Non-Stop Flip-Flops

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”  ~Sam Keen 


Newport, RI

Here we are, past the middle of July – I can scarcely believe how quickly the summer is flying by. Though laziness is a bit elusive for me, I keep searching high and low for opportunities to be just that. A drizzly Sunday morning seems just the right time to kick off my flip-flops, plop on the couch and do a quick check-in post before the days get away from me…


My trip to ISTE earlier this month was amazing. I recently posted all about it in a blog post on the IntelEDU Teachers Engage website. You can read all about it (and check out the photos) here:

This Much I Know Is True


The Brooks family has been hard at work, keeping our eyes peeled for license plates.  We have already found 47 on our list!  Have any of you been playing The Great Summer State Plate Race?  Be sure to share your progress so far.  Here is our list:

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Our house is still coming along since it was flooded back in December. We have 3 major projects left to do, but have gotten quite a bit done since school let out.  Our latest project was finishing the basement (again), so the kids have a place to hang with their friends one side, and our playroom on the other side is now a home gym!

Carson and I worked together to refinish this smelly old weight bench I bought, using a LOT of paint and elbow grease:bench old

Mrs. Brooks will have no excuse for not exercising more, now!

workout room


Soon the 4 of us are headed to Washington, DC.  Mrs. Brooks will be attending in the ASCD Leaders to Leaders conference, and the rest of the Brooks family will be sightseers.  We have carved out enough time for all 4 of us to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum and to take a night tour of DC.  It should be fun for everyone!


So how is your summer shaping up?  What have you done so far? What are you looking forward to? I’d love to hear all about it! Feel free to say hello!!

Dream Big,

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ISTE Newbies: Don’t Just Survive… Thrive!

I know posting these suggestions a week after #ISTE2014 is a little #latetotheparty… but with my experience still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share anyways.  As an ISTE newbie, I spent hours and hours (and hours) reading survival strategies before I headed to Atlanta.  Many of them were helpful, but living it was far different than planning it. Similarly, I know deep down that each Newbie will have his or her own individualized experience. However, I cannot help but share my own First Time Wisdom!  What would you add, based on your experience?

ISTE Bingo

Keep your eyes peeled for a soon-to-come blog post detailing my time at ISTE.

Dream Big,

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Roadtrip! Next stop… Our Future!

I am sad to see #ISTE2014 come to an end.  What an amazing experience, with so much to absorb and carry home with me. I’m working on a blog post to be shared on the IntelEDU website soon….  But, in the meantime, I thought I would share something super cool created by the folks at Copernicus Education in the ISTE Expo Hall.


One of the first things ISTE attendees saw when they walked into the Expo Hall was this shiny Volkswagen Westfalia Camper. Beep Beep!!



Hanging above the Westy was a sign:


At any given time during the conference, I would see folks writing their messages somewhere on the van. I loved stopping by several times a day to read the thoughts of others. However, I never picked up a pen. The question really stretched me as a thinker – as I wasn’t sure what answer I could envision.


The responses I saw were:








And, depending on the location on the van….      creative:




and some were a call to action:



So, in the last hours of the conference, I was reading new posts when one of the friendly folks from Copernicus Education came over and offered to take a picture of me. I took him up on his offer and posted with Westy:


IMG_1258After snapping the photo, he handed me a paint pen and asked if I would like to add a message of my own. Here was the chance I hadn’t taken.  The pen was full of possibilities.  So, I plopped myself down behind the vehicle and started thinking.  Because I had chosen a tail-light, I was trying to be clever with my language.  I had just started writing when another teacher plopped down beside me and contemplated her post for the other tail light.


We chatted a bit, and soon we were done. Here are our results!


I followed the Twitter feed mentioning @CopernicusEd and was able to see lots of photos from Westy – be sure to check it out!  Their website even posted a heartfelt thank you to the amazing folks who attended ISTE and contributed to a powerful message.

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So, how would YOU answer the question? What WILL education look like in 25 years???  Feel free to leave a comment below.  If you wrote on Westy and snapped a picture, be sure to share that, too!!


Dream Big,

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Seeking Balance at #ISTE2014

About an hour ago I arrived in Atlanta for ISTE 2014 and I’m raring to go.  I’ve always wanted to attend ISTE, but it never came together for me. This year I was asked to work with IntelEDU as a teacher ambassador, and my job will be to share out all the amazing happenings on social media.

