Rainbows

 “Jennie!  Come quick!  There’s a rainbow in the bathroom.”

What a surprise.
Everyone clamored into the bathroom
for a look, to put their hands onto the rainbow.
The rainbow miraculously appeared on little hands.
Sometimes wonder needs no words.

The sun was starting to come into the classroom.
Children decided to build with colored translucent blocks,
hoping to get a rainbow.

The colors were beautiful.
Look carefully, as ‘people’ are appearing
tucked away into every corner.
They’re the rainbow makers.

After snack the sunlight moved and streaked across the floor.
One of the colored blocks was on the floor, the red one,
and the floor was colored in red.
“Let’s make our own rainbow!  Everyone, grab a block
and put it on the floor in the sunlight.”

Did you know that a silent smile is more powerful than
a loud applause?

Jennie

Posted in art, Inspiration, Nature, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

My Teacher Lightbulb Moment – Part 2

In Part 1 I wrote about the moment a child and I smiled together, and how that was the start of my becoming a ‘real teacher’.

Part 2 is how I continued, and how my teaching grew.


I became ‘one’ with children.

Once I had my Lightbulb Moment, my teaching world turned upside down.  Children came first.  What they were interested in, who they were as children/people mattered most.  I needed to get to know them better.

I started to use a tape recorder to “interview” children, as this not only helped me to get to know them, but also was a good tool for language development (and it was fun).  Our curriculum at that time was France and learning about the old masters in art.  Young children love to paint, and they were practicing being artists with real palettes.  I was learning so much about them, why not have the children do an autobiography to accompany their work of art?  And, why not have the children name their work of art, and call it a ‘masterpiece’?  The result was so profound that we had an art show at school, and then moved the art show to our local post office for the community to enjoy.  What a success, and what a wonderful experience for the children.  Our art show has since become a yearly event in the community.

Again, the building blocks were growing, but now I began to realize that each block in itself was little.  Did using a palette or holding a microphone make a difference?  No.  So, where did the passion and love (and there was passion and love!) come from?  It was each block, over and over again, often hundreds of them, which made the difference.  I started to call this phenomenon “The Hundred Little Things”.  Now, my teaching and curriculum had become child centered.

From this point forward, I put the cart before the horse.  Smart thing!  That same year my husband asked me, out of the blue, why our children wanted to hear ‘I love you’ all the time.  “It’s the hundred little things”, I told him.  “It takes at least a hundred times for each little ‘I love you’ to really become meaningful”.

The next year my class went to the circus.  Of course we decided to have our own circus performance at school for our families, and I let the children decide what they wanted to do.  Again, a child-centered event eclipsed anything I could have planned.  Over the next few years, music, math games, and science exploration exploded.  Every child’s interest was a spark, and became a tool for learning.  I had learned so much and transferred the children’s love into a great preschool experience.

Little did I know that the best was yet to come.

I love museums.  In Philadelphia I visited the National Liberty Museum and was thunderstruck by their Peace Portal.  Instantly I knew this magnificent structure was something my classroom could recreate.  My years of following the love of the children had allowed me to embrace my own love, and give it back to the children.  Now the tables were turned, yet again.  I brought the idea back to school, and the children loved it!

They spent a large part of the school year designing a Peace Portal.  Then, they wrote a Peace Poetry Book, and designed a Peace Quilt, which still hangs in the Museum after nearly fifteen years.  Suddenly, the power of love had gone beyond the classroom.  The depth of this project was not only children’s building blocks, but my building blocks as well.  Yes, I could give the same passion and love, too.  Wow!  A combination of the two means a deep understanding and enthusiasm on all parts.  As such, the process and the product were wonderful.

The following year, the children really wanted to sing “God Bless America”.  Watching them sing amongst themselves, over and over, even in the sandbox on the playground, was a true ‘hundred little things’.  Again, we worked together, under the umbrella of love, to bring the song to soldiers, to making a book, and to designing a quilt that hangs at the Fisher House in Boston.

More events grew along the years.  Yet, there was something else woven into children and definitely into me – the love of books, stories, and reading aloud.  Throughout my journey of becoming a real teacher, that was the constant every day.  It helped my bond with children, it enhanced my curriculum, and grew with passion.  This remains the most important thing I do with children.

I am one of the few preschool teachers who chapter-reads to children.  I’ve been featured in the million copy bestseller The Read-Aloud Handbook (seventh edition) by Jim Trelease.  I have also been a live guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show to talk about reading aloud.  So much has grown and happened with reading that it deserves its own blog post.  Stay tuned!

Being a preschool teacher for many years has been a wonderful roller coaster of every emotion and of learning.  When I first became a preschool teacher, teaching happened first.  Thanks to Andrew, I know that love happens first, and then becomes the catalyst to develop deep relationships with children, and therefore a rich curriculum.  The ‘hundred little things’ proves that to be true.  Pay attention, as love is there.  You just need to see it.  It can change your life.  It changed mine.

