Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Checking In

I'm still here, though it might be difficult to know it considering my lack of posting.  In addition to teaching another sweet, silly and smart class of kindergarteners, this is year TWO of my graduate program, which will wrap up at the end of this summer.  I've been on the mend since the health scare wake-up-call of last spring... we've added a sweet kitty to our family... and I've developed quite the addiction to crochet. While I haven't been blogging regularly, I assure you I've remained immersed in all things #kindergarten, such as continuing to grow my classroom library with new and new-to-me titles (this batch of books was selected for one of my grad classes, and I'm unsure if Coraline would be a good read-aloud for kindergarten: let me know if your class has enjoyed it):

... treating my Stars to fun and fresh holiday pencils each month (oh Target Spot, how I love you):

... and enjoying early childhood teacher fashion, like these glasses that show just how much I love teaching and learning:

When I get home, there's lots of snuggling and cuddling and taking pictures of Tish-Tish:

(Here she is with yet another book for grad school)

... and oodles and oodles of crochet going on, which *might* have something to do with my one and only new year's resolution: to crochet one afghan per month.

Though this year has flown by in many ways, there's still so much left to do.  I have a yearbook deadline around the corner, after reaching the one-hundredth day of school, my Stars are excited to be counting down to summer vacation, and graduate school assignments and professional development meetings are in multiplication mode. 

But I'll be back to blogging, I promise.  Kindergarten is too great an adventure to go it alone, you know?  Until then, remember that you can find me on Instagram @msommerville (seriously, go check out the latest portrait that a Star drew of me; I'm thinking I need to purchase some monster hair bows now) and occasionally on Twitter @msommerville where my absence from Twitter chats is also evident but I still find some great stuff to retweet and share. 

How is YOUR year going?  Have any book recommendations for me?  What's your non-school-related hobby? 

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Straws and Camels

As a first year teacher so many years ago, I thought my veteran colleagues had an air of wisdom about themselves.  They looked and sounded experienced.  While they could certainly still be surprised, they never appeared shocked.  Sarcasm was a sign of their seasoning, and their passion for teaching was evident in how they shared, how they offered, and how they employed patience with me. P-l-e-n-t-y of patience.

I remember when they suffered illness, and when others became heartsick.  Puffy eyes, gray pallor, restraint and a need to back away from or even avoid "extras" were quietly noted and the rest of us sympathized, discreetly offered help, and volunteered to take on some of their load, knowing full well that we'd benefit from reciprocity when it was our turn...when life happened...when we were the most human. To care for colleagues, to see them through, was professional.  I found myself the newest member of a teaching family united in purpose, bonded over responsibilities, and when needed, ready to step up to help another through the rough patches.  No one was left by the wayside, no one mourned alone, and it wasn't considered a sign of purposeful antagonism when questions were asked, pedagogy evolved, and new resources came and went... and came again.  The meetings weren't always fun and the arguments could become impassioned; colleagues could make asses out of themselves; apologies were offered; forgiveness was given.  We learned one another's boundaries, strengths, limits and humor.

And we respected them.

Enter NCLB (the Age of Teacher Blame) followed by the Sell-Your-Brand-to-the-Consumer Era, and a collateral gap has emerged between the young bucks and their veteran mentors.  Peppy and eager to implement this generation's peddled cure-alls, newbies have found themselves partnered with colleagues whose pedagogy reflects a much less manic pace and reluctance to toss the baby out with the bathwater.  I remember when shame wasn't associated with this difference.  More and more, today's teachers are burnt out in mere years, instead of burning out after decades.  It's been almost a year since I've blogged here at Kindergarten's 3 R's, so you might wonder if this post is me hinting around that I'm toying with the idea of running away to join the circus.  Clowns give me the creeps, so that's a big NO.  Since:

... here's the short version of what's been going on since last February: I taught.  Continued grad school.  Was busy with family and, time permitting, friends.  I explored other social media. Then a DVT was found in my leg followed by three pulmonary emboli in my chest requiring that my summer vacation be spent healing and learning how to not only handle blood thinners but the accompanying worry, stress, and fear that came along for the ride.  Life happened, as it does.

