Category Archives: teaching

Lost Boys

imageLast year the stories of my preschool class often revolved around one particular boy – I called him my Pirate – because he and I were often on a gang plank together, holding safe space for each other in that precipice between the ship, (our classroom) and a vast ocean, (the world out there.)

This year, my pirate’s little brother is in my class.  In fact, I have a lot of little brothers in my class and the Wendy in me is realizing this ship is occupied by Lost Boys this year; boys who need a captain, a Peter or a Wendy, but mostly, a mom.  One thing they don’t need is Never Never Land.

Of course I sometimes wish there was a Crocodile loose on this ship, might help me tame the natives.  It is enough to have his ticking clock constantly at my side. I have about 500 hours to be with these Boys and help them learn to stay in their prams. Going for a walk in a pram is way better than getting lost and finding yourself in a place with no future.

the end of the end

if you are a teacher there is no other month like this one

celebrating blackberries, lake dips, forest walks, lanquid evenings, full moons, meteor showers, ice cream, cook outs

and yet all the while…

mind buzzing imagining room arrangements, surrepticious visits to a classroom to dust off book shelves, sharpen pencils, make space for stiff backpacks and tissue boxes

waking up in the middle of the night, making a note to remember one more thing
and then trying to sleep in, mindful that soon

a summer morning in bed will be a thing of the past

5/3 May-be

beautiful oops bookAt the first gathering of students in my after school fabric arts class, I read the book, Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg.  I told the kids that “oops” was going to happen in our class and one of my rules is that we wouldn’t be throwing projects out and beginning again.  I don’t think they really understood what I was telling them at the time.

Our first project involved weaving fabric into cardboard and then mixing our own paint colors to paint the cardboard. We will be adding some painting with1-IMG_0104 gadgets next week but that project just involved some work to figure out weaving and some thinking to mix colors.

The next project was school glue batik.  And the oopses really began to happen. One girl was making scallop-like lines across her fabric and then the lines became less regular and she turned to me and said, “I want to start over.”  I just put my hands up in an “oh well” type of message and said, “Remember I told you we wouldn’t be throwing things out to start over.  Figure out how to make your oops beautiful.” (And she did, here is the final result.)erika

Another younger student was painting blue stripes carefully over the batik lines and then dipped the sponge brush into water to clean off some of the paint.  He didn’t realize how much water those brushes hold and when he put it down on the fabric, his blue went everywhere.  I could tell he was dismayed as he went and got a load of paper towels to stop the flow.  Shy by nature he wasn’t sure how to express his disappointment or ask for advice.  1-IMG_0110

“You just encountered an oops,” I said to him.  “I think you’re really going to like how it turns out.”

At the following session I put their dried batiks on the wall and asked who experienced a beautiful oops. Almost everyone could point to something as an oops and tell what they had done or not done about it.  And as they moved on into another hour involving painting on fabric, I heard several say, “oops!”  And one of them added, “but I will make it beautiful!”

Love language

Our school has some classes that partner up for activities, older and younger.  Sometimes it is for book reading or an art project.  Sometimes it is “just because.”

My class is lucky to fall into the latter category.  It began early in the year when a 5th grade teacher noticed my preschoolers in puppy bunches in the hallway on the way to lunch and asked if I could use some help from her students.  It was an offer I would never refuse and has been a Godsend.

Since then, her students come down for our last 10 minutes before lunch and join into whatever our class is doing at the time and then help us wash up for lunch.  A few of them even bring their lunch trays back and eat with us in the classroom.

The fifth graders help with the kindergarten class too and the teacher there has noted that her students are learning “love language” from these powerful older role models.  Her students adore these 5th graders as much as mine do.

I would like to give special credit to these two 5h grade teachers who run their classes with the kind of positive energy and dedicated relationship building I’ve seen in church youth groups.  There is a special vibe in that class this year due to the work of Tara and Jamie and my students are benefiting from it too.

Today I took my students in to an all school assembly for the first time this year because we were dedicating our new playground.  I asked Tara if my kids could sit in the laps of her kids. “Absolutely,” she said.  My kids sat through an hour long assembly on a gym floor and I credit their attention and engagement to their sweet 5th grade caregivers.image

peaceness – part 2

imagesee yesterday for part 1

not Easter eggs,
my class needs something all together different this spring
palm sized fidgets.

8 cups of playdough
split into 16 balls
32 gloves, layered two together
32 rubber bands

Easter colored stress balls
stress balls

peaceness – part 1

imageAbout a month ago, I came upon my Long John Silver student sitting on the floor by the blocks in a classic yoga-like pose.  You know the one, soles of feet together, opened palms on knees, eyes closed.

“What are you doing?” I asked because I was so curious (!) what he would say.

“I’m doing my ‘peaceness’ move,” he answered……calmly I might add.

“Tell me about that, what is a ‘peaceness’ move?”

