Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Really Great Idea!

One of the great things about summer is I have a lot of extra time to surf The Net looking for great ideas from other teachers. Some I bookmark for future consideration, but every once in awhile I hit on something that I need to act on right away.

Disclaimer: I can't take credit for this Really Great Idea, I discovered it on Filth Wizardry. But it's too good not to pass on!

I had a bucket of Duplo blocks which my now nine-year-old grew out of a long time ago. I had them in my classroom but discovered that the kindergarten kids were much more interested in regular sized Lego blocks.
I had been considering donating them to a home day care or preschool but then came upon this Really Great Idea. 

First I dumped the blocks into the sink and sanitized them using 1 Tbs of bleach per 1 gallon of water and let them soak for awhile, I rinsed them and spread them on a towel to air dry.

The drying part is pretty important before moving on to the next step.

I purchased Avery Removable Multi-Use Labels. Number 5418 works best, the labels are 1/2" x 3/4" and fit perfectly on the square Duplo bricks.

I used Sharpies to write lowercase letters on each label. I used a red Sharpie for vowels and blue for the consonants. Then applied each label to a Duplo block.

Letters should be placed horizontally so the Duplo "bumps" are facing to the left. The label on the Duplo block above is NOT placed correctly, but I only discovered that as I was typing this!

When the blocks are joined together, children can build words using the Duplos.

Then I labeled large Duplo blocks with Sight Words.

I love finding ideas like this...a new purpose for some old toys!

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Day in the Life...

...of a kindergarten teacher on vacation.

6:30 a.m. Turned over and opened my eyes, blearily looked at the clock mocking me from my bedside table.

6:35 Ignored evil clock, turned over and TRIED to go back to's summer I can do this.

7:00 Gave up. Stretched and was very happy to realize my sunburn felt much better. I might even be able to attempt a bra today! Really, it's the little things.

7:10 Sat down at the computer. Logged in. I have a daily ritual here.
Email account #1...a few updates from friends, and one from my sister in law in the midst of planning her son's wedding.
Gmail account...nothing. boo.
School account. nothing. yeah! updates, looked at photos, dug for treasure, played a little Bejeweled.
K is for Kindergarten on Facebook
Empire Avenue
The Salem News ...I read the news today...oh boy!
Read my daily blogs

8:00 Arrival of Kid #3. He's an early riser like his mom.
"Hey mom, your sunburn is brown now!"
"Yes, it is!"
"What's angina?"
Seriously...where does he come up with these questions?

9:00 (Yes, I really wasted almost two hours on the internet)
Decided I was hungry.
"Hey Patrick, what should I have for breakfast?"
"Lucky Charms, they're magically delicious."
"Okay then, Lucky Charms it is." Yes, I really did eat them, but I ate around the marshmallows. Yuck.

9:10 Grabbed my latest read, Three Cups of Tea, poured myself a cup of my own and sat on the front porch in my jammies to read a chapter or two.

And so began my day. Vacation day # 19 if you count the weekends.
I really enjoy my mornings of leisure, when I'm in no real hurry to go anywhere. I did eventually leave my porch. I had things to do, mundane things, like the bank, and the post office, Target (why Target do you torment me so...), and to Salem State College to check on a schedule change for hubby. A lot of running around but I did get a very nice surprise when I was able  to say hello to some very good friends. :)

Summer is like that, full of little unexpected surprises.
A sudden shower when the sun is shining brightly, an email from a friend suggesting a girl's night out, the lady bug that landed on my leg while sitting on the beach, lunch without the kids, discovering the laundry fairy...or fairies folded it all while I was out, or a card in the mail just to say, "I'm thinking of you."

Vacation doesn't always mean days at the beach, mini-golf, trips to the water park...sometimes it's just nice to kick back and enjoy the surprises...they're magically delicious.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Good Things

     Without any kindergarten stories to tell, my summer blog posts consist of a lot of rambling about pretty much nothing.
     We are just 15 days into summer vacation and we've already gone on countless bike rides, sometimes twice a day, been to The Willows at least 5 times, once to play some Skeeball but most often to get ice cream...I could live on the stuff. We've been to the movies twice and tomorrow we'll head to the beach to spend the day in the sand, sun and surf.

     I like the summer because I get to be just Mom. My boys don't have to share me with 18 other children, they get my full attention.
As Patrick gets older he needs my attention less and as Mikey and Daniel get older they WANT my attention less.
     With this lack of attention I find myself with some time to fill. I find it hard to do nothing. I actually find it a bit unsettling.
     I did pamper myself the other day with a pedicure, there is nothing better than that, and I browsed the book store and came home with three books that can not in any way shape or form be considered "professional" reading. I've taken naps, gone for walks, and sat on the porch and watched the world go by. All these things help me to rejuvenate. It's what all teachers (and kids for that matter) need after 9 months of really hard work.

