Friday, March 23, 2018

SOLSC #23 And that's a wrap!




I am participating in the
March 2018 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.




Thought I'd share a moment from today. I really enjoyed how the children's block play grew organically, with very little input or prompting from me. I was able to sit back, observe, and take notes - the proverbial 'fly on the wall' - my favorite pastime in the preschool classroom. Let me share...


W wanted to make a house with a flat red roof. She worked with O, and continued to add pieces of different shapes and sizes. O decided it was no longer a house, but an apartment building. "A lot of people like this home," O said.

Then the focus was on the area around the house. Shouldn't there be a highway near the apartment building? "It's going to need sidewalks," C announced. More construction ensued. L suggested that the highway should have a bridge, with a road going under the highway. He became very excited at the way it was looking, declaring "We are building the whole world!" 


With this whole world in place, B wandered over and asked "Can I play family with these dollies?" Then the focus became all about the dolls [Duplo figurines]...how many could fit in the apartment building? How many would walk down the sidewalk? Maybe one or two would be on the bridge? M became very excited when she found two Duplo figurines that were identical - "Twins!! Look!!" O did not appreciate M's loud voice and reprimanded everyone with the words, "Everyone is supposed to be in bed right now!"



With preschoolers, it starts with blocks but it ends with family. Always.





This is my last slice of this March challenge...spring break has arrived and I'm off to Costa Rica in the morning, celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary! There are many more things I would have liked to write about, but I will save them for another time. I hope that everyone continues slicing and enjoys this last week of the writing challenge. I'll be back for the Tuesday Slice of Life in April. Enjoy!








Thursday, March 22, 2018

SOLSC #22: What is your whimsy?




I am participating in the
March 2018 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


It's Intersession week at my school, wherein the early childhood students spend an hour a day in mixed age groups doing focused exploration on one thing...I'm working with our wonderful Art teacher Ms. Lane and a group of 10 three, four, and five year olds to create "Whimsical Worlds" in a box.

Every student received a special box. (Our school computers came in these and Ms. Lane had the wisdom to save them!)






Day One - Everyone chose a couple fun paint colors, transforming the box, slowly but surely.


























The next day - and the rest of the week - students chose from an array of art supplies and craft materials to make their whimsical worlds come to life...
buttons, pom poms, pipecleaners, clay, yarn, straws, and more....





As the children work, I am hearing about slides, ziplines, candy factories, houses, puppies, bridges, forests, mountains, rivers, clouds, superheroes, bad guys....





Yes, whimsical worlds!! So much fun!!










Wednesday, March 21, 2018

SOLSC #21: How much should we say?




I am participating in the
March 2018 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.



The March For Our Lives, the national march against gun violence, is this Saturday, March 24, 2018 here in Washington, D.C., and I know many people who are participating. (Tony and I will be headed to Costa Rica for our 30th Anniversary on that same Saturday; I am sad to miss the march and so very excited about our trip.) Many families from my school have connected about this important issue and will be walking together with their children.

There have been so many tough conversations and strong opinions shared about this topic.

One tough conversation topic is about when should we be talking about these hard issues with young children? When is it appropriate to discuss these things with our youngest learners?

I wonder if one's perspective on this correlates with how sheltered one's own life is? Who falls on the side of preparing their children, talking about potential issues, opening their eyes to the cruelness of the world? Do these families have more history of violence or disenfranchisement? I wonder, how privileged are those who believe their children don't know about violence, don't know about racism, don't know about these hard topics, and we should not dare to bring these topics up?

Or is the varied responses to this - when should we be talking about these hard issues with young children? - more indicative of each adult's individual comfort with having these conversations? Do many simply not know how to approach or what to say, and therefore choose to avoid the discussion, deny its need?

In my classroom, I see preschoolers playing about real-world stuff. I hear them playing through real-world problems. I don't think children are escaping the cruelty of this world; I don't believe there is any way that they can. Example - there has been a huge uptick in gun play in my classroom these past few weeks. I believe this is precisely because of the tragedy of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida and our national conversation about guns. Just this past week, three preschoolers were "shooting" a block building that they had built. I saw the same thing after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when children built block towers and flew make-believe planes into these, toppling them to the floor. Children are like sponges, absorbing everything in the world around them - those tittering adult voices, those sad, frightened expressions on faces, that brief snippet on the car radio before a parent turns it off, the headline grabbing voice on the TV in the barber shop, the lunch counter, or car repair store. The cruel world weaves its way into their consciousness.

And whoa to the young child who has begun to read - how can they miss these stories on newspapers, magazines, TVs, computer screens?

If your child goes to school, your child is likely to hear about these hard stories from classmates and other students. Just as in the snippet about the block play above - friends will introduce children to these topics even if families are avoiding the conversation at home, even if families have walled off their child from the news.

Our violent world is the proverbial elephant in the classroom.

I don't see how it is possible to entirely shelter a child from these topics and I believe it is wrong to pretend that we can.

What is better, to have them hear a snippet of something real and violent and frightening, and then try to process it entirely on their own, in their own head? Or to dare to speak truth in a developmentally appropriate way?

