December 7, 2017

Merry Christmas wreath on classroom doorYesterday was the Christmas Program. The fifth graders performed Twas the Night before Christmas as a Readers Theatre. They did very well, somewhat mesmerized by the microphone but otherwise, they performed well. Several of the parents videotaped it. I am hoping one will send me a copy. 

Today the kids each received a huge 3 foot Christmas Stocking filled with goodies. They had a wonderful time unpacking the stockings. At the end of the day, a huge box arrived in my classroom. It was filled with another goodie bag, these bags are to go home on Monday, after our Christmas Party.  I also have a goodie bag for the kids. Today they set up the plans for our Christmas Party. They will do a small gift exchange and wanted hot cocoa with marshmallows and Nachos for party food. A strange combination — but one we can work with. We have been reading a parody of The Christmas Carol, I'm not sure they are getting the cross-reference. They are enjoying the read aloud. The main character is a 5th grader named Scroogeman. He is a bully, so the book ties right into the social teachings we are doing.  

The children across the school are hyped up for Christmas. In fifth grade, we are doing review work in both reading and Math. They are on overload and so behavior has been challenging. We will have a full day of school tomorrow, to make up for days missed this semester. Usually, Fridays are only a 1/2 day. 

I spent the evening today packing up my things to go home and wrapping a few gifts to leave with special people here. I leave here soon, I am homesick and ready to be home. Saturday is the big apartment give away, I think everything in my apartment is spoken for. It will be interesting to see it all go out the door to new homes. Every item is needed where it is going, 

I have quite a list of projects I would like to get individuals involved with, so look out when I get home!!! I will be trying to set up volunteers to make each item on my list happens. There are so many needs here. I was able to finally meet the new director of the Senior Center. There are still considerable needs there. She is loving the new environment we were able to create there this past summer. She is ready to take it one step further by planning activities for the Seniors. Bob and Mary's building needs finishing, kitchens need stocking, the park could use a rehab and the list goes on and on.

Finally, a prayer request, MIke a man from the area who plays Santa for many events here, was diagnosed with bone cancer. He is in the hospital and will miss all the Christmas events. Please add him to your prayers. He will not be able to play his role as Santa this year and will be greatly missed! Pray for strength and healing. 

Thank you for all your support and prayers. Please, continue to pray that a teacher can be found to take my place in 5th grade and that I make it home safely. I will miss these kids!! I am ready to return home and stay for a least a few days. I'm looking forward to returning to College of Saint Mary in my new role. I have missed teaching! I look forward to teaching the 4 classes I will be teaching in the spring. 

Merry Christmas!


November 27,2017

It is hard to believe that I have 2 weeks left at Crazy Horse School in Wanblee. I have not added to the blog in the past few weeks. They were difficult weeks and I had to take time to grieve. On November 4th, we lost another family to a drunk driver, Waylan, Jerome's nephew, his wife Jaylene, a 3rd grade para at the school, and their 2 young sons were killed by a drunk driver. Waylan and Jaylene were on the way to Pine Ridge Hospital to take baby Waylon to the hospital. The baby was having an asthma attack. It was a difficult few weeks. Jaylene was loved by the kids and I had been working with her as a mentor. The funeral, wake and time here at school were difficult. My way of dealing with grief and talking with children about death was totally different than what was allowed at the school. Teachers were point blank told we were not to cry at school or talk with the children about it. We were to go on as if this had not happened. No matter how much I talked to the principal about this she would not budge. I was told this is how we handle this situation. Death here is a part of everyday life, our children need to see that. I took her research and talked and talked to no avail. I did talk with my kids about their feelings and answered questions. From my perspective, we just demonstrated to kids how little a life matters. To my thinking that ties right into the thoughts my students have expressed all semester that "we" don't matter. Jerome and Theresa are holding their own. This makes 9 members of their family killed in car accidents on the reservation since May. It is one of the reasons I refuse to drive up here after dark. Waylon worked with Bob and Mary on the building. He was like a son to them. Waylon's kids called them Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary. So, no shortage of people hurting here.

