Monday, September 29, 2008

Kindergarten by the Numbers

I have 16 children in my class. 
10 of them are boys.
6 of them are girls.
2 were late for school.
3 hadn't eaten breakfast.
1 forgot his snack.
Today I: 
 sent 1 to the nurse.
 tied 17 shoe laces.
 stuck straws into 3 juice boxes.
 put 32 stickers on papers.
zipped up 3 jackets.
cleaned up 2 spills.
broke up 1 fight.
sent 1 note home to a mom
put in 3 book orders
fixed 1 pony tail
sent 5 to the thinking chair
fixed 1 computer issue.
ate 1 turkey sandwich and 1 apple very quickly
went to the bathroom 1 time.
put 10 kids on buses home
walked 5 out to meet their grown ups
and took 1 very long sigh of relief!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Impressionable Youth

"Sometimes the questions are complicated but the answers are simple." -Dr. Seuss

While sitting in church this morning, my eight year-old asked me a question. He wanted to know what the money is for that we put into the collection basket each week. I gave him the quick simple answer. "They use it to pay for the electricity." With a quick nod he let me know I had given him all the answer he needed.
I distinctly remember asking my mom or dad (that part of the memory is fuzzy) the same question when I was little. And I distinctly remember the answer they gave me. "They use it to buy diapers for baby Jesus." I was pretty little at the time, maybe only two or three, but I will never forget that. It was a sweet answer, obviously not the truth, but it was all I needed.
I have learned over time that children can ask some pretty deep questions. And sometimes we want to give them really long answers when all they are really looking for is a little reassurance. 
I don't know why the answer my parents gave me has stayed with me for so long. It's just a little moment in a childhood full of memories but the point is that it did stay with me. 
The things we say as parents and teachers make an undeniable impression on children. Hopefully they remember the good things, but there are times when I've said things to my children that I hope they will forget. Things said out of anger, or when I just wasn't thinking. They are observers of our behavior. 
I was reminded earlier this week how impressionable children can be when a mother of one of my former students stuck her head in my room to tell me that her daughter said, "I wish I was back in Mrs. Kindergarten's class again."
I smiled and thanked her. This little girl and I had a rough year together. We had a lot of behavior issues that had to be addressed, she tried my patience on a daily basis and it was necessary for me to be "tough" on her. So I was really surprised when her mom relayed her daughter's sentiments.
My co-worker happened to be in the room for that exchange and she reminded me that I should feel really good about what she said. She told me, "you made an impression on that little girl because you gave her boundries, you were patient with her and you were nice to her and you made her feel loved."
My perceptions of the year I had with her weren't at all the same, but it isn't my perceptions that mattered here, but hers, and I'm proud of that.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Perplexing Politics

Warning: Political diatribe to follow.
My family has turned against me. I'm not talking about my husband and children, but my family of origin. My mother and brother have become...REPUBLICANS! I don't know when this occurred and I really have no explanation as to how this happened. 
A little back history. My brother and I grew up in a single parent household. My mom struggled financially and probably had to have some help paying for our educations and other expenses, but despite the struggles I'm sure she had, my mother did an excellent job because we turned out pretty well. We are employed, have nice homes, nice families that we can support, and we are generally pretty nice people. We never wanted for anything as kids and I'm sure she went without a few luxuries herself so my brother and I would never feel the struggle. We both had wonderful childhoods and I thank her for that. 
We grew up in a small, very blue collar town in Massachusetts. You know Massachusetts. The land of the Kennedys and of Camelot. Democrat central, but something has gone terribly wrong and I don't know how to fix it!
I can kind of understand where my mom is coming from. I think as people grow older they become more conservative. It just happens. 
But my brother? I don't get it.
He has young children. One of whom attends public high school. Like me, he is not independently wealthy and he and my sister-in-law work hard for the things they have. If someone was on the outside looking in he would fit the perfect profile of a typical Democrat. He takes pleasure in bombarding me with McCain/Palin propaganda. He's got McCain plastered all over his facebook profile. He throws McCain at me, his profile picture shows him holding a McCain lawn sign and he's constantly sending me "flair" with some McCain slogan written on it, which by the way, is a complete waste of time because that "flair" is going no where near my profile! 
I suppose he enjoys paying close to $4.00 a gallon for gas, and will enjoy paying around $600.00 more dollars for home heating oil this winter than he did last winter. 
I suppose when it's time for his first born to go to college in four years, he'll enjoy receiving the "no money for you" letters when applying for student loans and grants.
I suppose he enjoys the fact that our Republican administration is currently spending $410 MILLION dollars per day on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 
That's a lot of dollars that could have been spent on That money could have provided 80 MILLION young Americans with scholarships to fund their college educations. 
I know I'm not going to change his mind just as he's not going to change mine. I guess we just have different priorities. 
My entire family either works in or attends public schools. Based on that fact alone, I just can't support the Republican ticket. There are many other reasons, but that is first and foremost. It's my job as a parent and it's my job as an advocate for young children. 
When it comes down to it, we all vote for the candidate we feel is the best to accomplish what is important to each one of us. The important thing is that we vote. Because Republican, Democrat or Independent, we are all Americans and  we have the right. 

