Archive for the ‘Teachers’ category

The Farm

April 25, 2017

Kdg in Kensington1

It is spring in these here parts.  Finally.  Spring.

Grass is growing. Trees are budding. Forsythia is in bloom.  Tulips are popping up.  Hyacinth is a smelling.  I am loving it but surest sign that spring has arrived is I saw the first face book posting of a friend’s class trip to the farm.

Kensington Metro Park’s farm center is the goto farm experience around here.  I did it many, many years running with my kindergarten students.  In the beginning we would take a bus and parent chaperones   would meet us there.  We’d tour the farm, pet the baby animals, share juice boxes and granola bars for snack and get back to school in time to catch buses home.  Then we would do it all over again with our afternoon classes.  When our district adopted the full day kindergarten program, we used parent drivers, added a lunch break at a playground within the park and visited the nature center as well.  There we would study bees in a glass hive, take a nature walk with a ranger cautioning our five and six year olds not to pick up snakes (who actually interpreted that as an invitation TO do it) and sift through bottom crud collected in a ‘pond study.’  Standard field trip material.

It was a trip that fueled our Kindergarten class verbal/writing/art lessons for a week.  Maybe longer.

The trip was an annual rite of passage every year for this teacher.  Twenty two kindergarten trips to plan, carry out and enjoy.  Because I love baby goats.  And piglets.  I looked forward to seeing them each time.  However there is one year when the trip was particularly memorable.

Our district was still on half day Kindergarten sessions.  My teaching partner, Ann, and I had planned the trip for a day that wasn’t looking to be a good morning but we soldiered on.  We had umbrellas and rain gear.  The farm center had a huge barn with a few exhibits upstairs and animal pens downstairs.  The majority of the animals are situated outside along a circular walking path that allowed for leisurely walking and ample time for conversation and explanations on a good day.  With ominous gray skies threatening to burst forth rain at any moment we hurried our groups through the path and into the barn.  We followed in last to insure that everyone was there only to see our two classes and several wide eyed parent chaperones gathered at the sides of a goat pen.  Inside the pen was an animal handler ranger…..and a hugely pregnant nanny goat giving birth.

The ranger was amazing.  She was calm and reassuring, explaining everything but it was quite apparent that the nanny was having some trouble.  Ann and I were literally sweating bullets.  We stood there with our five and six year olds watching as the ranger tried to help the nanny.  She had her entire arm up inside the goat as she talked.  We were checking the time – not wanting to tear the kids away before there was a resolution to what they were watching, hoping – no praying – that the resolution was going to be a good one please please, wondering what tales about this event would be carried home and needing to leave very soon to catch the buses.  The worry and stress was an incredible weight for those few minutes in our day.  And outside it was pouring rain.  Buckets of rain.

After a time there was some twisting and turning and pulling followed by a gush of blood and fetal fluids as TWO babies were born.  It was really beautiful to see.  And gross.  And messy.  And slimy.  And the kids were properly vocally appreciative of every single aspect.  Especially the blood.  And the grossness.

On the ten minute bus ride back to school Ann and I created a plan.  She would have a conversation with both classes in our playroom about what had happened and what they had seen.  I was charged with dashing off a dittoed note to parents with that information, running it off and stuffing it into 45 backpacks before the buses arrived to take them home.

Made it in the nick of time.  And we were totally exhausted as our happy little charges bounced out to their buses in the sun.  And our fellow teachers in the lunchroom were hysterically regaled with our Kindergarten ‘adventures.’  And we were relieved because nothing – NOTHING – could possibly be worse than our morning trip to the farm.

And the afternoon WAS awesome.  We went to the barn first to check on ‘our’ baby goats.  We’d told our afternoon classes how lucky they were to be able to see babies that were just a few hours old.  The sun was shining and warm.  Ann went down one pathway in the circle while I followed another group in the other direction.  Chickens…turkeys….ducks….bunnies….cows….horses….all out enjoying the sun and the mud from a morning storms.  Ann and I met up with each other at a halfway point and congratulated each other on the wonderful afternoon.  A successful field trip all around. Then we turned to see our classes gathered at the fence watching two huge pigs.

Doing it.

Our students were oohing and ahhhing and we were frantically internally planning ANOTHER playroom conversation and ANOTHER mad dash to write a note and stuff it into back packs. Then we heard our  parent chaperone say, “Well….she’s giving him a piggy back ride.  You’ve heard of a piggy back ride, right?”

Dee Vick….where ever you are……thank you.

