Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tuesday SOL: Is it already past?




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.


A beautiful spring at the Franciscan Monastery.
My spring break was last week. For the first time in years, we stayed home. My husband is recuperating from minor surgery and therefore unable to walk long distances; it was not the time to be sightseeing and touring in some new locale.

We managed to have the most delightful week, all the same. Of course, I live in the Washington, D.C. area, so there were many things to see and do very close to home. I'll share a few photos. My brother Ralph and his family visited for a couple of days at Easter, and I slipped down to tour some of the monuments with them and to paddle boats on the Tidal Basin. I visited the Franciscan Monastery for the first time, enjoying its tranquil, meditative grounds. On one perfect, irresistible spring day, Tony was feeling well enough to visit our local park (Wheaton Regional Brookside Gardens), and I walked the grounds while he rested on a bench. Our special week at home together ended with a powerful, surprise hail storm followed by a double rainbow. I'm sure there is some meaning to this finale!

I realized, there's a surprising amount of relaxation and respite that comes with a "staycation." Simple walks around my neighborhood in the middle of the day seemed so peaceful and dear. Digging weeds out of my garden beds seemed both long overdue and low-pressured. Reading, journaling, and napping were three essential daily activities.
Gorgeous day at Wheaton Regional Park

How to describe the lazy pace of a week at home, without any school pressures? Things moved slowly, slowly, slowly...in the best possible sense! Example number one - I sorted through my clothes, moving winter things into the hope chest and freshly folding and hanging spring and summer clothes. (This is the seasonal reality of an old house with small closets.)

Another example - I cleaned my classroom betta fish's aquarium...a task I had put off for so very long. When would I have found this hour, without a lot of down time all around it?

Perhaps my most vivid example of the delightfully slow pace of a week at home - I often went on not one but two walks a day in my neighborhood.  I had so many noticings...the quiet all around, the bright colored azaleas, the beautiful dogwoods, the dappled light under trees, the unexpected breezes. Is it possible that I hadn't done this since my children were little? When I returned home, I reflected in my journal...which, of course, resulted in this blogpost.

Does it get any better than this, this delight of slow, found time?

Yes, it was a fabulous week - and leisure was the rule.

Here it is Tuesday, a mere 48 hours later. Is it already past?





Wheaton Regional Park...you'll have to look very closely to find Tony on a bench!

I loved the reflections of the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin.



Tony and I headed out to a movie in downtown Silver Spring, and caught a double rainbow!
This teacher couldn't resist the ABC's of Life at the Franciscan Monastery.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What could be more 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.


I am delighted to be on spring break and, thus, I will keep this slice short and sweet! 

Last week, our school celebrated "intersession," where our students work in mixed-age small groups on different topics over several days. My small group was comprised of nine students, a mix of preschoolers through kindergarteners, and we built forts outdoors. 

Our supplies were simple: old sheets and cloths, one water-resistant tarp for our floor, sticks, twine, clothespins, rubber bands, and a couple of really cool clamps. Each day, we built a big fort in a different location around our school and then sat inside, reading books and eating snacks. What could be more fun? Here are the highlights: 

  • Hearing and seeing children's imagination run free - they created 'campfires' out of sticks and imagined a warm fire, they fought off invisible monsters, and they spontaneously shared stories about escaping, hiding, surviving...what if no one could see us? what would it be like to stay out all night? what if we lived here for real? It was so fun to hear their imaginative ideas. 

  • Seeing the mixed-ages play together seamlessly, kindergarteners helping younger ones (reading books aloud! that was very exciting!), preschoolers playing along and keeping up with the older children, working hard to be 'equals.' 

  • One day, we had a light rain - but we sat protected under our roof of sheets, all cozied in together, enjoying books and telling stories. 

It was a very special few days of fun times outdoors, creating together. 





Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesday SOL - Have you noticed 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.


I stepped out of a workshop called "Building a Trauma-Informed Classroom," and into the metro underground. My head and heart were filled with information. 

They had just stepped through the metro turnstiles, coming towards me. She appeared to be a young mother, certainly no more than 20 or 21. He was running alongside her, scampering in that unpredictable way that a two year old does. I started to smile at his sweet look. She yelled to him, "You better  #$@&%*! -ing stop! I am sick of you! What the #$@&%*! you think you're doing?" I averted my eyes. 

One "ACE." At least.

