Posts from the ‘Community’ Category

Working It Out Together

I believe that the main thing that needs to be learned in kindergarten/early childhood (which is technically preschool through second grade) is how to be a part of a social group.  This is the foundation of our classroom.  We work on it every day, hour, minute.  We are submersed in it fully.  Working out how to communicate, how to say things in a way that others understand and also so that others feel heard and cared about.

We have already had our fair share of hurt feelings, anger, name calling and pushing, as to be expected.  And every single time this happens we talk about how else we can say something when we’re frustrated and how to be really specific with our feelings and needs.  So, we’ve been doing it.  I’ve been getting down, asking what is the actual issue, and coming up with a solution together about how we can communicate this issue in a more productive and kind way.  We also work on it at meeting and we all come up with suggestions for each other.  Practice.  Practice.  Practice. One day during meeting, someone called someone else a name and someone who had been name calling earlier in the day, came up with another option and gave this person the words to help say what she was feeling.

Then I was shooting some video the other day.  I wanted to capture just what we do in this classroom.  I had intentionally laid out the marble maze and told them that they needed to build before getting any marbles since it can sometimes turn into a frenzy. As soon as I uncovered what was there, they were on it. I knew this was going to take some major cooperation and I wanted to see if what we’ve been practicing was working. I wanted to be able to see it from another perspective. It’s funny how you don’t even remember saying some things.

And as I watched the video, it was so interesting to see how many times the kids have a some conflict and work it out together.  There are times where I step in and remind them of our agreements about talking about our feelings instead of using hurtful words or actions.  It’s also interesting how much of the reacting is misunderstanding. I also love how kids come in and out of the play that is happening and how amidst all the noise and movement, other kids are just building quietly and seemingly undisturbed.  I really think it’s a beautiful piece of cooperative learning.  I also can’t believe this is what I do all day long.  Wow, when I’m in it, it doesn’t seem so crazy but watching it – jeez I must be insane to love what I do.  But it’s just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

WHOA!!! What a day! Is my head still on backwards?

No, really it was awesome.  Beautiful, energy filled kids, ready to dive right in.  I have to admit, it takes some adjustment, coming from an older, already established group, to lotsa kindergarteners.  Good thing I love kindergarteners and their super-duper enthusiasm for life and learning.

This short video is of Danny, our resident musician, leading them in a song and it personifies this group of wily worms and our adventurous day.

Graduation 2010

Learning Stories to Share

Since I posted The Learning Story that I wrote, many readers that are teachers have been asking about them.  Here is the document I worked from.  It was very useful.  I had my own take on it of course and it is my philosophy to take what you need from all things.

Try it out.  Share it with your co-workers.  Send them to me or link me.  I could post them or link to your site.  It will be fun.  We can commune even though we may be continents apart.

Here is the link to download the format:  Learning Stories.


(Thanks Rob for the link help!)

And to answer a much asked question:  My photos are taken with a Canon Digital Rebel XTi 10.1 MP Digital SLR Camera.  I usually use a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens or a Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens

Other lenses I use:  EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens, Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM Telephoto Zoom Lens, Fish Eye & Macro Lens

I don’t usually alter the classroom photos in any way.


Balance and Trust: Part II

To all those teacher’s out there who emailed me about my last post “Balance and Trust”, THANK YOU!  It’s nice to know that so many teachers are reading this blog, it makes me feel like we are connected in another way, even if we are thousands of miles apart.

So many of you said that balance is the key, that trust is a must.  That you could totally relate.  For those of you wondering why I wrote the post, I didn’t have an agenda.  I just wanted to put out there my own struggles as a part of the community in my classroom and in my school – not everything is always ponies and rainbows.  I realize, although this is a place for parents to have a window into their child’s day, it is also a place for educators to get ideas and connect.

I love teaching.  I love hearing from all of you.  It’s hard.  The responsibilities are great.  Sometimes overwhelming.  But we keep getting up and going in with all of our hearts, juggling, balancing, literally praying to that earth goddess that we get it right.

To another day…

Balance and Trust

Guided reading / Shared reading / Independent reading

Dictated writing / Journaling

Grammar / Storytelling

Handwriting / Free Writing

Spelling Correction / Inventive Spelling

Art / Music

Social Studies / Math

Science / Woodworking

Sewing / Cooking

Indoors / Outdoors

The Schedule / Spontaneity

Set Curriculum / Emergent Curriculum

One-on-one work/ Group work / All class work

Rules / Flexibility

Work / Play

Parents / Teachers / Director / Students

Special needs / Mainstream

Community / Individuality

Kindergarten / First Grade / Second Grade

Home / School


It’s like walking around with a board on my head with opposing subjects/interests/needs/possibilities/obligations/questions on the ends of the board.

I just want to say that it takes a village, a community of committed parents and teachers to meet the needs of everyone.  When I go home at night, I take all of these thoughts with me.  Did I fit it all in today?  Did I finally get through today?  Will I get through tomorrow?  Does this kid need something that I cannot give them? I always have a plan, a plan that includes all of the above.  This plan changes moment by moment to account for all of the needs/moods/wants of the kids/parents/teachers.

Like all things, this classroom, this group of kids is constantly evolving.  New things come in, new things go out, ideas change, schedules change, kids have different needs, a storm brews, and our attention is turned to negotiation and friendship.

