Friday, November 25, 2022

Parent Teacher Interviews: I'm On Your Side

We are just finishing up our first rounds of Parent/Teacher Interviews here on our gentle Island (that's parent teacher conferences for my friends who may use different terminology). These are such an important part of our teaching. I love being able to touch base with the families of my students. It's a 15 minute snapshot into their child's lives at school, and for me a peak into their home life. I always leave these weeks exhausted, and yet fulfilled. 

Each meeting is my chance to tell the adults in my students lives that I see their beloved. I see them and I notice them. I notice not only how they are doing, but who they are, what they like, who they love. I want parents to know that I, too, have their best interests at heart. This is a tougher concept for some.

Some of us have great school memories, it isn't a scary place for us. We are excited about being able to pass on that love of learning to others. But sometimes, we don't have such a positive experience- and when we become parents, we can unknowingly pass on that apprehension to our children. Or we view these meetings in a way that puts us on the defensive. My goal for every meeting is to be positive, show the parents I care for their child, and make sure they know we are on the same team- Teach "your child". That's why I wore my new favorite t-shirt today- "I'm on your side."

Our classroom is a community, dare I say we are a family! But we aren't a community in a vacuum. We all come from other places, and by luck, chance, or fate, ended up here- together, for this season. I love Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory. We all have circles of influence, and those circles impact and flow through each other. Each of us has our circles, and as we grow and age, we gain new circles. Maybe we even lose some along the way, but each circle is important in helping us grow and develop into fully formed human beings. In order for this circle to have it's greatest impact, we need to be working in conjunction with the families circles. 

Parents, I am on your side. I love your child and I want to see them grow and develop into the best version of themselves. I want to support you in any way I can, from offering a smile to suggesting books to read at night, to offering tips on helping behaviours grow and blossom in the best ways. Your child is my priority. 

I love working in conjunction with families to help my students be the best they can be. It is always my goal to make sure families know we are in this together. I hope my fellow teachers feel this same way, for it's only when we keep these circles woven together that we do what is best for the children. And that is our number one priority.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Cultivating a classroom environment

Scenes from my room: just put on some quiet jazz or nature music and you have the full picture

It's Saturday afternoon, and I am sitting in my classroom getting ready for the week ahead. You might think, Carrie! What are you doing? Why are you slaving away in your room when you could be at home relaxing?? 
What if I told you, I am relaxing? Workaholic tendencies aside, the environment my students and I have cultivated over the years in my classroom has made it one of the most relaxing, creativity inspiring places in my life. I am calm here, I can think here, my nervous system gets a reset here. I believe, I have passed this on to my students.

I've been sitting in on meetings these past few years. Meetings about kindergarten, meetings about play, meetings about instruction and practice. This past week, I was sitting in on yet another meeting which we were discussing all of this. We spoke about kindergarten and play based learning, and about setting up our environments, and this thought occurred to me: setting up my classroom environment is the single most important direct instruction I can do as a teacher. Teaching math concepts is good. Teaching literacy concepts is fine. But the single most important Teaching practice I can do is set up my classroom for learning. 

I thought of all of the lessons I want to teach my students and it all came down to this:
Create a space that is joyful, welcoming, and calm. Provide quality materials for the students to explore, and let them play. Don't micro-manage, work together to create community, be an example. Give them the time, the space, the freedom, and the trust they need, and you will see them learn. 

Monday, September 26, 2022

The Power of Community

 The Power of Community

Sitting at my local community hall, charging my laptop and my phone. Hurricane Fiona came to visit our “gentle” Island this past weekend and left a path of destruction in her wake. No power island wide, save for a small sections. It's not expected to be back on for about a week. We are so lucky to have warming places like this at our disposal, and so grateful to the community members who volunteer their time and efforts to help.

Community halls and centers are the backbone of our society. When the whole world crashes down, they are always open for coffee and tea… for heat… for power…for companionship.

An older gentleman has just come in talking about the state of his yard. “How much you charging to clean up the trees?” He asks the younger man. “You’ve gotta ask my boss!” “I wonder if insurance covers that?” “I don’t know- all I know is, if you need help, give us a call.” Friendly banter with an undercurrent of help.

A man sits with another, reminiscing about a storm that happened in the 50's and how they handled it back then.

A family with an autistic son comes in. He’s wandering around, checking it all out. No one bats an eye.

Another family is feeding their children breakfast. They lost their home, but they still have cornflakes enough for everyone. More kids from other families arrive- smiles and waves to the friends who are meeting up here after a long 48 hours of hurricane and its aftermath. The place is buzzing. People helping people, friends and families together. People are bringing in buckets and jugs to fill with water, left over sweets to share. Milk, coffee, and tea. It does take a village. 

We all need each other. Why? Because it’s a community, that’s why.

I often think of these so-called “preppers” who have stockpiles of food and guns and ammo. They won’t last when the fall of society happens, because they are alone. They may live for awhile, but unless they are prepared to work together, they will not last like they assume or hope. 