We can't ignore violence.
We make a huge mistake when we avoid these hard conversations with our children.

We don't need to immerse them in the details of violent incidents, but we need children to be assured they are safe and we keep them safe. Certainly, we need to assure them that school is a very safe place. We need to honor their questions and concerns with answers, however incomplete or brief those answers might be. ("You are always safe here, I take care of you.")

Adults should intentionally cultivate opportunities for conversations about imprecise social issues, such as -
- arguments and how to have disagreements,
- how best to treat one another when we disagree,
- how to show frustration and anger in appropriate ways,
- how to join into play,
- how to be a helper,
- who is hurting? are you hurting? how to help someone who is hurting,
- what makes us feel safe? what makes us safer?
- what to do if they are scared,
- how to assert yourself when someone has something you want,
- what is fair?
- what to say or do when someone's doing something you don't like,
- how to listen to other perspectives,
- how to believe one thing strongly even while a classmate believes something else - and know that this is okay,
- how to make amends,
- how to give one another space,
-who to go to and what to do when something bad happens,
and so many more thoughtful, unending, ongoing conversations that normalize the work of living and being together. These respectful conversations will help a child feel less anxious, more able, and more hopeful. Through such conversations, we'll move from a stance of fear into one of courage.

We need to get children thinking about nonviolence. Our world needs this, now.

I believe the sad truth is - we must dare to talk about it now.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

SOLSC 20: How do you spell 'Hot Diggity Dog'?




I am participating in the
March 2018 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


As soon as I arrived at school this morning, I changed around the dramatic play area in my classroom. I'm such a pro at these reorganizations that I only needed about twenty minutes to make it happen. Out with the suitcases and the travel theme, in with a restaurant! I set up the kitchen as one long galley against one wall for our many passionate chefs; I moved two small tables to the center of the area, draping them in tablecloths and setting them with dishes, to entice our hungry customers; I transformed the puppet show booth into a hostess stand, right at the entrance, so that we might welcome guests to our charming establishment. 

It may seem strange to change it just four days before spring break, but changing the area was more than overdue. All three of us teachers (my two Teaching Residents and I) felt invigorated by the change - it was like a breath of fresh air to imagine new play and conversation with the children. Also, I feel as if it gives us a chance to see what the children most like to do with the area, and we'll be more informed about the children's interests, as we plan the learning for the remainder of the year. The Teaching Residents are running a unit on Cooking, and this dramatic play area will be a fabulous complement to that unit. 

As students walked into the classroom at this morning's arrival, I met them at the hostess stand and said, "Welcome to the Big Cats' Restaurant, today is our 'soft opening.' Please come in and visit with us." Their eyes grew wide with delight and incredulity - everyone loves a happy surprise! They immediately entered into play, searching for plates, cookware, pretend foods, and taking on various roles. (I was most amused by the two children who honed in on using the broom and dustpan! Every good restaurant needs this kind of teamwork!) Their excitement was palpable...yes, it was more than time to make changes to this area! At our morning gathering, I shared that we will brainstorm ways to grow this  restaurant over the next many weeks, adding in their suggestions of what to name the restaurant, making menus, taking down people's orders, deciding what we should cook, and so much more...we will all work together to have a great time at the restaurant. One student exclaimed, "Hot diggity dog!!" and we all burst out laughing.

The restaurant had an excellent 'soft opening.'

That wasn't the only happy surprise of the day. Fast forward, I am home from school. Unbelievably, just after 7pm, D.C. Public Schools announced that schools are closed tomorrow. Snow day! Wow!! This. Day. Off. Is. So. Needed. It feels as if I have been given an extra day this week...my list of to do's has been bursting at the seam, and now I can be home and focused, with feet up, hot tea at my side, computer on my lap...oh my, oh my, oh my! I feel like a little kid, I am so excited. 

(Of course, the power must stay on, if my fantasy day is truly going to be fulfilled ;-)

(I wonder how much shoveling I'll have to do? My husband is in Atlanta...this is going to be all on me...hmmm. Fresh air and exercise is never a bad thing, right?!)

D.C. Public Schools are like the "little engine that could" of this area...all the surrounding counties will cancel school (as they have many times this school year), but D.C. chugs on, "I think I can, I think I can." This storm must be a doozy, to have them announce the closing the evening before. Oh my, it just dawned on me - I don't have to wake up early and search for the announcement! Is a "no alarm clock" morning - woohoo!

This preschool teacher is smiling! Yes, she is! All I can say is, "Hot diggity dog!"




Monday, March 19, 2018

SOLSC #19: How many different voices?






I am participating in the
March 2018 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.



A long, demanding day with so many facets. What teacher hasn't had that strange sensation of being in so many places at once, where you are present with a small group of students but thinking about the upcoming family conference or interrupted by an administrative task or challenged by someone's behavior?