Jennie

Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, Jim Trelease, joy, Love, preschool, quilting, reading aloud, School, Teaching young children | Tagged , , | 90 Comments

Education Quotations

Here are outstanding quotations on education from Charles French. Even the earliest scholars understood children and how they learn best. Curiosity is the spark that ignites education.

charles french words reading and writing

Margaret_Mead_NYWTS

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”

                                                                              Margaret Mead

thomas-881249_960_720

(https://pixabay.com)

“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”

                                                                              Thomas Paine

1920px-Plato_Silanion_Musei_Capitolini_MC1377

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”

                                                                              Plato

001

“Education is essential for the improvement of humanity, and it must continue throughout a person’s life. We are never too young nor too old to learn. We must embrace curiosity about the world around us, and we should learn every day of our lives.”

                                                           …

View original post 11 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving


Our gigantic turkey

From my school to your house,
may you enjoy a turkey dinner with family and friends.

Most importantly, may you enjoy loved ones
and the many things to be thankful for.

I am thankful for you, my blogging friends.

Jennie

Posted in America, Expressing words and feelings, Family, Giving thanks, preschool, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , | 65 Comments

My Teacher Lightbulb Moment – Part 1

Fellow blogger Don at Don Ostertag: Off Stage recently commented, “If only other teachers were children at heart.”

It hit home with me, because that is when I became a ‘real’ teacher.  That’s when I found my heart.  No, that’s when I melded with children’s hearts.

It happened like this…

I was always a good teacher.  I planned exciting lessons.  Children loved me.  Parents were happy.  Yet, back then I never understood there was more to being a teacher.  Well, perhaps I never realized it at the time.

Early on in my preschool teaching, I interacted with children with the best of intentions, yet often struggled to feel that I had made a connection, much less a difference.  Even though I was always a caring and kind teacher, there was a self imposed ‘you and me wall’.  I was the teacher, and you were the student.  Teaching meant teaching information, in a caring environment.  Yes, I was a good teacher, but I didn’t fully understand how important love was until that day, thirty years ago.

It was nap time at school, late in the fall, the time of year when children and teachers were comfortable with each other.  There I was, lying on my back, looking across the classroom.  All the children were asleep, except Andrew, a child who was often distant and sometimes challenging.  He was the boy I had not really connected with.  He saw me, and I saw him.  We both smiled, simultaneously, knowing everybody else was asleep.

At that moment, there was nobody else on the whole earth.  It was just Andrew and me.  He knew it and I knew it.  This was deep, and forgiving, and enlightening.  I understood; love has no preconceived agenda.  It is ‘there’, regardless of circumstances.  Most importantly, love usually isn’t met with a lot of fanfare.  In fact, it is the little things that often express love.  The intensity of that moment is still with me.  It changed me.

It was my teacher lightbulb moment.

In education, I learned that if love comes first, then teaching becomes deeper, better, more focused, and more energized.  The children learn because I have put them first.

I had it backwards, carefully planning a curriculum and activities, and then fitting the children into those plans.  Not that it was bad or didn’t work; it just was…well, lacking the passion that comes from the heart of children. Oh, children know how a teacher really feels.  So, thanks to Andrew, I started to change.

First, lunchtime became a forum to learn about the children and really listen to them.  I learned so many little things, like the names of pets and grandparents, what a big brother does, the color of a bike.  These were little things, yet they became the building blocks.  We often debated deep subjects, such as if a girl can marry a girl, or if people go to heaven when they die.  Everyone’s opinion was valued.

The day that Kelly told us her dog, Bruno, had died; the class did not know what to say.  I told her that my dog had died years ago, and I was very sad.  Then, a child asked Kelly if she was sad.  The following thirty minutes was spent with heartfelt children telling each other about grandparents and pets who had died, and all the feelings and questions that naturally follow.  At that moment, lunch was far less important than what was happening, and could wait.  The building blocks were working.

The floodgates of real teaching opened.  It was a joy.

A number of bloggers have shared this video.  It’s a teacher who understands that all the academics can’t happen until there is a connection and love with teachers and children.

Stay tuned for Part 2, my journey of connecting with children and becoming a ‘real’ teacher.

Jennie

Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Giving, Inspiration, joy, preschool, Teaching young children, wonder, young children | Tagged , , | 93 Comments

The Most Important Lessons in School

There is nothing more important for a teacher than connecting with a child. Learning happens when children feel safe and loved. Therefore, there is nothing more important for a child than connecting with a teacher. Pete Springer says it beautifully.

