Tag Archives: storytelling

We all have those days

This week’s story for the first graders was Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. It’s been around for a long time, and I think there is even a movie made from it. I have a sign with the words “a terrible horrible no good very bad day” that I hold up at the right points in the story for the first graders to read aloud. Gives them a part in the storytelling, which they all love. Also reinforces the title for them.

Each book that I read also has a jingle which is part of the curriculum which has been written by a former teacher/principal who now heads up the school chaplain program through the police department. He is very clever. This week’s jingle was “If start the day getting up mad…stop and think before saying something bad.” The kids love these jingles, too.

Because a previous story, The Bad Mood, was similar in message, I decided to print out the jingle for that story and bring it along. It proved to be a reminder for the story and a reinforcer for the lesson. The jingle is “Be polite until you’re alright.” Badger, the main character who wakes up in the bad mood, changes his mood in the story by doing something he loves, gardening. Alexander, in this week’s story, never gets over his bad mood. We discussed the similarities and the differences.

I leave the jingle for each week in each classroom. I kept, though, the copy of The Bad Mood jingle and had it in my bag of tricks when I left the last classroom and headed down the hall. Because I had a series of texts and emails on my phone that needed responses, I decided to stop, midway in the hall, and sit on a chair to make those replies. While doing so, the school counselor came by and asked for my help. There were crisis all over the campus and she couldn’t handle them all.

I went to a second grade class to help a little boy who was having a meltdown–throwing his shoes, screaming, and pushing papers off of the desks. Since Calvin (not his real name) knew me from last year, he was willing to get his shoes and finally go with me. We sat in the hall and talked about his “bad mood.” I reminded him of the stories and even showed him the jingle. He remembered. I asked him what made him get over a bad mood. Playing a game.

The librarian brought me some books and toys to help. The counselor let me use her office. Calvin played and calmed down. After 45 minutes, I pulled out the jingle again and reminded him that Badger apologized to his friends for his bad mood. Could he do the same thing? Yes. I gave him the paper with the jingle, walked him back to his room where he went in, went straight to the substitute, and apologized and showed her the jingle. I slipped out the back door.


Those second graders

This is my fourth year at Columbia as their school chaplain. Seems impossible since I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed on to go through the vetting process to become a chaplain. There was a 29-page application that asked about all the things I’ve ever done in my life. There was a financial background check to make sure I wasn’t an embezzler or had money issues. There were all the calls to my friends and co-workers who had to vouch for my character. The police even checked into my close relatives to make sure I didn’t live with or produce criminals. I sat down with a detective who is trained in questioning persons of interest and suspects. In the end, he commented that I was a really nice person and I would be perfect for the position.

The first class of first graders to whom I read and learned from is now in the fourth grade at Columbia. The students often come by and see me on the playground or in the front office, giving me hugs and high fives and asking for stickers or other prizes I might have in my bag of tricks. When they were second graders they begged me to come read to them as I had in first grade. That’s been the pattern ever since. The second graders wanted to continue the story-telling, but I never felt very comfortable with the second grade teachers. They seemed to eye me with suspicion.

A few weeks ago I was in the library when a second grade class was also there. Of course all of the students wanted to talk to me, show me their books, and beg me to come to their classroom. One of the boys asked the teacher, who is new to Columbia and very young, to invite me to their room. She seemed agreeable to that. She is warm and engaging and appears to really be good with the kids. We decided on a date to give it a try.

I had to find a book to read because these second graders have heard all the books from first grade. I pulled one from my own shelf, Katie Couric’s “The New Kid,” and worked up some talking points. I also pulled out a class-set of the police badge stickers that are like gold to the kids. I only hand them out to the first graders at the end of the year when I give them a certificate. I gave the sticker stash to the teacher to use as she saw fit. Many of the second graders said they still had theirs from last year.

The teacher and I met the next day to discuss how it went. She was very pleased and said the kids were motivated to go right back to the project they had set aside when I came in. She was willing to do it again. Fortunately, the school chaplain director, who is a retired principal, has started to produce a set of curriculum for second grade because more and more schools are asking their chaplain to continue beyond first grade. I will use some of those books in the next three months, probably once a month.

The puppet master scored this week

It’s Friday, which is my Saturday. By this day of the week, I’m feeling ready for a break, and I’m glad there are only a few items on my to-do list today. We slept in until 7 o’clock because it is still dark at that time of the morning (so thankful for the return to standard time this weekend), and it has turned winter-like here. Overcast skies and chilly temperatures. There is a chance of rain for the weekend.

This week’s story for the first graders had a badger as the main character. I’ve looked all over for a badger puppet or stuffed animal. A Facebook friend pointed out one on Amazon but I am not, nor do I plan to become, an Amazon shopper. Ordering things online does not appeal to me. I want to see and feel and go shopping for the things I want. I also want my local stores to stay in business and keep employing community members.

A reading tutor at the school, upon seeing me, wanted to know what book I was reading and so I regaled her with my badger-seeking story. She suggested a local children’s bookstore as the store is “filled with puppets.” Her words. I’ve never been to this store even though it’s in my neighborhood, in a charming shopping center, and sells books, a favorite purchase of mine. Although I try not to stop after school, wearing my uniform, I decided to give this place a try since I knew the owner supplied many of the chaplaincy books for the classrooms we visit and it was literally on the way home.

