Brain Recogntion

This was an email I sent to my parents Saturday night. I've always said, "Send me 20 students or 200, I'll love and teach them all." This is my way of sharing strategies and insights to any parents who might be able to use it.

Parents (and Partners),

I'm playing math games tonight with my own kids and doing some thinking about yours. Unless the class averages 90% or higher on assessments I'm not satisfied with my teaching and wondering what I could do better or differently. Exponents gave alot of kids trouble. If your child had trouble with exponents try some of the following games:

Roll two different colored dice: one color is the base number and the other is the exponent. Let's say the green dice comes up 4 (base number). The white dice comes up 2 (exponential number). Your child should say "Ah-hah. 4 * 4 = 16."

The same thing can be done with playing cards in several different ways. Each player puts 2 cards from their hand face up. The card on the left is the base number and the card on the right is the exponent; highest resulting number (product) wins the hand.

For those having trouble with multiplication, try this. Tonight my son and I played a dice and ball game on the stairs, but with multiplication. We took turns rolling 3 dice, multiplying all 3 numbers (factors) and when he got the correct answer (the product) he and I took turns seeing who could land bouncing balls on the highest step. He is motivated by play and not by school. He got every roll correct because he was "playing".

We also played "Multiplication Baseball". Even my daughter and I played although she hasn't done multiplication yet (3rd grade). She still figured out how to do it by thinking of "what are three 6's" v. "what is 6*3?"

She and I also played on the stairs only we added 2 of the dice and subtracted the third from that. This went well until the stairway was turned into a fort by her 4-year-old sister :-)

Many more games specific to what we are studying can be found in your child's Student Reference Book (SRB). Look in the index under "games". I dug around in my things at home and found game mats for these that your son or daughter can sign out and take home. Also, have your child take their Study Links book home and rip out the letters to parents that contain the answers. Use them to check their work and to recognize where they could use reinforcement using the games.

The trick is to figure out how your child's brain "sees" knowledge. This happens in their recognition brain network. If their brains can't recognize the new knowledge then their strategic brain network can't solve problems using this new knowledge. Every single one of your children has genius inside of them. History shows only about 10% of them ever fully develop it. My goal is 100% of them will; and I'm a pretty stubborn man once I set an important goal like this one.

"We either find a way, or make one." – Hannibal

Adam Stuart
Writer & 5th Grade Teacher
Sand Lake ELementary
Orlando, Florida

"By passionately believing in that which does not exist, we create it."


Georgie Porgie, Run and Hide!

Georgie Porgie
Pudding and pie,
Kissed Sofia
And made her cry.

Georgie Porgie
Run and hide.
My Daddy's coming
To tan your hide.

This was today's favorite poem. Over a Sunday dinner of delicious tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches, we discussed what would happen if Georgie Porgie kissed Sofia!

The original poem is below:

Georgie Porgie
Pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls
And made them cry.

When the boys
Came out to play,
Georgie Porgie
Ran away.

Rain, Rain, Go Away?

"Rain, rain, go away.
Come again another day;
Little Johnny wants to play."


So to the door
And out in the rain!
We don't know
When this chance will come again.

Hurry Dad,
grab your sword!
There's pirates to fight,
and their ship to board.

Grab that spear.
Into the downpour!
We live in the wild
Hunting the dinosaur.

Let's get a ball
We can bounce off our heads,
Or lay in the puddles
In our own waterbeds.

It doesn't matter
what we do or be;
As long as I'm in the rain
And you're with me.

"It's raining!" cried Brosden earlier this afternoon, as he dropped everything and sped to the door. I got the idea for this poem while reading Mother Goose rhymes to Brosden's sister, Sofia, later in the day, and coming across "Rain, Rain, Go Away". After finishing the entire book and reading her favorite, "Georgie Porgie, Pudding and Pie, Kissed the Girls and Made Them Cry"* a dozen more (I am in so much trouble with this one) I hurried to the computer to write "Rain, Rain, Go Away?".

I think this is a testimony to the beauty and freedom, and even power of the untamed yet wise spirit of a child. We learn to seek shelter from the joy and cleansing teachings of the rain instead of experiencing the happiness and growth that can come from it.

