Monday, December 23, 2013

Veselé Vánoce

I love Prague at Christmas. All the decorations and the lights and the Christmas markets. Not to mention the roasted almonds covered in sugar.

But what I hate about Prague at Christmas is the darkness. The shortest day of the year falls in December. The days leading up to it are quite depressing. There's nothing quite like getting up for work while it's dark, making your way to school while it's dark, and watching the street lights finally turn off from inside your classroom as you prepare for the day. Only, to then watch the sun set as your get ready for the next day and walk home from school in the dark. Only to realize that it's only 5 pm, and you have a whole night of darkness ahead of you. And when there is daylight, that doesn't necessarily mean there will be sun. Often, the skies are cloudy and gray. No vitamin D here. It's dark, gray, and depressing.

This year for our Christmas concert, my fourth graders memorized several of the verses prophesying about the birth of Christ. Every morning for about a month before hand, we would practice the verses. Every morning for that month leading up to the shortest days of the year, I heard my children proclaiming:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
(Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 NIV)

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light." No matter how dark it gets here, the light of the world has come. Even though the days may be short and the dark of night be long, the Light has dawned. That baby in a manger. Who is no longer a baby in a manger. That man on a cross, dead in a grave, is dead no more. The Light has dawned and He lives still. And that once more reminds me why I'm here, to show the Light to those around me who are still walking in darkness. So while I hate the darkness, I have also grown in a small way fond of it, as it serves as a reminder to me of the spiritual darkness of the country in which I live.

So, Merry Christmas. Veselé Vánoce. And remember that the Light has come.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Things You See on a Walk

This weekend, we had our first snow of the winter. It looked so pretty out, that I was inspired to go for a walk. During my walk I came across two different (peaceful) protests (one was blocking the sidewalk with no way around it, so I had to maneuver my way through it), a man standing on an invisible box, and men dressed as Native Americans playing South American style music. It brought to mind some of the other things I have come across on my walks through Prague that have made me smile. So, without further ado, here is a compilation of pictures I have taken over the past couple years while walking through Prague.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Reading Adventure Day

It was one of those things that started as a mere suggestion. Our wonderful and fearless elementary principal said during planning meeting that we should have a math day and a reading day. While we first decided to have math day in the fall, we quickly changed our minds when we realized how perfect 100th Day would be as a math day. Then we realized that Monday, 25 November would be a PERFECT day to have a Reading Day. Why perfect, you ask? Well, Tuesday was a half day for parent/teacher conferences, Wednesday was a teacher workday, and Thursday and Friday were Thanksgiving Break. This meant the 25th was the only full day of school--PERFECT day for Reading Day.

After some planning (mainly deciding what we wanted to do and then about a week before, sitting down and deciding who would do what), much discussion about costumes (or me going on Pinterest and sending out suggestions to various people about who they should dress up as), Reading Adventure Day finally came.

From reader's theaters, to muffins and hot chocolate, to various staff members reading, to silent reading, to a reading scavenger hunt it was a fun-packed day.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 wait patiently for snack


Harold, The Purple Crayon, and The Wall he drew on

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout won't take the garbage out

Our wonderful school counselor joined in the fun

Viola Swamp came and read about her adventures

Mrs. Marple even dropped by
As did a cat from a Czech children's book!
Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy friends? Who knew!

Percy Jackson enjoys some silent reading time with Draco

Junie B. Jones also enjoys silent reading

As does Queen Esther

Our closing reader's theater--a turkey goes before congress to get fish made the official Thanksgiving food

My lovely flatmates and myself--Madeline, Harold's Purple Crayon, and The Paper Bag Princess
The 1st-5th Grade Teachers-The Paper Bag Princess, Viola Swamp, Pippi Longstocking, and Madeline

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Missing You

Has it really been a year? It doesn't seem that long since the Sunday morning I grabbed my mobile off the coffee table in my living room and noticed the missed call from my parents. I doesn't seem that long since I called them back with shaking hands, realizing before even dialing the number what they would probably tell me--that you were gone.

I still miss you. I miss my childhood. Summers spent on the farm...I miss fishing with you, going out into the fields with you on the tractor, Sunday walks, fall hayrides. I even miss you seeming to think that grandchildren were supposed to be you workforce. I still hate gardening to this day, but hey, I know how.

