Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tuesday SOL: Autumn fun

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Autumn is a fabulous time of year. My preschoolers have been loving the bright sunshine and cooler temperatures. We love collecting nature treasures outside. We have a growing science corner filled with these - pumpkins, pinecones, acorns, leaves, sticks, and more. One day this past week, I documented children's words as they played outside and gathered special finds; these words became a classroom poem that is shared below. When we returned to the classroom, we got out the paints and created works of art - one large classroom mural and individual pictures as well. There is so much to learn and discover in autumn.

Leaves, leaves, leaves.
Leaves fall down.
I see the leaves falling down.
Red leaf.
Brown leaf.
And purple.
Look at this leaf! It is orange.
A stick.
Sticks from the tree branches.
Trees are sticks.
I want sticks.
Do you want sticks, too?
We found berries on the bush.
Look what I found.
A rock!
We are collecting them.
It’s cold.
Really cold.
Wind in my hair.
Wind feels good.
Look at your hair! It’s windy!
Wind in my ponies.
Wind blows down the trees.
We are running and falling.
Let’s do again!



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday SOL: How to say goodbye to our family?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

This year, our hello/goodbye window is a particularly magical and happy place in my classroom. Do you know the book, by Norman Juster? In the story, grandparents have a special window in their home where children can watch everyone come and go. It is a very special love ritual. 

How to explain this special place in our classroom? It is the perfect salve for the fragile preschooler who is sad to say goodbye to their family. They no longer have time to dwell on their misery, because one must get to the window and make merry!

One quirk about our window is that it isn't exactly on the way out the door for families...in fact, when they leave our classroom, they have to back up a few steps in the opposite direction to get to the window. It's proof that sometimes going backwards ends up being a step forward. When a preschooler's face begins to sadden at their family member leaving, a classmate or teacher nudges them - "quick! let's go see them at the window!" and off we race to the window. Oh, the scenes that transpire! We blow kisses, we make silly faces, we give hearty waves. The sad preschooler becomes an enthralled preschooler, because there is so much more to see than just their family. Yes, Mom or Dad may have just left, but look! Look at everyone else! It seems like the whole school parades by the window. Older students, who once depended on this window themselves, now stop and wave and make faces at the preschoolers. Teachers and administrators stop and wave, too. If you look very closely, across the way, you can see the preschoolers in the classroom next door. There's nothing more fun than waving to these friends, who we will see on the playground later in the day. Yes, our hello/goodbye window is a place of love and joy. The perfect way to begin a school day!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What if we paint at the easel?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Our painting easel is an oasis of quiet, focused creativity. There's only room for two children here, one on each side, and the painting is unhurried and free. The first day that the easels were opened this school year, I gave children "timed appointments" for painting, rushing them through, so that everyone in the classroom might get a turn during our centers time. Now, settled into our seventh week of school, the easel is organically paced...sometimes empty, sometimes full, often one artist lingering on their masterpiece. Teachers can guide from the side, helping children to label the page with their name, converse about the work, move the artwork to the drying line, or provide refills on paint. Let's look at some of the children's work...

Yellow, red, blue
Blue, red, yellow
Children are curious about the colors in the paint containers. We have begun the year with the three primary colors of yellow, red, and blue. As our school year continues, children will help me pick the colors for the easel, allowing for a more diverse palette. As the children learned in our guided discovery, our easels are set up with one brush for each color and children are encouraged to work with the same brush for the same color (in hopes of leaving a good solid color for the next painter). I love how frequently I find children's work that simply shouts "colors of the day." These two were painted many days apart, by two different artists. The paintings seem to ask, "What do we have today?" as the artists investigate what colors are available, developing one color at a time. 

