So You Want to be a Writer
*NEW* TBI Traumatic Brain Injury - A Living Nightmare
Mike and David
									Learning to Walk Again
Mike and David
Learning to Walk Again
Summer 2005
David and Mary Anne 
									Working on Balance
David and Mary Anne
Working on Balance
Summer 2005

What a Team!

David’s Physical Therapists, Michael Stevens and Mary Ann Kramer-Urner shared their plan of treatment for David and demonstrated flexibility, adaptability, a strong work ethic, and upbeat personalities. Their constant assessment of David’s needs was commendable.
*NEW* Strange Happenings
Blue Ice Jewel
from Germany
Blue Ice Jewel
from Germany
Blue Ice 
Blue Ice
So some weeks passed and I finally got up the nerve to change my starter bead to a blue ice gem. I wanted my gem to match Monique's . . . well almost. Hers is clear like a diamond, while mine is blue ice.. Monique searched the web and ordered mine from Germany. I couldn't wait until it arrived.
Off to the pirecers again for the change. I did not have enough courage to try to change it myself.
*NEW* WIND RIVER Prokaryotic Biology
What fun it was to see caribou, whole herds of them, walk right onto the grounds of the Aspen Lodge, Welcome to where we were guests. They are so big. I heard that there are bear in
*NEW* Treska Trivia - A Slice of Life


Donna is currently working on a number of picture books including, Teacher's Pet, Kanona Prattsby, and “Tie Your Shoes, Miss Tress.”
Fotos of Phrends
          May 2006

Lillian and I have been friends since her daughter, *Cathy, was in my 3rd grade class so many years ago.  I was performing the play, Charlotte's Web with my class and I cast Cathy as Fern's mother, Mrs. Arable. Cathy seemed comfortable with the part.

But, Lillian came to me after school that afternoon with a very worried expression. I thought she was unhappy with the role in which I had cast Cathy. She assured me she that she wasn't, but she was concerned about Cathy's costume in the play.
lillian-elliott-2006I told her I would like her to wear a farm-type dress. Lillian's face became even more worried. Then she just blurt it out. She told me that Cathy was very upset because she did not want to wear a dress. I told Lillian not to worry; I can be pretty convincing. She said I could try, but she doubted that I would be successful. She said that Cathy never wears dresses and can be very stubborn about it. I told her not to worry. If I could not persuade Cathy to wear a dress, she could wear overalls. Lillian's face visibly relaxed and though I did my best to convince Cathy, I failed and Cathy made a wonderful Mrs. Arable in overalls.

Lillian also played an important part in my life when I became very ill in the mid 1990s. By then, Lillian was a secretary at my school. When I was finally out of the danger zone, but needed to be hospitalized for months, Lillian carted my children's journals home (and any other work that I needed to see). Then my husband, David, picked everything up and brought it to the hospital to me and returned everything, including my plans, to Lillian the next morning.

Lillian kept calling David her boyfriend -- she still does. So when I couldn't go to the Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera with David, my father, and my stepsister, Renee, I begged Lillian to go with them. It took a lot of begging, but like a good friend, she gave in, went, and had a great time. That's what friends are for!

*(Cathy is now all grown up, a beautiful young woman, and a Physical Education Teacher -- somewhere in middle New Jersey.)
On Teaching

  I already said that I love to teach, but I love to take it a step further and teach students to be teachers. I’ve had student teachers from William Paterson University, Felician College, St Thomas Aquinas College, Montclair State University, Stockton College, and two students from St. Peter’s College. I love to be able to share ideas and talk education with my student teachers. It’s fun to discuss the children’s progress and their funny antics with them. It’s exciting to know that some of my teaching philosophy and my creative ideas may someday emerge into the classrooms of my students.


Meet Saran Sinnette. saran & donna crazy hair day 2008 copy
Saran did her student teaching in my classroom from September 2007 until May 2008. She did both her Clinical 1 and her Clinical 2 coursework with me. So we have been hanging out with each other for a long time. It's fun to watch her grow into a "real" teacher. She was a Montclair University student.

Here we are being a little crazy on wacky hair day.  It just gave us another excuse to have fun in the classroom.

