Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The treasure that is Bev Bos

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


Roseville Community School
Today, I need to share about the loss of early childhood educator Bev Bos, who died this past Thursday, February 4th. We lost a tireless and passionate advocate for early childhood play. These words grace the walls of her Roseville Community School in Roseville, California:

Our challenge is not
 to prepare children for school,
to prepare schools for children. 

- Docia Zavitskovksy

How to organize for exploration, Roseville Community School
Bev Bos threw open the doors of her preschool and invited others to see how to do this right. I had the delight of attending her week-long "Good Stuff for Kids" conference in summer 2011, just before my new school opened. What a glorious week! I attended the conference with my friend Janise, also a preschool teacher, and devoured ideas and possibilities for my own classroom. Bev and her team showed us ways to set up classroom learning space so that children might easily explore and discover, demonstrated fun science and art activities that emphasized process not product, showered us with great new picture books for read-alouds, gathered us in sing-alongs, and shared so much insight and inspiration about being with children.

Outdoor play at Roseville Community School
Bev taught us to not only think about children but to follow their beck and call, to fill our classrooms and our curriculum with their delights - constructive, interactive, unending exploration of
how things work, 
why things are, 
what does this do, 
why might that be, 
how about this. 
Your hands show that you've had fun!
She recognized the consummate scientist in every child, providing them with unending opportunities to explore with all their senses. Perhaps my favorite Bev quote that my students hear me say all the time,
"If you  go home from school without dirt under your nails, I haven't done my job."

Oh, how she loved children, each individual child! She embraced their storytelling, sitting alongside them in the midst of their play, wherever they were in the classroom, listening, and inviting them to answer, "How does your story begin?"

She was truly present with children.

What do you want to investigate?
She loved to read to children, collecting so many fabulous picture books, and - here's where I just tremble at her respect for little ones - she dared to stop reading if they weren't captivated by a book she had chosen to read, saying "Today, this is not the book they need." (How many of us are this flexible with our plans? How many of us are allowed to be this flexible?)
Sit and play here (Roseville Community School)
        Bev never demanded that a single child sit and be present at her read-alouds, her storytelling, or any large group gathering. She figured if they didn't come over, she wasn't sharing anything of real value to them at that moment. Every time I have a whole group gathering, her brazen faith in children crosses my mind as I sadly fail to duplicate it.  Think: most of us in public schools are held to an unrealistic expectation by our administrators that every young child be participating in our whole groups; so many schools have the added expectation that children be seated and quiet while the adult leads.  Shouldn't we question this expectation? Bev would surely want us to do so.

What would happen if we added this to that?
Bev knew our schools were very different than her own and she challenged us to find some part of her approach to recreate. In what ways might we find a little more time outside? More opportunities to muck about, to play with water, mud, dirt, sand?  How can we make our activities more process than product? What loose parts can we bring in, reuse, invent with? 

A labyrinth made of discarded shoes at Roseville Community School
Her inspiration works magic in my classroom each and every day. This past Thursday morning, I looked to see a few of my more solitary preschoolers working together in the block area. I had never seen them work together before; these preschoolers prefer to play alone or alongside their peers rather than 'with.' However, there they were, creating a ramp from pieces of wood - attaching it to the big cozy chair in the classroom, setting its base on a couple of large blocks, funneling the ramp into a succession of three small buckets. They raced a variety of small cars, trying to get these to jump into each of the buckets, predicting which bucket each would land in as it rolled. Though we had guided on many previous days, no teacher was in this center with them. They were on their own and delighted to explore.

Outdoor play materials at Roseville Community School
I heard their happy companionship, the beginnings of friendship - 
"My car goes next!"
"The yellow car is super fast"
"Second bucket! Second bucket!"
"Let's do it this way - how about we try this?"

Hearing later about her death and reflecting on the beauty and surprise of these solitary friends finding one another over loose parts, I wonder,
Was Bev giving my classroom one last embrace, as she left us?

Bev (center) with two of her many groupies - Janise and I

"If it's in the hand and in the body, it's in the brain."  
- Bev Bos

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How do you know they are engaged?

