Wednesday, April 29, 2015

EXCELLENCE, Inequity, Poverty + Benevolence, Organization & Rainbows

Author-Illustrator School Visit: Debbie Clement goes to "Primary Graffiti"

Welcome to excellence! 

If you've ever wondered what excellence looks like at the elementary school level, you are in for a treat. I have at least a glimpse to elevate your Wednesday to the WONDERFUL level! In the process I bet you'll be inspired and delighted at the same time. Without a doubt, you will see excellence-in-action!

I go to a lot of schools over the course of the year. I get to see a HUGE variety of settings in my travels. Here's a gen-u-ine truth. 
All schools are NOT created equal. 
It pains me to say that. There are bus-loads of children being dropped off to buildings that are from a by-gone era. There are children walking in the doors of buildings that have had to cut their budgets down to bare bones. There are students spending their school lives in less than optimal settings.  

What does school look like on the 155th day?

My author-illustrator visits are often underwritten by the hard work of a PTA/PTO. It is usually through parents working together that there is sufficient fund raising effort taking place to ensure that extra "frills" are still available for enrichment. [Don't get me started about ART being a frill that must be sacrificed during these economic times. That's a different rant altogether.]

What if a school doesn't even have a parent's organization? What happens to field trips and assemblies when families can no longer "pay-to-play" on behalf of their children? What becomes of those once in a lifetime memories that stretch the boundaries of the classroom? What happens when the majority of the building falls into gen-u-ine, documented poverty status? 

How is it that some schools are taking 5, 6 or even more field trips a year and others can offer ZERO? My heart aches for those kids. The ones who never have a field trip. No pumpkin patch, no zoo, no museum, no theater, no symphony, no ballet. The ones who never get an assembly. No exploding science experiments from the guy with the crazy hair. No life-size marionettes visiting in the gym. No African drum ensemble after recess. 

What about those kids? There are so many great divides left in this amazing country of ours. The ache for "those kids" and "that school" is real. What opportunities are cut off, because dreams were never lit early on? When does someone organize a sit-in for that school? When does someone lead the demonstration that points out the obvious? Schools are different from neighborhood to neighborhood. Opportunities too. 

I don't know exactly how we got to this point. I'm not pretending to be bright enough to know what to do about it, either. BUT, I can still make a difference! Little ol' me. It is my personal mission to offer my own visits to the marginalized, whenever I can. As our time in Florida this season trickled away, I realized that it was time to contribute my energy. Cheryl of the ubber-popular blog, "Primary Graffiti" was willing to reach out to her principal for permission and then do all of the heavy lifting of getting an entire building organized. All I had to do was drive there and do-my-thing.

Here are the smiling faces that greeted me on her classroom door.  

I have to say that Cheryl's principal deserves some extra cheers. 
In my efforts to offer my "gift-of-benevolence" visit, 
I had two different building principals turn me down just this spring. 
Same thing happened last year: different state, same rationale. 
All have thought that any 'distraction' in the midst of testing 
would throw a monkey-wrench into the critical rigor of this high stakes evaluation-time. 
That's yet another rant.

Let's just be grateful that Cheryl's principal was delighted at the offer 
and knew that singing, dancing and interaction with a 'real' author would be beneficial -- even in the spring time!

I know that my readers like to look over my shoulder and see how other classrooms are organized. 
This earlier article continues to climb my Top-10 list.  

185 Ideas to Organize your Classroom NOW! {RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach}

Though my time for taking photos was at an all-time low, 
I entered Cheryl's room with an eagerness to share what an organized room can look like. 
She probably has at least 185 ideas in her own room! 

Here are just a few of her classroom vignettes, 
captured while doing my utmost NOT to disturb her teaching time. 
Ready? Set...... GO! 

Visit an Organized Classroom: Debbie Clement goes to Primary Graffiti

{Egg on face: I just realized that in attempting to give Cheryl 'credit' on the photos below, I have spelled the word Graffiti wrong repeatedly. Please forgive me.}

Take a look at the shelves immediately opposite the classroom door's entrance.

What a 'calming' sense washes over me,
when I walk into a classroom that has DESIGN at the forefront! 
Organization award for REALZ!

There's a place for everything...... 
and everything's in its place. 

We may have been separated at birth. 
When I taught Art, I had bins for my parquetry blocks per table, too! 

Now walk around the rest of the perimeter of her room. 
There is excellence and classroom organization pouring out of every corner!

