Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hagan's Summer of Awesome.....My Son's New Blog

I love the weekends.  One of my favorite things to do is to get coffee at my favorite coffee shop.

One of the best parts of coffee shops on the weekends is the conversations I get to have with my own kids.

On Saturday, my 6 year old Hagan and I were waiting for coffee and he started telling me a story about where he was going to read this summer.  He said, "I am going to bring a book on the horseback ride in Estes Park. Will you take a picture of me reading?"  This little story made me smile because Hagan is excited about the summer reading program that John Schu and I have planned for our kids at Brook Creek and Van Meter.

In Silly Summerstakes, John and I have asked our students to send in photographs of them reading and writing in silly, fun, and unique places.  All of the teachers have put up colored posters in their classrooms and they hang throughout the school hallways.  The students received a letter to go home and we have been discussing this program in the library over the last few weeks.  I know that our students are very excited to connect with John's students at Brook Creek and to share with their friends at Van Meter too.

After Hagan told me one idea he then came up with several more equally amazing places to read, write, and for him.....draw.  :) I told him that he should start his own blog and he just loved this idea.

The best part of the conversation was when I asked him what we should call the blog.

"Hagan's Summer of Awesome, Mom," with the sweetest smile on his face.

I hope you enjoy Hagan's new blog as he shares stories of playing, reading, writing, drawing, and traveling through the summer.  He is a very funny little guy so I am sure this will be one entertaining journey.

You can also follow Hagan on Twitter at @haganemiller.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Students Aren't Waiting

This post appeared on the Edmodo blog May 17, 2011.

Last Saturday, Will Richardson posted “There are Some People Who Don’t Wait”on his blog, weblogg-ed. The post was about teachers who don’t wait…who jump right in, who take a chance, who embrace change in education and the lives of young people.

Will wrote,

“... I couldn’t help thinking about the many teachers who I have met over the years who haven’t waited. People like Shelley Blake-Plock and Dolores Gende and Anne Smith and Kathy Cassidy and Brian Crosby and Shannon Miller and Shelley Wright and Jabiz Raisdana and a whole slew of others who had some type of hunger overcome them, something that made them jump right in and really change the way they thought about teaching and learning and classrooms.”

As I continued to read, the next part of Will’s post said it all.

For some, I know, what’s happened over the past decade or so has simply afforded a way for them to do more of what they always believed, to give kids the reins and let them learn about learning.”

I love that line! “To give kids the reins and let them learn about learning.” This is the perfect description of what needs to happen in education. We should be empowering our students to drive their education and to have a voice in where it takes them.

He went on to state,

They’ve put kids ahead of the system, redefined themselves as learners first, teachers second, found the courage of their convictions and made learning, not test scores, the focus.”

As I read Will’s post, I was not only honored to be mentioned, but also smiled as I thought about what had happened the day before at Van Meter. I had moved over for the students…I became a learner and watched as the students took charge of their learning experiences that day. I watched a group of 7th grade girls take an idea and resources that I had given them, embrace it as their own, and figure out how they were going to make a difference in not only their lives, but also in the life of another person and throughout the world.

I could go on now to tell this wonderful story, but why do that when this is the story of my students? I will let them tell you how they are not waiting either.

“After Mrs. Miller won the Connecting People Shorty Award, she was featured on the Girls Who Rock blog. She shared the blog and also told us about another connection called She’s the First. She asked if we would be interested in learning more about the organization and told us how we could get involved. Mrs. Miller planned a Skype before school last Friday with two awesome Notre Dame students, Casey Kraft and Monica Townsend. They are in charge of setting up school chapters of She’s the First.”

“We learned about ways we could make a difference and had a great time brainstorming ideas with Casey, Monica, and our group. It was so fun to meet them and talk about starting our very own chapter at Van Meter. Most of all, we couldn’t wait to start making a difference in the education and life of another girl who really needed us.

“After the Skype, a couple of us had an idea. That afternoon was Kid’s Club in our elementary school. All of the students K-5 would be gathered in the activity center for a celebration of talent. We asked Mrs. Miller if we could ask Mrs. Merical, who is in charge of this production, and the elementary principal, if we could tell everyone about She’s the First at Kid’s Club. Mrs. Miller was excited and gave us a pass to go share the idea with the them.. They said YES, so we were on our way to planning our first fund raiser for She’s the First Van Meter. We only had a couple of hours so we worked fast.”

“With only a few weeks of school left, it had to be an easy project. We found some containers in the art room and created She’s the One buckets for each classroom.”

“We knew from the beginning that we must work together as a group for this to be successful. “

“We wrote up a little speech and picked four of us to present. We were going to tell the students, teachers, and school community about how we could all make a difference in the world.”