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


We are in the midst of a found objects exploration.

Every child brought in ten inconsequential "extras" from home...small things you might typically throw out, but that work so beautifully in our art, math, and storytelling. We have buttons, soda caps, metal pieces, ribbons, wires, game pieces, and so much more. Everyone finds them irresistible. 

There is a lot going on in this one photo:
several children working simultaneously at the table,
separate but together,
two - leaning on one another, back to back,
everyone, intently focused on very small finds,
even searching the floor when one slips from the hands,
holding onto stuffed animals while they work...

I love how so many children can work so closely together, in a small space, and stay happy, content, focused.

Children find real meaning in these small treasures, and
I find real meaning in their engagement.

Here are some of my found objects from a walk on the beach in Saco, Maine over winter break - pieces of sea glass.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

You have to let them spill the food

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


"If you want your child to learn to take his dishes to the sink after eating, 
you have to expect him to drop the plate, spill the milk, and slop the food, first."

Not sure this is the precise quote.
Not even sure who provided me this wisdom.
However, I find it profound.

This is how one becomes more competent - by making mistakes. I know this.

For me, it is the trickiest part of being a lead teacher, working alongside a beginning teacher. Mid-year, under our "gradual release" plan, my beginning teacher is taking the lead almost two full days a week - leading the children to and from the classroom, reading books aloud, planning centers activities and small groups, resolving children's conflicts, and more.

I am stepping back, as best I can,
reminding myself that

she's going to drop the plate,

and that's okay.

Think of all the 'rookie' mistakes we do as beginning teachers, learning to lead a class:
  • doggedly follow lesson plans rather than shifting to meet what the student needs;
  • under-plan lessons, and unsure what to do to fill the bonus time that remains;
  • take a bathroom break even though a small crisis is brewing in the classroom; 
  • gather materials for a lesson after the lesson has begun;
  • begin reading a book before all the children are paying attention;
  • become focused on one child at the expense of many others;
  • lead lines down the hall and to the playground, oblivious to what is happening at the end of the line;
  • talk at students rather than converse with students;
  • miss opportunities to instigate children's engagement;
  • unable or uncertain as to how to move away from one part of room in order to meet some unexpected need in another part of the room;
  • solve children's conflicts for them rather than coach the children to listen to one another and resolve the issue themselves;
  • become hyper-focused on all the negative behaviors that children are doing;
  • get defensive when more is expected, because it feels as if you are already doing so much.
As lead teacher,
it is essential to see each of these (and many more) as the 'rookie' mistakes that they are,
with no malevolence intended.

I spend a lot of time trying to identify those 'chunks' that went well, to help her build on these. I remind myself that she simply cannot see the full picture yet, and, in time, she will.

It is important to let go, let mistakes happen, watch things fall apart, and trust that they can be put back together again.

It would definitely be easier to do it myself - but that is not the point, is it?

This is a huge challenge for me, staying patient as I coach the beginning teacher through these teachable moments. I want to be the calm voice that says, 

"I see you tried....next, you will...."

It is a work in progress.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Expect things to get a little messy

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


My centers time is such a delightful mess.

I love how the children get deep into everything.

We need these and these and these.
We need this and this and this and this and this.

The children begin playing in one place and move on to another,
taking materials with them as they go,
dress ups to the blocks,
dolls to the writing center,
science materials to the dress ups,
around and around and around the room they go.

We need these and these and these.
We need this and this and this and this and this.

Twenty minutes into centers and the room is 
in total disarray
but there is a beautiful hum.

So many blocks,
let's build houses for ourselves,
let's build roads,
let's build an animal world,
let's make ramps,
let's play together.

We need these and these and these.
We need this and this and this and this and this.

Let's go off by ourselves
and make believe
I'll drive, and 
you be in the backseat with the baby
We'll go to the doctor's,
We should stop at the store and buy those.
We'll play together.

We need these and these and these.
We need this and this and this and this and this.
We need it all.
Let's play together.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What if we played basketball?

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


My slice is basically two photos from today at school....

