Thursday, March 3, 2016

SOLSC #3 Who decides what we're doing today?

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.

We are less than three weeks away from our Learning Showcase, the culminating event at the end of our trimester, when families come into school to see their children's work. I am in production mode, ensuring that I have work from each of the preschoolers to display. I had the best of plans for the morning, a clear agenda. I was focused on a student, helping her with final details on her engineering project (creating with cardboard recyclables, tape, and scissors) and I was eager for her to share a story with me about her work. I leaned in, to catch her somewhat quiet voice, not wanting to miss a word. Ah, but it was not to be. 

Before I can listen, one child interrupts - "Ms. Ingram, what are you doing?"
Before I can answer my interrupter, another - "Ms. Ingram, what is she making?"
Before I can answer this new one, still another pops up at my elbow -  "Ms. Ingram, may I be next?"
Before I can answer this one, another runs up - "Ms. Ingram, may I come? "
Before I can answer another request - "Ms. Ingram, I will do this, too! I need scissors."
Before I can answer this request, another interrupts - "Ms. Ingram, I want to build, too!"

I am no longer listening, I am no longer talking, I am simply motioning, directing with my hands. Oh, what a story my first student is sharing, she is so excited to tell me, her words are flowing, her hands are moving with expression, and it is all for naught. Imagine the scene with no sound - two of us wildly gesticulating, she sharing an amazing story, while I am motioning the others to please oh please go quiet and let me hear these precious words of hers. I try to get her to wait for me, with a breathless - "Please, wait, just a minute, I have my pen - I want all your words," but she is too excited and keeps on, in a voice just under the volume of all her eager peers. Who am I kidding, this isn't going to work; I can't hear anything above all this interrupting chatter. Clearly, this was not the time to focus on my agenda.

Breathe in, breathe out.

I speak to everyone else, "Hold on, everyone, let me help you one at a time; let's start with - " and before I can name the child who I will help, all voices start at once and it sounds like,
how does one describe many voices at once?
It was total confusion, a garble that grew into a rumble, as children competed to be heard.

My eyes grew wide.

The children went quiet for one brief moment, and I said, "Wow, that sounded like this - brrtmtmFIPP! All of you speaking at once!" And everyone laughed.

I shifted to their needs. "Please, slow down, sit with me, join us at the table. Let me make room for you." I let go of my goal of hearing a story from my first student - I would try again another time, maybe later in the day, maybe tomorrow. She was happily building with recyclables, totally engrossed in her work. I pulled over as many chairs as I could, making room for the crowd. "I'd love to be with each of you, please join us."

Because, honestly, I think that's what this was really about. Everyone wanting to build, everyone wanting scissors, tape, cardboard recyclables, everyone wanting to be with me.

Some days are just like this.


  1. Oh how you've perfectly captured life in a room of "littles." Each of them so engrossed in their own journey of learning, so eager! I love that they were inspired by this other student to build and play.

    Have you considered using some technology to help them capture their own stories? Just a thought. I can't imagine how you can ever find a way to just sit and listen with all the hustle and bustle. : ) But then again I'm no early childhood expert. If it's something you want to chat about I have some ideas.

  2. Oh and I just ordered "Your Three Year Old" on Amazon! Thank you! I have one of these loveable tyrants in my home.

  3. Preschoolers as engineers! What a glorious image!
    The cacophony you describe is one of the reasons I'm better w/ teens. They do, however, get noisy at times, but the big kid noise vs. the little kid noise is why we all have our niche!