Monday, November 22, 2010

T is for Thanks

I usually like to keep my blog posts on the positive side. There are certainly ups and downs of teaching kindergarten and the good things I write about always outweigh the bad.

But occasionally I see and hear things that I just feel need to be addressed. Maybe this blog is my way of venting.

Our school recently held its annual Harvest Fair. It's a nice little tradition where children can bring in a little money and purchase some gently used items from the White Elephant Table, some recycled jewelry, crafts or snacks from the snack table.

Most kids bring a small amount of money to school on that day but there are always a few who just forget or who's parents just can't afford an extra dollar or two. I am always sure to have some single dollars or quarters on hand just for that reason.

I noticed three of my cherubs had no money with them, so I handed them each a dollar. The first two both smiled and said, "Thank you!" One sat and said nothing as she took the dollar from me. I noticed the pout on her face so I had to ask "what's wrong?" Somehow though, I knew what the answer was going to be.

"Just a dollar? That's all? That's not enough."

I was speechless, and what I really really wanted to do was take the dollar back from her.  Instead I gave her my "good manners" speech, and how a simple "thank you" was really a much better thing to say.

Is the sense of entitlement so ingrained in children that being grateful for the things they have is a thing of the past? Or is it simply a question of good manners. Just knowing when to say "please", "excuse me" or "thank you, that was a really nice thing you did for me."

Now I know she's only five and I suppose manners are something you have to be taught. I do my best to model good manners. I say thank you when they hand me their little drawings in the morning. I say please when I ask them to pass me a pencil or crayon. But there is only so much I can do. 
It needs to come from home, after all, a parent is their child's first teacher.

However, being thankful goes beyond using good manners to show it. Being grateful is appreciating the little blessing that come to us each an every day.

What am talking about are the blessings of the people in our lives. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. Special friends who are there with a smile or hug,  and teachers who care enough to place a dollar into a child's hand.

I was reminded today how truly grateful I am when I saw a facebook post from a friend who just arrived back in Afghanistan to serve after some time spent at home. He was mentioning how time stands still there, that it hadn't changed, it was the same "dusty and nasty", but in all of that, being away from his family for the holiday, he still managed to find something to be grateful about..."the food is pretty good though."
If that's not thankful...I don't know what is.

Stay safe Brian, God speed...

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

B is for Butter

Popcorn, baked potatoes, warm bread...some things are just better with butter.  My days are filled with it, little five-year-olds buttering me up. Spreading the little niceties in the form of compliments and lately they are laying it on thick. I enjoy it because it is always heart warming to hear something nice, especially when it comes from the people who matter the most.

Most of the buttering has been coming from one little one in particular. I knew from the minute she walked in the door she was going to challenge me. Cuter than a button, but a tough nut to crack. Just a little bit stubborn...sussing me out, wondering how far she could push me, wondering what she could get away with. She's one of those kids who was just looking for limits and I was sure to set them right away.

She's suddenly become my best friend. Happy to be in school, following directions, and thriving, but she is laying the butter on so thick I can barely taste the bread. Hugs after hugs come my way, sometimes she'll just feel the urge to get up in the middle of a lesson and give me a hug. 

A typical conversation goes something like this....

"Mrs. Collins, do you know who my favorite teacher is?"
"Who Amanda?"
"You Mrs. Collins"
"Thank you Amanda!"
"Mrs. Collins, do you know who the best teacher is?"
"Who Amanda?"
"You Mrs. Collins."
"Thanks again!"

and my personal favorite

"Mrs. Collins, do you know who the prettiest teacher is?"
"Who Amanda?"
"You Mrs. Collins!"
"Why thank you Amanda, that makes my heart happy."

Now little Amanda isn't the only one spreading it on thick...My little Tinkerbell has her buttery moments too.

We've been learning all about symmetry and today was the day we painted symmetrical pictures.
I folded their papers in half and instructed the cherubs to paint only one half of their papers.
Tink needed a little clarification...
"Miss Collins, what side do I paint on?"
"You pick, but only paint one side of the paper."
"Just one side? But which one?"
"It doesn't matter, but only paint one."
"Is this side okay?" 
"Yep, that side is perfect, excellent choice!"

So she painted, and then I showed her how to fold the paper, and rub her hand over it so one side of the paper would transfer to the other.

"Okay, Tink, ready for the magic?"
We carefully unfolded the paper...and her jaw dropped. Instant Symmetry!
"Mrs. Collins, you are a genius!"

Sweet buttery goodness.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

S is for Security

My cherubs this year are a very young bunch with most of them having summer birthdays.
Their young-ness presents itself in a lot of different ways, I have seen some separation issues, and some difficulties with fine motor skills.

But this year, more than any other, I've noticed a lot of thumb sucking. I am a little stumped as to what to do about it.
Since I'm not a dentist, I don't find myself concerned with what it's doing to their teeth, but I am concerned with its social implications.
The other kindergarteners don't seem to have noticed the thumbs, but if it continues into the upper grades they certainly will. Let's face it, kids can be mean to each other sometimes and although we do a lot to curb that, it still happens.

I've been wondering if it's the newness of their kindergarten experience that's bringing it on. Are they scared? Unsure? Am I in any way causing them to want to suck their thumbs in order to feel more secure?

I've been reading up on the subject, and most everything I've read tells me that school-aged kids who suck their thumbs do because it's become a habit. So if that's true, how do I break the thumb habit in school, and how do I suggest to parents that the thumb sucking at home should probably stop as well?

I pulled my little thumbkins over the other day to have a little chat. I explained to them as gently as I could why sucking their thumbs in kindergarten was not a good idea. I explained about germs, and what a big deal it was to be big enough to come to big kid school! I told them that I was ready to help them to not suck their thumbs if they wanted me to. I wanted to make it a choice, just in case it was some sort of security thing. I didn't want to make them feel any less secure than they may have already been feeling.

I told them, that when I noticed their thumbs I would just give them a quick "thumbs up." I knew this would be discreet enough not to call the other kids' attention to what we were doing. I give a lot of thumbs up in my room and this little gesture wouldn't seem out of the ordinary.

In the last few days we've been trying our little strategy, I haven't seen a huge difference in the frequency, but I have noticed that they immediately stop when I give my little sign. I'm hoping with a little consistency we can take care of this without too much drama. I've been giving a lot of positive reinforcement to these two, and just a few extra hugs too, because there is nothing like a good hug to help a person feel just a little more secure.