Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What did you just call me?




I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


In these first few weeks of the school year, one of my ESL students has added so many new English words to his repertoire. He sits very quietly, observing and listening, not visibly participating in our songs, fingerplays, and stories. Later, as he falls asleep at nap, I hear him whisper and repeat, quietly to himself, playing with the English words, the unfamiliar tongue. He is very dear. I'm amazed at how quickly language can be acquired when you are three years old. 

I knew I would hook him with Audrey Woods' The Napping House. I've shared this book with children for so many years that it is a well-worn act for me...a book I can recite from memory. He stared intently at every page, as I recounted the granny, the child, the dog, the cat, the mouse, the flea. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Such a funny tale, really! I watched him watch me with the book, and I wondered - is he following this story? His classmates would spontaneously call out, as if on cue, "where everyone was sleeping!," at the end of every page, but he stayed mute, staring. He stayed quiet as the rest of us laughed together at the conclusion - the broken bed, and everyone playing outside in the sunshine. Then I closed the book and dismissed the children to their lunches.

He sidled over to me and said, "Ok, Granny!"

Ha!

He thinks the word for a old, gray-haired lady is granny! He learned this from The Napping House.  

This makes me smile. 

You tell me, are we really the same?




Monday, September 11, 2017

What opportunities for language are we missing?


Preschooler A pushes Preschooler B off of the playground balance beam and jumps on it in his place. Preschooler B is on the ground crying and I rush over to help these two problem-solve. Thankfully, I observed the incident, because neither child can explain. Preschooler B gesticulates at Preschooler A, with one word "push!" and Preschooler A just frowns at me with furrowed brow, crossing his arms defiantly, when I insist he talk with us.

I persevere - "Let's check in with Preschooler B. Are you okay? Where do you hurt?"

Preschooler B is standing sullenly at my side, holding his elbow.

Me, to Preschooler A, "You want to use the balance beam, but Preschooler B is on it. Let's do this again, this time, you say 'May I use it now?' and Preschooler B will say, "I am on it. You can be next."

Preschooler A, assessing that this isn't going precisely his way, says, "NO!" and throws himself down on the ground, and begins muttering. He is clearly very frustrated. I do not understand what he is saying.

Turn-taking is the cornerstone of all preschool learning. It feels as if I spend my entire year on this concept, helping children to understand that
you are not always first,
others get to play with something and you will be next,
you ask for what you want and listen to (and heed) what your classmates say;
you work things out together.

It is hard to do this when language skills are delayed.

It seems to me that I am increasingly seeing (hearing!) language delays in preschoolers.




Snapshots -

Dad's important job requires him to have his phone on 24 hours a day, and thus he takes a work call while having breakfast with his baby and preschooler, basically doing a charade about what and how to eat while fielding questions from a client - he shakes his head "no" when the preschooler tries to put more cereal in her bowl, he opens a yogurt container, he shakes the baby's bottle, he takes off their bibs, wipes their faces, gets the baby out of the high chair, helps the preschooler down from her chair, all the while saying "Yes, I can check that out. That's on the agenda for ..."

A city sidewalk. Mom is in the lead, with a preschooler and an elementary child walking behind her. The children have on backpacks and are walking slowly, without purpose, trudging really. Mom is talking with someone near and dear, she is very worked up, "Oh, yeah! That's what she said, but that's not what she does!" Her pace is hurried, and she turns to look at the children behind her and glares, while beckoning them to pick up their pace. They are clearly late for wherever they are headed.

Mom walks in to the classroom with her preschooler right behind her, and goes through the morning drop off ritual mechanically, automatically - Mom puts the child's lunch box in the lunch bin, hangs her back pack on the hook, puts the child's water bottle at the water bottle station. All the while, the child is transfixed by a game on Mom's phone. Mom bends down and gives her a kiss on the cheek and, saying, "time for me to have my phone back!" and the child bursts into tears. Mom takes the phone and hands the crying child to the teacher, with a cheery "Have a great day!," and Mom is out the door.

