Archive for the ‘Teaching’ 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.

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.

Finally happened……sigh

August 14, 2007


There is a kind of light that crosses the face of a person when you say you are a Kindergarten Teacher. Their eyes soften and a slight smile teases the corners of their lips. They think about those milk and cookie days of painting and clay, ABCs and crayons, holding hands and nap times. They think of little kids in new shoes, with wide open eyes and hopeful hearts. They think you must have a delightful time ‘playing’ all day. For twenty years I saw that look when ever people asked me what it is that I ‘do’. It’s a different kind of look than you get when you say you are a second grade teacher or a fifth grade teacher. It’s is definitely different from the look you get when you say you teach high school…or heaven forbid… middle school. Those looks border on the wonder if you are, in fact, absolutely nuts.

Nothing, however, nothing compares with the look I received the other day, when someone at a campground asked what I taught. After twenty years of teaching Kindergarten and first grade, my response about my new position was ‘Oh, I am one of the the Informational Technology Teachers in my school.’ A mouth dropped open and the eyes sort of glazed over. The question in them could only be described as ‘what the h…?’ It wasn’t until I restated and explained that I would be teaching computer skills in a lab setting to Kindergarten through fifth graders that the glazed look cleared. But the question remained. What the heck does a Computer Lab Teacher do?

I have been pondering that myself all summer long. I am not computer illiterate by any means. When I taught first graders on a year round program, the computer lab was the only air conditioned room in our building. Of COURSE we spent an hour a day in there….keeping cool….and using the computers to research and compile an animal report as a final project for the summer. I did that for six years. I was manupulating the lab in an educational setting long before many of my teaching partners had conquered their fear of those huge humming machines. And now, feeling like the dinosaur that I am, I am surrounded by much younger teaching partners who have never taught without a computer in their classroom. And most of the children that I will be teaching have never spent a day without computer contact of some sort. I’m sure that many of them even have their own computers. I would be crazy not to admit that they probably know more about them than I do.

I have studied the curriculum pages. Compared to what I have gotten for other subjects for other grade levels, it’s pretty concise. I have no manual or instructions to follow. I have, however, sorted out a few things sucessfully. We will practice our typing skills. We will explore word processing programs and practices. We will create multi-media power point projects. We will explore web sites for information and graphic sites for pictures. We will learn how to harness the World Wide Web and apply it to our elementary school needs.

I think the most important part of my job in the coming year will not be inspiring enthusiasm for learning as it has been in the past. Heck, flipping on the whirring machine will be enough to do that. No, my most basic responsibility will be teaching my students to be responsible about what they use those computers to do. I will be teaching them to sort and compile appropriate information and put it to use in the way they need it. We will be learning to be responsible with this very huge learning tool that they are being given access to. Have some fun? Of course. It’s going to be a learning experience for all of us.

Am I nervous? Darn tootin’. I always am at the beginning of a new school year. Am I excited? Definitely. I always am at the beginning of a new school year. And I am looking forward to the challenge of new information and a new learning process. It’s just those darn older kids that are scaring me to death. Haven’t had to deal with anyone over three feet tall in a long while. I am wondering if stickers and hand stamps are going to still be enough to keep them in line. But when all else fails, my daughter tells me that candy is a good incentive. Heh. Let the school buses roll! I am on my way for a mega sized sack of Jolly Ranchers…..