Saturday, December 3, 2011

I is for Inspiration

The school where I teach is a lab school. We are located on the campus of our local university, so many of the teachers in our school are teaching not only children but future teachers as well.

I take this part of my job very seriously, remembering my teacher mentor and the wonderful way she inspired me. 
 She's retired now, but still continues to mentor student teachers inspiring them with her knowledge, her leadership skills, and her love of children.

As I think of her, I wonder If I am doing the same for those college students who walk through my door. There are many, freshman and sophomores who are there to just observe, juniors who are given lessons to teach, and finally seniors who this week are responsible for taking over the classroom. 

I think I've been able to teach them some classroom organization, how to read a good story with expression, plan a lesson or two, hopefully a little bit of classroom management (which in kindergarten can be a bit like herding chipmunks) and how to switch gears on the fly. I hope I've taught them how to roll with the punches, work really hard and tirelessly, and how to be patient even when it's really really difficult. 

It's the inspiration that I worry about. 

I think of the conversations we often have at lunch time in the teacher's room. It's the place where we vent our frustrations over administrative policies, reading and math programs we may or may not like, how exhausted we all are, how sometimes children and parents can get the best of us. We vent about how hard we work and how little we are paid for our efforts. There are days when I'm pretty sure we aren't very inspiring at all.

I know I can do better. 

What I really want those future teachers to know is how much I love my job. How being a teacher really is the best job in the world. That even though the paycheck isn't a big one, I love going to school each and everyday. That even when I've had a bad day, and yes bad days will happen, I can't wait to get there the following day and try again, how lucky I am to be working with some of the best teachers in the world, and... 

how very great it feels knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of children.

Now that's inspiration.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

F is for Friendship

Children are little mysteries in many ways. In the way they learn, navigate their day, and interact with the people around them. Their relationships with their parents, with me, other adults and mostly with each other is interesting to watch.
This year I've really enjoyed watching the friendships grow.

I have children in my class who were already friends because they went to preschool together. I have the twins who are the best of friends. There are a few who have found it easy to make friends because they have something in common; maybe siblings together in another grade, or maybe because the live in the same apartment building and have seen each other in the elevator.

But friendship is a funny thing. Two kids can meet on a beach, on a playground or at the park and become the best of friends for that moment even if they most likely won't ever cross paths again. However, there are other times when one little girl or boy can have a tough time knowing how to make friends because they can't quite figure out how to find that one little connection that would bring two kids together.
I try my best to guide these kids in the right direction, maybe partner them up with different kids hoping something will click but sometimes despite my best efforts it just doesn't happen. It can be heartbreaking to watch but I guess you can't force a friendship.

Friendship is a special thing. It takes time to build and grow. Friendships need to be nurtured carefully because friendships are fragile. Children can't possibly know how fragile because at that age, friendships change daily. How many of us can say that the best friends we had in kindergarten, high school or even college are still our best friends years later?
 It's only when we grow up do we realize how important our friendships are to us. I'm not sure what I'd do without mine. We vent about work, and about kids, we laugh together, and sometimes cry together. We cheer each other's accomplishments, and comfort each other when things aren't going so well.

Unfortunately, sometimes it takes almost losing a friend to realize how very important that friend is to us. It's just one of those really difficult life lessons. The ones that really have to hurt so we can learn from them.
Friendship is not something I can teach my kids. I can teach them to be kind , take care of one another, and have fun together but I can't teach them the importance of not only being a good friend but having one too. I know I wouldn't trade mine for the world.

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one." ~C.S. Lewis

Sunday, October 2, 2011

S is for Soapbox

This blog post will not be a story about how cute kindergarten kids are, there will be no funny anecdotes, cute or creative bulletin board ideas, lesson plans, pictures of field trips or ideas for classroom management. There won't be any of that in this post and for that I am sorry.

Certainly posting about those subjects is where I feel most comfortable as a writer, but occasionally something grabs my attention that just screams, "Write about this!"

I was puttering around Facebook this morning and came across a friend's status update,

"Okay, I don't get it.....let's use more assessments in kindergarten to assess our's an idea, let's look at those in the trenches, get them to talk with the DESE and really make progress! Silly people!"

