Friday, May 28, 2010

Who is Mother Nature Anyway?

I live and teach in an urban community. I teach city kids, who don't always get a chance to explore nature on their own. Despite this fact, we are lucky enough that our school is located just a stone's throw from Forest River Park. Forest River is an ocean side park with wooded areas, meadows and beaches. 

I partnered the kids up, explained the rules about walking together, crossing streets, and generally being safe, and off we went. It took us less than 10 minutes to get to the park and meet up with Miss P our science teacher.
This is the second time this year we made a visit. We went first this fall, where we looked and listened to the world around us, tying it in with a unit on the five senses.
This time, we were there to look for stages of the life cycle in different animals and plants. We also took the opportunity to release our painted lady butterflies who recently emerged from their chrysalises. 
I'm still amazed at the transformation even though I've seen it year after year. Squeals of excitement rang out as each butterfly took off into the air, twelve little miracles.

After we said good-bye to our butterflies we made our way to the beach where they scoured the beach for sea creatures. Crab parts were big hits once they got past the fear of being pinched! We looked at muscles, barnacles, and periwinkles and managed to spot a few live crabs. We stopped on the way back to listen to bird songs, and smell the ocean air.

I wanted them to see the little details of the natural world around them, away from the four walls of our classroom, away from their computer screens and televisions. 

As we were walking back to school Robin looked at me and asked, "Mrs. Collins, Who is Mother Nature anyway?"

"Well Robin, today, Mother Nature is me!"

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tickets Please!

I'm not sure what it is, perhaps it's just that time in the year. Perhaps I've just become less tolerant or could it be that the cherubs are just feeling a little unsettled with all the talk of school ending and the prospect of first grade. Whatever it is, tattling has made a reappearance in my classroom.
The Tattle Jar has stopped working. It was a pretty effective deterrent for awhile, but the novelty has worn off.
I was wracking my brain trying to come up with a solution, and then, suddenly, an idea!

I sat them all down and gave the tattle talk. I explained again about the big things that should be told about and also the little things that can be solved without a grownup's help.
Any blood? I need to know!
Someone is doing something that could cause blood? I need to know!
Someone stuck his tongue out? Unless it's bleeding, I don't want to know.
I threw a few scenarios at them, and they seemed to understand. However, we've had this chat before so I really wanted to make sure they understood.

Then I took out my sticky notes, the ones shaped like stars, and wrote each child's name on one and stuck them to the white board in front of the room.
I explained, "These my little cherubs are Tattle Tickets. You are allowed one, and only one Tattle per day, you can tell me anything even if it's little and silly. If you just can not hold it in and you really need to tell me, you can tattle but it will cost you your Tattle Ticket. Once the ticket is gone, you are done for the day. No more tattles."
They seemed excited about this plan, so I even added a bonus..."If your Tattle Ticket stays on the white board for the whole day, I will have a treat for you. (Eyeing the giant bag of M & M's on my desk)

Now, to be fair, not every child in my room is a chronic tattler, one even announced to me, "Mrs. Collins, this will be easy because I have never tattled in my whole life!", but I do have a few that just can't help themselves, these are the ones that really need a strategy to help them break the tattle habit.
I wasn't sure it would work, but by the end of the day, only 5 kids had tattled, and my two worst offenders? Their tickets remained where I placed it, right there on the Tattle Ticket Board!

They were so proud of themselves and I was thrilled to be able to hand out those M & M's!

Today, I only had three tattlers. Just three! Amazing.
I didn't pass out treats today, they need to learn, that to be proud of an accomplishment is reward enough. Judging from the smiles when I told them how proud I was of them, I think they understood.

Do I dare hope for a tattle free day? That might be too much to hope for, after all, sometimes you just need to be heard...even if there isn't any blood.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

L is for Laugh

Some of the best things about being a kindergarten teacher are the daily chuckles I get when kids say or do something funny. Sometimes the laugh might come from a look or expression or maybe a crazy dance move, but mostly the laughs come when they say something funny.

There must have been something in the air lately, or perhaps my funny bone is on the particularly sensitive side. I'll let you be the judge.

We had an early release day yesterday and the usual reminder note did not go home from the office. In the morning out principal made an announcement suggesting that any child who thought their moms or dads did not know it was an early release day to please come to the office. I was in the office at the time and got my first laugh of the day when a little boy came trotting in...

