Sunday, December 23, 2012

T is for Teacher

Victoria Soto

Victoria Soto, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, Mary Sherlach, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel D'Avino,
Anne Marie Murphy. These are the teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
 Heroes who gave their lives protecting children.

Every teacher I know would do the same. We educate, protect and love our children. It's what we do. 

Their deaths have brought attention to the teaching profession. Attention which is long overdue. It's a shame that it had to take such a tragedy. In the days following 9/11 our country was made aware of the lengths fire fighters and police officers would go to save lives not giving a second thought to putting themselves into harms way. We always knew they were heroes, but watching the images of that horrible day put things into perspective. It gave us a new appreciation for who they are and what they do.

During the past week I've read articles, blog posts and editorials about teachers. It seems our country has suddenly become pro-teacher. It's wonderful to see, a new appreciation for what we do. I've received  hugs from parents, words of thanks, and lovely notes written in Christmas cards. I have never felt more appreciated for doing the job I love to do.

While surfing Facebook today I read a post titled, Dear Teachers. It's a tongue and cheek letter bashing parents.  When I first read it I found myself nodding my head in agreement, but then I began to think. I don't think we are going to get anywhere by bashing parents.

I truly believe the hypothetical parent described in the post is in the minority. Do parents like this exist? Yes unfortunately, but I have no doubt that all parents want what's best for their children. There are those parents who have no choice but to drop off their children early, not because they want to go to Starbucks, but because if they are late for their jobs, they won't have a job. Then there are those parents who need us to feed their children because they can't afford to do so themselves, or those who worry more about providing their family with a warm coat than reading to them each night.
My school recently held parent/teacher conferences and despite their different situations, and their level of parental involvement each and every parent I spoke to, without a doubt, love and want what's best for their child.
This year our school's Christmas concert entertained a full house. There was not a seat to be found. All but one parent kept their appointment with me for conferences, and that parent called to reschedule. Perhaps recent events have made all of us look at our priorities.

I work with children who sometimes have parents who  have not been taught how to parent because they themselves have not had good role models. There are so many facets to this problem. I am a teacher, but first and foremost I am a mother who appreciates each and every teacher who has ever had a part in my children's education. I think that's true for most parents.
I will be honest, I've done my share of complaining, but perhaps recent events have opened my eyes a bit too. I look at my students and their parents through different eyes now. If we truly believe the mantra "parents as partners" then our attitudes need to change too. Being a parent is not easy, in fact being a teacher is easier. I can always quit my teaching job, but I'm a parent for life.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

P is for Pray

I went to church today. Not unusual for a Sunday morning I suppose. But today I went for a different reason. Not because it was Sunday morning, or the Advent Season.
I went to church today as a parent and as a teacher.
I went to church today because I needed my prayers to be heard, maybe a little more clearly and maybe a little bit louder. I went to church today and cried.

I have the good fortune of being a kindergarten teacher. I get to teach and play with our school's youngest students. Not only am I their teacher, responsible for their learning, but in many ways I am responsible for their well-being and their happiness. For six hours a day, 180 days a year, I am their nurse, their surrogate parent, their confidant and sometimes their best friend.

This tragedy has put what I do into perspective for me. I've always known that we do as teachers is important, but as I read the stories of the teacher heroes it has become very clear how important. Teachers save lives.
I'm not talking only about putting ourselves in harms way to protect our students, I don't know a teacher who wouldn't, but we save lives on a much larger scale.
We teach our children skills for life. We teach them how to read, count, share. Sometimes we provide them with the only meal they'll have that day, often we read the only book they'll hear, or give the only hug they'll feel.
We provide their parents with a shoulder to cry on, some reassurance when they don't know what to do or how to cope with life.

I went to church today. I prayed today for myself that I'll be able to continue to teach to the best of my ability. I prayed for my husband the 4th grade teacher, my two oldest children who will become teachers. I prayed for my 6th grader to keep him safe in his big school on the hill. I prayed for my friends, the teachers I have the privilege of working with each day.

I went to church today and I prayed for the children.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A peek inside room 134!

 Welcome to Kindergarten!

I've been wanting to post pictures of my classroom for awhile now, and since we just had our school's Open House, it was picture ready.
As hard as I try it won't stay that way for long. So before the little piles of papers, folders and student work start collecting in the corners I grabbed the camera and took a few shots.