Now, knowing this friend like I do, I knew he had to have read about this somewhere, so I Googled, and sure enough, there it was, State Aims to Test its Youngest Students.
 I dove in and almost instantly felt my spine start to tingle, my jaw clench and every fiber of my kindergarten teacher-self cringe more and more with each word.

Now ask any early childhood teacher and they will tell you that it was only a matter of time. We all knew this was coming. We already suffer from assessment overkill. Before these little ones walk through our classroom doors for the first time, we assess their early learning with the ESI-R. Within a few weeks we will begin the DIBELS, DRA, K/1 inventory, and BAS. These acronyms mean little to most people but to early childhood educators, they mean more time away from our students. Assessment certainly has it's place. It can help drive instruction, helping us to differentiate our instruction to help all learners; the students who struggle and the students who need to be challenged, and all those in between. I welcome the data that these assessments produce because it helps me to understand my students better. I am not opposed to assessment per se.

However, these new assessments will tell us what we kindergarten teachers already know. There is a huge disparity of ability and knowledge when 5-year-olds enter kindergarten. Much of the disparity comes because many children have not gone to preschool, come from families who live in low socio-economic backgrounds, or come from families who are not proficient in English. Many may not have been read to, or have enriching life experiences with other children. 
Whereas other children may have attended quality preschool programs, come from families who are well educated themselves, who are read to and have many enriching life experiences. 

The focus on kindergarten readiness certainly can begin by improving the accessibility of quality preschool programs by offering them in our public schools, or perhaps improving parent outreach for our at-risk families. The problem is, resources. According to this article that's what our state will receive if a kindergarten assessment is developed. So I have to ask the question, is this assessment student driven, or is it money driven. Do they go hand in hand? Yes, if the funding received is spent in the right place.

However, to "those in the trenches" as my friend refers to us, it doesn't really matter how much they know when they come through our doors. Would we like them to all have the ability to identify their letters and numbers, write their names, know their shapes, how to create a pattern etc...of course we would. What we know, is that no matter what they know when they walk through our doors, it's up to us to take them to the next level. To teach them as much as we can, to inspire the love of learning in our students. To love books, to create, to get along with each become people and ready them for the next step! Adding more assessments will NOT allow us to do that. It will pull us away from our students, time away from learning.

Like the rest of my kindergarten teacher friends, I will do whatever "the experts" tell us we must do, as frustrating as that might be. I understand the importance of academic achievement, I really do, but let's get back to developmentally appropriate learning. Let them be little just a little big longer. Let's inspire, teach them how to play, negotiate, share, be respectful and at the same time learn to love learning...the rest will certainly come.

And now I will step off my soapbox and get back to doing what I do best.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kindergarten by the Numbers

1...the number of boo-boo'd fingers I had to kiss.
2...the number of goldfish funerals this week.
3...the number of times my toes were stepped on.
4...hours spent prepping for Open House.
5...the number of shoes I tied on Friday. (apparently there is a lot of velcro in my classroom!
 6...Macintosh Apples in a pot to make applesauce.
7...families who attended open house.
8...the number of kids who like red apples best.
9...really good books read aloud.
10...days of school.
9...little girls
8...little boys
7...days in a week who only like applesauce from a jar! days until the weekend.
4...sunny days
3...trips to the nurse
2...two new HEALTHY goldfish!
1...very tired teacher.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

F is for Friends

I am falling in love with my new little ones. They all have such great little personalities. They are all so different and of course I'm still getting to know them, but I think we're going to have a great year together.
But, as much as I love the prospect of a new year, and new kids to teach, I go through a time when I really miss the ones who just left. I see them in the halls from time to time, so confident now than the day they walked into my room over a year ago.

Over the course of the 9 months they spend with me I get to know them pretty well. Their likes, their dislikes, their strengths and their struggles. By the time June rolls around I know them pretty well, and it's a little unsettling sometimes to have 18 new ones to get to know in September.
I know it's a journey and I often wonder if I'll ever get to know them as well as the ones who have become those confident first graders. I also wonder if they'll come to love me as much as the ones that left! Today, with one little girl in particular I found out.

