Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday SOL When do you see the learning?



This is a Tuesday Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers
Check out their website for many more reflections on teaching.


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We have just had the most terrific week of school. I am convinced that the return to school after spring break is one of the best times of the school year - when you see the learning!

We are in the midst of a transportation theme - cars, trucks, boats, things that go. (Always a favorite topic with preschoolers!) In engineering, we created boats out of cardboard recyclables and foil. We tested them in the water table. As I planned for the lesson, I imagined our test site for the boats to be nice and calm and orderly, like this:


And, for a moment, it truly was! But that was only because the others were still hard at work finishing their boats - adding details, making walls, working with the tape. Within a few minutes, the test site looked like this:




There was a flurry of activity - many, many boats, many, many children, many, many hands, many, many questions and comments - all at once! Both Ms. Kim [Teaching Resident] and I fell into the beloved position of 'guide on the side' - not directing, but encouraging, making suggestions, helping them to find space to work. Truly, these children were instructing themselves:

Why is my boat sinking? 
What does it need? 
The bottom is getting wet. 
I think it needs walls! 
Why is the tape not sticking? 
Is this tape stronger? 
Mine is so huge, it doesn’t sink. 
The foil is ripping! 
Oh no, it is sinking, again. 
Look, this end is down, but this one is up! 
What if I made it bigger? 
Look, mine is floating! 
Mine is small and strong! 

They were self-propelled, unbridled, engaged…moving back and forth between the water table and the engineering supplies. They tested the boats to see if they would float; upon seeing the boat sink, they would rush back to make repairs and modifications; then, they were right back at the water table to test again. (I quickly covered the engineering table with towels, to catch all the water dripping off of their boats.) It was a very organic and busy process with children motivated to solve the problem themselves. I wish I had a video about the activity - these few photos are all I have.

This engineer is directing me where to put the tape!


At the end of this very lively centers' time, we gathered as whole group and I asked children to share about their boats. Did it float? Did it sink? Why did it float or sink? 

Here are their thoughts:


Why Did My Boat Sink?

·     It didn’t have enough pieces
·     The pedal come off
·     Needs more tape
·     Flat parts don’t have energy
·     It was gently wobbling
·     Water went through foil
·     They didn’t have any walls
·     If boats crash, they sink

Why Did My Boat Float?                  

·     A lot of things on bottom
·     Smaller ones don’t sink
·     Heavy walls
·     It had enough energy
·     It was too strong
·     Added more foil
·     It had enough tape and things on it
·     The paper


This is science inquiry at its best! We have a classroom of budding engineers and scientists.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday SOL When will we be back together?



This is a Tuesday Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers
Check out their website for many more reflections on teaching.


******

Today is our first day back at school after a beautiful spring break...I had a fabulous time, hiking in the Georgia mountains with my husband. We stayed in a cabin at Vogel State Park, near Blairsville, Georgia, and did day hikes in the Appalachian mountains that surround this park. 

Yesterday - Monday - staff returned to school for a professional day, to plan our final weeks of the school year. Anyone who is a teacher knows how delightful this "cushion day" was - allowing a time of transition from spring break to classroom teaching. I thoroughly enjoyed this bonus day before returning to my teaching role.

It was really sweet to see a few of my preschoolers at the on-site daycare program, allowing me a sneak peek at the children I have - quite honestly - been missing a great deal. I was working on lesson plans in our classroom when I saw a few of the children walk by in the hallway with an instructor. They saw me, I saw them, and I saw nothing but confusion on their faces. Why was I in the classroom but they were not? What was going on? 

James, in fact, quickly put up his hand as a blinder, as if he did not want to see me or me to see him.

I called out,

"Hey there! You can't walk by without giving me a hug! Come here, buddies! Group hug time!" and I spread my arms wide to embrace them, to invite them towards me.

Immediately, Simona, Ellis, James, Naima, Wesley, and Malcolm raced into the classroom and dove in for a group hug. Evan stood back, uncertain. 

