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Pack a Super Summer Kit

May is kind of like the Friday morning of the school year for so many of us. (This is loosely based on a meme I scrolled past last week. The embellishment is mine!) You know - Friday morning - hectic and packed with activity and plans to fulfill, yet brimming over with hope and anticipation for the stress-free weekend to come. I know many teachers are thinking now about a little parting gift for each of their students, a remembrance in some way of the year that they have spent together. As you formulate the little poem in your head that goes something like this, "It's been great to be your teacher, I've come to love you so, be sure to take these bubbles/skittles/whatever with you wherever you go", I'd like to share the every year parting summer gift from my Rainbow City classroom with you. Give them the bubbles/skittles. etc. if you must, but you just might become locally famous for your fabulous SUPER SUMMER KIT as well! It's true. It happened to me.

You may have parents already requesting summer packets or information on those "Ready for Grade Whatever" books that we used to get at Borders Bookstore. The Super Summer Kit is really the answer to what to get for your students and what will keep them learning all summer. They won't even realize that they are learning! Oh, and what to do with them during the last couple of weeks while you are trying to pack up the room? Let them color in the cover and get started on some of the activities inside the kit.

I started with the purchase of some white business envelopes (like this one, here for your viewing convenience. I am not an Amazon affiliate and do not profit from your clicking or purchasing.) I made a quick cover and printed one for each of my students. Here's a quick one I've made for you. You're welcome! There is room for each student to write their name at the top. (example: MEGAN"S SUPER SUMMER KIT, JASON'S SUPER SUMMER KIT, etc.) Students can glue the cover page on the front of their envelope with a glue stick. Quick trick: glue around all four sides and a giant X in the center from corner to corner. The whole kit, cover page and all, also will fit nicely inside a gallon freezer bag. Cheaper and done!

I would definitely not save the kit for distribution on the last day of school. Tried it once and sobbed as I picked up the five or six left behind on the floor. Give them out sometime during the next to last week of school and use them to buy a little time for packing up, awards ceremonies, final party planning, and goodbyes.

What goes inside?

Here are some suggestions:

A small spiral notebook from the Dollar Spot or Dollar Store to write and draw nature observations or to create a quick summer journal.

A list of "Recommended in Room Whatever" books. (Your room name or number replaces "Whatever" here.) Mine was called "Recommended in Rainbow City". Kids submit some quick book recommendations of books that they loved reading and would like their classmates to try. You can start a group doc and have each student submit their recommendation on that. A quick edit and print, and you're done!

A list of sights to see in your city over the summer: museums, libraries with special programs, greenhouses, farmers' markets, water parks, hiking trails, rock climbing or trampoline places, etc. You might be surprised how many parents would be grateful for a list like this, especially if they are new to the area. Make sure that there are plenty of free options on your list! Ask your students to suggest some options for the list, as well as your own suggestions.

An activity calendar with something to do each day that will reinforce skills learned during the year. You can create your own, as I did each year, or find one for grades 3-6 here to just print and add to the bag!

A Summer Bucket List for kids to fill in with things they would like to explore our try to do over the summer. Easy to make your own, or find it here already done for you!

A note from you with a pre-addressed and stamped envelope and paper so students can write to you  over the summer. You can promise to answer or promise to save their letters in a memory book. I promise you will love receiving these notes throughout the summer!

Some quick ideas for writing and some little fold-up books to try them out on. (Ideas for those are plentiful on Pinterest!) Some ideas: Summer Nature Journal, Summer Cookbook, Sketchbook, Vacation Journal.

A list of genres and a book suggestion or two in each to expand reading horizons.

Recipes for homemade Play Doh, slime, bubbles, Oobleck, and chalk paint. Check out Pinterest!

If you have time, print out a photo or two from your files to drop in each student's envelope. Fieldtrip moments, field day or recess shots, more classroom candids all make for nice memories!

Add a book from your classroom library if you are weeding out your collection as you pack. Sometimes you can get books for $1 or for bonus points from Book Club orders. These make good add-ins also!

I'm sure you will come up with even more ideas on your own to include in your Super Summer Kit! Mine changed year to year, depending on several things: time, interests of students, parent requests, and my own choices.

Enjoy the great Saturday of your teaching year (Summer Vacay!), and I hope that the month long Sunday night of August is an easy one for you this year! I hope you will visit Rainbow City Learning for all your upcoming End of Year needs and especially for Back to School!

