Welcome to Quest4Hope

Here you will find my personal quests that give my life meaning. As I have searched for purpose, it is my hope that my life becomes everything it was destined for- first for my family and then for my friends that God has been so gracious to send to me.

***Names and places have been changed for internet security.

The 5 Chaps

The 5 Chaps

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Science In The Kitchen


The The 5 Chaps' have been studying atoms and molecules in Chemistry this week. We have discovered that atoms and molecules make up everything in the world. Scientists call these things materials which can be in the form of solids, liquids, or gases.

Today, we made a chemical reaction of a liquid and solid and created a gas called carbon dioxide by mixing vinegar and baking soda in a bottle. First, we poured about 1 cm of vinegar into a bottle. Then we poured 1 teaspoon of baking soda into a balloon.

Finally we put the balloon on the top of the bottle and shook the baking soda inside. The balloon began to blow up. Afterwards, we experimented with different quantities of our materials, like 1 inch of vinegar and 3 teaspoons of baking soda. When we increased the ingredients, we created more carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is a gas. When we created carbon dioxide in the bottle, the balloon captured the gas. Normally, a gas's molecules spread out and bounce about so fast and escape without anyone seeing. Today, we were able to see the gas try to escape.

Lily said, "It was sooooo cool!"

G-man said, " It was fun and exiting to watch the chemicals explode into the balloon like a rocket!"

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire"

I want to review a wonderful book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading by Rafe Esquith called "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire." Esquith is a veteran and highly acclaimed teacher in Los Angeles who has been recognized nationally for his passionate methods of mentoring his students beyond the "typical school day."

This is a challenging must read for educators that outlines how Esquith goes above and beyond the call of teaching to reach his students. He gives new insight for a fresh, young teacher searching for the best teaching methods and challenges the most experieced to press beyond their comfort zones in reaching their students.

I particularly enjoyed reaquainting myself with methods in reading and writing I have used in the classroom in past years and determining how I might "tweak" my plans as I re-enter the classroom. I love the way that he looks beyond his standards that he is teaching and integrates life long lessons for his children in his class. He takes his daily and weekly expectations and weaves them through his students' lives to prepare them for college- even in an elementary classroom.

Chemistry Has Begun!

This week at the "Chapman Academy", we are exploring atoms and molecules and the materials that they make. We explored some online activities working with the different properties of various materials. G-man and Lily have taken their Science Vocabulary and have made diagrams and charts to display their work as we learn more about Chemistry in their mini-presentation folders.

Please take the time to enjoy one of the activities we worked on today as we explored different responses of materials.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Strengths Finder #3- Harmony

The third strength I have discovered by reading "Teaching With Your Strengths" is harmony. My mind reverts back to the old Coke commercial as people from all over the world sings out "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony....I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep them company."
This strength focuses on finding common ground and looking for consensus. A strong value of colloboration and working on a team is a motivator for the harmonic personality. I have often looked for ways to bring people together and find a middle ground of agreement if there was much opposition.
I believe I will be able to use this strength in a variety of ways as I work with students, parents, and staff.

Strength Finder #2- FOCUS

According to "Teaching With Your Strengths" by Liesveld and Miller, I have found that another strength I can use in the classroom is focus. I tend to be guided by goals and objectives which forces me to be efficient. I tend to measure my activities by the value of asking, "will it project me to my goal?" This strength can be useful in the classroom as I help students set their own benchmarks and teach them to measure them. I want to impart the value to showing students that today's behavior will bring tomorrow's results as we celebrate our small successes and put them together to bring us to an awesome finish.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Strength #1 Achiever

In the book "Teach With Your Strengths", I found that one of my natural strengths and abilities is that of an "achiever."

Liesveld and Miller define an "achiever" as someone who is driven by accomplishment. It is someone who must achieve something tangible every single day in order feel good about themselves, even days of rest and vacation. It is like an internal fire that constantly drives a person to the next goal or objective. I live by checklists and visual organizers. My mind is constantly turning focusing on my next objective. Finishing my checklists and completion of projects are sweet victories for me.

As an achiever, I must look for ways to capitalize my investment of determination and diligence so that my efforts align with my ultimate goals. This would be particularly true for extra projects and events. Sometimes, because of my drive, I have taken on an extreme amount of busywork that wastes my time. I must center my mind on the most important goals and zero in on them.

I am a self-starter who needs little external motivation to see a project to completion. However, I must learn that not everyone is wired like me. There are times that I get frustrated with those who seem to need more external motivation. It is of upmost importance that I continue to explore ways to motivate my students and understand that it is necessary to use several sources of motivation to challenge an underperforming student.

