To See, I Had Only to Look

Summer is drawing to a close, and so have my searches.  There were two things I spent my summer searching for, and I came to find they were there all the while… if I just looked a little closer.


My first search was for sea glass, which Mr. Brooks and I have collected together for 23 years. He has eagle eyes for sea glass and finds it everywhere we go. Me? I look and look and look (and look) and usually cannot find it. My mind wanders off to my to-do list, or I start looking at the ocean or watching birds. I get very frustrated because he makes it look so easy.

sea glass bottle

This year I joined an online group of over 8,000 sea glass enthusiasts. Every day I see their amazing images of treasures they find on beaches all over the world.  From marbles to pottery to beautifully colored glass – each of the members share photos of their finds. One of my seaglass friends is Cherylann. She lives in Puerto Rico and has been collecting sea glass on those beaches for 2 years. Here is her photo showing the work she has done sorting her collection by color:

Cherylann Sea GlassHer beautiful photos and story inspired me to put new effort towards my own search for sea glass. Recently, Mr. Brooks and I went to Sagamore Beach to look.  At low tide, our beach is SUPER rocky, and I usually have a terrible time being able to find anything but rocks. Take a look:

rocky beachSee???? Every time I leave the beach without sea glass, I usually feel sorry for myself.  I think everyone else must be better at sea glassing than I am.  I believe I must be one of those people who can’t do it. It’s pretty pathetic, really.  For some reason, this day I had a positive mindset. I decided I would focus only on hunting for glass, and would think about nothing else.  Each time my attention wandered, I would refocus. I was in the Zone!  Before I knew it, I had collected a whole handful of sea glass!

sea glass

I truly believe it had been there all the time…. It seems my lack of finding was directly related to my willingness to actually look for it. Lesson learned? Anything worth finding is worth the effort to look for. .

Why am I posting about sea glass hunting on my classroom website?  As you may have guessed, it has to do with the second thing I have been searching for this summer….


I have been a third grade teacher for the past 9 years, and tomorrow I’ll start my first year as a fourth grade teacher. Though on the surface, this transition may seem like a small one, to me it feels like a very big one. I loved third grade, and really got the hang of it over these past years. All summer, folks have been asking me if I am excited about going to 4th grade… Am I ready?  Do I need anything?  Their support and encouragement has meant the world to me.  However, I have been looking and looking and looking (and looking) for my “identity” as a fourth grade teacher.  When someone asks me what I teach, I want my automatic answer to be “I am a fourth grade teacher!”.

I contribute to an online Pinterest group with over 35,000 followers, all surrounding topics important to fourth grade teachers. Every day I see amazing pins from teachers in classrooms all over the world.  From lessons to strategies to beautifully organized classrooms – each of the members share photos of their craft.

pinterest page

The more time I spent on these websites, the more I learned about all fourth grade had to offer. I became engaged by new curricular topics and the opportunities of working with older students. I stopped seeing my shortcomings and started to recognize the signs showing I am already a fourth grade teacher.  Check out what I mean:

My family vacation took us to Washington DC this summer, which I absolutely loved.  I think my travels JUST MIGHT come in handy while working with fourth graders…

dc collage

Similarly, I’ve been decorating around the house, and look at what I’ve got to share….

A chronicle of our family’s US travels is in our new kitchen:

travel map

My grandmother made this quilt documenting her trip cross-country with my grandfather, dad and aunt. Each button marks a spot and the embroidery follows the route they took.

map quilt

The more I really looked around me, the more I found all signs pointing towards fourth grade. It seems to me, that to see myself as a fourth grade teacher, all I had to do was look more closely.

So, I’m leaving third grade behind, and am setting off on a new adventure alongside my students who have never been in fourth grade before themselves.  I can’t wait to see them tomorrow <~~ that never changes! Be sure to stop by and say hello!!

Still Dreaming Big,

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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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 12.38.07 PM

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!!