She will have to tell you where her various bins and buckets came from. 
You need to go to her blog on a regular basis anyhow! 
The woman has a HUGE heart for children and knows how to set the bar, 
so that they can achieve their best....
even BEYOND predictions! 

Which just goes to show you that there are incredible teachers doing amazing work, 
in schools that are sitting in the midst of economic blight. 
There is always a possibility of excellence. 
No matter the 'location.'
Personal excellence has long been possible. 
Think of the movies you've seen where the teacher triumphs on behalf of the kids.
This team provides just such an environment! 

I had the opportunity to meet other educators in the building and they too were happy to welcome me. How I wish I had time to visit in other classrooms. True to a Floridian school design, every classroom opens onto a courtyard, and alas, there are no central hallways filled with art to capture and share. 

Here are the first grade preparations for Mother's Day. 
Integrating science, seeds, delayed gratification and flowers!

Cheryl wanted to see the "Wobble Seat" that we distribute in person.
So I brought an example of the 14" Kids Seat to take a test drive. 
We both felt that the white option might NOT be the best for heavy duty 
classroom usage over the course of time: wink-wink. 

But the driver of the wobble had a great time!
I am always amazed to see how soon the extreme wobbling settles into quiet rocking. 
This time was no different. 

Wobble Seat in the First Grade Classroom via

We are now processing purchase orders. 
You ALWAYS get free shipping when you order a dozen. 
My hubby can figure out an exact quote, with specific shipping if you give him a call. 
Here's the tag for ALL of my earlier mentions of WobbleSeats 
and especially how you can write a Donors Choose project! 

Here are the two of us BEFORE all of the fun in the library gets underway. 

Those of you that have visited here before, 
KNOW my adoration for color. 
To be greeted by hand painted rainbows, on a raining day, 
really did make my heart go pitter-patter!

Here we are..... all gathered together in the library. 
I enlisted NUMEROUS teachers to help.
They hold my books and turn pages, 
while I teach the sign language to support the song's lyrics/book text.  

Cheryl wore her official "PHOTOGRAPHER" hat well!
I don't have a photo of the two of us in action together. 

Author-Illustrator School Visit: Debbie Clement goes to "Primary Graffiti"

Author-Illustrator School Visit: Debbie Clement goes to "Primary Graffiti"

One of my favorite parts of every presentation, 
is when we compare my fabric quilts 
to the finished book's illustrations. 

The kids literally GASP when we compare the two --
and I never get tired of that!
This is my favorite quilt from my first picture book
"You're Wonderful." 

I integrate 'crossing-the-midline' in all choreography, whenever possible. 
I have written earlier about wiring the brain through movement in previous articles. 
Here's a favorite from the archives.

Author-Illustrator School Visit: Debbie Clement goes to "Primary Graffiti"

Author-Illustrator School Visit: Debbie Clement goes to "Primary Graffiti"

My three picture books are over at TeachersPayTeachers
Or get them DIRECTLY from my website

Picture Books Based on Song Lyrics by Debbie Clement

I rushed 213 miles directly BACK to our front door, 
since it was Tuesday, 
that meant Twitter Chat with my #TeacherFriends. 

How cool to see Cheryl's tweet arise in real time in my notifications
while we were busy chatting! 

She's right! That image will remain a FAVORITE for ages to come! 
Those kiddos are freezing their funny faces, fantastically, 
as part of the second verse in my crowd pleasing, 
"Jumpin' Jiminy." 

Two of my three books will be used repeatedly as teachers prepare to wind up their year with a performance for Mother's day or graduation. 

I have the songs in Mp3 format, available for digital download. 

End of the Year Performance Songs for Kindergarten and ECE Graduation by Debbie Clement

Would you be willing to pin from this article? 
That's how people discover me! 

I would be so grateful for your social network share of choice! 

Wobble Seats: Alternative Seating for Young Children

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

#TeacherFriends: Twitter Chat on Angry + "Over-the-Top" Kids

Join us in our weekly Twitter chat!

This week promised to be a critically significant chat. 
Teaching in 2015? 2016? 

My prediction is that you are having MORE 
"Over the Top" Kids 
from year-to-year. 

We are so fortunate to have Wendy Young, 
co-author of the brand-new, not-quite released book:  BLOOM 
as our #GuestEduCelebrity of the week. 

