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 on...at 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.