Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday SOL: Why should I care about Black Lives Matter?




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've been busy working on something very exciting and thought I should share it here, in this space, and - just maybe - I'll excite another teacher to join the fun. The week of February 5-9, 2018, I am participating in the Black Lives Matter Week of Action

The goal of the Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools is to spark an ongoing movement of critical reflection and honest conversations in school communities for people of all ages to engage with critical issues of social justice. It is our duty as educators and community members to civically engage students and build their empathy, collaboration, and agency so they are able to thrive. Students must learn to examine, address, and grapple with issues of racism and discrimination that persist in their lives and communities.
Why should I, a white teacher, participate in and celebrate Black Lives Matter in my preschool classroom? It's very simple, really:

I want to give preschoolers a foundation of love and respect for all.
I want them to learn to listen and wonder about other perspectives.
I want them to believe in their personal power and purpose. 
I want my preschoolers to imagine a world without the distortion of systemic racism.
I want to do right by my students of color.
I believe in social justice.
I believe in teaching empathy.
I believe each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) - yes, each and every child, without exception.
I believe I can make positive change in our world. 
I care. 
I must act.
I am a teacher.


Our nation is so troubled. It feels to me like people of color are under attack. Can my students of color anticipate a life of true equality? A world where they will be treated fairly? I have to start somewhere. Black Lives Matter feels like an important step to take.

I have been hard at work on lesson plans for the week, ways to integrate anti-bias, empathy, and perspective-taking in my preschool classroom. Honestly, I already think a lot about this in my work with young children. It is not a huge paradigm shift for me. I'm focusing on read-alouds that celebrate Black families, Black communities, Black culture, Black excellence, and Black authors - thankfully these are really easy to find. I will surround us with Black music. We will explore the color Black in our art. We will talk about how to help one another feel welcome, how to show kindness, what is fairness.These are simple, ordinary, intentional steps in any preschool classroom and I believe they will also bear witness to Black Lives Matter.

I've said this before: childhood lays the blueprint for the rest of our lives...it creates our 'norm', what is ordinary for us. What if anti-bias was the norm? What if equity was ubiquitous? What if skin color was irrelevant? 

I can dream. I can act. I can start.

I am excited.




Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tuesday SOL: What's the plan today?




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.


Last Wednesday was my first day back at school after our winter break. My sleep, the night before, was broken - as expected. I always have 'jitters' before returning to school after long breaks, feeling excited, unsettled, unknowing. Although it no longer surprises me, I continue to wonder why it happens. I mean, I know these children, my teaching team, the building, the day...why so unsettled? Ah, well.

We had a great first day back, everyone excited to be back together...and woke up to a snow day on our supposed second day back! What?! This was a gift of a day, not unlike being presented with delicious chocolates after having just devoured a homemade brownie. It's wonderful, delightful, amazing - and yet, seriously, did we really need it? (Of course, snow days aren't given to those who need a day off, but to areas that are having winter weather.)

So then we had school on Friday, which ended up feeling like a second "first day back." Somehow, Friday felt even more festive and exciting than Wednesday...everyone was in great moods and the day flew by. Then it was the weekend! Wouldn't this be a fun pattern for teaching - one day on, next day off? 

This week has started off in a similarly wonky pattern, with school being dismissed promptly at end of day yesterday, with no after school activities or even our regular Monday staff meeting, due to wintry weather. I furtively searched for a two hour delay this morning...but not to be. I slogged into work, after working on my car for fifteen minutes as I scraped ice off the windshield. Everyone on the road was driving so very slowly, wary of black ice, (in retrospect, this was a good thing) and I arrived just in time to make my breakfast duty. The rest of the day was fast-paced and full, taking me in so many different directions...perhaps I'll share more another day.

Up, down, back, forth, yes, no, on, off, hurry, wait, stop, go, do, don't, this is the start of 2018.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tuesday SOL: Where do you find grace?





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 was your typical hectic mid-day...the infamous 'lunch to nap transition' in the preschool classroom: tables needing to be cleared of trash and wiped down, cots being carried to their special napping spots, several preschoolers lingering over their last vestiges of lunch, postponing the inevitable, others are in the bathroom, last stop before sleep, and a random few more are idle, restless, waiting to land on their cots...lots of moving parts, varied noises, and everyone at different stages of readiness for that impending darkened, quiet room of sleepers.

John, my wily friend, my boundary tester, cannot simply sit back and wait, he must jump from cot to cot. I call out, "John, your cot is down, you may sit on it with a book while you wait for others to be ready for nap." He heads that way, but sees another cot to jump on. Me, again, this time more succinctly - "John, your cot!" He continues dancing on the cot and begins to sing, 

I've got peace like a river,
I've got peace like a river,

Just as I start to chastise him again for his continued jumping, up walks Annie, who always does the right thing and can often be found observing the antics of others with quiet fascination. (I've often wondered what tales she shares with her family about her day in the Big Cats.) I swallow my next reprimand and simply watch Annie with John, to see what she might do or say with him. Annie doesn't typically confront others; she's not a tattler or a meddler or 'the righteous one' or any of these other roles that children might fall into when learning to be with others. She's a happy young friend who enjoys following our routine and, to date, has found no reason not to do so. 