“It’s what Ninjas do.”

“And why do Ninjas do this?”

“I don’t know, but they do.  It looks like this.”

“Mmm,” I nodded, thinking quickly to myself that I’ve got to capture this and somehow make this a rich discussion because if there’s anyone in my classroom who needs to do the peaceness move often, it’s Long John Silver.  “Hey I want to take a picture of you doing this so I can learn it too.  And so we can teach the others.  And let’s write about it because I want to know what’s going on in your head.”  He and I have had discussions about how I can’t read his forehead like a computer, I need him to tell me what’s going on in there.

So I took a picture, and we drew about it in his journal and I explored a little more about this move.  He still couldn’t really come up with an answer as to why Ninjas do this move so I said, “So let’s talk about Ninjas, they are really active and strong.  If I was a Ninja and I wanted to rest and feel peaceness, I would close my eyes and imagine something happy and peaceful.  What do you think about when you close your eyes and do the peaceness move?”

“A sunny day with a blue sky.”  So that is what he drew above his self portrait of a figure with pretzel legs – little thought bubbles up to a larger yellow circle surrounded by blue.

Later he taught the whole class the “peaceness” move and we talked about imagining a sunny day. I can’t say this student has repeated his move very often, but at least its something I know is in his repertoire and can be reinforced with time and practice.

another way to get my fix

Sitting tonight with Minister of Christian Formation at our church reflecting on the second session of our work together as teachers for this year’s confirmation class, both of us remarked on how much we enjoy these young people.  For Sharry, it is a class she gets to lead every year, a perk of her job.  I volunteered this year at the last minute and so it is now a perk of my church participation.

I’ve always loved working with kids.  I babysat, worked as a camp counselor and went into teaching as a career. As a teacher I am around students at school in all sorts of ways – my own classroom, in the lunchroom, after school and summer programs. My own kids are grown and out of the house and I don’t have grandkids yet – so work and church are the ways I continue to get my “fix.”

Some time in the future, I will retire, later rather than sooner I’m afraid, and I will be glad to be away from the pressures of teaching.  But I never want to be too far away from working with young people. image

Long John Silver

imageEarlier in the year (here) I described how my students this year are like little pirates and my creative-writing self often feels captive in the hold of a ship sailing on the high seas. A pirate who most often has me walking the plank in my dreams is a young 5 year old I call Long John Silver.

Long John has had me mending sails, swabbing the deck and over a barrel many times this year.  But since the crew and Mr. Silver leave me on my own in the hold at night, I’ve raided the stores of wine and spent some time contemplating how best to get this ship to shore and make my escape.  I know that becoming familiar with the needs of Mr. Long John, and a few other key crew members, is key to my survival.

What I have learned about LJ is that deep down he really wants his crew to like him.  So when I loan him my parrot to give him tips about how to talk and act, he actually puts the bird on his shoulder.  Today was a great example.  He was in a twist because two mates weren’t matching up pieces of the alphabet correctly.  Long John started storming at them and swung his leg (the non-peg kind) and luckily I got there just before it connected.  I came close and whispered that instead of shouting at his friends – (“because no one likes to be yelled at right?”)  he should offer help.  And he did it,  Mr. Silver took my little word-bird, returned to his friends and copied my language exactly.  “May I join you?”

Ho! I’ve seen some land today.  But alas, I’ve got Blackbeard to think about. image

Lessons from a Pirate


In case you don’t know about my pirates, read this post.

I stand facing Captain M. on the swinging bridge on the playground. With arms grasping the rails on each side, his stance is assertive and he looks me keenly in the eye.

“You must say the password to cross!” he commands.

“You mean like ‘open sesame’ or ‘abra ca dabra’?” I ask. I’ve played guessing games with pirates on the playground before, usually every word I guess seems to spark a new idea for a password in the gleaming eye of the pirate. I never learn the password but I do find out a lot about the pirate.

I’m thinking about how this might play out with Captain M when he says earnestly, “No I mean the real password.”

I realize he actually has a word in mind and isn’t likely to change it but I have no clue where it might have come from.  I’m not very up on the movies and games kids are engaged with these days.

“Ok, could you give me a little hint?” I plead.

“Yes. Listen.” And he leans to whisper in my ear:





Out on the ocean

Last weekend I wrote these words:

“Some mornings I wake up and despite not being quite fully rested and knowing I have a complicated day ahead, I still manage to feel …..not just happy, not just optimistic, not just content, but full of grace.”

This weekend I am adrift on the ocean having just been released by a 4 year old pirate patrolling the seas of my creativity and successfully absconding with every last notion of grace and poetic thought left in my pockets!!

But – avast ye mateys – do not despair for me!   It’s the weekend – and I am safe from pirates on the high seas for a little while.  I’ll retreat to the holds of my own ship and restock my pockets.