One of my core values as a teacher is that of progress and improvement. I want to have benchmarks for my students to achieve and challenge them to make continuous improvement. I get much satisfaction seeing student improvements charted on visual organizers. I want to take this internal drive and give students the extra push to reach the "right expectation" and not just a high expection so as to refrain from frustration and keep my students thriving at all levels.

A caution was given to "Acheivers" to take the time to celebrate their accomplishments and give time to let others do the same. Acheivers always look ahead to the next goal rarely spending time enjoying their success. The pace of life and work is always full speed ahead, but as the leader in the classroom I must recognize that students may need a "break" and need a more leisurely pace in order to thrive. There are times that I recognize that I have gotten frustrated because the children, or even adults that I work with, can't seem to work as quickly as I do. If I can learn to vary the pace in my classroom, I should be able to have my students and co-workers keep up with my full speed when it is enforced.

Finally, I need to learn how to celebrate sweet success. If I could learn to slow down enough to pause and drink in the satisfaction of completeing a project; I would be more contented internally.

"Teaching With Your Strengths"

I just finished reading the book "Teach With Your Strengths" by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller. This is a professional development book for teachers to find their strengths and learn to use them to their fullest measure in their classroom.

Everyone is born with natural talents and it is our responsiblity to maximize them in every area of life. This book also details how many people will identify their weaknesses and spend countless hours and resources to make their weakness at best mediocre. Liesveld and Miller advises idenitification of natural "strengths" and learn how to put them to work in your classroom. An online strengths finder assessment is included with the purchase of the book so that you may easily identify your top 5 strengths and use the rest of the book as a coaching tool to improve teaching methods.

I plan to use the next few posts to journal on my strengths and how I might put them to work in my teaching

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Creating a Trust in Children

It is important, in order to create a classroom of investigative risk-takers in learning, that teacher work early to establish a trust factor in their children. As I blogged earlier, establishing respect is important and needed to create a safe structure; but connecting with our students relationally helps as well in creating a successful classroom.

First, to do this, I would love to send out a letter before school starts to the children in my class so they can feel that they already know me. Perhaps creating another blog for my classroom so students have the opportunity to connect to me early if they would like. On the first day of school, I plan to present a slideshow of me and things that I do and places I have traveled so that the kids can make an immediate connection. They will see that I am a real person; more than just their teacher.

Second, Be DRAMATIC. My family will tell you that I am the drama queen of the clan. I have learned the art of being a bit overzealous in different situations. Over the years, I have toned down and actually have turned into quite a serious person; but have I learned that my BIG facial expressions and sometimes silly ways to reach the kids when they least expect it, helps me to win some children over. One year, I believe I surprised the entire 3rd grade and staff when I broke out into a little rap about coin identification at a family math night. No one ever expected it and it ended up being requested again at the teacher staff meeting later. I guess I made quite a fun impression; but more importantly, I was able to connect to my students in a new way. Mrs. C. keeps them on their toes!

Finally, as children come in the first day I want to set very clear expectations by giving the "teacher" speech. I want children to know that my main objective is for them to learn and to give them the best education possible. I plan to give 100% and I expect them to give 100% as well. I want them to know how much I care and I will do whatever it takes for us to have a successful year.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Creating Structure

I believe that kids need and like having structure. They feel safe as they measure their boundaries. It is the teacher's and parent's responsibility to create a safe and secure classroom culture. One way to do this is to establish clear expectations. It is important for our children to like us and for them to feel that we love them. We do this through affirming them and encouraging them.

But it is also necessary that our children learn to respect us. Children will naturally test their boundaries so they are aware of what is accepted. As mentors to children, it is our responsibility to follow-through on consequences that have been set up as a result of an infraction to the rules.

This is hard when we love our kids so much and want to affirm them. And many times, we as mentors want affirmation back from them. It is difficult to risk their disappointment and receive a not so glowing report from them. However, as mentors to children, we are doing them a severe injustice of not setting safe boundaries and guidelines --and following through!!!

Our children crave structure and need to know what to expect!

Life Lesson #6 Play "Mirror" in discussions

What is "Mirror" you ask? We should teach our children to mirror a conversation for courtesy. If you are asked a question in conversation, return the question.

Ex. If someone asks you "Did you have a good day?" Answer and ask a question in return.
"Yes, my day was great! How was your day?"

It is only polite to show others that you are just as interested in them as they are in you.

We should teach our children that a good discussion has an ebb and flow. The only way they will learn this valuable life lesson which will help them in the future is to model it yourself. Ask your children or student, "How was your day?" But expect them to return the favor by playing "Mirror" by saying "mirror, mirror on the wall..." After this favorite rhyme echoing through their ears a few times will lead them to develop very good manners.

