Saying Goodbye to our Students

The school year is coming to a close, which is always so exciting (and needed). But it seems like after all of the hectic end-of-the-year parties and celebrations are over and we’re sitting alone in our empty classrooms, that’s when the reality sets in. 

They’re gone. They’re really gone. 

Your students aren’t coming back to your classrooms again, they’re moving up and moving on. 

For so many months, the routine was the same. Your students walked in, took their seats, and your school day started. 

Together, you learned new concepts and reviewed the old. As a team, you worked to problem-solve within your classroom to create the best learning environment possible. 

There were so many hours spent in the classroom that you all became a family, functioning together as a family does. 

And yes, times were hard, deep breaths were taken (by everyone), and problems were dealt with.

But at the end of the day, your classroom dynamic was still a family dynamic, and there you all were, sticking up for each other, advocating for each other, and learning together. 

So as you sit in your empty classroom in the silence to follow the crazy end of the year… take it all in. Remember all of the good times and bad times you had. Appreciate those students for everything they were and weren’t. And feel good knowing that they walked out of your classroom a better person than they were when they entered. 

It’s okay to feel sad and to feel happy at the same time, there’s space for both. 

Confessions of a Scholarship Chairperson

substitute teacher quandry

When I attended college, I had a friend tell me about a scholarship for sophomore students that I qualified for. She was part of the scholarship committee and gave me some insight into what exactly they were looking for in a scholarship applicant, so I had a really good chance at winning. 

I put in the work and applied, but ultimately, was denied. 

I was devastated. Why wouldn’t they choose me? If only a few people had applied and there were multiple winners, why wasn’t my application chosen? It was a really good scholarship application! I felt like they hadn’t even read what I had submitted or cared about the work I put into it. 

Fast forward several years later and I become the scholarship chairperson for Honors Graduation. It was exciting that I could be behind the scenes of a scholarship and have the opportunity to choose the winners! Little did I know what emotions were in store for me. 

Each year I read through so many scholarship applications and in the end I can only choose five. Five winners out of all of the applications we receive. 

What I didn’t realize when I applied for a scholarship of my own several years ago was how emotionally intensive it would be to read through so many hardworking, deserving students’ work and have to deny the majority of them. I’m sure when I applied for my scholarship years ago, I wasn’t actually “just another applicant” that they disregarded. Instead, I think my application was one that they poured over, read and re-read, discussed, and came to the conclusion that the scholarship wasn’t for me. 

Because I’ve been in those shoes now, doing the exact same thing with our scholarship applicants. 

Over the next two weeks, my time will be filled with reading and re-reading applications over and over and over until I nearly have them memorized. It’ll be time spent calling the applicant’s references to verify projects and hear what stellar and incredible students they are. My time will be spent building a bond with each of these students and their projects, just to have to make the hard decision at the end on which applicants are the top five and deserve the scholarship money. 

So when that hard rejection email hits your inbox, just know that it’s hard on our end to choose the winners, too. I’ve been on that end of rejection, and it hurts. But maybe it feels a little better to know that your application wasn’t thrown in the reject pile, but read over and over and appreciated, even if you didn’t win. 

No Funding For Field Trips? Try These Ideas

Is May field trip season for other schools too, not just ours? It’s such a busy time of the school year! 

I know we’re not alone with the struggle of under-funding for the school in general, but especially with field trips. However, it’s still important for our students to get out into our communities to learn and grow! Here are some ideas on how to hold field trips when funding isn’t available or is limited. 

Fundraise: I knooooow, I can hear the groans through the screen of your preferred device. Fundraising can be so daunting and exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be. Put the kids in charge! Let them brainstorm and help out as much as possible. And involve parents, too. This way you have help and everything doesn’t have to fall on you. The 1st graders in our school did a year-long fundraiser where they sold smelly pencils and erasers after school. One student was in charge each day and they worked together to raise money, enough to fund a field trip to the local bowling alley! 

Reach out to businesses/ field trip locations: Some zoos, aquariums, arcades, playlands, etc. are willing to offer grant applications or extremely reduced pricing for school field trips, especially if you qualify under Title I. It never hurts to ask what they are willing to do for you when funding is limited! 

Find free locations: If your school is close to a local park, library, college, grocery store, restaurant, business, etc. utilize these free locations to cut down on costs greatly! 

Walk, if possible: And if any of these locations are within a reasonable distance of your school, walk there! It’s like two field trips in one when you not only have the main activity, but the walk to and from as well! 

Ask for donations: I knooooow it’s almost worse than fundraising! Because it feels very vulnerable. But when your heart is in the right place trying to raise funds to bring your students on a field trip, it’s a worthwhile cause to ask others for help with funds. A simple letter home to parents about their plans for a field trip and what the cost will be while asking for help funding it, (and mentioning that even $1 helps!), can help raise you to your goal quickly. I know at least for me I’d rather just simply give my kid’s school money rather than jump through the hoops of fundraising. 

