G.S.S.T.A.- Colonial America

Grade School the Second Time Around– This series of posts begs to answer the question, “Did I actually learn all this stuff when I was in grade school and then just forgot it, or am I learning it all  fresh now, the second time around? ”  

Our final unit in fourth grade social studies is devoted to the American Colonies and the Revolutionary War. Personally, I find this topic fascinating. Too bad most of our students have checked out mentally, already dreaming of summer vacation. It’s a bit hard to absorb anything, especially a lot of American history that way.

I’ve learned a lot, though! Here are some of the more interesting tidbits…

  • Colonial housewives used live chickens as chimney sweeps. Apparently, they dropped the bird down the chimney and as it fell the flapping and flailing of it’s wings would knock the dust and suet off the walls. (guess the Founding Fathers weren’t real big on animal rights.)
  • Young boys and girls would both attend beginning school, called “Dame School” to learn basic letters and facts. After that, however only the boys were permitted to go on to grammar school. The girls returned home to learn “domestic sciences” from their mothers. (apparently, they didn’t care much about women’s rights either…)
  • “Dame School” by Thomas Webster

    In the winter months, student were required to bring their own wood from home to fuel the school house stove. (And my students complain about the weight of their backpacks!)

  • Some Colonial homes had beds that folded up into the wall to allow extra living space during the day, like our more modern Murphy beds.

  • The size of the wig you wore (a very popular accessory for men and women during this time) reflected directly on your wealth. The bigger the wig, the richer the wearer.
  • George Washington (when he wasn’t wearing his wig), was a brunette.
  • Even though, historically, King George usually get the blame as being the “bad guy” during the revolution, he was only 22 years old at the time and was probably leaning heavily on the advice of his Prime Minister George Grenville.

Are you feeling any smarter? Bet I remember more about this chapter in American history than any of our fourth grade students will! Maybe I’ll quiz them in the fall…😊


G.S.S.T.A.- The State Where We Live.

The second marking period of fourth grade social studies is dedicated to learning about our home state of New Jersey. The first task our students had was to complete an informational packet. This included things like the State capital, the governor, the land masses and economy. I’m always surprised at how little some of the children seem to know about the place where they live but then I guess that’s the point in studying it!

After they slogged through the tediousness of the packet, the teacher offered them a more enjoyable project.  Each student was to research some fun facts or trivia regarding our fine Garden State and put together a power point presentation to share with the class. They really rose to the challenge and came up with all kinds of interesting (and sometimes weird) tidbits. A few were even new to me! Here are some of the highlights.

  • New Jersey was home to the first known competitive baseball game played at Elysian Fields in Hoboken on June 19, 1846. (The New York Base Ball Club defeated the Knickerbockers 23-1.)
  • Our coast is home to the longest Boardwalk (Atlantic City) the first sea shore resort town (Cape May) and the world’s largest elephant, Lucy in Margate (You know how I feel about Her!)   

  • We have more diners than any other state and are often refered to as the “Diner Capital of the World!” (Apparently, we also have the most shopping malls!)
  • New Jersey has a Spoon Museum, (over 5400) It is housed in the Lambert Castle Museum, in Paterson. (Who knew, right? 😳)
  • The first ever drive in movie theater opened in Camden Nj on June 6, 1933 (wonder what was playing?)

  • The light bulb, the phonograph and the telephone all had their start in New Jersey thanks to Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. (And the first motion picture projector too)
  • Modern paleontology began in 1858 with the discovery of the first nearly complete skeleton of a dinosaur (the Hadrosaursus) in Haddonfield NJ.

I can’t swear to the authenticity of all of these claims but as a New Jersey native, I’m pretty sure we have bragging rights to most of them (especially the weirder ones!) I’m also pretty sure that long after our fourth graders have forgotten the major economic sources in the State, they’ll still remember that we gave the world Salt Water Taffy and the Hersey Kiss.

How about your State, or Province, or Village? Do you have some fun facts you can you brag about?



If We Were Having Coffee…11/6/16


If we were having coffee…I would probably start off by apologizing to any visitors from outside the USA. Tuesday is Election Day and afterward the nonsense should stop (we hope). On behalf of all Americans, I am very sorry…

Moving on..

