Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tuesday SOL How many more walks do I have this year?

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


Three things immediately excite me when I think about our move to a new, permanent school location next year:

- Playground and green space at our school.
- Bathrooms in close proximity.
- A much larger classroom.

When I see the plans for the new school, it is as if a weight is being lifted from my shoulders. I'm not really sure which of these matters most - their importance varies with each week, day, or hour.

Right now, I find myself obsessing about next year's playground and green space.

Our daily walks on the walking rope have been very difficult.

Won't it be so awesome to throw open a door and let the children play?
To let the children get their wiggles out, at a moment's notice?

Yes, my mind wanders and I begin imagining - things to climb, room to run, places to dig and explore...


the reality is, we still have six more weeks of school.

There are still many more daily walks.
This year.
With these preschoolers.

This is how we get to the local playground, several blocks away,
this is how we get to the national park,
several blocks away,
this is what we do each day,
after centers,
before story time,
for fresh air.
Twenty-three preschoolers
on a walking rope.

It has been the best solution for a difficult environment.

Keeping them safe,
moving through the city blocks,
all together,
one community.

It is our routine.

Our routine has reached
a painful crescendo.

How to describe the recent walk that did me in?

A blur of shoes, falling off feet,
new summer shoes - "larger, to grow into,"
ballet flats that slip off when you think about them,
big preschool feet stepping on the heels of the child in front of them, forcing that shoe off,
incessant "shoe problems!" (as the children cry out) that
stop the entire process,
forcing the walking rope to a halt,
as we tend to the missing shoe.
How impossible it is for two dozen small beings to walk so closely and precisely together.
A blur of voices, disturbingly loud,
in each other's ears,
singing, "Let It Go!"
calling, "Ms. Ingram! Ms. Ingram! Ms. Ingram!"
shouting, "STOP! That's hurting my ears!"
making our movement together
so painful.
How impossible it is for two dozen small beings to walk so closely and precisely together. 
A blur of hands, full of motion,
pulling on landscaping and flowers,
bending over to pick things up from the ground,
pushing classmates,
jerking the entire rope to a stop.
How impossible it is for two dozen small beings to walk so closely and precisely together.
Shoes, voices, hands
tears, whines, hurt.

Yes, this was the walk that did me in.

Back in the classroom,
as the children settled down for story time,
I explained that we had to talk about today's walk.

First, we did some deep breathing together.

Then, a show of hands,
"Who felt sad on today's walk?"
[Everyone's hands shoot up - and lots of voices, with corroborating stories...]

"What makes us sad on walks?"
This question resulted in four specifics:
- when someone walks on another's heel
- when someone uses a very loud voice
- when someone hurts another with their hands
- when someone keeps singing even when their partner says "Stop!"

[I was struck by how no one mentioned the "individual" wrong-doings, such as - pulling a flower from the landscape, or kicking one's own shoes off...everyone focused on the "injustices" that had been done to them by another classmate. I see this as growth - preschoolers who want friendships. These preschoolers are no longer playing parallel, alongside one another, but desire cooperative togetherness. I decided not to interject my own voice on this list, not to have it include all the challenging behaviors that I noticed. Instead, let's build those friendship skills!]

Me - "What might we do to prevent each of these? Let's take them one at a time and think about them. How can we get along in the community of our walking rope?"

We talked about how physically close everyone is on the walking rope, with
no one able to move to a further location...
how this is different from other parts of our day, when
everyone is allowed to move freely.
Maybe we have to behave differently on the walking rope?

With that, there was a sea change -
preschoolers began thinking about actions they could each do that would help us all.

We made

"Our Walking Rules"

- Watch our feet as we walk
- Use calm voices
- Take deep breaths and keep our hands to ourselves
- "Stop" when asked

The next day,
just before leaving on our walk,
I reviewed their ideas from the day before and
asked each child to sign the rules,
indicating that they would try their very best on our walk.

I love how these preschoolers were able to reflect and suggest changes.

Now, when walking,
the children are noticing helpful behaviors.

We are making the best of it.
Accenting the positive.
Working together.

[But I am still counting...
How many more walks do I have this year?]


  1. I admire that you continue to do the walks, getting the kids out anyway, and that you shared with them frustrations and reflections, creating a better plan. These same actions happen (or should happen) all the way through the ages, and you are helping them so much by beginning that journey, Maureen. However, hugs to you looking forward to your new school site. How great it will be!

    1. Yes, I believe we made "lemonade from the lemons." I wanted them to start thinking about their personal power to make things better. It is exciting to see how much they have grown - no longer so self-absorbed (as any recent two year old has a right to be!), but beginning to see and understand how their actions affect others. Thanks for you comments, Linda - you are always wonderful about these!!

  2. I might get frustrated with my high school students, but I am not sure if I could manage your daily walks. There must be something very special about you! Congratulations on the new school location for next year!

    1. Your comment made me chuckle, Jaana! I have wondered the same thing many times in the midst of the walk - How did I get here? Why am I doing this? Honestly, time and time again, the children return to class in a much happier mood, just getting this bit of fresh air.

  3. I loved reading of the progress of your preschoolers, their ability to not single out individuals. Sounds like some lovely growth for your children :)
    happy slicing, Amy