An Australian Connection

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New Book inspired a global classroom connection.

One afternoon, while watching a lesson in first grade, the teacher was reading one of our new Interactive Read Aloud books purchased this year to support our Literacy Initiative.  The book was titled “To Be a Kid” by Maya Ajmera and John D. Ivanko.  The book has pictures of children engaging in various activities from around the globe.  This book is one of several in a text set with an overarching theme of celebrating diversity.   

Mrs. McCray, in her planning of this lesson, thought it would be enriching if they could connect with another class from around the world and perhaps read the book together.  She sent out a request on Twitter and received several replies.  One of those replies was a school in Camden, Australia.  Mrs. McCray connected with the teacher and found out that they too were a bucket filling school.  They had not heard of the book, but still wanted to participate in the project.  The teacher from Australia also shared that her class was made up of students that were deaf. Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 9.11.52 AM

Through the Seesaw app on the iPads, Mrs. McCray shared the book and in return received pictures of the students from Camden.   Through this digital connection Mrs. McCray’s class was able to see what it was like to be a student in Australia.  Cline students then grabbed their iPads and took some pictures around our school writing  captions to share with the students in Australia.  Mrs. McCray also said that the class now has an additional goal to learn some sign language to send a message to the students of Camden.

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The goal of this lesson was not only understanding that children around the world like to play and spend time with family and friends, but that people are alike in many ways and different in some ways.  In addition, students learned to celebrate differences and that those differences make life more colorful and interesting.   What impressed me most was the deep learning and global connections that were made through the teacher thinking outside of the box and then using technology to enrich and redefine “learning in the classroom”. 

Who knows, some of our students might go on to learn sign language, thereby opening up a whole new world of possibilities.


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We are Bucket Fillers!



Last Friday was a day of fun, celebration in song, and learning all about bucket filling.  We are so grateful for Cline Elementary’s PTO , who funded this very special day. We were able to host both Red Grammer,  singer/songwriter and Carol McCloud, author of many of the bucket filling books, to come to Cline and share their thoughts and talents with our students and staff.  The “Bucket Lady” read the book “Have You Filled a Bucket Today”, discussed how bucket filling brings happiness in your life, and helped students act out a skit of what bucket filling, bucket dipping, and using your lid looks like at school.  Both Red and Carol then visited several classrooms for about an hour giving students an up close opportunity to ask questions.

We also had a special one hour session with Carol and Red in our media center (with the help of substitutes and parent volunteers).  Carol shared her background and story of how bucket filling came about.  Red sang with us and he shared how music and the arts are so important in one’s own life and how it can bring joy in just about any situation.

The idea of a reservoir that is “full” or “filled” dates to biblical times and refers to positive attributes, such as being filled with joy, wisdom, love, faith etc. In the 1960s, Dr. Donald O. Clifton (1924-2003) first created the “Dipper and Bucket” story, which depicted the reservoir as an invisible bucket. Dr. Clifton also co-authored, with his grandson, Tom Rath, the #1 New York Times bestseller, How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life (Gallup Press). This inspiring book is also available in an Educator’s Edition. In 2002 the American Psychological Association presented Clifton with its Presidential Commendation for lifetime contributions as “the father of strengths-based psychology and the grandfather of positive psychology.” Dr. Clifton’s 50 years of research initiated a movement that has increased positive moments and reduced negative moments in countless lives. His legacy of wisdom and inspiration continues today.

Carol McCloud was an early childhood educator in the 1990s when she learned of the bucket-filling concept while attending an early childhood conference. As she followed the new research on mental, emotional, and social development that was being uncovered in the orphanages of Romania, she began to understand more clearly the intense need that all children share to have their buckets filled by caring adults.

In 2005, while talking to a teacher, she began to wonder why no one had yet taught this amazing concept to young children and was inspired to write her first book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids. Within a month of publication, teachers from schools around the country were calling her to help them create “bucket-filling schools”. Since then, thousands of schools around the world have used the bucket-filling ideas and concepts to become “bucket-filling schools” where kindness and respect are taught, practiced, and valued by all.



The teachers learned about the three types of bucket filling: 1) Every day kindness to self or others – smiling, saying thank you, helping someone pick something up etc.  This everyday bucket filling can be to take care of oneself (fill your own bucket) or to fill others buckets.  2) Show kindness to people you don’t know.  This could be to a single person or to a group by buying someone a coffee, helping out a group or a family during a time of need.  3) Kindness to people you know.  This could be a group to one person or a one to one act of kindness.  A more in depth act of kindness such as writing a letter to a parent, sibling, co-worker letting them know all of the reasons you appreciate that person.

It was a wonderful day that allowed both students and staff to learn and grow.