Friday, September 26, 2008

P is for Parent

I'm pretty sure I don't have to tell you my five loyal blog readers how important parental involvement is to a child's school achievement. 
I've had years where I've had very involved parents who come to social events, parent conferences, and open houses and then I've had years when I meet a parent briefly on the first day of school and then don't see them again.
There have been countless studies done on the subject, but I can tell what kind of involvement year I'll have based purely on a child's behavior in the classroom. 
This year's class of kids is as cute as ever. They are funny, and bright and all have huge potential, but they are not the best behaved children. I am working on that and I'm confident that I'll have them on the straight and narrow by January. 
Last night was open house at our school. Out of 15 families (I have one set of twins) only 5 parents attended. 
I'm not blaming  the parents necessarily. Although, I do think that in certain cases some could make a better effort, but I truly believe there are other forces at work here.
Our school's population is currently 52% free and reduced lunch. Over half our population is considered below the poverty line. Parent's can not take time off from work to attend school functions for fear of losing their jobs or having less in their pay checks due to hours spent away from work. We can blame are "wonderful" economy for that. (Vote people!!!!)
I know most are doing the best they can. Schedules and the cost of baby sitters do not always allow parents to attend school functions. But it's easy to see how trends can continue. If children aren't shown the value of education they will never know the value of an education. Parents who are well informed and take an interest in their child's learning are improving their child's chances of success. A parent is a child's first teacher and we are partners in the business of education and inspiration!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tattle Tail, Tattle Tail

I'm pretty sure this year is going to be one of those years. The kind of year when you can't give them an inch. The kind of year where you can't turn your back for a second. It's not that they are "naughty", they're just suffering from a case of "the wiggles". They are very young, talkative, competitive and edgy, and they are tattlers. I'm pretty patient about most things, but the tattling? It puts me over the edge. 
"Mrs. Teacher, Timmy called me poo poo head."
"Mrs. Teacher, Suzie dropped her pencil."
"Mrs. Teacher, Prudence has wood chips in her pocket."
"Mrs. Teacher, Fred picked his nose and ate it."

I sat them all down the other day and gave them the "tattle talk." We talked about when it's okay to tell and when it's just telling to get someone into trouble.
Someone is standing on a table? Tell.
Someone punching you? Tell.
Someone choking, bleeding, throwing up? Tell.
Picking nose? Tattling.
Woodchips in pocket? Tattling.
Timmy is a poo poo head? Definitely Tattling.

They seemed to get it. I was sure they got it. But here we are Tuesday, Week 3 and they are right back at it. So I had to break out "The Tattle Jar."

What is the The Tattle Jar you ask?
Well, it's a big plastic jar. You know, like the kind pretzels come in at B.J.'s or Costco. I have a cute little label on it and I leave it on a shelf within reach of even the shortest of my kids. 
When someone comes to me to tattle I ask, "Is someone hurting you?"" Is someone doing something dangerous?" "Does someone need an ambulance???". If they answer "no" to any of those questions I simply hold up my hand and say, "Tattle Jar."
That's where the tattles go.
They put their little faces into the jar and tell their tattles there. 
I told them, (and you can only get away with this kind of stuff in kindergarten) "after everyone goes home and it's really quiet in the room I put my ear in the jar and I can hear all your tattles."
I don't know why it works, but it does, and eventually I don't even have to question them, they just automatically go to The Jar.
I really should market these. Find a need and fill it. I could make a fortune. I could retire early. But then who would be there to stick their ear in the jar and listen. Just listen.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

