Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Freeman Strong

My top 5:  arranger, learner, input, individualization, relator

About a month ago, we had planned on having a Freeman Strengths Day for all students and staff in grades PK-12.  However, Mother Nature had different plans and brought one her many winter snow storms this winter.  There was so much time and planning that went into planning this day that it all seemed disappointing.  Luckily, we were able to move it to February 19th with the same speakers that we originally booked.  As Mother Nature reared her head again, it looked like this week's event might not happen either.  The weather held off for 1 day so we could squeak it in!

If you are not familiar with what strengths are, I am hoping this post will fill you in and encourage you to look at little deeper into how it can impact your life.  I will admit that it has taken me a little while to get on board and see how it can be a benefit in my life and my work life.  But now that I am into it and learning, it has made a difference in how I see others and understand how they work.

A huge shout out goes to Mr. Tony Jensen.  He is our Ag teacher and FFA sponsor.  He has really embraced the strengths and put a lot of effort into growing it at Freeman.  Perhaps you have heard of Gallup, which is based in Omaha, by the way:

"We're a global analytics and advice firm that helps leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems."

One of the many services that they offer is giving the Clifton Strengths Finder.  If you go to their website, you can take the assessment right now and find out what your top 5 strengths are.  In fact, you can find out what your top 34 are.  The philosophy behind learning about your top 5 is to use your strengths to better understand how you naturally work and develop your greatest talents.  It also helps you recognize that in others and instead of focusing on what people are weak or not good at, you focus on what they are good at or their strengths.  Think of how much stronger the work force would be if that was the focus instead of the other way around?

Mr. Jensen has created a Strengths group that meets monthly to talk about using their strengths and spotting strengths around them in others.  This can help you better understand how to work with others.  This has been helpful in working with children in school.  The school has been working for 2 years to get everyone in the building to take the Strengths Finder assessment to identify their top 5.  All the teachers now have completed it in addition to all students grades 5-12.  For the younger students, we are talking about what strengths are and how you can use them productively.  As they get older, hopefully they will better understand them and then take the assessment themselves.

Out of this group, came the idea of creating a Strengths Day that included ALL the teachers and students doing similar activities embracing their strengths and working together on tasks.  There were some donations and grant money that helped provide t-shirts for everyone in the building with a logo that was designed by a student at school.

The team created a schedule of rotations broken up by grades K-4 and 5-12.  Students were placed in groups with students in multiple grade levels.  We began and ended the day with an assembly and had several speakers including DeMoine Adams, former Husker football player.  There were science STEM activities to launch marshmallows and hold metal washers, activities to design locker signs or capes with your top strengths, refreshments and games, and the reading of How Full Is Your Bucket? 

The day was powerful.  It was pretty amazing to see so many students and staff learning about their strengths and how they can be empowered by them.  I know that it made an impact because my two girls didn't stop talking about it at the dinner table last night.  They were all kinds of chatty about the strengths that they have and how they can use them and why they possess them.

In a world where we tend to focus on the negative and the "this isn't good enough" it was refreshing to feel uplifted and see 450+ people doing good in the world.  This was definitely a day to celebrate and be proud of.  I can't wait to see what we will do next!

If you are wanting to learn more about Strengths Day, go to Twitter and search #freemanfalcons or #freemanstrengths  

Sunday, January 27, 2019

One School One Book

February is right around the corner which means it is one of my FAVORITE times of the year.  One School One Book is kicking off February 1.  Each family at Freeman will be receiving a FREE copy of the chosen book this year along with a reading guide, bookmark, and maybe even a fun surprise! 

Why do I love this project so much?  Reading is a passion of mine.  I am a bookaholic (if that is even a word) I am pretty sure.  I have been collecting boxes of books since I can remember.  Each time we move, I am reminded of the hundreds of titles and thousands of pounds that get shuffled in and out of boxes.  You would think in a digital age, most of these would be on an iPad or Kindle, but no.  There is something thrilling to me to hold a book in my hand and having a sense of accomplishment with every page that I turn.  I can quickly go back through to re-read if I missed a detail or make a note on the side if I want to remember something for later.

