Alumnus Visit

A senior in high school,
“too soon too old”

After his trip to Italy, Wesley came bearing gifts- a Pinocchio for each child and a large Pinocchio for the class.  We learned that the story and character are from northern Italy.  In turn, we taught Wesley to sing “Old MacDonald” in Italian.

Thank you, Wesley.  You told me it seems like yesterday that you were a little boy in my classroom.  It seems like yesterday to me, too.

Why do they return and visit?  When I ask, they can’t put their finger on it exactly. I think I know why:

People will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
-Maya Angelou-

Thank you, Wesley.

Jennie

Posted in Early Education, Giving thanks, Inspiration, Kindness, preschool, Quotes, Student alumni, young children | Tagged , , , | 38 Comments

A New Quilt – Part 1

And to my surprise, the children have driven the making of yet another quilt.

Over the past ten years, my preschool class has designed quilts.  Each one materialized because of something the children were passionate about.  When they couldn’t get enough of a song or an idea, I knew I had to give them more.  Together we designed quilts.  The process brought everything to life for children, from planning, to sketching, to designing, to picking fabrics.  They did it all, and a wonderful master quilter made their dream come alive.  The quilts are stunning.  Well, that is an understatement; one hangs at the National Liberty Museum in historic Philadelphia, one hangs at the Boston Fisher House, and one hangs at the State House in Boston.  Humbling.  Each quilt was a year-long project, starting with the children and what they loved.

And now it has happened again.  All it takes is a spark.

In the fall, children loved singing “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie.  I sing with children all the time, and I sing many kinds of songs.  For whatever reason, they wanted to sing “This Land is Your Land” over and over again.  I’m talking at least two to three times a day.

The book to this song is on our bookshelf.

It’s an outstanding book.  The illustrations bring the song to life.  There are also many illustrations along the edges that give a wonderful visual of America’s landmarks, big and small.  We play “I Spy” with this book all the time.  The biggest challenge is finding thirty flying American flags.  Thirty!  Some are obvious, many are not.  Finding the flags means we have to stop when we find one, like a flag on the Delta Queen, or one on on the Esplanade in Boston – home of the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert, or a flag on Ellis Island.

Geography + history + patriotism at its best.

Most importantly, the children grab the book every time they want to sing the song.  It is the song, their song.  And as they sing, they want the book in their hands.

I welcomed a new friend, Travis, who plays the guitar.  The children love his songs, especially “It’s You I Like”, by Mister Rogers.  Travis started coming to sing on a regular basis.  Interestingly, as soon as he sat down, Eddie or Emmett or Boden would rush over to the book shelf, grab This Land is Your Land, and shove it into Travis’ hands.  They had to have that song – first.

And occasionally I would join in.

 

By winter, I had ‘lost control’ over the song and the book.  Children ruled the roost, getting the book and singing all the time.  Did you know there is a verse, a page, that is pretty dismal?  No happy America.  Children call it the ‘sad page’, and we sing it in a quiet and slow way, because it is sad.

“In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people;
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?”

Children love this verse.  “Jennie, can you sing the sad page?”  Pretty powerful stuff.  I have to be true to the song, so I sing that verse.  I think we underestimate children’s ability to understand and feel compassion.  The illustrations on ‘the sad page’ are bleak… and then the next page and verse is the same scene, with everything fixed and repaired, and people working together to build a new playground.  I flip back and forth between the two pages to help children find all the changes.  That next verse is the final verse of the song.  It’s the one that gets me a little choked up.  It’s the one where children stand tall and proud.

“Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back;
This land was made for you and me.”

Sometimes children would come to me in the middle of activity time and ask me to sing with them.

Other times they would sing collectively on their own.  No teacher was needed, or for that matter even wanted.  It was wonderful.

And then one morning, something happened.  Something big happened.  Stayed tuned for Part 2.

Jennie

Posted in America, American flag, Book Review, books, children's books, Early Education, geography, history, patriotism, picture books, preschool, quilting, Singing, The Arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 57 Comments

Happy Easter from Boston’s Make Way for Ducklings


Photo courtesy Universal Hub

Robert McCloskey’s classic story, Make Way for Ducklings, is immortalized in bronze statues in the Public Garden on Boston Common.  Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings, Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack  are all decked out and dressed in their fancy bonnets, ready for Easter.

This classic children’s book was written in 1941 and received the coveted Caldecott Medal in 1942.  The story, based in Boston, is about two ducks, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, and their journey to find a proper home and start a family.  After the ducklings hatch, there are adventures throughout the city and help from a friendly policeman named Michael.

