Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday's Bits and Blurbs/Kindergarten Teacher Tip



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I finally caught up a bit on politics this week... Democrats, Republicans, Independents, let's not just put on a good show, let's do some *real* good for this nation. Please.

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~Teachers, check out The Student Bill of Rights over at The Elementary Educator. Mark Pullen hit the nail on the head with this one, demonstrating pro-student advocacy over the priorities some teachers insist upon, usually for their own convenience.

~Jennifer at Inside Pre-K posted a blog that capped off my week, "Oh, So They Just Play..."

One of the reasons for my off-mood last week was the abundance of clueless-about-kindergarten statements that were made to me or about my students by colleagues. Everything from "wow, it must be hard to teach kindergartners, I mean, because those little guys can't do anything" to "hey, your one girl, the medicated one? I don't think she's medicated enough..."

Early childhood and kindergarten do tend to be grades that teachers either love or avoid like the plague. A room full of five year olds can frighten adults who are uncomfortable around runny noses, accidents, spills, outbursts, loco-motoring through story re-tellings, broken crayons, and yes, hand holding when it comes to learning how to cut, hold a pencil, or tying shoes. I am not a person who is bothered or annoyed by those things, because I understand that every person alive, at one point or another, experienced this developmental stage, learned through it, had fun in it, and is, in part, alive and successful today because of it. They learned how to cooperate, they learned how to decipher the chicken scratch that is writing, they learned to obtain information from not just the printed word, but illustrations and verbal communication from teachers and classmates. They learned to recognize patterns, sort, classify, count, evaluate, re-arrange, build, and use tools and materials around them. They learned to create, learned new techniques, asked questions, shared joy, and made friends. They learned to take care of their personal needs, and with the right teacher, they learned that school was a good place to be and a safe place to try out activities new and unfamiliar. While many of my colleagues don't remember their kindergarten years, let me gently remind you all: you didn't master "being at school," fine motor skills, social skills, or demonstrate academic prowess in the first twelve days of your kindergarten year. In fact, you didn't master them for much, MUCH longer. Take a breath. Think before you speak, and please stop speaking about my students within earshot of them (by the way, we can hear your cackles and criticisms around corners, where we're waiting, quietly lined up, for our turn with you). None of you have heard me say something like "Oh those third graders" or "Oh, all those students in the upper grades," have you? Nope. Because I understand that while I haven't taught third graders or secondary students, they are NOT incomplete or inadequate people because they haven't yet mastered the school curriculum in a way that is convenient or ideal for you or me.

And new kindergarten teachers...if anyone approaches you with the classic "Oh, you teach kindergarten? So you just PLAY all day, right?" statement, just remember: most people play to learn and spend their lives trying to obtain mastery. Don't believe me? Watch a colleage be introduced to a new computer program that s/he has to use for work. Then watch them play computer Solitaire, or Concentration, or type a letter to a friend. What are they doing? Practicing and developing techniques that will help them when they use the new computer program. Ever see an adult pick up a new hobby like knitting or painting? Were they experts on the first try? Nope. They made mistakes. Probably got frustrated a few times along the way too. *Might* have even thrown the paintbrush or knitting needles aside..."this is too hard!" Sound like some five year olds you might know?



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New Teacher Tip: For those of you who have a general elementary education degree, you can usually be credentialed to teach grades K-6 or even K-8. If you've been hired to teach kindergarten after your practicum experience has been in any grade OTHER than kindergarten, you're probably in shock right now, especially if you didn't have to take early childhood development courses for your major. My advice? TAKE SOME ECHD COURSES PRONTO. Kindergarten is NOT the same as grades 1-6, and it is NOT "easy" like babysitting either. FIND BOOKS, ARTICLES, AND BLOGS ABOUT TEACHING FOUR TO SIX YEAR OLDS, find out who a "master kindergarten teacher" is in your district, apply to take a day's leave from your class and go observe that teacher. Ask permission to take your digital camera. Take notes. Ask questions. Keep in touch.

Scholastic's The New Kindergarten



Joyful Learning in Kindergarten



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2 comments:

  1. It's been kind of fun this week to spend time at school getting my room set up. Tracks two through five started this week. But I'm track one and start on the 15th of September. I spent a lot of time at key times of the day helping the other kindergarten teachers with management issues, moving from the playground to class, from class to lunch, and dismissal. On the first day or two, there were kids who we weren't even sure we had the right names attached to them... (two we didn't). Most of the upper grade staff, are more amazed that we do what we do with 5 year olds than anything else. And sometimes they aren't real good at articulating that amazement. I like the perspective of the 5th grade teachers, they shudder at the thought of the little guys, and for me, the feelings mutual. I could no more teach 5th grade than they could teach kindergarten.

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  2. Exactly! I've had secondary students as "buddies" for my kindergartners for years, and love team teaching with fifth or sixth grade teachers because it frankly reminds me how much I love my grade level! I'm in awe of what grade level teachers, and especially specialists (PE, Music, Art, Library) do with their students. And specialists get them ALL, not something I would be particularly comfortable with.

    What I was tut-tutting in my blog was the inappropriate and hurtful comments that some colleagues should know better than to express near open doors, when they can't see who might be in the hallway etc. My students overheard some of the comments, knew they were directed at THEM, and my goodness, you should have seen their crushed expressions. As horrible as it was trying to help my class recover after what they heard, I was still grateful that no parents had been in the hallway as well.

    I suppose this school hasn't had too many complaints about confidentiality... or tact...yet. Words have weight. They matter. They impact us all, but especially our students.

    I know you'll enjoy meeting all of your new students when class starts! Thank goodness you've been there to help the others!

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As always, thank you for your comments, tips, suggestions and questions!