Posted in Miscellaneous

The July Nativity Story

ImageI’m not abandoning the series on educational thinkers, just taking a Yuletide detour for the sake of a Christmas story.  We’ll be back to the educational philosophy journey in the new year, I promise.

Last weekend I was babysitting a family with three small children.  The boys, ages seven and five, asked me for stories of Christmas.  I told them the story my family reads every Christmas Eve of Snubbynose, the little rabbit who spies on Santa Claus and gets locked in a closet.  Upon finishing the story, the boys said, “No, not that kind of story—a story from your life about Christmas.”  So I got thinking about Christmases past, and all the stories accumulated over the years. I realized that one of my favorite Christmas stories takes place in July of 2012 while I was living and studying in Jerusalem.

The scene is modern day Bethlehem.  It looks like this:


July 2, 2012 My classmates, professors, and I are visiting Bethlehem for the day on a field trip.  We visit the Church of the Nativity and the church where St. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin.  In addition to our academic and pilgrim endeavors, we have some time for souvenir shopping. (And falafel sampling, as evidenced by the above photo.) The olive wood carvings of the Nativity are some of the most popular souvenirs (for obvious reasons).

My friend Nate is among those purchasing these beautiful carvings.  Our professor gives the signal for us to board the bus as Nate is paying for his nativity, so he tries to hurry the transaction.  And as always, when you’re in a hurry, things take much longer than they would otherwise.  After repeated attempts, the vendor’s cash register still won’t accept Nate’s card.  Nate scours his pockets for enough cash to complete the transaction, flustered because the rest of the class is counting off and ready to leave.  The professors get miffed if you’re late for the pre-departure count off. (Sometimes they leave even you behind.)  Not finding enough shekels in his pockets, Nate gives up, cancels the purchase, and runs to meet up with the rest of the class on the corner where we’ve been waiting to walk to the bus together.

As we leave the main square of Bethlehem to walk to the parking garage where our bus is waiting, we hear shouts from our classmates in the other group. “Nate! Nate!” One of our classmates runs to catch up with us holding a white plastic bag which she hands to Nate.  Breathless and smiling, she gives him the bag and watches as he opens it.  Inside is the olive wood nativity he thought he could never have.  Our classmates in the other group watched Nate’s misfortune, and in true Christmas spirit, pooled their money to buy his nativity for him.

Sitting next to Nate on the bus ride home to Jerusalem that day, I felt the warm gratitude and peaceful joy he experienced because of our friends’ Christlike gift to him.  As I listened to him recount the story I’d just witnessed, I could tell that he felt loved.  Those who loved him had done something for him that he could not do for himself.  And that is the true spirit of Christmas because it is the true spirit of Christ—being filled with gratitude and peace, feeling loved, and knowing that our Savior did something miraculous for us that we could not do for ourselves.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  May your lives be infused with the true depth of Christmas joy.


Posted in Miscellaneous

My TOP TEN Christmas Traditions and Winter Fun!

Profile PictureOnce the studying and the finals are over, I permit myself to think about plans for Christmastime. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite things to do. This list might be very similar to your list (or maybe not). Either way, I hope you enjoy reading it!

1. When we need a break from studying for finals, my roommates and I always make paper snowflakes to hang around our apartment. One of my friends made this awesome BYU snowflake!

byu snow

2. I always have friends over for a craft party at my house. In the past we have made a Christmas banner, a Christmas frame, and even some Christmas cards.

craft 1craft 2

3. Speaking of Christmas cards, it is a family tradition of ours to send out homemade Christmas cards. We make over 200 cards to send out to our family and friends. Enclosed is a fancily folded letter about the happenings of our family in the past year. Here is a picture of last year’s card and the cards that took over our kitchen table:

chrtist card 1christ card 2

4. In Ohio, we normally get lots of snow, so naturally we go out and play in it!

snow 3

We build tunnels, we build snowmen, we throw snowballs, we go down the playground slide like it’s a snow roller coaster, we make snow angels, and we even go sledding! Once we’re cold enough, we head inside for some hot chocolate!

5. Sometime before Christmas we have a “Great Cookie Bake,” where my Grandma comes over and we make tons and tons of cookies. Spritz cookies, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cookies, frosted sugar cookies… you name it, we’re probably baking it!

6. Another tradition that we have is every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas each person in my family writes something that they are thankful for on a small slip of paper and puts it inside a little Christmas box. On Christmas Eve, we read each of them because gratitude is our gift to Jesus due to the wonderful gift that He is to us.

