The Past Two Weeks – School Then and Now, Part 1

I am missing the children.  I know they are missing me.  Learning will always happen, these tender moments won’t.  In the past two weeks our class has completely changed.  Yet, change can be a good thing.  Resilience is born.  Let me start at the beginning, two weeks ago.

March was incredibly exciting at school.  We have been learning about France, with great interest in our Big Book Atlas.  Geography is brought to life.  Oh, how we love to learn about new countries.  Better said, oh how we love to learn.  Our big atlas often gets us sidetracked in the best of ways.  Sometimes we learn about north and south, the poles and the equator, and temperature.  Sometimes we learn about oceans and volcanoes.  Our satellite map makes it visible for children.  Sometimes we get sidetracked on the map of the United States.  Before school closed we found Wisconsin.  That was important to our chapter reading book, Little House in the Big Woods.

Can you picture the excitement of finding France, then getting carried away with more?  I embrace every moment when that happens.  Children want to learn more than what’s in my lesson plans.  It’s called emergent curriculum, learning that is driven by the interests of the children.  Yes, I still teach what I planned to teach, but I never shut the box on children’s questions and what they are eager to learn.  It’s a walk in the woods that are enchanted, and have different pathways, yet all end up at the same place.

Back to France.  Geography is always the kickoff, and from there we learned to sing the Days of the Week in French, and learned things that came from France – like the hot air balloon and scuba gear.  We then began to learn about art and the old masters.  We looked carefully at Impressionism – particularly Monet, Matisse, and van Gogh.  Starry Night hangs in the classroom.  We talked about the swirls and the colors.  We talked about Monet’s short brush strokes.  Every painting seemed to be something children could understand.  I kept asking the question:

“How did he do this?  How?”

Then, as we looked at different paintings, I stopped at each one and said: “Landon, you could do this!  Do you see the green trees across the center?”, or “Delaney, you could do this!  Do you see the blues and whites in the swirl?”  With every painting, I surprised a child with you can do this!  Their faces lit up like fireworks.  All it takes is a teacher to be excited and believe in you, especially in front of the whole class.  And, they were excited.  We began to paint, like real artists do, using paints squeezed from tubes onto a palette.  Landon started his painting of Monet’s “Poppies”, and other children wanted to do their own Impressionism.

How were they motivated?  Surely it was more than looking at the art.  You bet it was!  Music, of course.  It is the purest gift of inspiration and feeling.  It inspires art.  I brought my record player to school along with classical record albums.  The record player was like introducing Star Wars, something new and wondrous.  I was slow in everything, including rubbing the needle to make loud sounds.  Once I played Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the music flowed into their hearts and out their fingers as they painted.

We painted for two days, with passion, and my record player playing great music.  Then, schools closed.  Teachers spent a full day cleaning and sanitizing everything.  Everything!  We quickly turned around to teach children online.  Preschoolers don’t need worksheets and lessons, they need their teachers and direct learning.

Stay tuned for Part 2, the gigantic shift in teaching and keeping sameness for children.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in art, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, geography, Inspiration, Learning About the World, music, preschool, Teaching young children, The Arts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

81 Responses to The Past Two Weeks – School Then and Now, Part 1

  1. jenanita01 says:

    I sincerely hope that the excitement you conjure with these children will continue somehow now they will be taught online…

  2. Norah says:

    You’re right, Jennie. They don’t need worksheets. No one does. They need that emergent curriculum that is so important to learning.

  3. beth says:

    Even more than managing the logistics of teaching and communicating remotely, I miss my kids and managing that is a much greater challenge

  4. Darlene says:

    I am sure you will keep the excitement going, even remotely. You are the best!!

  5. quiall says:

    The best thing I was ever taught was the love of learning. It has never left me.

  6. Opher says:

    What they need are those open questions, that praise and the ‘can do’ attitude delivered with warmth and affection. I bet they’re missing that!

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, that’s exactly what they need. Two weeks seems like forever to the children, and we still have a month to go. I definitely think they’re missing that.

  7. emberbear says:

    Another wonderful post, Jennie. How your pupils must love you and miss you, as I know you are missing them. You are so inspiring and I love the way you are keeping in touch with them.

  8. Ritu says:

    I miss my kids 😭

  9. missp15 says:

    I absolutely love this! As a final year trainee teacher, my heart aches for all the children out there who must miss their teachers and school friends so much. Such a lovely read, thank you.

  10. Dan Antion says:

    I’m sdure you will help these children get through this time, Jennie, as they will help you.

