Sunday, December 30, 2007

i need to go back to work

over break i tried to diagnose my brother's kitten with adhd due to its clear lack of focus in following a mouse on a string. this led to a debate with my mother (also an educator) over whether or not there was possible brain damage.

i then tried to diagnose my own kitten with asperger's syndrome since she really isn't dealing well with the changes in household routines that came from the holidays. right now she's pouting because i'm not already asleep as i should be by 10pm on a school night. she's avoiding eye contact and doing some self-stim of cleaning herself over and over again.

then again, she's been eating our fake christmas tree made in china, so she could have lead poisoning.

anyone else want to bring their cat over for my clearly intelligent diagnosis? i'll be writing up kitten ieps for the next few days.
i need to either go back to work where i can work with kids, or get a grip on reality.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Weee! .

Subtitle: What happens when children are only allowed to watch PBS


(Please note the 'hungry, hungry hippos wee game along with the backgammon and solitaire sets)

This is what my husband and I got for Christmas from my brothers (seniors in college). The picture does not do it justice. The wee remote is a handle of a phone (a working phone... my dad and I are fighting about whether or not I get to keep the remote or if it has to be returned to its original use). This is my favorite Christmas present by far, and extremely fitting if you know my family.
We grew up in a 10 acre forest in the middle of nowhere. We were one of the last houses to have the original Nintendo system. Instead of getting us the trendy system, my parents dusted off an old Atari and tried to convince us it was even better than what our friends had. We were always told that "we didn't get cable" which was why our ancient remote-less tv only showed the news and PBS. So, we had to resort to creating our own tv and video-game-less fun which usually involved cardboard boxes in some way or another.
Now that we're adults and can do what we wish, when we wish, we apparently still spend hours making fake game systems just as we did as kids. What's Christmas without turning cardboard boxes into the toys we desire most of all?
My brothers included a check for an actual wii so that when we're actually able to find one in a store we can buy one. Still, opening the fake wee on Christmas was far more exciting than if it had been a real one. And I imagine they had a lot more fun making the wee than if they'd spent hours standing in line fighting for a real one.
A few weeks ago a mother of one of my former students stopped me in the hallway and said, "You have no idea the influence you had on my son!" I start patting myself on the back for his reading or math skills. But then she started to sound more like my own mother, "If I want to throw out a box I have to sneak it past him! He uses every box in the house to make some toy. He's even making cardboard versions of what he wants for Christmas in case he doesn't get it."
When I was a classroom teacher I had a "creation station" where I would keep old cardboard boxes. When children had time they could use the boxes to make houses, cars, and beds for stuffed animals, etc. This was obviously inspired from my own childhood memories, and I was thrilled when this mom reported this little one had carried on the tradition despite game systems and tv being readily available. Maybe when he's 21 he'll spend hours changing a cardboard box into the latest hard-t0-find game system.
Now that I'm older I realize how lucky I was to have parents who didn't give into the latest trends, or how easy it would have been to keep us busy with the tv. Thanks for putting up with all our cardboard creations!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Joy

So much of Christmas is about Joy. The joy that Jesus was born, the joy of being with family, the joy of having Santa Claus come down your chimney by magic.
Sitting in the Christmas Eve service tonight I found my mind wandering, wondering about my little ones' Christmas Eve. Are they bouncing off the walls while their parents try to read the Christmas Story to them? Are they at Mass, swinging their legs in the pews? Are they having a simple dinner, Eid being over, wondering what all the fuss is about tomorrow? My thoughts fell on one of my froglets. On Friday, in the height of the pre-Christmas chaos I asked him what he thought Santa Clause would bring him.
"No Santa" he said. Sadness, I thought, he already doesn't believe.
"Santa, 5 minutes" he said. "Right? No time." No time? I started to get confused.
"Other houses. No time me. 5 minutes. No time me."

My heart broke. He believes in Santa, yet he believes Santa Claus doesn't have time for him. He's not worthy of Santa. No wonder he doesn't pick his head off the desk, or bother to try to learn to read. Other children may deserve Santa, but he doesn't.
Our school gives him presents every year in our giving tree. But somehow he doesn't believe they come from Santa. The magical man skips his house, too busy to bother with this little boy. For him this night holds no magic, no joy.