So, I printed out a new batch of business cards (do people even USE business cards at a technology conference??):

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Packed a few technology devices:


And I was using another device to snap the photo, lol!

And I was using another device to snap the photo, lol!

and headed from 65° Cape Cod to Hotlanta.


I’ve spent hours reading about all the offerings coming my way in the next few days. In some ways, it seems like I’ve arrived at a resort!  There will be karaoke, “cooking” demonstrations, music performances, free smoothies, parties, raffles, giveaways, and lots of new gadgets to play with. There will be thousands of people to meet and connect with. As a first-timer, I know the learning curve will be steep, and I will probably miss all the cool stuff (until I get my bearings).



The convention center is huge, and my schedule looks endless.  Though I have no limits to my enthusiasm, I do have limits to my energy.  I have to find the balance between scheduling every minute, and going with the flow. I have to find the balance between pure fun and academic focus. I have to find the balance between what I’m comfortable with, and what stretches me as an educator.



My Pinterest board will collect the resources, ideas and strategies I come across in the coming days.  Feel free to check it out. You can also follow the conversation using the hashtag #ISTE2012, or even #Suzy4Intel.  Join the conversation!!

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I’ve done a lot of thinking about what my focus should be while I am here.  I have a bunch of familiar topics I will be watching for,  and sharing out.  However, I’m especially excited about what I don’t know.  My possibility curve is awaiting – I best hop on that shuttle!!

Dream Big,

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Our Grade 3 Top 10

We just worked together as a class to come up with the best things about 3rd grade. Although we had over 20 ideas, we voted and narrowed down our choices and ranked them from 10 to 1.  Here they are:


10:  Field Day

9:  Katherine Lee Bates Scavenger Hunt

8: Making friends here in Room 204

7: Our 5 anoles

6: Spending time in the garden

5: Dissecting Owl Pellets

4: Camp Read A Lot

3: iPaddling in class

2: Our field trip to Plimoth Plantation

1: Our 8th annual Living Wax Museum


Have a great summer, everyone!!!  See you in the 4th grade!!!!

Mrs. Brooks

The Great Summer State Plate Race

Our family is always reading license plates.  We love keeping our eyes peeled for far-flung locations and have seen some unique ones over the years.


We enjoy license plates so much that we have been collecting them, too!  Our entire basement has a “border” of license plates, representing all 50 states, along with a few U.S. Territories and Canadian provinces.


So, when each summer rolls around, and we find ourselves out on the roads a bit more, we start our own State Plate Race.   We try to see how many states, territories and provinces we can spot from the last day of school in June, to the first day in September.  Some years, we find only half, and other years (like last year on our trip to Alaska) we nearly fill the whole sheet!


One thing is for sure – we are never able to make much progress unless all of us are working together – it is a family effort!


This year, I thought I’d share our Great Summer State Plate Race with all of you!   Now you and your family can keep track of the plates you spot out on the roads this summer.  We’ve left the middle space open just in case you find a plate that is not listed.   If you find any cool plates, or make awesome progress, be sure to leave a comment here on the blog. If you’re on Twitter, then send me a shoutout at my Twitter handle @SimplySuzy using the hashtag #PlateRace.


Here are two versions to try on for size. Feel free to download, print and share!!

License Plate Race

Download the color version of the License Plate RacePlate Race Simple

Download the Plate Race Simple version.

Happy Hunting….

                On your mark….. Get set…… GO!!

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JULY 1 UPDATE:  We are at 36 states already!!! We’re headed to Washington, DC later this month and hope to see more!!

Sliding Into Summer

It’s that time of year when students are ready to go running off into Summer and leave school far behind. I don’t blame them! I still fondly remember the Promise happily held by every Last Day of School:  A summer filled with adventure, friends and fun.  My Last Days never promised me a summer filled with learning, though.

Ironically, if you Google the term “Summer Slide” and start reading, you’ll be given enough articles to fill your entire season.  Parents all over the country are providing learning opportunities for their children during the summer so they will hit the ground running come September. Bravo!!! Keeping student learning fresh and current is essential during the 10 weeks away from structured learning.  As a teacher, I completely agree.