The new school year started and I was blessed to be able to greet my newest group of students who were unaware of the changes I was experiencing.  My colleagues allowed for the jumble of emotions that were spilling out from me and asked how they could help.  I became better at saying "no" when necessary (something so hard for teachers to do) and for whatever reason assumed that the freight train of public education would slow down a bit to accommodate for the adjusted amount of self-care I found necessary.  This has been my first long-term moment of need where a sabbatical would be much too long of a pause... and I'm nowhere near considering retirement.  I can also still effectively teach kindergarten students the skills that they need and from which they'll benefit most (and I love to do it)... as long as I don't have to recreate the wheel mid-year after spending months establishing the routine that my students and I both need, because *that* dear reader, is the straw threatening to bruise this camel's back.  

I'm not the only one. This afternoon I looked out across a sea of my colleague's faces after it was proposed that we attempt to implement another new modification to the instructional rhythm that we planned and set as our year's pace.  Among the tired were those who were intrigued, along with a few who wore expressions of confusion as they tried imagining how this newest change might affect their jam-packed plan that already barely allows for needed flexibility and breathing room. And then there were some who appeared authentically haggard and disheveled, making me furrow my brow with concern as I realized I hadn't really touched base with them since the frenzied start of our second semester.  Their faces didn't illustrate a desire to deprive students, to slack on the job, or to naysay, scoff at or rebut the suggested modification. None were aspiring to be Debbie Downers either. Their expressions simply pleaded "please, no."

From time to time, some teachers' incentives and intentions are other teachers' camels and straws.

Teachers know that every school year benefits from some rah-rah, and every successful plan requires support and a commitment.  But educators deserve acknowledgment when they've reached their limit too, and it's that accommodation, that consideration, which is rarely if ever provided by a canned program or scripted regimen that dictates hoops to be jumped through in order to attain some status valued by consumers of not a product, but a brand. "Back when I started teaching," curricula and programs were test-piloted by a few teachers with the understanding that an extensive debrief was expected before full-scale adoption would be considered.  This system worked because it enabled the teachers who were most interested and most able to not only explore new resources but to better guide their colleagues as educational needs were identified. Teachers were recognized as whole people with full lives: those with young children could miss more work as their kids shared germs while singles had more time and the freedom to travel hither and yon to conferences, sharing everything they learned upon their return.  Educators motivated to guide the next generation of teachers could regularly host and mentor practicum students while their colleagues next door could build collaborative programs with local businesses or cultural resources to benefit multiple schools.  A grade level colleague could ask another to share a contract for a year in order to spend more time at home to care for a sick parent, while another could fully mentor a new-to-service teacher before, during and after school daily.  All of these essentials could happen "back in the day" without resentment or shaming because it was understood that the human conditions of both students and teachers contributed to the successes and failures of school.

I too, feel a bit like how some of my incredible colleagues looked this afternoon.  Please.  Not one more thing.  I have enough.  I am doing enough.  I'm not failing my students and I'm not refusing to be a team player. I will jump rail cars and tracks when I am again able.  But not today.  Not this week.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Speaking for Myself: I Do Not Want to Carry a Gun in My Classroom

Another school shooting.  More children and school staff dead.  Video and audio footage of witnesses, survivors, bereaved families, and distraught first responders play on a loop.

Sidebar arguments repeat on television, radio and social media.  Readers, callers, watchers hung up on semantics, the rights of gun owners, misleading headlines, and blame, none of which help the dead, none of which help future victims.  It's not real discourse.  It's slurry.

Memes call for love, demand that teachers carry guns, and fill the screen with lots of American flags, gun-toting patriots, and child-sized coffins.  Political cartoons feature past victims welcoming present heroes, with lots of extra room for the future results of gun violence in Heaven.  Reruns of cartoons depict teachers shielding children from shooters, scenes which never feature background details such as student artwork, projects, math manipulatives, maps, posters, monkey bars, beanbags or copies of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See or history books.  Never band instruments, lunch boxes, bike helmets or graffiti-covered folders.  Nothing to illustrate the child's world that exists within a school.  Nothing to convey the comfort of routine, nothing capturing the excitement of being the star helper, line leader, yearbook editor, or debate team captain. No drawings of the bravery required and demonstrated when reaching out for the monkey bars or reciting lines from a play for the first time.  No renderings of the exuberant smiles or furrowed brows worn as students concentrate on their explorations and learning. No sketches of them reading together, encouraging one another, collaborating, singing, dancing or soaking up life. It's a noticeable lack of representation of the thoughts, feelings and experiences that children ought to have in school, the environment that is their home away from home.

