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.






Monday, March 27, 2017

sol17-27 How shall we sort?




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.


A container of "whirly twirly lines"



We've been exploring found objects for several days. Today, I wanted to challenge the children to sort the items - to create "collections" of like objects. I've approached this in different ways through the years. Sometimes, I've suggested sorts or even put a few items of a certain type in various containers, just to get the children started. This year, I challenged myself to let the children be a little bit more in control...what would happen if I let them decide what the sort would be? What did they want to collect?

I set out the found objects with several empty containers, as well. I wanted the children to hone in on something special. I invited the children over in small groups and I asked them - Which object do you like best? Which one do you find especially interesting? What do you notice about it?

Then, I nudged them - can you find other objects that are similar to this one?

One container of "long stringy things"; another of  "things that hold things" 
The small groups worked as teams to look through the remaining objects and find ones that fit each other's collections. 

Oh my, did these preschoolers ever amaze me! 

We sorted by 
blue, 
green, 
purple,
metal,
soft,
shiny.
We found all the 
wheels, 
keys,
animals.
brushes.
We collected 
round, rubber things, 
A container of "music things"
long strings,
things with whirly twirly lines, and 
"things that can hold other things" - basically, creating a container of containers. 


My favorite may be the preschooler who put a block in side a can and then shook it, telling me "music! I like music." He proceeded to find things that made noise - tapping his thigh with a spoon, shaking a wheel, holding a pen cap up to his mouth and blowing noises onto it, telling me it was a harmonica. Really pretty funny!


It is so fun and exciting to watch the way children think, and to see how hard they work to accomplish their goals.




Sunday, March 26, 2017

sol17-26 Why did I make room for that in my head?




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 really thankful for this year's writing challenge - it seems to have catapulted me out of my writer's block. Although I have sliced with Two Writing Teachers for six years, by this fall I was rarely participating in the weekly slicing. I was not quite sure what to write. My blog had more or less come to a standstill. 

Why did I start having trouble writing posts? 

Awhile ago, an administrator asked me not to publicize my blog with families of my students. Mind you, I began writing this blog about early childhood long before I began working at my current school and, over the years, the families of my students were an ideal place to find readers, leading into conversations about real issues in early childhood. This administrator challenged me about the blog's existence, saying that this blog was not sanctioned by the school and did not represent the school, and that I should be very, very careful about what I write. 

It is true - this is my blog, filled with my thoughts, ideas, opinions, reflections, questions. It is entirely mine. It is not a school blog. It is my outlet, my writing, my pastime.

I don't agree with or understand this administrator's perspective. Why not embrace and welcome teachers to write, think, reflect outside the classroom? 

I took extra steps to make my posts more anonymous. I no longer share with families or colleagues that I write a blog. I went quiet. For awhile, this worked fine - I wrote. Then I started writing less. And less. And less. Even without agreeing to this administrator's perspective, I made space for it in my head. Doubt crept in. I began to question -  

should I be writing?
is there any value?
what is my point?

There you have it -
a negative voice,
leading to
a boundary,
a wall,
a block,
a boulder,
stopping much of my writing,
leaving me
stuck,
blank,
empty.


Then along comes the March writing challenge! The reality of saying yes to this writing challenge: I don't get to wallow, I don't get to be blocked, I simply must write.

All my questions have fallen to the wayside. Now I am wondering, why did I make room for that negative voice in my head? There will always be plenty to write about.



I hope I can hold on to this writing habit after the challenge. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

sol17-25 Should we expect that?




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 was once told during an observation,

"Some children left the table after only a short while, meaning that they were not engaged."

Does it?

Well, I suppose, it might. You could probably make a case for this...whatever was at the table wasn't interesting, or the teacher didn't engage the child, or...

However, I don't think how long a student stays in one place necessarily indicates that they are stimulated by the work.

Should preschoolers be expected to stay in one place, to engage in a center?
What if they think of something else they want to do, in addition to this?
If they reach a stopping point, do we respect them enough to let them slip away?
Isn't it possible that they will perhaps return to do more in this center later?
What does engagement look like at age 3 and 4?
Should teachers be insisting that children stay put, working in one place?
Is the value of an activity directly related to how many students do it and for how long?
Should teachers insist that every student participate in every activity?
What do preschoolers learn when they get to decide what interests them?

I have open centers, student choice. On the best of days, I have nearly 90 minutes of this time for preschoolers, with a range of things for them to do, investigate, play, explore, learn. This means, preschoolers move freely from and between block building, science investigations, art exploration, dramatic play, writing, and more. There are three teachers in the classroom and at least one is a "floater," moving about the room and observing closely; another teacher (or sometimes two) is anchored to an activity, guiding students in specific ways.

I believe preschoolers should have the right and the privilege to leave the table, move away from a center, try another activity. I believe, as much as possible, they should be able to choose their learning. I believe that this flexibility of choice is developmentally appropriate practice.