Having said that, I am also the well-meaning and exhausted parent of two children who fully buy into the Last Day Promise.  They want adventure, friends and fun.  There has yet been one summer where I have convinced them to embrace the idea of summer learning.  I’ve tried special schedules stuck to the refrigerator, token systems, money incentives, schedules stuck to their bedroom doors, workbooks, library visits, book store purchases, chasing them around with the schedules, reading aloud to them and good old-fashioned temper tantrums (mostly mine).  No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the Great Reader to improve her Shaky Math.  Similarly, I couldn’t get the Mathmagician to want read at all.

(Oh, except this one time, which I think the jury is still out on whether this was actual “reading”.)


And PLEASE don’t even ask me about whether my two cherubs actually did any writing over the summers.  That’s just too embarrassing for all of us.


I don’t think this was getting anyone ready for 8th grade….

So, what’s a responsible parent to do, when it comes to supporting children during the expanse of summer, with the threat of Lost Learning at stake?  We certainly can’t lose learning!!!  WAIT!!! We are grown-ups!  We know what’s best! We have access to resources and ideas and allowances.  We are the ones with the driver’s license.  We are the ones who make all the Adventure, Friends and Fun possible.  There must be time during the summer for all of it, right?

I still have two children (though they are now 15 and 17) and they will still have to avoid Summer Slide.   I imagine they will still avoid learning like The Plague. They are well-versed in my usual tactics and will no-doubt see me coming from a mile away when I smile and take out the calendar.  So, instead, I have been trying to think and see things differently.  What “counts” as summer learning?  What is engaging to them while fulfilling the promise we have made to their new teachers?  How will I balance between my “Just Do It” motto for required summer reading books and “Let’s Try” when it comes to alternative ideas?  I’m off to explore those countless Summer Slide articles and hope to find some answers that work for our family .  Wish me luck!!

I wish you luck in your quest as you navigate the realm of Summer Learning.  If you have any great suggestions or advice, be sure to share!

Dream Big,

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My Friend Tippy

A few years ago, we had a tiny little friend who would come visit us every night on our front porch.  [NO - this was not the tiny little friend who visited INSIDE our house - that's a different story!!] This was a baby opossum, and he would climb and wiggle his way into my cat’s food bowl to eat some of her dry leftover cat food. While I never seemed to snap a picture of him (I know, shocker!), hearing the sound of the bowl tipping on the porch would cause us to come running to the windows.  “Tippy” (and probably his identical relatives) visited us many times over the years. We were smitten. In fact, every time we witnessed an opossum who had met his untimely death on the side of the road, we hoped against hope it wasn’t Our Tippy.

Our 19 year old kitty died about two years ago, and during that time we’ve had no visits from Tippy or his progeny.  No cat bowl = no Tippy, it seems.  Sigh.  That was, until a few days ago.

Remember, we are living in the State of Mayhem since our house flooded in December. At times, I will put things on the back deck (including the huge trash bag) during the day to make space to work.  This particular night, I was heading to the deck to bring it in, when I noticed some movement outside….


Awwwwww…..  It was Tippy!  He was here to visit!  I ran to grab my camera, turned on the floodlights and plopped myself down on the floor in front of the sliding glass door.  Tippy and I had a wonderful visit… I reminisced about all those noisy nights on the front porch, while he tried incessantly to break into our steel-reinforced Hefty bag.  {Note to self: It seems that Contractor’s bags are impervious to opossum teeth!} 

After what seemed to be too short of a visit, Tippy came right over to the window to say goodbye to me.  The look in his eye seemed to say so much….  “I promise I’ll be safe out on the roads.”  “When are you getting a new cat, for crying out loud??”  “How about going back to using the old trash bags….” or perhaps….. “Nice bunny pajamas, Suzy!”

But really, it was his smile that left an impression on me – and perhaps it will on you, too.  It reminded me that smiles make everyone feel better.

Tippy smileSo, as I stood up and went back to life in Mayhem, I silently thanked Tippy for his smiley visit. It was long overdue.

What are some of your encounters with creatures from The Great Outdoors?  Be sure to share them by leaving a comment – and if you have time, read the story about our surprise living room visitor HERE.


Fly Higher, See Farther…

Room 204 students have been focused on eagles lately.

