Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Biggest Messses

This week's #kinderblog question is about a disaster encountered in teaching. I have two moments that stand out. The first one was while teaching Pre-K kids. We were doing small group centers and we were learning about water. I was monitoring the water table and talking to children who were exploring how liquids move. One second everything was fine, the next one little kiddo discovered the plug. You can imagine my delight as water gushed all over the floor. While my assistant and I scrambled like maniacs to plug the table and get paper towels, many munchkins came over. They helped us grab towels and we discovered how paper towels absorbed water. Later my assistant and I laughed about it.

My most recent teaching disaster involved Kindergarten kiddos and paint. We were learning about secondary colors and had read Mouse Paint. We had mixed the two colors red and yellow together. We were transitioning to Centers and my assistant was going to paint with kids. One really interested kiddo came over and knocked the top off the cup spilling paint all over our rug. My room is covered in rug. This caused a big scene in which my wonderful assistant and I along with some kids used wipes to try and wipe it up. I owe my assistant really since she got the mess out.  Especially since it was my first year at this school and I had later learned the previous teacher kept that room spotless.  Needless to say, I was very frazzled, but again somehow managed to turn the whole thing into a lesson about absorption.

So, the lesson learned from these two disasters? Just go with it. Life happens. Breathe and somehow find the lesson in it. If all else fails, then sing. It always helps. :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

PB 10 for 10

This post is for #PB10for10, which was started by @mandyrobek and @CathyMere to share resources about favorite picture books used in classrooms. This is the second year for this. So, without further ado here is my list:
     1) Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. And John Archambault
I always start the year out with this book and come back to it. Kids love the rhythmic text and being able to say the A,B,C,'s.  Kids beg for this to be read over and over.

     2) Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni
I use this book when teaching about mixing colors. Children live that it's about friendship and are curious to see if the two primary colors do in fact make green.

    3) The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater
I love this book. It's about being individualistic and not copying what everyone else does. My classes and I have had great talks about feeling the need to be one's own self.

    4) Hey Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose
In this story, a boy must decide whether or not to squish an ant. The ant's side of the story is told. It makes for great discussion on whether or not the boy or ant is right. Also, good book to read or sing to kids. I find them discussing book long after we finish.

    5) Mouse Paint by Ellen Stohl
This is a good book about mice who splash in pant and mix to make new colors. Another good resource for teaching about primary and secondary colors. Also incorporates concept of camouflage as well.

     6) The House that Jack Built by Simms Taback
Great interpretation of the classic rhyme. Great illustrations and good for showing cause & effect.  Lots of silliness and rhyming involved too.

     7) The Snowy Day by Ezra Keats
Story involving Peter and a snowy day. Great for discussing melting, snow, and cause &effect. Kids love hearing this story over and over.

     8) The Fourth Little Pig by Teresa Noel Celsi
Nice twist on what happens after the Wolf is defeated. The Pigs have a sister who shows them to not be afraid to get back outside. Kids absolutely adore this one.

     9) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
I love Eric Carle. This story of how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly is beautiful and engaging for children.

     10) Kindergarten Rocks by Katie Davis
I picked this book up last year after meeting Katie Davis on twitter. It's a cute story about Kindergarten and well, how it does rock. Dex is nervous about starting K and his older sister helps him by explaining what school is like. Kids love this book.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

They All Change Me

This week's #kinderblog post asked us to write about a child that changed everything for us. I must admit, I really struggled with this one.  I kept going back to certain children or classes and moments that happened.  It's really hard for me to pick just one.

I could write about my first class with A (see first blog post) and how they changed me from novice to teacher.  I will be forever grateful to that class for putting up with my inexperience and teaching me as I was trying so hard to teach them.

I could write a book about my class from a few years ago that made me question my ability as a teacher and helped shape my views about social justice and how poverty affects kids.  I still carry those babies in my heart and pray for them. There were times I thought my assistant and I wouldn't survive that year, but those kids taught us all about surviving and trying to beat the odds placed on them by society. I will always be grateful to them for teaching me about love, patience, humor, and about fighting for what's right.

I could also write about a little boy I taught who reminded me about how routines are vital to children and how sometimes hanging out in the hall with the teacher needs to be done in order to just take a break. He really taught me a lot about intelligence and about how sometimes kids just need someone to talk to when things change all around them.  I think he somehow knew he taught me as much as I taught him.