  11. Before I became a children’s librarian I had the pleasure of teaching Pre-K for a few years, and seeing those expectant faces every morning eagerly waiting to go on another learning adventure was pure joy. Hopefully by the Fall dedicated teachers like you, Beth and Ritu can back to doing what you do best.

  12. “rubbing the needle to make loud sounds” and “the music flowed into their hearts and out their fingers as they painted.”
    Thanks for making the start of my Monday a bright one, Jennie.

    • These were the lines that stood out to me as well. (I’ll confess to a wee bit of envy. How I would have loved that opportunity when I was in school.)

    • Jennie says:

      I’m so glad, Laura. You are the one who truly understood those words, and how music can work magic. You made my Monday. 🙂 Part 2 will continue on art and music, and Part 3 will jump to ‘today’. Thank you for reading and ‘being there’.

  13. beetleypete says:

    Having teachers who believe in you is the essence of learning. Everything I am today, every challenge I faced in life, and in my writing, all of that is because of a handful of teachers who told me that they believed I could do it. I owe them everything, and have never forgotten a single one of them.
    Best wishes, Pet.

    • Jennie says:

      That is truly powerful. Realizing that where you are and all you learned can be attributed to a few teachers is profoundly important and inspiring. Have you ever tried to find those teachers to tell them? It’s never too late. I tried to find my few, with no success. I found the one teacher who made the biggest impact on our son. My thank you letter was his greatest gift. Thank you for telling me this about you, Pete. I’m a bit choked up. Best to you.

  14. petespringerauthor says:

    As always, when you write a post, I feel moved in some way. I was an imperfect teacher, but one thing I was good at was connecting with kids. They knew I loved them, and they wanted to please me. I see the same thing in you, Jennie. You know exactly what your students need and how to connect. (Perhaps I should say “love them”). One would think that all teachers should know how to do this, but that is not the case. “You can do this!” Just beautiful words, my friend. For many, that is all it takes. I’m sure most of your parents are great, but there are those children who either have never thought of or have trouble saying those words. Teachers play the role of nurturing parents.

    I like being around people, and this social distancing thing is hard for extroverts like me. At the same time, I’m practicing all of its guidelines because it’s going to be hard enough as it is. I’ve seen the forecasts of 100,000 or more people expected to pass in America alone. Like the teacher you are, you are showing your students, your fellow teachers, and your fellow human beings how to adapt.

    • Jennie says:

      Your comments are almost a post in themselves. They say so much. Thank you, Pete! I am definitely the imperfect teacher, and in a way that draws me to children and vice versa. Why? Because children are always imperfect and feeling that they need to be perfect. So, when they have a teacher who is imperfect they feel a big ‘whew’ and can relate. That is the foundation for building a child. It’s that simple and that complicated. Like you, I just love them and believe in them. Over the years I can now read them like a book and know just what to say. I know a child getting “You can do this” from a teacher is far more powerful than from a parent. I just know that is true. I feel so lucky to be a part of their lives and giving them the wherewithal to be brave and strong.

      The social distancing is especially hard for preschoolers to understand. Whatever I can do on YouTube and Zoom will be a connection. This Saturday we are having a drive by birthday party for Amelia in my class. I volunteered to stand in the yard and take pictures for everybody. I will try not to cry. ❤️

  15. Loewef says:

    Thank you for writing this. I am a piano teacher (my education was in Piano Performance and K-12 Music Ed, and I spent some time in the public school classroom, too) and a lot of your reflections resonated very deeply with me.

    Thank you also for introducing me to the term “emergent curriculum.” This comes into play all the time in my students’ lessons–I introduce repertoire and concepts, and have set objectives and overall trajectories in mind for each learner. As we work through my plans, though, they’ll often have those moments where they “light up” and are intrigued by a new idea, composer, concept, or performance opportunity. We use those moments to modify and enhance our trajectory, and I know that this leads to an overall improvement in their outcomes as musicians and human beings. Moments like these are among the greatest joys of my work.

    I often say to them the same things you say to your students, re: work of great artists. “*You *can do this!” Of course, the optimism has to be balanced with a dose of pragmatism in the piano studio: “It will take a lot of hard work. You might get frustrated in the process, but if you want this, *you can do this.* And I’ll help you every step of the way.”

    Thank you, once more, for sharing your good work. This was refreshing and heartening to read during this time where our routines have been upended, and our hearts are longing for the people we love and the work we cherish. Many blessings to you on your work.