I took the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving off. I went home to Omaha on Sunday. I needed time the week there to reset myself and to recuperate a bit. I am exhausted!! We spent Thanksgiving day as a family. Janna made the turkey. She was correct, she does a better turkey than I do. I am enjoying my leftovers here. We had a nice day together. The girls and I planned our mom and girl Birthday trip. Jeff and Janna got all the reservations set while I took a much-needed nap. The girls and I will be heading off to celebrate their 30th birthday in January. It is hard to believe they are they old!!!

While most of my children have made huge strides. I am working with one boy who continues to be difficult and at times violent or abusive. He can turn the classroom into an uproar in just a short amount of time. He goads others and encourages others to join in his disrespect and behavior. Most students do not, however he has 2 or 3 buddies who at times join in. This makes for difficult times and disrupts the learning of the other 25 students. I am meeting with his guardian tomorrow. Pray for me that I am able to communicate this situation and get him some additional help!

kids in hats

kids in hats

The fifth-grade class won the award for the most improved behavior. They were awarded a cafe day. They loved sipping hot cocoa and eating cookies instead of doing required academics. We did a paper chain around the room. Each time they were caught on task, helping others, getting work in on time etc... we added loops to the chain. Good old behavior modification at its best. After one month, their chain wrapped the room. As an additional reward, the children received hand knitted hats from my knitting buddies in Omaha. The photos are them in their hats. Thank you to my knitting friends for the wonderful hats!! The children loved that there were all so unique!

We are getting ready for the elementary Christmas Program on Wednesday, December 6. The fifth graders will be doing a readers theatre of Twas the Night before Christmas. We are working hard on reading fluency, stage presence and reading with a clear loud voice. We have all nailed two digit multiplication and are beginning to make headway on long division. My goal is that all will be dividing with consistency before Christmas Break.

Finally, I thank those of you who have sent me support via emails, texts, and phone calls. Thank you to all who have contributed to my ongoing list of needs here. My leaving will not take away the needs. Please know we continue to need items for rewards at school. Small toys, art materials, food such as breakfast bars, cheese and cracker packets etc.... A group from Omaha comes up every 3rd weekend of each month. I know I can send materials with them and I am planning on joining when I can. Wanblee in some ways has become a second home to me. I will miss my classroom children and my time here. I know my work here is not done. I will be returning and hope the contacts I have made here will help to meet the needs of the community.

horseshoe pumpkin
deer antler pumpkin

November 1, 2017

Dee, you are not in Omaha anymore!

You know you are in a rural area when you see pumpkins made out of other things. I have to admit I was not expecting horseshoes or deer antlers.

Halloween here was cold and clear.  We only had 3 teachers participate in Trunk or Treat—we had about 75 children and went through a large amount of candy. Upon returning home, my doorbell continued to ring until well after 9. I had about 20-30 more children by my apartment. Thank you to all who contributed candy. The caramel apples and movie went over well yesterday afternoon. I’m not sure how much of the movie was really watched, the kids enjoyed the down time and time to socialize with each other. Halloween Party a success!!

We woke up this morning with no water, it appears the whole town is out! The school will have a 2-hour late start, so I am home safe, warm, and very thankful for the case of drinking water and cooking gallons of water I have on hand. I find it hard to believe we will have water in just 2 hours and I don’t think 300 kids in one place without water will be happening.

Additionally, my car decided to give me a bit of grief. You know it is making bad noises when the people on the reservation look at you when you drive by. Jerome tells me I have "resified" my car.  It looks like I will be limping it into Kadoka and hope the mechanic there can figure out how to fix it. Jeff assures me it is not a big deal. I hate it when my car is not operating correctly! I really feel out of sorts to be so far from our mechanics, and without Jeff to deal with this! So, I am learning to be more independent. I always thought I was a very independent woman, but I realize just how much I depend on Jeff when things like this go on. It makes me much more appreciative of the life I usually lead.