C is for Car

We have been a one car family since last January. I don't really know how we managed but we did. It required a little extra walking and a little extra juggling and occasionally asking for a ride or two but it worked. It was easier during the summer since all of us in our house are either teachers or students we really never HAD to go anywhere and when we did, we figured it out.
It was great to save a little money when gas prices were at an all time high this summer and we saved on insurance too.
However, now that school has started and we are all going in different directions again, and we now have a third driver in the family, (God help me!) a second car has become a necessity again. So off Mr. Dad and I went to car shop.
I hate car shopping. I hate the uncomfortableness of it, the haggling, the negotiating, the feeling as if you're being ripped off, and the uncomfortable pause between the close of the deal and the final hand shake. I'm not good at the negotiating because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Stupid, I know. 
One of the requirements of our new car was a big trunk for trucking around all the soccer equipment that belongs to our family. Bags and bags of it. Cones, soccer balls, pinnies and water bottles. It all goes in the trunk. 
I want my trunk back! I want the smelly soccer stuff out of my car!
So we picked one out for a test drive, took it for a little spin along the shore. Drove nice, no weird noises, nice smell, and spotless, low mileage, good warrantee. 
So Mr. Friendly car dealer shows us all around the car. All the little features and gadgets. He opened the trunk, and the words out of my mouth were...
"Look! It's big enough for your balls!"

We're bringing the new baby home tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Everyday after lunch I go out to the playground to collect my ducklings. Most of the time they are waiting in line for me, but occasionally there is a straggler or two. When I arrive I prepare myself for the playground paraprofessional because inevitably I'm going to hear about some injury or some less than desirable behavior.
Today I heard both. One little girl fell off the climbing structure and was sobbing, all blotchy and red. Then I heard that some of my kids had been yelling into the art room windows. The art room is in the basement and the windows are playground level so the kids can easily peek in. Not only did I hear the bad news from the playground aids, but the art teacher stopped me on the way up the stairs. I asked her what they were yelling. "Stupid kids" and "The F word", was her reply.
"The F word?" I asked, shocked.
"No, the actual words, "The Eff Word."
Kindergarteners obviously have yet to learn the fine art of dropping the f-bomb.
Nobody was really sure who was doing the yelling but I have my ways. Bwahahahaha! 
And no, it does not involve a metal chair and a lone light bulb hanging from the ceiling.
 I seem to have the power to make children feel guilty with merely the sound of my "teacher voice."
So I marched my ducklings up the stairs and sat them in their circle. I called the nurse for my sobbing blotchy girl who upon hearing that the nurse was on her way down asked, "Is she going to kill me?" (This is the same girl who yelled "We are all going to die!" during our fire drill.)
Once that was taken care of I set upon the task of finding my guilty party.
"Children we have a big problem, it seems that some of you were  yelling into the art room windows."
"Why do you think this is not a nice thing to do?" I looked around and noticed Timmy (name changed to protect the obviously guilty) whose bottom lip is starting to quiver. Tears began to roll down is cherubic cheeks. "It was me Mrs. Kindergarten! It was me!"
Those movie police interrogators have nothing on me. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A is for Alphabet, M is for Moon

I heard a great story during lunch today. My fellow kindergarten teacher across the hall had her kids writing the alphabet in their journals.
One little boy who was puzzled asked, "How do you write the letter 'emmeno'." 
"What letter?" she asked.
"Oh! No it's actually three letters, M, N, O."
"No, N goes at the end, you know Y N Z."

Isn't that the best? 