More paper needed!
But, of course, separate, distinct colors are not the only way to paint. The very first week we painted, one introspective child discovered the thrill of covering every inch of the paper with paint. The preschooler worked quite a long time at this, mixing, swirling, stretching the paint. What was the original goal? To escape the tumult of the classroom and find a quiet spot to work alone? To discover what happens if you mix two colors? Was it simply to use up all the paint in the containers? Or maybe to create a puzzle for the teachers by covering one's name entirely? This early investigation has led to much imitation - daily, someone paints every bit of their paper at the easel. It is as if the preschoolers have an insatiable thirst for painting, it is never enough. Alas, the three colors are no longer distinct...however, the art is magical!

The surprise of working together
This next picture is one I call "The surprise of working together" - here, one child was drawing with pastels and wandered away from the easel. Pretty soon thereafter, another preschooler came over and began painting on the same paper. In these early days, children are developing their agency - just beginning to realize how to ask a teacher for a new piece of paper, how to move one child's artwork off the easel, how to ask a friend if they can work with them on art. I loved the combined effort! However, both children seemed surprised at the idea that their art was shared. As the year continues, children will begin to purposefully create art together, but this magical piece was happenstance.

The art of avoidance
This beautiful artwork celebrating the color red was created during our classroom clean up. Yes, this clever preschooler slipped to the easel corner of the classroom while our clean up song played and classmates were busy tidying up the room. The preschooler successfully evaded teachers' eyes, as we focused on putting away blocks, dolls, and other toys. I call it "The Art of Avoidance" and it makes me smile - it does show good focus and persistence.
Saying goodbye to Dad 
I happened upon this masterpiece early one morning, as children were just arriving for school. It had clear lines and a distinct silhouette - not at all typical for my preschoolers. I asked the artist, "What are you painting?" and he answered emphatically "An elephant!" Well, yes, it was! I hurried over to my Teaching Resident and whispered, "Did you see the painting at the easel?," realizing we were working with a budding Picasso...and she said, "Oh yes! His father painted the contour of an elephant for him when he dropped him off." I had a good laugh! A fabulous artwork of family love and connection.

Preschoolers love to paint! Each day, our art corner is simply bursting with their creativity and imagination.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What is death?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

"One can tell the morals of a culture by the way they treat their dead." Benjamin Franklin

We buried Flash the betta fish this week. I noticed he was slowing down one day. The next day when I came in, I didn't even see him in the tank. I looked more closely at the tank and there he was, in long, narrow leaves of the fake seagrass. Imagine, this tiny little life still having the desire and power to die in solitude...living life in a glass bowl, everyone looking at you, and then when it is time to die, finding the one available place of solitude to die.

I shared the news of Flash's death with the preschoolers. I let them see him in the reeds. They asked,
"Is he stuck?"
"Is he tired?"
"Why is he hiding?"
"Why did he die?"
"Is he sick?"

I removed him from the tank and into a paper cup with water, so that we could transport him to the garden for burial. I let the children look into the cup one by one, so that they could each be assured he was no longer alive. They asked,
"Why is he not swimming?"
"Is he sleeping?"
 "Can we make him move?"
"Is the cup too small?" asked one.
When the cup jostled, one declared,
"Flash is moving!"
I asked the children to put a hand over their heart. "Do you feel it beating? You are alive! Flash is no longer alive. He lived a good, long life."

We had a solemn procession down the hall and out the door to bury Flash in the garden. We dug a deep hole, placed Flash within, and then covered him over with dirt. I explained, "Flash the fish will help enrich our garden soil. We will be able to visit him in the garden, should the need arise." The children shared a few words,
"I like Flash."
"I miss Flash."
"Flash is in the dirt."

My colleague took several photos and I was truly surprised and moved by this one; I had not even realized this was happening, in the moment:

Do you see how one preschooler is supporting me, as I prepare to place Flash in the burial spot? It is so beautiful, the empathy and concern of preschoolers. It makes me so hopeful for our world!


Alongside everyone in our nation, I woke up to the news about the carnage in Las Vegas yesterday morning. Another horrific mass shooting.

