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Switching gears entirely, as I am wont to do, I’m excited to tell you all about a project I’m working on with the teachers at Fairfax. I’m not just sharing this because I find it interesting (and hope you do too), but because I’m hoping for active engagement from people both near and far.

The original Fairfax School, pictured in its historic glory below, opened in the fall of 1915. So this coming school year, our students will dive deeply into 100 years of history, with a special focus on what the school experience was like for young people in each decade.  Each month will be dedicated to one decade, with the first and last months covering fifteen years instead of ten (there’s only so much time our kids are in school, after all). It’ll be somewhat (okay, very) tricky to fit all of this in given the extreme expectations placed on our students and teachers in terms of Common Core content they need to master, but we’ll do our best to align the components of this project with the various learning objectives they’re already required to cover.

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The younger students will focus on concrete things, like what students wore to school, how they got there, how/what/where they ate their lunch and so on. I’m hoping for them to have as many physical artifacts to study as possible, including toys, clothing, and small appliances (cameras, telephones, radios, clocks) from each decade. If you happen to have anything that fits into one of those categories that you’re willing to share, please contact me.

The older students will look at local, national and global issues in each decade, considering how they impacted students’ lives. They’ll also focus on how public education has shifted over time, with desegregation movements both locally and nationally and the inclusion of special needs students. They’ll study technological, scientific and medical advancements, as well as the physical development of our community (hopefully creating a decade-by-decade 3D model of the homes, roads and businesses in the area between Lee, Fairmount, Coventry and Cedar). Any experts on that are welcome!

If you or anyone in your family went to Fairfax School, we’d like to have you come in to be interviewed by students, according to the decades listed below. If you aren’t local, interviews can be conducted via email or phone. For the earliest period (1915 to about 1930), we’ll take anyone willing to share their elementary experience whether they went to Fairfax or not. I already have contact info for two women who graduated from Heights (but not Fairfax) in 1933 and 1936, both willing to participate.

We also want photographs, whether class pictures or candids. We would love to see the inside of the original building as well as pictures of the demolition and construction in the 1970s. (One of my earliest memories is of watching the wrecking ball knock down the original building in 1975 or 76, shortly after we moved to Cleveland from New Hampshire.) We’d also love to hear about the transition from students or staff who attended both buildings. Any other paraphernalia (t-shirts, newsletters, concert programs, yearbooks, school calendars, work samples) that you’re willing to share would be enormously helpful.

Those of you not connected to Fairfax School can participate too. I’m hoping to arrange for a parade of cars from each decade, sometime in the spring (April or May 2016), so if you have a vintage car you’d be willing to drive over, that’d be awesome. If you have any historical expertise, whether focused on Cleveland Heights or on the world, we’d welcome your input, as well as any physical artifacts (or storybooks) that show the ever-shifting face of time.

The community, and especially all alumni, will be invited to a Living Museum celebration at the end of the school year, next June, where students and staff will showcase all they’ve learned over the course of the year. This project should be a meaningful, hands-on way to connect our current students to both history and to the community around them, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to share some of our project with other schools that will reach this milestone in the near future.

Ideas, thoughts, questions, suggestions? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below or on Facebook.

September: 1915-29 
October: 1930-39
November: 1940-49
December: 1950-59
January: 1960-69 
February: 1970-79 
March: 1980-89
April: 1990-99
May: 2000-2015
June: Culminating project

In light of the extraordinary fundraising prowess of our more than 70 shavees, I’ve decided to raise our event goal from $35,000 to $40,000.  We are currently at just over $33K and the money keeps rolling in.  I’m convinced that with everyone’s last minute push (plea) for donations coupled with the cash and checks people will bring with them tomorrow and the eventual matching gifts from the workplaces of our donors, we can do this.

To give you a sense of just how successful people are being, my two boys have each raised more than $2,000 and they are only in 4th and 5th place for our event. That means that five people have raised more than $2,000! Another five have raised more than $1,000 and there are a few more pushing the door on the $1,000 mark.

Yesterday, the 14 students from Fairfax School displayed their St Baldrick’s pride with green hair (which was sort of funny considering at least half of them were participating in the school spelling bee!).

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Thank you to everyone for your generosity supporting my Braedan and Austin and all their friends and classmates, year after year, as they shave their heads. We will not stop doing this. And I am so grateful that you continue to stand alongside us as we do.

And now, know anyone who could use a haircut??