If we were having coffee…I would invite you in, offer you a seat, a cup of hot French roast (or tea or lemonade, what ever you prefer) and ask you how your week has been? Mine was better than expected considering that Monday was Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, I love Halloween. I enjoy seeing the children in their costumes, handing out the treats, carving the Jack-o-lanterns, all that stuff. My only objection, speaking as someone who struggles to keep young people focused on learning each day, is that it happened to fall on a Monday this year. This doesn’t bode well for productivity on Tuesday, Wednesday and possibly even Thursday, depending on the amount of candy consumed.

As it turned out, Monday was the only really challenging day. Thankfully our principle has this whole Halloween thing down to a science. We really only have to get through the morning and the lunch hour (wanna guess how loud it was in the cafeteria that day?) because after that the room moms and dads arrive with games and crafts and then the children put on their costumes and proceed outside to parade around the playground. Families are invited to come watch and by the time the parade is over, it is time for dismissal.

If we were having coffee…I would share that I noticed, both at the parade and with the trick-or-treaters later at my home, that the popular costume this year seemed to be the characters from the newest Star Wars movie, Rey especially. I would ask what popular or fun costumes you noticed? Do you celebrate Halloween? Do you have many trick-or-treaters? We went through about 10 bags of candy which is about normal around here. It’s quite a big event around here.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that the rest of my week was pretty quiet. We are approaching the end of the first marking period so teachers are trying to finish up projects and gather grades. One of the fourth grade teachers I work with will be leaving on maternity leave at the end of this month and will not return till next year so she has been stressing a bit, feeling like she is not quite prepared to hand over her class to the substitute. I’ve been trying to help as much as I can and my knowing the children and the classroom routine will make things easier for the incoming teacher but there are still lesson plans to be made and schedules to be arranged. Fourth grade, in our school, team teaches, which means that one teacher does math and science and the other does  reading and language arts. The students switch classrooms through out the day. The teacher that is leaving, only teaches science and math so at least there is less subject matter to prepare and the other teacher will be on hand to help.

Our biggest classroom challenge this week came on Wednesday when we noticed that the thermostat was stuck on 88 degrees. Laura (the teacher) and I were red faced and sweating having already removed all articles of clothing that we could without raising eyebrows, when the maintiance man came to check on it. He told us that it was stuck and that he couldn’t get anyone to fix it till later in the week. Our school was built in the 1920s so you can imagine how well our heating system opperates anyway and even though the weather was quite cool and all the windows were open, we were still suffering. When you factor in that one woman in the class is eight months pregnant and the other in in the throes of menapause, it’s really lucky the the maintenance guy made it out of the room alive!

Anyway…if we were having coffee…I would probably  notice the time and even though we did gain an hour this weekend I find I have dawdled over my coffee far too long,  enjoying our visit and now am running behind as usual. I really should try to do something productive today. 😉 Thank you so much for stopping by. Don’t forget to visit the rest of the Coffee Share Posts brought to you each week by Diana at Part Time Monster. Have a great week!

If We Were Having Coffee…3/20/16

Good morning!

If we were having coffee…you would notice that breakfast has morphed into brunch and that I am still in my fuzzy blue robe and sporting some serious bed-head.

Sorry about that.

That’s how it’s been around her recently. I’m not sure if it’s the hour we lost last week, the allergy causing buds, or nasty menopausal hormones that are the culprit, but my sleep pattern has been way off. Usually during the week I’m asleep by ten or ten-thirty, ready for that six-fifteen wake up call, but this week I’ve been tossing and turning till way past two. Isn’t it funny how, on nights like that, you can’t find any comfortable positions but in the morning every position comfortable!?!

Anyway, due to my sleep deprivation, this is the mug of choice today….


Fair warning in case you choose to join the conversation.

I even took a day off after Monday night’s concert and slept in, hoping that would clear some of the fog from my brain. I think I’ll just blame my sleepless nights on the scourge of every middle age woman- hormones. They’re kind of the catch all for anything annoying after the age of fifty.


