Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tuesday SOL: What are the highlights?


This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
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 many more reflections on teaching.



Here it is, the first Tuesday after the loved March Slice of Life Story Challenge! Kudos to one and all who wrote for thirty-one days straight! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your slices.  

I didn't quite make it all thirty-one days because I traveled abroad at the end of the month. My husband and I went to Edinburgh, Scotland to spend spring break with our son Bryce, who is studying there for a semester. 

This was the first time I had traveled overseas in 12 years. May I never go this long again! It is extraordinary to see how others live, to discover new customs, to explore new sights, to find your way around new places, hear new accents, and to feel yourself being stretched in so many ways. 
Just a few highlights:
  • I loved the city of Edinburgh, with its own mountain (Arthur's Seat) and a castle (Edinburgh Castle), medieval structures, cobblestone roads, brisk air, fickle weather, lyrical voices, friendly people, folklore, storytellers, and bagpipers.
  • We traveled to Isle of Skye and were surrounded by the most incredible landscape - mountains covered in moss, craggy cliffs giving way to blue water, winding and narrow roads, waterfalls, lakes (lochs), rainbows, sheep and hairy cows grazing, spacious, unpopulated, gorgeous.
  • Seeing my son as an adult - finding such a mature young man in Scotland! He took great care of us,  carrying the backpack as we hiked, giving us time to rest, showing us his favorite places. Lovely.
  • Shortbread and tea!


We had such a special time!





























Friday, March 25, 2016

SOLSC #25 Where are you going?


During the month of March, I am participating in
the Slice of Life Story Challenge.
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 many more reflections on teaching.


The children spoke over us at morning gathering, sharing about their spring break plans. We hadn't even sung hello when the room was filled with children sharing about "grammy," "super long car ride" and "blue airplanes." Realizing we were up against all odds, my Teaching Resident asked children to share about next week. 

First child exclaims, "I am going to Chicago with my Daddy. But Mommy is not going because they had a big fight this morning." We tread lightly. "Mommy and Daddy?" "Yes," she said, "and we are not going to Chicago. Only I am going. With Daddy." I said "It is sad when our family gets angry. I think probably everyone gets angry sometimes." In hopes of changing the conversation back to the original topic, I added "I hope you have fun on spring break." However, there was a chorus of voices, "My mommy gets angry, too! My Daddy gets angry!" The little girl concluded, "It's okay that they get angry. Mommy and Daddy said it's okay." It amazes me how much empathy children have for one another, and how much they share when they feel safe and loved. These children do - both at home and at school. I'm sure this little girl was witness to a fervent discussion this morning at her house. I am happy she felt that she could share this and I am delighted that all the children supported her. 

I moved on, "John, do you want to share about spring break?" "Yes! In spring break, I am going to sleep with my Mommy." Only in the three year old classroom are such words greeting with nods and understanding. 

Another sweetie shared, "On spring break, I am going on vacation. I am going to take a right, and I am going home." Thought this was really funny - she has been working a lot on maps in recent weeks, and she was definitely thinking this through in regard to her family trip.

In this way, we went around the circle with children sharing what they knew about the week ahead. We will hear many more details when we return. Children share best when they have had the experience!

Happy spring break!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

SOLSC #24 What about the positives?


During the month of March, I am participating in
the Slice of Life Story Challenge.
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 many more reflections on teaching.


My school is only five years old and we are still "growing into ourselves." Next year, we will add an eighth grade; in five more years, we will have two classrooms of every grade from preschool through eighth grade. There has been a lot of stress and work to get as far as we have. Sometimes, it feels easier to identify everything we have not yet accomplished, everything that is not as it should be. Right now, mere hours away from spring break, exhausted from the month of March and its unending demands, it feels particularly easy to be negative. When someone complains, I can easily jump on board and say, "oh, yes, and...." However, in my heart - I'm a builder. I want children to succeed, I want this school to succeed, I want the teaching and work of this school to be softer. Today, I'm challenging myself to write ten things I love about my school:
1. I work with colleagues who are excited about teaching.
2. I work with beginning teachers who have many questions about teaching, and this keeps my teaching real.
3. We respect and make time for reflection.
4. I am allowed to teach with an emergent curriculum - to create lessons around topics that excite my students.
5. There are many supportive families, ready to help in every way imaginable.
6. The student body is very diverse - racially, culturally, economically.
7. It is not only a preschool but an elementary and middle school, as well.
8. When I have a problem or a challenge, I have supportive colleagues who will share their insights.
9. School leaders are passionate about our school and its students, and they are approachable and responsive.
10. Spring break begins tomorrow!



