#Kinderblog14 Week 1
Write the post that has been in your head (or your drafts folder) for a while now. You know the one. The one you write while you drive to work, or while you are in the shower. What is the question, or issue, or opinion, or emotions, you have been chewing on for a while now? Alternatively, what is the post that you have started a million times, picked away at, edited and re-edited, and almost trashed? Did you read an article or a Facebook post that provoked a reaction, and that you can’t stop thinking about?
I began this post five months ago after reading Justin Tarte’s post, Do your actions align with your beliefs? and the draft has been patiently waiting to be finished ever since. It started easily because my top five beliefs have remained my top five beliefs since I started teaching 28 years ago and not much has changed about the developmental needs of five and six-year-olds, but the education arena is swirling with change. Tenderly set aside, I haven’t been able to finish.
I’m quite straight forward and oftentimes brutally honest, so I wonder why this one has been sitting for so long. Honestly, it’s because with all the intoxication for assessments, data, and accountablity I fear for our youngest learners and my top five beliefs being challenged constantly. If I openly state how I really feel will it jeopardize my position? Will I still be looked upon as a leader if my voice becomes too honest or too loud? Will my colleagues continue to thank me for being the voice within our unit that isn’t afraid to speak up? How do I maintain balance between changing expectations and what I believe in when they don’t always align? And when frustration mounts, how do I keep it all in check in order to stay healthy and focused on the children instead of the issues beyond my control? These are all questions I have strong opinions about but have not found a way to put in writing quite yet. I am hopeful the #Kinderchat14 blog challenge will allow me time to wrestle with them. The feedback from others #kinderchat has always encouraged me to learn, lead, and listen so let’s see if I can get this done.
These are my top five beliefs and the my thoughts surrounding them as I reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going.
1. Children learn through play.
All of my beliefs about learning come back to this. That’s where the good stuff happens. It’s where we learn to build, explore, question, hypothesize, problem solve, try new things, collaborate, take turns, share, practice, create, respect, negotiate, discover, and rejoice. Play gets really good when you observe and join right at just the right moments.
“Why sure I’d love another cup of tea. Please make sure you don’t forget the lemon and honey. Do you know how bees make honey? I wonder how we could find out.”
“When you finish that map, let’s see if we can locate where your grandma lives since you are going to visit her. I wonder how many miles away that is. Is it more or less than when you drove to Florida?”
“That paper airplane you created is amazing! Would you like to teach others how to do that?”
Why would anyone think it’s okay to eliminate such a valuable event for more instructional time. There’s plenty of instruction going on during play when done right. All the debate regarding schools eliminating recess to gain additional instructional minutes has my head spinning! Who thinks up these “solutions?”
2. ALL children can learn.
Duh! In all my twenty-eight years of teaching I can’t remember a single student who did not make progress in some form or another. It’s a shame that we can’t measure and provide data for some of the most important indicators of progress such as the ability to self regulate emotions and behaviors, accept assistance willingly, learn self-help skills, communicate and negotiate through problems with peers, develop and maintain friendships, and increase self-worth.
We have data to sort, analyze, form interventions, teach, assess, analyze, and do it all over again and again. We really need to collaborate on the teach part and allow time for sharing and developing great first classroom experiences so there wouldn’t be a need for interventions. We are too busy collecting and analyze the data to talk about the teaching. In fact, state and district literacy assessments alone take me away from my students nearly nine teaching days.
3. Children learn to read, write, and problem solve by engaging in literacy and math activities throughout the day.
While the debate and polarization about the value and appropriateness of CCSS rage on, I have to remind myself to stay focused on the children. Their needs have not changed. If I think too long or too hard about matching up the standards to everything, I’d turn in my key and head home. I have an old post related to this. I’m a doer. I just get in there and do what I do. From what I hear, I am pretty skilled at the art and science of teaching. All this other stuff makes my head spin and frankly, it leaves me bewildered. So, I learn alongside my students the way I would want my own children’s’ teachers to do. That philosophy has served me well all these years so I’m sticking with it.
4. Oral language is the foundation of a quality program for young children.
My room is noisy and active. Don’t judge! There’s a lot of learning going on. Learning is messy, active, and not always quiet. When I need peace and quiet I grab a book and even then we talk our way through the book making connections, noticing things, predicting, confirming, sharing thoughts with one another, laughing, crying, simply put… enjoying! Talking is abundant in my classroom from the moment the students are greeted at the door. Through conversations face to face or online we create dialogue used for our learning experiences. The best part is when we share our learning with the world, which in turn created more opportunities for language.
5. I teach for independence.
This is actually another draft waiting to be finished and posted soon. Thank goodness for this blogging challenge to increase the odds of it happening.
Bonus belief: Learning is lifelong. The greatest thing about teaching Kindergarten is helping children begin their journey into formal education. Equally important, however, is my own learning.
In the past year I vowed to give Twitter and KidBlog a try with my students. The benefits far outweighed the terrifying excuses for not making an attempt. It allowed me to focus on a new experience instead of the stress and struggles abundant in our building and district as we navigate our way through cultural changes associated with PLCs, BYOC, TEP, SLOs, PALS, RtI, PBIS, F & P, LC, Alpine data entry, SMART goals, CFAs and book studies. Not only that, our staff of 24 years is changing due to the building of a brand new school. Lots of emotions came into play at the end of our school year. Many days it felt like too many adult concerns were taking me away from the children. And more often than not the stress level amongst the adults felt toxic. It was wonderful to have something unrelated to the dictated demands to provide the energy and excitement necessary for working with children. Access to a great PLN through #kinderchat and sharing struggles and joys outside of my building kept me afloat this past year. We are all struggling in some way, some to greater depths than other, but struggling just the same. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging and coming from the same point of view as simple as we love working with young children and will do whatever it takes to be their champions. We know and understand that these children get one chance to a be five-year-old and it is our job to make that the best year ever.
I’ve also been a risk taker in my technology learning, which is weird that it’s so difficult for me when it’s what I ask of my students. I applied for a grant to get iPads. Denied. I don’t accept no very well and went through Donors Choose. Got an i pad mini. Attended a conference for using iPads in Kindergarten. Participated in my first Kinderchat and Google Hangout. Registered for my first EdCamp. Applied for a a 5+1 grant which puts five computers in addition to my teacher computer right in my classroom complete with internet access. Granted! Gone are the internet hassles associated with iPads and our infrastructure that doesn’t support all that innovative teachers are trying to do.
As I look ahead to next year, I am nothing short of excited. Having a new mini lab in my classroom forced a new classroom layout. Purging file cabinets, cupboards and closets allowed me to evaluate what I need and don’t need. Had to make room for those new computers! Reflecting on my Kidblog and Twitter experiences to identify what worked well and what I plan to change. Welcoming a new principal to our building and two new teachers to our grade level team will be refreshing as we embark on a brand new year. So much to look forward to, but I am still grateful for the summer months to relfect and recharge. Oh! And participate in the #Kinderchat14 blogging challenge.