Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tuesday SOL Summer musings

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

Just this week, in the midst of summer, I was sorting through my photos on my phone, collecting my favorites from recent travels. (We traveled to Oregon for the wedding of the daughter of my best friend from college; we had a great time sightseeing and hiking.) I was delighted to see not just these vacation photos, but many fun photos from the last days of the school year...and I find myself smiling in memory. 

Let me share a few with you....

The Bucket Truck

Rain didn't stop us from heading outside to play on this day. But the showstopper was this repair truck - the children were riveted, studying every move. Children call us to be present, so curious about the world, finding joy in their surroundings.

Water Play Day

Our traditional "splash day" was also an overcast, rainy day...and our location was the crumbled surrounds of a community center behind our school (scheduled to be renovated and revamped this next year!). But that didn't stop the children from having such a great time outside, enjoying the hoses, buckets, spray bottles, sidewalk chalk, and more.

The Tablecloth

We created a process art tablecloth/dropcloth for our Teaching Resident (Ms. Kim) as an end-of-year gift. The children used found objects and nature items to stamp prints all over the canvas, choosing their favorite colors. They also used fabric markers to sign their name on the cloth. We're hoping that Ms. Kim will use this cloth for 'messy' activities in her new classroom, and remember this sweet class of preschoolers every time she does.

Marble Art

The first art activity the children experienced in the Big Cats was doing marble art on a nametag. At the beginning of the year, this was a teacher-led and supervised project. Here, at the end of the year, the children ran the project themselves - selecting paper, paint colors, dropping marbles into the paint, and rolling these onto paper. Everyone had a grand time and even enjoyed cleaning the table and supplies at the end. I got to marvel at how much everyone had grown during this year. 

Balls, Cars, Blocks, and Ramps

There was incessant creativity in the block corner these last few weeks of school, as if the children were well aware that they would no longer have access to these open-ended building materials. I was amazed by the teamwork, how well the preschoolers worked together, sharing the materials and ideas.

The Family Book

This was our favorite book to read - with individual pages about each child and family, created by the families themselves. Here, the children are helping me to stuff these pages into their portfolios, so that the pages are returned home at the end of the year. But, these boys are transfixed - not wanting to take the pages out of the book but seeking to re-read the pages about each other, noticing who's who. It is amazing how much we learn about one another during a school year.

Engineering with Recylables

We had a "free for all" with the recyclables, with me issuing an open invitation for children to create and invent with abandon. 

Helping Clean the Classroom

We had created a train track out of tape on part of our classroom floor and the children worked diligently and tirelessly to remove it, to help Mr. Thomas (our Building Manager). Again, I am awed by the focus and tenacity of young children when they desire to accomplish something.

Field Day Fun

I think we had the hottest and sunniest day of the school year for our traditional field day - but that didn't stop these preschoolers from running non-stop.

Signing the Goodbye Board

They had helped us clean the room and put away all the toys, supplies, materials. Now it was time to practice their writing skills one more time, using the whiteboard markers.

I really enjoyed this past year of teaching...I worked with a delightful group of preschoolers and their families, I had a strong teaching team, I love the physical space of my classroom in our new and permanent school building. It is fun to go down memory lane in the midst of summer!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tuesday SOL: Three poems about four girls

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

My apologies - this post is not about teaching preschool...
in fact, it is radically different. 
Summer provides me time for reflection and creativity.

I'm daring to share some poetry that arose from my personal research and reflection about the four young black girls who were killed in a churching bombing by klansmen in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s.

 "I am just slowly awakening to the privilege of my own life experiences.
Elissa Johnk

Until recently, I knew very little or nothing about these four young girls.

What were their names?
When did it happen?
How old were they? (How old was I?) (How old would they be now?)
What can I learn about their hopes and dreams?
Why did it happen?
How did their loved ones recover? Did they recover?

Why don't I know more?
Were they invisible to me because they are black and I am white?
Was I taught about them and I forgot?
Or was I never taught?

I don't have answers to all these questions yet, and I have many more questions the more I learn. These poems grew out of my reading/research about this horrific crime. 

Three Poems About Four Girls

The Calculated Crime*

September 15, 1963,
10:22 am,
16th street Baptist Church,
some 450 parishioners gathered,
Birmingham, Alabama.

5 days after
3 all-white schools desegregated,
Birmingham, Alabama.

21 bombings
in 8 years;
1st that killed,
Birmingham, Alabama.

