My Teacher Lightbulb Moment – Part 2

In Part 1 I wrote about the moment a child and I smiled together, and how that was the start of my becoming a ‘real teacher’.

Part 2 is how I continued, and how my teaching grew.

I became ‘one’ with children.

Once I had my Lightbulb Moment, my teaching world turned upside down.  Children came first.  What they were interested in, who they were as children/people mattered most.  I needed to get to know them better.

I started to use a tape recorder to “interview” children, as this not only helped me to get to know them, but also was a good tool for language development (and it was fun).  Our curriculum at that time was France and learning about the old masters in art.  Young children love to paint, and they were practicing being artists with real palettes.  I was learning so much about them, why not have the children do an autobiography to accompany their work of art?  And, why not have the children name their work of art, and call it a ‘masterpiece’?  The result was so profound that we had an art show at school, and then moved the art show to our local post office for the community to enjoy.  What a success, and what a wonderful experience for the children.  Our art show has since become a yearly event in the community.

Again, the building blocks were growing, but now I began to realize that each block in itself was little.  Did using a palette or holding a microphone make a difference?  No.  So, where did the passion and love (and there was passion and love!) come from?  It was each block, over and over again, often hundreds of them, which made the difference.  I started to call this phenomenon “The Hundred Little Things”.  Now, my teaching and curriculum had become child centered.

From this point forward, I put the cart before the horse.  Smart thing!  That same year my husband asked me, out of the blue, why our children wanted to hear ‘I love you’ all the time.  “It’s the hundred little things”, I told him.  “It takes at least a hundred times for each little ‘I love you’ to really become meaningful”.

The next year my class went to the circus.  Of course we decided to have our own circus performance at school for our families, and I let the children decide what they wanted to do.  Again, a child-centered event eclipsed anything I could have planned.  Over the next few years, music, math games, and science exploration exploded.  Every child’s interest was a spark, and became a tool for learning.  I had learned so much and transferred the children’s love into a great preschool experience.

Little did I know that the best was yet to come.

I love museums.  In Philadelphia I visited the National Liberty Museum and was thunderstruck by their Peace Portal.  Instantly I knew this magnificent structure was something my classroom could recreate.  My years of following the love of the children had allowed me to embrace my own love, and give it back to the children.  Now the tables were turned, yet again.  I brought the idea back to school, and the children loved it!

They spent a large part of the school year designing a Peace Portal.  Then, they wrote a Peace Poetry Book, and designed a Peace Quilt, which still hangs in the Museum after nearly fifteen years.  Suddenly, the power of love had gone beyond the classroom.  The depth of this project was not only children’s building blocks, but my building blocks as well.  Yes, I could give the same passion and love, too.  Wow!  A combination of the two means a deep understanding and enthusiasm on all parts.  As such, the process and the product were wonderful.

The following year, the children really wanted to sing “God Bless America”.  Watching them sing amongst themselves, over and over, even in the sandbox on the playground, was a true ‘hundred little things’.  Again, we worked together, under the umbrella of love, to bring the song to soldiers, to making a book, and to designing a quilt that hangs at the Fisher House in Boston.

More events grew along the years.  Yet, there was something else woven into children and definitely into me – the love of books, stories, and reading aloud.  Throughout my journey of becoming a real teacher, that was the constant every day.  It helped my bond with children, it enhanced my curriculum, and grew with passion.  This remains the most important thing I do with children.

I am one of the few preschool teachers who chapter-reads to children.  I’ve been featured in the million copy bestseller The Read-Aloud Handbook (seventh edition) by Jim Trelease.  I have also been a live guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show to talk about reading aloud.  So much has grown and happened with reading that it deserves its own blog post.  Stay tuned!