When the rain clouds in our lives pour down criticism on us, what if we tilted our heads back and opened our arms wide to let in any truth behind the stormy words, and grow from it?

When dark clouds constantly doubt and question us, why not let their "rain" wash off our backs and wash away our insecurities, helping us realize we don't need them anymore in our lives, and they'll soon be moving on?

When we hear the thunder of negativity and verbal abuse, why not think of a child playing in the rain, and realize our spirits are as free as we are brave and courageous enough to let them be? We know our own truth, and people either believe in us and our dreams or don't; they either want to build us up with liquid sunshine or try to tear us down with their thunder and lightening.

So when you find someone who does believe in you and wants to help you Dream and Do Big*, take their hand and play in the rain. It's the essence of life and the meaning of humanity. When those who just want to rain on you with constant doubt,disrespect, dishonesty, etc and try to tear you down, don't run for shelter, but stand strong, smile wide, and know their "rain" can't hurt you and they will soon dry up and be gone.

Being "in the rain" is nothing to be afraid of. Being afraid of the rain is. It can awaken you as you feel it on your face, intoxicate you as it falls on your tongue, exhilerate you as it soakes through your clothes, and stimulate you to open your eyes and see a new, better, and happier world.

Watching you son
As you play in the rain
You remind me just
Of what I used to be

I teach you
But you also teach me
Your free and untamed spirit*
Is what I can still be

*(stories and poems related to this that you might like are "SPIRIT", "The Magnificent Sun", "Georgie Porgie, Run and Hide!", "What Will You Do That Will Last Forever?" and "The Winners of Washington Shores")



This is the second half of Patrice's story, that I first wrote in March of 2006. The first part is called, "The Last of The Mohicans ~ a tribute to Patrice".

He is still in the hospital in Boston and as of last night, still "doing the same".....

Patrice Blemur, or “Patty Boy”, was a student of mine at Orlo Vista Elementary who was involved in a car accident last January (2006) and is still in the hospital (see “What Will You Do That Will Last Forever?”). He was in critical condition after the crash and was not expected to make it. After surviving his massive injuries he remained in a coma, but his prognosis wasn't good. After coming out of the coma he wasn’t expected to have any brain activity. After regaining some brain activity he wasn't expected to do much better, like talk, feed himself, and move around.

I say he will. This is the story of a journey between the two of us that we are still traveling today.

After almost two months at Arnold Palmer here in Orlando, Patrice is now in Boston at the Franciscan Hospital for Children. I call him at night and if his Dad's there, he'll put the phone to Patrice's ear and I'll read him a story. If not, the nurse will tell Patrice that his teacher called to say goodnight. I tell my students that I will be there for them every day until they graduate to the next level. Until he gets better and moves on the 6th grade, I'm still his teacher and I'm still required to believe in him and give him my best. That is Samurai Teaching.

The first day I went to see him after the crash I was scared out of my mind. I heard very bad things and that he wasn't likely to make it. I gathered myself in the elevator and when I walked in his room, I saw nothing of the happy and smiling boy I had just seen in class. He was swollen all over, his chest was caved in, and was covered in bandages. After carefully stepping over the dozens of wires and tubes coming out of him, I put my hand gently on his chest and kissed his forehead, whispering, "You listened to me in class. You're going to listen to me now. You are going to make it!"

This was our daily routine every time I came into the room. I would gather myself in the elevator, shaking off the fear and doubt that this time I would see an empty bed. Sometimes he had been moved for testing, and I wanted to scream "Would it be so hard to make a big announcement that, ' Just in case anyone is coming to see Patrice Blemur he has been taken for testing?'" "No worries. Have a seat and relax. He's still alive and will be back soon."

I would tell him how everyone was doing, rattling off each of his fellow students names and what they did or said that day. I would pass on the get-well wishes of the teachers and staff. I'd show him the new pictures I brought done by fellow students, my children, or myself. Then I’d would sit by his bed and read stories, often in different voices or as one of his favorite cartoon characters. I'd call my own children and say goodnight prayers from his bedside. After a few hours I would say goodbye the same way I said hello, look for some kind of response from him without ever get any, and leave.