                         This is Ellen Ptalis.

ellen-ptalisEllen is Saran's mentor teacher
from Montclair University. 
She visited Saran in my classroom six times.

It's Ellen's job to observe Saran's teaching and offer suggestions.

She wants to make Saran the best teacher she can be.
Just as I do.

                      What a team!


This is Denise Lynch. She's a student teacher in my classroom now. She started in January of 2007 and will be with us until May. It didn't take her long to fit right in. deniselynchjan2007Seems like she's been with us forever. It's really only a week!
I'm glad she is with us.

tn_baby9_x002It's funny! I didn't know Denise a few weeks ago -- but, yet, I did. Well  . . . I didn't know her as an adult. BUT, I held Denise when she was a baby - more than 20 years ago.  She doesn't remember, and I barely do.

Denise's father, Patrick, and my husband, David, played softball on the same team. Denise's brother, PJ, and her mother, Donna, were always at the field to cheer on Patrick. I was there, too, with my son, Jared, and my daughter, Kiersten. We urged David to catch those fly balls.

We got to know the Lynch's pretty well. So, when Denise wasdeniselynchclassroomjan2007 born, we were invited to her christening.

Now, Denise is all grown up. And, by some strange coincidence, she was assigned to my classroom to do her student teaching.
She is soon to graduate from my alma mater
William Paterson University in May.

Here, Denise is reading a book to the children,
called Don't Squeal, Unless It's a Big Deal.
It's a fun book reminding children to not tattletale. Then Denise tried her hand at Book Trivia. You can see some of the questions on the easel.


Dana Buzzelli joined my class in September 2006. She is a student teacher from Felician College.danaturkey

Dana comes once a week to work with the children.
 She has taught lessons on writing
and on magnets.

The kids really have fun with the magnets.
It's almost -
like magic.

Here's Dana preparing to teach magnetic force

 Dana listens to the children read in reading groups and plays flash card games with them . . . like
Word Flash.
                                                                        Who said First Grade wasn't fun?

Dana's student teaching assignment, in January,
will be
in a Special Education class
before she walks down the aisle
collect her diploma
and her
teaching credential
in June.

Lauren DePreta was a student
Montclair State University.

She did her Clinical 1 requirements in my
First Grade class
  February to May of 2006.

  This is the semester      
                                                before laurenbook2006
Student Teaching
. . . the time

   students get to
observe classroom routines
      and methods of teaching,
       and to start to take part
in the

Lauren came  
       twice a week
          was teaching small reading groups.
Cindy Martinez was a student teacher in my class
from September to December of 2003.
                                   She graduated from Montclair State University.

                                      Cindy worked in all phases
                                                                     of the  classroom  preparing      
        for the day that she would have her very own room.

She did lessons in Math on patterning
                  and in Social Studies
she addressed the Drug Awareness Unit.Image

Here's Cindy passing out      
   another sticker.
         The kids just love to get
                 to their
     sticker collection book.

And so my classroom turns into a laboratory where student teachers can study and learn about early childhood behavior. They can practice their own teaching skills and develop their own methods; they can absorb new ideas, use new techniques, try out management skills, while still having the safety net of a mentor teacher to rely on.

I look forward to all new students who will pass through my classroom for the last phase of their teacher preparation. They are just one step away from having their own classrooms. And, then I wish them very well and hope they have as much fun in their classroom as I have in mine. 


Random Stuff
This Christmas David and I decided to stay home. No hours spent searching for airline tickets. No hours spent trying to pack. No hassles with limos, airport crowds, or hotel rooms. It was a good decision.

Our son, Jared, called a few weeks before the holiday to announce that he was going to come home for the holidays. He planned to stay a week. That was perfect!

 christmas2006davidanddonnaWorth a 1,000 Words!

 That's MY son!    That's MY Dad!

Therapy can be fun! Well . . . Sometimes.
If David can't be behind the wheel of a race car,
this is next best. With his unsteady hand though,
I think Jared has the advantage.

 Okay, Mom!
Enough pictures, already!

 christmas2006jaredanddavidracingxbox  christmas2006jared

You said you wanted ONE more picture. Will this do?

Okay, so maybe I did take a LOT of pictures. But, Jared lives in
Santa Cruz, California and we don't get to see him all that much.
So, I DID take a lot of pictures!

