Saturday, March 25, 2017

sol17-25 Should we expect that?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


I was once told during an observation,

"Some children left the table after only a short while, meaning that they were not engaged."

Does it?

Well, I suppose, it might. You could probably make a case for this...whatever was at the table wasn't interesting, or the teacher didn't engage the child, or...

However, I don't think how long a student stays in one place necessarily indicates that they are stimulated by the work.

Should preschoolers be expected to stay in one place, to engage in a center?
What if they think of something else they want to do, in addition to this?
If they reach a stopping point, do we respect them enough to let them slip away?
Isn't it possible that they will perhaps return to do more in this center later?
What does engagement look like at age 3 and 4?
Should teachers be insisting that children stay put, working in one place?
Is the value of an activity directly related to how many students do it and for how long?
Should teachers insist that every student participate in every activity?
What do preschoolers learn when they get to decide what interests them?

I have open centers, student choice. On the best of days, I have nearly 90 minutes of this time for preschoolers, with a range of things for them to do, investigate, play, explore, learn. This means, preschoolers move freely from and between block building, science investigations, art exploration, dramatic play, writing, and more. There are three teachers in the classroom and at least one is a "floater," moving about the room and observing closely; another teacher (or sometimes two) is anchored to an activity, guiding students in specific ways.

I believe preschoolers should have the right and the privilege to leave the table, move away from a center, try another activity. I believe, as much as possible, they should be able to choose their learning. I believe that this flexibility of choice is developmentally appropriate practice.

Certainly, my hope is that I have stimulated them with the activity that has been introduced.
Of course, I know some preschoolers who resist new things, and I work with these students a little more, helping them to stretch and try.
Simultaneously, I am trying to cultivate longer attention spans and the ability to keep at something, even if it gets hard or doesn't go the way you expect.
Even so, I believe it is possible to work on things over time and sometimes taking a break is just what is needed.
Hopefully, I am observant about each individual student, noticing what they do and reflecting on what they need.
Argumentatively, there are so many individual circumstances that could change all meaning of what just happened!

I guess you can tell that this line from my observation report didn't sit well with me!

I walk away from my writing a lot. I'll write something, wander off and wash dishes or run a load of laundry, perhaps even go teach for the day, and then return to my writing, read through it, write some more, revise, and maybe wander off again. 

Do we respect this flexibility and choice in our youngest learners ?


Friday, March 24, 2017

sol17-24 What makes our community better?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.



As I was exiting the metro train this morning, a young man endearingly called out to me, "Ladyglove." There was a brief mental delay on my part before I realized he had noticed that I left my gloves on the seat - and I thanked him profusely, with an embarrassed giggle. Not a morning to walk without gloves. A huge smile filled my face as I walked on, pulling on my gloves, and I repeated, affectionately, "Ladyglove, Ladyglove, Ladyglove." Funny that my first thought was that he was just being pleasant.

Little things are so important.

Somehow, this got me thinking about the small steps my preschoolers have taken, making our community better - 
- she often uses a regular voice now, rather than that high-pitched screech
- similarly, he often uses a regular voice now, rather than that whine
- he no longer needs our assistance in the bathroom
- she is helping with clean up
- he worked on that activity for a good long while, very focused
- she stroked his back when she saw that he was crying
- yes, he's still dumping things out, but he enjoys picking them back up
- he plays with his classmates, not just alongside
- she is eager to share her things with others
- he can come to school in a dress and no one bats an eye
- she invited others to play with her
- he lies quietly on his cot during nap

These are not big things, but they make the day so much smoother - like gloves on a cold day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

sol17-23 Who are we?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


Note - you know you are using new "thinking" muscles when you wake up in the middle of the night with a clear idea for a slice...that's exactly what happened here, proving this daily writing challenge is such a good habit! 


