Last year at this time all of my teaching was done remotely. It was hard, and I reached out in so many ways to make things fun and keep a connection with my preschoolers. Here is what I did, in full ‘costume’, and what I wrote:
This all has to do with Gloria, in a BIG way.
“My preschoolers hear me recite the classic story “Goodnight Moon” every day at school, just before chapter reading. Sometimes they ask me to do it the ‘silly way’, either interjecting their names into the story, or making a beat as I recite the words. So, I made them this video of me doing the “Goodnight Moon Rap.” I miss them so much. I hope this makes them smile on a rainy day.”
Beth, a former parent, saw this post on FaceBook. Well, she’s much more than a former parent – her child was the one who made Gloria who she is today. Really. Before I tell the story, here are our back-and-forth comments on FB:
That is just so awesome Jennie! We miss you so much and wish we could freeze time in the Aqua Room. Colin is about to get his drivers license . So many emotions about that! Missing everyone at GCS
It’s so good to hear from you! I think of Colin often. Please tell him that ‘Gloria’ says hello. I can’t believe he is getting his driver’s license. Where has the time gone? As soon as school can open their doors to families, past and present, I really look forward to seeing the Flood family, especially Colin.
I will. He loved Gloria! Will have to find a picture of him with her. Absolutely we will be back for a visit… hopefully soon. He’s actually at the movies tonight with Sam Brewster! Friends forever, including Sam Landry.
That’s wonderful! Hope you find a picture. I’m so glad to hear that Colin is still friends with Sam and Sam. We need a GCS reunion.
So, how did Gloria the puppet become Gloria the person?
I know puppets help teach preschoolers. Any good teacher knows that. When I first realized that a puppet in the classroom would be a great teaching tool, I had no idea that it could be, or would be, so powerful in teaching both the children and me. That was twenty-five years ago.
When I discovered Gloria among a collection of Folkmanias puppets, I knew she would ‘work’. I have watched other teachers use multicultural puppets, but we’re not a very diverse community. A three-year-old back then was not as likely to meet children or people from other countries or races. BUT, they would meet old people, shy people, people with disabilities, or those who were not beautiful. If my puppet represented the differences that preschoolers encountered, she would be far more effective than a multicultural puppet. Accepting differences that are familiar to children is the first step to accepting global differences. Learning is all about building blocks, and I had to start with something that was ‘different’.
For a number of years Gloria (named by the children, of course) lived in a picnic basket on top of my cabinets in the classroom. She came out as part of our curriculum every month or so. She was always a big hit, and very successful introducing everything from emotions, to how to count, or sing the ABC’s. Once a month, everyone loved Gloria.
One day I forgot to put her back into the picnic basket. She was on the little couch in the classroom. Children walked over to talk with her. They brought her toys and held her. This was a big wake-up call for me. Why had I kept her in the picnic basket, when every ‘visit’ in the classroom was so successful and important? I was not seeing Gloria as a person, and the children were. Gloria continued to ‘live’ on the couch.
One day I took Colin to the bathroom at rest time, and he looked very pensive.
“Jennie, can Gloria come to my house for a sleepover?”
I wasn’t sure what to say, as this was a first.
“Colin, Gloria has never been on a sleepover. I don’t know.”
“I have a night light. She won’t be scared.”
“Colin, I don’t know.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll have a talk with her.”
He did! And Gloria was fine.
When Beth sent me this photo of Colin and Gloria, I asked her, “Beth, do you remember when Colin was the the first child to take Gloria home for a sleepover?
She answered, “Yes I do remember that, Jennie. He was so enamored by her. Took her home every weekend for a while until the other kids started getting wind of it and wanted to start taking her home too.”
Therefore, I started a Gloria journal. Now, she was living on the couch, and was spending some weekends with children. The journal was instrumental in recording Gloria’s adventures and making a bigger connection with both children and families. If there was a fire in the school and I could only grab one artifact, it would be Gloria and her journal. That year Erin took Gloria Trick-or-Treating. Really. Gloria was Minnie Mouse. Her parents were a little annoyed that other neighborhood families Trick-or-Treating did not ‘get it’.
“Why is the witch dressed as Minnie Mouse?”, people asked them. The family told me (with much frustration.)
“I kept telling them that she’s not a witch. She’s dressed up for Trick-or-Treat as Minnie Mouse. Why didn’t they understand?”
Ahh… Gloria is very real, indeed.
Colin is now in 10th grade, and Gloria continues to give children love, hope, understanding, and great memories.