I use the back table for messy projects since it's the only part of the floor covered in linoleum. 
Our playhouse (the most popular spot in the room) is also back there. The play house was built in 1946 and has been in the room ever since. When I moved in to the room it was white and was in need of a coat of paint. I chose yellow!

We use the tables for snack time, our Superkids lessons, guided reading and math and literacy centers.

The library area is my favorite part of the room, it's so comfy, cozy and inviting. I finally found a system that works for sorting my books. Each bin is sorted alphabetically by author, but I also have a shelf that's sorted by theme. Each kid also has a clothes pin with their name on it. When they take a book from the bin, they clip their name to the bin to hold their place. This system has saved me a lot of sorting!

The front of the room where the kids and I sit for circle time. Lots of learning happens here!

Thanks for taking a look!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Apples, Pigs and Poetry!

Wow! It's been a long time between blog posts! The only excuse I have is...I've been busy! It's time consuming setting up a classroom, sending two boys off to college, running a middle schooler here, there and everywhere, not to mention planning lessons, cooking dinners, etc, etc, etc! Is it any wonder I've had no time to blog?

Okay, enough with the excuses, time to get back at it.

The new year is in full swing and we've been busy! We spent the first few weeks getting to know each other, learning rules, talking about our hopes and dreams and of course learning! It's what we do.

Some of my favorite kindergarten themes happen in the fall, from apples, farm animals and pumpkins there is so much learning and fun involved with these activities it would be impossible for me to include them all. Here are a few of my favorites.

Ten Apples Up On Top!

Ten Apples up on Top by Theo. LeSieg (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) is one of my class' favorite books. This is such a simple follow up activity, perfect for the beginning of the year. Perfect after a Guided Discover on the proper use of a glue stick and a good lesson in one to one correspondence!

 Piggy Poetry

We just finished up our farm animal unit with our first field trip to the local fair. I am surprised every year at how limited the kids' experiences are with these animals that were so much a part of my growing up. I often have to explain to them that bunnies don't lay eggs, and that poop comes in all shapes, sizes...and smells! There is always that one little boy or girl that is afraid of the cows, not understanding that a cow is probably one of the most gentle animals on the planet. 
The kids always love the pigs the best, each year some farmer has the foresight to plan the birth of piglets just in time for the fair. This year we got to see seven baby pigs, almost cute enough to take least until you realize how big those little things actually get.
We created some adorable piglets of our own to go along with our muddy poetry.


Next up...All things Pumpkin!

Monday, July 9, 2012

F is for Fly

We have been on summer break for nearly three weeks now.
It's a welcomed break each year, but more so this year than any that I can remember. Our school had it's struggles but we made it through the year, and watched as the kids in our classrooms learned and grew as they became ready to move on to the next grade. I had a great class of kids, bright, funny and adorable and I always feel a little emotional as they walk out of room 134 for the last time.

It was a year of change for me. My oldest now home from his second year in college, my middle son graduated from high school, following his brother to college and my youngest moving on to middle school.
This one was especially bittersweet for me. He and I started kindergarten together, me as a teacher and he as a student in the room across the hall. I've seen him walk the halls each year from kindergarten to fifth grade, and on June 20th walk out the door of our school for the last time. As difficult as that was for me to watch, I couldn't be more proud of the big kid he's become. For any of my colleagues reading this, all of you who have had even a small part in that, I thank you. You truly are special to me.

Until now my little blog has gone untouched. Week after week has gone by without even a word. My classroom was a happy, busy and productive one, but I just wasn't feeling inspired to write about it. Perhaps it was the struggles of a difficult school year, or maybe I just needed a break.
 Inspiration sometimes comes from the strangest of places and as I was sitting here on my porch listening to the birds chirping I decided it was time to do some writing.

A few weeks ago we noticed the birds in the yard were especially noisy. Not only noisy, but noisy at a very early hour of the day. I love the sounds of singing birds as much as the next person, but at 4:30 in the morning it is less than enjoyable! One day my oldest, not being able to stand the symphony any longer threw open his window to see what all the noise was about, and there right under the window was a nest of baby robins.
We became a little more sympathetic to the noise knowing it was just their way of letting the mommy and daddy robin know they needed to be fed. So we put up with the noise knowing it would end soon enough as those little birds found their wings and flew away.

One afternoon we noticed one had fallen out of the nest and was hopping around in the grass. The mom and dad were not happy, chirping loudly, encouraging him to fly. He made his way to the hedge and hid there, mom and dad flying in and out feeding him there on the ground until he was ready to take off on his own. That evening I returned home from grocery shopping and heard chirping like I had never heard before. Mr and Mrs Robin were very upset about something. Looking around I spotted it. A neighborhood cat, ready to make his move...not on my watch sister! I shooed it away and kept a close watch for it until I was sure she wasn't coming back.