Let's call her Lillian. She is one of my calm, predictable children. She is always eager to see what is happening in a small group, 'ready to go' when you call her name. She is pleasant with her classmates, going along with their ideas and sometimes suggesting her own. I would like to hear a more independent voice from her, I'd like to hear more of her ideas. In conflicts, she might be reduced to tears and come find me to help resolve, but she is never physical in her reactions. Although this last note is such an asset in a bustling classroom of preschoolers, I would like to see her assert herself when she feels wronged. In short, we adore Lillian and she is a very engaged and happy preschooler.

Fast forward - Dad comes to pick Lillian up at the end of the school day; he has picked up her older brother Calvin first. Calvin is a third grader and, though I never taught him, I sense that he has much the same temperament as his sister. It is atypical for Dad to pick up Calvin first; typically Lillian goes with Dad to get Calvin. Anyhow, Calvin is happily finishing his classroom snack, a packet of fruit snacks.

Here's where I was simply stunned -

Lillian rushes over to him and loudly, vehemently demands "Give me one!" and Calvin smiles, turns his body away from her, and says "No, they are all gone" and takes his last bite with a satisfied gulp. Without a moment's hesitation, Lillian starts to beat on Calvin - both fists, bam, bam, bam. The older brother giggles and moves away quickly, but Lillian screams at him and begins to chase him down. I have never seen her angry like this! (Deftly, Dad grabs Lillian by the hand and quickly exits the room with both children.)

Truly, from my perspective - Lillian went from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.

I wonder, how hard is it for Lillian to be so 'good' each day in preschool? Is school simply a safer place, surrounded by people who she knows less well? Or, is she 'on guard' at school? Is this a good thing? (For my daily reality as her teacher, it is certainly a good thing - my work would be so much more difficult if she were so physical in her conflicts!)

I think about how attuned I was to her social-emotional learning - how I would like to see her assert herself when she feels wronged. I bet these words would sound pretty funny to her family, who know her best in her role as sibling to Calvin.

Who are we, really?
Are we our real selves around family?
Do we act differently with different people?
When are we wearing a mask, acting a role, doing something less authentic?






Wednesday, March 22, 2017

sol17-22 What about that?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.



"Look, it can tie!"
"This is for screwing things in."
"I have six keys."
"I can pull this piece off."
"This goes around and around."
"Hear the music!"
"You can squeeze this part off."
"This is a part of my Mommy's purse."
"I want to open it."
"It is very, very, very soft."
"See, it is a triangle tape."

We have just begun our found objects exploration, a yearly pleasure for me. At home, the children collected ten small, inconsequential, extra items - things their families didn't need anymore - and we will investigate and re-use in art, engineering, literacy, and math projects. Today, they dumped out their bags of these found objects and wondered aloud about their findings. These little bits of odds and ends are such curiosities! Hearing their non-stop chatter and watching them manipulate the pieces in unexpected ways, I once again was reminded -preschoolers are instinctively engineers, scientists, artists, mathematicians, and storytellers.

Here's to the beginning of what I know will be a fun journey! All I want to do is sit back and record children's words and watch them think.




 


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

sol17-21 Do you know your pants are ripped?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


"Do you know your pants are ripped?" 

I hear Ms. Wright, my Teaching Assistant, talking, but I keep moving because there is no way she is talking to me.

Right?

"Ms. Ingram, do you know your pants are ripped?" 

"Wha-a-a-at?" I stop and look at her. "Me? My pants are ripped?"

"Yes, in the back."

"Oh no they are not!" I insist. 

I mean really, it is the middle of centers and the children are playing, I have a small group to lead...I have a meeting to go to after lunch and I am meeting friends at a restaurant right after school, so, seriously, this is not happening, and besides, this has never happened before, I don't have extra clothes at school, and therefore, seriously, this is not happening. 

Ms. Wright is giggling. "Ms. Ingram, truly, your pants are ripped."

"Well, is it just a little bit ripped? No big deal?"

"Ah, no."