Our nation will throw heart-wrenching memorials, so many flowers and candles, surrounded by breath-taking photographs of our deceased loved ones. We will weep, sob, cry out in grief. We will head right back out to the gun shop when we are done. What is life? What is the value of life? 

We are teaching our children to take it all in stride.  
Our Mommies, Daddies, sisters, brothers, grandparents, neighbors, colleagues, friends, lovers, fish,
all come and go.

We go through the pantomime of caring. Against all odds.

"One can tell the morals of a culture by the way they treat their dead." Benjamin Franklin

What can we tell about a culture by the way it treats life?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tuesday SOL: Just how?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

I am a teacher of teachers and it is tongue-twisting,
metacognitive work.

This is a poetic attempt to describe this work at the beginning of the school year.

Just How

just how

do I know what to say in the moment?

just how

do I hold a mirror to the effect of her actions?

just how

do I help him to see from the student's perspective?

just how

do I discern what is the most essential thing to notice, to give feedback on?

just how

do I encourage her to see the power of her innate tools of voice, emotion, timing, and even physical presence?

just how

do I decide if this is important enough to mention?

just how

do I see the right and the possible in the midst of missteps?

just how

do I move him from simply being alongside a child to fostering the child's ability to play with peers, learn new routines, explore new things?

just how

do I help her see that she can be with more than one child?

just how

do I help him to react with a developmental lens rather than moral authority?

just how

do I give feedback in the moment, while keeping the classroom moving right along?

just how

do I encourage them not to give up, but to see the process and growth of their own learning?

just how

do I say just the right thing?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What did you just call me?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

In these first few weeks of the school year, one of my ESL students has added so many new English words to his repertoire. He sits very quietly, observing and listening, not visibly participating in our songs, fingerplays, and stories. Later, as he falls asleep at nap, I hear him whisper and repeat, quietly to himself, playing with the English words, the unfamiliar tongue. He is very dear. I'm amazed at how quickly language can be acquired when you are three years old. 

I knew I would hook him with Audrey Woods' The Napping House. I've shared this book with children for so many years that it is a well-worn act for me...a book I can recite from memory. He stared intently at every page, as I recounted the granny, the child, the dog, the cat, the mouse, the flea. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Such a funny tale, really! I watched him watch me with the book, and I wondered - is he following this story? His classmates would spontaneously call out, as if on cue, "where everyone was sleeping!," at the end of every page, but he stayed mute, staring. He stayed quiet as the rest of us laughed together at the conclusion - the broken bed, and everyone playing outside in the sunshine. Then I closed the book and dismissed the children to their lunches.

He sidled over to me and said, "Ok, Granny!"


He thinks the word for an old, gray-haired lady is granny! He learned this from The Napping House.  

This makes me smile. 

You tell me, are we really the same?

Monday, September 11, 2017

What opportunities for language are we missing?

Preschooler A pushes Preschooler B off of the playground balance beam and jumps on it in his place. Preschooler B is on the ground crying and I rush over to help these two problem-solve. Thankfully, I observed the incident, because neither child can explain. Preschooler B gesticulates at Preschooler A, with one word "push!" and Preschooler A just frowns at me with furrowed brow, crossing his arms defiantly, when I insist he talk with us.

I persevere - "Let's check in with Preschooler B. Are you okay? Where do you hurt?"

Preschooler B is standing sullenly at my side, holding his elbow.

Me, to Preschooler A, "You want to use the balance beam, but Preschooler B is on it. Let's do this again, this time, you say 'May I use it now?' and Preschooler B will say, "I am on it. You can be next."

Preschooler A, assessing that this isn't going precisely his way, says, "NO!" and throws himself down on the ground, and begins muttering. He is clearly very frustrated. I do not understand what he is saying.

Turn-taking is the cornerstone of all preschool learning. It feels as if I spend my entire year on this concept, helping children to understand that
you are not always first,
others get to play with something and you will be next,
you ask for what you want and listen to (and heed) what your classmates say;
you work things out together.