For more May musings from our Teacher Talk team, check out these blog posts:

STEAM: from Sandbox to Spectacular

Have you tried any STEM or STEAM lessons yet in your classroom? Do you have a school or classroom Maker Space? Are you making plans for next year, hoping to raise the bar on your STEAM program?

STEAM lessons and projects are really the ultimate Project Based Learning experiences, with application to authentic real world issues. Where to begin?

I recommend starting out in the sandbox, where we build our basic knowledge and develop a playlist of things we can try when we are in the midst of a larger project. We all start out as toddlers experimenting in real sandboxes, building castles, making moats, and moving sand from one location to another. I like to think of basic STEM activities as Sandbox STEAM. These basic activities are great warmups to the kind of maker challenges that upper elementary students should be engaged in. Even the Arts, an integral part of STEAM in my opinion, has it's beginning in early sandbox play. Imagination and role play that so often accompanies sandbox time for our littlest learners is an early precursor of drama, writing, and visual experiences to come.

Most of the STEM experiences that you see and may have tried are great for team building, an introduction to STEM, and a way to develop some basic engineering skills. We love these short in and out activities. Kids love them too! They are hands on, something different, and fun. Most of them involve the construction of domes, towers, bridges, and mazes. They challenge kids to create movement through the use of catapults, floating, and dropping. They encourage teamwork in moving objects across short distances. All of these basic skills, once introduced and practiced, can increase the knowledge base when kids tackle larger and real world problems.

Everyone knows that fun task of saving a cute little gummy worm named Fred or Sam or whatever. You and your friends need to user paper clips and move him from the "water" to the "boat" without touching him with hands. Kids love using candy to complete any assignment. Even teachers enjoy doing this one the most at conference sessions I've presented. But WHAT IF... What if we applied our skill in saving Fred to developing a new device to be used by lifeguards (or family or friends or bystanders) in a real life drowning emergency? What if kids could imagine a new piece of equipment that could be used on personal and recreational watercraft to be prepared for water rescue situations?

We love, love, love to build catapults from craft sticks, rubber bands, and plastic spoons. We love chucking those pumpkins across the room.  But WHAT IF... What if the skills we developed there could be translated into a research-based investigation of possibilities for air and space travel. What if kids moved from chucking candy pumpkins across the classroom to developing an innovation for the farming industry?

Floating foil boats to see how many pennies each boat can hold before submerging is certainly fun. But once and done? I hope not.  What if observations and skills from this activity could be applied to a longer project to develop new flotation devices or even innovations for boat construction for shipping companies and the armed forces?

I hope you can see my theme here: Basic STEM activities can open the doors of learning and innovation for so many larger STEAM investigations. Take any basic STEM activity that you have already done or are planning to do soon. Ask your students to imagine WHAT IF and to suggest
larger investigations that can be based on the basics learned in the activity.

If you are looking for more basic, warm up STEM activities, you may want to take a look at this resource from Rainbow City Learning's STEM/STEAM category

For more April ideas, be sure to check out these posts from our Teacher Talk blogging group! Only group members may add their links here. If you'd like to join our group, please email me at:

Digging Deeper for Role Models

I've always wondered if things would be different if women were really in control of governments. Wondered if the focus would be more on being kind to each other, less on the need to show up with the biggest weapon. Who knows? The girls aren't always so kind to each other either.

I belong to quite a few teacher groups, both online and in person. Although I am officially retired, I guess I will always consider myself a teacher, and I love to be around those who are still so actively involved. Every couple of days it seems, someone enters the discussion online or shows up at the restaurant or walks into the teacher's lounge with a similar complaint. "It's (insert month here), and my class is still so out of control. Kids are so mean to each other. I have bullies in my class. I hope they don't keep talking and screaming through my evaluation." I sometimes helpfully suggest the proven system I used which can seamlessly work with the standards and bring kids together as a learning community. Works like magic. Honest. You can find it here.

I often long for a kinder and simpler time when kids had someone to look up to. My suggestion? Let's offer some role models for kids to look up to. Let's start with us. Mainstream America has been involved in a campaign of disrespect for teachers for waaaaayyyyy too long now. I remember when kids looked up to their teachers and wanted to grow up to be just like them. (Those of us who have been involved in education long enough will remember those days. They were real.) Starting with us simply means to me to walk into that classroom every day with a clean slate. You have no bullies. You have no loud and disrespectful kids in that room. You are a great teacher with the greatest class ever. Now let's get the day started. They may just surprise you and act the way you would like them to act.

