Sunday, February 27, 2011

A is for Appreciate

Lately it seems that, everything I read or see on the news focuses on teachers and education.

I know there is other news happening, the Middle East is always in the news, earthquakes in New Zealand, The Oscars, the weather, but when I hear the words, teacher, education, and budget cuts, my interest is suddenly piqued.

There is constant debate on whether or not our public schools are doing a good job educating our nation's children. People in authority who claim to be experts in what our schools need put unrealistic benchmarks in the way and in the process take the creativity out of teaching.

Teachers in Wisconsin are fighting for their negotiating rights, but more so their livelihoods and their ability to make ends meet for themselves and their families. Can the rest our state governments be far behind? The education issues are endless and they aren't going away anytime soon.

I read a very discouraging blog post this morning titled I Don't Want to be a Teacher Anymore. It's a good read, but a sad one. Thankfully I don't feel this way, I love my job. I hesitate to even call it a job because I don't think of it that way. I go to school each day and know I'm going to love being there. Even when I have a particularly difficult day and believe me, those happen, I can't wait to go back the following morning. It's been a tough year with a lot of changes but I love what I do because of the amazing people I get to do it with, and of course because it's all about the kids.

Because of all the negativity I see and read it's very easy to become disenchanted with the profession and although I've never questioned my choices to become a teacher I can certainly see how others do.
However, a very interesting thing happened to me yesterday in the most unexpected of places.

I took a trip to Target for a few essentials. Conditioner, laundry detergent, band-aids. I always take a quick trip down the bargain aisle in the front of the store. There are deals to be had there and you just never know what little treasures you'll find. I found a package of flower seeds, some gardening tools for a school project, two strings of light up Easter eggs to decorate the playhouse, and 18 adorable little metal sand pails for my Have you Filled a Bucket Today project. One for each child in my class. I put all of it into the carriage without a second thought of the twenty-three dollars I was about to spend. I never go to Target without purchasing something to be used in my classroom. Sometimes it's little metal buckets, sometimes paper towels and cleaner. Like most teachers I do it knowing reimbursement will never come.

I made my way to the check out aisle to the cashier. I've seen her here before. She's talkative and friendlier than most. It's apparent she loves her job too so we had something in common.
She noticed my 18 little buckets and Easter lights and said, "you must be a teacher."
I told her that I taught kindergarten here in Salem and then...she thanked me. Thanked me for being a teacher!
She acknowledged the money she sees teachers spending on our classrooms. She told me how most people just don't realize how much teachers spend and the dedication they have in making sure our children have the things they need to succeed. She said, you are making a difference in the lives of those children and I want you to know how much I appreciate that.

This cashier, this friendly woman gets it. She understands.

As I grabbed my bags to leave I thanked her.
She said, "Oh, don't thank me and don't forget what I told you, you are making a difference."

You can't put a price on appreciation, but yesterday I'm pretty sure I got my $23.00 worth.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

W is for Writer

Anyone who truly knows me knows I love to write, so it's only natural that as a teacher I want to foster the love of writing in my students.

This year I've stumbled upon an amazing bunch of budding authors. I'm not sure why this year is any different than past years, could it be our new reading program, is it my brilliant teaching, or just natural talent? I'm willing to bet it's a little bit of all of that...teaching brilliance aside.

Whatever the reason, I've really enjoyed watching them become more and more confident in their writing ability.

When the year began I gave them each a journal and explained that it was theirs to do with what they wanted. They could scribble, draw or write. It belonged to them and I was not going to tell how to use it. I only asked that they take it out at least once each day, usually after snack time and do something with it.
I had the scribblers and the name writers. Some who copied the alphabet off the wall day after day, some who drew only pictures of flowers or rainbows, but then I had a handful who put pencil to paper and came up with some nice little journal entries. Two little girls filled each page and asked for a new journal which I was more than happy to give them.

When we came back from winter break I decided it was time to get serious. So twice a week I sit down with a small group and write. "Tinkerbell" calls it "Serious Writing Time" and the name works so we stick with it. This is where we really think about what we want to write about, we pay attention to spaces between words, capital letters and punctuation. We don't worry so much about spelling, that will come in time.

I gave each child a new journal and was sure to take one for myself. I told them that one of my favorite things to do is to write because I can write what I'm thinking. It helps me get my feelings out when I'm feeling happy or sad. I told them that sometimes I write about my family or my best friend. Sometimes I write about a dream I had or a place I've been or I'd like to visit. I told them that I would be writing with them during Serious Writing Time. Not only because it's something I love to do but because I want to be a good example to them.
Some Very Serious Writing Going On Here!

They were very excited to get started so we did some brainstorming and decided a favorite animal would be the topic of the day.

I have writers of all levels in my classroom, some are still struggling a bit, putting only random letters on their papers with a name or a sight word mixed in here and there, and some are really taking off sounding out words with very little help from me. I am amazed with all of them and their commitment to becoming Serious Writers!
I hope you are as amazed as I am!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

P is for Penguin

Penguins. Who doesn't love penguins? I love learning about them and I love teaching about them.
I find them fascinating. They are ultimate examples of adaptation and survival.
They are amazingly dedicated as parents and amazingly adorable as babies.

Year after year my kindergarten kids are amazed by them too. We read both fiction and non fiction books about penguins to learn more about them, or to just enjoy a good story.

Non-fiction titles like...

and fun fiction read alouds like...

Once again I was surprised at how much my kids already knew about penguins. Never underestimate how much a five-year old brain can hold!

Of course we had to create some of our own. I saw this project on another blog, so if you are the originator or know who is, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due!
I love the simplicity of this project.
So cute, so easy!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snowmen at Night

We've seen more than our share of snow this winter and because of that we've had more than our share of snow days!
All that snow leads to some great opportunities for some fun read alouds and activities.
One of my class' favorite books is Snowmen at Night written by Caralyn Buehner and illustrated by Mark Buehner.

They've asked for this book more than once, it is a nicely illustrated story with rhyming text. Since I love reading rhyme out loud I'm more than happy to oblige.

I read it for the first time on Monday, following the reading I gave a quick snowman drawing lesson. Some of my kids are in such a hurry to finish everything and move on I really wanted to stress that I wanted details, details details.
After my quick lesson I sent them off, paper in hand and I was pretty happy with the results. They put a lot of thought into their snowmen!

Then it happened...we got hit with yet another snowstorm which gave us two more snow days. It's so hard to get any momentum going when we are constantly being interrupted by weather!
So when we were finally back at it today I thought I'd revisit the story, but this time, I turned it into a writing activity.

I gave them this writing prompt and asked them to really use their imagination.

I think they did a great job but I'll let you decide!

Likes to eat ice cream and play soccer. And make friends.

...likes to play snowfights and snow football...

...likes to eat snow with maple syrup.

Goes to a wedding and the snowball silly games.

...likes to play in the pool.

...likes to dance and sing.