I sat in church listening to the message of hope and joy God sent to us and prayed that God sends this little one some joy tomorrow. It doesn't have to be in the form of a magical man in red, or even in the form of presents. Just some joy to let him know that he deserves joy, deserves to be happy, and is a special one of God's children.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

a responsive classroom christmas miracle

Yesterday in one of the classrooms where I co-teach we were giving the kiddos popcorn in little bags while they watched the Polar Express. Before the movie had even started one of my little ones dropped his bag on the floor and popcorn went everywhere. We are working on controlling our anger but at that moment he broke down and went off into a corner.

We had no more popcorn and in fact had given the children very tiny amounts of popcorn to begin with. (It was 9am). Their teacher asked if they would like to give him some of their pieces since now he didn't have any. They didn't have to, but it would be nice if they did. They immediately got out of their chairs and rushed to him to offer him their snack. We tried to organize this to keep it from getting out of control and sent them back to their seats where we could pass a little bag~ church style~ if they would like to donate to him.

I got chills as they rushed to fill his little bag with popcorn. In the end we had to ask them to stop because they wouldn't have had any left for themselves. This was a little boy that isn't easy to like as a peer, and most likely dropped his bag due to his gross motor skills, which is hard to understand when you're 6. None of that stopped them. They rushed to help the member of their classroom who needed help at that time.

Friday, December 21, 2007

no eggs allowed

Our school's speech/language clinician (also my fabulous research partner) told me that she had been working with two of my kiddos from last year. They were making a list of items they could bring to the class party the following day. In the middle of the lesson one blurted out, "But no egg at school!"

Random? No. He began recounting the egg-breaking incident from last year and reminded her that Mrs. Lipstick said raw eggs are not alright to bring to school.

If nothing else, at least they learned something last year.

teacher presents

I have to be honest (and maybe this makes me sound greedy and selfish) but I love teacher presents. The tackier the better. I love opening bags in front of the little ones, watching their excited eyes fill with pride as they show me what they picked out themselves from the dollar store. Perhaps if I taught at a school where the families were better off I wouldn't like it as much, but from these families every present is a geniune surprise, and you can't help being touched by the effort and thought they put into it.

My Christmas tree is full of presents I converted into ornaments. What else to do with the large shiny blue flower necklace? Or the plastic 'crystal ball' given to me to "hang from my mirror in my car like my daddy"? The tree is a place where they'll come out every year, remind me of the great kid who gave them to me, and warm my heart for a few weeks.

My favorite gift of all time was an animal from build-a-bear with the little boy's voice recorded to say, "To Miss L, From M. God Bless Us Everyone." I also have a shelf in my office with my treasured ceramic dollar store gifts... an African American bride doll, a swam vase, a small flower pot, a bright blue cat. There are others I admit baffle me... (the used curling iron) but regardless when I think of the child and the family I get chills at the generosity expressed in the gift.

I feared this year that since I am no longer in the classroom I wouldn't receive presents. It's not that I have a desire to get lots of gifts or am greedy, it's just that I so enjoy watching a little one fill with pride when he sees you open his present. I still received a few, the highlight being the Day of the Week earrings from a kindergartner. (As requested, I am currently wearing Friday's yellow plastic triangles). I got a beautiful purse from China, an alarm clock, and a napkin holder. The child who gave me the napkin holder informed me I can use it to hold my mail to help me organize myself. hmmmm... I also received a gift certificate to Victoria Secret. It was overly generous and so sweet. The little girl however, is still waiting to hear what I buy and asked me every day this week when I was going to go pick something out for myself... good thing they sell lotion! (I have heard of teachers receiving Victoria Secret gifts the children picked out themselves... NOT lotion. I'm not sure how I would handle that one).

I guess I feel like a kid the day after Christmas tabulating his loot, but I have to admit, the teacher presents do make my day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

prayer in schools?

as we sat down at lunch club today my little angel exclaimed, "NOBODY EAT YET! We have to pray!"

i reminded him of the school rules on organized prayer (as much as you can explain that to a kindergartner) but pointed out that if he wanted to pray before he ate he was more than welcome to do so.

he smiled, folded his hands above his mac and cheese on the pink styrofoam lunch tray and said loudly,

"DEAR LORD. THANK YOU FOR THIS FOOD WE ARE GOING TO EAT. AND THANK YOU FOR THIS DAY THAT MRS LIPSTICK WHO TOOK US TO LUNCH. AMEN".

how does that not warm your heart and bring tears to your eyes?

unfortunately his prayer was so loud the other children went ahead and bowed their heads as well. so much for no organized prayer.

we'll have to work on praying quietly as not to force other people into religious practices...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Job Description

Today as an intro to a lesson I asked a kindergarten class if they knew what my job was. Hands waved in the air.

