Gloria

Gloria joined the classroom today, and oh what a homecoming it was. It’s doubtful Santa Claus would receive such a welcome. After all these years we are still amazed at the difference Gloria makes and how children are drawn to her. It started many years ago…

You see, Gloria is different. She is very shy and loves to wear black. She’s not pretty on the outside, but she’s beautiful on the inside. In order for children to learn about the world, they needed to learn about the people in the world. And that meant introducing them to diversity… to Gloria.

Children don’t even see that she’s a puppet. The word witch is never spoken. It isn’t even a thought in their heads. They see her ‘insides’; that she needs help singing the ABC’s, that she loves Maine, and likes to be read to. That’s what children really see.

When Gloria arrived today, we introduced her at Morning Meeting. She was shy and did not speak. She looked all around, and we realized she didn’t recognize the classroom, as we have moved. That took some explaining! Then, Gloria looked at the children. She knew her Aqua Room friends from last year. One by one, they came up to hug Gloria. The hugs were more like the jaws of life… it had been a long time since they had seen her. McKinley cried. We did, too. Delaney buried her head into Gloria. On and on.

New children were watching all of this unfold. You could have heard a pin drop. Each child had an opportunity to greet Gloria. Some children waved, others smiled, some came to greet her, and Amelia immediately said, “Gloria, I like you.”

After Morning Meeting, children began their activities. Many children decided to hang out with Gloria. They read books to her, made her a bed on the couch, and just wanted to be with her.

After lunch, Heidi arrived and was all over Gloria like a bee in a flower garden. The crowd of children were there, too.

Heidi decided to make Gloria her own nap mat for rest time. McKinley reminded me to show Gloria any picture from Charlotte’s Web after chapter reading.

I remembered.  Welcome to the new school year, Gloria!

Jennie

Posted in Uncategorized | 71 Comments

Reading Aloud – To You! Part 2

Dogs speak words

But only poets

And children

Hear

~Patricia MacLachlan~

I continue reading aloud The Poet’s Dog, by Patricia MacLachlan, with chapters two and three.  Chapter two is 6:48 and chapter three is 1:44.

In chapter one you met Teddy the dog who found the children, Nickel and Flora, in a snowstorm.  In the following chapters, Teddy takes the children to Sylvan’s cabin.  There is much to learn.

Jennie

Posted in Book Review, chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Inspiration, joy, Kindness, Particia MacLachlan, reading, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , | 65 Comments

A WWII Plane and Singing a Patriotic Song

It’s not everyday that a WWII plane appears out of nowhere, overhead, in my own backyard.  It was enormous! Hubby thought it could be a B-24 or even a rarer B-29 Superfortress.

Somehow it seemed very fitting. Yesterday at school I pulled out my autoharp and Miles asked to sing “This Land is Your Land.”  I was surprised.  While the song was the most popular song last year (understatement), we have only sung it one time this year – two weeks ago.

That’s all it took.

So yesterday, we sang  “This Land is Your Land” in an enormous way. Children stood up.   They fought over who would hold the book while we sang.

What is it about patriotic songs?  How is it that children can sense a strong, wonderful feeling?    I don’t have an answer, but I will embrace their enthusiasm and sing those songs. Emergent curriculum.  Patriotism.  Children and music.

At pick-up time I asked Miles’ mom how he knew this song.

“He heard it from you.  And he loves that song. He has been singing it non-stop every day.”

Jennie

Posted in America, Early Education, music, patriotism, preschool, Singing, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Reading Aloud – to You!

Darlene Foster, a fellow blogger, friend, and a wonderful author, asked me to read aloud to her, and to you.  She wanted me to read The Poet’s Dog, by Patricia MacLachlan.  I am touched, Darlene.  Thank you!  Here I am, reading chapter one:

Please visit Darlene at Darlene Foster’s Blog.

If you want me to continue reading aloud the book, please let me know.

Jennie

Posted in books, chapter reading, children's books, Dogs, Inspiration, Particia MacLachlan, reading aloud | Tagged , , , , , | 89 Comments

Happiness

“People should take time to be happy.” –Grandma Moses-

Thank you, Naomi, for bringing happiness to the children every day. ❤️

Jennie

Posted in behavior, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Giving, Inspiration, joy, Kindness, preschool, Quotes, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

Reading Aloud to My Preschooler – Thirty Years Later

My first read-aloud for the library this year was scheduled early.  It was only a few days after Labor Day.  I was excited. It was going to be the year of dog books, as I planned to read The Poet’s Dog, by Patricia MacLachlan, followed by Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo.