Being a preschool teacher for many years has been a wonderful roller coaster of every emotion and of learning.  When I first became a preschool teacher, teaching happened first.  Thanks to Andrew, I know that love happens first, and then becomes the catalyst to develop deep relationships with children, and therefore a rich curriculum.  The ‘hundred little things’ proves that to be true.  Pay attention, as love is there.  You just need to see it.  It can change your life.  It changed mine.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five 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 was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, Jim Trelease, joy, Love, preschool, quilting, reading aloud, School, Teaching young children and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

104 Responses to My Teacher Lightbulb Moment – Part 2

  1. Ritu says:

    Absolutely amazing, Jennie!

  2. beth says:

    amazing trajectory, Jennie. I think as teachers it is so incredibly important to continue to learn and grow, just like our students do. you are such a great example of this in action.

  3. beetleypete says:

    You have been rightly celebrated, Jennie. The journey of your teaching experience should be part of any foundation course for would-be teachers.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. This is inspiring Jennie. I wish I had a teacher like you in my school ❤ lot to learn.

  5. Alice Collins says:

    Quite a legacy, Jen.

  6. What a lovely post! I wish I’d had teachers like you.

  7. joylennick says:

    What a wise head you have, Jennie! Lucky children to have been in your orbit. Cheers. x

  8. The message was sent by Andrew, you were open to receive it. Magic happens when you are open. I’m absolutely thrilled you are planning a book, Jennie. A legacy for the rest of the world. They do need it out here. I’d buy it for certain so hurry.

  9. Brenda says:

    Great post Jennie. You are open to any opportunities and it benefits you and your students. You have encouraged me to think about how I can change my own approach in the classroom – that relationship is key, irrespective of the age of the class – they need to feel they are doing something worthwhile, that they can engage with

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Brenda! If I help fellow teachers see and think about things a little differently, that’s a huge win for teachers and especially children. Best to you!

  10. riyab82 says:

    Very inspiring. And I just love your children’s artwork ❤

  11. What a wonderful read. These stories and advice should be written in a book. Entertaining and heartfelt for every day readers and stuff for future teachers to take and learn from!

  12. AmyRose🌹 says:

    Oh my goodness I have tears in my eyes!! Do you know how special you are, Jennie? Too many teachers put the teaching first instead of the children. Yes Love hands down is first and foremost the foundation then you build on that. What you have done and still doing is a phenomenal inspiration to the world. Wake up, Teachers, across the globe!!! Get to KNOW your children and from there love them in order to teach them. God bless you for your example of what it means to be a teacher. Wow!!!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you so much, Amy! Your kind words mean a lot. You are right in your observation about what many teachers do. Wake up, indeed! Much love to you, Amy.

  13. quiall says:

    You are the key that unlocks these children, allowing them to bloom.

  14. A beautiful story, Jennie. I’m glad to be here to hear it with you.

  15. Oh, the wonder of it all! 💞 xo

  16. willedare says:

    Love this!!! And I am sharing it with a friend who is beginning to teach children in Newton about music…

  17. Don Ostertag says:

    Peace, love, and children, I can hardly wait for your book, Jennie.

  18. Dan Antion says:

    Yours has been such a wonderful journey, Jennie. Every success you’ve had has changed the lives of children, in the most positive way. Those children will build upon your lessons and make you proud. You know that to be true, given the ones who have come back to tell you.

  19. sandrah says:

    More teachers with this perspective are needed in our schools. So appreciate what you have shared!

  20. Jennie, I think that is wise advice for all aspects of life…pay attention!

  21. Darlene says:

    This is proof that if you do what you love (and with love) you never work a day in your life.

  22. dgkaye says:

    Beautiful Jennie. And I love that you used a tape recorder to record the kid’s voices. ❤

  23. petespringerauthor says:

    I’m just getting around to reading this remarkable post, Jennie. Great teachers do what you do—adjust their teaching practices to fit the kids. It doesn’t mean one can’t continue to utilize topics and techniques that work. (Why reinvent the wheel?) At the same time, the genuine “aha moments” of teaching are when we’re flexible enough to go with the flow and try a new path. It’s great for the kids to see teachers problem-solving and other people we work with who do the same things year after year without any flexibility or creativity.

