Gloria’s Necklace, Part 2

Yesterday’s tragedy of breaking Gloria’s beloved necklace, the one Milly gave her years ago, was a lesson in a whole lot of things – from how do you fix a problem, to doing the right thing, and caring for others.  This is big stuff, whether you’re four or forty.

I was excited today.  I had the new necklace in hand, ready to give to Gloria.  I sat down with the children to show them the necklace, the clasp that was repaired, and the new hanging hearts.  And, the medallion!  The oohs and ahs were loud.  We couldn’t wait to give it to Gloria.

Giving feels good.  It’s as simple and as complex as that.  The children got to experience that feeling in a very real way, not just hearing me read it to them in a story.  Isn’t that what Gloria’s new necklace was all about?

After Gloria got her new necklace, children decided she needed to be on the couch with her blankie and a doll.  I think Gloria liked that.  Don’t you?

The children got to work writing a big thank you letter to Tracey Smith, the jeweler who transformed the broken necklace into something new and beautiful.

At the end of the day, Gloria was all smiles.

I can’t speak enough about emergent curriculum, following the lead of the children or what is really happening in the classroom, and using that as a foundation for teaching. I could have tossed the broken necklace in sadness and stuck with what I was teaching.  And had I done so, it would have been a bigger tragedy.  I would have missed the opportunity to teach – really teach – some of the most important things children need to learn.


Posted in behavior, Diversity, Expressing words and feelings, Giving, Gloria, Inspiration, preschool, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , | 59 Comments

Gloria’s Necklace, Part 1

Today was not a good day.  Everything broke.  It started with the key to our favorite game, Cranium Cariboo.  We call it “The Ball Game”.  It is THE game, and of course it’s no longer made.  The purple key to the game is necessary to play the game.

The key broke today.

Then the long tongs broke in half.  And the head of the very cool dragon broke off.  Could things get worse?


Gloria’s necklace broke.  For those of you who remember Milly the quilter, this was Milly’s gift to Gloria.  It’s one of those irreplaceable things.  The children know all about the necklace.  Everyone was sad.  I had the children all around me as I spread out the necklace.

Every heart had a detailed picture.  We looked at each heart as if it was new.  In many ways it was new, because I can’t remember the last time I looked at those hearts.  One has a bird with a sunrise in the background.  The children liked the hearts with flowers.

Sometimes things happen for a reason.

There I was, with children pressed against me, studying each heart as if it were a piece of art.  I knew I had to do something.  I announced to the class that I would take the necklace to Tracey Smith to be fixed.  She is a local jeweler, well respected by the big jewelers in Boston.  She knows Gloria.  Her children were in my class years ago.  Both have given back to the school with music and drumming, and summer camp.  Tracey is a strong supporter of the school.

Tracey wanted to do more than repair the broken piece.  She wanted to add missing hearts to the necklace.  We had fun looking at all the choices.

Suddenly, this necklace became more than just ‘fixing a broken piece’.  It was a shift to “What can we do for Gloria?”  Now, that was exciting!  From a storm to a rainbow, all in a moment.  We went shopping!  We found two perfect hearts, plus a beautiful Aqua medallion.  Gloria’s necklace has never had a medallion.  I think Milly would be thrilled!

Tomorrow we will have a grand presentation to Gloria of her new necklace.  The children will be more excited than Gloria.  Stay tuned for the big event, Part 2, tomorrow.


Posted in art, Giving, Gloria, Inspiration, joy, preschool, Teaching young children, The Arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 53 Comments


My artist friend at Mountain Roots Studio in Asheville, North Carolina, makes trees out of twisted wire.  Her trees have deep, pronounced roots.  I’ve always liked that.  Roots.  That’s where it all begins.  Without roots we have nothing.

I liken that to what I do with children – give them the roots to grow in a strong way.  Every small wire in that tree is important, just as every moment with children is an opportunity to grow roots.  When the child comes first, and I really pay attention, and even adjust my schedule/routine to seize the moment, roots grow.  In teacher lingo, it’s a child-centered program with emergent curriculum.  Best thing ever to grow those roots.

I’m reminded of an older post I wrote, and how roots are the beginning, without which there would be no wings.  After all, isn’t it wings that we all want?

                                       Roots, Wings, and Thunderstorms
Some years ago I was on my porch with my adult daughter watching the big thunderstorm rumble into our yard. We were both enjoying the anticipation as well as the storm itself. I asked my daughter what memories popped into her head whenever she heard a big storm. She replied, “Camp, of course! We had nothing else; no TV, no computer, just the outdoors. Thunderstorms were great!” Funny thing. This was the same experience with me as a child at camp.

We talked about exciting and adventurous experiences in our childhood, and about childhood itself. We analyzed why children feel the way they do, and what is it that ‘makes a difference’ when they grow up. One thing kept ringing loud and clear. Children who are given experiences that challenge them, who are encouraged to take a chance and ‘do it’, and who have the firm love and support of their family, seem to grow up with a good, strong sense of self. Roots and wings.

I think of the swings on the playground and ‘yelling’ commands with excitement when a child first learns to pump a swing.  “Kick them out.  Tuck them in.  Pull.  Yes, you can do it!”  As children grow older, I think of opening the front door and letting my child ride his bike, alone, to the playground.  Then, going to sleepover camp for a month, at age eight.  My children begged to go, loved every minute of it, and I am convinced it was part of their foundation.  Roots and wings.

I was the opposite of a helicopter parent.  Friends were a little shocked to see my child roller-blading to school.  He couldn’t quite tie the laces tight enough, so his first grade teacher helped him.  They wondered if there was a ‘problem’ when my children went off to camp, and my son went to boarding school.  My daughter went to Italy, alone, after college graduation.  We’re talking speaking no Italian, as well.