What's your name?
Alex what?
Alex Ander

Sometimes I break out into song for not particular reason. Sometimes it's the song in my head when I wake up in the morning or sometimes I get a little inspiration. Today I had the kids all lined up for dismissal, with my friend Maria at the front of the line. I looked at her and started belting out show tunes.
"Maria....I just met a girl named Maria."
She looked right at me and said, I know that song! I'm sure you do was my reply.
Do you know any other songs about me Mrs. Collins?
I sure do!
"How do you solve a problem like Maria!"
I know that one too! Hey Mrs. Collins did you know my friend Ronan has a song about him too?
Really? I don't know any songs with the name Ronan in it.
Sure you do. You know Mrs. Collins...Ronan, Ronan, Ronan on the River!!!

go ahead....laugh.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

M is for Mom

I know, today should be all about me because I am a mom. The truth is if it weren't for my three beautiful children I wouldn't have the privilege of being "Mom".
The three boys are all so different. Each unique in their own way, but so much the same too. I hear all the time how much they look alike.  Sure they have their similarities, they certainly look like brothers, but perhaps I don't see it because I see them as the individuals they have become.

Patrick is the "baby" of the family, but at 9, he would argue that he is no longer a baby. That is true of course, but like his brothers, he will always be my baby.
He wasn't the easiest of babies. He cried a lot when he was really little, he hated the car, and I pretty much walked around wearing him in a Snugli for the first 6 months of his little life. He walked at 9 months and was running two weeks later. He hasn't stopped running since.
Patrick is a little on the quirky side, and I say that with the utmost affection. He's funny and most of the time he doesn't even realize he is. We stopped at the store the other day and because he had money in his pocket he had to buy himself something. He brought his lemonade up to the counter, paid for it with a handful of change and as he walked away, he pointed to the store clerk and said, "Now you have a good day." What nine year old says that?
As we were walking home from school one day last week, he announced to me that he was becoming very good at impressions. He told me he was really good at doing his brother Daniel.
So of course curiosity got the best of me and I asked him to go ahead and let me hear Daniel.
 Not in how Daniel sounds, but more what Daniel would say..."Patrick, you are such a tool!"
Spot on impression!

Daniel and Patrick don't have the best of relationships. There is no doubt in my mind that they love each other, but I'm pretty sure Daniel never really got over the fact that when Patrick was born he was no longer the baby of the family.
I do see glimmers of hope for them. Daniel is making an effort to do things with Patrick. He takes him outside to play catch, or to the gym to play some hoop. I think Daniel sees the potential Patrick has as an athlete and he's trying to help him on his way.
I think there is hope for them as brothers and friends.

Unlike Patrick, Daniel was a good baby and has grown into a really good kid. He was born during a snow storm and we were lucky to get to the hospital in time. He was born quickly and even as a baby he moved quickly! He chose not to walk until he was almost 14 months old because he could get everywhere he needed by crawling. I'll never forget the day when he was about 10 months old, when I found him sitting in the kitchen sink playing in the water. He had the smarts and resourcefulness even at that age to push the kitchen chair over to the sink and crawl in.
Despite is mischievous beginnings he has grown into a young man that any mom would be proud of.
He's respectful, kind and well liked. He's smarter and more talented than I could ever have hoped to be at his age. He is an amazing writer and very good athlete, but mostly he's a good person. He quietly goes about his business without a lot of fanfare. He quietly gets the job done whether it's academics or sports. He excels at both but in his own quiet way and people notice. He's teachable and coachable always willing to improve. He's not as socially out and about like his older brother, preferring to sometimes just hang out at home or with his the friends he's most comfortable with.

Mikey, Michael really, but he'll always be "Mikey" to us, was my first and the best baby of the three. He never cried, he was always content and easy to please. I'd walk in to a smile every morning as I lifted him out of his crib. I remember thinking how crazy it was that I was responsible for such a small little thing when I had absolutely no experience with babies.
But my instincts kicked in and I was never the same again.
He has always been a good big brother to both of his younger siblings. He has given Patrick a lot of attention, helping him out when he needed to, consoling him as a baby when nobody else could. He is Daniel's best friend and Daniel looks up to him in many ways. Mikey takes this job very seriously striving to be a good example to both of his brothers.

I was approached the other day by his boss at his new job. He told me that when the other kids are just chatting and sitting around, Mikey is up and working, finding things that need to be done. Whether it be cleaning tables, emptying trash or the the bathroom, Mikey does it without being asked. I was of course very proud, it's always nice to hear the good things your kids do, but I couldn't help wonder why he's not cleaning the bathroom at home!!!
Mikey will be headed off to Syracuse University in the fall. I know our house will never be the same. I've never been one to get emotional over the different stages of life they've gone through. I was not a mom who cried when I dropped them off on their first day of kindergarten, or during their various moving on ceremonies, because going to kindergarten or starting high school is what they are supposed to do, but as I'm writing this, thinking about Mikey moving on to college I'm feeling more emotional than I expected to. Syracuse is far away, he won't be coming home every weekend. Do I wish he was going to school closer to home? Yes, but I can't deny him what he's worked so hard to achieve. I have to let him spread his wings. I know he'll soar, it's the kind of person he is.

I couldn't be more proud of all three of them.
So I don't need a day to celebrate, I get to celebrate everyday I hear my name...Mom.

Happy Mother's Day!