Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What about home?




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.


It is no surprise that, at the beginning of the school year, home is ever-present on preschoolers’ minds. As children play and explore in the classroom, I see a great deal of fascination and curiosity about home. In dramatic play, the children play family, with pretend meals, bed times, and doctor visits. In the block area, children create homes for animals and people. We decided to delve into the topic. We wondered,


What is home?
What makes a home?
What do you love about home?

Preschoolers are beginning to discern what is the same and what is different, stretching their thinking muscles. I posed the question, “What is the difference between home and school?” and the children truly struggled with this. I loved listening to the preschoolers, as they tried to tease these two concepts - home and school - apart:



“You run at school.” (O)
“But not inside!” (S)
"Dirt is a kind of home." (M)
“I have a bouncy ball at home.” (C)
"I have a grabber at home." (J)
“You not bring your toys to school." (N)
"I like to play with my sister." (L)
"Home – watch cartoons!” (E)
“Yes, watch T.V. at home” (A)
“Home and school are the same because you are warm.” (C)
“At home, Mommy has a bed.” (B)
“Mommy is home.” (Z)
"Mommy picks me up." (I)


We are finally on to something! Our families are at home!

I think it is oh so sweet that the children struggled to figure this out. Perhaps there is a great deal that is the same about the early childhood classroom and children’s own homes? 














Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What does a young parent know?




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.



"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."
- Maya Angelou


I went to see my (elderly) parents this past weekend, who live in a retirement community in Saco, Maine. One bonus of seeing my parents is that I get to see a couple of my brothers and sisters-in-law, who live nearby. My brothers and I went cruising down memory lane, thinking about different experiences we had when we were young. Some of our memories went a little dark.

I'll share just one with you today.

We remembered how sad and difficult life was when my parents argued. My parents believed in giving one another the silent treatment. Yes, this was their approach to conflict - to freeze one another out, to make the other 'figure out' what was wrong. Their silence affected the whole house...it meant no family dinners, no gathering together for television or games, everyone walking on eggshells.

I remember the silence vividly.

All of this was so many, many, many years ago, and I have certainly forgiven my parents. I know that they were finding their way, they were doing the best they could.

Now, I find myself thinking about how darn young my parents were when all this happened. Certainly, I'm much older now then my parents were at the time of all this ugly behavior.

I think, wow - how young all of us are - typically - when we are raising children. Think of how much we learn on the job as parents. Parenting is often done by two young people who are just learning to communicate with one another, just learning to create that team, that precious union. In the midst of this learning, we dare to bring a new life (or two or three or four or, in my parents' case, five). What does a young parent even know? How do you know what you need to know? Goodness!

Time and time again, young parents raise children. It is by no means new. And yet, isn't it a wonder that children grow up, that most of us turn into adults that make a worthwhile life?

I think about this a lot in my work with young children: our childhood lays the blueprint for the rest of our lives...it creates our 'norm', what is ordinary for us. What's happening to my preschoolers right now that they will carry with them always? What is being modeled in their homes? What instincts - right or wrong - will they carry in their bones?

I remember the silence vividly.

This is the power of childhood.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tuesday SOL: How do you make time for what is most important?




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.


How can it be one month since I've posted?
How to describe this November?

Here's another very full day of teaching,
a few more right behind,
a Tuesday comes and go,
no slice of life this week,
and many very full days follow,
and here's another Tuesday,
let's share a slice of life...
no, I have prepared nothing...
and so it goes.

Here are a couple of students in a makeshift hospital bed,
waiting for a preschool doctor to appear on the scene!
Truly, it could be me under there - overwhelmed by to do's ;-)


It is very important to me to be a teacher-writer. I have an on-going school journal, where daily I take notes, giving me rich ideas and suggestions for this blog. Truly, my writing issues are not for lack of ideas. This blog has been coming out on the losing end of my juggle of time. All the daily must-do's. Unlike my daily journaling, for this blog I need to make time to play with language, to find the right words, to polish and consider.

It is a priority that I have not been meeting - which makes me sad.

I reflected about this over the long weekend - Maureen, how can you not do what you like to do best?

So, here I go again.
Diving in.
Trying to share, at least - once a week.
Today, I am back again!
If something has to give, let it be something that I care less about.