“Here is our speech that we gave at Kid’s Club. Our mission and goals will be clear after you read this,

Education… What does that word mean to you? Well in third world countries like Sudan or Guatemala education means opportunity for young girls. Across the world 130 million kids are not enrolled in school and 70% of those kids are girls. An extra year of primary school can increase a girls wage by 10% a year of secondary school adds to wages anywhere from 20% to 25%. She’s the First not only enables girls to earn more, it also empowers them to do the impossible. Overcome poverty and become successful. “She said she could do it so she did.”

That’s the She’s the First motto.

We are the first secondary chapter ever. So we picked a school we would like to send the girl we are sponsoring. This school is located in Tanzania and is a very unique school not only because of giving girls in poverty an education but because it also incorporates technology in everyday learning.

What does that school having technology mean to us? Well since they would be able to have technology we would be able to Skype the girl we are sending to school about once a month. To send one girl to this school would cost us $1,000 each year.

What can you do to help? Well you can donate money to help support a girl pursue her education. Every teacher well be given a She’s the First container to keep in their classroom to raise money. At the end of the year we will collect the money and the class who raised the most by the last day of school will get She’s the First signature tie dye cupcakes. If you ever want to check out more of what She’s the First does go to and follow us on Twitter at @STF_vanmeter. You can also find us on our “She’s the First Van Meter” Edmodo group. This will be a great place for all of us to communicate and share ideas with each other and our new friend in Tanzania.”

“Even though we are 12 and 13 years old, WE can make a difference. We are empowered to be leaders and teachers, not just students. We are involved in our learning through collaborating and connecting with others. We are empowered to create great things and to have a voice. We are not waiting for someone to tell us how to do this. We can all change the world! One person at a time…we can make a difference.”

As you can see, these students also “had some type of hunger overcome them, something that made them jump right in and really change the way they thought about teaching and learning and classrooms.” Just think what this will teach them about learning and what it will bring to their lives. We need to embrace the change that our students can create. We need to encourage, support, and guide them along the way. We need to let them know that they are making a difference.

And remember…

We can all make a difference in education.

We can make a difference in the lives of our students and empower them to do amazing things.

And never, ever be the one who is waiting


Shannon McClintock Miller is the district teacher librarian and technology specialist at Van Meter School in Iowa. You can find her on Twitter at @shannonmmiller and blogging at Van Meter Library Voice

Richardson, Will. “Weblogg-ed » “There Are Some People Who Don’t Wait”.” Weblogg-ed. Web. 17 May 2011. .

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Real Treat....Robert Forbes Visits Van Meter!

Last Friday we had the honor of hosting Robert Forbes in our library. John Schu and I were introduced to Robert and his poetry through our friend Rocco during Poetry Month in April. We soon planned a day to Skype and share poetry with our students in Van Meter and Brook Forest.

Robert has written two books filled with amazing, fun poetry entitled Let's Have a Bite...A Banquet of Beastly Rhymes and Beastly Feasts...A Mischievous Menagerie in Rhyme.

Mrs. Braun's 4th graders and Mrs. Thompson's 5th graders were the lucky ones to meet Robert. After listening to several poems and hearing about the incredible illustrator Ronald Searle, the students engaged in a wonderful conversation with the poet. He spoke about how he started writing, the inspiration for the characters in his poems, what he enjoyed reading, and encouraged the students to always dream big.

Robert visited with us for over a hour and it was one of the best times we have had during an author visit. I loved it when the students told him how they "carried his poems in their pockets" during Poem In Your Pocket Day on April 13th (read about John's and I celebration at

We look forward to reading, sharing, and following Robert's work.

Thank you, Robert. You are truly an inspiration to us all.

You can read more about Robert and his work on the website.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Katie Davis Shares Her New Book....Little Chicken's Big Day!

Last week, author Katie Davis visited my 3rd graders over Skype in the Van Meter Elementary Library. Katie shared her new book Little Chicken's Big Day that she created with her husband Jerry. This sweet book spends the day with Little Chicken and takes the reader on a range of emotions through adorable illustrators and simple words. My dear friend John Schu sent me Katie's book in the mail and I couldn't wait to share it with the students at Van Meter. They loved listening to Katie read it.

It was exciting for the 3rd graders to hear her talk about the process of writing and illustrating a children's book. She spoke about getting things just the car seat Little Chicken was in. It took them several attempts to get the look that they wanted.

The third graders asked her so many wonderful questions. One of the best, "What was your favorite book as a child?" Katie was so excited to answer that...she ran off to get two of her childhood favorites to share. When we finished the Skype, the kids said, "She is like you Mrs. share your old books with us too."

This is one book that you will definitely want to share with your students.

And find out for yourself what happens to Little Chicken on his big day!

Katie also wrote about Little Chicken's Big Day on her amazing can read it here!