It is hard to do this when language skills are delayed.

It seems to me that I am increasingly seeing (hearing!) language delays in preschoolers.

Snapshots -

Dad's important job requires him to have his phone on 24 hours a day, and thus he takes a work call while having breakfast with his baby and preschooler, basically doing a charade about what and how to eat while fielding questions from a client - he shakes his head "no" when the preschooler tries to put more cereal in her bowl, he opens a yogurt container, he shakes the baby's bottle, he takes off their bibs, wipes their faces, gets the baby out of the high chair, helps the preschooler down from her chair, all the while saying "Yes, I can check that out. That's on the agenda for ..."

A city sidewalk. Mom is in the lead, with a preschooler and an elementary child walking behind her. The children have on backpacks and are walking slowly, without purpose, trudging really. Mom is talking with someone near and dear, she is very worked up, "Oh, yeah! That's what she said, but that's not what she does!" Her pace is hurried, and she turns to look at the children behind her and glares, while beckoning them to pick up their pace. They are clearly late for wherever they are headed.

Mom walks in to the classroom with her preschooler right behind her, and goes through the morning drop off ritual mechanically, automatically - Mom puts the child's lunch box in the lunch bin, hangs her back pack on the hook, puts the child's water bottle at the water bottle station. All the while, the child is transfixed by a game on Mom's phone. Mom bends down and gives her a kiss on the cheek and, saying, "time for me to have my phone back!" and the child bursts into tears. Mom takes the phone and hands the crying child to the teacher, with a cheery "Have a great day!," and Mom is out the door.

Playground, after school, adults on their phones, many children running around and playing, some adults chatting with one another, and a few solitary preschoolers sitting on benches with parents' phones in hands.

Riding on metro trains, grocery shopping, sitting at restaurants, everywhere I go, when I see adults and children together, one of the two is focused on the phone, not their companion.

I am now watching vigilantly for interactions that contradict this.

I don't know if I am on a rant or a mission, but I am truly sadden by the missed opportunities for language. I see - hear - the effects in the classroom - children who do not meet your eyes, give monosyllabic answers or even grunts, who do not have any idea how to converse with others.

Let's talk, talk, talk with children!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Shall we begin again?

We begin again.
Learning about the children,
oh so quickly.
She will observe.
He needs a hug.
He has an allergy.
Good luck with her naps!
Be on alert - he will elope.
Let's learn how to line up.
How to clean up.
What are the quiet signals?
When should we listen?
Shall we build with blocks?
What about paint?
Learning about the children,
oh so quickly.
He doesn't eat well, very picky.
She has so much to say!
She is somewhat shy.
Do you remember his older brother?
She's my oldest,
He's my youngest,
So good to know their birthdays.
Watch him run!
What a great laugh.
Oh, she's getting ready to cry.
Mommy coming soon?
Learning about the children,
oh so quickly.
Oops, I think he's had an accident.
Listen to their play!
"Bugs for dinner"
"They're scared."
"We can pretend it's a beach."
"A dog and a firefighter and some food."
"There's a monster coming."
Learning about the children,
oh so quickly.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A new school year begins!

A new school year begins!

Here's a photo of my empty classroom, just after the floors were shined and before all the furniture was dragged back in. It exemplifies


I know this is going to be a fabulous new year!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday SOL: Why write today?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Why write today?
Because it's Tuesday,
and Tuesday means slicing.
Because when I walked,
the ideas and reflections flowed, and 
I know there's stuff to share.
Because I shouldn't let yet another week go by,
without a slice.
Because I have a bit of time before heading to the airport,
for a week of summer vacation in Bryce Canyon,
with my three sons, 
and my husband,
how fun is that?