4 white klansmen,
15 sticks of dynamite,
20 black children injured,
4 black girls killed,
Birmingham, Alabama.

Addie Mae Collins, 14 years old
Denise McNair, 11 years old
Carole Robertson, 14 years old
Cynthia Wesley, 14 years old
Birmingham, Alabama.

[*Note - title of this poem was inspired by a reflection by Condoleeza Rice, at the 50th anniversary of the bombing; Condoleeza Rice was 8 years old at the time of the bombing and a classmate of Denise McNair. Here are her words: 

The crime was calculated, not random. It was meant to suck the hope out of young lives, bury their aspirations, and ensure that old fears would be propelled forward into the next generation.” ]



strewn about,

brightly painted children’s furniture,
bibles and song books ,
rear wall of church,
the back steps, and

all stained-glass windows,
except one,“Christ with the Little Children;”
this window was intact,
with only Jesus’ face missing.


Hopes and Dreams

Addie Mae, Denise, Carole, and Cynthia.
September 15, 1963,
a new school year just beginning.
Four young girls, 
imagining, dreaming, hoping, and seeking.

Desiring college and careers?
Imagining love, hope, and peace?
Four young lives abruptly ended,
Addie Mae, Denise, Carole, and Cynthia.

Addie Mae Collins, 14,
An avid learner,
loved to draw,
imagined herself an artist,
strong and athletic,
with a powerful softball pitch,
an entrepreneur,
sold her mom’s potholders and aprons door-to-door,
her family loved her as a peacemaker,
solving conflicts amongst her seven siblings.

Denise McNair, 11,
an only child,
with a ready smile, and
a big heart for others,
she organized fundraisers for muscular dystrophy, and
an annual neighborhood talent show,
with skits, dance routines, poetry,
she was inquisitive,
stood up for others, and
wanted to be a pediatrician.

Carole Robertson, 14,
an “A” student,
an avid reader,
with many extra-curricular activities,
ballet, clarinet in the marching band, girl scouts, choir,
loved listening to rock and roll on the radio,
wanted to teach history,
she loved to let friends practice hairstyles on her,
she was a good listener, a mediator,
thoughtful, reflective, a good friend.

Cynthia Wesley, 14,
a strong student,
excelled in math and reading,
loved music and played clarinet,
she was much loved by two families,
informally adopted and treasured as an only child to educators,
visiting her birth home on weekends as a big sister,
she shows us it takes a village,
we need one another,
we are all connected.

Four young girls,
gifts and passions,
hopes and dreams,

Who were their best friends?
What did they want to know more about?
What were their favorite books?
What did they like to do when they got home from school?
What did they think about as they went to sleep at night?
What were their worries?
How were they hoping to change the world?

Four young girls,
gifts and passions,
hopes and dreams,

Addie Mae, Denise, Carole, and Cynthia.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tuesday SOL Summer of healing

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

Summer is delightfully underway and
I am immersing myself in many daily pleasures -
reading and writing,
gardening (weeding!),
painting outdoor furniture,
walking and bicycling,
cooking and eating well.
This year, my summer is an amazing eight weeks long, and
I am trying to savor each day.
I know how extraordinarily lucky I am to have this much time for rest and reflection, and
it is much needed.

In the midst of my son's health challenges this spring,
I signed up for a workshop to jumpstart a summer of healing -
Basic Mind Body Skills for Alleviating Anxiety and Trauma with Robin Carnes.

As is true with all that I do, see, read, experience,
I thought so much about my preschoolers during this workshop!

It seems to me that 
I have more students showing signs of anxiety than
I used to have.
I don't have any empirical data to support this,
just a gut feeling.

I wonder,
are families more stressed?
are parents more preoccupied?
are children's lives more structured, with higher expectations for performance? 

I don't know.

I see children who
worry a lot
continuously scan the room for changes
seem unsettled
avoid interacting with others
have nervous tics
cry a lot
tense up unexpectedly and frequently
seem uncomfortable in their own skin

and it is my job as classroom teacher to help them
feel safe, loved, welcomed,
to help them feel a strong sense of belonging.

I came away from this workshop with ideas
not just for myself and my family
but ideas to enhance my teaching -

lots of physical movements to weave into my daily routines,
helping to ground and orient children's bodies;
new breathing exercises, to help us calm and focus; and
new understanding and acceptance of anxiety.