My kids were particularly chatty today. Must be the after effects of the full moon. Ask any teacher they'll tell you there really is something to this full moon thing. It slowly starts to build two or three days before and settles down two or three days later. 
The tides rise and fall to the pull of the moon, the noise level in my classroom rises and falls to the pull of the moon. 
There are more 911 calls during the full moon than other time, more babies are born during full moons, there are more traffic accidents when there is a full moon and there are the payout rates at casinos are higher during a full moon.
I'm not sure who studies all this stuff, but they could have saved themselves a whole lot of time by  peeking into any classroom across the country and know there is something to this looney lunar theory.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rules to Live By

Part of our school's Responsive Classroom philosophy involves creating classroom rules. Basically the theory behind this is if children take part in creating the rules they will be more vested in following them. So we started brainstorming today and as they fired off rules, I wrote them down. Here's our list...

My favorites are
  • No Kissing 
  • No stepping out of line. (Literally and figuratively!!)
  • No touching bees (because those suckers can hurt)
  • No beating up (especially the teacher)
  • Don't wet the floor 
  • No pulling wires on computers 
After we brainstormed we looked at our rules and categorized them. Our first category? Rules about Hurting. We turned those into one rule and called it the No Hurting Rule, which then became something positive...Be Nice to Each Other. Now isn't that what it's all about? I may just send our list to our presidential candidates.

Friday, September 12, 2008

First Time

There is a first time for everything and I can safely say this week was the first time I ever stood at one of these...

I have found through my experiences working with newbie kindergarteners that as the adult you must model everything. I mean EVERYTHING. From sitting in a circle with hands on your lap, walking in line, opening a milk carton, how to shake hands, push in a chair, greet the principal, pack a back pack and yes, use the bathroom. We've had some first week bathroom issues so I thought I better nip this in the bud, or butt. (pun very much intended)

I brought my ducklings down to the bathroom. I had help in the classroom that day so I took the opportunity to model proper bathroom etiquette. After waiting for the big kids to clear out I left the girls with the para,  lined up the kindergarten boy ducklings and marched them ever so confidently into the boys bathroom. I lined them up facing the row of urinals.
"Now boys, these are called urinals. You are all so lucky because the girls don't have these in their bathroom. Girls have to sit down to go to the bathroom, you get to stand up!"
Ten little boys looking at me like I was nuts. 
"Now, when you go pee, you don't need to pull your pants all the way down to your ankles, because if you do, what is sticking out?" Insert uncomfortable pause. "Your bottom, your bottom is sticking out and do you really want everyone to see your bottom? Ten little boys shaking their heads in unison.
All you have to do is pull your pants down far enough to bring out your, your, your...whatever you do Lisa, whatever you do don't say 'penis' they will erupt in fits of uncontrollable laughter, don't say it, don't do it!!!!
...your PARTS! Yes! your parts, go pee, then pull up your pants, don't forget to flush!" Go to the sink, use two squirts of soap, three pulls on the paper towels and out of the bathroom. The bathroom is a germy place boys and no place to play! Pee, Wash, Out! Repeat after me, Pee, Wash, Out!
Great job! Does anyone have any questions? 
Little short duckling raises hand.
Yes Little Short Duckling?
"What do we do if we have to poop?"
Insert sigh
"Now boys, these are called stalls..."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Little Bo Peep and Make Way for Ducklings

One of the hardest things to do the first week of kindergarten is to teach a classroom full of kids how to walk in line with some semblance of order. I try all the tricks, a hair stare line, a lollipop line, hips and lips, I model, model, model! Sometimes they catch on quickly, sometimes they don't. I'm thinking this is a "don't" year. I have a class of wanderers. 
Today we had a fire drill where walking in line is really really important. The trick is  to keep them together and quiet, while trying to reassure them that it's only noise and not a real fire. One little girl yelled, "we're all going to die!" Try to calm THAT down and not laugh at the same time.
I could have used a few of these for my little lambs...

It's going to take some work, some practice and some serious diligence and patience on my part, but I am confident and determined that I will go from this..

To this...

Monday, September 8, 2008

One down...

One hundred seventy-six more to go. School days that is. Starts With an X left a comment on my last post that gave me an idea. She wondered what Obama and McCain said as kindergarteners. It got me thinking so I googled. 
This is what I found...
"Iis Darmawan, 63, Obama's kindergarten teacher, remembers him as an exceptionally tall and curly haired child who quickly picked up the local language and had sharp math skills. 'He wrote as essay titled, I Want to Become President " the teacher said."

I say he wins just because he's writing essays in kindergarten and he can predict the future.

