Friday, 8 February 2013

Knitting + Romania

At first I think everyone thought I was crazy. Teach fourth graders how to knit! I will admit it was a daunting task. How did I come up with this idea? Let me back up a bit...

For over ten years my husbands school has worked with Hope and Homes for Children. They are an international charity that works to close down unsafe institutional facilities and places children in smaller family homes. They do what they can to reunite families and keep siblings together.

When we were in Romania last year we spent our time visiting the small family homes that are wonderful places for children to live. Last year we painted, helped with renovations, made mărțișors, hosted a karate show (then over the summer sent the children to a karate sleep away camp), brought a guitar (then funded guitar lessons for the children), played games, danced, sang, got to know the children and made a difference in their lives. They might not know it but they changed each and every one of us.  

The following month at my school we were studying Romania so I made this prezi to share some of my experiences with my students.

So back to knitting... my students wanted to find a way to show their support. They wanted to do something special and unique for the children in Romania. Student Council in Lower School is fourth graders so, 9 and 10 year olds, that decided they wanted to learn how to knit! Every single one of them will tell you that at first it wasn't easy. They had to try and try again, they got frustrated at times but had to stick with it, they encouraged one another, helped each other and eventually they got it and began to love it! Students knit small squares and yes, there was a huge celebration with lots of cheering each time one of us completed another square. With the help of staff and parents we were able to knit enough squares to sew together to make a beautiful quilt. We will take the quilt with us to Romania along with a beautiful card to give to the children in one of the small family homes we will visit. I will do my best to take pictures and video so that I can share their reaction with my students who worked so hard to make this beautiful gift.

Each student got a ball of yarn (color of their choice) and their own set of knitting needles!

They practiced and worked at it until they got it. After that it was easy and fun!

Here are some of the completed squares...

And the finished, beautiful quilt!

Our warm and cozy quilt!

So many of my students have learned to love knitting. It was music to my ears when they asked me if they could take their knitting supplies home over the winter break. Some of them were asking for knitting needles and yarn instead of video games for the holidays. It would make me smile when they would run to me in the mornings to turn in some squares that they had knitted with grandma or another relative. Grade 4 loves knitting so much that I have started up a knitting club!  

We leave for Romania bright and early Sunday morning. I can't wait to share more about our trip when we return!

Ideas for new students

In an International School, students are constantly coming and going. I have to be prepared to welcome new families that are joining us, help to transition families that are leaving us while always being there for the families that are staying and are having to say goodbye to their closest friends. There is a lot of transition at our school and it feels like there are constantly students coming and going. I wanted to share with you some of the things that I have in place to ensure a smooth transition for all!

For students that are new to our school I am always sure to meet them on their very first day. I will usually head to their classroom in the morning and have a student from their class introduce us. After we are formally introduced :) I come up with a secret signal that we can use to communicate how they are doing throughout the day and weeks to come. The signal they make will let me know how they are feeling and how things are going. (Shhh... if you promise not to tell anyone I will share a secret signal we sometimes use. So, top secret, a thumbs up means everything is going great and they are feeling wonderful about how their day is going so far, a sideways thumb means they are doing alright but would like to talk for a few, and a thumbs down means they need to talk to me now because things are not going so well). I often appear in the cafeteria, outside at recess, in the hallway, at their classroom door (yikes) all to check up on them and make sure they are doing alright. If I get lots of thumbs up I check in less frequently. It is comforting for them to know that someone is thinking about them. Lots of times I will call home to quickly touch base with parents to let them know how many smiles I see throughout the day. This is a system that definitely works for me and the students love seeing a familiar face and they love having a secret signal.

After a new student has had a few days to settle in, I will arrange a welcome lunch bunch. The teacher, student and I work together to help them invite a few friends to join us for lunch. We chat and get to know one another a little better.  We talk about all the feelings that go along with moving and starting at a new school. Students chime in and talk about their experiences and offer advice. It is low key, laid back and very relaxed. They take a tour of my office and learn more about what my role as a school counsellor is. I give them this letter to take home:

Along with a much longer letter to parents. I also go through the contents of their very own.... New Student Survival Kit! To create their survival kit I basically just looked for extra items that were laying around and found a way to make them symbolic. Once I came up with a set list I made a sign to go with the kit. We go through it together and students really enjoy thinking of the meaning behind each item as I hold them up. Even though they are items we use daily, they bring up great conversations about the things to keep in mind during their transition. I do have to say though that the pencils I give them are fun mechanical pencils that everyone else gets jealous of. This gives the survival kit an automatic cool factor and soon everyone else wishes they had one! Here is the information I put together for their survival kit, which I wrap up in a cute little bag for them to take home...

I will do another post on what I do for students that are preparing to move on to another school one of these days. If you have any questions please let me know. I have gotten great feedback from parents, teachers, and students about the survival kit and welcome lunch bunch groups and I am always on the lookout for new ideas. Please leave a comment if there is a great idea you have!