When I arrived at the library, no one was there!  The head librarian was embarrassed and worried.  Everyone had called in with sickness, vacation, and more.  It was a fluke, and besides, school had only started the day before.

As I was leaving the library, in walked little Colin (a child in my class the past two years) and his family.  Colin was excited to see me.  We hugged and talked.

I know his family well.  More than well.

Thirty years ago his dad, Eamonn, was in my preschool class.  And that’s not all.  When he was a senior in high school, he did his internship with me.  He then became my assistant at summer camp.  Boy, did we have fun!  After college he was my assistant teacher in the classroom for a few years.  When a child in the class had a grand mal seizure, Eamonn stepped in like a trained nurse.  Clearly that was his calling.  His love had always been children, yet he was destined to heal them instead of teach them.  He is now a pediatric nurse at a top Boston hospital.

Back to the library…

“Why are you here, Jennie?”

“It’s the first read-aloud, but no one was able to make it.  I know, it’s way too early to start.  I usually begin the week after Labor Day.”

“What were you planning to read?”

“The Poet’s Dog.”

Silence…

“I’d like to hear the book.  Would you read it to me?  Please?”

“I’d love to, Eamonn!”

So, we sat together on the couch, and for thirty minutes I read aloud to Eamonn.  My preschooler thirty years ago.  Lump-in-my-throat wonderful.  It doesn’t get any better than that.


Can you tell that Eamonn loved the book?  I think he also liked his preschool teacher reading aloud to him – once again.

Here is my review of The Poet’s Dog:

“Dogs speak words.  But only poets and children hear.”

Those are the opening words in Patricia MacLachlan’s book, The Poet’s Dog.  I have read the book twice, because there are many words not to be missed; words that are pure and don’t need added adjectives and text.  MacLachlan’s writing stands alone in a field of masterful literature.  Her eighty-eight pages are some of the best I have ever read.  In the words of the publisher:

“Alone in a fierce winter storm, Nickel and Flora are brave but afraid.  A dog finds them.  Teddy speaks words and brings them to shelter.  The Poet’s cabin has light and food and love.  But where is the poet?  Teddy will tell the story of how words make poems and connect to those who hear each other.”

Sylvan the poet constantly reads to Teddy.  He reads Yeats and Shakespeare.  He also reads Charlotte’s Web, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Ox Cart Man.  Teddy learns how words follow one another.

I had no idea that Ox Cart Man, one of my favorite children’s books, is actually a poem.  I scrambled to find my copy and read the words again, this time seeing the words for what they are meant to be – a poem.  When I read the book again to my preschoolers this month, it will be more beautiful than ever.

The Poet’s Dog is a story of adventure, survival, love and friendship, death, reading and poetry.  The beginning is a fishing line that hooks the reader, and the ocean opens to… well, you will have to read the book  The ending is as surprising as ever.

I told a friend and fellow teacher about The Poet’s Dog and quoted to her the first lines, “Dogs speak words.  But only poets and children hear.” Our conversation went something like this:

“I hear my cat.  I know what she’s saying.”

“Then you must be either a child or a poet.”

“I’m a child.  My heart is always a child.  And I love poetry.”

She smiled a knowing smile.  I did, too.

Jennie

Posted in Book Review, chapter reading, Early Education, Inspiration, Particia MacLachlan, reading aloud, Student alumni | Tagged , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

Life Lessons – 101


A few years after I got my feet wet teaching, I read Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  That had a profound influence on my career.  His opening essay seemed to take all the stars in the sky and bring them to earth in a simple package; for me it validated what I was learning, and how I was teaching children.

I knew that the ‘little things’ mattered the most, because they were really the big things in life.  I felt renewed, and I followed my common sense and also my heart in teaching.  I paid close attention to children and I began to become a child myself.  That made me human to children.  In that way, I could truly teach.  And I do.

Here is his essay:

Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.

I still have this essay, folded and slightly yellowed.  I read it from time to time.  It’s important.  Today children live in a bigger world.  There’s a much larger lens out there, and what they see is often tainted with lures that influence their thinking.  Sadly, those lures influence their heart.  If we, parents and teachers and adults, can stick with teaching children the important things, like Robert Fulghum did, that’s the best teaching we can do.  Being loved and being valued = learning love and values.

Jennie

Posted in behavior, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, preschool, Quotes, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , , | 66 Comments