"You sing itchy, itchy, scratchy, scratchy!"

While that may be my absolute favorite part of my job, I do not think my principal hired me to sing "Flea, Fly, Mosquito". (Especially if you've heard my voice). But I like the idea that this little boy believes my purpose in the school is to go from class to class singing silly songs with them.

That is a job description I can handle.

gelatin and snowflakes

One of my fabulous co-teachers and I were in the middle of an exciting snowflake activity after reading The Snowy Day by Jack Eztra Keats when we hadn't thought all of the religious factors all the way through. We were handing out the marshmallows and pretzels and allowing them to smoosh everything together to make symmetrical snowflakes like Keats. Once they had finished with 2 snowflakes they could eat one of them and save one for home.

One child was allergic to marshmallows and his table looked at him with pity as he played with his pretzels. His friend said, "The only thing I can't eat is anything with pig".

And that was when I realized that tomorrow is Eid, a fourth of the class is Muslim, and here we having the class stuff gelatin filled marshmallows in their mouths.

SO, um, do your parents let you eat marshmallows at home? I asked.

"No! I've never had these before!" the little devout boy said, holding up the puffy white haven of sugar.

"Realllllyy.... What about you?" I started taking a poll. Half of the Muslims of the class reported they could eat the marshmallows, some reported they really just weren't sure... they had never eaten them before but didn't think it would be a problem. One little boy shouted out, "Don't worry Mrs. Lipstick! I'm another kind of Muslim. Not that kind!"

The devout boy looked at me with big eyes. "I ate a teeny tiny piece and nothing happened" he whispered.

"Oh honey, it wont make you sick, it's just that they use a tiny bit of pig to make it."

His eyes looked sad as he carefully placed his marshmallows on the table. "Ok, I can't eat pig."

We decided that if the children were Muslim they could take both snowflakes home and ask their parents if they could eat them or not.

A few minutes later I turned around to find the devout boy with white powder all over his face and no snowflake in sight. I suppose eating it at school is better than taking it home to have your mother tell you to throw it away, never allowing you to know the sweet taste of marshmallows.

Monday, December 17, 2007

pride of art

As I was leaving the other day I overheard a little boy in one of my classes telling our art teacher that she'd sent the wrong clay pot home with him.

"It's going to be ok" he explained bravely, "B. will bring in mine and then we'll switch".

My heart immediately went out to him. How I understood!

In second grade we made star ornaments out of clay. Once the clay was dry the teacher called us back and let us show her which star ornament was ours so we could paint it. So trusting of her... As I sat at my seat doing my work I watched another child take credit for my carefully crafted star. MY STAR! My heart sank when it was my turn and the teacher made me paint the lumpy star-like figure the star-stealer had made. How could I take this ugly star home to my parents? I wanted to cry but being the good, painfully shy second grader that I was, I'm sure I kept quiet until I came home and then told my parents about it.

We still hang the star on our Christmas tree, although every year we discuss the unfairness of the star switch. I can still feel my second grade heart's pain when I realized all those moments spent on the perfect points would only benefit someone else's Christmas tree.

The switch for my kiddos was merely a case of a mistaken identity~ the boys had the same initials. There was no trickery in one child taking another's work. Still, by the look on the little one's face talking to our art teacher I could understand his woe. (I have not heard if the boys have switched back or not, or if either still care a week later they even remember or care... I want to ask but don't want to bring up a touchy subject)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas doll drama

Every year my school puts up a big paper Christmas tree in the copy room with tags for needy children. There is usually a mad rush to get to the tree and by 9am the tree is practically bare.

This year I greedily took two tags, one for a little girl wanting a doll, and another for a boy asking for legos. How much fun will it be to shop for a doll? I thought excitedly.

