untying knots in order to re-tie

I have signed up for a Coursera Course.  It’s a bit challenging to be in a class where I have no interaction with classmates or professors.  But the content is meeting my immediate needs – something I hadn’t anticipated when I signed up a month ago.

I am acquainted with the CLASS tool, was even a “reliable” observer for awhile so the emphasis of the course on creating and sustaining high quality relationships between teachers and children in the preschool environment is not new learning for me.  But having it presented by other professionals and with video lectures that vividly illustrate the lessons is definitely helping me focus on the challenges I am facing with a couple of my students right now.

I’m going to head back to class on Tuesday with a renewed urgency around my “serve and return” interactions with my kiddos.  I’m hoping the knot of a child I have wedged into the hole in my heart will unwind a bit and we can begin work on our relationship again.

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community efforts

celebrate link upThe jog-a-thon has become an annual event – although it used to happen in the spring.  The PTO and teachers come up with goals for the money and then the date is set and a whole lot of organization happens by the PE teacher and volunteers.  Now that it is a fall event, the weather is always a concern.  We often have an indoor route, weaving through the playshed and gym.

But yesterday was an extraordinary exception. The day was glorious – in fact the whole week has been beautifully sunny and warm.  Dawn is  foggy but by 10 am, the sky is blue, the air crystalline.  Each grade level has an assigned thirty minutes of run time.  The PE teacher practices with the kids during their regular gym time for about a week beforehand.

Preschoolers don’t have PE – so I try to put in a little practice during our outside time.  But I always worry about how the children will respond on the day of the event when they are running with a lot of other kids and sights and sounds they are unaccustomed to.  Music plays, volunteers are spread out to herd the students between the cones set up to designate the “track.”

My celebration is that yesterday’s jog-a-thon was a fantastic success for my students.  No tears, no falls, and they seemed to understand they were part of something “big.”  It was also a success for the school.  $4000 was raised – that is about $20 per student – towards new playground equipment.  Our school grounds are used after hours by the community and most of the families call it “the park.”

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emergent curriculum and being mindful to use it

Friday it happened.

I always forget – that at some point in October – someone is going to find a wooly bear caterpillar on the playground.

And so I’m not always ready to deal with the inevitable desire of 17 headstrong preschoolers to not just touch the small creature but to possess it.

Wouldn’t you know the poor thing was found by one of my most needy and unpredictable students – you know the one from my last entry – and he was determined to be in charge of this precious find.  Lucky for me it was found early in our recess period so the desire to play on the equipment persuaded the child to relinquish the ball of fur to my palm while he ran around the playground.  I let others touch it and promised to get the habitat box out so we could all have some time investigating his find.

I know more caterpillars will appear over the next few weeks, they are always about this time of year.  We’ve had as many as 5 in the box at a time with all sorts of outside finds stuffed in to make them feel at home – leaves, sticks, walnut shells, a feather. And I try to make sure we let them go on Fridays before the weekend.

I think such finds are bona-fide treasure!  This year I’m working hard to pay attention to emergent curriculum and use these opportunities to foster questions, discussions, reflections, new exploration ideas.  I wanted to use this opportunity with the caterpillar for something new to happen in the group.

So I held the habitat box in my lap at circle time when we gathered after recess.  The caterpillar was still curled in a ball in the corner of the bare box – no habitat created for it yet.  “Why do you think this caterpillar is curled up in a ball?”  A few hands shoot up but I wait.  Susy translates my question into Spanish and I wait.  Then I start pointing – and restating – and waiting again – making sure I get contributions from my confident speakers and those who are less so.

S              “Because he wants food.”
T               “Oh, you think the caterpillar is curled up in a ball because he is hungry.   What are some other reasons the caterpillar is curled up in a ball?”
S              “He wants water.”
T               “You have another idea.  You think the caterpillar is thirsty and might need water.  And you, why do you think the caterpillar is curled up in a ball?”
S                “Hunger.”
T                “Yes, you are thinking the same thing as L. –  that the caterpillar is hungry.  Do someone have another idea?”
S                 “Because he wants his momma.”
T                “The caterpillar might be in a ball because he wants his mommy.  Have you ever felt like that?”  (nods from all around me) “So the caterpillar is curled up in a ball because he might be hungry or thirsty or want his mommy.”
S                  “He  wants to be out in the grass where he can move around.”

(Whoa!  Cool!  Wasn’t expecting that!)

T                “Yes, the caterpillar might be scared.  What does your face look like when you are scared?  Yes, this caterpillar is probably hungry and thirsty and he might be lonely.  And if I was a caterpillar, I’d want to be in the grass too!”

Then class was interrupted by a visit from some other staff members – but maybe tomorrow we’ll get to an agreement about what to do with the future of the caterpillars that are surely going to be appearing in our classroom over the next month.