Many questions poured forth -
Why are you here?
Is this a school day?
Did you know I saw my grammy?
Did you know I was at camp?
I saw my cousins!
Did you miss me?
Did you know it was spring break?

James, with conviction, concluded - "Ms. Ingram, tomorrow is not a camp day anymore, right?"

"No, James, tomorrow we are back together - we are going to have a great time, the Big Cats together again, here in the classroom!"

With this news, he gave me another big hug, and everyone else joined in, again. Except Evan, still uncertain, but a slow grin coming over his face.


Here's to today - and our great time, together again!




But before I go, let me share a few pictures from my week of hiking...















Tuesday, March 31, 2015

SOLSC 2015 #31: Do you make space?



Happy last day of the writing challenge!! Each day during March, I participated in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC). My slices are primarily about teaching preschoolers. Check out the Two Writing Teachers  website for lots more reflections on teaching.

Kudos to all the slicers this month! We did it! I have loved reading your blogs!

Thanks especially to Stacey, Tara, Anna, Beth, Dana, and Betsy for hosting this writing challenge!
*******


I apologize for the huge unevenness of this daily blogging. 


I realize now - 
the very habit of writing, 
leads not to perfection but to ease. 
This was my fourth year of this writing challenge, and all my butterflies were gone - 
I always knew there was something that I could write about, I knew I would post each day.
The habit of writing makes it easier to do.

While I am proud of some of my posts, 
many seemed anemic, dull, and perhaps even "stuck." 
I know my writing is far, far from perfect - 
I dared to share it with you blemishes and all. 

Here, at month's end, I am tired. But, I am not out of ideas. I feel myself still wrestling with some topics - how might I write about these?

This daily blogging has shown me the essentialness of making space to write. 

To celebrate day 31, 
let me share a moment about this very thing, 
the beauty of making space....




Each and every day, she slips over to the writing table, and works on her drawing and writing. 
As the days have slipped by, one after another, this school year,
I've watched her begin to form the letters of her name, 
to work with stencils and then move on to draw freehand, 
to make only simple shapes and soon begin adding so many more details, 
to use only a small portion of the page and now work steadily to fill it.

She knows instinctively how to be a writer.

What do I see?
patience,
steadfastness,
repetition,
imagination,
happiness,
glow,
expectance,
perseverance,
risk,
joy,
variety, 
solitude,
engagement,
dailyness,
inspiration,
tenacity,
habit.

For me, 
she is a muse. 


Monday, March 30, 2015

SOLSC 2015 #30: Have you filled a bucket?



Each day during March, I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC). All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days. My slices will be primarily about teaching preschoolers. Check out the Two Writing Teachers  website for lots more reflections on teaching. Thanks especially to Stacey, Tara, Anna, Beth, Dana, and Betsy for hosting this writing challenge. 



*******

I am thinking about how hard it is to speak in positives,
to note what is going well,
to emphasize what is right and good.
In light of last week's oh so difficult day, we've been on a "gentle and loving" binge in my classroom…I am enthusiastically noting every behavior that I want repeated...

To help us in this renewed quest - to help us get back on the right track - we read the awesome book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud.


We had a large glass jar at the ready at the front of our classroom and all morning we added dominoes to this jar, to show the love and caring that was happening. There were so many great deeds! Children inviting others to play, sharing toys, using kind voices, being gentle with their hands, helping to clean up…on and on…yes, the jar was overflowing.

However, sometimes I felt as if it was only me that could see the kindness. All morning, children would come up to me and say "So and so is emptying my bucket…he/she just did blah blah blah"

To which I would say -
"What loving and kind things do you want him/her to do?"

And children would stammer,
"But she, but she, but she...ah, ah, ah…"

They couldn't get themselves out of the negative trap.

How negative are the voices in their lives normally? How negatively do I speak to them normally? It was a real challenge today to turn that around…it is so easy and so instinctive for us to note what is wrong!

Just for today, just for today, just for today…and start again every tomorrow...