I was sitting on the floor helping a little boy with a puzzle when she walked over to me, pointed to the letters written across her t-shirt and said, "Mrs. Collins, you're my new B.F.F."

One friend down, 16 more to go!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

H is for Hug

artwork by Shel Silverstein
It's official, my kindergarteners and I made it through our first week together. The first week is always the hardest but I feel as if I've just had the smoothest beginning so far. Perhaps that comes from experience, or maybe I just have a really nice group of kids, but whatever the reason, I'll take it!

I've always said, the first 10 minutes with a new class is the scariest for me. When they are finally all sitting in a circle looking up at me with those little eyes, waiting for me to begin, waiting for some reassurance that this kindergarten thing is really going to be fun!

There were no tears on the first day, at least from the kids. There were however a few teary eyed parents looking for some reassurance, and just for the record, I hug parents who need reassurance too.

The kid tears came on the third day, when those little kids, babies really, realize how long a day it is. Mostly they are just tired from their new experience, but I'm ready for the tears. I'm ready with the tissues, ready with the kind words, and ready with the hugs. I tell them, that even though I'm not their mommy, I am someone's mommy and I'm really good at hugs. The hugs help.

Thursday evening our school held its annual Welcome Back Cook-Out. I was tired, but because I promised my now fifth grader that we'd go, I went. I'm glad I did. One of the best parts about being a kindergarten teacher is you know the kids in the school better than any other teacher. You've known them all from the start, when they were little and unsure. I still get hugs from my former kindergarteners, and I get them often. I make it a point to chat with them when I can because even though they are much bigger and have moved on from my classroom, I still want them to know how important they are to me. Maybe in some small way I'm still important to them too.

My favorite hugs Thursday night came from my newest students. I've known these little people for only 4 days and I've already become hug-worthy. The feeling is definitely mutual!

Hug O' War

I will not play at tug o' war.
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins. 

 -Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Body in Motion...

I have a whole new flock of kindergarteners!  They are all adorable and tiny and year after year I forget how little they know. I'm not talking about the academic stuff, but the everyday, navigating through the school day stuff.

Last year's flock are doing well in first grade, I know because I've checked on them. I always take a few minutes on the first day of school to check in with my cherubs because even though they leave my room, I still think of them as mine, and I always feel a little bit like a rock star when I walk in the room. I suppose it's because I'm something familiar and comforting in an uncertain world.

Now it's time to get to know another bunch, and even though it's only day two, their little personalities are starting to appear. There's the little one who's decided it's her job to make sure everyone is doing what their supposed to from not touching the fire alarm on their way up the stairs to pushing in their chairs.
The ones who have a really hard time sitting up in during circle time, because it's really a lot more comfortable to lie on the floor.
There's the little one who claims he can tie shoes, but really just likes to make knots that are impossible to untie!

Mostly, they are just really really funny, and even though they are still have a lot to learn I am amazed at what they already know. I have readers, and writers, incredible artists and creative thinkers.

It is a really long day for those little ones, we have full day kindergarten and it's busy...really busy.
Some kids are coming from preschools where they take naps, or even just attend a few days a week, so when they suddenly find themselves in a pretty busy full day they have some adjusting to do.
I had led a "Guided Discovery" today on the correct way to use scissors and glue and in order to practice their knew found knowledge, a quick cutting a pasting work sheet. I explained that not only did they need to cut and glue, but they needed to color too.
So off they went to get their little paper done. After a little while, one of my little ducklings brought his paper to me and explained in no uncertain terms that he was done. I took a quick look and reminded him about the coloring.
"Actually Mrs. Collins, that tree is covered in snow, so I don't need to color it. Snow is white."
"Hmmm, I think you're trying to snow me my friend!"
I chuckled, but continued, "can you at least color the bird, because he wouldn't be covered in snow, and really it's part of your work."
"Well, I'm not really a worker, I'm more of a player."
"You know, I'm thinking you might be!"
And really I know he was spent, and just needed to play so I let him put his paper away and just have some fun.

Now I mentioned earlier that I was amazed at the knowledge these little five year-olds have managed to gain in their short little lives, here's a little example of what I was talking about...

