Created to Create 2 (Finished booklet)

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As you may have seen on Facebook or Instagram, I have become so enamored with the devotional kits from Illustrated Faith. Your may use them to journal directly in a Bible, or may assemble the cards into a little booklet as I have done with Persevere and Created to Create 2.

I do not feel terribly creative, despite my affection for origami and other artistic endeavors such as photography or watercolors, but that is not the point. The point is that because we are created by a creative God, and created in His image, then we are creative, too.

The little booklet I assembled is held with a keychain which one of my students brought me as an end of the year gift last year from Singapore. “Ah ha!” I thought. “Teaching is a gift. Creating relationships is a form of creating.”

Can you think of creative gifts you have? Do you care to tell us about them in the comments? I’d love to know how you expand on this theme.


The Timer Has Begun


I used to go to Institute Day and wonder where all my friends had gone. I would joke to my team, most of whom could be my daughters in terms of age, “They’re either dead or retired.”

And now that’s me.

Not dead, of course. But looking retirement square in the face.

“Happy last First Day!” my old student, turned student teacher, turned teacher himself, said. “Happy last First Day!” resounded through the halls on Thursday when the children first entered the building.


My friends and colleagues are happy for me. Certainly, I am happy as well. I have an air-conditioned room for the first time in 34 years. More importantly, I have a classroom of beautiful children. They are polite and sweet and smart; one of the girls asked me (asked me!) if she could turn over the hour glass above, as I bought one for my room, too.

But, I see the time running out as it has a way of doing. Time, so elusive. Time, so quick. A time for everything.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh,;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek and a time to lose;
a time to keep and a time to cast away;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This year I will be making many memories in my classroom.

One last time.

“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning…”


I have put up a diaphanous net in my room. It is sheer, and sways slightly in whatever breeze comes our way, and I am certain the fire department will make me take it down when they come to inspect the school in October. Maybe I’ll just nod my head politely and ignore the directives, as I am prone to do at this stage of my career.

I am facing my last year of teaching, and it makes me happy-sad. Mostly, right now, it is making me sad.

My colleagues exclaim in wonder how it is possible that I am able to retire at the end of the year; my husband told me to say, “I know! These past thirty-five years went by so quickly!” Which they did.

I was offered a job with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools in West Germany fresh out of college. The principal said, “Let me see you teach,” and sat in the back of a fifth grade classroom where I was subbing all afternoon. When she called me into her office at 4:00 she told me I was hired, and I haven’t stopped teaching since.

Not when my son was born in 1991, nor when his father died in 1997. Not when I had surgeries on my feet or surgeries in my mouth. Fortunately, the areas in between have held up much better.

Teaching is what I know; teaching has been my life. Now I am looking at the end of this beautiful career spent with beautiful children. It is so strange to know that this coming class is the last new class I’ll ever greet.

In 1984, I was handed a set of manuals, the academic standards, and an empty classroom. Now, we have Smartboards and document cameras and Chromebooks and Google classroom, and I am the only one who still teaches cursive along with all the technology.

I teach origami, too, and the love of literature, and the joy of laughter.


I think that the diaphanous net is symbolic of so many things: the years fluttering by; the old ways of pedagogy; time. What can I hold in my hand? Like Wilbur who watched Charlotte’s children fly away on their gossamer strings, I am watching what I have done, whom I have taught, all the things that I have been, sway in the breeze. It is the way of the world.

It is time for me to learn new things.

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Ecclesiastes 7:8 ESV


If A Picture Paints a Thousand Words, This One Fits With Testing Today


We used to pass out #2 pencils and Scantron sheets.

Now we give laptops, log in codes and headphones. To 8 year olds.

Of course the headphones have not been put back into their proper Baggies. Of course three of them are tangled almost irretrievably. (See the photo of my lap, left.)

I miss Crayolas and paper and newly sharpened pencils. I thoroughly enjoy teaching cursive, and holding read aloud time after lunch, or Social Studies discussions about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Chinese New Year.

But this morning one of my special education kids, practically the brightest student in my class, typed something different from his password. Instead of BKM4BP, he typed, “Die, computer, die.”

It was the perfect bit of comedic relief I needed. I burst out laughing when I read it, and he looked at me in surprise.

“That is exactly how I’m feeling right now,” I said, and he laughed, too.

And then he went on to produce the third highest score in the class.

Short on Patience, Short on Time


If you had any idea, even vaguely, of how hot it’s been in my classroom this week then you would understand why I haven’t put up a post since Tuesday, let alone visited any of yours.

I’m sorry.

The pencils above give a pretty good indication of how things are going all around. The dear children in my class are driven to distraction with the humidity in a corner room, closed off to any possible air circulation with windows that don’t open for everyone’s “safety” in a school with no air conditioning whatsoever.

The children have been sharpening their pencils in between my lessons. When I saw them, I had to laugh. “Hand them over,” I said, “so I can take a picture.”

Needless to say, there’s not been much reading Chez Bellezza. Taking baths and going to bed at 8:30, yes. Reading from my stack of glorious books? Not so much.

But, it’s Labor Day Weekend. And I’ll be free of Labor for at least three days. Surely in that time I can post on the books I’ve received this week: The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojsyaczer, River by Michael Ferris Smith, and We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. Surely I can come by to see what you’ve been doing while I’ve been sweating.

The First Day of School

This is the school district’s plan for keeping cool as we have no air conditioning.
But it doesn’t rob me of the joy of fresh pencils ready to write new ideas,
glue sticks and
64 fairly sharp crayons for art projects.
This Granny Smith is not for the teacher, but for a project later in the day involving paints,
and all my ideas are being recorded in this Moleskine binder with my Rhodia pencils made of linden wood.
I can’t tell you how excited I am for a brand new year. Teaching never, ever
gets old.