It was a nice Christmas. Jared helped out a lot with some little
things around the house - and some big things, too. My garage
looks a lot better.

We also went car shopping together. Time to upgrade the wheels.

We went out to dinner a few times and brought food in. AND,
I made a turkey dinner with all trimmings for Christmas Day.


Teacher/Book Reviewer
book errol 9780823422623

Errol and His Extraordinary Nose
Written by David Conway
Illustrated by Roberta Angarama

Publisher: Holiday House
ISBN: 0823422623
Ages 4-8

Review and Lessons Plans by Donna O'Donnell Figurski

Talent shows can be fun … especially, if you have a talent. But if you are “talentless” as Daisy mentioned in the KIDDLE review, then a talent show can make you lose sleep. It can definitely be stressful. When the principal announced a school-wide talent show, Errol was at a loss. What could an elephant do for a talent? His classmates hopped right in to choose their talents. It was easy for the chameleon. Changing colors and blending into the environment is pretty neat. Birds just naturally sing and of course, singing is a great talent. Errol tried many things. He tried to juggle and to dance, but both of those talents were not suited to Errol. Can you even picture an elephant dancing … or juggling for that matter? There is something to the adage – What doesn’t beat you, makes you stronger. Errol did not let being “talentless” get him down. He would not be defeated. Errol set out to find a talent. And find one, he did! Just perfect for an elephant like Errol.

FROM the MOUTHS of KIDDLE CRITers: a critique group

“There once was an animal named Errol,” said Tala.

“Errol is an Elephant,” said Colin.

“One day Errol’s school announced a talent show,” said Daisy.

“The principal announced it,” announced Lucy.

“All the animals in the school had a talent,” explained Colin.

“Except for Errol,” reminded Daisy.

“Then it was recess and everybody was bragging about what they could do,” Tala said.

“Except for Errol,” Daisy said again.

“I think Errol’s classmates were too braggy,” stated Colin with dislike.

Callie nodded and said, “Errol was glum because he didn’t have any talent.”

“That means sad,” explained Abby.

“Errol was terrified, too,” said Colleen.

“So, he tried to find a talent for the talent show,” said Brayden.

“But he could not find it,’ said Abby.

“It was awful,” Kiko said.

“He tried juggling,” said Jimmy, “but his nose was in the way.”

“Everyone teased Errol,” said Colleen.

“Because they thought he was ‘talentless,’” exclaimed Daisy.

“And all the animals thought that Errol’s nose was silly,” said Kiko.

 “That made Errol very, very sad,” said Abby. As an afterthought she said, “When I was in a talent show, I was nervous.”

“If I were in a talent show, I would ride my bike,” said Michelle.

“My best talent would be playing my violin or maybe singing a song that I made up,” decided Callie.

Lucy began to laugh. “If I were in a contest, I would be … flabbergasted,” she said.

“Flabbergasted!” Mikaela repeated with a laugh.

“I like the way the author makes the words sound excited,” said Colin.

Then Mikaela flipped through the pages and pointed at the word. “I think the book about Errol uses very interesting language,” she said, “… like flabbergasted.”

Colin laughed, too, and then said, “When Errol went home his dad gave him a book … a book called Elephants.”

“His dad told him that everybody has a talent,” said Caden.

“So Errol read the book all about elephants,” said Tala.

“And he learned facts like an elephant can live to a long age, his nose can reach far, and it can even spray,” said Abby.

“Errol noticed that his trunk was extraordinary,” said Lucy.

Daisy’s head bobbed up and down. “The most interesting part was about the nose of an elephant,” she said. “Errol found out that his nose was very versatile. Versatile means really useful,” she explained.

“That night he felt better,” said Jimmy with a smile.

“Then he drifted to sleep … along with his black cloud,” said Caden.

Colin was smiling, too. “Because Errol found out what he could do,” he said.

“That’s why the dark cloud moved away,” said Caden and seemed relieved.

“Then it was the day of the talent show,” said Kiko.

“At last it was Errol’s turn,” said Jimmy.

“When Errol went on stage, everybody loved him,” said Tala.