Eventually I would go home and be a wreck, saying "I can't do this anymore". I'd wake up and think of how much I needed to give to my students, how I would find the time to see my own children, and how much harder it was getting going in that hospital elevator where I would start shaking more and more trying to summon the courage to be strong. I had to ride up alone, not wanting anyone to see me. All I really wanted to do was cry my eyes out on someone's shoulder.

At night after leaving Patrice I began to drive my motorcycle like a maniac, angry and hateful that this had happened to a child, and that I wasn't able to help him. I came as close to crashing as I could, until one night I bounced my head off the pavement seven times, the marks still on my helmet, and leaving me with a severe concussion. Someone made me aware I was trying to bargain with death, trying to get it to come after me so it would leave Patrice alone.

A couple of weeks later I was explaining to a nurse that Patrice liked a show on another channel. I was doing the voice of "Jorgen" from "The Fairly OddParents" with my back to Patrice. The nurse started hitting me and looking over my shoulder. I turned to see Patrice blinking his eyes, as if he were trying to focus. He couldn't move any other part of his body, but that day he looked like an Olympic athlete to me.

His family and I were cautioned several times not to get too excited. "He's not able to register any brain activity on the tests. The blinking is an involuntary response. There is no evidence that he will ever be more than a" ......I hate this word.....a "vegetable."

I can't repeat what I said in my head at hearing this, or the tirade I would let out alone at home. No! Patrice had become too much! He had made so much progress that his achievements will be remembered forever in the "Patty Boy Blemur" Award. He had "Become Big" and this wasn't O.K.! IT WAS UNACCEPTABLE!

But that night I did stop leaving the hospital trying to get death to chase me, and I began to realize the parallels in my life with his. Two wrecked marriages had left me in my own coma that I was just coming out of, untrusting and broken. Now I would heal. Together, we would heal. And both of us were going to make it.

Two more weeks passed. As usual, I sat by his bed, put his hand in mine, and read. One night I stopped reading and put my head down on the side of his bed. I was tired and the words were moving on the page. I still had the concussion and it was giving me a splitting headache. I don't know how much time passed but I woke up to someone squeezing my fingers.

I didn't move and then I felt it again; weakly, but it was definitely a squeeze. I raised my head and looked over at Patrice. He was looking at me. I called his name and asked him if he squeezed my hand. He tried to talk but could only make noises from his throat. He looked scared. I sat up and squeezed him back, repeating myself that I was here and would keep reading, trying to see past the tears that kept coming out of my eyes and onto the pages.

He began to do a little more and a little more over the next few weeks; making more voluntary noises, turning his head slightly to look at his relatives, trying to follow them with his eyes, and squeezing my hand more.

Then one afternoon I went into his room to see him looking at me terrified. I greeted him and told him everything was alright, then noticed all his pictures were off the wall. I looked back at him with a startled look on my face and told him I would be right back.

At the nurses desk they told me he was being transferred to Boston in the morning to be with his father. I came back telling Patrice I heard the good news. He was going to be with his father who had been down every weekend to see him. Now they could be together! Two nurses came in and laughed when I told them I thought someone took my pictures down because they didn't like them. They asked me a question but I couldn't answer. All of a sudden I couldn't speak because a huge lump had formed in my throat. I squeezed Patrice's hand and walked out.

I went home and packed a t-shirt, toothbrush and another book. I stayed with Patrice that night. We talked about how he got his nickname of Patty Boy. This was his first year in America and it was very frustrating for him. What made it worse was having a teacher who didn't want to hear problems, but solutions. If he was behind the others then it made sense that he had to work harder than the others to get caught up. He didn't like that at the time.

When he came to me with excuses I told him I wanted results; that I refused to feel sorry for him and expect less. We used the ESOL modifications and nowhere in there did it say "Take it easy on this kid. He can't do it". He really didn't like that.

In fact, one day I had angered him so much that his body was rigid as he was walking to lunch. But he was walking in a perfectly straight line, hands at his sides (and balled into fists), and not talking or bothering anyone. I noticed this and let out in a loud Scottish/Irish accent "Will ya look at Patty Boy there, walkin' in a pahrfect line?" He refused to smile but did turn his head to look at me.