Now for more role models. It's March! And March is Women's History Month! I do like to show my students positive female role models in life and in careers throughout the year, but in March we can lay it on a little thicker. Just add a new glossy coat. While planning for Women's History Month and finding new examples of strong and successful women all around us, I am continually amazed that I never run out of new and exciting discoveries. Working on my newest resource, a Headbands Game to introduce eighty women who have made history, I often fell down the research rabbit hole as I wanted to learn more and more about a particular notable woman. The headband cards create a quick overview, and the note taking page and flip book will give your students the opportunity to dig deeper.

A few examples of role models for us all:

Kathryn Sullivan of NOAA, who placed the Hubble telescope in space, and now protects the oceans and atmosphere of our planet, launching a media campaign for #EarthIsBlue and educating our young people about the importance of protecting this jewel of a planet that has been entrusted to us.

Marie Daly, an African American PH.D. chemist (did I mention the first one?) who researched healthy foods and lifestyle habits that could lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. She did this in the 1940s. She also gave back by way of encouraging young people of color to apply for careers in science and medicine.

Jane Goodall, who lived among and studied the wild chimpanzees of Tanzania. I had heard of her before of course, but did not know of her extensive work in science education for young people.

Just a few. The list is long. Strong, ambitious, motivated to reach and grasp and learn. And then to give back. Leave a legacy. Role models we can aspire to. No one cares if they were large or small. They had no need to point out the size of their own or any other person's body parts. Their interests were in leading from the heart, with all the knowledge they could acquire, in an area they had a passion for exploring. What more could we ask of our own children?

So for this month, at least, and hopefully going forward, let's try encouraging all of our students to read like a girl, interact like a girl, study like a girl, discuss like a girl, aspire like a girl, and to lead like a girl. Let's encourage them to do all these things in the way the best of our role models (including you!) would do them. Get involved in some research and project based learning focused on these and other role models. And watch those immature behaviors and unkind actions melt away.

You may like browsing these resources to get started:

For more Teacher Talk ideas for March, I hope you'll visit some of these amazing bloggers:


This month's Teacher Talk Featured Authors are three amigas! Deann Marin of Socrates Lantern and Retta London of Rainbow City Learning, both organizers of TBOTEMC's monthly Teacher Talk blog link up and Tracy Willis of Wild Child Designs, Teacher Talk's Featured Author Editor. They secretly wish they could've taught together but are separated by geography. Here they are, united in spirit!

Read about this creative threesome, their products (shhhh...there's a secret sale going on!), and their freebies below. 

Hi, I'm Deann from Socrates Lantern. I taught SPED for many years and for most of that time I taught emotionally handicapped middle schoolers. My heart went out to them, mostly because of their tough and unfair homelives. Eventually, this took it's toll on me and burnout was inevitable. Since I have double certification, I can teach both SPED and Regular Ed. My dream job opened up when I was offered a 6th grade ELA/Social Studies position and got to co-teach with my best friend. Creating exciting lessons that would turn kids on to ancient history and make it come alive was my new challenge. I so loved seeing the excitement on their faces when they wrote and acted in plays, held debates, trials, and brought in mud bricks to school to make a class ziggurat. 

Now I'm retired and a full time teacherpreneur. I just had my new website built and am so excited to share my knowledge and products with everyone. I'll be starting an email series soon and would love to have you sign up. You'll receive entrance to my FREE resource gem library!

I'm Tracy from Wild Child Designs. My 24 year teaching career has been varied and fun. I've taught k-8 music, directed choirs, taught grades 2-6 and newcomers, and I've been a literacy coach. Currently I teach in a self-contained fifth grade classroom. Jon Muir taught us that all things in nature are connected. If you tease out one thread of a web, all organisms feel that vibration. I believe the nature of learning is like that, too. Deep down, we're all wild children. My passion is connecting core subjects and the arts into rigorous and fun projects. At my blog, Wild Child's Mossy Oak Musings, I write about project-based learning and math, reading and writing workshops. Currently, implementing Visible Thinking Routines and reading about creativity research make my little teacher heart beat faster. 