I reach behind and oh my goodness I can feel my underwear. The entire backside has split. What is happening?! How can this be?! What underwear am I wearing?! Is this really happening?! I shriek, "What!?! No! This can't be! What am I supposed to do?!" My mind is racing: Wasn't I just talking to Mr. Jones in the doorway and didn't I turn around to get those papers? Holy smokes. What did he see? What does he know that he doesn't want to admit he knows? This is humiliating! I shriek, "I cannot have ripped pants!" and I shimmy backwards toward my cubby.

Several children say, "Let me see, Ms. Ingram!"

Ms. Wright and Ms. Head start to problem-solve for me - "Didn't you wear a scarf? Wrap the scarf around like a sarong - you'll look glamorous!" Ms. Head grabs the scarf - "See, here, put it on, let's see!" 

For the rest of the day, there I was - dressed in a makeshift sarong around my jeans. I even went to dinner with it on. Do you know that no one - and I mean, NO ONE - noticed or commented on this new style of mine? 

Epilogue:
This REALLY happened, this past December. I keep an extra pair of pants at school at all times now.













Monday, March 20, 2017

sol17-20 Are we listening?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


Near the end of a day, when many children had been picked up, and the room was growing quieter and only a few children remained, she came to me and said, "Ms. Ingram, I have a song I want to share." "A song?" I asked, "Oh please do!" She began solemnly, "I have a song about Rapunzel. There's no sorceress, only a bad guy and the bad guy, he..." I realized immediately, this was not a song, certainly not a typical song, but a story, a sharing, an outpouring of words that this little preschooler was simply bursting to offer. I got out my pen and wrote her offering down.

I love that she called it a song. 
I love that she knew I would want to capture it, that I would write it down and read it back to her.
I love that I have created the space for such sharing to happen.

I worry that I am not hearing everyone's stories.
I worry that my days get too busy, that I have too many to do's.
I worry that one day someone will say, "excuse me, that child is not focused on what is in your lesson plan for this part of the day." 

Well, I don't really worry about this happening to me, because I would no longer be teaching if that were the expectation. But, honestly - it is happening in classrooms. Yes, even in the preschool classroom, there is an ever-increasing burden for writing detailed lesson plans, noting each and every standard or objective you will teach. 

I worry about novice, less-experienced teachers who bow to administrations that ask this of them, who faithfully expend hours making the minute and predictive details of curriculum planning and who teach to these plans, but have not the time to observe, or reflect on, or to be truly present with their students. If the expectation is on the paperwork, the forms, the "shell" of teaching, how do teachers learn to focus on the individual student, to create a classroom that builds on children's own interests, and where children are curious, investigating, moving, conversing, trying, questioning, wondering?  

This little girl and her story song - these are opportunities woven like a golden yet invisible thread into the fabric of my planning. You won't find them listed anywhere in my plans. These moments are when I feel my teaching is at its best: children who have been so riveted by books, so engaged by their play, so delighted by dramatizing stories, so lost in their learning, that they must, simply must, tell you all about it. 

We teachers must be there to listen.

Isn't this what children deserve? 





Sunday, March 19, 2017

sol17-19 What am I to do?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


What Am I To Do?
(a poem about challenging behavior in the preschool classroom)

He's thirty pounds of goading
You cannot believe he could
Sweetest little face and eyes
He will not do what he should.

He pours lunch milk on the floor,
Slowly dumps out all the blocks,
Takes special toys from his friends,
And runs when it's time to walk.

Of course, when the lights go out
and the slow nap music plays
He is now singing loudly 
tapping his foot, like a stage.

Shh! Shh! Take care! Please! Be kind!
I plead in so many ways
"Head, Shoulders, Knees" he now sings
The song we practiced today.

He's thirty pounds of goading
You cannot believe he could
Sweetest little face and eyes
He will not do what he should.