Adverse Childhood Experiences - ACEs

ACEs are those stressful, perhaps even traumatic factors that children are just born into, through no fault of their own, that will trouble them all their life: parents or caregivers who abuse drugs or alcohol, have a bitter divorce, become incarcerated, suffer acute health issues, become incarcerated, practice emotional or physical abuse, live in acute poverty, suffer unemployment or homelessness...there are innumerable ACEs. 

According to the workshop leader, Dr. Megan McCormick-King of Insite Solutions, 37% of D.C. kids have at least one ACE; 11% of D.C. kids have four or more ACEs. The risk of developmental delays is more acute in children with four or more ACEs. Further, the risk of early death is more likely with four or more ACEs.

Although these statistics are depressing, the workshop was also hopeful. It heartened me to hear that children become resilient with consistent and responsive relationships, overcoming much of the harm from these adverse childhood experiences. The importance of my work as a preschool teacher was clear - to create a safe, happy early childhood classroom, where teachers are focused and mindful about each of their students. Every young child deserves "unconditional positive regard" - and such interaction feeds the growing brain in amazing, restorative ways. Here are just a couple tidbits that I hope to weave into my teaching in the days and years to come:

  • Create opportunities for "Serve and Return" - the simple back and forth between a child and caregiver, allowing the child to 'serve' an idea and, allow me - the caregiver - to meet the child right there at that idea, and converse about it, play along...let the child lead.
  • When I see those challenging behaviors - consider for a minute, what 'Serve and Return' behaviors are not being met? Is the child acknowledged/noticed/seen on the most basic level?
  • Be sure to acknowledge children, to send the consistent message - "I see you, I hear you." 
  • Help children build strategies for waiting and soothing, such as deep breathing, taking a break, having a safe space.
  • For those truly challenging children, build a relationship with special emphasis on 'non-contingency' time - time when you let the child direct the play. Dare to give the child five minutes of time when everything he does is noticed and acknowledged, but not questioned or critiqued. (There is a whole training for this technique - Teacher Child Interactive Training (TCIT), which I will most certainly look into.) 
It was a fabulous workshop...this one small slice hardly does it justice. 

Let me circle back to the young mother in the metro, yelling at her small child. I averted my eyes, speechless, stunned, feeling raw from the workshop. Right behind me was a young man, all of about 14 - and he spoke up. He yelled "Stop speaking to your child like that!" She quickly retorted, "Shut up!," and kept walking the other direction, but I wonder if he planted a seed. 

This left me hopeful, too. It takes everyone of us, paying attention to our young children.


Friday, March 31, 2017

sol17-31 What just zoomed by?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.



I am totally unsure about how to close out this fabulous month of writing. I am so thankful to Two Writing Teachers for hosting this writing challenge! I enjoyed writing daily, I loved reading and commenting on others' posts, and I totally appreciated all the comments I received on my own blog posts.

I think what really surprised me was that - with the exception, perhaps, of today - I was able to think of something new to write about each and every day. What a surprise, in the midst of what felt like a period of drought in my writing! I have learned an important lesson - Keep writing. Just write. Always write.

So, I'm going to keep writing. I'm back in the game. I look forward to the Tuesday Slice of Life, I look forward to writing about my preschoolers, I look forward to reading, commenting, and connecting with this rich writing community. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! I will end here, because I know there will be more in the days and weeks to come...








Thursday, March 30, 2017

sol17-30 Won't you sleep?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


I have one little preschooler who, no matter the day, cannot settle herself, stay quiet, or fall asleep at naptime unless she has a teacher's help. Truly, this is an amazing year because there is only one such student in the midst of a class of twenty-two preschoolers. There are several who are slow to nap and a handful who don't nap at all - but each of these is very quiet and respectful, able to self-soothe. Now, late March, this little girl and we teachers have our routine down - we first help everyone else in the room find their cot, lovey, special blanket, etc., and then one of us finds our way to her cot and sit down next to her, rubbing and patting her back. It actually has become a very sweet ritual. As I watched her fall asleep today, I thought I should try to capture some of this in a poem. Here goes!


I'll watch her fall to sleep.

She smiles and stares, all wide-eyed,
She calls out to her friends.
She's doing aerobics on her cot
Her body twists and bends.

I'll watch her fall to sleep.

I tell her it is time to rest,
She can't be dancing on the bed.
She frowns with slight protest
But agrees to what I said.

I'll watch her fall to sleep.

She fidgets with her lovey,
she tries not to make a sound.
Then she calls "Ms. Ingram!"
giving a pat to the ground. 