The excitement ended as I stood in the store wondering what kind of doll to buy. What color doll do I buy? I have no idea who this gift is going to. I'd hate to give a little Hispanic girl a black baby doll, or the other way around. Would it matter? It would depend on the kid I suppose. At my school the kids are so close to color blind anyway that the child might not notice.

But if you give a child a baby doll they want it to be a baby they could take care of. One that looks like them. Then again, really, the baby's daddy could be anybody, right? If a multi-ethnic family is going to be 100% accepted anywhere, it would be at my school.

Still, this is this child's kindergarten Christmas. Santa Clause knows what she looks like. I want to keep the magic alive.

I could go with the ever popular Bratz dolls that come dressed ready to stand on a street corner. The little one might not care about the color since the doll would be a specific character. Then again, I can't bring myself to give money to the Bratz makers.

I found a very cute dark skinned doll in Marshalls today. It looked like it could be considered in a number of ethnicities. I started to get hopeful. Then I noticed her cute tank top that came just below where her breasts would be if she was old enough to have them. There is not a chance I am giving a 5 year old a doll wearing a shirt that the child wouldn't be allowed to wear to school.

Who knew buying a doll would come with this much drama?

My parents tell me they have been through this. Apparently for my three or four year old Christmas I wanted a specific doll I had seen at my preschool. The story goes that after weeks of looking, the only doll they could find that matched the one I wanted was an African American baby. They bought it, but later in a toy store in the back woods of West Virginia found a white baby dressed in the wrong clothes. So, they bought the white baby and switched the clothes to give me the exact baby I was requesting. They donated the African American doll to my preschool, where I ended up finding it, falling in love with it, and wished I had my own African American doll of my very own.

So maybe I am going through all this drama for nothing...

overheard during kindergarten snack

A little girl eating raisins looked up at a little girl eating coco-crisps.

"Ewww! It looks like you're eating poo."


seriously? I had to walk away so I wouldn't ask the raisin eater to examine her own snack more carefully. I love kindergarten logic.

Friday, December 14, 2007

the grinch

before my feet even hit the cold floor this morning i could tell i was going to be a grinch today. i just knew. i don't seem to be the only one. we're all ready for break, ready for report cards to be turned in, meetings to be finished, the pre-santa wiggles to be gone.

i was the grinch for about 2 hours. then, i went into a kindergarten classroom where a child brought me a book. i ended up on the floor reading a book to 3 kindergarten boys. one crawled under my arm and rested his head against my shoulder.

and all my grinch-ness melted away.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

school temperatures & collaboration

Every Wed my school spends all day in local screening looking over the paperwork of special education children or children who could perhaps be considered for testing. The members of this team sit in one room all day listening to various case managers, teachers, and sometimes parents, come and go from the room. The team has to stay in the room the whole time.

I am very glad I am not on this team. I enjoy working with them and I always benefit from discussing children with them. It is a very knowledgeable group of educators who have so much to offer.

But they sit there, all day. One room. The biggest issue with this room is the temperature. It's hot. It doesn't depend on what time of year it is. The room is just hot. If you open the windows one side of the room starts to freeze. So anyone sitting over near the windows needs to close them. But then everyone else starts sweating again.

Did I mention this is all day?

Yesterday the schedule was so packed they didn't have time for lunch. I think people were suppose to bring their lunch to the meetings but they got off schedule and nobody had time to go get their lunches.

So they are in this small hot room the entire day without eating lunch.

You can imagine that things didn't go so well in the afternoon. I was lucky and only had to attend the first two meetings of the day. I only heard about the afternoon meetings from other people. It is all hearsay, but I can tell you that the looks on people's faces and their tone of voice when they left the room did not convey that things went well.

There are rumors of yelling, though these may just be rumors.

Truthfully, I'd yell at someone if they were what was standing in my way of escaping from the small, hot room so I could eat something. Not very professional, but it is the truth.

I can't help but wonder what would have happened if the meetings were held after every one's blood sugar was level, and held in a room where the temperature was comfortable. Executives would never meet with an important client in a back room that is overheating.

Environment is such a little thing but it can affect so much. Not that we have space elsewhere in our building!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

helen keller

did anyone know this book existed?

i wonder if it would help me cope with my helen keller hatred or would only add to it? I'm fascinated...

It's your birthday? Let's write about it!

