Friday, December 9, 2016

Guilty Pleasure

This week's entry comes from Kristin Patrick, Librarian at Brooks School Road and co-host of the Two Kitties in the Window Podcast.

From Kristin: 

Name your guilty pleasures. Go!

Most of us had zero problem naming something. Right? Mine happen to be Nachos BellGrande from Taco Bell, Diet Coke, and HGTV’s Fixer Upper.

How many of you listed reading? Even though many of us love to read, we struggle to enjoy it without a sensation of guilt.  Sure, it’s pleasurable, but it takes valuable time!  Thus, it becomes a guilty pleasure.

Time is of the Essence

The dismissal bell rings at the end of the day, kids head out the doors, and we likely reach for low hanging fruit when preparing for the next day: tidying up our learning space, copying, collating, and chipping away at our inboxes. What we promise ourselves will be a quick Internet search turns into hours of lost time. These tasks keep us from picking up a book, a newspaper, magazine, or eReader.

Guiltless Pleasure

Does it need to be this way?  Can reading be pleasurable and help us be better educators?  Could there be a more powerful or productive means for us to prepare for the next school day, the next school week, or the next school year, and could it involve reading?

Arguments for Reading:
  • By reading children’s and young adult novels, we can recommend books to students. The Fifth Edition of Scholastic’s The Kids and Family Reading Report found that “nearly three-quarters of both boys and girls (73%) say they would read more if they could find more books they like.” Can our personal reading help meet our professional goals?  We can help students find books they like if we know what’s out there!
    Want more information? Follow this link:
    Kids and Family Reading Report
  • By reading picture books, we identify mentor texts for our writing instruction. Writer Ralph Fletcher reminds us, “The writing in a classroom can only be as good as the literature and the writing that supports and surrounds and buoys it up.” How can we facilitate great student writing without sharing great literature?
    Great reading supports great writing.
  • By reading nonfiction, we model inquiry. We can’t expect our students to be interested in a variety of nonfiction topics if we aren’t interested in a variety of nonfiction topics. By reading newspapers and magazines, we collect relevant high-interest articles for use in our classrooms.  Reading fills our professional toolbox.
  • By reading online, we take note of the strategies our students need when navigating digital texts. We can share and teach what we learn from our own experiences.
  • By reading professional journals and texts, we practice reflection. Professional reading often provides strategies and refinements that we can use immediately, even the next day.
  • By reading fiction, we learn empathy.  Our profession is about much, much more than content.  Fiction expands our experiences and helps us understand all of our students. 

The benefits of reading are endless!

The Issue of Time; the Joy of Reading

Daniel Pennac, who drafted The Rights of the Reader, writes, “The issue is not whether or not I have the time to read (after all, no one will give me that time), but whether I will allow myself the joy of being a reader.”

My advice next weekend? Let the email go unchecked and the laundry go undone.  Allow yourself the joy of being a reader. Reading is part of our personal and professional preparation for good teaching and learning.

As educators, we need to move beyond thinking of reading as a guilty pleasure and start thinking of it as an essential part of teaching and learning.

Kristin enjoying her
guiltless pleasure.

Respond to Kristin at

Kristin Patrick and Stephanie Dale are the Co-Hosts of Two Kitties in a Window, a podcast dedicated to children’s books and the people who read and make them.  Take a few minutes to listen to their latest episode, an interview with author John David Anderson, award-winning author of children’s fiction. (Two Kitties is now available through iTunes as well.)
The link: Two Kitties in a Window

Have a great week, HSE.  Keep learning.  Keep growing.  Keep reading!

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hand Turkeys, Play, and Learning

This week's entry comes from Angela Fritz, art department chair at Hamilton Southeastern High School.  She was feeling a bit nostalgic leading up the Thanksgiving Break.  As a result, she and her colleague decided to challenge themselves and their students to see what would result from rethinking a very traditional assignment.

