Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Your Handwriting Matters

I am an advocate of handwriting. Handwriting is an undervalued art form, one that's meaning comes from a deeper layer than the words themselves.

When the topic comes up, I always encourage people to use their own handwriting instead of typing/printing/etc.  A sign in their home, a letter, captions in a scrapbook, a birthday invite, addressing wedding thank yous- all in your handwriting.  Many argue with me that their handwriting is messy, that writing is more time consuming, that they just don't like their handwriting.  I think that there is a lot more to it than that...and here are a few reasons why:

1.  Just to be clear, I am not just talking about neat, beautiful, or perfect handwriting.   I am not just talking about teaching "correct" handwriting to my 5th grade students.  I am certainly not just talking about my own handwriting.  I mean that I am an advocate of your handwriting, my handwriting, your children's handwriting- all handwriting. Neatness and penmanship have their place, but as I am writing this post I am thinking about the uniqueness of the way that you write, possible messiness and all.  Your natural handwriting is what others will remember.  When I encourage someone to handwrite something, they often say that it is just because I have great handwriting.  While I will admit that my writing isn't terrible, I certainly don't always like it.  Anytime we are close to something, we often are the first to see its flaws.  I don't typically love my own handwriting, but that doesn't mean that I am not going to use it.  Perfect is not a qualification for sharing a part of yourself. 

2.  Handwriting reveals personality.  I remember using these cheap handwriting analysis books in jr. high to analyze how the slant of my l's revealed that I was an optimist and the curve on the tail of my y's showed that I was an introvert.  I would not put a lot of stock into what official graphology says about you through your handwriting, but just remember on a personal level that your handwriting is a bit of, well, you.  Your personality is carried and emotions can be expressed through handwriting.  Despite the fact that the twenty two students in my classroom have almost all been taught by the same teachers, their handwriting is very unique and I can usually tell their papers apart easily even when they don't have names.  I can also tell when they were in a hurry, when they were confident, and when they were unsure.  I can see them in their writing.

3.  In a world that limits human interactions more and more, handwriting helps us continue to share a bit of ourselves with another.  It allows us to be Incarnational, to show that another is worthy of our time, and to help us see the person behind the communication that we share.  This can be a lot harder through type-written texts, emails, and letters.

4.  Handwriting is sentimental.  Even if you are the opposite of a pack rat, I bet you have a few notes or cards tucked away in a drawer.  You don't keep those cards for the pretty typeface "Happy Mother's Day" on the outside.  You keep it for the scrawled second grader's message printed in pencil on the inside.  Or you keep the note with the spidery cursive that was your grandfather's handwriting near the end of his life.  My dad has some of the worst handwriting I have ever seen (which is saying something as a middle school teacher).  However, the notes that he tapes on my mom's mirror in his terrible handwriting stay there for her to see and mean much more than anything he could have typed.  Being sentimental doesn't mean that we are attached to the object, but to the person behind the object, and it is a good reason to handwrite things that might mean more to someone else.

5.   Handwriting is a little piece of history.  As a genealogy nerd, I savor finding something handwritten by an ancestor. Handwriting is a missing piece of a person's story that can't be recreated after they are gone.  Much like a photograph, that handwriting is unique and important.  Finding original captions on the back of a picture, or a diary penned over time, or a note tucked in a box meant for a loved one from the past is like finding a unique treasure, one that I think we all can appreciate.

6.  Your handwriting is a witness to what you believe.  There is a reason that our signature is still (usually) required to be in our handwriting, even if it is created with a stylus and a digital screen instead of a pen and paper.  Adding your handwriting to something is like adding a stamp of approval, an acknowledgement that testifies to the content of what you are writing.

7.  Finally, handwriting is a connection between the words we live by and who we have been created to be.  "Keep my commandments and live.  Keep my teachings as the apple of your eye.  Bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart."  ~Proverbs 7:23

I challenge you to remember that your handwriting matters, that it means something to those around you, and that perfect isn't a requirement for something to be important.  Find ways to incorporate handwriting into your days, and learn to love that you share a bit of yourself with each stroke of the pen.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Like Apples of Gold

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold set in silver. " ~Proverbs 25:11

"She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." ~Proverbs 31:26

Both of these Proverbs came up in a Bible study that I recently worked through on the book of James.  We were discussing the power of the tongue, and the influence our words can have on others.  As a teacher, I need to continually remind myself of the power that my tongue, in word and tone, has over the environment in my classroom.

In honor of Catholic Schools' Week (this week) and National Catholic Teacher Appreciation Day (Friday, January 30, 2015), I turned this doodle from Bible Study into a printable to remind you, no matter your occupation, of the influence your words can have on the world around you.

Click here for a full page printable:

Click here for half page printables, great for a card or to put in a frame:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Most Holy Name of Jesus

Each month of the year, the Church recognizes a certain aspect of our faith and reminds us to celebrate it.  In January we celebrate the Most Holy Name of Jesus.  My 5th graders are responsible for composing and reading a prayer each morning over the intercom to start off our school day during January.  We use the theme of the Names of Jesus, and they run with that as a topic for Bible verses, specific prayers to that name of Jesus, the meaning of that name, etc.