    • Jennie says:

      Hi Pete, your words are spot on. I echo everything you say. I just wish teachers could adapt their curriculum based on the children in their class. That would be a start. Once you really know your children, then you can make changes. One year, the children were builders, another year they were artists. Then (and that’s the big then) the “aha moments” happen. You can’t bake an apple pie without apples. I like to find those apples. And, it is good for teachers to not be able to do something and ask the children for help. Yes, flexibility and creativity are the key. Best to you, Pete. Apologies I’m a little late in getting back to you. Our daughter and her children are arriving tomorrow from Oregon, so I’ve been extra busy.

      • petespringerauthor says:

        Thanks as always for the great and insightful comments. I hope you have a great visit with your family.

        My radar is going off right now. If you ever make it out to Oregon, my wife and I would love to take you and Steve to dinner. We usually make it up to the Portland area a couple of times per year.

      • Jennie says:

        Thanks so much, Pete. You are always on my radar. If we make it to Oregon, I’ll be in touch for sure.

  24. Jim Borden says:

    I just read parts one and two – and wow – what a wonderful story. Your love for the children and your work shines through. I read one of your replies above that you are planning to write a book, and that is the first thought I had after reading these posts – your knowledge and experience needs to be shared with as many teachers as possible!

  25. I agree with Pete! Your teaching style should be taught and used everywhere! 😀💗

  26. HI Jennie, what a wonderful journey of discovery you have travelled with your teaching.

  27. Your classroom is amazing and I love how ideas flourish and then become reality. What a wonderful experience for your kids. They’ll take it with them as they grow and move on through life. ❤

  28. bosssybabe says:

    Love seeing your passion for your students and what you do – you are a rare gem, Jennie! Love seeing all the art and that picture of the little ones and you, so heart-warming!

  29. Norah says:

    That’s deeply inspiring, Jennie. I can feel the love in every post you share. 💖

  30. Beautiful, awe-inspiring, and really, this fits in with all of us. We ALL should realize the importance of 100 little things, that add up to a lot of love. My son was inspired by his teacher in 3rd grad to make art – whatever he wanted – on a large canvas. It was full of colorful fish and the sea (and miraculous, as he is colorblind). I framed that canvas and it’s traveled with me for manymany years (he’s 40 now) and I still smile and feel joy when I look at it.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you! Yes, the hundred little things add up to lots of love. And, what a perfectly beautiful story of your son’s 3rd grade teacher. I can imagine how that canvas of fish still makes you smile. On a side note, have you told the story to his teacher? It would mean the world to her/him. Love.

      • I DID tell the teacher – back in the day. She’s no longer there, but rather miraculously, my son’s boys have all attended that same school (in the SF Bay area). One of them is now a 13-year-old amateur artist (when he’s not skiing or surfing) and spends hours drawing. Happy sigh.

      • Jennie says:

        A very BIG happy sigh, and thank you for telling me that you told the teacher. How wonderful that the connection is still there. Best to you, Pam.

  31. One can imagine, that sometime it is very hard work to teach children. But you always find a great way. This is only possible when it is coming directly from the heart. xx Michael

  32. CarolCooks2 says:

    I have no words to add to what has already been said, Jennie I wish my children had had a teacher like you ..a really lovely post 🙂

  33. frenchc1955 says:

    Hi Jennie, this is simply wonderful!

  34. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Please enjoy this wonderful post from the extraordinary teacher, Jennie!

  35. Lorrany says:

    Reblogged this on A cada passo. and commented:

  36. Lorrany says:

    Incrível as suas histórias. Parabéns. É muito transformador o trabalho de um professor, as escolas são os primeiros lugares que as crianças frequentam, então os professores se tornam exemplos da sociedade.

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  38. So inspiring Jennie and I can only imagine the impact you have made on the lives of all the children who have been nutured with your unique and creative teaching blocks.. ♥

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  40. dgkaye says:

    Beautiful and amazing. And that clown was just too cute ❤

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