For so many of the kids on my caseload it is all about motivation. If they want to participate in something we can work on their goals. If they don't want to participate, no adult is going to get them to do it. Period. Six year olds with no reasoning skills can be very strong willed.

So I frequently find myself taking advantage of events and situations to manipulate them into ways to work on their goals.

One of my friends' bdays is tomorrow so out came the cake mix, eggs, oil, and cooking supplies. Some kids could count the eggs, some could learn about measurement, some could read directions, all while working on our social goals of following directions, working together, and keeping our hands to ourselves. (Let me tell you... when your friend has the spatula that YOU WANT keeping your hands to yourself is pretty hard... great time to practice using our words and not our tiny fists.)

I love cooking with kids. I love watching them break the eggs, hesitating at first and then giving it a big smack that leaves pieces of broken shell in their hands as yoke oozes out from both sides. I love the frantic mixing, the wide-eyed stares as the 1/4 cup of water slowly pours into the bowl, the careful measuring of the oil.

After we had sent our cake to the oven one of my friends looked at me and said, "We tell office we bake cake." Sure! We can go brag about our cooking! (Meeting the goal of telling personal recounts and practicing vocabulary). So we told anyone who happened to be in our path that we'd been cooking. This from a child who spends most of his time with his hoody pulled up over his head.

Tomorrow we'll ice the cake, then maybe do some writing about how we baked it. Maybe a thank you card for the cafeteria for letting us use the oven. Maybe some math lessons on how many pieces we can cut it into. Hmmm....

Thank goodness for birthdays. Let's see... we'll have to find more reasons to bake in the future. Here's to anything that motivates!

Monday, December 10, 2007

so what kind of animal does your God let you eat?

My first year teaching I accidentally turned my class into vegetarians for 2 weeks. I got a new student who had recently converted to Islam. A few weeks prior she had been living in North Carolina attending a Baptist church with her very Southern American girl name, wearing very American girl clothing. Her parent married someone from India and so she moved away from the South, converted to Islam, changed her name, and began dressing in beautiful Muslim play clothes. She also had to suddenly understand what she could and could not eat. Though she was the first Muslim student in our small classroom there were many Hindu children who did not eat beef, so she was not the only one with dietary restrictions.

Every day going through the lunch line was an ordeal. "Does that have pork in it?" she'd ask and point to a baked potato. "What about that?" and point to corn. One day when I am sure I had to run go copy papers and finish lesson plans I said, "Ok, this is from a cow, this is from a pig, this is from the garden", etc.

"WHAT??" a first grade boy yelled. "This hamburger is from a COW? This is a COW?" The class went crazy. "I'm not eating COW." "Ewwww... PIG!! I can't eat that!"

Oops.

Since then I've tried to stay with labels like "beef, pork, and poultry" when helping our religious kids choose what they are able to eat. Last week I was leading my kindergarten lunch club through the line when I realized one little boy was holding a ham sandwich I knew he could not eat. I grabbed it from him (keep in mind my previous posts about my lunch bunch... this is not usually a time when I am able to think calmly and slowly), reminded him he can't eat pork, and slapped the waffles and turkey sausage down on his tray. The lower lip began to tremble. "I can't eat that either!" he said pointing to the turkey sausage.
*sigh* you try to explain to a child who can't read that the meat on his plate may look like its from a pig but it really comes from a bird.
The cafeteria lady threw down a pb&j sandwich. The lower lip trembles even more. "I'm allergic to peanuts!" he announces.
*sigh* We are out of options. I re-plop down the waffles and fake sausage, hoping I can explain to him the difference upstairs.
Next in line is a little girl from the same country as this little one. A little girl also clutching a ham sandwich. I'm not sure I'm ready to go through this again. "Honey, are you Muslim?" I ask. "What? " she said, "What's that?"

moment of truth... do I coach her to get something else or do I figure that since I do not have any note on dietary restrictions, and since the child doesn't know at this moment in time what 'Muslim' is, do I allow her to each the sandwich?

Upstairs the little boy refused to eat anything that came into contact with the turkey sausage. Here is this crazy teacher letting his friend eat her ham sandwich and trying to tell him they make sausage from turkey.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

trashy tv's commentary on education

the entire premise of tonight's Family Guy cartoon show is that a character gets expelled from high school because his test scores are so low they cost his school its federal funding according to NCLB.