Saturday, March 18, 2017

sol17-18 How do you become a writer?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

At a recent early childhood team meeting, we had a terrific discussion about early writing. Our early childhood team is six classrooms - two each of kindergarten, pre-K 4, and preschool (or pre-K 3 - as it is frequently called in our district.) I'm a preschool/pre-K 3 teacher. The kindergarten teachers were sharing about Writer's Workshop, and I was riveted by focus of their teaching - getting students to think about punctuation, space between words, stretching out the words to hear all the sounds.
Writing materials in preschool dramatic play

We talked about how these concepts can be a developmental stretch for many kindergarteners, sharing anecdotes of students who are still not connecting that letters create words, who struggle to hold a pencil, who have very little interest in sitting still and focusing. We saw a video clip of one kindergartener who was reading his own writing aloud and - rather than recognizing or connecting letters he himself had written on the page - closed his eyes and tried to recall his story from memory. 

We wondered, are we pushing children to read and write too soon? How do you know when it is too much to expect? How do you recognize what a student really needs?

We talked about how writing isn't simply a 45 minute workshop block. Students should see themselves as writers, all the time. Early childhood classrooms should have writing tools available throughout the classroom, no matter where a child plays - clipboards at the ready in science centers and in the block corner; pads of paper, notebooks, schedules in dramatic play; sign-ins at arrival; sensory tables that emphasize fine motor skill development through tools such as tweezers, tongs, or hiding small beads and sequins in sand; writing centers stocked with pencils, crayons, alphabet tools, more.
Writing materials in the block center


We shared what we know about writing tools, things we've learned from occupational therapists that have worked with young children with fine motor issues, such as triangular and chunky crayons, short 'golf' pencils that force you to pinch the end of the pencil. It is essential to have a full array of writing tools - and opportunities to build those fine motor muscles.

Of course, writing is language in print. How can you be expected to write if you haven't the words to share? From their earliest days in school, we must give them opportunities to share, converse, tell stories, to build their oral language - and we should capture and document their words.
Writing materials in the art corner

I walked away from this early childhood meeting really excited about teaching. I was struck by the true art of teaching: 

  • knowing each child individually - personality, temperament, family, routines, likes, desires, fears, hopes, more; 
  • seeing the big picture (knowing the developmental milestones of writing skills, Common Core standards, curriculum expectations) and able to identify the smaller, personalized goals for students;
  • having a keen understanding of development, how large and fine motor, cognitive, oral language, and social emotional skills all play a role in the 'academic' goals;
  • having an awareness of those 'zones of proximal development' - knowing when it is good to push, stretch, instigate 
  • having time to focus on individual students and their learning struggles, and living with the tension of the disproportionate time and attention you give to certain students (teaching can be so much more efficient with our higher level learners)
  • collaborating with our colleagues, learning about their approaches, considering questions together, and continually improving one's own practice. 

I also think - not only is teaching an art, it must be activism. We early childhood teachers must be activists. We must speak up for play and exploration, defend developmentally appropriate practice, and remind our administrators and legislators about the individual children behind the data. 




















Friday, March 17, 2017

sol17-17 When do we go home?




I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


This was a draining day at the end of a long, mixed-up, irregular week. If routine and predictability are the best thing for preschoolers, then no wonder this week was so hard. We had the wacky snow/no snow day. We had two days of two hour delays. We had piercing cold temperatures, making outdoor play near impossible. We had one of my teaching team (my Teaching Resident) get chosen for a jury, meaning we had two days of subs and we will have more subs next week. Oh please please please, let it be Friday!

The day was long. L - O - O - O - N - N - N - G - G - G!

Then, during naptime, I got to slip out of my room and down the hall to the kindergarten classrooms, which were having a Young Author's Celebration. Their students had written "How To" books. Oh, this was fabulous! I got to sit and have stories read to me, by students that were - so very recently - preschoolers! How can it be that they are writing and reading? So fabulous. 

Here are the titles of a few of the books that were read to me: 

How to Draw a Tiger
How to Swim in a Pool
How to Play Mario Brothers
How to Make a Salad
How to Read a Book
How to Write a How To Book
I returned to my classroom with just one hour of the school day left, full of energy. I could write a book -

How to Re-Energize

and it would include being read to by former students.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

sol17-16 What about a box?