Except now there is live streaming.  Students interviewing students.  Teens, whose lives are in danger, tweeting, calling, texting in real time.  If the loss of life touches some part of your soul, the documentary testimony and journalistic recordings made by students will likely leave you feeling shattered and guilty.  And they should.  Children, innocents, are being shot at.  They are dying.  They are covered in the blood of their friends, mentors and teachers.  They're walking around and through it.  And they know we're watching. They know we're watching when we're supposed to be DOING something. They have come to understand that we're not in the mood to hold ourselves accountable, to do our jobs as parents, guardians, advocates, protectors.  We're shopping for bulletproof liners for backpacks as if our consumerism is our only way to solve this problem, asking Julia and Joaquin if they'd like the pink one or the gray one.  They know what we're implying: we're going to continue to send them to a place where it is becoming more likely they will be shot by someone who should not have a gun.  And though we're being judged fairly, few of us seem ashamed. Self-righteousness is more addictive and rewarding than responsibility.  Too many are inclined to simply express "thoughts and prayers" ad nauseam.  The survivors who scream "KEEP YOUR FUCKING PRAYERS, DO SOMETHING" aren't being disrespectful. Who, other than the hero, is truly worthy of their respect at this point?

I will only speak for myself: I do not want to carry a gun in my classroom.  I do not want to store a firearm in my students' learning space "just in case." I do not happen to believe that the only way to deal with violence is with more violence, weapons with more weapons.  Imagining a gun in my hand within the classroom that I have purposely created and maintained as a safe place for kindergartners, colleagues, and friends of education makes me ill.  I'm no coward, and I'm not a glorified babysitter, soldier, or police officer either.  I am a professional educator who happens to think that far too many of my fellow Americans are performing the gun lobby's sales pitch like puppets, either out of laziness or some misconstrued impression that their "freedoms" are being trampled upon, making the protection of their guns more of a priority than the protection of their children. Cowards are people who throw their hands into the air insisting that there's only ever one solution, intent on committing themselves and the rest of us to horrific outcomes. Too many armchair teachers, administrators, and criminologists willfully refuse to allow themselves to realize that students are exposed en masse throughout every school day, not just when they're "safe" inside a building. They ignore the bus line, football field, the outdoor gardens, parking lot, class registration, recess, sporting events, prom and club activities. They inqure about our schools, ooh and ahh over the metal detectors and armed guard located at the entrance (and not any of the other doors) choosing to ignore that on one day or several, students completing a school service activity or a teacher moving his or her belongings into the building or a parent volunteer will leave an exterior door open, or the A/C will give out on an extremely hot day and someone or many someones will open their windows, or the guard will be living in the restroom thanks to the barrage of germs that attack every newbie. It is because of human nature that both our "secure" systems are never 100% effective, and our peace of mind, if assured with all sorts of gadgetry and alarms, is repeatedly reinforced by thinking that we've done enough to protect ourselves and our children.

We haven't.

"TEACHERS SHOULD BE ARMED! THAT'LL SOLVE THE PROBLEM, BY GOD!" "If a shooter makes the mistake of entering my child's classroom, the teacher can prevent or end a bloodbath!" Folks, the only "winners" in this scenario are the gun manufacturers. Instead of regulating guns, they'd very much like to encourage the purchase of more.  Instead of preventing guns from getting into the hands of those inclined to use them for violence, they want everyone packing.  And because they've somehow gotten a significant percentage of the populace to forget that we're actually capable of solving exceptionally difficult problems without bloodshed, many folks have convinced themselves that my job is to reenact some Shootout at the O.K. Corral scenario, completely disregarding every child's right to learn, grow and thrive in a safe and shielded environment.  "Instead of one gun, there should be multiple guns in schools" is not a reasonable standard to which any of us should allow districts to aspire.  I refuse to drink the snake-oil being peddled by the gun lobby, and I refuse to accept that one day, a Super Star will have to depict me holding anything other than a book, cup of coffee or THEIR hands in mine:

If we ever needed a paradigm shift, now's the time.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Martin Luther King Jr. / MLK Pack Available Now

My Martin Luther King Jr. pack is available now on Teachers Pay Teachers!  Check it out for primary-appropriate trace, color, timeline and matching activities.  Directions for pages and biographical information about Dr. King are phrased in kid-friendly terms.