Our school is unique in that we are located on the campus of our local state university. Our building is an old one, celebrating it's 100th anniversary this year so it is with it's limitations. For one thing, we do not have a gym in our building, so each gym day we load the kids onto a shuttle bus and drive them to the college's gym down the street. The kids love the bus ride, they think it's cool.
Because of our unique situation I had to give the bus safety talk. I explained that the school bus does not have seat belts and for this reason it's important to sit with our bottoms on the seat and our backs as far back as they can be because if the bus stops fast, you don't want to slide off your seat.
A hand shot up.
"I know what it's called when you slide off your seat, it's called inertia!"

A five year-old Sir Isaac Newton!

It's going to be a good year!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ready, Set...GO!

I know many of you have already started school, we have too, kind of. Our upper grades all started last week, but because of our schedule and screening the new little ones our official first day of kindergarten is tomorrow!

I've been doing this awhile now, and I still get a little nervous when 7:50 a.m. nears and it's time to usher in the newbies! Having spent the last three school days meeting them, I'm anxious to get started. They are a cute bunch already entertaining me with their cuteness and things they have to say.

One little guy in the middle of his screening looked at me and said, "Mrs. Collins, I'm SO happy!"
I hope it lasts.

Then there was that little girl who pointed to me and asked her mother, "Is she going to be my teacher?"
Then shouted, "YES!" when he mother told her I would be.
I hope that lasts too!

So tomorrow is the day, and I think I'm ready for what they have in store for me. If I'm not I better be soon.

At least my room is kindergarten ready!

The Front of Classroom

Part of the Reading Corner

The back of my room, and the play house

The play house...everyone's favorite spot!

Inside the Playhouse, Newly painted and redecorated!

I'm really fortunate to have such a great space to teach in. I hope the kids love it as much as I do.

I'm really looking forward to another year of sharing my kindergarten stories with all of you!

Stay tuned!

Friday, August 12, 2011

V is for Vacation

Here we are in mid August. I'm not really sure how it got here so fast. I guess time just ticks away like always. It's been a quiet summer, but a busy one too.
The big boys were busy working all summer. One slinging pizza, the other working the grill at a seafood joint. The little one as usual finds a way to stay busy hanging with the neighborhood kids, and going to camp, swimming and of course eating fudgesicle after fudgesicle.
Hubby, the newest teacher in the family has been busy working at summer school and running soccer camps for the youth of our city, and for the last few weeks setting up his new third grade classroom.
Because everyone was so busy I found myself with a lot of down time. Time for me! I actually had days when I could go to the beach to read, browse the book store, grocery shop, and play in my garden all by myself. I treated myself to pedicures, bike rides and ice cream. Sounds blissful doesn't it?
At first I found all this alone time a little unsettling. I'm so used to at least having the little one to hang out with, but after awhile I got used to it and it was really nice. Time to really relax and refresh.

I found myself wishing at one point that I was going away somewhere. We had a big vacation last summer and we're planning another big one next summer, so we decided to just stay home this year. I watched my friends take off across oceans, to houses on the beach or the mountains and I was jealous.

But then one day I woke up to a beautiful day. Hubby and the big boys were gone to work and it was just me hanging with my best buddy Patrick. We packed up our breakfast and hopped on our bikes. We rode to the park and ate. After breakfast we played in the garden a bit, Patrick helped me water and weed, then we finished our bike ride.

This summer was full of little moments like that, walks on the beach, ice cream on the pier, fireworks on the 4th of July. Vacation doesn't have to mean expensive vacations, packing up the car and driving for hours, or crowded airports. Vacation just means, time away from doing what you normally have to do. Time to get to know each other again. To play, or nap, or just be.

In a few weeks we'll be back to schedules. I'm not dreading it because I know all the down time can get old too. It will be time to get back to homework, and bed times and soccer practices.

But we'll be ready because even though we stayed right here...we had a really great vacation.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

W is for Winner!

Thank you to everyone who entered the K is for Kindergarten drawing for a copy of
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud and Illustrated by David Messing.

The winner was randomly drawn today and she is Danielle B from Illinois!