Pete Springer

The Dalai Lama (Photo from Pixabay)

One of the first pieces of advice I offer new teachers is never to lose focus on the universal lessons they want their students to learn. The primary role of educators is to teach academics, but that shouldn’t be a teacher’s sole concern. While gaining the ability to read, write, do math, and learn to be a critical thinker are crucial to students, equally important are the non-academic lessons.

If any educator is going to connect with their students, children must know that their teacher cares about them as people. How do we do that? By simply being human. I recommend pushing that math lesson aside for a few minutes when a student is hurting emotionally. Let them talk, cry, give them a pat on the back, high five, fist bump, or yes, even a hug when needed. Making time for students is worth…

View original post 649 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Never Underestimate Children’s Creativity

I am still learning.  After 39 years of teaching preschool, I still learn from children.  Thank goodness!  Today was one of those days, or I should say one of those ‘moments’.

It happened like this…

We’re learning about woodland animals.  Bears have been very popular.  Our loft has become a bear cave, we had a Teddy Bear Clinic with a nurse, and we made a giant Brown Bear, Brown Bear with ‘tear art’.


Children are working hard.

Today we created our own bears.  We had many circles of different sizes and shades of brown.  Watching children select the sizes of the circles, and how they placed them for bear parts was a joy.  Every child’s perception was different.  Vastly different.  Art and creativity flowed.

And then there was Maddie…

She’s one of the older children.  She loves art, so when she glued this I was surprised:

“Maddie, can you tell me about your bear?  Is that the body?”

Silence.

I pointed to different circles and asked her to tell me about them.

Dead silence.

Okay, Jennie.  You know when to let it go.  So, I handed Maddie the Sharpie pen to draw the face, or decorate the bear.  This is what she drew:

OH MY!  Of course that’s a bear!  And that’s one of the most creative bears I’ve seen.  I never saw this in her circles.  I looked hard, but I couldn’t see a bear.  I doubted Maddie.  No, I didn’t understand her thinking.  I was ‘in the box’ and she was ‘out of the box.’

Thank you, Maddie.  You were my teacher today.

“Every child is an artist.”  ~Pablo Picasso~

Jennie

Posted in art, Diversity, Imagination, Inspiration, preschool, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , | 68 Comments

An Oxymoron Sky

Bright sun, black sky
late this afternoon.
An oxymoron,
Mother Nature’s playful way.
Did she want us to look up?
Take in the last color of fall?
I was captivated.
People walked by, never looking.
I was the winner, others were not.
Lucky me.

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”
~E.B. White~

Jennie

Posted in E.B. White, Inspiration, Mother Nature, Nature, wonder | Tagged , , , , | 62 Comments

Showing An Act of Kindness: You Never Know!

This is the most powerful story of what an act of kindness can do. I’ve never forgotten this story. I hope it will stay with you long after you read it, too. Thank you Coach Muller.

My Good Time Stories

The great Chinese movie actor, Jackie Chan, once said, “Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life”. It is so true! The great thing about showing kindness towards others is that it is free! It costs you nothing but can have a tremendous positive influence on the person who is receiving your kind deed.

The following story has been around for a while but is a great illustration demonstrating how one act of kindness can change another individual’s life FOREVER!


One day, when I was a freshman in high school,

I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school.

His name was Kyle.

It looked like he was carrying all of his books.

I thought to myself, ‘Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday?

He must really be a nerd.’

I had quite a weekend planned…

View original post 746 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Veterans Day at School

Today children thanked a veteran.  That in itself is a big deal, because the children are preschoolers.  In order to thank a veteran, I need to give children a context of understanding.  That starts with songs, and my preschoolers love to belt out “God Bless America.”  We often sing along with the book.

On the playground this week, children were singing the song.

We learned how to stand, tall and proud, and how to put our hands on our hearts.  Singing “God Bless America” in this way gives children a feeling and understanding of respect.

Next, we made a giant American flag:


The planning and cutting


The gluing


Adding the stars

Our guest was a retired Army General.  ‘General Z’ was wonderful.  We presented him with our flag, and we sang “God Bless America.”

Children were given the opportunity to shake his hand and say ‘thank you’.  The youngest child cried because she didn’t want to shake his hand; she wanted to hug him.  That opened the door for many hugs.  It was a moment.


Red white and blue.

Air Force Sargent Mike came to school today.  He had borrowed my book, Blue Sky, White Stars, to read to his daughter’s class at the elementary school.  He returned it, and children had an opportunity to shake his hand and say ‘thank you’.

The book depicts America and the flag.  On every open page, the words are the same; one is about the flag, and the other is about America.


White rows.  White rows.


Rising up.  Rising up.


All American.  All American.
(I always get choked up on this page.)

The day was wonderful.  Children understood.  They were proud.  The veterans felt the same way, ten-fold.

Thank you to all the veterans and all who serve.

Jennie

Posted in America, American flag, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, military, patriotism, picture books, preschool, Singing, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , | 66 Comments