I'm not saying Ms. Darmawan is stretching the truth a bit, but let's examine what I observed in kindergarten today.

One little guy cried not wanting to leave mommy. Three mommies cried not wanting to leave their kids. Three (kids, not mommies) can not write their names. None can tie their own shoes or stick a straw in their own juice boxes.
Four still draw people like this...

And not a single one wrote an essay. Not one.
At least not yet.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Newbies

I spent the last week getting my classroom ready for 16 new kindergarteners. I cleaned and scrubbed, scraped old glue off the tables, filled cups with crayons, sharpened pencils and made everything look shiny, pretty and inviting. I was motivated but it didn't help that it was 90 degrees and our comfortable old building has no air conditioning, but I kept at it.
Last week was also kindergarten screening week. That is an adventure, and I mean that in a good way.
I love meeting the new kids. They seem so small and well, babyish compared to the ones I sent on their way back in June. They seem like a nice little bunch. No separation issues at least so far, and they are so darn cute and say the funniest things.
One little girl put out her hand for me to shake and said, "Wow, you're beautiful." (Think she's getting an "A"??). Another little boy told one of my co-workers, "you remind me of my fish." (I'm beautiful, she's a fish...she's never living that down.) One told me he has 4 girlfriends at preschool and he plans on collecting a few more, another, when asked "what do you do when you walk into a dark room" replied, "I don't know, you tell me." (T-R-O-U-B-L-E).
I also had the chance to go up to first grade to observe a Responsive Classroom lesson. Responsive Classroom is a philosophy we subscribe to at our school. It's based on the theory that the social curriculum is as important as the academic one. One of the first grade teachers is a guru on the subject so it was fun to watch her give the lesson, but mostly it was fun to visit with some of last year's little guys. They are all so familiar to me, and it made me miss them. I wondered as I watched them, if I am possibly going to be able to love this new bunch as much as I love these guys. 
I also realized that we kindergarten teachers do all the hard work so the first grade teachers can reap the benefits of a well-behaved, able to sit-still-in-a-circle, line-up and walk-quietly through-the-hallway-kid!
So Monday is officially THE day, and I'm about to get really busy and really tired, so my blogging time is going to go way down hill. Not a lot of time to write and not a lot of time to read all those blogs I've gotten so attached to over the summer.  I am determined to post about my kindergarten adventures this year, after all I wouldn't want to disappoint all 4 of my loyal readers.
On another note...
Today is my birthday. My family is taking me out to dinner. I told my kids all I wanted for my birthday was for them to get along all day and not fight. We'll see how that goes. 
I got a birthday card from my best friend the other day. She sent a lovely card and put a little note in in about how we need to get together. It's really sad that we don't, but I guess life gets in the way. At the bottom of the card she wrote, "can you believe we are middle-aged?" 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Star Status

It was the first day of school today and I felt like a movie star. Because I teach kindergarten my kids don't officially start until Monday, but we do have other responsibilities like screening the newbies and morning and afternoon duty. 
That's where the movie star part comes in. 
I walked out to the playground this morning with my own second grader, who immediately took off to find his friends which officially relieved me of mom duty. Since he's pretty much grown up at our school he thinks he owns the place...what does he need me for?
But there were some who did need me. My little cherubs from last year. Now so much bigger than when they walked into MY classroom last September. I'm what's comfortable and familiar. I can be counted on to point them in the right direction and provide the "you've gotten so big!" and the "how was your summer?"
I got the smiles and waves from last year's moms and dads, some of whom I've come to consider friends, but the best part was the hugs. The hugs from my former students, some now third graders who still look to me for a little security in a playground of uncertainty. The second graders who think they're so grown up now, but still come for the hug and know it's okay, and the first graders who aren't really sure it's okay to hug me in case it's too "babyish" now that they're no longer in kindergarten.
But as I walk across the playground, collecting those hugs like Oscars and Emmys on a shelf, and I hear one "Hi Mrs. Kindergarten" after another, I smile because I know I have arrived.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

And so it begins

My life of leisure ended today. 
My kids' lives of leisure end tomorrow. Back to packing lunches, battles about homework and juggling schedules.
Yep, my life of leisure ended today, I have stuff to write about, but I'm too tired to write it. 
Stay tuned.