Friday, June 14, 2013

Moments That Take Your Breath Away

Recently, my principal asked me to reflect back on the year that has been and share one highlight that stood out in my mind.  I found the task daunting at best, not because I couldn't think of something to highlight, but because I couldn't choose among the many possibilities!  It has been an amazing year!  Challenging...yes!  Demanding...absolutely!  Perfect...not by a long shot!  But in the end, amazing!  They say that "life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take your breath away."  If that is true, my life has been infinitely extended this year by the many "moments" that have taken my breath away!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

An Awesome Sauce Day at Austin Elementary

Awesome-Sauce!    My first exposure to this phrase came through my principal, Laurie O'Neill, who began using it earlier this year to express joy, wonder, or approval of the things happening around her.   It's an interesting must agree.  I thought of it as a synonym for words such as
wonderful, amazing, fabulous, terrific, delightful, and lovely.  However, since the first time I heard it, I've always wondered about this phrase.  Where did it come from?  What does it really mean?  The Urban Dictionary defines "Awesome-Sauce" as "something that is more awesome than awesome, the pure refined essence of awesome, the best something can be."  It goes on to say that the term "Awesome-Sauce" should be used "on any occasion where joy and elation are expressed."  Okay, that's great, but is this word any different from delightful, or fabulous, or wonderful, or my personal favorite, amazing?  The truth is, it isn't.  At least that's what I thought...until Friday.  On Friday, everything changed.  At Austin Elementary, Friday, May 31st  was a day that can only be described as "Awesome - Sauce."  

The day began early, as we welcomed a group of 23 educators from Montgomery ISD, north of Houston. They had come to see the Schoolwide Enrichment Model in action and to learn how we have  implemented SEM
on our campus.  Like the four groups who visited before them, these educators had the opportunity to visit classrooms, observe "E-Time" in progress, and participate in an SEM presentation that outlined the "Why, What, and How" of SEM implementation.  Additionally, this particular group was able to attend the dedication ceremony of a Reading Garden designed by a 2nd/3rd grade Enrichment Cluster, visit our K/1 Enrichment Cluster Showcase,  and view the staging / dress rehearsal of a fashion show being put on by a fourth grade E-Time group.  We so enjoyed sharing our day with these forward thinking educators, and we count it a blessing to be walking with them as they begin their own SEM journey.  

Soon after our visitors arrived, the K/1 Enrichment Cluster Showcase began.  Parents, community members, district personnel, and school board members flocked to our school to celebrate our youngest learners as they showcased their efforts and shared their accomplishments.  These young learners amazed their guests as they clearly and confidently articulated their learning, discussed their products, and shared their enrichment cluster experience.  The scope and depth of their discoveries and creations was simply amazing.  

Decorative doors created by the "Wood Working Wizards," recycled artwork and jewelry created by the "Trash or Treasure" cluster, a catapult and pulley system designed and constructed by "Tinkering with Toys."  The list goes on and on!  Our kindergarten and first grade learners clearly proved that they are not too young to engage meaningfully in the Enrichment Cluster experience and that they too, have something unique and special to offer our world.  

As exciting as it was, the day did not end there.  In fact, in the words of the famous composer, Paul Williams, "We'd only just begun!"  Immediately following the opening session of the Enrichment Cluster Showcase, our entire school population, along with our Montgomery visitors, school board members, and the PTO board, headed out to the basketball court to witness the dedication of the future site of the Austin Elementary Gardens and Book Blooms Outdoor Learning Center.   This dedication was the culmination of the work of one of our 2nd/3rd grade Enrichment Clusters.  A group of fourteen 2nd and 3rd grade learners spent approximately six weeks earlier in the year, designing a model for an outdoor learning area that would include a reading garden, a vegetable garden,
and a flower garden.  They worked with an architect and garden designer to create a three year plan for the construction of this garden, and were incredibly excited to take this next step toward the realization of their dream.  The simple ceremony was living proof of the amazing things kids can do when they are encouraged to dream big, and are given the opportunity to pursue their passions in a way that is personally meaningful and uniquely their own.  These young visionaries were bursting with pride and excitement on Friday morning as  they saw their dream become reality on the back field of Austin Elementary.

And still, the day continues!  Visitors and special guests...delightful, Enrichment Cluster Showcase...fabulous, Garden Dedication...wonderful...
but we're not done yet!  Our fourth grade learners were ready and willing to get into the act.  For you see, they too have dreams...they too have passions...and they too can accomplish great things when given the freedom to explore those passions and follow those dreams, wherever they might lead.  If you have been following this blog for very long, you know that we have a group of approximately sixteen young ladies who have been eagerly exploring the world of Fashion Design.  A few weeks ago they decided they wanted to channel their passion for fashion into the organization of a charity event designed to benefit the recent victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes as well as the Austin Elementary Food Pantry.  On Friday afternoon, their plans came into fruition as they
staged the first annual (their words...not mine) Austin Elementary Fashion Show.  The cost of admission?  One can of food.  Interested in owning one of the original designs modeled during the show?  Make a bid in the silent auction.  Looking for another way to help?  Buy a raffle ticket and possibly win a free dessert party hosted by none other than this same fashion design E-Time group.  Together, these young ladies collected over 100 cans of food for the Austin Elementary Food Pantry and raised over $70.00 to be donated to Red Cross of Oklahoma.  Amazing?  Absolutely!  But we're still not done!

Our fifth grade learners, the leaders of our school, were not about to be left out!  Like our fourth graders, these young philanthropists have a heart for
helping others and were deeply touched by the suffering and loss caused by the recent tragedies in Oklahoma.  They decided to organize a coin drive to raise money in support of the victims of these tragedies.  In a matter of just a few days they created signs, wrote announcements, designed flyers, collected containers, and eagerly spread the word about their cause.  They gave up recess, worked at night and over the weekend, and visited every classroom in the building in order to reach their goal.  On Friday afternoon, they gathered the coin containers from each classroom and tallied their results.  Their efforts had resulted in the collection of over $600.00 that will be used to purchase supplies and send encouragement to the victims of the Oklahoma tornados.  

Awesome-Sauce!  It's an interesting must agree.  "Something that is more awesome than awesome.  The pure refined essence of awesome.  The best something can be."  I understand now.  I get it.  As I watched our learners on Friday, I finally understood the real meaning of Awesome-Sauce.  Friday was delightful...yes.  Friday was fabulous...definitely.    Friday was doubt.  Friday was amazing...absolutely.  But Friday was so much more than that.  Friday was "the pure refined essence of awesome.  Friday was AWESOME-SAUCE!