1,201 is just a number.  I can’t decide how I feel about it.  On one hand it seems like a lot of pictures to take at school that tell the story of the amazing things happening in Cricket Country.  On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like nearly enough to articulate what happens in our schools on a daily basis.  Obviously, pictures tell stories.  The pictures and videos we take in schools hope to tell stories for those who can’t be there to experience what we see every day.  The pictures can highlight what happens, but often the message gets lost with the “you had to be there” mentality.  We hope that the pictures we take contribute to the mosaic that is Fall Creek. All 1,201 can be seen at www.flickr.com/fallcreekcrickets.  It was next to impossible to come up with only a few to highlight in this blog, but here goes…

The first picture is the monstrosity that is our Play Web.  It’s huge…and the kids love it.  It represents what I hope students bring to school all the time.  Be brave, aim high, and step out of your comfort zone.  When we were building the new playground, I had inkling that the structure would be big…but had no idea that I could go to the top and take an aerial shot of the school!  The idea was to have some equipment for our older students at the elementary level.  Turns out that everyone loves it…from Kindergarten students to Middle School students…I even saw some of our high school kids navigating the ropes.  In the end, it is awesome and the students have been both safe and brave while spending time on the structure.  It clearly represents what we want from kids and we hope that the same level of nervousness and drive can get them to the top of their academic career as well.

As the year went on we wanted to get more time for our staff to collaborate.  We have grade level collaboration days and our professional development time has moved to more of an independent model where our group gets to choose how they grow.  That model leaves little to no time for all staff collaboration between SPED, Title, Counseling, and across grade levels.  So, thanks to Jay Posick (who I will yell at later in the post) we started collaboration mornings for our staff and students.  Every 6 weeks I get to take our students, all 350 of them, in the gym for 90 minutes.  During this time we read a book together, play some team building games with classes and grade levels, and have some buddy reading time.  Our teachers get that additional time to work together and connect on a different level.  The picture is from one of our teambuilding activities.  Look at the smiles!!!!  Now…I have learned a few lessons.  First…though the time is crazy and trying to keep the interest of 350 kids ages 5-12 is next to impossible, I love it.  The staff has been very appreciative of the time and the connection I get with our students has been excellent.  Next…our 5th grade students have helped organize and even plan some of the days, which is a prime example of what happens when you trust and empower kids…they have been awesome.  Finally…listen.  When I talked to Jay about the idea I failed to listen to the details.  Apparently, I didn’t hear the part where he told me they get together for 30 minutes…not 90.  So…

This is a first grade student drawing during indoor recess.  I snuck behind him only to see that he was drawing a picture to give to his teacher.  It speaks to the connection we aim for when
working with kids.  The feeling that they have when they know they belong, when they know they are wanted, and when they know they can succeed is so special.  This happens all the time…kids color a picture or draw something for their teacher and the stacks of mementos grow on the edges of desks in every school.  Our reaction to the picture is what makes the connection work.  If it’s just another picture, the likelihood of the connection diminishes.  If there is that moment in giving it to their teacher, when they feel like the only other person in the world, the connection goes well beyond curriculum and school rules…and that is where amazing starts.
Moment captured by Karen Stuttgen

Finally, and my favorite, was taken in a classroom by one of our teachers.  It is rare that the ah-ha moment is ever captured.  This was it…the moment where one of her students “got it”.  The student was teaching her peers and the knowledge that she understood the process was overwhelming…it is both precious and poignant.  We spend hours and hours hoping that a moment like this happens for our kids.  We help them to own the process so the joy comes in learning, not memorizing.  When they take pride in the learning and can work through the tough times to get to that moment, it makes everything right.  The joy in her face continues to make me smile and gives me hope that this feeling happens often, even if we can’t catch it with a picture.

1,201 to 4.  I often think about the work we do in schools and know that it is worth it, but don’t know if everyone feels that way.  Our staff and students are amazing.  Our staff has the best interests of students in mind and their joy comes from seeing students succeed.  Our students are respectful and find joy in owning the learning process.  When those two ideas collide, magic happens.  Here is hoping that you, your students, and your staff have seen it happen this year and continue to do amazing things in 2014. Go Crickets.
AuthorJoe Sanfelippo