So, I guess my point is that these kids change me. Sure there are ones that stand out, but they all change me. From one year to the next they change me. I am never the same teacher twice. I can't be. I'm whatever these children need me to be. It's my job, or calling as some call it.  It's something I can't imagine not doing. It's who I am through and through.  It's fluid and ever changing, much like education itself.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

You're Going to Love K!

So, the question for this week's #kinderblog challenged me. I mean, asking me to write a letter to parents of children I may teach is scary. I do it every month, but putting it out on the web is super scary for me.What if they don't like me?

As I thought about this, Paula Kluth's book called You're Going to Love this Kid came to mind. This book is about children with autism and how teachers can make learning environments that are inclusive for children with autism. It is our job, is it not? Children come to us full of ideas and energy. They also may be scared as may be their parents. So the way I see it, my first priority is to make my students feel good about school.

So, here is a sample of what I would write to a parent (remember I work in a private, parochial school):

Dear Potential Parent,
Hi there! Welcome to Kindergarten where your child will continue his/her learning journey. We will have a lot of fun this year and I look toward to getting to know your child and you.

You may wonder what kinds of things your child will do. In our room, we cover a K curriculum in Reading, Writing, Science, Social Studies, Religion, and Math. I use thematic units along with our school's curriculum to teach.  I believe that children learn best when the learning is play-based and allows for time to discover things.

So, what exactly does this mean for your child? Well if you were to walk into our room, you would see your child working in large and small groups. You would see children working in centers that go with our themes and an environment filled with excited, happy, engaged children.  An environment that facilities the needs and learning styles of all learners.  One that welcomes all cultures and beliefs.  An environment full of questions, curiosity, joy, singing, and fun.

You would also see children blogging with me and using social media to connect with other Kindergarten classes.  We would work on Writing, Reading, and Social Studies by connecting globally.  You would also be able to get updates on us in real - time and it's perfectly safe as only you (along with other K classes) would be able to see this.

I would also hope you would see children treating each other kindly and brainstorming ways to help others. You would hear them discuss ways to raise money for the poor and give books to others simply by reading a book on a charitable website. You would also see them help each other to solve problems and treat everyone with respect.  You would see them talking about God and how He would want us to act here on Earth.

Finally, my hope would be that you would come in and help us.  Stop in to meet our future architects and engineers in the Block Center, our mathematicians working in our Math Center, our scientists making new discoveries in the Science Center, our actors imagining a scene in our Dramatic Play Center, artists creating masterpieces in our Art Center, authors writing books at the Writing Center, technology lovers creating new ideas at the computers or Smartboard, singers singing songs during transitions,  and so on.

Like I said before, you're going to love K. You and your child. Please feel free to get in touch with me anytime and stop by.  Our door is always open.

God bless,

Mrs. J.

Well, I hope this answers the blog challenge well enough. I could go on and on about what my class does, but that would take a book. :)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Training Days

The #kinderblog question this week is about how we were trained to become teachers. My training began when I attended college. I went to SUNY New Paltz which is around Poughkeepsie or around 1.5 hours north of NYC. I didn't set out to teach. I was going to be a journalist and fight for truth, justice, and all that. What changed? I held a friend's baby and decided I needed to do something to shape the future. Teaching it was!

At New Paltz, I was trained, really more facilitated, by some excellent professors who taught us to think for ourselves. They wanted us to be constructivists more than teachers. Also the Whole Language movement was in full force so everything was all about authenticity. I loved it until I did my student teaching. I taught 4th which I loved and had a phenomenal coop teacher named Carol. Then I had 1st and hated teaching due to a really bad coop teacher. She never let me have control of the class and was the kind of teacher who yelled at kids. She was also a gossip too. You know, the type that turns the faculty room into kid bashing land.

After that, I went to College of St. Rose in Albany, NY where I studied Reading for my Master's. I loved it there. It was the right mix of authentic, DAP learning with a diagnosis background to help Reading teachers. I subbed during this time and did many field experiences in a variety of settings.

One setting included a day treatment center for kids and working with those kids helped me to gain the confidence to teach. I learned how to do lessons on the fly and how to quickly diffuse tense situations. I also learned how to cope with failure (this was after my YMCA stint).