You've got to accentuate the positive
eliminate the negative, 
latch on to the affirmative,  
but don't mess with mister in-between

Sunday, March 29, 2015

SOLSC 2015 #29: Can you build off of that?



Each day during March, I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC). All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days. My slices will be primarily about teaching preschoolers. Check out the Two Writing Teachers  website for lots more reflections on teaching. Thanks especially to Stacey, Tara, Anna, Beth, Dana, and Betsy for hosting this writing challenge. 



*******

My husband and I had a new adventure last night, attending a comedy improv competition. My colleague Ben has been taking regular classes through Washington Improv Theater and we were there to cheer him on! What a fun night! 

Wow, it takes guts to do this - to stand up in front of people and follow their cue, build on what they throw your way, and keep the humor coming fast. Yes, this is thinking 'on the spot'. Do their minds ever go blank (like my mind does sometimes!)? How do they plan for this? I sure didn't see any lapses, any frozen moments. So many fun little skits, one rapidly changing scene after another. Who is changing the scene? How do they know when to change the scene? How do they know the joke is over, enough has been said? 

I know he rehearsed with his team regularly before the competition; I'm sure that they had certain aspects of their fun routine "at the ready." 

I never get to see Ben teach - but I have no doubt that this extracurricular work embellishes his teaching...can't you see the parallels? Each and every day, we deal with the unexpected. Children, parents, colleagues, administrators throwing all sorts of unexpected things our way. Often, we have very little time to process before we begin to build on it.

Ben's comedy group advanced to round 3! The competition continues! Congrats, Ben! 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

SOLSC 2015 #28: Why is it called the art of teaching?



Each day during March, I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC). All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day for thirty-one days. My slices will be primarily about teaching preschoolers. Check out the Two Writing Teachers  website for lots more reflections on teaching. Thanks especially to Stacey, Tara, Anna, Beth, Dana, and Betsy for hosting this writing challenge. 



*******



Since September,
trying to help a child...

You see the growth that is needed,
how to ensure that it does?

Observe,
write things down
reflect,
speak with the child,
speak with the family,
identify what needs to be changed,
set a specific goal,
work on it directly,
intentionally change certain things, 
seek insight from colleagues,
let others observe,
tweak the environment so that success is inevitable, 
build a stronger relationship with the child,
foster trust,
build your relationship with the family,
help your team to see what you are seeing,
ask for input and suggestions,
hear feedback,
make a new plan,
reflect,
eliminate the obvious mis-steps, 
apologize when necessary,
wonder about the child,
build on strengths - the child's, yours, the teaching team, the family's
modify routines,
plan interactions with peers,
write up new plans,
increase communication,
soften your approach,
back off,
be patient,
try a little less of this,
try a little more of that,
do background research, 
find out more about it,
seek experts' advice and insight,
reflect,
work to make progress inevitable,
give the goal lots of attention,
ignore the goal,
seek the harmony of the middle,
all the while staying focused on the goal,
note the small successes, 
the incremental steps forward
repeat what works well,
keep faith in the child.



When you find yourself a little sad from the seeming lack of progress, remember those adages - 

This is why it is called the art of teaching

When the student is ready the teacher is there.

Never believe you are the last one to teach a child something.

Know that the child has her own timeline, 
the child decides,
you set up the environment,
you create her world,
making success more likely,
however,
ultimately,
the child decides.

Make peace with the possibility that you may not see growth this year.



Magically, yesterday, a huge step forward.
Progress.
It just happened.
I worked very hard to make it seem ordinary, to take it in stride.

My Teaching Assistant looked at me and said, 
"You didn't imagine it. It happened. I saw it, too. Awesome."


Ah, but we do ourselves a big disservice when we call it 'magic.'
or to say, simply,
'we were waiting for this.'

There were many, many, many small and important efforts that went into this, 
and must continue,
if this single step becomes the way forward for this child.



"So many things are done easily the moment you can do them at all.  But till then, simply impossible, like learning to swim.  There are months during which no efforts will keep you up; then comes the day and hour and minute after which, and ever after, it becomes impossible to sink.
"

C. S. Lewis