Because this year's end,
and perhaps every year's end,
was frustrating and exhilarating,
magical and exhausting.
Because of all of those end of year traditions-
water play,
field days,
music concerts,
Learning Showcase,
finalized data,
report cards,
packed boxes, and
closed up classroom.
Because this year's end added one new tradition -
saying farewell to our first class of eighth graders,
our first promotion ceremony. 
although we began our school
with preschool through third grade, 
six years flew by, and 
third graders become eighth graders, and, 
these young adults walk across the stage,
(look closely, you can still see children)
these young adults walk across the stage,
and out the door,
to high school and beyond.
we have built a school.
Because every school year needs closure.
This one,
most of all.

Happy summer!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What makes you chuckle?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Five little anecdotes that have made me smile in recent days -

Who's having the problem?
Two students building together, working alongside one another to create a train track out of blocks, and one is clearly in charge. "You can't make that! I said put it here! No, not like that!" Truly, he is yelling. His classmate works quietly, creating, following directions. I observe for a bit and I am surprised that there is no back-and-forth argument. I suggest to the quiet one, the "follower" - "You know you can build elsewhere - you don't have to play with him if he is treating you unkindly." To which he responded without a moment's hesitation - "Oh no! He's my best friend!" and he continued building happily alongside.

Who loves you?
A daughter is saying goodbye to her father at the beginning of the day and she gives him a much-loved unicorn headband, which she has changed her mind about having at school. Rather than simply take this from her, he puts it on his own head and he walks down the hall wearing her unicorn headband - much to his daughter's glee.

What are you crying about?
Someone cries about a toy not shared and another student says, "Ms. Ingram, is he a baby? Only babies cry, right?" I, of course, want to change his impression about tears and so I say, "Oh no, everybody cries, at all ages. I was just crying this morning." "What were you crying about?" he asks. Another student calls out, "Was it Donald Trump?"

May I build on your idea?
I am reading a nonfiction book about bugs at story time, and I stop for a moment to ask - "Who remembers what nonfiction means?" Three hands shoot up, so I call them one by one to define the word nonfiction: 1) "It means everybody's safe." 2) "It means to be safe in your car." 3) "It means watch out for cars when you are in the street."

What is your good news?
I am laying on a makeshift bed in the dramatic play corner, pretending to be sick, while many able preschool doctors take care of me. One declares, "Ms. Ingram, I have good news! You are not sick!" "I'm not?" I ask, tentatively. "No, you are not. You are going to have a baby!" To which I burst out laughing and say, "Oh, I must share this news with Ms. Wright." The preschool doctor declares, "No, Ms. Ingram, you don't have to share this news - this is just pretend!"

Five little chuckles, out of many every day.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday SOL When to walk away?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

One particular child has been giving my Teaching Resident a "run for her money." This little friend has decided that he will not participate in our daily ritual clean up of the classroom. When Sweet Honey in the Rock sings their delightful cue for everyone to stop playing and instead put things away, this preschooler makes a tighter grip on the toys in his hand and scoots under one of our classroom tables to hide. 

If you weren't responsible for all these preschoolers, if you weren't hoping to get the room cleared so that the day could continue with lunch and nap, maybe if you were simply there as a spectator to observe children's different approaches to clean up, I suppose you might find his antics pretty hilarious. However, the Teaching Resident does feel responsible for all these preschoolers. She has been openly wondering, How can I motivate him? What motivates him? What is so difficult about clean up? Shouldn't preschoolers be expected to help clean up their own things? Isn't following through on routine an important skill? 

As soon as the music starts, he hides under the table. The Teaching Resident has tried so many different tactics - 
taking him aside at the outset of the day and calmly stating expectations for clean up [he assures her that 'no, he will not clean']; 
taking him out from under the table and trying to guide him through the clean up, with teacher as his partner [he cries throughout the process]; 
giving him a partner to clean with [he folds his arm and continues to refuse - once, the partner joined him under the table to hide!]; 
giving him a heads up for the clean up, a gentle warning, so that he might complete his playing before cleaning [this just made him go under the table earlier]; and, of course, 
talking to his family about this recalcitrance [as the baby of the family, cleaning up one's things isn't a big expectation at home].