"I only wish my eyes could see everyone of you wee lads and lassies walkin' in as pahrfect line as my Patty Boy there." Patrice fought hard not to smile but did ask me my I was talking that way. "Why, you're an Irishman." He told me he wasn't and that he was Haitian. "What??!?" I exclaimed. "With your bright red hair and freckles covering your face, your as Irish as I am!"

Neither one of us look Irish, but he got the message. He was caught doing something good, and praised for it. I told him I learned that from a quote I heard years ago: "Twice I did good and that I heard never. Once I did bad and that I heard ever!"

Later on I tried to sleep on the pull-out bed, which was much lower than his hospital bed. When I took my hand from his so I could put my arm down Patrice would wake up and make noises. I then sat in the chair and talked to him. I thanked him for everything he had taught me, that I was going to miss him dearly, and that I expected him to keep making progress in Boston. I told him I wouldn't except any excuses, and he smiled at me.

Around 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. he began to act so agitated that I called the nurses in two or three times. They assured me he was fine and not in any pain. He kept making noises from his throat and I asked him if he was trying to tell me something. His eyes said "yes" so I took out some paper and told him I would hear what he was trying to say.

Together we wrote a poem. It took awhile. The sun was coming up by the time we finished, but I think I just might have written what he was trying to say. Each time I would read it, he smiled as I began with the accent, blink in the middle, and cry at the end.

Here is our poem.

Patty Boy Blemur
One thing we know for sure
He gave the world his best
Now it’s time for him to rest

But he wanted me to tell ya
In fact I think he’s trying to yell it
That no dream is ever too small
No challenge is ever too tall

For it’s those who learn to DREAM BIG
And who have the courage to DO BIG
That are the ones who truly BECOME BIG

The size of your world is the size of your mind
So get to readin’, writin’ and learnin’
While you still have the time

Find out how truly special and smart you really are
Make the world a better place

Thank you and goodbye to Orlo Vista
I will never, ever, forget ya

Goodbye Patrice. I will never forget YOU.
Mr. Stuart
Your Teacher

March 2006


What Will You Do That Will Last Forever?

At the beginning of each school year I ask my students, "What will you do that will last forever?" This catches them off-guard so I ask, "What genius or talent inside of you will you develop that gives so much to the world you will be remembered long after you're gone?" I then point out people who have died but are still living through the gifts they've given the world.

One of these students in my 5th grade class last year was Patrice Blemur, newly arrived from Haiti. Since I "feel strong" for students versus feel sorry for them, he didn't exactly like my high expectations for him. He would complain that it wasn't fair that I expected him to perform on grade level since his classmates had known English for 10 years, and this was his first. I told him then he had to work 10 times as hard as everybody else.

When he told me no one liked him and he felt I should get them in trouble, I told him I wouldn't like him either because all he did was complain about everyone. That night his homework was to go home and write something positive about everyone and say it to them the next day.

When he would get frustrated and misbehave I would tell him that it was OK to have his feelings, but that it was not OK to react the way he did. I told him he was stronger and better than that. He would tell me "No I'm not." Several times I looked him in the eyes and said "Yes you are, and I'll believe it for you until you do."

By December he had made over 100% improvements on county tests in both reading and math. He also scored in the top 25% of the country on a national reading test. He made friends with everyone in class. And he smiled and laughed, every day.

Patrice is now lying in a hospital bed in Boston.

A car crash claimed his mother's life and critically injured Patrice. Below is a letter I wrote to the staff at our school. There were a lot of rumors and concerns and I wanted to communicate what happened, as well as how Patrice had decided to focus on what he could do instead of what he couldn't, and the amazing results that came out of it.

A few days later, I spoke at his mother's funeral. I spoke of the great accomplishments her son had made, and that as a result I was establishing the "Patty Boy Blemur" Award. Any student making 100% gains on tests will receive this award, for as long as I am teaching, which is the rest of my life. Hopefully, a student-turned-teacher will also give out this award, and Patrice's accomplishments will live on long after I'm gone, perhaps forever.

We never know when the special people in our lives will be taken away from us and we never know how (through death, disability, divorce, estrangement, etc.) My suggestion is to love your loved ones while they're still in your life, before it's too late. Let them know what they mean to you and take the time to appreciate them everyday.