One last note - I hope that I continue this challenge through March 31st. Truth be told, I am headed to Scotland tomorrow and I am not at all sure that blogging will be something that happens. We shall see! I am bringing my laptop and I am sure my travel will fill me with ideas. I have loved writing for this challenge and reading so many amazing blogs by everyone else. Good luck, everyone!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

SOLSC #23 What book does your life seem like?


During the month of March, I am participating in
the Slice of Life Story Challenge.
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 many more reflections on teaching.

Day 23 and my mind is blank. What to write about? Another very full day at school. I feel as if I have only fragments, remnants, shreds to share. 

On my way into school, I was thinking about picture books and how they can parallel my teaching day...I wonder if this is how their authors imagined them, as metaphors for the adult world? I bet it is so. For example, I often feel as if I am living in the next installment of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie...
let me run with this, beginning with the yummy donut that started my day...


If you give a teacher a donut in the staff lounge,
she will want a cup of hot tea to go with it.
If she has a cup of hot tea, she will need to put it on a high shelf in her classroom, so that children won't grab it.
If she puts it on the high shelf, she will see the sign-in clipboard and suddenly realize
she needs to do breakfast duty.
If she is going to do breakfast duty, she will leave the rest of her donut with her tea and run to the cafeteria.
If she runs to the cafeteria, she will be thinking about her plans for the school day ahead.
If she is thinking about her plans, she won't notice that his jacket slipped from the chair and has fallen under the table.
If his jacket falls under the table, it will get covered in milk and syrup, because it is waffle day.
If it is waffle day, she will need many wipes and napkins, and she will wish she had them before children hug her to say hello.
If children hug her to say hello,
she will smile, and follow with more wipes.
If she runs out of wipes, she will be glad that it is time for students to head to their classrooms.
If students head to their classroom, she will hold sticky hands.
If she holds sticky hands, she will want to wash her hands in the classroom.
If she wants to wash her hands in the classroom, the children will see her and all want to do some washing, too.
If they help her wash out things, water will go everywhere.
If water goes everywhere, she will reach for paper towels and wish she had a cup of tea.
If she reaches for her tea, she will find it cold. But there will be a donut piece right next to it.
And that is pretty sweet.



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

SOLSC #22 How do you relax?


During the month of March, I am participating in
the Slice of Life Story Challenge.
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 many more reflections on teaching.

I arrived at school this morning so tightly wound. My mile walk from the metro didn't soothe me as it typically does, because my mind raced with all that I must get done between now and Friday. It was a little bit like this - 
findlostlibrarybookreportcardsneedtobe
finalizedyoumustfigureoutattendance
totalswhereisoverviewofcurriculum
planninginformationtosharemustwrite
notetoheadofschoolbeforevacationprint
outstoriesandphotosforportfoliosmust
completegolddatabeforevacationtoo
Friday is coming - and it is going to be great, this I know! My husband and I are flying to Scotland, spending spring break in Edinburgh with our son Bryce, who is there for a semester abroad. I am so so so excited! But, wow, there is so much "doing" between now and then. 

The good news is - today was the beginning of our special intersession at my school. Each day, instead of centers, the preschool and Pre-K classes are mixed up and divided up into small groups to pursue fun new activities. My intersession group this spring is called "Great Books in Great Places" - I and my colleague Ms. McNeil are walking the neighborhood with eight children and a bag of picture books, stopping to read in lots of fun new locations. Yes, it is a sweet way to teach!

To introduce the intersession, we sat in our early childhood book nook and read Dr. Seuss' Ten Apples on Top. I explained that we would search for great places to read as we walked. Today, I brought a backpack filled with books about outdoors. We stepped out into the brisk air and walked up the street, up the hill, around the corner. We stopped to read whenever a child asked to stop.We had no sooner left the school when the children asked to sit on a concrete pad. We read The Listening Walk by Paul Showers, which led to us listening to and repeating all the sounds of the world around us - different birds, cars, the horn of a big truck, wind, laughter and voices, a bulldozer, hammering, and even a foam plate that the wind blew down the road. As we made our way down the road, we found a tree with a huge root system and the children thought that was a perfect place for another book (Birds, by Kevin Henkes). As we made it up the hill, there was an open field where some children sat while others collected sticks, all in earshot of the reading. Here, we read two books - one, a song, Inch by Inch: The Garden Song by David Mallett and, two, a book about friendship, Hot Day on Abbott Avenue by Karen English. We were just bending the corner of the road when we realized we had to get back to school in a very few minutes...we raced back! Yikes! That was the fastest hour of teaching ever...and we have so many unread books in the backpack still. Tomorrow we will walk and read again!