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And so it begins. Tomorrow is the Kick Off for the Young Authors Conference at Fairfax.  I have an author coming in from Columbus who will do three repeat assemblies in the morning, one for kindergarten and 1st graders, one for 2nd and 3rd and another for 4th and 5th.  This will include her interactive game “The Inside Track to Creative Writing.” Then eight lucky 4th and 5th graders will have lunch with her (and moi) and another 24 will attend a one-hour writing workshop int he afternoon.

I will then spend most of the month in the building, working with individual children on their stories or teaching mini-lessons on writing. I will also be coordinating an army of volunteers who will be visiting the classrooms for several weeks. By the end of the month, we will have 392 typed, illustrated and bound books.

And then in my spare time, I am co-chairing a fabulous event for Family Connections on May 12. Every single one of you is invited and strongly encouraged to attend. It’s an adult carnival (not as racy as that sounds though, I promise … or I’m sorry) with, among other things, a Wine Pull Ring Toss, Hula Hoop Contest and juggling/fire-eating act.  Click here for tickets.

And then on May 21, we’re hosting a fundraiser for Cullen Sweeney, the Democratic judicial candidate for Court of Common Pleas, who runs in the same legal circles as Mark. You’re all invited to that too — with your children.

And, this one is exciting, I will be a guest blogger on Mother’s Day on Melinda Roberts’ The Mommy Blog, an author and one of the original “Mommy Bloggers” (she’s been around since 2002 — I didn’t even know what blogging was then!) and the recipient of all sorts of impressive media attention and awards.

And I was just asked to be the speaker at a Circle of Friends event to benefit Rainbow on May 25.

And then there’s baseball practice twice a week and eventually games, end-of-the-year picnics, PTA meetings, art shows and teacher appreciation brunches calling for homemade muffins.

And, of course, we must throw in this Thursday’s Big Scans.

So, if you see me on May 31 and I’m still standing and speaking in complete sentences, consider it a mission accomplished. And know that in June, I’m doing a whole lotta NOTHIN’.

On to the next big thing. You may remember that back in the fall, I was wishing I could bring a Young Authors Conference back to the Heights? Well, I can. And I am.

It’ll be on a small scale, not a major district-wide event, but the entire student body at Fairfax School will spend the month of May creating, writing, revising, illustrating and binding their own individual works of fiction. I’ve settled on Journeys as a theme because it’s broad enough that the kids will have a huge range of topics to choose from and yet concrete enough for them to have a good jumping-off point. They could write a completely fantastical tale of a journey to another world, the moon, the bottom of the sea … or could write a realistic story about a typical family vacation or even a field trip. If they’re advanced enough, they could even use the theme metaphorically to write about a journey through something, like childhood or divorce. The fifth grade classes will be taking all they’ve learned about early American history in social studies to write journeys back to Colonial or Revolutionary America, a la The Magic Treehouse books, and an excellent example of cross-curricular teaching and learning.

I’ll give you all the tiny details if you’re interested but, really, this post is a plea for help. I do have a good team of helpers, especially Amy and Cynthia from Lake Erie Ink who, along with me, have each taken two grade levels to work with throughout the process.  But, of course, there are many other ways to get involved, both large and small. I’ll start with the small: The students will be creating their book covers in Art class the old-school way, using wallpaper samples bound over poster board.  If you have access to any old wallpaper, especially in designs that might appeal to children aged 5 through 11, I’ll be happy to take it off your hands.  I’ve been calling around to the local hardware stores but have only gotten a few discontinued books (one of all brown stripes — clearly, why it was discontinued!). I can come to your house and pick stuff up or you can drop them here, so long as I have it all by April 27.

I also need volunteers to help type the student work. The kids will spend several weeks going through the steps of the writing process, brainstorming, drafting, editing, revising, and so on, but, except for some fourth and fifth graders, few are adept enough at typing to do it themselves without an extraordinary time commitment. So I will collect all the final drafts from teachers by Monday, May 21 and that evening, you are cordially invited to a Typing Party at Lake Erie Ink. I know, we’re wild and crazy gals, huh? Let me know if you’re tempted … or if you’re willing to take a few manuscripts home to type on your own time.

If you’re able and willing to work directly with students, I have a wonderful opportunity for you too. During the Revise & Edit stage (Monday, May 14 through Friday, May 18), students will work in pairs to read and critique one another’s drafts. I am coordinating volunteers to go into the classrooms and oversee peer conferences, working with two students at a time as they offer constructive criticism to their partner. I will provide written tips and instructions, as well as a brief training on the process, if you could give an hour (or more) in either the morning or afternoon that week.