Before they pick a name, we brainstorm all of the names of Jesus that we know.  This year, that brainstorm took the form of this poster:

The kids were then able to choose a name to use as they wrote their prayer.  It is amazing that the Son of God made himself all things for all people, and even allows us to know him by different names, just so that we can connect with him more fully.

This is a close up of the title that I put at the top of the poster.  I decided that it would be nice for the kids to have something to remind themselves of what we have learned this month, so I turned that into a black and white printable.

Now they can each color this page, and we will include the information that they researched about the name of Jesus that they chose, as well as the final prayer that they composed.  It will make a great addition to their religion notebook!

Click here for the printable:

You may also like this Names of Jesus project!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Catholic Schools' Week Thank You Card

In honor of Catholic Schools' Week, my students will be writing thank yous to those that have helped support them in their Catholic Education.  As a school, we always send mail to our Bishop, priests, community workers, etc.  I also would like my students to write thank yous to our principal, custodians, former teachers, cooks, etc. 

I made these cards for the kids to decorate and write in:

You can print just the front, or you can print them double sided with this Scripture verse and thank you banner on the inside:

Happy Catholic Schools' Week!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Catholic Schools Week 2015

January 25-31 marks this year's Catholic Schools' Week- a time to celebrate the mark that Catholic Schools have on students and families, past, present, and future.  One of my responsibilities for the coming week was to decorate the main bulletin board at the entrance of our school. 

The CSW logo was used last year, and the theme will also continue next year.  I saved this paper logo from last year, and while there are some visible folds from storage, I am glad that I didn't have to remake it!

Here was our 2014 CSW Bulletin Board:

To everyone involved in Catholic Education, Happy Catholic Schools' Week!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: Me, In Bullet Points

Inspired by a Jones Design Company post this week, here are seven things that you may not know about me, in bullet points.  Not quite as in depth, and a lot more random, but here goes:

1.  Approximately 32% of the reason that I became a teacher is so that I can still buy school supplies each year.  That may not be true.  But it might.  I really love post-it notes, and new Sharpies, and don't even get me started on the perfectly sharpened Ticonderoga pencil.

2.  I am a complete and total introvert.  Some people have laughed and don't believe me when I tell them this, but it is very true.  Introverts are not necessarily shy all of the time, but are recharged by being alone, whereas extroverts are recharged by being with people.  I love you all, but people exhaust me- which makes my career choice of teaching and work at church interesting and challenging. At the time of writing this, I have been in my apartment for over 48 hours, by myself, (thanks to no-school-cold-weather-days), and it has been the best and most rejuvenating thing ever.

3.  I bite my nails.  Trust, me I know that it is gross and unprofessional and a good way to get sick.  I (and in my younger days, my mom) have tried many things to stop, but nothing has stuck.  I gave it up for Lent one year and did fairly well offering it up as a sacrifice.  My friend rewarded me with a manicure just before Easter, but about a week later they were chewed to the quick again. So now I just keep them painted all of the time in bright colors- it is much harder to chew on your nails when they are covered in dark blue nail polish.

4.  I entered the world of smart phones a couple of weeks ago.  I had resisted for quite a while, but it was time to upgrade from my little slide-out-keyboard-can't-receive-every-other-text-message clunker and come into the 2010's.  Honestly, one of the reasons why I had avoided getting a smart phone was an excuse to not be connected.  People expect you to be available all of the time...and, well, see #2.  However, I love technology and finding new ways to use it, so I have quite enjoyed having so many things at my fingertips.  And, I can always turn it off if necessary, right?

5.  If choosing, I would always pick a roadtrip over a plane ride.  I love vacations that have low planning, spontaneous stops, and unforeseen adventures.  Getting to your destination can be half the fun, and is a great opportunity to really get to know people.

6.  I am a genealogy nerd.  Well, I have been a genealogy nerd, and need to get back to putting some time in it.  It was kind of a weird hobby to have in high school and college...visiting tiny libraries to find family records, dragging my parents to distant family reunions just to meet other people who could share information, hand writing letters to people decades older than me who knew my family way-back-when.  I literally have had nightmares about loosing my family scrapbooks in a fire or seismic fissure or volcanic eruption.

7.  Speaking of nightmares, I have very vivid realistic dreams, and I usually remember them.  From being a Jew in Nazi controlled Germany, to witnessing a demonic possession, to random (untrue) happenings in the lives of people I know, I never know what I am going to dream next.  I don't usually hold on to the stories for too long each day unless they are really weird/scary/funny or I have someone to tell first thing in the morning.  My family got a few ear fulls during the two weeks we spent together over Christmas break.  Maybe I should write a book...

What are seven random things that describe you?