My subscribers enjoy a monthly freebie for their upper elementary and middle school classrooms!

Hi friends! It's Retta. Forever a teacher, I am enjoying retirement here in Michigan. My blog and TpT shop are both named for Rainbow City, the classroom I shared with my third, fourth, and fifth graders for many magical years.

During my classroom years, I loved really getting to know my kids as people and learners. I found that the empowerment of my students was the key to reaching and teaching them. Project-based learning and authentic assessment are my passions in the classroom. Out of the classroom now, I love volunteering in the schools and staying in touch with what's important to teachers and to kids. I enjoy sharing the lessons and units that made a difference for m own upper elementary students, as well as developing new ones that make a difference for yours! Grounded in research and kid-approved, resources from Rainbow City Learning offer creativity and fun, served with rigor and attention to learning standards.

As a Teacher Talk blogger, I get to peek into classrooms across the country and explore new ideas in education. Collaborating with other teachers is inspiring. I look forward to talking with more of you on social media sites!

Best-Seller Resources

Some of our best-selling resources are pretty perfect for April's Poetry Month. Even better, we've put them on sale this week,  just for you!

This resource is a gorgeous art project, poetry writing, descriptive language and biography poppy-licious project. I've used it to counteract the Standard Testing Blues. It kicks off our Poetry Month festivities. Click picture to view!

My Poetry Portfolio contains 11 of my favorite poetry forms with templates and examples to get your kids excited about creating poetry of their own. It's perfect for use as a 4-6 week unit, or use it at intervals throughout the year! Click the picture to view. 

Don't you just love the smell of spring in the air? When I think of spring, I think of poetry. What better way is there to teach this genre than to take a group of kids outside, have them lie under a tree and write a poem. This resource will inspire your students, just as it did mine!

Our Favorites

We know, we know. Teachers aren't supposed to have favorites, but we couldn't help ourselves. These faves are also on sale for this week!

I love Storybook STEAM because it is rigorous and fun. The mini-poster prompts invite students to think outside the box and to plan a project as an individual or a group. It uses classic tales and adds problem solving and critical thinking to the mix. Teachers say,  "Incredible resource!" Click picture to view!

Have you ever gone to sleep and dreamed about lesson plans? This resource is dream-created. Students learn about Piet Mondrian & plasticism, view Mondrian-inspired examples and explore the fractional amounts in each painting. Decimals and percentages make an appearance, too. Using fractional parameters, students create their own Mondrian-inspired artwork. Students love this and teachers say, "We used this PBL unit in math, and it's the kids' favorite project all year (and mine!)." Click the picture to view!

This is what you've been looking for because it's the end of the year, and you've run out of steam. You're ready for summer, but you want to reward your students with something meaningful and special. This is a unique resource offers awards with thought-provoking growth mindset statements from various philosophers, artists, scientists, historians, psychologists, writers, and more. There's an award to fit every student!

Last, But Not Least...FREEBIES!

We love our students and our resources, but we love teachers, too. These are our favorite freebies...because we love you!

Looking to settle your ELA classes down as they come into the room? Do you want to reinforce concepts taught in class? These FREE 5 Minute English Warm-ups that come with complete lesson plans, as well as worksheets and a writing prompt will be your new best friend!

This product sample, Raise Your Hand Poster with friendly Dot Dudes will encourage your students to find their own special voices and the confidence to speak out.

Small-group instruction is a powerful teaching tool. It's also a challenging tool to implement. This freebie will help you plan and organize your small group teaching. Click picture to download!

Before we say, "Adios, amigos," we hope you'll visit with us again. You can find us lurking at Starbucks, face-timing in the pedicure chair, and hatching plans to take over the world... or, you could just check out our social media links below. 

Deann of Socrates Lantern

Tracy of Wild Child Designs

TpT Sale and a Giveaway

TpT loves teachers! We are having a site wide sale beginning at midnight tonight ET. Wild Child Designs and Rainbow City Learning are sending you a little extra love with a chance to win one of two $10.00 TpT gift cards! The rules are simple! It's easier than kissing a frog, we promise! You can earn two valid entries to the giveaway by:
1. Visiting each of our stores and commenting with a link for one item from EACH STORE that you would like to receive.
2. Then, leave your email address. 
3. We will announce gift card winners after 6:00 on February 15  
    and will also choose a few winners to receive some awesome 
    resources from our stores!  