It is really something when NCLB is being mocked on Fox. The punch-line of the scene sadly was exactly what we say all the time ourselves, but its not so funny when we say it.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

the internet is for...

(hang with me on this one, although it is not really education focused...)


This morning, after waking up groggy from our staff holiday party the night before, I headed to meet my jumpers for our yearly clinic. A team of competitive jumpers drives down every year from a nearby state (we pay them) to help us with our skills. I stood there watching them interact with my team and found myself becoming defensive. How dare they judge us like that, I think, sure it is because of the vast diversity of my team. How we don't have fancy uniforms, some of our kids don't have good shoes, there is no Nike clothing to work out in, and some don't speak English. As I had these disgruntled thoughts I realized I was judging their team for their Norwegian blond looks, matching jackets and bags, and general yuppiness. The song "Everybody's a Little Bit Racist" began playing in my head and I ran to my cell phone to text my husband to remind him to get tickets to the play Avenue Q tonight.


Thank goodness I did. It is brilliant. I feel like something in my life has come full circle. Healing, almost. Perhaps it is because I was raised on Sesame Street (my parents lied to us and told us PBS was the only channel we got on our remote-less tv). So in a very (very) odd way it felt natural and healthy to have puppets, digital images, and peppy songs delivering the message about the ups and downs of those first post-college years.


If you are not familiar with Avenue Q it is a Broadway Music featuring singing puppets suffering through their first post college years. Just as Sesame Street helped my generation learn its abcs with our early social skills, Avenue Q helps my generation understand that we are not alone in our transition into the real world.


The first time I heard the Avenue Q soundtrack, specifically the song, "I want to go back to College" I had recently graduated from college myself. I had a "text-to-self" connection with a song that reminded me of the soulful song of my youth, "I don't want to live on the moon" sung by Ernie. I almost cried. "Yes!" I wanted to shout to the world. "I COULD be in the computer lab right now! Or in the quad, knowing who I am! Yes, it sucks to be me!" (Quotes from the songs if you are unfamiliar with Avenue Q).


A few years later I finally got to see the actual production. It was still fabulous, but I found myself with lingering existential thoughts the entire time. How life has changed since I went through those stages myself. I no longer felt the urge to wave my hand in the air in the "I have a connection" motion we teach the kids to make. And with that came a scary thought... does this mean I have passed into the world of being grown-up? Am I so old that I no longer identify with the post-college blues? I can relate, but only in the past tense.


Thank God.


My brothers are seniors in college this year. I considered buying the soundtrack for them for Christmas, but realize they wont fully appreciate the puppets' wisdom yet. They still have the hopes and dreams that come from college. Next year though, it will be on my shopping list.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

what's in there?

Today in honor of the snow I grabbed white paint and blue paper and decided we would make Snowy Day snow pictures. I did this with my kindergarten lunch club yesterday and decided that it went well enough I'd try it with my first grade group.

The only problem is, I don't have paint brushes. I had a fantastic tub of paint brushes. If I'm honest my tub of paint brushes was my favorite part of my classroom. It looked so inviting. The different shapes and sizes of brushes, just asking to be used in whatever creative process they are needed. When I moved out of my classroom I left the brushes and haven't seen them since. I miss them.

So, yesterday when I was grabbing the supplies for my kindergarten bunch I didn't have time to ask someone for brushes. Why let that stop me? I grabbed plastic knives, spoons, and paperclips and demonstrated all the magic we could create with these supplies. They bought it, and we had a lot of fun. So why not try it again?

Today I introduced this to my two first graders and they ate it up. One though, seemed to dive into the project in a way I'd never seen before. He started looking around the classroom for other supplies to paint with. He found two skinny wooden rods, hooked them together with a paperclip, and began painting with both of the rods. Then he grabbed another piece of paper and pressed it on top of his current art work to create a stamp.

This is a little one who stays in the back of the classroom by choice, defies teachers who try to engage him, and frequently avoids participating. He struggles with language and although wants to communicate, gets so frustrated by his difficulties that he lashes out in anger frequently.

I've seen him talkative and happy before, but I've never witnessed this amount of initiative and creativity. He was in his own world, making his ideas happen, testing his theories, and fixing them when they didn't work. To be honest, I was shocked. This is a child who has thrown his guided reading books at me when he got frustrated.