“And the cloud over Errol was gone,” said Colleen. “All gone!” She was smiling. “Errol found out his nose was handy.”

“Errol surprised everyone,” said Brayden, “because he did have a talent. He had a nose like no other.”

“The crowd went wild,” said Lucy. “Errol won and it was obvious that he was the best.”

“First place!” said Caden.

“I think his dad was proud of him,” said Brayden.

“I’m sure he was happy that Errol took his advice and showed everyone how talented he was,” explained Callie.

“I bet you Errol was proud of himself, too,” said Brayden.

“He was happy,” Mikaela said with a nod, “because he discovered he had lots of talents.”

Lucy started to giggle. “I wish I were an elephant,” she said. Everyone giggled with her.


Everyone Loves Elephants: Language Arts/Writing/Science

Everyone loves elephants. They are amazing creatures. They are fascinating to watch at the zoo. I expect they would be even more interesting to watch in their native habitat. Though they are large, cumbersome animals, their size is deceiving. Elephants are fast and very, very smart. After visiting several of the fact sites included below, have your class list as many elephant facts on paper. They can work individually, in teams, or in small groups. When they have gathered enough facts, have them meet as a group to consolidate and record as many elephant facts on chart paper as possible.

Give each child a paper with the letters E L E P H A N T listed vertically. (one letter per line) Have them list an elephant fact that begins with the initial letter one each line to make an acrostic poem.










Eat grass, branches and bark from trees

Live in the grasslands of Africa

Elongated nose searches for food.

Poaching hunters endangers elephants

Herd - a group of about ten or more elephants

Always protect their young from danger

Natural foods like bark and branches are its diet

Tusks and teeth are very strong


Everyone Has a Talent! Language Arts/Self-Esteem

Kids love to act out and I don’t mean in a naughty way. When I was a kid I loved to build a tent stage with chairs and blankets. It was fun to perform all kinds of silly antics for my parents. I called it acting. I’m not sure what they called it, but at least they laughed in the funny places.

Have a talent show in your own classroom. Ask the children to think about what they may be good at. Some will know immediately – the precocious, outgoing kids. It may take some urging for the shyer bunch. And you may have some children who will be like Errol and insist that they have no talent. But everyone has talent. I had one child in my class, who was also a KIDDLE CRITer at one time; who could stick his tongue out so far it reached the tip of his tongue. True! I made him do it lots of times. Now that’s a talent! Encourage the children to think about their special attributes. Then set up some chairs in the front of your room, drape them with a blanket, and you have your own special stage. Break A Leg!


(Although I examined these websites and found them to be very helpful, please use them at your own discretion.)

African Elephants: Photos, Video, Facts, E-card, Map …

Science Kids: Elephant Facts – African, Asian, Wild, Food, Interesting Information

Facts About Elephants

Kids Talent Show Ideas


Ella Sets the Stage by Carmela and Steven D’Amico

Chicken Dance written by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Dan Santat

The Scrambled States of America written and illustrated by Laurie Keller

Elephants of Africa written by Gail Gibbons

Baby Elephants written by Bobbie Kalman


My Writing Life
On Teaching

Educational trends come and go and terminology changes with each passing year. The "buzz" words of today are ancient history by tomorrow. For as we know, the pendulum in education is in constant motion. But what it boils down to is teaching and reaching kids. Do it! Do it anyway you know how . . . but make certain that you do it.

Early in my teaching career, I was very fortunate to become involved with the Writing Project at Teacher's College, Columbia University in New York City. The lessons I learned from those very dedicated teachers were invaluable and they continue to influence my teaching . . . every day.

The following list of books were written by my teachers.

Lessons From A Child by Lucy McCormick Calkins
The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy McCormick Calkins

Living Between the Lines by Lucy McCormick Calkins with Shelley Harwayne

Raising Lifelong Learners by Lucy McCormick Calkins with Lydia Bellino

Lasting Impressions - Weaving Literature into the Writing Workshop by Shelley Harwayne

The next set of books was also written by my teachers, although a little more indirectly. Each of the following authors were guest speakers at Teacher's College, Columbia University on many occasions.