Again, thank you all for entering and being such loyal readers to my blog. Best of luck to all of you for a very successful new school year!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

W is for Wow! and G is for Giveaway!

I got a big surprise yesterday when I checked on K is for Kindergarten.  My little piece of the World Wide Web found it's 200th follower, or should I say the 200th follower found K is for Kindergarten!

I've been writing this blog for a few years now. It really just began as a place to put into writing my thoughts and feelings about my family and stories about teaching. I never thought it would be of any interest to anyone but myself. I've always loved to write and for me it's therapeutic.

But my little blog evolved like most things do if you plug away at them long enough. I know as a parent I've come a long way from those first few scary days with an infant to being a confident mom of three.
As a teacher I am always evolving, finding new methods, new ways to reach and connect with my kids.

K as for Kindergarten has evolved into a place where I share ideas, both my own and those great ones I find from reading other teaching blogs. There is an enormous amount of information out there, just there for the taking!
Some of my favorite posts are still those where I can tell a funny story or two. Kindergarten kids say and do the funniest things. Sometimes the things I write about are heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking, but if I'm going to write "stories from the trenches" I have to include it all.

One of the most amazing things about writing this blog is being able to witness where you are all arriving from. Knowing I was nearing 200 followers I started really paying attention. Within the last two weeks I've had visitors from 47 states, (Not sure what's going on with the other three!) Washington D.C, and 50 different countries. That's mind boggling to me that people on the other side of the planet are reading my words!

Yes, there are blogs out there that pull in many more readers than I do, but I'm pretty proud of my 200. There have been some milestones along the way that I'm pretty proud of too...the most recent being named one of the 50 Top Kindergarten Bloggers!

The awards and accolades are nice, but seeing that follower list increase is really what it's all about. Each and everyone of those names in that list has helped Fill my Bucket just because they checked in and liked what they saw!

So in the spirit of Bucket Filling and to celebrate K is for Kindergarten's 200th follower, I'm going to have a little (very little) giveaway! I will send a copy of Have You Filled A Bucket Today by
Carol Mc Cloud to one of you!

Just fill out this form: K is for Kindergarten Fill My Bucket Giveaway

Good Luck...and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

B is for Breakthrough

Back in September when I first met my little cherubs I knew I had a special bunch. Special in so many ways, but what stood out the most was the young-ness of them. So many of them with birthdays in June, July and August, and so many of THEM were boys.
Most kindergarten teachers know that young boys need some wiggle room, understanding, patience and often times a little guidance about the social comings and goings of a busy kindergarten classroom.

I am a mom of boys so I understand how those little-boy minds tick. I know how they roll. They need space to move and activities to keep them engaged but most of all they need to be allowed to be all the wonderful things they are!

The little boys in my room this year were wonderful little creatures. Smart, funny and all boy. For the most part there were no big behavior issues in my classroom this year, but two little boys in particular needed just a little more guidance to navigate through their kindergarten year.

For Charlie, it became clear fairly early on that he would not make friends easily. I believe now that it was just fear and simply not knowing how to go about the business of making a new friend. He played by himself often, and in some cases turned people away by either saying unkind things or just moving away to be by himself again.
For Harry, personal space was the issue. This little guy does not have a mean bone in his body. He's sweet, funny and so easy to please. He feels badly when he makes a mistake and truly wants to be the best kid he can be. Sometimes he just forgets that everyone does not want a hug at the same moment that he does.

I thought from the start that these two would make a great little pair of friends, but despite all my trying to match them up, it just didn't click and that's okay too. You can't force a friendship.

I worked on social issues with these two every day we were together from the very first until today and most likely will during our last three hours together tomorrow. I just won't give up on my job of turning them into the kind of people they should be. Kind, friendly, forgiving, understanding and comfortable socially.

Today after snack time, I let them play for a bit. I didn't put any limitations on their play, letting them choose what they wanted to do and who they wanted to play with.
As they played I sat and chatted with Christine our adjustment counselor while the kids played. Christine, who in my opinion has rock star status, has also spent some time with these two and knows the struggles that they've both had.

