I Did Something Scary a Few Weeks Ago

Screen Shot 2018-12-27 at 9.31.01 AMA few weeks ago, I did something scary.  I made myself vulnerable to our staff in a meeting.  I opened up about my adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

In the late 1990’s, a doctor from the CDC and a doctor from Kaiser Permanente set out to find connections between childhood experiences and lifelong health.  They created a questionnaire and sent it to over 17,000 people in the Kaiser network.  The results were astounding.  The more adverse childhood experiences a person had, the more likely they were to have health issues.  Someone with an ACE score of 4 had twice the risk of heart disease and cancer.  Those with an ACE score of 6 or more, on average had 20 years lower life expectancy.

Of course, ACE scores don’t tally the positive experiences in early life that can help build resilience and protect a child from the effects of trauma.  Having a grandparent who loves the child or a teacher who understands and believes in the child may help mitigate the long-term effects of early trauma.

So why did I share this information with our staff?  Because many of our students are living with adverse childhood experiences right now.  How can the adults in the building help?  First, we need to be aware of the types of trauma that our students may be living with.  Then, we need to arm ourselves with strategies to help our students build resilience and coping skills.  If each staff member is “the one” for at least one student enduring trauma in the building, think about the impact we can make!

My ACE score is 4.  Thankfully, I had two teachers who took me under their wing and helped to mitigate the long-term effects of my early trauma.  I’m fully aware that my life could have gone in a different direction.  I’m also acutely sensitive to the trauma that our students endure, as a result of my own trauma.

Last week, I finally had a chance to sit down and read Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.  This is a timely and profoundly important memoir, that unfortunately too many of our students will see themselves in.  But, that is exactly why it is a necessary book for our middle school and high school students.

Students who are living in a similar situation will see themselves in this graphic novel and will see how Jarrett was able to overcome his childhood trauma.  Other students will read Hey Kiddo! and will become aware of situations that some of their friends may be going through, perhaps building some empathy for their classmates.

Think about the students in your classroom or building.  Do you know them?  I mean really know them?  Do you know the trauma that some of them may endure in their homes?  As we close out 2018 and begin to edge into 2019, I will think about how I can “be the one” for the students in my building. I hope you will do the same.

©2018 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

September 11 was a week ago yesterday and like most people around the country, I remembered that day, fifteen years ago.  Where I was.  How I felt.  But, see, that day is remembered every day by those first responders, families, and children who were directly affected by it. While I wanted to share this on the 15th anniversary of September 11th, or perhaps even leading up to the anniversary, I did not. Partly, because I didn’t get my act together in time, and partly because I think we should remember every day.   So, I share today.

nine-ten-a-september-11-story-9781442485068_hrOver the summer, I read Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin and I was brought back to that day.  I posted a note to Nora on Facebook and mentioned that the characters in her story were “my kids.”  Between our exchange and her exchange with other teachers around the country, Nora realized that we, teachers in the classroom on September 11th, had an enormous challenge in front of us that day.  In many cases, we had to carry on as “normal,” for our kids.   We had to put aside our personal concerns or contact with family members in order to put on a brave face for the good of our students.  This is what teaching is every day.  We are the caring and kindness that students look for when they walk into the classroom.  We are their safe haven.  We are their security and comfort for 7 hours a day. And so, that is what we do.  We set aside whatever we need to in order to to be that emotional stability for our children.

My own children were not born yet in 2001.  They have no understanding of the events of that day.  They have no idea what a pre-September 11th world was like.  But, it’s books like Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story that can help this generation of children begin to understand.  Nora Raleigh Baskin weaves the stories of four middle school students together with the backdrop of September 11, 2001.  Through this book, children will learn kindness and empathy, while building their background knowledge about the day that our world changed forever.

To help teachers share their stories, and to offer a bit of catharsis, Nora created a blog on her website for teachers to share.  Here is my story:

It began as any other fall day; that gorgeous blue sky and beautiful temperatures. In Montgomery County, MD, just outside the nation’s capital, we were already into our third week of school in my 5th grade class. It was my student Shannon’s birthday, so as students filed in right around 9 am, we wished her a happy birthday and got started on our morning routines. . .  Continue reading

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Books to Build Community in the First Weeks of School

When I was a classroom teacher, I read aloud to my students every day.  I was purposeful in my read aloud choices. Sometimes the books chosen were specific to our curriculum, sometimes the books were just to hear a read aloud.  At the beginning of the year, I liked to read aloud books that would help us gel as a class, to build our community.  Click on the link to find a list of books that are great mentor texts to help build community.

Here are three books that publish in the next few weeks that you may want to consider as read alouds as you build your community at the beginning of the school year.

Friendshape by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Publisher: Scholastic

Publication Date: August 25, 2015

Friends come in all shapes and sizes.  Friends shape who we are.  Using her traditional abstract style, Krouse Rosenthal creates an uplifting celebration of friendship in her latest collaboration with Tom Lichtenheld.

Mini Myths: Please Share, Aphrodite! by Joan Holub

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed

Publication Date: September 1, 2015

Based on the story of Goddess Aphrodite and the Golden Apple, Prince Paris offers to trade the apple with Hera, Athena, or Aphrodite.  When Aphrodite wins the trade, she knows she should share with her friends, but will she? This is a mythology-inspired modern-day parable for our youngest learners in this board book tale and even includes a summary of the original myth of Aphrodite and the Golden Apple.

Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio

Publisher: Farrar Straus and Giroux

Publication Date: September 1, 2015

Everyone loves Bacon.  Egg loves Bacon.  Lettuce loves Bacon. Waffle loves Bacon.  Pretty much everyone thinks Bacon is the best (don’t you?).  Bacon is a modern day version of a superhero!  But when all that fame goes to his head, he forgets the important things in life, like friendship and family. Will Bacon learn the meaning of friendship? Or will he get fried?

Disclosure:  I received copies of these books from the publisher for review.

©2015 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Building Social-Emotional Skills through Picture Books

I know.  I know.  I have been MIA.  Time has slipped away from me and the awesome goals I made on January 1st have as well.  I’m going to try to get better at blogging regularly!

I love to use books, especially picture books, to teach children.  I’ve recently read two picture books that I think are fantastic models to help build social-emotional skills in children.

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall 

Red’s factory-applied label clearly says that he is red.  With his parents, grandparents, and teacher’s best efforts, he tries his best to show that he is what his label says, red.  He just can’t seem to make red strawberries or mix with Yellow to make an orange. Red feels like he can’t do anything right.  Until he meets a new friend, Berry, who shows him a new perspective.  

Red: A Crayon’s Story is a great story to share with children to discuss the idea of labels and how those labels make us feel.

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Publishing Date: February 3, 2015

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher to review.


The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Brian is invisible.  Nobody ever seems to notice him or include him in their groups, games, or birthday parties.  And then Justin, a new kid, comes to class.  Brian makes Justin feel welcome and when they team up to work on a class project, everyone learns to see Brian as a boy, not the invisible boy.  

I read this book as part of my Teachers as Readers event through MCCIRA.  We read two Black Eyed Susan nominees and then meet to discuss the books. The Invisible Boy would make a great read aloud that will begin discussion around how small acts of kindness can help children feel included.  I love the illustrator’s (Patrice Barton) rendition of Brian at the beginning of the story when he feels invisible and at the end when he learns to shine.  Additionally, there are questions for discussion, recommended reading for adults, and recommended reading for kids in the back matter.

©2015 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.