Thanks, Kelly for hosting!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Wandering Wise Men, Part 3

Happy Feast of the Epiphany!

In honor of the Three Kings finding their way to Bethlehem, here are pictures from another week of the Wandering Wise Men in my classroom.  You can get ten more ideas (and hear the beginning of the story) in this post and this post.

Day Eleven:
This was the only time during our Wander Wise Men that I was a bit "deceptive" with the kids, and only because they were way more enthusiastic about this days' Wise Men hijinks then the others.  I took face shots of the three figurines and created profiles for them on our classroom social media website.  We use a site called Edmodo in our school, but you could do this in pretty much any other social media platform or even create fake screen shots to just pull up on the Smartboard using a site like this

 The kids walked in to find the Wise Men lined up at their own classroom computer...
 But over the weekend, I had been adding posts and comments like these to our classroom site:
(fyi, these screen shots are posted in backwards order, with the earliest posts at the bottom, and the more recent posts on top, just like facebook)

I insisted that I had not been in the school to post these, and my students were on a hunt to figure out who was doing it all week.  They even had me lock the classroom and come with them to PE one day to see what would happen...and while we were gone the Wise Men posted this!  (I had another teacher log in and add it).  The kids had commented that the Wise Men's conversation was very serious, so we gave them this:

I eventually confessed to organizing all of the posts, but it sure was fun while it lasted!

Day Twelve:
The guys hid in an owl basket in our classroom, and Caspar had to stand on the shoulders of Balthasar and Melchior to peek out.  They made a sign asking "Whoooooo has seen the Baby King?"
They also continued to post on Edmodo, much to the delight of the kids.

Day Thirteen:
The Wise Men were found hanging out with our classroom patron Saint St. Maximilian Kolbe.

St. Max gave us a little reminder of how loving Mary should be a part of Advent with this quote, "Never be a afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin Mary too much.  You can never love her more than Jesus did."
 Sitting near St. Max was this basket of Christmas pencils with a note that the Wise Men planned to bring the students three gifts, just like they took to Jesus.  I think the pencils were more practical than gold, frankincense and myrrh, at least in the eyes of a 5th grader!

Day Fourteen:
The Wise Men were found hiding in and among our classroom supplies, and had filled one of the empty bins with special owl candy canes.  Gift number two!

 Day Fifteen:
The Wise Men were found just about a foot short of the Nativity (it is sitting on top of this book shelf).  When the students come back to school in January, they will be gathered with Mary and Joseph around Jesus.  On this day, they brought the kids' third gift, which was actually my real Christmas gift to them.  (I'll save that for another post :)).
 I look forward to trying this tradition out next year with my next group of 5th graders.  I'd be excited to hear how you make it work in your classroom or home!

Click here for more Wandering Wise Men ideas:

Visit Catholic Inspired's link up for even more ideas!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Wandering Wise Men, Part 2

In this post I explained the origin of the Wandering Wise Men in my classroom.  Visit that link for more ideas on starting this tradition in your home or school!

Day Six:
The Wise Men brought us a special basket of Christmas books.  They were doing a little research of their own by reading the Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie de Paola.

Day Seven:
Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar brought the kids some fresh coloring pages to do in their spare time during the Advent season.  Here they are trying to color a picture of themselves to match accordingly.

Day Eight:
A school tradition during this week of Advent is to decorate the windows and playground fence with snowflakes.  The Wise Men brought us some starter snowflakes and asked if we wanted to help build a snowstorm :).
The guys hung one snowflake on the window and hid behind the curtains, making them a little more challenging to find!

Day Nine:
On our all school Christmas shirt/ugly sweater day, the Wise Men wanted to join in on the fun with their own ugly Christmas sweater!

Day Ten:
On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Wise Men were found honoring Mary and reenacting the story of St. Juan Diego in our faith corner.  Juan Diego was our Saint of the Month (poster in background) and the Wise Men also pulled out some classroom books about Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Caspar even dressed up in a tilma with the miraculous image of Our Lady, just like Juan Diego!  He and Melchior and Balthasar brought their own roses to honor Mary on her feast day.
The kids loved this one, and we learned quite a bit about this Marian apparition and Juan Diego's story.
The Wise Men pulled out several of our classroom books on OLG for the kids to explore:

OLG Books included in this picture are (from left to right):
Our Lady of Guadalupe for Children by Lupita Vital (in Spanish and English)
Our Lady of Guadalupe- Our Lady of the Americas by  Rev. L. Lovasik, S.V.D and Rev. J. Winkler, OFM Conv.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Story Coloring Book by Mary Fabyan Windeatt
St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe by Josephine Nobisso (chapter book)
Our Lady of Guadalupe by Francisco Serrano (beautiful pop-up book) 

Click here for five more Wandering Wise Men ideas:

Catholic Inspired is hosting a Wise Men Adventures Link Up!  Head on over there for more ideas, and I'll be back with the rest of our classroom Wise Men hijinks!