Playground, after school, adults on their phones, many children running around and playing, some adults chatting with one another, and a few solitary preschoolers sitting on benches with parents' phones in hands.

Riding on metro trains, grocery shopping, sitting at restaurants, everywhere I go, when I see adults and children together, one of the two is focused on the phone, not their companion.

I am now watching vigilantly for interactions that contradict this.

I don't know if I am on a rant or a mission, but I am truly sadden by the missed opportunities for language. I see - hear - the effects in the classroom - children who do not meet your eyes, give monosyllabic answers or even grunts, who do not have any idea how to converse with others.

Let's talk, talk, talk with children!





Monday, September 4, 2017

Shall we begin again?




We begin again.
Learning about the children,
oh so quickly.
She will observe.
He needs a hug.
He has an allergy.
Good luck with her naps!
Be on alert - he will elope.
Let's learn how to line up.
How to clean up.
What are the quiet signals?
When should we listen?
Shall we build with blocks?
What about paint?
Learning about the children,
oh so quickly.
He doesn't eat well, very picky.
She has so much to say!
She is somewhat shy.
Do you remember his older brother?
She's my oldest,
He's my youngest,
So good to know their birthdays.
Watch him run!
What a great laugh.
Oh, she's getting ready to cry.
Mommy coming soon?
Learning about the children,
oh so quickly.
Oops, I think he's had an accident.
Listen to their play!
"Bugs for dinner"
"They're scared."
"We can pretend it's a beach."
"A dog and a firefighter and some food."
"There's a monster coming."
Learning about the children,
oh so quickly.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A new school year begins!



A new school year begins!

Here's a photo of my empty classroom, just after the floors were shined and before all the furniture was dragged back in. It exemplifies

possibility
hope
discovery
openness
imagination

I know this is going to be a fabulous new year!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday SOL: Why write today?




I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Why write today?
Because.
Because it's Tuesday,
and Tuesday means slicing.
Because when I walked,
the ideas and reflections flowed, and 
I know there's stuff to share.
Because I shouldn't let yet another week go by,
without a slice.
Because I have a bit of time before heading to the airport,
for a week of summer vacation in Bryce Canyon,
with my three sons, 
and my husband,
how fun is that?

Because.
Because this year's end,
and perhaps every year's end,
was frustrating and exhilarating,
magical and exhausting.
Because of all of those end of year traditions-
water play,
field days,
music concerts,
Learning Showcase,
yearbooks,
finalized data,
report cards,
portfolios,
goodbyes,
packed boxes, and
closed up classroom.
Whew.
Because this year's end added one new tradition -
saying farewell to our first class of eighth graders,
our first promotion ceremony. 
Because,
although we began our school
with preschool through third grade, 
six years flew by, and 
third graders become eighth graders, and, 
these young adults walk across the stage,
(look closely, you can still see children)
these young adults walk across the stage,
and out the door,
to high school and beyond.
Because.
Because,
somehow,
we have built a school.
Because every school year needs closure.
This one,
most of all.

Happy summer!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What makes you chuckle?




I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Five little anecdotes that have made me smile in recent days -

Who's having the problem?
Two students building together, working alongside one another to create a train track out of blocks, and one is clearly in charge. "You can't make that! I said put it here! No, not like that!" Truly, he is yelling. His classmate works quietly, creating, following directions. I observe for a bit and I am surprised that there is no back-and-forth argument. I suggest to the quiet one, the "follower" - "You know you can build elsewhere - you don't have to play with him if he is treating you unkindly." To which he responded without a moment's hesitation - "Oh no! He's my best friend!" and he continued building happily alongside.

Who loves you?
A daughter is saying goodbye to her father at the beginning of the day and she gives him a much-loved unicorn headband, which she has changed her mind about having at school. Rather than simply take this from her, he puts it on his own head and he walks down the hall wearing her unicorn headband - much to his daughter's glee.

