Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

A year of blessings is winding down and hopefully the new year will bring much joy.

Now on to the celebrations...

Monday, December 21, 2009

What Teachers Make...

I saw this video of Taylor Mali tonight in class and was moved by the power of the message.

What do teachers make?

They make a difference!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

That's Me All Over

I am sure it is a bit narcissistic of me but I love it when I become a character in a child's writing.

When their creative juices are flowing children can be amazingly prolific. This means that often times bits of paper containing their latest efforts blanket just about every surface in our room. And they show all of it to me.

Over the years there have been many depictions of me drawn by children ranging in age from about three to nine years old.

There are the flattering pictures showing the cool, confident teacher, others of me being silly and then there are those where I barely resemble a person...

But in all of them I am there with a big smile on my face.

I may not have a nose or fingers or a neck but there is always the smile.

A friend of mine does art therapy with prison inmates and it is really interesting to hear her speak about how telling a simple drawing can be.

Size, proportion, location, detail and lack of detail all (evidently) carry such weight.

I have never been any good at reading into these things but I do find it fascinating.

If all the kids drew me scowling or frowning it would concern me so since I always seem to appear happy in their eyes why not celebrate that?


Keep it up dear children!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Self-Love and Acceptance

I am nearing the end of another semester at Fordham University in the Language, Literacy and Learning doctoral program. My class this term is Curriculum Theories and Practices which has us studying the works (and teachings) of John Dewey, Rousseau's Emile, Ivan Illich, The Bible and Michael W. Apple among others.

Education in America has had an interesting history that has vacillated between believing that children are born "bad" (the Bible), or born "good" (Rousseau) or simply born into preexisting circumstances that create and replicate more of the same.

All of the past discussions have led us to where we are today and the present conversation is all about education and power. It is about how those in power keep their power by maintaining the current structures which ensure their dominance. The term ideological hegemony has been thrown around quite a bit during class - and has become my new favorite expression. Why? Because it proves that those who are "educated" can toss about some five dollar words and seem "smart" when it is simply a fancy term for keeping people in their place.

The idea of critical theory and social justice is one that some educators are bringing into the classroom. There are five stages of social justice education.
1) Self-love and acceptance
2) Respect for Others
3) Exploring Issues of Social InJustice
4) Social Movements and Social Change
5) Taking Social Action
The first is one that is very appropriate for kindergarten students (as is the second). My social justice guru recommended the Dr. Seuss book My Book About Me for ushering young ones into an awareness of themselves & their families and to learn about different aspects of their identity.
So, I am working on figuring out a way to get a copy of this book for each child in my class. Perhaps if we cultivate a generation of students who truly love themselves we can begin to make strides towards shifting the sometimes impenetrable walls that keep the oppressed from the privileged. And maybe we will have a generation of shiny happy people like Justin (pictured above).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Making Books

We started something new this year in Writing Workshop. Instead of providing our students with single pieces of paper on which to write (as we have done in the past) we began the year by giving them blank books.

For kindergarten this started with just two pieces of paper folded in half and stapled at the spine. The thought behind this decision was that a book would provide an organizational structure for the students to 'tell a story' rather than limiting them with just one single piece of paper. We all tend to work within boundaries anyway (I notice this myself when I write out a Christmas or birthday card, I write until I am out of space) so why not promote more writing, rather than less?

That being stated, the children are still working within developmentally recognized stages. Some tell their stories using pictures with random scribbles (writing) while others label using familiar letters.

This new venture has been successful in promoting story telling that has a beginning, middle and end. Below is one example from a boy whose story "Lights Out!" shows him in the dark on the cover. He becomes frightened as he sleeps in his room all alone (page 1) and calls for his parents (page 2) then is happy again with his mom beside him (page 3).

All alone in the dark, which he depicted quite well I think.

The 'S' you see is for the word 'sleep' and the colors on top of him represent all of the colors in his quilt.

Mom and Dad come into the room. Notice how he uses the initial letter for each word as well as 'B' for bed.

Smiles all around.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Birthday Parties!

Kindergarten is a happy place and just about nothing brings more smiles, excitement and giggles than a birthday celebration.

Two four-year-old boys welcomed the big 5 in November and brought along their families to help with the festivities. These were coordinated affairs with themes (one espousing Spider-Man, pictured above, and the other trumpeting SpongeBob).

The promise of cake, games, party hats and goody-bags brings on a heightened sense of elation that is palpable. Everyone vying to sit next to the birthday boy (or girl), to sing/sign along with the familiar "Happy Birthday" song, to help blow out the candles and get a piece of the scrumptious cake. It is oh, so very lively and oh, so very thrilling.

Simple pleasures.

These happy times can also be a brief respite from the sometimes hectic, fast paced, go-go-go experience of life. It seems we are always pushing forward in one way or another. Worrying about the future, questioning past choices but rarely being present in the moment.

I think that is one reason why I enjoy teaching so much. The children remind me to be present. When I am with them there is no where else I need to be, nothing else that cannot be put on hold and for seven plus hours a day all is as it should be.

And sometimes that can make all the difference.


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