Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wrapping paper

So, today, I jumped up and down for a child. We were celebrating. I was ecstatic... insanely proud. And it was because he sat down with his legs crossed on the carpet without being told to.

For the first time. Ever.

I know... I get excited easily.

But, that's the thing. When a child makes a huge improvement, achieves a goal, or does something really great -- they deserve to be celebrated! Regardless of what the achievement, the criteria for celebration in our classroom is YOU DID IT! Whatever you just did... YOU did it! That criteria is just going to look different for every child. I'm sure all the other kinders thought, "Um... he just sat down. Why is she acting like he wrote a novel?"

That's another one of my favorite things about teaching [I know... if read this blog often, you know that everything seems to be my favorite.] But, honestly, that's one of the best things about working with little ones -- watching them succeed. Whether that success comes in the form of a first-ever-I-read-it-by-myself book or a I-can-finally-write-it-all-by-myself lowercase letter. It's not about what actually happened... it's the fact that it happened.

It kind of made me think about wrapping paper. A little strange... but hear me out.

Although schools are starting to get away from this terminology, everyone still refers to kids as "gifted" -- usually the kids who are early readers and writers. I am guilty as charged. When a little one matter-of-factly reads the title of a book you're holding up before you do,  it's hard not to recoil with wonder. 

But, celebrating with this little one today made me think about every child being gifted. [Just to clarify- I am not one of those "everyone gets a medal, even if they lost" kind of people. If you lose the game, too bad. Not everyone is going to get a medal every time. Just to clarify. This is different.]

Honestly, every child deserves the chance to be viewed as "gifted" in some way. Whether that was is excellent decoding, amazing artwork, or simply the humble gift of self-awareness, every child deserves a teacher who believes he or she has some type of gift.

Every child has a gift -- you just have to get through the layers of wrapping paper. And, I am honored that my job, as a kindergarten teacher, is to unwrap those little ones and show them their gifts. Because many of them (almost all of them) will not know they are hidden inside there.

Some of them are wrapped in neat, patterned, beautiful paper. They come to school everyday with a new outfit from Justice, a lunch box free from preservatives or artificial flavors, and they never forget show-and-tell on Wednesdays.

Others are simply wrapped in old newspaper. Their shoes don't have laces, their faces aren't clean, and when a camera is pointed their way, they don't smile.

But, the gifts are there, all the same. The newspaper tends to be wrapped in many layers -- and your hands might get a little dirty along the way -- but the beauty inside that box sparkles as bright as the others.

And I hate to say I have favorites. I hate to say I am biased. But, those little gifts in the old newspaper are ten-fold more rewarding when you open the box. In 20 years, I hope to remember every one of my students' names and at least one little memory of each one. But, in 20 years, I know those students who are triple-wrapped with extra tape in last week's comics will be the ones who are burned onto my heart.

Everyday is Christmas in kindergarten. :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday funnies

Mrs. A: "Okay, boys and girls, we're going to walk down the hallway, and I want you to look for anything you can find that starts with the /m/ sound -- our letter of the week."
Student 1: "Oooh! mmmmm-picture frame."
Mrs. A: "Good try, but let's listen: p-p-p-picture. Does that start with /m/?"
Students: "No..."
Mrs. A: "Let's keep looking."
Student 2: "I see one! mmmm-book."
Mrs. A: "Okay, let's back it up here kiddos. Our words have to start with the /m/ sound all by themselves."
Student 3: "I see mmmm-monkey!"
Mrs. A: "Good one! mmm-monkey."
Student 1 (again): "I got one. mmmm-office."
Student 2: "Wait!! I see YOU! mmmmmmm-Mrs. Anderson."

Too funny - it cracks me up how hard they try at this point in the year. Seriously hilarious.

Mrs. A: "What do you want to be when you grow-up?"
Student: "A teacher."
Mrs. A: "Oh, good!"
Student: "Because then, I can walk backwards in the hall."


Remember Mighty Mouse you may have read about earlier this year? Oh, Mighty Mouse... he's just a hoot. Ornery as can be... but too, too cute. Also -- hilarious how the kids *think* they know "bad words." This is how most of those conversations go...

Student 1: "Mrs. A, he said a bad word."
Mrs. A: "Okay, let's talk about that. How did it make you feel?"
Student 1: "Sad."
Mrs. A: "Let's call him over so we can tell him about that."
(enter: Mighty Mouse)
Mrs. A: "Go on, tell him."
Student 1: "I feel sad when you say bad words."
Mighty Mouse: "I'm sorry."
Student 1: "That's okay." (goes back to her station)
......... now, time for some teaching.....
Mrs. A: "Okay darling, we're going to talk about what words are 'school words' and what words are not 'school words.'"
MM: "Okay."
Mrs. A: "So, tell me what word you were saying. It's okay. I'm not mad."
MM: "I said the i word."
Mrs. A (quite puzzled): "Okay. What word is that?"
MM: "It's a bad word for your chin."
Mrs. A: "Okay... do you want to tell me so that we can decide if it's a 'school word?'"
MM: "Well, actually I just spelled it."
Mrs. A: "Okay... will you spell it for me?"
MM: "Well, I don't really remember. I think it was like I-N-Z." 
Mrs. A: "Okay... (holding in the giggles), how about we just try really hard to use our nice words at school."
MM: "Okay."


Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I went home from work Friday with knots in my stomach. I might be too hard on myself, but I just didn't feel right about something. I hugged a little kinder on the way out the door and asked myself, "What did you do for him this week?"

I have a little guy who is tying my heart in knots. I just don't feel like I have "broken through" to him the way I want to. I just don't feel like I am giving him the days at school that I want him to have -- that he needs to have.

Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. Or on him. I know, I know. We've only been in school for 5 weeks.

And, I know what they say -- "You can't save them all."

But I want to save them all! And, if you don't want to save them all, then of course you won't save them all.

I think all of my kinders deserve my best. And, just because you come from a background, from a family, and most likely from a prenatal experience that was tied in knots; that doesn't mean you don't deserve to be believed in.

It would be so easy to think to myself, "Oh, this little guy has had it so rough for five years. There's no way we can untie all those knots."

But, I'm not taking the easy way on this one. Not on any of my kiddos.

I don't care how many colleagues I have to beg for advice and ideas, I don't care how many e-mails I have to send to this little one's family, and I don't care how many people tell me I can't untie all those knots.

I'm going to try.

Yes, this little one's probably going to break my heart. No, he's probably never going to love school the way my other students do.

But, Eli Young Band says it best -- "Keep on dreaming, even if it breaks your heart."

And, I have big dreams for this little guy. I hope he starts to dream too; and I hope at least one of them comes true.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The 3 Ks of Kindergarten

Well... it's actually two Cs and a K. But, it's kindergarten. Everything that starts with the /k/ sound gets a K. :)

One of my favorite things about kindergarten is that as much as the world around us may change, as much as politics may change, as much as our pop culture and society may change... kindergartners pretty much stay the same.

It's one of the true beauties of teaching kindergarten.

No matter what year it is, no matter what level of education their parents may have, and no matter where in the country you teach, every kindergartner embodies a certain set of characteristics that make them innocent, wide-eyed, and irresistibly lovable (in my eyes). Although their differences may be obvious in some ways, their uncontrollable love for a surprise, their natural love for singing a familiar song, and their fascination with colors, the letters in their names, and numbers are just a few ways they are bonded together in similarity.

Because of this universal beauty, the kindergarten year is a very special time filled with many milestones. Most kindergarten classrooms around the country will have some very similar things happen -- children will learn to read, write simple sentences, and compare numbers. They will learn to express their feelings and tie their shoes. They will celebrate the 100th day of school, plant bean seeds, and set butterflies free.

There are some things you can just count on in kindergarten. Every year.

That brings me to the main point of this post -- the 3 Ks (or Cs) of Kindergarten.

This little saying is something I came up with to explain some very important kindergarten events to first-time parents. Although I started teaching kindergarten to make a difference with the kids, I have built some really incredible relationships with parents. To be honest, nowadays, I have a hard time separating my joy of working with my students from my joy of working with their parents. They just walk hand-in-hand.

Well, most first-time kindergarten parents are always worried. About pretty much everything. Over the last five years, I have gotten very good at calming concerns and having long conversations at dismissal explaining everything from how lunch works to what our daily schedule is to how their child will know what classroom to go to. I know parents are "handing over" their babies. I can't even imagine sending my first-born into a building with a near stranger and telling myself to simply trust in that person's kindness. Especially in our current society when not even schools seem safe anymore.

I get it. Sending your first little one to kindergarten can be difficult.

Over the last few years, I have developed ways to explain just exactly what kindergarten is all about. I love that poem... "Everything I ever needed to know in life, I learned in kindergarten." It's perfect.

One of my favorite things to explain to people about kindergarten is the 3 Ks of Kindergarten. If anyone reading this is a teacher... or has ever had a kindergartner... you know how true this is! So, it goes something like this:

"Kindergarten is a wild ride. Every year, there is always the 3 Ks of Kindergarten. 3 things are bound to happen to someone in every kindergarten class. Hands down. Happens every year. Someone is going to get kissed. Someone is going to learn how to cuss. And someone is going to get their hair cut. The 3 Ks (or Cs) of Kindergarten -- kissing, cussing, and cutting."


Oh.. and a funny little quote from this week...
Mrs. A: "What letter do you hear at the beginning of mitten?"
Student: "Zero?"
Mrs. A: "Okay. Let's stop there."