If we were having coffee…(after I was done complaining, and after you were done laughing at the state of my hair) I would ask you about your week. How has the weather been in your corner of the world? I would tell you how extremely unhappy I was to see snow falling on all the new buds around my yard yesterday. I think I actually growled. Today is just cloudy but the tempeture is only 39f. We are going to have to do much better than that after all it is the first day of Spring.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that one of my favorite teachers at work is starting a new business this summer and has asked me to take part. I am so excited! She and one of the other teachers are hosting a summer STEAM camp for four days in July. For those unfamiliar STEAM stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) something these two ladies are passionate about. Me? Not so much but they manage to make it exciting which is why I agreed to help. My job is like the Art Director. Perfect, right?! Each day has a different theme that requires some arty stuff to go with it so I’m working on creating a roller coaster back drop, an astronaut photo shoot and secret agent ID badges among other things. They are hoping to enroll about forty 4th through 7th graders for the camp. If they reach that, we might do a second four days later in the month.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that Hubby and I have been trying to discover the source of a leak in the back of our refrigerator. Something in the freezer keeps periodically draining water down into the fridge. I’ve defrosted the freezer and checked ou the ice maker but it is still happening so today we will be pulling out the whole fridge and following some wiki-how instructions on how to unclog some sort of hose down the back. Wish us luck. On the upside, the inside of my refrigerator has never been this clean!

Well, it’s time for me to be productive (or possibly take a nap) so, if we were having coffee, I would suggest you run on over to Diana’s digs at Part Time Monster, and check out the rest of the Coffee Share posts.

Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a great week!!!



The Weekly Smile #7- Hang up the banana, and eat your lunch.


I’ve been doing lunchroom duty for about nine years now. It is by far the craziest, most chaotic hour of my day but I’ve learned that maintaining a sense of humor about it keeps me from becoming totally stressed out. My co-worker Kathy and I, who share this duty each day, both use this technique. Occasionally our need for nonsense results in random bets or games based on life in the lunchroom. We look forward to one such event that always occurs on “banana day.”

By “banana day” I simply mean any day that a banana is served as part of the hot lunch that some of the students purchase. Why only bananas, you might ask? Why not pick on apples or oranges?  I assure you, I believe in total fruit equality but those other fruits don’t have the same effect on children that bananas do. Let me explain.

There is a weird phenomenon that surrounds this long yellow fruit and it occurs each and every time they are served in the lunchroom. You see, it doesn’t matter how tech savvy 7 year olds are today or how well they have mastered the use of their parents smart phones, if you put a banana in front of them, sooner or later, they are going to pick it up, put it to their ear and pretend to talk on it like an old fashioned telephone. It never fails. They simply can’t resist.

Kathy and I take bets on how long it will take for the first kid to pick up the banana phone and start calling their friends. The record is eight minutes. I kid you not.

Soon they’re all talking into their fruit and the kids that brought bag lunches are starting to get jealous. Eventually we’re forced to utter the inevitable request..

“Please hang up the banana and eat your lunch.”

Now that’s a line not too many people get to say.😊

imageThis post is part of The Weekly Smile brought to you courtesy of Trent’s World! Stop by and collect some more smiles or leave one of your own!

The Weekly Smile #2…A Smile and a Wave

My smile this week is dedicated to one of my favorite people. Her name is Ellen. and she is one of a small army of dedicated crossing guards that watch over our children as they walk to and from school.  After retiring eight years ago she couldn’t stand “just sittin’ around” and so went back to work crossing students at the corner next to my house. I would guess she is in her early seventies.

My own children are among the kids she has crossed so I know for a fact that she greets each child by name and wishes them a good day. She also notices if someone is home sick and watches for their return. The students, in return look forward to seeing her, and can’t wait to share any exciting news they have.

As I left my house this morning at 8:15, there was a fridge wind and the temperature was hovering at 18  degrees fahrenheit.  Winter, it seems, has finally arrived in South Jersey! Ellen had already been on the job for over an hour. This is how she was dressed…


This is a woman who could be spending her retirement anyway she likes and she chooses to get up at the crack of dawn and stand outside in the elements watching over other people’s children.

As I drove past, she called, “Good morning!” and offered a friendly wave and a big smile just as she has done every single morning from September to June for the past eight years.