Every day, Monday through Friday, family's will be given a reading assignment from the book that we are all reading.  The next day in class, there will be a short discussion with the other students about what was read the day before.  There might even be little activities that go along with the story from time to time.  It's fun to have conversations with the kids at school about the characters from the book or what they think will happen next.  The weekends are meant for catch up time because we understand that life is busy!

The part that I love the MOST about this project is that it provides an opportunity for family's to come together at night, before school, in the car, wherever and read together.  It provides a chance for discussion about life, or what happened at school that day.  So many times we are rushed from one activity to the next that we don't take time to sit down and have intentional, uninterrupted time together.  This is such an important part of a students day!  Plus it promotes reading as a family. 

Parents often ask teachers, "How can I help my child be a better reader?"  The answer is simple.  READ.  If you are wondering why reading for 20 minutes each night makes a difference, look at this chart below.

When I see statistics like the chart above, I get pretty passionate about reading each night at home.  If you are struggling with what to read, just pick something.  Don't worry so much about the content or if it is too easy, or too difficult for them to understand.  When my daughters were one years old, my husband and I would put them in their cribs, sit down on the floor of their bedroom and read Harry Potter with a book light.  We knew they didn't understand the story line, but they got used to hearing how we read.  They heard the pauses and inflections, the excitement or worry.  They might even have picked up on our facial expressions.  The girls are 7 now and even on the nights that we get home late, past their bedtime, we cannot go to sleep without a story, even if it is a short one. 

Make reading a habit.  Just like your bedtime routine, add reading together the last thing you do before lights are off and you tuck them in.

We will be giving out clues as to what the title of our book will be this week so be sure to follow us on Twitter #freemanfalcons or @erinsieh and our Facebook Page, Freeman Elementary School.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Happy New Year

2019    Turning the calendar over to a new year, for a lot of people, means starting over, setting goals, creating resolutions. Many are really motivated for the first few weeks. It is a fact that gym memberships sky rocket in January and then by the end of the month, most people go back to their old habits and feel defeated that they fell off the wagon.  They are a loser and will never make their goals.  Eleven months go by and they find themselves gearing up for a motivating new year again.

I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions. I am more of a goal setter. It's true, that if you write down your goals, you are more likely to achieve them. Even if you have set them aside for a while. Don't get me wrong, I love starting a new year and the energy it can bring with the newness. Just the same that I like starting each school year over in August.  It's refreshing and inviting.

Of course there is nothing special about starting in January.  You can start new goals any time of the year.  In fact, I like to re-evaluate in the summer and if need be, self correct a little bit or set some new goals.

I encourage you to set some goals for yourself. It can be for 2019, or for the month of January. Keep setting goals, make them realistic and attainable, but also think outside the box a little. Here are a few of mine for the year:

Complete a Marathon
Connect with a friend on a weekly basis
Read 2-3 books a month
Create more experiences/memories with my family instead of collecting more "things"
Cutting my social media browsing down by 1/3

The scariest goal on my list is a marathon.  This has been an ambition of mine for about 20 years.  For the half marathons that I have completed, after crossing the finish line, I can't imagine running that race all over again.  There is no way my body can will itself through another grueling 13 miles.  However, there is something exciting about putting a really lofty goal on your calendar.  Don't get me wrong, I am terrified to run 26.2 miles.  But I am also excited for a challenge that is probably as hard as anything I have ever done.  Thank goodness I have a great support system and some friends to encourage me along the way.

Today was an easy day.  I am at the start of my training for a half marathon in May.  The full will be in the fall.  It's the days 2 months from now, where I haven't gotten good sleep, my legs ache, the wind is blowing 25 mph and I am just not "feeling" like lacing up my shoes.  Those are going to be the hard days.