One of Harry's favorite games is Hi-Ho-Cherry-O, the board game with a spinner and the little red plastic cherries. David grabbed it and asked if we wanted to play.
Christine in her sweet knowing way, told him that she and I were talking but she was sure he could find a friend that would love to play.
His eyes went right to Charlie and in his little voice said, "Charlie, will you play this game with me?"
I think I cringed when he said it, afraid of the response Charlie would give him, but then I heard, "Okay."
I know that little "okay." was not easy for Charlie, but he said it!

They sat down together and played, not only played but played nicely.
I looked at Christine and said, "They can drive you crazy, but it's moments like that..." I couldn't finish my sentence because I was tearing up.

It took 177 days...but it was worth every one of them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

B is for Behavior

It is June 23rd and we are still in school. Still trying to move children along, still trying to keep them busy and engaged. Still trying to keep the fun in learning while still trying to teach them to negotiate, share, be empathetic, kind and caring and generally teaching them how to be good people! It is not an easy task when the school year has gone on longer than it should.

Snow days are fun when they happen, but not so much fun when our school year is extended by six long, hot, sticky humid days. Tensions are running high. There's bickering, name calling, and general unkindness. There's little sharing going on and a lot of tattling and venting.

It's so obvious in my kindergarten classroom where the kids have spent a long year together. Those cherubs who were once the best of friends are not very tolerant of one another and in many ways have become a lot more like siblings than friends. They are competing for my attention more than ever.

The behaviors that we worked so hard to keep at bay all year long are coming out again. It's time for a much needed break and some summer fun.

We've had a stressful year, full of changes, some good, some controversial, some that are hard to swallow and sadly because of it, a lot of the grownups in my school, myself included are not behaving very well either and we then wonder why so many of our kids are having trouble too. The fact is, even the best of friends need a break from each other and teachers are no exception.

Saying good-bye is never easy, and I'm torn between hating to say good-bye to friends that I love and care about, but also knowing that we really need that break from each other too. We need time away to learn to be empathetic, kind, caring and tolerant of each other again, and just learn to be good people  because if we expect it of our students, we need to expect it of ourselves.

Just be good people...just be good.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

M is for Miracle

Every spring in kindergarten we have visitors to our classroom. Our painted lady caterpillars arrive in their little jars, they are teeny tiny and hungry!

I've been watching the miracle unfold for a few years now and I never cease to be amazed. The butterfly life cycle is one of my favorite lessons to teach for so many reasons.

I love watching the kids become so interested in the smallest and quietest of creatures. They are connected somehow in ways I don't understand. Kindergarten kids are both small and hungry, but they are certainly not quiet!

Are they so interested because the changes happen so quickly? Actually now that I think about it, even though they might not see it, those kindergarten kids and those caterpillars have quite a lot in common.

Those little kindergarteners crawled in here in September and even though they don't know it, the changes I've seen in them happened quickly too.

There were the ones that couldn't identify a single letter and are now decoding words. Those that couldn't even write their names, are now writing sentences. There are those that were already decoding words and now they are reading like they've been doing it their entire lives...all 6 years of it!  Then there's the one that wouldn't let go of his daddy's leg on the first day of school. Just a few short months later he runs down the hall each morning to meet his friends and bring his smiling face into my room.

Our caterpillars emerged from their chrysalises early this week and today we made our way out to the grass to let them go. The kids all sat in a circle around the butterfly house. I gave them directions about not chasing them and letting them fly off to find a flower, that it was time to say good-bye.

I opened the house so they could make their escape. Some took off right away, flying off to find their flowers, some lingered a little and needed a little coaxing to fly up and out. Then there were those who struggled a little that needed a hand to pick it up and let it know that it was really okay to fly away, and there was one, who's wings just didn't do what they were supposed to. I gently picked that one up and found a flower. I gently placed it on the flower and let nature take over.

Now we are fourteen days away from the last day of school. The day I'll open up the doors for my kindergarteners for  for the last time before sending them off to summer and then in the fall, their first grade teachers. Like those butterflies some are ready to fly, and some are going to need a little coaxing to know that it's really okay to spread their wings and  leave the safety and comfort of my kindergarten classroom.

As I opened the butterfly house today to let them go, one of my little girls yelled, "I'm not ready!"

Sweet pea, I know just how you feel.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Run run as fast as you can...

