Sunday, March 29, 2015

Special Education Students Soar to New Heights

   Miss Jenaia aka as Jena Ball, the author and creator of The Not Perfect Hat Club, inspires one child at a time in her unique, positive and supportive way. Every child is a star. Every child leaves her lessons a winner who internalizes his/her new found skills. Miss Jenaia has the perfect mix of art, mutts, and literature that reaches all learners young and old alike!   Name a child who doesn't love animals, or drawing, or listening to a book that teaches about, love, acceptance, and dogs!   I know not a one!
     In the introduction to Poco a Poco (little-by-little), she has stated, "I have come to believe that children who are given the chance to love and care for pets learn
empathy,understanding, and responsibility. This in turn, prepares them to become caring, respectful, and responsible adults. We need many of those kinds of adults as we can get, don't you agree?" Yes Miss Jena, this teacher agrees!

        I often let the people who have touched me in a positive way know that I am better from having known them. Thirteen of my perfectly not perfect special education students, five aides, and myself are better for having known Miss Jenaia (Jena Ball), her business partner, Marty Keltz, and her public relations expert, Karin Lippert, and of course Newton, Lance, and their friends! They brought us to new heights! We did the unimaginable and surprised a whole community with our worth!
     Today's blog is about honesty, kids, and triumph. Several student's writings will appear throughout this piece. To me, I am fortunate enough to teach the most amazing kids anywhere! I believe in them everyday, even on their worst days. When one of them has a meltdown, my insides melt too, while my exterior remains firm and fair. My insides melt right along with them because I want this kid to know what I know that "s/he can do it! That s/he has what it takes to be successful, and likable." My outside stays firm and fair because there are consequences for our actions and I'd much rather give out positive consequences than not! I have to be fair, yet firm to almost plead with this student to stop because s/he is better than whatever is causing this meltdown. We must get to the heart of the matter. We can get through anything as a team! Sometimes my pleas stop the meltdown and I am able to show the student just how great s/he is. Miss Jenaia helped us to bring out more of our strengths.

Oh No!
    Initially when Jena and Marty asked me to become an NPHC Educator, I was so excited, because it was the chance I wanted to show everyone what I see in my students. I see warm-hearted kids who work hard, and want to be noticed just like everyone else. Realistically, as perfect as I see my kids, the chances of them becoming valedictorian, sports stars, essay contest winners, or class officers is slim. Year after year they sit back with smiles and see  the accolades go to other students. They clap and congratulate them but what does this do to their heart? Why can't they be part of the hoopla? Through the "Not Perfect Hat Club" it was our time to shine! 
   Sorry, Miss Jena, and Mr. Keltz but our first round circle conversation about being part of the NPHC did not go quite as enthusiastically as I had planned. The one thing my kids don't want is to be looked upon as "different". I can't say I blame them. They worried that all of this hoopla would make them stand out and maybe they'd look silly or worse, teased! 

     So, I made a pact with them that we would not be teased, we would be stars! We would be the first classroom to join "The Not Perfect Hat Club". Others across the world would follow us. We would be the first to hear the first chapter in Jena Ball's new book, The Not Perfect Hat Club, read by her character Miss Jenaia over Skype! We would be taught to illustrate the main character, "Newton" just like Jena Ball does! Then, because we are  people who can make a difference, we will find a way to sponsor the NPHC to help enhance global literacy for other kids just like all of the kids in Whitehall! They said they'd try! I love them, they always try!
Found enthusiasm

   We Meet Miss Jena/Jenaia:

     January 20th, 2015, we Skyped with Miss Jenaia for the first time! We surprised her with our plan for earning funds for the NPHC Global program...we are all wearing "Not Perfect Hats" that we made ourselves! We came up with a game plan to make hats and have a hat day! I contacted my two favorite seamstresses: Aunt Linda and Teacher Barb!  They liked my plan and helped me to detail it! Our aide Mrs. Farynirarz also sews, so we went into action! I bought fleece, and thread, and yarn, and needles! We borrowed sewing machines! We taught all twelve kids how to make their own hat! Our Principal, Ms. McHugh approved our plan! Ms. Jenaia loved our plan! 
     Miss Jenaia read us the first chapter in her book, "The Not Perfect Hat Club". We drew Newton! We did great! We scheduled a second visit with Miss to teach her how to make a hat and how to make flyers for our hat day extravaganza!

The Process has Begun:
     Little did my class know it but thirteen leaders were about to be born.  Why thirteen? During the process one child moved on and another came aboard!  My students developed twelve steps to making a not perfect hat! We taught Miss Jenaia how to make hats. Then in our "free" time we made hundreds of hats and flyers for our hat sale and hat day! The best part is, Mitt Aubin's students are not slackers, they also completed their school work! 

Miss Jenaia in her Not Perfect Hat!
The Transformation is Complete:
    The WCSD Not Perfect Hat Club did what no one ever thought they would do! They:
1) Came up with a solid business plan.
2) Designed an unique product.
3) Measured, cut, sewed, and finished their fleece hats 
    almost flawlessly!
4) Determined a fair and affordable sales price for their 
5) Advertised their product with a bulletin board and flyers.
6) Planned a school wide event to sell hats for three days 
    during lunch, and have a "Not Perfect Hat Day" complete
    with prize categories and winners!
7) Designed their sales space and asked Mr. Reynold's their 
    technology teacher to make them a "hat tree" to match the 
    NPHC logo! He so kindly did!
8) Learned to handle the money during the hat sale and how
     to treat customers! We became a true sales team!
9)  Learned what "Mail order" is and sold Not Perfect Hats 
     through mail order by advertising on social media.
10) Did morning announcements in the front office to
       announce our Not Perfect Hat Events! Public speaking!
11) Created collection cans for the NPHD event. Price, 
    $1.00 to wear a "Not Perfect Hat " all day in school. Miss 
     Jena provided cool "Newton" stickers for the event.
12)  Collected money and handed out Newton stickers to 
       NPHD participants.
13)  Choose winners for the first annual "Not Perfect Hat 
       Day" Competition!
14)  We were interviewed for local newspapers
      and were on the news...two different  television stations! 
      WE DID IT!!!  WE WERE THE STARS!!!  Nobody 
       laughed at us! People congratulated us! It was so 
       awesome! We raised and donated nearly $800.00 for 
       the  global Not Perfect Hat Club. Best 
       yet, people loved our hats and came back for more!
Selling Hats!
Putting our hat tree away for the day!
CBS News 6

Teaching Other Students Nationally Through Skype:
     Our Latest achievement was to Skype with a third grade class in Iowa at the Northeast Hamilton School.  Mrs. Tammy Massman is their teacher. They will be making the hats that we taught them how to make and will be sponsoring their first "Not Perfect Hat Day" in their school. It is said that the best way to learn is by teaching. Thirteen kids at WCSD have become designers, public speakers, writers, illustrators, entrepreneurs, teachers, and our next feat is to mentor younger students who want to become a part of the "Not Perfect Hat Club," right here in the Whitehall Elementary School. We can't wait! 

Skyping with third graders in Iowa.

     Our NPHC journey is not ending here. Miss Jena is creating guidelines for us to become NPHC Ambassadors! I know we will be able to accomplish this goal! 
     In two short months, Miss Jena has taught us all that we can do and more. We can do amazing things that impact children around the world all from our small town in the Adirondack Mountains!  We all need to learn empathy, understanding, and responsibility. I, with thirteen children who want to learn and do more, will accomplish new things everyday with Jena Ball, Marty Keltz and the Not Perfect Hat Club cheering us on all of the way!

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