Patrice had become special to me. He is a testimony to how a life can change when you change the way you look at your life. Little did I know my journey with Patrice was just beginning. For more on this, see the poem he and I wrote together, his last night in Orlando, called "Patty Boy Blemur".

January 10, 2006

Some of you have already heard that one of our students was in a car accident this weekend. Very sadly, his mother died and Patrice is on life support. He has no other siblings at the school and this was his first year at Orlo Vista. He is in my class.

On Patrice's behalf, who WILL get better, there is a thought I wanted to share. He has made major improvements this year, both socially and academically. I believe this happened because of the culture of our school; supportive, appreciative, and talented. I believe every student can have Patrice's results. And I believe every teacher here can make it happen.

We know as teachers we have a powerful influence on our students. If we believe in them, they tend to believe in themselves. If we like them, they are more likely to like themselves.

To be appreciated and even loved as we are, to be seen for everything we could be and should be, is an incredible gift to receive. And it is a very rare gift, one that some of us will never know. Most of us give and receive the "gift" of criticism and judgment and doubt. Sadly, we have no control in receiving this rarer gift of support, appreciation and belief.

But we can control giving this gift. We can decide to see all our students for all the good they are and all the greatness they can achieve.. And we can believe this about them until they believe it about themselves.

That is the choice Patrice had in this class and that is the choice he made. I told him that if he wanted me off his back he had to believe in himself as much as I did. He had to believe that HE COULD get along with others and the HE COULD learn English and to read.

He is now friends with everyone in class. The one student I suspected still had issues with Patrice was the one whose face showed the most pain this morning at hearing the news. Patty Boy Blemur (my nickname for him) went from constant excuses of "but I can't read English" to scoring in the top 25% of the country on the latest DRP and an AR winner last Thursday. He didn't know he was a good reader, but I did. I wonder if he knows he's a great reader. I wonder if all our students do?

Every time along the way that he took a step backwards I told him I couldn't wait for him to take two steps forward, that I KNEW he was going to do it, and that I knew he was going to do it NOW. No one was allowed to give up on htemselves and I wasn't allowed to give up on them. Misbehavior wasn't allowed because we were too busy making our lives incredible. We were Dreaming Big, Doing Big, and Being Big.

Patrice has become very big, taking gigantic strides from his former self.

Now, today, we continue to believe in Patrice and support him, to wait for his return and choose TO KNOW he's going to do it. In the meantime, we remember every good thing about him and believe in everything he wants to be, which right now is to be well.

On Patty Boy's behalf:

Live each day as if it were your last, and make sure you love your students as if it was.




man gets tired...Spirit Don't

man surrenders..Spirit Won't

man crawls...Spirit Flies

Spirit Lives when man dies

man seems...Spirit Is

man dreams...Spirit Lives

man is tethered...Spirit is Free


This is a Waterboys song my best friend sent to me. His name is Brian Donovan and he is proof that "What Spirit Is...Man Can Be". Brian is the voice of several cartoons, including JETIX, DIGIMON, and A.T.O.M. He is also involved in many programs that help others and has created a kids program called "Mighty Me". www.mightyme.com


One With the Tree

I am one with the tree.
I am part of the star.
I woke up here,
but come from afar.

The mystery of life,
is clear to me.
My life is as big as the tree
that grows inside of me.

I wrote this while lying on the ground at night in a park. I was beside a huge tree and looking at the Big Dipper.

Mind Training

Letter to the Editor
Published in the Orlando Sentinel
January 12, 2004

Mind Training

As a teacher who came from the business world, I found much I agreed with in Marion Brady's commentary "Boxed in: Education should be about more than storing facts." Both parents and teachers have the responsibility of preparing our children. What we are preparing them for is their marketability after graduation.

Our students will not be handed a book detailing all the problems of their chosen field and the solutions to overcome them. They will be handed the problems, told there are no current solutions, and that if they want to keep their jobs they need to solve them.

This cannot be done if a person is only taught the "facts". Therefore, the classroom is very much like a weight room, and we are the strength-training coaches. Intelligence grows much like a muscle, from being pushed to lift "heavy" intellectual weight. Real strength is the students" knowledge and comprehension of information, the application and analysis of this information, synthesizing this information into new ideas, and the evaluation of the new ideas based on their merit.