From the bottom of our retired teacher hearts.

What a wonderful memory.

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Martin Luther King Day Memory

January 18, 2010

Its not mine.  It actually happened in a Kindergarten classroom next to mine about 20 years ago.  I changed the names but you will get the situation.  Its my favorite MLK Day story….ever.

My teaching partner was trying to explain to her class about what the world was like when Martin Luther King Jr. was growing up.  She talked about discrimination in a way that five year olds could understand.  She explained that certain people were not allowed to ride the bus, could not attend the schools they wanted to and couldn’t even drink out of the same drinking fountains as other people.  They had to use different bathrooms and sit in special seating sections at restaurants.  She explained that some people looked at people differently back then…..because their skin was a darker color.   They were treated that way because they were black.  One child piped up, “Oh, like Ben!”

Benjamin A. – whose mother was Black and whose father was East Indian – straightened immediately, a frown creasing his dark forehead and his brown eyes flashing. 

“I am not Black!” he retorted.

So Benjamin H. immediately dipped his red head and studied his freckled forearm with interest.

“Well, I must be then…..”

Used To Be

November 25, 2008

Used to be that my family would run and hide when they saw me coming with all the papers and records and stickers and pens that meant it was report card time.  Imaginary tails tucked between their legs they would huddle together and slink away when I was holed up with my records and files during report card time.

 

Used to be that I would have to spend DAYS pressing through four layers of carbonless sheets that measured 18 X 24 to  record fluctuating assessments for each my Kindergarten or first grade students.

 

Used to be that I would have to spend hours agonizing over comments to fill the little box for them on each report card.  Then I got ‘smart’ and discovered full sheet sticker paper for my computer!  Type ’em up, print them, save them, cut them apart and stick ’em on.  Progress!

 

Used to be that I was recording assessments for forty five or so students….two sections of Kindergarten.  I taught 25 – 28 first graders each year for five years and then went part time with 26 Kindergarteners – just one section – again. 

 

Last year I became a Technnology Teacher.  I see my students for 45 minutes, once a week.   Each report card has 5-6 items to be assessed during the course of the year.  There are 24 – 28 in each class.  Times that by twenty sections of second through fifth graders whose report cards must be graded….twice.  That’s 520 report cards that I have to mark….twice.  And that doesn’t count the eight sections of Kindergarten and first graders that do not have technology requirements for their report cards but DO have a required  curriculumn to follow.  That’s 712 students that pass through my lab every week.

 

Used to be that I didn’t feel I really needed to get  flu shot in the fall.

 

Heh.

The World That I Teach In

April 17, 2007

I am staying away from the television and newspapers today. Everyone else seems glued to the news of another shooting on another college campus. But I prefer not to hear one more thing about violence in a school setting. I am a Teacher.

In one more month I will be marking the 30th year since I graduated with a degree in Elementary Education from Oklahoma Christian College and began my teaching career. Those thirty years have seen a drastic change in Education. Curriculums have changed. Textbooks have changed. Testing measures have changed. Classroom designs have changed. Playgrounds have changed. School lunches have changed. Public attitudes have definitely changed.

Along with correct drinking fountain skills, jump rope rhymes, learning to get along with others, planting seeds in paper cups and an ever broadening spectrum of formal academic skills, I am now required to have my Kindergarten class participate in ‘lock down drills’ as well as tornado and fire drills. We must teach anti-bullying lessons in our classrooms. Parents need to report to the office for a ‘visitor’ sticker before coming to a classroom to help. Birthday treats need to be scanned for peanut/chocolate/lactose and gluten allergies. Our office staff will soon need medical degrees for all of the medications they dispense during the day. And we need to ease worries about gun toting citizens storming into schools. Did we really worry about that 30 years ago? I wonder if I would have proceeded down the path of a teaching career had someone given me a look into a crystal ball. Probably.

You see, one thing has not changed in 30 years. The mind of the child. The mind that yearns for stimulation and fun. The mind that very literally soaks up the information that is tossed their way, processes it and then tosses it back out into the world with their own stamp of approval. The mind that looks for a reason behind everything and tries to make it fit in the world they know.

Childhood has certainly changed…just as education has. Our children have seen the very news reports and written pieces that I am avoiding today. Even five year olds know about war in far away places. They know about food kitchens and children who do not have socks to wear and blankets to wrap up in. They know about allergies and illnesses that could take their friends away forever. Try as we might, we simply cannot keep them in their own little bubble of innocence any more. They will see….they will know….and ultimately they will change the world we are handing over to them. It is our job as Teachers…and Parents….to give them the tools for change.