However, today, I made a big mistake.

I woke up nice and early, before the heat and humidity of the day settled in. I laced up my running shoes and decided to go for a run. I took it slow because I wasn't out to win any races. (Not that I could anyway) I just wanted to get in a little exercise, enjoy the beautiful weather, the early morning quiet and clear my head a bit.

The mistake wasn't in the running, the mistake was in the route I decided to take. I live less than a mile from school and my route this morning took me right up past the front door. That's when I should have looked, smiled and kept going. Did I? Nope.

I walked up the steps and tried the door.
I pulled and it opened. I felt something drawing me in. I walked up the steps and looked down the dark hallway. I could hear  the common sense voice in my head  saying "Don't do it Lisa, turn, run as fast as you now!" I really should learn how to listen to that voice.

Somewhere below me I could hear a radio playing. Most likely a custodian polishing a floor. I kept walking until found myself standing at my classroom door. I took a step inside. The mess was still there. The piles of materials still covered with sheets just where I left them. Did I really expect it to be any different than when I left the mess two weeks ago? Was I secretly hoping some magic spirit, perhaps the ghost of Horace Mann himself may have had pity on me and taken care of that mess? Moving is a messy business and it will be mine alone to deal with. Thanks a bunch Horace.

I stayed for only 5 minutes because I wasn't going to do anything about it at that moment anyway, and a dark quiet school building kind of gives me the creeps, so I turned and left.
That little five minute visit pretty much ended any hope of a peaceful, serene, clear-my-head run. My head was now filled with visions of the piles of materials I'll have to put away, planning I'll have to do to start the year, and the kids I will welcome into my room in September. That feeling of being overwhelmed that I've been trying so hard to overcome was hitting me again, a left to the gut, a right to the head. I ducked, I spun, and then I arrived back home defeated as I hit the mat.

Then two very nice things happened.
First, the mail came and in it was card. A thank you card from a very good friend. Reminding me that I have people in that building that care about me. She reminded me that good things WILL happen. I needed that reminder.
Then the phone rang and on the other end was another very good friend. Offering to meet me at school next week and help me get through some of the mess. She has so much more going on with her life right now, but still offered her help.

I instantly felt better. Just knowing that good things will happen and I don't have to go it alone lifted my spirits. I poured myself a cup of tea, sat on the front porch and decided to let it all go and enjoy the rest of my day.

It wasn't long before Patrick woke up and joined me on the porch with his bowl of Mini-Wheats.
"Mom, what's nougat?"

Ahhhh....Back to being just Mom.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Settling in to Summer

My favorite summer writing spot is my front porch. Even though I live on a busy street, there is something so relaxing and old fashioned about the front portch. I will admit though, I'm not sipping lemonade or eating watermelon while sitting on my front porch swing, but I am sipping my Starbucks Iced Green Tea and typing away on my Mac Book. It may be the front porch, but I'm not one to turn my back on technology. So here I sit. Writing and wondering.

It usually takes me a week or two to settle in to summer. It's not easy for me to switch gears from my usual routine during the school year of getting up at 5:30 to being able to sleep in just a little bit later. I'm not a person who can lie in bed for hours anyway. Once I'm awake, I have to get up, but being able to hang about in my jammies for awhile is very appealing.

My summer vacation only started yesterday even though we've been out of school for a week. I had moving to do, from 124 across the hall to 134. The amount of "stuff" I've managed to collect is five years is amazing to me. It was, and still is an overwhelming task and even though my stuff is sitting in a new room it's far from organized. I have a good week if not more of work ahead of me.

But there comes a point when you just have to walk away. I had to walk away from the expectations. Expectations that it should all be done faster and more completely. But as I was cleaning out the last closet, seething with frustration and wilting from the heat and humidity, I realized the mess will still be there in August. It's not going anywhere, but I wonder...will I ever really be able to settle in to summer vacation knowing it's there waiting for me?

I think the answer is YES and I realized it yesterday. It was a beautiful, picture perfect summer day. Big puffy white clouds floating in a blue sky. Warm without a touch of humidity.
Patrick has been begging for me to take him to Salem Willows.

I reluctantly agreed as I do every year, reluctant not because I don't like spending time with the kid, reluctant because I know you can't go to the Willows without dropping some cash. But to a nine-year old there is something so very cool about dropping quarters into a machine and seeing how many tickets are going to come out. I'm good for at least one visit a year, and each year we have a great time together. Truly, it's one of the highlights of our summer, and it was a perfect day for it.

We spent close to two hours there and as we were walking back to the car, eating our ice cream, along the harbor on this picture perfect day, I realized that this is why I'll be able to let my room go.
Why what other people expect of me doesn't matter,  right at that moment, Patrick mattered more than an organized classroom.

August will be here soon enough.