Entries are accepted until 6:00 p.m., February 15th.
No slime, no muck...that easy! Good luck!

Navigating Life as a Single Dad

Celebrating holidays or preparing for conferences and performances at school can be stressful for some of the students in your class.Not all families come in the same shape or size, and some of our typical projects don't match the needs of everyone in our classroom communities. To provide some insight into the life of one uniquely shaped family, I welcome a guest blogger today.

Daniel is a single dad raising two children. At, he aims to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.

Single parents have a difficult job, and even in the best of circumstances, it can be a struggle. Moms have it tough, but so do dads. Things aren’t better or worse for moms or dads, they’re just different. There’s still a stereotype of bumbling dads who have no idea what they’re doing. Perhaps it’s because girls are raised to expect to be moms, with hands-on parenting duties, while boys are overlooked when it comes to caring for children. Luckily, that’s changing.
Being a parent means you want the same things as all parents: for your kids to grow up to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adults. But keeping yourself happy, healthy, and well-adjusted can be a challenge, especially when you’re a single father.
As a single dad, it’s crucial that you don’t neglect your own mental health. As explains, “The way we eat, drink, love, and cope with stress, depression, anxiety, and sadness all play a big role in the state our mental health is in. Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing for you, and not the easiest thing.” Keeping your own mental health on track will not only help you, but it will make your kids’ lives better. If you’re feeling down or overly stressed, seek help from a professional.

Here are some more tips for navigating single fatherhood:

    Build a network of support -- Having other single fathers in your life will do wonders for your ability to cope. Even if their situations are different from yours, they have the same wants and needs as you. Being able to talk about your challenges will help you get through the day. Work on building up your family support, too. Parents and siblings can help you when things get tough, so having as many people as possible to lean on will help.

      Focus on your kids -- There are tons of things to get done, like laundry, dishes, career obligations, and more. But remember to take a step back and focus on the kids for a while. Spending time with them is important for all of you. Reading to your kids or playing a game with them will calm your stress and remind you why you’re working so hard. You’re also creating a lifetime of memories for you and your children, which is important and will help you get through tough times.

        Don’t disparage others -- If you have an ex in the picture, don’t ever say anything negative about him or her in front of the children. They might seem mature enough to understand, but they aren’t. Children see their parents as part of themselves, so when you talk bad about their other parent, you’re hurting them. If the ex is saying things about you, stay above it. Don’t engage and stick to the facts. Not every battle is worth fighting. Your children will understand when they get older, and they’ll appreciate your restraint. 

          Don’t forget to exercise -- Try to carve out some time for fitness, and yes, we know it’s difficult! If you incorporate your children into fitness, you’re more likely to make it happen. Watch YouTube fitness videos for kids to get the kids moving. You can just turn up some kid-friendly music and have a dance party. Or take the kids and the dog out for a walk or take them to a trampoline park, laser tag, or something similar. 

          You will make mistakes, but life will go on. Your kids will grow up, and they’ll know that you loved and were there for them. Later in life, you’ll look back on this time as the happiest of your life and so will your children. Enjoy all the good times and let go of the bad times. Your kids are worth it.

          As another holiday approaches, you may enjoy using this Pop Art Family Portrait with your class. Easy to print and customizable by each of your students to fit their own unique family!

          Join the conversation for other great February ideas when you visit our Teacher Talk bloggers!

          Lessons Learned With Miss Brooke

          At a recent high school reunion, talk at our table turned to our favorite teacher from fifth and sixth grade (we looped with her!), Miss Jean Brooke. I was not surprised to hear from so many of my former classmates that Miss Brooke has remained their favorite teacher through high school, college, and life. I know she has stayed with me in my imagination throughout my teaching career, and even into retirement. How could one unassuming elementary teacher make so large an impact and become a cherished part of so many lives? Teachers, isn't that just what you want for the relationships you are building with students today? If you want to be remembered as that favorite and unforgettable teacher, tomorrow isn't too soon to start!

          What made Miss Brooke so important and her influence so long-lasting? Here are just a few aspects of the two wonderful years that we spent with her that certainly stand out to me:

          You were her favorite.