    All the best, Faith Loewe

    On Mon, Mar 30, 2020, 5:01 AM A Teacher’s Reflections wrote:

    > Jennie posted: “I am missing the children. I know they are missing me. > Learning will always happen, these tender moments won’t. In the past two > weeks our class has completely changed. Yet, change can be a good thing. > Resilience is born. Let me start at the beginnin” >

    • Jennie says:

      Reading your words, your story, was simply wonderful. Yes, emergent curriculum is absolutely the best. Can you imagine how terrible it would have been for your piano students if you had not been excited about their “light up” moments? If my piano teacher had shed any interest beyond her lesson plans, I might have continued playing the piano. That happens all too often. Like you, when light up moments occur, and I can use them to add to the learning – even if I have to drastically adjust the curriculum – those are my greatest joys.

      Those ‘you can’ words we both say to children are powerful because the child is hearing it from his/her teacher, not their parent. I love seizing the moment with a child. Encouraging words and giving support are really powerful. Even a little goes a long way.

      Thank you, Faith. Your piano students are lucky. Emergent curriculum rocks!

  16. I want to do these lessons with the kids! I wish I had you as my art teacher when I was a kid.

    • Jennie says:

      You can do this with your grandchildren, Deborah! Here is how: First, just assume they already can. Really. Second, introduce art in a way that explains and asks questions how the art was done. Third, make a point to say the child can do this. Every child is a born artist, that’s what makes this process so wonderful and natural. Picasso said it took him a lifetime to learn to paint like a child.

      Thank you for your kind words. Part 2 is more about the art and music where we abruptly ended school. You will love, love this. Best to you, Deborah.

  17. I fully agree to Darlene’s comment. You cant be beaten in teaching, by nothing, neither by this virus, Jennie!

  18. I loved reading this, Jennie. Looking forward to part two.

  19. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, thank you so much for being an excellent teacher. You are doing an extraordinary job with the children.

  20. I look forward to the next installment of the series to see how the virtual learning environment changes how the children learn, communicate, and express themselves. It can be done!

  21. Dear Jennie, surely we are soul sisters! 🙂 Although I taught grades 4 & 5 (multi-year) and 6, 7 & 8th grade second language learners, your classroom, lesson plans and teaching methods are so like my own were. Thanks to you, I’m now trying to figure out how to read (Facetime) with my great grand in New Mexico and perhaps make some read-aloud videos too. Not sure how to do this, but I’m sure going to find out. Thanks for all you do, for the children and for all of us! xoxoxo

  22. Pingback: The Past Two Weeks – School Then and Now, Part 1 — A Teacher’s Reflections | Lost Dudeist Astrology

  23. You really captured the excitement well, Jennie. You made me want a big wall sized tapestry map. 😀 Hugs on the wing!

  24. Your love of teaching is still so potent, Jennie! Keep up your amazing work, mon amie🌹

  25. I can’t believe you are teaching children about impressionism. I don’t think I ever learned about that at school. Wonderful. I am looking forward to next week and your thoughts on keeping sameness. I am trying to do that too, but it is not easy.

  26. I love the group hug! And your “emergent learning.” I can surely understand how much you miss those spontaneous opportunities. Looking forward to Part II, Jennie. Be well. 🙂

  27. dgkaye says:

    That’s wonderful Jennie. So important for the young ones to be around familiarity. ❤ Stay safe!

  28. This excites my heart. I wish I could give you a real hug!

  29. srbottch says:

    Wonderful lessons, Jennie, esp the geography, a forgotten subject, I fear. May I offer an idea for when you return or sometime in the future? Thank you. Here it is: explorers. Thinking the fun drawing lines or hanging strings of explorers and the country they represented to the place they ‘discovered’. Columbus, Cook, LaSalle, Ponce de Léon. Wow. 😉

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Steve. Yes, geography is a forgotten subject. I find that interesting and sad, as today seems to be an important time to learn geography. I love, love your idea about explorers. Throw me Louis and Clark, and I’m ready to explore. Yes! And, thank you. 🙂

      • srbottch says:

        When I taught 5th grade for a few years, a hundred years ago, we did a huge section on explorers. One kid’s parent worked at the Green Giant packing plant and she would get big pieces of cardboard for us. Cardboards an amazing asset for elementary teachers. We made maps using overhead project and did that very thing, connecting the Old World to the New World. The kids loved it as they worked in teams. I hope they (wow, they’re in their early 60s now) remember it.

      • Jennie says:

        What a great story! I am most certain those students remember the big cardboard and learning about the world. How are you doing? Will New York schools reopen? We are slated for May 4th, but who knows…

  30. PrincEJ says:

    I absolutely love this ❤️❤️❤️I feel you

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