I'll watch her fall to sleep.

I move my chair next to her cot
She asks, "Will you stay with me?"
I reassure her, "I am here,
Now you must lay quietly."

I'll watch her fall to sleep.

She is so sweet and I wonder why
This napping becomes so hard.
We all learn at our own pace,
One day she will need no guard. 

I'll watch her fall to sleep.

I pat her back a little bit,
And I pat her back some more.
She wiggles her feet, nestles in,
Her blanket falls to the floor.

I'll watch her fall to sleep.

I pat her back in gentle rhythm.
Adjust her blanket just fine
The thumb goes in her mouth
I know that's a sleepy sign.

I'll watch her fall to sleep.

She looks up at me with one last glance,
Then softly closes her eyes.
There's a rhythm to her breathing
For which there is no disguise.
-->

I watched her fall to sleep.




Wednesday, March 29, 2017

sol17-29 Isn't teaching easy?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


My Teaching Resident is working as our classroom lead this week, and she will take the lead more and more over the remaining weeks in the school year. This is always a hard and amazing time of year for me, as I struggle to step back, intervene, or fix situations, and, simultaneously, I watch the Teaching Resident grow before my eyes. Yes, hard and amazing. Our "transfer of power" is not understood by the children - or, actually, maybe it is immediately understood. It seems that the Teaching Resident's voice doesn't carry as much authority. The children find the small openings in her directions and expectations, and act in ways I have never experienced before. For a novice teacher, these new, unexpected behaviors are challenging and constant work.

There's something about this time of year - when the Teaching Resident is leading - that always reminds me of the first six weeks of school. Today, things fell apart at clean up. Clean up! A routine that has been in place since day one...without a doubt, the children KNOW this routine. Oh my, did things fall apart. There was running. There was a just a wee bit of throwing. There was lots of disinterest, identified by children who sidled away from the work, hung out in one's cubby - avoiding. But the piece de resistance was the tantrums - three absolutely amazing loud, screaming tantrums, one feeding off another, bringing the room to such a level of discord...all because these three children did not want to stop playing. Wow.

What was super impressive: my Teaching Resident stopped the clean up music and had everyone breathe in/breathe out. It took several minutes, but calm came back. (It helped immeasurably that I slipped two of the hysterical children for breaks in other rooms - there's no conversing with someone who is having a tantrum; save your conversation for when they are calmer.) Somehow we returned to cleaning, and then we went on with our day. Right afterwards, my Teaching Resident said - "Children, 1, Teacher, 0." It must have felt like she 'failed' or 'lost' - but, honestly, isn't this how we learn our best behavior management practices, having endured these tough situations?

Later, we reflected together. We talked about reading the room - what clues did we miss that things were going to fall apart? Are there things that should be slowed down? Would it help to pull certain children aside before clean up and speak to them in advance/prepare them for what happens next? Would it help to talk to the class and reflect on what went wrong? Repeat expectations? Problem-solve together? So much to think about, so many possibilities. Tomorrow is another day and it will be better!





Tuesday, March 28, 2017

sol17-28 Who's the very best?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


I have learned through the years that the more precisely I have planned out my day, the more likely something unexpected will wreak havoc with these plans. I should have known that something new would be thrown my way today, when I was almost on autopilot from the get-go.

The alarm goes off early, there is a very full day ahead. Everything is precisely planned. Make tea, do my morning workout, eat breakfast, shower and get dressed, head out the door. I'm not taking metro today because there is an evening meeting at school and metro service is much less regular in the evenings. I won't be home until 8pm; I'll drive to school. Throughout the drive, my mind races, as I review all my to do's of the day ahead. I park the car and start to walk away.

"Ma'am! Hello, Ma'am!," someone driving by tries to get my attention,
"Yes?" I answer.
"Your front left tire - it's really low - not quite flat. But you want to fix that."
Oops.
"Thank you!" I answer.

And I freeze. I just stare at the tire.
Yes, it is really, really low.

Can I make the 30 minute drive home with the tire like that?

Ugh.
What to do?
This is not a day when I have a moment to breathe.
I'll be driving home in the dark.
Ugh.

I know who will help me think this through.
I call my husband as I walk towards school and I tell him the situation, to find out if he thinks I can get home on the tire. 
Without any hesitation, he replies,
"Oh, I noticed that yesterday and I meant to take care of it. I'll slip over to your school and fix the tire while you are teaching."

I think I have the very best husband in the world.