All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten


March 31st, 2010

(a guide for Global Leadership)

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:
Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

[Source: “ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN” by Robert Fulghum. See his web site at http://www.robertfulghum.com/ ]

Teacher Meme


December 8th, 2009

This has been sitting in my inbox for a while. And since it’s 12:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep, I’ll play.

I am a good teacher because I hold my class to high expectations. Everyone can learn and everyone is expected to learn. Everyone in the class may not learn at the same rate or even learn the same concepts but I promise by the end of the school year everyone will have learned something.

If I weren’t a teacher, I would be a librarian. Specifically a Children’s Librarian in a public library. I love the idea of helping kids discover new worlds in books. And I love the smell of libraries.

My teaching style is just me. I can’t subscribe to one philosophy of teaching. I’ve got 20 students in my class that all learn and respond a different way. I need to do what works for each of them. I will say this. My co-teacher and I are the “mean” kindergarten teachers. We don’t fall for the crying your way out of it and we give the office and other teaching staff strict instructions not to baby our students. Because let me tell you, kindergarteners know how to work the system.

My classroom is loud. Well, what do you think happens when you put 16-20 5-year-olds in one room. It’s loud and to the untrained eye looks very chaotic but it’s organized chaos. I can get their attention at the drop of a hat. They know the rules and routines because of the consistency and are pretty much self-sufficent.

My lesson plans are hahahahahahaha. I have a general outline most the time I prefer to “wing-it”. I’ll have a great idea for a lesson plan, start to teach and a student will ask a question, which prompts another question and another and pretty soon my lesson on snow becomes a lesson on how the solar system works.

One of my teaching goals is to make sure every student in my class has a voice. I don’t want any student looking back and thinking they were never given a chance to share their ideas.

The toughest part of teaching is explaining to people why teaching kindergarten is not an easy job. If you think you can make it as a kindergarten teacher I will gladly let you come and teach my class for a day while I sit at my desk, smile and shake my head.

The thing I love most about teaching is summer vacation. You thought I was going to say my students, didn’t you? I do love my students. But just when you are completely fed up with your class and can’t take it anymore, summer vacation begins. And by the time it’s over I miss my classroom. I miss the kids and I want to be back.

The most important thing I’ve learned since I started teaching is First you work on classroom expectations, then you work on academics. Spend the first 3-6 weeks focusing only on behavior. Model everything. Work with your students to create expectations for the classroom. Build a community. Once that is established the academics come easy. You can now focus your energy on teaching and not worrying about who’s poking who with a pencil.

NaBloPoMo Post #23: A New Focus on Education


November 22nd, 2009

I heard a story on NPR this morning on education. I’m waiting for it to be posted online so I can listen to it again because it was hard to catch all the details with Lexi chattering in the backseat. Plus, it was an hour long interview and I was in the car for 15 minutes.

Anyway, if I heard correctly, I’m pretty excited about this research. The basic focus is taking some steps backwards in education. There should be much less of a focus on what we learn and more of a focus on how we learn. Because the content of what we learn will be quickly forgotten and we can always look up the facts later. But how we learn, how we aquire and retain knowledge, that should be the focus. Test scores, homework, grades…that’s not where the focus should be.

The focus should be on the whole person. Bring back the arts, music, dance. More enrichment. By developing these talents that a person naturally has, it helps to develop the section of the brain that allows a person to retain information (this is where Lexi started asking about 10000 qestions about where birds live so I missed a lot of the technical stuff). But I think the gist of it was that if a person develops their natural talents it stimulates a certain section of the brain and that, in turn, allows a persons ability to learn to increase.

Tomorrow, I’m going to to be looking around for more information on this. I promise, links to sources will be coming as well as more details on the research. But it was fascinating to hear. The whole concept was something I’d like to see put into practice in our schools. I disagree with how much emphasis is put on memorizing facts for a test and how little time students get to do something other than academics. One thing I know I heard was the emphasis that play is an important part of the learning process and should not be elimated from the school day.

Obama’s Speech to Students


September 4th, 2009

Question: Why are people so bent out of shape about this?

He’s making a speech, actually taking time to address the kids in this nation. Why is that bad?

If you are worried that one hour of listening to the President is going to undo all the teaching and value-instilling you put into your kids then you may want to rethink your teaching strategies because when it comes to peer pressure your kid will be in serious trouble.