Life Lesson #5- Bragging

Bragging will get you nowhere. It really is a sign of weakness. It is wonderful to excel, but many times if you "toot" your on horn; no one else will. I want to teach my children that when they are good at something; remain confident but yet humble. A boastful attitude can actually work against us. We need to give time for others to discover our abilities. When we do, our skills actually seem much larger when they are realized by others.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


FOCUS has been a blast! It is impossible to document off of the fun we have had, but here are a few highlights!
Click to play FOCUS Fun
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Make a scrapbook - it's easy!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Rule #4

During Discussions, respect others' comments, opinions, and ideas.

We must create a nonthreatening atmosphere where it is okay to make comments and ask questions. Without this, we discourage the spirit of inquiry and the excitement of learning as we focus on fear instead of learning. Children need to be trained to never laugh or make fun of someone's comments. It is okay to disagree, but children need to develop the art of being diplomatic in their discussions. Teach children to respond positively to a friend's ideas, but politely express how they may feel. I always say, "if you do not have anything positive to say, please say nothing at all."

Life Lesson #3

When someone wins or does something well; congratulate them!!

We all love praise, but why is it so hard to give? When we don't do this, we leave room for jealousy to develop. I want my children to become very free with their praise and encouragement of others. When we praise each other, everyone improves. I want to create a culture of celebrating. I want to teach my children that you stay where you are celebrated and not tolerated. But in order to accomplish this, mustn't we follow the Golden Rule? Praise others and you will be praised. Encourage others, and you will be encouraged!

On the Write Road

Francis Bacon once wrote, "Reading maketh a full man, Conference a ready man, and Writing an exact man." Students should be taught to express themselves with precision. Our objective as educators is to understand that writing well will ultimately will help student for the rest of their lives, whether by applying for college or applying for a job or even opening the door for other to enter a whole new world through publication. The following are my steps to put my children on the "write" road.

1. Start Up Grammar- Daily grammar sentences are a perfect way to start the morning taking advantage of the first minutes of the day. I follow up with by teaching a skill and going through corrections and practicing the skill using jingles and music. I like to also teach students to use their time wisely as they finish their work in a timely and adequate manner by avoiding the dreaded rewrite which could lead to homework.

2. Essay of the Week- The idea for the essay is to teach proper structure for essays and then follow it up by assigning the essay topic for the weekend. However, they have a week to go through the writing process during the week and turn in their final copy on the following Friday. Assigning essays like this helps students learn to balance work and play.

3. Monthly Book Report- As apart of my reading and writing strategies, book reports are used to develop students. While there are many templates and creative models to create a book report, I recommend using one repititively so that students can become familiar with story elements and summarizing a book. It is important to remember to help children choose a book on his or her level. The key is to build confidence in their reading and writing abilities.

4. Young Authors' Project- One of my favorite activities that I have had students to do is to choose a topic of writing in order to author their own book from start to finish. I tell them that they can write about anything!! This is a memorable experience as students brainstorm, write, revise, edit, and publish.

Students have time to work on any of their writing activities during the block of time for writing at least 3 times a week called Writer's Workshop. They may work on their essays, their book reports, or their Author's project. During this time I usually begin with a quick lesson writing traits, but mostly, you may witness silent writing, editing circles, teacher revising conferencing, or computer publishing.

One of the most exciting parts of our "Writing Workshops" are the celebration events. One of our favorites is our Author's Tea. Each quarter, students may pick out the writing they are most proud of to read aloud to the class and any guest that came to hear our sharing. The ultimate favorite is our Author's Project Book Signing. Students may present their books to their class, share a synopsis, and offer to sign autographs. These books are collected in the class library for reading time and each student has a place to make positive comments and reviews in the back of their books. For most students, these books are treasured forever!

Loving to Read!

Giving our children the gift of reading is one of the most important gifts we can give to children. Reading is more than a subject taught, it is a foundation for life. It is important to become a mentor of reading for our children. We must never push them off to their rooms to read their assignments, invite them to read with you. On many nights our family will sit in the den together with our own books of interest reading. And while reading, we may speak up and share interesting things we are reading about. If we want our children to become avid readers, we must model that.

Another way to do this is frequently go to the library. There is nothing more exciting than taking a trip to the library and have the opportunity to see rows and rows of books knowing that we have the opportunity to pick any of them to take home! I am always curious what my children will pick out each week as we make our library week. Many times it lets me know what our next adventure will be about, whether it is about aircraft carriers or an author like Peggy Parish who is know for the famous "Amelia Bedelia", my favorite book character!

