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Posts Tagged ‘life at school’

Slicing up a spin

Earlier this month, I was at our admin retreat and we were talking about how we can stay true to what we understand and believe are good educational practices.  I brought up the difficulty of describing a play-based program for young children in a way that would not turn away those parents who want their children to be “learning something.”  In my summer reading, I had come across the term guided play and was wondering if this might be a better way to talk about what teachers and children are doing in the classroom.  Then someone mentioned a story they had heard on the radio citing research that indicated a good kindergarten experience could result in a higher earning potential.  What she had heard was this – children who had great kindergarten teachers ended up making more money than those who had less than great teachers.  Wow – talk about pressure.  I was very interested in this idea so of course I launched an internet search and I found this article (which had been sent to me but left unread).  I will leave it to you to decided who is spinning what but it does make me think about how we use words.  As I am getting ready for our back to school parent meetings, I am contemplating what words to use and how to use them.  The last thing I want is to get caught up in the spin.

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I used my key to unlock the door in the classroom building.  It should have been dark and empty at this hour but the lights were on and there were small pieces of tape on the floor.  Each piece of tape showed a name written in a child’s hand.  Outside the classroom door  a large box, filled with rubber tubing and a jar of marbles sat, waiting. 
“Come on dad, we still have just enough time.” 
Will pulled his dad purposefully toward the box.  They sifted through the tubing a pulled out a large piece, grabbed a few marbles, and knelt down on the floor.  Will pulled a wood block over and they were set.  They loaded their marbles into the tubbing and watched as they rolled down the hallway.  “I think we made it!”  Will ran to the last marble and held it in place while his dad brought the tape and marker.  He marked his place, carefully printing the letters of his name on the narrow piece of tape.  He didn’t seem to mind that his marble had not gone as far as the others.  “Woo Hoo!”  he yelled as he gave his dad a high five.  They moved back into the classroom with the other kids and dads.  It was time for a closing circle and then they would head to their cars.  A small slice of  the moon hung over the parking lot.  Another Dad’s night was coming to a close.

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I am doing a lot of thinking about rigor and expectations and respect lately.  I am often told that our program does not seem academic enough, that children can already “do” all the work that we have listed on our program goals (remember this is preschool).  I have been frustrated by this conversation – believing that we have a very good program, great teachers, and yet knowing that when you hear something more than once, it is something that needs attention.  Last week, I went with a few of our Pre-K classes to music and I was surprised at the lack of respect that some of the children gave to the music teacher, to one another, and to me.  Yesterday I had a group of these same children in the office to talk about their behavior, to try to problem solve with them.  But after 15 minutes of random chatter, using all of my tools for guiding conversation with young children, I pretty much gave up.  These are very bright children.  They have a lot of facts, know how to write their names, count, are on their way to understanding words and sounds.  But they are so inwardly focused that they could not listen to one another.  Each had their own thing to say and could barely wait to get out their words.  They talked over one another and their comments were random and disconnected.  I went back to the room with them and watched as these same children spoke out during circle time (10 minutes to review the work they had done and a couple of activity games).  I actually counted the number of times for each child and two of them did this 12 and 15 times – in just 10 minutes!  So how do we help families understand the academic need for impulse control?  For following directions?  For listening and responding to what you have heard?  Have we lowered our expectations for this behavior?  Time to do some collaborating around this topic and some grown up problem solving.

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I wonder why we stopped reading Mother Goose to kids?  I don’t remember reading nursery rhymes to our girls but I do remember being told by parents of my students that they thought Mother Goose and fairy tales were too grim and violent.  Hmmmm.  Today I got to give a stack of Mother Goose books to my teachers who are doing a collaboration project this year on using Mother Goose across the curriculum.  I found a great selection at Half Price Books this weekend and the teachers are delighted.  And the kids just love these rhymes.  I am excited about this project and cannot wait to share the learning of these teachers with our parents.  Maybe one day I won’t find so many Mother Goose books at the used bookstore because they will be in the hands of children.

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a blurry slice

I had to ask myself what day it was at least five times today.  That is how the first 19 days of this year have gone, rushing past in a blur.  Too much rain.  Too many meetings.  Not enough sleep.  Not enough time with kids.  Today we had our accreditation visit, tomorrow the wrap up meetings with the visiting team.  I hear there might be two dry days this week.  I better go get a rag and wipe off the window.  If the pace is letting up, I want to be able to see where we are going.

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class is over

It was a week of lasts.  Last day in the classroom.  Last day of teaching.  Last recess.  Last clean up day and year in review staff meeting.  Last time to be with teachers and staff who have retired.  Last set of thank you notes written.  Last newsletter.

Today we continue the task of packing up after 24 years.  And next week we will move the whole kit and caboodle to our new school.  And then we will go on vacation for a bit as we look forward to the firsts. 

First order of paint and paper to be unpacked and put away in our new supply closet.  First days in our new classrooms.  First staff meeting with our K-6 co-workers.  First time taking our preschoolers to the library.  First recess on our brand new playground.

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