The next day they were gone, a few adult robins hopping around the yard, and an empty nest.

I don't like watching my kids grow up, but I'm strangely okay with it at the same time. I know it's what's supposed to happen. Mikey will be turning 21 soon and I've noticed that he really is outgrowing us. He still needs us of course for moral support and we pay his bills! But he is old enough to make adult decisions, decisions that I may not always agree with, but it's about letting him learn for himself.

Daniel is heading off to college, I know I'll cry again like I did with the first one, but he's ready to go even if I'm not ready to let him.
And Patrick, my not so little one anymore is about to attend the big school on the hill. Not under my watchful eye anymore, but I think that's a good thing for both of us.

It's a bit like that baby robin in the hedge. Jumping out of the nest may not have been such a great idea, and his parents certainly let him know it, but eventually he learned what he needed to do to take off on his own.

So fly high boys...I will always be here to make noise and scare away the cats.

Monday, April 16, 2012

M is for Math

Most of my teacher friends have heard me say at one time or another, "There's a reason why I teach kindergarten math." The fact of the matter is, math has never been a favorite subject of mine, at least growing up. My brain just does not work that way. I have a vivid childhood memory of sitting at the kitchen table while my grandfather "tried" to help me with math. Let's just say he was a very patient man.               
  Do you need an essay written, I'm your go to girl, but algebraic equations? Not so much.When my kids hit high school (maybe even sooner) their math homework became a mystery to me. I'd hear "Mom can you help me with my math homework?" "Nope, go ask dad." It's not that I didn't want to help them...I couldn't! 
Even though I'm not a big math fan, I still enjoy teaching it, at least to kindergarteners! We have a lot of fun with math in my classroom.

One of my favorite lessons to teach each year is the Marshmallow lesson! What's not to love about a sticky marshmallow? Of course my kids would much rather eat them than build with them, so every few minutes I shout out, "you may eat two marshmallows!" They love that! They are pretty creative with their marshmallows and toothpicks and I'm always amazed at the structures they are able to build.

I also love finding fun and interesting ways to teach graphing. We graph everything from gingerbread men, who will win the Superbowl, which of us like Green Eggs and Ham, and how many fish of each color we can catch. I try to make our graphs as fun and visually appealing as possible.

I think the best thing about math is that it's universal. It doesn't matter what language you speak, math is math. I find that those kids who struggle with phonemic awareness, letter id and phonics can be and usually are successful with kindergarten math concepts. Succeeding gives them that little bit of confidence that struggling kids so often need. 
Math makes kids feel smart!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I is for Imagination!

Along with being a kindergarten teacher to a great bunch of 5 and 6 year-olds, I am lucky enough to work with an amazingly creative bunch of 4th and 5th graders in a  program called Destination Imagination.

D.I. is an extraordinary non-profit organization that provides educational programs for students to learn and experience creativity, teamwork and problem solving. Every year 100,000 students across the U.S. and in more than 30 countries work for months to solve open-ended challenges and present their solutions at tournaments.

These seven amazing kids worked hard to create a movie trailer based on a movie of their creation. They had to write a script, make costumes, build props, solve problems and overcome challenges as they showcased poise, teamwork, ingenuity and creativity. Their final performance could be no more than 4 minutes long.

Each time I watched them perform I became more and more impressed and not only was I impressed, but so were the judges! 

Our team recently competed at the state level at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA. WPI houses this event each year, hosting the best teams in Massachusetts. Our team earned our spot by coming in first place at the regional competition at Beverly High School just two weeks before. In Worcester the team earned second place out of 19 teams!

In addition to their amazing first and second place achievements, the team earned the very prestigious DaVinci award at both competitions for their “outstanding creativity and ability to think outside the box!” Because of their achievements they have earned the right to compete at Global Finals in Knoxville, TN May 23rd-27th!

This is quite an honor. However, for a team and their coaches to travel and compete in Knoxville, TN is expensive! We have a lot of money to raise in a little time. This is an experience of a lifetime for these 7 children and I know that with the effort of our parents and community we will achieve our goal.

I ask that you help, by sharing this blog post with those you know, every little bit helps!
You can "like" us on our Horace Mann DI 2012 facebook page, and on-line donations through Pay Pal can be made here: How Can I Help?