I hope you all had a very Happy Halloween.


October 30,2017

Report Cards! Need I say more. Every teacher can tell you these take a huge amount of time. Especially when they are not formatted correctly and take 1 night of making them into quarter system report cards, several nights of entering grades. The report cards here are based on Common Core Standards so there isn’t just 1 grade for each subject but a grade for each standard under each subject (multiply that by 25 children). Many standards we have not begun working with so there was no grade. I only gave grades for standards I had 3 data points for. Still, it was a huge amount of work. Since I do not have access to computer system here for attendance, I then had to with for a report to be generated for that portion of the cards. This took a major portion my time. I did not get a post off for 2 weeks. I apologize, it just wasn’t the priority my report cards were!

I got the report cards out just in time to hand out to parents. I then raced out the door for a trip home for the 25th anniversary of the partnership with Girls Inc. called Operation Smart. It is a program done each semester at CSM by our sophomore level students. Young women come to CSM from Girls Inc. each Tuesday and Thursday after school for enrichment activities in math, science and relevant technology. Home this weekend was a race to see how much could be squeezed into one 4-day weekend. I must say I got to see quite a few people and spent little time resting. I did not get everything done on my list, so I will have to keep plugging away tasks. Once again, my friends Scott and Keri housed me on Wednesday night so I could cut time off my Thursday drive. Keri and I compared notes on report card generation. I also got to see my girls and have dinner with them on Friday night. Jeff and I got to spend some quality time together doing wonderful things like unloading and loading my car, and watching the Huskers pull out a victory over Purdue. (Oh, the luxury of getting my nails done, a haircut and a real grocery store!!)

Health fairI have not reported on the Nursing faculty and student trip. Students and 2 faculty members from CSM were here 2 weeks ago as an alternative fall break trip. They conducted a health fair for the elementary students at Crazy Horse, made a healthy snack with my 5th graders and did a group meeting with college-bound high schoolers on what it takes to go to college. We had a community dinner at Bob and Mary’s building since there was a group here from Minnesota as well that week. The school provided the nurses a house just down the street from my apartment. It was so good to have someone here from home again. I also laughed like I have not laughed in a long time. The students were so good for my soul. Driving in the Black Hills in a large white van was interesting, and I was glad I was not driving.

Jen and Tracey

I will only have to say Needles Highway to Jen and Tracey, my professor friends and I know we will all dissolve into a fit of giggles. Thank you to all who come up to Wanblee for the time you spent on this trip. I hope it has inspired a spring break trip as well. We did a bit of touring and had some wonderful discussions on the poverty so present here. The students were shocked at their trip to Wanblee Mart. We discovered a wonderful hamburger joint just outside of Rapid City and I will return there with Jeff the next time he is here.

Bunk bedsThe group from Minnesota got the water line into the building. All the bunk beds are assembled. Mary is one happy camper. She has a flushing toilet and while I was home this weekend cabinets and a real kitchen appeared. Bob is faithfully working on a full bathroom complete with shower. They are now progressing towards getting the dormitory ready for guests. I hear we may have a group here from Messiah Lutheran again in November. Maybe we can get some of the clothing and pantry assembled upstairs. If anyone out there has clothing racks or strong shelving units we could use both for upstairs.

Jeff is coming up the weekend of Veterans Day. He is hoping to finish clearing out our guest room and the church storage area. We will see how much he can pack into that trip. I will love having him here, less pulls on my time than when I am home in Omaha. Contact him if you have something to send. He is becoming quite the gatherer of materials.

I raced to get back on Sunday for a 3:00 meeting at the school only to arrive in Wanblee to a phone text telling me there would be no school on Monday. There was a funeral and the school is the only place big enough. We unloaded my car at the building and then I came home and collapsed. I spent today stitching and baking.

