Monthly Archives: June 2013

Angelina’s Army

kids cancer

Tonight I attended a small get together.  It was a cocktail party and fundraiser to benefit, Angelina’s Army. http://www.angelinasarmy.com/

Angelina is a three year old girl from our community who was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma. This is a rare type of childhood cancer.  Only 500 children a year are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year.  She has been given a 50/50 percent chance and the 5 year survival rate is 35%.

Yesterday, I wrote about alumni and how so many people who live grow up here, stay here and raise their own families.  I found out tonight that her father is one of these alumni.  I do not know Angelina or her family.  What I do know is that her family could use the help of others out there.  One way that you can help is financially.  There is a fund set up for her through The HK Community Fund, http://www.hkproject.org/donate Click on the HK CARES link and be sure to include Angelina’s name with your donation.

You could also register to become a bone marrow donor.  Several years ago, I did the swab test.  I have not been called upon to donate, but if the need ever is there, I would do it without even thinking twice about it!  Here is a link to find out more about becoming a bone marrow donor http://www.giftoflife.org/default.aspx

When I hear stories like this, they tug at my heart but I know there is so little it seems that we can do to help.  I hope that by providing some of these links, it can help to make more people aware and give more people the opportunity to help out if they can.

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Alumni

high schoolToday we went to the graduation party for our good friends’ son, Connor. He graduated from Columbia High School this week. Steven and Maureen, his parents, are also Columbia HS graduates. So are Dave and I. What makes this story interesting enough for me to blog about, is that so many of us there today were graduates of this school.

Maureen, Dave and I all graduated in 1988. She has stayed very close to her high school friends and many of them have married others Columbia alumni. There were graduates at the party from every decade from the 60’s till 2013.

A lot of people who move into South Orange/Maplewood, (we share a high school), find it unusual to see how many people have stayed local – or married locals. I find it endearing, Dave jokes that it is a “cult” or that we all “drank the same kool aid”.  Some of the friends at the party have moved away, but still come back for celebrations like these, but many are still in the area.  Several of them meet up to spend part of their summers together.  There are also several of us who now teach in the school district that we went through.

Coincidentally, last night, Dave and I went to another summer party in town and that couple went to Columbia as well.  They have stayed local and now their kids attend the local schools too.  It is a pretty unique place that we live in.  Friendships were formed and have outlasted longer than any of us even spent during our school years.  It makes me happy to know that I am raising my own children in the town that my parents grew up in and chose to stay and raise us in.  Who knows….maybe someday, my own kids will want to stay here and do the same!

akumni

Appreciation

cherish children

Today, I finished packing up my classroom to get it ready for the summer.  Spending the time alone in my classroom gave me a lot of time to reflect on the appreciation I have for the families of my students.  As a Kindergarten teacher, I often get students who are having their first, “real school” experience.  On the first day of school, those parents are filled with apprehension – sometimes even more than the children are!  Then there are the parents who have, “been through it all before”, with their older children.  Some of those kids have been around school with their siblings for so long, they are very excited to get there too!  Either way, there is still some trepidation when sending their children off to school for nearly seven hours everyday.

The children and I get to know each other very well over the first few weeks of school.  As for their families, it sometimes takes a little longer.  I invite families into my classroom to volunteer and for celebrations.  They sometimes come in for their child when they are celebrating, “Star of the Week”.  By the end of the school year though, I have gotten to know them quite well.

This year, (as well as many years in the past), my class and their families were extremely generous and even indulgent towards me!  I don’t just mean by the wonderful gifts that they gave me throughout the year, but in their kind emails, notes and letters to me.  To me, those mean more than anything that they could purchase!  As I was cleaning up today, I found stacks of notes that I have saved throughout the years.   It is so uplifting to read them and to know that I have made a difference in lives of their children.   I have so many “love letters” from my students, I don’t have enough wall space to hang them all!

I want to extend my appreciation to all of my Kindergarten families.  Not just those who I taught this year, but to all of them.  My first class at Tuscan graduated from fifth grade this week.  Many of those kids came to me to hug me and say goodbye before leaving.   I hope that all of my students know how much they have touched me and that once they have been one of my students, they will remain in my heart forever!