Children's Literature in the Reading Program by Bernice E. Cullinan

Report Card on the Basal Readers by Kenneth S. Goodman, Patrick Shannon, Yvonne S. Freeman, Sharon Murphy

Breaking Ground: Teachers Relate Reading and Writing in the Elementary School by Donald H. Graves
Writing: Teachers and Children at Work by Donald H. Graves
Build A Literate Classroom by Donald H. Graves
Write From the Start - Tapping your Child's Natural Writing Ability by Donald H. Graves

When Writers Read by Jane Hansen

Language Stories and Literacy Lessons by Jerome C. Harste, Virginia A. Woodward, Carolyn L. Burke

The Foundations of Literature by Don Holdaway

Expecting the Unexpected by Donald M. Murray

Life in a Crowded Place - Making a Learning Community by Ralph Peterson
Grand Conversations - Literature Groups in Action by Ralph Peterson, Maryann Eeds

Transitions by Regie Routman
Invitations - Changing as Teachers and Learners by Regie Routman

My Family Album
In Order of Appearance
David, Donna, Kiersten, Jared
Because we live so far away from each other, we rarely get together. So when we do, they are treasured memories. This memory was courtesy of my niece, Maureen, who married her friend, Rob, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Student Memories
The day began least as normal as any day in a first grade classroom. Children emptied backpacks. Jackets and sweaters were hung in the coatroom. A low buzz filled the room as the children set about writing in their journals. Attendance was nearly complete when suddenly a muffled voice was heard...a single note, "La." Several children raised their heads from their journals and quickly looked around, but soon lost interest. "La" and a slightly higher "La, La!" followed. I looked up. More children noticed and stared at me awaiting my reaction. I pretended not to hear. They glanced at each other and snickered, but quickly returned to their tasks. I glanced around the room. One seat was empty. "La, La, La, La, La, Laaaaa" rose to the highest range of the scale and then quickly decended to a very low and heavy "LAAAAAA." Every child burst into giggles. The sound escaped from behind the bathroom door. The voice suddenly rang out as if in encore, which put us all in stitches. We doubled over and grasped our sides. Our laughter mingled together and we were drowned out by the bathroom opera singer. Silently, I motioned for the children to be still. Once quieted, I whispered that if we kept silent we would be entertained with more arias. Our opera singer didn't disappoint us. Our silence made him more energetic and he began to experiment with a variety of sounds. It took every bit of control to be quiet and we giggled with our hands clasped over our mouths to trap our sounds within. Titters could be heard throughout the room as sounds escaped from between fingers. Suddenly the toilet flushed, the tap water rushed, the light switch flicked and the bathroom door opened to the astonished face of Alex. As he greeted his waiting audience the children burst into uncontrollable laughter and hooted and howled their pleasure. Alex stood in the doorway looking rather chagrinned at first. His face was scrunched up with a mixture of surprise, a bit of shyness, and a whole lot of pride as he realized the applause and attention was solely for him. His sheepish grin and gleeming eyes met mine and I nodded to the front of the room. I suggested an encore and Alex gladly accepted. He moved center-stage and ran through his repetoire of notes as we all once more grabbed for our sides. When finally we regained control I suggested that we all get busy with our day.

I silently wondered what would be next. That afternoon, Alex, my lanky, shy, Alex whispered to me that he knew all along that we were listening to him in the batroom and that was why he was doing it. Earlier I had thought that maybe I was nurturing a future opera star right there in my bathroom. Now I wonder if a comediene wasn't born that morning.
?OLE! Mexico ?OLE!
*NEW* TBI Traumatic Brain Injury - A Living Nightmare
Speech Pathologist, Gillian Bower’s gentle ways and her knowledge will contribute to David's recovery.

When Gillian Bower and Terryn Davis needed to leave for personal reasons a few days earlier, John Benich and Mike Seagraves, respectively, stepped in and made the transition quick and easy.

All of David’s therapists were very professional and knowledgeable in his or her area of expertise and we are very grateful to each of them for their dedication and for making our time in California an easier one and a memorable one for all the laughter.