Certainly, my hope is that I have stimulated them with the activity that has been introduced.
Of course, I know some preschoolers who resist new things, and I work with these students a little more, helping them to stretch and try.
Simultaneously, I am trying to cultivate longer attention spans and the ability to keep at something, even if it gets hard or doesn't go the way you expect.
Even so, I believe it is possible to work on things over time and sometimes taking a break is just what is needed.
Hopefully, I am observant about each individual student, noticing what they do and reflecting on what they need.
Argumentatively, there are so many individual circumstances that could change all meaning of what just happened!

I guess you can tell that this line from my observation report didn't sit well with me!

I walk away from my writing a lot. I'll write something, wander off and wash dishes or run a load of laundry, perhaps even go teach for the day, and then return to my writing, read through it, write some more, revise, and maybe wander off again. 

Do we respect this flexibility and choice in our youngest learners ?


Friday, March 24, 2017

sol17-24 What makes our community better?




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.



As I was exiting the metro train this morning, a young man endearingly called out to me, "Ladyglove." There was a brief mental delay on my part before I realized he had noticed that I left my gloves on the seat - and I thanked him profusely, with an embarrassed giggle. Not a morning to walk without gloves. A huge smile filled my face as I walked on, pulling on my gloves, and I repeated, affectionately, "Ladyglove, Ladyglove, Ladyglove." Funny that my first thought was that he was just being pleasant.

Little things are so important.

Somehow, this got me thinking about the small steps my preschoolers have taken, making our community better - 
- she often uses a regular voice now, rather than that high-pitched screech
- similarly, he often uses a regular voice now, rather than that whine
- he no longer needs our assistance in the bathroom
- she is helping with clean up
- he worked on that activity for a good long while, very focused
- she stroked his back when she saw that he was crying
- yes, he's still dumping things out, but he enjoys picking them back up
- he plays with his classmates, not just alongside
- she is eager to share her things with others
- he can come to school in a dress and no one bats an eye
- she invited others to play with her
- he lies quietly on his cot during nap

These are not big things, but they make the day so much smoother - like gloves on a cold day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

sol17-23 Who are we?




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.


Note - you know you are using new "thinking" muscles when you wake up in the middle of the night with a clear idea for a slice...that's exactly what happened here, proving this daily writing challenge is such a good habit! 


Let's call her Lillian. She is one of my calm, predictable children. She is always eager to see what is happening in a small group, 'ready to go' when you call her name. She is pleasant with her classmates, going along with their ideas and sometimes suggesting her own. I would like to hear a more independent voice from her, I'd like to hear more of her ideas. In conflicts, she might be reduced to tears and come find me to help resolve, but she is never physical in her reactions. Although this last note is such an asset in a bustling classroom of preschoolers, I would like to see her assert herself when she feels wronged. In short, we adore Lillian and she is a very engaged and happy preschooler.

Fast forward - Dad comes to pick Lillian up at the end of the school day; he has picked up her older brother Calvin first. Calvin is a third grader and, though I never taught him, I sense that he has much the same temperament as his sister. It is atypical for Dad to pick up Calvin first; typically Lillian goes with Dad to get Calvin. Anyhow, Calvin is happily finishing his classroom snack, a packet of fruit snacks.

Here's where I was simply stunned -

Lillian rushes over to him and loudly, vehemently demands "Give me one!" and Calvin smiles, turns his body away from her, and says "No, they are all gone" and takes his last bite with a satisfied gulp. Without a moment's hesitation, Lillian starts to beat on Calvin - both fists, bam, bam, bam. The older brother giggles and moves away quickly, but Lillian screams at him and begins to chase him down. I have never seen her angry like this! (Deftly, Dad grabs Lillian by the hand and quickly exits the room with both children.)

Truly, from my perspective - Lillian went from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.

I wonder, how hard is it for Lillian to be so 'good' each day in preschool? Is school simply a safer place, surrounded by people who she knows less well? Or, is she 'on guard' at school? Is this a good thing? (For my daily reality as her teacher, it is certainly a good thing - my work would be so much more difficult if she were so physical in her conflicts!)

I think about how attuned I was to her social-emotional learning - how I would like to see her assert herself when she feels wronged. I bet these words would sound pretty funny to her family, who know her best in her role as sibling to Calvin.

Who are we, really?
Are we our real selves around family?
Do we act differently with different people?
When are we wearing a mask, acting a role, doing something less authentic?






Wednesday, March 22, 2017

sol17-22 What about that?




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.



"Look, it can tie!"
"This is for screwing things in."
"I have six keys."
"I can pull this piece off."
"This goes around and around."
"Hear the music!"
"You can squeeze this part off."
"This is a part of my Mommy's purse."
"I want to open it."
"It is very, very, very soft."
"See, it is a triangle tape."

We have just begun our found objects exploration, a yearly pleasure for me. At home, the children collected ten small, inconsequential, extra items - things their families didn't need anymore - and we will investigate and re-use in art, engineering, literacy, and math projects. Today, they dumped out their bags of these found objects and wondered aloud about their findings. These little bits of odds and ends are such curiosities! Hearing their non-stop chatter and watching them manipulate the pieces in unexpected ways, I once again was reminded -preschoolers are instinctively engineers, scientists, artists, mathematicians, and storytellers.

Here's to the beginning of what I know will be a fun journey! All I want to do is sit back and record children's words and watch them think.