Screen Shot 2014-06-28 at 1.44.15 PM


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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I’m Heading to 4th Grade!

It only took 9 years of teaching 3rd grade, but Mrs. Brooks finally made it to 4th!  Meeting my new 4th graders was something I was looking forward to doing – so Step-Up Day super fun for me. I can already tell we will have a fabulous year in fourth starting in September! Posted below are the handouts I gave to students – please let me know if you have any questions by dropping me an email over the summer.

Dream Big,

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Welcome to Grade Four in Room 303!!! I hope you are prepared for a wonderful summer vacation.  I will be headed to ISTE in Atlanta, teaching courses at Harvard, and attending the ASCD Leaders-to-Leaders conference in Virginia. My son Carson is entering 10th grade in the fall and my daughter Kendyl is going to be a 12th grader, both at Upper Cape Tech. We will spend time this summer visiting colleges! Mr. Brooks volunteers in the classroom from time to time, and my mom, Miss Sally, comes in every week. I’m sure you will meet them all next year, as they like to come to visit.

Even though I enjoy summer, I am already excited for the new school year to begin.  I’ve been a 3rd grader for 9 years, and now I have finally been promoted to 4th!! There will be four 4th-grade classrooms next year along with one ¾ class.  Our room will be #303, on the top floor in the 4th grade pod. I have lots of new ideas and surprises in store, and can’t wait to spend the summer getting everything ready for 4th grade.  I will be at Mullen-Hall several times this summer to prepare our new classroom for your arrival in September.  I often wonder if you are a little excited and nervous at the same time – just like I am!?!

I have enclosed a school supply list for each student to please bring when school starts.  These items DO NOT have to be brand new, and if you have trouble finding some of these things, let me know, we will have supplies in the classroom for anyone who needs them.  I also included an optional “wish list” of classroom supplies, as I know we will use them often.  I enjoy catching all of those early back-to-school sales, so I thought you’d like an advanced peek at our list.

Keep checking back to see the progress on our classroom blog (address above).  This will be my 8th year using a blog, and I hope you all come to love it as much as I do.  I will be posting over the summer – feel free to jump in, introduce yourself, or just observe :O). In fact, I have already posted about today’s step-up day!!  I am also sending home our Great Summer State Plate Race if you want to play along. You’ll find a post about it on the blog. Leave a comment with your progress, or send a tweet to me at @SimplySuzy using the hashtag #PlateRace.

While it was wonderful seeing so many of you on this last day of school, it will be even better seeing you back next year!  Stay safe and have fun. See you in September!

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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It’s June? My, the Time Has Flewn!!

“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.” ~ Jekyll
1234464_10202006225101319_601067509_nThis is my last newsletter for the school year. If I multiply it out correctly, I’ve written a total of 315 issues of Third Graders, Dreaming Big.  Whew!! Right about this time of year I start dragging my heels, as I have bonded with your children and hate letting them go. The first weeks of summer have to busy-busy for me, otherwise I wallow and pout without them.  Seriously. I do.

Thank you to everyone for your recent support with book fair, teacher appreciation, Books for Babies, field trips and Wax Museum.  No doubt about it: we cannot service our children without the support and assistance of parents and families.


Keep an eye on notices coming home for final dates and activities this year. Two biggies are Field Day (June 12th) and our Family Farewell Celebration (June 20).

Next week I will send home some ideas to prevent the Summer Slide, and the following week will be a survey for 204 families about our 3rd grade year.

June homework will be unconventional, but still required for 204 students.

Thank you for a wonderful school year, and I look forward to seeing your children flourish in Grade 4.  Have a terrific summer filled with learning and family time.  Be sure to keep in touch over the summer, I’m online all the time and LOVE hearing from former students!!




Field Day folks are looking for volunteers… Be sure to send in your Field Day form if you are willing and available!

Our Wax Museum speeches are up on our VoiceThread site. This was the first year we added background images chosen by students. Check them out!!
Dream Big, Mrs. Brooks

June 2Video of the Week