I don't want to forget Mona Robertson who worked in the office and was my first friendly contact at Domincan Hospital. We had so many wonderful talks. She was never too busy to stop her typing fingers, well, I bet she was busy, but she stopped them anyway, to help me with so many little/big problems and, to just talk. Our first talk was when I was driving on the Cross Bronx Expressway (with my earphone in, of course) from the JFK airport -- a tricky drive in the best of times. I hate driving New York. Our talks in her office were much more sane and comforting.

Also, I have to mention Rodger. I said my hellos to him every day.

(Sorry - no pictures here. I had them, but my camera lost them. Notice, I blamed my camera because I would never have done such a thing.)

If I've forgotten anyone, I sincerely apologize. I truly believe you are all wonderful.
*NEW* Strange Happenings
Hum . . .
Hum . . .
Hummmmmmm . . . .
Hummmmmmm . . . .
TATTOO?? You've Got To Be Kidding!

It's just a little hummmingbird.
*NEW* WIND RIVER Prokaryotic Biology
Aspen Lodge
Trish and Uldis' Cabin
Dining Hall to the right
Aspen Lodge
Trish and Uldis' Cabin
Dining Hall to the right
Aspen Lodge
Aspen Lodge
an overview of 
Aspen Lodge
an overview of
Aspen Lodge
This was my deck and 
where I watched the caribou.
This was my deck and
where I watched the caribou.
And here are the caribou. 
A small group tonight.
One night I saw a herd of about 1
And here are the caribou.
A small group tonight.
One night I saw a herd of about 12
right from my deck.
*NEW* Treska Trivia - A Slice of Life
Treska in Chinatown
at Canal Street
Subway Station
Treska in Chinatown
at Canal Street
Subway Station
going Uptown
going Uptown
Riding the
Riding the "A" Train
We only had a half hour, so Treska and I jumped off of the train and dashed around Canal Street -- in and out of all the little store-fronts. A half hour is just enough time to find matching rings . . . a good reminder of all of our wonderful memories of the weeks she spent with me and her grandfather in NJ/NY.
Donna lives with her husband and best friend, David. She has two children, Kiersten and Jared and two grandchildren, Treska and Kaya.
Teacher/Book Reviewer
book 3 travelineye_jkt-261x300

My Travelin’ Eye
Written and Illustrated by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN: 0805081690
Ages: 4 to 8

Review and Lessons Plans by Donna O'Donnell Figurski

Each year thousands of children are prescribed eyeglasses. Nearly every year a child in my class gets them. For many it’s a crisis. Children want to fit in and be like their friends. Many times glasses set them apart. So the kids do the only things possible. They lose their glasses or they break them. My brother, Jack, had about two pairs of glasses before my mother gave up. He didn’t care that his eyesight was fuzzy and blurry. He simply didn’t want to wear glasses. He’d stash them in a tree when he was playing football and forget to take them home.

Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw, author of My Travelin’ Eye, did not want to wear glasses either. She was afraid to go to the doctor with the very long name - ophthalmologist. I would be too. But Jenny Sue’s mother took her anyway. After many eye tests, Doctor Dave told Jenny Sue that she had a L-A-Z-Y eye and it needed to be awakened. He gave her B-I-G red glasses and an eye patch to wear on her good eye. He said it would strengthen the muscles of her lazy eye. Jenny Sue still did not want glasses. She did not want an eye patch either. She was so sad she cried herself to sleep.

But Jenny Sue’s mom had an idea. Jenny Sue and her mom set to making “fashion patches” for Jenny Sue’s eye. How creative! They made a pumpkin patch and a rainbow patch. They made a ladybug patch, a target patch, a flower patch, and an underwater patch with fish and floating kelp. Jenny Sue’s school friends thought her patches were awesome. They even wanted to wear eye patches, too, but too bad. They did not have a note from Doctor Dave.

Jenny Sue finally got rid of the eye patch. Her eye muscles strengthened and her eye wasn’t lazy anymore, but she still had to wear her B-I-G red glasses. So what do you think she did?

FROM the MOUTHS of KIDDLE CRITers: a critique group

“Once upon a time there was somebody named Jenny,” said Daisy.

“She was a girl with a lazy eye,” explained Juliana.

“I think it would be weird having a lazy eye,” proclaimed Caden.

Daisy nodded. “When Jenny was born, someone whispered, “She’s got a wandering eye.”

