Sunday, July 25, 2010


I am now reading a great book, A Place of Wonder by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough.  I learned of the book over at Creative Literacy and couldn't wait to get started.  I've only just begun and am already loving it.  In the first few pages, I found a poem that I need to read each morning before teaching kindergarten.  Teachers are so often carrying so much responsibility on our shoulders that it's easy to inadvertently stifle the joy and wonder of childhood.  This poem was written by the author after she was disheartened by what she saw while observing a class of kindergarten children.  It speaks volumes about what we need to hold dearly at the heart of the important work we do each day.

Straight Lines

All the kindergartners
walk to recess and back
in a perfectly straight line
no words between them.
They must stifle their small voices,
their laughter, they must
stop the little skip in their walk,
they must not dance or hop
or run or exclaim.
They must line up
at the water fountain
straight, and in perfect form,
like the brick wall behind them.
One of their own given the job
of informer-guard of quiet,
soldier of stillness.
If they talk
or make a sound
they will lose their stars.
Little soldiers marching to and from
their hair sweaty
from escaping dinosaurs
their hearts full of loving the world
and all they want to do
is shout it out
at the top of their lungs.
When they walk back to class
they must quietly
fold their pretends into pockets,
must dam the river of words,
ones they're just learning
new words that hold the power
to light the skies, and if they don't
a star is taken away.
One star
by one star
until night grows dark and heavy
while they learn to think carefully
before skipping,
before making a wish.

This poem helped me to form a few goals for this kindergarten year: to insist on more skipping, more exclaiming and to let the pretends flow freely.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Disappointing Irony

While I was at school today to get a jump on mountains of work, I saw some of my favorite people (my fellow teachers) and we were discussing the "changes" in store for us this year.  (It's a running joke in the teaching profession....don't like the way we are doing this now?  don't worry-they'll make us do something new next week).

Then tonight, I was browsing some of my favorite teacher blogs and came across an awesome video by Alan November.  (He's awesome!)  It was inspiring and really got me thinking about the new school year, the endless possibilities and all I want to do to help my students be self-directed, life-long learners who collaborate, question, and search for answers.   They have a natural wonder and drive to learn....they don't have to be told to do so.   How ironic that teachers strive to prepare students to be life-long learners and collaborators that are well-prepared for the 21st century workplace and are in turn told what to teach, how to teach, how many minutes to teach it, in what style to teach it.....what "program" to follow-and that the program that costs lots and lots of money must be followed to "fidelity."   Where is the room for teacher choice, student directed learning, collaboration with colleagues, questioning, searching for answers?   Instead of spending time collaborating with teachers about student learning and literature and projects, we spend our time learning a new math program, meeting about a new core map, discussing a new standardized assessment.   If teachers were allowed to be the 21st century thinkers that we strive to help our students become, the world would be a better and much different place.  I understand that there need to be requirements and goals to be accomplished in each grade and I understand that there are "struggling" teachers, just as there are struggling students.  Why not meet with these struggling teachers in small them to develop.....instead of pouring millions of dollars into a "prescribed one-size-fits-all program" that ironically dumbs-down great teachers.    Let us be the productive, self-directed learners we help our students become!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Goodbye Summer....Hello School Year!

Sadly, the sweet, lazy days of summer are quickly coming to an end.  I love my children and my family and we have had so much fun....beach fun, pools, lake fun, skating, movies, shopping, playing, reading, camps, anniversaries, birthdays and hanging out with friends and family.....ahhhhh, the time and freedom the summer allows us is such a blessing.  I have the best of both worlds.  I get to be a stay-at-home mom in the summer and all of the school holiday breaks and I get to do the work that I love the rest of the year.  Teaching is truly a passion and honestly, I spend a large part of the summer reading and working on "teacherly" things that I don't seem to get to during the year.  You know you love your job when you work on it during your free time.  
Yesterday was our summer registration at school.  It is always so much fun to see all of the familiar faces I know and love.  The excitement is in the air for all of the hopes and dreams for a new school year.   As teachers we are truly given the gift of a brain break each summer and a chance to start new and fresh each year.  The next few weeks will be exciting and exhausting, but energizing all at once.  It's hard to explain but the hardest and most anticipated part of the year is fast approaching.  And although I mourn the end of lots and lots of time with my family (and the time to keep my house cleaned up) I can't help but look forward to and dream of the fun year of teaching and learning ahead.  
I was fortunate to meet some of my new students yesterday and have some that I already know.   They are all precious and I can't wait to spend a year of learning with them!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Readicide:   Kelly Gallagher has defined this as the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind numbing practices found in schools.

I finally have marked enough things off of my "to-do" list that I felt that I could devote an afternoon to a book that I have wanted to read for a while.  I am half way through the book and have shouted "Amen" several times, jotted down ideas to take back to school in August and my mind is racing with ways to stop this kill the love of reading.

This book has me reflecting on my own reading life.  I loved books as a child.  I had a mother that read to me, an amazing kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Abernathy, that read aloud to us throughout the day and talked to us about books.  During nap time, she would read us stories of Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and friends and do all of the voices.  I can still remember laying on my peach beach towel and hanging on every word.    This continued through the next several years and then was lost.  I remember "the middle years" filled with the awful chore of reading a book and doing a book report or a project.  Then, a wonderful teacher in Chesapeake, Virginia, Mrs. Woolery,  turned me back onto the magic of reading in the 10th grade.   Each night we read assigned portions of novels and the next day we discussed them in class.  We all got to share our "take" on what we had read and no idea was judged or rejected.  It was an awesome escape from being told what to think....and I remember enjoying reading each night and looking forward to that class daily.  From that day on, I continued to read for enjoyment and now can't ever find enough time to read all the books that I would love to read.

My own experience reflects some of how teachers unintentionally kill a child's love of reading.  As adults, we read and think and then love to discuss these thoughts with others who have read the same book.  Just recently I was with a group of my girlfriends, going to see Eclipse.  In the car, we were having the all too familiar Jacob vs. Edward discussion and were giving our reasons by siting the text and things that occurred to draw us to one side or the other.   As one person supported their thought, another would chime in and say...."see I totally didn't get that from that part, I thought..."  And, my teacher brain kicked in and I thought, this is what kids need.  I dare say we would have all enjoyed presenting a shadow box or poster accompanied by a written report, but we loved analyzing, supporting and sharing our thoughts.  We have to remember this as teachers and give students lots of interesting books, magazines, articles, etc. to read and then give them authentic ways to share their thinking and their experiences with the text.

I can't wait to read more of this book and revise my teaching practices to help to nurture a child's love for reading and not squash it.  The book shares lots of ways to stop the movement and turn it around.  I'll be sharing more!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

We have so much to be grateful for....and celebrating the 4th of July at the lake with family, friends, food, boating and fireworks is one of them!  The kids had a great time and we enjoyed relaxing and having fun!  Thank you to all of the men and women who give their lives to protect our freedom! Happy Independence Day!