Perhaps the most powerful "take away" was Ms. Carnes' repeated reminder to
work with ourselves and others
gently and compassionately...
experience what is,
be with ourselves,
in the moment,
just as we are,
gently and compassionately.

Ms. Carnes suggested that we lose one admonishment of ourselves, of others -
lose the command
When we try to fix,
the body resists.

work gently and compassionately,
experience what is -
that is how things begin to shift.

Happy summer, one and all!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tuesday SOL Thoughts about Charleston

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

I am finding it impossible to think or write about anything other than the horror of what happened in Charleston, SC last week.

Nine innocent, beautiful people were killed 
in their own church, 
during bible study, 
simply because they were black.

Simply because they were black.

Simply because they were black.

Careless Gardeners

This racism, this terrorism, this hate
is growing in the midst of so much beauty and good, 
like a pernicious weed in my garden 
emerging so similar in looks to neighboring flowers, 
tricking my eye and avoiding my trowel, 
unbeknownst to me, 
ignored, invisible, irrelevant, 
until I see it has begun to strangle my precious peonies and bleeding heart.
Am I a careless gardener,
hastily pulling off its lengths,
and simply smoothing out the soil about the plants,
oblivious to the multitudinous runners 
coursing every which way, 
still rampant?
Or do I dig down deep,
eliminating roots,
nourishing, cultivating, enriching,
turning over the soil?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tuesday SOL This year's "Let's remember" poem


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

almost unbelievably,
today was our last day of school.

We have had a great year…and so much fun these last few days, including 
a fabulous shadow puppet show about Eric Carle's The Tiny Seed, created by one of our early childhood families,
a field day where we played all sorts of running games, and 
a water play day, running hoses next to our local community center. 
Last, but not least, we had a fabulous Learning Showcase to celebrate this last trimester, sharing the children's science journals, artwork and stories inspired by Eric Carle, and end of the year self-portraits. Yes, we have had so much fun!

Now, summer begins!

Here's what I slipped into each of the children's portfolios, to help them remember our year together….

  Let’s remember . . .

Hello, everybody, it’s so good to see you
Marble Art
Painting with nature
Hiding bears in the Magna Tiles
Sand and water at the sensory table
Making books at the writing table
Playing sick in dramatic play
How does your story begin?
Dancing to “Let It Go”
Ramps, blocks, balls, cars, and airplanes
Climbing on playgrounds, rolling down the hill
Building with blue blocks in the cafeteria
Engineering with recyclables
Eric Carle
Our Kindness Tree
The Airplane Song, Freeze Dance
These Are My Glasses
Collecting and exploring found objects
Cardboard castles
Walking to the Rhode Island Metro
Our Farmer’s Market
Engineering houses and boats, creating inventions
Cooking on Fridays
                                                         Sharing boxes
Caterpillars, pupas, butterflies, and science journals
Growing green beans
 “The Goodbye Song
 “My heart to your heart, I wish you well”

Happy Summer! My hope is to do lots of writing. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tuesday SOL We are ending the year!

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

My apologies for several weeks without a slice. My son is back home and on the mend...we are calling this the "summer of healing." Thank you for your many caring words!

Over these past few weeks, rushing back and forth to the hospital or to doctor's appointments, I have taught many partial days. I am so thankful that my school permitted me this flexibility. But here is the real bonus: I have been lifted up by spending time with my preschoolers! Truly, I know I am in the right line of work: when I spend time with them, I am energized, centered, and smiling. 

Let me share our fun today. As we end our school year, I am going down "memory lane" with the children, reading favorite books, singing favorite songs, re-doing favorite activities.

Today, a very warm day in D.C., was just right for remembering our long, snowy winter. I suggested we go ice skating!

I put on some fun instrumental music, and passed out two paper plates to each child - one for each foot. Around and around the classroom they went! Oh, what fun they had! 

Ice skating complete, I read a favorite book from our snowy winter:  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

Yes, a great day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesday SOL: Truth be told

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


Truth be told,
I cannot write a slice tonight.

Truth be told,
there are so many positive things I want to share from my classroom,
about preschoolers,
about teaching.

Truth be told,
I cannot write a slice tonight.

My son (Bryce, 19) is in the midst of a health crisis,
a severe flare-up of his ulcerative colitis.

I can only share the acrostic I wrote at 4pm today,
after 24 hours in the hospital at his side.

It has been a tough three weeks. I will share more from my classroom once Bryce is on the mend.