Diego tried to roll his eyes. “It looks everywhere,” he said.

“Right!” said Mikaela. “Jenny can look two ways at the same time.”

“Jenny called it her traveling eye,” said Daisy.

“Hmmm, when I was born I had a traveling eye,” Caden said. “When one eye was looking one way, my other eye was looking the other way. Or one was looking up and the other eye was looking down,” he explained.

“When Jenny went to school, the teacher thought that she was not looking,” said Colin.
“Maybe she was. Maybe she wasn’t,” he rationalized.

“And some kids made fun of Jenny,” said Tala.

“I feel bad for Jenny because she was called names” said Callie. “I would feel really unhappy if that happened to me,” she added.

“The teacher sent a note home saying that Jenny had to go to the doctor,” said Caden. “But, Jenny Sue didn’t want to go to the doctor.”

“If that happened to me,” said Lucy. “I would go to the ophthalmologist.”

“But Jenny was nervous,” said Colleen.

 Jimmy agreed. “She cried herself to sleep,” he said.

“Jenny’s eye had no control,” said Abby. “So … she went to the ophthalmologist.”

“To get a checkup,” explained Colin.

“ And he gave her glasses,” said Juliana.

“Big glasses – red ones,” said Caden. “And she got a patch,” he added.

“But Jenny didn’t like the idea of covering her good eye,” said Tala. “It was really hard to see the board and the words on it. It would be hard to read.”

“And also if they had reading time – a read-a-loud thing - she might say the words wrong,” said Daisy.

“So Jenny made a fashion patch,” said Juliana. “Her mom told her to make it.”

“Her mom was smart,” said Jimmy.

“Yeah!” said Callie.  “I think that Jenny Sue and her mom are creative because they created the fashion patch … and the fashion glasses.”

“So that Jenny Sue didn’t have to feel bad,” said Juliana.

“Jenny was very creative about the fashion patches,” said Callie. “She showed everybody at school.”

“They were cool,” said Lucy.

“All the kids wanted one,” said Caden. “If I needed a patch, I would want a cookie one.”

“I would want a Brownie patch,” announced Callie.

“If I had a fashion patch, it would be flames,” said Diego.

“I have glasses,” said Juliana.  “And it feels good to have them because they are new.”

“I don’t want to wear glasses. I think the kids would make fun of me,” said Caden.

 “No one makes fun of me,” said Juliana and I could make a design on my glasses,” she added.

“I would be sad if I had a lazy eye,” said Callie. “But it would be awesome to make a fashion patch and have fashion glasses.”

“I think if I had a traveling eye, I would like it because I would have something that practically no one else has,” said Abby.

“It’s like a gift,” explained Juliana.

“I would be different from everyone else,” continued Abby. “I would be unique and I would like that.”

Daisy had a big grin on her face. She really got it! “What makes you really different,” she said. “… is what makes you special too.”


Fashion Glasses or Fashion Patches: Language Arts/Writing/ Self-Esteem/ Social-Awareness

More than half of all Americans use some form of vision correction. Maybe we aren’t eating enough carrots. Maybe technology has become better honed to diagnose and correct eye problems more swiftly. Whatever the reason, it’s a fact that children are a large portion of that statistic. Even though, it can be traumatic for a child getting his or her first pair of glasses. To raise awareness with your students about peoples’ differences and to make them more accepting and sensitive of these differences, try the following activities with your class.
  • Before reading My Travelin’ Eye by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw, have children write a short paragraph about how they would feel if they had to wear eyeglasses or an eye patch.
  • Meet as a group and have children read their pieces to the class.
Read My Travelin’ Eye by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw to the class.