After all of these different experiences, friends would then say, “Your children are so lucky to have these opportunities”.  That was quite a change.  I would smile and just say, “Roots and wings”.  They had the roots, with plenty of love and support.  Sometimes I felt brave and alone giving them the wings.  That was the hard part.  I’m so glad I did.

In my classroom, I approach each learning experience and activity, planned or unplanned, as an exciting opportunity. We are a family. We help each other, support each other, and encourage each other. We provide roots for each other with daily routine, tenderness, and a positive, fun attitude. We give each other wings when we learn how to write our name, pump a swing, stand in front of a group to talk, or try something new. Roots and wings.

Remember, it’s all the little experiences, over and over again, that we build upon. It’s not the big things that make a difference. Dancing with painted feet, coming to school at night and singing in the dark, shopping in a real Indian market, painting to classical music, setting up nap mats for other children, finding a new place on our big map with the magnifying glass, reading all the name cards without help….it is the culmination of all these activities, and many others, that make the difference.

I hope that in years to come, you and your child sit through a thunderstorm together, walk through the woods together, or sing in the dark together, and find it is an experience that is exciting. We hope that the Aqua Room has helped to give your child the experiences to feel a happy and confident sense of self. Roots and wings.


Posted in art, behavior, Expressing words and feelings, Giving, Inspiration, preschool, self esteem, Teaching young children, The Arts, wonder | Tagged , , , , , | 61 Comments

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: The ‘One Minute Teacher’

Steve the Crossing Guard imparts his words of wisdom, how even one minute of time is a precious moment in teaching. He knows just how to make a difference, an impact, with only a minute. This post is awesome! From the Curbside Classroom, and the man with KLOT (knowledge learned over time), read on!


If you had one minute a day to spend with kids, what would you do with it, the one minute?

It’s not much time to make a positive impact, is it? Or, is it? Certainly, you’d start with some ‘greetings and salutations’*. That’s a positive. But what would you do with the other fifty-five seconds, or so?

Would you draw attention to the dawning of a new day with all its trimmings: a late full December moon hiding behind tall pines; the ‘morning star’, planet Venus, sparkling like a diamond until it surrenders to daylight; birds signaling réveille with chirping and tweeting? There is much to enjoy and learn by looking and listening, and we do that at the ‘Curbside Classroom’, even for just a minute

Maybe you’d tell them about a day in history, or a famous person? Try the remarkable story of Teddy Roosevelt’s brush with a would-be…

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Best Buddy

Here is a photo of me and my Best Buddy, fifteen years ago.

Yes, Best Buddy.  That’s what we called each other.
As the years went on, we saw each other occasionally,
and we always called each other Best Buddy.

Best Buddy Leo came to school today to sing and make music with the children.  There’s nothing like a guitar to bring children together.  And, there’s nothing like a former Aqua Roomer returning to school.

When Leo walked into the classroom, there was Gloria.  He remembered!  Their homecoming was exciting.  I hadn’t expected that.

He played “Baby Shark” which is children’s current favorite song,
“The ABC Song” which is always a favorite, and timeless songs like
“You Are My Sunshine.”

 Then he asked the children if he could sing “This Land is Your Land.”  He remembered the song.  The children were thrilled, and someone rushed over to the bookshelf to bring him the book.

“You still have this book!”

We all belted out the song, as one Best Buddy played the guitar,
and the other Best Buddy held the book.

Then we had a final picture, under the quilt, along with Gloria.

Thank you, Best Buddy.

“Music is the glue that joins people together”
~Yo- Yo Ma~


Posted in Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, joy, music, preschool, Singing, Student alumni | Tagged , , , , , | 58 Comments

New York Public Library Most Checked Out Books of All Time

When I read this post, I wasn’t surprised. I was thrilled. These are the oldies and goodies, with a few new books sprinkled in. The number one, Ezra Jack Keats “The Snowy Day”, goes back to my my earliest years in teaching. As a young teacher, I latched onto every good book. Fast forward a few decades, and I stumbled across a remarkably wonderful museum. I walked in to see their current exhibit, and the first piece of art was an original illustration from “The Snowy Day” – made from carved linoleum. Really! I was stunned, and that piece of art ignited my love of illustrations, and of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. And, number ten on the most checked out books from the New York Public Library is “The Very Hungary Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. Full circle.

The list is terrific. Happy reading!


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A Free ‘Oral Vaccine’ for Literacy

Yes, there really is a free oral vaccine for literacy.  It is reading aloud.  No, not reading.  Reading aloud.  Because, in order to become a reader (and a lifelong reader) you have to hear the words – first – over and over again.

When hearing those words becomes a pleasure, like the constant sound of the ocean, the magic has begun.  And those words grow more words.  And you fall in love with words, the sound of words.

You look at words and pictures in books that are read to you and make a connection with the printed word.  By the time you are six, you are eager to read those words on your own.  And you do.  You do well in school, too.  All of those words you have heard for years contributed to your academic success.  You love reading books on your own, yet you still enjoy reading aloud.

People would stand in line for days and pay hundreds of dollars if there were a pill that could do everything for a child that reading aloud does.  It expands their interest in books, vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, and attention span. Simply put, it’s a free “oral vaccine” for literacy.
                                         -Jim Trelease-

This is the most important thing I have learned in my 35 years of teaching.  As such, the priority in my classroom is reading aloud.  My picture books are front facing and always available to children.  I read aloud picture books and chapter reading books.  I tell stories.  I am pouring words into the heads of children.  We laugh, cry, and wonder together.  We have discussions that feel like a third grade classroom.  Words.  Reading aloud.  It works.  It’s the free oral vaccine.  Thank you, Jim Trelease.


Posted in Book Review, books, chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Jim Trelease, reading, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 60 Comments