Our outdoor playtime was filled with cries of  "I'm too cold, Ms. Ingram!" and I decided to cut short our adventures outside. However, I knew the children needed more movement. Yes, we have entered the time of year when I am searching for ways to have gross motor play indoors.

I wondered if we could engineer a basketball hoop out of a cardboard box? I knew that we could use all the soft, small balls that we already have on hand for our balls and ramps exploration as our "basketballs.

The children and I went to look for scrap cardboard in the Art room, and our wonderful Art teacher Ms. McNeil had the "insides" of a box that was just perfect. It had a large perforated circle design, because it once held something round (a new globe? a new saucepan? a ball?). 

There wasn't much to engineer. We simply taped around the edges and then duct-taped the box to the wall! So simple, so fast, so perfect. 

Children played 'basketball' throughout centers, getting so much exercise! Indoors! Back and forth they went, shooting baskets, running after balls, visiting another center to explore something different, racing back to play more basketball. Around and around and around.

My laugh of the morning - one little girl coming over to join me at the block center, throwing herself on the floor, and gasping the words, "Oh, I am just so tired from all that basketball!" A few minutes later, she was back shooting baskets.

Fun times!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Our first day back

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


Happy New Year!
Let me share the things that made me smile on our first day back after winter break (which was yesterday) - how about 16 for 2016?

  1. How much I fidgeted all night long, in anticipation, excited and nervous. Oh, how many times I looked at that clock! Why does this still happen to me after all these years of teaching?
  2. Seeing the bright sun after two weeks of rain and clouds.
  3. Finding uneaten chocolates in my teacher's cabinet at school.
  4. My Teaching Resident sharing new pictures books she had found for the children - she was thinking like a teacher over break!
  5. Big hugs and smiles from the children, happy to be back at school. 
  6. Seeing families so, so, so happy to drop their children off after two weeks of togetherness - everyone with big smiles. Routine is great for all of us, no matter what our ages.
  7. Watching individual kids find their friends and start playing. How excited the children were to be back together in their classroom!
  8. The children laughing at my improvised "Happy New Year" song to the Happy Birthday tune, squealing "That's not how it goes!"
  9. Hearing everyone's favorite memory from winter break (perhaps my favorite - one little boy said 'Mac and Cheese'. Loved it!)
  10. Making a big batch of purple gak with delighted children
  11. Both the Art teacher and I forgetting who was in each Art group - and me having no recall of where I kept the list. Mush for brains after two weeks away!
  12. Building many block homes for toy animals
  13. Children creating dress-ups from our cloth collection, making capes, dresses, head coverings, more
  14. Reading Peter and the Wolf to a captive audience of preschoolers 
  15. The children jumping and running in the leaves alongside the playground. 
  16. Children wrestling in the leaves despite the cold!

Wrestling in the leaves

    Lots of running and jumping

    Happy New Year!

    Thursday, December 31, 2015

    Love one another

    My heart is aching for our world, aching about all the hate, violence, pain, suffering, all around.

    Each day, new atrocities.

    I'm on a two week winter break, filled with family. We traveled to see my parents in Maine, we traveled to Georgia to celebrate the 85th birthday of my husband's brother, and I have had lots of great time with my sons, my daughter-in-law, and my husband. I love my family.

    This poem has tumbled out of me, on this the last day of 2015. It seems a little off topic for an "early childhood reflections" blog, though it involves some of my earliest understandings.

    My new year's wish: love one another.

    This is the image that hurts:

    Not listening.
    "Knowing" exactly how wrong the other was.
    Silent treatment.
    Need for control.
    Painful interactions.
    Tension in our home.
    No guests allowed.
    Isolated and alone.

    And now this.

    She with dementia,
    not knowing us, 
    unable to follow our conversations.
    He with Parkinson's, 
    thoughts and movements getting slower.

    This is the image I treasure:

    they sit side by side, 
    close together, 
    hands intertwined. 
    He holds her leg gently, 
    as if to ground both him and her, and 
    she softly strokes his hand with both of hers.

    Love one another.