Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What about the first day of school?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers.
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 was the first day of preschool for this school year, 2018-19. What an amazing day we had together!  We worked hard to prepare the room for them...and I believe the children felt both comfortable and safe right away. 

Although we only met for half a day, I am totally worn out in the happiest of ways. Here's to the year ahead!!!

For this Slice of Life, let me simply share my note to the families -

Happy first day of school!

We had a fabulous day in the Big Cats! There were so few tears - and these lasted only a brief moment. Your children loved dancing, playing, singing, running, painting, exploring, building, writing, and reading together! We tried to take lots of pictures of their fun together. Here are a few things we noticed them doing:

  • loving babies
  • finding sharks
  • painting with marbles
  • reading books
  • creating tall mountains of sand
  • making tea parties
  • being Mommies
  • racing cars
  • build a castle to the ceiling

We are learning the routines of school each day. Today, we played ‘follow the leader’ to investigate every center of the classroom. We practiced:

  • washing our hands,
  • lining up together and walking quietly through the hall, and
  • ‘going quiet and listening’ when the teacher calls for our attention.
We learned a couple ‘call and response’ techniques - 1) when someone calls “Agoe” [do you hear me?], we answer “Amay” [I am listening to you]. 2) when someone says “bop bop ba bop bop”, we answer “bop bop.”

Our books today: From Head to Toe by Eric Carle and Owl Babies by Martin Waddell.

Again, such a special day!! Thank you for sharing your children with us!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What do you remember about school?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers.
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.

On our first day of pre-service this past week, the teaching staff wrote reflections about key educational events in their lives that brought them to where they are now as teachers. Everyone went back through their memories of school and classrooms, and considered what stood out. Here's one of my school memories -

The butterfly was painted with every color of the rainbow, and it spread its wings across the entire front of my bright orange sweatshirt. It was a tween's dream - it looked magical, beautiful, and fabulous. I was in eighth grade, a new student at public junior high, and a recent transfer from a parochial school where we wore the same stale uniform every single day. The butterfly sweatshirt was my exhale, my celebratory release. It was also a gift from my Dad, who was in the Navy and had just left for Vietnam. This sweatshirt splurge was his way of saying "I love you and I'll miss you" to his 13 year old daughter.

The first day I wore the sweatshirt to school, it was unusually warm. I had worn it over another much more boring top, and that turned out to be a good thing...I couldn't stand the sweaty feel of both layers and by mid-morning, I had slipped off the sweatshirt and hung it in my locker. I double-checked the lock after closing the door. I hoped it would be cooler when I walked home from the bus stop; I knew, even if it wasn't, I would 'suffer for beauty' and put that sweatshirt back on, hoping to impress my friends. I raced off to my next class.

At the end of the day, I excitedly opened my combination lock - only to discover the locker empty, the sweatshirt gone.




I couldn't believe it. It didn't make sense. I know I locked the locker. Where did the sweatshirt go? Who would take it?

This 'underground' world where students surreptitiously broke into others' lockers was new to me. I had never had a locker before; I didn't know it was possible. But, yes, it was. This was my sad reality, my tough learning.

It was a hard loss, not something I could easily replace.

The very next day, as I made my way through the halls after lunch, there was Ramona Carter wearing my butterfly sweatshirt! Well, what was left of it. She strutted down the hall in a bright orange sleeveless sweatshirt - yes, sleeveless. At the shoulders, the arm holes had all those tiny triangular edges where the sleeves had been cut off with pinking shears. The body of the sweatshirt - with its beautiful multi-colored butterfly - was covered in signatures. Yes, it was signed in black permanent marker by 100 or more of Ramona's closest friends.

My sweatshirt. Destroyed. Vandalized. Ruined.

I didn't know Ramona. I only knew OF her. She was tough and cool and ran with a very different crowd than mousy, awkward me. I was very afraid to confront her.

I didn't know what to say.

I didn't know what to do.

She stole my beloved sweatshirt! Out of my locker!

I went to the Assistant Principal and told him what had happened. I hoped to get his advice and input. I remember he listened to me and didn't ask me a single question or clarification. He was quiet for a brief moment and then he said, "I'm sorry but you can't prove that the sweatshirt is yours. You'll just have to get over it."

I think his reaction hurt worse than the theft itself.

I walked out of his office, stunned, numb, and surprised. I am still so saddened at his lack of effort to help with the situation. His reaction made me feel both isolated and, somehow, wrong. I spent the rest of my time at junior high school avoiding Ramona.

As the years have passed, my reflection is - what a missed opportunity for conflict resolution, for restorative practice. We have to grab onto these challenging moments between students and help them to hear one another, to consider each other's perspective. Without a doubt, this Assistant Principal had a huge influence on me in my teaching - I work hard to help students resolve their conflicts.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

What does it mean?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers.
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.

Loved seeing this bird on a recent walk!
I love a nice long walk, whether in the woods, through the neighborhood, in the city, by the shore...it doesn't matter where, I simply love to walk. I walk and I notice. I look for 'signs' - signs of what? Well, I don't know! Signs of the unexpected, signs of surprise, signs of wonder.  

We have had a lot of rain this summer, here in the Mid-Atlantic. We have had powerful storms, light drizzles, long days of rain, brief squalls...it has come in all shapes and sizes. We've broken records for rainfall. After a rainstorm, I love to wander down to my local walking path and explore what's new, what has changed. This walking path is alongside a creek. A couple of the rains have been so mild with no thunder or lightning that I have been able to throw on my raincoat and take a walk in the park during the storm. Walking in the rain is a delight all its own. Several times this summer, the storms have closed the park (thankfully, only for a matter of hours at most), as the water from the creek rushed up over the banks and threatened the road...I avoid the walking path at these times, and wait for the park to re-open. 

In recent weeks, due to all the rain, the creek runs fast and brown, with the soil from the bottom swirling about. There is sand and sediment on the walking path, and debris woven into the fences of the foot bridges, the trees and shrubs along the bank. It's not unusual to see plastic bags and other trash hanging from the branches of trees, as if reaching back to the creek. The shrubs along the bank are also flattened, pressed down at an earlier time by over-flowing water. Many trees have toppled...each rainstorm brings down a few more, lifted up out of the ground by over-saturated roots. I notice that there are often very few if any birds or other wildlife immediately following a storm - it's as if the area is briefly abandoned.

I am fascinated by one tree that - rather than coming up by its roots - cracked open about six feet from its base and toppled onto the ground with its two enormous forked branches falling on either side of a recently-installed park bench. Smaller branches and twigs are strewn every which way. The park bench sits in the midst of this destruction, intact and happy:

Why did the tree break like this? The trunk did not appear ravaged by decay or termites or anything. I didn't see a line of similar damage, no other trees in the vicinity broken in the same way  - which I know would have indicated a wind storm. Hmm. Mystery. 

What does it mean? Here's my thought on this last day of summer - may I be like that park bench, strong, resilient, in the midst of whatever wild storms await me this school year. When those heavy demands rain down on me - may I remember to breathe in, breathe out, resilient. 

Goodbye, summer. Here's to the new school year!