          Wait, you weren't her favorite. I was! No, it was neither of us. It was Jenny (name changed to protect the unassuming innocent). Well, it was actually Jenny and me. That's how it went in our minds. Each of us thought that we were the favorite and might've shared that spot with a super smart, super motivated classmate who always had the right answer and was kind to everyone. (Yes, she was a real person, and maybe, just maybe this post should also be dedicated to her! How does a kid with all the intelligence and talent in the universe still manage to be a role model for collaboration and kindness? That's how I remember our sweet Jenny, and I tried throughout my career to transfer a little of her to my students, especially in that often misunderstood and underserved gifted group.)

          If you read my post about The Good Table, you know that, at least in my little corner of education, where we sit in class is a highly emotionally charged topic. I know it's important to others because we've all seen how college students take the same seats every day in class, movie goers tend to prefer certain seating areas over others, and we all have our restaurant preferences - table, square or round, or booth. Miss Brooke had a unique seating plan. It took little time, and made a huge impact. Every Monday morning, the first student in each row would move his/her desk to the back and then everyone else in the row moved one space closer to the front. Everyone had their chance to sit up front - a very good thing, since we were all her favorite!

          In each of our minds, then and now, that was the lineup: Miss Brooke's favs? Jenny and me! (Me being whoever you are!) How did this happen and and how has this feeling persisted? One of my classmates thinks we were part of a secret experiment, to see what would happen if you treated kids with respect and kindness in addition to preparing them educationally for a future that you would not visit with them. Oh, and since it was the sixties, we also had to be trained to duck and cover for those Soviet bombs which might fall from the sky at any moment. So much to do in a short school day, and so little time to make an impact.
          But make an impact she did. We were her favorite!

          She valued you and your responses.

          She called us "people"! We were actually people to her! Valued people worthy of notice and respect. None of that "One two three, eyes on me!", call and response,  or "I'll wait." (Guilty here on too many counts of that!) She simply stood calmly before us, made eye contact with just about everyone as far as I could tell, and said ever so elegantly and somewhat quietly, "People." Her people got quiet and attentive pretty quickly. We knew she had something to say that we needed to hear. Long before we ever heard the term, we were truly Miss Brooke's peeps. She had us in the palm of her hand.

          Miss Brooke was the master of "wait time".
          I was a good twenty years into my teaching career before discussion of "wait time" became a thing. And yet Miss Brooke used wait time like a pro. She would always ask for several responses when she asked a question during a lesson. She would patiently listen, making eye contact, consider thoughtfully before responding, "Uh huh." and then move on to the next answer. She would finally make a summation combining the input of each of us as she acknowledged the correct answer that was then chalked on the board (Isn't chalking back?!?) and copied dutifully in our notebooks. (Yes. Miss Brooke used Interactive Notebooks in the sixties. If she called them that, we never knew, but we all used notebooks, filled them with notes from class, and interacted with them on our own. We all just called them notebooks. Nothing fancy. No glue ins that I can recall, other than maps.
          Oh, and the answer to the question? I was right of course! She used my answer. No, wait, maybe it was Jenny's answer or Sally's or Irwin's. It was all of our answers so we all felt smart and validated, and no one's in particular. Miss Brooke just listened and found a way to give us back what we all needed. The right answer along with the joy of being an active participant in our own learning.

          She made her outside life a part of our class.
          Miss Brooke lived and traveled with her parents. Although she traveled to many places, she shared that her favorite place was the American Southwest. Wherever she went, she brought back memorabilia for each of us. She would collect shells, sand, earth, and rocks, and bring those souvenirs back as she shared her vacation memories with all of us. (She listened to our own vacation memories with wide-eyed wonder, as if she was seeing each location each of had visited for the first time ever.) I may or may not still have a necklace and a keychain from Miss Brooke in my special turquoise plastic jewelry box . She tumbled those rocks herself. I had no concept until recently what a long and noisy process rock tumbling actually was.

          She made each of us a part of her outside life.
          To celebrate learning, Miss Brooke would take small groups of kids out for lunch over the weekends. She would sit and listen to us, tell us about things she enjoyed, and let us know how proud she was of each of us. I remember being at one of these lunches with Jenny and Miss Brooke. It was all about Spelling that day. Spelling! It was a celebrity moment that I have never forgotten, being at lunch with two of the smartest and kindest women around.

