Moments #2

Moments #1 happened in my backyard on a beautiful day.  I paid attention to the world around me, up high and down low.  Moments #2 (below) goes far deeper into the importance of little things, and how they really become big things in the education of the young child.

There is a scene in a Robin Williams movie where he is sitting around a campfire with his daughter.  He says to her,

“This is it.  It.”

She doesn’t understand what he means.  He goes on to explain that this moment is as good as it gets.  It is something wondrous, precious, all in a moment.

I know exactly what he means, for one of those moments happened to me recently.  We took our grandchildren out for ice cream after dinner.  The dairy farm sits atop a hill out in the country.  It’s a beautiful spot.

First we ate ice cream.  This was way too much.

He ate the whole thing, including a giant brownie!

I turned around and looked up the hill.

This made me smile.

We walked to the top of the hill, and I said, “This is it.  It.”
I was Robin Williams.  My grandchildren looked, really looked.

We smiled.  We hugged.  No words were needed.
We walked back down the hill and turned around to take one last look.

Yes, moments.  This is also the foundation of what I teach in school.  The little things that happen – moments – are really the big things.  If I pay attention to children and celebrate the little things that happen, somehow it builds into the big things, and the greatest moments of learning.  This is called ’emergent curriculum’, yet I call it taking the bull by the horns and running.  Curriculum is only a guide.  The pathway to ‘it‘ is up to educators.

Here are some ‘it’ moments that happened in my classroom:

Children’s passion for singing “God Bless America” became a year-long journey of making a quilt and traveling to a museum.  I often think about what would have happened if I had enjoyed the children’s singing, and just left it at that.  Nothing.  That makes me shudder.

When reading “Little Red Riding Hood” a child asked if wolves really eat people.  That spurred a trip to Wolf Hollow where we could meet wolves.  No, they don’t eat people.  We watched TeeBee, the wolf who was ‘timed out’ by his wolf family for being a slacker.  Then we learned about families, and we ‘adopted’ a wolf.  What would have happened if I had only answered the child’s question about wolves eating people?  Nothing.  Another shudder.

When we read a book about grizzly bears and Alaska, salmon and bald eagles, we opened our Big Book Atlas.  As soon as we open this book, children are bursting with questions.  They love geography.  We found Alaska and learned the bald eagle is the symbol of America, our national bird.  I immediately rushed to find a one-dollar bill, showing children the bald eagle.  Then a child pointed to George Washington on the bill and asked, “Who is that?”  All the while, the Big Book Atlas had been propped up.  Someone noticed George Washington on Mount Rushmore.  Of course we learned about carving Mount Rushmore and all the Presidents.  Can you picture all this diverse, incredible learning and excitement?  What would have happened if I had just read the book about grizzly bears and Alaska and not opened the atlas?  Nothing.  I shudder again.

At summer camp, I let children plan a play performance.  Easy?  No!  But, if I encourage and inspire children, wonderful things happen.  Children decide everything.  We sneak into the storage room (crawling in the hallway so as not to be seen) to find  anything for a costume.  Kevin was shy.  He wanted to be a dog in the play.  He found a piece of brown card stock (he was thrilled!), took it back to our classroom and carefully cut out a tiny triangle.  That was his dog tail.  That’s what he wanted.  When Kevin walked onto the stage, he was proud and confident, not shy.  No one could see his tail, but that didn’t matter.  He knew it was there.  What would have happened if I had given children costumes?  Kevin would have never come into his own.  Another shudder.

The little things are really the big things.  Moments are precious.  Stay tuned for a final moment, #3.


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 Diversity, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, geography, Inspiration, joy, Learning About the World, Nature, patriotism, picture books, play performances, preschool, quilting, summer camp, Teaching young children, The Arts, wonder and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

87 Responses to Moments #2

  1. What wonderful impressions, and great tips, for teaching. The exercises by the tree would be better have done by the boy, with the big pack of ice cream. Lol Thank you, Jennie! Have a nice weekend! xx Michael

  2. Ritu says:

    Such beautiful thoughts and tips, Jennie!

  3. ~M says:

    You’ve got the gift for teaching and it always shows in everything you say and do. 🙂

  4. “This is it,” what an important knowing and understanding. What a gift you are to the children in your life. ❤️

  5. quiall says:

    Children are like little sponge plants, they feed on the world around them and get strong. But if they are not fed they will become lacklustre and without purpose. They need to be fed, a lot. Moments are the reason we count the minutes.

