Saturday, February 2, 2019


It's been some time since I posted anything. I am certainly not an avid blogger. But this is my last school year before retiring so I should put something out. I am frequently asked what I plan to do when I retire and the answer at this time is: I am not sure. There are the obvious answers of travel and read more. After that, I want to take some time to think and find the structure that works for me. I will miss my work colleagues, doing lessons in the classrooms, and most of all the amazing young children I get to spend time with every year. Preschool and kindergarten have been joyful places to work. And this year first and second grade joined us to add to the fun. I won't miss the drive (50 minutes one way as long as there is no fog, freezing fog, ice, snow, gale force winds or deer bounding across the road). I have seen inspiring sun rises as I drive east in the morning. And sunsets against bare trees are a favorite.
Thanks Middletown for a great ride!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

It's the 2017-18 School Year!

Yes, I'm still here at MPE and very delinquent in making a new post. I have been doing lessons in the preK and kindergarten classes that support the district's behavioral expectations of being safe, responsible and respectful.

Kindergarten has done a lot of work on the idea of personal space, and what to do if someone is in your personal space (use your words, get help from a grownup). This is a skill that we will continue to work on all year.

The students have learned about "smell a flower, blow out a candle" breathing (described in older posts) and have also learned about the upstairs/downstairs brain, which is describe in my post from 02/24/16. We are working on understanding feelings in ourselves and others and how to self-regulate so as to make good choices. These goals align with the social/emotional learning standards provided by the state of Illinois.

It is exciting to read a book to the kindergarten students and have them talk knowingly about authors and illustrators. They can point out how the illustrator indicates a character's mood by the color on the checks, the slant of the eyebrows, the size of the eyes. They talk about two-page spreads and fly pages and what the size of the text might imply about the story. I am an avid reader and I love supporting the literacy goals of the teachers as I work on the social/emotional learning of the students.

Preschoolers are enjoying active groups that work on self-regulation and understanding feelings and what to do when they are getting too big. The students are given opportunities to lead the group in small sections. It is rewarding to see them take on this leadership willingly and with confidence.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the school social work lessons (or anything else) that occur in the classrooms. I can be reached by phone at 217-586-5833 or by email at

Monday, May 22, 2017


I finished the kindergarten lessons on emotional literacy with the book Taking a Bath with the Dog and Other Things that Make Me Happy by Scott Menchin. (You can find this book on the MPE library web site in the TumbleBooks section.) We have read lots of books about various feelings: anger, worry, fear, sadness, etc. Finding a book that is almost completely about being happy was more challenging. This book was just what we needed. A child in the story starts out sad and discovers all sorts of things that make people happy.

We talked about ways to make yourself feel better when sad. We reviewed our "smell a flower, blow out a candle" breathing, our upstairs/downstairs brain, using our words to talk about how we are feeling, taking a break, and smiling. I reviewed with the students the fact that the simple act of smiling can be a mood booster and help you feel better. We practiced smiling. And we talked about how they can take all of these strategies to first grade.

I will miss all of the kindergarten children. But as one student said to me last week as we talked about the year ending, "I will remember you." Indeed, I will remember every single child from this year. Have a summer that helps everyone relax, grow, smile and enjoy!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Further Bee lessons

We have been working on emotional literacy, i.e., understanding your feelings and learning how to cope with the more difficult ones. We have worked our way through a number of books, including Be A Friend, by Salina Yoon, When I'm Sad by Jane Aaron, Sometimes I'm Bombaloo  by Rachel Vail and Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes. We have practice "smell a flower, blow out a candle" breathing and have talked about other coping skills: talking to someone, playing with a favorite toy, snuggling with a stuffed animal, going somewhere quiet, going outside to play etc. The students often reference whether a feeling leads to being upstairs or downstairs in the brain (see early posting for information on this). It's exciting to see them use this information.

During the discussions for When I'm Sad, a few children said, "I feel sad when someone else is sad." I introduced the word "empathy" at that point and decided to make my next two classroom lessons focus on that concept. It is a critical part of emotional literacy and the students are telling me they are ready to explore this topic. I'll post the book selections when I have them finalized. Let me know if you have any suggestions. Thanks!

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Great Read

One of my book group members recommended a book to me, believing that it would be of interest to me as a school social worker. It's one of the best books I've read in awhile. I think anyone who has an interest in the social/emotional struggles some children have in school, whether you are a social worker or not, will enjoy it. So here it is: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks. You will laugh, cringe, feel sadness, fear and triumph and be swept away in a compelling story narrated by a child's imaginary friend.  I couldn't read it fast enough. I hope you pick it up and enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

PreK Groups from the School Social Worker

We have started talking about the feelings children experience. We are using a set of the Legos called "Build Me 'Emotions'" to facilitate this process. Check them out on the lego web site. They are very engaging for our three and four year olds. There are four faces that show one each of the following feelings: sad, mad, scared, surprised. If you turn each of the faces around, various forms of a happy expression are seen. We are talking about how you can have those tough feelings and find ways to feel better and happy again. Coping skills such as deep breathing, playing outside, hugging a pillow, playing with a friend and finding a quiet spot to rest have been offered by the children. I read an age appropriate book about the feeling of the week that we focus on.
Of course, before we do all of this exploration of feelings, we begin with our usual warmup/release section that includes lots of movement to get ready to focus and think. A good time is had by all. Get in touch if you have any questions!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

More Bee Lessons

Two week ago we read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. It was an extension of our conversation about bucket filling/spilling. As many of you know, Alexander is having a very hard day in the story and his bucket keeps getting spilled. We talked about how even when one day is hard, the next day can be a great one.
We have now started a series of lesson covering "emotional literacy." We will explore all kinds of feelings that children (and adults) have and talk about how to cope with the feelings that are challenging. This week we are reading Angry Dragon by Thierry Robberecht. A young boy gets so angry he turns into a dragon! I am introducing Dr. Dan Siegel's hand model of the brain to help our students begin to understand what happens when intense feelings like anger come up. See my post from 02/14/2016 for more information on this concept. Ask your student to show you what it's all about. They are excited to learn about the brain. We are also discovering ways to calm down, such as doing deep breathing, taking a break to your room, hugging a pillow, playing with a favorite toy or talking to someone.
Here is my schedule for my kindergarten lessons, which are every other week.
Mondays: Mrs. Badger, Ms. Gibson and Mrs. Walk
Tuesdays: Mrs. Wade and Mrs. Myers
Thursdays: Mrs. Holmes/Padjen, Mrs. Krumwiede and Mrs. McHale
Fridays: Mrs. Raver and Mrs. Roberts.