Fashion Glasses:

  • Have children make Fashion Glasses. Set out a variety of pipe cleaners of many colors.
  • Have children use as many as they need to design a pair of fashion glasses.
  • With a little glue add feathers, gems, or glitter to decorate your glasses.
  • Use this site to get ideas. How To Make Kids' Glasses  
  • Have them wear their glasses in school for about a week
Fashion Patches:
  • Have children make Fashion Patches:
  • Precut circles out of cardboard, construction paper, or blank index cards into two-inch diameters. (Using fleece or felt fabric will make more permanent eye patches.)
  • Paper punch a hole on each side of the patch.
  • Children may decorate their patches using crayons, feathers, gems, or glitter.
  • Attach enough pipe cleaners to each side of the patch to circumnavigate the child’s head.
  • Use this site to get ideas. MYI Occlusion Eye Patches
  • (For safety reasons, it is best to have the children not wear the patches for an extended period of time.)
  • After children have worn the glasses for about a week, have them write a short paragraph about how they NOW feel if they had to wear glasses or an eye patch.
  • Again meet as a group.
  • After the children read their paragraphs, lead them in a discussion about how their views may have changed.
(Although I examined these websites and found them to be very helpful, please use them at your own discretion.)

Four Eyes Can Be Fabulous
Twinkle and Eyenstein: How to take care of your eyes
Kids’ Health – Topics 0- Eyes – Wearing Glasses
How Do I Stop Teasing?


The Patch written by Justina Chen Headley; illustrated by Mitch Vane
Arthur’s Eyes written and illustrated by Marc Brown
Princess Peepers written by Pam Calvert; illustrated by Tuesday Mourning
I Need Glasses: My Visit to the Optometrist written by Virginia Dooley; illustrated by Stephanie Roth
Paul Needs Specs written by Bernard Cohen; illustrated by Geoff Kelly (See previously reviewed book at

Special Note: You can visit Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw at her website Dancing Elephant Studio .
My Writing Life

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Wild Mind Living the Writer's Life by Natalie Goldberg
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
Women Writers at Work edited by George Plimpton
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brand

My Family Album
Kiersten & Falko
My beautiful daughter, Kiersten and her husband, Falko.
Kiersten went to Bard College in Annandale-on-the-Hudson in New York State, where she did her senior thesis in German Women's Studies. During the summer between her junior and senior year at Bard, she studied in Germany at the University of Heidelberg and developed a great love of the European culture. So it was no surprise when after graduation, with a grant from the DAAD, Kiersten headed directly to Germany. And it's a good thing she did, too. There she met Falko . . . and the rest is history. They are now happily married with two beautiful daughters.

Kiersten lived in Germany for almost eight years. Four of those years were spent in Leipzig, Falko's hometown. Then, with their daughters in tow, they packed up and trekked across the ocean, and across this wide land to New Mexico. Kiersten had a burning desire to become a midwife. She began her training in Germany in 1998 and finished in Taos, New Mexico at the National College of Midwifery and the Women's Health and Birth Center. She graduated with an Associate of Science in Midwifery (ASM) and became licensed as a CPM and LM in 2002. She is now a home-birth midwife and is "catching" lots and lots of babies. She loves every minute of it . . . even the middle of the night phone calls and the long, unending hours.

Falko, who was the layout editor for The BILD, Germany's largest newspaper, gave up his career to travel to a new land and follow new dreams. He loves the beauty of New Mexico and hopes to begin a business of constructing new homes in the foothills of the mountains. During the winter, Falko works in a Bavarian restaurant in the ski valley. And he is the REAL thing.
?OLE! Mexico ?OLE!
Graduating Class of August 2004
*NEW* Strange Happenings
My cute, adorable, harmless, 
My cute, adorable, harmless,

Monique's Little Hummingbird.
She just HAD to have it.
Monique's Little Hummingbird.
She just HAD to have it.
Okay, so I added a few more holes to my ears. I now have a total of five. Thanks, Betty! And thanks for going with me, and for telling me that it was not cool to have an equal number of holes on each ear . . . thus the odd number of five. Then I poked an extra hole in my nose. Thanks, Kiersten! I swear - I would never have thought of this on my own. Although I can come up with some pretty weird ideas without anyone prompting me, this idea is totally your responsibility. And thanks to Betty for holding my hand and saying, "You can do it! You can do it!" but who wouldn't do it herself when I encouraged her to get her nose pierced, too.

Monique is totally responsible for the tattoo. Her friend, Sarah, called from Germany with the news that she got a tattoo. Hmmmm!

Soon Monique was talking about hummingbirds. She talked about it in the car. She talked about it sitting on the floor of my office. She talked about it at the dinner table and talked and talked. She asked me if I wanted to get a tattoo with her.
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