I could probably write volumes about the things I would do if I was in charge of the world. One thing I would pay attention to is how to structure school to provide a better balance of time in and time out. For some reason, this winter break at Christmas seemed to be better timed this year. We worked until the 19th – it would have been the 20th but we ended up with a snow day – and then didn’t come back to school until January 6th. Having more time after the big hoopla of family gatherings was better for me and I noticed my students seemed more relaxed on returning to school. I think it was better for them too.
Like Maureen, I wanted a “soft landing” return to school as well.
We had lots of creative and sensory fun this week
and finished it off with all the stuff that was supposed to happen on the last day before break: cocoa in the cafeteria with older classmates and a Barbershop quartet.
This week I would like to highlight just one extraordinary measure taken by staff at my school. I know I witness at least one a week but this one is blog-worthy.
Our school is attended by many students from the Nooksack Tribe and we have been working side-by-side with the tribe to problem solve issues of attendance, conflicts with school schedules and tribal celebrations, and to raise cultural awareness of this unique population in our county. One idea suggested this year by the Native task was to schedule a special evening for parent-teacher conferences on the tribal grounds.
Teachers were concerned about scheduling another long day just a week after their regular conference schedule but agreed to do it after the Thanksgiving Break. Extra pay was set aside and the tribe offered to provide dinner. The setting is a gym and there was concern about the noise level and possible interference of younger siblings who needed supervision. Tribal leadership created a table for art projects, teachers without students to conference with volunteered to interact with young ones as needed.
I was one of the latter. I went a little bit early to help with set up and took pictures of the event. We’re running a survey to see how people – teachers and families – felt about the event. My point of view is that it was an evening to celebrate – and I hope we do it again.
We were given the assignment in October – actually I was in on the giving of the assignment – because I work with one of the administrators in our district to plan the PLC for the preschool staff.
The assignment was to video up to 10 minutes of ourselves working with our kids and share it with colleagues at the next PLC. I was the collector of the video – that was a learning project all by itself. Each staff member had to figure out the best techy tool to use and together we had to learn how to load it to a common place for viewing. There were lots of options and each of the 5 classrooms ended up with a different path to success.
Today was the day to watch and talk about what we saw. It was a day of vulnerability but also celebration.
We are doing some amazing work with children at risk.
He wakes in his mama’s bed, curled up in the white comforter that is like a cloud, surely sleeping in a cloud would be just like this. Mama is still asleep. He lays his head over the side of the bed and tucking his neck he does a perfect somersault onto the floor and sitting up, scoots on his bum to the door. “We don’t wake mommy when she’s sleeping” he says to himself and when he gets to the hall he jumps up to run in his booty pajamas to the comfy chair room. Nana is there. Nana is always there, sometimes asleep in her comfy chair. What will she make for breakfast this morning? mmmm, pancakes would be good. He takes a spatula from the drawer and climbs up into Nana’s lap, putting his fingers gently on her cheeks. “Nana. Wake up, it’s me. I didn’t wake mama. Not one tiny bit. Let’s make breakfast, Nana.” Nana sighed. 6 am, the child sure knows how to wind the world up early.
She is awake at 2 in the morning, again. Although she fell into bed last night at 9 without even a glance at her book. Off went the light and she slipped beneath the covers like an orca into the depths of the ocean. She slept so soundly those first few hours, not hearing the dog being let out for the last time, or her husband brushing his teeth, or the click of the bathroom door when he made his way to the other side of the bed. She was lost to the world and in a cloud so thick not even her dreams floated free. Until 2 am. Then her mind was rested enough to flick back on again, and begin to churn through the week, evaluating every step and misstep. Still spinning, it teetered towards the next week. “And what shall I try this week to keep all those little worlds on their axes?”
I have 3 sets of siblings in my classroom this year. One set of twins and two sets of older brothers with younger sisters. It is a unique factor in preschool: siblings can be in a classroom together. As you can guess, having a close family member in a classroom can be a blessing and a curse – for the student and the teacher. Sometimes I can use these familial ties to the benefit of the child and the classroom, and sometimes I am sorry there aren’t alternative settings for each child.
This year I have had more than one occasion to share my own sibling experiences with my students. Occasionally I stretch the truth of the story a wee bit, exaggerating the benefits or troubles of my sibling relationships. I’ve told stories about beating up on siblings and being sent to dinner without supper or getting my mouth washed out with soap. Some of it happened. Or drawing a story about sharing a bedroom with one of my sisters and counting airplanes through the window at night to put ourselves to sleep. I’m sure it has become an “enhanced” memory with time.
But the fact that I can genuinely speak to the experience of siblings is a something my students love to hear about. I had one day when an older brother was particularly frustrated with his younger sister following him everywhere. He hit her – as siblings do – and I said, “You know I had a little sister and I know they can sometimes be annoying.” He looked at me with wide eyes – and a huge smile, “You did???” We formed a bond for life on that day. He will continue to have trouble with his sister but he knows I know exactly what it feels like.
Today is the birthday of the middle sister in my family. Yes, we fought more often than I will ever admit to my students, and yet in growing up we truly learned to celebrate each other. Most of all I cherish the relationship unique to siblings – something I will tell my students about over and over again.
Happy Birthday Sis.
It’s 5 am and I see stars and a moon
maybe, just maybe
it will be dry enough today for my students to play on the playground
because one little guy, one precious student of mine
just can’t handle the playshed – the noisy and dim playshed
of so many not-so-good choices
to scream and kick the metal door and swing ropes in the air
I try to stay close when we are there
I know it is a hard place for him
but today I won’t be there
so I’m hoping those stars and the moon
are a good omen for the day
to find a celebration in my day…
This was the case on Friday. I had decided to stick with one of my student’s like a flea on a dog because he is sometimes impulsively destructive. It had already been a hard week and I just wanted to get through this last day.
I had a wonderful time working with him – and a whole table of students inspired by his desire – to cut out hearts and make cards. This child’s Nana was celebrating a birthday and he wanted to make a heart card. He remembered there was a trick where you fold paper and draw something like a “C” on it and when you cut on the line and open it up, it turns into a heart. He wanted me to help him with that magic and his energy around this project attracted some other curious magicians eager to learn this trick.
I celebrate the pile of paper scraps we created learning this trick together and showing others how to do it. I celebrate the number of hearts he stuffed into his backpack for his Nana.
And then the walls came tumbling down; crayons were being tossed all over the floor and another child was being chased around the room. The rabbit was back in the hat, the magic gone.
As I cleaned the room after they were all gone, therapeutically wiping each table thoroughly and sweeping the floor of scraps that missed the recycle bin, I reflected through my tears that more of the day was good than bad. Five minutes of destruction couldn’t erase 3 hours of good conversations, figuring out how to make 5, and remembering our comparative investigation of pumpkins and watermelons.