I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

What would preschool be like without a box?

Yes, we have a gift of a box...a huge box...someone replaced their water heater and we got the most important part, the box. I didn't have an immediate need or plan, but I had no doubt that the preschoolers would put it to good use. So, we painted it all sorts of colors (mostly blue)...and then I dared to cut holes in the sides and on top, to make it look a little bit like a vehicle...still observing the children and wondering which way to take it. I wasn't entirely sure they wanted a vehicle...but, I wanted some way to allow them inside, to let their imaginations go wild.

Well, we are going, going, going somewhere! Here are a few pictures from the box's recent travels.



In its original position, the preschoolers saw it as a bus and a train and a police car and a firetruck. They tried to see how many children could squeeze in, which ended not so happily because it led to lots of squishing, shoving, and pushing. They quickly resolved this by putting in chairs and declaring that you must sit on a chair to be in the box (they can fit, at most, three). I like this second way best, oh yes! I like that they figured out their own solution to the mosh pit and I like that they were now taking turns, alternating who got to be in the vehicle and who has other duties outside the vehicle. There are so many things to do! Someone is always baking pretend cookies (dominoes) in the kitchen and then you have to pack these and take them somewhere - a favorite destination is the fire station.




It didn't take the children too long to discover that the box was also a whole lot of fun when in a vertical position. Now, it can be a rocket ship! Not as many children can play when the box is in this position, but every now and again, why not blast off?




Another group of adventurers discovered that one part of the cardboard can lift up. This looked much more like a dashboard. A couple children can fit under this part (and they are there in the picture, though you might never know this if I hadn't told you). When the cardboard piece is up, there is a lot more action in dramatic play - often the vehicle is a police car and we have "bad guys to get." Sometimes it is a race car. Sometimes it is Batman's car. One time it was "a boat with wild waves, going out to space" and bringing meals of dominoes to the astronauts. Regardless, it is moving fast!





Then a more genteel crowd happened upon the cardboard box and the play became much quieter. Every spare cloth was used to decorate the exterior and interior - and now the box was a house, with mothers, daddies, sisters, brothers, and babies. A few cloths were spread out on the floor nearby, as beds for the babies. The preschoolers brought tea cups and plates and the dominoes. (I'm not sure what it is about dominoes, but I have a huge container of these and they are a welcome addition to the children's play. They are no longer dominoes, of course, but cookies, food, tickets, money, treasures....)




Once, the play transformed into simply dominoes. Let's get them all in the box! This was wild, reckless abandon, with children running around collecting all the dominoes that had strayed throughout centers (some in the toy oven, others in the toy sink, still more in purses, plastic containers, bags, don't forget those on the table, those over there for the picnic, those with the toy animals...) and dropping them into the box. Children got on all sides of the box and just shook the box and all the dominoes, laughing with delight at the clatter. I have to admit, I pretty much stopped the play because it was too loud and too wild even for me. I suggested that it was near time for clean up - and they were fascinated when I showed them how we could use the box as a funnel, tipping the box and sliding all the dominoes into one larger container. "Cool!" 

So much fun, this box.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

sol17-15 How can I learn more about that?


I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


I have been participating in an on-line 30-day exercise challenge, thanks to the prodding of a very dear niece...and I am amused by my warmup routine. Yes, I begin each workout with a Google search of all the exercises I don't know followed by viewing Youtube video clips of how to do them. Here's just a sampling of the exercises I've had to investigate:
  • bear hug side plank
  • burpees
  • mountain climbers
  • Russian twists
  • tricep dips with leg raise
  • holloman to knee crunches
  • plank jacks
  • chaturanga push-ups
  • lateral skater jumps
  • heismans
  • Brazilian lunges
  • curtsy squats
Don't you think I should be in amazing shape, just because I know what these are now? Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Practice, practice, practice.