How often do you get to chat with the author of a BRAND-new book? 
PLUS! You can enter to win your very own copy! 
Wendy is just days ahead of the official BLOOM launch.

We will be tweeting a link to a Google doc throughout the evening. 
Just be sure to add your name + specifics once. 

If you don't win, you can pre-order it! 

We really only have ONE 'rule' for our chat.............. 
Just remember to use our hashtag 


in every tweet! 
That way we can all 'see' your contribution. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mother's Day Crafts, Cards and Keepsakes

photo of: Mother's Day RoundUP of Resources: Bloghop + LInkie at RainbowsWithinReach


Mother. Mom. Mommy. Mama. Mum. Mawwwm! Momzie. Step-mom. Grandma.
So many labels. So many titles. So many hats to wear. Welcome to a RoundUP of resources to start the celebration on all things mom. The sooner you get started, the less stress. Right? 

What a treasure to help direct the creation of an honored keepsake to give to the very heart-of-it-all. What an opportunity. Moms. Profound responsibility this holiday. Where do we begin to honor the very one who gave us life? 
No pressure there! 

What's an appropriate gift for the one who went without sleep for eons, in an effort to bring some modicum of regulation to our infancy? The one who laughed at our first earnest efforts to tell a joke with absolutely no smidgen of sense?  The one armed with bandaids and kisses for all of life's all 'too-real' challenges? The one willing to sacrifice her own dreams for yours? How do we honor that hero? Where do we begin? 

{Here's my article where I create a DIY photo-making 'magnet tutorial' -- with all of the directions spelled out, from my first-hand perspective.... based on those goodies up above. I tried it myself, just in time for a little Father's Day affection.}

photo of: Father's Day Craft: Photo Magnets, DIY Tutorial Instructions
Photo Magnet Tutorial for Gift Giving: Mother's Day + Father's Day 

Profound responsibility indeed, honoring the center-of-the-known universe. Mother's Day. No matter what YOUR relationship is to your own mom, this day holds great opportunity to direct the children you impact to stop long enough to reflect. Even if its to paint those precious piggies and make a handprint in a flash saying in essence, "This one's for you, I made it with my whole, entire and complete heart." 

photo of: handprint paintings for kindergarten, Mother's Day art project, preschool craft for Mother's Day

Mother's Day is certainly not just a Halmark cards marketing phenomena. In fact when it comes to young children, that spring Sunday has very little to do with the store-bought and has everything to do with the heart-felt. We honor the all-too-often, unsung hero, when we honor mothers. We rejoice with the one that makes EVERYTHING  possible, when we honor mothers. What can we direct simply and well to help convey our appreciation?

photo of: handprint poem for Mother's Day, mother's day card for preschool, DIY Mother's Day craft
After all -- our mothers are our rocks, our cheerleaders, our guidance counselors, our personal coaches, our cooks, our patient maids, our first teachers, our calm nurses and our guiding stars. If you're as fortunate as I am, they are also your inspiration as well. 

photo of: Bulletin Board for Mother's Day, Spring bulletin board, Handprint bulletin board

I am the most blessed of all the categories of children, because in these my mature years, I still have my mommy at the helm. I never, ever want to take that treasured reality for granted. While separated by too many miles for regular hugs, I still have, by the grace-of-God, the opportunity for insight and direction immediately, directly and in first person. I am fortunate beyond measure. I hold the winning lottery ticket. I have my mother still to appreciate and treasure. 

photo of: Anchor Chart for Mother's Day, Mother's Day poem, kindergarten

I gather up these goodies from earlier articles here, as a unique way to say "thanks mom" to my own beloved mommy. Lincoln said it best. He knew what he was saying when he reflected, 
"I owe everything that I am to my mother." 

photo of: Mother's Day Kindergarten Gift, handprint for Mother's Day on ceramic tile,

Unfortunately. Not every child is as fortunate. There are altogether too many children who must converse with angel mommies. There are families whose family dinner tables have the all-too-genuine empty chair in the midst of a life that must somehow go on. Those stories are filled with a range of emotions. There is no doubt an ache and continual longing for one more conversation, one more question, one more opportunity to laugh together. Alas. 

photo of: Handprint for Mother's Day, Preschool handprint painting,
Mother's Day Painted Handprint Flower with Heart 
These are the children who have milestones that go motherless. No mom to toil over cupcake baking in the dark, due to an oversight of volunteering and inadequate calendar management. No mother's arms in the midst of the dark night's thrashing nightmare. No mom to watch the cap and gown ceremony. No mom on Mother's Day. 