“The bird that flies highest, sees farthest.” – Richard Bach

We recently read a story entitled Fly, Eagle, Fly by Christopher Gregorowski.  We often chat about the benefits of activating our prior knowledge before we dive into a reading.  With so many great eagle resources available, we really dove deep!  Because students were so interested in the conversation, I thought I’d post about some of the photos, videos and websites we shared.


My family and I were lucky enough to see many eagles during our trip to Alaska this summer:

These were taken in Ketchikan, where the adults and juveniles perched all along the jetty, hoping to catch their next meal:




We moved on to Juneau, where we were treated to  feeding frenzy at the end of our full-day fishing and photo safari.  Talk about fireworks on the Fourth of July!!



Here is a video as we watched dozens of eagles swoop in to eat chicken. Yum!


This last one was taken at the end of our trip at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood, Alaska.

Adonis is a gunshot victim found near a remote village in Alaska. His wing required full amputation, and he has lived at AWCC since 1995.

Adonis is a gunshot victim found near a remote village in Alaska. His wing required full amputation, and he has lived at AWCC since 1995.

I also shared the following site with students – but we cannot stream it at school (it uses too much bandwidth). Perhaps you’ll have time to check it out at home….  In Decorah, IA, there are a pair of American Bald Eagles who have made their home alongside a trout farm.  There are webcams trained on the nest, and they broadcast 24/7 for viewers to observe the comings of goings of the Mom & Dad eagle, as well as their eaglets.  This year, there are three eggs laid, and though the cold weather has threatened the viability of two eggs, it appears as if the 3rd egg will hatch in a few weeks.  Stay tuned – it’s pretty cool!!!

If you have any eagle wisdom to share, be sure to leave us a comment! We’re super excited to learn more. :)


“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” – J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Sunshine for Homework

Recently I was tagged by both Beth Holland (@brholland) and Drew Frank (@ugafrank) in a blogger challenge.  I loved reading their posts, as it’s always fun to see what similarities we share across the World Wide Web. Thanks for including me!!!


Drew:Homework Club & Eleven Challenge

Beth: I’ve Been Sunshined!

While the names of this challenge differ from the Homework Club, Sunshine Award, The Eleven Challenge to the PLN Blogging Challenge – they are all designed for bloggers to get to know each other better and connect in new ways.  This post will be a combination of the Sunshine Award, Homework Club and Eleven Challenge.  Here are the rules:

  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. 11 is my favorite number.  I make a wish every day at 11:11 when I see it on the clock.  For years and years and years (and years!), I wished for a horse.  Seems that wish was granted to my sister, so I’m now on to Plan B for Wishes.
  2. You could not pay me any amount of money to go back to high school, to relinquish my camera, or to live too far from the ocean.
  3. I love to travel – the whole experience -> planning, airports, flying, hotels, seeing new places – I miss being a travel agent but still find opportunities to go Hither and Yon.
  4. I love to read. I love to read so much, I’ll avoid my responsibilities, my family, and my bedtime. I have set time limits for myself to stay out of trouble, which I stink at. Anyone have any good book recommendations?? ;P
  5. I have a beach museum in my classroom with vials of sand from all over the world. Some are collected by the Brooks family, and some are collected by my present and former students and my friends and colleagues.
  6. I stink at crossword puzzles, word searches, Sudoku, Scrabble and Monopoly. I love Pictionary and I can beat anyone at Bop It… but nobody plays those anymore.
  7. I’ve been a Girl Scout since I was 8 and am a Gold Award recipient.  The Eagle Scout award in Boy Scouts is the equivalent to the Gold Award in Girl Scouts.
  8. When I was a senior in HS, I didn’t think I was smart enough to go to college. Seeing everyone leave that fall was horribly difficult. I wish I could have seen the future and known one day I’d be an honors student graduating with a 4.0 GPA from both college and graduate school.
  9. When I was 16, I was in the Miss Massachusetts Teen USA pageant. The experience was invaluable as I gained confidence and came out of my oh-so-shy shell.
  10. My anxiety permeates nearly everything I do in life and has gotten worse as I have gotten older. Fortunately, I have become braver as I’ve aged, so I think it all balances out.  I have come to learn that sharing my story helps myself and others accept the realities of anxiety and share management strategies. I know I’m not alone.
  11. My students inspire me—and not in a cliche way. Trying to find the best way to meet their needs drives me to distraction. I become so completely attached to who they are and what they require and I spend 180 days trying to support them as whole children. Every September, the cycle begins anew, and I am re-energized with a new batch of learners!

