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.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tuesday SOL I'm just a bad boy

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


by Friday,
preschoolers are just
'tuckered out'...
nothing left to give.
This past Friday was no different,
with at least one little guy
'falling apart',
inexplicably hurting his classmates,
provoking others,
being defiant to me.
Rather than head out to the playground with everyone else,
I suggested he stay in with me for a few minutes,
while I made myself a cup of tea.

"Let's chat, you and me, spend some time together."

"Okay, Ms. Ingram. I didn't want to go outside anyway." (Just a slight amount of petulance in that voice, letting me know he was still in charge.)

"Sweetie, I wonder what's going on.
You seem to be making some unkind choices today -
your friends have gotten very sad when playing with you."

"Oh, Ms. Ingram! Last night, and at breakfast,
I keep hearing
I'm making
bad decisions!
bad decisions!
bad decisions!
That's all anyone is saying!"

Oh my! This was quite a confidence to share with me! I immediately understood what was going on. He'd had a tough evening the night before, followed by a tough morning. The little guy I was spending time with at school was very much the same friend at home.

"You did not have a happy breakfast? You know what I think, I think your family loves you very much...and we love you here in school, too…we all feel very sad when you are unkind to us."

"But I just like myself!" he retorted.

Oh, to be three years old. You feel so important and in charge and yet, I suspect, fully aware of how little you really get to decide. Ever.

I soothed, "Okay, I'll give you a little space."

He settled into the cozy chair while I searched for my tea cup.
Just a moment later, there was a mournful wail…

"I don't get to watch a movie before bed tonight!', he sobbed.

With that, I sat down with him in the cozy chair and just held him for a few minutes.

Sometimes it is really tough to be a preschooler. His earlier actions had stretched a long, punitive arm into the evening in front of him. He had been carrying the weight of this all day long. What motivation was there to be anything but grumpy and defiant? His day was over before it had even begun.

That night, I went to see a blues concert. When Charlie Musselwhite crooned the song "I'm Just a Bad Boy", all I could think of was this little guy….

I'm just a bad boy,

Long long ways from home.

I'm just a bad boy,

Long long ways from home.

But I ain't got nobody

I can call my own.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday SOL How much can you change?

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


My Teaching Resident worked with a small group of students to race cars in the hallway today, using this profound interest of theirs to cultivate curiosity and understanding about measuring distance.  This lesson was my idea, and one that was unsettling to her.  Her own educational experience has been far more traditional - teacher-led instruction, much memorization of facts, working at tables. This idea - learning math by racing cars? - was a huge, amazing step for her. 

I have been searching for ways for her to more fully experience children driving their own learning. (No pun intended! Well, maybe it was.)

She watches/observes me, but, ultimately, the best learning is experiential - "letting go" in a lesson of your own.

Her mentor observed as she worked, giving her feedback in between small groups…there was no need for me to be there, too.

I was able to get a small glimpse from my classroom window that peeks into the hallway:

I was so tempted to be out there with them,
to hear the children's enthusiasm,
to see their engagement,
to watch the fun. 

A teacher friend says her principal insists "Don't expect any radical changes - one's teaching style can only be changed about ten percent in any given year… and that's when the teacher has a strong desire to make the change."

I wonder about change.

How much can you change your very instincts?

How can you do something that is so different from how you yourself learned? 

How do you find the courage to attempt something all new?

I suspect my Teaching Resident is often in a state of disequilibrium.

I am watching her change so, so, so much more than ten percent.

Today, I saw a huge smile come over her face,
seeing children race down the hall after their cars,
intent on measuring how far the vehicles had gone.

Here's the note that she shared with families about the experience:

The Big Cats tested cars to see which ones could go the furthest. Children were introduced to the concept of measurement and comparison from this activity. Once the car raced down the ramp and stopped, children used a piece of tape to mark where the car stopped and compared the distance with each other to see which car went further. Also, we talked about how we could adjust the 'slope' of the ramp to make the car go even further. We used different types of measurements including yardsticks and big blocks to measure the distance. The Big Cats practiced counting, measuring, and following directions.

It is extraordinary to watch her metamorphosis.

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.


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?

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