P.S. Yes, I planning on showing the speech to my class but not because it’s Obama speaking. I’m showing it because the fact the the President is taking time to address the students of America teaches our kids that they are worth something if someone important like the President feels the need to take time from his day and speak directly to them.

This may jinx it, but…


September 13th, 2008

…my kindergarten class is pretty good this year. Some of you may remember last year’s boot camp. Last year redefined “difficult students” and I came into this year prepared for the worst. I know that I shouldn’t let my opinion of last year’s class influence my opinion of this year’s class but you didn’t meet last year’s class.

This year however…three weeks into the school year and my pro’s list is longer than my con’s list.

The pro’s:

  • They have volume control. This is huge. I can actually say 1 time to the class “use your #1 voice” and for the remainder of the work time all you hear is the low hum of 5 year olds working.
  • They raise their hands before talking
  • They can be trusted to go to the bathroom without me.
  • I can leave the room for 5 minutes and when I come back they are in the same spots I’ve left them.
  • They rest at rest time.
  • They attempt to do their work before asking me for help.
  • They don’t tattle (much).
  • They clean up without tearing around the room and shrieking.
  • It only took me a week to teach them the routine of the room.
  • They remember the routine.
  • When I do have to discipline the whole class by making them practice, they actually realize that if they fix the problem, the punishment is over.

The cons are few and far between. Their biggest issue is lining up. They can walk in a line just fine. They can line up in the hallway just fine but for whatever reason lining up in our classroom or the lunch room causes them to forget all common sense, forget all rules, forget their spots in line and start with the pushing and the shoving and the worrying about who gets to be first (even though we have a line leader everyday). I’m not really sure why they do this but trust me, we’ll be working on this next week.

As far as the kids go, for the most part they are great. There are only 3 that drive me crazy on a regular basis.

I have the younger sister of one of my boys from last year. And she makes her brother look like a saint. Her current favorite activities in class – starting laughing (while I’m talking) just to see how many kids she can get laughing, doing opposite of what I tell the class (for example Me: I need everyone to cross their legs, please. Her: (looks directly at me and sticks her legs straight out).), and in general making a mental list on how many ways she can irritate me in a single day.

The next kid is only going to be difficult for a few more weeks. He understands English but can barely speak it so his behavior is due to the language barrier and at 6 weeks (almost to the day) every non-English speaker I’ve had has started speaking enough English to feel confident enough to participate in the class. And we had a huge break through on Friday. He learned the phrase “what’s that?” so now, he points and asks that about 300 times a day but it’s better than him not having a clue as to what’s going on and chucking stuff across the room out of frustration. Also, next week the ESL teachers start doing pull-out work and lucky for the kindergarteners our ESL teacher speaks both English and Somali so they really like working with her.

And my third is a boy who has made it very obvious that I am clearly a serious inconvenience in his life. Some examples:

Me: A-M, please stop talking we are waiting for you.

A-M: (in a very exasperated tone) Okay. Fine. (and then the talking starts right back up again).

or

Me: A-M, you need to clean up. I already asked you once and [math, art, learning labs, journaling] is over now. You need to stop and clean up.

A-M: (eyes rolling) Uugh, okay, okay. Fine. (and continues to do what I asked him to stop).

Basically, I’m just in the way of him doing whatever he feels like doing. I’ve already told him that I was going to have to call and talk to his dad about the way he is acting and he looked right at me and said “my dad let’s me stop when I want.” Great. So now I have to fix the behavior of the parent and the kid. Well, it’s going to be a long year for him sitting in the take a break chair.

Dear Parents,


September 8th, 2008

Please do not baby your children.

Thank you.

Signed,

Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher

——

If you are curious if you fall into that category, here’s a list of the things your child should be capable of doing by the time they go to kindergarten.

1. Put on and take off their coat.

2. Zip their coat.

3. Pull up and down their own pants.

4. Button/snap their pants.

5. Eat with a spoon or fork.

6. Hang up coat/backpack on a hook.

7. Follow simple directions (i.e. put your coat on, sit down)

8. Understand what “no” means.

9. Wait their turn.

10. Some concept of sharing.

If your kids can do these things, your kindergarten teacher will be very excited.

First Impressions of Kindergarten


August 25th, 2008

This probably won’t be of interest to anyone but me, but I want to get it down so when I am ready to toss kids out the window in December I can look back and remember that at one point I did think they were cute. And just to warn you, I’ll be doing that annoying initials thing instead of real names just to be on the safe side.

