The Best Kind of Gift

celebrate link up


Thank you Ruth Ayres for providing a place to celebrate. Today I celebrate the last few days of school and the gift I got.

Thursday, families brought in home-cooked traditional meals for a school pot luck. It was wonderful. Food was plentiful, and most of us ate too much! The holidays should be getting together, sharing, eating and celebrating our future.

Friday, students came carrying red and green bags with colorful ribbons and handed them to their teachers. It happened all over campus. It is our school culture. This is what you do.

When a student gives a gift, I am touched, but to be quite honest also uncomfortable. Did they spent too much? Do feel they have to do this? Do they feel bad if they can’t?

This year one gift stands out. It was a letter. One of those family letters you get in the mail about how your year was. This is an excerpt of his portion of the letter:

I am 10 years old now. I am in 5th grade and I like school. We get to blog on iPads and computers. Teachers from different states let their students blog to each other. It is fun because I have never talked to someone on the computer in a different state. I wrote one story about a kid named Christian and he was annoying. I think I got 5 comments. We do Genius Hour every Thursday afternoon. You create something that nobody else created before. I made a game called “box basketball” where you shoot a paper ball. I write stores about kids and their challenges. Another story is about a raccoon who is a spy. Another story is about a superhero named Wind Runner and he can control the wind. 

We have this thing called Breakfast in the Classroom. We eat at our desk. I like the coffee cake and waffles. I don’t like how they changed the school lunch. They’re trying to make kids skinner by giving them protein and nutrients. They don’t have burgers and pizza and chocolate milk anymore. I don’t like that because I don’t eat a lot of junky stuff. Now they have brown rice and beans or veggie burgers. I started making my own lunch.

Today, I am celebrating this gift of reflection..

This letter showed what mattered — to him.

He likes school. He had me there, but he went on to mention so many things that I hoped would matter to students: blogging, connecting, comments, his game and his stories. The food reflection I think is quite interesting. While he doesn’t like the meals, he has made changes on his own to make his life better.

I will treasure this letter not only for what it said, but for the inspiration it has given me for future gift giving. If a student chooses to give a gift, let it be only one that they can create. A card, a letter, a drawing, an origami yoda.  Give a gift from the heart, not your parent’s pocket book, and that will make a great celebration for all.

Happy Holidays!

School’s Out! Homework? Nope. Challenge? Yep.

If I were to define the start of the last day of school, 2013, I’d say it would be… exhausted.

Yesterday was filled with intermittent rain, wind, and holiday performances. Our daily business was squeezed in between each show: vocabulary, performance, book shopping, performance, reading, performance, blogging, performance, pot luck luncheon for students and families, and genius hour. Whew!

Today, Friday. The rain cleared for our traditional fifth grade mile and the whole school came out to cheer us on. It was fun, no one was hurt, and we were… exhausted but pleased.  Most ran their fasted mile ever. All finished.

But wait…before y’all collapse and head off to break….I want to talk about resolutions.


A resolution (student definition): when you decide you want to be better at something and you make a goal for yourself.

Sounds good.

I told them about  nerdlution and how I challenged myself to blog every day. I explained how I wanted to write more and how I thought the blog would be a way to make myself accountable.

Hmm. The word nerdlution didn’t appeal to them, so they came up with their own names for their 21-day, 3-week challenge.

One room liked createlution. They felt that would involve all their goals. Everything they wanted to do involved creation.

The other room couldn’t decide on a group name, so they all had their own -lution names  – geniuslution, musiclution, dolution, artlution, bloglution, readlution etc.

Each student then wrote personal challenges in their notebook and posted them on the wall.

“So what’s the homework for the break Mrs. Harmatz?”

“Look at what you just wrote,” I replied. “That and reading.”

Last day of school redefined: exhausted, pleased and maybe a bit hopeful about what might be accomplished.

Homework? Nope, Challenge yep.

Go #nerdlution, createlution, geniuslution, musiclution, dolution, artlution, bloglution, readlution etc.