So what is in there? He is a problem solver, he is thinking quickly, making connections in his life, and he seems to love creating. This just isn't what we normally see. This isn't reflected in his testing, or his predicted ability. Are his communication struggles making him appear behind his peers in everything when really it is just his ability to verbalize his thoughts? Who is this little boy we've known all year? What else is hiding in there?

I don't know, but I am planning another open-ended art project for tomorrow. Let's see what else we can discover.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

am i that predictable?

During the chaos of the snowy day I watched 2 kindergartners strategically set up a catapult for crayolas during reading centers. Amazed with their engineering skills I let it go on until I was sure they were headed for a crayon rainstorm. I pulled them into the hallway and started in on one of my Miss Viola Swamp Lectures of Death.

My smart-cookie from last year was sitting outside her second grade classroom directly across the hall, working on math problems. As I stopped to take breathes from my lecture she was ready with my next words. "Yeah, and you can hit someone in the eye!" "Yeah, would Miss L let someone throw a crayon at you?" (This really confused them since they have never heard of Miss L... just Mrs. Lipstick) "What will you do next time?"

As I sent the boys back inside the classroom I turned and looked at her. "Kindergarten" she said, "They'll make you crazy."

A year later and she still knows my lectures. I clearly need to get more creative.

*s*n*o*w*

What a day. I am completely exhausted.

Until today I had never experienced a snowy day in kindergarten. I had no idea what I was in for. Not even first grade prepared me for this. If you are ever wondering about the meaning of life or caught up in an existential thought, come to kindergarten on a snowy day. The magic and excitement flying around the room will just make you happy to be alive.

The snow fell a bit this morning but around 9am starting floating down slowly and steadily. Frequently, throughout the day, a little one would tug on my shirt, tap me on the arm, or just yell across the room, "Hey! It's snowing!" "Did you know? It's snowing!" "There is SNOW out there!"

You find yourself thinking, "Good grief! It's like they've never seen snow before" and then you realize that for some of them its true. They haven't. None of the kindergartners have experienced what school is like on a snowy day, but some of our children just came into the country from more tropical locations. For some of them it truly was their first experience with white flakes falling out of the air. So they look at us like we're crazy when we pull out the reading books and tell them to sit on their bottoms. No wonder they keep reminding us about the snow! We clearly forgot the world is covered in white magic if we think reading workshop is going to happen...

One little boy who recently entered the country just stood and talked on and on about the snow (and I later learned, his brand new boots). He spoke in nothing but excited Spanish and although I can sometimes understand Spanish, excited, hurried, kindergartner on a snowy day Spanish is another thing entirely. I just stared at his huge brown eyes containing that glow of wonder.

So many of the great teachers I co-teach with knew not to fight it. They took their classes outside for snow walks, generated lists of snowy words, and encouraged snowy stories in writing workshop. One little boy explained to me in great detail what it was like to have snow touch his nose. Fantastic vocabulary practice if nothing else!

I shamelessly abused the magic of the snow for lunch club and we read The Snowy Day by Jack Ezra Keats and then painted snow scenes. It was pure gold. During the reading and painting they'd occasionally stop and say, "Hey! Mrs Lipstick... there is snow at the window! Snow in the book! And snow in the window!"

It was magic, but I wont complain if we have a two-hour delay tomorrow. Or even more snow so they have to close schools altogether. Pajamas, inside out everyone!

help!

about to go run kiss and ride in the snow. pray for me that there are no accidents... i can only imagine the nightmare that could possibly occur...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

chance of flurries?

Put the pjs on inside out, backwards, do your snow dance, drop the ice cubes in the toilet (i just learned that one last year) and do whatever else it takes to make it snow before 6am.

It's the first chance of snow this school year and although they are only calling for a few inches to slowly accumulate during the day, there is nothing like a little bit of hope on a school night. (It is perfect timing with the grad school finals I'm working on.)

Bring on the snow!

How do you get home?

"Are you taking the bus home today?"

"No."

"Oh. Then how are you going home today?"

"The bus is taking me home."

Got it. Although the image of a kindergartener physically taking the bus home has been making me smile all day. This little one has heard that phrase so many times, does he think some kids are the lucky ones who do get to take the bus home with them?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dear upstairs copier,

Dear upstairs copier,
I want to apologize for my frustrated outburst this afternoon. It was not fair when I said those words under my breath. You copy papers very, very quickly. You do not get jammed very frequently. I am glad to have you.

