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The Magic of December

“Winter is not a season, it’s a celebration.” – Anamika Mishra Autumn was longer and warmer than normal this year (yes, technically it is still autumn). The usual easing into winter didn’t happen. With the recent dustings of snow and holiday decorations in the malls, it feels sudden that the “holiday season” has arrived. A…

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Welcome to the New 2022-2023 School Year

“I think sleeping was my problem in school. If school had started at four in the afternoon, I’d be a college graduate today.” – George Foreman When summer holiday begins each June, many students welcome the opportunity to sleep in each day instead of only on weekends. As the summer progresses, they stay up later…

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Thank You For The Splendid Times

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.” – Sam Keen As another school year comes to a close, the weeks have been full of special events, celebrations, and farewells. The farewells are difficult: we have to say goodbye to friends who have made our individual lives and the school community better. It is nice to…

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The Power of Memories

The end of the year is always saturated with feelings of both happiness and sadness: teachers smile proudly as students graduate, parents’ hearts ache as teenagers leave home, graduates look ahead with giddy hearts. We share so many feelings looking back on what used to be, often fondly. The friends and experiences we have during…

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The Magic of Words

According to the internet (so it must be true), there are 273,000 English words in the Oxford English Dictionary; there are 470,000 English words in Webster’s Dictionary. The Oxford dictionary is from the United Kingdom and Webster’s Dictionary is from the United States. The United States is larger than the United Kingdom, so it makes sense that the Webster’s Dictionary would have more words. (Somehow that makes sense, right?).  Each year, about a 1000 words are added to the Webster’s Dictionary: in my life over 50,000 new English words have been born. There are other dictionaries as well. One of my favorite words recently added to Dictionary.com is “sharent” which means “to frequently use social media to share photos or other details and information about one’s child”. In English, all it takes to become an official new word is making it into print many times. A friend recently used the word “psychologied”, which means to have psychology used on you. It is not actually a word, but it should be a word. I’m hoping that by putting it in print here it will be added to a dictionary next year. If Shakespeare invented over 1,700 words, it is fair that my friend can invent 1. …

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‘Just Keep Swimming’

I am a sucker for animated films. Ratatouille, Encanto (“We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no…”), Moana, Frozen (yep, Frozen), and almost all of the rest: and of course Finding Nemo. I say “almost all of the rest”, because I never liked the Mickey Mouse films or cartoons. I guess that’s because I have an aversion to rodents. I’ve never liked rodents, and rats freak me out (it took me a while to appreciate Ratatouille). Even squirrels give me the creeps. I think of squirrels as fuzzy tailed tree rats. My daughter, though, has a zillion photos of a squirrel named Alberto who lives in a tree at our house. Beavers are cool, because they are unique and industrious. Capybara are also ok: they are noble somehow. Lemmings are fascinatingly weird, but I wouldn’t want to run into a slice of them. …

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Should Snowball Parties Be Allowed at School? 

On Wednesday, February 2, 2022, I had an important meeting with two middle school students. They approached me in the Atrium during lunch. One of them had pasta stains on her sweatshirt; the other had not finished her sandwich. They asked me if they were allowed to have a snowball fight. My answer was no; for two days, I have thought of little else.  As a former elementary school teacher and principal, I am hardwired to say “no” to snowball fights. Now I am questioning myself. After almost 30 years working in schools, have I been mistaken this entire time? I need your ear and your advice. After disappointing the two middle school students, I went outside and did some impromptu supervision. Many times I had to remind students that snowball fights were not permitted. Almost every student at some time was throwing snow. They laughed and screamed (the snow down the back of the shirt kind of scream) and had a lot of fun. It got me wondering whether snowball fights should be allowed, so I did some research Wednesday evening. I was planning to support the “no snowball fight rule” with some statistics….

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Wishing You a Gratitude Filled New Year!

In last week’s Weekly Howl, MS Counselor, Mr. Johnson, wrote about gratitude; earlier this week I was in an elementary classroom as they were discussing gratitude. Gratitude is a noun that means being thankful. I think gratitude should also be a verb and an adjective (perhaps even an adverb), so I will use it however I want in this, the final Weekly Howl of 2021. I know that some English teachers and grammarians may not approve of me making up and/or misusing a word, but I don’t care; I am gratitudy for those people who just let this slide. 2020 was the year of our discontent (nod to Shakespeare and Steinbeck), or so we thought. I recall a year ago kicking 2020 out the door with relief and satisfaction: 2021 had to be better. Well.  It is easy to focus on the challenges of any year, and 2020 and 2021 have had more than their fair share. However, there is so much more to be gratitudy for than to lament. …

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Talking Through Uncomfortable Emotions

Today is a national day of mourning in Bulgaria for the two tragedies that have happened this week. On behalf of AAS, I send my condolences to the victims (and their families) of the nursing home fire in Royak and the bus fire on the Struma Highway. After the Sandyhook school shooting in December 2012, a young student asked me why we were having a day of mourning for something that happened thousands of kilometers away. It was not an insensitive question: it was a question about what a day of mourning is or why it is important. In that moment, I struggled to answer. To me, it was expected that there would be a day of mourning for something so horrible and troubling, but I was not able to explain to a young student how a day of mourning helped. If I could go back in time and answer the question now, I would say that a day of mourning is important for many reasons….

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Celebrating Life Every Day

Little kids are the best at saying simple truths. Earlier this week, AAS kindergarten student, Helena, was kind enough to point out the simple truth in the quote above. I have worked in schools for a long time (hence the being very old quotation), and I have enjoyed countless funny comments from kids. Parents, you may not know this, but your kids often say funny things about you at school. For example, most of the teachers in the ES have a pretty good sense of which dads snore.  Helena’s comment got me thinking. I don’t feel old. However, I am obviously very old, and I have a birthday coming up, so I’m just getting older. I don’t mind birthdays and getting older: it is a lot better than the alternative. …

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Reflections at the End of the Schoolyear

In my first year of teaching–I taught a grade 4 class in Bonn, Germany–I remember being astonished at how the school year seemed to speed up after the spring break. Each year since, I try to prepare myself for the busy and exciting spring as another school year comes to a close, but I am never successful. Again this year, I find myself caught up in the hyper-drive vacuum of May and June.  This time of the year is the busiest, the most exciting, and the most emotional. It is the busiest because we are planning for next year while at the same time doing everything that comes with the end of a school year. It is the most exciting because of all of the special events and celebrations that mark the end of another school year. From graduation and moving up ceremonies, to classroom celebrations, to many different transitions, there is a lot going on. At the same time, outside of school there are barbecues, picnics in the park, and other social events. …

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