How could I not smile? 😊

More smiles are available at Trent’s World! Stop over and check out the rest of the Weekly Smile posts!





If We Were Having Coffee…11/1/15


If we were having coffee…we could talk about how November has crept in when we weren’t looking. Our area is in the throws of an Indian Summer so it doesn’t feel like November but the calendar says it is. One good thing is that tonight we turn the clocks back. Not being a morning person, I dislike getting up before the sun.

If we were having coffee...I would ask if you and your family celebrated Halloween yesterday? I would tell you a little about our day. Since our neighborhood is always very lively with trick-or-treaters, Hubby and I have gotten into the habit of sitting on the porch handing out candy rather than getting up every few minutes to answer the door. The evening was very mild unlike some years when we have been bundled up against the cold. Not that cold weather ever slows down the candy seekers!  The excitement and adrenaline keeps them warm!

I really don’t miss the days of chasing after Mr D and Miss Dee as they rushed from house to house. Given the choice, I usually volunteered to stay home and hand out candy while Hubby did the walking (he’s in much better shape). It’s also nice that they are now in charge of figuring out a costume for themselves if they decide to dress up. For the past week I’ve been asking Mr D what he was going to be for Halloween. His answer…

“An overworked college student.”

Then, last night, at 7pm I found myself digging around in the attic looking for a pair of goggles because he and his friend decided to go to a party at the college, and they wanted to be Doc Brown and Marty McFly from “Back to the Future”. He must get his last minute Halloween costume genes from my mother!

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that I’ve been feeling a bit scientifically challenged. Part of my job as an instructional aide is offering in-class support for students during their science lessons. For the past four years I’ve helped out in the third grade. I can tell you anything you want to know about dinosaurs or the life cycle of the meal worm or even about what penguins eat. That stuff I’ve got down, however….this year I’ve been bumped up to fifth grade science and I can tell you for sure I am not “Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”!

Last week the classroom teacher was out sick and the substitute and I found ourselves blindly leading the students through a work sheet on types of matter and chemical reactions! Luckily they knew what they were doing for the most part. I understand “matter” you know “solid, liquid, gas”. I get how the molecules are closer together in a solid and further apart in a gas but when we started getting into how substances combine to create chemical reactions and how chemical and physical reactions differ in the way the molecules combine or don’t combine…my brain started to hurt.

I was an art major for crying out loud!! I didn’t really like this stuff the first time I learned it. Thank goodness for YouTube. Tomorrow I will be searching out videos and giving myself a crash course in fifth grade science! Wish me luck.

If we were having coffee… I would thank you for stopping by and wish you a pleasant, relaxing Sunday. We will be doing some yard work around here. If you’re not busy, you are welcome to grab a rake!

This post is part of the Weekend Coffee Share courtesy of Diana at Part Time Monster. Stop by and check out the other fun blogs!

If We Were Having Coffee-10/11/15

imageIf we were having coffee today you would notice that I am a little behind. It is more like lunch than breakfast and I have been busy busy all morning so I am happy to take a break. The weather has finally decided on Autumn here in NJ and I think it is safe to pack away the shorts and summer wear. That has been my goal so far today but let me tell you about the other things that happened this week…

If we were having coffee… I would tell you that we had an interesting assembly at school on Tuesday. It was called “The NED Show” and featured a very entertaining young woman who shared the importance of “Never giving up, Encouraging others and Doing your best. Get it? We often have programs like. Sometimes they are good and sometimes not so much. This one was exceptionally good. The added attraction was the nifty yo-yo tricks the speaker did while she was telling the story of Ned and how he learned an important lesson about doing what’s right. She was pretty darn talented! The kids were “OOOing” and “Ahhing” over and over. Of course at the end they were given the opportunity to purchase their own yo-yo. The proceeds are used to send “The NED Show” to another school so it’s like paying it forward.

By the end of the week many students had purchased a yo-yo and the principle had carved out a “Ned Zone” on the playground for yo-yo practice. Of course the mom in me sees this as an accident waiting to happen. I mean what is a yo-yo but a hard disc on a long string? Sooner or later someone is going to start swinging it around like a lasso and conk another kid on the in the head. I’ll keep you updated.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you what a fun day I had yesterday. An old friend from Virginia was in town and we spent the day window shopping  and having lunch at a sandwich shop uptown. My lunch was called the “Sinatra” (hey, we’re in Jersey). It consisted of roasted eggplant, sun dried tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese on the most amazing foccia bread! I will definitely be going back there.