Homelessness

rich heart

I took my boys into New York City today.  Since The All-Star Game will be held at Citi Field this summer, there are painted apples all over the city representing all of the teams in the league.  We got to see 11 of the 35 apples today.  It was a fun and exhausting day but we had a really nice time, and the boys actually got along for MOST of the time.  It was a great way to spend our first day of summer vacation!

While we were there, we saw many homeless people on the streets.  Some were pan handling, some were sleeping and others were just trying to find some shade to keep cool on such a hot day.  This is something my boys have definitely seen before, but for some reason, the three of us really took notice of it today.  We saw a woman rummaging through trash bins looking for cans and bottles.  She had a cart overflowing with them.  Her cart was also filled with what looked to be all of her belongings.  Drew mentioned that she must be taking the recycling to a place to get money for it.  He told me that he hopes that she buys some food with that money.  I told him, I hope she had a place to sleep or at least a safe place to keep it all.

We saw one man, (and this was so heartbreaking), actually taking a discarded soda from the trash, along with a napkin, and drinking it.  It is something that I cannot stop thinking about.  I don’t give money to pan handlers.  I just don’t feel like this is the best way to help.  I know that I cannot help all of them, and ignoring them as I pass is probably not the right way to deal with it.  I do many charitable things to help those less fortunate than me, and although I know those things will not directly help the people we saw on the street today, at least in my heart I know that I am doing what I can.  I know that my boys also felt sympathetic towards them and I noticed them averting their eyes as we passed them on the street.  I tried to talk to them about it.  We talked about how there is always a story behind why someone is living out on the streets and that we cannot judge these people.  My boys biggest concern was that they hoped they found a place to sleep at night time.

Both of my boys are empathetic.  Drew is the one who urged me to start The 100th Day Food Drive at our school, https://aprojectforkindness.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/food-drive/ .  I know that they are aware of the needs of others.  It is a sad fact, but homeless people are a part of our society. I want my boys to respect all people.  In our town, they don’t come across people living out on the streets, but there are definitely people who are struggling to make ends meet.  The lines at the food pantry in town sometimes stretches out the door.  Each week a sign on the door of the pantry says that they feed between 80-90 families.  We talked about the fact that even if they have a home, they might be struggling in another way.  Perhaps this summer, I can encourage them to do some volunteering.  I plan on doing a big summer clean up at our house.  I will encourage the boys to go through their things and donate what they no longer use or need.  Bringing the items themselves to a place where others will be able to make good use of them will be another good example of how they can help others.  I want them to build compassion and strengthen their character. When they realize that homelessness is a problem, perhaps they will find ways that will help them become a part of finding a solution.

Today’s Ruling…What do you think?

 equal rights

At the end of March, I wrote about equality https://aprojectforkindness.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/equality/

I had just one comment directly on my blog regarding my post and it was from a cousin of mine who is a Mormon.  It was funny because we both posted on Facebook at the same time, but had very opposing thoughts about it.

Last night, her husband, also a Mormon, posted a really interesting blog and with his permission, I am posting it today. With the decision made today regarding DOMA and Prop 8, I feel that it is the perfect time to share it.  It is long, but it is thought provoking and well worth the read.  My favorite part, which is why I feel it is so appropriate to share on my kindness blog, is the words to one of his favorite church songs,  I’ll Walk With You.  Whether you agree or disagree with his words, the words of this song should be the mantra for everyone.

 If you don’t walk as most people do, Some people walk away from you, But I won’t! I won’t!

If you don’t talk as most people do, Some people talk and laugh at you, But I won’t! I won’t!

I’ll walk with you. I’ll talk with you. That’s how I’ll show my love for you.