How do you make time for what is most important?

Me, I'm going to put pen to paper and figure it out.










Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tuesday SOL: Autumn fun




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.


Autumn is a fabulous time of year. My preschoolers have been loving the bright sunshine and cooler temperatures. We love collecting nature treasures outside. We have a growing science corner filled with these - pumpkins, pinecones, acorns, leaves, sticks, and more. One day this past week, I documented children's words as they played outside and gathered special finds; these words became a classroom poem that is shared below. When we returned to the classroom, we got out the paints and created works of art - one large classroom mural and individual pictures as well. There is so much to learn and discover in autumn.







Leaves, leaves, leaves.
Leaves fall down.
I see the leaves falling down.
Red leaf.
Brown leaf.
And purple.
Look at this leaf! It is orange.
A stick.
Sticks from the tree branches.
Trees are sticks.
I want sticks.
Do you want sticks, too?
We found berries on the bush.
Look what I found.
A rock!
Rocks!
We are collecting them.
It’s cold.
Really cold.
Wind in my hair.
Wind feels good.
Look at your hair! It’s windy!
Wind in my ponies.
Wind blows down the trees.
We are running and falling.
Fun!
Let’s do again!



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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday SOL: How to say goodbye to our family?




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.



This year, our hello/goodbye window is a particularly magical and happy place in my classroom. Do you know the book, by Norman Juster? In the story, grandparents have a special window in their home where children can watch everyone come and go. It is a very special love ritual. 

How to explain this special place in our classroom? It is the perfect salve for the fragile preschooler who is sad to say goodbye to their family. They no longer have time to dwell on their misery, because one must get to the window and make merry!

One quirk about our window is that it isn't exactly on the way out the door for families...in fact, when they leave our classroom, they have to back up a few steps in the opposite direction to get to the window. It's proof that sometimes going backwards ends up being a step forward. When a preschooler's face begins to sadden at their family member leaving, a classmate or teacher nudges them - "quick! let's go see them at the window!" and off we race to the window. Oh, the scenes that transpire! We blow kisses, we make silly faces, we give hearty waves. The sad preschooler becomes an enthralled preschooler, because there is so much more to see than just their family. Yes, Mom or Dad may have just left, but look! Look at everyone else! It seems like the whole school parades by the window. Older students, who once depended on this window themselves, now stop and wave and make faces at the preschoolers. Teachers and administrators stop and wave, too. If you look very closely, across the way, you can see the preschoolers in the classroom next door. There's nothing more fun than waving to these friends, who we will see on the playground later in the day. Yes, our hello/goodbye window is a place of love and joy. The perfect way to begin a school day!


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What if we paint at the easel?






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.




Our painting easel is an oasis of quiet, focused creativity. There's only room for two children here, one on each side, and the painting is unhurried and free. The first day that the easels were opened this school year, I gave children "timed appointments" for painting, rushing them through, so that everyone in the classroom might get a turn during our centers time. Now, settled into our seventh week of school, the easel is organically paced...sometimes empty, sometimes full, often one artist lingering on their masterpiece. Teachers can guide from the side, helping children to label the page with their name, converse about the work, move the artwork to the drying line, or provide refills on paint. Let's look at some of the children's work...


Yellow, red, blue
Blue, red, yellow
          
Children are curious about the colors in the paint containers. We have begun the year with the three primary colors of yellow, red, and blue. As our school year continues, children will help me pick the colors for the easel, allowing for a more diverse palette. As the children learned in our guided discovery, our easels are set up with one brush for each color and children are encouraged to work with the same brush for the same color (in hopes of leaving a good solid color for the next painter). I love how frequently I find children's work that simply shouts "colors of the day." These two were painted many days apart, by two different artists. The paintings seem to ask, "What do we have today?" as the artists investigate what colors are available, developing one color at a time. 

More paper needed!
But, of course, separate, distinct colors are not the only way to paint. The very first week we painted, one introspective child discovered the thrill of covering every inch of the paper with paint. The preschooler worked quite a long time at this, mixing, swirling, stretching the paint. What was the original goal? To escape the tumult of the classroom and find a quiet spot to work alone? To discover what happens if you mix two colors? Was it simply to use up all the paint in the containers? Or maybe to create a puzzle for the teachers by covering one's name entirely? This early investigation has led to much imitation - daily, someone paints every bit of their paper at the easel. It is as if the preschoolers have an insatiable thirst for painting, it is never enough. Alas, the three colors are no longer distinct...however, the art is magical!