I wonder, is Annie going to reinforce the rules with John?

Annie walks right up to John and says, "we gotta do hand motions" (well, it sounded more like "hanmossa") and then she sits down on the cot...he stops his wild dancing and sits down next to her, with a bright "Okay!" and they begin the song again, adding hands motions to the words...

I've got peace like a river,
I've got peace like a river,
I've got peace like a river,
in my soooouuuuul!

These two sweet beings, so different from one another - one always testing boundaries and one always sticking to them...there they were sitting together on a third child's napping cot, in the midst of mid-day mayhem, singing a folk song...how to describe the unexpected preciousness of this moment? John is beaming at her, so delighted to have her friendship in this moment, and Annie is equally delighted in him. They are happy companions. And, look - there is no more wild jumping or running...there's no more reprimanding voice of a teacher...Annie has made magic happen, changing the frenetic, haphazard tone of the classroom into one of charmed togetherness.

Classmates wandered over and began to sing with them. After one moment of surprise, when I simply smiled at the scene, I easily finished my chore of putting down all the cots, while the children sang.

This is my goal for the new year - to notice these moments of grace all around me. In the preschool classroom, they are bounteous.

I've got peace like a river,
I've got peace like a river,
I've got peace like a river,
in my soul.

I've got joy like a fountain
I've got joy like a fountain
I've got joy like a fountain
in my soul.

I've got love like an ocean
I've got love like an ocean
I've got love like an ocean
in my soul.


Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What to do now?







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.



When it happened, I was totally caught off guard. We were visiting a new playground, with many big, long, fun slides. I called for the preschoolers to line up, we needed to head back to school.
She didn't want to leave the playground.
She doesn't have the verbal skills to tell me.
So, she spoke with her body, throwing herself onto the ground, squirming and moaning, refusing.
Ahhh.
Everyone else lined up.
Of course, this challenging behavior appears when we weren't at the school playground. No, we were at the faraway playground, near the community center, back across the football field, with many, many, many steps to get back to school.

What to do?

Response #1

I encouraged her,
"Let's go, hon. Yes, those slides were fun. We are going to come back soon. Right now, we need to go in."
"No! No! No!" That's all she could offer. And the tantrum on the ground continued.

Response #1 - Fail.

What to do?

Response #2:

I beckoned her partner to come over, encouraging him, "Tell her that you need her to hold your hand, you need your partner, to walk safely back to school."
Her line partner said, "Here, okay?" and held out his hand. Preschoolers can get their meaning across with very few words! Alas, Little Miss Refusal was still not going to walk, even with an invite from a friend. She ignored the extended hand of her classmate and continued the tantrum on the ground, with another chorus of "No! No! No!" I realized the line partner was now looking at me, with eyes that were a little vulnerable and uncertain, as if to say "wait, is it better to stay and tantrum like this? Should I skip the line up, too?" I asked him to go back to the line, to hold my co-teacher's hand...I dared not have a domino effect, with other preschoolers refusing to budge.

Response #2 - Fail.

The preschoolers begin the procession back to school.
Except for her.

What to do?

Response #3:

"Let's go, little one, time to go back, we'll be the caboose," and I picked her up and carried her, stopping every now and again when my body tired out, re-inviting her to walk with me. Each pause resulted in more of the same challenging behavior -  shouts of "No! No! No!" and throwing herself full throttle onto the ground. Oh my. Is it my imagination, or is she the biggest child in the class? This was heavy lifting! (Of course, she did absolutely nothing to lighten my load, but everything to increase it's difficulty - writhing and wriggling the whole way.)

Response #3 - Success. Imperfect, but we were all headed back to school. Oh well.

Never go head to head with a preschooler.

There is nothing like the stubbornness and determination of a preschooler.

So frustrating, at times.

As I walked, carrying my heavy load, my mind raced through my options, ways to respond better next time, ways to get the desire I wanted - for her to walk on her own two feet.
What was the logical consequence? What made sense right then?
No, there's no point in yelling or throwing a tantrum myself.
We all have to move together, stay together, our entire class.
We're on a schedule.

What was the logical consequence for this challenging behavior? What made sense right then?
It's not like I could leave her on the playground.
Should I have signaled her earlier than the others, given her a heads up?
Did she feel that we didn't have enough time to play?

What was the logical consequence for this challenging behavior? How could I help her see the error of her ways? What made sense right then?
Should I not let her go to the playground next time?
No. I believe children need their outdoor play almost every bit as much as they need food and sleep. Also, we weren't going back to that playground for several days. Would she even remember? Would she make the connection?

What was the logical consequence for this challenging behavior? What made the most sense right then?
Even after all these years of teaching preschoolers, the answer eludes me. 
Sometimes you just make do. 
And give yourself a five minute break, once you return inside. Deep cleansing breaths.

I remind myself, one time is not a pattern.

Count my blessings that she was the ONLY tantrum on the walk back.

I am going to hesitate the next time we head out on that adventure.

On the plus side, this job is keeping me in shape! I have to be able to lift 30-40 lbs at a moment's notice!



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.