When it comes down to it, it’s all about trust.  Trust that my mind is always on the class, the kids,  and in learning in the most organic and fun way.  Are we focusing enough on all the “right” things?  Are we driving too hard, are we being too lax?  There are no answers to these questions.  There is no prescription because there are no two classrooms the same; no two kids the same.

As I have said before, take school home with you.  Make learning a part of home as well.  Read stories, write letters, count money for the store, and check the clock for dinner time and bed time.  Explore.  Care take. Love.

Trust.  We are learning everyday.

(I’m extending my vacation one more day.  I’ll see everyone on Tuesday.)

Working It Out – Together

My first post for this school year had a photo of Alex and Jacob working on their Explode the Code together.  It showed Alex helping Jacob.  Tonight during conferences, Jacob’s mom told me that when she read the post, she showed Jacob the picture.  He then told her, “Alex is good at some things and I’m good at other things.  So we help each other.”

Sigh.  Oh, my.  I nearly cried.  I believe our work here is done.

Turtle Power

The kindergartener’s are called The Turtles.  Each grade level has an animal name that they named themselves.  We want to keep the grade levels vague so that everyone feels like they can work at their own pace.  Everyone does know what grade they are in of course but no one really ever refers to themselves as their grade level.

Three of the five cuddling in the big chair

This year we have five kindergarteners and of all the years I’ve been with this class, this group sticks together the most. And they aren’t even all from the same class. They certainly mingle, work and play with the older kids but often I see them gathering with their same age counterparts or just checking in with each other.  It’s so nice.

Actually, it’s really beautiful.

Year #5 – Day 1

Tonight as I was settling into warrior three pose at my yoga class, the yoga instructor said that this pose insists you be completely present in the moment because you have to focus so hard to stay balanced. And all I could think was, that is exactly how I felt all day today – completely present. Not that I’m not usually present since this job pretty much requires this state of mind but the first days of a new class take every fiber of your being to be alert, balanced, and ready to soak in all those new things that you need to know, especially for the kids you have never had in your class before.

Tonight on my way home from my yoga class, I thought about all the moments of the first day of school. Finally, truly relaxed, I could really reflect on all of the nervous, beautiful, tense, frustrating, funny, joyous moments of the day.

Some of my favorites:

When Charlie, who had been his quiet self most of the day, busted out with a story and the biggest smile ever about his wood shop project that included a treasured key.

Zavier’s awe at everything and how he came into the classroom determined and hard at work.

Overhearing a conversation between Talin and Isaac, while they were building with blocks, about how different and new the classroom was.

When Sam Angelo spoke up at our final circle of the day (our just checking in to see how your day was circle) and said “I’m so excited to be at school!” Yeah!

Autumn wrote her entire name with the letters all in a row for the first time today. Jackson’s joy at being back in our old classroom.  And how I looked across the room and saw Autumn and Jackson sharing a chair and playing Playmobil.

The way Harriette sits and waits for the ideas to come when she’s working on a story and the way she has eased into writing in such a lovely, natural way.  And the way Isaac lit up when he saw our new comic books.

How I made Flynn and Isabel’s day when we had not only the doll house but the barn and how thrilled they were by the simple fact that I let them move them all over the classroom.

The skip-hop in Georgia’s walk through the classroom. Queen Amalie – need I say more.

Justin’s contagious joy and the look on his face when we saw all of our new cooperative games.

Asher, toothless.

The way Oliver spent a good portion of the day working on a letter at the type writer and his genius toilet paper invention when we ran out of paper towels in our bathroom.

When Alex walked by me on the play ground while chatting with Jacob and I overheard him say, “I’m just trying to figure out how many season’s I’ve been alive” and then I helped him figure it out and we ended up doing a bit of multiplication on the playground.

Vega’s pencil grip patience, persistence and her intense screwdriver technique.

And simply just having Brigit here with us for one more year.

To a new year in the most magical of places.  As I looked out across my classroom on this first day, all I could think was how so very lucky we are to be in this very place with each other.

Farewell and Adieu

Before the crazy first days of school start, I must say my final goodbye to the three wonders leaving my class this past year.

Oh, Ms. Anya. Where to start. You “burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars” – that was Karouac not me but so fitting for you. You have stretched me in so many different new and startling ways as a teacher. Talk about teaching me a thing or two. I have no doubt that one day you will change the world in your very own special way. I’ve thought about you so many times, while sitting in my still house in the wee hours of the morning, how one person can effect another in such an intimate and significant way. Love always to you my friend.

Joey, Joey, Joey. You started in my classroom three years ago – rapid fire legs with the singular intent to be a part of the game of chase. How was I ever to know that when you turned five, you would beam into the world of academics with such intensity. You brought such a drive to our work time. I also love that you would rather sew than do almost anything else during open classroom. I hope this joy stays with you throughout your life. You will take the world by storm I have not doubt. You are such a loving, strong, intelligent and playful human – go get ’em Joey!

Ella. I feel like I was only really getting to know you. One year isn’t nearly long enough. I will always picture you sliding down the hillside head first, not caring whether you were getting dirt in your hair, scraped on your forehead or tearing a hole in your pants. Your love for climbing into the thick of things is unparalleled. You brought such a bright, sunny spot to our classroom and you are going to be missed dearly (I’m sure Flynn and Isabel will second that in a split second).

And Miss Renee, we’ll see you next summer because our summer’s would be empty without you!

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