One Sunflower

wit’s end

Alpha is under a table, kicking it with his feet.  Bad words, provocative behavior, disruption of other children’s activities, all of these behaviors have preceded his current position of retreat. 

I’m tired.  It’s the day before Halloween and the kids are excitable. It’s been a long week of days punctuated by these behaviors of Alpha’s.  I’m at my wit’s end.  I call his mom and request that she pick him up. (I’ve only done this once before and that was when a child punched another child full in the face.)  Then I take Alpha out into the hall way for a chat – this isn’t the first time today that I’ve tried to have a heart to heart.  But now I’ve called his mom and the stakes are higher;  he decides to listen.  I pick him up and carry him into the classroom. 

Maybe I should have picked him up earlier.  He seems to feel calmer in my arms.  “Do you have an idea of what you would like to do if you stay at school?” I ask.  “Playdough.”  Excellent choice – sensory activities always help my students when they are riled up – but I can’t always lead a horse to water.

I call his mom back up and tell her we’re going to try to make it through the end of the day.  “Call me back if you need to,” she says.  Thanks, mom.   A vote of confidence.  I need one right now.  

There is more trouble at lunch, but the day is almost over, I can make it and so can he.

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P is for paying attention, patchwork, progress, personalized, precious

7    I arrive early to make sure I’m ready for the day – I have a meeting with our response team happening at 8 am and it will run until kid-arrival time so I want to be sure I prep the room.   Being absent during the week resulted in a few changes in my lesson plans which require different materials on hand, and it’s a rainy day so I’ve got to have nice tight plans for a PE program.

7:15 Surprise, an email notifies me that an administrator from the central HeadStart office is planning to come out to observe any students I have concerns about – as well as get a feel for my classroom.   Well that’s good, because those same two kids on my alert list for the response team meeting are the ones I’d like her input on.  I’ll be getting information from all sides today, that’s a good thing, but this administrator has never been in my classroom before so I feel a bit nervous.

……….make copies of all assessments to share at meeting, summary of strengths and concerns about each of the students I’m naming to the team, check email and download latest assessment results to make sure there aren’t others I should be bringing forward at this time – good news, there aren’t…   create trays of supplies for project, post my intentions for lessons today, load all supplies for my circle time activities, story telling supplies and journals into tray beneath easel, get nametags out, tooth brushes and paste ready…..PE curriculum materials loaded into basket for easy carry-out to the playshed……

8  Response team meeting – members present include principal, school counselor, nurse, special ed teacher, speech and language pathologist, an intern and me.  We begin by naming the strengths these students have and then the concerns.  The conversation and questions revolve around assessment and screening information already gathered, what types of information we still need, strategies that have been tried, some brainstorming about what else can be tried, and then follow-up plans and dates are set in place.  I  return to my class on time and with tools already in my pocket to try out.

9 – 9:15  Greetings at the door – rain and more rain, oh my, some kids still without coats,   mmmm, a few still out with flu, that’s too bad.  Folders in basket, hands washed, look at this teacher….    Oh, nice counting happening there on the floor with the unifix cubes, comparing lengths, statements about more and less, wahoo!  Lining up on colored tape, counting down, everyone ready??? (no)  shall we wait? (yes ……”come on Alpha, we want to go to breakfast!”)  Shall we save him a place?  (YES)  off we go…

9:35  Ms. P came to our classroom last week and we haven’t explored her vocabulary cards yet …..pickle, pineapple, pens and pencils – what is the difference between a pen and a pencil……..  Little Miss Muffet is our Child of the Week, we share photos of her family and sing the song to her.  Who is our calendar helper?  Weather helper – oh we now have more rainy days than sunny days this month….Let’s take a look at our work for today – making houses using shapes…. Everyone sets up their work spot with paper and glue stick, we brush our teeth and get dressed for outside.

10:00  We use stretchy bands to exercise – something new today, and then one of our favorite activities – running relays.

10:30 Back inside and we get busy creating our houses.  Rectangles, triangles, crayons and markers to add details and figures in the background, everyone’s house is unique and each student shows pride in their work.

