Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Scrappy Teacher Gets in a Scrape

When I picked the moniker "Scrappy Teacher" for the purposes of this blog, it was without much thought.  I liked it initially because it's a good reflection of my classroom at any given time- slightly messy, buzzing with activity, full of heart.  That's certainly one definition of scrappy and it's one I'm proud to be associated with.

People's Exhibit A for the Scrappy Classroom

There's another meaning to the word though and I've been thinking a lot about it today. "Scrappy: determined, argumentative, or pugnacious."

Here's the story (and I put a lot of thought into whether or not I should share this):
I am in a weird situation at work.  I can't PROVE this but I'm 99% certain that the person who teaches the other section of my grade level doesn't like me.  And because the only thing we've ever talked about is teaching, I can't help but put those two things together.  The first day I met this individual, she insulted my philosophy of teaching big time.  As in, she literally ask me how my students learn if they don't do worksheets.




First of all, noooooo, work sheets in early education classrooms!  Nightmare of developmental inappropriateness!

Second, WHAT???  Even if you THOUGHT that why would you say it???  Or at least say it like that?  "How do your students learn anything?"  And it was not meant as a curious question it was meant as a MEAN one, and (I assure you) was asked in a mean tone.  I politely explained to her that my students learn through a variety of methods- we write a message out together in the morning, we hunt for letters, play letter games, look for patterns in our environment, write bills out for our customers in the dramatic play center, etc etc etc.  I didn't even get into the whole critical thinking aspect of everything because yiiikes clearly not the time.  (And just to be clear, this was not started by me inquiring about how she taught.  The conversation arose from her asking me what worksheets I was planning to use for the classroom.)

Artist depiction of aforementioned teacher.

Now I get that because of past experiences, depictions of kindergarten on TV, and the results when you google 'kindergarten lesson plans,' a lot of people think early ed is just worksheets, Hallmark themes and letter of the week (shudder shudder).  Heck, I even see how one could incorporate letter of the week into a developmentally appropriate lesson plan.  What I DON'T understand is why as a teacher you wouldn't make it your business to keep up with modern thought in education- and then judge me, who you just met.

So I'm feeling very scrappy lately and (I'll admit it) defensive- of my teaching methods, yes, but more importantly of children's rights to be children.  To play and inquire, to not be taught at constantly.

Bottom line, I'll take practicing writing names in shaving cream over copying letters on a worksheet any day of the week.

Scrappy Teacher says, "Take THAT, worksheets!"

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 in Early Education Classrooms

Today I want to talk about 9/11 in early ed. settings.  Do you address it with your kids?  My guys are still fairly young and (in my opinion) are not really equipped to grapple with such a complex, terrifying event that is essentially a completely abstract concept for them.  

It's hard to completely ignore, though, even if you wanted to.  The elementary school I work at had the older students interrupt classes over the loudspeaker at the time the first tower was struck for a brief reflection/moment of silence.  My solution of late has been to talk about the day from its service aspect.  9/11, of course, was declared a National Day of Service several years ago.  On the 10th anniversary of the attacks, President Obama stated, "even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11."  I love that quote and believe in the sentiment behind it wholeheartedly.  Who among us old enough to remember that day doesn't remember the lines of people at blood banks, the shopkeepers donating food and necessities to first responders, that incredible spirit of togetherness that briefly united us all?  

So the kids and I talked about what service means, about how we can help others, about how others help us.  Then we worked on making cards for service men and women overseas.  The words they dictated or wrote were so amazing.  One child drew a house and wrote, "You keep me safe at home. I love you, soldiers." Another boy COVERED his card in googly eyes and asked me to write "a lot of eyes so you can find your way home!"   What beautiful little souls.  Kids are so naturally generous and caring and this group seems particularly motivated to help their neighbors- I'm genuinely looking forward to more projects like this over the upcoming year.  And hopefully, they'll carry the spirit of service with them into their adulthood!

Scrappy Teacher says, "googly eyes = love in the right hands!"

Monday, September 10, 2012

First Full Day of 2012: Revenge of the Kiddos

Another year, another promise to keep up with this blog daily!

SO: here's a list of everything that went wrong this morning before I even made it to the START of class on the first, full day with the kiddos:
1. Woke up 20 minutes late.
2. Forgot my folders for the kids at home (inexcusable!!).
3. Got stuck in 20 minutes of traffic (whyyyyyyy?).
4. Had my parking space stolen!!!  Grrrr... I haven't gotten to park in it ONCE yet.  Not cool, parking spot bandit.
5. I don't know what was happening with temperature/humidity in my classroom this weekend but when I walked in this morning, everything I had hung on the walls was on the floor.  Thank god I don't overdecorate so that the kids can have ownership of the room, otherwise I would have cried.

SO first impressions (!):
- Biggest class I've ever had.  As in intimidatingly big.  As in I'm pretty sure if they all banded together and rushed me and my aide, they could take us out with their tiny fists of fury.
- There are a few kids who've never been to school before in my class this year!  That's very unusual for me.  There were only two who I could REALLLLLLY tell had no prior experience in a classroom.  These were the young ladies getting up and walking around whenever they felt like it (womp wooomp)- with little clueless, innocent expressions when they got called back to join the group.  But they were also the two ones who I had to pry out of the classroom at the end of the day soooo go figure.  I guess they're ready to learn.  :)
- Wiiiiide distribution of prior knowledge based on the few evals I got to sneak in today.  No surprise there I guess, but it's intimidating when there's so many little minds to develop.
- Grade school gang alert!  Three boys already formed a rough and tumble team.  Oh my.  I see lots of deep, calming breaths in my future.

It was a full day.  ...And yes, that's totally teacher code for challenging.  I did a good job of slowly transitioning everyone into the classroom swing, but I could have done a better job of laying down my expectations.  Tomorrow I'm building demonstrations of learning centers into my lesson plans so hopefully that will ameliorate any future problems (particularly with my never-been-to-school kids).

Really beautiful to get that magic moment back- when your students go from the mysteries of names on a list to real individuals with opinions, interests and personalities.  How lucky to be a part of their journey this year.

Scrappy Teacher says: it's good to be back.  :)