I feel energized when I am "getting smart" about something new, much like an adventurer in new terrain. This positive feeling was the silver lining to my son's autoimmune disease - finding out everything I could possibly know, comparing different sources, learning what to question and what to accept as truth. It is the adrenaline boost for preparing for vacations, especially travel abroad - reading about the location, investigating sightseeing possibilities, and compiling lists of to do's. It is the 'piece de resistance' of my teaching - looking up new techniques, reading about others' experiences, getting background information, considering another perspective.

It is remarkable how essential the internet is to research and how quickly you can access the information you need. It wasn't so long ago that research necessitated a physical visit to the library. It wasn't so long ago when the big questions involved looking at microfiche (and I'm nerdy enough to have loved this level of fact-finding). It wasn't so long ago that if new questions arose or there was something additional to include, you needed to buy new typing paper and begin all over again. Truly, it is extraordinary what information is available right at our fingertips, within mere seconds.

It certainly makes my workouts easier!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

sol17-14 How is change good?


I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


My morning alarm went off as usual, and I immediately checked my phone for a message. Just like I feared - the promised big snow fizzled into an icy slush, bringing a confusion of school closings and delays. My Maryland neighborhood schools were closed. However, the Washington, D.C. school where I teach had a two-hour delay. Ugh. Gotta get ready for the slog of a commute. Note to self: find ways to make it better, to be grateful, to see the wonder. I reset the alarm for a little later and went back to sleep.

This small delight didn't last terribly long. I couldn't stop thinking about all the extra things that needed doing. My husband is out of town for a few days...I would need to shovel the driveway, I would need to scrape off the car. I got out of bed, made myself a cup of hot tea, and surveyed the scene outside.

I shoveled the snow right away, before breakfast, before reading the newspaper. Two inches of heavy back-breaking icy slush. It looked like nothing but weighed a ton. Note to self: focus on the beauty of the snowy trees and shrubs, how quiet everything is outside, how beautiful. I found a thick coat of ice on my car. Sorry, this is not beautiful. Ugh. I decided that it was wiser to take the bus this morning. Note to self: see, you have options! How lucky! I packed my backpack with spare slip-ons and a yummy lunch, I bundled up in my warm "ski" hat, gloves, and snow boots. Out the door! Here goes!

There was no one on the roads. No one. Ugh! They were all sleeping in!!! Even the Federal Government received a three-hour delayed start. I was all alone. I was the only one awake. I was the only one who was miserable. Ugh: the roads are unplowed. I had to trudge through this icy, wet stuff. Note to self: hey, isn't this fun? You are walking the center of streets to the bus stop - how often do you get to do that?

Walking. Walking. Walking. Bus stop. My husband sends me a love message from warm, sunny Arizona.  Ice pellets rain down on me. I wait for the bus. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Are the busses running? How do I know if the busses are running? What was my backup plan? Did I need a backup plan? I waited. From behind me, I heard laughter - a boy of about 8 or 10 years of age was rolling around in the snow in his front yard, which made me smile. Ahh, that is how this day should have begun. Wistful. Sad. Lonely. Note to self, note to self, note to self? What to feel grateful for? What can I think of?

Unbelievably, a lone car pulls out of a neighboring road and then it stopped in front of me. The driver rolled down the window and called out - "Are you headed to the metro? Would you like a ride? I'm not sure the busses are running." Yes! A woman picked me up at my bus stop. An angel named Ingrid. She didn't know me and I didn't know her. I am truly grateful. 

Truly, from this moment on, the day became lighter. I was challenged from the get go, but I worked on focusing on the positive and letting in the joy. Now, looking back on the day, I am realizing it can be good if not invigorating when our normal 'rules' and routines get bent or downright broken. It makes you look at the world with new eyes.