  6. Love the tiny moments that expand and expand. Lovely post Jennie.

  7. I always think of those “it” experiences as Wordsworth’s “spots of time,” which become poems. As I sit here reflecting on your discussion of “it” moments in teaching, it occurs to me that the long-term goal for this approach is lifelong learning, whereby adults have a highly-developed intellectual curiosity and the critical thinking and information literacy skills to pursue any line of inqury on their own.

    • Jennie says:

      “Spots of time”- I love that! I hadn’t thought of those moments in terms of lifelong learning, yet that’s exactly what they are. They’re building blocks to a high level of thinking and understanding. I believe they’re also a foundation for goodness. It isn’t one moment, it’s the culmination of hundreds of “it” moments. Thank you for your ever-wise thinking, Liz!

  8. beth says:

    the moments like this are everything

  9. beetleypete says:

    Ever since I started reading your blog, I have noticed so many of those ‘It’ moments, Jennie.
    (That was a LOT of ice cream! 🙂 )
    Back in 2015, I had one of those moments, walking with Ollie in ‘perfect light’.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      I suppose there are many ‘It’ moments about which I have written. You noticed! Best of all, you feel the same way, as evidenced in your beautiful 2015 post. Thank you, Pete.

  10. willedare says:

    THANK YOU for sharing your loving wisdom with us again and again via your blog.

  11. your a natural born Teacher Jennie!

  12. Beautiful moments that wonderfully come together Jennie.☺️

  13. Jennie says:

    She is terrific! Thank you so much, I’m glad you liked the post!

  14. Don Ostertag says:

    Beautiful ‘little moments’, Jennie.

  15. Jennie says:

    Thank you! I love her illustrations, too.

  16. Darlene says:

    Little things really are big things. I loved this post and your grandchildren are delightful. I hope to see mine next month, all being well.

  17. Those are all wonderful moments of “it”!!

    Your grandson did a pretty great Dab there too!😀😂

  18. Jennie, this is so beautiful. Your philosophies are deeply touching and I’m so glad you are teaching young children not to miss out on the little things that mean a lot.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you so much, Anneli. Those philosophies have been tried and true with me for decades. I will always champion for the little things.🙂

  19. Loved these, Jennie.

  20. Wonderful, simply wonderful. Your children are lucky to have you, Jennie; they may not all know that now, but they will when they see the ‘it’ moments in later life.

  21. Dan Antion says:

    I love how you explore instead of just answering.

  22. There are always those moments that take your breath away for just a beat and you hope you don’t miss any. Children are better at seeing them than we are. Your students learn more in a year from you than I think I learned all the way through school. You method of teaching is perfect. I never get over what all you teach them. So impressive. Boys are bottomless pits until they turn 40 or 50. 😉 Girls are more interested in flying high where imagination takes over. I love the little one wanting to be a dog and creating his own tail. 🙂 Adorable and imaginative.

    • Jennie says:

      I just love everything you said. I had to savor your words – twice. Thank you!! Those split second moments are most important, and children have better eyes to see than we do. Yes, you pinpoint the difference between girls and boys. 🙂 Thank you for reading and enjoying these classroom stories. They will forever be with me.

  23. petespringerauthor says:

    Good questions are infectious and lead to more learning. Kids should always be encouraged to ask questions. It’s one of the best ways any of us learn new things.

  24. Mesmerized Sky 🌹👌🏼🙏🌹

  25. Absolutely wonderful ‘it’ times.

  26. Thank sky and ice cream sounds like It to me, Jennie. Swinging on a tree branch will definitely ‘do in’ your hands.

  27. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, thank you so much for these moments!

  28. dolphinwrite says:

    The world is filled with wonders. Thanks for sharing. I remember one fellow saying, when he looked at a leaf, he saw so much more.

  29. It was such a heartfelt experience Jennie. And must be going on with such compassion and seeing him and knowing he ate that whole lot of ice cream.

    Thank you so much for sharing
    Nara x

  30. dgkaye says:

    Beautiful lessons Jennie. It’s all about the ‘moments’. ❤

  31. Norah says:

    Beautiful moments, Jennie. No opportunities lost with you.

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