But you have to understand, when you beep loudly to tell me to add more paper, I don't like it. In fact, when I'm already tense, it makes things a lot worse. I KNOW I need to add more paper. You have a flashy light that tells me so. I was GETTING the paper. But I had to find it in the workroom. Then I had to unwrap it and load it into the machine. I was working on it. But the entire time you kept beeping. Beep. Beep. Beep. Did you think I would leave you? Just walk off, saying, "You know what, I didn't want those copies anyway?" What if I had to get the paper from downstairs? Were you going to beep the entire time? Or if we ran out of paper completely? Would you have beeped until I pulled the plug?

I spend all day with five year olds poking me, reminding me they are there, wanting my help. I can be patient with them. But from you copy machine, I expect more. Our relationship is different than that. It may not be fair, but it is true.

Have you ever seen the fax machine scene from Office Space?

Think about it.

I am.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

1 reason I question my sanity (subtitle: I love my job)

Every day from 12 to 12:45 I meet with my lunch club. This is possibly the craziest 45 minutes I have ever experienced in my life, and every day I make a mental note to change my schedule, cancel the group, and save my sanity. Then I go home, replay the events, laugh, take a deep breathe, and convince myself it is actually a great experience. And then I thank God that I do not teach a self-contained class where this is the norm.

The club's membership varies between 6 students. It is mainly kindergartners, one set of twin boys, two other kindergarten boys, one kindergarten girl, and one first grade boy. Each is on my case load and comes with his or her own set of excitement and energy.

There have been days where lunch club goes smoothly. We read books. We chat about life. We review our table manners. We retell stories with beginning, middle, and end. We discuss rules for our group (1. Wait, listen, then talk. 2. Use a quiet voice) We check out the frog.

Other days, not so much.

One of our goals is to use the bathroom when we need to go so before we have lunch I make everyone go to the bathroom to prevent accidents. In kindergarten they are accustomed to having bathrooms in their classrooms but in my office we have to use the third grade bathroom next door. Sometimes there are third graders there. Sometimes this is very, very bad.

Last week one of my excited kiddos comes RUNNING out of the bathroom. (He only has to go 2 feet but since he is running at a full pace his feet skid on the floor as he hops past me, and has to turn around, skidding again. It takes a few tries before he hops directly in front of me. We're still learning how to control our bodies) "Mrs. Lipstick! Mrs. Lipstick, do you know what your Angel said? He said he's going to kick my A** all over the school! My A**" His twin pops out of the bathroom in much the same manner and the two bop up and down in front of me. "My A**" (Luckily they are difficult to understand since there are third graders lined up to use the bathroom. Two classes, plus their teachers and interns, staring at me and my kiddo screaming A**.) So I storm into the bathroom, announcing to the third grade boys that I'm coming in. There is lots of scrambling and excitement about a teacher entering the boys bathroom. And then I see my Angel, standing there with his arms crossed, holding court. The third grade boys see me and come running. "He said he's going to get our butts kicked out of school!" they yell at me, pointing at my tiny little angel who I have never seen do anything wrong since he entered our school. I take a deep breathe and prepare for my lecture of doom. I put on my Miss Viola Swamp no-nonsense face and prepare to let Angel have it. (Frankly, he's lucky the third graders didn't decide to jump him before I was summoned).

"ANGEL!" I begin when a third grader with autism jumps out from the stall.
"Hey! Kid! Is you're name Angel? My name is Angel! Hey! Is your name Angel? My name is Angel! Hey!" he shouts excitedly.

I love kids with autism. Trying not to crack a smile (and failing miserably) I take in the scene: the disgruntled defendant, my angry kiddo who was threatened, and his twin brother who is out to defend his honor, my little girl who missed all of the fun so is trying to run into the boys bathroom and find out what's wrong, and the teeny tiny kiddo in the group who is standing there with his arms crossed just like me, looking down his nose and giving my Angel the Viola-Swamp lecture for me. Since he's taking care of it I bury my head into my arm and laugh. hard.

Taking a deep breath I lead my posse back into my room and close the door to solve the issue in private.


and that is just the first five minutes of lunch club.

A think tank focused on creative solutions for future problem solvers -tree