record, play, rewind…reflect and repeat

I have been teaching in early childhood classrooms for over 30 years.  I am used to being a reflective teacher about how I support my students with the use of the physical environment, classroom routines and rituals and the development of a classroom culture.  I’ve also spent time interacting with my colleagues to discuss, critique and develop curriculum which supports differentiation and have been recognized for strengths in scaffolding my student’s learning.

But this year there is a new collection of questions for me to consider in reflecting on my practice.  These questions pertain to analyzing my ability to clearly define purpose and the use of assessment criteria in a way that is transparent and matches an appropriate learning target.  It is true that practically everything that happens in an early childhood classroom will support a child in their trajectory of learning but I have noticed that many preschool teachers have their students doing all kinds of things that aren’t clearly related to developmentally appropriate goals.

With a very young class this year, I have been made overtly aware of this.  I want to be sure that what I am saying and asking my students to respond to is intentionally tied to a developmentally appropriate trajectory.  So that is why I’ve been recording my lessons almost daily for the past two weeks.  I come home, download the video onto my computer and watch.

I am listening to my teacher-talk, listening to the questions I ask students and watching their responses.  And then I’m asking myself some hard questions:

“What is the learning target(s)of the lesson? How is it meaningful and relevant beyond the specific task/activity?”
“How do students communicate their understanding about what they are learning and why they are learning it?”
“How does the teacher’s understanding of each student as a learner inform how the teacher pushes for depth and stretches boundaries of student thinking?”
“How does the teacher adjust instruction based on in-the-moment assessment of student understanding?” 
(just a few questions from the 5 Dimensions of Teaching and Learning”  UofW Center for Ed. Leadership)

Sometimes my video goes straight to the recycle bin – either because I already know it wasn’t a great lesson, or because my camera wasn’t capturing what I needed to attend to that day.  My principal is hoping I’ll be a guinea pig for a staff meeting soon, putting one of my videos up for everyone to review it with more of these questions in mind.  I’m learning a lot by doing this and I highly recommend it.


tribute to foster parents

Two weeks ago a couple in our school district became foster parents to a very troubled little girl.  This child’s home school is in another district, hence funding for her needs won’t be there until some hoops are jumped through.   But we aren’t waiting.

While many of us on the staff are scared for her and worried about how to best support her, we are trying to do what we can.  Many thoughtful discussions are happening in the staff room, and at special meetings.  Much compassion is being directed towards her, her new foster parents and homeroom teacher.

Our school counselor sent this note and poem out to all of us last Friday and I want to post it here in tribute to all of you special people who undertake to parent these children:


This poem was written by a very good friend who is a foster dad. He and and wife are amazing people who have a special way of seeing into the heart of a child… especially a hurting child. The world needs more people like them. Hurting children need more people like them (LIKE US).

Just like you

I hurt, I cry, I don’t know why,
Just ripped out of all I knew,
You want me to act like you?

My mommy was wrong,
My daddy doesn’t care,
You want me to act like you?

You don’t understand,
They did what they could,
You want me to act like you?

You’re not my mom,
You’re not my dad,
You want me to act like you?

I am okay,
Now leave me alone,
I don’t want to be like you.

I was doing fine,
I can take care of myself,
I don’t want to be like you.

I don’t want to hug,
Don’t hold my hand,
I don’t want to be like you.

Just take me back,
You don’t understand,
I don’t want to be like you.

Don’t leave me alone,
Don’t put me behind,
I just want to be like you.

Just hold me close,
Please hold me tight,
I just want to be like you.

It’s just not fair,
My parents just didn’t care,
I just want to be like you.

Please don’t give up,
You’re all that I’ve got,
I just want to be like you.

By: Jamie Holben (foster dad)

let me do that

sols_greenI overheard a conversation between the second grade teacher and the teacher who works with some of her students during the day.

“How was Jack yesterday?”

“He was a bit off.  Do you know what was up?”

“He told me he was worried about his shoes; he brought boots and sneakers to school because of the weather. Why would that set him off?”

My preschool teacher mind clicked on.  I’ve got students like Jack – I’ve worked with Jack;  I think I know what was the problem.  Even though Jack is an 8 year old, this shoe issue presented too many decisions.  His dad sent him to school to be prepared for the weather but this didn’t help Jack prepare for the dilemma of choices. I can just hear all of the questions rattling around in Jack’s head:

When do I change shoes?
Where do I store the boots when I’m not wearing them?
How much time will it take me to change shoes?
What if the teacher doesn’t want me to change my shoes?
What if the weather changes and I don’t need to put on my boots?
Am I the only one changing shoes?
What if I can’t get out to the playground on time?
We go from music to recess – do I change before music?
What if I forget them at the end of the day?
I want to do the right thing, will Dad ask me if I wore my boots?  What should I wear home?

As I said, I started to think like a caretaker of very young children.  (I think we all need to remember to nurture the inner four year old that exists in our students and pops out without notice!)

I turned to my friend, the second grade teacher, and said, “I’ve got kids that can’t handle a lot of decision making and stimulation.  I tell them I’m going to take on what ever is bothering them, it will be my responsibility. Then we just work out what is going to be the one thing for them to concentrate on.”

Sometimes I take it all over – the coat, the backpack, the folder – but then again, my students are four. (I’m always on the look out for a glimpse of the 8 year old they will become!)

admitting brilliance

We’ve all done it.

We’ve all done something brilliant.  At least once and probably several times, even in just a week.

But here is my question….

How often have you admitted your brilliance?

I got to admit to brilliance yesterday.

I know. You all want to know what I did that was so amazing.  It really doesn’t matter – well it might if you’re a preschool teacher creating story models with children – because I created a fantastic story prompt for my kids.  But what is most important to me is that I got to share this gem of an experience with someone who knew what a treasure it was. (Thank you, Lori, for being my audience.)

Why is it so hard for us to see brilliance in ourselves, to acknowledge the creativity, thoughtfulness, diligence and powerful compassion  we exercise so often in our job as teachers?  We all speak to the fact that these elements are life giving sources to us and primary reasons for why we do what we do.  I am quick to name these gifts in others and to call them out to my peers, congratulating them on their power.  Yet I don’t do the same for myself – and often it is only myself who is witness to my gifts!

So! You know I’m not just going to quit with that statement.  No!


GO tell someone about your secret brilliance   – because you deserve to be recognized for your awesomeness!

Clean slate

As much as I’m kind of excited to begin a new blog, I’m sad to leave One Sunflower behind.  Why didn’t I just create a One Sunflower II?  I debated doing that.  But I’m intrigued by the idea of reframing the purpose of my teacher-blog.  I’m not sure about that yet, but I’m thinking about it.

I’m still debating what I’m going to choose for my “one little word” for 2013 so maybe my word and this blog will be connected.