6. On Christmas Eve, it is a night of giving. Each of us has drawn a name of one of our siblings out of a hat and carefully chosen a gift for them that they get to open that night. We also read some special Christmas books that night.

7. On Christmas morning, we read the Christmas story from the Bible, open gifts, eat a yummy breakfast, and spend time with our family. My Grandma always makes a birthday cake for Jesus and we sing Happy Birthday.

8. Every year we drive to Kirtland, Ohio to see the nativity display at the Visitor’s Center. Pictured below is a nativity from the Philippines made out of recycled newspaper and a knitted nativity made in Peru. It is neat to see the different cultures that all represent the same event but with different materials from around the world.

japan knit

9. When my cousins come into town at Christmas, we always go ice skating. It’s one of our very favorite things to do in the winter time. We don’t know any tricks on ice, but we still like going around and around.


10. Finally, something I think we should all do is catch up on sleep! So… Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!


Posted in Miscellaneous

New Literacies

thumbnail2I just finished up my Foundations of Literacy course. I loved it! I feel I learned so much about literacy that will be helpful when I teach. One of the topics we talked about toward the end of the semester was new literacies. I didn’t know at first what these “new literacies” really were and what was included in that title. I learned that new literacies are the technological forms of literacy that are becoming more and more a part of our society. These technologies include iPads, phones, email, the Internet, and many more technologies that expand the definition of literacy.

I learned these new literacies are often debated as to their importance or place in the classroom. Many believe new literacies are nice for “fun” activities that help keep their students interested, but I believe the place and importance of new literacies go far beyond that.

In my mind, it is the teacher’s responsibility to prepare students for society both intellectually and socially. When I think about society now, I can’t think about it without new technologies being included. Can you imagine watching a movie made in 2012 and set in the present that does not include any smartphones (or even cell phones), computers, GPS devices, or any kind of new technology? The movie would seem so outdated because it did not include any new technologies.

Do we want our classrooms to be outdated? I do not. I believe new literacies are a critical part of the classroom because they can help students learn through the visual and kinesthetic modes of learning which helps students to learn because they are participating more in the learning experience. Another reason new literacies are critical in the classroom is because they accurately prepare students for what society is actually like. Children know the world they are living in and recognize when their classroom environment isn’t reflective of “real life.”

As a teacher, I want to make connections in teaching and in literacy to my students’ world. I feel new literacies are a critical component in fostering children’s connections between what they are learning and what is in the world around them.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Another TOPS Experience

Profile PictureThis fall was the second semester that I had the opportunity to participate in the Tutor Outreach to Provo Schools (TOPS) program. I enjoyed every minute of it. I signed up to help with writing in a third grade class.

Each day I volunteered, I signed in at the front desk and received a name tag. Then I made the long trek to the end of the hall of the next building to Ms. Lovell’s classroom. After recess the students would sit down IMG_4483
and wait for Ms. Lovell to give them instructions about their center’s rotation for the day. There were about five different stations they would rotate through. Writing, reading with Ms. Lovell, listening, and spelling were some of the rotations. When students got to the writing center, I would help them, one on one, to brainstorm and edit their stories. I always smiled at their responses to writing prompts. They wrote about Harry Potter, Thanksgiving traditions, and sometimes, funny possibilities like “What if candy fell from the sky whenever it rained?” The chance to work with these students and their writing was really insightful. Their writing gave me a glimpse into their lives away from school and consequently, why they act the way they do at school.

Once, I became involved in a conversation that a table of third graders was having about what they wanted to be when they grow up. One student mentioned that he was thinking about being an artist. Another student responded, “Artists don’t IMG_4645make a lot of money.” The first student said they do make a lot of money if they get famous. The second student said, “You shouldn’t want to be famous.” Then they asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I said I want to be a teacher. “A school teacher?” they asked. “Yep! Third grade! It’s my favorite!” I said. Then, they felt important because they’re in third grade. It was interesting to hear their thought processes about the future and their attitudes about being “famous.”

Every time I have the opportunity to be in an elementary classroom I can better see myself as a teacher. Sometimes the chance to have your own classroom seems so far away, but it becomes more real when you can experience successes in a classroom before then. I made a goal at the beginning of the semester to learn every student’s name by my last day and I did it! I love how TOPS gives me the opportunity to work with children one on one because that does not happen often as a teacher. I am so grateful for the things I learned from my experience at Wasatch Elementary this semester.

For a look at my TOPS experience from last semester, go here.