Flowers and Children


Spring
Flowers are blooming.
Children are, too.
A blossom is a smile,
a warm hug,
the feeling of goodness,
a garden of children.

Jennie

Posted in Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, joy, Kindness, Love, Nature, young children | Tagged , , , | 86 Comments

Seeds of Generosity

Charli Mills over at the Carrot Ranch posted her flash fiction challenge:
Seeds of Generosity

Spreading the seeds of generosity from one story to the next.

April 15, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that seeds generosity. Who is generous and why? Think of generosity as planting a future outcome. Go where the prompt leads!

🥕🥕🥕

Write a story about spreading the seeds generosity?  Well of course, that would be Gloria.  But, how can I tell the story of Gloria’s generosity in only 99 words?  Here is my story:

Gloria by Jennie Fitzkee

Gloria. That was the name children gave her. She was old, shy, and people had always called her a witch. When she came into a classroom of children, she couldn’t even speak. They were startled and curious; Gloria was, well, different. She lived in a picnic basket in the classroom. Whenever she visited the children, they were excited. When Halloween came around, children rallied to help Gloria pick a costume. The years rolled on, Gloria became a member of the class. Suddenly the tables were turned. She was the one who was ‘there’ to help children. Tears and hugs.

Jennie

Posted in Diversity, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Gloria, Inspiration, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 50 Comments

The Real Beginning of ‘Gloria’

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:

Beth
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

Jennie
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.

Beth
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.
 🥰

Jennie
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’.


This is Gloria’s first journal, one of three
packed with stories and photos.

“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.

Jennie

Posted in behavior, Diversity, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Gloria, Inspiration, Student alumni, young children | Tagged , , , , , , , | 84 Comments

The Barn in “Charlotte’s Web” and My Porch


E.B. White on the infamous rope swing in his barn.

Today I was ‘in the barn’ when we opened the doors to our porch.  E.B. White wrote about opening the barn doors at springtime in “Charlotte’s Web”.

Then came a quiet morning when Mr. Zuckerman opened a door on the north side.  A warm draft of rising air blew softly through the barn cellar.  The air smelled of the damp earth, of the spruce woods, of the sweet springtime.

When we opened the doors to the porch, E.B. White’s words were right there, because that was exactly how it was.  I was in the barn, and on the porch.  It was wonderful.

We sat in folded chairs, looking at all the work ahead.  But for the moment, we talked, laughed, looked at the big wide world, and smelled springtime.  Just as it happened in the barn in “Charlotte’s Web”.

Jennie

Posted in children's books, E.B. White, Early Education, Inspiration, Nature, Quotes, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Week of the Young Child

This is ‘Week of the Young Child’, celebrated nationally by early childhood programs, accredited by NAEYC – National Association for the Education of Young Children.  It’s a big deal!

We celebrated by ‘filling buckets’, literally and figuratively.  Children filled pails with soil, planted flowers, and delivered them throughout the community.


Delivered to the public library.

 Filling buckets is spreading kindness.

At school we have a kindness jar.  We’ve had it in the classroom for months.  Whenever a child does something ‘above and beyond’ in regards to an act of kindness, we put a stone in the jar.  This week we filled the jar.  Children were rewarded with a pizza party.  There were 62 stones in the jar.  That’s a lot of kindness to spread!

At school we decorated Children Around the World.  We’re all different (as Gloria helps us to remember), and the art display reflects the diversity in us all.

I read many books on filling buckets, kindness, and children all over the world.  The book that stands out to bring everything together is “What a Wonderful World”, with the words sung by Louis Armstrong.  Last year at this time, teaching was all done remotely, and I sang the book to the children.  It was also Earth Day, so very appropriate to celebrate our wonderful world.

Yes, what a wonderful world, indeed!

Jennie

Posted in art, Diversity, Early Education, Giving, Inspiration, Kindness, Learning About the World, picture books, preschool, School, Singing, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 65 Comments

Snow and Flowers

Spring in New England
Snow and flowers
Two beauties of nature, together

Posted in Mother Nature, Nature | Tagged , | 53 Comments

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: The Facts, Just the Facts… ‘Did You Know Abe Lincoln Had A Sense of Humor’?

The ‘Curbside Classroom’ is back! When a child said “We miss your facts”, that was all it took for Steve the Crossing Guard to jump into teacher-mode with both feet. Read on…

S'amusing

‘We miss your facts’, a student at my school crossing post offered. ‘Well, here’s something, did you know that President Abraham Lincoln had a great sense of humor?’ No, she didn’t and neither did other students. I didn’t, either, until I recently read* more about Lincoln.