First day started off a little crazy. There was some type of bus mix up (which means they had no idea who to pick up where) so at 7:55 I still had only 8 kids. By the end of breakfast I was up to 13. I had 8 girls and 5 boys which is fine with me. Last year I had 20 kids and only 6 were girls so this year is already looking up.

I know we are still in the “honeymoon” phase of school so I’m not going to pretend that just because today was good the rest of the year will be too but hey, a girl can hope right?

Continue reading »

Educating Esme


June 19th, 2008

Last weekend a friend recommended the book Education Esme. I took Lexi to the library yesterday, checked out the book and finished it in the same day. It’s a quick read, but I couldn’t put it down and I will be back at the library next week checking out the rest of her books.

The short summary of the book is that Esme is a first year teacher in a fifth grade classroom in the inner-city of Chicago. And she rocks as a teacher.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

Responding to a staff member freaking out over something not worth freaking out over and missing what’s actually important:

But certain people just think it’s their job to freak out. As long as they’re freaking out, they feel busy, like they must be doing work. Getting upset is force, but no motion. Unless we are moving the children forward, we aren’t doing work. (page 52)

On making sense:

It does not make sense to say something does not make sense to someone who does not make sense, but sometimes, what else can you say? (page 60)

On being liked as a teacher:

“It’s not our job to be liked,” I reminded her. “It’s our job to help them be smart.” Secretly, I thought, Who gives a rat’s ass if they like us? Sometimes I can hardly stand them!” (page 87)

On a teacher’s day:

When someone asks me, “How was your day?” I never know what to answer. I have thirty-one days every day, a different day with each child. A good day with Ruben, a rough day with Billy…it’s too much. They talk about rewards and gratification in teaching school, and there is a share of it, but they don’t tell you it’s like joining a monastery or going to hell or sleepwalking or being afraid, afraid as you were when you were small. They don’t tell you how it feels when you get dizzy in front of a room full of children, ow what it feels like to tug at the tense bodies of children lashing, hating, fighting, spitting, scratching. They don’t tell how it feels to her “I hate you!” or how it feels to say, “That’s okay, I still love you.” They say now, in the education classes, “You have to be everything to them: counselor, mother, friend…” on and on: The List. I hear the ones who have been teaching for many years run it off with a certain pride. Well, I don’t think it’s anything to be proud of. I don’t want to play mama, I can’t play mama. They need a real mama. And they need a real teacher. (Page 160-161)

What we are teaching our kids.


April 2nd, 2008

“Low-income urban students know they attend substandard, second-tier schools that lack the technology, resources and extracurricular programs commonplace in schools of more affluent communities. And yet we continue to expect these students to prioritize education when budgetary and funding inequities demonstrate that urban education is neither a local, state, or national priority.”
Will Okun, Chicago high school teacher

Just think about that for a minute….

(quote stolen directly from Tim’s blog)

An Interesting Development in Homeschooling


March 9th, 2008

People often ask me if I am going to homeschool my kids because I am a teacher. And my answer is always no. (I teach kindergarten for a reason – once she hits about 7th grade algebra, she’s on her own…)

But here’s some interesting news in the world of homeschooling. The San Fransico Chronicle ran this story (and there’s another take on it here) about how California is basically trying to decide if homeschooling should be a parent’s choice.

I’m a undecided on how I feel about this. Part of me likes the idea that homeschooling not be an option for parents. I am a strong believer in children going to school. With all of the options – private, public, charter, magnet, alternative, etc, etc, etc, – there is a school out there that will fit your child and your child’s learning style. Teachers are well trained and good at their jobs. Going to school helps kids build character, helps them learn how to interact in the “real” world, builds social skills, learn to compromise on top of learning the academics. There are instances when homeschooling is appropriate but it would not fall under a choice – when a child is too sick to attend school, for example – but then the parents are not choosing to homeschool, they are doing it out of necessity.

I also see the other side of the argument. Why does the government get to decide how parent’s raise their children? There are already laws in place saying that children need to be educated but shouldn’t how they be educated be up to each family? I see the slippery slope of the government getting to involved.

But here is a problem that I think does need to be addressed for homeschooling – the requirements. Each state has very different laws over what parents need/don’t need to do to homeschool their child(ren). I think that those laws need to be uniform. The paperwork parents need to complete should be equivalent to the paper work schools need to complete for the students. Curriculum should meet the state standards and benchmarks. Tests required for non-homeschooled kids should be administered to homeschool kids. The same number of contact hours should be required.

As they say on NPR is this story Good News, Bad News or No News?