10:50–55 Moving now from table work to play work…. Zed has carved out a nice big space to work on that gigantic dinosaur floor puzzle – with 48 pieces that he is determined to do by himself.  Alpha and Beta dump out the train tracks, oh good, Elmo is being included in their play.  Buttercup is on the sidelines coaching their play and managing the turn taking with a favorite train engine.   Little Miss Muffet and MaryMary are in Housekeeping layering on the clothes, stuffing baby dolls into corners with blankets.  Rose Red is cooking all kinds of fancy meals while Snow White,  Beauty and Cinderella are making necklaces with the beads.   Thumbelina is creating a tiny house for herself under a table. Daisy, PeterPan and BusterBrown are absent today.  And then – like conversation among adults – every 20 minutes the play patterns shift a bit – sometimes raucously, sometimes with just a slight shift sideways.  Today there was a subtle shift – from beads to a  floor puzzle, trains to cars, doll care to house set up.

11:20  Clean up time for lit circle – oh Alpha is having a hard time transitioning, he’s hiding under the table with train tracks in his hand.  Good job Zed – he was able to put that dinosaur puzzle away with the promise that he could do it again tomorrow but, oh no, something happened – he’s hiding next to my desk…..  Buttercup is herding  friends to the sofa, Rose Red avoids cleaning by heading to the bathroom…..MaryMary doesn’t know where to begin cleaning up all the stuff she accumulated in her corner – time for everyone to be helping….

11:25 ABC song – which of course leads right into Twinkle Twinkle…”I like that song, it’s my favorite,” says Beta.  And now a story share – we’re working on learning to draw houses.  We did a cooperative drawing of a house yesterday, we made our shape houses earlier and now I’m going to share a story about the house I lived in as a child.  I slept in the attic with my sister, each of us under a window that looked out into the night.  Planes flew across the sky into DC airports and we would claim their blinking lights.  I got the planes that flew one way, and my sister got the planes flying the other.  (Of course I’ve simplified this little story, and glorified the relationship with my younger sister…but hey, authors get to do that…..) I pass out journals and send the kids off to write their own stories.  I’m still amazed everyday at how eager they are to create new pictures.

11:55 – wrapping it up, washing hands (oh no there’s a big mess in one of the toilets, call for the janitor – all that lovely language that happens describing that…..!!!!) sharing books and then it is lunch time.  Hot dogs – Elmo’s favorite – good, I’ll get some language out of him – requesting  “ketchup” and “more please” and “chips.”

12:30  On the bus, darn….Alpha is being disrespectful, standing on Buttercups coat.  I’m going to have to call his mom, this is the third day of lots of little problems with him.   The kids are on their way, I head to the phone.  “Yup, the same thing has been happening for me,” Alpha’s mom says, and adds, “any suggestions?”  We discuss, and brainstorm some ideas, and agree to both work on it from each of our angles.  I clean up toothbrushes, stack chairs, sweep rice, heat up some soup, check email. 

1:15  I’ve got to get a letter typed up for my aide to translate into Spanish when she returns from the bus run.

1:30 My aide is back and we review what needs to be done, then I’m off to another site to meet with the administrator who monitors our health service reports. 

 2   Bad news, the 45 day timeline has passed and 5 of my students didn’t receive their vision, hearing and growth screenings on time.  I am Out of Compliance!  Three were sick on the day the nurse came, two failed the first screens because they were untestable.  Some of my data entries aren’t entered correctly – I’m new at this system and still unfamiliar with the categories and all the required fields to fill in..

3:10  Headed back to my own site.  Check email, fax a few requests to physicians, check my supplies for tomorrow, make copies of reports, chat with my son who is still in the hospital

4:15   Finally headed home.  It’s book study tomorrow – I’ve got to remember to read the next chapter tonight……

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I hardly ever miss school.  My immune system must be very strong after all these years of being around snotty nosed kids because I’m rarely sick.  Occasionally I’ve had to be absent to care for my son.  Such was the case this week.  I missed half a day last week – a planned absence because I knew he was having surgery.  But today I ended up having to request a sub in the wee hours of the morning because he got an infection in his wound site and I had to take him to Children’s Hospital in Seattle.  

One of the most substantial benefits of being part of a school district is that I have access to substitute teachers.  I have worked in daycares where there isn’t a sub-pool at all, and in co-op preschools where parents of students fill in when a teacher is absent.  There are always challenges when substitutes come into classrooms.  Our center has slowly established a pool of subs familiar with the preschool and birth-to-three programs but these people aren’t always available. 


Such was the case today when I was gone.  But it is comforting to know that all the other supports that are in place in the school provided my regular aide and this new sub with everything they needed to have a successful day with the children.   I will be returning to the classroom tomorrow.  I began a “sub tub” a few weeks ago but I hadn’t finished organizing it.  I will need to attend to that responsibility, pronto!

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