Ben is my first, “guest blogger” and he and I are both looking forward to reading what kind of feedback we get from it. Read it and tell us what you think…

 http://moosedent.blogspot.com/2013/06/if-you-dont-walk-as-most-people-do.html

Last Day of School

big heart

Today was the last day of school. It is always a bittersweet day.  I see the growth that my students have shown throughout the year and I know that they are ready to move on.  During a school year, my students and I spend 180 days together, (give or take a few absences).  Nearly 7 hours of their day are spent at school.  For some children, that is more time than they even spend with their own families.

I had such a loving class this year.  I joked that if all 22 of them could get married to each other, they would happily do so because they just loved spending their days with each other.  They were such a kind class and they really cared about one another.  At the end of the day today, I had seven of them in tears because they did not want to leave Kindergarten!!  They would not let go of me and the hugs were powerful enough to nearly knock me down.  One of my favorite sayings of the day was, “Mrs. Sinclair, these are not tears in my eyes, for some reason, they are just filled with water!”

It is truly amazing how attached you can become to your students and their families.  I am not sure if this is a “Kindergarten thing”, or something else.  For some parents, it is their child’s first experience at ”real” school.   After such a tragic year with the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma, I think that parents realize what extreme measures teachers will take to ensure the safety of their students while they are in our care.

 I received a handmade book from my class today.   In it, were all of the students’ favorite things that they learned in Kindergarten.  I was so happy to see that it was not just, “math, reading or writing”, but messages like, “remember to be kind”, “respect others”, “fun is good but carried away is bad”…all lessons that I have tried to instill all year.  I tell them all of the time that if they feel happiness in their hearts, then they are doing the right thing.  I hope that is one of the greatest lessons they take with them from Kindergarten.

It makes me so happy when I see this or when I receive a note or picture from a student or their parent. I know that somehow I made a difference and there really is no better gift than that.

I am sure that a lot of today’s tears, (both students and their parents), were due to apprehension about next year and the unknown.  It is difficult for children to explain those worries.  They cried that they would miss me and I reminded them all that we live in the same town.  I am sure that I will see them at the town pool, and around town.  That seemed to end some of the tears.  Yet, just as it seems to come to an abrupt end for the students, it does so for a teacher as well.   I will miss them and wish them all as much happiness in first grade as they had in Kindergarten.

Moving On…

child becomes today

Today was graduation day for my 5th grader.  As of tomorrow, I no longer have a child in elementary school. I’m not sure I have grasped the reality of that!  Elementary school is a time of innocence for most children.  I always tell parents that Kindergarten is a “magical place” and I hope that the magic stays with them throughout elementary school.  That is the hope that I have had for Drew.  Drew has never loved school, but he has loved his teachers and that is so significant.

Today I am thankful for all of Drew’s teachers who helped him throughout his years at Tuscan.  Drew and I went to all of his teachers before school today and got a photo of him with most of them.  He has fond memories of all of them and I hope that he can carry those memories with him throughout life.  I can still remember so many of my teachers from elementary school.  When a teacher has a positive impact on you – it makes an everlasting impression.  I know that these teachers have left a positive impression on Drew.   I was fortunate to be a teacher in the same school as him, which created wonderful memories for me, and although he won’t admit it now, I hope that some day when he looks back on this time, these will be wonderful memories for him as well.

Fifth grade graduation is a pivotal occasion for both children and parents. It marks the end of an era, and the beginning of those “tween years.”  He’s not grown up yet, but he is getting there. Already having one son who has gone through this, has allowed me a preview of what I should expect, but Drew is my baby!  I am not sure I am ready for this but it is inevitable.  My gratefulness for the years he has spent at Tuscan are immeasurable.  Years of happy days, (and difficult ones too), were all days that made him grow into the amazing kid he is today.  He has reached a milestone in his life.

I know that middle school is going to have its ups and downs.  I know that he will not be coddled as he was in elementary school.  It is time for him to grow up.  I am sure that he will become more responsible and accountable for his work. The workload will increase and he will have to learn to manage his time more usefully.

For now though, he has the summer, only a few more months of being my “little boy”.  There are not going to be many more days where he will let me allow him to be that little boy, so for now, I will take every opportunity that I can get while he still lets me!!