One Sunflower

in the bleak midwinter

The guests are leaving town one by one and the daily rhythm of the work week is resuming around me.  My daughter and her husband left last night after an afternoon playing “Rage” around the dining room table.  My husband crawled reluctantly out of bed this morning to go to work.  My son will be coming home today after spending Christmas for the first time with his girl friend’s family. The car of our upstairs neighbor is back in the parking lot and I can hear her footfalls above me this morning.   I luxuriate in the knowledge that I have a few more days to lounge in my sweat pants, knit all day if I want to, and continue to ignore the clutter of holiday debris scattered in pockets around the house.

Being a teacher, I’ve always felt that the new year begins in September but December has become a time for me to sift and sort, acknowledge and affirm,  reset my compass and  plot out a new course for the journey forward.  In this month that is so dark, images from the past year spiral in the vortex of time, coming into focus briefly before they descend forever into a dark hole.

I feel like I, too, swirl down the drain of December, emerging once again in January with a cloak woven of those memories, ready to take hold of the lantern light again as I proceed, tucking new images into my pockets.

I never knew that Christina Rosetti wrote this poem.  I think it is lovely.

In the Bleak Mid-winter

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter,
Long ago.

Our God, heav’n cannot hold him
Nor earth sustain;
Heav’n and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign;
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk,
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air:
But only his mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him —
Give my heart.

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memorable moments

This isn’t the slice I was going to write – but after reading my mom’s slice,  (that I load onto her blog site like I do every Monday night,) my mind started tripping down the path of family memories.

I am lucky. I may be part of the “oreo” generation that my mom describes but at least I’ve got parents and family members who think I’m the “sweet stuff” and who have done everything possible to sandwich my life with sweet chocolate cookie parts.

Most of the families of my preschoolers consider their children to be their most precious possessions and also do everything possible for their children.  Many left homelands and families to come to the US because of the opportunities available here.  They work long hours in wet, windy and wild conditions to provide the basics for their children.

I provide the basics for them in school as their teacher.  But every so often, I try to do more.

About 6 years ago, Maestra and I took some kids and their parents to the zoo over spring break. It was such a great experience that I’ve tried to repeat it whenever I can. But it’s been awhile, my most recent trip was 3 years ago.  I figured I could afford to take 3 kids – pocketbook-wise and vehicle-wise.  I looked at my class list and chose three girls that I knew would enjoy being together for the day and would be okay with no Spanish support.  Because of the language barrier, I had to ask Maestra to speak to their parents to see if it would be okay.   Then I checked on the availability of booster seats for the car ride and ended up buying one and borrowing two for the trip.

One little gal got a bit car sick on the way  down but otherwise it was a great day.  The orangutans were doing the silliest things with old burlap bags on their heads, the snakes were close to the glass and the giraffes were nibbling leaves from the trees.  It was everything I wanted for my young students.  I took photos of each girl and some of the animals and put together little $1.00 photo albums.

And then I let the memory of our trip fade with the passing years the way they all do.

So I was absolutely amazed and delighted when Maestra shared this story: Maestra was a translator at November conferences this year and one of these former students, now a second grader, was asked to share her published story with her parents. -Lo and behold! it was the story of our trip to the zoo.

Warm fuzzies all around!

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wall paper

I’ve been thinking about what I put on the walls in my classroom.

Last week I attended a professional development seminar at a sister school and was able to visit the classroom of one of my colleagues.  While most of what happens in an early childhood classroom has nothing to do with anything that can be stapled on to a flat space, it is still important to post things on our walls that remind students of who they are and what they are working on, or for informing others of the work of preschool.

My colleague and her aide definitely have an artsy knack and they have used bulletin boards, cupboard doors and the entry-way to display student work that not only showcases student work but also engages the children in recollecting and recounting subject matter.  One wall hosted  a display of drawings the children created of their families and photos of those special people.

Her cupboard doors were decorated with entries from student journals.  These were great examples of displaying current student work and drawings that are of high interest to the students themselves.

Words from a favorite fingerplay about monkeys jumping on the bed was posted over the daybed in the classroom – definitely an interactive space!

The entrance had a wall of snowmen and student dictated “snowman soup” recipes.  These recipes are entertaining for grown-ups to read so it is wonderful that they are posted in an area of high traffic.

I went back to my classroom and took a close look at my walls.  I really only have one wall that is great for displaying student work. At the beginning of the year, I lined it with black paper with the idea that I wouldn’t have to change out the color because it high lights student work well.  I am trying to use student names everywhere and as often as possible because of their power to teach letter recognition to my students – so every piece of student work has a big name attached to it.

My first display used student photos to welcome the children to school.  The next display was geared to show parents the new achievements of their children when they visited the classroom.

Right now I’m in the process of creating a wall of art that has some interactive properties.   The students used hand prints to create trees.

I posted the trees last Friday, and since I’m working on developing their fine motor skills, I gave them stickers today to decorate them.  Above the trees, I put up pages of photos and commentary that will end up in student portfolios at the end of the year.  Hopefully the phrase “look at me” attached to every one of them will be a source of continued exposure to those ever important sight words!

But most of the decor in my classroom is “organic.” We have what I call “galleries.”

My students freely decorate with drawings, paintings, coloring pages, white boards, cut out pieces of paper – sometimes just the colored tape!  It is quite spontaneous and definitely a source of pride to those who contribute.  Every so often I weed them out, making space for new work.  I’ve warned the students that January is going to be a month for starting over – our galleries are going to be stripped before the winter break.

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