So, if your days are long and empty or you’re feeling particularly unfulfilled and have a strong desire to make a difference in the life of a child…, you know where to find me!

Twenty-four (or should I say twenty-three?) hours from now and I’ll be sitting back and counting up the dough. (Heck of a weekend to lose an hour, huh?) But right now, it’s time for that last final push.

After raising our event goal by tiny little amounts, from $10,000 to $15K to $18K and then to $20K and finally $22K, I decided to just go for it and make a goal that is actually a goal, as in something we have to work hard for. So right now, our goal is $30,000, but I think even that might be easy.

You all are awesome. All of you who’ve donated or who are shaving and raising money from your own circles. It has been really awe-inspiring to watch the numbers go up every single day, to see all these little kids, five-year-olds and seven-year-olds, bring in amounts nearing or surpassing $1000. What a huge statement you are making, on behalf of Austin and on behalf of sick children the world over. I, we, thank you.

Yesterday morning, I went to Fairfax and spoke with the three second grade classes about cancer. The sixty combined kids sat quietly on the floor and listened carefully the entire time. I think the weeds-in-the-garden analogy really really worked for them. The best was in the beginning when I asked what weeds do to your garden and one child said, “They can spread through the dirt and wrap themselves around the roots of healthy plants.” Another piped in, “They can use the sunlight and the water and the healthy soil that the other plants really need.” Uhhhh, yeah. Just like the Big C.

Towards the end of my 45 minutes, I had the eight second grade boys with green hair stand up to be acknowledged for their bravery as shavees.  One of the teachers reminded the students that a vocabulary word for the week was “noble.” “What these boys are doing is a noble act,” she said. Well, noble is not a word I use very often but that captured it pretty perfectly.

Speaking of the incredible acts of kindness committed by these young children, my dear friend Peter Richer, who organizes the AJ Rocco’s event as well as one at University School, has thrown down the gauntlet. He has issued a challenge to see who can raise more money: the shavees at our Cleveland Heights event or those at the University School event next Thursday. They have 53 shavees and a female teacher, just like we do, and are currently trailing us with $25,884 raised to our $27,437. Of course, all the money goes to St Baldrick’s and so, no matter where it comes from, that’s a good thing (and I am, of course, proud of and touched by all the US boys shaving too). But you know I love a little competition and you know my support of our community and our public schools is something of an obsession, so I am accepting this challenge and am determined to win. Our event has shavees from Cleveland Heights, University Heights, Shaker Heights, Lakewood, Bedford, Solon, North Ridgeville and beyond, including an impressive nineteen students from the CHUH Schools, and that is certainly something to be proud of and to celebrate.

So…if you’ve been thinking about giving, NOW IS THE TIME. Every dollar matters. Every dollar saves lives.

Austin is here, Braedan is here, 4th grade teacher Kristi Glasier, who is sending a loud and powerful message to her students, especially the young girls, about what really matters in life, is here.  And the event is here.

Do these kids need a haircut or what?

Braedan complained that it’s hard for him to read at school because his bangs cover his eyes! And yet, they’ve been refusing haircuts for months in anticipation of next week’s big shave. But now we’re getting closer and that “free” haircut will be theirs in just six days.

Our event currently has 45 shavees, including eleven students and one (female!) teacher from Fairfax School and nine preschoolers from St. Paul’s.  We’ve raised more than $19,000 and I keep slowly upping our goal, now set at $22,000. I am very confident we will reach it.

Please know that you are all welcome to attend and cheer on our brave young (and not so young) shavees. You are also welcome to make large (and not so large) donations on their behalf. If you really want to feel like you’re doing something but aren’t quite willing to go under the razor, the event will have a Bake Sale with all proceeds going to St Baldrick’s so you’re more than welcome to bake shamrock cookies or green rice krispie treats or whatever your specialty.

Find us at the Cleveland Heights Community Center, buried under mounds of hair, this Sunday, March 11 from 1 to 4. Shaving will begin by 1:20 and four shavees will be shorn at once. We have a balloon twister coming from 1:15 to 2, dancers from the MacConmara Academy of Irish Dance from 2 to 2:30 (and then sticking around to teach their moves) and the award-winning men’s acapella group, the Heights Barbershoppers, from 3 to 3:30. And, if you find yourself so moved, you can sign up to shave then and there!

 

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