So….we will teach them to read and to write and to measure angles and sort things with common attributes. We will keep them safe with lock down drills…..and teach them to problem solve. We will guard them from peanuts and chocolate and lactose and gluten and bee stings and strangers……and teach them to take care of their bodies. We will toss worms back into the grass after a rainstorm and capture spiders in our classroom to be released to safety outside. We will teach them to guard the gifts of the earth. Guard them very carefully. We will keep singing songs about vowels and bubble gum and monkeys jumping on the bed….and teach them to laugh. We will encourage them to collect cans for food kitchens, blankets for shelters and pennies for the Leukemia Foundation. We will cheer as they jump for the American Heart Association. We will keep the world of gun men and wars and hunger and sick at bay for a while every day…….and give children the innate self esteem to know that they have the power to change things. We are Teachers after all….and that is what we do. Every single day in this crazy world. We teach.

Mr. Kindergarten Husband

March 14, 2007

I am a Kindergarten Teacher. When I say that, most people look at me with new eyes. ‘Aww. You must have fun every day,’ they say. When I was engaged, my husband thought I had the best job in the whole world. All I did was ‘play’ all day. Heh. Then reality struck. He got out of bed one morning – shortly after our wedding almost 18 years ago – with a huge strip of laminating film stuck to his back as I had been cutting things out while watching television the night before. It was the beginning of the end. He had to deal with a life partner who fielded telephone calls from ‘helicopter parents’ who would ring at any given time of day or night. He saw school supplies and needed items slipped into our shopping cart on a regular basis. There were trips to the book outlet and a guilt analysis of receipts to tell him ‘how much I saved’. There were trips to the pharmacy and the doctor for meds to cover the cold/flu/pink eye that was raging through the school and which I would inevitably catch. There were stacks of oatmeal boxes and shoe boxes and egg cartons and magazines that piled in the dining room waiting to be used for ‘something good’. There were highly stressed ‘report card marking weekends’ that surely became his version of hell on earth. There were the impromptu conversations and ‘conferences’ that arose whenever we ran into a parent from school at the store or the library or the movies. There were the conscriptions to play Santa/clowns/ Mr. Dressup during school events and Kindergarten special occasions. There were constant rereadings of favorite books as I needed practice to get the reading just right. Heh. I think he had Chicka Chicka Boom Boom memorized before I did! There were trips to the hardware, trips to the lumber yard, trips to the Teacher Store…..never complaining….always repeated until a project was ‘just right’. He would cut boat shapes for the transportation project, build a classroom loft, drill holes in popsicle sticks for the Christmas projects, hunt for the perfect candy bars for our end of the year awards ceremony (Snickers for the one with the best laugh, Bit-O-Honeys for the sweet one, etc.), carry things in and out of school, etc. etc. etc. etc.

Sometimes I take it all for granted. Too much. I appreciate it all. But I never appreciated it more than I did last night.

I had one of those school day moments that brought a lump to my throat…. something that hasn’t happened often of late. Our bus walkers were late. Four Kindy Kiddos were still waiting to be taken to the very confusing bus dismissal area. I asked if they thought they could make it on their own. It was time for them to try it. They would be doing it alone as first graders next year. Big eyes in hooded jackets with backpacks as big as their five year old bodies, they nodded their heads. Hold hands and stick together, I told them and walked them to the back exit door. I stood and looked out in to the sunny spring afternoon and watched as Jamie and Michael and Melinda and Evan* bounced up the sidewalk in two twosomes, holding hands and chatting amiably as they headed for their buses. Little birds out of the nest and they didn’t even know it. The lump started then. How sweet to be privy to the beginnings of independence all wrapped up in security and innocence. Who to tell about this picture? Teachers see this kind of thing every single day. Sometimes it’s gets old when it comes from someone else.

The picture stayed in my head and the lump in my throat as I cleaned up my room and put things out for the next school day. It stayed as I drove home and listened to the middle school and fifth grade doings from my own children. It stayed as I made spaghetti for dinner. It stayed until we were in the car and headed for another soccer practice.

In the quiet of the car – a new novelty with two new handheld computer games in tow – we talked about our day. I described the picture of my four little birds and their venture out into the big old ‘world’ on their own and the lump in my throat threatened to spill over. I looked over at my Mr. Kindergarten Husband and he was smiling the smile of one who absolutely understood. Yes….I do take it for granted sometimes.

*Names were changed to respect the privacy of my students.