Thanks for spreading the word! Wish us luck!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One hump or two?

Part of our reading program is a daily dictation. I give the word, put it in a sentence, segment the sounds. We sky write it, and dribble the sounds out as we pretend to bounce a basketball. I do whatever I can to make a boring task just a little more interesting. For whatever reason, my kids love it.
I try to make the sentences I give them a little entertaining, just to get a giggle out of them. Today, I got the giggles!

Me: "Okay kiddos, your first word is 'hump'. A camel has two humps. A camel has one hump. Can a camel have three humps?"
Them: "No!"
R: "A camel can have zero humps, but have to call him a horse!"
Me: "Hey! That was really funny."
R: "I know! Hehehehe!"

Okay, maybe one of those you had to be there moments...but it made me smile! It was his little snicker that really made me laugh.

Today one of my kids and handed me a present. It was an L.L. Bean catalog her mom had put in the recycle bin. Her mom told her not to, that Mrs. Collins would not want that, but she told her mom that "Mrs. Collins can order sweaters  or flip flops!" Her mom insisted that she put it back into the recycle bin but somehow she snuck it into her back pack and proudly handed it to me as she walked into the room. 

 I can't wait to see her face when my new flip flops arrive at my classroom door!

Friday, February 17, 2012

L is for Laugh

One of the best parts about teaching kindergarten is that the kids are very funny, and the best part of that is they don't even know they are funny!
My kids make me laugh everyday. Some days or even some weeks are funnier than others...this was one of those weeks.

This week we celebrated our 100th day of school. I asked the kids to bring in a collection of 100 things, my only rule was that the collection had to fit in a backpack.

They shared their collections, we spread them out on the rug and counted. I gave them directions.

Me: Sally you count by 2's.
Sally: Okay Mrs. Collins
Me: Freddy you count by 5's
Freddy: Got it Mrs. Collins
Me: Maggie you count your collection by 10's.
Maggie: Okay.
Jenny: Mrs. Collins?
Me: Yes Jenny?
Jenny: Can I count by Mississippi's?

This was also the week I had to complete our mid-year math assessments.
One of the tasks was to sort attribute blocks by color. It was very interesting to see how they approached this task. Some sorted into piles, some sorted into lines, and one little guy sorted by color, but also patterned at the same time. Blue circle, blue square, blue triangle, blue circle, blue square, blue triangle.
This little guy is a pretty bright little boy.  He is naturally curious and loves to learn. So I said, "That is very interesting how you sorted those blocks, you sorted by color like I asked, but you made patterns too! That was very mathematical of you!"
"Thanks Mrs. Collins!"
"Maybe you'll be an engineer when you grow up."
"Well I really like trains!"
"I mean the kind of engineer that designs things like bridges."
"Nah, I just want to be a firefighter!"

One of my favorite parts of the day is listening to the kids talk while they have free choice. I sat near a table today where the kids were coloring.
Kelly announced to the table, "When I grow up I'm going to get married. Do you all want to come to the wedding."
I said, "Wow, you're planning your guest list very early, you have plenty of time to think about that!"
Bobby who was listening to this conversation and clearly has his life all planned out, suddenly piped in."When I grow up, I am NOT getting married. I'm just getting a house...and a dog."

Now there's a boy with a plan. Perhaps he'll be a firefighter and live in Mississippi!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

C is for Counting!

Counting to 100 to be exact! We counted by 1's, 5's and 10's! We sorted, we graphed, we grouped, we snacked, but most of all, we just had fun with the number 100!
We finally made it to our 100th day of school, it's always an exciting day and a big milestone too!
My little cherubs are 100 days smarter, taller, and more confident. They are readers and writers and today mathematicians!
A 100 piece puzzle!
100 fluffy yellow pom poms!
100 cups stacked very high!
Our 100's day menu!
A 100's day buffet!

Monday, February 13, 2012

P is for Penguin, P is for Polar Bear

One of my favorite units to teach is my Polar Animal unit. I think penguins and polar bears are fascinating animals, true lessons in endurance and perseverance! I also love teaching using nonfiction books, the kids love the photographs and I love how we can use nonfiction to improve our kindergarten writing. Special thanks to Mrs. Williamson on Welcome to Room 36! and Michele Cain on C.E. Kindergarten Kids! Who originally posted their inspiring ideas on Pinterest.

Love a Penguin with a sense of style!

Macaroni Penguin