You were the one who gave me my first job.  You paid Steph and I $10 an hours to help bring in straw. That was a lot one money to a ten-year-old. And while we're on that topic, the fact that you paid $1 for every tooth we lost instead of a mere $0.25 was big deal to a six-year-old.

You taught me the value of hard work. Because, yes, while you paid $10 an hour, you made us work for it. I learned the value of hard work while digging up potatoes and weeding gardens, shucking corn, snapping beans, picking cherries. And I cherish those memories, those idyllic times spent on the farm.

You taught me to enjoy simple, taking an old row boat out onto the pond, swimming in the creek, walking through the woods. None of those things cost money, but they provided amazing memories.

And you taught me about strength of faith. You were a man of faith, who loved Jesus with all his heart. One of my very last memories of you is you singing "Jesus Loves Me" and "Amazing Grace". You may not have been thinking clearly at that point, but the one thing you knew beyond a doubt is that God loved you and you loved Him. And that is what gives me hope, the knowing that you aren't gone forever, that I will see you again. So, while I miss you and will be thinking about you a lot over the next few days, I am so happy to know where you are, that this is not the end, and that you're with Jesus. I miss you, Poppy, but I am so glad to know that you are somewhere better. 

Until we meet again.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Language Arts Didn't Happen Today

Language Arts didn't happen today. I was planned and all prepped for it. I knew exactly what we were going to do in grammar, spelling, and reading. And it didn't happen.

It didn't happen because math was almost 40 minutes late getting started. It didn't happen because something better, something of more eternal significance happened instead.

In devotions today, we were talking about Philippians 2:14-15:
"Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky."

We talked about how instead of complaining and arguing when we don't think things are fair, we can take our worries and concerns to God.

"But, Miss Miller," One of my kiddos asked, "How does God hear EVERYBODY? How can He hear me if I'm talking to Him at the same time as other people?"

"I know! He's everywhere!" Another student cried out, "He's like air. Air is everywhere...well, almost everywhere!"

Which got us to talking about how God is everywhere and how He is big enough and powerful enough to hear all of us at the same time,  yet intimate enough that He KNOWS us, right down to the number of hairs on our heads. (They were shocked to find this out a few weeks ago. One of my kids quickly labeled it as "creepy". I prefer to think of it as comforting.)

When we got back around to our verses, we spent some time talking about ways we could handle situations instead of arguing and complaining. (This is also something we've talked about quite often in fourth grade.) And we ended by talking about what it means to "shine like stars", so that when others look at us, they see that we are different.

And by the time we got around to prayer time (today was Thankful day), it was quite late.

So, no, Language Arts did not happen today. But that's ok with me (for this once), because my kiddos are learning and discovering more and more about who God is. (And they were asking some great questions, too.)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Day in Fourth Grade

Often I post different snap-shots of life in fourth grade, so I thought it would be fun to give a glimpse of what a day in fourth grade is like. Not that there is a normal day...I have students who leave early different times of the week, students who have Czech at different times, and some subjects (like history) that we only have 3 times during the week. But, here it is, a "typical" day in fourth grade:

When students arrive, they work on morning work after they've unpacked. This typically includes handwriting practice, a math page, and sentence corrections.

After going over sentence correction together, we have devotions. This year, I'm using the book Jesus Calling with my kiddos. We'll read the devotion for the day, as well as verses that go with it, and then we'll pray. This year, I'm continuing to the ACTS prayer method with them. (Mondays-Adoration, praising God; Tuesdays-Confession, talking to God quietly; Wednesdays- Thanksgiving, praises; Thursday- Supplication, prayer requests; Fridays- we're praying for countries in Operation World) 

Next, we move on to math. This typically includes a lesson, some hands on activity, and independent practice. The math program we use uses a lot of games, so they'll have a game as part of their math lesson at least once a week.

