Monthly Archives: October 2014

Celebrate! Participation Medals


I’m participating in Ruth Ayres Celebrate This Week. Check out the link up here!

Today I’m celebrating “Participation Medals.”

Sometimes I laugh at awards for all. Often I roll my eyes at certificates for participating in competitions. I nod when colleagues talk about how we are creating a generation of entitlement. I have read Mindset, and I understand that if we reward what kids think of as their innate abilities, they will give up on difficult situations. I know that kids know participation awards from the real deal.

I also know that my kids don’t get a lot of rewards like this. Their teachers don’t do it, my daughter’s piano teacher doesn’t do it. We are pretty chill here as far as sports… take after-school soccer just for fun, take karate twice a week to be physically active while practicing focus, hard work, self control, etc.  Like it or not, there’s not a lot of competition in this family.

Today my son went to his first karate tournament. My daughter didn’t want to compete, so it was just me and H. A Karate themed mother and son day. We had no idea what to expect, but we were excited.

photo 1Today, I’m celebrating H’s participation. A participation medal… I found myself being thankful for this medal. He didn’t place 1st or 2nd or 3rd in his forms, but he got a medal. I decided right then that he deserved this medal. Maybe it’s silly, to get a medal for “just showing up,” but I don’t think so. Not when you think about what “just showing up” means. What does Participating mean?

Participating. . . I can’t imagine being such a little guy, walking into a high school gymnasium with so many strangers.

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Participating… Today, I’m celebrating H’s wise words as we spoke about not expecting a trophy on your first (white belt) tournament. Next time, maybe. He said “Mommy, it’s like jumping off of a tall thing… like doing a dare devil trick. Once I do it once, I can do it another time with more knowing what’s happening.”

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Participating…. I’m celebrating this little boy of mine, who listened to directions from officials, was focused, and participated even though his big sister wasn’t there, even though he knew he had a long way to go before being the best.

I’m celebrating how he told me he was happy that at least he’d get a medal. “It’s nice that you know you are walking away with something at least.” he told me.

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I’d also like to celebrate…

Time with this kid
an entire afternoon including
unhealthy snacks and a 
candy taste test

Conversations with this kid
patiently waiting in bleachers
("It was so cool mommy, to actually seat in those seats to watch!") 

Pride - his own
and mine

And... well... I guess a little celebration for his 
First Place Trophy
for sparring... 
"I knew I'd win at sparring, mommy. I'm really good at sparring."

A slice of motherhood

Slice of LIfe

Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers. Head over there for information and links to more Slicing!

Do you know that quote about having children? That it is “…forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” (Elizabeth Stone said this, the internet is telling me). Ever since becoming a mother, I have felt that quote to be true. Lately I have been struck by how much this love is heartbreakingly strong. It must be universal, this feeling… right?

Does it bring you to tears, to watch your 4 year old “read” a superhero book to himself in bed? When he asks you if Superman is okay with the green kryptonite or red, do you interrupt him just to kiss his cheeks some more? When he asks you if Santa gives the kind of legos that come with directions, do you wrinkle your face up because his four year old voice melts your heart? When he climbs back into your bed in the middle of the night, without waking you, are you so cozy to find him there in the morning? Do you give him kisses and hugs early in the morning, not even worrying if it wakes him up?

Do you stop to stare at your 7 year old, who squeezed himself between you and your daughter on the couch? Do you want to freeze time as you put your arm around him and listen to him talk about the toys in the catalog he is looking through? When he tests your patience while testing the limits, do you want to just stop the presses and tickle him? Do you make him promise that he will always hug you and snuggle you for the rest of forever, even though you know that one day he will be grown up, and too cool, and far too busy? When he climbs into your bed early in the morning, do you send a thank you to the universe for such a miracle to have him?

When your very own middle schooler says “Wait, didn’t you say this would be the time I’d be all mean, and say ‘I hate you?'” do you want to say, “Well, I guess we skipped that, phew!” (Even though you know that day is coming….)  Do you hit pause and attack her with the tightest hugs? Does she still look like your baby to you? Are you worried about her getting all independent? Do you know that she has to learn to be a responsible young adult, but still want to hold her hand while she does it? Does she tell you she’ll miss you on her field trip? Do you tell her that she’ll be fine, and have fun, and that she can handle walking around with a group of peers with no group chaperone? Do you mean, “Of course you’ll miss me! I should be with you! You need a chaperone! There are all kinds of scary things that can happen!” Do you reel in your anxiety to help her grow up? When she wakes up Saturday morning and makes her way down the hall to see if you are up, do you hope there are millions of years left where she will be beside you?

Do you let your kids fall asleep in your bed because it’s nice to be all together at the end of the busy day? Do you sneak in to check them before falling asleep? Do you send a prayer of love and hope it wraps them in safety?

Does your heart ache?


Celebrating Play


I’m participating in Ruth Ayres Celebrate This Week. Check out the link up here.

On our field trip this week, I sent my students off with vague directions to make nature art a la Andy Goldsworthy. I told them the boundary of where they could look for supplies, and where they could create their art. We brainstormed a few examples before sending them on their way: Fairy houses, designs, pictures…

I expected them to grab a few leaves, maybe some rocks and twigs. I expected them to have a little fun, maybe. I knew this was a new kind of creative activity and I just wanted them to explore the idea.

I didn’t expect them to play with the idea. I didn’t expect them drag huge fallen tree branches into the clearing.  Watching them figure out the physics of balancing these branches was something to celebrate. Watching them rise above my tiny field trip expectations was something to celebrate.



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I didn’t plan ahead of time for the amount of collaboration, introspection, and problem solving that was involved with this project. I didn’t even write objectives for this field trip activity. (Shhhh…) I did the station on the field trip because it sounded fun, and like a respite from the hike, the team building, the canoeing and the scavenger hunt

Today I’m reflecting on the activity and celebrating the play. I don’t forget that my 6th graders are kids, but sometimes we get too busy to play, and sometimes I let people and situations convince me that these kids don’t want to play. But, it’s not true. Not only do they want to play, they need to. If the play was just a break, they would still need it. If the play was just for fun, they would still need it. But it isn’t.  Play is their work, their research, their practice.

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“Play is the work of the child.”
– Maria Montessori
“Play is the highest form of research.”
– Albert Einstein
“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.”
– Mr. Rogers