I woke up early today. Way too early for a Sunday morning. A Sunday morning where I have nothing to do, nowhere to be. I could have slept in...if my busy brain would let me.

There are times when I wake up thinking. I hate starting my day that way. I woke up thinking about "Share Your Success Day". Share your success day is this Thursday and is basically parent open house. Parents come in to school and their children guide them through the classroom showing off all the wonderful things they have done throughout the year. I've collected writing samples and art work, we've planted seeds, watched caterpillars change into butterflies and learned some songs and poems.
I have plenty to show them, but it's a matter of organizing it all is a way that suitable for presentation. With those five and six year-old kids by my side we've run a marathon of sorts. The starting gun went off in September and the June 29th finish line is within sight. They have a lot to be proud of and showing it off to their parents is always fun.

 I woke up thinking about this and could not go back to sleep so rather than fight it, I got up and decided to go for a run to clear my head.

I have a love/hate relationship with running...mostly hate. I have to talk myself into every step. Giving birth was easier for me and I know why. When you have a baby there is no choice in the matter. Your body takes over and does what it's naturally supposed to do. Running is a mental decision. You can stop at anytime. It takes real perseverance to go least for me.

As I was running I was listing the hates and loves of running. This is what I came up with...

Five reasons why I hate running

1. Uneven sidewalks. My knee hates them. An injury waiting to happen.
2. Running full face into a spider web strung across the sidewalk.
3. Idiots who yell stupid stuff.
4. Drivers who do not yield for runners.
5. Dog poop

Five reasons why I love running

1. The sun and breeze on my face.
2. Helps keep off the 30lbs I lost.
3. It clears my head. I can think things through rather than worry.
4. It's cheap. Only cost...a good pair of running shoes.
5. The sense of accomplishment. Even if it's only a mile or two, I feel good when I'm finished.

So although I was able to work up a good sweat, I also decided not to sweat the small stuff. Thursday will come and go and I'll be ready like always. The parents will be thrilled, the kids will be happy and I'll cross the finish line with my hands held high.

Another race over.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

5 Reasons

Patrick has been harping on me to get him a cell phone for awhile now. Apparently some of his friends have them. The boy is ten. He's always with either me, his dad, one of his big brothers or a family friend. Rarely do we drop him off anywhere on his own, not even soccer or baseball practice.
The child has no good reason to own a cell phone. At least not yet. His older brothers got theirs when they hit middle school or turned 12, just about the time when I needed to know where they were and who they are with. After all that is the job of a good parent.

Now on the few rare occasions that I've spoken to Patrick on our home phone our conversations go something like this...

Me: Hi Patrick
P: Hi Mom
Me: Whatcha doing?
P: Nothing.
Me: Where are your brothers?
P: I don't know.
Me: Where's Dad?
P: Here.
Me: Can I talk to him?
P: Okay.

Riveting stuff. The child does not talk to his friends on the phone, he barely talks to his Nana on the phone, there is no good reason for him to own one, at least now.
So our cell phone conversation continued yesterday afternoon, and exasperated I told him, "If you can give me five good reasons why I should get you a cell phone, I will. (With absolutely no intention of following through since I would be the one determining what is or is not a good reason.)

Patrick's Reasons

If I was walking home with Kevin and his mom and I sprained my ankle and his mom's cell phone was dead and his mom couldn't carry me home. 

I got dropped off at soccer practice. I got injured and mom and dad weren't there and the coach's batteries were dead.

I'm at baseball practice. I get hit with a baseball hard in the ankle and had a hard time walking and the coach's batteries were dead and coach A.'s phone got broken when it was hit with a foul ball and he couldn't use it.

If I was playing basketball at the park with Kevin, I sprained my ankle after taking a shot. We were the only ones there.

 I was at the park with Kevin and he started throwing up from a bad sandwich he had eaten earlier and his parents weren't there I could use my cell phone to call them.
Hard to argue with the bad sandwich logic.

But the kid still has to wait until he's 12.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

G is for Grow!

Our little garden project is coming along quite nicely! We've finally had some beautiful gardening weather so I felt it was safe to plant our little seedlings into the ground where they can spread their roots.