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When Life Gives You Lemons

PTO support helps students make meaning through Cline’s Literacy Initiative.


Last week I received an email from Mrs. Massar, one of Cline’s 3rd grade teachers.  She sent me pictures of the book they had just read and students outside on the playground each holding a lemon in their hand.  She said they had just read a book and were extending what they learned in the book with a unique homework assignment.  Using one of the books purchased with money raised by Cline Elementary’s PTO , Mrs. Massar read the book Under the Lemon Moon by Edith Hope Fine.  This book is one of five books in the Interactive Read Aloud set from Fountas and Pinnell with the overarching theme of “The importance of Kindness”.  Reading is “meaning making” and Mrs. Massar’s class have been reading these books to find out why it’s important to be kind to others, that you can make someone feel better by being kind to others, that it feels good when someone is kind to you, and showing someone kindness can make a difference in someone’s life.


The students learned in the book “Under the Lemon Moon” to forgive people and be kind to them, even if they’ve hurt you.  The best way to feel good about yourself is to be kind and generous to the people around you.  The book tells about a little girl,  Rosalinda, who sees a man picking all of the fruit from her lemon tree. Rosalinda sees the lemon thief selling her lemons at the market, while his wife holds an infant nearby.  In the end Rosalinda shares her plentiful new crop with her family and neighbors.

After the story, Mrs. Massar’s students each picked a lemon from the tree on the playground.  Students were to take that lemon home and do something with that lemon that shows kindness.  Here are some of the things that the students reported doing at home:

  • Made lemon bars with their grandmother.
  • Used it in iced tea for dinner.
  • Added it to their hot tea.
  • Made lemonade. 
  • Made a lemon sauce and served it over lobster.

Over the past year and a half, Cline teachers have been strengthening our literacy instruction.  Last year, myself and two teachers visited the Literacy Collaborative at Ohio State University and participated in a guided reading training.  Following the recommendations of a literacy collaborative school program, Cline was also able to add a new position to support this initiative, the Literacy Coach (Ms. Trosclair).  The teachers are loving these new books just as much as the students.  We thank our PTO for making this wonderful resource available.


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February 23, 2019 · 9:50 PM

How full is your bucket?

It’s been almost six years since Cline began to use the Bucket Filling concept as the central message and practice of our school.

Three years ago Mrs. Bowman obtained the rights to the bucket filling play and asked if our high school drama department could perform this for our school.  They said yes!  The first year was a little rough as most beginnings go.  The high school students came to Cline and performed on our tiny stage with minimal lighting, sound, and props.  The second year, our students were able to “take a big trip” to the high school and experience a “real performance” on the big stage.  The students were enthralled.  It was beyond our expectations.  This was year 3 and once again Friendswood High School Theatre did not disappoint.

I am so grateful for Mrs. Powdrell, the Head Drama Director at Friendswood High School.  She is so positive, upbeat, and gets the students to put on a first class show!  A show that reinforces the principles of what we teach, practice, and try to live by at Cline.  I remember going to my high school when I was young to see “Anne get Your Gun”, but for a high school drama department to put on a special show for the elementary schools in addition to their yearly performances is truly special!

What a gift from our high school students!  To see students perform and use their talents in such a way that benefits future students and encourages them to live happy and fulfilled lives, makes every bit of effort to make this happen worth it.


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Be Brave! The Harvey Year


It’s been a full year since my last post.  Having taken some time off with family for vacation, it is time to get back to work.  As always, time off helps clear the mind.  Summer is a great time to reflect on the past year before the list of preparations for the next school year begin to pile up.  It was during this reflection time that I realized I had not posted since last summer.  My first response was:  It was a Harvey year!

In late August, Hurricane Harvey brought us about 50 inches of rain causing roughly 1/3 of the homes in Friendswood alone to flood.  Many of our students and staff were directly affected by having their homes flooded causing them to find alternative living accommodations.  Families moved, families welcomed others into their homes, loaned cars, helped tear carpet and sheetrock, provide food, money or whatever the need was.  Friendswood High School turned into an emergency center for many, including a retirement home that had elderly residents some with critical medical needs.  It was an event that the effects of which are still ongoing.  Some families reported that they were still working with contractors at the end of the June.

The impacts of this event are too many to detail, but there was an immediate change in focus from the traditional meetings and plans that Cline had.  We were now focused on how we could help others, provide a “as normal as possible” environment for students and community.  Our staff met prior to students coming back to school in preparation for the returning students, we held an impromptu meetings with the PTO to adjust our prior plans for our yearly fundraising event – Clinefest and teachers readjusted their plans to allow for time to “meet the needs” of our students.  Our PTO was simply outstanding in being so sensitive to those who were effected by the hurricane by halting all ongoing fundraising and helping to raise funds for the “Harvey families”.  Mrs. Bowman, Cline’s counselor, shifted some of her many duties to make room for being the liaison between donors and the families in need, making sure they properly received the items they needed.  Our staff remained positive and strong for the students often requiring great flexibility.  Throughout the year, all decisions were through the lens of “Harvey effects”.