My Third Graders’ Favorite Read Aloud Of 2014

I have read so many wonderful books to my class this year. We have touched on every genre, from my personal favorite, Flora and Ulysses, to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s biography. But the hands down favorite, even of my beloved rapscallions, is this piece of historical fiction from Laura Ingalls Wilder.
“What do you like about it?” I asked them, as I was truly surprised it was their favorite. (Even though it’s been one of my favorites for over thirty years.) And so they told me:
“I think it was cool how they were able to survive all the dangerous things that happened to them.” ~Natalie
“I like that it had a different ending than most books.” ~Zion
“It doesn’t tell you where they end up. You have to read more to find out.” ~Robert
“I loved it because it was full of action and very descriptive.” ~Cole
“I liked it because like Cole said, there’s a lot of action. And, my favorite part was the scream in the night with the panther screaming, and then the Indian shot it.” ~M. J.
“I like the prairie fire because everybody was panicking and getting water.” ~Michael
“I liked how Pa was so brave to go out at night when it was so dark and the scream was right under his feet.” ~Katherine
“I liked when Mr. Scott fainted down in the well, and Pa went down to get him when all the water was coming up.” ~Emily
“I liked when she talked about her life. Other books talk about other people’s lives, but she talked about her life. She’s telling it like she’s living it right now.” ~Michelle
“(I learned to) never give up no matter how bad it is.” ~Erjon
“If you’re complaining now, look at the people in the past.” ~Romaan
These smart children of mine. They know that a good book is beautiful writing, an interesting story, and lessons we can take away with us after reading it.
And to think they’re only eight years old.

Remembering Back-to-School Days

As I prepare to go back to school, the time of year which always marks a new year for me more than January 1 ever will, I find myself recalling the joy I felt in going to school as a child. It helps bring me to a more optimistic mindset, a point of view which cherishes the simplicity and the love my parents showed in helping with the preparation.
After the shoes were bought at Oak Brook shopping center, where seemingly thousands were tried on to fit my troublesome feet, the box was transformed into a school supply box. My mother covered it with yellow flowered contact paper, and my father cut a slit into one end through which the ruler could protrude.
Inside went the standard box of 16 crayons. “That’s plenty,” said my mother, “sixteen are more than enough,” as I would beg for the 64 count box. Crayons were not an item on which we could  be extravagant, but scissors were. “She’s going to have them for at least five years,” said my mother, “we are going to buy a quality pair.” No kid-friendly scissors for me, with a gently rounded tip and plastic handles. Instead, I had stainless steel sharper-than-sharp scissors which could easily cut through anything. To that end, my father saved a cork from one of his wine bottles into which the ends of the scissors could be stuck so that they would not hurt little fingers.
There were no glue sticks, then. Instead we had pots of glue with a little paddle attached to the lid with which to spread the paste on one’s project. Or, I had mucilage: a clear, brownish liquid which always formed a crust on the rubber tip of the bottle. Sometimes, the old dried glue would adhere to the paper along with the fresh, and the project would have a hidden lump. I hated that.
Perhaps one of the best parts of all were the brand new No. 2 pencils. After supper, my father would sit with his pocket knife (ever sharp, ever ready in his pocket) and whittle the ends of the pencils until they were sharp enough to write with. I liked it when he sharpened them, because the lead was exposed much more than if had they been put through an electric sharpener; it seemed to me I could write endlessly without needing them to be re-sharpened.
Finally, there was a square of oil cloth. By the end of the year, it would crack along the folds made so that it could fit into the school supply box. But mine was a cheerful red and white gingham pattern, and out it would come before Art so that my desk was protected from clay. Stray crayon marks. Mucilage crust.
What are parents buying today for their children? Little hand-held calculators. Dry erase markers. Colored pencils, crayons and scented neon washable markers. Instead of oil cloths there are disposable baby wipes. It’s a different world, and I try to embrace it.
But, a piece of me wants to take my black Ticonderoga pencils over to my parents’ house and ask my father, “Will you sharpen these for me? Just like you did in 1967?” And ask my mother, “Will you cover my shoe box and make it pretty like you always did?”
I’m sure they would.

Preparing for Poem In Your Pocket Day

I loved the idea: put a poem in your pocket and share it all day long on April 18. Share it in the classroom, in the hallway, in libraries, bookstores and offices. Just pull out the poem you have in your pocket, hopefully one of you favorites, and read it out loud.
Today I showed my children how to fold an origami “pocket” and told them they could decorate it however they wanted. I love opening doors to them, inviting them to “color outside the lines” as no teacher ever told me. But, I digress…
When they saw the pocket I made, they suggested I add color:
But, the pocket is not the important part of this project. The important part is to decide what poem one ought to choose. I considered using a kid friendly poem by Jack Prelutsky. My son and I used to love Captain Conniption and As Soon as Fred Gets Out of Bed.

Yet I felt that I wanted something a little different for grown ups. Something for us book lovers. Which is why I stuck in this little poem by Edgar Guest:

What poem would you choose? If you were going to participate in national Poem in Your Pocket Day? I’ll let you know what the children have chosen in a few days.

Quotes For Readers To Live By From A Third Grader

This morning, Matthew was telling us all about his medical procedure yesterday which was the reason he was out of class. Fortunately, he said, he had his emergency book.

“Matthew,” I asked, “what is an emergency book?” (Knowing full well, as I, too, carry one.)

“Pretend you’re going somewhere super boring and you only have two books. An emergency book is the second book you have in case you finish your first book and you have nothing to do. If you have a long book, such as Valeria is reading, you don’t need an emergency book. My emergency book is Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life,” he replied.

Something to remember the next time you’re somewhere super boring.