Tomorrow is Halloween. My students will be performing a reader’s theatre of The Hallo-Weiner by Dav Pilkey. Thank you to Jeff for scanning book illustrations for me this weekend while I raced around like a mad woman. It will be fun to see them perform this. I hope our Dogs and Cat chorus pull off their parts. They tend to not ham it up as much as I would like! We will also have a caramel apple feast and watch Goonies in the afternoon for our party. After school will be a trunk or treat in the school parking lot and a carnival at the college. So, kids here should have a Happy Halloween. I need to get off to bed so I can handle those live wires tomorrow.

It is cold here and feels like it could snow. The wind is really blowing and the clouds are heavy. I hope it holds off until after tomorrow. I am dressing in a witch costume tomorrow for school. I know some of the children will be in costume as well. Many do not have costumes, I am told it is not a big deal here. They trick or treat as they are.

It was hard to return this time. I found it felt really good to be back at CSM and I am looking forward to teaching next semester. I miss home! I miss my family and friends. Keep me in your prayers as I go forward. I know that what I am doing here is worthwhile, I know it is where I am supposed to be, yet I am tiring. I am praying they will hire a teacher. We need to do a transition with these children before I leave in December. I would like to know my kids are settled in before I leave. They keep asking if I am going to stay. I tell them honestly that I will not. I need to return home to my life in Omaha. I worry that they will have a string of subs next semester, and lose the learning we have gained. It weighs heavy on my heart.

October 13, 2017

LICE!!! I only have to say that word and it puts an itch to the head of every elementary teacher (some of you are itching now). We had our first head check in our room, and 6 children had lice! I know that lice are a part of life here and that they are easily transmitted. I have itched all week - even though I made the nurse check my head as well. Thank you to the tea tree oil I administer each night, NO lice. Still, my head itches just saying the word. My para educator laughs each time she sees me itch my head, she keeps telling me my imaginary lice are moving. As I said, just the word makes me itch.

My classroom door decorated for Halloween. My children come in each day to tell me how many days until Halloween. They are so excited about the day. I am unsure what to expect here. The teachers are talking about organizing a trunk or treat in the parking lot of the school. It will be safer than children trick or treating in housing. Guess who has been put in charge! The photo this week is of our door. The spiders are constructed from chenille stems, which I called pipe cleaners. Pipes up here have a whole different connotation than what I think about! The children asked why I called the chenille stems pipe cleaners while trying to explain – they point blank told me Crack pipes don’t have something to clean. I had to goggle on my phone a tobacco pipe for them to understand. I will never use the word pipe cleaner for this craft item again. Oh, what different lives many of them live, then I did growing up.

We are beginning to plan our Halloween Party for our room. I think we are going to dip caramel apples and then have a bar of toppings to add to your caramel; kind of our own Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. The kids have requested a scary movie. I am beginning to explore what I can show them that is not R rated. Hope to find an old flick they may not have seen. I thought maybe Goonies, so if any of you have suggestions, send them to my email. Horror flicks are not my thing - so I have a limited view of this genre. I will have to be able to get it on DVD because BIE blocks so many sites I will not be able to show a downloaded copy.

photo of the Halloweiner book cover I have downloaded the script for a readers’ theatre of Halloweener by Pikney, a children’s story about a dachshund, whose mother dresses him as a hot dog for Halloween. We will be performing it for the lower grades on Halloween. Everyone will have a part. I hope to film it – I’ll update you on the progress. It is a cute story, and I know the fifth graders will enjoy the humor.

We seem to have turned a corner now that it is October. I find myself redirecting behavior less and really being able to do some fun teaching. It was impossible before to do some things because the children just got so out of hand. We completed a science experiment with water this week; freezing different solutions. The children learned how to read a Celsius thermometer and did a full experiment with the hypothesis method, data collection, and conclusions drawn from this data. It was exciting to see them work together as a group and have science conversations about what they thought. Last week, while I was in Omaha there was a presentation on reptiles from Reptile Garden, the learning journals from the presentation also showed progress in writing as well as science learning. YEAH!!!!!