As news made the headlines around the country, I began to receive emails from schools wishing to help in anyway they could.  It was amazing to see how other schools from around the country, who sent a banner of encouragement, handwritten letters by students, and financial assistance (i.e. Home Depot cards).  A special thanks to the following schools for their moral and financial support for our families and community:

Key Club – Jefferson Academy K-12, Broomfield, Colorado

Consolidated School in New Fairfield, CT

Ecoff Elementary in Richmond, VA

Reflecting on the past year, I know that the effects of Hurricane Harvey will diminish over time as many are back in their homes, but they will never be forgotten.  Harvey changed the community without a doubt, but I feel that this event made us all better.  It brought the community together through service and selfless giving to others, it helped us to focus on the most important things in life, it reminded us of the good in humanity when we choose to do what is right, despite what we see in the media.

As a principal, I will always remember the feeling of receiving help from schools around the country and how that made our families and students feel.  The next time there is a disaster in the news, no matter where it is, Cline Elementary will seek to respond in kind and to support others in need.  As a bucket filling school, we have a tradition that we sing one of the bucket filling songs to those that have filled our buckets.  After receiving the packages from other schools, we recorded our Kindergarteners and first graders singing I’m all filled up by Red Grammer. Although this year’s events I would wish on no one, it has made us stronger in many ways and we have learned first hand that we do have the power to change the world and to make the world a better place.


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Money, money, money!

Recently Kristi and Kenny Koncaba, CEO and President/COO of Texan Bank came to Cline Elementary to talk to our 2nd graders about financial literacy.  They discussed where money comes from, how people get money, options for one to manage and save their money, and the cycle of money.  They also brought piggy banks, play money, and pencils for the students.   

This is such an important skill that everyone uses throughout their life.  This reminded me of a report that I saw recently on TV about how families very seldom talk about money with their children.  The video below shares some wonderful examples of how you can support the school in teaching financial literacy, which is one of the math TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skill) that Texas schools are to incorporate during math instruction.  We want to thank our local experts Kenny and Kristi Koncaba for their involvement and support of education.

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June 8, 2017 · 8:45 PM

A Garden of Possibilities Part II

In my last post A Garden of Possibilities Part I, I described the basic connections one can make when having a garden at school.  The basic ideas of plants, their beginnings and lifecycle along with the addition of having the high school programs assist us in realizing a “farm to table” concept.  Since then, a lot of work has begun on the garden!  The landscape timbers had served their purpose, but a more durable solution was chosen by the Friendswood High School FFA program.  The high school students came and cleaned out the area, prepping the area for the new cinder blocks.

Cline Elementary is teaming up with the high school FFA students to plant and teach our students the basics of gardening.  Students will be able to see the life cycle of plants and also see how a plant grown from seed ends up on the table by our high school students in the culinary arts program.

Often times, people think of gardening as old fashioned and not for the modern world. Some might even think the pursuit in horticulture or botany has limited potential.  On the contrary, our modern world is full of future problems to be solved through the study of horticulture and botany.  The video below shows some ways schools are starting to prepare students to think differently about plants.

Learning new ways to think about plants and the natural world around us allows for the true creativity in children to be developed.  New ways of recycling every day containers can be both whimsical and stunningly beautiful.  Just imagine what this new generation can think of if exposed to such opportunities and problems to solve beginning in Kindergarten.


Due to advances in technology, modern food production has begun to show some real potential.  This video shows a large scale hydroponics operation, something I remember going to Epcot Center as a child and seeing for the first time plants growing without soil.  What will our current students see develop in their lifetime?

In addition to the many academic “object lessons” that can obviously taught in a garden working, planting, harvesting, or simply observing – the garden can provide many other opportunities for personal benefit. 

People of all ages can enjoy gardening, but children in particular will have lots of fun and gain special benefits. Gardening is educational and develops new skills including:

Responsibility – from caring for plants
Understanding – as they learn about cause and effect (for example, plants die without water, weeds compete with plants)
Self-confidence – from achieving their goals and enjoying the food they have grown
Love of nature – a chance to learn about the outdoor environment in a safe and pleasant place
Reasoning and discovery – learning about the science of plants, animals, weather, the environment, nutrition and simple construction
Physical activity – doing something fun and productive
Cooperation – including shared play activity and teamwork
Creativity – finding new and exciting ways to grow food
Nutrition – learning about where fresh food comes from.”


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