I realized I was no longer tightly wound. I felt happy, carefree, lighter. Note to self - seek fresh air, walking, children, and books; a good mood will follow.




Monday, March 21, 2016

SOLSC #21 Where is the book?


During the month of March, I am participating in
the Slice of Life Story Challenge.
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 many more reflections on teaching.



I searched through my book collection for Eric Carle's The Grouchy Ladybug, which a colleague wanted to borrow. I found the book and set it down on the table for one moment, in the midst of our very busy centers time, while I helped a child find a tissue, mediated a squabble between a couple other preschoolers, tied a loose shoelace, and guided children at the writing center. But, wait, I set the book down on the writing table. Where was it? Where did it go? Didn't I put it right here? Around and around I looked, wondering if I imagined finding it, that perhaps it was on the shelf still? Then I saw them, three girls in the block area - reading the book in the midst of their pretend. They were reading the book aloud, reading it together, helping each other to remember the words - and, I suppose, helping their stuffed animals get to sleep on their block beds. Adorable. Yes, preschoolers see themselves as readers!



Sunday, March 20, 2016

SOLSC #20 What if we take one step closer?


During the month of March, I am participating in
the Slice of Life Story Challenge.
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 many more reflections on teaching.


He appeared out of nowhere in the hallway with several of his middle-school classmates, on his way to class. She, the mom, had just dropped off her sweet little guy at my preschool classroom, to start his day. As she passed by, his shoulder knocked against hers, and then he fell to the floor - much to the merriment of his classmates. Mom was a little surprised, asked if he was okay, he nodded yes in the midst of the laughter, and everyone went on their way.

The next morning, as Mom left my classroom after kissing her little guy goodbye, there he appeared again, tall, imposing, mischievous, surrounded by his middle-school friends. As Mom headed down the hall, he jabbed his shoulder into her shoulder, all the while sporting a big grin, and he threw himself down onto the floor, accompanied by more laughter from his friends. Mom hurried out of the school, on her way to work, but, unlike the day before, an uneasy feeling lingered. Was he doing this on purpose? Why this interaction two days in a row? After some thought, she contacted our principal, to share her concerns.

She didn't know his name. She could only provide a physical description.

The first I heard about any of the above was when the sixth grade boy was brought to my classroom by the principal mid-day, while the preschoolers were napping. The principal asked me if I had a little boy named Mark in my class. Yes, I do. Then she introduced John to me, the middle-schooler, and asked him to tell me why he was here. "I bumped into Mark's mother today and yesterday," he said in a quiet, uneven, chagrined voice. The principal continued, "John has written a note of apology. I think it is very important for him to meet Mark's Mom in person, to deliver the apology. What time does she pick up Mark?" And so it was agreed that John would return to apologize in person that afternoon, and give the note of apology.

Oh these foolish, young boys. There is nothing more important than making your classmates laugh.

The end of the day arrived, preschoolers were being dismissed to their families, and John appeared as planned. I introduced him to little Mark, saying "You'll be apologizing to this little guy's Mom." John was visibly contrite, looking a little nervous about what was yet to come. Into the classroom walks Mark's Mom and she sees John and me and her eyes grow wide. They step out into the hallway and John says his apology and gives her the note, and then he scoots away. Mark's Mom comes over to me, and whispers "How did he know to come here? I didn't want him to know who my child was. I have to tell you I am very scared of him. He said a very nice apology, but he did that mean shoving two days in a row. I think I'm being stalked. I spoke to the principal because I am scared."

I was caught off-guard by this and simply patted her arm, assuringly, saying, "It's okay. He feels very badly about what he did." Mom and Mark went on their way.

However, I couldn't shake the taste of this interaction, her words to me. I wondered,

Does it matter that this middle-schooler is Black?
Does it matter that this Mom is White?
How are we to be in community together - diverse people, diverse ages, preschool, elementary, middle school?
What does it mean for our community if adults are afraid of certain students?
How do we move towards one another?

I am the mother of three boys and any one of them could have done what John did when they were in middle-school. They did many, many foolish things. My boys are White. Did they get a free pass for silly, immature antics at this age?

After several days of wondering and wrestling with this, I followed Mark's Mom out of the classroom after drop-off and opened up the conversation again. "Hey, I was just wondering, have you seen John again since his apology?"

"No, actually, I haven't. Isn't that weird?"

"Well, I hope you do see him soon. I think it would be great if you gave him a big hello and called him by name. 11 and 12 year old boys are so foolish sometimes; my own boys embarrassed me greatly at that age."

And I left it at that.

Maybe a little preachy on my part...but, I wonder. How do we move towards one another? What if we dare to take one step closer?