Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bridging to K

Twenty years ago I did my student teaching in kindergarten and second grade. Although the second grade experience was much more positive for me, I walked away convinced I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher.
I didn't teach immediately after graduation, opting instead to play the harp on a cruise ship, work in a bookstore, and substitute teach (you have to do something between cruise ship contracts). When I was finally ready to begin my teaching career I ended up taking over a fifth grade classroom for the final quarter of the year. It was exceptionally challenging for a number of reasons, but I loved it. And I realized that by that age the kids could really have conversations with you, they could tie their own shoes, and they didn't wet their pants. I was sold on the upper grades and was lucky enough to get a position teaching fourth graders.
For the next decade I taught fourth and fifth graders. It was awesome. Then I felt like I was in a rut and I moved to first grade. I loved that too.
Now, after sixteen years and three grade levels I'm going back to my original plan. I will be teaching kindergartners in the fall.
I had not planned to work this summer (something that has never happened) because we're trying to sell our house and buy a new one. That seemed like it would be my full time job for now. Then I was at school yesterday and was asked to teach in our Bridge to K program for the next few weeks.
They were on the second day and one teacher had more than twenty little ones (she did have two instructional assistants). That's a bit much when we're talking about kids who've had no type of school experience.
So today I began my bridge to K along with these little darlings. It's a great experience for me and after only one day I'm feeling better equipped to greet my class on September 2nd. I'm by no means truly prepared, but I have a better sense of what to expect. The next few weeks will increase that along with my confidence (I hope).

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Teachers Have Power

I'm in Responsive Classroom training this week. I've been using many aspects of the program for years (thanks to awesome colleagues who knew way more than I did), but I've never actually taken the class.
I'my grateful for all that background knowledge as I think these days would be much more overwhelming without it. I'm still in a bit of cognitive overload.
This morning we began with teacher language. As Choice Words is one of my all time favorite books, teacher language is something on which I am constantly working. The thing that really struck me today, in our work and conversations, was how much power we have as teachers and how often our language plays a large role in that. We have the power to make or break days for kiddos. And really, not just days but weeks and months and more. The tone and words we use are critical in this. One of the important characteristics of teacher language, according to Responsive Classroom, is that it should show faith in children's abilities and potential. That's really big. What we say and how we say it should show faith in children's abilities and potential. It's not always easy to do.
Another bit of our day that got me thinking about the power we have as teachers was the introduction to responding to misbehavior. Our leader asked us to list all the reasons we speed. It was a pretty good list: in a hurry, distracted, it's fun, need to get to something better, etc. at the end, she titled the list Reasons Kids Misbehave. Many people made audible sounds of amazement when she did that.
She then said, "I noticed no one said 'to make the cop mad.'"
Finally, she asked us to think about how we feel when we are stopped by a police officer. People said they feel anxiety, fear, they cry.
We are often the cop to our students. We don't have to be. We don't have to make them feel that way.
If we genuinely believe in their abilities and potential we will treat them in ways that shows them that.
Cross-posted at

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Finding My Voice

This weekend I managed to catch a bit of Interfaith Voices on my local NPR station. I don't usually seek out this show, but I greatly enjoy it when I hear it. This weekend was no exception. The focus was on LGBT individuals, especially within their faith traditions. Even more specifically, the focus on was T in LGBT. The premise being that more and more Americans are comfortable with L and G but less so with T. 
I found myself listening closely to the individuals being interviewed, not only for their stories and thoughts as one might expect, but for their language choices. As I do not know many trans people, I do not feel confident in how best to speak about this group. I noticed I was listening to hear how they identified and described themselves in the hopes of some sense of how best to do so as an outsider. 
In the midst of this it hit me that I tend to avoid participating in such conversations because I'm concerned about saying the wrong thing, coming across as ignorant or worse, or offending someone. And not just in issues of sexual orientation or identity, but also of race and class. As a middle-class, white person I feel uncomfortable.  My position of privilege, rather than giving me strength in my voice, holds me back. 
I'm not proud of this. I'm not okay with this. It was eye-opening to realize it, however. 
As an educator (and really, as a human being) I have no excuse for not speaking up when I am aware of discrimination or mistreatment or any form of inequality based on race or class or gender or sexual orientation or whatever. I have a voice. I will do my best to use it.
I will screw up. I will say the wrong thing. My biases will show. I will offend someone. I will not let any of that stop me.
(Thank you JoseJasonRafranzMelindaSabrina, and Audrey for continuing to highlight and push on this. I am so grateful to have all of you in my twitter timeline.)
Cross-posted at