After that, I married, moved, and taught. I went back to school at the University of Rochester while teaching PreK at my last school. It was part of an Early Reading First grant and was free. So, I went back to take classes in order to get my Special Ed.cert.

The training I received at the U of R was fantastic. Although lacking in diagnosis, pedagogy was their big thing. That and social justice. It flipped my thinking and I was challenged to teach with passion.  It challenged everything I knew about race and inequality. It's really made me the teacher I am today.  One who looks at her students and what they are, where they come from, and how they best learn. 

All in all, I think I've taken pieces from each experience. From New Paltz, I took a need to reach all learners and play.  From St. Rose I took the need to investigate and problem solve in a DAP way. I also learned persistence. From the U of R, I took the need for advocacy and justice.  I learned who I am and how I feel affects my kids. I learned who I never want to be: that burned out teacher yelling at children and gossiping about them. No! Never!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I'm a Teacher Now

Here was the first blog challenge question: 
Tell us the story of the first group of children for whom you were "Teacher." Maybe it was at a school, but maybe it wasn't. Maybe it was a childcare centre, or a daycamp, or a swimming pool or a dance studio or a hockey rink.  Maybe it was in your own home, or their home. Who were they? Who were you? What did it FEEL like? Maybe it was amazing. Maybe it was terrible. Either way, there is a story there. Tell it.

I know I posted this under the #kinderbog hash tag, but I'll repost it here. 

When did I first feel like a teacher?  That would have to be when I taught PreK for the YMCA back in 1997.  It was a summer job in between grad classes when I was saving up money to marry my husband.  I taught 4 and 5 year olds and loved it.  I had my own room I could decorate.  I had my own class to plan for with a plan book.  I had my own assistant who was a wonder with kids.  I also had my first real challenge and her name was A.  

A was a kid who loved to dress up and run around.  She loved drawing and painting.  What she didn't love was any kind of change and boy was I a change from her last teacher.  She let me know it from the get-go!  I remember thinking I had my work cut out for me with her.  A would hit other kids and lock the doors to all the rooms there.  She was one of those kids that the directors talk about kicking out, and I told them not to.  Just give me a chance I would say.  

I tried everything and seemed to get to her until one day when her estranged dad came back into the picture.  Then everything changed again for her.  She was hurting kids, hurting staff, and I realized that she would be kicked out.  When she was, I cried.  I felt like a failure for not doing my job and helping this child.  

As I look back, that class taught me a lot as all my classes do.  I always learn from the kids every year.  That was the class though that taught me patience, joy, sorrow, and to keep trying  no matter what.  A taught me all those things, and I wonder where she is and how she is.  I only hope I taught her something.  Maybe her ABC's or how to dance, or singing silly songs.  

The First Post

So, here I am sitting and writing my very first blog post. Why did it take me so long?  I was one of those people that used to thinking blogging was self-indulgent.  It wasn't for me.  Who would want to read my posts anyway, right?  It wasn't until I met the #kinderchat people on Twitter that I realized the power of writing, networking, and just plain old connecting with other educators.

Before I joined Twitter, I worked at a school which was in an urban setting.  I wouldn't exactly say I was involved with much of what went on except for my little area.  Partially it was my fault, partially other factors were involved.  It wasn't until I was hired at my current school did I start to regain my passion for teaching and feel truly supported.  Then I came across #kinderchat on Twitter and I met some awesome educators on there that have truly inspired me to come out of my shell a bit.

If you haven't heard of #kinderchat, by all means please check the hash tag out on Twitter.  It was started by two excellent K teachers (Amy and Heidi) in order to reach out to others to talk about teaching K kids.  What has happened has been awesome to watch.  Each day I have access to many, many brilliant people and can ask questions, share joys & frustrations, laugh, cheer, and even connect with them and their classes.  Teachers on there have connected via Skype and Twitter with their classes to teach children about other parts of the world.  I have also had the pleasure of mentoring some newer people on Twitter and helping them out just as they continue to help and inspire me.

What I have realized while on this journey to "blogging", is that I can share my writing or voice as you will, with others.  I can use my ability as  an educator to help teach others about developmentally appropriate practice, share ideas with others, advocate for children, and at the same time improve my teaching skills.  All it took was finding the "right" school to work in, and the support of some excellent friends and family (online and offline).