          She placed value on enrichments and down time.
          My parents called our school "the country club". We had enrichment classes, and they had never heard f such a thing.  My favorite was creative dance. No one cared that I was not a great dancer. It was creative dance, just moving to different types of music any way the music moved each of us. There was extra art time (loved that!) and time to explore square dancing and musical instruments. I'm pretty sure there were sports and science related enrichments too.
          Miss Brooke's contribution to our "country club" enrichments was to not require us to make up any work we missed while out of her class for enrichments. Miss Brooke was all about brain breaks before that was ever even a thing too. None of us seemed to be any less smart or any less successful on tests due to our participation in enrichments. I can still remember that feeling today of being so excited to wake up and head to school every morning to see Miss Brooke, learn with her, and visit an enrichment or two.

          She made learning fun.
          Miss Brooke made learning games for us to use when our work was done, and often the games were part of our work. We were reminiscing at our reunion about a map game she made with electric circuits that lit a bulb when we matched the state name to the place on the map.
          We worked in groups. We collaborated with partners. We learned to make salt and flour mixtures to show topography and explored the wonders of dioramas. We talked about our learning with each other and with our teacher. She never gave us the answers. She drew them from us. We owned those answers and remembered them.

          Miss Brooke had pens that used turquoise ink. She let us write with them at her desk. She told us and our parents where to buy the pens, ink, and later on cartridges of turquoise ink. I can't even describe the feeling I still get today when I sit down to write with turquoise ink. I'm pretty sure I used only turquoise ink through high school and college. She taught us that writing isn't a chore - it's a beautiful part of life.

          Miss Brooke was an avid reader and showed us that reading is a joyful experience. She discussed books that we had chosen from the school library with us, showing the same wide eyed interest that she showed whenever she listened to us discuss any topic. Even book reports were fun when we knew that Miss Brooke would read them, and tell us what she thought.

          She spent real time with us when she didn't have to.
          Most of the kids at our school went home for lunch. Our moms were not all Donna Reed, wearing pearls and heels, as they served us a picture perfect menu each day. Not all of our moms were even actually home. Some kids stayed at school and carried a lunch. There was no cafeteria and no food service, but once a month, the PTA sponsored a "Mother's Day Out" lunch. Volunteer moms served us hot dogs with ketchup and mustard and potato chips in our classrooms. The hot dogs tasted even better back then because we had no idea how unhealthy they were! My favorite memory of "Mother's Day Out" is that Miss Brooke helped to serve us all, and then she sat down and joined us for a hot dog lunch.
          Miss Brooke was a constant that we could all count on. She greeted her people with a smile every day, was never too busy for any of us, stayed past dismissal time, and never seemed to run out of the room when we went to specials or enrichments.

          I could go on and on about the many ways Miss Brooke impacted my life and teaching career, butI won't do that here. I do hope that I gave a little of what she gave me to each of the students I've had over the years. In any case, I do know that Miss Brooke made the world a better place in so many more ways than she will ever know.

          I have searched the internet high and low for some sign of this cherished teacher, but all I could find was an interview in local newspaper from the time I was lucky to be one of Miss Brooke's people. Actual elementary gifted programming ("The Scholars Program") started in our district when my classmates and I were already in high school. This direct quote from Miss Brooke across time gives us a glimpse into the teacher she was.

          "Most teachers, like Miss Jean Brooke, relate everything they do to their jobs. On vacation trips, she takes pictures and later shows the slides to her sixth graders at Sunnyside School as a geography aid. Her classroom at the school is a gay and lively place. An aquarium in one corner shares space with plants, games and books. In the front of the room is a map of the United States. There are no names on the states, but when a student correctly identifies one by its outline, a blue light flashes at the top of the board. Learning is fun for Miss Brooke's students. And teaching is fun for her. 

          "The satisfactions are obvious things," she said. "The light in children's eyes; the day they suddenly grasp an idea we've been working on; the times when a student will say something that is so mature." 

          Enthused, too, about the hard-working Sunnyside PTA, Miss Brooke explained. "Parents want the best for their children, and I want the best for them, so it seems very natural for us to work together.”

          I hardly think Miss Brooke was like "most teachers" of the time. She was certainly like no other teacher I ever experienced as a student. Thank you, Miss Brooke, from the bottom of my heart, for all you gave to each of us every day. You were eons ahead of your time, and you made a real and lasting difference!

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