Adam Stuart

Brosden and Bella - The Data Organizer

This is a book idea incorporating the 5th grade curriculum into story form. I am still fine-tuning it.

The Data Organizer

Brosden and Bella were in trouble again. Their math teacher, Mr. Flooberhazen, had given them the particularly tough assignment of explaining how to organize data. And they had to do it in front of the entire class tomorrow!

"I'll never be able to do this!" cried Brosden. "I'm not even sure what data is, so how can I organize what I don't know?" "What do you think it is?" his sister asked, smiling mischievously. She knew her brother didn't like to think.

"I don't know" Brosden replied quickly. "Come on, you know what Dad says, 'I don't know means I'm not thinking.'" Bella reminded him. "What could 'data' mean?" Brosden turned his head slightly, shrugged his shoulders and said "day-tah....maybe it has something to do with the day?" Bella just looked at him. It was obvious she took school more seriously than her brother.

"O.K., O.K., it has something to do with math. I'll look it up in my reference book" Brosden said as he gave in. "Allrighty. In the index it says the definition of 'data' is on page 108." Brosden hurriedly leafed to the correct page and read aloud. "Oh, 'data' is information you collect about something. That was easy."

"Now we just have to learn how to organize it" Bella said. Brosden groaned at the thought of having more work to do. "Look, if we organize the data it will be easier to understand. You'll be able to go back to playing after that. Mr. Foozlebottom said we could use line plots to do this." "Yeah, I remember him saying that," replied her brother, "but I had no idea what he was talking about."

"Remember how he used our language arts test scores as an example?" Bella asked. "The number of correct answers received was on the bottom of the chart and the number of students earning each amount was on the left." Brosden squinted his eyes trying to remember. "Oh yeah! Um, do you remember who got a higher score than his sister on this line plot?"

Bella ignored him and continued. "There were 18 questions on the test. We had to organize all the scores by placing an 'X' above the number each student got right." "Yeah, but do you remember who had an 'X' above a higher number than his sister?" teased Brosden.

Bella bit her lip and said "I'm so happy for you" through clenched teeth. She couldn't stand it when Brosden sometimes spent less time studying and still did better than she did. It didn't happen often but killed her just the same. "Now Mr. Smarty Pants, how would you organize the class scores on a line plot? Come on genius" she goaded him.

Brosden looked at the scores, which ranged from 7 correct responses to a high of 18. "O.K., O.K., I may have earned a higher score in language arts but you rule in math, Oh Great One" Brosden said as he dramatically bowed before her. "Well let me help you then" Bella smiled. "First, you draw a horizontal line at the bottom. Then, starting at the left of this line, you put a 7,8,9,10,11...all the way to 18 at the far right. Got that?" she asked.

"Yes. Got it. I put the number of correct answers from smallest to highest" Brosden said as he drew the line and the numbers. "But I still don't understand how you put the scores everybody in class got." "No problem" Bella excitedly said. "All you have to do is look at the data, or class scores. Let's see. One person got 7 right, so you put one 'X' above the '7'. Two people got 8 right, so you put two 'X's' above the '8'."

"But nobody got 9 right on the test, so what do you put? Wait, don't tell me. Maybe you don't put anything since no one got 9 answers correct" Brosden guessed. "That's right" said Bella. "Good thinking."

"Now, my brother, 3 students got 10 right, so how do we organize this?" "Well...we could put 3 'X's' above the '10'" Brosden said hesitantly. "Yes! Oh my brother is such a genius" Bella teased. Together they plotted the rest of the student scores above the line until they were finished.

"This is easy" Brosden cried out, excited that he might not be embarrassed tomorrow when he had to explain this in front of the class. "You're welcome" Bella said, happy with herself that she was able to help. "You're welcome? For what?" Brosden asked, sounding confused. "For helping you understand how to organize data using a line plot" his sister looked at him expectantly.

"Help me? Who got the higher score on the language arts test?" Brosden said as he opened the door, free to play now that he understood his homework. "Arrrrgggggghhhhhh! I DON'T LIKE MY BROTHER!" Bella screamed as her brother slammed the door.