Playing a game during math class

Next, we have a bathroom break and snack. After that, we'll move on to Language Arts. This is divided between four subject areas: Grammar, Spelling, Literature, and Writer's Workshop. Alas, due to students' scheduling, I don't have as much time to devote to my Language Arts block as I would like, since I have to have my math and Language Arts finished before lunch.
Trying to decide how to draw a neighborhood map using three countries
Reading Because of Winn-Dixie during Literature
Reading Because of Winn-Dixie

Next we have lunch and recess. Every afternoon, we have some type of special--whether it's music, art, library, or PE. Three days a week, we also have Bible. On Wednesdays, we have chapel. Three afternoons a week also find us studying science and history.
Water Drop Race Experiment during Science Class

Illustrating one of the 7 Sacraments while studying the Catholic Church in History Class

Illustrating one of the 7 Sacraments
  After this, it's time to write down homework, pack up, and head home! So, there you have it--Life in Fourth Grade.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

History Fun

We're learning about the Middle Ages in 4/5 History. We've been focusing on the Feudal System and spending time learning about daily life for the different classes (serfs, knights, lords, and kings). The day we were talking about kings, I thought it would be fun for the students to learn a bit about the lives of different kings and queens from that time. Since we only had about 20 minutes for this part of class, I just found brief (paragraph long) biographies about different royals. Each student chose one, and wrote a couple of sentences as if they were that person telling about his or her life. If they had time, they also illustrated their stories. (Since most of them didn't finish those, I'm not including them.)  Here are some of the paragraphs they came up with:

Frederick Barbarossa 

I was born in Germany in 1122. I died in the River Saleph on June 10, 1190. I was crowned Roman Emperor in 1155. I started the third crusade. I organized an army of 100,000, including 20,000 knights. I was impatient to cross the Saleph River and rode a horse into it and drowned.

Robert de Bruce

I was born to King Robert and I am Robert de Bruce. I was the greatest king and greatest warrior of my time. I led the war against the English, and I was Scottish.

Eleanor of  Aquitaine

My name is Eleanor of Aquitaine. I was married twice and ruled France and England. In the twelfth century, I was one of the most powerful women on earth.
Eleanor, Queen of Castile

I am Eleanor and Eleanor of Aquitaine was my mom. I lived from 1162-1204. That means I was 46 when I died. I also was a queen of France.

William the Conqueror

II wanted to rule England, so I set out with my fleet and defeated England. I am William the Conqueror, and I ruled for 21 years.  

Considering they left knowing more about the lives of royalty in the Middle Ages, as well as considering themselves experts on various kings and queens, I would say the lesson was quite the success. (We also discovered that Eleanor of Aquitaine was mother or mother-in-law to quite a few of our kings and queens.)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Welcome to Fourth Grade!

     My classroom is finally First-Day-Ready. What IS First-Day-Ready, you ask. It means that it is at the point where it is ready for our first day tomorrow, but there are somethings that still need to be taken care of--things I need to get for the classroom or bulletin boards that need to be decorated--things like that.

Anyway, since it is First-Day-Ready, I thought now would be the perfect time to give a tour of CISP's fourth grade classroom! Enjoy!

The door--thank you Pinterest for the idea!

What you see when you walk in

Back of the classroom--this is my science area

Classroom library/Language Arts area

Eventually I want to get a display rack for books...hasn't happened yet. :D
Drawers filled with classroom supplies--each labeled with what's inside

My desk area

Student desks (along with their treats for the first day)

Example of school supplies for any parents with questions--it's also where my extra desk is--eventually it will be beside the lonely desk that doesn't have a partner

Our rules--we'll go over these tomorrow

All About Today chart, Behavior chart, and Literature Circle chart
Lockers for shoes (they have to put on indoor shoes during schools) and hooks for coats--bookbags and lunchboxes will go on top.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Work in Progress

Home again! This means seeing friends that I've been missing for a month and a half, going to my church again (I love my church!), walking the streets of beautiful Prague, and of course, unpacking and setting up my classroom.

In every other classroom I have had, I've come into a room that already was furnished and organized the way this previous teacher had left it. This year is different--since we are in the new building, my classroom is a blank slate. I get to choose the furniture (and there is A LOT to choose from) and I get to choose how to organize it, rather than trying to figure out the thought process of someone else.

It's not finished yet--it is a work in progress (actually, the whole school is a work in progress--but you try moving an entire school in a place where a majority of the work force leave the country for the summer!). However, here is a glimpse of my new classroom:

Classroom in at the beginning of June

Another view of the classroom at the beginning of June

Classroom at the end of my first day back in Prague

Another view at the end of my first day back

Day Three!

Day three: Classroom library

Day three: My desk and the cabinets for classroom supplies

Day three: Another view
 As you can see it is starting to come together--though I have to say, the best looking room in the whole building is the library--that looks AMAZING!  Stay tuned for more pictures of our new building becoming a CISP.