One Sunflower

rumors

“I hear ________ is going to be in your class next year, good luck!”

Sometimes I hear this in May, sometimes not until July or August, but I can guarantee that at some point between one school year and the next, someone will say these words to me about a child coming into my classroom. You know the kind of kid this sentence references: a child who requires extra attention.  Often I hear words like these from the teachers of the birth-to-three class or the special ed teacher because a challenging student of theirs in graduating into my class.  Occasionally I hear this kind of comment from a teacher or neighbor who is acquainted with a sibling or family of one of my new students.  Whatever the source and whatever challenges the speaker might have in mind, the words are a reminder to me to be prepared for all of my students.

This fall, I only have three returning students to my class of seventeen. While half of my students are usually four-year-olds,  it looks like I am going to have more three-year-olds than usual.   This means I might have children who are only recently potty trained or not at all. There might be other self-care issues my students lack practice in such as putting on coats and shoes and feeding oneself with utensils.  For some children, this might be their first experience away from their parents or playing in a group. I usually have about 80% who don’t have English as their home language.   Preschool can be an overwhelming and bewildering experience.

Warning received, reminder acknowledged…..now to brass tacks.

I need to plan for first days and weeks that allow my aide and I to be available to comfort, clothe and feed as well as take more time in the bathroom.  We’ll need to provide for pressure free transitions as we move from bus to cafeteria to classroom and allow for lots of lap time.  I need to think carefully about word choice and the length of my sentences when giving instructions.  I need to speak slowly.  I need to smile and laugh and touch.

Of course there will also be those students who are ready and eager for everything preschool has to offer; I want to plan for them too, creating a routine with clear and reasonable expectations,  plenty of opportunities to explore and play, fostering intimacy so we get to know each other. There are plans I can put on paper, but mostly there is an awareness I need to keep alive in my head, my heart, and my hands, to fully support all my students as they begin or return to preschool.

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turning of the tide

Slice of Life sponsored by Two Writing Teachers

If I count my days of summer vacation from my last official work day of 2011-12 to my first official work day of 2012-12 then I passed the half way point two weeks ago.  But I wasn’t paying attention; the low tide came and went and I was blissfully unaware.

I wasn’t counting until I received an email from a special education colleague  describing a few of the children who might be enrolled in my class next year.  AHHHHH! If I’m going to stick with the metaphor, I only just freed myself from the seaweed, kelp and barnacles of last year.   I’m high and dry on the beach and don’t really want to move.

Yet. I will.  I always do.  I’m not sure what shift happens in August that makes it possible for me to swim towards September’s cresting waves.  But  like a baby sea turtle , I seem to know when it’s time to nose my way out of my rubbery shell and paddle to the sea, into the approaching tide.

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I gotta remember to do this next year….

On Wednesday, the second to last day of our school year, my aide turned to me at some point and said, “This has been one of the best endings of the year we’ve ever had.”  I agreed and together we discussed some reasons why we thought this.

We decided one factor was that we had our end-of-the-year parent event on Tuesday rather than waiting until Thursday.  Our school year ends 3 weeks earlier than the rest of the students K-5 but there are all-school events that happen in the last few weeks.  One of them was the Jog-a-thon and even though it was scheduled on Tuesday, we decided to piggy back onto that event with our own celebratory experience.  Most of my students have working parents but if there is a special school event, they try to schedule a visit to school during their lunch breaks.  So I invited them to come for some or all of the day, and bring their lunch.  Of course they love to potluck so we had lots of food.  I passed out student portfolios and we sang “You are Special” to each child and had a wonderful time.

This meant Wednesday and Thursday were low key and fun without being stressful for the children or me.

Another reason I think this year felt different was because of the projects we did over the last few weeks.  We took a wonderful field trip to a grocery store and a park with an amazing playground and we made gifts for some of our favorite people.
Mother’s Day was the occasion of our first gift making – drawing and painting portraits of our mothers – and then we continued by making portraits of our favorite bus driver and cook.  I wrote verses to the tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider and we sang to them.  The cook posted all their portraits above the serving counter.

The kids felt good about themselves and the pacing of the last few days felt normal, not fast and stressful.

Here are the songs if you need one for someone special:

Kurt is our bus driver
and we love him so.
Every day at half past noon
it’s off for home we go.
This way and that way,
the bus goes to and fro.
Kurt is our bus driver
and we love him so.

Gini is our cook;
we love her, yes we do.
Every day she makes us
our delicious food.
Pizza, veggies, fruit,
and (sometimes!) chocolate moo.
Gini is our cook;
we love her, yes we do!

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