This little preschooler is the Teaching Resident's best teacher. He is "Exhibit A," illustrating the art of teaching - there is no one script to follow in guiding students, nothing you teach will ever go 'perfectly,' and it is essential to build good connections with each student. 

When the Teaching Resident asked for my advice about this little stinker, she shared how she finds herself thinking about him in the evenings, frustrated at her inability to figure this out. I think it is really terrific that she wrestles with this. I complimented her on how many different tactics she has tried. She has taken time to reflect, to look at it from different perspectives. He is telling us that he really, really, really doesn't want to do something. 

I believe - when we go head-to-head with a child, I think we have already lost. For whatever reason, he has dug his heels in about this expectation. Digging one's heels is the most power a preschooler ever has. I suggested a moratorium on the expectation of clean up for this one child. Yes. What if we simply ignore the challenging behavior and work on building a strong connection with him? What would happen if we let go of this specific expectation (wordlessly, without any fanfare) and engaged with him in more positive ways, for example working and playing beside him, asking questions, having conversation, being joyful? Dare to let it go. 

What will we notice? 

Reminds me of Kenny Rogers' song "The Gambler,"

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What do you see in the cup?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Observational drawing by Jada

It's spring and we have a cup of caterpillars in our preschool classroom! Just this past weekend, they formed chrysalises and the preschoolers are in awe. I've tried to slow down the thinking, having the preschoolers make observational drawings of what they see. (I will share a few of these here, in this blogpost.) I knew this was the perfect lesson for the "See Think Wonder" thinking routine, which I had learned from Project Zero training last summer. As they drew, I asked What do you see? I tried to keep the children focused on simply what was visible in the jar:

I see four chrysalises. I call 'em caterpillars. And the jar. And spider webs.
I see cobwebs, 'cause they make cobwebs, and cocoons.
I see cocoons.
I see this one and it has a black part.
I see cocoons playing.
Observational drawing by Misha
There is dirt on the bottom.
I see the bodies on the circle.
The caterpillars made cocoons and they are hanging up.
I see caterpillars walking and eating food. 
Caterpillars make cocoons.
Four cocoons.
Caterpillars have pointy things.
Cocoons hang from the sky. They are shaking.
I see a spiderweb.
Cocoons. They are shaking. Caterpillars make it.
I see cocoons.

Try as I liked to have them simply focus on what they saw - what they actually observed - the preschoolers couldn't help thinking and imagining. They shared thoughts aloud that were clearly not visible. I tried to return them to observation mode with a quick, What did you see that makes you think so? However, their musings multiplied and I let them answer - What do you think?

I think there was an egg.
I think caterpillars walk around and they sleep.
The cocoon is for the caterpillar
That might be food. They eat leaves.
Observational drawing by Audrey
Something's in it - maybe a butterfly.
They come from eggs, they turn into caterpillars, and then they turn into butterflies.
And push out into a butterfly!
It looks like fish; it is the same color. It looks like a Daddy Long Legs with its leg stuck in the web.
The caterpillars will turn into butterflies and then will fly.

I never even had to ask, What do you wonder? The preschoolers were mesmerized by the disappearance of crawling caterpillars and the arrival of four chrysalises hanging from the top of the jar. Their questions poured forth - 

Observational drawing by Henry
What are the webs for?
Are the caterpillars shaking the cocoons inside?
What let's it hang?
What is the gakky [sic] thing on the bottom?
Did the cocoon on the bottom die?
What do caterpillars eat? I wonder if they eat dirt?
Is it a spider web.
Are there new baby eggs in the jar?
What are the black fuzzy things on the bottom? Is it part of a caterpillar?
Why shouldn't we touch it?
Is the cocoon on the bottom eating the food?
Would the caterpillars be scared?