The surprise of working together
This next picture is one I call "The surprise of working together" - here, one child was drawing with pastels and wandered away from the easel. Pretty soon thereafter, another preschooler came over and began painting on the same paper. In these early days, children are developing their agency - just beginning to realize how to ask a teacher for a new piece of paper, how to move one child's artwork off the easel, how to ask a friend if they can work with them on art. I loved the combined effort! However, both children seemed surprised at the idea that their art was shared. As the year continues, children will begin to purposefully create art together, but this magical piece was happenstance.


The art of avoidance
This beautiful artwork celebrating the color red was created during our classroom clean up. Yes, this clever preschooler slipped to the easel corner of the classroom while our clean up song played and classmates were busy tidying up the room. The preschooler successfully evaded teachers' eyes, as we focused on putting away blocks, dolls, and other toys. I call it "The Art of Avoidance" and it makes me smile - it does show good focus and persistence.
Saying goodbye to Dad 
I happened upon this masterpiece early one morning, as children were just arriving for school. It had clear lines and a distinct silhouette - not at all typical for my preschoolers. I asked the artist, "What are you painting?" and he answered emphatically "An elephant!" Well, yes, it was! I hurried over to my Teaching Resident and whispered, "Did you see the painting at the easel?," realizing we were working with a budding Picasso...and she said, "Oh yes! His father painted the contour of an elephant for him when he dropped him off." I had a good laugh! A fabulous artwork of family love and connection.



Preschoolers love to paint! Each day, our art corner is simply bursting with their creativity and imagination.





Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What is death?





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 can tell the morals of a culture by the way they treat their dead." Benjamin Franklin



We buried Flash the betta fish this week. I noticed he was slowing down one day. The next day when I came in, I didn't even see him in the tank. I looked more closely at the tank and there he was, in long, narrow leaves of the fake seagrass. Imagine, this tiny little life still having the desire and power to die in solitude...living life in a glass bowl, everyone looking at you, and then when it is time to die, finding the one available place of solitude to die.

I shared the news of Flash's death with the preschoolers. I let them see him in the reeds. They asked,
"Is he stuck?"
"Is he tired?"
"Why is he hiding?"
"Why did he die?"
"Is he sick?"

I removed him from the tank and into a paper cup with water, so that we could transport him to the garden for burial. I let the children look into the cup one by one, so that they could each be assured he was no longer alive. They asked,
"Why is he not swimming?"
"Is he sleeping?"
 "Can we make him move?"
"Is the cup too small?" asked one.
When the cup jostled, one declared,
"Flash is moving!"
I asked the children to put a hand over their heart. "Do you feel it beating? You are alive! Flash is no longer alive. He lived a good, long life."

We had a solemn procession down the hall and out the door to bury Flash in the garden. We dug a deep hole, placed Flash within, and then covered him over with dirt. I explained, "Flash the fish will help enrich our garden soil. We will be able to visit him in the garden, should the need arise." The children shared a few words,
"I like Flash."
"I miss Flash."
"Flash is in the dirt."

My colleague took several photos and I was truly surprised and moved by this one; I had not even realized this was happening, in the moment:




Do you see how one preschooler is supporting me, as I prepare to place Flash in the burial spot? It is so beautiful, the empathy and concern of preschoolers. It makes me so hopeful for our world!


***

Alongside everyone in our nation, I woke up to the news about the carnage in Las Vegas yesterday morning. Another horrific mass shooting.

Our nation will throw heart-wrenching memorials, so many flowers and candles, surrounded by breath-taking photographs of our deceased loved ones. We will weep, sob, cry out in grief. We will head right back out to the gun shop when we are done. What is life? What is the value of life? 

We are teaching our children to take it all in stride.  
Our Mommies, Daddies, sisters, brothers, grandparents, neighbors, colleagues, friends, lovers, fish,
all come and go.

We go through the pantomime of caring. Against all odds.

"One can tell the morals of a culture by the way they treat their dead." Benjamin Franklin


What can we tell about a culture by the way it treats life?