Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Last Day of School

Whenever I tell people that we're near the end of another school year, their response is usually something like, "Oh you must be so happy!" Although I sometimes pretend to be, just to seem normal, the truth is that I am a mess this time of year. Many of us are. We work in such a strange field, where every year we have to say goodbye to all of our students (who are essentially our co-workers, children, friends, and family all rolled into one) and start fresh in the fall. This is far from easy.

I cry every year on the last day of school. It's usually the moment when the last photo from our class slideshow fades, when I look at the clock and realize it's about to be all over. Sometimes kids are already crying by that point, which just sets me off worse. We have a tradition where all of the teachers line up in front of the school to wave the buses off with colorful scarves. I'm one of the ones waving a Kleenex and bawling.

This year my class made me a beautiful book full of letters and sweet drawings. They've been working on it in secret, during recesses, lunches, or when they could get permission to go into the hallway during silent reading. They presented it to me this morning as school started, and I completely lost it. It's clear that they had minimal (if any) parent help on the book, which makes it all the sweeter. Getting 24 third graders on the same page about anything takes a lot of work, so what really touched me was that they organized themselves and cooperated on this incredible gift for me.

So if you know a teacher, give him or her a hug this time of year. As Mr. Rogers once said,
"Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring feelings of loss. To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind."
Happy summer. :)

Last Day of Staff Room Duty: Camping Theme

In keeping with our summer theme, for our last big day of staff room duty, Chelsea and I did a camping subtheme. We started with these delicious s'more pops:

These were a huge hit. They're just marshmallows on wooden skewers. Then we melted a couple of giant bars of Hershey's chocolate in the microwave to dip them in, then rolled them in crushed graham crackers. They taste just like s'mores! I think it's pretty key to use Hershey's chocolate though... just any old chocolate wouldn't have that same effect.

We also made these little campfire cupcakes. They're just frosted with green "grass," then we broke pretzel sticks to make the logs and added a squirt of orange frosting with a star tip. Easy peasy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day Two of Staff Room Duty: Beach Theme!

Today is day 2 of Chelsea and me on staff room duty at our school. Of course we have a theme (isn't life always better when you have a theme?): Summer. Yesterday we filled the lounge with rainbows, and today the subtheme is the beach. The idea for the beach and shark cupcakes comes from Martha Stewart. The beaches are just orange frosting coated in graham cracker crumbs and topped with a paper parasol.
The sharks are blue frosting with a shark fin cut out of a plastic pocket folder.
I also made these watermelon-slice sugar cookies:

My frosting skills leave a lot to be desired.

And finally, for no good reason, we are putting out this jar of Starburst.
Come back tomorrow to see Day Three: Camping!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day One of Staff Room Duty: Rainbows!

For the last week of school, Chelsea and I signed up for Staff Room Duty. This usually entails loading the dishwasher, wiping down the countertops, and maybe bringing in a treat one day. Most teachers might do chips and salsa on one of their days.

Well, naturally Chelsea and I always go way overboard. For Halloween week we decked out the lounge in orange and black, made a different creepy treat for each day of the week, and hid plastic hearts in the refrigerator.

So for this week we knew we had set a bar for ourselves. We decided to go with a summer theme. Here's what we did for Monday (subtheme: rainbows):

1. Make a batch of cake batter. Divide into 6 bowls, and use food coloring to dye each bowl a different color.

2. Pour batter into 6 separate cake pans and bake.

3. Layer the cakes, frosting between layers.

4. Make Dr. Seuss proud with a wonky, wobbly, colorful rainbow cake.

5. Frost the whole thing white, so that when it's cut into it's a surprise! I'll post an update picture when this sucker gets cut into. :)

6. Decide that a rainbow cake isn't quite enough. Make rainbow cupcakes too.

7. Admire their beauty. High five each other.

8. Frost and sprinkle. I just love how the white cupcake cups turned semi-transparent, so that you can see the color swirls!

Come back tomorrow for Day Two: Beach Theme!

Here's a picture of the rainbow cake, when cut into. It turned out even better than we thought!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ye Olde Pioneer Craft: Clothespin Dolls

In third grade we are studying pioneers right now. One fun thing I love to do with the kids is to make old-fashioned clothespin dolls.

I explain that on the frontier, bored kids had to make their own fun out of whatever was at hand. Old-fashioned clothespins (which I find at Dollar Tree, btw) look so similar to little armless people that they were a natural choice for making toys!

I think my favorite thing about making these every year is watching kids who are used to their Xboxes and Wiis have a fantastic time with such low-tech materials. It's always kind of an "aha" moment for the parents who come in to help too... give kids some time to imagine, explore, and create, and some friends to do it with, and that's really all they need.

Some of the dolls reflect what students have learned about pioneer clothing:

...and some are less than traditional:

Who is that Man of Steel, and why is he so angry?
These are great for scrap-busting too!