storage and an easy place to throw our coats when we came in the door. Well, the hooks came in and we put them up. Some before, during, and after pics are  here.

I wasn't sure if bookshelves lent themselves to coat storage, but it really works. These are bulky coats, so as warmer weather comes the bulk will diminish and be gone. (Don't mind the little fur ball in the corner– she's always up for a photo op.) It is very nice to have the "coat chair" in the family room back to just a comfy seating option... well, that will be the case when I break the habit of walking right past the new hooks to throw my coat on the chair... ugh.

3.  Happy with some good food– This winter I fell in love with Overnight Crockpot Pumpkin Oatmeal and even with the weather warming I still enjoy it. I've tried peach, applesauce, and several other varieties, but pumpkin is the winner, especially with that good-for-you-orange-vegetable bonus. If you google you'll find lots of versions, several of which I've tried. Tweaking it here and there for personal taste, this is the recipe we've finally landed on.

The oatmeal really is under all that stuff– snort.

Several things to note that I've changed from the typical recipe–
• I use half the amount of pumpkin pie spice that many recipes call for and then add in that much more cinnamon. We love cinnamon more than cloves and nutmeg.
• The vanilla is a must– if I forget to put it in the night before I add it in the morning and it's okay.
• I don't put any brown sugar into the pot, but let each family member sweeten it to their own taste when served. I found if I added it in, some members still added their "usual amount" and it became too much sugar to be healthy. This way I think they use a little less.
• We always add walnuts, raisins and more cinnamon– nice additions to the pumpkin flavor.
• Some recipes call for water, some milk. I do half and half. We still add more at eating time for consistency's sake, and to cool it off.
• I only use the "Keep warm" setting when cooking overnight. I use a big crockpot that has three settings- keep warm, low, and high, and I found if I used the recommended "low" setting it was cooked too much, leaving the oatmeal too thick and the crockpot a heck of a mess to clean with oatmeal cemented to the sides.

Overnight Crockpot Pumpkin Oatmeal

Before going to bed put the following in the crockpot:

2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/3 cup steel cut Irish oatmeal
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 can pumpkin puree

Turn the crockpot to "Keep warm" and go to bed. Wake in the morning to the aroma of pumpkin pie :)

4.  Happy with new classroom activities– Lookee, lookee what I found! Monkeys and bananas!

Monkey eggs!

Banana dominos!

I'll put the bananas in the monkeys for an addition game... or something. The bananas were already in my Amazon cart when I saw the monkeys at Kroger in the Easter section... can't resist checking out the new plastic egg styles they invent each year– so handy in the classroom. The monkeys came in a package of three.

Jonathan came around the grocery store aisle and saw me rifling through the eggs, "I thought you were going to get the canned pumpkin?"

What could I say? Monkeys go with bananas and bananas go with monkeys. It's destiny.

Into the cart. *eye roll*

You can see the bananas here.

5.  Happy with upcoming leprechaun mischief– I am half Irish so St. Patrick's day is a day not to be missed. I always have a little leprechaun magic up my sleeve for the kidpeople, too. We do lots of activities, but here is a new one I thought up for this year.

St. Pat's day this year falls on a day when we have our library special right in the middle of the afternoon. Perfect. Just before we go I'm going to set out our party fare: cute shamrock napkins, Rolos, and Oreos (We're also having leprechaun pudding but I'm going to get the fixins ready for that while they are at special.) I want to be sure the kids see the regular old Oreos on their napkins. They'll be excited because treats are treats no matter if they are regular old Oreos. I'll tell them we'll have our party when we get back, and march them out the door. Mean old Mrs. Wright, making them wait... but there is method to my madness.

While they are gone, I'm going to switch out the plain Oreos for Mint Oreos which just happen to be green. When the kiddos come back, och aye, the leprechauns used their magic again to turn the Oreos green... what are we gonna do with those tricksy wee folk?? Easy but effective, I think.

From this... this!  Magic.

6.  Happy trying something new– happy bonus number six... I might very well be on the road as you read this. I'm headed to French Lick, Indiana (don't you just love the name of that town...) for a blogger retreat this weekend. This is my first time going to any blogger event and I'm sorta nervous. It's one thing to know people in virtual reality and another to spend a real weekend with them. I'm not usually shy– stop laughing those of you who actually know me. They ARE teachers, after all. The resort looks gorgeous. I need a little change of scene. This will be fun...  I'll let you know all about it.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a happy weekend!

Click to find more Friday posts. 


  1. I could get up on my soapbox about testing character skills, but it sounds like you and I are on the same page. Ridiculous. They should all go eat some mint Oreos.

    1. Now that's an idea. Oreos laced with intelligence, delivered to all politicians... :) See you later. Kathleen


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