Answer Beth & Drew’s questions…

(I chose 11 out of their combined 22)


Best Day Ever:
The Best Day Ever…. Oh gosh, such possibilities! The morning would be rainy, so after getting up early and quietly getting some work done on the computer, I’d head out to breakfast with my family. The skies would clear while we were there, and so we’d decide to head to the beach for lunch. While we were at the beach, there would a perfect amount of time to relax, swim, walk and kayak before heading home. My house would be immaculate because I cleaned the day before (ha ha). We’d have people over for a BBQ and a campfire.  Every photo from that day would come out so perfect and in the end it would feel as if there were more than 24 hours in the day.  I love days like that.

How do you caffeinate?

I drink coffee every day – usually Dunkin’ Donuts but I also enjoy Starbucks, HoneyDew and MaryLou’s – all of which have different flavors I like.  About twice a year I give up caffeine, but it always sneaks back into my life. I only have one cup a day (but sometimes that’s a large cup!).

What is one thing you couldn’t live without?

I know there are standard answers for this question – my family, my friends, etc… Those, for me, are a given. But, they are not “things”, per se.  So, that being said, I’d have a hard time giving up my camera and my computer. Please don’t make me choose which one.

If you could go to have attended any concert anytime in history, what would it have been?

I’ve been lucky to attend dozens and dozens of concerts since I was a teenager. I am unlucky in that those endless performances damaged my ears and left me with Tinnitus.  There is one concert I missed, so I sent my parents instead. I would love to go back in time and attend that Garth Brooks concert at Gillette Stadium with them. :)

What’s the best topping combination to put on a pizza?

Garlic, ricotta and fresh tomatoes.

Who was your favorite teacher in school?

I cannot remember any of my teachers after grade 6.  But, I can clearly remember all of my elementary teachers and I loved them all.  The magic of Facebook has allowed me to connect with so many of my former teachers, and I treasure those connections. I still get that excited feeling when they send me messages or like my posts.  They were a special group of educators and they all influenced my teaching in unique ways.

Favorite twitter chat?

The ones I remember to show up for.  I love #edchat, #satchat and #edchatma but my timing is poor and I miss them more than I intend to.

Best place you ever vacationed?

I used to be a travel agent, so I’ve luckily traveled to a bunch of awesome places. I’m a huge Disney fan, and could easily say that’s my Greatest Place On Earth – but Disney was outdone by our recent trip to Alaska.  It was breathtaking.

If you could go out for dinner with anyone throughout history, who would it be?

I’ve done a huge amount of research into our family history, and I think it would be awesome to have a big old-fashioned family reunion with all the ancestors in our Tree.  Perhaps they’d be able to help me dig back farther than the Mayflower?

Favorite television shows?

I am a Reality TV junkie – I love shows like The Amazing Race, Survivor, etc.. I also love cooking shows and anything on HGTV.  Our DVR has a recording schedule that is just craziness.

Goal for 2014:

Easiest question – my goal is to have my house back to normal by the last day of school.  We had a significant leak early in December, and had to move out. Though we should be able to move back in soon, it will be months before our home is back to normal.

Nominate 11 bloggers to participate in this challenge:

Charity Preston

Sarah Lewis

Dan Callahan

Nancy Carroll

Shawn Avery

Samantha Morra

Rachel Friedrich

Nate Everett

Sarah Brooks

Mark Molloy

Michelle Perron


My 11 Earth-Shattering, Life-Altering Questions…..

1.  What’s your favorite number? Why?

2.  Best gift you have ever received?

3.  Snow days – Awesome??…… or not so much?? Support your stance.

4. Finding balance in life is tricky. Any advice to share?

5.  How do you feel about surprises?

6.  Best elementary school memory?

7.  Design the perfect dinner menu:

8. What responsibility would you love to give up forever?

9. How many United States have you stepped foot in?

10.  How many hours per day do you spend on a computer/mobile device?

11.  What advice would you like to give to my 3rd grade students?


That’s it! Whew!! These posts take a long time – or am I just a turtle blogger?  Happy New Year, Webbie Friends!!

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