I finished the day by heading  down to Alantic City with the family to see a show at the Borgata Hotel and Event Center. We went to see our favorite comedian Brian Regan. If you have never seen him, I suggest you Google him right this very minute! He is one of the funniest guys around and we can all use a few more laughs, right?! The tickets had been birthday presents for Mr D and Miss D but of course Hubby and I had to go along to supervise! 😉 It was a really good show. I’m pretty sure at some point Hubby had tears rolling down his face from laughing so hard! Afterwards, we had some delicious gelato and then headed home.

If we were having coffee…I would thank you so much for stopping by. I really enjoyed my break but I guess I better get back to work! See you next Sunday.

This post is part of the Weekend Coffee Sharebrought to you by Diana over at Part Time Monster Hop on over and check out some of the others post!

Let the Summer Begin!

Another school year is finished. This is always a bitter sweet time for me.

For the next two months I won’t have to say things like “Focus! Sound it out.” or “If there’s more on the floor, trade next door!” (it’s a math thing). Most importantly, I will not have to say “Keep you hands on your own lunch!” and “Chew with your mouth closed.” I won’t miss that at all!

I will, however, miss the smiles and the hugs. I’ll also miss the stories and the conversations, because you just never know what a child will say! Those things are some of the best parts of my day!

I really won’t miss getting up at 6am. I am not a morning person. Never have been and I hate having to make myself go to bed at a respectable time just so I can function the next day.

I will, however miss the time that goes with having an early morning. In the summer, I end up sleeping till 9:00 or 10:00 and the day is half over before I even get in the shower!

I won’t miss repeating  a concept over and over because sometimes that’s what it takes to truly understand. I could do without having to go back to the beginning when I was hoping we were ready to move on.

I will miss seeing that little spark of excitement when a student realizes he finally  understands something he was beginning to think he never would.  Also, there is that look of pride a child gets when they are able to read an entire book or finish a math page without asking for help even once.  That I will miss.

I won’t miss ironing clothes for work or making lunches or trying to fit all my errands and cleaning into two days. But I’ll miss my coworkers and the routine and the challenges, big and small.

I will enjoy my time off for sure. I know it’s a gift that most people don’t get and I truly appreciate the break but by the time September comes I’ll be ready to go back to work.  I know my enthusiasm meter will be back up to full tilt by then and I’ll be ready for anything…even lunch duty. 😊


My Classroom is Under Water

Okay, it’s not really under water. It’s just very, very, very damp. The water has since receded. It always does eventually. This is what happens when you work on the lower level (read “basement”) of a school built in 1923. I’ve worked in this classroom for nine years with a very gifted, and very patient special education teacher. This is the fourth time in those nine years that the classroom has flooded. Each time matience attempts to fix the problem, dries out the carpet and we move back in. Each time this wonderful teacher loses more of her materials to water damage, most of which she has purchased with her own money.

This, most recent flood was the worst yet and the principal has put her foot down. We will not be moving back in until a professional is brought in to fix the problem for good. If you Understand how slowly things move in the public school system, then you know that we will not be moving back in during this school year.

In the meantime, we have been shuffled sideways into a smaller windowsless classroom that was occupied by our reading specialist, (she is now working in the conference room off the main office). The contents of our classroom are piled in boxes along one wall and down the hallway. The 8 second and third graders that come and go during the day usually sit on the floor for lessons because there aren’t enought desks or chairs for all of them.

Sound like fun? Our new mantra has become “It is what it is”. We have to sit on the floor with clip boards? Let’s pretend we’re camping! We need to search through the boxes for a book? Let’s call it a treasure hunt! We need to go out in the hall to have room to play a game? It’s a field trip!!! Each day has become an adventure all its own! But there is still learning going on and that’s the important thing, right? Not only are these children keeping up with their math and reading but they are also learning the science of adaptability! The art of making do!  The language of simplification!  That’s actually a pretty cool thing!