We have been editing each morning since the beginning of the year. We now can tell why we think the corrections need to be made and are beginning to edit our own writing as well as our peers! (Yes, I know this is something most 5th graders can do – however this was not a skill present in August.) It was a rude awakening, last week when I was visiting a student teacher in second grade at Omaha Westside, and saw the teacher present the same lesson I had just done with my fifth graders. One that my students had struggled with – adverbs; seeing these second graders master this and compete by tables to write the best sentence containing adverbs with self-assured confidence brought the deficits up here to light. My students’ lack of vocabulary and exposure to standard English, really hinders them in this area. The second graders’ sentences were more complex than anything I have seen from my fifth graders. When asked to write, the first thing my students ask is, “How many sentences do we have to write?” This statement is followed by the simplest sentences that can be constructed, so the new challenge will now be to increase the clarity and expand our writing. I am thinking we may set up some pen pals so that they are writing for a purpose. We have been doing apology and thank you notes, I believe this will be our next step. Anyone have a class that needs a pen pal out there??

I have always talked to my students about hungry children not learning well. This week, I had an aha with one of my boys. I have been tracking his behavior. I suspect we may have diabetes happening or in the least low blood sugars. (He is as obstinate as my dad was when his sugars were low! Any of you who saw dad like that will know it is not a pretty sight!!) This young man has days when he comes into school so obstinate refusing to do anything. Finally, it occurred to me to ask if he had breakfast. When I learned he was hungry and got some food into him - he was a different kid. When the commercials talk about hangry well, this was him! I am now stocking my room with easy breakfast items such as juice boxes and granola bars, graham crackers etc… (Ups my food budget a bit) I will be bringing the small refrigerator up so I can store milk and cereal here as well. I had not done so because we do have a breakfast program here. However, if the children are late they cannot get breakfast through the program. We need to get the food backpack program up and running. That was one of my goals - however, with teaching fifth grade, I have not been able to get this accomplished. I know I have children leaving school each day and not eating again until school the next day. The Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the poorest places in this hemisphere - poorer than Haiti! Please know that the average income here for a year is less than many in Omaha make in a month. This is an epicenter of poverty and very little hope for escaping it. My training through Aha Process and reading Ruby Payne’s materials has taught me that to escape poverty you must have resources beyond just money. These recourses include financial, emotional, mental (Including mental health and education), spiritual, physical, support systems and knowledge of hidden rules, and role models. I encourage any of you who are interested in learning more about leaving poverty or assisting those who desire to do so to explore Aha Process training and materials. I use what I have learned daily in my work here.

Fall is in full swing here. Report cards go out in 2 weeks. While there was a very dry summer, we have had a wet fall. It is raining again here. Fall leaves are beautiful and the colors really pop against the horizons. It has cooled off here and we are awaiting the winter coats promised by a group from North Carolina. I know we will be needing them soon, you can feel the chill in the air in the mornings. God’s Blessings to you all. I am looking forward to a group of Nursing faculty and students from CSM arriving next week. They will be doing a health fair for the elementary, a college workshop for the high school girls and exploring the history and culture of Pine Ridge area.

I can use for my room:

  • Breakfast bars (No peanuts)
  • Individual packets of cheese and crackers
  • Graham cracker bears or fish crackers (individually packaged)
  • Juice boxes
  • Individual cans of fruit
  • Plastic spoons
  • Individual cereals

There is a box at Lutheran Church of the Master (114th and Center) or you can drop them off to Jeff. I will be going home to Omaha at the end of October, to celebrate 25 years of the SMART program at CSM. God's blessing to you all. Thank you for the cards, emails, phone calls of encouragement, they mean so much. Thank you again to all of you have donated so many different items for me to bring up here each trip. The children see me as rich. I tell them it is all of you. It is important for every child to feel cared for these items are beginning to help my children here feel like someone cares for them.

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