Four Chef Hats and Four Aprons

Four Chef Hats

I have noticed…with some monumental amounts of distress mixed with humor…that in education …what was old becomes new again and then old and then really super brand new. When this “thing” becomes super brand new, it is bright and shiny and expensive. Thank you, thank you to all the taxpayers including myself! We are so often paying big time for old ideas re-packaged in glittered ribbon.

My awareness of this phenomenon occurred when I changed school districts a little more than several years ago. I was very enthralled with being in a different district…even larger than my last large district. Sure, I was very sad to leave my old school and my comfortable surroundings and friends. However, I had a new position and I might just use that recently framed master’s degree that caused me to lose so much sleep. I entered my new school building  and walked into my first all-day staff development of the year.

It is sort of fun to learn new information and meet new people even at a very long staff development. If they have good snacks, it is even more fun. I met lots of new people that day and still count many as friends. The new information was old information. Really old information. Truly. We spent the day talking about and completing and talking about again the THINKING MAP. Actually, I like to use thinking maps to present ideas. Children in every grade can derive a positive benefit from a thinking map. The problem was that I had been using these maps for at least ten years and so had all the people at my table. They acted very nice about this old information that became brand new. I did the right thing and acted nice too.

Goodness, it is difficult to act nice when you find out that four staff members from one school had spent several fun-filled days in another city…learning about THINKING MAPS! It is not inexpensive to send four people to a wonderful city to learn about something that they surely already knew. I never found out how many schools sent people to the conference. I just didn’t want to know. I felt like I was in a time warp. This is why I went to graduate school? Oh dear! Something was just wrong about the picture. I still use thinking maps. In fact, I would use one right now if I didn’t have lesson plans to complete.

These maps came to my mind today because of the home center in my classroom. I love home centers. They promote organization, friendly talk, cooperation, and fun. What could be wrong with that? For several years, I had been told that home centers were out. Way out. Do not have a home center! Throw away that wooden refrigerator and matching stove! And then…like magic…one recent year, I received at least five large boxes filled with home center furniture! What a thrill! Sort of like American Idol deciding to come back for one more “the very last season”! I have gone all out for that home center. Real menus from real restaurants! A special location by a big window! And now…four chef hats and four aprons! The dollar store came through again! What is old is new again! I don’t know how much those five boxes of home center furniture cost. I am just not asking.

 

 

 

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Almost April…remembering the curl in the baggie!

scissors

I am thanking my lucky stars that we finally are making it close to April! On about September 8, I started thinking that I might not last through the rest of the week. This might be quite ridiculous, since I have been working on this teaching career for 18 years… all in Title I public schools. Some of these children have little direction at home and are just downright hungry. I am not talking about a hunger for learning. Some of these children DO  have discipline and direction at home, but the poverty is serious. My heart cries for them. The first few weeks of school were a bit tougher this year and I was a bit tougher this year. How can I really teach them if they have no idea how to control themselves? To me, tough means following through on classroom rules. It means being fair. It means caring for them even in the midst of disastrous behavior.

Disastrous behavior in Kindergarten might mean cutting a little classmate’s beautiful curl at the end of her pony tail. You might ask…”Where was the teacher during this haircut episode?”. She was right there at the front of the line of children…getting everyone quiet for the “going to the cafeteria without the talking and skipping escapade”. The teacher was so proud that the class was quiet and standing in a slightly and somewhat straight line. She perhaps was bragging too much about her ideal class. She only heard a giggle or three. Every pair of hands were behind their backs. Evidently, every pair of hands except one. That was the pair of hands with the red scissors. The red scissors belonged to the child who was the best cutter in the whole class that very morning. The scissors (in a strange leap) must have jumped into his pocket. As we turned the corner into the main hallway, the scream started and then the crying ensued. The pony tail girl was particularly sensitive to scissors on her hair. The crying was followed by the loud “I didn’t do it”…repeated at least 12 times. We were so late to lunch that the friendly cafeteria ladies must have put my name on the imagined problematic teacher list. I picked up the curl from the floor and placed it in  a baggie for the evidence. We never lined up in a long single line again. Not even now that it is almost April.

Yes, I have one line of boys on the left and one line of girls on the right. I really don’t even want them to look at each other. They will tell me if anyone even acts like they are touching the child in front of them. Being late to lunch was such a sad circumstance…not to mention the screaming and crying. I may have been somewhat dramatic about the curl in the baggie. That was nothing compared to the dramatic behavior of the pony tail girl’s mother when she saw the baggie. I understood. I would have thrown a gigantic fit if that had happened to my own daughter when she was five years old. Nevertheless, no scissors have touched another child thus far during the school year. I was told that the red scissors were “bad” by the hair-cutting small person. They were exchanged for blue scissors that had a better reputation.

My eyes are opened wider now when the scissors are out. My eyes are opened wider all the time. Even a teacher with experience can have a new experience! The 18th year of teaching was the year that the scissors made a poor decision. I still have the curl in the baggie. It is in a basket on my desk. Just a reminder about Kindergarten possibilities. Just a reminder to keep caring for the children despite their mistakes!

 

 

 

 

 

Kindergarten: Why first day of school blog in March?

As an Early Childhood teacher, I am so very aware that it is already March. I changed the calendar from February to March and asked the children to draw/color as many flowers as possible. We wrote a sentence or two about the flowers. Yes, five year old children have the ability to write words. Are they all spelled correctly? Of course not. I am just thrilled when they get the first and last letters correct. That is a huge triumph! And some children just draw pictures at this point. That is another huge triumph!

Another triumph is that it is already March and I have a wonderful, talkative, excited class. I think that I might have done something right on that first day of school back in August. Oh goodness…I realize that my next  blog will focus on the first day of school and my usual concerns. I had to start at the beginning and last August was not a good time for me to start a blog. So…I plan to write about the first day of school in March. I will talk lots about the first day and the first week and the first month. Trust me…my March would not be so much fun if my August and September lacked some tough decisions on my part! The road to March is marked by dozens of repeated instructions and multiple interventions as well as many quiet talks with those who forgot the rules. Sometimes, I also have a quiet talk with myself about sticking to the rules and the schedule.

Sticking to a schedule is a tough one. Some of the 22 children in my class have never been away from their Mom for more than 30 minutes at a time and maybe not even for that long. These are mostly children who speak Spanish the moment they leave my class in the afternoon. My class is in English and they can speak English…some better than others. After four years of Spanish in high school and college, I am beyond excellent with 10 words in Spanish. The other thousands of words never seem to appear in my mind. Spanish just was not my optimum educational moment. I know now that if I had regularly attended the Spanish lab that I would be further along in my quest to speak Spanish. I had a difficult time attending the lab because of those gigantic earphones (after all, I wasn’t in college yesterday!) and the earphones were made for elephant ears. The earphones totally ruined my hair and I couldn’t handle such disaster. I had no idea that I would grow up and need that language. In fact, teaching children was the last thing on my mind.

Teaching children who speak English as a second language was not even in my vocabulary. I cannot imagine a five year old child leaving their Mom for the first time; hearing mostly English for over six hours; listening to a strange person seeming to talk continuously; sitting with children whom they have never seen before; as well as walking through a very large school with other older children who must seem like giants. Sounds a bit daunting to me. That is why I need to find a reservoir of empathy on the first day and every other day all year. This might be far more important than sticking to a schedule immediately! So the very most important teacher vocabulary word for today is EMPATHY! According to Dictionary.com, empathy is defined as “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another”. In other words, help the children feel as comfortable and supported as possible in this different environment. By the way, having empathy for the parents is also a must! Be on their side and sooner or later, they will be on your side! Trust me on this!!