What are you crying about?
Someone cries about a toy not shared and another student says, "Ms. Ingram, is he a baby? Only babies cry, right?" I, of course, want to change his impression about tears and so I say, "Oh no, everybody cries, at all ages. I was just crying this morning." "What were you crying about?" he asks. Another student calls out, "Was it Donald Trump?"

May I build on your idea?
I am reading a nonfiction book about bugs at story time, and I stop for a moment to ask - "Who remembers what nonfiction means?" Three hands shoot up, so I call them one by one to define the word nonfiction: 1) "It means everybody's safe." 2) "It means to be safe in your car." 3) "It means watch out for cars when you are in the street."

What is your good news?
I am laying on a makeshift bed in the dramatic play corner, pretending to be sick, while many able preschool doctors take care of me. One declares, "Ms. Ingram, I have good news! You are not sick!" "I'm not?" I ask, tentatively. "No, you are not. You are going to have a baby!" To which I burst out laughing and say, "Oh, I must share this news with Ms. Wright." The preschool doctor declares, "No, Ms. Ingram, you don't have to share this news - this is just pretend!"

Five little chuckles, out of many every day.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday SOL When to walk away?




I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

One particular child has been giving my Teaching Resident a "run for her money." This little friend has decided that he will not participate in our daily ritual clean up of the classroom. When Sweet Honey in the Rock sings their delightful cue for everyone to stop playing and instead put things away, this preschooler makes a tighter grip on the toys in his hand and scoots under one of our classroom tables to hide. 

If you weren't responsible for all these preschoolers, if you weren't hoping to get the room cleared so that the day could continue with lunch and nap, maybe if you were simply there as a spectator to observe children's different approaches to clean up, I suppose you might find his antics pretty hilarious. However, the Teaching Resident does feel responsible for all these preschoolers. She has been openly wondering, How can I motivate him? What motivates him? What is so difficult about clean up? Shouldn't preschoolers be expected to help clean up their own things? Isn't following through on routine an important skill? 

As soon as the music starts, he hides under the table. The Teaching Resident has tried so many different tactics - 
taking him aside at the outset of the day and calmly stating expectations for clean up [he assures her that 'no, he will not clean']; 
taking him out from under the table and trying to guide him through the clean up, with teacher as his partner [he cries throughout the process]; 
giving him a partner to clean with [he folds his arm and continues to refuse - once, the partner joined him under the table to hide!]; 
giving him a heads up for the clean up, a gentle warning, so that he might complete his playing before cleaning [this just made him go under the table earlier]; and, of course, 
talking to his family about this recalcitrance [as the baby of the family, cleaning up one's things isn't a big expectation at home].

This little preschooler is the Teaching Resident's best teacher. He is "Exhibit A," illustrating the art of teaching - there is no one script to follow in guiding students, nothing you teach will ever go 'perfectly,' and it is essential to build good connections with each student. 

When the Teaching Resident asked for my advice about this little stinker, she shared how she finds herself thinking about him in the evenings, frustrated at her inability to figure this out. I think it is really terrific that she wrestles with this. I complimented her on how many different tactics she has tried. She has taken time to reflect, to look at it from different perspectives. He is telling us that he really, really, really doesn't want to do something. 

I believe - when we go head-to-head with a child, I think we have already lost. For whatever reason, he has dug his heels in about this expectation. Digging one's heels is the most power a preschooler ever has. I suggested a moratorium on the expectation of clean up for this one child. Yes. What if we simply ignore the challenging behavior and work on building a strong connection with him? What would happen if we let go of this specific expectation (wordlessly, without any fanfare) and engaged with him in more positive ways, for example working and playing beside him, asking questions, having conversation, being joyful? Dare to let it go. 

What will we notice? 




Reminds me of Kenny Rogers' song "The Gambler,"

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run.