Look into virtual field trips/ Zooming with specialists: This became extremely popular in 2020 with the outbreak of COVID but has also been a practice for several years now. Virtual field trips can happen over Google, or you can find different specialists to schedule a Zoom call with for your class to chat with a zoologist or astronaut, or business owner, right from the comfort of your own classroom. 

There are so many benefits of field trips for any aged student, but that’s a post for another day! Needless to say, it’s worth it to put in the extra work and watch these students learn in a new environment. Field trips can be some of the most beneficial moments of their student careers! But they don’t have to be extravagant to be amazing. 

Cover photo by Kayla Wright

Scholarship Reminder! The Scholarship is DUE

Scholarship reminder! The scholarship is DUE! There are four more days (from the time this was posted) until all applications need to be finished and submitted. Our application closes May 28, 2023, 11:59 pm MST. 

Our submission form is closed down and does not take submissions after the deadline has passed, so get your application in before this time. Each year we have one or two individuals that send us an email letting us know that they were working on their final submission but didn’t get it in on time, and ask if they can still submit. Sadly, the answer is always no. To be fair to everyone, we set a deadline and hold true to this deadline. 

So gather all of your work and get everything submitted! 

Our email is also always open to any questions you may have or guidance needed during the process, even after your project has been submitted. 

You can see more about the scholarship requirements by downloading our checklist here.

For more information on the scholarship, head here.

For our 2023 final submission link, head here.

Other helpful posts:

“I’m So Proud of Myself”

I try really hard not to tell my kids I’m proud of them. 

I know that sentence was really harsh, but I have your attention now, right? 

I try not to tell my kids I’m proud of them, but instead rephrase it by saying, “Are you proud of yourself?” or, “You should be very proud of yourself!” 

I am proud of them, I really am! But their own pride in themselves will carry them much further than my being proud of them ever will. 

It’s not something I do 100% of the time, I still find myself exclaiming, “I am so proud of you!” often. But I throw in enough “You should be proud of yourself” to balance it. 

At school this week, my kindergartener was awarded as a “red cape runner” for having the most improved testing scores for the class that month. She, along with others from the school, was given a red cape and they all ran through the hallways with We Are the Champions blasting over the speakers. It was a way to celebrate their hard work and dedication, and it was amazing as a parent to have the chance to watch these children, just beaming with pride, run through the hallways. 

Afterward, when I had the chance to talk to my daughter, I told her that she did amazing and we were so happy we could come to watch her. She responded with, 

“Mom, I am SO proud of myself right now!” 

My eyes instantly filled with tears. It was the first time she had told me she was proud of herself without any prompting from me. And for that, I was extremely proud of her. 

Her own self-pride will carry her further in school than any praise I can give her. It will also drive an intrinsic motivation in her school work, to see that if and when she puts in the time and dedication, she can and will achieve great things, and she can do it to be proud of herself, not just to make me proud. 

One proud little Red Cape Runner

Featured Image by Kayla Wright

Child-Led Learning is Beautiful. And It Works.

Did you know that crocodiles don’t sweat? This is why you can oftentimes see pictures and videos of them with their mouths wide open, to cool them down. 

Did you also know that they can hold their breath for over an hour while they are underwater?! 

Another fun fact: crocodiles and hippos do not get along and will fight to the death if they come upon each other. 

Why the random crocodile facts? Because these are all things I’ve learned about crocodiles over the last several weeks while my son has taken a particular interest in them. It started with the National Geographic Croc vs. Hippo documentary on TV and has since escalated into YouTube videos, Googling random questions he throws my way, and many checked-out books from the library on crocodiles. 

It has reminded me that child-led learning is beautiful, and it works. I could have thrown together a crocodile unit for our at-home preschool at any point this school year, but his interest level would have never been as high had I brought forward the information. He saw something he was interested in and ready to learn about, so I followed his lead. 

A small handful of learning that I’ve witnessed from these last few weeks of crocodile learning: 

His ability to spout off random crocodile facts for anyone that will listen.
His recognition of the letter C has solidified. Because… C is for Crocodile!
He learned about different habitats and the difference between salt vs. fresh water.
His geographic knowledge of the globe has expanded.
His awareness of different cultures has grown.
His knowledge of technology and how it can be used for learning has been practiced. 

Child-led learning is beautiful, and it works. I can’t say how his learning would compare had I chosen a week to focus on the letter C and Cookie, but I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t have sparked as much excitement in him as learning about crocs did. 

Oh, and did you know? There are 14 different species of crocodiles on our Earth! How cool! 

Photo by Rene Ferrer

Picture Books We Are Currently Reading on Repeat

Here are a handful of books we are currently loving: 

Roy’s Pancake Problem by Hailey Hall 

A fun book about a little boy that loved creating new pancakes every day, but had to problem-solve when his mom said enough! 

You Are a Beautiful Beginning by Nina Laden 

This is one of those books that make you tear up when you read it because you know the words are so very true and you can only hope your students are internalizing them. 

underGROUND by Denise Fleming 

It’s not springtime without digging in the dirt and finding bugs! This book is great for those dirt-digging, bug-loving kids! 

Which picture books do you have on repeat in your classroom right now?