From Angela: The Importance of Play

When I was in grade school, the excitement of the holidays seemed to build in a palpable way as an impending vacation grew closer.  In an era that had a different sense of urgency, almost without fail, the day before vacation would be filled with a variety of treats and games.  Word searches and crossword puzzles, of questionable educational value but perhaps mildly attached to either our curriculum or the holiday itself, were the norm. 
Angela's son, Wyatt, produced
this hand turkey.  Did any of
you have these haning on your

For many years, at Thanksgiving, this meant the “hand turkey.”  My bet is you know what I’m talking about: Lay your hand down on the paper and trace around it.  The fingers become some semblance of feathers and your thumb make a neck.  As for the legs, they just had to be added.  Everybody’s hand turkey came out about the same—a lot like the teacher’s example.

As an art teacher, I can appreciate the patience involved in the cutting and staying inside the lines. I even see value in those practiced skills.  There is no question, however, that the traditional assignment lacks personal voice and relevance.  So over time, we stopped making hand turkeys.

Somewhere along the way that we moved beyond the cookie cutter crafts because they have little educational value.  For the most part, it was a time filler and not very personal, not very unique, not very relevant.  As educators, we were likely correct about that incarnation of the hand turkey assignment. 

By dropping the craft project, did we also lose some of the fun, some of the excitement? Perhaps.  But what if we reinvented those mundane childhood “arts and crafts” projects and turned them into something fun and exciting but still with educational value?  Can we have it all? Can learning be fun?

My Experiment

As a teacher, I am still filled with excitement as a holiday closes in on us, for obvious reasons: time off with friends and family, time to relax and get rejuvenated.  Maybe it’s just romanticized memory, but I often have that feeling of being a little kid in school, excited about the possibility of “fun and games” the breaks bring to the school setting. 

Feeling nostalgic for this pre-vacation excitement, I decided to collaborate with Dan Moosbrugger, a fellow art teacher. We decided to try for it all!  A few days before Thanksgiving, we threw down the gauntlet to our AP Drawing and Three-Dimensional Art students.  We challenged them to show us their skills and tackle the hand turkey.  Their task was to take what is a stereotypical and mundane assignment and produce something unique, something exceptional, something far from ordinary.

Our students were immediately intrigued, and the results were beyond our expectations.  They took the challenge to heart and really outdid themselves.  Their results are not only interesting, they are funny, extravagant, and full of personal voice and artistic expression.

A Rafter of Turkeys

Enjoy the gallery walk through a gobble of turkeys produced by our students.  (How many of you knew that the designation for a group of turkeys is a rafter or gobble of turkeys?) 

Isabella Engles took a literal approach to creating a hand turkey.  Madeline Shane tied her hand turkey to other work
she is doing on feminism.  Miah Rhoades dabbled with aesthetics.  All of these artists are seniors.

Jamie Wiederhold's "Rubber Glove" turkey took a different approach by adding wax to Rubbermaid cleaning gloves.
Marina Garrison used mixed metals, and Nicole Weldy went for a humorous commentary on the life of a turkey.
You have to admit these are NOT our grade school hand turkeys. 

Add Play, but with a Purpose

Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute of Play says that, “Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.” My students weren’t following a teacher example.  They were seeing how far out of the water they could blow the traditional examples.  They were having fun, but they were making their work personal.  The results reflect the imagination of the students and skills we hope they developed, and they were certainly engaged in the challenge!

My point is that the value of play should not be underestimated.  There can be real value in the lighthearted play we may have long ago dismissed.  Play with a purpose belongs in school!  I have learned a lesson from this assignment.  With a little creativity and imagination, we can have both learning and play.  In fact, with creativity and imagination, the fun is in the learning.

Perhaps we should reconsider and reinvent more than just the “hand turkey.”

Respond to Angela at

Have a great week, HSE.  We hope that your time leading up to the Winter Break is filled with fun, filled with excitement, filled with anticipation, and filled with learning.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education