Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tuesday SOL: What to say?

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


I have written many "Slices of Life" over the past few years, loving this regular Tuesday 'meeting' of teacher-writers. I notice that I am now much more aware of meaningful moments in my teaching day. Here is one from this past week, celebrating my colleague, who just happened by my classroom in a moment of need and provided much needed support.

In the classroom, I work actively to 'catch children being good,' but, wow, how relentless and unceasing petty physical behaviors can be some days. 
  • He pushes aside a classmate, sitting in the very front for the read-aloud, because he needs to be up front. 
  • She envelops her classmate in an unrelenting and undesired hug, because - well, I don't know why, precisely. Simply because she can?
  • He shoves a classmate out of her way, in an effort to be first in line at the door.
These challenging behaviors are frequent and commonplace amongst preschoolers. It is mostly developmental - preschoolers are fascinated by their peers but have very little experience being with so many others. And, here they are, right in the midst of many others. What else is one to do, when one wants something? Why not just make it happen? Push, pull, grab, as need be.

My tongue becomes twisted and muddled, incapable of finding any positive for these little snowplows in collision mode. Working alongside a beginning teacher, I am constantly aware that I am a role model for words, technique, style, more. Does she see why I ignored that small annoying behavior? Does she notice that I intervened just then? Does she recognize how we are helping children to get along with one another?

Every day, every moment, there is a lot going on.

Into one of these physical days enters my colleague Brandi,
and she instinctively, automatically, beautifully models 
the perfect interaction for the children, showing them how to listen to one another, and
the perfect teacher voice for all adults in the room, not simply reacting but guiding children's behavior.

A very physical preschooler pulls her friend away from another classmate, grabs her hand, and insists she be her partner in our line; the friend yells "Stop!" but the preschooler ignores this and keeps pulling.

Brandi just happened to be there for this interaction. 
Without a moment's hesitation, she says, calmly, to the very physical preschooler:

"When she says 'stop', you 'let go'."

The very physical one stares back, wide-eyed, still holding on tightly to her friend.
Brandi repeats:

"When she says 'stop', you 'let go'. It looks like this . . ."  

(she then playfully dramatizes for the children how to let go of holding another and then throwing her hands up in the air freely).

The preschooler immediately stopped pulling on her classmate.

Beautiful discipline.

She stayed in the moment,
slowed down the interaction,
clarified the right behavior to do, 
emphasized the essentialness of listening to one's peers 
(this is so much more important than simply following the commands of an adult),
modeled being calm, upbeat, and clear in expectations, and,
waited for the preschooler to follow through,
all while being in joyful relationship with the children.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tuesday SOL: What does compassion look like?

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


Comfort object, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: comfort objecttransitional object, or security blanket is an item used to provide psychological comfort, especially in unusual or unique situations, or at bedtime for small children. Among toddlers, comfort objects may take the form of a blanket, a stuffed animal, or a favorite toy, and may be referred to by English-speaking toddlers as blankey and lovey.[1]

What does compassion look like?
How do you teach children to care about one another?
How many tiny community-building steps pave the way to a loving and caring classroom?

He sobbed at the realization that his lovey was still at home, forgotten for the ride to school. There was no time to return home for it - it was time for his school day to begin and it was time for his parents to head to work. 

How can this be? How would he make it through the school day without his lovey? This is too painful! Oh, how he cried.

Classmates came running to him with replacement loveys, sweet little stuffed animals from our classroom basket...a small animal, an elephant, a large lion puppet. His crying paused, momentarily, with each offer. Yes, his classmates' caring offers were having a positive effect! Ah, but, he resumed crying. Nothing was as good as his own dear lovey, still at home.

Another suggestion - What if we draw a picture of his lovey? Would that help?

To work, to work, to work, 
these preschool artists went to work...
and he, the wounded one, 
quickly became engrossed and soothed by their pictures,
no longer crying, 
able to face the day,
simply enchanted.

As am I.

"I will draw him for you!"

"Here, I have him, too."

"This is a little one and a big one. There are two."

"I drew him and his whole family."

"See his wings? I made them."

"This is kissing ones. A whole family of kissing ones. For you."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tuesday SOL: What do adults do during centers?

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


My dream:

The room is rich with materials, and these are open-ended in their use -
blocks of all sizes, used in building and make-believe,
art areas with possibility - so much paint and glue and paper and cardboard and tape and clay (with a sink nearby, making cleanup easy)
dramatic play centers rich with costumes, fabric, dishes, babies, more,
a science area with things to measure and mix, things to observe and hold,
books, books, books, and
tools for writing - paper, clipboards, pencils, markers, crayons.

Children are settled, engaged, wondering.
There is a fabulous hum in the room.

How do we foster this palpable learning?

It is the adults in the room.
Adults throughout the room,
working alongside small groups of children,
nudging, nurturing, negotiating, narrowing, noticing.

"Guiding on the side."

Children initiate the play,
adults build on it.

The adults listen for children's questions,
observe their curiosity, and
find ways to extend the learning.

The adults
deepen the language and conversations,
grow the focus and engagement,
expand and instigate the play.

The adults
help students to join in,
offer support in solving conflicts,
shine a light on the possibilities of friendship and teamwork.

When the guiding is right,
children are settled, engaged, wondering.
There is a fabulous hum in the room.
And the adults are making plans about how to build on this fun tomorrow.

It's the beginning of the school year and we are working our way towards this dream.

I forget how unique this adult role is for new teachers,
how unsure one feels without a script,
how uncomfortable it is to learn to watch,
how hard it is to build on students' choices,
how challenging it is to know, show, do
what you have never experienced.

Slowly but surely,
we will work our way towards this dream.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Beliefs or knowledge?

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


I saw a clever bumper sticker the other day:

Beliefs are not a substitute for knowledge.

It made me think about how frequently I hear adults react to children's behavior in an automatic, "this is what I believe" way -

He never listens to me.
She hits everyone.
All day long, he is disrespectful.
I've said that a million times to him.
She is such a little whiner!
He is shoving kids all the time.
She never pays attention.

Yes, children's behavior is subjected to adult beliefs all the time.
We accept that our summation is true,
we are confident in our assessments.

these beliefs are fixed perspectives,
labels, really,
that get stuck on children...
and, ultimately,
these are words that do very little to encourage new behavior in the child.

Here are the verbal red flags - "always," "all day long," "all the time," "over and over again." Whenever I find myself speaking in such "global" terms, it is a clue to me that I need to slow down and look more closely at individual incidents, observe the child in play, and consider what is he/she working on right now.

Where are they developmentally? 
What do they know already? 
What are the next steps in their learning?

A preschooler's day is filled with moments - there are moments when all is well and when things are not. What is a good moment for this child? When is the child successful? Why might that be?

If you have a preschooler in your life, I hope you will throw yourself into learning more about early childhood development. I also hope you will take the time to observe them more closely, rather than rushing to a "belief."

“Believing is not the same as knowing. Believing is second-hand knowledge, whereas knowing is first-hand experience. When your action comes from a level of belief, there is fear, doubt and restlessness behind such action. When your action comes from a level of knowing, there is conviction, certainty and calm behind such action.” 
― Yogi KannaNirvana: Absolute Freedom