Sure enough, I was recognized by the uniform the minute I walked through the door. The owner of the store and her assistant were delighted to help me, but no badger anywhere. They weren’t even too sure what a badger looked like. I mentioned some other animals I’m on the lookout for–a chicken, a mouse, and peacock. “Oh, do we have a peacock, a most wonderful peacock.” There was no mouse, though. I was thrilled to finally find a chicken as I’ve been on the lookout for a long time. So many of my stories have a chicken in them!

“Three Hens and Peacock” will be read right before Thanksgiving break. I am so excited to use these critters in my storytelling. I always let the secretary, chosen by the teacher each week, hold any props I might have. I may just need TWO secretaries for this story!

A week of bears and coats

This week was made just a little less hectic when two days of Kearney tours were cancelled due to foggy day bus schedules for the school that would have come for those tours. That cancellation freed up time for me to shop for coats for children at Columbia who need cold weather gear. Our temperatures dropped this week into the 40s, which I know for some of you is warm, but for us, it’s freezing. It also rained. A cold, gray, drizzling rain. Coats were necessary.

I started at Salvatiion Army and found six coats for small kids–preschool and kindergarten. Even better, it was 50 percent off for all children’s clothing. Along with the six coats I also found three backpacks.

Another stop was at TJ Maxx, just because it was on myway home. Those discount stores are not my favorite because their selection is so limited, and sure enough, I had to look and look but did find two nice boys’ coats at really low prices.

Next, down the road, was Target. This is one of my main go-to places to shop. I am a devotee of CartWheel, Target’s discount app. Outer wear was 25 percent off and, if you spent $100 or more for clothing, you got an additional $10 discount. I found one boy’s coat and three for girls. Now I had a total six small children coats and six big kids’ coats.

On Thursday I was out early, in a cold rain, to pick up 90 bears for the first graders. Each year the school chaplains read the book,  The Teddybear Story, about a little boy who loses his favorite stuffed bear. It is found by a homeless man and becomes well loved by him. The story has quite a twist at the end. Each year I have one teddybear I use to tell the story and then leave with the class. That technique was shared at a chaplain’s meeting and someone said we should have a teddybear for each kid. Sorry, that was more than I could handle. I had trouble finding 4-5 bears that would fit in my storytelling bag.

Well, someone heard the story and decided to take it upon herself to get a bear for each first grader at the schools that have chaplains. That’s over 3000 bears. This woman is quite amazing and she has a network like no one would believe. She told the story, over and over, wherever she went and to whatever group to which she spoke. People opened their wallets and gave her money. Some collected the bears themselves and brought them to her. The bears started to pile up.

So many bears that she had to find a place to store them. She found a vacant office complex, and on Thursday, when I went there to pick up my 90 bears, she had every office filled with bags of bears, each bag labeled for the school to which they would go. I had nine bags. The schools are having  a hard time finding storage space for all these bears as we deliver them. Columbia put the nine bags in a conference room. The police resource officer for the area will come and hand the bears out to the first graders on the last day of school before the Christmas holiday.

A uniform week

This is the week I put on my uniform and showed up. I did two days of Good News Club. One at the school where I am chaplain and one at the school where we’ve been having Club the past two years.

The Good News Club has a blue and yellow shirt for a uniform and I wear it with dark blue or black pants. This week it was capris as it’s still warm here.

Wednesday and Thursday I resumed my chaplaincy duties. Lunch with first graders and then reading to two classes each day in the afternoon. I started with “Scary Mary,” a story about a mean/angry chicken.

We discussed what we do when we get angry and what to do when others get angry. It’s a place to start. Next week we take up bullying and physical abuse.

Because I have to wear a uniform each day, I decided to add some pizazz with my shoes.


Playing with a new app

I take a lot of photos, and for the last few months I have really been using Instagram more and more. Recently, though, I found a new app, Steller. I’ve actually shared it with some teacher friends as I think it would be a superb app for students to use. If I was still teaching, I would use this app.

Here is a Steller “book” I put together real quick (like 5 minutes) called BRICK.

A second one is called DAHLIA.

If you have a smartphone, and you love to take photos on your smartphone, you might just like to play with this app. It is free. Free is always good.

The power of storytelling in our life

I’ve been thinking long and hard on why I blog, why I write stories, and today I was actually interviewed, via Skype, by a student in the Netherlands who is writing a thesis on this idea. Renee Meijer, who like me, writes on Cowbird, is writing about the storytelling aspect of Cowbird and why and how we tell our stories. It was a fascinating conversation, and she certainly stirred my thinking even more so.

She told me about live storytelling events that I had never heard about before. I thought such an event would be interesting to see. Sort of like a poetry reading, but different in that the storyteller must tell a true-life tale. We chatted about what story means and what I enjoy about Cowbird. And that brings me to why I write. The stories on Cowbird give me a glimpse into other people’s lives and how they make order of their world. Same for reading other’s blogs. It’s undoubtedly the voyeur in me. I also like to share my own life through stories knowing that there are readers who are getting to know more about me.

I told Renee about my experience with my students to whom I would tell stories. They would remember the story but not some pertinent fact about marketing or economics. That’s when I realized the power of stories. We definitely affect the lives of others through our stories. That’s why Jesus told stories to get his message across.

So, dear Reader, thank you for reading my stories here. And, if you have a blog,  thank you for sharing a part of your life with me.  Your stories are powerful. Don’t stop telling them.