Just today,
  • I accepted a ride from a stranger, and met a neighbor, learning quickly that we had people and things in common. 
  • When I got off the metro, I found my path to school thick with the same icy sludge that I shoveled back home...I walked with my feet pointing out, I walked with my feet pointing in, just like Peter in The Snowy Day
  • Only half my students attended school today and I felt as though I engaged and connected with every one of them; also, missing many of their classmates, I watched the children play together in new ways.
  • I brought snow in from outside for the children to explore and they kept their mittens on to make snowballs and snow muffins. 
  • We slowed our schedule down, had a leisurely lunch with lots of good conversation, put the children down for their nap a little later, and all was well. 

Turn around, the day was over.

Change: challenging, provocative, daring, trusting, silly, looser, happier.



Monday, March 13, 2017

sol17-13 Will there be snow?


I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


   




I did my part.
Painting snow pictures with shaving cream and glue.
Reading The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.
Doing a snow dance together.
Singing songs about snowflakes.
Reminding everyone to wear their pajamas inside out and backwards.

Will there be snow?

Typically, my preschoolers are my best clue.
I know a storm is coming because their emotions are up and down and their bodies are in overdrive.
Honestly, I didn't see any of that today. 
We had a lovely day together, with lots of calm play and exploration.

Will there be snow?

Oh sure, the East Coast will see snow. 
Oh sure, there will be blizzard conditions.
I'm just not sure that this storm is going to hit the Washington, D.C. area. 
I think our area might very well be a bust.
The latest models show only 1" to 3" right in the heart of the city.
My fear is that our 'snow' will simply make tomorrow's commute annoying, frustrating, ugly, depressing, long.

Will there be snow?

Does anyone want snow more than teachers and students?

Will there be snow?

It's getting dark now. There are a few flakes falling. Hmmm.

Will there be snow?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

sol17-12 What are we celebrating?


I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.




I am delighted to say, today is my 29th wedding anniversary! I came home to beautiful roses and funny candy on Friday after school. Funny candy? "Riesens" - Tony called them "the many Riesens for loving me" - yes, funny candy! Truly, we have celebrated our anniversary all weekend long.

My gift to him? I decided to write - of course! He was the inspiration, with his silly Riesens. I wrote down 29 reasons I loved him - plus 1 more to grow on. I wrote each reason on a tiny sliver of paper, like a fortune; I scrolled each one up and filled a very small box, and presented him with these treasures. It was a lovely reflection process for me - thinking about all that has happened over the many years of our marriage, and why I hope for many more years. May it be so.

Happy day, happy us, feeling very blessed. 


Saturday, March 11, 2017

sol17-11 What if?


I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

Alice wondered if she had made a mistake to agree to go. Her silly, impulsive delight had given way to something much heavier, a sense of foreboding, a grip of fear, a reality of evil. Throughout the five hour train ride from Boston to Philadelphia, she had become more and more withdrawn. Quiet. Questioning. Why was she here? What was she doing here? Thoughts spun around in her head. She didn't feel well. She felt trembly. She felt chilly. She felt faint. She felt scared. 

The plan seemed wrong. 

Ted, on the other hand, was beyond happy. He and his buddy Jack were meeting their girlfriends, Alice and Kath for a weekend in Philadelphia, headed to the Army-Navy football game. Two Navy midshipmen, living the dream. Ted and Jack would share one hotel room, Alice and Kath would share a second. What a splurge! Ted was so excited! This was the big game, something he had wanted to do for a long time. 

Dressed in their Navy uniforms, Ted and Jack knocked on the girls' hotel room door. Kath opened the door quickly and said, "She's not right." There was Alice, sitting frozen on the edge of the bed, still wearing her coat from the train trip, still clutching her purse. Ted put his arm around her, and asked "Alice? Alice? What's wrong, hon?" She shivered. She leaned into him. She began to softly cry, "I don't know. I can't go. I don't know." 