Observational drawing by Gabrielle
The most frequent wonder revolved around the movement of the chrysalises - these definitely appeared to be shaking, wiggling, moving. I loved this exchange between four students -
What is making them shake?
- Because they are shaking a lot of days.
- Caterpillars are playing in their house.
- Because they are trying to spread out their wings.

It is amazing how much language and thinking comes forth when preschoolers can watch this metamorphosis right up close!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tuesday SOL: Why do we miss the essentialness of play?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Today, I feel a little bit like I am on a rant...talking about the same old, same old. Many years ago, when serving on a ‘Minister Search Committee’ for my church, I heard it said that every preacher has basically five good sermons – essential messages to which they keep coming back. I wonder the same thing about this early childhood blog – what are the top five things I keep saying over and over, even if packaging it or introducing it in different ways? What’s at my core? I have to believe that I write about more than five things, but I keep coming back to certain beliefs:

  1. Let children play - let them choose their own fun, make their own learning.
  2. Be present while they play - notice, converse, extend.
  3. Make the preschool classroom a laboratory, filled with tinkering, exploring, creating, wondering, discovering.
  4. Help novice teachers see the richness and importance of all of the above.
  5. Advocate for all of the above.
Yes, here I am today with more of the same. I worry so about our young children. What is happening to their childhood? I worry about how much we are preoccupied when we are around them, I worry about the strict routines to which we hold them, I worry about the academics we are spoon-feeding them rather than letting them choose their own adventures. I think about how much the world has changed for the average three year old over the past quarter century - getting dressed and out the door first thing each morning, being confined with many peers of the exact same age for eight to ten hours a day, following teacher's instructions, coming home and eating and going to bed, to repeat the same thing the next day. 

I worry about how my perspective is perceived by many as 'cute', 'quaint', 'old-fashioned.'

Just this past week, we had family conferences and I found myself 'preaching'...one dear family with an academically-able child asked if she should skip pre-k 4 and advance directly to kindergarten next year. I teach three year olds. No, no, no, no, no! Please, why? Why are we rushing childhood? Why do we think we should push children? The learning that happens when they play with their peers is priceless: problem-solving, persevering, becoming socially competent.

Thankfully, my perspective isn't seen as 'out of touch' by all - one family shared how their child loves coming to preschool each day. This Mom suggested that the classroom was like a laboratory, and added "I feel that my child needs to do, needs to make, needs to feel satisfied." She thanked me for providing a classroom that allowed her child daily adventure, a place where she can make something new happen each day. These are words I live by!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What about critique?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

I feel a lot of compassion for novice teachers.
I know they must wonder -
At what point is teaching done? 
At what point have I done everything perfectly?

It is May and my Teaching Resident is leading the classroom. The more she leads, the more feedback she receives. I know she is at that uncomfortable place of trying to please everyone - master teacher (me!), mentor, colleagues, principal, graduate school, on and on...and let's not forget the students.

Let's just be real - you can critique E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

How might you speed up the pace?
How might you slow it down?
Why didn't the children have more voice?
(Or conversely - the children are talking too much - How might you teach children to listen?)
What behavior management challenges are you having?
How might you change your approach with that student?
What was the teaching objective?
How do you know the students achieved this? 
What might be a more developmentally appropriate approach?
How might you make transitions more efficient?
What else is happening in the classroom while you are in small group?
Was everyone engaged? Why or why not?
How might you engage all the children?
Why did you include that?
Did you notice such-and-such?

Everyone has questions, everyone has commentary, everyone has their perspective on how things should be. Often, these ideas are contradictory. Who is right?

I don't believe you ever reach perfection in teaching. There is always room for change, modification, improvement.

Perhaps the very best student teaching experience 
helps you grow into that place where 
you seek advice from others 
while simultaneously
listening to yourself, 
trusting your instincts, 
being aware of and working on your deficits, 
daring to teach as you feel is right, and
humbling yourself for a do over.