Another wonderful idea to build love for reading is developing book clubs. Opportunities to read a book with a group and discuss it is fun and gives extra incentive to read. Families can also develop their own book club reading a book together or individually and discussing it. Currently, my kids and I spend time at the breakfast table reading "Little House" books by Laura Ingles Wilder. Sometimes, I have also used books on cd allowing my children to listen in on a great piece of literature while eating, but especially in the car. BUT, if you do this--please take the time to stop it and discuss the adventures in the book to gain the most in that type of learning experience. I hope my children will grow appreciating the time we gathered around the table with a glass of milk and a good book discussing the lessons and values found in a great piece of literature.

While teaching our children to read, we must always look for ways to build their confidence. Book reports are a good way to do this. Reading a book on their ability level and sharing it is a great way to read and display new found knowledge from it.

Finally, making reading relevant is a key to loving to read. There are so many wondeful plays and movies adapted after great pieces of literature. Take the opportunity of our culture to read the books before the movie or play and on the way home compare and contrast the book and the movie. What a wonderful learning tool we all can take advantage of!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

HIGH Expectations

I have lived a life of with high expectations placed on me. As a child growing up, I had HIGH expectations from my parents. I resented these expectations, but I grew to appreciate them later in life because it taught me to aim high.

However, as I have reflected on this, I am not sure that these HIGH expectations were the most helpful in my life. I am learning that having the right expectations are much more important that having high expectations. Because of my upbringing, I learned to develop HIGH expecations in my life. I have achieved alot; but I also have had alot of disappointment.

High expectations may or may not be achieved; but the right expectation is carefully thought out and achievable. I have learned that high expectation is a hope, but the right expectation is a plan. Confidence is built as we achieve and plan. In mentoring children I hope to set the right expecations for them, not just a high one. I certainly have no intention of aiming low; but I want to have plenty of opportunities for celebrating successes and give recognition for such.

Giving recognition for success to a child is a big motivator. It builds confidence and self assurance. It helps to continually raise the bar of success. We must find ways to celebrate improvements and not just criterion met so that we have success across the board in classrooms and meet what should be the ultimate expectation of educators- creating life long learners.

Relationship is the Key to Teaching!

I can remember my fourth grade teacher vividly- Mrs. Eason. She was my favorite in my school career. It was in 4th grade that I can remember wanting to become a teacher. I have been thinking about what makes a good teacher. A good teacher is one who has lasting impact. Mrs. Eason did that for me. I may not remember the specific lessons and objectives for that 4th grade classroom; but I remember the feeling of wanting to succeed in her room. I remember the culture of Mrs. E's classroom. It was the culture that made a lasting impression on me.

My 4th grade year was a significant year because my third grade year was terrible. I can remember being belittled and stressed in my third grade year. I can remember losing confidence that year and hating school. But it was in Mrs. E's class that my excitement for learning and school returned.

Mrs. E was approachable, she was compassionate. In my elementary years, I had a love for talking. I loved it so much, that many times I ended up by the teacher's desk each year to control my enthusiasm. Each year this happened was heart-wrenching for me. My 1st and 3rd grade teacher had a way of making me feel terrible about my lack of self-control. My 2nd grade teacher was more encouraging and gave me benchmarks of accomplishment as I earned my group privileges back. But it was Mrs. Eason that took the time to help me redirect my energies. Yes, I did end up at her desk a time or two; but I knew she cared. She did not just put me there to get me out of her hair- she engaged me, she helped me.

Mrs. E created a classroom where it was okay to fail and it was okay to ask questions. Everyone makes mistakes. But when we stop trying is when true failure begins. I came to understand that year that I had value to add to the group. For 3 years, I had been shoved away;but it 4th grade, something changed. I learned to channel my gift of gab in to cooperative groups and in creative expression through art. Not only did I become successful at school, I began to develop a desire to teach as well.

Looking back, I realize that the key to Mrs. Eason's success in her classroom was investment. She apparently understood that her relationship with her students is what would make learning successful.

I have read the quote, "Learning is fundamentally an act of self confidence." If teachers come to this understanding, the entire culture of school would change. We must look for ways to develop the self confidence of our students every day. Our classrooms need become a laboratory where it is okay to explore possibilities. Students feel safe if they get the wrong answer as long as we learn together how to get the correct one. It is okay to express an opinion as long as we are respectful of others. And it is exciting to explore new questions and inquiries.

