Month: December 2011

Animal Farm

No, not the novel by George Orwell. Just the random little animal farm around the corner. A 2-block walk that is usually the highlight of our week, and yes, sometimes we go 3 times a week if the weather is cooperating.

 There are 2 donkeys, a horse, 2 goats and a couple geese. So not only do we get our fill of some great animals and the sometimes very loud noises they make, (we’re used to the donkeys now but it’s taken a couple times of literally peeing in our pants when they brayed) but we also practice walking safely to the farm, get to see the neighborhood around school, and explore the world outside of our little playground.

So take a minute and check out the immediate neighborhood around your own school.  You may find a hidden gem somewhere that will allow you to take breaks from the everyday routine, provide some excitement and teach some valuable lessons. But maybe bring some ear plugs:)

Personal Space?

Most people need some now and then. And if you’ve ever been around toddlers, they often need more than most……..I think their idea of how big their bubble of personal space is may be larger than an adults:) But then once in a while, a moment comes along where they’re happy to be all smushed together.

Enjoy these moments, take lots of pictures and whatever you do, DO NOT tell them to take turns, spread out or wait for someone to get off.

Sometimes “the more the merrier” is absolutely true.

Don’t Underestimate Me!

Don’t think your toddler can count yet? Or problem solve? Or set a table for 10? Think again! Toddlers are so often underestimated, but then at the same time expected to accomplish things their brains are not ready for like “use their words”. Attached is a video we shot of one of our 2 year olds setting the lunch table for 10 children. Does he do it as efficiently as an adult? Or in precise order? Not exactly, but does he clearly have a plan in mind? And is he absolutely using one-to-one correspondence as he places 1 plate, 1 cup and and 1 fork at each chair? Yes. Not bad for a 2 year old:)

Bev Bos – Required Reading

As a teacher, if you don’t have a “hero” or a mentor or just someone who inspires you to be a better teacher, go get one. And if you need a suggestion, we highly recommend Bev Bos. We recently spent a day in Denver at one of Bev’s seminars and I came away so excited to keep learning, keep plugging play-based, child-centered curriculums and in short, I basically wanted to pack up and move to California to go work for Bev.

My pen couldn’t keep up with the information – valuable tidbits, statements of fact, inspiring questions and general food for thought. I filled up a workbook with information that I couldn’t wait to relay to my co-workers. I always feel like I’ve “drunk the Kool-Aid” when I see Bev and I want to make everyone else drink it too! Just a few minutes listening to Bev can change your entire teaching focus and in my opinion, one of her seminars should be required for all preschool teachers before they begin teaching.

“If it isn’t in the hand or the body, it can’t get in the brain”. Such a simple concept but so important! And something all us teachers need to be reminded of-every day! As Bev says, “We need to get it in order – children can’t learn about hydrology before they play with water and rocks.” How often have you thought you were a successful teacher because you introduced a sophisticated concept to your class? But when you look back at that experience, did you miss out on meeting the kids needs? Were you meeting your needs instead? Or the parents needs?

In a child-centered school, the needs of the children are placed first and foremost and the 3 most important decisions the children are able to make daily are “What can I play with? How can I play with it? And who can I play with?” Bev’s rules for children are not what we sometimes see posted on classroom walls in pretty writing like “Criss-cross applesauce” or “1-2-3 eyes on me”. Bev’s rules for children are a laundry list that includes but is not limited to “Running, Jumping, Digging, Exploring, Pouring, Watching, Daydreaming, Spinning, Painting, Imagining.” Her rules for the Adults are short and sweet….”Be ready to step in with guidance when the child is on the verge of: Hurting Themselves, Hurting Another Child, or Destroying Property.” Those goals being accomplished, you should feel very good about your day as a teacher. When I see or hear about how productive or busy a classroom was at a school during the day, I honestly want to cringe. Were the kids busy playing with blocks or productive in their ability to dig a hole in the sand 5 feet deep? Because if not, the teachers were busy and productive meeting their needs and not the needs of the kids.

So I must confess that I sometimes leave Bev’s seminars feeling slightly overwhelmed.  Can I really convince every parent and teacher I know that this is the best way to enhance student success? What is the best way for me to spread the word? Or as I mentioned above, should I just pack up and move to California and beg Bev for a job in her school? How can I get my director to stock up on less toys and more loose parts for the kids to build with? How can I get the budget to include 300 pounds of clay and then find some room to dump it all on a table? How do we begin to work on the higher educational system and the crisis that the no-play philosophy in our elementary schools is creating? I don’t have all the answers to these questions but I am determined to just keep plugging away – one fellow teacher, one director, one parent at a time if I have to because, as Bev emphasizes, “all the conditions for growing wiser exist in only one place – PLAY.”