‘His pictures always show him looking sad or serious’, another commented. ‘Well, he was often sad and serious. He had much to be both sad and serious about in his life’.


One can get a potpourri of facts by reading.


This is the stuff we talk about at the Curbside Classroom. Facts. But there’s more. And the kids love the ‘more’.


He changed the world for the better. Dr. Jonas Salk did that. I was working on March 26th and reminded the kids about Dr. Salk and his successful research into developing a polio vaccine on this date in 1953. We discussed what we…

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The Art Show – Part 3 Finale

Every child is an artist.
~Pablo Picasso~

dream my painting and then paint my dream.
~Vincent van Gogh~

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt.
~Leonardo da Vinci~

Great art picks up where nature ends.
~Marc Chagall~

It took me a lifetime to paint like a child.
~Pablo Picasso~

Jennie

Posted in art, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, Quotes, Teaching young children, The Arts, Uncategorized, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , | 78 Comments

Be kind…

Simple + Beautiful = Simply Beautiful. Kindness matters. Thank you, Michelle.

Putting My Feet in the Dirt

“You can’t change the way a person acts towards you, but you can change the way you respond.”  ~M


Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/hand-gift-flower-joy-love-3978193/

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The Art Show – Part 2

In Part 1 children were introduced to real artist tools, and also to music played with record albums on a record player.  Music inspires art.  It goes into your ears, then your brain and your heart.  Then it shoots out your fingers like magic to help you paint.

Part 2
We started with fun painting.  Since we’re learning about Italy, we decided to paint with spaghetti.  We dipped cooked pasta into paint and then dropped it from the loft onto paper.  It was messy, fun, and very creative.  Children returned to their painting to add a single spaghetti noodle dipped in black paint as a highlight.

In this way, children learned that an important work of art isn’t created in a day.  Artists return to their painting over and over again until they are satisfied.  From this point forward, all the art children painted was open ended; they could work on a painting as many times as they needed to get it ‘just right’.

Every day we put a record album on the record player, either Vivaldi or Beethoven, and painted.  We made different types of art, and children could choose what they wanted to do.  Some children decided to paint with thick gold paint and add jewels to resemble Early Renaissance art.

Some children were fascinated with Venice.  They used a collection of items to create the bridges that cross the canal.  Sparkly blue scrapbook paper, painting with a loofa, craft sticks, and real stones made some great art.  Other children were fascinated with actual masterpieces and wanted to recreate the art.  It is amazing what happens after a child is empowered with ‘I can’.  The children’s paintings are remarkably close to the original!


Large Blue Horses, By Franz Marc


Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog,
by Caspar David Friedrich

And of course, some children wanted to paint the Mona Lisa, after we really studied her and wrote what we saw.  Children often see more than adults do.  The background in her painting seemed to be what interested children the most.  Have you ever looked at it carefully?


Mona Lisa
~Tell Me a Story~
There are trees.
There’s a river.
Beautiful sky.
There’s a castle.
Her neck is white.
I like her.
She’s feeling happy.
There’s sand along the road, maybe a beach.
The water goes from one side to the other.
She might be a mermaid that turned into a human.
Is she smiling? Yes (10)  N0 (4)

Since this was portrait painting, children wanted to paint the Mona Lisa… but they really wanted to paint Gloria.  We called this the Mona Gloria.

The most popular paintings were straight from the heart; letting that music shoot out your fingers like magic so you can paint.  Colors and shapes that have abandon.  Feel good paintings.

There is one last thing that makes a painting a masterpiece – a title.  Every important work of art has a name.  Children certainly know Starry Night.  So, when all the paintings were finished, each child gave their masterpiece a name.  There is ‘A Busy Scene’ (above), ‘Charlotte’, ‘Water’, ‘Blue Beads’, ‘The Bridge of the Water’ and so on.  Icing on the cake.

We had a Zoom with all of our families to show them our masterpieces.  It was wonderful!  Children beamed and talked about their art.  Families were thrilled.  My co-teacher and I hang the Art Show this weekend.  Stay tuned for the Part 3 finale.

Jennie

Posted in art, Early Education, Gloria, Inspiration, joy, The Arts | Tagged , , , , , | 88 Comments