Students will connect to this classroom culture as teachers look past the black and white of their planbooks and really invest in the lives of their students.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Life Lesson 2-- Make Eye Contact

When someone is speaking to you, keep your eyes on the speaker at all times. When someone makes a comment, turn and face that person.

This helps you as an individual to develop confidence and it brings respect to what you are saying when you establish and keep eye contact. As we grow older in life, this is a key lesson to take into all of our relationships, especially that of business.

As a mentor, we must exhibit this life lesson. Looking our children in the eye when we are talking will bring connection and confidence between you and your children. It will also teach our children the habit of this life lesson.

How to Develop a Love for Reading

We must look at reading as not just a subject, but a foundation for life. Reading is more than decoding and comprehension . It is a door that opens up new information and new imaginations. Establishing a life long love for reading is not only educational, it can be therapeautic as readers can lose themselves in a whole other world.

But, how as educators can we develop this love for reading?

1. Be a mentor to your children. If we as parents and educators exhibit a love for reading, it will catch to our children.

2. Listen to books on CD, but PLEASE take the time to stop and discuss!! There are so many opportunities lost without a good book discussion. Need some help for some starters? Go to www.learninglinks.com. They have thousand book related units.

3. Visit the library often! Nothing can replace the experience of being in a building full of books and having the regular experience of checking out books of interest.

4. Remember that our goal is to build confidence in reading, not be the reading police and continually point out weaknesses. We want to develop the joy and fun of reading. If a child really enjoying the story and gets stuck-- it is not the time to insert your phonics lesson. Make a note to do that later. Simply help with the word and continue on into the world they are getting lost in.

5. For multiple abilities, require once a month book reports on ability level. This is another way to instill confidence.

6. Find a book club or start one yourself, even in the family. Families can have their own book club by reading together and discussing the book. Or even assigning chapters to be read by dinner so that the book discussion may be done over dinner.

7. Look for ways to make reading relevant with movies, plays, activities.

Fear Vs. Trust

In a family, civic group, classroom, etc.; it is important that leaders create the proper culture in their group. Many times we try to manage our groups by fear. We threaten with loss of privileges and treats. We sometimes hope that fear of a punishment will motivate our children to make the correct choices. While punishments and rewards have their place in classroom and family management, using fear to train chilren has no place in our society. Yet it happens all the time; and most of the time, very innocently.

I personally was raised this way. I feared spankings, I feared being yelled at, I feared losing privileges, I feared rejection. This fear did not motivate me to make positive decisions for myself or others. It motivated me to stay out of trouble--to lay low. I believe that is a major contributing factor of the many break downs in the youth of our society.

Trust must be reestablished. A pledge of trust must be developed between a mentor and student. A culture of safety and trust must be developed in our classrooms and meetings so that children are not afraid to take risks. Children must be encouraged to explore and inquire. If fear is the ruling overseer, how will children feel about taking those educational risks.

It is time to look at our learning cultures and embrace new ways to establish trust in our mentoring relationships.

Life Lesson- Respond to Adults

I want my children to create for themselves a positive vibe with grown ups. The famous Golden Rule follows this lesson. If we want respect, we must give respect. Even adults will develop a respect for children and vice versa if we will learn to be respectful to one another.

KIDS-- When an adult speaks to you, respond with a "yes maam" or "No sir." Just nodding or saying anything else is simply not acceptable. Doing this will bring respect to you from adults. They will treat you differently.

ADULTS-- Take the time to respond to your children. A simple nod or "uh-huh" from you can show disinterest. It is our responsibility as mentors to our children to build their confidence and show the same respect that many times we should require in responding to one another. It is also important that your children see you model this in your own life to others.

This life lesson will promote respectful culture and successful relationships.

Mentoring Children

Mentoring children has always been a priority in my life. In college, I took 4 years to prepare myself for the education field. Being an educator in the public school system was quite a joy for me, but it did not occur to me that being a mentor in a child's life was a key part of my job until my own children have reached the age of learning from me.

As I have reflected on re-entering the classroom, I want to come in with set objectives of what I can accomplish for a group of children in a given year. I want to make sure that I teach the standards given to my grade level; but more than that, I want to instill a love for life and learning in the children in my classroom. I want my children to exit my class feeling that they were apart of something significant. I want "Gifted Greg" and "Struggling Susie" to both leave my classroom proud of their individual contributions given within the assigned year. I want the children I mentor for the year to carry basic life lessons with them on into their education and their world.

Saying that, I plan to collect life lessons to establish the learning culture for my future classes. These blogs will be labeled Life Lessons for future reference. However, I must give credit to Ron Clark and his book "The Essential 55" which has inspired me to adopt my own essentials for the children that I mentor.