photo of: Poem for Mother's Day via RainbowsWithinReach
Mother's Day Flower

What sensitivity can we bring to Mother's Day for that child -- whatever their age? What insight and caring can you offer the child whose mama looks down from above? What role of 'mother' are you to that child? How do you wear that hat amid your many other roles: teacher, neighbor, scout leader, choir director, friend? 

photo of: Cute Mother's Day poem, Preschool handprint poem

Also with sadness, there are throngs of other children who have a strained or even severed mom-relationship in dire need of healing. There are moms at their wits end. Literally. There are mothers without custody of their children. There are moms-behind-bars this spring. There are other moms who may belong in jail in the eyes of society, but seldom their children. Any mom is better than an empty vacuum in the eyes of the littles.

photo of: Mother's Day handprint rhyme, poem for Mother's Day, craft gift for Mother's Day

I'll never forget the summer weekends I spent at the Marysville Women's Prison. I vowed that I would do my very bestest whenever I was aware a child had an incarcerated mother. Seeing the inmates in their crisply ironed khakis in anticipation of their children's annual arrival made me realize what a fine line we tread on this planet. I was there to lead singing. Yet it was the bonding and cohesion that my songs offered that brought the most joy. I learned a lot. Thank you Girl Scout cookie-drives for bringing those shattered families together. Even if for only a weekend. 

photo of: Mother's Day rhyme for handprint, Mother's Day poem for children

I seriously could relate. I knew all too well the turmoil of single-parenting on a dime. A new era of sleeplessness. I was fortunate to have a family, resources, a profession and an education to support me during that chapter of struggle. The majority of these women had none of those luxuries at their disposal. They had made poor decisions. Those decisions may just have been prompted by their own dire need. Whatever the story, I saw the eyes of the children as they entered the compound in search of love. Mother's Day in July inside the barbed wire for those children. 

photo of: Kindergarten Handprint poem, Poem for handprint art,
Handprint Rhyme 
Neglect. Abuse. These too, are facts of life for some children. Way too many children are in this sea of having to mother themselves all too soon. What do we do with the holiday at hand for this category of little ones? For this category of bigger ones? 

bumble bee art, children's art, children's spring collage, spring preschool art, NAEYC art
Mother's Day: Painted Handprint Bouquet of Flowers

I always think believe that acknowledging the truth is a step in the right direction. Being available to listen..... listen without judgement, is perhaps the biggest gift. Empathy when a child asks if they can give their gift to their granny or their auntie, may be just the bridge to the conversation and deeper understanding that the child craves. Are you tuned in? Do you have your listening ears  on? 

photo of: Mother's Day drawings in kindergarten, Mother's Day project
Mom's as Depicted in Children's Art for Mother's Day 

No matter the category, or the specific situation, our mothers are indeed woven into our every fingerprint and eyelash. That is both the good news and the tough truth. Every holiday has a spectrum of responses, based on a myriad of details that we are seldom privy to. So we venture forth with our painted handprints and chipper poems directing efforts the best that we can. Knowing that it does indeed take a village. 

photo of: Mother's Day Bulletin Board via RainbowsWithinReach

Before I sign off today, I want to share one more stark consideration. As I sit here typing on this side of the screen, I know that there is another category of full grown women who approach Mother's Day filled with a barrage of emotion. I know that there are women grieving for children that they have never had. There are those who have a longing for a child yet unable to conceive, or unable to be brought fully to fruition, to life. That too is a sorrow to acknowledge as we approach Mother's Day. How do we support our friends and colleagues during this season-of-all-things MOM, when that is their deepest longing, as yet to be experienced? The same way that we shore up the children and their longing. By listening. By being present. By giving of ourselves, even when there are no words adequate for the situation. We stand with them as they attempt to grapple with a situation beyond their control. 

photo of: kindergarten Mother's Day writing, kindergarten fine motor development, invented spelling

There are others who grieve over children that they bore and have since lost. I know of our dear village pre-teen who science failed this summer and the whole sky reigned down orange in honor-of-Bo. I know of little five year old Carter in Ypsilanti, MI undergoing daily radiation and chemo treatments as I type. Those moms have a unique place as May 12th arrives. 