I keep a school journal beside me at all times during the day, to capture data, anecdotes, and important things I've heard and want to remember. It's late in the day and I haven't written a slice, so I thought it might be interesting to capture fragments from today's journal notes... showing how many pivots a teaching day has...how I volley between adults and preschoolers, between coaching, teaching, collaborating, conferencing, connecting...always so much going on. Here are those scraps of notes from my journal -

Can be a toxic emotion in a classroom.
Create chart of student assignments for Intersession
"I painted, and you know what we painted with? Apples!"
"Those go like this, and those turn, and they fall down, and some balls flip...it's going to be the awesome way!"
"It's a rock cross. Step, step, step - and you don't fall in. Come, follow me."
"Can we have a ramp contest and see whose goes down?"
love of learning
Are you just going through the motions? What are you feeling?
Structure creates safety.
Paying attention to the internal state of the teacher.
Professional development - worst ones are ineffective use of time, best ones are stimulating, interactive, thought-provoking
As Fred Rogers says, 'You'll always find someone who's trying to help.'


Yes, this is fragmented. Which is how I feel this Monday evening, fragmented. Wooh. Four more days until spring break!








Sunday, March 18, 2018

SOLSC #18: How did I forget this?




I am participating in the
March 2018 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


Today is my Mom's 89th birthday and somehow I managed to forget it. I remembered it two weeks ago and I remembered it this morning, but I didn't think of it in between. Therefore, my traditional gift of sending flowers and a card could not happen. Sadly, I know it doesn't really matter because my Mom has Alzheimer's and doesn't even know it is her birthday; she certainly has no worries about me missing it.

As I brooded over this, I realized there were some very sweet years when she would get flowers and be so thrilled over them, phone me right away, and mention them yet again on the next week's call. I didn't realize how precious this was, at the time. I only know it in retrospect.

Alzheimer's set in, and that sweet experience disappeared. Now, the flowers come and the caregiver has to draw Mom's attention to them. The memory or understanding of the gift doesn't make any impression at all. However, she loves to look at them and remembers clearly that flowers are pretty - and every time she looks at the bouquet, they are new to her again. "Oh, look at the pretty flowers!" This brief, repetitive joy is enough for me and why I will still send flowers to her, arriving as a belated birthday gift.

Let's get back to this morning...certainly, I had to call her and wish her happy birthday! A simple phonecall would have to do.

I called the house and my Dad called her immediately to the phone - "It's Maureen, to wish you Happy Birthday!"

Mom confusedly says into the phone, "Happy Birthday?"

I said, "No, it's YOUR birthday, Mom!" and immediately launched into song, Happy Birthday to you!

As soon as my singing ended, she gushed with excitement,

"Oh, thank you! I will remember this always!"

Always,
for one moment,
was really beautiful. 

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

SOLSC #17 What if I ramble today?




I am participating in the
March 2018 Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


It's mid-month in this blogging challenge and I am so aware of how my slicing ideas are so totally bereft. Time, too, is ridiculously precious - this must be the craziest March since I began participating in the challenge seven years ago. No time and no ideas do not a good slice make! Ha! Yesterday's post was written on the fly, a "place holder" simply posted to ensure I was making a post for the day, and then I quickly squeezed in time to comment on three others. (The good news is...no one commented on my post yesterday - ha, my goal of invisibility for that particular post was achieved!!) My hope is that I am absolutely alone in this sad type of blogging, however I suspect that this rudderless, pointless, 'meh' kind of writing hits everyone at some point, and, goodness knows, writing for 31 days in a row shines a real focused light on the deprivation.

Write on.  

Today, Saturday, looms quiet and I thought I'd just ramble onto this page and see what emerges. 

I am thinking about beginning teachers, novice teachers, first year in the classroom public school teachers. Whew. My school is a residency school for a teaching alternative certification program, meaning we have maybe a dozen Teaching Residents working alongside lead teachers; next year, these "emerging teachers" will be the teacher of record in their own classrooms in other schools in the city - i.e., first year public school teachers. I've been working with Teaching Residents for eight years, working alongside them in my preschool classroom. I feel "intellectually" aware and savvy of pretty much all things new early childhood teachers experience.

Two years ago, my son became a Teaching Resident (not at my school!!) and he is now, much to my amazement and delight, a first year teacher in a public school - unbelievably, he is teaching prek-3, just like me.

Some days I just want to pinch myself! How can my life's joy and passion be the same as that of my child's?

It's pretty amazing.

But then, of course, there's the dark side. As I said, I feel "intellectually" aware and savvy of pretty much all things new early childhood teachers experience...now, I am emotionally aware of everything that these teachers experience. I am watching my baby (oh, he would hate that I am writing that - thus, I will not name my son ;-)...I am watching my baby work so very, very hard...practice, practice, try, fail, do-over, try again, practice, success!, strive, dare, practice, practice, mis-step, mis-step, practice, practice, success!, setback, reconsider, practice, practice, practice, triumph!, practice, practice, practice...every day is filled with new stories, many joyful, many stressful, all truly normal in the development of a [dare I say "great"? is it possible to brag about the future?] teacher. Thankfully, he works in a very positive school environment, one that truly cultivates teachers - coaching, mentoring, and leading them into expertise. I see him becoming the reflective, creative, and joyful teacher that I would love children to have...

but, wow, teaching is hard work! 
Teaching as a first year teacher is excruciatingly hard at times. 
Being a parent of a first year teacher is a pretty wild ride.

Honestly, I can feel myself aging this school year!