Make Way for Ducklings has been continuously in print since it was first published.  As of 2003, the book had sold over two million copies.  The city of Boston has whole-heartedly embraced the story.  In the Public Garden where the Mallards eventually settled, the bronze statues of Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings by artist Nancy Schön was erected in 1987 – a tribute to Robert McCloskey.

Happy Easter from the Bronze Ducklings at the Public Garden in Boston.

Jennie

Posted in Book Review, books, children's books, Early Education, picture books, reading | Tagged , , , , , , , | 69 Comments

Magic #midnighthaiku

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Tiny miracles

Overlooked by busy minds

Crushed by rushing feet

Eyes opening in wonder

Remember childhood’s magic

*

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Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Wonder

Wonder definition – a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.


Last night’s view from dinner, Gibbet Hill, Groton, Massachusetts.

Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder. -E.B. White-

Jennie

Posted in E.B. White, Inspiration, Mother Nature, Nature, Quotes, wonder | Tagged , , , , | 49 Comments

Surviving Teaching and Finding Joy

Times have changed.  Teaching has far more demands than it used to.  Required paperwork, overcrowded classes, and lack of support begins to take its toll.  At first it all seems manageable.  That fire of wanting to teach keeps the motor running.  Then bit by bit, as demands and expectations increase, it becomes more difficult to keep the fire burning.  The love becomes lost.

Teachers are quitting.

Children have changed, too.  Their lives have less (or little) room for play. Most of their waking hours are structured – from school to sports to after school activities.  Oh, and then the homework.  Frankly, homework in the early grades should be reading.  Period.

Children are often coming to school feeling everything from anger to being overwhelmed. They may not know why, they just know they aren’t feeling happy.

Is it any wonder that America’s children are ranked 26th in reading  among the world?

I am a teacher.  I have seen the wear and tear on other teachers.  I have seen children who are failing to thrive in school.  Yet, I have found an answer, a way, that makes a difference. It keeps me going, and it makes a world of difference to the children I teach.  I call it “The Hundred Little Things.”

Many years ago when I began teaching, I was a good teacher.  Yet, there was a faint ‘you and me wall.’  All teachers have it.  It labels our job.  It is the distinction between the teacher and the student.  It’s not a bad thing at all. Actually, it’s necessary and natural. Then something remarkable happened, a moment with a child.  Andrew was a child who was often distant.  I just hadn’t connected with him.  One day at rest time, after chapter reading, I was laying down on the floor rubbing children’s backs.  The room was dark and all the children had fallen asleep – except for Andrew.  I turned my head and so did he. Our eyes met at the same time.  We both smiled.  It was a moment, a knowing moment, as if we were the only two people in the whole world.

It changed me.  I became a child-centered teacher.  My curriculum and  focus was now based on the interests of the children.  More importantly, I was keenly aware of how children felt, not just feelings of anger or happiness, but feelings of interest and disinterest. If an activity was so-so, I scrapped it.  If something lit a fuse, I fanned the fire.  Often that ‘something’ was sparked by a story or a song.  For example, the continuous singing of a favorite song could drive a teacher crazy.  Instead, I tried to see it from the perspective of the child, and I allowed them to build on the song – eventually making a quilt that hangs in a national place of prominence.

The faint ‘you and me wall’ was gone.

If I could hang onto what children loved, remembering and focusing on those moments, that filled me up.  I felt joyful.  The day at school could have been awful, but if there was something, a remarkable question, a deep discussion during chapter reading, a spontaneous hug, a belly laugh, discovering something in nature, then that was the important part of my day.  Obviously it was the important part of the children’s day, too.

I was not only surviving teaching, I was thriving.  I was becoming ‘one’ with children.  I found joy.  And every time I embraced a moment, children knew.  How did this effect them?  They burst, exploding with more questions and ideas.  And I responded in kind.

I decided to write about those moments, those ‘hundred little things’.  That helped cement what happened each day, and kept me focused on what really mattered.  And, I could then pass those stories along to parents and fellow teachers.  “See what happened today?  This is what the children learned/enjoyed/questioned.” was my message.  That writing has fanned my fire, keeping teaching survival in the right focus (the children) and keeping joy alive.

I have survived teaching and found joy.

Jennie

Posted in Uncategorized | 72 Comments

How To Have a Beautiful Life

Jennie

Posted in Giving thanks, Inspiration, joy, Quotes, wonder | Tagged , , , , | 54 Comments