As usual, my favorite Clip ARTISTS,  Edu-Clips and Whimsy-Clips made the wonderful graphics used in this pack:

Monday, December 04, 2017

Rudolph, Rudolph, Uh... Rudolph?

My students love directed drawings and guided art lessons that introduce them to lines, colors, and different mediums, and I very much enjoy seeing how their sequencing and fine motor skills develop over the course of our year together.  I remember this particular lesson appearing several years ago at ARTventurous, a fun blog full of creativity that continues to provide plenty of inspiration for regular education and art teachers alike.  My Super Stars created their versions of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with our school's art teacher just in time to brighten up our classroom for the holidays.

But... do you see what I see?






Yes?  No?  

(I love them all!)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Check Out TPT's Cyber-Sale Nov. 27 & 28


I fill my Teachers Pay Teachers cart as I digest my Thanksgiving meal.

And then I w-a-i-t... until Cyber Monday!

This year's TPT Sale will be November 27 and 28, and I'm including all of my shop's items at 20% off of their regular prices, including my newest products:

You can print your preferred picture cards, cut apart and laminate.  Display the cards at a table OR hang them throughout the classroom, since students LOVE to search for pictures with their recording page on a clipboard! Both color and black-and-white cards are included in this pack.

and my Hanukkah Write the Room Pack:

Two copies of the recording sheets will print from pages 7 and 8 to help your copy quota. Page 9 includes all of the pictures in this pack.

A bonus color-by-number page is included at the end of the packs for a center activity or fine motor sample.

Happy Cyber-Shopping!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Kindergarten Teacher Truth: The Laughing Emoji Encapsulates Some Days Perfectly

Star 1: Teacher! HE SAID MY FARTS FLY!
Me: Uh... what?
Star 1: He said my farts FLY!
Star 2: No I didn't.
Star 1: Yes he did!
Star 2: That's NOT what I said, I said-
Star 1: Yes he DID!
Me: Uh... wait... come here please (both a buy-myself-some-time-so-I-respond-correctly AND good-lord-I-need-these-two-to-stop-shouting-this-across-the-room-right-now tactic).
~Stars 1 and 2 approach my desk~
Me: Now, with an inside voice, please explain what has happened.
Star 1: We were playing with the dolls and puppets, well, I was playing with the dolls and puppets and HE was playing somethin' else and-
Star 2: I don't want to play with the dolls and puppets. I was making dinner (dramatic play center).
Star 1: Yeah, he was making dinner, and I showed him, well I wanted to show him that I put the clothes on the baby AND on a puppet, but he wouldn't look, and I asked him again, and he wouldn't look, and then he said my farts fly.
Star 2: I didn't want to look at the doll. I was busy making dinner, and I was almost done.
Me: Did you say something to her when she tried to show you the dolls?
Star 2: Yeah, I told her "I'm cooking. I can't look right now."
Star 2: (sighing) No, I didn't say your farts fly. *** I SAID*** I don't give a flying fart if you dressed up the baby. I'm cooking dinner!
Me: (dying on the inside, amazingly straight-faced on the outside) Honey, is that a nice way to talk to a friend at school? Next time please tell her that you'll look in a little bit, or ask her to show another friend.
Star 1: Yeah, don't tell me that my farts fly! That's not nice.
And then I sent them back to the dramatic play center.
That's right, I GAVE UP.
There was no neat and tidy resolution.
I couldn't embrace the teachable moment because I was too filled with desperation to not let loose with wild peals of laughter.


Do you have any idea how *awesome* this week's parent teacher conferences are going to be?