Although the kids have helped in the classroom, sowing seeds, watering and measuring their plants,

I've done all of the outside garden work. Tomorrow will be the first time I march my kids down to the garden to see their sprouts in their new home.

They will finally get a chance to plant their tomato plants that have gotten really tall and have more than outgrown their little paper cups.

I can't wait to watch them get their hands dirty!

June 3, 2011

The weather finally decided to cooperate and we were able to plant our tomato plants this morning.
Our little cherry tomato seedlings are soaking up the sun in their new garden home.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

T is for Tattle

My kindergarteners have now spent the better part of the year together, working, playing, and learning.

I really have a great class of personalities. We've had to overcome some difficulties but for the most part we have persevered with a lot of hard work. Some who couldn't speak a word of English, suddenly are conversing as if they have been all along. Kids who joined our class mid-way through the year are part of our community as if they have been from the start.

They have become readers and writers, mathematicians, and scientists. They can solve problems, share, and negotiate. Some can now tie shoes and zip zippers. They know how to follow routines, like packing up a back pack, cleaning up a mess when they make one, walk in line quietly like mice, or snowflakes, or butterflies and they can also tattle on each other. They have become pretty good at tattling on each other.

It's that time of the year, when they suddenly behave more like siblings than classmates. They have spent a lot of time together and it's starting to wear on them and to be honest, me too! Listening to them argue over the littlest things is tiring and the tattling has suddenly become relentless. I hated to do it, but once again I've had to pull out....the tattle jar.

I really didn't think I was going to need it this year, they have all gelled so nicely, but it's happened despite my best efforts. I won't go into detail about how the tattle jar works. I've written about it before. You can find that post here: Tattle Tail, Tattle Tail.

There are three really great things about the tattle jar. First and most importantly it cuts down the tattling by at least 80%, at least by my best estimation. I've never really done the research.
Second, it gives them all a little writing practice even if they are telling on each other, and third I get a really good chuckle when I dump them out and read them at the end of the day so I thought I'd share the chuckles (names blurred to protect the not so innocent).
"_____ is bothering me in my spot. "

"_____ is mean because he was lying."
"_______ stole a pencil from me."
"______ was blocking the tattle jar!"
"______ be'd mean to you." (thank you for your support!)
I love it when no caption is necessary!

And my all time favorite.....

"_________ flushed a squirrel down the toilet."

This required a little clarification.

Me: Does this say what I think it says?
Kid: It says, _______ flushed a squirrel down the toilet.
Me: Did this happen at school?
Kid: No, she told me she did it at home. I just had to tell someone.
Me: Well thank goodness you did.
Kid: I know Mrs. Collins, I hope she doesn't flush anymore animals!

Monday, May 16, 2011

C is for Carle

Eric Carle of course! C is also for caterpillar, cocoon and chrysalis! For the past week or so we've been reading and doing activities surrounding The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. It's amazing to me that this book, first published in 1969 is probably one of the most widely used picture books in any kindergarten classroom.
It lends itself to so many different lessons, the days of the week, art, author study, nutrition and of course the life cycle of the butterfly.

The kids love the colorful artwork and the funny adventures of the caterpillar as he eats through some of their favorite foods.
Since our caterpillars will be arriving by week's end, I thought it would be a good time to pull out "Caterpillar".
I started by introducing some of the vocabulary. I chose words that they would be using in the writing activities I had planned for them. We placed the words and corresponding illustrations onto a portable word wall which I created from a tri-fold project board. I trimmed it so I was only using 2/3 of the board, which makes it much easier to transport from center to center as needed.
During the week, I read the story a number of times and also provided multiple copies for children to choose during quiet reading. Because the story has predictable and easily remembered text, even the lowest ability readers can feel successful.

During our computer lab time, I pulled up a slide show of Eric Carle creating some of his art work.
When we got back to our classroom, we jumped right in creating some masterpieces of our own!
First we drew and added details with crayons.
Then brushed watered down school glue over the tissue paper on our drawings.

And got some very nice results!

They really added pizazz to our new bulletin board. I love the way this brightens up the room!
And the kids think having a caterpillar in the room is pretty cool!