Jack and Kath left for the game separately and Ted waited with Alice. He held her, he comforted her, he took care of her. He managed to get her coat off, to put her purse down on the table. It was a long and fitful evening, with Alice's tears and despairing words. Ted missed out on the Army-Navy game, choosing to care for his anxious, panicked girlfriend instead. When Jack and Kath returned from the game, they found Alice asleep against Ted, still fully dressed, laying on top of the bed. Ted shooed them away, asking Kath to please stay with Jack. 

As a Mom, I want to tell young adult Ted to run quickly away from Alice. To assure him that she needs therapy, that she needs to take responsibility for herself, to figure out what is going on. I want to tell young adult Alice to do the hard, personal work about herself, to find out what is triggering her anxiety, her emotional outbursts, her panic, her instability. 

However, I'm not the Mom. 
I'm Ted and Alice's daughter.


Friday, March 10, 2017

sol17-10 What is today's surprise?


I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

The day did not bode well. 
A five a.m. text from my Teaching Resident that she was home sick with the flu. 
I left my house later than I should have and I just missed a metro train.
The morning air was much cooler than expected and I felt chilly throughout my commute.
Darkening skies, I knew the rain wasn't going to hold off for outdoor recess.
The day did not bode well.


Look! 
A surprise at my classroom door!
A treehouse! 
Yes, for real.

A colleague's children and home had outgrown this treasure and she knew my preschoolers would welcome it. Just looking at it made me break into a smile. It was adorable.

I set it up on the center of our welcome carpet and just let it speak for itself. 

The children's delight was as instantaneous as mine. They brought dolls, animals, toy furniture, shells, dominoes, all their favorite treasures to visit the new treehouse. They opened its doors, looked through the floors, walked dolls up the stairs, touch, feel, open, shut, turn, spin, wonder.

For the first few minutes of their play, I was able to sit and listen and take notes. I love to eavesdrop on children! What are they thinking about? Here's what I overheard - 

"I saw something missing."
"Where is the Mommy?"
"We don't have a baby."
"We can have many Mommies.
"It's a treehouse."
"Mommy, I have to go to bed."
"You are not going outside, come back inside."
"There's no room."
"Open the door!" 
"Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me."
"Hey, what's the problem?"
"Close the door." 
"There's a moment."
"I wanted to check the door."
"It's a surprise."

Children consumed with thoughts of family and home. Beautiful. Loving. Magical. 

We were only a few minutes into our day together and I felt that I had set a huge "reset" button from my earlier moments. One never knows what surprises a day holds!





Thursday, March 9, 2017

sol17-9 What about videos?


I am participating in the
Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC).
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, every day of March 2017. 
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.


Once a week, our early childhood team (two classrooms each of pre-K 3, pre-K 4, and kindergarten) meets together, while all our students are at specials. This year, we began a practice of sharing videos of our classroom practice. Here's how it works: one classroom is in the spotlight or "hot seat" for a two week period. Meeting/week number one, the lead teacher provides a short videotape of a lesson and asks for feedback from the rest of the team. Each of us reviews the videotape before the meeting. The meeting is spent giving "glows" - what stood out? what are the highlights? what did we love? what is working? and "grows" - what questions do we have? is there something we didn't understand? what changes would we suggest? After this first meeting, the same teacher returns to her classroom and takes a second video of the "new and improved" lesson, attempting to weave in some of the suggestions and feedback received from the team. Week number two, we meet again and have a "glows" and "grows" discussion for the second video.

I am amazed at what we learn through this sharing. I feel as if I have been given a window into my colleagues' classrooms, seeing them in action, witnessing their kind and caring approaches, watching how they work with different personalities. Our conversations have been so positive and enriching. It helps enormously that we all enjoy and respect one another, and that we all are open to sharing and improving our practice. Every time we meet, I take away something new and meaningful for my own teaching. 

We all know: teaching is an action verb - there is no singular way, it is never quite done, there is always more to think about.

Over the weeks, we are all shifting and growing our practice. We are having deep, thoughtful discussions. It is very exciting!

I love this teamwork!