“No man is an island” John Donne once said. And he was correct. We cannot live in isolation. Rugged Individualism only works when you have community support. Don’t believe me? Look into how many pioneer women committed suicide because they were left on their own in the wilderness without support. 

It makes me think of the important work we do in schools- building community in our classrooms. I have seen some trying to claim we are "indoctrinating" students with this kind of "CRT"- it just shows how sad their lives are. To think we shouldn't be teaching our students that they are a part of a greater whole. What we do in our classrooms is nothing short of magical. We take a ragtag bunch of kiddos at the beginning of the year- some know some, others know no one- and by the end of it all, we are a family, we are a community. 

I am a proud public school teacher. I will always teach my students that our lives are interwoven with each other, with nature, with the greater world around us. And it's times like these, in the midst of disaster, that I see it come to fruition.

Create community in your classroom. Be available to others. Be the change we so desperately need in our culture today.

We are community. We are family. 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

The tides of learning


Slow Down.

Back up.

Give them time.

Learning is not linear. Learning is a wave, a tide. It goes forward, then back, forward, then back. But each time it goes forward, it goes a bit farther. Each time it goes back, it doesn't go as far. When you stand at the edge of the ocean at low tide, you see where high tide was. The tide line doesn't disappear, it just retreats for a bit. Learning is like that. When we are babies, parents are told, "It may seem as if they lose a skill as they develop a new one. Don't worry, it will come back." Learning is like that.


Slow down.

Back up.

Give them time. 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

It begins with a bang and ends with a hum

Play time in Kindergarten is so complex. In some ways it's straightforward, and others it's an intricate dance between fellow humans learning to navigate in the world. What I have always noticed: It always starts loud. Children jockeying for attention, for position, for a place at the table of play. But after awhile, it settles and shifts. The volume goes down so subtly that you may not even notice it until, suddenly, you realize you can hear your own thoughts again. 

Children come to school from so many varied backgrounds. Some of those backgrounds fit neatly into preconceived notions about what childhood should be. Others would break your heart. But at the center of all of them is the Child. And a child is built to play. Play is how we break it all apart and put it all back together. 

Every child brings their life experience to the play. The good, the bad, the in between- they all have a place in our play. If you are quiet, observant, able to step back, you will hear the story, see the dance. It takes discipline to not rush in to change it, to quiet it, to take it over. It takes trust to let them lead. However, when we do, we begin to see their spirits shine through. The insecurities melt away when children are allowed to master a skill through play. They begin to see themselves as capable, as independent, as someone who can lead. 

They learn to share space with each other, which, in turn, teaches them that there are other perspectives in the world, not just their own. When we allow the play to evolve independently from the bang to a hum, we know that's where the good stuff happens. That's where the noise of play turns into the music of community.

So let them play, let them be loud. Because, and trust me on this, naturally they will soften and quiet. Their will turn the noise into music, the bang into a hum.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Love Always Wins

I saw these tweets the other day. At first I was mad, but I quickly shifted to sad. Imagine the lives these people must live. To take something so innocent as a welcome to kindergarten sign and see "indoctrination". Or to hear, "My class is a family" and think that the school wants to steal your child away. What sad, pathetic lives they must live. 

But, you know what? We can't let this ruin the beauty that happens in our classrooms. You know what I mean- every year we are given these incredible individuals with amazing minds, and we are blessed to have the opportunity to become a family. Yes. We are a family. We become a group of people who look out for each other, who care about everyone's well-being. We LIKE each other! 

So while the angry, sad, small minded people are out there trying to destroy us, remember, beauty rises from ashes, hope prevails, love always wins. 

Let's go love our class families ♥️

Thoughts on Story Workshop: A Year of Story

 It was the night before the last day of kindergarten. I laid out their writing folders, and sorted through all of the stories and the writing. I made note of each student, and how much they wrote. Some wrote a lot, some didn't write very much. Some wrote books, and some wrote notes. Some were neat, making sure every letter was neat and every tree had just enough leaves. Some were messy, so many thoughts to get out, and not enough time to be exact! Some were complete, and some had multiple stories on the go. But, you know what? We all wrote. We all proved we were writers. 

I was proud of the work we did last year. We started with a brand new idea for me- Story Workshop, and built upon it, to make it our own. It was a work in progress. There were a few zigs and zags, but, in the end, as always, we made it. We all had stories to tell and share.

It is the start of a new year, and a new crew to work through Story Workshop. I am excited. I am excited to build on what I learned last year, and excited to see where this group takes it. It's hard to think about setting up the space for story when you haven't really met the soul of the room yet- the children. But I think, and I plan, and I read to find ways to help facilitate their journey.

I may not know everything about this upcoming year, yet. But I do know one thing- by June we will all be storytellers and writers. Now it's time to begin that journey.