What about starting the new year at school.  One of the biggest mistakes that we make coming back is asking kids "how was your break?"  It's just a natural question.  However, there are some kiddos that had a rotten break and would much rather have been here, at school, than not.  Maybe there weren't any presents under the tree, or maybe not even a tree or decorations.  Perhaps the heat had been turned off or there were no family gatherings to go to.  I was once told that instead of saying "how was your break?"  You should just look at each child, smile, and tell them that you are glad they are here.

As you think about starting the second semester, or maybe just as you think about kids and life in general, I hope you take the time to watch this Ted Talk from Rita Pierson.  It is about 7 minutes, but it is worth your while.  Indeed every kid needs a champion, and I hope that you will be a champion for someone.

Every Kid Needs a Champion by Rita Pierson

Monday, August 13, 2018


It's August and here is what we know:

  • it's hot
  • summer is winding down
  • school supplies and ads are everywhere
  • high school students can be seen practicing everywhere
  • is starting
Summer is a great time relax and recharge.  Students and teachers both get to have a different routine for a while and it's wonderful.  

But now it's August and the first day of school is 2 days away.  It's time to get the kids back in the building.  After a few months, it's too quiet around here.

Our elementary Open House was tonight and it filled my heart to see so many smiles and get lots of hugs.  School is a happy place.  It's a place where kids come to feel loved, to learn, to create, to explore, to fail, to succeed, to make friends, to skin their knees and reach new heights.

A new year is beginning, and it is going to be awesome!  

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Latest Books in My Bag

Culturize by Jimmy Casas is the latest book that I am diving into. Word is getting out that I love to read based on 3 gift cards to Barnes and Noble over the holidays. Reading provides so much power. You have heard the phrase, "Knowledge is power." Fostering a love for literature in your home or your classroom turns out students who love reading. Reading and having a love for literature comes in so many different forms these days. It used to just be books you got from the library. In our modern world, literature is reading from our phones or tablets, magazines, websites, twitter feeds, FB stories, comic books or graphic novels, the newspaper, signs around the room or out in public...the list is endless.

There are several classrooms who have taken advantage of DEAR time this year and it is paying off big dividends. These classrooms are dedicated to setting aside a consistent time out of each day for silent reading. The teachers are participating too! There is always a new book on their desks with sticky notes in a different location so I know that they are reading. Students are just devouring books at a record pace and sharing with their friends. It truly is exciting to see. If you haven't taken advantage of DEAR time and been consistent with it, now is the time to start with the beginning of a new semester.

It doesn't matter if the students don't know how to read every word in a book, they are looking, exploring, guessing, or creating their own story in their head. They are learning to love books and getting excited about the day that they can read all of the words on the page.

The book Culturize is about what it takes to create a community of learners who embody the innately human traits our world desperately needs: kindness, honesty, and compassion. It talks about how to be an Awesomizer instead of an Awfulizer and how what we model is what we get.

My colleagues have said that it is quite possibly the best professional book they have read! I can't wait to see what is discovered between the pages!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Kindness Day #7

November 7-

When you don't feel good, all you want is your mom.  I am 37 years old, and I still miss my mom when I don't feel good.  Admittedly a few years ago, she came to take care of me when I was really feeling crumby...made me some hot tea and soup.  So yesterday I go to play mom/nurse for my little one.  Miss Em wasn't feeling good and started running a low grade temp.  By evening she was a hot mess.  She wanted tomato soup so we made a pot which she slurped right down.  Before it was even 7pm, we were in jammies curled up reading stories.  Her eyes were heavy but was sound alseep by 7:30.  It's no fun to have little ones who feel bad, but it feels good to try and make them feel better.

Kindness Day #6-

November 6-

Sharing is good, sharing makes my soul feel good.  This is a popular time of year when movies come out.  Last year I watched Bad Moms.  It was one of those movies that you wanted to see, but didn't want anyone to see you AT the theater watching it.  The movie is funny, SO funny.  Mostly because it is true and very relateable as a female. 

Of course I want to go to Bad Moms 2...the Christmas version that just came out.  Going to this movie will be way more enjoyable with girlfriends than your spouse.  So for day #6, I shared the first movie with a friend so that we could see the second one later this month.  Good belly laughing is good for the soul, right?!