photo of: Mother's Day poem for children, Poem for Mother's Day artwork

Life here on Planet Earth can be tough beyond our preparation. Does that mean we cower in the corner? I think not. I think this life demands that we rise up to celebrate every occasion we are given. I think it requires that we breathe in every tickle and wiggle we are offered. We get out the paint and the poems. We assemble the construction paper corsages. We dance with glee as we are able. We each our cardboard breakfasts in bed, smiling ear-to-ear. We are each doing the best that we can, with the circumstances and training that we have. Let's support each other this spring! Let's hold each other up! Let's trust that 'all things work together for good.'
photo of: Mother's Day flower project, Mother's Day craft for children
My WonderBoy Beams from his Cupcake Paper Liner Flower Picture Frame for his Mama Bear! 

Those little photo magnets are awesome for tons of uses. They could be attendance takers, too! The classroom is such a fun place to explore with magnets. 

photo of: Photo Magnets: Mothers Day + More at RainbowsWithinReach

** Update from the future: Next week I contribute to a KBN (Kid Blogger Network) tribute to mothers and mothering. It contains my suggestions to young moms in the midst of mothering -- from a grandma's perspective. Here's my first, ever subway art montage. {Click the edge of the image to go to my tribute to my mom.}

Subway Art for Mother's Day by Debbie Clement

I have the honor of sharing some of my fellow blogger's posts on their ideas for this holiday. Thank you to my Kid Blogger Network of peers who teach me things every day.

photo of: "Little Illuminations" Mother's Day Project
Upcycled Mother's Day Craft
Let's continue this party with my buddy Ayn Colsh who keeps her own blog hummin' at "Little Illuminations" and contributes monthly at our collaborative blog, "PreK+K Sharing" on the 7th every month. She's got a great 'upcycle' craft to create.  You're going to LUV LUV LUV her bibliography of picture books that depict and share mother's love! She showcases the classics and some unique titles as well. 

Mothers Day Card
"WOW, MOM!" Card for Mother's Day
Brilliant Tammy of "Housing a Forest" offers this delightful card-making insight, which when completed offers the recipient a great big, 'Wow, Mom.' I have often had my workshop participants create this exact same concept with their bodies, kinesthetically. Sign language 'w' on each hand, with an open-mouth to represent the 'o' in the middle. Then elbows up in the air, fingers pointing down and everything flips over for the 'm' version of mom. Get it? Physicalize those letters

Spring Cherry Tree

Tammy was kind enough to share two links with me. Her second is an INCREDIBLE blooming cherry tree project, PERFECT for spring! Perfect for mom. I'm choosing an image just getting underway, because I want you to be sufficiently intrigued to hop over!

photo of: Keepsake Questions for Mother's day via PlayDrMom
Insightful Questions at PlayDrMom
In the spirit of my lengthy ramble today, author Laura at "PlayDrMom" has a brilliant article. Laura's expertise as a child therapist shines through her post. The questions will be treasured keepsakes for generations! You can see their simple picture frames embellished in this article. Or if you need a great big smile, go over to see the painted footprints transformed into a Mother's Day butterfly

photo of: Mother's Day Open-Ended Project via "Connecting Family and Seoul"

The old Art teacher in me implores you to go visit Gina at "Connecting Family and Seoul" to see how you support open-ended art process for young children, that results in a present worthy of highest admiration. 

photo of: Felt Floral Bouquet for Mother's Day via "Busy Kids = Happy Mom"
Felt Flower Bloom for Mother's Day! 
To conclude the resources so far, I offer you Kristin owner of 'Busy Kids = Happy Moms" who offers you all the insight needed to create an ever-blooming bouquet using felt. This end result could adorn the most delightful home for the entire season at hand and return next year, too! 

Thanks to all who added their insight and treasures. I am making this article a blog hop in the hopes that you'll have all the resources that you need. Bloggers I ask that after you add your article's URL, you visit the author directly above you and spread some bloggy-LUV comments. We all adore hearing from our readers. What a great way to support one another! It would be so gracious if you'd include a link back here. Kindness goes a long way. 

By all means, please pin your favorites from this article! I am so grateful for every pin that radiates from this resource center. I have permission to use the KBN bloggers photos, but it would make more sense for you to pin their image at their blog, thanks from all of us. Tweet or + while you're add it, if those are your favored networks!  **Teehee, I have entered my own linkie.

Mother's Day RoundUP of Ideas + Inspiration via RainbowsWithinReach

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!
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